Warm hummus with spiced aubergine

Warm hummus with spiced aubergine

This is the point of the post where I should reminisce about travel across the Middle East, feasting on this delicacy with the locals after a long day traversing the desert by camel or something.

To be completely fair, it was inspired by a long journey across Mid Ulster, by transit connect. 

Which is probably even more uncomfortable than a camel.

Although does have DAB.

Swings and roundabouts I guess.

Anyway, after traversing Mid-Ulster I traversed the middle aisle of M&S Ballyhackamore where I was offered the opportunity to liberate myself of several of my hard-earned nuggets of gold in exchange for some hummus I could put in the microwave and make a ‘meal’ out of.

Oh how I laughed.

Except I couldn’t get the idea out of my tiny little mind.

WARM HUMMUS?

HUMMUS?

WITH EXTRA TASTY BITS?

WHAT IS THIS MAGIC AND SORCERY?

I MUST EAT IT IMMEDIATELY.

But rather than liberate myself of my hard-earned nuggets at my local convenience store, I made my own version.

And it is pretty damn amazing.

I suggest you try it immediately.

~~~

Grab an aubergine.

LOL at the connotations of its emoji.

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Slice the end of the aubergine off.

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And then slice the aubergine lengthways into slices as thick as a pound coin.

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Peel two garlic cloves.

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Cut the green stalk off a red chilli.

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Chuck them in a blender with some salt…

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Sugar…

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Oil…

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And balsamic vinegar.

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Blend it.

Blend it real good.

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Then use a pastry brush to brush it all over your slices of aubergine.

I know, I know, I don’t usually have the patience for a pastry brush either and go for the splash and dash approach and then have actual life regrets when my aubergine isn’t all crispy and tasty in some places.

Learn from my mistakes, people.

Learn from my mistakes.

And also, give me some praise for how evenly these slices are coated, kthnxbai.

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Then put in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until cooked.

When that is in the oven, start off your hummus.

Chuck a tin of drained chickpeas into a blender (M&S did manage to get some of my hard earned cash)…

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With a clove of garlic…

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The juice of half a lemon…

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Some tahini… 

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Some cumin…

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As well as some olive oil, salt and water.

Blitz it up.

Blitz it good.

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Transfer the blitzed hummus to a dish and cover with foil, then put in the oven for 10 minutes to warm.

Remove the hummus from the oven…

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Top with the aubergine slices…

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And serve, with a green salad and some flatbreads or pitta to dip.

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~~~

Warm hummus with spiced aubergine

Serves 2. Cooking time 20 minutes.

  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 aubergine
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chilli
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Cut the stalk off the aubergine and slice into thick slices lengthways.
  3. Peel two cloves of garlic, chop the stalk off the chilli, and place in a blender.
  4. Add the sugar, half a teaspoon of the salt, 2 tablespoons of oil and the balsamic and blend.
  5. Brush the mixture evenly over your aubergine slices, and lay flat on a baking tray.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Drain the chickpeas and places in a blender with 2 tablespoons oil, the cumin, the juice from half a lemon, the tahini, half a teaspoon of salt and the final garlic clove, peeled.
  8. Add 150ml water and blend well
  9. Transfer to a serving dish, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes, until warmed through.
  10. Remove the hummus from the oven, top with the aubergine slices, and serve.

Creating space, and building the Little Pink dining room

Creating space, and building the Little Pink dining room

Over the years, I have written a lot.

Too much, some might say.

I share recipes and I overshare insecurities and I have filled you in on every detail of Mr P and I’s kitchen renovation and this is probably what makes me so very happy to show off our new dining room to you.

A dining room of which I am stupidly proud.

Stupidly so.

Because it was my very own idea to knock these rooms together, to create this amazing space, and we have actually done it.

Ourselves.

We have used a builder for heavy lintel fitting, we have a gasman, we paid someone to fit the granite in the kitchen and got somebody to pour the screed over the underfloor heating so we are working with a perfectly level surface.

Everything else has been us.

Everything.

Building walls and fitting insulation and hauling doors into place.

Painting everything in sight and upholstery and plumbing and electrics.

All of this, and so much more to create this dining room.

A dining room of which I am stupidly proud.

Stupidly so.

