> Recipes | whip until fluffy - Part 3

Recipes

Overnight Oats: 2 Ways

Overnight Oats

Let’s start from the beginning. I never thought I’d be an oats for breakfast kind of a gal. My dad tried relentlessly for years, but porridge was never really for me. There was always something about the warmth of it, mixed with a weird, wallpaper-paste texture I just couldn’t stomach. And, of course, my parents didn’t believe in adding sweetness to anything when I was a kid, so bowls of soggy oats were always just that… soggy oats. Now I’m a grown up and I can mix fruit, honey, jam, goshdarnit even chocolate, into my oats, I thought I’d give them another go.

So, at the start of this month I resolved to take breakfast into work with me. I’m a terrible breakfast-dodger. And when I do it, let’s be honest, it’s usually pastry. In a bid to banish hunger and to eat less for lunch and throughout the day in general. I started filling the new Ball Quilted Jars I got for Christmas with natural yoghurt, a small layer of rolled oats and then topping them with some frozen berries. It seemed healthy and cost effective, best of all it tasted nice! After a few days I started toying with the idea of tarting it up a bit, and having read what seems like 101 recipes for overnight oats, I rustled some up one night. The rest is history.

Real talk: these oats take less than five minutes, they sit in the fridge overnight and you can just grab em on your way out of the door. Great for eating at your desk, or hell, even on the bus. They mostly contain ingredients that don’t need to be fresh (I use frozen fruit, generally) so you don’t even need to be that organised. They can be varied in so many ways you’ll likely never get bored. If you’re not great at diary, switch for almond milk. Guys, there is literally no excuse. Never is a day without breakfast to be seen again! Plus, get yourself some jars and COME ON your breakfast has never looked so cute. Totes adorbs. Get decent quality (the kind with lids that seal, Kilner will do nicely) and you can cart them around willy-nilly. Not a spill in sight! And if jars aren’t your thing, no biggie, tupperware will be fine. Just pick something that seals tightly.

NB I am by no means the inventor of these recipes. These are simply my favourites, tweaked from the hundreds on Pinterest; the ones I’ve been turning to again and again throughout January. Give them a go! Make sure you report back on what you think. Got a recipe you love? Share it!

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Raspberry Coconut Overnight Oats – this one is fruity, almost tropical. A nice change from the creaminess of regular milk. I find it to be an energising and fresh way to start my morning.

1/2 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
1/4 Cup Berries (I use frozen mixed berries, but you can use fresh)
1 Tsp Light Brown Sugar

1. Go ahead and pop your oats in the jar. Place the berries on top. Sprinkle your brown sugar on top of them. You could also use honey in place of the sugar – one large squidge from a squeezy bottle should do it.

2. Pour your milk on top of your layered ingredients. Half a cup or to the top of your jar, whatever comes first. It’s worth taking this slowly, wait for the milk to soak through for a few seconds, those guys are absorbent!

3. Screw your lid on tightly. Give it a shake. If you use frozen berries your milk will turn pink – pretty! Pop it in the fridge and don’t come back until morning.

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Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats – great for those cold mornings, the spice adds something comforting. You can also warm this one up if you fancied!

1/3 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 Banana, mashed
1/2 Apple, diced
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Tbsp Ground Almonds
1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

1. Pop your oats in. Pile on the mashed banana, this gives the oats a lovely silky feel. Chuck in the ground almonds and cinnamon and stir it up.

2. Throw in your diced apple and then top with milk. Screw the lid on tight and shake it up.

3. Pop it in the fridge. When you serve up, sprinkle a little cinnamon on the top. Yum!

Overnight Oats

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Roasted Veg Soup
January is absolutely rife with ‘healthy eating options’. I know, I know, the beginning of a new year is an ideal time to make a bit of a change and I’m all for that, believe me. But, to be honest, a dry or diet January will never be for me. It’s all depressing enough already. A frugal January though, that’s something I can (and sadly have to) get on board with.

