Celeriac and Spinach Soup

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I’m really trying to use seasonal ingredients, they tend to be cheaper and obviously more environmentally friendly than buying fruit and veg thats flown from across the world. On an impulse I bought a celeriac at the beginning of the week, something that I’ve never cooked before, with no real plans for what to do with it. I also massively overestimated how much baby spinach I would need for my healthy chicken curry, so this soup was born. Its thick, slightly sweet, incredibly warming and fantastic with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.

Serves 4 – 6
Ingredients:
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp nutmeg
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock
400g baby spinach, torn
a large handful of fresh parsley, torn
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180c

1) Place the chopped celeriac in a roasting tray and toss with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and the nutmeg until it is fairly evenly coated. Pop the tray in the oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes, flipping every so often to make sure the celeriac cooks evenly.

2) Heat the oil in a large saucepan. When its hot, add the onion and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened but not brown. Add the roasted celeriac and the pour in the stock. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Cook for a further 5 minutes just to make sure that the celeriac is tender.

3) Add the spinach and the parsley and stir well. Increase the heat and bring the soup back to a boil then remove the saucepan from the heat. Once its cooled blend the soup thoroughly, tasting it and and seasoning it with salt, pepper and perhaps a pinch more nutmeg to your preference. If it’s too thick, add either a dash of water or milk to loosen it a bit.

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Healthy Chicken Curry

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To be honest, this isn’t really an authentic curry, at least, it isn’t like any of the Indian or Pakistani curries that I regularly eat at home (props to Ravis and Kebabaque – if you’re ever for some reason in Dubai, both do the most incredible curries). However, it’s closer to a curry than anything else, and calling it a curry is easier than calling it spicy chicken in a tomatoey sauce with some vegetables and baby spinach. This curry was superbly easy to make and really low in calories (under 300!) because it doesn’t use any cream. It was a hit with my flatmates, one who thought it was so good that he couldn’t believe I hadn’t used a shop bought curry paste, and I have some left over for lunch tomorrow which I can’t wait for, I have a feeling that this curry will be even better tomorrow.

Serves 5-6
Ingredients:
450 g chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
juice of one lime
2tsp paprika
1tsp chilli powder
1 and 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
2tsp ground coriander
2tsp nutmeg
250ml passata
1 red pepper, chopped
2 small-medium tomatoes, chopped
85g baby spinach leaves

1) Place the chicken in a bowl with the lime juice, paprika, chilli powder and some black pepper, and mix it around until the chicken is covered evenly. Leave it to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

2) Heat half the oil in a large frying pan and briefly stir fry the chillies and the cumin seeds. Stir in the onion, garlic and ginger and fry it until the onion softens and begins to brown. Add the rest of the oil, and then add the chicken, stir frying it all until the chicken no longer looks raw on the outside.

3) Pour in the passata, 100ml of water and heat until it begins to bubble. When it starts to bubble, lower the heat and add the chunks of pepper, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is tender but not dry.

4) Stir in the chunks of tomato, simmer for another 2-3 minutes, then add the spinach, stirring it through so it wilts. Season with salt and more pepper and serve.

Serving suggestions: naan bread or rice, I chose rice because the curry is quite saucy. Fresh coriander would also be nice.

Stuffed Tomatoes (and a couple of peppers)

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At home we eat a lot of stuffed vegetables, from Polish gołąbki to Greek dolmades, so I decided to have a go at putting my own spin on a family favourite. I debated spending a day rolling up vine leaves, but I soon realised that they are not an ingredient that I could just pop to telcos for. Eventually I decided on tomatoes even though they aren’t technically in season because I just don’t have the space in the flat kitchen to blanch and roll vine or cabbage leaves. It’s getting quite cold here in Edinburgh, so I wanted to make something a bit stodgy and comforting – so when I looked in my cupboards it seemed like a sensible idea to stuff the tomatoes with a tomatoey risotto. Oh, and bacon. Because bacon makes everything better.

p.s. excuse the bad quality pictures, something funny was going on with my iPhone camera

Makes about 12 tomatoes, so enough for 6 as a side
Ingredients:
12 large tomatoes (you can substitute 1 tomato for half a pepper)
salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 of an onion, chopped
1 garlic glove, minced
150g arborio rice
2 tsp chilli powder
2tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
500 ml chicken or vegetable stock
4 rashers of back bacon, chopped (or pre chopped bacon bits, or pancetta)
a few tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
cheese of your choice, grated

Preheat the oven to 180c

Preparing the tomatoes – cut off the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out the flesh and seeds of the tomatoes. I used a small knife to cut round the outside then spooned it all out with a teaspoon. Be careful not to pierce the outside or bottom of the tomato though. Salt the inside of the tomatoes and place them face down on a plate to drain and remaining moisture.

