*IF* you can get your hands on an elusive pack of flour…
I’m pretty sure I was bundled in a fur coat the last time I actually spotted a packet of flour (ANY kind of flour – not just plain or self raising) on the supermarket shelves. Between the panic buying back in early March and then the clear supply issues that sunk in under lockdown, the stuff’s become incredibly elusive. I rinsed through my stores of self-raising pretty quickly – because during the early days of lockdown baking was one of my favourite ways to pass the time – but now that I’m onto my last packet of plain flour I’m having to go easy on the stuff and refrain from frustrated fits of boredom baking. Normally I’d love to get stuck in and mess around making up new and creative cakes and bakes – not feeling too bothered if the result was a flop – but since I’m now having to ration out my flour it’s now only being used on tried and true recipes that won’t waste a single ounce of what is now considered white gold dust.
And well, you just can’t go wrong with a batch of muffins, can ya?
I refuse to accept that the nation’s sick of banana bakes – we’re definitely way off that eventuality in my house. These Banana and Honey Roasted Walnut Muffins are moist, keep well on the counter (if they survive even a day out of the oven – because they smell incredible…) and are almost impossible to mess up. The batter’s light and airy – even packed with three spotty bananas – and spiced with cinnamon, while the top has a little extra crunch thanks to some oven roasted walnuts sticky with honey. Perfect for scoffing yourself, or for sharing out with your neighbours and far-flung family to perk them up during lockdown – which is exactly what I’m going to do when I deliver the weekly shop over to my Mum and Dad tomorrow. 🙂
Banana and Honey Roasted Walnut Muffins
For the Honey Roasted Walnuts:
1 tbsp butter (melted)
1 tbsp runny honey
For the Muffins:
100g caster sugar
150g butter (room temperature)
2 tsp cinnamon
3 bananas (roughly mashed)
pinch of salt
50g ground almonds
3 tsp baking powder
Set your oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with greaseproof paper and a muffin tray with muffin cases.
Scatter your walnuts over the baking tray, then cover them with the honey and melted butter. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then leave to cool.
In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and caster sugar – then beat in the eggs until the mixture is nice and fluffy.Stir in the mashed bananas (I like to leave them a little lumpy – makes for a better textured muffin). Sift together your dry ingredients (flour, salt, cinnamon baking powder and ground almonds) in a separate bowl.
Next, add the dry ingredients little by little – alternating with the milk. Try not to over-mix; leave things a little lumpy.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, then sprinkle each one with a generous helping of honey-roated walnuts. Bake for 25 minutes until golden.
I’ve been pining hard for Florida the past couple of weeks. I don’t know whether it was the sudden blast of warm weather, or the whole Lockdown “who the hell knows when you’ll be able to leave your own home let alone the country” situation… but I’ve been aching for warm waves, sunset pizzas on the beach, thunder storms, outlet malls (remember shopping?)… even the mosquitos (I’d happily offer up my legs in an all you can eat offer in exchange for just ONE day in The Keys). But most of all I’ve been pining for the food. When I was out there last August, I ate really well – from fast food to fresh fish (the best in the world – especially down south), as well as some of the best Cali-Mex Fish Tacos I’ve ever tasted – loaded with cheese, aoli, fresh avocado, slaw and fruity salsa. Hot weather, poolside food at its finest – and the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos that I chowed down on in the Florida Keys? Oh baby. I dream about them.
If you break those down to their basic ingredients then on the face of it they’re actually not that hard to replicate; tortillas – got ’em, cheese – arguably better here, avocados – always one in my fruit bowl, and salsa – well that’s easy. The trouble is that it’s near impossible to get your hands on Mahi Mahi (the meaty but soft fish otherwise known as Dorado) here in the UK – and even if you did, it’d never be of the “catch of the day” quality you’d get in a tropical climate because it’ll have been frozen in transit (and honestly, fresh cod just does not cut it as a substitute – I’ve tried).
