Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #52

Happy Monday, and Happy February. I have to say I’m very glad to see the back of January as it felt like the longest greyest month ever. I’ve found I’m really, really struggling with the wedding blues now. It wasn’t too bad immediately after the wedding and honeymoon as we had a break to the Cotswolds, birthdays and Christmas to look forward to, but now it seems like a *very* long time to go before anything else exciting happens – so I’m hoping getting into the habit of these Happy Monday posts will help to cheer me up again. Recalling the positive things does seem to lift my mood slightly…

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  1. Fruit crumble, Peanut Butter Jelly style. I’ve recently been working on a more modern take on the fruit crumble (see my classic recipe here) and it’s been a super delicious recipe to test.
  2. Really good bacon. W’s been getting a fortnightly subscription and it’s changed how I see bacon sandwiches for good. It smells incredible!
  3. Picking up a (still very expensive) dress in the Ted Baker sale ready for black tie events and weddings in the next year. I was specifically looking for something I could wear with my wedding shoes and I love it. I now need my bank card confiscating!
  4. Chowder. I absolutely fell in love with it during the New England leg of our honeymoon, and last week I made a gorgeous curried version. I’ve still got to attempt the classic Clam though…
  5. A tasting menu at Hibiscus in Northampton. Whilst the ‘main’ of venison was really not to my taste at all, everything else was delicious. The highlights were a cold crab salad on a puffed cracker, and a lovely light pigeon and beetroot dish.
  6. Trying out a DoughnutTime doughnut – I went for the Bruno Mars based on a Kinder Bueno. It was delicious although a tad too sweet for my liking, I thought the hazelnut creme could be a tad nuttier.
  7. More board games. I mentioned last time that we were enjoying Zombiecide, but this fortnight we’ve been enjoyed 7 Wonders Duel, it’s a two-player game that definitely keeps us entertained of an evening!
  8. Burning candles. I’m determined not to keep saving them ‘for best’ so every night my flat is being filled with some delicious scent. It’s definitely lifting my mood slightly too!
  9. A really good burger from GBK – the Major Tom is definitely worth a try!
  10. A vegan lunch-time soup of chickpeas (so many chickpeas in the recipe!), lemon, mint and tahini. It was a little like hummus in soup form and was absolutely delicious. 100% my favourite soup recipe *ever* and I’ll be posting the recipe very soon…

What’s made you happy recently?

Recipe: Ham, Pea & Apple Salad with Roast Potatoes

Over the past year or so I’ve developed a love for salads. Not just a sad bag of soggy leaves, but real meal-in-a-bowl hearty salads. Crunch, texture, different temperatures, plenty of flavour. There’s something about a good salad that I really, really love – and this Pea, Apple, Ham and Potato Salad is one of my favourites.

 photo Pea Salad_zpsowduhnl7.jpgThis sounds like a strange combination of flavours, but as a salad it really, really works. Peas add freshness, apple adds both sweetness and crunch. A base of mild flavoured salad leaves allows the flavours to really sing. Ham is almost used as a seasoning (we’ve also made use of leftover roast gammon in this recipe), whilst the roast potatoes add a contrasting temperature and brings bulk to the dish. It’s a real hearty main-meal salad.

 photo Pea Apple and Ham Hock Salad 5_zps7j2fty60.jpg photo Pea Apple and Ham Hock Salad 3_zpsxbfptlgt.jpgIt’s also really quite versatile. Like I said, we’ve made it with leftover gammon. We’ve used extra thick sliced ham. And we’ve used shredded ham hock. I prefer the ham hock version as you pretty much get some with every forkful, but all are good. If you’re short of time it’s also good with just some boiled new potatoes – it might lack a bit of depth, but it’s still tasty.

Recipe (serves 2)

  • 250g new potatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, skin on (omit if you’re just boiling the potatoes)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green apple
  • 40ml cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan for a minute or two
  • 4 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 1 bag of pea shoots or lamb’s lettuce (or a mix of both)
  • Ham – either 1 thick slice each, a pack of shredded ham hock or some leftover gammon
  • 125g frozen peas, defrosted

First off, roast the potatoes. Toss them in a large roasting tin with the garlic, oil and some seasoning, then bake at 200C for 50 minutes. Meanwhile slice the apple into thin slices (no need to peel) then place in a bowl with the vinegar and a pinch of salt for 15 minutes.

