Food: Getting Inventive with Veg ft. Roots Collective

One thing I’m definitely guility of is seeing vegetables as an after thought. Don’t get me wrong, we eat a decent amount (more often than not I get my 5-a-day in) but they are a side dish. An ‘essential’ mainly put there to get the good stuff and vitamins in. I can’t honestly say I always enjoy eating them!

 photo Roots Collective_zps5d2ribmy.jpgHowever when we moved in together, W and me set ourselves the challenge of being a bit more inventive with veggies. We eat vegetarian dinners once or twice a week, we try new things (hence my new loves for beetroot and butternut squash!). Recently though I’ve taken it one step further. Roots Collective challenged me to add even more veg into my diet whilst getting creative with their blends.

Now, let’s just get this off my chest. I didn’t think these worked as a juice. Too herby, too bitty (I have no issue with orange-bits in my OJ, but green stuck in my teeth was not attractive!). What I did love, however, was using them as an ingredient.

 photo Roots Collective Blends 4_zps5pasahbk.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsqgrrd1ns.jpgThe beetroot juice (which was surprisingly the most palatable to drink) ended up being my absolute favourite out of the bunch. Whizzed up with chickpeas or butter beans, some garlic and a spot of seasoning, it made an extremely yummy and vibrant dip. It was such a gorgeous colour that really brightened up my lunchbox (and my study notes – as it turns out my Monday morning brain isn’t great at closing lunchboxes properly…). Excellent with carrot sticks, ever better with homemade pitta. I kind-of ignored Roots Collective’s recipe, instead leaving out the oil and replacing the tahini with a spot of peanut butter (don’t judge!).

Yep, note to self: post recipe for homemade pitta bread soon. Trust me when I say you’ll never look at shop bought ones in the same way again!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 1_zpszl3joift.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 2_zpsbjtutyzt.jpgThe cucumber-y one was another fave, partnering really well with salad. I did a couple of different types. A Mexican bean salad (black beans and onions sauteed wih chipotle paste, served with lots of lettuce, coriander, cheese and a few cheeky tortilla chips) – yummy, and the juice added the freshness I would usually get from soured cream. It also went really well as a dressing for couscous. Served with my homemade falafel this was the perfect lunchbox for a few days!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 15_zps40fy2qei.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 9_zpsnnfub2wq.jpgThe others I made into soup. Sure, they still need veg adding, but it was a super quick way to add extra flavour without faffing around. Just add the chopped veg to a small amount of water, simmer until soft, drain, add the juice and blend. My current thrifty tip is to make soup out of a broccoli stalk – it’s something that would otherwise get thrown away, but it’s perfectly edible and just makes good soup. Add some blue cheese and you’ve got a happy girl over here!

So, what are Roots Collective Blends? To be brutally honest, I’m still not quite sure! Not a juice. Not a smoothie. The entire bit of veg ends up in the bottle, cold-pressed without any added fruit juice to lock in all the vitamins. They can be drunk straight from the bottle (personally I don’t recommend it!), or eaten us with a spoon (I reckon they are too thin for this – but maybe I’m just a messy eater!). I think they come into their own when used as a sauce or a soup. Oh, and I’m definitely trying this risotto recipe sometime soon!

What’s your favourite veggie dish?

Recipe: Toffee & Pecan Banana Loaf Cake

This is banana bread like you’ve never had before. Banana bread on steroids. Banana bread so deliciously sticky and gooey it nearly has to be eaten with a spoon, so much so it’s definitely more cake than bread.

 photo Toffee Banana Pecan Loaf_zpsrdfxtaqw.jpgIt’s also one of my favourite bakes of all time.

Inspired by this GoodFood recipe, it’s sweet, squidgy (love that word!) and crunchy all at once, it’s extremely easy and pretty quick to make. The only difficulty and time-consuming bit is chopping the toffees – and if you use fudge instead it’s a whole lot easier. I found the best way to chop actual toffees was to warm a knife over a pan of boiling water (I was doing mashed potato for dinner at the same time!), then chop under a tea-towel to stop toffee shattering everywhere. Then everything pretty much goes into one bowl, gets a quick mix, thrown into a loaf tin, scattered with nuts and toffee and baked. The result is a pretty good looking cake, even when your toffee does sink right to the bottom.

 photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf6_zpsflako6rz.jpg photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf12_zpspxjmyuni.jpgIngredients

  • 200g mashed ripe banana (around 2 bananas – I tend to buy bananas in bulk, ripen excessively then slice and freeze)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g butter
  • 100g/4oz toffee yogurt (I use MullerLight – just under a full pot, so the chef gets the leftovers!)
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 200g flour
  • 1&½ tsp baking powder
  • 75g pecan nuts
  • 150g chewy toffees

Roughly chop the pecans and toffees, then set aside. Mix together the bananas, eggs, butter, toffee yogurt and sugar, until well combined. Fold the flour and baking powder into the mixture, then fold in around three-quarters of the pecan nuts.
Spoon the mixture into a 900g loaf tin (greased and lined), before sprinkling on the remaining nuts and all of the toffees. Bake for around an hour at 150C until loaf risen and no longer soggy in the middle (just a skewer to test!). Cool in the tin- trust me, molten toffee is not a good thing to get on your fingers! Slice up when fully cool – and just blast in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up if serving with ice-cream.

 photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf15_zpsumfwa8hx.jpgI find this cake perfect for so many occasions. Stick in some candles and you’ve got one of my favourite birthday cakes. Slice up and it makes a sell-out charity bake. It’s delicious served warm with ice-cream, and I’ve had it (with and without yoghurt) for breakfast too – it’s “banana bread” after all!

Have you been baking lately?

Recipe: Beetroot Risotto

This isn’t the most attractive of dishes, I fully own up to that. It’s quite possibly the pink-est thing I have ever cooked, have ever eaten. W (quite rightly, though I wasn’t impressed at the time) claimed it looked at bit like brains.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 2_zpstpdq0qtl.jpgI spoke about my love for beetroot a few weeks ago (when I published my Beetroot, Black Pudding & Goat’s Cheese Salad recipe), but here we go again. For years I shied away from it, and when I did try it I thought it tasted of soil. Not particularly offensive, but not particularly pleasant either. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve actively enjoyed eating it, something I have our engagement meal to thank for. Now not only do I love it in it’s own right, it’s also absolutely essential for me in my No-mato sauces.

Now, I get that to the non-beetroot lover it’s not a great vegetable. It can be bitter yet sweet, and of course it’s quite an earthy taste to become acquired too. This is a recipe I would highly recommend to someone not to sure about it. Sure, the colour is off-putting, but the flavour is muted by the mascapone, the texture is that of a classic risotto – very creamy. It’s also pretty cheap to make, so it’s been a favourite of mine over winter!

Ingredients

  • 2 beets from a vac-pack (freeze the remaining ones – or chop and roast for scattering on the top)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 150g risotto rice
  • Small glass of white wine, optional
  • Around 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • Handful grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp mascapone – or a soft goat’s cheese is excellent (and my favourite!)

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic, then fry in the olive oil or 5-7 minutes over a low heat. Turn the heat up, stir in the rice until well coated. Pour over the white wine, then allow to evaporate whilst stirring. Add the stock gradually, a ladleful at a stir, stirring often. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked (but still with a little bite). If you run out of stock, just use a little water.

Whizz the beetroot in a food processor to make a purée. Stir most of the Parmesan, the beetroot purée and the mascapone through the risotto. Season well, then leave to rest for 5 or so minutes. Served scatter with the remaining Parmesan. If you’ve roasted some beetroot, add it to the top or (as I did here) fry some cubes of black pudding to scatter over.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 4_zpsmsvmsk4s.jpgThe perfect dish to begin falling in love with beetroot!

Are you a beetroot fan? What’s your favourite type of risotto?

Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Crisp Sandwich

Yep, I’ve gone completely mad. I’m writing a whole post on how to make a crisp sandwich. Officially insane.

Let me justify myself for a minute.

 photo Crisp Sandwich_zpsqlg5x3fo.jpgWay back in October I suddenly had a craving for a crisp sandwich (because carbs + carbs = happy Chloe). Yet every one I had was slightly disappointing. It genuinely took several attempts to make THE PERFECT crisp sandwich. And that is what I’m presenting to you here.

Soft, plastic-y white bread. Good flavoured, good quality crisps. A small amount of moisture. A bit of extra seasoning. A towel on your lap to catch the crumbs (there is no lady-like way to eat a crisp sandwich).

