Thursday, 19 November 2020

Essential Tools for my Daily Routine - HappyFeed

My friend Michelle has been doing a really interesting series on her blog around her daily routine and other people's daily routines and I've been finding it absolutely fascinating. I love hearing about how other people plan their days, and I particularly love hearing about the tools and techniques they use to manage them.

Now I'm going to be honest, it feels like a pretty weird time to be writing about something like this when my daily routine is an absolute million miles away from the usual at the moment, so I'm going to focus instead on the things I use day in, day out, whether it's a normal (or "normal") day, a weekend, a day off, a holiday.

These aren't expensive products or time-consuming tips, and it's worth saying here that just because these are the things I enjoy, doesn't mean they will work for everyone. Furthermore, I am always trying new things, changing my routines up, looking for new things that might work better (one of the apps I want to talk about in a later post I've only been using for a few weeks!).

When I started this idea for a blog post, I focused first on apps, as I ticked something off my Productive app and went to track my mood in Daylio, but I soon found myself wanting to add my iPhone Notes onto the list and my bullet journal, and before I knew it I had a whole list of tools beyond just apps, and across multiple categories.

So in the interest in this not being the longest and most in-depth blog post of all time, I decided to split this idea into a couple of blog posts, and into a few categories. They are:

- Memories, gratitude and mood
- Organisation
- Productivity

I originally wrote this as 3 blog posts, but they were so enormous they've been sat in my drafts for literally months because I was too overwhelmed to edit them, so instead I've split them into mini posts.

First up, in the category of "memories, gratitude and mood" is one of my absolute favourite and post-used apps, HappyFeed.

The alternative title for this post is, How HappyFeed forces me to be grateful even when I don't want to be!

The HappyFeed app is a digital gratitude journal - every single day you have to list three things you are grateful for, or three things that made you happy today. 

(Just to add, like my post on Eat Your Books, this is not sponsored - it's just an app I really love!)

Some days are great. Remember those days when we used to be able to, you know, do stuff? Go to places? Some days it's hard to narrow my happy things down to just 3, or I bunch them up into long sprawling sentences of gratitude.

More often than not at the moment, thinking of 3 things to be happy about is hard.

Some days the best I can come up with is "I'm enjoying my book" or "dinner tonight was good" or "my dog is nice" but that's okay. Forcing me to think of 3 things that were positive, even on the worst days, really helps you to be grateful and look around a little bit more.

I've been using HappyFeed now for nearly 3 years (I specifically remember I'd only been using it a few weeks when I got the add the entry "WE GOT ENGAGED TODAY!" on Boxing Day 2017) and one of my favourite features is its "memories" feature, where you can see your 3 happy things from 3 months ago, 6 months ago, 12 months ago etc. Sometimes just remembering something from 6 months ago is enough to make you smile all over again!

Another feature I like is tagging your "best days" with a representative emoji. Obviously some days are super special but other days are just really good days I want to remember, like our anniversary this month. It wasn't exactly our wedding day but we got a lovely takeaway and watched one of our favourite films and got dressed up for the occasion. I love tagging these days to remember for the future.

At the end of each month you also get an email with a review of the month - some of your photos and most-used words, plus a few random memories from the month. This is such a nice reminder of the nice things you did.

Finally, there's a really nice random-generator feature where you can "shake the jar" for a happy memory which can give you a boost when you need one!

I currently use the free version of HappyFeed but in the paid version you can add up to 10 happy things, use offline mode, search your moments and download. I think eventually I'll upgrade to support the developers, but for now I have everything I need in the free version.

I'm currently on 1048 days and a streak of 538 days (luckily you can go back up to 3 days if you forget a day which I sometimes do!) and I love having older memories to look back on (especially now when time makes no sense!).

HappyFeed is available for iOS and Android.

Charlotte x

Monday, 9 November 2020

How Eat Your Books helps me to actually use all my recipe books

I'm not sure if you know this, but I am obsessed with recipe books.

Oh, okay, you do know that do you? 

Right.

I get asked quite a lot how many I have, and you'd expect someone like me to umm and ahh and not be sure of the number.

But no, I know it. It's 98.

And how do I know it's 98?

It's thanks to the wonder that is Eat Your Books.

(I want to make it clear here this is not sponsored - I really love Eat Your Books and have been paying myself for my membership for many years!)

What is Eat Your Books?

Eat Your Books is a website which allows you to organise and search through your recipe books.

I originally stumbled across it a few years ago because, well, I'm obsessed with recipe books. And sometimes I like to look up recipe books to see what recipes they have before I buy them. Or what reviews they have. Or sometimes I find myself in the supermarket googling what I'm planning to make for dinner to see if the recipe is online because I've forgotten if I need courgettes or not.

And Eat Your Books would always come up. And to be honest, for years I didn't get it. 

You couldn't see the quantities of each ingredient, or the recipe itself. Just the ingredients it needed, and sometimes some reviews. I couldn't see how it would be useful.

But after coming across it over and over again, I decided to give a free trial a go. And I completely fell in love.

How I use Eat Your Books

The first thing you do when you sign up is add all the books you own to your library (you can also add 5 books in the free version), as well as any blogs you want to follow. You can do this by search, or you can also add by ISBN.

Now one thing to add here - not all books are indexed, but of course the more popular your book, the more likely it is to be indexed. Of my 98 books, 84 are indexed, 3 are indexing now and 1 is yet to be released (but I think will be indexed pretty quickly after release). You can request books be indexed, or, if you're super keen, you can offer to index them yourself.

