In The Studio

  • Going Plant Based

    vegan pizza at zizzi

    It is no secret in this little space of the internet of mine, that I love food. I have always loved food of all kinds, especially if they're sweet, and when I look back most of my memories revolve around food. My mum cooking, baking, teaching me how to whip up our favourite family recipes, be it the traditional Lincolnshire Plum Bread, the perfect Victoria Sponge, or something brought home from her work as a school cook.

    Food is central to my life. 

    Now, I am not going to say that everyone who's life revolves around food has an unhealthy relationship with it because I'm pretty sure that not everyone does, but a couple of years ago i realised that I in fact do have an unhealthy relationship with it. Food makes me happy, making it, consuming it, sharing it with others, but it had started to have an impact. I was feeling sluggish and run down after eating, I had previously battled with a chilli intolerance which was starting to subside but in its place I seemed to be reacting to anything and everything. Bread made me hiccup, dairy made me bloat, and meat made me feel sick. Alongside this James was mysteriously vomiting, and was referred to several nutritionists.

    I distinctly remember the first thing I started to go off of were potatoes, they were starchy and there were just so many of them. I found myself craving green vegetables like no other and one of the illest times I have ever been was when on holiday in the US in 2015 where I felt so undernourished I was miserable and constantly nauseous. 

    It has taken me a long time to add everything together and come to a decision, about a year ago I started to make some changes, I swapped regular milk for oat and coconut, I went for free from bread in a bid to eat just a tiny morsel without hiccupping, and after James was told he could no longer process iron properly, we reduced our red meat consumption to an occasional treat. 

    A few months on I am now completely dairy free. I have converted my baking to vegan recipes, and now Ben and Jerry's is available in vegan form I am happy to finally be able to enjoy my favourites without dairy. I have found my favourite substitutes (hello Oatly Barista and Tesco grated dairy free mozzarella) and my favourite sources for recipes (Minimalist Baker is fantastic!) and i'm actually finding it, easy

    Throughout this process I have been doing more and more research into a plant based lifestyle. Spurred on by some of my favourite people taking the plunge (ONR, In Colourful Company Ladies, Holly Exley and Frannerd to name a few) I have been researching more and more about vegan and plant based ways of living. With James's lack of meat consumption and my lack of dairy it feels like we're pretty much half way there already so i don't think it is out of my reach. I am going to strive to reduce our animal product consumption down to bare minimums, and only on special treat days. increase our plant intake and hopefully feel even better for it.

    I have already noticed the benefits, I ate a pizza last night (not the one above, that beauty is from Zizzi's and is completely vegan. Last night's was mushroom and black olive, best topping combo ever, if only to be beaten by the love it or hate it inclusion of pineapple) and felt zero ill effects, no bloat, no bluergh and no asthmatic coughing from the cheese.

    I hope that this will be the start of a new lease of life for me, i'm not going to punish myself if I don't manage it all the time (got to improve on that healthy me-food relationship) but I am going to strive to be better when it comes to animal consumption, and consider my choices a little more. 

     

  • Morning Coffee

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    If you follow any of my social media channels it will not come as a surprise to hear that I like coffee, I like it sweet and syrupy, I like it full bodied and artfully decorated, and I like it iced with whipped cream. I have built myself a little Sunday morning routine lately, it tends to be the day I do the most work on my shop and I like to get up early so that I can get plenty done. My first stop has become coffee, a steaming mug sweetened with a syrup or a drizzle, either brewed in my mocha pot or run through my fancy espresso machine. It has become a Sunday morning tradition.

    I love my little Sunday routine, but I will be honest a few months ago I rarely drank coffee it didn't come in a branded cup. I am really picky, I hate instant coffee, even the fanciest brands just don't get it right when it comes to instant coffee (no offence to Littles, my go to for instant, it is probably our hard water that still makes it taste funky). I often would be too lazy to make proper coffee at home, I hadn't perfected the art of steaming my coconut milk just right, so I would simply go without, I classed myself as a tea drinker and that was that. When Beanies asked if I wanted to try their coffee, I thought i would give it a try but I didn't have high hopes, I didn't think it would make me a regular coffee drinker.

