Tuesday, 26 November 2013

prawn & vegetable curry

Soz for the unannounced hiatus you guys - as has been the theme with my past few posts, I've been horrendously busy. On top of that, some pretty rubbish stuff has been happening in my personal life & it's just made the thought of doing anything other than staying in bed all day totally unbearable. That said, yesterday I managed to open the curtains before 2pm - so, progress!

This curry is very simple and very cheap, but is packed full of turmeric, garam masala, ginger & paprika, so it's anything but boring. It can be frozen pretty easily, making it the ideal meal if you know you've got a busy few days coming up & will need to grab lunch in a hurry, and it also just so happens to be super duper healthy as well. Two tins of chopped tomatoes and an onion along with a red pepper & packet of sugarsnap peas means this packs a serious punch on the 5 a day front, and the king prawns ensure you get your daily dose of protein in there as well, without none of the fat. Low fat yoghurt on top is not just recommended - it is imperative, adding a delicious tangy flavour into your curry. I've been making this for about a year now and I love it - it's one of those recipes I've never got bored of. I adapted the recipe from everyone's favourite Londoner, and all credit must go to Rosie.

I actually made this curry about a week ago, so I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get around to posting it. I'm also really sorry for being so lax about responding to comments & keeping up with my bloglovin feed - I miss you guys a lot, and seriously appreciate your support. I can't wait to get back into the Hobbit Kitchen soon.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

spinach & tomato quinoa salad

This isn't the prettiest salad in the world, nor is it particularly groundbreaking. It is, however, quite disgustingly healthy - so it was precisely what I needed this week. Sitting one one's bum in harsh lights of the library all day every day, breathing in the recycled air of all the germ ridden & exhausted students around, doesn't exactly make one feel at their prime physical peak, so this salad was ideal for making me feel all virtuous and superior and like I was really taking good care of myself. I had it as a side with one of my halloumi & vegetable burgers, and it was a filling, healthy & delicious meal which made going back to the library after dinner just that liiiiittle bit more bearable.

If you've got even a little bit of interest in food, you'll know that quinoa is one of the health foods at the moment, and has been for a while - like kale, spinach, blueberries, avocado, etc etc. It's one of the most protein-rich foods it's possible to eat (for all those who wonder where vegetarians or vegans get their protein, this is a good answer), and is also packed full of fibre, iron and magnesium. Low in fat, high in goodness, and endlessly versatile, it's no wonder stuff is constantly doing the rounds on health food blogs. However, I'll let you in on a little secret... It's a little bit dull. Now, I know this is the thing that food bloggers aren't supposed to admit, but I can be real with you guys, can't I? Quinoa's like, fine. It's not particularly offensive and when it's that good for you I'll obviously eat it, but it is a little bland, and a little uninspiring. So I've been looking for a way to spice quinoa up for a while now in a way that's simple, tasty, and that doesn't break the bank. This salad ticks all three boxes. Basil, oregano, nutmeg, spring onions, garlic, lemon juice, salt & pepper are tossed into this cooked quinoa along with some spinach and warmed cherry tomatoes for an easy and nutritious side which takes about 25 minutes to prepare, and which will have you feeling totally justified in eating that entire chocolate cake for pudding. After all, this is health food, you guys. Vegan, gluten-free, low in sodium, bla bla bla... You practically burn calories by looking at it!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

halloumi & vegetable burgers with garlic butter

Once again, blogger decides to delete my entire pre-written blog post. Gah! Ironically enough, the post was all about how ridiculously busy I am again, and how I barely have any time to read food blogs - let alone write any of my own. The end is in sight though - in two weeks I can throw myself back into the kitchen & the blogosphere whole heartedly. Sorry for abandoning you, guys!

Anyway, rest assured that in the disappeared version of this post (may it rest in peace), I waxed lyrical on the virtues of this filling, delicious & healthy(-ish) burger. However, now you'll just have to take my word for it, because I've got fishcakes in the oven & I promised myself I'd be back in the library by 7. But, please believe me when I tell you that this halloumi, mushroom, aubergine & red onion burger is the ideal vegetarian burger for meat eaters & veggies alike, and when the wholewheat buns are slathered in garlic butter... Well. I mean. Come on. Who doesn't love garlic butter?!

Oh, and just as a little side note, the best thing about spending all this time with my headphones in at the library means I'm discovering lots of lovely new music - and I can't recommend this song, Little Locket, by Brighten, enough. Do yourself a favour & check it out. Seriously.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

lemon drizzle cake

I won't lie to you guys. I burnt this cake. There is no recipe post here because a) I literally just followed this BBC Good Food recipe verbatim, and b) the aforementioned burning. Last week I went home for a few days because I had to attend an assessment centre for a marketing job at Brightsource, and so on Wedneasday - the day before the assessment centre - I decided to just chill out & bake a cake. But obviously, being at home, I totally forgot that we have a fan oven unlike my standard oven at uni so essentially blackened the entire top of the cake; but it was easily sorted out by slicing off the top and anyway, since it was only feeding my family (by which I of course mean me) it didn't matter too much. And this is a delicious lemon drizzle cake - perfectly moist, deliciously light, with the lovely crisp sugar topping which is integral to a decent drizzle. I can't recommend the recipe enough.

