Cooking From: A Review of Ottolenghi’s Simple

This is taking a slightly different format to my usual Cooking From posts. Whilst I usually include one of my favourite recipes from each book, with a review of how the recipe works and what changes I did/would make, I just can’t do that with Simple. There are too many excellent recipes to choose from, most of which I wouldn’t change at all.

 photo Ottolenghi Simple 2_zpshad0xv3c.jpgSince getting this for Christmas it’s become our most used cookbook of 2019, and it’s pretty much knocked my beloved Save with Jamie off top-spot for all-time favourite too (sorry Jamie!). Whenever we are stuck for inspiration for our weekly meal plan we’ll flick through this. If we want an interesting side, we’ll look in here. If we want to use up random freezer veg (looking at you edamame beans!) then this is the book we’ll grab first. Dinner parties, date nights, after-work meals, cosy weekend brunches. This book has done it all for us. I now need more of Ottolenghi’s books in my life.

Ottolenghi Simple is a collection of recipes that are ‘simple’ in one of five ways – Short on time”, “10 Ingredients or less”, “Make ahead”, “Pantry”, “Lazy” and “Easier than you think”- or a combination thereof. Colour coded, and sectioned roughly into chapters such as Cooked/Raw Veg, Meat & Fish etc. And there’s hardly any recipes I don’t want to cook as-is, or adapt to be tomato-free.

 

 

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Of the recipes we have so far cooked, there’s been not one dud. Nothing which has been ‘meh.’ Everything has been devoured in silence. Many have been declared ‘that was really, really tasty.’ If we want a delicious meal, we know we’ll find it in this book.

The Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemon is the epitome of simple. And it’s also amazing. Yes it is covered in butter and so is a thousand more calories that your usual roast chicken – but I’d prefer to die happy and fat than thin and miserable. We don’t make it every time we have a roast chicken, but when we’re entertaining or just fancy something different from the norm then it’s delicious.

Two Bean Two Lime Salad introduced us to Kaffir Lime Leaves for the first time. So zingy and fresh, this was the recipe we picked for emptying our life of the half bag of lingering edaname beans – and I’ll now go out and buy more of the bleeding things just to make this again. It also makes eating green beans actually enjoyable, and is definitely one I’ll be keeping up my sleeve for summer BBQs.

New Potatoes with Peas and Coriander is bright green and glorious. A real celebration of peas. And good cold/reheated too.

 

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The Mackerel with Pistachio and Cardamon Salsa and Ginger Cream. Now this was a real celebration of mackerel (which is THE oily fish for those on a budget), and whilst sounding like an odd combination everything really worked well together. We served it with a little brown rice and it was a lovely light meal.

And then there was the Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Mint and Cumin. Perhaps not the best recipe to make during the 24C heat of the Easter weekend (8 hours of the oven on made our flat pretty much unbearable) but it was well worth it. Incredibly tasty, so tender it fell apart when poked with a spoon. The best lamb I’ve ever made, and quite possibly the best lamb I’ve ever eaten.

We also used the leftovers in a Spiced Shepherd’s Pie with Butterbean Mash. There’s two ‘shepherd’s pie’ recipes in the book, both incorporating tahini into the topping. This was the simpler version, though we adapted it to use the leftovers rather than standard mince. The butterbean tahini topping was particularly good – and served with a salad made for something really rather tasty.

 

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Braised Eggs with Leeks and Za’atar was our brunch dish of choice for the Easter weekend, and what a choice it was too. Soft and sweet leeks, punchy za’atar, runny egg yolks and plenty of feta. Another variation on a ‘green’ shakshuka type dish which I’m totally here for. So much more exciting than the tomato-ey versions anyway.

We’ve also cooked a variety of other sides from the book – all good, all delicious. Next on my list are the Herb Fritters, Bridget Jones Salmon and pretty much the whole book…

To conclude. If you only ever want one recipe book in your life, it’s quite possible this one will do the job.

Are you an Ottolenghi fan?

