Cooking How To: Eggs

I thought I’d start up a new little recipe series, based on simple how-to’s, basic cookery bits that will built up a beginners repertoire and hopefully allow they to feel more confident in the kitchen.

 photo How to Cook Eggs_zpspdyuqzck.jpgThe inspiration for this series? I’ve finally, finally managed to learn how to boil an egg. It’s taken a long time. My mum makes the best dippy eggs and soliders, and I crave them when I’m away from home. It’s the first thing I ask for when I get back and she’s tried teaching me countless times. It doesn’t matter if I follow her instructions to the letter, my eggs are always over-done or hardly done at all. I’ve tried numerous methods from the internet, wasted far too many eggs. Every weekend I’ve not seen W since July has seen at least one attempt at boiling an egg. And now I’ve managed it. I finally feel like a cook!

But equally, I’ve also discovered what pretty much amounts to an adoration for eggs. Whilst they haven’t quite replaced porridge of overnight oats as my go-to breakfast, I’ve instead turned to them for lunch. When I’m in the house at midday there’s nothing I like more than a hearty but healthy lunch and eggs are perfect for this. And for the essential weekend brunch of course…

So, here’s my ‘how to’ on eggs, all kinds of ways.
 photo How to Cook Eggs 4_zpspizdt17c.jpg photo How to Cook Eggs 3_zpspbdtg4sf.jpg

Boiled Egg

The classic, and the one that took me SO long to learn how to do. It’s embarrassing really! I tried to learn how to boil an egg a few times in my early teens, but it was never quite as good as mum’s so I just gave up. I’ve now picked up a method that’s a little odd, but it really works and does give me perfect eggs anytime.

Pour a small amount of water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil – you want barely half an inch depth. Once boiling well add your egg and immediately place the lid on the pan. Cook for 6 minutes for a room temperature egg, adding another 30 seconds if it’s been in the fridge – I use medium eggs so increase/decrease timings slightly if you have different sizes. Remove from the water and run briefly under a cold tap to stop the cooking, then slice of the top and get dunking your soldiers!
 photo How to Cook Eggs 8_zpsx7do6sfr.jpg

Poached Egg

This is probably my favourite way to have an egg at the moment. It feels a bit more special than boiled eggs, but doesn’t involve burning my fingers trying to crack the top off. It’s slightly quicker, easier to serve with anything other than toast, and has just the right combination of oozy yolk and barely set white.

I do cheat a little and use the cling-film method – but it works! Bring a small pan of water to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Meanwhile line a small ramekin with clingfilm, and smear with a little oil. Add seasoning if you like (I occasionally like to add some chilli for a spicy twist). Crack in an egg, then seal by twisting two ends together and folding over the middle. Lower into the simmering water, then cook for 3-4 minutes (I go for the lower end of this as I like a justtttt cooked egg). Lift out, gently remove from the film and serve. Make sure you instagram that #yolkporn

Oh – and my perfect Boxing Day brunch was discovered this year. Bubble & Squeak (leftover mash and sprouts fried with bacon), ham and a poached egg. Delicious!
 photo 2016-01-13 13.41.20_zpsa5friw1u.jpg

Scrambled Egg

I adore scrambled eggs. However I’m also very fussy about mine. I like them softly cooked, barely set, buttery, a tiny grinding of pepper and plenty of salt. I also hate them being place on the toast (nothing worse than soggy toast!).

Simply melt a knob of butter in a small pan until foaming. Meanwhile crack two eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk together, along with 1-2tbsp milk (or cream – my treat whenever there’s a little in the fridge) and salt/pepper. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat the base, then tip in the eggs. Immediately turn down the heat to low. Using a rubber spatula, carefully stir the eggs every ten seconds, giving them time to start setting before each stir. Continue cooking until they are set to your liking – I know some people like a firmer set to their scrambled eggs, whereas I pull mine off the heat whilst still a little liquidy!
 photo How to Cook Eggs 2_zpsoddvsxjs.jpg

Baked Egg

Sometime that took a little bit of time to get right, but these are so worth it. They feel so much more luxurious than any of the other egg-based options, but are probably the least hands-on way of cooking.

