Courgette Crisis

I had heard a few rumours and seen a few hashtags, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I fully appreciated that the UK is currently losing their vegetables. The leading front runner of this campaign is the courgette, which has quickly established a #courgettecrisis and for good reason.

Now while we can appreciate it’s easy to forget the small things, because credit where it’s due it has been one eventful week – Trump’s in the most powerful seat in office presenting us with “alternative facts”, and Marine Le Pen is leading an uprising of the far right – the courgette situation has not gone unnoticed.

Although the outcry is somewhat dramatic, it is not unprecedented. According to online sources the scarce show of courgettes is due to heavy snowfall in Spain, who sources the majority of the UK’s supply. Unfortunately this doesn’t stop here as it has been noted that other vegetables like aubergines, cucumbers, and broccoli are at risk of becoming less frequent dinner guests too.

Trying to adopt a positive attitude this new year, it would be wonderful to to think that such a catastrophe could encourage more British consumers into “home growing”, or at least look at sourcing one’s vegetables organically by supporting local farms and their other produce. Now, this doesn’t solve the crisis, I know, but it does logically seek an alternative as opposed to declaring a code red situation, like one Guardian reader:

the-guardian

>> Link for full article by The Guardian <<

God speed Charlotte, I’m so happy you got through that ordeal… Luckily there are some more appropriate, and blunt responses:

twitter-quote>> @Parveen_Comms <<

I too addressed the situation on Twitter, albeit less outranged more “well this is happening”, to which Sainsbury’s swiftly restored my faith in humanity:

twitter-quote2

I myself am a lover of courgettes, but it goes without saying that the crisis is not like swearing off something on par with the end of a species. The courgettes will return, but as demanding as we are, consumers can’t always have everything.

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Review: Made by Bob

// Where: The Corn Hall 26 Market Place, Cirencester //

My link with Cirencester is that once upon a time I was a student at Cirencester College. Unfortunately I have since lost ties with the area, and as a non-driver it can be awkward to get there and back again.

With this in mind I had no issue with making the journey to Made by Bob after my friend, and current employee at the restaurant come deli, sung it’s praises.

We made our way into the restored market place for dinner on a Friday – the only day of the week when the dinner menu was available – and are welcomed into a clean, pristine, and open space.

For a small establishment Bob’s exerts an energetic and creative atmosphere. To the right is Bob’s deli filled with authentic country jars of dressings, jams, chutneys, and more. Moreover, and perfectly in tone with Cirencester’s agricultural heritage, there is also an array of meats and cheese on display.

We take a table for two by one of the large pane windows after contemplating taking a seat at the bar in front of the open kitchen – whatever I could smell, I was keen to see.

 

made by bobs

I go for the squid to begin with. It’s green, light and earthy, complimented by diced potatoes, rocket, onion and capers. Despite it’s initial size it has been coordinated perfectly with all elements equally portioned. As a starter, it has left me satisfied but not full and I’m eager for the next round.

made by bobs 3

Without hesitation, we’ve opted for the (rare) steak for 2 and were not disappointed. Elegantly displayed on a wooden board, we are generously presented with succulent steak accompanied by truffles/truffle oil, rocket, grated parmesan, béarnaise sauce, and pommes frites.

All textures and flavours are endorsed by the Pinot Noir which has been aptly recommended by our waiter.

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I am left elated and now  ready to throw my debit card at the situation. You are roughly looking to pay around £70.00 – £90.00 for 2 at Bob’s which includes a bottle of wine and service. Our bill came to a little more as we started with Prosecco and ended with sobet and ice cream (to my advantage, we did abuse my friend’s staff discount).

If you’re ever in this historic area, do pop by this elegant and straight-up serving venue for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Mixing country living with a modern and experimental twist, Made by Bob’s is worth the visit.

Sweet Potato Fries/Wedges

I had some sweet potatoes left over from my Carrot & Coriander Soup so the only thing left to do was make some bangin’ fries/wedges.

This recipe is so easy to do, I promise! They’ll take about 35/40 minutes in the oven at 200° – I use this time to get everything else into check, so it works splendidly for me.

You’ll need:

  • Sweet potatoes (quantity dependent on mouths to feed)
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Mixed herbs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 baking tray

Onwards…

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  1. Pre-heat oven
  2. Wash the potatoes but leave the skins on
  3. Chop them up into strips (you’ll understand my fries vs wedges dilemma)
  4. Place into the mixing bowl and add the olive oil, paprika, mixed herbs and salt & pepper, and yeah, mix
  5. Whack them onto the baking tray (I tend to sprinkle a little extra of the seasoning on too) and get them in the oven
  6. Every now and then give them a shuffle, but when time’s up…
  7. Serve!

