Recipe: Vegan Lentil & Mushroom ‘Stoup’

What makes the difference between a stew or casserole and a soup? I like to think it’s a fine line, and this ‘stoup’ kinda sits in the middle. You can add more stock or some vegan milk to thin it down for a soup, or blend it up more and reduce it for a stew-type dish. Whichever you choose, it’s absolutely delicious and I think one of my favourite winter lunches.

 photo Mushroom Lentil Soup_zpslbz1od61.jpgIt’s creamy, it’s comforting, real soul food. It’s garlick-y and slighty herby. There’s a kick of black pepper and a slight tang from a splash of vinegar. It’s not vinegar-y as such, but it helps to add a little bit of complexity that makes this really feel like a meal, and not just something you’ve thrown together. Add some toast or a bit of sourdough bread and this is a real hug in a bowl.

It’s also vegan! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve set myself a challenge in 2019 to make as many of my lunchboxes as possible vegan. I’m not constraining myself too much by this, and if I’ve got meat or dairy that needs using then it will be thrown in, but I’d like to keep the majority of them vegan. And frankly, if they all taste as good as this it will be an easy job. If you’re not vegan, however, additions which could work well would be bacon (always), or simmer with a parmesan rind to add some extra flavour.

 photo Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Soup 10_zpsethbwgep.jpgIngredients (makes 4 lunch-time servings)

  • 150g dried Puy lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 pack of mushrooms mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup vegan-friendly stock
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened plant-based milk—I used Oat milk

First up, cook your lentils. I tend to add boiling water and bring to a rolling boil, before reducing the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add plenty of salt, cook for another five minutes and then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pan and cook the shallots until slightly softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot, turn up the heat and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and continue to try for 1 minute before adding the vinegar. Stir until evaporated, then add the drained lentils, vegetable stock and  milk to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil, before using a stick blender to whizz to your desired consistency. Add more milk or stock if you want a soup, or reheat and simmer until thick and stew-like. Check for seasoning, adding plenty of black pepper.

Serve hot with toast or bread. I also like to stir through some spinach – for lunchboxes I add a cube or two of frozen spinach in the morning before I leave the house.

 photo Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Soup 8_zpsdzcibo5b.jpgFor something so quick the result is so flavourful and cosy – it does taste as though it’s been simmering away for hours. It also makes my flat smell super good, so I’m down with that…

Do you have any lunchbox friendly vegan recipes?

Food: Kitchen Goals for the New Year

The fact that we’re now in 2019 has escaped me somewhat – I feel like I’m still stuck in November, the festive period whizzed by and I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it’s the start of a brand new year. It’s meant I’ve been a little slow in thinking about what I want to achieve as we go through 2019, but over the last couple of evenings I’ve put together a few aims and goals. Some are more lifestyle themed (the knitting will happen one day!), but the majority are foodie focussed…

 photo Kitchen Essentials_zpslhepukqi.jpg1. Cook at least one new recipe per week.

This was one of our resolutions as a couple in 2018, and quite possibly is the only resolution I’ve ever actually kept all year. Okay, there were weeks we didn’t do this (purely because we were either ill or on honeymoon) but otherwise we did, and many weeks we made multiple new recipes. It was one of the best things we’ve done, we ate so much more variety, found some *amazing* recipes and discovered ingredients which we now love (preserved lemons, tahini and sesame oil…).

2. Get use out of all of our kitchen equipment.

Given we live in a one-bed flat we have a ridiculous amount of cooking equipment. Some of it gets virtually constant use (if we make dinner without any of our Le Creuset it’s very unusual!), others rarely see the light of day (the pressure cooker for instance) and some are still in their packaging (hi bamboo steamer!). I’d like to use everything we have at least once this year, preferably more. Bao buns are definitely on my list to try making in the steamer…

 

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3. Bake more ‘challenging’ bakes.

We both love baking, but we’re both equally gulity of either sticking to the same recipes (hey cookies or brownies with added extras to ‘make a change). The things we do stick to are absolutely delicious, but I really want to challenge myself in the kitchen this year and bake things that are a little more complicated. We got a couple of exciting tins and moulds for both our wedding and respective birthdays/Christmasses so watch this space! I actually kicked this off this weekend with a Hazelnut Nutella Bundt for W’s birthday…

4. Produce less kitchen waste.

Whilst I think we are pretty good at not making *loads* of waste, we could definitely do more. I’m a little too fond of freezer bags (I find it much easier to cram the freezer full that if we use washable boxes) and cling-film is definitely something I’d like to remove from our cupboards this year.

