Recipe: Leek & Blue Cheese Risotto

I’ve probably said this before, but I’m firmly of the belief that risotto is the perfect comfort food. Creamy, though not overly heavy, cheesy (but not greasy), and it can be loaded full of nourishing ingredients. When I’m feeling under the weather, need cheering up or just generally want some comfort food, it’s risotto that I turn to.

This recipe is perhaps a bit more indulgent than the risottos I tend to cook, with less emphasis on the vegetables, more cheese and a healthy dose of wine. Whilst I don’t tend to use wine in my risottos (why cook with it when you can drink it?!) I do find it pretty necessary in this one to add an extra note of background flavour. It intensifies the sweetness of the leeks, tempering the harshness of the blue cheese. And if you’ve opened a bottle to cook with, it would be rude not the finish it, right…?

#Recipe (generously serves 2)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh thyme, leaves only (around a tbsp)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 175ml white wine (roughly 2/3 of my large wine glass)
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • A knob of butter
  • 100g blue cheese
  • 25g parmesan
  • 25g walnuts, roughly chopped

Gently fry the onion, celery and garlic in the oil for around 5 minutes until softened but not brown. Add the rice to the onions and stir for a couple of minutes until the grains are slightly translucent.

Increase the heat and add the wine, stirring until it is all evaporated. Then add the stock a ladelful at a time, again stirring until absorbed before adding more. Repeat until the rice looks creamy and tastes cooked – I find it takes 20 minutes but it varies depending on the type and brand of risotto rice.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, gently fry the leeks and thyme in the butter. Add to the risotto when it is cooked with plenty of black pepper then crumble in the parmesan and most of the blue cheese. Cover, take off the heat, leave for 2-3 minutes, then serve sprinkled with the remaining blue cheese and some chopped walnuts.

Perfect for a cosy Friday-night in, or indeed a meat-free Monday meal! I also like it with some crisp bacon on top, although admittedly this adds to the washing up…

Are you a risotto fan? What’s your go-to comfort food?

Recipe: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Just before Christmas I wanted a quick and easy cookie recipe. Something that looked special, tasted amazing and was reasonably “wintery” or festive looking. Something that meant mince pie haters (ahem, me) wouldn’t feel left out at a mulled wine and mince pie gathering. I found a recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, tweaked it a bit and came up with these beauties.

Chocolatey without being too rich, soft and chewy, and so pretty to look at. They were perfect, easy to make (if not overly quick due to needing a spell in the fridge), and went down so, so well. They also kept for a good few days in an airtight container – I originally made around 80 and not unsurprisingly we couldn’t quite eat them all straight away! As an added bonus the rolled dough, without the icing sugar dusting, froze well too. I’d recommend defrosting slightly before coating and baking.

Recipe – for around 25 cookies, easy to divide and multiply

  • 2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1⁄4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar, for rolling

In a bowl, stir together sugar and oil before blending in the cocoa powder – I find it best to do this gradually as it can go a little lumpy. Beat in egg (again, I do this gradually) followed by the vanilla and salt. Sift over the flour and baking powder, then folder the mix together. Note that the mix will be a lot more fudge-like that normal cookie dough! Pop the dough into the fridge for at least two hours.

Use teaspoons to scoop out portions of the mix, then roll into balls (they should be around 1 inch in diameter). Roll each ball in the icing sugar until fully coated, then place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. As these cookies spread, I’d avoid putting them too close together! Bake the cookies in batches at 175 for around 11-13 minutes – they will look gooey in between the cracks, but should firm up when cooled. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy at any time of the day – we made have had these as a cheeky breakfast on my sister’s birthday!

What’s your current favourite cookie recipe?

Recipe: Duck, Apple & Cucumber Salad with Malt Crumble (& The Importance of Eating Locally)

One of the big buzz words this year is sustainability. Whether it’s cutting down on your plastic consumption (I always, always travel with a bottle of water in my bag for this very reason) or making more ethical food choices, it’s quite clear that sustainability is going to be a BIG thing in 2018. And that’s something I can get on board with.

One of the easiest ways to eat more sustainable is to purchase local, seasonal produce. Veggies and fruit grown in the UK will have a smaller carbon footprint than imported produce (and let’s face it, imported strawberries eaten in the depths of winter just don’t taste that good). You can say the same for meat too. Sure, you can argue that it’s not really possible to eat meat ethically, but going vegetarian just isn’t for me (more on that another time). This is a compromise. My butcher can tell me the exact breed of cow, the exact farm my steak hails from. And of course, cutting meat-eating down to just a few times a week goes a long way to eating more sustainably, plus it cuts your food budget too. Winner, winner, no-chicken dinner if you ask me!

