Spring Kitchen – Salads, Soups and Stews.

Spring has sprung and the clocks have gone forward. We’ve even started glimpsing sunshine some afternoons. But my kitchen, like my wardrobe is in a conundrum… 

Is it going to be bright and breezey, dark and miserable, who knows? 

So this week has been quite the mixture – crunchy green salads during the day and warming soups and stews at night. 

One particularly unfriendly evening this week I went for something really comforting and filling, Sausage Casserole with Mashed Potatoes. I’m still watching my weight so all together the meal came to approximately 400kcals but I was still more than satisfied.

  • 4 Sausages (Aldi Reduced Fat)
  • Handful Chestnut Mushrooms 
  • 2 carrots 
  • 1 Onion 
  • Tbsp Flour
  • Stock
  • 400g Potatoes
  1. Slice the onions and add to a frying pan on a medium heat to soften.
  2. Chop the sausage into bite-sized chunks and add to the onions with the flour. Cook until browned.
  3. While the sausage is cooking chop carrots and mushrooms into around 1cm chunks (or smaller, the thinner the carrot the quicker your stew will be ready!)
  4. Add to the pan with the stock and some pepper (according to your taste) *side note: I used chicken stock so I also added some Soy sauce for colour, but you could use gravy granules or browning.
  5. While your stew is now simmering ( pop a lid on it) peel and Chop your potatoes into small cubes. Add to the pan and bring to the boil. 
  6. After 10 minutes your stew should be thickening – just give it an occasional stir – if it needs more liquid go ahead. Your potatoes should be nearly cooked. 
  7. After 5 more minutes (I used this time to chop up some Greens to have with my stew and wilt them in another pan) if your potatoes are soft you can drain them for mashing and turn off your stew. 
  8. Mash your potatoes the way you like them! I’m a splash of milk, knob of butter and pinch of salt kind of girl. 
  9. Plate it, eat it! 

Quick, filling and it hit the spot (without hitting my waistline). 

What do you think? 

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For the Mothers – getting kitchen creative this weekend. 

Mothers’ Day is here again and as my culinary adventuring all stems from my Mum’s kitchen, I usually like to make her something she’ll appreciate. 

I have also been wanting to test out a butternut squash lasagna idea that’s been forming of late, so it seemed the ideal opportunity!

Ok my first dilemma was whether to go exclusively for squash and ricotta which was the original plan, but with the addition of my Dad and boyfriend joining I felt I might need to add some meat in to the equation. Dilemma number two was whether or not to make my own pasta sheets…I opted against, I know I could have done it, but less time rolling out meant more time with my Mum (which is what Mothers’ Day is all about after all!).

(the following feeds 8 easily)

Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squash
  • 1/ 2 roast chicken 
  • 200g spinach (n.b. you could definitely add more spinach I would say this ended up being a bit on the stingy side)
  • 1 pot ricotta
  • 2 balls mozzarella
  • 2 pints milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • Butter
  • Flour (about a handful)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 25 lasagna sheets
  1.  Halve and de-seed your squash, lightly season and oil/butter. Roast until soft and the skin slightly charred. (around an hour,  I did it the night before when I roasted the chicken).
  2. Add the milk to a saucepan, with a knob of butter, a handful of flour, a pinch of salt and pepper and bay leaves. Turn on a medium heat and whisk while simmering to thicken. (it will coat the back of a spoon). Take of the heat and leave to cool. 
  3. Shred the chicken 
  4. Wilt the spinach and mix with chicken, set aside. 
  5. Once your squash is cooked and cooled enough to handle, you can peel off the skin (it should be quite easy, but don’t worry about a bit of skin it is quite soft at thus point and won’t hurt anyone). Mash with a fork and mix in the ricotta. Salt and pepper to taste. 
  6. Get a pan of hot water and start adding your pasta sheets, a few at a time to soften slightly. 
  7. Stir the double cream into your cool white sauce.
  8. In a large baking dish cover the base with white sauce and a layer of pasta.
  9.  Spread half the squash mix over this, some mozzarella and a ladleful of white sauce. 
  10. Add another layer of pasta, half the chicken and spinch mix, mozzarella and white sauce again. 
  11. Repeat 9 and 10 again.  
  12. Top with a final layer of pasta the last of the mozzarella and the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and you’re ready to bake! 
  13.  Pop in the oven, at around 200c for 1 hour. ( I did read once that it’s best to let your lasagna sit before baking, for a couple of hours, and I layered mine in the morning before going out for the day -but I don’t know that it’s overly necessary). 

