The Quick and Easy Kitchen

In the not too distant future (ideally it was supposed to be yesterday but we are having some, ahem, issues with the structural engineer,) our kitchen is being ripped out. Because of the nature of the building work that needs to go on in the kitchen – we’re not just putting a lot of glass in to the external walls but taking a chimney breast out too that the current kitchen is in front of, the kitchen isn’t a simple in-out job and we will be kitchen-less for probably 6 weeks. To say I’m dreading it is an understatement.


Baked Ziti by Damn Delicious

In fact we won’t be fully kitchen-less and we are very lucky, because we are going to try and essentially rig up a lot of the appliances downstairs in the cellar. There is plumbing down there so fingers crossed we will have a sink, and the fridge, freezer and oven will all just plug in. We have a camping gas stove we can use but it won’t be ideal so I don’t want to cook much on it and we won’t have much in the way of worktop prep space at all. As a result meals will be makeshift. Of course I’m sure there will be a few takeaways and meals out locally but because I’m pregnant I don’t ideally want to be eating processed food every night, I do enough of that as it is! Given that this is all emptying the coffers, keeping costs down will be better too.


BLT bowl by The Londoner

So I need your help readers. I have already been cooking ahead to put meals in the freezer and we have portions of chilli, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and fish pie stacked up. What I now need are ideas for quick simple fresh food that I can make with the minimum of washing up (the dishwasher won’t be re-installed downstairs,) fuss or prep space. Healthy recipes would be a bonus too to balance out anything we eat out. I was thinking of things like a chicken salad with a pre-cooked supermarket chicken and I’m really hoping you guys can suggest some recipes or meals that will help me out over the next couple of months.

Any ideas?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy: Try making Pasta

One thing that has always been on my must-try list is making pasta and this Christmas my sister bought Pete a potato ricer so he could make gnocchi, not quite pasta but a start. And who knew how easy it was?!

It’s not easy to perfect but the recipe requires nothing more than a little time, seasoning, potatoes and flour, so couldn’t be more simple. This was our third attempt and each time they have been slightly different, but as a gnocchi fan, I’m willing to keep trying… ;)

This recipe is taken from Monica’s Kitchen by Masterchef judge Monic Galetti

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main, 6 as a starter)
500g floury potatoes
120g plain flour
2 pinches sea salt
2 tsp mild pepper flakes (we just use ground pepper to season as usual)
Knob of butter
Olive oil (for frying after if desired)

How to:

  • Rice the potatoes and add the butter to the bowl.
  • Sift int he flour then gently bring together without over working.
  • Divide the ‘dough’ into 3 and roll out into long ‘sausages’.
  • cut them into small2-3cm square pillows (you can reshape them unto balls at this stage but I like them ‘rustico’ as my friend Dan says,) and flatten with a fork to create the characteristic ridges.
  • Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and cookt he gnocchi until they float – 1-2 minutes usually. Spoon them out and drain gently (they are fragile!)

You can then fry them for a bit of extra texture in butter if you’re feeling naughty!

Have you ever made gnocchi or pasta? Will you be trying this one out? Do tweet or instagram me a pic if you do!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#January Joy: Plan some clean eats

Florence Finds, Michelle Kelly, Pocketful of Dreams

I’ve said it before I’m a planner at heart and the one element this has had the greatest impact on our home life is with meal planning.

We make all our meals from scratch at home as we’re both keen cooks and like to stay relatively healthy but time is always against us. We’ve often had those occasions of arriving home from work starving hungry, looking in the fridge and realising we had no food in or worse still, having food but not being able to come up with a single recipe that would work with the ingredients we had. Resulting in much tetchiness and stomping around the kitchen until our growling stomachs were relieved.

To bring a little more harmony to the home I decided to take matters in hand and took this meal planning task by the balls. I spent a few evenings trawling the net for recipe ideas that met a few criteria:

