Recipe: Vegan Chickpea & Coconut Curry

Now, I’m not a vegan, I’m not a vegetarian. I love meat, and I also find I need it in my diet. When I was in my poorest years of university I rarely ate meat and it showed – I was tired, grumpy and I just didn’t function as well. That said, over the last year or so I’ve been pushing myself to cut out meat more. At least one meal a week is veggie, and I try my hardest not to eat meat for weekday breakfast and lunches (unless I’m taking leftovers in a lunchbox).

 photo Vegan Curry_zpsvpescgd7.jpgAnd do you know what? I’ve really enjoyed it. We’ve made some absolutely delicious recipes that have become firm favourites – and this is one of them. I’ve had it sitting in my drafts for a while (hence the slightly over-edited photos, shooting at 8pm in February wasn’t easy!) and yet I’m not sure why. It’s delicious! Creamy and hearty, whilst still being light and healthy.

If you want to up the vitamins even more, you could make with a tin a chopped tomatoes (or add some fresh ones) but for obvious reasons I don’t! It’s also good with sweet potatoes or butternut squash – in the photos here I added a small potato that needed using up. Of course, if you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan it would be delicious with meat. I’ve added some leftover roast chicken with great results! Non-vegans could also replace the coconut milk with a few spoons of natural yoghurt.

 photo Vegan Chickpea Curry 5_zpslc5mxyxl.jpgIngredients (makes 4-5 good-sized servings – enough for a dinner and a few days lunches for the two of us, it freezes well too)

  • 3 white onions
  • 2 sticks celery
  • Ginger (around the size of your thumb, peeled)
  • 1 red/yellow/orange pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic (reduce if you’re not a huge fan!)
  • 1 chilli (taste it to test how hot it is!)
  • Spices – I used 1 large tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, tumeric, garam masala, ground coriander, and ground fenugreek, but even a few spoons of curry powder will do!
  • 2 tins of chickpeas
  • 50g dried lentils
  • Any veg needing using up – sweet potatoes, squash etc.
  • 500ml vegan-friendly stock
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1 small bag of spinach, chopped, or 5-6 cubes of frozen spinach (if using frozen spinach, be wary about freezing leftover portions!)
  • 1 pack fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Roughly chop 2 of the onions, the celery, ginger, pepper, garlic and chilli. Fry in a little oil for 5 or so minutes until softened, then tip into a blender and blitz until smooth. Meanwhile finely slice the remaining onion and fry until starting to soften. Add the spices and fry for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic and toasted. Add the puree, along with the chickpeas, lentils, veg and stock before simmering for around 30 minutes. At this point, most of the stock should have evaporated, though if it’s starting to catch add a little more.

Stir through the coconut milk gradually (so it doesn’t split) and warm on a low heat for around 5 minutes. Add the spinach and most of the coriander. Continue cooking until the spinach is wilted, check seasoning, and then served garnish with the remaining coriander and some almonds, if liked.

 photo Vegan Chickpea Curry 1_zpsrxlcuknv.jpgHere I’ve served with cauliflower rice (simply whizz up some raw cauli in a mini-chopped, then fry with a little garlic for around 5 minutes or until cooked), but my favourite is to toss florets of cauliflower with a little oil and some tumeric, then roast for 20 minutes. Yum! If course, you could use normal rice too – and I can never say no to a good naan bread…

What’s your favourite curry recipe? What veggie meals do you recommend?

Food: Recent Eats #2

I thought it had been absolutely ageesssss since I wrote one of these posts. Nope. Turns out it’s not even been two months – I’ve just eaten SO MUCH good food recently I can’t wait to share it. From some amazing meals out to some products I’ve been sent to try – and of course some home-cooked meals it really has been foodie heaven for a couple of weeks.
 photo Recent Eats 4_zpsrdd2iv4u.jpg

Coffee*

Lyon’s recently sent me some of their instant coffee bags, and they’re a revelation. Decent coffee with a good, smooth taste and just so easy to make. Okay, so I still prefer a flat white with some pretty patterns in the foam, but a good and cheap(er) alternative!

Kale, Red Onion & Feta Frittata

This has been one of my go-to lunches recently. Healthy and filling, it travels well in a lunch-box and is super easy to make. Plus it’s just so, so delicious. Far more than a sum of it’s slightly boring parts, I reckon it would also make a fabulous quiche filling…
 photo Recent Eats 2_zpsfcihnaxj.jpg

Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

Let’s start with the highlight – and what a highlight it is. This French-Indian restaurant opened a short (<5 minute) stroll from our current flata month or so ago, and we finally visited at the weekend. A little pricey, particularly my starter, but absolutely delicious. One of the best meals I’ve had in London, and rivaling our meal at Skosh back in April. We’ll definitely be back – I’ll post a full review soon but it’s highly worth a trip out to Putney just to eat here.