I served mine with garlicky, buttery broccoli and steamed asparagus. 

I was very happy with the outcome, the squash was sweet and filling, and to be honest the chicken was pretty unnecessary except for pleasing carnivores. I think I will definitely remake without chicken and with more spinach. 

Let me know what you think, sacrilege or scrummy?

What did you have this Mothers’ Day? 

Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry – comfort food for the work weary! 

I don’t know about you folks, but when I’ve had a long day I come home, and want to eat everything in sight! 

One of my favourite go to weekday dinners is a veggie curry, it’s great for using up whatever is in your fridge, it’s filling, and actually really healthy! 

I started using Abel and Cole recently, to introduce a bit more variety to the vegetables I eat on week to week basis (it’s a weekly home delivery subscription for fruits and vegetables mainly). This week it included among other things, potatoes and baby Spinach so I opted to for Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry with Cauliflower Rice. (I still had half a cauliflower from the previous delivery, so why not!) 


Recipe as follows:

  • 2 medium white Potatoes
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 handfuls of Spinach (baby in this case but whatever you have)
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 white Onion
  • 200mls coconut milk
  • Fresh ginger 
  • 1tbsp curry powder
  • 1tsp Chili powder 
  • 2tsp garam masala 
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 Ltr Vegetable stock 
  • Salt 

Finely slice your onions.

Grate or finely mince around 2cm of ginger

Sautée together in a medium pan til onions soften. (I just used a small knob of butter).

Chop the potatoes (both kinds) into big chunks (2/2.5cm cubes).

Add spices to your onions cook and stir through, cooking gentle for 1 more minute.

Add the potatoes and half the stock, cover and simmer fir 10/15 minutes.

Check your curry periodically, if your pan starts to become dry, add more stock to keep the sauce gently bubbling (it doesn’t need to cover the potatoes).

Once your potatoes seem to be getting soft (around 15 minutes) you can add the peas and coconut milk. 

Pop the lid back on, it will need another 10 minutes(ish)

In the meantime I was preparing my cauliflower rice, this would be great with chapattis or regular rice as well though. (I whizzed up half a head of cauli, minus the leaves) lightly sautéed again with minced garlic and then dropped a little hot stock – maybe 1/2 tablespoons -and popped the lid on and let it steam through for 5 minutes.

Your curry is ready when the sauce looks rich and thick and the potatoes are soft all the way through.

Taste it for salt/spice, add your spinach leaves and stir ’til wilted. 

Then serve and devour! 

I found the sweet potato to add an extra dimension with it’s creamy texture and (obvious) sweetness. And potatoes for me are a great carrier for the layers of flavours in curry dishes. It was rich, filling, not oily and had a gentle but not overpowering heat.

Overall it was what I wanted, so I will chalk it up as a success. This was unintentionally vegetarian and vegan friendly, so a good one to remember if you are not veggie yourself but are ever cooking for someone who is, it’s filling and flavoursome for everyone!

Do you have any curry concoctions I can try? 

Or any suggestions to improve this one! (if I had fresh chillies in the house I definitely would have tossed one or two in)

I hope you enjoy 😄

Finding Refuge in Food.

Happy weekend foodies all! 

Normally my days off are spent cooking food (and there has been plenty of that too!) But this Saturday there was time to squeeze in a girly lunch as well.

