Category Archives: recipes

recipes trips

Cooking on the road – bean stew

I grew up camping with my family. I think we stayed in bed and breakfasts about three times in my childhood and the first time I stayed in a real hotel was probably when my Dad took me to New York when I was 14.

There is so much I love about camping: sitting outside late into the night, doing everything in the fresh air, the sense of community with your temporary neighbours. When we were kids we’d even love it when it rained as it meant we’d cycle to the bar of the nearest fancy hotel and spend the afternoon playing endless games of cards.

I’ve done a lot of camping with friends or Mr V in the last decade, but most of it has been at festivals, or while backpacking, or we’ve flown somewhere or got the train. So it’s all been more like having a tent to sleep in, but not really camping. This trip felt like the first time going back to those childhood camping holidays, where we literally brought the kitchen sink (or at least a washing up bowl) and cooked most meals ourselves. It felt so familiar.

My mum would always pack the same meal to eat when we arrived – rice and a tin of chicken in white sauce. I have many happy memories of eating this same meal in the dark or in the rain at the end of a long, long car journey. I brought a tin of chicken in white sauce on this holiday for old times’ sake, but it didn’t turn out to be our favourite meal. (Although, I think mine tasted better than Mr V’s, as it was seasoned with nostalgia)

The first full day Mr V and I were in France was a Sunday and we managed to find a supermarket just minutes before it closed. Our food shopping became a supermarket sweep as we both ricocheted around trying to get everything we needed before it shut. We’d bump into each other and go: “Squash!” “Mosquito repellant!” “Toothpaste!” and then dash off. Needless to say, we didn’t quite come out with a carefully considered meal plan, just a load of stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Anyway. That’s how this recipe came about, when we found ourselves back at the campsite with a tin of beans, two courgettes and some leftover saucisson from lunch. It tasted so good that we actually made it three or four times while we were away!

I’m calling it a “recipe”, but really I think beans plus meat and veg in a pot is probably a) more of a formula than a recipe! and b) probably the oldest meal there is (if your beans weren’t tinned). But, hey, I made it and liked it, so thought I’d share

That stove there is a Trangia 27 and it’s one of my favourite camping tools ever (right up there with my Swiss Army knife). It’s a hand-me-down from my Dad and I thought it was dead but then I replaced the burner (the old one had corroded because my teenage self didn’t look after it very well). The rest of it is practially good as new even though it’s been used and used. It’s just one of those things that really, really works! It folds up into a unit about the size of a smallish saucepan, but inside it has the burner, windshield (it burns in all weathers, even rain) two saucepans, a frying pan and a handle for them all. Anyway. Not sponsored or anything but I love it.

I love the challenge of cooking on a single ring. You have to time everything right and juggle all the different elements of a meal, while only being able to heat things one at a time. Rice is pretty handy for this (using this method, it cooks itself perfectly after the initial blast), but cous cous is phenomenal! You just put half a mug of cous cous (for two people) in a bowl with (optional) a slug of olive oil and some salt, and then pour over 3/4 of a mug of boiling water and set aside (covered) for ten minutes or until you’re ready to eat it.  Done.

Camping Bean Stew

Ingredients:

Olive oil

Cous cous (half a mug)

Courgette (one or two small ones)

Saucisson (or other cured meat, such as chorizo or salami) (a couple of inches)

Tin of cannelloni beans (other beans would work) (about a 400g tin)

Cherry tomatoes (a handful)

Salt and Pepper

1) Boil your water for your cous cous first, then set it aside as detailed above.

2) Meanwhile, cut up the courgette and saucisson into slices (we later added leeks to the mix as well, with good results)

3) Fry the courgettes and saucisson in a little olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan (or in the frying pan if you have one)

4) Pour over the tin of beans, season, stir well and cover. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer until the beans are cooked.

5) When nearly ready, add the tomatoes (I like mine cut in half).

6) Serve with the cous cous.

Friends, I’m curious – what sort of family holiday did your family go on as a child? Do you find yourself gravitating back to the same things now your older? And, if you camp, what’s your favourite thing to cook when you’re there?

recipes

Glass encrusted pizza, anyone?

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Recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian, click photograph to view

Last week, I decided to make a pizza from scratch, riffing on my new favourite pizza recipe (pictured above in a page from my recipe book). I made the dough from scratch and left it to rise for an hour or two, caramelised a load of red onions, rolled out the pizza dough and topped it with passata, spinach, Parmesan and an egg (plus tuna for mr v).