Recipe: Ham, Pea & Apple Salad with Roast Potatoes

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.

 photo Pea Salad_zpsowduhnl7.jpgThis 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.

 photo Pea Apple and Ham Hock Salad 5_zps7j2fty60.jpg photo Pea Apple and Ham Hock Salad 3_zpsxbfptlgt.jpgIt’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.
 photo Pea Apple and Ham Hock Salad 4_zpsd7cay5ig.jpg

Are you a salad fan?

Food: Making Entertaining More Sustainable

I’m a feeder. It is well-known that I love food, but it becomes even more obvious when I’m feeding friends and family. I’d hate for anyone to leave my house hungry and we’ve been known to feed dinner guests so well they’ve forgone breakfast the next day. I do, however, want to do this in the most sustainable way possible. Not buying food for the sake of it and keeping waste to a minimum. I thought I’d pen up a little post on how I keep dinner parties sustainable without letting anyone go hungry!

 photo Sustainable Feasting 1_zpsijs4ciie.jpg photo Bonfire Night Feast 2_zps9envtjdt.jpgCook Seasonally

This is my main tip for any kind of sustainable cooking. You can be as green as you like, but if you’re shipping in foreign strawberries during the winter it’s never going to be good. Stick to in-season ingredients and everything will be tastier, fresher and quite possibly cheaper too!

Bulk Out Meat

Again, this is something I recommend you do anyway for both budget reasons and to up those veggies. A really good example is the starter I enjoyed at a Bonfire Night Feast with Leisure Living (cooked up by Dan Doherty and attended by Ruby of GBBO, I was fan-girling all night!). Rather than serving up each person with a piece of pricey fish, it was instead broken up and served as a spiced chowder with plenty of vegetables. It was SO tasty (I’ve since cooked it at home), super filling and used much less fish than other recipes. You can see more of Leisure Living’s sustainable cooking tips here.

 photo Bonfire Night Feast 5_zpslkc6tdft.jpg“Make Your Own” Courses

This is perfect for a more informal dinner party – just pile everything in the middle and let guests help themselves to what they want. It means nothing goes to waste, as if they don’t like it they aren’t forced to take it. Think build-your-own tacos, create your own ice-cream sundaes or even pizza making. I only wish I’d seen the make your own candied apple idea before our autumnal wedding!

Buy Local

Always, always always! If you’re lucky enough to live close enough to buy your meat directly from the farm, do it! It will have a much lower carbon footprint, and you’ll be supporting your local economy to boot. But it’s not just meat that you can buy local. Instead of getting a nice smelly French brie from Sainsburys, pop into your local cheese shop and get a British equivalent – we go to Hamish Johnston and their Waterloo is far nicer than most brie I’ve tried! You’re also likely to get much better-for-the-environment packaging by shopping local. Just think about milk – plastic bottles in the shops vs glass if you get it delivered. That’s certainly on my to-do list for 2019…

 photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 7_zpsbmbingda.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 6_zpst3axdh4c.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 4_zpssuvdkils.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 24_zpsjijf0zys.jpgChoose an Easily Freezeable/Reheatable Dish

Another tip to reduce waste is to cook something that, even if there’s loads left, won’t be thrown away. A giant stew, a bubbling dish of mac’n’cheese all work well. I recently worked with B&M to create a Sloe Gin Braised Venison Ragu which is perfect for this. It is something slightly different and tastes a bit special (the juniper really compliments the gaminess of the meat). Wonderful over pasta, mash or a cheesy polenta, not only can you make it ahead but it also freezes beautifully which means some rather gourmet after dinner meals!

 photo Bonfire Night Feast 7_zpsvlcvhhr8.jpg photo Bonfire Night Feast 15_zpsuygmzwim.jpgNo Single-Use Plastics

I get it, it’s SO tempting to use plastic cutlery or plates to cut down on the washing up! But it’s also obviously not the best choice for the environment, so best to pop on the rubber gloves and get scrubbing. I’m also looking to take this one step further in 2019 and pick up some nice linen napkins to cut down on waste even more. And, y’know, they’ll make my table look more Instagrammable…

*This post includes a few links, but it isn’t an ad and none are affiliate. No payment was made for the mention of any of these companies or events and, as always, all opinions are my own. 