Once a book is indexed, you can search all the recipes in it, and this goes for all books, whether they're on your shelf or not.

At a recipe level, you can see all the ingredients, though not the quantities, and some tags eg. vegetarian, main courses, Mexican. You can also see any reviews or notes that other users have added to the recipe (I find these incredibly useful!).

One of my favourite features is the ability to add bookmarks to recipes. I have loads of bookmarks, for example "weekend favourites", "storecupboard recipes", "autumn/winter" ,"BBQ", "salads", "brunch to try", "convert to veggie" and "instant pot". I find bookmarks really helpful when meal planning, or for saving recipes I want to remember to make later.

But by far, the best feature is the search. If it's the end of the week and I haven't been food shopping, I can search my library by ingredients I have in. So I can search "eggs, kale, tomatoes" and find an Eggs in Purgatory dish from EllyPear, or maybe I also have some cheese, so I can search "eggs, cheese" and Eat Your Books reminds me of a mac and cheese recipe I've been meaning to try. 

You can filter by loads of factors too - for me, it's always "vegetarian" but I can also search only book recipes (so no blogs or websites - I do this quite often if I want to really make sure I'm using my books). You can also search by course, ingredient, ethnicity, occasion and recipe types.

I find this is a great way to reduce food waste, by searching for ingredients I have on hand. For example this week I had to buy oranges for one recipe, but I knew I wouldn't use them all. I know I always have tofu in the freezer, so I searched "orange tofu" in my books and found 32 recipes in my books for orange tofu.

How much is it?

Eat Your Books is $3 a month or you can pay $30 for a year. For me, personally, less than £3 a month is more than worth it considering the amount I spend on recipe books.

Final thoughts

I've been using Eat Your Books now for about 3 years and it has absolutely transformed how I use my recipe books. I try so many more recipes now and get loads of helpful tips from the notes of other users.

It's annoying sometimes when a book you really want to be indexed isn't yet (still waiting on The Roasting Tin Around the World) but considering how many of my books are indexed I don't miss my newer or more-obscure ones not being on the site yet.

If like me you have so many recipe books you find yourself overwhelmed, Eat Your Books is a great way of feeling as though you can really use them and it makes me so excited about my book collection!

Let me know if you give it a try!

Charlotte x

Friday, 6 November 2020

October Life Lately

October was a month of scary films, spooky books and DIY. Here's what I got up to (and here's my One Second Every Day for the month).

What I did

If I had to sum up October in one word, or three letters, it would be DIY. Nearly all of my One Second Every Day clips are of one of us pushing a roller over a wall or touching up a skirting board.

We've been working on the house near-constantly since August and we are getting there, albeit very slowly! In October we finally got our bedroom, office room and hall plastered (after weeks of bare plaster in our bedroom, and worse, bare dusty brick in the hall and office room as they both needed completely new walls!). And once all the plaster was dry, we could paint!


Our bedroom is now Timeless white with a soothing green feature wall, our office room is Chic Shadow (the most gorgeous shade of is-it-grey-is-it-blue-is-it-lilac - see above) and our small dark hallway is now the brightest pure brilliant white. It's been a lot of work - every single weekend and most evenings have been spent covered in paint, but we've managed to get so much done.

I'm not a fan of sharing my journey part-way through and we have a long way to go, but there are a few sneak peeks in my seconds video. Our bedroom is definitely coming along the quickest (and by that I mean, Phil ripped off the horrible old textured wallpaper in there back in July!) and it's the room where we had the clearest vision about what we wanted, which meant we could actually get some accessories this month too!

With the room being green and white, we've gone for blush pink for everything else which I absolutely love. Our bedding is pure white (omg Dunelm's soft touch bedding is amazing), with a pink throw and the most perfect pink-and-green cushions from Matalan which go perfectly. We've also got pink curtains, a pink lampshade and pink lamps. 

But my favourite thing in the room right now is some prints we got from Desenio. I didn't even know where to start with buying art but wanted something a bit more grown up. A lot of the prints in our house are of our favourite places (our little feature wall in the living room has prints of Duluth (where I lived on my year abroad), Manchester city centre (where we first lived together), Lyme Park (where we got engaged) and Banff (where we spent our honeymoon)), and the landing has 2 prints of Stockport (where we live). We also have lots of photos and film and book-themed prints, but nothing just, art.


So I hit my usual resource for all things house - Kimberley's blog - and discovered Desenio. The prints we found are absolutely stunning. One is of blue and pink mountains, and the other gold-and-pink hills. They go perfectly together and really make the room. They also sell frames, which is amazing because buying frames is the bane of my life. We got 2 prints and 2 frames, and because we bought 4 or more items, we got 30% off, so the whole order was £70! They look fantastic.

I'm so glad we got all the painting done before the DIY shops close. We have a few more bits to order online but I don't think we'll make much progress in November, but hopefully I'll have something properly to show you in the new year!

What I read


(I've never done this before, but I've become an affiliate with Bookshop.org which supports independent bookshops, so if you buy anything from any of the links to books I've shared I'll get a small commission).

Not a massive book-reading month last month - likely because of spending all my evenings and weekends painting!

Here's what I read:


I first encountered Marilynne Robinson when I was at university when I read Gilead, and I think this was my first introduction to my favourite genre, which I call "beautifully written character studies where nothing happens". 

