super easy baked eggs

baked-eggs

I wrote off baked eggs from my repertoire a few years back, as I'd had nothing but disasters with them. I think, looking back, it was simply a case of not knowing the strength of my oven (they do tend to vary from flat to flat!). But I've recently been converted, mostly because I wanted a brunch dish that just made serving two people at the same time easier, rather than turning my stove into an omelette station every Sunday morning. It's a bit depressing when you finally sit down to eat yours and your partner has already finished theirs! Baked eggs alleviate this problem, furthering marital togetherness. Try them and I'm sure you'll be a convert! 

Super easy baked eggs

Serves 2

8 cherry tomatoes, halved
6-8 tablespoons of greek or natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon pul biber (Turkish chilli flakes or Aleppo pepper: use plain chilli flakes if you can't find it)
A spoonful or two of crumbled feta per portion
A handful of fresh basil and thyme leaves per portion
2 heaped teaspoons sun-dried tomato pesto
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Boil the kettle.

Butter two ramekins. Divide the halved cherry tomatoes, yoghurt, pul biber, feta and herbs between the two, stirring until just mixed. Place a heaped teaspoon of sun-dried tomato pesto on top, then make a small indent in the centre. Break in an egg and then season.

Once the kettle has boiled, place the two ramekins in a deep baking tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come roughly halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Very carefully place in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on them....you want them just set and the yolks still runny. They can turn from undercooked to overcooked in mere seconds! 

Serve both portions immediately with crusty bread/toast. Preferably in the garden. 

weekenders on our own

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It's such fun
- Lou Reed

Sometimes the best days are the unplanned ones. 

shoreditch-street-art-a-nahu

We expected rain, being stuck indoors, winter still blowing its frosty breath over the city. Instead, it was pleasantly overcast when we met our friends at Old Street tube and took the scenic route, through the streets of Shoreditch which are like galleries with vast, colourful murals everywhere you look, to a cafe for the best vegan burger in London:

essential-vegan-burger
cassava-chips
street-art-broadway

 

Then we walked around Columbia Road, past Hackney City Farm where we saw baby goats frolicking in the grass, and then up to Broadway Market where we stood elbow to elbow with East London's hipster population jostling for vintage clothes, killer brownies, raw milk, giant cheese toasties, coffee and sourdough bread. I came for Frida.

 Actually, I think it's meant to be a blend of Frida and Diego!

Actually, I think it's meant to be a blend of Frida and Diego!

 

Then we walked back to Haggerston along the canal. The sun came out and we unpeeled ourselves from our coats with glee. We made a brief stop at Proud East for probably the best Virgin Mary I've ever had:

virgin-mary
phil-and-lisa
phil-and-tom

Refreshed, we walked further along Regent's Canal up to Islington. The air was cold but the sun was out, and I could smell the sweet perfume of violets on the banks, wood-fired stoves in the canal boats, and coffee from the riverside cafes. We saw a group of friends drifting along the river in a floating hot tub. I took note of the company for future reference!

We wandered through Camden Passage, as the stallholders began to wrap their unsold wares in newspaper and box them up, and there was still a queue at the Breakfast Club. We stopped for a pint in the Camden Head (our new favourite place in this part of town).

tom-camden-head

When a day turns out to be unexpectedly fun, in the gentle company of true friends with whom you can just be yourself, with delicious food, refreshing beverages, the weather surprisingly fine and the promise of spring hovering on the horizon.....these are the days that I live for. 

leftover easter* chocolate brownies

chocolate brownies

I'm sure most of you are thinking..."leftover chocolate? Are you crazy?! When does that ever happen? Thank you Phil, rub in my lack of self control!"

Oh, dear reader, I meant nothing of the sort. But if you're anything like me, you might have found yourself over the holidays with chocolate that perhaps wasn't nice enough to eat on its own but could be transformed into something magical via the wonder of brownie batter!

If you're going to have it, make it worth your while. Nothing irritates me more than wasting calories/points/tastebuds/time/money on food that just doesn't satisfy or deliver. And I abhor waste as well. So if that's you too, here you go, you're in luck!

Leftover chocolate brownies

125g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
80g cacao powder
4 eggs
90g fine '00' flour (the kind you'd use to make pasta)
Pinch of salt
Approximately 100g chocolate-box chocolates 

Preheat your oven to 180 C (fan). 

Melt the butter, sugar and cacao in a bowl (not plastic!) over a saucepan of simmering water until combined and the butter has melted. It will look gritty, but fear not!

Beat in the eggs one at a time. Then add the flour. Beat well (use an electric mixer if it all gets a bit much!). 

Pour into a 20cm square cake or brownie pan and dot the chopped chocolates evenly on top. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You want a skewer to come out almost clean, but not quite, as you want to keep everything moist. A dry brownie is a miserable thing. You may need to bake for a little longer if your oven is a little cooler than mine.

brownies

Allow to cool and then devour, marvelling at your genius!  

* Full disclosure: I made these in January after the chocolate coma that is (usually) Christmas. Any chocolate you want to use up will work well! 

stronger in the broken places

favourite-mug

My very first job was working at homewares store in Hobart. In the three years I worked there I ended up with an enormous Spode collection, some very fine cookware and intimate knowledge of knife sharpening and Wedgwood china patterns; all of which I'm sure was not usual in a girl of nineteen.

