Thursday, 30 April 2020

It's Roasting Tin Appreciation Day! My Top 10 Favourite Recipes

Today is the launch of the fourth book in the Roasting Tin series - Roasting Tin Around the World!

I am so excited for this book, which I have a feeling will be my new favourite.

I don't think these books need any introduction, but in case they do, Rukmini Iyer started a revolution with her first book, The Roasting Tin, in 2017.

The premise was simple - 75 recipes that you could chuck in the oven and forget about.

And in our time-pressed times, we loved it.

My review of the first Roasting Tin book is here. When I got the first book, we were living with my parents just before we moved into our house and I was suffering with a knee injury and couldn't run. My overriding memory of this time is how I would put a roasting tin meal in the oven and go for a walk in the park while it cooked. I loved that I could just leave it to it, get some fresh air and enjoy a walk after work. 

The book also helped me to override my endless fear of "getting it wrong". I can be a slave to recipes at times, even though I know I'm a good cook on my own. The Roasting Tin helped me to make substitutions easily, I felt empowered to change things up and reassured that nothing would go horribly wrong.

edit: It's funny - as I was writing this post I realised that the images in the review of the "OG Roasting Tin" or "The Yellow Book" had broken links and weren't working, so I had to go through and update them, and it made me realise how many recipes I love from the first book. I don't reach for it anywhere near as often as the other two, but rereading the blog post reminded me how much I love the butternut squash and feta bulghur, and the mushrooms with halloumi and the cauliflower and potato curry.

The first Roasting Tin taught me to be brave. It taught me to try new things. It taught me that I could chuck a few things in a tin and pop it in the oven with plenty of spices and no matter what, it would be delicious.

And then came The Green Roasting Tin.

I knew I was going to love Green. Green is all vegetarian and half vegan. I could eat every single recipe in this book! (My review is here)

Not only was The Green Roasting Tin amazing for me as a vegetarian, it also improved on so many things from the first book. One of my small issues with the first book was not being clear what was a complete meal and what needed a side dish or some bread or salad. This is one of the first things Rukmini addresses in Green, with a whole double spread on how to cook side dishes, and throughout the book she recommends accompaniments.

I also love the infographic "formulas" in this book which like the original, really encourage you to take inspiration and find your own creation.

To this day, Green is by far my favourite. Since I wrote my review back in August 2018, I've made at least 10 new recipes from the book, and I still have a huge list of recipes I want to try. Of my top 10 favourite recipes in this list, 8 are from Green.

(I am actually planning a Roasting Tin Revisited blog at some point in the next few months where I'll review "new" recipes from each of the books I've made since my posts).

Green is probably my desert island cookbook and it's one of the books I reach for the most on my shelf. It took was amazing about the original and made it even better.

One of my favourite recipes from The Green Roasting Tin is the dal (it might be my favourite recipe of all the Roasting Tin books), but it takes, in total, about an hour and half once you've peeled all of those pesky, but delicious, shallots. Which means I don't cook it quite as much as I should. Some of my other favourites also have long cook times, which isn't always what you want after a long day at work.

Enter, The Quick Roasting Tin!

The Quick Roasting Tin came out in 2019, and I reviewed it here.

Honestly, I wasn't sure at first you know! Vegetables take a long time to cook in the oven, and a lot of the early recipes in the book are quite meat and fish heavy (you might notice from my Roasting Tin review I used to eat fish but I don't any more), but where I think this book really comes into its own is the Lunchboxes chapter.

I absolutely love making a "lunchbox" dinner and taking the leftovers for work for a few days, and the recipes in that chapter are my favourite. I also love how easy she makes cooking grains in the oven in this book - an element I think this book in particular really excels in. There are a few recipes in the early books where grains are cooked in the oven, but this book really taught me to embrace cooking grains in this way, and I'm now so much more brave with chucking some bulghur or giant cous cous in the oven.

There are still so many recipes from Quick I haven't made yet - and so many I need to make veggie (I keep hearing about the Keralan curry!).

SO without further ado (cause sorry, that was a LOT of ado!), here are my top 10 favourite Roasting Tin recipes (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER BECAUSE I JUST CAN'T OKAY):

(Apologies that I don't have photos of most of the recipes! Funnily enough, most of my favourites have been discovered since I blogged about each of the books, so I haven't had a chance to photograph them yet!)

