Food Friday: Stuffed Marrow (just like Deirdre used to make)

Posted by Lipglossiping On August - 30 - 2013

If you’re British and don’t get the popular cultural reference in the title, shame on you.  If you’re not British, and do… you’re amazing!

When I was at my local farm food shop last week I spotted a barrowfull of marrows, they were selling them off at 60p-a-piece.  I’ve never had marrow before, stuffed or otherwise… at 60p, I felt that I couldn’t go wrong.

I googled for some recipes but decided that I’d go for the old tried, tested, and somewhat derided route of stuffing it.  Instead of cutting the marrow into two long “boats”, I decided to slice them into 1.5″ thick rings and stuff the middle of those instead.  To my eye, it just looks a little more modern.

The great thing about marrow is that… it doesn’t really taste of anything.  You might think that this isn’t such a selling point, but it absorbs the flavours of whatever you combine it with beautifully.  I felt that combined with the stuffing mix I prepared in the recipe below, the marrow tasted a little like fluffily boiled potatoes (but without the uber-carbs!).  A truly delicious meal.

The recipe below makes enough stuffing mix for the amount of marrow you see in the photos (6 slices, not whole) with enough leftovers to stuff a further two large peppers.  It’s great for cooking up on a weekend and refrigerating a portion for later on in the week.

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You’ll need:

500g turkey mince (or any mince you prefer to use)
85g sage & onion stuffing mix
1 marrow
2 onions
1 carrot (shredded
1 tin chopped tomatoes
a glug of worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chilli paste (or chilli powder)
1 heaped tsp of garlic paste (or a couple of cloves)
1 lvl tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (not pictured)
100g green lentils
Water

1 pitta bread broken into breadcrumbs (I prefer the crunch pitta bread gives)
60g grated cheese

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Rapidly boiling the lentils for 10 minutes before turning the heat down and continue to simmer for around 30-minutes.

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Fry off the turkey mince (I used a couple of sprays of frylight to coat the pan first) and add your spices (coriander & cayenne pepper).

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Add the onions, carrots, garlic paste, and a good glug of the worcestershire sauce and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.

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Pour the chopped tomatoes and stuffing mix on top and stir to combine the stuffing mix.  Have a jug of water ready, you’ll need to topup the pan as the stuffing mix absorbs the liquid. You can use a stock cube in the water but I didn’t have one to hand and it was fine.

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As your mince is cooking away in the background (keep checking it for water levels, you want it dry-ish but not enough to stick or burn!), it’s time to prepare your marrow.  Marrow might seem like an awkward vegetable to prepare but it’s incredibly easy.  Simply slice of 1″-1.5″ thick pieces, as many as you need.  Using the tip of the knife, cut out the middles and discard.

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They should look like the above photo once you’ve finished.

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Drain your green lentils once they’ve finished cooking and add them to your stuffing mix, combine well.

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Take a baking tray, a sheet of greaseproof paper, and your Frylight spray.  Place the empty marrow rings evenly onto the greaseproof paper and fill with your stuffing mixture.  The mixture will shrink down a little as it bakes so make sure that you fill them generously!  Top with the pitta crumbs and grated cheese.  Lightly spray the rings with some Frylight and pop into a pre-heated oven (200°C/400°F/Gas 6).

Loosely cover the baking tray with foil, try not to let the foil touch the top of the rings (or your cheese will transfer!).  Bake for around 30-minutes, remove the foil and pop back in the oven for another 10-minutes until the top is browned.

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They should come out looking something like this!

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For me, these are a whole meal in themselves… they don’t need anything to accompany and three slices of stuffed marrow was incredibly filling.  Some people are happy to eat the skins, I didn’t like the texture so sliced mine off just before eating.  Either way, don’t peel your marrow before you cook it, the skins hold everything together!

I do hope you try this one while marrows are still in season.  It makes for an incredibly cheap and filling meal, healthy too!

* Weight Watchers – I pointed this recipe at 9PP per portion for the minced stuffing mix (the whole recipe makes 4 portions of stuffing mix)


Food Friday: Diet-Friendly Eggs Benedict!

Posted by Lipglossiping On August - 16 - 2013

I can take or leave breakfast. I know you’re supposed to eat it religiously… that it kick-starts the metabolism for the day. What is it they say? Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper… blah blah blah…

The thing is, I just don’t feel remotely hungry upon waking. It takes me a good hour or more to be able to face the thought of food.

