asparagus, baking, food bloggers, food blogging, lunch, Quiche, Recipes, spring, vegetarian

Recipe: Asparagus and Feta Quiche

Asparagus

On Saturday, I went for a long walk around Liverpool city centre and gloried in the fact that spring is finally here. The sun was shining, I had my sunglasses on and – for the first time in months – I didn’t feel as though I was trapped in the depths of some hideous endless winter. I’ve lived in the North West of England long enough to know that this could all change by tomorrow, but for the moment, I’m revelling in the return of short sleeves and balmy afternoons.

Another place which is happy to see the return of spring is my kitchen. After months of opening my veg box to discover piles of root vegetables (I’m still ploughing my way through all the beetroot, carrots and parsnips), I was overjoyed to see asparagus in last week’s Abel and Cole delivery. English asparagus season is short, so I love to eat as much of it as I can while it’s here. I wanted to do something a bit more exciting than merely grilling it and serving it with hollandaise when the idea hit me to pop it into a quiche.

This quiche is inspired by two excellent female food writers, Ruth Reichl and Delia Smith. I’m currently cooking my way through Reichl’s My Kitchen Year which discusses how she used cooking as a means of coping with the grief she experienced when Gourmet – the magazine she edited for a decade – suddenly folded. Reichl’s writing can be a bit flowery at times, but she has a wonderful recipe for a basic quiche (‘a custard in a crust’ she calls it) which has been rattling around my head ever since I read it. Delia Smith is (arguably) the queen of custards and crusts, and it would be remiss of me not to credit her for some of the methodology behind this one.

A mere hour’s work in the kitchen will reward you with crisp asparagus, salty pops of feta and a gloriously wobbly, savoury custard. This quiche was made for picnics, parties and long lazy lunches in the sunshine. When was the last time you said that about a Pret sandwich?

Quiche

ASPARAGUS AND FETA QUICHE (Serves 4 – 6 people)

You will need:

For the crust

  • 280g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 150g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Handful of grated cheddar cheese (optional)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ice water

For the filling

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 40g feta cheese, diced into cubes
  • 1 tsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten well
  • 284ml single cream
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to season

Make It!

  1. Start by making the crust. Rub the flour and butter together until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the cheese, salt and ice water – a tablespoon at a time – until the dough comes together. It should be smooth yet tacky to the touch. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. When you’re ready to make the quiche, roll the dough out until it’s about the thickness of a 2p coin. Use your rolling pin to lift it up and drape it over a tart case. You want the dough to hang over the sides as it will shrink when you’re baking it. Prick the base of the dough with a fork, cover it with baking paper and fill it with baking weights. (You can get these from Lakeland, or alternatively, just use some dried beans.)  Bake on 150 degrees c for 20 minutes. Take it out, remove the weights and paint the crust with a bit of beaten egg. (You can use some of the egg you’re using for the filling.) Let it cook in the oven for another five minutes.
  3. Make your filling. Snap the asparagus spears in two and remove the woody ends. Blanch them for two minutes in boiling water. You want them to be barely cooked and have plenty of snap. Arrange them and the feta cheese at the bottom of the pastry case.
  4. Beat the eggs and cream together and season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour this mixture over the asparagus and feta. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top.
  5. Bake at 200 degrees c for 30 minutes until the pastry is puffy and the filling is barely set and golden. Allow to cool and serve. This keeps well for 2 – 3 days and goes really well with a crisp green salad.

 

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Food, food bloggers, food blogging, Healthy eating, Kale, Pasta, Recipes

Recipe: Spaghetti with kale, anchovies and chilli

Kale pasta 2

For someone who is so vehemently anti January food bullshit, I feel a bit guilty about my first post of 2016 involving kale. I mean, it’s kale. The poster child for all things ‘healthy.’ But (and hear me out here), I feel that kale gets a bit of a bad rep. Primarily because people don’t bother to use it properly. They add it to smoothies (NO), they use it raw in things like Caesar salads (DOUBLE NO) and they think that they can make it more palatable by giving it a good old massage. (Yes, that’s really a thing).

Kale is not a premier league footballer. It will not become more palatable if you give it a thorough rub down with some olive oil and whisper sweet things into its ear. However, it does become absolutely delicious when you blanch it, fry it with some anchovies, garlic and chillies and throw it into a big pot of pasta.

This recipe for spaghetti with kale, anchovies and chilles is one of my winter staples. It’s quick, it only involves one pot and it is pretty much impossible to mess up. The leftovers also make a cracking lunch which is great if (like me) you’re trying to save money this month by ignoring the siren call of Pret.

