Tag Archives: cooking

Rustic* Festive** Fruity Parcels

  • *Rustic = A euphemism for ‘looks like they were assembled by a toddler’.
  • **Festive = I wanted to use the seasonal ‘C’ word but felt I might get beaten up by scrooges if I did.

Hi everybody.

I haven’t been feeling 100% all week. Each day brings on a new symptom and today at work was tough.

The boy was going to a gig. I wanted to go to the gig but couldn’t afford it. Normally I would use a night in without the boy as a good excuse to get my bake on, but I felt so shattered after work that all I could muster the energy to do was to put anchovies on my pizza.

Then I saw in the fridge was a packet of frozen puff pastry I had taken out to defrost on Sunday with the intention of using it on Monday.

And the packet recommended using within 24 hours of defrosting. Aye Aye Aye.

So after a quick energy boost (double shot of fake Baileys) I got to it.

INGREDIENTS

1 x 500g Block of puff pastry

4 Apples

1 x 400g Jar of mincemeat

Caster Sugar

RENEGADE SUGGESTIONS

My cooking often involves a random ingredient that caught my eye. So at step 2 I also threw in 4 apple & rosehip tea bags and a bit of orange juice. You don’t necessarily have to copy me.

  1. Defrost your puff pastry the night before according to packet instructions and then roll out into a large square/rectangle shape and cut into 4 equal shapes.
  2. Cut your apples into small pieces and place in a large pot with the sugar (I didn’t give a measurement because, well, I just threw it in. If you like to be exact I would say 75g is enough). Cover with boiling water and bring back to the boil.
  3. Cook until tender.
  4. Once cooked, drain, and mix in the jar of mincemeat (true story, mincemeat used to contain meat, but generally doesn’t now, but I thought it did and didn’t eat a mince pie until I was something like 17 because I thought it would compromise my at the time vegetarian beliefs).
  5. Divide the mix across the four puff pastry squares and then pull up the edges until you have little parcels (or you could be really neat and bring out a protractor or something and have something a bit more professional looking).
  6. BONUS STEP! I meant to do this, but then forgot. Lightly brush the parcels with a milk and/or egg wash.
  7. Bake in the oven on gas mark 4 for a very long time because you are watching the new episode of your favourite show ‘Eat Well For Less’ and don’t want to miss any of it (The episode was an hour long)
  8. BONUS STEP! Turn off the oven but leave the parcels in to stay warm and then go to the shops to get ice cream because the boy refused to do this for you earlier. What a d***.
  9. Watch today’s episode of Neighbours whilst eating the parcel. And then watch Eat Well For Less again.

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Inspired by Nigella ‘Chop Chop Earl Grey Muffins’ (Batch Cooking my Work Breakfasts)

I decided to watch Saturday Kitchen Live today on BBC 1, a show I surprisingly don’t normally watch, and my watching it today has absolutely nothing to do with my crush on a certain TV chef.

One of the segments of the show featured the widely known Nigella Lawson who was making Chai Breakfast Muffins. This got me really excited as I was sure I had a packet of chai tea in the tea cupboard (I have a Tea cupboard, well, a hot drinks cupboard, how British am I?).

I didn’t.

BUT I did have an unopened packet of Earl Grey tea which is (wait for it) at least 18 months old, so it was probably time to use that up.

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Before this year I was so lacking in confidence with cooking that if I saw a chef making something on TV, no matter how thorough the demonstration I would not be able to copy the recipe and would probably fork out for the cook book.

Now I am brave.

My recipe is very similar to Nigella’s, I will show you mine, but bear in mind Nigella’s is probably far superior. Mine is cheaper.

INGREDIENTS

300ml Soya Milk (Or any milk, I don’t mind)

3 Earl Grey Tea Bags

1.5 Tsp Cinnamon

115ml Vegetable Oil plus extra for greasing

2 large eggs, as a personal choice my eggs are always free range

400g Plain Flour

2.5 Tsp Baking Powder

50g Mixed Dried Fruit

50g Almonds

100g Sugar

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METHOD

First thing first. Put your milk in a saucepan, open up the three tea bags and pour them into the milk and add the cinnamon. Cook over a very, very low heat and do not boil, just bring to bubbling stage.

Leave to cool/thicken.

Now the ‘chop chop’ bit. On a chopping board place your dried fruit and almonds. Using a nice long sharp knife (or if you have a fancy pants blade thing like Nigella did then use that) go up and down and along the nuts and fruit in a ‘see saw’ motion until everything is nicely chopped.

Weigh out the flour, sugar and baking powder and lightly mix together. Add the dried fruit and nuts.

Add 2 beaten eggs and the oil to the cooled milk mixture and mix.

Add the wet mixture to the dried ingredients and mix but don’t over mix. Remember, lumpy batter = light muffins.

Grease your muffin tray with oil and spoon in your mixture.

Cook for 20 minutes on Gas mark 5, or until a skewer comes out clean.