Crack one (or two!) eggs into a small buttered ramekin, topping with salt, pepper, 1tbsp of cream and a teeny bit of grated parmesan. Put the ramekin baking dish, and pour boiling water into the larger dish until it comes to 2/3 of the height of the ramekin. Back at 180C for 12-15 minutes, or until the eggs are set to your liking. Enjoy with plenty of butter toast.
 photo 2015-12-21 10.23.09_zpsimngzv0p.jpg

Fried Egg

I have to admit, I hate frying eggs and if possible it’s something I’ll always get W to do for me (along with grating cheese – possibly the worst kitchen job in existence!). I hate how fried eggs tend to ‘bang and spit,’ it always makes me nervous. That said there’s nothing better than a plate of fried eggs and bacon, and I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of a fried egg sandwich too. 3 rashers of streaky bacon, two lightly toasted slices of ‘plastic’ white bread, a gooey fried egg, all sandwiches together is a piece of handheld heaven.

So, for a perfect fried egg simply get a (lightly oiled) pan nice and hot. Crack in your egg, turn the heat to medium and crack over a little pepper. Then simply leave on the heat until the white is set. I don’t bother with basting the top with fat or trying to get a crispy base, I’m happy with a simple fried egg. As long as it’s got a runny yolk I’m happy!

Carbonara

Ah, my favourite meal. I’ve honed my recipe over several years and I’ve pretty much got it spot on now. It’s my go-to when I’m having a ‘poor’ week as I always have the ingredients in, it’s perfect for nights when I’m short of time,and it’s easily adapted to be a little healthier too.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add your pasta and cook for 9 minutes. Meanwhile dice one rasher of bacon and fry in a little butter until crisp. In a small bowl, finely grate 30g parmesan, 20g cheddar. Crack in an egg and whisk together. After about 7 minutes boiling, stir the pasta and then add around 3 tablespoons of the pasta water to the egg mix, beating well with a fork after each addition. This should partially melt the cheese and stabilise the egg a little. Once cooked, drain the pasta then add to the bacon. Toss together and turn the heat off. Add a little of the egg mixture, toss together, add a bit more, stir well, then add the rest – if it starts to scramble hold off adding any more for thirty or so seconds. Once all the egg is added stir well until thickened, putting back on a low heat if necessary.

 photo How to Cook Eggs 6_zpssa8rbzdj.jpgAnd that’s it – my perfect, simple carbonara recipe, as well as other super-easy ways to cook eggs.

How do you like your eggs, in the morning or otherwise? What other ‘how-to’ guides would you like to see?

Recipe: Mango, Lime & Chilli Ice Lollies

One thing I love is curling up in the evenings, with a good book or girly chick-flick on the TV, tucking into a bowl of ice-cream. I can’t resist (half price!) Ben & Jerry’s, I have a major softspot for Peanut Butter Cup. But ice-cream doesn’t like me.

 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 3_zpspkydk4oe.jpgFor one, I’m slightly lacto-intolerant. Whilst previously I could avoid milk and indulge every now and then, it does seem to be getting slightly worse. My occasional bowl of ice-cream is now closely followed by a few days of bad skin, and my stomach certainly doesn’t thank for me it. Thankfully I’ve come up with a few delicious alternatives that don’t leave me spotty AND are healthy enough to enjoy a couple of times a week. The first is these ice-lollies.

Sweet, refreshing and slightly spicy, these Mango, Lime and Chilli ice-lollies are perfect to stash in your freezer. Quick and easy to make, and completely delicious – my kind of recipe!

 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 2_zps1c2wvjtt.jpgIngredients (fills 6 standard lolly moulds):

  • 4 ripe mangoes
  • Half red chilli, very finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • A tiny bit of sugar to taste (I didn’t include this as my mangoes were super ripe and sweet)

Peel and chop the mangoes, then tip into a blender. Whizz until completely smooth, then pass through a sieve into a large jug. Stir through the chilli and lime zest/juice and taste to decide whether it needs any sugar. Pour into the lolly moulds and freeze until solid.

Perfect as a ice-cream alternative, and these also add in a bit of sunshine to a cold January evening. Though seeing as W got the Kitchen-Aid ice-cream attachment for his birthday I may just have to play around with some dairy-free ice-cream recipes soon…
 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 1_zpsbvnkqlg5.jpg

Have you even made your own ice lollies? What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour!