Rocksalt, Market Harborough

A family meal to celebrate the end of my sister’s exams (how is she doing the first year of A-Levels already?!), we slipped out of our Italian-chain comfort zone and headed to Rocksalt. Specialising in fish, we’re not entirely sure why we’ve missed it before but we’ll definitely be heading back. My Haddock Scotch Egg (with spiced cauliflower puree) was divine – the only complaint was the seafood risotto with my main was over-cheesy. A rare complaint from me! Whilst I’m not planning a full review, there will be some Instagram shots posted soon.
 photo Cronuts_zpsx907ye30.jpg

Dominque Ansel’s Cronuts

Other than missing one month, I’ve been really enjoying my ‘New Year’s Resolution’ of trying every month’s Cronut flavour. I particularly enjoyed May – Blush Peach and Elderflower was a gorgeous combo. Just a shame that their cafe appears to have had a bit of a drainage problem every time I visited. Periodic wafts of smell aren’t exactly what I want when I’ve spent a not inconsiderable amount on some cake…

Homemade Chicken Satay

One of my favourite meals, I’d been meaning to try making my own Satay chicken for ages. Turns out its super-easy, amazingly tasty and I wish I’d done it sooner. As soon as I’ve managed to make it look half-pretty I’ll get my recipe live!
 photo Recent Eats 3_zpsmc0yc7nh.jpg

Meze Lunches

One of the things I LOVE in the hot weather is pick-y lunches. Bits and pieces I can nibble on, nothing too heavy (though I obviously end up eating much more than I would normally). My study-day lunches have been looking a little bit like the above – some kind of salad, hummous, carrot sticks, flatbread. Some cold meat if I’ve got it, some cheese. Basically anything I can get my hands on.

Tandoori Chicken, Mango & Lentil Salad

One of Jamie Oliver’s recipes (they always work so well), and we managed it in 20 minutes – so not bad for a fifteen minute meal! Spiced and flavourful lentils, a mixture of spinach and shaved carrot and cucumber, grilled tandoori chicken thighs and a gorgeous turmeric-mango-yoghurt dressing. Just delicious. I’m playing around with some of the flavours and a lunchbox-friendly version will be on the blog soon!

La Chapelle, Spitalfields

I’ve added another Michelin Star to my list, and this French classic was a goodie. The signature starter of Crab Lasagne was utter perfection – silky, buttery and just so, so good. My tea-smoked fillet of beef was a little overdone for my liking but it’s bone marrow, mash and onion puree accompainments were gorgeous. The dessert was back to faultless, with a super-light strawberry souffle and basil ice-cream. If only the service had lived up to the food (I found the head waiter to be a little rude with his allergy comments).
 photo Recent Eats 1_zps2fbube69.jpg

Vienna Cheesecake*

The Polish Bakery recently sent over some goodies for us to try. Whilst I’ve really enjoyed their Chia Seed bread (the Rye & Prune is scaring me slightly – I’ve no idea how to serve it or what to have it with!), for me it was their Vienna Cheesecake which stole the show. Soft sponge, a light filling, a spot of jam and a thin layer of chocolate. It was addictively good.

And of course there was my Cinnamon Buns too (some of the best things I’ve ever baked!) It’s a wonder I’ve not put on more weight that I have done over the last couple of months – from now on in I’m on a strict regime of healthy eating. No more Vienna Cheesecake for this gal!

What ‘good eats’ have you enjoyed recently?

Recipe: Herby Quinoa Salad with Nuts, Feta & Pomegranate

This is one of my favourite salads at the moment. Quick and fuss-free to make, goes with most things, travels well in a lunchbox. It’s also full of fresh ingredients and pretty damn good for you. No oily dressing, just a spot of feta cheese (which could be removed if you wanted the veganise the recipe – though as a cheese fan I think I’d miss it too much!). Plus it looks super pretty and is really rather Instagrammable – what more could you want in a recipe?!

 photo Quinoa Salad_zpshgf1hlnd.jpgWe quite often serve this with grilled meat (turkey and lamb work particularly well, especially in a harissa-style marinade) or some homemade falafel, but I also love it on it’s own, perhaps with some carrot sticks and hoummous to snack on later in the afternoon. The only thing I will say is it’s best to serve it at room temperature – when fridge cold I find the quinoa can be a little stodgy in texture.

Recipe

  • 250g quinoa (I prefer to use a mix of white, black and red quinoa – it seems to have a better flavour and texture)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 50g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 small pack of pomegranate seeds (I find them cheaper than prepping your own)
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds
  • 50g pistachios (unsalted)
  • 1 pack each of coriander and mint
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 pinch each of sugar and salt

Cook the quinoa, following the instructions on the packet. I tend to pop it into a pan with twice the amount of cold water, bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the water is all absorbed. Let it cool completely.

