‘Meh’ Days: A Cure. (Or, super speedy ramen)

If you’ve found this page through Instagram or you know me in Real Life then you might be aware I’ve been doing rather a lot of running.  A few weeks ago I ran the Great North Run and smashed my target time… And then… well…

Life happened.  I was knackered.  And then I got a bug and couldn’t eat for a few days. And then I stopped sleeping well.   And then.  And then.  Yeah.  Life happened.  Meh. Day after day of ‘meh’.

So I found myself on a miserable Manchester evening, feeling decidedly sorry for myself. I needed a cure and I needed it fast. I listened to my body.  And my body was saying: give me Wagamamas.

But I didn’t have time or funds to be jetting off to Wagamamas (would that I could.  Wagamamas is bae.) .  And it was raining. Because: Manchester.

So I made my own.  And it made me feel so much less ‘meh’ that I thought I’d share it with you.  You can make it as fancy as you like with homemade stock and genuine shitake mushrooms.  Or you can use a stock cube and buy a rotisserie chicken and use those 20p noodles from the pot noodle aisle (but don’t use the flavour sachet!)

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Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • A knob of butter or a splash of oil
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Half a chilli
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 litres chicken stock (homemade or use stock-pot jelly things or even a stock cube)
  • Two handfuls of mushromms, slice (shitake if you can get them, chestnut if not)
  • 1 tin of bamboo shoots (optional)
  • 3 handfuls of bean sprouts
  • 3 big handfuls spinach
  • 3 noodle nests (I bought cheapo 20p noodles from the pot-noodle aisle and just chucked away the flavour sachet.)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Spring onions, thinly sliced.
  • Cooked chicken, as much or as little as you like, shredded or sliced. I just bought a rotisserie chicken from Tesco and used some of that.

Method

  1. On a very low heat, melt the butter in a large pan (or gently heat the oil).
  2. Add the grated ginger, garlic and chilli to the pan and stir for about 30 secs.  Don’t let them catch or it’ll all taste a bit bitter
  3. Add the soy sauce and sugar and stir it all together.
  4. Add your hot stock, bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.
  5. Throw in your mushrooms and bamboo shoots if using.  Keep the temperature quite low.
  6. Boil a kettle of water.  Once boiled pour into a small pan and bring to the boil again.
  7. Once boiling, gently lower the eggs into the pan and set a timer (I use my phone) for 5 and a half minutes.
  8. When your 5 and a half minutes is up take the eggs out of the pan and run under cold water.
  9. Add your bean sprouts and noodles to the soup pan.
  10. Peel your eggs – they should have a slightly soft yolk.
  11. Pop your spinach in the pan, stir and then serve up your soup into bowls. (The spinach only needs a second or two in the pan to wilt.
  12. Top with spring onions, cooked chicken and your newly peeled egg, sliced in half.

To heighten the curative properties follow with a bath and/or the Holy Trinity of PJ’s, Tea and Radio 4.

Trust me.  I’m a nurse.

 

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A proper traditional dinner? On a school night? Beef and ale slow cooker extravaganza 

So, I may have mentioned that my husband is slowly turning himself into a beefcake. And in order to do this the man needs meat, apparently. 

Unfortunately we both work full time and between work, the gym, volunteering, Church and a newfound passion for Lindyhopping the amount of time available for cooking beefcake appropriate foodage is limited. Modern life is BUSY, isn’t it?

But FEAR NOT. The slow cooker is your friend. 

This is the sort of meal you do about 5 mins of prep for and then just does itself. And you get to feel smug about producing such a hearty, traditional looking meal whilst also being a Busy Bee Awesome Human Being (which you are.) 

I either prep it before work and leave it to putter away while I’m out, or do it overnight, then chill and reheat before eating.

