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 love haggis, but I totally get that it isn’t for everyone. Particularly if you’ve never tried it, yet you’ve googled what’s in it. I’m of the opinion that if I’m willing to eat meat I should be willing to eat all meat, so things like haggis, black pudding and offal don’t bother me at all – but I still understand that it can turn people’s stomachs a tad! With this in mind I wanted to create a Haggis dish which is perfect as the ‘introduction’ to haggis. Haggis for beginners, if you will.
And so Haggis Carbonara was born.
Instead of a lump of haggis you’ve got crumbled up bits throughout the carbonara sauce. You’ve got cheesy creaminess to break up the strong pepperiness of the haggis. And pasta, because you can’t go wrong with carbs. In fact the haggis pasta combo is a winner in my book. This dish is rich, hearty and unbelievably comforting. Perfect for a Burn’s Night supper in – and great if you want to give haggis a go this January.
Recipe (serves 2)
Decent knob of butter
2 rounds of haggis (I used patties – cheaper and less scary than getting a ‘whole’ haggis!)
2 eggs – one whole and one yolk only (freeze the white for making meringues)
A good handful of cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
180g pasta – spaghetti or tagliatelle is best really
First of put the pasta on to boil. I find 10 minutes is about right for most pastas. Meanwhile fry your haggis in butter – I crumbled mine up completely, but you could leave it in bigger chunks. I’d say crumbled is easier if you’re just starting out with haggis though! While that’s frying beat the egg and yolk in a mug and add your grated cheeses (keep some back for sprinkling on top!).
Now my secret for carbonara – take a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (while the pasta is still cooking) and dribble it into the egg-cheese while beating with a fork. Do the same with another spoon – and repeat until the cheese has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Not only does this lighten the sauce but it also seems to reduce the risk of ending up with scrambled eggs.
Once the pasta has boiled, drain (reserve some water), and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together. Turn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Add the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute but stir through some cooking water. Once all the egg is in, if its not quite cooked enough to your liking (I’m not fussy about really runny egg!) put the pan back on a very low heat. Then serve, sprinkle with extra cheese and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!
And if you want to make my (legendary) carbonara without the haggis, simply fry a little bacon until crisp and follow the same recipe, adding plenty of black pepper. I personally think haggis is peppery enough so wouldn’t add any to this particular dish.
What makes the difference between a stew or casserole and a soup? I like to think it’s a fine line, and this ‘stoup’ kinda sits in the middle. You can add more stock or some vegan milk to thin it down for a soup, or blend it up more and reduce it for a stew-type dish. Whichever you choose, it’s absolutely delicious and I think one of my favourite winter lunches.
It’s creamy, it’s comforting, real soul food. It’s garlick-y and slighty herby. There’s a kick of black pepper and a slight tang from a splash of vinegar. It’s not vinegar-y as such, but it helps to add a little bit of complexity that makes this really feel like a meal, and not just something you’ve thrown together. Add some toast or a bit of sourdough bread and this is a real hug in a bowl.
It’s also vegan! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve set myself a challenge in 2019 to make as many of my lunchboxes as possible vegan. I’m not constraining myself too much by this, and if I’ve got meat or dairy that needs using then it will be thrown in, but I’d like to keep the majority of them vegan. And frankly, if they all taste as good as this it will be an easy job. If you’re not vegan, however, additions which could work well would be bacon (always), or simmer with a parmesan rind to add some extra flavour.
1/3 cup unsweetened plant-based milk—I used Oat milk
First up, cook your lentils. I tend to add boiling water and bring to a rolling boil, before reducing the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add plenty of salt, cook for another five minutes and then drain.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pan and cook the shallots until slightly softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot, turn up the heat and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and continue to try for 1 minute before adding the vinegar. Stir until evaporated, then add the drained lentils, vegetable stock and milk to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil, before using a stick blender to whizz to your desired consistency. Add more milk or stock if you want a soup, or reheat and simmer until thick and stew-like. Check for seasoning, adding plenty of black pepper.
Serve hot with toast or bread. I also like to stir through some spinach – for lunchboxes I add a cube or two of frozen spinach in the morning before I leave the house.
