Sea bream in ‘crazy water’

I can’t tell you why this dish is called sea bream in ‘crazy water’. Even when I tried to do a little digging via the internet, there were only articles that repeated the question surrounding the name. I can tell you, however, that this is a very good dish, with simple and clean (no crazy) flavours. Just good fresh fish, amped up a bit with garlic, parsley, tomatoes, and chilli. This dish has little to it, but you don’t need a dictionary’s worth of ingredients to make something good.

Serves 2-3, as a light dinner.

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Cinnamon & nutmeg baked oatmeal with plums & toasted hazelnuts

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Porridge divides our family. On the one side, mum adores it. On the other, my dad thinks it’s the foodstuff created by the devil (I’m really not exaggerating). As with plenty of other things, such as coffee versus tea or even rainbow trout, I sit firmly in the middle. I don’t love the stuff, but I don’t hate it either. A little bit of sugar, milk and a sprinkle of raisins is good enough for me, but I only eat porridge a couple of times a year, mostly in the winter.

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That being said, I adore baked oatmeal. Why? Well, if you’ve never had baked oatmeal, you’re missing out, even if you despise it as much as my dad. Baked oatmeal is basically the child of a flapjack and a cake. Take a slice and warm it up in the microwave, add a bit of milk or even a bit of caramel sauce, and it’s probably one of my favourite sweet breakfasts (but not too sweet, cause that’s not my thing (unless we’re talking caramel, of course…)). On top of that, it’s super customisable; don’t like hazelnuts? What about almonds, pecans? And the plums? I love raspberries and blackberries in my baked oatmeal, but apple and pear slices are always a great substitute. Nutmeg and cinnamon could be swapped to cardamom or allspice — or even everybody’s seasonal favourite, pumpkin spice!

The handy thing with baked oatmeal, is that it’s delicious fresh out the oven, but it keeps well in the fridge for a few days. However, my favourite method when I’m making baked oatmeal for myself at university is to slice it up when it’s cold, wrap it in greaseproof paper and place in a container in the freezer. Then all I have to do is take out one slice in its paper, place it on a plate, defrost it in the fridge overnight and microwave it in the morning for a few minutes — tastes good as new (seriously)!

Makes about 6 large servings.
Adapted from here. Read More

Balsamic roasted carrots with carrot top gremolata

This is a very simple side dish for today’s recipe, but isn’t it pretty? And it tastes pretty great, which always helps, I guess! I’m always trying to think of new ways to make vegetables more exciting (aren’t we all?), particularly since in our family, I try to downplay any meat quantities on our plates (fish, on the other hand, is allowed to be let loose in any shape or size). Therefore, I usually attempt to make two side dishes alongside to not only make us less aware of the lessened meat quantity, but to make things a more rounded out meal all the same.

Oh, and unless it’s sweet potatoes, potato-y things like mash do not count. Particularly not with the way we make mash — just because you could make something like mash a lot healthier, doesn’t mean you always would 😛

But in all seriousness, it’s pretty simple. Balsamic and roast veg pretty much always guarantee great things. Add a garlicky gremolata, and we’re just adding a bit more greatness. Who doesn’t want that? Not to mention, we’re being all eco-friendly and all what with using the carrot tops for our gremolata, therefore cutting down on waste. Basically…just give this recipe a gold star already.

You’ll probably get a lot more gremolata than you need/want for your carrots, but treat it a little like pesto and slather it on chicken, toasted bread, fried eggs, and the whole excess gremolata thing isn’t precisely a problem…

Serves 4 as a side.  Read More

Parmesan & garlic stuffed swordfish rolls

I have never been all that crazy about pasta. Sorry, but it’s probably just not gonna happen. It hasn’t happened yet for twenty years, and I’m still not nuts about it. Like it’s good, but I will probably pass on it if I have the chance. Sometimes, this means people stare at me like I’m from outer space and ask “so that means you don’t like Italian food, then?”, which is totally false. But I guess for some people, Italian food begins and ends with pasta and pizza (which is probably why I have so many friends who have been rather whiney about the food when they’ve returned from a holiday in Italy).

And that just shouldn’t be the case. Yes, the Italians win at pizza and pasta (sorry Chicago, but your deep-dish style is just too much bread for my liking, and I love bread), but their cuisine goes beyond that. Which is why, we come to this recipe. I find it just as comforting and slightly-naughty like a bowl of pasta, but betterYeah, sorry, I went there. It’s the perfect way to keep the meatiness of swordfish still succulent, but keeping all the great flavours from the slightly burnt, crusty bits that sear on the pan, and when those crispy bits get soaked up by the white wine sauce? Oh, man. This one’s a goody. I hope you love it just as much as my family do, because it’s become a real favourite treat when set on the dinner table at our house.

