In Hel’s Kitchen #3

It seems that every time I talk about starting a new feature on here it is the kiss of death for it! Remember Design classics, Slow Cooking Sunday and In Hel’s kitchen anyone? Note to self – I must try harder!

This post has been in my drafts since May (!!) because I have not got my act together and managed to take any photos of our meals. So instead I will talk about food a bit randomly in bullet points, just because food is my favourite thing. Especially the kind of food that comes covered in chocolate!

    • Lately I have become addicted to eating fresh mangos. So good topped with natural yogurt and a little runny honey. Mmmm, mangos…Yes, she does like the mangos

  • Related – I made these Deliciously Ella lollies. They were good. I used normal cows milk because I could not be bothered to open a can of coconut milk for just five tablespoons BTW.
  • I work a lot of late shifts, so to make my life easier during the summer months, I would typically cook up a load of grains (usually quinoa), wash and chop up loads of lettuce and lots of peppers, carrots, celery etc, all in advance ready for me to chuck together on a plate, with maybe some feta, halloumi, a can of tuna or salad bean mix and whatever dressing I could be bothered to whip up when I get home. Easy peasy.
  • I am also eternally grateful for my slow cooker. I use it at least once a week. I am also thankful that I invested in a decent rice cooker five years ago. My rice cooker has a huge hole in the lid from where I dropped it, the inner bowl is dented out of shape from where I dropped it and will sometimes get stuck in the cooker (yeah, you could say that I am a bit on the clumsy side!) But somehow against all odds it still works!
    When I come home from work after a late shift, straight away I will bung some rice (or quinoa) in the rice cooker, and if I am heating up a defrosted-here’s-one-I-made-earlier-meal instead of using my slow cooker, I bung that in a saucepan and stick it on the stove to warm up at the same time, then go upstairs and get changed into my pj’s, and then by the time I come downstairs, dinner is usually ready. Boom!
  • We also eat a lot of cous cous these days because its so convenient. Chilli or curry with cous cous anyone? I like to break the food rules from time to time. And make my life easier.
  • You might be fooled into thinking that I have got my meal planning game sorted. That is not the case. I do try, but I am just not the organised/type A/super woman/homemaking machine that the internet (or rather a lot of lifestyle blogs and Pinterest) wants me to be. I love this post from Posy Gets Cosy about the pressure we put on ourselves to feed our families with nutritious meals all planned weeks in advance. The comments on the post are good too. There is a lot of wisdom on there.
  • I baked two successful (refined) sugar-free chocolate cakes. First this chocolate cake (not pictured) and these peanut butter brownies (pictured in the photo below). Both were very tasty, and chocolaty enough to kid myself that they were a naughty treat. I am not sure how healthy they are (as honey and dates are still sugar and I think cocoa powder is pretty fattening) but I am definitely going to make these again.
They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

…….I guess you could say this post is a little round up on how we eat in my household in spring/summer. Now that the temperatures are cooling, I am looking forward to cooking and eating more soups, stews and lots and lots of stodge! Mmmmm, stodge!

In Hel’s Kitchen #2

Here is what we have been scofing down lately –

  • As I work until 8 pm on average four nights a week, We eat this meal quite often. Its a favourite in our house because its quick and easy to prepare, foolproof and super tasty. (I never bother adding the extra 1/4 cup of water BTW). We eat one meal of this with brown basmati rice and freeze the other portion to have on Tacos Tuesdays!!! Thank you Instagram for introducing me to this institution! Shove some lettuce then shredded salsa chicken mix into a taco shell and top with cheese, bite into it and then pick up the broken taco pieces off your top, the table, the floor and eat them up. Messy food on Tuesdays is the best!