To be honest you can use whatever seasoning you fancy, but I will always recommend paprika on them!

What you should be left with is some nice crispy skins and soft sweet potato. BOOM!

Enjoy!

 

Simple, slutty bagel

I can rarely buy bagels because they just go, pretty much instantly. Needless to say, they won’t last the week. When I do dare to invest, here’s what I go for at lunch…

You will need:

  1. 1 red onion and chive bagel (I go for New York Bakery Co.)
  2. Spinach
  3. Ham
  4. Cheddar cheese

Simply:

  1. Cut the bagel in half, and grill on both sides until lightly toasted
  2. Put cheese on both of the slices, then whack under the grill until dripping
  3. Take the bagel out of the grill, onto a plate and put in the ham, then spinach
  4. Whack them together, NOM BEAUTIFUL

For a little difference, try mozzarella with ham, or change the ham for salami, and spinach for watercress. I personally don’t use butter but you’re more than welcome to if it so suits you.

Also try fiery chilli pesto on one slice and original hummus on the other, then do the same as said before, and whack in the salami and watercress (my personal favourite).

Enjoy!

Top Dietary Documentaries (On Netflix)

If you have had a gander at my previous blog posts, you can make the safe assumption that I’m into my food. I’m no pro, but I primarily upload food posts because of my enjoyment of cooking, and sharing is caring.

I’m super guilty, as I enjoy my fast food, but I do aim for balance. This year I have also started to do more exercise (mostly cross-training, but also walking the dog, aha) and I have started to notice a difference.

Everybody hits that moment where you actually want to be healthier than you currently are, but there are different routes to this conclusion. For me, it was through various documentaries that I watched on Netflix, and some of them hit hard.

I want to share with you some of my favourite and most recommended documentaries about diet and nutrition that I found, because as a viewer I was shell-shocked with some of the harsh facts. However, despite the seemingly bleak content in these films, I believe it is important that everyone should hear what they have to say.

In no particular order…

Fed Up

Fed Up

For me, this was particularly disturbing to watch as it focuses on Obesity in American children. Fed Up exposes how major food companies neglect the health of their consumers through marketing and advertising by means of ignoring the harm their products are actually causing.

From nutritionists and doctors, to parents and the children themselves, Fed Up examines the reality of what we consume, and how this effects our health both physically and mentally. It was quite horrific to see the amount of sugar in some products – ones which I have consumed myself – as the film then shows how this effects your body.

I think this film has prompted a huge movement in the health sector.

Watch: Fed Up Trailer

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

fat sick and nearly dead

I love Joe, and I love this film – it’s personal, and proof of the possible. This doc follows Joe on his journey to lose weight by juicing. It’s an honest account of a man understanding and accepting that he needs to change his body and his mind – spoiler alert: he does!

It’s a really uplifting and inspiring film, and Joe responsibly then goes on to help others with their journeys – there’s a Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 (which you should also watch). As a viewer, and someone who is maybe wanting to get in better shape, you can easily identify with Joe as he really does come out the other side by changing his diet, which effectively changes his life.

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I finally did get my juicer! You should follow Joe to get some of his great juice recipes, and more.

Watch: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead Trailer

Watch: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 Trailer

 

Food, Inc

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Food, Inc is a bit more of a stomach turner, and frankly, quite harrowing – very much proving that “the truth hurts”. However, this doc gives insight into the production of meat in factories vs independent farms, the effects of meat in consumers, and the conditions of the live stock and workers.

As a viewer, and consumer, we come to officially realise the control that large corporations within the meat industry have over us – unfortunately we are the ones that suffer. Moreover, we are equally condoning their actions by purchasing their products. We also see the ways in which our health is at risk as large corporations are exposed for taking cheaper and unethical routes to make their business thrive.

Watch: Food, Inc Trailer

Hungry For Change

hungry for change

Hungry for Changes takes an in-depth look at; nutrition; the physical and mental effects of certain ingredients/chemicals found in food; and the benefits overall of a healthy diet.

There are a lot of nutritionists, doctors, and authors of well-being books. Some have criticised this tactic of authority and said it manipulates the viewer too much, because who wouldn’t believe a doctor? I agree to an extent, however I am pushing for this manoeuvre as I still maintain that this doc should be seen. We have hit that point where we have to listen to these facts, whether we like it or not.

Watch: Hungry For Change Trailer

You should really watch them!

