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?

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: Butternut Squash & Goat’s Cheese Risotto

I love risotto. The carbines of the rice, the creaminess of the whole dish, the cheesiness. The fact you can eat with a fork, bowl in hand, snuggled on the sofa. A bowl of risotto is my ultimate comfort food and my go-to meal if I’ve had a bad day.

And it so happens that the one bad thing about living with W is that I can’t indulge my passion for mushroom risotto. I’ve loved all things mushroom since my early teens and despite trying, nothing will convince my fiance to eat them. Rather than give up my risotto love-affair, we’ve come to the agreement that I can try numerous other recipes on him. This is the second and was the one I was most nervous about – the last time I tried butternut squash (four years ago) I hated it. I’ve pretty much avoided it, apart from in spicier soups, ever since. Now it’s my new obsession.

This butternut squash risotto is slightly different from my usual recipes in that some of the squash is blended down, which adds an extra creaminess and cuts down the need (though not my desire!) for excessive cheese. The goat’s cheese stirred through adds a savoury tang which in my opinion is completely necessary against the sweetness of the squash. The celery adds a bit of bite. The roasted squash adds texture and a different layer of flavour. And of course, it’s scattered with parmesan for that salty kick.

This meal was only made better than I timed it to perfection. It was just ready for dolloping into bowls when W walked through the flat doors AND Bake Off was just starting. Doesn’t get much better than that! It does take a little bit longer than my standard risottos, just under an hour, but that’s because of the faff that comes with prepping a squash. It’s completely worth it and standing there stirring (with wine) counts as therapy, right?!

 photo Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Risotto 2_zpsrqaoviiv.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 750ml stock (we usually use chicken as I have a minor reaction to most vegetable stock cudes)
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 dried bay leaf
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 2 tsp soft goat’s cheese
  • parmesan to serve

Peel the squash and separate the rounded send from the slender top. Chop the slender end into 2cm cubes, toss in a little oil, season lightly and roast in the oven with two cloves of garlic (peeled and halved) at 200C, stirring occasionally, until golden brown on the outside and soft in the centre. I found this took around the same length as the risotto did to cook. Cut the fatter end in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Again, chop the flesh into 2cm pieces and pop into a small pan with the stock and bay leaves. Poach on a gentle heat whilst the risotto cooks.

Finely chop the onion and celery, then fry gently in the butter until soft. Add the garlic and risotto rice and increase the heat slightly – stir constantly for around two minutes before adding a ladle of stock from the pan (try not to add any of the squash). Keep stirring until the stock is absorbed, add another ladle and repeat until the rice is almost cooked; around twenty minutes.

Discard the bay leaves and transfer the poached squash into a blender. Process until smooth, then add to the risotto along with the goats cheese. Stir to combine, season with plenty of black epper, cover and leave to rest for 4-5 minutes. Divide into bowls, scatter with the roasted squash pieces and finish with a lot of little parmesan.

 photo Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Risotto 3_zpsi7fal0li.jpgThis was the perfect warming dinner for a cold Autumnal night – which really took us by surprise here in London in early October! All of a sudden the balmy summer evenings were gone, I needed a scarf to walk home in, and I just made it to the flat in the light. I do love Autumn, but I also miss the lighter evenings. Still, not too long to Christmas now… #24sleepstilSanta! We also found this recipe great for using up a super-cheap pumpkin following halloween. At 30p I couldn’t resist!

What’s your ultimate cosy-night-in comfort food? Also, how on earth do I get someone to eat mushrooms?!

Recipe: S’mores Brownies

Yup, S’mores brownies. I’ll pause for a second to let that sink in.

smores-browniesS’mores brownies. Super fudgy chocolate brownies (with milk chocolate chips, because chocolate), baked on a digestive biscuit crust and topped with toasted mini marshmallows.

S’mores have been a major love of mine since my Girl Guide days. Contrary to popular belief, we never went camping camping, and our weekly base was in the town centre. That didn’t stop us having fire pits in the church-hall courtyard, and s’mores always made an appearance. We tended to go for the easy option of setting fire to toasting marshmallows and sandwiching between chocolate-covered digestive biscuits, though I’ve since discovered that spreading digestives with nutella is a rather delicious alternative. These brownies pretty much recreate those s’mores, but in a bigger and slightly more convenient way for eating in a ladylike fashion.

 photo Smores Brownie 3_zpsblhgp7ea.jpg photo Smores Brownie 6_zpsvzlee95q.jpgI was originally invited by The Co-Op to do some spooky Halloween-themed baking, but a migraine put an end to that so we compromised on Bonfire Bakes instead – just as well as the marshmallows instead the box were crying out for a flame and some chocolate. With the inclusion of a free-from brownie mix, we set about recreating one of our favourite Autumnal treats.

