A professional and creative writing graduate and proofreader. Hobbies include: reading, writing, walking, cycling, theatre, cooking, baking, arts, crafts and culture. An avid volunteer within the arts sector and supporter of improving mental health. Favourite quote: creativity is contagious passion. (Einstein)
As we near the summer solstice the mercury is rising here in the UK. The smell of burning coals and delicious chargrilled morsels, mingles with the chime of an ice-cream van. A Sunday, I often roast a joint, not today. How can I enjoy juicy chicken without being cremated in the kitchen?
4 chicken breasts
8 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
90g wild rocket
1 large mango
2 large avocadoes
2 tbsp olive oil
2-4 tbsp runny honey
Lightly toast the desiccated coconut in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, for 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Rinse the chicken in cold water, and pat dry with kitchen towel. Slice into goujons.
Put the spices, desiccated coconut, and lemon zest in a large plastic food bag. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the bag. Seal and shake until the chicken is coated in the spice rub.
For the salad peel, destone, and dice 1 mango. Destone and slice the 2 avocadoes, sprinkle over the juice of one lemon. In a serving bowl add the rocket, mango, and avocado. Set the salad aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok until hot. Fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Drizzle over the honey and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon and remove from the heat.
Stir the chicken into the salad. Serve on its own, or with a good crusty bread.
Eggs are a fantastic source of protein. Boiled, poached, baked, scrambled, or fried. With a few extra ingredients you can have a cheap and filling meal.
My brother introduced me to merguez sausage Made with either uncooked lamb or beef stuffed into an intestine casing. Merguez sausage is heavily spiced with cumin and harissa, sumac, fennel, and garlic Native to the north western countries of Africa known as Maghreb, historically called the Barbary Coast. Merguez sausage is now available in most supermarkets.
The region is predominantly Islamic, and halal meat is most often used. Cuisine of the area is influenced by French and Italian cooking and includes: seafood, red meat, nuts, fruits, legumes, couscous, and spices.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Peel and dice 1 onion. Only half the onion is needed. The other half can be used at a later date if stored in the fridge for a maximum of 48 hours. Slice the merguez sausage into bitesize pieces. Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and whisk.
In a large frying pan heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat.
Add the onion and merguez sausage to the frying pan. Stirring regularly allow the sausage to brown and onion to turn translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Throw in a handful of spinach and heat until wilted.
Pour the eggs over the sausage, onion, and spinach. Give the egg time to set, loosening the edges from the pan. Pop under a hot grill for a minute to ensure the egg is cooked through. Serve with crusty bread and side salad.
Here in the UK it went cold over the Easter period. To make things worse my boiler decided to pack up. The oven has been working overtime cooking stews, just to keep the edge off the chill. This warming beef keema was done on the hob. Although I enjoyed standing before a hot oven; the warmest place in the house.
From a family of five children. Cheap and cheerful meals with more stretch than Stretch Armstrong was essential in our house. Traditional homecooked food was what I grew up on. I still look forward to a meal at my mums.
However mince beef became one of those ingredients that got moved round my plate to make it look less. Too much of a good thing was definitely the case here. For many years I didn’t touch it. Recently it has squeezed its way back into my diet. I have eaten some tasty meatballs, bolognaise, and cottage pie. This beef keema was a hit with the whole family.
500g mince beef
1 clove of garlic
2 tsp ginger puree (fresh or dried ginger can replace puree)
1 tbsp medium curry powder
2 tbsp tomato puree
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 litre beef stock
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 spring onions
Peel and dice the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion for 4-5 minutes with the ginger, until the onion is translucent and starting to brown.
Add the mince beef and garlic to the pan. Fry for a further 5-6 minutes, until no pink meat remains.
Stir in the curry powder for 1 minute until well incorporated. Then add the tinned tomatoes, puree, ketchup, and stock. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced. Add the peas a couple of minutes before serving. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with your choice of rice. Garnish with chopped spring onions.
From student life to raising a family on a tight budget, pasta dishes have to be something special to tickle my taste buds. This one was quick and easy to make, a comfort to eat, and for less than a fiver put on a smile at the checkout. I always recommend making your own meatballs, getting more for your money and the chance to experiment with flavours. This recipe feeds four as a snack or two as a main meal.
