Deep breaths… this is a nerve wracking post! Soooo if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that since October last year I’ve been hitting the gym HARD with the help of my PT Jess, and I have a really great update to give. It’s exciting news, but it comes with a before-and-after pictures which are a bit scary to put online but I think they do the story justice.
I am such a huge fan of Heck! Chicken Italia sausages. Not only are they lean they are also absolutely delicious! You can use them like you would pork sausages (in a sandwich or breakfast) but they also really come into their own in creamy dishes like this, just like chicken breast would.
Note this totally isn’t an advert for Heck!, and other chicken sausages are available. They’re just really, really good.
The sausages are waaaaay easier to cut up if you cook them first so be sure to do that to make your life easier. You also get a better colour on the skin through grilling them rather than frying. Kale can be swapped for spinach too if you prefer, and I used wholegrain spaghetti because I like it but again that’s up for change.
This is such an easy, cupboard essential meal. You don’t necessarily need a pressure cooker to make it either but it does cut down the cooking time and makes the chickpeas nice and soft. You could easily whack this in the oven for an hour or two or do it in a slow cooker.
I absolutely love chickpeas at the moment, they’re so cheap and bulk out any recipe, as well as being all good for you and stuff. I keep trying to find new ways to cook them and this is a brilliant way as they’re almost star of the show.
You can make a big batch of this and freeze it too, imagine coming home to a big steaming bowl of spicy, tomatoey goodness on a cold autumn night. And it will be autumn soon so that dream isn’t very far away!
Note I put kale in this which just kind of turned to green mulch in the pressure cooker. Spinach might be better, or if you really want kale, leave it out until five minutes before the end.
I feel SO busy at the moment. Somehow I’m packing in a 40 hour working week, 4 trips to the gym, trying to buy a car, and about umpteen friends’ birthdays and social plans. That’s just summer though really isn’t it? I feel like having the opportunity to cook something nice is really rare for me at the moment – there’s been lots of scrambled egg on toast for dinner (eeeek!). Anyway, I’m on holiday countdown as it’s won’t be long before we’re off to Menorca for a week of eating, beaching and reading. I cannot wait!
A brief gym update since my last post because I’m SO proud of the progress I’m making. This week I’ve managed sumo squat deadlifts all by myself (no PT spotting) at 30kg which is the biggest weight I’ve ever lifted so far. There’s people that can lift more (obviously) but to me this is a huge achievement, especially considering I could barely lift a 20kg bar this time last year. October will be my gym-iversary and if I’m feeling brave enough I might do some of those cringey before and after pictures. It’s never really been about the result for me though, more the feeling. Lifting that weight makes me feel like I can take on anything.
Now I’ll stop rambling on, on to the recipe. This yummy stir fry is so packed full of protein and vegetables and makes for great weekday lunches, especially as the longer you leave it, the more flavour the tofu takes on from the surrounding sauce. I love that about tofu! The wet sauce for this which is unusual for me with noodles, I usually like a drier noodle or just dressed sesame oil but the tofu really needs the moisture for this to work. If you’re a busy monster like me you can meal prep this bad boy by chopping up all the veg beforehand and keeping it in the fridge, and just lob it into the pan when you come home. You could even pre-chop the tofu and marinate it in a little soy sauce if you were feeling really extra.
High Protein Tofu Noodle Stir fry
Makes about 4 servings
- 280g block plain tofu (I like the ‘Tofoo’ stuff)
- 1 medium pepper
- 5-6 spring onions
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 large egg
- 100g mushrooms
- 1-2 nests of fine egg noodles
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice
- Sesame, chilli and vegetable oils
Finely slice the mushrooms, peppers, onions and spring onions and mince the garlic. Chop the tofu into small cubes and begin to fry in a frying pan with 2 tsp vegetable oil, and a couple of shakes of the chilli oil. In a separate pan or wok, make a quick, thin omelette with the egg and set to one side. Stir fry the veg with the garlic (I like to blanch the spring onions with the noodles so leave those out til later) just for a coupe of minutes until it starts to soften. Shred up that omelette you made earlier and add to the pan, and when the tofu is ready, add that in too. Boil the noodles in a saucepan according to packet instructions and drain into a sieve – place the spring onions in the sieve and pour the hot water over them. This makes them nice and soft without compromising the flavour.