Do you have any tips for cooking more sustainably?

Cooking From: Homemade Pita Bread (James Morton’s Brilliant Bread)

Without a doubt, Brilliant Bread is my most recommended cookbook. It’s the one on my shelves that is well-thumbed, pages stiff with flour, faded with watermarks. If anyone, absolutely anyone, mentions baking their own bread to me I insist they purchase this book. It is quite simply the best book for bread making, both for beginners and beyond.

I could stop with the review and this post there, really, because I quite simply cannot sing James’ praises highly enough.

The writing style is a pleasure to read, it’s a book I can quite happily sit and cosy up with as much as bake from. He has such an excellent way of describing the bread-making process, in a way that’s both easy to understand but also extremely detailed. And the best bit? The majority of the recipes don’t require much, if any, kneading. Bread without having to get my hands dirty is a revelation, and this book alone is the reason I make my own bread so often.

Recipe (I get 10 pittas out of this, as I prefer mine slightly smaller, I quite often quarter or halve too for a small batch)

  • 200g strong white flour
  • 200g plain white flour
  • 8g salt
  • 8g yeast
  • 275g tepid water
  • flavourless oil for greasing

In a large bowl, weigh out the flour. With your fingers, rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl, and the sachet of dried yeast on the opposite side. Add the  water to the dry ingredients, and mix together until it forms a  dough (use your
dough to mop up any flour sticking to the side of the bowl). Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel
and rest in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Oil the fingertips of one hand, and forcefully fold the dough in half inside the bowl. Turn the bowl a
quarter turn, and repeat until you have removed most of the air. Cover your bowl again rest the dough for another 45 minutes, whilst your oven preheats to it’s hottest temperature (around 250C).

Tip your dough out on to a lightly oiled surface and roll into a long sausage. Chop the dough into equal pieces (Jame’s suggests 8, I go for 10). Take each piece and, using a rolling pin, roll them out until they are about half a centimetre thick. Pop straight onto a baking tray and slide into the oven, turning down the temperature to 220C as soon as they are in. Bake for 8-12 minutes depending depending on how soft or crisp you like them. They should puff up into balls and are blush with a golden colour. But even if they don’t puff up, they’ll be delicious…

Other recipes inspired by Brilliant Bread are my Bagels (which I’m now desperately craving – there’s nothing better than a homemade bagel filled with pastrami and mustard!) and Focaccia.  And in short – I highly recommend that if you want to bake bread, you buy this book. You won’t regret it!

Are you a fan of baking your own bread?

Recipe: Whisky Mac’n’Cheese with Glazed Bacon Crumb

Yep. Whisky Mac’n’Cheese. The perfect Burn’s Night supper. I’ve already made a boozy mac’n’cheese before (see my one-pan beer’n’bacon mac’n’cheese) and, quite frankly, if you’ve never mixed booze and bacon together, you are missing out. Add cheese and, done right, you end up with a bowl of complete awesomeness.

The sauce for this mac’n’cheese is creamy and rich. Whilst the whisky-taste does infuse the sauce, it doesn’t overpower. The overwhelming taste is cheese, but there’s a subtle smokiness which works so well. Add in some salty-sweet bursts of whisky-glazed bacon and some insanely savoury super-crunchy breadcrumbs.

This recipe is inspired by one originally appearing in the Waitrose Weekend Magazine (and found online here). We’ve edited slightly, increasing the sauce to pasta ratio, making LOTS of breadcrumbs, and making the mix of cheeses more to our taste.