The buttery biscuit base of these s’more brownies  is crispy and crumbly – and the flakes of sea salt running through (which was originally a total accident, I meant to grab the finely milled stuff) break things up, stopping it from being too sweet. Whilst we used a mix for the brownie layer, you could easily use any of your favourite recipes (even lighten it up with my lower-fat mayonnaise brownies – old post alert!). Last year W first created a s’more brownie and added a good measure of whisky to the brownies before baking, definitely worth a try… You underbake the brownies, even more so than usual, popping a good layer of mashmallows and then baking for a few minutes longer. If you liked the scorched effect, pop under the grill or a blowtorch for a few seconds too. Yum.

 photo Smores Brownie 1_zpshdmpguq3.jpg photo Smores Brownie 19_zpskt1ljroc.jpgIngredients

  • For the crust: 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 8 digestives, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/3 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • For the brownies: use your favourite recipe designed for a 20cm square pan
  • A bag of mini marshmallows (around 100-150g)

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 160°C and line an 20x20cm pan. Melt the butter in a small pan. Crush the biscuits (I find using a mini food processor the quickiest and tidiest way, though bashing with a rolling pin will always be a great stress reliever!), then mix with the sugar and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir until well combined. Pour into the lined pan, and press evenly along the bottom and sides – the amounts here make for quite a thin base, but increase the proportions if you want more of a crunch. Bake for around 18-20 minutes until lightly golden and staring to crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

To make the brownies: Increase the oven temperature to 180°C and prepare the brownie layer. As I said, we were lazy and used a mix but just go for your favourite recipe, adding whisky if you fancy. Pour the batter over the crust and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes depending on how gooey you like your brownies.

To make the marshmallow layer: Leave the oven on. Arrange the marshmallows over the top of the part-baked brownies. Continue to bake for 5 or so minutes, until the marshmallows are melted and light brown on top and the brownies are cooked to your liking. If you fancy the more charred marshmallow taste, grill or blowtorch for another minute. Just be careful if blowtorching – a quote from W: “I didn’t notice it was on fire…”

 photo Smores Brownie 13_zps3hwewmjj.jpg photo Smores Brownie 10_zpscwioytzb.jpgThese really are utterly delicious – sweet, sticky and insanely moreish. We’ve pretty much decided that making these will become a little bit of a Bonfire night tradition, as will wrapping them up and taking them with us to watch a local fireworks display. S’mores brownies. I want s’more right now…

What’s your favourite Autumnal treat? Did you celebrate Bonfire Night?

Recipe: My Ultimate Homemade Pizza Base

I love me a pizza. Franco Manca is becoming a date-night favourite when I meet W from his studio, and having The Dynamo a whopping 3 minute walk away is down-right dangerous. The good news? I’ve finally perfected my perfect at-home pizza base. Not only does it taste great, it’s super easy to make, fitting in around our schedule and making homemade pizza all too easy on a work night.

 photo Pizza Dough_zpswwofx8v6.jpgIt does “take a while” but in all honesty there’s hardly any hands-on work. The vast majority of the time involves bunging it in the fridge and forgetting about it – the actual prep you could do in the morning or (if you’re more sleep-inclined) the night before. If you want to me majorly organised then you could even go as far as part-cooking the bases in advance and freezing. Now that’s given me the idea of holding a pizza party…

The slow-rise is essential for creating an almost sourdough-flavoured base. It’s puffed up, slightly crisp on the base, and soft and chewy. This is not your takeaway American-style base, it’s not ‘deep-pan’ and it’s not ‘thin and crispy.’ It’s proper, pillowy, Italian homemade pizza. Maybe not ovely authentic, but it tastes good and fits in with my lifestyle. Basically, it’s a big thumbs up from me. Here I’ve showcased two toppings. One is my Spicy Lamb, perfect for leftover Sunday roast meat. The second is a fresher take on my Black Pudding & Goat’s cheese, using less meat, more cheese and a little courgette to lighten things up. Leaving the black-pudding off and going courgette+cheese (+fresh basil if I have any) is also super good. And my go-to comfort food pizza option? Red pepper pesto and chorizo slices is always a winner!

