Happy 1st of July everyone! This is one of my favourite months: the days are longer, school is nearly over and it’s my birthday soon!
I find that recently we’ve been lossening up on our (already pretty loose) bedtime routine. The evenings are so light and it’s so close to the end of term and I’d much rather be having fun than ushering Stink off to bed at 8pm sharp. Im pretty sure that all they do in the last few weeks of school is colouring in and watching videos anyway…
Having had a few weeks of really nice weather here in Somerset we’ve found ourselves edging away from our normal evening routine of chores, dinner, telly and bed in favour of impromptu mid-week dinner picnics and leisurely strolls along the canal to our local pub for a cheeky pint. I also find it so much easier to entertain guests at this time of year. We live in a tiny house which makes it difficult to have more than a couple of people at a time round for dinner. We are however lucky to have a good sized garden, and if you follow me on instagram you’ll have seen we’ve been making good use of it.
So I’m hoping for a sunny month with more balmy evenings in the garden, and with this in mind I thought I’d share with you three Simple Salads. All of them can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. They work just as well for barbecues and garden parties as they do for packed lunches and picnics.
- 200g dried couscous
- 350g boiling water
- 75g raisins
- 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, ginger and coriander
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- A handful of walnuts or almonds (or both)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- Place the couscous, raisins and spices in a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Stir and cover the bowl with a plate to keep the steam in. After ten minutes the couscous will have absorbed all the water.
- Pour over the olive oil and vinegar, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
- Once the couscous has cooled completely add the rest of the ingredients.
- Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Store in a covered container until you need it.
Tomato, Basil and Butterbean Salad with Feta
- 150g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 can of butter beans, drained
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 100g feta, crumbled
- A large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tsp of good quality balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Rocket to serve
- Place all of the ingredients except the rocket and balsamic in a large bowl. Mix well and season to taste. Be careful with the salt as feta is brined and therefore very salty already.
- Store in a covered container until, ready to serve.
- To serve, gently toss the rocket and salad together, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.
Beetroot, Cucumber and Zaatar Salad
- 1 pack of pre-cooked beetroot, diced
- 1 large cucumber, cut into semicircles
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp of zaatar (a spice blend available in most good supermarkets)
- 150g thick natural yoghurt
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve.
I lovelovelove Indian food with all of my food obsessed heart. I cook curry probably once a week at home because it is delicious, wholesome, nutritious and budget-friendly. I don’t love rice though, which is why I sway towards bread as my carb of choice when eating curry.
Naan bread is a soft and fluffy leavened flat bread (made with yeast) which is eaten all over south and Central Asia. They are thought to have been influenced by middle eastern flatbreads such as Pitta, as the Persian word nān being a generic word for bread seems to suggest. What makes Indian naan bread different from other Indian breads is that they are cooked in a tandoor oven, which is a traditional wood or coal fired oven made of clay. These ovens are heated to extreme temperatures and the dough is slapped to the side of the oven to cook.
Obviously I don’t have a tandoori oven at home (I wish I did!), so I turn to my trusty cast iron skillet to make my naan. The beauty of this being that in the winter I can bake my naan in the kitchen and when the weather is on my side, I take my skillet outdoors and use it over my fire pit. This makes sure the naan absorb all the delicious smoky flavours from the fire and gives it a more authentic flavour. If you don’t own a cast iron pan, use the heaviest frying pan or skillet that you own, just don’t put it on an open fire!
- 500g strong white flour
- 20g sugar
- 10g salt
- 14g dried yeast (2 sachets)
- 150g coconut cream
- 200g water
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- Place your flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix together with your hand. Make a well in the centre.
- Dissolve the yeast in to the water and pour in to the well. Use your hands to begin mixing the flour and water together. Then add the coconut cream and nigella seeds and mix in the bowl until it starts to form a sticky dough.
- Turn the mixture out on to a floured work surface and knead for about ten minutes, until you have a soft dough.
- Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm place.
- Once the dough has risen, turn out on to your work surface and divide in to 8 equal portions. Roll each portion in to a ball, place on a floured tray and cover. Leave to rest for 20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. This will make it easier to shape the dough.
- When the dough has rested, start heating your pan. It needs to be really hot, so set the burner to its highest flame.
- Roll out your first ball of dough in to a flat, tear drop or oval shape, approximately 1cm thick. I find it easier to roll the dough flat with a rolling pin and then use my hands to shape it in to an oval by gently pulling the dough.
