We love dessert, but then who doesn’t? Sometimes when you get home from work though cooking dinner feels like enough effort, and dessert seems like just too much bother for a weeknight. It doesn’t have to be! This apple crumble is so easy to put together and then gives you about thirty minutes to relax with a coffee or a glass of wine while it cooks and you end up with a simple, comforting pudding to round off your meal.
All you need for this is 1 apple (cooking apples work best but we’ve used different varieties before and they’re all fine), flour, butter and sugar. Everything else is optional, we added some oats and a little cinnamon to our crumble topping but you can make it as simple or complex as you like. You could use almost any fruit for this, or even a mix – apple and blackberry, raspberries, pears, peaches – you name it, you can crumble it!
Preheat the oven to 170°C. To make the crumble topping simply rub plain white flour into around 2 tbsp of butter until you have a large breadcrumb consistency. You don’t want to add too much flour, this is a more buttery mixture so some larger lumps are normal. To this add a couple of tbsp of sugar, we wanted ours quite sweet to contrast with the tart apples but if you were using a sweeter fruit then maybe tone down the sugar a bit. We then added a handful of oats and around 1/2 tsp of cinnamon because it works beautifully with apples. That’s the topping done!
So just chop the fruit into a medium dice, coat with a little sugar if it’s a tart fruit and place in ramekins – you want it to be at least 2/3 of the way up, it will shrink down a lot when cooked. Sprinkle your crumble topping on top, we pile ours high! Put it on a baking tray and in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden-brown. Let it cool for a moment and then tuck in.
This would have been even better with some cream or ice cream but it was a pretty spontaneous dessert so we didn’t have any in. Give it a try for an indulgent moment with minimal effort.
We told you it wouldn’t be long before we were back with the recipes! This one is one of our favourites, we have been known to have it every other week sometimes if running low on inspiration. It’s another one-pan wonder (neither of us are fans of washing up) and the ingredients can be swapped around -there are several different variations which we will share with you at a later date.
This one is the Spanish version, it feels particularly Autumnal but is gorgeous any time of the year.
Ingredients (for 2 hungry adults):
4 chicken thighs – bone in and skin on
About 5-80g of chorizo – you can choose normal or picante depending on how spicy you like things – cubed
1 410g tin of butter beans
2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1-2 red peppers, cut into chunks
200ml chicken stock
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 whole bulb of garlic (we forgot to buy any for this time and it was still nice without it)
Grab your chopped vegetables and place in a large roasting dish along with the butter beans and the chorizo. Make up the chicken stock and squeeze in the juice from the orange and then stir in 1tsp of the smoked paprika. If you’re using the bulb of garlic leave it whole but remove as much of the papery skin as possible so that each individual clove is exposed. Place this in the middle of the roasting dish nestled amongst the vegetables.
Pour the stock/orange/paprika mixture over all of the vegetables trying to get everything coated, then place the chicken thighs on top (skin side up) and sprinkle them with sea salt. Put this in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 40 minutes, checking about halfway through to make sure the pieces near the edge aren’t burning. After 40 minutes mix the remaining 1tsp of paprika with 1tsp of olive oil and brush this over the chicken thighs which will have started to go beautifully crisp by now. Whack this back in the oven for 10 minutes and you’re done!
We love this meal not just because it’s ridiculously tasty but it’s low maintenance, you can get on with other stuff while it cooks and it will forgive you if you overcook it because the stock keeps the chicken really moist.
Give it a go and keep an eye out for the other variations!
We made this dish at the weekend, it was the perfect cheer-up food after a rain soaked Saturday. The smell of it cooking away slowly in the oven was incredible, you have to be very patient!
There are so many recipes for chilli con carne around, this one wasn’t particularly planned, we tend to throw in what we have lying around for a lot of our cooking so feel free to replace things if you don’t like that particular vegetable/spice or if you don’t have it in.
