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You can ask my family, but recently I’ve been getting a bit obsessed with savoury breakfasts. I’m a savoury over sweet person and I don’t understand why the standard weekday British breakfast is all about the sugar.  I miss the dosa sambar and spicy coconut chutney from south India, or the rye bread, smoked cheese and cucumber of Germany, or the falafel, olives, and fuul (fava beans) of Egypt, I want something savoury and sustaining, but I can’t quite bear to eat those leftovers in the fridge (no, it’s not because they are spicy/garlicky/I ate them about 12 hours ago…its because I was saving them for lunch!).

So I decided to do something about it- and start a weekday tradition of my own! The key is something ready-made and easy to grab. I know the reason I turn to toast and cereal is the fact it is SO easy to assemble with my eyes half shut.

To savoury muffins then, and what better vegetable than one of my all time favourites butternut squash? I decided to base my meanderings around this recipe for butternut squash and kale muffins but make a few changes with flavour combos in mind. It wasn’t until after I made it that I realised how healthy these muffins are, no sugar, no fat and vegetables, I cannot think of a better way to start the day! If  I’m starting to sound like some weird health nut let me make it up- they taste great cut in half with lashings of butter. If you’re not convinced about savoury foods for breakfast these still make a great (healthy) snack during the day.

butternut squash and feta muffins

  • 100g (1/2 a block) feta cheese
  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash (about 1/2 a medium sized squash)
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 cup rye flour (optional- replace with wholemeal flour if you don’t have it to hand)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig sage, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten- I used egg replacer in the form of flaxmeal/linseed even though this isn’t a vegan recipe because I’ve been wanting to try it out for a while- it works really well, I made it using these instructions.
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel, deseed (save the seeds if you fancy roasting them as a snack) and cut the squash into small (3cm) cubes. Place on a baking tray, spray or drizzle with a little olive oil and roast for around 15 minutes until cooked but still firm, then leave to cool whilst you get on with the muffin mix. Cut the feta into similar size cubes and set aside. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl including the chopped herbs and walnuts. Add the egg (or egg replacer) and milk and combine to make a batter with dropping consistency (add more milk if necessary).

Once combined well, fold in the feta and squash. Grease the muffin baking tray you will be using and spoon 1 large tablespoon of mixture into each smaller muffin tin or 1 1/2 tablespoon into large muffins tin baking trays.  This should make about 18-20 mini- muffins. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes if you’re making cup-cake size muffins, or 20-25 for larger muffins. Make sure muffins are golden brown and cooked through by using a cocktail stick and seeing if it comes out clean. Store in an airtight container.

Happy alternative breakfasting!

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So I have to admit, I made a variation on this several times during lent as it is super easy and quick if, say, your family is having fish and chips and you have to concoct something for yourself at speed. It may not be the most inspired vegan meal, but man is it good, especially if you use a good quality paprika that makes it extra smoky and fiery (definitely something I was craving on the occasion I was cooking chorizo quiche for the fam).

veggie/vegan chilli

Serves 4 – for a tart filling which serves 2, see below

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped/minced
  • 500g tin beans in water (any variety or mixed)
  • 500g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 250 ml  apple juice
  • 160 ml (about a third of the tomato tin) red wine
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon/1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tbsp cous cous (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1tsp white wine vinegar
  • pepper and salt to taste
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry off the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the beans WITH THEIR WATER, tinned tomatoes, wine mushrooms and apple juice. Bring to the boil and add the spices, stock cube and purée. Allow to simmer with the lid off for 15 minutes. Depending on how thick the sauce is looking, or what you are serving it with (I was serving it with soft tortillas so I didn’t want it to be too runny, but if you were serving it with rice or a baked potato, you’d want a bit more sauce) add the cous cous to thicken. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, lid on. Right at the end, stir in the sugar and vinegar. Taste and then season. Serve with nachos, tortillas, baked potato or rice and a crispy green salad.

 variation for tart filling

serves 2

I halved the ingredients  and omitted the tinned tomatoes, couscous, sugar and mushrooms adding an extra squirt of tomato purée and a squirt of tomato ketchup cooking quickly (probably only 10-15mins simmering) until it makes a drier sauce. I then put the mixture into pre-blind baked pastry cases (Jus-roll short crust pastry cooked at 200C for 15 minutes) and baked for 10-15 mins with a dollop of vegan “cheese” (more of a cheesey dip, the consistency of hummus)  on top from this recipe. I particularly like this fake cheese recipe because it doesn’t use soya milk and I find I don’t like the strong soy-taste in fake cheeses using soya milk.

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For the veggies who read this- my apologies for the meat-feast nature of the last few posts. For those who have a problem with eating bunnies because they are cute- I make no apology.

