Sunday food links – 26 June 2016

Finally dealing with the strawberry glut. Jam and some put aside for shortcakes for pudding.

What a week. I don’t want to get into the issues too much, but when I look back at the cooking and eating for this week, it’s entirely entwined with The Vote. I made an Estonian carrot pie for the first time, to take to a potluck European lunch at work, that I had conceived in a spirit of hopefulness at the end of last week. I woke at 5am on Friday, checked my phone, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was teary for most of the morning. I made brownies over breakfast, because, as a friend says, if you bake brownies, whatever else happens, you’ll have brownies. (She baked on both the night of the general election and this Thursday evening).

A visit to a friend and her new baby made the best of a dark day on Friday. And there were those brownies, and some sunshine. There’s something like grief that comes with the loss of a future you thought you understood. With a realisation that your country is not the one you thought it was. That even the things you thought were solid and lasting can disappear overnight. It will take some time to adjust.

My current strategy is just to try and keep away from the discussion until I have to jump back into it at work on Monday. And to keep looking for #reasonstobecheerful wherever I can. This week, those reasons included the amazing perfume from my climbing rose, the soothing tones of Glastonbury, especially James and Adele, strawberry shortcakes, and ripe cherries massacred by my daughter. All we can do is go on.


Without a recipe:

  • An approximation of Salad Nicoise (in that it didn’t have olives or anchovies)
  • A rough interpretation of Anna Jones’ grilled ratatouille from A Modern Way to Cook, a grilled veg dinner of courgette, tomatoes, aubergines, new potatoes, and quick pickled red onions.
  • A traybake of chicken breasts, sausages, cherry tomatoes and red onion, served with jacket potatoes (Friday night comfort food for a post-referendum world)
  • A rerun of Yotam Ottolenghi’s beef shin and butterbean stew, from the freezer
  • And then again in tacos with rice, avocado, veg and cheese.


Sunday food links – 19 June 2016

Part 2 of #reasonstobecheerful : roses. This climbing rose in my garden is spilling over with blossom at the moment, and smells amazing. If you're in the UK there's sure to be one near you too - if not in a garden, then in a park or garden you can visit.

Welcome to the new Using Mainly Spoons! After a bit of technical fiddling around with all the settings today, I am now moved over onto a self-hosted WordPress platform, which means a fresh new theme, and hopefully some new functionality. Although there shouldn’t be much noticeable difference, apart from the look and feel, this means I will have a lot more control over things like the ads that appear here, and I’ll hopefully be able to do some more interesting things with the blog layout in future. It’s been a bit daunting to get to this point, but I’m glad to have made the switch, and I’m looking forward to trying out the new plugins and seeing what additional things I can do with them.

This week was our return from holiday, back to work on Wednesday. As the Co-Parent was travelling, it also meant lots of lovely meals from Mum and Dad, who came up to stay with us. So a very easy return to work for me!

We returned to a strawberry patch overflowing with fruit, so there will be more on things to do with strawberries coming up. It’s nice to be at that point in the year when days are getting reliably warmer – if not sunnier – and the cherries and strawberries come in. I’m not the only one who was left feeling saddened and disheartened by the news this week (I wrote about this on Instagram) My solution has been to try and find the positive things in each day, even little things. To fight the hate with love, with the good things that we can achieve and enjoy together. And one of those things is roses, like the one above. They seem to be having a spectacular year, and a proper lungful of real roses is a marvellous thing.


  • Lamb kofte from Delicious Magazine’s June issue – with tomato and yoghurt sauces and rice (inspired by the yogurtlu kebab we used to have at Efes in Cambridge)
  • Strawberry Shortcakes – from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess
  • Barbecue chicken – sauce from Dinner: A Love Story – marinaded and then baked in the oven. Served once with new potatoes, and again as tacos with avocado and black beans

Without a recipe:

  • Fish curry – Haddock, flat beans, tomatoes, new potatoes in a Spice Tailor pre-made sauce
  • Mum’s lasagne


Sunday food links – 12 June 2016

#lovecornwall #makelightessentials

This week we have been on holiday in Cornwall. Like a fool, I packed based on the chilly, grey London that we had the previous week, all layers and thin jumpers, opaque tights and jeans. And we’ve had a glorious week of mainly sunshine, with a few stints of thin cloud. It’s being wrong for all the right reasons.

