Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Merguez-spiced Peppers and Chickpeas with a Fried Egg topping

Hubby-to-be was out for his leaving do last night (we’re moving away from Wales in T minus 19 days – eek!) so I was left on my own for supper with a post-holiday fridge... A particularly sad creature populated by the usual jars of foodie potions, some limp looking veg that was at some point a green leafy thing, a piece of now rather smelly cheese and a couple of bizarrely well preserved peppers. So peppers for supper it is then!

When I’ve got a core ingredient I often find myself scouring the internet or the index pages of the cook book library I seem to be ‘accidentally’ assembling. Today I found inspiration from my two favourite chefs…

Nigel Slater made a lovely dish from lentils and chickpeas that made use of my favourite of chilli pastes on his show. And then I got to thinking about a stuffed pepper recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Everyday where the poblano variety is packed with a chickpeas loaded with merguez spices.

Both of these fine recipes have served as inspiration for the recipe below, the use of hearty chickpeas is wonderfully filling on a tired Monday evening and the merguez spices and harissa provided a touch of warmth. Topped with an egg you really can’t go wrong (as always my philosophy is that there are few foodstuffs that are not improved by an egg on the top).

Merguez-spiced peppers and chickpeas with a fried egg topping
Serves 2 or 4 with bread

1 small onion
A glug of olive oil
2 peppers (any colour but I like the sweetness of red and yellow varieties) cut into chunky strips
1 clove garlic
1 400g tin of chickpeas – drained
1 400g tin of tomatoes
2 tsp harissa paste (or more if you’re after a spicy hit of chilli)
1 tsp each of cumin and coriander
½ tsp each of fennel seeds (caraway would also work), paprika (sweet preferably but smoked is lovely too if not hugely traditional) and sumac
¼ tsp cinnamon (feel free to put in more but Hubby-to-be isn't really a fan so I try not to be too liberal with this particular spice)
A squeeze of lemon
An egg per person
Fresh coriander leaves for scattering

Gently fry the onion with a sprinkle of salt in a wide pan then as they soften add the strips of pepper. Keep the oil sizzling on the heat for 7-10 minutes, agitating the peppers as you go.

When they start to soften go in with the garlic, harissa and spices; keeping the mixture moving over the heat for a further minute.

Now pour in the chickpeas and make sure they are well coated with the spice mix, follow this up with the tin of tomatoes, season and bring the pan to a simmer. Let the juices bubble for 15 minutes or so. It will have thickened and the contents cooked should be through. The length of time depends largely on the chickpea brand, some will take 10 minutes and others 20. 

When the chickpeas are soft but before they turn to mush squeeze in the lemon juice and check the seasoning. 

Meanwhile, fry or poach an egg for each diner. Serve the chickpea/pepper mix with an egg atop and a scattering of coriander leaves.

*** You may notice a distinct lack of starchy carbs. It’s completely intentional, I just thought that there was plenty to fill up just little ole me without it. You could of course add some crusty bread to mop up all the lovely juices, or perhaps wrap it up in a tortilla, sort of huevos rancheros meets shakshuka. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Summer Fruits Chia Pudding... Yes, you can have pudding for breakfast!

You might remember that I used Chia seeds a while back in a breakfast smoothie, well since then I’ve branched out and started sprinkling them over all sorts of things. They’re fab in a banana bread mix or add a tasty crunch to a salad for instance. I do tend to find that I come back to them time and time again for breakfast.

These last few weeks I’ve been loving my chia seed puddings so I thought I’d share the recipe. This does come with a bit of a caveat though; whilst I love them there was a general consensus amongst some of my guinea pigs that they need to be sweeter. The thing is, I am doing my best to cut down on refined sugar, particularly at the beginning of the day when the last thing my body needs is a blood sugar spike.

So my advice, give the recipe a try and taste it, if you think it needs a saccharine kick then drizzle in something like Rice Malt Syrup or Agave, just steer clear of the white stuff at breakfast!

Hang on a minute, what on earth is Chia??

