Monthly Archives: December 2014

White bean mash

As I may already have mentioned, I am currently eating these beans about three times a week at the moment as a) they go with everything b) they really fill you up which instantly reduces the hard-done-by factor that often goes hand in hand with carb deprivation and c) they are super quick plus d) completely darn delicious!

Ingredients

Posh haricot beans (ie in a jar rather than a tin),

A lemon for juice and zest

Garlic

Thyme

Oil for cooking and dressing

Method

  1. Pour some olive oil – quite a lot – into a deep frying pan and add some sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme then heat gently to flavour the oil.
  2. Roll an unwaxed lemon on a hard surface with the palm of your hand a few times then zest the skin and cut it lengthways (all of which yields more juice).
  3. Drain some haricot beans – ideally a jar of posh Spanish ones, which cost three times as much as a tin but are three times as nice, although tins work too for this – in a sieve and rinse. Remove the thyme from the oil then add the beans along with a clove or two of crushed garlic plus the lemon zest and the juice, which I just squeeze straight in through the sieve, to catch any pips.
  4.  Heat the beans through then mash with a potato masher and add a glug or two of extra virgin oil then salt and pepper to taste. Oh my god – so easy and SO DELICIOUS!

Winter melange (cavolo nero, spiralised courgettes, white bean mash, halloumi with parsley and lime, broccoli and romanesco).

 

SUPPER WITH NICK 7

The other night we needed a fridge clear out, like urgently, and I decided to just cook what needed to be cooked and make a bit of a winter melange, but then the spirit took hold of me and it turned into a bit of a feast.

Cavolo nero

Ingredients

Cavolo nero

Oil

Garlic

The secret to making this delicious, I currently think, is to be a bit painstaking about removing the spiny stalk that runs up and down each leaf. Once you decide to do this, it’s quite satisfying and definitely worth taking the time, because it reduces both bitterness and hard-to-chew factor. Once you’ve done that, gather the leaves together and chop into thin-ish strips, as you might cabbage. Heat some oil in a pan and add the cabbage in whilst you finely slice a couple of cloves of garlic and toss them in after a few minutes. Cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on how al dente you like it. Salt and pepper liberally.

Spiralised courgettes

Ingredients

Three courgettes

Cherry tomatoes

Garlic

Basil

Obviously, you need a spiraliser to make this dish but I can’t recommend more that you get one. They cost about 20 quid, are completely easy to use, and create ringletty spirals out of pretty much any veg you choose to put in there – thus creating a very passable version of spaghetti and also, crucially, a vehicle for delicious sauces. The only thing to mention is that a pan heaped high with raw spiralised courgettes does dwindle down far more than you might imagine, so err on the side of generosity and don’t lose your nerve when faced with a huge pan of raw courgettes.

Before you spiralise, cut your cherry tomatoes in half, put them in a roasting tin with some oil, salt and pepper, and cook them at 180 degrees or so for about 25 minutes.

Then spiralise your courgettes – I used three, which were eaten with ease by three of us. Once spiralised, heat some oil in a pan and cook the courgettes for about 20 minutes to get them nicely soft. After 10 minutes add a clove or two of crushed garlic, salt and pepper. When they are cooked to your taste, add the cooked tomatoes and some chopped basil. Yum.

SUPPER WITH NICK 2

Halloumi with lime and parsley

Ingredients

Halloumi, sliced

One lime (per pack of halloumi)

Olive oil

Garlic

Parsley, finely chopped

The frequent reader of this blog may have observed that I eat a lot of halloumi. Usually, I just favour it neat, sometimes with a squeeze of lemon. HOWEVER, our friends Martin and Nick cooked us this amazing halloumi-with-a-twist version which, on a micro level, rocked my world.

Pan fry the halloumi, using a little oil. While you are doing that, finely chop a couple of handfuls of parsley and put it into a ramekin with the juice of a lime – or two, if you like things limey – and some olive oil and a crushed garlic clove. It should have the consistency of salsa verde.

When the halloumi is done, put it on a plate and drizzle the sauce on top. The combination of lime and garlic is breathtakingly zingy. Bit antisocial, obviously, eating raw garlic, but the pros outweigh the cons, I’d say.

Broccoli and romanesco

This I just cut into florets and steamed, then served with some butter thus slightly reducing the health-giving properties BUT adding considerably to the deliciousness.

White bean mash

Is what I seem to be making twice a week at the moment so I won’t repeat the recipe but you can find it here.

Cobbled together supper at Em’s house

IMG_1577IMG_1576

 

“If someone had told us a few years ago that we’d be eating kale crisps – and actually thinking they were yummy – would you have believed them?” That is the question I asked my sister last night when I went to hers for supper.