If you want to overload on sugar then have a muffin with a little maple syrup.

Chocolate ‘Weetabix’ Brownies

I think when you start living away from home as a young ‘professional’ (or un-professional in my case) you may go through a few teething problems when it comes to the food shopping.

If you are half curious about cooking and a bit of a foodie you may find you end up with exotic ingredients like flavoured oils and sake which you later give away on OLIO on the basis you had them for a year and never opened them. That’s one example. You may also find that the way you lived your life when living at home or University is different to the way you live now.

For instance I buy porridge oats and supermarket own brand weetabix in a belief that a normal person has cereals for breakfast, when really because I work in a different country to the one I live in (I live in Wales, I work in England) I barely have time in the morning to brush my hair, let alone have a breakfast. And usually at the weekends I go several hours of the morning just on coffee.

So that is why I had two boxes of ‘weetabix’ leftover from last summer.

One box I steadily worked my way through, and then became convinced I would use the other in good time so opened it up and decanted it into my cereal container.

I think that was around March.

It has been untouched since.

Luckily it was a good container and they weren’t even a little bit stale.

So inspired by a recipe that became so popular on the Money Saving Expert website forum it was given it’s own thread, here is my interpretation of weetabix brownies.

INGREDIENTS

4-6 Wheat biscuits (Brand leaders Weetabix are a bit bigger so you will only need 4 whereas own brand ones are usually smaller)

170g Butter/Margarine

115g Demerara Sugar

115g Self Raising Flour

2 tbsp of Cocoa Powder

100g Chocolate chips/Chocolate cut into chunks

1 egg

METHOD

Place the wheat biscuits in a food processor and reduce to crumbs, or do by hand.

Add the wheat biscuits to a mixing bowl, then add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips.

Melt the butter/margarine, beat the egg and then add both to the dry mix and combine. It may be fairly stiff or sticky depending on how many biscuits you used, but this is fine, just adjust the cooking times. I had a fairly stiff dough and they still softened up and were deliciously moist when out of the oven.

Place in a greased baking dish and cook for 20 minutes on Gas Mark 4

Try to entice the boy out of bed by telling him you made weetabix brownies. When he is very confused because he didn’t think we had weetabix remind him you did. Lie when he asks if they were out of date.

When Life Hands You Lemons You Make…Flapjacks and Cookies

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Saturday was shopping day, as it is every week.

As it was the start of a new food shopping month I was going bold and stocking up.

I went to Holland and Barrett to re-stock on some vitamins I was running low on, and to buy a bulk load of stock powder. I had 2 coupons – one for £5 off a £20 shop and another for 20% off the highest price item. To my delight I was able to use both on the same transaction, but the 20% off coupon took me below £20 by 39p. I had to think fast.

Luckily there at the front counter was a 40p bag of reduced dried figs. I realised it was reduced to 40p when I left the shop because it was due to go out of date in 5 days time.

Now, you all know I’m a bit flexible with use by dates, and often end a recipe with something along the lines of ‘This is a great way to use up that jar of stuff that expired 2 years ago and has fur growing around it…’ but I decided that this would be an excuse to get my bake on.

I found a recipe on the BBC Good Food website for figgy flapjacks, and the only change I made was where they said use 150g of dried figs and 75g of another dried fruit I just used all 225g of dried figs. Plus I added mixed seeds and chia seeds.

Also on Saturday I had an online delivery from a major supermarket and sadly one of my jars of peanut butter had a broken lid.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away, but didn’t have anything to decant it into, so I decided the only logical things to do was to make peanut butter cookies.

You will need 1 x 340g jar of any peanut butter, 300g sugar and 2 eggs and about 1-1.5 cups of oats. Mix all together, spread out in little cookie shapes on a tray, cook for between 15-20 minutes until firm around the edge but soft in the middle and scoff.

 

Batch Cooking My Work Lunches: Yellow Split Pea Soup

Hi everyone,

Don’t worry, my silence on here was due to problems with our internet connection, not a mental health breakdown. Did you miss me?

(Tumbleweed blows past)

Anyways, this is what I made last Sunday. It made three portions of yummy soup. Three g e n e r o u s portions of soup, so really if you have a normal size stomach instead of one the size of Australia then it will probably feed you for a lot more days.

I was trying to make some sort of pease pudding type thing from a recipe in ‘The Bean Book’  by Rose Elliot (a book I borrowed off my sister in law over a year ago and am yet to give back), but then decided it was going to be mush, and who wants that? So I blitzed it into soup.

You will need:

250g Yellow Split Peas

2 x celery sticks

Leek

Carrot

Onion

2 Litres of stock

Turmeric, because like my previous post ‘There ain’t no party like a Turmeric party’

 

METHOD

Cook the yellow split peas first in about 3/4 of the stock till soft. Don’t do what I did which was leave it thinking it would take ages only to come back not long later and see all the water had absorbed and the peas were only just saved from being stuck to the bottom of the pan.

