Food: 5 Frittatas for Lunchboxes

One of my go-to lunchbox fillers is a frittata. High in protein from the eggs, they are super filling and can be completely adjusted to your tastes. Whether you want them to be lightened up and full of healthier ingredients, or go all out indulgent with plenty of cheese and potato, a frittata works well! They can also be pretty budget friendly, using up all the odds and ends in your fridge – although of course you could make the mother of all frittatas and add in some spendy ingredients such as smoked salmon…

I tend to have my go-to ‘base’ recipe for making a frittata, honed after far too many that were burnt on the botton, too solid, too liquidy, frittatas that were solid enough to use as a weapon, frittatas that fell apart before they even got to the office. You’ll need an oven-proof frying pan (mine is around 21 cm) for these recipes, though you could possibly oven-bake the whole thing in a dish.

Base Recipe (I usually cut the frittata into 3, unless it’s particularly carb/cheese heavy)

  • 1 tbsp butter (around 15g) or 1 tbsp oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 50ml milk

Generally, I’ll fry all my filling ingredients lightly in the oil/butter, before beating together the eggs, milk and parmesan with plenty of pepper and adding to the pan. I’ll keep on the hob for around 5 minutes on a low heat, then oven cook at 200C for 8-12 minutes or until cooked.

Potato, Shallot & Mozzarella

This is comfort food at it’s finest, and it’s blimmin’ delish! It’s from a fairly recent edition of Delicious Magazine so I can’t link it, but essentially sliced potatoes are fried until golden (around 20 minutes) with some sliced shallots and garlic added for the final few minutes. Eggs and milk are then added with parmesan mixed in, then mozzarella is nestled on top. Before oven-cooking a little more parmesan is sprinkled on top. Best served with a big salad as this one is super hearty!

Kale, Red Onion & Feta

This is my go-to low carb option, inspired by this BBCGoodFood recipe. Simply fry 2 red onions in a little oil until soft (I sometimes add a pinch on dried thyme), before adding around 3 handfuls of shredded kale. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add 2tbsp of balsamic and plenty of seasoning. Add your egg/milk mixture (I usually add 8 eggs for this one), then allow to cook on the hob for 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with some crumbled feta, then bake for around 10 minutes.

Chorizo, Potato, Red Pepper & Feta

This is perfect picnic food, and my favourite way of using up leftover new potatoes (I always cook too many!). Simply fry some cubed chorizo in a dry pan until it releases its oils. Add some sliced cooked new potatoes, and try until starting to crisp slightly. Throw some roasted red pepper in, stir to combine, then add in your egg/milk mixture with some paprika (around 1/4 tsp). Cook for 5 minutes on the hob, then sprinkle with plenty of feta and bake for around 10 minutes. It’s also cook spiced up with some chopped chilli…

You can find my full recipe here.

Onion Bhaji

This one is the only one which I don’t think lasts quite as long – the others will happily sit in the fridge for 3 or 4 days, but this one does tend to go a bit grey after the second day. I’m thinking about making individual muffins instead so I can halve the recipe, but it’s not quite working out… Follow the recipe here, but I reduce the potato a little and add 1/2 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric as well as the curry powder.

Spaghetti, Spinach, Courgette & Pesto

This is my new favourite – so yum! It’s super filling so I usually only manage a quarter of it in my lunchbox with some extra salad, which makes it pretty thrifty. It’s slightly more mess-making than the others as it involves a couple of stages, but it’s well worth it.

First off, cook 150g spaghetti until just al dente (around 8 minutes). Drain and run under the cold tap to cool before setting aside. Blanch some spinach (I use 3 handfuls) by placing in a sieve and pouring over boiling water. Run under the cold tap to cool, then squeeze out the excess liquid and add to the spaghetti. Coarsely grate 2 medium courgettes, and squeeze out the excess water. Fry for 5 minutes with a little olive oil and 1 sliced garlic clove. Discard the garlic and add the courgette to the spaghetti/spinach along with 2 tsp of pesto. Stir together well. Meanwhile beat together the 6 eggs and 50ml milk with plenty of black pepper and 50g parmesan. Add this to the spaghetti and vegetables and use your hands to mix well. Melt a little butter in an oven proof frying pan, then add the egg-pasta mixture. Cook for 5 or so minutes until set on bottom, sprinkle with extra parmesan, then back until cooked. Yum!

