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Friday, 18 December 2015

Last Minute Gifts and Stocking Fillers

It's only a week until Christmas and while I'm sure most of you have already bought the majority of your gifts (if not check out my guides here and here) you might still be looking for a few little pieces, maybe to go in stockings? If so, then this is the list for you. All of these present ideas can be bought from chain shops (I love independents but by their very definition there's normally only one of them and that's just not practical for last minute things) and most cost under £10. With the other posts I have chosen a make and then suggested some of my favourites within their collection, while here I shall switch between item (e.g. biscuit cutters) and shops, depending on what you can get where - Paperchase have so many gorgeous things that it seemed silly to have a long list of ideas with only one item in each and all from the same shop!


I think these christmas pudding bin bags (£10/12) are so cute and would make a great gift for the cook, and makes taking out the bins a bit more fun (as far as taking the bins out can be fun). Continuing the christmas pud theme is a set of juggling balls (£6) perfect for big and little kids alike. For me, recipe books are one of my ultimate weaknesses but I often find it hard to find my favourite recipes in a hurry (at university alone I have 30 or 40 cookbooks) so I write up my favourite recipes into a (now tattered and stained) Paperchase recipe book that a friend gave me for Christmas 2014. Paperchase sell fun patterned ones (£10 each) and a slick Molesine recipe journal (£18) that I aspire to, or finally you could go for loose cards and a box to store them in (paperchase £10), which are easier to transport. The other thing I rely on at uni is a meal planner to stop me from impulse buying my food (an expensive mistake). Normally, paperchase have a great selection in multiple sizes and also straight shopping list pads, but online they only seem to show this one (paperchase £8) which is a bit too cartoony for my tastes. Finally, for the cocktail enthusiast, there's a sweet gold toned cocktail shaker (£18) that says "Cheers!".

Friday, 4 December 2015

Gifts for Foodies

For those of you who would like to buy a present for a food-lover but don't want it to be, you know,  food, then here's a gift list for you. I've put together a few things that I have given or received in the past and loved, as well as a few things that I'm coveting. If you do want to give someone a food extravaganza for christmas then here's a link to my christmas hamper guide.


Pandora have a few food related charms, my all time favourite being the cupcake (coincidentally the reason I bought a pandora bracelet in the first place). They also have some seriously cool looking cakes, including a three tiered one (that I can no longer find on their website). In fact, there are some many that I like it was hard to choose just three to show you. The cupcake (Pandora £40) was obviously on the shortlist but then, should there be an ice cream cone (Pandora £35)? A pineapple (Pandora £45)? or a teacup (Pandora £25)? In the end I decided to add to the list a pretty espresso maker (Pandora £35) for coffee lovers and a cool chef's hat (Pandora £35), appropriately named "I love cooking", for all those recipients who would just rather be cooking! If you need to get the bracelet (Pandora) to go with the charm then they start at £35 for a multi-strand strap and go up to £1,200 for a gold gold one! Don't worry though - the silver ones are £55 and hold at least 15 charms, or you can buy a leather one (£40-£50) although they recommend a maximum of 7 charms as the leather can stretch.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Christmas Time

Christmas is not very far away (where did the time go?) and the weather is not at all frightful (really Poitiers? Why is it 21 degrees celsius in mid-November?!) and an email from the lovely people at Cailler (read my review of their chocolate here) reminded me that I have a post mostly written about last year's food related presents that I want to adapt into a gift guide. First up, last year I made a hamper for my parents, which they loved and my bank balance hated. One word of advice? Set a budget and stick to it. I kept adding extra things and forgetting to total it up, so that I have no clue as to the total value of the hamper. It was worth it though - to be able to pull together all these amazing things that linked and expanded upon daddy's request for cheese and wine and that my parents loved.

Hampers take the most time to pull together, so I'll write and post my ideas for your hampers this week and over the next few weeks I will post other ideas for gifts, both edible and not, for foodies and gather them all together under the christmas tab on my navigation bar.


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Cailler Chocolate*

It was reading week last week and I took a trip home, via Paris where I participated in a macaron making class (more about that in another post), to see my mum and relax for a bit. Well, it was supposed to be relaxing. I actually zoomed around for the whole holiday and found myself in London 4 times!! The most unexpected visit also turned out to be one of my favourite days and a completely new experience. One of mum's friends passed along an invitation to a chocolate launch on the South Bank (Sea Containers's restaurant is very swish by the way).

The chocolate in question? Nestlé's prestigious swiss brand Cailler, now launching in the UK exclusively at Amazon. It's made at Maison Cailler near Broc and uses (unlike most chocolate companies) fresh milk in their  chocolates, not powdered. They even showed us a video about one of their cows, Gwendoline! All the milk is sourced from within a 20 mile radius of maison Cailler, which is a nice touch and helps to keep the brand close to home - apparently there are some locals who say you can taste the difference between the chocolates made in the summer and winter, when the cows eat different things. I think they must have insanely good tastebuds!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Things Are Finally Settling Down

I know it's been a long time since I wrote a post and I know that I keep apologising but things will get back to normal now and you'll get your regular dose of recipes again. I've just chosen all of my classes and I think I'm happy with them (having walked out of today's one half way through because the same subject made my cry in first year and switched it for a better class). Some are brilliant. like my writing techniques class - this week we had to write lonely hearts ads and last week it was acrostics - and some are straightforward and not too challenging - like my translation classes. My flat is also, mostly, behaving itself after a flood during a bad storm. Although I'm still trying to get the roof fixed, I'm beginning to understand that the French are unbelievably laid-back about water coming in through the roof and that if I ring every so often then hopefully it'll all get sorted before winter! The social aspect of uni is great - I've made plenty of friends - and I've even thrown my first baby dinner party (4 friends and lots of thai green curry). Here's to many more to come!

