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Jo

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Food and Drink- Would You Rather…..

Let’s have a game of ‘Would you rather…’! It’s what goes on inside my head when I’m driving, cooking, or should be listening to something vitally important. I thought I’d share some of my favourites, the ones that make me deeply emotionally conflicted and keep me up at night. Props to 101 Books for inspiring me with their literary ‘would you rather’!

1) Give up pastry for the rest of your life, or give up cake for the rest of your life.

2) Work for Gordon Ramsay or have Gordon Ramsay work for you.

3) Only be able to cook on the hob for the rest of your life, or only be able to cook in an oven for the rest of your life.

4) Spend a week living off uncooked pasta, or spend a week living off white chocolate.

5) Mary Berry was your mum, or Nigel Slater was your best mate.

6) Live off mashed potato for the rest of your life, or lose your sense of taste permanently.

7) Eat a tin of dog food once, or give up bread forever.

8) Be a food critic, or have your own restaurant.

9) Bake bread for Paul Hollywood, or do a three-course meal for Greg Wallace and John Torrode.

10) Give up caffeine, or only be allowed to have drinks that contain caffeine, for the rest of your life.

Ooooooooh. Tricky. So many feelings. After careful consideration, here are my answers:

1) I think I’d give up cake. Being a Northerner and all, I just don’t think I could give up pies. Sweet or savoury.

2) I’d rather have Gordon Ramsay work for me. If I worked for him he would definitely make me cry, although he would probably still do that if he worked for me. I just don’t think I could handle either of those situations.

3) Hmmmm. Oven. Cake.

4) Uncooked pasta. Sorry white chocolate, it’s not that I don’t love you but I think if I had to eat you for all of my meals I might end up in a sugar coma.

5) Nigel Slater.

6) Yikes. I think I’d rather lose my sense of taste because at least you can still smell food and enjoy the texture. But still, nightmare situation.

7) Give up bread. I think. Although I would probably change my mind somewhere down the line when I entered severe withdrawal.

8) Food critic. Getting paid to eat in fancy pants restaurants? Where do I sign up?

9) Three-course meal for Greg and John. I love Greg, ok?!

10) Erm. Give up caffeine.

Now I’ve depressed myself by painting mental pictures of worlds that I just don’t want to live in. If you can face it, feel free to have a go at the game and let me know your answers!

Winter Salad: squash, chicken and feta

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I’ve found a way to get around my phobia of eating salads in Winter. This is a warming recipe that makes it a bit easier to eat healthily at the time of year when all you want to do is eat a Sunday roast, every day. Serves 4.

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Ingredients

1 small butternut squash, chopped into ~4cm square chunks

4 tbsp olive oil

2 chicken breasts, cut into strips

2 tbsp paprika

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

75g feta cheese

Couple of handfuls spinach

Handful pea shoots

1 red onion, chopped

Handful pumpkin seeds

Method

1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius (180 fan). Line a baking tray with foil, and toss the butternut squash chunks in 3 tbsp olive oil, place on the tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Check on them after about 15 minutes and toss them about a bit. Take out of the oven and leave to cool.

2. Whilst that’s happening, coat the chicken in the paprika. Heat up the remaining tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, then fry the chicken until cooked through. Once it’s cooked, take the pan off the heat, and add the sweet chilli sauce. Coat the chicken in it fully, then leave to cool in the pan.

3. Throw the spinach, red onion and pea shoots into a serving bowl, and add the cooled squash and chicken.

4. Reheat the frying pan you just used for the chicken, and add the pumpkin seeds. Heat gently until they start to pop, then add to the rest of the ingredients in the serving bowl.

5. Add the feta, and serve!

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What’s happening at lunch etc

I haven’t posted on here in a while, which I know will have caused untold misery and distress to millions. Sorry. I don’t actually have any recipes to post right now. Sorry again. Here are some pretty pictures of my summer in Switzerland to make up for it…

This is the village where I lived, in the Swiss Alps….

