This week we’ve been doing a little challenge to live solely on organic produce (more of this tomorrow). For Sunday lunch, I wanted to make something really special. Marinating chicken in spiced buttermilk makes it really tender and juicy, and flattening it means that it cooks really quickly and evenly. It’s especially good for barbecuing and means that you end up with really crisp skin. I can never be bothered to actually buy buttermilk, so I make my own by adding the juice of a lemon to the milk. You can choose whatever herbs you like – I have thyme in the garden so I used that, but anything will do.
My lovely friend Dave was telling me recently how yummy cauliflower ‘rice’ is (basically cauliflower shredded, or whizzed in the food processor to make faux ‘rice’ – a less carby alternative). I was sceptical, but then my buddy Laura told me she loves it too and that she stir fries hers and makes it loads. Inspired, I thought I’d better give it a go. I know curry isn’t much of a summer staple, but it’s a great Friday night takeaway avoidance technique when the weather’s not that balmy.
Oh isn’t it just heavenly to see the sunshine? I’ve been waking really early, the sun streaming through the curtains (this makes Mr E really grumpy but I LOVE it), making myself a cup of honey and lemon in hot water (current obsession) and wandering around the garden, watching Tails the cat hiding under the delicious-smelling jasmine (by the way, look at the size of him – will he ever stop growing?), watering my little terracotta pots of herbs and other bits and pieces, playing tug of war with Lyra…
I love, love, love travelling, and I’m so lucky that my job involves visiting all sorts of wonderful places and eating all sorts of amazing food. If there’s one drawback (there has to be one, right?) it’s that I tend to put on a little ‘food baby’ every time I go. There’s so much scrummy food, it’s find it impossible to resist. So when I’m at home, I try and cook delicious food that cuts down on the ol’ carbs and focuses on colourful, healthy, tasty ingredients. This ratatouille with spiced, roasted chicken is a good start!
Sam came home from uni the other day and completely randomly had a craving for loaded potato skins. They’re not something I ever cook, but I had a go and wow, they’re pretty moreish. I can see them being our Saturday evening TV viewing snackage of choice from now on. Here’s how I did it:
I love a feast. A proper, gather round the table heaped with dishes, everyone talking at once, help yourself, kind of feast. My favourite one recently was our huge Middle Eastern feast for New Year’s Eve. when the table was heaving with all sorts of different things ready to tuck into. We talked, we laughed, we drank lovely wine, we stuffed all sorts of different things into pittas, and then into our faces. A real joyful night.
IT’S NEARLY HERE! If you’re hosting Christmas lunch/dinner this year, here is everything you need to do, including lots of tips to make it stress free and ensure you spend your precious time with your family and friends, and not too much chained to the oven! Remember, don’t panic, and just think of it as a roast dinner on a slightly larger scale.
Before you start, grab a cuppa and have a read through:
Lovely Asda sent me a very festive hamper this weekend: not chocolates, or chutney, no, the best kind: MEAT!
Of course, not everyone wants to eat a traditional roast turkey at Christmas, and Asda’s Extra Special range has some stunning alternatives, including an Extra Special rack of venison, and a unique six bird roast, with British turkey, skinless duck fillet, chicken breast, wild pheasant, partridge and pigeon. The thought of these ‘bird within a bird’ roasts sometimes puts me off (how do you cut off the skin and inedible bits of each bird?) but Asda’s chefs have worked hard to create a dish with all the nice edible bits. It’s covered in a lattice of oak smoked streaky bacon and all you need to do is shove it in the oven. It serves 10 and costs £40 – in store now.