I know these films don’t scream “entertaining”, but I assure you they are. More importantly they are films to support and educate you about things we should be aware of, but have in fact been hidden from us.

Learning the truth typically isn’t easy – it’s quite inconvenient. But, as these films demonstrate, there is so much wrong that needs to be made right.

For me, I notice when I’m happier, healthier and more productive, and I’m sure you do too. These films shed light on ways in which I can improve my health and well-being, so I am glad that I watched them.

When we’re eating food that’s good for our bodies, and exercising, our happiness goes through the roof – and although some times challenging, for me, it’s totally worth it.

Simple Sausage Rolls

Happy New Year!

So, we had a pretty full house over the Christmas period and essentially all my mum wanted was participation – for everyone to chip in a bit, bring a dish etc.

I made a few contributions, my braised red cabbage being one of them to accompany the Christmas dinner, a few others which I’ll put up later, and these delicious sausage rolls.

Now, sausage rolls are one of my favourite snacks – trying to pass a pastry shop without entering will generally be the hardest thing I’ll do all day. I am way more of savoury person than a sweet tooth, and I am still waiting for the day that I am given a disgustingly giant sausage roll for my birthday, rather than a birthday cake. Oh, it will be a grand day! However this batch I made were on a smaller scale.

A quick note before you begin: I ended up with a little mince left over, but I also had some more puff pastry, so made a cheeky few extra. The first batch made 3 rather grande sizes, which I then cut into halves, and halved again (still bigger than the mini shop-bought ones).

You will need:

  1. 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  2. garlic garlic garlic (to your liking)
  3. 300g minced pork
  4. 3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs (or make your own)
  5. 1 tsp dried sage leaves (I went a little over)
  6. a little mixed herbs (I just had them in the cupboard)
  7. roughly 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or mace)
  8. 1 roll of [lighter] puff pastry
  9. 1 tbsp plain flour
  10. 1 beaten egg for glazing
  11. pinch of sea salt and ground pepper
  12. about 1 tbsp of sunflower oil
  13. baking tray
  14. baking sheet

Making heaven:

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan and gently soften the onions and garlic. Sunflower oil shouldn’t burn or crisp them. I also add a little of the seasoning now too. When done, place in a separate bowl and allow to cool.
  2. I started prepping some other snacks while I waited for the onions and garlic to cool down, so entertain yourself for a couple of minutes!
  3. Now, prepare to get your hands messy! In the same bowl as the onions and garlic, add the minced pork, breadcrumbs and rest of the seasoning, mixing it all in together.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6/Fan 180°C and get a large baking tray lining it with a baking sheet.
  5. Roll out the pastry onto a surface with the flour and mark the pastry into thirds, then cut. Now, get the pork meat and place it in the middle of each third, leaving just less than an inch at the ends (length ways) for folding in. You don’t want them too thick, but I’d say about an inch wide (width ways).
  6. Now, using the beaten egg and brush, glaze the sides/edges of the pastry.
  7. Next you want to fold one side over, tucking it in a little and then bring the other side over (the egg should act as a kind of glue, so to speak). Fold both of the ends inward. Turn over and then place on the baking paper/tray
  8. Make little sideways slits down the pastry and then glaze the egg over the tops and finally place in the oven for 25-30 minutes (do check on them – they should be golden, not burnt!)

They were the perfect little winter party snacks – the sage and puff pastry are great companions!

There was a great difference between mine and the store-bought ones – they just tasted so homely and way more flavoursome! And, as always, there is that gratification you get from making them yourself! Needless to say they were very well received and now on demand. If you do try this recipe, you’ll soon realise how quick and easy they are to make!

For my next try I want to go for something a little richer and use chorizo and some Spanish-inspired tactics, so stay tuned for those cause I already know they’re going to be insane!

Braised red cabbage

Okay, so this side dish is literally my favourite thing! I’m not sure if it’s because I’m proud of of making it, or the fact that it simply tastes delicious! I’m really quite torn.

I looked up a few recipes online (to accompany my chicken pie) and honestly couldn’t decide which one to go for, so I went for a simple combination. I more or less looked at what was already in the cupboard and sought out the closest, and cheapest, way to replicate and combine the recipes. I bought a couple of things from the shops, but didn’t go for the things I was least likely to use again – I like to buy things that are handy to have in the cupboard, not ones that could waste away (not cool).

