Sunday food links – 30 October 2016

Pumpkins on a table

I had a wonderful day at the Makelight studio in South London on Friday, with photographers Emily Quinton and Catherine Frawley. I have books on photography and did one of Emily’s online courses earlier in the year, but nothing can really compare to first person teaching, when you’re able to ask questions and get feedback on the images you’re taking.

I have the best of intentions about food photography, but I never put much planning into it – it’s always an afterthought from the food I want to make. And that’s what came across in the workshop: planning your shots, especially when and where you will take them, is what makes the difference. Catherine and Emily have no patience for anything other than natural light for food photography, so that means taking photos when the light is available, not when the food is ready.

I was fairly pleased with some of the images I got on the day, but there is so much more to practice and learn at home. First on the list is to get hold of some nice textured backgrounds to use (see above for the lovely old wood table in Emily’s studio).

We’re off on holiday today, so the shortage of food reading this week will probably be made up for with the reading list next week (at least I hope so!)

Recipes:

  • Fish with rye and bacon crumbs – from How to Hygge with baked sweet potatoes and broccoli
  • Pizza dough – using the country bread recipe from Tartine Bread (at time of writing, a ridiculous £2.99 on Kindle!)

Without a recipe:

  • Lasagne
  • Fish fingers and chips
  • Spelt risotto, with roasted squash and sausages
  • Slow cooker beans from the freezer, with a leftover sausage and some Norwegian meatballs from the freezer

Reading:

 

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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!

Reading:

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

 

Sunday food links – 5 June 2016

https://flic.kr/p/HSEsck

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 🙂

Recipes:

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.

Reading:

Friday food links – 26 Feb 2016

Sliced bergamot lemons for marmalade

I had a few days of holiday to use up before the end of March, so I took two days off this week to do some work on the blog. I hope to move the whole thing to a new design soon, and to add some new feaetures – watch this space (but don’t hold your breath!). It also gave me the opportunity to spend an extended time in the kitchen, without toddler interruptions.

On Tuesday I put two ham hocks (bought from the farm shop near my mum and dad’s house) in the slow-cooker. The meat slipped easily from the bones after spending all day in the pot, and that was dinner, with some boiled potatoes, wilted Savoy cabbage, and a little bit of spring onion sauce from this Mark Hix recipe. On Thursday afternoon, I squirreled myself away with Adele and Kendrick Lamar to make soda bread, bergamot marmalade, ham hock soup and tea loaf.

This week, I also got two new food magazines: the latest issues of Bon Appetit and Delicious. I currently subscribe to both, but this month showed a particularly stark difference, and I why I’m moving from the former to the latter. Bon Appetit is the main food magazine in the U.S., since its stable-mate, Gourmet, was shut down. I used to enjoy reading about American food trends, which are usually ahead of the UK, and hearing about different cookbooks and restaurants. But it’s become so on-trend, I no longer find it interesting. I think I’ve bookmarked just three recipes from this issue, one of which is simply a serving suggestion for a platter of spring vegetables with olive oil. I feel less and less like I’m in the audience for this one. When ‘delicious’ arrived today, however, I’ve immediately started planning meals and dishes, and have a version of their Easter roast pork in the fridge tonight.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Meatballs and tomato sauce over rice
  • Beef stew leftovers
  • Slow cooker ham hock with potatoes and cabbage
  • Friday night pizza

Reading:

Friday food links – 19 Feb 2016 – and a homemade pizza recipe

Gorgeous but freezing run this morning

It has been a real where-did-the-week-go week.  My kitchen saviours have been the freezer and the oven timer. From the freezer came a container of Chinese-flavoured braised pork, which made the most of a vegetable fried rice. Also from the freezer, I dredged up a container of beef stew, which was mostly mushrooms and shallots in rich gravy. Some boiled potatoes and wilted cabbage were all that was needed there. And then Tuesday was a pasta bake with cheese sauce, some scraps of broccoli, spinach and spring onion and pancetta, which also did duty as leftovers last night. I made the sauce and cooked the pasta and veg in the afternoon when E was occupied, and put it into the oven with the timer set so it switched on with a delay, and was ready 15 minutes before we were sitting down to eat.

Recipes:

  • Homemade pizza – see recipe below
  • Leek and potato soup in the Thermomix
  • Two ingredient microwave chocolate pudding – from Stephen Harris (a bit dark when made with 70% chocolate, but would be good with something milder).
  • Slow cooker caramelised onions – from Slow Cooked

Without a recipe:

  • Beef stew from the freezer, with boiled potatoes and savoy cabbage
  • Fried rice with chinese pork
  • Cheesy pasta bake with pancetta, broccoli, spinach and spring onion.
  • Fish and oven chips

Reading:

Recipe: Homemade Pizza

Homemade pizza

I have tried any number of ways of making pizza at home, but my oven doesn’t really get anything like hot enough to attempt to replicate a real pizza oven, so I’ve gradually adjusted to the idea that homemade pizza is rather like oven chips – still good, but not what you’d get in a restaurant.

