Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Recent Meals #3

Simon and I seem to have become famous in our church for our cooking, which is kind of amusing for me as I didn't learn how to cook anything fancier than pasta until I was in my third year of university. Simon has always loved to cook, and I think having someone who was excited to learn new recipes (and to cook for) encouraged me to become interested in cooking. This year is the first where I've done most of the cooking, since I'm at home all day. Up until now, Simon tended to take over in the kitchen, and it took him a long time to stop criticising how I chopped garlic and just enjoy whatever I cooked for him. Anyone who met me in my first year of university--when I lived off filled pasta and frozen chicken kievs--would find my current cooking goddess persona a little laughable. I don't even think I knew how to boil an egg until I left home in 2009. A lot has changed in five years!

Slow Cooked Honey Glazed Gammon, Sweet Potato Wedges & Salad
Source: A Year of Slow Cooking
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We used gammon rather than ham, and probably a lot less than this recipe called for since we were just feeding the two of us.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Super easy, as most slow cooker meals are! Melt the butter, dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker and occasionally turn the gammon/ham over to make sure it's cooking evenly. We make our own sweet potato wedges (peel the potatoes, chop into chunks, coat in oil, salt & pepper and dried herbs and stick in the oven for 20 minutes at 200) and used a pre-made salad (there are some things I cheat at!), but you could serve this with whatever sides you like.
Verdict: We don't make this recipe very often, but we do really like it. The gammon ends up with a fantastic blend of flavours, and the colours look amazing on the plate. It's a great meal for a day when you don't have much time to spend in the kitchen. I think we need to make this more often--especially as it seems like an easy one to make when there's a small baby around ;)

Crispy Salmon with Creamy Garlic Spaghetti & Roasted Asparagus
Source: How Sweet Eats
Who Cooked It: Rachel, although Simon helped towards the end
What We Changed: We used olive oil rather than coconut, regular spaghetti rather than whole wheat, semi-skimmed rather than skimmed milk, and single cream rather than half-and-half. We also added some smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and brown sugar to the top of the salmon, kind of like in this recipe.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? While the ingredients are pretty standard, this recipe does require some multi-tasking (especially if you decide to roast some vegetables with it, as we did--cut the ends off the asparagus, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper and stick them in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 180). I think the hardest thing about this recipe is getting the timings right so you don't end up with cold spaghetti or burnt salmon.
Verdict: We did really like this recipe, but we probably prefer this one, also from How Sweet Eats, which is very similar, but a bit more flavoursome. 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Biscuits with Poached Eggs, Extra Mature Cheddar Cheese & Bacon Jam
Source: How Sweet Eats (Can you guess what our favourite food website is?)
Who Cooked It: Rachel made the biscuits and Simon poached the eggs.
What We Changed: We used very slightly less sweet potato than called for (it's hard to gauge how much you'll get out of it before you've roasted the potato) and semi-skimmed milk.
What We Omitted: We opted not to serve these with bacon as we were in possession of a jar of bacon jam.
How Easy Is It? If you know how to make biscuits (or even scones) this is pretty easy to make. The only downside is that you need to remember to roast the sweet potato beforehand, so it's not a quick breakfast recipe unless you've roasted the sweet potato the day before. Since I can't seem to sleep in after 8am any more, I stuck the potato in the oven as soon as I woke up and then went back to bed to read while Simon slept.
Verdict: We loved these! As expected, since we're big fans of sweet potatoes. We sometimes throw together biscuits for breakfast at the weekend, and since we usually have a couple of sweet potatoes on hand these won't be much more effort to make. We'll definitely be having these again. You don't even have to use fancy toppings--these taste good just with raspberry jam. 

Jamaican Corn Stew with Sweet Potato Biscuits
Source: This one actually comes from a real, live cookbook, called The Slow Cook Book. You can view the recipe on Google Books here, if you click on page 126. This is an excellent slow cooker book, and it includes instructions on how to adapt each recipe for stove/oven cooking as well, which is what we did in this instance.
Who Cooked It: Simon
What We Changed: We used tinned sweetcorn rather than cobs, sweet peppers rather than bell peppers, and red lentils rather than split peas. 
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? As with most slow cooker recipes, this one is pretty easy. It involves a fair bit of chopping, and you need to fry a few things before adding them to the slow cooker (or you can keep them on the stove if you're cooking it using the traditional method) but you make it all in one pot, which is always a plus!
Verdict: This is one of Simon's favourite recipes, and I really like it as well. It's one for those who like their food spicy, since scotch bonnets (especially red ones) are genuinely very hot. We usually serve this with biscuits, and it works perfectly with the sweet potato breakfast biscuits above. We've found that it's easier to make this with tinned sweetcorn (of the Tesco Everyday Value variety--and no, I'm not kidding, it's actually really good) than corn on the cob. Corn on the cob can be pretty pricey, and it's awkward to cut the corn off the cob slices in your bowl. Tinned sweetcorn might not look as pretty, but it's just as tasty.

Butternut Squash & Kale Quesadillas
Source: The Pioneer Woman
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We adapted this to suit what we were able to get or had on hand--one whole small squash, chili flakes, prechopped kale (don't shoot me; it's all they sell in Tesco), large tortillas and extra mature cheddar cheese. Also, I have no idea what Kosher salt is or where you get it, so just assume for every recipe that mentions it that we're using sea salt. I don't know if it makes a difference.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Quesadillas in general aren't complicated, but chopping a butternut squash can be time-consuming and frustrating--especially if you have a fear of large knifes like me. I kid you not, I know how to cut a squash with a paring knife. As a side note, The Pioneer Woman's method of making quesadillas is the best I've come across (no flipping!) and is the one we now use for every quesadilla recipe.
Verdict: We've made this recipe several times now, whenever we have leftover squash and/or kale, and we really like it. You can't go wrong in our house with quesadillas, and squash is always super cheap and filling. We usually serve this with homemade salsa and sour cream. 

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