Florentine Pizza

One of the headlines on the October issue of Cosmo recently read ‘Asos, Uber, Deliveroo – can you afford your lifestyle?’ Never has a headline felt so targeted towards me – I was pretty sure they’d had a sneaky look at my bank account. Deliveroo is dangerously addictive. You do it once as a treat, after a particularly stressful or exhausting day that leaves you craving Byron but with no desire to head back outside into a cold October night. After that first time, you remember how easy it was and how quickly the food came and it takes a lot of resistance to prevent it becoming a habit. The particularly tempting point for me came when a nearby Five Guys was added to the list of my local ordering options. But, as Cosmo was trying to remind me, takeaways are also annoyingly expensive and unhealthy, so it was time to try making my own.

Florentine pizza

My issue with cooking burgers at home is not only the struggle to get them to match up to a Five Guys offering, but also the inherent leftovers that come from inevitably buying a four pack of burger buns or large packet of mince. Pizza at home seemed like the way to go instead. This version is not completely cheat free, but it is so worth it and still feels more virtuous than a Dominos. My sneaky trick for making this extra delicious is using a garlic bread base instead of a plain pizza dough. These are usually nicer quality than plain bases from the supermarket anyway, but also that hidden layer of garlic butter adds so much more flavour. This makes more tomato sauce  than you need, but that just means there is enough for another non Deliveroo evening!

Florentine Pizza

Serves 1, generously!

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • 1/2tsp dried thyme
  • 1 round garlic bread base
  • 60g of cheddar, grated
  • large handful of baby spinach
  • 1 egg
  • large handful of rocket

Add a glug of oil and the diced onion to a medium saucepan. Heat over a medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic clove and cook out for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and thyme and simmer for 10-15 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened.

Preheat the oven to 220’C and place a baking tray on the middle shelf to heat through. Spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce over the garlic bread. Top with the spinach and grated cheese. Bake for 8 minutes to allow the bread to begin to get crispy. Remove from the oven and carefully crack the egg into the centre of the pizza. Return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Remove from the oven and top with rocket. Enjoy!

Creamy lemon courgette risotto

Last night I was woken up three times by crazy thunderstorms. Huge flashes of lightning, followed by counting the seconds until the seemingly endless rumble of thunder breaks, the rain persistently pounding the roof. Not exactly ideal July weather. Good for the garden, maybe, but not for maintaining a holiday tan. It also causes a dilemma for summer cooking – despite it being late July, torrential rain does not call for summer salads.

Courgette and lemon risotto

This summer risotto is the answer. It’s hearty enough to suit the weather, but with fresh flavours and a way to use up some of the courgette glut that regularly occurs at this time of year. The swirl of crème fraiche at the end is entirely optional but I love it for making this extra creamy and luxurious, balanced perfectly by the crunchy pine nut sprinkling. Time to curl up with a big bowl, listen to the rain and cross your fingers for sunshine soon.

Creamy lemon and courgette risotto

  • 1 onion
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 litres warm chicken stock
  • 3tbsps pine nuts
  • knob of butter
  • 2tbsp crème fraiche
  • parmesan, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of oil until softened. Coarsely grate 2 of the courgettes and add to the onion, cooking for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook out.

Pour in the risotto rice and stir to coat in the onion and courgettes. Next, add the lemon zest and juice. Once the rice has absorbed the lemon juice, begin adding the chicken stock, one ladle at a time. Stir the risotto regularly and once it has absorbed each ladle of liquid, add the next one.

Meanwhile, finely dice the remaining courgette. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the courgettes and fry over a high heat until the courgettes are beginning to go brown and crispy. Add the pine nuts and fry for a further 2-3 minutes until golden.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it is al dente (about 20-25 minutes), stir through the crème fraiche into the risotto. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the crispy courgette and pine nuts, and a sprinkling of parmesan.

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.

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.

Chorizo Naan Pizza

Naan pizzas used to be the ultimate treat when I was growing up. I don’t know where my Mum found the idea for this complete cultural hybrid of a dinner (update: we have Nigella to thank!), but I have vivid memories of pizza making sessions (although pizza decorating might be a more accurate description), especially when friends came round and everyone set up their own pizza stations. I hadn’t had a naan pizza in years until I made this but one bite and I was right back in my kitchen at home, getting uncharacteristically competitive over best design and mozzarella placement.