Unless you put this infront of me.

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I die for a dippy egg.

Truth is though, I can’t poach eggs for shit. I’ve tried, oh… I’ve tried so many times. With vinegar, without vinegar… eggs so fresh, they still feel warm. A whirlpool in my pan that would sink a battleship… I just can’t do it. Praise the lord for silicone egg poachers, that’s all I can say.

I call this version of Eggs Benedict “diet friendly”… and it’s not actually too bad for the waistline. I make a cheat’s version of hollandaise, I don’t have the skillz for a real, homemade version and this one is far lower in fat than the proper, gourmet treat. I’m also the only one in the house who actually likes Eggs Benedict so it doesn’t make much sense to keep a jar of hollandaise in the fridge, I just wouldn’t get through it (without a very big spoon and a lack of shame).

Anyway, if you want to indulge in a weekend breakfast treat… stick with me, and read on…

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You’ll need:

1 crumpet or muffin (mine are cool square-shaped ones from Asda)
2 slices of wafer thin ham (or bacon if you’re a fatty)
1 whole egg
1.5 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
A squirt of lemon juice
1/4 tsp mustard (I use whatever I have… I’ve made it before with english, dijon, and wholegrain… I like the texture of wholegrain)
1/2 tsp melted butter
A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

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Bring a pan of water to a boil before turning down the heat slightly. Spritz your silicone egg poacher with a couple of sprays of oil (frylight or similar) and crack your egg into the well. Place your egg poacher into the pan and cover, set a timer for 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, toast your crumpet or muffin….

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To make the “hollandaise”, melt the butter into a ramekin and add the mayonnaise, mustard (whichever types you’re using), and cayenne pepper. Mix well.

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Add a little squirt of lemon juice (to taste). This helps to mimic the hollandaise tang nicely.

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Because this is a “healthy” version, I don’t butter the crumpet but instead use a teaspoon of the “hollandaise” to coat the toasted muffin/crumpet…

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…before adding a couple of slices of wafer thin ham.

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By now, your timer should be beeping! Add the poached egg and top with the remaining “hollandaise” and a shake of black pepper.

Enjoy!

What’s your favourite breakfast treat for the weekend? Will you give this one a go?

Pick your own!

Posted by Lipglossiping On August - 13 - 2013

I haven’t been strawberry picking since I was a small child, no doubt eating far more as I went along than ever made it into the basket.  In fact, I remember it being so much fun, I don’t know why it never occurred to me until now to take Leila, she’s an absolute fruit fiend (having hated vegetables from day one) and loves to feel “in control” of preparing her food.  A match made in heaven.

As far as I’m aware, there’s only really one major strawberry picking field left near us… we used to have one just down the road from my old house but it got carved up and used as a car boot field many years ago.  If you’ve never tasted pick-your-own strawberries, you’re truly missing out.  Sweeter, juicier, and far more tasty than the bland versions the supermarkets stock… they’re an absolute joy.

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There were marrows bigger than my bum!

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Strawberries as far as the eye could see

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The queen of strawberries

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Incase you’re wondering, she’d made the crown that morning… wasn’t giving it up.

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“Leila! Don’t eat them, we’ve not paid yet!”

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“You took my stwabwees off meeeeee!” (hush you, dwarf bean!)

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Winning!

There should be a couple more harvests left before the end of the month (and then it’s blackberry season!)… if you haven’t picked your own summer fruits yet this year, what are you waiting for?

A DIY Graze Box for less than half the cost!

Posted by Lipglossiping On July - 12 - 2013

I’m a massive Graze Box fan.  Like a child on Christmas morning, I skip toward the front door when I hear the postman coming every alternate Friday.  *Plop!* as the box hits the doormat, *Squee!* as I grab it in my hot little hands and run off to uncover my weekend treats!

What is it about cutely packaged boxes that suddenly makes the interior of Holland & Barrett look sexy.  There is nothing sexy about Holland & Barrett… or Julian Graves for that matter, probably why they went bust.

Are you one of the few remaining people on Earth who doesn’t know what a Graze box is?  Allow me to enlighten you…

A DIY Graze Box for less than half the cost!

A DIY Graze Box for less than half the cost!