With all this in mind, I was asked to create a dish made from locally-sourced ingredients, and worth of a dinner party. Living in London makes this a tad more difficult that it perhaps would do elsewhere, but I’d like to think we managed okay-ish. I will say the cucumber was not local – I have an in-built fear of UK-grown cucumbers (my Granddad had an allotment for years and years, and the one thing that was pretty much inedible was the cucumbers, always so bitter!) so this was imported direct from Sainsbury’s shelves. For a completely local dish it could be left off, or you could try your luck with a UK-grown one! The duck came from our local butcher, and we were assured it hadn’t travelled far. The kale was from a local market, but you could easily use another leafy green vegetable that’s more seasonal/local. The malt crumble was the star of the show. We picked up the malt from a brewery in Bermondsey – and I’m so looking forward to introducing it into other recipes. For more tips on eating ethically, have a look here.

The resulting dish is absolutely delicious. Inspired by a recipe from The New Nordic (one of the most beautiful cookbooks on our shelves), the combination of ingredients sound like they shouldn’t work – but they totally too. The cucumber mellows the sharp apple, so the tartness blends with the dish. At the same time the cucumber adds a welcome freshness, cutting through the rich duck. The malt crumble adds the most wonderful texture, and it even has the combination of crunchy and soggy that the best fruit crumbles have. Here we’ve simplified the original recipe a tad – whilst it looks and sounds impressive it’s decidedly easy to put together!

Ingredients (Serves 3-4 as a Starter, or 2 as a Main with some good bread)

  • 1 granny smith apple, half cored and thinly sliced into water with a squeeze of lemon (to prevent it from browning), the other half left whole
  • 1 large duck leg
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 200ml chicken stock (if you’ve used homemade, you can leave out the carrot and celery above)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 50g salted butter
  • 60g oats
  • 1 tablespoon malt
  • 2 tablespoons wholewheat flour
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  • 150g kale – we prefer to buy whole leaves and leave them chunkier, rather than the bags of shredded stuff you can buy
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In a hot frying pan (don’t add any oil), brown the duck legs, skin side down, until they have rendered all their fat and the skin is golden brown. Turn them over and cook for 1 minute before placing with the whole half apple in a casserole dish. Sauté the carrot and celery in the duck fat and then add the stock and vinegar. Deglaze the pan by scraping up any bits stuck to the base, then pour over the duck. Cover the casserole with a layer of foil and then top with the lid, then cook at 170°C for 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, make the crumble by rubbing together  the butter, oats, malt and flour. Spread out the mix on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside.

To make the charred cucumber, preheat a grill (we used a George Foreman). Halve the cucumber lengthways and remove and discard the seeds – I find it easiest to scoop them out using a teaspoon. Cut each length in half to give you 4 batons. Place them skin side towards the heat and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until soft and lightly charred. Transfer to a food processor, add the yoghurt and plenty of seasoning, and blend briefly. You want the mix relativity smooth, but still retaining some texture. Set aside. Best not to make this part too far in advance as I find it can go a little watery.

When the duck is ready, use two forks to pull the meat apart. Return the meat to the cooking juices to keep it warm. You can discard the carrot and celery, as these were just used to add a base note of flavour to the duck – however if you’d prefer not to waste them you could leave them out. A bit of a tip – if you make your own chicken stock, we keep a bag of offcuts (celery/leek ends, carrot peelings) in the freezer to simmer with the chicken carcass to reduce food waste.

Wash and pat dry the kale, chopping it into smaller pieces if necessary. Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot, almost smoking, then add the kale and sauté for less than a minute. Drain on paper towel.

Arrange the drained raw apple slices, shredded duck and kale in serving bowls. Dollop around some cucumber purée and drizzle over some of the juices from the pan. Serve immediately.

This is exactly the kind of thing we like to cook on our date-night evenings in. We love to spend an evening in the kitchen together, cooking up a plate of fancy food. This resulted in something that was both cosy and warming (and perfectly hygge) whilst still being light and clean-tasting thanks to the cucumber. We’ll definitely be making it again!

*This is a sponsored posts, however all opinions are my own as always!

Are you keen on eating local and seasonal food? How do you eat more ethically?

