So apparently this year people have turned from the traditional and gone for the more exotic this halloween and I couldn’t resist giving it a go myself.
A new hipster craze? Daring to be different? New and exciting? Whatever way you may look at it, I’m all for it. I’m really not a festive person – I’m a fully fledged grinch at 24 – so personally I’m embracing the new trend. For you traditionalists, look at it as a pumpkin in fancy dress.
What really convinced me that this was the way to go this year is when I saw all the pictures of people pumpkin picking – a truly lovely sight and wonderful family day out for sure – and then I realised most of the pumpkins’ “insides” will be binned. Don’t get me wrong, I know many people that produce delicious autumnal soups and salads with the leftover pumpkin, but I also know way more people that chuck it in the waste. What did you do with your pumpkin?
I know it’s not traditional, and it most likely won’t catch on but I insist you try it out! Hell, because it’s not traditional, it doesn’t even have to be done at Halloween – this guy would be a great addition to most parties.
Pros for the pineapple:
- eat while you carve
- it’s sticky but unlike the pumpkin I’m alright licking it off my fingers
- not as messy as the pumpkin – it’s really easy and quick to carve
- it’s great if you’re like me and prefer to keep the fear factor down to a minimum
- it’s livened up my Monday with a pineapple project
- kind of looks like a Mexican wrestler
- more people eat pineapple than they do pumpkins
- …and lets not forget the obvious: FRESH PINEAPPLE JUICE!
If that hasn’t convinced you, it’s also great… if you like Piña Coladas.
For this all you need is:
- the leftover pineapple
- white rum
- sugar (hardly any)
- coconut milk/cream
- a blender
- strainer (optional)
Measurements are varied, but essentially all you do is blend, shake, and pour. It’s all very simple and (trusting your mixology skills) delicious! Granted, having been a bartender I had the upper hand and was quite pleased with mine. Furthermore this can also be made virgin style – everybody benefits from this trending kind of carving!
// ¿dónde está mi calabaza? //
After a long week (and weekend) I fancied some Sunday cleansing!
I found the original recipe online, but tweaked it slightly as I like my juices quite light, not thick and gloopy.
All you’ll need (serves 1):
- 1 medium green apple
- 1/2 a cucumber
- 1/2 a lemon
- handful of spinach and kale (add to your liking)
Once you’ve got everything chopped and prepped, simply whack it in your juicer, serve in a large glass over ice, and enjoy!
I also added some extra water to mine, but that’s completely up you. I’d definitely recommend it on a sunny day in the garden.
// Light and refreshing //
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.
- Sweet potatoes (quantity dependent on mouths to feed)
- 1tbs olive oil
- Mixed herbs
- Salt & pepper
- 1 mixing bowl
- 1 baking tray
- Pre-heat oven
- Wash the potatoes but leave the skins on
- Chop them up into strips (you’ll understand my fries vs wedges dilemma)
- Place into the mixing bowl and add the olive oil, paprika, mixed herbs and salt & pepper, and yeah, mix
- Whack them onto the baking tray (I tend to sprinkle a little extra of the seasoning on too) and get them in the oven
- Every now and then give them a shuffle, but when time’s up…
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!
Tip for the mornings!
I’ve only just got my juicer up and running again, but personally I need to plan ahead and get all the fruit in first before I crack on. If any are worthy, I’ll whack em’ on here too.
For the mean time, I’ve just been buying my juices. However, I cannot stress enough how great it feels kick starting the day with a lovely cup of vitamins and nutrients! Honestly, if you don’t have a juicer, find somewhere that does them (FRESH) and grab one on your way to work.
The juice I have in the picture is a simple orange and mango. Morning ZING x
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 red onion and chive bagel (I go for New York Bakery Co.)
- Cheddar cheese
- Cut the bagel in half, and grill on both sides until lightly toasted
- Put cheese on both of the slices, then whack under the grill until dripping
- Take the bagel out of the grill, onto a plate and put in the ham, then spinach
- 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).
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:
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- garlic garlic garlic (to your liking)
- 300g minced pork
- 3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs (or make your own)
- 1 tsp dried sage leaves (I went a little over)
- a little mixed herbs (I just had them in the cupboard)
- roughly 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or mace)
- 1 roll of [lighter] puff pastry
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 beaten egg for glazing
- pinch of sea salt and ground pepper
- about 1 tbsp of sunflower oil
- baking tray
- baking sheet
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6/Fan 180°C and get a large baking tray lining it with a baking sheet.
- 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).
- Now, using the beaten egg and brush, glaze the sides/edges of the pastry.
- 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
- 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!
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:
- red cabbage (I was feeding two so went for the smallest one – but again, left overs are never a bad thing)
- sugar (preferably brown, but don’t hurt yourself if you have white)
- 1/3 of a tall cup or glass of balsamic vinegar
- red red wine (also treat yourself to a glass or few)
- 1 or 2 red apples (I went for the pink lady variety to add some sweetness)
- 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.
- chop the cabbage and garlic (or, crush the garlic, or not use it at all)
- add a knob of butter to a sauce pan and melt
- add the cabbage and garlic, covering in the butter and allow to fry for about 3 minutes
- while the cabbage is frying, peel, decore and grate the apple(s)
- 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
- add the balsamic vinegar and stir
- add a few glugs or red wine – you don’t want to swamp the cabbage, so make sure it’s not completely covered
- 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
- 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).
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.
- 200g of butter, softened (I needed less)
- garlic cloves (I always use more than stated)
- free-range, boneless chicken breasts (I used 4)
- 100g plain flour
- 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
- fresh chopped parsley & tarragon (or dried)
- 100g dried breadcrumbs (or make your own)
- salt and pepper
- 2-3 tsp olive oil
- garlic granules (I found in the cupboard)
- mixed herbs (also found in the cupboard)
- 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)
- 1 large broccoli, cut and placed in pan to boil. This will take roughly 20 mins. Just make sure they have a nice crunch
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Place chicken breasts on a plate, slit side down, and chill in the fridge to help firm the crumb coating
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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
- heat up the butter, or oil, in frying pan
- chop and gently fry the garlic for about 3 minutes
- add the spinach and mix in allowing it to wilt
- turn the heat right down on low then add the eggs
- get your toast on
- keeping the heat on low, stir the eggs as they begin to cook and then scramble
- add the pepper, salt and paprika
- when toast is ready, get your spread on. I go for butter – classic
- 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
- 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!
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:
- in one shop you’ve started, or bulked up, your herb and spice rack (and these purchases will last you a while)
- any excess products not put in the dish can be used for another meal
- 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:
- minced beef
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes (for a larger meal)
- 1 pepper, chopped (I tend to sway red, but that’s your call)
- mushrooms, sliced into quarters (I dislike mushrooms, but the majority don’t)
- bacon or chorizo (not necessities)
- garlic bread for the side (if you so wish)
- olive/extra virgin oil
- dry or fresh spaghetti (add salt and a little oil)
For all the flavour:
- garlic (all the garlic)
- basil, ALWAYS FRESH basil
- salt and ground pepper
- beef stock (I sometimes also use gravy for thickening)
- dry oregano
- fennel seeds (personally, a very small amount)
- red wine (a glass for bolognese, and a glass, or few, for you)
- worcester sauce
- instant coffee (depending how rich I want it)
- 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.