The answer is, no, I would not have believed them – even a few weeks ago now I come to think about it. But if you think the same thing, I am here to tell you that it’s time to open your mind! They are the best way to eat kale that I have come across (other than juicing).

There seems to be an unwritten rule that any supper with just the two of us needs to involve halloumi – so easy to buy in any corner shop in east London but also, it cooks in minutes and is utterly delicious.

Then you can make whatever else you’ve got kicking around in the fridge to go with it. Usually, it’s all about what’s easy and quick. Last night we had this:

Salty kale crisps

Ingredients

Kale

Salt, pepper, oil

I hate to say this, but Tesco kale is better suited to this than the Able & Cole kale I tried the other day. This is because the leaves are finer, cut smaller, and less tough. Plus it’s ready washed. So just de-cant the bag into a bowl and splash in some olive oil – make sure every leaf is coated; the easiest way to do that is with your hands. Salt and pepper then arrange on a baking tray and cook at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes but be warned: they burn very easily at which point they are not nice. You may be thinking that they don’t sound very nice anyway but – I promise you – the are! Try it.

Stove top red peppers

 Ingredients

 Red peppers

Garlic

Oil

Pointy peppers are best for this. Cut into thin, short strips and cook on your stove top along with olive oil, sliced garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes if you like them. Cook slowly for about half an hour. Bob’s your uncle. 

Roasted cherry tomatoes

Ingredients

Cherry tomatoes

Garlic

Oil

This could hardly be easier if it tried. Get some cherry tomatoes. Shove in oven proof dish with oil and garlic. Salt and pepper then cook at about 160 degrees for half an hour or so or until they look done (depends on size a bit).

Green salad with mustardy vinaigrette

It’s so easy not to be arsed, on the salad front, and to just use oil and vinegar as a dressing. But here are some things that I think are really worth doing in the name of a noteworthy salad:

  • Use a round lettuce, which requires washing but I think it’s the nicest option (soft, not spiky, crispy inside and – crucially – not washed in formaldehyde).
  • Do be bothered to make a dressing and do use LOTS of Dijon mustard – maybe double what you normally might. Also, half-squash a garlic clove and put it in to flavour the oil (but don’t eat it by mistake).
  • Keep it green ie cucumber and avocado; tomatoes can water things down and be confusing somehow. I also think a good green salad benefits from a spring onion or even some VERY finely chopped red onion. But only if you can live with the aftertaste (although…if you marinade a chopped onion in equal parts red wine vinegar and water for an hour or two before using them – it takes the sting right out, according to my friend’s Spanish mother-in-law).

 

 

Garlic, basil and paprika chicken thighs

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH GARLIC AND LEMON

This is THE BEST shove-it-in-the-oven-then-ooh-and-ah at the deliciousness chicken dish I can think off. So easy, but so utterly scrumptious – and so autumnal/wintery!

 

I made it last night for my sister and our two oldest friends in the world, also sisters. We scoffed the lot greedily, laughing and shouting over each other in a cacophony of screeches and raucous laughter and when my husband came home from watching the Arsenal (4-0!) he had to retreat upstairs to escape the din.

 

I allow a thigh and a drumstick per person. And although I’m a big believer in over-catering, to create leftovers, leftovers of this particular dish don’t tend to get eaten, I’ve discovered. Unless, that is, you immediately strip the chicken off the bone and put into a Tupperware to add into a soup or make sandwiches with, which is worth doing actually.

 

Ingredients

 

Chicken legs and thighs

Lemon

Garlic

Paprika, salt, pepper,

White wine

basil

 

  1. Put as many thighs and legs as you want into a dish. Skin is essential as the decadent, salty, paprika-d crispiness is one of the highlights of this. Cut a lemon into quarters lengthways and wedge between the chicken bits – although ideally they won’t be too wedged as you want space around each bit so it can go crispy. Add in a few large garlic cloves skin on, which you first gently squash with the back of a knife.
  2. Drizzle olive oil onto the chicken fairly liberally. Salt (lots – Maldon is the best, I think) then pepper and sprinkle paprika on the skin. Shove in at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes then turn it down to 170 or 180 for another 45 minutes or so, depending on the size of the thighs.
  3. About ten minutes before the end, pour in a glass or two of white wine, being careful not to go near the skin (or you’ll make it soggy). When you take it out of the oven, take a handful of basil leaves, put them into a ramekin or cup and use some scissors to cut up roughly, then sprinkle on top, which makes it all look and taste quite lovely. The wine and olive oil and chicken juices merge to create a scrumptious jus, which ideally would be sopped up by mashed potato, but since I can’t have mashed potato, I served this with mashed haricot beans instead.