Crush half of the cumin in a pestle and mortar, and add to the yoghurt along with 1 garlic clove from the roasting tin (let it cool for a few minutes, then squeeze the flesh from the skin). Drain the apple (discard the vinegar) and toss the potatoes, apple, leaves and peas together with the ham. Pile onto plates, drizzle with the dressing, scatter over the remaining cumin seeds and eat immediately.
 photo Pea Apple and Ham Hock Salad 4_zpsd7cay5ig.jpg

Are you a salad fan?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #51

I feel like January has been *the* longest month ever. Why isn’t it over yet?! Yet again I’ve been crazzzyyyy busy at work (plus the studying has started again, boo!) and I started this fortnight off battling a really horrific cold. Despite that it’s been prettyyyyy good and I’m hoping with February around the corner my post-festive bad mood will start to lift!

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  1. Silent Witness. It’s probably the only TV series (other than Bake Off and Masterchef) that I religiously watch so I’m really glad it’s back on our screens again. Even better is that BBC have made loads of old series available on iPlayer, so my evenings are even more fun now!
  2. Date Night at (you guessed it) Home SW15. We made it for another visit as we’d got a voucher for a free bottle of wine, and had a really delicious meal. More of the Cauliflower Croquettes (a must try!), then I enjoyed a *massive* Chicken Kiev with Sprouts and Artichoke Puree whilst W had a very indulgent Cheese Souffle. We both finished off with Treacle Tart which was almooosssttt as good as my grandmas recipe
  3. Haggis. Burn’s Night just can’t be done with out it, but we had plans on the Friday evening so celebrated a few days early with Haggis, Neeps and Tatties and a Whisky Sauce. So, so good and I also have enough spare to make Haggis Carbonara the next day!
  4. Making progress with knitting. I’ve been trying for years but it suddenly seems to have clicked. I’m far, far from perfect but it actually resembles knitting rather than knotting now…
  5. Planning our Scottish road trip. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years and we’ve finally taken the plunge. We’re not doing the whole of Scotland as we wanted to restrict the amount of driving and also really get a feel for the places we do visit, but I’m super excited! And it just means we’ll have to plan another trip for the bits we didn’t see…
  6. Board games! We’ve developed a love for them over the last few months. At the moment our favourite is Zombiecide, a strategy-based collaborative game that can even be played by 1 player. Any other recommendations then do let me know!
  7. Green & Black’s Orange Velvet Fruit. We got a bag in a Degustabox (gifted) a few months ago and they are absolutely addictive. So, so good.
  8. Donating a load of food to the local Food Bank. We had a lot of chocolate from Christmas we weren’t ever going to get through, plus a lot of tins which we just weren’t using. Clearer cupboards for us and it helps out people in need.
  9. Sex Education on Netflix. So good for some light-hearted watching!
  10. Vegan lunchboxes. Since my Mushroom & Lentil Stew I’ve eaten a really tasty bean salad (although I did ‘cheat’ as I had a dressing leftover from these Taco bowls which I drizzled over for a few days – but I’d sooner cheat than waste food!). I’ve also got a curry made with chickpeas and cauliflower for this week, and I’ve got a bean stew planned for next.

What have you been up to recently?

Recipe: Haggis Carbonara for Burn’s Night

I love haggis, but I totally get that it isn’t for everyone. Particularly if you’ve never tried it, yet you’ve googled what’s in it. I’m of the opinion that if I’m willing to eat meat I should be willing to eat all meat, so things like haggis, black pudding and offal don’t bother me at all – but I still understand that it can turn people’s stomachs a tad! With this in mind I wanted to create a Haggis dish which is perfect as the ‘introduction’ to haggis. Haggis for beginners, if you will.

 photo Haggis Carbonara_zpsglm4oomv.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 9_zps39wa1lek.jpgAnd so Haggis Carbonara was born.

Instead of a lump of haggis you’ve got crumbled up bits throughout the carbonara sauce. You’ve got cheesy creaminess to break up the strong pepperiness of the haggis. And pasta, because you can’t go wrong with carbs. In fact the haggis pasta combo is a winner in my book. This dish is rich, hearty and unbelievably comforting. Perfect for a Burn’s Night supper in – and great if you want to give haggis a go this January.

 photo Haggis Carbonara 8_zpswhef8xoo.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 19_zpssc66rv8s.jpgRecipe (serves 2)

  • Decent knob of butter
  • 2 rounds of haggis (I used patties – cheaper and less scary than getting a ‘whole’ haggis!)
  • 2 eggs – one whole and one yolk only (freeze the white for making meringues)
  • A good handful of cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
  • 180g pasta – spaghetti or tagliatelle is best really

First of put the pasta on to boil. I find 10 minutes is about right for most pastas. Meanwhile fry your haggis in butter – I crumbled mine up completely, but you could leave it in bigger chunks. I’d say crumbled is easier if you’re just starting out with haggis though! While that’s frying beat the egg and yolk in a mug and add your grated cheeses (keep some back for sprinkling on top!).