I don’t really like the term “superfood” it’s mostly just a marketing ploy to get us to part with our hard earned money, it basically seems to equate to food that has lots of nutrients but is conveniently left by the wayside for the cheaper options (like Eggs for example, I think they definitely fit the superfood definition). That said, Chia Seeds are pretty awesome and could arguably be worth of the accolade but again that of course comes with a rather expensive price tag. Here are some of the reasons that I’ve started including Chia in my diet:

Omega Oils

As a vegetarian I am very conscious of lack of Omega Oils in my diet since I don’t eat fish. I already had some sesame and linseed (flaxseed) in my diet to compensate but it seems that Chia seeds are the best source, they’ve got more omega than you could shake a stick at (never quite figured out the origin of this saying but I love it).

It’s Swell

When added to liquid, Chia seeds swell to 17 times their original size. This helps fill you up and also slows down the rate of digestion preventing blood sugar spikes. No spikes, no need to snack. Studies have shown that this can help to prevent diabetes and decrease bounce in your belly (insulin overproduction has been shown to be a factor in putting on fat around the tummy area).

Loaded with Nutrients

It’s not just Omega Oils that make Chia seeds so nutritious, they are a fab source of fibre, calcium, manganese and phosphorous. They are particularly good for healthy teeth and bones.

Not bad for a tiny seed, it might not pack much of a punch in the flavour department (you’ll need to find that elsewhere in your food) but there is something to be said about having a spoonful of chia in your day.

Summer Fruits Chia Seed Pudding

In a bowl mix up the following:

2 cups of Milk (I like Kara/Koko milk – its coconut based and has a slight natural sweetness)
4 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 cup summer fruits from the freezer
1 pod vanilla seeds (or a good splodge of pure vanilla)
Some kind of sweetener if you’re using it – Agave or Rice Malt Syrup would be my preference for a breakfast food.

Leave to sit for 30 minutes at the very least, the chia seeds will swell.

Pop into a blender and whizz up, the mixture will thicken at this point. You could use a hand blender too; it will just take a little longer.

Pop into bowls (or Tupperware to take to work) and put in the fridge.

NB: Make sure you cover the mixture, I had my latest batch in the fridge at the same time as a bunch of wild garlic and the result wasn’t overly pleasant!

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Nutty Coconut Granola - More filling than Weetabix I reckon!

I've got a recipe to share with you that I am super excited about. I am a real snacker and in an office where there is always ready supply of biscuits to tempt me that is not a good thing! About 10.30am is when the snack pangs start to rear their ugly heads and despite my best intentions I will often find myself choosing the chocolate bourbons over the broccoli dippers.

But not this last few weeks, I haven’t had a mid-morning snack attack at all!

So what’s changed? What’s different about my morning routine? Well I put it down to this rather delicious granola recipe (and another one for Chia seed pudding - I'll be posting that next). It’s not particularly low calorie because it’s full of fats but they are at least the good kind. Another thing it isn't is sweet – I've set myself a challenge of going two weeks without added sugar in my diet. What it is though is delicious and supremely filling.

If you are like me and get the morning munchies then I can’t recommend giving this recipe a go. As for the ingredients, use them as a rough guide. If you have different nuts and seeds in the house then give them a try.
Nutty Coconut Granola

Pour the following contents over a large baking tray:

500g oats (I like the jumbo oats for this recipe but normal ones would work fine too)
250g desiccated coconut
150g walnuts (roughly chopped)
100g hazelnuts (roughly chopped)
100g mixed seeds
50g linseeds

In a dish melt 3 tbsp of coconut oil in the microwave and stir through:

1 pod vanilla seeds (save the pod after you've scraped out the seeds, it's great to add to custards etc)
1 tsp cinnamon (feel free to add more but I prefer it as a back note)

Now pour the oil mixture over the oats and nuts then mix until it is evenly coated.

Place the tray into an oven at gas mark 4 and bake for 25 minutes – take out half way through and turn it through with a spoon. Do the same again five minutes before the end of the cooking time.

It is ready when everything has turned a lovely golden brown.

Leave in the tray to cool and then transfer to an airtight container.

