I have just woken up on day 5 of 9 (if you count weekends) of a week off work that I’m sharing with Charlotte. Sometimes, between her being a rugby-playing-therapist and me being a two-jobs-Joe, we’re a bit like ships in the night and don’t really get much time together. So this week is all about doing nothing, together!… Or, almost nothing!..
I’m not normally one to be publically mushy, but here it is.
Almost one short year ago, I had quite honestly the best date of my life. All I did that evening with Charlotte was laugh and laugh until my face hurt! I have continued to laugh with her since, and have no plans to stop.
That fateful night we also spontaneously enjoyed a selection of tapas and a friendly serving of wine. What better way to celebrate a happy year, this Thursday, than with the same such delights!
At Charlotte’s suggestion, we will be preparing a number of tapas to share, but one had to be prepared a little early. Grilled Marinated Aubergines! A delicious snack and something I’ve always wanted to try my hand to. What a great excuse!
I’ve left it just a little later than I had intended- but then time really has shot by me this year. But, with two days to go I’d say I’m right in the nick of time! Here’s what I used…
- 1 Aubergine
- 6 teaspoons of dried oregano
- A big pinch of salt
- A few sprankles of crushed black pepper, plus about a teaspoon more
- A sprinkle of chilli flakes
- A sprinkle of Garlic Powder
- A sprinkle of Onion Salt
- 1 Fresh Red Chilli
- Half a bulb of Garlic
- Sprig of Thyme
- About 500ml of Olive Oil
Well, it certainly has been a long time since posting though not for the lack of cooking, eating and making memories but more for the uncontrollable business of life!
Since last writing, I am so excited to announce that the fresh start on life I’ve been aiming for these last two years has finally arrived! I have now left the home of my lovely parents and moved into a little place of my own- and, if I may say so, it’s lovely!
I’ve already gone cooking crazy since living here! I’ve indulged in old favourites such as Thai Red Curry and Chicken Pathia, naturally had Josh and Stephen to visit for Wholegrain Maple Gammon, and on my first weekend here I had my parents to dinner to show my gratitude for everything they have done to support me, where we had a starter of Mojo Chicken, a main course of Beef Bourgignon and a dessert of Retox Pie.
But all those recipes are to follow soon! Last, I had my cousins Sarah and Samantha to stay and we indulged in a simple favourite- Chicken Fajitas! Sarah’s birthday passed recently on 31st May so I thought it would be nice to treat her to a favourite for dessert. Having exposed her more than once as a psychotic cheesecake thief, a strawberry cheesecake seemed the only option! And then there was this bottle of rum just lying around…
AND SO STRAWBERRY RUM CHEESE CAKE WAS BORN!!
This has been, I think, the best Christmas of my life. The family all together on the 25th, the gifts I gave seem very much appreciated (particularly a cardigan to my Grandfather), the gifts I received were just WONDERFUL (such as a number of useful books and equipment for my travelling!) … And my Mum cooked a terrific lamb Christmas dinner with a prawny starter!
Every Christmas for years now, my Grandmother and I have played happy helpers to my Mother in the preparation for Christmas dinner. My Grandma is responsible for the peeling and chopping of veg and the ever important carving of the meat. She’s notoriously good at it, while I’m yet to learn how to slice anything thinner than a dictionary. My role is to provide assistance with the afore mentioned veg as appropriate, but THIS YEAR I’m so proud to say I was promoted! This year I was IN CHARGE of Roast Potatoes and Yorkshire Puddings!
This decision was made by my Mum after she tried the spuds and puds I cooked alongside the Mulled Beef for us a couple of weeks ago! They went down a treat with her, and I’m pleased to say they received a similar response with Christmas Dinner!
Yesterday was a very special day on the Family Calendar- the day my Grandmother starts the secret Family Recipe Christmas Pudding.
I’ve been very proud the last couple of years to have assisted my Grandmother with this, and be taught each loving step of this recipe. This is definitely one to be added to my lovely new recipe book, but if you think for one moment it’s something I’m going to blog about on the world wide web, think again! However, when our hard work was done and the puddings were steaming away, I seized the opportunity to badger another recipe out of my Grandma… Shortcrust Pastry.
You may recall, a few months ago, I made some “proper sausage rolls” and threatened there and then that I would have my Grandmother teach me to make Shortcrust Pastry so I could produce a Festive Sausage Roll idea I had when the Christmas season arrived? Well, here we are!