    My ground coffee game changed the day I received my parcel. I am officially the girl that uses a cafetiere and takes up a whole shelf in the kitchen cupboard at the office, I wander back and forth with my little Bodum pot wafting amazing smelling real coffee around. This stuff was that good that i didn't care if it looked pretentious!

    The flavour I got was Pecan Pie, I love pecan pie, this coffee had some strong memories to live up to and man did it blow me away. I honestly cannot get over the smell!! I can't help it, whenever I open this bag I have to have a sniff, I drink my coffee sniffing before every sip. It truly smells amazing, and the best part about the smell is that it actually translates into true flavour.

    Though Beanies did send me this bag to try, I have since picked up the cinder toffee ground coffee from the supermarket (also amazing!), and I am itching to try some more flavours. I currently have Irish coffee, christmas pudding and death by chocolate all sitting in my basket on their website waiting for me to hit the button.

     

    For now I am rapidly working my way through this bag, and finally feeling like i have found my at home coffee fix!

     

    Have you tried Beanies coffee? Do you have any other amazing brands you recommend I try?

     

     

  • Midweek meals :: Ultimate Mac and Cheese

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    So this weeks midweek is technically closer to the weekend, but I wanted to hold back because I am making this today for our tea and thought for some weird reason that meant I had to post it on the same day. Weird right?

     

    Today we have my all time favourite comfort food, the food I judge a restaurant by, the beautifully simple creation that can make a rubbish day better, Macaroni Cheese. If this is on the menu, I order it. It has completely put me off many a restaurant loved by all (Byron's Mac is awful, burgers good, mac not so). If i don't know what to make for tea and is raining outside I reach for my cheese.

     

    This recipe is absurdly simple, and open to variation. I have only two stipulations, you must use at least one of each type of cheese, and you must add a large grind of black pepper. Trust me.

     

    You will need:

    50g plain flour

    50g butter

    700ml milk

    400g macaroni

    6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon chopped into slices

    1 pot cream cheese

    1 small block of strong  relatively hard cheese (I use Extra mature cheddar)

    1 block hard pungent cheese

    Black pepper.

     

    - Start frying your bacon, you need it low and slow that it goes really crispy and the fat renders.

     

    - Set your macaroni on to boil in oiled and salted water.

     

    - In a saucepan, melt your butter over a low heat. Once melted add your flour and stir, cook for a few minutes before gradually adding the milk. Stir all of the milk into the flour/butter paste before adding more.

     

    - Grate your cheeses. I have not specified amounts for these because it entirely depends how cheesy you like your macaroni cheese, what is absolutely essential is that you use a minimum of 3 cheeses, soft cream cheese, extra mature cheddar and parmesan are the basics. I often use more, adding gruyere and goats cheese into mine (I do not recommend blue cheese such as stilton or dolchelatte), the basics will do if you don't have more to hand though, and you need a ratio of 1 part parmesan to 2 parts soft cheese to 3 parts cheddar.

     

    - Once all of the milk is incorporated, mix in your grated cheeses. Remove the pan from the heat and stir, letting the residual heat melt it all together.

     

    - Add your bacon, and this is important, also add the rendered bacon grease into the mix. you are not going to add any salt to the sauce so you need as much of that bacon flavour as possible. Stir.

     

    - Drain your pasta and add your completed sauce to the pan the pasta was cooking in. The little bits of residual starch water in the pan will help make the dish super smooth.

     

    - Now the most important step of all. Pepper. Do not skimp on this step, it is important to add this once everything is mixed together so that you can taste it as you go and get the right amount. I like mine to be highly speckled once stirred, and for the heat to complement the sharpness of the cheese. In all honesty, all macaroni cheese is inferior if it does not contain a good grind of pepper.

     

    I make a huge batch of this and attempt to store it for a few days, usually it lasts until the next day if I am lucky, sometimes James eats it all before i even get a leftovers packed lunch out of it!

     

    Let me know if you have a favourite cheese combo for this in the comments!

