Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Snow Rants and Orange Bread

I feel I should have some sort of soup or stew to share today as we woke up to a blanket of snow this morning.  Not enough to be useful, eg. give my husband a day off work, but enough to be inconvenient.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for snow under the right circumstances when it’s pretty and fluffy and we have no commitments other than going out to enjoy it.  But being realistic, mostly I find it a pain.  There were many times on my commute to work in London when I dreaded snow.  It always seems to me that if this country had a transport system that coped with snow then issues such as how to get in to work would “melt” away.  Instead everything grinds to a halt quite literally and you are forced to embark on a journey which will result in freezing toes and hours of wasted time, trudging through snow in your wellington boots or whatever snow worthy attire you have chosen at 6am, getting to the train station packed full of other weary commuters, looking at display boards that make no sense and tell blatant lies about trains that aren’t running.  I once spent two hours crouched on the floor of a train which travelled four miles before spewing its tired and cold bewildered commuters out and then spent another two hours trying to get a train that would get me back to where I’d started.

Anyway to this orange bread! If you are lucky enough to have a snow day then you should make this.  It’s a good reason to light the oven for a little extra warmth while being rewarded for your endeavours by creating something that tastes like sunshine.  I’ve posted about this cake before.  It was a lemon version.  I’m being a total cheat by using oranges this time instead.  Both are incredible.  Follow the recipe and use whatever citrus you have.  You can find the recipe here.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Lamb and Apricot Stew or a Study in Steam

I love a good steam shot.  Just piping hot food and winter light.  I got a little carried away here.  The stew is flavoured with Ras El Hanout spice mix which originates from North Africa and has got to be one of the prettiest spice mixes around with its dried rose petals.  Containing spices like paprika, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, chilli and ginger it can’t fail to warm you up on a cold day.  The lamb is melt in the mouth tender and the sweetness from the apricots compliments the warming spices perfectly.

Find the recipe here from BBC Good Food.
Notes: I add sliced carrot and fennel to my stew and I like to cook mine for at least an hour so that the meat is really tender.  You will need a bit more stock if you are going to cook it longer.  I threw in some chopped kale at the end and I served this over brown rice.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

I wasn’t planning on such a long blog break but life has been busy with a 4 month old keeping me on my toes.  He has no interest in pretty napkins and taking photos, unless of course they are of him or perhaps a bottle of milk.  I didn’t manage to blog much last year and I’ve missed it so blogging more is a New Year resolution of sorts.  If anyone is still reading this blog then thanks for sticking around!

This roasted butternut squash risotto is a regular meal through winter.  I love the vibrant orange of the squash to warm up a grey day.  It’s easy to throw together and comforting to eat.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to make risotto but I do mine a little differently by adding quinoa for a healthier and lighter meal.  If that isn’t your thing just make your favourite risotto recipe, roast the squash and add both the squash and kale to your risotto at the end.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Serves 2
½ butternut squash, peeled and diced
2-3 cavolo nero leaves finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Knob of butter
1oz quinoa rinsed
2-3oz Arborio rice
500ml stock (I use chicken stock)
Hard goats cheese or parmesan, grated

For the roasted squash: line a baking sheet with parchment.  Spread out the butternut squash, sprinkle with thyme and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in the oven for approx 35 minutes at Gas mark 7.

For the risotto: Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the shallot or onion.  Sauté over a low heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté for a further minute.  Add the butter followed by quinoa and Arborio rice.  Sauté for a two minutes until the rice becomes translucent and the quinoa is slightly toasty.  Deglaze the pan with a ladle full of stock or white wine if you prefer.  Once the stock is absorbed by the rice add another ladle full and continue with this method until the rice is cooked, about 25 minutes, stirring between each addition of stock.  Add the roasted butternut squash and chopped kale.  Cook for a further minute then turn off the heat, add the grated cheese and cover with a lid.  Leave the risotto to rest for two minutes then serve with more grated cheese on top if you like.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Down on the Farm

Our external hard drive is getting a little full so I’ve been going through my out of control and badly organised photos folder.  The idea was that I would clear some stuff out but instead I fell down a rabbit hole discovering photos I’d forgotten about.  These shots of a derelict farm on one of our regular walks were taken in April over two years ago!  I love how the spring light is captured in these photos with the promise of summer just around the corner.  Something to warm me up on this blustery October day.  It also reminded me that I need to take my camera out more like I used to rather than just relying on my iphone.  Practicing my photography is something I really want to get back into.