For the filling:

1) Blend up the insides of the tomatoes so that they are smooth (I actually added a few chopped tomatoes just because my tomatoes were a bit watery and didn’t seem like they would give the filling much tomatoey flavour)

2) Heat a large pan over medium heat, adding the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic, cooking them until they soften and brown slightly. Add the rice and cook until the rice starts to toast slightly, making sure you stir it so that nothing burns. Add the tomato puree and the seasoning and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat and cover, stirring occasionally, and adding stock when the rice has soaked up all the moisture and looks dry. It should take about 15 minutes for the rice to be par-cooked, which is what you want because it will cook more in the oven.

3) While the rice is cooking fry the bacon in a separate pan. When the rice is par cooked add the bacon and the fresh chopped herbs and stir them through. Then spoon the filling into the hollowed out tomatoes, sprinkle the grated cheese on top and place them on a lightly oiled baking tray, and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Don’t fill the tomatoes up right to the top because the rice will expand more when it cooks fully.

Serving suggestions: I ate mine with sausages, as a more interesting side than the norm of potatoes

Courgette Pasta

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About a year ago I read a post by Millie Mackintosh about substituting pasta with vegetable alternatives (in this case courgette) and the idea has always stuck with me. Because pasta is so easy and quick to make it is necessarily a student staple food, and whilst I would never advocate cutting out carbs the idea of a super healthy alternative is obviously tempting. Courgettes are in season at the moment, so on a whim last week I bought a few with a vague idea of trying to make pasta or ratatouille. I don’t have a spiralizer, so can’t really make the noodles that I saw when searching how to make vegetable pasta, I just used a peeler to make tagliatelle style noodles. Making this courgette pasta actually takes less time than boiling real pasta and it’s really tasty served with a bit of pesto and some tomatoes, baked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, black pepper and oregano sprinkled over the top.

Link to the post I was inspired by: https://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/blogs/millie-mackintosh/millie-mackintosh-s-blog–my-secret-recipes-that-curb-my-pasta-cravings-and-keep-me-in-shape-revealed-145731866.html

Serves 1
Ingredients:
1 large courgette

1) Peel the outside of the courgette – I don’t use the peel, because it cooks slightly slower but you can if you want and it adds colour to the dish. Peel the rest of the courgette into tagliatelle style strips, until you get down to the seeds in the middle. Don’t use the seedy heart of the courgette because it changes the texture of the dish completely.

2) Add the courgette strips to boiling salted water, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the strips are soft but not falling apart. Drain the courgette pasta, waiting until water stops dripping out of the bottom of the colander, then add whatever topping you like and enjoy!

Lamb Kofta and Homemade Tzatziki

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I decided I wanted to make this a few weeks ago, so I wrote this weeks shopping list around it – surprisingly it was much harder to find lamb mince than I had thought it would be. After popping into pretty much all of the food shops on Nicolson Street I did find it though, and it was worth the little bit of trouble, these kofta were delicious. The spices that I decided to put in are probably not authentically Greek, but I feel that lamb needs quite a lot of spices in it to make it flavourful rather than just a bit bland. The fresh coriander added a really nice lemony freshness, and the paprika made them smoky which made them feel a lot more appropriate for wintery weather. The best thing about them is that I just popped the leftovers in the fridge, so I have my lunch sorted for the rest of the week!

Serves 4
Ingredients:
500g lamb mince
1 large onion, grated
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cumin
small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped or torn up
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 lemon, zested
1 tbsp oil

1) in a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients, apart from the oil, you’ll use that later to fry the kofta, and mix them well using your hands. Fry a small piece off so that you can taste the seasoning and according decide if you want to add more spices.

2) shape the mixture into small sausages, cover and pop into the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes. While the koftas were chilling I made the tzatziki.

3) preheat the oven 180c. In a large pan heat the oil and fry the kofta for about 2 minutes on each side until they are browned, then transfer them to a baking tray and cook in the over for 10 minutes.

