Thursday, 24 April 2014

Exploring Isa Does It

When I get a new cookbook I tend to sit with it beside me for a couple of weeks, read it front to back, flip through it a lot and make whatever comes to mind. Then I come here and post a review and a bunch of food pictures. After that I use the book to make those recipes and occasionally scan it for new ones. A good book becomes a regular part of my cooking life.

Sometimes that doesn't happen. Even a good book I forget about. It can get overshadowed by another book, the recipes I want to try may not be seasonal, I might just be depressed and not cooking and forget all about it. That last one happened to Isa Does It. A cookbook which I reviewed with great enthusiasm and then forgot about. Which is a real shame, because it's incredible.

Olives + Roasted Red Pepper = Happiness?

I've been making more of an effort to flick through it and try more stuff. As the recipes are all super easy and super tasty it's hard not to be inspired. This week I made myself The Mediterranean Overnight Scramble. It's actually (shockingly?) the first tofu scramble I've ever had and is quite incredible. The fabulous roasted red pepper and olives shine through. I suspect you can't fail to start the day right with olives in you breakfast.

Okay some look more sausagey than others...
Speaking of olives I couldn't resist making the pizza bowl again following its success last week. This time I read the recipe correctly and threw in brown rice. I even went for the home made sausages. The Steamy Beany Sausages were ridiculously fun to make and taste really good.

Still not going easy on that sauce though.
If you started reading this post by feeling sorry for me for not getting into Isa Does It enough hopefully you can now take comfort in my attempts to rectify that. If you'd like to recommend one of the recipes for me to try I'd be grateful.  

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

I Bought A Book: Every Grain Of Rice

Right, so I already spoiled this review last week when I got so excited over the spring rolls I made that I had to post them. Okay. So all tension is now drained from the post, you know I love, adore and recommend this book I'm just going to post a link to it over at Amazon so you can click it, buy it, and come right back.

Okay? Let me tell you why you won't be disappointed you just did that. Every Grain Of Rice is a nice big chunky book of Chinese home cooking. Which means the food in here is simple, honest and mostly very quick. Most of the recipes are weeknight proof. With the help of a few 'magic' ingredients you can turn whatever is lingering in your fridge into a great meal very quickly.

I cooked myself a simple meal of Firm Tofu With Green Pepper, Twice Cooked Swiss Chard and plain white rice in twenty minutes or so. It didn't taste thrown together at all. It was incredible and I actually ate the stalks of the chard for the first time. I did have to buy some specialist ingredients but only of the kind that costs very little, lasts forever and adds a lot of taste. Back when I lived in the north it was much easier to find these things (most of them you can even get in supermarkets) but ordering online from places like Sous Chef isn't much more difficult. 

If you aren't used to shopping in Chinese Shops or for Chinese ingredients there's a really stunning section at the back to talk you through what each ingredient is, what it looks like and what you can do with it. Including a whole page of tofu. Be still my vegetarian heart.

Really the thing that stopped me from buying this when it first came out was that I didn't know the ratio of veggie to meaty recipes. Well there isn't much in here I can't cook. It's so full of vegetables that it's absolutely perfect for people with veg boxes or allotments. If you've ever had a vegetable in your hand and no idea how to make a meal out of it you should buy this book. 

Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Fennel Crusted Tofu

The aim here was to make a light, slightly herby slice of tofu to serve alongside potatoes and this really does hit the spot. The fennel elevates it from being just bread and tofu without making it so posh you wouldn't dip it into ketchup like a fish finger. 

This recipe serves two.


for the topping: 
2 tablespoons of chopped fennel leaf
4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of oil
a good pinch of salt 
a good pinch of pepper

for the tofu:
half a block of tofu (about 125g) pressed and sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C 

Combine all of the topping ingredients, the oil will just bring them together.

Pour the tablespoon of oil into the corner of a baking tray. Dredge your tofu in the oil so there is some on each side.

Place your oily tofu on the baking tray and press a little of the topping onto each slice.

Bake for 20 minutes, until everything looks golden. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Pizza Bowl

There are plenty of times in my life when I'm sat facing a giant bowl of food. That doesn't sound too flattering but I'm sat with a giant bowl of food and I take my first bite. I think to myself 'why did you never make this before dumbass?' Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you The Pizza Bowl from Isa Does It.

White rice (because I can't read the word brown properly), kale, sausage bits, black olives and that cheesy, tangy sauce. You make be looking at that picture and thinking too much sauce. I'm taking a hard look at my life and saying too little!


I'm starting to post in the lunch box only blog on a Friday. I'm lucky enough to be spending my friday doing some really cool volunteer work so I'll be out of the house and packing lunch.

Check it out

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Playing Around On Cookpad

I know I'm not the only one in the world who enjoys playing around on the English Language version of Cookpad but I went through a massive Japanese food craving the other week and ended up pinning and even cooking some fabulous food. If you've not been on Cookpad before it's a really cool database of recipes created by Japanese home cooks. Kind souls have translated some of these recipes in to English.

Noodles, eggs and a full tummy

Which is fabulous because as much as I love the Japanese cookbooks I own  I want to know about home cooking. I want to know what real people do when they have bare cupboards or a certain vegetable isn't in season. I want to see recipes based on how real cooks act in their own kitchens. The other thing I absolutely love is going through the recipes by vegetable. Take mizuna, I leaf grown by many UK gardeners and professional growers because it's lovely in salad. Sometimes I think we waste it's potential by not cooking it. Now I have no excuse.