My friend from Manchester, Jed, was staying with me for a couple of weeks while he found himself a flat and one night I made the Hairy Biker's lemon chicken for us. Well, it was delicious and while it's very different to my favourite lemon chicken from Dim T in Winchester, it's got a punchy flavour without being cloyingly sweet and unhealthy. I've changed a couple of things around as I didn't think there was enough sauce but that the juice of 2 whole lemons would make it too sour (I was right - 1½ is about right but feel to add more if you want to).

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Last Month (Time Has Flown)

Last Sunday it was the first anniversary of this blog and I realised I hadn’t posted for a while due to a busy summer. Well, I’m going to rectify this today with  a catch up of my holidays. This might not be posted for a few days as I currently don’t have reliable internet but as soon as I can I promise to upload this! 

I last posted when I was in Sweden. We had a fantastic two weeks there and the food, well, it was brilliant. If you ever go to Stockholm then I recommend you eat at Oaxen Slip, which is on the same island as the ABBA museum (also worth a visit for the hilarity of it all. And the chance to pretend you’re part of the band). The menu is intended to be shared but you could quite easily have a plate each and just share the sides. We each chose a dish and then tried each others’. I had pork with spring onion butter and a charred lemon, so simple yet full of flavour. My family chose cod with hazelnuts, Swedish beef sausage, and a steak. All tasted fantastic. For me, the anticipated dessert, and the reason I chose the restaurant, having spotted it on Rocket and Squash’s instagram, was a salted caramel brownie with ice cream and sour cream. Boy, did it live up to expectations! The warm brownie was light and gooey with the sour cream being a perfect, if unusual, foil to the chocolate sweetness. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


My cousin's wife and their children came over to cook the other day* (you may remember them from when we made dumplings) and we made chicken satay. Charlie also demanded that we made bread so there was a quick detour for that to happen but ultimately we made some amazing satay that tasted just like the stuff I ate all the time when we went to Boat Quay or Chinatown in Singapore. Now, this isn't as much of a coincidence as it might seem - the cookbook author, Ghillie James, is an expat in Singapore. If you want little ones to help then juicing the limes with an electric juicer was deemed excellent fun, as was pressing the buttons on my mini processor (it's fairly noisy). Holding the hand held mixer to knead the bread definitely met with Charlie's approval - he loved the shape of the dough hooks but interestingly didn't want to touch the dough itself.

The recipe is quite straightforward but I'm not happy with the marinade for the chicken and want to tweak it using a satay recipe I previously used. Therefore I'm only going to give you the recipe for the sauce, with my changes, and will upload the marinade another time. When I can't be bothered to marinate, thread and grill the chicken I often just fry the chicken and cook some rice/noodles and peas and serve with this sauce on top. You could use beef, pork or prawns if you'd rather.

*Other week - I forgot to finish this before I went to Sweden (more on that next time) - sorry!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

My First Roast Chicken

I tagged along on a trip to Bath with my mum on Saturday and marched around all the places I wanted to visit in under two hours while she had lunch. It was great but I wish I'd had longer! I bought the most beautiful 21cm chef's knife made by I O Shen - the swirls along the handle aren't just decorative but help with the weight and balance of the knife. Then, I visited the amazing Foodie Bugle and chatted to the lovely owners, Silvana and John-Paul de Soissons about their beautiful and eclectic selection of kitchenware for sale. I purchased a pretty tile to take photos against, which is something I've been after for a long time, along with a Falcon enamel pie dish (for 2 potion lasagne in Poitiers) and their first printed magazine - it started out being online. My third and last stop was Richard Bertinet's bakery for some focaccia and a quiche for my supper. Once there I also couldn't resist one of his recipe books that focused just on bread recipes - an excellent find as I have enough cookbooks already that are half bread and half cake!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

School's Out For The Summer!

I'm a cook!!
I have a job! And a flat in France! And it's summer! And Very Hot! As you can probably tell, I'm excited and busy. First things first, I am moving to Poitiers in September for a year, as you may already know, and I went there with mum a couple of weeks ago to find somewhere to live. Well, we expected it to be really difficult but by some miracle we loved the first flat we saw and got that one. It's lovely and spacious and right in the centre of town. The weather on the weekend we were there was gorgeous, and there were some amazing markets that are on every day/week so I won't be short of ingredients for new recipes to share with you. You can see in the photo below what it was like.