I can’t remember where I first discovered this recipe, but it must have been from somewhere because originality with kale has never been my strong point. (Out of interest, if the person who invented this recipe is reading this, please leave a comment so I can find you and buy you a pint.) While it may not make you love kale, it may help you to at least make a truce with it.

Quick note: This blog is now a whole year old! Thank you so much to everyone who is reading this, both old and new. I hope you enjoy reading my rambings about food and fashion as much as I enjoy writing them. 

Kale pasta

Spaghetti with kale, anchovies and chilli (Makes two decent sized portions)

You will need:

  • 140g spaghetti (I prefer to use wholemeal here, but I’ve used white spaghetti to make this too and it works just as well)
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, ribs removed and sliced into strips
  • 1 tin of anchovies
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon of dried red chillies
  • 1 lemon
  • A good handful of grated parmesan
  • Salt and black pepper

Make it!

  1. Cook the pasta in a good amount of salted boiling water. When the pasta is just about ready (roughly 8-10 minutes into cooking), throw in the kale. You want it to just be blanched so it’s not too tough.
  2. Drain the pasta and kale, reserving a tablespoon of the cooking water for the sauce.
  3. Thoroughly dry the pan you used to cook the pasta and kale (this step is important – water and oil DO NOT mix.) Heat two tablespoons of oil and add the anchovies with the oil they’re packed in. You want to break the anchovies up as they cook so they form a paste. Add the sliced garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Then add the dried chillies and cook for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the cooked pasta and kale to the anchovy, garlic and chilli mixture and mix thoroughly to combine. Grate the zest of the lemon over everything (I like to squeeze the juice of the lemon over the pasta as I think this adds a nice bit of pep. However, this is totally optional.)
  5. Serve topped with the grated parmesan, salt and black pepper. Feel free to add a touch more chilli to the mix if that’s your thing. After all, it’s January and it’s cold out there.
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courgette, Food, food bloggers, goats cheese, lunch, preserved lemon, Recipes, salad, vegetarian

Courgette Carpaccio with Goats Cheese, Preserved Lemon and Chilli

Courgette Carpaccio with Goats Cheese, Lemon and Chilli

I know that it’s a bit of a cliché to moan about the weather, but seriously summer, where the hell are you? I’ve been reliably informed that a heatwave is on its way, but I remain sceptical. Then again, I work in one of the rainiest parts of a rainy country, and I often wonder if it would just be cheaper to get myself laminated rather than spend another tenner on an umbrella which – inevitably – breaks.

So, I am forced to search for summer in my vegetable box. At the moment, it’s bursting with glorious green vegetables – big bunches of spinach, plump broad beans and crunchy courgettes.  Usually I like to throw them in pastas, ratatouilles and stews, but sometimes I feel like getting a bit more inventive, which is how this courgette ‘capaccio’ came about.

This isn’t a conventional carpaccio, given that it comprises vegetables rather than meat, but it’s still prepared the same way. Paper thin slices of courgette are dotted with goats cheese, preserved lemon zest (my new favourite ingredient), red chilli flakes and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Don’t have any goats cheese to hand? Ricotta or feta will do just as well. Served with a roast chicken, a hunk of bread and a glass of crisp white wine and you can almost believe that summer is here…even if you have the central heating on.

COURGETTE CARPACCIO WITH GOATS CHEESE, PRESERVED LEMON AND CHILLI (Serves two people as a side, or one person as a large salad)

A version of this recipe was originally posted on Little Red Courgette (my old blog!)

You will need:

  • 2 small courgettes
  • The juice of a lemon
  • The peel from two preserved lemons
  • 50g soft goats cheese
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • A large glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season

Make It!

  1. Top and tail the courgettes and slice thinly. You may wish to do this using a mandoline but I just used a sharp vegetable knife.
  2. Slice the preserved lemons in half and scoop out the flesh (you can either discard this, or reserve it for another recipe.) Chop the peel finely.
  3. Place the courgette rounds into a medium bowl and (carefully!) toss with the lemon peel and chilli flakes.
  4. Arrange on a plate in an overlapping pattern, and dot with the goats cheese.
  5. Drizzle over the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper and serve immediately.
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ASOS, books, Charlotte Tilbury, Gin, July round up, lunch, Lush, Nars, REN, salad, Sheila Heti, Tatty Devine

Radio Silence

Radio Silence

I got a passive aggressive email from WordPress last week, informing me that it ‘missed me.’ While I was previously unaware that inanimate cloud-based blogging platforms were capable of feeling human emotions, it reminded me that I really should pull my finger out and get posting again.