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I popped the first in the oven. Eight minutes later, the timer pinged, I peeked through the glass to see a gorgeous looking pizza (if I say so myself) and… The inner glass door exploded everywhere! Ack!

The pizza and the oven were both a glassy mess.

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Can you imagine how upsetting it was so spend all that time creating this, but it being totally inedible? We tried picking the glass out (don’t try this at home kids) but every time we thought we’d got it all, another shard would glint at us…

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I was going to attempt to fry the second (still raw) pizza  (google suggested it might not be a total failure). When I discovered that it, too, somehow had a sprinkling of glass on it, I balled up all that lovely dough and threw it in the bin. I might have had a little strop.
We got a takeaway pizza.

I’ll try again when the oven is fixed!

recipes

Kitchen and Kedgeree

Hello! I promised you pictures of our new kitchen and… I don’t, for boring reasons that you don’t need to know about.

But you can totally see some tiny bits in the background of some poorly lit pictures of last night’s dinner (later this week I’ll share the  kitchen pics, ok?)

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So, kedgeree! My mum used to make this for dinner all the time so I always find it comforting. But unlike most comfort food, it’s not terrible for you and it’s almost fancy-ish. Ha!

(From Wikipedia: “Kedgeree is a dish consisting of cooked, flaked fish (sometimes smoked haddock), boiled rice, parsley, hard-boiled eggs, curry powder, butter or cream and occasionally sultanas….It is widely believed that the dish was brought to the United Kingdom by returning British colonials who had enjoyed it in India and introduced it to the UK as a breakfast dish in Victorian times…An alternative view is that the dish originated from Scotland and was taken to India by Scottish troops during the British Raj, where it was adapted and adopted as part of Indian cuisine.”)

So. With some help from Delia, here’s how I make kedgeree (although we have it, like most other people these days, for dinner not breakfast). It seems fiddlier written down but is pretty easy really. The sun-dried tomatoes are my addition, feel free to leave them out! Oh, and I hate fresh parsley (I know, right?) so feel free to add that back in!

Buttery kedgeree for two

  • 260g smoked haddock fillets
  • large knob of butter (table-spoon ish?) (oil would work too)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder
  • one mugful of white rice
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • frozen peas
  • half a cup of sun-dried tomatoes
  • a few pinches of paprika
  1. Boil the haddock in at least a pint of water for 8 minutes (with the lid on). Get the fish out with a slotted spoon and cover with foil to keep warm; keep the fishy water (skim the foamy stuff)
  2. Chop the onion and fry in the butter for five minutes. Stir in the curry powder.
  3. Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil, allow to boil for one minute then remove from the heat. Set aside with a tightly sealed lid for fifteen minutes.
  4. Add the dry rice and stir until it’s fully coated in buttery curry goodness
  5. Add just under two mugfuls of the fish water (top up with clean water if need be). Put on a tightly sealed lid and simmer for ten minutes
  6. When the time is through, turn the heat off but leave the lid on for another five minutes.
  7. Mix together rice, fish, lemon juice, frozen peas and chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  8. Around this time, the eggs will have had their 15 mins. Replace the water they’re in with cold water to get perfect soft-hard eggs.
  9. Let the flavours meld a little (and the hot rice to cook the peas) while you peel the eggs. Once peeled, cut them in half and put a pinch of paprika on each egg (I just like the way it looks!)
  10. Put it all in a bowl and enjoy! (It’s nice with ketchup, but we didn’t need that since I’d added sun-dried tomatoes and the butter stops it being too dry)

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What are you enjoying cooking lately? I’d love a recipe!

Ps. There’s a vegan kedgeree recipe on Clair’s blog, complete with details about the dish’s starring role in Downton Abbey

Everything else recipes

Nearly spring bean stew, two ways.

I made this stew yesterday. I’m calling it “nearly spring bean stew” because it’s got fresh beans and spinach (spring!) mixed with some tinned staples (clear out the winter stock pile!).

I made this up as I went along, but here’s a recipe if it looks tasty to you.

1) To start, fry a chopped onion and two cloves of garlic in some olive oil and a slice of butter until it’s soft and brown.

2) Add dry basil, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a tin of whatever white beans you have, a vegetable stock cube and a few chopped up sun dried tomatoes.