Finely chop the onion and the herbs. Mix the citrus juice with sugar and salt. Mix everything together with the quinoa, adding more feta if you’re greedy like me. This keeps for a good 3-4 days in the fridge, in fact I find it tastes better the day after being made.

 photo Herby Pomegranate Quinoa Salad 8_zpsoewoohnx.jpg photo Herby Pomegranate Quinoa Salad 7_zps9e8wr6ui.jpgPS – in the photos on this post I’ve drizzled it in a simple yoghurt dressing (1tbsp yoghurt, black pepper, pinch of salt, pinch of cumin) as we’d miscalculated the amount of lemons we needed to buy and it was a little dry. It’s not entirely necessary so no worries about adding a dressing.

I’ve already earmarked this as my go-to recipe for picnics and barbecues this summer – I can imagine I’ll be making it lots!

What’s your favourite summer salad recipe?

Recipe: Cinnamon Buns

I think Cinnamon Buns are one of my all-time favourite sweet treats. It has to be good though – a flaky supermarket cinnamon swirl won’t cut it. It needs to be soft and bready, heavily spiced, sweet, sticky. There’s a Swedish Cafe in Putney that makes insaneelyyyy good ones (Blabar is also damn Instagrammable!) and quite honestly it’s a good thing we’re moving a teeny bit further away. Longer walk = more room for cake, right?!

 photo Cinnamon Rolls_zpseyjrrgca.jpgOne thing I’ve never done, however, is bake my own. Up until a few weeks ago that is! I’ve always shied away from sweet bread recipes. Enriched doughs tend to be horribly sticky and my slightly intolerant nature means I’m likely to swear and strop at it rather than lovingly knead until smooth. I subscribe to the generally knead-free bread bible written by James Morton, but this approach doesn’t exactly work for sweeter recipes.

 photo IMG_8322_zpsaizebahe.jpgEnter my new Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer.*

The dough hook means I don’t need to get up close and personal with sticky dough, my worksurfaces stay smear-free and I genuinely get to keep me cool. A definite bonus given this last week of heat – kneading dough is the last thing I want to be doing! However if you don’t have the lifesaving mixer, simply knead by hand for 15-20 minutes until smooth…

 photo Cinnamon Buns 19_zpsjkzjxhju.jpg photo Cinnamon Buns 6_zpsish6ndaw.jpgThe end result is a soft, bread-y roll, heavily spiced, sticky-sweet and totally delicious. I enjoyed mine for dessert, for breakfast, as a snack. Warm, cold, alone, with ice-cream, dipped into hot chocolate. All delicious. Very addictive. You have been warned!

Ingredients (Made 8 hugeeee ones)

  • 65g caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 325g plain flour
  • 10g dried instant yeast
  • 1 medium egg
  • 100ml “blue” (full fat) milk
  • 45ml single cream – mix together with the milk
  • Filling: 40g caster sugar, 60g unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • For glazing: 1 medium egg, 30ml golden syrup, 2 teaspoons caster sugar

Make the dough: beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Mix the flour, a pinch of salt and the yeast together. Gradually add the milk and cream, and the flour mixture, alternating and mixing well. The dough will be sticky! Then knead until smooth. Cover with a clean tea towel leave to rise for an hour before rolling out to a rectangle (around 1.5cm thick).

Fill and shape: beat together the sugar and butter for the filling until light and fluffy. Spread over the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon. Use a knife to cut the dough into strips, around 1.5cm to 2cm wide. We went for 2cm and they were a little big for my liking! Roll up the strips like a snail and place on a baking tray (line with greaseproof!). Leave to rise for around 45-60 minutes, then brush with beaten egg and bake for 15-20 minutes at 200C.

Glaze: mix the golden syrup with an equal amount of water. Brush over the rolls, sprinkle with the sugar and allow to cool slight. Best eaten within a day or so – though they freeze quite well (and make a good on-the-go breakfast…).

 photo Cinnamon Buns 20_zpsircskul6.jpg photo Cinnamon Buns 12_zpsblutyly7.jpgNow, whilst I wish I could take all the credit, this recipe was inspired by The New Nordic (the perfect coffee table book!); I’ve removed the cardamon as I’m not the biggest fan, cut down the sugar a little and of course upped the cinnamon! Yum, yum yum! I’m craving these right now as I sit here typing!

What’s your favourite sweet treat?

