Saturday, 12 November 2016

How Time Flies...




How time flies. Yesterday afternoon, as a teaching assistant I sat amongst an excitable class of Year 7's all fidgeting in their seats, eager to start their weekend and I had the sudden realization that it was exactly half my lifetime ago now that I was sat in their very position. Being 11 years old for me was 11 years ago - how could I possibly have lived on this earth a whole extra 11 year lifetime before they were even born? This initially made me think wow, how different my first 11 years were to theirs. A lot of the things that shaped my childhood, they may not even know existed. Their childhood didn't involve memorising the entire theme-tune to Fresh Prince of Bel Air - it ended almost 10 years before they were born. Friends had finished it's glorious 10 year run before they were wearing nappies too. Do they even know what Rugrats is? Busted had formed - released a whole host of hits to please my young ears and disbanded before many of them even entered the world. Teenage Dirtbag means nothing to them whilst, it still means so much to me. They didn't avidly watch Kenan and Kel when they got home from primary school; not even Drake and Josh, who knows the equivalent now? 

I grew up listening to Backstreet Boys and Five, could One Direction be their first taste of a boyband? In 2005 my favourite band were My Chemical Romance but they split 3 years ago now; they are unlikely to have the same impact on any member of this class that they had on an 11 year old me. Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter had only just entered his fourth year at Hogwarts back in 2005; with four more movies still to film and yet now they have been over for 5 years. These kids were 4 years too late to see a little Harry Potter sorted in to Gryffindor and did not experience the same moment that a 7 year old me fell head over heels in love with one flame-haired Ronald Weasley; with my crush on Rupert Grint still remaining very much the same to this day. Maybe their first crush was Justin Bieber; I shudder at the thought. If it was Harry Styles I'll let them off but let's be honest, he's no Weasley is he?


An 11 year old me on a family holiday to Malta in July 2005.


11 years later at 22 celebrating my brother's wedding in August 2016 with a fabulous sister-in-law I never knew 11 years ago and two fantastic nephews whom 11 years ago would not have even had an ounce of planning in my sister's 17 year old mind.

I currently own a very temperamental Nokia Lumia 520 whilst the 11 year old boy beside me laughs; his first phone is an iPhone 6s and his plans for the weekend are to play a £50 game on his PS4 whilst, at 11 I still played the odd game of Sonic the Hedgehog on a Sega games console which now sells on ebay for less than just one of his PS4 games cost. I am a Liverpool fan and these year 7's were born in the year we last won the Champions League - just a tiny baby they were, perhaps still growing inside their Mum's belly and yet I still remember the sheer devastation and sudden elation my 11 year old self felt watching the horror and miraculous amazement of that game as though it were yesterday - tears of anguish and sorrow followed by happiness and joy pouring down my 11 year old cheeks - whilst they have no memory of the day of May 25th 2005 at all.


A 4 year old me with my big sister Pepsi, 10 and big brother Aston, 8 way back in 1998, how time flies...


...to 18 years later and just two weeks ago with my brother and sister on my sister's gorgeous wedding day in October 2016.

Monsters, Inc. came out before they were even born. Lilo & Stitch, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles too. They were just 1 year old when Cars came out and 4 when Up hit our cinema screens. Really? Up? It's 7 years old? Toy Story came out the year I was born; 11 years before they even entered the world and they were just 5 years old when out came Toy Story 3 whilst, I had been patiently waiting 11 years to see it and yes, even at 16 years of age the 5 year old that had adored Toy Story 2 awoke inside of me as eager as any of their 5 year old selves to finally watch the long awaited next installment.

These thoughts crossed my mind but, it was the confirmation of how much changes and how much can be achieved in just the space of 11 years that really hit me. Here they were now; at 11 years of age - growing up from a tiny baby to a young person with a mind full of ideas; wonder and knowledge that they would not have had 11 years ago; in secondary school and embarking on the next 11 years of their life - 11 exciting; difficult and unknown years that I myself have already completed. This made me slightly sad in one respect - had the 11 years that followed me being 11 been fulfilled enough? Had I made them memorable? Had I achieved the things that my 11 year old self wanted to? Maybe some things but, certainly not all. At 22 years old I hope there's still plenty of time though. I'll keep my fingers crossed that many more 11 years will kindly pass by me before I reach the end of my days.

