#52recipes - numbers 1-5

So I mentioned earlier on in the years that my New Years resolution is to try 52 new recipes this year to help make me more adventurous in the kitchen and finally use those hundreds of cookbooks I have collected over the years. I said I would blog about them every time I had achieved five so here we are! I have mostly been cooking from Meera Sodha's Fresh India book and I'm obsessed. We're trying to eat more vegetarian food and for me, I find curries one of the most flavoursome ways to make vegetables taste good and not feel like I'm missing out by cutting meat out. So what have I rustled up in the kitchen so far?

1. BBC Food's Sage and Onion Stuffing Balls
My best friend did us Beef Wellington on New Years Day. I had some left over sausage meat in the fridge from Christmas so decided to attempt stuffing balls for the first time. They were so easy and so tasty! I'll never buy shop bought ones again.

2. Bengali Coconut Dahl from Fresh India
I've recently discovered an Indian/Caribbean mini supermarket in my town and have been obsessed with it. I've never seen so many types of lentils before! As a result I've been making a few dahls because I kinda went overboard with the lentil buying. I really enjoyed the hint of coconut and this made the perfect winter warmer dinner. It tasted even better the next day when we had the leftovers for lunch. Definitely one I'm going to make again.

3. Sally's Baking Addiction Brown Butter Sugar Cookies
I've made these twice now but the second time wasn't as good because I got distracted and left them in the oven so long. They tasted more like biscuits rather than cookies that time! I love Sally's blog, I could read it for hours. I was scrolling one day and realised I had all the ingredients in the house for these cookies so decided to take the plunge and attempt my first recipe. They spread more than I like but they tasted exactly like Millie's Cookies. They're very sweet thanks to the insane amount of sugar. But they're also very addictive!

4. Savoy Cabbage, Black Kale and Potato Subji from Fresh India
We've been after some lunch ideas for work other than a sandwich so I gave this one a whirl. This dry curry makes the perfect packed lunch! I really like potatoes in a curry, although to be fair I really like potatoes in any form. This was delicious to eat cold and warmed up in the microwave. I felt really good eating it thanks to the cabbage and the kale. Definitely felt like I was upping my vegetable intake! I'll make this one again for sure.

5. Aubergine and Pea Curry from Fresh India
Aubergines are one my favourite vegetables but Connor isn't as keen as me so I don't to eat them that often. We struggled to find some aubergines in Aldi so went to the grocers near our house. It turns out there is a shortage of them so we have to pay £7 for four. Not the cheapest curry I've ever made! I was hoping it would be worth the money and it was! We had it with naans for dinner then the leftovers for lunch the next day. I really enjoyed it and it reminded me of a samosa filling which isn't a bad thing!

A 2019 cooking challenge: 52 new recipes in 52 weeks

This year I spent a lot more time in the kitchen and realised that it really is my happy place. I love being about to switch off on a Sunday afternoon and lose myself in cooking something delicious. One of my goals this year was to start using my cookbooks enough and I certainly did that. But I mainly rotated around five books which is silly considering I now have around 200 sitting around. I found recipes, especially baking recipes, I loved and did them numerous times. Now there's nothing wrong with that but I want to push myself and stop being afraid of it going wrong.

So this year I am going to try 52 different recipes which works out one a week. A pretty doable challenge if you ask me! They can be from books, blogs or newspapers. Just a recipe that has tickled my fancy. I have literally hundreds bookmarked and have tried maybe one or two. I want to be a lot more adventurous and try and improve my knowledge of the kitchen. Bread is my top choice for something I want to ace next year.

I'll be blogging about it on here to keep me in check. I think I'll be writing a new blog post each time I complete around five which will hopefully equal around one a post a month. As nothing really counts until it's been posted on social media, I'll also be popping each recipe up on my Instagram alongside the hashtag #52recipes so be sure to follow along. 

Wish me luck!


Christmas gift guide: Five cookbooks for the foodie in your life

I might be biased but I think a cookbook is a great gift for Christmas for the foodie in your life. It can't be just me who loves thumbing though a book, making notes on the recipes I desperately need to make and drooling over the beautiful pictures. You can pick them up really cheap on Amazon if you keep an eye out and they make a great shout for a secret Santa as they're often involved in £10 and under promotions.

