Spaghetti Carbonara

I’m approaching the revision period for my final exams. In doing so, I am discovering an intense ability to procrastinate. Turns out there are just questions in life that bother me more than  what was the cultural significance of Renaissance inventories. Like what the heck is going on with Brexit and Trump, sure, but also whether I’ll ever learn how to do perfect winged eye liner. Which shady character is the actual villain in series three of Broadchurch. The real life mystery of what exactly was going on with Hiddleswift last summer. How to make the perfect carbonara.

Spaghetti Carbonara

I love carbonara, but for years I have been making not-very-good ones and going along with it because it involved bacon, carbs and cheese and so could never be that bad. But then in New York last summer I had the ultimate fancy restaurant carbonara; one of those ones with an egg yolk on top to pierce and let flow down throughout the spaghetti. It showed me just how perfect a good carbonara could be and I knew I’d never be going to back to mildly scrambled versions. I would never claim this is a traditional version – I love the luxuriousness of the added cream too much – but it’s my favourite version and that is all I need. Maybe if I served it to Tom Hiddleston he’d explain everything?

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 1

  • 100g spaghetti
  • 3 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • splash of double cream
  • parmesan, to grate

Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and snip into 2cm pieces.

Mix the egg yolks with the double cream in a mug. When the spaghetti is done, remove 2tbsp of the cooking water and mix in with the egg and cream.

Drain the spaghetti and return to the warm saucepan. Add the egg and bacon and stir to coat the pasta evenly and create a sauce. Pour into a bowl and top with plenty of grated parmesan.

Couscous-stuffed Red Peppers

Over the course of this term I have realised that cucumber, tomatoes and feta are approaching Holy Trinity ingredients for me. They pop up in my cooking together time and time again: in pastas, in couscous, accompanying salmon or chicken. They are my go to staples to flavour a salad and make a side dish more flavourful than just leaves. Lemon juice and olive oil are never far behind. They make me feel healthy without being too in my face and I always have them in my fridge, just in case. Today I wanted to try something slightly different then a regular salad – so I took my standard couscous and popped it in a pepper. Super simple, only takes five minutes longer than making the couscous itself and adds an extra portion of veg into my lunch (two if you serve it with green beans like I did). I’m not always a fan of red peppers (something about their squeaky texture) but cooking them like this keeps them super juicy and, well, plenty of feta can help just about anything. Enjoy!

Couscous stuffed red peppers

Couscous-stuffed peppers

  • 2 red peppers
  • 100g couscous
  • 3tbsps olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g feta
  • 10cm cucumber
  • ½ red onion
  • small handful of basil

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Half the peppers and deseed, keeping the stalks intact for presentation if you like. Place on a microwaveable plate and microwave for 5 minutes until beginning to soften.

Meanwhile, place the couscous in a large bowl and just cover with boiling water. Place a lid or plate on top and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes until the couscous is fluffy and absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Add the remaining ingredients, mix to combine and season generously.

Lightly oil a baking tray and place the peppers on it. Fill each half of the peppers generously with the couscous. Bake for 5-10 minutes until the peppers are fully soft and the couscous is just beginning to go golden. Serve warm.

Pea, crème fraiche and mint gnocchi bake  

We’re entering that complicated period of early spring where I spend the majority of my time dressed for the wrong weather. It will be sunny, you’ll think March is a warm month, you’ll go out in a jacket instead of a coat for the first time and discover those spring skies are deceptive and it is still only 7’C. The following day you’ll have learnt from your mistakes. You wrap in cashmere and a puffa coat… and slowly roast as the weather reaches unprecedented highs. Streets in March and April become a cheery mixture of people dressed for strongest summer or darkest winter – like the Mediterranean in December, when British tourists head south for festive sun and locals baulk at the idea of temperatures below 20’C. But enough weather chat – this is the dish to get you through this tricky time.

Pea, creme fraiche and mint gnocchi bake

The flavours are fresh and light – ready for spring – but baking it briefly provides that cosy warmth should it still be needed. Gnocchi is one of my favourite dishes due to being so speedy to prepare and I could cook it endlessly. Normally I drench it in pesto and bacon (which is entirely delicious) but this fresh way incorporates some extra vegetables into my diet and is just as tasty. Enjoy!

Pea, crème fraiche and mint gnocchi bake
Serves 2

  • 1 packet of gnocchi
  • 100g peas
  • 3 tbsps crème fraiche
  • handful of mint
  • cheddar, to grate

Preheat the grill to 200’C.

Boil the gnocchi and peas together for 3-4 minutes, until the gnocchi floats to the top. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the crème fraiche, mint and generous grating of cheddar. Stir together and tip into a small baking dish.

Top with more grated cheddar and grill for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Enjoy!

Half-and-half chocolate chip cookies

Why pick one cookie when you can have two in one? This is what happens when you are an indecisive baker. The longest part of any baking session for me is simply deciding what to make. I have a bookmarks folder on my computer called ‘Sweet’ that has 480 recipes in. At home, we have over 200 cookery books. There’s Instagram inspiration, new magazines each month, dishes I have in restaurants that I want to recreate at home. Having so many options is exciting but it definitely makes narrowing it down to just one a challenge.

Half-and-half chocolate chip cookies

At university, I’m helped by the fact that my limited equipment, time and ingredients cupboard narrows down my options. Add in the fact that my friends’ requests will involve chocolate 99% of the time, and we’re getting easier still. I first saw this idea on Instagram and instantly wanted to make it. It’s a very simple idea – essentially this is just a chocolate chip cookie two ways – but it looks so much more interesting, and reminded me of the classic New York black and white cookies but without the kerfuffle of multiple icing bowls. The end result is super cute, giving you the best of cookie worlds without too much extra effort. And whilst looking cute is great, the proof is obviously in the taste which I can happily report doesn’t disappoint either, sitting on the cakey end of the cookie spectrum (the cocoa side tastes like a brownie). Enjoy!

Half-and-half chocolate cookies

Makes 14

  • 150g butter
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 200g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g dark chocolate chips, plus a few extra for sprinkling
  • 80g white chocolate chips, plus a few extra for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Begin by creaming the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until fully combined. Divide the mixture in half (you can weigh it to be totally accurate), removing half the mixture to a separate bowl.

In one bowl, add 110g of the plain flour, the vanilla extract and the dark chocolate chips. Stir to bring together to a cookie dough. Take walnut size pieces of the dough and roll into balls.

In the second bowl, add the remaining 90g of plain flour, the cocoa powder and the white chocolate chips. Stir together to bring to a cookie dough. Take walnut size pieces of the dough and roll into balls.

Next, take one ball of each type of cookie dough and press together to make one cookie. Finally, press down slightly to flatten and place on the baking tray. Repeat with all remaining cookie dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until beginning to go firm. Scatter with the remaining chocolate chips whilst the cookies are still warm. Enjoy!

 

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

It is always my pleasure to bake for friends. Let’s be honest, as much as I might want to, even I can’t eat the results of baking twice a week all by myself. I’m quite the feeder and offering up blondies, cookies and cake is as much to minimise damage to my own waistline as it is a sign of generosity.

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

Nevertheless, after a while one of my friends wanted to contribute to the baking so we came to a deal where she helps me out with an ingredient in return for baked goods. I made the rhubarb tart, she brought the custard. Today, she bought the raspberries, I baked the cake. Together we sat on my bed, eating warm freshly baked cake, gossiping and discussing Broadchurch theories. An ideal Saturday. The raspberries really made all the difference in this super simple cake – going super jammy and adding little pockets of colour and flavour throughout. It was light, sweet but sharp and dangerously moreish – enjoy!

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

  • 125g caster sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 125g plain flour
  • 5tsp baking powder
  • zest 2 lemons
  • punnet of raspberries
  • 100g icing sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line the base of a 20cm round tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition. Pour in the milk and stir through. Add the lemon zest, plain flour and baking powder and stir until just combined.

Scrape the mixture into the lined cake tin. Dot the cake with raspberries. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

In a small bowl, sift the icing sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the lemon juice and stir to a drizzle-able consistency! When the cake is cooled, drizzle the icing over the cake.

