It’s a new year! It’s a new you! It’s time to give up sugar, and booze, and fun!
Just kidding. I took these chocolate tahini cupcakes into the office the first day back, then made a massive green smoothie – the kind of broken “balance” logic employed the rest of the year, but with added glitter sprinkles for some pizzazz for 2017. Instead of resolutions that require an abrupt end to previous habits and tend to drop off after a month at best, I’ll go in favour of better balance, particular with this ace daily goal tracker.
We’re easing into slightly more exciting produce at this time of year too, with forced rhubarb coming in, and loads of green stuff, livened up with sweet potatoes – which are in the middle of their season – and the last of the beetroot until the summer.
There are two topics when it comes to desserts that I’ve found will split people: the ideal dessert menu (up to two chocolate options, at least one lemon option, and a soft choice for brace/denture wearers – anything after that is inconsequential) and the perfect crumble.
It’s a surprisingly divisive dessert, when you get down to it: you can’t deviate much when it comes to a pie, but when it comes to this particularly British pudding, “crumble” can be both its name and what happens to your relationship with your best friend when you realise they’re devoted to some white sugar based sandy monstrosity. Don’t even get me started on a mushy apple filling.
Why yes, I do have strong feelings on this. How could you tell?
Any crumble is a marriage of flavours. The fruit layer, the one that diminishes any (badly placed) feeling of guilt over the butter, will inform the nuances of the crumble itself: the sugars; the spices; the nuts.
That layer of virtuousness, for me, is a vehicle – an excuse – for a thick layer of lightly spiced topping, made up equally of crumbs, oats, and little balls of what is essentially shortbread. Continue reading →
Today, we’re nearly halfway through the Idiot Challenge for Idiot People. Set and voted upon by a group of university friends, the challenge forces us (the idiots) to work out in some way every day for the month of April. It’s less stupid, now, than it otherwise might have been – we’ve negotiated “lighter” exercise, like yoga, in, in an effort to give our bodies a little rest. Two weeks in, and a few people have dropped days, but thanks to a refusal to give in, most of us are going strong, despite aches and the necessity to wake up before the sun to squeeze things in. We’re all exercising more, and better, for it – I guess it’s the way we support each other. This is what I left university with: one degree, and several stubborn, idiot friends.
And then, sticky dancefloors and counting coins in the half-dark. Bubbles up my nose and a too-strong fruit taste. Half-carrying my friend’s dad back to his house after too many “mystery strength” Somerset varieties. These are my memories of most ciders.
It was university, of course, that did that too. May we never drink cider and black again.
Quite understandably, I shy away from cider a little these days, lest I get caught out by something overly sweet and too full of bubbles; still, when given the opportunity to try the new ciders from Aspall, I leapt at it because, well, I have faith in Aspall.
This September marks the beginning of the fourth year of living with my flatmate. We were thrown together in our first year of uni, with four other girls, and carried on living together, with three of the others, in our second year as we all dealt with the drama of being 19 and having a landlord who’d renovate your manky bathroom but dispose of the old toilet by putting it in your wheelie bin.
We parted ways after that year living at the top of a very steep hill, only to be brought together again by the universe when we both moved to London. The universe is nice like that.
But in those three years and sharing kitchen space and secrets, I’d never once made her this old family classic. Until now, of course.
Back home, this is “chickeny crumbly stuff” because, well, it’s chickeny and it’s crumbly and the name stuck and became part of family legend. It’s soul food – the sort of dish that hugs you as you eat it. It’s nourishment that’ll have you going back for seconds and fighting with your siblings for the crunchiest bit of topping. It’s exactly what you need to help you embrace grey skies as we hurtle towards months of 4pm sunsets and cocoa.
150g stale/dry bread
110g cheddar cheese
500g chicken breast, chopped into chunks
200g mushrooms, chopped
1 medium leek, chopped
1 tin cream of chicken soup
1) In a food processor, blitz the bread until roughly crumbed. Add the cheese, and blitz again until the whole mixture is of breadcrumb texture – some lumps are fine. You can do this the night before and refrigerate if you like to be one step ahead.
2) Preheat the oven to 170C. Fry the chicken breast chunks in a large frying pan over medium heat until just browning. Add the mushrooms and leek, and continue to fry until the leeks are soft.
3) Add the soup, mayo, and a squeeze of lemon juice and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4) Transfer to an overproof dish, cover with breadcrumb topping, and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve with more vegetables, if you’re that way inclined.
Can also be split into small pots or ramekins for individual portions.