My lunching partners and I all live in different places so we have a little rotation, and this time we were in Manchester – My friend recommended newly opened The Refuge by Volta (in The Principal, formerly The Palace Hotel).

It was a lovely setting, blending the modern and quirky Manchester vibe with the pre-existing grandeur and art deco features.

The Winter Garden is where I met my friends, a light and airy atrium with comfy sofas, rattan chairs and trees (alas artificial, but still a nice touch) it’s the ideal spot for gin drinking or afternoon tea.

We were shown to our table in the restaurant by cheerful staff, and our waiter was throughout pleasant and solicitous but quite genuinely so. 

After a lot of deliberation (there were far too many mouth-watering options) we went for the following from the Voltini (small plates).

Smoked Feta and Beetroot Dip

Crispy Lamb Shawarma with Harissa 

Radicchio and Orange Salad

Seabass with Pine Nuts

Mutabal with Flatbread 

Broccolini with Garlic Crumbs

I can tell you now, it was delicious. The lamb was possibly my favourite light and succulent with just the right heat coming through the harissa. The Mutabal and Beetroot Dip were moreish and vibrant.

Even the Seabass which I typically don’t love was perfectly cooked and had me helping myself to more.

Naturally after a very successful first course the only option was to give the desserts a try (we had shared six plates between three, they recommend three per person so although I felt that was enough to satisfy, I did have a little room to squeeze in something sweet). 

We ordered the Pear Tarte Tartin with Espresso Crème Anglaise and the Orange Blossom and Honey Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Ricotta.

Perfection. The Tarte Tatin was crisp, the pears golden with that slight caramel chew and the Crème Anglaise was complimentary not over-powering. The Polenta Cake was moist and flavoursome, a good blend of textures, the citrusey hints an excellent way to round out the meal.

I will definitely look forward to going back again and recommend the place to anyway who is wanting a place to enjoy with a fellow foodie. 

Last but not least I feel like I need to give a little shout-out to the Espresso Martini we finished with, it was spot on, rich, smooth and not too sweet. 

Where have you eaten recently? Let me know your recommendations as I’m super excited to try somewhere as good :).

Ramen Burgers….don’t mind if I do! 

I saw these on a cooking channel, (Hayley Duff has her own food show apparently??) and since A) I love fusion food and b) my boyfriend won’t eat bread…how could I pass up the opportunity?!

Step 1. Make the ramen buns.

Pretty straight forward as it turns out, cook up the noodles (sans flavouring) once cooked, drain off and allow to cool slightly.

You need to beat and egg and mix with the warm noodles, a pinch of salt at this stage won’t hurt, and once thoroughly coated press into a mould – I used cookie cutters. 

Pop in the fridge ’til cold I left them for a good half an hour or so – before you cook your burgers pop them in a fairly hot frying pan to cook through and get a nice crisp golden outer.

Step 2. Additionals

For this recipe since I was going for the Asian theme I made a few garnishes or additions to round it out. First up was wasabi mayo (as easy as it sounds) then a satay inspired sauce made from crunchy peanut butter, brown sugar, chillies and fish sauce (I do love a bit of texture!) and some pickled cucumber (finely sliced cucumber with sugar, salt and rice wine vinegar left to marinate while prepping everything else). 

Step 3. Burgers

My burgers were lean pork with a touch of grated carrot for a bit of sweetness and to keep them moist and most importantly juicy :). Topped off with smoked mature cheddar (I add it in the pan to let it melt through for gooey goodness). And then I layered it up like there was no tomorrow! 

Et Voila! 

Step 3. Plate it up.

A couple of fresh sides to cut through all that cheese and peanut butter – grilled courgette ‘crisps’,  fresh ‘slaw’ (as they call it in the trendy restaurants these days) and the burgers were ready to go. 

Step 4. Eat!

