Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #49

It’s the last day of the year, but it’s also time for my Happy Monday post. I did debate doing a special “year in review” type post but unfortunately ran out of time to put it together – and so it’s the bog-standard usual format, albeit with some added Christmas sparkle! I will however be putting together a Year in Review thingy on my Instagram stories, so keep an eye on that if you’re interested!

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First up though, what’s made me happy lately…

  1. Making it through Christmas (and also 6 whole months!) without either me or W ending up on A&E. Given last Christmas Day I took him in, then both of us were in within 10 days of each other in the summer it’s a bit of a relief!
  2. Pecan & Maple Snowball Cookies. I made them as gifts for my team at work and they are 100% my favourite bake of the year. Recipe will be up as soon as the photos are edited…
  3. Picking up two jumpers I’d lusted after in the Fat Face sale for less than half price.
  4. Making White Russian’s at home. It’s one of my favourite drinks and it’s dangerously easy…
  5. New fluffy socks. So warm, so cosy!
  6. Making prints of our wedding photos as Christmas gifts for our parents. It gave me all the feels, and I can’t wait to choose some to display in our own home.
  7. Lighting my Cocoa & Cashmere scented candle from Yorkshire Soap Company. It’s the most glorious fragrance!
  8. Big blanket scarves. I unwrapped one on Christmas night from my parents, and treated myself to another in the sales.
  9. My beautiful new chowder mugs, all the way from a tiny potter in New England – because my husband is all kinds of awesome. I’m planning to do a whole post about them soon but short story is I saw them, didn’t get them, moaned about it for weeks then unwrapped them on Christmas day.
  10. Cuddles with my pups. Our old terrier behaves like a puppy again when there’s presents to unwrap which is so lovely to watch!

I could go on and on about how lovely Christmas was, it might sound boring but a quiet few days with my nearest and dearest was exactly what the doctor ordered! I’m now prepping for a NYE celebration of good food and board games, so the good times are only going to continue!

How was your Christmas break?

Food: What To Bake This Festive Season

It’s Christmas Eve Eve baaaabbbeee! I’m now feeling all sorts of festive and I’m SO excited for Christmas. Not only is it our first as a married couple, I’m also really excited (although a little apprehensive not being at home) to spend the day with my in-laws for the first time. We’ll also not forget my Christmas last year was rather odd, with Christmas night spend in A&E and then quarantining myself away from everyone for a few days (spraying Dettol at anyone who dared come near me) – though I succeeded in avoiding the winter vomiting bug everyone else had! Anyway, it’s Christmas, I’m excited, and here’s why.

 photo Festive Baking_zpswfswoozq.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 5_zpsafdd0i4x.jpgFood.

I’m all about that festive food.

 

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Turkey, goose, pigs in blankets. Two types of potato (mash and roast). The obligatory sprout. Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Toblerone. Quality Street (strawberry cremes for the win!). Alllll the cheese. Then the leftovers. Bubble and squeak, cold cuts, turkey curry. And that’s before we get onto dinner parties for the New Year parties.

All of that is good, but my absolute favourite thing is festive baking. Not only are the results delicious, but I find it really brings people together. Whether it’s me and my husband having a flour fight, the taste of my grandma’s jam tarts (she always made them for the mince pie haters) or children decorating baked tree decorations, festive baking is just so heart warming. With that in mind I’m sharing some of my favourite festive bakes. Whether they’re tried and tested by me, family favourites or just ones I’m desperate to make having seen them in the blogging world, they’re all things I’d suggest spending a cosy afternoon making. Pop on your most festive socks and jumpers, turn up the Christmas playlist and get in the kitchen!

Chocolate Orange Brownies

Brownies are probably my favourite bake to eat, and adding orange (and a pinch of festive spice) is the perfect way to inject a Christmassy feel. I usually stick to my Ultimate Brownie recipe, adding in all sorts of extras. This year I’ve poached orange slices in a sugar syrup, chopped most of it up finely and stirred it through the mixture, and used the remainder to top the brownies. Switch out the usual chocolate chunks for some chopped Terry’s and you’ve got the perfect chocolatey treat for this time of year!