This soup was born from leftovers. It’s the epitome of festive overindulgence coming back to redeem itself. On New Years Eve, Matt and I had about 20 people to feed. We served a canapé of roasted red pepper purée, served in a spoon and garnished with some chilli flakes. As always, we over catered and ended up with half a saucepan of the stuff left in the fridge. Instead of chucking it in the hungover post-party clean up, I decided to save it and recycle it for lunch today.

The original purée consisted of red peppers, roasted with a few cloves of garlic and then liquified with a hand blender. We added a bit of olive oil to emulsify the paste, to make it smoother. To bulk it out for the soup (but not lose flavour) I had a look for vegetables in my kitchen that were on the turn and roasted them too. I chose to do that because, for me, the charred bits around the edges of roasted veg add a layer of flavour to a simple soup which transforms it from something that can be pretty dull, into something a bit more complex. The slightly burnt flavour that comes with a roasted soup is warming and, most importantly for me, still wintery. Despite what the internet would have you believe, it is not yet Springtime. Clean, fresh flavours aren’t welcome until March. For now, you can take your spring greens and shove ’em.

The thing that usually stops me from loving homemade soups is the texture. Soups that have been blended can be grainy, or gloopy like wallpaper paste. What I’ve learnt recently, is that it’s easily fixed. It just takes a bit of time and a sieve. ‘Passing’ your soup through a sieve (or better yet, a conical sieve – that’s a pointy one) rids it of that weird graininess and turns it into a smooth, glossy masterpiece. For texture sticklers like me, this is an unmissable step that’ll have you feeling a lot more enthusiastic about your creation.

Roasted Veg Soup
Ingredients (Makes 2 Large Bowls)

8 Small Sweet Peppers (or 4 of the long ones)
1 Small Bulb of Garlic
1 Medium Sweet Potato
2 Medium Onions
1 Medium Potato
500ml of Chicken (or veg) Stock
Whatever herbs you have to hand (I used thyme)

Method

1. Chances are, you haven’t made a pepper purée ahead of time. No worries. Halve your mini sweet peppers and remove the seeds and white bits. Lay them on a baking sheet, you’ll probably need two so the peppers don’t overlap, and pop peeled garlic cloves into the gaps.

2. Cube your sweet potatoes into 2cm ish bits. Chop your onions into fat wedges. Lie your veg onto another baking tray and add some more garlic. Sprinkle all your veg with as much thyme as you fancy, a pinch or 2 of salt and drizzle with olive oil. Toss so everything is evenly covered.

3. Roast all your veg in an oven at 180, for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are starting to catch. Scrape the contents of the trays into a big saucepan and pulse with a hand blender. Alternatively, pop it all into a freestanding blender and blitz until smooth.

4. Once you have a thick veg paste in your saucepan, whack on the heat at a medium to low level and add 500 ml of stock. As it comes to the simmer, throw in a potato cubed into 1cm pieces to work as a bit of a thickener. Simmer for 30 minutes when the potatoes should be soft and the liquid reduced. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Blend once more and push through a sieve into a suitable container. Eat straight away or leave to cool and reheat when it suits you. Garnish with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.

Orange & Pomegranate Fizz

Orange and Pomegranate Fizz 2

Despite not being big drinkers, every year on Christmas Morning my family crack open the champers. Usually it’s straight up for the hardcore and Bucks Fizz for those attempting to keep a hold of their enunciation skills before lunchtime, but 2013 was the year that my mum handed over some holiday responsibility to me, so when I prepared breakfast on Christmas day I rustled up some cocktails with a subtle change.

The thing with this cocktail is that it doesn’t have to be much work. I squeezed the oranges so we had fresh juice, but you could go the way of the carton if you fancied, you could Shake The Pulp out of an Orangina juice. A bit of vermouth, a splash of lemon juice and one lone pomegranate later, and you’re well on your way to a fruity but sharp festive alternative.

