Meal Planning Monday - the last one of the year!

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After a week of heavy eating and drinking (as I'm sure it has been for you all), this is an important meal planning Monday. Firstly, its the last of 2013 and secondly, its a chance to get back to normality with some healthy meals to boot!

We did a big food shop at Morrison's just before Christmas and are pretty well stocked up apart from some fresh bits and bobs so I've been able to sit down this afternoon and really plan what we'll be eating in the next few days. Here's what I've come up with!


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Onion & Butternut Squash Bhajis

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Happy Christmas and almost New Year everyone!

Can you believe its whizzed by so fast? I'm sure I've ballooned to at least twice my usual size. Tonight we have my Dad, Step-mum, Nanna and various siblings joining us for a buffet and we will toast the end of Christmas celebrations in our family. Over the last week we've had two Christmas days (one per set of parents), roast dinner with the in-laws, a night out with the in-laws and two big nights out with friends. So you can see why after today, I'll be sticking to water and lettuce (well, apart from the small matter of a 4 course Italian meal and plenty of wine on New Years Eve!).

Anyway, whilst I'm still feeling jovial and full of festive spirit, I wanted to share this recipe with you. I made these last week and they were a huge success. Onion and Butternut Squash Bhajis. Perfect buffet food and surprisingly easy to pull together. This recipe is adapted from one in an old copy of Good Food magazine - you can find the original here where it forms part of a bigger meal.

onion and butternut squash bhajis

Amounts make approx 20 bhajis

  • 3 tbsp curry paste (I used garam masala)
  • 200g plain flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 250g butternut squash, peeled and coarsely grated.
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Method:
  •  Mix the curry paste and 250ml cold water and leave aside. Then mix the flour, baking powder and turmeric in a large bowl and add the water mix. Stir into a thick batter.
  • Add the grated squash and sliced onions and gently mix it all together.
  • Heat about 5cm of oil in a big wok or deep pan (its more than you think!). Add a drop of the batter – when it rises to the surface, bubbling and browning, then the oil is hot enough.
  • Add heaped tbsps of the bhaji mixture to the oil, (I did four at a time) and cook for around 5-6 mins, turning occasionally, until evenly browned and crispy. 
  • Lift out onto kitchen paper, and gently dab with another piece on top to help soak up the grease. Then sprinkle with a little salt and keep warm in a low oven while you cook the rest.
  • Serve simply with a raita or mango chutney. These make a great (but naughty) snack for movie night! 
grated butternut squash
turmeric
bhaji batter in process
onion and butternut squash bhaji batter
frying the bhajis

Enjoy! 

onion and butternut squash bhajis
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Its nearly Christmas!

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*ARCHIVE POST* 

I've been rubbish at blogging recently.. works been crazy and its been the first thing to suffer. I'm also painfully aware that whilst all the other bloggers out there are filling their blogs with wonderful festive recipes and Christmas delights, there's been no festive baking, no big hearty roasts nor anything close in my house. And this year, we're off to my Dads so there will be no turkey in my oven for the foreseeable future.

Merry Christmas Banner

Its not all doom and gloom - I broke up from work on Friday and am off until 6 Jan so although I've failed on the festive cooking front so far, I feel that I can start to make up for that now! In the mean time, and in a dismal attempt to join in the festive blogging, I've been digging around in the archives and found some of best posts for this time of year. Enjoy! 

Plan ahead and avoid the stress
Probably the most important of my Christmas blog posts - some helpful tips for avoiding stress and enjoying your Christmas cooking. Good Luck!

Don't let the turkey take over your life!

Turkey Pilaf
Its not turkey curry! A really nice recipe for your left over turkey although it works well with any bird so why not try it with chicken, goose or duck?

Leftover Cheeseboard Pie
If you have any cheese left (and i admit, it's rare in our house), this is a really easy recipe for the odd bits and bobs left over. It works particularly well with blue cheese and it lovely served warm on a lazy afternoon in front of the TV.


So, all that's left to say is HAPPY CHRISTMAS and thank you for reading my blog. I hope to see you back here in 2014! And don't forget...

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Stem Ginger Ice Cream

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Although ice cream isn't really a typical winter dessert, this recipe is so rich and luxurious that I think it suits the season perfectly. In fact, the warmth from the ginger gives it an almost festive taste - hence posting this recipe in the run up to Christmas! I think people don't realise its actually pretty easy to make ice cream without an ice cream maker - you just need an afternoon in!

I used Opies Stem Ginger in Syrup for this recipe, their products are so versatile and perfect for cooking and baking with. The depth of flavour is lovely and the ginger is both sweet and savoury at the same time.

