Hello from me! This is just a really quick, frantically typed catch-up today – done between exam papers (because somehow my exam is now less than three weeks away, no idea how that happened!). My last fortnight has been pretty much all study (surprise surprise) but definitely some yummy food and good days too…
Meal prep Sundays. The perfect way to productively procrastinate – though to be fair to myself I did pick things that produced maximum portions with minimum effort. The perfect way to pace myself through exam questions, and now we have lots of delicious meals ready for the week!
A date-night in. I had an afternoon off work and couldn’t bear to spend it all studying so cooked up a three course meal. It included oven-baked arancini, veal saltimbocca and a cream dessert with bananas and homemade caramelised walnuts. Yum!
I also mastered making my own caramel for the first time. It’s terrified me before so I’m pleased I tried it out!
Evening walks. Despite it still being dark after dinner we’ve been trying to get out for a walk around the local area. Turns out we’re getting in around 2 miles which isn’t bad!
A really good meal involving cheesy mash and pork fillet. Based on this recipe. So good, so quick, absolutely 100% will make again.
Tinned peaches and vanilla ice-cream. A new combination to me and one I’m now totally hooked on.
A new laptop. I’ve needed one for years but finally took the plunge this month (anyone else HATE getting new tech even though you know it will work better?!). It’s (1) super fast, (2) so light-weight and (3) really quite pretty so winning on all counts.
Peanut Cookies from Sainsbury’s and Yorkshire Biscuit Brew. Thank me later.
Watching Masterchef – I love it! I thought the Vegan Challenge was particularly good, and I also loved the episode about cooking with scraps.
Board game afternoon (and takeaway pizza from The Dynamo) with my girls. The best way to spend a Saturday!
What’s made you smile lately? What have you been up to?
I’ve mentioned this more on my Instagram grid that on here, but one of my goals for the year is to aim to make all of my lunchboxes vegan throughout the year. I’m doing this for a few reasons – but mainly to prove a point after someone mockingly bet me I couldn’t eat many vegan dishes. I’m stubborn, me. It’s also to cut down on the amount of meat I eat, although a lot of my lunchboxes were veggie anyway, and to remove the unnecessary cheese. Lunch looks a bit boring, add a generous helping of feta. Pasta? Grate half a block of Parmesan on it. You get the picture.
That said, I’m not being overly strict. I don’t want to end up dreading lunchtime and craving the canteen’s chips instead. I don’t want to give up on this challenge a few months in. And so it’s onto the self-imposed ‘rules’…
The challenge is for lunchboxes only, which means eating out, weekends and study days tend not to fall under the challenge. I’ve actually found myself picking more vegan options on these days anyway, but I needed to lift the restriction when eating out as vegan + tomato allergy ain’t as easy as you’d imagine!
Ignore pasta, as long as the sauces and accompaniments are vegan. I know you can get vegan pasta, but we have so much of it anyway (as we buy in bulk) so I’m not sweating it for this challenge. As long as I don’t serve up a mac’n’cheese (with proper milk/cheese!) I kinda feel that’s okay! Though I do have some vegan chickpea pasta to try out from my latest Degustabox (gifted) so we’ll see how that goes…
Avoiding waste trumps this challenge. Whilst I’m no longer creating my lunchboxes around planned leftovers (they go into dinners instead) I will still refuse to see waste just because ‘its not vegan’ if it can otherwise be thrown into my lunchbox. Case in point was a delicious yoghurt based dressing from a Taco Salad (this recipe) a few weeks ago. It went wonderfully over the bean mix I had in my lunchbox that week, but would have ended up down the drain if not. Likewise if there’s a bit of feta going to waste in the fridge (because it comes in packs that are generally far too big) then I would sooner eat it in a lunch than throw it out!
No meat substitutes (and I’m not crazy about the amount of sugar in the Oatly cream and creme fraiche substitutes either…). Though I have to say I’m curious about pulled peas…
And so far, this approach is working out really well for me. I’ve had some damn tasty lunches – highlights have been a mushroom and lentil stew/soup combo (I’ve since re-made this as more of a stew with borlotti beans and leeks and have five portions stashed in the freezer), an amaaaazzzzing chickpea soup with tahini and a surprisingly tasty throw-together salad of lentils, kale and roasted broccoli. The sort of thing I’d have thrown feta on top of without a moments thought, but actually was all the better without it.
Have you tried going vegan, or eating more vegan options?