Rabbit is a great meat, slightly gamier than chicken (although this also depends on whether the rabbit is a buck or a doe and how old it is) it has a sweetness and is cheap too, it is amazing slow cooked. I wanted to make something reminiscent of the rabbit braised in white wine that I ate at the Crooked Billet and I was quite pleased with the result. Don’t be tempted to try and joint the rabbit or de-bone it as it can be much easier done once cooked.

rabbit in white wine and lentil stew with garlic dumplings

serves 4 generously

  • 1 medium sized rabbit
  • 1/2 cup of red lentils and 1/2 cup green lentils or 1  cup broth mix
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 pints chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

for the dumplings:

  • 60g shredded suet
  • 120g self-raising flour
  • 1 clove garlic
  • pinch of salt
  • 6tbsps cold water

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy based pan and soften the onion and garlic on a low heat. Add the whole rabbit and brown on each side. Rinse the lentils in a sieve and chop and wash the leeks.

Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to the boil. Put a lid on and simmer on a low heat for 1.5 hours, stirring every now and then to stop anything sticking to the bottom. In the meantime make the dumplings. Crush the garlic and salt together with the back of a knife. Mix the flour, suet and crushed garlic and add to it enough cold water to make a soft dough. Make into 8 balls with floured hands and after the 1.5hours of simmering, add the dumplings on top. Put the lid back on and leave for 30minutes. At this point you can fish out the whole  rabbit (serve the dumplings into bowls first) and de-bone it once it’s cooled a little, it should just fall off, and you can add the bone-free meat back into the stew. Serve the stew in a bowl with steamed greens.

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couldn't find my camera so these are rubbish phone photos

Last weekend’s roast was lamb, and on Monday we had quite a bit of leftover cooked meat. Seeing as the weather has been on the colder side, no-one was keen on the salad and cold meat way of using it up. I wanted something a bit different to your average shepherds pie and decided pasties filled with a middle-eastern blend of ingredients would be just right. I think this filling would taste great in fatayer parcels too. If you wanted to use raw mince, then I would suggest pre-cooking it in a little olive oil with the garlic and onions before making the mixture.

The mushrooms in the recipe were to bulk out the meat, so if you have more meat, reduce the mushrooms and vice versa.

leftover lamb and mint pasties

makes roughly 12 medium size pasties

  • 300g cooked lamb, de-boned
  • 200g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp harissa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2tbsps pine nuts
  • 1 1/2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 500g savoury shortcrust pastry (either the pre-made ready to roll stuff or using this recipe)
  • egg and some milk for brushing

Pre-heat the oven to 200C

Put the lamb into a food processor and gently pulse until it reaches a consistency like cooked mince (be careful not to whizz for too long…I’ve definitely made meat-dust before by accident. Not appetising…) Alternatively chop finely. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl (apart from the pastry!) and leave to stand while you make the pastry…or just get it out of the fridge.

Roll the pastry until it is about 1/2 a centimetre thick and cut into circles roughly 15cm in diameter (I used a medium sized plate to cut round). Fill the circles with a couple of spoons of the mixture. Brush the edges with a mixture of beaten egg and milk and press the edges together. Put slits on the top with a knife. Transfer onto a baking tray with a thin brushing of olive oil on. Brush the tops of the pasties with milk and egg and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20minutes until golden brown. Serve with steamed vegetables.

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veggie…

…bacon-ie

Happy New Year everyone, hope you all had a lovely season of festivities, I certainly did. I would like to say the lack of blogging is due to me being immensely busy during the season of goodwill, but that would only be true, if  you consider watching telly and eating chocolate to be a hectic schedule…

One of the many exciting cooking related gifts that I received in the final week of December (which for me is a double whammy Christmas-birthday gift bonanza) was “the flavour thesaurus“- a great read for anyone interested in cooking and creating recipes. So this recipe (having started on the basis of “oh look, we seem to have a lot of leftover stilton”) was nearly everything that the book says goes with blue cheese thrown in a pan- and it works REALLY well! Another gift utilised in this recipe was my Dad’s potato ricer, though I have made gnocchi without one before it did  make everything a whole lot easier.

I realise this recipe has lots of components, so if you weren’t feeling confident about doing all the time juggling, then I’d suggest using the shop bought gnocchi in vacuum packs, or making the gnocchi (or even just the mash) a day in advance.

