Recipe: S’mores Brownies

Yup, S’mores brownies. I’ll pause for a second to let that sink in.

smores-browniesS’mores brownies. Super fudgy chocolate brownies (with milk chocolate chips, because chocolate), baked on a digestive biscuit crust and topped with toasted mini marshmallows.

S’mores have been a major love of mine since my Girl Guide days. Contrary to popular belief, we never went camping camping, and our weekly base was in the town centre. That didn’t stop us having fire pits in the church-hall courtyard, and s’mores always made an appearance. We tended to go for the easy option of setting fire to toasting marshmallows and sandwiching between chocolate-covered digestive biscuits, though I’ve since discovered that spreading digestives with nutella is a rather delicious alternative. These brownies pretty much recreate those s’mores, but in a bigger and slightly more convenient way for eating in a ladylike fashion.

 photo Smores Brownie 3_zpsblhgp7ea.jpg photo Smores Brownie 6_zpsvzlee95q.jpgI was originally invited by The Co-Op to do some spooky Halloween-themed baking, but a migraine put an end to that so we compromised on Bonfire Bakes instead – just as well as the marshmallows instead the box were crying out for a flame and some chocolate. With the inclusion of a free-from brownie mix, we set about recreating one of our favourite Autumnal treats.

The buttery biscuit base of these s’more brownies  is crispy and crumbly – and the flakes of sea salt running through (which was originally a total accident, I meant to grab the finely milled stuff) break things up, stopping it from being too sweet. Whilst we used a mix for the brownie layer, you could easily use any of your favourite recipes (even lighten it up with my lower-fat mayonnaise brownies – old post alert!). Last year W first created a s’more brownie and added a good measure of whisky to the brownies before baking, definitely worth a try… You underbake the brownies, even more so than usual, popping a good layer of mashmallows and then baking for a few minutes longer. If you liked the scorched effect, pop under the grill or a blowtorch for a few seconds too. Yum.

 photo Smores Brownie 1_zpshdmpguq3.jpg photo Smores Brownie 19_zpskt1ljroc.jpgIngredients

  • For the crust: 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 8 digestives, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/3 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • For the brownies: use your favourite recipe designed for a 20cm square pan
  • A bag of mini marshmallows (around 100-150g)

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 160°C and line an 20x20cm pan. Melt the butter in a small pan. Crush the biscuits (I find using a mini food processor the quickiest and tidiest way, though bashing with a rolling pin will always be a great stress reliever!), then mix with the sugar and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir until well combined. Pour into the lined pan, and press evenly along the bottom and sides – the amounts here make for quite a thin base, but increase the proportions if you want more of a crunch. Bake for around 18-20 minutes until lightly golden and staring to crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

To make the brownies: Increase the oven temperature to 180°C and prepare the brownie layer. As I said, we were lazy and used a mix but just go for your favourite recipe, adding whisky if you fancy. Pour the batter over the crust and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes depending on how gooey you like your brownies.

To make the marshmallow layer: Leave the oven on. Arrange the marshmallows over the top of the part-baked brownies. Continue to bake for 5 or so minutes, until the marshmallows are melted and light brown on top and the brownies are cooked to your liking. If you fancy the more charred marshmallow taste, grill or blowtorch for another minute. Just be careful if blowtorching – a quote from W: “I didn’t notice it was on fire…”

 photo Smores Brownie 13_zps3hwewmjj.jpg photo Smores Brownie 10_zpscwioytzb.jpgThese really are utterly delicious – sweet, sticky and insanely moreish. We’ve pretty much decided that making these will become a little bit of a Bonfire night tradition, as will wrapping them up and taking them with us to watch a local fireworks display. S’mores brownies. I want s’more right now…

What’s your favourite Autumnal treat? Did you celebrate Bonfire Night?