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 300g strong white bread flour
  • 6g salt
  • 3g dried yeast
  • 200ml water (warm, but not too hot)

 photo Ultimate Homemade Pizza Dough 2_zpstz8qclr6.jpgPut the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, and then pour in 150ml of warm water. Stir the wateruntil a rough ball forms, then bring it together with your hands. The dough will be sticky, and you will get messy and annoyed with it. Sorry!

Knead the dough. I like to alternate between normal kneading and stretching it in the air, over and over again. You should end up with a smooth, not-so-sticky dough after around 10 minutes. Once you get to this (or even before if you feel like your arms are about to fall off, or you need to run and get to work on time) place the into a clean and well-floured bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and throw in the fridge.

After around 10 hours (i.e. when you get in from work), the dough should have doubled in size. Gently press all the air out of the dough using your hands, adding in a little flour if it’s still super-sticky. Split into two, and on a floured work surface press out a section of the dough into a rough circle. I tend to do this by hand rather than use a rolling pin (mainly to save on the washing up) – again I tend to do it up in the air, letting the weight of the dough stretch it out. Lay the dough on a floured surface and then begin to work on the second piece. After this, the first will have had chance to rest, you can stretch it again – you want super-thin sections, but also a thicker ‘crust’ around the edge. Repeat with the second piece.

Heat up a large, dry non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, and then carefully lay in one pizza base at a time. Cook the bases for 2-3 minute per side. Each side of the base should be a pale biege colour, with a few dark brown spots – I cook at a slightly lower temperature for longer just to get the base a little crispier, but if you prefer a stronger “wood-fired” flavour and texture then cook for less over a high heat. Repeat for the other base.

Add on any toppings, and then cook the pizzas for 5-7 minutes in an oven at 220 degrees. I’ve discovered that 1tbsp of creme fraiche mixed with black pepper and a small amount of parmesan makes for a divine topping, but for these black-pudding pizzas I simply spread with goat’s cheese to form a ‘sauce.’ You definitely don’t want the toppings to outshine the base here!

 photo Ultimate Homemade Pizza Dough 1_zpsaecak4qz.jpgAnd that’s is, perfect homemade pizza for two. Multiply up the quantities for more, freeze half of the dough (either shaped and part-cooked or just as it is) or one. And if you’re holding a pizza party? Part-cook, stack with greaseproof and keep in an air-tight container until the evening – then serve with a vast array of toppings. I’m thinking different pestos, meats, veg, maybe even the mac’n’cheese pizza topping I came across recently…

What’s your favourite pizza topping? Are you a fan of homemade pizza?

Recipe: Cheese Scones

As much as I love my mum’s classic scones, there’s something about the cheesy versions I just can’t resist. I like mine warm from the over (or zapped in the microwave), split and spread with an indecent amount of butter. I also enjoy them cold, split and filled with mustard and ham – a take on my favourite sandwich. Just typing this is making me hungry!

 photo Cheese Scones_zpszs4rfcac.png photo Cheese Scones 6_zps7wq1gfba.jpgI’m very definitely a savoury person. Sure, I love a slice of cake or a chocolate bar as much as the next person, but when I’m dreaming of food (more often than I care to admit!) it’s always the savoury options that get my tummy rumbling. A good Ploughman’s lunch, a steaming hot pasty, a plate of Welsh rarebit, I love a good hearty snack. I also can’t resist cheese straws, but perhaps that’s a recipe for another time…

The key with cheese scones is to not overload them with cheese, particularly when sprinkling the tops. Trust me, this is easier said that done! An overly cheesy scone won’t rise as well, so the final result will be a little heavy. Still delicious, but you wouldn’t want more than one – and where’s the fun in that?!

 photo Cheese Scones 2_zpsb6lzxnju.jpgThese cheese scones, made to my mum’s recipe (actually, she baked the photographed ones for our engagement party way back in August), are super cheesy without sacrificing the rise. They are also well-seasoned – I also like mine with a slight kick of spice from mustard and cayenne, though feel free to leave this out for a more classic flavour.

