Wednesday, 2 October 2019

(Mini) September Life Lately

Hey don't know if I mentioned it but we went to Canada last month? Did I mention it? Oh I did. Oh okay, didn't think anyone really knew about it.

I have SO much I want to say about Canada that it definitely needs its own post (or three) but as soon as I start to write there's just... a lot. Where do I start? Do I write about every day? Just my favourite parts? One post per part of the trip? I haven't quite got there yet. But I'll get there and I'll write them. (Tbh, I still had loads of wedding posts planned which I probably won't get around to now we've been married nearly 6 months!)

So for now here's a really tiny edition of September Life Lately (basically it's just books and films):

What I read
Me, in Canada, on release day of The Testaments, buzzing to be buying it in Atwood's homeland


September was a bit of a mixed bag with going away! I downloaded loads of books for holiday (because, holiday books) but our trip was so chaotic and manic and busy (in the best possible way) time for reading was minimal (on a side note, I've written about this before, but when I'm away I barely use my phone at all, so when I'm waiting around I pick up my Kindle and I still get plenty of reading done. I still haven't missed a day of reading for coming on 2 years!).

I've been a bit out of routine since we got back, so I'm not quite in my rhythm of reading as much yet (it took me over a week to finish my last book which is unheard of for me!), but here's what I read in September:

If We Were Villains
I Saw a Man
The Testaments
The Wife
Commonwealth
Becoming (on audiobook)

I have a lot of feelings about The Testaments obviously (you might remember in August I went to a discussion group on The Handmaid's Tale and I'm planning to go to one on The Testaments too). I really enjoyed The Wife (I just wish it had been longer!) and Commonwealth (which was my perfect book - family drama where nothing happens, swoon!). 

I absolutely loved Michelle Obama's Becoming which I've been listening to on audiobook for about 6 weeks. It is so long! Like 15 hours! But I absolutely loved it and now I miss listening to her while I do my makeup or cook dinner. She just comes across as such a kind but strong person who takes no bull and isn't afraid to speak out for what she believes in, which I really admire. I really appreciate how honest and open she is in this book - I really recommend it.

What I've been watching

We went to see Ad Astra which we both expected to love and really didn't find that interesting, and we've just started watching The Americans after hearing such good things about it!

What I've read online

Yes and Yes - My problems aren't your responsibility
Ramshackle Glam - Why I'm giving up new clothes until 2020 - related! I signed up for #SecondHandSeptember but with being away for most of the month I started on the 22nd. I bought most of my clothes for Canada on Depop as well as the dress I wore for my cousin's wedding, so I've been buying anything I need for winter from there! I'm planning to write a post on my Depop bargains.
The Atlantic - On Chandler Bing's job
Arianna Huffington shared this quote on LinkedIn and it spoke to me a LOT. Phil and I talk a lot about when things "calm down" but this encourages you to enjoy the messiness of life, because it is messy!
The Player's Tribune - Jurgen Klopp "Maybe I am dreaming"
A Rosie Outlook - Autumn intentions and inspiration
A Cup of Jo - 9 easy family meals we've loved to death
Related: A Cup of Jo - What family meals can I make in 20 minutes?
Manchester Evening News - The Stockport Bucket List
Daisy Buchanan - How to stopped worrying about storytelling and loved mental messiness
The Ringer - How to kill of a character and make great TV in the proces
The Ringer - 100 best TV episodes of the century
Biscuits and Blisters - I miss chatting

The Ringer - On the inimitable Doctor Cox
The Guardian - Margaret Atwood - She's ahead of everyone in the room

I'll be back with a full Canada post soon! I have so much to tell you!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 1 September 2019

August Life Lately

IT'S SEPTEMBER! WE GO ON OUR HONEYMOON THIS WEEK!!!

I can't believe it's finally here, after over a year of planning. We are currently spending our evenings watching videos on the best things to eat in Vancouver or the best walks in Banff. I'm writing endless lists of what to pack and trying to squeeze in one last trip to H&M for something else I need. I'm trying to work out how much I need for a two-week, multi-location, multi-climate, multi-activity trip without bringing my entire wardrobe with me.

My camera is charged and ready (rescued from the loft!), I'm still deciding on my podcasts and audiobooks and my books are all downloaded.

I can't remember the last time I was this excited for a holiday!

