I was very lucky to receive a new cookbook for Christmas from my man, Bird. No, no, I know what your thinking. It wasn’t a not-so-subtle suggestion I do more cooking. I love cooking and never say not to a little food porn so I was very happy indeed. It’s River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, and as the title would suggest, it’s all about bigging up the veg. So far I’ve made four things and had varying degrees of success.
It’s really inspired me to try recipes with vegetables I would normally shy away from. There are so many vegetables out there but I always find myself cooking with the same ones over and over and it’s such a shame. This book has really given me the courage to live a little – wahay, party central round here – and try something new, like runner beans. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t even sure what would turn up in my shopping when I ordered them online. I think my eye has always passed right over these. And courgette. I like it but whenever I have cooked it in the past it hasn’t been great.
I also want to start cooking a greater variety of veg so Sun and Shine’s little taste buds can be exposed to more than the usual 4 or 5 I cook at the moment. Then at least they can say they’ve tried salsify but, no thanks mum, it’s not really to our taste.
So this week we ate courgettes and runner beans, and I’m pleased to say they were delicious, drenched in garlic and parsley and caramelised onions. Shine thought they were nom, nom, nom. Sun was not fooled by their green exterior and still has some way to go before I get him eating every veg, every day.
It was not quite all sunshine and roses though. I thought I’d make some flatbreads using the Magic Dough recipe from the book that is very similar to this pizza dough recipe. The intro raved about its simplicity and adaptability so I had visions of myself whipping up breadsticks and plaits every morning to feed my little chicks.
Uh. No. Not quite. The making was great. Super relaxing kneading the dough and I felt all virtuous and happy as I watched the dough prove with the smell of yeast spreading through the house. I split the first batch into two and decided to make flatbreads and pizza.
I rolled the dough out to 2-3mm thick for the flatbreads. All good. Then it said to place the rolled discs into a smoking hot frypan. Uh, how does one get a disc of dough that is wafer thin into a smoking pan without it stretching and breaking exactly? I did the best I could but the end result was disappointing and I had to put on a brave face at dinner while we ate flatbreads that managed to be both doughy and burnt.
Onward and upward though and the next night Sun and I used the remaining dough to make pizzas. Again, the rolling part was fun and Sun loved being involved loading up the pizzas with potato, onions and mozzarella. I thought I was being clever by rolling them directly on baking paper so I didn’t have to do some crazy transfer to a smoking hot oven tray. I even oiled the paper. Can you see where this is going?
They came out of the oven looking glorious. I went to put them on our plates. Er, no, not coming off the paper. The pizzas were welded onto the paper. I ended up losing most of base and we ate mashed up pizza toppings as I tried very hard not to sulk while Bird tried to soothe me by telling me how delicious it was, even if it maybe wouldn’t win any points for presentation. Afterall, in Masterchef it always comes down to the taste doesn’t it.
Even so, isn’t it disappointing when you put loads of effort into trying new recipes and, for whatever reason, they don’t work out? I vow to keep calm and carry on experimenting with recipes from the book. I WILL manage to make the bread work like magic. Maybe I need to buy a new apron with frills on or something to help unleash more of my inner domestic goddess. In the meantime, tonight we will be having pasta with peppers, pancetta and creme fraiche. A meal I can cook in the time it takes to cook the pasta, while I help a preschooler draw trucks and a baby wails at my feet.