Ingredients

  • 8oz self raising flour
  • pinch each of salt, black pepper, mustard powder and cayenne pepper
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2oz butter
  • 4oz cheese, plus an extra 1oz for topping – a strong mature cheddar works well, but I can’t resist Red Leicester for scones
  • 80-90 ml milk, plus extra for glazing

 photo Cheese Scones 4_zpsevssaiyc.jpgSift together the flour, seasonings and baking powder until thoroughly combined. Cut the butter (make sure it is very cold) into cubes, place in the bowl and then rub in with your fingertips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Grate the cheese into the breadcrumb mixture and rub in until evenly distributed.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in enough milk to give a dough. Do not pour in all the milk at once as you may not need it all to get the right consistency – use a wooden spoon to stir in between additions, stopping just as the dough begins to come together. Chill the dough for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough to approximately 2cm thick on a floured surface. Cut out the scones and then place on a lined tray. Glaze with milk and sprinkle a little cheese on the top of each scone. Bake at 190C for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. If you prefer a crispier top, bake at 200C for crunchy out and soft inner. Serve warm with butter, or cold as the bread-replacement in a sandwich lunch.

 photo Cheese Scones 1_zpsiz8ryjh3.jpgNow I have an idea: a double-scone afternoon tea. A first course of a warm cheese scone, dripping with melted butter. Then a second course of the classic scone with jam and cream. Sounds perfect to me!

Ooh, I just noticed as I scheduled this – it’s exactly two years until our wedding! The almost-ten-months since we got engaged has flown by, so I’m hoping it continues to go as quickly!

Are you a fan of cheese scones?

Recipe: Courgette Risotto

Perhaps a bit late in the year, this post, as the courgette glut tends to happen in late summer, but so damn delicious I couldn’t help share. I can’t believe how behind I am at posting recipes; it seems like I make something, photograph it and then it’s months before it makes it’s debut on the blog. Whoops! I’ll definitely have to try and be prepared for the Christmas themed recipes I have planned…

 photo Courgette Risotto_zps6n6dzibs.pngThis Courgette Risotto, admittedly not the easiest thing to photograph, was born out of desperation for risotto. I’ve talked about my favourite-ever-meal before, mushroom risotto, and how it’s my go-to meal when I’m stressed, ill, tired, need cheering up or just fancy treating myself. I love it. And W hates mushrooms. I’ve tried converting him. I’ve tried sneaking them into things. It’s not worked; he hates the taste, despises the texture and I’ve not made mushroom risotto since moving out of uni in June. I was craving it so much in my first week of work I spent an hour researching different risotto recipes and proposed this one. Admittedly it was quite a bit of work for an after-dinner meal, and on one of the hottest days of the year I was certainly sweating over the hot stove, but it was delicious.

I was worried it was going to be a bit bland, but actually the gentler, subtle flavours really worked well together to create a rather tasty dinner. The mix of textures was spot-on, the seasoning just right and I felt it was quite possibly the perfect risotto consistency. Calorific, yes, but well worth it. Oh, and it can easily be made veggie by using veggie stock and checking the label on your cheeses.

 photo Courgette Risotto 1_zpswfg13ri5.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 50g butter, split in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, again split in half
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150g arborio rice
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • Handful fresh basil
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons mascapone

First, prep the veg. Finely dice the onion and celery, finely chop the garlic. Coarsely grate 1 whole courgette, and around half of the other. Chop the remaining courgette into 1cm chunks. Melt half the butter in a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, then sweat the onion and celery until softened. Make up the chicken stock and add the basil – this infuses it and adds a delicate herby taste.

Turn the heat up and add the garlic, grated courgette and rice. Fry, stirring constantly, for one minute then add the lemon juice (and a splash of white wine if there’s a bottle open). Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add a ladleful of stock. Again, stir until absorbed (or at least every minute or so), adding ladlefuls gradually, until the rice is soft and creamy. I found it took around 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir through the Parmesan and macapone along with plenty of black pepper. Cover with a lid, off the heat, for around five minutes.