Chowder. My biggest food love of 2018. We discovered it on honeymoon, when I managed to eat probably 7 bowls of the stuff over the trip (and given food was a big part of the trip, anything repeated even twice had to be good!). Whilst I haven’t recreated the New England Clam version that absolutely has my heart, this version has become a regular on our meal plan.
It’s fairly budget friendly, which gives it a big advantage over the clam version. It’s also fairly quick to make which makes it the absolute perfect afterwork supper. This recipe makes 2 massive bowlfuls, and it’s wonderful hearty. Chunks of veg and fish, and the most beautiful spiced broth. You can vary the spicing to suit your tastes, but I tend to go on the hotter end of the spectrum – mainly because every time I’ve made it one or both of us has been suffering from a cold. And the best thing is that it could be easily bulked up. Add naan bread if you’re super hungry, and a handful of prawns stirred in would be amazing too. In fact, I think I might have to try that tonight…
Recipe (serves 2, or would stretch to 3 if served with some naan bread)
2 fillets of smoked haddock (I used frozen and defrosted in the fridge during the day)
1 small leek
1 celery stick
2 medium potatoes (around 250g)
1 red chilli
1 tbsp of curry powder (if you don’t have any of the other spices, up this to 2 tbsp)
½ tsp of ground cumin
½ tsp of ground coriander
½ tsp of turmeric
400ml of stock (I normally use chicken, but vegetable or fish would also work well)
50-1000ml of cream, depending on how creamy you would like it
Large handful of fresh coriander, chopped
First up, chop your veg. Finely dice the onion, carrot and celery, and finely slice the leek. Peel the potato and cut into dice, about 3-4cm cubed. In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil and add the onions, carrot, celery, and chilli with a pinch of salt, and sweat for 10-12 minutes. When the vegetables are soft, add the spices and stir in. Fry for 2 minutes, then add the stock and diced potatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are almost cooked.
Add the cream and bring back to the boil. Tear in the haddock and simmer for five minutes, then add the coriander and stir in. I sometimes stir in some fresh spinach too for some extra greens. Season well with plenty of black pepper, then serve in bowls.
This Curried Chowder is perfect on a winter’s night, I think I’m addicted to it! So comforting and flavourful, it could also be made in a big batch and served as part of an informal dinner party.
Happy first Happy Monday of March! Can I first address the fact that it’s already March, and this year is going by far too quickly for my liking?! Well, January really dragged for me but February? Blink and you’d have missed it! As I alluded to last fortnight, things are a little difficult for me right now. I’m trying my hardest to concentrate on the little things, but some days are better than others! Here’s the good bits from the last couple of weeks…
Lots of doggy cuddles. I’ve been dogsitting this past weekend and it’s been great to spend some quality time with my pup. He’s definitely in his more senior years so it’s been lots of cuddles and a few extra sneaky treats!
A weekend with my mummy. We went for our annual afternoon tea (this time at Hide, which was every bit as beautiful as I’d hoped) and had a wander around Richmond the next day. A lovely and relaxing weekend ahead of many weekends of study…
The Chickpea Pasta recipe from Ottolenghi Simple. An absolutely amazing dish, and the chickpea mixture is also really good over sourdough toast. It’s going to become a staple for sure.
I’m Fine, and Neither Are You. One of the February free Kindle books available for Prime member, and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
Another good tomato-free pizza from Waitrose. This one was Speck and Gorgonzola and was the perfect combo of meaty and cheesy.
Cosying up in jumper dresses. I’ve recently invested in one from Oliver Bonas and it’s just so cosy and soft!
One of the best pies I’ve ever, ever eaten. It was a Chicken, Pancetta and Mushroom combination at The White Hart near Waterloo. It was packed full of tender meat, had so much flavour and the pastry was perfect to (about as far away from a soggy bottom as is possible). I also really enjoyed the roasted veg and braised red cabbage on the side. Oh, and the Sticky Toffee Pud was pretty awesome as well.
Bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. A treat breakfast as smoked salmon doesn’t generally fall into my shopping basket, but its been soooo good!
Fresh daffodils and a new side table.
Finding some cookie dough frozen in the freezer. Freshly baked cookies in 15 minutes is a very dangerous thing indeed…
Perhaps one of the least pretentious Michelin-starred restaurants in London (to the point we were debating whether it had one – it does), the slightly shabbier decor both inside and out means it’s all about the food at St John. Very industrial, and I was worried as the bar area was actually cold as we walked through, but thankfully the dining room was warm and a little comfier.