1. Warming sweet potato and mushroom polenta with tomatoes - The Green Roasting Tin

No photo of this one I'm afraid, as I came to it really late. I have no idea why this recipe didn't appeal when I first started using the book, but it's definitely a fan favourite on the #tinlads hashtag which encouraged me to give it a try. And I'm so so so glad I did. This might be my favourite roasting tin recipe (?!). I nearly always have cherry tomatoes and mushrooms in, and I buy sweet potatoes every week so this is an early one to whip up with minimal planning, although I do like to add the parsley if I can as its clean freshness really cuts through.

I love the creaminess of polenta anyway and here I particularly love how the sweet potato (sweet potatoes are my favourite food) kind of melts into the polenta, and the edges go all crispy and crusted. God it's just so good. Go make it now.

2. All in one sticky rice with broccoli, squash, chilli and ginger - The Green Roasting Tin

I wrote about this in my original review and it's still one of my favourites. I always make sure I have a box of jasmine rice in at all times so I can make this. It takes a while, but makes a lot - I nearly always have enough left for leftovers the next day. I've never varied the veg on this because I love broccoli and squash, but I imagine it would be great for clearing out the fridge of veg. 

This is a great dish for when you have people over for dinner too, cause it's super delicious, scales up well and you only need to dirty one pan.

3. Crispy gnocchi with mushrooms, squash and sage - The Green Roasting Tin

I always call this my "welcome to autumn" dish. The flavours of the squash and sage are just so autumnal and delicious. This is one of those genius recipes that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. I think I missed this first time around because it sounded a bit dry and a bit boring - I'm a fairly recent convert to pasta that isn't smothered in sauce. But the crispy sage and basil dressing and lemon juice just all complement each other so perfectly. Plus it's a perfect meal-in-one-tray dinner, which I love.

4. Simple roasted pepper orzotto - The Quick Roasting Tin

I made this a few weeks ago during lockdown when I found myself with a couple of bags of orzo in the cupboard (how?), a leftover sprig of rosemary and some peppers. It's another "so much better than the sum of its parts" recipe. Again, I thought it would be a bit bland, but it's so so delicious and fresh-tasting and wonderful. I reckon you could ever get away with dried rosemary if you don't have fresh.

5. Oven baked ratatouille: slow cooked courgette, aubergine, peppers and tomatoes - The Green Roasting Tin

This is what I make when Phil is out. So my biggest life regret is that back in 2016 I made Phil an undercooked slice of aubergine. Before then, aubergine was never a problem. After that, never again. I will rue that day for the rest of my life, because it means that I have to save recipes like this for when he's out. And it's such a shame because it's so bloody delicious.

It takes a while. It's one for me to put in the oven the second I walk in the house and then potter around for an hour and a bit while it cooks. It's always so sloppy on that first check, but bam!, every time it comes together perfectly. That fresh basil, the crispy topping, the extra cheese I always throw on top. PLUS it gets even better as it ages - I highly recommend making this for lunches and eating it over a few days. It just gets better and better.

6. Simple all-in-one dal with roasted shallots, coriander, pomegranate and cashews - The Green Roasting Tin

Dal is like, my favourite food (okay except for sweet potatoes). We eat it all the time. It's a running joke with my friends how much I eat dal. One of my friends was shocked it wasn't the main meal at our wedding. Dal is just THE BEST.

So I was nervous making this, even more so when I realised you were BAKING LENTILS IN THE OVEN FROM RAW?! Guys, trust Rukmini. She knows what she's doing.

The only reason this isn't my absolute all-time favourite roasting tin recipe is because of having to peel 250g of shallots. If that wasn't involved, I'd make this once a week. I know I can probably do it with red onions but will it be so delicious?!!

For someone who eats as much dal as I do, this is one of the best dals I've ever made. I don't bother with the coconut milk at the end and it's still creamy and delicious. Don't skip the pomegranate seeds though.

7. Leek and puy lentil gratin with a crunchy feta topping - The Green Roasting Tin

If there is one food I really hate, it's cream. I hate whipped cream, double cream, single cream, any cream. Sweet, savoury, hot, cold. No. Go away. I hate cream. 

And I especially hate creamy sauces. Cheesy is fine, but creamy is a no.

Is creme fraiche cream? I'm honestly not sure, but it's kind of like cream. Which is why I didn't make this recipe for wayyyyyy too long.

