Lentil and Spinach Polpette and Divided Opinions

Soundtrack: The Nod Podcast – Nobody Looks Like Me

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Spinach and Lentil Polpette

Star Rating:

Polpette: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sauce: One Star ⭐️

Honestly, I don’t know how to rate this meal. And it’s really making me interrogate how I use the star rating system. One part of this meal (the polpette) was excellent and I will definitely make them again. However, the other part (the sauce) was just strange. I would not make it again, nor would I recommend anyone else does.

So let’s unpack these separately.

I’m always skeptical about meat-free replicas of meat recipes. They seem to offer a promise they can’t deliver, and I’d prefer to either have the real thing or nothing at all.

However, these ‘meatballs’ have all the characteristics of a good meatball. They have a resistance when you bite into them, they are really flavourful, and have a salty sharpness from the pecorino. They’re pretty easy to make, wilting spinach in a dry frying pan and smushing up the rest of the ingredients in a blender. Roll them into balls and cook in the oven for 20 minutes and their done.

The sauce, while just as easy, was kind of a strange, sloppy mess. Full disclosure, I do not have a proper blender or food processor so the almonds didn’t break down as finely as the recipe probably intended, so part of the textural problem could be equipment based (although you do know what they say about workmen blaming their tools…) The flavour was… fine? It was just kind of sharp, and sour, and watery all at once and made the meatballs soggy which detracted from them entirely.

So the meatballs get four stars, and I will make them again as an appetizer, hors d’oeuvres, or to add to salads. The sauce was a solid one star and I will not make it again. If I gave an average that would make this a 2.5 start attempt, but that would be burying the lede. Sigh.




Braised Halibut with Fennel and Tomatoes and Dumb Luck

Soundtrack: David Chang’s Ugly Delicious – Episode 3: Home Cooking

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Braised Halibut with Fennel and Tomato

Star Rating: Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Last week I got my first delivery from Imperfect Produce. They send you a box of ugly but tasty fruit and veg at a much reduced price. It helps reduce food waste by finding a home for the misshapen, scarred, irregular, discoloured, or overstocked – but perfectly good – produce that may otherwise be thrown out.

What I didn’t think about when scheduling my first delivery was that I had a very busy social week and would be out of town for a night, meaning I was unlikely to have much of a chance to cook. Understanding the irony of producing food waste as a result of trying to reduce food waste, I was committed to using all the contents of the box (apples, oranges, onion, sweet potato, beetroot, fennel, tomatoes, carrots, and avocados for reference) and so far have made some delicious roast veggies and upped my fruit intake.

What was leftover was the fennel bulb and some tomatoes that were starting to show early signs of ageing. After a weekend where I’d maybe overcompensated for running a half marathon with the liberal consumption of carbs, I was also in the mood for something light.

Enter Google. I searched for ‘fish fennel recipe’ and landed on this braised fish dish from Martha Stewart.

Simply put, just go and make this dish. It’s so simple. You simmer down the fennel and tomatoes in the braising liquid for 12-15 minutes before adding the halibut which cooks at a gentle bubble until the flesh is opaque. I substituted the white wine by adding a touch more water and some apple cider vinegar to give it acidity. The recipe says you should just serve the fish with a spoonful of the braising liquid, discarding the vegetables, but I love fennel and didn’t want to waste all that deliciousness.

Instead I put a handful of baby spinach in the bottom of a bowl, placed the halibut fillets on top and then poured over all the braising ingredients. The halibut was cooked perfectly, the lemon and vinegar gave it a clean kick, and the fennel added a brightness and texture that made the whole dish moreish.

If you want to make something that looks far more impressive than the effort required, this is your dish. I’ll be adding it to my rotation for nights I want something healthy, but I don’t want to work too hard for it.


Prawn, Pea, Broccoli, and Lemon Orzo and Dialing It In

Soundtrack: ‘Wrong Creatures’ Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want to make the recipe: One Pot Lemon Orzo and Shrimp – Damn Delicious

Star Rating: Two mediocre stars 👎🏻👎🏻

When I cook something disappointing, it affects me on many levels. The first reason is a very straight forward equation – eating more delicious things > eating less delicious things. This is then combined with a faint feeling of remorse; what I could have done differently to avert such an outcome? What if I’d thought things through a little more? Surely I’ve been cooking for long enough to be able to foresee these kind of outcomes? And finally, I’m your typical over-achiever and I don’t like it when things I do don’t turn out how I want them to.

Which brings us to this week’s recipe. Full disclosure, I was totally dialing this one in. It was a grey and rainy day in Seattle and I didn’t feel like going out of my way to the supermarket on my way home from work, so I arrived at this recipe by Googling the ingredients I knew I had in the house.

I was also coming off a 24 hour fast, which is something new I’m trying out. You start after lunch on one day, and break the fast at lunch the following day, attempting to keep 24 hours between those two meals. As I’d not had dinner the previous evening, you’d think I would have been highly motivated to ensure that what I was cooking this night was guaranteed tasty, but my energy levels were low and with this came a certain degree of apathy.

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have predicted that this recipe would be so-so. Standing alone each ingredient is fine, but what’s missing from the mix is something which would give this meal what my friend Ping would describe as *P💥💥M*. I should ask Ping for her specific definition of*P💥💥M*, but in my experience this is a you-know-it-when-you-taste-it element that elevates good food to great. Sadly, this meal was not even*P💥💥M* adjacent.

Having said that, there were some positive elements to this dish. It mostly contains items I always have in my kitchen – frozen peas, frozen green prawns, pasta, dried herbs, chicken broth, garlic. I added broccoli and spinach because I am a vegetable freak and there is always room for more veggies. It also took about 20 minutes from start to finish, and could be cooked in one pot, so if you can tweak it to have some actual taste, this could be a good mid-week standard.

(Note: I omitted the parmesan cheese because of my fussy lactose intolerant gut, but I doubt this would have saved it. Also cheese and prawns? Ew)

In the end, this meal just didn’t taste like much. The canned tomatoes needed to be cooked down before being added, and without doing so the pasta was watery and anemic. I should have added more herbs and seasonings – some paprika or sambal or harissa would have given it a bit more life. To be honest, adding some chorizo with the onion and garlic would have done a lot to steer this back towards Flavourtown – or even swapping out the prawns for chorizo entirely.

This was nutritious and edible and good for you and entirely unsatisfying, which is why it only gets two stars. I eat reasonably healthily, but refuse to eat healthy food if it’s tasteless, and would never recommend anyone else do it either. Tasteless food makes me sad and it never satiates me. I end up eating more when it’s bland in a flawed attempt to hunt down what I’m actually after – taste.

You could make this if you wanted to, but I suggest you try any other recipe I’ve posted on here first*.

*Recommendation bound by date of post. Who knows what horror lurk in our future?