Archive for the 'No cooking' Category

Carrot, avocado & cumin salad

carrot avocado & cumin salad

When I fancy a bowl full of health this is my go-to-salad. I can toss it together in a matter of seconds and know that soon enough I’ll be plopped on the sofa giving myself a hefty dose of internal TLC. With all that colour, you know that you’re on to a good thing. If I’m feeling energetic I might tuck some up in a sheet of toasted nori with a layer of hummus. But mostly I just like to sit back on the sofa, pull my cashmere blanket up under my arms and eat it straight from the bowl I made it in. I like the way that the carrots crunch between my teeth, the way the avocado is silky smooth on my tongue and how the mint leaves me feeling refreshed. Don’t forget the toasted cumin seeds, lemon and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for an extra dose of flavour and health. Be warned though, you may just find yourself bouncing off the sofa after a bowl of this.

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no recipe- just nori wraps

nori rolls

Lunch doesn’t really do it for me. Don’t get me wrong- my tummy gets its growl going but I just don’t get enthused for lunches offerings. I know that it doesn’t have to be that way but lunch is usually at work- and often it’s eaten standing at the stove. On the rare (but totally decadent) occasion that I do get to sit and prop my clogs up I’m faced with a crew lunch, which is a far cry, wail and a few stomping fists away from the glamour one would expect on a TV set.

If it comes to ordering out the absolute last thing I will choose for lunch is a sandwich. It’s not that I don’t love a good sandwich, tuna and salad, extra banana peppers, hold the mayo they just don’t love me. If I go the devil route and eat that sandwich I will find myself suddenly slipping off into a peaceful snooze. And it’s hard to enjoy a post lunch snooze when you have someone screaming for a reset down the walkie. So, I stay away from sandwiches- they are my rainy day lunch at home when I know all I have to comply with is a 6ft 3 husband who also wants the couch.

This is something slightly different though- it’s not a wrap with a tortilla but with a toasted sheet of nori. It’s my kind of make-at-home sushi- which doesn’t involve a bamboo mat or a Japanese name. Just toasted nori stuffed with well, whatever your little heart desires. It’s the perfect lunch when you’re pottering around the kitchen all day with lots of little bits of tasters or leftovers that you can stuff inside.

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Chermoula-spiced hummus

chermoula-spiced hummus

I know I’ve done a lot of complaining of late- West Virginia, being homesick, living in a hotel room. Yes, yes. I know. I’m a right old bore when I’m working on a show.

But the thing is, I haven’t really finished my moaning yet. Sorry- it’s all I’ve got to give you tonight. I’ve just worked three sixteen hour days in a row- that’s six working days for the price of three for any normal person out there. Six! And it’s only Wednesday. And if forty-eight hours by Wednesday isn’t bad enough, which frankly, it is-  there’s another unlucky sixteen hours to come- starting at oh, about about 4 am tomorrow. And another sixteen everyday for the next ten days. Oh geez, will this two weeks ever end! I’m certainly not getting paid enough for all these hours. Note to self- must be a better negotiator for day rate on next job.

So please, tread carefully around me- I’m feeling a little overworked. A little under-inspired and every so cranky. I hate not having time to write- not feeling inspired to write not being able to get in my kitchen so I have something to write about! It’s quite the predicament I’m in.

Okay, okay moaning over. Lets talk hummus. On long days shooting when I find myself eating three four meals a day at work, standing at a counter, it’s hard to hold back the temptation not to attack the crew snack table with those amazing doughnuts with the chocolate glaze dripping off the sides. So, I take hummus- and lots of vegetables- it’s healthy, it keeps those sugar cravings at bay and it’s the perfect food for grazing on when mealtimes cease to exist. I’m not going to lie, hummus is no match to a fresh chocolate glazed doughnut but it’s a tasty way to fill your tummy up and it won’t make your blood sugar crash.

chermoula spiced hummus

When I first moved to New York, I was thoroughly disappointed with the hummus I could find.  Actually, lets be honest, I’m still thoroughly disappointed but now I just make my own. Only, it’s different.  I gave up trying to make it like it is in the UK- (if somebody could tell me how they make it so deliciously tangy I would love to know the secret) and now I spice it up with my basil chermoula pesto.  You can use any other white beans, but I just adore chickpeas. If I open up a can I’ve gobbled half a dozen before they’ve even made it in the blender or hummus, or this curry or this salad. Lets be honest, some days they don’t make it in the blender- I just pop ’em in my mouth like peanuts. On days that they do though (make it in the blender that is), I make this dip. it has a spicy, herby, citrusy note to it and you can make it as smooth or as chunky as you like. And seeing as I don’t have much control over the hours I work, having control over the consistency of my food is important.

