The Overly Developed Imagination of the Only Child

bluemushSo, to herald my recent departure from unemployment, pajamas, self loathing and day time television is a recipe 100% guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart. If hearts have cockles, which I happen to highly doubt. For one thing, this recipe is a slight adaptation from one on the BBC good food website. For those who don’t know me very well BBC good food is to me what cute, captioned pictures of anthropomorphic cats are to most people. The internet equivalent of a sanctuary; a safe, unbreachable, harmonious haven.

RECIPE:

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 400g baby spinach
  • frozen puff pastry (block or sheets) defrosted
  • 140g stilton (or other blue cheese) sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 200’C.

Put the oil in a frying pan and let it heat. Sizzle the mushrooms for a few minutes each side, just until they begin to darken and soften up a little. Put them to the side.

Turn the heat low and using the same frying pan and oil, add the chopped garlic and let it cook for a few seconds. Toasty, golden garlic may be delicious but burnt garlic tastes like the innermost circles of hell. Add the spinach and stir it until it’s wilted to about a millionth of it’s former size. Season the spinach and garlic with salt and pepper and pop it in a sieve to drain. You can use the back of a spoon as a squishing device to speed the process along a little. You want to squeeze out as much liquid as possible or the pastry will be soggy. Which is, as we know, completely unacceptable.

MaryBerryRoll out your pastry (about a £1 thickness) on a lightly floured surface. Using a bowl or plate that is much bigger than the mushrooms as a template cut out 8 circles from the pastry for the tops and bottoms.

On 4 pastry discs, spoon a quarter of the spinach mix, a couple of slices of cheese and add the mushroom (smooth side up) and top with a little more cheese until it kind of looks like a little pixie house (I was an only child, alright? Drop it.) Repeat this for the other 3 mushrooms.

100_1154Brush some beaten egg around the edge of the mushrooms and drape the 4 remaining pastry discs over the top. Use your fingers to press the edges of the pastry together. The bottom disc will be much wider than the top so I like to fold it over in a pretty sort of star pattern. This also seems to seal the pastry better, making the cheese much less likely to leak out of the sides.

100_1165You can also use the left over pastry to make some highly unnecessary but pretty decorations. Glaze the tops with a generous amount of egg and pop them in the oven for around 40mins or until they are very puffed up and golden-brown.

100_1172How sweet are they? Little golden parcels of deliciousness. The blue-cheese tanginess is so good with the meatiness of the mushrooms. They have the added benefit of looking kind of posh as well, so dinner party it up! Impress your in-laws. Or just foil your friends into bringing round copious bottles of wine. It’s a win-win either way!

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Mary Berry Goes Commando

muI love cooking with pastry – it just makes meal times feel that bit more fancy. Even if your pastry was very cheap, very un home-made and, in fact, very much bought from the frozen section of the supermarket. I will admit there’s something almost fur coat and no knickers about shop-bought pastry but who honestly gives a damn? Going commando can be liberating.

The trick with filo pastry is not to let it dry out. If you buy frozen let it defrost beneath a slightly damp tea towel and leave the bulk of it under the tea towel while you work with individual sheets. If it dries out it will pretty much turn to ashes as soon as you touch it, like some kind of melodramatic emo song lyric (vaguely embarrassing and to be avoided).

RECIPE: (serves 4)

  • 500g leeks, thinly sliced
  • 150ml hot vegetable stock
  • 175g button/chestnut mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 large sheets filo pastry
  • olive oil
  • 85g goats cheese
  • 1tsp toasted sesame seeds/poppy seeds

Heat the oven to 200’C/180’C fan and line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the leeks and the stock into a saucepan and cook for about 8 minutes until the leeks are starting to soften, add the mushrooms and cook together for 5-8 mins until most of the stock has evaporated. Squeeze out the rest of the liquid of the liquid with a fork. You don’t want to end up with a soggy strudel. Mary Berry will hunt you down like a stern, mildly threatening, overly lip-sticked grandmother.

imagesLightly brush a sheet of filo pastry with olive oil and then fold it in half so that the un-oiled side is facing upwards. Brush the edges with more oil and then spoon a quarter of the veg along one edge. Crumble a quarter of the goats cheese over the top, fold over the edges and then roll up. Lather, Rinse and Repeat for each strudel.

Pop the strudels on the baking tray, brush the tops with oil and scatter on the seeds. I think toasted sesame taste lovely with the goats cheese but the black of the poppy seeds also look pretty striking. The choice is yours.

Bake for 25 mins until crisp and goldeny-brown.

100_1038These are crunchy and filled with deliciously melt-y cheese. The best thing is that they aren’t too bad for you either. Filo pastry is the healthiest and probably about a billion times better for you than puff pastry, so all in all they aren’t too fatty either! Serve them with some green salad and you have a fabulous lunch… dahlings.

