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This is another of our great week-night meals – quick, easy and fresh. It’s so simple and tastes amazing. Asian food can be quite intimidating at first glance, especially as there are so many flavours – but most of the ingredients for this noodle soup are store-cupboard staples in our house (so you only have to hunt them down once every few months!) and only the fresh ingredients need to be bought when you cook it. The stand-out flavours here are chilli, ginger, lime, lemongrass, soy sauce and fish sauce. If you have never tried fish sauce – don’t knock it! It’s used in place of salt in Asian cuisine and gives soups a really rich flavour. Just don’t use too much.
So, for 2 people you’ll need:
First, put the chicken stock in a decent sized pan (it shouldn’t fill it up – you’ll be packing it with veg in a minute) on a medium heat. While this comes to the boil finely chop your ginger, chilli and garlic and the white bits of the spring onions, bash up the lemongrass a bit with the butt of a knife, then throw them, along with the sugar, in with the stock. Leave this to simmer for about 10 minutes, to let the flavours infuse – slice up your pak choi and the rest of the spring onions while you’re waiting.
Put the noodles in with the stock, and after a couple of minutes add all your green veg. Don’t leave to cook for too long – you want nice crunchy veg! Add the juice of 1 lime, and fish sauce and soy sauce to taste – we suggest a teaspoon of each to get you started. Lastly add the prawns. Don’t cook these for too long either! There’s nothing worse (literally, nothing) than overcooked prawns. To get them nice and tender they shouldn’t need more than about a minute in the boiling soup.
Once everything is done, serve it with the a slice of lime each and the fish and soy sauce on the table, so you can adjust the seasoning to be perfect for you.
We cook this all the time, and often change around the ingredients – we’ve done it with chicken, salmon (fried so that it has lovely crispy skin) or tofu instead of prawns, and you can also swap out the veg and use any other Chinese leaf, babycorn, mushrooms – we try to use one crunchy vegetable and one leafy one to give a mix of textures and flavours. Use your imagination, and let us know how it turns out!
Think of these as trans-seasonal brownies. Like a light jumper but more… gooey. That perfect snack for when there’s a bit of a chill in the air and you want some comforting chocolateyness but with a light, summery twist. These are based on a Lorraine Pascale (don’t you just want to be her best friend? We love her!) recipe which uses pieces of Oreo cookies. We tried them and were pleasantly surprised (not being massive Oreo fans) but the bit that really impressed us was the perfectly gooey, rich brownie mixture. So we have taken that and added our own flavours too it – this time we used orange zest, almond extract and fresh raspberries for a little of jam-like tart raspberry in every mouthful.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm/8in square baking tin with butter, then line with baking paper.
Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the grated (or chopped) chocolate along with the orange zest.
We ended up having half grated, half chopped chocolate because grating seemed too much like hard work! So we recommend chopping (if you have a large knife) unless you have a food processor to do the grating for you. Leave to stand for a few minutes, or until the chocolate melts, and then stir together. Resist the urge to eat this mixture, the finished mixture tastes so much better.
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and almond together in a large bowl until the eggs begin to get light and fluffy. Add the sugar in two additions, whisking between each. Pour it around the side of the egg mix so as not to knock out the air that has been whisked in. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes stiffer. Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate into it – again around the sides so as not to knock the air out. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt and stir until fully combined, then pour half of the mixture into the prepared tin. Place your raspberries in an even layer over this and then pour on the other half of the mixture.
Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25–30 minutes.. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin – the top will sink and crack a little. Cut into small squares because they’re pretty rich and then enjoy!
These little squares of joy will likely crumble and squidge all over you as you eat them but oh god are they worth it! Nothing better than curling up with these and a cup of tea or coffee as the nights start to draw in. We’re already thinking of the next flavour combination to try, at the moment we’re thinking espresso and hazelnut… any other suggestions?
Well it’s official – we’re obsessed with Bake Off! It has its detractors (masonry my arse – did you see that peacock?? Magnificent!) but we love it and we can’t wait to see what they bake up next. We’re celebrating bread week with something that’s definitely not one of our recipes – Paul Hollywood’s Bacon and Stilton bread, taken from his book Bread.