Last week, the Fish Taco cravings got a little bit out of control and I started hunting around for something else to substitute in for the Blackened Mahi Mahi (Blackened is the term for the special blend of spices that season the fish before it’s cooked). I landed on Halloumi (I’ve always got a frozen stash for dinner times when I can’t decide what to cook and end up whipping up a quick Halloumi Hash) – and d’you know what? It wasn’t a bad sub at all – in fact, it was pretty damn good. It was soft and chewy – just like Mahi Mahi – and took on the flavour of the “Blackened” seasoning really well, crisping up around the edges in the pan. Along with a sweet and crunchy Mango and Red Pepper Salsa – as well as all the other added extras you’d expect in fresh Tacos – they were quite possibly the best Veggie Tacos I’ve ever tasted – and definitely the best I’ve ever made. Full of fresh ingredients and pretty easy to make, they’re perfect cold or hot – and are even better with a side of crispy Tequila Fries.
Fries(if you want to get fancy, brush them with lime juice and tequila before cooking 😉)
First, make the marinade by mixing together the smoked paprika, onion granules, garlic powder, chipotle chilli paste, oregano and olive oil in a bowl. While the Halloumi is still in its packet, pop it into a bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle – allowing it to sit for twenty minutes. This will soften the Halloumi and improve the texture. Once ready, slice the Halloumi lengthways to make long “flakes” (like fish), then stir them into the marinade. Leave to rest for ten minutes.
Next, prepare the Mango Salsa. Dice the red pepper and the mango into small chunks, and then combine in a bowl with some fresh coriander and the juice of half a lime.
Prep your Taco Filling Station: warm your Tortilla Wraps, grate your cheddar, chop your avocado, and have your mango salsa, sour cream and pickled red cabbage close to hand.
Pour the marinaded Halloumi into a shallow frying pan (along with any dregs), then fry on a medium heat for around 10 minutes. The Halloumi should go a little crispy around the edges, but maintain its soft and chewy texture.
Next, assemble your Tacos! Generously fill each one with slices of Blackened Halloumi, mango salsa, avocado, sour cream, cheese and pickled cabbage.
How to survive on one supermarket trip per week, spend less and waste less
If you’re going to pick one thing out of the Coronavirus Pandemic that’s affecting all of us in some way, it’s got to be food. The way we shop for, cook and eat food has completely changed in the past month; we’re not eating out anymore since all our favourite restaurants and cafes have either closed or shifted to delivery only, we’re all heading to the supermarket far less (or maybe even not at all), and we’re cooking from scratch more than ever before. We’re also wasting a lot more food. After all the panic buying a couple of weeks ago – as people rushed to stock their fridges and kitchen cupboards ahead of lockdown – local councils and collection crews have seen up to a 30% increase in food waste (everything, from unopened packs of chicken to bread and speckled bananas). That’s bonkers! Especially considering a lot of us are still struggling to get basic items like eggs, flour and pasta in our local supermarkets.
While most of us are familiar with the process of a weekly shop – we’re probably not used to not being able to “pop back” to the supermarket for a couple of extras or fresh items that we’ve forgotten… or a pack of jam doughnuts on a whim (*sigh* the struggle is real). Lockdown food shopping and cooking for many of us (including all the extra food needed for working from home lunches) is a tricky thing to get your head around – and if you’ve never tried it before, then I really can’t recommend Meal Planning enough.
I started Meal Planning myself a couple of years ago when I suddenly realised how much money I was spending on food every week, and how much of that food I was throwing out. I was Queen of the Soggy Cucumbers and half-eaten Sour Cream; I’d head to the supermarket three times a week without a plan and then I’d usually come home with stuff that I already had in the fridge anyway. Enough was enough; I was sick of coming up with meals last minute, I was sick of living in the supermarket and I was sick of throwing out food (quite literally once or twice – rotten potatoes are seriously janky, yo). So I started meal planning and it’s honestly been a game changer – I’m spending far less time and money in the supermarket (I go once a week and spend roughly the same amount every time), and I’m wasting far less food because every item is planned out. It’s a system that works for me every week of the year, but it’s suited even better to Lockdown conditions when you’re only supposed to head to the supermarket once a week. If you’ve planned exactly what you’re going to eat every day of the week ahead, it means a quick and seamless supermarket trip, fuss free meal times and zero food waste.
