A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Category Archives: Cooking

I’ve had two more absolutely enormous courgettes from the garden since my last post.

I made a couple of courgette-based traybake things that weren’t glamorous enough to be photographed- but I do tend to put pics on my Instagram story (@craftycrusader) if you’re interested. I made a courgette stuffed with a sort of Middle Eastern turkey chilli and a kind of lasagne, where I used ricotta rather than making béchamel sauce.

Parts of the courgettes were also grated and frozen for future cakes. I was throwing some of the middle parts away, but I felt badly about that so I am now freezing them in anticipation of trying out this courgette jam recipe.

Something I did make that was as beautiful as it was tasty was this courgette waffle recipe. The waffles are pretty tasty. I get six waffles out of the amounts stated, and they are  around 95 calories each. Most of the calories are from the cheese. I’m planning to make a few and freeze them for future brunches.


In the past couple of weeks, my garden has started to produce a lot of courgettes. I got the seeds as part of a ‘funky veg’ kit and kind of just planted for the hell of it- I’m not the biggest fan of courgettes. However, I sense that my glut of yellow beauties may make me learn to love this humble vegetable. We’ll see how I do at the challenging task of not embarrassing myself with phallic references in this post. I am a follower of Freud, after all.

I turned my first fistful of small courgettes into a tasty salad. Adapted from this recipe.

I knew that my staff summer picnic would be a good excuse to use up some more courgettes. As you can see, these ones were much larger.

I made another salad for the party- this was actually my first time cooking and eating fennel. I selected a vegan recipe, but when the vegan in the team wasn’t at the picnic, I did add some cheeky feta. Cheese makes everything better.

I also made a courgette cake. Since I’ve blogged previously about chocolate courgette cake, I used this recipe as a jumping-off point.

The cake was lovely- light, moist and tasty. Would probably omit raisins next time. My favourite bit was the frosting, but then I am dangerously addicted to cream cheese frosting. I have a LOT more courgettes coming, so I need to stay ahead of the game with ways to use them.


I’m on a bit of a kick of making brunch at home at the moment. This is another recipe from Jamie’s Superfood, and I have to say that I really like it. It’s also a great way to use up stale bread. I used tiger bread.

I made few changes to the recipe. I used frozen blackberries rather than raspberries. I left them to defrost in the fridge overnight, sprinkled with a tablespoon of sugar. This makes the dish taste a little like blackberry pie, a specialty of my late grandma made with berries foraged every autumn.

I added a little squeeze of honey to the banana and egg ‘custard’. Because this is a diet/clean eating show (despite Jamie’s vehement protestations to the contrary), it is light on sweetness. I would rather have 50 extra calories and find a dish delicious,than 50 fewer and find it just okay.

I’ve tried two-ingredient pancakes before and found that they just taste like eggy banana. I think the combination of blitzing the mix, which means the eggs go lovely and fluffy, and having it with something makes a huge difference. I also used the full banana and two eggs to serve one, as I’m trying to get more protein in my diet.

Top tip: don’t use a knife to make the pocket in the bread as Jamie suggests. Maybe this works if you have super sharp chef knives and very fresh bread. I found that it ripped my slice into bread shreds. Scissors work much better.


As always, I came back from holiday wanting to cook and eat fresh, healthy food. I briefly considered doing Veganuary, but then I remembered that I will be going out to eat quite a bit in January, and I don’t like to be limited on food choices in restaurants. I will probably try going vegan for a week at some point instead.

I had been watching Jamie Oliver’s Superfood on Channel 4 and, despite my many annoyances with the show, pinned a few of the recipes that looked nicest and easiest. This is Jamie’s butternut squash daal with fried eggs.

I made a few changes. Morrison’s didn’t sell curry leaves or black mustard seeds, and they were out of coriander.

For the temper, I used garlic and chilli as specified, 1tsp English mustard, 2tsp cumin seeds and 2tsp coriander seeds. I omitted the coriander altogether. I used sweet chilli sauce in the yoghurt instead of coriander leaves, but in future I won’t bother with the yoghurt bit at all as I don’t think it adds to the dish. I also didn’t bother with the poppadoms. Instead, I served with a bigger salad and roasted cherry tomatoes.

I got seven servings from the recipe. When I take this to work, I heat up the daal in the microwave. I fry the eggs four at a time and keep two each in separate plastic containers. I only cook the eggs for about 2-3 minutes, then heat for a minute in the microwave at work. This is also the method I use when I take nasi goreng to work, and I haven’t got salmonella yet (touch wood). I also take the salad separately.