I don't know how much detail I've gone into about the trip, but we fly to Vancouver first and we have five nights there, then on Monday we pick up a car and we've got 5 nights exploring the Rockies - stopping off at Whistler, and breaking up the drive to Banff with a stop off in Salmon Arm, and heading to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Jasper while we're there. Then we fly to Toronto for three nights before finally heading to Niagara Falls. 

In the nearly six years we've been together we've never been on a "big" holiday - we haven't even done a long-haul flight together! - so we decided when we did our honeymoon we were going to do it properly. I am so so so excited!

Anyway! Enough about September! Let's talk about August (and here's my One Second Every Day for the month)...

Where I've been
The month started with my cousin's hen party which was in the beautiful Double Tree Hotel in Manchester, and we were so lucky with the weather that we could sit on the balcony. It was so lovely and I totally nailed the dress code by wearing the exact same dress as the bride (I did not do this on her wedding day I promise). It was so lovely to hang out with all the women in my family and my wonderful cousins.

We also went to Formby this month for a day out with my best friends and their partners. We had a gorgeous walk along the beach - until it started to rain! It was such a nice day and a lovely beach so I'm hoping we can make it an annual trip!

After hearing good things from... basically everyone, we managed to snag nosebled seats to The Book of Mormon. We'd seen Avenue Q on our minimoon in Cheltenham so we were really excited to see Book of Mormon.. which was even more outrageous than we expected! It was so much fun!

Then on Friday, my cousin got married! It was the most beautiful day, her dress was incredible, the room was gorgeous, and Phil and I absolutely killed it on the dancefloor. I absolutely love a family wedding - my Dad is one of eight so at any family wedding there's a lot of us! I absolutely loved welcoming Rob into the madness of the Crowley family!

What I've been doing

The 3rd of August marked exactly six years since my first parkrun, so obviously I celebrated with...parkrun! I'm so proud of myself for giving it a go six years ago - parkrun is my biggest passion and a huge part of my life! In six years I've run nearly 200 parkruns (I'm due to hit my 200th next month!) across 26 different locations (with my first International parkrun coming next week!). Six years ago I had no idea I'd go on to run half marathons and marathons, and come back every single Saturday morning!

We've not been crazy busy this month which has given us plenty of time for my kind of "planned spontaneity". As you know, I'm not a spontaneous person, but with a few weekends free this month we managed to be spontaneous enough to plan a few days in advance, rather than months in advance!

We met with our wedding photographer to discuss our album and picked up some lovely prints from her so we've been able to put up a few photos, and we managed to get the most gorgeous cabinet we'd been eyeing up for months ex-display in Habitat, so our living room is really coming together!

We also used the afternoon tea voucher that Phil's sister got us for Christmas (yep, Christmas!). It was for the cafe where our wedding cake came from, so it was so nice to go back and visit and eat some delicious cake that reminded us of our wedding cake! Then after that we headed back to our wedding venue for the first time since we got married to take advantage of the spa membership we got as part of our package (which expires next month so we needed to use it!). I kept joking with afternoon tea and a spa day we were basically having a hen do!

We had a completely free weekend for the bank holiday and we completely basked in the sunshine. We had brunch outside with Phil's sister, walked into the village to meet my parents in a beer garden, watched football and ate pizza, did a National Trust walk, had a BBQ, cleaned the house - it was perfect! Maybe I'm getting better at this spontaneity thing, eh?

What I've read
Eight books read this month:

Supper Club
What it means when a man falls from the sky
Look at me 
The Testament of Gideon Mack
The Other Half of Augusta Hope
Our Endless Numbered Days
The Furies
The Bellwether Revivals

I went on a bit of a reserving-at-the-library-binge again, with all six coming in at once, so it's been intense making sure I finish everything before going away! My favourite book this month was Supper Club - I just wish it had been longer!

I've also listened to The Five on audiobook which I really recommend on audio!

What I've bought
One planned recipe book this month - Meera Sodha's East which I've already reviewed here, and I couldn't resist Katy Beskow's 15 Minute Vegan On a Budget to complement the other two books of hers I have in my collection.

I am also completely obsessed with midi skirts and got myself a third one this month. Please please please can brands release more midi skirts in petite lengths? I will buy them all.