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Recipe – serves 2 very generously

  • 150g essential Waitrose Macaroni
  • 30g butter (+20g for the bacon)
  • 30g plain flour
  • 75ml whisky
  • 1/2 pint milk (around 280ml)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (we used English, if using Dijon add a bit more)
  • 50g comté, rind removed and grated (use all cheddar if you’re struggling to find some)
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated (a smoked cheddar would be very good here)
  • 40g parmesan
  • 3 rashers smoked bacon
  • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped

Boil the macaroni for 6 minutes, then drain and reserve the cooking water.

Meanwhile, glaze your bacon. Chop the bacon very finely, and fry in 10g butter over a high heat until golden and starting to crisp. Add half of the whisky and cook until it has completely evaporated, and the bacon is glazed and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Then make the sauce. Melt the 30g butter, then stir in the flour over a low heat to make a thick paste. Remove from the heat and slowly add half of the whisky, stirring continuously until incorporated. Return to the heat and gradually add all of the milk, stirring constantly. Heat until the sauce is just below the simmering point, and cook stirring continuously for 10 minutes, until thick and smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the mustard, comté, cheddar, 3/4 of the parmesan and seasoning (plenty of black pepper!).

Mix the macaroni, a third of the bacon and the reserved cooking water into the sauce, then spoon into a large ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes at 180C, it should be bubbling and golden.

Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan, then add the rosemary and breadcrumbs. Cook for 5 or so minutes, stirring every so often, until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp. Add the rest of the bacon to reheat. When the mac’n’cheese is cooked, sprinkle the bacon-crumb mixture over just before serving.

This is rich, so I highly recommend a good crunchy salad to go with it! And a dram of whisky of course…

Are you a whisky fan? Will you be celebrating Burn’s Night?

Food: My Kitchen Goals for 2018

As a food blogger I’m pretty much always in the kitchen or reading cookbooks. Thinking up new flavour combinations, easier ways to make classic dishes. Or I’ll be reading some of my favourite blogs, putting even more restaurants on my list… either way, food is a massive part of my life and there’s still so much more I have to try. Here’s just a few of the things I want to tick off in 2018!

Embarrassingly, some of these I’ve probably mentioned as goals before on this blog. However, as it’s a New Year, let’s wipe the slate clean and start again!

  • Improve my cake decorating skills. I shamefully tend to get W to ice any cakes that need it (case in point: my birthday cake last month). I’d love to be at the stage where I feel comfortable with a piping bag, although I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll achieve such a goal this year!
  • Make our our pasta more often. It tastes SO much better than shop-bought.
  • Eat amazing food on our honeymoon. I don’t actually know where we’ll be flying off to, as W has booked the whole thing as a surprise, however I am pretty damn sure that there will be yummy food involved! Stay tuned in October and you’ll find out!
  • Make a “proper” pie from scratch. We quite often have a pie during the week, but the filling will be a quite casserole of leftovers, with a sheet of puff pastry baked on top. I’d love to make a pie from scratch, with pastry all the way round the perfect filling.
  • Learn more about Chinese and Asian cooking. In particular I’d love to give dumplings a go!
  • Tick off one or two more Michelin Starred restaurants. I managed to visit Pollen Street Social and Galvin La Chapelle in 2017, so I’d love to try a few more this year. Where would you recommend?
  • Make sure I eat a vegetarian dinner at least once a week. We’d like to make our meat purchasing more ethical, but to do that we need to eat less of it purely from a cost perspective!
  • Find a decent fruit and veg delivery system. Do you get a weekly food box? We’ve tried a couple and haven’t been overly impressed so would really appreciate some recommendations!
  • Actually manage to make and keep a sourdough starter alive. It’s alluded us several times in the past…

What do you want to achieve in the kitchen this year?

Food: Christmas Cooking Tips & Ultimate Orange & Whisky Mince Pies

Now, I could apologise for the early mention of Christmas but I won’t. Because actually it’s not *that* early. Stir-up Sunday has been and come and IT’S DECEMBER TOMORROW. In just a few hours it’s acceptable to start decorating my lounge, wearing festive jumpers and humming Christmas carols. And so it’s time to start talking about the best bit of Christmas if you ask me. Whether it’s a roast turkey or goose. Traditional dinner or buffet. Whether you prefer the main event or the Boxing Day leftovers. A good Christmas Dinner is the bit I always look forward to, and the part that always makes me sad when it’s over. And lucky for me, I got to start the Christmassy eating early this year!

