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A week with Sophie Dahl From Season To Season

I really loved Sophie Dahl’s last cookbook, so I was quite excited to get my hands on her latest, From Season to Season, which, as the title suggests, is a seasonal cookbook. Now, I am a little bad at cooking seasonally, although I at least won’t as a rule, eat things like berries out of season, as they taste rubbish. So I’ve spent my last week cooking some of the recipes in the book and yes some of them weren’t from the appropriate season (me bad).

20th March 2012

First up was a soba noodle salad.

I couldn’t find any soba noodles, which is a shame, as I like those, so I substituted ramen noodles instead. I also didn’t use the daikon suggested, even though I could have bought that, because it broke my rule about trying not to buy ingredients I’m not going to use all of. I also didn’t use any spring onion because the spring onion was already manky and I swear it’d been in my fridge (after the food delivery) for less than an hour. But still, just noodles with carrot, radish, white cabbage, toasted sesame seeds and a gorgeous dressing of rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and honey, was pretty special. It was very filling to, which was just what I was after because as you may have noticed on the blog, I haven’t done any cooking for ages and consequently I’ve been eating rubbish. I’m trying to be more organised now that I have my new toy *ahem* Mac, as my calendars are now more integrated and I can see which days are busy and which aren’t, far more easily. So, I’m menu planning again but this time a little more realistically and only getting in ingredients I know I have time to cook.

A little later on that day

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I made aubergine with homemade pesto and mozzarella, also from the book, although not the title of the actual recipe, as the title of the recipe was so undescriptive to what it actually was, I’ve immediately forgotten what it was called. Girl Lacer had been begging to make homemade pesto for a while, so she made that bit (and was pleased to discover that pesto has one of her favourite cheeses in, “parmejan”) and she also helped me with the cutting up of the mozzarella (which was another new food experience for her, not that she hasn’t eaten bucketloads of pesto and mozzarella in her life but due to me being remiss, she’d never seen what went into pesto or what mozzarella looked like uncooked).

Aubergine with homemade pesto and mozarella Now even though I had made this for the kids, I was a bit dubious about whether or not they’d actually eat it and you know what . . . they did (thank you Sophie and also thank you aubergine for being a pretty innocuous vegetable). I thought it was yummy to.

Even later on that day

IMG_0009 I made this whilst cooking the aubergine but could only eat it once I’d finished work for the night, due to freezing time. Also from the book (with the far more obvious title of pineapple and mint granita), it was incredibly easy to make, just chop up two pineapples, whiz, strain, add mint, freeze. The crushing with a fork stage, half way through freezing time was a bit tricky though, because as instructed I had frozen the granita in a shallow metal dish, so consequently I had lumps of frozen pineapple flying everywhere as I crushed and because I was nervous about loosing any more pineapple, it wasn’t as finely crushed as maybe you’d get in a restaurant. It was still pretty delicious, Dahl recommended it whole heartedly as a cure for morning sickness (and although no I’m not), I can imagine it’d be a pretty essential recipe if you were pregnant, specially in the height of summer (which was both my pregnancies).

Wednesday 21st March

Unsurprisingly I didn’t get any cooking done today, Wednesday’s are one of my busiest days but I had planned to make a salad, however I ran out of time and ended up grazing / eating junk.

Thursday 22nd March

I made the salad I had planned to make yesterday, a pearl barley and brown rice ‘salad’. I ended up making quite a few changes to the recipe because I didn’t agree with the cooking times and had to substitute / miss out some ingredients, however it was still pretty nice and very comforting. I would make a great winter dish as suggested.

Rice and pearl barley 'salad'

However, I doubt I’ll be making this again as it was difficult to scale down to one portion and I’m unlikely to persuade anyone else in my family to enthusiastically eat this.

Later on that Thursday

Still stuffed from the pearl barley and brown rice salad, I made courgette hotcakes for tea, mainly for the kids.

Made with Sophie’s favourite (spelt flour) and only olive oil (and not much of it) and parmesan cheese as the fat, these seemed pretty healthy and they tasted it, so were not popular and not completely eaten by the kids. That they tasted wholesome would be a nice way of putting it.

I tried to sell them by saying these were from another recipe by Roald Dahl’s granddaughter, to which Girl Lacer replied “Just because I like Roald Dahl’s books, it doesn’t necessarily mean I like food by his granddaughter”. Fair enough.

Friday 23rd March

First lunch of the season eaten outside.

This was from the summer section and was meant to involve baby courgettes and their flowers, now obviously it’s early spring and a bit lacking in both baby courgettes and courgette flowers, so I used a full size courgette and grated it (instead of the recommended chopping). I also used cheddar instead of parmesan because we ran out yesterday with the courgette hotcakes (used a lot of parmesan this week). Anyway, even with these changes, it was delicious and you know what I think really made it? The addition of the basil on top, the flavour of the basil with the courgette, rice and cheese, worked wonderfully. I have to admit I often skip the “and sprinkle with chopped herb” steps because I often don’t have the fresh herb at hand but because of the pesto I made earlier this week (and had to buy a basil plant for), I did, definitely well worth it.

Saturday 24th March

Disaster! I attempted to make the chocolate meringue biscuit recipe, something I wouldn’t have attempted prior to upgrading my mini food processor / whisk / multi-attachment thingy just before Christmas. The meringue making went well (I think) but then I had to add the chocolate and the result, despite leaving it in the oven half an hour longer than suggested, was like slightly cooked dollops of chocolate mousse and nothing like chocolate meringue biscuits.

