Cooking The Books: Jamie Magazine

I bought a copy of Jamie Magazine a few weeks ago and I’ve literally been hooked ever since. It’s a bright, contemporary, inspiring magazine.  Whilst I subscribe to Delicious and really enjoy it, I way prefer this. Delicious actually feels quite old fashioned and stuffy in comparison. I’ve never cooked a single recipe from Delicious magazine, but I opened Jamie Magazine and I wanted to cook everything.  And we nearly did!  I think it helped that it was a ‘feel-good food’ issue – definitely my cup of tea – delicious food that I don’t need to feel guilty about.  I was particularly enamoured with a section on healthy baking and ended up cooking three cakes.

Here are my opinions on the all eight dishes we attempted:

The Favourites

  1. Mushroom and lentil pappardelle bolognese.  I cooked it for Jamie and my friend Michelle and they adored it.  And if I do say so myself it was a real cracker.  Sweet, rich and complex, you definitely didn’t miss the meat.
  2. Creamy lentil bowl with garlic mushrooms.  I’d just got back from a hilly hike in the Peak District and Jamie (my boyfriend not Jamie Oliver!) prepared this for me.  It was the perfect wholesome friday night treat, with the bacon adding a bit of indulgence and extra flavour.
  3. Squash and greens lasagne made with leftover veg from our fridge.  We didn’t use squash or greens! We just adapted this recipe to use up all the old veg in our fridge.  We roasted the veg as was required of the squash and followed the recipe exactly apart from that.  It was fabulous! Much tastier and more interestingly seasoned than a standard lasagne. And the toasty breadcrumbs on top provided a lovely bit of crunch.
  4. Apricot and root veg cake with honey and yoghurt frosting.  This was a revelation! Made with parsnips, beetroot and carrot, maple syrup, spelt flour and rapeseed oil.  This made me so happy to have this cake in the fridge.  Although it didn’t last long.  It was a very interesting sweet earthy flavour and the yoghurt frosting really was ‘the icing on the cake’ he he.
  5. Banoffee pecan muffins with coconut clouds and date caramel sauce.  Another very imaginative cake.  It was very faffy to make and I got a bit annoyed with all the different stages.  But it was well worth the effort.  There was no sugar in these muffins at all – all the sugar came from dates and bananas.  The date caramel sauce and the whipped up coconut cream made the experience extra indulgent and fun.
Jamie Magazine Mushroom and lentil pappardelle bolognaise
Mushroom and lentil pappardelle bolognese
Jamie Magazine Creamy lentil bowl with garlic mushrooms
Creamy lentil bowl with garlic mushrooms
Jamie Magazine squash and greens lasagne made with leftover veg from our fridge
Squash and greens lasagne made with leftover veg from our fridge
Jamie Magazine apricot and root veg cake with honey and yoghurt frosting
Apricot and root veg cake with honey and yoghurt frosting
Jamie Magazine banoffee pecan muffins with coconut clouds and date caramel sauce
Banoffee pecan muffins with coconut clouds and date caramel sauce

The Also Very Goods

  1. Beef shin ragu and polenta.  This was a handy one for us to cook as we had some spare beef shin in the freezer.  The only problem was that I didn’t register that this recipe was in the pressure cooker feature! We don’t have a pressure cooker, however we improvised with our slow cooker, and it was a lovely rich, flavourful dinner.
  2. Indian chicken lentil traybake.  We mucked this up a bit.  Somehow we ended up with a tray bake drowning in watery sauce – so we stuck it on the hob and boiled as much of the water away as possible and threw in some extra spices and seasoning and all was good.
  3. Rye pudding-loaf-cake with hazelnut crumble – made with about 20g of brown sugar and all the rest of the sweetness came from apples, apple puree and sultanas.  A really delightful cake with a lot of depth of flavour and a bit of added excitement from the crumbly topping.  Rye flour was used instead of white flour, whilst it’s not gluten free, it’s much more nutritious.
Jamie Magazine beef shin ragu and polenta
Beef shin ragu and polenta
Jamie Magazine Indian chicken lentil traybake
Indian chicken lentil traybake
Jamie Magazine rye pudding-loaf-cake with hazelnut crumble
Rye pudding-loaf-cake with hazelnut crumble

I think the simplest way of demonstrating how much I enjoyed Jamie Magazine, is to tell you that I’ve subscribed to the magazine and I’ve bought the Clean Cakes Book written by Henrietta Inman, the lady who developed all the lovely healthy cake recipes. Jamie Magazine hits the spot for me.