On a rather grey and wet Saturday we headed to The Cookery for #AEGTasteofXmas. Welcomed in with Prosecco (the best kind of welcome!), we watched some excellent demonstrations (though I still cant’ handle filo pastry to save my life!) and made mince pies (whilst dancing along to the Buble Christmas album!) before being treated to a rather large Christmas dinner.

Here’s just a few hints and tips I picked up to perfect your Christmassy cooking (although you can read a few more via the link!):

  • Buy cheap mincemeat and jazz it up with extras. Add extra festive spices, some orange zest, a good splash of booze. You can mix it up extra how you like it!
  • Always make pastry by an open window. If your room is too hot, keep popping the bowl in the fridge to stop the fat melting. Oh, and handle your pastry as little as possible. One re-roll is okay, any more and your pastry will suffer. You have been warned…
  • Make a simple and light starter. We whipped up a veggie wellington – roasted veggies wrapped in filo pastry. It took no time and was super-scrummy!
  • Test the temperature of our oven. It’s rare they will be exact to their dial, so an oven thermometer is essential for cooking. You’ll notice the difference once you start cooking meat at the correct temperate!
  • Always, always, always rest your meat before carving. A large turkey will stay warm covered in tin-foil for a good hour or so – meaning you can turn up the oven to crisp up your roasties/pigs in blankets/yorkshires.
  • Make extra brussel sprouts. They’re awesome in bubble’n’squeak the next day!

And now it’s time to share my favourite mince pie recipe. I confess I’m not a huge fan of these (dried fruit is just not my thing!), although these are just about acceptable in my eyes. Zesty with orange and a little boozy, if they’re served warm and with enough cream I can just about look over the dried fruit situation.

Recipe – makes around 12, easily doubled if you’re hosting a party!

  • 250g plain flour
  • 65g icing sugar
  • 190g cold butter
  • zest and juice 1 large orange
  • 2 tbsp whisky (or other festive spirit, I imagine brandy would work well!)
  • 250g mincemeat

Mix half of the orange zest and juice in to the mincemeat, along with the whisky, and leave to sit whilst you make the pastry.

Rub the flour, icing sugar and butter together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the remained orange juice and zest, and stir with a knife until the mixture begins to clump (add a spoon of cold water if there’s not quite enough juice). Tip onto a floured surface and knead very briefly until smooth before flattening into a disc, wrapping in cling-film and chilling in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Re-dust the work surface (top tip – use bread flour to dust surfaces as it’s finer), then roll out the pastry to approximately the thickness of a £1 coin. Use an 8cm cutter to cut out rounds, then press into a 12-hole non-stick bun tin (don’t grease the tin!). Re-roll the trimmings to the same thickness and stamp out the tops – as these have alcohol in I prefer to leave the tops slightly open so it’s not *too* boozy*. Spoon about 1 tbsp mincemeat into each base and press on the tops, then bake for 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool for a few mins, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Are you a mince pie fan? Will you be baking festive treats this year?

Lifestyle: A Foodie Bucket List (Home-Cooking Version)

It’s a running joke between myself and my better half that we have an ever-expanding list of things we want to cook, places we want to eat. It grows far, far faster than we can tick items off! Here’s just a snippet of our ‘home-cooking’ section of the list…

