Cooking From: Midwinter Suppers from The Christmas Chronicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your favourite festive recipe?

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

One of our resolutions for 2018 was to cook at least one new recipe a week. And it may just be the first resolution that I’ve not only managed to keep for longer than a few months, but that I’ve managed to keep all year. I’m beyond proud that we’ve done this, in some weeks cooking more than 4 new recipes. We’ve added things to our repertoire, we’ve tried things I wouldn’t have usually gone near.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad_zps5ee5catj.jpgAnd one of the first new recipes we’ve tried, and one of my favourites, was this Blood Orange Salad. Originally a Sainsbury’s recipe made with duck, I think it would work wonderfully well as a way to jazz up leftover Turkey meat (particularly thigh meat).

The sauce is zingy and hot with chilli, sharp from the rice vinegar (an ingredient I wish I’d given in and bought sooner, it adds so much more life to noodle dressings). The blood orange gives it the most amazing seasonal flavour, still fresh and zesty but not as harsh as lime. Cucumber adds freshness, there’s plenty of crunch from the veggies, and the double-herb hit of mint and coriander just pulled it all together. The slow-roasted duck leg is both meltingly soft meat and really crunchy skin, which contrasts well with the juicy blood orange – if you’re using leftover turkey I’d recommend throwing some of the skin in the pan and frying on a really high heat to get the same effect.

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

  • 1 duck leg, or around 300g leftover turkey meat
  • 2 nests of dried rice noodles
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cucumber
  • 2 spring onions
  • 4 radishes
  • 100g sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 a Chinese Leaf, core removed
  • 1 pack mint, leaves only
  • 1 pack coriander, leaves only
  • 2 blood oranges (one whole, the other juiced for the dressing, below)
  • 30g peanuts, roughly chopped
  • For the dressing – 2 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 red chilli, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp light brown sugar, juice of 1 blood orange, 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce, 3 tbsp rice vinegar

If making with the duck, pop the duck leg on a baking tray and season them generously with salt and black pepper, rubbing it into the skin. Roast the duck for 11⁄2 hours at 180C, until the skin is crisp and the flesh soft and tender. Once ready slice the meat and skin into rough chunks, discarding any bone. If making with leftover turkey meat, heat a little sesame oil in a wok and fry the turkey over a high heat until heated through. Do this just before serving.

For the dressing, toast the sesame seeds in a small pan for about a minute, giving them a stir now and then. Tip them into a jug, add all the other dressing ingredients (with the chilli and garlic finely chopped) and stir together.

Cook the rice noodles following pack instructions, then drain and rinse in cold water, shaking off the excess. Tip into a large bowl. Slice the carrot and cucumber into matchsticks, trim the spring onions and slice them into shreds of a similar length. Trim and slice the radishes. Slice the sugar snaps lengthways. Shred the Chinese leaf, mint and coriander. Add all these ingredients to the bowl with the noodles as you prepare them.

Slice the whole orange into rounds and halve the rounds, removing obvious pips, skin and pith. Add the oranges (and any juice) to the bowl with the salad ingredients; gently toss together. Add the rest of the dressing to the noodles and toss using tongs. Layer the salad, meat and noodles onto large plates; sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 3_zps8gaf5blq.jpg photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 1_zpsd9op4uks.jpgThis would be very much welcome as a Christmas leftover dinner – perhaps not on Boxing Day (I’m still alllll about cold cuts, bubble and squeak and cheese) but on the days that follow it would perk even the scroggiest of people up. And of course it feels nice and healthy, so kicks off all the good intentions for the New Year…given the sucess of cooking new recipes this year, I know one resolution that I’ll be carrying through into 2019!

Have you ever kept any resolutions? How do you use up turkey leftovers?

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: Cheesy Courgette & Spinach Muffins

Yet another courgette recipe from me! I just can’t get enough of this vegetable, so versatile and great for bulking out dishes and adding a little bit more towards your five-a-day.

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins_zpsjhp3wsfg.jpgThese muffins are the perfect rainy day snack. Best served warm (I zap in the microwave at work), they’re delicious split in half and spread with salted butter, or perfect alongside some soup. Having said that they do work quite nicely at room temperature along with a platter of cured meat, more cheese and some salad, so they’d be great for a picnic. I can imagine them being a hit with children too, just maybe grate the courgette finely and chop the spinach really well if they’re particularly veg-phobic!

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 5_zpsdeuqun4z.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 17_zpswy7jwulf.jpgUnfortunately this recipe doesn’t use a *huge* amount of courgette so it won’t be that great if you’ve got a glut of it in your garden, but it does use around 1 small one and the muffins freeze well for a couple of months which helps!

