Category Archives: Cooking

Hello Tasty Surprise Vegetables!

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It really feels like Spring has arrived here in London. Finally I headed out to the roof terrace to tidy the garden and prune all the plants. I suspect I was supposed to prune last year but I never did as I was not sure how much to cut things back. By now many of the herbs have made it completely clear which of their long, dry stalks they no longer need so pruning was pretty easy.

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Along with pruning was the task of clearing the first of what I refer to as ‘troughs’ in preparation to plant some beetroot in a week or so. These are long containers which were on the terrace when we moved to the flat. They have no drainage holes (aesthetic over function unfortunately) but there were some broken up tiles in them when I emptied them out last summer. I left the tiles in and arranged them to allow quite a lot of space for drainage before re-filling the troughs. Unfortunately it looks like the soil is really soggy and rubbish. We will need to find a way to get better drainage into these containers if we want to grow anything in them this season.

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The good news is that the tidying unveiled a few treats. One of the troughs had a few *very* small turnips from seeds I planted last, um, August I think. They all sprouted at the time but never really went anywhere. Well now there are a handful of tiny turnips in there.

The carrots also seem to have survived the winter. We pulled up one from each container to inspect the size, which can only be described as tinchy. The rest will be left for another while as those containers are not needed yet so we might as well see if they grow in size.

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Finally swiss chard. This beauty has survived the winter, looked a little worse for wear a few weeks ago but in the last week it has started to thrive in the sun. you can really see the effect the sunshine has on it from this photo as the leaves closest to the camera are much larger on account of longer exposure each day.

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We sliced all our new veg and fried with plenty of garlic. I will not claim it was the most delicious side dish I have ever tasted but it was a tasty first dish from the garden for 2012!

Emma

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Easy Peasy Tomato Soup

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This tomato soup is incredibly easy to make from the larder. The ingredients are likely things most people keep in stock and it cooks in 20 minutes. Perfect!

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Add a chopped onion to a pot and soften in oil for a few minutes over a medium heat. If you like your soup garlicky you can also add a clove or two of minced garlic after a few of minutes. I added dried garlic as I didn’t have any fresh cloves.

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Once the onion is softened, tip a tin of tomatoes into the pot. Fill the empty tin with water and add the water. Season with as much basil as you like (lots in my case) and leave to simmer for 15-20minutes on a low heat with a lid slightly ajar.

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Once the soup is cooked blitz with a stick blender. Season with cracked black pepper and a dollop of natural yogurt if you like it. Serve!

Emma

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Ingredients (serves 2)

1 tin Tomatoes

1 Medium onion

1-2 Cloves garlic

Dried basil

Mini Quiches- Ham and Red Onion with Balsamic

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As promised, here is my mini quiche recipe. This recipe has come about because we were given two muffin tins for Christmas; a 12 hole tin and a 6 hole tin. I like muffins but I thought we must be able to make some other things in the tins as well, Adam had the idea to try and make mini quiches and they have been a success.

First off, I don’t try to make my own pastry any more. I have tried a few times in the past but it has never been very good. So for this recipe I use almost a full packet of normal butter puff pastry from the supermarket.

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Dividing the pastry is not an exact science. I have 18 spaces in my trays so I cut the pastry in half, role it a bit using flour so it doesn’t stick to my rolling pin, then keep cutting it down until I have about 18 pieces. Normally there is a bit extra so I just smear the cut off pieces with some pesto and bake them alongside the quiches as an appetiser. I suspect that if we had another 6 hole tray we could probably manage to get 24 mini quiches out of one packet of pastry.

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The pastry does not have to fit the holes perfectly, unless you are a real perfectionist. Just roll it until it is large and thin enough then shape it into the muffin holes and fold the edges until it sort of fits! I have used my pastry brush to lightly oil the muffin holes before adding the pastry, but this is probably not really necessary.

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Once the tins are full you can put them in the fridge until you are ready. Sometimes I prepare them earlier in the day and don’t bake them until the evening, when I need to use the oven for something else.

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The filling can really be whatever you like; in this case I have taken some baked ham (leftovers from Sunday dinner), chopped it up and dropped some into each hole. I then softened some red onion in a pan with some oil for about 15-20mins. At the last minute I added a splash of balsamic vinegar and let it reduce a little. Divide the onion amongst the pastries.

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I have a fairly casual attitude towards the egg mixture in my mini quiches, I think there is more of a margin for error here than with a large quiche as they are small, so if they do not set perfectly it is not a total disaster. My mix is 4 beaten eggs, 200ml milk, 40g grated cheddar and lots of dried herbs (basil, thyme, oregano). Pour this between the quiches, they only need to be half full- just make sure to cover the ham and onion so they don’t burn.

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Finally bake at 180C (fan oven) for about 15minutes. Keep an eye on them and take them out once they are set and the pastry is turning golden brown. Once you can handle them transfer to a wire rack to cool. You can eat them immediately with a salad or let them cool completely and keep them in the fridge for about 3 days. I usually freeze most of them and defrost overnight before eating them as a packed lunch.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Ingredients (18 mini quiches)

1 packet puff pastry

100g chopped cooked ham (approx.)

