Victory Dinner

  • Recipe(s): Overnight slow-roasted pork (page 174)
  • Prep: Easy
  • Taste: Good

We made it!

On December 28, 2014 we completed the 158th recipe from, ‘Cook with Jamie…,’ bringing an end to our challenge of completing every recipe in the book before 2014 came to a close. It has been quite the ride, as those who have read some of these posts can probably attest to.

I have yet to blog about some of the recipes that we made, so this will not be the last post about our challenge, nor will it be the last post on this site. We will continue to make new recipes in 2015 from the various other cook books we have at our home. They may not be as frequent but I hope they will be as entertaining or maybe even educational.

Overnight slow-roasted pork
Some may think that because this is a slow-roasted dish the prep would have ranked as moderate. While the dish does take time to cook, the actual prep is quite easy. All that you need to do is chop up a few veggies, bash up some fennel seeds, put everything into your roasting pan and place it into your pre-heated oven. Very easy indeed.

While the roast is cooking you have some time to prep the rest of your meal. On this occasion, as we had no other, ‘required,’ dishes to make, we made some good ol’ mashed potatoes, peas, beans and our dinner guests brought some carrots.

After 4 hours in the oven the pork was ready to come out. I should mention that we purchased a piece of pork shoulder that was substantially smaller than what the book calls for. This is why we were able to have the roast done in 4 hours rather than the 9-12 called for in the book. Anyway, as the pork was resting on the cutting board I made the gravy. Now, here the book says to use a potato masher to mash up the vegetables, while this would have created a nice chunky gravy I decided to pour everything into the Kitchen Ninja and blend it for about 30 seconds. This created a nice, smooth, easy pouring gravy.

The finished dish was good. To me the stand out was the gravy. It was very intensely flavoured from the combination of vegetables (onion, fennel, carrot), thyme, white wine, vegetable stock, and pork fat. It was completely different from gravy I’ve had in the past. Normally you simply mix your pork fat, wine, etc. with some flour and cook until it’s thick. In this case you didn’t need to add flour because the blended vegetables create the thickness.

The pork itself was good but a little dry in spots. The roast pulled apart nicely but was not as moist as I would’ve expected. Some pieces were very nice but others needed the gravy. I would definitely make gravy this way again and will probably slow-roast another pork shoulder in the future.

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Peas…two ways

  • Recipe(s): Cheesy peas (page 324) & Buttered peas with crunchy bacon (page 320)
  • Prep: Easy & Easy
  • Taste: Good & Good

Peas are such a versatile vegetable. They can be cooked many different ways, from boiling to frying, they can be served on their own or as an ingredient in a larger dish and they are always super easy to prep. If you buy frozen peas you really only have to heat them up and if you shell them yourself you only have to cook them slightly to soften the insides. They are actually one of my favourite vegetables. I was happy to see 4 recipes in, ‘Cook with Jamie…’ that were dedicated to the pea.

This blog will cover off two of those recipes, with the other two covered in previous blogs.

Cheesy Peas
We made this recipe back on March 23, 2014. It was one of the easiest recipes I have ever made. The prep is insanely easy and super quick. We used frozen peas, so all we had to do was remove the peas from the freezer, add 4 handfuls to a pot of water, boil until they’re tender, drain them, put them back in the pot, add parmesan and butter, crack some pepper over the top and serve. All in all it took approximately 10 minutes to complete the entire dish!

The dish is definitely good. It didn’t quite make it to an excellent rating as there wasn’t anything extra special about it. Yes, it had parmesan cheese and butter, but that was really it. The squeeze of lemon over the top at the end definitely helped bring some additional flavour but wasn’t enough to elevate it up a level. We would make it again though due to the fact that it was easy and good.

Bacon Peas
This recipe contains bacon, which, we all know, makes everything better. I mentioned earlier that peas are one of my favourite vegetables, so adding bacon to them seems like a winning combination right? Well, this recipe certainly didn’t disappoint. We made it on April 15, 2014 and, like the Cheesy Pea recipe, this one is also super easy to prep. Some may argue that there’s an added step of frying bacon but really, who doesn’t like to fry bacon? It smells so good when you’re cooking it that you forget it’s part of the prep!