Recipes: A Mexican Feast ft. Pork Pibil, Refried Beans, Pickled Pink Onions & Homemade Tortilla Wraps

I LOVEEEEE Mexican flavours. From my first taste of fajitas as a child (admittedly more Tex-Mex, I’m pickier about my Mexican flavours now) I was hooked. I love the spice, the textures, the zinginess the contrast of temperatures when cool sour cream meets piping hot fillings.

 photo Mexican Feast_zps6yfoqj8k.jpgIt’s not quite so enjoyable now my tomato allergy has made an appearance – one of the things I miss most is a fresh, zingy salsa and crunchy chips. However I still make sure to satisfy my craving as much as possible. Frijoles (refried beans) are something I can eat by the bucketful. Spicy slow-cooked meat, piled up high with pickled onions, is pure comfort food. Combine them all in a homemade tortilla wrap and you’ve got a winner!
 photo Mexican Feast Recipes 3_zpsbtdnehxg.jpg

Pork Pibil (Spicy Mexican Pulled Pork, based on Wahaca’s recipe)

Warning, this one stains white things like nothing else I’ve encountered before. It took a lot of cleaning to get it off my dining room table. I had to have my nails painted constantly as they took on an orange hue…These quantities make a LOT. At least enough to feed 8-10, but it freezes so, so well. It’s also a long process taking 3 days, so you might as well make lots.

Whizz up the marinade. Dry fry 1 teaspoon of allspice berries, 3 teaspoons of cumin seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of cloves, and 1 teaspoon of peppercorns before whizzing to a powder in a food processor. Add 75g of achiote chilli paste (we found ours in Wholefoods), 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 1 onion, 5 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse. Add in some herbs (I used the roots of a bunch of coriander and a dried bay leaf) and the juice of 4 oranges and combined to make a paste. Season with plenty of salt, before using to coat 2.5kg of pork. You want the pork in 3-4 large pieces, basically broken up so it fits in your casserole dish.

The next day, add 25g of butter to the casserole dish with the pork, and scatter over 2 red chillis. Cover tightly with a lid and roast for 4-5 hours at 120C. Allow to cool before shredding and popping back in the fridge. The next day skim any excess fat from the sauce. Reheat the pork in an oven (around 180C for 15 minutes will get you some delicious chewy bits on the edges) and serve with all your favourite Mexican bits and pieces.
 photo IMG_20170402_161638_347_zpseeccfxg1.jpg photo Mexican Feast Recipes 5_zpsxczmmssb.jpg

Pink Pickled Onions

Again, this makes more than 1 meals worth. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 1 month, and it’s excellent served with cheese on toast…

Cover two thinly sliced red onions with boiling water, leave for 10 seconds and then drain (this takes away the harsh raw onion taste). Squeeze over the juice of 1 lime, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1 chopped red chilli. Stir well, then add to a glass jar. Leave for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight. Perfect with Pork Pibil!

Frijoles (Re-fried Beans, originally taken from Wahaca’s recipe but adapted to my taste)

These are my perfect comfort food. Rich and creamy, satisfying, full of flavour and served with crunchy tortilla chips. So, so good, and here they make a perfect base for the Pibil. I won’t lie though, I generally eat these on their own, by the spoonful…

The day before you want to eat, soak 250g dried black beans in plenty of water. Start a couple of hours before bedtime, changing the water before you kip down for the night. The next day, drain and add to a large pan with plenty of fresh water with 1/2 head of garlic (peeled), 5 bay leaves, and 1 large onion (roughly chopped). Simmer until the bean are soft, around 2 hours, before adding plenty of salt and simmering for another 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, remove a ladelful of beans, and blitz the remaining mix with a hand-blender.

Finely chop another onion and fry in 75g of lard with 1/2 teaspoon of cumin until soft. Tip in the puree and the reserved beans and fry gently. I like to add a single square of very dark chocolate too. Serve with soured cream and some crumbled feta – and plenty of tortilla chips!
 photo Mexican Feast Recipes 2_zpsxb2uqgeq.jpg

Homemade Tortilla Wraps (adapted from James Morton’s recipe)

Regular readers will know by now that James is basically my bread God, and his book my bread bible. Not one of his recipes has failed me, and this one is no exception. I’ve adapted it slightly as I found it a little sticky (I have textured worktops and so have to be careful with sticky dough). The quantities here will make 8 small taco-sized wraps, or 4 large ones (perfect for fajitas). These are so easy, and taste SO much better than shop-bought…

Mix together 175g of plain flour with 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt. Cube 10g of lard and rub into the flour until you have a mix resembling breadcrumbs. Then add 80g of boiling water, mix together quickly and bash about on a work surface (roughly kneading) for 2-3 minutes. Tear into equal pieces, rolling out each piece to a rough circle (you’ll want extra flour on your rolling pin and surface). Cook each wrap in a dry pan over a high heat for around 2 minutes each side – you want them to be firm and speckled golden. Fill with frijoles, pibil and pickled onions and you’ve got yourself an awesome taco!
 photo Mexican Feast Recipes 1_zps41h4elfx.jpg

Are you a fan of Mexican food? Do you have any good recipes?