 

The joy of omelettes

SATURDAY MORNING OMELETTE GUACAMOLE AND TOMATO AND COFFEE

It’s easy to forget about omelettes, and I often do, partly I think because they are a bit ‘mono’ for supper, as in lots of one thing, a bit like risotto, that you might tire of halfway through.

However, once in a while, when I am asking Tom what we should have for supper and he says ‘omelette?’ I remember their glory. Omelettes for supper come in to their own when a) they are cooked in lashings of butter, the kind of quantities you’d never allow if you gave two hoots about weight gain or cholesterol, b) you’ve got some kind of exciting filling already cooked in the fridge eg cooked sausages, roasted peppers or any roasted veg and c) no matter what else is in there you add cheddar cheese.

Personally, I fear the presence of albumen so greatly that I request that Tom (who is the omelette chef of the house and who has got the technique down so brilliantly that it feels wrong to even attempt it myself) cook it to within an inch of it’s life. I know this is technically wrong and probably quite unsophisticated but I have made peace with my fear of under cooked food and nothing (eggy) could be more pleasing to me than the sight of a blatantly overcooked omelette waiting on a board (because it is too big for a plates to be eaten.

We generally have ‘threggers’ (as in, three eggs). This is because I am always, always on the lookout for leftover potential and quite often put a third of my omelette, uneaten, into a tupperware for tomorrow. This is the kind of thing that I would never, ever have considered doing before I crossed into the Special Needs Food spectrum, but now feels like planting a little seed of hope for those moments when I am looking in the fridge, yearning to eat something I don’t have to actually cook because I really cannot be arsed. However, just as often as I leave some in the fridge, I eat the whole thing up because it’s so delicious I actually can’t help myself. These omelettes were for brunch, but if you serve it with lettuce and tomato and home-made mayo – or even a dollop of pesto, or guacamole – then it can transform itself into supper rather than breakfast. Best of all, it takes about six minutes to prepare and cook and there is only one pan to wash up.

Obviously, there are loads of ways to make omelettes, and it’s harder than it looks (which is why it’s the ultimate test for a new chef in a kitchen). I personally favour the non-elegant, overstuffed omelette that is substantial rather than a tease. But that may well be to do with the fact that I I have not eaten bread or potatoes for six years so always try to avoid feeling hungry.

The only thing I would add is that since we invested in an omelette pan (the kind of thing I used to think was unnecessary – isn’t a pan just a pan?) our omelettes, got a lot better. You can get them quite cheaply and if you are serious about welcoming The Omelette into your life, it’s worth the space it will take up on your pan shelf. That is all.

Ingredients

Three eggs

Salt pepper

Grated cheese

Whatever filling you fancy from spring onions to roasted veg to ham and cheese

Method

If you are cooking your filling eg mushrooms, or spring onions, then sauté those with oil or butter in a pan before you start the omelette.

Whisk the eggs, get the pan sizzlingly hot, add a large knob of butter and pour the eggs in, easing the edge of cooked egg into the middle with a wooden spoon every few seconds, then tilting the pan to fill in the edges with uncooked egg, distributing it evenly. After a minute or two, sprinkle in your cheese and filling, then cook a bit more – very much according to how soft you like your omelettes. Serve by slipping half of the omelette carefully onto a board, then flipping the second half on top with a flick of the wrist.

Serve with salad and tomato, or guacamole if you can be bothered.

 

 

 

 

Chicken breast with bacon and white wine jus

CHICKEN AND BACON WITH WHITE WINE JUS SPICY SQUASH AND TENDER STEM BROCCOLI AND ASPARAGUS

I would never have cooked this a few years ago – I think it is the unashamed decadence of bacon, sullying the otherwise relatively healthy nature of plain grilled chicken which is just so boring – but recently I have made it a few times and am just staggered by how utterly delicious it is.

 

It’s taken from Nigella Express, which has reminded me of a) the importance of being able to make food really quickly and b) the fact that you honestly don’t have to slave for hours to make it but also c) the glory of adding a few entirely decadent touches to your food every so often.

 

Being quite greedy, I have adapted it to add a few more rashers of bacon than Nigella suggests (which is two per piece of chicken).

 

And (in the eternal search for ballast!) I’d serve it with simply delicious lemony white bean mash. Or, the other night, I made it with broccoli and asparagus plus spicy squash (also great ballast).