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Before university, I used to cook or bake at home on average once a week. This gave me plenty of time all week to decide what I was going to cook and wait for inspiration to strike. It might be a recipe I read, an advert that made me crave something, watching an episode of Everyday Mary Berry. Now that I cook for myself every day, its pretty easy to run out of inspiration. My ideas tend to come from trawling through BBC Good Food or Delicious magazine until I spot something to work from. Or, in the case of this casserole, my friend kept mentioning she was having sausages for her tea. This made me crave sausages, which made me look in my fridge and see what needed using up that I could cook with them. And so a sausage, kale and tomato casserole (with a few peas thrown in for good measure) was born.

Sausage and tomato casserole

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Serves 3

I prefer to roast my sausages and add them to the casserole at the end, rather than fry them in the casserole dish at the beginning. Frying them probably adds extra depth of flavour, but I can’t be faffed with turning a spitting sausage for 15 minutes and hoping it cooks all the way through and doesn’t just char on the outside. If you are a more patient soul than me, try frying them first, removing whilst you cook the onion and then returning to the pan before the tomatoes and chicken stock.

  • 6 sausages
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 100g peas
  • 200g baby kale
  • sprinkling of thyme

Preheat the oven to 220’C. Line a baking tray with foil, add the sausages and roast for 20-25minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion. Cook in a large saucepan in a glug of oil over a gentle heat until soft and beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic clove, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme and plenty of seasoning. Simmer for 10-15minutes until thickened and reduced slightly.

Add the peas, baby kale and cooked sausages. Stir to heat everything through. Serve and enjoy!

Fried gnocchi with mozzarella and tomatoes

Occasionally a certain dish will come to dominate my cooking. Just like fashionistas going crazy for Spring trends (hi big sleeves and stripy shirts), every once in a while a recipe comes along that I will get temporarily obsessed with. There have been several instances of this over the years. When I discovered these addictive jam drops, they were temporarily all I wanted to bake. There have been my bagel and quesadilla phases at university, where they were all I ate for lunch every day for an entire term – perhaps a hangover from years of packed lunches? Every Christmas I rediscover Simon Hopkinson’s cheesy biscuits and wonder why I don’t make them all year round. Then, several years ago, I found this fried gnocchi recipe and a temporary gnocchi addiction was born. This recipe now tastes nostalgic to me for no other reason than I cooked it so many times that the processes and flavours are now inherently familiar.

Fried gnocchi with mozzarella and tomatoes

I hadn’t made this recipe for a long time – being distracted by gnocchi bakes and bacon instead – but as soon as I saw it again when I was scrolling through my ‘Savoury’ recipe file, I knew it would be gracing my lunch table again very soon. It is super simple – three ingredients, fifteen minutes and you are done. Fried gnocchi is absolutely delicious, going gorgeously golden and crispy on the outside but retaining that comforting fluffiness within. My family were all converted to this dish when we first discovered it and I know my sister still cooks it regularly – try it and see for yourself!

Fried gnocchi with mozzarella and tomatoes

Serves 2, from this Liberty London Girl recipe

  • 1 bag of gnocchi
  • ½ ball of mozzarella
  • 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil and knob of butter

Boil the gnocchi in salted water for 2-3 minutes, until it floats to the top. Meanwhile, roughly chop the mozzarella and halve the tomatoes.

Heat a frying pan with a generous glug of olive oil and knob of butter. Drain the gnocchi and tip into the frying pan with the cherry tomatoes. Fry over a medium-high heat, until the tomatoes are releasing their juices and the gnocchi are forming a golden crust on the bottom – don’t stir too much. Add the mozzarella and heat until its melting and stretchy. Scrape into bowls and enjoy.

Green chicken noodle salad

Stir-fries are a staple student food that I’ve never quite got on board with. Baked beans – yes, basically every Saturday lunch all my life, keep going with that cheese on top please. Pasta – doesn’t matter if we are talking carbonara, pesto, mac and cheese, two minute tortellini, I’m in. Chicken nuggets on the way home from a night out – best part of the night. But stir fries are not a regular part of my repertoire. I’d never even made one until last summer and whilst it was surprisingly tasty, they’re still not part of my regular cooking patterns. Hence why I was slightly stumped when I got major cravings for noodles last week with no idea what to do with them.