     

  • Midweek meal :: Steak Sarnie

       

     

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    What with all the nice weather we have been having James and I have been making an effort to have lighter, summery dinners, no easy feat when fish and poultry are excluded from the meal plan (James doesn't like them).

    One of the meals I have been falling back on has been my variation on Jamie Oliver's Steak Sarnie. I am not usually a fan of sandwiches at all, his is pretty epic but we discovered that it can be made that little bit better with the addition of my favourite garlic mushrooms.

     

    This is a bit of a luxe sandwich, no doubt about that, but if you want something really filling, a proper meal, but which isn't too hot or heavy for humid days this is a great one. Creamy mushrooms add depth to the meaty steak, while the peppery rocket and the fragrant peppers add a zing that cuts through and keeps things fresh. This is a bit of a party in your mouth kind of meal!

     

    You will need:

    1 Steak, thick cut. I used sirloin, but good rump will do.

    1 Large ciabatta bread

    2 handfuls of rocket

    Roasted red peppers, either shop bought or home made (see this post for how I made mine)

    1 Clove Garlic

    2 Tbsp Creme Fresh

    100g Mushrooms

    Handful fresh sprigs of thyme.

    Olive Oil drizzle.

     

    - Start by getting your mushrooms on the go. You need to set a small frying pan over a medium heat and melt a knob of butter with a drizzle of oil. Finely chop your garlic and toss it into the oil.

     

    - Slice your mushrooms and put them in the pan, coat them with the oil/butter combo and then allow to slowly cook.

     

    - Slice up your peppers if they aren't already and set aside. Time to prep your steak. Salt and pepper each side, drizzle with your olive oil and then sprinkle with a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped from the stems. Work the seasoning into the meat with your fingers.

     

    - Get your grill pan ready, it needs to be very hot. Stir your mushrooms to keep an eye on them while the grill pan heats up. Grill your steak, I like mine rare so I only cook for a few minutes on each side, if you like it well done cook it for longer. Once done to your preference, place on a board and cover with foil to rest.

     

    - Once your mushrooms are browned, turn the heat down to low and add your creme fresh. Stir gently and season with salt and pepper and let bubble for a couple more minutes.

     

    - Turn on the grill in the oven, slice your ciabatta along the full length and toast the cut sides lightly under the grill. Once done, drizzle with olive oil and top with rocket.

     

    - Time to slice up your steak, do this on a diagonal. Once sliced up mix with the sliced red peppers so that the juices mingle. Pile the peppers and steak on top of the rocket in the ciabatta. spread the mushrooms evenly over the top and pop your lid on your sandwich.

     

    - Cut down the middle and share, we both only ever manage half each!

     

    Let me know if you tried this, and let me know what your favourite sandwiches are!

     

  • Lunch | Spinach and Red Pepper Quiche

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    I have a bit of a confession to make, Quiche, the perfect picnic food, is not my favourite. I loathe quiche Lorraine, it actually now makes me feel a bit ill. I find it far too imbalanced for my palate, I need some greenery in there.

     

    I do however have a particular quiche that I love, and that is the Higgidy spinach, red pepper and feta quiche, usually crustless. Now Higgidy quiche this is not, it is really no where near as theirs is béchamel based, but this brings a little bit of those Mediterranean flavours into an easier make version. You can whip this up on a Sunday, pop it in the fridge and cut off a slice to take for lunch every day.

     

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    You Will Need:

    1 batch of shortcrust pastry, or to make your own: 280g Plain Flour, 60g Lard and 60g Butter, 1tsp Poppy Seeds, splash or two of milk.

    1 small red onion sliced

    240g Spinach

    3 Small red peppers, roasted and peeled

    Feta Cheese

    70g Cheddar Cheese, grated

    3 Duck Eggs, or 4 standard normal eggs

    For the Béchamel, 40g Butter, 40g Flour, 230ml Milk

     

     

    - To Make my favourite pastry, cut the fats into cubes and put in a dish with the flour and gently toss with your hands to coat. Put the dish in the freezer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove from the freezer and put in your food processor. Pulse while slowly adding milk until just combined. Season with salt and pepper and add the poppy seeds. Work together with your hands into a ball and cover and rest in the fridge.

