Recipe: Oven-Baked Crumpets for an At-Home Brunch

Now, I love me a good brunch. Whether it’s a delicious black-pudding benedict at The Dynamo, or something more sweet and stack-like in the form of pancakes, there’s nothing better than a lazy start to the weekend filled with delicious food.

 photo Crumpets_zpsuwngwxie.jpgBut, ya’no, I’ve got a wedding to pay for. Savings to build up for eventual house purchases. Coats I’m lusting after in M&S. I’ve also got study to be doing approximately 90% of the year. Unfortunately weekly brunch trips aren’t in my budget – time or money wise. But no matter, because we’ve started trying to make time, just every couple of weeks, to do brunch-at-home.

Stay at home brunching could ever be considered better. I mean, you get to stay in your PJs, don’t have to remove the smudges of yesterday’s make-up, and there’s no one (bar your fiancé) to judge quite how many cups of tea you drink. Win all round me thinks!

This recipe has become one of my favourites. It’s quick and easy. The batter can be whipped whilst the kettle boils, then left to rest whilst you snuggle in bed with your first cuppa and the papers. It can be thrown into the oven whilst you shower, or have your second cuppa. Served with a full table of toppings, you’ve got an effortless brunch to be proud of. And (bonus point!) any leftovers freezer extremely well, ready for reheating in the microwave for mid-week breakfasts.

 photo Oven Baked Crumpets 17_zps6gimqjb6.jpgIngredients (recipe adapted from Jamie’s Breakfast Crumpies)

  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon caster sugar (if you’re definitely going with sweet toppings, possibly up this slightly to a 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 5g yeast
  • 1 large pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease 6 holes of a muffin tin with a little butter. Pop the ingredients in a bowl and add 300ml of water (it should be the temperate of a warm, not too hot, bath). Whisk everything together quickly, then leave to rest for around 15 minutes.

After resting, the batter will have thickened and be sticky to the touch. Spoon until the greased muffin tips (almost to the top) and level it. Bake for 25-30 minutes – they will be risen, golden and slightly crisp on top. Cool slightly, before splitting and topping with your favourite fillings.

 photo Oven Baked Crumpets 10_zpsdahw23u5.jpg photo Oven Baked Crumpets 14_zpsd948a3rd.jpgFillings. The fun part. I’ve tried lots and, whilst nutella is bloody yum when these crumpets are still warm, I don’t think anything can beat a good salty butter. My current favourite is actually a goat butter. Not only are goat’s one of my favourite animals (seriously, they’re so cute!) they also make pretty fab alternative dairy products. It’s pretty obvious I’m a fan of goat’s cheese (particularly with beetroot), but I was pleasantly surprised by the milk and yoghurts from St Helen’s Farm* too. For me, though, it was this butter that stole the show. Salty, rich, and it melted into an almost creamy consistency. Lathered onto my crumpets along with a touch of honey and an extra sprinkling of salt – that’s my perfect brunch right there…

What’s your favourite brunch treat? What would you prefer to top crumpets with?

Recipe: Nomato Sauce & My Ultimate (Tomato-Free!) Bolognese

Since becoming allergic to tomatoes, one of the biggest things I’ve missed has been spaghetti bolognese and lasagne. I love pizza as much as the next person, but white pizzas are pretty damn good. Sure, I can’t eat regular curries any more but I’ve developed a love for tandoori chicken instead. But Bolognese? Try finding a tomato-free version and you’ll see what I mean!

 photo Nomato Sauce_zpsxouvsbyd.jpgBut then I used the excuse of W being away to get a bit creative in the kitchen (i.e. make a shit tonne of mess). I’d been eyeing up various ‘nomato’ and ‘nightshade-free’ red sauces for a few years, but I’d always been scared to make them. Actually, I tried once but it was overly carrot-y and not a success. This time I did a lot of research, then ignored everything, combined a few recipes and hoped for the best…

And it worked.

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 17_zpsblvxht2k.jpgMy God, is this red sauce a wonderful thing! Apparently it doesn’t taste exactly like tomatoes (I don’t remember) but it is pretty damn close. It’s amazingly versatile and works in all kinds of recipes – including on a pizza to make the best pepporoni one I’ve had in years (sure, I love white pizzas, but there’s something about a greasy pepporoni one that I hadn’t realised I was missing out on!).

The tomato-free Bolognese, though, is where this nomato sauce really shines. The Bolognese is rich, almost creamy. The meat is soft and tender, the sauce is silky. You would never guess it’s lacking what is supposedly a vital ingredient! Everyone has their own secrets to a good Bolognese. Katy adds HP Brown sauce, and both soy and Worcestershire sauces to hers. I have seen many people add chicken livers, something I’m determined to try the next time I get control of the shopping trolley.  And of course, there is Marcella Hazan’s recipe, often described as the Holy Grail of Bolognese. All I can say is that we love this recipe; full of flavour and just damn delicious. I’m now craving it as I type!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 12_zpshvewulti.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 7_zpsmahrrmdy.jpgOh, and if you’re feeling more virtuous? I can highly recommend this Bolognese served over courgetti and boodles (softened in a little garlic olive oil for 2 mins). Just don’t skip the parmesan!

Ingredients (Nomato Sauce – generally makes 4 big portions and 1 smaller one)

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 white onions (big-ish ones if possibly, if yours are smaller chuck another one in)
  • 5 sticks of celery
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3/4 of a vacuum pack of beetroot

I’m afraid there’s a lot of chopping here (though you could definitely use a food chopper to save time!).

Slice your peppers and pop in a baking dish. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the skin is blackened. Transfer to a bowl, over with sling-film and leave to cool before removing and discarding the skins.