My last 11 years have been busy to say the least and full of academia more than anything else. Where these Year 7's little blossoming minds sit longing for the weekend and to charge from the confinement of their classroom walls at the sound of the end of school bell; they still have at least 7 years remaining until they can leave these classrooms behind them for good whereas, my time in education has just this year come to its close as I handed in that daunting dissertation with it's grueling data analysis and skipped merrily out of the classroom door, never to return again. Possibly. That's the thing, whilst during my days at secondary school (writing this sentence makes me feel as though I am 100) I longed for the day that it would finish; no sooner had it ended had I wished that I could go straight back. The ease and simplicity of it; the familiarity of the 5 years I spent there made it comfortable and even now I miss it - miss giggling at the back of the class with friends; competing in a netball match against the local rival school (where I now incidentally work. How times change, ay?) and whipping up my first ever recipes in cookery lessons where I ignited my passion for food; with the creation of new recipes now becoming my favourite thing in the world to do. And just as I did when leaving school at 16; having just finished University I now miss that too. Even with all it's deadlines; referencing and reading enough journals to fry my brain - I miss it as real life honestly and truly is; and I don't think I can avoid sounding like a big baby when I say this; hard. It's damn right hard.


Completing the 150 page food product development portfolio with 35,000 words that I did back in April certainly seems a lifetime away from the 11 year old who today exclaims that he is exhausted - "I've written like 50 words in this English lesson and I've used loads of adjectives". He is quite right and they are some very impressive describing words so I think that warrants him the mini break he has allowed himself but, once again this reminds me of the stark difference in the education we complete in the 11 or so years that follow. I have now finished with GCSEs; got those A Levels out the way and obtained my degree in Home Economics but, just as I did when I was 11, I still remain to know where I really want to be in another 11 years time. I want to travel more. Fall in love. Start a family. Buy a home. It doesn't all have to be within the next 11 years but, I wan't to do those things. More than anything though I want to find my career. After spending 17 years in education, I really want to find my career. A career that makes me happy. A career that I don't have to drag myself from bed every morning to go to; I want to swing back the covers with excitement and anticipation for the working day ahead and although, I know many people don't ever get that, I want it. I really want it.

What career do I hope to have though? I am 22, not 11, shouldn't I know this by now? Possibly. Probably. My dream is to begin a food business and right now the fizzle of an idea in my head starts very small and with very little sound logic and virtually non-existant monetary support behind it to ensure its success but, it is a start and something I am passionate about so shouldn't I give it a go? Shouldn't I explore this idea further? Nothing makes me happier than donning my Cath Kidston apron as I fold a stream of melted decadent dark chocolate in to my batch of brownies or lather a layer of sweet buttercream upon a towering tier of cake and I don't think it ever will. 

I love writing too and part of me bursts with excitement every time I read the description to the Bath Spa Creative Writing masters and to earn a place on that course would be a dream come true but, once again I wonder; would I ever be good enough? Is my writing good enough for them to accept me? I am currently writing a children's fantasy novel which brings a beaming smile to my face every time I settle down to write it because whether or not anyone else thinks that it is good - I just love writing it and I rush with excitement to spill my thoughts out on to its every page. So, once again don't I owe it to myself to try and see if I am a good enough writer to potentially pursue it as a career? 

I am a born worrier. A born panicker. A nervous wreck. I have social anxiety and whilst my mind regularly fills with potential business ventures which aren't all vastly unachievable; never going to happen; get your head out of the clouds Courtney ideas; I never have the confidence to pursue any of them. I never have the confidence to go out in to the world and to meet people and to see whether my dreams could become a reality. In all honesty though, those are the two things that interest me; that captivate me and set my heart aflutter. I love food and cooking and I love writing so, shouldn't those areas be where I look to make a career? I am not 11 anymore; I am not 5 years off taking my GCSEs; I do not have my A Levels ahead of me; I do not have my degree subject to select. I have completed all of those milestones that this Year 7 class still have ahead of them. There is no longer time to delay. I am 22 years old and I can no longer sit around waiting for my life to begin; I have to make things happen on my own - not tomorrow but, today.