     

    - While the pastry rests, roast your peppers if you intend to do so. Turn your oven up as high as it will go and put the peppers in on a baking tray for 30 Minutes. They are done when the skins are charred. Allow to cool and remove the stems and skin. Slice up, make sure to store any you have left over in an airtight jar.

     

    - Time to sauté your onions in a small knob of butter until just golden, add your spinach and toss until wilted.

     

    - Remove your pastry from the fridge and roll out. Grease your dish and add your pastry, crimp the edges if you want to be fancy, then blind bake using baking beans at 180 degrees for 25 minutes.

     

    - Make your cheats béchamel (not really béchamel at all, i know) by melting your butter in a saucepan, add the flour and mix to make a roux. Cook for a couple of minutes before slowly adding your milk, mixing all the time. Once the milk is all incorporated and the sauce has cooked for a couple of minutes more, remove your pan from the heat and add your cheddar to melt into the sauce.

     

    - Whisk your eggs. When the béchamel is cool add the eggs and whisk together. Remove your crust from the oven and lay the spinach and onions over the bottom of the crust. Pour over your filling evenly and top with pepper strips and crumbled chunks of feta. Be generous, I was far too mean with my toppings!

     

    - Cook in the oven for 40 minutes until golden on top.

     

    Do you have a favourite Quiche recipe I might like?

     

    P.S. What is it about the word Quiche, I cannot help but capitalise it, maybe because of the Q and the Queen?! I have had to go back and grammar check the whole post for errant capital Q's!!

     

  • Nutella Chunk + Raspberry Swirl Buttermilk Ice Cream

       

     

     

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    This post has been a long time coming, after all when is it finally acceptable to start posting about ice cream recipes? While in gale force winds and torrential rain? Dont think so!

    But, June is here, as I sit writing this the sky is blue and birds are twittering, the sun is hitting the hedge outside the window and Bert is basking on the doorstep. It is officially Ice Cream season.

     

    This particular recipe sort of came about by accident. I had one of those brainwaves while eating something else, it went something along the lines of  - Rosie getting me addicted to raspberry and nutella pancakes - ooo raspberry ripple ice cream would be good in a pancake -  wonder if you can put nutella in ice cream - How can I get the base to taste as close to pancake as possible - Recipe.Born.

     

    I think this is pretty close in taste too, the buttermilk base has the same slight tang that savoury pancakes with a little lemon juice have, and the raspberry syrup really packs a punch. Obviously the nutella isn't molten, but adding it in warm means that it doesn't freeze solid, it is instead slightly chewy and soft a complete surprise!

    You don't necessarily need an ice cream maker for this recipe either, as you could whisk it periodically while it is freezing to break up any ice crystals, but an ice cream maker does mean you keep the pretty swirls and they are fairly inexpensive if you want a basic one.

     

     

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    Ice cream base recipe is from The Hummingbird Bakery's new book Life is Sweet, which is well worth investing in!

     

    You will need:

    1 pot (235ml) of double cream

    1 pot (235ml) buttermilk

    135g Caster Sugar

    6 Large Egg Yolks

    1tsp Vanilla Extract

    Pinch of Salt

    1 punnet Raspberries

    2 tablespoons granulated sugar

    2 Tablespoons of Nutella, gently warmed in microwave.

     

    - In a pan combine the double cream and 100g of the caster sugar and simmer over a medium heat. In a jug, whisk your egg yolks and the remaining caster sugar until thick and pale.

     

    - While whisking, add 1/4 of the warm cream mixture to the egg mixture to warm it up, keep whisking to avoid scrambled eggs. Add the egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the cream/sugar mixture to make a custard. Put the pan back over a low heat and constantly stir until thickened. When ready the custard should coat the back of a spoon and a line drawn through stay crisp.

     

    - Remove from the heat and whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla and pinch of salt. Cover the custard with cling film, with the film actually touching the custard, not just the pan, and put in the fridge to cool.

