Recipe: Naughty Watermelon Slushie

‘Why is it naughty?’ I hear you ask. Well, this isn’t your everyday slushie, oh no, for this one has booze in it. It’s time to deny the kids and have some fun yourselves. Pull out a deck chair, relax in the garden as the sun sets and wind down your weekend in style.

Serves 1

What you need:

  • About 8 cubes of frozen watermelon
  • 1 tbsp sugar syrup
  • 1 shot of Malibu or other alcohol of choice

What you do:

  1. Sling the ingredients into a blender and whizz up until you have a thick, icy slush. Pour into a cocktail glass, chuck in a straw and enjoy.

How easy was that?

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July Roundup

July. The month that felt like the early 2000s with everyone talking about Pokemon and Blink 182. Not me though. I’ve been harping on about Celebrity Masterchef, the lack of decent strawberries in the supermarkets and how summer just doesn’t feel like summer when you don’t have a 6 week holiday.

Oh the good old days of school when life’s biggest worries were getting a ladder in your tights or not having a boyfriend like all the cool kids. I thought my teenage years were such a struggle. I knew nothing. I used to come home every day to my bed made, a home made dinner on the table and my washing done and ironed for me. Now, I come home to a messy house at whatever time the traffic allows and have to engage the brain enough not to mix my dinner up with the cat’s. I tried a cat treat once. It was a terrible, terrible mistake.

I’ve made some damn good food in July, though I do say so myself. I’ve recapped all of this month’s posts below in case you missed any or want to have a re-read.

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Recipe: King Prawn Linguine / Recipe: Steak’n’Stuff / Recipe: American Pancakes with Bacon / What I Ate In A Day #11 / Recipe: Masterchef Style Smoked Haddock / Top 5 Must Have Cook Books For Eating Well / Recipe: Peanut Butter Brownies / Recipe Review: Gordon Ramsay’s Bread and Butter Pudding / Recipe: Chicken Tikka Salad / How to be a Better Cook in 5 Easy Steps

See you in August!

How To Be A Better Cook in 5 Easy Steps

Want to impress your mates next time they come over to eat? Have a desire to prove to your family that you are indeed the best cook of them all? Well, look no further friends for here is how to become a better cook in just 5 easy peasy steps.

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1. Get to know the lingo. Don’t know your al dente from your al forno? Well, get to know. Talking the talk is everything in this game and even if your food sucks, you can convince people that it doesn’t by explaining it in the right way. Try saying things like ‘for dinner today we have goujons of cod in a spiced panko crumb on a bed of whipped pea puree served with crispy potatoes’ instead of ‘here’s your fish fingers, chips and mushy peas’. By the time they’ve worked out what they’re eating you will be telling them what’s for pudding and they’ll have no time to process how dreadful it was.

2. Similar to the above, you can fool people into thinking they are eating good food if you make it look nice. The key here is to arm yourself with some seriously oversized plates and bowls. Drizzle some kind of sauce on the plate then put everything in neat little piles and always work in threes or fives. Odd numbers of things just look more aesthetically pleasing.

3. Convince yourself. When creating your masterpieces in the kitchen, channel your inner alter ego. If you want to be Nigella you be Nigella. Go squeeze yourself into a tight little dress, put on a pair of killer heels and a slick of lipstick and make sure you turn everything you say into a slutty innuendo. Lick the spoon playfully whilst winking at the non existent camera and own it. Your chocolate mousse may very well taste like crap but you looked good making it and anyone that sees how much effort you put in will surely pretend it tastes good too.

4. Practice. Good cooks don’t just turn great over night. They have to work at it. So even if you just pick one dish to perfect that’s fine. Yes, everyone that comes into your home will have to try your brownies, but hey, by their fifth visit they may actually get something good and surely that’s progress. Keep going!

5. Lastly, and this is an important one, don’t let anyone criticise you. Maybe your dad will say that his chicken was raw in the middle or the mashed potato was lumpy, but just brush it off. You don’t work this hard just to get negative feedback so don’t let it affect you. It’s perfectly fine to argue with dinner guests should they challenge your cooking skills (though really they shouldn’t if you have correctly followed steps 1-4) but if they do just give them a firm warning that they won’t be invited back.

I really hope this helps turn you from a mediocre cook into a great cook, like me!*

*this is a joke. Kind of.

Recipe: Chicken Tikka Salad

Sometimes you just want something light for dinner, especially when the weather is so warm, but the thought of a salad can be depressing. This is where you need to up your game and inject some funky flavours and textures into your salad to make it exciting and exotic. This is a great weeknight recipe as it can be ready in around 15 minutes and is easy to eat in front of the TV should you want to.

