hibernation over….

Happy New Year!   Here we are at the spring equinox already … where does the time go?  If only I had been hibernating.  I might have avoided the cough, then the cold and loss of taste that accompanied them both. And the weight gain! 😱 I ate my way through them both because my mother always said “feed a cold and starve a fever”.   I definitely had no fever. And of course I always do what I’m told.  So, telling myself the next thing I ate would taste nice I munched. And munched. And munched.   But it could have been cardboard (not that I’m in the habit of eating cardboard!).

So, today the sun is shining, my taste has returned and all is good in my little world.  I’ve even made a few new dishes.  I’m trying to clear out some cookbooks – I read somewhere that if you found one that you hadn’t cooked from, pick a recipe and if you enjoy the result, keep the book.  Good thinking!  I’ve had the book New Feast (modern middle eastern vegetarian) by Greg and Lucy Malouf for quite a while and never cooked from it.  Why?  Who knows, as it reads well.  Egyptian breakfast beans with feta, lemon oil and green chilli relish was the dish I chose.  No relish as I had no pickled chillies.

It was a lovely combination of chickpeas, broad beans, tomatoes and spring onion.  It was also served warm.  The olive oil and lemon juice dressing was gently warmed and the spring onions gently cooked along with a spicy garlic paste (garlic, salt, cumin, chilli, black pepper). When they were soft, everything else was added.  Five minutes warming, a good sprinkling of parsley, some crumbled feta and it was ready to go.  First night I ate it on its own and next day for lunch I had it on sourdough toast with a fried egg on top (without the feta). 

It looks like this book is a keeper as I loved this salad and I’ve already made something else (equally delicious) which I’ll save for another day. 

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Oh Christmas tree

Spotted online recently was how to make a Christmas tree with Nutella and puff pastry.  It looked amazing, so I thought I would try making one for the staff at The Beatson where I volunteer.  I wasn’t sure about nut allergies so I sent Santa’s elf to Waitrose to get some of their dark chocolate spread to use instead of Nutella and, for the same reason,  I didn’t use the chopped almonds either.  I bought lovely all butter puff pastry from Tesco (ready rolled of course 😉) . 

Here is the link so you know what I’m talking about…

I got up nice and early to make my Christmas tree so that it would have time to cool before I had to parcel it up. Simple. Nope.  For a start my whole kitchen was like an oven (mild weather has arrived just in time for Christmas 🙄).  It was fine when I placed the pastry on the baking tray and spread on the chocolate but by the time I put the top sheet of pastry on, the pastry was very warm and  I had to pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes.  The next step involved making the cuts in the pastry and twisting it like you would when making breadsticks – my hot hands were covered in chocolate 😱!  I got there in the end and baked my tree in the top oven of the Aga for 20 minutes but decided an extra five near the floor of the oven was necessary – no soggy bottoms in this house!

A wee sprinkle of icing sugar on the top and I was ready to go!  Everyone thought it looked amazing and so I thank whoever dreamed up this fantastic Christmas treat!  

Says it all really!  It wasn’t really sweet which I like but I think the addition of chopped nuts might be good from a texture point of view. And just in case you thought the star got left, it didn’t.  All gone by the time I went home which is just the way it should be. 

Merry Christmas everyone! 


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two greedy Italians

… and that doesn’t mean us!  This delicious chicken dish is from the book of the same name by Gennaro Contaldo and the late Antonio Carluccio.  It is such a find although I’m afraid I don’t use fresh artichokes nor rosemary. One tray and into the oven it goes!  It is good to have a plain green vegetable to serve with it – I usually do broccoli.  

What you need is a mix of chicken thighs and drumsticks (or just one or the other depending on your preference), potatoes, onion, garlic, some fresh thyme and a jar of chargrilled artichokes in oil. Charlotte potatoes work well for this dish but I’ve used others with equal success.  The colour of onion is up to you but choose a larger one (or two depending how many you’re cooking for).  I haven’t put numbers because this dish is only limited to what you can get on the tray in a single layer!

Firstly divide the onion(s) into six, keeping it attached at the root.  Cut the potatoes in half ( if they’re the size of charlotte salad potatoes) and take as many unpeeled cloves of garlic as you fancy and put all these into a bowl with some of the oil from the jar of artichokes.  Mix with your hands and place on a baking tray (preferable covered with non-stick baking parchment). Then put the chicken portions into the same bowl, add some more of the oil from the jar and place them on the tray too.  Season generously and sprinkle with lots of thyme.  Only put the artichokes on for the last 10-15 minutes to heat through. For baking in the Aga I put the potatoes flat side down and cook on the floor of the roasting oven for half the time, then put up to the top of the oven for the rest of the time.  It can take anything between 45mins and an hour depending on the size of the chicken portions, but do check they’re cooked through before serving.  For a regular oven, 200C for about an hour is recommended.