Makes 4 servings (so if there’s two of you that’s two dinners…#maths…)


Ingredients, quantities are approximate:

  • 1tbsp oil
  • 3 onions, one chopped , two sliced into rings 
  • 2-3 rashers of smoked bacon, cut into lardons
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • 500g stewing steak
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 450mls ale 
  • 2 tsps English mustard
  • Two medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 150g mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper 

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan over a low heat and then add bacon, your chopped onion (reserve the two onions cut into rings for now) and garlic. Sweat gently for 2-3 mins. 
  2. Turn the heat up a notch and add your beef. Stir occasionally for 3 minutes until there’s no pink bits on the outside. 
  3. Add the flour, mustard and tomato puree and stir around. 
  4. Add the ale and turn the heat up so it comes to the boil for 1 minute
  5. Put your onion rings in the bottom of the slow cooker. Tip in your beefy ale mixture and your carrots, mushrooms and bay leaves. 
  6. Switch the slow cooker onto low and cook for 8-10 hours. 
  7. Optional: Just before serving, and if you’ve time, you may wish to transfer the casserole to a saucepan and just briefly bubble it uncovered for 5 mins or so, just to thicken the gravy.
  8. This goes with pretty much any carb: rice, buttery mash, baked potato, quinoa, fresh French baguettes. If you’re really tight on time it even works with a slice of toast! Greens on the side work well and will keep your mum happy, but they aren’t essential. #nojudgementhere

Ch-ch-ch-ch-chicken (and quinoa) soup

So Hubs has been on a bit of a fitness drive since January, (and I am super proud of him for it!) which has required something of a rethink of how and what we eat. Suddenly we’re thinking about macros and measuring protein. So anyway, we realised that lunches needed a bit of a revamp. We’ve experimented with tuna salad, which is, ya know, fine, I guess. And we’ve eaten so much humus I think I might BE a chickpea. But a winner so far is this one. A warming, comforting, filling soup with chicken AND quinoa for a protein double whammy. 

I used homemade chicken stock, because it makes me feel smug. (You can see my recipe for slow cooker stock here

Makes 4 lunches:

1 onions, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed 

2 medium carrots, finely diced 

2 sticks of Celery, finely diced

2/3 cup of quinoa

1.25 litres chicken stock 

As much left over Roast chicken as you can muster (about a cup?)

Half a lemon 

Parsley 

Plenty of salt and black pepper 
Method

  • Sweat your onions, garlic, carrot and celery in a little oil or butter for 5mins until the onion is soft. 
  • Add your quinoa and swoosh it around with the veg and oil so it takes on lots or flavours
  • Add the stock, bring to the boil. 
  • Cover and simmer for about 20 mins until the quinoa is translucent and tender.
  • Add your chicken and stir through to warm.
  • Squeeze in half a lemon and a good handful of finely chopped parsley. 
  • Check you seasoning – this will need plenty of ground black pepper. If using a stock cube you probably won’t need much salt. If using homemade you can be a little more liberal. But remember, you can always add more salt – you can’t take it away.
  • Enjoy! 

Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa: Sweet Potato and Cashew Nut Falafels

I love food.  I love music.  I also love food that reminds me of music.  And I really love food that reminds me of very silly lines in music.  Which means that I really love falafel because it make me want to sing Talking Head’s Pscychokiller, the delights of which can be observed here.  If you don’t want to click on the link that’s fine, but it does include the line ‘Fa fa fa fa fa, fa fa fa fa fa’, which will now get stuck in your head every time you eat falafel.  You’re welcome.

So anyway, weird soujourn into 1970’s New Wave over, lets get to the recipe.  Andy bought humous in an ill advised late night Tesco trip.  We are quite middle class.  And of course you must have falafel (fa fa fa fa fa…) if you are going to have humous.  But me being me, I wanted crazy ‘different’ falafel.  So I made these.

There was some discussion among my friends as to whether these are actually falafel, because they don’t contain actual chickpeas.  My friend Lorna says they’re not.  I say they are.  We’re not going to have a falling out of this and falafel is already pretty fraught given that both Israel and Palestine claims its origins.  So yeah.  No falafel wars here, please.

SO THEN.  THE RECIPE!