For something so quick the result is so flavourful and cosy – it does taste as though it’s been simmering away for hours. It also makes my flat smell super good, so I’m down with that…
One of our resolutions for 2018 was to cook at least one new recipe a week. And it may just be the first resolution that I’ve not only managed to keep for longer than a few months, but that I’ve managed to keep all year. I’m beyond proud that we’ve done this, in some weeks cooking more than 4 new recipes. We’ve added things to our repertoire, we’ve tried things I wouldn’t have usually gone near.
And one of the first new recipes we’ve tried, and one of my favourites, was this Blood Orange Salad. Originally a Sainsbury’s recipe made with duck, I think it would work wonderfully well as a way to jazz up leftover Turkey meat (particularly thigh meat).
The sauce is zingy and hot with chilli, sharp from the rice vinegar (an ingredient I wish I’d given in and bought sooner, it adds so much more life to noodle dressings). The blood orange gives it the most amazing seasonal flavour, still fresh and zesty but not as harsh as lime. Cucumber adds freshness, there’s plenty of crunch from the veggies, and the double-herb hit of mint and coriander just pulled it all together. The slow-roasted duck leg is both meltingly soft meat and really crunchy skin, which contrasts well with the juicy blood orange – if you’re using leftover turkey I’d recommend throwing some of the skin in the pan and frying on a really high heat to get the same effect.
Recipe (serves 2)
1 duck leg, or around 300g leftover turkey meat
2 nests of dried rice noodles
1 medium carrot, peeled
2 spring onions
100g sugar snap peas
1/2 a Chinese Leaf, core removed
1 pack mint, leaves only
1 pack coriander, leaves only
2 blood oranges (one whole, the other juiced for the dressing, below)
30g peanuts, roughly chopped
For the dressing – 2 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 red chilli, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp light brown sugar, juice of 1 blood orange, 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce, 3 tbsp rice vinegar
If making with the duck, pop the duck leg on a baking tray and season them generously with salt and black pepper, rubbing it into the skin. Roast the duck for 11⁄2 hours at 180C, until the skin is crisp and the flesh soft and tender. Once ready slice the meat and skin into rough chunks, discarding any bone. If making with leftover turkey meat, heat a little sesame oil in a wok and fry the turkey over a high heat until heated through. Do this just before serving.
For the dressing, toast the sesame seeds in a small pan for about a minute, giving them a stir now and then. Tip them into a jug, add all the other dressing ingredients (with the chilli and garlic finely chopped) and stir together.
Cook the rice noodles following pack instructions, then drain and rinse in cold water, shaking off the excess. Tip into a large bowl. Slice the carrot and cucumber into matchsticks, trim the spring onions and slice them into shreds of a similar length. Trim and slice the radishes. Slice the sugar snaps lengthways. Shred the Chinese leaf, mint and coriander. Add all these ingredients to the bowl with the noodles as you prepare them.
Slice the whole orange into rounds and halve the rounds, removing obvious pips, skin and pith. Add the oranges (and any juice) to the bowl with the salad ingredients; gently toss together. Add the rest of the dressing to the noodles and toss using tongs. Layer the salad, meat and noodles onto large plates; sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.
This would be very much welcome as a Christmas leftover dinner – perhaps not on Boxing Day (I’m still alllll about cold cuts, bubble and squeak and cheese) but on the days that follow it would perk even the scroggiest of people up. And of course it feels nice and healthy, so kicks off all the good intentions for the New Year…given the sucess of cooking new recipes this year, I know one resolution that I’ll be carrying through into 2019!
Have you ever kept any resolutions? How do you use up turkey leftovers?
One of my favourite smells in the world is rice being cooked. I can’t explain why I love it so much, but I find it comforting, a smell which *always* makes me hungry and excited for dinner. It’s safe to say that because of this we eat a lot of rice! Whether it’s a meal we’ve batch-cooked and frozen for busy evenings (this Vegan Curry is perfect), or our bog-standard Stir-Fry, we love it.
But rice can be SO much more than just a side for a curry. Rather than being there to soak up sauce you can turn rice into the main event of a meal, and that’s just what VeeTee challenged me to do here. Three different meals, each showcasing a different type of rice in their new rice pots. Each designed to be easy, tasty and made on a budget. Perfect for students, those who have limited time in the evenings, or those with titchy kitchens (hey most Londoners!).