500g mince beef
1 crust of bread (or 1/4 cup of dried breadcrumbs)
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp cumin
200g dried pasta
tomato and mascarpone pasta sauce jar (or whatever favour you have available)
1 broccoli head
200g grated cheddar
Preparing the meatballs takes no time at all. They can even be made in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer. Add the mince beef to a large bowl and break down with your hands or a wooden spoon. If making your own breadcrumbs simply blend in a food processor or using a stick blender. To the meat add the parsley, basil, cumin and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir in the egg until thoroughly combined. If the mix is a little sticky add a few more breadcrumbs. Make into 18 meatballs and place on a baking tray.
Preheat the oven to 200C°/Fan 180°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Add the pasta to a medium pyrex dish. Pour the sauce on the pasta. Fill the jar to the top of the label with water and add to the dish. Lightly combine and cover with foil. Place the pasta bake and the meatballs into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the head of broccoli into florets and steam for 10 minutes. Then grate the cheese.
Remove the pasta bake from the oven and take off the foil. Add the broccoli, cooked meatballs, and cheese. Place back inn the oven for 10 minutes.
Serve on its own or with crusty bread and side salad.
Derived from the Latin word simila meaning fine flour, from which the word semolina also comes from, simnel cake is a traditional fruit cake from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Dating back to the middle ages, it is associated with more myths and legends than Robin Hood. Bread regulations relating to weight, price, and quality (including leavened or unleavened bread) suggest they were boiled and then baked. The technique led to the telling of a mythical couple named Simon and Nelly. They came to blows while baking a simnel cake. One wished to boil it and the other wanted to bake it. After beating each other with a range of kitchen utensils they agreed to compromise, by part boiling and part baking the cake.
Typical characteristics of a simnel cake include a middle and top layer of marzipan, crushed almonds, or almond paste topped with eleven marzipan balls to represent the twelve apostles minus the treacherous Judas. Due to its long history, many variations of the cake are available. One major difference to other richer fruit cakes is the replacement of alcohol with orange blossom (although brandy is sometimes added). Unlike most fruit cake, simnel cake needs no time to mature and is ready to eat straight from the oven.
Simnel Cake Recipe
For the Almond Paste
250g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
1 tsp almond essence
For the Cake
175g butter (plus extra for greasing)
175g soft brown sugar
1 egg for glaze
175g plain all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground mixed spiced (optional)
350g dried mixed fruit
55g chopped mixed peel
zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp apricot jam
pinch of salt
dash of orange blossom or brandy (optional)
To make the almond paste, add the ground almonds and caster sugar to a bowl. Add one beaten egg and mix until combined. Add the almond essence and knead until smooth and pliable. Roll out a third of the paste into an 18cm/7inch circle. Save the remainder of the paste for the cake topping
Grease and line an 18cm/7inch cake tin
Preheat the oven to 140C/Fan 120C/Gas Mark 1
To make the cake, cream the sugar and butter together until light in colour and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients and add gradually. Finally sir in the dried mixed fruit, lemon zest, and mixed peel.
Add half the cake batter into the prepared cake tin. Smooth and cover with the rolled disc of almond paste. Add the rest of the cake batter and smooth the top.
Bake in the pre heated oven for 1 3/4 hours. If an inserted skewer comes out clean the cake is baked. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Once the cake is cooled brush the top with apricot jam. Half the remainder of the almond paste. Roll out another circle with one half, and place on top of the apricot jam in the centre of the cake. Form eleven balls with the rest of the almond paste, and set round the top outer edge of the cake.
Brush the top of the cake with some beaten egg. Use a cooks blow torch or a grill to brown.
Simnel cake is traditionally eaten on Mothering Sunday when a break in Lent fast is allowed. And again traditionally eaten on Easter Sunday.
Spring celebrated with England, as covid restrictions were ever so slightly eased this week. The warmest March day in the UK for 53 years was recorded on Tuesday 30th March 2021. With the mercury rising to 24.5C at Kew Gardens, West London. Falling slightly short of the 24.6C record, recorded in Cambridgeshire in 1968.
A fortnight ago I used a stash of decorative pots as planters. Amazingly they have not only germinated, but are flourishing a couple of inches high. Sitting on the window ledge, the panes of glass have acted like a greenhouse intensifying the suns rays. I have four pots of arnica and four pots of chervil, growing happily in my kitchen and lounge.
