Cookbook Club – Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals – Trapani-style Rigatoni

Rigatoni 3

I’m back!

My little boy is now eight months old and is a lovely, friendly smiling little boy most of the time (though we are teething at the moment so we have a lot of Jekyll/Hyde moments). I’ve recently found myself doing quite a lot of cooking that then gets pureed or mashed and frozen for him, but not so much cooking that involves trying new recipes for me.

However, I have been taking part in a cookbook club that I started with a few friends after we were inspired by this article (click here to read). What is a cookbook club? It is a group of friends (or a group of people who love to cook and/or eat) who meet up regularly to share food they have cooked. At each meeting, everyone brings along a dish cooked from the same cookbook (chosen in advance so you don’t replicate dishes). It is a great opportunity to try dishes you might otherwise not have cooked, as well as using the cookbooks you own (or discovering new ones). You also get to meet new people (friends of friends) who you already know have a shared interest in food, cooking and eating! click here to read more

My failed cookbook challenge and a meat free Monday recipe – Mushrooms and Pearl Barley with Macadamia Bread Sauce

The books I have bought in the last 6 months
The books I have bought in the last 6 months

I have a confession to make. In April this year I set myself the challenge of not buying a new cookbook until I had cooked a recipe from five of my current cookbooks. It was going quite well for a few months and I also discovered the huge cookbook collection at the library next to my work, so I could borrow and look through as many cookbooks as I wanted, without buying them.

Then a couple of things happened. First, I went to France in June, and told myself a couple of very small regional cookbooks in French didn’t count as they were “souvenirs”. But that was only the beginning.

Then I went to the Perth Good Food and Wine Show in July, and I just couldn’t resist the chance to meet the cooks/chefs there and get a book personally signed (I owned some that I could get signed, but there were a few I didn’t have). Plus there were a few books on sale at the show (I mean, $10.00 instead of $50.00! What would you do?). And you never know what might happen, a few words with Maggie Beer about music/singing while she was signing my book (thanks Mum) and the next thing you know, she is calling up “Sarah who sings” to cook with her on-stage an hour later, and sending me home with a big box of her products!

Thanks Maggie!
Thanks Maggie!

I bought a few books over the next few months (always on sale), and then came the Margaret River Gourmet Escape a couple of weeks ago, where there was the opportunity to meet more incredibly inspiring and creative chefs, including Heston Blumenthal (who’s book I actually won in a competition a few months back, or I would have been buying one of his books too – you should have seen how excited I was when I found out I’d won a cookbook! Then actually getting it signed by Heston!!!).

So I have to admit that I failed my challenge completely. But I do now have another eleven signed cookbooks in my collection, more inspiration and hundreds of new recipes to try, as well as the memories of meeting these amazing Australian and international cooks and chefs that inspire me.

But moving on, it is time to try again. I think I have bought enough cookbooks to last me quite a while, so let’s see if I can cook through five of them before I even think about buying another cookbook. I can do this. After all, it’s almost Christmas and it doesn’t count if it’s a present…right?

So back to cooking. This is the recipe that convinced me to buy The Blue Ducks cookbook. By 5pm on the Saturday at the Gourmet Escape, I was starting to fade after a day in the sun, but looking through this book again (which was the last book signing of the day), I gave in and bought it. This recipe for Mushrooms and Pearl Barley with Macadamia Bread Sauce just jumped out at me and I had to try it. I have since found the recipe is on the SBS website here. But having discovered other recipes in the book I also want to try, I have no regrets.

I’m not sure about the bread sauce, I found it a bit too heavy and if I was to make it again, I would thin it down even more. But I liked using pearl barley instead of rice or couscous for a change, it was very filling and had a nice nutty flavour. I think I’ll try using it more in salads for work lunches.

pearl barley and mushrooms

Click here for the recipe

Stuffed butternut pumpkin with quinoa and goats’ cheese

Pumpkin stuffed with quinoa and goats' cheese

This was supposed to be my meat free Monday post last night, however by the time I got home from work (and the gym) and made dinner, I just didn’t feel like sitting in front of the computer. I curled up on the couch and read a book instead. So here it is, a day late.

Late last week and over the weekend I was celebrating my birthday.  After some lovely meals  (most of them at cafes and restaurants, except lunch with my family where my Mum cooked us lunch and baked me a cake) with my family and friends, not to mention a lot of baking over the past few weekends, I was in need of some simple, savoury (and hopefully a bit healthier) home cooking. A while ago I saw a recipe for stuffed butternut pumpkin with quinoa which I wanted to try, however I couldn’t find the recipe this weekend. So instead I set out to make my own. I was home alone Saturday night, so if it didn’t turn out there was only me to be disappointed and have to eat it!