If you want to give it a go yourself then I wrote a whole post about How to Start Meal Planning, but for Six Lockdown Meal Planning Tips to get you started, just hit scroll. 🙂
Write a Supermarket-Friendly List
Right now I’m shopping for two households, which has the potential to make for very long, very painful supermarket sessions. To make the process as quick and as painless as possible I have to pretty much attack it like a full on military operation – and writing a Supermarket Friendly Shopping List is top of the game plan. I want to be able to breeze through the supermarket, hitting all the aisles individually – and only once.
Target Use by Date: When I sit down to write my weekly shopping list, the very first thing I write right at the top – before I even get to adding milk or eggs – is what the date is going to be in seven days time. I want to be able to hunt out the best possible use by date on the products I add to my trolley to make sure nothing goes off during the week ahead – meaning no desperate follow-up dashes to the supermarket, and no wasted food.
Location List: Have you ever shopped at an unfamiliar supermarket and had a meltdown in one of the aisles because, “Argh! Everything’s in a different place!!!”? Yeah, same. You probably know your usual supermarket like the back of your hand – you’ll know exactly where to find everything, from cheese to ground cinnamon – as well as how you usually move from aisle to aisle. So write a list with that in mind! I write mine in the order I shop – that way I don’t have to ping pong back and forth from aisle to aisle.
Double-up to Leave Plenty of Leftovers for Lunches
The current lock-down situation is made for those who cook from scratch. If that’s you, then you’ve probably got an arsenal of home cooked recipes up your sleeve and are well-rehearsed in double-ing up meals to serve you for leftovers and lunches throughout the week. Slipping in some easy, from scratch meals into your weekly meal plan is the way to go, now more than ever. For a start, it’s cheaper, and often healthier – but also, now that we’re all working from home we’re hitting up the home fridge at lunch time as well as dinner time, so having some leftovers going spare goes a long way. Chilli, Pasta and Curry all make for brilliant leftovers – especially vegetarian versions – and some favourite “double-up” recipes in my personal arsenal include:
Support Your Local Cafes and Restaurants by Ordering In
Before Coronavirus there were some weeks where I’d factor in a night for a Takeaway or a Meal Out. Obviously a trip to my local pub for a curry (I LOVE a pub curry, mate) or to a restaurant in town is now off limits for the forseeable – but a takeaway is still most definitely an option. Lots of our much loved local businesses are still slogging on through these strange times by offering delivery options – so why not support them, give yourself the night off from cooking and order something in?
(*If you live in Cardiff then this brilliant website has up to date information on local restaurants and businesses that are currently delivering food in and around the city.)
Factor in a “Dog’s Dinner” Dish for Day Seven
Dog’s Dinner, Hodge Podge, whatever you like to call it – everyone’s got a recipe for using up any leftover veg and meat hanging around in their fridge. I like to factor one in to my weekly meal plan for day seven (the day before I start over and head to the supermarket again), just to clear out my fridge and cut down on food waste. I’ve usually got at least a pepper, some mushrooms, tomatoes and some salad leaves left – and so my absolute favourite Dog’s Dinner dish to use them all up is Halloumi Hash. Halloumi freezes really well (and thaws out quickly) so I’ve always got a handful of blocks at the bottom of the freezer – and then I just fry it up with some potatoes (even better if I’ve got a few left over from a roast), leftover veg, paprika and olive oil. To finish it off, I top it with either a fried or a poached egg. Yum!