I was pretty happy and have definite plans for further experimental variations (the fact that I will be using this as a shameless excuse to eat more burgers is completely beside the point). 

What would you put on your Ramen Burger? Let me know! 🙂 

Polish Inspiration

There wasn’t a great deal in my fridge today, and I was home alone, so using up whatever was there seemed the order of the day. 

What I did have in abundance was cottage cheese (7 pots to be exact) my partner is well known amongst our friends for eating a pot a day, but I figured he could spare me some. I also had a small amount of dough left from what I’d made the night before (just a flour and water mix, nothing special) I have a tendency to shove everything back in the fridge thinking that I’ll find something to do with it, and this time it panned out.

Anyway, what came to my mind was Pierogi, which if you don’t know are little Polish (or generally Slavic/Eastern European) dumplings which come with a variety of fillings. One of the most popular? Pierogi Ruskie which has a cottage cheese and potato filling. I understand that the cottage cheese traditionally used is not quite what we mean when we say cottage cheese in the UK (if anyone can explain the difference I’d be interested, I think it’s something to do with the curd size?) but I’m sure it’s similar enough to get away with it. 

Long story short is, a boiled and mashed potato later, I mixed a couple of spoons of the cheese with potato, salt and pepper and crimped up in a few little discs of the dough. 

When I’ve been served Pierogi before it usually came topped with some softened onions or with bacon bits and sour cream, but I didn’t have any of these so I sliced up a bit of smoked ham, and then a little cabbage and mushroom for good measure (another filling for Pierogi by-the-by) and after a quick trip in boiling water and the frying pan. Lunch was served. 

I don’t know how they measured up to the Pierogi your Babcia used to make, but at least they hit the spot (and I didn’t have to go out).

More for my money…

In this instance see calories for money. 

(Although I highly approve of saving money wherever possible too!)

Sometimes when you come home, tired, hungry, you just want to see a huge mound of food on your plate. Not ‘enough’ food, but more than enough. Times like these you have to get your thinking cap on. Normally I advocate for soup, it looks big, feels filling and the excess is made of water (win/win right?) but you can’t have soup all the time.

Now I don’t particularly subscribe to the low-carb ideology, although I do know people who have definitely benefitted from it, I generally feel what works for you, works. Sometimes though it is useful to steal a few ideas…

I really wanted to use up some smoked mackerel and settled on a fish curry, but as an oily fish it was going to take a serious bite out of my 400kcals I aim for with each meal. The other biggest contributor in this dish? The rice. I was slightly loathe to compromise as rice is 100% my favourite carbohydrate, if I could only have one again I would gave rice  breakfast, lunch and dinner. This time however, I opted to for the oh-so-trendy cauliflower rice since I didn’t feel like looking down at a pitifully sized portion.

I have to admit I got a lot of bang for my buck. I wouldn’t replace rice permanently but the cauliflower was pretty complimentary. The curry was made with butternut squash, spinach and potato and the mackerel flaked in so the slightly sweet, slightly nutty cauli wasn’t half bad. And I got an extra veg towards my 5 a day (bonus points). Downsides…curry and smoked fish? Don’t keep your coat in the Kitchen while you’re cooking.

If you have calorie ‘saving’ tips to share I’d love to know! Or suggestions of how you’ve served your cauliflower rice :).

Back in the Kitchen

It’s been a while!

After a super busy year in my ‘9-5’ and getting engaged I am finally returning to the love of my life – food.

As the pre-wedding dress panic is setting in I’m reminded that it’s a constant balancing act to eat food that satisfies your literal needs as well as giving that same enjoyment and satisfaction.

So I will be endeavouring to share my forays into this, most perilous of journeys, to stuff my face with yummy delights and come out of it healthier than when I went in.

First case: Grapefruit halves. The classic dieters breakfast, allegedly kick-starting the metabolism and giving a daily dose of vitamin C.

Dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon I did like it – but I have a particular fancy for sour things, if you don’t, this maybe too much for you. I sliced up the other half with mango and chopped walnuts so might be more palatable for those with a sweeter tooth!

Well that’s breakfast out of the way, and I had better get busy – we’ve got catching up to do :).

Easter Weekend

Let’s back track, Easter weekend is always big (literally) as for the most part everyone has four days off, so it’s the best time for having little get togethers. Not to mention if you’re lucky you might get some good weather too!

I actually had a pretty food-centric one so it’s great to be able to share (even if it is most definitely not my normal eating habits).

Good Friday. My mum has always told me that at Easter, we eat fish on Fridays so naturally I took this food tradition to heart.

Good Friday BreakfastMy day started with smoked mackerel and a poached egg, and I loved it!

(That’s a solitary pancake and some spinach hiding under there by the way).
Lunch was also fish, and I had guests, so I decided to have something I wouldn’t eat usually from week to week. I actually love Salmon-en-Croute but the guilt factor of the pastry and fatty fish (I know it’s all good) weighs heavily on me, literally.

Salmon-abouttbe-En-CrouteI totally took a picture when it was cooked too (but it was a little on the toasted side).

This was dished up with some finely sliced potatoes and fennel, roasted in the oven, asparagus and what I believe to be called Chantenay Carrots – the little fats ones to most of us.

We wrapped up dinner with a marbled chocolate cake topped with the obligatory mini-eggs.

Saturday. We went to Sheffield on Saturday to visit my boyfriend’s sister, we had a cute little afternoon tea, minus any sandwiches as my boyfriend has a complete no-no policy on bread for himself. On her menu were little vegetarian sausages, cheese and roasted cherry tomatoes on oat biscuits, a killer bulgar wheat salad (which I ripped-off and have since added to my repertoire) with pomegranate seeds, browned onions and feta cheese. The sweet side was made up of dark chocolate ‘nests’ and lemon-y butterfly cakes which were also awesome – in general her cakes are if we’re being honest. Copious amounts of tea and a stop off at a little Italian coffee shop/deli for a pretty great coffee and we were then off to my parents for Day Three of the long weekend.

Somer's Bulgar Wheat Salad

(This is my duplication of said salad afterwards – I forgot to mention the walnuts which were an integral part!)

Easter Sunday. My Dad will use any excuse to barbecue, so it was certainly no surprise that we had a rather large one that weekend. I was tasked with making the dessert. Now desserts are not usually my forté, my explanation being that I have less chance to practise as I would be obliged to eat the whole thing. But I decided that I was feeling confident and opted to go for something previously unattempted, and uneaten by myself.

Key Lime Pie was my choice, I am a great lover of the zesty and zingy and hell, if you can’t follow a barbecue with something like that, what can you?

Key Lime PieThe Raw Material - Key Lime Pie

I can happily say I think I pulled it off – I was pretty amazed that even my brother managed an (albeit slightly back-handed) compliment, so I will take it as a victory. It was insanely simple and I definitely liked eating it, so it was a brilliant way for me to top off my packed weekend before the guilt got to me, and I decided to behave on Monday.

A Long-Term Relationship

Sunny Breakfast

Most people’s relationship with food is complicated. There are things we love, things we hate, times we could do with out the hassle, but one this is certain – we can’t live without it.

Physically yes, but most often emotionally too – what we eat is usually determined by how we feel and I am no exception. I would have to say healthy or unhealthy, girls and boys alike almost everyone I know has food on their mind, what they just ate, what they’re about to eat and what they wish they could be eating! It’s because of this relationship the whole idea of blogging seemed a reasonable step – if I’m going to think and talk about food, eat it and prepare it, why not write about it too.

 

So I’ll be sharing my own intimate encounters with food, the things I’ve been cooking and eating, and imagining. And if you are the type of person who always wanted to have a picture book rather than a novel, you can find me on instagram as well @poppys.kitchen.