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July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

Yogurt Cake - p. 374

As promised, here is my followup! I was unhappy having posted a less-than-positive report on a recipe where I suspected that user error was responsible for the results.

This time I made sure to buy a regular (non-Greek), runny yogurt. The batter came out much moister, and although the cake still didn't rise much, the finished product came out far better. It's much lighter, with a lovely crumb from the semolina. The "rubberiness" of the texture was gone; the outside was slightly golden and crispy. And the pine nuts actually stayed in after baking, instead of falling off the top like last time.

When I took out my jar of sugar syrup from the fridge (I did add a little more rose water, because we wanted a more pronounced rose flavour) I discovered that it had thickened up quite a bit since I made it. It was much easier to distribute evenly this time, so every bite had some of the yummy rose flavour. If you decide to make this cake I'd suggest making the syrup the day before and refrigerating it overnight so that it's nice and thick.

The cake is still overall mildly flavoured, simple and delicious, and this time I could definitely taste the tahini it had absorbed from the pan. I'm very pleased with it.

(Thank you again to the generous L. Nightshade for helping me out this afternoon so that I could try this again!)

Aug 03, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

I really appreciate your quick help! My family can't wait to try this cake again.

Aug 03, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

Hang on - what temperature does it bake at? 350F? I remember I have to put it back after I pour in the sugar syrup; how long does it bake initially?

Aug 03, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

Thank you!! I think I remember how to make it. Watch this space. <3

Aug 03, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

Help! I bought some runnier yogurt, planning to try this recipe again on my day off (it's a holiday here) and I find I've returned the cookbook to the library in a fit of over-efficiency. The library is, naturally, closed for the holiday... Would anyone be willing to send me just the quantities of the ingredients? I'm not asking anyone to post the whole recipe, I know that's not allowed.

Aug 03, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

Thanks! I want to give this recipe another chance, so I'm going to make it again with two changes - first (obviously) using a thinner, more liquidy yogurt, and second I will brush the sugar syrup over the cake instead of pouring it, so that the moisture and flavour from the syrup is more evenly distributed. I'll let you all know how it turns out.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 1-4

Juster, thanks - I like those bowls too :-)

The "vanishing bread" is Paul Hollywood's basic white cob loaf, from his marvellous book "How to Bake". Link to recipe here: http://paulhollywood.com/recipes/whit... It really is quite a wonderful and easy loaf of bread. The best part is the way the crust snaps and crackles when you remove it from the oven.

Jul 28, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 1-4

Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions from Aleppo - p. 113

A simple and easy recipe, with the possible exception of the eye torture that came with thinly slicing 1.5 lbs of onions at the start (and heck, we could have used the food processor, so we can hardly blame the recipe...)

To make this soup, a cup of red lentils and a quarter cup each of bulgar and short-grain white rice are simmered in 1.5 quarts of water along with some cumin and sea salt. Meanwhile, the aforementioned onions caramelize gently in olive oil in a large skillet. Once the soup has simmered until the lentils and grains have completely softened, a tablespoon of ground coriander and a pinch of cayenne are added and then the caramelized onions are stirred in.

As you can see from my photo, this is a pretty homely soup (in both senses of the word)... and without the onions, it leans toward being rather bland. It's soothing, filling, basic comfort food, the kind of thing you would want to eat on a cold winter day, or when you're getting over a cold. The caramelized onions do jazz it up nicely, though we wished they wouldn't dangle from our spoons so much... I might quarter the onions before cooking in the future, to make the finished pieces smaller.

I can't say this recipe will make it into regular rotation, but it was a very nice family meal with some freshly baked "vanishing bread" (so called because nobody can stop eating it until it's gone) served alongside.

Cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's PLENTY MORE

Thank you, beetlebug!! I made this recipe a lot when it first appeared on Ottolenghi's column in the Guardian... and then I completely forgot about it. I'm looking forward to the re-appearance of squash at my farmer's market in a few weeks so I can enjoy it again. The flavour combination really is fantastic.

