I love haggis, but I totally get that it isn’t for everyone. Particularly if you’ve never tried it, yet you’ve googled what’s in it. I’m of the opinion that if I’m willing to eat meat I should be willing to eat all meat, so things like haggis, black pudding and offal don’t bother me at all – but I still understand that it can turn people’s stomachs a tad! With this in mind I wanted to create a Haggis dish which is perfect as the ‘introduction’ to haggis. Haggis for beginners, if you will.
And so Haggis Carbonara was born.
Instead of a lump of haggis you’ve got crumbled up bits throughout the carbonara sauce. You’ve got cheesy creaminess to break up the strong pepperiness of the haggis. And pasta, because you can’t go wrong with carbs. In fact the haggis pasta combo is a winner in my book. This dish is rich, hearty and unbelievably comforting. Perfect for a Burn’s Night supper in – and great if you want to give haggis a go this January.
Recipe (serves 2)
Decent knob of butter
2 rounds of haggis (I used patties – cheaper and less scary than getting a ‘whole’ haggis!)
2 eggs – one whole and one yolk only (freeze the white for making meringues)
A good handful of cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
180g pasta – spaghetti or tagliatelle is best really
First of put the pasta on to boil. I find 10 minutes is about right for most pastas. Meanwhile fry your haggis in butter – I crumbled mine up completely, but you could leave it in bigger chunks. I’d say crumbled is easier if you’re just starting out with haggis though! While that’s frying beat the egg and yolk in a mug and add your grated cheeses (keep some back for sprinkling on top!).
Now my secret for carbonara – take a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (while the pasta is still cooking) and dribble it into the egg-cheese while beating with a fork. Do the same with another spoon – and repeat until the cheese has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Not only does this lighten the sauce but it also seems to reduce the risk of ending up with scrambled eggs.
Once the pasta has boiled, drain (reserve some water), and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together. Turn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Add the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute but stir through some cooking water. Once all the egg is in, if its not quite cooked enough to your liking (I’m not fussy about really runny egg!) put the pan back on a very low heat. Then serve, sprinkle with extra cheese and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!
And if you want to make my (legendary) carbonara without the haggis, simply fry a little bacon until crisp and follow the same recipe, adding plenty of black pepper. I personally think haggis is peppery enough so wouldn’t add any to this particular dish.
Home SW15 is our local ‘go-to’ – it’s where we head for a few drinks, dinner (when we have the pennies) and now brunch. Admittedly it’s taken us over a year to go for brunch but after repeated poor service at The Dynamo even the eggs couldn’t quite let me forget the unwelcoming vibe. Home SW15 is the complete opposite.
As the name suggests, it’s like going home. Someone will always rush to greet you at the door. They’ll ask about your day if you’re dining in the evening, enquire about your plans at brunch. It’s friendly, it’s relaxed and it just feels comfortable. It’s not only the service that I love about this place though, the food is pretty damn good. We’ve had a couple of dinners there (my first review is here – bad photos!) but we also managed to squeeze in two brunches in the space of about three weeks recently.
The first was a treat from my dad in exchange for sleeping on our floor after his Christmas party. It was on this occasion that I ordered the best brunch dish I’ve ever had. I know that sounds a bit click-baity but quite honestly I could and would order this again and again, despite the high-ish price-tag. At £16.50 the Crab Cakes are pushing the purse strings, but oh my are they worth it! Two fair-sized crab cakes, packed full of crab with it’s instantly reconnisable sweetness. Two perfectly poached eggs. The most glorious hollandaise. Some crunchy chilli and spring onions for even more flavour and some texture. Yum. Yum. YUM.
The boys both ordered the Shakshauka. Obviously this isn’t something I can steal a mouthful of, but it smelt delicious and they seemed happy. The portion was also exceptionally generous, with plenty of toast for dipping. Nothing worse than not getting enough toast to soak up runny egg or sauce!
The second was for W’s birthday and, in true Home style, we were greated with on-the-house minosas (the freshly squeeze orange juice was divine) and even a hand-written birthday card from the team. It’s those kind of details that really do make it our favourite local.
On this occasion I ordered the Eggs Benedict. It’s one of my favourite brunch dishes and generally I would always order it if I saw it on a menu – and this came with a bit of twist. Instead of using bacon or a slice of ham, the muffins are piled high with shredded ham hock before being generously drizzled in hollandaise and topped with poached eggs. Now I’ve had the ham hock as a main course for dinner at Home before, so I knew it was tasty. But I really wasn’t expecting quite so much of it for breakfast. It was absolutely delicious and I’m not sure a standard Benny will do it for me again! The only complaint I do have is that my eggs were quite lukewarm as opposed to hot, I have a feeling they made have stood for a few minutes.