Note: butternut squash takes an hour to roast so put it in the oven before starting the gnocchi.

home made quinoa and bulgar wheat gnocchi

serves 6-8

The quinoa and bulgar wheat add extra protein if you are making this dish veggie, but can just as easily be left out if you don’t have any available. I boiled my potatoes (quartered, skins on) for about 15mins, but I think if I do this again I will microwave them for less mess/water wastage/pans that need washing. I also made enough for about 6-8 and froze the gnocchi on a tray before bagging up,as they are quite time consuming to make, but a good quick meal once all the potato rice-ing and kneading has been done.

  • 650g Potatoes
  • 250g flour
  • 75g bulgar wheat and quinoa mix
  • Salt and Pepper

Wash and prick the potatoes, wrap them each in a paper towel and cook on full power for 5minutes, turn over and cook for a further 5mins. Leave to stand for 2minutes and check to see if they are soft, if not, blast for another 5mins. Allow to cool and then peel off the skins. Mash very finely or use a potato ricer. Whilst the potatoes are cooking/cooling rinse the quinoa and bulgar wheat and then boil in a pan of water for 12 minutes, drain.  Put the flour, mashed potato and bulgar wheat and quinoa into a bowl and season thoroughly with salt and pepper. Bring together into a dough and then knead on a floured surface for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into quarters and make each quarter into a sausage. Slice into 2.5cm pieces and squash with a fork before placing on a tray.

**If you want to freeze them do so now, and cook from frozen in the same way as fresh**

Now, gnocchi really doesn’t take long to cook so at this point I would stash the tray somewhere level/not at risk of being knocked on the floor and get on with the sauce.

To cook, boil water in a large pan, drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and fish out with a slotted spoon once they float, serve immediately. I cook about 8 gnocchi per person.

butternut squash, blue cheese and sage sauce

serves 4


  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion roughly chopped
  • 1 tub (300g) creme fraiche
  • 1/2-1 pint milk
  • 75-100g chopped walnuts
  • 25-50g blue cheese
  • A sprig of sage
  • 200g lardons (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Peel and cut the butternut squash taking care to scrape out the seeds into a sieve. Place 2.5cm chunks in the oven with about 1 tbsp olive oil brushed/sprayed over them. Cook for 1hr. Rinse the seeds of orange gloop and spread out in a baking tin spraying with very little oil and a generous serving of salt. Roast on the top shelf of the oven for 10-15mins until golden brown. Leave to cool and reserve for garnishing at the end.

Once the gnocchi has been made and laid on a tray ready to cook, soften the onions in 2 tbsp olive oil, adding the walnuts and sage and cooking for another 5 mins. Add the squash once cooked and mush up. Add the crème fraiche and enough milk to make the sauce more, well, saucy. Add the blue cheese to taste and any seasoning (bearing in mind the bacon and butternut squash seeds are quite salty). Simmer gently for 5mins and in another pan dry fry the lardons until golden if you’re serving them. Now cook the gnocchi (see above).

Serve the sauce over the gnocchi with the butternut squash seeds and/or the bacon sprinkled over the top.

Try not to get too excited about just how well the flavours go together and annoy everyone else eating.

I also got this super-cool apron for Christmas!

Thank you once again to my sister for the fab photos.

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Oh Bing... How I love you.

I know I always talk about how much I love everything I post (aubergines, my friends, butternut squash, soup, rice etc.) but Christmas takes on a whole category of it’s own, I mean I REALLY love Christmas. This might have something to do with my birthday being on boxing day, which means I have to make the most of the festive season as that is all I get for a whole year, or it might just be that Christmas is awesome because it’s about God coming to earth as an actual human being…Now I’m normally a fan of everything Christmassy, even the terrible tat holds a place in my heart, but along came the first of December and I was feeling decidedly un-christmassy, one might even say I was feeling quite scroogey and grumpy towards the whole consumer driven machine that Christmas has become, but cynicism doesn’t suit me so I decided to resolve this quick sharp and get my festive on. These pasty shaped pies came about in a kitchen in Germany, where there were no little pie dishes to be had for love nor money (or none that I was willing to pay out) and so these are mince pies for the equipmentally challenged. All you need is a glass or mug to cut the cirlces, about the diameter of a pint glass. This experimentation in shape has turned out to be more than a one-time emergency plan, I personally think the ratio of pastry to mincemeat is just right, and they are much better for entertaining than the traditional shape as there is none of that lid-falling-off malarkey, just little parcels ideal for eating with fingers. Despite my liberalness with the shape do be warned, I have strong opinions on mince pies . Never try to give me a shop-bought mince pie with it’s sickly, soggy pastry. Only the simplest, unsweetened home-made shortcrust pastry will do, anything else and I’ll pass, thanks.