What I've watched
Quiet month = plenty of films watched! We've watched four films at home this month:
Time to Kill
Top Secret
The Hours
Heat

We also finished Big Little Lies and we're about to finish season 2 of Mindhunter which is basically my favourite drama of all time (except Fargo). Season two has been brilliant.

One cinema trip this month to see Once upon a time in Hollywood which I really enjoyed.

What I've read online
The New York Times - How to talk to people, according to Terry Gross
The Globe and Maill - The Life changing magic of making do
A Cup of Jo - What happened when I started intuitively eating
The Guardian - How to love reading again
Ramshackle Glam - I had a misdiagnosed eptopic pregnancy - here's why I won't stop writing about it
The Toast - All the comments on every recipe blog
The Guardian - What makes a millennial novel?
The Cut - The story behind the greatest internet recipe comment of all time
Writing between pauses - I'm going freelance, and you can too
Huffington Post - I love the Zara dres but after being shamed I can't wear it
The Guardian - Jay Rayner's last supper
The Guardian - The age of comfort TV
The Atlantic - I Gooped myself - what Goop really sells women
Buzzfeed - Friends hasn't aged well
Refinery 29 - Is my self-care really self-sabotage?
Refinery 29 - I tried 47 different things for my anxiety - here's what worked

Feel like I might have a lot to say next month? Catch up soon!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Cookbook review - East

In order to do a cookbook review, I tend to cook from the same book for a couple of weeks. I like to cook about 10 recipes to write a review. However, of course, cooking a brand new recipe is a lot more tiring and demands a lot more concentration than cooking something I've made lots of times before, so I tend to cook two or three recipes from a book over a week.

So because we're going to be eating recipes from a new book a few times a week, I tend to avoid reviewing books based on specific cuisines. I do all the cooking and meal planning, and as much as I would happily eat curry every single day of the week, for example, Phil is less keen (although we do eat Indian food at least once a week!). That's why as much as I love Meera Sodha's Made in India and Fresh India, I haven't cooked from them enough over a consistent period of time to write a review.

But when her new book, East, came out, I really wanted to review it. I absolutely love her other books, and her vegan column for the Guardian, and I was hoping that there was enough variety in a book encompassing the whole of the "East" for us to not get bored of it.

I've cooked 8 recipes so far (I always wonder if I should update reviews of books when I keep cooking from them - even if it's just for myself! I like to remember what I thought of recipes and it's always disappointing when I check an old post and realise I've made loads of other recipes since I posted the review). There are loads of recipes I stil want to cook, but I'm ready to tell you what I think (and maybe add an update in a few months when I've tried a few more things!).


First Impressions



Obviously I was buzzing that this book is entirely vegetarian. I do own quite a lot of non-veggie books, but I obviously get much more out of vegetarian books because I can eat everything in them! 

From a first impression, there was so much I wanted to make (I counted at least 30 things!) and a lot of them were do-able midweek.

There were quite a lot of unusual ingredients - I ended up getting some gochujang paste  as I noticed it was in a few recipes I wanted to make, and I've got a list of ingredients I need to pick up from the Asian supermarket, but there are a lot of recipes using things you can pick up in a big Sainsburys. 

I like the mix of curries, noodle dishes, breakfast dishes, rice dishes and an ENTIRE chapter on tofu!

So here's what I made...

Honey soy and ginger braised tofu

This was the first thing I made and the recipe I needed the gochujang paste for. Grated pear was an unusal addition (I still have one sitting in my fruit bowl!) but pretty much everything else was pretty storecupboard.

I made this on a Saturday night but it's pretty quick and easy and could easily be made midweek. It took me about an hour but only because I also made the gochujang carrot and cabbage (which was okay but not worth making again).

I noticed that Meera seems to buy 280g blocks of tofu, whereas I buy the 400g packs of Cauldron tofu (which fits perfectly in my tofu press!) so I halved the amount of tofu to only 200g as I didn't want 120g of tofu leftover! 

This was absolutely and completely delicious (even though I accidentally cubed the tofu instead of cutting slabs) and the only complaint was Phil wanted there to be more of it!

So... I MADE IT AGAIN!

Yes, I, Charlotte Cantillon, whose husband complains he never receives the same meal more than once, made this recipe TWICE in a WEEK!

The second time I doubled the sauce (definitely the right decision) but kept the tofu at 200g, adding some mushrooms to bulk it out.