All About Arnica
Arnica is a herbaceous perennial plant in the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. Sometimes called mountain tobacco because its leaves resemble tobacco leaves. It grows in the mountains of North America and Europe, with a few native species in some Artic regions. With slightly perfumed orange or yellow flowers, producing a pronounced pine-sage odour if the leaves are bruised or rubbed.
Certain species contain helenalin, which possess some anti-inflammatory and anti-neoplastic qualities. Traditionally applied to the skin to soothe bruises, sprains, joint and muscle pain. It is also available as homeopathic pills that you swallow. Homeopathic arnica is heavily diluted and can be applied in a thin layer upon unbroken skin, or swallowed in tablet form. Raw arnica is toxic and must never be used. Children under the age of 12, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or anyone allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family shouldn’t take arnica. Known side effects of homeopathic arnica include itching, redness of the skin, and eczema. Seek medical attention from a GP if you start to experience any of these symptoms.
If considering using homeopathic or herbal remedies, always seek advice from a GP and accredited homeopath.
Chervil is a member of the parsley family, with a mild and delicate flavour. Frequently used in French cuisine, it is often referred to as French parsley. With delicate frilly leaves, avoid eating once flowering as the flavour will have become bitter. Flavoured with a hint of anise, it tastes similar to a light blend of parsley and tarragon. Chervil is not readily available in supermarkets, so it is worth growing your own from seed, in a pot or herb garden.
The herb is a delicate accompaniment to salads, soups, and egg dishes. Its mild flavour does not hold up to extreme heat, and should be added at the end of cooking. A good way to use this herb is in pesto, or oil and butter infusions. A rich source of calcium and potassium, some people believe it is good for gout, skin conditions, high blood pressure, and poor digestion. There is currently no scientific research to support this.
If considering using homeopathic or herbal remedies always seek advice from a GP and accredited homeopath.
A passionate supporter of sustainable eating, I am sorry to say I haven’t the willpower to give up meat and dairy altogether. My compromise is to incorporate vegetarian and vegan food into my carnivore diet.
I recently came across vegan friendly meringues. Intrigued by the egg free concept, I researched this further. I was surprised to discover the ingredient replacing egg white was in fact the water from a can of chickpeas. More recently acquiring the name aquafaba, which joins the Latin words aqua meaning water and faba meaning bean.
So How Does It Work?
When egg whites are whipped, pockets of air become suspended in the liquid. This occurs because of the presence of protein. Aquafaba contains protein, starch and saponins ( a chemical foaming agent found in many plants). These all work together to achieve the same chemical reaction, which occurs in traditional meringues. Essentially the viscous water from most legumes can be whisked into meringue. Chickpeas are ideal because of their neutral colour.
Aquafaba Meringue Recipe
400g tin of cooked chickpeas
75g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 120°C/Fan 100°C/250°F/Gas Mark 1/2.
Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Drain the chickpeas and measure 150ml/5fl oz of aquafaba. The chickpeas and remaining aquafaba will keep covered in the fridge for 3 days.
Whisk the aquafaba for 2-5 minutes until white, light and forming soft peaks, using a stand or hand whisk on a medium setting.
With the mixer on high speed slowly add the sugar to the mixture. The sugar needs to be fully dissolved and the meringue firm and glossy. This can take about 5 minutes.
Using a piping bag or two dessert spoons pipe/drop 14-16 large meringues onto the baking parchment.
Bake for 2 hours and then cool in the oven.
These meringues are best served the same day. They can be stored in an airtight container but will soften and become sticky the longer they are stored.
<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">A coddled egg is similar to a poached egg. Instead of cracking a whole egg directly into water, it cooks in a dish (often a ramekin) placed in a lightly simmering water bath (bain-marie), for approximately 6-8 minutes depending on the water temperature. The word coddle refers to the soft texture of the egg yolk achieved by gentle cooking. Like poached eggs, the yolk should remain unbroken and slightly runny and the white should be set. The dish is greased with butter or oil to prevent sticking. Depending on the size of the dish more than one egg can be cooked at the same time. A coddled egg is similar to a poached egg. Instead of cracking a whole egg directly into water, it cooks in a dish (often a ramekin) placed in a lightly simmering water bath (bain-marie), for approximately 6-8 minutes depending on the water temperature. The word coddle refers to the soft texture of the egg yolk achieved by gentle cooking. Like poached eggs, the yolk should remain unbroken and slightly runny and the white should be set. The dish is greased with butter or oil to prevent sticking. Depending on the size of the dish more than one egg can be cooked at the same time.
