Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Amazing Falafel

Oh yum.

Falafel are amazing. So tasty, so healthy, so CHEAP...what's not to love?

Falafel in pitta bread

Serves 2

1 tin chickpeas
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 small green chilli
1 shallot
s + p
olive oil
1 tbsp gram flour
1 tbsp plain flour

To serve:
Pitta bread

Finely chop the chilli, garlic and shallot. Put in a bowl with the spices, seasoning and chickpeas. Mash the chickpeas with a fork until you have a chunky paste-like consistency. Mix in the plain flour. Divide the mixture into four and form each quarter into a flat pattie. Dust the patties with the gram flour and stick in the fridge for 10 mins.

Nice n crispy now...

Fry the falafel in some olive oil for about 10 mins on each side, until crispy. Stick your cooked falafel in toasted pitta with some chopped rocket, mayo and ketchup and tuck into your frugal feast.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Weekly menu 20/11/11 - Veggie week

I feel like perhaps I've perhaps been over-doing it a bit recently. Sometimes it's nice to give your body a bit of a break, and I guess that's the rationale behind having a week of vegetarian dinners. I'm also going to take it as an opportunity to have a break from the booze and the cigs. I'm going to be positively virtuous.

The really great thing about resolving to cook only vegetarian stuff, is that it forces you to get a bit more creative with the stuff you serve up. There's no simple meat + veg + carb formula to revert to.

Here's what I've got planned this week:


Warm salad of black salsify, mushrooms and goats' cheese

Falafels in pitta bread with rocket salad

Penne with brocolli pesto and avocado (inspired by this recipe from Nutmegs; Seven - http://www.nutmegsseven.co.uk/2011/10/orzo-with-broccoli-pesto-and-avocado.html)

Spinach and sweet potato coconut curry with rice

Butternut squash, chilli and halloumi frittata


Quinoa, herb-roasted butternut squash and rocket salad with a clementine dressing

Sweet potato, butternut squash and chilli soup

Hummus with pitta bread and carrot sticks

Peanut noodle salad


Oats soaked in blueberry yoghurt mixed with grated apple

Delicious purple goo

Friday, 18 November 2011

Mutton hotpot and a breakfast of leftovers

Hot (pot) to trot

Like Lancashire hotpot, but without the kidneys. I'm pretty good with offal nowadays but kidneys...well, I've had some unpleasant experiences with kidneys. Maybe one day...

Mutton hotpot

Loosely based on a recipe for Lancashire hotpot by James Martin, available here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9099/lancashire-hotpot

Serves 3 (The Bear and I had this for dinner one night, then he took the leftovers to work for his lunch the next day.)

500g diced mutton
olive oil
a small knob of butter
1/2 an onion
2 small carrots
1 tsp dried thyme
s + p
1 tsp marmite
2 tbsp plain flour
1 mug of chicken stock
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
about 500g potatoes

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C.

Brown the mutton in a large casserole pan (one which can go in the oven and has a lid) with the olive oil, seasoning and butter. Finely chop the onion and carrot and add these to the pan with the dried thyme. Fry for about 10 mins, then add the flour. Finally add the chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and marmite. 

Slice the potatoes into roughly 2cm slices and arrange on top of your stew. In between layers of potato add seasoning and a few blobs of butter.

Put the lid on your casserole dish and bung in the oven for one and a half hours. Remove the lid (don't forget to use oven gloves!) for the last 1/2 hour or so of cooking to crisp up the potates. We ate ours with some leeky greens made by sauting some leeks in butter and adding to some boiled savoy cabbage. T'was yum.

Dinner is served...

On another note, we had a lot of leftovers hanging around our fridge, so I turned them into a rather lavish breakfast: leftover savoy cabbage,  roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips became bubble and squeak - perfect with a squirt of brown sauce and topped with a poached egg - and leftover sharon fruit compote got whizzed up into a sharon fruit and banana smoothie. A pretty good start to the day if I do say so myself.