Honestly, now I have the gochujang paste I can imagine making this all the time. Aside from the pears it's almost a storecupboard dinner (I always have tofu in the freezer), so I might find a way of making it without!

Sun house chilli eggs
This had "weekend brunch" written all over it and it did not disappoint.

It's so easy, so quick, so made-of-things-I-always-have-in, and so so so much better than the sum of its parts!

This is destined to be a brunch favourite!

Edit: Ding ding ding! Made again klaxon! Made it again today. It was amazing again.

Egg fried rice with peppers, peas and chilli
Phil has been asking me to make egg fried rice for ages, but I never have leftover rice and I always read that leftover rice makes the best egg fried rice and I have a deep-seated need to not do things "wrong". 

But Meera gives you a version with either cooked or leftover rice so you have the option regardless of your rice situation!

I didn't write this on my notes (argh!) but I think I halved this for two of us.

All I remember was it was utterly delicious and completely adaptable and has made me wonder why I waited so long to make fried rice! I also love that with the exception of spring onions, this is another recipe of ingredients I always have in (rice, eggs, peppers, carrots, peas, garlic, chillies and condiments) and I cannot wait to make this again.

Kale saag paneer
A word of warning - do not misread the instructions here and accidentally jab a wooden spoon into your moving food processor! Only an idiot would do that and get the shock of her life when the spoon hits the blade! I was completely fine - just felt a bit stupid!
Anyway, I love saag paneer and I loved kale so I was keen to make this!
Side note - this is a really good way of finding out your pans are not actually non-stick! I ended up having to switch pans when all the cripsy delicious paneer ended up stuck to my pan!

I thought this would be a quick dinner but it took about an hour, which was just enough to push me over the edge midweek. I ended up finishing it a bit tired and cranky after an hour of hands-on cooking.

I liked this but Phil really did not. The kale was a nice change but it was a bit too chewy and stuck in my teeth - I'll stick to spinach in future!

Peanut butter pad thai
I'm going to be honest and say I don't really know what is in authentic pad thai, and I also know Meera isn't going for authenticity with this book, but this felt more like a delicious bowl of peanutty noodles more than a pad thai.

I decided not to halve the recipe at the last minute and I didn't quite have enough broccoli, so I used 400g tofu to even it out. I managed to get rice noodles which I've never used before!

I liked that this was all one pan which made it a lot easier for midweek clean up, and at 45 minutes hands-on it was just about do-able midweek.

I loved the brococli in this but Phil wasn't keen. We also both felt it was a bit heavy on the peanut butter. I would maybe adapt the sauce again for with veg.

Coconut rice, aubergine and pickled cucumber
I saved this until Phil was out, as he doesn't like cucumber or aubergine. 

I liked that you used the whole can of coconut milk with some in the sauce and the rest in the rice (I hate having half a can of things in the fridge!), but because I halved it, I still ended up with extra coconut milk! So I ended up doing half the aubergine (which was good as the full amount wouldn't have fit in my pan!) and all the rice, and putting exta coconut milk in the sauce! I also burned the onions (8 minutes on a high heat? Was that a typo?!) so I'm not sure this is completely representative!
It took about 45 minutes and it was nice but I wouldn't make it again.

Amritsari pomegranate chickpeas
I was very interested and excited for this! 

I forgot to put a timer on but this took less than an hour which was good because I LOVED it!

Quite easy although a bit hands on - cook chickpeas in tea (!), and in another pan start on the sauce. I had it with the leftover coconut rice from the night before too which saved me a job, and Meera Sodha's AMAZING green beans from Made in India.

I was a bit obsessed with this. It was absolutely delicious - like something I'd get in a restaurant. It's entirely storecupboard ingredients (providing you have pomegranate molasses which you can get from Sainsburys and it keeps for ageeeeees in the fridge) so I want to make this basically every week.

Overnight soy eggs

Maybe these didn't work for me as I decided to make them in the middle of making the pomegranate chickpeas.

I followed the instructions, but 7 minutes didn't seem long enough once I peeled them - by which point it was way too late! 

Cold runny yolk did not appeal to me at all, but I was a trooper and had two on toast. They were more sweet than salty and I really wasn't keen. I made 5 but I couldn't face the other two! These might have been okay cooked for longer but I'm not sure if I want to bother again!