Recipe: My Ultimate Homemade Pizza Base

I love me a pizza. Franco Manca is becoming a date-night favourite when I meet W from his studio, and having The Dynamo a whopping 3 minute walk away is down-right dangerous. The good news? I’ve finally perfected my perfect at-home pizza base. Not only does it taste great, it’s super easy to make, fitting in around our schedule and making homemade pizza all too easy on a work night.

 photo Pizza Dough_zpswwofx8v6.jpgIt does “take a while” but in all honesty there’s hardly any hands-on work. The vast majority of the time involves bunging it in the fridge and forgetting about it – the actual prep you could do in the morning or (if you’re more sleep-inclined) the night before. If you want to me majorly organised then you could even go as far as part-cooking the bases in advance and freezing. Now that’s given me the idea of holding a pizza party…

The slow-rise is essential for creating an almost sourdough-flavoured base. It’s puffed up, slightly crisp on the base, and soft and chewy. This is not your takeaway American-style base, it’s not ‘deep-pan’ and it’s not ‘thin and crispy.’ It’s proper, pillowy, Italian homemade pizza. Maybe not ovely authentic, but it tastes good and fits in with my lifestyle. Basically, it’s a big thumbs up from me. Here I’ve showcased two toppings. One is my Spicy Lamb, perfect for leftover Sunday roast meat. The second is a fresher take on my Black Pudding & Goat’s cheese, using less meat, more cheese and a little courgette to lighten things up. Leaving the black-pudding off and going courgette+cheese (+fresh basil if I have any) is also super good. And my go-to comfort food pizza option? Red pepper pesto and chorizo slices is always a winner!

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 300g strong white bread flour
  • 6g salt
  • 3g dried yeast
  • 200ml water (warm, but not too hot)

 photo Ultimate Homemade Pizza Dough 2_zpstz8qclr6.jpgPut the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, and then pour in 150ml of warm water. Stir the wateruntil a rough ball forms, then bring it together with your hands. The dough will be sticky, and you will get messy and annoyed with it. Sorry!

Knead the dough. I like to alternate between normal kneading and stretching it in the air, over and over again. You should end up with a smooth, not-so-sticky dough after around 10 minutes. Once you get to this (or even before if you feel like your arms are about to fall off, or you need to run and get to work on time) place the into a clean and well-floured bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and throw in the fridge.

After around 10 hours (i.e. when you get in from work), the dough should have doubled in size. Gently press all the air out of the dough using your hands, adding in a little flour if it’s still super-sticky. Split into two, and on a floured work surface press out a section of the dough into a rough circle. I tend to do this by hand rather than use a rolling pin (mainly to save on the washing up) – again I tend to do it up in the air, letting the weight of the dough stretch it out. Lay the dough on a floured surface and then begin to work on the second piece. After this, the first will have had chance to rest, you can stretch it again – you want super-thin sections, but also a thicker ‘crust’ around the edge. Repeat with the second piece.

Heat up a large, dry non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, and then carefully lay in one pizza base at a time. Cook the bases for 2-3 minute per side. Each side of the base should be a pale biege colour, with a few dark brown spots – I cook at a slightly lower temperature for longer just to get the base a little crispier, but if you prefer a stronger “wood-fired” flavour and texture then cook for less over a high heat. Repeat for the other base.

Add on any toppings, and then cook the pizzas for 5-7 minutes in an oven at 220 degrees. I’ve discovered that 1tbsp of creme fraiche mixed with black pepper and a small amount of parmesan makes for a divine topping, but for these black-pudding pizzas I simply spread with goat’s cheese to form a ‘sauce.’ You definitely don’t want the toppings to outshine the base here!

 photo Ultimate Homemade Pizza Dough 1_zpsaecak4qz.jpgAnd that’s is, perfect homemade pizza for two. Multiply up the quantities for more, freeze half of the dough (either shaped and part-cooked or just as it is) or one. And if you’re holding a pizza party? Part-cook, stack with greaseproof and keep in an air-tight container until the evening – then serve with a vast array of toppings. I’m thinking different pestos, meats, veg, maybe even the mac’n’cheese pizza topping I came across recently…

What’s your favourite pizza topping? Are you a fan of homemade pizza?