Taco Bowl with Green Rice (serves 2-3)
The first up is one of my favourites, and something we eat quite often. Mexican flavours are so bold and fresh, but it can also be a wonderfully comforting meal with the black beans and a few cheeky tortilla chips! In the photos here we’ve got for ‘a bit of everything’ with some refried beans, spicy chicken, salad and pink pickled onions on a bed of super-green rice. And really, the rice is just the star of the show. Zingy and full of flavour, it’s the perfect base for taco bowl!
First up, make the rice. Pop 1tbsp olive oil, and the lime juice, spinach, coriander, half the onion and one of the garlic cloves into a small blender or mini-chopper. Blitz until you have a rough puree, add some salt and pepper, then transfer to small baking dish. Break in the rice and stir until evenly coated (and the rice has separated into grains) – I find it easier to use my hands for this. Cover tightly with tin-foil and pop into an oven at 120C until everything is ready. It wants at least 20 minutes, but can sit for up to an hour like this.
Then make the refried beans. I’ve posted my long recipe for these before, but here’s the quick way! Fry the rest of the onion and garlic in another tbsp of oil until soft, then pop into a blender (wiped down from the green puree, but no need to give it a full wash) with 2/3 of the black beans and some of the reserved water from the can. Blitz until smooth, then pop back into the frying pan with the rest of the beans and the cumin. Season well, and continue to fry over a low heat, stirring often, for around ten or so minutes whilst you prep the chicken or meat (or keep it veggie, roasted cauliflower works well here too!).
For the chicken, I simply chopped it into strips, fried the chipotle paste in the remaining oil, then added the chicken and fried over a high heat until cooked through. Super simple, but really tasty!
To serve, just assemble your bowls with the rice, beans and chicken, add your toppings and enjoy! The seasoned green rice really makes this dish into something special – it’s fresh and full of flavour, and great for sneaking some extra iron into your diet. It’s also fab used as a burrito stuffing…
Cheat’s Butternut Squash Risotto (serves 1)
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know my all-time favourite comfort food is a risotto. I just love it, and I would eat one every night if I could. I do love the process of making one, and find stirring SO therapeutic but sometimes you want the comfort without the faff. Enter my cheats risotto!
I’ve paired butternut squash here with the wholegrain rice, as I think the nuttier flavour of the rice really cuts through the sweetness of the squash. It’s truly delicious!
2 handfuls of frozen butternut squash
1 pinch dried thyme and/or sage
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped (optional, but I seem to always have some going limp in my fridge!)
Pop the squash in the oven as per pack instructions (usually around 25 minutes). With around 10 minutes to go, fry the onion and celery in the oil with the dried herb(s) until soft, adding in the garlic towards the blend. Pop the squash into a small blender or mini chopped with a splash of milk, then blend until smooth. You could keep some chunks back too for some texture if you like.
Add the rice to the frying pan with the onion mix and fry for a minute or so, breaking up with a spoon. Add the squash puree and stir well, thinning with a little extra milk if needed. Add in most of the cheese, season well with pepper, then serve with salad and some extra cheese. Perfect for a quick, virtually hands-free cosy supper!
Quick & Easy Biryani (serves 2)
I’m fairly sure Biryani, or ‘Curried Rice’ was one of the first things I learnt to cook for myself, when I was a pre-teen in the school holidays fed up of cheese sandwiches! Whilst this is a step-up in terms of flavour from that recipe (and probably presentation too!) it’s certainly just as easy. Best of all it only involves one pan so there’s minimal washing up!
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons medium curry powder – or you could use a blend of spices such as ground coriander, garam masala, cardamom, mustard seeds etc
2-4 chicken thighs, chopped into small cubes (depending on how hungry you are!) – this would also work well with leftover roast lamb, or even prawns with an adjusted cooking time. Or add some chickpeas or cauliflower and keep it veggie!
3 good handfuls of spinach, or a few cubes of frozen spinach
A handful of coriander for garnishing, if liked
Simply fry the onion in the onion until soft, then add the pepper, garlic and curry powder or spices. Fry until fragrant, then stir in the chicken and continue frying until cooked. Stir in the rice with a small splash of boiling water, then add the spinach. Heat until hot, then serve sprinkled with some fresh coriander. Alternatively, if your frying pan is oven-proof, loosely cover with foil and bake for around 15 minutes at 200C to get a slightly more authentic texture.