Stem Ginger Ice Cream with Opies

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The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company

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I love to find new and local foodie brands and this one is no exception - they are certainly local, just not to me! So why then am I dedicating a whole blog post to them?

The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company caught my attention at the BBC Good Food Show this year because I loved both their story and their dedication to foraging and working with ingredients from their local area.  Based on the west coast of Wales, they are a relatively new company, starting life in the form of a beach cafe serving foraged produce and fresh seafood. This then grew to include street food, festivals and farmers markets and after winning Best British Street Food Vendor in 2012, the Beach Food Co has gone from strength to strength, launching a new line of retail products which you can buy online. Yum yum.

Beach Co Pepper Dulse Butter

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Slow-cooked beef ragu and a nice glass of red

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I like wine (as you may have noticed) so I was well chuffed when the Midlands Co op told me they were launching a new wine club called We Like Wine.  The website has tips and guides on it and they are also doing weekly offers to showcase their wine selections so its definitely worth signing up.  

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Midlands Co-op and Saffron Acres - growing people out of poverty

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I was contacted recently by my friends at the Midlands Co-op to tell me about their new limited edition range of jams and chutneys which have just gone on sale in over 50 of their Leicestershire stores. The story is truly inspiring and I wanted to share it with you.

Midlands Co-operative have been working with local charity, Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council (SLNC), to produce the range which includes Saffron Acres spiced plum jam and Saffron Acres spiced apple chutney for £1.89 as part of the Locally Sourced range. Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council is a charity based in one of the most deprived areas in the East Midlands. They created the Saffron Acres Project which saw twelve acres of disused land in inner-city Leicester transformed into a thriving food growing project with the aim to ‘grow people out of poverty’. The project now grows anything from every day fruit and vegetables to the more exotic crops found around the world.




The Saffron Acres Project, which has been running since 2006, invites volunteers to help grow and pick food from the site. These volunteers include young people and adults from all backgrounds from the long term unemployed, those who have disabilities, or ex-offenders. In return, they have the opportunity to be involved in the community and gain work experience and life skills. Around 100kgs of plums and 150kgs of apples were picked as part of the Saffron Acres Project to make the delicious jam and chutney. The fruit was converted into jam and chutney by volunteers from Leicester College’s Learning for Living course, a course for adults with learning difficulties. Neil Hodgkin, Head of Development from Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council said: “Our charity has been working with volunteers and Leicester College students for the last few months to get products onto shelves in time for Christmas and we’re thrilled to see our jam and chutney in stores now. “Everyone involved has been so helpful and positive towards getting Saffron Acres jam and chutney to sale. As a result, our charity will benefit from the proceeds received from sales and we’re looking to continuing the relationship in the new year.”

Watch this video to find out more and be warned, it'll warm your cockles and make you proud that there are companies out there who are looking out for their local community and aren't just bothered about their own bottom line.


Saffron Acres Spiced Plum Jam and Saffron Acres Spiced Apple Chutney are available for £1.89 each from selected stores in and around Leicester* for a limited time, with an additional 10p of profits donated to Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council. Find out which stores are selling the jams and chutneys online here.
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Random Recipes # 35 - Dare to Bare!

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As soon as I saw this months random recipes challenge, I knew I had to take part. Set by Dom over at the fabulous Belleau Kitchen, we had to photograph our cupboards and 'dare to bare' the horrors within. I've risen to the challenge and below, are pictures of my two main 'ingredients' cupboards. These are supposedly for spices, seasoning and baking bits but there are also other things which have sneaked in over time.. tins of beans, marmite, rice.. these should strictly be elsewhere!

Dom asked us to tell you what our favourite ingredients are. For me, as you can see, I have lots of spices and herbs as we love curries and warming stews and casseroles in our house, really anything big and bold in flavour. I think currently my favourite item is my pot of Harissa mix. I've used it in sauces, as a rub and even as a marinade for chicken. Its got endless uses and the flavours are so evocative of somewhere warmer and sunnier than damp Leicestershire. Mine is from Spicentice - a local company to me who produce a lot of different spice mixes. I love their stuff and have quite a few in my cupboards!

Finally, as its a Sunday and grim outside, I was inspired to give my cupboards a good clean out. Look at them now!! Place your bets on how long this will last....

Before:
I will only show you one, the other was just TOO bad!

Cupboards pre-clean out!

Midway (gulp!)

Cleaning out the cupboards

After: 

Lovely clean cupboard number 1
Lovely clean cupboard number 2

So, thanks Dom for inspiring me to look into those cupboards and have a good clean out! A job well done.

Over and Out!
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