A Fortnight of Joy: 14 days, 14 Breakfasts!

I have fantisised for years about what would happen if I actually made lovely homemade breakfasts.  But I just carried on miserably munching my way through dull bowls of weetabix and porridge.  And then FINALLY, I committed.  For two weeks I would cook a different breakfast every day and just see how I got on.

To my surprise it’s been delightful, fun and rewarding. And bloody delicious! My morning tastebuds don’t know what’s hit them. And probably the funnest thing is how excited people have been on my social media channels.  It’s seems to have really struck a chord with people – some have threatened to defriend/unfollow me for making them hungry, others have sent me pictures of their breakfasts or offered me suggestions as to what to cook next.  Whenever I posted my brekkie photos on instagram in the morning I’d be excited to see the likes and comments come flooding in.

Every single breakfast has been tasty and relatively easy.  I expected at least one fail, but they’ve all been winners.  Luckily I’m a freelancer so weekday brekkies taking half an hour to prepare hasn’t been a problem – so most of these recipes you might want to save for the weekend.


  1. Sweet potato, black bean and avocado burrito, Simply, Nigella Lawson. Our absolute favourite – bascially mexican dinner for breakfast – full of spice and flavour and kept me full for hours.
  2. Spiced baked eggs, Rachel Allen, Easy Meals.  Beautifully simple and easy – bung eggs in ramekins with spices and a blob of creme fraiche and bake for 12 minutes.  Superb.
  3. Banana pancakes and berry compote, Delicious Magazine.  Another easy one – blend batter ingredients (rolled oats, bananas, eggs) and fry your pancakes, serve with compote (heated up frozen berries). We loved this and it was so filling.
  4. Bellinis, salmon, creme fraiche and chives, Great British Dinners, James Martin. This was a light and fresh way to start a saturday.  You make bellini batter with 5 egg whites beaten to stiffness, so as you can imagine the bellinis are wonderfully airy.
  5. Rice porridge and caramalised bananas, Every Day, Bill Grainger.  This is effectively a sweet risotto – it did require 30 minutes of stirring, but it was well worth the wait, creamy and satisfying.

If you’d like to make spiced baked eggs why don’t you check out my YouTube video?

Also Very Goods

  1. Raspberry and lemon muffins, Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson. Tart, sweet and yummy.
  2. Sweet potato, chilli, cheese and seed muffins, Everyday Super Food, Jamie Oliver.  Lots of different flavours going on here and I loved how super healthy they were.
  3. Raspberry and pistachio trifle, Glorious British Grub, The Fabulous Baker Brothers.  This was a tremendous looking dish as you layer up raspberry compote, granola and greek yoghurt and top with chopped up pistachios. Gorgeous!
  4. Baked eggs in popped beans, cherry tomatoes and ricotta on toast, Everyday Super Food, Jamie Oliver.  You fry up fennel seeds and cannellini beans and chuck in cherry tomatoes macerated with basil and lemon then finally throw in an egg to bake at the end.  The lemony, basily tomatoes are sensational and the fennel seeds give it a lovely taste.
  5. Apple and cinnamon muffins, Kitchen, Nigella Lawson. Appley autumnal deliciousness.
  6. Tahini and tomato on toast, Every Day, Bill Grainger.  Very lazy and wholesome.
  7. Wholemeal and sesame scones, Rachel Allen, Easy Meals.  Really nice – there’s treacle and sesame seeds in the batter which give the scones an interesting flavour.
  8. Thin omlette rolls with cottage cheese and apple, The Green Kitchen, David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl.  A sweet cinnamony apple filling to the omlette wrap is an interesting concept and I liked it.
  9. Sweet potato hash, egg and pancetta, Perfect Plates, John Whaites.  A divine and decadent breakfast
    Breakfast 2
    Apple and cinnamon muffins, sweet potato, chilli, cheese and seed muffins, rice porridge and caramelised bananas, raspberry trifle
    Breakfast 3
    Baked eggs in popped beans, cherry tomatoes and ricotta on toast, banana pancakes and berry compote, raspberry and lemon muffins, spiced baked eggs
    Breakfast 4
    Wholemeal and sesame scones, sweet potato, black bean and avocado burrito, tahini and tomato on toast, bellinis, salmon, creme fraiche and chives
    Breakfast 5
    Thin omlette rolls with apple and cottage cheese
    breakfast 6
    Sweet potato hash, egg and pancetta