Years later I read the second book in the Gilead series, Homegoing, and up until recently I didn't even know there were more books in the series.

It was only when I was browsing NetGalley to look for something new to request when I noticed Jack, and saw it was the fourth book in the series. I requested it, then promptly downloaded Lila, the third book in the series, which I read last month.

While I loved Lila, I just didn't love Jack quite as much. Jack is the story of the titular Jack, who is abandoned by his family due to his checkered past, and falls in love with Della, a black woman, in a time in which these relationships are illegal.

I really like the way Marilynne Robinson's Gilead series keeps us closely tied to different characters and how each book focuses on a character who might have been minor or barely mentioned in the other books. I expected to really love this but actually I much preferred Lila, even though it had much less in the way of plot.


I wanted a couple of spooky books for October and had had this on my wishlist for a while, so when it was discounted on Kindle I bought it and read it almost straight away. I was hooked so quickly that I ended up buying another Simone St James book after a few pages.

The Sun Down Motel is a character in itself. Carly finds herself working in the motel while investigating her aunt's disappearance in the 80s. Her aunt also worked at the motel and it was the last place she was seen before she disappeared. The book takes turns between their perspectives, both working at the motel, Carly in the present and her Aunt Viv in the past.

This is a pacey, spooky and fun read which I really enjoyed, and it was perfect for October. I really loved it.


When it comes to spooky books, there is one man we always come back to, and Salem's Lot is one of the classics I hadn't read. It's actually Phil's copy and he described it as "basically every vampire story but it's good fun."

One of the reasons I didn't read as much last month is because Salem's Lot is long, man. It took me way over a week to read.

It's a classic Stephen King - small town in Maine, lots of characters and lots of names to remember, spooky stuff going on. It's great fun, and exactly as Phil described with lots of classic vampire tropes. I'm glad I've finally read it.


This had been on my to-read list for a while so I finally caved last month. I really loved this.

An unnamed narrator (I love an unnamed narrator) is living illegally in an apartment owned by his Aunt in the late 90s while he studies for his MFA writing programme at Colombia, and feels guilty about his living situation and family wealth compared to his peers. He becomes friends with a fellow classmate, Billy, who is a brilliant but struggling writer, and invites him to move in.

I loved so much about this - the story of class and friendship and politics and masculinity in 90s New York. The Apartment is sad and funny and brilliant and tragic and compelling. I highly recommend it.


Another spooky book for October. This is one of those books that I was suuuuuper into, until I wasn't. With horror I can easily get bored once the creepy goings-on start to get explained and this one kind of lost me in the last 100 or so pages. 

I know lots of people who really love this though, so if you want a creepy book with lots of spooky goings-on set in Mexico, it's worth a read.


This was I heard about months ago, added to my wishlist, bought for 99p then promptly forgot about. If I remember correctly I first heard about it through Blair (who I get most of my book recommendations from to be honest) who compared it to Otessa Mosfegh's Death in Her Hands - an old woman in a cold, wild location, trying to solve a mystery. 

I absolutely loved this. I loved being in Mrs Duszejko's head, I loved her weird thoughts, her obsessions with animals and horoscopes and William Blake and solving the mystery, her funny nicknames for her neighbours. It's quirky and weird and dark and brilliant and perfect for a cold winter evening. Translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.


I know it seems strange to list a recipe book in my What I Read section, but Cook Eat Repeat is much more a collection of essays than it is a recipe book, and I read it from cover to cover. Including all the recipe intros. Even those containing meat.

It's a lovely little book. I can see people who were expecting a classic Nigella recipe book to be disappointed - there are only a handful of "real recipes", instead it features more inspiration and ideas and recommendations, suggestions for recipes within the text, without exact measurements or timings. It's a love letter to food and cooking and the joys of eating. I adored it.

What I watched


October is for horror films, so we had a horror-film-only month. Here's what we watched:

First time watches for me:
Friday the 13th
Candyman
Lake Mungo
The Woman in Black

Rewatches:
American Werewolf in London
Scream
Don't Look Now

The rewatches this month were a real highlight - I love both American Werewolf in London (as mentioned here) and Don't Look Now, but I hadn't seen Scream since I was a teenager and I cannot believe how brilliant it is! Maybe one to watch every year from now on?

We also loved The Haunting of Bly Manor. Like a lot of people, it was completely different to what we expected but by the end I was completely captivated (and in floods of tears).

What I loved


I've been using an app called HappyFeed for a few years now (I actually have a blog post planned about it). It's a really simple concept - every day you have to list 3 happy things for the day. Some days are really hard, some days you have way more than 3. And last month I hit a total of 1000 days on HappyFeed. I love looking back on what my happy things were a year ago, 2 years ago, 6 months or 3 months ago.



To cheer myself up last month I treated myself to 3 jumpers from Sugarhill Boutique. Sugarhill Boutique is my absolute favourite independent online shop - I love their cute, quirky designs. I've managed to get a few other people to buy from them lately after me being such a cheerleader! I got this pink stripe jumper, a navy striped one and this adorable dinosaur one. They make me smile whenever I see them in the wardrobe!