The Roasting Tin - Rukmini Iyer
I've waxed lyrical about how much this book has changed our weekday dinners and recommend it to everyone I know. It's a great option for cook who has only just started to experiment in the kitchen as the recipes are so simple and rewarding. The ingredients are always so easy to source and all store cupboards ingredients that you can use over and over again. There's nothing worse than buying an ingredient to use once and then it gathers dust at the back of your cupboard.

Simple - Ottolenghi
This is my first Ottolenghi cookbook and what a corker it is. I am obsessed! This is brilliant for cooks who enjoy spending time in the kitchen experimenting with different cuisines. It loosely follows a Middle Eastern theme and has some great vegetarian dishes to try. Despite the name, the recipes really aren't that simple to create so it's very much a weekend book. You do need a lot a patience to commit to a recipe!

Fresh India - Meera Sodha
Not just one for vegetarians, Fresh India is a delight full of absolutely delicious curries, mouthwatering desserts and tasty snacks. It's a must have for anyone who loves Indian food but are after something a little different to the norm. They're always so simple to follow and I really love Meera's tone. She really makes you feel like one of family and I love her stories.

Sirocco - Sabrina Ghayour
I love all of Sabrina's book but you really can't beat her second offering. Sometimes attempting new cuisines can be a bit overwhelming but Sirocco really makes you feel like you can tackle Middle Eastern food head on and always come out with a success. There are some fantastic fusion recipes. I feel lots more of a weekend book as the recipes are much better eaten in a mezze form - I don't always have time too attempt more than one dish during the week!

John Whaite Bakes at Home - John Whaite
This is one of my favourite baking books with everything attempted deemed to be a success. It's a great book for the more accomplished baker as the recipes really stretch you. He uses some really unusual combinations but just seems to know what works perfectly. You can tell he's really put in a lot of effort to find recipes that work.


What I've been cooking #6: Simple

Ottolenghi is one of those food writers I have wanted to try for a long time. I fawn over his recipes on the Guardian every week but as he is well know for being a bit of a faff, I had yet to try a recipe personally. The list of ingredients has always put me off. But I was lucky enough to be sent a copt of his newest cookbook Simple at work. When it arrived I had a quick flick through, turning over so many pages of what I wanted to make. The ingredients are pretty easy to find and the imagery is just beautiful.  I now want to buy all of his cookbooks and am eagerly checking Amazon to see if they become reduced. I honestly couldn't recommend this book and have loved every single thing I've tried. It's not really much of a midweek book but I absolutely adore it for weekend cooking, for when you have a bit more time in the kitchen. So what did I make?

Blueberry, almond and lemon loaf
Ah this was absolutely delicious! It came out as more of a drizzle cake because I ran out of icing but I think I prefer it this way. I'd definitely make it into a drizzle into the future. The blueberries and lemon were the perfect partnership. They both really made the cake taste so fresh and light. I can see myself making this cake over and over again.

Pasta Alla Norma
If I could, I would eat aubergine every day for dinner so it's a bit of a mystery why I had never eaten this pasta dish before. Roasting the aubergine before gives it such a deep, delicious flavour and really does make the dish. There's just something about roasted vegetables isn't there? For something so simple, Pasta All Norma really hits the spot. It's a great dish to cook when you have friends round as it tastes so delicious but won't make you spend all your evening in the kitchen. I served it with lashes of parmesan on top and homemade garlic bread.

Braised eggs with leeks and za'atar
We love tomato based bake eggs in our household so I was intrigued to see how these ones would taste. Filled the the brim with leeks and spinach, these feel like a much lighter option. But the added feta gives it something a little extra. Next time I would emit the salt seasoning during cooking as I found it a little too much with the cheese. The dish was pretty filling and we didn't even need any crusty bread.

Butterbean mash with muhammara
Found in Levantine and Turkish cuisines, this hot pepper dip is originally from Aleppo, Syria. It's so simple to make, the most difficult and time consuming thing is roasting the peppers. The butterbean mash has a similar taste to hummus and was very addictive. Next time I would add some more chilli flakes in to give it a bit more of a kick. I ate this with some delicious cumin and coriander flatbreads from Rachel Allen.