Friday, 12 June 2015

Pizza Party

I'm packing up my flat at the moment, ready to move back home for the summer, but I thought I'd take a break and quickly write a new recipe for you. I'm going to really miss Manchester when I leave, which, for those of you who knew my feelings before I arrived, is quite surprising. Coming from a small town and then a very safe big city (Singapore) I thought crime ridden Manchester would leave me refusing to leave my room apart from to go to lectures to stay safe. Well, one thing I learnt quickly is that Manchester and Greater Manchester are different and if you're sensible and somewhat cautious (not waving your phone around on street corners etc) then it's a great place to live and study. Summer is looking very busy and then my next adventure begins - I am studying in Poitiers for a year so you will have some French produce orientated recipes to come, as well as many of my favourites.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Long Awaited Recipe!

* Argh! This was supposed to go up at the start of this week! I'm so sorry it's late. I've just finished my last exam and I'm packing for a trip to London and then home for mum's birthday. I hope you enjoy this recipe and forgive me for the delay.

I only have one exam left! Whooooo! Unfortunately it's also the longest/hardest but we'll skip that for now.* Today I am going to share with you a recipe for Thai Green Curry so that you can finally put that curry paste recipe from last month to good use. I don't know why it's taken me so long to post this - I think I just always thought I already had, as it's one of my favourite meals. It's really easy to make and if you don't want to make your own paste then I'd probably recommend Mae Ploy as the paste to use - you can buy it from Tesco and Asian supermarkets as well as probably others. It's a large pot and will last for ages but once you've made your own curry pastes then I can promise that you won't go back. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A New Idea

Oh woe is me! Exams are upon me! And I have no real inclination to cook as I don't have the time for my usual marathons, so I thought I'd try out a new idea for the blog, based on a theme that Kassiella does - weekly photos of what I've been up to, or more accurately, what I've been cooking. It's often old favourites that I turn to over revision time and I will link the recipes where they're ones I've already shared with you. This week has had ups and downs, I had a lovely afternoon with two good friends on Wednesday, to celebrate the end of a project Grace and I had been working on for uni and that we had all done our speaking exams for French. The rest of my week, well you're just going to have to look at the pictures!

Clockwise from top left
- Chocolate chip cookies to aid my revision
- Pork and peppers with noodles (from this recipe but I ran out of sesame seeds)
- Two new 500ml water bottles to encourage me to drink more water - as I've been drinking 3-4 of them each day I think it's working!
- Thai Green Curry - I promise that'll be my next recipe!
- The napkin from Filthy Cow in Manchester, which does seriously good burgers and has a really fun decor. I ate the burger and chips too fast to remember to take a photo
- Pizza Express dough balls from a lazy evening home alone
- Veal pasta from a lovely restaurant in Scarborough, where my family ate after watching the Tour de Yorkshire - I counted 55 police motor bikes!
- My new ladle from OTOTO, it's so cute and it stands up on its own!
- A delicious bowl of pea and pancetta risotto with a liberal serving of parmesan

What do you think of this new style of post? Is it a good idea or does it make you too hungry? And is that a good thing?

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hi And Bye: A Very Quick Recipe

Argh!!! Exam season is upon me and I have only got a week before a major deadline AND my French speaking exam. Scarily, in a month's time I shall have finished my exams AND be half way through my degree *cue manic nail biting terror*. This means that my recipes will be uploaded somewhat erratically as it will be a nightmare few weeks but I do have a few posts up my sleeve for you pre-written to avoid me stressing out too much. On a brighter note, I got 67 in my last essay, which is worth 40% of one module's final mark - for those of you who aren't familiar with university marking - one teacher said she'd only ever given 80 once before and that was because she couldn't have sat down and written a better essay herself. 67 is equivalent to a high 2:1, which is great. I also had a presentation to do on Wednesday, so hopefully that went well, I think it did but I won't get the mark for a few weeks.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Spaghetti and Meatballs

The weather has been great recently and I'm making the most of it with recipes like this mediterranean chicken and my light butter chicken but sometimes, no matter the weather, I just want spaghetti and meatballs. You could make this and pretend that you're in Lady and the Tramp with some extra long spaghetti (like this (sadly out-of-stock) packet from - I love their descriptions!) or you could just enjoy it with a glass of kir, as I did. The other good thing about the weather is I'm going to the gym more regularly, funny how the lack of rain and wind makes me more included to venture out!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Simply Cook . . . Roast Potatoes

*This recipe first appeared on the blog in November 2014 and has been updated to launch my new page, "Simply Cook . . ."*

Liam, my flatmate, loves roast potatoes but they're never really made in my family - we have our own version that aren't crispy. I set out to find a recipe that was foolproof and tasty for him. There are lots of conflicting ideas (this won't be a classic recipe in terms of numbers and layout - you need to make as many potatoes an you want) but the basis is heating oil, or preferably goose fat in a roasting tin in the oven (200˚C) whilst parboiling floury potatoes cut to the desired size. Parboil them for about 8 minutes and then drain them in a colander, shaking them around to rough up the edges before tossing them in flour to help crisp up the edges. Carefully place them in the hot roasting pan and cook for 30-50 minutes (depending on the size you cut them), turning occasionally.