  • Experiment more with Jewish recipes. I’ve been thumbing through Fress* a lot recently and pretty much every dish sounds delicious.
  • Buy a proper pudding basin. Although I’ve wanted one for a while, it was the recent GBBO epsiode that reignited the passion. Steamed sponges, suet puddings filled with steak and kidney. Traditional cooking at it’s best!
  • Make a lasagne completely from scratch. Obviously we use my Ultimate No-Tomato Bolognese, and W’s awesome cheese sauce recipes, but I really want to combine them with homemade pasta. In fact, just make more homemade pasta!
  • Oh, and a decent completely white lasagne I want to make too. This Jamie Oliver recipe looks insanely rich and comforting!
  • Replicate a decent barbecue sauce sans tomato. It’s the one thing I miss – messy, sticky, saucy ribs!
  • Cook up this Lentil Stew. It looks perfect for a winter lunchbox to reheat at work!
  • Play around more with our Pressure Cooker. I was gifted one last Autumn and whilst we made a couple of dishes in it (it was great for Beef Cheeks!) it’s sat largely unused for a while. Any recipe recommendations?
  • Make our own Faggots. I know a lot of people are squeamish about these, but I LOVE them. I grew up eating local versions but they’ve become harder and harder to find (I’ve not seen them in any butchers in London). We have a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid so this Winter I’m definitely setting aside an afternoon for making my perfect comfort food.
  • Host a supper club. I’d love to host some fundraising supper parties, in support of Alzheimer’s UK in memory of my maternal granddad. Now we have a dining table I really need to get the ball rolling!
  • Make a proper pie. We make pies quite a lot with the leftovers from our Sunday roast, but really it’s a cheat – topping a stew mix with a sheet of pastry. I’d love to try making a proper pie with pastry all the way round.
  • Cook more curries from scratch. We’ve got a few simple recipes (read: throw various spices in with onion, garlic and ginger, add yoghurt/coconut milk) but I’d love to try something a tad more authentic. I’ve had this for Massaman and this Vindaloo recipe bookmarked for what feels like forever!
  • Bake these. Because Peanut Butter is life.

What’s on your ‘to cook’ list?

Recipe: Super-Easy Homemade Falafel

Falafel are one of my absolute favourite things to eat, yet I’m supremely fussy about them. I have eaten some truly, truly dreadful falafel in the last few years (including one that had big chunks of apricot in – why?!). However the absolute worst falafel I’ve tried? It’s the ones I’ve made myself. They’ve always been overly mushy, never coming together, never crispy and just horribly bland.

 photo Falafel_zpsmxeqopix.jpgThat is, until now. This is inspired by a John Torode recipe from BBC Good Food. I’d made it a couple of times now, adapting as I go and now I’ve pretty much got it down to a fine art. Not only are these delicious, they are ridiculously easy to make. Sure, they take a bit of time (i.e. you need to remember to soak the chickpeas – tinned ones absolutely do not work and that is exactly why my attempts had always failed!), but once that’s done you can pretty much get them made in under half an hour. And if you want the process to be a little less hands on, along with a little healthier, you can even baked these instead of frying. Frying gives the best crispy texture, but the flavour is pretty much unaffected so if you’ve making these ahead for lunches I’d bake (and use the spare calories on chocolate).

Now, the flavour. It’s so much better than other falafel recipes I’ve made. The added vegetables add to the complex flavours, and I’ve added a spice mix which I love (though feel free to customise it). These are moist, but not mushy, they hold together without crumbling and have a slightly crispy outer. Pretty much my perfect falafel!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsioqo0b5n.jpg photo Homemade Falafel 4_zpsqh8bwbqn.jpgIngredients

  • 125g dried chickpeas or dried split broad beans
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 leek
  • 1/2 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • a tiny pinch of cinnamon
  • good handful chopped coriander
  • 25g plain flour

Soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours, or overnight (or do as I do if making them on a weeknight – soak them during the day.

Drain the chickpeas and pulse with the bicarbonate in a food processor (I use my mini food processor) until roughly chopped. Remove around half of the mixture and pop into a large bowl. Add the garlic, vegetables, spices and herbs to the remaining mixture in the processor and purée to a paste. Stir the paste into the rough purée of chickpeas, add the flour, season (these take plenty of salt) and mix well. I find it best to give the mixture a quick knead with my hands to make sure it’s all incorporated.