Now my secret for carbonara – take a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (while the pasta is still cooking) and dribble it into the egg-cheese while beating with a fork. Do the same with another spoon – and repeat until the cheese has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Not only does this lighten the sauce but it also seems to reduce the risk of ending up with scrambled eggs.

Once the pasta has boiled, drain (reserve some water), and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together. Turn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Add the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute but stir through some cooking water. Once all the egg is in, if its not quite cooked enough to your liking (I’m not fussy about really runny egg!) put the pan back on a very low heat. Then serve, sprinkle with extra cheese and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!

And if you want to make my (legendary) carbonara without the haggis, simply fry a little bacon until crisp and follow the same recipe, adding plenty of black pepper. I personally think haggis is peppery enough so wouldn’t add any to this particular dish.

 photo Haggis Carbonara 15_zpsy1awggq5.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 20_zpsg7llbs9q.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 13_zpss4wzzeso.jpgI originally posted this recipe a good 5 years ago now (with some pretty wonderful photos I must admit) and it’s been one of my most popular posts. So much so I thought some up to date camera skills were needed!

*In the interests of complete disclosure the post was originally in collaboration with Sykes Cottages, but I’ve not had any request to rewrite the post! 

Have you ever tried haggis?

Restaurant Review: A Double Brunch at Home SW15 (Putney) ft. The BEST Brunch Dish I’ve Ever Eaten

Home SW15 is our local ‘go-to’ – it’s where we head for a few drinks, dinner (when we have the pennies) and now brunch. Admittedly it’s taken us over a year to go for brunch but after repeated poor service at The Dynamo even the eggs couldn’t quite let me forget the unwelcoming vibe. Home SW15 is the complete opposite.

 photo Home SW15_zpsafygi6v0.jpgAs the name suggests, it’s like going home. Someone will always rush to greet you at the door. They’ll ask about your day if you’re dining in the evening, enquire about your plans at brunch. It’s friendly, it’s relaxed and it just feels comfortable. It’s not only the service that I love about this place though, the food is pretty damn good. We’ve had a couple of dinners there (my first review is here – bad photos!) but we also managed to squeeze in two brunches in the space of about three weeks recently.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 1_zps6exrjxri.jpg photo Brunch at Home SW15 4_zpspscqghmf.jpgThe first was a treat from my dad in exchange for sleeping on our floor after his Christmas party. It was on this occasion that I ordered the best brunch dish I’ve ever had. I know that sounds a bit click-baity but quite honestly I could and would order this again and again, despite the high-ish price-tag. At £16.50 the Crab Cakes are pushing the purse strings, but oh my are they worth it! Two fair-sized crab cakes, packed full of crab with it’s instantly reconnisable sweetness. Two perfectly poached eggs. The most glorious hollandaise. Some crunchy chilli and spring onions for even more flavour and some texture. Yum. Yum. YUM.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 7_zpsucgfhrls.jpgThe boys both ordered the Shakshauka. Obviously this isn’t something I can steal a mouthful of, but it smelt delicious and they seemed happy. The portion was also exceptionally generous, with plenty of toast for dipping. Nothing worse than not getting enough toast to soak up runny egg or sauce!