Food: When I Was A Vegetarian For A Week

I always swear I could never be a vegetarian. Whilst I don’t eat a huge amount of meat, I do enjoy it. I love a good steak, belly pork is one of my favourites, and bacon is something I’m not quite sure I could live without. I rarely eat meat throughout the day, unless I’m taking leftovers for lunch. Usually at least one dinner a week is veggie, more if W is working late (as then it’s mushroom night). We’ve recently cut down our weekly fortnightly fry-ups to a maximum of once a month.

 photo Veggie Week_zpstswcjvsb.jpgBut I’ve always been curious about how I could get on without meat. I’m a huge animal lover, and I’ve never felt completely comfortable with the meat industry. I try as much as possible to eat free-range meat and if we had a more convenient butcher I’d definitely make more use of them. I will try and use every last scrap of meat I can, including making stock when I get the time. I never buy anything but free-range eggs, and I’d dearly love to give up milk (unfortunately more dairy-free milks don’t agree with me, and I have to buy lactofree so am pretty limited). I also love veggies.

A fresh crunchy salad? Vibrant colourful stir-fry? A comforting and nourishing bowl of lentil stew? These are all some of my favourite meals. With that in mind, and spurred on my an inspiring Instagram feed for National Vegetarian Week, I cut out meat from our diet and fridge for a week. I’ll admit, W cheated. He’s part of a lunch group and some of the guys contributed meat dishes that week. He also went to the pub for a massive Gammon & Eggs. However I stuck to it and, bar one slip-up, didn’t consume a single meat product for a week.

 photo IMG_20170412_133323_278_zpscnepqvam.jpg photo IMG_20170308_213720_196_zpshbwlvzbl.jpg photo IMG_20170223_083803_732_zpswvhkigyi.jpg photo Veggie Squash Stew 6_zpssdhmljya.jpgBreakfasts were as normal. A mix of granola and yoghurt, ricecakes and p-butter, and overnight oats. Snacks were homemade energy balls, though I did find I had a stronger 4pm slump than I normally would. Lunches were again pretty standard. Generally I either take leftovers into work, or make some kind of chunky substantial salad. I also have a lunch allowance in our work canteen, so then to supplement my lunch there with fruit, more salad or a jacket potato. That week I mainly ate a salad of couscous, harissa-roasted butternut squash, feta and spicy crunchy chickpeas.

Dinners were where we had to get inventive. With both of us being pretty busy, recipes need to involve minimal fuss, not too much chopping and as little washing up as possible. We had an absolutely delicious chickea pea curry, served with roasted cauliflower in a tandoori spice blend. I enjoyed a butternut squash risotto. W cooked us a ‘treat’ meal on the Friday of mac-n-cheese, filled with roasted cauliflower and broccoli (pretty much this recipe, sans bacon, with nutmeg in the sauce and blanched broc).

 photo IMG_20170521_094513_zpstngq4oaf.pngMy favourite meal, though, was an Asian-inspired salad. Radishes, onions, Chinese lettuce and carrots all tossed together in a limey-soy-peanut dressing. So light and tasty, though we did end up eating the whole bowl (supposedly serving 4) as we neither of us found it hugely filling. This is where I slipped up, accidentally adding a drop of fish sauce. Oops! Recipe to come…

 photo IMG_20170306_134659_495_zpslmqbuz5a.jpg photo IMG_20170322_121827_316_zpsv1h8qinf.jpgI actually picked quite an easy week to eat veggie. I didn’t eat out, I didn’t have to cope with the canteen’s main meals. I’m not so sure I could sensibly eat out combined both my allergies and being a vegetarian (off the top of my head I’m thinking of only 3 options, two of which are pizza based…). But I did enjoy it. Whilst I won’t be turned a full-time veggie any time soon, we’ve both agreed to start eating more veggie meals throughout the week.

My Favourite Vegetarian Recipes

3-Bean Chilli, Beetroot Risotto, Blue Cheese & Pear Salad, Mushroom Risotto,Oven-Baked Falafel, Spring Vegetable Carbonara (sans bacon/ham). I’m also working on a cauliflower salad recipe, and I’m itching to share my pomegranate quinoa soon.

The next step though? Find a good value seasonal veg box…

What’s your favourite meat-free recipe?

Recipe: Blue Cheese & Pear Salad

Hands up who is fed up of the weather we’ve been having lately? Humid, very wet days alternating with very sunny days. Coupled with my office air-con being set to Arctic mode (I genuinely took a scarf in last week!) it’s left me confused about what to wear and, more importantly, what to eat.

 photo Blue Cheese Pear Salad_zpsjeu2m2q4.jpgTypically in warmer weather I crave lighter food. Salads, zingy flavours. Less of the carb heavy meals I love in winter. But the grey skies together with coming home dripping wet (because BBC Weather told me I didn’t need an umbrella) have got me craving comfort food. I’ve been turning to warm salads recently – the perfect combination of comforting and lightness – and this one is one of my favourites.