What’s your go-to lunchbox filler?

Recipe: Nutella Brioche Rolls for a Weekend Breakfast

One of the things we still try and do, though admittedly not every weekend, is to treat ourselves to a good treat breakfast at home. Whether it’s a good old-fashioned fry-up, a stack of American pancakes with half a jug of maple syrup or something more adventurous (Green Shakshuka is a favourite), it’s one of my favourite times of the week. Dedicated time in the kitchen, then a lazy few minutes with my other half to catch up with each other, find out about the other’s week and generally enjoy some time together.

These Nutella Brioche Rolls are perfect for such a breakfast.

They’re also great for weekday breakfasts, or travelling breakfasts, or indeed any breakfast. They freeze well are are delicious cold or reheated in the oven. I love them! I find they are best served warm with a glass of cold milk, but they are equally good on the go. And of course, don’t be scared to be generous with the nutella…

Recipe (Makes 8)

  • 350g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 35g sugar
  • 8g yeast
  • 100ml milk, slightly warmed
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 100g very soft butter
  • 4 heaped tbsp Nutella

Unfortunately this is a two-day process, and it’s far easier made in a stand-mixer (I *hate* making enriched bread doughs by hand, toooooo sticky). However it’s well worth the results. To make the brioche, pop the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt, sugar and yeast. Add the milk and the eggs and mix together with the dough hook on a slow speed. Once all bound together, increase the speed to medium and knead for 5 or so minutes. Gradually add the butter, whilst still kneading, until the dough is elastic and the butter is well incorporated. Pop the dough into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill overnight.

The following morninge, knock back the dough by flattening it with the palm of your hand. Divide it into 8 equal weighted balls, then on a lightly oiled surface roll each one out to a rectangle about 8 x 16cm and 4mm thick.

Soften the Nutella, if needed, by gently warming it, then spread ½ tablespoon over each piece of dough, leaving a slight border all around. Roll up from one long side to make a “swiss roll”, then cut along the length of the sausage (I find a very sharp knife is needed!), leaving it still attached at one end. Twist and spiral the 2 pieces around each other, so that the Nutella is visible, then press the ends together to form a roll. Put onto a lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with greased clingfilm and prove for 45 minutes or so. Brush the rolls with a little milk, then back for 20 minutes at 180C. Cool slightly on a wire rack before serving with a glass of milk.

I imagine these would also be lovely with some strawberries on the side!

What’s your go-to weekend brunch option?

Recipe: Chipotle Sweetcorn Fritters for Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch

I’m forever looking for quick recipes, made with mainly storecupboard ingredients, that can be made during my study day lunches. They need to be speedy (as otherwise I spend half my day procrastinating in the kitchen), reasonably light (to avoid inducing a full-bellied nap), ideally healthy, and (of course) nice and tasty!

These Sweetcorn Fritters fit the bill nicely.

Super quick to make, super tasty and satisfying to eat, and the toppings can be varied week to week so I never get bored. We generally have all of the ingredients to hand so it doesn’t require a trip to the shops (if you don’t have soured cream you could use creme fraiche or yoghurt, or even a small splash of milk), and it doesn’t make me feel like a post-lunch rest on the sofa. It also makes a great weekend breakfast!

Recipe (serves 1 generously)

  • 40g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tbsp soured cream
  • ½ tsp chipotle paste (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 handful frozen sweetcorn, defrosted
  • 2 spring onions, finely diced
  • 1-2 tbsp oil, for frying

Mix together the flour and baking powder in a bowl, and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the egg and soured and mix to a smooth batter. Stir in the chipotle paste, sweetcorn and spring onions, and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until hot, then add spoonfuls (2 tbsp seems to make good sizes fritters) of the mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side, until crisp and golden, and keep warm in the oven. Serve hot, with whatever accompaniments you fancy.

In these photos I served with some Chipotle Slaw (it was the day after we ate Fish Finger Tacos, so I stirred the leftover dressing into the leftover slaw) and some Pink Pickled Onions, but these are also good served with any combination of feta, bacon, avocado and poached egg. We’ve also eaten something similar in the past with sausages.

What is your go-to lunch dish?

