Lifestyle: Foodie Highlights of 2016

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

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

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Discovering A Liking For Beetroot

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

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S’mores Concept Dessert

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

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Burgers!

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

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

Cheese, Cheese & More Cheese

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

Couldn’t resist another pizza date!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Influx of White Pizzas

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

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

Getting Over My Fish Fear

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

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

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Other Worthy Mentions

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

What’s been your foodie highlight of 2016?

 

Recipe: Ultimate Cheese Toastie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 photo Ultimate Cheese Toastie 3_zpsvo7x4hox.jpgIngredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Lifestyle: London Bucket List

We’ve lived in London for nearly three months (I know, I couldn’t quite believe it either!), and my “to-do” list is getting longer and longer. Disappointingly we’ve hardly ticked off anything, yet it grows at a seemingly exponential rate. There’s no rush to complete it (I have no plans to move out of London anytime soon, if anything I’m here to stay!) but I do have some bits I really want to try and do over the next few months.

 photo London Bucket List_zps0yvwb18w.jpgSome are perhaps a bit weirder than others. Rather more than a couple involve food. Some are big and fancy, others are small. Some may take longer to tick off.

    1. Go up the Shard. Even if just for cocktails.
    2. Visit a flower market. Think of the Instagram shots!
    3. Visit all the tube stations. This was inspired by my first trip to Mornington Crescent a few weeks back – it’s quite honestly is the strangest tube station I’ve visited! In an ideal geek world I’d take a selfie at each and put a film together with Jay Foreman backing it….
    4. Explore Greenwich. Looks like a lovely place – and the observatory is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.
    5. Wander around Portobello Market. Because who wouldn’t want to?!
    6. Eat brunch at Duck & Waffle. I’ve been dying to go for ageeesssssss.
    7. Buy and devour a Cronut. Though I’m waiting until the hype (and queues) die down a little.

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  • Go to Richmond Park in the frost and/or snow. Just imagine how pretty it would be!
  • Go on a stay-cation.
  • Eat a LOT of street food. I’ve finally visited KERB but there’s so many more vendors I want to try…

 

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  • Find my “London’s Best Burger.” I ate the 2015 winner at the beginning of October and now feel I need to do more research. Send over recommendations!
  • Visit Kew Gardens. I also really want to experience their Bee Hive!
  • Watch The Lion King. I’m so excited to finally tick this one off in December with my besties!
  • Fly over the city in a helicopter. A girl can dream!
  • Make use of the gorgeous streets for outfit photos.

 

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  • Eat at The Grain Store. We got engaged in Granary Square so it’s natural to try the nearest restaurant, right…?!
  • Explore more hidden areas. I love the canal walk between Kings Cross and Camden.
  • Have Afternoon Tea in a posh hotel. Because British.

 

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  • Go “metal-detecting” on the Thames Shoreline. We can see the river from the flat (it’s just 50 yards away!) and I’d love to give this a go!
  • Row along the Thames. I’ve always wanted to give rowing a go, and there’s so many rowing clubs nearby in Putney…this is my goal for summer 2017!

What’s on your bucket list? What would you love to do in London?

 

Recipe: Chocolate & Whisky Macarons

I have to admit, when I was sixteen and a guy was trying to impress me by telling me he could bake, I was skeptical. Just sounds a little like a cheesy chat-up line, right?! Clearly he was keeper right there and then (his cookie recipe remains our favourite to this day!), because six years on he made these.

 photo Macarons_zpsximvjnww.png photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 4_zpsf6nrcbkr.jpgChocolate macarons. Filled with a boozy, rich, chocolatey ganache.

I know – I’m a lucky girl! These macarons are crisp on the outside, delightfully chewy on the inside – the perfect macaron. But, in my opinion at least, it’s the ganache that steals the show. Impossibly rich and chocolatey, with a real kick coming from the whisky. We’re big whisky-lovers but if you’re worried about enjoying it then feel free to cut down to just one teaspoon. Oh, and these amounts made a shit-load of ganache too – way more than you’ll need for filling the macarons. I highly suggest chilling the mix and then rolling into truffles. You can thank me later…

 photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 2_zpsegmjhcln.jpgIngredients (makes around 25 macarons, and plenty of ganache!)

  • 170g icing sugar
  • 160g ground almonds
  • 120ml egg whites from about 4 medium eggs, separated into 2 equal batches
  • 160g granulated sugar
  • 1/2tsp raw cacao powder (1tsp if using normal cocoa powder)
  • For the ganache: 225g dark chocolate, 140ml double cream, 2 tbsp butter, 2 tsp whisky

Mix the icing sugar, cacao powder and ground almonds together, then sieve into a large bowl, discarding any particles that stay in the sieve. Add the first batch of egg whites to the almond mixture, mix to form a thick paste and set aside.