We’ve been taking full advantage of this lovely spot on the Cornish coast by playgrounding, exploring, chilling, reading, eating, ice-creaming and generally being as lazy as you can get away with when you have a two year old.

In the quiet bits, I’ve been occupying myself with readying this blog for a move to a self-hosted site (watch this space), reading blogs and ‘The Essex Serpent’ and more experimenting with my bullet journal (for which I also bought some new coloured pens – yay!)

Obviously a week of being catered for means no cooking, but we’re back to usual next week.

Recipes/without a recipe:

None of that – on holiday!


In addition to The Essex Serpent, and various bullet journal posts:


Sunday food links – 5 June 2016

There is a tipping point before going on holiday. On Thursday of this week, I could feel myself teetering on the brink. On the one side is a headlong rush to get things sorted, pinned down, handed over, squared away before leaving. A feeling that if it isn’t done now, you might not remember what you were in the middle of when you get back. Or that others will be missing some vital piece of information without you around. This mainly goes for work, but also for all those little jobs around the house that suddenly seem so urgent when you are about to leave. I always feel the need to clear out the vegetable drawer, even if I’m going away for a week (I often leave things languishing in there for more than a week at a time anyway).

On the other side is the blissful freedom of dropping it all where you stand and walking out the door. Knowing that you don’t have to deal with any of it for at least a week, and actually, nothing much will happen in the interim.

Once I’m over the line, I find it hard to go back, even if I then discover things that I should have completed before the deadline. I am now fully over the line, and very thankful for (accidentally) planning a sequence that allowed a day off from work, then a day to pack and do the first stretch of travel, followed by two more days off, and then the final leg of travel to Cornwall.

Partly due to pre-holiday busyness and preparations, and partly because I was parenting solo for some of the week, this has been largely a no-recipe week of patched together meals. I leaned heavily on ready meals or pre-made ingredients, including those old toddler staples, sausages and fish fingers 🙂


Without a recipe:

  • Fish pie / fish fingers with peas and sweetcorn
  • Oven bake of mushrooms, quartered tomatoes, a tin of cannellini beans and sausages
  • Lasagne leftovers
  • A somewhat dodgy combination of the leftovers from the two things above, mixed with tomato sauce and some leftover ham, and baked with breadcrumbs and cheese on top. Possibly not complying with all health and safety regulations, but definitely winning points for clearing out the fridge. And very tasty!
  • M&S fish cakes with sweetcorn
  • Pizza with asparagus and sweetcorn – using a frozen pre-baked crust – pretty good, if a little soggy on the top surface.


Sunday food links – 22 May 2016

I’ve had a lot of support this week. With my co-parent working away all week, my Mum and Dad helped out a lot, so I didn’t have to worry about dinner most nights this week – such a luxury! And for the other days, the leftovers came in very handy (as did the brownies made last weekend).

This week is also a busy one, and calls for more simple cooking. I’m going to try Yotam Ottolenghi’s butterbean stew from last weekend’s papers, but with beef shin instead of oxtail. I have chicken stock from last night’s roast chicken to make into risotto. And there are still quite a few leftovers too.

I ordered a copy of The Food Lab this week too, planning it as holiday reading (!) but I think it might be a bit too big to take away! It’s a doorstep-like tome covering every sort of food science question and experiment. But unlike other examples of this approach, Kenji Lopez-Alt, from the website Serious Eats, focuses on showing you the outcomes of his personal kitchen experiments, and only talks about the science when it’s a route to a better version of a dish you want to eat. This makes it very practical, whilst illuminating lots of kitchen puzzles. I’ve already learned about pre-salting eggs for scrambling (it makes them more tender), and using vinegar to keep boiled potatoes together, and the importance of properly emulsifying your vinaigrette to stop the salad from wilting. I’m looking forward to getting into some of the chapters in more detail soon.