We started with some great bread (though the butter was a tad too cold – perhaps it has also spent some time in the bar area!) and ordered what turned out to be a couple of glasses of some very nice red. The menu also wasn’t what I was expecting – I was expecting meat, and a lot of it, but there was also a fairly decent balance of fish and veg on there too. Not a huge amount of choice, and some options just far enough out there to really excite me. I’m the type of person to order the offal, the rabbit, the thing that you have to google, and I’d been looking forward to this meal since booking a few months prior.
And it was worth the wait. Again, there was a complete lack of pretentiousness. No showy-off plating of ingredients. Nothing cooked in a particularly fancy way. Just excellent quality ingredients, cooked quite right, paired with exactly the right flavours, and in properly big portions to boot.
I ordered what is perhaps considered to be their signature dish as my starter. I’d been day-dreaming about it since booking and was honestly waking up in sweats in case it wasn’t on the menu (daily menus are published at 5pm, so you won’t know what you’re getting when you book). Fortunately for me, and possibly the sanity of those around me, it was very much on there. Roast bone marrow served with a parsley and caper salad was served undeniably simply, with some more excellent bread grilled to a dry yet not burnt toast. It was very much a get-stuck-in type dish, I was pushing and scraping the marrow out onto toast, and adding salad and seasoning as I saw fit. I was in a greasy mess by the end of it (not a first date dish) but a very happy greasy mess. The bone marrow was rich and comforting, the salad sharp and cutting through it exactly right.
My husband went slightly more refined with a Pork Cheek and Dandelion Salad. Crispy and crunchy hunks of meat, and really pepperly leaves in a dressing strong with mustard. It wasn’t a dish for the faint-hearted and I thought the dressing was perhaps a tad over-powdering, but it was 100% something I’d eat a whole plate of.
Once I saw the main courses on offer they was never any doubt in what I was ordered. I’ve loved faggots since childhood and find they near impossible to get hold of in London, so I said yes please and thank you to Kid Faggots with Mash and Onion Gravy. Greens on the side, because I needed to reassure myself I had eaten at least one of my five-a-day during the meal. These combined of a mixture of heart, kidneys and liver all wrapped in caul fat. I felt the outside could have done with some crisping up, but it was a heart, delicious plateful that I didn’t want to end. The inside of the faggots was nicely textured – certainly not mush, and you could just about pick out the differing tastes and textures of the different elements. And despite it’s wishy-washy appearance, the sauce accompanying the onions was packed full of flavour. Not that you need a sauce, because that mash was certainly creamy and buttery enough to hold it’s own! Greens were also spectacular, buttery and a little bitter. Not necessary, but given there’s no additional veg on the plate they did add some balance.
W went for a Saddle of Pork dish with Red Cabbage, and this is the reason why I’ve not been able to buy pork since. It was quite honestly the best tasting bit of pig I’ve had the fortune to try, and no Sunday Roast will ever be the same again. Was it fancy? Certainly not. But it was damn tasty. As we ate they sold out of the salad cut, so moved on to serving the same dish but with another cut of pork. Nose to tail eating at it’s finest.
Though talking about the sides, I’m still a little bitter I couldn’t talk my husband into sharing the Welsh Rarebit with me. Next time.
To be fair to him, I was struggling at this point. As was he – to the point he looked slightly panicked when they surprising him with a birthday treat of some (absolutely wonderful) ginger ice-cream. I stole a good few spoonfuls as it went perfectly with my Ginger Loaf with Butterscotch Sauce (also served with vanilla ice-cream, but the ginger was better). Surprisingly this wasn’t over-sweet, and was pretty much everything I always hope a Sticky Toffee Pudding would be…Eccles Cake with Cheese was also a good choice, and we rolled out of the restaurant too very full, very happy people.
Have you ever visited St John? Where’s the best meal you’ve had of 2019 so far?
One of the things I’ve become really conscious of over the last few months is making sure my diet contains enough protein. We’re gradually cutting down on the amount of meat we do eat, and my vegan lunchbox challenge means I’m avoiding dairy and eggs a large amount of time too – so I’m keen to find easy ways we can squeeze in an extra portion. It turns out that the January Degustabox* was perfect for this.
It was full to the brim of all sorts of goodies – with the nice added touch that they squeezed in some extra protein into our diet. The Protein Crunchy Rye Breads from Ryvita were absolutely delicious, and perfect with a vegan soup as part of my lunchbox challenge (more on that next week!). We’ll definitely be picking up more of them in the future. I also loved that a variety of plain rice and lentil cakes were including – topped with peanut butter they’re my go-to rushed breakfast or quick study day snack and I’ve really enjoyed the branded versions. In fact they were so much nicer and the price point actually isn’t as extreme as I’d though, so I’m converted!
