red lentil and spinach coconut masala

The coconut milk in this balances out the spices so it’s spiced rather than spicy, though feel free to up the chilli content. Very filling, and protein- and iron-packed. Tasty tasty tasty :)
(I’m definitely enjoying these new wordpress emojis*, so much nicer than they used to be!)
*the first time I’ve succumbed to the word emoji… but it does seem to have won out over emoticon / smiley. And who am I to stand in the way of progress?

In non-blog life, I’m about to go away to au-pair in France for 4 months so blog updates may be sporadic barring a couple of queued posts, depending on how much cooking-experimentation over there. Or I might post a few updates about the delights of French wine and cheese! Anyone who knows me, please do feel free to send letters / come visit / pray for me as I look after 3 wee boys!

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(serves 4)

1 tbsp coconut or other nut (I used toasted sesame) oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp garam masala
¼ teaspoon ground coriander (or 1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped)
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt
400g tin coconut milk
1 cup red lentils
150g spinach (I used frozen)

  1. Heat the nut oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the spices (including ginger and garlic) and sauté for 2 minutes, then stir in the tomato purée for another 2 minutes. Remove the resultant paste to a bowl and re-use pot for step 2.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil and soften the onion for 5 minutes. Add the paste.
  3. Pour in the tomatoes and turn up the heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced a bit.
  4. Pour in the coconut milk and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Stir in the lentils and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the lentils are tender, 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Fold in the spinach and cook until wilted or defrosted, 3-6 minutes. Serve alongside coconut rice or naan bread.

(adapted from FeedMePhoebe)

a trio of mini tartlets

Why have one dessert when you can have 3? Especially when they’re only small… Excellent for those with commitment issues. ;)
So last time I had a friend round for dinner, I decided not to confine myself to merely one pudding choice, but to diversify into:
1. Banoffee Pie
2. Cheats’ Greek Yoghurt Cheesecake
3. Peanut butter Cheesecake-Pie-Thing
These are just guidelines based on what I had in the fridge to use up – biscuit bases are your friends, and can be topped with a lot of different things. It helped (and indeed, I wouldn’t have done (1) without) having a jar of caramel sauce in the fridge already, leftover from the last time I made salted caramel tarts. Something else that I’d have done if I had had cream would probably have been to make ganache, or chocolate mousse-pie… basically the world is your oyster. For (2) and (3) I’d make them the night or morning before you intend to serve them to give them time to stiffen up.

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These make 2 of each (well, they did in my moulds), so 6 mini tartlets in total, and I’d like to think they aren’t too bad for you. I mean, there’s fruit and protein, so that makes them positively healthy, right?

biscuit base
6 digestives, bashed up with a rolling pin
35g of butter (half the weight of the digestives)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Place all ingredients in bowl in microwave then alternate heating and stirring until the melted butter is evenly distributed.
  2. Press into whatever moulds you are using (mine were about 2 inches, I think, and took 1 tbsp each of the mixture) using the bottom of an appropriately-sized glass. Tip: if a silicone mould, place on top of a rigid baking tray so you can transport without breaking.
  3. Place in fridge while making toppings.

banoffee pie topping
1.5 tbsp caramel, if necessary heated slightly so that it’s spreadable
Few rings of a banana (eat or freeze the rest of it)
Whipped cream (or squirty cream) (optional) and chocolate shavings to serve

  1. Shortly before you are ready to serve, spread caramel evenly onto 2 of the biscuit bases. Top with banana slices, then cream and chocolate shavings. Obviously, whipped cream is far superior but squirty cream is just fine if you’re doing this on the basis of using what’s in your fridge!

Greek yoghurt cheesecake topping
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp vanilla
berries, to top

  1. Whisk the sugar and cornflour together (this is to mimic instant pudding mix).
  2. Stir this into the Greek yoghurt, then stir in the vanilla. Do it slowly so the yoghurt doesn’t deflate.
  3. Spoon evenly onto 2 of the biscuit bases and refrigerate for several hours. Top with berries before serving.

peanut butter cheesecake topping
1.5 tbsp peanut butter
1.5 tbsp cream cheese
2 tsp milk
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) icing sugar
1 tsp nutella (optional)

  1. Whisk the peanut butter, cream cheese, and milk with a fork.
  2. Once combined, add in the icing sugar and whisk to remove lumps. If desired, swirl in the nutella.
  3. Spoon evenly over 2 biscuit bases and refrigerate for several hours.

mumbai mango potato curry

Tasty, low-calorie (if that’s your bag), cheap ‘n’ easy curry. I used sweet potatoes rather than ordinary (what a rebel), but either would work.Image

(serves 3-4)

2 tsp sunflower oil
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp hot curry powder
400g can chopped tomatoes
750g potatoes, diced (or sweet potatoes)
2 tbsp spiced mango chutney
400g can chickpeas (optional)
To serve: chapatis, naan bread, rice, as you wish; natural yoghurt mixed with a bit of mint sauce if you choose.