Another reason why - vacuum packed lentils. Not something I usually have in, not something I can easily get from Aldi (edited to add: I did manage to get some in Aldi recently! But knowing Aldi I'll never see them again so I got an extra pack just in case). 

But everyoneeeeee on Twitter kept banging on about how good this was, and I do love the sound of a "crunchy feta topping".

So the first time I made it I cooked the lentils from scratch the day before, did a bit of guesswork on the quantity and found out my tub of creme fraiche was way less than the 450ml required and had to quickly google a substitute (Greek yoghurt has your back).

And it. was. amazing.

It's now honestly one of my favourite recipes. It's not so much creamy but cheesy and crunchy and fresh-tasting but also rich and oooooh so delicious. 

It's worth getting hold of vacuum packed lentils for. Or getting over your weird cream aversion for (although I will say I now make this entirely with Greek Yoghurt which does the job!). I can see why Rukmini says this is a favourite among testers!

8. Crispy gnocchi with roasted peppers, chilli, rosemary and ricotta - The Green Roasting Tin

I've already written about this in my review of The Green Roasting Tin, but this was my gateway into the world of roasted gnocchi and I have never looked back. Again, I expected this to be bland, but it's cheesy and fresh and so so so delicious. And again, one big pan, a giant portion, no side dishes required.

9. Roasted halloumi and bulghur wheat salad with avocado, mango and coriander - The Quick Roasting Tin

I am always absolutely buzzing when I have this waiting for me for lunch at work. Hot avocado - who knew it was so good? And hot, fresh mango? God I can almost taste it. This is the best desk lunch I can think of - it tastes so delicious but also juicy and sweet and decadent. It's just really, really lovely.

10. Gado gado: Indonesian salad with warm potatoes, green beans, beansprouts and peanut-coconut dressing - The Green Roasting Tin

I made this the other day for the first time in ages because I forgot how absolutely bloody amazing it is. Dipping potatoes into peanut sauce!!!! The sauce is just unreal, and I don't know how beansprouts do that weird onion-y lovely crispy thing when they're cooked in the oven, but I'm okay with it.

Bonus faves from Phil!

I'm aware that as a vegetarian I'm not able to review all the lovely-sounding meat recipes in the Roasting Tin books, but Phil has cooked a few recipes from the original "yellow" book a few times when I've been out. 

He loves the Lemon and Garlic Rosemary Steak with Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Onions, but his favourites (so much so he couldn't choose between them) are the Avocado and Chicken Salad with Pomegranates and Brown Rice (I've done this a few times with halloumi rather than chicken and can concur it is delicious), and the Baked Egg Pasta Florentine (I tried this once with feta instead of the chorizo and it was too creamy for me with my cream-aversion!). 

I am so excited to see what the new book will hold and I'll be reviewing it as soon as I can!

Charlotte x

Friday, 17 April 2020

Things that are bringing me joy right now #2

Hey so it turns out this is a series!

After I wrote "22 little things that are bringing me joy right now" last week, I found myself starting on a new list a few days later, so I guess I'm going to keep doing this.

I will add, a lot of things on the original list still stand. My garden, running, cross-stitch etc. are never going to not be bringing me joy, but here's a few new things that I've been enjoying this week:

  • Finally repainting our kitchen
(I promise this is the same colour - I just took the before and after photos hours apart so the lighting is completely different! It's closer to the after photo in real life)

We've had trouble with damp in our kitchen for ages, and fortunately right before *gestures wildly*... this, we managed to get the pointing done so we could repaint where paint had flaked and worn off over the last few years. Doubly-fortunately, the week before lockdown we anticipated that painting the kitchen might be a good idea while we couldn't go out, so after work on my last day in the office we nipped to B&Q for supplies. We've put it off for a while, but this weekend we finally did it and it looks SO GOOD. I literally haven't seen our kitchen with fresh lovely paint for over two years. I'm so glad we finally got it done. Now, organising the loft is another matter...

  • Iced coffee in the garden
Iced coffee in the garden is our post-parkrun/post-run/post-military fitness treat when it's warm, and last weekend it was finally nice enough to do it. One of my favourite things ever.