     

    - While the custard cools, put your raspberries and granulated sugar into a pan over a low heat. Allow the fruit to break up completely stirring occasionally. Once all of the fruit has broken up and the mixture resembles a syrup, sieve the syrup to remove the fruit pips. Allow to cool.

     

    - Once your custard is cooled (around 45 minutes) churn it using the instructions for your ice cream maker. Mine requires me to turn it on, pour in the custard and wait around 20 minutes. Easy as that!

     

    - Once your custard is churned, begin to layer it with the raspberry sauce and warmed Nutella in a freezer safe container. Once you are finished layering, take a blunt knife to give it an extra swirl, pop the lid on and freeze for a couple of hours until truly set.

     

    - Scoop and serve in a waffle cone for the best flavour, and if you have extra raspberry syrup left over don't forget to drizzle that over too!

     

  • Macarons | A Work in Progress

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    So this was going to be a recipe post, before I realised that I made the blood orange curd inside these in February and took no pictures. Thus I just thought I would tease you a bit with the pictures of the Macaron I have been working on, next time I practice them I will make sure to do things properly :)

    Have you ever made your own macaron before?

  • Veg Box #x3E;#x3E; Spring

       

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    This week was national Vegetarian week I believe, and i just so happen to have been working on this post for a few weeks now and realised it would perfectly coincide, so i thought I should share.

     

    A few weeks ago I dropped into the farm shop on the way home from work and picked up a seasonal veg box. I have been trying to be more conscious of the fruit and vegetables we buy, for a while there we were getting into the nasty habit of not using things up and I hate wastage. I like the boxes from our local shop, they feature lots of items we would use up without even thinking about it (potatoes, carrots, cauliflower) and then they add in a couple of seasonal items that I have to exercise my brain for (asparagus, beetroots and leeks). I thought it would be nice to show you how I use those slightly less run of the mill items when I pick up a box.

     

    If you don't have a local farm shop to supply your veg box, Riverford Organics deliver all over the country from one of their many "local" farms (they deliver from the one nearest to you) and were the original organic veg box delivery service, I was seriously considering one of these services before our farm shop started selling veg boxes, and they offer a huge variety of options.

     

    Asparagus and Lemon Pasta ::

     

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    This one is all The Queen's own (Nigella Lawson from Nigella Summer) though I have adapted the amounts and method slightly, it's a bit different from the typical asparagus with hollandaise but equally delicious so I thought I would share.

     

    You Will Need ::

    1 large bunch of Asparagus

    125ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    3 Cloves Garlic

    Juice and Zest of a Lemon

    Enough Penne for two

    Handful of Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

     

    - Snap the woody bits off the bottom of the asparagus, and chop them into pieces roughly the same size as your pasta. Put your asparagus into a  pan top steamer to wait.

     

    - Put your pasta on to boil in a large pan of salted and oiled water. Put a frying pan on a low heat with the Extra Virgin Olive oil in it, chop your garlic and add it to the pan, cook it very slowly until just golden. Do not burn it! When it looks like it is just starting to turn gold, put your asparagus steamer on top of your pasta pan.

     

    - Remove the frying pan from the heat and add the juice of your lemon. Stir, after a few minutes more your asparagus should be steamed, remove from the pasta pan and when the pasta is cooked (should be about the same time) scoop it into the frying pan. Add the asparagus and stir, adding the parsley and lemon zest last.

     

    - Serve into bowls and top generously with parmesan cheese.

     

    She never gets it wrong does Nigella! Fresh and delicious.

     

    Leek and Cider Welsh Rarebit ::

     

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    This is my version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe from River Cottage Year, and it is far far superior (Sorry Hugh!)

     

    You will need ::

    2 Leeks

    50g Butter, plus extra for frying

    50g Plain Flour

    Half a Bottle of Apple Cider or a glass of tart fresh apple juice.

    100g Cheddar, grated, plus a healthy grating of parmesan cheese.

    Worcestershire sauce

    English mustard

    4 Slices of bread, toasted.

     

    - Slice your leeks finely and sweat in a frying pan over a low heat in butter.