Recipe: Cheese Scones

As much as I love my mum’s classic scones, there’s something about the cheesy versions I just can’t resist. I like mine warm from the over (or zapped in the microwave), split and spread with an indecent amount of butter. I also enjoy them cold, split and filled with mustard and ham – a take on my favourite sandwich. Just typing this is making me hungry!

 photo Cheese Scones_zpszs4rfcac.png photo Cheese Scones 6_zps7wq1gfba.jpgI’m very definitely a savoury person. Sure, I love a slice of cake or a chocolate bar as much as the next person, but when I’m dreaming of food (more often than I care to admit!) it’s always the savoury options that get my tummy rumbling. A good Ploughman’s lunch, a steaming hot pasty, a plate of Welsh rarebit, I love a good hearty snack. I also can’t resist cheese straws, but perhaps that’s a recipe for another time…

The key with cheese scones is to not overload them with cheese, particularly when sprinkling the tops. Trust me, this is easier said that done! An overly cheesy scone won’t rise as well, so the final result will be a little heavy. Still delicious, but you wouldn’t want more than one – and where’s the fun in that?!

 photo Cheese Scones 2_zpsb6lzxnju.jpgThese cheese scones, made to my mum’s recipe (actually, she baked the photographed ones for our engagement party way back in August), are super cheesy without sacrificing the rise. They are also well-seasoned – I also like mine with a slight kick of spice from mustard and cayenne, though feel free to leave this out for a more classic flavour.

Ingredients

  • 8oz self raising flour
  • pinch each of salt, black pepper, mustard powder and cayenne pepper
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2oz butter
  • 4oz cheese, plus an extra 1oz for topping – a strong mature cheddar works well, but I can’t resist Red Leicester for scones
  • 80-90 ml milk, plus extra for glazing

 photo Cheese Scones 4_zpsevssaiyc.jpgSift together the flour, seasonings and baking powder until thoroughly combined. Cut the butter (make sure it is very cold) into cubes, place in the bowl and then rub in with your fingertips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Grate the cheese into the breadcrumb mixture and rub in until evenly distributed.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in enough milk to give a dough. Do not pour in all the milk at once as you may not need it all to get the right consistency – use a wooden spoon to stir in between additions, stopping just as the dough begins to come together. Chill the dough for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough to approximately 2cm thick on a floured surface. Cut out the scones and then place on a lined tray. Glaze with milk and sprinkle a little cheese on the top of each scone. Bake at 190C for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. If you prefer a crispier top, bake at 200C for crunchy out and soft inner. Serve warm with butter, or cold as the bread-replacement in a sandwich lunch.

 photo Cheese Scones 1_zpsiz8ryjh3.jpgNow I have an idea: a double-scone afternoon tea. A first course of a warm cheese scone, dripping with melted butter. Then a second course of the classic scone with jam and cream. Sounds perfect to me!

Ooh, I just noticed as I scheduled this – it’s exactly two years until our wedding! The almost-ten-months since we got engaged has flown by, so I’m hoping it continues to go as quickly!

Are you a fan of cheese scones?

Recipe: Courgette Risotto

Perhaps a bit late in the year, this post, as the courgette glut tends to happen in late summer, but so damn delicious I couldn’t help share. I can’t believe how behind I am at posting recipes; it seems like I make something, photograph it and then it’s months before it makes it’s debut on the blog. Whoops! I’ll definitely have to try and be prepared for the Christmas themed recipes I have planned…

 photo Courgette Risotto_zps6n6dzibs.pngThis Courgette Risotto, admittedly not the easiest thing to photograph, was born out of desperation for risotto. I’ve talked about my favourite-ever-meal before, mushroom risotto, and how it’s my go-to meal when I’m stressed, ill, tired, need cheering up or just fancy treating myself. I love it. And W hates mushrooms. I’ve tried converting him. I’ve tried sneaking them into things. It’s not worked; he hates the taste, despises the texture and I’ve not made mushroom risotto since moving out of uni in June. I was craving it so much in my first week of work I spent an hour researching different risotto recipes and proposed this one. Admittedly it was quite a bit of work for an after-dinner meal, and on one of the hottest days of the year I was certainly sweating over the hot stove, but it was delicious.

I was worried it was going to be a bit bland, but actually the gentler, subtle flavours really worked well together to create a rather tasty dinner. The mix of textures was spot-on, the seasoning just right and I felt it was quite possibly the perfect risotto consistency. Calorific, yes, but well worth it. Oh, and it can easily be made veggie by using veggie stock and checking the label on your cheeses.

 photo Courgette Risotto 1_zpswfg13ri5.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 50g butter, split in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, again split in half
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150g arborio rice
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • Handful fresh basil
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons mascapone

First, prep the veg. Finely dice the onion and celery, finely chop the garlic. Coarsely grate 1 whole courgette, and around half of the other. Chop the remaining courgette into 1cm chunks. Melt half the butter in a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, then sweat the onion and celery until softened. Make up the chicken stock and add the basil – this infuses it and adds a delicate herby taste.