Serving suggestions:

I love this with a splash of milk instead of processed cereal (Koko milk is even better as it really brings out all the coconut flavours).

Mix with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a smattering of berries.
This weekend I’m going to use it to top roasted carrots with chunks of goats cheese, I think it will be delicious and I’ll let you know how it goes. 

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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Foodie.com - My New Favourite Website!

Move over Pintrest, Foodie.com is where it's at for food inspiration. Whilst I won't be eschewing my pinboards for design and style inspiration anytime soon, I just love this new (I think it's new, I certainly haven't seen it before) kid on the block.

Foodie is very much the same concept as pintrest, there are collections as opposed to boards and you can create your own to keep track of all the lovely ideas that crop up continually throughout the day. I have of course set up a board for Big Cook Tiny Kitchen which you can subscribe to if you fancy but the real pleasure has been perusing the boards of others and I've already built up a veritable cornucopia of recipes that I hope to try one day.

Of course there is no way that I'll give every single one a go but I can certainly have some trying. Not to mention the inspiration that I've already gleaned from hoards of recipes a delectable photos. Most of the photos have been posted by b
loggers so a quick click through and it's possible to find a whole new collection of foodie gems awaiting you the other side of your mouse click.

So what will I be making first... I reckon these sweet potatoes look like an awesome midweek supper or perhaps I'll give this Key Lime and Elderflower Pie a try.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Best Brownies Bethan has Ever Eaten!

Absolute, sheer and unadulterated indulgence… life is too short not to make this recipe!

Little did I know that I was on to such a winner on Tuesday evening when I decided to whip up a batch of brownies, I decided on a bit of a whim to bake up a storm in the new kitchen and the result was gooey, rich, chocolate brownies with a fiery ginger hit that lifted them from delicious to sublime.

Fudgey Chocolate and Ginger Brownies

The base recipe was based on one from the Hummingbird Bakery’s first cookbook (a book that I heartily recommend for cupcakes in particular) but I made a few additions in the form of cocoa powder for an extra chocolaty hit, coconut oil replacing some of the butter and of course the all-important ginger addition. The cooking time was a fair bit longer than the Hummingbird recipe suggested and I’m not sure why to be honest. It could be that there was a substitution of flour for cocoa or perhaps it was the use of coconut oil in place of some of the butter? I’m really rather flummoxed.

I really ought to dedicate this recipe to my Dad; he just loves crystallised ginger covered in dark chocolate and I make sure I get him a box come Christmas time. Perhaps this year I’ll accompany it with a batch of these brownies too.

Dark Chocolate and Ginger Brownies

200g good quality dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa solids
75g coconut oil
100g unsalted butter (you could use 175g butter and no coconut oil if you don’t have it in)
325g caster sugar
100g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
4 pieces of stem ginger and 1 tbsp of the syrup it comes in

1. Grease and line a 20x20 square tin unless you have a silicone one that doesn't stick, then there’s no need.

2. Put the oven to gas mark 3.

3. Melt the chocolate and oil/butter in a bowl suspended over boiling water or on a low heat setting in the microwave (careful to keep an eye on it though and keep stirring it).

4. Stir in the caster sugar until it’s well combined.

5. Now for the flour and cocoa powder, stir through making sure the separate components are blended thoroughly.

6. One at a time, crack each of the eggs in and beat into the chocolatey mess filling the mixing bowl.

7. Finely chop the stem ginger and sir through, accompanied by the tbsp of its super sweet liquor.

8. Pour into your prepared tin and place straight into the oven. The original recipe suggests 30-35 minutes but mine took around 45-50 minutes in all. I would countenance having a look at 30 and making a judgement call. What you are looking for is an ever so slight looseness in the middle and if a skewer is inserted it should come out mostly clean with a few gooey cakey crumbs.

9. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out and cutting into 16 squares if you’re feeling gluttonous or 20 if virtue is more your thing. Shower with a sprinkling of icing sugar for an extra dose of prettiness. 

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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Blackberry and Almond Smoothie to start the day, yum!