Thai Crackers with Sweet Chilli Sauce | Biscuit with Compote | Florentine Mix | Popcorn

You pay a fee of £3.89 and for your monies, you receive a wee cardboard box delivered to your door, or office… you know, if you have one.  The box contains a selection of four tasty treats, supposedly healthy (usually somewhere inbetween healthy and fattening), definitely moreish.  You can log on to the website at Graze.com and tell them what you like/don’t like… even rating the previous box so that future selections are customised to your taste.  Back in the day, they used to include fresh fruit and other lovely bits in their boxes but what with Royal Mail being shit and letting the fruit ferment… they had to stop all that.

There are a billion offers around for you to try your first Graze box for free, mostly because subscribers get given codes to refer friends and earn themselves money off future boxes.  Here, have mine: 616XG25D for a free box*.

They’re also now doing Breakfast boxes containing four portions of suped-up porridge… usually with things like dried fruit and nuts added, plus a drizzle of honey.  Yum.  Again, ZXRP1YM will get you into the top-secret (not really) Breakfast Club and award you your first box for free*.

…BUT YOU’RE NOT GONNA WANT TO USE THEM!

Because look, I done did my very own Graze Box.  A DIY Graze Box!  And it cost not THREE POUNDS AND EIGHTY-NINE PENCE.  Oh no, it cost a mere £1.67** and contains lots more goodies!

A DIY Graze Box for less than half the cost!

A DIY Graze Box for less than half the cost!

A DIY Graze Box for less than half the cost!

Garibaldi Biscuits | Mini Flapjack | Breadsticks, Cheese & Chutney

Meringue and Yoghurt-coated Strawberries | Florentine Mix | Roasted Chickpeas & Wasabi Peanuts

My favourite thing from my delivered Graze boxes has always been the Florentine mix of pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and dark chocolate buttons so I knew that I wanted to replicate this in my own version (bottom middle).  Infact, this worked out as the most expensive pot (56p), which might have something to do with the fact that I used Montezuma’s Giant Dark Chocolate Buttons (om nom nom).

Garibaldi biscuits (top left) are a much-neglected biccie in my opinion!  On Weight Watchers, you can have three for 3PP… plus they’re pretty inedible without a cuppa but perfect for dunking, making them a brilliant mid-afternoon, tea-break snack.

I wanted an even spread of sweet vs. savoury, so also included a mini-flapjack bite from Asda bakery (top middle)… now I just need to resist the temptation not to polish the rest of them off!

Leila’s passion for breadsticks got me thinking about their potential for grazing on (geddit?), so I picked up some mini wholewheat breadsticks, a jar of tomato chutney, and a Babybel Light (top right).  It’s like a cheese and pickle sarnie in skinny form… um, sort of.

The bottom left selection is another for my sweet tooth.  It features a broken meringue nest and yoghurt-covered dried strawberry pieces!

Finally, I included a pot with a comination of dry-roasted chickpeas and wasabi peanuts (bottom right).  So spicy, so good!

Obviously the initial outlay to make your own Graze boxes is something to think about… but as an ongoing thing, this box worked out at £1.67 for the lot.  As far as quantities go… my Florentine mix weighs in 40g, only 1g less than the Graze version… but do you know the really cool thing?  Mine is 5PP… theirs is 6PP!

Would you make your own Graze box?  What would you put in it?

* both codes are affiliated, I get £1 off my next box if you use them (I think).  Please don’t use them because now I have a cupboard-full of seeds and dried fruit to use up!

** ignoring the £5845893 I spent on tiny, tiny boxes

Weight Watchers Friendly: Chipotle Chicken Wrap

Posted by Lipglossiping On July - 8 - 2013

“Ugh, it’s too hot to cook!” says me.

“Hungry!” says everyone in the flat who doesn’t have to contemplate entering the kitchen.

The thought of even putting the oven on makes me wanna stick my head in it whilst I’m there. I’ve got all the windows open (curtains closed of course) and this has afforded me a little insight into the UK’s problem with inbreeding. The mercury rises above 25 degrees and everyone outside feels the need to raise their voices because sound doesn’t travel well through heated airwaves?