     

    - In a saucepan melt your butter, then add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook the floury taste off for a few minutes, then add your cider or apple juice. I have to say, using the cheap sweet concentrated apple juice really won't work with this, it needs to be tart fresh real stuff, or cider, you need the tang.

     

    - Stir over a low heat until you have a thick sauce. Add your grated cheddar and stir until melted. Season with pepper, a blob of mustard and a good splash of Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the leeks.

     

    - Take each slice of toast and place them on a tray or in a griddle tray. Top each generously with the leeks mixture and then scatter over the parmesan. Splash with Worcestershire sauce and pop under the grill. Keep an eye on it, we don't want it to burn, we just want the parmesan to melt into the rest of the sauce and go slightly brown.

     

    Serve as is, or with a salad if you want to make it healthier.

     

    Roasted Beetroot and Butternut Squash Galette ::

     

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    All my own this time, don't be afraid of peeling the beets, simply wash your hands between each one to prevent stained cuticles!

     

    You Will Need:

    1 batch of shortcrust pastry, or to make your own: 280g Plain Flour, 60g Lard and 60g Butter, 1tsp Poppy Seeds, splash or two of milk.

    4 medium sized beetroots, or 3 large, washed.

    1 Butternut squash, peeled and sliced fairly thinly.

    1 red onion.

    Half a pack of Feta Cheese

    1 Clove Garlic

    Small amount of olive oil

    Egg wash

     

    - Make your pastry, In a shallow dish cube your lard and butter and coat in the flour, put the dish in the freezer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove from freezer and put into food processor, slowly add splashes of milk while the processor is on until the pastry has barely come together. Add your poppy seeds, pulse slightly to distribute. Remove pastry from mixer and lightly work together into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

     

    - Roast your beetroots, chop off the leaves and any particularly scraggly roots. Take a square of foil for each beet and while still damp from washing wrap each one individually. Place into a baking dish and roast on a high heat for half an hour, or until you can easily push a blunt knife into them.

     

    - When your pastry is rested, take out of the fridge and roll out thinly, directly onto a floured baking tray. slice your onion into thin rings and distribute around the middle of the pastry, leaving at least an inch free from filling around the edge.

     

    - Once your beetroots are roasted remove them from the oven and turn the heat down to around 170C. Take them out of the foil and peel the skins off with either your fingers, or I find it easiest to use a blunt knife to scrape them away. Slice them thinly.

     

    - Arrange your squash and beetroot on top of the onions, I wanted it to look pretty so I alternated, but you don't have to as it is a little fiddly. Crush your clove of Garlic over the top and drizzle the whole thing with a little olive oil. Crumble over your feta.

     

    - Begin to very carefully fold the pastry edge up and over the top of the fillings to create a lip, pleating where necessary. Brush with egg wash and slide into the oven. Cook for around 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

     

    Serve this warm on a spring afternoon, or it is also delicious packed up for lunch or a picnic.

  • Lunch | Mexican Chicken, Soured Cream + Lime Salad

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    As I am sure many of you do too, I have to take a lunch in to work. My office is in the middle of an industrial estate, and although I sometimes treat myself to posh sandwiches when I am at one of the branches, for the everyday I have to cart my lunchbox in to work.

    This poses a problem for me as I am not really a fan of traditional lunch foods, I am not big on sandwiches, crisps etc. I have to get creative with my lunch food, and recently this is a meal I have been packing into my tiffin and taking into the office.

     

    Succulent chicken and crispy bacon with a slightly spicy coating is kept fresh with a soured cream, lime and coriander dressing, and the odd chunk of avocado keeps the texture party going.

     

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    You will need:

    1tsp of each, Paprika, Ground Coriander, Chilli powder, Cayenne

    2tsp of each  Dried Oregano, Smoked sea salt, caster sugar and Garlic Powder

    Mixed salad leaves

    Cooked chicken, I use roasted chicken (roasted specifically for my lunches)

    Streaky Bacon

    1 Ripe Avocado

    2 tbsp Soured Cream

    3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Small bunch Coriander

    Juice of 1/2 Lime

     

     

    - In a pestle and mortar grind up your spices, the measures here are probably enough for 3 or 4 salads, I like to make a big batch of this and store it for fajita's. make sure your sea salt is smoked, it adds an extra layer to the flavour.