    Wow, look at my food styling and photography skills. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on oven tray and bowl of un appetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

    Wow, look at my mad food styling and photography skillz. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on the oven tray and a bowl of brown unappetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

  • When I first left home, before I started worrying about processed foods, I cooked a lot of frozen things covered in breadcrumbs. The only thing that I really miss eating from those days is Spicy Bean Burgers (and maybe chicken Kiev’s, a guilty, trashy, food pleasure of mine!), so I have been on the hunt for a good homemade bean burger recipe for a long time. I have made a few duds over the years, let me tell you! I find that veggie burger recipes that involve breadcrumbs just taste bland with a horrible, overpowering soggy bread flavour. Yuck. Plus there are loads of over complex veggie burger recipes out there – like this one that involve hours in the kitchen and tons of washing up! I finally hit the bean burger recipe jackpot with this one from Moosewood Low Fat Favourites. Its so easy and tasty. Win, win! And wowzers, Rob does not complain about the lack of beef in his burger! I just fry up my onions etc, then bung all the ingredients (halved, using just one can of kidney beans) into my food processor, wiz it up, shape them and fry them, then enjoy them with salad for tea and the left overs for lunch the next day.beany babies
  • This recipe here from the Moosewood resturant (again) was very easy to cook and the most hippy chow type meal that I have made in a while. I felt some serious good vibes from all those greens, legumes and grains (I served ours with bulgar wheat) man. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo. I was too busy making peace signs and sticking it to the man, man.
  • This tamale bean pie recipe pictured below, that I tore out of the Sainsburys magazine ages ago, and now cannot find online or anything like it. Although this recipe here has similar ingredients and what not, but is done in the slow cooker with the cheese in the bottom, rather than the top like mine (so not at all like it then!). This is yummy, proper, stodgy comfort food that deserves its very own post. I will sort one out eventually. By eventually, I mean next year probably!

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

  • On my never ending quest to make the perfect sugar free oaty energy type bar, I made these healthy apple flapjacks. Which were not quite as good as this favourite bake of mine. I felt they were missing something. Maybe a little butter or marg and some sugar maybe? But still, it was an healthier acceptable alternative and I used up some apples that were about to turn.

Its Meat Free Week this week and Rob and I are taking part as I love a challenge! I always do dry January, Sober October and took part in the blog every day thing a few years back, and not forgetting my upcoming 35 mile bike ride (which I might have mentioned once or twice on here!) Are you taking part in meat free week? I will do a little blog post about our week and reveal if we have made it all the way. Or rather, if I make it all the way, as Rob has already cracked and eaten a ham and Philadelphia wrap for lunch!*

*Amendment – I stand corrected. Rob is not taking part. He didn’t crack at lunch time because he is not taking part.

Update 13/05/15 – I ate no meat for a week and a half in the end. I would have been happy to carry on indefinitely, but Rob wanted a chicken curry and I could not be bothered to cook two meals. We still have meat free meals 3-4 times a week though.

Slow Cooking Sunday – Squash, Sweet Potato and Harissa Soup

Before I start this post, I would like to say that I am available to hire for food styling and food photography. Look at my mad skillz below! So much effort with the sprig of parsley, eh!

Wow, its been a while since I last posted a slow cooker recipe. I still use my slow cooker regularly, I just don’t bother to photograph and blog the meals. Plus most meals are unphotogenic slop.

I bought this book for cheaps recently, and it has some great soup recipes in it. Here is my recipe for a tasty soup which I have slightly adapted from a recipe published in it.soupySquash, Sweet Potato and Harissa Soup

Ingredients
1 chopped onion
1 chopped stick of celery
2 crushed cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1-2 teaspoons of harissa paste (depending on how spicy you like things!)
Around half a large squash
2-3 sweet potatoes
1 chopped carrot
700ml-1 litre vegetable stock (I used boullion powder)

Method
Put all the ingredients into your slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
Once cooked blend with a hand blender until smooth and serve.
Serves 4-6
soupy soupy

Slow Cooking Sunday – Falafel

Wow its been a while since I published a Slow Cooking Sunday post on here!

My reason is – I just kind of got bored of slow cooker meals, because they all kind of taste the same and are all kind of on the runny side.

While we are on the subject of samey meals, check out my pinterest account if you please (I deleted my old account, then recently decided to rejoin it). I basically pinned a board of the same recipe over and over again, containing chicken thighs, soy sauce and sugar. Which is also not very healthy. You can follow me if you fancy it!