While it’s no excuse, my July has been a little chaotic. I’ve left my job in London, been to a wedding with a mariachi band, necked red wine from the bottle on a street corner in Soho on the hottest day of the year, started a new (terrifyingly grown up) job in Manchester and discovered the ‘joys’ of having to get up at 5.50am every morning and apply eyeliner flicks on a Northern Rail train. TLDR; I’m skint, knackered and happy. I’ve also been unable to nab any decent pics of my (admittedly excellent) work attire, so until I a) figure out how to get my phone to do a full body selfie and b) find a disabled toilet somewhere in Manchester where I can achieve this feat, I thought I’d do a bit of a round up of things I’ve been enjoying recently.

  • Magical beauty products for manky Mancunian weather: While I have missed Manchester, I have not missed its ridiculous climate. My return back to the North has seen me singing the song of my people – ‘Seriously, it’s July and I’m wearing sandals. Can you stop bloody raining?’ The bizarre weather has also made a total mess of my skin – think dry patches, dark circles and a general sickly ‘Victorian orphan’-esque pallor. Two products have sorted me out – REN’s Flash Rinse One Minute Facial (which has left my skin looking firm, fresh and zingy) and Lush’s Ultra Bland cleanser (which smells like marzipan and strips every blob of make-up from your face in one swift swoop. It’s calming, soothing and great for eczema sufferers such as myself.)

Norman Parkinson's Vogue shoot with Jerry Hall

  • Make Yourself Beautiful: I can – and will – rave about Charlotte Tilbury’s make-up until I’m blue in the face, so it’s quite dangerous that my new office is a fifteen minute walk away from one of her concessions. Her new Norman Parkinson collection is out of sight, full of gorgeous bright colours and packaging featuring Jerry Hall in her prime.  For me, the stand out product is her 1975 Red matte lipstick. It’s £23, and it’s sheer perfection, a rosy coral with staying power, which puts one in mind of warm beaches and sipping cocktails by the pool.
  • Munchies: Now I work in an office five days a week, I am determined to be sensible and bring my lunch to work with me. It’s cheaper and way more satisfying than blowing all my £££ in Pret. Smitten Kitchen’s Carrot Salad with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas is on regular rotation – it’s satisfying, savoury and crunchy. Hollow Legs also posted a delicious sounding Sesame Peanut Noodle Salad last week which I can’t wait to shove into my lunchbox.
  • How Should a Person Be?: I recently read Sheila Heti’s fantastic How Should a Person Be? after reading an interview she did with Juliet Jacques for her book Trans. I’ll admit, I initially approached it with scepticism – every review I’d read of it made it sound like some awful hipster edict filled with selfish people. (It’s frequently been compared to Girls after all, which is – guess what! –  an awful hipster edict filled with selfish people.) In reality, it’s warm, funny and a brilliant examination of female friendships. It’s a book narrated by someone trying to navigate the world and her place in it, while also figuring out how to be a decent human being. Read it.
  • Gordon’s gets us drunk: I recently wrote a piece for Munchies on Liverpool, gin and Liverpool Gin. I had great fun writing this, not least because I got to drink a fair amount of G&T’s while writing it.
  • Oh look, it’s me: The lovely Holly at Gadgette recently called me one of the ‘top ten plus sized babes to be following on Instagram this summer.’ It was very unexpected but utterly delightful, particularly as I was described as a ‘tattooed temptress.’ I’m in some great company too, so check it out if you fancy following some excellent plus sized fitties on IG.

Nautical Christina

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asparagus, Food, lunch, Recipes, salad, spring

Steak and Asparagus Salad

Steak and Asparagus Salad

Some recipes haunt you. They lodge themselves inside your head and remind you of your existence every time you open the fridge and wonder what you’re going to make for dinner that evening. I’ve not stopped thinking about Heidi Swanson’s Asparagus Panzanella since it popped up on my RSS feed. It’s the perfect Spring recipe – one which is simple, elegant and can be thrown together in half an hour. (Plus, she recommends topping it with a chopped hard boiled egg and – as we all know – everything is better when you put an egg on it.)