Turn the heat up and add the garlic, grated courgette and rice. Fry, stirring constantly, for one minute then add the lemon juice (and a splash of white wine if there’s a bottle open). Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add a ladleful of stock. Again, stir until absorbed (or at least every minute or so), adding ladlefuls gradually, until the rice is soft and creamy. I found it took around 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir through the Parmesan and macapone along with plenty of black pepper. Cover with a lid, off the heat, for around five minutes.

Whilst you wait, heat the remaining oil/butter over a high heat and add the diced courgette. Fry until slightly softened and golden. Vigorously beat the risotto and divide into warm bowls, and scatter over the fried courgette. Drizzle over some buttery pan juices, then enjoy with a crisp green salad (watercress and rocket works particularly well).

 photo Courgette Risotto 2_zpslzqwzso4.jpgWe both really enjoyed this risotto, the light flavours worked perfectly and it really showcased how delicious courgette can be. I know I love this vegetable, but a lot of people (other than trendy courgetti) don’t really know how to use it. I’ll definitely be making this again – and I’m a lot more open to experimenting with other risotto flavours now. I’m thinking a rather Autumnal butternut squash and sage version next…

Are you a fan of risotto?

University: Simple Student Meals with McCain

It’s finally here, the time everyone has been waiting for – the start of the university year. Whether you’re coming to uni for the first time or just moving out of halls and into your first student flat with all your mates, chances are there are going to be some quite important ice-breaker meals just around the corner. Whether you’re swapping stories of crazy summer holidays, soul-finding treks in Vietnam or long work-days saving up for Freshers Week, it’s important to have some serious nosh to keep the energy up.

 photo Simple Student Meals_zps7fsknddw.jpg

Remember, student life is all about working out your own way of doing things, and finding little life hacks that make your experience all the more smooth. The first tip for you: impressive food doesn’t have to have a hefty price tag or overly complicated preparation.

Avocado Fries – avocado is all the rage, and you’ll find tonnes of your fellow students are buying up all the stocks in the local supermarkets, but there’s more than one way to enjoy this versatile little fruit. Click here to discover the secret to avocado perfection – the humble McCain oven chip. Coat them in avocado blend and cover with breadcrumbs. Fry them up and you’ve got a delicious avocado-based snack food, with a zing of spice at its core.

 photo potato-wedges-843311_1920_zpsi2uqqlqi.jpgGarlic & Herb Wedges – probably the simplest dish on this list. Start by slicing up some potato into wedges and spreading on a baking tray, then finely chop garlic and mix with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Sprinkle this generously over your chips before seasoning with thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes and you’ll have the perfect starter sorted.

Poutine – if you really want to impress your housemates, why not embrace the Canadian way of life by cooking up some Poutine. Poutine is essentially cheese curd melted over fries then soaked in gravy – Bisto Granules are a great way to make delicious gravy in a flash. It’s a taste sensation, and you’ll be able to introduce it to all your friends too.

Nacho Chips – a great party food that’s easy to make, this dish is basically the same concept as cheese and salsa nachos but with chips instead. Simply melt grated cheese over a plate of wedges before covering in a home-made salsa of chopped tomatoes, chillies, red onion, garlic and lime juice. The result: a more filling alternative to nachos that’ll tide you over during even the heaviest Freshers night out.

 photo fried-eggs-456351_1920_zpsxum3qrrj.jpgBreakfast Fry Up – there’s nothing quite like a fry-up to get you over the long nights out. Everyone will have their own way of doing it, but yours will truly stick in their memories. This fry-up begins with a bed of hot, buttered toast which is then followed by two fried eggs. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, chili flakes and fresh basil and you’ve got yourself the ultimate hangover breakfast. A pot of beans on the side for dipping wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Some of this food sounds delicious – I’m so intrigued by the Avocado Fries, and of course you can’t beat a good fry-up (minus the beans of course, damn you allergy!). I have to admit that as a MASSIVE lover of chips’n’gravy, poutine is something I’ve always been meaning to make. I guess I’ve got no excuse now!

*Collaborative post. All opinions my own as always!