So, I will write - scribble furiously on to my notepad - type racingly on to my key pad and maybe I will be good enough to attain a place on a creative writing masters. Maybe, then I could secure an internship as a writer at a food magazine. Wouldn't that be amazing? And I will cook too - enough meals to make people's mouths water; eyes glisten and burst the buckles on their belts. Why wouldn't people pay for my food? Why can't I be good enough? It is time to stop waiting; planning and never quite doing. It is time to stop thinking I am not good enough - I will never be good enough and to instead start trying because maybe I am - maybe my writing is - maybe my cooking is - just quite good enough. Then maybe in another 11 years time when my name accompanies its first article in delicious magazine; or graces the front page of its first novel; or adorns the side of a box of moreish brownies I'll look back and say; my what a fantastic 11 years its been... how time flies.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

No Dough Halloumi Pizzas with Spiced Carrot, Puy Lentil and Feta Salad.



So, it's Wednesday - hump day - but we've certainly not hit a bump in the road here. No slump in eating a week full of tasty autumn dishes will be had! Who said that all hearty, warming Autumn meals have to be unhealthy? Well not this one, no siree. Here we have a very flavoursome; very delicious and nutritious dish comprising of a scrumptious salad and a very different and very delightful no dough pizza. No dough? I hear you say with a touch of horror in your voice but, I must assure you that these little pizzas are really quite addictive and you honestly would not have a clue that the base was made from a combination of ground cashews, oats and grated parsnip - it is unbelievably moist and doughy! Topped with a scrummy tomato and sage sauce; slices of salty halloumi; wedges of sweet caramelised red onion and a sprinkling of crunchy pecan nuts and you have yourself  a lovely little snack or the perfect partner to this tasty salad; complete with its earthy puy lentils; refreshing flavours of lemon and mint; creamy crumbling of feta and the gleaming star of the dish; the luscious lightly spiced roast carrot batons. Yum.

I decided to try these no dough pizzas after watching Jason Vale whip them up on Lorraine a couple of weeks ago. You can find the original recipe here however, I have made a few tweaks to make it more autumnal; with the replacement of basil with sage in the tomato sauce and the use of caramelised red onion and pecans to top the pizzas rather than cherry tomatoes and pine nuts.


Recipe

Makes 4 servings... or 2. It's healthy afterall, why not help yourself to an extra portion? Nobody will ever know!

For the Halloumi Pizzas:
Base:
100g oats
120g cashew nuts
A pinch of salt and pepper
2 large parsnips, peeled and grated
Sauce:
2 cloves of garlic
14 cherry tomatoes
A large handful of fresh sage leaves
160g sundried tomatoes
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to season
Topping:
250g halloumi
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
1/2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
20g pecan nuts, chopped

For the Spiced Carrot, Puy Lentil and Feta Salad:
2 tbsp. olive oil                                                                   
1 tbsp. cumin powder and 1/2 tbsp. cumin seeds  
500g carrots, peeled, halved and cut into batons
1 tbsp. clear honey or maple syrup
250g pouch cooked Puy lentils 
1 red onion, finely sliced 
½ lemon, juiced 
large handful mint leaves, roughly chopped 
100g lamb's lettuce
100g feta cheese, crumbled


Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C and start by preparing the pizza base. Place the oats, cashews, salt and pepper in a blender and whizz for 10 seconds to form a 'flour'. Now, pour the flour into a mixing bowl with the grated parsnip and mix, scrunching until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. 

2. Next line a large baking tray/ sheet with baking paper. Divide the base dough into 4 and flatten each one with your hands onto the baking tray, forming a round. Place the baking tray into the oven and cook the pizza bases for 15 minutes. Set aside.

3. Now move on to preparing the spiced roast carrots. In a shallow roasting tin, toss together the oil, the ground cumin and cumin seeds, carrots and some seasoning. Roast for 30-35 mins, turning halfway through cooking. Once softened drizzle over the honey or maple syrup, stir and roast for 5 mins more.

4. Whilst the carrots are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce. Into a blender, add the garlic, cherry tomatoes, sage, sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. 

5. Caramelise the red onion. Into a small saucepan, heat the red onion in oil until softened. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved and the red onion sticky- stir through the balsamic vinegar. 

6. Spoon the sauce onto the cooked pizza bases and spread evenly leaving a small gap around the edge. Arrange the slices of halloumi on top and finish with the caramelised red onion and a sprinkling of chopped pecan nuts. 

7. Pop into the oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, finish the salad. Gently heat the lentils in a frying pan with the onion, lemon juice, remaining oil and some salt and pepper. Allow to cool slightly while the carrots finish cooking. Toss the dressed lentils with mint and lamb's lettuce and lay the warm spiced carrots on top before scattering with the crumbled feta. Serve a pizza alongside a big pile of salad and enjoy!