Cutting the potatoes

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Bhindi Masala

I'm sorry about the radio silence - things have been a bit hectic recently, but I'm now back in Manchester and ready to give you a new recipe for Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook. Yesterday *the day before yesterday now*, I had a couple of friends over for a meal so that we could all catch up after our holidays and before exams. I decided to make light murgh makhani and naan for us but then I realised that there weren't really any vegetables in the meal so I thought I'd find some okra to cook. Well, the only place I knew sold okra was in the centre of town but I didn't want to go there and so I searched high and low along Oxford Road for some to no avail. Fortunately for the okra plan (unfortunately for my timings) my phone had an issue, causing me to go it to town to get it fixed so I was able to buy okra. This curry is the result of that search. Bhindi means okra, in case that's not obvious!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Scrumptious Sorbet

I love sorbets but have never been brave enough to make one before - my dad had told me I needed to stir it every 30 minutes until it had set and thought egg whites were involved. Well, the former is true, though it's more like every hour at the beginning, and the latter is not true in the case of this recipe. I took the plunge and made raspberry sorbet to end an Italian themed dinner party. It was the perfect finale: light, refreshing and yet full of flavour. The second sorbet I made was a week later as I spotted some blood oranges at the grocers and thought it might be nice to make something with them as they were in season. Finally, my third sorbet was made the other night, once again with blood oranges, when my neighbours here in France (salut!) came over for a thai meal.

It's a terribly easy recipe and can be adapted to lots of different fruits as suits your tastes. I will give the instructions for blood orange or lemon sorbet and for raspberry sorbet but you could change it to strawberry, blackcurrant or pretty much anything. If it's berries don't forget to add a little lemon juice to counteract the sweetness and that berries will take longer to make as they have to be blitzed and then strained, whereas once the citrus fruits have been tested and juiced they can be tipped straight into the sugar syrup.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Thai Green Curry Paste

Here's something tasty and satisfying for you to make over this Easter weekend. You can use it in this recipe and I've just realised I haven't posted my standard green curry recipe yet so I'll do that for next week and link it here.

So, curry pastes. They're so much easier to buy, right? Wrong. If you have a food processor (I have this mini Cuisinart one, that's great and under £25, (or it was when I got one for me and then one for my mum) it's currently £35 but still worth it, then it's so easy. All you have to do is buy the ingredients and shove them in the food processor before pressing the button with one hand and trying to cover your ears with the other! It's a noisy beast but small and useful and relatively inexpensive. I use mine for pesto and curry pastes mainly, and blitzing breadcrumbs. It is more expensive to make homemade curry pastes but, as with most things, tastes so much better. For the first time, I could see why it was called a green curry (and it wasn't because food dye had been added!).

All of the ingredients!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Chicken And Mediterranean Veg

I'm on holiday! Well, I've been on holiday for a week and now I'm working as an office junior to make money to fund my cookware addiction (I've got my eye on a spice grinder and a good few cookbooks, including Jerusalem (Ottolenghi), ONE (Florence Knight) and Polpo) . . . also a slight shoe addiction . . . clothes in general really. Fortunately for my love of sleep, it's still only a four day week with the bank holiday.

I've just bought the Hairy Bikers' other two dieting cookbooks and have been cooking from them all week with plans for more recipes over the next fortnight. This recipe is inspired by their easy chicken bake (book 2) but I couldn't be bothered to stuff the chicken as it seemed an odd and rather pointless mix (grated courgette, cheddar and sundries tomatoes) and this style of recipe seems to be fairly standard across all recipe books and blogs - I saw another similar recipe on delicious.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb

Where to start? I had an amazing time in London and I'm not sure how to compact it all down into one post, so instead I'm going to write two as my time with Isabel (a friend of mum's) was very different to the days that I spent with my friends from college. I spent all of Saturday with Isabel and we went to Borough Market to buy food for supper. Wow! Borough Market is incredible!!! It was very busy but there's so much to see. We bought some delicious salami from Canon and Canon (I believe it's all British charcuterie, which is quite cool) and from another stall we got some unbelievably good parma ham and burrata. For the main course decideon slow roast shoulder of lamb was decided upon (recipe below). Going to The Ginger Pig's stall for the lamb, we almost received goat instead! There was only one shoulder of goat amongst 5 or 6 of lamb and they looked almost identical so it was an easy mistake to be made - fortunately we noticed it had the wrong label as the man picked it up.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Cod With Parma Ham And Roasted Veggies

So, this is another Hairy Dieters recipe and I have to admit that I didn't make it myself (mum did) but it tasted delicious and I need something to post for you today! I chose the recipe as one that I wanted to cook over the next few weeks whilst I'm at home. I'm hoping to stockpile some completed blog posts so that you all have something to read whilst I revise for my exams in May. I was in London this weekend, which is why mum cooked, and I had an amazing time - check back in a few days to see what I was up to as I post about Borough Market, the amazing meal I ate at Polpo, and Minyi and mine's now traditional trip around all of the food halls in London! 
A very full but bright plate!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Teriyaki Salmon

I'm sorry this is a couple of days late but it's for a good reason - I had an essay to write and a pop-up shop to run and I'm pleased to say both were successful. The shop was on Monday and after a very long day (I had to get up at 6:15 - the horror!) I'm pleased to say we raised just shy of £1,100 to Teenage Cancer Trust! My next post will either be a frittata for next Monday's Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook or it'll be about my trip to London (tomorrow 'til Sunday) and the amount of food I eat on it! One of my friends was highly entertained when I showed her my to do list and after a lot of food shops and restaurants there was "a museum" with a question mark after it!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Thai Red Curry

