Super quick panini sandwich

So this post is ultra late on account of my excitement at all the Christmas food at home – anyway it is just a super quick sandwich that you can fill with anything really, but toasting it in the oven just gives it that extra warming feel.

I bought a pack of panini rolls (you could use ciabatta, or ordinary round rolls) and cut them lengthways in half. Drizzle with a little olive oil if you like and place flat side up in a hottish oven (around 180 degrees Celsius) for 10-15 minutes or so until crisp and golden.

Panini bread

Meanwhile, prepare your filling. I just used a lot of salad vegetables, baby gem lettuce, thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and some grated cheese. For another lunch I used tomatoes, cheese and some pesto for an Italian take. That was yummy too.

Panini salad filling

Then the fun part. Sandwich assembly – just organise your filling inside (I like to put the cheese straight onto the bread so that it melts). The only thing is that because I stuffed the sandwich it was a little bit ‘high’ so I had to squish it together to eat.

Salad Panini lunch

I think this makes a quick and easy lunch by itself (two when you’re hungry) or served with other things – and I would love to hear your favourite sandwich fillings in the comments below to give me some more ideas too!

Homemade garlic bread

After seeing quite a few shop-bought garlic bread packs taken out of neighbouring freezers and shoved into the oven – I thought I would do a quick post of how to make your own garlic butter. I always find shop-bought garlic bread is nearly always far too buttery, so making your own is a slightly healthier alternative and in my view tastes fresher! To completely make your own garlic bread, you could make lovely little rolls or a baguette from a basic bread recipe – wholemeal is even better. I saw these ‘bake at home’ rolls in Tesco’s on sale and was inspired to make use them for garlic bread so used those instead.

All you will need is some:

-Butter

-Garlic

-Mixed herbs

-Bread rolls

Garlic bread ingredients

Now there isn’t really an exact ‘recipe’ for this garlic butter so you can just season according to personal taste. Crush and finely chop as much as possible some garlic cloves depending on how much garlic butter you want. For the six rolls here, I used one clove.

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Add a large knob of butter and mix together thoroughly. I also added in some dried mixed herbs at this point. Cut the rolls lengthways with a sharp knife and spread some of the garlic butter inside.

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These garlic bread rolls are easy to freeze so you can defrost them as and when you need them. Leftover garlic butter is delicious on toast or a served with steak. I actually ate them with the roast chicken wings, carrots and rice I had for dinner a few nights ago – it was a hearty meal for a starving person!

Hearty dinner

I actually par-boiled the carrots beforehand and then put them underneath the roasting chicken wings to absorb the flavour and juices for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.

Fried Rice with Peppers +

I know a did a previous blog post a while ago on egg fried rice with some broccoli and sweetcorn, but I really couldn’t resist doing another post with some colourful veg! This time I used peppers and also added a few other things to make it a wonderfully warming winter meal that you can make in no time at all.

First I prepared the colour array of peppers by slicing them into quite thin strips (similar to julienne prep) and then turning then and cutting again almost into small cubes. This way they hardly need any cooking and will still retain a crunch providing some contrast to the rice.

Rainbow peppers

Now onto the actual cooking. I added a few finely chopped shallots into a hot oiled pan just to give a bit more flavour. After a while, add in the cold rice to warm through and allow it to become a bit crisp. Make sure you break up any large chunks and turn it in the pan. I also added in some fresh root ginger (chopped as small as you can, and also slightly crushed) to the pan. Recently I have really been loving the smell and taste of ginger and find it really gives a warming sensation to the rice (I think it’s also good for colds as clears your sinuses etc.).

Then to the eggs. I like to make a ‘hole’ in the middle of the pan and crack the egg into here. Then gradually half scramble/mix the rice gradually so that it is distributed throughout.

Fried rice with a funny looking egg

When the rice is nearly ready, I added in the colourful peppers for a few minutes to warm up. Switch off the cooker and drizzle a little soy sauce at this point if you have any to spare – it gives a wonderful seasoning. And there you have it!