Last Thursday I was in the mood for falafel, and I had been wanting to try out this recipe I saw on the Crockpot lady’s blog for a long time. I just wanted to see for myself if it would work. Its one of those things you don’t really believe can happen until you see it with your own eyes. Can the appliance famous for making watery, sloppy stews really produce crunchy falafel balls?

The answer is yes it can. I don’t know how, as it was really steamy in there. But it did. I cant explain the science behind it, but my guess is that I turned my slow cooker into one of those healthy fryer gadget things………that took four hours to cook falafel……….hmm, maybe not!

Well anyway, they were delicious. I used this recipe from here, but using chickpea flour and some frozen coriander (all I had to hand, my local Morrisons let me down it had no fresh parsley!) and garlic powder instead of a clove of the fresh stuff.

I forgot to take a picture of my ingredients, and I am afraid you will have to take my word for it that these were yummy. You know how with some food blogs the photo’s have you salivating? It’s called food porn. My photo’s below are the opposite. More food mourn if you will!

The balls pre cooking.ballsThe balls after cooking. I left them for four hours on high, they were slightly dry, I recommend doing them for less time and don’t do what I did (that’s go out), keep an eye on them.nibbled ballsIts weird. My slow cooker seems to have a cooking blind spot as one of the falafel balls was not done on the bottom. Strange.
odd ballFalafel pitta. Yummy! They would have been amazing with some cucumber yogurt dressing. I just could not be bothered to make any.

pitta

Slow Cooking Sunday – Meatballs

I have been wanting to try out making meatballs in my slowcooker for a while. A few weeks ago I finally got round to trying it out.

My verdict? They were OK. Well, the meatballs were fine, but the sauce was very thin and runny. Next time I will try using a tin of tomatoes instead of passata, to see if it makes any difference with the consistency of the sauce.

Whats that I hear you say? Did it make things any easier by making meatballs in a slow cooker? Well not really, as it is a little time consuming and fiddly preparing the meatballs. So after going to all that bother you may as well cook them on the stove top and have dinner ready 20-30 odd minutes later…

But the beauty of using a slowcooker for this meal, is as always, that once you have done the prep work and bunged everything in the slow cooker and switched it on (very important – do not forget that part!) You can then go about your day with the knowledge that your dinner dilemma is solved for the evening. So for that reason I would make this meal again. It’s perfect for, say – if I was working in the afternoon only (which I do on a Thursday) and I want my dinner ready and waiting when I get home.

Ingredients
750g Mince (I used pork)
Handful of parsley chopped
Few basil leaves chopped
1 egg
1 slice of slightly stale bread whizzed into breadcrumbs
Half tsp black pepper
As much grated parmesan as you want
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic granules
1 carton passata
1 dried bay leave
1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions
With the first nine ingredients – put them all in a bowl and mix together then shape into ping-pong or golf sized balls. Put them straight into your slow cooker bowl (raw!) and pour tomatoes (passata, tinned, a jar of spaghetti sauce what ever is your preference) over them. Add the bay leaf and vinegar if you fancy doing so. Then cook on high for 4-6 odd hours or low 6-8 odd hours depending on your quantities and fierceness of your slow cooker.

Sorry about my great big whooping shadow on the plate! What can I say, I was hungry so took a very quick picture!

This meal serves 3-4 people. Rob had the left overs the next day as I was out and left him them to fend for his self with. He added some cornflour to the sauce to thicken it when he reheated them on the stove and said they were very nice. Job done!