For me, these taste just like Christmas as they’re based VERY much on an Apricot & Almond stuffing the family all enjoy once a year with our Christmas dinner! I’ve been very excited to make them and share them with the family, and now based on everyone’s reaction I think a few more batches will be on the way too!
Sometimes, the best meals are the ones filled with ingredients and elements that remind you of the people who make you smile. Now frankly, I don’t think I could make just one dish that reflects ALL the people in my life who make me happy, but this tagine is a good start!
First, tagines will always and forever remind me of my dear friend, Stephen Swinnerton. They are his signature, his territory. The first one he ever made for me was beef and the tenderness blew me away. The most recent one he made me was pork, at which point I sussed this tenderness was no fluke, but a delicious result of the patience and care that goes into tagine cooking! He bought me my own for Christmas and it’s been kicking around for a while. Finally, the time arrived for me to give it a go with a few special ingredients of my own!
Within the ingredients list are the other special elements that remind me of people who make me smile. There is the chorizo and oregano, given to me by the fabulously Spanish Diana Requena, and the chillis, carefully grown to an adorable size here in our home by my father! Finally, I experimented with a little chipotle paste… Chipotle will always remind me of Eric Cartman.
- 2 pork steaks
- A friendly amount of chorizo- sliced or diced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 2-3 carrots, chopped
- 2-3 chillis, chopped
- 500g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tomatoes, quartered
- About 100g of couscous- plain or flavoured, the choice is yours!
- 2 peppers- red and yellow- diced
- 1 chicken stock cube
- Salt, pepper, oregano and paprika
- Chipotle paste
- 1 more carrot, shreddred
Let’s get cooking!
So, once again, I’ve proven a lousy blogger, having failed to post anything now for over a month and now hastily rectifying that with two posts in a row. It’s just one of those things! Sometimes work gets in the way and leaves you either no time or no energy to indulge in your hobbies.
Back in June, I proudly began a new job in Local Government which I must admit to enjoying quite a bit! The people are nice, the work is challenging and there are certain perks, such as the occasional work-from-home day. The nice thing about working from home is that I start significantly earlier than I would if I were driving to the office for one hour first… This leaves me no shame in treating myself to an extra tasty lunch!
The last time I worked from home I couldn’t shake that “ooh, I really fancy a PROPER sausage roll” feeling. So, with a little apple, a little sugar, a little spice and a lot of meat, that’s exactly what I went for!
The Monday just gone was my friend Diana’s birthday. Knowing carrot cake is her favourite, and knowing she was unfortunate enough for her birthday to land on a Monday, I couldn’t resist surprising her with a tasty treat! I’d never made a carrot cake before, and the prospect was a tad daunting, so Sunday morning I set out to find an easy recipe to build from!
I would just like to side step, and take a moment to geek out about a free food app I’ve recently discovered that goes by the name of Yummly! Anyone who enjoys cooking and wants a world of recipes at their finger tips should download it and use it immediately! Simply search for a recipe (you can search by ingredient, country or even be specific like I have been here, or browse through the thousands they have on the home screen) and select. Want to hold onto it for future reference? Add it to your Yum List! Look through the ingredients and add anything you don’t have in the house to your built-in Shopping List. When you get to the supermarket, you have right in your pocket the exact items and measurements you require so there’s no longer the risk of finding yourself short of something halfway through cooking!
Anyway, now I’ve got that out of my system, back to the carrot cake recipe.
I found a super easy to follow recipe via Yummly, that from the looks of it can also be found on the All Recipes UK website. I made a few tweaks, such as thickening the icing, adding a teaspoon of nutmeg, and making the vanilla a little more special, not to mention a few other tricks! So, with no further ado, here’s my Carrot Cake Recipe!
It’s true. Our precious hob cooker is broken, which means certain experimentation is limited and it’s time to get creative with the oven.
Now, I’ve underlined my love for a good sausage casserole in the past, but it’s really more of a winter warmer than something to be tolerated in a summer scorcher. But I had these fine sausages when I barbequed the other day, and everything about their flavour screamed summer! I let the inspiration carry me from there.
Mango Sausage Punch
I realise I’m going through a bit of a scone obsession recently, but then I am a Brit and I do love a treat. This was another recipe born from a need to use bananas that were about to go off, but WOW did it work out well! The parents did come sniffing around while they cooked and inhaled a few, but as we’re all trying to be healthy I took the rest in to work the following day- they didn’t survive the morning.