Conclusion

If it's not clear already, I flipping love this book. It's a great mix of midweek meals and recipes I'd want to make for a fancy weekend dinner for friends - some recipes even straddle both of these elements!

There are still so many things I want to make - the ben ben noodles, aubergine massaman curry, sping onion and ginger noodles to name but a few! - and I know there are so many recipes here I will make time and time again (as I said, I've already made the tofu and the sunshine eggs twice, and I know I'll adapt the fried rice over and over).

While there are some weird ingredients, I would say it's pretty accessible (you can definitely get by without a Sous Chef order!) and a great intro to Eastern cusine, veggie food or both! I also think it would be a great book for converting people to tofu - that soy honey tofu is insane!

I was looking forward to this book for a long long time - and it did not disappoint!

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

July Life Lately

It's August! Which means we go to Canada NEXT MONTH!!!!! We booked our honeymoon to Canada nearly a year ago and I can't believe it's nearly here! We'd better get planning what we're going to go (eg. where we're going to eat).

July has been busy but fun - we've been away two weekends out of four, and Phil was away all four weekends, so we've not had loads of time at home together in July. I'm looking forward to some time together this month!

It has been quite nice though so have a few weekends on my own though - sunny Friday evenings with one of my closet friends eating vegan fried chicken at Manchester International Festival, tapas lunch with my cousin, a party for my friend's Dad, dinner with my parents, showing our wedding video and photos to my Nan, watching lots of Parks and Rec and making things for dinner Phil doesn't like!

Here's what I got up to in July, and here's my One Second Every Day of the month...

Where I've been

Lots of long drives this month! At the start of the month we spent the weekend in Norfolk for one of Phil's friend's 30th Birthdays. We stayed with his parents in their beautiful house in the countryside, squeezed in some parkrun tourism at Thetford and had a lovely time catching up with Phil's friends from university.


Then two weeks later we headed back to the East of the country for a wedding! Another of Phil's friends from university had the most beautiful wedding in Hitchin, with a gorgeous marquee at Shortmead House. I absolutely love a wedding in a marquee! We squeezed in some more parkrun tourism in the morning, got dressed up and had the best day, and then danced all night. It was such a lovely day for an amazing couple.

On the way back from the wedding we stopped off at Bletchley Park. I've wanted to go for absolutely years and we always said if we were ever in the area we'd pay a visit. It was absolutely brilliant. There's just so much to see! We spent a good few hours there and didn't get close to seeing everything, but your ticket is an annual pass so you can come back any time in the year, so I'm hoping we get a chance to go again. Most of what I knew was from The Imitation Game, so there was so much I didn't know, and it's an incredible interesting, moving and interactive museum that I can't recommend more!

What I've been doing
This month, I finally had the chop! I've been talking about cutting my hair for years but every time I've bottled it. I love my long hair and it's become my signature style, but it was also getting a bit boring, not to mention hot in the summer! I was going to do it a few years ago, but then we got engaged and I wanted it long for the wedding. I spent weeks before my appointment dithering, and in the end I just went for it. I absolutely love it! It took me a while to get used to, but now I love it and I'm so glad I did it!

I set my reading challenge at a fairly achieveable 52 books this year (I read 94 last year) with the wedding and the honeymoon, but it turns out I've been reading just as much as ever. So this month, 6 months early, I hit my reading goal of 52 books! I have no idea what my aim is now for the next of the year but it's nice to not have one! I've read some brilliant books this year so I might do a mid-year review of my favourites.

Phil and I love dogs. Love them. We tell each other about dogs we've seen during the day, we will both stop mid-sentence to point out dogs, we watch dog videos to cheer ourselves up, we stalk other people's dogs on Instagram. We love them. We talk about getting a dog a lot, but we don't have a lot of experience in actually looking after them, so a few months ago we signed up to Borrow my Doggy. Reader, it's been a rollercoaster. We've had people cancel on us the day of the meet up, people cancel the day before, we've been completely ghosted. We were starting to give up, and then one day I decided to check, and there was a beautiful golden retriever in our area. I sent over my standard message but I wasn't feeling hopeful, but then we got a reply. And then she was free to meet up. And before we knew it we had a date.  Even half an hour before we still thought we were going to get stood up, but nope, we arrived at the house and knocked on the door.

