Ah the make-ahead lunch, how I love thee. I’ve not stayed in the same place for more than 3 weeks at a time since March, which plays havoc with food shopping, so lunches you can prep in bulk and in advance have been instrumental in keeping me away from bacon and cheese paninis. It’s mostly worked. And when it hasn’t, well, I can comfort myself with the fact I’ve learnt to do pretty decent eyeliner flicks on a moving train and now know platform 4 of Lancaster station like the back of my hand.
The second important thing? Those lunches being made up of things that you can keep in a cupboard until you need them and won’t spoil.
Enter Moroccan-inspired cous cous. I actually tried this for the first time when I spotted a reduced portion in M&S and decided to recreate it at home. Slim risk of the ingredients spoiling, easy to make in bulk, and interesting enough in flavour that you won’t get bored after the first day. Job’s a good’un.
Surprise! I can almost guarantee none of you were expecting a post like this – but there are only so many egg whites a person can eat.
During the Idiot Challenge, with no days to recover from exercise, eating plenty of protein seemed important – but when you’re cutting down your meat consumption, this becomes alarmingly tricky. For a blog that started out being 90% cake, a run-down of protein sources sure is a departure from the norm, but here we are.
There’s this trend on the internet that for anything food-related, magazines love to present information in the least readable way possible, and often say things like “vegetables are high in protein!” but neglect to tell you that you’d need to eat a field of kale to get a decent quantity in grams. So I spent (what felt like) hours clicking through slideshows trying to find a range of high-protein foods that weren’t also high in fat, or stupidly calorific. Read More
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m unashamedly a feeder. Pretty much anyone who has visited our flat will attest to that. It’s a trait that I get from my mother, and which means that no-one escapes through those doors without having been fed at the very least a custard cream, because this is the level at which we like to keep our biscuit tin. Read More
t was the spring of 2012 and I was crying. Not the elegant kind you see in films, no quiet single tears rolling down a cheek: it was full on snotty, heaving, gasping crying. There was cold wood under my feet – the piece of wood between kitchen and living room where, if we got up early enough, we’d see slugs on their morning commute back to the garden – and a scrunched up Freddo packet on the counter of our pokey student kitchen.
I wasn’t crying about the slug wood.
For what felt like weeks – but was actually only about ten days – I’d been following the Dukan diet. You know, the one where you basically only eat chicken and yoghurt. There are photos of me tucking into, and, amazingly, finishing, an entire roast chicken, with a face of utter dejection. I lost weight, but also nearly lost both some friends and all of my marbles. Read More
What I’ve done there is create possibly the worst food for me. Not in terms of nutrition or expenditure, but just because I have a bit of a lisp. And every time I take this into work, I’m forced to reply to queries as to what it is with a whole load of “th”s.
In every other way though, this soup is very, very good.
It’s no surprise to anyone that I get a bit giddy with food, and that the gourd family is the prime object of my affections. So when I spotted that New Covent Garden’s soup of the month was pumpkin, Stilton, and sage, I snapped it up and greedily snaffled it before they’d even announced it on social media.
And then I wanted more. Due to being A) inquisitive, and B) not made of money, I worked out the ratios from the packet and went on to make the best soup ever. The first time I used part butternut and part harlequin, but the second time was pure butternut and it was every bit as tasty. In fact, I’ve gone on to buy 3 more butternut squashes so I need never run out of them. Yep, I got weird looks at the checkout. Squash panic-buying is totally a thing.
The sweetness of butternut, the savoury touch of sage, and pure cheesiness from the Stilton combine to make a soup that’s truly comforting. A hug from the inside. It also doubles up perfectly as a sauce for pasta.
Additionally, it’s pretty cheap. One batch will cost less than £4* and provides six servings, which really puts the price of supermarket tubs of soup into perspective. If you chop the vegetables smaller, it’ll require less cooking time and therefore less fuel, too. It’s happy to be frozen, so can be made in advance and defrosted when you get out of the rain and need something quick, comforting and delicious. (I recommend these soup and sauce bags from Lakeland, which can stack in the freezer and be washed and reused.)