"How do you like your eggs in the morning?" With bubble and squeak. And brown sauce.  And smoothie. And NOW.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Cajun dirty rice


What to do with a bag of chicken giblets? Why, make some dirty rice of course. This is a good recipe even for the offal-phobic, as the chicken in chopped into tiny pieces.

Cajun dirty rice

Serves 2

1 chicken heart 
1 chicken liver
2 lumps of chicken fat (came in the bag with the giblets)
1/2 an onion
1 yellow pepper
3 sticks of celery
about an inch of chorizo
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
s + p
chicken stock (I made mine using the chicken carcass left over from our roast dinner, the chicken neck, about a quarter of a leek, a stick of celery and a carrot)

Put the chicken fat in a saucepan and render. Finely dice the onion, celery, yellow pepper and chorizo. Add the vegetables, orgeano, paprika, cayenne, seasoning  and chorizo to the pan and sweat over a low heat for about 20 minutes. 

Sweated to the max.

Cook the rice in chicken stock until fully absorbed.

Finely dice the chicken heart and liver, turn up the heat and add to the pan with the vegetables. Once cooked, mix in the rice. Snip over a few celery leaves to serve.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Penne with chilli, anchovy and roasted romanesco cauliflower

Why hello there dinner.

So, when I found out we were getting one of these crazy beautiful vegetables in our weekly veg box, I wanted to use it in a dish in which it could take centre stage. This pasta is what I came up with.

I'm ready for my close-up...

It may not look anything particularly special, but this pasta dish sure tastes like it. Even though the pasta tubes look plain, in reality they are coated in spicy, garlicky anchovy flavour. I decided on roasting the romanesco as I recently discovered the magical transformation that takes place when you roast normal cauliflower - if you think cauliflower is a bit bland, you should really try it roasted - and using romaneco worked just as well. Don't be concerned by the gnarly burnt looking bits when you take the romanesco out the oven - these bits taste like AWESOME.

This could possibly be my new favourite pasta. Big words, people.

Penne with  chilli, anchovy and roasted romanesco cauliflower

Serves 2

Normal olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves
3 anchovy fillets + the oil from the tin
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 small romanesco cauliflower
1 tbsp capers
Black pepper
Penne, to serve

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Break up the romanesco into florets and mix in a roasting tin with the normal oil and the chilli. Place in the oven and roast for about 20 mins or until tender. 

Add the oil from the anchovies to a saucepan and fry the garlic and the anchovies until the fish has dissolved into the oil. Take off the heat, add a little extra virgin olive oil for flavour, the capers and plenty of ground black pepper. Mix the roasted romanesco into the oil mixture.

Mix everything with some cooked penne (or any other pasta you desire) and stuff your face.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sharon fruit compote with vanilla yoghurt

The socially acceptable way to have the contents of a wine glass for breakfast.

Sharon fruit is a type of persimmon. I must admit, this is the first time I have ever tried one. It's a bit of a funny fruit really...the closest thing I can compare it to in terms of taste would be an apricot; in terms of texture, probably a tomato, but minus the seeds.

I got the idea for this layered compote / yoghurt thing from a recipe on the Abel and Cole website for a similar thing using plums. Having tried and enjoyed the original plummy version, when trying to work out what to do with my recently acquired sharon fruits, I figured it too could benefit from the same treatment.

It was very nice. In future I think I might peel the sharon fruits though - although this wasn't a major problem I think it might improve the overall consistency.

Sharon fruit compote with vanilla yoghurt

Serves 2

3 sharon fruit
1/2 an orange
1 tbsp honey
1 pot vanilla yoghurt ( I used an incredibly delicious one from Brown Cow Organics)

 Chop the Sharon fruit into small pieces and put in a saucepan with the juice of 1/2 an orange, the honey and a little water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary, until the compote is nice and thick and most of the fruit has disintegrated.

Behold the compote!

Allow the compote to cool down completely then layer in a wine glass (or any other vessel you fancy). Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Breakfast done!

