Whipped Feta with Slow Roasted Tomatoes (or, celebrating with a big plate of cheese)

I have been in London for 4 entire years. 4 years since I quit uni, went home for one week then got a job in a grotty pub in Clapham on a whim and had to move before I even had time to think it through. In those 4 years I’ve lived in Peckham, Tooting and Islington with a total of 6 flatmates. I have had 5 jobs, seen over 200 shows, breathed really very little clean air and only had one major breakdown. I’ve seen the giraffes at London Zoo, the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace, that really awesome Pangolin in the Natural History Museum and the goths in Camden Town. I’ve been to talks about feminism, cooking classes in the Docklands and down a path of singing trees in Kew Gardens. I’ve stood at the top of St. Paul’s and spent hours trying not to catch the eyes of strangers half a mile underground; been to meetings at the BBC and carried industrial bags of popcorn around the various universities in the East End. 

…and things are, well, good. Great, sometimes. I feel settled and comfortable and if you plopped me down somewhere in zones 1 – 6 I could probably find a bus home. I’ve lived here longer than I lived in Edinburgh, and even though I still pine for Scotland a little bit, I almost can’t imagine leaving London. 

So I’ve been celebrating, sort of. I think with comfort, safety and security – all things I have somehow found in this chaotic jumble of a city – comes the ability to explore a bit and try new things. Cooking new things, wandering around and finding new corners and new neighbourhoods. When celebrating and when trying new things you can’t really do better than finding a fresh way to prepare a shedload of cheese.

I recently signed up the Domestic Sluttery newsletter and it is GREAT. In the last week I have received a recipe for Tunnocks Tea Cake fudge and a history of women’s involvement in the creation of the periodic table. It’s a really lovely thing to get in your inbox each day. 

So this recipe – which is rich, creamy, salty and absolutely delicious – is pretty much just a recipe nicked from them, with a few modifications to method (I hate cleaning the food processor) and quantity. When I saw it pop into my inbox, I needed to make it – it sounded so simple but so luxurious, and it absolutely is. Whether dolloped onto pasta animals – as pictured here – or drizzled over toast, it is delicious. 

Slow Roasted Vegetables with Whipped Feta
Serves 2
Roasted veg, massive plate of cheese.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
For the Whipped Feta
  1. 200g greek yoghurt
  2. 300g feta
  3. Juice of half a lemon
  4. 1 crushed clove of garlic
For the vegetables
  1. A punnet of cherry tomatoes
  2. 4 red peppers, deseeded, destalked and cut in half
  3. 1 onion, cut into quarters or eighths
  4. A good shake of chilli flakes
  5. A few drizzles of the best olive oil you can get
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 180°C. Lay the cut peppers, the onion and the tomatoes on a tray. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle on the chilli flakes and maybe a few grinds of pepper (add salt, too, if you like - but go easy, the whipped feta will be salty as). Mix everything up with your hands to make sure everything is coated in the oil. Put in the oven, and roast for about an hour.
  2. Towards the end of your roasting time, combine all the ingredients for the whipped feta in a bowl (add some pepper, too) - I whisked and whisked and whisked, and though it clumped a bit after a while I got a mostly smooth texture I was happy with. DS does this in a blender which would also be fine.
  3. Sort out whatever you are serving this with - make some toast, cook some pasta, prepare a cheese funnel etc.
  4. Remove the vegetables from the oven, put them over your additional serving bits, dollop on the whipped feta in massive quantities. Add coriander if you want.
Adapted from Domestic Sluttery
Adapted from Domestic Sluttery
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Peanut Butter Noodles (or, I Am Not Rory Gilmore)

I have fallen into a Star’s Hollow Spiral; a big Gilmore Gulf. I have been watching Gilmore Girls ad nauseum for a while. 

Originally, it felt like something that would be comforting in the dark winter nights, like Friends but without the homophobia. It was, for a while. It was easy, simple television where people talked about food all the time. There was always this underlying feeling that I didn’t actually like the show much – that Lorelai is kind of forcing Rory into a friendship, that Luke is a plaid shirt both inside and out, that Rory is a bit wet and that the whole show should be Paris and Kirk going on a roadtrip anyway  – but the silliness and slightly saccharine plot lines were nice enough to have on in the background.