Recipe: Roast Lamb & The Ultimate Shepherd’s Pie

Following on from my basic Roast Chicken and favourite Brisket, another roast me and W conquered over the summer is lamb. Probably the most expensive we cooked portion-wise, it was a bit of a splurge but all the more delicious for it. At about £7 for a half a shoulder, this did us two eat-until-we’re-stuffed meals. As both of the dishes were quite heavy and warming I’ve waited until now to share them – they are perfect comfort food for this time of year!

 photo Ultimate Shepherds Pie_zpswhqd0t1r.jpgThe roast lamb is tender, melt-in-the-mouth and perfectly flavoured – meaty but with a decent herby kick too. However I think the real star here is the Shepherd’s Pie. Inspired by Jamie’s recipe (as always!) it is an indulgent version of one of my childhood favourites. Seriously, why did I never think to line the dish with potato all the way round?! Coupled with cheese and breadcrumbs this makes for a crunchy casing surrounding an intense filling. Worth the stressful few hours in the kitchen to make, though I would perhaps avoid doing so in the summer heat again…

All quantities below serve two; two for a greedy roast, two for a comforting pie. I reckon this would be pretty easy to scale up though!

 photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 3_zpsltrgyicu.jpg photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 4_zpsmcceoy4o.jpg

 photo Shepherds Pie_zpsqamc1len.jpg

Ingredients (Roast Lamb)

  • 1 half lamb shoulder
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • Lamb stock (1 litre)
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour

Ingredients (Shepherds Pie)

  • Potatoes (I do around 250g unpeeled each)
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 slice bread, whizzed into crumbs
  • 75g coarsely grated cheddar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

Drizzle the lamb with a little oil, season with salt and pepper, and rub to coat. Tear over some fresh rosemary, then place in a roasting tin on top of the onions. Add a splash of water to the tray, loosely cover with greaseproof paper, and roast at 170C for two-three hours, removing the cover for the final 45 minutes. The lamb should be very tender, almost falling off the bone.

Make your gravy by removing the lamb and keeping warm. Spoon off any excess fat from the pan, then place on the hob over a medium heat. Add two tablespoons of flour and fry, stirring constantly, for two minutes before gradually adding the stock. Strain through a sieve, making sure to save a good amount for the pie.

 photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 1_zpsx0ffadxs.jpg photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 2_zps50sulq1m.jpgAfter eating the roast, roughly chop any leftover meat, and chill or freezer along with the leftover gravy. On pie day, fry the vegetables in oil (or any reserved lamb fat) until soft and golden. Add the lamb, half of the gravy and a little rosemary and simmer until you have a thick stew like consistency. Meanwhile peel and boil potatoes, before mashing and leaving to cool.

Assemble the pie by brushing the dish with a little oil. Lightly coat with breadcrumbs, sprinkle over a little cheese, then press half of the potato around the dish to form the sides and base. Spoon in the meat-veg filling, top with the remaining mash, cheese and breadcrumbs, then bake at 180C for 1 hour, until golden and crisp. Enjoy with the leftover gravy.

 photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 5_zpsr7c7bfzf.jpg photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 7_zpsdtlytllf.jpgWhilst definitely a bit of a splurge, I do love lamb – I only wish I could have it more often. Whilst it took quite a bit of time, the pie was a great way to stretch the leftovers a bit further whilst still being really indulgent, perfect really!

What’s your favourite roast meat? Have you made anything really delicious with your leftovers?

Recipe: Chocolate Malteaser Fridge Cake

Baking is something that’s taken a bit of a backseat at the moment. With plenty of ‘exams disguised as coursework’ to prep for, job applications and trying to enjoy final year, finding time to cook myself dinner can sometimes be difficult. To bake something is pretty much impossible right now – so to find a recipe like this that requires virtually no prep, no baking, and hardly any washing up? A dream, especially when the results are so yummy.

 photo Malteaser Fridge Cake4_zps5jjwpzft.jpg photo Malteaser Fridge Cake2_zpsiaom8f16.jpgThis is perfect for afternoons where I want a five minute break from studying mortality models and predicting future lifetime (yep, seriously). It gives me those few minutes to concentrate on something else and fill the house with the delicious smell of melting chocolate, then something yummy to nibble on in the evening. It’s also perfect as a little gift – handy for forgetful moments next week! Oh, and it’s super simple too…