Recipe: Bacon, Feta & Lentil Salad (warm or cold)

This is an absolute staple in our household. We make a big batch at least once a month, usually doing me for a week of lunches, one evening meal for the two of us and possible W’s lunch group (for 5) too. It’s tasty, filling and healthy – a portion or so of veg, plenty of protein and just general yums.

What’s even better is that it works hot and cold. W in particular loves it warm, with sausages and steamed green veg. I love it cold of a lunch time, with plenty of spinach. It’s also great with a spot of extra stock, turned into a bit of a soup with leftover roast chicken. Mushrooms work well too, as does a spot of roasted kale. It’s so, so versatile. If we don’t quite have the ‘right’ ingredients we can switch things up – leave out the celery, use a different kind of stock, different herbs, add mustard, add white wine vinegar. Be luxurious with a splash of cream. Leave out the feta. Leave out the bacon. Ad different cheeses, extra bacon. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and that’s why we love this recipe so much.

Recipe – makes around 5 big portions

  • 200g dried brown lentils
  • 4 rashers thick streaky bacon, or equivalent rate of lardons
  • 2 onions
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Herbs – I like a combination of thyme and tarragon, but rosemary also works well
  • Chicken stock
  • Handful of Greek feta, crumbled
  • Optional – dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, mushrooms etc…

Fry the bacon in a little oil until starting to crisp. Meanwhile, chop the veg finely, before adding to the bacon and frying over a low heat until soft. If you’re using dried herbs, add with the veg. Add the lentils to the pan, then add chicken stock until they are just covered. Stir in any fresh herbs, if using, then simmer for around 30-45 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked to your liking. If adding them, stir though a teaspoon of dijon mustard and a scant teaspoon of white wine vinegar, tasting to adjust to your liking. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper, before serving warm or cold, scattered with feta. I also find it goes really well with baby spinach leaves.

Do you have any similar recipes that are good for batch-prepping lunchboxes?

Recipe: Whisky Mac’n’Cheese with Glazed Bacon Crumb

Yep. Whisky Mac’n’Cheese. The perfect Burn’s Night supper. I’ve already made a boozy mac’n’cheese before (see my one-pan beer’n’bacon mac’n’cheese) and, quite frankly, if you’ve never mixed booze and bacon together, you are missing out. Add cheese and, done right, you end up with a bowl of complete awesomeness.

The sauce for this mac’n’cheese is creamy and rich. Whilst the whisky-taste does infuse the sauce, it doesn’t overpower. The overwhelming taste is cheese, but there’s a subtle smokiness which works so well. Add in some salty-sweet bursts of whisky-glazed bacon and some insanely savoury super-crunchy breadcrumbs.

This recipe is inspired by one originally appearing in the Waitrose Weekend Magazine (and found online here). We’ve edited slightly, increasing the sauce to pasta ratio, making LOTS of breadcrumbs, and making the mix of cheeses more to our taste.

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Recipe – serves 2 very generously

  • 150g essential Waitrose Macaroni
  • 30g butter (+20g for the bacon)
  • 30g plain flour
  • 75ml whisky
  • 1/2 pint milk (around 280ml)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (we used English, if using Dijon add a bit more)
  • 50g comté, rind removed and grated (use all cheddar if you’re struggling to find some)
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated (a smoked cheddar would be very good here)
  • 40g parmesan
  • 3 rashers smoked bacon
  • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped

Boil the macaroni for 6 minutes, then drain and reserve the cooking water.

Meanwhile, glaze your bacon. Chop the bacon very finely, and fry in 10g butter over a high heat until golden and starting to crisp. Add half of the whisky and cook until it has completely evaporated, and the bacon is glazed and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Then make the sauce. Melt the 30g butter, then stir in the flour over a low heat to make a thick paste. Remove from the heat and slowly add half of the whisky, stirring continuously until incorporated. Return to the heat and gradually add all of the milk, stirring constantly. Heat until the sauce is just below the simmering point, and cook stirring continuously for 10 minutes, until thick and smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the mustard, comté, cheddar, 3/4 of the parmesan and seasoning (plenty of black pepper!).

Mix the macaroni, a third of the bacon and the reserved cooking water into the sauce, then spoon into a large ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes at 180C, it should be bubbling and golden.

Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan, then add the rosemary and breadcrumbs. Cook for 5 or so minutes, stirring every so often, until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp. Add the rest of the bacon to reheat. When the mac’n’cheese is cooked, sprinkle the bacon-crumb mixture over just before serving.

