Deb Perelman’s first, New York Times bestselling cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, is one of our all time favourites so we couldn’t wait to get stuck in to her latest, Smitten Kitchen Every Day. Much like its predecessor, it provides page after page of droolworthy inspiration that you want to eat immediately but with recipes that are designed to fit in perfectly with busy modern life. Comforting family food is a running theme with a whole section dedicated to soups and stews (the recipe for Grandma-style Chicken Noodle Soup is all that we want in life and more) and Deb’s warm, witty intros are a joy to read, making this book a wonderful kitchen companion.
Eager to try out some of the recipes from the book, we rounded up a team of happy foodies and got cooking. Here’s how we got on…
Who: Julia Pal, Senior Marketing Manager, The Happy Foodie
What I made: Tomato and Gigante Bean Bake / Pizza Beans
What I thought: With a newly-converted 12-year old vegetarian at home, I’ve spent much of early January researching simple, plant-based family meals to see us all through the week and so I was overjoyed to find that Smitten Kitchen Every Day has an entire chapter devoted to vegetarian main courses. As with all Deb Perelman’s cooking, the emphasis in all the recipes is on warmth, comfort and generosity. It’s easy to imagine every one of her dishes being placed in the centre of a family table and then devoured with pleasure. I chose to make her hearty Tomato and Gigante Bean Bake (with accompanying garlic bread), drawn in by the typically humorous introduction describing how Deb invented the dish. I couldn’t get hold of gigante beans so I substituted butter beans, which were easy to find at my local supermarket. The dish was incredibly easy to make, with the oven doing most of the work, and proved a hit with the whole family. The kale in the dish gives it a welcome substance and bite, while the mozzarella topping adds a rich creaminess. At the end of the meal I heard the words, “Can you make this again please, mum?”. My favourite words of all. This easy recipe definitely has a place in my regular family cooking repertoire and will help all of us (carnivores included) enjoy more meat-free meals in 2018.
Who: Kate Neilan, Marketing Assistant, Vintage Books
What I made: Brussels and Three Cheese Pasta Bake
What I thought: In January and February, I’m all about comfort foods, ideally recipes that are healthy but also filling, tasty and easy to make. I was spoiled for choice – Smitten Kitchen Every Day is packed with quick, tasty, no-fuss main courses, including lots of veggie options, and I plumped for this yummy pasta bake featuring my two favourite Christmas leftovers, sprouts and cheese!
Prep was super-easy – a bit of grating and chopping while the pasta cooked – and I had everything in the oven in less than twenty minutes. I loved the way Deb Perelman creates a really clever sauce for the bake using vegetable stock, with pasta and cheese stirred in. The recipe also includes lemon juice, making it bright and zingy.
It was all I could do not to eat the whole thing when I took the finished dish out of the oven; it smelled divine. In fact, there were four generous helpings and we had this for dinner two nights running! Served with some steamed courgettes, this was a truly delicious meal.
Who: Candice Carty-Williams, Senior Marketing Executive at Vintage
What I made: Halloumi Roast with Aubergine, Courgette and Tomatoes
What I thought: This might not have been one of the fancier dishes from Smitten Kitchen Every Day that the book is packed with, but with winter very much upon us and not shifting, I wanted to cook something quick and tasty that took minimal prep so that I could get under a blanket ASAP. This recipe was exactly what I needed. Not only did it more than deliver on taste despite the wonderfully small list of ingredients and the 15 minutes it took to get together, but it was delicious, filling and a far cry from all of the rich food I ate over Christmas. A winner of a recipe for me, and one that I’ll be going back to in the summer!
Who: Jessica Lockyer-Palmer, Marketing Executive, The Happy Foodie
What I made: Baked Oats with Caramelised Pears
What I thought: As far as I am concerned, a breakfast involving oats in any form is the most majestic of starts to the day, particularly during the winter months, so I was immediately drawn to this recipe. The first stage involves making the caramelised vanilla pears, which emerge from the oven all softened and sugar-coated and frankly they would even have been a delight to eat on their own. Then you dollop oats soaked in an almost custard-like concotion around the pears in the dish so that they absorb all of the leftover caramel at the bottom and bake until browned on top so that what emerges is a textural and flavour sensation. Creamy oats in the middle meet lightly toasted oats on top, with flavours of caramel, vanilla, pear and a hint of lemon.
This is one of those breakfasts that has everything that you could want from a really great dessert too, particularly if you serve it with the suggested vanilla cream! This is a recipe I will most definitely be returning to, whether it’s to make up a batch of those pears, or to go the whole way and treat myself to a most decadent breakfast!