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 21_zps0hog0daz.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 27_zpssqnywgbp.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 19_zps2kp3vbat.jpgRecipe – makes 12 muffins

  • 125g courgette
  • 50g feta cheese
  • 75g cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 75g baby spinach
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp dried herbs, I used a mix of basil and oregano
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, for sprinkling

Coarsely grate the courgette into a large mixing bowl. Crumble the feta into the bowl and sprinkle over 75g grated cheddar. Roughly chop the spinach, and add along with the flour, baking powder, salt, herbs and plenty of black pepper. Beat the milk and eggs together then stir into the bowl; lightly mix until everything is just combined. Spoon into the muffin cases (around 2 tbsp in each) and sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and extra cheese.

Bake for around 30 minutes at 180C until firm, golden and a skewer comes out cleanly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes;  then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 20_zpsna12sqkc.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 18_zpsdo0qnr9e.jpgI reckon you could easily switch these up. Add some extra hints of summer with some dried-tomatoes, add some finely chopped crispy bacon. I also think you could use this recipe to make a riff on cornbread – add some spices, stir through some corn and bake as normal. Yum!

Are you a fan of savoury muffins?

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?

Cooking From: Blackberry & Custard Biscuits (Sweet by Ottolenghi)

Confession time! The actual recipe in Sweet (by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh) is for Rhubarb & Custard Biscuits and, whilst I’m sure they are utterly delicious, it just isn’t the season for rhubarb. I’ll be making them for sure next spring, but for now we’re using the very much in season (and very foragable, unless you live in London!) blackberry. We actually bought blacberries in our weekly shop, expecting the first weekend of September to be cool enough for a crumble – wrong. The heatwave made a brief (albeit slightly cooler) reappearance and so biscuits it was.

 photo Blackberry Custard Biscuits_zpsox78ji5s.jpgAnd what delicious biscuits they are. Sweet custardy biscuits, made with Bird’s custard powder so that they taste of my childhood. Tart homemade blackberry jam, beaten into buttercream and used to sandwich the biscuits. It all combines beaitfully, with the vanilla-sweetness tempering down the sharpness of the berries. It tastes like a bowl of crumble and custard, but it’s far easier to eat. Almost too easy, as the batch disappeared rather quickly…

And the other recipes in this cookbook are just as good, though I confess we’ve used it very sparingly over the year. It aims to “bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom – to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.” It certainly delivers, and in part that’s why we’ve not used this book as much as I’d like. Quite a few recipes seem to request more unusual ingredients, or use a more time consuming method, and quite often we bake as a random, spur-of-the-moment decision. Having tried this recipe, however, I know I need to make more of an effort to thumb through and use it more.

There are around 100 recipes, and a lot of them are very original – you’re not going to find basic brownies. Instead there’s brownies laced with tahini and halva – and as soon as I can find some halva I’ll be making them. There might not be your usual choc-chip cookies, but there are “Chocolate O Cookies” which are said to be the ultimate homemade Oreo. There’s a coffee and cardamon pound cake which sounds delicious. There’s several cheesecake recipes, many desserts we’d prepare for a dinner party (I’ve genuinely already started planning a feast for our next New Year’s Eve dinner – despite not having any guests yet!). Whilst we’ve not really used this, I can imagine it will be a book that will become well-thumbed over the years. Now I just need to get hold of some of Ottolenghi’s savoury cookbooks…

 photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 15_zpssfwr42xd.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 12_zpsqspu1gi6.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 18_zpsonjwyria.jpgRecipe (makes around 15)

  • 175g flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 65g custard powder
  • 65g icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the icing: 1 small stick of rhubarb (or 2 handfuls of blackberries – roughly 70g of fruit), 65g unsalted butter, 130g icing sugar, and 1/2 tsp lemon juice

If you making the rhubarb icing: spread pieces of rhubarb on tray and roast at 180C for 30 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and cool, then puree in food processor before adding butter. Add icing sugar and lemon juice and continue to process for a few minutes until it thickens. Transfer to a small bowl and let sit in the fridge to firm up. To make our blackberry filling, we popped the blackberries in a small pan with a tiny splash of water and simmered until soft, pureed, passed through a sieve to remove the pips, and then added butter and continued as per the recipe.

For the cookies, cream the butter with the flour, custard powder, icing sugar and salt on low speed til the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 30 seconds until a dough forms. Roll dough into balls about 3cm round – they should weigh about 15g. Place on lined trays about 4cm apart. Dip the back prongs of a small fork in the extra flour and then press firmly but gently into the back of each ball so that the cookie flattens. Bake at 170C on lined baking trays for about 25 minutes, let cool on trays for about 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble, spread 15g of icing on the flat side of a cookie and sandwich with the flat side of another. The forked sides should be facing out. Store in an airtight container if you manage not to eat them immediately.

 photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 8_zpsajnh5wwy.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 20_zps78yop1qu.jpgThese we found were the perfect afternoon snack for a weekend. Lovely with a cup of tea (I’m favouring Yorkshire’s Biscuit Brew at the moment), they were light, sweet and had a really comforting taste coming from the custard powder. The biscuits really melted in the mouth too! I’m looking forward to next year’s rhubarb season when I can try the full recipe…

Have you tried any of Ottolenghi’s books? Which do you recommend?