 

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5. Eat more ‘Nose to Tail’ when consuming meat or fish.

Or vegetables for that matter! Admittedly full Nose-to-Tail eating is slightly tricky in a non-commercial kitchen, but when I cook meat I really want to make sure I use every single scrap. Whether it’s spooning off beef fat to make dripping, making stock from the chicken carcass or thinking up ever more inventive ways to use up leftovers, I’m all for it. And the same principle applies to veg too – those onion tops, carrot peelings and celery leaves? Freeze them and use them in your next batch of stock. Potato peelings? Follow Katy’s lead and make crisps!

Related to this point, I also want to cook and eat more offal this year. I have always enjoyed the ‘ickier’ parts of meat and a trip to St John at the weekend really brought that home. I absolutely love faggots for example, but just can’t find them in London – so it looks like I’ll have to give making my own a try!

6. Make use of our more unloved cookbooks.

We have a LOT of cookbooks – like a whole bookcase full. For the most part we are really good at using them, we’ll always flick through one or two when planning our weekly menus but there are some that barely ever get used. I’d like to change that this year and, if I’m still not convinced by the book, donate it to charity. I’ve started a list on my phone of all the recipes I want to try. Let’s just say it’s going to take a lot longer than 2019 to get through it…

7. Eat seasonally.

Eating by the seasons is so important to me, more so than any other kind of eating ‘trend.’ It’s all very well and good cutting down meat “for the environment” but if you’re eating strawberries all the year round and avos every day your carbon footprint is gonna be high. I’m not saying my way of eating is the best (far from it) but I think there’s so much to gain from eating seasonally. Ingredients will be fresher and tastier, your food bill will likely be cheaper too. Plus it makes it so much easier to plan meals!

8. Pack vegan/vegetarian lunchboxes.

I’m not about to go vegetarian or start doing Veganuary as, for me, it’s not particularly achieveable as I just enjoy cooking and eating all food too much. I do, however, want to cut down on the amount of meat I eat and lunches seem the easiest and best way to do this. I take a lunchbox to work 99% of the time so want to make these vegan or vegetarian as often as possible. I’ve started off last week with a comforting Mushroom & Lentil Soup which I’ve really enjoyed! This week I’ve got a Bean Chilli for a few days, then I’m planning on doing an oven-baked Daal for the second half of the week. I’d like to work on the vegan recipes the most, so please send inspiration espeicially if you’re taking part in Veganuary.

9. Grow my own herbs.

I’ve worked out we spend over 10% of our weekly food budget on fresh herbs – and that’s just insane. It’s a pretty significant amount of money and also a huge amount of plastic (I’ve noticed ASDA do stock open bunches of herbs so if you’ve got one local there’s an easy way of reducing waste). I received an indoor garden for my birthday last month and I’m excited to get growing! Even if I can just have a ready supply of coriander I’d be happy…

10. Wash up more.

We have definitely gotten far, far too reliant on using our dishwasher over the last few months, so we’re taking it back to basics and washing up (shock horror!) by hand most nights. I’ve actually really enjoyed taking the time after dinner to clear up, it’s a good time to really catch up on our days.

There’s obviously some non-kitchen goals I’d love to achieve. Knitting is STILL on the list, as is getting into some form of regular exercise. I’d also love to raise money for charities close to my heart over the year, and also encourage young people into STEM based jobs. Oh, and the small thing of qualifying as an actuary too…

What would you like to achieve in 2019?

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.
 photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 8_zps7vvbzaaz.jpg

*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?

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: Coffee & Walnut Cupcakes

Over summer I had a *massive* craving for coffee ice-cream. It’s a flavour I absolutely love, but avoid making or buying as W doesn’t react well to caffeine – and believe me nor do I when he keeps me up all night after having some! When I finally got round to grabbing some coffee, we had the classic British problem of ‘it went cold’ and so ice-cream went out of the window and these cupcakes were born.

