Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Three - Pappardelle wtih ragu of tiny meatballs

Week three of my cooking challenge saw a return to savoury, as I wanted to shake things up a bit with our evening meals, rather than always plumping for the tried and tested. I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver's cook books for simple, effective meals that I actually would make at home. So when looking for a tasty new evening meal, one of his books was my first stop.

I went for the Papardelle with ragu of tiny meatballs recipe in his book Cook with Jamie (which happens to be on special offer for a tenner on Amazon at the mo). It looked fairly simple, especially as he makes clear that you don't have to make the pasta from scratch (a lesson for another time..!), and the ingredients were all easy to get hold of. The meatballs are made from beef mince, combined with some chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, egg, parmesan cheese and lemon zest. I wasn't too keen on the part that involved scrunching and mushing all the ingredients together with my hands, as it felt a touch icky, but the delicious aromas coming from the ingredients spurred me on.

The meatballs are shallow fried and served with a fairly simple tomato sauce with pasta and a sprinkling of basil leaves and mine looked like this:

And the verdict? Tasty, but I overdid the meatballs slightly, by putting them on a higher heat than I should have done to start with. This meant that the outsides cooked too quickly and I had to leave them on the heat to get the middles to cook live and learn (which is what this challenge is all about, afterall). Also, I was not too sure about the inclusion of lemon zest in the meatballs. I think this was everso slightly overpowering and when I make them again I may well leave this out.

The Scores:

9/10 from hubby, who loved them but would have been happier had I not overcooked them.
8/10 from me, but to be tried again without lemon zest in an attempt to raise the score!

I am now taking a short interlude from my cooking challenge, as I will be going on holiday shortly. But, rest assured, when I am back I will be cooking away like a good little Goddess-in-Training! xx

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Two - Rasberry Ripple Pavlova

Sorry for the late write up for Week Two of my cooking challenge. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long - it's just been one of those weeks where time seems to disappear. Oh well, I'm here now!

Week Two was a fun week, as my 'try-a-recipe' day was the day that two good friends came over for dinner. The main course almost counted as a new recipe - I made Jamie Oliver's mushroom risotto - but as I have done a mushroom risotto from another book before, I decided it probably shouldn't count.

Dessert, on the other hand, was a brand new, very fun challenge! I wanted something that I could make in advance so that I wouldn't need to worry about timing and burning whilst my friends were here, especially as I knew I would have had a couple of glasses of wine by pudding time!

I wasn't sure what to make, so I turned to Twitter for some advice. My followers are a very helpful bunch and made a number of excellent suggestions, but the one I settled on was pavlova. Having never made meringue before, I was fairly nervous. But I found a lovely looking recipe on BBC Good Food and decided to press ahead. On the advice of my mum, I got up super early to prepare the meringue. The longer you can leave the meringue in the oven to cool, the less likely it is to crack when you go to serve it, apparently.

Meringue, I discovered, is incredibly easy to make. Whisk egg whites, add sugar, bake. As simple as that. Or, almost as simple as that. I did actually have to make the meringue twice, because where the recipe says to add the sugar slowly, it doesn't mean put your electric whisk onto the slow speed - it means add the sugar slowly! If you do it too fast, your eggs will lose the beautiful stiff peaks you've just spent ages creating and you'll end up with a bowl of slimy goop, like I did.

Attempt two went very well though and produced a beautiful, un-cracked meringue. The semi-freddo topping in the recipe was so easy too. It involves smushing some raspberries and whisking together mascarpone and cream, before freezing for a couple of hours.

And the result? A truly delicious dessert that will leave your friends with very big smiles on their faces.

I didn't do too well on the photo taking front this time. The pavolva was gone too quickly, but here's a shot of what was left at the end of the evening:

And the scores?

10/10 from all four of us! One friend even said that it was a far better pavlova than she had ever tasted in a restaurant. Thanks BBC Good Food - you did me proud!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week One - Warm Vegetable Medley

This week was the first week of my cooking challenge, a challenge in which I promised to try a new recipe each week for six months in order to brush up on my cooking skills.

So, what happened in Week One?