This is rich, so I highly recommend a good crunchy salad to go with it! And a dram of whisky of course…

Are you a whisky fan? Will you be celebrating Burn’s Night?

Recipe: Homemade Marshmallows

But marshmallows are so cheap, why would I make my own?! That’s the first thought I had when my fiance suggested we make rather than buy for a dinner party dessert. The answer, though, is pretty simple. They are just so much better than shop-bought. Softer, fluffier. Quicker to melt in a mug of hot chocolate. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with anything other than homemade again!

And they aren’t actually as complicated to make as they seen. Sure, it involves heck of a lot of egg whisky (a stand mixer is ideal for the job) and making a sugar syrup (I have a bit of a fear of working with hot sugar so I need moral support for this recipe). But it’s quick, simple and the results are amazing.

Of course, once you’ve got the basic recipe sorted you can make all sorts of ‘gourmet’ marshmallows. Add rose water, or even some citrus extract. Swirl in some food colouring. The possibilities are endless and I’m looking forward to experimenting!

Recipe – makes a large 20x30cm tray

  • 50g cornflour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g liquid glucose
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 10 sheets of gelatine
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 vanilla pod

Sift the cornflour and icing sugar into a bowl. Finely sift half the mixture over a deep 20x30cm tray and set the other half aside. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a small pan with 125ml of water.

Mix the liquid glucose and caster sugar together in a pan with 250ml of cold water, and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar syrup is clear, turn up the heat and allow the syrup to boil vigorously (don’t stir). When it reaches 110°C on a sugar thermometer, place the gelatine pan over a medium heat and stir until dissolved.

Whisk the egg whites in a free-standing electric mixer until you have stiff peaks. Once your syrup has reached 122°C, very carefully and slowly pour it into the mixer (with it still whisky), then slowly pour in the dissolved gelatine.

Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pods, add to the mixer bowl, and continue to whisk for 5 or so minutes The mixture should be increased in volume and very thick, but still pourable. At this stage you could add flavourings and/or food colouring.

Either way, pour the marshmallow mixture into your prepared tray, then sift over the remaining mixed cornflour and icing sugar. Leave to cool until set, then slice with a knife (or use cutters to make interesting shapes). If giving as gifts you’ll want to dip the cut sides (they’ll be sticky!) into more icing sugar/cornflour.

 

And that’s it! Reasonably simple, and the result is pretty special. We mainly enjoyed these as part of a S’mores dessert (blowtorched marshmallows, chocolate soil, whisky ice-cream and a chocolate sauce), but they were also amazing when used to top a hot chocolate. In fact, typing this has reminded me I have all the ingredients available. And seeing as it’s currently snowing, I think a hot chocolate is really rather appropriate, don’t you?!

Have you ever made homemade marshmallows?

Recipe: Vegan Keralan Curry with Cauliflower, Chickpeas & Pineapple

This is one of my all-time favourite curry recipes – full of fragrant flavours, packed with nutrients and veggies, and (best of all!) ready in around half an hour. It’s adapted from one of Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, though I don’t have the equipment nor the brain speed to make it in that time.

This is a pretty typical Keralan Curry, although I make no claims that it is authentic. It is lighter and fresh in flavour, and more vibrant in texture than a North Indian curry – and as such it is less complex to make. It does need a couple of spices that might not be in everyone’s cupboard, but actually we find that we do use these quite often in curries.

And if you fancy skipping the vegan/veggie element, this curry sauce is amazing made with prawns or white fish – though I’d fry off an onion or a couple of shallots for a bit more texture. I’m also tempted to play around with different veggies, I can imagine it would be delicious with some sweet potato!

Recipe – 2 dinner portions plus 2 lunches, or 3 for dinner (easily scaled up, we’ve made for 8 before)

  • ½ cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Drizzle of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 handful of dried curry leaves
  • 7 cm piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 6 spring onions
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 big bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 1 tin (400g) chickpeas
  • 1 tin (227g) pineapple in juice
  • 1 lemon

Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, then chop into small chunks and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with a little vegetable oil, then roast at 180C for around 10-15 minutes, or until lightly charred and starting to go tender.

Melt the coconut oil in a large pan, then quickly stir in the mustard and fenugreek seeds, turmeric and curry leaves. Peel the ginger and garlic , and trim the spring onions. Pulse these, together with the chilli and coriander stalks in a food processor (I used a mini chopper) until they form a rough pasta, then stir into the spices. Add the coconut milk, drained chickpeas and the pineapple chunks (plus the juice from the pineapple).