Ingredients (fills an individual lasagna sized tin);

  • 150g chocolate (I use the cheap 30p chocolate)
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g digestive biscuits (I use ASDA Smartprice half-covereds)
  • 2-3 treat-sized bags of Maltesers

Crush the biscuits – either pop into a plastic bag and whack with a rolling pin, or cheat like me and whizz in a food processor. Crush up a bag or two of Malteasers with the biscuits too. Throw the butter, chocolate and golden syrup into a pan and heat over a low heat – stir continuously until melted and smooth.

Tip in the biscuit crumbs, stir well and tip into a tin lined with greaseproof paper. Push extra whole malteasers into the top to decorate, then pop in the fridge until set. Slices into small squares – perfect with a cuppa or a glass of cold milk! Told you this malteaser fridge cake recipe was easy!
 photo Malteaser Fridge Cake3_zps6vc9xim8.jpg

Have you done any baking lately? What’s your favourite quick recipe?

Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

This is one of my absolute favourite meals. I’m sure I say that about lots of recipes, but this is my go-to if I’m stressed, my go-to if it’s a miserable day. It’s not the quickest so if I haven’t got much time I’d revert to a carbonara, but it still takes under an hour. It needs more attention that other meals I make, but the stirring calms me down. If you find me cooking a mushroom risotto, it’s often a sign something is wrong.

 photo IMG_4851_zpsnnf86rcl.jpg photo IMG_4850_zpsduvukhqw.jpgNot the healthiest of meals I try to avoid eating it too often – and when I do it’s a small portion bolstered with a good side salad. It’s carb-heavy with plenty of calories coming from the parmesan – of which I like lots. If you’re not such a fan you can easily cut down on the amount. I’ve found good stock isn’t too necessary in a mushroom risotto (cheap cubes are fine) as long as you don’t add extra salt. Just enjoy a slightly naughty meal every once in a while – it’s my go-to for a night on my own (W hates mushrooms), girly film, glass of wine. A bowl of risotto is perfect to curl up with in pyjamas.

 photo 2015-04-29 18.43.15_zps8kalqtmf.jpgIt’s also pretty budget friendly – perhaps surprisingly! I find that it doesn’t really matter too much if you use cheaper mushrooms, the rice isn’t that pricey, and I always have stock, onions and garlic around. Even parmesan isn’t essential – a strong mature cheddar is just as good. I tend to buy ‘pricer’ mushrooms on “whoops” offers and freeze them sliced, otherwise I stick to standard button mushrooms. I have a small tub of dried porcini ones for added flavour; initially I thought they were a little out of budget, but a tub has lasted me a good 18 months so far! Either way, it’s still cheaper than my other go-to treat meals of steak, duck etc!

It’s a great way of using up leftover roast chicken or turkey (hello turkey season!), it makes a fab change from more traditional comfort food, and it can easily be made veggie for a festive main course – basically having a risotto recipe under your belt for the festive season is pretty much essential.

Ingredients, for one greedy Chloe…

  • 100-150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 pieces of dried porcini, broken into small bits
  • 1 chicken stock cube (a risotto is not the place for cheap stock cubes, I find Knorr* have a great flavour without being overly salty)
  • 40g butter, split into three – 20g, 10g, 10g roughly!
  • 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 70g risotto rice (alborio is the variety I tend to go for)
  • A good handful of finely grated strong cheese

Melt 10g of butter in a medium saucepan (preferably one with a lid), and add the mushrooms. Fry over a high heat until golden – this may take a while if using mushrooms you have frozen. If lots of liquid is produced drain off but don’t chuck it away! Place your mushrooms in a bowl.

