March 30, 2015

I work as a freelancer doing various bits and bobs but there is one company I work for on the regs where I'm based in the office.

When I'm doing the office thing I'm a sucker for grabbing some lunch from town (which is on the door step). One of the habits I'm trying to adopt is taking lunch with me, but rather than an individual lunch that needs prepping every morning, something I can make a big batch of.

I'm lucky that the office has a kitchen equipped enough for some light assembling, as I sometimes find having a single portion, pre-made lunch a little un-inspiring. If I can take a big batch of something, plus some interesting additions, like cooked meat or some cheese, and some salad leaves to keep in the fridge, it feels like I'm making a real meal for lunch, which is a massive appetite satisfier.

The word 'batch', in terms of food, smacks a bit of giant vats of simple food, that can be frozen until they're needed then reheated for ultra convenience. I'm a huge fan of batch cooking, check out my Freezer Meals Ideas, but they don't make you instantly think of something fresh. The success of a batch meal is often in it's ability to be stored for as long as it is until you need to zap it.

Tabouleh is a fab,  fresh, batch salad that has some amazing flavour but still a bunch of substance. It's base is bulgur wheat, which is whole grain form of durum wheat that's been cracked, par-boiled and dried. Like cous cous, you soak it to revive it, it takes longer than cous cous to soak but has a much meatier texture and its a great robust base for a salad when you need a bit of bite.

Another greta thing about bulgur is that it absorbs flavour, so rather than becoming a bit sad and soggy over time, it just keeps getting better! It's body also means it's a good match from strong flavours, like the sharp lemon and fragrant parsley in this recipe.

Ingredients: Make about 5-6 lunch or side portions

1 1/2 cups/ 270g dry bulgur wheat
1 white onion
3 ripe tomatoes
large bunch of parsley (as much of a bunch as you can fit in your fist, about 1 cup/25g finely chopped- I used flat leaf but you can use curly
the same amount of fresh mint as parsley
2 lemons
1 1/2 cup really good olive oil
salt and pepper


I don't want to sound like a cop out, but read the packet your bulgar wheat came in as you how to soak it. Depending on whether it's been pre-boiled or steamed, to what extent it's been pre-boiled or steamed, the atmosphere, the type of wheat the bulgar is made from.... you get me, there will be some slight differences in the exact time and quantity of water needed.

However, as a general rule: pour the dry bulgur wheat in to a bowl and cover with 2 cups/500ml of boiling water, then cover with cling film and leave to stand for 2 hours. After it's soaked, stir it up with a fork, it should be tender but with a little bit of a bite, like cooked rice. If there is left over water in the dish or the bulgar seems very wet, plop it in to a sieve over the sink and squeeze it out until all the excess water has gone.

Once you've got your bulgar prepared set it aside and get your flavourings sorted.

I've just got a new chopping gadget so I used that as a massive time saver but if I didn't have a new toy finely chopping by hand would be absolutely fine. Honestly my enthusiasm for my new gadget actually gave me a bit more of a finer texture than I would normally do (I'm all about the rustic aesthetic).

Dice the onion, quarter the tomatoes then remove the seeds and innards before dicing them to the same-ish size of the onion. Finely chop the herbs then fold the vegetables and herbs through the bulgar wheat. Splosh over the olive oil and squeeze in the lemon juice, catching the pips as you squeeze, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mix well and, ideally, leave to stand for an hour or so for the bulgar to absorb the lemon and oil dressing.

This will keep in the fridge for a good four or five days, so it's perfect for the working week. Top it will some feta, sliced turkey, roasted peppers or artichokes to make it in to a really interesting, easy workday lunch.


Dairy Free Vegan Cheese: Savoury Ricotta

March 27, 2015

I've called this savoury ricotta because that's the nearest 'real' cheese this style resembles. It might be fairer to call it a cheese dip or spread, but it has the soft, spreadable consistence of ricotta or creamy cheese, with the slightly grainy texture of ricotta.