You got nommed.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Weekly menu 11/11/11

Our weekly veg box has arrived and that can only mean one thing...time to plan the weekly menu chez Bear.

Things I'm particularly excited about this week:

Hypnotising veg

Romanesco cauliflower.  The Bear has reliably informed me that the pretty green spirals are fractal pattens. So beautiful. And tasty. I will be turning this into a lovely little pasta dish.

How now etc.

Brown Cow vanilla yoghurt. This is the best yoghurt ever. I urge you to find some of this stuff. Perfect with a little fruit compote for breakfast.

Anyhow, here's what we're going to be eating...

Weekly menu 11/11/11


Roast chicken served with savoy cabbage and roasted potatoes, parsnips and carrots.

Cajun dirty rice made with finely diced chicken giblets, celery and yellow pepper.

Mutton Lancashire hotpot served with savoy cabbage and leeks.

Pizza with mozzarella, chorizo, yellow pepper and capers.

Penne with chilli, anchovy and roasted romanesco cauliflower.

Autumn minestrone soup

Sharon fruit compote served with vanilla yoghurt 

*N.B. I am aware that there are in fact 7 days in a week, but I never plan for that amount as there are always nights where there are leftovers that need using / I can't be bothered to cook so we get something (chilli! curry! stew!) out the freezer / The Bear is hungry for a dirty takeaway.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Hub, Liverpool

My friend Talisha and I were planning on a lovely leisurely midweek luncheon, and on her recommendation, we ended up at The Hub. The Hub's lunchtime menu features both a scotch egg and a pork pie, so I had high hopes for the food. (Scotch eggs and pork pies of course being two of the most delicious snacks known to man. See also - sausage rolls, pork scratchings, etc.)

Here is what we ate:

Pork pie with Blue Bishop Stilton and red onion marmalade. Yeah, this was really good. I wish  had another one of these right now.

Smoked salmon sandwich with horseradish cream. Good points - the sandwich itself. Absolutely bloody loads of smoked salmon in there. Nice, punchy horseradish. Bad points - the 'Hub slaw' - rubbish name, rubbish gunky coleslaw held together with way more mayo than required. Also - served with crisps. I am not a fan of being served sandwiches with some crisps on the side. Either give me chips or leave me the hell alone.


Talisha thought the chicken caesar salad was good. I think it could have done with a few more anchovies. Although to be fair, I think most things in life could do with a few more anchovies. Mmmm. Anchovies.

Panna cotta!

Passion fruit and mango panna cotta with raspberry coulis. Was alright, nowt special. 

More pie!

T seemed pretty happy with the pecan pie. I had a bit of food envy on this one. Lesson learnt - if one of the options is pie, always go for the pie. Not going for pie will cause you to covet your neighbour's pie. Or something.

All in all it was pretty decent. I would go back. 

The Hub Alehouse and Kitchen,
Casartelli Building,
16 Hanover Street,
L1 4AA

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Beetroot and cumin soup with spiced yoghurt

Home-made soup + home-made bread = lunchtime WIN

Okay, okay, so I know I did a post about soup only recently, but I eat a lot of soup, and this one was so delightful I just couldn't help but post about it.

Plus, this is a HFW recipe which means it is automatically 100% awesome.

You can never have enough soup, guys. Srsly.

Beetroot and cumin soup with spiced yoghurt
From River Cottage everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Serves 4-6

750g peeled beetroot
knob of butter
olive oil
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
800ml chicken stock
fresh parsley

For the spiced yoghurt:
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
dash of olive oil

Gently cook the onion, garlic and cumin seeds with the butter and olive oil, for about 15 minutes. Add the beetroot, chopped into small chunks. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Blend, then season to taste.

Make the spiced yoghurt by toasting and grinding the spices and adding to the yoghurt and olive oil. Serve the soup sprinkled with chopped parsley and dribbled with the spiced yoghurt. Yummers.

Samphire, Whitstable, Kent.

A table with my name on it - what a lovely touch.