Chorizo Naan Pizza

This isn’t so much an exact recipe as an idea, a way of eating pizza that if you haven’t discovered yet then you need to try asap. There is something about the nigella seeds in the naan, the way the edges go extra crunchy but the middle stays doughy, the novelty of just eating it all at once rather than slicing it up that makes this so enjoyable. I added some chorizo to my super simplified pizza sauce for some extra heat (and just to add some Spanish flavour into the Italian-Indian meal) but, as with any pizza, this is endlessly versatile to whatever you usually put on your favourite pizza/Dominos order.

Chorizo Naan Pizza

Makes 2 pizzas

  • 1 onion
  • 250g diced cooking chorizo
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 plain naan breads
  • 1 ball of mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Finely dice the onion and sweat in a generous glug of olive oil until soft but not coloured. Add the chorizo and fry for a few more minutes to cook through. Tip in the tin of tomatoes, season generously with salt and pepper, and simmer gently to reduce and thicken.

While the sauce simmers, place the naan on a baking tray and cook for 5-10minutes until beginning to go crispy. Slice the mozzarella.

Remove the naan from the oven and spread with the thickened sauce. Top with mozzarella and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the mozzarella is melted. Enjoy!

Macaroni Cheese

Sometimes I feel like my life is going to be one long mission to find the ultimate macaroni cheese. For a long time my favourite one was found at Mishkins, even when I went in spring and they’d added a whole load of veg into the mix. After Mishkins sadly closed down, my best ever mac was replaced by The Mac Factory‘s chorizo studded creation in Camden. I loved this one so much that I got them to come and serve it at a Cambridge ball for 2000 people when I was organising the catering. My Mum, tired of my sister and I raving about this, replicated it for us at home and her version with added tomatoes became my favourite. My point is that whilst my favourite mac and cheese is always changing, the love for the dish itself remains pretty constant.

Macaroni cheese

But these were all versions that other people made for me, and I wanted to try making it for myself. Hunting down my dream recipe provided the perfect procrastination for a week until I finally bit the bullet and tried a variation of Jamie Oliver’s ‘killer mac and cheese’. I’m not saying my search for ‘the one’ is over as it’s not yet up there with The Mac Factory fabulousness, but I’m definitely getting closer.

For me, I think the key is actually not baking the mac and cheese for very long – if at all. The joy for me is the saucy, melting, stretchy goodness that I find can quickly turn stodgy and dense if grilled for too long. My pet peeve in life is also crispy pasta – I can’t bear it. But of course, if that crackly top is king for you, feel free to leave this under the grill a while longer. ‘The one’ is different for everybody.

Macaroni Cheese

Serves 2

  • 15g butter
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1tbsp flour
  • 250ml milk
  • 150g macaroni
  • 100g cheddar, grated

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of lightly bubbling water, until just before al dente – with a little bite left in it.

Meanwhile, fry the garlic in the butter until fragrant. Add the flour and cook out for one minute. Remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Return to the heat and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and add all the cheese, stirring until melted. Season generously with lots of pepper.

Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce. Now – which way are you going to go? Either now tip into a bowl and dig in, or tip into a baking dish, grate over a little extra cheese and grill until its how you desire – 5-10 minutes for a crisp cheesy topping.

Shakshuka

Let’s talk about what makes brunch so great. Aside from half a tin of fruit cocktail in primary school (fighting with my sister over the cherries) and a brief flirtation with brain-food muesli during exams, my mornings tend to be noticeably absent of food. Breakfast, with its connotations of 7am alarms, mainlining coffee and choosing between the early bus or an extra slice of toast, has never been something I’ve quite mastered. Brunch, on the other hand, is something I can get on board with.

Shakshuka

Lazy Sunday brunches can take many forms. Debriefing with friends about all the gossip from the night before. Refusing to move from bed, reading the papers and cuddling a reluctant kitten. Planning an elaborate day of plans before abandoning them all in favour of Netflix. Whatever your Sunday style, all these options can benefit from the inclusion of a big bowl of shakshuka. My version is super simple, with the chorizo being the secret ingredient that adds depth and flavour to your sauce without having to simmer it for hours. The feta adds salty tang, the mint gives freshness and of course, no breakfast is complete without the perfect insta-worthy oozing egg yolk. Make this next weekend – you can thank me later.