Lately #2

  • I recently made this recipe and this recipe, but did not photograph them for future Slow Cooking Sunday posts. Both were very tasty meals BTW. Yep, Im a useless blogger.
  • I turned up to work last Tuesday morning when it was my week off. Yep, I’m a muppet.
  • I mentioned on here that I made a No-Knead bread the other week, it was OK. I have not made another attempt to practice the technique. Yep, Im a lazy bread maker.
  • I have found a couple of prints I want to purchase for the lounge. Yet more wall art to add to the growning collection of cardboard tubes containing prints waiting to be framed. Nothing gets done quick in our house. Or on my blog – House tour coming soon…..ish.
  • Rob managed to reserve two Glastonbury tickets for us both this morning! It will be our first trip back to the festival since 2005 (I think). We got fed up trying then failing to order tickets for 24 hours plus before they sold out etc, and felt that the festival was getting a little too commercial, so we gave up on it many years ago. I remember the good old days when no one bought a ticket, people would just jump the fence! We were persuaded (well Rob mainly, as I have wanted to go back again for years, as Glasto always has a special place in my heart!) by our VW club friends to give it another go. The plan was go with them in a big group and camp together in our camper vans. But they did not manage to get tickets. Dammit!
  • We now have eight months to get the camper van camping worthy! Plus it will be Rob’s birthday at the festival!
  • The camper van failed its MOT recently on 18 fails.
  • My new favorite blog is this one. I cannot stop reading it. I like the oldie’s stories of growing up in the east end best. Although I cannot say that any of my grandparents grew up that area (they are from Liverpool and Kingston/Surrey respectably) they grew up in similar circumstances and poverty. In a area where so much has changed over the years, its nice to remember how things used to be and to hear peoples stories.

Slow Cooking Sunday – Stuffed Peppers

This is just a quick post put together from a few photos of a meal I cooked earlier this week. Im currently hanging like a bat in a cave after a weekend away camping at the Kent VW show. Living with a VW nut I get dragged along to these things from time to time, and at these events there is no much to do apart from sit around drinking all day.

I know, it is tough for me but sometimes you have to make these sacrifices. I did not take any pictures, so I cannot write up a review on here. If you wish to learn more about the VW scene here is a great post which I starred in my google reader written by the wonderful Vintage Vixen. Oh, and I was dancing to the Birdy Song at three in the afternoon in a field. What? All the hipsters do it, don’t you know!

Back to the food, the slow cooked food no less. I took a recipe for roasted Moroccan Peppers from a book I bought at The Works for £2.50 to base mine on. I have just listed some of ingredients I used and left it up to you to decide how much you wish to add of each. This is such an easy recipe to adapt and could be made with quinoa or bulgar wheat or with feta cheese or with what ever you fancy/have in your cupboard.

Ingredients
2 peppers
cous cous (sorry I did not weigh it, I judged by eye how much I would need for 2 people, maybe google will be more helpful than me?)
1 tsp harissa paste or to taste
juice of 1 lemon
sultanas
sunflower seeds
half a ball of mozzarella (save the rest for homemade pizzas – yum)
spinach

before cooking

Directions
Slice peppers in half and discard seeds and pif.
Boil kettle add water needed to cous cous according to the instructions on the pack.
Mix in harissa paste, lemon juice and whatever else you fancy. I added some spinach as I love my leafy greens, but in hindsight maybe I should have wilted it first in a frying pan or added into the cous cous at the boiling water stage. You live and learn.
Stuff peppers with cous cous mix then layer the cheese slices on top of them and place into slow cooker and cook on high for around 2-4 hours. (I did around 3 hours so the cheese had melted and the peppers were lovely and juicy)
Serve and enjoy!

after cooking

plated up

Slow Cooking Sunday – Ham In Coke

Right, this recipe is as simple as they come. It uses just two ingredients to produce some slightly odd but very tasty results, so I am told.

In our house I make this as sandwich meat for Rob’s packed lunches, it’s more economical than buying packs of sweaty wafer thin ham or at least it would be if I could stop Rob from helping himself to thick slices cut straight from the fridge as a snack!

If you use a search engine to look up recipes for slow cooker ham in coke, you will see a lot of recipes that say rub this in, then finish in the oven, boil down the juices etc, which I am sure all taste great. But I don’t see the point of using the slow cooker if it is just for one stage of the cooking process and will create more washing up. Basically I have adapted this recipe to the easiest possible method/lazy girls way!

Ingredients

A cut of ham or gammon, make it a unsmoked one
A bottle of coke, make it a full fat one. The sweeteners in diet drinks will not work.