But then, as I reached Season 5, I was hit with a sad realisation: I am Rory Gilmore. I am not fiercely independent Lorelai or dependable Dean, I am not angry, imperfect, endlessly entertaining Paris – no, I am Rory. 

I should imagine if I’d watched this show when it was on the early noughties, I would’ve wanted to be Rory. Bookish, clever, unpopular-but-unfussed Rory, with her good grades and unusual disinterest in any kind of contemporary fiction. Now, of course, I’d choose to be Paris. But I am Rory.

I read something that said as the seasons trudge along, everyone makes uncharacteristic decisions because of some plot – including Rory’s choice to leave university after she learns she might not be good enough to follow the career path she’s dreamed of. 

But it just didn’t seem uncharacteristic to me. Rory has been told her whole life she’s so good, and her performance in everything corroborates it. So when she isn’t, it all collapses, and she reacts in an extreme way because it suddenly seems like everyone’s been lying to her and she’s actually been hopelessly inadequate all along. And, well… I am a bit Rory Gilmore. Without sounding like an arrogant twat, I breezed through school on a wave of merits and As and then got to uni and fucked it. Uni was hard and I wasn’t good enough and so I quit because I wasn’t used to finding things hard (there are some footnotes to the situation I could add here but let’s leave those for now). I am Rory Gilmore, because sometimes I just can’t cope with not being good enough. In the months Rory spends living at her grandparents lamenting her very existence, I found so much of myself in her.

But I’m also not Rory Gilmore. Because I actually learned to cook, because once I’d well and truly failed at the thing I thought I was meant to do, I needed to learn to take care of myself or risk wallowing in the depths of self-pity for the rest of time. So I did, and that involves stuff like these Peanut Butter Noodles, which are quick and delicious and I love them so much that I often make them in big batches so I can take them to work with me and enjoy the nutty, silky, vibrant flavour at my desk. I might be a Rory in terms of my ability to handle failure, but I’m a Sookie St James wannabe in the kitchen.

Oh, and I’m also not a Rory Gilmore because I will literally never think someone is cool if they try to impress me with a magic trick. Never. 

Peanut Butter Noodles
Serves 2
Smooth and nourishing nutty noodles.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tbsp peanut butter
  2. 3 tbsp soy sauce
  3. 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  4. 1 tbsp honey
  5. 1/2 - 3/4 cup water (depends how "wet" you like a stir fry)
  6. A glug of oil (sunflower or sesame oil is good)
  7. 2/3 cloves garlic, minced
  8. Thumbnail sized bit of ginger, minced
  9. 3 or four handfuls of veg (I used carrot sticks, two peppers and sugar snap beans for this one - but bamboo shoots, tenderstem broccoli, mushrooms.... it's all good)
  10. 2 nests of noodles (I used the straight to wok ribbon kind here)
  11. 2 or 3 spring onions, sliced
  12. Juice of half a lime
Instructions
  1. In a wee bowl, mix together the peanut butter, soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, honey and water, along with a little salt.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan until it's proper hot, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir it about for a minute, without letting it burn, then add in the veg (carrots take longer to cook unless sliced well thin, so maybe give them a bit longer before adding in the rest). Keep it moving until the veg is nearly cooked through.
  3. Add the noodles to the pan, along with the sauce*. Keep moving for about 2 minutes until the noodles are cooked through and the sauce is hot. Stir through the spring onions, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Notes
  1. *If you're not using the straight to wok kind, cook the noodles according to pack instructions before throwing them in.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Asparagus, Pea and Parmesan Pasta Animals (or, putting adulthood on hold)

Asparagus Pea Parmesan Pasta_Title

Recently, I have been trying to be better at being a Grown Up. It’s been going well. I take a packed lunch to work, and I walk to work. I had a break up – a proper one, with crying and re-evaluating your sense of self-worth and all that stuff – and came out the other side. I have conversations about council tax and bank accounts. I am going to go to Ikea for pleasure. I am going to book flights to fly somewhere alone, and I am terrified. I moved house, and I dealt with my old landlord (and will continue to deal with him until he actually definitely puts my deposit repayment cheque in the post). My parents did do some of the moving house for me because I can’t be trusted behind the wheel of a van. But I did source the van. So, I’ve been being a grown up. 