100_1041Gratuitous close-up of melting, gooey innards. Possibly NSFW.

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Cheesus Christ

cheesyI’ve always, to the dismay and confusion of my sweet-toothed mother, been something of a savoury kid. I’m serious. I’ve eaten salt and vinegar crisps until I have lost all feeling in my lips and tongue. Once, when I was a child, I stole a huge jar of gherkins from the fridge and ate the entire lot while sitting on my swing set. Trust me, unorthodox amount of pickles + swings will result in a phenomenal, earth-shattering heartburn, don’t try it at home. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that surprisingly, from the age of around three, I have in fact had the cravings and habits of your average pregnant woman.

And if you like savoury things, well, cheese is pretty much the God of savoury isn’t it? The Just and Wise Ruler of the Salty Kingdom. And we should worship him in all his many incarnations, soft, crumbly, firm, vintage, blue and… scone-y. So say we all.

These scones are ridiculously easy. If you can stir and operate an oven then you should be pretty much okay. They also taste SO GOOD, super light and cheesy and delicious.

RECIPE:

  • 420g self raising flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp grated black pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 50g butter, chilled
  • big bunch of fresh herbs (I used thyme, but most things will work, basil, oregano, chives etc)
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 50g strong cheddar, grated
  • 250ml milk

Preheat your oven to 220’C/200’C fan and line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, pepper and cayenne and mix it all together. Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour mix. You use exactly the same motion as you would if you were a gangster ominously motioning someone to pay up, just the other way round. Carry on gangster-ing up your kitchen until there are no mega lumps of butter left.

Add your grated cheese and tear in your herbs. Thyme is my favourite, but you could use pretty much anything. Herbs with bigger leaves will need to be chopped finely or they look kind of swampy. Add the milk and stir it all together. The mixture will be a little bit on the dry side but if it seems excessively floury add a tiny drop more milk.

Put some flour on a work surface and gently knead the dough together. Don’t over do it, just make sure the mixture is holding together.

Pat the dough flat, it should be about 2cm high and then cut it into approx 5cm rounds. You don’t need a cutter for this, use anything, a small cup, a bowl, a wine glass… or even just roughly with a knife. You should get around 10-12 little discs.

Pop them on the baking tray and into the oven for about 12mins. Give them plenty of space above them in the oven because they should rise nicely.

And there you go (almost) instant cheese gratification. Amen.

100_0796These would be really nice with a hot bowl of soup. Or, as the boyfriend informed me, with some “chive creme fraiche”. Because yes, he is the campest straight man on the planet.

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Burgers, Bad Puns and The Perils of Student Living

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Like all great, epic sagas (and also unfortunately the not-great ones) the quest for the perfect veggie burger has a second installment. A Return of the (Burger) King, if you will, or a Clash of Hob Rings. Terrible puns aside:

desktopExcept not really, I LIED!

Ahem, terrible puns aside, the reason for the speedy ease of this recipe could be that it comes from famous Mockney, Jamie Oliver. A man who favours stop-watch timed cooking, turning meal times into a frantic race against the clock like some kind of feverish kitchen-based version of Countdown, except with an unusually high burn risk. He also favours serving his food on big wooden boards because, y’know, plates are too conventional.

RECIPE: (serves 4)

  • big bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 x 400g tin mixed beans, drained
  • 200g frozen broad beans (defrosted for 5mins)
  • 1/2tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2tsp cumin
  • 1/2tsp coriander
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • olive oil
  • feta
  • cherry tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • jalapenos
  • gherkins
  • 4 wholemeal burger baps

Put the coriander, mixed beans, broad beans, spices, lemon zest and flour in a food processor and pulse together until combined. I made the mistake of putting the broad beans into the processor whilst still frozen. This gave a fairly accurate sounding reconstruction of the horrifying sound of several machine guns going off at once. Interesting to note for any war-enthusiasts, or you could record it and use it as a sound effect during your next game of Risk. Just an idea.

Scrape the mix out and, on a floured surface, form it into four patties.

Pop the buns in the oven (disclaimer: not an anti birth control slur), lay out some sides and heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat.

Add the patties and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, turning when they are nice and golden and that… is pretty much it.

bloggt 003These are very yummy! The beans make them really satisfying and for just a couple of minutes of work they are definitely not disappointing. They are also a ridiculously cheap dinner and therefore student friendly. If students actually cooked… which most often they don’t. I actually had a flatmate once who tried to cook a frozen meat burger in a toaster. Undergraduates really do inhabit a special world of unreality.