The recipe below makes enough chermoula for two big batches of hummus- because if you’re going to go to all that effort of pressing buttons on a food processor then you may as well make a big batch. And trust me after sixteen hours working, turning the blender on is an effort. Plus, for me it means it lasts all week and on occasion I’ll share it with my colleagues. But now I must get some sleep. My veggies are chopped, my hummus is prepped. Sixteen hours, you say? Pah! Bring it on!

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Basil chermoula pesto, I think.

basil chermoula

It’s funny how one becomes so accustomed to their kitchen gadgets. Ever since I bought my new food processor I’ve been whizzing up pestos, breadcrumbs and pastry with only hint of appreciation for how easy it is and not a thought for how I would do it otherwise. When I cook in my mothers gorgeous kitchen I realise how spoiled I’ve been- or perhaps it’s how lazy I’ve become as a cook. Mum asked me how easy my biscotti recipe was and I replied oh, it’s so easy! but then on second thought I replied well…. if you have a kitchen aid it’s easy.   Mum doesn’t have these crazy gadgets in her kitchen. Microplane? What would I need one of those for? Chef’s knife? If I had one of those it would disappear in the garden with your father.

She probably burns a lot more calories than I do working in that kitchen.

I have a tendency to forget that other people’s kitchens are not as equipped as mine, which leads to me having a bit of a tantrum. When I arrived at my parents home last weekend I was excited about what herbs my father would be growing in the garden. Oh, the day when I can have a herb garden. I certainly won’t be growing lemongrass just because it looks pretty!

It was the rows of basil standing to attention that caught my eye. How could it not? It was looking as though it might take over the entire garden soon- clearly, it was only the tomatoes that the squirrels were interested in. Nothing like a bounty of basil as an opportunity to make pesto. Really, I ought to do something about it before it eats the nearby roses.

I set to work, plucking basil leaves. I had not set to thinking about how I might come to whiz them so fine that you’d want to toss them in your spaghetti. In fact it wasn’t until I marched inside with an overflowing colander of leaves that it suddenly dawned on me that pulverizing them might pose me a wee problem.

I did what I do most skillfully in the kitchen- I rummaged. Ah ha! Victory! A  mini processor was discovered and brushed of its dust and year old lining of breadcrumbs. Only, it turned out to be a piece of junk- one speed, one direction and one whiz would turn off the kitchen lights. This was going to be a slow and tedious project. On a second round of rummaging I came up with a liquidiser- of course my mother would have one of those with all those soups she makes. And that, finally I get to my point is why my pesto looks a bit like split pea soup- have you ever heard of overworked pesto? I had not until this day!

basil chermoula

Fortunately it tastes delicious and besides which this ain’t no cheesy pesto! I don’t really know what it is, actually. It’s basil, garlic and olive oil but it’s spicy and there are no cheese or nuts. I like to toss it with rice and pasta. I fold it through  ricotta and spread it on toast and blitz it into hummus (don’t try that in a liquidiser!).

You can taste the basil much better than when it’s mixed with cheese and nuts and it’s very light. Just try not to use a liquidiser- you always end up using more liquid than it wants and it’s so messy getting it out!

Oh, and after you read this you could head over to Good Food and check out my latest post there. Just a suggestion.

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A RECIPE: Summer oatmeal

Summer oatmeal

I’ve had to change my breakfast preference. This hot muggy weather we’ve been having in New York has made eating my usual porridge quite an unbearable exercise.  Whilst I revel in the pleasure of an occasional curry-induced sweat, sweating over breakfast is not a situation that I delight in. Follow a sweaty breakfast with the hairdryer and a long wait on the subway platform and you are in for one sticky day. Pit stains, no charge.