Jul 27, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

Yogurt Cake - p. 374

A simple semolina cake with a sugar syrup poured over top toward the end of baking.
This recipe caught my eye because it included two techniques I haven't used before: mixing yogurt with baking soda and letting it rest before incorporating into the mixture, and greasing the pan with tahini.

The recipe is pretty straightforward - you mix the dry and wet ingredients separately (semolina flour and sugar in one bowl, the yogurt/baking soda combination and melted butter in another) and then combine and press into your pre-tahinied pan. It was kind of cool to see the way the yogurt mixed with baking soda puffed up and became aerated after resting.

There were some issues with the finished product here - my cake didn't really rise much (you can see in the photo how dense it is), the pine nuts I put on top before baking kept falling off, and the finished product had an odd, somewhat rubbery texture. I suspect that the problem was with my choice of yogurt; I bought plain 2% Greek yogurt, and I bet this recipe was written for the thinner type of yogurt (which is becoming increasingly hard to find at the supermarket, thanks to the Greek yogurt craze). I should probably have thinned it out with some milk first. The cake did not absorb any of the tahini from the pan, and again it may be because the batter was just too thick.

It was tasty enough, but I was disappointed not to be able to taste the tahini, or the lemon/rose flavours from the sugar syrup (the recipe for that is on p. 387 - I have 3/4 of it still sitting in a mason jar in my fridge, and intend to add a little more rose water before I use it again). That said, it was not a bad cake - we will certainly finish this off with our tea tomorrow afternoon - just "not very special", as my daughter put it.

Cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's PLENTY MORE

Just wanted to follow up and say that the leftovers, while slightly soggy, made a fantastic addition to a bed of baby lettuce with some bits of roast chicken for lunch the next day. I'll be making this one again, for sure, and stealing the toasted seed/nut idea for jazzing up other salads.

beetlebug, I wonder if you maybe needed to eat this with some blander greens so that none of the herby bites were too overpowering. I also think the dressing needed more salt than the recipe directs...

Thank you for all of your lovely messages. I've missed the CH cookbook community so much! My week off is rapidly drawing to a close but I am hoping to cook at least one recipe from this month's COTM before I dive back into my work again Monday.

Jul 25, 2015
geekmom in Home Cooking

Cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's PLENTY MORE

Raw Beetroot and Herb Salad - p. 21

Here's one of those classic Ottolenghi recipes where you prep and throw together a bunch of ingredients and come up with a fantastic mishmash of flavours, textures and sensations.

To make: cut 3 medium beets into matchsticks, toast some flaked almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds, and prep a massive pile of fresh herbs (the recipe calls for basil, cilantro, dill, tarragon, and parsley, but I left out the dill because my family hates it). Meanwhile, zest and juice a lemon and mix with 75 ml of olive oil, some salt and pepper and chili flakes. When you're ready to serve, toss everything, and serve. That's it!

Considering this was the first thing I made from an actual recipe in months (I started a business last year, and now my cookbooks sit forlornly gathering dust while we eat horrible Costco meals) I was pretty stoked at how well it turned out. Ottolenghi does not disappoint. There's a little bit of everything here - crunchy beets, toasty seeds and nuts, the sharpness of those fresh herbs, tart lemon and the fizz of those chili flakes. I think the lemon juice may need to be cut back a little next time as it was a little too lemony, but geekgirl suggested we try eating it with avocado next time, and I think that's an intriguing idea... I'm going to give it a go.

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

LLM, I haven't tried this recipe with yogurt but I agree with Caitlin - assuming it's of the same consistency as sour cream (like a thick, Greek or Balkan style yogurt) I would give it a go. I can't wait to hear how it turns out!

Oct 18, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

What cookbooks have you bought lately, or are you lusting after? September 2014 edition! [old]

My copy of Plenty More is on its way to me thanks to Amazon UK. To say I was excited to get the email announcing that it had been shipped would be an understatement. I can't wait to dig in to it.

Having seen the reviews so far, I wish I had added Jamie Oliver's new book "Jamie's Comfort Food" to my cart.

I'm also sitting on the fence about the Thug Kitchen cookbook - anyone else? http://www.amazon.ca/Thug-Kitchen-Eat...

