Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Happy Pantry Challenge: Grains, a Discussion


I have an announcement to make. We’re a third of the way through winter. A third! I’m already dreaming of summer salads and barbeques. OK, so its the end of June. This month went by in a blur. A super, super fast blur. I’m not even sure what I did. Some months are like that. One thing I did do was The Happy Pantry Challenge. I LOVED this. I didn’t think I would get so much out of it. I didn’t think grains would lead me on a wild goose chase. I didn’t think I’d discover a new favourite store. I didn’t think I’d discover a breakfast that I can eat every morning for days without boredom setting in. But it did. Did you join in? If not, do join in in July when we ‘go local’ (more soon!). These are my favourite outcomes of The Happy Pantry Challenge.

IMG_0883 publicize New Recipes flagyl uk oversee convert I found some cracker recipes on my grainy mission. I made quinoa for the first time in a mexi-meatless ‘shepherd’s pie’ from this book. I’ve raved about this but I really love it, my new favourite breakfast from Bonnie Delicious. I experimented with barley and made this recipe which I would make again (I skipped the cranberries as I thought it was sweet enough. I’d reduce the dressing recipe next time). Here is a great article on barley and how to cook it!


update diflucan uk New Ideas

I love day-dreaming about recipes to share on the blog. What happens if I add this and this together? What flavour combos will work? What ingredients should I use? On the Challenge, I discovered a whole new world of amazing ingredients to spark ideas for a whole new world of recipe ideas. I especially love how these work with my ambition to cook and eat more vegetarian. 


New ways of looking at food

This Challenge set something in motion for me: the concept of cooking with whole foods that are super nutritious. (I’d obviously thought about this before, but suddenly the concept was clarified and simplified). It also got me thinking about gluten-free eating. I’m not gluten-free and don’t plan to be, but man there are so many great GF options out there grain-wise. I want to learn more about these and cook with these more. I don’t have a strict diet – vegan paleo ect – but one of the core principals of what we eat, is variety. To me, variety is the KEY to eating a great diet. Its the best way to get a range of nutrients. It gets rid of ‘food-boredom’ where you can fall into a dangerous cooking rut. It makes cooking fun. And delicious. Learning about different grains brings a whole new level of variety. I love that.


The Challenge

This wasn’t all walks in the park. I think the hardest part of the Challenge for me was learning how to cook new grains. They all have slightly different cooking procedures and buying them from bulk-bins sans instructions – all I can say, thank goodness for Google!

Did you cook with grains in June? Was the Challenge stimulating? I hope you’ll join me in July! I’m sure you’ll be seeing a few new grains featuring here over the next few months. If you have any grainy questions, post a comment.

Machine-Free Hummus

good 5

Woohoo today I’m writing about one of my all-time favourites: hummus. When something tastes ludicrously good and is not just not unhealthy, but actually really good for you, I’m all over that. Like seriously, you should be making this A LOT (because its delicious (healthy schmelcy). Also you should make it because pre-made stuff is expensive and involves plastic packaging and because you can make it! In minutes!


Here’s what bugs me sometimes. Hummus: cheap to make, takes a few minutes and no skill cooking required. Its the kind of food that anyone regardless of financial status and cooking skill should be able to make. Not so. The typical hummus recipe is made in a food processor. If you have one, jump for joy! If you don’t, join my sad club. A food processor retails at around $200 and for the sake of hummus, that’s preposterous. So I came up with this ‘machine-free’ version. You can still make the recipe with a food processor if you like, just bung everything in and pulse till awesome.

PicMonkey Collage

Hummus is a conversation between some bog standard ingredients that In my opinion, are all pretty rad. The usual suspects: lemon juice, olive oil (or other), salt, pepper and garlic. The base: chick peas, chick peas, chick peas (oh so good for you). The wild card: tahini (paste). Tahini is made from sesame seeds and gives hummus its identifying flavour. It can be a little pricey but as you only need about 2.5 tablespoons, per batch, it goes a heck of a long way and keeps for just as long, in the fridge. If you can’t find tahini in your supermarket scope out other food stores in your area.