I've been wanting to make red curry for a while but have never gotten round to it as I wasn't sure what to put in the dish other than not wanting duck. Recently I got the Hairy Bikers diet book as it was part of a deal on Amazon and I couldn't spot another book I wanted in a hurry (it was 3 for £10). Well, I'm so glad I got it - the recipes are amazing and food that I'd want to eat regardless of the fact that it's healthy and good for me. They counted calories to lose weight so that's the only nutritional info given but you can see just by glancing through the ingredients that there's nothing bad in it. They say that this recipe is 286 calories without rice (50g of uncooked basmati rice is 176 calories so the total calories in the dish is 462), which is nothing short of miraculous for a thai curry. What's even more miraculous is the fact that it tastes incredible and very similar to regular thai curries, I might have to give my green curry the same treatment next time. For once, I don't think I've made any changes to the recipe, it's pretty much perfect just the way it is. Actually, i've changed the cornflour to water ratio as it's like concrete - whatever you do don't leave it alone before it goes in the curry or your spoon will be stuck!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Red Nose Day Fairy Cakes

Have you been watching the Great British Bake Off for Comic Relief? I have and while some of it's been comedy gold (Dame Edna Everage needing secateurs to remove a cookie tin, anyone?) I definitely think the proper version is the best. However, I also love Comic Relief and watch it (or the highlights) every year as most of the special sketches are great. They raise so much money for good causes and this year I've supported them by buying red noses, nail stickers and funny mugs as well as a cupcake cases kit. A kit which got me thinking - how could I incorporate my love of baking into a blog post which would help people raise money for Comic Relief? I'm not doing a bake sale, quite simply because I'm running a pop up shop to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust (Monday 16th March 2015 at the UoM Student Union - come along and buy some amazing (and cheap) clothes) and I have a couple of 2,000 word essays to write before the Easter hols, but you might be holding a bake sale and so I'm here to help.

These cupcakes have a hidden surprise in them - crack one open and you'll reveal a red nose! I made my cakes using a Red Velvet batter (I left out the colouring and added it only to the last bit of batter reserved for the centres) but this recipe is going to be just a regular mix to make it easier for children to get involved. If you want to make Red Velvet then by all means do - this is my recipe - just make sure you leave the colouring 'til last! I have a silicone tray of tiny spheres (bought in the hope that I'd make chocolates) which cost a few pounds off Amazon. If you don't have that then use a few cupcake cases to bake the coloured batter and then whilst they're hot tear them up and mould the cake into balls - you'll need to work quickly!

As I feel I'm about to fall asleep at my desk I'm going to love you and leave you until the morning when I shall finish and post this. Otherwise the rest of it might look something like this ygtfgxbhjfgsilubjknmd"SLVmSP"DVMDFSPKBjmdfgoiajhbnd and we don't want that!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Boeuf Bourguignon (No Mushrooms!)

So, the title says no mushrooms but you can add 250g of button mushrooms (according to my mother chestnut mushrooms would be wrong). You're probably also wondering how Boeuf Bourguignon can be healthy, well that is because (again, according to my mother) the only bad bits in it are the flour and red wine! Whilst you don't use much of one you do use a lot of the latter (no prizes for guessing which) and it makes it taste so good. I was sceptical about making this as I don't really like stews but Liam wanted it and I said I'd give a mushroom free recipe a go. I'm glad I did - it was filling and yummy in equal measures. The recipe is based off Olive magazine's Skinny Beef Bourguignon, which apparently only has 281 calories per portion, though I suspect that doesn't include the potatoes they suggest you serve with it.

Obviously, you're probably dubious about making this on a weeknight, and I'm not going to suggest you make it to eat tonight, rather that you make it tonight and eat it tomorrow as the flavour will only get better. It's probably 40 minutes in total of hands on work and it just sits is the oven for a couple of hours, which is where the magic happens and the beef becomes meltingly tender and the flavours meld together in perfect harmony. It might look slightly odd when you take it out of the fridge tomorrow (beef stock tends to do that) but pop in back in the oven and it'll sort itself out.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Mojito Meringue Kisses with Sugar And Crumbs*

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently received some icing sugars from Sugar and Crumbs to review: Coconut icing sugar, Cherry Bakewell icing sugar and Cherry Chocolate cocoa powder. I love the idea of naturally flavoured icing sugars that make life easier and baking faster. The fact that it's a UK company is great as they're local and it's supporting our own economy etc.. I first came across Sugar and Crumbs at the Cake and Bake show in Manchester last year but couldn't buy any as I didn't think halls of residence were the best place to try them out! Last month I noticed on Twitter that people were mentioning blogger packs from Sugar and Crumbs so I cheekily emailed them to see if I could trial their products - this month it was confirmed that I would receive some packs. I was eager to open the parcel when it arrived and was then engulfed in a cloud of sugar! Unfortunately some of the icing sugar appears to have escaped the factory. I don't think it was the packets as they were enclosed but it didn't taste of much and nor did the coconut icing sugar so maybe it was that pack! However, I have ordered from their website before and everything arrived in perfect condition so I think this was just a one off. The packaging is light pink with a little see through cupcake on it and it's very cute. The cost is £2.99 for 250g of icing sugar or 125g cocoa powder and goes up from there. It's not the cheapest of icing sugars but it does taste good and saves you time plus, with the cocoa powder especially, you don't need too much and could always use half flavoured and half plain for the icing sugar if you wanted to make it last longer.