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Smoked Cheddar Mac 'n' Cheese.


Onto the second autumn warmer dish of the week: Smoked Cheddar Mac 'n' Cheese choc full of Roast Parsnip, Butternut Squash and Leeks and topped with a Hazelnut, Mature Cheddar and Chive Crumb. Wow... this is possibly the most indulgent Macaroni Cheese I have ever made. A gloriously rich smoked cheddar sauce envelopes the soft macaroni and lovely autumnal veg whilst, a crunchy hazelnut breadcrumb blanket sweeps the top. Decadent, hearty and divine. I can't help but also want to add a BBQ hit the next time I make this dish as I feel that a BBQ flavour would perfectly compliment the smokiness of the cheese sauce. How I will do this though I am not yet sure. If you are a meat eater I feel like going all out with a mountain of BBQ pulled pork to adorn the top would be nothing short of a brilliant idea whilst for the veggies out there like myself; I am really rather tempted to create some kind of tear and share bread oozing with fruity BBQ sauce, gooey mozzarella and garlic butter - a bit like this mouthwatering recipe here, as you can really never go wrong with a big ol' wedge of garlic bread - add in molten mozzarella and BBQ sauce and oh my, we mean business!


Recipe

Makes enough moreish mac to fill four hungry beliies!

For the Smoked Cheddar Sauce:
600ml whole milk
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
A pinch of salt
200g mature cheddar, grated 
150g smoked cheddar, grated
1/2 tsp. English mustard

For the Mac 'n' Cheese filling:
300g macaroni
1 tbsp. each of unsalted butter and olive oil
1 large leek, cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, cut into chunks
100g butternut squash, cut into chunks

For the Crumb Topping:
50g chopped hazelnuts
50g breadcrumbs
50g mature cheddar, grated
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
1 large tomato, sliced

Method

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C, fan 180°C and start by cooking the vegetables. Into a roasting tray add your parsnip and butternut squash chunks and drizzle over 1 tbsp. olive oil or how ever much you need to coat the pieces lightly. Roast for around 25-30 minutes until tender, bronzed and caramelized and at the same time cook the leeks. Into a medium saucepan melt the unsalted butter and sweat the leeks until softened for around 10 minutes. Once cooked pour the leeks into a bowl and set aside. Also set aside your roast parsnips and butternut squash.

2. Now prepare your mac 'n' cheese. bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni for approximately 10 minutes or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain completely.

3. Whilst the pasta cooks; prepare the cheese sauce using the same saucepan you used to cook the leeks as some of the lovely flavour will be left behind in the saucepan and will add extra yummy flavour to your cheese sauce. Heat the milk in a small saucepan or a jug in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Into your medium pan used to cook the leeks, melt the butter, stir in the flour to form a paste and cook over a low heat, stirring for a couple of minutes until the roux (flour and butter paste) is golden in colour and remove from the heat. Add the hot milk a little at a time, stirring vigorously until all the milk is added and the mix is fully combined. Return to the heat and heat on a medium heat, stirring continuously for 5-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Season with salt.


4. Stir in all of the cheese until melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the mustard and mix in the macaroni, leeks, butternut squash and parsnip. 

5. Combine the breadcrumbs, chopped hazelnuts, grated cheddar and chives in a bowl and scatter over the mac 'n' cheese before arranging the slices of tomato decoratively on top. Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the mac is bubbling and the crumb topping is crisp and lightly bronzed. Dig in!


Thank you for reading!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Tofu, Sweet Potato, Chick Pea, Apricot and Spinach Tagine served with Lemon and Coriander Cous cous.


So with Autumn now howling at our doors with the nippiest air and chilliest breezes; I have decided that I definitely need some warming up and as such, last week saw the addition of a fluffy blanket to my bed; the donning of a hat, gloves and scarf set every time I ventured outside my front door and ofcourse the creation of a whole host of amazing Autumnal  dishes to fill my belly. Consequently, I have whipped up a weeks worth of hearty, warming Autumnal meals using all kinds of scrumptious seasonal ingredients to warm you up on the coldest of October nights which, I will be posting the recipes for throughout the coming week. 