Pretty much nothing cooked to a recipe this week, with Mum providing meals Sunday – Thursday.

Without a recipe:

  • Pasta bolognese
  • Roast chicken with garlic and thyme, roast potatoes
  • Salad with carrots, kohlrabi and croutons, and a yoghurt-mayonnaise-lemon dressing.
  • Slow-cooker chicken stock


Not much spare time for reading this week (though I did managed to watch some David Attenborough and Mary Beard on TV).

Sunday food links – 15 May 2016

Eurovision baking

One of my close friends had her first baby this week. It made me cast my mind back to those early newborn days. Of course, these are such a blur of feeding and sleep deprivation that it’s very hard to remember accurately. I did make an effort to write some thoughts at the time, and I also went back and culled my private mum’s Facebook group posts at some point, so I could try and capture the feelings at the time.

3 weeks: “Today is a day when it’s hard. Can’t sleep, can’t do anything else useful, feel weird and overtired, don’t want to eat anything but sweets and junk. Feel like a milk-generating zombie today.”

There were also better days:


4 weeks: “Objectively, she’s been trouble today – feeding every hour or more, seldom sleeping, and crying much of the time in between. But for some reason, today I can mostly just see big blue eyes, sweet, strokable hair, chubby cheeks and tiny fingers. As we keep saying, more with love than frustration, “it’s a good job you’re cute!””

I am reminded that very small victories were important, and built confidence. I went after them very deliberately in those first weeks: a walk to the park, a drive to the breastfeeding clinic, making it out of the house on our own for a walk. Little bits of progress that were enough to hint at changes to come, and give the idea that all of those would pass.

Now the changes come more slowly, but seem to creep up in a more unexpected way, ambushing you when you feel unprepared. Today she seems suddenly taller, leaner and more capable. She has been ‘taking care’ of us recently – asking if we are alright if we cough, patting us to send us to sleep. It’s a lovely glimpse into the little girl she’s trying to become, but also a reminder of how much baby has already disappeared.

This week’s eating was mainly quite simple, to minimise the complications swirling around us at the moment. A very quick but delicious coconut curry from Anna Jones. A slow cooker pot of beans. A few bits of take away. And then a good baking session on Saturday night, to go with Eurovision. I like to think the rye flour theme was a nod to the Swedish hosts.


Without a recipe:

  • Beef ragu and pasta (the ragu created from some frozen beef shin stew + passata + roasted tomatoes)
  • Quesadillas – leftover butter beans, with cheese and avocado
  • Franco Manca take out pizza




Sunday food links – 1 May 2016


A busy week. But a successful one, I think, from a meal planning perspective. I cooked a pot of slow-cooker black beans on Monday which gave me a resource to fall back on throughout the week. I also roasted vegetables on Sunday – sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and mushrooms – to make sure I had quick options in the fridge in the week. I liberated sea bass fillets from the freezer for Tuesday, and grilled it over sliced, boiled new potatoes, those tomatoes, and artichoke pieces from a jar. I combined the rest of those beans with the mushrooms, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, plus some jarred roasted peppers and some extra spices to make vegetable chilli in the slow cooker on Friday afternoon. Overall, a good week, and a welcome contrast to some of the meat-heavy meals we’ve had recently.


  • Coconut rice pudding – Scandilicious Baking. My daughter loves eating rice pudding at nursery, but we never really have it at home. This recipe, made with coconut milk, and baked, really did the trick (though I might use light coconut milk next time).
  • Cuban-style black beans – Slow Cooked

Without a recipe:

  • Fried rice with vegetables, topped with a fried egg
  • Black bean tacos, with cheese, sliced radishes, spring onions, and leftover pulled pork
  • Sea bass fillets over potatoes, tomatoes and artichokes
  • Green soup (from the freezer) and cheese pitas (dinner on Wednesday, lunch on Friday)
  • Vegetable chilli with black beans, with sausages
  • Fish curry with sweet potatoes and peas, Spice Tailor sauce


Sunday food links – 24 April 2016

A busy week. For the first time since I returned to work, I have done a four day week (instead of three days); I have filled in for colleagues, adding a few extra layers to the workload; and then there was the birthday party – the busy-but-fun bit.