This is another study-day favourite, though one for where I’m either being really productive (and so don’t want to cook, or have left it too late and h-anger has set it). Or where I’m doing nothing and need to prevent myself baking up a storm. It’s filling, satisfying, a good combo of textures. It feels like a treat, yet takes (if you’re really slow) five minutes to make. Perfect.

 photo Crisp Sandwiches 4_zps9w8tlq4r.jpg photo Crisp Sandwiches 9_zpsqjn2rxyy.jpg(oh, the cake in the photos it’s my S’mores Brownie. So bad but so good!)

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of ‘plastic’ white bread. None of your fancy sourdough stuff. I favour Warburton’s Toastie here (no collaboration at all!)
  • 1 packet of crisps. Salt & Vinegar is my ultimate in a sandwich, though I do like the occasional Smoky Bacon. And it’s got to be Walkers. I’m a Leicester gal after all!
  • 1/2 teaspoon (if that – only a small amount) of mayonnaise (and mustard if using Smoky Bacon!)
  • Salt & Pepper

Empty half of your crisps into a bowl, and roughly crush. Spread one slide of bread very thinly with the mayo and mustard (if using). Don’t use butter. I find the crisp-butter combo too greasy. Top with the crushed crisps. Add a few whole crisps for good measure. Top with the second slice of bread (this will be dry – no spread!).

Serve with the rest of the crisps to add in as necessary, or crunch on separately. Devour. Crunch. Get a bit crumby. Enjoy.

 photo Crisp Sandwiches 7_zpsqnbcokdr.jpg photo Crisp Sandwiches 5_zpst54wadm5.jpgI find the Salt’n’Vinegar version works well with a cup of tea. And if you want to make that combination even better? Add a couple of grilled fish fingers. Seriously. Fish finger and salt’n’vinegar crisp sandwiches are my ultimate sandwich. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

Are you a crisp sandwich fan?

Recipe: Pitta Pizzas

A super-easy recipe post from me today, in fact it’s so easy I wouldn’t call it a recipe really.

 photo Quick Pitta Pizzas_zpsllixmtme.jpgWhat it is, however, is my current favourite speedy lunch. Spending one day a week at home studying (I favour Wednesdays, because two two-day weeks is far better than a five-day working week in my opinion!) means I need a few go-to lunches. Something which fills me up, satisfies me (because nothing causes more procrastination that the biscuit tin!), and at the moment warms me up. Our flat isn’t particular warm to just sit around in.

I do love salads. I really do. But study days make me crave comforting carbs. And so I give you…the Pitta Pizza. Carby, cheese goodness with portion control. Having on of these alongside a green salad keeps me away from the biscuits and full up until dinner time – and yet it won’t completely ruin my diet. It’s a great way to use up odds and ends in the fridge, just choose whatever toppings you have lying around…

 photo Quick Pitta Pizzas 7_zpsuduxotnd.jpg photo Quick Pitta Pizzas 6_zpsbchwqfur.jpgIngredients

  • 1 white pitta
  • ‘Saucey’ topping – i.e. pesto, caramelised onions, leftover bolognaise (try it, soooo good!)
  • Veggie toppings – thinly sliced courgette is my fav
  • Cheese – anything from mozzarella to goat’s cheese

Simply layer up your toppings on your pitta (I keep a stash of pitta breads in the freezer and assemble from frozen), then pop under the grill for a few minutes – until warm, crisp and the cheese is bubbling. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then slice up and enjoy with a salad.

 photo Quick Pitta Pizzas 4_zpssnbnggew.jpgLike I said, not really deserving of the word ‘recipe’ – but so delicious all the same!

What are you favourite pizza toppings?

Recipe: Chocolate, Orange & Ginger Cookies

One of my favourite festive treats (who am I kidding, I love everything festive as long as it doesn’t contain dried fruit!) is a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. The combo of zingy orange and creamy chocolate is one I’ve loved for as long as I can remember, and these cookies captured that AND took it up a notch. Adding ginger and a touch of cinnamon gave a warmth and kick to each bite that really brought these cookies to another level.

 photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies_zpsqeg8azcp.jpgThis recipe came about way back at the beginning of December, when I attended an event put on by the Co-Op and Sorted Food to address the Cooking Gap. The ‘gap is basically young people showing a massive lack of cooking and food skills. Having lived in halls for a year of my university life, I totally get this – one of my housemates bought a BBQ chicken pizza from Asda, left on the kitchen side for a week, popped it in the fridge for another week, then cooked it. Didn’t smell great! I know I didn’t get much cooking skills from school (though they did teach me how to make a white sauce, so eternally grateful there!), and I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking with my mum either. For a completely self-taught 23 year old I would say my cooking skills are pretty good, but I know so many people who just don’t cook. At all. Fingers crossed the guys at Sorted manage to change that!

 photo 2016-12-06 19.27.23_zps7alwpdtd.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.26.39_zpsblmovsag.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.25.49_zpssocdhfwc.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.23.48_zpsnwyiofpt.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.09.05_zps3vpebhtj.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.07.50_zpsovidos5h.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.01.35_zpstdfukjww.jpgIt was a pretty fab event too. I was super-jealous of their kitchen, got a little too tipsy with Tanya and had a delicious white pizza made for me, then drizzled with honey. Bit of an odd combo, but it totally worked!

Now to the cookies. Soft in the middle, crisp at the edges, sweet, spicy, filling and a good chocolatey hit. Pretty much the perfect cookie…

 photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies24_zpsdooclw9s.jpg photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies23_zpszebjbask.jpg photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies22_zpsml0ot5ok.jpgIngredients

  • 50g candied ginger
  • 50g dark chocolate chips
  • 1 orange (zested, plus half of the juice)
  • 60g butter
  • 90ml sunflower oil
  • 180g soft brown sugar
  • 50g honey
  • 1 egg
  • 0.5tsp baking powder
  • 0.5tsp ground cinnamon
  • 0.5tsp ground ginger
  • 120g plain flour
  • 240g porridge oats

 

Place a clean large mixing bowl on a set of scales and reset the scales to zero using the tare function.

Add the butter, oil, sugar, orange juice and honey to a bowl, then crack in the egg and beat together until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, baking powder, and ground spices to the mixture; beat evenly to combine. Add the flour and the oats, stir, then add in your candied ginger, chocolate and orange zest. Mix everything together well.

Spoon blobs of about a tablespoon of the mixture onto baking trays (line with greasepoof). Roll into a ball and flatten slightly, but leave plenty of space between them as I found they did spread slightly. I also found the mix realllyyyyy sticky, so keeping my fingers damp helped here! Bake for 12-15 minutes at 175C until they are golden around the edges, cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies25_zpsbxo1wmj1.jpgI’m not ashamed (well, maybe a little) to admit that I ate them for breakfast. Though they are perfect with an afternoon cuppa too. Or a post-dinner snack. Or just because…

What’s your favourite type of cookie? Do you think the cooking gap is important to address?

Recipe: Beetroot & Goat’s Cheese Salad

Ah, beetroot. My new favourite thing. I know I probably say that an awful lot when it comes to food, but I do think this is my absolute favourite. For now at least. I love the vibrant colour, the earthy yet slightly sweet taste, and how it goes so well with some of my most lovely ingredients. Pair it with black pudding, mix it up with goat’s cheese, use as a pizza topping, even whip it up into a brownie. Oh, and it makes the best ‘tomato’ sauce substitute I’ve tried, but more on that another day…

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 4_zpsh4lfhiuw.jpgThe only bad thing? Ringing your mum in a panic one weekend, thinking you have a serious medical issue. Then realising you’ve eaten beetroot six days out of seven…

This salad has become a bit of a go-to when we’re planning meals. It’s pretty quick, nice and light, but still filling. I’m finding it’s the perfect February balance between healthy and comforting.

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 3_zpsl2wknelb.jpg photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 1_zps6hgnzjpo.jpgIngredients (for 1)

  • 2 beetroot, either fresh or vac-packed
  • 50g goat’s cheese (or less if you want to be healthier)
  • 2 handfuls of salad leaves
  • Dressing (makes several servings) – 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon djion mustard
  • Optional – black pudding, green lentils, nuts (hazelnuts and walnuts work well)

If using fresh beetroot, wash, peel and chop into 2cm cubes. Drizzle with a teeny bit of oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes. If using vac-packed, chop, season (you may not need oil) and roast for 20-25 minutes. Mix together the dressing in a small jar; taste and adjust if you like. Cube the goats cheese.