Next, in a cup, mix together the cornflour, soy sauce, five spice and fish sauce with maybe 25ml water or so – you want it to fill about half way up a standard mug. Pour this into the pan with the veg and the tofu and add the noodles too. Stir until it’s thickened – add a bit more water if it goes too thick and then serve with a drizzle more chilli oil if you like a bit of spice!
These lamb koftas are suprisingly easy to make, I wondered for most of yesterday why I’d not attempted them before. Seeing as we’re not going to Greece on holiday this summer I decided to bring a bit of Greece to us, in the form of food.
I have to admit, small crimes were committed for the sake of this recipe. We don’t grow any fresh herbs and this dish was crying out for some fresh rosemary. I chucked a hoodie on and roamed the streets, looking for a nearby garden with easy access fresh rosemary. I felt (and probably looked) a bit dodgy but needs must – and luckily I found some growing over a garden hedge. A few sprigs later, I was back in the kitchen, giddy AF.
So, make sure you either own, buy, or steal some rosemary for this recipe. It really needs it. The secret is to really chop it very small using scissors, anything any bigger than 1mm or so will be too big and stick out of your mince mixture and it won’t compact against the skewer. Mint is also a great shout but I couldn’t find any to forage (or ahem, steal).
Bibis has always had a happy place in my heart. It’s been a firm family favourite of ours for years! We used to eat here waaaay back in the day when they were on Greek Street when I was little. Me and my sister would turn up in matching name headbands and all the waiters would make a fuss over us, they sometimes had magicians, and the food was always excellent.
I’m pleased to say 20 years on and the food is still excellent, with speedy, polite table service and glitzy surroundings. We ate here recently for my birthday and I wanted to pay homage to this classic Leeds restaurant so many people forget about.
To start, I had the prettiest peach Bellini while we opened presents. Bibis has a great little cocktail/drinks section before you get into the main restaurant which is really pleasant to sit in (and even more pleasant if people are giving you gifts!).
See? So pretty! They do lots of different cocktails, all made expertly at the bar. After this, it was time for the food. We shared two starters between three of us – deep fried courgette and calamari and a delightfu ball of mozerrella wrapped in Parma ham.
The portion sizes are spot on (nothing worse than a huge stater) and both dishes were delicious. The batter on the fried courgette and calamari was perfectly light and crisp, served with a gorgeous creamy tartare sauce. The mozerella was the star of the show for me though. Wonderfully creamy cheese, wrapped in perfectly salty ham. There was a cheeky slice of tomato under the entire thing which added a welcome refreshing taste.
For mains we had Maccharoni a la Calabrese, macaroni with spicy Italian sausage and n’duja, the lasagna and I went for the slow cooked Angus beef in red wine with Parmesan mash. It was all absolutely excellent, though the macaroni was slightly under (a bit too al dente), but had a gorgeous, spicy sauce that was really impressive. The lasagna was perfect with layers of hot melty bechemel, perfect ragu and very fresh lasagna pasta.
The beef however was the real star. I think it was a piece of brisket but it was hard to tell. It was falling apart, soft and melting into a wonderfully rich red wine sauce. The Parmesan mash was buttery and comforting and the perfect partner to soak up the gravy. Absolutely excellent.
We couldn’t face pudding, but Bibis have an excellent selection to choose from.
If you’re looking for a good Italian meal in Leeds, Bibis is definitely the place to go! Excellent food, great cocktails and great service.
It’s been quite a couple of weeks over here. I’ve managed to have food poisoning twice (from eating out) plus a tiny cold. So I’ve not been cooking that many interesting things, hence being a bit quiet on the blog front! I’m back to normal now and I’ve got a tasty risotto recipe to share with you.
Ok, ok, risotto isn’t that summery, but with little pops of green leek, soft mushrooms and tender leftover chicken it’s savoury and completely passable in hot weather. Top it off with plenty cheese and you have yourself a year-round winner.
You can leave the chicken out of this if you’re veggie, it was only because I had some hanging around in the fridge that it ended up going in. It would be completely fine without it.