We kick off the week celebrating meat free Monday although, as a vegetarian myself everyday of the week becomes a celebration of meat free! Nonetheless, hopefully even the most carnivorous of readers would enjoy this flavoursome dish although, if you are a devout meat eater and absolutely must have meat in your dish then my Mum and Dad do assure me that lamb is delicious in this tagine so, if you've got any left over from your Sunday roast, feel free to pop it in!

I must admit I am not a humungous fan of tofu myself and although I gladly golloped down this tagine with a smile on my face, I would probably make it with Quorn pieces next time just because I prefer their flavour and their ability to absorb all the yummy tastes of whatever dish they are added to. I also can't help thinking that some chunks of veggie or regular sausages in this recipe with a big ol' pile of buttery mash would make a bloomin' beautiful casserole. If you are a tofu fan though then this tagine will be right up your street, no changes needed; it is magnificent; full of flavour and healthy and the lemon and coriander cous cous is wonderfully refreshing, lemony and light and a fabulous contrasting accompaniment to the hearty, rich tagine. Sprinkle on the toasted almonds and you're good to go!


Recipe

Makes 4 portions of scrummy tagine!

For the Tofu Tagine:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g sweet potato
2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. runny honey
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
575ml vegetable stock
400g tin of chickpeas in water, drained and rinsed
100g dried apricots, cut into quarters
300g Tofu, cut into medium chunks (I used Cauldron Marinated Tofu Pieces, available from Sainsbury's) Note. alternatively use Lamb chunks, sausage pieces or Quorn pieces
200g spinach, fresh or frozen
pinch of salt and pepper to season

For the Lemon and Coriander Cous Cous:
300g cous cous
375ml hot vegetable stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. chopped fresh coriander

Extra chopped coriander and toasted flaked almonds to garnish

Method

1. Start by preparing the tagine. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, sweet potato, ginger, cumin, coriander and cinnamon and cook for a further 5 minutes.  

2. Pour over the chopped tomatoes, runny honey and vegetable stock. Add the chick peas and apricot and season well. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes, adding the frozen spinach and tofu for the last 10 minutes. 

3. Whilst the tagine finishes cooking, prepare the cous cous. Into a bowl, add the cous cous and pour over the vegetable stock. Leave for 5 minutes and fluff up with a fork. Stir through the lemon zest, juice and chopped coriander. 

4. Finally, serve a big dollop of tagine with a mountain of lemon coriander and coriander cous cous and scatter with toasted flaked almonds and chopped coriander. Tuck in!



Thank you for reading!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Onion Bhaji Burger with Bombay Potatoes, Cucumber and Mint Raita, Mango Chutney and Rocket.


As it's National Curry Week I thought why not try a bit of a different style of dish to celebrate with which combines my love of burgers with my favourite accompaniment to a curry - the delicious onion bhaji. As a vegetarian, it's nice to see more and more quirky dishes becoming available on restaurant menus including; a whole host of different veggie burgers in many burger restaurants however, in not many have I seen an onion bhaji burger and boy would they be a welcome addition to the menu as you can pack them full of flavour and texture, just as I tried to do with this recipe. Into my soft, pillowy brioche bun I housed a crunchy, lightly spiced onion bhaji topped with oodles of sweet mango chutney which sat on a bed of refreshing mint and cucumber raita; punchy bombay potatoes and a sprinkling of crisp rocket leaves - well it's always worth attempting to get a bit of a healthy, nutrient rich ingredient in there somewhere but, something about the doughy burger bun, deep fried bhaji and creamy yoghurt raita tells me that there is no shortage of calories in this recipe. Nevermind though, a little bit of what you fancy does you good as my Nana always used to say so with that in mind, if you do fancy giving these onion bhaji burgers a go then please do; please enjoy; please indulge in onion bhaji burger heaven and please let me know what you think!



Recipe

Makes 4 utterly moreish bhaji burgers and without too much faffing about, that's what we like to hear!