Ingredients (makes enough for 4-6 people):
1 large white onion, diced
2-3 sticks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/minced
smoked pancetta (you don’t have to add this but it creates a gorgeous base of smokeyness)
500g good quality lean beef mince
1 beef stock cube
1tsp cumin powder
½tsp cinnamon powder
1-2 tsp smoked paprika
1-2 tsp hot chilli powder
1-2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tins/cartons of chopped tomatoes or passata
1 tin of kidney beans in water
1 red pepper, diced
around 30g of really good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
rice and sour cream to serve
If you wanted to make a vegetarian version of this dish one obvious substitution would be the meat for Quorn (other brands are available!), but we think it would be more interesting not to take the easy route and to bulk it out with lovely, meaty mushrooms and extra beans instead – some black eyed beans and/or pinto beans would make a lovely addition. To get more of the rich flavour without using beef stock cubes you could add a teaspoon of Marmite – it may sound odd but it gives that deep, savoury kick which you might miss otherwise.
To start with soften the onion, garlic and celery in a large casserole dish over a low heat, cook for at least 10 minutes but try not to get much colour at all on them, you want them to soften and sweeten. Add the diced smoked pancetta, we used barely any in this so you could leave it out if you wanted to but it definitely adds a little something! Fry this for a few minutes until it has lightly cooked and become fragrant and then add the beef mince, breaking it up with your fingers as you put it in. Immediately add 200ml of beef stock (use a whole stock cube to make it) – by not browning the beef off you’re making sure it cooks really slowly and melts in your mouth. Now it’s time to add your herbs and spices! The amounts listed above are a guide, obviously adjust to your own chilli preference and remember you can always add but you can’t take away. We were a little cautious at first and then added more about halfway through the cooking time.
Once you have stirred the herbs and spices in add the chopped tomatoes followed by the pepper and kidney beans, give it a good stir, bring to a very gentle simmer and then pop in a really low oven (around 130°C) and leave alone for at least an hour. Cook for 3 hours minimum stirring every hour until you can’t take it any longer and have to eat some!
Right before serving place a couple of squares of dark chocolate on top and drool as they melt into the chilli. Don’t worry, this won’t add any sweetness, just the most fantastic, rich flavour.
Serve with rice and sour cream and if you’re feeling fancy (we were) some homemade guacamole.
We made a really simple guacamole by mixing 1 ripe avocado with a good pinch of sea salt, 1 diced tomato and a big squeeze of lime or lemon juice. Give it all a mix up and you’re ready for your Mexican feast!
This was the perfect meal to sit down to and ignore the rain lashing at the windows – warming, comforting and pretty healthy too.
We love fish and try to have it at least a couple of times a week. Here’s a recipe (inspired by Olive magazine – thanks!) with some interesting flavours in it, but trust us – it tastes amazing! It’s super-quick and easy and takes hardly any cooking, perfect for mid-week. This recipe uses preserved lemons which are used widely in middle eastern cooking, they can be found fairly easily now – check out your local deli or Asian supermarket or even posher supermarkets (Waitrose we’re looking at you!). These keep for around 3 months in the fridge so we will be making some other recipes featuring them so none go to waste.
Start by preparing the salad: take a medium-sized bulb of fennel and finely slice – this won’t be cooked at all so take some time to make it as thin as possible – and throw it in a bowl with a diced preserved lemon (just the peel – remove the flesh). Add the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil, and half a teaspoon of caster sugar. Salad done! Quick or what? Don’t be put off by the strong flavours at this stage, it will mellow with the grilled fish and complement it perfectly.
Now for the meat – we used 2 fillets of sea bass, but any white fish will do (the original recipe used mackerel). Lay on a baking sheet covered with lightly oiled baking/grease-proof paper so that it doesn’t stick, skin-side up, brush with oil and season with a bit of sea salt. Place under a hot grill for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets (ours took about 5 minutes), until the skin is nice and crispy.
We served the sea bass and the salad with some homemade wholemeal bread (try our recipe). If you wanted to omit the bread this could be a lovely light lunch which just cries out for a cold glass of white wine, or it would be great for any nutters doing low carb. We reckon this would be even more tasty prepared on a barbeque and served in a bun – if only the summer would come back so that we can try it!
Bread is a fairly recent obsession of ours, we were a bit scared to try it, it seemed overly complicated – what type of yeast? How many times does it have to rise!?