This is the basic recipe from which the different styles of cheese I made came from, the method is the same if you use almonds or cashews. I found the cashews to have a smokier flavour which I think suits the mozzarella and cheddar style cheeses, I used the smoother, sweeter almonds for this ricotta, and for the feta styles.

Have a read of my post 'Adventures in Vegan Cheese: Introduction' for some explanation of ingredients and tips if this is your first time making dairy free cheese!


1 1/4 cups / 170g blanched (skins removed) almonds
1 1/4 cups / 310ml almond milk (unsweetened)
6 heaped table spoons of nutritional yeast
1 tsp of finely minced garlic
1 tsp salt
juice of half a lemon


This basic spread is exceptionally easy to make, as long as you have the right ingredients, done the prep and have a great blender.

You need to soak the almonds to make them soft enough to blend to a smooth paste. The best way to do this is over night at room temperature. Pop the nuts into a bowl and cover with fresh filtered water then cover and pop in a cool place. There is nothing in the nuts that would cause the to spoil, or go 'off' in a room temperature environment overnight, it will actually allow them to soften more than if they were kept in the fridge.

Once soaked and soft, drain the nuts well and press dry paper towel to get rid of excessive water. Tumble them into the food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Blend.

Yep, that's it.

This basic spread/ricotta style cheese really requires no extra prep than this. The efficiency of yoru blender will dictate the time it takes to blend to a smooth paste, it took me about 5 solid minutes of blending, stopping every 30 seconds or so to scrape down the sides of the bowl and ensure everything was well mixed.

Once smooth this will keep in the fridge for as long as your almond milk would have done- approximately 7 days from opening the almond milk.

It can also be frozen to keep longer- just leave in the fridge over night to defrost.

I love it spread on grainy, wholemeal toast and topped with fresh pesto as a great lunch bite or after noon snack!

You can also make a sweet version of this ricotta style cheese- the recipe for which will be up on the blog in the coming weeks so check back soon!


Thrifted Kitchen: I ♥ vintage kitchen, bake and tableware

March 25, 2015

I'm no snob when it comes to kitchenware.

I lust with the best of them after the Crate and Barrel or John Lewis catalogues, but my ingrained sense of bargain hunting won't let me part with 80 quid for a plate.

Most of my kitchen, cook, table and bakeware is from a collection of high street stores like Walmart, Target, Wilkinson or Matalan; online outlets like Amazon or ebay; or, my favourite, from thrift and charity shops where ever i'm living.

Right now I have a huge culinary crush on Savers and the Salvation Army.

The thing that's hard about thrifting is imagining pieces outside of their current environment. Fishing a ramshackled collection of tea cups out of a dusty, musty box filled with crap does not the image of sipping tea in the garden on a sunny day make.

But washed and set on a tea tray with a jam jar of flowers, a mis-matched milk jug and some rough worn cotton napkins and you have yourself a Preserve worthy photo opportunity Blake Lively would approve of.

These are some of the things I love about thrifting:


We living in disposable times. The idea of mending something that's been chipped or cracked rather than chucking it out and just buying a brand new one is not of our time, but it is of many of the pervious owners of the items you'll find in charity and thrift stores.

Many items find their way into charity stores from house clearances and donations from families clearing out older family member's possessions. This might in the first instance seem incredibly sad, but it think its incredibly respectful. Much like many food activists are passionate about respecting and animal by using every part of it (like Hugh Fernly-Wittingstall), what better way to honor the care and attention so many older pieces have been given by their previous owners than by putting them to use again, rather than in the bin.

This change in attitude to the expected lifespan of an item, not just until it's colour is no longer desirable, means that the quality of the materials and manufacturing is often superior.  The shelves of thrift store say it all. You'll see a vintage cast iron pan or piece of crockery from the fifties or sixties, sat next to some piece of yellowing plastic from the nineties- Which would you rather in your kitchen?


I've said it before and I'll say it again- I love a bargain. I'm not mean with money, but I'm loath to part with it if I can spend less somehow (this is NOT a sly admissions to shop lifting).