Spiced 'Shepherd's pie' with butterbean mash
This was another winner! I loved the addition of the butterbean mash, it help make it feel 'lighter'. I omitted both the apricots and the olives as we're not fans. I think it needed another tablespoon of Harissa as I was very cautious. Next time I'll use two tablespoons. Again it's quite time consuming so is another weekend job. But it's 100% worth spending the time on it.

Slow cooked chicken
I had every intention to make the corn curst but completely forgot to buy sweetcorn in our weekly shop. So we ended having it as a stew instead and I served it with salad. It was absolutely delicious and I think it is my favourite recipe in the book. I loved the kick of the Harissa and the tender chicken that just fell apart. It's the perfect dinner for a cold winter night. It does take quite a long to cook so it's definitely not one for week nights.

Avocado butter on toast wth tomato salsa
This was a massive faff and I'm not quite sure it was worth it. The butter mixed with avocado didn't really blow me away. It was tasty but it's not going to replace my normal method of making avoiding on toast. I can't be bothered to get the stand mixer out every time. I did however love the addition of the cumin seeds so will be using that little touch more frequently.


What I've been cooking #5: The Roasting Tin

Rukmini Iyer has taken such a simple concept and made it into a masterpiece with her cookbook The Roasting Tin. Every single recipe has been created to be cooked or baked in the humble roasting tin. We are obsessed with this book in our house. My boyfriend is in charge of all the cooking during the week as he gets home from work first and he loves the fact many of the recipes have minimal prep and then they can be shoved in the oven and forgotten about whilst he watches the next episode of the Big Bang Theory. Rukmini is always really active over social media and often will chip in with some tips or if you're having problems with some recipes. I honestly couldn't recommend this book enough and it's in my top three of my collection. I have over 100 books so it's a pretty high accolade.

Coconut, Raspberry and chocolate cake
Sunday is often my day to bake so it means Monday I go into work armed with a tin of cake. This was one bake I've taken into work and it went down a treat with everyone. I loved the mixture of flavours and it all worked so well together. It came out quite gooey but I think that was my fault rather than the fault of the recipe.

Super-simple plain sponge
You can't go wrong with a sponge. I had a ready made tub of chocolate icing in the cupboard so I didn't use any of Rukmini's suggested toppings. But the sponge came out really light which is always a winner. It doesn't quite beat my Hairy Bikers favourite but it's still worth making if you have the book.

Simple roast chicken and red pepper tray bake
This is one of our favourite dishes to make for dinner and have the leftovers for lunch. It's really simple but it just works perfectly together. The chicken is always so juicy and we love to add chorizo to give it a little something extra. This is such a staple in our house and we always make it at least twice month. A big deal when we mostly only try recipes once before moving onto the next one.

Tarragon roast chicken with potatoes, onions and garlic
My parents don't always enjoy my cooking but this is one dish they always gobble up. You can't never go wrong with a roast chicken to impress parents and this one is delicious. The potatoes cooked under the chicken are perfection and so addictive. Make sure you overindulge with the butter on the skin as the crisper it is the better. I used Thyme this time which works just as well!

Goats cheese, red pepper, mushroom and pesto tray bake
This is our number one favourite recipe in the book. Sometimes I make it on a Sunday afternoon to have as lunches throughout the week. It's a pure hug in a bowl, such comfort food. There's something about pasta bakes that just cream autumn don't you think? The pesto and goats cheese taste glorious together.

Bulgur wheat with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, feta and pine nuts
This is another dish which we made for work lunches. I love meal prepping on a Sunday afternoon as it saves you from thinking about lunch for the first couple of days of the week and helps you get into a routine. Saves me from opting for a Pret! This dish is delicious both hot and cold. It's pretty filling but I think I'd add some salad leaves in the future just to trick my head into thinking I'm padding it out.

Crispy baked gnocchi with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and pine nuts
This is perfect for a cosy night in. It's so comforting and there's something about crispy gnocchi that just sings to me. Make sure you go for the gnocchi at the edge as they're the best bits! This doesn't taste quite as nice cold as it does hot so it's better to eat on the night that you make it.