 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes_zpstohzuo5f.jpg photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 15_zpsde4gi9re.jpgCoffee and Walnut is a classic sandwich cake combination, but I wanted to keep these a little daintier. I find cupcakes are far easier for sharing at the office too! These cupcakes are light, fluffy, full of coffee flavour, topped off with a delicious vanilla buttercream – giving a really creamy finish that reminds me of fancy coffee drinks. They are quite strong on the coffee front, as I used plenty of coffee grounds (Illy is my brand of choice, gifted as part of my Degustabox collaboration) – however keeping the topping coffee-free ensures, for me at least, they aren’t too strong. A perfect coffee hit, but not bitter or overpowering. Perfect as an afternoon snack!

 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 9_zpsmhb8dmtv.jpgRecipe (makes 9 cupcakes)

  • 100g soft butter, at room temperature
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp instant coffee, mixed with 100ml/3½fl oz boiling water, then cooled
  • 25g walnuts, chopped, plus more for topping
  • For the frosting – 200g mascarpone, 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract

Line a  bun tin with 9 fairy cake cases. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg in gradually, beating well. Add the flour and fold in, followed by around 4 tsp of the coffee and a pinch of salt until creamy. Stir through the chopped walnuts, then evenly spoon the mix into the cases. Bake for at 180C for around 20 minutes, then allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, pop the mascarpone, vanilla and the sugar into a large bowl, then beat together. Spread a dollop of the frosting onto the top of each cake, then finish with some more walnuts. Enjoy – though don’t do as I did and enjoy as an evening snack at gone 10pm!
 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 7_zps2asjutb4.jpg photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 14_zpsr2997ttr.jpg

Are you a fan of cupcakes, or do you prefer a slice of a larger cake? 

Recipe: Dips for a Dinner Party

One of my favourite things to do, although admittedly we don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like, is to have friends round for dinner. Our dream is to actually one day host a supper club for charity, although I think we’re a way off doing that right now. I love it all – the meal-planning, conversation-starter planning, the enforced cleaning of the flat. I’m also a feeder, so filling people up with food I’ve prepared just makes me happy!

 photo Dinner Party Dips_zpsmeqryxh2.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 3_zpsrpgij66k.jpgI’m a fan of trying to keep things as relaxed as possible (whilst W is good at the fancy stuff – egg yolk ravioli being a memorable starter he once made – I like to keep things simple). My ideal starter is a mix of bits and bobs for guests to pick at, and this post is all about my go-to options right now. These recipes came about when we had another couple round for a Thursday night dinner. It was in the middle of the heatwave so I wanted to avoid having another hot thing to eat, but I wanted something to go vaguely with our Middle Eastern main (a roasted carrot dish). A trio of dips and various breads did just the job.

I think if you’re doing something like this, you do need at least three dips. Keep them different (no point doing three variations on hummus, no matter how tasty it is!), keep them interesting. Add in some spice, some creaminess, some zing, some freshness. Keep it exciting. Here’s three of my favourites…

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 11_zpsmg5uchoc.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 8_zpsznmkpicg.jpgRoasted Courgette & Tahini

  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • juice and zest of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • handful of mint, leaves only, chopped

Wrap the whole courgette in foil, then put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 220C, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely – I did this in the morning, then just left them to cool whilst I was at work during the day.

Put the cooled courgette in a food processor (no need to peel), with the garlic and blend. Add the tahini and lemon juice and season, then blitz again. Transfer to a bowl, then stir through the yogurt and a little of the mint. Season to taste, and scatter over the remaining mint to serve.

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 9_zps6czpge6c.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 16_zpsbfmjyqvw.jpgTurmeric Spiced Hummus

  • 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground chilli
  • 2 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp tahini

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until warm. Tip into a food processor and add the spices, lemon zest and juice, tahini and garlic. Blend whilst the chickpeas are still hot, then gradually add the oil and water until you have the consistency you want. Season to taste, then serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil.

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 19_zpsblrpn8mk.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 7_zpsc31viznm.jpgWhipped Feta

  • 200g feta cheese
  • 200g plain Greek yoghurt
  • Half a lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground sumac

Crumble the feta into a bowl, then add the yoghurt and whisk until the cheese is completely broken up and becomes creamy. You can do this in a blender, but I find the texture best if done by hand. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Put the ​dip in a serving bowl and dress the surface with the olive oil and then sprinkle over some sumac.