*Probably far, far less than this – I’m going by estimations and Waitrose prices. Read More
Hands up if you feel like switching your oven on right now!
Tumbleweed, as expected. The nation’s bakers are on strike. Grass is the colour of sand, and people are the colour of lobsters. As we enter the third week of real summer, the country is wilting.
I’m already dreaming of jeans and jackets and pumpkin puree in everything. I’m planning what I’ll make when the temperatures dip below 20 again – hey, remember that? – and I’m not avoiding the oven for fear of melting away like a snowman.
But there’s one major plus to the heat. I first made these rolls – and, indeed took these photos – in March. And by March I, of course, mean “the dead of winter, 2013”. I made the dough, sat the bowl on top of a hot water bottle, wrapped it lovingly in my duvet. I glanced at it every twenty minutes or so, waiting to see if it had grown. Two hours later, it had just about doubled. We’d managed to ward off the cold long enough to get that yeast going.
But these days? It’s just a matter of popping it in a warm room and watching it grow, like a nature programme time lapse video of a butterfly maturing.
The best way to eat these rolls – in any weather – is sliced in half, toasted, and spread with mashed avocado. Perfect.
100g wholemeal bread flour
400g white bread flour
7g fast action yeast (one sachet)
80g cheddar, grated
Lukewarm water (around 350ml)
1) In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, sugar, and salt, keeping the salt and yeast on opposite sides initially. Add around half the water, and turn the mixture with your fingers. Add the rest of the water a little at a time, until all the flour is picked up from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to use all the water. Continue to turn with your fingers until a rough dough forms.
2) Coat your work top with a little olive oil, then tip the dough out and knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
3) Lightly flour your worktop and tip out the dough. Knock out the air by folding the dough inwards until the dough is smooth. Grease a 10 inch round cake tin (Springform if you have it!).
4) Split the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll one piece into a ball and then flatten out. Spoon around 2/3tsp pesto into the centre, and top with 1/8th of the cheese.
5) Fold all the edges in to make a ball and place in the cake tin join side down. Repeat with the remaining 7 pieces, cover the tin with a clean tea towel and leave to double in size. Preheat oven to 170C.
6) When the rolls have risen, pour about 3 inches of boiling water into a large roasting tin and place at the bottom of the oven. Bake the rolls on the centre shelf for about 40 minutes, until the tops are a deep golden brown and they make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
Throughout university, or at the very least towards the end of it, on those long nights of sitting in the library rather than going out like everyone else seems to be, the 9-5 life sounds pretty perfect. Evenings to yourself, not having to work over dinner, and long weekends with lie-ins, afternoons in beer gardens, and, well, freedom. You sort of forget about bills, washing up, and truly dull tasks like washing the shower curtain.
A lot of my friends are now finishing uni, terrified of the current climate for graduates and desperate to tackle adult life head on, away from the family home. Others have recently broken into the job market, having graduated last year (three cheers for the competitive nature of journalism!), while many more are still juggling internships and work experience with earning a living.
I wish I’d taken a step back to really appreciate those last few months at home as I planned my future. To soak up the family meals and laying on a trampoline with my best friends. If I could give year-ago me some advice, it’d be “don’t wish it away”. And make sure that every now and then you thank your mum for dealing with the insane amount of washing you generate.
As the saying goes, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. I think what I’m trying to say is, life is what happens when you should be writing about cheese scones. There’s been a lot of life lately. So here are some scones, to balance things out a little.
I’m not totally sure I have a signature dish. In terms of views on this blog, salted caramel layer cake is the one. But in real life? I think it’s probably cheese sauce. That’s not even a dish. It’s a lasagne topping; or a pasta sauce. But damn, it’s good.