Shopping in charity and thrift stores make my purse incredibly happy in the immediate, and when you consider what i've said above about quality, more often than not it represents excellent value.

Charity shops are not about making profit for some city boy task master like commercial stores are. Of course they want to make a profit as this profit is, in the case of the charity run stores that I frequent, goes towards good causes. As so much is donated and many stores are staffed by volunteers, they don't have huge overheads to pass on to customers to make the profit they need.

That being said, I'm not so mercenary about prices that I would EVER haggle at a charity shop. At a garage sale, craigslist or cat boot sale: yes, charity shop: NO.

You're own moral compass can guide you on how you feel about haggling for your second hand wares, I would say it hugely depends on where you are purchasing from and whether you facing a good smiting by karma.


These places are stocking depending on fashion or trends, they are stocking depending on what's coming through their donation channels. Seasonality may affect the stock a little, people are more likely to be throwing out the ice cream maker in winter and slow cooker in summer, but there are no hard and fast rules.

Very rarely do I head to the thrift store needing something specific and walking away with it. I tend to have a list in the back of my head of things that i'd like, adding to it whenever I find myself wanting or needing something. When ever I'm in the store I'll keep and eye out for those particular things and tick them off as an when I find them.
The other approach is to just go along with not expectations and see what's there that you like. I'll pop in once a week for a little browse to see what gems might have come in.

Right now I fancy an enamel coffee pot, an ice cream maker and some different sized cast iron or heavy crock pots.

A couple of weeks ago I found (or rather my mum found) a gorgeous Swiss Pro orange stoneware mixing bowl with a pouring spout and handle. I didn't need it but for $5.99 I was having it!

You never know what's going to be there or not be there, it's not a one stop shop sort of thing, don't get too disappointed if you feel like you never find anything!

Uniqueness (I didn't think this was an actual word but google say it is, I searched for a synonym thinking i'd find the actual word I was looking for but nada.. just incase you read uniqueness and were like 'when did she go to school?')

In a world where anti-fashion is now the actual fashion, and you walk into Anthropologie and wonder if you took a wrong turn into an old folks home for aging hippies, unique quirkiness is now being mass produced.

Mismatched furniture, crockery, pictures frames are all the rage and can be purchased in a 'set' all ready for you to inject some personality into your home and trick the world into pretending you scoured the globe for these individual treasures.

I'm not saying you should earn your eclectic collection of bits and bobs, but I'm too lazy to feign being anything other than a girl what likes nice stuff, on the cheap.

It's funny to me that it's a big deal to try so hard to look like you didn't try at all. If that's your bag then why not try a little less hard, spend a little less and have it go to an actual aging hippy (possibly) instead of some huge corporation masquerading as some artisan sourcing intermediary, and end up with a bunch of stuff you chose because you actually really, really like it.

I'm not preaching that everyone should shun big box stores and large chains, they do what they do and they do it well. When I need something specific immediately or need something functional and simple and don't want to spend the earth on basics I'll head out to Walmart or Target.

But if you want something a bit different, with a bit of character and some history, go for a thrift.


1: Embossed glass 'Atlas' jars with wire closure- $2.99 each, Savers
2: Swiss Pro orange stoneware bowl with spout + handle- $5.99, Savers
3: Metal enameled baking dish with flowers- $3.99, Savers
4: China milk jug with yellow + brown stripe- Salvation Army, $2.99
5: Metal double handled yellow pan- $3.99, Savers


Adventures in Vegan Cheese: Introduction

March 23, 2015

As I said to Charlie when he nervously asked: "So what's this for then, I mean, can we still have real cheese?", I just want to try something new.

Not all the time, but maybe some of the time. I'm typing this with a slice of actual cheese topped mass-produced-delivered-to-my-door-within-30-minutes-pizza in my hand, so clearly 'some of that time' is not right now.

I've seen a lot of posts and articles about vegan cheese, usually being scoffed by people who's dedication and precision when it comes to dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, grain free, vegan diets made me believe that dairy free cheese was not for people who end up having to wear swimwear as underwear because they didn't get round to doing laundry.

