Making my cookbooks earn a place on the shelf – Bill’s Basics

I’ll admit straight off that I knew I wasn’t going to get rid of this one, it contains the so indispensable I’m actually bored of it, Cake For a Crowd recipe, which I have made over and over and over again and is the go to recipe for quick birthday cakes or cake sales. I also hazily remembered there were some other good recipes in it to, but other than Cake for a Crowd, I hadn’t cooked from this one for a while.

Now, my testing was under the slightly ‘extreme’ conditions of it being the Easter holidays (where suddenly I was even more in love with my children’s school dinners than I normally am), my oven requiring several engineer visits and my kitchen floor was having ‘issues’. So I spent a lot of the time between now and my last cookbook test ‘giving in’ and cooking for the consensus (as Mr. Lacer also had a week off work) and cooking food that wasn’t guaranteed a chorus of “I don’t like that!’, so imagine lots of fish fingers, pasta and supermarket pizza. However when I did cook (and the oven was having a random bout of actually working), this is what I made.

Butterscotch madelines

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The oven conceded to work for about 24 hours, so I made these, I even bought a madeline tray (Mr. Lacer buries face in hands as he know’s exactly how overflowing my cake tin cupboard is, actually *ssh* don’t tell Mr. Lacer but I couldn’t actually fit it in the cake tin cupboard and it’s on top of the fridge on top of the wok). However the madeline tray was a little bit pants, as the shell like ridges weren’t that obvious on the finished cakes (unlike on the kids favourite brand of shop bought madelines). However, the actual cakes tasted fine.

(Not so lemony) Lemon Drizzle Loaf

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Then the oven wasn’t working again and in desperation I resorted to our smaller microwave-combi oven, which I am normally very distrustful of baking anything in, you can see what happened to the cake, it broke apart when I tried to get it out of the tin, I don’t know if that’s something to do with the oven, maybe too many blueberries or maybe I should have lined the bottom of the tin (which I did grease) with baking paper, even though the recipe didn’t say so. Anyway, the cake includes a lemon drizzle, which I didn’t do as Girl Lacer hates lemon cake but even missing that step out she still thought it was too lemony (honestly the cake was about as lemony as my shoe, it only have a very tiny amount of lemon zest in it and I couldn’t taste it) but anyway, that just meant more cake for us because despite its appearance, it was quite nice (it’s beginning to cramp my baking style Girl Lacer’s dislike of citrus based cakes, she also doesn’t like cakes with buttercream icing, unless it’s chocolate buttercream or cakes with jam, sigh, Boy Lacer is distinctly less complicated, cake of any form is one of his favourite food groups).

Chicken parmigiana

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(Cooked in the microwave-combi oven again). This was ok, a little too meaty for me (I would definitely not call myself a vegetarian but I don’t eat much meat and when I do I prefer dishes where meat is an ingredient amongst many others and not the star of the show), Boy Lacer wolfed his down, as when he’s not eating cake, he’s eating meat, he’s quite a carnivore.

all’Amatriciana

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I may have made this before, I can’t remember, it probably wasn’t that memorable, just as it wasn’t that memorable now, could have done with being spicier. But still, this marked the kids being back at school and me cooking for myself at lunch times, yay!

Chickpea burgers

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This was an attempt at ‘my kids are going to eat decent food even if it kills me’, they didn’t eat it. I quite liked mine but I hate cooking with chickpeas as tinned chickpeas smell so strongly of cat food (well I think so anyway), it always puts me off. Will probably not be making again.

Beetroot soup

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This was yummy, one of my favourite soups is Yorkshire Provender Beetroot and Horseradish soup, this soup lacked the kick of the horseradish (although is fairness to Bill Granger he did say to make an accompanying horseradish cream but I didn’t have any cream), so I’m still not sure which soup I prefer, I have tons of left overs in the freezer, so will have to try it with the horseradish cream next time I heat some up but I think even without Bill’s Beetroot soup had a nice warm depth, due to the added tomatoes that my favourite branded soup lacked. And of course, making the soup is so much more cheaper than going to buy a posh branded one, I have another five portions in the freezer and considering I’m the only one who likes beetroot soup, I’m all right for beetroot soup for quite some time.

Tomato soup

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After attempting to make tomato based homemade baby food for Girl Lacer, I decided that life is definitely too short to peel a tomato (and she still doesn’t like them anyway), so I rarely cook with fresh tomatoes, they’re quite expensive anyway compared to tinned tomatoes or passata and if you buy them out of season, nowhere near as much flavour as tinned tomatoes or passata anyway. But this soup, although involving fresh tomatoes, at least didn’t involve skinning them, so I gave it ago, halving the ingredients as no way was I buying four packs of plum tomatoes (ouch). The tomatoes are roasted alongside a pepper and some carrots and it gave the soup a nice rich added extra warmth that I don’t normally associate with tomato soup. It was ok, I’m not a massive fan of tomato soup, I think someone who actually really liked the stuff would really like it.

Peach and blueberry pudding

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This was gorgeous, I substituted the fresh peach and blueberries with tinned peach (meaning I missed out the first baking stage) and frozen blueberries, I was worried that this would add too much liquid to the dish (even with draining the peach) but it was fine. There is no way I’d get fresh peach this time of year and blueberries would have been shipped in from god knows where, so this was a really great way of getting a nice, colourful, flavour packed pudding in early spring, the bright orange – yellow of the peach and the purple of the blueberries was just so cheerful! Even Mr. Lacer the pudding hater liked this one and it literally vapourised from Boy Lacer’s plate, will definitely be making again.

So eight dishes from one book! And there’s still quite a few more I’d like to try, the baking section looks particularly good but I obviously wasn’t doing much of that over the last few weeks. There’s also a good breakfast section for when my life miraculously transforms into the sort of life where I have the time and energy to make those sort of breakfasts, hmmmm. I wouldn’t say that Bill’s Basics has loads of blow your taste buds away type dishes, most of them are more a little run of the mill but they’re incredibly doable, don’t have massive ingredient lists and are the sort of basics you want to have in your repertoire, so it does exactly what it says on the cover. So of course this book is not going to go down the charity shop, in fact I’d say if I ever had to reduce my cookbooks down to just a fraction of a shelf instead of the more minor going from 3 shelves to 2, which is what I am doing, this cookbook would be on that fraction of a shelf.

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