The second was for W’s birthday and, in true Home style, we were greated with on-the-house minosas (the freshly squeeze orange juice was divine) and even a hand-written birthday card from the team. It’s those kind of details that really do make it our favourite local.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 11_zpshxk9inlo.jpg photo Brunch at Home SW15 14_zpsydhfndqm.jpg photo Brunch at Home SW15 13_zpso0qrwbv0.jpgOn this occasion I ordered the Eggs Benedict. It’s one of my favourite brunch dishes and generally I would always order it if I saw it on a menu – and this came with a bit of twist. Instead of using bacon or a slice of ham, the muffins are piled high with shredded ham hock before being generously drizzled in hollandaise and topped with poached eggs. Now I’ve had the ham hock as a main course for dinner at Home before, so I knew it was tasty. But I really wasn’t expecting quite so much of it for breakfast. It was absolutely delicious and I’m not sure a standard Benny will do it for me again! The only complaint I do have is that my eggs were quite lukewarm as opposed to hot, I have a feeling they made have stood for a few minutes.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 9_zpsdtiggly0.jpgW also ordered well, with the French Toast, Banana, Maple Syrup and Bacon. I can’t quite get over the banana-bacon combo, but the piece of French Toast I stole was the best I’ve eaten outside of the US. Gooey and soft in the right places, crisp in others, wonderfully sweet but still light. I was quite tempted to order another plate of these after I’d finished my dish!

So yep, Home SW15 is a solid brunch spot, and one I’d whole heartedly recommend. Even if you’re not local it’s well worth the trip just for the crab cake dish alone… Uou also have to go for ‘bar snacks’ if you can. Their Cauliflower Cheese Croquettes are deep-fried balls of dreams. I’m not sure there is a limit to what I would do to get my hands on a plate of these…

Where’s your go-to brunch choice? Do you stick to one place or do you like to explore?

Food: Making Entertaining More Sustainable

I’m a feeder. It is well-known that I love food, but it becomes even more obvious when I’m feeding friends and family. I’d hate for anyone to leave my house hungry and we’ve been known to feed dinner guests so well they’ve forgone breakfast the next day. I do, however, want to do this in the most sustainable way possible. Not buying food for the sake of it and keeping waste to a minimum. I thought I’d pen up a little post on how I keep dinner parties sustainable without letting anyone go hungry!

 photo Sustainable Feasting 1_zpsijs4ciie.jpg photo Bonfire Night Feast 2_zps9envtjdt.jpgCook Seasonally

This is my main tip for any kind of sustainable cooking. You can be as green as you like, but if you’re shipping in foreign strawberries during the winter it’s never going to be good. Stick to in-season ingredients and everything will be tastier, fresher and quite possibly cheaper too!

Bulk Out Meat

Again, this is something I recommend you do anyway for both budget reasons and to up those veggies. A really good example is the starter I enjoyed at a Bonfire Night Feast with Leisure Living (cooked up by Dan Doherty and attended by Ruby of GBBO, I was fan-girling all night!). Rather than serving up each person with a piece of pricey fish, it was instead broken up and served as a spiced chowder with plenty of vegetables. It was SO tasty (I’ve since cooked it at home), super filling and used much less fish than other recipes. You can see more of Leisure Living’s sustainable cooking tips here.

 photo Bonfire Night Feast 5_zpslkc6tdft.jpg“Make Your Own” Courses

This is perfect for a more informal dinner party – just pile everything in the middle and let guests help themselves to what they want. It means nothing goes to waste, as if they don’t like it they aren’t forced to take it. Think build-your-own tacos, create your own ice-cream sundaes or even pizza making. I only wish I’d seen the make your own candied apple idea before our autumnal wedding!

Buy Local

Always, always always! If you’re lucky enough to live close enough to buy your meat directly from the farm, do it! It will have a much lower carbon footprint, and you’ll be supporting your local economy to boot. But it’s not just meat that you can buy local. Instead of getting a nice smelly French brie from Sainsburys, pop into your local cheese shop and get a British equivalent – we go to Hamish Johnston and their Waterloo is far nicer than most brie I’ve tried! You’re also likely to get much better-for-the-environment packaging by shopping local. Just think about milk – plastic bottles in the shops vs glass if you get it delivered. That’s certainly on my to-do list for 2019…

 photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 7_zpsbmbingda.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 6_zpst3axdh4c.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 4_zpssuvdkils.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 24_zpsjijf0zys.jpgChoose an Easily Freezeable/Reheatable Dish

Another tip to reduce waste is to cook something that, even if there’s loads left, won’t be thrown away. A giant stew, a bubbling dish of mac’n’cheese all work well. I recently worked with B&M to create a Sloe Gin Braised Venison Ragu which is perfect for this. It is something slightly different and tastes a bit special (the juniper really compliments the gaminess of the meat). Wonderful over pasta, mash or a cheesy polenta, not only can you make it ahead but it also freezes beautifully which means some rather gourmet after dinner meals!

 photo Bonfire Night Feast 7_zpsvlcvhhr8.jpg photo Bonfire Night Feast 15_zpsuygmzwim.jpgNo Single-Use Plastics

I get it, it’s SO tempting to use plastic cutlery or plates to cut down on the washing up! But it’s also obviously not the best choice for the environment, so best to pop on the rubber gloves and get scrubbing. I’m also looking to take this one step further in 2019 and pick up some nice linen napkins to cut down on waste even more. And, y’know, they’ll make my table look more Instagrammable…

*This post includes a few links, but it isn’t an ad and none are affiliate. No payment was made for the mention of any of these companies or events and, as always, all opinions are my own. 