Toss the roasted beetroot with the salad leaves, drizzle over a little dressing and scatter over the goat’s cheese and nuts. If you want to eat it cold, let the beetroot cool before adding it to the leaves (no one wants a wilted salad!). To add black pudding to the mix, simply cube and fry until crisp, and toss together with the beetroot. Green lentils are lovely warmed up with some of the dressing stirred through, and taste even better the next day. Basically, it’s a pretty versatile salad!

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 2_zpsxvm17aqr.jpgThis has fast become a favourite meal of ours, it’s so quick to make after work, doesn’t break the bank (you can often get 4 beets in a vac-pack for around 50p) and is just so tasty. I know beetroot is a bit of a ‘ew’ vegetable, so if you’re not sure about it, I’d recommend trying a different recipe first – I’ve got a great one scheduled for in a few weeks!

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

Recipe: Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts

This is a recipe I really, really wish I hadn’t discovered. This is not the way I wanted to start recipes posts of 2017.

 photo Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts_zpslmuhqtrz.jpgI wanted to start with a good fresh salad, or a zingy stir-fry. Something colourful, healthy, crisp, full of nutrients. Instead I’m posting about dougnuts. Which I absolutely insist must be dunked into Nutella. I’m sorry.

Don’t get me wrong, these are delicious. But my greedy tummy does not need to know that I can whip up doughnuts in just half an hour, with storecupboard ingredients. It makes Friday-night Movie-nights all the more gluttonous. And all the more yummy. That said, these are oven-baked. No frying. No oil. That’s got to count for something, right?!

Soft and moist, spiced with warmth from cinnamon, I like these dipped into a melted pot of Nutella. There’s just something so magical about the combination of chocolate, hazelnut and cinnamon; I could eat them all day.

 photo Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts 7_zpseecdwzej.jpg photo Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts 15_zpsr20jyy93.jpgIngredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • 200g sugar (I like to use a combination of caster and light brown sugar in these)
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • 25g butter, melted

Mix together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and melted butter. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until combined – but be careful not to overmix! Spoon or pipe the batter into dounght pans (I used silicone ones – if you have regular ones then grease them lightly first), filling each one a little more than three-quarters full.

Bake for 10 minutes at 180C, or until firm to the touch and light golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then carefully remove from the pan – I found my first batch tore quite a bit due to not letting them cool enough, so be patient!

 photo Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts 11_zpsziiiud0z.jpgIf you want to be ultra-indulgent (and let’s face it, if you’re making brownies you might as well go hard or go home…), I recommend covering in a cinnamon-spiked sugar. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in an 8-inch saute pan. Combine 150g sugar and plenty of cinnamon in a small bowl. Dip each doughnut first in the butter and then in the cinnamon sugar. Dip into Nutella. Eat. Done.

Have you ever made doughnuts? What have you been eating recently?

Lifestyle: Foodie Highlights of 2016

Throughout December, in an attempt to stop Christmas taking over entirely, I’m putting together a few posts to review my 2016. They’ll range from the best things I’ve eaten, to the places I’ve visited and the things I’ve bought. And of course, this one was the one I looked forward to most. The one where I deliberated the most about the entires, debated retrying things and basically umm-ed and ahh-ed about everything. That’s right, it’s the food one.

food-of-2016Food is a huge part of my life. I am definitely one of those people who “lives to eat” rather than eats to live. I can (and often do!) think about food most of the day. Whether it’s what to make for dinner that night, next Tuesday or on my next date night, to which restaurant I want to visit – I love food. The majority of my day dreams feature food, and probably a fair chunk of my actual overnight dreams too.

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 2_zpsq5tslwoj.jpg photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 3_zps5eq9xeis.jpg photo Beetroot Risotto 2_zpsffbszj6d.jpg

Discovering A Liking For Beetroot

This Autumn I’ve had three new food obsessions. Goat’s cheese. Butternut squash. And beetroot. All three were things I was convinced I didn’t like only a few months ago, and now there’s not a week going by when at least one of them isn’t on the menu. Risotto is obviously my go-to and works beautifully for both the squash and the beetroot (and if you want to stir in a spot of goat’s cheese, well I’m not complaining!). Whilst it’s not exactly the most attractive of dishes, beetroot risotto really hit the mark between comforting and hearty, but different and special enough for date-night. The black pudding scattered over the top might not have improved the look of the dish, but it tasted damn good – as I knew it would thanks to the salad W had whipped up the week before. Roasted beetroot, crispy fried black pudding, chunks of oozy and slightly smelly goat’s cheese, crushed walnuts and a few leaves for vitamins. Yum.