When the cauliflower is cooked as above, add this to the curry and bring the whole thing to a boil for a few minutes. Season to taste, adding in around half the juice of the lemon. Serve sprinkled with the coriander leaves, alongside rice – I love it with brown basmati.

This has become such a staple in our house, it’s perfect for a Meatfree Monday meal, and is also great for lunches throughout the week. I can imagine it would be perfect if you’ve got a cold too, with the chilli and ginger being perfect for perking you up. Definitely one we’ll be making again and again throughout the year!

What’s your favourite vegan recipe?

Recipe: Rose, White Chocolate & Pistachio Layer Cake

Welcome to the first recipe of 2018! I had (utterly stupid!) anxiety about deciding which recipe should kick off 2018 here on the blog, but in the end I decided to go with cake for several reasons. One, cake. Need I say more. Two, this was one of the last bakes I made in 2017, it was delicious as my birthday cake and something a little bit different. And three – I get married this year. It’s the year I get to eat the most important cake of my life. And so here is a rather yummy cake recipe for you all.

I don’t usually make my own birthday cake – leaving it to W (he once made a frankly terrifying Caterpillar cake) or my dad (who’s created some pretty awesome ones over the years – the highlight being a four-layer ombre chocolate-caramel one for my 21st). This year, however, with the day off before and W busy at university, I decided to give it a go. I used Lucy’s book, as the bakes tend to only need one bowl and anything which results in less washing up is already a winner in my eye. Me being me, I tinkered with the recipe slightly. I made a smaller cake, used a sandwich tin, reduced the poppy seeds, upped the white chocolate and added pistachios.

The rose is definitely the strongest flavour in this cake, but it isn’t at all overpowering. The poppy seeds add a good texture, the white chocolate adds creaminess and the pistachios mellow the slight soapiness of the rose. It worked perfectly as a birthday cake (complete with candles!) but I imagine it would be wonderful for an office cake sale, or as a gift for a friend. I’m also thinking cupcake versions would be delightful!

Recipe (makes a 21cm cake, serving 8 generous slices)

  • 3 eggs
  • Self raising flour
  • Butter – some for the cake (approx 90g) and 200g for the icing
  • Margarine
  • Caster sugar
  • 25g poppy seeds
  • Rose water
  • 100g white chocolat
  • 300g icing sugar
  • Pink food colouring
  • Pistachios

Grease and line two 21cm sandwich tins. Weigh the eggs in their shells (as a heads up, it’s probably around 180g), then weigh out that amount of both self-raising flour and caster sugar. You also want to weight out half that amount of both margarine and butter.

Beat the butter and margarine together until it’s soft (this job is a lot easier if they’re at room temperature), then add the sugar and cream together until the mix is fluffy and no longer gritty. Sift in the flour, add a pinch of salt and gently fold together. Fold in the poppy seeds and 15g of rosewater, then pour into the prepared tins. Smooth the tops and bake at 180C for around 20 minutes.

All the cakes to cool fully on a wire rack before making the icing. Melt the white chocolate slowly, stirring occasionally, then allow to cool for 15 minutes. You want it to be completely cooled to room temperature, without it setting. Beat the butter until soft and smooth, then add the cooled white chocolate and beat to combine. Add the icing sugar and beat together until creamy and light – I tend to do this in thirds to stop *too* much icing sugar flying everywhere. Beat in 15g of rosewater and a few drops of food colouring, before using to sandwich your cakes together and ice the top.

Roughly chop some pistachio nuts and arrange on top – you could also top with white chocolate curls, rose petals or even freeze-dried raspberries.

And that’s it – I’ve also followed the same ratios (equal weight flour/sugar/butter/eggs) for a standard Victoria sponge with success, so I’ll be forever thankful to Lucy for this method! Though I’m now obsessed with rosewater; it can be a pricey ingredient, but have a look in the World Food aisle of your local supermarket. I found a large bottle in Sainsburys for £1, whilst in the exact same store there was a much smaller bottle (in the baking aisle) for £4…

What’s your go-to cake recipe?

Recipe: Red Onion & Goat’s Cheese Quiche

Quiche was always something that intimidated me. It just seemed so complicated – baking pastry, prepping a filling, making a basic egg custard mix. A lot of work and, in all honest, I’d never enjoyed the shop-bought ones I’d tried so why bother?

Well, it would seem I’ve been missing out all this time!

