Some Dolly Parton Musings and a Broccoli and Stilton Soup Recipe

Does anyone else struggle to spell broccoli? No? Just me then…

It’s mid March and in the UK that means it’s still effing freezing but we pretend it’s not. I popped to Asda in the week and saw some bloke loitering around the ready meal section wearing a pair of shorts. Shorts! A couple of days after the snow had cleared. We spend so long hibernating away in chunky knits and fur coats (that one’s for you Jess) that as soon as the temperature goes into double digits we want to show a bit of skin and get the limbs out. I get it. But really, it’s not shorts weather. I’m just about managing to ditch the wooly coat and swap it in for a Spring like trench but the thermal vest is going no-where fast. Welcome to 30 kids!

This in-between weather means you don’t quite want to eat the heavy stews and casseroles of winter but shudder at the thought of a salad. What am I saying? I always shudder at the thought of a salad. The beauty of this broccoli and stilton soup is that it’s warming and nourishing but vibrant and, well, it’s green. Which means spring, right? It’s also easy, cheap and a sneaky way to get some veg in.

Serves 4

What you need:

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 750ml vegetable stock (from a cube)
  • 100g stilton
  • double cream, optional

What you do:

  1. Sautee the finely chopped (or as finely chopped as I can possibly manage) onion in the oil and butter with a pinch of salt over a low heat for about 5 minutes, making sure the onion doesn’t colour too much. Pale gold is your limit here.
  2. Separate the florets from the stalks on your head of broccoli and finely chop the stalks. Add these to the onion and cook for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly, before adding the florets and cooking for 5 minutes more.
  3. Add in the vegetable stock, pop on a lid and cook for around 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Remove from the heat and blend until very smooth. This is not the time for chunky soup. I use a stick blender which makes it super easy but you could transfer to a normal blender if that’s all you have. Season with pepper, you shouldn’t need salt, then crumble in about 75g of stilton and stir to melt. Taste just to make sure I’m right on the salt, I think you’ll find I am.
  5. Serve the soup in bowls with the rest of the stilton crumbled on top and a little retro swirl of cream if that’s a bit of you. Lovely for lunch with some crusty bread or as a relaxed starter.

I had a bit of a random thought today. I had Smooth FM on and they played Dolly Parton’s Jolene. I realise I am really late to the party here, like decades, but I don’t know why she was so obsessed with Jolene. I mean, yeah Jolene should know better but come on Dolly, its your waste of space man you should be singing about. Don’t be begging Jolene not to take your man, it sounds to me like he’s already gone and you’re better off without him girl.

On the point of randomness, Dominos now have a GPS tracker on their delivery service. As if the pizza tracker wasn’t already up there with the world’s best inventions, you can now literally track your pizza from store to door. Love it.

Have a wonderful week all!

Tania x

Recipe: Pimped Up Kidney Beans

When you’re not eating meat, or at least reducing the amount of it you consume, you have to find inventive ways to add flavour to your meals. Kidney beans don’t exactly evoke the same mouth-watering emotions that bacon rashers sizzling in a pan do, but they’re good for you and can be made quite sexy with a bit of special treatment. I learnt the trick of frying kidney beans from Jamie Oliver and now always cook my beans this way. They burst open, their deep maroon skins making way for their fluffy, pale interior, allowing them to take on any other flavours that you add to the pan. These are a great addition to a grain bowl or to chuck into any other recipe that needs a bit of extra pizzazz.

Serves 2-4 depending on what you’re eating them with

What you need:

  • 1 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Generous pinch of smoked sea salt (use normal salt if you must)

What you do:

  1. Easy one this. Heat up the oil in the pan and add the kidney beans, stirring and sizzling for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, tomato puree and spices, stir well, and cook for a few minutes more.
  2. Add the maple syrup and smoked sea salt and make sure the beans are well coated in all the flavourings and are heated through. Sprinkle with a bit of parsley or coriander to make them look more Instagrammable.

20160617_150456.jpg

Bish. Bash. Bosh. Beans.Yum.

 

What I Ate In A Day #10 – Vegan Edition

As part of vegan week on The Gammon Kitchen, I figured it only right that I take you along for the ride and share everything I eat in a day on a vegan diet. I’m halfway through my trial and I’m feeling tired, grumpy and in desperate need of a McDonalds. I kind of want to give up but I’m not going to. I’m just eagerly waiting for the day when I bound out of bed full of vigour with wonderful glowing skin and a new found zest for life. Please God, let it be soon.