Recipe: Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

This classic recipe is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while. I’d read about it occasionally in foodie magazines, there’s variations featured in a couple of my cookbooks. But I’ve always been a bit scared to try it. I mean, I love garlic but 40 cloves!? Every part of my brain said it wouldn’t work, but eventually I gathered up the courage and just gave it a go. And I’m sure glad I did!

Instead of being harshly garlicky, the slower simmering of the cloves means the garlic cooks down and becomes sweet and fragrant. The chicken is tender and moist, to the point of falling apart. The sauce is light, yet flavourful. Served with mashed potato (with some of the soft garlic stirred through) and green vegetables, I find this is the perfect summery alternative to a more traditional roast chicken.

Recipe – 1 large chicken would served 5/6 (or gives plenty of leftovers)

  • 5-6 banana shallots peeled and halved lengthways
  • 1 whole chicken
  • ½ lemon
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 40 garlic cloves (I used 3 bulbs), unpeeled
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 250ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine, homemade is extra yummy)
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp crème fraîche

Remove any string from the chicken and place the lemon inside the cavity. Generously season the chicken inside and out with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large flameproof casserole. Brown the chicken over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side. Add the whole garlic cloves and shallots to the casserole, nestling around the chicken, and poking some of the garlic inside the cavity with the lemon.

Pour over the wine and chicken stock. Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid and bring the liquid to a simmer on the hob, then transfer to the oven and cook for 1¼ hours at 200C. Check that the chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the thigh and ensuring the juices are clear.

Transfer the chicken to a warmed plate to rest whilst you make the sauce. Skim off any fat in the casserole pan and discard, then return to the hob and stir in the tarragon and crème fraîche. Squeeze in half of the garlic cloves (reserving the rest for another day, or use in the mashed potato). Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, stirring, then season to taste and serve alongside the chicken.

Not only does this dish taste delicious, but the cooking smells are insanely good!

Are you a fan of Sunday roasts, or do you like to mix things up a bit?

Food: Eating Meat More Ethically

Before I start, I should make it clear that this isn’t going to be a debate about whether you *can* eat meat completely ethically. Eating meat or not is a personal choice for each and every one of us to make, and one thing I don’t care for is pressure to do one thing or the other. What I do care for, however, is making sure what ever I eat makes me feel good both in terms of health, yumminess and ethically.

If you are completely against eating meat, this post probably isn’t for you. I eat meat. I find my body and mind becomes unhappy without it, and so I eat it. I also grew up with grandparents running a smallholding, so I’m comfortable with the idea of meat production and have been around that kind of thing from a fairly young age. If you’re not particularly comfortable with that idea, I’d suggest stopping reading now.

Buy Higher Quality Meat

Our goal over the next year or so is to transition to only buying meat from our butches, who assure us their producing farms rear happy and healthy animals. It means a lot to me that the meat I eat has been raised well, has seen sunshine, ran around in fields. The issue with this approach is, of course, the price. It is expensive.

For some meats, the quality of butcher-bought items far outshines it’s supermarket equivalent. In particular I find pork and steak to be infinitely better sourced from our butcher. Chicken breasts and mince I’m more on the fence about, though there is still a difference. I don’t dare try a whole roast chicken from the butcher as of yet, as I know it will bring on childhood memories and there’ll be no going back.

By buying higher quality meat, not only do I feel better about the life that animal was able to have, I’m also able to support smaller, local business and farms. Any time my money has gone to ‘Bob the Butcher round the corner’ rather than Tescos is good for me!

Become a ‘Flexitarian’ or Part-Time Vegetarian

Whether you see this as a ‘failed vegetarian’ or not, this is something I personally have seen become a lot more common recently. I have a friend who eats and cooks only vegetarian dishes at home, but will eat meat whilst eating out. I myself try to eat vegetarian breakfast and lunches at least 6 days a week, and a vegetarian dinner a couple of times a week (I’d love to up the dinners, but W isn’t quite on board!).

Some of my favourite veggie meals are Courgette, Pea & Feta Pasta, Risotto (I love Beetroot risotto, though Mushroom will always be my favourite! Make sure you used veggie friendly cheese though…), Chickpea Curry and Falafel.

