Festive Christmas Biscuits

Christmas being my favourite time of the year, I thought it would be the perfect occasion for some recipe testing. Our Christmas feast this year was the best it’s ever been. Once again we had the usual turkey, ham, salmon en croute for my pesky mum and all the necessary trimmings. But Christmas Eve chez the spill the beans family is a totally different matter, with a spread of Mexican cuisine: mum’s famous quesadillas paired with her chunky salsa-esque guacamole. Viewed by my family as the queen of organised fun and often referred to as the ‘monica’ of the friendship group (even in buzzfeed quizzes), I take over a little bit during the month of December. And my most important duty is the yearly quiz which takes place every christmas eve after our quirky dinner. Normally, we’ll dig into the Hotel Chocolat Winter Puddings box during the quiz but, this year, I decided to create a festive accompaniment to these posh chocs.

Taking inspiration from my dear nana who made the best christmas biscuits, packed with a punch of spices, I played around with a few different ingredients hoping to recreate a fraction of her delicious Lebkuchen style biscuits. And here’s the result! They have a crisp top but a cake-like spongey texture when you bite into the centre. Who doesn’t like a hybrid of cake and biscuit? They received rave reviews from the quiz participants…let’s hope they weren’t just sucking up to the quizmaster.


Ingredients for 16 biscuits

150g demerara sugar (brown sugar works better for these biscuits)

200g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

60g margarine (I tend to use stork)

1 medium egg

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon gif lemon juice

A generous sprinkling of orange zest


  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius fan and heat up a baking tray big enough for 16 biscuits (or two baking trays)
  • Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy using a wooden spoon
  • Add the flour and baking powder until it’s all mixed in. It will have a crumbly texture at this point
  • Throw the egg, lemon juice and honey into the mix and whisk together. If it’s still looking a bit crumbly, add some water until it reaches a wetter consistency
  • Finally grate the zest of the orange over the mixture and once again, whizz it all together

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Note: The mixture is super sticky and gooey so not the best for cookie cutters

  • Use a tablespoon for each cookie, spreading them out evenly on a piece of greaseproof paper on a heated baking tray. They’re not going to be evenly shaped but that’s the fun of it!

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  • Bake in the oven for 12-15 mins (depends on whether you want them a bit spongey and cake-like or totally crispy)
  • Cool on a wire rack (and share one while you’re waiting for them to cool!

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  • Dust with icing sugar and there you are!

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Throwback to Christmas

You can’t beat Christmas when it comes to food. Every year, my mum and dad create a mouthwatering feast which seems to grow each year in size. For 2015, the festive table hosted an array of different dishes:

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Oven roasted cod and salmon for my pesky mum (pescatarian that is). A show-stopping turkey filled with homemade pork stuffing and coated in streaky smoked bacon rashers. Two kinds of roasted gammon – my absolute favourite christmas dish. Golden roast potatoes – the crispiest of which are always fought over. Honey and mustard glazed parsnips along with the annual brussels sprouts and steamed carrots. There was even a little roast rack of lamb with a vegetarian stuffing crust for my sister who isn’t a fan of the traditional meats. All of this accompanied by my dad’s unbeatable homemade gravy and obligatory champers.

My oh my I don’t think I’ve ever been so full. But then there’s always space for Christmas Trifle. I mean we all know that there’s a different compartment for dessert…

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One of the best things about Christmas Lunch, however, is that all of the above can be eaten on Boxing Day. And if you overdid it a bit and made just as much as my family did for Christmas, the food lasts the following few days too!

You can have the leftovers just as they are, hot or cold. I’m partial to stealing a roast potato from the fridge at all hours. Or you can mix it up a bit and try a new recipe. Check out my Boxing Day Potato Hash for inspiration!

Boxing Day Potato Hash

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Christmas just keeps on giving. In our house, leftovers make up the meals for the next few days which is a nice break from all that cooking that went on during the morning of the 25th but also a treat for us foodies who want to continue looking forward to the yumminess that is Christmas Lunch.

If you’re getting a bit bored of having the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, try out this take on a Potato Hash which uses the scrumptious veggie leftovers from the day before. It’s probably one of the simplest recipes I’ve done because you just throw everything into one pan!


 

Ingredients for a side dish for six (remember this is just what we had leftover, you can throw in however many roasties and veggies that you have and add the garlic, salt, pepper and paprika to taste)

8 Roast Potatoes

A small bowl of brussels sprouts

A handful of chopped steamed carrots

A couple of honey and mustard glazed parsnips

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

A dash of paprika

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Salt and Pepper


  • Thinly slice the roast potatoes along with the brussels sprouts and parsnips. Mix together with the carrots.
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and throw all the ingredients in
  • Fry the leftovers, making sure you mix them every few minutes, for about ten minutes or until the dish is looking nice and crispy
  • Serve with the rest of your Christmas leftovers (we had it with ham, turkey and all sorts)

 

Posh Beans on Toast

Mighty bean dish. Maybe not the most original name but this recipe is simple and really variable, perfect for all you foodies out there. Me and my mum make this all the time because it’s quick and easy, not to mention super yummy and warms you up on a cold winter evening.