- Around 150-200g arborio rice
- 1 pint chicken or veg stock
- 1 glass white wine
- 2 leeks
- 100g mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 50g Parmesan, grated
- Olive oil
Chop up the leeks into small 1cm rounds. Wash thoroughly. Crush the garlic and chop the mushrooms. In a big saucepan, soften the leeks in some olive oil until they are translucent and just about to brown. Add another glug of olive oil, and then the rice.
Stir the rice in the oil until it becomes opaque and then add the glass of wine and a little of the chicken stock. Pop the bay leaf in. Keep the risotto on a low heat, stirring occasionally and adding the chicken stock a little at a time so the rice is always covered in liquid.
Meanwhile in a seperate pan, cook the mushrooms in a little oil until they are tender. Add these in when the risotto rice is almost cooked, along with the cheese and the chopped up left over chicken. Let simmer for another 3-4 mins or until the chicken is piping hot and then serve with extra Parmesan and cracked black pepper.
I first ate pulled beef maybe 5 years ago at a restaurant in Leeds called Cattle Grid which has since shut down. They did pulled pork or pulled beef sandwiches for £5 at lunchtime, with chips and slaw. I’ve never had as good pulled beef since! With a huge craving in tow, I set about trying to recreate it. You can slow cook this if you don’t have a pressure cooker, or even just put it in the oven on a very low heat.
As a side note, some of you might know I got a new job in March at High Street TV, who produce the Pressure King Pro (or PKP). It’s something we developed ourselves and is a really neat piece of kit. This post is 100% off my own back, I really like the product and can’t imagine my life without it now.
Anyway back to the beef. You need a nice bit of brisket – ours was just under 2kg. Look for plenty marbling, this means it has lots of fat running through it which will keep it moist and delicious.
I marinated this overnight in some mustard, BBQ sauce, sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Wrap it in clingfilm in the fridge and give it a rub and a turn after 6 hours or so. Then it’s into the pressure or slow cooker, make sure you brown it on all sides first. Then I added a mug full of water and set the PKP to ‘meat’ for 1 hour 15 and it was falling apart. If you use a slow cooker I’d allow 4-5 hours, same in the oven.
When it’s ready, shred the beef using two forks and it should come apart quite easily. Keep the cooking juices and add a little cornflour to them to thicken into a gravy, if you want, or just pour over the beef to keep it nice and moist.
Serve in bread buns with homemade slaw, or if you’re feeling wintery like I was, just add to a big plate of mash.
‘Never say no to a free lunch’ is one of my life maxims, and courtesy of the lovely folk at Greggs, I’ve been eating falafel salads all week! They asked me to compare their latest range of summer salads to their some of the others in the market. I chose falafel simply because I absolutely love it, making eating it all week pretty easy!
Monday – Greggs Falafel, Harissa, Roast vegetable and Grain Salad
The falafels themselves are excellent, just the right amount of crumble, and a yummy savoury taste. The salad leaves were all really fresh and there were some lovely chunks of sweet roasted red onion in there too. Packaging wise Greggs have nailed this – it’s easy to transport (no leakages), made mostly of cardboard (yay environment), and comes with a plastic KNIFE as well as fork. On the downsides, the yoghurt and harissa dipping sauces were both a bit too vinegary for me, coupled with the vinaigrette on the couscous and pearl barley it made the whole salad a bit well… vinegary. A sweet chilli dipping sauce might have been a better option. Vinegar aside, the salad looks excellent, tastes pretty good and looked very fresh.
- Taste 4/5
- Value for Money 5/5
- Freshness 5/5
- Nutrition 4/5
- Aesthetics 5/5
Total score: 23/25
Tuesday – Pret a Manger Sweet Potato Falafel and Smashed Beets Veggie Box
I don’t like beetroot so this wasn’t off to a great start, though it did look lovely and colourful in the box with a big old dollop of beetroot hummus right on top. I did try some for the purpose of fairness but it wasn’t for me so I scraped quite a bit of it off. If you like beetroot though it did add a nice sweetness. The rest of the salad was tasty with a pleasantly zingy green dressing. The sweet potato falafel had lovely, slightly curried flavour to them (probably from the turmeric) but you only get two which is a bit mean. Brown rice and quinoa made for a tasty and nutritious carb, and I really liked the addition of pomegranate. It looses points on freshness though, the two avocado slices means this salad didn’t look fantastic after I took it out of the fridge, and the packaging just wasn’t as nice as Greggs.