Breakfast today was of the liquid variety. I made my chocolate and peanut butter milkshake that was featured on my blog earlier in the year, but used cashew butter rather than peanut and coconut milk rather than almond. Anything goes really. It was delicious and set me up for the day.

20160609_084857.jpg

The 11am slump was fixed by a few dates. Ugly little things aren’t they? Medjool dates are amazing, like soft, chewy toffees. They’re more expensive than other varieties but totally worth it.

20160609_104529.jpg

I’ve been making the most of leftovers for my lunches and today was a classic example. It’s great to have a fridge full of things that you can just throw together to create a pick’n’mix lunch bursting with flavour and nutrients. Today was brown rice, roasted vegetables (peppers, onions and courgettes), garlic and herb roasted sweet potatoes and some homemade spicy, smoky humous (made smoky by smoked sea salt – AH-MAY-ZING.)

20160609_122704.jpg

I snacked on some fruit between lunch and dinner. Doughnut peaches, or flat peaches as they’re sometimes called, are my favourite fruits ever. I had a plum too but ate it without thinking so didn’t take a photo.

20160609_194354.jpg

The biggest hurdle I’ve faced during this trial is having time each night to cook a healthy meal, prepare my lunch and tidy up all the mess made along the way. It’s hard. I can’t just order a pizza now and it means every night is chore night. Tonight I decided to go for the easy option. I’d bought some ready made bean burgers in my weekly food shop to have on stand by for when this day came so we had those with oven chips, homemade guacamole and a bit of salad. It’s the first night Tyler and I have had the same dinner since I started my vegan journey. The bean burgers were alright but I probably could have made better myself.

20160609_191649.jpg

As an evening snack I had a slice of wholemeal bread, toasted and spread with cashew, cinnamon and honey butter and topped with a sliced banana. Snack heaven.

20160609_205122 (1).jpg

 

I ate a little more today than I have been to see if it would help my energy levels. Here’s hoping! I love having such colourful, vibrant meals and I’m not really missing meat (apart from that McDonalds craving) but I would give an arm for a bit of cheese now and then.

Recipe: Chickpea, Spinach and Potato Curry

I’m not one of those people who need to have meat in every dinner and am quite happy with a veg based meal. Vegan though, now that’s new to me. I haven’t struggled to come up with suitable recipes (yet) but it is a bit of a ball ache to have to remember what I can and can’t eat. I would normally finish my homemade curry with butter and maybe a little bit of cream if the mood took me. The results without are still incredibly delicious (actually this was one of the best curries I’ve made) but it’s just a chore to remember. I had a store-bought naan bread ready and waiting to be dunked in only to find it contained milk. Devastated is not the word.

So this curry is completely vegan and still very very yummy. The ingredients list looks long but is mostly spices which you may already have on hand. If not, feel free to use a curry powder or ready made spice mix.

Serves 2-3

What you need:

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 4 small waxy potatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 150g baby spinach

What you do:

  1. Heat the coconut oil up in a large pan and add the sliced onion and diced potatoes, frying them off for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes before tipping in the tin of chickpeas and all the spices, stirring well.
  2. Now, add the tinned tomatoes and use the tin to transfer the same amount of water to the pan. Season well with salt and pepper and add the maple syrup. Cover and cook for around 20 minutes.
  3. Next, add the tin of coconut milk and stir well to combine. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. When done, add the spinach, stir well and check for seasoning. Serve with rice and a dollop of mango chutney. And a vegan naan bread if you can find one.

20160607_193621.jpg

This is a mild, sweet, creamy curry but still has so much flavour. You can of course turn up the heat by adding more chilli if you prefer your curries this way, but I like mine to leave the taste buds dancing rather than having to down a glass of milk just to get through the pain. Non-dairy milk obvs.