What I've been cooking #4: John Whaite Bakes at Home

Another cookbook review. And another baking book. Last time I vowed to use a savoury cookbook but once again got sucked in by the gorgeous cakes in John Waites Bakes at Home. John Whaite won GBBO in 2012 and this is his second cookbook. I follow his Twitter and Instagram so when I spotted this book in a charity shop I picked it up for a couple of quid. It's full of both savoury and sweet bakes and I'd say it was a book for the slightly more adventurous. I'd been stuck in a bit of a rut with only baking simple things like carrot cake, banana loaf and lemon drizzle. All delicious but nothing ground-breaking. I fancied pushing myself a bit and this book was just the ticket.

Mojito cake
I baked this for my mum's birthday and slightly changed the recipe to include both lemons and limes because that was what I had to use it. It tasted exactly like a mojito and was absolutely delicious. At first I was a bit annoyed at the presentation as it didn't quite come out how I wanted it to. But the more I look at at, I actually feel quite proud. It was out of comfort zone and I'd pushed my baking skills quite hard for this cake. I made the lime curd from scratch and made the infused mint & rum filling. I vowed to really try new things this year in baking and feel like this was me keeping my promise. I'd definitely make this again.

Rhubarb, white chocolate and thyme traybake
Rhubarb was a fruit I'd never tried before and traybakes are my jam so this was always going to be made. It was very simple and took hardly any time at all. I loved the contrast of the gooey white chocolate with the tart rhubarb flavour. It went down an absolute treat at work with everyone declaring it was the best bake I'd make yet! Definitely a recipe that I'd rustle up again. It was fun to be a bit more adventurous with ingredients.

Giant jam tart
It always makes me nervous when I attempt a recipe and it doesn't have a picture. I've eaten enough jam tarts in my life to know what one looks like but still no pictures fills me with dread. This was extremely simple and used ready-made pastry - a god-send! It was my first time making jam, I was supposed to use both raspberries and blueberries but alas, my raspberries were rotten. A day before the best before date! I stupidly didn't reduce the sugar so the jam was extremely sweet. Note for the future!

Chocolate and pistachio torte
This was my first time attempting a torte. I'm not a huge chocolate fan but my boyfriend is so I always end up backing a type of chocolate dessert at home. This was a bit more of a faff than I originally thought it would be. But it was simple enough. I'm not sure my version really tastes like a torte but my friend commented that it tasted a bit like a brownie. Which I'll take! After all, who doesn't love a giant brownie? My chocolate drizzling leaves a lot to be desired but that helps to add to the rustic, homemade feel right?

Loaded Mac and cheese
Mac and Cheese is one of my last day on earth meals. If I knew I only had one day left then I would scoff this until I felt sick. So far Jamie Oliver's version is my favourite but I'm always keen to try new  versions of the dish. After skimming through the ingredients list I knew I had to make this. It looked like pure indulgence and perfect for a Sunday dinner. I was right! Three types of cheese made this absolutely heavenly and I adored the added veg of asparagus, mushrooms and spring onions. I think John may have push Mr Oliver from the top spot!

If you want to see more of my cookbook reviews, just click the tab on the right hand side of this blog.

What I've been cooking #3: Rachel Allen's Home Baking

I seem to have rediscovered my love for baking since I moved out from my parents. One of my favourite things to on a Sunday is to spend all day in kitchen, trying my hand at new recipes. The last few weeks I have been working my way through Rachel Allen's Home Baking cookbook - I was sent her book through work as I look after the food page so featured some of the recipes online. I'd read a few reviews that her recipes are foolproof so I was looking forward to great things. It turns out her recipes - no matter how difficult they sound - really are simple. The book is full of detailed recipes that cover everything and exciting bakes. I tried my hand at some out of my comfort zone and they turned out perfectly. It's definitely a book I'll be coming back time to time again. I haven't had a bake requested so much from friends than when I made her chocolate orange brownies for a few house gatherings!

Banana and date loaf
A classic banana loaf is one of my favourite things to make. So I was keen to see if the addition of dates could improve a bake that I already think is tasty. Turns out they do! The dates helped to add a delicious richness to the loaf. It's so simple and the perfect cake to have on a weekend afternoon when you have guests round. Such a crowd pleaser!

