Nectarine, Blueberry and Mascarpone Pancakes

It’s nearly pancake day! I really enjoy pancake day, its a nice way to brighten up a gloomy February and use up a few things lying around in your cupboards. These pancakes are a departure from my usual crepe style pancake with lemon and sugar, but they are delicious, colourful and good fun to make. The recipe makes around 5-6 pancakes, so a big stack for 2 people to share!


Shopping List


 For the pancakes:

130g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 a tsp salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

130ml milk

1 large egg

2 tbsp melted butter, plus extra for cooking

For the Mascarpone:

2 tbsp mascarpone

1/2 tsp honey

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

For the toppings:

1 nectarine

a handful of blueberries

1 tbsp light brown sugar


Method


To make the pancakes, sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl and add the salt. Beat together the milk, egg and melted butter in a jug with a fork, then pour into the bowl. Beat together with a fork until you have a smooth batter with no lumps.

To prepare the mascarpone, mix together the mascarpone, cinnamon, nutmeg and honey and set aside.

To prepare the toppings, cut the nectarine into 8 wedges, place in a bowl and sprinkle with brown sugar, then set aside.

To cook the pancakes, put a frying pan on a medium heat and add a knob of butter to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add 2 tablespoons of batter to the pan. When bubbles start to appear on the surface of the pancake, it’s time to flip it! If the pancake splatters its mixture, just tuck it back into the pancake using a fish slice or spoon. The pancake only takes a couple of minutes each side so be careful not to let it catch!

The pancake should have risen to about 1.5cm and be light brown and fluffy. Keep pancakes on a low heat in the oven while you cook the rest of the batter.

To serve, spread a little mascarpone on each pancake, and stack them and top with the remaining mascarpone. Add the nectarine and blueberries, and drizzle with a little of the nectarine and sugary juice.

17005863_10212378775772816_294047429_n

Ras el Hanout Roasted Cauliflower and Cous Cous Salad

This month I’ve been particularly enjoying cooking with cauliflower, it’s meaty in texture and really versatile. Back in July whilst on my River Cottage veg course I made some pan fried muergez cauliflower that I absolutely loved, but since then I’ve somewhat neglected this tasty veg in favour of pumpkins, squash and courgettes. However, I’ve been loving roasted cauliflower with warm spices like ras el hanout, cauliflower carmelises wonderfully and is delicious in salads and curries. This salad recipe is great both hot and cold, I’ve been taking it for my lunch and it lasts really well in the fridge.


Shopping List


1 cauliflower plus the leaves

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

250g cous cous

1 red onion

a handful of fresh parsley

a handful of fresh coriander

the seeds of 1 pomegranate

the juice of 2 lemons

a good glug of cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons of sumac

salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive oil


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Slice the leaves off the cauliflower and then slice into 3cm strips then spread on a baking tray. Break the cauliflower into florets and spread on a separate baking tray. Season both parts of the cauliflower with salt and pepper and toss in the olive oil. sprinkle over the ras el hanout and toss to cover the veg. Roast for 30 minutes until the cauliflower has caught slightly and is nice and tender. The leaves may need to come out sooner, you’re looking for the middles to be tender but the leaves not to be too crispy.

16831272_10212320530516721_577636503_n

While your cauliflower is in the oven, you can cook the cous cous and prep the rest of the ingredients. Put the cous cous into a bowl and cover with 250ml boiling water. Put a plate over the bowl and leave to steam for 5 minutes. Remove the plate and use a fork to run along the surface of the cous cous, using a medium pressure, to scrape off layers. This makes the grains nice and separated and fluffy.

Finely chop the red onion, coriander and parsley and add to the cous cous. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and add to the salad.

16839384_10212320529996708_1060635679_n

Once the cauliflower has cooked, leave to cool for a few minutes, then add to the salad.

To make the dressing, mix the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and sumac together with a fork. Season to taste, adding more lemon, vinegar or oil where you see fit. You want the dressing to nicely cover the salad without making it too wet.

Add the dressing to the salad, then serve! This does 4-5 servings as a lunch, so I keep mine in a big bowl in the fridge to eat throughout the week. Alternatively, you could serve it as a side dish for 5-6 people with some grilled halloumi or as part of a tasty mezze.