Melt the 20g butter in the same pan, and gently fry your onions until soft and golden, adding the garlic for the last few minutes. Meanwhile add your porcini bits to a jug with the stock cube and 250ml boiling water. Stir to dissolve the cube, and keep the jug warm.

 photo 2015-04-29 19.13.08_zpsapyi6rgx.jpg photo 2015-04-29 19.18.03_zpsh3gfbzrz.jpgTurn the heat up and add the risotto rice to the onions, stirring constantly until coated in butter. Now add a little stock and stir until absorbed. Keep adding the stock in smaller amounts, stirring as you go – I find that the lower I keep the heat and the more I stir the tastier the risotto. However I have found that I don’t need to stir constantly; I just stir after adding the stock, leave it on a low heat, and come back and vigorously stir after five or so minutes before adding the next lot of stock.

Once you’ve used up all the stock, add back in the mushrooms and any juices. Stir until heated through, then taste. Adjust seasoning, and keep cooking with a little water if the rice is still too crunchy. Then add 10g butter and half the cheese, don’t stir, turn the heat off and pop the lid on. Leave for five minutes, then stir madly to incorporate – this gives the most amazing texture. Serve with extra cheese, snuggle up and enjoy.

 photo IMG_4847_zpsdfbagw0m.jpg photo IMG_4843_zpstws9mmio.jpgThis really is one of my all-time favourite meals. It’s ideal for making whilst revising as concentrating on the stirring and stock additions turn out to be quite relaxing, and a bowl of risotto is my idea of the perfect comfort food. Just delicious!

Disclaimer: I was gifted some Knorr stock to use in a recipe, however as always all opinions are my own.

Are you a fan of risotto? What’s your favourite comfort food?

Recipe: Homemade Bagels

I’ve finally had time to get this post live! In my defence I have been tinkering with the recipe slightly, trying to work out the least-work method, making sure the ingredient ratio is exactly right. And I think I’ve finally cracked it!

 photo Homemade Bagels_zpsxrnvoguz.jpg photo Homemade Bagels 11_zps3alvzytf.jpgThis bagel recipe is slightly crusty, very chewy, flavoursome and just damn yummy. These are great for throwing in your freezer for university lunches, toasting and topped with peanut butter for a quick breakfast, or made into a warm melty sandwich. I like mine with pastrami and mustard when I’m feeling more spendy, but they are fab with ham or even cheap chorizo.

It’s super easy too – I’d have never considered making my own bagels until I was that bored over summer, but now they’re my bread of choice. This recipe makes 8 good sized bagels – with minimal effort and very little washing up. The recipe is based on both James Morton’s and from Waitrose magazine – but doesn’t really follow either. I’ve reduced the salt, made the proving time as lazy as possible and developed my own hashed-up way of shaping them.

 photo Homemade Bagels 8_zpsnlqqtte1.jpgIngredients

  • 500g plain bread flour
  • 7g yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey (+1tbsp for boiling)
  • 250ml water (I use 100ml boiling, and the rest cold to make it hand-hot)

Tip the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt to one end, the yeast to the other, and rub into the flour. Mix 1 teaspoon of honey into the warm water. Make a well into the centre of the flour and add the water, then use your hand to bring it all together – the dough should be a lot drier than normal bread dough, but add a small amount of extra water if it isn’t combining.

Lightly flour a work surface and tip out the dough. Knead vigorously (it’s a real workout!) for ten or so minutes. At first the dough should be dry and break easily, but it should become a little stretchier and more flexible. Pop back in the bowl, cover with cling-film and either leave on the side for an hour or two, or pop in the fridge for 6-8 hours. Or leave it on the side, forget, realise you have to go out and shove in the fridge until the next morning – it’s a really forgiving dough unlike normal bread!

After proving the dough should have risen. Press it down to remove the air, then divide into 8 equal parts. One at a time, roll into a sausage, then shape – I like to overlap the ends, then roll them together to seal. Place on an oiled sheet of greaseproof paper, repeat with the remaining dough, cover with clingfilm and leave for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C and heat a large pan of water to boiling point. Swirl a tablespoon of honey into the water. Then drop a bagel into the water, wait until it floats then add another – I can get four into a pan at once. Boil for 30 seconds, flip and boil for another 30 seconds. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon, draining off as much water as possible. Repeat until all bagels are boiled, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden then cool on a wire wrack (this prevent it going soggy).

 photo Homemade Bagels 6_zpsjal9qkp4.jpg photo Homemade Bagels 5_zpswdad59qk.jpgThey might not look perfect on your first try (mine all liked to come undone and look a little croissant like!), but they will definitely taste yummy. Annoyingly these photos were taken of my second batch and I reckon they’ve improved greatly since – my latest batch had a lovely shiny texture and were pretty much perfectly evenly sized (take that Mary Berry!).

 photo Homemade Bagels 9_zps1ydqq9oy.jpgMaking my own bagels is the perfect way to take out some of my frustration on dough, it’s a cheap way of getting my bagel fix, and they are great thrown in the freezer for lunchboxes. Yum yum!

