Roast lamb chops with Mediterranean vegetables: Less washing-up, more cooking!

This post is dedicated to those of us who love cooking, but hate the washing up that comes with this. This could be because you do not have a dishwasher or simply hate the task of having to load and unload one… either way I won’t judge. Regardless, the point of this recipe is that it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time to prepare or cook, and after some chopping and seasoning everything can be cooked together on one tray, thus reducing the amount of washing up that has to be done afterwards. If you are really averse to washing up, or just carbs, you can even omit the potatoes (which need to be par-boiled in a separate pan before joining the rest of the vegetables and meat on a roasting tray).

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients: One red pepper, one medium/large aubergine, one courgette, a few sprigs of washed thyme and rosemary, one large red onion, about 10 new potatoes, 5 cloves garlic, two lamb chops, a few chopped cherry tomatoes with a sprinkling of chopped basil for garnish (optional),1 tbsp crumbled feta (optional).

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The method:

1). Preheat your oven at gas mark 6. Leave your lamb outside of the fridge on a plate for about 20 minutes or until it gets to room temperature.

2). Prepare the lamb. Peel and chop two cloves of garlic. Remove the leaves from your about two thirds of your springs of rosemary and thyme and then chop finely. Season the lamb with salt and pepper on each side. Poke holes in the lamb with a sharp knife and insert pieces of the garlic, along with a bit of your rosemary and thyme, into these holes. Coat the lamb with olive oil and rub in your remaining garlic and herb mixture into the lamb. Set aside for a moment whilst you prepare the potatoes.

3). Boil the kettle with enough water to fill the pan for boiling the potatoes. Wash and chop the potatoes into smaller pieces depending on how big they are (this will help them to cook faster). Bring the kettle water to a boil on the hob, add a pinch of salt to your pan to season the water and then add your potatoes. Cook until they are soft enough for a knife to easily slide into the potatoes. These will take around 15-20 minutes to cook.

4). Prepare your veg. Slice the aubergine widthways into ½ cm thick slices. Slice the courgettes to about the same thickness. Slice the red pepper into 2cm thick strips. Peel and slice your red onion. Peel and crush your remaining garlic cloves. Put all of these vegetables on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and add your remaining sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes.

All the veg

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5). Turn the vegetables over, and add in your lamb and potatoes and cook for a further 20 minutes. The lamb will be medium well so if you want it more medium simply cook the vegetables for longer before you add in the lamb – you could cook the lamb for around 10-12 minutes instead. (Optional – if you want, 5 minutes before the lamb is done add your feta cheese to the top of the chops, it will melt into the lamb and add an extra dash of saltiness to the dish).

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After:

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6). Serve up your lamb with the vegetables when finished.

Simples!

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner: Chicken Milanese with Toasted Almonds and Broccoli

One of the things I remember most vividly about Weekends when I was a child is Saturday afternoon lunches. This was normally the time when everyone was out and about and so an easy and quick meal was heated up to tide us over until dinnertime (which was normally spent watching Gladiators, Blind Date and Casualty #thegoodolddays). As a weekly treat we normally had Birdseye southern fried chicken breasts with chips, which made a nice change from the plain white rice and stews we normally had from Monday to Friday. Thankfully now that I am older I can rustle up my own tasty lunches, but a recent Hello Fresh meal made me really nostalgic and got me thinking about this much loved childhood Saturday lunchtime meal.

The meal in question is ‘Chicken Milanese with Toasted Almonds and Broccoli’, a carb-free and slightly healthier variation of my beloved southern fried chicken and chips. Here’s the low down on how to make it:

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts, 1 Cup Breadcrumbs, ½ Cup Crème Fraîche, 1 Lemon, 2 Cups Broccoli Florets, 2 Tbsps Flaked Almonds.

The Method:

1). Roughly chop the almonds.

2). Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of cling film and bash with a rolling pin/heavy saucepan until ½ cm thick.

3). Pour the crème fraîche into a bowl and add ¼ tsp salt and some pepper. Add ¼ tsp of lemon zest.

