Category Archives: Sunday

 Sunday Chat

I just wanted to have a little catch up with all you lovely people to touch base about life in general and to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. 

  
If you’ve read my “After my Exams”post, you’ll know that studying for professional qualifications after work has taken up a lot of my free time. But now I’m finished, and I’m taking a well-earned break, and that leaves me free to dedicate more time and energy to a lot of things, but particularly my blog. Just this morning I’ve decided to sort out my Twitter account and start using it again, as well as trying really hard to get better at scheduling my posts, although I’m not entirely sure sticking to the same upload days is necessary (I’m not a YouTube sensation after all). 

I’m also going to take some time to consider hosting outside of Word Press, as well as thinking about how to make the leap to YouTube eventually. 

  
On Saturday, I’ll be taking part in my very first collaborative post, which I’m really excited about. It was spearheaded by a lovely lady, Siobhan, who has a fantastic beauty blog, Beautyandthelook and who basically out herself out there with a shout out to anyone who fancied joining in. So on Saturday, Siobhan, myself, Jennifer, Becca-Louise, Karen and BunniesBlanketsandBandanas will each be blogging about our top 5 Christmas party essentials – it’s really exciting for me to be part of, if for no other reason that it’s put me in touch with some lovely bloggers who have great blogs. That will be dropping at 6pm on Saturday 28th November if you’re interested. 

  
I’ve had a bit of a mixed bag this week after having an amazing long weekend with Mr Brooker, seeing two great bands (Truckstop Honeymoon and Beans on Toast) at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh after last Friday night, and then  Will Varley, Skinny Lister and Frank Turner at Newcastle uni on Saturday night before having some quality time being spoiled rotten by my wonderful husband-to-be.

  
Then it was back to work with a heavy heart and a scratch throat, only for that to develop into a horrid cold, then a cough, meaning I’ve been off work Thursday afternoon and Friday. I’m starting to feel a bit better now thankfully, however that’s been replaced by my right eye having a horrific allergic reaction to my parents’ central heating. All of that and a dozen lectures from my Mum about being “too thin”. 

This is something I want to take some time to address because it’s an issue that affects a lot of people, throughout the ages. I’ve always been chubby, curvy, whatever you want to call it. A UK size 12 on the bottom and a 14 on top, which might seem great to plenty of you until you add in the fact that I’m under 5′ 2″. I love food, you know that, of course, and yet I’ve never quite been 100% happy with my body. I loved having a decent cleavage, but I hated the cellulite on my thighs, my seemingly immovable muffin top and bingo wings, and I have been making numerous attempts with varying degrees of effort over the years to get into better shape.

  
I’m asthmatic, so exercise has always been a difficult concept for me, but I got into regular workouts when I moved into my own place last February. Davina’s workout DVDs were hard, but ultimately fruitless, although I suppose I shifted a few pounds by lightening my lunches a little and making breakfast bars for work. It was Jillian Michaels‘ 30 Day Shred which finally got my muscles to take shape and burned off some of that fat. After repeating that for a few months I was starting to get a lot happier about how I looked but also about how I felt. So I stepped up the healthy eating. 

I’m not going to call it a diet, because it’s not. It’s just a better way of eating. It’s not  even that super-healthy. I’ve swapped white rice and pasta for whole grain, stopped snacking on biscuits at work although they still sometimes sneak in, cut down on bread and increased the number of fruits and vegetables I eat. It’s not Paleo or clean eating or anything like that. It’s just being a bit more careful about what I stuff in my pie hole. I have a full fat yoghurt for breakfast every weekday, fruit to snack, then a homemade soup or salad for lunch, followed by more fruit. When I get home at night, I work out (I’m now doing Blogilates, which has kept up and built upon Jillian’s hard work, without there being too much off-putting cardio) and spend some time making a healthy supper of the type you see on my blog. I eat good portions. At bed time, I have a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits. If I bake, I’ll eat cake. If I’m eating out, as long as it’s not too often, I’ll eat pizza, pasta, bread, pudding and I’ll have wine.

