I quite enjoy cooking just for myself. I find it is a great chance to experiment, try new ideas and make things up with the knowledge that if it is all a terrible failure I can just have cheese on toast for dinner. But that said, it really is nicer to cook for others. It isn't just about providing people you love with delicious food, it is the sharing of the meal. The gathering around the table to eat and talk and laugh. Plus it is always nice when people say they like what you have cooked!
Thursday night has been family dinner night for a very long time and it is nearly always at Mum and Dad's house with Mum doing the cooking, but recently I've been chipping in. I love having the opportunity to give Mum the night off and to fill my home with people and food and usually two small, hyperactive dogs. Also, being my family it means I can still experiment a little in the knowledge that while they won't hold back on telling me something is a failure, they will be fine with it.
|One of the marauding duo being extremely cute|
For this family dinner I turned to my new cookbook of Moroccan and North African Food. As an avid fan of cookbooks (I like to browse them like magazines) I now have self-imposed rules about buying them to ensure that I don't end up with hundreds. They need to have pictures of every dish, it needs to be actually achievable, ie not requiring 300 hard to source ingredients, it needs to cover a food type that an existing book doesn't and it needs to make my mouth water when I read the recipes. This is a Women's Weekly cookbook which means it almost automatically meets the first two points. I'm only just learning about North African food, so that covered point three and I want to make just about every recipe in it, so that was point four covered off. The biggest difficulty was deciding what to cook first.
In the end I decided to make the lamb and quince tagine with pistachio cous cous. Of course it isn't quince season so I ended up using a suggested alternative of green nashi pears. I don't know that Dad liked it, to start with he doesn't like cous cous, but everyone else thought it was great. My brother in law had two huge servings. The nashi worked really well and the lamb was incredibly tender. I will be making this again!
For dessert I was inspired by the large numbers of gorgeous strawberries available at the moment to make strawberry mousse. I've only made it once before but it is easy and delicious. I topped it with diced strawberries marinated in cointreau, some thinly sliced mind and a little sugar. The recipe only calls for one egg white, I think I would double that in the future to get a fluffier mousse but this was certainly very deliciously strawberry, a great spring dessert.
500g strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon gelatine
250g lite sour cream
1 egg white whipped to stiff peaks
Blend the strawberries and icing sugar together to a smooth consistency with no lumps.
In a small jug place the gelatine and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Stand the jug in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine dissolves and the liquid becomes clear. Allow to cool to room temperature then add to strawberry mixture.
Refrigerate until the strawberries start to set - 30-45 minutes.
Add the sour cream a spoonful at a time until well combined and there are no lumps. Gently fold in the whipped egg white, being careful not to lose the lightness.
Pour into 6 half cup capacity dishes and refrigerate until set.