Do you have any tips for cooking more sustainably?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #50

Welcome to the first ‘happy Monday’ of 2019. I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about the future of this little online space and I want to *try* to make it a little less rigid and reduce the self-piled-on pressure it can give me. I used to post recipes on a Thursday, Cooking From on a Saturday, other posts on a Tuesday. It was pretty useful for planning, but it also meant I stressed about getting a post live.

Well, no more. I’m hoping to just post about the food I love as and when, no real posting pattern. We’ll see how that goes anyway! The one thing I do want to keep regular is this little series, as it puts me in such a good mood to type away on a Sunday evening remembering all the good bits about the previous weeks. And so with no further ado, what’s made me smile lately…

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    1. New Year’s Eve. We had a fairly relaxed night at ours, with my sister and some close friends. We cooked a rather tasty meal (Pan Fried Pork Fillet, Slow-Cooked Pork Cheek, Boulangerie Potatoes and Greens, followed by a White Russian Roulade and then plenty of cheese and biscuits) and played board games. I couldn’t think of anything worse than a night out on NYE so this was perfect for me!
    2. Vegan lunchboxes. You’ll see from Thursday’s post that I’ve set myself the challenge of vegan lunchboxes for the year. My first was a thick Mushroom and Lentil Soup, but I also made a rather tasty Daal from The Green Roasting Tin last week.
    3. On a related note, realising my beloved falafel are vegan.
    4. ASDA’s Rhubarb & Custard Tea. It’s my new go-to tea (that’s not Yorkshire Breakfast!). Sweet and fruity without being overly sickly or artificial.
    5. The never ending tin of chocolates from Christmas. We bought a tin of Quality Street (actually we got a personalised tin because hey married life, and chose the contents to be green triangles, orange creams and strawberry creams) – but we keep adding other Christmas chocolate to it, so it doesn’t seem to be going down despite my best efforts!
    6. A Hazelnut Bundt Cake with Nutella glaze. This was W’s birthday cake of 2019 and it was so bloody good!
    7. Garlic Bread. I’m actually ill with yet another flu virus but one of the few things I’ve wanted to eat has been garlic bread. I regretted it as it was not good for my sore throat but it did taste damn good!
    8. Realising one of my fav ‘fancier’ dresses I bought for the honeymoon can be dressed down a little with a jumper underneath. Whoop!
    9. Cauliflower Cheese Croquettes from Home SW15. Worth the trip to Putney just for a plate for five…
    10. How sweet my husband is looking after me when I’m ill. He picked me up from the tube station (as I was 100% not steady on my feet having pushed through a day at work), got me comfortable, went on several trips to the shop to find food I fancied and meds I needed and was generally a star.

How has 2019 been treating you so far?

Recipe: Vegan Lentil & Mushroom ‘Stoup’

What makes the difference between a stew or casserole and a soup? I like to think it’s a fine line, and this ‘stoup’ kinda sits in the middle. You can add more stock or some vegan milk to thin it down for a soup, or blend it up more and reduce it for a stew-type dish. Whichever you choose, it’s absolutely delicious and I think one of my favourite winter lunches.

 photo Mushroom Lentil Soup_zpslbz1od61.jpgIt’s creamy, it’s comforting, real soul food. It’s garlick-y and slighty herby. There’s a kick of black pepper and a slight tang from a splash of vinegar. It’s not vinegar-y as such, but it helps to add a little bit of complexity that makes this really feel like a meal, and not just something you’ve thrown together. Add some toast or a bit of sourdough bread and this is a real hug in a bowl.