1 red onion

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 eggs

200ml milk

60g grated cheddar

1 tsp dried herbs (basil, thyme, oregano)

Bento Lunchbox

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Look at this cute little bento lunch! This year we have been really good about making all our own lunches for work. It is a great way to save some money and time every day (I don’t want to spend my whole lunch break standing in a queue for a sandwich). The downside of taking your own lunch is that it can get boring sometimes. So I have been trying to keep it interesting by making it bento style.

Here is what we are eating this week; raw carrot sticks, homemade bread roll with leftover chicken (from Sunday roast), raw cucumber sticks, homemade mini quiche. This is a really nice balanced lunch and it is very filling. We usually bake the bread rolls and mini quiches one weekend and are sure to prepare enough for two weeks; then freeze most of them. That consolidates the effort a bit and we can just defrost as much as we need the night before. I will do another detailed post about making the mini quiches.

Emma

Valentine’s Day Heart Shaped Eggs in Baskets

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Like so many people I am a bit sceptical about commercial holidays like St. Valentine’s Day. I don’t like being coerced into acknowledging my love but I also feel slightly cheated if I don’t get anything. Ah, so much pressure! So I decided that this recipe would be a happy compromise- something easy which I already happily make as a special treat for the man in my life, with a valentine’s twist!

Eggs in baskets are not very complicated. It is just a matter of balancing the time and heat so that the egg cooks through before the toast burns. I cut two thick slices of slightly stale bread. On account of baking all our own bread (in the bread machine) I was able to use thicker slices. Any sliced bread will work for this recipe. The only thing to remember is that if the bread is thinner the hole should be bigger, so it can hold all the egg!

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I cut two heart shapes out of the bread using a sharp knife. I don’t have any fancy heart shaped cookie cutter, I just did it by eye, maybe it helped that the bread was slightly stale already!

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Butter both sides of the bread (plus the little heart shaped cut outs) generously.

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When it comes to frying the eggs in baskets opinions differ. What I do is this; I place all the bread flat into the pan over a low to medium heat and fry one side first. When that side is crispy and golden I turn it all over.

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Then I pour one egg into each hole. I normally crack the eggs into a glass first to make this easier (thanks for the tip Adam!). Once the eggs are in the holes the heat is turned down low and I put a lid on the pan. I think a lid is the secret to perfectly fried eggs, sunny side up!

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Ok I admit it, my eggs do not look perfect, the white has cooked over the top of the yolk. I don’t know what happened, this is not an exact science… I guess I will have to make them again and again until I get it perfect!

Finally you can just supervise the eggs in baskets until they are done, maybe 5-10 minutes cooking time. Add a twist of salt and pepper and serve with a nice glass of orange juice! Yum yum, easy Valentine’s breakfast.

Emma

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Ingredients (for two eggs in baskets)

2 slices of bread

Butter

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Easy Falafel Burgers

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I am not ordinarily a big fan of chickpeas. I usually try to avoid eating them in their whole form because I don’t really like the flavour. However I recently bought a bag of them because they are cheap and nutritious so I thought I should try to find a way to enjoy them. Well, this is the best way!

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This recipe is so easy and fast. If you have dried chickpeas then measure about half a cup of them, soak overnight in lots of cold water (they will double in size). If you want to use chickpeas from a tin instead I am sure that would work just as well.

When they are soaked add half a chopped onion and some coriander (I used a frozen ice cube of coriander from my freezer). I believe cumin might be the traditional seasoning but I didn’t have any so I used a mix of nutmeg, chilli powder and turmeric which worked well. Any herbs or spices should probably work. Blitz it all in the blender.

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Once it is blitzed into about this consistency you can shape them into burgers. I imagine you could actually shape them any way you like, if you wanted smaller pieces for a salad or something. Try to compact them because my only criticism of this recipe is that the burgers crumble easily. You can leave them to dry a bit for half an hour or so if you have extra time or you could prepare them in advance and leave them in the fridge.

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Then you can fry them! You have to be careful sliding the burgers onto your frying pan so they don’t fall apart. One word of warning- they will soak up as much oil as you put on the pan!

I could hardly believe that the chickpeas did not have to be pre-cooked for this recipe but it is true. Just soak, blitz, shape and fry. How easy is that?

Serve on a bun with hummus and fried onions or with a side salad!

Enjoy!

Emma

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Ingredients (makes 2 burgers)

Half cup dried chickpeas

½ a chopped onion

1 handful fresh coriander

1 tsp spice (eg. cumin)

Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken Stock

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We had roast chicken for dinner the other day. We love buying a full chicken, roasting it and having plenty of chicken for a tasty dinner and enough leftovers for sandwiches. Adam has introduced me to the idea of making chicken stock with the finished chicken carcass. I love that this makes it even more economical and we get some really tasty stock for our freezer. The only problem is that stock takes a few hours to cook and we usually make a roast on Sunday evening.

Well I have found the solution; pressure cooker stock! I found this pressure cooking blog and realised I could make chicken stock in half an hour. Yay!

I just popped the carcass in the pot with some garlic, herbs and whatever few vegetables I had in the fridge. I used the final storage containers to add the liquid. I keep empty butter and big yogurt tubs in one of the kitchen cabinets and that is what I froze the stock in once it was ready. So I used these tubs to add water the pressure cooker so that I could make the correct amount! Then I brought it up to pressure and cooked it for 20 minutes. Easy!

Now I have four nice tubs of stock in the freezer ready to make fresh soup.

Emma

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