- Then place your shaped dough on to the hot pan. You will notice immediately that bubbles start to form under the surface of the dough.
- After a minute, flip the dough over and cook the other side. Don’t worry it the dough catches a little where it has formed bubble, this darkness adds flavour to the bread.
- Whilst the first flatbread is cooking, you can shape the next one so that it is ready to go.
- When the bread is cooked, wrap in a clean towel and cook the next one.
- Serve immediately with your favourite curry.
I honestly don’t remember ever eating sweet potato as a child. I don’t know if this is because 15 years ago it wasn’t a very popular vegetable here in the U.K. or if it was because my parents just overlooked it. Now I’m a grown up I pick up a massive sweet potato every time I do the grocery shopping. There’s a lot you can do with this lovely, gnarly looking tuber. This soup is fast to make and very cost effective. It’s also delicious and vegan. I use a lot of different spices in this recipe but don’t let the epic ingredients list put you off. The Pitta croutons are a great way of using up stale leftovers. You can use any bread for this but I seem to always end up with spare pittas lurking in my bread bin. This recipe makes enough for two hungry adults with a bit left over for tomorrow’s lunch. It will store in the fridge for up to five days in an airtight container or in the freezer for a month.
- 3 sticks of celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- Approximately 750g diced sweet potato
- 1/2 tsp celery salt
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of thyme
- Pinch of oregano
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- Pinch of dried chipotle chilli flakes
- 2 stale Pitta breads, cut into shards
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to its highest setting.
- Sweat the onion and celery in a large saucepan with a little oil.
- When they are translucent, add the garlic, sweet potato, spices and herbs. Sautee on a low heat for 5 minutes.
- Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer with the lid on until the sweet potato is soft.
- Whilst the soup is simmering, place the shards of Pitta on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip them over and bake for another 3 minutes, or until the croutons are brown and crunchy.
- When the sweet potato is soft, use an immersion blender and wazz until the soup is smooth and silky. At this point you may need to add a bit more liquid to your soup, unless you like it like wall paper paste. I just add water but if you’re feeling decadent you could add milk or even cream. Let the soup down as much as you feel necessary, little by little. Season to taste.
- Serve the soup with the croutons piled on top and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper.
- If you don’t have all of the spices I’ve listed here, don’t worry! Use what you have in your spice rack. The essential ones are thyme, oregano, nutmeg and paprika and I’ll bet you already have those.
- Add as much chilli as you like. I like a lot of chilli in this but my small child does not. I prefer to add hot sauce or chopped fresh chilli to my own bowl.
- If you don’t have any Pitta bread to use up, just use whatever other bread you have in the house. This will work with anything from tortilla to hot dog buns. Simply cut them to whatever shape you like and keep an eye on the baking time.
- This crouton recipe will also work for gluten free bread, but I’d recommend using a medium setting on your oven as gluten free bread often has a high sugar content which burns faster.
Move over Pizza: we have a new favourite bread based dinner and it’s called Pide!
Originating in Turkey this traditional bread is stretched thin and baked in a scorching hot oven, leaving the outside crisp and golden and the middle, soft and fluffy. During Ramadan this bread is eaten plain, with just a smattering of poppy seeds and sea salt, at the end of a long day of fasting.
Alternatively it can be topped with various different things, similar to an Italian pizza, and sold from kiosks on the bustling streets. We like our Pide with a spiced Lamb topping and a sprinkling of pickled onions. Other great toppings include Halloumi or Feta, Spinach and Egg.
To make this as a weeknight supper, we put the dough on at about 4:30 and leave it to rise for an hour whilst we prepare the filling and any salads or dips we decide to have. By 5:30 I’m shaping the Pide, baking them in a hot and they’re on the table by 6.
For the dough:
- 7g instant dry yeast
- 1 tbsp flour
- 300g flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 100g water
- 30g yoghurt
- 2tbsp olive oil
For the Lamb filling:
- 500g minced Lamb
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cumin, ground
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 1/2 tsp sumac
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the pickled onions:
- 100g white wine vinegar
- 100g water
- 50g sugar
- 5g salt
- 5 cloves
- 2 small red onions, sliced
- Make the dough by putting the flour and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer. Make a well in the centre and pour in the salt, sugar, water, yoghurt and oil.
- Mix on a low speed to combine the ingredients and form a dough.
- Continue mixing on a medium speed for 10 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough has formed,
- Set aside to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- To make the pickled onions, combine the water, vinegar, cloves, sugar and salt in a small pan. Bring to a boil whilst stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar,
- Once the liquid has come to a boil, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the onions, stir and set aside to cool.
