Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tilda Mums Helping Mums Cookbook Recipe Road Test

Tilda Basmati rice has long been a family favourite. When I was growing up, back in the 1980s, proper basmati rice was not available in the supermarket. You had to go to the specialist Indian grocers, which in our case, meant a trip to colourful, vibrant Southall. Those Saturday trips were an adventure; lots of traffic, the parking was a nightmare, the High Street was heaving with people. It was exhilarating. We would then visit one of the grocers there to buy a very big bag of rice. Tilda was the brand my mum would buy, and ever since then I have done the same. I've tried others, but there is something about the fragrance and fluffiness of the cooked Tilda that I prefer.

I was very pleased to hear that Tilda are involved in a charitable campaign to help new mothers and expectant mothers in developing world countries. It is called Mums Helping Mums. To do this, they have posted a free cookbook with recipes donated by many of the UK's most famous mums. Some come from musicians, such as Cerys Mathews who shares her Potato and Tomato Bhaji recipe, Cheryl Baker (of Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz) gives her recipe for Fish Shish Kebabs, singer-songwriter Jamelia has contributed two of her family’s treasured recipes. Equally rock and roll are recipes from Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker (his perfect chicken curry) and Anjum Anand (Chicken and vegetables in aromatic coconut sauce). TV's Nina Wadia, Konnie Huq, Esther Rantzen and Arlene Phillips CBE also contribute.

Tilda as part of this "Mums Helping Mums" campaign are currently selling a special silver Mums Helping Mums 1kg bag of rice (priced £4.49). For every pack, a meal will go to a new or expectant mum to help ensure her good health and nutrition. It is well documented that poor nutrition, particularly in expectant mothers can lead to low birth weight. The resulting low birth weight can seriously affect a baby’s physical and cognitive development. Last year's campaign resulted in a million meals for new and expectant mums. Tilda are keen to beat that target.

I downloaded the cookbook and liked the look of many of the recipes. But the one I decided to try out here as a Recipe Road Test turns out not to involve any rice at all!

The recipe I chose to make was by TV cook, food writer and stylist Jo Pratt. I have seen her on television many times, and always found her to be knowledgeable, engaging and full of great recipe ideas. Her recipes, which I have tried in the past, are always reliable.

Jo Pratt's "Easy Tray Baked Chicken" seemed like a brilliant way of breaking the monotony of regular Roast Chicken for a Sunday lunch. The fact that it was a single cooking implement meal, using only one large roasting tray was another factor. However lovely it is to make Sunday lunch at home, the washing up it creates is ridiculous! Not what you need on a late afternoon or Sunday evening as you contemplate going back to work the next day.

The ingredients were all available in the supermarket, although I bought whole chicken thighs and had to skin and de-bone them at home. We have a thriving rosemary bush in the garden, so I only had to pop out of the back door to grab a couple of sprigs. Thankfully on our arrival back from the supermarket, Him Indoors put the oven on to pre-heat, or I would be telling a more cautionary tale of missed timings and rumbling tummies!

Baby potatoes, chunks of pepper, carrots, onion  and lemon wedges, and whole cloves of garlic were prepared and assembled in my large cast iron casserole dish (a far better fit than my roasting tin, which was far too big). Lemon juice, paprika, rosemary, salt, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil would provide the flavourings. The chicken thighs and pancetta were mixed in with all the other ingredients by my getting my hands stuck in.

As you can see, before the cooking started, I had a wonderfully colourful array of ingredients.

The casserole dish was then heated on the hob, and stirred around to bring the ingredients up to a decently hot temperature before being put in the oven. The lemon, oil and paprika were beginning to give off their fragrances by this point. If only you could have smelly-vision, right?

At the half way mark, the casserole dish was hauled out of the oven, runny honey added, everything was thoroughly mixed together once more, and it was time to start on the home straight.

This was the finished product, before being served up on plates.
Our verdict is that this is an easy, achievable meal that anyone inexperienced in cooking can make. It is a very tasty and enjoyable meal, which needs no other accompaniments. We thought it was an excellent alternative to a Sunday roast, particularly for busy people who don't have either the time or energy for the full roast preparation and cooking experience.

I also think it is a brilliant basis for experimentation and development according to your own personal tastes. Thyme or a little chopped sage could be added. You could use up leftover vegetables languishing in the fridge such as mushrooms, courgettes or aubergines. Adaptability will keep it fresh, so you can make it repeatedly and not get bored. 

In fact, we revisted the recipe only this weekend, adding some mushrooms and thyme as we had some in the house. Here are the results:

If you want to download the Mums Helping Mums Cookbook, you can get it for free here: www.tilda.com

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