 
I’m not hungry all the time and I’m not too thin. I’ve dropped down to a 10 on the bottom and a 12 on the top and people keep telling me how great I look. And I feel a whole lot better about the idea of prancing about in a wedding dress next May. I’m not trying to show-off here, I’m just trying to work-out when it became ok to tell someone they’re too thin, but still it’s rude to tell someone they’re too fat. I mean, it’s not like I’m Cheryl Cole.
  
Anyway, I’m off to put my glasses on and cook until I feel a whole lot better, before tucking into some fresh fruit and then a cup of coffee and one of my Nana’s cupcakes. Hope I didn’t bore you too much!

Brown Butter Lemon Sole 

I went to the fish counter yesterday and it was lemon sole which jumped out at me. I’ve had a lot of salmon recently! So I decided to buy a piece for Sunday dinner. There are two traditional recipes for lemon sole: Sole a la Meunière and Sole Veronique. But let’s keep things a bit simpler. Fish needs a light touch. Delicate cooking. Fresh flavours. 

So I present to you my Brown Butter Lemon Sole. It’s a bit naughty with all that butter, but it is low carb!
  
You will need:

1 lemon sole fillet

A good knob of butter

1 small clove garlic, grated or chopped

2 tsp lemon juice

2 sprinkles of parsley

A handful of plain flour

A sprinkling of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

  
1. Put the flour onto a plate and add the paprika, salt and pepper and one of the parsley sprinkles. Mix it all together and spread over the plate a little. 

  
2. Make sure your fish is nice and clean, then place it on the flour and turn in the flour until covered lightly on both sides. 

  
3. Put a medium sized frying pan onto a high heat and add the butter. Turn the heat down to medium so it doesn’t burn.

  
4. Add the garlic and parsley, and fry for a few minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. 

  
5. Add the fish to the pan and fry for a few minutes on each side, letting the flour brown a little. The butter will also brown (the French call it “buerre noisette” – nutty butter).

  
6. Add the lemon juice and serve. Be careful when you lift it out of the pan. If it’s fresh abs perfectly cooked, it’ll break up when you lift it. It ruins the presentation a little but just means it will be all the more delicious! 

  
Enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine and some steamed or boiled vegetables. 

Smile, It’s Sunday!

So it looks like I have a bit of a Sunday blogging series going on here. There’s just something about a big cup of home brewed coffee and an overworked oven that gets my writing buzz on.

I bought this orchid last weekend for the princely sum of £5 and I’ve very glad i did as I got back to a dead rosemary plant and dried up old roses. 

  
Today, I had to skip my lie in. Well, I still had an extra hour in bed than I would if I was working, but still, who sees 8.30am on a Sunday morning! There was a good reason, to be fair, with my potential wedding photographer to be met. 

He’s a great guy with an over-flowing enthusiasm for what he does, so a nice way to spend an hour and a couple of cups of coffee. Fingers crossed, that’s the next thing to tick off the list! 

  
I also discovered Apple Music today, by starting my free trial. I have my iPhone 6 back, by the way, and it has made me very happy, especially as it had managed to back-up all of my engagement-moon photos. Anyway, I haven’t heard great reviews about it, but I’ve been listening to a couple of the “Activity” playlists and have been pleasantly surprised. It basically allows you to pick out a playlist from a group designed to fit the mood of whatever activity you’re planning to get into. It won’t play your favourites, but it will give you some new or retro surprises.

  
I had to do some revising for my Financial Services exams earlier so I picked on one of their “studying” playlists. After finishing my Blogilates calendar workout, I decided I should add in some extra cardio because today’s group of workouts only gave you 8 minutes or cardio. I picked out a track from one of the working out lists and filled it up with 6 minutes of star jumps, bum kicks, skipping, boxing, knees up and jumping twists. Much better. 

  
Next, I set about getting a chicken in the oven to roast. I won’t share the recipe, as it was a fairly basic one and I think I’ve probably roast- chickened you all out a bit. Basically, I rubbed grated garlic and ginger into some butter with parsley and seasoning and rubbed it under the skin, stuffed with a lemon and roasted with a clementine, an onion, more garlic and a sprig of rosemary.

