Yes, it’s Cookbook Book Club time again – my once a month “cooking from the same cookbook” dinner with Jan from Family Bites and Jenn from Chocolate Shavings. We’ve already had dinner with Marcella, dinner with Nigella and dinner with Ottolenghi and this month, we chose to have dinner with Maria Speck using recipes from her book “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals”.
The premise of the book is to introduce Old World grains like farro, barley, polenta, and wheat berries to modern dishes. Maria Speck’s recipes draw on food traditions from across the Mediterranean and northern Europe, showing how versatile, satisfying, flavorful, and sophisticated whole grains can be. The dishes are described as “rustic but elegant” and I think it’s a perfect description. Once you get your head around the idea of cooking with grains and the various methods, cooking times etc… the recipes themselves are fairly simple – it’s a great introduction to ancient grains for those not so familiar with them and the recipes give so many different ideas for their use.
As a starter, Jan brought us this beautiful loaf of Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel which she served with some cheeses and fruit.
A hearty, flavourful bread, this was also the bread I used for Dorie Greenspan’s Tartines from La Croix Rouge I made the following day. It was delicious on the night but also toasted beautifully the next day (and the day after that!). It’s apparently an easy, no-knead bread and I am excited to have found the recipe online so will be trying this for myself!
Isn’t it beautiful?
This was a really hearty pasta dish with lots of flavour, although I found this a little salty when I finally served it. It doesn’t call for that much salt but I guess the bacon I used was saltier than I realised. I did taste along the way but my tastebuds have been off for the past few weeks due to the #neverendingcold so perhaps that was it? In any case, the bacon plus the salt plus the Parmesan for serving made it a little too salty for my liking on the night. The next day I ate some leftovers with some fresh radicchio finely sliced and tossed through the pasta and that worked really well for a touch of freshness and some crunch. I personally feel the dish could have benefited from something crisp and fresh and green but this might just be me yearning for spring ;) In any case, this was a really nice idea and one I’ll make again when my tastebuds are working to their full potential!
For dessert, Jenn brought us Lemon Scented Olive Oil Cake and Plumped Figs.
We all really enjoyed this one Light and not too sweet, although the figs were fairly intensely alcoholic (they are plumped in Grand Marnier!). One of those cakes that you only need a sliver of because it’s so tasty. We agreed that it could perhaps have benefited from a dollop of crème fraîche but it really was the perfect end to the meal. I enjoyed a sliver of this for a late breakfast the following day (you won’t want it too early unless you’re a fan of Grand Marnier in the morning!) and it was nice warmed up in the microwave for a few seconds.
All in all this was the perfect meal for a chilly winter’s night. I’m encouraged by the ease of these recipes and look forward to experimenting even more with ancient grains in my meals!
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