Sep 14, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Oh, that's a great idea. I'm going to try again with a higher oven temp. Thanks!

Aug 14, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Chicken and Chorizo in Rioja - p. 12

Eight chicken thighs are seasoned and quickly browned in olive oil, then set aside while a mixture of onions, celery, carrots and chunks of smoked chorizo are cooked in a large casserole until the vegetables are softened. Flour is briefly stirred into this mixture, and then rioja and chicken stock are poured in. At this point the chicken goes back into the pan, thyme and a bay leaf are tucked in, and the pan goes into the oven for 35 minutes at 350F. Occasional basting is all that's needed from this point on. The dish is served topped with chopped parsley; I added wedges of homemade foccacia, since I had it around, and it soaked up the juices very nicely.

This was a very easy dish with a lovely rich gravy. There isn't a whole lot of variety in the flavour, but I liked that it was easy and quick enough to be a weeknight meal (especially if you prep the veggies beforehand). The leftovers reheated very nicely, too.

This would make a perfect dinner on a miserable winter day, accompanied with a big glass of wine. :-)

Aug 13, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking
2

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Fettucine with goat-cheese pesto and roast tomatoes - p. 92

The first time I tried to make this dish, I was in small-town Ontario and could not find fresh basil anywhere, even though it was the height of summer(!), so I used a jar of Jamie Oliver pesto and mixed in goat cheese (which turns out to be a very easy way to add dimension to a bought pesto). I didn't feel like that would be worthy of a proper write-up here, though, so yesterday we repeated the recipe.

When I was able to make the pesto according to DH's instructions on this page, I found myself agreeing with GG - it really is very very rich, and quite filling. We loved it, and even put a little plate of crumbled goat cheese on the table to sprinkle over top. And the roast cherry tomatoes are a great, sharp addition to this creamy dish.

Thumbs up from everyone here. We will definitely be making this again.

Aug 13, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Similar to this, Gio - seared, then roasted in a hot pan in the oven. That seems to work better than pan cooking only.

Aug 13, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

This sounds amazing! I love ling cod for its substantial meaty texture. I think I'm going to bookmark this recipe.

Aug 13, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Thanks for the link, Caitlin. I wonder if I should have left it in the oven longer? Your description of the potatoes crisping up on the outside doesn't sound anything like our result. The tomatoes cooked through and were splitting open, and the potatoes were soft and cooked through, but not crispy. Hmm.

Aug 12, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Rhubarb Cake - p. 183

Those of you in the "Cooking From..." thread may remember my delight in finding this recipe last year. I have baked it countless times, not just with rhubarb but with apples, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, you name it. A truly wonderful, versatile cake recipe.

Aug 12, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Roast Potatoes and Tomatoes with Spices - p. 115

A simple side dish, consisting of 1kg cut-up waxy potatoes and 500g whole cherry tomatoes, spread in a roasting tin, and coated with olive oil which has been mixed with smoked paprika and toasted, crushed coriander and cumin seeds. This is baked at 350F for around 40 minutes, then served with fresh chopped parsley or coriander.

I'm afraid this one was not a winner at the Geek house. The flavour of the spices did not penetrate the potatoes at all, so the whole dish was disappointingly bland. I used a new tin of paprika and top-quality potatoes and tomatoes from the farmers' market, so I am not sure if there was anything I could have done differently here. I will not make this one again, but happily, there are many other promising potato recipes in this book.

Aug 12, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Do they offer an adult version of that camp? It sounds awesome!

Aug 08, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Thank you :-) I'm glad that I've found time to contribute this month!

Aug 07, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

All-in-one Chocolate Cake - p. 178

When I realized that this book was going to be a COTM, I decided it was time to branch out a bit and try some of the other dessert recipes in Cook Simple. ("Other" meaning other than the rhubarb cake, which many of you know has become a staple at my house.) After all, dessert recipes are often underrepresented in COTM reports, and someone needs to balance things out, right?