I’ve had: “Does your MUVVER know you’re buying WEED?!” shouted down the road… not once, but four times (just in-case we didn’t all hear this revelation the first time round). Followed up with what sounded like the ice-cream van having a seizure over and over and over. It’s always the same around here when the sun comes out, Mr Marucci circles these lanes like a vulture, he just won’t stop until we’ve all got fucking ice-cream headaches. And that’s without consuming a single 99er. You know the tune? We’ve always told Leila that if they play the music, it means they’ve run out of ice-cream.

I’m grumpy. Can you tell? But I’m also hungry… and I need to go to the gym later (hardcore gym bunny now). Hence, I need to eat. Without much effort… here’s what I’m making tonight.

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The cast of characters include:

2 Warburtons Squareish Wraps
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1/2 an onion, sliced
handful of frozen peppers (I always buy frozen, who can afford fresh?)
2 mushrooms, sliced
1tbsp tomato puree
2tsp chipotle paste
1tbsp natural yoghurt
1tsp olive oil
salad-y stuff

Make up your side salad first, this cooks fiercely and quickly – you don’t wanna be mucking about trying to slice tomatoes while the pan behind you is on fire.

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Heat a tsp of olive oil in a frying pan and add the vegetables, stir-frying quickly over a high heat until well-softened.

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Add the tomato puree and chipotle paste, return to the heat and combine everything evenly before adding the ready-cooked shredded chicken to warm through.

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Remove from the heat and spoon over a tablespoonful of natural yoghurt for a touch of creaminess.

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Divide into two portions and spoon into your wrap. Serve with your side salad and enjoy!

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How simple is that? Probably too bloody simple to bother with a blog post about it but it was either this or order something from Dominos, which we know wouldn’t be Weight Watchers friendly! As far as the points go, this came in at a truly wonderful 7 Pro Points. Leaving plenty of points for a refreshing gin and tonic (or seven) later.

If you like Mexican flavours, a jar of chipotle paste should be a permanent staple in your fridge…. you get all that wonderful smokey Mexican flavour without the heat… and let’s face it, who needs anymore of that today?

Let me know if you try this one out! What do you cook on days when you just wanna declare the kitchen a dead-zone?

 

Food Friday: Christmas Chutney!

Posted by Lipglossiping On October - 26 - 2012

Before I start, I want to give a big shout out to Franky for not only providing the recipe, but also for completely inspiring me to take a chance on something I’d never attempted before.  I can’t tell you how much fun I had making the chutney and filling the flat with the delicious scent of Christmas.  And let’s not forget the intense satisfaction I get from opening the cupboard to check on my little jars of slowly-maturing chutney… something that I find myself doing more often than is strictly necessary!

What can I say?  I am a smitten-kitten for chutney-making… a process which feels almost soulful in its approach.  Jars full of genuine goodness, a whole lot of instinctive-cooking (the best kind), and just a touch of the crafty bits that I usually suck so badly at employing.  Chutney needs a little while to mature, so if you’re thinking of giving it a go for Christmas presents… I’d say get on it this weekend!

Just reading Franky’s Christmas Chutney recipe got me in the mood for the holiday season.  The list of ingredients alone had me whistling Jingle Bells before I’d reached the end of her post.  So be warned, I accept no responsibility if you’ve got the Christmas tree up and decorated by the time you reach the bottom of this page.

First things first, you’re gonna need some jars.

You can beg/borrow or steal empty jars from friends and family or you can do what I did and head for the value ranges at the Supermarket.  It’s horribly wasteful and I did feel very guilty knowing that I was buying perfectly good food with the intention of wasting the contents but I don’t intend to make a habit of it now that I’ve caught the chutney-making bug.  I hereby promise to wash and save all my jars in the future.  However, if you’re like me… I don’t mind sharing that the Asda Smart Price Sweet Pickle jars are pretty good for the job – the labels soak off cleanly in a few hours (hot, soapy water a must), they’re not too big AND they’re only 24p each.

From Franky’s recipe below, I was able to fill 7 of them.