Take tablespoons of the mixture and form into balls before flattening – I tend to get 12-13 out of this quantity as I like my falafel slightly smaller.

If you’re frying the falafel, heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add some of the oil. Fry for 2-3 mins each side until crisp. Keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remainder of the mixture, continuing to add a little oil to the pan with each batch. Alternatively, place the falafel on greaseproof paper, spray with a little oil and bake at 180C for half an hour, turning once.

 photo Homemade Falafel 6_zpse4mmgjg6.jpgI like to serve mine with couscous and salad, but they are also reallllyyy good served as part of a meze platter (particularly with beetroot houmous!) or in homemade pitta bread. The perfect filling lunchbox!

Are you a fan of falafel? Have you ever made your own before?

Food: Getting Inventive with Veg ft. Roots Collective

One thing I’m definitely guility of is seeing vegetables as an after thought. Don’t get me wrong, we eat a decent amount (more often than not I get my 5-a-day in) but they are a side dish. An ‘essential’ mainly put there to get the good stuff and vitamins in. I can’t honestly say I always enjoy eating them!

 photo Roots Collective_zps5d2ribmy.jpgHowever when we moved in together, W and me set ourselves the challenge of being a bit more inventive with veggies. We eat vegetarian dinners once or twice a week, we try new things (hence my new loves for beetroot and butternut squash!). Recently though I’ve taken it one step further. Roots Collective challenged me to add even more veg into my diet whilst getting creative with their blends.

Now, let’s just get this off my chest. I didn’t think these worked as a juice. Too herby, too bitty (I have no issue with orange-bits in my OJ, but green stuck in my teeth was not attractive!). What I did love, however, was using them as an ingredient.

 photo Roots Collective Blends 4_zps5pasahbk.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsqgrrd1ns.jpgThe beetroot juice (which was surprisingly the most palatable to drink) ended up being my absolute favourite out of the bunch. Whizzed up with chickpeas or butter beans, some garlic and a spot of seasoning, it made an extremely yummy and vibrant dip. It was such a gorgeous colour that really brightened up my lunchbox (and my study notes – as it turns out my Monday morning brain isn’t great at closing lunchboxes properly…). Excellent with carrot sticks, ever better with homemade pitta. I kind-of ignored Roots Collective’s recipe, instead leaving out the oil and replacing the tahini with a spot of peanut butter (don’t judge!).

Yep, note to self: post recipe for homemade pitta bread soon. Trust me when I say you’ll never look at shop bought ones in the same way again!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 1_zpszl3joift.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 2_zpsbjtutyzt.jpgThe cucumber-y one was another fave, partnering really well with salad. I did a couple of different types. A Mexican bean salad (black beans and onions sauteed wih chipotle paste, served with lots of lettuce, coriander, cheese and a few cheeky tortilla chips) – yummy, and the juice added the freshness I would usually get from soured cream. It also went really well as a dressing for couscous. Served with my homemade falafel this was the perfect lunchbox for a few days!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 15_zps40fy2qei.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 9_zpsnnfub2wq.jpgThe others I made into soup. Sure, they still need veg adding, but it was a super quick way to add extra flavour without faffing around. Just add the chopped veg to a small amount of water, simmer until soft, drain, add the juice and blend. My current thrifty tip is to make soup out of a broccoli stalk – it’s something that would otherwise get thrown away, but it’s perfectly edible and just makes good soup. Add some blue cheese and you’ve got a happy girl over here!

So, what are Roots Collective Blends? To be brutally honest, I’m still not quite sure! Not a juice. Not a smoothie. The entire bit of veg ends up in the bottle, cold-pressed without any added fruit juice to lock in all the vitamins. They can be drunk straight from the bottle (personally I don’t recommend it!), or eaten us with a spoon (I reckon they are too thin for this – but maybe I’m just a messy eater!). I think they come into their own when used as a sauce or a soup. Oh, and I’m definitely trying this risotto recipe sometime soon!

What’s your favourite veggie dish?