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(Gnocchi on the left, that comes later)

3) Simmer till the beans are cooked through and then throw some fresh greens in the top. I used French beans and spinach. Put the lid on to steam the greens. 

4) Serve over gnocchi (this time I tried heating the gnocchi in olive oil on the stove top [see above], they were yummy!) Or rice. Or pasta. Whatever, it’s your dinner! 

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5) The next day, heat the leftovers through slowly with the lid on. When nearly ready to eat, crack an egg on the top and replace the lid. Once the egg is cooked, serve over toast.

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What have you been cooking lately?

Everything else recipes

Herby lemony roasted fish wrapped in bacon with lemon mayo

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(This looked and smelt so good that I only managed this one shoddy picture with my phone camera before I had to start eating… you get the idea though!)

Happy Friday everyone! I just thought I’d pop in and share a quick and easy meal I made last night with a recipe from Jamie Oliver.

I couldn’t be bothered with a lot of his steps (I didn’t fry the bacon wrapped fish first, I just put it straight in the oven; I also didn’t flatten the bacon) and decided that this sprouting broccolli looked better than January asparagus. Maybe one day I’ll make it the proper way, but let’s be honest, probably not.

The taste was incredible. I think it would be a waste of an expensive fish with lots of flavour but for a plain white fish (we used basa) it was perfect – the lemony and herby fish went so well with the crispt smoky bacon and the tangy lemon mayonnaisse.

All in all it was a cheap and simple after-work meal that tasted like a lot more work had gone into it and I’ll definitely make this again.

 

Everything else recipes

Baked eggs florentine

Happy Monday everyone!
I’m always looking for amazing breakfast dishes that can feed a roomful without too much effort. My friends and I often go away for the weekend and we all love a good cooked breakfast, but all our favourites require one or two people to slave over a hot stove. We’d much rather be drinking coffee at the table together.

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I might have found it that easy simple dish. This is a little thing I made for lunch the other day with some beautiful eggs, plus ham, spinach and cheddar I had left over from other things. It was so tasty that I had to share.

Baked eggs over spinach, ham and cheese. Inspired by this and this, then done a little something like this….
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Butter a ramekin (or two). Put in diced ham, grated cheese and steamed baby spinach. However much you want or have. Add salt, pepper and some herbs (I chose herbes de provence). Break over an egg (I had to use two because the way I cut my cheese meant one egg didn’t cover it). Bake at 375F/190C/gas 5 for ten (runny yolks) to fifteen (firm) minutes. Eat over hot buttered (granary) toast. 

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I know it doesn’t look like much but oh boy, these were tasty. Buttery and rich and full of flavour.
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I think this would be lovely with smoked salmon in place of ham or peas in place of spinach… the cheese wasn’t really needed as it was already really rich from the butter and egg. Just spinach or just ham would be nice, or even just baked egg. Make life as easy or as complicated as you want. 
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Sure, this recipe has a few steps, but what I really like about it is that it is pretty forgiving – it doesn’t require the careful attention that poached or scrambed (etc) eggs need. You can put it in the oven and sit down with a coffee. It’s not fiddly, you don’t need to measure anything or worry if anything is missing (just think of things that would be nice under eggs and put them in the ramekin!). I think it would scale up easily too – you could make it in a muffin tin and easily feed six or twelve with only a little more effort.

What’s your favourite breakfast to feed a hungry crowd?

Everything else Parties and presents recipes

Totally over the top birthday cake

It was Mr V’s birthday a week ago. So I whipped him up a totally over the top double chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate chip base.

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Its from my favourite cook book – The French Market by Joanne Harris.I love Joanne Harris too much to reproduce her recipes on the interweb’s with a guilt free conscience – but I could probably provide it if you emailled me :).

I first made this while living in France. My friend Lisbet and I spent a good long time dipping our fingers in the different concoctions that go into this cake, deliberating over which we’d rather bathe in. Ha. One of the best things about making this is that the recipe recommends buying an extra packet of cookies to help you wait out the refrigerating time.What with two packs of cookies, two types of chocolate, a lot of cream and a bottle of Tia Maria, even your shopping basket looks like a good time!

Anyway, once I’d made this cholesteroll-fest, I felt like the decoration should do the decadence justice.

