Monday, 17 November 2014

Moroccan Vegetable Traybake

This recipe is ideal for a midweek dinner when all you have the energy for is five minutes of half hearted chopping. Perfect for a Monday then! 

First get together the following:

A small squash
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp Moroccan curry spice (or a half and half mix of Ras El Hanout and mild curry powder) 

All you need to do, is cut a small butternut squash into chunks and mix with the oil and spice mix. Put in the over at 220deg C for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, roughly chop the following:

Two peppers (I used red and green)
A leek
A white onion (cut into segments)
2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli (we went for seeds removed this time)
1 tin of chickpeas (drained)
Salt and pepper

Mix into the squash mixture and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. 

Serve with a handful of fresh coriander and parsley stirred through and a generous crumbling of feta cheese on top. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Besara - move over Houmous!

First off, I need to get something off my chest. My name is Lucie Stoker and I am a Houmous addict! So you can imagine my delight at finding something that could possibly wean me off my houmous obsession, it's a dip with a similar texture and the same wonderfully savoury quality and yet it is completely different. 

I was flicking through my new copy of Veggistan the other day (highly recommend it by the way, such an amazing collection of vegetarian recipes from the Middle East) and I came across a recipe that I could have quite easily glided over... broad bean mash. Just sounds a bit drab really, it's proper name of Besara sounds far more tempting. Apart from the rather exotic sounding green cumin seeds I had everything in stock which also made it an immediate winner. This is a perfect stock cupboard option since it makes use of dried fava beans.

Before I get on to the recipe, a quick note about soaking... To soak or not to soak, that is many a cooks question. The recipe in the book suggests soaking the fava beans over night, I use Hodmedods Split Dried Fava Beans for the precise reason that I don't have to. A half an hour soak followed by the thorough boiling does the job just fine but different ones may well vary, make sure to check the packet.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
200g dried fava beans (split dried fava beans really speeds up the process)
600ml of water
juice of a lemon
drizzle of extra olive oil

1. Heat the olive oil in a pan, and lightly fry off the onion followed by the cumin seeds and smoked paprika. 

2. Pour over the water, cover and bring to a simmer. 

3. It will take about 30 minutes for the fava beans to soften but it could be a bit longer, keep an eye on the water, if it goes completely dry then add a little more. 

4. Once the fava beans are soft and the water is mostly soaked up, beat the mixture with a wooden spoon to mash the beans. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in the lemon juice. 

5. Serve in a bowl with a generous drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The first competition and up for grabs, a bible of Italian food!

It’s been about a year and a half since I started the blog and I have had so much fun writing it. I've found that by writing about my kitchen escapades I have been pushed to try new things and really thing about what I’m putting in my food. I'm also cooking out of a larger kitchen of late but that will all change again once we move (sigh). 

In terms of dieting I’m afraid it hasn't been massively successful. I continue to do the 5:2 diet more for the benefits relating to cancer and dementia prevention rather than weight loss. A lengthy kitchen refurb (3 months of takeaways and microwave meals take their toll), a back injury have limited my success in respect of the latter. Still, I’m not going to give up and resign myself to a lifetime (and wedding day) of flabbiness.

So what about the year ahead? We have recently moved from Wales to Sussex and I've started my pupillage after 4 years of seemingly endless applications so it seems like now is the best time to wipe the slate clean and start again. I’ll continue with 5:2 where possible but I've also found in the last month that cutting out added sugar has really helped me increase my energy, I’m losing weight and my skin seems to be looking brighter too. For someone who loves a bit of cake it is no mean feat and I've had a few weddings and social events where I wasn't quite so vigilant. Still, it’s going generally OK and I’m also now getting back into exercise. I've set myself a manageable target of 20 minutes a day; surely I can stick to that… right?

What can you expect over the next year? More vegetarian recipes that are hopefully something a little bit different and certainly varied. There will be less of the cakes (but not completely – I can’t resist the odd treat) and more of the veg. I also promise to try and be more consistent in my posts, this has been a very busy year and doing without the kitchen certainly doesn't help when you write a food blog. So this year I pledge to try harder to maintain not just my weight loss but also the recipe posting too.

Now to the important bit… the competition!

To celebrate the fact that I’m still blogging, and also the fact that Big Cook Tiny Kitchen has over 500 likes on Facebook I thought it was time to host my first giveaway. I've chosen a copy of Antonio Carluccio’s The Collection, quite simply because it is a veritable Bible of Italian food. Just enter below and I will send the winner their very own copy.

(NB postage and packaging is paid for within the UK but for those outside there may be a charge for shipping costs).

What's your favourite Italian Recipe?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Green Onion Pizza - sounds odd but humour me!

It's been a month since we moved and I'm getting used to life as a baby barrister.  One things for sure, I have less time for cooking and even less time to write about it so I'm afraid that these posts are unlikely to be that regular while things find an equilibrium. That said, a girl's gotta eat and if there's one thing I can't abide, it's a bland and boring supper. So I'm on the look out for quick options and preferably ones that aren't going to cost the earth (contrary to popular opinion, barristers aren't all raking it in, particularly at the junior end in a legal aid practice). So that's what you can expect going forward, quick and cheap meals that you can make mid week. Well, mostly... I'm sure that I'll still be a bit adventurous on the weekends. 

So to last nights supper, homemade pizza certainly doesn't sound like a "quick option" but this isn't really too bad if you make the dough in advance. This dough can be made and then frozen in portions. Take out your portion in the morning and you'll have the dough for a pizza base, ready and defrosted by tea time. 

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Veg Everyday contains a wonderfully versatile recipe for his "magic" bread dough. It's a mix of plain and strong flour so you get a crisp pizza crust out of it and similarly there's sufficient gluten content for a few hearty rolls too. It's precisely this dough that I used last night for a rather tasty, if a little unusual pizza. 