Bulk out Meat-based Meals

This is kind of similar to eating less meat, but handy if you’ve got a member of your household who isn’t too fond of eating full-on veggie meals! In essence, you’re making the same meals as before, but using less meat – say around half. You can then bulk it out with veggies and pulses, so you’re still eating a ‘meat’ meal but with less impact to the environmental and your purse.

I usually add lentils to bolognese to reduce the mince needed, and a decent chilli-con-carne just begs out for lots of beans (kidney, black and borlotti are my go-tos). Chickpeas add a great texture to curries, whilst adding an egg to a fish pie is a great way to up the protein.

Eat Local/In Season

This is important whether you’re vegetarian or whether you eat meat. There’s very little point in proudly proclaiming you’re helping the environment by not eating meat when you’re eating carrots from Spain, sugarsnap peas from the US, brocoli from Jordan, avocados from South America, if you’re eating Strawberries in the winter.

Eating seasonally is SO important. Eat what’s good at that moment will mean not only does it taste better, it’s also travelled less, and will likely be cheaper too. There’s something about a perfectly fresh British strawberry that is a million times better than one that has flown several hundred miles to get to your bowl of sugar and cream!

Choose Sustainable Meat & Fish

This is particularly important for fish – there’s so much overfishing going on, when it’s not at all necessary. Instead of cod, try pollack or coley. Oily fish like salmon can be replaced with mackerel. You’ll find these options are often so much cheaper – we can buy two mackerel fillets for less than £2 which is a great thrifty meal that’s packed full of proteins and good fats.

Use All of the Meat

Food wastage is my ultimate pet peeve. I hate it. I hate the thought of shops and restaurants throwing out perfectly good food (I’m the first to ask for a doggy bag when I can’t finish my meal!), it annoys me beyond words when we have to throw out food at home. We’ve taken to trying to use every single bit of meat we buy, getting the most value out of the money we spent.

The easiest example is a whole chicken. There’s not many Sundays that go by without us enjoying a Roast Dinner, and chicken is our go-to because, lets face it, it’s the cheapest. We’ll usually get a large chicken, which will serve us generous for our roast, and will also do at least two other evening meals (and usually either a couple of lunches or a meal for one). Not only this, but we’ll also use the carcass for making stock – and it’s not as difficult or as time consuming as you’d think. Sure, a three hour simmer makes the best stock, but I frequently only give it half an hour or so. And to make it even more thrifty? Don’t cut up fresh veggies to use making stock! We throw all the odds and ends (onion tops, celery hearts, carrot peels, even onion skins) into a bag in the freezer, then use this to make stock. One large bag of veg offcuts, one chicken carcass and around 3 litres of water, simmered for up to four hours on the lowest heat possible, will give the nicest chicken stock you’ve tasted – and all out of ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown away.

Basically, one chicken will do us a roast dinner, 2-3 evening meals and stock for 3 further meals. More ideas for using up leftover roast chicken will be coming up in a post soon, but read this for an initial guide…and know that my current favourite involves frying shredded chicken with chipotle paste and piling into tacos with an avocado and sweetcorn salsa. Delicious!

Are you a meat-eater, vegetarian or do you try to combine the best of both?

Recipe: From-Scratch Laksa (Spicy Malaysian Noodle Soup with Chicken, Prawns & Egg)

As part of my foodie goals this year, I really wanted to start eating and cooking more authentic Asian cuisine. My standard stir-fry is all well and good, but I wanted to play with new-to-me ingredients, try new techniques and produce some really exciting dishes. This laksa might not be complicated (though it does create a huge amount of washing up!), but it tastes wonderful.

Generally, laksa is a spicy broth, served over rice noodles with chicken and prawns. I’ve added a little coconut milk to my version, both to temper the spice and also to make it smoother and creamier. I’ve also added a soft-boiled egg, because I’ve come to love the flavour of an oozing egg yolk in spicier foods. The whole thing is sweat-inducingly spicy, and somehow subtly combines sweet, salty and sour notes. It makes for a wonderful Friday night fakeaway, and I know I’ll be making this again and again.

The key to a good laksa, as I’ve discovered, is taking the time to make your own paste. I’ve used ready-prepared ones and they just aren’t quite the same. Yes, it might take a while (both to make and also to hunt down some of the ingredients) but it’s well worth it – and my quantities here make double the amount needed. I’ve frozen it in an ice-cube tray so I can make laksa whenever the mood strikes me.