Tip the second half of egg whites into the bowl of your KitchenAid (or a large, clean bowl with an electric mixer set up nearby). Place 50ml water and the granulated sugar into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook until the syrup registers 110C on a sugar thermometer, then start to beat the egg whites on high speed. Once the syrup is at 118C pour it gradually into the whites, avoiding the moving whisk. Whisk on high until the mixture has cooled slightly and you have a shiny meringue mixture (soft peaks are good here). Tip the meringue onto the almond mixture and gently fold together until fully combined.

 photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 1_zpsgwnolysl.jpgHeat oven to 170C and line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Transfer the batter to a piping bag and pipe rounds (around a 50p size) onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave to rest for 30 mins (not in the fridge) – they should develop a film or skin on top. Bake for 13-15 mins, then cool for a few minutes before gently peeling the macaroons off the paper.

To make the filling, heat cream until warm (not boiling) and then add finely chopped chocolate, stirring until melted and combined. Add in the butter and whiskey and stir until combined, then let cool until thicken. Place the chocolate mix into a clean piping bag with a smaller nozzle and pipe around the edge of half the macarons. Fill the centre with more ganache and sandwich with another macaron half.

 photo Chocolate and Whisky Macarons 3_zpsekg8jkwb.jpgChocolate and whisky might seem like an odd combination, but it’s one I think really works perfectly. A slightly smoky whisky against a bitter-sweet but creamy desert is one of my ideas of perfection and these macarons take it to the next level. They are even better after a few days, when the moisture from the ganache softens the macaron a bit more, making them a little denser, a little brownie like. And they are so small, it would b a crime to have less than three at once…

What’s your favourite chocolate-y recipe?

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?

Food: Vanilla Cupcakes with Bake Box

With me and W catering a good chunk of our engagement party (though thanks of course goes to my dad for his Malteser Blondies, my mum for her vast amount of scones, and W’s parents for providing salads, cheese, sandwiches and a massive pork pie), we knew we couldn’t go over complicated. So we made homemade quiches, a lot of sweet treats, and a macaron tower…

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes_zpsjdk3n6hm.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 9_zpsh76cegk2.jpgThese were some of the easier bakes. Yes, we ‘cheated’ and used the KitchenAid for the cupcakes and their icing but when it turns the endless beating and creaming into a sixty-second job, why not?! And the final results were damn yummy. In fact, these were some of the best cupcakes I’d made… Super popular with the children at our engagement party, I was also a big fan of these. The vanilla flavour really comes through, making them rich and flavourful without being too sweet. It’s also one of those recipes I’ve memorised, making it my go-to cupcake recipe. You’ll see what I mean when you read the ingredients…

We decorated them in a vaguely floral theme, which was in fact the vague theme I was going for throughout the whole day. I think I managed it, with my dress, the bunting, the garden. A few cute-sy bakes (including the slightly mishapen jam tarts, though they tasted bloody good!) finished it off – all inspired by Bake Box. If you’ve not read any of my other posts about them, Bake Box* is a subscription box with a difference. Think GlossyBox for bakers! It includes recipes, and some more specialist equipment. So far I’ve had a multitude of different moulds, both for bigger cakes and more delicate single serving tarts and jellies. I’ve had biscuit cutters (including the flower shapes used in aforementioned jam tarts), piping outlines, and even edible glitter (in a stunning rose gold shade), food colour and other so-cute-I-audibly-gasped decorations. And it all comes wrapped in an Instagrammable box too, what more could you want? Here we used their flower-themed piping nozzle and edible glitter to decorate – whilst our piping possibly needs a little more polishing (W is far better than I am), I do like the effect. More glitter would definitely have been a good thing though!

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 1_zps73c5kpat.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 2_zpsucpoh15s.jpgIngredients

  • 175g each butter (at room temperature), self-raising flour and caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp each baking powder and vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Icing: 175 g butter (at room temperature), 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract, 2-3 tbsp milk, 350 g icing sugar

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat  until smooth and evenly mixed – around a minute if using a stand mixer, I’m afraid it will take a bit longer by hand. Divide the mixture evenly between 12 paper cases in a muffin tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 175C. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency – it should hold a peak, but still be spoonable. Carefully spoon the icing down one side of a piping bag fitted with a number eight star nozzle (this gives the rose effect). Twist the end of the bag to seal the icing in, then pipe swirls of the icing on top of each cupcake. Scatter with the edible pink glitter and enjoy.

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 3_zpsixc4iuva.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 6_zpsevehhqll.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 4_zpslsxmkayh.jpgThe perfect party addition, the moist cupcakes topped with the creamy frosting in this classic flavour just can’t be beaten. Whilst I may not be a fan of ‘trendy’ cupcake flavours, something like this will have me saying “yes please” every time!

What is your go-to bake? Are you a fan of classic combos or do you like to mix things up a bit?

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?