The pear provides a subtle freshness to the dish that, as long as it’s no over-ripe, just avoids being too sweet. The toasted walnuts give crunch. Fresh peppery leaves (I like a combo of spinach, rocket and watercress but most generic bags of salad work well). A punchy balsamic dressing. And lots and lots of blue cheese. We went for dolcelatte – it’s both strong and creamy which just the right amount of smelliness for me. AKA it tastes good and strong, but doesn’t make my fridge stink to high heaven. I also have a major love for slightly softer cheese in my salads. All the ingredients come together to make a big bowlful that’s heavy, light and fresh, but with enough cheese to be comforting. If I’m being naughty I love this served with some really good bread, lightly toasted, and a glass of chilled white wine.

Oh, and it you’re not a veggie, I highly recommend a rasher of bacon, finely chopped, and fried until really crispy. Blue cheese and bacon is another of my favourite combos…

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 9_zpstlok4l3x.jpg photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 11_zps6aakhlb7.jpgIngredients (Enough for 1)

  • For the dressing – olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard
  • 1 large pear – I found blush pears to work best
  • A knob of butter – goat’s butter* works really well
  • A bowl of salad leaves
  • A good handful of crumbled blue cheese
  • Another good handful of walnuts

Pop the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile throw the leaves in a bowl and season with a little black pepper. Mix up the dressing – add the ingredients to a small jar and beat. Taste and adjust as you go to make it to your liking. I’m a massive balsamic fan but W’s not so keen so I’ve deliberately not given any qualities. The only thing I will say is you really do only want a tiny, tiny bit of mustard. And don’t use English mustard here, I speak from experience when I say it really doesn’t go well!

Slice the pear (no need to peel). Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the pear. Fry for 30 seconds before adding the dressing and warming through – you want the pears to be in the pan for no longer than around 90 seconds or they will go too soft. Add the pears to the salad bowl, and scatter over the walnuts and cheese. Enjoy!

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 12_zpsqnuup0kq.jpgAlthough I haven’t tried it, I’m also told that this works just as well with cold sliced pears as part of a lunch box. One I’ll be giving a go very soon…

What’s your favourite salad recipe?

Recipe: Chocolate Beetroot Loaf Cake

This is my all-time favourite chocolate cake recipe. I find most chocolate cakes too cakey, too dry, not chocolate-y enough. And whilst I love brownies, sometimes I want something lighter. This is the perfect in-between. Rich with a deep chocolate flavour, moist, but light enough to eat with a cuppa.

 photo Beetroot Loaf_zpsfuiuq3of.jpgPlus the fact that it contains beetroot makes me feel a little healthier. Sure, it’s still just oil, sugar, chocolate and a bit of veg – but at least it’s got the veg right?! Having said that, I just it as an excuse to demolish most of the loaf in just two days so perhaps not the best way of thinking…

It’s super-simple to whip up – just a case of blitz-ing the beetroot, melting some butter, mixing it all together and throwing in a tin with some chocolate chips. However I’m lazy, the mix is super-thick and it can split if you don’t add the oil gradually. Rather than give up, I just shove it in my new Kenwood Stand Mixer* which means I can literally have this in the oven in under ten minutes. Washing up included. It’s rather dangerous on study days when I’m bored and peckish!

 photo Chocolate Beetroot Loaf Cake 4_zpsnzk1kzub.jpg photo Chocolate Beetroot Loaf Cake 6_zpsf4lbb2f7.jpgIngredients

  • 1/2 vac-pack of beetroot (around 150g), roughly chopped. Use the rest to make a risotto or delicious salad!
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 250g sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 100g dark chocolate – either a bar chopped roughly, or chips

Blitz the beetroot in a food processor until you have a rough puree, then tip into a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt. Add rest of the ingredients, except the oil and chocolate, and mix. When combined (it’s a thick mixture, so using a stand mixture makes it easier – though doing it by hand = extra calories burnt = more cake), add the oil gradually whilst continually stirring. Once the oil has been added, stir through the chocolate and tip into a lined 900g loaf tin. Pop in the oven and bake for around 50 minutes at 190C (stick a skewer in – if it comes out gooey the cake needs a little longer!). Leave the loaf to cool on a rack before slicing.

 photo Chocolate Beetroot Loaf Cake 3_zps6ghbw5yy.jpgI like to serve it with a spoon of natural yoghurt and some raspberries (it makes the perfect lazy brunch!), but it’s also so, so good just on it’s own. Bonus if it’s slightly warm and melty too…

*I was gifted a kMix Stand Mixer as part of a baking collaboration with Kenwood. All opinions are my own – I really love cake, and I really love things that make baking cake easier!