 

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Mince Pies

Ok, disclaimer right here. I’m not a Mince Pie fan. I hate dried fruit so the idea of them is just a bit bleugh, but I will accept they are a staple part of Christmas for so many, and I do love the smell of them baking! My tip for these is to buy ready-made mincemeat and then pimp it up. Add extra orange (always) and some alcohol (whisky is our go-to, but the more traditional brandy is an obvious choice). Serve warm with cream and you may even convince me to take a bite…

 

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Edible Gifts

One of my favourite things to do the week before Christmas is bake some little treats that I can bag up, decorate with pretty ribbon and give out to my friends and colleagues. It’s something I really love to do, as it shows my appreciation for them without breaking the bank.

This year I’ve been super busy at the office (think still being at your desk way into the night on the Friday before Christmas, plus I’m working Christmas Eve too!), and so I turned to some super-quick yet super tasty recipes which I knew would be crowd pleasers. Super-Easy Peanut Butter Fudge – see my recipe here – is one of my favourite recipes. It’s so perfect to package up into little homemade gifts, hardly takes any time, just a while in the fridge to set, and is the perfect combination of sweet and addictive peanut butter. I’ve also been making snowball cookies (chocolate recipe here) though this year I’ve given them a twist by removing the chocolate and making with a combination of maple and pecans.

Gingerbread House

Making a Gingerbread House brings back so many memories for me. On our first Christmas as a couple (an unbelievable 8 years ago now) W and I decided to make one. I can’t say it went particularly well, from memory we snapped one of the roof pieces so ended up with a flat topped ‘shed’ – and then we decided to ice our initials on…

And yep. The Gingerbread Toilet was born.

 photo Gingerbread Toilet_zps2ojbaecy.jpg

Isn’t she a beauty?!

 photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 4_zpsxob82420.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 2_zps1ys0yiz5.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 1_zps7pd4cu3s.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 7_zpsapnachso.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 6_zps4b146sin.jpgFortunately when I was invited along to a Gingerbread House Bake Off with NEFF and Currys PC World things went slightly better! When an evening kicks off with mulled wine and cheese you know it’s going to be a good one, and this was one of my favourite December experiences of 2018. Divided into teams and provided with gingerbread dough, icing ingredients and a whole kitchen of shiny equipment (including those ovens with the slide-and-hide door from a certain tent…) we were tasked with producing a fully decorated gingerbread house and a few trays of canapes in just a few hours.

We got the dough in the oven in record time, prepped up some canapes (Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Dill bruschetta was a winner for me!) and *just* about managed to get more of the sweet decorations on our creation than in our tummies. A lot of giggles and some groans (the team next to us unfortunately suffered a catastrophic collapse) we presented our houses to the judges. Unfortunately we didn’t quite win, but it didn’t really matter – we made a great looking house, and most importantly had an amazing time. I met some bloggers who I’d been following for years (hey Victoria) and some of the loveliest new-to-me bloggers too (Sophia and Corinne in particular).

And that’s what Christmas baking is, for me, all about. It doesn’t matter if it’s stunningly presented, even to the point of being a collapsed gingerbread house. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. It’s all about getting together as friends, as family, as couples and enjoying time together in the kitchen baking up something filled with care and love.
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*I was invited to attend the Gingerbread Bake Off event, but this post isn’t sponsored – and of course all opinions are my own!

Have you ever tried to make a gingerbread house? What’s your go-to festive bake?

I’d also like to take this as an opportunity to thank you, my readers, for continuing to support me over 2018. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Cooking From: Midwinter Suppers from The Christmas Chronicles