Oh, and for an even quicker version I have made this using leftover roast chicken and ready cooked prawns. If the paste has been ready-made it’s the perfect quick after-work supper – and it’s wonderful if you’ve got a cold brewing!

This recipe was based on Ping Coobes version in Delicious Magazine. I’ve simplified it a bit based on the ingredients I was able to find – some of them you may need to hunt down in your local Asian supermarket (I specifically struggled finding shrimp paste and galangal).

Recipe for the Laksa Pasta (enough for 4 servings)

  • 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 fresh red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 4 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 4 lemongrass stalks, bottom part only, roughly chopped
  • 30g fresh galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 30g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp shrimp paste
  • 25g peanuts
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

To make the paste, simply whizz all of the ingredients in a food processor until you have a rough paste – add a little extra oil if you need to. I used my mini-chopped and found I had to do it in batches.

Recipe for the Laksa (serves 2)

  • 50g vegetable oil
  • Half quantity of the Laksa pasta, above
  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken thigh fillets
  • Tops of the lemongrass discarded when making the paste
  • Handful of raw prawns
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 2 nests of dried rice noodles, cooked according to pack instructions
  • Bunch fresh mint, leaves only
  • 1 medium egg, boiled for 5 minutes (soft boiled) or 7 minutes (hard boiled), peeled
  • Handful of peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Heat the oil in a wok frying pan over a medium heat. Add the laksa paste and reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and fry for at least 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. I try to fry for 30-40 minutes to really develop the flavour.

Put the chicken in a pan with half of the stock and the lemongrass, then simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and allow to cool before slicing into strips. Add the raw prawns to the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes until cooked, then transfer to the plate with the chicken. Skim off the scum from the surface of the poaching liquid and discard the lemongrass, before adding the rest of the stock and the coconut milk.

Once the paste has cooked, add it to the stock and coconut mixture, and allow to simmer for 15 or so minutes before straining the broth through a sieve. Taste and season if necessary. Bring the broth back to the boil. Portion out the noodles, chicken and prawns into two bowls, and pour the boiling broth over the top. Sprinkle with mint leaves, chopped peanuts and a squeeze of lime, and finish with half of the boiled egg.

As you can probably tell, it does make a huge amount of washing up – but it’s well worth it! The flavours are insanely complex, I couldn’t quite believe I’d made it entirely from scratch. I’m not sure if my version is entirely authentic, but it tastes delicious and I’d happily eat bowl after bowl.

Are you a fan of cooking Asian food? What’s your go-to recipe?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #41

Another Monday, another Happy Things diary! This last fornight has been a mix of being super-busy at work, some relaxing weekends and a lot of evenings spent resting a pulled neck (so painful!). Having said that, there’s still a lot to be happy about…

    1. White Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies. The perfect balance of sweet and salty, crunchy and chewy. Recipe coming soon!
    2. BBQs and gatherings with friends. I’m not a football fan at all, but the World Cup at least gives people the excuse to get together a bit more and I’m totally okay with that.
    3. Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Quiche. It’s currently baking as I type, it smells *amazing* and I’m looking forward to it making up my lunchboxes this week.
    4. Having a bit of an Instagram clear-out. So many accounts I don’t remember following, or just don’t have any major interest any more. It’s meant my feed is full of content I actually want to see, so I’m engaging more. Win win.
    5. Fresh mackerel. It’s one of my favourite fishes and it’s *so* cheap to get hold of. This weekend we pan-fried some in a harissa glaze which was delish!
    6. Gaining a tortilla press. I’ve made homemade tortilla wraps previously but struggle to get an even thickness so I’m looking forward to giving this a go.
    7. Homemade burritos. We piled green rice, refried beans, pork pibil and cheese into wraps and heated in the oven. They were huge, naughty and absolutely delicious.
    8. Enjoying the above whilst watching the Lego Movie. Everything is awesome!
    9. My fiance passing his Masters degree – we celebrated with pizza and wine, then he caught up on some much needed sleep. I’ll hopefully be sharing some of his final project on my Instagram page soon so stay tuned…
    10. Managing to nail a copy-cat recipe of Bella Italia’s Pollo Siciliana. I skipped the chicken, but it was virtually spot-on and absolutely delicious. One I’ll be making again and again…

What’s made you happy this week?