All of this explains the lateness of this post. Although I also thought that as my meal planning cycle is Sunday to Saturday, it might be good to switch future posts to Sunday as well.

The busyness of this meant I once again handed over catering responsibilities to my mum for most of the weeknight dinners. So most of the recipes here are for the dishes for the birthday party weekend. There were sausage rolls from Yorkshire, my mum made a quiche and some little galettes with the cream cheese pastry I had in the freezer.

The weekend was mostly catered via Nigella recipes – my go-to whenever I’m catering for a crowd. Feast is a good starting point, but there are good menus in most of her books, and a guides to children’s party food in How to Eat, Feast and Domestic Goddess that I expect I will be turning to for many birthdays to come.

The Birthday Party menu


  • Cheese scones, sausage rolls
  • Butternut squash and caramelised onion quiche
  • Spring vegetable salad (see below)
  • Parma ham, bresaola, salami


  • Oven-roasted chicken with lemon and garlic – Nigella’s Forever Summer
  • (more) sausage rolls and leftover quiche)
  • Jersey boiled potatoes
  • Green veg

Other recipes:

  • Malteser cake cupcakes from Nigella’s Feast (for the cake ‘mane’)
  • Buttermilk birthday cake (from Domestic Goddess) and Meringue Buttercream (from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet) to make the lion cake.
  • Soft white rolls – from Feast (to have with pulled pork)
  • Smitten Kitchen green slaw (ditto)

Without a recipe:

  • A spring vegetable salad: baby carrots, sugar snap peas, asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, and radishes – all blanched and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Oven fish and chips
  • Slow cooker pulled pork


Friday food links – 1 April 2016

Vegetable prep/meal prep

This week was an example of what happens when I don’t plan meals for the week. Travel over the Easter weekend, and sickness immediately afterwards meant there weren’t too many meals to organise anyway. Even so, the wheels came off the wagon a bit, to be honest. What just about held things together was some slow cooker pork ragu, and a session of vegetable preparation, part Tamar Adler and part Shutterbean, that gave me vegetables as well as a lentil salad for lunches.


  • Lemon Meringue Cake – Nigella’s ‘Feast’ – a birthday cake for my mum

Without a recipe:

  • Pork ragu pasta
  • Pork ragu lasagne
  • Charlie Bigham Fish pie
  • Lentil salad with broad beans, tomatoes, roast broccoli


Friday food links – 25 March 2016

Product of toddler baking session: Idiot biscuits. Actually, she mainly poured sprinkles around, but kept her occupied.  Recipe:

I knew at the start that this could be a tough week. Lots of travel, a few end-of-year things at work, combined with lots of people on leave meant I already knew time would be at a premium. Add to that a bit of a sniffle for me, full on vomiting from E on Wednesday evening, and a bit of a grey and damp week, and it hasn’t been a brilliant time.

There have definitely be rays of sunshine breaking through, though. Last Sunday the sun came out, and it was actually warm, at least with the sun on you. I got into the garden and planted a few things, and generally felt better about the state of things. The first of my tulips have started showing their heads. And in between being a bit tired and under-the-weather, E has been very funny. In the Disney store, she spotted a clip of ‘Snow White’ playing on the monitors, and started dancing along with the dwarfs. I bought her a pack of farm animal stickers, and she sang ‘Old Macdonald had a Farm’ to them.

Knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy week, I planned some easy meals to get us through. A bought lasagne for midweek. A big batch of curry at the weekend that saw us through three meals. A fridge-tidying soup that covered a couple of lunches and a dinner too.


Without a recipe:

  • Charlie Bigham lasagne with a grated carrot salad and some radishes and cucumbers
  • Egg fried rice
  • Fish and chips from the freezer
  • A green minestrone, using up lots of leftover veg from the fridge, with a parmesan rind, a can of cannellini beans and lots of parmesan grated on the top.
  • Leftover coconut curry – reappeared twice