We love our own recipe for bread, and make it all the time – we rarely buy bread any more – but sometimes it’s nice to try something new. Bird received Paul Hollywood’s book as a present earlier this year (if anyone’s reading – more recipe books please!) and it’s great! We’ve been working our way through it and the recipes usually work a treat (although some of them are more challenging than others) and the meal ideas that accompany the breads are all delicious. We’re working up to trying some of the enriched doughs with our new food mixer – thanks nanny Bird! – and broadening our doughy horizons.
Paul’s recipe for Bacon and Stilton bread is super easy. It’s pretty similar to our recipe done with pure strong white flour, butter rather than oil, 2 or 3 rashers of bacon, and a lump of Stilton – we used about 40 grams. The only things to remember are that because of the salty bacon and Stilton, we used a bit less salt than we usually would, and because of the fatty cheese and butter (Mmm fatty – Fats) you should use flour to cover the surface where you’ll be working it instead of oil, since oil is a bit fatty itself.
We made half the amount suggested (by halving all the ingredients) and found that it made a really stiff dough, but this was easily remedied by adding a bit more water than suggested. The dough came together really nicely in the end – I think we’re really getting to know our breads!
You’ll see from the pictures that we have a lot to learn when it comes to shaping bread! Not to worry though, it tasted absolutely delicious, and I think the man himself would be proud of our “regular crumb structure” and a complete absence of soggy bottoms! We ate it with the celery soup as suggested in the book, which was another winner. Although I think Paul’s food processor must be a bit better than ours as we struggled to put it through a sieve afterwards to achieve the silky texture – I think next time we’ll be going straight for the hand blender.
You can find some of Paul Hollywood’s actual recipes on his BBC page, and in our experience they’re pretty good. We’ll keep your posted on our adventures into enriched dough land… In the mean time, we’re looking forward to next week’s floating islands and wizard hats!
This weekend we had Fats’ brother and his girlfriend staying with us so had loads of plans for a packed weekend. Unfortunately Bird then got ill, and then gave it to Fats so we were feeling a bit under the weather! So this is what we did on our pared down bank holiday weekend:
We mainly spent the afternoon catching up because we hadn’t seen them since we went to Marrakech in March, and they live in Edinburgh so not exactly handy for a cuppa, and before we knew it it was time to make some pizza! If you’re wanting to share some homemade pizza with friends you can find our recipe here. After a bottle of wine and a few beers we decided to call it a night so we were full of energy for Saturday.
After an amazing breakfast of homemade bread, scrambled eggs, fried mushrooms and fried bacon with cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and basil we headed up to Clifton to truly do the tourist thing.
We walked up past the floating harbour, college green and park street so as to take in lots of the main Bristol sights, before wandering the leafy streets of Clifton marvelling at the massive houses and cute little boutiques.
Then we got onto the main event – Brunel’s Suspension Bridge. Even though we’ve been here dozens of times it never fails to take your breath away.
We walked over it and took a few snaps and then decided to go and warm up with some chocolatey goodness! Bar Chocolat is the only place to go to in Clifton if you’re in the mood for chocolate (when are you not?!), they offer amazing real hot chocolate where you can choose your chocolate (white, house blend or dark) and then add flavourings such as cayenne pepper, orange oil, malt extract or flavoured syrups and then add toppings such as marshmallows. Bird opted out of hot chocolate as the cakes were calling! The hot chocolates had were house blend with hazelnut syrup, house blend with orange oil and dark chocolate with orange oil. We’re both massive fans of chocolate with orange, and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. There is a jaw-dropping selection of amazing looking cakes on offer, Bird plumped for a dairy-free and gluten-free chocolate, orange and almond truffle cake to go with a lemon & ginger tea. The cake was perfect, moist but with a nice crumb, with a perfect balance of flavours.
Feeling suitably tubby and satisfied we meandered back towards the house stopping off in M Shed on the way. M Shed is a fairly new museum to Bristol, it opened just over two years ago and tells the story of Bristol through the ages, often through the voices of the people. It’s a really engaging place to visit, plenty of interactive displays – great for all ages!