What’s your favourite super-simple meal? I have to admit I’m a fan of a crisp sandwich (smoky bacon, or salt’n’vinegar on buttered white bread) when I’m really craving quick comfort food!

Recipe: Black Pudding & Goats Cheese Pizza

Being allergic to tomatoes means finding pizza recipes can be a bit of a trial, all too often white pizzas can be a bit heavy, overly cheese or (particularly if pesto is used) way too greasy. Franco Manca has satisifed my craving for a fresh, lighter, summery topping, but I wanted something a bit more ‘dirty’, something that wouldn’t make me feel left out when eating next to my sister’s double pepperoni.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 6_zpsuxsgkjtd.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 5_zps16hlavsa.jpgAnd this is it. This, guys, is my new favourite pizza. It’s meaty, it’s carby, it tastes properly bad for you. It’s exactly what a pizza should be. Made on a proper base (none of the faffing around with cauliflower!) it is the perfect pizza for sitting in front of a movie – we first made this whilst attempting to watch all the Harry Potters in a weekend. We failed, but had fun trying! It also goes really, really well with a good side salad. Crispy leaves, fresh spinach, crunch red chicory, these all cut through the richness well. The chicory was a bit of a revelation for me, actually, now I can’t get enough of the stuff. It seems to make my salads just a little more autumnal, something I’m loving right now. I’m still torn between lighter summery food, and bowls of comforting stodge. Give me a few weeks and I’ll be addicted to stew and dumplings again…

Back to the pizza! Yes, it’s rich, but not overwelmingly so. Using creme fraiche as a base keeps it fresh, and the black pudding has just the right level of crispiness to give it an extra texture. Mozzarella gives it a classic ‘pizza’ feel whilst goats cheese adds both tang and compliments the ‘funkiness’ of the black pudding. It’s meaty, slightly spicy, cheesy, indulgent. Delicious.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 2_zpsebhrfq6g.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 3_zps23m1corj.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 2 large pizza bases
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and slice in half
  • 2 large tablespoons of creme fraiche
  • 1 pinch each black pepper and dried thyme
  • 2 handfuls grated mozzarella
  • 50g black pudding, skin removed and sliced
  • 100g soft goats cheese

Rub the pizza base with the cut side of the garlic. In a small bowl, mix the creme fraiche with the pepper and thyme – add a tiny bit of olive oil to loosen if you like. Spread over the base. Scatter over the mozzerella, crumble over the black pudding (try to get the pieces small – it helps them get crispy, and slightly burnt black pudding is heavenly), dollop over small spoons of the goats cheese. Pop into a very hot (220C minimum) oven for around 10 minutes, then slice and devour. W recommends topping with chicory just after baking if you don’t fancy a full salad.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 1_zpsnq2hdkre.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 4_zpsv7okd4jo.jpgWe ‘cheated’ here and used good quality ready-made bases. Mainly because we didn’t want to disturb our movie time, but also because I tend to make my homemade bases more soft and sourdough-y and I’m not too sure that would work as well here. The crisp crunch is definitely needed! However I do have another pizza recipe coming your way soon, with my perfected base and a lighter veggie topping – so pizza fans keep your eyes peeled!

Are you a pizza lover? What’s your favourite topping? I used to love a good pepperoni before my tomato allergy took hold! Ever had a white pizza?

Recipe: Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

What do you cook when you’re fed up of salads, still want something light, and it’s too warm to bear several pans boiling on the hob? These are certainly a good suggestion!

 photo Sweetcorn Pancakes_zpsmrt4uypq.jpgGetting fed up with the usual carby-sides of potatoes, wanting something a little lighter than rice and pasta, we thought up these whilst wanting something to go with some Bacon & Maple Syrup Sausages from Tesco (which, FYI, were yum!). I’d made a few fritter-type things before (Courgette & Feta being my favourite) but for these we spiced things up a bit. Sweetcorn can be, well, sweet and the spices help to counteract this.

Super quick to make, needing only one bowl and one pan, these seem bound to become a favourite with us. The perfect mix of spicy and sweet, these sweetcorn pancakes felt light and healthy, but were substantial enough to satisfy even W. A slightly long ingredients list, but things we always have in the cupboard, I’m planning on trying a brunch recipe using these very soon!