Finely chop your onions, celery and carrots. Pop into a large pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, and saute over a low heat for a good twenty minutes. You want them to soften and sweeten, but not brown. Add the garlic and bay leaves and increase the heat; fry for two minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and let it bubble away, before adding the stock and the cooled roasted peppers. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for half an hour, or until the vegetables are soft. Top up with more water if necessary.

Slice the beetroot into smaller pieces, then add to the pan along with the soy sauce. Cook for around 10 more minutes, then leave to cool before pureeing until smooth. Portion up and freeze. I find this works amazingly well in my Bolognese recipe (below), but I’ve also used it in curries, tagines and to top a pizza. It’s a great way of adding extra vegetables in too!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 16_zpsydavykal.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 10_zpsgnwpmn5p.jpgIngredients (Ultimate Bolognese, for two greedy people, or two normal people with leftovers for lunch)

  • 250g beef mince
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • 50ml full-fat milk
  • 1 portion of nomato sauce (around 3 ladelfuls)
  • 1/2 beef stock cube
  • Dried herbs – I usually go for a pinch each of basil, oregano and thyme

This isn’t a quick Monday-night dinner, I’ll admit. This is a lazy Saturday evening meal, or a Friday night treat. I’ll usually crack open a bottle of red and stand stirring, wine glass in hand. However, for a quicker version: omit the celery, carrot and milk, only simmer for as long as you have time for. It’s definitely worth trying the full recipe though…

Finely chop the vegetables. Pop a fry pan onto a medium head and add the mince (no added oil!) – fry until browned all over, then tip into a bowl. Add a little olive oil to the pan, then add the vegetables and fry until soft and the onion is slightly golden. Add the garlic and herbs, along with the mince. Fry for a few more minutes, then tip in the glass of wine. Allow to bubble away, turn the heat down, then add the milk. Cook, stirring, until the milk has almost evaporated away before adding the nomato sauce and the stock cube.

Turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow to simmer away for at least an hour, stirring every now and then, adding a touch of hot water if it’s starting to catch. The end result will be melt-in-the-mouth, super savoury and almost creamy. A proper bowl of comfort food served over spaghetti – and even better added to homemade cheesy bechamel in a lasagne!
 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 11_zpssjnaqek9.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 13_zpsvzk0wr7a.jpg

What’s your secret to a good Bolognese sauce?

Recipe: Homemade Focaccia, Two Ways (Rosemary & Seasalt and Red Onion & Feta)

When exam season rolls round, one of my favourite things to do is bake bread.

 photo Homemade Focaccia_zpsfflgjlps.jpgFirst up, there’s the procrastination aspect. Everyone loves a good way to get out of studying – and why not make something yummy in the process? But there’s other slightly more sensible reasons to. It forces me to take regular breaks. Almost like the pomodoro approach, I can concentrate for forty minutes whilst the dough rises, have a quick break whilst I knead it, then get back to work. But then best thing for me? Kneading really helps with with my RSI. So exams = lots of homemade bread in this house. And right now my ultimate favourite is focaccia.

 photo Homemade Focaccia30_zpsiydr3nif.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia31_zpspcxgppw8.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia34_zpstn8i4uwy.jpgIt’s super easy, doesn’t require too much shaping, can be eaten hot from the oven (priorities!) and it is damn delicious. I like it on it’s own, dipped into balsamic vinegar, made into a sandwich (sliced lengthways and filled with pesto and salami – it’s amazingly good), as part of a meze board or even dipped into soup. I can imagine it would with great with my tomato-free bolognese too!

As with most of my bread recipes, I’ve adapted this from James Morten’s Brilliant Bread. I just love his approach to baking bread, how simple his recipes are, and the amount of explanation he gives to the science behind it. By far the best bread book I’ve tried, though I’m still yet to be successful with sourdough!

 photo Homemade Focaccia8_zps7jd1br8n.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia7_zpsfiyjzawb.jpgIngredients

  • 500g bread flour
  • 7g salt
  • 7g yeast
  • 400g water (around the temperature of a warm bath, nothing too hot!)
  • 40g olive oil
  • Toppings – either sea salt, extra oil and half a packet of fresh rosemary, or use some of my red onion chutney and a sprinkling of feta).

Mix the water and olive oil together. Weight out the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Rub them together, then quickly add the water-oil mixture and stir to combine. James gives a health warning here, and I agree – the mixture is very wet (particularly compared to the bagel dough). Don’t add any extra flour. Instead, wet your hands slightly and give it a little knead. Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave to rise for an hour.

Drizzle one hand with a little olive oil, then use this to separate the dough from the bowl. Knead for a few minutes (I keep it in the bowl, saves me making too much mess!) – you want the dough to be able to support itself, and it should also feel a lot smoother when you are done. It doesn’t need to be perfect though! Re-cover and rest for another hour – or if you’re not studying, you could throw it in the fridge for 8-12 hours instead.

Add around a tablespoon of olive oil to a baking tray, and make sure the base is fully covered. Tip your dough into the tin and flatten it out – you want to try and fill the whole tray, so you might need to give it a quick knead first. Leave to prove for a final half hour (or again, throw in the fridge for 8-12 hours).

Once proved, make indentations in the dough by pressing all the way down to the tray. Sprinkle with your chosen toppings, drizzle over a little more olive oil, then bake at 220C for around 20 minutes, until golden and crisp on top. Try to let it cool a little before tucking in!
 photo Homemade Focaccia1_zps256af1n8.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia26_zpsptceqbc8.jpg

Do you make your own bread? What’s your favourite procrastination method?

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?