Serves 4 with sides.  Read More

Classic pesto

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So, perhaps I’m just behind everyone on this, but I have recently discovered the sheer beauty of making your own pesto. It’s power is not to be underestimated. This stuff was incredible. Maybe I’ve been lagging behind on this (and duh, freshly made was always going to be better than store bought…but this much better? Wow), but I’m now dedicating my time to spread the word. Because, yes. Delicious stuff.

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I followed a tip of only very, very, very lightly toasting the pine nuts for use, to keep them creamy in the pesto rather than adding a nuttiness. Now, I love the sound of a nutty pesto, but I’m glad I stayed true to the tip because this was beautiful. Slightly cheesy, full of flavour and yes, that creaminess, despite the rather granular look of the pesto.

However, I should note; I love the taste of garlic, even the intensity of it raw. If this scares you a little, or you’re just plain not a fan, take it down to half a clove, or even skip it altogether if you must.

This can be made in a food processor, though I recommend a pestle and mortar, if only for a smaller cleaning job!

Should make enough to use for a pasta dish for four, but if you multiply the quantities, it will store well in a sterilised jar with some olive oil poured on the top, if kept in the fridge.

3 handfuls of fresh basil, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
1 handful of pine nuts, very finely toasted (keep more if needed to taste)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
olive oil to taste
4 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese, or more to taste
Salt and pepper

Pound the pine nuts and the basil together in a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic clove, and keep pounding. Add the parmesan, and a lug of oil — stir in just enough to get the mixture to start binding together. Season to taste, and add more cheese, oil or pine nuts according to what you think tastes good., both in flavour and texture. Then, you’re ready to go!

It’s great for pasta, for topping meats and fish, or even just spreading on some toast. And of course, this is a very simple and classical take on pesto — there’s ones using walnuts, kale, and more. Do you have a favourite?

Vegetable okonomiyaki

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It’s not easy to find the time to cook properly in amongst my hours for university. Lunch is pretty easy, since most of my classes are in the evening, but that does make dinner a bit of a pain when I don’t get home until after 8, even 9 on Tuesdays.

Even more annoyingly (for me), it makes trying to make recipes that are recipe-photography-worthy nearly impossible since of course the sun makes its exit around 5 o’clock and then it’s pitch black. I’ve become pretty strict with myself with the whole natural-light-is-a-must, because nothing else quite compares in my opinion, particularly with the artificial lighting I have at my disposal (and budget). That’s why lunch these days has become my recent labour of love, which feels a little strange to me still considering I used to just fry up some dumplings from the freezer last year (oh, the benefits of having a Korean superstore really close to campus!) or even just skipping lunch altogether.

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This, like the shakshuka before it, is a very versatile recipe. Okonomiyaki is what I consider the Japanese version of a Swedish flaskpannkaka of my childhood, whereby a pancake is fleshed out to make a more considerable meal by adding various veg and cooked meats. This version uses carrots, leeks, and kale, fried in a pancake batter and cooked until crisp, before being coated in hoisin sauce and a soy + chilli dressing (though I wish I had had siracha chilli sauce at the time, instead of hoisin–next time). Even just soy sauce would be great.

The end result? A delicious, filling, healthy start to the day (or for lunch, or dinner).
Serves 1 as a very filling meal, or 2 for a lighter breakfast-lunch. Read More

Beetroot-Yoghurt Chicken Kebabs with Mixed Vegetable Bulgur Wheat Salad

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I’ve not been all that well, and life being hectic hasn’t really helped. But oh well, I’ve got two holidays in the sun to look forward to; one with the family, the other with friends, so I’m trying not to complain too much. Once September rolls around, I’ll be living the easy life 😉

Until then, I’ve been pretty lazy, and this was kind of a clearing-out-the-fridge operation of a meal. I gotta say, I don’t think it looks all that bad considering the circumstances.

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We got yoghurt-marinated chicken (spiced with cumin and beetroot powder), bulgur wheat with lots of cracked pepper and a drizzle of yuzu juice (because I couldn’t find the lime juice…), caramelised red and white onions, BBQ-ed cherry tomatoes, and shredded mangetout, with a side of turkish yoghurt, dusted with cayenne pepper.

This was such a hit with the parents, and with the kids too (dinner evening at our house), though I think the girls mainly liked it because they saw the chicken was pink…

I mean I thought it kind of looked like tubby custard at first, though I have to say it did improve after cooking, and the colour deepened….

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Any set of veggies would work well; hence why I mentioned I was clearing out the fridge with this, but the tomatoes do go really well with the yoghurt, so I recommend keeping them at least! Sweet potato/squash that’s been roasted would be pretty good too, or some lightly fried kale..
It would be super easy to change this to a vegetarian dish–just swap the chicken for quorn, or for pressed tofu (for the latter, skip the yoghurt marinade, and season with cumin, coriander seeds…whatever you fancy!)
Serves 3-4 as a light meal, but feel free to double or more as necessary.
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