I’ve been seriously loving smoothies this week! It’s hardly a culinary revelation that blending sweet berries into a refreshing morning pick me up is a delicious way to start the day; it’s just not really something I’ve had on a regular basis.  Well that is set to change because I’ve been finding that provided I put the right things into them, my smoothies keep me full up for the morning and have me bursting with energy.

They do however carry a very important health warning… if you drop a deep purple blackberry smoothie on your newly fitted cream carpet the probability of death ensuing in a painful way courtesy of your fiancé is probably quadrupled! Luckily we had Vanish carpet cleaner on hand and Ed is very forgiving.

It’s not a fast day today (that was yesterday) but this morning’s creation would be a great start to a 5:2 fast diet day.

Blackberry, Almond and Chia Smoothie Recipe (231 calories):

Serves 1


I do this straight in the glass with a stick blender but if you love extra washing up or don’t have a large enough glass then a liquidiser is ideal.

The recipe for this is of course subject to being tweaked according to what you’ve got in the cupboard and the method is extraordinarily simple… just blend. So what have I included and why?

40g Blackberries (17) – partially because they were in my freezer and partially because they are full of antioxidants. Blueberries would work wonderfully well too but keep it away from the carpet!

1 teaspoon milled Chia Seeds (30) – these are my new favourite ingredient since I found out that they are virtually overflowing with Omega 3. Typically found in fish, it’s a nutrient that isn’t particularly easy to come by as a vegetarian (linseeds are good but not as good as Chia), it keeps cholesterol down and brain power up.



1 tablespoon Oats (58) – I wouldn’t be without oats, this low GI grain keeps me full and lends a lovely flavour to any breakfast dish really.
250ml Koko Milk (68) – you could use another type of milk but I love the flavour of this coconut milk based alternative to your daily dairy fix. Apart from the fat-busting benefits of coconut, Koko Milk is low in calories, refreshing and delicious with the hint of sweetness bought by the coconut.

10g Almonds (58) – Fat doesn’t need to be a by word for bad, we just need the right sorts and Almonds are certainly full of them. Just a sprinkling in this smoothie gives a wonderful flavour and richness to make it a totally satisfying start to the day.

Other smoothies I’ve had a go at this week…

  • Yesterday I had half a banana in the smoothie above but without the almonds. The result was sweeter (the almonds give it a savoury element) but still delicious. Tomorrow I might have a go at putting both in!

  • Earlier in the week I started the day with a virtuous indulgence…“pretty good for you” chocolate milk. Half a banana, a heaped teaspoon of raw cacao powder, a teaspoon of milled chia and ¼ teaspoon of rice malt syrup topped up with the Koko Milk. It was so delicious, a seriously yummy treat that fixed my chocolate cravings without the need for a Cadburys fix.  

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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

5:2 Fast Diet Recipe: Beetroot Falafel Patties

Chock full of the earthy flavours of beetroot, tahini and spice, these are really burgers by any other name but I reckon ‘patty’ is a more forgiving title. It suggests a certain level of imperfection that isn’t really conjured up by ‘Beetroot Falafel Burgers’. A pattie can happily be misshapen with knobbly edges making it the perfect thing to club together at the end of a busy day.

For me, the best thing about a burger-esque food stuff is the assembly with the salad and condiments in one mouthful. Of course there’s usually a stodgy bun for this task but on a fast day that makes life rather difficult. So this time I’ve gone for a crisp leaf of iceberg lettuce, filled with the patty, some crunchy salad and a zingy sauce this might be diet food but it still ticks all the boxes.  

5:2 Fast Diet Recipe: Beetroot Falafel Patties (178 calories per serving)

Serves 4

These really are pretty simple to make, just get a bowl, put all these ingredients in and mix.

150g grated raw beetroot (55)
1 tin chickpeas crushed with a fork (290)
½ tsp each of smoked paprika, cumin and coriander
A pinch of chilli flakes
1 tbsp tahini (89)
1 clove crushed garlic (5)
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley (4)
Salt and Pepper

Shape into 4 patties.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil (120) (I've been using coconut oil a lot late, keep an eye out for a post on why) in a frying pan and shallow fry the patties on each side until golden brown.