Monday, 13 October 2014


How time flies when you disappear off to have a baby...  Lately I’ve been spending my sleep deprived days getting to know our gorgeous little boy.  Things are a little chaotic.

In my last week of pregnancy I suddenly found the urge to cook but the seasons also changed on me and now this cherry crumble looks a little wrong.  Throw in plums or blackberries or whatever autumn fruit tickles your fancy.  Recipe here from Green Kitchen Stories along with impossibly beautiful photography.

I also made these incredible sugar free cookies.  In fact I took a batch to give me much needed energy while I was in labour.  Ha, that didn’t happen.  Labour and food did not go together.  This recipe is so good.  I’ve managed to make a couple of batches since and can’t stop munching my way through them.  Recipe here from A Sweet Spoonful.  I used pecans, pistachios and cacao nibs in place of the walnuts. Make sure you top with flaked sea salt.  Don’t skip this part, it’s key to the overall taste of the cookie.

Now that autumn is well and truly under way I’ve been getting back in to soup in a big way.  I’ve been making batches of this curried sweet potato soup at the weekends and I also made a parsnip version of this carrot and ginger soup and added a pinch of cumin to spice things up a little.  So glad it’s parsnip season again!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Novelty Vegetables

I seem to have found my way back to the kitchen lately.  I’ve dusted off my camera and found a little inspiration again.  It helps that there is so much crazy good food to be eaten at this time of year.  I’m literally coming back from the market sinking under the weight of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Ok, my husband is sinking under the weight.  I pretty much carry nothing apart from the small human I’m overcooking.  41 weeks, come on!

I was instantly charmed and intrigued by the purple cauliflower I saw at the market last week.  Obviously I had to buy one immediately and take pictures of it with my phone because that’s the kind of weird stuff that amuses me.  Purple cauliflower tastes much the same as regular cauliflower but I was pleased that it retains its colour while cooking.  A little research revealed that it also has added health benefits containing extra levels of antioxidants.

I was roasting some new potatoes for lunch so I decided to throw some cauliflower in with those.  It made a great side dish.  I’ll definitely be having my husband schlep one home from the market again.
Spicy Roasted New Potatoes and Purple Cauliflower
Serves 2 as a side dish.
New potatoes chopped in to bite size pieces
½ head cauliflower broken down in to bite size florets
For the spice mix: I tend not to measure so add or subtract amounts according to your taste.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon of cumin,
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7.  Line a baking tray with parchment.
Place the new potatoes and cauliflower in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil.  As soon as the water boils remove from the heat, drain and allow the vegetables to steam dry for a couple of minutes.
Mix the spices, thyme, olive oil and honey together in a bowl and add the vegetables.  Combine until the vegetables are well coated.  Pour the vegetables into your prepared baking tray.  Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes turning occasionally until golden brown.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Lamb Ragù

After months with scarcely a blog post two have come along in close proximity, much like buses apparently.  While I’m here twiddling my thumbs and trying to be patient I thought I’d share my ragù recipe with you.  According to Nigella, ragout is French and ragù is Italian.  I tend to think of this version as the latter.  I have no doubt it’s far from the traditional recipe but it’s one that has evolved for me over the years and I like it just the way it is, simple and easy to throw together.  Partly because I like to buy organic meat which is expensive I tend to add lentils as this means I can use less meat to make the pennies and the meal stretch a little further.  Lentils also add a good fibre element.  I cook them in the sauce along with everything else for a long time and you can barely notice they are there if hiding lentils is your thing.

Serves 2, easily doubled
The measurements here are approximate.  I tend not to measure anything but just throw it in ad hoc.
200g lamb mince (I like to use organic lamb mince)
30g (two handfuls) Lentils (either du puy, brown or green), rinsed
Extra virgin olive oil, about 1 ½ tablespoons
1 small onion or large shallot finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 carrots peeled and sliced
½ a large fennel bulb, fronds removed, diced
1 generous teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon tomato puree
400ml Passata
Water as necessary

In a non stick pan brown the lamb mince in a dash of extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
In a sauté pan fry the onion in extra virgin olive oil until translucent.  Add the carrots and fennel and continue to cook over a low heat until the vegetables begin to soften.  Next add the garlic and the rosemary.  Add the browned lamb mince to the pan and then add the tomato puree.  Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the passata and a little water.  Finally add the lentils and give everything a good stir.  Leave to simmer for 1 ½ hours and add water if the mixture begins to look a little dry.  Serve over your favourite pasta with grated cheese on top.