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot and fry the onion for 5 minutes until golden and soft. Stir in 1.5 tbsp curry powder, cook for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  2. While it’s simmering, add the potatoes and remaining curry powder to a pan of boiling salted water. Cook for 6-8 minutes until just tender.
  3. Drain potatoes and add to pot, along with mango chutney. If it’s looking a bit dry, use some of the potato-water to make it more liquid. Heat through.
  4. Mix together 100g yoghurt and 1 tsp jarred mint sauce if using for serving. Enjoy!

(via BBC GoodFood)

cooking for crowds

and when I say crowds, I mean crowds.

A little over four years ago, I thought it was a big deal cooking for 2 of my friends for lunch. With the oh-so-taxing menu plan of chilli nachos. Somehow, while the end result did taste good and nobody got food poisoning (always a fear), the process involved an emergency call to one of the friends to get me hypo-allergenic elastoplast en route as I’d had issues with a knife.
Hundreds of cooked meals (for myself and for friends) later, a little over one year ago, I thought cooking for 20 people at an international dinner was a big deal. Since then, I’ve been in kitchens helping cook for 120+ people at weekends away and camp, and cook fortnightly for the student group at church whose numbers have varied from 15-40. And accumulated a fair few knife wounds and burn-scars along the way…

While some recipes I’ve used have simply been scaled-up versions of standard meals such as tagine, others have been found in word-of-mouth recipe books passed on by kind SU chefs. So I thought I’d create a page to house these recipes in list form so that others can benefit from them too. Some involve more work than others, but all are construed on a strict budget (normally about 40p-90p per person). My plan is to add to it as I find other recipes that would fit the theme.
Call me a traitor if you like, but I’ve included meaty recipes here for the simple reason that people like to eat meat. And the point in cooking for people in large quantities is to provide tasty sustenance so they can get on with the rest of their evening / weekend / camp. This does mean that I can’t vouch for the taste of several of these recipes personally, but have only included them here after good reactions from the recipients!
Quantities can be a bit variable (e.g. soup serving size depends on bowls), so adapt with common sense.

Top tips for cooking with crowds:

  • Get stuff chopped up first, before you cook it. That may seem like a small thing, but when you’re dealing with kilos of vegetables, it’s important.
  • Don’t stress about the amount of oil/salt/cream you’re using – think of how many people it’s being split between!
  • Herbs and spices are your friend. It’s amazing what even a generic jar of 85p dried mixed herbs can do for a dish.
  • Ovens don’t like having a load of cold things shoved in them, so if adapting a recipe ensure that you allow extra cooking time.
  • It’s better to get stuff done earlier then leave it warming in the oven than to take a break initially then find that you have absolutely no time. Things take longer than you’d think!
  • If possible, ensure there are lots of hands on deck. For a weekend with 128 people, 4-5 at-least-semi-experienced cooks are essential (unless you’re relying on a lot of pre-made stuff. But, yuck.)
  • Print off a copy of the recipes for each cook so they can make their own written notes on them.
  • Pick your battles. Life is too short to peel potatoes and carrots – just scrub them well. Similarly, don’t bother with cloves of garlic if cooking for loads of people; the tubes of purée are perfectly adequate. On the flip side, pre-grated cheese is literally cardboard so if you have time and money then it’s worth getting whichever cheddar is on offer at the store.
  • I may be biased, but I think that as more and more people choose vegetarian meals (whether all the time or because they don’t like sausages or mince but are fine with chicken etc), or because they are intolerant or allergic to certain components, it’s normal to have an alternative, particularly when at a camp or weekend away when you know people’s food needs in advance. Consider what you want to do with this, which can also depend on your resources. Are you going to have an option which will also tempt “normal” eaters who don’t like certain ingredients? E.g. balance a chilli con carne with a vegetarian risotto so people that don’t like spice can have the risotto. OR in the interests of time-management / if you’re short of hands, will you choose things that you can cook together and then split – e.g. béchamel sauce can then turn into mince pasta bake, or broccoli cheese.
  • At weekends/weeks away, keep some of the plastic bags that the online shop comes in. Campers will have forgotten to bring these and rumours will spread at camp’s end that you have a stash.

Do you have any tips that would fit in well hear from your experiences in large kitchens? Please comment below – I’d love to learn from people with more experience :)

Recipe Index (serving size in brackets, then halve/double/triple/quadruple as you like!)