The assembly

Take a large leaf of iceberg lettuce (4 per leaf) and put in a spoon of carrot salad (14) (the recipe is here), followed by a slice or two of tomato (4 per slice), the burger / patty and top with a dollop of fat free natural yoghurt (15).

Fold in the sides and devour. It’s certainly a bit messy and depending on the size of the leaf you may well need two but it’s well worth getting your hands a bit grubby for.

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

5:2 Diet Recipe: Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) and Kale WinterSalad with a Vegetarian Pangritata

When you embark on a new way of eating, there are always going to be times when you fall off the wagon. There will always be times when the diet just hasn’t panned out, you lost your sense of will power and gave in to temptation. But that just means that there are times when you have to get right back on that wagon, regain your focus and carry on. One thing's for sure, a moment on the scales with numbers that are somewhat north of where you were hoping can be great motivation.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I have to say that I’ve fallen off with a resounding thud! I’ve put on almost a stone in the last couple of months and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed with myself, even if I do have the excuse of Christmas combined with falling down the stairs and hardly moving for a month… it doesn’t excuse the best part of a stone!

So with that rather unpleasant confession out of the way, I am pleased to say that my fridge has been rid of unhealthy treats and it’s completely chock full of delicious fresh vegetables and pulses and I’m back on the 5:2 diet with a vengeance as I phase out my painkillers (I have to take them on a full stomach, so the fasting had to go on hold).

So here’s to the first day. I may have put back on half of what I lost, but I’m not going to be down and I’m certainly not out. And to celebrate? I’ll have a Jerusalem Artichoke and Kale salad please.

5:2 Diet Recipe: Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) and Kale Winter Salad with a Vegetarian Pangritata (258 cals)

Serves 1

There’s something wonderfully comforting about the Jerusalem Artichoke (or Sunchoke if you’re in the US), they add a velvety richness to a winter soup and roasted like they are in this recipe, they provide the filling quality of potato but with a caramelised stickiness that manages to be concurrently sweet and savoury.

Jerusalem Artichokes are absolutely best friends with garlic, bay leaves, thyme and lemon so that is precisely what you’ll be roasting them in for this fabulous 5:2 diet salad.  

Give 150g Jerusalem Artichokes a bit of a scrub but don’t peel them, cut into quarters (length ways). Par boil them for 10 minutes, drain then put into a bowl with a 1/4 tsp olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, 3-4 bay leaves, a good shake of dried thyme and a small garlic clove, roughly chopped. Putting them into this mix while they’re still hot will help the artichokes soak up all those wonderful flavours.

Pop the flavour-steeped chokes into an oven set to gas mark 6 (200c) and roast for 30-40 minutes until they are nicely golden with caramelised edges. Give them a turn half way through.

Meanwhile, prepare and assemble the rest of the salad. You can really go for anything here but for a hot winter salad I really don’t think that you can beat Kale. It just so happened that the farmers market this week had both the purple and green varieties on offer so I came home with a veritable sack full!

All you need to do is wash roughly chop 50g broccoli and 70g kale, removing the tough stalks in the process. Plunge them into a pot of boiling water and let them bubble away for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, whizz up half a slice of bread in a food processor (or grate it if you don’t have one) with half a teaspoon of capers, a small clove of garlic, a shake of chilli flakes , salt, pepper and a handful of fresh herbs, I used parsley since that’s what I had in. Normally these would be drenched in fat now but that wouldn’t be very 5:2 Diet friendly! So spray a frying pan with a 5 pumps of Frylight spray and add the breadcrumbs to the pan. Tossing over a high heat until they turn a wonderful golden brown.

From here on out it’s a simple assembly job. The kale is drained and the chokes are taken out of the oven and they are tossed together with another squeeze of lemon juice, a 1/4 tsp olive oil and a generous helping of salt and pepper. Scatter over the pangritata and you’ve got a supper that’s worthy of any day of the week, let alone a fast day!