I've been hitting the podcasts pretty hard lately too. I'm currently working through the whole back catalogue of You're Wrong About and I'm utterly obsessed. My favourite episodes have been the OJ Simpson series (which I'm still working through), Human Trafficking (very relevant at the moment), Yoko Ono, Kitty Genovese (especially as I did a social psychology course a few weeks ago where there was a whole section on the bystander effect!), Anna Nicole Smith, Columbine and the Quarantine Deep Dive episodes into both Michelle Remembers and Jessica Simpson's autobiography.

Related to You're Wrong About - I've been enjoying Maintenance Phase, which is also hosted by Michael Hobbes of You're Wrong About. Maintenance Phase is a deep dive into the misconceptions and general rubbish of the diet and wellness industry.

And finally, I love having a series I can savour which I can only listen to when I'm running, and currently that is the satanic panic series of Uncovered. I love anything about the satanic panic thanks to the Michelle Remember deep dive on You're Wrong About and American Hysteria, and this is such a fantastic and well-researched investigation.

What I wrote


The return of this section! I actually wrote something last month that wasn't just a round up post! I wrote four posts in October:


What I read online


Writing Between Pauses - Making Magic
Writing Between Pauses - How to become a better writer

I've got loads of blog posts in drafts at the moment so hopefully I'll catch up with you before December!

Charlotte x

Monday, 26 October 2020

6 Scary films (and one scary TV show) for October


Following on from my post on
spooky books for October, I thought I'd write about a couple of my favourite scary films too.

I used to HATE horror films, though like I said in this post I loved a horror book. I'd quite often read a scary book then be too scared to watch the adaptation!

Now I enjoy horror films much more, but I have very specific requirements. I hate gore. I can't even watch injections, so I am behind a blanket for anything gory. I also hate anything overly jumpy. And I'm good at knowing what is, as we call it "too scary for Charlotte" (it took me a loooooong time to watch The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre terrified me, and there are a lot of films I know I'll never watch). Basically, I'm still a bit of a wuss, but I'm trying.

So while I'm quite new to the genre (and there are sooooo many classic horror films I'm yet to see) I definitely have a few favourites. Like with the scary books, there are so many I wanted to include on this list but I've tried to keep it short, and to keep it to films I've seen more than once (with one notable exception) and one TV series.

Also, scary is completely subjective. And like I said, I'm a bit of a wuss.

So here are some of my favourite scary things to watch this October...

The Shining

I was 16 the first time I saw The Shining and it terrified me. Then at university I read the book (my first Stephen King) and loved it so much I found the adaptation disappointing. Now it's one of my favourite ever films. It was one of the first films I ever saw with Phil and last October we went to see it on the big screen which was incredible. I've watched the documentary Room 237 about it. I have a tshirt with the carpet pattern on, and socks with the Grady twins on (thanks Riven!). I love it. It's one of my favourite films which still manages to scare me every time.

The Thing

I only saw The Thing for the first time about 5 years ago, but it instantly became one of my favourites. I love the atmosphere, I love the tension, I love the practical effects (so many incredible moments!) and most of all I love the ending (no spoilers here I promise!). It's one of those films I think about a lot.

Cabin in the Woods

I watched Cabin in the Woods for the first time last October and it's now one of my absolute favourite films. I love everything from the opening scene to the way it subverts the genre to the final horrible climax. I love the little Easter Eggs in the background and I get something different out of it every time. Oh and it's really funny (you'll see from my next few entries I love a comedy horror). One of those films I could watch at the drop of a hat - October or not.

Scream

Until this weekend I hadn't seen Scream since I was a teenager and I have such bad movie memory that it was like watching a film for the first time. 

Scream is absolutely genius, and definitely enjoyed it even more now I can really understand a lot of the references to other horror movies and the rules of horror. I found it absolutely great fun, hilarious and utterly meta. I can't wait to watch it again next October.

American Werewolf in London

American Werewolf in London is a "Phil's family" film. I never get tired of the story of Phil's Mum going to see it when she was at uni in London and her friends having to walk her home because she was too scared (on the Underground particularly I think!).

We rewatched this last week and it's just utterly perfect. As I mentioned before I love a blend of horror and comedy and this film is just so iconic. Plus also, practical effects! I love them! I love learning about how they were done! Another of my favourites.

Host

Okay I broke my own rule for this one, as I've only seen it once, but if I had £1 for every person I've recommend this film to during lockdown I'd be able to buy Bobby even more treats.

The first time we heard about this it was from Phil's brother, Andy, who knew a lot of the cast and crew from his Master's course. It sounded really fun - a horror film set, and filmed, during lockdown. But then we started to hear more and more people talking about it and knew we had to watch it.

One downside, it's currently only available on Shudder (we got a free 1 week trial to watch it), but I believe it is getting a theatrical release.

I cannot recommend this film more right now. As it's not only set during lockdown but filmed during it, it captures everything about this time perfectly, from the boredom to the struggling relationships to the endless Zoom calls.

If you watch one film from this list this year make it this.


The Haunting of Hill House

I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted here because I'm not sure I know one horror fan who isn't completely obsessed with this masterpiece, but I couldn't write a list without including it.

The Haunting of Hill House is one of my top 5 favourite TV shows of all time, and maybe my absolute favourite horror watch. I really enjoyed The Haunting of Bly Manor, but it was nothing like Hill House for its scares, its perfect editing and its haunting sadness.

I'm simultaneously still reeling from some of the scares (the car! The entirety of episode 5!) but also desperate to give it a rewatch (the genius of episode 6!). It's one of the best things I've ever watched (but watch out for those hidden ghosties!).