The secret to a phenomenal cheese sauce is, of course, loads of cheese. But mustard is to cheese what speculoos is to a spoon. They are a match made in heaven.
As much as I’d love to, though, you can’t make a meal out of cheese sauce. These scones are the taste of a great cheese and mustard sauce made into a warm, carb-packed delight.
1) Preheat oven to 180c and line a baking tray. In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, and salt until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2) Transfer to a large bowl and stir in 3/4 of the grated cheeses, along with the mustard powder and cayenne.
3) Add the wholegrain mustard to the warm milk and stir with a fork. Gradually add this to the dry ingredients to form a soft dough. Resist over-kneading!
4) Pat out onto a floured surface to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out using a 2 inch round cutter, transfer to baking tray and brush the tops with milk. Bake for 10 minutes, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for a further 5 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.
As someone who was incredibly wary of most foods until about the age of 16, houmous was not a food that featured much as I was growing up, much less something that I ever saw myself making.
In England, our houmous flavours are pretty basic. We’re happy to eat lemon & coriander, sweet chilli, and plain houmous, but haven’t yet been adventurous enough to try the flavours seen in other countries, like peanut butter houmous and wasabi houmous. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love it. Sadly, a lot of people don’t realise how easy – and cheap – it is to make.
Admittedly, one stage is a bit of a faff. As recommended by Smitten Kitchen, peeling the chickpeas gives you a nice smooth finish, but it does mean popping each chickpea out of its skin, leaving you with a pile of skins that look remarkably like disposable contact lenses. But if you do it on a Saturday afternoon while watching the Six Nations, you’ll be too mesmerised by the thighs sport to notice the passing of the 10 or so minutes it takes.
The beauty of it is that you can dip your finger in and adapt the seasoning to your taste, to ramp up the paprika or lemon as your tastebuds tell you. It’s also super easy and yet is guaranteed to impress.
Roasted red pepper houmous
1 red pepper
1 tin chickpeas, drained (240g) (only costs about 70p!)
1/3 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Juice of half a lemon
2tbsp olive oil
1) Preheat oven to 180C. Slice pepper into two or three pieces, removing the stalk and seeds, and place in a small baking tray. Roast for around 30 minutes, until soft.
2) While the pepper is roasting, peel the chickpeas by squeezing them between forefinger and thumb.
3) Remove the pepper from the oven and put the pieces into a food processor along with all the other ingredients. Pulse until smooth.
As part of Operation Eat on a Slim Budget (catchy name for it, huh?) , I’ve been working carrots into a lot of my food – they surely win the prize for most versatile vegetable. Although I love them for being a super cheap way of bulking up other foods, right here they deserve to be the star of the show, kicked up a notch and nudged into the spotlight.
It might be sunny outside for once, but I still feel like we’re firmly in soup season. The squeeze of citrus in this dish is my way of looking forward to sunnier months with optimism that they might not be too far away. We’re almost there.
I also loved this recipe for roasted carrots with coriander dip…it was delicious.
When you’ve lived away from home for a while but still go back for Christmas, you get used to hearing, “Is there any particular food you want me to get in?” around the first week of December. This year, there was one less thing on my usual list of Christmas visit must-haves, because my mother entrusted me with the secret of these two-cheese biscuits. They don’t look much, these wee biccies, but oh boy do they pack a punch. Supposedly, they taste even better after a few days, but they’ve never been around long enough for us to test that theory.
Although I’m posting these as a Christmas gift (in-laws, I’m lookin’ at you), they’d also be great after Christmas to help to use up the leftover nuts and Stilton you just couldn’t fit into your stomach. Yep. they’ve got Stilton in them – but in my experience, even Stilton haters love these.
Recipe makes around 50 biscuits 5cm in diameter – perfect to pop straight in your mouth! They are happy to be frozen (and I confess to sneaking to the freezer to eat a few there and then. Oops). Read More