4). Pour the breadcrumbs into a separate bowl. Dip each chicken breast into the crème fraîche, and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Push the breadcrumbs into the chicken breast to make sure they are well coated.

5). Heat a non-stick pan on a medium/high heat. When it’s hot add the almonds and cook until golden.

6). Pre-heat the oven to a very low heat – approx 50 degrees.

7). Boil a pot of water and add a pinch of salt. Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes making sure it still has a bit of crunch to it when done. Once cooked drain and toss in a tsp of olive oil.

8). Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on a medium/high heat and cook the chicken for approx 4 minutes on each side making sure that they have turned a nice golden brown colour (Hello Fresh recommends that when cooking you should try not to shake the chicken around in the pan too much). If cooking one at a time keep them in the oven at this point to prevent them from getting cold.

9). Serve your chicken Milanese with a side of broccoli and sprinkle over the toasted almonds. Add a few lemon wedges for decoration and to add some lemon juice to the chicken.

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Chicken Milanese with Toasted Almonds and Broccoli…DONE!

Spotlight on Granger and Co: Brunch Time


Generally when it comes to finding places to eat I try to chop and change quite regularly just so that I have the chance to experience a wide array of different foods. However, sometimes you might come across a place that is so good that you want to go back time and time again, and then tell your friends and family to go there when they want a restaurant recommendation. For me this place is Granger and Co.

Granger and Co is not strictly a breakfast/brunch place, they also do proper lunch and dinner. I do, however, find that the brunch option is the best option for my budget. There are many things to love about Granger and Co. Not only is it the restaurant of notable Aussie chef Bill Granger, who is one of my favourite TV chefs of all time, but they do simple food phenomenally well. Their scrambled eggs, which are whipped to perfection and about as light as air, are quite possibly the best I have ever had. They also have a selection of unusual dishes such as broken eggs with ricotta and spinach, as well as sweet corn fritters with spinach, tomato and bacon. The real show-stopper on the brunch, in my opinion, is their ricotta pancakes with banana, maple syrup and honeycomb butter. I have been to Granger and Co a total of three times and on each occasion I have had these pancakes. Yes, they are THAT GOOD. I would go as far as to say they have an edge over Bea’s Diner for the ‘Best Pancakes in London’ title.

Delicious scrambled eggs and pancakes at Granger and Co

Ricotta pancakes close-up

Sweetcorn fritters

A distant snap of the cakes

The atmosphere

In sum, if you are looking for a tasty and inexpensive breakfast/brunch with a twist, avoid the queues and mundane food of generic chains like The Breakfast Club and head over to Granger and Co.

Back to Brighton: Spotlight on Choccywoccydoodah

After having been locked up in my room and at university for about 6 weeks on the trot I decided that I wanted to get away, FAR AWAY, yet not so far away that planning and going on a trip would stress me out even more! So, I settled on taking a short day trip with my sister to one of my favourite places: Brighton. I love Brighton because it is so small that you could probably walk the circumference of it in a day. Also, it seems to be such a hodgepodge of different personalities, ideas and influences. You could walk down a lane full of hipster cafes, thrift stores and tattoo shops and as soon as you turn into another street you could find yourself having something of an Alice in Wonderland rabbit-hole experience when you find yourself surrounded by shops as luxurious and bourgeois as Jo Malone, Shu Uemura et al. In short, Brighton is a perfect contradiction. There is something for everyone, and it never fails to excite and intrigue me.

First stop: Fish and Chips at Bardlsey’s. The cod was OK, but not particularly well seasoned, the chips were EXCELLENT and the meals were great value overall.

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Battered sausage and chips, yum!

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Second stop: Walking through the Pavilion

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On this particular journey we took our time strolling through the streets, running errands etc. We did make a pit stop through ‘The Laines’ when I stumbled across Choccywoccydoodah; a shop which my sister had told me was highly sought after in Brighton for its intricate edible chocolate figurines and models. I had seen the team from the shop in action on their show, which is very much based on another popular baking show ‘Ace of Cakes’. The show follows them around as they make elaborate celebration cakes decorated with intricate chocolate designs. About a year or two ago they opened a shop near Carnaby Street in London which I still haven’t been to, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to finally take a closer look at their work.