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Posh Beans on Toast


 

Ingredients – serves 4

400g can of chopped tomatoes

400g can of black-eyed beans

400g can of chickpeas

150g tenderstem broccoli

4 cloves of garlic (good frozen)

2 teaspoons of hot paprika

1 tsp paprika

4 tsp mixed herbs

1 onion (diced)

A few sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

Seedy bread and rocket leaves to serve

So like I said earlier on, this bean dish is really variable. I’ve often added an assortment of veggies to the pan, such as mushrooms, marrow, courgette and aubergine. It becomes a kind of ratatouille but with more of a punch to it! Feel free to add any veggies that you see fit for the pan and let me know which ones worked.


 

  • Heat some oil in a pan and fry the beans and chickpeas for a couple of minutes. Crush the cloves of garlic and add to the pan, along with the diced onion. Fry for 2 minutes.

Top tip: You can buy frozen chopped garlic at most supermarkets and it works a charm and saves time (and washing up!)

  • Meanwhile boil the broccoli for 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the canned tomatoes along with the spices, herbs and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Finally, add the broccoli for a couple of minutes and season to taste

This dish can pretty much be served with anything. I usually have it with rice but I recently paired it with sweet potato mash, which was absolutely delicious.

It’s also a perfect topping for toast the next day – just heat the leftovers in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, toast a couple of slices of seedy bread and spoon a generous serving of the dish onto the buttered slices. Top with some rocket and there you have it: posh beans on toast!

 

 

Paella con bacalao y chorizo – The 6 step Cod and Chorizo Paella

IMG_2418Paella is one of those simple one-pan dishes that looks impressive but is actually pretty easy to make (shhh don’t tell anyone). While you’ll usually see prawns or chicken in a paella, I decided to try something new and added oven-cooked Cod. This would work well with any white fish though so don’t worry if you can’t get Cod at the supermarket.

This recipe is enough to serve 3-4 but it’s easily doubled so would be perfect for a dinner party, paired with a Spanish Cava if you want to splash out.


Ingredients

2 cod fillets

30g diced chorizo

1 finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves

300g paella rice (allow about 75g dry rice per person)

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp oregano

800ml chicken stock

3 large roasted red peppers from a jar

Oil

Salt and pepper


  1. Fry the chorizo, onion and garlic in a deep oiled pan for 3-5 minutes until the onion has softened.IMG_2423
  2. Add the paella rice to the pan and mix together, adding the paprika and oregano as well.
  3. Make up 800 ml of chicken stock and add it to the pan, leaving the dish to simmer for 15 minutes.
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  4. Meanwhile, season the cod fillets and place them in a lightly oiled ovenproof dish in the oven for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (fan oven).IMG_2421
  5. After 15 minutes, take the cod out and cover with foil to keep it warm. Add the peppers to the paella and if it’s looking a bit dry, add t some boiled m water. Simmer for another 5 minutes.IMG_2420
  6. Flake pieces of the cod fillets into the paella dish and serve with some chunky white bread

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Cod Chowder my way

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Now that you’re all acquainted with my Oven Roasted Cod in Parma Ham recipe, here’s a slight variation on it.

I decided to be adventurous one evening and added it to a heartwarming veggie soup. Now you can get away with cooking this fish dish two nights in a row without being perceived as boring or lazy!


Ingredients (for the Veggie soup)IMG_2305

1 Leek

1 Small Romanesco Broccoli

400g tin of black-eyed beans

Handful of frozen peas

1 1/2 Knorr Vegetable Stock cubes

Paprika, Basil, Oregano


Sauté the leek and broccoli in just enough oil to coat them and season with pepper, paprika, basil and oregano. There’s no need to add salt at this point because the stock cube is salty enough and you can always add extra at the end if you want.

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Dissolve the stock cubes in 675 ml of water and add to the leek and broccoli in the pan.  Throw the peas and black eyed beans in as well.

Simmer for around 15 minutes until the veggies are cooked. Meanwhile cook the Cod according to the Oven Roasted Cod in Parma Ham recipe.

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Once cooked, break up the Cod fillets and add them to the soup. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with some crusty bread.

Oven Roasted Cod in Parma Ham

I’ve decided to share with you one of my most cherished recipes. There’s no going wrong with this one and it’s perfect for Fish Friday.  Even us meat lovers would be happy to be presented with this easy and super healthy meal.

I’ve only put the ingredients for 2 people because it’s me and my mum’s go-to dish when the rest of the family are out but it can be easily doubled or even halved if you only need to serve yourself.

If you’re more in the mood for a heartwarming soup, check out my Cod Chowder which uses this recipe!

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Before being oven-cooked

Ingredients

2 Fillets of Cod (or similar white fish)

2 Slices of Parma Ham

2 Vines of Cherry Tomatoes

Lemon Juice

Paprika


  • Heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius (fan oven) and heat a lightly greased tin
  • Place the cod fillets in a bowl and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on each one. Sprinkle some paprika over the fillets and season with black pepper. I don’t usually add salt to the fish because the parma ham is salty enough.
  • Wrap each fillet in a slice of parma ham widthways and place in the heated tin
  • Lastly, place two vines of cherry tomatoes on either side of the fillets and put in the oven for 14-16 mins
  • Serve with roasted baby potatoes or rice

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    This is a photo from when I had a dinner party for six people. Parsley makes a really nice garnish!