This means I have come around to a process that is as low effort as possible, but still produces something tasty with a crust that’s fairly thin and crisp on the edges and base. This is largely inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s approach in her cookbook.

The most important step is stretching the dough. Each time you stretch and work the gluten, it gets springy and wants to contract back. So stretching and shaping is best done in gradual stages, letting the dough relax in between. This makes it easier to get the dough really big and thin.

The other trick is to do the stretching on the baking sheet you use to bake it. You will lose something by not putting it directly onto a hot surface, but I think that’s outweighed by the ease of not having to slide the dough around.

 

Dough:

  • 300g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 180g water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Toppings:

  • small box of passata
  • 1 packet pre-grated mozzarella
  • 1 pack fresh mozzarella
  • toppings

Prepare the dough a couple of hours before you want to have dinner. Alternatively, you can prepare it the night before, and put it in the fridge. In that case, it helps to get it out of the fridge a bit before you want to bake with it.

Weigh out the flour and add the yeast and salt. Mix briefly together, and then add the water and oil. Stir everything together, or use a mixer with a dough hook.

Then knead everything for about 5 minutes, either by hand or in the mixer. Try not to add any extra flour. You can also use a food processor, with brief pulses.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave at room temperature to rise (it doesn’t need to be somewhere warm).

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 250C or as hot as you can get it – my highest temperature is 220C in a fan oven.

Divide the dough into two pieces, and shape into balls. Pat the dough out into a rough rectangle or oval, or use a rolling pin. Do this in stages, leaving the dough to rest for at least 5 minutes under a tea towel before trying to roll or stretch the dough again. This helps to get it really thin without breaking it or having it spring back.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal/polenta or semolina, or line it with baking parchment. Put the dough onto the sheet, and stretch the edges again to fill the sheet as much as you can.

Top the pizza with passata or tomato sauce, cheese and any other toppings. Bake at 220C for 10 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned, and the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes before cutting into pieces.

Friday food links – 12 Feb 2016

Camellia in the gutter. A casualty of yesterday's storm, a sign of spring.

This week has been powered by a big joint of pork shoulder that my mum slow-cooked on Saturday. It has been served with baked potatoes, in burrito bowls and in tortillas. It would have made it into pasta too if I’d remembered. I also made some freezer supplies for E: muffins to toast and banana date cakes. As it’s been a long time since a recipe featured anywhere on here, I’ve included the recipe for these below.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Pulled pork
  • Pasta with red peppers and mushrooms
  • Pork and black bean burritos
  • Pork burrito bowls
  • Slow cooker chicken curry
  • Carrot and sweet potato soup

Reading:

A bit light on reading this week. I’ve been working through Anne-Marie Slaughter’s ‘Unfinished Business’, on the challenge of the work-life balance and the low value we place on care.

Banana date cakes

Recipe: Banana and Date cakes

Adapted from a banana cake in the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook, these little cakes have no sugar, but are still sweet from the bananas and dates, especially if you use really ripe bananas. They make great toddler food, or a good breakfast or mid-morning snack.

  • 100g self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 very ripe bananas (200g peeled)
  • 1 egg
  • 75g dates

Prepare a muffin tin by greasing or with paper cases. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.

Chop the dates. If they are somewhat dry, cover with hot water and leave to soak for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Rub the butter into the flour. Stir in the mixed spice.

In another bowl, mash the bananas and mix in the egg. Add to the flour with the drained, chopped dates and mix everything together.

Spoon into cupcake or muffin cases and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

Friday food links – 29 Jan 2016

Muddy puddle

Some days are all about muddy puddles.

Last week I experimented with Hello Fresh, getting three of the week’s meals delivered as one of their meal kits. This week, I took a different tack, relying on batch cooking, some quick fixes, leftovers and the slow cooker to get us through the week. This week was the decidedly easier cooking week. It was also more satisfying from my perspective, allowing me to try a few recipes from new cookbooks, and to work with the ingredients in the fridge (more or less).

So a leftover piece of whole roast cauliflower, and some cooked potatoes were combined with flat beans, butternut squash and red lentils to make a big pot of vegetable curry on Sunday. This was served with a small portion of leftover chicken curry from the freezer, and supermarket naan. Monday was the same, but with rice and a little of the leftover bread. Tuesday was an Anna Jones-inspired traybake of grated courgettes, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and red peppers, with roast chicken pieces. Wednesday was the leftovers of the veg, with leftover rice from Tuesday. Thursday was a piece of pork shoulder, cooked all day in the slow cooker, and served with baked potatoes and a broccoli pesto. Tonight we’ll have the rest of the pork with tomato sauce over pasta. It probably amounts to about the same effort as the three meals from the previous week, but from my point of view, divided up in a more sensible way.

Recipes:

  • Bakewell tart – from ‘How Baking Works with a raspberry-cherry jam filling.
  • Slow cooker chickpeas – from Slow Cooked, but the recipe is just chickpeas and water!
  • Baking tray ratatouille with chickpeas – adapted from ‘A Modern Way to Cook‘ by Anna Jones
  • Sweet and savoury slow cooked pork – Food52 – but done in the slow cooker rather than the oven.
  • Broccoli pesto – The Green Kitchen: an approximation of their recipe, using blanched broccoli, garlic, lemon juice, a few chickpeas and olive oil. A bit too garlicky in the end, but good on top of baked potatoes.