Chocolate orange brownies
I don't have a very good track record with making brownies. But I was determined to finally make an edible batch.  I did cook these for a touch too long as they came out more cake-like rather than fudgey. But they were absolutely delicious! The orange zest really gave them something special. I took them to a baby shower and they went down a treat. The second time I cooked them I think they could have done with a couple more minutes. But the gooey inside was delicious! Third time lucky and I'm sure I'll get them right.

Lemon and poppy seed loaf
The original recipe called for muffins but I don't have a muffin tin in my house yet so I turned it into a loaf. I added a simple glaze of lemon juice and sugar as you can never have enough lemon right? It took around 50 minutes for it to cook as a loaf apposed to the 25 minutes predicted for muffins. It's quite a dense cake but utterly delicious. It's a good loaf to have in a tin for when people come round for a cuppa. I'll definitely be making it again.

Baked doughnuts
I'm a bit of a safe baker. I stick to classic cakes that I know I can do rather than try my hand at different things. So in an attempt to try and get out of my comfort zone I tried my hand at making some doughnuts. I promised myself this year would be the year I tried to use yeast - and be successful. Now these doughnuts are basically a whole day's job. They're not quick and certainly not simple so a lazy Sunday would be the time to try them. I think waiting for the dough to rise, cooking and decorating, it took around four hours. They came out tasting quite bready which I think is because they were baked rather than fried. Despite being a bit of a time suck, they were pretty simple to make. It's just a lot of waiting around. They were really tasty but I'm not sure I'll make them again.

Spiced ginger cakes
Instead of making 16 individual cakes, I made one large round one. This was absolutely delicious and so simple to make. Just a shame some of the top came off when I peeled off the tinfoil halfway through cooking. I usually make a Levi Roots recipe but the added ingredients of black treacle and golden syrup gave this one the edge for me. It has such a great punchy flavour thanks to the ground ginger and crystallised ginger. Definitely one I'll be making time and time again.

Chocolate and coconut flapjacks
This was my first time baking flapjacks so I was little nervous. It turns out I didn't pat them down hard enough so they came out a bit too soft for my liking. Luckily they hardened up a fair bit as they cooled down. So my tip is to be very sure they are really compact. I couldn't really taste the coconut so I'd add a bit extra next time I make them. As there will be a next time! The would be great if you dipped half in melted chocolate for a little something extra.

What I've been cooking #2: Mary Berry's Baking Bible

So this cookbook series didn't really go very well did it? I only reviewed one book and it was another Mary Berry one - who said I'm a creature of habit? I just find her recipes so simple and effective. I'm going to try and start this series up again as my cookbook collection has gotten out of control and soon I will have my own kitchen! I find spending a Sunday in the kitchen really relaxing and have been trying to keep that day aside each week to try and chill out after a hectic week. So without further ado, here is what I baked from Mary Berry's Baking Bible...

Madeira Cake
This is such a classic and one I can't believe that I have never baked before. The beautifully dense cake is one of my favourite afternoon treats. Loaf cakes are one of my favourite things to bake as they're just so simple. This was no exception to the rule. Just keep an eye on it as I feel like 30 minutes is a little too long to be in the oven. It cooks very quickly and I popped some tinfoil over it after 10 minutes. I'll definitely be rustling up a Madeira again.

Blueberry Muffins
Yet another classic. This American muffins are a great sweet treat for breakfast.Make sure you fill the cases up the top as they don't seem to rise as much as I think they should. It will help you get the 'muffin' look. The finished muffin is gorgeously light and perfectly tart, making it impossible to stop at just one. Another recipe I'll be making again. Can Mary Berry do any wrong?

Date and chocolate loaf
I had high expectations for this and mixed thoughts when I finally tasted it. The chocolate was a little bit non-existent but the date flavour was lovely. It tastes very similar to malt loaf and is made much better with a slick of salted butter. Everyone else raved about it so maybe it was just my fussy ways. I'm not sure I'll make this one again...

Maple syrup cake
I loved the maple syrup and orange combination of this cake. It had the perfect amount of sweetness. But I wasn't too keen on the American style frosting which was basically whipped double cream. Give me buttercream icing any day. Whilst I'm glad I tried this cake, it's not one I'm going to be adding to my regular list any time soon.

Irish soda bread
I'd never made any type of bread before having been easily intimidated. But I decided to try my hand at some soda bread as a treat for my Irish boyfriend. Despite forgetting to add the salt, I KNOW!, I added some salted butter and it actually tasted really nice. I imagine it'll taste even better when I remember to put in one of the most important ingredients. It was so, so simple to make and came out with such a gorgeous crust. I'll definitely be rustling up one of these on a regular basis.

Fruit scones
How can you go wrong with some scones? I've always made my scones from Mary Berry and they've always came out great. I alternative the type of fruit I use every time and each variation is tasty. The recipe never usually makes as many as she says it will so always double up. You can never have too many!

So my thoughts on Mary's baking bible? Like all the other Mary books I've tried, this is flawless. She just has a knack of producing really simple, traditional recipes that always come out trumps. I've yet to have a real disaster and another I haven't liked is just due to personal taste. She is always my go-to when it comes to a good classic cake. It's a great cookbook for a lazy Sunday afternoon of baking as you never have to concentrate too hard on a recipe. Another success from the Bezza! 

What I've been cooking #1 - Mary Berry Absolute Favourites

As I mentioned in this post, I've been making a conscious effort to use my cookbooks and where better to document my progress than here! This time I worked my way through Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites. I'm a massive fan of Mary's bakes but I'd never tried her cooking recipe - turns out they're just as good! Full of hearty, traditional classics, the cookbook is perfect to run to when you have guests who aren't really to experimental - parents! Each dish was so simple to make and the instructions were easy to follow. Nothing was too overwhelming to try. There's still so many recipes I want to try.  I wouldn't necessarily say they were mid-week dishes because they're not quick but I'm sure over time you can speed them up again. So, what did I end up making?

Cottage pie with crush potato topping
A classic in my family, cottage pie is always a crowd pleaser. But this time Mary added crushed potatoes instead of mash which made a welcome changed to a traditional British meal. I didn't follow the recipe exactly as I cooked my mince meat first in a pan with all the ingredients before popping it in the oven with the topping. The recipe says to cook it in the oven for 90 minutes but I've just never made it like it. It still came out perfectly tender the way I did it. The red wine gave the meat such a wonderful, addictive flavour. Served with steamed veg and cabbage, it was a great winter warmer when the cold weather hit. I'll definitely be pulling this one out the bag again over the next few months.

Sticky chicken
Out of everything I cooked, this was my least favourite. But it went down well with everyone else! I should have left the sticky sauce to caramelise for longer so it wasn't as runny but I was too scared about burning the pan. I paired it with rocket drizzled in olive oil and a bowl of potato wedges because what's a dinner without any carbs? I don't think I'd make this again.

Meatballs in tomato and basil sauce
I'm still dreaming about this sauce. So simple yet so blooming delicious. I'd make the sauce on its own and keep it in the fridge for other dishes. Admittedly this was a major faff as I attempted it on a Monday night after I got home from work late and we didn't eat until after 9pm. So don't attempt it on a week night. But once I bit into that first meatball, it was well worth the effort. The meatballs wasn't the most flavoursome I've had but it was all about that sauce. So skip the meatballs and just cook ALL the sauce.

Roasted sausage and potato supper
My household is a massive fan of sausages so I knew this was going to be a winner before I event tried the recipe. The recipe only called for peppers and onions but it didn't seem enough for me so I pumped for a whole host of different things to help make it more substantial. Aubergines, courgette and tomatoes all made the cut. The great thing about this is when you've chopped everything up, you literally leave it in the oven and forget about it. It only takes about 30 minutes to cook. Definitely one to add to my list of things to make again!

Pork stroganoff
Not the most photogenic of dishes but one of my favourites. I have such a soft spot for stroganoff, it's always so simple to make and tastes great too. This recipe was no different. I loved the addition of paprika - although I would personally have added more. Next time I'm going to serve this alongside mash for the ultimate comfort meal.

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