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




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.


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


Friday food links – 6 Nov 2015

The last of the apple tart is about to disappear...

This week has been all rain, leaden skies and soggy leaves coating the pavements. Appropriately, the slow cooker has been on most days, and there have been lots of potatoes and roast veg – cosy autumn food. There was also a thin apple tart – the last piece of it is in the picture above. This was to use up a sheet of puff pastry in the fridge, and a tray of slowly rotting apples in the garden. I had forgotten how good a barely sweet apple tart can be. You can often see them in patisseries, but they never seem to be special enough to splash out on. And it’s very simple: a sheet of ready-rolled butter puff, brushed with egg and scored near the edge. Sprinkle a little bit of ground almonds and caster sugar on top – just enough to soak up any excess juices. Peel and slice the apples thinly, and overlap them in rows. Add a little more sugar on top, depending on how sweet the apples are, and bake in a hot (200C) oven for about 20 minutes. The egg makes the pastry edges golden, the apple just about gets soft. This is just as good room temperature as warm, and I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Without a recipe:

  • Apple tart
  • Sausages and roast pumpkin, jacket potatoes
  • Roast beef, parsnip chips and potato wedges
  • Fish pie (Charlie Bigham ready meal)


Friday food links – 4 Sep 2015

The tranquil power of a morning walk. Sighted: geese, swan and cygnets, cormorants and parakeets 😊

Coming back to work after a holiday in the first week of September feels like you should bring a new pencil case and some sharpened pencils along. The modern equivalent is clearing out the email inbox, and getting back to taking 10k steps a day (the goose above was seen on one of the walks contributing to this target). I may buy some new stationery anyway to celebrate the start of autumn. And the combination of darkening skies, ripening apples and leaves that are just starting to fall means it really does feel like autumn has drawn a curtain across, abruptly closing off any option of warm sunny days until the spring. So it feels appropriate that the slow cooker has been on this week, and black beans, meatballs and lasagne have been the anchors for our eating.


Without a recipe:

  • Ham hock – in the slow cooker for about 6 hours with a few vegetables
  • Lasagne made with the slow cooker ragu
  • The black beans made into burrito-style wraps with a little of the ham, some red onion and tomatoes.
  • Beef stir-fry, with stir-fried veg in Dirt Candy herb sauce


Friday food links – 24 July 2015

The final birthday baguettes - slashing got a bit better (left to right). Good flavour though.

Lots to cover this week, but no time, so let’s do this in bullets:

The good:

  • My birthday: a day of great food: I baked the baguette dough that had been gestating for 3 days in the fridge and we ate it with cheese, salami, prosciutto and salads. My mum made a cake. And we had a shed-painting party. A dinner out and a first trip to the cinema in about 18 months.
  • Time with family and with E

The bad:

  • A week of sickness: little E spent the weekend careering around and bumped her head about 6 times. She then got a temperature overnight on Tuesday, and spent the rest of the week out of nursery. Lots of sadness 😦
  • A bit of a lack of meal planning, which combined with the unexpected sickness and unexpected (although very welcome) extra house guests (my parents, looking after E) to mean a bit of a random week of meals.

Some firsts:

  • I restarted running – 3 run/walks this week (using the couch to 5k app). Doing the timed runs interspersed with walks is a much more enjoyable way to start for me than just running slowly.
  • I ordered a Riverford recipe box for the first time. Although this ended up not being a great week to try it out, the one recipe we’ve tried so far has been good.


Without a recipe:

  • Lasagne with pork mince bolognese
  • Spice Tailor chicken curry, with tomato dal from the freezer

Reading – no real time this week, but what time i have had has been making progress on the Ed Catmull book Creativity Inc – highly recommended.

Book review: Slow cooked by Miss South

You may have noticed me going on (and on) about my slow cooker cooking in my weekly Friday food links posts. Faced with an imminent return to work, and the prospect of squeezing dinner preparation for a one year old into a tiny gap between nursery pickup and bath-and-bedtime, I decided a slow cooker would solve all my problems. (Well, maybe not all of them.) Aware of how little spare counterspace I have, as well as the number of appliances in my cupboards, my hand paused over the ‘buy’ button a couple of times, but in the end I went for it. I thought I had best get a book to go with this new purchase, and the briefest of searches through Amazon reviews suggested that ‘Slow Cooked‘ by Miss South of the North/South Food blog was the one to get.

In this instance, Amazon reviewers were right on the money. This is a great book, and I haven’t stopped cooking from it since it arrived. It has only a handful of photos, in a section at the start, but Miss South writes such excellent head notes that I have scarcely missed them. The recipe titles and notes are enough to draw me in.

I had expected a book largely filled with stews of various sorts – and would have been content with this. But she goes well beyond standard slow cooker fare, with chapters on currys, pulses and grains, vegetables, as well as cakes and breads, and puddings.


white chili

white chili with chicken and haricot beans

So far I have made: meat ragu, stewed beef shin, white chili, chicken mole, pulled pork, aubergine ragout, tarka dal, dulce de leche (heating a can of condensed milk), caramelised onions (a big batch for the freezer), chicken stock and confit tomatoes. Everything has worked, and has tasted good. The chicken recipes benefit from a slightly shorter cooking time – although the white chili makes good use of this by breaking up the chicken into shreds with the beans. The dal took longer, but I suspect the age of the split peas was to blame there. The beans in the chili, cooked from dried without soaking, were beautifully creamy and intact, with none of the fuzziness that comes from boiling.

There are still a lot more recipes I’d like to try out, not least the cinnamon buns, so, thanks to this book, I think my slow cooker has earned a permanent place on my counter.

Friday food links – 1 May 2015

I have two punnets of raspberries (about 300g). What would you make? I'm thinking cake....

What kind of week has it been? Busy, as I start to get back into the swing of work. Little E still has a horrid cough, so sleep hasn’t been great generally (although we did get only our second ever sleep through the night on Monday night). Lots more slow cooker meals this week. I’ve decided that on my working days our dinner should either be from the slow cooker, from the freezer or something made of leftovers. I can save the more creative cooking for the days when I have a bit more time to play with. I also found myself with some extra berries, so raspberry muffins were made for work colleagues, and there’s either a raspberry ricotta cake or raspberry friands on the menu this weekend.


Without a recipe:

  • Roast chicken
  • Sausage bap (for dinner? yes, really)
  • Pumpkin filled pasta (from the supermarket) with pesto and ricotta


Very little this week, for some reason – lots of catching up to do this weekend.