I have a confession to make. I don't really like coconut. So I was concerned when one of my packs was coconut flavoured sugar! When I rang mum she said coconut and lime went well together, so I did some googling and came up with mojito meringues. Aha! The theme I was given was Mother's Day and as mum left the other week, she said how nice it was that she now had a grown-up daughter to drink cocktails with. My decision was made. I would make mojito inspired mini meringues. I also found that the flavour wasn't very strong, I don't think you'd say the meringues had coconut in them unless you knew.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Healthier Brownies*

This is a bit of a different recipe to normal. It's sweet not savoury. These brownies are not perfectly healthy but they are better for you than my other brownies, although that might be in part because they are so rich that you only need a tiny piece to satisfy you! I received some flavoured icing sugars and cocoa powder from Sugar and Crumbs, a family run company that provides 'convenience without compromise' with 24 naturally flavoured icing sugars and 5 cocoa powders. They sent me coconut icing sugar, cherry Bakewell flavour and cherry cocoa powder in return for a review and recipes. Well, I leapt at the chance to try out their products as I've been coveting them ever since I tried the icings at last year's Cake and Bake Show. This recipe uses their cherry cocoa powder but would work with any of their cocoa powders (chilli, coconut, lime and orange).

I always make brownies by melting chocolate and butter in a bain marie so I was very dubious about using cocoa powder instead but the theory of it reducing the amount of fat and sugar in the bake - as lovely as chocolate is, it's not exactly light in those two ingredients! However, the sugar has to be kept fairly high in order to make the brownies soft and cracked on top. I have looked at so many healthy brownie recipes which involved kidney beans, beetroot or some other odd ingredient that I didn't want in my baked treats so I started looking at recipes involving greek yogurt and sour cream. I thought they sounded great but as the sleet came down this morning I changed my mind and used yogurt instead! The only thing is, my fridge just had raspberry and passionfruit yogurt in it! I suggest you use plain or vanilla flavoured low-fat yogurt instead. Also, why do people put oil in brownies?

Monday, 16 February 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Brown Rice With Lentils And Caramelised Onions

My mum took me to get my hair highlighted at Daniel Galvin once as a treat, although that treat did turn into a regular occurrence for a few years! Each time the appointment was over lunch, so we ate in the salon, where the menu was all terribly healthy and at the first visit I wasn't keen on any of the options but I had to eat something! That something turned out to be rice and lentils with greek yogurt and delicious caramelised onions as it seemed the most innocuous choice. I'm glad I chose it as it's yummy. Even though I no longer get my hair done there, I can still eat it, as one day was brave I asked mum to ask for the recipe! Duly armed I began to make it at home, although it was never as good because until recently I didn't know how to caramelise onions, but they're so easy to make and it tastes so good, plus it's filling and healthy! I tend to eat this on its own, nevertheless I sometimes have it as a side and add peas and sausages, as in  the photo. However you eat it, it's warming and easy to make. No hovering over the stove, just occasional checkups and you'll probably have leftovers to take into work in a thermos the next day.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Ching-He Huang's Yin And Yang Evening At Harvey Nichols Manchester

Eeeeeee! I've had such a great time tonight. I went to Harvey Nichols for an evening of food and demonstrations from Ching-He Huang and she is lovely, really, so nice! I'm writing some of this now and I'll add photos but I'm not going to post this until the morning (before mum arrives) because I think I drank too much to effectively spell check and photo edit. Suffice to say it was an incredible night. I was a tad concerned about going on my own but the people at my table were so nice and I have had an incredible evening. I ate far too much incredible food - as I was alone I received 2 persons portion for each course as they were sharing dishes - and I ate most of them! Starters reminded me i'm not keen on tofu but that I will now eat and love cashew nuts. Mains included the best spring rolls I've ever had - so fresh and not greasy, duck with rice and cashews, poached chicken, and I tried crab balls and prawn and scallop wontons - sadly confirming I don't like shellfish but they still tasted great - my table mates gladly ate what I couldn't. In the morning I'll add a photo of the menu for you. SO GOOD. Sleep now though.