This book is so much more than just a cookbook. Not only is it ones of the most Instagrammable books I own, it’s also one of the loveliest to cosy up and read at this time of year. Nigel has such a wonderful way of writing, so personal that this feels more like a diary than a collection of recipes. Indeed it’s full of so many of his own memories of the festive period, interspersed with recipes covering the main event of turkey and goose, to how to use leftovers and all manner of other delicious things. And it’s not just the usual Christmassy fare either, the book takes the reader from the beginning of November all the way to the end of February. And somehow each recipe seems absolutely perfect for this time of year.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 11_zpsdzfefrii.jpgNigel is able, in both his cookery programmes and books, to completely relax me. It’s his voice, but also his wordings and the way he simply puts sentences (and ingredients) together. And his recipes are just the same – simple, uncomplicated and all the ones I’ve tried have been delicious. This book is all about cosy winter food, which sums up both recipes we’ve cooked.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 14_zpsmvwb833m.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 15_zps56obvc7p.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 16_zpslfvfgbhr.jpgThe Black Pudding and Baked Apples with Celeriac and Mustard Mash might be a bit of an unusual combination, but it’s one of the best things I’ve eaten in the past few weeks. It’s warm and comforting, and genuinely feels like a big hug on a plate. Just a few ingredients, a bit of time (but not too much) and you’ve got a delicious plate of food – and this also makes the whole flat smell amazing from the baked apples.

Then there’s the Pork Chop with Cheesy Spinach Polenta. We’d never tried cooking with Polenta until last week, but I’m fairly sure it could become a new obsession. Super creamy, a little cheesy, instensely savoury and perfectly matched with the tender yet slightly caramelised pork chop. Another dish which made us feel enveloped in a satisified happy foodie fog.

As a last minute edit, we also ate the polenta with onions and cheese (Camembert will do – favourite line in the whole book) yesterday evening. Rib-stickingly heavy with cheese and oh so glorious.

But there’s so many other recipes I’d love to try! The Roast Goose with Lemon Potato Stuffing is high on my list, and the Oxtail with Butter Beans and Sherry sounds amazing.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 10_zpsqywase2j.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 13_zpskswejamu.jpgSo much more than a cookbook, this is currently living on my bedside table. I can see it becoming almost a tradition to pull it out and cook from it each festive season…

What’s your favourite festive recipe?

Recipe: Blood Orange Noodle Salad (perfect for Leftover Turkey!)

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.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad_zps5ee5catj.jpgAnd 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.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 5_zps6aic4lif.jpg photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 7_zpszwpvhphh.jpgRecipe (serves 2)

  • 1 duck leg, or around 300g leftover turkey meat
  • 2 nests of dried rice noodles
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cucumber
  • 2 spring onions
  • 4 radishes
  • 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.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 3_zps8gaf5blq.jpg photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 1_zpsd9op4uks.jpgThis 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?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #48

Happy December! How it’s the last month of the year I honestly do not know – I thought time flew by before the wedding, but here we are having been married for over two months! Our tree is up, the Buble CD is out and my festive PJs are firmly in rotation. I’ve not quite broken out the Christmas jumper just yet, but it’s coming…

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  1. Celebrating my birthday exactly how I wanted it. I saw family a few days before (and got a much needed haircut), then headed off to Tortworth Court for a relaxing weekend. I’d actually won a minimoon in a Love My Dress competition a while back, and so we cashed it in for my birthday treat. Divine.
  2. I also got to explore the Cotswolds, which has been on my list for ages. So beautiful.
  3. To top it all off, our mini-moon package included a spa day. We floundered about the pool, had a lovely massage and cosied in our room for most of Saturday.
  4. A new phone! After 3 years a rapidly deteriorating battery and a Black Friday deal coincided, so I treated myself to a Huawei P20. I’ve been so impressed with the brand previously I never considered looking elsewhere, and I have to say I’m impressed. Completely not sponsored by the way!
  5. Feeling like I have a whole new wardrobe. I bought *loads* of bits ahead of our honeymoon and kept it all new and fresh until then, so now I’m able to wear it all. I’ve loved combining more summery dresses with jumpers – this dress in particular goes so well with a black polo neck!
  6. Finally trying out the Brunch menu at Home SW15. It’s our fav spot in Putney (I’ve reviewed them for dinner a while back – have a read here) but we’ve never made it to breakfast. We finally did last weekend and oh my! So gutted it took us this long. I had the BEST brunch dish (crab cakes, poached eggs and hollandaise) that’ I’ve ever had in London.
  7. Whisky Smoked Brie. I don’t need to say anything else!
  8. Our Christmas tree makes me so happy – it’s coppery and rose gold and just so pretty. I’d love to decorate more of our flat with garlands and wreaths but we just don’t have the pennies this year, so I’ve gone all out with the tree instead.
  9. Making Gingerbread houses with Neff. I went to an event last Tuesday where we did a bit of a Bake Off between groups of bloggers. Whilst my team didn’t quite win, we did have an absolutely amazing time and our house didn’t collapse. A fab event, and I got to try the Bake Off ovens which are so fun (and would be insanely practical in a tiny kitchen).
  10. A surprisingly good pub meal in Northamptonshire for my birthday. I do find since loving in London I’ve become a little bit of a food snob, but this was genuinely lovely. I had some perfectly cooked sea bass, followed by a wonderful chocolate bomb dessert. Yum!

How is your December going? Have you cracked out the festive jumper yet?

Food: Three Ways with Rice [AD]

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.

 photo Veetee Recipes_zps14mxr47s.jpgBut 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!).

 photo Veetee Taco Bowls  10_zpszspor2fb.jpg photo Veetee Taco Bowls  2_zpsnzgxo2ju.jpgTaco 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!

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Thai Jasmine Rice Pots
  • 3 generous handfuls of spinach
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch coriander, stalks and leaves
  • 1 can black beans, drained (but reserve the water!)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 4 chicken thighs, or 2 chicken breasts if you prefer (this is also fab with pork steaks or even thin frying steaks, just adjust the cooking time)
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • Toppings – cheese, pink pickled onions, tortilla chips, avo, soured cream, salad…

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…

 photo Veetee Taco Bowls  9_zpska23uuzj.jpg photo Veetee Cheats Risotto 8_zpsorvh1kwd.jpgCheat’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!)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 Wholegrain Brown Rice Pot
  • Splash of milk
  • A good handful (or two!) of Parmesan cheese
  • Salad, to serve

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!

 photo Veetee Cheats Risotto 4_zps5ey67hbf.jpg photo Veetee Biryani 4_zpsz8stnn2f.jpgQuick & 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!
  • 2 Basmati Rice Pots
  • 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…

For more inspiration for cooking with rice, VeeTee have LOADS of recipes on their site. I’m especially intrigued by the Spanish Sausage Rice and the Korean Bipimbab!
 photo Veetee Biryani 8_zpszbjlkhab.jpg

*This post is in collaboration with VeeTee, however as always all opinions are my own. I only ever work with brands I know, love and would buy myself! 

Are you a rice fan? What’s your favourite rice recipe?

Recipe: Brussel Sprout, Bacon & Blue Cheese Pizza

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.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza_zpshls8suso.jpgWhat 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.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 1_zpsnde98ss5.jpg photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 3_zpsmdqe38uv.jpgRecipe (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.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 4_zpskj6spx1q.jpgI 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!

Are you a fan of brussel sprouts?

Recipe: Using Up Leftover Roast Pork in a Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Baguette)

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.

 photo Banh Mi with Leftover Roast Pork 8_zpsphxjvzoi.jpg photo Roast Pork 1_zpsy6ltxnuk.jpgPork 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!

 photo Banh Mi with Leftover Roast Pork 7_zpsg5dduprc.jpgThen 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?

Restaurant Review: Indian Fine Dining @ Trishna, London

For perhaps quite obvious reasons, we don’t go out for an Indian (or order one in) as often as I’d like – I find it’s probably the most difficult of all cuisines to eliminate tomato from, and so I tend to avoid it. However with a trip to one of London’s fine dining Indian restaurants on the top of W’s list for his graduation meal I sucked up the nerves, booked and table and made them well aware of my allergies.

 photo Trishna_zpsqpdsdgo4.jpgTurns out they were spectacularly able to cope with my allergies, though if a place has a Michelin Star I kind of expect that. But I was also able to eat just as much as everyone else, have just as much variety, and there was only a few things that were absolutely off limits, with other dishes either fine as they were or adapted to suit. We went for the 7-course tasting menu and, as this was over three months ago, unfortunately my memory isn’t quite doing the meal justice. I expect the tasting menu changes regularly anyway, so this is more an overview than an in-depth review!

It wouldn’t be an Indian meal, however fancy, if we didn’t start with poppadoms and chutneys. We had a selection, and all were excellent. I particularly enjoyed the surprisingly fiery green dip. It was bright, it was fresh, packed with coriander flavour and other subtler hints of spice, with a great big whack of chilli to finish.

There was a lot of seafood on the menu, with the first three courses being entirely fish-based for me (although the tasting menu does generally provide a choice for each course – I avoided the heavier meatier options, though the sweetbreads and venison did go down well with the rest of the table).

 photo Trishna London Review 4_zpsszg1sg1w.jpgI loved the prawns we had for our first proper course. Deep fried in a very light and flavoursome batter, served with fresh coconut and a nice spicy dip. Perhaps the most perfectly cooked prawns I’ve tried. These were followed by a huge and again perfectly cooked scallop with more coconut and a delicious sauce. Another dish I really enjoyed.

 

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Some dishes are too good to take off the menu – Hariyali Bream #TrishnaClassics #TrishnaLondon

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The Hariyali Bream is a bit of a signature dish for Trishna, and I personally loved it (although it was near on impossible to get a good photograph!). The deliciately cooked fish was covered in a green chilli and coriander coating served alongside tomato kachumber or, if you’re me, a sprouted bean salad that was delightfully fresh and light. The fish had clearly been cooked well, but it also had a lick of smoke suggesting there’s someone *very* skilled on the tandoor oven involved.

 

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Tandoor charred Lamb Chops – Kashmiri Chilli, Ginger, Crushed Onion & Kasundi Mooli #TrishnaLondon

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My Tandoori Lamb Chop was delicious, but this was back at a time when eating red meat proved a little difficult for me, so I did unfortunately give up after a bite or two. Don’t get me wrong – it was meaty, juicy, well-cooked, full-of-flavour and just the right amount of spice to compliment (and not over-power) the lamb. But right then I was not a fan of meat and just couldn’t do it justice. I did also feel the mooli salad on the side was overpowdered by the mustard spicing.

 

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Bater Shami Kebabs with mint, cardamom, ginger & tamarind chutney, quail scotch eggs #TrishnaLondon

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One of my favourite courses was the Bater Shami Kebab with mint, cardamom, ginger & tamarind chutney, quail scotch eggs. This really did feel like fine dining (perhaps the only course that truly gave that impression) with gorgeous presentation, and a fabulous mix of flavours and textures. The egg in particular – delicious.

My highlight, however, was our ‘main.’ Our chosen curry (I think we had a choice of three or four) arrived alongside a selection of rices, sides and naans. They’d thoughtfully cooked some sides separately for me, though I was so full by this point I merely tried them – finding the potatoes delicious but the dahl a little watery for my taste. The Crab Coconut Curry I chose (with Dorset brown crab, coconut oil, pepper, garlic, and curry leaf) was utterly delicious, and I’m beyond gutted I was too full to eat more than a couple of spoonfuls. The curry flavour was just enough to compliment the crab, which was sweet and tender. Every mouthful was bursting with both crab and spices, it was quite honestly the best curry I’ve eaten. Naan breads were also amazing, buttery and almost flaky. I could be served a bowl of the crab curry and a selection of these naan for my final meal and I’d die a happy lady…

 photo Trishna London Review 14_zpsbyxbric1.jpg photo Trishna London Review 1_zpslgfb7wpm.jpgDesserts were also delicious, with my Pistachio and Fig Kheer (cardamon rice pudding, pistachio kulfi and fig confiture) being just the right combination of sweet and refreshing to round off a very filling meal.

So, fancy Indian meals? Turns out it’s definitely worth it, and this was a really memorable meal – I know I’ll be back for more of that crab curry in the future! The service was, allergy wise, pretty excellent and I felt safe eating everything given to me (unlike many chain restaurants I could name). Atmosphere was potentially a bit light on a Friday evening, but for food this good I’m not sure I care.

Have you ever tried a ‘fancy’ Indian restaurant? What’s your go-to curry?

Recipe: Classic Roast Pork

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.

 photo Roast Pork 1_zpsy6ltxnuk.jpgAnd 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…

 photo Roast Pork 7_zpshcz2oin5.jpgRecipe (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!

 photo Roast Pork 6_zpsxinaft9s.jpgAnd 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?