Directions

Unwrap the meat, put it into the slow cooker.
Pour the coke into your slow cooker until your meat is fully covered.
Drink the rest of the coke.
Switch slow cooker on to low then cook for 8hours minimum. NB I tend to cook this overnight. This time I forgot to set my alarm properly, so it ended up cooking for nearly twelve hours, but it was fine. The only problem was that it tasted slightly of cheap coke, so I would recommend to not be a cheap skate like me and buy the branded stuff that a jolly father xmas drinks or otherwise know as the devils teat juice.
Pour away your cooking juices and leave to cool and slice.

Its hard to make a photo of a lump of meat look appealing!

I apologise to any veggies out there for the gratuitous meat shots!

Yeah, you have probably gathered that I do not eat this, I make it out of love for Rob as boiled bacon is one of his fave things, but I do not want to stink out the whole house making it. I have also made this with Dr Pepper (verdict – v.good) and have been asked to try it next with Cherry Coke. This ham could also be made with ginger ale, lemonade or just plain water!

Slow Cooking Sunday – Maple Mustard Chicken

This is a lovely and very easy recipe that I found here, when I was searching for something completely different, but it was a lucky find.

I love slow cooker recipes that have very few ingredients. The fewer the better I say! This one has just four, but it could really have just two. I did not think the paprika added anything to it, and the black pepper you could skip and just put a grinder on the table to add later. In fact Rob did do just that, as I could not be bothered to tell him I had already added pepper to the chicken!

Ingredients
6 chicken thighs (not pictured as they are pugly) I used thighs with skin and bones but took the skin off them.
3 Tablespoons of maple syrup
1.5 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard
A sprinkle of paprika
A shake of black pepper

Directions
Put the chicken in the slow cooker bowl. Mix maple syrup and mustard in another bowl, then pour on chicken. Add the paprika and pepper if you want to, but its not essential.
Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low, depending on how fierce your slow cooker is.

Terrible photo, sorry peeps.

Well this was very simple and tasty. Its a keeper that’s for sure.

Top tip, if you have a slow cooker get yourself one of these. I got mine for three pound in Morrison’s BTW. Rob likes a bit of sauce (ooh matron!) with his food, so in order to serve the cooking liquor/gravy, a stainer is invaluable as chicken thighs are fatty little so and so’s.

Even if you remove the skins like I did, you will still get a lot of grease in your sauce during the cooking process. So your arteries will thank you for buying the jug.

Slow Cooking Sunday – Cajan Stew

Its a cajun dance party – not yuck! It also turns out that I don’t listen to my own advice! I said yesterday that its probably best to follow a tried and tested recipe rather than improvising when it comes to using a slow cooker.

Today I Ignored that and just made it up as I was going along! I decided I would like to make a cajun type stew/jambalaya type thing. So I gathered what ingredients I could find together and bunged them all into my slow cooker and hoped for the best. It turned out alright! So I can hold my head high and share the recipe here with you.

Slow Cooker Cajun Stew

serves 4

Ingredients
• One smoked sausage
• One onion
• One tin of sweetcorn
• One tin of tomatoes
• 2 tsp Cajun spice mix and any other spices or herbs you fancy. I added a little dried thyme & oregano (not pictured) and a few turns of this chili and garlic grinder I picked up in Poundland.
• Some chicken stock (not pictured). I did not use a measuring jug, but I’d hazard a guess and say I added about half a cup. Go easy on liquids with slow cookers, they are not your friend. Nothing will thicken up in them, and you don’t want dinner to be too watery.
• About a quarter of a bag of frozen sliced peppers (not pictured).

Directions
Chop sausage and onion. Open cans, add it all to your slow cooker bowl with the spices. Mix it. Switch on and cook. Easy!
I cooked mine on high for around three and a half hours, but on the slow setting I guess it would take around 7 hours.
The beauty of this meal is that there is no raw meat, the sausage is already cooked. So its only the onion that needs to be cooked. It is just a case of letting all the flavours meld together.
When you have judged your onion to be cooked, serve it with rice. I served mine with some quinoa (ooh get me! Yep I read far too many food blogs!) as I have a shed load of it about to go off soon.

Top tip – slow cookers are great for when your other half goes out and does not tell you what time they will be home. You can just keep dinner cooking until they finally show their sorry ass, and it wont be overcooked. (Unless they are really, really late. Then you throw dinner in the bin.)