- To make the Lamb filling, heat a large skillet with a small amount of oil. Add the onions and cook slowly until they start to caramelise.
- Add to this the Lamb and the ground spices. Turn up the heat to brown the meat.
- Then add the garlic and tomatoes. Add a little water if the mixture looks dry and cook on a low heat for approximately 15 minutes until the tomatoes start to break down.
- Season to taste and set aside to cool while you wait for the dough.
- Preheat your oven to its highest setting, prepare your baking tray by dusting it with flour.
- When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured work surface and divide into 4 equal portions.
- Shape each piece of dough into a long oval shape by stretching it with your hands. Place onto the baking sheet and spread the Lamb evenly across each Pide, leaving a 3cm edge all the way around.
- Fold the edge over the Lamb, pinching it at either end to make a point, and pinching all along the edges with your finger and thumb as you would to crimp a pie edge.
- Brush the edge of the Pide with a little olive oil.
- Bake in a hot oven for approximately 10-15 minutes, turning half way to ensure an even colour.
- The Pide are done when the dough has cooked underneath, the lamb is sizzling and the edges are golden.
- Serve immediately with the pickled onions on top.
….it’s a legitimate dinner.
I’ve read in a few places recently that the rest of the world think that the great British dish of beans on toast is a bit odd. This is bull shit. Beans on toast is one of the greatest meals of all time.
It serves as breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can even be a light snack for those of us with a heartier appetite. You can have it just as it is; piping hot beans and toast slathered in butter and gooey from the bean juice. Or you can pimp them up with melted cheese, fried eggs, hot sauce, sausages….
The only problem with beans on toast is….the beans. Tinned baked beans are fine if you’re heading out camping in the arse end of nowhere, or you’re stock piling for the end of the world as we know it. But if you have the time and the facilities, I urge you to make your own.
Traditional baked beans are a lengthy process. They are a 10 hour labour of love, not including soaking time for the dried pulses. It’s 100% worth doing if you want to spend a day lovingly babysitting a crock pot of delicious, sweet beans. Look up a recipe for Boston Baked Beans and go buy some molasses.
If you are a normal person with a full time job and an actual life outside of the kitchen, I suspect you won’t be doing this any time soon. So here is my recipe for quick beans:
- 250g smoky bacon lardons
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 cans of Haricot or Cannelini Beans
- 1 500g carton of Passatta
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Dry roast the cumin and mustard seeds, grind finely and add to the paprika. Set aside.
- Heat a large, heavy saucepan. Add a drop of oil, then add the bacon. Fry until crisp.
- Add the celery and onion to the bacon. Cook on a medium heat, stirring gently until the onions are translucent.
- Put all the spices in the pan, stir well, then add the drained beans and the passatta.
- Re-fill the passatta carton with water, swirl it around and add to the pan.
- Throw in a pinch of salt and the sugar and mix the whole lot well.
- Bring the beans to a steady boil, reduce to a simmer and put the lid on.
- Leave the beans to simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. You will need to give them a gentle stir every now and then. Top up the water if it starts to look a little dry.
- The beans are done when the sauce has reduced and the beans are beginning to break down. Season to taste.
- Serve with freshly toasted sourdough and plenty of butter.
- If you are making these beans to eat at a later date, cool as quickly as you can, place in an air tight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Ensure they are piping hot when you reheat them.
- If you are vegetarian or vegan, simply skip the bacon. These beans are packed full of protein as they are so it doesn’t really bring much to the party, I just really like bacon.
- If you can get it, I recommend adding a dash of liquid smoke just before you serve this.
Fussiness Factor: Lola really like the sweetness of these beans. The onion and celery break down into the sauce and become invisible. If your fussy kids like this, it’s a good thing to have in the fridge to add vegetables and vitamins to whatever beige food they have requested for dinner.
Otherwise known as “Crisps for Dinner”
Lets start with this: Hello, and a belated Happy New Year to all of my followers and readers!
I haven’t written anything or posted any recipes for such a long time. Christmas was (as always) a really busy time for me, both at work and at home. I feel like I’ve been rushing around like a lunatic since the start of November! This year at work we had some huge changes, I’ve started a new role (from pastry chef to head chef) and had a steep learning curve to climb. It was also Stink’s birthday in the second week of January and if you follow me on instagram you’ll have seen we had a mega-sparkly-rainbow-disco party. It was a lot of hard work but she loved every second so it was totally worth the stress and anxiety! Truth be told, as much as I love being busy and I thrive on abnormally high levels of stress, I’ve actually been feeling quite overwhelmed and utterly exhausted.