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The shop was tiny but the interior was well decorated. The walls and corners were overflowing with chocolate shoes, as well as rabbits and eggs in celebration of Easter. I did not feel like buying anything this time around as their chocolate was quite expensive, but I did like that they had a wide selection of chocolate including gluten and dairy-free options.

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Headless #sellfie

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This time I had a good look up close and personal, but next time I shall save up a bit and sample some of their tasty looking treats.

Until next time Brighton…

Saucy, with a chance of Meatballs.

Meatballs are one of my few (read: many) guilty pleasures. My absolute favourite is the Swedish meatball, a more-ish combination of salty pork and hearty beef with a fragrant mix of herbs and spices. This in itself is divine, but when mixed with traditional Scandinavian accompaniments such as lingon berry sauce or beetroot and apple salad, it becomes even more delicious! Ever since discovering Swedish meatballs, standard beef meatballs no longer seem to amaze me…

In one of my Hello Fresh orders I received a recipe and ingredients to make beef meatballs. But these were not just any meatballs, these were beef meatballs seasoned with herbs and mustard, and which had a core of unctuous melted cheddar cheese. To top it all off, they were smothered in a ragu of carrots, red peppers, chilli, onions, passata and lots more flavoursome ingredients. Oh yes, hold on to your hats – this is another recipe profile, and going to be a good one!

Ingredients: 200g minced beef, 1 medium-sized onion, a handful of grated cheddar, ½ tsp mustard, ½ tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp cumin, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, 6-8 cherry tomatoes, 2x 350g cartons of passata, ½ tsp dark Muscovador sugar, ½ a yellow pepper, ½ red chilli, ½ tsp paprika, 450g potatoes (I like King Edwards but any fluffy potato which is good for mashing will do!), 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, and 2/3 cup carrots (roughly one medium carrot).

Cooking time: HF recommends about 40 minutes if you have some help preparing the mash whilst you do the meatballs, but on my own this took about 55 minutes (don’t worry it’s a straightforward recipe, I just like to take my time ^_^).

Method: (note I have adjusted the method and re-ordered some steps to reflect the result I achieved, and preferred, when cooking it for a second time, but it is essentially the same as HF’s recipe, I have indicated ingredients I have added myself by boldfacing them):

1). Make the meatballs! Pre-heat the oven to Gas mark 6/ 200c. Slice the onion in half lengthways through the root, then slice it widthways into long, thin, “half-moons”. Dice half a tsp of the sliced onion and put the remaining slices to one side in a bowl. Mix the diced onion with the beef, mustard, oregano, cumin, ½ tsp salt, and 1 tbsp chopped parsley. Form the beef mixture into golf balls. Stick your thumb into the middle of each to make a small indent into which you can put a bit of grated cheddar, and then close up the meatball. Do this with all of the meatballs. Place the meatballs on a baking tray and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 minutes making sure to turn them over half way through. They should be nicely browned when you remove them from the oven.

2). Make the mash! Boil a pot of water with ½ tsp salt for the spuds. Peel and chop the potatoes into 3cm squares. Boil them in the water for approx 10 minutes or until you can easily pop a knife through them. Drain and mash with a splash or milk and a bit of butter (margarine works well too), and a pinch of salt to taste. *Top tip: to keep mash warm until the meatballs are done place mash in a Pyrex bowl above a saucepan of simmering water and cover with Clingfilm, the fancy French word for this is a ‘bain-marie’ darrrliing!*