The thing with jars right, they’re pretty. I’m not ashamed to say I love drinking out of them, even if they are made for jam and grannies and non-Pinteresters alike think I’m a dickhead. Call me a hipster if you like but I’m into it. Jars are also good if you don’t have a cocktail shaker to hand. I poured orange juice and Martini (that’s vermouth, but you could use a vodka or gin if you liked) into my Kilner with a bit of lemon juice. I dropped some ice in to make it good and cold, and then I whacked on the lid and shook it up good and proper. One minor note, though. As much as I love how they look, there is one caveat to using a jar as your glass. Unlike a traditional shaker and glass option, your drink isn’t poured over fresh ice when you serve it, instead it’s served with the ice you shake it up with. The movement means you get the ice going and warm it up, making it melt quicker. So as you get to the bottom of your jarred cocktail it can turn a bit watery. My solution is to drink up faster.

Orange and Pomegranate Fizz 1

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 Cocktails)

5 Large Oranges
1-2 Lemons
150ml Dry Vermouth (that’s about 25ml, 1 shot, per person)
1 Pomegranate
1 Cup of Ice
1 Bottle of Champagne, Prosecco or Cava (in fact, any sparkling wine will do)

Method

1. Juice the oranges into a measuring jug. I used a wooden reamer from Lakeland, but you could use a fancy machine or just squeeze them by hand, it won’t take you long. Strain the juice through a sieve if you want it smooth, otherwise leave it as it is!

2. Pour the juice a third of the way up your jar or glass. Next, add a shot of vermouth to each jar.

3. Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to each cocktail. I did this by sight, it doesn’t have to be exact. Drop a couple of ice cubes into each jar and screw the lid on tight. Shake away for 10-15 seconds, until all the ingredients are well mixed and the liquid’s temperature has come down.

4. Top each jar to the brim with bubbles. Drop in 2 tbsp of pomegranate seeds. Squeeze a little juice in while you’re at it. Voila!

I find that the fruit and vermouth counteract the dryness of the champagne quite nicely, but the tanginess the drink leaves behind means you can’t help but take this cocktail seriously. Fizzy pop, this ain’t. Leave your Sex On the Beach at home, I might just drink it all year long.

Simple Biscuit Sandwiches with Lemon & Thyme Buttercream

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Sometimes I just want a sweet treat. You know how it is, you eat your tea and it was nice, but for some reason you’re still hankerin’ for something and you can’t quite put your finger on what. It’s in these times of trouble that I’ve learnt to turn to the baking cupboard. Rustling something up off the cuff can be hard when it comes to baking, more often than not you need specialist flours, sugars or flavours. That’s why we all need one fail-safe option up our sleeves, something you know you’re always going to be able to make. This simple biscuit recipe is mine.

You don’t need nothing fancy, just butter, sugar, flour, vanilla and one egg yolk. Simple stuff, right? Buy one set of all these ingredients and they’ll last you a while (just remember to refresh your eggs!), they’ll work in loads of other recipes, and you won’t need to pop out to the shop when you fancy something sweet. The biscuits come out like shortbread, buttery and crumbly, and are the perfect base to add extras too. That half a lemon that’s shrivelling in your fridge door? Zest it! A 3/4 used block of cooking chocolate? Throw it in! Chopped nuts? Check! Dried fruit? Don’t mind if I do! You get the picture… it’s a yummy vehicle for more yumminess.

Don’t get me wrong, these guys are fine on their own, but I like a sandwich. Twice as nice, right? This time around I kept my biscuits plain and I chose another use for that half a lemon from the fridge that’s going a bit brown around the edges… buttercream! While I was in there I grabbed something else that was looking a bit ropey. Leftover from the sunday roast, half a packet of fresh thyme. I’ve used lemon thyme in baking before so I figured lemon + thyme = lemon thyme, right? Well not quite, but kinda. You can add more or less thyme dependent on your tastes, or just keep the buttercream plain old lemony. Personally, I like a herby kick. Next time I’d like to add a splash of booze to the mix. Maybe use orange zest and Cointreau with a chocolate chip biscuit. Nice.