  • How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
After blogging last week about struggling to read more than a few pages at a time, something pacey and juicy was exactly what I needed. Like everyone else on Twitter I was engrossed in the Caroline Calloway blog last week and when she mentioned Cat Marnell as inspiration I thought, wow, if her memoir is as juicy as this story I am in! Fortunately I already had How to Murder Your Life on Kindle after buying it for 99p a few weeks ago and I absolutely devoured it in a couple of days. I couldn't put it down. It's so messy and juicy and unbelievable and shocking at times, and also for all its sadness, the way Cat writes is so fun? Cat Marnell is a brilliant writer and her memoir on her life and addictions is just so wild and her tone is so irreverent and ironic and sarcastic, god I just loved it. 

  • Reading novels again
And on that note, How to Murder Your Life has got me back into reading longer writing (can't really count a memoir as a novel, but it definitely feels like a novel). I read Red to the Bone in less than a day on Thursday (99p on Kindle!) which I loved and I've just started Silver Sparrow (£1.99 on Kindle!) by Tayari Jones which I'm really enjoying so far. An American Marriage was one of my favourite books of 2019 so I know I'm going to love this too.

Of course, I got so into short stories last week that I order 5 new collections and now I'm back on a novel-reading bender, but hey, such is life. I'm sure I'll be back on short stories pretty soon!

  • Watching Documentaries
One of Phil's friends has started a film club (okay, there's 5 of us so far, but it still counts), and our first watch last week was Diego Maradona, by the same director as two of my other favourite documentaries, Senna and Amy. It just so happened that Curzon Cinema did a talk with the director on Monday night so we watched that before we had our film club catch up. On Saturday we also watched Hoop Dreams, which was available from Cuzon at Home for just £3.99. Hoop Dreams is always heralded as one of the best documentaries, and we've both been trying to get hold of it for literally years, so I'm really glad we got the chance to finally see it.

  • The Americans - season 4
Guys, we watched a whole TV season in a week! It took us 4 months to watch the first 2 seasons of The Americans, and I think we've watched seasons 3 and 4 in about 2 weeks. Season 4 was by far my favourite season so far, and I know we're going to end up finishing the whole thing in a few more weeks. I'm enjoying it so much and can't wait to see where it's going.

  • Family Quiz
On Sunday night we hosted our first Cantillon-Crowley family quiz, with my parents, Phil's parents, Phil's brother and his sister. We had a round per household, and mine and Phil's round was 20 "lookalikes" from "best in the business" We had general knowledge rounds, "name that face" rounds, and a "Shakespeare or not Shakespeare" round. It was such a laugh I think we're going to do it every week!

  • Hot Crossed Buns and other treats
Is there anything better than saying "oh no! I haven't had a hot crossed bun this year?" only for your husband to bring some home from the supermarket the next day? I think not. Supermarket shopping is making me hella anxious right now so Phil has been taking one for the team and doing it for us, which also means he comes home with extra treats I never normally let him put in the basket, and then regret later when I "really want a biscuit". 

  • French plaits
Like every other woman I know, I'm using lockdown as an opportunity to finally start training my hair to be washed less. It's going... not well (I bought 3 different kinds of dry shampoo yesterday), but I have discovered I can sort-of French plait my hair kind of okay-ish? I don't think I'll be going out with French plaits any time soon, but I love that I can now eke another day out of my greasy hair, AND I LOOOOOOVE how they keep my hair off my face (fringe probs).

  • My first sourdough baby

Documented here. Half the loaf is now wrapped in foil in the bread bin because I don't want something I spent 2 weeks on to be over so soon (I know, I know, I can make more from Seymour the Starter who now lives in the fridge), but I really want to save "nice bread" for the weekend. Basically, I'm still super proud. I'm still not sure it was worth it.
  • Coursera
Guys, do you know about Coursera? There are hundreds of courses available on there, and loads of them are free! I'm currently doing Social Psychology and it's sooo interesting, I'm even doing all the recommended extra reading.

  • Focusing on one thing at a time
I've been finding myself going with the flow a bit more than usual (okay let's face it, I don't go with the flow ever normally) and I'm quite enjoying giving myself permission to do what I feel like. Some days I just want to blog, some days I just want to read, some days I just want to cross-stitch, some days all three. On Wednesday I'd planned to do some yoga but it was just so lovely outside I took my book outside instead. I've been picking up books and putting them back down if I'm not into them (something I rarely do). I've been doing the extra reading on my courses if it's interesting, rather than just rushing onto the next lecture. I abandoned our planned curry on Tuesday night in favour of enjoying our fresh sourdough (and to our great joy, two perfectly ripe avocados from the fruit bowl!). We've been watching two or three episodes of TV in the evening just because we've been enjoying it. For someone who is always rushing around and trying to squeeze as much into my life and day as possible, it's been good for me to slow down a bit.