Anyway…you will notice that we rated the finished dish as good. You may ask, ‘if you like peas and bacon so much why isn’t it excellent,’ which is a completely valid question. The reason it’s not excellent is because there was nothing in the dish that took it to the next level or surprised us. I think that because my partner’s Mom often makes a variation of this dish, and I like bacon so much, that we held this version to a higher standard. If I’d never had anything like this before I probably would have rated it excellent. I would definitely make it again and will continue to make it again, possibly with a few variations in the future.

Birthday Party Bonanza

  • Recipe(s): Minted peas under oil (page 323) & The best whole-baked carrots (page 312) & A rather pleasing carrot cake with lime mascarpone icing (page 387) & Poached salmon steak (page 220) & Crispy fragrant jumbo shrimp (page 262) & Scotch stovies (page 301)
  • Prep: See below
  • Taste: See below

On April 11, 2014 we hosted a birthday dinner for my partner’s Mom, at which we served 7 dishes from, ‘Cook with Jamie…’. I will cover off 6 of the dishes in this blog as I already did the Tomato Salad as part of another blog, titled, ‘5 Different Salads’.

Minted Peas
This was an extremely easy dish to concoct. All you have to do is put some frozen peas into water with mint and bring them to a boil, easy right? It doesn’t get any easier than this in my books. The finished product was like nothing I’d had before. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best dish. There was so much oil it almost overpowered the rest of the ingredients. It could be that we aren’t used to large amounts of oil in our dishes or that we didn’t use high enough quality olive oil but none of us really enjoyed it. This recipe may work though if you just cut back substantially on the oil. In the end we rated this as an ok dish.

Carrots
Super easy to prep with an excellent taste. People at that dinner have subsequently asked for the recipe…enough said.

Carrot Cake
This was a very good carrot cake. It had some interesting flavours that most of us at dinner had never had in a carrot cake before. For instance, there was a hint of lime flavour, which was very unique. We used the juice of one lime and the recipe called for 2 – the crowd was split on whether a second lime would have enhanced the dish or not. The one nice thing about this version of carrot cake was that the icing didn’t seem too heavy, which was very welcome. Often, with store bought carrot cake the icing is so heavy that it overpowers everything. This one allowed you to taste the rest of the cake. My partner doesn’t normally like carrot cake and she thought this was the best one she had ever tried.

There is a lot to do in the prep so it is definitely moderate. You could cut down on the time requirement by purchasing grated carrot instead of grating it yourself, like we did. However, if you are making a carrot cake you may as well go whole hog on the prep.

Salmon Steak
Poaching has never been my favourite method to cook salmon. I find that the effort required is not justified in the final product. Yes, poaching probably produces the moistest fish but I never really find that the poaching liquor permeates the fish, which is the point. This dish was no different. The salmon tasted like salmon and the vegetables tasted like fish. The salmon was definitely good but, to me, it would have been good bbq’d or whole roasted in the oven as well. The vegetables on the other hand were not so good. Perhaps in the future, if we were to poach a fish again, we wouldn’t eat the vegetables from the poaching liquor?

Jumbo Shrimp
This was an absolutely brilliant dish! I think it actually earned 5 out of 5 stars from everyone who had one, meaning it is ranked as excellent. There is a bit of prep involved, such as; prepping the shrimp (butterflying and de-veining) and putting together the seasoned flour, but it is definitely worth it. I would say the prep is still easy though. I actually used the largest prawns I could find as I couldn’t find shrimp. I think this dish would have worked well with either jumbo shrimp or jumbo prawns. To make the seasoned flour we used a general seafood seasoning, which worked really well. Make sure you bake these long enough to have a nice firm crust around the shrimp but not so long that you over cook the shrimp/prawn on the inside. We cooked them perfectly, leaving a nice crispy outer layer with a soft/semi firm inside. Delicious!

The only think I didn’t like about the dish was the arugula on the plate. While it added a nice visual it didn’t contribute to the taste so in the future I may leave it out.

Scotch Stovies
This dish required quite a bit of prep and didn’t turn out like we hoped. In the end, the final dish was a touch too mushy and lacked a bit of flavour. We think that we could make this again with much less water added. We did use russet potatoes in this version so perhaps we will try and find a, ‘drier,’ potato if we make it again. The dish has potential but we were unable to unlock it on this attempt so it is ranked as good.

Final Verdict
All in all I would say the birthday party bonanza was a success. There were a few dishes that we would definitely make again and some that we would try with a few tweaks to the original recipe.

