This year D and I have been eating a lot less meat. There were several reasons for this but the best thing to come of it (apart from feeling so much better) was the opportunity to try a whole host of new recipes.
Considering D is not really much of a vegetable eater he actually enjoyed this recipe. Alongside having a great many health benefits, spinach is one of the most versatile vegetables. This is also a pretty easy thing to put together after work and packs a punch in terms of fruit and vegetable portions.
To make a pie to serve 4 you will need:
1 pack of lighter puff pastry
450g frozen spinach
50g Parmesan cheese
200g garlic and chive soft cheese (the lighter option)
Salt and pepper
Herbs de provence
4 large tomatoes cut into segments
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat until soft. Add the spinach, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and fry until the spinach has cooked down. Once the spinach is cooked; add the cream cheese, Parmesan and egg. Reduce the heat and make sure the cheese and egg is distributed through the mixture.
Place the spinach in a pie dish and top with the (rolled out) pastry. Glaze with the egg. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
This pie also makes excellent leftovers or vegetarian picnic food.
I’m ready to admit it. Blogging can be a funny business. While some people do really well cooking up elaborate meals and writing about them, I always find the most success in terms of number of visitors based on recipes that are straightforward to make at home with ingredients with easy to substitute ingredients; rather than the much more elaborate cooking I originally did when writing this blog.
On that note, I can spend hours making and decorating a cake and, yes, quite a lot of people will show interest. Then on another occasion I can make a giant scone cake due to burning something else, which takes all of 45 minutes to make, bake and decorate and it gets the most interest of any cake recipe I have made. You really cannot predict blog views!
This cake recipe as mentioned before is really quick to make. Nobody expects a pretty scone so it doesn’t need hours of elaborate decoration. This recipe is also eggless, pretty low on sugar and can be easily adapted into a vegan recipe if you switch the milk and butter for non dairy substitutes and use this gem instead of whipped cream. Pretty much a winner for several dietary requirements then.
To make a large scone cake you will need:
450g self raising flour
100g salted butter
85g caster sugar
Approx 300ml milk
2-3 tablespoons raspberry jam
200ml double cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Heat your oven to 200°C. Line 2 cake tins with grease proof paper. In a large mixing bowl use your fingers to rub the butter into your flour. Add your sugar and sultanas. Pour in about 2/3 of your milk and then gradually add the rest of your milk until just before the point when the mixture goes too sticky and soggy. If this happens add a little flour to stiffen up.
Diving your scone mix between the two cake tine and spread the mix to the edges as scones do not really spread during baking. Bake for about 11 minutes until the scones go golden brown. Allow the scones to cool.
To decorate whip the icing sugar and cream until thick and spreadable. Spread jam on one half of the scone and spread cream on the other half. Sandwich together et voila. A giant scone!
This is a great crowd pleaser, especially amongst my Yorkshire friends. My grandma served this cake with champagne (this cake was a moving present for her and my grandpa) but it also goes really well with tea of coffee – as scones are traditionally served with tea.
I feel like at the moment a lot of recipes I post are quick ones for people who are busy or don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen. What can I say, I’m really busy at the moment (both in my day job but also getting some pretty great opportunities on this blog) and yet I still want to eat balanced meals with D.
Anyway, I sent D and I both to work with these meatballs and cous cous salads for lunch and they were perfect. I think its safe to say we were both full until tea time (its all about those slow release carbs.
Anyway, this is a perfect lunch or teatime idea as it takes about 5 minutes to cobble together the meatball mix and shape and about 15-20 minutes in the oven. Good for when you’re desperate for some sofa time!
For 12 meatballs you will need:
4 pork and oregano sausages or similar
2 sliced spring onions
1/4 egg (optional, if you you have it left from some other cooking)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
80g crumbled feta
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Remove the sausages from the skin and add to a large bowl. Crumble over some feta and add the onion, egg, and seasonings. Use your hands to smush together the ingredients. Shape the meat filling into the meatballs about 3cm in diameter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sausages have browned.
If you’re cooking this to have in a salad allow to cool. If its to go into a sauce add it at this point. Serve with the sides of your choice. For us it was dukkah spiced cous cous. Just remember, fast food doesn’t always have to mean you compromise on flavour or nutritional value.
In some ways this cookie might be considered dangerous – it took me less that 20 minutes to whip up a batch. However, being able to create something so delicious in such a short time makes me feel something of a domestic goddess – these are perfect for those times when you need to produce baked goods at short notice (think work charity bake sale or mum’s coffee morning). They are also made from ingredients most people have in their cupboards – bananaphobes please note that you can substitute the banana chips for raisins should you wish to do so.
Anyway, the key with these cookies is to be cautious on the timing. Once the edges of these go golden brown remove them from the oven and allow them to cool, rather than letting the whole cookie brown, that way you have the nice contrast between crispy and soft in the cookie.
To make approx 26 cookies you will need:
1 mug soft brown sugar
125g salted butter, softened
1 mug self raising flour
50g banana chips
2 tablespoons chocolate spread
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 baking trays (you will probably still need to take the cookies in batches). Using an electric whisk, wooden spoon or food processor beat together the sugar and butter until it is thoroughly mixed. Beat in the egg. Add the flour and crumble in the banana chips. Last, whisk in the chocolate spread so that it has a marbled effect.
Using a teaspoon place small amounts of the cookie mix onto your lined trays. Make sure you leave room for the cookies to spread; even if you have to bake in batches.
Bake for around 11 minutes, until the cookies are golden. They will come out of the oven very soft so be careful removing them from the baking tray. Allow to cool so the cookies can harden.