Baking was the perfect way to chill out before a 9-5 day of interviews, group tasks, creative projects & presentations. I absolutely adore cooking & generally think of myself as being far more adept at cooking than I am at baking, because I'm inherently messy and lazy and haphazard, so the specific and scientific nature of baking hasn't always appealed. But lately - and perhaps we have Bake Off to blame/thank here - I've really enjoyed the process of baking. Taking the time to apply that level of discipline to yourself, and to really concentrate on things like gram measurements and specific oven temperatures, with the success of a baked good often resting on a 1-2 minute interval of how long you cook it, really gets you out of your own head & into the kitchen in a way that cooking doesn't always. And also, I thoroughly enjoy the process of eating baked goods, obviously, so that helps.

Anyway, so it was a nice way to prepare myself mentally for a long and gruelling day - for which I was so nervous, and so on edge, & so keen, because it's basically my dreams job. And, well, I guess I did something right - because I got it!

And, as I have always suspected would be the cause of most happiness in my life, I have cake to thank.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

mixed spice rock cakes

Back in April, I was having a pretty rubbish time with a boy I'd been seeing. Nothing major, nothing new, nothing exciting - I just liked him more than he liked me. A tale as old as time, etc etc. But the point is, it was around the same sort of time that I rediscovered rock cakes. Now, I know I throw around the phrase "comfort food" quite a lot, and that's because food = comfort for me, but these really are my ultimate comfort food. I so associate them with my childhood: with making them in primary school because they couldn't be simpler; with the smell of my mother's rock cakes cooling in the kitchen; with wanting so much to go to Hogwarts, and to eat rock cakes with Harry, Ron & Hermione in Hagrid's hut. So the moment I'm settling down with a rock cake and a cup of tea I'm suddenly 8 years old again, and I'm warm and safe and happy and home. Isn't it wonderful how food can do that for us? There's nothing else like it in the world. Nothing at all.

This is a pretty much foolproof recipe that requires one bowl, no mixer, and very little skill or thought at all, really. You'll probably already have most of the ingredients in your cupboard already, and if not, there's nothing here that's gonna break the bank or be difficult to find. If you're new to baking, or if you're baking with little ones, this is the ideal recipe to get you started & it'll fill your house with all the delicious smells of your childhood home. Seriously, what's stopping you? Go! Go forth & bake!

Monday, 11 November 2013

mushrooms on toast

Probably the weirdest thing about being in your final year of uni is the knowledge that, in a few months time, you could feasibly never see some of your friends again. Probably the worst thing about being in your final year of uni is that you're all too busy with deadlines and exams and job applications to truly appreciate the time you do have together. But then, maybe the best thing about being in your final year of uni is that it makes the times you do spend together all the more special - even if it's just grabbing a cup of god awful coffee in the library between studying, briefly stopping to say hello on the street before class, or making a hasty, simple, delicious dinner together before chatting the night away. I'm lucky enough to have made a number of really great friends here, and to have lived with most of them too, so last night my good friend Jillian - who I lived with last year, and who I miss, a lot, this year - came over to cook dinner with me, which is obviously one of my very favourite things to do with people I care about.

We met in Tesco to buy ingredients, though neither of us could really decide what we fancied. Having eaten a giant dirty diner meal of burger, chips & a milkshake for lunch I was in the mood for something pretty light & relatively healthy, and Jillian's like, the queen of spinach & other healthy foods, so we ended up settling for fancy mushrooms on toast. Super simple, cheap, easy & delicious - the perfect thing to cook together & to shovel into your face in the brief respites between chatting. This really is ridiculously easy whilst still being wholesome & delicious, & I've eaten it for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the past 24 hours. The key is to get yourself some nice, fancy bread - I've gone for brown walnut bread, but sourdough would be lovely here as well - and not scrimp on the ingredients, since there are so few. It shouldn't cost you more than £5, is ready in ten minutes, and is the perfect food to share with friends. But then, I suppose that's true of most food.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

vegetarian shepherd's pie

You guys, I am so busy right now. I have seriously never been this busy in my life. I have 2 presentations to give tomorrow, a research essay to write, a first draft of my dissertation to hand in, a PGCE application to think about, an assessment centre to prepare for next week for the job that I really really want and, ugh. I really do love being busy, but this is just ridiculous! I'm a little grumpy stress ball, I can't remember the last time I worked out, I haven't eaten any meal that takes longer than 5 minutes to prepare & it's been so long since I phoned home that I'm pretty sure my Mum has forgotten the sound of my voice. Sorry Mum. I promise I'll call soon.

So I'm sorry things have been a little quiet around here, & I apologise if this post seems a little rushed. I barely even have time to shower these days, let alone take pictures of meals! (Lucky, lucky housemates.) But I've taken a little break from dissertation madness today to share this recipe with you, because frankly, I just couldn't not.