  
I picked out the Subday brunch playlist under the cooking section and enjoyed some sing-along classics from Celine, Tina and James Taylor. Excellent times. 

Anyways, I’m off to prepare some of my shopping for the freezer, cook supper and make banana bread. Playlist time! 

For anyone dreading the new work week, I’ll leave you with some excellent words from Freddie (Sunday meme) and wish you a very happy September (for Tuesday).

  

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Sundays seem like a day for blogging. Sundays are for getting lunches and clothes ready for work, yes, but they’re also about snatching those last precious free weekend hours for yourself. Sundays are for reading, for baking for cooking. And soon, Sundays will be for watching a film, with a cup of tea and a blanket. Bliss. 

My Sunday started with a ridiculously long lie-in which I’m both ashamed of and at peace with. If you don’t have to set an alarm, it’s healthy to sleep for as long as your mind and body will you to. Every now and again. I felt guilty about it at first, but I still managed to have my grocery shopping done and packed away by 12.30 so it’s not all bad. 

  
Today’s food haul involved replenishing some bakery supplies, stocking up on fruit and veg for the week ahead, and finding some protein-rich goodies to base some weekday meals around. Mr Brooker will be very cross indeed when he realises I’ve strayed from prudently choosing recipes and shopping for them, but I just didn’t have the time or inclination I had last weekend, so I’ll be making it up as I go along this week. That said, I do know I have the ingredients for pad thai, which is no longer new to me but is infinitely satisfying. I do have some recipes from last week to share though so worry not. 

My day went a bit off course from there, however, as my aunt texted me to invite me for an impromptu lunch. So I shoved the rest of my shopping on the fridge, ran my straighteners through my hair, changed my top and hit the street for a wonderful warm duck salad, wine and coffee. I know, I know, that isn’t the way to whittle your waist into a wedding dress, but I’ve made my peace with it today. After all, I could have had a pizza! I grabbed some water as soon as I got back and have resolved to replace my planned ribeye steak and corn supper with something leaner. Besides, it means I’ll skip my Sunday coffee and small chocolate biscuit later on. 

Pushing back my workout until my food has digested, I’ve been hitting the books ever since. I’m now two exam passes and an application away from becoming a Chartered Financial Planner, and that means a lot of time spend looking at words, numbers and charts. 

  
Not to worry, eight more pages then I can get back to this lovely piece of ice cream and jelly (that’s what my English teacher used to call chick lit – there’s a time and a place for it as long as you finish your meat and two veg).

  
Then workout, Nashville and who knows. 

By the way, I noticed Vivianna blogged a week or so ago about how to get out of an exercise rut. I’ve dropped a dress size by combining Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred with No More Trouble Zones, and I’m considering jumping into Blogilates given we’re nearly at a new workout calendar month but I’m a little be scared since Jillian has been so good to me. I’ve switched over to Blogilates for two workouts this week and have found that I spend more time on it but that the time seems to go much more quickly when I’m doing it, if that makes sense. I’m just worried I won’t get enough cardio in. I’d love to hear about your experiences if anyone has anything they can recommend!

Anyway, I’m off to do my eight pages! Catch you later, lovely followers. 

Harissa Roast Chicken

OK, ok I make a lot of roast chicken! There are a few reasons for this though! 1. It’s more economical than buying breasts and thighs separately 2. It’s the best way to get a lot of flavour in with a minimum of effort 3. Well, it’s roast chicken and I’m British and 4. I’ve been eating a lot of salads lately, particularly for work lunches and cold roast chicken is a great way to get some relatively lean protein in without filling your life with dull flavours.

  
This one is really simple, especially if your supermarket prints recommended cooking times on its packaging!

You will need:

1 medium to large whole chicken 

1 pot Greek yoghurt – I think this one was about 150ml but I used the surplus to make a dressing. Probably about 100 ml would be enough

4 tsp rose Harissa. I had a jar of this in the fridge, but you can buy it in the speciality foods section in Tesco, or fresher from your local deli 

4 cloves garlic

1 knob ginger

Salt and pepper

1 onion

1 lemon 

  
1. Mix about 100 ml of the yoghurt with the Harissa. Grate in 2 cloves of garlic and all the ginger. Season, mix and spread all over the chicken. Allow this to stand outside the fridge for around 30 mins.