If you’ve been in Tesco recently, you’ll have seen that they’re currently running a sticker promotion where you can save up to 70% on exclusive Berndes cookware products (collect one sticker for every £20 you spend – once you’ve collected five stickers you can use them to buy the discounted cookware. Tesco very kindly send me one of the casseroles to try. They’re wonderfully chunky and heavy – perfect for soups, stews and casseroles. I tried my hand at a little one-pot cooking:
My store cupboard is really important to me. As well as the basics like salt, pepper, oil and stock cubes, I like to have lots of different seasoning mixes and dried herbs and spices, especially at this time of year when it’s more difficult to pop into the garden for a handful of parsley or coriander. Products from the lovely chaps at Schwartz feature heavily in my kitchen – I like dried coriander in my winter curries, and we’re all completely addicted to the Perfect Shake seasoning blend for chips (if you haven’t discovered this yet, grab some now, it’s awesome).
Yesterday, we were wondering what to have for dinner – it never seems right to have a roast on a hot day – when Sam mentioned that we used to have chicken noodle soup all the time, but we hadn’t had it for ages.
Just so happens that I had a chilli, a lime, and some ginger (I keep the ginger in the freezer anyway) and half a pack of noodles, and it seemed the perfect, fresh alternative to full on Sunday dinner, so it was game on.
I love roast beef. I’m a bit slapdash when cooking it, but I always use the same timings and it always turns out okay for me. This step-by-step works whether you’re intending to cook a full-on roast dinner, or make the warm salad with Thai flavours that I’ve made here.
I still feel the urge to cook a ‘proper’ Sunday lunch, even though a full on roast dinner seems a bit at odds with the time of year (although it seems to have done nothing but rain recently). This tomato-based braised beef feels a bit lighter than my normal beef stew and dumplings, especially with the addition of some spring greens just before the end of cooking.
Continuing with my new menu planning obsession (honestly, it’s saving me A FORTUNE – I’ve got my favourites saved on the online shopping app and I just tweak it every week, then buy the odd bit of fresh stuff from the farmer’s market or my fab local farm shop), I thought I’d share another of my staple ingredients: puff pastry. I do quite like making puff pastry (well, rough puff), but there’s certainly no shame in using ready made, and a pack of all butter puff pastry is the perfect thing to keep in the fridge to make tarts, pies and much more.
Oh the rain! I just think it’s gone away and it comes back again. The pupster pings around the house like a lunatic if she doesn’t get out an about so it’s wellies and hat on and out into the wet and cold I go.
Of course, this calls for a comforting, winter dinner (any excuse) and what better than a scrummy toad in the hole with lashings of onion gravy.
If you’re looking for an easy Christmas eve supper, or something yummy to serve with drinks when you have guests, look no further than very simple to throw together sausage roll recipe. The filling is my easy apple and red onion stuffing, which can be baked separately and served along with your turkey, but also makes a lovely, moist filling for pies and these easy sausage rolls. So first, make the stuffing:
Easy apple and red onion stuffing:
(serves 4-6, double up as necessary):
1 tbsp butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 dessert apple, grated (don’t bother to peel)
225g pork sausage meat (or you can use the innards of sausages)
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
375g pack ready to roll puff pastry
Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the onion and fry gently until soft. Add the apple and cook until softened. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
Stir the sausage meat and breadcrumbs into the onion mixture along with the herbs and lemon juice.
Now, grab a nice pack of all butter puff pastry (life’s too short to make your own, I find, although if you really want to, I’ve got a rough puff recipe here which isn’t too labour intensive).
Roll the puff pastry out to a nice big rectangle (you need the thickness to be about 1/2 cm), then squish your sausagemeat down the middle in a big fat sausage.
Now, brush the edges with beaten egg, then flap the first edge over the sausagemeat. Brush that one with egg again, then fold over the second flap, so you’ve created one big, long sausage roll. Turn that roll over so that the seam is at the bottom. For a supper dish, it’s nice to keep it whole and slice at the table, but if you’re wanting individual bite-sized ones for a party, cut them now with a serrated edged knife, then score the top and brush with egg.
Bake at gas 4/180 degrees for about 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown and crispy. If you’re cutting your sausage into individual pieces, they’ll only take about 20 minutes.
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