I didn't have any kale for HFW's kale and onion topping so I improvised with spring greens and mushrooms. The result was exceptionally tasty, rich and moorish.  It was a welcome change to the usual tomato and mozzarella loaded affair.

Green Onion Pizza

For the dough 

This is a job for the weekend, the quantities below make three pizzas or six rolls. I freeze in three portions since there are only two of us. You could of course make more or freeze in larger portions should you be feeding a hungry hoard. 

250g each of strong white flour and plain flour
1 tsp fast action instant yeast
1 and a half tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Tip the flour into a mixing bowl, lay the yeast on one side and the salt on another. You don't want them directly touching as salt tends to kill off yeast. Drizzle over the olive oil and make a well in the centre. 

Measure out 375ml of water and pour about 80% of it into the well. Get your hands into the bowl and mix into a dough, if it needs a little more water to get it to a soft but not sticky consistency then add some more. You might even need more than the 375ml, it tends to depend on the flour.

Tip out the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead, knead, knead for about 10-15 minutes. The dough will take on a soft yet elastic quality. To check it's needed enough, pull into a tight ball and give the dough a poke. If the indent starts to even out then it's done, if you can still see the impression of your finger I'm afraid that more kneading will be required. 

Pop the dough ball back into the mixing bowl and leave covered with a damp tea towel to rise to double it's size. It will take about 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. 

Kick back the dough and split into three portions. Each portion will make either one pizza or two hearty rolls (you'll need to allow the defrosted dough time to prove again if you go for this option).

Pop the portions you don't want to use in a plastic bag (make sure to squeeze out any air), seal and then into the freezer. 

*** This also makes an ideal base for my Smoked Tofu Lahmacun ***

Green onion topping

1 tbsp olive oil
1 finely sliced onion
4-6 leaves of finely sliced greens (depends on their size)
6 mushrooms, diced into small chunks
1 clove garlic, crushed
30g strong and tangy cheddar cheese, finely grated

First things first, get your oven nice and hot. I tend to get mine as high as it will go, which is 250deg C in the new house.

Fry the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat until they take on a translucent quality. A pinch of salt in the pan will help to curb any browning. Add in the mushrooms for a couple of minutes, followed by the greens and garlic in quick succession. 

Keep the contents of the pan moving, given five minutes the greens will wilt and the mushrooms will shrink. Season with salt and pepper at this stage. 

Roll out one of the portions of your dough into a thin pizza base. You'll see from my picture that I'm hardly looking for a perfectly round final product! While you're rolling, pick up the dough every now and then to "relax" it. 

Lay the base on a non stick baking sheet. Scatter over the green onion topping and follow with a smattering of the cheese. 

Put the pizza into the oven (which should be pretty scorching hot by now) until it's wonderfully crispy. This will depend entirely on your oven, mine took about 7 minutes. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Rosey Strawberries with Saffron Cream, it's summer in a bowl!

Summer means one thing in my kitchen, lots and lots of strawberries! Whilst I may occasionally buy a punnet at other times in the year, I am invariably disappointed. Out of season strawberries just seem to lack the deeply red skin and flesh that's so juicy you'd be best to have a napkin on hand! It's no wonder really, they have to travel in from abroad so can't be picked as close to ripening for fear of spoiling. Not so with a British strawberry, and it's certainly not an issue when I venture out into the field on a PYO expedition. 

If there's one tip I can give you it is to shun a punnet over brimming with those huge shiny red ones from the supermarket.  You might get lucky and have a container full of huge tasty strawbs but the more likely scenario is that they will be positively bland compared to their smaller siblings. Instead, have a look for the batch containing small strawberries that have a decent reddy hue to them. That way you can be sure they are both, close to ripe but also intensely fruity. 

Reading the observer a few weeks ago I came across this intriguing and wonderfully recipe by Nigel Slater for strawberries and saffron cream. What a lovely way to jazz up an old classic, the earthy yet floral notes of the saffron really do work with a bowl of fragrant strawberries. 

It was to this recipe that I returned when faced with the prospect of cooking for a friend in the midst of our house move. I wanted something exciting yet easy and this fit the bill nicely. Having had an array of Middle eastern mezze the saffron fit the theme perfectly, this time though I macerated the strawberries in rose water and the result was sublime and of course reminiscent of Turkish Delight. Floral, fragrant, earthy, sweet and with a hint of extra freshness from the mint spring, I think this might become my go to easy dessert for the rest of the summer! 

Rosey Strawberries with Saffron Cream

In a bowl mix:

250g strawberries - halved or quartered, what ever takes your fancy.
1/2 - 1 tsp rose water (you really don't need much but it will depend on the brand you use, mine is particularly rosey)
1tbsp rice malt syrup (agave or honey would also work)

Leave to macerate for 20-30 minutes. 

At the same time, pop a good pinch of saffron into 1tbsp boiling water and allow it to steep for 20-30 minutes as well. Then just mix it, strands and all into 150g of extra thick double cream. 

Serve the two together with a sprig of mint. 

*** any left over strawberries make a fantastic breakfast with my nutty coconut granola and a heap of Greek yoghurt ***

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!

*** Update - I have made this a few times now and experimented with the coconut element. I have given all desicated a go, all flaked and half and half. My opinion is that half desicated and half flaked coconut gave me the version I've been most happy with so far. I'm also loving the addition of sesame seeds in the latest incarnation.***

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 enough 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. ***Update, it was delicious! This has now become my go to topping when I want something a little different over my roasted veg, it's also a fantastic salad topper. 

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Thursday, 15 May 2014 - My New Favourite Website!

Move over Pintrest, 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 fun 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 bloggers 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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