These cookies can be kept for several days in an airtight container.
So last week I discussed my initial thoughts on Hello Fresh so I thought I would give a final run down. I was a tiny bit irked last week that the box this week came with 3 cans of food. Not that I have an aversion to canned goods – its a cheaper way of eating fruit and vegetables in some cases. I think it was partly because I am pretty intolerant to certain pulses and left them out of one of the recipes entirely. Still, everything tasted great and I will consider future purchases when we’re busier or need cooking inspiration.
I must admit we both adored the quick roast dinner recipe; the gravy was just lovely and sweetened both our Mondays a treat.
I think possibly the nicest thing about these recipes is that they are so stress free. I think they’re so easy to follow and suit a variety of abilities. Also I actually did these boxes without checking what was in them and I found we actually tried new things without the bias that way.
So the pros of Hello Fresh (and similar boxes):
- All of the ingredients (except oil and salt and pepper) are provided in the exact quantity required.
- Recipes are easy to follow, even for beginners. Nothing takes too long to cook.
- They encourage healthy eating. The meals are pretty low calorie, they’re keep you fuller for longer and have lean protein and contain fruit and vegetables.
- The food is delicious and encourages customers to try new recipes.
- They come in a range of sizes so suit different family sizes.
- The packaging is well designed.
- They discourage food waste.
- It has to be said – good portion sizes. There were a couple of times when I thought “surely this won’t feed us both”. But yes, the classic box for 2 provides a decent meal for a hungry 6ft3 man and his girlfriend.
- I actually learned some useful tips from the recipe card.
- The food is all pretty local.
The cons are:
- I do think, even with the offer these aren’t cheap for what they are if you’re generally a clever shopper. We still had to do a partial food shop – although by the second week I didn’t end up buying as much so it might depend on your lifestyle.
- The portion sizes are generally ok but some are a bit nuts. A pasta dish I made was supposed to serve 2 but we both had it for tea/dinner and then lunch the following day. Also we got sent a massive broccoli and it was all supposed to go in one dish. I enjoy my vegetables but I felt that was a bit excessive.
- Having to dispose of some of the packaging can be tricky. We know people moving house who are taking the boxes and have a friend who needs packaging material but depending on your local council’s approach to recycling this could be a pain.
- Currently they can’t cater for all dietary requirements. Although the box also comes in a vegetarian option and can offer some dietary requirements its not suitable for all allergy sufferers or vegans.
And finally, I do think its worth stating if you do sign up you can pause delivery if you don’t fancy the weekly box on offer or you fancy repeating some recipes you’re sent. We actually both really enjoyed the meals we cooked and I look forward to getting the occasional box. However I love cooking and I did miss the spontaneity of meals, but it felt pretty reassuring on nights I had to work late knowing there was a nutritious meal waiting for me.
There’s something about cobbling a recipe together based on something you’ve been in a cartoon vaguely therapeutic. While throwing together ingredients for this I couldn’t help thinking back to an old episode of the Simpsons. You know the one where Marge is sent to jail and the town riots because they can’t get her rice krispy treats. While I can’t claim I need a statue erecting in my honour for making these, I do concede that they were delicious and they were very well received by the people I made them for (the cast of a play D is going to be in). Another plus is that they take barely any time to make, they’re not messy to eat and you don’t need an oven to make them. Probably perfect for a harrassed mother of 3 (or perhaps somebody who has promised his or her services helping with a bake sale and then promptly forgotten).
To make approximately 20 rice krispy treats you will need:
200-250g rice krispies
180g milk chocolate
Line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper. Break up the chocolate and put in a large microwave proof bowl with the marshmallows. Heat on high for 1 minute. Check and stir. Repeat every 30 seconds until the mixture is melted. Stir vigorously.
Add the rice krispies and keep stirring until all the cereal is coated in the chocolate marshmallow mix. Spread this into the brownie tin in a thick layer. Set aside to cool for half an hour. Once the rice krispy mix is cool and everything has set; cut into squares (you decide the portion size).
Now if anyone is looking for me I’ll be dying my hair blue and styling it into a beehive.
D and I are both pretty busy working full time, writing and doing amdram (he’s just landed a part doing the History Boys!). In fact you could technically say we were a busy family if you count the rabbits demolishing cardboard boxes and hiding behind the sofa. Anyway I’ve started trying to think of some relatively quick and healthy recipes that’ll keep us going all evening.
Anyway, I felt like a start home maker (for once) making this as I used home made chicken stock in this, which did actually make all the difference (but is absolutely not essential and alas I now have no more).
To make enough risotto for 4 people you will need:
250g-300g risotto rice (not going to lie, I just used up a bag of rice and didn’t measure)
1 small onion – sliced
1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed
Chicken stock (about 1L)
1 glass white wine
1/2 broccoli head – cut into small pieces
Salt and pepper
Fry the onion and garlic in butter until soft over a gentle heat. Remove the sausages from their skins and fry them with the onion and squish this into small pieces before the sausage is cooked.
Fry the rice in this for 1 minute and then add half the chicken stock, rosemary and wine and turn down to a low heat. Stir this occasionally and add more stock as the rice absorbs the liquid (and it evaporates). Once the rice seems partially cooked add the broccoli and either spiralize in the courgette (or use a potato peeler to make small pieces of it). Once the rice and vegetables are cooked season with salt and pepper. To serve top with the percorino cheese.
Serve to your busy (and hungry) family members. Although perhaps not to your bunnies/cat/goldfish.