You will need:

~ 750g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small (for me, that equated to around 1kg unpeeled apples)
~ 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped (I used two small onions)
~ 500g fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed if frozen (I used 1x 350g pack of frozen because of the expense)
~ 250g soft pitted dates, each date cut into 3 (I soaked dried dates overnight in boiling water and used around 300g)
zest, pulp and juice of 2 clementines/satsumas (I got bored of “zesting” after 30 seconds, so I liquidized the bastards)
~ 400g caster sugar
~ 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
~ 1 teaspoon ground ginger
~ 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
~ 500ml white wine vinegar
~ 2 teaspoons Maldon salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

The jars.  You’ll need to wash and sterilise – this is less daunting than it sounds.  For sterilising, simply arrange the (still wet) jars on a baking tray like this and leave to dry in a 150 degree celsius oven for around 30 minutes.  Don’t do this until you’re almost ready to fill them, they should still be warm when you spoon in the chutney to avoid cracking.  Top tip:  If you have jars with safety (pop up) lids, you can get these to depress by filling the jar, screwing the lid on tightly and then inverting the jar once.  Tip the jar back up the correct way and as it cools, the “button” should slowly invert back to its “safe” position.  Neat huh?

Ok, enough about jars…

Make yourself a big cup of tea and start peeling/chopping.

1. Place the apples, onion, cranberries and dates into a large pan.

2. Zest the citrus fruit over the top, squeeze in the juice and then scrape in the pulp.

3. Add the sugar and all the spices before pouring over the vinegar and sprinkling in the salt.

4. All that remains to be done is to give it a good stir, turn on the heat, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it bubble, uncovered, for about an hour or until it has become a pulpy mass.

5. Spoon into your warm, prepared jars and seal.

The chutney can be made up to 2 months before using {or giving}. Indeed, the longer it has to ‘mature’, the better. It should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge and consume within one month.

In terms of cost – each filled jar worked out at under £2 – including all decoration.  Not bad huh?  The more you make, the more cost-effective the process.  I wish I was crafty/savvy/clever enough to make all my own Christmas presents – it gives me so much pleasure… but for now, these are going to make great “topups” for the pressies that I’ve already squirreled away.

What do you think?  Will you give Franky’s recipe a go?

Food Friday: Broccoli & Blue Cheese Soup

Posted by Lipglossiping On October - 12 - 2012

If you’re looking for an Autumn-warmer that’s both versatile and nutritious, then you need look no further than good ol’ fashioned home-made soup.  It’s the kind of meal (yes, you CAN have soup for a main meal) that practically cooks itself and tastes even better the second time around.   I usually cook a batch of soup late at night, let it cool, then pop it in the fridge in the morning – we rarely have soup on the same day that I cook it, I generally feel that a good soup needs a day or two to mellow and intensify in flavour before it’s ready for serving.

I’m an advocate for simple, unfussy food.  I like cooking, no… I love cooking just so long as I don’t have to do anything that requires the patience of a saint.  The same with baking… as soon as I see any mention of meticulous decorating or sugarcraft, I close the cover on the book – the finesse of cooking, just doesn’t appeal to me.

With that in mind, today’s recipe is a hearty, if not meaty soup that has been really popular in our household lately.  Except with Leila.  It’s green you see, and Leila doesn’t trust anything that’s green.

One of the best things about this particular soup is that you only need a handful of ingredients to prepare it.  And trust me, despite the lack of content, there is a surfeit of flavour.

Broccoli & Blue Cheese Soup (makes around 3L, serves 8 – enough for freezing)

Olive Oil for frying
5/6 small onions (3 medium ones)
2 heads of broccoli (about 700g worth)
1 large potato (killer jacket sized)
2L of vegetable stock (I use a Bouillon)
100g blue cheese and a little more for crumbling (1 normal sized packet will do it)

1. Chop and fry the onions in a little olive oil (use a stockpot) for this.

2. Peel and dice the potatoes, make up the stock and add to the stockpot (I used 8tsp of bouillon to 2L of boiling water).  Simmer for around 10/15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

3. Roughly chop the broccoli (the smaller you chop, the easier it will be to blend later) and add it to the simmering mixture.  Allow to cook for a further ten minutes.

4. Crumble the blue cheese into the soup and stir gently until melted.

5. Grab your hand blender and whizz the mixture until smooth.

6. That’s it!  How unfathomably easy is that?

Some pictures of the process…

Sooooo good with fresh bread (homemade of course!).

Especially good with more fresh bread than you know is healthy for you and a little swirl of double cream – but that’s between you, me and the carbs.

What’s your favourite Autumn soup?

Food Friday: Bread & Butter Pudding!