And that’s it! Three quick and easy rice dishes that are firmly in our meal rotation. The Biryani in particular is so quick, and you could add all sorts of extra veggie in there. In fact I think it might have to be tonight’s dinner…
I’m a bit lacking in Christmas recipes this year – I usually like to start testing and photographing them (getting myself firmly in the festive spirit at the same time!) during November, but lying on a beach in Hawaii until the end of October meant I felt firmly un-Christmassy until last week. There’s been no edible gift testing (so who knows what my colleagues will end up with!), we’re even well behind normal consumption levels of Pigs in Blankets.
What I do have, though, is this festive pizza. And I’d like to think it makes up for all the other lack of festive recipes coming up in this space. It’s crunchy and cheese, rich and decadent, and really delivers a punch of festive flavours. The honk of blue cheese always reminds me of festive cheeseboards (and one particular hour-long car journey with W’s family and some potted Stilton, not something I care to repeat!). Cranberry sauce just because. And the sprouts.
Brussel sprouts are so reminiscent of childhood Christmases where I’d be made to eat “just one” – and actually this continues now as I still hate the things served up with a Christmas dinner. Shredded onto pizza, pasta, in a salad then fine. Steamed or boiled and covered in gravy and they are my foo of nightmare. But they DO work on pizza.
As it’s a no-tomato pizza it runs the risk of becoming a little dry, but we’ve both spread the base and dotted spoonfuls of mascarpone over to add some creaminess. It’s also fab with walnuts to replace the bacon for a veggie pizza.
Recipe (for one)
1 ready-made plain pizza base (or make your own, my recipe is here)
1 rasher of bacon, diced
8 brussel sprouts, base removed and finely shredded
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
4 tbsp of mascarpone
25-50g blue cheese depending on your taste, you could substitute for brie or even mozzarella if you prefer
1 tsp cranberry sauce, to serve
Fry your bacon in a small amount of olive oil or butter until crisp, then add the sprouts. Stir fry for a minute or two. Meanwhile spread 2 tbsp of mascarpone over your pizza base, and season with black pepper and the grated nutmeg. Scatter the spouts and bacon over the bacon, dot over more mascarpone, and sprinkle over the blue cheese. Bake for around 10 minutes at 200C, then serve with a drizzle of cranberry sauce.
I imagine this would also work well with leftover sprouts from the big day itself, certainly a step up from Bridget Jones’ mum doing a turkey curry buffet!
We’re firm believers in this household that just because there’s only two of us we shouldn’t miss out on a traditional Sunday lunch – if fact we have all the more reason to indulge as the leftovers will give us at least a couple of days of dinners too! Last week I shared my recipe for a basic Roast Pork, a recipe that will usually serve us (very) generously on the Sunday and give a good two or three days of dinners throughout the week.
Pork has been, for many years, my least favourite cut of meat for roasting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a slab of belly pork, but can give or take a roast. It’s still perhaps my least favourite of a Sunday, but the leftovers are quickly becoming a lot more interesting! The meat can take a lot of flavouring, meaning some really, really tasty dinners. Best of all is that it’s quite quick to dry out, meaning these dinners are generally ready in a flash. Can’t complain if I can have the dinner on the table less than twenty minutes after walking through the door!
Based on the recipe in ‘Save with Jamie’ (one of my favourite cookbooks, which I’ll be featuring very soon!) this is the perfect sandwich. Hot and crispy pork, cool and crunchy veg, smooth pate, fierce with chilli, cooling cucumber, sharp from some light pickling and all in between a soft baguette. Part-baked works well here, simply bake then wrap in a clean tea-towel to avoid it being too crisp.
Recipe (Serves 2 generously, could probably be stretched to 3)
One carrot, peeled (we freeze the peelings along with onion skins/tops, offcuts of celery etc to make stock with a roast chicken carcass)
Quarter of a cucumber
Quarter of a cabbage, I’d go white over red here
One tablespoon caster sugar (avoid granulated as it may not dissolve)
Three tablespoons of cider vinegar
100g smooth pate (we used chicken liver pate, I’d like to make our own for this recipe in the future to utilise the coriander stalks and reduce waste)
Half a bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only, finely chopped
150 leftover roast pork
3 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce (we didn’t have any, so I mixed 3 tablespoons of chilli jam with the zest and juice of a lime and a little bit of fresh ginger)
2 part-baked baguettes
Bake the baguettes per the packet instructions, then cool wrapped in a clean tea towel. Meanwhile cut the carrot and cucumber into matchsticks (a Julienne peeler makes this super quick) and finely slice the cabbage. Pop in a bowl with the vinegar and sugar, along with a pinch of salt, and leave to lightly pickle. You want to leave the veggies for around ten minutes.
Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and add the pork. Fry over a high heat until hot, then add the chilli sauce. Continue to fry until golden and slightly crisp, then remove from the heat. Assemble your Bánh mì by spreading the baguette with pate, then piling in the pork, pickled veggies and some fresh coriander. Add some freshly sliced chilli for some extra heat too if you like!
Then just enjoy, but be warned. These do get messy! This is pretty much my dream sandwich, something I could eat night after night…
What is your favourite meal for using up leftovers?
I’ve mentioned this so many times, but we’re both massive fans of the classic Sunday Roast in this household. In my point of view, what’s not to love?! A cosy and comforting meal to finish off the weekend, something it would almost be wrong to enjoy without a glass or two of wine. Plus you get all sorts of yummy leftovers to use up throughout the week. We find cooking a roast on a Sunday will give us enough meat for at least two additional dinners, if not three.
And whilst chicken is our go-to roast, we do like to mix it up a bit. I’ve already blogged about both our brisket and lamb roasts (a few years ago, so excuse the photo quality!) but today it’s the turn of Roast Pork. I would say it’s my least favourite as I find it particularly easy to dry out, and I’ve had some pretty bad versions of the dish in the past. Thankfully I’ve managed to perfect our way of cooking it, though I’m still finding the perfect crackling is a bit hit and miss…
Recipe (would serve 4-6 generously with no leftovers, or do us one roast dinner plus 3 dinners of leftovers)
2.5 kg joint pork shoulder with crackling, skin scored
1 tsp sea salt
Vegetables for the base of the roasting tin, we usually use 2 onions, 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots and an apple, all thickly sliced
3 whole cloves of garlic, still in their skins
2 tbsp plain flour
Splash of cider or white wine (or apple juice)
500ml chicken stock
1 pinch caster sugar
Pop the vegetables in a roasting tin and toss with a little oil and some salt/pepper. You could always add some herbs – sage is excellent with pork. Wipe the skin of the pork dry using kitchen towel, and rub the salt into the scored skin. Weigh the joint and calculate the cooking time allowing 30 minutes per 500g, plus an extra 30 minutes. Set the joint on the vegetables vegetables and roast for 30 minutes at 200C. Reduce the temperature to 170°C and continue cooking for the remaining calculated roasting time. Once cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes, covered in foil to keep warm.
While the pork is resting, make the gravy. Spoon any excess fat out of the roasting tin then place it on the hob, keeping the vegetables in the tray. Sprinkle over the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minute. Add the cider, wine or apple juice and sugar, and let it boil away, stirring and scraping all the delicious meaty residues from the bottom of the tin. Add in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes until smooth. Make sure you bash the apple slices and garlic cloves so they release their flavours. Finally, strain the gravy through a sieve, discard the vegetables.
Serve the pork and gravy together with potatoes (I find mash is the best with pork – roasties are a little too greasy for this dish) and lots of vegetables. There’s something about pork and cabbage which I always love!
And that’s it – our go-to roast pork recipe. Keep an eye out next week as I’ll be sharing some of my favourite ways to use up pork leftovers, including an amazing Banh Mi (Vietnamese bagette).
Are you a roast dinner fan? What’s your go-to roast?
Over summer I had a *massive* craving for coffee ice-cream. It’s a flavour I absolutely love, but avoid making or buying as W doesn’t react well to caffeine – and believe me nor do I when he keeps me up all night after having some! When I finally got round to grabbing some coffee, we had the classic British problem of ‘it went cold’ and so ice-cream went out of the window and these cupcakes were born.