    The breakfast blog challenge has been a gift. Starting each day with a tasty exciting breakfast has made my mornings very colourful. I’ve adored doing it and I intend to incorporate new breakfasts into my routine far more regularly now (just not every day).  Does anyone out there fancy setting themselves a breakfast challenge?  How about a Saturday and Sunday breakfast challenge? Send me the pictures if you do.

Cooking The Books: Jamie Oliver’s ‘Everyday Super Food’

I was pleased about reviewing Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food cookbook.  I could be confident that the recipes cooked wouldn’t result in me bulging out of my trousers as can be the case when I’m testing recipes. All the dishes looked around the 500 calorie mark which calorie wise would fill me up without jeopardising my waistline.

We really really enjoyed cooking from this book.  It’s beautiful to look at and the photos are so tempting – it was fun picking dinners and largely fun cooking them too.  I would say that it’s more of a weekend cookbook – although the recipes are easy they are a little fiddly and you might not be in the mood for that after a long day at work.  My other caveat is that the recipe descriptions occasionally gloss over a process without giving  full instructions.  For example – when making samosas you are told to put your filling onto the filo pastry and ‘make samosa shapes’.  Well it ain’t that easy! Even after watching a few videos on YouTube I was still struggling! So we had samosa lumps.  Oh yes, my very final piece of advice is use more spices than Jamie Oliver suggests. Our curries would have been a bit bland if we hadn’t.

I can honestly say every recipe we cooked was a blinder, so sorting the 8 we cooked into ‘favourites’ and ‘runner ups’ is going to be hard, but here we go.

The Favourites

  1. Harissa roasted aubergine, pomegranate and pistachios – this dish was MAGICAL! Firstly it looked magical with the jewelled effect of the pomegranate seeds, but the taste was exquisite, the smoky aubergine with the sweetness and tartness of the pomegranate was something else.
  2. Skinny carbonara, smoky bacon, peas, almond and basil.  You can’t argue with a guilt free carbonara.  I’d go as far as to say this was better than the heavy overly creamy classic.  The pea puree, bacon and almond provided all the flavour you needed without the heaviness of the traditional cream. And you still get a creamy kick from the yoghurt and egg that are thrown in at the end.
  3. Beef, onion and sweet potato samosas – I was delighted that we actually made samosas (however lumpy they were!) – what an achievement.  And the spicy meat mix was so tasty.
  4. Delicious squash daal and  special fried eggs – I loved this – the egg was fried in garlic, chillies, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves – and I agree  – the egg really was special  – it was alive with flavour.
    Jamie Oliver 1
    Harissa roasted aubergine, pomegranate and pistachios

    Jamie Oliver
    Skinny carbonara with smoky bacon, peas, almonds and basil
Beef, onion and sweet potato samosas
Squash daal and special fried eggs

The Runners Up

Truthfully, nothing really deserves to be a runner up, I should really have done 8 favourites!

  1. Mighty mushroom curry – a superbly creamy and spicy curry – absolutely no sorrow here about having no meat – the flavour and wholesomeness of the dish was quite enough.
  2. Seared golden chicken, mint sauce and spring veg fest.  This was gorgeous and fresh and I loved the creamy saltiness of the feta that was sprinkled on at the end. My only complaint is where are the carbs? I was still hungry after.
  3. Crumbed pesto fish, roasted cherry vines, spuds and greens – just plain excellent – fish and veg can be a pretty bland and virtuous dish.  Not this one! The crunchy breadcrumbed pesto took all the worthiness of this dish away and twisted it into something exciting.
  4. Bombay chicken and cauli, rice and spinach – this was very tasty and cauliflower roasted in cumin and black mustard seeds was a revelation.
Mighty mushroom curry
Golden seared chicken, mint sauce and spring veg fest
Crumbed pesto fish, roasted cherry vines, spuds and greens


Bombay chicken and cauli, rice and spinach

Writing this up has made me extremely sad that this review is over and that I have to move onto another cookbook – Jamie Oliver Everyday Super Food I will return to you I promise! I’ve been flicking through and there are too many recipes I still want  cook.  Every recipe we tried was inspiring, colourful, beautiful, delicious and healthy.  You can’t really ask for more.