Over the last week, though, I have had a cold. I have been snot-nosed and sore throated and ugh. So, I have snuggled beneath my unicorn duvet, read books, watched Adventure Time, eaten breakfast in the middle of the afternoon and been distinctly unadult. It’s been nice. Occasionally, a good wallow, especially over something trivial in the long term like a cold, is a great thing.

Pasta Animals

But then, work returns, the weekend is done. And you power through, like an adult. Talk about the data, send all the emails, eat a packed lunch. Adult, but with sickness still seeping in. 

Asparagus Pea Parmesan Pasta_3

When I got home I wanted to not be an adult. Get under the unicorn duvet, and watch Adventure Time. So I pulled out the pasta animals. Pasta animals are a storecupboard staple; a good reminder that, really, life is good and ok and you can do whatever you want. I wanted to eat comforting food with cheese on it, so I cooked the pasta animals with a stock cube in the water, and Birds’ Eye frozen peas because those aye-aye captain adverts were staples of 90s TV, and I covered them in cheese.

And I added asparagus because it’s important to remember adulthood doesn’t go away with pasta animals, but it can work with them.
 Asparagus Pea Parmesan Pasta_2

Asparagus, Pea and Parmesan Pasta Animals
Serves 2
Pasta Animals for when adulthood needs to stop for a while. But you still want to eat asparagus.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups pasta animals (or any pasta will do)
  2. 1 vegetable stock cube
  3. 1 cup frozen peas
  4. 1 cup chopped asparagus (this is one little pack from Sainsburys, the kind with about 10 stems in)
  5. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  6. 1/2 tbsp butter
  7. Juice of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Do some prep: grate the cheese, cut the aspargus, fill a pan with water, unwrap the stock cube. This will make it all quicker in the long run.
  2. Bring a pan of water to the boil, with more water than the pasta needs. Add the stock cube and stir to dissolve. Consult the packet for how long the pasta will take to cook, as this will help with other timings. The pasta animals, for example, take 7 - 9 minutes. Put the pasta animals into the boiling water and leave them to warm up alone for a while.
  3. About 4 minutes before the end of your pasta's cooking time, add the asparagus to the pot. It should turn a vibrant green.
  4. About 1 minute before the end of your pasta's cooking time, ass the frozen peas. They, too, should turn a vibrant green.
  5. When done, drain the pasta, peas and asparagus, reserving 1 cup full of the water.
  6. Pop the pasta, peas and asparagus into a big bowl. Add the butter and parmesan and stir to melt Add some of the pasta water back in, a little a time and mixing all the while, until the dish reaches a creamy consistency to your liking. You might not need to use that much of the water.
  7. Serve in big bowls.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Courgette Noodles with Oil, Olives and Runner Beans (or, the start of spiralizing)

Courgette Noodles_Title

It was my birthday on Monday. I turned 24. 

24 is no big deal, the calm before the storm of the 25 quarter-century landmark. For a day that’s really no big deal, I was lucky to have a lovely day with lovely people and, importantly, really good food. 

First, there was breakfast at the Battersea branch of The Breakfast Club. I had Huevos Al Benny, which is muffins and poached eggs with other brilliant things like chorizo and hollandaise and spinach and it was good. I also had a salted caramel milkshake which is something I think everyone should have on their birthday. Then there was a rousing game of Jurassic crazy golf, followed by a trip to a pub that involved a burger oozing with the juiciest, most luscious pulled pork and kimchi and ahhhhh it was good. 