I tried to switch straight to yogurt and fruit- but it just would not suffice. No matter how big the portion, an hour later and my stomach was arguing with my head that it was about bloody time it was fed again. I could not cope with this mind/body disagreement so I went back to the oats. I toyed with the idea of making my granola, but the problem that comes with granola is my right hand. Have I not told you about my right hand? It’s my snacking hand and it takes some serious reprimmanding to set it straight. Put something like granola nearby and it’s like dangling food in front of a dog- my right hand is easily distracted.

Then I remembered the Pukkola (also known as bircher museli) that Jamie Oliver used to make. When I worked on one of his TV series it was always there for crew breakfast- a creamy rich cold oatmeal with grated apple and finely chopped nuts. I put on a few pounds on that shoot and I blame a couple of those extra inches on breakfast alone.

So, this one is lightened up a bit. I prefer to use a skimmed milk or almond milk to soak the oats in- water makes a gloopy mess so don’t even go there. I added some wheat germ and flax seeds and added few nuts and the grated apple after the soaking process to give some more texture. Then, instead of finishing it off with more milk I topped the oats with fruit and Greek yogurt. You don’t have to let the oats soak over night- really an hour will be long enough to absorb all the milk- but most people don’t have that amount of time in the morning. As I’m in the habit of eating the same thing for breakfast day in and day out, the planning in advance thing really hasn’t turned out to be such a problem for me. Plus, I love finishing one meal and planning for the next. A procrastinator, I am not.

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A RECIPE: Watermelon, tomato & goats cheese salad with lemon truffle dressing

watermelon tomato & goats cheese salad

Don and I threw a party this weekend for all those guests who could not make the trip across the pond for our recent wedding. IT was such a different evening to that blissful day in June- no white dress, no hair and makeup, no top hats and morning suits and most obviously no body else doing the work for us!

I adore having a good party but I have this unavoidable tendency to make things harder for myself than they need to be. I lie awake thinking of all the things I could make and then stress about how much time it will take, the money it will cost and how I frequently I will have to rush to the kitchen during the party.

So, this time I set rules for myself. It was really the only way to contain and restrict my wild fancies.

Rule #1 Five different nibbles only- no adding extras at the last minute. Pick five stick with five. Follow the rules, Helm Baxter.

Rule #2 No hot nibbles- Saturday was predicted to be the hottest day of the year and our 650 sq ft apartment was struggling to stay cool without having to fight with the oven. Everything would be cold or room temperature. First thing off the list mini Yorkshire puddings.

Rule # 3 Only one nibble was allowed to be an attention seeker. All others had to be pre-made and pre-assembled- pre-party.

Rule # 4 No more rules, rule inhibit creativity.

Rule # 5 Even though you hate rules, there are only three real rules. So STICK with them.

Rule # 6 Rename rules as guidelines as clearly the words rules and cooking in the same sentence are a cause for deep concern.

It was hard. Almost as hard as it was to stop myself from drooling on my keyboard over this. I broke the first rule guideline and ended up with six but I left one of them for my guests to assemble themselves.  Ah ha! An extra point awarded for delegation- I think so! And excluding the Pork butt I had in the oven for eighteen hours before the party I managed to keep the oven pretty much entirely in the off setting save for a few nuts toasting and croutons crisping, which was all done pre-party. Success! This party thing was suddenly becoming a whole lot easier.

On the menu we had

  • Smoked salmon & cream cheese spirals you can find here although I added some rocket leaves and forgot about the lemon. Hey- there were no rules about sticking to recipes!
  • Union square nuts– can’t claim credit for these but they are so good!
  • Crostini with ricotta, lemon, hazelnuts & honey- recipe coming soon!
  • Pulled pork (slathered in a mixture of chili flakes, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and soy and cooked for 18 hours at 225F). These I left for the guests to assemble themselves with rolls, applesauce and bbq sauce on the side.
  • My delicious guacamole with spicy pita chips- always a crowd pleaser
  • Watermelon, tomato & feta skewers with lemon truffle vinaigrette (the unplanned hero)

watermelon tomato skewers
Which leads me nicely, almost as if I planned it, to talking about the salad and the skewers you see photographed. I am a huge fan of adding fruit to salads and as salad combinations go watermelon, tomatoes and goats cheese make a perfect little trio. They are such good buddies that when I had left overs from Saturday’s lunch I decided to stick them on a skewer. The perfect solitary bite ready to pop in your mouth in one go and hence, nibble number six came to being.

watermelon tomato & goats cheese salad

This is a salad I’ve been making for the past  two summers- and for some reason I’ve never gotten around to blogging about it. I’m not sure why- too lazy to weigh a watermelon, I suppose. But then this weekend I did- weigh the watermelon that is and everything else and then just for good measure I’ve thrown in the added bonus of two recipes for the price of one reading. Am I the most generous girl around, or what?!