  
2. Preheat the oven to 200C fan, and make sure your shelves are nice and low so there is plenty of room.

3. Cut the onion into sixths and the lemon into quarters. 

5. Line a large baking tray and add on the onion segments, remaining garlic and half of the lemon. Stuff the other half of the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity. 

  
6. Put the chicken in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to about 180C. Roast for about 20-30 minutes then cover with foil, and turn the tray.

7. Turn the tray again about half an hour from the end. This one cooked in 1 hour 55. Remove from the oven and rest. You can check it’s cooked with a temperature probe or check the juices are running clear when you stab the thickest part of the thigh with a scewer if you’re nervous that you might not have cooked it through.

  
8. Allow to cool then carve. I actually removed one of the breasts about half an hour after removing from the oven, as I had it warm with vegetables for supper. Once picked, it still gave me a good dinner plateful of meat. 

Red swirl meringues 

We’re right in the heart of the strawberry season here in the UK and have been having some lovely weather, on and off. These are great to spruce up some strawberries, if you serve with some whipped cream or yoghurt. Make smaller ones if you want to sandwich them together, but I just served larger ones on top of a bowl of strawberries and cream, which I think gives a more dramatic impact (and they’re easier to eat with a spoon). 

These are the crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle sort of meringues. The swirls are made with food colouring, so you can make the swirls whatever colour you’d like, to match the fruit colour, or theme of a party, perhaps, I just think red looks a bit more natural as it matches up with the strawberries. 

  
You will need:

4 egg whites

Pinch salt

300g caster sugar

Red food colouring, I like the gel kind by Dr. Oetker

  
1. When separating eggs, use a really clean bowl, as any dust or fat will stop the meringue from getting really whisked up, never mind meaning you have all sorts of grossness in your food! I’m sure we all have our own tips as to how to separate eggs, but I’ll share my method just in case you haven’t done it before. I don’t like to use separators and so on, as it just results in more washing up. But I do believe in the luxury of multiple bowls – two cereal sized ones and your mixing bowl, as this helps to prevent eggs being wasted. Basically, I crack the egg against the side of the bowl, pull the shell apart, and sort of tip out the white, whilst tossing the yolk from shell to shell to get as much as possible, then I chuck the yolk into a separate bowl. Tip the white into the mixing bowl and repeat until they’re all done. If you get any shell in, retrieve using half of the larger shell, or a teaspoon if you’re worried about more shell breaking off. The wisdom in this madness is that if you do accidentally split or spill the yolk, it’s only affecting one egg white, not all the other clean successful ones you’ve already managed. Add the salt. 

  
2. Whisk up the egg whites in the mixing bowl until frothy, white and holding in soft peaks. Without the sugar, it will remain bubbly and sort of transparent in areas.

  
3. Gradually add the sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time then whisk in. This is the tricky part which requires lots of patience. Basically, you need to encourage the sugar to dissolve without overbearing the meringue. When it’s done, it’ll look thick and glossy and will hold itself in stiff peaks. 

  
4. Spoon into a sheet of baking parchment on a baking sheet, whilst your oven preheats to 110C. You can pipe them instead, or be creative with your spoon, using the spoon to swirl it and pull out a nice peak at the top. 

5. Squeeze some food colouring onto a cocktail stick and gently drag it around the meringues in a swirling motion. You may need to reapply. 

  
6. Bake in the oven for an hour or so, or until crisp on the outside and easily coming away from the paper, i.e. dry on the bottom, when lifted. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container. They’ll keep for a few weeks. 

 

Pulled Pork

There’s nothing quite like a slow roast on a Sunday afternoon. Especially a meltingly soft, sweet, smoky, spicy, versatile pulled pork shoulder. This has had a lot of bad press recently for being too trendy and a bit past it, but I have never before summoned the courage to try making my own. It was surprisingly simple and has given me one supper and three lunches so far, using a 640g shoulder joint (the biggest I could get). A really nice change from roast chicken salad! 

