On the menu: Simply Nigella

Saturday

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After a full on day of much needed housework, I still had to cook the tea I had menu planned for, which was Crunchy Chicken Cutlets from the new, eminently readable, Simply Nigella. The recipe is in Quick and Calm section and I definitely needed something quick before my batteries ran down completely. Unfortunately, although this recipe isn’t exactly long winded, it’s probably much more quick and much more calm if you’ve got a kitchen much much bigger than mine, I have a sneaky suspicion Nigella’s kitchen is probably as nearly as big as my whole flat. You see, Crunchy Chicken Cutlets is one of those recipes that requires quite a lot of dishes and quite a lot of space to prepare and as I don’t have the space in my tiny, galley kitchen, I was literally juggling dishes in and out of cupboards, the stove top and the top of the toaster, so that made the recipe not as quick. But it was quite simple, chicken in an egg and mustard mixture then tossed in a cornflake and paprika mixture and it was the paprika that really, really made this.

Now I’m rubbish at cooking meat, as I’m not much of a meat eater myself, but Girl Lacer has been professing her carnivore tendencies, so I thought I better be cooking some more meat. My rubbishness at cooking meat this time manifested in me burning these, but they still got eaten. Mr. Lacer particularly liked his I think and both kids thought they were okay but nothing to write home about, whereas I, the not much of a meat eater, thought these were okay, like I said, the paprika in the coating was really nice, but I wouldn’t rush to make them again, if anything just because the fuss they took.

Good points: nice use of paprika, a good way to stretch a two pack of chicken breasts to feed a family of four (the recipe was for two but they would have made two very big cutlets, so I cut each cutlet into two before coating them and it really didn’t feel like skimping) and they can be made and frozen ahead (that’s one of the things I like about Simply Nigella, if a recipe can be made ahead or frozen, it will say at the end of the recipe, I love having information like that to hand).

Bad points: ‘too many’ dishes go into making this (although this may not be a problem in bigger kitchens) and I’m not sure if it’s possible not to burn these, I don’t know how they look so nice in the photo in the book (nice and brown), as I suspect cornflakes would always burn quite quickly.

Sunday

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Nigella dish number 2: Pasta alla Bruno. I adapted this one heavily, using my normal standby passata instead of cherry tomatoes as we’re not great fresh tomato eaters in this house, so if I bought fresh tomatoes and didn’t cook them as planned, they’d go off, whereas passata lasts for ages. I also substituted chilli flakes for paprika (after being inspired by Saturday), as the chilli flakes could have been a bit much for the kids. So the actual result was quite close to the sort of bacon and tomato pasta sauces I normally make. Anyway, it was okay and the kids didn’t particularly like it, so two out of two Simply Nigella recipes so far and neither big hits with the family.

Good points: quite quick.

Bad points: a bit bland (but that could be because I switched the chilli flakes for paprika) but my normal tomato and bacon sauces have more flavour.

Monday

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Cooking just for myself this lunchtime, so I made Nigella’s black rice noodles with ginger and chilli. It was really fun to make, I like things that look and smell nice when being prepared and although again it did require quite a few dishes to make (Nigella is obviously trying to tire out my dishwasher), I didn’t begrudge this one. It didn’t take too long to make either, although that may have been because I had taken one look at the long ingredient list and decided to be sensible and get everything out and prepared first.

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Anyway, so, black rice noodles . . . . bit rubbery aren’t they? They were edible, but I’m not accustomed to my noodles have to take several very conscious bites to get through. I think if I were to make this again and I may well do so, as the sauce was delicious, I would replace the black rice noodles with soba noodles, now that would be good.

Good points: fun to cook, lovely sauce.

Bad points: black rice noodles are a culinary road I wish I hadn’t gone down, as I now have two more portions of the things which are going to sit in my cupboard for the next two years until they get chucked out.

Tuesday

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Another solo meal, this time I made the pasta snails with garlic butter from Simply Nigella and it was yummy. I think I need practice making the sauce, though, although the sauce is ridiculously easy to make, it’s just that I eyeballed the ingredients instead of measuring them and I didn’t add nearly enough parsley. So my dish doesn’t look anywhere near as green as in the book, despite removing probably almost a half of my supermarket parsley plant. Anyway, it was lovely, very much like garlic bread, except instead of bread it’s pasta. I’m not sure if I’m going to go to the effort of finding that sort of pasta shape again, but you definitely need the sort of pasta that takes up sauces in great big gollopfulls.

Good points: despite all that butter, I’m sure garlic and parsley count as health foods and as it’s a lot of garlic and parsley, so it’s almost good for you!

Bad points: you’re going to get through a lot of parsley plants.

Wednesday

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I fancied cake and I had some bananas, so I made the banana bread with cacao nibs and cardamom from Simply Nigella. It’s from the breakfast section, so was obviously never going to be that cakey but the result was a bit worthy and too be honest, not that bananary. Boy Lacer tried some and didn’t like it (it’s a rare cake he doesn’t like), I was a bit hmmm on first bite but it did grow on me, which is a good thing as I’ve got two small loaves of the stuff (I didn’t have a 900g loaf tin, so split it between two 450g tins, one of the loaves is now in the freezer).

Good points: it’s a bit healthy.

Bad points: it tastes like it.

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