This weekend I challenged myself to relax and do fuck all. I managed a few solid hours on the sofa in my pants and dressing gown watching garbage on telly, we had a blustery walk up a big hill and had a roast dinner. In other words I got my shit together!
This vegetarian chilli is big bowl of comfort which I make for my family and my friends frequently. It tastes best on a cold, dark evening, with as many friends as you can fit around the dinner table and a margarita in hand.
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 bell peppers, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 cans of beans (I’ve used black beans, but kidney and pinto work well too)
- 500g passata
- 1 litre water
- 2 tbsp lentils
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- A shot of espresso or 1 tsp of instant coffee powder
- 1 can of sweetcorn
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- A pinch of ground coriander seed
- A pinch of chipotle chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- Heat a table spoon of oil in a large pan.
- Sweat the onions, celery and garlic on a medium heat until the onions are translucent. Next add the peppers and carrots and the spices. If if starts to stick to the pan add a dash of water.
- When the carrots start to soften, add the drained beans, passata and water. Stir in the sugar, lentils, sweetcorn and coffee.
- Put a lid on the pan, bring to a boil then simmer on a low heat for at least 45 minutes. Stir the chilli frequently and add water if it starts to look dry. The lentils will stick like a motherfucker to the bottom of your pan and burn if you don’t.
- Season to taste and serve with tortilla chips for dipping!
- This recipe will serve 4 adults; to make more simply add more beans and lentils and adjust the water accordingly.
- This can be made in advance, cooled down as quickly as possible and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- The amount of spice in this is how I make it for Stink. It’s not exactly spicy, but it is warming. If you or your family are not so keen on spicy things, leave out the chipotle flakes and use a sweet paprika.
- I like to serve this with pink onions, which is red onions pickled in lime juice. To make this, simply finely slice a red onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cover in the juice of two lime. Massage the lime and salt into the onions, cover and place in the fridge. The salt and the acid in the lime will cook the onion and cause the red to seep out of their outer layers, turning the whole mix fluorescent pink. Leave over night for maximum pinkness!
- In case you think I’ve gone mental, the coffee is to add richness. It adds an earthy, warm dimension to the overall flavour of the chilli, but it doesn’t make it taste like coffee.
- Fussy-factor: Peppers and Sweetcorn = acceptable. Beans, celery and spice = slightly less acceptable. Being allowed to eat crisps for dinner means this is one of her preferred supper choices.
Healthy eating can often seem like hard work in the winter. When it’s dark at 4pm, freezing cold outside and shitting it down with rain, all I want to eat is stodgy, brown foods. I never think of salad because winter vegetables are generally not good salad ingredients. Sprout salad, anyone?
This is a doddle to throw together but adds a pop of lovely pastel purple to your dinner table. I’ve given the quantities to make enough for a side for 4 people and some left over. If you’re cooking for a crowd (or you just really love slaw) then double up the ingredients. This will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days in your fridge which also makes it a good make ahead dish.
If you have a food processor or mandolin in your kitchen, you should definitely use it to make this salad. I chucked all of the veg for this in my magimix (I have a mandolin too, but I’m a bit scared of it) with the slicing attachment and it was easy as hell and took no time at all. If you prefer a slightly chunkier slaw (or you don’t own a food processor) just slice it all by hand using a sharp chefs knife and tell all your mates it’s meant to be rustic.
- 1/2 a small red cabbage
- 1 Apple
- 1 Red Onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- A handful of crushed hazelnuts
- 100g Stilton
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- Pinch of hot chilli powder (optional)
- Prepare your dressing in a large mixing bowl by mixing all of the wet ingredients and crumbling in the Stilton. Save some Stilton to use as a garnish. Season your dressing to taste with salt, pepper and sugar if it’s too sour for you. Add the chilli powder if using.
- Slice all of your vegetables, either by hand or using a food processor or mandolin (watch your fingers). Add these to the bowl of dressing.
- Crush your nuts (lol) using the blade of a large knife. Add these to the bowl, saving some to sprinkle over the top.
- Give everything a really good mix and season again if needs be.
- If your not eating this right away, transfer to a clean container and place in the fridge. If you are serving right away, transfer to a clean serving bowl and garnish with the reserved Stilton and nuts. If you don’t care much for fancy serving bowls, plonk the mixing bowl on your dinner table and get stuck in.