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 4_zps0s9uyi2b.jpgIngredients for Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

  • 150g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder – or 1 small red chill, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 350g/1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil

Pop the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl. Add the egg, lemon juice and 125ml of water, before beating to a smooth pancake-style batter. Add the corn and spring onion; stir to combine. Heat the oil in a frying pan and spoon in 2 heaped tbsp of the mixture for each fritter. Flatten slightly and cook for around 2 minutes each side until golden, cooked through and slightly crispy. Keep the pancakes warm in the oven whilst repeating with the remaining mixture.

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 8_zpscbhcvl8h.jpg photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 9_zpsif2nynuo.jpgThese sweetcorn pancakes were definitely lighter than some of our usual sides, and went perfectly with the sausages. I can imagine them being lovely alongside chicken (especially Southern Fried), but also delicious served on their own with a poached egg. The combination of spices gave them a great kick, though next time I’d definitely think about adding some fresh herbs for a bit of green – and I’d definitely fry them for longer/over a higher heat so they are a bit crispier. Other than that, they were yum!

What’s your favourite carby side dish?

Recipe: Jerk Chicken, Rice & Beans, Zingy Chopped Salad

A.K.A a delicious meal.

In fact, one of the nicest meals I’ve cooked in a long time. And, amazingly, one of the first meals I’ve cooked entirely by myself for W ever. In the whole almost-six years we’ve been together, I’ve rarely cooked solo for him. He’s always helped out, chopping things, cooking an element, with me being more the sous chef. I’m a lucky girl really!

 photo Jerk Chicken Dinner_zpsiqbauwv4.jpg photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 3_zpso2ziiiep.jpgThe entire meal here was influenced by one of Jamie’s Thirty Minute Meals. Let me tell you this, half an hour is a lie. This took me well over an hour, although having said that it was relatively stress free, didn’t take too much washing up, and I reckon with practice should be easily done on a work night. And it was certainly special enough to make for guests too – it looked great, and it was damn yummy.

This does have, however, one of the longest ingredient lists of any of my recipes. Generally I’m not hugely comfortable with such meals, as I find them expensive and fiddly. This one isn’t too bad as there’s no specialty ingredients, and we actually had everything minus the chilli and fresh salad ingredients. If you don’t have everything, particularly the spices, do what I did during my first year of university – build up my spice cupboard gradually by buying one with each (or every other) shop.

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 5_zpsmnxh10eo.jpgIngredients for 2 (Chicken & Rice)

  • Two skin-on boneless chicken breasts – or thighs to make it cheaper, as I will be doing next time!
  • 1 tbsp runny honey – or a big squeeze from a squeeze tub
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 150g rice, we used Basmati
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tin black beans

Ingredients for 2 (Sauce)

  • 4 spring onions
  • Small bunch of fresh thyme (use some for the chicken)
  • 1tsp each of ground cloves nutmeg and allspice
  • 2 tablespoons golden rum
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chilli
  • 3 cloves of garlic

Ingredients for Lots (Salad & Yoghurt, served 2 for dinner, then lunch the next day)

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 red chicory
  • 1 romaine lettuce
  • 1.5 limes
  • 2-3 spring onions
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 250g natural yoghurt
  • few sprigs of fresh coriander
  • Half a lime

 

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 6_zpsnbdu4rve.jpg photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 1_zpsjyl9bmkl.jpgMAKE THE JERK SAUCE Trim and roughly chop the onions and put into a mini chopper with the leaves from most of the bunch of thyme. Add the spices, rum, vinegar, honey and 2 teaspoons of salt. Remove the stalks and seeds from the Scotch bonnet chilli and add to the chopper with the garlic and blitz to a smooth paste. Mine was more liquid than paste, so I have reduced the liquid quantities in my recipe.

FRY THE CHICKEN Meanwhile put the chicken breasts on a plastic board and halve each one, leaving them joined at the top of the breast. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then rub all over both sides of the chicken. Put into the hot griddle pan, skin side down, and leave to cook. Once the undersides are golden, turn the chicken over. Pour the jerk sauce into a  baking dish and lay the chicken on top, skin side up. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of runny honey and scatter over  the remaining thyme sprigs. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 15minutes, at 220C.