What’s your favourite chocolate cake recipe?

Food: Recent Eats #1

When I say I’m a foodie, I’m not lying. I probably have a borderline unhealthy obsession with food – I like to think about what good meals I have coming up, I like to plan trips to certain restaurants months in advance, then dream about the food I have eaten for months afterwards. I get over-excited to try new things, I have a new foodie favourite virtually every week (case in point – beetroot, goat’s cheese, chickpeas are all recent favourites!). Here’s the latest things I’ve been trying and (mostly!) loving…
 photo Recent Eats_zps27qdzabg.jpg photo Recent Eats 8_zpsblisaihw.jpg photo Recent Eats 9_zpsvydoi13x.jpg photo Recent Eats 2_zps4xsj2x3z.jpg photo Recent Eats 6_zps6zd3wykj.jpg photo Recent Eats 1_zps6gcwi6er.jpg

HECK Products*

I was a lucky girl recently, receiving a massive parcel of Heck products. I actually didn’t think much of their standard pork sausages (a bit bland for me), and unfortunately I couldn’t eat their Italian chicken ones (due to their tomato content – though W enjoyed them!). However I loved their sausage squares as part of a massive fry-up, they went perfectly with black pudding and Scottish potato scones.

The biggest highlight, however, was their new Veggie Bites.The Super Green Balls turned out to be my favourite, witha mix of quinoa, spinach, kale and ginger they were the perfect lunch-time snack with some courgette couscous. The Thai Bites were slightly less successful as their texture was a bit sloppy, but I loved the flavours of the fragrant Thai pesto, sweet potato & sticky rice. Great with a chopped Thai salad!

Pork Pilbil

Wahaca will always be one of my all-time favourite places to eat, we’ve been heading there pretty much since their first restaurant opened. And my all-time favourite dish? The Pork Pilbil tacos. Tender shredded pork in an addictive sauce, creamy refried beans and spicy pickled onions. I mean, most things on the menu are amazing (my other must-order is the chicken tacquito) but these are divine – and we’ve finally made them at home. Trust me, they aren’t cheap to make and it’s a two-day process but it was so, so worth it. Plus we have leftover marinade so they’ll be made again soon!

I also figured out how to make my own flour tortilla wraps – I’ll never buy them again, homemade are SO easy and far tastier!

Chocolate Beetroot Loaf Cake

I’ve made no secret of it, my favourite form of procrastination is baking. This loaf cake is perfect as it’s ridiculous quick to mix up and is absolutely delicious. I originally made it to use up some leftover beetroot (following this risotto) but it’s become another of my favourites. Rich, chocolately, studded with dark chocolate chips and just a tiny bit of sweetness. It was rather nice served with yoghurt and raspberries as an indulgent Sunday brunch too…
 photo Recent Eats 10_zpsi8qwy96i.jpg photo Recent Eats 11_zps2ml8qrce.jpg

Dirty Chicken Burger @ Meat Market

Just typing this is making me hungry! I have to admit none of us had high expectations for Meat Market, but my dirty chicken burger was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Deep fried chicken fillet, mayo, lettuce, cheese, and red onions into a soft bun – it was definitely messy! The coating on the chicken was spicy and crunchy, the cheese perfectly melted, the lettuce and onion fresh. It was so, so good – the only downside was the slightly ‘meh’ bun, some brioche would have been perfect. Sides of fries and onion rings were also excellent – and I can only regret not leaving room to try some ‘Filth Pie’ (oreos, marshmallow, coconut & chocolate pie served warm with ice cream). Maybe next time!
 photo Recent Eats 15_zpss4o4cxze.jpg photo Recent Eats 14_zps06uohmck.jpg

Low Carb Oomi Noodles*

High in protein with 75% less carbs, Oomi noodles* are made from fish protein. Not the most appetising description, and nor did they smell great out of the packet (to the point W refused to eat them and cooked himself some rice!) however I actually really enjoyed them. Tossed with stir-fried kale and sugarsnap peas in ginger, garlic, chilli and soy they tasted exactly like normal egg noodles. Perhaps a bit softer than I would like, but they were enjoyable and extremely filling. I served with salmon fillets in a soy glaze, a perfect Friday night tea!
 photo Recent Eats 13_zpsaexzbw1t.jpg

Herby Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

This is definitely a new favourite! Wholesome quinoa, crunchy pistachios, flaked almonds, red onion, fruity pomegranate seeds, salty feta all tossed in a zingy dressing with coriander and mint. It’s delicious for dinner served with lamb, chicken or falafel and makes a great packed lunch too. I can imagine we’ll be eating a lot of this over the next few months!