W also ordered well, with the French Toast, Banana, Maple Syrup and Bacon. I can’t quite get over the banana-bacon combo, but the piece of French Toast I stole was the best I’ve eaten outside of the US. Gooey and soft in the right places, crisp in others, wonderfully sweet but still light. I was quite tempted to order another plate of these after I’d finished my dish!
So yep, Home SW15 is a solid brunch spot, and one I’d whole heartedly recommend. Even if you’re not local it’s well worth the trip just for the crab cake dish alone… Uou also have to go for ‘bar snacks’ if you can. Their Cauliflower Cheese Croquettes are deep-fried balls of dreams. I’m not sure there is a limit to what I would do to get my hands on a plate of these…
Where’s your go-to brunch choice? Do you stick to one place or do you like to explore?
I’m a feeder. It is well-known that I love food, but it becomes even more obvious when I’m feeding friends and family. I’d hate for anyone to leave my house hungry and we’ve been known to feed dinner guests so well they’ve forgone breakfast the next day. I do, however, want to do this in the most sustainable way possible. Not buying food for the sake of it and keeping waste to a minimum. I thought I’d pen up a little post on how I keep dinner parties sustainable without letting anyone go hungry!
This is my main tip for any kind of sustainable cooking. You can be as green as you like, but if you’re shipping in foreign strawberries during the winter it’s never going to be good. Stick to in-season ingredients and everything will be tastier, fresher and quite possibly cheaper too!
Bulk Out Meat
Again, this is something I recommend you do anyway for both budget reasons and to up those veggies. A really good example is the starter I enjoyed at a Bonfire Night Feast with Leisure Living (cooked up by Dan Doherty and attended by Ruby of GBBO, I was fan-girling all night!). Rather than serving up each person with a piece of pricey fish, it was instead broken up and served as a spiced chowder with plenty of vegetables. It was SO tasty (I’ve since cooked it at home), super filling and used much less fish than other recipes. You can see more of Leisure Living’s sustainable cooking tips here.
“Make Your Own” Courses
This is perfect for a more informal dinner party – just pile everything in the middle and let guests help themselves to what they want. It means nothing goes to waste, as if they don’t like it they aren’t forced to take it. Think build-your-own tacos, create your own ice-cream sundaes or even pizza making. I only wish I’d seen the make your own candied apple idea before our autumnal wedding!
Always, always always! If you’re lucky enough to live close enough to buy your meat directly from the farm, do it! It will have a much lower carbon footprint, and you’ll be supporting your local economy to boot. But it’s not just meat that you can buy local. Instead of getting a nice smelly French brie from Sainsburys, pop into your local cheese shop and get a British equivalent – we go to Hamish Johnston and their Waterloo is far nicer than most brie I’ve tried! You’re also likely to get much better-for-the-environment packaging by shopping local. Just think about milk – plastic bottles in the shops vs glass if you get it delivered. That’s certainly on my to-do list for 2019…
Choose an Easily Freezeable/Reheatable Dish
Another tip to reduce waste is to cook something that, even if there’s loads left, won’t be thrown away. A giant stew, a bubbling dish of mac’n’cheese all work well. I recently worked with B&M to create a Sloe Gin Braised Venison Ragu which is perfect for this. It is something slightly different and tastes a bit special (the juniper really compliments the gaminess of the meat). Wonderful over pasta, mash or a cheesy polenta, not only can you make it ahead but it also freezes beautifully which means some rather gourmet after dinner meals!
No Single-Use Plastics
I get it, it’s SO tempting to use plastic cutlery or plates to cut down on the washing up! But it’s also obviously not the best choice for the environment, so best to pop on the rubber gloves and get scrubbing. I’m also looking to take this one step further in 2019 and pick up some nice linen napkins to cut down on waste even more. And, y’know, they’ll make my table look more Instagrammable…
*This post includes a few links, but it isn’t an ad and none are affiliate. No payment was made for the mention of any of these companies or events and, as always, all opinions are my own.
Do you have any tips for cooking more sustainably?
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…
1. 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…
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.
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…
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!
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…
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.
Nigel 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.
The 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.
So 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…
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.
And 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.
Recipe (serves 2)
1 duck leg, or around 300g leftover turkey meat
2 nests of dried rice noodles
1 medium carrot, peeled
2 spring onions
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.
This 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?
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.
But 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!).
Taco 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!
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…
Cheat’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!)
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!
Quick & 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!
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…
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.
What 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.
Recipe (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.
I 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!
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.
Coffee 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!
Recipe (makes 9 cupcakes)
100g soft butter, at room temperature
100g golden caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
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!
Are you a fan of cupcakes, or do you prefer a slice of a larger cake?
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!
I’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…
Roasted 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.
Turmeric 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.
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!
I 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!