It’s damn well bloody over! 69-er is COMPLETE.

And it ends with mixed feelings (and an expanded waistline!).  I’m sorry that there’s no longer going to be anything pushing us out of our comfort zone of routine dinners.  That there won’t be anything that motivates me to whip up a cake or some scones after dinner when I normally couldn’t be arsed.  That it may not occur to me any more to sling together a casual salad or soup for a saturday lunch instead of a sandwich.  However I am relieved that I stand a chance now to lose the weight I’ve put on in the last 9 weeks.  And that I can do other things in life other than cook and pick recipes!

So what have been the wins?

Engaging with cookbooks I normally can’t be bothered to open has been a wonderful discovery.  Who’d have thought that cookbooks without photos actually work?  I love a visual demonstration of a dish to inspire me but a number of my cookbooks didn’t help me out with that. And guess what? The food tasted just as good without the photo.

If a cookbook is old it doesn’t stop it from being excellent – Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef (1999) helped me to make the best beer bread in the world and Nigella’s How To Eat (1998) provided the recipe to an exquisite mushroom ragu.

Even if I don’t particularly like a chef on tv (Rick Stein – I find him very whingey) doesn’t mean that they can’t write an amazing cookery book. I was literally blown away by Rick’s creamy leak cannelloni.

It’s forced me to try different sorts of cooking – I often avoid my Asian/Indian/Chinese cookbooks because the ingredients can be difficult to source.  But we managed and the dishes were a joy.

Conquering bread was a HUGE deal for me.  I’ve talked about making bread for YEARS and with this challenge I made pitta bread, beer bread and potato bread.  My fear of breadmaking has gone.

It’s confirmed to me that some of my favourites will remain favourites.  I refer to them again, but Nigella and Jamie never failed to deliver amazing food throughout the challenge.

And what will I be taking with me going forward?

I’m going to be more curious about my cookery books and not stick to my comfort zone of my three favourite healthy cook books. Different styles of cooking have different merits and it’s fun to mix it up.  I hope to make an attempt to return to as many of those 69 books as possible.

Finally let me talk you through the last eleven recipes of the challenge. They were all pretty lovely – apart from the Basil and Mango Smoothie (Innocent Smoothie Recipe Book) which was a bit bland.  You can look at all the dishes on the collage below, but I’ll pick out my top 3 faves.

  1. Beetroot and Feta and Mint Salad – Fabulous Baker Brothers.  A bit faffy to make as you had to roast the beetroots then de-skin them with rubber gloves.  Messy work I can tell you. But this was a beauty of a dish – fresh and wholesome and deliciously oniony.
  2. Leek Cannelloni – Rick Stein.  This took ages to make and involved four pans on the go at once.  Every element required steeping and simmering and several stages (eg infuse the milk for the cheese sauce for 20 mins with bay leaves, onions & garlic before you even make the cheese sauce!).  And the lasagne sheets we had to boil in a pot ended up stuck together so we had to chuck them out and have a pasta-less cheese bake. However this didn’t matter and the effort was worth it.  It was out of this world.  The tomato sauce was rich, the leeks with ricotta were a great combination and the cheese sauce was so  flavourful and creamy – it was the icing on the cake.
  3. Baked Cheesecake – James Martin.  I went through a phase about six years ago when I’d have people over for dinner and I’d ALWAYS make a cheesecake.  I was obsessed – I must have tried ten different varieties of cheesecake.  So since that overkill, I don’t make cheesecakes, until the challenge that is.  As it turns out I think it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever made – the lemon zest and whisky soaked sultanas added a subtle and sophisticated twist to a traditional recipe.