Spring Rolls
Well, it's the morning after the night before and I thought I'd leave the bit that I wrote last night as it kind of conveys my excitement after the event, even if I was right about my spelling abilities - apparently I received potions instead of portions! I arrived slightly late, as we were being seated but got noticed, and complimented, by Ching-He Huang for my hot pink Chinese jacket. I received a Happiness cocktail on my way to my table (lucky number 7), which was, according to the menu, a twist on a Kir Royale with rhubarb, ginger, lychee and plum liqueurs instead of cassis, happily for me, it didn't really taste of ginger, and was in fact very tasty. Whilst enjoying my cocktail, I watched Ching demo spring rolls and I learnt to throw away the first few layers of wrappers as they would be too dry - very useful as I just bought some gyoza wrappers for when I don't have time to make them myself.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Korean Stir-Fry

Well, it's been a busy week and this week promises to be even busier, though I've almost finished another post so I'll put that up on Wednesday or Thursday. I had a self defence class last Wednesday and learnt that if anyone tries to choke me they'll have no chance - my neck retreats like a turtle's as soon as anyone gets near. On a more serious note, whilst I hope that I never ever have to use the skills that I'm learning, it's good to know what to do just in case. On Saturday, I went to Glamorous restaurant to eat dim sum (I'm missing Singapore's food (and heat)) with a couple of friends, and purchased Fuchsia Dunlop's book Every Grain Of Rice, which I'm excited to try recipes from. Upcoming, I have another self defence class, a trip to the city art gallery for my WW1 poetry class, lots of lessons and excitingly, I have two mega events. The first, on Thursday, is an event at Harvey Nichols here in Manchester to celebrate Chinese New Year with a tasting menu and cooking demonstrations by Ching-He Huang, and the second is that my mum is making a flying visit on Friday to see The Lion King, drink cocktails and eat more dim sum!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Taste of Summer

Baby it's cold outside, but the food is so delightful. I know it's freezing and there's been a fair bit of snow around here but these tarts are scrumptious and will make you feel like you're in the med (provided you're heating's turned up!) wherever in the world you are - hi to the people who are reading my blog elsewhere in the world - it's very exciting to see that people in New Zealand, Canada and Germany amongst other places are perusing my blog. What do you think of it?

A few days ago I showed you how to make pesto from scratch. There was a reason for that, other than the fact that it's delectable. I found a recipe in delicious. for pesto tarts that I thought would be perfect for a light lunch with my friends whilst we revised (especially if you serve it with a salad). Alternatively you could make individual ones for an elegant starter at your next dinner party. If you're going to make them individually then you will have left over puff pasty that I suggest you cut into little shapes and top them with something like sundries tomato paste or cheese and serve as canapés so that it's not wasted. One 320g box of ready rolled puff pastry will, with careful fitting, make 14cm circular tartlets (I used a small breakfast bowl as a guide). The way that I'm suggesting you make it should serve 3-4 people as a light meal and makes sure that nothing is wasted.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Spanish Chicken

How are you all? University classes start up again for me today, and I'm really excited about my modules this semester. One module is called Identity and Power and is about French colonialism, another is named Culture and Conflict, covering first world war poetry, a book by Georges Perec about WW2 and then the war in Algeria makes up the third conflict that we study - it will be really interesting to learn about the world wars from a French perspective as up until now I have only studied in as part of the English GCSE and A level curriculum. My final module (ignoring the compulsory grammar one) is about careers and business management, which will hopefully be interesting and useful in the "real world"! As such meals are being planned in advance again, so there should be no shortage of interesting recipes for the blog, like this one that I'm sharing with you today. My current plan for meals next week involve a "light" katsu curry (see next Monday's Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook), a lentil dish and the old favourite (with a homemade paste), thai green curry.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Can You Ever Find That One Recipe That You Want To Make?

Image from Eat Your Books

So, this is just a quick post because I have discovered (with help from Waitrose Magazine) something extraordinary. There's a website that allows you to list all of your cookbooks and see all of the recipes in them. You can't print the recipe off the site, you have to go to your cookbook shelf but it will tell you which book and in the case of magazines, which edition, and what page number it is. You can search by book, by recipe or by ingredient. It's incredible! The site is called Eat Your Books and it's free for up to 5 books (which isn't much help if you like cooking) but for unlimited access it's 25USD a year, so not too bad. Plus, the Waitrose magazine gave me a voucher code for a three month free trial (you do not have to put your card details in), which I'm going to share with you.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Pesto Take Two

As some of you may remember, I tried and failed to make pesto back in September. Last week I came across another pesto recipe and decided to try it so that I could make pesto and mozzarella tarts. In case it also failed, I bought a jar of ready made sauce! Well, I'm happy to report that this recipe (I think it was from delicious.) works perfectly, though I have changed the amount of parmesan as it was slightly overpowering. This does mean that the ingredients are now terribly easy to remember as they're all the same quantities or by eye.

You'll ideally use a a mini food processor for this but If you were feeling up to it a pestle and mortar should work too, just don't try to overload it. I promise that if you make this you won't regret it, or go back to jars as it only takes the amount of time the 10 minute pasta takes to cook.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Harissa Chicken With Lemony Veg Couscous

I finished my exams the other day! Now I just have to forget the wordplays I used to remember my translation theorists' ideas (Venuti was interested in the visibility of translators, and Schleiermacher was all about moving the reader to the text and vice versa) as they all very helpfully (other than the poetry translators) matched their theories to their names. Sadly these exams have lead to me just cooking my failsafe recipes, like my easy tomato sauce and the delicious leek and bacon pasta bake (sadly neither with homemade pasta) so I had difficulty in finding time to test a new recipe for this series, until I flicked through the recipes I'd noted from this months foodie magazines and discovered one from Delicious. which uses harissa, a paste that I've been interested in using for a while but didn't know how. I have changed the recipe in places and opted for chicken rather than cod, as it was easier to get hold of in a hurry.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Chicken Yakitori