Coddled eggs can be cooked in the oven or on the stove. Preheat the oven to 350°F, 177°C, Gas Mark 4 and heat a bain-marie until it is almost bubbling. The steam produced by the bain-marie helps gently cook the egg, while keeping it soft. On a stove fill a roasting tin with hot water and place over two burners. Place the ramekins in the water and cover with foil until cooked.
Coddled eggs are a traditional ingredient in a classic Caesar salad. Nowadays the dressing for Caesar salad is made with raw egg yolk. They are sometimes called eggs en cocotte. Other ingredients can be added to the ramekins with the eggs.
Sugar is one of the worlds oldest documented commodities. Indigenous people of New Guinea chewed it raw in 8000 BC. Now common place in our pantries, it was once considered so valuable it was locked away in wooden cabinets called sugar safes. In 1319 AD sugar was sold in London at two shillings a pound, approximately £72 a kilogram in todays money.
Interesting Fact Demerara sugar is named after the colony of Demerara in Guyana and the surrounding sugar cane fields.
So What is Sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate called sucrose. It is produced naturally in all plants through photosynthesis. The image below shows how water and minerals are drawn from the soil by the plant roots. The leaves take carbon dioxide from the air. Chlorophyll found in the cells of leaves absorb sunlight. The energy from the sunlight turns carbon dioxide and water into sucrose.
Glucose (dextrose), fructose (laevulose), and galactose are the building blocks of all carbohydrates. These three simple sugars are called monosaccharides, which bond with themselves and each other to produce more complex carbohydrates. Two monosaccharides joined together are called disaccharides. Common table sugar or sucrose is glucose bonded with fructose. Lactose found in milk is glucose bonded with galactose. Maltose is glucose boded with glucose. When more than ten monosaccharides are joined together, they are called polysaccharides. Starch is a glucose polymer.
Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for the body, providing fuel for the brain, organs and muscles, enabling them to function and engage in everyday activities.
Sugar Cane and Sugar Beet
Sugar cane and sugar beets contain the greatest amount of sucrose, around 14-16%. This makes them the most efficient plants to extract sugar.
Sugar cane is a perennial grass, grown in tropical climate. They grow between 10-20 foot high. They are ready to harvest in 10-12 months, and are cut just above the root so new sprouts will grow.
Sugar beet was first identified as a source of sugar in 1747. The vested interests in the sugar cane plantations prevented sugar beet being explored further until the beginning of the 19th century. They are a root, ready to harvest in about 5 months, weighing a substantial 3-5lbs.
Lately my family have gone off meat finding pork bland, lamb fatty and steak tough. So I decided to turn to the ocean for meal inspiration. As a child the humble fishfinger was the extent of my fish eating. Now I love fish, influenced by the abundance of variety available in Mediterranean fish markets.
Fish has a range of health benefits. We should be eating at least two portions a week including oily fish. White fish are extremely low in fat. Oily fish are a good source of vitamin D which aid the bodies absorption of calcium, and enhances the immune system. It is also rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers. Consumption of oily fish also improves vision and memory. Pregnant and breast feeding women should include a portion a week of oily fish, because it helps the development of babies nervous system. However no more than two portions a week are recommended, because they contain low levels of pollutants called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, which build up in the body and can affect foetal development. Dioxins are toxic. Humans exposure occurs through animal products, including fish. Extreme exposure can cause skin lesions and damage to the immune system. Most fish contain traces of mercury so consumption should be limited.
Fish in Foil
Preheat oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Peel and thinly slice 1 red onion. Deseed 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green bell pepper and chop into quarters. Peel and crush 4 cloves of garlic. Grate a 1cm piece of ginger. Share the vegetables and ginger between 4 sheets of foil and top with a fish fillet of choice. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and fold into parcels. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Alternatively these fish parcels are great cooked on a barbecue or open fire.