We went to see The Boy Who Cried Wolf at Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre and it was really fantastic – this week is the last week of it being on, if you’re in the Bristol area we urge you to go along! Two years ago we saw Treasure Island at the Old Vic, this was an outdoor production because the theatre was being renovated and it was outstanding, the set was so innovate, the cast was so talented so when we heard that they were doing another outdoor production we had to go along. As the name suggests this is a collection of Aesop’s Fables adapted for the stage by award winning author Michael Morpurgo. They were performed by an incredibly talented cast of just 5 people who sung their way through the fables. Although it is aimed at children, it is hilarious for adults too, we left feeling extremely happy and uplifted.
By this point it was just after half past 8 and we were getting hungry! We went to our first choice, No 1. Harbourside which we’ve had lunch at a few times and always delivers simple, wonderful local food for amazing value. At No 1. you get a free bowl of soup with every main meal – on Saturday this was carrot and coriander. It had a gorgeous spicy kick and was just the right amount, the perfect starter. Then onto the main courses – our guests both went for the burger which was huge and came with a generous portion of well seasoned french fries.
Fats chose hanger steak which came with mustard, rocket and roasted vine tomatoes while Bird chose pork belly (with crackling to die for!) which was served with roasted chicory and fennel and broad beans all in a rich gravy. Sorry there are no photos of any of these, we were so hungry by this point we just dived straight in!
This was a little more like a normal Sunday as our guests were visiting some friends of theirs who live close to us so Bird went to ballet while Fats went for a bike ride to Bath. Back at the house, freshly showered, we put together a lovely lunch of leftover Serrano ham and goats cheese left over from the pizza making, served with leftover homemade bread, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and a salad made from 3 tiny courgettes Bird picked up at the market sliced into ribbons with a potato peeler dressed with fresh chilli, lemon juice, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Feeling suitably smug after exercise and a healthy lunch we cracked on with making some brownies! We will do a separate post on these but suffice to say we were inspired by Bar Chocolat’s chocolate, almond and orange cake and decided to go one step further and add raspberries! Those of you who follow us on Instagram will have seen a teaser.
It seemed a crime not to tuck into these so we spent Sunday evening, when our guests came back, snuggled up watching Shaun of the Dead, drinking tea and eating freshly baked brownies!
The last day of the weekend and it really came through for us – the sun shone! Sun + bank holiday never normally happens in the UK so we decided to make the most of it. We sent the boys off for picnic supplies and then headed to the park with ham and tomato sandwiches, cheese and caramelised onion relish sandwiches, root vegetable crisps, fresh anchovies in a lemon and herb dressing and fresh strawberries. After a laze in the sun we headed to our new favourite place The Stable to try their cider tasting board. You get a third of a pint of 5 different ciders/perrys to try for £7.50 – we got 2 boards between the four of us so that no flights back to Edinburgh were missed! About an hour and a half later we headed home, distinctly merry and still arguing about whether number 4 or 2 was best…. or was it 5?
We had a fantastic weekend with some amazing friends, some fabulous food – we think it’s the sign of a brilliant time when you have such a great time even when you’re feeling ill! Thanks Bristol for another gurt lush weekend!
We love pizza! It’s definitely one of our favourite treats, and there are some great places in Bristol to get amazing pizza (see our review of The Stable for one example). Sometimes though it’s fun to have a go at making it at home – it’s a great one for when friends come round to dinner as everyone can have a go at making their own. We’ve got a foolproof recipe for pizza dough and some great toppings to share with you.
This recipe for pizza dough makes one medium-sized pizza base – we find that it feeds two people, you can double this up if you’re making 2 pizzas and it still works well. You’ll need:
First, measure out the ingredients into a mixing bowl, being careful to keep the salt and the yeast separate. Make sure the oil is mixed in by rubbing it through the flour with your fingertips – the mixture should be breadcrumb-y. Now make a small well in the mixture and add 120 ml water, and prepare to get messy!
Mix the water into the flour to form a wet dough. Once everything has come together, knead it/smack it about a bit on a floured surface. The dough is ready when you can press your thumb into it and it springs back. Now put it aside in an oiled bowl (so that it doesn’t stick to the sides), cover it with cling film and leave it to rise. You want it to roughly double or triple in size, and depending on how warm it is this could take anything from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. If you want it to rise a bit slower you can put it in the fridge.
