s a kid, I was a super picky eater. Not in the way that’s shown by TV shows which decry the state of the nation’s nutrition – I don’t remember being particularly enamoured with chicken nuggets and I didn’t eat chips till the age of 17 – but in a “give me cheese or give me nothing” way.
At 24 years old, I’m still finding things that I’ve never eaten, things that are totally normal and cause people to look at me like I’ve come from another planet.
I had baked beans for the first time a couple of months ago.
I had no idea what I’d been missing out on all this time. Easy, tasty food that can be tarted up without much hassle and is a great hiding place for secret veg! That’s my favourite.
So, this quick sausage and bean casserole is now my go-to, just a matter of whacking things into a pan in a few rounds then curling up with a warming Spanish-tinged delight. And as Beyonce no doubt meant to say, if you like it then you shoulda put an egg on it. Silky yolk running into comforting, spicy casserole? Yes please. Read More
hen I was at sixth form, I also worked three jobs (ish), and dreamed about all the free time I’d have as a grown up. Monday to Friday was sixth form – although around half of that time was sitting in the common room, or taking trips to Tesco in free periods – and Friday afternoon was cleaning for a family friend. Weekends in retail. Half-terms split between retail and a part-time feature writing job at a local magazine. Monday to Friday, nine to five, sounded glorious.
How adorable, right?
Now, it’s all busybusybusy, hours flying by before we can even stop to think how we’re spending them (the tube. The tube is where we’re spending them). And it’s for this reason that I’ve become a cheat in the kitchen, relying on recipes that can be made in a big batch and easily tweaked and recycled across multiple nights. For months, this was big bubbling pans of chili, made often enough that it became a flat joke. The holy grail of lazy home cooking? Big batches that can be frozen, and reheated fairly quickly. Read More
It’s no secret here that I think about breakfast a lot. Usually this means pancakes and porridge and an abundance of hot cross buns, but every now and then you need a proper English breakfast.
The other thing about breakfast, though, is that I like mine to be transportable, or at least able to be eaten at the office – I even took speculoos pancakes to the office to reheat and have with bananas. These parcels tick those boxes. Okay, so there’s no beans (how I like my breakfast) and it’s almost like a quiche. But you can pick it up and eat it on the move, without sacrificing any of that proper breakfast goodness.
English breakfast parcels
Serves 6 (ramekins)
3 rashers bacon, smoked or unsmoked, chopped
50g mushrooms, sliced
6 sheets filo pastry
4 eggs, whisked with 4 tbsp milk & seasoned with pepper
30g cheese, grated
5 cherry tomatoes, sliced (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 160C. Lightly fry bacon pieces and mushrooms slices (and tomatoes, if using them) until just cooked, then set aside. Brush each ramekin with a little butter to grease.
2) Cut your pastry sheets in half. Line a ramekin with one half, allowing excess to hang over the sides, then coat with butter using a pastry brush and place the second half on top, perpendicular to the first and allowing no gaps.
3) Add 1/6th of the mushroom and bacon to the ramekin, and top with approximately 5g grated cheese. Pour over the egg mixture until about 5mm from the top of the ramekin. Fold the excess pastry over, scrunch up, and dab with butter.
4) Repeat 5 times, and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from ramekins when cool.
After the Great Speculoos Poem of 2012, I kept my distance from the stuff. I couldn’t be trusted with it – I’d go into the kitchen to do some washing up only for my housemate to find me hunched over the jar, wild eyed like a fox caught in the act of tearing a bin open, and shovelling spoonfuls into my face. So I finished up the jar – this may or may not have included me dragging my fingers through the nooks and crannies to get the last bits – and vowed not to buy it again until I’d either gained willpower or lost about 3 stone.
And all was hunky dory. Or it was, until Steph, of Riverside Baking fame, told me it was on offer in Waitrose. You know what this girl loves? Biscuits and bargains. So how was I to turn down a biscuit-based bargain?
So of course I got it. But I’m making progress, guys! I actually managed to make something with it this time. Taking baby steps (and giant spoonfuls). Oh and the pancakes? They’re amazing. Absolutely, perfect-with-bacon, exactly-what-you-need-at-11am-on-a-Sunday, amazing. I even took some spare ones to work on Monday to eat warm with bananas. I’m onto a winner.
This is a dinner that melds a few of my current obsessions perfectly. First up, the butternut squash – technically, it’s not in season any more, but still I can’t get enough. When I went to London’s Borough Market (more on that later), there was squash everywhere, which I feel totally validates the fact that I’m always thinking of new ways to use it. It’s a classic autumn vegetable, and great for veggie dishes too in place of meat.
Secondly, risotto. Before my flatmate and I moved here, I’d never made risotto. It felt like one of those things that was a total pain to make – the whole “standing over it while it cooks thing” was off-putting, and the abundance of “easy risotto” recipes on the internet reinforced the idea that normally it’s just too much hassle. Um, guys – risotto is easy and amazing. There’s seriously no reason to be scared.
And finally, butternut and bacon. When I talked about New Covent Garden soups, I forgot to mention this combo, but it really is something to obsess over. Smoked bacon especially goes so, so well with the sweetness of the butternut. Yum.
With all that in mind, this risotto kind of had to happen. And so, on a night when I was craving something warm and comforting after long days at work and armpit-filled tube journeys, it did. I’ll never look back.
Serves 2/3 people, depending on how greedy you are!
500g butternut squash, cut into 2cm chunks
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 rashers of bacon, cut into strips about 1cmx3cm
200g arborio rice
50g soft cream cheese
1 litre vegetable stock
Splash of olive oil
1) Pop butternut chunks onto a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and shake over some paprika. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until soft.
2) When there’s about 15 minutes left on the butternut, drizzle a hot pan with olive oil, throw in garlic, onion and celery. Stir. Place the lid on, and allow to sweat until just starting to soften.
3) Add the strips of bacon, and when just cooked, add the rice to the mixture. Stir well so that the rice is coated with all the juices, and start to add vegetable stock one ladle-full at a time, stirring constantly.
4) Keep adding stock until rice is tender.
5) At the last minute, throw in the spinach, roasted butternut, and cream cheese. Stir well, and you’re ready to rock!