Tired of sad sandwiches from the library cafe, on Monday night I decided to take a little break and make something wholesome, filling & nutritious that I could keep in the fridge or freezer in order to grab a healthy and delicious lunch on the go over the next couple of days. I know a lot of the recipes I've posted on here lately and have been preeeeetty indulgent, and that's because I've been feeling pretty indulgent, but at the moment my overworked body is just craving vegetables - and I've never been one not to give in to cravings. So, if like me you've been hankering after something a little more wholesome lately but don't want to compromise on that wonderful comfort food taste, this is perfect. Green lentils, carrots & chopped tomatoes go into the filling, and are flavoured with red wine, thyme & veggie stock, then it's all covered in a deliciously creamy sweet potato mash covered with a sprinkling of cheese & fresh thyme. Every bite is deliciously rich and moreish, with that lovely taste of shepherd's pie but in a totally vegetarian way. In fact, you could easily keep this vegan by using a vegan butter to mash your potatoes with & simply omitting the cheese on top. Whilst this recipe does take a little bit of time to prepare it's nothing too technical or labour intensive, making it the perfect mid-week supper. Food so good that it doesn't even taste good for you. Now that's my kind of health food.

Monday, 4 November 2013

oven cooked bacon risotto

Risotto is one of the very first things I learnt how to cook. My first ever boyfriend used to make it for me a lot, and I'd never had it before in my sheltered little hobbit life so I used to demand it basically every time we were together (I'm a delightful girlfriend, as you can imagine). I stole the recipe & still make it all the time - it's a leeky, cheesey affair which is immensely comforting, and I'll no doubt post the recipe here some time soon. It's made in the classic risotto way which involves a lot of time, care & attention, and I've always really enjoyed the process of stirring away at the stove, letting all the stress of the day disappear as you gaze mindlessly into the distance. Therefore, I was pretty suspicious of this recipe, which requires only about 10 minutes of stirring before you pop the lid on & place the whole thing into the oven, so that you can get on with something else whilst the risotto cooks away merrily without you.

But I needn't have worried and, in fact, may never return to the standard risotto method ever again. This risotto is incredibly creamy without being too stodgy, and the rice is cooked to absolute perfection. Nothing burnt or stuck to the base of the pan like I was afraid of, and all the flavours ooze into each other in the oven making this a wonderfully moreish dish. This is a remarkably simple recipe but it yields impressive results, and would be ideal for a dinner party, or any occasion where you need to feed several people at once but still want to seem fancy. Or, indeed, just for you. I won't tell if you won't.

Friday, 1 November 2013

chocolate cake for chocolate lovers

Happy November! You guys, the countdown to Christmas has officially begun. Break out the Snow Fairy shower gel, start stringing up fairy lights & get out your comfiest sweatpants, because 2 months of indulgent eating starts here. It's the most magical time of the year! Since we obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK, Christmas preparation begins in earnest the moment that Halloween is over, and I'm one of those insanely annoying people that is very, very, very okay with that. The more Christmas the better, as far as I'm concerned! The tacky jumper has been bought & I've already begin compiling recipes for December. I'm so excited!

But before all that, there's still carved pumpkins to be disposed of & glitter spiders everywhere to put away, so I'll hold back for now. None of my friends are particularly into Halloween & I'm not either, really, so last night rather than going out onto the town me and my housemates hosted a pot luck dinner for our pals. It was a veritably smorgasboard of warming autumnal foods - butternut squash souffle, parsnip & sweet potato gratin, grilled vegetable kebabs, delicious pasta salads, pizza... The list goes on. We'll be living off leftovers for weeks. Naturally, I commandeered the role of "baked goods" for myself, and made a toffee apple cookie crumble, ginger biscuits with a cinnamon & ginger cream cheese dip, and this. This.

I have an "ultimate chocolate cake" recipe which I've been using for a while now, and which is a truly sinful & beautiful thing, but I wanted to try something new. This baby is adapted from a River Cottage recipe, and thankfully Hugh did not lead me astray. It uses a preposterous amount of chocolate and sugar, so we'll not pretend to be "behaving ourselves" with this bad boy, and only a small amount of plain flour alongside some ground almonds for added moisture. 4 egg yolks & two different types of sugar go into the mix to give the cake a vaguely caramel-ish taste, whilst the egg whites are then whipped into a frenzy & folded in to give the cake its depth and raise. The most important thing about this cake is that it should be made in advance, as it needs at least a few hours to chill in the fridge - the longer the better, really, so I made mine first thing in the morning for the dinner party that night. It comes out of the oven incredibly wobbly & if you stick a skewer in the centre it won't come out clean, so you'll be tempted to think it isn't done. Wrong. Think again. With time to cool & solidify in the fridge, it ends up being this unbelievably rich, velvety smooth, deliciously moist thing that's somewhere between a cake and a brownie. And when you then go & pour a chocolate ganache all over the top and let it melt down onto the sides... Well. Now we're talking.