 

You will need:

1 pork shoulder 

3 tsp smoked paprika

Chunk of fresh ginger, grated

3 cloves of garlic, grated

1 tsp tomato purée 

2 tsp light muscovado sugar

150ml white balsamic vinegar

Pinch dried chilli flakes 

5 shallots, chopped 

  
1. Hold back 3 shallots and the pork and combine all the other ingredients together in a bowl. 

  
2. Line a deep roasting tin well with tin foil. Cover the pork joint with the marinade, cover with foil and leave to soak in for around half an hour.

 
3. Preheat the oven to 180C fan. Pour 300ml water into the tray and put the marinated pork in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn down to 160C and roast for 2 hours or so, basting every half an hour. If the tray bakes dry, add more water.   

4. Don’t worry that it looks a bit ropey, both when you put it in and when you take it out! The beauty is in the inside! Allow to cool for awhile on a dry sheet of foil and pour the juices into a bowl to settle, allowing you to skim the fat off the top. 

  
5. Chuck the rest of the chopped shallots in a frying pan with a little oil and fry on a low heat until soft and translucent. Tip in the rested juices and add in a good cup of water. Simmer until reduced and you’ll have a sweet, sticky, spicy BBQ sauce! It’s great on a roll or as a chutney with a salad.

6. Cut the fat off the pork and pull it apart with two forks – this is a bit labour intensive but it’s worth it! It’s easiest to shred the whole thing while it’s still warm. It’ll cease up once it’s been in the fridge. Be careful of any grizzle or fat though. 

  
Serve in a salad, on a roll, on a pizza or in pasta or noodles….whatever you choose! 

  

Seeded Baguettes

I was so excited to try out the baguette year my mum bought for me a couple of weeks ago, but the weekends have been pretty hectic so it’s taken me a little while to get around to it. I initially wanted the terracotta one you can buy from Mason Cash but this one was only £6 and is studded with those little holes on the bottom that will give your bread the pimply appearance you find on supermarket baguettes. 

I’ll be honest with you. This was my first attempt at making baguettes, and I’m far from perfecting my bread making skills. Still, it’s a fantastically rewarding endeavour for a Sunday afternoon. And practice makes perfect! Any tips would be welcome!

   
You will need:

1 baguette tray

250g strong flour – I used a seeded bread flour

5g salt

5g fast- action yeast 

30ml olive oil

180ml water 

  
1. Weigh out the flour in a large bowl. Add in the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. This is really important as dumping the salt straight onto the yeast will kill it off.

2. Add in the oil, then the water. 

  
4. Mix it all together and start to work it into a dough. It will start off sticky but bear with it. As soon as the yeast starts to activate (as it warms up) the consistency will develop more structure and become more workable. 

5. Drizzle a little oil on a spanning ckean work surface and on your hands (use flour if you think the dough is far to wet, but I do believe in the cheeky little bread baker’s mantra “the wetter the better”) and start to knead. 

A word about kneading, though I am no expert. So many people make bread baking too damn complicated. And that gives you stressed out bread. Ok there’s slot of science in it, but your involvement doesn’t need to be the scientific part. As long as you don’t kill off the yeast with the salt or with too hot water, and as long as you don’t leave it in the Arctic to prove (though if you’re careful you can sometimes manage an overnight fridge prove, but more on that another day). Kneading, therefore, just means stretching the dough every possible way. When you bake a cake, you want to mix the flour as little as possible to keep it light and fluffy, right? Well, with bread, you want to give the dough a good workout to give it some muscle. You want smooth elasticity. So you can stretch it apart with both hands, push away and roll back, or chaotically tug it in every direction (children, please) but as long as you’re stretching it you’re moving in the right direction. Energy helps too, so we can burn a couple of extra calories by putting out whole bodies into it.

6. Knead until it becomes a coherent stretchy dough and then keep on going. Some people seem to have a knack to this while i have various degrees of success depending on how long it takes me to get bored. Ideally you want it to form a smooth ball which bounces back when you gentle prod it. I usually get about 3/4 of the way there and have never quite mastered the “window pane” test (where you grab a tiny bit of dough and try to stretch it thinly enough to let the light through without it smelling) but, as James Morton would say, there’s a lot of this work that can be forgiven by letting it prove nice and slow.