Use Leftover Roast Meat Strategically
If you’re a big fan of a good old fashioned roast dinner – or just roasted meat in general – then start working it into your weekly meal plan to save from buying extra meat and to give your midweek meals an easy glow-up. Roasted meats can be reheated safely once (some say twice, but after having severe food poisoning once myself I’d personally rather not risk it!) within three days of first cooking them. I like to use leftover roast chicken to make curries and jazz up stir fries and noodle dishes, and leftover pork roast is absolutely perfect to throw into Ramen and Pho.
Keep your Pantry and Freezer Stocked with Versatile Ingredients
Obviously don’t start panic-buying an apocalypse-ready trolley-full of tins and freezer food (most supermarkets are restricting shoppers to three items per person now anyway) – but strategically picking up some long-lasting food items and ingredients that can be used to create easy meals from scratch makes weekly meals so much easier – even out of a lockdown situation. I’m really lucky, I’ve got a makeshift pantry of shelves out in the garage where I store up tins of beans, chick peas, tinned tomatoes, chutneys, rice and pasta – all items that can be used to make a quick meal in a pinch. I also keep my freezer stocked with chicken dippers (try my Cheat’s Mango Chicken, and my Honey Sesame Chicken – both made using chicken dippers!), Halloumi (great in stir fries and curries instead of meat), as well as lots of frozen vegetables and herbs. My kitchen cupboards are also stocked up with spices, sauces and meal kits (I LOVE the Blue Dragon ones) – so if I can’t make it to the supermarket for my weekly shop and have to hang on a few more days – then I’ve got plenty to make something out of nothing.
Let me know your favourite Dog’s Dinner/Hodge Podge recipes below – I could use a few new ones to try! Have a great week! ❤︎
for when you’ve got a couple of spotty bananas hanging around…
Is it me or has the internet gone banana mad recently? With everyone either in self-isolation or working from home, it seems that we’ve all got a bit more time to boredom bake (and clearly, even when you’re home 24/7, that perfect banana window before they turn spotty is still really easy to miss…). Banana Bread’s always high up on the list for me when I’m feeling a bit bored and fancy baking something, but don’t want to put in a lot of effort (or ingredients) – it’s an easy, crowd pleasing lump of lush, innit? And it’s the perfect kitchen worktop snack for when you drag your butt away from the computer and head off in search of a mid-morning/mid-afternoon snack to go with your tea or coffee (for those who’ve never worked from home before, the 11am/3pm munchies are real and cannot be ignored). But it gets a bit boring baking the same old loaf over and over again, doesn’t it? At some point, you’ve got to mix things up or go banana bread bonkers. So I’ve scrolled the Cwtch archives and found five Banana-themed recipes that are just as easy, just as satisfying and just as boredom-busting as ye olde bog-standard Banana Bread.
Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake
Sweet, sticky and perfect served warm with ice cream, this Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake has a moist, cinnamon-spiced sponge and comes topped with caramel soaked sliced bananas. Baked upside down, just make sure you leave it in the tin to cool completely before flipping it upright. 🙂
Banana and Custard-filled Pancakes
A bowl of bananas and custard was one of my absolute favourite desserts as a kid, and I still get just excited today when I find myself with a can of custard and a couple of bananas going spare. It’s one of those stupidly simple yet completely satisfying desserts, innit? Easy. Awesome. And then I had the crazy idea of adding pancakes into the mix. These Banana and Custard-filled Pancakes are easy to make – fluffy buttermilk pancakes with a molten custard middle, topped with fresh, sliced bananas – just freeze some blobs of custard before cooking up the pancakes. Yum!
Banana Crumble Cake
If you’re still in the mood to make Banana Bread but fancy mixing things up just a little, then you can’t go wrong with this recipe for Banana Crumble Cake. Fluffy cake, crunchy walnut crumble topping and a sweet and sticky cinnamon drizzle. Banging!