Posted by Lipglossiping On October - 5 - 2012

As a nation, we’re not particularly renowned for our cuisine… often finding ourselves the butt of many a culinary-related joke, but I don’t care.  I think that we cook without prejudice and, as a result, have no qualms about creating some of the best fusions and adaptations from around the globe.

Take the classically British Bread & Butter pudding, great it might be – but we haven’t gotten prissy about trying it with croissant, panettone, or brioche… we’re happy to smear the slices with jam, marmalade and even nutella! (hmmm, peanut butter idea forming as I type…) – we’re not stuck in our ways and we’re not overly precious about our food traditions, and what good is cooking if you don’t get experimental?

Well, it’s still pretty good actually because I really couldn’t be arsed today.

I went for the classic variety of bread and butter pudding and it puffed up so bloody beautifully in the oven that I thought I’d share the recipe I used with you.  The perfect bread and butter pudding should be crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle, custardy, full of plump, juicy raisins (none of those burnt ones!) and perhaps just a little kick of nutmeg.

Here’s how mine went…

Classic Bread & Butter Pudding (like wot Mum makes!)

10/11 slices of stale bread (use fresh at your peril, it will taste like soggy weetabix)
Butter (to grease and spread)
Sultanas
1 pint milk
4 Tbsp caster sugar
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
1.5 tsp nutmeg

Grab an ovenproof dish suitable for layering the bread inside (I usually use the same kind of dish you would for a lasagne – not too deep) and grease it well with a knob of butter.  Get your butter knife (the one that doesn’t tear the bread to pieces) and start buttering your bread!  Some people leave the crusts on, but once buttered, I usually chop mine off and then half each slice diagonally.  Keep the crusts to make into breadcrumbs for freezing, cube and fry them for croutons, or fatten up our already obese bird population!

Sprinkle a handful of sultanas over the base of your greased dish and place your first layer of bread, butter-side down, in the dish.  Don’t worry if the bread doesn’t fit exactly, this isn’t an experiment in tessellation just plug as many big holes as you can before grabbing one of those Tbsp of sugar and sprinkling it over the first layer.  Chuck another handful of sultanas over the top and arrange your 2nd layer of bread, butter-side up.  Repeat the bread, sugar, sultana layering until you run out but DON’T sprinkle any sultanas on the top layer – they will just burn.

In a saucepan over a gentle heat, combine the milk, sugar, eggs and nutmeg.  Whisk gently, the goal is to warm the mixture and dissolve the sugar – not cook the eggs, keep the heat very low and if in doubt, just stop cooking the mixture, I’d rather have slightly undissolved sugar than scrambled eggs!

Pour the liquid over the bread and squish each slice down to ensure that it soaks up a substantial amount of the liquid.  Leave the whole dish alone for a good hour to let the flavours intensify.

One hour later, come back to the kitchen and preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (180 degrees fan).  Cook the bread & butter pudding for around 40 minutes and marvel at how the custard has puffed the bread up a treat.  Hopefully, you’ll have a crispy, dark-golden crust and a fluffy middle.  Best enjoyed warm, perfect for the colder weather!

How easy is that?!  Do you have a favourite Bread & Butter pudding variation?

Food Friday: Strawberry Muffins

Posted by Lipglossiping On September - 28 - 2012

Having moved out of a hoarder’s paradise, it’s been interesting to discover just how many of my mother’s ways I’ve managed to pick up over the years.

The one trait that I can’t afford to have inherited is wastefulness. I don’t mean the big things (how harsh am I sounding on my Mum?). I just mean that over the years, the number of things that were bought and never used/eaten up made an impression on me.

Every week, I make it my mission to clear the fridge of anything lurking at the back. Frittatas are great for leftovers, slow-cooked soups are also brilliant. The latter being easily freezable for another day, important criteria when your meal plans are pretty tight.

So, this week… it was a whole punnet of strawberries that I’d completely forgotten about. Leila adores fruit… but is a fickle little madam, her tastes change weekly – and this had obviously been a don’t-like-strawberries-anymore week.

Fine.

I made muffins.  They’re quick, easy, taste amazing, and freeze beautifully. Sorted. Here’s the recipe incase you ever find yourself with a strawbs glut. Perish the thought.

Strawberry Muffins – makes 12

375g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
170g chopped strawberries
2 medium eggs
150ml milk
150ml oil (I usually substitute half for apple sauce)

Heat the oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 degrees for a fan oven) and prepare your muffin cases/tin ready for baking.