   

7. As you can see, this guy is not perfectly smooth, but he is dough enough for me. Firm into a tight ball by running your hands down the sides and under, place in the bowl and run over the surface with a small amount of oil to stop it sticking to the cling film. Cling film tightly and leave somewhere that isn’t in a draft. In the winter you might want a little bit of warmth to liven up the yeast, but too much will kill it. A long, slow prove (by the way, proving is just letting the yeast activate,creating carbon dioxide bubbles which let the dough rise) will give you s better flavour and a softer texture. Under kneading and forced proving is nevertheless forgiving – you just end up with a spongey texture rather than a delightful soft bread. 

8.  Leave for at least an hour, 2 if you can bear it, but at least until the dough has doubled in size. 
  
9. Knock it back! Peel off the cling film and punch the dough down. This will give you a satisfying hiss of air and who doesn’t need to punch something every now and again! Split into two relatively equal pieces, stretch and flatten out into a rectangle. Fold the wide edges into the middle, tack onto the other part of the dough by drawing out the edges of the seam and pressing down gently, turn over and roll with both hands, starting in the middle, until the dough sticks are as long and narrow as you’d like.

  
10. Flour the baguette tray and plonk the dough sticks in. As you can see, I made them narrow enough to allow for the second prove.

  
11. Cover with cling film and leave for 30-45 minutes (less time if it’s really warm, until they look nice and puffy (in below picture they haven’t had their second prove!). When they’re well on their way, preheat the oven to 210C fan.

 
12.  When ready, and when the oven has come up to temperature, remove the cling film and slash the baguettes three or four times in shallow-angled diagonals, angling the blade (sharp knife or scalpel) inwards about 1cm deep. Be decisive! Put in the top shelf of the oven and add a baking tray of cold water to the bottom shelf. This will create steam which will create lift and give you a really crunchy crust. 

13. Bake 20 minutes turn down to 200C and bake for 10 minutes more then remove from the oven. Allow to cool for a little while to help the inside set and to avoid burns, then dig in! Who can resist breaking off the end and slathering it in butter!? If all else fails, your house smell divine!

 
Bon appetit!

Chilli Con Dos Carnes

I’ve made basic Chilli Con Carne more times than I can remember. But I was reading Nigella’s Kitchen the other day and thought that her version, which features cocoa powder and chorizo, might be worth a try, especially as I had chorizo in the fridge. This recipe, therefore, combines elements of her recipe and my own (although I’m not convinced the cocoa powder added much!)

I just ate mine with some home-made guacamole and baked tortilla chips with a light sprinkling of Gruyère over the top while it was still hot from the pot. It’s warming, it’s filing and it’s (mostly) full of goodness. And let’s face it, there’s not much better than a pot of chilli bubbling on the stove on a Sunday afternoon!

  
You will need: 

110g approx. of cooking chorizo

500g beef mince (or lean steak mince if you can get it)

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp mild chilli powder 

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped 

1 knob of fresh ginger, grated

Salt and pepper 

1tbsp tomato purée 

1 normal tin of chopped tomatoes (400g approx.)

1/2 tomato tin of hot water swirled around to catch the remnants (full can of not using the coffee)

1 good splash Worcestershire sauce

1 can kidney beans 

1 carrot

1 onion

1 pepper 

1/2 cup brewed coffee (optional)

Beef stock (optional) – I used 1 Knorr Stock Pot

  
1. Slice the onion, carrot and pepper however you like and add to a casserole dish which has been preheating on the job with a splash of oil in it and cook until starting to soften. 

2. Slice the chorizo into thick disks, then quarter the disks. Add a new pan on a low heat and cook on both sides until starting to brown, and until you see the fat starts to render out. You can, of course, cook this in the main casserole dish if you’d like; I just prefer it this way so you can control how much fat ends up in the final Chilli. 

3. Add the grated garlic and ginger, stir, then add the tomato purée, turning down the heat to avoid the garlic burning and to help the tomato purée to render out into sweetness. Then add the chorizo to the vegetables, and however much fat you wish to include. I used quite a hot chorizo so I got rid of all of the rendered fat, leaving a residue in the pan for browning the mince. 