So I started with a cake stand and some gold stars…

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A tasteful banner…

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Some cocktail umbrellas…

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And some more cocktail umbrellas…

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And multicoloured candles

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Until I had a totally over the top birthday cake fit for Mr V!

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Birthday cakes… I don’t do them by halves.

Everything else recipes

Valentine’s day eggs in a basket

Look!

 

(pinned from Kristen of Popcorn on the Stove)

Lookie! Romantic eggs in a basket just in time for Valentine’s day. I think I’ll be making a romantic version of my favourite breakfast sandwich on February 14.

Eggs

Mr V and I aren’t huge on Valentine’s day. It comes in the middle of a glut of celebration for us (November: our dating and engagement anniversary; December: Christmas; January: new year and his birthday; March: mine!) so we do something small and romantic but not big and fancy.

What are your valentine’s day plans?

Everything else recipes

Emergency muffins

One of my colleagues at work doesn’t quite get why I bake. I mean, sure, she likes the goods, but… she also likes bought cakes. Why not just buy cakes?

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I bake for a number of reasons. One is because I just like the peaceful time in the kitchen, making a mess and following simple instructions.Two is because I like making cakes for people. People who don’t bake are impressed at the mysterious alchemy that made a thing out of a bag of flour. People who bake are impressed because they know what’s involved. Mr V makes appreciative noises and gives me lots of compliments. It’s pretty win win win here.

But three? Three I love to bake because when I wake up on a rainy day and there’s no breakfast in the house and I don’t have to be anywhere till three so I’d really rather not get out of my pyjamas till then….I can make myself some pretty fine breakfast out of weird leftovers in the cupboard and a bit of last minute MacGyvering using this site when my scales break and then a bit of substitution using this site when you don’t have any eggs. It’s a totally different type of baking to when you find a recipe, go out and buy the ingredients and make a masterpiece, but it’s no less enjoyable.

And then, for the hell of it, I can put the emergency muffins on a fancy cake stand with a fancy doily and suddenly I’m eating a breakfast fit for a king.

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(If the king didn’t have a proper muffin tin yet so all his baked goods came out a little wobbly around the edges.)

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Emergency muffins, adapted from Good To Know

These taste a bit like scones and would be good on their own or with jam. I had all these things in the cupboards, but improvise if you don’t!

  • 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 generous cup of the various sugars in your cupboard (I had a small amount of a couple of different sugars left and it worked)
  • half a pint milk (sour is fine)
  • 2 large eggs 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup extra milk, teaspoon baking powder and a teaspoon of butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sultanas
  • Icing sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).
  2. Mix the flour, oil, sugar, milk, “eggs”, vanilla extract and sultanas and stir well (I got out the electric whisk because I’m lazy.
  3. Spoon into muffin cases (approx 12). Mine were jimmied into a baking tray, but a muffin tin would be better!
  4. Cook for 25 mins or until a smidge golden, well risen and firm to the touch
  5. Use a tea strainer to dust with icing sugar

 

Everything else recipes

Chickpea and spinach curry

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I just thought I’d pop in on this sunny Sunday to share my most recent new recipe (discovered on Pinterest – please note I pinned this the same day I cooked it! Hooray for inspiration turned into dinner.) Before I get going though, can we also just have a moment for the flock of geese measuring cups? I love them.

This was a super easy make (recipe here) and I loved the flavour. The fact it was only 200 calories a serving? Total bonus.

If I made it again, I’d leave out the broccoli – it made it hard to time right (tends to go straight from too firm to too soggy, no?) and also means it’s difficult to reheat leftovers – reheated curry spinach? Nom. Reheated soggy broccoli? Not so much. And it sort of just soaked up all the sauce and I like my curry a bit saucier. I followed the advice in the comments and made up the tomato/lentil/onion base earlier in the day, both for ease when we got in later, and to allow the flavours to really develop. We ate it with perfect rice. I also think that using fresh tomatoes is optional here – they get blended after all! So next time, I’ll try out using a tin of tomatoes. That would make this a real store-cupboard midweek supper as all the ingredients are things we tend to have on hand.

I also thought you guys might enjoy the way I display internet printed recipes when I’m cooking them for the first time (if they’re a keeper they go in my book after that). Yes, stuck on the oven hood with a magnet. I love doing this because it makes it really easy to read the next step whilst stirring whatever is on the hob. Do you find, like me, when you’re making a brand new recipe, that you have to re-read it about a million times every step of the way?

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