Monday, 28 October 2013

Cheese and Tomato Rice

I have the day off work today, which is nice - a whole day to myself with no plans. Except waiting in all day for a parcel to be delivered, so I am house-bound. Still, the weather is pretty horrible just now, so I am not too upset that I can't go out. Instead, I am taking advantage of all of this free time, and as well as catching up on the book I'm reading, I decided this morning to give my blog a little spring (or autumn) clean: I have added a new page, basically a contents page, listing all of the recipes I have blogged about, categorised by meal/type. This should make it easier for you, my readers, to find the recipe you're looking for, and also easier for me to keep track of what I have and haven't blogged about, and what might be missing. Hopefully you will find this page helpful - it can be found here.

I also thought today would be a good day to tell you all about one of my favourite autumn/winter dishes - it's filling, it's tasty, and it can easily be adapted to suit the vegetables you have to hand that day. The recipe is Cheese and Tomato Rice, and is based on the Cheddar and Tomato Rice recipe I found in the BBC Good Food 101 Veggie Dishes cookbook. It is not one of my quickest recipes, as it has to go in the oven for half an hour after you have cooked it on the hob - but during that half hour, I like (ok, maybe 'like' is taking it a bit too far) to wash the dishes, so that after dinner there's not too much to clean up. It's also good reheated - I usually just keep it in the oven dish that I bake it in, and then pop the whole thing back in the oven for half an hour (including the time it takes the oven to pre-heat) - this seems to heat it through nicely.

Cheese and Tomato Rice (serves 4)


3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced
250g mushrooms
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock
300g long-grain rice
salt and pepper, to taste
150g frozen peas
100g cheddar, grated


Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large pan. Add the onions, red pepper and mushrooms, and fry until completely softened. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. At this point, turn on your oven to pre-heat it to 180ºC (160ºC fan-assisted). Add the tomatoes, stock and rice, and season. Bring to the boil, stirring gently, then reduce to a simmer, still stirring. Add the frozen peas. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and scatter over the grated cheese. Put in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes. This is delicious served with a side salad, but I find it filling enough on its own too.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can easily add any vegetable you prefer - asparagus, sweetcorn or broad beans would all be nice, I think. Let me know if you customise this recipe to your own needs/tastes, I'd love to know how it turns out!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Emma's Malteser Cake

This week is my last week in my current job so at the request of my colleagues, I have made them some  Malteser cake. This is a no-bake effort, and really easy - in fact, the recipe came from a former colleague, Emma, who made it for bake sales and was subsequently asked to share the recipe with its adoring fans. But since she left, I have picked up the baton for making this for every bake sale or any time someone requests it, really! So it is my leaving gift to my lovely team, who I will miss very much.

This cake is ideal for bake sales or for friends coming over for coffee and cake, as it's so easy and requires minimal effort (it takes maybe half an hour to prepare, then you just pop it into the fridge for an hour) but tastes great! It is certainly not for anyone on a health kick - you can practically see the calories dancing all over it - but it's a great sweet treat that always goes down a storm.

Malteser Cake


225g milk chocolate
110g butter (but I have just realised I accidentally made it with 225g butter tonight, and it tastes AMAZING!)
3 tbsps golden syrup
225g crushed digestive biscuits
225g Maltesers (plus a few extra to sprinkle on top)
100g white chocolate


Melt the milk chocolate, butter and syrup in a pan over a medium heat until the butter and chocolate have fully melted down. While this is melting, this is a good time to crush the digestives, if you keep an eye on the pan at the same time. Once the chocolate mixture is ready, add the crushed digestives and Maltesers and mix well until the chocolate layer on the Maltesers has melted into the mixture. Pour the whole lot onto a baking tray and smooth down with a spoon. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave by breaking it into chunks and microwaving on full power for blasts of 10 or 20 seconds at the time, checking it frequently to check it's not burning. Drizzle the white chocolate over the top of the Malteser layer in the tray. Finally, crush the remaining Maltesers and sprinkle them over the top. Put the cake in the fridge for at least an hour. You can leave it in over night, but beware, if you do, you'll need to take it out a couple of hours before you want to cut it, as it will be solid!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Tasty Tzatziki

Tonight's dinner was a repeat of that delicious spicy broccoli pasta I told you about on Friday -  but this time, David was here to sample it too. I am happy to say that he found it as delicious as I did, and we are both in agreement that it will be a regular feature in our dinner menus from now on. I love making food that I enjoy, but half of the enjoyment of eating surely comes from the company you enjoy the food with, so it's always nice to know that David's a fan of one of my favourite dishes (yes, I just made it for the first time last week and already it's one of my favourites!).

