Guardian food writer Felicity Cloake has written a lovely cookbook called ‘Perfect Too’ which is a compilation of her weekly Guardian feature/recipe where she seeks to the make the perfect XXXX – this could be a croque monsieur, a jam doughnut, gingerbread. Generally some kind of classic or well known dish.
My main obstacle with navigating this book was Felicity’s tendency towards red meat, heavy carbs and puddings. I wasn’t sure how I’d survive the eight dishes we planned to test without my waistline and energy levels suffering.
However I managed to do a reasonable job of finding the most healthy numbers in the book including – dal, spaghetti vongole and nut roast.
I’ll talk you through my favourites and my ‘also goods’, as there were no failures here – everything turned out well, although there were four clear triumphs for me:
- Macaroni cheese. Definitely at the top of my list. I’m not a massive fan of mac n’ cheese, but nutmeg in the sauce and a crunchy breadcrumb and parmesan topping breathed new life into this dish. Sweet, creamy comfort food.
- Spaghetti alla vongole. Easy peasy to make – ready in just ten mins (apart from soaking the clams for two hours to get the dirt off them). A superb dish – salty, lemony and it tasted of the seaside. It felt sophisticated and looked rather rustic and beautiful.
- Nut roast. Another unexpected hit. I choose this more for nutrition reasons than from real interest in the dish. But it was quite spectacular. The sage, chestnuts and parsnips gave it a lovely earthy flavour and the stilton was a lovely tangy creamy twist.
- Potato salad. I didn’t realise potato salad could taste this good. Felicity’s version included capers, anchovies, fresh chives, mint and parsley, dijon and wholegrain mustard, spring onions and lashings of mayonnaise. Creamy herby, salty heaven!
The Also Goods
- Aubergine parmigiana. This nearly fell into ‘favourites’ as it was gorgeous. It didn’t make it because it wasn’t as much of a revelation as the top four dishes. It was smoky, meaty (yet vegetarian), moist and delicious. The inclusion of two balls of mozzarella gave the dish a lovely creaminess and chewiness. Warning: pretty laborious to make and involved boiling a lot of aubergines!
- Meatballs. Made from pork and mince beef molded together with onions, fennel seeds and breadcrumbs soaked in milk. Felicity used the pork to make them more juicy, fatty and flavoursome – and it paid off – they were much more interesting than normal meatballs and the fennel seeds were a tasty, fragrant flavour addition.
- Dal. A very virtuous dinner – this must have had hardly any calories in it and was full of healthy lentils. It was tasty but I think eating it with a couple of curries would have been the ideal way to eat it – it was a bit uninspiring just by itself.
- Cullen skink. A creamy smoked haddock and potato soup. A hearty, tasty and again healthy dinner.
Whilst Felicity’s recipes were a bit stodgy for me and this might not end up being my go to cook book, I ate some great meals. And there is something magical about the way Felicity takes classic recipes – be it macaroni cheese, meatballs or parmigiana, amalgamates the best techniques from a variety of chefs and makes them REALLY REALLY well. Sometimes it involved a bit of extra faff and effort, but it was worth it for the excellent outcomes.