That’s your base done! I’m afraid we didn’t manage any pizza base acrobatics due to height restrictions in our kitchen (we didn’t want to end up with a dough-splattered ceiling), and instead just stretched out the bases to roughly cover our baking trays.
Now for the tomato sauce topping. This makes enough for 2 medium sized pizzas. Chop up half a white onion and some garlic and fry in a saucepan over a medium-low heat with some dried herbs (basil, rosemary and thyme work well) for about 10 minutes until the onions are translucent. Then add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Blend this up a bit so that there aren’t any chunks of onion and tomato left.
We’ve used this recipe a couple of times now and it works a treat! Here’s some of the toppings we’ve used, but half the fun is making up your own!
Once you’ve loaded up your pizza, heat up your baking trays in the oven (at about 220°C) – putting the pizzas on a hot base means they go much crispier – and then put the pizzas in for about 12 minutes, or until they start to go nice and golden.
We loved all of these, but we had our favourites! Fats reckons you can’t beat the chorizo with the chipotle chili base for sheer spicy-smoky awesomeness, but Bird thought the Serrano ham and figs were about the most indulgently delicious thing that’s ever been on a plate.
Ah Marrakech! Looking back it was definitely one of the best weekends of our lives, but on first arrival it was shit scary! We landed at about 7pm and because it was March it was pretty dark already. Our riad had organised a taxi driver to meet us, but we couldn’t find him for ages, so it was fully dark by the time we had our stuff in the car and were hurtling along. The rules on the roads in Marrakech seem to be “Whoever is biggest has the right of way” which makes for a pretty hairy ride! Suddenly the taxi pulled over on the main ring road outside the Medina walls and tried to make a phone call. Having failed, and stabbing at his phone again he got out of the taxi to try again. We started to get a little shifty at this point, he’d offered no explanation and we had no idea what was going on.
He got back in the taxi and we asked him (in a mix of not brilliant French and sign language) if we were going to the riad, and he said that he was trying to call the owner but couldn’t reach him (at least that’s what we think he said – at this stage there was a lingering suspicion that he might have been trying to get a good price for us…). Not a great sign. We carried on and were soon in the maze of streets that make up the medina, most of which looked far too small to accommodate a car. After a few wrong turns we ended up parked in the middle of what looked like a small market, where once again the taxi driver got out of the car to make a phone call. The people out on the streets were trying to open the car doors – one of them tried to usher us towards his riad (not ours!) – and we were sufficiently freaked out by this point. Then the car door opened and a there stood Thierry, the owner of the riad! We were so relieved and felt pretty stupid for getting so anxious.
Stepping into the riad we were blown away. After entering through an ancient but unassuming door off a side street suddenly we were in a candlelit courtyard with trees, rooms off each side, a mezzanine level… it was amazing. We were shown around our suite (first time in a suite!) and then taken through to have dinner which was waiting for us.
After a starter of red pepper and olive salad a beautiful tagine pot came out, containing what we have tried to recreate (fairly successfully!) in this recipe. Juicy little spiced lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce topped with baked egg and served with cous cous.
Ingredients (for 2 hungry people):
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the sliced onion and pepper to a saucepan over a low heat with a dash of olive oil and leave to soften and sweat down, stirring occasionally. Mix the lamb mince with around 1 heaped tsp of whichever spice mix you are using and about 1/2 tsp of salt, using your hands to really squish it together and distribute the spices around. Then roll into small meatballs, using around 1 tsp of mixture per meatball.
Turn your attention back to the onion and pepper which should be softened by now and add in 1 tsp of the spice mix, the harissa and the passata. Let this heat up and then spread 1 spoonful of it over the base of an ovenproof dish, not much at all, just enough to cover the base. Then add in your meatballs and cover them with the rest of the sauce. Pop this in the oven. Very lightly whisk two eggs with a little salt and pepper, and then once the meatballs have been in the oven for 15 minutes pour this gently over the top. Try to be extremely careful with this or it will fall out in one big blob and won’t cook properly!
Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking and then serve with some lemon cous cous and salad.
We made this recipe up after having it that first night in the riad, and we think it’s a pretty successful recreation!