16900089_10212320524996583_74559644_n

Dinner Parties and Cooking for Friends: Tips for Students

I absolutely love cooking for my friends and family, there’s nothing quite like sitting down to a tasty meal with plenty to drink and some  of your favourite people around you. Cooking for others is such a satisfying and enjoyable thing to do, one that your friends too will appreciate (I hope) and may even offer to help wash up at the end! However, I realise that cooking for a large group of hungry people can be daunting, so I’ve put together some of my top tips for student dinner parties or just cooking a meal for smaller groups of friends or family.


img_9845


 Plan ahead, this is a big one. Make sure you know your audience, double check with your friends that no one is secretly allergic to anything, who is following any specific free-from diet, and any religious dietary requirements. Decide on what you are going to cook a few days before, checking your cupboards for any forgotten ingredients that could use to spice up your chosen dish. Create a list and head to the shops with a budget in mind- it’s so easy to get carried away when you’re cooking for someone other than yourself!

Keep it simple, I like to serve my food family-style, usually in the pots in which the food is cooked (less washing up) with serving spoons for everyone to help themselves. This style of serving lends itself to one-pot dishes that can be made ahead of the meal, such as chillies, curries, casseroles and risottos. Although none of these seem like spectacular culinary efforts, they are crowd pleasers and the ease of cooking them will mean that you will enjoy the company of your guests and will not be confined to the kitchen. I recommend a one pot dish with a few interesting sides where you can get a bit more creative.

Split the cost, cooking for others can get expensive if there’s a large crowd. Ask your friends beforehand if they’d mind chipping in a little for ingredients, if you’re cooking for 6 and each person provides £3 then you’ve got almost £20 to create your feast, which is more than enough for a delicious meal. Alternatively, split the cost of booze, bread and dessert by asking your guests to provide these for you so all you have to worry about is buying the ingredients for the main course. Although dinner parties can be seen as an expensive luxury, a few cans of tomatoes and chickpeas with some supermarket basic pitta bread and yoghurt can create a tasty spread for very little cost that everyone can enjoy together.

Rally the troops, if the idea of cooking an entire meal for a large group all by yourself is particularly daunting, then delegate! Round up your friends, family, or housemates to be your sous chefs. Having everyone in the same room can make the cooking a more relaxing experience and is a great excuse to get the drinks/party started early. Delegate jobs such as peeling, chopping and mixing that can be easily done with no pressure or kitchen bossiness from the head chef (that’s you!).

Consider your environment, make sure you have enough plates, wine glasses, tumblers, jugs, serving dishes and boards for whomever and whatever you are cooking. If you haven’t got enough, ask your friends to bring theirs or, if you’re not feeling fancy, use mugs! Candles are always nice, and fairy lights too. Setting the table nicely will show off what you’ve cooked and give the meal a sense of being special.

Cook what you love, whilst it’s important to keep in mind what your guests might want to eat for their dinner, as well as any special requests and requirements, but make sure that you cook what you enjoy cooking. If you hate waiting for sauces to simmer then make a fresh, zingy pasta dish, if you hate stirring things on the hob then create an entirely oven baked menu, it’s up to you!  Have fun and enjoy yourself and your friends will too.


Here are some of my recipes that would be perfect for cooking for a crowd- just increase the quantities!

Chickpea Tagine with Orange Rice

Creamy Vegetable Curry

Caribbean Sweet Potato and Bean Curry with Wild Rice

Butternut Squash Pasta Bake with Thyme

Cheddar and Leek Risotto

Vegetable Goulash

Chickpea, Coconut and Almond Curry

Lemon, Basil and Courgette Tagliatelle

This recipe is really quick and easy, perfect for a midweek dinner. I love the courgette and lemon combination, although you may have trouble getting the courgettes needed for this recipe due to the Spanish vegetable crisis! This is also a really easy recipe to make for one, a whole courgette seems like a lot for one meal, but the courgette cooks down once grated and it just makes the dish really filling and delicious. You could also add a spoonful of pesto for extra flavour!  Serve with a peppery watercress salad with parmesan cheese.


Shopping List


Serves 1

1 courgette, grated

1 shallot, finely chopped

juice of 1 lemon

a few leaves of fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

enough tagliatelle to serve 1


Method


Heat the olive oil on a medium heat in a frying pan. Add the shallot and garlic, cook for 5 minutes, not letting them brown too much. Add the courgette stir for a couple of minutes, then add the lemon juice and basil.

The courgette only takes a few minutes to cook, so once the juice has been soaked up by the veg, remove the pan from the heat. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and add to the pan of courgette, use tongs to toss the pasta and season to taste.

Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and garnish with fresh basil and black pepper.

img_9269

Cheddar and Leek Risotto

Risotto is a lovely, comforting dish to cook in colder months. This one is a little bit ‘Nigel Slater’ inspired, using mostly traditionally British ingredients such as onions, leeks, cheddar and chives for a lovely creamy risotto. You can use the basic recipe of butter, oil, rice, celery, onion and cheese as a base for other variations, such as a more traditional risotto Milanese or just add whichever veg or cheese is your favourite. Although I like eating this with some healthy dark greens such as kale or cavolo nero, a bit of spelt or sourdough bread wouldn’t go amiss either!