I tried to keep these varied – different colours, different flavours, which worked really well. Each had something different to bring to the party. The Roasted Courgette dip brings some freshness, whilst the Turmeric Hummus was full of flavour and subtle spice. The Whipped Feta – well, it brings cheese which makes everything better! Served with some pitta bread, some crispy baked pitta chips and some breadsticks I could have eaten this for hours!

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 10_zpshi9dblhc.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 15_zps4kwk2ksx.jpgI warn you, though. Dips and breads are dangerous if you’re like me – I ate far too much of these and couldn’t finish the rest of my meal!

Are you a fan of dips and breads? Which one of these would be your favourite? I’m in love with the Whipped Feta!

Food: Recent Eats #4

It’s been a month or so since I did a Recent Eats post, and in that time there’s been a fair few exciting things we’ve tried. Admittedly the last few weeks have been a case of eating from the freezer in an attempt to save pennies (weddings are expensive) but we’ve still managed to try a fair few new things. On the drinks front, Gin in Rose Lemonade (found in a can in Sainsburys) was my go-to drink of choice for much of September, though I’m now slowly sinking back into my red wine habit of last winter…

 photo Recent Eats 4_zpsyuvn5fla.jpgMore Tomato Free Pizza From Waitrose

It looks like my favourite ‘trout and samphire’ pizza is no longer available (why do I always fall in love with the limited edition items?!) but it’s replacement for Autumn is also tomato free and also *really* tasty. The pumpkin and porchetta sourdough pizza is the perfect combination of salty meat, sweet pumpkin and creamy cheese – all on a delicious base. I’ll be filling my freezer with these for sure!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Crumble

Combining my favourite Autumnal/Winter pudding with peanut butter is definitely an inspired idea – it’s turned it super-comforting, super-yum and I can’t get enough. Recipe will be up over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled! in the meantime, have a read of my classic crumble recipe

Soft Boiled Eggs & Buttered Toast Soldiers

Having a cold and feeling sorry for myself in late September meant this was my breakfast/lunch/dinner of choice (particularly when I was home for the weekend and had my mummy to make it for me!) – so comforting.

 photo Recent Eats Oct18 1_zpsdfnqljrs.jpgA ‘Pot Pasta’

Having gotten through four years of student life without eating any kind of Pot Noodle, I ended up having to try a Carbonara ‘pot pasta’ on the night we dropped my sister off at university. It surprisingly wasn’t too bad – fairly creamy, soft pasta and reasonably filling. My main issue was the lack of cheesy taste – it SMELT super cheesy, but the overriding taste was vegetable stock peppered with a small amount of bacon.

Raspberry Marshmallows

Without a doubt, my favourite product from September’s Degustabox* was the Raspberry Mashmallows from Mallow & Marsh. Coated in quite a bitter dark chocolate there were fruity, soft, gooey and made for a really delicious Tuesday night (Bake Off night!) snack.

 

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Really Good Salads

Towards the end of summer,  when I wasn’t quite ready to stop eating salads but wanted something filling we came up with some cracking recipes. The one in the photo above was my absolute favourite, inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe. Shredded leftover brisket fried until hot and slightly crispy, tossed with lettuce, apple, pear and mint. We drizzled over a blue cheese dressing, added some fresh chilli slices and made some cheesy croutons too. Absolutely stunning, and something I’ve craved ever since eating it.

Completely Homemade Tacos

Talking about Bake Off, this series we’ve been trying, as far as possible, to bake along with the theme each week. For bread week I decided to dust off our tortilla press and make the tacos for our taco night – and they were delicious. Beautifully soft and so much more flavourful that the ones we usually pick up from Sainsburys.

 photo Recent Eats Oct18 2_zpsxz1oyawv.jpg

Hot Chocolate

Colder evenings have called for a warm drink before bed, and hot chocolate is of course my favourite. Again Degustabox* has come to the rescue with that – in August we received a tub of Cadbury’s Hightlights, and last month was a tub of Oreo Hot Chocolate. Both we have really enjoyed!

Chicken Tikka Masala

One of the things I *really* miss is a good Indian takeaway. I can make some fairly decent curries, but so far nothing has quite matched up to the takeaways I remember from my childhood and teenage years. The recipe in the first photo of this post, however, has pretty much cracked it. Inspired by a recipe in September’s issue of Delicious, it is thick and rich, heavily spiced without being chilli-hot and the perfect Friday night supper. I’m working on perfecting the spicing a little, and then I’ll be sharing the recipe…

And that’s it, just a little round up of the yummiest things I’ve eaten recently. No duds this time!