Leek and potato (v) (25)
Lentil and bacon (40)
Spicy carrot and lentil (v) (df) (70)
Spiced squash and sweet potato (v) (20)

Chilli con carne (5/25)
Chilli, lentil (v) (5)
Chicken korma-ish curry (25)
Lentil dhal (v) (8)
Mince pasta bake (20)
Cheesy broccoli pasta bake (v) (20)
Pizza (v) (25-30)
Ricebake – bacon (not v – 25) or bean (v – 8-10)
Sausage and bean casserole (120)
Vegetable risotto (v) (gf) (df) (20)

Apple and berry crumble (150)
Chocolate pudding (gf) (dairy-free) (per person)
Sticky toffee pudding (150)

Italian hot chocolate (120)

sweet potato and brie pancakes

Because the internet hasn’t posted / shared enough pancake recipes today.

These are highly recommended though, on Shrove Tuesday or any day. Make sure you use cold mashed potatoes so the brie doesn’t melt immediately – but mashed potatoes do cool quickly, so if you make them an hour in advance then leave to cool then they should be fine. Then you get the lovely pockets of brie in the middle of the hot pancakes. Serving suggestion: with homemade cranberry sauce. You can use standard mashed potatoes / leftovers if you’ve got them rather than sweet potatoes.

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(per 2 people)

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and mashed in advance – no need to add butter/milk when you’re mashing, as sweet potatoes become so soft when cooked.
1 egg, beaten
75-100g brie, cut into cubes
herbs of choice – I used some dried chives-and-parsley mix
salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp flour

  1. Stir everything but the brie together until well mixed (add flour cautiously until it’s as dry as you want it), then stir in brie more cautiously
  2. Heat a pancake pan with a little olive oil over a hot flame, then turn down slightly and plop scoopfuls of the mix into the pan. Press down slightly. Cook on either side for a few minutes until browned.
  3. Enjoy immediately :)

salted caramel brownies

Not normally one to deviate from my tried-and-trusted brownie recipe, but I had some salted caramel left over from making salted caramel and chocolate tarts and figured I’d try something new. They were really good, even if my caramel was a bit too runny. Enough that I might make again using just the recipe’s needs of 100g sugar / 50g butter / 1/4 tsp salt flakes / 3 tbsp double cream (check the above link for method of how to make caramel)… although I’m quite lazy sometimes so probably would just wait until I had some spare caramel lying around.


85g dark chocolate, chopped
115g unsalted butter
200g granulated sugar (or white/brown sugar mix)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g plain flour
However much caramel you want, frozen or refrigerated until quite firm.

  1. Preheat oven to 180oC and lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter until only a couple of unmelted bits remain, then take off the heat and stir until smooth and fully melted.
  3. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.
  4. Stir in flour with a flexible spatula.
  5. Chop or spoon caramel into small pieces (depending on how firm it is), and gently fold all but a few bits into the batter. Scrape the batter into the pan until even then scatter remaining caramel bits on top.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes at 180oC, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out almost clean.

(Recipe via Smitten Kitchen)

skirlie (vegetarian)

Clicking onto Buzzfeed’s reliable list of 21 Delicious Scottish Treats Everyone Should Try resulted in a lot of foods I had tried or was at least familiar with, and then something called Skirlie.

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After some googling, this turned out to be savoury sautéd oats that can be served as a side dish, or a vegetarian alternative to haggis (if the traditional beef-dripping is omitted) – or breakfast or lunch, it seems really versatile. I thought I’d try it for dinner with some spinach mixed in, and it was fairly tasty and filling – plus all the ingredients were to hand, which is ideal if you’re running low on food or ideas!

(per person)

70g / 2/3 of a cup of rolled oats
1.5 tbsp butter
1 small onion / 2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs / 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 handful frozen spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs

  1. Heat the butter and soften the onion, taking care not to burn it.  Bring a saucepan of water to the boil.
  2. Add the herbs, reduce the heat, and stir in the oats – cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Meanwhile, add the frozen spinach to the now-boiling water and leave until almost cooked. Then, poach the eggs – if you want it to be pretty, do it in another pot, but I just made my whirlpool in the spinach-pot and plopped each egg in the middle. I got a few stray wispy white bits, but it cooked fine.
  4. While the egg is cooking, pick out the spinach using a slotted spoon and stir into the oats along with a little water if you’d like. Top with pepper.
  5. Serve immediately, ideally in warmed bowls.

breakfast options: smoothie & quesadilla

Though probably best not having both of them in one day, as the smoothie is incredibly filling (I had it for elevenses and wasn’t hungry for lunch… as someone who is a big fan of regular meal and snack times [breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and maybe supper] this is a testimony to its filling powers).