  1. Quick to prepare and cook, no-one wants to spend 3 hours marinading meat or stirring a pot when they get home from work
  2. Uses seasonal ingredients
  3. Is relatively healthy, clean food with plenty of veg
  4. Not too much stodge
  5. A combination of accompaniments- so rice, potatoes, pasta and noodles being our main go-to’s – I often forgo these but cook some up for the other half or he feels he’s being starved to death
  6. A combination of meats and fish dishes to give us some variation in our diet
We narrowed down a hitlist of meal ideas testing out a few new recipes to see if we liked them and if not adapted them to our own tastes. We now keep our hitlist written down in the kitchen and it includes around 30-40 different meal ideas to supplement our standard go-to’s of stir fry’s and pasta with something!. We settle on a two-week meal plan and buy groceries according to what’s on the plan. Refreshing it again at the end of the two weeks and doing another shop – we’ve recently been doing this online and now we have a favourites file on there it’s making the shop much quicker and simpler too.
Doing things this way does mean we know in advance what we’re going to be eating each day which can sometimes take the joy out of cooking and sometimes we’ll get home and really not fancy what’s on tonights plan so we’ll swop things around. But in the main we try and stick to it.
It also means we throw far less food away as every item we buy has been designated to a meal. Of course this is the goal, in reality it doesn’t always go to plan but I can hand on heart say I throw away probably 1/10th of the food I used to.
As the seasons change I review my meal ideas hitlist and look for new ones that fit better seasonally and then I simply bookmark the recipes on my phone or iPad so I can really quickly find them when I get home, or I email them to the other half to let him know he’s ‘cooking tonight’. It may seem a little like military planning but seriously it has made such a difference to our daily routine that I hardly even think about it now, meaning I have more time for the good stuff in life, like long lazy bubble baths, cuddling under a blanket with the latest edition of Red mag, or scoffing chocolates as we work our way through the Netflix library.
In the interests of sharing here’s my current list and associated recipes in case you’re in need of a little inspiration yourself:
CHICKEN
BEEF
LAMB
PORK
FISH
Some of these are not so speedy but as they tend to be more oven/casserole based I will either make a few up at weekends and freeze so it’s just a case of reheating or sticking them in the oven in the morning (with a timer set to switch it off of course!) so they are ready when I get home.
If you have any seasonal meal ideas to share please do pop us some links in the comments box, always room for adding new ideas.

Michelle xx

Follow on TwitterInstagram and Pinterest

Friday Food: Braised Steak in Ale with a Herby Cobbler Topping

When I described todays Friday Food to Gemma last night I told her it was ‘a beef stew with a herby cheesy cobbler topping. Kind of like a cakey-cheesy-scone on top.’

‘You mean like a savoury-cakey-cheesy-scone on a beef stew?’

Exactly.’

It is that good. And it would be a crime not to make it during the hibernation-inducing weather we’re experiencing.

So here’s how: (taken from The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook (Yeo Valley))

Ingredients (Serves 6)
One kilo of chuck steak
5 tbsp sunflower oil
200g smoked bacon lardons
500ml good beef stock
25g butter
250g mushrooms
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly
1 tsp white sugar
3 garlic cloves crushed
20g plain flour
500ml brown ale/stout
the leaves from 3 large thymes springs
4 fresh bay leaves
3tbsp worcester sauce
salt and pepper

For the cobbler topping:
165g plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
90g chilled butter
1tbsp thyme leaves
1tbsp curly leaf parsley
50g finely grated cheader
1 medium free range egg
1 tbsp soured cream
100ml whole milk

1. Season the beef. Fry off the bacon and remove onto a separate plate. Brown the beef in batches on a medium/high heat and put aside on a plate.
2. Add half the stock into the pan and rub the base to release the caramelised juices and tip back into the stock. With half the butter cook the mushrooms and also set them to one side. Add the remaining oil and butter to the pan with onions and sugar for 15-20m until caramelised. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
3. Stir in the flour, ale, stock, thyme, bay and worcester sauce and bring to the boil. Add the beef, bacon and mushrooms, and simmer for 1.5-2h. Remove the bay leaves, allow to cool and preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Add the beef mix to your oven proof dish ready for the cobbler.
4. For the topping sift the flour, baking powder and half teaspoon of salt. Add the cubed butter and rub together with your finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the herbs and cheese. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk and sour cream. Mix together into a batter and spoon large dollops around the edge of the beef.

Bake for 35-40 mins until golden.

The beef is melt-in-your-mouth good. The cobblers are like cheesy, cakey pillows of loveliness. It really is worth the time (not not as much effort as it sounds) to make this dish. We’re having friends to stay this weekend and this is on the menu for Saturday night’s dinner.

I hope you all have a fun and friend filled weekend too :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

15 Minute Sunday Supper…

There’s nothing I love more than spending an autumnal late afternoon few hours in the kitchen, making a roast and perhaps a fruit crumble to go with it after an afternoon sweeping leaves and pottering in the garden. Lately however, I’ve been on the go, morning until evening, packing, cleaning and getting ready to move this week.