Add the flour, baking powder and sugar to a large bowl.  Drop the chopped strawberries ontop.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the milk, eggs and oil (apple sauce) before pouring over the dry mixture.

With a large spoon, mix until *just* combined.  It doesn’t matter if you still see a few specks of flour, the secret to good muffins (cough) is to never overmix them!

Spoon the mixture into your muffin cases/tin and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.  Check on them regularly, yours may need longer – mine took nearly 30 minutes on the middle shelf before Leila oddly decided that, she did, infact, like strawberries again.

Enjoy!

I like to pretend that I’m not really a cupcake person.  I mean, we all know what cupcake ‘people’ are like right?  They have TONS of hair, usually swept horizontally across their foreheads in a faux-bo style (hair jewellery optional).  They giggle.  A lot.  And they wear far too many layers.

I’m not a giggly person (lies – it’s a nervous thing rather than an affectual thing though) and I don’t have much hair.  As for layers, I find it a struggle to co-ordinate my top with my bottoms let alone style an outfit akin to a fucking onion.

But cupcakes, well… I can’t help it – as much as I want to hate them (and everything they stand for), they taste too good.  I’d like to make them all muffin-sized though.

Look what I made last night.

OHMYGODSOGOODITHURTSMYTEETH.

The touch of Fleur de Sel makes the whole cupcake affair slightly less twatty don’t you think?  I like salted sweet things.  Have I ever told you about my favourite chocs?  These are them (you can find them in Selfridges) and when I was a kid, I could only have dreamt about paying out £13 for some chocolates.  Mr. L looks equally disappointed and elated whenever I bring a box home, which to be fair, is only about twice a year.  But still…

These cupcakes present a cheaper way of getting my salted chocolate fix, read on for the recipe – which isn’t mine by the way but is my absolute favouritest no-fail chocolate cupcake recipe – courtesy of Hummingbird Bakery

yields 12 chocolate cupcakes

100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1½tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter (I use clover, don’t shout at me)
120ml whole milk
1 egg
¼tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter to a bowl and using the lowest setting on your hand-mixer, whisk until the mixture begins to look ‘sandy’.  Watch out for flour clouds.

In another bowl, whisk the egg, milk and vanilla extract together before adding it to the dry mixture, a little at a time, whisking all the while until you get a smooth consistency, don’t overmix.

Fill 12 cupcake cases around 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Mine were nicely done by the 20-minute mark.  The surface should spring back when pressed.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Now, as for the buttercream… I may be in a minority here, but there is definitely such a thing as TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING.  I simply don’t like towers of icing that drown my cupcake, I want the icing to complement, not invade and conquer the cake below.  What say you?

That’s not to say I’m a joyless spoil-sport… *wipes buttercream from mouth* I just generally find that when making buttercream, I can usually half the recommended quantities listed in the recipe book and still get my chocolate, sugary, gooey fix.

Here’s how I made it:

for the Buttercream

150g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature (again, Clover for me)
20g cocoa powder, sifted
20ml milk

Whisk everything except the milk… then add the milk a spoonful at a time.  Continue whisking until you get bored.  The longer you whisk, the lighter/fluffier the buttercream.

And the magic ingredient?  Just a little sprinkle of Fleur de Sel ontop of each one does the job… you can leave the salt off some of them if you like, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea now is it?

These are SO light and airy, with just the right amount of buttercream and that little salty tingle on the tongue that reminds you just how incredibly bad these actually are for your health.  Stunning.

In other news, not-cake related.  I’m off on holiday tomorrow for a week in Liverpool/Manchester – thank god the diet is starting the week after eh?  All those curry cafes are making extra portions in preparation for my arrival.  As always, any insider tips/places to visit/things to do/goodies to eat – I’m all ears, you made my last holiday earlier this year in Torquay, absolutely blinding with a little local knowledge!

I’m probably not going to be posting much, if at all, next week – I just haven’t built up any reserves in my draft folder to see me through the drought.  Hope you all have a fabulous week, and long may this warm spell continue – though if it could stop by bedtime, that would be great, thanks.

x

Food Friday *cough* Monday: Spinach & Quark Lasagne

Posted by Lipglossiping On July - 9 - 2012

Until I started Weight Watchers, I thought Quark was just an old skool page layout program.  Or a particle.  Turns out it’s a cheese that’s approximately half as disgusting as cottage cheese, which makes it pretty edible when you’re looking for lower-fat cheese alternatives.