RICE & BEANS Put a saucepan with a lid on a medium heat. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and put in the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, a good tbsp of olive oil and a big pinch of salt & pepper. Stir and let soften for a minute or so, then add the rice and stock. Drain and rinse the beans, add to the pan and stir gently. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat. Pop the lid on and leave for 12 minutes.

YOGHURT Tip the yoghurt into a small serving bowl. Finely chop a few sprigs of coriander and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Finely grate over the zest of 1/2 the lime and squeeze in the juice. Stir in.

SALAD Deseed and roughly chop the red pepper. Pop the chicory and lettuce on top and keep chopping until everything is fairly fine.  Pour in a few lugs of extra virgin olive oil and squeeze in the juice of the limes. Finely slice the onions, season to taste, then toss everything together. Tear over the coriander to finish.

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 4_zps2s5wxjvi.jpgTO SERVE Take the lid off the rice after 12 minutes and give it a stir. All the liquid should have been absorbed. Taste and season if necessary. Take the chicken out of the oven, and sprinkle over some coriander if there’s any left. Plate up, spoon over the jerk sauce from the bottom of the baking dish.

The chicken was tender, the skin crisp, coated in the most delicious sauce. Said sauce was spicy, spicy enough to make your nose run, but not inedible, and combined with complex flavours and a good whack of herbs. The rice and beans were so, so simple, yet we both loved them. Such an easy was to add plenty of flavour to a side of rice, I’ll definitely be making them again. And the salad was also lovely, zingy, hot from fresh chilli, sharp from coriander, crunchy with pepper. All finished off with a lime and coriander yoghurt (gratefully received to take away some of the heat), this was a dinner I was proud of.
 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 2_zpslriujq3e.jpg

Have you cooked anything particularly good lately?

Recipe: Spicy Lamb Flatbreads

Easter Sunday saw W arrive in Canterbury armed with flowers, creme eggs and a rather large leg of lamb to feed four people. Consequently my living room looks so much more cheerful, I managed to satisfy my creme egg craving (though they are definitely not as good as they used to be), and we had a lot of leftover roast lamb to get through.

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 6_zpsgnwrkxxy.jpgWhilst the stew and pie filling I made (gravy infused with about half a bottle of red wine and plenty of mint) was delicious, these lamb flatbreads absolutely stole the show. Based on my favourite lahmucun from teenage Turkish holidays, topped with yoghurt, mint and salad, these are spicy, soft, crunchy and so very fresh. The perfect way to use up leftover lamb in the summer!

The base is also pretty special; it’s my go-to pizza base recipe. Crisp base, good flavour from a slow rise, and the soft chewy texture that only the best pizzas have. The recipe is based on Rosie’s, but I’ve altered it slightly to my tastes (and laziness). The amounts make two filling lamb flatbreads – perfect with a salad as a dinner for the two of us.

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 9_zpsr0oynysd.jpgAs I was using leftover lamb, I whizzed up a sauce from a roasted red pepper, garlic, half an onion, plenty of chilli and a drizzle of honey, spiced up with cumin and a little cinnamon. I’ve made versions before with fresh lamb mince, where the mix is drier; simply onion and flavourings with the mince. I preferred the peppery version here, as I felt the sharpness cut through the rich lamb. I imagine it would be great scattered with a bit of feta too…

Ingredients

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 5g salt
  • 5g yeast
  • 170ml water
  • 1 roasted red pepper, whizzed until smoothish
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp each of chilli and cumin
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1-2 good handfuls of leftover roast lamb, shredded
  • Pine nuts, completely optional, I just had some floating around in my cupboards from making pesto!
  • Small pot greek yoghurt
  • Handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • Crunchy salad, to serve

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 3_zpsj0haqlta.jpgProbably the longest ingredients list I’ve used in a while, I promise it’s worth it!

In the morning, start on your dough pop the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, and then pour in the water (it should be warm, but not hot). Stir with a knife until a rough ball forms, and then tip it onto a lightly floured work surface and bring it all together. The dough will be sticky, so traditional kneading won’t work – I go with the throw and slap technique for a few minutes (James Morton explains it far better than me!). Once the dough is noticeably smoother, throw into a bowl, cover with cling-film and pop in the fridge.

Make the sauce whenever – fry the onion until soft, add the garlic and spices and fry for a minute, then stir in the red pepper paste and honey. Taste, season and leave to cool or use immediately.