Image from JamieOliver.com

I spotted this recipe a while back on the Jamie Oliver site, and thought it looked extremely satisfying (hello sausage!) and suitably autumnal, but also really quick. Last Sunday after a full day of cleaning and packing with Mum, I was ready to sink into a heap on the sofa but had defrosted some sausages for this and knew I wanted something delicious to unwind with on the last, albeit a little chaotic, Sunday in our beloved home.

I needn’t have worried – this dish took 15 minutes, from start to finish and was absolutely delicious. If you click through to the recipe, you’ll see that if you don’t have wild garlic, the recipe can be made simply with spinach and garlic as a substitute which is exactly what we did. The only other amendment we made was to choose Debbie & Andrews Sicilian Pork Sausages (which are amazing by the way!) – from Tesco, which added a little warmth, and add a couple of dessert spoons of parmesan into the spinach and garlic ‘pesto’ for extra flavour. The key however is definitely in the caramelising of the sausages – just yum!

It was super delicious and really quick and simple, plus the recipe made enough for 4 (with a 500g bag of pasta,) so you can keep leftovers or feed a group if you want to.

Let me know if you try it readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

*Please excuse my pinching the website image instead of showing you mine – it looked very similar and I just didn’t have the time or energy to photograph my dinner that night!

#JanuaryJoy – Try a Veggie Day

I’ve never been a vegetarian and a rare steak would be among my favourite meal choices. Couple that with a husband who LOVES his meat and veggie days are few and far between in my house.

There are a lot of benefits to trying a vegetarian day or week though. You’ve got the obvious positives of packing more of your five a day in and if you stay away from cheese as a meat substitute, you’re often going to end up with a healthier, lower fat meal too. If you want to save a few pennies this January, you can bring down the shopping bill when you don’t have to spend money on decent cuts of meat. So for all of those reasons and simply for the sake of variety in our usual meal repertoire, I thought it would be fun to explore some vegetarian recipes.

Pasta recipes often get a bad reputation for seeming student-y, but I think this one strikes the balance between fast simple food and elegant complex (if rustic) flavours. Plus it has the added benefit of being one of those dishes that you can always knock up with store cupboard ingredients. Taken from a Christmas gift we received, Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course it’s a great week-night meal.

Pasta with tomatoes, anchovy and chillies. (Serves 4)
400g dried spaghetti
Olive oil, for frying and drizzling
2-3 galric cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 dried red chilli, crumbled.
1 x 50g tin anchovies in oil, drained and finely chopped
200g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
3 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
Seasoning and basil leaves to garnish.

  • Cook the pasta until al dente
  • Heat a frying pan with some olive oil and fry the chilli, anchovies and garlic for 1-2 minutes until the anchovy starts to melt into the oil
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir for another 4-5 minutes until the tomatoes collapse and the ingredients are well combined.
  • Drain the pasta and toss into the pan with the sauce. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta. Season to taste and serve topped with basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Do you try to eat vegetarian food regularly and why? Have you got a favourite veggie dish that you make?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Food: Modern Potato Salad

I’ve been waiting to blog this recipe all summer. Unfortunately as the weather has been so unpredictable there just hasn’t been an opportune time to share, as it’s a recipe you’ll call on time and time again in warmer weather. Just this week however I was digging up the potatoes from the allotment and had lots of small ones so it reminded me to get it blogged in the lovely mild weather we’re having. It works as well for a BBQ – as we had it on this occasion (and perfectly with steak or Barbequed chicken,) as it does midweek and is ridiculously easy for delicious results. Plus it’s always one of those dishes that gets compliments. Who doesn’t need another one of those in their repertoire?!

Ingredients:
A bag of new potatoes (I used standard ones here and chopped them but new potatoes are a little prettier!)
A red onion
Capers (in a jar)
A jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
Balsamic vinegar
Your preferred Salad leaf – watercress or spinach is good but whatever you prefer will work.

  • First up, put your pan of new potatoes onto boil.
  • In the meantime, chop up your red onion however you prefer, diced or halved then sliced. Add it to a pan with a generous lug of the oil your tomatoes are in and start to sweat down the onion.
  • As the onion gets softer add a couple of tables spoons of sun-dried tomatoes, halved, and a couple of tablespoons of drained capers. Finish with a slug of balsamic vinegar to taste.
  • Keep this on a low heat and reduce it all to a soft caramelised combination of the ingredients then remove from the heat.

  • When your Potatoes are done, remove from the heat, drain and add to the pan with your reduction. (I did this at the table for the purposes of the photographs but it’s easier in a pan.)

  • You now have two choices. If you are ready to serve the dish, add your leaves whilst the potatoes and dressing are warm (but not hot,) and toss. The leaves will wilt slightly and you want to coat the potatoes and leaves with the oil and reduced onion, tomato and caper mix. If on the other hand you are not ready to serve, the whole thing is just as good cold, just toss it all together when you are ready.