Banana and Chocolate Traybake
There is absolutely nothing fancy about this Chocolate and Banana Traybake. The ingredients are minimal, there are no special moves involved, and you can whip it up in under thirty minutes. It’s also easily adaptable; so if you fancy throwing in a blob of peanut butter, or some walnuts, or adding a sticky caramel layer (see my Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake) – then go for it!
Banana Bread Icecream
Thank God the weather’s been on side recently for our daily Government-approved walks and exercise – right? It’s been dry, it’s been sunny, and I even walked Bungle without carting around my heavy winter coat yesterday. Rejoice! Time to celebrate with some Banana Bread Ice-cream. If you’ve never made it before then you might be surprised how easy it is to make – you don’t even need a machine, just a blender, a bowl and a freezable container.
Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler and Rachel steal and scoff a doorstep cheesecake from one of their neighbours? It’s one of my favourite episodes, firstly because it’s the season where Jen got the chop and her hair all season is PERFECT (…when wasn’t it? Also, as soon as the lockdown gets lifted, the first thing I’m doing is hightailing it straight to the hairdresser’s…), but also because – ugh, didn’t that cheesecake look just as perfect? I’d never been a cheesecake fan, but I was determined to give it another go after watching that episode. Still, every one I tried just didn’t leave me bowled over and filling to scrape it off the floor with a fork if it fell off the plate. And then I worked it out; all that time I’d been trying chilled, no-bake cheesecakes, whereas the heavenly-looking one in that episode of Friends was one of the baked variety – The Classic New York Cheesecake – which has a completely different taste and texture.
It’s also – apparently – much more difficult to make. There are literally thousands of “no bake” cheesecake recipes out there – all blasting how easy they are compared to the baked version. To that I say, bollocks; they’re not that difficult at all – they just take a little bit more time before you can stick your fork in there. I think they’re worth the wait; especially if they’re crammed full of cream eggs… just sayin’.
My husband went to Costco to pick up a few “lockdown essentials” a couple of weeks ago (we usually buy a lot of our tins and freezer stuff there in bulk anyway), and as well as bagging the last pack of eggs (they’re almost impossible to find here at the moment), he came home with a massive box of cream eggs – which I love, although a box of thirty is perhaps pushing it just a little. I knew a good handful were going to have to be used for baking – especially since Easter is just around the corner (check out theCream Egg DoughnutsI made last year 😉 ). This Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake has a soft and crumbly Bourbon Biscuit base (no digestive biscuit bricks here – bleugh!), a light and creamy filling (that sets with a slight wobble), and is crammed full of cream eggs. It’s easy to make and easily adapted, so if cream eggs aren’t your jam swap them out with something else. 🙂
Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake
200g Bourbon Biscuits
360g Full Fat Cream Cheese
100g caster sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 Packet of Mini Cream Eggs
2 Cream Eggs
First things first, whack your oven on and set it to 180°C. Break your biscuits up into smaller chunks, then blitz them in a food processor until you get a fine, sand-like crumb.
Pour the blitzed biscuits into the bottom of a 20cm loose-bottomed baking tin. Lightly press down to create a smooth base – but don’t pack them too tightly otherwise your base will come out of the oven like a brick and will be too hard to cut. 😦
Next, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese, yoghurt, caster sugar and eggs – mixing until you get a smooth and airy mixture. Roughly chop the mini cream eggs and stir them into the cheesecake mixture.
Pour the cheesecake mixture into the cake tin over the top of the biscuit base.
Slice the other cream eggs and scatter them over the top.
Bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes. Leaving the cheesecake inside, turn off the oven and open the door slightly – allowing the cheesecake to slowly cool (this should stop it from cracking).
Once the cheesecake has reached room temperature, pop it in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. Bring it out about half an hour before you fancy scoffing a slice! 🙂
Have a great week everyone (Happy Easter for the weekend ahead!). 💛