  • The Pomodoro technique
I don't mean this to contradict the above, but more to complement it. I've been using the Pomodoro technique for literally years and years, and while I often use it at work, I find it incredibly helpful when working from home or studying at home (I used it religiously all through my marketing degree). It's so simple - set a 25 minute timer, focus solely on your work for those 25 minutes, then you get a 5 minute break. I know so many people who don't think 25 minutes is long enough to get much done, but I know from so much experience that when you're focused - phone in another room, no chatting, no emails, no instant messaging, no distracting browser windows - you can get so much done in 25 minutes! Then in your break, you can check your phone, have a chat, make a cup of tea - whatever! - then get right back into it. There are loads of apps available, but I like simply

  • Celebrating our first wedding anniversary

Monday was our first wedding anniversary! (How has it been a year?!)  Now a year ago I definitely don't think we imagined spending our first wedding anniversary stuck inside, but we actually had the most lovely day. We woke up and gave each other cards and presents - your first wedding anniversary is "paper" so we, unsurprisingly for us, both got each other prints. Phil got me an illustration of Banff in Canada - our favourite place we went on our honeymoon, and I got him a Soundwave print of our first dance song.

We went for a walk, then we ate the wedding cake from the freezer we had defrosted (honestly? Still great a year on!), watched our wedding video, read our guestbook, looked through our album. We also finally did our honeymoon scrapbook, and it was so nice to look back on that too.

Then we both got dressed up and put on the playlist we made for the evening reception and danced in the kitchen. We took a photo of us holding our wedding photo - the plan is each year we'll hold the photo from the previous year, so next year we'll hold the photo we took this year etc etc. We got a takeaway, we opened a bottle of champagne, and we ended the evening dancing to our first dance. 

I would have loved to have been able to go out for a meal or away for the weekend, but honestly, there isn't much I'd change about the day we had. It was so lovely to relive the day through the video and the cake and the album and guestbook, and we got to celebrate the day together - what more could we want?

Fingers crossed I have more happy things to report next week!

Charlotte x

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Online recipes with storecupboard staples #1

My friend Sophie did a brilliant post last week called "Tried and tested online recipes using storecupboard essentials" and I absolutely loved that idea so asked her if it would be okay if I copied her!
I am always reluctant to post too much of what I cook on the blog because I'm very aware that most of what I cook is from recipe books and in a lot of cases the recipes aren't available online, and I know how frustrating it is to find a recipe you really want to cook, only to find you don't own the book and can't make it!

So over the course of the last 2 weeks I started to make a note of all the recipes I had made that were available online, and it turns out there actually are quite a few! I have a lot of favourites which I turn to regularly online, and I'm always saving recipes from Bon Appetit or The Kitchn to come back to.

I think particularly at the moment I have been turning to the internet a lot for recipes using my storecupboard staples, rather than looking through my hundreds of books for inspiration. Instead I've been saving recipes that involve the ingredients I usually have in - always great to find a recipe you love the sound of and to find out you already have everything in!

I've decided to stick to recipes I've made in the last few weeks rather than looking back on all the thousands of meals I've made from recipes on the internet, but I'd love to keep this going as a regular feature. 

So, here's what I've made over the last few weeks from online recipes, and links so you can make them too!

The Stew (aka, Spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric)

If you've been on food twitter/veggie and vegan twitter/pop culture twitter for long enough, you've probably heard of The Stew. Yes this stew is so famous it needs no name.

I've been wanting to make this for ages, particularly as it is a) right up my street, b) made up of ingredients I always, always have in (chickpeas, coconut milk, some kind of greens) and c) famous!

(This is a really interesting article on how it's become so popular).

And of course, with popularity comes backlash so I'd seen a lot of posts around "is the stew really even that good?" but the positive of these is that most of them came with recommendations for tips or tweaks or adaptations, which I really appreciate.

Verdict? It really is great. It's easy, it's fairly quick, it's made up of storecupboard essentials, it's tasty and it's vegan.

I'll be 100% making this again soon.

Recipe here, but I also enjoyed this video on how to make it, too.