I usually do enough for us to have chicken salad, club sandwich or something similar the next night BUT…..

I think this might be taking chargrilled chicken a bit too far! 😂
I think it got caught on the roof of the Aga and let me tell you the smell was not the sweetest!  We just kept wondering where it was coming from! Luckily there is still enough – uncharred – for tonight!

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stir-up Sunday

Well, I’m gob-smacked! I’m ahead of the game!  I’ve just checked when stir-up Sunday is this year and lo and behold, it’s next weekend!  But actually today is Saturday not Sunday – oops!  While I was checking when stir-up Sunday was, I discovered to few facts about the Christmas pudding courtesy of Good Housekeeping.  Christmas pudding would traditionally have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples but since I never knew this, did mine? (Or rather did the top secret family recipe that I use?) Well, you know what? It does! As for the stirring of the pudding by each member of the family?  Well, I’m afraid there’s only the two of us here today so we had a lovely moment of togetherness while we stirred the pud….. ❤️

Now it’s steaming merrily away and I’m so happy that for once, I’m not having a meltdown because I’m so behind with everything (although I seem to get there in the end).  I do garnish with holly but the birds have long since eaten the berries so their toxicity doesn’t pose a problem for us.  

As for the tradition of adding coins/charms – I don’t.  This might lead to major claims for dental repairs! 😉

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lamb koftas

I feel like the whole of January and some of February I was full of the miseries of not just one, but two colds! So I’m not going to say happy new year at this point because here we are in March and, frankly, it would just be embarrassing!  So, while I was lying on the sofa, nicely tucked up with my blanket to keep me and my cold cosy, I put on an episode of Saturday Kitchen.  I fully expected to have a nice snooze but Tonia Buxton kept me awake making her lamb koftas with a spicy tahini dip!

They are really easy to make and I have now made them twice.  The first time I overcooked them – I followed Tonia’s timings but baked them in the Aga, so I only have myself to blame for not checking them earlier!  They were only a little bit overdone – thankfully!  Second time around, they were perfectly cooked.  The dip was delicious but very garlicky so I reduced the number of cloves from four to one and also felt that it didn’t require the juice from two lemons, one was plenty.  It’s a really good dish to have if you’re trying to avoid bread as they’re served in lovely little gem lettuce leaves.  We also had roasted sweet potato as there was some leftover from making the koftas.  (Actually my sweet potato was enormous!)  They also freeze beautifully and defrost fairly quickly, which is useful to know.

I also have a point to note from making/freezing the lamb sausage rolls in my previous post.  The first time I made them I cooked them then froze them and consequently when I defrosted/reheated them, they were a little dry.  The second time I made them I froze them raw.  This is definitely the way to go as they turned out brilliantly and were not dried out in the slightest.  I hope you give the sausage rolls or the koftas – or both – a try, as they’re both very tasty. 

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spice up your sausage rolls

I know it’s been a while, so let’s hope you’ve missed me and I’ll move swiftly on!

I recently lent the Bourke Street Bakery bread book to a friend and after she returned it I sat down and began flicking through it, as you do.  The recipe for lamb, harissa and almond sausage rolls caught my eye BUT, this being the weekend before Christmas when I have lists on my lists, I thought I’d take a few shortcuts.  The recipe includes a list of ingredients for making your own harissa and also making your own puff pastry but neither of these things were going to happen in my kitchen today so I bought a jar of Belazu Rose Harissa and some ready rolled puff pastry. I know, shame on me! 

I adapted the recipe a bit so here’s what you need

150g Belazu Rose Harissa

2 packs all butter, ready rolled puff pastry from the chiller section in the supermarket

 500g minced lamb

50g currants

30g couscous 

an egg for the egg wash

salt and pepper

Poppy seeds for sprinkling over the sausage rolls

Mix the minced lamb, harissa, couscous, currants, salt and pepper together well and divide into two equal (ish) pieces and roll each one into a sausage shape.  Take the pastry out of the packaging and place on some non-stick baking parchment.  Then place one of the sausages along the middle of the pastry, lengthwise.  Brush the long edge nearest you with egg wash and fold the other edge over to seal, flattening the sausage a bit as you do so.  Repeat with the other bit of pastry and sausage.  Trim the long edge and mark nicely with a fork.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Divide each one into five (or 4 if you like them a bit bigger) and bake on a baking tray in the centre of the hot oven of a two oven Aga for about half an hour  – you might need to use the cold shelf after about twenty minutes to stop them from becoming too brown (or at 350/375 degrees F approximately until filling is cooked right through). Leave on a rack to cool.  I’m sure you’ve noticed there are no almonds in mine but only because I didn’t have any blanched ones.  I think they would be a great addition.