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Ingredients (Makes 16 large sandwiches – whoopee pie style!)

For the biscuits:

250g Unsalted Butter
140g Caster Sugar
2tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg Yolk
300g Flour

For the buttercream:

100g Unsalted Butter
200g Icing Sugar
Juice of Half a Lemon
1/2tsp Thyme Leaves

Method

1. Cream the butter together with the sugar. If you’ve got a mixer, great, but otherwise just use the back of a spoon and use those biceps. Make sure your butter is softened and you should have a fluffy consistency in no time. Next, beat in the vanilla and egg yolk.

2. Sift the flour in a little at a time (not sure why you’re sifting? Have a read of Joy the Baker’s Baking 101 post!) and fold it in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will go a little bitty, but once it’s a rough ball take it out of the bowl and shape it into a ball with your hands. It should stay together without a problem.

3. Wrap the dough in cling film and stick it in the fridge for half an hour. This step isn’t essential but a colder, firmer dough will make it a lot easier to handle. Preheat your oven to 170ºC.

4. For this next bit, I got a bit technical. I like to keep things as simple as possible but after one too many incidents with separate cookies blending into one big plank in the oven, I like to make my biscuits uniform. I separate the dough into little balls and weigh each one on my digital scales until they’re all a matching 40g. This helps keep them roughly the same size and shape when they bake. It seems like a lot of trouble but it’s actually pretty easy and the look of the finish product makes it well worth the time.

NB: feel free to cut the measurements down to 30g and use a cutter to cut the biscuits – they’ll look a whole lot prettier than the “rustic” look I’ve gone for.

5. I baked mine in batches. I placed 6 balls on my baking sheet in alternate spaces (see picture) so they each have their own space to spread. I created the pattern in the top just by pressing down with a fork to form a cross. I don’t really know why; my mum used to do it so I guess it’s just habit! Keep an eye on them but 10-12 minutes had them turning brown at the edges for me.

6. While the biscuits are in the oven, beat 100g of unsalted butter together with 200g of icing sugar. If you’re using a mixer, turn it up to the highest speed. By hand? Work up a sweat. For plain buttercream I’d add 2 tbsp of milk at this point, but here the lemon juice does that job. Once the mixture gets to a whipped texture, add the juice and the thyme leaves. Whip until fluffy (wahey!) and the butter should turn from yellow to a lighter, creamier colour.

7. Cool the biscuits on a wire cooling rack. They’ll be flimsy when warm so go steady. Once they’re completely cooled, the biscuits themselves will stay crispy for 2-3 days in a sealed container. If you’re making them for a special occasion, don’t sandwich them with the buttercream until the day you intend to eat them, it can make them a little squishy in the middle if they sit for a bit.

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Sweet Potato Hash with a Fried Egg

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Brunch is nice. It’s like breakfast, but also like lunch. It’s great on Sundays. You can have it out, you can cook it yourself. It’s very flexible. Brunch is nice.

I’m partial to a bacon sandwich.I like a full english too, but sometimes I just want to do things a little differently. In America the massive breakfasts are always my favourite meal. The concept of “Home Fries” makes me very happy. Potatoes? Fried? For breakfast? Winner. So last weekend I wanted to do a different take on the whole home fries thing, make it more seasonal and maybe spice it up a little. Sweet Potato Hash is what came of my adventure.

Number one, sweet potatoes are great. High in fibre, relatively low in carbs and deeeeelicious. In Autumn I tend to use them a lot, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas time when they’re featured on every food blog around the web. If you’re a hater, this would work fine with normal potatoes too (Charlotte, probably) but the sweetness with the spice works really well here and creates a lovely balance. Number two, there’s a meat element here but there doesn’t haven’t to be. If you’re a veggie, just take that meat out and maybe add some green peppers or aubergine (mushrooms are the devil’s work so don’t even talk to me about that. I’m told it would probably work but I just don’t want to hear it, alright?). My original idea for this was to use lardons or pancetta, but alas the cupboard was bare. Instead I chopped up some leftover pork sausages and chucked them in. The char on the fatty meat is the best. Just use whatever meat you got!