You will need:

  1. red cabbage (I was feeding two so went for the smallest one – but again, left overs are never a bad thing)
  2. butter
  3. sugar (preferably brown, but don’t hurt yourself if you have white)
  4. 1/3 of a tall cup or glass of balsamic vinegar
  5. red red wine (also treat yourself to a glass or few)
  6. 1 or 2 red apples (I went for the pink lady variety to add some sweetness)
  7. garlic (but that’s just me)

Now, braised cabbage takes a little while, but for me this was perfect! Simply start with the red cabbage and then move onto the main event. For instance, when I make the chicken pie, I get the cabbage on first and then move onto the pie – it allows the cabbage to simmer, soften and get all the more flavoursome.

Lets go:

  1. chop the cabbage and garlic (or, crush the garlic, or not use it at all)
  2. add a knob of butter to a sauce pan and melt
  3. add the cabbage and garlic, covering in the butter and allow to fry for about 3 minutes
  4. while the cabbage is frying, peel, decore and grate the apple(s)
  5. once the cabbage has softened, get the apple and 1 & 1/2 tsp of sugar in there, mixing it in and allowing to fry for a further couple on minutes
  6. add the balsamic vinegar and stir
  7. add a few glugs or red wine – you don’t want to swamp the cabbage, so make sure it’s not completely covered
  8. stir it all together and put on a very low heat to simmer, covering with a lid – do check/stir occasionally and if the pan is looking a little dry get some more wine and a little balsamic vinegar in there
  9. when the rest of your meal is ready, the cabbage will be too, so serve alongside your main and enjoy!

Incase anyone is unsure, “braise” is a two-park cooking process which simply means to first lightly fry your food and then stew it – done.

You should be left with a really sweet, yet acidic, rich flavour – which is also lovely and soft with some crunch. It’s got something for everyone!

I first paired the cabbage with my chicken pie, but this will also be a great participant for a roast dinner. I also cannot stress the greatness of leftovers – I made pie, cabbage and mash for my partner and I, and this provided dinner for two nights (we may have given ourselves bigger portions than intended, but oh so tasty – I regret nothing).

Homemade Chicken Kiev

For some reason I’ve always thought that making a chicken kiev was going to be way too complicated and time consuming. I was wrong.

I had store-bought kievs quite a lot growing up and I absolutely loved them. Needless to say, this led me to finally getting my act together and making my own.

My dad had an old recipe (when once upon a time he made his own) so I followed the guidelines.

Ingredients:

  1. 200g of butter, softened (I needed less)
  2. garlic cloves (I always use more than stated)
  3. free-range, boneless chicken breasts (I used 4)
  4. 100g plain flour
  5. 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
  6. fresh chopped parsley  & tarragon (or dried)
  7. 100g dried breadcrumbs (or make your own)
  8. salt and pepper
  9. paprika
  10. 2-3 tsp olive oil
  11. garlic granules (I found in the cupboard)
  12. mixed herbs (also found in the cupboard)

Side:

  1. Approximately 4 large white potatoes, peeled and chopped in 1/4. They will take roughly 40 mins to boil, and then drain, mash with butter and milk until soft (I use more milk than butter)
  2. 1 large broccoli, cut and placed in pan to boil. This will take roughly 20 mins. Just make sure they have a nice crunch

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
  2. The butter: soften (which takes a lot of elbow grease – essentially beating it until soft), add the seasoning and mix in together. Keep it in the fridge until ready to use
  3. The chicken breasts: use a small sharp knife to make a slit from top to bottom creating a pocket (slightly slanted) to insert the butter
  4. Put the butter into a piping bag (or make one from a freezer bag) and pipe into the pockets made in the chicken breasts. I’m not going to lie, fingers will need to be used.
  5. Mix the flour and more of the seasoning in a shallow bowl. Tip the beaten eggs into another shallow bowl, and the same with the breadcrumbs.
  6. The system: toss the the chicken into the flour first to coat, shake off the excess, then slide into the egg and turn until covered. Finally dip into the breadcrumbs until covered, and shake off any excess. Do this to each individual chicken breast
  7. Place chicken breasts on a plate, slit side down, and chill in the fridge to help firm the crumb coating
  8. While the chicken’s in the fridge, this is where you get your sides on (unless you’re a champ multi-tasker, but as this was my first time, I tackled it step by step). For a casual mid-week meal I’ve gone for mash potato and broccoli. Whatever you fancy! The chicken in the oven takes around 15 minutes, so time accordingly.
  9. Next, pour the oil into a frying pan. When it’s getting hot add the chicken breasts, cooking on each side until lightly golden brown. Now place the chicken on a tray and place in the oven for 15 minutes, but basically until they’re cooked all the way through.
  10. To serve, plate up the mash onto the plates. Place the broccoli and kiev alongside and pour over any garlic butter left in the pan over the dish.
  11. Add any additional seasoning, like salt and pepper and enjoy your better-than-store-bought kiev!