I tasted one when they were cool enough and boy was it good!  I bought extra good lamb, minced specially for me at the butcher and it had a really nice texture.  A couple more have disappeared from the rack as we both had them for lunch but the rest are going into the freezer so there will be a wee snacklet for someone over the festive period! 😇

I’d like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2017!

Looking forward to seeing you next year!

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the joy of socks

Firstly I should tell you this is one of those non-food posts which pop up every now and then on my blog.  I follow (and love) the blog En Brogue written by fashion editor Hannah Rochell.  If you haven’t gathered by the title, it’s all about shoes.  Flat ones.  And she’s written a book about them too.  I always read with envy as I too love shoes and more often than not these days can be found wearing my ‘flatties’.  I do own heels but they don’t come out of their boxes very much.  The reason I’m telling you all this is because this week she’s written a post about socks, which I also happen to love.  (In fact, I was going to write about my Christmas socks but the time came and went and it doesn’t feel quite right now it’s March!)

I’m going to sidestep a little and tell you I’m reading a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo because sadly I’m not one of the tidiest of people on the planet but I’d like to be. Loads of very useful information in the book including a section about how to store socks.  No turning them inside out in a pair.  Folding is the thing to do.  Mmmmm.  I suspect this might entail ironing them.  This might be a step too far but I’m always open to new ideas.  So when Hannah’s most recent post dropped into my mailbox I thought there might just be something to this sock folding lark.  Fast forward to today …



I am truly impressed.  Not only can I see all my socks at a glance, I no longer have  to wade through a double layer of them – real timesaver when I’m trying to co-ordinate myself in the morning!  I took the opportunity to have a bit of a clear out too.  I confess I haven’t quite finished Marie Kondo’s book (hence the untidy sock drawer) but fully intend will try to follow her method to ensure I become a much tidier person.  And just so you know, I didn’t have to iron them.  Phew!



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a Nopi favourite

I have a copy of the Nopi cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully which has been read cover to cover but until today, I hadn’t actually made anything from it.  I know, naughty me!  Well, I managed to get some burrata (think mozzarella but more creamy!) and it is the season for blood oranges so I thought I’d try ‘burrata with blood orange, coriander seeds and lavender oil’.

This is a very simple dish really but it is the combination of flavours that just lifts it to another realm.  I feel sure that Nopi must be supplied with smaller balls of burrata than the one I purchased, because mine was far too much for one! Even a greedy one like me!  The oranges are sliced horizontally rather than segmented and placed on the plate with the burrata.  The dressing – made from olive oil, honey, garlic, corianders seeds and salt – is then drizzled over the cheese.  Scatter some basil over the top and you’re done.  It looks beautiful!

I’m sure you’ve noticed something missing in my version … yep, the lavender.  I’m afraid I didn’t have any and not sure how keen I am to eat it as I’m not keen on lavender scented body products.  That said, now I’ve tasted the dish, I might give it a whirl next time.  I left the burrito whole for the photo but when I cut into it to save some for lunch tomorrow, it oozed its creamy middle all over the plate!  I don’t know how but I did still manage to restrain myself and just eat half!  I can understand why customers go to Nopi just for this!

roll on tomorrow for the leftovers ...

roll on tomorrow for the leftovers …


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padrón peppers

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A couple of weeks ago in the guardian’s Saturday Magazine, Yotam Ottolenghi gave us a recipe using padrón peppers.  I have eaten these in Tenerife but not cooked like this!  Fast forward a week or so to when I was looking for inspiration … Continue reading

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coffee anyone?

I love coffee.  Coffee chocolates, coffee ice cream and up there at the top is, of course, my morning coffee.  Heaven help you if you encounter me before I’ve had it.  You have been warned!  Only joking.  Well, maybe not …… 😄!

Last week I came across recipes for coffee cake in three different locations on the same day  and thought someone must be trying to tell me something.  I decided to make the one baked by Kath over at The Ordinary Cook.  She weighs her eggs (in the shells) which is something new to me, then weighs the flour, butter and sugar to the same weight.  Clever!  My eggs weighed quite a bit more than Kath’s so I used two 23cm sandwich tins (9 inch for those who don’t work in metric).  I was also rushing a bit as I had a pile of ironing to do so I opted for the all-in-one method for mixing.  (Actually, I put everything in the mixing bowl then read the method – oops!).  I baked them at 150°C in my fan oven (which runs quite hot) for 25-30 mins and they looked pretty good when they came out of the oven.  The cakes are sandwiched together with a lovely coffee buttercream which isn’t too sweet and, if you have any left, spread it over the top.  Thanks Kath – it’s very good – just the thing for a cold and miserable day.  Or any day come to think of it.  Who needs an excuse!



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