20160607_193854.jpg

 

Recipe: Courgetti with Pesto Chicken, Mushrooms and Goat’s Cheese

Don’t hate me for owning a spiralizer, I’ve not completely lost my mind and travelled over to the dark side of the clean eating brigade. I just don’t like to be left out of any trend so obviously had to purchase this weird little device that makes noodles out of vegetables. I’ve had it since last year and have only used it a few times, but I can honestly say that I do rather like courgetti, or in other words courgette that’s been made to look like spaghetti pasta. If you don’t have a spiralizer fear not for you can now buy courgetti in large supermarkets, such is now the trend. Alternatively, you can use a vegetable peeler to create ribbons from your courgette, which is just as lovely. Whatever magic you create with your courgette, this recipe is a delicious way to increase your veg intake with lovely summery flavours.

Serves 2

What you need:

  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp green pesto
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 slices of soft goat’s cheese
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

What you do:

  1. Start by fashioning your courgettes into ribbons or noodles using whatever tools you have. I have the handheld type of spiralizer that leads to an injury every single time I use it, but makes nice long strands of courgetti. Leave these to one side but have a pan of boiling water ready.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and once hot, add the diced chicken and mushrooms. Fry off for a few minutes until they are cooked through and starting to brown, then add in the pesto and zest and juice from the lemon. Stir and cook gently to create a nice sauce for the chicken and mushrooms.
  3. Just before the chicken and mushrooms are ready, plonk your courgetti into the pan of boiling water and cook just for a minute or two to warm through. Drain very well and place in to two waiting serving bowls. Top with the pesto coated chicken and mushrooms then immediately add a slice of goats cheese and a scattering of toasted pine nuts over the top. Drizzle any pesto juices from the pan artistically around the plate to make it look a bit spesh.

20160505_191748.jpg20160505_191805.jpg

The goat’s cheese will melt into the chicken and mushrooms and provide a welcome tang against the earthiness of the herby pesto. The crunch from the pine nuts works great with the soft courgette. This is a lovely, well balanced dinner perfect for a warm summer evening.

Injury count: 1 – I got my thumb caught in the spiralizer which led to screaming, crying and a bloody mess in the kitchen. But I got lots of attention afterwards which always makes an injury worth it.

Recipe: Berry Rose Smoothie

Sometimes I struggle to fit some fruit into my daily diet. This is where smoothies come in as they are a quick and easy way to get some of the good stuff in. A Nutri Ninja isn’t just for Oreo Milkshakes you know. (Although they are, indeed, incredibly good.) The rose water in this smoothie just adds a touch of the exotic and makes the summer berries seem even more sweet and fragrant.

Serves 1

What you need:

  • 5 heaped tablespoons of frozen mixed berries
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 200ml milk

What you do:

  1. Chuck all of the ingredients into a blender and whizz away until it is smooth and creamy. Drink right away when it’s wonderfully cold.

20160502_124907.jpg

This is a good smoothie recipe to have as we go into the summer months and makes a wonderful light breakfast.

Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Sweet Potato Bowl

When you’re eating for one it can be tempting to reach for a loaf of bread and head straight to the toaster, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but Marmite on toast isn’t the most exciting dinner now is it? I quite like just cooking for me, it means I can eat what ever I want and don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone else. This recipe is perfect for solitary eating. It doesn’t take long to make, tastes great and begs to be eaten from the sofa whilst watching trashy TV.

Serves 1

What you need:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • a large handful of greens (I used shredded Spring greens but you can use any kind of cabbage, kale or spinach)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese

What you do:

  1. Boil the sweet potato cubes in salted water until they are very soft. This will take about 15 minutes if you cut the potatoes small enough, just check them.
  2. If your greens are a little tough, blanch them in boiling water for a minute to soften, then drain. This is what I did with my Spring greens but you wouldn’t need to if you used a softer leaf such as spinach.
  3. Slice your bacon into thin strips. Heat the oil in a pan and add the bacon strips along with the garlic and cook until the bacon is gloriously crispy. Add your greens and stir fry them with the bacon to combine.
  4. Once your sweet potatoes are soft and cooked through, drain them then add the teaspoon of butter and most of the parmesan and mash until you have a smooth mixture free from lumps.
  5. Transfer your mash into a nice serving bowl and top with the bacon and greens mix. Add the last little sprinkling of parmesan and dive in.

20160308_161440.jpg

This is warming and comforting but still a bit healthy. You can change it up to suit your mood too so is a great recipe to play with. A fried or poached egg on top would be wonderful.