And that's where we met Benji! He is the most beautiful puppy, incredibly exciteable and social and loves to play! We've taken him out twice now and have a great relationship with his owner who is happy for us to let her kno when we want to borrow him. He's hard work but it's good practice and it's great to have the option of playing with a dog whenever we like! It took us a long time to find a good match but I'm so glad we stuck it out!

What I've read
Eight books this month:

Salt Slow
The Red Word
Let the Great World Spin
Three Women
Attrib
Lanny
The Ecliptic
The Interestings

My favourite was The Interestings which I absolutely loved and was a bit bereft when it was over! I also really loved Lanny which is being talked about a lot at the moment for good reason.

What I've been watching
Two cinema trips this month! Midsommar which I loved except for that one bit and I knew about it and looked away but then it was in a flashback?! It was one of those that I can't stop thinking about and I just want to read everything about! If you've seen it and loved it, this episode of The Evolution of Horror podcast is well worth a listen.

We alsowent to see Spider-man: Far from home which I really enjoyed, maybe even more than the first one?!

What I've read online
Lithub - Free to be you and me and childfree
Grazia - I don't feel smart enough for 2019
Stylist - I had a miscarriage at Disney World
Vox - Why is everyone on Tinder obsessed with tacos?
A Rosie Outlook - Out of alignment
The New Yorker - The kiss that changed video games
Yes and Yes - How to use envy as a tool
Plus Size - A Love Letter to Beth Ditto
The Guardian - I learned I could do my job and not be ashamed of having a baby
The Times - When Harry met Sally - 30 years on
The Metro - How to be happy for your friends when you are jealous of their achievements
Prospect Magazine - The battle over bread
Huffington Post - The moment I knew I wanted kids (as told by 5 women)
Refinery 29 - I'm the only queer person in my friendship group and it's really lonely
Design Sponge - Simple tips for success
The Guardian - Why we can't get enough of audiobooks
Grazia - Things you only know if you don't have a girl gang
Food 52 - The truth about caramelising onions
The Guardian - Top chefs share their simple recipes
Writing between pauses - 6 lessons from 6 years of marriage
Stylist - I didn't know I was suffering from burnout, until I was made redundant
Medium - The secret to getting ahead is doing the work others don't
Plus size - What shame can't achieve
The Midult - Do you "save for best"?
The Guardian - Where's the advice for men on how to propose?

Hope you're having a lovely August so far!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Cookbook review: The Quick Roasting Tin

Damn, Charlotte. Back at it again with the roasting tins.

Basically as soon as I knew there was going to be a third roasting tin book in the series I was absolutely buzzing, and a quick one at that! (There's also going to be a fourth one next year!). It's hard to explain the love of these books. This thread of Bert's gives you an indication of why we're all obsessed with them (and it looks like a couple of journalists have gotten on board and are going to write about the phenomenom!). They're easy, they're accessible, they make it easy to riff on your favourites and they're endlessly customisable. Plus, in a world where everyone is "sooooo bussssssy" (my hatred of "busyness as achievement" is for another day) they do genuinely mean you can bung your dinner in the oven and go back to reading/spending time with your husband/playing Tetris, at least in my case.

Anyway, I was absolutely thrilled to receive a copy of this straight from Rukmini herself (I'd obviously already preordered it so this was a nice surprise!). Here's what I thought...


First Impressions

Unsurprisingly, I absolutely adored The Green Roasting Tin with everything being vegetarian and half the recipes being vegan, but this is a return to meat and fish based recipes. With it being a quick book, meat probably cooks quicker in the oven than a potato or carrot! At first I was disappointed in the number of veggie recipes, but I found they're more towards the middle of the book, particularly in the lunchbox section.

Speaking of the lunchbox section - I love this! I take leftovers a lot of the time to work so this is perfect for me.

From an initial flick through I found 33 veggie recipes out of 64, with 11 being desserts. 

Here's what I made...

Salted chocolate peanut butter brownies
These appealed to me right away but I knew they wouldn't be Phil's thing so I halved the recipe. They were very easy and the only thing I needed to buy was chocolate (albeit, very dark, expensive chocolate). I think I undercooked them as they were very gooey. Definitely a grown-up brownie - I really liked them but I'm not sure I'd make them again as they weren't very popular!