Anyway these are very tasty, very fast and very easy. Happy cud-chewing people 🙂

coweee

Golden Balls

freedpmThe name of these eggs is not, in fact, my own desperate cry in favour of Scotland’s Independence but just what I have decided to call this recipe for vegetarian Scotch eggs. As meat is such an integral element of Scotch eggs I thought that calling them Scotch was a bit of a lie. Like a wolf in sheeps clothing. Or an American acting the part of a famous Scottish person. For example.

I absolutely love picnics. They are little more than an excuse to eat delicious food in the favourable guise of being active and healthy and outdoors-y. I always hated missing out on Scotch eggs. They aren’t particularly good for you (the traditional version) but they look so yummy. Savoury spicy-ness and eggs, all in a little portable, finger-friendly package.

So I give you freedom eggs! Free from horrendous, nasty, stereotypically Scottish, death-inducing ingredients. And also free from meat (but not free from David Cameron nor free from questionable acting – just a little disclaimer)

RECIPE: (makes 6 eggs)

  • 7/8 large eggs
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 250g grated carrots
  • 2 heaped tbsp curry paste
  • 200g breadcrumbs
  • 85g roasted cashews, chopped

Put 6 of the eggs in a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil. Let them boil for 5mins exactly and then take them off the heat and cool them in cold water. Shell them carefully. No one wants bits of shell in their egg. Major picnic faux-pas.

While they are cooling heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for 5mins, add the grated carrots and cook for a further 10mins, until soft. Add the curry paste and the breadcrumbs and leave the mixture to cool a little. Then beat the egg and mix it in. If the mixture seems a little dry beat another egg and add it in a little at a time until the mix becomes a paste.

Heat your oven to 170’C/150’C fan.

Now for the messy bit! Divide the mixture into 6. Flatten a part of the mixture in your hands and then put the egg on top and slowly wrap the mixture round. Use wet hands if the mixture seems to prefer sticking to your fingers instead of the egg. Scotch fingers are a slightly more controversial version of this recipe and not one I intend to go into at this point in time. The mixture should bind around the egg pretty well. Do this for each of the eggs and then roll them in the chopped cashews.

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Pop them in the oven for about 15-20mins until the coating has crisped up and then serve them with some mango chutney and a crunchy salad. Or just put them in a tupperware and pretend you are going on a hike somewhere.

100_0719These are totally delicious, spicy and crunchy. Vegetarians (or just heart-attack avoiders) rejoice!

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Falafels: An Incoherent Truth

 

falafalThere are, on this planet, only a couple of truths that are universally acknowledged. One of these is that drunk people make a mess. To progress this idea could be to argue that drunk people will make a spectacular mess, merrily, and often in record time. It’s inescapable, and therefore should be embraced whole-heartedly. The fact that drunk people enjoy making a mess is, in fact, the sole reason behind the existence of many of our most celebrated dishes. Do you really think the Mexicans would have invented nachos if they hadn’t invented tequila first? What other purpose does a kebab actually have? Do you think chips and cheese would even exist without drunk people?

And so I bring you falafel wraps. These are the perfect drunken food. DIY wrap-making can be messy at the best of times, even when your sobriety is not actually in question. So you have the added bonus of watching your friends trying to navigate a cheesy, leaking wrap into their silly drunk faces. It’s pretty much the equivalent of giving them a hair-trigger Super Soaker full of hot sauce. Amazing.

RECIPE: (serves 3-4)

Falafel

  • 1 x 400g tin of mixed beans
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tbsp harrissa
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • olive oil

Sides

  • 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 4 spring onions, as above
  • 8 small tortillas
  • 2tbsp mango chutney
  • 250g cottage cheese
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 lime
  • sweetcorn

Drain the chickpeas and the mixed beans in a colander. Make sure all the gunk from the tin has come off, or your falafels will end up smooshy. Nobody wants a smooshy falafel. Put them in the food processor, grate in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Add the harrissa, allspice, flour and coriander and blitz everything together. It doesn’t matter if it it doesn’t have a perfectly smooth consistency, the falafel are actually nicer with a bit of texture, and besides, your drunk, so what do you care?

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Scrape out the mixture and (with slightly wet hands) shape it into 8 to 10 balls. Squish them flat, heat a tbsp of oil in a frying pan and cook the falafel on both sides turning them when they are nice and crispy.

Fry up the bell peppers with the spring onions. It’s alright if the peppers go a little black, they’ll be sweeter that way, so you can let your drunken mind wander… just not too far. Put them in a bowl.

Put the tomatoes, chilli, garlic and some more coriander in the processor with the lime juice. Whiz it up till it’s smooth and salsa-y, season and put it in a serving dish. Mix the cottage cheese with the mango chutney or sweet chilli sauce – both is good trust me, I know it sounds bizarre – and put it into another bowl. Other nice bowls of stuff could be sweetcorn, some chopped cherry tomatoes and grated cheese. I know this already sounds washing up heavy, it’s worth it, I just hope you have polite friends.