Hope you're having a spooky October!

Charlotte 

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Cookbook Review: Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage - Part 2

This is part 2 of my review of Flavour - part 1 has my first impressions and the first 9 recipes I tried. You can find it here


So here we are, part 2! In my last post I wrote about the first 9 recipes I made from this book, as well as my first impressions, so in this post I'm going to cover the second 10 recipes I cooked and my final thoughts.

What I made (part two)

Tofu meatball korma

I knew this was going to take a while so I set a timer for how long it took - 1 hour 40 in total. It's pretty intense too - maybe 25 minutes of that is hands-off - but it's perfect for a Saturday night, and I made the full portion to serve 4 so we could eat it for 2 days.

Unsuprisingly, the tofu balls completely fell apart and by the second day this was more ground tofu curry. It was tasty but needed an extra squeeze of lemon to bring out the flavours, and with the time it took I'm not sure I'd make it again.

Lime and coconut potato gratin


For day two of the tofu korma, I made the lime and coconut gratin as a side.

My first note is "no way am I going to do a spiral pattern with my potatoes", and this was true.

You definitely need a food processor for this, especially if, like me, you cut the end of your finger off with a mandolin once and can barely read the word without feeling ill. 

I did manage to somehow burn the aromatics and had to start again (10 minutes feel a long time to be frying garlic for!) and I didn't have spring onions so used shallots.

This takes a while so it's definitely a Sunday dish. It takes a good 2 hours in total, but the second hour is pretty much entirely hands off.

And it's worth it. I love a gratin anyway but this is so fresh-tasting with the lime juice. I would definitely make this again for a Sunday lunch. My only changes would be to halve it, as I ended up with loads for two of us and it was a bit of a strange for lunch leftovers on its own, and I'd maybe omit the coconut cream because it's expensive and I could barely taste it. I'm definitely making this again though.

Cucumber salad à la Xi'an Impression


I made this as a bit of an afterthought to go along with the tofu korma and potato gratin. I tried to halve it for just me and also because I didn't have as much cucumber as I thought. 

I liked the cucumber but didn't love the dressing so I probably wouldn't bother with this again.

Giant couscous and pumpkin in tomato and star anise sauce



I made this for a midweek dinner and it was just about do-able. I used a butternut squash as I'm saving my pumpkins for my favourite pumpkin curry.

This is another one where the order of the instructions doesn't quite make sense - you cut up all the pumpkin first even though you don't need it til later, so you could easily save some time and chop it up while something else is cooking.

I had a bit of a panic at the start that this was a bit too big of an undertaking for a Monday night, but after the first half an hour this is mostly hands-off.

I found the onions a bit overdone after 18 minutes so I'd cut that down to 15 next time, and also for me the squash was  a bit bland (probably why you're meant to use pumpkin!).

This was nice (Phil particularly loved it) but not my favourite and after taking an hour and a half in total I think it was a bit much for midweek. I liked a lot of the flavours (and like a lot of recipes in this book, it was better as leftovers as the flavours intensified) but I don't think I'd make it again.

Mafalda and roasted butternut in warm yoghurt sauce



Another butternut squash recipe! I wasn't sure about this at first as pasta in creamy sauces is very much not my thing, but it caught my eye and looked pretty quick so I thought I'd give it a go.

There's a lot going on at once here - squash in the oven, garlic cooking, pasta cooking, stirring the sauce - it felt very intense!

However it was really nice and Phil really loved it. The hot sauce really cuts through the rich yoghurt and it's such a delicious combination. It also made 3 portions which meant I could have a lunchbox too which was great. There's a lot of washing up after but I would make it 
again.

Roasted carrot salad with chamoy



This was part of another multi-meal dinner, with the tomato salad and roasted cauliflower (plus chicken for Phil and some nice bread). 

I have a few issues with my oven and the heat not circulating very well when there's more than one tray in it, so my carrots ended up more steamed than crispy which was a bit of a shame.

It's pretty straightforward to make and there's a lot of flavours going on, but I found it a little bit too sweet and it needed some more salt for balance.

Cauliflower roasted in chilli butter



This didn't make my original list of recipes to make, but I read a few reviews saying it was great so I thought I'd give it a go. Phil isn't a massive cauliflower fan so I halved it and ate it for 2 days (it serves 4). 

It seemed like a lot of chillies (8, on top of the harissa) so I decided to reduce it down to 2 in the tray, and I skipped the additional chill flakes. 

It's another Sunday dinner as it takes just over an hour, however it is pretty straight forward.

It's nice - the leaves especially! - but I found with the amount of butter it got very rich very quickly and needed a bit more seasoning. I'm not sure I'd make it again but I did enjoy it.

Tomato salad with lime and cardamom yoghurt



I made this because someone recommended it to go with the roasted cauliflower and they were not wrong - the rich, spicy cauliflower is really complemented by the creamy, sharpness of this salad.

I'm not entirely sure why you make one part of the salad in one bowl and then the other part in another, but it comes together quickly despite that. In my multi-dish dinner this was by far the best thing I made - it was absolutely beautiful.

I had some goat's cheese leftover so I made this again a few days later with a few adaptations (ground cardamom rather than grinding the seeds, no fresh herbs as I didn't have any) and it was so so delicious again. I always have cherry tomatoes and yoghurt in the house and I'm wondering if it would work with feta (which I also always have in) so we could have this more often. One of my favourite recipes from this book.