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These are some of the day trips we went on….a glacier, Lake Geneva, a freeeeeezing cold lagoon which we all cleverly jumped in and, of course, the Montreux jazz festival (twice – during the day and at night)

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It was such a fantastic summer, I wish I could post another hundred photos to do it justice but I think I would be the only person who could be bothered to look at them. So I won’t. No need to thank me.

As if my holiday photos weren’t exciting enough, here are some of the recipes you can expect on lunch etc over the next few weeks:

Chocolatey nutty breakfast pastry

Butternut squash and feta winter salad

Japanese beefy stuff (name TBC!)

Mystery cocktail

Clearly they are all very much a work in progress. But I hope you’re excited. I am (mainly for chocolate and beef).

A bientot!

Chocolate and pistachio marshmallows

AKA ChoctachiomallowsImageI went to Selfridges recently and had a wander around the food hall, just to test my will power and imagine what life would be like if A, I had money and B, diabetes wasn’t a real thing. I came across some marshmallow brand which I can’t remember the name of right now, and they had some crazy cool flavours which I also can’t remember the name of right now but anyhoo, it all sounded fantastic and tempting and I was seriously considering throwing caution to the wind and making a purchase. Then I saw the price tag.

Several hours later, when I regained consciousness, I was outraged. It was £7 for teeny weeny box of marshmallows which I could quite easily get through in one go! It was robbery! I was absolutely mystified at how they could charge so much for something which I distinctly remember buying for a penny a piece when I was little, before inflation put paid to the concept of penny sweets.

Surely even a luxury marshmallow Is pretty cheap to make? I decided to come up with my own ‘fancypants’ marshmallows and test out the theory. And yep, turns out they’re pretty cheap. Also, pretty damn tasty! And super fun to make. They’re all sticky and gooey and you get to boil the sugar to ‘hard ball’ point i.e. 122 degrees Celcius i.e. reeeeally hot. It’s like chemistry class!

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Marshmallow recipe is based on Hugh-Fearnley Whittingsall’s, chocolate and pistachio bit is my own idea.

Ingredients

1/2 tbsp cornflour

1/2 tbsp icing sugar

Drop of vegetable oil

2 egg whites

500g granulated sugar

250ml water

8 leafs gelatin

80g milk chocolate (or dark if you prefer)

100g pistachios in shell (shelled weight probably about 60-70g but don’t quote me on it!)

Method

1. Grab a 20 x 20cm cake tin, and rub a little bit of oil all over the base and around the sides. Seive the icing sugar and cornflour together in a bowl and add a bit of it to the cake tin, making sure it’s coated evenly.

Image2. Crack the egg whites into a large mixing bowl and whisk to stiff peaks.

3. Put the egg whites to one side. Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan and put it on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then whack the heat on full and boil it until it’s at the ‘hard ball’ stage. I love that name. It’s basically 122 degrees Celcius. It does help to have a sugar thermometer (I used a meat thermometer – same difference, I think!) because I think it would be pretty hard to guesstimate. Whilst you’re waiting for it to boil, soak your gelatine leaves in water for 10 mins.Image4. Start whisking the egg whites again, then as you’re whisking, gradually pour in the hot sugar syrup. Whisk it in really well. As soon as that’s all in, grab the gelatine, squeeze the water out of it and put it in the egg white mix. Keep whisking and whisking, until the mixture is firm but still pourable. It will also be incredibly sticky. Messy, but fun! At this point, pour it into the cake tin and leave it to set for two hours. Roughly the amount of time it will take you to wash the marshmallow goo out of the mixing bowl, and the sugar syrup out of the saucepan.

ImageImage5. Now the fun bit. Sprinkle the rest of your icing sugar and cornflour mixture over a worktop or chopping board. Using a knife, separate the marshmallow from the edge of the tin, then tip it out onto the chopping board and cut it into cubes of a size you deem acceptable.

Image6. Boil some water in a saucepan, take it off the heat, and place a bowl over the top of the pan. Put the chocolate in the bowl and melt it down. In the meantime, de-shell and chop the pistachios finely.

ImageImage7. Now, this bit is fun. Smear half of the marshmallow with chocolate and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. 2 tips. 1 – use a butter knife to spread the chocolate on the marshmallow or it. gets. messy. 2 – Make sure that either your marshmallow slices can stand up on end, or you have some way of propping them up that doesn’t involve them lying on their chocolate-covered side.