To serve: I ate my kofta in wholemeal pitta breads with tzatziki, (recipe below) cucumber and rocket

Tzatziki:
350g greek yogurt
1 small cucumber
juice of 1 lemon
mint leaves, roughly chopped
olive oil

1) chop and deseed the cucumber before grating it, the seeds change the texture of the dip completely and make it a bit watery. Grate the cucumber into a sieve over a bowl to catch the excess water that the cucumber will release. Add a bit of salt to dry it out and leave it until it stops dripping water.

2) Add the cucumber, the lemon juice, the mint leaves and a glut of olive oil to the yogurt and mix it all together, adding more lemon and mint to taste. I saw a lot of recipes that added cloves of crushed garlic to their tzatziki, but I’m personally not a huge fan of raw garlic.

Brew Lab | Artisan Coffee

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Today I finally went into the Brew Lab; I pass it every day on my way to and from my lectures, and every day I’m enticed by the rich smell of coffee that spills out onto the street, the delicious looking cakes on the counter and the large, squishy armchairs. With sockets for laptop chargers at every table Brew Lab is a haven for students and those who want to tap away on their laptops in a slightly more sophisticated environment than chains such as Starbucks. On my way back from a lecture, a friend and I finally decided to succumb to the delicious coffee smell and pop in for a hot drink. The coffee was fantastic, but when I got home and did a bit of googling I was even more impressed by this individual cafes message. Brew Lab tries to use mainly local produce and businesses to source the ingredients for it’s sandwiches and treats (which I cannot wait to try) which I admire, but it also tries to brew coffee in ways that get the most out of the coffee. To read about Brew Lab in more detail, go here: http://www.brewlabcoffee.co.uk
The barista was absolutely lovely, and the coffee that I drank was Brazil Fazenda Ambiental Fortazela, an amazing blend of sweetness and extreme rich bitterness, with an undertone of berry that I can honestly say I have never tasted in a coffee before. My friend, not a coffee lover, decided to go for English breakfast tea, which we rushed to take pictures of when it came because of the cute, slightly kitschy presentation. Even better, it wasn’t hideously expensive, between us my friend and I only spent £4.50, although if we hadn’t been in a rush we could have happily spent hours ensconced in the cosy brick walled back room.

Bacon and mushroom risotto

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I made risotto for the first time the other day, mainly because there was an offer on Arborio rice at Lidl, and it was a huge learning curve. It was fairly time consuming to make due to the constant stirring, but the risotto that I ended up with tasted so good that I decided it was worth it. Testament to that is the above picture; I couldn’t bring myself to let it get cold while I took a decent picture, so a quick snap in-between mouthfuls had to suffice. I chose not to use cream because I felt that the mushrooms, when they had soaked up the meat juices and stock, made the dish feel luxurious enough. However, I did have to add a lot more liquid than I expected to, due to the omission of cream, just to keep the dish moist rather than unbearably dry and sticky. This version of the recipe is my amendments to the original, hopefully I’ve ironed out all the kinks.

Serves 2
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
125g button or chestnut mushrooms, sliced
150g risotto rice
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp oregano
salt and black pepper
1 litre chicken stock

1) heat oil in a deep frying pan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes to soften, but not brown. Add the mushrooms and the bacon and cook for about another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms start to release their juices. Stir in the rice and cook until all the juices and oil have been absorbed, constantly stirring. Add the nutmeg, oregano and a generous amount of salt and pepper at this point. While I’m testing to see if the rice is cooked I tend to add more oregano and nutmeg according to what I think it needs, so remember to keep tasting your food.

2) add the stock, a little bit at a time, stirring well and waiting for the stock to be fully absorbed before you add anymore. Keep doing this until all the stock is absorbed and the rice cooked. If the rice is cooked and how you like it and you’ve still got a bit of stock left, just leave it out. Alternatively, if the whole litre has been absorbed and the rice is still uncooked, just add a splash of water whenever you think the risotto is getting a bit too dry. It took me about 45 minutes of constant stirring to get my risotto how I like it.

To serve: I ate mine with just a generous crack of black pepper, but fresh parsley to garnish would also be a nice addition.