I'd put aside some time at the weekend to do some mongering of the cheesy kind, gathered my ingredients from the health foods aisle in Whole Foods (where I was apparently pronouncing 'A'-gaaaaar wrong, and unnecessarily saying it twice if the woman who helped me find it is to be believed), invested in a fancy new food processor (being thrifty, the term 'fancy' is monetarily relative..more on that later) and expected to spend my weekend covered in nut smush.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the process and outcome so I'll be writing a mini series of posts about the different types of cheese I made and how they are best used.

First things first- get your shit together.


Dairy free cheese is made of nuts, and a few flavouring and setting agents that may seem a bit chemical-y but are actually completely natural.

Nuts can be expensive so do a bit of digging in local health food store and supermarkets to figure out which offer the best value. You will need to look for raw, unsalted cashews and/or almonds. They will need to be raw to create the creamy texture and (in the case of almonds) peeled, to save your sanity.

I made 4 different types of cheese, a generous portion of each, with the sum total of 12oz/340g of almonds and 16oz/450g of cashews- so if you're giving this a go as a first timer and only want to try one style at a time you'll need about 6-8oz/170-230g of nuts.

You'll also need nut milk, which is readily available most everywhere now, choose the unsweetened kind (unless you're making a vegan cream cheese for use in desserts).

Nutritional Yeast:

You will also need nutritional yeast, it's deactivated yeast so you won't be expanding in warm climates after chowing down on your cheese. It's what gives the cheese its cheese flavour. Now let's get one thing straight from the get go, this cheese IS NOT going to be a case of 'I can't believe it's not Cheddar'. It's going to be a tribute or reinterpretation if you will. The yeast does taste cheesy, but more like artificial nacho cheese. Mixed with other flavorings it does create a tangy, salty, savoury flavour, but this isn't going to end up rivaling artisan Stiltons.

You can get the yeast in health food stores or places like Whole Foods (Ocado and, weirdly, Asda seemed to stock it in the UK when I googled it). It looks like yellow fish food flakes and smells like cheese Doritos. I will admit to not having many expectations of it when I tried a pinch on it's own, but it's actually really tasty. Many vegans use it as a seasoning as, in addition to being surprisingly delicious, it has a decent amount of B vitamins and is often fortified with B12.

Each style of cheese varied in its required amount of yeast, ranging from 1-4 heaped tablespoons, so get hold of a small packet to start with. If kept in an air tight, cool, dry place it'll keep for about a year.

Agar (Agar?.. Whole Foods woman has made me question everything I know)

Made from seaweed, these translucent flakes are a natural thickening agent that works similarly to gelatin but are entirely plant based. I used it in different quantities in the mozzarella and cheddar style versions of the nut cheese to give them that bouncy texture you associate with the dairy variety.

Again, you can get this from health food shops, Whole Foods or in the UK it looks like you can get it in Tescos that have a decent Asian food section.


I'm terrible for scrimping on something and buying the cheapest option, realizing it's shit then having to spend more money on something else thus negating the original saving. You'd have thought I'd have learnt by now, but no.

It's not the done thing to give so much credit to your tools (a bad craftsman..etc) but there really is no point in attempting these recipes if you don't have a decent blender. Not a mixer, a blender.

There's a wealth of smoothie makers out there but you need one that's built for serious smoothie-ers, that talks about blending strawberry pips in the blurb... strawberry pips.

That being said I did not have the funds or inclination to spend a billion dollars on the blender that rhymes with Pitta Flicks, so went for (what turned out to be a fucking bargain) the Ninja. I'm not Amazon affiliated so I don't make money by sending you to Amazon to buy it (more fool me), but for anyone that's interested, here's the link: My awesome Ninja

It doesn't quite blend up strawberry seeds but it's pretty darn close. I was going to attempt this with my trusty stick blender but decided to invest in a proper one and I am so glad I did.

These are the key things you'll need to start your vegan cheese odessy, they'll obviously be augmented with other flavourings but this is your base from which to start.