Sunday 25th March onwards

I spend the next few nights kicking myself that I don’t have the energy to go and grate an apple into a bowl of porridge oats and leave the resulting mixture soaking in the fridge overnight ready for breakfast the next day. I still haven’t done it, I may do it one day, I always have oats and apples around but for now, I’m not doing it this week.

In summary, I am nowhere as deeply in love with From Season to Season as I was with Sophie Dahl’s last cookery book (which um I love so much I’ve forgotten it’s name but honest I love it), however it is still a fairly good book. I appreciated the book this week for that the recipes are fairly simple but delicious, fairly healthy and the predominant feature, incredibly filling. A lot of the recipes used the same or similar ingredients, so I could use everything up and it made my food bill fairly cheap. I will be definitely be making the courgette risotto recipe again and probably the pineapple granita to plus there are other more seasonal recipes that I will be making when the various ingredients (like rhubarb) are actually in season. The only recipe that didn’t work was the meringue biscuits.

Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights

I am not cooking at the moment, well, not proper cooking and I hate that, as an indicator on how much I’m cooking, how many times I use the dishwasher in a day, well I’m struggling to fill it once a day at the moment, meaning that we’re always running out of cups, because obviously we’re still drinking and actually still eating, just stuff that can go straight from oven or fridge, with not much in between. But there is a part of me that is getting rather excited about a new foodie hour coming up on BBC2, starting this Tuesday and a new Jamie Oliver book out in April, so maybe something in all that will kick me up the bottom and get me back in the kitchen.

First up though is the new foodie hour (where Mr. Lacer will absolutely not be able to watch any of his sci-fi), with another Grow Your Own Drugs (where I feel sorry for his goldfish and wonder how his patio can be full of weeds between the cracks and still look trendy, whilst mine doesn’t) and a totally new series The Delicious Miss Dahl (heck on the subject of food programming, I’m getting excited that them dramatising Nigel Slater’s Toast and making a new series of Simple Suppers, for before Christmas). Anyway, I’ve been tempted by Sophie Dahl’s book, Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights (is that not a wonderful title?) for some time, but I’m tempted by a lot of things and I managed to control myself, but knowing that watching half an hour a week on the subject, I would not be able to control myself any longer, so bought the book before the show even aired, first cookery book I’ve bought in a while.

And ooh it’s a good book, very pretty, gorgeous photography and not just all of Miss Dahl herself (although looking at the photos of her and this promotional clip here, BBC2 have so found a new Nigella). The recipes are nice and healthy-ish and not heavily into meat (as a not much of a meat eater, I hate buying cookery books too full of meat recipes). The book feels nice to look at and hold and Dahl writes very well, in a chatty, informal style about each recipe and with longer pieces at the front of each season’s section.

Anyway, as per usual, when I review a cookery book, these are the dishes I particularly want to try -

In Autumn Breakfasts -

  • Rice pudding cereal with pear puree – oh my god, I love milky rice pudding for breakfast (cooked in a pan, not in the oven), so this recipe is right up my street, although it would have to be a very lazy morning to find time to make this, this may become lunch.
  • Omelette with caramilized onion and Red Leicester – I haven’t had an omelette for years ‘but . . .  I . . . want . . . one . . . NOW!’ now.
  • Tawny granola – a granola with the rare distinction of having absolutely nothing I don’t like (nuts, raisins (I eat raisins, just not in breakfast cereal, banana) and absolutely everything I do like (pumpkin seeds, almonds, desiccated coconut, allspice, dried apricots).
  • Musician’s breakfast  - home made brown bread, thick with oats, topped with a slice of parma ham, Dahl makes for her partner, he’s a lucky man.

Autumn lunches

  • Spinach barley soup – mmmmmmm
  • Buckwheat risotto (with something other than mushrooms, which I can’t eat) – I love buckwheat!

Autumn suppers

  • Lily’s stir fry with tofu – sounds nice and fresh.
  • Aubergine Parmigiana – yum

Winter breakfasts

  • Pear and ginger muffins – sometimes, when I’m browsing in the recipe book section and I flick open a page at random, the recipe on that page can sell me the book alone and this was the recipe for me for this book.
  • Porridge with apricots, manuka honey and creme fraiche – yum to!

Winter lunches

  • Holler’s curried parsnip soup – I love how there’s so many soup recipes in this book!

Spring breakfasts

  • Lemon and ricotta spelt pancakes – lovely, but oh to have the time and energy to make these in a morning.

Summer breakfasts

  • Cinnamon roast peaches with vanilla yoghurt – I think this looks more achievable, you can bung the peaches in the oven and get dressed.
  • Blueberry and strawberry smoothie – made with frozen fruit rather than fresh, I approve!

Summer lunches

  • Quinoa salad with tahini salad – yum!
  • Beetroot soup – hot or cold

Puddings – now Miss Dahl gets voluptuous

  • Ginger parkin
  • Clover’s carnation milk jelly – oh I had this as a kid, somehow though, knowing my kids, I’m not sure they’d like this, more for me then.
  • Cardamom rice pudding – more rice pudding
  • Elderflower jelly – more jelly
  • Flapjacks – the kids are allowed flapjacks at school now during snack time, hmmmm
  • Banana Bread – banana bread with no nuts in, yeah!
  • Orange yoghurt and polenta cake – me like polenta cake