Ingredients

  • One big sweet potato
  • 1/2 a cup of chickpea flour
  • about 80g cashews, chopped up finely
  • about two slices of bread’s worth of bread crumbs (use a cheese grater or food processor)
  • 2tbsp finely chopped coriander
  • tsp cumin
  • tsp chilli
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • oil

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Method

  1. Wrap your sweet potato in foil and bake in the foil in the oven for about 45 minutes.  It should be soft inside when its finished.
  2. When the sweet potato is cooked, take it out the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. Carefully unwrap the sweet potato, slice through it and scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the chickpea flour, cashews, coriander, chilli, cumin and salt to the bowl.  Stir it all together so that it makes a sort of dough.
  5. Refrigerate the mixture for half an hour.
  6. After this time, check the consistency of the dough.  You want to be able to mould it into little falafel shaped balls, so if it’s too sticky add a little more flour.
  7. Once you’ve got the consistency right, start making your little balls.  You should be able to get about 18 balls out the mixture.
  8. Preheat the oven to about 180’C.
  9. Once the falafels are made, line a baking tray with foil and oil it generously with the oil.
  10. Roll each of the falafels in the bread crumbs and then space them evenly on the tray. When all the falafels are on the tray, drizzle again with oil.
  11. Bake at 180’C for about 30 mins.  They should be golden and hot through.
  12. Use them as you would falafel in your favourite recipe.

Serving suggestion:

Warm through a couple of pittas, fill with humous, shredded lettuce, finely chopped fresh tomatoes, falafel, tahini and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce.

 

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You can also make it a bit of a thing, by laying out your condiments all fancy pants:

 

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Bright and Beautiful: Pasta and Green Things

Sorry I’ve been away for a while.  I am back now with a recipe that is so easy it’s probably a bit cheeky to call it an actual recipe!  But here we are.

So this is what we had for dinner tonight.  We’d had a bit of a hefty weekend.  Friday evening began with cider and ended up with one of us (me) falling off a night bus at 4am.  Because we might be married but that DOESN’T MEAN WE’RE OLD.  So yeah.  We didn’t surface much before midday on Saturday.  And then we ate a lot of cheese, because that’s what you do when you have a hangover.

So here we are.  Sunday evening.  Livers just about forgiving us. Desperate veg and vitamins and something comforting.  And easy.  Please God, make it easy.

So ladies and gentleman, I give you Bright and Beautiful: Pasta and Green Things.

This is essentially pasta with a garlicky creamy sauce and whatever Green Things you have to hand.  I used broccoli, peas, courgette and spinach.  But you could use beans or kale (hippy) or asparagus (which I’ve just remembered my little sister, Rachel used to call ‘namaragus’ and I love her for that…).  Enjoy.

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 160g pasta
  • 200g tub of creme fraiche (I actually use Elmlea creme fraiche because it lasts ages an has fewer calories.  You can judge me for that if you want. But then you’d be a horrible person.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped to smithereens
  • A knob of butter or a slosh of olive oil
  • 1/2 courgette, thinly sliced
  • 3 handfuls frozen peas
  • 4 handfuls spinach
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Optional grating of parmesan on top.

Method:

  • Heat the oil or butter in a frying pan over a low heat.  Add your garlic cloves and courgette. Coat them in the oil or melted butter, throw in a pinch of salt.  They will need about 10 minutes to get lovely and soft and garlicky.
  • Boil the water for your pasta then put in a big pan.  Salt your water.  Salting pasta water is non-negotiable.  When boiling add your pasta.
  • Add the peas to the garlic and courgettes.
  • Steam your broccoli.  I do it in the microwave – a tbsp water in the bottom of a measuring jug.  Broccoli on top.  Cover with cling film with a hole in it.  Full power 3 mins. Drain them and leave them to one side when done.
  • Once your peas are soft (should take two minutes or so – test one) add your tub of creme fraiche.  Keep the heat nice and low or the creme fraiche might split and then you’ll be terribly sad.
  • Taste your pasta.  If it’s done, use a mug or ladle to reserve about 2 tbsps of the cooking water. Then drain the pasta.
  • Return the pasta to the pan and add your spinach and broccoli. Heat gently.  After about 30 seconds the spinach should be wilted a little.
  • Add the creme fraiche/courgette/garlic/pea sauce to the pasta/broccoli/spinach.  Give it a good mix.  Use some of the reserved cooking water to loosen the sauce a bit and help it to stick to the pasta.  Add it a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  • Add the juice of half a lemon.  Season with plenty of black pepper.
  • Whack into a couple of serving bowls and eat, feeling comforted by the pasta and virtuous about the green things.
  • I imagine this would be lovely with some white wine, but my liver says no.  Can’t imagine why…