Miso butter onions



I'd heard a lot about these and I was intrigued although not entirely sure what to do with them!

I had quite small onions so I halved the quantities of everything (it's handy the weight of the onions is included). It's a pretty storecupboard, using only onions, miso and butter.

They take a while, but apart from the odd basting, it's all hands off.

We had these alongside a roast and they were lovely, but I wasn't sure how to handle the lefovers. They were a bit too liquidy for on toast (and don't even ask about the omelette I tried to make with them!) so while they were delicious I'm not sure I'd have a reason to make them again.

Pappa al pomodoro with lime and mustard seeds



Our final dish from this book!

This is meant to be a side dish to serve 4, so I thought it might work out about right quantity wise as a main for 2 and it was about right for that!

I didn't have any curry leaves but Ottolenghi said you can just leave them out (thank you!), and I didn't use quite as much oil as it stated (as my final recipe I'd just started to get a bit sick of all the oil in this book!). I also used some leftover tiger bread as the bread element.

This takes about 40 minutes to prep and then you just leave it to rest for a bit for the flavours to intensify.

It was quite intense as a main course but I would definitely make it again in the summer as a side dish or part of a multi-dish meal.

Conclusion

If it's not clear here, I loved this book.

It's been a long lockdown and I've only eaten out 3 times since March so I was starting to feel very sick of cooking and food shopping and meal planning.

This book completely reignited my love of cooking. I loved the experimental flavours and the unusual techniques and ending up with something unlike anything I'd eaten before. Because that's why we eat out isn't it? To try something new.

Nothing was a complete disaster, nothing took hours and hours and made me scream, nothing made me take multiple trips to the supermarket. Ottolenghi has listened to feedback and he's made a book where it's clear how long everything takes, there are suggestions as alternatives if you can't find certain ingredients, everything is vegetarian (anything with say, fish sauce or anchovies in has an alternative), everything has a  serving suggestion and everything is delicious.

Yes, I've never zested more limes in my life. I've never used so much oil. I've never filled the dishwasher so quickly. I've never had to buy two jars of rose harissa at a time. But it was all so so worth it.

This is one of the best books I own. I hope I continue to flick through it for weekend inspiration for multi-meal dishes as well as for midweek cooking. I never thought I'd be cooking Ottolengho midweek!

If you're prepared to invest some time in getting your initial set up (you definitely need harissa, miso and tahini, so if those are unusual ingredients to you, you might need a trip to Sainsburys) and you definitely need to invest some time, but if you want to be able to make restaurant quality meals at home, this is the book you need.

This the perfect book to reignite your love of cooking, to help you discover flavour combinations you'd never even imagined and to help you expand your repertoire.

It might have saved my lockdown cooking. And I can't praise it more highly than that!

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Cookbook Review: Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage - Part 1

I have a bit of a process when I get a new recipe book.

First is my initial flick through, this is where I start to get excited about a new book.

Next, I get a piece of paper and go through the book again, writing a list of all the recipes I want to make, and the page numbers (side note, I did use to use sticky notes but I find this method much better for finding what I want quickly).

Then I start planning what I'm actually going to make, especially if it's a book I want to review on my blog.

From my list of recipes, I tend to choose about 8-12 I definitely want to cook for my blog review. This can vary depending on what I've got going on (right now as you can imagine, not a lot), the seasons, the faff factor and generally whatever I'm in the mood for. I also spend a lot of time looking for reviews of books, so sometimes I'll add in a recipe or two that other people recommend online, or from Eat Your Books (I promise I've got a review of Eat Your Books planned because if you have a lot of cookbooks like me it's a godsend).

Then when it comes to figuring out when to stop cooking and when to start writing my review, I usually aim for 10 recipes. It's pretty clear when I own books which aren't going to hit the 10 recipes goal - maybe they're more weekend books, or more focused on a particular cuisine (for example, it might take me longer to cook from a book entirely about curries, because while I could eat curry every single night, I'm not sure Phil would love it). 

I keep notes about every recipe I've made in my journal, and usually after 10 I feel like I've got a proper feel for the book. I try to do a good mix of recipes and after 10 I'm usually pretty ready to move on.

When it came to Flavour, this was not the case...

First Impressions



So due to a bit of a cock up with where I ordered my copy from, I ended up not receiving the book til a week after it was published (my disappointment when I was waiting for it to arrive and I saw it right there on the shelf ready to be picked up and put in my basket in Sainsburys was palpable). And as a result this gave me plenty of time to read reviews/obsess over the book that had not arrived.

Now I'm a big fan of Ottolenghi, but being honest, more in theory than in a practical sense. I own Plenty, Plenty More, Jerusalem and Simple (plus Falastin which, while it isn't Ottolenghi, it's written by his co-writer so I consider it part of the club), and until recently, I'd probably cooked 10 recipes from them all in total. As I was trying to convince myself to buy Falastin, I forced myself to cook from Jerusalem (which I'd literally never cooked from despite owning it for probably 4 or 5 years - the shame!). We had a lot of multi-dish, mezze-style meals from Jerusalem and Falastin over the summer and I found loads of new recipes I loved.

But herein lines the probably. Ottolenghi is for weekends. Ottolenghi is for one meal which is actually really 3 side dishes. Ottolenghi means a delicious-sounding vegetarian dish which is recommended on the side of some lamb (which you do not eat). Ottolenghi involves a trip to the fancy supermarket or buying ingredients online which you've never heard of before. And more than anything else, Ottolenghi means time.