It’s also vegan! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve set myself a challenge in 2019 to make as many of my lunchboxes as possible vegan. I’m not constraining myself too much by this, and if I’ve got meat or dairy that needs using then it will be thrown in, but I’d like to keep the majority of them vegan. And frankly, if they all taste as good as this it will be an easy job. If you’re not vegan, however, additions which could work well would be bacon (always), or simmer with a parmesan rind to add some extra flavour.

 photo Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Soup 10_zpsethbwgep.jpgIngredients (makes 4 lunch-time servings)

  • 150g dried Puy lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 pack of mushrooms mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup vegan-friendly stock
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened plant-based milk—I used Oat milk

First up, cook your lentils. I tend to add boiling water and bring to a rolling boil, before reducing the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add plenty of salt, cook for another five minutes and then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pan and cook the shallots until slightly softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot, turn up the heat and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and continue to try for 1 minute before adding the vinegar. Stir until evaporated, then add the drained lentils, vegetable stock and  milk to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil, before using a stick blender to whizz to your desired consistency. Add more milk or stock if you want a soup, or reheat and simmer until thick and stew-like. Check for seasoning, adding plenty of black pepper.

Serve hot with toast or bread. I also like to stir through some spinach – for lunchboxes I add a cube or two of frozen spinach in the morning before I leave the house.

 photo Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Soup 8_zpsdzcibo5b.jpgFor something so quick the result is so flavourful and cosy – it does taste as though it’s been simmering away for hours. It also makes my flat smell super good, so I’m down with that…

Do you have any lunchbox friendly vegan recipes?

Food: Kitchen Goals for the New Year

The fact that we’re now in 2019 has escaped me somewhat – I feel like I’m still stuck in November, the festive period whizzed by and I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it’s the start of a brand new year. It’s meant I’ve been a little slow in thinking about what I want to achieve as we go through 2019, but over the last couple of evenings I’ve put together a few aims and goals. Some are more lifestyle themed (the knitting will happen one day!), but the majority are foodie focussed…

 photo Kitchen Essentials_zpslhepukqi.jpg1. Cook at least one new recipe per week.

This was one of our resolutions as a couple in 2018, and quite possibly is the only resolution I’ve ever actually kept all year. Okay, there were weeks we didn’t do this (purely because we were either ill or on honeymoon) but otherwise we did, and many weeks we made multiple new recipes. It was one of the best things we’ve done, we ate so much more variety, found some *amazing* recipes and discovered ingredients which we now love (preserved lemons, tahini and sesame oil…).

2. Get use out of all of our kitchen equipment.

Given we live in a one-bed flat we have a ridiculous amount of cooking equipment. Some of it gets virtually constant use (if we make dinner without any of our Le Creuset it’s very unusual!), others rarely see the light of day (the pressure cooker for instance) and some are still in their packaging (hi bamboo steamer!). I’d like to use everything we have at least once this year, preferably more. Bao buns are definitely on my list to try making in the steamer…

 

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3. Bake more ‘challenging’ bakes.

We both love baking, but we’re both equally gulity of either sticking to the same recipes (hey cookies or brownies with added extras to ‘make a change). The things we do stick to are absolutely delicious, but I really want to challenge myself in the kitchen this year and bake things that are a little more complicated. We got a couple of exciting tins and moulds for both our wedding and respective birthdays/Christmasses so watch this space! I actually kicked this off this weekend with a Hazelnut Nutella Bundt for W’s birthday…

4. Produce less kitchen waste.

Whilst I think we are pretty good at not making *loads* of waste, we could definitely do more. I’m a little too fond of freezer bags (I find it much easier to cram the freezer full that if we use washable boxes) and cling-film is definitely something I’d like to remove from our cupboards this year.

 

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5. Eat more ‘Nose to Tail’ when consuming meat or fish.

Or vegetables for that matter! Admittedly full Nose-to-Tail eating is slightly tricky in a non-commercial kitchen, but when I cook meat I really want to make sure I use every single scrap. Whether it’s spooning off beef fat to make dripping, making stock from the chicken carcass or thinking up ever more inventive ways to use up leftovers, I’m all for it. And the same principle applies to veg too – those onion tops, carrot peelings and celery leaves? Freeze them and use them in your next batch of stock. Potato peelings? Follow Katy’s lead and make crisps!

Related to this point, I also want to cook and eat more offal this year. I have always enjoyed the ‘ickier’ parts of meat and a trip to St John at the weekend really brought that home. I absolutely love faggots for example, but just can’t find them in London – so it looks like I’ll have to give making my own a try!