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After being in the oven

Oven Baked Salmon with Roasted Vegetables

Salmon is one of the tastiest fish on the market. There are so many different ways to approach this oily fish, from serving it as sashimi to wrapping it in puff pastry for an ‘en croûte’, but today I’ll be showing you how to oven bake some salmon fillets for a healthy night in. It’s a pretty simple recipe but works wonders for a rumbling tummy.


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Here’s what you’ll be needing for two people, with veggie leftovers:

2 skinless and boneless salmon fillets

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

A generous handful of chopped fresh parsley

3 medium onions

2 courgettes cut into batons

A handful of cherry tomatoes

Half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms

Olive oil

2 Uncle Ben’s boil in the bag long grain rice

Dried rosemary, paprika and oregano

Lemon juice


  • Heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (200 for a fan oven) and heat an oiled roasting dish.
  • It’s worth marinating the salmon for about 30 mins before cooking it so that it gets a chance to soak up the delicious flavours of lemon and paprika. Make sure you season it to taste as well.
  • Meanwhile wash and prepare the vegetables and set them aside so they are ready to be tossed into the oven. I usually leave the mushrooms whole but cut the onions into chunky quarters or eighths.
  • Once the dish is good and hot, throw the veg in and sprinkle with dried rosemary, paprika and some oregano. Mix all the vegetables together so they are all coated in the herbs and oil and put them in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until they look like they are getting crispy.IMG_2138
  • After 25 minutes, take the vegetables out and make space in the centre for the salmon fillets. Turn the heat down to 180 degrees and add the salmon for an extra 10 minutes. Remember the salmon still cooks when it’s out of the oven. I like my salmon soft and flaky but if you prefer it a little more well-done, then leave it in the oven for a few extra minutes. At the same time, put the rice on.

Alternatively, you can cook the salmon in a separate dish and serve it with the veggies, but I prefer only having one dish to wash up. Also the salmon takes on some of the flavours of the herby vegetables.

Top tip: If you don’t fancy rice, you can throw some baby potatoes in with the vegetables so it really is a one-pot dinner. Keep in mind that the potatoes will need a little longer cooking time!

Hello fellow students

So let’s be honest. Students aren’t exactly the wealthiest kids on the block and food can be preeeetty pricey…Not to mention time-consuming!

But this doesn’t mean that you have to live off crisps and pot noodle. I’ll be posting advice and easy recipes for all the students out there. Take it from me, food is a great friend when you have deadlines and exams.

Cod à la tapenade

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For those of you who have been loyally following me on Instagram, you might remember this picture I posted a while ago of Cod à la tapenade. Sorry for the delay in posting the recipe but it is well worth the wait and quite appropriate for meat free monday!

Having grown up in the south of France, I love a bit of Provençal cooking and try my best to recreate flavours that I have experienced from a young age. So here goes with my take on Tapenade!

Tapenade has got to be one of the tastiest toppings to a fresh fillet of fish and it is always more special when it’s homemade. The great thing is that you can make quite a large batch and then refrigerate the extra and save it for another day. It’s particularly nice when paired with sliced french baguette or sourdough. I also love using it as a filling for chicken breasts so try that out when you get the chance.

Alongside my tapenade-crusted cod, I usually cook spicy paprika roasted potatoes. You might be wondering where the paprika spice comes into French cooking when it’s more of a Spanish flavour? Well it’s got to be one of my favourite spices and zut alors does it taste good when sprinkled on potatoes!

Top tip: If you aren’t a fan of paprika (why on earth not?), don’t worry! Just replace the paprika with parsley butter which is equally delicious.

Voilà. To recreate this dish délicieux, follow the recipe below!


Tapenade:

50g pitted black olives

3 sundried tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic

A handful of basil leaves

Olive oil

Cod and Potatoes:

½ kilo fillet of Cod

A handful of dried breadcrumbs

½ kilo potatoes

A generous helping of paprika


Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (fan oven) and prepare the cod. After washing and patting the cod with paper towel, make fairly deep incisions in the fillet. These will later be stuffed with the homemade tapenade to infuse the cod with the delicious flavour of the olives.

Put all the ingredients for the tapenade in a blender and blend for a short while, making sure that it doesn’t reach the consistency of a paste. The tapenade is more striking when you get chunks of the ingredients. Spoon the tapenade into the incisions in the cod fillet and drizzle some olive oil over before pouring the breadcrumbs onto the fillet.

Meanwhile, parboil the potatoes for ten minutes and drain them. Chop each of the potatoes in half so they can get crispy in the oven. Mix olive oil and paprika in a preheated dish and coat the potatoes in the mixture. Season the potatoes and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes on the top shelf. After 5 minutes of cooking time, put the cod in the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, boil some broccoli for some greenery and display as shown in the photo above. Et voilà, c’est parfait!