Food: Recent Eats #3

Given my impromptu break from blogging, I thought I’d do a quick run-through of all the delicious things I’ve been trying lately – and some of the not so delicious too! We’re both quite experimental cooks, so if there’s a particular fruit/veg in season, or some kind of new ingredient we find, we tend to add it to our weekly shop and do *something* with it. Added to this some of the PR gifts I am lucky enough to receive (they’re all clearly marked in this post) and we get to try new foodie bits quite regularly. Some are really, really not to our taste, others become firm favourites. Let’s see what made the cut recently!

 photo Recent Eats 3_zps7lhwsbkq.jpgDegustabox*

In short, Degustabox is a subscription box that sends out a variety of shelf-stable food items, some which are new to the market or are a little bit innovative. Others are well-known, but to be honest that wouldn’t put me off – for example this month we received a tub of Cadbury’s Highlights hot chocolate powder. We all know and love Cadbury’s, but I’m certainly not complaining about receiving that!

More excitingly, we received some Rosie’s Pig Flat Tyre Rhubarb Cider which I really enjoyed – it was fruity, sharp (not overly sweet) and a perfect summer evening drink. I also really enjoyed the raw Salted Caramel Brownie from Pulsin – it was very brownie like, not overly sweet and the perfect non-guilty treat. The London Crisp Company had included a couple of packets, which always goes down well (though W snaffled the salt’n’vinegar, so we’re currently not speaking…). I’m also super excited to try the mixes by Capsicana, I’m still not eating red meat after my illness, but I’m going to find the courage to try the Brazilian spice mix with some beef soon. Not so successful was the Salad Cream. Sorry Heinz, I’m just not a fan!

Other things included a Miso soup mix and some cheesy rice crackers – these have gone to live in my desk at work for when I forget my lunch or need an extra snack. There was also some sparkling Ribena, and an iced coffee with added protein – coffee sends both of us a bit jittery, so I’ll be giving this to a friend who will appreciate it more.

Head over to my Instagram profile and have a look at my story highlights to see everything included in this month’s box!

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Cooking with Pork Fillet

Not a cut of pork I’ve been too familiar with in the past, we picked up a fillet and have done a couple of things with it (one will serve the two of us generously!). We stir-fried it in a Thai dish which was delicious, and we also wrapped it in a mix of spinach and parma ham, encased in pastry and served as a Wellington. Yummy and a lot cheaper than you’d expect!

Jamie Oliver’s Bean Burgers

(Picture by Delicious Magazine Australia, who published the recipe)

I have been wanting to make decent bean burgers for years, but so often they are either too mushy, too bland, too ‘raw spicy’, or just too difficult to fry. However this is definitely the best recipe I’ve tried – it’s got a decent texture, it fries pretty well (and also works from frozen too). I do tend to fry in my oven-proof pan, then throw in the oven when I finish off a salad, and I also tend to leave off the seeds – but they’re still damn good. I love to serve with pink pickled onions in pittas…

Speaking of Pittas, these bean burgers work *really* well in the BFree Pittas.* I find these pittas to be super tasty – not quite as good as homemade, but really good when you want to fill them. They hold together reasonably well, taste almost grilled, and are thin enough so they don’t take over from the main event. I’ve also really enjoyed them filled with a Mexican grilled chicken and salad concoction. They are also wheat and gluten free as far as I’m aware!

Sourdough Bread*

We recently attended another workshop at Bread Ahead Bakery (read about the Doughnut one here) – all about Sourdough. It was quite technical, I came out feeling as though I’d been back to school, but it was wonderful too. We came home with lots of bread, which we enjoyed as a posh chicken sandwich, toasted with avo and (using the rye bread) spread with cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon and cucumber.

I’ll be doing a full review post in a few weeks, but if you’re interested in starting to bake more sourdough then I highly, highly recommend you try this class. If you want a bit of baking fun, maybe try one of their other classes as it was more intense than the Doughnut one.