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Put the tortillas in a microwave for about 45 seconds, or warm them in the oven. Pop them on a plate and let battle commence.

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I will warn you: Do not serve this to your in-laws unless they are either forgiving, like-minded or suitably plied with alcohol. You are going to end up looking like a toddler with problematic motor skills.

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Not, unfortunately, a close acquaintance of the Muffin Man

muffinman

I must confess that I am not a massive muffin maker. This is mostly because something inherent in their easily portable, bite-sized goodness suggests an obligation to “share”. I also find that my personal food-based guilt is exponentially linked to numbers and not to size. For example eating one entire cake is basically just a minor slip-up whereas eating twelve whole muffins could arguably be considered gross misconduct.

However, when you are attending a party where lots of little (and big) fingers are likely to be in attendance, muffins can come in pretty handy. Or fingery. And these muffins are super moist and silky because of the mashed bananas so that, unlike most muffins which dry out after less than half a day, these will stay good for about 3 days after baking. Not that they are at all likely to stick around that long. This recipe is also great because it genuinely takes less than half an hour from start to finish. This means that if, to your embarrassment, you recently discovered that man-flu can be catching, they really don’t take all that much effort to rustle up.

RECIPE:

  • 3 very ripe, or over-ripe bananas, peeled
  • 125ml vegetable oil, or melted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1tsp bicarbinate of soda
  • 50g milk or dark chocolate (optional)

I used 5 very small, lunchbox bananas for this, which worked perfectly because they are so sweet. I don’t think the smaller variety exist outside of Australia though, so if you’re in the UK stick to the normal sized ones, making sure that they are very ripe. I also must stress that because this recipe relies quite a lot on cocoa powder, especially if you aren’t using chocolate as well, that it has to be really, really good quality. Brits, you can’t go wrong with Green & Blacks.

Preheat your oven to 200’C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. This mixture can either make 12 regular sized breakfast muffins or about 18-20 mini ones.

Mash the bananas in a large bowl with a fork and, while mashing, pour in the oil or melted butter followed by the eggs and sugar. Mix the flour, cocoa and bicarb together and then add this slowly to the mixture, beating all the time.

Break up the chocolate into chips. You can do this by putting it in a zip-lock bag, squeezing the air out, closing it and then beating the crap out of it with a rolling pin. This doubles as a fairly viable anger-management aid, so feel free to really go for it.

Add the broken chocolate to the mixture, give it a good stir and then spoon it into the muffin cases and pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. You should notice that the mixture is silky smooth and totally lickable. Reserve anything left in the bowl for scraping out whilst the muffins are in the oven. Consider it foreplay for the muffin-y goodness to come.

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They should come out nice and plump and rounded. And in less than 30 minutes time? Not bad work for a Sunday morning where by all rights you should be in bed with panadol and lemsip and a soothing, comforting episode of The Walking Dead, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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Among the reviews I think it should be noted that I overheard a small child telling her friend that they were “very chocolate-y”. So there. Michelin-stardom, here I come.

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I think the term you are searching for is “Rustic”…

soda bread header

 

When you know how to make Soda Bread you literally have no excuse to not have the smell of fresh bread permanently sexing up your kitchen. It’s the easiest, quickest, messiest thing to make and therefore appeals to my entire skill set – terminal laziness, short attention span, and permanent sticky-fingerdom. No excuses. Get baking. This recipe is courtesy of Paul Hollywood, the blue-eyed Adonis of the baking world.

Recipe:

  • 250g Plain White Flour
  • 250g Wholemeal Flour
  • 1tsp Bicarbinate of Soda
  • 1tsp Salt
  • 1tsp Soft Brown Sugar (optional)
  • 420ml Buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200’C.

Mix together both flours, the bicarbinate, salt and sugar.

Add the buttermilk and mix to form a sticky dough. Bite the bullet here, there is literally no way to do this other than getting your hands in and squidging it about. It is the stickiest thing in the universe. Put some flour on the worktop BEFORE you get stuck in because you won’t be able to touch anything afterwards. You’ll be a dough-y King Midas. More mess, less bling.

On a floured worktop roll and fold the dough together, but don’t knead it! If you want buns separate the dough into 4, otherwise just roll it into 1 big ball.

Score each ball with a big, deep cross and dust with flour.

Put it on a baking tray lined with tin foil and bake for 30 mins.burger 005

They aren’t the prettiest things in the world, and they definitely wont be winning Miss Bread Australia 2014 anytime soon. I think the polite term is “Rustic” or “Definitely Homemade” But they taste SO good and are epic torn into soup or with heaps of cheese and pickle. You’re welcome.

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