This recipe is another one of our regulars, it’s very quick and easy – it’s ready in the time it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook – and it tastes really fresh. This is our take on an Amatriciana sauce, but using fresh tomatoes instead of tinned.
Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. While this is happening sliced the onion and bacon and fry in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat with a tiny bit of olive oil. Once the water is at a rolling boil put in a pinch of salt and add the pasta. Add about 200g of the halved cherry tomatoes to the pan with the garlic and however much chilli you fancy – we used around 1 tsp. The remainder of the tomatoes will go in right at the end to give a lovely fresh burst of flavour. Take a spoonful of the pasta water and add it to the sauce to help the tomatoes squash down and get all saucy and delicious!
Once the pasta is almost cooked chuck in the rest of the cherry tomatoes and most of the basil leaves finely chopped, and then add the drained pasta to the sauce so that it really coats it. Serve this with the rest of the basil leaves on top and then add parmesan if you wish (we do, of there is ever an option to add parmesan to something we’ll take it!).
This recipe is perfect for a work night, as it’s so quick and simple, and tastes so fresh. For added refreshment, serve with a cold glass of white wine if you have some lying around.
We’ve been pretty crazy for desserts recently, and in celebration of the return to our televisions of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry (yes, we’re Bake Off nerds – are you surprised?) we thought we’d post another sweet recipe. This recipe for baked plums is criminally easy, quick and absolutely delicious.
Start off by preheating the oven to 170°C. Halve your plums and take out the stones then place them on a baking sheet, flat side up. Pile them up with a small knob of butter and heaped teaspoon of brown sugar. Once the oven has heated up, put them in – they should take about 10 minutes.
You’ll just have time to softly whip some double cream (about 100 ml for two people) to serve it with. Once whipped, fold in 1 tsp icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Serve the warm plums with the cream on top – it will start to melt straight away so eat it quickly! We had some meringues lying around which we crushed over the top, but a great alternative would be ginger biscuits.
We hope you enjoy this one! Hopefully it will get you through the long week’s wait before the next installment of the Great British Bake Off. Do you have a favourite yet?
Sunday… that day where you wake up, watch some tv with your cuppa, glance outside to see that it’s a bit grey, make another cuppa and then somehow it’s 7pm and you don’t know what you’ve spent the day doing. No longer. We have been determined lately to make our Sundays count and it seems Bristol agrees with us! Our little routine is that while Bird goes to ballet, Fats goes for a bike ride, we reconvene at the homestead at around 12 where some tasty treats are usually waiting (having been hunted down in the local market by a hungry Bird) and then find something to do for the afternoon.
Today was Bristol’s second ever Make Sundays Special day so it was kind of a no-brainer! This is a new scheme where one Sunday a month some of the main roads in the city centre are pedestrianised and filled with all manner of weird and wonderful things – games for children, sofas to chill out on, street performers, bands, street food – there is never a dull moment! We missed the first one so decided we absolutely had to make it to this one and it didn’t disappoint.
We started off by doing a quick circuit of Baldwin St and Corn St to scope out the prime food choice and settled on paella which was beautiful – perfectly cooked saffron coloured rice with chicken, chorizo and mixed seafood. We then took a wander through St Nicholas’ Market which is an indoor market in the heart of Bristol, open every day it sells incredible food as well as records, fabric, clothing, books and a myriad of other items, it’s well worth checking out if you’re ever visiting!
After watching some street performers we nipped into town to pick up a few books, 3 new fiction books (one for Fats, one for Bird and one to share) as well as a really exciting new cook book “Around The World In 120 Recipes” by Allegra McEvedy. We spent the afternoon flicking through this on our sofa and it looks incredible, plenty of simple recipes, fantastic flavours and a chance to introduce ourselves to some exciting new cuisines – we can’t wait to share our attempts with you.
Then, both pretty exhausted after our morning exercise and a wander into and around town, we picked up a couple of treats to sustain us for the walk home – Fats went for an iced hazelnut coffee and Bird chose a strawberry and balsamic sorbet which was delicious. Fats spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden, full post to come (first gardening post!) but here’s a sneak peak.
We plan to make every Sunday special, fun- and food-filled, and we’re so glad that Bristol is doing so along with us – no doubt where we’re going to be on the 29th September!
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