For the Onion Bhajis:
2 medium red onions
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
100g gram flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. curry paste or powder (this time I used medium curry powder as I already had a pot in the cupboard but, feel free to use any powder you fancy- mild, medium or hot - or any paste as I have also tried these with Patak's Tikka Masala paste and a Tesco Goan Massala paste before and all have been yummy)
vegetable oil for frying

For the Cucumber and Mint Raita:
150g natural yoghurt
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
8-10 slices of cucumber chopped into small chunks

For the Bombay Potatoes:
450g potatoes, peeled
15g fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic
2 large tomatoes, 1 chopped into quarters and one into slim wedges
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 large onion, chopped fairly finely
2/3 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
A handful of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

4x Brioche burger buns
Mango Chutney (I used Tesco Finest Mango and Apricot Chutney which was delicious)
A sprinkling of Rocket Leaves

Method

1. Start by mixing together all of the raita ingredients with a little salt and pepper to season; then spoon into a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Note. Next, begin preparing the bombay potatoes. This recipe is scrumptious however, I am aware that it has a long old list of ingredients so, feel free to empty your store cupboard and trial whatever spices you already have in this recipe and keep trying and tweaking until you are happy as I am sure as long as you have enough spices to give a bit of a kick you will probably not require every single spice that I used but, if you do want to make this recipe in full then the good news is that your spices will keep for a long time in the cupboard so that you can make this recipe as many times as you like!

2. For the bombay potatoes, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil; place in the potatoes and boil until just tender. When cool enough to handle, chop into 2.5cm cubes.

3. Now blend together the ginger, garlic and quartered tomato until smooth.

4. Next, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook over a medium heat. Once the cumin starts to darken, add the onion and cook for a minute before adding the ginger, tomato and garlic mixture; ground spices and salt. Sauté gently for one to two minutes or until the garlic smells cooked.

5. Add the tomato wedges, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes before tipping in the potatoes and cooking for a further 5 minutes to allow the potatoes to absorb the flavours. Set aside.

6. Now prepare the bhaji mix. Finely chop one onion and thinly slice the other. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the curry paste or powder, chopped chilli and a good sprinkling of salt. Add about 150ml of cold water to make a thick batter and stir in the chopped and sliced onions until they are well coated.

7. Heat about 5cm of oil in a wok or deep pan. Add a tiny speck of batter, if it rises to the surface surrounded by bubbles and starts to brown, then the oil is hot enough. At this point, add a heaped tbsp. of onion mix to the pan to make 1 onion bhaji (feel free to add more if your pan is big enough). Cook the bhaji for a few mins, turning once, until they are evenly bronzed and crisp - about 3-4 mins before draining on kitchen paper and keeping warm until you have prepared all of the bhajis you need.

8. Finally, heat the bombay potatoes through, stirring in the fresh coriander and plate up your burgers. Onto the base of your burger bun- spread 1-2 tsp. cucumber and mint raita and onto the top of your burger bun- spread 1-2 tsp. mango chutney. Now onto the base add your rocket leaves; a small dollop of bombay potatoes and your onion bhaji. Place on the mango chutney covered top and hold your mammoth of a burger together with a cocktail stick. Serve with whatever you fancy- sweet potato chips are a great accompaniment. Last of all, get stuck in!


Thank you for reading!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies.


These Chocolate and Peanut Butter brownies are without a doubt the most AMAZING brownies I have ever concocted and possibly... even the most AMAZING brownies I have ever eaten in my entire life. Yes, in my ENTIRE life! And yes, I am being deadly serious so I do apologize for tooting my own horn but, needs must and I really must emphasise that anyone reading this blog post MUST run into their kitchen right now; bake these brownies immediately and gobble them up straight away without leaving a single chocolaty crumb! They have such a fudgy, moist, decadent centre with the richest most intense chocolate flavour and a subtle essence of peanut butter. There is really nothing more you could ask for of a good brownie. It is also optional to serve these warm with the simplest, creamiest, most peanutbuttery peanut butter ice cream the world has ever seen if you so desire but, honestly the brownies speak; or more so scream and shout from the rooftops; for themselves as they are utterly delicious and I have eaten enough of them now to pile on plenty of extra cocoa and peanut butter filled pounds to keep me all snuggly and warm through Autumn and Winter. 



Recipe

Makes one 27 x 20 cm tin full of sweet, luxurious, squidgy chocolate peanut butter brownies to make your mouth water and get your teeth stuck into!