Without a recipe:

  • Vegetable curry with lentils
  • Pasta bolognese
  • Quick tomato sauce, with meatballs from the freezer

Reading:

Friday food links – 22 Jan 2016

Lunch: Sunday vat of soup with cooked chicken added, leftover Zuni bread salad with extra radicchio and crumbled Lancashire cheese #leftovers

I’ve been trying out a Hello Fresh box this week. [disclosure: I haven’t been given anything for free by Hello Fresh, or been approached by them to write this post. I don’t do that sort of thing here.] If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid their marketing bombardment, they are a recipe box delivery company. You get three recipes delivered each week, along with all the ingredients to make them, in just the right quantities. This means everything from fresh prawns to leeks to sachets of balsamic vinegar and tiny bottles of oil. The only things missing from my box were salt, pepper and vegetable oil.

I’m still not convinced by this model, especially for already competent cooks, but I will write another post when I’ve thought about it some more. My first impressions are that it is useful to have the decisions about which recipes to make made for you, and it’s also useful to have just enough to make the recipe and no more. For instance, one recipe came with a mini-block of feta. Normally, I would end up with half a packet unused, which would gradually go off in the fridge. But the recipes themselves tend to require more attention and steps than my usual weeknight fare.

Apart from those three recipes, the rest of the week was all about slow and patient cooking: salting chickens for roasting a day and a bit ahead of time; roasting a head of cauliflower for an hour on a weeknight; making a big pot of soup to last the week. For me, that’s a much more satisfying form of ‘easy’ cooking, and not much more time consuming.

Recipes:

  • At the weekend:
    • Zuni Chicken bread salad
    • Five O’Clock Apron apple flapjacks
    • Honeyed rye bread and a Sunday Vat of soup (sweet potato and butternut squash) from Anna Jones’ ‘A Modern Way to Cook’
    • Ham, cheese and leek scones from ‘The Violet Bakery Cookbook’
  • Three from Hello Fresh:
    • Firecracker prawns with Chinese leaf and rice
    • Butterflied chicken with leeks, feta and tomatoes
    • Steak stir fry with broccoli and noodles
  • Whole roasted cauliflower – from the New York Times. Served with meatballs (from the freezer) in tomato sauce.

Without a recipe:

  • Chicken, cheese and avocado quesadillas
  • Meatballs in tomato sauce

Reading:

Friday food links – 15 Jan 2016

Butternut spelt risotto with bacon

Most weeks I start with something substantial, like a roast, on Sunday, and then make meals for a couple of days in the week from the leftovers. This week we started with some leftovers on Sunday evening, and then I made braised beef in the slow cooker on Monday to eat up the rest of the week.

The other anchor meal this week was an accidentally converted risotto recipe where I substituted pearled spelt because I had run out of risotto rice. The recipe uses a thin puree of cooked butternut squash as the cooking liquid for the grain. I steamed the squash before pureeing half, and roasting the other half to give it a bit of colour. The result was much more satisfying than a normal risotto, with the chewy spelt, but without the richness that result from a dairy-heavy finish.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Beef tacos – leftover braised beef, shredded with a bit of fajita seasoning, plus rice, red onion, guacamole and creme fraiche and tortillas.
  • A hybrid hash/fried rice by frying leftover rice with a bit of onion, leftover cabbage and some braised beef.
  • More leftovers – Chicken Pie and lasagne
  • Pizza on Saturday – bacon, courgette, sweet corn and roasted red onion and peppers

Reading:

Friday food links – 8 Jan 2016

Sunset, Boston Manor

This week has felt like proper winter for the first time this season – actual frost on the roofs some mornings, a chilly wind that forced me to do up my coat for just about the first time this year. Sunshine, and showers, and clouds so dark and grey there might have been an eclipse, and evening sun setting into a perfect blue sky, with a whisp of a crescent moon. I’ve been pointing the moon out to E some evenings when we come home from nursery in the dark, and now she sometimes demands to see it – a tricky request to fulfill when it is new and hardly there.

A week into the New Year, and I feel like it’s going, tentatively, fairly well. I have stuck to my resolution and written at least 750 words every day. (Many of those words are nonsense, and certainly not publishable, but that’s not the point). I have been reading Bee Wilson’s wonderful ‘First Bite’ when I get a moment, and think it’s an excellent book, carefully researched and well written. And there has just about been enough time for work, for play, for writing, for laughing, and for cooking. A good week.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Lasagne, using the last of the rib of beef ragu
  • Roast chicken, with roasted vegetables and broccoli
  • Chicken pie
  • Fish cakes/fish fingers and crinkle-cut chips
  • Fish curry with potatoes and peas
  • Slow-cooker chicken stock (that went into the chicken pie, the soup and some I’ve kept back to cook with beef shin this weekend).

Reading: