I found myself a new cooking challenge to take me through the year. Unsurprisingly I got some new cookbooks other the festivities and one of them made the journey back up north with me. Another Lorraine Pascale effort – I suspect I now have a full set of her cookbooks – Eating Well Made Easy and well I’m trying to eat more healthily. (When I went veggie I seemed to mostly replace meat with cheese, this was…not entirely good for my waistline.) As I’m terrible for looking at cookbooks and not cooking anything from them I had the idea that I could try and cook two things each month from it. It seemed a good plan for making myself try new things – from an already trusted source – and having a subject for one blog post a month. (Accountability!)
So far I’ve been successful in my efforts! It took me until the very last day of January to get my second thing of the month made – banana and peanut butter muffins! But we’re only a week into February and I’ve already made two things out of it! Success!
Anyway, back to January’s adventures.
First up, I went with a tagine. (Leek, aubergine and chickpea tagine to be precise.) I do actually have a tagine, but its lurking in a cupboard at my parents’ house so I ended up making this in a large pot instead – much less exciting. I discovered after I started cooking it that it was actually supposed to be served with buckwheat rather than couscous. As I was making it as a ‘cook up my cupboards’ recipe, that wasn’t really an option, but after having a wee dig about in my cupboards and unearthed some Bulgar wheat so I used that instead. I’ve never used Bulgar wheat before but it’s cooked very similarly to couscous so that was fine. The recipe called for harissa paste which I didn’t have a the time, I’ll have to try that next time I make bulgar wheat, because it doesn’t seem to soak up the flavour of the liquid its soaked in quite as well as couscous does. Anyway, this was a ‘cooking for friends’ recipe so I thought it would do nicely for a bulk cook, keeping me in dinner and work lunches for several days. Now, often when I make these kind of dishes that say serves 4-6, a lot of the bulk of them is the accompaniment – lentils, rice, couscous, whatever – so cut that down and that keeps it manageable. This was…not the case with this recipe. It was tasty; don’t get me wrong, but oh my goodness, so much food. It fed me for three days meals, I froze a portion and I used some excess sauce, as a sauce for gnocchi – surprisingly successful – and still there were leftovers. I’d definitely make it again (ideally in a proper tagine) but, less of it, as by the time I was done I was utterly scunnered of it and still had to throw some out which doubly upsets me.
Second up were muffins. Banana and peanut butter muffins. Healthy ones. I suspect my rubbish oven is partly to blame as I’ve cooked muffins with wholemeal flour previously and they were delicious. I’ve tried to make banana and peanut butter muffins twice now, following two different recipes and both attempts have been thoroughly underwhelming. Which, given that bananas and peanut butter are two of my favourite things, is really rather disappointing. They’re just really dry and tasteless? Admitted this should have contained dates, which I didn’t have, but I presumed that was mainly for the sweetness so I added honey to them – the absence of which I’d previously written of the failure of the last recipe – but even that couldn’t help them. I’m going to try making the lovely pumpkin muffins in this oven (both healthy and tasty) and if they’re rubbish too, I’ll know it’s the oven and if not well I guess I’ll know that muffins that are both tasty and healthy are rare and to be treasured.