Instant Pot risotto

This is a storecupboard recipe I absolutely love for using up random bits of veg in the fridge. Making risotto is so so so easy in the Instant Pot. You literally throw everything in, leave it for a bit and hey presto, risotto.

I used mushrooms, peas and frozen spinach for this, and topped it with normal cheese as we didn't have any parmesan. It's ridiculously easy and delicious - I've made this so many times!

Egg sandwiches with baked onions

Weekend brunch is kind of a big deal in our house. Saturday mornings are for parkrun (or at the moment "not-parkrun", which is the 5K loop we've developed in our local park which we go to every Saturday morning at 9am in our parkrun tshirts and pretend is parkrun), and Sundays are for a long run or Military Fitness. 

By the time we've got back from these activities we're hungry, and unlike every other meal of the week, this is not one we plan. It's nearly always eggs, sometimes Nigella's strapatsada, Nigella's Mexican eggs (we like Nigella okay), some kind of shakshuka or avocado and eggs on toast. I'm always looking for something easy, quick and delicious for a weekend morning.

As soon as I saw this recipe I knew we were onto a winner. I had pretty everything in already and I knew this would be delicious in a pitta.

We didn't have any fresh herbs so I skipped the "sauce" and just smothered it in Frank's Red Hot sauce. This was so tasty and quick and easy I'm already planning to make it again at the weekend.

Peanut butter and greens sandwich

I can already tell about 50% of people are completly turned off by that title and the other 50%, like me, are all TELL ME MORE, TELL ME MORE.

This is insanely delicious.

So I mentioned in my last post that I recently bought Lukas Volger's Start Simple and I've been cooking from it over the last few weeks. It actually took a few weeks to arrive given the current climate, so I was hunting online for recipes I could try first, and this just absolutely caught my imagination.

I had a big bunch of spring greens (my fave greens) so I made the marinated greens first (you have some left over after the sandwhich which is great because they made a brill side dish to almost anything) and a couple of days later I made the sandwich.

It's basically exactly what it says on the tin - hot melty peanut butter (urghhhhhh), fresh crunchy greens, a squirt of sriracha and, for me the pièce de résistance, tangy spring onions, between some good toast and grilled on both sides in a pan. It's absolutely dreamy if you love peanutty, spicy satay flavours.

I already cannot wait to make this again.

PS. Spring onions aren't something I always have in, but I recently found out you can grow them back from scraps so I'm doing that at the moment. Might be worth a try if you like spring onions!

Pret cookies

Loads of companies are posting their industry secret recipes at the moment which I think is absolutely brilliant! Pret is one of those places I think everyone misses at the moment, and they're doing some really great content on Facebook, as well as sharing their recipes.

As soon as I saw the recipe for these big cookies I knew I wanted to make them, and I had everything in (thanks to a bar of chocolate I got for free and really hated which has been sat in the cupboard for months!).

These are so tasty, but they spread like crazy and are enormous! We got 10 giant cookies from one batch. Definitely a good use of any Easter chocolate you might have lying around.

Kimchi udon noodles with spring onions

Okay, bear with me here. I know kimchi and gochujang aren't in everyone's storecupboard, but I also know a lot of cooks like me who bought an enormous tub of gochujang for one recipe 6 months ago (thank you Meera Sodha's East) which has been sat in the fridge ever since, and also saw kimchi in Sainsburys once and went "ooh, kimchi!", which has also been sat in the cupboard ever since.

Oh and the udon noodles were a "middle aisle" purchase in Aldi a few weeks ago.

So maybe not quite a pantry staple recipe for everyone, but it was for me!

This recipe has been on my list for ages, thanks to comments like "my favourite recipe in the whole world" and "this has all the right flavours". 

I skipped the raw egg cause it freaked me out a bit too much, and we had poached instead, so an extra pan was needed. But this was super easy and really quick. I liked this but Phil really loved it. If I could get hold of udon noodles again I'd consider making it again (I have half a jar of kimchi open in my fridge now!), but it didn't blow me away.

Anna Jones' shakshuka

Here is a short list of things I love:

1. Anna Jones
2. Shakshuka

This was always going to be a hit - especially as it contained beans AND was cooked entirely in the oven so I could drink iced coffee in the garden while it was cooking after parkrun.

I absolutely love rose harissa and again, had a jar open in the fridge (mostly so I can make one of my favourite recipes, Ottolenghi's pasta with harissa, olives and capers) so I had everything in for this recipe too. I halved it for just two of us. 