Machine-Free Hummus

1 400 gram can of chick peas or equivalent dried and cooked
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic, chopped well
2 tablespoons of tahini, plus a little extra
2 tablespoon of olive oil, plus a little extra
12 teaspoon of salt & plenty of ground black pepper
Bread, crackers or other to serve
You will also need a large ziplock bag or produce bag and a rolling pin or similar

OK. Here’s the fun part. (Especially useful if you’ve had a rough day.) Rinse and drain your chickpeas. Add them to the bag (don’t close the bag, air needs to be able to escape). Now bash the living daylights out of them with your rolling pin. Yeeha! Bash until no chickpeas are identifiable. About 5 minutes. You can even roll over them a few times at the end with the rolling pin. (The more you bash, the smoother your hummus will be).

Tip the chick peas into a bowl, big enough for you stir in. Add the lemon juice, oil, tahini, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir really well. Taste.

You’ll probably want to add more oil to reach the desired consistency. Add more pepper and tahini if you want a bit more zing.

Serve! Great with some crusty bread as a side to soup, with crudités or my favourite, with tabbouleh and pita breads.

Keeps in the fridge for several days. You may wish to add a little more oil after refrigerating.

Roast Dinner Side Alternatives

PicMonkey CollageIts winter! Hurrah! I can cook a roast chicken without having to sit outside for 3 hours. If you’re a meat-eater I’m sure one of things you look forward to each winter is a good hearty roast dinner. Secretly, my favourite part is having leftover meat to make yum things with. To be honest though, I get a bit bored of good ol’ roast veggies. I mean, I love em but they’re kind of same same. I’m all over potatoes, they’re one of my favourite foods, but I kind of hate roasting them because they take so long and the end result can vary depending on the potatoes you buy. So to get to the point, I’ve compiled a drool-inducing list of alternative sides for your roasts. Something with a bit more flare! We need more of that in winter.

– Last week I made this leek, ham and potato bake. Its good. Lots of leeky goodness! (I have a strict rule in our house that I only include one sort of meat in a meal, if any, but I think I’d make an exception here! Or you could just skip the ham).

These sticky cumin and apricot carrots are on my menu this week. Yumbo! (P.S Rachel Allen is one of my favourite cooks and I recommend her book Easy Meals)

This brown rice and cauliflower gratin looks amazing! So packed with good things. Such a great way to use cauli.

– I might be biased but I love my kumara, walnut and cranberry couscous. This also goes superbly with a big hearty stew or tagine.

Pip’s frenchy potatoes are a classic. Possibly the best (and most lethal) way to eat pots’.

– Nadia Lim’s new book Good Food Cook Book is packed with recipes full of flare (and gorgeous photography). One recipe I’ll be using often is her Asian Slaw with Lime and Sesame dressing. A totally fresh take on the usual mayo-drenched slaw. Definitely see if your library has it!

– Lastly, here is my simple Sweet and Sour Carrot Salad recipe. The carrots and cranberries bring a sweetness to the salad and the slightly sour dressing complements them well. Easy to throw together and refrigerate until needed (will keep for 2 days). Makes enough for 4 sides. Add an extra carrot if you like.

Sweet & Sour Carrot Salad

2 carrots
1 tablespoon fresh coriander (or parsley if you don’t have it)
14 cup dried cranberries
14 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
The juice of half a lemon
A large pinch of sugar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Grate the carrots. Chop the herbs finely. In a bowl combine the grated carrot, herbs, cranberries and almonds if using,

(To toast your almonds, add to a dry pan on medium high heat and cook, stirring regularly until fragrant and golden brown. Be careful not to burn)

Add all dressing ingredients to a jar and shake well, or a jug and whisk together with a fork. Stir through salad.

A Recipe for Winter


1. Make ginger beer, watch The Way Way Back and pretend its summer.

2. Go for a swim. Seek out your local pool and go for a dip. Trust me on this one. Better yet, splash out on a new suit and swim every week (puns always intended).

3. Rearrange your living room or bedroom. Nothing is more refreshing.

4. Plant some herbs. Everyone needs a little greenery on their porch, especially when everything else is grey.

5. Bake a cake or six. Indulge. Its winter. (You may wish to skip step 2).

6. Build a fort. Hang out with your cat and some ace snacks in said fort. Works especially well if rain is hammering at the windows.

7. Get out of the house. Go to a movie or a show or a warm cafe. I can’t wait to see Ernest and Celestine!

8. Have a pot-luck dinner party. I call shotgun on making dessert.

9. Subscribe to a lovely magazine and do a small dance by your letterbox when it arrives.  Then hunker down in bed and read it from cover to cover.

