Interestingly, when I first posted this on Instagram describing it as a Cauliflower Risotto I got lots of comments assuming I’d replaced the rice with cauliflower. Whilst that did give me the idea for my Low-Carb Mushroom Risotto, this recipe is far from as virtuous.
Instead, this dish combines the creamy, luxurious texture of a perfectly cooked risotto, with the decadent flavours of the gooiest cauliflower cheese. It’s not low-carb, it’s far from low-fat, and it’s also my least authentic risotto recipe. But this dish is bloody delicious. The perfect comfort food on a cold night, the risotto flavour that almost replaced mushroom as my all-time favourite.
It starts off as a pretty standard risotto, albeit there is finely chopped cauliflower stalks sautéed in with the onion and celery. Cauliflower florets (alongside any smaller leaves) are roasted, then tossed in butter. Some are stirred into the risotto, others are left as a garnish. To add to the cauliflower cheese elements of this risotto, cheddar is added alongside parmesan – Italians would be horrified, but I do feel it works well here.
Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. I dreamt it up on a rainy commute home from work, but it’s become a favourite.
Recipe (serves 2 generously)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or a pinch of dried thyme
1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
1 stick celery
1 small cauliflower, or half a larger one – stalk finely chopped, florets broken into small-medium pieces and the smaller leaves retained
1 clove of garlic
150g risotto rice
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 handful each of parmesan and cheddar, finely grated, plus extra parmesan to serve
Melt half of the butter in a large saucepan, then fry the onion, celery and chopped cauliflower stalk along with the thyme and bay leaf over a low heat for around 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes, then increase the heat and add the risotto rice. Toast, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then add around 100ml of the stock. Stir continually until absorbed, add more stock – then continue adding stock gradually and stirring until the rice is cooked – around 20 minutes. You may not need all of the stock, or you may need to use a little additional hot water.
Meanwhile, toss the cauliflower florets in a little oil and lots of salt and black pepper. Spread out on a baking tray and roast at 180C for 10 minutes. Add the smaller leaves, stir and continue to roast for another 10 minutes, or until tender and golden (if some of the smaller florets and browner and crispier this is fine). Once done, toss the cauliflower with the remaining butter. Add most of the cauliflower to the cooked risotto, retaining the leaves and a few florets for garnish.
Once cooked, remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cheddar and parmesan. Cover with a lid and leave to stand for 5 minutes, then serve with extra parmesan.
That’s it, Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. It combines two of my favourite foods in the most spectacular way, resulting in an indulgent, creamy, cheesy dish. My idea of heaven.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have gotten the impression that I love courgette (or zucchini if you’re over the pond!) – and you’d be right! My all-time favourite summer veg, it’s got a weekly place on our shopping list, and I nearly bit my boss’ arm off when he offered me some homegrown in his garden. It’s the perfect vegetable to cram into risottos or pasta dishes, it’s great used to bulk out sauces, it makes delicious chutney and it’s even good in cake. What more could you want in a vegetable?!
A lot of people don’t quite understand my love for courgettes, and when quizzed they’ve only had them boiled (ick!) or roasted, with little flavour added and care taken. Treated nicely a courgette is tender, almost sweet and has the most beautiful subtle flavour. I honestly love them – and this post includes just a few of my favourite ways to use them!
I blogged about courgette fritters a few years ago, and it’s a recipe I still use to this day. Sometimes I’ll add feta, sometimes I’ll throw in a spring onion. I love adding mint (courgette and mint goes SO well together!), sometimes I’ll spice them up a little. Yum! I also love these cold as a little lunchbox filler…
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that my all-time favourite comfort food is, without question, a risotto. I love the creaminess, the carb overload, the cheesiness. The fact that I can thrown whatever I have in the fridge in and it will always taste good. My Courgette Risotto is subtle but combines lemon and basil along with plenty of Parmesan – lush!
