You know those particularly bad days, when the simple act of getting out of bed is a threat to your safety, and everything that happens afterwards is the stuff nightmares are made of? January felt just like that to me. Plain crazy. Defined by the feeling of running around like a headless chicken, trying to make sense of a whirlwind of confusing events. I’ve been so busy trying to keep on top of things, that I sometimes forgot to cook, or even remind myself to eat. Which is wrong. Despicable. Bad. Repeat with me: bad.
Even so, good food was one of the very few things that got me through last month. I’m a little ashamed to say that I only tried four new recipes since the start of December; however, they were all more than worth the effort. January’s Recipe Roundup is back with a vengeance: I hope you enjoy reading about my latest experiments as much as I loved trying them.
1. Cotto e Crudo’s Spaghetti with Chickpeas and Fried Sage
You’ll turn up your nose if: You’re a strenuous advocate of pasta covered with heaps of sauce. Fair enough, enjoy your amatriciana: you can hardly go wrong with that.
My experience: This is one of the easiest pasta dishes I can think of. It’s perfect for those frugal end-of-week lunches, when your cupboard’s almost empty, but you keep procrastinating a trip to the shops. One word of warning: the chickpea seasoning can get quite dry. Make sure you save a little cooking water, and add it to your pasta after draining.
2. Martha Stewart’s Eggplant Ricotta Bake
You’ll like this if: You’d like to try aubergine parmigiana, but cringe at the thought of eating your weight in deep-fried aubergines. Although this is not the real thing, it happens to be very close in taste. And you can go for seconds without feeling the slightest hint of guilt.
You’ll turn up your nose if: You’re a parmigiana purist. There’s proper parmigiana, and there are cheap imitations: the thought of a healthier take on the classic recipe is simply inconceivable to you.
My experience: I used to make “healthy” parmigiana with grilled aubergines: usually criminally undercooked or downright charred, and never quite as satisfying as their fried counterparts. Pre-baking the aubergines with a little oil is a far better trick: even though this dish lacks the luxurious notes of oozing mozzarella, there’s no compromising on taste.
3. Grown To Cook’s Spinach and Spring Herb Torta in Potato Crust
You’ll turn up your nose if: You like your main courses to be quick and easy. Assembling the potato crust takes some time and effort, so if you can’t delegate the task, you’re better off replacing potatoes with ready-made puff pastry.
My experience: This vegetarian tart is a happy exception to my usual wariness of savoury pies without pastry. The potato crust is an excellent, healthier alternative to puff pastry, and pairs really well with the ricotta, spinach and herb filling. Also, this is a great make-ahead dish, 100% commute-proof despite its fragile appearance. If there’s one thing I love more than having nice food for dinner, that definitely is saving some for lunch the following day.
4. Vikalinka’s Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
You’ll like this if: You dismissed the previous dish as too much effort. Assembling this one is a matter of five minutes, and with such a spot-on recipe, all you need to do is follow instructions by the book.
You’ll turn up your nose if: You’re a vegetarian. I can’t explain not liking this in any other way.
My experience: This recipe is simply perfect. Heaven for one like me, who never settles for doing just one thing at a time, and enjoys having time to scribble an email or a blog post while dinner sits in the oven. I’ll keep making it until I get bored, which may well never happen, considering how much I love the taste of it.