Tuesday, 8 August 2017


Apologies in advance if things go slightly quiet for the next week or two. I had my pesky gallbladder removed yesterday and, although all went well and I am already home (it was keyhole surgery which is significantly less invasive than the non-keyhole kind) I am currently sore, grumpy and have absolutely zero appetite. Which means the thought of eating, let alone cooking, does not appeal. Not the best premise for a blog about food. I am currently subsisting on cups of tea, the odd biscuit and plenty of paracetamol. These are not such things as blog posts are made of.

Hopefully I'll be back up and about shortly - there is only so much Netflix a girl can watch!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

TWTWTW: Lazy, hazy, crazy

Well, we haven't done a that was the week that was post for a while, which means that the blog has been lacking in cute cat pictures, which will never do.

La Minx remains as beautiful and capricious as ever, as is the way with felines.  She, at best, tolerates and, at worst, cordially dislikes D despite our ongoing efforts but he forgives her because she is beautiful and has the loudest purr ever to emanate from a little cat.

Now, tell me, where on Earth has the summer gone?  I'm sure we had a few nice days back there in what - May?  June?  But the last few weeks have been terrible!  As regular readers will know, I am not a fan of the heat but the lack of blue skies and the constant threat of rain is becoming slightly depressing.  I feel like I should be talking about barbecues and summer salads but it's really more weather for stews.

Still, miserable weather notwithstanding, we managed to drag ourselves out this week when we went to a really fun Sipsmith gin event at Shear's Yard this week, which I will write about in more detail in another post; I was shocked to find that it has been two and a half years since we last went to that fine establishment (I wrote about it here).  Sadly, both time and money preclude us from visiting such local gems as often as we would both like - and given the continued pressures on independent establishments it's a real shame not to support them more.  Leeds recently lost The Black Swan which was an absolutely wonderful gastro-ish pub that is also mentioned in the above post which goes to show that even places that do everything right are at risk.

We had a few nights midweek where we were a bit lax about cooking for various reasons, but things have picked up this weekend, and for brunch this morning I finally got around to making shakshuka (pictured below with toasted, buttered brioche).

It's been on my "dishes I should really try" list for AGES and, guess what?  It really is worth trying!  I followed Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe, here because I liked the fact that it kept things pretty simple (I mean, in terms of additions to the stewed tomato and pepper mix.)  I can see how adding a garnish of feta, or herbed yoghurt or cooking some chorizo or something in with the vegetables would work well, but loved it just as it was.  It's great for brunch because you can make the sauce the day before (which probably improves the flavour anyway) and then just cook the eggs in the morning.  Although I have to say this: his recipe suggests that you make the sauce then divide it between four pans before cooking with the eggs.  This sounds like a lot of washing up to me.  I cooked the vegetables in a large, shallow, stove-top casserole dish and just broke the eggs into that.  Much simpler.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Recipe corner: Courgette and halloumi cakes

We're trying to get back into the habit of Sunday brunch because it is a very lovely habit to have.  The main issue that I have with Sunday brunch is that it usually takes place quite early - certainly early enough that I want to limit the number of processes involved and my exposure to things that are sharp and hot.  This one, while not immediately screaming of breakfast foodstuffs, actually fits the bill pretty well because you can get the cakes prepared the night before and, actually, they benefit from a few hours chilling and firming up in the fridge.

The original recipe was a Gordon Ramsay one which I have, as is ever my wont, tweaked a little bit.  We topped the little cakes with a poached egg and a drizzle of Sriracha hot sauce to make it brunch appropriate.  I reckon they'd be nice as a light, summery main meal with some sort of salad and grain, or even whacked in a bun to make a vegetarian alternative to a burger.

It doesn't really need saying but, just in case someone has stumbled on to this accidentally, excuse the bloody awful food photography.  I succeed in making everything look terrible,


Courgette, coarsely grated
Carrot, coarsely grated
120g halloumi, grated
60g (about 1 slice from a standard, thick sliced loaf) bread, reduced to crumbs
15g Parmesan
Zest of 1/4 small lemon
Tsp oregano
Flour, for dusting
Tbsp vegetable oil

To serve (optional):
2 eggs
Hot sauce

Place a sieve or a colander over the sink and, inside, layer up the courgette and carrot gratings (is this the word?) along with some generous pinches of salt.  Set aside for half an hour or so.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, place the grated halloumi.

Blitz your bread into crumbs using a small processor.  Add the roughly chopped Parmesan along with seasoning and the oregano and blitz again to form fine, cheesy crumbs.  Tip this into the bowl alongside the halloumi and grate in the lemon zest.

When the vegetables have had sufficient time to give up some of their water content, give them a quick rinse and a thorough wring-out.  Pat them dry on a bit of kitchen paper and then whack into the bowl, along with one egg.  Mix thoroughly to form a sort of loose, colourful dough.

Lightly dust a large plate with flour and then dampen your hands, which will make it easier to form the cakes without the mixture sticking everywhere.  I got six little patties out of this amount, but makes as many as you wish depending on how you intend to serve them.  When the patties are formed, put on the floured plate and turn over a couple of times to lightly coat.

Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.  If you're cooking them for breakfast then overnight is perfect.

When the time comes to serve, heat the oil up in a good, non-stick frying pan (alternatively, we have taken to lining the base of our pans with non-stick baking paper.  If you do this, you can dispense with the oil altogether, or you can brush it lightly over the surface prior to cooking).  Fry the patties for around 5 minutes on the first side then gently turn over and cook for a further 3-4, until a decent crust has formed and they are warmed through.

If you are serving these with a poached egg then be sure to have the pan of water ready boiling when the cakes go in to fry and just drop the eggs in for the last couple of minutes of cooking.

Serve according to taste.