Egg fried rice with multi-coloured peppers

Chicken

So first off, apologies for not quite sticking to my ‘post a week’ aim, I seem to be slacking as I generally tend to leave about 8-9 days between posts on my blogs – must try harder!

I have had quite a busy few weeks but food-related topics have been pretty non-eventful. But it’s Christmas soon which means I will be going back home where there is sugar, cake tins and baking parchment galore! (just thought I’d give you a heads up – although I’ll probably be too preoccupied with the eating rather than blogging). This week I cut up a chicken, not like with no idea! – I should have said I prepared a chicken. I was  nearing the end of my freezer stock and as meat is relatively expensive, I took up the suggestion to buy a whole chicken instead and then divide it into sections myself. Now obviously you could just roast the chicken whole if you have time and then divide it, but I wanted the satisfaction of putting all the different cuts in their own freezer bags because I’m weird like that.

First off, you NEED a super DOOPER sharp knife. Mine was not sharp enough sadly, I found out after properly trying to thump my hand into the top of the blade to get it to cut through a bone. I used a very useful video which can be found here from the lovely chaps at sorted food to guide me through the mysterious world of meat preparation. So first I removed all the packaging and string etc. easy peasy! Then I attempted to find the wishbone, first off I must admit I looked for it at the wrong end and then I thought well this isn’t going well so I gave it a miss! If anyone has a simple way of describing it’s position, please do feel free to enlighten me in the comments below. Then I proceeded to cut off the chicken wings (where a super DOOPER (thought I’d have fun saying that again) sharp knife is a necessity!) which took about 20x longer than it should have. But eventually I got the legs and breast + fillets too. Now they all sit happily ever after in my freezer, that is until they are eaten.

Chicken carcass: Don’t through this away! You can make a flavoursome stock with this especially (so I’ve read) if you roast it first. Now I thought the sight of this would scare my flatmates a bit if they found that in the oven next to their pizza and chips – so it’s currently residing in the freezer until they’ve gone back home for Christmas (yes my course finishes a week later than everyone else meaning I will have a empty flat all my myself until 4 days before Christmas!) – then I’ll whip it out and conjure up some lovely stock using my recipe here.

So I hope you enjoyed my chicken encounters and I hope you are all having a lovely December! I would love to hear of any ‘must-try’ Christmas recipes you have in the comments below or just any Christmassy comments in general!

Warming plum and pear crumble

Now that it is almost December and suitably wintry, there are some nights when you just yearn for some hot delicious dessert fresh out of the oven to warm you up. Now I don’t have cake tins and baking trays but I did get very excited about a new purchase (sad I know) I made the other day. It is a cute little Pyrex dish with a microwavable lid that can store food in the fridge, freezer and be used in the microwave and oven. I was literally thinking as I bought it ‘this would be perfect for some crumble…’ So here it is.

Easy peasy pear and plum crumble (although obviously you can really use any fruit you like, and the recipe is by no means accurate, I don’t have the luxury of scales)

You will need:

-Unsalted butter (preferably)

-Flour

-Some fruit of your choice

-Oats/nuts (optional)

-Ice cream etc. (to serve)

-Sugar (this will probably be useful to add to your fruit if it is not very ripe or is a little sour) – you can also add this to your crumble topping but I was not willing to but a 500g bag of sugar I wasn’t going to use again…

 

These instructions are not specific and don’t really have any measurements, but crumble is pretty easy to make. Guestimate how much butter you need and then put in a little more flour that the butter. Add sugar/oats/nuts as you wish. I find the easiest method is just to mix it up with your finger tips and squish the butter into the flour so that you end up with something that resembles large breadcrumbs, ie. CRUMBLE.

   

Chop up your desired fruit into sizeable chunks (I don’t like fruit mush) – bear in mind that the fruit will shrink a lot in size to be sure to have enough to fill at least half of your dish. If your fruit is quite sour, I would advise cooking it a little in a pan on a low heat and adding some sugar, a little golden syrup etc. to sweeten it up a little before putting into your oven dish.

Now you are ready to assemble!

Cover the fruit with all the crumble and leave a thick enough layer (I would say a centimetre or two) of crumble on top of this.