10. Go shopping for tea and treat yourself to some new varieties.

11. Make hot breakfasts. This gives you a reason to live when you have to get out of bed when its still dark. Eggs, pancakes, French toast or porridge with lashings of cinnamon and banana are my go-to’s. If time short make something the day before like my new favourite buckwheat porridge.

12. Make bread. There’s only one reason for this: your house will smell cosy. Make bagels to go with delicious hot soup.

13. Take up knitting and knit a warm blanket to snuggle under.

14. Make curry or chilli and watch Once with your other half.

15.  Go to the library with the sole purpose of your mission being to find a new soup recipe.

16. On a sunny day, open all of your windows, put on music and clean the house. Afterwards treat yourself to step 17.

17. Take a hot bath and read something inspiring. I LOVED Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and next I’m going to read Manage Your Day-To-Day.

18. Take time out to read a book. I’m hanging out to read Ruth Reichl’s first novel, Delicious. (Can you guess why?)

19. Make plans for the summer. Book a trip, write a list, set some goals, pencil it in.

20. Take on a lofty project. Time flies when you’re up to your elbows in paint, right? Make a garden, reupholster some furniture, sew some new soft furnishings, write a novel, learn how to speak a foreign language…

Happy Spaces v.10


And behold, its Saturday again. Writing this fortnightly piece makes me so aware of how fast the year is going. That’s good and bad. I like that spring won’t be too far off and the days are starting to get longer again. (I don’t mind the cold but I miss the extended day-light). I started my degree in February and doing it part-time, I know that it will take me at least five years which sounds like a long time, but I’m already crossing off papers. There’s good things to come, with the Winter Music Festival and my second paper starting in July and my birthday in August. I hope winter isn’t all doom and gloom for you. If so, the offerings below might change that.

– I’m really interested to try Oh She Glow’s coconut whipped cream!

– Last week I discovered lots of good planty things on the web.

A list of five must-watch documentaries (totally keen to watch 1, 2, 4 & 5!)

Really cute envelope DIY’s for your best penpal (which reminds me that I haven’t written a letter in too long!)

Is your life built around lofty goals and big dreams? Sarah talks about ambition. I love the concept of ’20 minutes of total panic before putting on your game face’.

Double chocolate banana bread, anyone? I should have opened with this. But then you would have all been glued to your keyboards with drool. Like I was. Making zombie moaning sounds. Rowan was concerned.

– So Pip, over at Meet Me At Mikes, is kind of a fab lady. She has started a Sunday email series, Feeling a Bit Sh*t? They’re full of good stuff to read, do, eat and laugh your socks off over. Sign up here.

This FANTASTIC quote. Yes, yes, yes, yes!

– Did you see? Did you see? I made ginger beer. Because somewhere its summer. You should make it too.

I have a long to-do list this weekend.  What are your plans? Comment below if  you want to share!

Leek, Ham and Potato Bake


The leeks have arrived in full force! If you slap a bit of cheese on it, even winters bounty can be exciting. This dish isn’t something you can bang together quickly- that means it involves peeling potatoes – but its worth the effort: delicious and hearty on a cold June night.

IMG_0965IMG_0970Leeks aren’t something to do a song and dance about but really they’re quite the understatement. They’re cheap and versatile and high in Vitamin K (and other good things besides). Oddly, leeks make me feel quite nostalgic – maybe something to do with the hundreds of pot-loads of leek and potato soup we ate when we first moved in together. Groundbreaking fact of the day: true love is made of cheap soup.collage

Leek, Ham & Potato Bake

2 leeks – if especially large you may only need 1
100 grams of shaved ham
2 tablespoons of butter
1 heaped tablespoon of fresh, chopped herbs (I used parsley and rosemary, optional)
500 grams of potato (depending on the size of your dish you may need slightly more)
14 cup of cream
14 cup of milk
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Roughly 12 cup of cheese (I used mild)

Preheat oven to 180ºC

Slice your leeks finely. Slice the ham into ribbons. Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the leek, ham and herbs and cook for about 5 – 6 minutes until the leeks are soft.

Peel the potatoes and slice very thinly.

In a bowl whisk together the milk, cream, garlic, a good shake of salt and a good few grinds of pepper.

In a baking dish (grease if necessary) layer a quarter of the sliced potato. Then top with a third of the leek mixture. Continue in this fashion, finishing with a layer of potato. Pour the cream mixture all over and cover with grated cheese. 

Bake for about 50 minutes until golden and cooked through.