St Helen’s Farm Goat Products*

Another parcel recently arrived featuring a whole host of goat products, as well as an adorable cuddle goat toy. I surprised myself and really enjoyed the goat milk, although unfortunately my skin seemed to react in the same way as it does normal dairy milk (I tend to stick to lactofree where possible). However I loved the Goat’s cheese, which we served in salads, omlettes, tortillas and pretty much everything for a few weeks. Another highlight was the butter, perfect on homemade crumpets
 photo Recent Eats 12_zpseleiyavt.jpg

Chocolate Overload @ Choccywoccydoodah

It feels far too long ago now (I have an extreme backlog of posts to write!) but I finally, finally visited Choccywoccydoodah. I have to admit I thought it was be a bit of a tourist-trap, style over substance kind of thing – but the chocolate was really high quality and the portion sizes massive. We each ordered a dipping plate (definitely mistake, two would have been more than enough between three!) and I ordered a hazelnut milkshake.I’ll be heading back for sure. Just maybe not after a pub lunch…

Alpro Go On Plain*

Ah, the only negative on this post. Alpro’s newest plant-based alternative to yogurt is designed to be versatile – in their press release they suggested using “as a base for delicious dips, stir it into fragrant curries and spicy stews, or mash with avocado on top of toast.” For me, whilst I loved it as yoghurt (with chunky granola and fruit) it was far, far too sweet to use in cooking. I managed to make a passable chickpea curry with it, but not a fan!

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Hay Roasted (Half) Leg of Lamb

A tradition I’ve developed over the last couple of years is to cook lamb at Easter – quite a traditional tradition to follow I guess! Last year I cooked a whole leg in red wine (it only just fit in my oven), this year I practically fought over the last half-leg in Sainsburys and picked up the rest of the ingredients in Pets At Home. Roasting it in a bed of hay gave it a lovely subtle sweetness and flavour and it was a definite hit. We then used some of the leftover hay to infuse a strawberry ice-cream. A posh version of the raspberry ripple I loved as a child…

What’s been your foodie favourites recently?

Recipe: Super-Easy Homemade Falafel

Falafel are one of my absolute favourite things to eat, yet I’m supremely fussy about them. I have eaten some truly, truly dreadful falafel in the last few years (including one that had big chunks of apricot in – why?!). However the absolute worst falafel I’ve tried? It’s the ones I’ve made myself. They’ve always been overly mushy, never coming together, never crispy and just horribly bland.

 photo Falafel_zpsmxeqopix.jpgThat is, until now. This is inspired by a John Torode recipe from BBC Good Food. I’d made it a couple of times now, adapting as I go and now I’ve pretty much got it down to a fine art. Not only are these delicious, they are ridiculously easy to make. Sure, they take a bit of time (i.e. you need to remember to soak the chickpeas – tinned ones absolutely do not work and that is exactly why my attempts had always failed!), but once that’s done you can pretty much get them made in under half an hour. And if you want the process to be a little less hands on, along with a little healthier, you can even baked these instead of frying. Frying gives the best crispy texture, but the flavour is pretty much unaffected so if you’ve making these ahead for lunches I’d bake (and use the spare calories on chocolate).

Now, the flavour. It’s so much better than other falafel recipes I’ve made. The added vegetables add to the complex flavours, and I’ve added a spice mix which I love (though feel free to customise it). These are moist, but not mushy, they hold together without crumbling and have a slightly crispy outer. Pretty much my perfect falafel!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsioqo0b5n.jpg photo Homemade Falafel 4_zpsqh8bwbqn.jpgIngredients

  • 125g dried chickpeas or dried split broad beans
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 leek
  • 1/2 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • a tiny pinch of cinnamon
  • good handful chopped coriander
  • 25g plain flour

Soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours, or overnight (or do as I do if making them on a weeknight – soak them during the day.

Drain the chickpeas and pulse with the bicarbonate in a food processor (I use my mini food processor) until roughly chopped. Remove around half of the mixture and pop into a large bowl. Add the garlic, vegetables, spices and herbs to the remaining mixture in the processor and purée to a paste. Stir the paste into the rough purée of chickpeas, add the flour, season (these take plenty of salt) and mix well. I find it best to give the mixture a quick knead with my hands to make sure it’s all incorporated.

Take tablespoons of the mixture and form into balls before flattening – I tend to get 12-13 out of this quantity as I like my falafel slightly smaller.

If you’re frying the falafel, heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add some of the oil. Fry for 2-3 mins each side until crisp. Keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remainder of the mixture, continuing to add a little oil to the pan with each batch. Alternatively, place the falafel on greaseproof paper, spray with a little oil and bake at 180C for half an hour, turning once.

 photo Homemade Falafel 6_zpse4mmgjg6.jpgI like to serve mine with couscous and salad, but they are also reallllyyy good served as part of a meze platter (particularly with beetroot houmous!) or in homemade pitta bread. The perfect filling lunchbox!

Are you a fan of falafel? Have you ever made your own before?