Bake in a hot oven at about 180-200 degrees Celsius for half an hour or so. The fruit should be bubbling away and cooked with a lovely golden layer of crumble on top when ready.

I chose to serve with a generous helping of vanilla ice cream as I didn’t have any sugar in my crumble and I thought it needed a little sweetening up! Otherwise that’s it really.

>What are your favourite winter desserts to make?

One pot red cabbage meal

So this ‘recipe’ was one of the meals I mentioned in my previous post. The great thing about it is that you can prepare it all in one pan. It is quite similar to this post but I’ve just made it simpler and easier to wash up afterwards! (By the way the random Ryvita was just to use up some Philadelphia.) I tried cooking the ‘grains’ like the couscous and bulgur wheat after I saw a Nigel Slater ‘Dish of the Day’ episode where he just added a similar sort of ‘grain’ in with some soup. I thought it was quite clever to add it in to an existing pan that was already cooking away rather than just using boring old water as it gives it much better flavour!

-Red cabbage

-Carrots

-Bulgur wheat

-Wholewheat couscous (I used the giant type)

-Chicken stock

-Oil for the pan

-Salt and pepper for seasoning

So first I cut up the red cabbage into smallish chunks and peeled the layers apart slightly. I think the colours are so pretty and it gives a sort of marbled effect when raw.

Next I roughly chopped the carrots and boiled in the pan for about 10-15 minutes until a little soft on the outside but still retaining the crunch. They will be cooked further later so you don’t want them too soft at this point. Drain and leave to one side. Heat the same pan (it was a large relatively shallow one) up and drizzle in a few tablespoons of oil. Add in your chopped red cabbage and toss in the oil. Cover with a lid for a few minutes until it wilts just slightly. Now mix in the pre-cooked carrots too.

Take care not to burn the cabbage. After about 5-8 minutes, pour in your liquid chicken stock (any will do – I made mine here). Turn down the heat and let it simmer gently with the lid on for about 15 minutes so that the liquid doesn’t escape.

When your cabbage is almost cooked to how you like it and there is still a good amount of liquid left in the pan, stir in some bulgur wheat and couscous. At this point, season well with salt and pepper and any other flavourings or herbs you have.

Stir the grains in until they are thoroughly mixed in with the liquid and cover with a lid. Taste to check when  they are cooked and serve immediately.

Random eatings from my past week.

This post doesn’t quick make a ‘Dinners of the Week’ post since there are only four meals and I have been meaning to put it up for a while now. Anyway, my four ideas for filling and super quick dinners from the past few weeks are:

Salad and naan bread makes a minimal effort dinner after a long evening. (In this post  I explain my love for including sundried tomatoes in salad). This is a simple meal or snack and you can always add some meat or more carbohydrates to bulk it up a bit.

 

Fried rice with scrambled egg and prawns. I know I should have probably should have  included some greens here but again I was in a rush and laziness got the better of me… This was made also to use up my eggs that had been lying around for a little while. I will be doing an upcoming post on this in a little more detail but essentially I added shallots, egg, prawns, ginger and rice to make a warm bowl of comfort food.

 

Brown rice with sauteed courgettes and tomatoes was a little daring for me because I don’t normally like tomatoes cooked. But actually here the juiciness worked really well with the courgettes I found. (Cook the courgettes for about 8-10 minutes first before adding tomatoes). Brown rice is a healthy alternative to traditional white rice as it has been less ‘processed’ making it unmilled with only the outer husk layer having been removed. (It is very easy to cook in a rice cooker).

 

Red cabbage and carrots with quinoa and giant couscous + a random Ryvita cracker topped with Philadelphia is another example of my mish-mash jumbling of food together that needs eating. This was actually inspired by a Nigel Slater episode from his latest ‘Dish of the Day’ series (recipes can be found here) where he was focussing on ‘one pot cooking’ – my favourite kind in terms of washing up! I will be doing a post on this dish (hopefully soon as this was the same red cabbage from this post, I have just been very slow getting posts up!)

That’s it for now! Toodleloo.