I'm revising for exams at the moment (french cinema in particular) and feel the need for mouth-watering but easy and healthy meals (Christmas had too much good but fattening food). I originally wanted something veggie to eat last night but then I spotted this recipe on delicious. and thought it looked, well, delicious. My version was for 2 people and actually includes noodle amounts - I just did a 200g pack of udon noodles and it was a bit too much so the recipe has less. Plus, buying a pre-made pack of stir fry vegetables is all well and good if the shop actually has them in stock. Waitrose, however, didn't and I wasn't going elsewhere as it was raining! Instead I made my own and personally, I think it tasted better - 'fresher'. I also used more vegetables than they recommended (which might be why I needed less noodles) because they were vegetables I liked (shock horror to anyone who knows me!). If you do your own mixed veggies then it only takes the time needed for the chicken to marinate, if not less.

If you say that 80g of vegetables are one of your five a day (it is according to the NHS) then my mix counts as just over 2 portions per person, and half a pre-bought mix is just under one and a half potions. Actually, that's quite an easy way to work out if you're eating enough veg - weigh it! I'm never sure if the amount of peas and corn that I cook is enough, so now I'll just make sure there's at least 80g per person when I cook veg.

Chicken Yakitori Recipe
Serves 2
If you don't want to make your own vegetable mix then use at least 225g of a pre-bought pack (more if you want)
Check how long the noodles take before you need them - mine took 9 minutes in boiling water so I started them off before the stir fry

2 medium chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips (see Chicken and Cashew nuts recipe for how)
3tbsp soy sauce
2tbsp honey (the original recipe says clear, and obviously squeeze honey is the easiest to measure but I don't have any so I just used the jar of cloudy honey from my aunt's bees and it worked well )
1tbsp dry sherry
1tbsp sesame oil (it smells so good!)
2tsp cornflour
150g dried udon noodles (I used clear spring ones bought from Waitrose)
Mix of vegetables - either 225g of a preprepared pack or your own mix, I used the below mixture and have suggested substitutions where needed, it totalled about 350g of veg:
  • 1 red pepper (or any colour)
  • 4 chantenay carrots (one small regular carrot also works)
  • 5 baby sweetcorn (regular sweetcorn could be used)
  • handful of sugar snap peas (garden peas, mangetout, okra)
  • handful of beansprouts (can be left out)
  • 4 spring onions
  • the leaves of one pak choi bulb (handful of spinach)
Mix the soy sauce, sherry and honey in a big bowl until the honey has dissolved to form a marinade.
Cut the chicken into long strips and add to the marinade, leave for 15 minutes (or do this before you go to work and leave, covered, in the fridge until you're ready for supper).
Whilst the chicken is marinading, prepare the veg if you're doing your own  - I cut the pepper and pak choi into matchsticks, spring onions, baby corn and sugar snaps into rounds, and I used a peeler to make ribbons of carrots (chantenay carrots are very cute and the perfect length for ribbons but consequently are a bee to peel into strips).
Start cooking the noodles so that they're ready when the vegetables and chicken are cooked.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick wok and add the chicken - keeping the excess marinade separate.
Mix the cornflour into the remaining marinade to make a sort of sauce (the cornflour will make it stick to the chicken etc).
Once the chicken has cooked, add the veg and stir fry for 1 minute.
Pour the cornfloured marinade into the wok and stir for 2-3 minutes until everything is coated in the sauce but the veg is still crunchy.
Drain the noodles and ladle into large bowls, adding the chicken and veg on top.

Almost ready

Monday, 5 January 2015

Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook: Butternut Squash Mac And Cheese

Cheesy but healthy
So, this is the first of my themed posts, Don't Say Never Trust A Skinny Cook, that showcase healthier meals. I'm rarely on a diet as such, because I've learnt that I'm never going to be supermodel skinny, and nor do I want to be, but I do want to be healthy. That comes from eating well and exercising. I have a gym membership that I actually use and I love the idea of eating well 80% of the time and indulging 20%, although it's more 50/50 for me at the moment, but at least I'm trying! Once a week, on a Monday, I will post a healthy recipe for you to try mid-week, it will either involve ingredients that you can pick up in your local shop or that you'll already have at home. Please let me know in the comments what you think of the recipe and if this will help you aim for that 80/20 goal!

Saving space - the pasta and and squash cook in one pan
January is the last time of year that you want to start a diet as it's so cold and gloomy, but it's the time that most of us do. This dish is comfort food turned healthy, I've already posted one recipe about mac and cheese that was a gorgeous cheesy blowout. This recipe has the name but uses butternut squash instead of white sauce and you can tailor the amount of cheese to your tastes (mine probably had more than it should!). It tastes very similar to the unhealthy version though, as it's so creamy. Thanks to the squash it has one of your five a day, and you could serve it with salad to add more. I know the temptation with these sorts of recipes is to add some meat to it but try to resist the temptation - I added pancetta originally and it was too salty and just didn't work with the creamy sauce. If you have to have some then maybe use this as a side dish and cook pork or chicken separately?