Samphire is a lovely little restaurant in the lovely little seaside town of Whitstable, down on the Kent coast. The food is a touch on the pricey side - and I did feel a little cheated when asked to pay in excess of £15 for a dish of pork belly, which although delicious is after all a fairly cheap cut - but overall I think it's worth it.

Everything we ate was good; some of it, outstanding. The service was excellent. In this respect I think Samphire has it just right. Service is friendly but not over-familiar. A server is there quickly should you require, but they don't hover around you as you're eating. 

Anyway, on to what we ate...

Potted ham hock with piccalilli and toast.

Yum. Just....yum.

This was awesome, just awesome. The best version of this dish I think I have ever tried. The home-made piccalilli blew my mind. 

Pork belly with sweet potato.

Salad leaves in gravy? Hmmm...

This was probably the low point of the night. It was okay, but overall the dish was far too sweet. The rocket with gravy thing was a bit weird too - perhaps this would have worked better with vegetables rather than salad.

Duck breast, cabbage with bacon, mashed potato and pumpkin marmalade.


This was very good. The cabbage contained bacon, but was liberally vinigared, so it still managed to cut through the richness of the duck. I wasn't too fussed about the pumpkin marmalade.

If you're in Whitstable I would recommend checking Samphire out.

4 High Street
01227 770 075

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Creamy courgette soup

Soup, glorious soup!

Man, I love soup. I really do. It's so wholesome and comforting and you get to dunk bread into it. It's also super-easy to make, a great way to use up that bit of carrot / celery / whatever lurking at the bottom of your veg drawer, and I have never met a soup that doesn't freeze well either.

People often complain that courgettes can be a bit -meh- in terms of flavour, but turned into this lovely little soup I think they are just perfect.

This soup uses a leftover rind of parmesan to add flavour. When you've grated all the good stuff you can off your hunk of parmesan DON'T THROW THE RIND AWAY! It's just perfect for pepping-up a italian style soup. I love being thrifty like this - gives me a smug glow for hours, honestly.

Creamy courgette soup

Serves 4 

4 large courgettes
2 sticks of celery
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 a small pot of single cream
chicken stock - homemade is obviously best, but if you don't have any I find the little stock jellies to be much better in terms of flavour than stock cubes.
a leftover rind of parmesan
a handful of parsley
a handful of basil
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Chop the onion, garlic and celery and sweat in a pan with a little salt, for about 10 minutes. Chop the courgettes and add to the pan for a further couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock and the parmesan rind, and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the parmesan rind, add the herbs and blend. Add the cream and season to taste. Serve drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil. Add some bread and call it lunch.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Can I go back here please?

So, the Bear and I had a lovely little last-minute holiday in Fuerteventura. It was pretty awesome -sunny weather, beautiful scenery, fun people and some tasty food – what’s not to like? We stayed in a surfers’ hostel in Correjo, which, despite the fact that we weren’t doing any surfing (or windsurfing…or kitesurfing…or *insert another type of surfing word here*-surfing) turned out to be a really good decision. The accommodation was cheap but good – we had a roof terrace which was great, and having access to a kitchen was also useful for keeping costs down – and we met some really cool people to spend our week with.

I would describe Canarian cooking as similar to the cuisine of the Spanish mainland, with a large dollop of Moorish influence. The terrain is pretty desert-like so the main livestock of the islands are goats, so lots of goat meat and wonderful goats milk cheeses. I am, as it happens, a bit obsessed with goat cheese, so this made me very happy. There's also an abundance of gorgeous seafood to be had.