Have you ever made your own bagels? Do you make your own bread? What do you like on your bagel?

 

Recipe: Banana Nutella Mug Cake

There are few better combinations than banana and nutella – agreed? There have been occasions where my evening treat has simply been a slice of banana, which I have sat spreading with nutella… #sorrynotsorry

 photo Banana Nutella Mug Cake 2_zpsf6bn5wsg.jpgThis is the slightly more sophisticated version.

I say slightly; there’s not a huge amount of sophistication to be got from eating microwave cake out of a mug. This is the kind of recipe that you make and take straight to the sofa, curl up under a blanket and eat whilst reading a good book. And that, my friends, is my ideal student lifestyle right there…

I’ve played about with the recipe to make it not-taste of egg, not be too sweet, not too cakey (it’s very close to traditional banana bread in texture). It’s pretty much ideal for me, but for a less gooey cake just add a little more flour. The sponge is light but still gooey, sweet with banana but not so sweet that you don’t get the hit of nutella. Because nutella.

 photo Banana Nutella Mug Cake_zpsvjjzooeu.png

 photo Banana Nutella Mug Cake 3_zpsvw5djzfu.jpgIngredients

  • 1 small banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3 tablespoon flour (self raising – or use plain and add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or any other oil – don’t use a strongly flavoured cooking oil!), melted if solid
  • 1-2 teaspoons of nutella

Mash up your banana, then add to a big mug. Beat in the egg and the milk. Stir in the rest of the rest of the ingredients (except the nutella) until it is all combined.

Take your nutella and try and spoon it into the centre of the mix – if it stays on the top it might burn. Microwave on medium powder for around 1 minute – until risen and gooey. Make sure you put a plate underneath as it will probably overflow!

 photo Banana Nutella Mug Cake 1_zpsyxq5pjv3.jpgCook for a few minutes before enjoying. Adding extra nutella if you are greedy like me…

Have you ever made a mug cake before?

PS: I’m working on a recipe for microwave mug Mac’n’Cheese. Watch this space! 

Recipe: Homemade Pesto

Pesto is one of the things I’ve poo-poo-ed about making at home. Such a faff, a bit expensive, and the jarred stuff is perfectly fine. Well the jarred stuff WAS perfectly fine until I made my own. Now I can’t touch the stuff. Homemade is so much fresher, so much more fragrant, and I can adapt it – I like mine chunkier and less oily, heavy on the garlic and slightly less cheese.

 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 9_zpsbjfcpckm.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 1_zpsmdsxkrfj.jpgI love the fact that it’s super simple to make in bulk, and not exactly expensive – I often only buy fresh herbs when they are reduced, then will quickly whizz up a batch of pesto for the freezer. It’s adaptable to what you what too. No pinenuts? Just any kind of nut you have! No herbs? Try kale pesto. No parmesan? A punchy hard cheddar will do!

 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 7_zpsbswpjwom.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 6_zps2a9pn7km.jpgRoasted red pepper pesto is my ultimate favourite, simply because it tastes as close to tomatoes as possible without actually containing them. I have a constant supply of a jar from Waitrose, but making my own has been a revelation – so much fresher, and as it’s got less oil it makes for a perfect crisp pizza.

Green pesto is just as delicious, and super lovely tossed through fresh pasta. I love it cold for lunch – and one of my ultimate comfort food dinners is a pasta bake made with chicken and a creamy pesto. Just yum!
 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 5_zpsc0qloj80.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 8_zpsxiez5qm0.jpg

Roasted Pepper Pesto

Start by roasted off your peppers – whack the oven up as far as it will go, quarter and deseed the peppers and place skinside up in a tin. Roast for 10-20 minutes until blackened, then tip into a bowl and cover with cling-film until cool. Then just slip the skins off – as they have steamed whilst cooking it should be a pretty easy job.

