Monday, 31 March 2014
Review: My Daddy Cooks by Nick Coffer
I was bought this cook book for my birthday having never heard of it before. It was written by a father who, having had to downsize his company, became a stay at home father and began cooking with his son. The introduction gives a lovely insight into how important he found cooking with his son and getting him involved from a very young age. I had thought of the kitchen as a dangerous place for children when cooking, but the way the author describes involving his son as ensuring he doesn't miss out on valuable interaction time, has lead to me opening my kitchen up to my own son. He's not quite of an age to actually participate but he loves playing with pans and a wooden spoon, or simply playing with his own toys at my feet while chattering away to me.
As to whether these recipes are diet friendly, for the most part I have to say no. But with a few tweaks they can be made lower in calories and just as tasty. The author himself says that these recipes were not made to be followed to the letter and will not lose impact from changing a couple of ingredients. Otherwise, they make a nice occasional treat.
The recipes are simple, easy to follow and don't involve too many or too fancy ingredients. Everything can be bought from the local supermarket. Cooking time I would say is about average for a decent family meal, although some that I haven't yet tried did seem even quicker.
I have tried 4 recipes from this book so far - Minty Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine, One-Tin Roast Chicken, New Potatoes and Asparagus, Easy Chicken and Apricot Casserole and Simple Chicken and Spinach Curry.
First up was the Minty Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine. I had always wanted to try a tagine as I think they sounded delightful but had never found a decent recipe until now. Also, I had never cooked with butternut squash before and rarely cook with lamb, again due to a lack of recipes. So I once I read this recipe I was very keen to try it and I wasn't disappointed. I found everything in the supermarket, although I couldn't find the Ras el Hanout spice mix as specified, I used something just labelled Tagine Spice mix which I assumed was the same thing. The recipe was very easy to follow as its only 5 steps long, and the cooking time was just less than an hour. I made one small adjustment to the amount of couscous as I usually allow myself a little less than the recipe indicates. The end result was very tasty and filling. It feels like a treat while still being something that would quite easily fit in to my normal rotation of recipes. I enjoyed it so much I've made it again but in the slow cooker this time and it worked just as well.
Next I tried Easy Chicken and Apricot Casserole. This recipe uses boned chicken which I don't usually cook with as I prefer chicken breast as I thought it to be lower in calories. I was pleasantly surprised to find the thigh and drumstick meat I used actually wasn't too bad but I think you do get more meat for the calories with breast meat. There isn't much in it though and it was nice to try a different cut of meat. I even tried de-skinning and de-boning! Again the ingredients were all found in the supermarket, the recipe was simple to follow, and cooking time just less than an hour. The end result was very tasty and again something a little different. The sauce tastes very thick and rich while still being quite low in calories and is a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the apricots. I have again tried this in the slow cooker and it worked perfectly, if not a little better!
Next up was Simple Chicken and Spinach Curry. (I forgot to photograph these last two recipes unfortunately!) I make curries quite a lot and am a big fan of the nutritional values of spinach so I had to give this a go. Again I could find all the ingredients I needed and it was simple and easily prepared with a cooking time of less than an hour. However, I think I added more water than the recipe called for in a panic about it burning dry and made the sauce too bland. I also used less spinach than the recipe called for but found it a little overpowering. Unfortunately this recipe was a little disappointing compared to the success of the others but I do plan to give it another try.
Finally I tried the One-Tin Roast Chicken, New Potatoes and Asparagus. I try to do a roast as often as possible but a traditional British roast takes a lot of different pans and multi tasking and can be quite high in calories so this looked like an interesting alternative. I'm also a big fan of asparagus but I only ever seem to eat it grilled so again I liked the idea of trying it in a different way. As previously, all ingredients were easily sourced - the recipe indicates using 2 teaspoons of whatever herbs you have in which makes it even simpler - and cooking time was around an hour.
I loved that everything went in the same tin, there was no fighting for space in the oven, no parboiling and no furiously working out timings to make sure everything was ready at the same time. I didn't use the amount of oil indicated in recipe but instead lined the baking tray with baking parchment which worked perfectly and meant I only used a teaspoon of oil in the marinade. I also removed the skin on the chicken despite the recipe indicating it should be left on and it was still tender and juicy and very tasty. I did have a minor panic that the potatoes and onions were going to be overcooked but in the end the potatoes were perfectly crispy and the onions delightfully caramelised. The asparagus was also cooked to perfection - the second time I cooked this I added some courgette which worked just as well.
I think the one tin roast was my favourite and I can see it becoming a regular Sunday meal in our house. The simplicity of it is a revelation and it is also really low in calories. However, the other 2 recipes I also tried successfully were just as delightful and will no doubt be eaten very often in our house. I can't wait to try some more recipes and I believe the author has another cook book out soon which I await with anticipation!
Star Rating - 4/5 - A simple but effective collection of recipes with only one of my sample collection not going to plan. The others were a delight and I think represent the book as a whole superbly.