I have not written about the monthly resolutions that I replaced New Year Resolutions with since June. It isn't like I haven't thought about making the small monthly changes for the better or indeed making and enjoying the changes - it is simply that I have thus far failed to commit them to words. In respect of my June resolution which was to Just Get on and Do It, I shall begin to remedy that now.
Back at the beginning of the summer holidays (how far away that seems now, three days into the new term), we were visited by a friend my husband and I both knew at University. This friend has a very special place in my husband's life and we were honoured when he played the role of best man at our wedding. I always enjoy seeing him because his dry sense of humour never fails to make me laugh. I enjoy seeing him even more now since he met and fell in love with an amazing lady that, although I have only spent a small amount of time with, I adore.
They have three children between them and some interesting parenting ideas including 'technology free days' and 'try new food days'. My little ones are just as happy running round the garden inventing games as they are playing on the computer so technology bans would serve little purpose in our family. Trying new food, however, is something we could definitely benefit from. As much as I enjoy cooking (and eating) it is easy to fall into something of a rut. Churning out old favourites that I know everyone will be happy with week after week is OK I suppose, but not adventurous or exciting.
The seeds for my July resolution were sown.
At least once a week, I intend to try a new recipe or adapt an old one to (hopefully) extend the repertoire of family favourites.
I have found inspiration in the BBC's fantastically entertaining Great British Bake Off - who could not love the drama of the melted ice cream saga and the untimely departure of the Bearded Bake God Iain of the bin escapade infamy (binfamy?). I have reorganised my larder and sorted my cookbooks so I know what I have and where to find it (cupboards and drawers on the to do list). When I dine out, I do so now with a slightly analytical attitude as I ponder how to recreate anything especially good in my own kitchen.
Whilst in Edinburgh recently, I enjoyed two meals featuring the iconic Scottish savoury pudding - haggis. As a (mostly) non meat eater, I am talking about Vegetarian Haggis. Whether vegetarian haggis would have inspired the poet John Burns to pen the famous "Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face" Address is debatable, but I LOVE it.
I have cooked Vegetarian Haggis for the family on Burns Night before but have never thought to use it in any way other than with the traditional 'neeps and tatties'. Inspired by my Scotland experience, this all changed.
First, I made Haggis Nachos. This was easy. I used Morrisons Value Tortilla Chips and put a generous layer in the bottom of individual oven proof serving dishes. On top, I dolloped some home made salsa sauce (fry chopped onion, green, pepper and chile pepper, add tin of chopped tomato and splash of hot chile sauce, heat to reduce). The next layer is the haggis (recipe for vegetarian haggis) and finally, top it with goats cheese. Pop it in the oven for a few minutes then garnish with soured cream and jalapenos. One of my dinner guests on this occasion did not like goats cheese so he had grated cheddar. We were all a bit jealous because it looked delicious. I wish I'd remembered to take a photo but I think I was deliberately putting photography to the back of my mind after the distress of losing all of the pictures I had taken in Edinburgh.
The second Haggis dish I attempted was more ambitious - Haggis Money Bags
I adapted my haggis recipe to make it more like the one I had sampled in Edinburgh. I used red onion (about double the quantity) and caramelised it before adding the other veg. Instead of chopped nuts I used a mixture of peanuts, cashew nuts and hazelnuts (again slightly more than the original version of the recipe) and chopped them roughly so they would add more texture. I swapped the red lentils for green ones (which, be warned, take much longer to soften). I also used less oatmeal to make a slightly sloppier consistency. Instead of cooking this in a loaf tin, I wrapped single portion servings topped with goats cheese in sheets of filo pastry. My filo pastry had been in the freezer since Xmas (I had the best of intentions to make a stunning chestnut stuffed filo wreath centrepiece but it never happened!). It had dried out quite badly and was really hard to manage. It felt less like cooking, more like doing a delicate skin graft. My 'money bags' were actually more reminiscent of mutated artichokes but as long as they held together during cooking (which they did) I wasn't too bothered.
I had intended to make a rich red wine sauce to serve with the Money Bags but life sort of got in the way and Bisto instant gravy had to suffice. No complaints. They were delicious.