Food: 5 Quick & Easy Pasta Recipes

I’ve mentioned it many, many times, but pasta is a go-to dish for us – as I’m sure it is for a lot of household. I mean, what’s not to love?! Endless combinations, quick to cook, child-friendly. It’s the perfect after-work dinner and it’s no wonder we rely on it quite so much!

That said, we’ve spent the last year or so trying to branch out a little from our usual pasta dishes. We had a couple of go-tos – pesto pasta, carbonara, mac’n’cheese. None overly healthy, all lacking vegetables. That’s certainly changed now, here’s just five of our favourite quick and easy pasta recipes.

Fennel Pasta

This is something completely different, however the crunch of the fennel, the aniseed flavour, saltiness from parmesan and silky smooth pasta are a wonderful combination. You can find my recipe here.

Carbonara

A classic Carbonara is my ultimate pasta dish. A thick, rich and creamy sauce made entirely from egg (no cream in sight!), filled with plenty of cheese, freshly cracked black pepper and crispy bacon. It’s utterly delicious and I aim to always, always keep the necessary ingredients in our kitchen.

My recipe is simple – cook the pasta according to pack instructions, and fry cubed bacon in a little butter. Beat an egg in a mug (1 egg for two people, for one person just use the yolk, for a richer carbonara for two use two egg yolks) and add a handful of parmesan. Sometimes I also add a sprinkling of cheddar for extra richness. Beat together. Sowly add 4-5 tablespoons of the hot pasta water to the egg mixture, beating constantly – this should melt the cheese. Once the pasta is done drain (reserving a little water) and add to the bacon pan with a lot of black pepper. Remove from the heat and toss together, then gradually add the egg mixture. Toss constantly, adding a little pasta water if it starts to scramble. Serve immediately with extra parmesan.

Mushroom & Lentil Tomato-Free Bolognese

A traditional meat Bolognese is delicious, I can’t deny it, but it really needs a good hour or two simmering time to make the flavours really sing. This vegan version is quicker, once the lentils are added it needs just 20 or so minutes for them to soften.

Simply follow my recipe for Tomato-Free Bolognese, but add diced mushrooms to the onion/celery/carrot mixture. Instead of the mince, add in red lentils, then just simmer until these are cooked.

Courgette & Pea Summer Pasta with Lemon & Feta

This is my favourite pasta dish for the summer. It’s light, it’s fresh, it’s ready in just 15 minutes. It’s packed full of green veg, yet the use of the feta keeps the comfort food element that’s so important in pasta dishes. Full recipe here.

Caramelised Onion & Goat’s Cheese Pasta

This is the comforting, I-need-cheesy-carbs dish. The dish you want to curl up on the sofa with, fork in hand, blanket over feet and watch a girly film with. This is the dish I turn to if I want to cook a pasta dish that will make me feel instantly better. You can see my full recipe here, but in essence it is softened red onions, caramelised with thyme, honey and balsamic vinegar, stirred into pasta with soft goat’s cheese and plenty of seasoning. Served on a bed of rocket and scattered with walnuts it both tastes wonderful and looks impressive.

And with that, I know what I’m having for dinner tonight. Pasta. Now I just need to decide which recipe to use…

Are you a pasta fan? What’s your go-to recipe?

Cooking From: Bolognese Baked Eggs (Toast Hash Roast Mash by Dan Doherty)

The subtitle of this book is “Real Food for Every Time of Day” – it’s the type of food Dan (executive chef of Duck & Waffle) likes to eat at home and, quite frankly, if he eats like this I’d be happy to move in with him tomorrow. This book is basically a book of comfort food under many guises – there’s pancakes, there’s things to top toast with, there’s sweet things, there’s savoury things. Most dishes are designed for breakfast or brunch, but can really be eaten any time of day.

Whilst we haven’t cooked that many dishes out of this book, it’s one we turn to again and again for inspiration. It’s a joy to read, one of those cookbooks that makes you feel cozy and comforted. In fact reading it again for this review made me realise just how many recipes I want to make!