I was really happy with the result. I was a bit worried about using mint and basil as I made it (they are two of my favourite herbs and it seemed like a good idea at the start), but they actually went really well in this dish. The goats’ cheese became a deliciously oozy, almost like a thick cheese sauce, and the quinoa added a nice nuttiness and texture. If you want some crunch you could add some pine nuts or breadcrumbs to the mix, but I was happy with it like this. Definitely a dish I will be making again. Jerome tried the other half the next night and enjoyed it as well.

If you are cooking quinoa, make sure you rinse it really well (until the water runs clear) before cooking. I have cooked it before without rinsing and it is very bitter. It makes a big difference to the final result! Also, while you are cooking it, why not make extra and use the rest to make a salad for lunches or light dinners? I cooked double the quinoa and to the extra I added more of the herbs and goats’ cheese, along with some roasted cauliflower and zucchini which I cooked at the same time as the pumpkin (though they didn’t take as long). It made a great lunch the next day.

Click here for the recipe

Beetroot, pumpkin and caramelised onion tarte tartin

tarte tartin

Time for another meat free Monday recipe. I have never made a tarte tartin before, and instead of trying the normal sweet variety, I decided I wanted to make a beetroot and pumpkin one. I looked at a few different recipes, but couldn’t find what I wanted. So I made this one up as I went. I did cheat and used bought puff pastry. I’m not quite up to home made puff pastry, but I’m almost there. I made a great rough puff in class the other week (which I will post about next).

I was very happy with the end result flavour wise. The balsamic vinegar is a great match for the earthiness of the beetroot, and there is a nice savoury sweetness from the caramelised onions and roast butternut pumpkin. And of course the crisp puff pastry and ‘caramel’ (in this case reduced balsamic and brown sugar). Unfortunately I didn’t quite cook my pastry enough when I made this for the first time, however the next day when it was cooked for an extra ten minutes it was perfect, so I have adjusted this recipe to give the pastry that extra ten minutes.

CLick here for the recipe

Meat free Monday – Puy lentil salad with goat’s cheese, beetroot and dill

This post is a double up, being my second recipe from ‘My Cookbook Library’ as well as a vegetarian ‘Meat Free Monday’ dish. Jerome has decided that the ‘My Cookbook Library’ posts (cooking my way through all my cookbooks, one recipe from one book at a time) should be renamed ‘Jerome’s pick’, as he quite enjoyed being given the cookbook index (on eat your books) and getting to pick what I cooked.

The second book I chose to cook from is Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple But Classic French Recipes. I love this cookbook and related cooking series. After studying patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rachel started testing recipes for a cookbook in her tiny apartment with just a mini oven and two gas rings.  She also opened the smallest restaurant in Paris in her apartment, serving just two people for dinner. This is one of those rare books where when I look through it, I want to try at least every second recipe. If you want to give French food a try, I certainly recommend this book. If Rachel can cook these recipes in her tiny apartment with limited equipment, I think most of us should be able to replicate them in our own kitchens. I certainly try to remember what Rachel cooked with whenever I start complaining about my own kitchen!

This is a very light dish, and would make a nice light lunch or side salad at dinner. Dill isn’t my favourite herb, but it went quite well against the earthiness of the beetroot and lentils and the creaminess of the cheese. We had the salad as a light dinner with some crusty baguette. Simple, only a few ingredients, but they all work well together.

Beetroot and goats cheese salad with lentils

Book recipe number: 2

Number of cookbooks owned: 198+ (198 now logged in my eat your books library, however there were quite a few that weren’t in their database that I now have to count)

New book credit: 0.4 (3 more to go before I am allowed to buy another cookbook)

Click here for the recipe

Meet free Mondays – Sweet potato and zucchini fritters

It is Monday again, so time for another meat free dish. I had half a large sweet potato sitting in my fridge, so I went looking for a healthy, vegetarian dish to use it in. I went straight to www.healthyfoodguide.com.au rather than my cookbook collection for this one, as I wanted to find something that I knew would be healthy and vegetarian.

Unfortunately in the end I didn’t have quite enough sweet potato (I only had 300g) for the recipe, so had to buy another on. Which meant once again I ended with half a sweet potato left, defeating the purpose of finding a recipe to use it up, but at least I had a nice healthy dinner! I’ll use the rest of the sweet potato in a roast vegetable salad, frittata or soup later in the week.

The addition of the ground coriander and cumin really added a nice depth of flavour and complimented the sweet potato, while the mint and tzatziki added some freshness. The leftovers also make a great lunch.

Sweet potato fritters

Click here for the recipe