I love a mince pie, but they have to be just right. I want the pastry to mince filling ratio to be almost 50:50; too much filling and you can forget it. Preferably my mince pies will be warm and covered in (clotted, ideally) cream. However, I can’t possibly eat that every single day and I still need my mince pie fix. This is how my Mince Pie Fruit Loaf came about; designed to have all the fruity spiciness from a mince pie but without the pastry and cream. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of butter for spreading!
I really struggle to know what to have for lunch sometimes. Usually I am scrambling round in the cupboards trying to find some sort of suitable sandwich filling but I do get terribly bored of sandwiches. If I’m lucky I’ll have some keptovers to warm up and I do pay a visit to a local independent café from time to time too. Well enough is enough. I have decided to batch cook and freeze a range of healthy, filling, vegan soups; one of which is this Chipotle and Bean Soup. So that I can grab whichever soup I fancy and not have to think about what’s on the meal plan for dinner I am making them vegan, stuffed full of veg and flavour packed. I hate to have the same thing for lunch and dinner you see!
When it comes to adult soft drinks there are some good options but I don’t like any that are overly sickly and sweet. Fruit juices can be good but they are a little dull; I’m after something which is a bit snazzy. A drink where there has been a little effort put in. My no alcohol pomegranate mojito is so easy to make and packed full of flavour, the pinks and greens are so lovely together and using tonic rather than lemonade gives this mojito a nice bitterness. I made these recently for two guests that came round as I knew both of them wouldn’t be drinking and they went down a treat. You can’t go wrong with mint and lime together as far as I’m concerned.
I’ll stick a herb in pretty much anything and adding or infusing herbs in drinks or cocktails is always delicious. My Orange and Rosemary Martini is particularly excellent for two reasons: first, it uses those fantastic big oranges that you can get at this time of year and second, that faint hint of rosemary is so distinctive it makes for a really refreshing martini. It looks inviting, it’s easy to make and the flavours take the edge of a plain martini (which I can find a bit harsh). This would work really well with leftover rosemary in the back of the fridge, or those sprigs you popped in the freezer. However you make it, and you should, make sure you’ve got a nice comfy chair and a book ready and waiting.
I won’t lie to you. This is not a dish that’s light on calories. But my word it is worth every one of them. My fennel and sausage ragu is exactly what the doctor ordered for mid-February. It’s full of good, hearty ingredients and it can’t fail to cheer you up from the inside out on a chilly evening. This dish is all about the sausages; the better the sausages you can get your hands on, the better the finished dish. Head to your local farmers’ market, butcher or farm shop to get hold of something spicy and Italian, they may be a little more expensive but trust me, you won’t regret it.
I like to look forward to my lunches; whether I’m using up some leftovers to make a quick salad, sticking all sorts of ingredients in a sandwich or slurping on soup. Sometimes it can be very tempting to just grab the quickest thing in the kitchen but if I do that I am invariably disappointed at lunch time. So say hello to my three easy soup toppings which can all be made in less than five minutes, using ingredients you probably already have and can be made in advance to enjoy at work.
New Covent Garden Soups are currently encouraging everyone to revive their lunch life, something I was really keen to get involved with as I think lunch can make or break a day. Below are my three easy soup toppings and the soups that I chose to serve them with. You can get creative and add any of the toppings to any of the soups and have a go at putting your own twist on them too.
While in Gothenburg last year I think I had a Kanelbullar every day. When it’s cold and windy outside sinking your teeth into one of these alongside a hot cup of coffee is just perfect. Slightly sticky, full of cinnamon and normally covered with nibbed sugar you can smell them before you see them in the cafés of Sweden. After trying a few different recipes I have come up with my own Kanelbullar recipe; the ideal balance of bread, wholesomeness and sweetness.
You will need (for 12 Kanelbullar):
- 40g butter
- 225ml milk
- 7g sachet fast action yeast
- 30g caster sugar
- Pinch salt
- 250g wholemeal flour
- 250g strong white bread flour
For the filling
This is, probably, one of my absolute favourite meals I have ever made. Not only does it look glorious (excuse self-praising) but it is absolutely delicious. A vegetarian fish and chips if you will; a real rival to that classic seaside dish using halloumi instead of fish. With my recipe there is no crispy batter, however, the outside of the halloumi gets all crispy and wonderful so you really don’t miss it. Plus, as there’s no deep fat frying involved it’s much more suited to a weeknight dinner as there’s no faffing around.
Part biscuit and part flapjack, these Chocolate Rolled Oat Biscuits are a doddle to make. All mixed in one bowl and baked in one dish; minimum fuss and washing up, maximum baking satisfaction. I like that these biscuits aren’t too sweet and the generous amount of oats used means they are really filling. I’m not sure if they are technically a flapjack or a biscuit though; the lack of honey or golden syrup isn’t very flapjack-y but then the oaty flavour is so familiar it’s hard to believe it’s not a flapjack! I am sticking with calling them a biscuit on account of the crunch.
I do like a tin of food. There’s something very humble about tinned fruit and vegetables particularly; and I am not one to overlook anything that comes in a can. My favourite canned good of all is the artichoke. That’s how this recipe for Chicken, Olive and Artichoke Stew with Risotto came about. Artichokes are very expensive, covered in oil (normally sunflower rather than nice olive oil) and quite small if you buy them chilled or in a jar; but in a can they can be half the price, bigger and once drained you get more for your money. So I wanted to make something comforting, filling and delicious and make the most of the wonderful artichoke.