Like many of the recipes in this wonderful cookbook, this cake is so simple - a quick assembly job. All the ingredients are whizzed in a FP, thinned out with a bit of water, poured into your cake tin and away you go. Even the icing thickened up very quickly so that it didn't drip off the sides of the cakes (as you see in the photo, I opted to make individual cupcakes rather than one large cake). This cake was rich and chocolatey, and not too sweet - particularly since I used a 70% dark chocolate for the icing. If you'd like a sweeter cake you could use milk chocolate instead.

What's not to like about this recipe? I will definitely be making this one again!

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Chicken baked with red onions, potatoes, and (thyme) - p. 15

Thanks to Blythe for the summary of this recipe. I used thyme, because I was cooking for someone who doesn't like rosemary. The substitution worked extremely well. The flavours are simple and appealing.

This was ludicrously easy, and I was able to make it as a weeknight meal - I preheated the oven when I walked in the door, quickly chopped everything up and "bunged it in the oven" as the book says. The aroma coming from the kitchen was absolutely wonderful as it baked! We all thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

I did find that my chicken was thoroughly cooked through well before the veg had reached the level of caramelization I wanted, though, so if possible I'd recommend you use chicken with the bones and skin still attached.

Aug 07, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking
1

March 2011 Cookbook of the Month COTM Adjunct thread: ALL OTHER JAMIE OLIVER RECIPES

Oh gosh! I'm so sorry. LOL! It really bugs me. I'm quite neurotic about hand-washing (and surfaces and basically anything at all that touches raw meat) and it probably adds a few minutes to the cooking time when I make the 15 minute meals that have meat in them... And you're right, I had not noticed that he never washes his veg either. Yech!

Jun 05, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

March 2011 Cookbook of the Month COTM Adjunct thread: ALL OTHER JAMIE OLIVER RECIPES

Check upthread for my misadventures in trying to get a couple of these meals done in 15 minutes. I even destroyed a pan one time because it sat empty on the high heat setting for ages while my food processor gave me trouble slicing potatoes :-)

Basically, you CAN do these meals in about fifteen minutes or so - if it's your third or fourth go at that particular recipe. The first couple of times you are learning the recipe, so give yourself 45 minutes and don't try to rush. Read through it several times and figure out what is unwritten (ie, if it tells you to put an empty pan on at high heat, but you have to do quite a few steps before you use that pan, maybe the first time you heat that pan up later on... or if it tells you to boil some water before you start cooking, but it takes you quite a while to get to the point where you need the boiling water, maybe put the kettle on later in the process... that kind of thing.)

Also, anyone notice that Jamie doesn't stop to wash his hands during the show after he touches raw meat? I can't cook like that, so that definitely slows me down.

As for the serving on a cutting board thing - no, I don't do that. It depends on the recipe but my son is at the "I'm going to grow an inch this week so I am going to eat everything in sight" phase, and sometimes these recipes only make enough for four normal-sized servings... the rest of us want to eat too! I just serve the meal onto the plates in the kitchen, or I put the pans on trivets in the middle of the table and let everyone serve themselves (obviously not a great option if you have young kids, though).

Jun 02, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

March 2014 Cookbook of the Month - Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition: Starters and Small Bites Pg. 1-56

Ooh, that makes sense. I don't think I added more than another tablespoon or two of flour at the end - just whatever the dough picked up from the liberally floured bench. I think this recipe falls short on instructions for those who don't have a lot of experience working with yeasted doughs. I have spent the past few months baking 3-4 loaves of bread every weekend and I think that helped enormously even though this was my first attempt at brioche and I had no idea how to deal with such a sticky dough. If you've ever changed a diaper, the dough should feel smooth like a baby's bottom when it's ready to rest.

I used no name unbleached AP flour from the Superstore :-)

Mar 11, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking

March 2014 Cookbook of the Month - Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition: Starters and Small Bites Pg. 1-56

Oh man, how disappointing that your crust didn't work out as well as it could have. I'm curious, did you use a stand mixer to prepare the dough, and how long did you refrigerate afterward? I am thinking you're probably right that adding too much flour at the end may have been the culprit. I kneaded very very gently after it came out of the mixer, just enough to get a feel for the dough and then I left it alone.

Mar 10, 2014
geekmom in Home Cooking