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.

Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

I am not the biggest salad eater. During term time, nearly anything else will appeal more than a bowl of leaves after a long day of revision. Simple, quick and cheap though salads may be, several hours of reading about 18th century Renaissance cabinets leaves me craving comfort food and a treat instead. Nevertheless, this year the healthy eating kick that sweeps the country every January seems to have finally affected me and I began to think about what simple, healthy but still really delicious meals I could incorporate into my meal rotation.

Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

My other concern with salads is making sure that they are filling enough that I don’t defeat the whole point by following it up with far too many Hobnobs afterwards. This recipe, bulked out with couscous and a sensible amount of cheese, means that this is not a problem. I adapted this recipe from a Waitrose version that used farro and roasted kale instead – my baby steps with healthy eating means I’m not in love with kale just yet. Nowhere in Cambridge seems to sell farro, hence the giant couscous which provides a similar texture and bite. Finally, my initial plan was to roast the onion and tomato for 10-15 minutes – until I walked into my kitchen and discovered the ‘Out of Order’ sign on my oven door. I still think roasting them would be delicious but this method actually makes it even quicker and simpler – my ideal lunch.

Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

Serves 2

  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered – or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes
  • dried oregano
  • 125g giant couscous
  • 100g rocket
  • 100g goats cheese, crumbled

Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until beginning to soften and caramelise, stirring regularly to prevent it catching. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for a further 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes are also caramelising and releasing their juices.

Meanwhile, cook the couscous in boiling salted water for 6-8minutes until al dente.

Drain the couscous and tip into the frying pan. Stir all together so that the couscous gets coated with the tomato juices and olive oil. Stir through the rocket. Pile into bowls and top with crumbled goats cheese and a final drizzle of olive oil.

Tomato Meatball Soup

Just before I moved to Cambridge, two and a half long years ago now, multiple people warned me about ‘those east winds’. Relatives advised that I’d got used to raised London temperatures I was repeatedly asked if I owned a hat and enough warm jumpers.. You’d be forgiven for thinking I was heading to university in the Outer Hebrides as opposed to a mere two hour drive from South London.

tomato meatball soup

However, this is this the first term that has perhaps deserved those warnings. In case you hadn’t noticed, its January and its freezing. While Cambridge may still be lacking in snow, its doing its best with a steady stream of days where the temperature never breaks 3’C. And with weather like that, you need food like this.

tomato meatball soup

This soup has become one of my staple term time dishes. It is exactly what this weather calls for – it is hearty and comforting, yet doesn’t require any of the long slow cooking which is the hallmark of so many delicious winter stews but completely impractical when cooking on a college hob that turns off every 7 minutes for health and safety. It’s also handily versatile to suit however much time you have and whatever ingredients you need to use up – it can be made thicker and used as a pasta sauce, you can hide vegetables in it to fool yourself into getting your 5 a day, you can add chorizo for extra flavour or leave out the cream to make it lighter. Only one rule stays: eat this curled up in your cosiest cardigan, Netflix on, windows tightly closed and heating turned up.

Tomato Meatball Soup

Serves 2 generously

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 4 sausages
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • dried oregano
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 80ml double cream
  • handful of rocket

Heat a generous splash of oil in a medium saucepan. Add the finely chopped onion, and sweat for 5-10minutes on a medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Use a sharp knife to remove each sausage from its skin, and divide each one into 4-5 meatballs. Add to the onions and turn up to a medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes until beginning to colour, stirring occasionally.

Add the chopped tomatoes. Put your stock cube in the empty tin and fill with boiling water, then tip into the saucepan. Add a generous shake of dried oregfano. Simmer for around 10minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly.

Stir in the cream and heat to warm through. Ladle into bowls and top with a handful of rocket. Curl up and enjoy!