Snipped from Sainsbury’s magazine, I had high hopes for this recipe because it looked like it could be made in one dish, featured plenty of fresh veg and included some new flavors. I was curious about ‘massaman curry paste’ and the rice vermicelli noodles made it gluten-free; a necessity for my coeliac husband. Finally, it was hard to resist a recipe that used the word ‘zesty’ in its description.
From the top, I found the promotion of this recipe as ‘burgers without the buns’ misleading as these don’t resemble traditional burgers at all. But I was pleased to make the vegetable mixture and beef patties in advance. While the recipe instructed me to slice the sugar snap peas in half, this only made the tiny half peas on the inside fall out, so I left my sugar snaps whole. The beef patties and veg could be stored in the fridge all day until they needed to be grilled just before dinner.
I hadn’t really cooked with instant rice vermicelli noodles before so I was thrilled at how quick and easy they are to use. I’ll definitely keep a supply of these in the cupboard for the future. As usual, I kept the dressing on the side so my little ones could add or not to taste. After everything was assembled in the roasting dish, the Asian aromas that came from the oven were enticing. Colorful and tasty, we all enjoyed the taste of the beef patties and the crunch of the fresh veg and peanuts in the dish.
With recipes written like this one, I find myself re-ordering the steps in my head, especially if I’m preparing part of the dish in advance. For example, I didn’t want to mix the dressing into the rest of the ingredients in advance, so I didn’t find it helpful when the instructions told me to use a particular bowl for the dressing and add other components. For me, this recipe didn’t quite achieve the right balance between too much instruction and not enough.
So, it’s a difficult Hungry Games call to make on Massaman beef patties: should it stay or go? Because the result was so tasty, I’m going to let this recipe stay in my kitchen. But I’ll probably make notes in the margin for next time.
This recipe was part of a newspaper supplement featuring healthy dishes. It appealed because I’m always trying to get my kids to enjoy fish rather than eat it under duress. One of them refuses salmon so I had to substitute with one piece of cod.
Ingredients were easy to find and I was pleased to use sweet potato for mash for some lovely autumn color. Similar to Recipe #4 with baked eggs, the tomato ratatouille could be made in advance and used over other dishes as well. The fish cooked quickly so the veg could be steamed while that was in the oven. Our kale didn’t look nearly as soft as the recipe photo so I’ll continue searching for a better way to prepare that super food.
Overall, this full-meal recipe was clearly written and simple to put together. The tomato ratatouille components combined well and helped my children enjoy eating fish. I added carrot and swede for even more color on the plate, but I’ll probably substitute the kale next time with a different green veg. Hungry Games verdict: this recipe can stay in my kitchen!
Oooh, we love baked eggs in our house. And the idea of adding chorizo made my youngest child actually rub his hands together in anticipation.
I appreciate a recipe that suggests steps that can be done in advance. So I did indeed make the tomato ragout earlier in the day and that made dinner preparation quite quick. The ragout itself is a filling, savoury topping so next time, I might double this and save some for another dish. I had run out of saffron sadly, so had to leave this out. I’m sure it would have added depth to the flavour, but the strong chorizo was very tasty anyway.
Individual ovenproof dishes worked well for combining the portions of ragout and eggs. Baking time was a bit long for my oven making the yolks less runny than I would have liked, so I’ll adapt that next time. I had sour cream in the fridge so I used that instead of Greek yogurt as it achieved the same contrast to the rich chorizo.
I didn’t snap a photo of our baked eggs because they disappeared so quickly! In fact, even though the recipe states that it serves four, I’ll need to make more in the future as the children requested seconds. This recipe certainly gets to stay in my kitchen as part of The Hungry Games. Give it a try!
After quite a long summer hiatus, The Hungry Games are back! I’ve held out and not purchased any new cookbooks as I’m trying to get through my pile of clipped recipes first. But Christmas is coming and I know I’ll want to put some cookbooks on my list for Santa … So I’ve been using my clipped recipes a lot in an effort to clear out some of the mess. Now it’s time to share the verdicts on whether these recipes will stay in my kitchen or be sent to the recycle bin.
Starting with Roasted red pepper, ginger and prawn rice –
This recipe looked colourful and I’m always eager to try meat-free meals as healthy alternatives. The idea of cooking everything in one dish also appealed to me to shorten cleaning time after dinner.