I’ve been craving pasta like crazy since I’ve been following the weight watchers plan and whilst I can totally still have pasta (perhaps not my favourite mega-bowl of pasta shells and pesto), it just feels like such a damn waste of points.  Have you ever weighed pasta?  It’s surprisingly heavy.  You need to play that pasta at its own sneaky game and get clever.

Instead of spirals, bows and shells – opt for lasagne sheets and cannelloni tubes – you can construct a hefty portion of your favourite pasta dish without feeling short-changed just by making this simple substitution.  On the menu last night was this, Spinach & Quark (just pretend it’s ricotta) Lasagne.

My husband hates fresh Spinach but he tolerates (and secretly enjoys) the frozen stuff.  I don’t understand why, but I figure that it means at least I don’t have to wash the leaves.  Pick your battles.

Serves 2:

5/6 “lumps” (technical term) Frozen Spinach
80g Lasagne Sheets (that’s approximately 4/5 sheets)
250g Quark
2 cloves of garlic
1tsp Smoked Paprika
80g low fat Mature cheese, grated (i’m still loving the Cathedral City one best)
1 tomato, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste (quark is generally unsalted)

Finely slice the garlic and defrost the spinach in the microwave, retaining any excess water (if you’re stuffing cannelloni tubes with the mixture, drain the water).  Stir in the Quark, Smoked Paprika and garlic until well-combined.  Grab a shallow dish and spoon 1/3 of the spinach mixture on the bottom.  Layer the lasagne sheets ontop and repeat the process. I usually get two layers of pasta and three layers of spinach from the above quantities but your mileage will obviously vary depending on the size of your dish!

Top the final layer of spinach with the sliced tomato and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Cook in a pre-heated (190 degrees celsius) oven for around 30 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.

We had a red pepper looking a bit wrinkly in the fridge, so I halved it and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar before popping it in the oven alongside the lasange for around 25 minutes.  Serve with a side salad.

9 Weight Watchers Pro Points for a super-cheesy, easy-peasy lasagne.

Do you buy Quark?  What are your favourite recipes with it?

Weight Watchers Friendly Pizza!

Posted by Lipglossiping On May - 25 - 2012

Pizza is one of my (many) vices… hot, cold, hot then cold then warmed up again – however I eat it, I love it.  The spicier and more garlicky, the better – jalapenos are a must, I helpfully remind myself that spicy foods raise the metabolism, therefore burning fat more quickly no?  I excel at self-delusion.  When I first joined Weight Watchers, I read the most horrifying piece of information that my eyes had ever digested: one slice of stuffed-crust pizza is 10 points.  That’s a single slice… a single fucking slice, I’m only allowed 26 points a day!  I can hoover up a whole pizza (what, 8 slices?) in the time it takes my husband to work through one slice.

So pizza was off the menu then.  Except it so isn’t.

The pizza you see above scores an incredible 7 points.  That’s 7 points for the entire pizza.  I think we all need to take a moment….

…for those of you who don’t know follow Weight Watchers, we’re talking around 350kcal.

You don’t need to make your own pizza dough and it only requires about 10 minutes in the oven.  Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Warburtons Square-ish Wrap
1 tbsp Tomato Puree (I mix a tsp of garlic puree in too!)
Your choice of 0 point topping (onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomato, jalapenos)
50g “wafer” ham
Dash of Worcester Sauce/Tabasco/Balsamic Vinegar (whichever you prefer)
Sprinkling of Italian herbs
30g Cathedral City Light Mature Cheese (this is the only ‘light’ cheese I’ve found to melt properly)

I keep my wraps in the freezer and just take one out and cook it from frozen.  Spoon the Tomato Puree onto the wrap and spread evenly to the edges.  Top your “pizza base” with the ham, veggie toppings and Italian herbs before sprinkling the cheese over the top.  Finish off with a sprinkling of sauce before cooking it in a pre-heated oven at around 200 degrees celsius for around 10 minutes.

Serve with a side salad and feel ridiculously virtuous about it.

What is your biggest foodie vice and do you have a healthier alternative for it?

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