Adding courgette to pasta dishes is my go-to way of using them. I’ve added a couple of grated ones to my tomato-free Bolognese sauce (they cook down to virtually nothing, bulking out the source with even more veg and adding another subtle layer of flavour). My favourite summer pasta recipe is a copy-cat version of a Bella Italia dish, but I also love roasting courgette strips for barely five minutes, then mixing into pasta along with peas, lemon juice and feta…
My favourite courgette pasta dish though? A take on this recipe by Half Baked Harvest. I fried courgette slices for around 15 minutes over a medium heat, sloshed in some wine and garlic, mashed a little with the back of a spoon, and continued to cook (on a lower heat) whilst I boiled some pasta. Adding the pasta with a good ladle of cooking water, butter and parmesan combined it all into a thick and flavourful sauce. Finished with more cheese and some torn basil it was simple, tasty and just the kind of honest bowl of food I like to eat.
Griddled Courgette Salad
One thing I *don’t* like is raw courgette – I find it a weird texture, a tad bitter and just not that enjoyable. However, grill it, dress it, leave it to cool and then serve in a salad is something I can totally get on board with. I like to throw thin-ish slices on my George Foreman (well, fake cheapy one!), then pop into a bowl when soft. Toss with lemon, olive oil and plenty of seasoning then allow to cool (the courgettes soak up this dressing like a sponge) before tossing with salad leaves. Perfect as a side, but I’ll also add a little feta and maybe some pumpkin seeds to turn this into a lunchtime meal.
I feel a bit mean including this one, as I’m not actually going to give you the recipe! What I will say is that courgette cake is absolutely delicious, and the recipe is worth waiting for (I’ll post it soon, I promise!). This loaf cake was like a lighter version of carrot cake, less heavily spiced with cinnamon, but zingier from the orange. I took it into work and there was only two slices left at lunchtime, which says it all!
Courgette, Feta & Mint Tart
This is probably my favourite courgette recipe of 2018 – and it’s super simple too making use of ready-rolled pastry. The mint adds such a nice and fresh flavour, but if you’re not a fan you could leave it out, or even try mixing it up with basil or dill. The key is to not arrange the courgette strips ‘prettily’ but pile them on and just ensure they are reasonably evenly distributed around the tart. Some of them will catch and lightly char in the oven, others will soften and caramelise. The feta adds seasoning, and the base of the tart is lovely and crisp. The perfect picnic treat!
Recipe (Serves 4 as a picnic snack or light lunch)
2 small courgettes
1/2 pack ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg yolk
2-3 tbsp creme fraiche, I used low-fat
3 spring onions, finely sliced
Some fresh mint, leaves only
Some feta, as much or as little as you like
Some olive oil, for drizzling
First off, simply peel thecourgettes with a veg peeler so you’ve got lots of long strips. Toss through a pinch of salt, then pop in a sieve, put a bowl on top and weigh it down with something heavy (I used a packet of rice!). Leave the courgettes for around 20 minutes, and preheat a baking tray in the oven. When the courgettes are ready, take the pastry and score an edge around 1cm from the borders. Brush the edges with a little beaten egg yolk, then mix the remaining egg yolk with the creme fraiche, spring onions and a handful of chopped mint. Spread the mixture over the middle of the pastry, and then top with the courgette strips. Sprinkle over some feta, drizzle with a little olive oil, carefully slide onto the hot tray and bake at 200C for around 25 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Serve warm or at room temperature – it’s delish!
I’m still going mad for different courgette recipes – next I’m hoping to try this frittata recipe to add to my list of lunchbox fillers, I also want to try adding it to a bean burger. I’ve also seen a couple of dips made from courgette around, which I HAVE to try before summer is out. I imagine it will be perfect with homemade pittas…oh, and I love them stir-fried for a few minutes, then dresses in a soy-garlic-ginger dressing. SO good, it’s a great light lunch option served with a little brown rice.
Are you are courgette/zucchini fan? What’s your favourite way to cook them?
Bread Ahead Bakery might be famed across London and the internet for their doughnuts, but their other baked goods deserve the recognition too. Sure, the pillows of joy filled with flavoured custard and topped with something yummy are amazingly good (the praline one is my all-time favourite) but I have a big soft-spot for their bread.
Chewy rye, flaky and salty focaccia, full-flavoured sourdough. Nothing I’ve tried has been anything short of delicious. So when, on the back of my review of their Doughnut Workshop (which I bought for W’s present – it makes a fab gift or day-date!), the bakery invited me down to try another of their classes I jumped at the chance.