Well sort of. One’s a recipe, the other is just common sense. I know it’s Monday but please tell me you can cope with that? Here’s a few guidelines (by no means rules!)- cut the watermelon into small-bite-sized pieces slightly bigger than half a cherry tomato and a piece of feta (goats cheese is better but harder to skewer) and then put on a toothpick interspersed with Thai or regular basil leaves . I made about 50 skewers with 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes and 2 lbs of watermelon (weight with the rind on) one block of feta and 1/2 a small bunch of Thai basil. Drizzle with a little vinaigrette before serving. Easy as can be.

If you’re not having a party then you really ought to try this salad. In fact even if you’re having a party then you ought to try this salad. Today in fact would be a most excellent time. Why? Because it’s mid-August and summer will soon be over and tomatoes will be imported and bland and the watermelon will be mealy and you will be cold and wanting something hot. So go! Quickly! No, wait! Rule #1 read the recipe first!

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A RECIPE: Green smoothie

Green smoothie

Monday’s have that unfortunate tendency to evoke an overindulged feeling. One too many glasses of wine on Friday- a few too many samples of Saturday’s freshly baked brownies and that second serving of Sunday lunch- and so it is by Monday you feel sluggish and bloated. Or perhaps it’s just being back in the office and having to commute on a steamy train that makes you feel sluggish and bloated.

Whilst you may think that the photo above resembles the wheat grass drink your crazy dieting friend once convinced you to knock back or that powdery green vegetable replacement stuff your mother used to make you drink- you’re wrong. Sooooo wrong, to be exact. This may be a green smoothie and yes, it may be healthy (perfect for after a food coma) but it has no relation to wheat grass or green powder- other than it’s unfortunate colour. If I could make it red I would, but adding berries would just turn it brown and that would be even less appealing. Oh dear, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job here- I wanted to convince you to make this smoothie but I fear putting  wheat grass and powdered vegetables in the same paragraph may have made you click off the site already.

Are you still there? Lovely reader? Lovely, beautiful reader who deserves nothing but the best on a Monday morning. Green’s not so bad really? Think apples and limes and fresh mint- green M&M’s (no, they’re not in here but they taste good!)

This delicious drink was introduced to me by my good friend Lish who stole it from a friend of hers- or was it me who stole it, I can’t remember. In any case, I couldn’t remember the original quantities so I had to keep remaking it to get it right. It’s right now.  It’s so right. There is the perfectly balanced amount of tart to sweetness and creaminess to lightness. There’s something refreshing about it and also filling.

Ok, I admit this does contain spinach- but really it’s just there as a filler- to bulk it out, trust me- even Popeye would be hardpushed to taste the spinach! Lish’s friend said not to serve it with ice, that it would negate its health properties but I fail to see why. What’s unhealthy about frozen water? Plus drinking this will make you feel healthy enough and frankly, the ice makes it taste even better. And the best is what you deserve, gorgeous, dear reader. Have I gone too far now?

Just try the gosh darn smoothie, will you?

Green Smoothie

This smoothie is like the equivalent of a nonalcoholic mojito- it has a slightly bitter edge but you can add honey or agave to adjust this to your liking.

Serves 1

Diet Facts: aren’t all green things healthy?

1 lime, rinsed cut into quarters (yes pith and all)

1/2 large or 1 small granny smith apple, cored and cut into chunks

1/4 cup plain yogurt, Greek and low fat are fine

large handful of baby spinach, washed

large handful of mint leaves

2 tsp flax seeds

handful of ice

agave or honey to taste (start with 1-2 tsp)

1/ Put everything into a liquidizer and whiz until smoothie consistency. If you need, add a splash of water.  Drink immediately and embrace the feeling of going green.

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