About an hour before you want to eat, remove the dough from the fridge and whack the oven on to around 220C. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into two and shape into rough circles – Rosie suggests holding it, spinning it and letting gravity do the work. I agree – and it means one rolling pin less to wash up! Once stretched, heat a dry frying pan over a high heat, then pop the first bit of dough in. Turn the heat to medium and fry for 1-2 minutes, until crisp underneath and starting to brown. Flip and do the other side, then repeat with the leftover dough.

Top your part-cooked bases with the sauce, followed by the lamb and pine nuts. Bake for around 10 minutes, until the base is completely cooked and crunchy. Top with salad and drizzle with minted yoghurt.

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 7_zpshr7b7oyk.jpgI imagine these would be perfect made ahead then thrown in the oven for a summer BBQ type thing – something a bit different, but still easy peasy. And of course, the pizza base is just made for all sorts of toppings. My current favourite is a white sauce made with creme-fraiche and parmesan, topped with mushrooms, ham and plenty of mozzarella. Divine!

Are you a fan of pizza? What would you do with leftover lamb?

Food: Round-Up for National Pie Week (& A Sausage Roll Disaster)

I love a good sausage roll, with Gregg’s ones being my ultimate treat on a Saturday afternoon shopping as a teen. I’ve long since graduated onto ‘better’ varieties (there’s a local bakery chain in Northampton that does the best sausage rolls, though flaky pastry isn’t the most elegant of snack choices!). One thing I hadn’t tried, however, is attempting to make my own.

 photo National Pie Week_zpsstzoqbas.jpgUntil now that is! Challenged by Jus’ Rol to create an interesting ‘pie’ to celebrate National Pie Week (the best week in my opinion). I decided on creating my very own ultimate sausage roll. And it was delicious – if a bit ‘deconstructed’…

 photo 2016-03-08 20.05.13_zpsfktsfjx8.jpg photo 2016-03-08 20.05.26_zpsqhudexta.jpgIf you’re interested, to make my sausage ‘roll’ I rolled out 100g puff pastry, spread with 1tsp mustard, and topped with carmelised onions (soften half a sliced onion in a little oil until golden, then add 1/4 tsp sugar and quickly fry until sticky). I then squeezed the meat out of two sausages, rolled a little thinner, placed on top of the onions and attempted to roll the pastry round the filling before baking at 200C for around 20 minutes. Turns out that I hadn’t rolled it quite thin enough, quite wide enough. So the pastry stayed open, then came completely undone in the oven. Learn from my mistakes people! Or eat a very yummy, very messy, pastry slice and sausage meat filling…

(As a sidenote, I think I’ve finally, finallyyyyy perfected my recipe for tomato-free baked beans. I’ll be posting the recipe soon!)

Now we’ve got that disaster out of the way, let’s talk pies.

For me, the ultimate pie is sold by a local butcher here in Kent; stuffed full of chicken and ham, with a thick and creamy sauce and crisp golden pastry, it’s comfort food at its best. For those of you unable to get to my butchers, I created a super-easy cheat’s version using condensed soup and ready-rolled pastry. Whilst it’s not quite so indulgent, it definitely still hits the spot!

 photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers6_zpsovrjemwl.jpg photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers7_zpspzn87trh.jpgSpeaking of chicken pies, I’ve got a huge amount of other chicken pie recipes in my go-to list. One of my little sister’s favourite meal is my Chicken & Chorizo Pie, and I have to admit it’s the perfect combination of spicy, flavourful and comforting. Will also made some amazinggg Harissa Chicken Pasties…so good!

Then there’s the no-pastry pie. As a mashed potato lover this is always a good option (though pastry would win, every time). I don’t think anything can beat a good cottage/Shepherd’s pie, and I made the absolute ultimate version back in the summer. I admit it took a good three hours (plus the Sunday roasting time) but it was absolutely, completely and utterly worth it. And of course, Jamie’s Fish Pie, packed with veg and lighter than your traditional version, is a firm favourite in my recipe list.

 photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 4_zpsmcceoy4o.jpg photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 6_zpsaotkxtt4.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.33.16_zpswlgno1lz.jpgBut of course, any pie is always a good shout!

*Post in collaboration with Jus Rol, all opinions are my own as always. I just really, really love pie.

Are you a fan of pies? What’s your favourite pie filling?