This post, however, is all about the PBfit powder. It really surprised me by being so delicious just made into peanut butter with water (think Reese’s and you’re not too far of) but I also found it such a great and easy thing to bake with. I also loved that it made pancakes actually fill me up for longer too – usually I’m ravenous after a couple of hours, but this recipe got me right through up until lunch. It’s full of peanut flavour, the pancakes themselves are nice and fluffy (and not too sweet) and it goes perfectly with the fresh raspberry ‘jam’ made with chia and some yoghurt. Save to say this is perfect for pancake day – or indeed any day!
Recipe (serves 2 – the batter keeps in the fridge for a day, or you could make the pancakes in advance and reheat in a low oven)
175ml milk (plus a splash more if needed – I found one batch was fine, but another needed a touch more)
1 large egg
75g plain flour
25g peanut butter powder
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
Vegetable oil or butter, for frying
For the ‘jam’ – a handful of fresh or frozen raspberries and a generous tablespoon of chia seeds
First off, make the jam. This can be made in advance, I find it keeps well in the fridge for about five days. Simply heat the raspberries in a small pan (add a splash of water if they’ve fresh) and once soft and juicy squish them with the back of a spoon. Stir in the chia seeds, and keep stirring until you have a sticky and jam like texture – if you want you can blend it at this stage but I quite like the texture from the seeds.
For the pancakes, whisk the milk and eggs in a jug, then set aside. Sieve the flour and the baking powder into a bowl, add the peanut powder and cinnamon, then stir to combine. Gradually add in the milk and egg mixture and beat well – don’t worry if it’s a little lumpy. Heat a little oil or butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, pour half a ladle of batter into the pan. I go for pancakes that are a little smaller, say around 6-8cm in diametter
Cook until bubbles start to form and the underside is golden, then flip the pancake over and cook the other side for a few minutes. Keep warm in a low over whilst you use up the remaining batter – I usually get 6-8 pancakes out of this recipe.
Serve stacked, drizzled with the jam and some yoghurt. It’s also divine with some maple syrup for more peanut butter if you’re feeling naughty!
*I receive a gifted monthly subscription to Degustabox, but am under no obligation to post this recipe. This recipe wasn’t paid for and, as always, all opinions are my very own.
Will you be eating pancakes next Tuesday? Are you a thin crepe or fluffy American stack type of person?
Happy Monday! After my more positive post a fortnight ago there’s been radio silence on here and, whilst I do have an excuse, it’s not something I particularly want to share. Let’s just say that these last few weeks have been far from easy and there’s more to come. I’m hoping that focusing on the positives whilst writing this post will improve my mindset (it needs it!).
The SUN. These last few days have been absolutely glorious in London, and for the first time in my life I’ve felt a genuine difference in my mood as the weather has brightened up. I’ve even been outside with bare legs (albeit a midi skirt) and a t-shirt. In February.
Having a big spring clean. With the warmer weather we threw open all the doors and windows and went a little crazy with the cleaning spray. We reorganised cupboards (my bathroom cupboard now has boxes for treatments of different ailments. I even have a first aid box). Found places for wedding presents which have been sat out for months. Sadly the missing limited edition MAC lipstick that sparked the tidying remains missing.
Picking up more plants. Our flat was lacking some green, so we picked up some more plants and attracted a lot of attention walking back from B&Q. Now just to keep them alive!
Gooey melted cookie dough pots. For our Valentine’s date night we kept things fairly simple – pan-fried sea bass with a lemon caper butter, then this glorious cookie pots based on a recipe from Top with Cinnamon.
Lots of new recipes. We’d noticed we’d let our goal to cook more new recipes slide in January due to both of us being ill constantly, but we more than made up for it in the last two weeks, pretty much everything we cooked was a new try! Highlights have been an Ottolenghi chickpea pasta dish and a smoked haddock bake. And the aforementioned cookie pots.
Having broad beans for the first time in years. My Granddad used to grow them and they immediately transported me back to my childhood.
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…
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.
Really good bacon. W’s been getting a fortnightly subscription and it’s changed how I see bacon sandwiches for good. It smells incredible!
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!
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…
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.
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.
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!
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!
A really good burger from GBK – the Major Tom is definitely worth a try!
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…
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.
This 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.
It’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.
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!
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!
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…
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!
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…
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…
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!
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.
Sex Education on Netflix. So good for some light-hearted watching!
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?