For the Brownies:
100g unsalted butter
100g crunchy peanut butter
200g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
4 large eggs
350g caster sugar
100g plain flour
50g cocoa powder

For the Topping:
50g smooth peanut butter, I love Skippy!
50g dark chocolate, melted
Salted peanuts to scatter, some crushed and some whole
Edible gold dust, optional

For the Peanut Butter and Cookie Dough Ice Cream:
340g smooth peanut butter, again Skippy is delicious!
300ml condensed milk
250ml natural yoghurt
300ml double cream
150g ready made chocolate chip cookie dough, broken into small pieces (this is available in the chilled section of both Tesco and Sainsburys alongside the ready to roll pastry)
A handful of Reeses mini peanut butter cups to stir through, optional
Salted peanuts, whole and crushed to decorate


Method

Note. If you would like to try the ice cream or serve it alongside the warm brownie then prepare the ice cream at least the day before baking the brownies so that it has time to freeze and set. This is a very scrumptious and very simple ice cream recipe with a strong peanut butter flavour which requires no churning as it uses condensed milk which helps to prevent ice crystals forming as the ice cream freezes. 

1. To prepare the ice cream, whisk the peanut butter, condensed milk, yoghurt and double cream in a mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer until thick, smooth and creamy. Delicately fold in the Reeses mini peanut butter cups if using and the chunks of cookie dough. Pour into a freezable container and scatter with crushed and whole salted peanuts and some more cookie dough chunks. Cover and freeze preferably overnight.

2. To make the brownies; heat the oven to 180°C/ 160°C fan and grease and line the brownie tin with baking parchment.  Place the butter, peanut butter and chocolate into a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until fully melted, stirring now and again until smooth. Allow this to cool.

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and caster sugar together with an electric whisk until the mixture is pale, has doubled in volume and leaves a trail when the beaters are lifted. Gently stir into the cooled chocolate and peanut butter mixture and sift over the flour and cocoa, folding together until fully combined.

4. Pour the brownie mixture into the lined tin and melt the 50g of topping peanut butter in the microwave briefly. If it melts you can drizzle it over the top however, my peanut butter did not melt completely so I just swirled my softened peanut butter into the top of my brownie using the back of a teaspoon which looked quite nice. Bake for approximately 35 mins and then cool in the tin until cold before drizzling with the melted dark chocolate; scattering with the salted peanuts and cutting into squares. A dusting of edible gold lustre also makes the brownies look lovely and fancy and would be the perfect edition if you decided to package these up as a gift for somebody's birthday or Christmas present. I actually packaged a stack of 4 brownie chunks into little cellophane packets for my brothers birthday on Monday which looked gorgeous and rustic tied with a bow of brown string.


Thank you for reading!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Thai Peanut, Butternut, Red Pepper and Spinach Curry.



Well, October is now well and truly upon us and my goodness has it turned chilly outside. To warm up last week I tantalised the old taste-buds with this very delicious Thai peanut curry which just so happens to be the perfect autumnal recipe to tuck into over the coming week as it is National Curry Week and there really is no more scrumptious dish to celebrate with. A creamy, subtle peanut sauce packed full of lovely butternut squash chunks, red pepper pieces and bundles of spinach; served alongside Thai jasmine rice and scattered with fresh coriander leaves and crushed salted peanuts. Perfection.


Recipe

Makes one piping hot pan full of Thai peanut curry to dive into and enjoy!

200ml boiled water 
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. tomato purée
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. light soy sauce 
1 tsp. light brown sugar
Small handful fresh coriander
2 red chillies, halved and deseeded
4 garlic cloves
1cm piece fresh ginger
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 red onions, cut into thin wedges
300g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks (not too big!)
200g red pepper, core and seeds removed
100g frozen spinach
400ml tin coconut milk
salted peanuts to garnish

Method

1. Stir the peanut butter into a jug containing 200ml hot water until it dissolves, then stir in the tomato purée, lime zest and juice, soy sauce and brown sugar and set aside.

2. Remove the leaves from the coriander and set aside as well. Chop the stalks as finely as you can and chop up the chilli, garlic and ginger nice and small too.

3. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or good-sized pan and fry the onions quite briskly for a few minutes, so that they catch slightly. As soon as this starts to happen, add the butternut squash and red pepper and stir-fry for a few minutes. 

4. Stir in the chilli, garlic, coriander stalk, garlic and ginger mixture for 1-2 minutes, then add in the lovely creamy coconut milk. Stir once more, then add the peanut butter mix and cook at a brisk simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding the frozen spinach half way through, until the sauce has thickened slightly, the spinach is cooked and the butternut squash is tender. 

5. Finally, serve alongside some Thai Jasmine rice and garnish with the reserved coriander leaves and some finely chopped salted peanuts. All done and dusted, now sit back, relax, snuggle up under a blanket, stick on the telly and enjoy!


Thank you for reading!