Pavlova Party

  • Recipe(s): Coconut, banana and passion fruit pavlova (page 397)
  • Prep: Easy
  • Taste: Good

Back on May 24, 2014 my partner was heading to a dinner party at a friend’s house. Her contribution to the party was a homemade pavlova. I had nothing to do with this dish as I was out of town, so below I have attempted to tell her story from what she’d told me/annotated in the cook book…

Pavlova is a classic dessert that’s light and fluffy and this recipe was just that. The differences here were the toppings/fruit that were required and the layering. The dish is started by making your basic meringue, which is easy and super delicious. You bake two separate rounds of meringue (top and bottom layer), then you make whipped cream and add a layer to the first meringue round with the addition of a layer of bananas and passion fruit seeds. I feel like you don’t normally see pavlova with passion fruit seeds or banana, so this was a bit different. Anyway, then the second round of meringue goes on top and to finish off, coconut shavings are sprinkled on top. ┬áThe fresh coconut shavings proved to be the most difficult part – my partner was by herself when she was making this and wasn’t able to get the fresh coconut opened. I’m told she watched several You Tube videos and tried imitating them but couldn’t get it to work. She even went out to buy a second coconut to try, but her efforts were in vain as she never was able to crack it. So in the end, she made a third trip to the store and bought dried shavings. This has been a reoccurring theme this year with this challenge – having to make multiple trips to the grocery store when we realize either we’ve forgotten something, bought the wrong item or screwed up and have to start again…I guess that’s why we’re calling it our ‘2014 challenge’.

This was a good dish but I’m not sure we’d make it with the coconut, banana and passion fruit seeds again (mainly because my partner doesn’t like coconut and neither of us are huge on passion fruit). I think we’d go for different fruit, like berries. Overall this is an easy recipe┬áto make. The two layers of meringue made it stand out a bit from other pavlovas but in the end, I’m not sure it really enhanced the dessert. Also, a single layer (i.e. meringue on bottom and fruit on top) makes for a more colourful presentation. Regardless, it was good and we’d definitely try making it again but just with different toppings.

Early Christmas Dinner

  • Recipe(s): The best roast turkey (page 194) & Creamy butternut squash (page 350)
  • Prep: Moderate & Easy
  • Taste: Good & Good

We have been waiting for this time of the year to make the turkey recipe from, ‘Cook with Jamie…’ We were going to save it for right around Christmas but thought that most people get inundated with turkey at that time, so we made it a few weeks ahead of the holiday, a prelude to the Season. We sent the invite out to my brother and sister-in-law, they accepted and the other night (December 6, 2014) we made a full turkey dinner.

Turkey
If you have ever made a turkey dinner before you know how much prep is involved. Not only do you have to prep the bird but you also have to make the stuffing that goes along with it. Well, this recipe was no different. In fact, there was actually more prep involved in this recipe than with others I’ve cooked. In addition to stuffing the bird, you also poke your pancetta-wrapped rosemary sprigs into the legs and thighs, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. Things are made all that much more difficult when you’ve attended a rockin’ holiday party the night before..!

The cooked turkey was good. The turkey itself was really no different from others I’ve had in my life but the stuffing was definitely unique. I’m used to stuffing that is heavy on bread but this one took it the other way and was heavy on pork sausage, which I’d never had in stuffing before. This alone made the stuffing quite different but the ingredient that really upped the anti was the dried apricot. These added a real sweetness that I’d never experienced in stuffing but was quite nice. This, combined with the saltiness of the pancetta (in the stuffing) and other spices, created a very different, yet tasty stuffing which helped to elevate the rest of the meal.

Squash
I did zero prep on the squash and also didn’t eat any of the finished product, so I am going off of what my partner told me about the recipe. The prep was rated on the high end of easy, not because of the skill required but rather because of the time required. You have to peel the squash, which isn’t the easiest task. Then you have to pick the thyme leaves, which has been one of our least favourite things this year. We love fresh herbs in our food but picking the leaves is always a pain. Anyway, then you mix the remaining ingredients together, which involved red chilies, light cream, grated nutmeg, chardonnay (yay!) and parmesan. So, while this recipe is rated easy, it is close to being moderate.