Ben & Jerry’s ‘Diet’ Ice-Cream

It’s true! It doesn’t sound like it should be right, but our loyal friends Ben and Jerry have indeed launched a Moophoria range which is billed to have 50% less fat that similar ice-creams. I like to enjoy my ice-cream without worrying about calories, so I’d never have bought this, but we tried the Caramel Cookie Fix at SCOOP and really, really enjoyed it. You couldn’t tell it was low-fat and the textures were spot on. I’ll be buying more!

SCOOP, by the way, is an exhibition all about the history of ice-cream. It’s short and sweet (quite literally), but was a good way to spend 45 minutes in Kings Cross and involved spending 5 minutes in a giant freezer (perfect during the heatwave – worth the entry fee for this alone). You get to make your own ‘cheats’ ice-cream, try some glow-in-the-dark stuff and buy some unusual flavours (Dandelion anyone?!) when you’re done. I also learned so much about my favourite cold treat, so it’s well worth it.

As an added extra, my go-to ice-cream this summer has been Sicilian Lemon Curd & British Raspberry Ice Cream from the Co-Op. It’s like a fancy raspberry ripple and is SO good!

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Botonique*

I mentioned this alcohol-free drink for wine lovers a while back, but thought I’d be a little more detailed here. Basically it’s soft drink that’s designed to mimic wine – in that it’s not too sweet, has a more complex flavour and enhances food. It’s also got a blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids meant to replace those usedup in dealing with alcohol – whilst I’m not overly convinced by the science behind this, I did find the drink super thirst-quenching on a hot afternoon. It is, however, very botanical and fragrant which put my friends off. I was the only person who actually liked this, but I have to say I’d happily buy another bottle. There’s a Rose version too which I’m desperate to try…

Ed’s Milkshakes

When I agree to meet a friend for a drink, the heatwave made us change our minds towards iced coffee. Then nowhere had ice. We ended up going to Ed’s and ordering milkshakes – not only did the metal cup feel wonderful to hold, but my Nutella Milkshake (made with fro-yo rather than ice-cream for apparently 90% less fat – yikes!) was absolutely delicious. Thick, creamy and absolutely full of Nutella flavour. Yum yum yum…

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Trying Our First Ever Chinese

Yep, I’ve nearly reached the age of 25 and I’d never eaten a Chinese before last weekend! Embarrassing I know, but now I’ve tried it I’ll definitely be back! We were invited to try out the menu at Royal China* and on the whole it was a success. There were dishes that weren’t to our taste, but Crispy Aromatic Duck? New favourite thing! I’ll be reviewing the restaurant in full so keep your eyes peeled – but what is your go-to Chinese dish? I need to know what I should try next!

Dr Oetker’s “Yes It’s Pizza” Vegetable Based Pizzas (link)*

This is pizza, but not as you know it. A unique new range of vegetable dough based pizzas, with further tasty toppings create a really vibrant pizza – and I’m not kidding, the beetroot base is BRIGHT! I had to keep checking the packaging to make sure I wasn’t eating tomato!

The pizza doesn’t taste too strongly of beetroot, the cheese is nicely flavoured, and the toppings of courgette, peppers and ham is a really good combo. I certainly enjoyed it and would be happy to eat it again and again!

Cold Brew Tea

I know Twinnings have recently launched something as it’s all over my Instagram (not sponsored – I’ve not been involved with the campaign!), but Sainsbury’s have also launched their own brand rather of cold-brew teabags. The flavour combos are a bit more limited, but they are a *lot* cheaper and I’m a fan. The one with Watermelon and Lime has been a winner so far…

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Courgettes

After announcing loudly at work that courgettes are my favourite vegetable (try living that down in an all-male team…) my boss presented me the next day with some monsters he’d grown himself. Absolutely huge (one only fitted into my fridge at an angle) – so I’ve eaten a lot of courgette recently. Think tarts, soups, pastas and even cake. Of course my Courgette Risotto featured too…I’ll be doing a post with some of my favourite courgette recipes soon.

*Items marked were gifted – but all opinions are my own. No money exchanged hands for this post!

What foodie things have you tried lately? Has anyone tried the new Malteser Buttons? I’m determined to get my hands on some!