3). Make the ragu! Add the sliced onion to a large non-stick pan with a glug of olive oil and cook on a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft and slightly golden. Meanwhile, peel and dice the carrots into tiny cubes (1/2 cm-ish). De-seed and finely dice the chilli and dice the garlic. Remove the core from the yellow pepper and finely slice into matchsticks. Take the lid off the onions and add the carrot and pepper. Add the smoked paprika and the chilli. Stir and turn the heat to medium. You can add a bit more oil at this point, another glug should suffice. Cook for about 8 minutes until everything is slightly softer but not raw and not super-soft (a bit of texture in a sauce is quite nice I find!). After all the veg is soft add the garlic, passata, a good pinch of salt and pepper, the cherry tomatoes, Muscovado sugar, and the balsamic vinegar (I added the garlic and balsamic the second time I made this because I felt it gave the sauce a more exciting and full-bodied flavour). Cook for 5 minutes on medium before adding the meatballs. Cook for another 5 minutes to bring all the flavours together and the add 1 tbsp chopped parsley. Serve with your mash and another sprinkle of parsley. Meatballs done!

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The finished product

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Another angle #noflash #nofilter

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These meatballs were simple, flavoursome and juicy.  I’d definitely recommend getting someone to help with the mash if like me you like to take your time when cooking, if anything it will just make the process quicker. A perfect meal for any time of the week, but especially themed weeknights – did anybody say Meatball Monday?

VERDICT: Mamma mia that’s som’a good’a meatballs *Antonio Carluccio accent*

Hello Fresh

Ok so I can successfully say that so far I have stuck to my New Year’s resolution of cooking more in January. Over the past three/four weeks I have made meals from scratch on a fairly regular basis which for me is a huge milestone seeing as when I get tired of going to supermarkets and lugging heavy bags of shopping home I find it all too easy to resort to Nandos or my trusty Marks and Spencer’s frozen fishcakes (four for £5 – saaaay whhaaaaaaaatt???)

This renewed zeal for home cooking is thanks to a little company called Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh makes the whole process of shopping for food and cooking so incredibly easy. Each week you can choose either three or five meals, for two or five people, and from a range of vegetarian or meat and fish meals. Also, they aim to eradicate food wastage by providing you with approximately the exact amount of each ingredient needed for each meal. For example if you choose three meals and each one requires one clove of garlic they send you just three cloves of garlic. I was lucky enough to receive a £25 off voucher for Hello Fresh with an Amazon order I made – get in! In hindsight it would have been better value to have gone with the five meals for two people option, but, fearing that I would not like any of the meals I went for the safe option of three meals for two people. How wrong I was – they were all AH-MA-ZING!

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Not only were they super simple and easy to make, but also none of them took me more than an hour to prepare (the recipe says 30 minutes but as I have said when cooking I like to take my time #lazy). Moreover, many of them were pleasant surprises. I had a pork loin meal with Brussels sprouts, which I was assured would make me LOVE Brussels sprouts from the moment I made this meal, and it did! It also enabled me to try things that I would never have even thought of trying, like pan -fried tilapia with sweet potatoes. Additionally, the products were of the highest quality. Hello Fresh is a company which likes to promote British farmers and only the best ingredients – and it did not disappoint! The chicken breasts were some of the most succulent I had ever had and the flank steak I received when I placed an order for another box the following week (yes, it is that good! Paying full price hurt my wallet and my heart but life goes on).

In sum, Hello Fresh is a must and at £39 for three meals for two people it is not unreasonable, in fact it is quite a bargain at £6.50 per person for the quality of the ingredients and the tasty meals they provide. Here is a look at some of their offerings:

Un: Chicken Paillard with Crushed Rosemary Potatoes, Rocket Lamb’s Lettuce (I despise rocket) and Gremolata (aka butterflied chicken breast with a tasty garlic, olive oil and parsley dressing and a bit of veg on the side). 

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This proved to be the ‘first pancake’ of my Hello Fresh experience, it was not as pretty as I intended but my oh my did it taste good. 

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Deux: Warm Sweet Potatoes Salad with Pan-Fried Tilapia. 

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This was definitely the most unique and surprisingly delicious meal of them all. This will be my mid-week meal of choice as soon as I can locate some Tilapia *runs to the nearest fishmongers*.

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Trois: Peppermongers’ Peppered Pork Loin with Chorizo and Roasted Sprouts. 