Shopping List


Serves 2

1 white onion, finely chopped

60g finely sliced celery

80g finely sliced leeks

200g arborio risotto rice

a splash of sherry

100g cheddar cheese

10g fresh chopped chives

2 large knobs of butter

1 litre good vegetable stock, such as bouillon

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper


Method


Heat a large non stick saucepan on a medium-low heat, once hot, add the oil and 1 knob of butter. Once melted, add the onion, celery and leek. Sweat the vegetables, but do not let them get brown or caramelised.

16343644_10212084360292613_1733454632_n

Once the veg has sweated for about 10 minutes and the mixture is translucent and soft, add the rice. Stir for a couple of minutes, coating the rice in the buttery mixture. Add a splash of sherry, stirring the rice until all the liquid has gone.

Then add the vegetable stock, a ladle at a time. Only add the next ladle of stock once the previous one has been soaked up by the rice. This is really important and ensures a great texture and creaminess for your finished risotto.

Once all the vegetable stock as been added, add the cheese, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and season as you like, then add the remaining butter and chopped chives.

Serve with some dark green veg, my favourite is cavolo nero!

16358557_10212084359652597_1540091143_n

Ginger and Yoghurt Baked Cheesecake

I love the flavours in this cheesecake, ginger and yoghurt has been one of my favourite flavour combinations this week and it makes a great refreshing yet indulgent dessert. The stem ginger in this recipe is an optional step, if you want extra ginger-y-ness I would recommend, but if you want a more mild cheesecake, then leave it out. This recipe is great, however it does require 2 hours oven time and overnight chilling, you have been warned!


Shopping List


200g ginger nut biscuits

75g unsalted butter, melted

35g fresh ginger, very finely chopped

600g full fat soft cheese

150g full fat greek yoghut

250g golden caster sugar

3 medium eggs

zest and juice of 1 lemon

50g plain flour

optional: 300g of stem ginger in syrup


Method


Heat the oven to 120 degrees and grease and line a 20cm springform loose bottomed tin with baking paper. Crush the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin in a sandwich bag. Add the melted butter and fresh ginger and stir, then press into the cake tin with the back of a spoon until compacted. Keep in the fridge until needed.

In a separate bowl use an electric whisk to beat the soft cheese with the sugar. Next beat in the yoghurt then the eggs one at a time. Finally beat in the lemon zest, lemon juice and flour.

Optional step: Empty the stem ginger and a few spoonfuls of the syrup into a food processor and blitz until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Fold through the cheesecake mix for extra ginger-y-ness!

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, don’t be worried if the cake is still wobbly in the middle, this is normal and your cake will firm up in the fridge! After 45 minutes to an hour on 120 degrees, leave the cake to cool in the oven turned off for a further hour, then chill overnight in the fridge.

Remove from the tin and serve chilled with a tart berry or white chocolate sauce.

16295633_10212046311781424_1771467464_n

16244318_10212046311221410_155033535_nThis recipe is adapted from a BBC good food recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1940698/baked-raspberry-and-lemon-cheesecake-

Vegetable Goulash

One-pot casserole dishes are one of my favourite things to cook on a busy weeknight. They are easy to make, don’t use too many bits of kitchen equipment and are lovely and warming for chilly January nights. If you know me well, you may have noticed I have included MUSHROOMS in this recipe, which is a first! I really believe in trying things all the time to see if your taste preferences have changed, and I’ve been trying hard to incorporate mushrooms into my cooking in the last week or so, and I’m particularly happy with their inclusion in this recipe. You can use any left over vegetables in your fridge for this one, or even lentils instead of beans! It’s well worth investing in a nice smoked paprika for this dish and lots of my other recipes, the flavour is worth spending a little more more, and its a really versatile spice to have on hand.

Shopping List


1 red onion

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

a handful of green beans, top and tailed

a handful of button mushrooms, finely sliced

1/2 a can of butter beans

1/2 a can of chopped tomatoes

250ml hot vegetable stock

1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

1 teaspoon each dill seeds and cumin seeds

a splash of red wine

salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil


Method


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and then add the onion. Fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onions are soft, then add the garlic, cumin seeds, dill seeds and paprika.  Fry for a further 10 minutes. Add the green beans, butter beans and mushrooms and stir to combine.

Add the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock and turn the heat down low. Season with salt and pepper and add the splash of red wine. Bubble away on a low heat for 30-35 minutes until the sauce has reduced and you’re left with a nice soupy consistency.

Serve with rice, mashed potato or crusty bread with a large dollop of soured cream and a sprinkling of paprika.

16117353_10211966724991804_2143273202_n