Serves 2

What you need:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into bitesized pieces
  • 3 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 1 tbsp tikka seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp mint sauce
  • 1 pepper, cut into bitesized pieces
  • 1 red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 handfuls of mixed salad leaves
  • a few slices of cucumber
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 ready to eat poppadoms

What you do:

  1. Put your chicken breasts into a bowl along with one tablespoon of yogurt, a good squeeze of lemon, the garlic, the tikka seasoning and some salt. Stir well and leave this to marinate for as long as you have. 10 minutes is better than nothing but overnight is best.
  2. Mix together the remaining two tablespoons of yogurt with another squeeze of lemon, the mint sauce and some salt and leave this to one side to drizzle on the salad later.
  3. Heat up the oil in a frying pan and add in the pepper and onions, tossing regularly and cooking until they start to char. Remove these from the pan and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, cook the chicken pieces, turning regularly and scraping any marinade from the pan to coat the chicken. Let the chicken catch slightly to give a lovely flavour.
  5. To assemble, put 2 handfuls of salad leaves into each waiting bowl then top with some cucumber. Sprinkle over the warm peppers and onions then add the chicken slices. Drizzle over some of the mint yogurt sauce then top with a crushed poppadom each and a sprinkling of spring onion before finishing with a little more sauce if you like.

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Enjoy!

Recipe Review: Gordon Ramsay’s Bread and Butter Pudding

I haven’t stopped going on about this since I made it. And ate the whole thing. Yes, just me, a spoon and a smile permanently fixed on my face as I devoured the whole scrummy lot along with some cold double cream. Even then it wasn’t enough. It still isn’t enough and I’m waiting for my next opportunity to make another batch.

Gordon’s recipe uses sliced pain au chocolat but I don’t like chocolate with dried fruit and I just wanted to be hit with cinnamon, sugar and creaminess without nuggets of chocolate getting in my way. Never though I’d say that! Nigella has an amazing recipe for chocolate chip bread pudding that I will go to for when I want such a thing.

I’ve adapted Gordon’s recipe quite a bit so what follows is my version. You can find his original in his Ultimate Cookery Course book.

Serves 4 generously (or 1, if you’re me)

What you need:

  • 12 thin slices of brioche bread
  • 50g soft butter
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 2 small handfuls of sultanas
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 60ml double cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

What you do:

  1. Cut your brioche slices into half diagonally to make triangles and generously butter one side of each triangle. Pile the bread into a bowl and leave to one side.
  2. Grease a pie dish (big enough to hold all the bread tightly) and sprinkle over one tablespoon of the demerara sugar and one tablespoon of the ground cinnamon.
  3. Next, make the custard by whisking together the milk, cream, eggs, vanilla, one tablespoon of the sugar and a little more cinnamon. Now pour half of this into the bowl where your bread is sitting and allow it to sit for a minute or two.
  4. To compile your pudding, lay slices of the bread with their pointy corners sticking up out of the dish and sprinkle in some sultanas as you go, pushing the bread together. When all the bread is used up, pour on the rest of the custard mixture, making sure it gets into all the crevices. Sprinkle over the remaining cinnamon and last two tablespoons of demerara sugar then bake in an oven set to 180°c for 35-40 minutes until set and golden. Leave to rest for a little while before eating unless you have a fire resistant mouth.

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Bread and Butter pudding should have a crunchy sugary top and be rich, creamy and luxurious beneath with lots of flavour from the spice and fruit. This delivers in every possible way. It may not be the prettiest pudding in the world but some of the ugliest things can be delicious. Just writing this up makes me want to get into the kitchen and get me some bread and butter pudding on the go. Enjoy!

Recipe: Peanut Butter Brownies

Brownies are one of my most favourite things to eat and are also one of the easiest things to make. If you’re a kitchen novice or don’t have a successful track record in the baking department, give these a go. They are squishy, gooey and super chocolatey. You can either serve them warm by way of a dessert or have them at room temperature with a nice cup of tea as an afternoon pick me up.

I can’t take full credit for the recipe as actually I’ve only adapted one that I’ve been using for years. The basis of my recipe comes from Lorraine Pascal’s Cookie and Cream Fudge Brownie recipe in the Baking Made Easy cookbook. These are brownies with crushed Oreo biscuits baked in to them and are a revelation. I’ve made them so many times and they’re always successful but I wanted to try something different so I’ve adapted the recipe to remove the biscuits and replace them with spoonfuls of peanut butter.

Makes 16

What you need:

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter

What you do:

  1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with foil and pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pan on a low heat. Once it has melted, add the chopped chocolate, stir to combine then remove from the heat and leave to sit to allow the chocolate to melt completely.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the 3 whole eggs with the 2 yolks and the vanilla until light and fluffy. Once you reach the right stage of fluffiness, add the sugar half at a time, whisking well between additions. Keep whisking until the mixture stiffens.
  4. Now, add the melted chocolate and butter mixture and stir well.
  5. Spoon in the flour and cocoa powder and fold the mixture until everything is evenly combined. Pour this into your prepared tin.
  6. Take small dollops of peanut butter and place them evenly on top of the brownie mixture, then use a flat knife to swirl the dollops into the chocolate batter. Bake for around 25-30 minutes.
  7. Once the brownies are cooked but still gooey in the centre, remove them from the oven and leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Cut into squares when cool and give them to your friends or eat them all yourself, I’m not bothered.