Green chicken noodle salad

I feel like it would be quite a stretch to call this a stir fry, but it certainly satisfied my noodle cravings. I’ll hold my hands up and say this is extremely simple – acting both to solve my craving and to use up some bits and bobs in my fridge. At first I found it a little bland, but then found myself eating a vast bowl of it and requiring high levels of self-restraint not to tuck into the portion I’d saved for the next day. It’s essentially a dish I would usually make with couscous but the noodles made a welcome change and made it a heartier dish. Maybe now I’ll work my way up to a proper stir fry. Baby steps.

Green chicken noodle salad
Serves 2

  • 400g fresh egg noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, roasted
  • 2 spring onions
  • small bunch of mint
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • ½ lime, zest and juice

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a frying pan. Tip in the noodles and stir until warmed through. Meanwhile, finely slice the spring onions and mint, and dice the cucumber. Mix the olive oil and lime zest and juice.

Add all the ingredients to the warm noodles. Season very generously with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

My cooking at university tends to be largely one pot meals – casseroles, salads, pasta bakes. The sort of food you fill a bowl with and you are done. But as much as I enjoy the simplicity and minimal washing up of this style of cooking, every now and then a gal craves something fancier. Sometimes, the week just demands splurging on Parma ham in Waitrose and the posh vine tomatoes in Sainsbury’s and treating yourself (and no one else) to a proper dinner. The sort of food that looks like it came from one of those restaurant menus where all the dishes are just a list of ingredients. It’s still simple, but it is the sort of multi-element food that requires a proper plate and sitting at a table (or desk) instead of sofa (or bed). Who says cooking for one has to be boring?

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

This makes enough for two, but the second chicken breast and half of the lentils work just as well reheated a few days later for when you next need a proper meal. Recipe adapted from here.

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 slices of parma ham
  • 1 packet of vine tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 250g sachet of ready-cooked lentils
  • handful of baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 190’C. Wrap each chicken breast in a slice of Parma ham, placing the join of ham on the base of the chicken. Place on a lined baking tray, alongside two branches of tomatoes. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion and cook in a saucepan on a gentle heat in a large glug of oil until soft and just beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic, add to the saucepan and cook out for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and a further glug of olive oil to loosen the mixture. Stir for a few minutes to heat the lentils through. Tip in the handful of baby spinach and stir until just wilted.

To serve, spoon the spinach lentils on to a plate. Top with slices of the chicken breast, and add a vine of roasted tomatoes. Eat, enjoy, and bask in your classiness.

Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

I look forward to rhubarb season every year. There is something so cheery about getting through the grey bleakness of January with a little help from these long bright pink stems, quite unlike anything else in season at this time of year. Those long stems may look a little bit ridiculous poking out of my bag as I walk through Cambridge, squeezed in amongst my dissertation draft and books on the Enlightenment, but it’s worth it for this cake.

Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

I initially really wanted to make a rhubarb galette with my stash, but as I’ve cooked a lot with pastry in the last week or so I have put this on hold for now. After searching through my rhubarb recipes and discounting elaborate tarts, delicate jellies and creams I settled on this cake – thinking that a generous slice warm from the oven, with a big dollop of crème fraiche alongside it, would be the perfect change from the baking trays of shortbread and cookies my oven has been churning out so far this term. Even my chocolate-dedicated friends enjoyed this and I didn’t face the predicament of having this languishing in a tin for days (admittedly not that miserable a prospect) as it was all gone in two days between three of us.

Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

  • 170g soft butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • zest 2 oranges
  • 150g almonds
  • 40g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick of rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line the base of a 21cm tin with greaseproof paper.

Slice the rhubarb into lengths around 7cm long. Cut each one into quarters lengthways to create thinner batons. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, beating well in between the addition of each egg. Add the orange zest and dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.

Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Top with the rhubarb sticks in a clock pattern. Bake for 30-35 mins until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.