Coffee and Walnut is a classic sandwich cake combination, but I wanted to keep these a little daintier. I find cupcakes are far easier for sharing at the office too! These cupcakes are light, fluffy, full of coffee flavour, topped off with a delicious vanilla buttercream – giving a really creamy finish that reminds me of fancy coffee drinks. They are quite strong on the coffee front, as I used plenty of coffee grounds (Illy is my brand of choice, gifted as part of my Degustabox collaboration) – however keeping the topping coffee-free ensures, for me at least, they aren’t too strong. A perfect coffee hit, but not bitter or overpowering. Perfect as an afternoon snack!
Recipe (makes 9 cupcakes)
100g soft butter, at room temperature
100g golden caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
3 tsp instant coffee, mixed with 100ml/3½fl oz boiling water, then cooled
25g walnuts, chopped, plus more for topping
For the frosting – 200g mascarpone, 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract
Line a bun tin with 9 fairy cake cases. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg in gradually, beating well. Add the flour and fold in, followed by around 4 tsp of the coffee and a pinch of salt until creamy. Stir through the chopped walnuts, then evenly spoon the mix into the cases. Bake for at 180C for around 20 minutes, then allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, pop the mascarpone, vanilla and the sugar into a large bowl, then beat together. Spread a dollop of the frosting onto the top of each cake, then finish with some more walnuts. Enjoy – though don’t do as I did and enjoy as an evening snack at gone 10pm!
Are you a fan of cupcakes, or do you prefer a slice of a larger cake?
One of my favourite things to do, although admittedly we don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like, is to have friends round for dinner. Our dream is to actually one day host a supper club for charity, although I think we’re a way off doing that right now. I love it all – the meal-planning, conversation-starter planning, the enforced cleaning of the flat. I’m also a feeder, so filling people up with food I’ve prepared just makes me happy!
I’m a fan of trying to keep things as relaxed as possible (whilst W is good at the fancy stuff – egg yolk ravioli being a memorable starter he once made – I like to keep things simple). My ideal starter is a mix of bits and bobs for guests to pick at, and this post is all about my go-to options right now. These recipes came about when we had another couple round for a Thursday night dinner. It was in the middle of the heatwave so I wanted to avoid having another hot thing to eat, but I wanted something to go vaguely with our Middle Eastern main (a roasted carrot dish). A trio of dips and various breads did just the job.
I think if you’re doing something like this, you do need at least three dips. Keep them different (no point doing three variations on hummus, no matter how tasty it is!), keep them interesting. Add in some spice, some creaminess, some zing, some freshness. Keep it exciting. Here’s three of my favourites…
Roasted Courgette & Tahini
1 large courgette
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp tahini
juice and zest of ½ a lemon
1 tbsp Greek yogurt
handful of mint, leaves only, chopped
Wrap the whole courgette in foil, then put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 220C, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely – I did this in the morning, then just left them to cool whilst I was at work during the day.
Put the cooled courgette in a food processor (no need to peel), with the garlic and blend. Add the tahini and lemon juice and season, then blitz again. Transfer to a bowl, then stir through the yogurt and a little of the mint. Season to taste, and scatter over the remaining mint to serve.
Turmeric Spiced Hummus
400g tin of chickpeas
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chilli
2 cloves of peeled garlic
5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp tahini
Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until warm. Tip into a food processor and add the spices, lemon zest and juice, tahini and garlic. Blend whilst the chickpeas are still hot, then gradually add the oil and water until you have the consistency you want. Season to taste, then serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil.
200g feta cheese
200g plain Greek yoghurt
Half a lemon, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground sumac
Crumble the feta into a bowl, then add the yoghurt and whisk until the cheese is completely broken up and becomes creamy. You can do this in a blender, but I find the texture best if done by hand. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Put the dip in a serving bowl and dress the surface with the olive oil and then sprinkle over some sumac.
I tried to keep these varied – different colours, different flavours, which worked really well. Each had something different to bring to the party. The Roasted Courgette dip brings some freshness, whilst the Turmeric Hummus was full of flavour and subtle spice. The Whipped Feta – well, it brings cheese which makes everything better! Served with some pitta bread, some crispy baked pitta chips and some breadsticks I could have eaten this for hours!
I warn you, though. Dips and breads are dangerous if you’re like me – I ate far too much of these and couldn’t finish the rest of my meal!
Are you a fan of dips and breads? Which one of these would be your favourite? I’m in love with the Whipped Feta!