You can fashion this dish to whatever suits your needs. I like it hot so I used 2 whole chillis and a good, thick paste of spices. Tone it down if you like, but I think the spiciness is all part of the fun. Alternatively, you could whack a little sour cream on the side to cool things down. Just tart the creamy stuff up with a little salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped parsley. For toast, you can bake your own bread if you’re feeling flash. I bet you’ll feel very accomplished. But let’s be honest, ain’t nobody got time for that on a Sunday morning. Pick up a good loaf from your local baker or supermarket. The crustier the better. Sliced white won’t cut it here.

I’d make this dish again in a heartbeat, in fact, I may well make it tomorrow. It’s a different take on a traditional brunch and has an rooty, warming flavour ideal for this kind of year. Get your brunch on!

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Ingredients (makes 2 generous portions)

1 Onion, diced
1 Large Sweet Potato, cubed
1/2 Cup of Chopped Sausages or Bacon (whatever you have)
2 Cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
2 Birds Eye Chillis, diced
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
Salt to taste (I used approx 1 tsp)

2 Eggs
4 Slices of Crusty Bread
Chopped Parsley to Garnish

Method

1. Once you’ve done all your chopping, get the onion in a frying pan over a medium heat with a tsp of oil (I used a light olive). We want to brown these guys not just soften them, so don’t be tempted to turn the heat to low. After five minutes, add in the garlic and the chillis. Keep it moving and keep an eye on it, we want the edges to catch but we don’t want to burn it to a crisp. You want to add the garlic to the pan after the onions are already partially cooked as garlic needs far less cooking time and can turn bitter. This way your slices will be browned and chewy upon plating up, not burnt.

2. Throw in the meat and cook for five minutes. The edges should be turning brown when you add the sweet potato. Turn the heat down to low and leave for five more minutes. When everything but the potatoes are starting to form a crust (they’ll look a little anaemic – it’s ok), throw in the spices and mix to coat all the ingredients in the pan. Pour in half a cup of tap water, turn the heat up to medium-high and cover with whatever you can find. As long as there’s some steam circulating you’ll be fine, no need to worry about a perfect fit.

3. After ten minutes remove your lid. The water should have reduced to a paste and the potatoes should be starting to get tender. If a few bits look black, no worries, the char only adds to the flavour. At this point, use your judgement. If your potatoes are still solid, add some more water and recover for a little while longer. If they’re just a little hard in the middle, keep them over the heat for another few minutes until a fork goes through easily. Season with a sprinkle of salt.

4. When the potatoes are soft in the centre, make two gaps at the edge of your pan for the eggs. Crack them in and leave to cook for approx 4 minutes. They’ll be done when the edges start curling up from the pan. While they’re frying, toast your 4 slices of bread. Pile them on 2 plates and drizzle with olive oil. Carefully remove your potatoes from the pan and spoon them on top of the toast. Then use a fish slice to place your egg on top. Sprinkle with a little more salt and some chopped parsley. Serve alongside a little bottle of Tabasco.

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Sweet & Spicy Corn Fritters

Sweet Corn Fritters

I’m learning to cook frugally and I’m not very good at it. The sight of leftovers turns me cold. Wilted greens, hardened chicken, mushy noodles; none of that stuff is my bag. Surprisingly though, I’m scraping by. A good thing – meal planning comes naturally to me, a control freak through and through. Reusing ingredients isn’t the problem (I’d eat beetroot, chicken, cabbage or whatever for 5 days in a row without complaint), it’s just that congealing, sorry-looking mess in the tupperware container on the 2nd shelf down that I take issue with.