It took a while to find a suitable date, as their weekend classes get booked up really quickly, but one hot July afternoon we headed over to their Sloane Square branch for an Introduction to Sourdough. Conveniently located next to a cheese-shop, we bought supplies for a picnic from the bakery and their neighbours before heading for up three hours of expert tuition in all things sourdough.
Now, if you’re looking for a really fun baking class I’d recommend you look at some of Bread Ahead’s other options. The doughnut class was very fun, although we still learnt a lot, and it was rather laid back. Whilst I really, really enjoyed this sourdough class, I also found it intense and felt a little like I was back at school! It certainly wasn’t relaxing, it was fast-paced and I found myself wishing it was spread out over another hour or so. That said we came home with two loaves each (a borodinsky rye and white levain) plus our own yeast culture to kick-start our sourdough baking journey at home (with five days of flour for feeding), and a LOT of knowledge. I’ll be doing a ‘top tips for sourdough baking’ post in a few months when I feel more comfortable using a live yeast culture to bake with.
The class followed a similar structure to the doughnut class. It was very hands on, but there was also ‘Blue Peter’ moments due to the need to let bread dough rise over a longer period of time. We each had a go at shaping doughs, kneading and discussed the best way to bake, and all got to have a sniff of Bruce, the bakery’s ongoing culture which is around 4 years old. I now know to avoid washing my hands with soap before handling my sourdough starter or any bread mix containing it (the antibacterial soap residue will kill the friendly bacteria). I have better knowledge of how to knead wetter doughs. I’m not as scared of putting things in an oven heated to maximum temperature.
Oh, and we also got to have some fresh-from-the-oven sourdough with a delicious salted butter and blackberry jam. My idea of heaven.
Are you a fan of cookery classes? Are there any in London you’d recommend?
In case you haven’t heard, it’s been HOT in London over the last few daysweeks months. It certainly feels like months now! The heatwave well and truly set in around June time, and it seems as though it’s here to stay. Luckily we’ve had a bit of rain and a few days of cooler weather just to remind us we are in the UK, but otherwise it’s been a solid few months of sunshine, sweaty Tube journeys and hiding in each shady spot we find. And eating ice-cream. Lots of ice-cream.
I’ve been trying to make homemade ice-cream a little more often this summer. I mean, given we have an ice-cream maker (the KitchenAid attachment) we have no excuse! We’ve found it so fun creating our favourite flavours, including an amazing brown-butter caramel drizzle (so, so good!) – but this is the first non-traditional one we’ve tried. We usually make an egg-custard base and go from there, but this is a cheat which involves no heat at all (which is wonderful, really, given it’s been too hot to consider cooking and baking recently). It’s super-simple, super-easy and only takes a few ingredients. Add in some of your time (most of it is spent waiting at the freezer until it’s ready!) and you’ve got some delicious vegan ice-cream that’s the perfect combination of indulgently creamy and refreshingly lime-y.
I’m not at all claiming that this is ‘healthy’ ice-cream, it’s still got heck of a lot of sugar and fat in it, but it does make my tummy happier than your standard dairy ice-cream whilst still being just as creamy and delicious. I also find the zingy-ness of the lime makes it super-refreshing and thirst-quenching, ideal on a hot day!
Recipe (makes around 6 greedy servings)
400ml coconut milk, shaken well
2 limes, zest and juice
60g sugar, caster is best here as it dissolves easier
Optional – some vegan yoghurt, just to increase the creaminess slightly
This recipe is really easy – simply mix all of the ingredients together, making sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Chill for thirty minutes, then churn in your ice-cream machine until frozen and ice-cream-like (around 20 minutes). Freeze until needed, and serve with extra lime zest. It’s also great served with gingerut biscuits!
If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, chill for around 3-4 hours, whisking every half an hour, then freeze until needed.
This has become a real favourite recipe, and now I’m itching to try other coconut milk ice-creams. Next I’ll be doing a chocolate version, which I’m hoping will be like a frozen Bounty bar!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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…
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…
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…
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!
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…
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….
Beetroot 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…
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…
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!
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…
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!
It’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!
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.
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.
Cookies 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.
Recipe, makes roughly 30 large cookies (we used the same base recipe as we do for all of our cookies, it just works so well!)
220g caster sugar
250g soft dark brown sugar
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!
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
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…
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!
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
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?