I decided to keep it simple for my first week, so made a one pot dish for an evening meal. Whilst the dish I made was simple, it included ingredients I never usually cook with - namely celery and aubergine. I've always been a little bit nervous of aubergine, but it is so easy and tasty I'm pleased I've introduced it to my repertoire.

The recipe I chose was a Warm Vegetable Medley from the brilliant Frame by Frame Italian cookbook that my sister bought my husband for Christmas last year. This book is really very good. Essentially it is a picture recipe book, which - along with written instructions - shows photos of every step of a recipe. It has proved very useful in getting my husband into the kitchen this year.

The Warm Vegetable Medley seemed a good choice this week, as the days are starting to feel autumnal and something hearty and warm was needed (yes, I really am writing this post in August!!). The recipe basically consisted of cooking together onions, celery, aubergine, plum tomatoes and olives, with three tablespoons of red wine vinegar and some sugar. It is served with ciabatta bread. 

And how did it go? Well, I'm not sure I will be making it again, although I think this would be to my husband's disappointment. He described it as 'very good for a bowl of vegetables', but I thought it was a touch too vinegary to be really tasty. Perhaps I will make it again, but reducing the amount of vinegar used. It was definitely easy and a good way to get a lot of veggies into my tummy!

Here's a piccy of the finished dish:

And now, time for the scores. This week's new recipe receives:

8/10 from my husband
6/10 from me

Oh well...onwards and upwards!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Challenge: Cooking!

Last weekend I watched the film Julie and Julia and I loved it. It is based on a true story about a woman who feels lost in her own life finding a way to make herself feel alive again. And the way she did it? By cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, and blogging about it as she went. The film cuts between the life of Julie - the blogger - and Julia - the cook. The Julia bits are set in Paris, and there is nowhere on earth that I am more obsessed with than Paris!

I'm telling you about this film because it really inspired me. I already feel that blogging has lifted me, and the days I sew and blog are the ones when I am happiest. I am really surprised by how much I get out of writing a post and knowing that somewhere out there someone might be enjoying reading it. And I am definitely loving learning new skills and 'meeting' people out there in cyberland who share the same passions I have.

But I feel I have wavered a touch from the original aim of this blog: to chronicle my journey to becoming a domestic goddess. I have focused a lot on sewing and less on the cooking side of things. Unless I better my cooking skills, there is no way I will ever be able to wear the label 'Domestic Goddess' and truly believe it belongs to me. So, armed with the inspiration I took from Julie and Julia, I am going to set myself a challenge. My challenge will be on a smaller scale than the one Julie set herself, but it will be a challenge nonetheless.

And what is that challenege?

For the next 6 months I will cook one recipe a week that I have never cooked before. 

For some, this may not seem like much of a challenge, but for someone like me, who tends to fall into a rut and cook the same things over and over, it really is. To make sure I follow through on this challenge and don't give up, I am going to blog about each and every recipe I try.  So, you'll be able to cheer me on from the sidelines...and perhaps some of you might join in too?

Don't worry - I'm still going to blog about my sewing adventures as well. I just felt I needed a little kick up the bum to improve my cooking skills and I think this might just do it.

My challenge will run from today, Saturday 13th August 2011, to Saturday 11th February 2012 and the weeks will run from Saturday to Friday. The recipes don't have to be main courses, but could be starters, desserts, cakes or any other culinary delight that tickles my fancy.

So, wish me luck! And perhaps, if I need your help, you might be able to suggest some recipes along the way...

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Baby quilt commission

When I started out on my journey to become a domestic goddess, I was not expecting that just seven months into my project I would be commissioned to make a baby quilt. But that is exactly what has happened! Who would have thought it?!

I am still a long, long way from domestic goddess status (have you noticed the lack of cooking-related posts recently?!), but it seems my sewing skills are now good enough to enable me to sell something that I have made.

I won't go into detail about how I made the quilt, as I used the same techniques I used and blogged about previously, but I will share with you some pictures of the finished item. All the fabrics (except for the backing) are Cath Kidston designs, and I think they work beautifully together. Aren't the little aeroplanes just adorable?!

 I really hope you like it!