This was so so so delicious with some bread for mopping. Another one to go on my brunch rotation list!

Also, feta is never optional.

Anna's onion gravy

Nope, not Anna Jones (or at least I don't think so!). Just, Anna. I've been using this recipe for years because it's just so so so delicious. I made the serving for 4 for the two of us and it's just gorgeous. We had it at the weekend with mash potato, peas and veggie sausages and it really makes it a meal (rather than my onion-gravy-granules gravy I usually make...).


Yes, I have a sourdough starter. Are you realy surprised? This is such a "me" thing to do. Let me tell you, it's a bit of a pain in the arse to be honest. Do I regret doing it? No. Am I glad it's over? Yes. Mine took two weeks and lots of moving it around, changing flour, feeling like it was literally never going to be active. Reading hundreds of articles which all seemed to have contradictory advice. Dealing with Phil saying "your normal bread is really nice though, are you sure this is worth it?".

But I did it. And when I brought out of the oven my first little sourdough baby I was so proud.

I used this recipe for my loaf which turned out perfectly. I deffo recomend picking one recipe and sticking to it as there is so much advice out there. And I used this recipe for my starter, though I eventually moved to 50g flour/50g water feed every day, and then started using strong bread flour rather than all purpose flour towards the end which helped it to get active.

Will I make sourdough again? Yes, probably. Do you want my recipe for no-knead crusty bread which only takes 3 hours from start to finish and is almost as good? Of course you do.

At the moment I'm cooking mostly from Start Simple and Tin Can Magic as I'm hoping to review them on the blog soon, but I'll keep a list going of anything I cook where the recipe is available online so hopefully I can make this a regular feature.

Have a good week!

Charlotte x

Thursday, 9 April 2020

22 little things that are bringing me joy right now

I've seen a lot of people sharing on Twitter the little things that are getting them through at the moment, and it's been a nice ray of sunshine in amongst the gloom.

So none of my usual preamble - here are the things that are bringing me joy at the moment:
  • Growing things

For Christmas my friend Riven got me two planters - sunflowers and dinosaur kale - and we decided a few weeks ago to get them started. Nothing happened for a few days, then poof! Shoots! I'm now obsessed with checking on them and watering them and seeing how they are doing.

  • Scrabble Go
I downloaded Scrabble Go originally so my Mum and I could play, but now I'm playing with loads of my friends, and even Phil has joined in (just because he wanted to beat my Mum!). 

  • Cross-stitching

My sister-in-law Suzie bought me a cross-stitch kit for my Birthday last year but I only started it a few weeks ago because I was too intimidated to get started! The kit she got me has absolutely brilliant clear instructions (one I'd made a few initial mistakes!) and I was getting really into it at the start of the year. I picked it back up again this week and I've absolutely loved cross-stitching with a podcast on in the background. I've already ordered myself another bookmark from the same seller, and also this pattern which I can't wait to put in our hall.

  • Finally watching The Americans
I've mentioned this before but we are terrible at watching TV. It takes us months to get through a series. We started The Americans when we came back from Canada in September and we'd only just finished season 2 a few weeks ago. So now we're not quite so busy, we've started to get really back into it and we're getting through loads more episodes now - which is great because usually we've forgotten what's happened we leave so long between episodes. We're about to finish season 3 and I'm excited to maybe actually finish a TV series?!

  • The Vicar of Dibley on Netflix
I was obsessed with the Vicar of Dibley as a child - my parents and I still quote it all the time (along with Father Ted, Phoenix Nights and dinnerladies - which is now also on Netflix!). I was so so thrilled to find out it had been added this week and we've already started it from the beginning. It's still so brilliant, so funny, so chock-full of 90s cultural references, and it's bringing me the childhood nostalgia I desperately need right now!

  • The anticipation of the new Roasting Tin book
Guyssssss the new Roasting Tin book comes out in THREE WEEKS! I am so so so so excited! I think The Roasting Tin Around The World could maybe be my absolute favourite - I promise you'll be first to know when I find out!

  • Post
Is the highlight of anyone else's day when the post arrives? Today was a good day - a book and a card! It's our wedding anniversary on Monday and I've got a few books arriving soon, so it's about to get pretty wild between 10am and 2pm in the Cantillon household.