Roasted Aubgerine courgette and macaroni bake
My Mum gave me a courgette and an aubergine as she was going away, so it made sense to give this recipe a go. I feel like a bastardised it a bit - I couldn't get boursin so I used goats cheese and added mixed herbs, basil and garlic powder. I also only had 100g rather than the requisite 150g so I threw in some cheddar.
Super easy if lacking in complex flavour from the tinned tomatoes straight into the oven, but Phil, who usually hates courgette and aubergine, liked it, so I guess that's a win!
I'd maybe make this again with a few adaptations.

Weekend breakfast traybake
One of my pet peeves is people complaining in the Guardian Food comments section that the recipe didn't work. Then it turned out they swapped the pasta for rice, the tofu for chicken, the soy sauce for ketchup... you get my drift. I think in this recipe I made too many changes and that was why it didn't work.

I used veggie sausages with added fennel and smoked paprika to make them taste more "meaty", but I think there was something fundamental about the chorizo that I just couldn't replace. The whole thing was a bit bland, but I think this is my fault for making the change. I imagine chorizo imparts a smoky, fatty deliciousness which veggie sausages... do not. Bit disappointing but I bet this is great if you do eat meat!

Quick cook cauliflower curry with peas and spinach
I love cauliflower, I love peas, I love spinach, I love curry. I did not love this. And I have no idea why! Maybe my cauliflower was a little underripe. Maybe I don't like mustard seeds as much as I first thought. I did forget the lime which may have been more up my street, but I found the cauliflower flavour completely overwhelming. I kind of want to try it again to see what I did wrong, but something you have to call it loss and maybe this wasn't for me!

Spiced sweet poato curry with peas and coconut milk
After not liking the cauliflower curry, this was a perfect return to form. Really easy and tasty - I'd up the chilli next time. The serving size was "2 adults and 2 children" which doesn't really work for us, but with a side of Meera Sodha's insane green beans (seriously I could eat a bucket full - if you haven't tried them you really need to, pictured in the image above) and some pitta, we got 2 portions.

Cinnamon spiced aubergine with feta, olives and herbed bulghur wheat
So much going on here - olives! Feta! Pomegranate seeds! but it was soooooo good. An absolutely treat in your lunchbox. Definitely making again!

All in one nigella spiced whole tomato dal
In every Roasting Tin there is one recipe that does not work for me. Unfortunately, as a person who loves dal almost more than any other food, it was this one.
I bought a lidded dish especially and followed all the instructions to the letter. It seemed a lot of liquid, but in Rukmini we trust.
After 30 minutes it was still really watery and bland so I gave it another 10 minutes without the lid before I gave up. 
I used a mix of tomatoes which I think could have been too big and released too much liquid, or it could have been old lentils or my oven, but it just did not work. I kind of want to try it again, but I also know the dal in The Green Roasting Tin is one of my favourites so perhaps I just stick to that!

Tikka-spiced paneer salad with chickpeas, mint and naan croutons
I mean, "Tikka-spiced paneer salad with chickpeas, mint and naan croutons". It had me at "hello". This is so flipping great. I overcooked the naans a bit and they were a tad crunchy, but that is all on me. My only disappointment is that I had a busy week and I was out for lunch for the next few days so I halved it! What a travesty! I can't wait to make this again.

Lightly roasted chickpea, halloumi and red onion salad with coriander and giant cous cous
Quite often with these books, it's the recipes I don't expect to love that become my favourites.
The flavour profile here is very simple - only smoked paprika, salt and lemon - but it really allows the rest of the flavours to shine. I absolutely loved it.
There was very little chopping involved, which as a veggie, is a rare and beautiful thing, so it was super quick to get in the oven.
I already can't wait to make this again - especially for my lunchbox!

Roasted halloumi and bulghur wheat salad with avocado, mango and coriander
Is this my favourite recipe in the book? Again, I didn't imagine I'd be saying that when I read this recipe. It's so fresh-tasting and summery and delicious. AND it's even better hot and totally worth going down to the kitchen at work to warm up so that halloumi is all hot and melty. I'm genuinely considering making this every weekend for my lunchbox.