Then, encouraged by Mr Hollywood’s baby blues, we gave it a bash and guess what? It’s. So. Easy! We very rarely buy bread now, we can knock a loaf up in an evening and it is just so much nicer than shop bought.
As part of a gift we got “Paul Hollywood’s Bread” so are going to be baking our way through that and will share any successes, failures and lessons learnt with you. I can’t wait for this as we tend to stick to either white loaves, wholemeal loaves or occasionally something slightly fancier like rye or spelt but we’re excited to branch out into breads from different countries and cultures.
Starting simple this is our (hopefully foolproof) method for making a basic white or wholemeal loaf:
Measure out 500g of flour. You want to use either strong white bread flour, or a mixture of strong white and a wholemeal/seeded bread flour. We tend to use Allinsons but that’s a personal preference. If you bake a whole loaf with wholemeal it can be a bit heavy which is fine for some things but for a good standard loaf that makes amazing toast you’ll want it to be a bit lighter and fluffier. A good mix we’ve found is 200g of wholemeal to 300g of white, or half and half.
To one side of your flour add 1 tsp of Easy Bake Yeast and to the other side of the bowl add 1 tsp of table salt. The reason for doing this is the salt will kill the yeast if it’s too concentrated so you’ll end up with a pancake, not a loaf.
Mix the salt and the yeast into the flour, and then rub in 1 tbsp of fat. This can be either butter or oil, we like to use butter for a wholemeal loaf and oil for a white loaf but again, try different combinations out and see what works for you!
Once you have a breadcrumb like texture and all of the fat is rubbed in make a well in the centre of the flour ready to add in the water. There is a lot of debate over warm water vs cold water – cold water works absolutely fine for us, if you are in a very cold environment (like our old flat….brrr!) then you might want to add the water warm just to encourage the yeast to start working their magic.
Measure out 300ml of water, and add most of this to your flour. Bring the mixture together either with a spoon, or if you’re anything like us and love to get mucky, with your hand. You’re looking for a smooth dough which comes together nicely and is as non-sticky as possible, 300ml usually is perfect for us but you might have to use a bit more/less.
Now comes the really good bit – the kneading. If you’ve used oil in your dough then lightly oil some of your kitchen surface, or if you’ve used butter then lightly flour it and bash that dough around! I believe it’s scientifically proven that the calories burnt during this upper body workout completely negate any from consuming the bread.
It needs kneading for about 10 minutes, technique isn’t too important, just bash it around and stretch it out to really get that gluten working. Once it is beautifully soft and elastic and springs back most of the way if you prod it with a finger it’s ready to rise.
Place it in a clean bowl which has been lightly oiled or floured and then cover with cling film and leave it until it’s doubled in size which should take about an hour.
Once this has happened we knock it back, so just a light punch or two to get rid of the big air bubbles and then back in the bowl to recover from it’s abuse for twenty minutes or so.
Now you get to shape it, you can either bake it in something (like a loaf tin for a traditional shape), or just shape into a round or whatever other shape you would like with your hands.
For a loaf tin grease and line a loaf tin and then flatten the dough out to a rectangle where the short side is the length of the loaf tin, fold in the sides like a book, flatten again and then roll up tightly and pop it in the tin.
For a round just shape it into a ball with your hands, tucking the sides under as you go to get a nice, tight shape. Then place this on a greased and lined baking sheet to rise.
For what we are using the bread for 2 flat-ish loaves were best so we cut the dough in half and then rolled it with both hands.
This then needs to rise again for another hour. I know this recipe sounds really time consuming, and to an extent it is, but it’s a lovely thing to have going on in the background and it is so worth it!
Once it’s nearly had it’s hour to rise whack the oven on to 220°C and, if you like a good crust on the bread, put an empty tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up. We slashed our bread and put a milk glaze on – olive oil also works nicely but you don’t have to put one on at all. Once the oven is hot and the bread is ready throw a glass of water in the hot tray in the bottom so it creates lots of steam and then put your bread in.
Leave it alone to bake for 30 minutes, don’t open the oven door for the first 20 minutes but you can have a peek quickly after this if the smell is just overwhelmingly sexy (it will be).