In a separate pan lightly cook the leeks, carrots, celery and onion until soft but not burnt.

Add all together, with the remainder of the stock and as much turmeric as you feel is decent and when you feel ready add it to a blender and blitz the cr*p out of it.

WARNING!

If you have a nice pristine white blender, then I’m sorry to say you may risk staining parts of it permanently yellow due to the turmeric.  I like yellow so I like the look, but you might not. If you don’t want this to happen leave out the turmeric.

Take into work and be the envy of your colleagues.

 

Tart Me Up or Down Easy Macaroni Cheese

It’s been a while since I last posted a recipe, and this is a household favourite, to the point that I haven’t thought to include it till now because everyone has a Macaroni Cheese recipe, this is mine.

To an extent it could be considered healthy because it uses cottage cheese for part of the recipe, I have adapted this from a Slimming World recipe I found online.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4)

300g Macaroni (but you won’t explode if you use another pasta)

a 200g-300g tub of cottage cheese, use a basics own brand unflavoured one.

300ml Vegetable stock made up to your desired flavour intensity.

2 eggs.

130-200g cheddar. You will be fine with 130g but I have been known to go up to 200g.

TART ME UP OPTIONS

Herbs: Chives, Oregano, Italian Seasoning and Paprika were all added to mine, but do what you like.  Don’t worry if they are out of date, it really won’t matter, they just might not be as strong.

Breadcrumbs.

A 125g packet of Mozzarella, cut into little strips.

Secret Jillett family addition. When my Dad first started cooking for us after my mum left he was known to add a crumbled pack of crisps to the top of a cheesy pasta dish. Don’t knock it till you try it. But be warned, it may catch fire under a grill. That was an interesting day in the Jillett household.

METHOD

Put the pasta on to cook.

Make up the stock, add the cottage cheese and give it a wee stir.

Grate your cheddar.

Preheat the oven. I’ll be honest, I rarely do temperatures on my oven and instead cook everything on Gas Mark 7. I AM AN ANIMAL. You are not. Gas mark 5-7 will cook it fine.

When the pasta is done drain it and over a very low heat add the stock/cottage cheese mix, add the two beaten eggs, and about half the grated cheese.

You may find the mixture splits, this is purely bad aesthetically and will have no negative bearing on the dinner. It will still be lush and yums.

Add the cheesy, eggy pasta mix to a nice big dish and add your tart me up additions if you are doing so (in the picture I have used all of them), if not just add the other half of your grated cheese.

Cook for about 25 minutes until it is as crispy as you like.

Dance around the kitchen to Absolute 80s. If you are not doing this when cooking then you are living wrong.

 

 

Pancake Day! Chickpea Pancakes and Broad Bean and Feta Salad

So it’s Pancake Day today and I have a confession to make.

I don’t like pancakes.

When I say that, I mean those Crepe-y type things that Pancake Day is all about.

I don’t know why but they just taste like a greasy mess to me.

Yet I like savoury pancakes, and I have a packet of  Gram Flour in the cupboard that isn’t exactly going out of date soon, but is taking up a lot of prime cupboard real estate.

Both the Chickpea (and cumin, lots and lots of cumin) pancakes and the Broad Bean and Feta salad are from one of my favourite cook books, which is Beyond Baked Beans: Real Veggie Food for Students by Fiona Beckett. When I was at University my second year house mate had a copy of this book and I frequently borrowed it. I love cook books. I read them as if they were novels rather than reference books.

As neither are my recipes I won’t copy them here, but I’m sure a variation recipe would be easy to find. I would recommend the book as an investment. Don’t let the fact it’s aimed at students put you off, it’s essentially just cheap and simple food with an occasional la di dah recipe thrown in.

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Instead I will tell you how I learnt the hard way to follow the advice every foodie says which is:

READ THE RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH FIRST.

Do not do as I did and:

  • Feel certain that I knew what all the ingredients were.
  • Realise I had forgotten the Feta and had to go to the shops to buy some.
  • Then read the recipe a little bit more once I had returned from the shops and realise I needed eggs.
  • Go to the shops and buy eggs.
  • Come back home, starving, desperate to eat and discover I had to let the batter sit for 10 minutes before I could cook it.
  • Cook the salad long before the pancakes so that the salad that was supposed to be served warm is actually served cold.

Luckily the food was worth the wait.

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I also made Bread Rolls. My very first attempt ever at making bread and they were…ok. A little hard, more like the bread equivalent of a rock cake but they were still delicious warm from the oven slathered in spread.

I have come to love my cooking sessions and find something relaxing about creating in the kitchen.

There was once a point in my life when my mental health prevented me from doing anything more taxing than making a bowl of cereal.

I know the act of cooking may seem like a non-achievement, but I feel very fulfilled.

I don’t like to tempt fate but this is the happiest I have ever been.