I’m not Ottolenghi, but: Farinata Pizza

This is a recipe inspired by Jack Monroe over at www.cookingonabootstrap.com.  Jack is one of my foodie inspirations.  I bought their book for my sister when she started at university because I reckon it’s as good as any student cookbook out there.  Jack is also a massive campaigner against poverty and LGBT rights and all round good egg.  Check them out.

When I started this blog I promised myself I wouldn’t turn into those foodie bloggers that uses loads of ridiculous ingredients that you can only buy if you live in North London. Yotam Ottolenghi’s food is beautiful to look at, but a little tricky to actually make, or that’s what I think anyway (that being said, if anyone wants to take me out to Nopi or Ottolenghi I will not stand in your way!) I love him, but I don’t want to be him.  So I was a little reticent about this post because it uses something you have to buy in the World Food aisle.  But I really don’t think this goes too far.  It’s not Za’atar.  It’s not Dukkah.

Farinata is a pancake made from gram flour (also known as Besan) which is made from ground chickpeas.  I’m fairly confident you can find it in most average sized supermarkets and a bag costs about £1.50.  I’ve used the pancake as a base for a pizza-type thing, topped with my imaginatively named Red Sauce and a little cream cheese.

The nice thing about this recipe is that because it’s made from ground chickpeas, it’s full of protein and really filling.  I packed mine out with spinach and carrot which increases the flavour and the veg content.  It can be knocked up in no time, and I actually think it might be fairly healthy.  It’s perfect for a midweek supper.

farinata pizza.jpegFarinata Pizza: no it’s not perfectly round.  But it’s real life.  And real life is full of wobbliness and wonky corners. 

Serves 1 (easily doubled if you’re cooking for more than one).

Ingredients:

Pancake bit:

  • 50g gram flour
  • 100mls milk (or water, or a mixture of the two)
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A shake of cumin
  • A shake of cayenne pepper
  • Half a carrot, finely grated
  • 2-3 handfuls spinach (or whatever you have spare)
  • Oil for frying

Red Sauce bit:

  • An onion, red or white, chopped as finely as you can.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • A splash of vinegar, (red wine, apple cider, balsamic)
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes (I generally find that Basics/Value tinned toms are too watery, but they will still work if that’s all you have to hand)
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A good pinch of sugar

Other toppings:

  • A good dollop of cream cheese, or if you’re feeling fancy you could try goat’s cheese.
  • Anything you fancy – grilled peppers, sauteed mushrooms, steamed courgette ribbons.

Method:

  • Ideally the batter for the pancake needs to sit for 30mins before you cook it, so start by making this.  (If you don’t have 30 mins, leave it for as long as you can and then cook according to the instructions.  It will be ok.  Jack Monroe says so.)
  • Pop your spinach in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of water.  Over a medium high heat, cook until the spinach is completely wilted.  Remove from the pan and put on a chopping.  Chop up the wilted spinach, ready to add to the batter.
  • Mix the gram flour with a little milk/water to make a paste.
  • Add the rest of the liquid.
  • Add the cumin, cayenne and salt and give it all a good beat with a fork.
  • Leave to stand for 30 mins and then stir in your chopped, wilted spinach and finely grated carrot.
  • Meanwhile, make your Red Sauce:
  • Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat in a medium sized saucepan.
  • Put your finely sliced onion and garlic in the pan and turn the heat down to allow them to soften.  Do not rush your onions.
  • After about 6-7 mins they should be soft.  Add your vinegar and give a little stir.
  • Add your tomatoes, salt and sugar.
  • Turn the heat up so it comes to the boil, then turn down to simmer for about 15-20 mins.
  • Back to the pancake base:
  • After 30 mins of standing, heat a glug of oil in a frying pan to a medium heat.
  • Once the oil is hot, pour your batter into the frying pan and squiggle it around the pan so it covers the base evenly.
  • After about 4-5 minutes, the underneath should be cooked.  Use a fish-slice or spatula to slide all the way underneath the pancake and deftly flip it over.  It should be a gorgeous golden brown.
  • After flipping, it should take a further 3 mins or so to cook the bottom.
  • Turn out onto a nice big plate.
  • Spoon as much tomato sauce onto the base as you’d like (I generally use about half the sauce for one person)
  • Spoon your other toppings (cream cheese, veg etc) on to look as artful or messy as you wish.  This is your meal.  Own it.
  • Photograph and upload to Instagram.  Or not.
  • Devour.