Tzatziki saves the day!
Last week wasn't all discovering new favourite recipes though. On Thursday, I was really excited to try a new falafel recipe from A Girl Called Jack. Like Jack, I too have tried on various occasions to make my own falafel (after falling in love with the stuff when I was living in Germany - whilst all my meat-eating friends were munching on their döner kebaps, I was discovering the delights of falafel). Also like Jack, none of my previous attempts had quite lived up to my expectations. (Ok, basically they crumbled and fell apart completely.) So I was really excited to see that she had finally cracked the perfect falafel!

Yeah....falling apart in the pan - not great!
Unfortunately, my attempts to recreate this perfect falafel failed. This could be because I shallow (rather than deep) fried my falafel, and the turning could have aided the falling apart. Or perhaps it was because I used a food processor rather than a hand held masher to mash the chickpeas. Either way, I had the same problem of the falafel falling apart. They were still tasty, in the garlic and coriander pita bread, accompanied by salad, but what really lifted this failed experiment was the delicious tzatziki I made to drizzle over the falafel. This is an incredibly simple recipe that could be used as a dip for almost anything you fancy, or if you are able to make your falafel more successfully than me (please tell me how!), then it would obviously be great with that.

Not the full portion, but this is what the finished product should look like!

Here's how I did it.


150ml natural yoghurt
1/3 cucumber (I really love my cucumber, so feel free to use less if you prefer!)
2 garlic cloves
3 tsp lemon juice
a few mint leaves, finely chopped


Pour the yoghurt into a bowl. Chop the cucumber into tiny pieces (I chop it firstly into rounds of maybe 1/2cm thick, then cut each round - you can stack them and do several at once - into slices one way across, then the other way across). Add this to the yoghurt. Crush the garlic cloves into the mixture, add the lemon juice and mint, and then stir everything together. Yum!

On another note completely, I have just discovered that one of my friends has recently started blogging too, so I wanted to share her blog with you. Tales of Adventure, Big and Small is not a cooking blog, but shares some of Laura's musings (and she's my friend, so you know they're worth listening to!) and good ideas. I love her fruity vodka idea, and am just thinking of which of my friends would love this as a Christmas gift. So why not take a wee look?

Please do let me know if you've had more success than I have with falafel. Or if you have something that is always a failure when you try to make it, let me know - maybe I'll have some tips for you?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Spicy Broccoli Pasta

Spicy Broccoli Pasta

Having no idea what I was going to eat for dinner, not very much in the fridge, and no desire to go back out into the cold (it has got freezing over the last few days!), I seem to have come up with a real winner of a dinner, just by chance. Inspired by a Yottam Ottolenghi creation (I must recommend his book, Plenty, again - I was drooling just reading it), I created this Spicy Broccoli Pasta.

It is unusual, delicious, and best of all, easy! I would definitely pay good money for this in a restaurant, and I am looking forward to cooking it for guests sometime, to see their reactions. I had never tried the combination of broccoli and mint, but it was really lovely. I think it's the combination of the fiery spices and refreshing mint that makes this dish so surprisingly good. But I will leave it up to you to try it out and let me know what you think of it.