Anyway. Also for my birthday, my parents sent me a small handheld spiralizer. Spiralizers are something I regard with some suspicion, like quinoa or drinking kale, because let’s be honest here: pasta is delicious. I am all about the gluten and carbohydrates. I do not think courgettes or sweet potatoes can substitute for pasta. 

But I might just be a convert.

Courgette Noodles_Spiralized

Let’s stay honest: courgettes and sweet potatoes in long thin shapes aren’t fooling anyone, they don’t taste like pasta. They are not a substitute; keep the pasta and keep the carbs and keep that comfort in your life. But, courgettes and sweet potatoes are delicious in their own right, and it’s pleasing to cut them into long thin strands and smother them in other delicious things. So, the spiralizer wins. It helps make tasty food.

Here’s something I stumbled upon while playing with spiralized courgettes. It’s kind of an amalgamation of This and This.  But with courgette noodles. 

Courgette Noodles with Oil, Olives and Runner Beans
Serves 2
A good starting point for spiralizing (or, at least where I started).
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 courgettes, spiralized
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. Generous handful runner beans (I used 2/3 of a fresh pack from Sainsburys), halved lengthways
  5. 1 cup olives, halved (I used kalamata from a jar)
  6. Zest of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Bring some water to the boil. Once boiling, add the runner beans and cook for 2 minutes or until they are an intense bright green. Drain, set aside.
  2. Over a medium heat, heat 2 tbsps of the oil in a pan until it shimmers.
  3. Add the garlic and lemon zest and garlic and fry for a little while until fragrant. Add the courgette noodles, and fry for a short while, keeping them moving, until warmed through*.
  4. Turn off the heat, add the beans to the noodles, as well as the last tbsp of olive oil, the olives and a few good grinds of black pepper. Give it a stir to combine and serve.
Notes
  1. *I don't think you actually *need* to warm the courgette but I don't know that I like cold courgette.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Chili Sin Carne (or, the go to dinner for your vegan friends)

Doughs and Don'ts - Chili Sin Carne

All the stuff I’d cook to impress normally involves meat.

Actually I’m not sure beercan chicken is that impressive. But anyway.

I have vegetarian (and vegan) friends. Sometimes they come round for dinner and I will dutifully cook them a nice, meatless meal, like this great big batch of Chili Sin Carne. 

Doughs and Don'ts - Chili Sin Carne

It’s great even if you don’t have vegetarian friends, because you can get it all sorted before your friends pop over (which basically means chopping things then putting them in a pot) , leave it to simmer until you want to settle down for food then serve it up quickly. So I don’t know why I’m writing this like I somehow begrudge cooking for vegetarian friends. I don’t, come round more often, let’s eat all the chili there is. We’ll have a vegetarian chili PARTY. 

Doughs and Don'ts - Chili Sin Carne

It’s also great because it’s cheap (this whole 6 odd portions cost me somewhere in the region of £4.50, and I have sweet potatoes left to feed me for most of the next week), and it’s comforting without being full of cheese or chocolate or bacon like most of the best comfort food. Admittedly you can put dark chocolate in chili and it tastes banging. But this one doesn’t have that. It just has pure vegetable goodness and a bit of spice. 

Chili Sin Carne (or, the go to dinner for your vegan friends)
Serves 4
A vegetarian/vegan chili for comforting dinners and entertaining your meat-wary friends.
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Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr 20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr 20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 onion, chopped
  2. 1 fresh red chilli, minced (more if you want it spicier)
  3. 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  5. 3 cloves garlic minced
  6. 1 tsp ground cumin
  7. 1 tsp ground coriander
  8. 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  9. 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  10. 1 x 400g tin red kidney beans
  11. 1 sweet potato
Instructions
  1. Heat oil over a medium heat in a big saucepan or pot. Add the onion, bell peppers and chili and cook for a few minutes to soften, until the onion starts to turn clear.
  2. Add the garlic and the spices, give a stir and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, kidney beans and sweet potatoes.
  4. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave it for ages - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, for it to reduce and to deepen the flavour.
  5. Serve, maybe with rice or scattering some avocado over the top.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/