 

The white wine jus adds a bit of an ‘I’ve made an effort!’ touch if you are making it for guests – this was for my lovely Mother and Father in-law and it went down very well – and took about 15 minutes to make.

 

Ingredients

 

Chicken breasts

Bacon

White wine

 

Method

 

I put the chicken in a plastic bag and bash it with a rolling pin to make the breasts flatter and so easier to cook through quickly, which means less chance of them going tough. Once you’ve done that, heat some oil in a frying pan and fry your bacon rashers until they are as crispy as you like (I always seem to overcook the bacon, because when you are frying it it’s harder to tell when it is done to a crisp. But I tend also to favour overcooked food so that part is up to you obviously). Once cooked, wrap it in some foil to keep warm. Then pan-fry the flattened chicken in the bacon fat, for a couple of minutes either side (cut into it to make sure there is no pinkness).

 

Remove the chicken and put it on a serving plate then quickly crumble the bacon into the pan and pour in the wine letting it all bubble up for a minute or two then pour over the chicken. Eat. That is all.

 

 

 

Almond pancakes with cinnamon honey

ALMOND PANCAKES AND CINNAMON HONEY

I love it when it turns out that there are things I can cook and eat that are entirely about indulgence and don’t feel even the slightest bit ‘making-do’-ish, which is how one feel so much of the time when you are on a special needs diet (especially if you go out! There’s nothing like taking away the sauce and the sides of potato or rice to render most dishes duller than ditchwater).

These pancakes are a bit of a faff, but only in that you are stove-bound for a while as you meticulously turn out pancake after pancake. But if you have a lazy Sunday morning on your hands, and the desire/greed is strong enough, I can’t tell you how worth it it is. The best thing is that civilians enjoy eating them even more than I do because they have every appearance of ‘normal’ pancakes but the nut flour and honey mean that they are about ten times as delicious – and rich. So they really deliver.

You can serve this with very crispy streaky bacon, which elevates the whole experience to decadent. But I’m trying to avoid red meat at the moment and have discovered that although the bacon massively adds to things, you don’t actually notice its absence because you are too busy having a love-in with every bite of pancake, dipped liberally in cinnamony honey.

Almond pancakes

Ingredients

Cup and a quarter of nut flour (I use almond; you can do half almond and half hazelnut, especially if you are grinding your own nuts).

4 eggs

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon baking powder

Teaspoon vanilla essence

Put the ground nuts and baking powder into a bowl and make a well for the eggs, which you then crack in. Add the vanilla and whisk up before adding in the honey and mixing some more.

Melt some butter in a frying pan (you want it hot but not so hot that it burns) and use a spoon to drop batter into the pan, creating small rounds about the width of a bagel, or a bit bigger. Cook for about a minute or until you can nudge it as one entity across the pan, then flip. When both sides are cooked, put on a plate in a gently warmed oven and slowly build your stack. Then serve and talk about nothing other than how much you are enjoying every mouthful until you have eaten so many, you feel faintly queasy. Now, let that be a lesson to you!

Cinnamon honey

Half a cup honey, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla essence, a good shake of cinnamon powder (the latter two depending on how much you like vanilla and cinnamon).

Heat gently in a pan then put in to a bowl to drizzle freely onto pancakes as desired.

Lentil shepherd’s pie with cauliflower mash

LENTIL SHEPHERDS PIE LENTIL SHEPHERDS PIE 2

The staple food I really, really miss, is potatoes – in all and any forms. God, I used to love chips so much. And mashed potato. And Pringles, obviously, which might be the food I miss most actually. But I also miss the things that go with potatoes that you can’t eat any more if you aren’t having the potato. Things like Fish Pie – and also shepherd’s pie, which is the ultimately comforting dish, maybe because it is so filling.

So the discovery that pureed cauliflower (with lashings of butter, Dijon, and cheddar) is not only delicious, but that it also takes the place, perfectly, of mashed potato on top of whatever you choose to put beneath it, is up there on the joy list. The only caveat to mention is that you do really need a food processor to blitz it effectively enough.

I made this the other night when there was a sudden and thrilling chill in the air, and we lit the wood stove for the first night since last winter and I was overtaken with the desire to create something autumnal and comforting. I made it with leftover chicken and lentils but you could just as easily use mince or fish in white sauce (if you are not avoiding milk or flour that is), or just lentils and veg if you want vegetarian.

For the lentils

Ingredients

Lentils (I use puy lentils because they retain their firmness without reducing into a sloppy mush).