Orzo giadineiera: Baked orzo with courgette chilli and lemon
I keep hearing a lot about the orzo recipes in these books but I'd been yet to try them. This was my first foray and I was really, really excited about it. I knew we had a tight turnaround time the evening I made this, so I grated the courgette in advance and left it in the fridge. 
In the end, it came out a tad watery so I wonder if my courgette released too much liquid while it was in the fridge. I think it needed a tad less liquid, extra salt and extra lemon. I also ended up having to used dried chillies as I didn't have fresh, so that might have made a big difference.
It just feels like it needed "something" but I would give this another go with a few tweaks.

Honey roasted butternut squash salad with chickpeas, goats cheese and rocket
This was lovely, quick and refreshing - perfect for a lunchbox! I love the combination of goats cheese and butternut squash anyway and this was lovely with the cumin and honey. I halved this as we were going away and didn't need leftovers, but I'd definitely bulk it out with the bulghur option next time as it wasn't quite enough for dinner with a pitta. I was hesitant to try to do the bulghur addition when halving it in case it dried up. Also, cutting up a butternut squash takes FOREVERRRRRRR. But we know that.

Pomegranate yoghurt cake
This was a bit of an unplanned bonus. I'm not much of a baker but whenever Phil is away I find myself baking out of boredom. On this particular solo Sunday I had already planned to make two recipes from the Quick Roasting Tin (the two below) but I had everything in to make this, thanks to buying pomegranate seeds for another Roasting Tin recipe this week (I'm going to attempt to sub the chicken for halloumi in the brown rice and avocado salad in the first book).

Rukmini notes that this cake is best eaten on the day of baking, and seeing as I was baking out of boredom and had nobody around to help eat 8 servings of cake, I decided to halve the recipe.

The method is easy peasy - mix everything up, put it in a tin, put pomegranate seeds on top. Can confirm, it works fine with self raising flour with a best before date of 9 months ago, and also when you're trying to guess how many seeds the average pomegranate has because you're using prepackaged pomegranate seeds.

I was struggling to find the right sized tin based on the recommendations but in the end I just made it in a loaf tin. I did 20 minutes in the oven and it was perfect. 

Really easy and tasty. Next time I'll add more icing!

Charred tenderstem broccoli with black beans, avocado and peanuts and sesame and thyme roasted cauliflower pilaf with feta cheese and watercress
Both these dishes sounded really good but they were both described as side dishes and I didn't want to make a really elaborate side dish as well as something else, so I took Rukmini's advice and combined these into a "vegetarian sharing feast", well, except I didn't share!

It took me about an hour and 20 to make both of these, but only because my oven really doesn't like having more than one thing in it at once! I did the broccoli for 20 minutes but the cauliflower had barely cooked in that time so I had to take the broccoli out and wait another 2o minutes!

Both these dishes are lovely and work really well together. The combination of avocado, black beans and smoky chipotle flakes with the lime juice in the broccoli dish makes it feel mexican and I loved the addition of the peanuts. It actually worked really well with the pilaf - next time I would serve this alongside bulghur and feta.

I've recently discovered za'tar and now I just want to use it in everything, so I really like it in the pilaf. The cauliflower itself wasn't my favourite (have I gone off cauliflower?!  What is going on with me?) but I loved the flavours in the bulghur and the addition of the feta.
I'm not sure what I'd serve either of these on the side of, but I like the idea of making them together again, or bulking one of them out into a full meal.

Conclusion

Maybe my favourite? No wait the green one is my favourite. But this one is really great. And I also love the first one. Basically, you need all 3.

I really love how each book builds on the previous - for me, a whole book of veggie recipes was the perfect follow up to the original, and here, a whole book of quick recipes is the next step in making Roasting Tin recipes even more accesible.

I remember cooking from the first book (over 2 years ago!) and going out for a walk while everything cooked, and the second needing "emergency crackers" to keep us going til dinner, but this is absolutely perfect. We've had a hectic few weeks so it's been great to know I can put something in the oven at 6 and still make it to the cinema for 7!

Shout out in particular to the lunchbox section, which I absolutely love! I bring leftovers to work most days for lunch, but I can't have hot food at my desk - this book allows me a fresh, delicious lunch and means I can still spend my lunch break reading outside, not queuing for a microwave!

While I feel I've made pretty much every recipe I wanted to make from this book (with the exception of a couple I want to veggie-ize) I know there will be so many I'm going to make and adapt and recreate again and again.

These book just keep getting better, and I cannot wait for the next one!! Thank you again to Rukmini for my copy, and for these amazing books!

Charlotte x