Food: Blogger Recipes I’ve Loved Lately

Recently I’ve been cooking a fair few new meals. I’ve gone off using Pinterest to find meal inspiration a little, I’ve found it very difficult to find new recipes lately (the same ones seem to continuely come up in searches). What I have noticed, however, is that many of my favourite bloggers seem to be creating some yummy looking recipes. Here’s just an handful of the ones I’ve tried out lately!
 photo Roasted Nesting Chicken 5_zps46tmec6m.jpg photo Roasted Nesting Chicken 3_zpsjlncv6eh.jpg photo Roasted Nesting Chicken 6_zps0j2znite.jpg

Nested Roast Chicken – The Londoner (link)

Oh my, this was delicious! By far some of the yummiest potatoes I have ever eaten, we ate the whole lot despite cooking way too much. We just couldn’t stop! The chicken skin was crispy, the meat moist and perfumed with the lemon. The potatoes were sweet from the honey and both salty and herby from the seasoning. They were crunchy and chewy, yet some were also melting soft. Served with some simple green vegetables this was such a delightful Sunday supper – and gave us enough chicken for three further meals (two of soup, one of stir-fry).

I have a fabulous idea to turn this into a bit more of a student friendly dish (not that I’m a student anymore, though I guess I’ll still be living with one!). Less of a huge portion, shorter cooking time, less fresh ingredients. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, I’m going to enjoy developing the recipe…!

Noodle Stir-Fry – Pinch of Yum (link & photo credit)

Inspired by Lindsay’s 15 Minute Lo Mein recipe (or, more specifically, the yummy sauce), I just had to use one of her photos as ours certainly did not look nearly as appetising. Seriously girl, how to do you get a plate of noodles to look so darn good?! My comforting bowl, delicious as it was, just didn’t do her recipe justice. We skipped the mushrooms (my fiance is a shroom-hater, I’m praying for a few evenings alone next year so I can indulge in risotto!), and added lime and ginger to the sauce, simply because it was there.
 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 4_zpscnuttmko.jpg photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 7_zpsmofv6mdb.jpg

Sweetcorn Fritters – Mamacook (link)

I’ve loved fritter-type things for as long as I can remember. Courgette & Feta ‘Cakes’ is one of my favourite meals in the summer, onion bhajis are my go-to starter when I’m treating myself to an Indian (read about the best ones I’ve ever eaten here). When we picked up a packet of Bacon & Maple Syrup Sausages from Tesco (well worth a try, btw!) we wanted something a bit different to go with them, so we decided to get creative with some sweetcorn fritters. We based in on Mamacooks recipe, but spiced it up a bit lot – they were delicious. Recipe coming soon as I have to share it!

Green Vegetable Pasta – Inspired by Little Miss Katy (link)

Whilst I’ve already posted about my Spring Vegetable Carbonara, it was a few weeks ago that I remember Katy’s recipe for a Mac’n’Cheese with Baby Kale. I loved her idea of making the sauce with cottage cheese (one to remember for lazy evenings!), I just stole her addition of baby Kale into the carbonara. This worked so wonderfully well, as the slight bitter-pepperiness went perfectly with the sweet peas and smoked ham I was using. Yum!
 photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 1_zpsrezho7eu.jpg photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 10_zpsrsy8isye.jpg photo Peanut Butter Bakewell Tart 14_zps3itasjjp.jpg

Peanut Butter Bakewell – Inspired by The Lovecats Inc

Seriously, how goddamn good does Helen’s Triple Layer Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie look?! Oreos, peanut butter, chocolate, all layered up = heaven on a plate. I wanted to make something similar, but a little less torte-like and more traditional English-afternoon-tea style. A recent issue of BBC’s Good Food magazine can to the rescue with a peanutty take on the Bakewell Tart. A few tweaks here and there, and our recipe was perfection. We even enjoyed it for breakfast with yoghurt and a few raspberries – the sign of an irresistible bake!
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Other Recipes I Want to Make Soon (photo credit in links)

This could be a long, long list! However I’ll keep it brief and go with the few recipes that I have literally daydreamed about over the last few days. What can I say, I live to eat! Miss Pond’s Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies look delightfully gooey, and I have a major weakness for this type of brownie. Emma from This Little Piggy Loves Food posts a lot of quick and easy recipes which always sound delicious, her Peashoot Pasta is high on my list of ‘to make’ meals. Much as I’m not a huge fan of the Hummingbird Bakery, Charlotte’s bake of their Carrot Cake looks delicious, and I certainly do love a good carrot cake! But my must-make recipe that recently popped up in my Bloglovin feed? Anna’s Oven Fried Chicken. Her idea of part-freezing to ensure a complete and crunchy coating sounds great, so I’ll definitely be experimenting. So many things to make…

What’s the best thing you’ve cooked recently? Please leave me any links to the favourite recipes you’ve made!