So now 69-er is over, what next? Well certainly for the next two weeks before my holiday I’m going to be doing a lot of healthy eating recipes to lose those extra pounds I’ve gained. So expect a post about that.  And for the next challenge – I’m not quite sure yet, but it would be nice to start another juicy challenge in September.  A food waste challenge or mastering a cuisine are appealing ideas.  Do comment and let me know if you have any suggestions for me!


69 in 69 – I’m raising the bar

We’re only on day 14, and we’re up to 15 recipes, so it feels appropriate to change the challenge to completing 69 recipes in 69 days.  I’m sure we can do it and I’ve moved the deadline day to 28th July instead of end of September. Go us!

And rather than drown you in detail, here is a quick whistle stop tour of all the nine recipes we cooked this week:

Beetroot Brownies: Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache (all the cakes in this book are made from vegetables).  These brownies were a revelation.  Easy to make even if the beetroot peeling and chopping was a little messy on the hands.  And MY GOD, they packed a punch – moist, rich, earthy.  I couldn’t get enough of them.

Moroccan chicken kebabs and panzella salad: Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cook Book. I’ve wanted to make panzella salad ever since I had one that blew my mind in Tuscany a few years ago.  Who would have thought that some stale bread, tomatoes and cucumber could taste so good?  But it’s quite something.  And the whole meal was a magical combination for a stunningly sunny bank holiday sunday.

Griddled nectarines with feta salad: Good Food 101 Veggie Dishes. This was a saturday lunchtime quickie – just a few simple ingredients compiled in ten minutes.  A gorgeous, light combination of salty feta, sweet melty hot nectarines and fresh mint.

Jamie chose a slow roasted Persian Lamb recipe with pomegranate salad: Good Food 101 Slow-Cooking Recipes. I was not keen – it involved pomegranate molasses and a pomegranate – I wasn’t convinced we’d find either of those in the Stockport suburbs of Hazel Grove.  However Jamie’s enthusiasm won out.  He even MADE the pomegranate molasses!  The thing that impressed us most was the pomegranate salad.  Yes the lamb was succulent and delicious (four hours of cooking in molasses), but the salad was tart, juicy and beautiful – a wonderful compliment to the lamb.

Smoked haddock with white beans and parsley : Gordon Ramsey Cooking for Friends was last friday night’s supper treat.  Jamie found it a bit fiddly – there was pureeing and faffy stages to the dish, but as the consumer of the dish, I was delighted.  It was stylish and showy to look at and just felt like something that you would be served in a posh restaurant.  Bacon and smoked haddock is a great combination and the bean/thyme mash was lovely.

Jamaican chops: Caribbean Food Made Easy with Levi Roots.  A week day simple dinner for us – pork chops slow cooked in a fiery, sweet tomato sauce with celery, peppers and lime. Easy to assemble, tasty and comforting.

Salmon fillet wrapped in proscuitto with herby lentils, spinach and yoghurt: Jamie Oliver The Return of the Naked Chef was a desperation choice.  It was late in the evening and I needed to pick something easy for the next day.  Everything else in this cookbook looked long-winded, but when I spied this I was a happy girl.  Speedy, simple and healthy.  And it really delivered.  It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing dish but prosciutto and salmon REALLY works – the salty meat enhances the salmon and those herby lentils were a nice earthy, flavourful background to the dish.

Keralan Coconut Curry: Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast.  Another beautiful book that had never been cooked from. The curry was creamy, spicy and had lovely depth – for me it was delicious but nothing earth shattering as I’ve had many similar curries, but it really wowed Jamie.

Spurred on by last week’s pitta success I baked oatmeal and potato bread: Home Baking Cookbook.  It was a cheap and easy number (apart from having to make the mash which was a pain!).  Admittedly we did burn the entire top of the loaf, but it really had no affect on the flavour.  It was a dense bread wholesome bread – perfect for making picnic sandwiches with the leftover feta from the salad. I’m definitely getting into this bread making thing – it’s satisfyingly easy and I love the therapeutic process of kneading the dough.

It’s been an intense week of cooking and eating and I’ve loved it.  This challenge is proving to be a real adventure – it’s a heartening and nostalgic experience re-connecting with my neglected books.   Fancy joining me in a similar challenge? Comment below and fill me in!