Voila – the most delicious and easy dish and the modern way to do potato salad ;)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Friday Food: Asparagus and Gruyere tart

I am quite obsessive about cooking seasonally, particularly when entertaining. I hate eating stodgy winter food in summer, yet I lust after a crumble come Autumn. Of course, I’m also a fan of simple food and when we had friends over this week as a belated birthday dinner after work, the food needed to be easy. I chose this Asparagus and Gruyere tart as a starter that I have been meaning to make forever. You can find versions all over the internet but with 3 ingredients I don’t feel it really warrants a recipe.

  • Roll out a sheet of ready made pastry (there’s a time and a place for making your own pastry, this isn’t it.) Trim it to fit your baking tray. Use a knife to score a line about an inch away from the edge on all sides making it look like a frame and then score the interior too in a cross hatch pattern.
  • Bake according to the manufacturers instructions – usually about 20 minutes until risen and golden.

  • In the meantime grate your Gruyere, (I actually substituted for Emmental on this occasion, any sweet nutty swiss cheese will do.) When the pastry is done, squash the central area of pastry within your crust edge and fill the space with grated cheese.
  • Lay your asparagus on top of the cheese, packed in close to each other.
  • Return to the oven and bake for another 20 or so minutes until the asparagus is cooked and the cheese is golden.

One rectangle could serve 6 but we were greedy and shared it between 4. Enjoy! Love, Rebecca xo

Friday Food: 5 perfect summer recipes…

This morning I have not one but 5 recipes to offer you. It was time for me to head over to Reverie Magazine on Monday and offer my lifestyle expertise. This month with the fleeting warm weather, my mind was on outdoors summer entertaining so I decided to round up a whole menu of delicious ideas to solve all your summer entertaining problems. Some are my personal favourites and I found some fresh new ideas that fit the bill too.

Do head on over to Reverie and check it out!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS! A huge thank you to Mary and Kate for supporting our new venture, Dream. Find. Do. – You can read their fabulous post here! Thanks girls!

Friday Food: Esme’s Quick Tuna Pasta

Just recently I have been the kind of busy that I haven’t been in a long while. Like flat out busy, need-a-hair-cut-but-can’t-fit-it-in busy, turning a blind eye to the house being completely disgusting busy… and one of the first things that go when I’m so busy is decent food. I buy stir fries of pre-chopped vegetables if it’s a good day and something infinitely worse on a bad one. It’s easy to forget that quick food does not have to be junk food. Delicious and nutritious (oh yes, I did just say that,) meals can also be quick.

So if any of you are feeling similarly time poor, rejoice for Esme’s submission, something I used to cook and will now be putting firmly back into my repertoire.

This is a recipe that I made up one hungry Saturday afternoon a few years ago. It is now our ‘go to’ weekend lunch because it’s really tasty, quick and uses ingredients you probably already have. Enjoy!

Image Credit

Ingredients (Serves 2)
150g Spaghetti (we always eat wholemeal pasta because we like the taste, but it’s up to you)
12 – 20 cherry tomatoes
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1 tin of tuna
A little normal olive oil
Fresh basil leaves, if you have some
Good extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan for grating
Salt and pepper

Method

  • Boil a large pan of water, adding plenty of salt. When the water’s on a steady boil, add your spaghetti.
  • Heat some normal olive oil in a saucepan (we use our Le Creuset shallow pan) and when it’s hot, add your cherry tomatoes.
  • Allow the tomatoes to fry for a few minutes. Some of them will split from the heat and some with char a bit – this is good! Squash some of them with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the garlic when the tomatoes are pretty much done so that it doesn’t burn.
  • Your spaghetti should now be done. Drain it and cover it with the good olive oil so that it doesn’t stick together.
  • Add your tuna to the pan with the tomatoes. Also add the basil at this stage, if you have it. Season with salt and pepper and heat it through. The tuna doesn’t need to cook, it’s just nice if it’s broken up and all mixed in with the tomatoes.
  • Now stir in your spaghetti and serve straight onto plates.
  • Liberally sprinkle with parmesan, a drizzle of good olive oil, a few more basil leaves and a grating of black pepper.
I have a feeling this is going to be a popular one… I know I’m always looking for quick easy midweek recipes. Stock up on tuna before Findettes clear the shelves! ;)
Love,
Rebecca
xo
PS. Read more from Esme here (including her brilliant Kitchen gadget guides.)