Pineapple Carving

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
  • ice
  • 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? //

 

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Green Goodness

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. 1 medium green apple
  2. 1/2  a cucumber
  3. 1/2 a lemon
  4. handful of spinach and kale (add to your liking)
  5. ice

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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 //

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!

 

Baked Egg in a Hole

Fancied something different this morning!

I used to make this when I was younger because I thought it was the coolest thing. Turns out, still pretty cool.

As I made this before work I have demonstrated the simplest and quickest way to get this breakfast done with no messin’ about.

You’ll need:

  • 1 egg
  • Butter
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 medium sized round glass (for cutting)
  • 1 baking tray
  • Salt & pepper

All you need to do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200° / 180° Fan
  2. Grease your baking tray with butter
  3. Using the edge of the glass, press into the middle of the bread and cut a hole
  4. Butter the bread (I recommend on both sides as it can end up dry)
  5. Place the bread on the baking tray and crack the egg into the hole
  6. Simply put in the oven for roughly 15 minutes
  7. Take out and season with salt & pepper

I was quite rushed this morning, so my pictured end result is without seasoning! You do not wanna forget that salt & pepper!

Enjoy!

Carrot & Coriander Soup

I am starting this week healthy (and hopefully it’ll end that way too…)

Carrot and coriander soup is a classic, and I’ve added a few of my personal favourites in this one!

I used:

  • Roughly 450g of carrots
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1-2 handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion
  • Garlic cloves (I used 3)
  • A pinch of salt & pepper, paprika, nutmeg & mixed herbs
  • Less than half a chilli (depending if you like the fire – add to your liking)
  • 1-2 tsp of olive oil
  • 1l vegetable stock
  • Blender (I use a hand one, but a processor works too)
  • 1 large saucepan
  • Some bread and butter on the side (optional)

 

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Now:

  1. Get everything peeled and chopped (I crushed the garlic)
  2. Heat olive oil in pan
  3. Add the onion, and when slightly softened, add the chilli
  4. Get all the herbs in (don’t forget to stir away)
  5. Whack in the potato and garlic
  6. Get the kettle on and allow everything to soften on a low heat
  7. Once soft, add the carrots and stock, then bring to the boil
  8. When bubbling away, lower the heat and allow to simmer for around 20 mins with a lid on
  9. Every now and then give it all a stir
  10. Time’s up! Blend it all together to your preferred consistency
  11. Serve up, and enjoy!

As per usual I made a little extra, and that’s lunch sorted tomorrow!

Also if you prefer a thicker soup, then simply use less water.

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!

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!

Leek, potato & red onion soup

Vegetable soups are one of my favourite things to cook, particularly at this time of year. I find the process very therapeutic, especially when I’m feeling a bit worse for wear – so I surround myself with amazing fresh veg as my brain screams “I need a bowl of health!”

I used to live in Kingston-Upon-Thames and loved wondering round the market deciding what I was going to go for. I love the atmosphere of a food market, it’s so much better value for your money, and you’re supporting local businesses.

One of the things I love about soups is that you can make them from pretty much anything! This was great for me and my housemates during university when we were low on money. We’d pull what we had from our own cupboards and bung it all together in a pan.

For this soup I was in a similar situation to the latter. I went for: what I had in the cupboard…

What I found in the cupboard (this fed 3):

  1. 2 white potatoes
  2. 1 red onion
  3. 2 leeks
  4. garlic
  5. milk (I went for skimmed)
  6. dried parsley
  7. mixed dried herbs
  8. bouillon
  9. salt and pepper
  10. butter

What you need to do:

  1. chop the potatoes, onion, leeks and garlic (or crush the garlic)
  2. add a knob of butter to a saucepan and melt
  3. add all the chopped veg to the pan, making sure to cover them in the butter, then add the seasoning (trust your judgement and your palate)
  4. turn the heat on low, put a lid on the pan and allow veg to sweat for at least 15 minutes – occasionally give a stir and add a little more butter if the veg starts to stick to the bottom
  5. add boiling water (making sure it covers the contents and then at least an inch more) and 1tsp & 1/2 of bouillon
  6. keep on a low heat and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes
  7. add some glugs of milk (it depends how creamy you want it, and milk will help thicken) – I personally only use a little. Then stir
  8. allow to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes
  9. I have a hand-held processor, so I simply blend everything until it is nice and smooth
  10. serve, enjoy!

What you should be left with is a creamy consistency, with a slight acidity from the red onions and plenty or flavour! Tasty, and healthy, meals don’t have to be expensive or complicated to be amazing!

If your soup is thicker than you’d like, simply add some more water to the pan and give it another stir before serving. I personally like a thicker soup, particularly during the winter – it feels that bit more substantial and warming. But do blend to the consistency you prefer!