Spicy Broccoli Pasta (serves 2)


100g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
300g broccoli, chopped into florets
200g rigatoni
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
handful of fresh mint, finely chopped


Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook gently for 10 - 15 minutes or until the onion is soft. Meanwhile, put the broccoli into a steaming basket over a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to packet instructions. When your onions are nicely softened, add the spices, salt and pepper, and stir well. Take off the heat. Add the pasta and broccoli to the sauce, and stir. Serve on plates, sprinkled with chopped mint.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Kitchen Products I Love

I have just finished my dinner - the delicious Wholesome Lemony Dhal from my friend Nicola's blog, Just8 - and had to tell you about it, as I think anyone who enjoys my blog and/or recipes should definitely try this one out. I had mine with broccoli instead of rice, as suggested by Nicola, and David also had some garlic and coriander pita bread with his. I love the simplicity of it - but at the same time, it is so filling, with each flavour really shining through. With the spinach and broccoli, it will take you well on your way to your five a day, and the lentils are a great source of protein. The health benefits of the dish combined with its ease of preparation and delicious taste make it as close to a perfect dinner as I can imagine. The only thing I would add to the original recipe is that if you don't have lemons to hand, you can use lemon juice from a bottle, in which case I would add about 120ml.

Wholesome Lemony Dhal with broccoli and salad
But what I really thought I would write about tonight, was not a recipe at all, but actually some of the recent and not-so-recent purchases for my veggie kitchen. From the start of this blog, I've said I would review products as well as share recipes, so today, I'm going to talk to you about some of the kitchen items I love (and one I'm not so happy with...just to warn you!). So, without further ado...

Tiger - Bargains or Cheap Tat?

I have recently been introduced to the delights of Tiger by my friend Anna at Pink Pom Poms. This shop is fairly new to Glasgow, but from looking at their website, they are a pretty big chain across much of Europe and even further afield. They don't appear to have an online shop, but if you have one nearby (there's a store locator on the website), it's worth a wander. I'd describe it as a kind of smaller scale Ikea (but that could just be the way they name their products) - they sell small kitchen and home products, such as kitchen timers, candles, notepads, etc.

When I was there a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for a cheap and creative way to store my rubber gloves (yes, how exciting!). I can't attach anything permanent to the wall, as we're in a rented flat, so it had to be something removable too. I came up with this:

Yup, a toothbrush holder. But as you can see, I have successfully used it to store the rubber gloves, and at just £2, I'm pretty pleased with my bargain! I was a little bit worried about the suction cups and whether the holder would actually stay stuck to the wall, but so far it's stayed up no problem for over a month. Just goes to show, that sometimes it pays to think a bit outside the box when you're looking for cheap storage solutions.

I also bought a knife sharpener at Tiger. However, this was not such a success story, unfortunately. I thought it looked cool, and must have been swayed by this and the price - £3 - (and the fact that my lovely Jamie Oliver knives are getting a bit blunt). But when I tried it out, it didn't seem to really make much of a difference. I wondered if I should have tried running the knife through the 3 sections for a bit longer, but this actually seemed to make the knife even blunter! I would have to say, it looks like a knife sharpener is not one of those products that you can go for the cheapest option with - or at least, not Tiger's version.

So, looks like while there are some great bargains to be had at Tiger, sometimes cheap really does mean bad.


Who doesn't love IKEA?! I headed there last night to pick up some storage jars for some of the dried ingredients in my kitchen. As you can see below, they look pretty smart in the cupboard, and keep the contents nice and fresh. I've used mine to store my different types of pasta (but need more jars for more types!), rice (ditto), cous cous and lentils in. The tall ones cost £4.25 each and the shorter (but presumably bigger in terms of capacity) ones in front cost £4.75 each. They are really nice and do the job well (I already had one of the tall ones for a while, and loved it so much I decided to 'add to the family'.)

I'll need to get some more for the top shelf though - as you can see, it's still a bit of a mess! 

Kitchen White Board

This white board is the final product I wanted to show you. I actually bought this over a year ago, and I'm so glad I did. It's often the small, simple things that make a difference, I find, and the white board is a good example of that. I didn't have a pin board in my old flat, so thought this would be handy for scribbling notes on. I now do have a pin board, but while I pin money off vouchers, postcards, and taxi company business cards to it, I still like my whiteboard for writing notes. 

I sometimes use it to plan the week's recipes, or if I'm having friends over for dinner, I might write up the dinner plan there, so I remember any good ideas I have for dessert or accompaniments! 

Most recently, we've been using it to keep track of staple ingredients that we run out of (or are about to run out of) as we notice them. That way, when we come to do the weekly shopping, we can just check the whiteboard to see what we need to add to our shopping list in the way of any herbs, spices or other little things we might otherwise assume we have in the cupboard (because seriously, does salt ever run out?....Well, actually, yes, it does. And we remembered to restock because of our whiteboard list.)