Shakshuka

Serves 2

  • 1 onion
  • 250g chopped chorizo
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g feta
  • small bunch of mint, finely chopped

Finely chop the onion and fry in a frying pan over a medium heat in a generous glug of olive oil until soft but not coloured. Add the chorizo and continue to cook until it goes crispy. Crush the garlic clove and add to the mixture and fry for a minute to cook out.

Add the tinned tomatoes and season generously with salt and pepper (you could also add a pinch of dried chilli flakes at this point if you like a bit of extra heat). Simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened slightly.

Make two wells in the tomato mixture and crack an egg into each one. Cover with a lid (or baking tray if your frying pan doesn’t have one) and leave for 3-5 minutes until the white is cooked through but the yolk is still soft.

Remove from the heat. Crumble over the feta and sprinkle with the mint. Enjoy!

Tomato couscous ‘risotto’

Since moving out of home and becoming a student, I’ve had to master the art of cooking for one. My biggest problem with this is not necessarily having to eat the same meal for several days straight, but rather knowing what to do with all the bottom halves of packets I end up gathering. A meatball soup that uses half a packet of sausages, a salad that only needs a handful of rocket, the chocolate mousse that only used 1/3 of a tub of cream. I end up with quite the strange collection of recipe remnants in my fridge.

 Tomato couscous risotto

I don’t have a freezer so I can’t double up on everything I make, and eventually I do get bored of having the same meal every day for a week. This essentially means that every time I buy something I need to make sure I have multiple uses for it, to prevent it languishing at the back of my mini fridge until the end of term. This faux ‘risotto’ became the ideal recipe for clearing out my fridge on a Sunday, making room for a new week of ingredients. I initially bought my tomatoes and bag of giant couscous for this salad, the cheese for this pie.

Risotto is also well-known for the therapeutic nature of all that stirring. This one pot quick version cuts down on that and makes this a super quick dinner, with just enough stirring time to calm you down on a Monday morning after a particularly sexist two-hour lecture on beards in the Renaissance period. Yep.

Tomato couscous ‘risotto’

Serves 1

  • 100g giant couscous
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ onion, sliced finely
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 bunch of basil, leaves picked
  • grated cheddar to serve

Tip all ingredients apart from the basil and cheese into a medium sized saucepan. Add 100ml of water, just enough to submerge all the ingredients. Place over a medium heat and bring to a strong simmer. Gradually the onion will soften, the tomatoes will begin to pop and the couscous will release lots of starch into the water to thicken the risotto.

After 5 minutes, stir regularly to prevent the couscous catching on the base of the saucepan. Test after 5 minutes – the couscous should be soft and al dente and the majority of the water should have evaporated, leaving you with a thick and creamy risotto.

Remove from the heat and stir through the basil. Ladle into bowls and top with the cheese.

Courgetti, feta, pine nuts

I know the last thing the internet needs is another courgetti recipe. I resisted making and trying this for a long time, determined to stay away from the clean eating craze and thinking a bowl of sliced courgettes really couldn’t taste that good. But here’s the thing…it really can!

IMG_1030

The trick to fab tasting courgetti is to make it fried in plenty of butter and topped with a generous amount of cheese. That way there’s no denying that this dinner is healthy, quick, requires minimal ingredients and is still delicious! At uni I don’t have a garlic crusher let alone a spiralizer, but even when slicing the courgettes into strips by hand this still comes together under 15 minutes (and in just one pan). Whilst the butter and cheese are great, I think that the key to the recipe is the garlic – it perks everything up, swaps some of that healthy courgette flavour for some garlic bread scented deliciousness and transforms the whole dish. I wasn’t sure I even liked courgettes before this and now I can happily eat bowl after bowl – it’s a winner!

Courgetti, feta, pine nuts

Serves 1

  • 1 courgette
  • butter for frying
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • scattering of pine nuts
  • 50g feta, crumbled

Slice the courgettes lengthways, then cut each length into thin ribbons. Heat a splash of olive oil and large knob of butter in a frying pan.

Add the courgettes and fry over a medium heat. They will take a while to get going but gradually will soften, become more transparent and start to caramelise just a little on the bottom. If you’ve spiralised them this will only take 1-2 minutes, if you’ve cut them by hand it will take 5-8.

When the courgettes are nearly entirely cooked through, add the garlic and cook out for 1-2minutes. Move the courgettes to the side of the pan. In the space, fry the pine nuts until golden. Scatter over the feta and stir everything together. Tip into a bowl to serve and feel smug about your healthy dinner!