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?

Recipe: Pork, Lemon & Dill Casserole with Parmesan Dumplings

This was one of my favourite recipes that I developed last winter. Originally inspired by this recipe in Delicious Magazine (seriously the best foodie magazine – we’ve loved every issue we’ve read), it’s both rich and indulgent whilst still feeling fairly fresh thanks to the lemon and dill.

 photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 11_zpscxgnpqez.jpgSlow cooking pork is something I rarely do, however I know I’ll be hunting down more recipes this Autumn as it was impossibly tender, full of flavour and a bit of a bargain. Even splurging out and picking up the meat at the butchers gave us plenty of change from a tenner (and the big pot easily made six servings, and would have served more had we managed to be more self-restrained). It does, I think, require a bit more care than beef as the browning is crucial to the colour and flavour of the final dish, but it’s well worth it.

The rest of the casserole is filled wih veggies – carrots, shallots, leeks and celery. It’s braised in a combination of chicken stock, sherry and lemon juice, with a small amount of dream stirred in near the end of the cooking time along with a handful of dill. The dill sounds unusual, but trust me on this – it totally works. And the dumplings are a revelation. I usually make mine with suet, but these are lighter – yoghurt, flour, parmesan and more dill combine to more pillowy dumplings and when scattered with more Parmesan crisp up beautifully (even if you forget to take the lid off the pot and turn the oven up – hence my slightly pale looking ones!). Whilst I’ll never abandon my belowed suet toppings for a good old beef stew, these are definitely good. And if you don’t fancy them? This stew is equally as delicious with mashed potato (ideally with mustard) or some good bread.

 photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 5_zpsngmgvi1e.jpgRecipe (serves at least 6, freezes well without the dumplings)

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 
1.5kg diced pork shoulder, tossed 
in 3 tbsp plain flour mixed with 1 tsp mustard powder and plenty of black pepper
  • 6 banana shallots, halved lengthways
  • 5 large carrots, halved, sliced diagonally into 1cm pieces
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 3 celery sticks, sliced into 1cm pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 150ml dry sherry
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 
40g plain flour
  • Zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 
60ml single cream
  • 
Small bunch fresh dill
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • For the parmesan dumplings – 
150g self-raising flour, 
150g full-fat greek yogurt, 
25g parmesan, grated, 1/2 bunch fresh dill (reserve the rest for scattering over when serving)

Heat a glug of oil in a casserole pan and try the pork in batched until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl using 
a slotted spoon, before adding a little more oil to the casserole along with the vegetables. Fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the 
vegetables are starting to soften. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and fry for 1 minute, then return 
the pork to the casserole with 
any resting juices. Add the sherry and bubble for 5 minutes until slightly reduced, then add the 
stock and wholegrain mustard. Put the lid on the casserole and transfer to the oven, cooking for 2 hours at 160C.

When the two hours is nearly done, mix the 40g plain flour with the lemon zest and juice, then add a little water to form a smooth, creamy paste. Stir the paste into 
the casserole when the 
2 hours’ cooking time is up, then allow to cook for 10 or so more minutes whilst you make the dumplings.

Put the 150g self-raising flour and yogurt in a mixing bowl with the parmesan and chopped dill, then season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, bring the mixture together to form a soft dough, then shape into 8 dumplings. Remove the casserole and turn the oven up to 220C. Stir the cream into the casserole along with most of the chopped dill, then top with the dumplings. Sprinkle the 30g parmesan over the top, then return to the oven for 20 minutes (without the lid) until the dumplings are puffed and golden. Serve scattered with the extra dill fronds and some green veg – it’s delicious with kale or cavelo nero.

 photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 2_zpssg7d2pz7.jpg photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 10_zps35uy0u9d.jpgAnd that’s it – it may be slightly more involved than my usual beef stew recipe, but it’s absolutely delicious. I imagine it would work perfectly well in a slow cooker, then you’d just need to transfer to the oven for the dumplings – or just serve with mash. I also quite like it with buttery jacket potatoes…

Are you a fan of slow cooked stews and casseroles? What’s your go-to recipe?