The whiteboard sticks directly onto wood or metal (so you could put it on your fridge, if you wanted). Ours is stuck discreetly on the inside of a cupboard door. The best thing about the whiteboard is that it is re-stickable (not sure that's the word they actually used, but I like it!) - so I had it stuck to a cupboard in our old flat, but when moving day came, it couldn't have been simpler to peel it off the door, transport it (I stuck it to a plastic poly pocket just to keep the sticky side clean during the journey), and then reapply it to a cupboard door in our new flat. So another great one for us renters - or anyone who likes the idea of being able to move their notes around the kitchen, or simply not damage nice wooden cupboard doors.

I bought it from Staples for (I think) £5, and the non-permanent markers were from there too (can't remember the price, but it was reasonable too). Annoyingly, I can't see this product on their website any more, so if you know where to find these, please let me know in the comments, as I'd highly recommend them!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Morning Glory: breakfasts that inspire

It's the most important meal of the day - or so we are always told. Yet I hear so many people saying they never or rarely eat breakfast ("Ugh, how can you eat first thing in the morning?"). I don't know whether it's possible to train your body to feel repulsed by the idea of food first thing, but it does seem to me that it's a strange thing to feel repulsed by - when did these feelings of disgust at the thought of breakfast start - didn't the parents of these people feed them breakfast all through their childhood? So presumably they used to eat breakfast on a regular basis. Surely this revulsion is a learned reaction to the first meal of the day?

I have always had to eat as soon as I wake up - at least if I'm going out to work/university/school - basically, if I want my body and brain to function! So I just can't understand why anyone would feel they couldn't eat at this time. For me, it's the opposite: never do I feel more in need of fuel for my body than first thing in the morning. But I have to say, I am not a cereal girl. Perhaps the people who say they can't stand the idea of food first thing actually mean they can't stand the thought of typical breakfast food first thing. Well, I can understand that a bit better.

I need food that I love the taste of, that is quick to prepare (as well as loving food, I really love my sleep!!), and will also keep me going for longer than a slice of toast or cup of black coffee. (In fairness, not being a coffee drinker, I have no idea how long a cup would keep me going for....but I'm pretty sure my belly would be rumbling fairly quickly after the last sip.) So I thought I'd share a couple of my favourite breakfasts with you - and I would love to hear any ideas you have for perfect breakfasts. These are not necessarily all healthy breakfasts, but I'm sure they are all healthier than not having breakfast and subsequently snacking on crisps and chocolate throughout the morning at work.

Eggs and Toast

With so many different ways to cook the eggs, this is one you can easily keep feeling fresh and interesting (I can get bored of eating the same breakfast every single day). For a trip down memory lane to childhood breakfasts, nothing can be as comforting as a soft-boiled egg and 'soldiers' made of toast. Delicious, nutritious, pretty filling, and a comfort food - how many different boxes do you want your breakfast to tick?! For tips on boiling your eggs, check out this previous, egg-focussed post.

Alternatively, I love to scramble a couple of eggs (somehow, one never seems enough) - keeping the heat medium-high, so that the eggs don't go rubbery, and adding a little butter at the end. Take the pan off the heat just before you think the eggs are cooked through, as they will continue to cook a little after you have taken the pan off the heat. Sometimes, inspired by the German Bauernfrühstück (literally: farmers' breakfast), I fry up some chopped vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes....or anything else you fancy really) and then add the eggs to scramble it all together. That makes a proper meal of it! 

My most-recent addition to the egg-repertoire is poached egg. This one is a little trickier to pull off, but I have finally perfected my method, and will share it with you here. 

First, bring a small pan of water to a gentle simmer. Add a little vinegar (any type can be used, so I usually just use the cheapest I can find in the supermarket). The vinegar will help the egg stay together during the poaching, but we don't really want to taste it, so I just use my best judgement as to how much to add. I'd maybe say 2 to 3 teaspoons. Bring the pan back to a gentle simmer. Crack an egg into a cup, being careful to keep the yolk intact. Now, using a slotted spoon, gently stir the water round and round, to create a whirlpool effect. Carefully drop your egg into the middle of the whirlpool and set your timer for 2-and-a-half minutes. (This is also a good time to put your bread in the toaster.) When the timer goes, take the egg out of the pan using the slotted spoon, and drain on kitchen paper. Butter your toast and serve the egg on top. The perfect poached egg should have a runny yolk and completely set white. I like to chop some chives and sprinkle them on top, sometimes.