Take it out of the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes and then turn it out of the tin/slide off of the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack (please feel free to tap the bottom of it like they do on tv and grin like an idiot when it sounds hollow).
p.s. we are making this bread into bruschetta to have with baked camembert… hopefully we won’t dive in too quickly and forget to take photos!
Just a dinky little post to brighten things up on a grey Monday (I initially wrote Tuesday and then Fats depressed me further by telling me it is Monday. Boo). This is a super quick dessert we threw together in the week, I even RAN to the shops in the RAIN for the berries, that’s commitment right there.
This probably took about 5 minutes to make so is perfect for mid week if you have a craving for something sweet.
Take the berries – we used a small pack (about 150g) for 2 people – and put them in a small saucepan with about 1 tsp of water and sugar to taste. We used raspberries but this would be equally lovely with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants etc or even something like peaches, nectarines or plums. Because of the meringue and ice cream we added barely any sugar so the berries were really tart to provide a contrast but obviously do this to your personal taste.
Cook them for around 5 minutes on a medium heat until they have squashed down nicely and there is lots of beautiful bubbling sauce in the pan.
Pop a meringue (or two… we don’t judge!) in the bottom of a bowl. These ones were kindly given to us by Fats’ mum on a recent visit – food gifts will always be so well appreciated in our house!
Then spoon over about half of the berry sauce, put some ice cream on top (this one is Häagen-Dazs Vanilla) and then pour the rest of the berry sauce over so the ice cream starts to melt. We also reserved a few berries before cooking them to pop on at the end for a bit more of a fresh taste.
Ta-dah! So so easy it feels like cheating, and a lovely end to a meal – sweet, tart, hot, cold, gorgeous!
Hello and welcome to our first ever post! We thought we would skip the cheesy intro and get stuck in with some cheesy food.
Mac and cheese is having something of a revival at the moment with it popping up on the menu at restaurants across the country. We just cannot turn down anything involving pasta and copious amounts of cheese so this is our take on it:
What you’re going to need (for 4 people)*:
Macaroni (around 200g)
Cheese – any kind is good, we used parmesan, freshly grated (around 60g)
Goats cheese (around 200g)
Milk (around 1 pint/568ml)
Green pesto (1 heaped tbsp)
Smoked bacon/cubetti di pancetta (around 40-50g)
*These might be a bit off – we usually don’t measure anything so this is guesswork. If it’s a baking recipe we will definitely include correct amounts, and in future we will try to remember to weigh things.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Chop your bacon or pancetta into very small pieces, and slice your shallot into fine half-rings. Put these in a frying pan with a drop of olive oil on a low heat and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly golden and the shallot is softened. Put these to one side once cooked.
Meanwhile put a pan of water on for the pasta to cook, once it is boiling cook the macaroni until al dente (this took about 8 minutes for us).
Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough for the macaroni to fit in once cooked, and when it has melted add the flour and stir to form a roux. Continue stirring this over a low heat for around 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour.
Then start to add your milk – some people say this works better if the milk is warm, we’ve never found this makes much difference and as we don’t have a microwave this is a bit of a ball-ache so we used cold. Add the milk slowly stirring well in between each addition to keep the sauce smooth (you can switch to a whisk if it helps) and keep adding the milk until you have a smooth fairly thin sauce as this will thicken up later. Continue cooking the sauce, stirring every minute or so, for about 10-15 minutes until it has thickened up and is gorgeous and glossy.
Now comes the fun bit, adding the cheese! Take the sauce off the heat and throw in your grated cheese (see below for highly necessary demonstration):
Then stir in the pesto, and add the macaroni stirring well so that each piece is well coated.
Then tip half of this sexy, cheesy mixture into a lightly buttered oven-safe dish, put the bacon and shallot mixture you made earlier as evenly as you can over it, chuck the other half of the macaroni on and top with slices of goats cheese.
Pop it in the oven for around 20 minutes, and then under the grill for a few minutes to get really golden on top.
We had ours with a simple lettuce and tomato salad with a balsamic dressing, sorry there are no plate pictures, we were too desperate to eat!