  • New episodes of The High Low
I was super super super late to The High Low, only discovering it towards the end of last year and subsequently bingeing it by listening to almost every single episode on my commute to work and back for 2 months and then being devastated when I'd caught up. It's the most perfect mix of pop culture with brilliant discussion, book recommendations, smart opinions and just general chitchat. I genuinely feel like Dolly and Pandora are my friends and I'd missed them so much, so I'm so glad they're back recording (even though socially distanced, of course).

  • Short stories
As I wrote in my blog post on Monday, I'm still obsessed with short stories. I've just read Chris Power's Mothers and started Tom Hanks' Uncommon Type, and I've got The Bloody Chamber and Come Let Us Sing Anyway lined up next.

  • Our garden

I know. We are so so so so lucky to have a garden right now. It's not big, it's not tidy, but being able to sit outside and read in the early evening is an absolute joy right now.

  • Start Simple

The latest recipe book to grace my ever-bulging shelves arrived this week, Lukas Volger's Start Simple. I am so so so excited to cook from this. The book is entirely vegetarian and the premise is 11 key ingredients (for example, butternut squash, mushrooms, beans, tortillas etc.) that you can build multiple meals from. I've tried a couple of things so far and so many recipes are perfect for lock down cooking. Keep your eye out for a review on here soon.

So cosy, but don't feel sloppy? I got a grey one and a yellow one last year, then by pure coincidence, Phil's grandma got me a forest green one for Christmas. They're great.

You know I love my girl Adriene and it's so great to see other people embracing her right now. I've done a couple of afternoon yoga sessions when I've felt restless but already had my morning run, and it's been so helpful. She is the star of YouTube.

  • Live streamed BMF sessions
Our Military Fitness instructor has been live streaming sessions so we've been doing our usual Wednesday night session in the kitchen! Doing it on the same night we do normally has really helped us to feel a sense of normalcy and routine.

  • Daily run or walk
I am so so so grateful for the opportunity to have my daily run or walk right now. I'm sticking to running on the same days I would do normally, again, to foster that sense of routine and walking on the days I'm not running. The weather is so beautiful and it's so nice to be outside when I can be.

  • Meal planning
Meal planning is kind of my jam anyway, but I've really been embracing not going food shopping and trying to cook from what I already have and making little tweaks along the way. I'm currently planned out all the way to the weekend after next, and it makes me feel better knowing I won't need to food shop (which has been completely freaking me out, but that's another matter).

  • Early dinners
I've been starting to make dinner around 5pm every night which means we're usually sitting down for dinner by 6pm. I'm not even usually home from work by then, so it's making the evenings feel longer which I really like.

  • DIY standing desk

Like most runners who also work a desk job, I've had issued with my knees for quite a few years and I noticed with being at home all day I was sitting down more than usual. So I tried propping my laptop up on a bookcase on top of some books, which was great but I couldn't type, so Phil fashioned a piece of wood into an extra bit of desk and voila, standing desk. It's not perfect - I can't type and write in a notebook at the same time - but it does the job!

  • "parkrun"
Again with sticking to routine, every Saturday morning at 9am we go do our "parkrun" at a local park. We've been tweaking the route and having conversations about the reality of actually turning it into a parkrun (!) and now I think we've finally got it right. We've both been wearing parkrun tshirts when we go and comparing our times to the previous week so it actually feels like parkrun.

  • Blogging
I'm back, have you noticed? I'm embracing blogging for the sake of blogging, not over thinking it, not expecting every post to be 4000+ words, but just... writing. It's nice. I have loads of ideas for other posts so watch this space!

  • "Fancy Friday"

An idea from my friend, Eve, last week we did "Fancy Friday" where we actually got dressed up and I did my hair and makeup and we had a bottle of wine and watched a film. Getting properly dressed and doing your hair and makeup was such a nice novelty when you're not doing it every day!

  • Routine
I know, no surprise - I've mentioned it about 20 times in this post already, but routine is hugely important to me in making me feel normal. I'm running and doing workouts on the same days as normal, getting up and going to bed at the same times as normal, even eating the same breakfasts and lunches as normal (got to alleviate that decision fatigue!). We've been doing BMF on the same nights, doing Bongo's Bingo on a Saturday and speaking to our friends on Facetime on the same nights. It stops it from feeling like one endless stretch of nothing!

Let me know on Twitter if this has been helpful for giving you ideas for how to find joy in this time - or let me know anything you're doing that's helping you!

Charlotte x