So away from the generalities and onto the specifics. I've been enjoying the hell out of these Curry Marinated Sweet Onions. It's a quick pickle that goes great on sandwiches, burgers, on the side of your plate... it does hate having it's picture taken though. Can't explain that. What I did manage to take a picture of though was this amazing Udon with Thick Egg Soup. Store cupboardy and perfect for lunch. It's simple to make and incredibly satisfying.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Fresh Spring Rolls

I've met a few new people this week and as new people often do they asked me about being a vegetarian. 'Why' is a question that I never like to get into while I'm eating. 'Don't you miss bacon' is met with the loudest, longest 'no' you ever did here. Except possibly the one when I was asked if I ever get bored. One person asked what it was that I ate anyway and I instantly thought of these.

Even the photo makes me start drooling again. These are Fresh Spring Rolls and the recipe can be found in Every Grain of Rice. I do intend to do a proper review of the book but this picture was tempting me, sat on the hard drive waiting for me to do something with it. The vegetables I couldn't slice finely enough, the pancakes were misshapen and too fat but this is one of the greatest things I've ever eaten.

I'm usually one of those people who claim that a salad is not a food that can fill you up all the way. I offer my apologies. Turns out roots, peppers and sprouts in a spicy soy-ey (that so should be a word. we'll just got for it) is filling as anything and the pancakes... they make you feel decadent and happy. And turn down that heat a little. I adore this, I want to make it for everyone I know. It would be the perfect picnic dish and I think you should go make them now. For a tiny amount of effort you'll have one of the best meals of your life. Trust me.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Home Made Haloumi

My cheese making adventures have finally taken me to haloumi town. I followed the recipe in the Lakeland Soft Cheese Booklet (which I'm not going to link to because I'm not sure I recommend it) and felt, for the first time, a little underwhelmed by it.

It's not that it was a complete failure. I enjoyed eating it but... it's the first cheese I've made that tastes better in the shops. And I don't like that, not if I'm going to put in all that effort. I hate to blame the recipe (although I hate to blame myself more) but the big problem was the lack of salt which is just not right in a haloumi. Looks like I'm in search of a better recipe then. Meanwhile the haloumi was served with a couple of pitas, some spinach, some spring onion and a bunch of hot sauce. Just how I like it.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Bunny Nuggets

We had a bit of a long weekend which I'm following with a bit of a short post (forgive me) about last week's normal sized weekend and the mischief I got up to.

It started on friday night with a pressing and slightly inexplicable need to knit a Bunny Nugget out of some of my leftovers. Bunny Nuggets are a cute little stuffed bunny designed by Rebecca Danger and the pattern is free. Apparently they inspire impulse knitting in some of us. But apparently they don't like to be alone. Some how by Saturday I'd started a Bunny Nugget production line.

I'd knit the body, with slight variations on the placement of the decreases so they don't all look the same, I'd knit two ears, then I'd add them to a pile. Once I had five knit up I started sewing them together and tucking in ends. For my next trick I made five identical pompoms and attached them to the bunny bottoms. After that it was time to apply the faces. I needle felted contrasting colours on in a variety of expressions. Then all that was left was stuffing and sewing.

I assume most readers have never seen the inside of my flat. Let's just say that I have more than enough cute, cuddly stuffed animals. Stephen's Office however is ripe for the... invasion. And that's how Stephen went to work with five noisy, naughty bunnies who adopted their own people and now play about the place.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Golden Syrup Cupcakes: A bit of a disaster

I had dreams with these cup cakes. Big fluffy dreams. I'm not really one for fancy, fancy cake making. I little cake, in a little cup with a little smear of butter cream or a drizzle of chocolate is usually enough for me. But thesw where going to be different. I'd taken out Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town from the library. My intention the golden syrup cupcakes. Skull and Crossbone cases would contrast with the mountain of swirled buttercream, delicate yellow sprinkles and drizzle of syrup. What happened?

In Which I Learn To Hate Self Raising Flour

The above picture was not the first time I made these cakes. I tweeted a picture of the first time I made these cakes. It looked like this:

Why? Well the cupcakes rose it the oven then deflated in the centre. As I tried to pick them up they tore and fell. The book suggested too much raising agent as the culprit so I took out the bicarb and baking powder and made a second batch.

In Which I Learn To Hate Buttercream, Piping Bags and My Hands

A day later than I'd hoped and it was time to decorate the cakes. I made a big batch of buttercream and popped it in the piping bag. Then I squoze, and I squoze, and I squoze. Then I frantically stopped squeezing and started screaming. The nozzle had flown right off the bag and the icing was coming out everywhere. It was too thick to come out of the nozzle so it just burst the whole contraption.

After stalking off in a mood, flinging myself to be bed and ranting at a teddy bear for a few minutes I came back and just smeared the buttercream on. I no longer cared.

In Which Our Heroine's Efforts Are Rewarded With Cake

The taste was fantastic though. And a nostalgia hit. When I made cupcakes at university I couldn't necessarily afford vanilla so I'l put a little golden syrup in the batter to give it some taste. My cakes looked ugly then too.