A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

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After my last attempt at a chia breakfast pudding, I did some experimenting to see if I could come up with a tasty recipe for a chai-spiced pot. I realised along the way that the weird taste, which I had attributed to the maca and lucuma powder in the previous iteration, was partly down to the chia seeds, which have a bit of a weird taste in themselves.

Ingredients

  • 300ml milk, any
  • 2tsp black tea
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 green cardamom pod
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp sugar, any (e.g. honey, coconut sugar, cane sugar)
  • 3tbsp chia seeds

Method

Measure your milk into a small saucepan. Halve the vanilla pod and add the seeds to the milk. Do not discard the rest of the pod.

Add the tea and whole spices. You can either put them into a tea infuser (apart from the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod) or straight into the saucepan. Put over a low heat, watching carefully so that you do not allow the liquid to boil over. As it comes to the boil, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for two minutes to allow the spices to infuse.

If you have used an infuser, give it a squeeze to release the extra-concentrated flavours lurking within. If you haven’t used an infuser, strain.

Stir in the chia seeds and decant into a container to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

I served mine with a couple of tablespoons of speculoos butter, Greek yoghurt and pomegranate arils.


This recipe is inspired by the rainbow pie with hazelnut crust featured in Straight from the Source, the magazine made by the bulk store I frequent.

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Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1.5 cups hazelnut meal/blitzed hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 3/4 cup flour (I used ordinary plain flour, use tapioca flour to make this pie gluten-free)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g butter
  • A good pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 5 eggs
  • 2tbsp milk or cream
  • 3tbsp pesto (I used this recipe)
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced and roasted
  • 100g gruyere
  • 1 small courgette
  • 1 small yellow pepper
  • 30g spinach/red pak choi if you can get it
  • 1 red onion

Method

Note: You may be able to see from my pictures that I followed a slightly different method. Do as I say, not as I do!

Preheat the oven to 180C

Grease a 25cm pie tin. I used a 23cm one because that’s what I have and just meant the pastry was a little thicker.

Mix together the pastry ingredients until they form into a ball. Do not over-mix.

Press into the greased pie tin and bake for ten minutes. If you haven’t already, roast your diced sweet potato at the same time.

I allowed the crust to rise above the edges of the tin deliberately- the pastry burns very easily. This way, any blackened bits can easily be trimmed off at the end.

While the crust is cooking, finely chop the onion and cook in olive oil or butter until translucent.

Chop the other vegetables.

Layer the spinach, onion, pepper, sweet potato and courgette in the crust.

Beat the eggs with the cream/milk and pesto. Fold in the diced cheese and sundried tomatoes. Pour over the vegetables in the crust.

Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the eggs are completely cooked.

I have to say that if I was going to bother to go to the effort of making a quiche again, I would be more likely to go for a quiche lorraine. But it was fun to try something new.


I picked up some dates on clearance at the supermarket. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them at the time, but at 25p a pack I snapped them up.

While looking on Pinterest for recipe ideas, this recipe caught my eye. I am a complete sucker for anything that purports to be salted caramel. While I was dubious about whether dates could ever aspire to the deliciousness of cream and sugar, I had some tahini in the fridge and decided to give it a go.

Tahini is one of those things that I find it hard to use up. I tend to buy a jar to make hummus, only to have the rest of it sitting in the fridge for the next five years, looking all separated and neglected. However, since I am attempting to reduce my plastic waste, maybe more homemade hummus is in my future, especially since I finally found a satisfactory recipe.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the bite things.

Ingredients

  • 175g dates, pitted
  • 80g tahini*
  • 100g dark chocolate, at least 70%
  • Sea salt
  • Cocoa powder (optional)

*You can substitute any nut or seed butter of your choice for the tahini. For my second attempt at these bars, I only had 30g tahini left so I swapped out the rest for peanut butter.

Method

Combine the tahini and stoned dates in a blender. If you are using a domestic machine, make sure to pulse for short periods of time so you don’t overload your motor! The mixture will come together into a ball. If it’s not coming together, add a little extra tahini.

Press into a container. I found this baking tray too big but I’d already oiled it so went ahead with it anyway.

Refrigerate overnight or freeze for 30minute, then chop the date mixture up into chunks of your desired size. I recommend not making them too big so that you get plenty of chocolate in every bite.

Melt the chocolate and coat each piece.

While the chocolate is still melted, sprinkle over sea salt.

I also coated some of my bites in cocoa powder because (I think because of my kitchen being hot) the chocolate had some bubbles on the surface that looked unappetising.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

I was sceptical about this recipe but these bites are delicious. The texture is much nicer than most dried-fruit nut bars, with a nice bite and chew. The dark chocolate adds an amazing bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the dates and the brightness of the salt is the icing on the cake (so to speak).

I would love to learn to temper chocolate. Imagine how beautiful these bites would look if the chocolate was shiny!


The courgette glut continues. Here I am having harvested my biggest marrow yet, which weighed in at over two kilos.

Do you see the symbolism?

I’m hoping to get something other than courgettes out of the garden soon. I have a lot of fruit on my tomato plants, but it’s all still green. I think my carrots and beetroot are nearly ready too.


I made another traybake thing, this time based on this recipe from the BBC Food website. I used a whole pack of my favourite caramelised onion sausages for the stuffing and it was awesome. I think this might be my favourite courgette recipe so far.

I feel like this is a pretty flexible recipe. For the filling I used

  • 6 caramelised onion sausages
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic 
  • Breadcrumbs made from two slices of bread
  • 50g extra mature cheddar

Doesn’t look too bad once it’s tarted up on a salad, does it?