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8. Leave them to cool for half an hour and you’re done!

These guys make a great Christmas present, or just a great way to feel smug about not paying a bazillion pounds for premium marshmallows in Selfridges.

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‘Tis the season

It’s that time of year again! I spent the past few days trawling all my recipe books and the internet, overwhelmed by the sheer number of mincemeat recipes, and despite poking around all sorts of deep dark corners of the internet (no, not there!) I could NOT find the recipe I used last year. So, I spent a week crying about it and eventually decided to move on and find a new recipe.

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In the end I went with Delia. It seemed like the best option. Here’s the recipe with just a couple of teeny alterations – it’s best to make at least a week in advance of when you want to use it, but preferably four weeks.

Ingredients
180g shredded vegetable suet
350g raisins
225g sultanas
225g currants
180g candied mixed peel
450g Bramley apples, cored and chopped into little cubes
Zest and juice 2 lemons
Zest and juice 2 oranges
50g chopped almonds
350g soft dark brown sugar
4 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
6 tbsp brandy

Method
1. Mix together all of the ingredients except the brandy. Stir it together really well, cover and leave in a cool place for 12 hours.

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2. Preheat the oven to 110 degrees Celsius. Cover the bowl with foil and put it in the oven for 3 hours. Then remove from the oven and stir it every half hour or so whilst it cools.
3. When it’s completely cooled, stir in the brandy. Now put it into a sterilised jar and store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

Mince pie recipe
So, now that your mincemeat is good and ready (you clever thing!) it’s time for the main event! Mince pies baby. Makes 17.
Ingredients
300g plain flour
190g unsalted butter, cubed
90g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg
Your mincemeat!
1 egg for washing
Icing sugar for sprinkling
Method
1. Rub together the flour and butter to form breadcrumbs. It doesn’t have to be a work of art, we don’t want the butter melting too much.
2. Mix in the salt and sugar, again as swiftly as poss plz.
3. Stir in the egg, now you got yourself a dough! Turn that dough into a big ball, wrap it in cling film and stick in the fridge for 10 mins. Whilst your waiting, clean up after yourself, you messy beggar! Also, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
4. Roll the dough out to about £1 coin thickness.

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5. Cut out 17 big cutter thingys, and 17 small. You know what I mean. Now fill the cake cases with the big ones, and fill those babies with mincemeat.
6. Go around the side of the pastry base with beaten egg, then pop the lid on. Press it down all around the side with a fork, and prod some hole in the centre with a fork. Then egg wash the top and we’re ready for the oven!

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7. Bake for 15-20 minutes then leave to cool. Once they’re cooled you can sprinkle some snow (AKA icing sugar) on top of them, get a classic Christmas film on the telly (can’t beat nativity, especially if, like me, you have an unhealthy obsession with Martin Freeman) and get it down you!

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P.S. After watching the bake-off my family have suddenly become the soggy bottom police, but these guys passed the test!

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Chai latte

I love it when they get the festive coffees out in the coffee shops. Personal favourites are hot spiced apple, and chai lattes. Ahh the warming, spicy taste of Christmas! Having had my first chai latte of the year last week, I was craving more. However, my bank balance protested, so I decided to find a recipe for the cheaper, homemade version of this seasonal favourite.
Credit to the ‘skinny sweets daily’ blog for the foundation for the recipe.

This is a skinny version so feel free to swap skimmed milk for semi or full fat.
Serves 2.

Ingredients
350ml boiling water
3 chai tea bags
I tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
Half a nutmeg, grated
250ml skimmed milk
2.5 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla essence

Method
1. Put the tea bags and all the spices (not the vanilla essence) into the boiling water
2. Simmer the milk over a low heat, and add the brown sugar and vanilla essence
3. Strain half of the tea into a mug, then top up with half of the milk mixture.
4. Pop love actually on the TV and curl up with your latte and a mince pie!

I don’t care that it’s November, or that it’s not even really cold yet, it is never to soon to start with the mince pies and Christmas drinks!