 photo Date Night 12_zpselppf3gj.jpg photo Date Night 14_zpsodyvjv1p.jpg

S’mores Concept Dessert

Far fancier than something I’d ever attempt, W is definitely the pastry chef in this relationship. For a cosy date night-in he made a twist on the traditional S’mores – and it was a good’un! Biscuit base, a perfect scoop of homemade chocolate and whisky ice-cream (so smooth and creamy it was more mousse-like that ice-cream), covered in Italian meringue and blowtorched for a toasted marshmallow flavour. So, so good. And the ice-cream kept me going for the next fortnight.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpstwyntjax.jpg photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 5_zps8hj9ltnn.jpg photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 1_zps0y4a8vum.jpg

Burgers!

If you’ve read any of my posts previously, you’d have probably guessed burgers would feature highly on here. I love them – the messier and cheesier the better. I’ve made it my mission to find my ultimate burger, but I’ve had a few this year that have come close. Mac & Wild’s Venimoo was damn delicious, but it suffered due to it’s size. Burger & Cocktails was more of a fast-food kinda feel, but mac’n’cheese in a burger was an idea that deserves a prize. Plus they did the best onion rings I have ever, ever eaten. And chocolate-orange-alcoholic milkshakes. The new GBK menu also has a Camembert burger which I seriously, seriously loved.

Next on my list – Honest, Patty & Bun and Bleeker Street. Anywhere else?!

Cheese, Cheese & More Cheese

2016 will be forever remembered as the year I discovered cheese. I mean, properly discovered. Before I would nibble on a little bit of (extra mature) cheddar, and maybe (at a push) a little brie. Now I’ve leap-frogged all levels of cheese and will happily eat the smelliest of blues, the ooziest of bries, the…goatiest (?!) of goat’s. I definitely blame thank France for kick-starting my love of cheese. I can’t explain how much I’m looking forward to Christmas and all the festive cheeseboards!

Couldn’t resist another pizza date!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Influx of White Pizzas

Oh, how I’m loving that “pizza bianca” is now becoming more popular here! I had so, so many tomato-free options in Rome, so to have even some of them over here is a delight. Franco Manca has become my fav after discovering them in Brighton (apparently they open in Putney early next year – I’ll be the one camping outside!). The Dynamo is a dangerous three-minute walk from my flat with a total of 3 white pizzas on the menu. I had a special the last time I visited – smoken chicken, pancetta, herbs, mushrooms, plenty of cheese, truffle. The dream pizza.

Of course, I’ve been making my own to. Turns out black pudding on pizza is a real winner!

Getting Over My Fish Fear

Now, I’m scared of fish. I love eating it, more often that not it’s my favourite dish on the menu. But sometimes my body just doesn’t like it. The last three times I’ve been properly sick I’ve eaten fish. And fishy sick is probably the worst kind of sick. I have no idea why it can make me so violently ill, but it definitely puts me off!

That said, I’ve been pushing myself to try cooking it a bit more and (grabs the nearest wooden object) it’s been over a year since it made me ill. I’ve perfected Jamie’s Fish Pie (solution = add more cheese). And my Chorizo-Crusted Cod was delicious!

 photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 6_zps62l0aavy.jpg photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 9_zps7ukewio1.jpg photo Smores Brownie 18_zpsv8bx5oqr.jpg

Other Worthy Mentions

There’s been far too many good eats this year to fit into this posts, but several do deserve a mention. Eating a crumpet topped with a poached egg at Tiny Tim’s (genius). My dad’s Malteaser Blondies. The perfect Bonfire Night snack of S’mores Brownies.  A Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart that was wonderfully instagrammable. And a gloriously gooey nutella-stuffed cookie dough dessert. Oh, and it wouldn’t be me talking about my favourite foods if it didn’t include mac’n’cheese. Almost my ultimate comfort food (risotto edges just ahead), I’m constantly looking for different recipes. I’ve tried healthier versions, I’ve added cauliflower and even created a beer’n’bacon mac

What’s been your foodie highlight of 2016?

