Part of my motivation for starting this blog is to get out of my cookbook rut. I own zillions of cookbooks (I’m too scared to actually count, lest I realize how much money I’ve spent…) but I can fall into the awful habit of only cooking from the two or three for weeks on end – books that have family favourites or ’30 minute meals’. That’s all well and good – don’t get me wrong, a working mama needs 30 minute meals – but I’d like to challenge myself a bit more. So, for the next few months, I’m going to pick one book every week and use it to do my weekly menu planning.
I’m starting simple this week with an old favourite, Economy Gastronomy, by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m feeling a bit broke this week, or because I love some of it’s warming recipes for this damp weather, but it holds a lot of appeal for me this week. I don’t know which came first, the book or the TV program, but I bought this book two years ago after watching the series of the same name on BBC. In the program, McEvedy and Merrett work with a cooking-impaired family every week and encourage them to ‘eat better and spend less’ by shopping smartly, ditching ready-meals, and cooking at home. Brilliant. The show had a light touch, never making fun of any participants for their lacking of cooking experience – it just aimed to educate and, of course, tempt reluctant cooks with it’s lovely, affordable recipes…
One of my favourites is Paul Merret’s recipe for Braised Mince; it’s actually three recipes in one, as well as freezer-friendly and very easy on the wallet – woohoo! I’ve used it as a base for Shepherd’s Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese and Chili, as well as just eaten it spooned over a baked potato. Generally, I make a batch and divide it in three. One gets eaten on the day, and the other two go into the freezer for when I want a quick meal – usually Shepherd’s Pie, as the whole family will eat it. I find that rather than putting more carrots into the pie, making a potato & carrot mash gets better results from the little guy…give him a piece of carrot and it’s akin to poison; give him ‘orange mash’ and it’s a treat!
The recipe for Spicy Black Bean Quesadillas is one of my favourite pantry suppers, as there is always a tin of black beans somewhere in the back of the cupboard, and it’s easy to pick up a bit of lime and coriander on the way home. I rarely bother with the pumpkin seeds, and often make a quick salsa instead of the chopped avocado (it can be so hard to find ripe ones sometimes…), but the classic combination of black beans, cheddar cheese, and tortillas always wins in my house.