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.


I seem to be slightly obsessed with baked cream cheese lately. Which is understandable, because it’s bloody delicious. I’ve been looking for a recipe to use up 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree that’s been hanging around in my freezer, and this pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust really fit the bill.

I’m not actually the world’s biggest fan of cheesecake. I think that’s because most British cheesecakes aren’t baked, and I think it’s the baking that transforms the cream cheese into the silky, luxurious texture you get in an American-style cheesecake. I also think that digestives are the most boring biscuit on earth, so any recipe that uses something else for the base gets points from me.

I got quite a few cracks in the top of my cheesecake, as you can see in the pics. I wonder if baking it in a water bath would reduce this problem.

Ingredients- for the base

  • 230g (2cups) ginger nuts, finely crushed
  • 40g (1/4 cup) pecans, finely chopped
  • 60g (1/4 cup) butter, melted

For the topping

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée- you can use around 1/4 cup less if this is all you have
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4tsp ground cloves
  • 680g (24oz) full-fat cream cheese
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar, depending on taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Line bottom and sides of 9″x13″ baking pan with dampened parchment paper or foil, letting it overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  3. Blend biscuits, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor until finely ground
  4. Add pecans and butter. Combine.
  5. Transfer crumb mixture to prepared baking pan, and press into the bottom until even.

Bake until fragrant and a little firm, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together pumpkin, flour and dry spices until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, using mixer or by hand, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until combined.

Stir about a cup of the cream cheese mixture into the pumpkin mixture and stir until smooth.

Pour the remaining cream cheese mixture over your crust.

Place spoonfuls of pumpkin mixture randomly over the cream cheese. 

Using a knife, gently swirl the two together to achieve a marbled finish


Bake for 25-30mins, until centre is just set.


Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Cover and refrigerate for 4-24 hours before lifting the cheesecake out of pan and cutting. Store in the fridge until serving.


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!


Sun’s out, buns out… of my lunch box, that is. The magnificent weather had reinvigorated my quest against lunch ennui, resulting in this tasty salad.

I found the recipe that inspired me, via Pinterest, here. Feel free to substitute any of the vegetables for other root vegetables you like. I also chucked a couple of shallots in the roasting tin as I had them on hand.

Ingredients (serves four)

  • 800g (about two medium) sweet potatoes
  • 400g (one root) celeriac
  • 300g (two medium) parsnips
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1tsp fennel seeds
  • 200g washed baby spinach
  • 160g washed other leaves (I used sprouted peas)
  • 200g pomegranate seeds, or one pomegranate if you’re not lazy
  • 200g feta, cubed
  • 2 avocados
  • 50g pumpkin seeds

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
  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F)
  2. Chop all of the root vegetables into bite-sized dice. Peel if desired. I peeled the celeriac but not the sweet potato and parsnips. Place into a baking tray.
  3. Coat evenly with the olive oil and sprinkle over the fennel seeds. Place in the garlic cloves (no need to peel or chop)
  4. Bake for 20-25mins, until golden brown and tender.
  5. 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. 
  6. Cut open avocado, remove store, scoop out the meat and cut into smaller cubes. Add the avocado to the salad leaves along with crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds
  7. Heat a small saucepan, add the pumpkin seeds and a little sprinkle of salt and toast until golden.
  8. Mix the roasted roots with the salad and top the salad with toasted pumpkin seeds. Add dressing to taste.

I make this salad ahead of time for work. I put my roasted roots in a large airtight container in the fridge, with the feta, pomegranate and toasted pumpkin seeds in separate containers.

Each morning, I put the leaves in my lunchbox, topped with the roots and other ingredients. I take my dressing in a separate container and dress the salad just before eating. It’s a little more effort doing it this way, but gives a really enjoyable result.

The salad is also very nice undressed. You could add a tablespoon of honey to the vegetables before you roast them for extra flavour. 


I had a little cooking time last week, so I decided to try a recipe from the healthylicious food blog. At the moment I’m trying to watch what I eat for health and vanity reasons. According to the food tracking app I use, I don’t eat enough protein so I’ve also been trying to up my protein intake. I am a meat eater, but I seldom cook meat because it’s too much hassle. Although this is a vegetarian recipe (if you don’t wrap the eggs in prosciutto like I did), it’s pretty high in protein because of the eggs and chickpeas.

The recipe is available in full here. I didn’t make any changes apart from increasing it by 50% and swapping out some of the spices and herbs for what I had at home. I used mint instead of parsley, and paprika instead of cayenne pepper. I also used dried chickpeas rather than tinned. Oh, and I wrapped the eggs in slice of prosciutto before adding the falafel mixture. And added some sesame seeds to the breadcrumb coating. Hm, guess I made more changes than I thought!

While I did like this recipe, I would probably only make it again for a picnic or something. I need a more basic summer lunch recipe that’s closer to 30mins prep than a couple of hours. I think these would be nice with quails’ eggs too.


I would say these eggs are equally nice hot or cold. If I made them again, I would try reducing the boiling time of the eggs even more (I put the eggs into cold water, brought to the boil, turned off the heat and left in a covered pan for five minutes) to try and get a softer egg yolk. However, this would be even more of a terrifying roulette where you could end up with albumen all over your countertops. Cooking really is a pursuit only for the most extreme adrenaline junkie.

I served my eggs with a spinach, rocket, tomato and avocado salad. I also had a few tablespoons of my apple chutney to make it less dry. It would also be nice with some flavoured hummus, or beetroot dip to avoid chickpea overload.