 

Recipe: Ultimate Cheese Toastie

I know. I know exactly what you’re thinking.

You don’t need a recipe for a cheese toastie. You just make a cheese sandwich, butter the outside and fry. And you’d be right. And it’d be nice. Just nice. Fine. It’d do, it would fill a hole, it would go well with a bowl of soup.

cheese-toastieThis isn’t a cheese toastie you’d want to dip in your soup. This is the ultimate in cheese toasties. The cheese toastie that I wasn’t going to blog about, but it was so damn bloody good that I couldn’t resist. This is the kind of cheese toastie I was still talking about a good week later. The cheese toastie that makes you wonder why you ever ate a plain one in the first place.

First of all there’s the fact that it’s perfectly, perfectly cooked. A perfectly cooked toastie is golden and crisp, with molten gooey cheese that spills out. After far too many burnt toasties, toasties with rubbery cheese, toasties that were pale and flabby – I turned to Jamie. I slowed the process down. Even just doing this method with basic cheese isn’t a quick five minute snack. You have to cook the first side slowly on a low heat until crisp. Then flip and do the same to the other. Then pop in the oven. It’s worth the wait.

 photo Ultimate Cheese Toastie 8_zpsahdwsuwl.jpg photo Ultimate Cheese Toastie 5_zpsysupz1ml.jpgThen there’s the flavours. It’s packed with cheese. Sliced mature cheddar makes up the bulk, a grating of parmesan adds sharpness. There’s a whack of heat from the mustard. A creaminess from mayonnaise – which spread thinly is my must-have in any cheese toastie. It just adds that extra level of flavour, texture and richness that nothing else can. Then the best bit. My quick onion chutney. It’s my new favourite thing. (I have a lot of new favourites right now!) It’s sweet and sharp, soft in texture and ridiculously easy to make. It’s gorgeous stirred into pasta with goat’s cheese. Great with pate. And wonderful in a cheese toastie. The quantities here make enough for two toasties – but it keeps well in the fridge for a week or so, and I imagine you could pile it into sterilised jars too. Maybe. I’m not quite domesticated enough for that.

Now, a quick word about the cheese. The cheddar needs to be strong, it needs to be mature. It needs to be sliced (grated melts too quickly, then goes greasy). My favourite at the moment is the Wyke Farm one in the green packaging. So strong, quickly crumbly and just yum.

So my ultimate cheese toastie? Good bread (I only regret the plastic sandwich slide in these pictures!). Mayo. Mustard. Duo of cheeses. Lots of the cheese. A good helping of onion chutney. Fry gently. Bake. Serve.

 photo Ultimate Cheese Toastie 3_zpsvo7x4hox.jpgIngredients

  • 2 slices of good bread
  • Mature cheddar, sliced – enough slices to cover a slice of bread
  • A small handful of grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • Plenty of butter
  • Onion chutney – knob of butter, 1 red onion,  1 garlic clove, pinch of thyme, salt, pepper 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp honey

Start by making the chutney – at least an hour in advance. Thinly slice the onion. Peel the garlic clove and cut in half. Pop both into a small pan with the butter, thyme, salt and pepper. Pop the lid on a sweat over a low heat for at least twenty minutes – you want the onions completely soft. Dig out and discard the garlic clove. Add the balsamic and honey, increase the temperature and bubble away for 5 or so minutes – until reduced and sticky. Make sure to stir and keep an eye out for burning!

Now it’s time to build your sandwich. Spread one side of bread with around half the mayo, then top with all the mustard. Lay over the slices of cheese, then spoon over the chutney. Sprinkle with parmesan. Spread the remaining mayonnaise over the over slice of bread and sandwich together (mayo on the inside). Butter the top outside of the sandwich and pop into a pan, butter-side down. Place over a low-medium heat for around five minutes.

Spread the top slice with more butter and, when the bottom is golden and crisp, flip over. Cook for around 3 minutes, then pop into the oven at 180C for around five minutes. Your toastie will be crisp, golden and oozing with cheesy goodness!

 photo Ultimate Cheese Toastie 12_zpspid8zyjp.jpgIt’s a messy one, to the point I often use a knife and fork. But I can guarantee it’ll be one of the best toasties you’ll have ever eaten. It’s becoming a study day habit…

Are you a cheese fan? What would be in your ultimate cheese toastie?