A few weeks ago Matt and I were set to tuck into a creamy noodle soup for tea, a loose take on a Malaysian laksa we’d made on the weekend that was absolutely glorious the first time around. For reasons even I don’t understand, I couldn’t face eating what was left unless I created something, just a little something, slightly different to go with it. A dumpling, perhaps, or one of those delicious fried snacks that help you start off a thai takeaway before you hit the gang panaeng head on. Our usual store of frozen gyoza skins were sadly sacrificed in the move, plus with a lack of filling options, nothing defrosted and less than £3 in my purse, those little parcels I know and love seemed truly unobtainable. With a can of Green Giant staring at me out of the store cupboard, I came up with the plan. A quick trip to Co-op and £1.50 later, I was back with spring onions and chillies to fry up some sweetcorn fritters.

Served with a tangy, salty dipping sauce, these fritters were an ideal accompaniment to our fiery, fragrant soup. I think the first time I made them they ended up a little big. There wasn’t quite as many crisp outer edges as I would’ve liked. When I revisited the recipe this weekend I made sure to keep the dollop of batter to no more than a modest tablespoon full. It pains me to say it, but heaping here is not the way to go.

I’m really looking forward to making these again, maybe this time with a dishful of Singapore Noodles, or alongside pork potstickers and thai fishcakes when I have friends round and want to impress. From cupboard to plate these took no longer than 20 minutes and the batter can be made in advance as well as frozen to make the after work prep even easier. What I like even more, is that they’re easily adapted to suit fussy eaters. As long as your guest doesn’t hate corn itself, you can spice the little cakes to adapt to anyone’s tastes. Add an extra chilli, lemongrass and coriander for something quite delicate and fragrant, or grind up coriander seeds, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns for something more warming.

Sweet Corn Fritters

Ingredients (Makes 12 Fritters)

For the Batter:

1.5 Large Tins (roughly 400g) Sweetcorn
2 Red Chillis
5 Spring Onions

110g Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Paprika
2 Eggs
75ml Milk
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

Vegetable Oil to Fry

For the Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup Sweet Chilli Sauce
1/4 cup Light Soy Sauce
1 tsp Fish Sauce
1 tbsp Rice Wine

Method

1. Chop your spring onions and your chilli as roughly or as finely as you like. I tend to leave my onions fairly chunky to add a bit of texture to the mix. Drain your sweetcorn. Combine your veg in a bowl and set aside.

2. In another bowl, mix your flour, baking powder and paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste, I use around a teaspoon of each. When the dry ingredients are well combined, crack your eggs into the bowl and beat. Next, pour your milk in slowly while you mix it to combine. You may not need all of it, depending on how thick you want your batter. I tend to add milk to mine until it’s roughly the consistency of custard.

3. Take your batter and add it a little at a time to the bowl which contains your veg. Mix it through until it coats each kernel of corn but you don’t want too much excess. Heat a 1cm high layer of vegetable (or another flavourless) oil in a large frying pan. Olive oil isn’t a good choice here as it will take longer to reach the desired temperature and will leave the fritters with a distinctive taste. Plus, it’s expensive!

4. To test if the oil is hot enough to fry in, I take a chopstick I got from Shop-Chopsticks and dip it into the oil. Any thin, wooden utensil will do – try the end of a wooden spoon! If you spot small bubbles around the edge of the stick, your oil is ready to go. Grab a table spoon of your batter mix (remember, don’t over do it!) and splosh it into the pan. I managed to fit about 5 fritters in but it’ll depend on the size of your pan.

5. Leave the fritters to cook for 1 to 2 minutes on the first side and then flip them. They should be a lovely golden brown colour. When they’re done on the other side (they should need slightly less time after the flip!) lift them out of the oil and onto a piece of kitchen roll or a clean tea towel. This will help soak up the oil so they retain their crispiness. Repeat with the next batch.

6. While your second and third batch cook, mix up the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small dish or ramekin. When the fritters are all done, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little fresh coriander if you have it. Wolf down like your life depends on it.

Sweet Corn Fritters