     

    - Take a small frying pan and over a low heat, cook your bacon. Make sure you cook low and slow to make it crispy.

     

    - Prep your dressing, in a jar or sealable container add your soured cream, oil, chopped coriander and lime juice. Season, then shake.

     

    - Once your bacon is cooked, add the chicken to warm through and a spoonful or two of your spice mix. Let it soak into the fat for a second then stir, coating your meat.

     

    - Place your salad leaves in your bowl or lunch box, slice your avocado and drizzle a couple of drops of left over lime onto it.

     

    - Place your avocado on your lettuce, and pour over the seasoned meat. If eating straight away drizzle with your dressing. If not, pop some of your dressing into a mini jar and tuck into your lunch box.

     

    - Enjoy a luxury salad while everyone else tucks into jam sandwiches :)

  • Midweek Meal | Mushroom + Thyme Risotto

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    I think there is a bit of fear surrounding risotto, it never seems to appear in "quick" recipe books and always carries the mantle of being a labour of love. I have never been one to believe in that to be honest, risotto for me is super quick comfort food, and my favourite thing to mix into it is chestnut mushrooms. Woody and rich they add a depth of flavour that is perfectly complemented by the sharp wine and parmesan. A sprinkle of fresh thyme at the last minute brings a spring zing while not being too clean tasting.

    This risotto is easy for a weeknight, it doesn't require watching like a hawk or stirring until your arm drops off. It is warming yet still light enough for a spring or summer evening, and I make it in just under 30 minutes.

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    You will need (for two large portions):

    Half a medium sized onion, chopped.

    2 cloves of garlic, chopped.

    200g Risotto Rice

    1 large glass of white wine

    750ml stock (I used chicken)

    200g chestnut mushrooms.

    Large block of parmesan cheese.

    A few stalks of fresh thyme.

    - Place a large heavy bottomed saucepan on to a medium heat, add a large wedge of butter and drizzle the drizzle the butter with oil. heat slowly under just browned, then add your chopped onion and garlic. Cook until lightly browned.

    - Begin to heat your stock, either in a pan on the stove or in the microwave as I do as I keep mine frozen.

    - Add your risotto rice to the onion and garlic and stir until coated in the fat. turn the heat up and add your wine, feel free to add more if you like the flavour, and then wait for a minute or so for all of the alcohol to cook off. Turn the heat back to medium.

    - Ladle 1/4 of your stock into the rice and stir. leave to bubble away for a few minutes while you slice your mushrooms and grate your parmesan. How much you grate is up to you, I like a lot of parmesan, I also like to add more to the top, I grated enough to be classed as a large handful.

    - Come back to your risotto, give it a stir and if the stock is all absorbed, ladle in another 1/4. Again leave the pan be for a few minutes, go and strip your thyme stalks of leaves.

    - Come back and stir your pan, if the stock is almost absorbed, add the next 1/4 of your stock and all of the mushrooms. Give the risotto a really really good stir at this point. The mushrooms will give out some of their own liquid as they cook, so keep an eye on the risotto after another couple of minutes, and add the last 1/4 of stock along with the thyme.

    - Once the stock has been almost completely absorbed but still a little gooey turn the heat off and stir in your parmesan. Keep stirring until it is all melted.

    - Dish up and top with more parmesan. Enjoy, and try not to go back for more!

  • Eton Tidy :: Mess re-imagined

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    I have a confession to make, I don't like meringue.

    I know, I know, I should just hand in my passport now, how dare I not like meringue, what about pavlova! What about baked alaska! Roulade, lemon meringue pie, the list goes on. I just don't really like it, it makes my mouth dry and I subside into coughing fits and it feels weird.