But, me being me, I had to tinker with it a bit. My bunch of asparagus didn’t look substantial enough on its own, so I added the leftovers of a box of mixed leaves I got in my Abel and Cole delivery. I had a pack of white miso lying unloved at the back of my fridge, so I decided to add it to the dressing to round it out a bit and add an extra ping of sweetness. And (while I never really need much of an excuse to eat steak), I’d had a bit of a crappy day, so lets throw a bit of medium rare rump in there too.

While it may not look as refined as the original, sometimes there’s no shame in being a bit rough and ready. This is a spring salad which satisfies, and the perfect way to celebrate English asparagus season while you’re at it.

STEAK AND ASPARAGUS SALAD

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

You will need:

  • 1 medium sized piece of rump steak
  • 80 ml buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white miso (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch of (English) asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large handful of good quality sourdough, torn into chunks
  • 1 large handful of mixed salad leaves (I used these baby leaves I got from Abel and Cole)

Make it!

  1. Cook your steak (make sure you oil the meat, not the pan!) I find that two – three minutes on each side does the trick to get it medium rare, although this will depend on the thickness of your steak.
  2. Make the dressing by whisking together the buttermilk, olive oil, mustard, vinegar, white miso, and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust if needed, before setting aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet, add the cubes of sourdough bread and toss until every nook and cranny is smothered in melted butter. Continue to toss them gently on a medium heat until they turn crispy and golden. Transfer to a paper towel.
  4. Trim the asparagus and blanch in a saucepan of salted boiling water until just tender – around a minute or so. Add the blanched asparagus to the rinsed mixed leaves.
  5. Slice the steak against the grain into thin stripes. Add to the bowl, along with the toasted bread and a healthy drizzle of the buttermilk-miso dressing. Serve with a large glass of wine.
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Comfort food, hangover cure, lunch, recipe, Soup

Chinese Style Chicken Soup with Pork Dumplings

Asian style chicken soup with pork dumplings For various reasons, life is a bit annoying at the moment. This happens occasionally – these dips into a void full of work, mild illness and insomnia (recently, I had a sleepless night which was so brutal that the next day, I thought it would be a good idea to whisk tahini into my chicken soup instead of sesame oil. It wasn’t. Never do this.) I am grumpy, sneezy, mildly disheartened and in need of some comfort.  In such circumstances, there’s only one dish which can soothe my soul. Chicken soup with dumplings.

I could very easily live on a dumplings-only diet. From Jewish matzo to Mongolian momo, if it’s small, doughy and delicious, I’ll probably eat it. Recently, I’ve become obsessed with making potstickers, a Chinese dumpling which is briefly fried before being simmered. They’re (relatively) easy to make, freeze beautifully and make the perfect snack when you can barely be bothered to boil up a bowl of noodles. I have wonderful memories of eating huge bowls of super-cheap-and-super-tasty dumpling soup from when I lived in Camden as a student, so knew that the pork and cabbage ones I’d cobbled together would work well plonked into a spicy, head-clearing bowl of chicken broth (even if my pleating skills leave a lot to be desired.)

I’m not going to pretend that this soup is authentic. But on a cold day when life feels like one punch in the gut after another, and you can barely write an email, it really hits the spot.

CHINESE STYLE CHICKEN SOUP WITH PORK DUMPLINGS (Makes one big bowl of soup. Dumplings recipe makes roughly 30 dumplings.)

Dumplings recipe adapted from The Dumpling Sisters

For the soup

  • 300ml chicken stock (preferably home made)
  • 1 thumb sized lump of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (if you don’t have any, balsamic is a good substitute)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chilli oil
  • 1/2 Chinese cabbage, cut into ribbons

For the dumplings

  • 1 pack of frozen dumpling wrappers (you can get these from most Chinese supermarkets)
  • 250g fatty pork mince
  • 1 thumb sized lump of ginger, minced finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1/2 Chinese cabbage, diced very finely
  • 1 spring onion (green part only), diced finely

Make it!