Grab a frying pan and toast your nuts on a high heat (no oil) until beginning to turn golden. Add to a food processor along with a clove or two of garlic, your peppers and a good handful of cheese. Blitz until you have your preferred consistency, then use how you fancy. I love this as a pizza sauce, but it’s perfect tossed through pasta for a quick lunch.
 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 2_zpsgmruepot.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 4_zpspfju3ohp.jpg

Classic Basil Pesto

The classic one this! Toast your pinenuts on a high heat, dry pan, then blitz with a handful of basic, cheese and a little garlic. Loosen with a teeny bit of olive oil if you want. I’d suggest freezing the classic pesto if you aren’t going to use it within twenty-four hours as I find the basil can go a little bitter – probably the issue with the jarred stuff!

I’m now craving a more summery meal of pasta tossed with fresh pesto, enjoyed in the evening sunshine. I have a feeling it will be a long time before I get to experience that again!

Have your ever made your own pesto? What’s your favourite pasta sauce?

Food: #WhatAStudentEats

Back in the beginnings of this blog I used to do a weekly round-up of what I’d been eating. The idea of this bores me now, mainly as it would involve photographing every single meal (and admitting the size of the pie slice I ate last Saturday…). Instead I now post interesting meals on Instagram, aiming to use what I’m claiming as ‘my’ hashtag #whatastudenteats.

 photo Eating Lately_zpsqlrmfan6.jpgAnd of course, there will be an occasional round-up of food on here too, as I just like my food that much.

And I eat a lot of food.

What can I say, I’m greedy!

The last few months have seen my diet get a lot more varied. I’ve gotten more into salads (though now it’s getting colder my allegiance is switching back to soups!). I’ve played around with more Mexican flavours, enjoyed Asian dishes and finally started cooking proper roast dinners.

So, highlights in the past few months of meals?

 photo 2015-09-17 20.25.50_zpslvndzerp.jpg photo 2015-09-17 20.27.40_zps9esnhnre.jpgFajitas. These are one of mine and W’s favourite meals – quick, easy, and not actually too bad for you. Plus minimal washing up! I buy the jar of Schartz fajita seasoning and just shake that into the pan which works out cheaper than buying box-kits and sachets. Yum yum!

 photo 2015-08-14 19.47.23_zpsmlc80ouj.jpgScampi! A pub classic and a favourite of mine, I was sent some vouchers for Whitby Seafoods Scampi*. Unfortunately I couldn’t try their spicy version (damn tomato powder!) but their classic was lovely. More expensive that I would usually buy, but far, far superior. To the point that I now can’t eat the cheapest scampi available. Served with oven chips and peas this is a super-fast dinner – it was perfect when I was working in Surrey and commuting back to London as I didn’t need to think about it.

 photo Clean Eating Challenge6_zpswpgkj2mz.jpgQuesadillas. These resulted from our week of Mindful Eating, and we’ve made the recipe several times since. I’m planning on making a cheaper version too to blog about, as at the moment it’s slightly too pricey for me to make it a regular dinner…

Pitta Pizzas. A lover of pizza, I’m not great at portion control. Having to make my own pizza (with a sauce W doesn’t enjoy) often means I end up eating a whole pizza in one sitting. Making them out of pittas is perfect as it satisfies a craving, it’s cheap and I’m not overeating. Perfect – though not so good before a night out. That’s a case of big pizza only!

 photo 2015-10-09 19.05.47_zpskzdqwmdd.jpg photo 2015-10-09 19.22.52_zpsdpbdxdtf.jpgPasta. Pasta is a staple for me, though I’m trying desperately to only eat it once a week – I don’t want to go back to this time last year when I lived off Mac’n’Cheese! Carbonara is very much my go-to pasta meal (I made the most delicious one with sausage balls and mushrooms last week), however I was recently sent some goodies from Giovanni Rani to try. Their Chicken & Mozzarella Tortelloni* were rich and flavourful, taking only a few minutes to cook – though we did think the portion size was skimpy for two. I’m glad W had the foresight to grab some garlic bread or we would have been hungry that night! We served it with their Carbonara* sauce. At £2.50 this is something I would never buy, but it was quite tasty. I’d definitely pick something like this over a ready meal if I was really short for time in the future!