Food: 5 Quick & Easy Summer Lunches

I’m one of those people that will pretty much always bring their own lunch to the office. Despite getting a really generous allowance in our office canteen each day, I’d sooner control what I’m eating (and how much, our servers are more than generous!). I also can’t imagine ever feeling comfortable with buying lunch everyday – at £5 (at least) near our office the thought of spending upwards of £100 a month on lunches alone is pretty horrific compared to our modest food shop budget.

Bring my own lunches allows me to save money, up my veggie intake (because vitamins), and choose exactly what I want to eat. I tend to make enough of the same thing to last 2 or 3 days, simply as it’s easier, but also never making enough for the whole week. I certainly don’t want to eat the same lunch every single day! These next few recipes are just some of the ones in my regular rotation…

 photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsioqo0b5n.jpgFalafel

Homemade falafel are one of my favourite lunches, whether I’m in the office or at home. They’re also great to have on stand-by as a snack or emergency dinner (I freeze them and heat in the oven from frozen). I usually serve them with a giant salad and some kind of grain, though I do love them piled into wraps with hummous or yoghurt….

 photo Beetroot Yoghurt Salad4_zpse0iui9zo.jpgBeetroot and Yoghurt Salad

I absolutely cannot get enough of this salad. Based on this BBC Good Food recipe, it’s creamy and tangy from the yoghurt, spicy from the harissa, earthy from the beetroot and crunchy due to the chickpeas. Mint leaves add freshness and served with homemade pitta bread it’s the perfect low-fuss light lunch. I sometimes add extra green to this in the form of spinach, watercress and/or rocket, I can imagine it being the perfect side for a BBQ too…

This is the only recipe in this post that I can’t imagine working well as a lunch-box – ideally you’d want the veggies to be warm and the yoghurt fridge-cool. But it is the perfect weekend lunch, and one I know I’ll be making again and again…

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Spicy Lamb Sausage Rolls

One of my favourite bakes of 2018 so far, these spicy sausage rolls are perfect for lunch on the go. I’m determined to fill my freezer with them ready for impromptu picnics in the sun! Hot with harissa, flaky pastry and flavourful filling, they are a far cry from the soggy sausage rolls you can buy from certain high-street retailers…

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Frittata (any kind!)

It might be a mouthful of a recipe title, but this is so super-easy and quick to make. Packed full of protein, I love this in my lunchbox for work, or warm on a study day. Perfect served with a simple green salad, you can find my recipe for one including chorizo here. If I fancy a change, I also LOVE this recipe. I kid myself the amount of kale makes it healthy, but given I also pile in a mountain of feta I’m not too sure…

I recently wrote a post about my favourite frittata recipes (including an amazing Pesto, Spaghetti and Spinach one) so if that’s your kinda thing then check it out!

 photo Asian Quinoa Salad7_zpsiyerfhuz.jpg photo Asian Quinoa Salad4_zpsgijjuqz7.jpgQuinoa Salad

All hail the quinoa salad! Quinoa is quite often my grain of choice at lunchtime – it’s filling, light and doesn’t irritate my stomach. It’s also a great base for loads of different flavour combinations, though my favourite way to eat it is slathered in a ginger-y, zingy peanut butter dressing together with plenty of crunch fresh veggies (see this recipe). I also can’t say no to a salad which combines quinoa with citrus flavours, feta, nuts and pomegranate seeds

What do you usually make for lunch?

Recipe: Lemon, Courgette & Kale Pasta

We all have that one dish in a restaurant that we always order, no matter what. Whilst in most places I do try to order something different each time, in Bella Italia I always, always go for the Pollo Siciliana.  Pasta tubes with chicken, courgette, and spinach in a creamy tarragon and lemon sauce, it’s zingy, indulgent and totally yummy. I always say I’ll try something else but I find it pretty irresistible!

 photo Lemon Courgette Pasta_zpsz0vx7np3.jpgIt’s also a dish I find myself craving quite often, but eating out costs pennies and this gal is saving for a wedding after all – so I made it myself. This one isn’t *quite* the same as the original, but it’s super quick to make and satisfies the craving. I’ve cut out the chicken to make it meat-free, and switched out the spinach for kale as I prefer the texture. I’ve also added peas to up the veg content. The result is a dish that’s super zingy with lemon and packed full of veg. I’ve kept the flavour intense by slowly frying garlic and dried tarragon, adding a splash of white wine and using the best quality pasta I could find. It’s relatively guilt-free too – with the cream limited to a single splash and no cheese added. The perfect mid-week meal!