Ingredients for this dish were straightforward and easily found in the grocery store. I didn’t, however, read the rice item closely enough. The recipe actually calls for pre-cooked rice and quinoa but I don’t usually use this, so I had to quickly steam some rice and boil some quinoa before adding to the dish. Other than that, I enjoyed roasting the vegetables and did some of this in advance. After that, combining and cooking the rest of the dish took very little time. I kept the dressing on the side to suit my little one’s palate.
The prawns became a bit dry but the combination of roasted vegetables, onions, coriander and chilli made the dish robust and flavoursome. Hungry Games verdict: this recipe can stay!
What makes a good recipe? We probably all have different answers to this, depending on whether we are cooking or just eating. For me, a good recipe should have:
- Clear, sensible language
- A short list of ingredients, all of which can be easily purchased
- Realistic time estimates
- A lovely photo
These criteria are strictly based on my own cooking style and limitations. My end results need to be within a rather narrow range of flavors to please two small children and a non-adventurous husband. I seem to like having an image of the dish to aim for, so I can see if I’ve ‘done it right’ at the end. At other points in my life, I may have added criteria such as ‘beautiful presentation’ but it’s not as important now. And I’m clearly not going to shop for exotic ingredients at specialist markets either. I predict that The Hungry Games will turn up some quite simple recipes because if they looked too complicated, I probably wouldn’t have clipped them in the first place.
So, here is a very straightforward lunch recipe for sardines on toast.
Because I work from a home office, I have the opportunity to make fresh lunches for myself. This one looked tasty, healthy and relatively easy. I omitted the red chillies because I’m a wimp when it comes to spice. But otherwise, my end result looked pleasingly similar to the recipe photo. The sardines added a hearty flavour that wasn’t too overpowering, as anchovies might have been. But I think that I should have added at least a bit of chili or another spice because my version lacked a fun kick without it.
Overall though, this recipe was a tiny treat that provided me with a quick but wholesome lunch. The Hungry Games verdict: it can stay in my kitchen!
I received a tagine as a Christmas gift and was excited to try it. It’s a beautiful object, which somehow made me optimistic that the food it cooked would be beautiful too.
The instruction booklet from Emile Henry included a few recipes so I thought it would be safe to start with one of those. The ingredients were straightforward and I used preserved lemon for the first time.
The cooking process started similarly to other stew recipes. I fried onions, garlic and the chicken right in the tagine on the stove top. Then I tried to bring the chicken pieces into a pyramid as instructed – harder than it sounds. The vegetables were then squeezed around the outside of the sagging pyramid. Much less liquid was added than when making a stew in a casserole dish with a lid.
Then the tagine went in the oven. That was it, pretty simple. Not far into the cooking time, I realized that I should have placed a baking sheet under the tagine because a lot of the liquid was bubbling up around the edges of the lid and dripping on to the bottom of the oven. About an hour and a half later, we sat down with the beautiful tagine in the centre of the table. Taking the lid off was quite dramatic as a plume of steam puffed out.
I’m disappointed to report an anti-climactic ending to this recipe. The chicken was very bland and my children asked if we could please try a different recipe next time – at least they were diplomatic! The turmeric in the sauce stained our tablecloth. I’ll beware of that hazard next time I use that spice. So between the burnt-smelling oven, the stained tablecloth and the unsatisfied family, The Hungry Games verdict is that this recipe will be going to the recycling bin.
I’m not giving up on the tagine, though. Another family member with a tagine has recommended a cookbook called Easy Tagine by Ghillie Basan. Maybe I’ll give that a go next time.
One of my 2015 goals for Cristina Benson Communications is to provide marketing support to a food client. Partly because many independent restaurants and bakeries here in London are working hard to provide great food and I’d like to help them grow. But also because I love both the science and the art of food. I enjoy serving satisfying meals to my family and learning why a recipe did or didn’t work. So I’d like to combine my enjoyment of food with my copywriting day job.
I have a potential challenge in that I haven’t done much food writing outside of taking Guardian Masterclasses with Jay Rayner and Felicity Cloake. So, here, as part of this blog, I’m going to develop some experience writing about food.
It wasn’t hard to come up with a structure for The Hungry Games. Over the years, I’ve clipped, snipped and ripped so many recipes and shoved them in cookbooks in the hopes that someday I would try them. Well, someday is here. I’m going to try all of these loose recipes and decide which ones can stay in my kitchen and which must go to the recycling bin. This isn’t District 12 so no one will go hungry. But all of my ragged recipes will compete as tributes so see which ones survive.
And at least my cookbooks will be a lot tidier in the end. Happy Hungry Games! And may the odds be ever in the best recipe’s favor . . .