I try to eat well, and a big part of that is healthy snacks. I eat quite a lot of Nakd bars, and always wondered how easy it would be to make them at home. I recently tried out Deliciously Ella’s new range of energy balls, which are very tasty but also pretty expensive. I’m sure she already has a recipe online somewhere, but I just looked at the ingredients on the back and made up my own.


Ingredients

  • 40g almonds
  • 60g dates
  • 2tsp nut butter
  • 1/2tsp coconut oil
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  • A sprinkle of salt

Blend all the ingredients together. I just used my little hand blender.

After a while, the ingredients will start to come together.

Roll into balls. I added a little too much coconut oil, making them a bit shiny. They probably would have re-mattified once the warmth from my hands dissipated, but I decided to roll them in some cocoa powder. I was trying to trick myself into believing I am eating truffles.

This was so quick and easy! The texture is somewhere between a Nakd bar, some varieties of which have bits, and a smooth Ella ball. My little blender wasn’t able to make the nuts totally smooth. I think the taste is lovely too. I’ll definitely try out more varieties in future.


This week I cooked the food of my native land for the first time in several years. I made rice and peas and chicken, a staple of Jamaican cuisine, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out.


I can’t provide a recipe because, unlike almost every other kind of food, I never use one when I’m cooking Jamaican. For me, Caribbean food is all about eyeballing the spices, estimating measurements, and tasting as you go. I learnt how to cook Jamaican from my mother, to whom recipes are anathema. Cooking is a constant process of experimentation, fortunately mostly successful.

When it comes to foods that are not in my blood, I am very reliant on recipes. As a perfectionist, I can’t stand the idea that I could spend hours cooking and end up with something sub-par (though this has, of course, happened to me lots of times). With a recipe, if the food is bad, it means that the recipe was bad; I am not a bad cook. With Jamaican food, I can let myself take a risk a little more. I can focus on the process and not just the outcome. Each pot of rice I cook is unique.


The rice and peas wasn’t perfect, but then I did use tinned kidney beans (the peas) rather than dried. Using dried beans is what gives rice and peas its characteristic colour, but I couldn’t be bothered soaking peas for a midweek meal. I also couldn’t cook it in my Dutch pot, because that is currently being driven around Kent in the back of my aunt’s Vauxhall. Long story.


The second instalment in my quest to stop lunch being the most irritating meal of the day is this filling roasted sweet potato, quinoa and goats cheese salad. I realise that eating things like this (stopping to Instagram it first) makes me a hopeless millennial stereotype, but apparently that’s my destiny.


Couldn’t you just filter the shit out of that? Then eat it?

I’ll be adding this to my rotation of lunches. I think the goats cheese balances the sweet potato beautifully, the quinoa adds grainy bulk and the pumpkin seeds give a pleasant bite. I leave the skins on my potatoes (cutting out any dodgy bits) for the triple threat of added nutrition, saved time and reduced waste. Rule of three FTW!

I’ve also started adding dressing to more of my salads. It does add calories, but I think the secret of store bought salads is the dressing punching up the flavour. For me, the added pleasure negates the calories.

Ingredients

  • 1kg sweet potatoes
  • 1tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 green or red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • A handful of finely chopped coriander stems, optional
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry quinoa (if you’re not on the quinoa bandwagon, sub another grain, bulgur or couscous)
  • 200g baby leaf spinach
  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 200g goats cheese, cut into small chunks
  • A handful coriander leaves

For the dressing

  • 1tbsp French mustard
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 2tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
  • 1tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 6tbsp flavourless oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Chop your sweet potatoes into bite-size chunks. Peel if desired.
  3. Add sweet potato chunks to a roasting tin with the olive oil, garlic, ginger, chili and coriander stems, if using. Rub to ensure a good coating of oil and even distribution of the spices. Season, then bake for around 20 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft and golden.
  4. Cook quinoa according to directions on packet. I rise mine in a mesh sieve for a couple of minutes, until the water runs clear. I then toast the damp quinoa in a tablespoon of butter for a couple of minutes to open up the grains. Finally, I add double the volume of water to the pan (in this case 2 cups), bring to the boil, cover and simmer until the water is all absorbed (15-20 mins), then turn off the heat and leave to steam for a few more minutes.
  5. For the dressing, Combine the dressing ingredients, aside from the oil, in a food processor or hand blender and blitz until smooth. Add the oil slowly, through a funnel if you have one, until smooth.
  6. In a dry pan over a medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds until golden and fragrant.


Combine the baby leaf spinach, quinoa, roasted sweet potato, goats cheese and coriander. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, season and dress to taste. This salad can be eaten warm or cold. Enjoy!