You can serve them up all fancy shmancy style on a plate that’s far too big with some raspberries, icing sugar and double cream if you like. Or you can just eat them.

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Top 5 Must Have Cook Books for Eating Well

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – I’m obsessed with cookbooks. I just love them. I love reading them, I love cooking from them, I love licking their pages, wait, no, that wasn’t supposed to come out. Whether they’re healthy books, naughty books, books with pictures, books without, from celebrity chefs or complete unknowns, I want them all. And I have quite a few. You can see my complete cookbook collection here.

I go through stages with what I like to eat. Sometimes, if I’m honest, I don’t want to cook at all and I neglect my bookshelves in favour of the local Chinese menu. Those times are always short lived though and I find myself desperate to get back into the kitchen with a few books after a short spell away. I might want to dig out my Nigella collection and whip up something homely and comforting or I might turn to Jamie to excite my tastebuds. I have a whole shelf of what I refer to as ‘healthy’ cookbooks, those that make me want to eat better and nourish my body, and I am often drawn to these after one too many takeaways. I’m going to share with you the books that you simply need in your life to help you eat better.

Deliciously Ella and Deliciously Ella Everyday – Ella Woodward

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I have already gushed about these books elsewhere on the blog but there’s a reason for that. They’re amazing. Ella has a way of making nutritious, amazing ingredients come to life on the page and her recipes are really delicious. Whenever I’m having a ‘I need to eat better’ meltdown the morning after the pizza before, I turn to these books for inspiration and guidance. They’re in no way preachy and make even unusual methods or ingredients feel ordinary and accessible. I love that these books are vegan and gluten free so I always have options for when I need to cater for fussy people or if I’m having a super healthy moment. I wrote a more in depth review of Ella’s second book if you want to read that here.

Must Try Recipe: Raw Brownies from Deliciously Ella and Spiced Sweet Potato Stew from Deliciously Ella Every Day

Lean in 15 – Joe Wicks

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This is a bit of a geezer of a cookbook, a bit rough and ready with little refinement but the recipes are so simple and really tasty. Joe’s bish-bash-bosh approach to cooking is infectious and I find myself imitating his style as I cook. The idea of the book is that the recipes and workouts (can’t comment on those sadly) can all be achieved within 15 minutes so this is a great option for those pushed for time. The book is pretty basic in terms of design but the recipes are clear and I really think anyone could do them. I don’t rate this book particularly highly for how it looks on my bookshelf but it’s reliable and I know I can cook something tasty from it. I do wish Joe wouldn’t constantly refer to broccoli as midget trees though, it may be cute from a 4 year old girl but from a grown man with an amazing six pack it’s just a bit weird.

Must Try Recipe: In-A-Hurry Curry Fried Rice

Eating Well Made Easy – Lorraine Pascal

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I love to watch Lorraine on TV and her baking skills are amazing. I was super happy when she bought out a cookbook filled with nutritious, healthy recipes. Some of the recipes in the book are for the slightly more experienced cook but there are also some ridiculously easy entries so you can start with those and build up if you want to. I love the photography, typography and layout of this book, it’s very visually pleasing and makes for a great read. There’s lots of little health facts dotted throughout the recipes so you feel like you’re leaning about how the food will nourish your body as you cook and eat it.

Must Try Recipe: Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins or the Paprika and Cumin Spiced Prawn Lunch Box Rice Salad (I couldn’t choose between them!)

15 Minute Meals – Jamie Oliver

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This isn’t necessarily advertised as a healthy eating cookbook but the recipes do focus on calorie control and a balanced diet and contain lots of fruit and veg. Jamie bought out his Superfood cookbook last year and although I like that one, I prefer 15 Minute meals. The recipes in this book are so flavoursome and interesting to eat and make. Although the recipes are meant to be created within 15 minutes, I do think that’s only going to be the case for the very experienced cook and even then you have to be incredibly organised with your head in the game. They’re also not as simple as the 15 minute meals from Joe Wicks. Regardless of that, the meals are still not difficult and Jamie has a way of gently encouraging you out of your comfort zone. Beware though, some of the recipe presentation leaves a lot to be desired.

Must Try Recipe: Glazed Pork Fillet with Cajun Style Pepper Rice and BBQ Sauce

Although I’m not going to be getting rid of any of my cookbooks any time soon, or ever to be more precise, I feel that I could live with these 5 quite happily for a while. There’s recipes to cover all meal times, all taste buds and all occasions whilst still fuelling your body with the good stuff, which isn’t always the case with cookbooks. Hopefully I’ve given you some ideas of books to buy, do let me know if you think any others should have made my top 5!

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