So while I waited for my copy to arrive, I scoured the internet for recipes and reviews. And the reviews were very mixed. In fact, for the first few days they were really, really disappointing. I was so gutted that this delicious-sounding (and fully vegetarian!) book by one of my favourite chefs was going to be a disappointment.

But guys, this wouldn't be a post entitled "part 1" if this wasn't a success.

I admit to not being bowled over by the sample recipes in The Guardian in the weeks leading up to the book's publication. However, when the book actually arrived (finally! After a week!) I was absolutely stunned. 

I couldn't believe how many things I was dying to make.

From an initial flick through there were 23 mains (mains! There are main courses in this book!) and 25 side dishes I wanted to make, and there's a brilliant section in the back of meal planning ideas (including 19 recipes than can be made in under an hour!).

Plus, of the recipes I wanted to make, I hardly needed to buy anything that wasn't already in my cupboard (plus there are actually recommendations for alternatives if you don't already have a cupboard stuffed with dried limes).

I already knew this was going to be a favourite.

As a result, I ended up making 19 recipes from this book (hence it being a multi-part blog post!). I just kept finding "one more recipe" I wanted to make before I wrote this review.

I weighed up how to structure these posts (one on mains and one on sides?), but decided that it made more sense chronologically (plus I know I'd probably skip reading a blog post entirely about side dishes but in this book I think the sides were the best things I made), so here is part one of what I made...

What I made (part one)


Portobello steaks and butter bean mash

I actually made this before my copy of the book arrived after finding the recipe online. I knew straight away this would be very much my cup of tea and very much not Phil's cup of tea, so rather than spending the whole meal going "do you like it? You're not sure are you? Well I think it's delicious", I decided to half this and eat it over two nights just for me.

It takes a really, really long time, but if like me you're working from home at the moment, it's perfect for a weeknight as it's nearly entirely hands off, and you can get ahead by making a start at lunchtime (side note, another great thing about this book is lots of recipes have notes on what you can prepare in advance). 

This was my first experience of a flavoured oil drizzle in the book, so while I am super chill about the amount of oil in a recipe, this seemed a lot so I reduced it, but in hindsight I definitely wish I'd done the full quantity so there was extra in the fridge (this is another common theme - most of the flavoured oils in the recipes make loads extra - the idea being that you can keep them in the fridge for serving with other things). 

There is so so so much going on here with the meaty mushrooms and creamy mash and incredible sauce. It's exactly what I wanted from this book - completely delicious, restaurant-quality, and completely different from anything I've ever made myself before.

This is definitely a keeper for next time I'm cooking for myself.

The ultimate traybake ragù

I made this when we had friends over a few weeks ago (back in that brief period in the North West when we could have people over!). I've finally reached a point where I no longer feel the need to make 5 different dishes when we have friends over (though I do sometimes) and instead I've been finding myself making a delicious pasta dish with a nice salad and a couple of baguettes of cheap garlic bread, with bowls of crisps as a starter and letting Phil take care of dessert.

There's a lot going on here - miso, harissa, soy sauce, dried mushrooms and coconut cream, as well as minced mushrooms and lentils. I definitely needed a trip to Sainsburys for this one! It's a pretty perfect recipe for having friends over, because even though it takes a good 90 minutes, after the initial prep it's nearly entirely hands off.

I think this was a true example of the cook just being too tired by the time they served the meal to really enjoy it, as I thought it was just nice, and Phil really loved it. However it made absolutely loads (I served 4 people and had 4 portions left over) and I actually enjoyed it much more from the freezer.

I'm not very good at using my freezer for meal prep, but if you are I think this is the perfect long, slow Sunday afternoon recipe to fill your freezer with.

Sweet potato in tomato, lime and cardamom sauce


This seemed midweek do-able, so I ordered some ground cardamom online especially to make this (ebay is your friend!). The timings almost work out perfectly until right at the end, but it's definitely possible to make this midweek. I'd originally planned for us to have this for dinner one night and then I was going to eat leftovers for lunch for a few days - this ended up being so good I felt guilty "wasting" it on my lunches so we had the leftover for dinner a few days later.

We had it the first night with cous cous and the second time with rice and both were delicious. I cannot wait to make this again.

One-pan orecchiette puttanesca

Ding ding ding! First recipe I've made from this book twice already.

This is so good I cannot stop thinking about it.

Puttanesca is always a winner in this house because we both love capers and olives, and the addition of the caraway seeds and chickpeas really intrigued me. This was one of my favourite recipes I made from the book.

My only change would be that I could definitely have cooked the chickpeas while I made the pasta, although I appreciate that the logic is to not add an additional pan to the washing up pile (which is definitely not the approach in most of the other recipes in this book!). The second time I made this I crisped the chickpeas while the pasta cooks and it was much, much quicker.

This is definitely going to become a household staple.

Noor's black lime tofu


Guys I did not buy black limes. Not when the recipe states I can use regular limes instead. Regular limes than I can buy in Aldi.

I made this alongside the chaat potatoes (see below), homemade naan and rice (triple carbs yessss!) and while it was simple and straightforward (though I did shallow fry the tofu as I am scared of deep frying), it didn't really do anything for me. Maybe those dried limes do make a difference...