Don't worry if you don't manage first time. Try experimenting with the heat of the water, amount of vinegar, or the timing. For some reason, 3 minutes used to work well for me, but now 2 and a half seem to do it. Instead of toast, why not serve this on an English muffin to really add a touch of luxury to your breakfast? 


As a child, I always loved porridge. I even remember loving a story - The Magic Porridge Pot - about a magic pot that cooked endless amounts of porridge, to the extent that the whole town ended up flooded with the stuff. That sounded like my dream! Then I discovered that the traditional way to have porridge is not, as I was used to, with sugar, but actually with salt. Hm. I wasn't so convinced by this. And health-conscious people recommended eating porridge with neither salt nor sugar added. I have tried this, and while I can eat it, it just didn't excite me enough - and like I mentioned earlier, I have to really have a breakfast that I love (what else can motivate me to get out of bed in the morning, if not the food I'm about to eat?!).

So by all means, if you enjoy plain or salty porridge, please don't follow me and my bad habits. But if you are not so bothered by the idea of sugary porridge, or just want a 'treat' breakfast, then I can highly recommend porridge as a great, stodgy breakfast that will fill you up for the whole morning (seriously, I have had to reduce my portion from the recommended amount on the porridge oats pack, as I was too full - can you imagine?!). 

First things first - don't buy those handy little sachets of pre-mixed porridge oats (with/without added flavourings). Just buy a packet of porridge oats from the supermarket (I have recently discovered Morrisons do a bag for 99p for 1kg that makes a tasty porridge, but I also like Scott's Porage Oats). I use 30g of oats and 200ml of milk (if you're trying to be healthier, you can use water or half water, half milk), plus a heaped teaspoon of sugar (honey is a healthier alternative you can use). When I'm trying to be really quick (most mornings before work!), I put it in the microwave for two-and-a-half minutes, then stir, then back in the microwave for a further two minutes. 

If I have a little more time, I combine my ingredients in a pan and cook over a medium high heat on the hob, stirring constantly (make sure and stir from the outside of the pan right round and inwards until you reach the middle, to make sure it doesn't stick at all) until the porridge reaches a nice creamy consistency. This method doesn't take much longer than the microwave method, but it does involve standing by the hob for the whole time. I prefer to use those 5 minutes to get dressed, make a packed lunch or put on my make-up!

For a change, why not add a couple of handfuls of sultanas into the mix before cooking it, and then scatter some chopped almonds on top when it is ready? I have been doing this recently and it really adds the wow-factor to this breakfast favourite. An added bonus is that with the natural sweetness of the sultanas, you don't need as much sugar. Perfect! Or if you're feeling very bad, skip the sugar, but add a dollop of golden syrup at the end of the cooking process. This makes for delicious porridge, but it is certainly not the healthiest breakfast!


If you are really short on time, or just feel you can't face proper food in the morning, milk is a good option to at least line your stomach. Sometimes I'll have a glass with my eggs and toast, just to fill me up that bit more. If you're feeling naughty, like I often am, you could have flavoured milk (I love chocolate milk and use Nesquick powder to flavour mine). Although this is clearly less healthy, I tend to think it is still a better option than not having the milk at all and then reaching for a bar of chocolate half way through the morning.


I don't love plain yoghurt, but there are some delicious vanilla yoghurts or yoghurts with fruit bits through them that I do enjoy. For a nice summertime breakfast, try a bowl of yoghurt (plain or otherwise) with some fresh fruit. I like mine with grapes, blueberries or even chopped up apple pieces. Or a combination of all three! This is a nice, fresh breakfast with lots of goodness from the fruits, but the yoghurt should ensure it is also nice and filling.

Over to you....

Do you have any good breakfast ideas you'd like to share? Or, if you don't like breakfast, I hope that the above ideas might inspire you to try and change this! Please let me know what you think; I love to get comments on my blog.