There's nothing that difficult or intricate about the recipe, and the most time consuming parts of the process are blending and, if you;re making a cheese with Agar, setting.

I set aside a couple of hours on a Saturday because I wanted to play with some recipes and experiment, but with a recipe and all you ingredients to hand you won't be spending more than half and hour actually doing anything.

Check back for the first recipe: Dairy Free Almond Feta


Guilt Free Mac and Cheese

March 20, 2015

I'm not completely shunning delicious full fat cheese, thick heavy creamy and lovely salty butter. I promise.

It might seem like my blog is taking a turn down the highly virtuous and 'where the fuck are all the proper cakes' road, but I promise I'm still all about that baste.. in butter.

I'm trying to get a bit healthy all over, and being that I love food, for me that means figuring out how I can carry on eating loads of delicious things instead of surviving on a rice cake every four days.

As such you will still find recipes like Double Buttermilk Scones and Triple Layer Chocolate Sponge with Chocolate Ganache Buttercream Icing, but you'll also find Healthy Vegetarian Roasted Carrot, Coriander + Cous Cous Salad and Mushroom Biriyani with Cauliflower Rice. The more choices you have, chances are you'll make better decisions about moderation!


Whilst i'm not above eating an entire family size cheese pizza on my own, doing the numbers on the calories content of the traditional American style Mac and Cheese I make... I was a little alarmed. Now, you know that when something consists solely of heavy cream, cheese and white pasta it's not going to be up there in the skinny stakes, but seeing that each portion racked up nearly 800 calories made me baulk a little. Especially as I lied to the maths and divided it by eight portions when it really serves six.

One of the beautiful things about Mac and Cheese is that it's the perfect busy persons dish, make a huge batch to stick it in the fridge and augmented with some protein or as a side to something, it'll do dinners for a week.

Swapping out the heavy cream for almond milk and fat free cream cheese brings this down to less than half the calories of the traditional version- plus this healthier version has prosciutto in it as well so it's packed with flavour and stands alone with a salad as a great week day meal. Using a stronger cheese means you don't need to use as much, and packing the sauce with natural flavours from garlic, onion and chives cuts back on cals whilst delivering on taste.


375 g wholemeal pasta- I used the traditional 'elbow' macaroni shapes but any will do
4 oz prosciutto or lean dry cured ham
4 cups almond milk (unsweetened)
8oz fat free cream cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

Finely chop the onion and garlic, and sauté in a little sunflower/canola oil until soft and translucent.

Dice the prosciutto and add it to the pan to colour a little and infuse it's meatiness into the onion and garlic. I like to dice the prosciutto quite finely so that the flavour permeates through the whole dish but if you'd prefer to bite into chunkier bits of ham then keep it a bit bigger.

Pour in the almond milk and dollop in the cream cheese, turn the heat down a little under the pan so the milk warms evenly and the cream cheese melts. If the pan heat is too high you may end up burning the onions at the edges before the cream cheese has completely melted.

Once melted together, sprinkle in the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine then turn the heat to medium so that the sauce gently simmers. You want the sauce to thicken a little so leave it simmering whilst you cook the pasta.

Add the wholemeal pasta to salted boiling water and cook as per the packet instructions. I say this because wholemeal pasta cooking times can vary depending on the brand, once you move into the whole meal world it's less of a known quantity than white pasta! Normally it'll take about 15 minutes on a high simmer to be tender.

Drain the pasta, drain it REALLY well, those little elbow pasta shapes hide water really well so give the colander a good shake about a few times and leave them to drain for a good few minutes. This sauce is not as thick as the traditional one so you really don't want to be adding any extra water.

Stir the chopped chives into the sauce and season with pepper to taste. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon so that you can see the spoon material through it. If you are really struggling to thicken it up add a little sprinkle of cornflour.

Pour the pasta into the sauce, or the sauce and pasta back into the empty pasta pan, which ever is easier, and mix well. I always mix the pasta and sauce in a large pan before pouring into a baking dish, so that the pasta is really evenly coated in cheesy sauce.