The cooked dish was good. It had all of the classic flavours for the holiday season; thyme, nutmeg, and sweet squash. It was a great addition to a turkey dinner. Not only did it taste good (so I’m told) there was also a lot of it. The recipe said it was enough for 4 people but we had 4 people and I think we only made it through half. It could have fed at least 6 big eaters, probably 8. Generally we’ve found this cookbook to be accurate with its estimates of how many people the recipe will serve (especially since we’ve experienced many recipes from other sources that really underestimate) but this one didn’t work that way – though maybe the squash in BC are bigger than they are in England. Anyway, as it is a fairly easy dish overall to construct, this is something that we would make again for a group.

Middle Eastern Duck Salad

  • Recipe(s): Middle Eastern Duck Salad (page )
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Very Good

Another Sunday night, another great dinner, care of Jamie Oliver. A few weeks ago (November 30, 2014) we completed the final warm salad of our challenge and were treated to yet another recipe that included duck.

The prep for this recipe is moderate. There’s a lot to do, in terms of chopping, etc. in addition to this there’s a large time commitment required because you have to roast the duck first, which takes a few hours. Thankfully, the Grey Cup was on this day so I was able to enjoy the game while the duck cooked. Another reason the prep took a bit of time was because we were unable to locate pre-shelled pistachios anywhere around our place. We had to buy a bag of roasted pistachios and then shell them. What a pain that was!

Note to those who are going to deseed a pomegranate. DO NOT wear white. I choose the method of cutting the pomegranate in half and banging the outside with a wooden spoon so all of the seeds fall out. While I did not get much on myself the recipe book took a beating. It looked like it had been through it and back….woops.

The final product was solidly good. It was very different from any salad I had ever made or, for that matter, ever had in my life. It contained a range of ingredients that worked very well with each other and that I would never have thought to put together. There were sweet notes, sour notes, salty notes and rich notes, primarily from the duck. Out of all the duck recipes that we made this year I probably cooked the duck the best on this occasion. We recently were given a new roaster, which probably helped.

We would probably not make this again as there is a large time commitment required and well, duck is expensive. I did like the flavour though, so may try the same type of recipe with a roasted chicken.

Onesie Party Cookies

  • Recipe(s): The best shortbread in the world (page 412) & Ultimate gingerbread (page 414)
  • Prep: Moderate & Moderate
  • Taste: Good & Good

Last Friday, December 12, 2014, our friends hosted a onesie party. For those of you who don’t know what a onesie party is, let me explain. Essentially, it’s a chance for a bunch of young adults to get together over the holiday season, wear a comfortable article of clothing that is associated with babies/children, have a few beverages and eat lots of food. Our contribution, aside from showing up in awesome onesies, was to make some desserts. We thought this would be a perfect chance to complete the final two desserts from our challenge; shortbread and gingerbread, so the night before the party I had a one-man baking party. Woohoo!

Shortbread
As with most baking, well….maybe only when I’m baking, the prep is moderate. It always seems to take me a long time to prep everything when I’m baking. There is; cutting, measuring, slicing, sifting, mixing, rolling, patting…..you get the picture – lots to do. Add to this the fact that you’re slowed down by making sure your measurements are bang on to keep the recipe from being screwed up, it took me a little while.

As these are being taken to a party and served to friends I made sure to quality control the finished product! I can report that it’s definitely a good shortbread but not the best I have ever had. It doesn’t really have anything that makes it stand out from other shortbreads. The only ingredient that was unique was the semolina flour but this did nothing to enhance the taste, to me anyways. All in all, it is a solid baked good.

Gingerbread
When I saw that the gingerbread was made from a completed batch of shortbread I was pretty stoked. I figured, since I made a double batch of shortbread my prep on this recipe would be easy. Well, I was wrong. There is still plenty of; measuring, chopping….I think you get the picture. It may not have taken quite as long as the shortbread recipe but then again you have to make the shortbread first, so….

The gingerbread was very different from any other I’d had before, which I was hoping for. In my mind, I associate gingerbread with those uber hard, plastic wrapped, gingerbread men/women you pick up at the store. This isn’t anything like those, I repeat, this isn’t anything like those. These are chewy (a product of the molasses and golden syrup), sweet (sugar), and have a bit of heat (ground and crystallized ginger). Now, the heat I’m talking about is not like tabasco heat but rather that nice, back of the tongue, heat/tang you get from fresh ginger. I really like that flavour. If you don’t like ginger and/or molasses then this recipe isn’t for you. If you do, then this is a great gingerbread recipe that I’d suggest trying out.