 

 

A recipe with unexpected Dr Who References: Fancy (not actually Fancy) Salmon, Pea and Lemon Risotto

Sometimes risotto is a way to use up stuff in the fridge, thrown together with a prayer that it will all be ok.  Sometimes risotto is a carefully planned showstopping, lovingly made with expensive ingredients that are marinaded and slow-roasted for ages before the final dish is ready.  And sometimes a risotto actually fits in the first category, but is fancy enough that people think it’s the second.

This risotto was thrown together with cheap and cheerful ingredients, but would be suitable to serve anyone you’re trying to impress.

I find that people get a bit worried about risottos.  They’re under the impression that they are in some way difficult, or that if they momentarily stop stirring they will cause some sort of fracture in the time-space continuum.  It’s true that risotto is quite an involved dish, you can’t, for example, set it going and then go and run a marathon.  But if you stop stirring for a minute to let the dog out, or even to go an have a quick wee, nothing bad will happen.  The TARDIS will not land in your kitchen (more’s the pity).  The Doctor will not shout at you to ‘RUN’.  Weeping Angels will not start climbing out of your cupboards.

That being said, do try and stay with your risotto and stir it as gently as you can.  But do not be afraid to blink.

(Apologies, the above must read as terribly esoteric if you’re not a Whovian.  The funny thing is, I didn’t realise I was one until now…)

Fancy (Not Actually Fancy) Salmon, Pea and Lemon Risotto

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Serves 2:

Ingredients:

  • One white onion, finely chopped
  • One clove of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • A knob of butter or glug of oil.
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 500 mls stock of your choice (veg or chicken)
  • 3 handfuls frozen peas
  • 80g smoked salmon trimmings
  • Half a lemon
  • Black pepper
  • Two tbsps cream cheese (optional)

Method:

  • Melt your butter or heat your oil in a medium sized pan.
  • Add your onions and garlic to the pan and gently soften them on a low heat for about 5 minutes.  Do not rush your onions.
  • Add your rice to the pan and stir it in the hot oil or melted butter.
  • Add a big ladleful of stock to your rice, stir through.
  • Once the stock is absorbed, add another ladleful of stock at a time, stirring each time you add the stock.
  • Once most of your stock has been used, taste the rice.  it should be just about cooked.  The Italians call it ‘al dente’ so it should still have a little bite to it, which means it isn’t soft like rice pudding, but shouldn’t have any raw-rice crunch to it either.  If it’s not cooked yet, you may need to add a little more stock.
  • Now add your peas and the remaining stock, stir through.
  • After 2-3 minutes, the peas should be cooked and all the stock absorbed.  Check that they are.  No one wants still frozen peas.
  • Stir through your smoked salmon.  Smoked salmon is already cooked so you’re just warming it through rather than cooking it.
  • Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, being careful to catch any seeds.
  • Pop into two serving bowls.
  • Grind over plenty of fresh black pepper and top with a dollop of cream cheese to stir through.
  • Be relieved that you made a risotto and there is no rip in the time-space continuum. Feel a little sad that you’ve not been visited by The Doctor and taken on as his assistant. Eat your risotto and feel better.  Cooking – such an emotional sci-fi roller-coaster, huh?