I’m a big believer in making a little more than you should. For instance, make one or two more kievs than necessary, and boom, whack them in the freezer and you have another day’s meal sorted.

As I mentioned earlier, I needed less butter than the original recipe stated, but that’s fine! In one of my older blogs A simple, and very effective, bolognese, I have a recipe for a, yes, bolognese and I simply used the remains of my garlic butter to make my own garlic bread to go on the side. Problem solved!

How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Over time, and I give myself credit where it’s due, I have managed to conquer eggs at breakfast; fried; boiled; poached; and scrambled. Now, it sounds easy but I’m not talking about the cheeky tricks, I’m talking about back to basics with egg and pan.

The eggs I’ve been making most recently are scrambled, but with some extra flavour. I was literally playing around one morning wondering how to make my breakfast more interesting – I had eggs, spinach, garlic and seasoning. Voila!

For one person:

  • 1 or 2 eggs, beaten
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • pinch of paprika
  • handful of spinach
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • bread (if you want it on toast – I like brown)
  • butter or olive oil

Easy:

  1. heat up the butter, or oil, in frying pan
  2. chop and gently fry the garlic for about 3 minutes
  3. add the spinach and mix in allowing it to wilt
  4. turn the heat right down on low then add the eggs
  5. get your toast on
  6. keeping the heat on low, stir the eggs as they begin to cook and then scramble
  7. add the pepper, salt and paprika
  8. when toast is ready, get your spread on. I go for butter – classic
  9. the eggs are ready when they look fluffy and still a bit moist – if they’re flaking and crumbling, they’ve been done for too long – and then put them on the toast
  10. feel free to add more seasoning if you so wish and enjoy!

The important thing with scrambled eggs is to keep the eggs on that low heat so it results with them being light and soft. One could argue that this makes a signature quick dish a little more complex, but I beg to differ. While the eggs are chillin’ out in the pan, this allows you to get everything else in check – everything in good time!

If garlic is a little much for you at breakfast, this dish also makes a great lunch – but I do insist you give it ago!

 

A simple, and very effective, bolognese

Homemade bolognese has always been a favourite of mine, and yet very underestimated by many. As a well known dish it is an easy-to-please signature meal which accommodates families; picky children; and those who couldn’t fathom cooking as a skill.

Bolognese is not only easy to conjure up, it is also financially friendly. There are 3 primary ways that bolognese helps you save the pennies:

  1. in one shop you’ve started, or bulked up, your herb and spice rack (and these purchases will last you a while)
  2. any excess products not put in the dish can be used for another meal
  3. by cooking a little more than you need to, you’ve got dinner two nights in a row by whacking it in the fridge, or a cheeky reheated meal saved away in the freezer that’s not from a box

When I make bolognese I usually use beef, but to add a little extra I often include bacon or chorizo. Alternatively when hosting for vegetarians, quorn mince works equally well.

For the/my basic foundation:

  1. minced beef
  2. 1 large white onion, chopped
  3. 2 tins of chopped tomatoes (for a larger meal)
  4. 1 pepper, chopped (I tend to sway red, but that’s your call)
  5. mushrooms, sliced into quarters (I dislike mushrooms, but the majority don’t)
  6. bacon or chorizo (not necessities)
  7. garlic bread for the side (if you so wish)
  8. olive/extra virgin oil
  9. dry or fresh spaghetti (add salt and a little oil)

For all the flavour:

  1. garlic (all the garlic)
  2. basil, ALWAYS FRESH basil
  3. salt and ground pepper
  4. beef stock (I sometimes also use gravy for thickening)
  5. dry oregano
  6. fennel seeds (personally, a very small amount)
  7. paprika
  8. red wine (a glass for bolognese, and a glass, or few, for you)
  9. worcester sauce
  10. instant coffee (depending how rich I want it)
  11. cheese for topping (parmigiano-reggiano or a cheddar – again, not a necessity)

I won’t drag on with the step-by-step process. Also, flavour quantity is always up to the chef. What I essentially wish to divulge is the cheap and easy way to up the game on your standard bolognese. The trick: simmer and stew! Allow all the flavours to mingle, because small talk never really goes that far. Once everything is in the pot, and depending on how hungry the mob is, allow to simmer away on a low heat for at least 30-40 minutes.

Bon appétit!