In January, I set out to use my cookbooks and try a new recipe from them once a week. A pesky pandemic got in the way, but I’ve still managed to find some new favourites.
I’ve previously written about my disdain of ‘traditional’ new years resolutions and advocated alternatives that bring lasting joy, learning or change. At the beginning of this year, I set myself a very particular goal. As the owner of a few cookbooks who always wants to own more, I set myself a challenge to really use them and not rely on Pinterest.
I was going to try one new recipe, every week, from a cookbook.
January got off to a good start with the recipes, but, as we all know, a pandemic swept the globe. Europe went into lockdown, and watched in horror as hospitals in Italy and New York overflowed with COVID-19 victims. And, panic buying set in.
Could I find tins of tomatoes? Pasta? Beans and pulses? Nope. My standard cupboard staples were harder to find and while I seem to naturally accumulate food supplies, my priorities switched from exploring new recipes to trying to make the most of what I could get – which was a lot of fresh vegetables from local sellers.
But, as we started to live in the ‘new normal’ I treated myself to a new book and picked up the challenge again. So, I don’t have 52 new recipes in my repertoire. I have 15.
Satay chicken (Jamie’s Comfort Food)
I love anything with peanuts in, and I loved making my own spicy satay sauce. The chicken was flavourful and I served it with a colourful and crunchy Thai veggie salad.
Frankly, I’m surprised that I haven’t tried to make it again.
Crunchy chicken cutlets (Simply Nigella)
This is a handy recipe if you’ve got a box of cornflakes that are languishing in the cupboard, and some mustard hiding at the back of the fridge. You have to be careful to not heat the pan too much so as not to burn the crunchy coating, but I promise that it will go down well with your friends/housemate/partner/yourself.
Aubergine & green bean curry (River Cottage Veg)
Despite being a keen cook, I’ve never actually bothered to make my own curry paste before. This was very easy though and I had enough to make another curry a week later. The aubergines and green beans were a welcome change from my usual chicken or squash, although I had a lot more of a saucy curry than the picture in the book.
Mac & cheese with herbs and peas (Antoni in The Kitchen)
Simple, easy and delicious. If you doubt Antoni Porowski’s cooking ability based on how simple he kept things on Queer Eye, his book will prove you wrong.
Cauliflower curry (Simply Nigella)
Sadly, and I’m not sure why, this turned out to be too watery for my taste. Shame!
Porotos granados (River Cottage Veg)
This looked like an interesting vegetable soup/stew and a way to use up rogue vegetables in the fridge. It tasted nice, but didn’t feel like anything particularly new.
British meatballs (Jamie’s Comfort Food)
The recipes in Jamie’s book aren’t suitable for quick, midweek meals so I started making this on a quiet Saturday afternoon. It’s a labour of love, but it was 100% worth it. The cheesy stuffed giant meatballs were delicious, served with soft mash and an insanely tasty gravy.
I need to make this again now that it’s cold and dark once more.
Chachouka (River Cottage Veg)
Okay, so I’ve made this dish before but I wanted to see if this recipe was as good as others. It was. It was mopped up with copious amounts of pitta bread, which are perfect for dunking and scooping.
Chicken, walnut & pomegranate stew (Antoni in The Kitchen)
Another revelation! I think this is the biggest success of all the recipes, as I’ve made it another 3 or 4 times this year.
Get Antoni’s book, try this recipe, and thank me later.
3 root boulengère (River Cottage Veg)
Oh dear, this was a bit of fail but could be redeemed. The combination of potato, celeriac and parsnips were great, but there was way too much water in this dish! If I make it again, I’ll try to use less stock and maybe take the lid off sooner in the oven.
Harissa cauliflower, breadcrumbs and goats cheese (The Green Roasting Tin)
My boyfriend made this dish for me and we’ve made it a couple more times since. It’s simple, delicious and I loved the combination of harissa and goats cheese. Serve this with a simple side of cous cous and save the leftovers for lunch.
Sticky rice with broccoli & squash (The Green Roasting Tin)
I don’t technically use a roasting tin for this recipe, but that doesn’t get in the way of its simplicity and deliciousness. It’s a one pot wonder, and I enjoy it with an extra drizzle of sweet chilli sauce.
Bastardised ramen (Antoni in The Kitchen)
This takes a little bit of work and skimming, but the result was a delicious ramen-like dish that went down well. I’m pretty sure I’ve actually got a single serving somewhere in the freezer, waiting for me.
Chillies stuffed with beans (River Cottage Veg)
I can’t really say that I followed this recipe. Rather, it served as inspiration for a dish of my own creation. First of all, I couldn’t find the large chillies described, so just used red peppers. With the beans, I followed Alison Roman’s spicy bean stew recipe and stuffed them into the peppers.
The resulting dish was tasty, and very filling despite the lack of meat. I’d say it’s a great dish for summer.
Fish free Niçoise (River Cottage Veg)
I enjoy a salmon Niçoise from time to time, but I honestly didn’t miss the fish in this recipe. This is another great summer dish, and can easily be made and enjoyed in a typical hour lunch break or as a lazy supper.
2 x Jamie’s Comfort Food
2 x Simply Nigella
6 x River Cottage Veg
3 x Antoni in The Kitchen
2 x The Green Roasting Tin
Looking forwards to 2021
It’s been a tough year, and I’ve recently added a couple of cookbooks to my collection! I’m looking forward to the food I’ll make in 2021 (I’m cautiously optimistic about a lack of panic buying).
Lovely read – I’m a big fan of the river cottage veg cool book! I’m trying to incorporate healthier foods into my life this year as I always notice the impact on my mental health when I’ve not been eating well! 🥗
This just made me incredibly hungry, haha — the recipes you tried sound amazing too! I saw an episode of a Jamie Oliver series where he made an eggplant curry which I’m going to try. In 2021 I want to use my cookbooks more and you’ve inspired me!
Sounds good, his recipes definitely take a bit more time but they tend to pay off. I hope you enjoy the eggplant curry!
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Yum! It’s 9am as I’m reading this and I’m so hungry now haha! Is it bad if I wanted to eat Satay Chicken this early? I still have tons of leftovers but I can’t wait to cook this weekend! You’ve given me so much inspiration. Thanks for sharing!
Haha apologies for making you crave chicken satay this early in the day! Leftovers are the best, so enjoy 🙂
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Such a great idea. I also really enjoy experimenting with different foods to stop things getting boring. And I love that feeling when you discover a new recipe that becomes your favourite. The chicken, walnut and pomegranate stew sounds delicious. Also, I think trying a new recipe just once a month is an achievement so you did great!
If you’re looking for another one to add to your stash of books. Neven Maguire’s Midweek Meals, is supposed to be fantastic. Im awaiting on my copy, but have spent the past few months on lockdown watching him on live feeds making these simple, nutritious, comforting foods. His books are always a hit for homecooking.
Thanks for the recommendation, I always like finding something that’s simple and tasty to make after work!
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