Pour everything into a baking dish and give it a little jiggle so that the pasta spreads out some what evenly. Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes until the top is getting a bit golden brown and crunchy.

Let's call an imitation mac and cheese an imitation mac and cheese. This is not going to be a, "oh my god, I can't believe it's not mac!" moment. What it is going to do if give you an option to choose if you want to have something a little bit lighter than the traditional recipe.

It's lovely and creamy whilst staying light, it has that comforting cheesy flavour without being really heavy and it has the added bonus of meat, which Charlie was very happy about.


Fat + Refined Sugar Free Lemon and Honey Frosting... that still tastes like frosting.

March 18, 2015

Full disclosure: I really wanted to show off this awesome skinny frosting atop an equally virtuous cupcake. I've been playing with a fat and refined sugar free recipe but it's just not quite right at the moment and i'm not about substandard cake.

For now this fat and refined sugar free frosting is slathering some lemon and poppy seed cupcakes and making this tea time treat just a little bit better for me!

You can use this recipe as a great all purpose cupcake base, you can add in your own flavours or keep it classic. 

By my calculations, compared to a standard cream cheese or vanilla frosting, this recipe has about a quarter of the calories and about a fifth of the fat.


8oz / 1 cup fat free cream cheese
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon to garnish
1 tablespoon of poppy seeds to garnish (optional)


Whisk together the cream cheese with the lemon juice to loosen it up a little before adding the honey, this'll make sure that the honey is mixed in evenly throughout the frosting.

Spread over your cake then garnish with freshly grated lemon zest- I used a microplane grater as it creates lovely tiny, thin slivers of zest so you don't feel like you're chewing on bits of rubber bands!

As my cupcakes have poppy seeds in them I also sprinkled over a teaspoon of these to give a little crunch and some great colour. If you have something else in your cake then use them as a garnish, when taking traditional fats and sugar out of thing I find it's always a winner to add in as much natural flavour as possible. 

When switching to more natural sugars it might take a while for your taste buds to adjust to appreciate the more subtle sweetness and flavours, especially compared to the in-your-face refined, chemical ones they're used to!

If you've got blue berries in you cake smush them up into a bright purple drizzle; sprinkle over some finely chopped mint; dab the wet frosting into shaved, unsweetened coconut or chopped nuts, there are loads of options for adding flavour without adding more sugar!


Tip: Lazy garlic

March 16, 2015

I LOVE garlic. The more garlic the better as far as I'm concerned. It's packs a huge punch flavour wise and is one of the most important tools in the arsenal of anyone trying to cut some of the more indulgent things out of their everyday diet.

Blandness is the enemy of healthy eating, if it doesn't taste good, it won't matter that it's jam packed full of good stuff- it will not be enticing. Whack in some garlic, aromatic herbs or a bit of spice, and something a bit uninspiring and less than appetising becomes so much easier (sod it, desirable!) to add to your menu.

Faff is also a pretty big hurdle when it comes to healthier choices, and garlic is up there with faff. The fiddly paper skin that end up jabbing under your nails, hands forever smell like vampire repellent and chunks of garlic pinging every which way across the kitchen when you try and mince it to a really fine mush.

Every week or so I spend a bit of extra time peeling a bunch of garlic bulbs, i'll do two or three in one go. Tumble the peeled cloves into a sealable jar and cover with some decent olive oil, then smush them to a fine paste with a hand blender.

Sorted. I now have my garlic for sautéing vegetables, starting off soups and sauces, rubbing over meats or fish, or whatever I fancy, ready to go for the next few weeks.

Your lazy garlic will last in the fridge for at least long as the peeled cloves would, beyond as long as the oil completely covers the garlic.

Half a teaspoon is about equivalent to a clove and will be a little stronger in flavour as it's so finely minced.


DIY instant Chinese noodle soup

March 13, 2015

Trying to save a bit of money by looking at what you're eating can sometimes go awry. Simply buying cheaper stuff is a quick fix, but often the cheaper stuff is lacking in quality, flavour and any descent nutrition.