Whilst you wait, heat the remaining oil/butter over a high heat and add the diced courgette. Fry until slightly softened and golden. Vigorously beat the risotto and divide into warm bowls, and scatter over the fried courgette. Drizzle over some buttery pan juices, then enjoy with a crisp green salad (watercress and rocket works particularly well).

 photo Courgette Risotto 2_zpslzqwzso4.jpgWe both really enjoyed this risotto, the light flavours worked perfectly and it really showcased how delicious courgette can be. I know I love this vegetable, but a lot of people (other than trendy courgetti) don’t really know how to use it. I’ll definitely be making this again – and I’m a lot more open to experimenting with other risotto flavours now. I’m thinking a rather Autumnal butternut squash and sage version next…

Are you a fan of risotto?

University: Simple Student Meals with McCain

It’s finally here, the time everyone has been waiting for – the start of the university year. Whether you’re coming to uni for the first time or just moving out of halls and into your first student flat with all your mates, chances are there are going to be some quite important ice-breaker meals just around the corner. Whether you’re swapping stories of crazy summer holidays, soul-finding treks in Vietnam or long work-days saving up for Freshers Week, it’s important to have some serious nosh to keep the energy up.

 photo Simple Student Meals_zps7fsknddw.jpg

Remember, student life is all about working out your own way of doing things, and finding little life hacks that make your experience all the more smooth. The first tip for you: impressive food doesn’t have to have a hefty price tag or overly complicated preparation.

Avocado Fries – avocado is all the rage, and you’ll find tonnes of your fellow students are buying up all the stocks in the local supermarkets, but there’s more than one way to enjoy this versatile little fruit. Click here to discover the secret to avocado perfection – the humble McCain oven chip. Coat them in avocado blend and cover with breadcrumbs. Fry them up and you’ve got a delicious avocado-based snack food, with a zing of spice at its core.

 photo potato-wedges-843311_1920_zpsi2uqqlqi.jpgGarlic & Herb Wedges – probably the simplest dish on this list. Start by slicing up some potato into wedges and spreading on a baking tray, then finely chop garlic and mix with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Sprinkle this generously over your chips before seasoning with thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes and you’ll have the perfect starter sorted.

Poutine – if you really want to impress your housemates, why not embrace the Canadian way of life by cooking up some Poutine. Poutine is essentially cheese curd melted over fries then soaked in gravy – Bisto Granules are a great way to make delicious gravy in a flash. It’s a taste sensation, and you’ll be able to introduce it to all your friends too.

Nacho Chips – a great party food that’s easy to make, this dish is basically the same concept as cheese and salsa nachos but with chips instead. Simply melt grated cheese over a plate of wedges before covering in a home-made salsa of chopped tomatoes, chillies, red onion, garlic and lime juice. The result: a more filling alternative to nachos that’ll tide you over during even the heaviest Freshers night out.

 photo fried-eggs-456351_1920_zpsxum3qrrj.jpgBreakfast Fry Up – there’s nothing quite like a fry-up to get you over the long nights out. Everyone will have their own way of doing it, but yours will truly stick in their memories. This fry-up begins with a bed of hot, buttered toast which is then followed by two fried eggs. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, chili flakes and fresh basil and you’ve got yourself the ultimate hangover breakfast. A pot of beans on the side for dipping wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Some of this food sounds delicious – I’m so intrigued by the Avocado Fries, and of course you can’t beat a good fry-up (minus the beans of course, damn you allergy!). I have to admit that as a MASSIVE lover of chips’n’gravy, poutine is something I’ve always been meaning to make. I guess I’ve got no excuse now!

*Collaborative post. All opinions my own as always!

What’s your favourite super-simple meal? I have to admit I’m a fan of a crisp sandwich (smoky bacon, or salt’n’vinegar on buttered white bread) when I’m really craving quick comfort food!

Recipe: Black Pudding & Goats Cheese Pizza

Being allergic to tomatoes means finding pizza recipes can be a bit of a trial, all too often white pizzas can be a bit heavy, overly cheese or (particularly if pesto is used) way too greasy. Franco Manca has satisifed my craving for a fresh, lighter, summery topping, but I wanted something a bit more ‘dirty’, something that wouldn’t make me feel left out when eating next to my sister’s double pepperoni.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 6_zpsuxsgkjtd.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 5_zps16hlavsa.jpgAnd this is it. This, guys, is my new favourite pizza. It’s meaty, it’s carby, it tastes properly bad for you. It’s exactly what a pizza should be. Made on a proper base (none of the faffing around with cauliflower!) it is the perfect pizza for sitting in front of a movie – we first made this whilst attempting to watch all the Harry Potters in a weekend. We failed, but had fun trying! It also goes really, really well with a good side salad. Crispy leaves, fresh spinach, crunch red chicory, these all cut through the richness well. The chicory was a bit of a revelation for me, actually, now I can’t get enough of the stuff. It seems to make my salads just a little more autumnal, something I’m loving right now. I’m still torn between lighter summery food, and bowls of comforting stodge. Give me a few weeks and I’ll be addicted to stew and dumplings again…