I remember a slow Sunday, unpacking a recent delivery, checking the contents against an invoice and then pricing them and putting them on the shelves.  I unwrapped this beautiful mug and as the last of the packing paper fell away, the mug promptly split into two neat halves in my hand.  It was such a shock, and I was horrified!  It was so beautiful and I was worried I'd broken it, but my colleague reassured me that with such a clean break it had probably happened in transit on the way down from the mainland.  We put it on the "write off" sheet and continued.  I asked what would happen to the pieces and was told they would just be chucked away.  I was so sad at the thought.  I am always full of intentions for creative projects (ask Tom about the time I brought a door home), and had visions of making something arty with the pieces, so I asked if I could have them.  The manager said yes, so they were wrapped in a piece of tissue and tucked into my bag, ready for a salvage operation at day's end.

When I got home, having abandoned the idea of a creative project with the pieces (again, ask Tom about the time I brought a door home!) I just went to my Dad's shed and glued them back together with superglue.  There was a slight chip at the top, just missing the iris.  I figured I'd see if it was watertight once the glue had dried.

Once it was established it was watertight and cleaned to within an inch of its life to wash away anything toxic, it was my favourite mug.

A good five years later, the repairs were still intact and I took it to Melbourne with me when I moved there. I used to make T2 herbal tisanes and drink them on my porch, looking around the garden.  I think the smell of dried lemongrass will always make me think of the first nine months in that city, discovering new places and people, having my senses reawakened.

When I packed up my belongings about a year later to move to the UK, the mug for some reason was placed in one of the boxes.  I don't know why but I couldn't bear to leave it behind.  Somehow it symbolised the years it had accompanied me through my life so far: a flawed but beautiful thing, and with the right binding to put it back together, it had been made whole and useful and beautiful again. 

By the time I was reunited with my boxes a few months later I was surprised to see it.  I had forgotten I'd packed it.  I suppose at the time I was only thinking about essentials.  What did I need?  Books, that was a given.  Warm clothes, for England was a cold country.  A teapot.  A mug to drink tea with.  That was about it.

I remember my first flat in London, my room on the ground floor of a dilapidated house in Clapham, with the fireplace in it.  I lined up all my books on the mantlepiece, and my mug went next to them.  I remember nights when I'd stay up late writing well into the night, only interrupted by hasty suppers of hummus and pitta bread, or an apple and a triangle of camembert, and always followed by a hot chocolate made in my mug.  I'd put a shot of Bailey's in if I was feeling indulgent.

Eleven years and five flats later, it's still in my cupboard. Well, more accurately, it's on my writing desk. 

Things that are broken can sometimes be put back together, and they are all the more beautiful because of the cracks, the life marks.  That's where the stories are.

You can always pick up the pieces and start again.

best-ever vegetarian nut roast

vegetarian nut roast

If you think nut roast is a boring vegetarian cliche, think again!

This little beauty is chock full of delicious nuts, seeds and spices that come together in a taste sensation. Don't be put off by the number of ingredients - most of these are lurking in the average spice rack and it comes together really quickly and easily. It works brilliantly as a roast dinner but also anywhere you would normally use mince, such as in a bolognese sauce, "meat" balls, rissoles, chilli or shepherds pie.

If you're making it for Christmas or Easter, you can add lots of allspice and nutmeg in addition to the named spices for a lovely festive flavour, and wrap the nut mixture in puff pastry to make a delicious Wellington-esque dish, or make sausage rolls with the mixture. The possibilities are endless! I hope you'll love it as much as I do.

BEST-EVER VEGETARIAN NUT ROAST

Serves 6

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 200g (1 large bag) walnut pieces
  • 100g (half a large bag) whole almonds
  • 200g other mixed nuts (I tend to use cashews, pine nuts and pecans)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • Roughly 1½ cups breadcrumbs (add more if too wet)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes, drained (reserve the juices for gravy)
  • 2 large handfuls fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Vegemite or Marmite
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1/4 cup grated strong vegetarian Cheddar cheese
  • ¾ of a medium red onion
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grease and line a large loaf tin and set aside. If you're cooking the roast straight away (see further), preheat the oven to 180C (fan).

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, toast the nuts, seeds and spices, tossing everything to coat well. Be very careful and do not let it burn. Toast for a few minutes, or until the mixture is fragrant and starting to turn golden, then turn off the heat and let it cool slightly.

Add the cooled nuts and spices to the bowl of a food processor. Add all other ingredients. Blitz until thoroughly combined, or combined to your liking (it can be nice if left a little chunky). You might need to stop and scrape it down a few times. If it's too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it's too dry, add a little water, reserved tomato juice or even a dash of red wine if you've got some handy!

Place in the prepared pan and ideally leave for a few hours (or overnight is even better) in the fridge to let the flavours deepen and the loaf firm up. If you're in a hurry you can cook it straight away, but ideally give it at least an hour's resting time.

Preheat oven to 180C (fan). When ready, cook the roast for 45 minutes to an hour until firm and golden. Allow it to cool slightly before carving then serve with gravy and all your favourite roast vegetables.