Rather than thinking about the cost of your grocery bill, think about what that grocery bill buys you.

If your $60 grocery bill buys you six frozen pizzas you've got about a week's worth of pretty shitty dinners, you'll be forking our for lunches on the go and probably snacking on whatever is in arms length if you've skipped out on breakfast.

But if your $100 grocery bill buys you a a couple of weeks worth of healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners plus some store cupboard items that will be part of meals for the coming month or months such as soy sauce, stock cubes, rice etc, then it represents pretty good value.

Your total spend in the first place might seem like a bit of a smack in the wallet but given what you're getting for your cash it by far and above the 'cheaper' way to eat.

The other enemy of money saving when it comes to food is the convenience factor, it might seem like a chore to make up your lunch in the morning when it's all you can do to shovel coffee into a filter, or the night before when quite honestly making tomorrow's lunch would get in the way of your wine drinking, but it really doesn't have to be if what you're making is quick and keeps for more than one night.

This is the posh pot noodle for you British readers.

Ingredients per serving: 

handful of rice noodles- get the flat thin ones
half a low sodium chicken/vegetable stock/bouillon cube
1 garlic clove
1/2 inch cubed pice of ginger- like, half a ping pong ball
1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
a splash of sesame oil
chili sauce to your taste preference
1 chopped scallion/spring onion


First off, this might seem like a lot of salt/sodium in one portion. This is why you really should use the low sodium varieties of soy sauce and stock cubes, they aren't any more expensive and are better for you. Half a low sodium stock cube and 1 teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce gives you less than 1 gram of salt, it's recommended that you stick to less than 6 grams a day so this isn't going to put you in any danger of breaching that.

To make up your instant noodle bowl, snap your noodles in half so that they will fit into your container, grate over the garlic and ginger, finely slice the scallion and add it, then pop in the rest of the ingredients.

I like a little kick of heat but if you are into your super spicy soups then splash in more hot sauce.

When you are ready to eat, pour over about a cup of hot water, recover, then bung in the microwave for 4 minutes.

When it pings, give the noodles a stir and check how tender they are. 4 minute has always given me perfect al dente noodles, hot broth and a really aromatic flavour.

Other ingredients you could add to your instant noodle bowl would be:

-thinly sliced mushrooms
-bean sprouts
-very thinly shredded Chinese cabbage
-grated carrot

If your noodle bowl can sit in the fridge until you need it, it's also really good with some shredded cooked chicken.

If you're feeling like you might be able to stretch to a something a little more involved than setting the microwave to 4 minutes and waiting for the ping, boil a kettle and add boiling water to your instant noodles. Pop in the microwave for 2 minutes on high, whilst the microwave is doing it's thing crack and egg into a mug and give it a whisk with a spoon. When the the 2 minutes cooking time is up, drizzle the egg into the noodle bowl but don't stir it up, recover and microwave for another 2 minutes. When it's done you'll have a quick and simple egg drop 'soft of' soup!

If you try it and love it let me know!


We bought a house!

March 11, 2015

'Littlest house on the East Side, I claim you in the name of England!'

We have our own piece of America guys, 4000 square feet down, 263,450,879,996,000 to go. I got your back Tom.

We could have bought something spick and span and totally move in ready. I could have listed 'cook's kitchen' on my wish list, we could now be sitting in a house with walls.

But that would be far too easy. Added to the fact that we've had a bit of a rocky start to the year, discovering that on top of the planned (and budgeted for) new kitchen cabinets, countertops and a few responsible homeowner upgrades (gutters as a focus of lust... who knew?), we didn't actually have any support beams above our kitchen. We did have a 300lb cast iron bathtub sitting on top of it though.

A chance and minor leak coming from the bathroom dripping into the kitchen, had us remove a small section of the ceiling to access the pipe and discover we were moments (and Charlie's insane ration of good luck) away from dying a watery-splintery-bath-falling-through-the-ceiling-then-straight-through-the-kitchen-floor-because-oh-yeah-that's-not-got-any-structural-support-either death. (We actually knew about the basement but it sounds so much more dramatic this way).