And also if you’re going to object to the use of ‘quesadilla’ for something that doesn’t contain cheese – well yes, I can but agree with you. But I thought I’d run with the name given to it by the blog where I found the idea.

chocolate-banana-peanut butter smoothie

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1 banana, sliced – fresh or frozen
200ml milk
1 tbsp hot chocolate powder
2 tbsp Greek/plain yogurt
2 tbsp peanut butter
(2 tsp honey – optional)

Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.

banana-strawberry quesadilla

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(per person)

1 tortilla, cut in half – potentially easiest if a weird square one like I had in my freezer
2 strawberries, sliced
1 small banana
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp nutella (/another one peanut butter)
Sprinkling of cinnamon
Smidge of butter/oil for pan

  1. Spread one tortilla with peanut butter and the other with nutella
  2. Distribute fruit across one tortilla then top with cinnamon
  3. Press tortillas together
  4. Melt oil / butter in pan then heat gently for a few minutes on either side

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kale salad and sides

I’m not one to jump on the “super-food” bandwagon, but if I see a new vegetable at 50p in Tesco then I’m all for trying it. For some reason the blogosphere / pinterest / the web marketing geniuses behind have decided it is the ingredient to eat. Sidenote: I would normally hesitate to trust a food that has its own website, but I thought I’d give this one the benefit of the doubt.

Seeing as how late to the bandwagon I am with this one, you might well have formed your own opinion of the brassica, but if not then I’d describe it as a cross between broccoli, parsley, and cabbage. It’s tasty, with more oomph to it than your standard lettuce. Quite sturdy too. I had a bit of a ‘kale day’ last week, with two helpings of the below salad and then a serving of the mash… but my other food that day included a French-brioche-toast with berry compote (at the Glad Café – well worth a visit if you’re in Glasgow’s southside) and one or two or three brownies, so on balance even kale’s super-healthiness probably didn’t even out my day.

chopped chickpea kale salad

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(serves 3)

about 3 cups of chopped kale (I didn’t chop mine very much; you could chop it lots if you want to)
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 onion, diced
½ cup of almonds, chopped
½ cup of sunflowe seeds
(optional) 1 apple OR 1 avocado, chopped

for the dressing:
3 tablespoons of (extra virgin) olive oil
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
½” piece of ginger, peeled and minced
some fresh cracked black pepper

  1. Toast the almonds and seeds seeds together in a small frying pan over low heat with a splash of olive oil. This should only take about five minutes, but be sure to watch because you want the almonds to be lightly brown but not burned.  Allow them to cool slightly before incorporating into the salad.
  2. Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a jar and shaking vigorously, or in a bowl and whisking. Set aside.
  3. If making for a side, place all kale in a large bowl and stir the dressing into the leaves with your hands, then add the rest of the ingredients. If making for 3 different lunches, just split up the ingredients  between 3 containers (except the apple – don’t chop until ready to eat) and leave the dressing to pour over on the day.


boursin-mashed sweet potato with kale

Yes I ate straight from the pot #studenthabits #sorrynotsorry #ironicuseofprevioushashtag

per person

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
Handful kale, chopped into tiny bits
2 tbsp whole milk / cream
1 tbsp boursin* OR cheap-as-chips cream cheese plus a sprinkling of freeze-dried salad herbs

  1. Bring a pot of slightly salted water to boil, then add the sweet potato. Cook for 5-7 minutes, then add the kale and cook for 5 minutes more, until the potatoes are soft and the kale is wilted.
  2. Drain then pour in the milk/cream and cream cheese to the pot. Mash well.
  3. Enjoy as is or use to top other things.

*a delicious French cream cheese with a really unique flavour and price markup (in the UK) to match

(recipe is a quicker version of this)

apple and bramble tart with a hazelnut crust

This crust is a bit crumbly, but once it’s cooked it doesn’t really matter.

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(serves 8)

for the crust
175g plain flour
75g ground hazelnuts (either ready-ground, or process them first before adding other ingredients)
50g icing sugar
finely zested rind of one lemon
1/4 tsp cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg
110g butter
1 egg yolk

for the filling
handful brambles (blackberries)
3 bramley apples, peeled and sliced
50g sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Put all dry ingredients for pastry crust in a food processor and blitz until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and blitz again.  If it needs a little more moisture to make it come together,  add a tablespoon of cold water.
  2. Roll into a ball, cover with clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Divide into 2/3 and 1/3 quantities. Roll out the 2/3 piece to  line base and sides of  a 23cm tart tin. Roll the 1/3 piece out flat and cut into strips for lattice.
  4. Put fruit, juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Cover and heat slowly until bubbling, sugar dissolved, and apples turned to a pulp. Thicken with a little cornflour mixed into cold water if necessary.
  5. Spoon the fruit filling into the tart crust. Lay the lattice strips across the fruit filling.
  6. Place on a hot baking sheet or oven tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 190C for 30-35 minutes.