Carrot and ginger soup

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This is probably my favourite soup recipe because carrots are one of the cheapest vegetables, and when it’s cold it really warms you up because of the little bit of spice from the ginger. I think roasting the carrots with the spices instead of just cooking them in a pot with the onion gives the soup more flavour and depth.

makes 4 – 6 servings
Ingredients:
6-7 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, diced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
olive oil
1 litre chicken stock (two tesco chicken stockpots dissolved in 1litre of water)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
salt and black pepper to taste

note: if the spice doesn’t look enough to you, add a bit more then taste when you add the carrot to the broth, you can always add more

1) preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Place the carrots in a large bowl with about 1 tbsp of oil and add the spices and salt and pepper. Toss to coat the carrots fully, then spread them on a baking tray in the oven and bake until they are browned and tender, flipping every 15 minutes to make sure that they don’t burn.

2) heat oil in a large soup pot, add the onions and cook until they are beginning to brown. Add the ginger and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and let the broth simmer for about 5 minutes, until the ginger is tender.

3) when both the roasted carrots and the broth have cooled and the carrots to the broth and blend I did this with a handheld blender, but if you have one I would use a stand alone blender because it takes less time and you’re left with a much smoother soup. Once blended, reheat the soup with extra salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: a dollop of cream or creme fraiche is nice but not necessary. I tend to eat this soup with buttery toast but any bread or roll is nice.

What’s in the cupboard

Moving from one country to another for university this September made me realise something I’d vaguely considered before but never fully realised. I was going to have to budget and cook for myself. Like most students, my mother came up to help me move into uni and bought me food to start me off; in hindsight I would have been much more specific when we went shopping, it really hit me how much stuff you need in a basic larder to actually cook anything tasty.

Basic larder:
Onions – they go off slowly and are so useful
Garlic – again, long life and I use it at least once a week
Ginger – if you like Asian inspired food this is pretty much necessary
Tins of chopped tomatoes/passata – even if you’re just making a pasta sauce these are invaluable
Spices – I went out and bought these in my first week and ended up spending about £10 just on spice, I recommend oregano, paprika, cumin, chilli powder, nutmeg, ground coriander, garam masala
Milk – always runs out way too fast
Eggs – omelettes are amazing, the most important thing my mum taught me how to make, but eggs are also really versatile
Bread – I would also recommend taking a toaster to uni, we had to grill our toast in the oven for about a month, and we always forgot it was in there. A flat that smells of burnt bread is horrible. Store it in the microwave or a bread bin.
Tortillas – fajitas are amazing, my flatmates did my washing up for me for a week after I made them for them. Plus tortillas make wraps way more interesting
Cheese – cheese lasts forever, but it’s a bit expensive, so I made my mum buy me a massive slab of cheddar before she left
Butter – I love lurpak, cooking with utterly butterly is really not the same
Olive/sunflower/cooking oil – you just need it
Pasta – spaghetti and various pasta shapes, I bought little glass jars to put mine in, if not definitely get some of those clips to reseal the tops of the packets
Rice – again useful staple food
Potatoes – because carbs
Flour – this isn’t really necessary, but it’s really irritating having to go buy something that lasts forever in your cupboard
Stock cubes/stock pots – I tend to use chicken stock pots and beef oxo cubes
Ketchup and mayonnaise – or whatever condiments that you personally like
Chillis – I like spicy food, if you don’t then you don’t really need these
Tomatoes – good for most recipes
Peppers – they’re just a nice way thing to put in recipes to make them feel more healthy
Baked beans – I hate them but my flatmates seem to regret not making their parents buy them a lifelong supply
Spaghetti hoops – so much better than beans and amazing late night food
Cereal – again, I don’t like it but everyone else seems to
Chicken – the cheapest meat and therefore the most popular in my flat, we have a drawer full of frozen chicken
Minced beef – because nothing is better than bolognese
Bacon – my best day of freshers week was when we compiled all of our bacon to make flat breakfast

First post

Just a quick introduction; I’m an 18 year old student living in Edinburgh. Like most first year students, starting university in September this year marked the start of my first experience of living alone. Unlike my flatmates however, instead of moving about 4 hours  away from my parents, I moved from Dubai where I lived for about 15 years. Having lead what can only be described as quite a cushy lifestyle back in the U.A.E moving to Scotland was a bit of a culture shock, but I’ve actually really enjoyed all of the freedom uni life has brought, especially being forced to cook for myself.