Anyway, once we knew about the problem we couldn't really avoid or ignore it lest we fancy dicing with death every time we ablute. I did joke that if we jumped up and down in the bath whilst wearing full on protective gear, causing the bath to full on fall through the entire house and destroy everything in its wake it would definitely cost more than our house insurance deductible. I said I JOKED. Mostly.

That not-entirely-serious-but-if-Charlie-had-been-keen-then-likely plan was thought not to be the best course of action so in with the professionals.

Three weeks, a lo-HOT-t of dust and (what turned out to be) half a ton of ceiling later, we are structurally safe and have new plumbing to boot. As expected with old houses, and any sort of renovation in general, a couple of other nasties were found upon ripping out the rest of the ceiling, but it's done now and all I can say is thank goodness and what the fuck was the last guy thinking?!

We are now on a cooling off period, the important stuff is done, but it's too cold to be replacing windows (oh yeah, we're doing that too). So we've got a nice little reprieve before more bashing and crashing. 

Come sunnier, warmer months we'll be tackling the rest of the job (and by we I mean our awesome builder will do all the important stuff that might kill me if I get it wrong, then I'll fanny about with a paint brush and a glue gun making things pretty).

For now we have what is approximate to one step up from a field kitchen (we have a working stove and a plumbed sink) but one step down from something you'd find in a normal family home (WE HAVE NO WALLS).

It's just enough to do some cooking, and being that we have neither starved nor is Charlie on a first name basis with the pizza guy, it must be alright.

(There will be some cooking posts soon I promise!)


New Year, new kitchen... and a bit of a rocky start.

March 09, 2015

You don't normally wait until some time in the early weeks of March to write a New Year post.

The exceptionally organised and ever so slightly anally retentive side of me had all sorts of plans to write great posts. Posts about recipes to suit those who had over indulged over the holidays (both in calorific and financial terms); comfort food to chase away those winter time blues; kitchen spring cleaning tips to tackle whilst you're snowed in, and many more ramblings that could be filed under 'awesome content', tweeted with the best of them and snapped a billion times with just the right filter for Instagram. But I didn't do any of them.

I had a miscarriage.

I ummed an ahhed about admitting it in print (or pixels, whatever). I think reproductive issues and anything that goes on in a girl's knickers (apart from sex because obviously that's fine to splash about all over the shop) is one of the last taboos, which is weird because we ALL CAME FROM INSIDE SOME WOMAN'S PANTS.

I wouldn't hesitate to be open about a bad day at work; bemoan a heavy cold on the interwebs; or shake my fist and direct a colourful diatribe upwards should my car splutter into oblivion, but telling people that I was closing myself off from the world for a couple of weeks to dash back and forward from hospital; spend an inordinate amount of time wracked with excruciating pain and worry before finally ending up in an operating theater.... no that i'll just keep to myself.

Not being our first reproductive hiccup it was tinged with memories of a pretty gross start to last year so felt all the more raw this time around.

So here it is.

I'm truly sorry if you just come here for the food and don't want to know what's been going on in my pants, but this blog is called Holly Likes to Cook and for some time I have not liked to cook. I have not liked to go outside and I have not liked to talk to anyone. I have not liked to make people feel uncomfortable because I can't remember what day it is and I have not liked the looks I got when I burst into tears in Stop and Shop trying to buy some fucking water chestnuts. I have not liked feeling so very, very sad at a loss of something we wanted so very much, and I have not liked the tinge of dread that a second hiccup might not just be a hiccup, it might actually be a problem.

However, I do like my friends and my family who have gone to extraordinary lengths to bring me back from that sad place; I like my husband who has told me a million times over that I am enough just as am; I like Abraham Lincoln (who I believe decides to randomly yowl at 4am to remind me that a baby would mean less sleep, and I like sleep); I like our house, our cottage in the city that currently has no walls and no ceiling (more of that later);

and I like that I finally feel like cooking.