Traditional dishes include the ubiquitous papas arrugadas con mojo which are little wrinkled potatoes crusted in salt, which you then dip into the mojo sauce. You usually get two types of mojo sauce – a red one which is slightly spicy, and a green one with herbs. Both are flavoured with cumin seeds and are really addictive.
Bottles of  green and red mojo sauce 

Papas arrugadas - picture from a little book I picked up during the holiday called "Canarian Cuisine" by Carlos Gamonal

Another traditional dish is escaldón de gofio, or ‘gofio stew.’ Gofio is a type of grain flour which is used either as a thickener for stews, as here, or to coat foods such as cheese. We tried escaldón de gofio at a little restaurant by the seafront in Correlejo and enjoyed it – despite some some serious scepticism from our waiter  (”Errr…you sure you want this? It is quite strong…” “Yes, we’re sure, we like to try the local dishes…why, don’t you like it?” “Sure, I like it! But I am traditional Canarian man! You are…not.”). The dish is essentially meat stock thickened with gofio flour. The best way I can think to describe it is it’s kind of like a meat-flavoured mashed potato. It’s very nice though, in a comfort-food kind of way.

Another pic from "Canarian Cuisine"

The local cheese is called queso majorero and you can find variations of this all over the island. It is a tasty goats cheese which is sold at different stages of maturity, from very fresh, which is comparable to mozzarella, to very aged, which is like an aged cheddar. Sometimes the cheese comes coated in gofio flour or paprika. Our lunch pretty much every day consisted of queso majorero, tomato and olive oil in a little baguette. We didn’t tire of it, the cheese and tomatoes being so outstanding.

Page on queso majorero from "The world encyclopedia  of cheese" by Juliet Harbutt. It's ok to admit that I own an encyclopedia of cheese, right?

As you might expect, being an island, Fuerteventura is awesome for fish and seafood. The local Hiperdino – a supermarket chain with an amazingly cute dinosaur on the logo – had a great range, and we made good use of this cooking up some juicy prawns one night, and a squid pasta another. Neither myself or the Bear had prepared cephalopod before, but we found a great how-to video online which made the whole thing really easy.

Mmm...it's squidalicious

If you get a chance to, I would also highly recommend sampling the local tipple, ronmiel - a.k.a honey rum. It tastes exactly like you would imagine. Yum.

Sweet, sweet honey rum

So that’s it, my round up of Fuerteventura and it’s food. Here’s the recipe for the squid pasta we made, it’s pretty simple, but with really fresh seafood I think that’s normally the best way…

Squid pasta

Serves 2

2 squid
4 cloves of garlic
2 large-ish tomatoes
2 tbsp thick cream
A large handful of fresh parsley
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Linguine, to serve

First prepare your squid following this video - http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/videos/1043/preparing-squid

Finely chop your garlic, tomatoes, and parsley.

Put your olive oil in a pan and add the salt. Turn the heat up high and fry the garlic and squid for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 20 seconds or so. Turn off the heat, add the cream, parsely and black pepper.

Serve with linguine. Truly delicious.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Lamb shank ragú with tagliatelle

Lamby goodness

So, the photo I took of this really doesn’t do it justice. Honestly, this could be a contender for my favourite comfort food meal. Ok, so it’s not the healthiest bowl of pasta in the world, but it does include some vegetation, and if you skim off some of the lamb fat, I don’t think it’s that bad. This is a good one to make if, like me, you loooove Bolognese, but fancy switching it up a bit.
Lamb shank ragú with tagliatelle
Serves 8 (this freezes really well too, so I would encourage you to make this amount, even if you’re only making dinner for yourself.)
4 lamb shanks
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
1 large carrot
2/3 pack of chestnut mushrooms
About half a bulb of garlic
1 tbsp dried rosemary
½ bottle red wine
Chicken/lamb/vegetable stock (I used chicken)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
Olive oil

Tagliatelle, to serve.

Add some olive oil to a large pan and brown the lamb shanks. Once they are seared on all sides remove from the pan. Dice the onion, celery, carrot and garlic very fine and add to the pan with the dried rosemary and some seasoning.  Sweat the mixture on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the lamb shanks, red wine, tinned tomatoes and stock and simmer for a couple of hours, until the lamb is falling off the bone.

Remove the shanks from the sauce and shred the meat off the bones. Chop up your mushrooms. Add the shredded meat back into the sauce along with the sliced mushrooms. Cook for a further 20 minutes.

Skim as much fat as you can from the top of the sauce. Serve with tagliatelle and  lots of parmesan cheese.