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 5_zpsbglqmto5.jpg

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 5_zpsbglqmto5.jpg
Recipe (Serves 1)

  • 50g good quality pasta
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 2 handfuls kale, thick stems trimmed and discarded
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • Pinch dried chilli flakes
  • Splash of white wine
  • Splash of cream (double or single works fine – as does creme fraiche, mascapone etc)

First up, slice the courgette thinly (around the thickness of a £1 coin). Fry in a little olive oil with some black pepper until starting to soften, then set aside. In the same pan add a little more olive oil, turn the heat down as low as possible and add the crushed garlic clove, the tarragon and the chilli. Allow to cook slowly for around 10 minutes, adding the lemon zest halfway through, whilst you boil the pasta and steam the kale.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and reserve a mug of the pasta water. Turn the heat up on the garlic and add the wine, before allowing to almost fully evaporate. Add in the pasta, steamed kale, peas and courgette, along with the lemon juice and plenty of black pepper. Toss together until the peas and defrosted and warmed through, adding pasta water if necessary to loosen. Stir through a splash of cream, and serve immediately. Ideally with a glass of wine and your favourite TV series.

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 2_zpsynlmk1na.jpg

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 4_zps88jc76na.jpgCourgettes are one of my favourite summer vegetables, and this is a great way of using them up. Next on my list is this recipe from Half Baked Harvest.

Do you have a go-to meal when eating out, or do you prefer to try something new?

Recipe: White Chocolate & Pretzel Cookies

These were dreamed up early on a Saturday morning. W was snoozing in bed, I was flicking through recipe books. I wanted to back, but I didn’t know what I wanted to bake. It had to be portable, as it was being dragged halfway across London to a BBQ. It needed to be quick and fairly easy, as I’m impatient. It needed to involve minimum baking time, as it’s far too hot in the UK right now to have your oven on for hours on end.

 photo White Choc amp Pretzel Cookies_zpsbyvwl3aj.jpg photo White Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies 25_zpsut9uyxfd.jpgCookies seemed like the obvious choice. But we *always* make cookies. And sure our cookies are delicious, but I wanted something new. Something different. Something a little unusual.

And so White Chocolate & Pretzel Cookies were born. A combination of creamy sweet white chocolate with a crunchy and salty hit from the pretzels, they skyrocketed straight into my top-cookie-spot. The sweet and salty flavours together go so well in the chewy cookie base, with the pretzels adding an amazing texture. I clearly wasn’t the only person who was a massive fan, as the 28 we took to the BBQ disappeared far too quickly, leaving only two left for us to enjoy the next day. Whoops. Basically, make a big batch.

 photo White Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies 21_zpsskyfiraa.jpg photo White Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies 23_zpswcscdcpf.jpgRecipe, makes roughly 30 large cookies (we used the same base recipe as we do for all of our cookies, it just works so well!)

  • 250g butter
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 415g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp hot water (plus a little more if needed)
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 250g white chocolate – chopped into big chunks
  • 150g pretzels – roughly crushed, plus some whole ones for the top

Beat the butter slightly until soft, them cream together with the two types of sugar. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and gradually beat into the butter/sugar mix. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the warm water, before adding to the mix along with the salt. Stir in the flour, followed by the chocolate and pretzels. Drop large spoonfuls (we used tablespoons) of the mix onto lined baking trays and roughly roll into a ball. Top each with a pretzel, pressing down lightly (don’t flatten). These cookies spread quite a lot, so avoid putting more than 5 or so on a tray.

Bake for around for 10 minutes at 180C, and allow to cool a little before transferring to a white rack to cool as much as you can bear before eating. I find these are perfect served with a glass of ice cold milk – cliched as it may be, but I do love milk and cookies!
 photo White Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies 14_zps3tttriaa.jpg

Are you a fan of sweet and salted foods?

 

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?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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?