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BEST. SPROUTS. EVER!
*The secret is to steam them for five minutes, then roast them, and then toss them in a bowl with some pan-fried chorizo and boiled new potatoes, shhhhh*. The pork pretty good as well, only I would have liked a bigger portion of it.

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Quatre: Seared Peppermongers Steak Salad with Chimichurri Dressing (et potatoes)

Some of the best beef I have ever had and it was only a flank steak. Juicy, tender and beautiful when cooked medium. Magnifique!

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They also gave me a free sample of this gluten-free, vegetarian versatile chocolate syrup. It is sweetened with natural fruit juices and has no artificial colours or flavours. It can be used on toast as a healthy alternative to Nutella, in hot milk for the perfect hot chocolate with no lumps, over fruit, on porridge…I like it with snickerdoodles ^_^. Best of all you can find it in most large Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s stores. Look for it in the jams/preserves/spreads isle!

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À bientôt!

Spotlight on Princi

I love pizza! That’s it – end of post.

I joke of course, but seriously though I do love pizza. It’s hard to beat a fine slice of the stuff whether its summer or winter, whether you’re feeling happy or sad, hung-over or sober…the list goes on. I also love how there seems to be a pizza for everyone: pizzas with cheese- only bases for tomato haters, gluten free-pizzas, deep-dish or thin crust pizzas, you name it! It was only after a trip to France a few years back that I became converted to ultra thin crust Italian pizza. I never had anything against it per se, I had just never tried it, but once I did it was love. I still like a good Dominos, not so much really deep dish pizzas anymore though, but since I returned from this trip I have been on a mission to find a really good quality and inexpensive Italian-style pizza made in a rustic wood-fired oven with the most wafer-thin base and unctuous stream of freshly melted mozzarella running through it. Enter Princi.

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I truly believe Princi is the closest thing to my French pizza experience that I have found thus far. Granted that until Princi I had only really tried modest chains such as Bella Italia and Zizzi the standard was not set incredibly high. Having said that, however, after having had inexpensive delicious pizzas in France I was sure that I would not have to resort to venturing into a five star hotel to find what I was looking for, I probably wouldn’t be able to but a girl can dream eh?. Princi does a wide array of Pizzas for around £6-13, and they aren’t mean with the portions either. One pizza will quite happily keep you satisfied until dinner time but not so full that you won’t be able to fit in a cheeky dessert in-between!

I tried the Valerio, which was the closest to my favourite type of pizza – a Reine (minus the olives!). It had a cream base, which I thought was unusual but worked really well, the most perfect thin slices of ham, melt in the mouth morsels of mushroom and a few pieces of fresh basil for some extra seasoning and added oomph. It was delicious! The best I have had since France, the only pitfall was the base was not firm enough to support the hot cream without falling apart and becoming slightly soggy. This only happened to the very centre of the pizza so the crust around the edges remained crispy and intact. Moreover, it did not detract from the flavour and if anything it made it easier to cut through which was a bonus as it takes me friggin ages to cut pizza! All in all a fabulous pizza, worth every penny! 

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I also loved the layout of Princi. Upon entering you see two sections divided by a kitchen area in the middle. On the left is the dining area for pizza and on the right is the section for desserts, pastries and tea/coffee/hot chocolate.

When it comes to cakes I am quite partial to a madeleine although I was not really impressed with the ones I had in Princi (I found them a little bit dry and a bit too small), but the other pastries – WOW! They had an abundance of desserts and flavour combinations, from cheesecake to millefeuille, and passion fruit with dark chocolate to pistachio and white chocolate.

I had the strawberry millefeuille which was AH-MAH-ZING!

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It was quite a cold day so I also got some green tea ^_^

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Some other things that I loved about Princi were the modern minimalist design of the interiors and the Aesop resurrection hand wash and hand lotion duos in the bathrooms. The latter is a premium Australian brand which is not cheap, so I was really impressed when I saw this.

Couldn’t resist!

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The only thing left for me to do now is to go to Naples and have my mind absolutely blown by their pizza offerings.

Ciao for now!