6. Make use of our more unloved cookbooks.

We have a LOT of cookbooks – like a whole bookcase full. For the most part we are really good at using them, we’ll always flick through one or two when planning our weekly menus but there are some that barely ever get used. I’d like to change that this year and, if I’m still not convinced by the book, donate it to charity. I’ve started a list on my phone of all the recipes I want to try. Let’s just say it’s going to take a lot longer than 2019 to get through it…

7. Eat seasonally.

Eating by the seasons is so important to me, more so than any other kind of eating ‘trend.’ It’s all very well and good cutting down meat “for the environment” but if you’re eating strawberries all the year round and avos every day your carbon footprint is gonna be high. I’m not saying my way of eating is the best (far from it) but I think there’s so much to gain from eating seasonally. Ingredients will be fresher and tastier, your food bill will likely be cheaper too. Plus it makes it so much easier to plan meals!

8. Pack vegan/vegetarian lunchboxes.

I’m not about to go vegetarian or start doing Veganuary as, for me, it’s not particularly achieveable as I just enjoy cooking and eating all food too much. I do, however, want to cut down on the amount of meat I eat and lunches seem the easiest and best way to do this. I take a lunchbox to work 99% of the time so want to make these vegan or vegetarian as often as possible. I’ve started off last week with a comforting Mushroom & Lentil Soup which I’ve really enjoyed! This week I’ve got a Bean Chilli for a few days, then I’m planning on doing an oven-baked Daal for the second half of the week. I’d like to work on the vegan recipes the most, so please send inspiration espeicially if you’re taking part in Veganuary.

9. Grow my own herbs.

I’ve worked out we spend over 10% of our weekly food budget on fresh herbs – and that’s just insane. It’s a pretty significant amount of money and also a huge amount of plastic (I’ve noticed ASDA do stock open bunches of herbs so if you’ve got one local there’s an easy way of reducing waste). I received an indoor garden for my birthday last month and I’m excited to get growing! Even if I can just have a ready supply of coriander I’d be happy…

10. Wash up more.

We have definitely gotten far, far too reliant on using our dishwasher over the last few months, so we’re taking it back to basics and washing up (shock horror!) by hand most nights. I’ve actually really enjoyed taking the time after dinner to clear up, it’s a good time to really catch up on our days.

There’s obviously some non-kitchen goals I’d love to achieve. Knitting is STILL on the list, as is getting into some form of regular exercise. I’d also love to raise money for charities close to my heart over the year, and also encourage young people into STEM based jobs. Oh, and the small thing of qualifying as an actuary too…

What would you like to achieve in 2019?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #49

It’s the last day of the year, but it’s also time for my Happy Monday post. I did debate doing a special “year in review” type post but unfortunately ran out of time to put it together – and so it’s the bog-standard usual format, albeit with some added Christmas sparkle! I will however be putting together a Year in Review thingy on my Instagram stories, so keep an eye on that if you’re interested!

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First up though, what’s made me happy lately…

  1. Making it through Christmas (and also 6 whole months!) without either me or W ending up on A&E. Given last Christmas Day I took him in, then both of us were in within 10 days of each other in the summer it’s a bit of a relief!
  2. Pecan & Maple Snowball Cookies. I made them as gifts for my team at work and they are 100% my favourite bake of the year. Recipe will be up as soon as the photos are edited…
  3. Picking up two jumpers I’d lusted after in the Fat Face sale for less than half price.
  4. Making White Russian’s at home. It’s one of my favourite drinks and it’s dangerously easy…
  5. New fluffy socks. So warm, so cosy!
  6. Making prints of our wedding photos as Christmas gifts for our parents. It gave me all the feels, and I can’t wait to choose some to display in our own home.
  7. Lighting my Cocoa & Cashmere scented candle from Yorkshire Soap Company. It’s the most glorious fragrance!
  8. Big blanket scarves. I unwrapped one on Christmas night from my parents, and treated myself to another in the sales.
  9. My beautiful new chowder mugs, all the way from a tiny potter in New England – because my husband is all kinds of awesome. I’m planning to do a whole post about them soon but short story is I saw them, didn’t get them, moaned about it for weeks then unwrapped them on Christmas day.
  10. Cuddles with my pups. Our old terrier behaves like a puppy again when there’s presents to unwrap which is so lovely to watch!

I could go on and on about how lovely Christmas was, it might sound boring but a quiet few days with my nearest and dearest was exactly what the doctor ordered! I’m now prepping for a NYE celebration of good food and board games, so the good times are only going to continue!

How was your Christmas break?