Onion

Mushrooms

Chicken or veg stock and or red wine

Herbs and garlic

Method

Fry a couple of diced onions (I actually used frozen, pre-chopped onions, which saves so much time and is sometimes the difference between whether I can be arsed to cook something – or not). Once softened, I added some garlic and some chopped mushrooms that also happened to be in the fridge. Then add lentils. I used a whole pack. Stir, to coat each lentil in oil then add stock, a bay leaf and whatever herbs you like – I used thyme. If I’d had a bottle of red wine handy I would have used that instead of the stock as the lentils then taste sinfully delicious. You could also try cooking them up with bacon, which is truly delicious, but I am trying to avoid red meat at the moment (we’ll see how long that lasts).

For the cauliflower topping

Ingredients

A cauliflower or two, depending on size

Butter

Grated cheese

Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper 

Method

While the lentils are cooking, chop up two small or one large cauliflower into florets, and steam until they are properly soft – you don’t want it al dente since you are making it into a mash.

When the cauliflower is cooked, put it into your food processor along with a large dollop of Dijon (depending on how mustardy you like things to be – I err on the side of ‘very’); huge knobs of butter (lashings); and some grated cheese, both of which will melt if you do this while the cauliflower is hot. Blitz into a puree and leave to cool. I think this dish works better if you have time to chill the cauliflower once it has cooled, before putting it on top of the also-cooled lentils, just because the two remain more effectively separate – but that’s by no means essential.

Once the lentils are cooked – and cooled if you’ve had time – put them into an oven-proof dish. I layered left-over chicken on top but you don’t have to. Then add your cauliflower topping. I put grated cheese on top but if you don’t like cheese, then make sure you put enough butter in the topping and it shouldn’t burn. Et voila.

I served it with a tomato salad with extra virgin oil and white wine vinegar on top. Oh hello, Autumn – I’ve missed you so.

Roasted beets, halloumi and white bean mash

ROASTED BEETS HALLOUMI AND BEAN MASH

I must admit that I did not have high hopes of this dish – but it is sublime! And, as importantly, pretty much easy peasy to put together.

The beets arrived in our veg box so I felt obliged not to let them wither away into a wrinkled mush until they guiltily chucked out, as could so easily happen. I know you can roast beets in their skin but I prefer the crispy, slightly fried edges that you get from peeling them before roasting.

It all just really works with the lemony beans and the slightly goaty halloumi, plus the peppery rocket.

Roast beets

Ingredients

Beetroots, Olive oil

Method

I peeled them then quartered them (or more than quartered the big ones – main thing is to make sure they are all the same size). Oil them in a bowl and use your hands to make sure they are all fully coated. Salt and pepper liberally then put them in a baking tray and roast at 180 degrees for longer than you’d expect – at least an hour – but use a fork to see if they are done or not (think potatoes). You could also put in some herbs – oregano, say, or thyme – but I just did them neat. When they are ready, let them cool a bit then arrange artfully on a bed of rocket, which you can dress with some extra virgin oil and white wine vinegar.

Halloumi

The main thing to say about halloumi – other than when I first saw someone cooking it I couldn’t actually believe they were frying cheese! I have totally got over this mental hurdle now and have it at least once a week – is that it is really SO much better if you actually go the whole hog and fry it in oil – I use olive but ground nut or vegetable or probably even coconut oil would work too. I used to dry fry it but when you introduce some oil into the equation it just radically improves the taste, texture and overall eating experience (because if you are going to eat fried cheese, you may as well make it as delicious as it can be).

White bean mash

As I may already have mentioned, I am currently eating these beans about three times a week at the moment as a) they go with everything b) they really fill you up which instantly reduces the hard-done-by factor that often goes hand in hand with carb deprivation and c) they are super quick plus d) completely darn delicious!

Ingredients

Posh haricot beans (ie in a jar rather than a tin),

A lemon for juice and zest

Garlic

rosemary

Oil for cooking and dressing

Method

  1. Pour some olive oil – quite a lot – into a deep frying pan and add some sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme then heat gently to flavour the oil.
  2. Roll an unwaxed lemon on a hard surface with the palm of your hand a few times then zest the skin and cut it lengthways (all of which yields more juice).
  3. Drain some haricot beans – ideally a jar of posh Spanish ones, which cost three times as much as a tin but are three times as nice, although tins work too for this – in a sieve and rinse. Remove the thyme from the oil then add the beans along with a clove or two of crushed garlic plus the lemon zest and the juice, which I just squeeze straight in through the sieve, to catch any pips.
  4.  Heat the beans through then mash with a potato masher and add a glug or two of extra virgin oil then salt and pepper to taste. Oh my god – so easy and SO DELICIOUS!