 photo Homemade Bagels 10_zpstzymt4rj.jpgBagels. Commercial bread doesn’t always sit well in my stomach, occasionally leaving me bloated and uncomfortable. I know I don’t have a gluten intolerance, but I know a lot of the preservatives in store-bought bread aren’t exactly great for you. I’ve always loved making my own but find slicing it annoying – rolls are my go-to bake. Or rather, they were. I’ve recently starting making my own bagels and find them great. They are somehow more filling that regular bread, more forgiving if you forget about the dough, and more resistant to being crushed by a tonne of maths notes in your bag. I’ll get my recipe up soon, promise! I normally enjoy my bagels with either ham or pastrami and plenty of mustard – but I also find them great stuffed with meat, cheese, mustard and a little mayo, then baked in foil until crisp and melty. So, so good!

 photo 2015-09-05 20.14.52_zpsek1cqqyk.jpgChicken Wings. These are a weakness of mine. I love ‘messy food’ – take me on a date and buy me a cheeseburger and I’m a happy girl. Ribs and wings are enough to make my heart sing, and as this student can’t afford pork ribs I have to settle for chicken wings when I fancy a naughty treat. At around £2 for a massive box from Sainsbury’s, they take about 40 minutes to cook and crisp after a day’s marinating. I was recently sent some Encona Peruvian Amarillo Chilli Sauce* and it made the perfect marinade – spicy, sweet and a little sticky. It also worked amazingly well stirred into mayo as a dip. And yes, I did have onion rings and sweet potato fries this night…I always eat it on the sofa in my PJs watching Disney films…

So yep, a lot of food, a lot of eating. Be sure to check out my instagram for more up-to-date foodie adventures, and of course a nosey into the rest of my life!

What have you eaten and loved lately? Any new food releases I should try?

Recipe: Thai Coconut Noodle Soup

I love Thai food. Spicy, fragrant, fresh, it’s one of my favourites. I’ve made my own Thai curries from scratch, but I’m also a fan of ready-made pastes. And here a bought paste means I can create a bowl of steaming noodle soup in twenty minutes.

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 2_zpsvp4hwh77.jpgYep, twenty minutes before sitting on your fireplace taking photos as its the only damn place in the house with half-decent lighting at night…

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 3_zpsvuabo1qc.jpgcomforting, it’s got lip-tingly heat from the chilli, slurpiness from the noodles, crunch from the carrots and fragrant from the lime and ginger. The veg add enough nutrients that it feels healthy, but to me this is a hug in a bowl. Almost as good as a mac’n’cheese.

I’ve used leftover roast chicken here, but I’ve also made this with prawns – I almost prefer this as the sweetness of the prawns goes perfectly with the fiery heat of the red curry. Whatever you choose, it’s up to you!

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 1_zpsp2lwuycq.jpgIngredients

  • 1-2 teaspoons of red curry paste
  • 50g wide rice noodles
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 1/2 pepper, sliced
  • 1 small handful of leftover cooked chicken, or prawns, or any other meat you fancy
  • 1/2 carrot, cut into thin strips (hello julienne peeler!)
  • A handful of cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 carton of Alpro’s Coconut Cuisine*

Put a full kettle on to boil whilst you prep your veg. Place the noodles in a large saucepan before pouring over boiling water. Let them soak for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile fry the curry paste in a dry pan, befoe adding the onion slices. Stir-fry until softening, then add the pepper and meat and fry until warmed through. Add in the coconut cuisine (it’s slightly thinner than coconut milk, making it perfect in a soup) and lower the heat.

Warm until just below boiling point, before adding the carrot and cabbage. Drain the noodles and add them to the soup, ensure everything is piping hot and serve.

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 5_zpsufkawff2.jpgIf you fancy making this extra indulgent, a small spoon of peanut butter stirred through gives it a delicious satay twist! It’s also great at using up leftover veg – mushrooms, beansprouts, green beans and sweetcorn all work brilliantly. It’s fast becoming one of my favourite after-lecture dinners…

Be warned, it does get messy eating this! What’s your go-to quick meal?