Chaat masala potatoes with yoghurt and tamarind


I knew I was going to love this, because it sounds exactly like the kind of thing I love to order in Bundobust or Mowgli, plus potatoes.

There's roast potatoes, tamarind sauce, coriander chutney, yoghurt and onions and chillies. What's not to love?

I could easily have just had a bowl of this for my dinner, and even though it's pretty intense with a lot to prepare, it comes together in about 45 minutes.

I can't wait to make these again!

Curried carrot mash with brown butter 


This was another recipe I knew I'd love from the ingredients - pickled chillies, ginger, brown butter, cinnamon, lime juice, curry powder, cumin seeds and nigella seeds. This is not your Mother's mashed carrot! This is unbelievably delicious - the perfect accompaniment to a roast dinner. I could have eaten the whole bowl!

I have most of these ingredients in all the time so I'll definitely be making this again.

Spicy roast potatoes with tahini and soy


I made this as something different to have with leftovers as I had all the ingredients in. It's exactly what it says on the tin - roast potatoes with a bit of spice and a tahini and soy sauce.

Super easy, super tasty, a really nice change from normal roast potatoes - I'd definitely make again.

Potato and gochujang braised eggs

When I first presented this to Phil for brunch he said "is this egg and chips?" And I guess he isn't wrong!

This is the perfect hands-off brunch which is exactly what we need on a weekend morning after we'vre been for a run. The potatoes roasted while I had a shower and by the time we were dressed and ready it was basically done!

I did all potatoes because I didn't fancy the kohlrabi, and halved it to about 2.5 potatoes in total. This is so so delicious and the kind of thing I can definitely see myself making again, particularly as it's made of ingredients I pretty much always have in. This would also make a perfect dinner with some greens on the side too.

I'll be back soon with part 2!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

5 Spooky Books for October

I wrote in my September Life Lately post that I wanted to write some more short posts and not dedicate 3 days and 2000 words to every single topic.

So inspired by my friend, Michelle, who is both brilliant at writing short posts and loves October, here's a little mini post on some of my favourite spooky books for Halloween season.

Now I love a spooky book, and I've loved a spooky book since the Point Horror books of my teens. In fact, until a few years ago I would read any scary book but I was terrified of most scary films (this has changed a lot - I'm planning a post on my favourite scary films soon too!).

When I went through my Goodreads to hunt for my favourite scary books, I found myself with a stupidly long list (what me? Writing a long list? Me who wrote a post so long I lost count of all the points?), and it was also way too hard to pick favourites.

So I went with my gut and went with the first books that came to mind when I think of spooky books (though these are all definitely in my top 10 favourite scary books). Some of these are old classics and some are more recent, but these are all great books for getting you in the spooky spirit this October:

The Six Stories series by Matt Wesolowski

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski is a series of books set around a podcast called Six Stories (you know what I love nearly as much as books - podcasts!). Each book in the series is also a series of the podcast, and each episode is a story from someone involved in a spooky mystery. 

It's a really tricky line to combine two mediums, especially as true crime podcasts are so popular, but what works so well about Six Stories is how it seamlessly blends the genres - it feels both like a podcast and a novel.

There are now four books in the series, Six Stories being the first. Six Stories follows the story of the death of a teenager ruled as misadventure, but not everyone is convinced. The second in the series, Hydra, is the story of a young girl who killed her family. Third is Changeling, the story of a missing child. And more recently, Beast, the story of a vlogger who is found frozen to death.

All the stories in the series are spooky, mysterious and ultimately incredibly compelling. I also found the series gets better and better as it progressed. I think this was originally meant to be a trilogy as Changeling nicely ties up the other stories, but Beast appeared early this year so I'm hoping there might be more to come!

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

The Silent Companions is always the book I recommend to anyone asking for a spooky story, mostly on the grounds that it was so scary it made my friend sick. If that isn't a strong review I don't know what is.

Just thinking about the ending to this book makes my skin crawl. It is truly one of the scariest books I have ever read.

I really don't want to give anything away so all I'm going to say is this book is a hauntingly atmospheric gothic which is perfect for Halloween.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

I could have put so many Stephen King books on this list, but I've kept it to just this one. I only read Pet Sematary last year as Phil had started to read it a few years ago not long after a bereavement and found it too sad to finish, which made me worried I'd find it too upsetting.

It is definitely the saddest of the Stephen King horrors I've read (I personally love when horror is also sad and deeply emotional - it's what I love most about The Haunting of Hill House), and I did find it incredibly upsetting, but it's also probably one of his scariest. 

I would write a review, but I would say with this one, the less you know the better.

Honorable mentions here to my other favourite Stephen King books - The Shining and It.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Is Rebecca a horror? Is it a ghost story? Maybe not, but it's definitely a spooky book.

Rebecca is everyone's favourite book for a reason - it's atmospheric, it's dark, it has moments that stick with you for a lifetime. 

It's the perfect book for autumn - spine-tingling, intense, haunting and unforgettable. And is it a ghost story? I guess that's for you to decide.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

Let's finish with some short stories shall we? And let's finish with the queen of the gothic, Shirley Jackson. The Lottery is the most famous story in this collection, but for me the story "Like Mother Used to Make" absolutely haunts me and I think about it all the time.

The titular story, The Lottery, does not disappoint either for its horrifying premise. This collection might have been written over 70 years ago, but it still feels as haunting today.