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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Superfast Post for an Incredibly Quick Walnut Pasta Dish

I really need to share this ridiculously quick pasta dish with you because it may well be one of my favourite ever and I've only just discovered it. It’s a take on something I saw Nigella Lawson making on TV but with a few vegetable-shaped additions and some tweaks to the sauce.

I've had my eye on this Pasta with Walnut sauce for a while now but just didn't get round to it. Now I know how easy it is though I fully expect it to be on our supper menu as a regular feature.

Silky Walnut and Kale Pasta
Serves 4

The first step is entirely optional, it won’t add much extra prep time but does require a bit of a stint in the oven. It is completely worth it though for the sweet hit that contrasts the savoury notes of the nuts and garlic perfectly.

Simply peel and small dice 2-3 fresh beetroots (I used golden ones but the ruby red versions will do nicely). Toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper before putting into the oven at gas mark 6 for 30 minutes. Give them a shake half way through and they should get a wonderfully crisp exterior.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a 1kg bag of dried pasta, simmer for the amount of time it suggests on the packet.

Soak a slice of bread (brown or granary ideally) in 180ml milk for a couple of minutes then pop into a blender with 150g toasted walnuts, a clove of garlic, 25 g parmesan-style cheese (Sainsbury’s Hard Italian Cheese is a good veggie option) and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Blend into a thick paste then add in a good glug (about 4 tablespoons) of olive oil and whizz again.

For the last 5 minutes that the pasta is boiling, add in 300g roughly chopped kale (stalks removed).

Reserve a ladle of the cooking water and drain the kale-pasta mix. Pop back in the pan with the sauce, beetroot if you made it, a handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley and the reserved cooking water. Mix thoroughly, the sauce and the water will form a wonderfully silky emulsion that should just coat the pasta nicely.

Serve with a few crushed toasted walnuts for a little added crunch.

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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The best way to apologise is alway cake! Pumpkin and Pecan cake to beprecise.


It's been rather a long time since I've posted and for that I am very sorry. You see, I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen of late. Quite apart from the fact that our Christmas tends to spent at other people's houses, I took a bit of a tumble down the stairs in December and I'm still suffering. The result of which is that Ed is doing more of the culinary tasks, 5:2 has been temporarily abandoned because I can't take painkillers on an empty stomach and the blogging has gone by the wayside. 

I do however have a few recipes to share that I made a while back that are certainly worth sharing so the next few posts will be from those archives instead. Since it's been so long, I reckon you ought to get two recipes for the price of one this week  and the theme is baking, because theres not much that cheers me up more than a slice of cake and a cup of tea : )

‘Pumpkin’ and Pecan Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting

The first recipe is for these little squares of super moist and ridiculously moreish cakey goodness. The “Pumpkin Pie Spicing” is ideal for this time of year, warm and inviting and the orange zest freshened up what could have been a rather rich icing!

For the Cake:

1. Cream together 200g unsalted butter and 200g light brown sugar until it's light and fluffy.

2. Beat in 300g pumpkin or butternut squash purée (sweeten this with honey if necessary, it will depend entirely on the pumpkin or squash that you use)

3. Alternately beat in 2 medium eggs and a mix of dry ingredients which includes 300g self raising flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp all spice. By this I mean, beat in an egg then follow with half the dry ingredients, then repeat. 

4. Fold in 150g roughly chopped pecans

5. Transfer to a greased and lined 20cm square tin and pop into an oven that's been preheated to gas mark 4

6. After about 40 minutes the cake should have risen nicely and taken on a lovely golden colour. Insert a skewer and if it comes out clean it's done. That said, it depends on the moisture in your purée so it may well need a few more minutes. If that's the case but you don't want it to brown any more then a sheet of tin foil over the top will solve that problem while you leave it in the oven. 

7. Leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. 

For the Frosting

1. It couldn't be simpler, just beat together about 250g sieved icing sugar, a tub of marscapone cheese, a dash of milk and the zest of an orange. Feel free to vary the amount of sugar according to how stiff your looking to get the frosting, it will also vary between brands of marscapone. 

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