Delving into ‘Tana’s Kitchen Secret’s’ – week 2

30th June Untitled

Going simpler this week, starting off with a tomato and proscuitto bruschetta and you know what? It was pretty nice and the kids ate it. Reckon with only a thin slice of ham or two plus a tiny sprinkling of parmesan and only a tiny drizzle of olive oil, it’s a relatively healthy way of getting that pizza taste without all the fat. Will be making again.

2nd July

No photo, potato salad is hardly photogenic, at least not the potato salad I make, obviously. It was potato salad with creme fraiche, coriander and spring onion and it was ‘ok’ (the kids didn’t like it) but as I was eating it I couldn’t help thinking that I’d eaten better potato salads from Jamie Oliver recipes and I really must dig those out. However, Mr. Lacer was impressed that I dished up the kids’ tea so quickly after swimming today and that had quite a lot to do with the fact that I’d made the salad in advance.

4th July

The kids’ school is fairly tradition hungry and one of those traditions used to be taking the class teacher out for dinner at Christmas and at the end of the school year. I have no idea how this tradition started but I can easily imagine it, some time, eons ago, one class started doing it and then some other classes noticed them doing it and thought “hey that’s a good idea!”, so they started doing it and then the whole school starts doing it and then before you know it, it’s like “well we have to do it, as everyone else does it,” even though we feel a bit sorry for the poor class teacher being forced to go out to dinner with a bunch of middle aged mums twice a year (the mums who are teachers or who used to be teachers, particularly shudder). So the school has forcibly started a new tradition (I can imagine the scene in the staffroom “oh no, it’s getting to that time of year again, I don’t want to go out for dinner with that lot, quick someone, let’s finally think of an excuse to permanently get out of it!”) of instead of the dinners we have picnics, they’re held just after school and within easy reach of the school so that the teachers can escape quickly, tee hee. Anyway, it was Boy Lacer’s class picnic today, so I made some lunchbox pies (*shock* not from Tana, they were from an old Donna Hay book) and cupcakes (which were a Tana recipe).

Lunchbox pies

I’ve made the lunchbox pies before, quite a lot of times actually, but years ago, back in the time when cooking was a ‘hobby’ and not a ‘necessity’ (i.e. before I had kids), I don’t know, have I ever blogged about Donna Hay’s Food Fast? (Goes and has a quick check – found a brief mention here, in a very old list of cookbooks I owned back in 2007, quite shocked about how different (and bigger) a similar list would be today). So anyway, I’ve never really talked about Food Fast before, does another quick check to see if it’s still in print – doesn’t look like it, as it’s only sold second hand on Amazon, which is pretty much the equivalent of not being in print these days even if it is, it is a shame it is out of print (presuming it is) because it is a lovely book (and as it seems with me and a lot of food writers, Donna Hay is another writer where I much prefer her earlier work). Food Fast is, well, food fast and it does what it says on the tin (unlike a lot of other books I could mention that purport to be the same thing, *ahem* Jamie), the recipes are largely healthy and fresh, as an advertisement for their speed, they manage to successfully fit four recipes onto each page (ok, the page is quite big), some pages fit more (which includes the page I got the lunchbox pies from). It is divided into chapters by time, plus a chapter on quick sides. If you can get your hands on this book, do so, it’s brilliant (I really do need to start cooking from this more, you wouldn’t believe the life and limb I risked this morning getting this book from the cobwebbed and dusty top shelf of my cookbook bookcase). If you already own this book, cherish it and start cooking from it again, because I bet you don’t, it’s so easy to neglect old cookbooks.  Anyway, back to the lunchbox pies, although I made them a lot in the past (they’re just simply rounds of puff pastry with a filling), I’d never actually made them with the recommended filling from the book, roasted sweet potato and cooked chicken, so I did that today and then remembered why I didn’t do it before, although I think sweet potatoes smell fantastic when cooking, I just don’t like them, they’re too sweet for me, whereas the kids gobbled them up. Sigh, I think I would have liked them more with maybe a bit of chilli or a splash of lime to counteract the sweetness but that’s the problem I’m finding with cooking at the moment, I’m cooking for the majority and the majority don’t appreciate a bit of chilli and a splash of lime, I was pushing the boat out possibly a bit too much by also including coriander. And as for the cupcakes (the actual Tana recipe), not the best cupcakes I’ve ever made in my life, partly my fault, as after Tana stating that the recipe was enough for 20 cupcakes and I could only get 12 cupcakes out of it, when it came to doing the icing I wasn’t particularly trustful of her measurements, so I made it up as I went along and my icing was too runny. And (and this is even before I got to the icing part), the oven timings and temperature seemed out again, I had to whack the oven up 20C and keep them in for another 8 minutes. Still, end result, not as many as I was expecting and not as pretty as I was hoping, but still pretty edible, although the cupcakes I made the other day from Cake Days were far moister and delish.

365:185 Not particularly brilliant cupcakes

6th July

Today was Girl Lacer’s class picnic, it was also her class assembly, so I had to get to school early, laden with whatever I was bringing to the picnic, which in this case was a raspberry and lemon torta from Kitchen Secrets and some sandwiches. Unfortunately (and as usual), I was cutting it close to the wire again and the cake came out of the oven about ten minutes before I had to dash out to the assembly, so I had to bung a steaming hot cake in my bag. ‘Luckily’ according to Tana, the cake is at its best still a little warm.


Amazingly, considering it’d been raining all day, the picnic was actually held outside, but this time actually in school grounds, so that if it started raining again we could dash back inside. There were six different class groups in the playground this time  having picnics (as it was two year groups) and it was a really lovely, buzzy atmosphere. Girl Lacer took the cake (and a knife) and went round the whole playground offering slices and she managed to come back with the plate clean, she even got the year 4 teachers to have a slice each, so getting in there early with that one (she’ll be in year 4 next year). The cake was actually really nice (I did manage to get one slice), it was torture when we got home again and I could still smell it, as I wanted more!

Well, this has been on my dashboard in draft form for over a week since I last cooked from Tana’s Kitchen Secrets and I have absolutely not had the urge to make anything else from the book, I had planned on a few more things but after my luke warm reaction to most of the recipes I’ve made from the book, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. There may be a few more recipes to attempt from the book in the future but not right now, right now I need a book of recipes that make me literally dance round the kitchen and make me devoting my limited time to it, worth it. This is not that book.

However, to be not all gloomy about this book, the pasta with bacon and veg sauce was nice, as was the bruschetta. The torta was nice as well and extremely popular, one of those sort of cakes that looks more impressive than the actual amount of effort it took to make, so that makes it a good cake to feed a crowd. The pastry parcels will also be a useful and adaptable recipe to remember. Sooo, I’m not about to go and donate this book to the charity shop or anything but I suspect it’s not going to get used that often.


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