Back to the pizza! Yes, it’s rich, but not overwelmingly so. Using creme fraiche as a base keeps it fresh, and the black pudding has just the right level of crispiness to give it an extra texture. Mozzarella gives it a classic ‘pizza’ feel whilst goats cheese adds both tang and compliments the ‘funkiness’ of the black pudding. It’s meaty, slightly spicy, cheesy, indulgent. Delicious.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 2_zpsebhrfq6g.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 3_zps23m1corj.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 2 large pizza bases
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and slice in half
  • 2 large tablespoons of creme fraiche
  • 1 pinch each black pepper and dried thyme
  • 2 handfuls grated mozzarella
  • 50g black pudding, skin removed and sliced
  • 100g soft goats cheese

Rub the pizza base with the cut side of the garlic. In a small bowl, mix the creme fraiche with the pepper and thyme – add a tiny bit of olive oil to loosen if you like. Spread over the base. Scatter over the mozzerella, crumble over the black pudding (try to get the pieces small – it helps them get crispy, and slightly burnt black pudding is heavenly), dollop over small spoons of the goats cheese. Pop into a very hot (220C minimum) oven for around 10 minutes, then slice and devour. W recommends topping with chicory just after baking if you don’t fancy a full salad.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 1_zpsnq2hdkre.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 4_zpsv7okd4jo.jpgWe ‘cheated’ here and used good quality ready-made bases. Mainly because we didn’t want to disturb our movie time, but also because I tend to make my homemade bases more soft and sourdough-y and I’m not too sure that would work as well here. The crisp crunch is definitely needed! However I do have another pizza recipe coming your way soon, with my perfected base and a lighter veggie topping – so pizza fans keep your eyes peeled!

Are you a pizza lover? What’s your favourite topping? I used to love a good pepperoni before my tomato allergy took hold! Ever had a white pizza?

Recipe: Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

What do you cook when you’re fed up of salads, still want something light, and it’s too warm to bear several pans boiling on the hob? These are certainly a good suggestion!

 photo Sweetcorn Pancakes_zpsmrt4uypq.jpgGetting fed up with the usual carby-sides of potatoes, wanting something a little lighter than rice and pasta, we thought up these whilst wanting something to go with some Bacon & Maple Syrup Sausages from Tesco (which, FYI, were yum!). I’d made a few fritter-type things before (Courgette & Feta being my favourite) but for these we spiced things up a bit. Sweetcorn can be, well, sweet and the spices help to counteract this.

Super quick to make, needing only one bowl and one pan, these seem bound to become a favourite with us. The perfect mix of spicy and sweet, these sweetcorn pancakes felt light and healthy, but were substantial enough to satisfy even W. A slightly long ingredients list, but things we always have in the cupboard, I’m planning on trying a brunch recipe using these very soon!

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 4_zps0s9uyi2b.jpgIngredients for Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

  • 150g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder – or 1 small red chill, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 350g/1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil

Pop the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl. Add the egg, lemon juice and 125ml of water, before beating to a smooth pancake-style batter. Add the corn and spring onion; stir to combine. Heat the oil in a frying pan and spoon in 2 heaped tbsp of the mixture for each fritter. Flatten slightly and cook for around 2 minutes each side until golden, cooked through and slightly crispy. Keep the pancakes warm in the oven whilst repeating with the remaining mixture.

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 8_zpscbhcvl8h.jpg photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 9_zpsif2nynuo.jpgThese sweetcorn pancakes were definitely lighter than some of our usual sides, and went perfectly with the sausages. I can imagine them being lovely alongside chicken (especially Southern Fried), but also delicious served on their own with a poached egg. The combination of spices gave them a great kick, though next time I’d definitely think about adding some fresh herbs for a bit of green – and I’d definitely fry them for longer/over a higher heat so they are a bit crispier. Other than that, they were yum!

What’s your favourite carby side dish?