Chapters are On Toast, Eggs, Hash, Eggs Over Easy, Pancakes, Hangover, Savoury, Sides & Salas, Sweets and Drinks. Basically there’s something for anyone, something for every occasion. There’s jams, homemade nutella, cocktails, instructions to make the best pancakes. And recipes I want to try? Around 99% of them! I won’t list every single one, but top of my list? Dan’s take on Egg’s Benedict featuring a saltbeef bagel and mustard hollandaise. It sounds amazing! The recipe for a Black Pudding Hash made with leftover roast potatoes sounds like the stuff of dreams. But it’s the Hangover chapter which really gets me excited. Scotch Bhaji (basically a scotch egg, with runny yolk, encased in an onion bhaji). The Patty Melt, merging a grilled cheese sandwich with a burger. I’m slobbering at the thought.

However it’s an altogether more simpler recipe I’m featuring here today, and one I’ve simplified even more from the book. Taken from the Eggs chapter, this recipe takes bolognese (see my tomato-free bolognese recipe here, but use your favourite), adds heat in the form of harissa, then nestles in lightly poached eggs, covers in cheese and then bakes. The result is a hug in a dish. It’s warming, spicy, gooey from the eggs, and perfect served with a mound of toast or some freshly baked pitta bread.

Recipe (Serves 2)

  • 2 generous portions of bolognese (I’d veer on the side of too much here!)
  • 1 tsp harissa, or more to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g gruyere cheese

Simply heat the bolognese with the harissa until hot. Lightly poach the eggs until they are just firm enough to remove from the water. Spoon the bolognese mixture into a baking dish, nestle in the eggs and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake at 180C for around 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve with plenty of bread for dipping.

It may not be in the hangover section, but I’d certainly be prepared to bet that this would  cure any hangover!

Are you a brunch fan? What’s your go-to at home weekend brunch?

Recipe: Lemon & Olive Oil Cake

Despite being a self-confession chocoholic, my go-to flavouring for a cake is lemon. There’s something about a zingy sponge, perhaps filled with a vibrant curd or topped with a crunchy drizzle glaze, that just makes my heart sing and tastebuds dance.

I usually make a lemon drizzle cake (recipe will be coming soon), but this is something a little different. This cake is smarter, it’s perfect for a dinner party dessert served with zest creme fraiche and raspberries, but it’s also delicious with a cup of tea. As it’s not too sweet, I confess I’ve also enjoyed it for a lazy weekend breakfast with some yoghurt! It’s a super moist cake with a tender crumb, a whack of lemony zing and subtle grassy flavours of olive oil.

Speaking of the olive oil, I used Terre Di San Vito*. I’ve been using this olive oil for the past month or two, and I have to say it’s good. It’s grassy and well-flavoured, without being overly harsh at the back of your throat. It makes wonderful salad dressings, and I’ve enjoyed far too much of it served simply with bread and some balsamic vinegar. Yum!

Back to the cake. It’s super simple to make, though does require some careful folding and a decent hand whisk or stand mixer. But really it’s hardly any effort at all, especially as I’ve simplified the method compared to many similar recipes I’d found – this gal ain’t got time for separating eggs and whisking whites and yolks individually!

Recipe (Makes 8 generous slices, 10 more dainty ones)

  • 5 medium eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 120ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (roughly one lemon)
  • 125g plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 50g icing sugar, for dusting

Using stand mixer (you could do it by hand, but you’ll be exhausted afterwards), beat the eggs and sugar on high until the mixture is fluffy and has doubled in volume (it took just over 6 minutes in my KitchenAid). While the eggs and sugar are mixing, in a separate bowl measure the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest and whisk together.

Using a spatula, fold in the olive oil and lemon juice into the egg mixture, followed by the flour mixture. Fold until the flour disappears, but be careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into a greased and lined 9 inch cake tin, and bake for 40-45 minutes at 175C until the top is a light golden brown and a skewed poked in comes out clean. Sift over some icing sugar before serving, to decorate.

Told you it was an easy cake recipe! I find this one is best eaten the day after baking, as it gets slightly more moister and almost sticky as it sits. I think it would be the perfect cake to take along to a summery BBQ…

*I received two bottles of Terre Di San Vito olive oil to promote on my Instagram page. No blog post was required, and all opinions are (as ever!) my own. No money exchanged hands in this collaboration. 

Have you ever tried baking with olive oil?