     

    This does cause somewhat of an issue for me, as I love the idea of Eton Mess. It has strawberries (love!) it has whipped cream (double love!) and it has meringue (uh-oh). Thus you can understand my conundrum. In sidles Italian Meringue, waving from the wings.

    Though far from typical for Eton mess, I can totally get down with the idea of Italian Meringue, it is basically a big blob of melted marshmallow, that stays melted, who wouldn't like that? And so, after the longest excuse in history, came Eton tidy, Eton mess that is still a bit messy as it gets a bit sticky, but is much better artfully arranged before being devoured, and it is bliss!

     

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    I warn you now, this isn't the simplest of recipes (when are egg whites ever simple) and involves pouring hot syrup into a mixer that is switched to a high speed, I would not recommend making this without a stand mixer unless you have a. A helper and b. very strong arms, or a helper to tag team with, as you have to whip this stuff for a good 15 minutes at least.

     

    On that note...

    You will need:

     

    - 150g of egg whites, this was around 4 medium sized eggs for me.

    - 300g Caster sugar

    - 25g Liquid glucose

    - Strawberries

    - 100ml of Pimm's No1 Cup

    - 1 tbsp of Granulated sugar

    - Cream for whipping, I used double because why not.

     

    To make some Eton Tidy:

     

    :: Put your caster sugar, liquid glucose and 65ml of cold water into a small heavy bottomed saucepan and put it on a medium heat to melt. Once warm enough to mix, give it a stir. Once fully combined, turn up the heat and using a sugar thermometer wait until the syrup reaches 100 degrees C.

     

    :: While your syrup is getting up to temperature put your egg whites in your mixer and start whisking them until stiff, as soon as your syrup reaches 115 degrees, turn down your mixer to a medium speed and slowly pour the hot syrup into the egg whites. Turn the speed back up, and keep whisking until the egg whites are completely cooled, this took around 20-25 minutes for me.

     

    :: As you wait for your egg whites to cool, find yourself another small pan and pour in your Pimm's and tablespoon of sugar. Put this on the hob on a very low heat, we just want to simmer off the alcohol here and make a slightly sweeter syrup. If you want it to be boozey feel free to just use straight up Pimm's.

     

    :: Once your Pimm's syrup has been simmering for around 10 minutes give it a taste and take it off the heat to cool for a bit. Hull and chop your strawberries. Once the syrup has come down to room temperature, pour over the strawberries to infuse.

     

    :: Whip your cream. Resist feeding it to the cat.

     

    :: By now your egg whites should be cool. I kept holding the bowl to get an idea of temperature and then sticking my finger into a bit to see how it was doing. If still warm, keep the whisking up.

     

    :: Once it is cool, it is time to either try and pipe the stuff (it's hard!) or just dollop it on to a piece of greaseproof. Now you can go two ways with the next step, you can use a cooks torch to toast the outside like I did, or you can put the meringues under a really hot grill for the same effect. There are mixed opinions on how best to finish off Italian meringue, so I will let you decide.

     

    :: Once the meringues are holding together and not melting, carefully arrange all of your elements in a bowl and tuck in. Ice cream is optional.

     

    Let me know if you give this a go, I think it is going to be my new staple for summer weekends spent in the garden :)

     

  • Late Night S'more's

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    ^^ Cute tray from Waitrose in their new picnic range^^

    We had our second BBQ in two weeks one night last week, after really being on poor form last year we are making that BBQ work it this year! It was a bit weird to be cooking in the dark (we didn't get going until gone 8pm) but the evening was so warm and it had been a lovely day so it was nice to simply wind down outside with the fire flickering away.

    I decided the perfect way to end the evening was with s'mores, made using left over easter chocolate. I know, we have left over chocolate, that's weird isn't it?

    I always keep a bag of those American giant marshmallows in the cupboard for moments like these, I would never recommend you buy them to eat plain, they taste a bit weird, but slowly melted over the hot coals (or set on fire as James prefers) they have a delicious sweet caramelised flavour. They were absolutely a bit of a mid-week treat so I am oh so glad that we did have those left overs, something about the chocolate being thinner than a normal bar makes all the difference.

    How would you make your ideal S'more?