- Taste 4/5
- Value for Money 3/5
- Freshness 3/5
- Nutrition 5/5
- Aesthetics 2/5
Total score: 17/25
Wednesday – M&S Bulgar Wheat and Falafel salad
This one was a winner on all fronts apart from the falafel. The bulgar wheat was delicious, with lovely fresh veg mixed in. There was a little corner of hummus hiding under it which was delightful, plus the crumbled feta on top took this salad to another level. The falafel itself was really sad though, it was soooo crumbly it had actually already broken up in the box before I ate it, so it wasn’t in lovely rounds any more – just in little pieces. Packaging and appearance wise this looked great, with the cherry tomatoes giving a lovely pop of colour. Shame about the falafel though.
- Taste 5/5
- Value for Money 3/5
- Freshness 3/5
- Nutrition 4/5
- Aesthetics 4/5
Total score: 19/25
Thursday – Starbucks Falfel and Quinoa Lentil salad
This had to be the worst of the bunch. Lots of falafel, but it was very dry and bland, and the only dip provided was a beetroot hummus which didn’t add anything to the moisture. The quinoa was extremely minty and didn’t taste of much else. The cucumber was nice and fresh and probably the only bit I really enjoyed. Overall, this was really disappointing and I ended up getting some crisps from the canteen instead!
- Taste 1/5
- Value for Money 2/5
- Freshness 4/5
- Nutrition 4/5
- Aesthetics 3/5
Total score: 14/25
Friday – Boots Carrot and Coriander Falafel Salad
Not being a coriander fan, I didn’t expect to like this one but I was pleasantly surprised! The falafel was really flavoursome and the bulgar wheat was pleasantly simple and not covered in horrible minty dressing like the Starbucks experience. A nice little pot of mint dressing meant I could control the flavour myself. The salad also came with shredded carrots which were nice and fresh. The only thing was it was a little bit on the small side, I was definitely hungry after this one! But seeing as it’s part of the Boots meal deal you can treat yourself to a snack too.
- Taste 4/5
- Value for Money 5/5
- Freshness 4/5
- Nutrition 4/5
- Aesthetics 2/5
Total score: 19/25
They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and for me, this really rings true. I spend maybe 75% of my home life in the kitchen! Sadly our current kitchen is VERY small and difficult to fit two people in, so it means we either end up cooking alone or constantly get in the way of each other. We also really lack storage space (all our pans are shoved into a drawer) and have no dishwasher. So now that we’re getting closer to buying a house, I’m thinking quite carefully about what my dream kitchen might look like. Of course, we haven’t found a house yet, but I can dream, right?
Lots of countertops
I like to have lots of surface room for chopping, rolling, and assembling dishes. There’s only two spots in our current kitchen for this kind of activity and one is right next to the sink so it’s super not ideal. My dream kitchen would have marble or natural wood counters (for the perfect insta shot, obvs). I love the idea of having flowers in the kitchen so even just a space big enough to display flowers would be great.
OK so I don’t know if this is just me but I really struggle with the smell of eggs once they’ve been cooked and eaten. Like the leftover egg smell on a plate after you’ve rinsed it. Eugh. It smells like wet dogs to me and I sometimes find myself re-washing things to try and get rid of the smell. We really need a dishwasher to get everything squeaky clean and not slave over the sink every night.
At the moment all our pans are somewhat ‘shoved’ in a drawer under the oven. They’re out of the way, but they all clang together, fall out of the back of the drawer, and generally are a mess, so it’s not really working. I’d love to have somewhere to store our pans neatly and easy to reach, either on display or just… yeah.. neater!
Storage in general
Some people fantasise about walk in wardrobes. I like to think about walk in pantries. I would absolutely LOVE a pantry for storing all those cupboard or room temperature things like sauces, flours, pasta, rice, root vegetables… in a big walk in pantry.
We have a big problem with spices at the moment which currently live in a little cubby next to the hob. They’re handy for cooking in this location, but also completely exposed to steam on a regular basis, so our powdered herbs and spices tend to clump together which is a nightmare. We also can’t easily see what we’ve got – which led us at one point to own three different jars of cumin. A kitchen with space for a beautiful spice rack would be perfect.
I could go on all day! Check out my other kitchen ideas on my Dream Kitchens Pinterest board. What would you have in yours?