...and some water

All you need to make pastry

Here is your guide to making yourself feel (more) Christmassy. 1. Go to the shops with this list Lard, Butter, Plain Flour, 1x410g jar Mincemeat, Gluehwein/Mulled Wine/Spiced Apple Juice 2. Get back and shut yourself in the kitchen with your laptop. Get the Christmas tunes on,  my preferences are: Sufjan Steven’s “Songs for Christmas”, anything by Bing Crosby (wonderfully these are both on Spotify) and this playlist compiled by my friend Sophie last year, but if you prefer your Christmas cheer in a cheesier variety then put some of that on. 3. Get a small pan on and heat your spiced drink of choice until it is steaming. Pour into a Christmas themed mug. 4. Start making your mince pies, you will need:

  • 1 small jar Mincemeat (400g)
  • 75g Lard
  • 75g Butter
  • 300g Plain flour
  • your cutting glass (about 6-8cm diameter)
  • Splash of cold water
  • A pinch of salt if the butter is unsalted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Baking tray and baking paper
  • A fork
  • Icing sugar for dusting, or white caster sugar sprinkled is just as good

Cut the lard and butter in to 1cm cubes and put into a bowl with the flour and salt. Rub in the fat and flour using your finger tips, until the mixture takes on a bread-crumb like consistency- this can take a while, especially if the fat is cold, but keep going! Bring the mixture together with just enough cold water to form a soft dough. Put the lump of dough in a sandwich bag and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile… 5. Put the oven on to 200C. Ensure your drink is topped up and then start browsing for those Christmas gifts on-line (so much nicer than the crowds on the high street). 6. After the 30 minutes chilling time, continue to assemble the mince pies. Roll out your pastry dough on a floured surface until it is about 0.5cm thick. Use your implement of choice to cut as many circles as possible, and then fill with just under a teaspoon of mincemeat. Brush beaten egg all the way round and then fold the circles in half, pressing down at the edges with a fork. Prick the tops to let out steam and then line up on a baking tray lined with paper. Once all the pastry and mincemeat is used, brush the mince pies with the remaining egg wash and put into the hot oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before sprinkling with icing sugar or caster sugar.

un-dusted mince pies fresh from the oven

6. Sit down with the remainder of your spiced drink, or just a cup of tea and some mince pies to watch your favourite Christmas film. Might I suggest “White Christmas”? For another Christmassy weekend suggestion see Sophie’s 2011 Christmas blog post on “style and then some” here, which includes how to make cranberry sauce!

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Spicy Aubergines

Last weekend I invited some friends over, only there were a lot of last minute emergencies and it ended up shrinking from a party of eight guests to three. Fortunately it meant I got to eat (incredibly garlicky)leftovers for lunch, which may be slightly antisocial but I always find leftovers much more satisfying than a sandwich don’t you?

Aubergines, I love you.

I love aubergines. Along with buttternut squash they are very high on my list of favourite vegetables, and this, or variations on this, is my favourite way to eat them. The best thing about this dish for me, is the meaty and smooth texture of the aubergines against the sharp tangy spicy sauce. Not only does it taste amazing but it is super quick and versatile. When I cooked this at the weekend it was for more of a middle eastern Mediterranean meal, so I left out the seeds (apart from the coriander) and the ginger, added a teaspoon of ras al-hanout and served it with koftas, (recipe to come), a yoghurt sauce, salad and flat bread. I cannot sing this recipe’s praises enough , it is my food heaven, and such a reliable staple.

A lot of recipes tell you to fry aubergines, but this makes them absorb a huge (read:disgusting) amount of oil, and I’ve found roasting them gives them just the right colour and flavour. Just a quick disclaimer, I haven’t suddenly got amazing at food photography, my sister was one of the three people who got to eat the dinner, and she took some snaps for me. Thanks sis!

Spicy Aubergines

serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish

  • 1 large or 2 medium aubergines
  • 1 carton of pasata
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • olive oil for brushing
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped/minced
  • 1cm grated ginger
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp kalonji/nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • cayenne pepper to taste (I go for 2 tsp, but I do like it hot!)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200C and then cut the aubergines into even sized wedges, I do this by cutting thick slices and then quartering/sixthing them. Put into a baking tray and brush or spray with olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes,  giving them a shuggle (somewhere between a shuffle and a jiggle) after 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or heavy based frying pan and fry the seeds until they begin to pop. You might need to take off the heat to cool a little before adding the garlic and ginger as it might spit at you otherwise. Fry them until brown and then add the pasata and all your other ingredients, bring to the simmer. Once the aubergines are cooked stir them into the sauce, adding water if it is a bit thick and cook simmer with a lid for 5 minutes. Check for seasoning, I tend to make it quite salty, especially if it is a side dish and you didn’t season the aubergines before roasting.

 

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