When we decided a bit foolishly to cater most of our engagement party way back in Summer’16 we made two quiches (on the morning of the party). One was a Quiche Lorraine which was absolutely delicious and something I really need to make again ASAP. The other was this one. This is what started my love affair with goat’s cheese off, and what a way to begin an infatuation.

Crisp, buttery pastry (I’ll be posting a recipe soon, but you’ll be pleased to know it works just as well with ready-made, ready-rolled stuff – because sometimes life is just too short). Sweet red onions, caramelised with just a little bit of a bite. Punchy goat’s cheese. Soft and juuussssstttttt set egg filling, lightly infused with thyme and almost spicy with black pepper. Yep, it’s as delicious as it sounds.

And bonus. I discovered you don’t need to faff around making any type of custard for quiches. Game changer.

Recipe (makes 6 servings generous to eat alone with a side salad, more if serving with new potatoes or as part of a buffet – based on a Donal Skehan recipe)

  • 25g butter
  • 3 large red onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g soft curd goat’s cheese
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

If you’re making your own pastry (this recipe is a good basic one) then do this first, then place in the fridge. Roll out (or use shop-bought!) and use to line a 23cm tart tin – place back in the fridge whilst you wait for the over to reach 190C. Pop a baking tin (large enough to fit the tart tin) in the oven whilst it warms. Once up to temperature, line the pastry with greasproof, fill with baking beans, pop onto the hot tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and greaseproof (they will be insanely hot), turn the oven down to 180C and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the filling, heat the butter and a pinch of salt in your largest frying pan, add the red onions and the dried thyme and fry over a low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes until soft and caramelised. Season with plenty of black pepper, then allow to cool.

Whisk the eggs and cream together until just combined. Stir through around 25g of the goat’s cheese. Arrange the onions on the base of the pastry case, scatter over spoonfuls of the goats cheese (try and disperse this evenly, or you’ll be fighting over the cheesiest slice!) and season a little more. Gently pour the egg and cream mixture into the pastry case, sprinkle with the fresh thyme and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the filling is set. I sometimes like to be extra naughty and sprinkle a little grated parmesan over the top for the final five minutes, just to add an extra golden colour.

Allow to cool, then serve warm (not hot!) or cold. It’s wonderful on it’s own with a simple salad of leaves and raw beetroot, alongside new potatoes or simply as part of a picnic or buffet. Oh, it sits nicely in the fridge for 2-3 days so is perfect for a meat-free Monday dinner and a couple of lunches.

An indulgent recipe for sure, but what’s life without a bit of tasty, cheese goodness?!

Have you ever made your own quiche?

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup

I love a good soup. Warming, packed full of veggies, filling and so versatile. You can be ‘naughty’ and serve with a grilled cheese sandwich (try French Onion soup served with a Cheese Toastie – it’s a total game changer!). You can serve with some artisan sourdough for a smart lunch. You can eat it alone and feel very virtuous. It can be a starter, or a main meal in it’s own right. It can be drunk as a lunch at your computer, rushed between meetings. It can be enjoyed in bed on a sick day, or cosied up on the sofa on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Over colder months I eat a lot of soups – it’ a sure-fire way to warm me up midday, whilst remaining low calorie and (usually) low-carb. Whilst I don’t “diet” as such, I do try to make sure my lunches are lowish in calorie whilst still being filling. I’d just prefer to save my calories for a more exiting dinner! This soup fits the bill perfectly.

Absolutely crammed full of vitamins, it’s so, so tasty. The bold flavours trick you into feeling like you’re eating something more substantial (there’s nothing worse than a bland soup for making you feel unsatisfied and reaching for the biscuit tin!), whilst the sweet potato really does fill you up. You can even add red lentils to bulk it up even further. The red pepper and sweet potato is the perfect combination, livened up with a few key spices. Garnish with some extra chilli and you’ve got a perfect warming bowl of goodness.

Recipe (makes 4 lunch portions)

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 red peppers, with as much skin peeled away as possible and the flesh roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 500ml vegetable stock

Heat a teeny tiny bit of oil in a pan, and fry the onion and celery gently for  5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and continue to fry for another couple of minutes. Increase the heat, add the pepper, sweet potato and stock then simmer for 20 or so minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender. Blitz the soup with a handblender (allow to cool slightly if your blender, like mine, has a tendency to splash liquid everywhere), and serve.

You could be fancy and add a swirl of yoghurt, perhaps some coriander, but it’s pretty good just as it is!

Are you a fan of soup? What’s your favourite recipe?