  1. PREP THE SOUP: Add the ginger matchsticks to the chicken soup, and leave to simmer over a medium heat while you’re prepping the dumplings.
  2. FOR THE DUMPLINGS: Place the shredded cabbage and spring onion in a bowl with the pork mince, sesame oil, rice wine, sugar, soy sauce, minced garlic and ginger and white pepper and mix well (I find it works best if you use your hands – make sure they’re clean!) To check the seasoning, fry a little of the mixture to taste, and season again, if required.
  3. To make the dumplings, lay the wrappers on a clean work surface and cover with a damp tea towel to stop them from drying out. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling onto the middle of a wrapper, brush the edges with a little water, then fold the wrapper in half over the filling into a half moon shape. Pinch the edges to seal (pleating them makes them look nicer, but simply pinching them together with your fingers should work fine – make sure they’re properly sealed before cooking though!) then place bottom-side down onto a plate which has been lightly dusted with cornflour (a tablespoon or so should do.) Repeat with the remaining ingredients – you should end up with roughly 30 in total. Keep five for the soup, and freeze the remaining 25 (or just place them in the fridge so you can snack on them later.)
  4. Heat a good splash of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, then add the potstickers, bottom-side down, in a single layer (you may need to do this in batches). Reduce the heat to medium and fry for 2 minutes, or until the undersides are brown and crispy.
  5. While you’re frying the dumplings, add the soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, vinegar, sesame oil, chilli oil and shredded Chinese cabbage to the chicken stock, and leave to simmer for around five minutes. Taste, and add more seasonings if required.
  6. Once all the dumplings have been fried, gently add them to the soup. Leave to cook for 5 – 7 minutes. Serve immediately with a good squirt of Sriracha.
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breakfast, carrots, fritters, hangover cure, lunch, recipe, vegetarian

Carrot, Feta & Harissa Fritters with Mint-Garlic Yoghurt

Carrot-Feta-and-Harissa-Fritters

Because my life is non stop glamour, I’ve come down with a nasty sinus infection. This means two things: 1) I hate everyone and everything (bar Mr. McMc who only gets a free pass because he brings Hot Chocolate and Kinder Buenos to my sickbed), 2) I am determined to beat the vile virus living in my tubes by blasting it out with industrial amounts of spice. (It also means that I’ve been unable to take pictures of my recent outfits as I’m not sure anyone’s interested in seeing pics of a mardy lass with a face full of spots, even if she *is* wearing an amazing shirt.)

In an attempt to make myself feel better (and because – allegedly – vegetables are good for you), I’ve been making plate after plate of these Carrot, Feta & Harissa Fritters with Mint-Garlic Yoghurt.  They’re a glorious hybrid of two of my favorite Carrot-and-Feta based recipes – BBC Food’s Carrot, Cumin and Feta fritters, and Smitten Kitchen’s Carrot, Feta and Harissa salad. They’re full of piquant, smoky flavours and delicious chunks of salty melted cheese which pop in your mouth. The mint- garlic yoghurt dip is a must here too – drizzled over the warm fritters, it adds another delicious element to what is already a bloody tasty dish (even if I do say so myself.)

The fritters are at their best when served fresh out of the frying pan, piping hot and wrapped up in a gigantic toasted flatbread. They don’t taste nearly as good when cold, which gives you the perfect excuse to eat a giant plate of them in one glorious gulp. They make a fantastic lunch, and an even better hangover cure (as I recently discovered the morning after a night spent necking pints of milk stout.)

CARROT, FETA AND HARISSA FRITTERS WITH MINT-GARLIC YOGHURT (This makes around three large-ish fritters.)

You will need:

  • 4 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic puree
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (I like to toast cumin seeds and grind them in a pestle & mortar, but ground cumin powder will do in a pinch)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp harissa
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 50g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Make It!

  1. For the Mint-Garlic yoghurt: Combine the Greek yoghurt, chopped mint and garlic puree in a bowl. Set to one side.
  2. For the Carrot, Feta & Harissa fritters: Mix the flour, egg, cumin, smoked paprika, harissa and 4 tbsp of water in a bowl until you have a smooth, thick, gloopy batter. If the batter looks a little dry, add a touch more water until all the flour has been incorporated. Add the grated carrots, onion, and feta to the bowl, along with some salt and pepper. Mix well until the vegetables and feta have been fully incorporated into the batter.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan until it starts to spit. Add heaped tablespoons of the batter into the frying pan, flatten out a little with the back of your spoon and cook for 2-3 minutes each side, until they are golden brown on each side. If you have problems getting the fritters out of frying pan, you can gently dislodge them with a palette knife. Cover the freshly cooked fritters with a tea towel once they’re done so that they stay warm while you’re using up the rest of the batter.
  4. Serve the hot fritters immediately. If making these for breakfast, I tend to eat them their own with a poached egg on top. For a hearty lunch, tuck them inside some toasted flatbreads, then drizzle generously with the mint-garlic herb yoghurt. They perfectly accompany a glass of cold white wine and a fresh green salad.
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