  

4. How you continue at this point is up to you, but for me, this was dictated by the size of my casserole dish!  You want to gently brown the mince, not boil it, so if you don’t have alot of space in the casserole (or large saucepan), I would advice browning the mince in the pan you used for the chorizo. Add the mince to the pan in batches, making sure you don’t overcrowd the pan, occasionally flipping and stirring it, until it had sealed all over. Sprinkle the mince with the cocoa, dried herbs and dried spices. 

5. Add the mince to the casserole, stir into the vegetables and add the tomatoes, water, stock, coffee and Worcestershire sauce. Give it all a good stir and allow to simmer on a low heat for at least 40 minutes, but 1 or 2 hours would be best, stirring occasionally. If it starts to get dry, add in some more water or coffee. 

 
6. When you think you’re about half an hour or so from the finish, strain the kidney beans and add them to the Chilli. I like to rinse them out as well, as they seem to accumulate a purple goo in the tin which perturbs me a little!

7. Continue to simmer until you’re happy with it, adding any other seasonings you feel are needed to taste.  Serve with rice, tortilla chips, salad, tacos, whatever! The world is your kidney bean. It is fantastic with sweet potato wedges, with lashings of cheese, sour cream and guacamole. 

   

¡Buen provecho!

Honey and Peanut Butter Granola Bars

These guys may not be as healthy as you’d like, but they are packed with nutritious stuff and will keep you going all morning as an at-your-desk-with-coffee snack breakfast or on the go (great for your train commute!). And they might just keep your hands out of the biscuit tin. 

The other great thing about these is that you can add all sorts of great ingredients to them to make them to your liking: your favourite dried fruits, nuts and seeds, difference cereals, additional spices, almond butter, perhaps, if you don’t like peanut, or even chocolate chips!

You will need a square cake tin or brownie pan for this, but if you don’t have one you could try using a cake tin and cutting it as you fancy, but a loose bottom is really helpful. Grease the tin but experience tells me not to line it with greaseproof paper!

You will need:

125g salted butter

150g light brown sugar 

1tsp cinnamon or mixed spice (optional)

125g crunchy peanut butter, no added sugar, or another but butter of your choice

75g runny honey, plus extra to glaze

Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon (not essential!)

200g porridge oats

200g dried fruits, I like a mixture of sultanas, dried cranberries, raisins and dried apricots

100g mixed seeds and/or chopped nuts, I like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaked almonds

  
1. Preheat the oven to 160C. 

2. Put a medium to large saucepan on a low to medium heat and add in the butter, sugar, honey, spice, zest and peanut butter and allow to start melting together before stirring occasionally. Be careful with the heat as you don’t want the sugar to burn, but you do want the sugar to melt and for the ingredients to be nicely combined. 

   
3. Meanwhile, weigh out the oats, fruits, seeds and nuts you have chosen and mix together in a bowl. I like to keep back some flaked almonds and sunflower seeds to sprinkle over the top for texture.

  
4. When your liquid ingredients have melted and combined, stir in the dry ingredients until everything is nicely combined – you’ll want to avoid any dry oat patches. I like to keep this on a very gentle heat while I’m doing this so nothing stiffens up too much. When you’re happy, pour into the prepared tin and spread out, but try not to be too tempted to eat too much of the raw mixture off of the spoon!

  
5. Once it’s all smooth in the tin, sprinkle over the reserved seeds and nuts and drizzle over some more honey…..this is easiest if your honey comes in a squeezy bottle. 

   
6. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges and caramelised in the middle. Be careful not to burn them!

7. When they’re ready, take out of the oven and allow to cool. If you’ve used a greased loose bottomed pan you can just push the bottom up (I like to use an upturned mug or canister to help with this – set the loose part on the canister and help the sides to drop away) then you can lever it off the base with a pallette knife where you can cut it up into bars. I like to wrap them individually in cling film and keep them in an airtight tub. Then should keep for around 2 weeks, but I’ve often had them after that and they’ve still been great.