A helping hand with home-cooking

Margaret
Margaret Prouse
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‘Best of Bridge Home Cooking’ features a good variety of easy-to-follow recipes

Margaret Prouse

Of all the “Best of Bridge” books I have explored, the 2015 Home Cooking volume holds the most appeal for me because it contains a generous selection of recipes that match up with my cooking preferences.

This surprises me a bit, as recipes were developed and chosen differently for this book than for the early “Best of Bridge” ones. Julie Van Rosendaal developed some of the recipes especially for this book, but the majority were sourced from nine other (non-”Best of Bridge”) publications, by three authors.

The table of contents lists breakfast, breads and muffins, snacks, spreads and dips, soups, salads, sandwiches, lunches and light suppers, one-pot dinners, pizza, pasta and noodles, meatless mains, fish and seafood, chicken and turkey, pork, lamb and beef, side dishes, desserts and sweet treats.

I appreciate that many of the dishes in this book can be prepared in advance. There are a number of slow cooker dishes, and in some cases the authors identify preliminary steps that can be done up to two days early, reducing preparation time on serving day and easing the before-dinner rush.

Dishes in “Best of Bridge Home Cooking” are inspired by culinary traditions including, but not limited to, Mediterranean, Indian and Italian. I was happy to find a number of well-seasoned vegetarian dishes: nutrient-dense, tasty and easy on the pocketbook — welcome as people worry about rising food costs.

The recipes are easy to follow, with ingredients and instructions printed in standardized “Best of Bridge” format. I enjoyed making and eating all that I tried with the exception of the Delectable Apple-Cranberry Coconut Crisp. For my money, apple cranberry crisp baked in the oven has better texture and colour than this slow cooker version, which turned out anemic and undercooked.

I did have to reduce the baking time from 12 to 10 minutes when making the Scrumptious Oatmeal Cookies, but I suspect that my oven is slightly hotter than it should be.

When making the following lentil soup for our two-person household, I cut the recipe in half and used a smaller slow cooker. Served with Cheddar Corn Bread made from another recipe in the book, it was a hit.

The seasoning was perfect for my taste, the cayenne providing just enough heat and the lemon juice brightening the flavours. I admit that, while I toasted the cumin seeds as directed, I did not grind them.

After the dish cooked on low for about eight and a half hours, the lentils were firm (though cooked) and held their shape.

 

Mediterranean Lentil Soup with Spinach

 From “Best of Bridge Home Cooking”, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2015.

15 mL (1 tbsp) vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

5 mL (1 tsp) cumin seeds, toasted and ground (see Tip)

5 mL (1 tsp) grated lemon zest

1.5 L (6 cups) chicken stock or ready-to-use vegetable or chicken broth

1 potato, peeled and grated

250 mL (1 cup) dried green or brown lentils, rinsed

30 mL (2 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 mL (½ tsp) cayenne pepper (optional; see Tip)

500 g (1 lb) spinach leaves

 

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, until carrots are softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, toasted cumin and lemon zest and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Transfer to a large (minimum 5 quart) slow cooker. Add stock. Soup can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to two days at this point.

Stir in potato and lentils. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours, until vegetables are tender. Add lemon juice and cayenne (if using) and stir.

Add spinach. Cover and cook on high for 20 minutes, until spinach is cooked and mixture is hot and bubbly.

Serve 6 to 8.

Tip: To toast cumin seeds, place seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a mortar or a spice grinder and grind. If you prefer to use ground cumin, substitute half the quantity.

Tip: If you’re using cayenne pepper, dissolve it in the lemon juice before adding to the slow cooker.

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at margaret@islandgusto.com.

Organizations: Robert Rose, Delectable Apple-Cranberry Coconut Crisp

Geographic location: Toronto, North Wiltshire

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