We turned an old window into a door and opened up an old door fitting to create another set of patio doors (yes, of course we sodding fitted them ourselves).

We fitted one hell of a lot of insulation.

Ourselves, natch.

I actually got some weird infection from this and lost my voice for a solid week.

Eventually the plasterer arrived.

So we laid a beautiful, yet practical floor.

I found Soferia, an online supplier who could make snazzy new covers for an old Ikea sofa.

And painted everything in sight.

I taught myself how to upholster.

We created a bookshelf which runs the whole length of the room and houses my quite sizeable collection of cookbooks.

WE BUILT A SODDING TABLE.

I mean, I had done some research and thought it might be possible, so we went to E&A reclamation in Ballymena and got some beautiful old floorboards (shout out to Cliodna and Charlie for being lovely and encouraging my harebrained ideas). and actually turned them into a FREAKING TABLE (another shout out to Ana White, without her plans this simply would not have happened).

I managed to get the Philippe Starck Ghost chairs I have been dreaming of FOR FIFTEEN YEARS shout out to the girls at Maven).

We managed to turn my Grandfather's worklamp form Shorts into a reading light.

I found some beautiful leather cabinet handles.

And here we have it.

The most beautiful dining room, and one of which I am very, very, VERY proud.

Look at it.

And I wish I could leave this there.

If I left this there, I might be able to diversify into ‘lifestyle blogging’ and get invites to farrow and ball events or something.

All I would need to do is namecheck the designers and the offers would come rolling in, I am sure.

Except I can’t.

Last year, when we attacked the kitchen renovation with gusto, I had just left my full time job. I spent the first full month of self employment actually building the physical Little Pink Kitchen.

And that was tough.

I worked, and worked, and then, when Mr P got home from the office, we worked some more.

I taught myself how to fit kitchens and build walls and tile awkward shapes and plumb in dishwashers and level units and SO MUCH more.

It was so hard, but ultimately extremely rewarding and worth the slog and when we got the chance to show it all off, it was MAGNIFICENT.

After we finished the kitchen, we, understandably, stopped with the whole DIY for a while. We had used up our enthusiasm and money, so we hug a plastic sheet between the kitchen and what was to be the dining room and got on with our lives.

I established a food business that was to go on to win an award.

We got on with our lives, and went to the pub and saw our mates and went for long walks with the dog and read books.

After a while, it became clear that we really needed to sort out the second part of this Little Pink Kitchen, and so we knocked through to create an opening two giant french doors, and spent a very sweary weekend fitting them.

We filled the space in the new dining room with dust and ladders and insulation.

We filled the living room with boxes of packaging, and catering flasks, and the table for the breakfast club.

We filled the study with yet more packaging, and the giant saucepans, and all of our paperwork.

We filled the room we were using as a living room with the camping stuff, and legs for our new table, and boxes of art that needed some space.

Space.

There was none left anywhere for people.

We had a sofa, but on one end of it was some sample of skirting board.

We had a bed, but it shared a room with the box of crap you need when you have a dog, like leads and poo bags and old pig’s ears.

There was wasn’t even anywhere to sit and drink a cup of tea.

Space.

We had none.

And over time, this started to really start to affect me.

Every lunch order that descended involved rearranging the chaos to find boxes.

Every breakfast club that happened involved rearranging the living room to look presentable.

Every day of filming, or picture for a magazine, or meeting about a job, involved rearranging everything, just to give the illusion of being vaguely in control.

After I had done my deliveries I would have to rearrange the office to find a space for my laptop to try and do some work, but there was never enough.

And so, as I started to lose space, I started to lose my spark.

I struggled to think of ideas for menus and had to feign enthusiasm for work.

Personally, I struggled to see the point in making any kind of effort with anything, and wore the same scruffy clothes for weeks on end.

I started to struggle to respond to even basic queries, and as a result, probably lost work that I will never gain back.

I even stopped responding to my friends, and there are probably a few who still think I hate them.

In the afternoons, there was wasn’t even anywhere to sit and drink a cup of tea.

Space.

I had none.

Mr P had none either.

And this took its toll on our relationship.

Our relationship.

My anchor and rock and reason to be was, well, rocky.

The bickering, the spats, the arguments that went round and round in circles to the point where we both wondered if any of this was worth any of that.

It was horrible.

One night, I had a vivid fantasy about taking to the van and driving off into the distance to a place where there was no stuff and only wide, open space and cursed Mr P for helping me build this life where I had to spend my time surrounded by stuff and with no space.

And there wasn’t even anywhere where we could sit, and talk things over properly, and drink a cup of tea.

Space.

You get the idea.

We had none.

And through all of this work, that had been the hardest thing for me.

No space.

I haven't slept much for the last few weeks of finishing, I have contracted a throat infection while fitting insulation (I mean, I wasn’t able to speak for a week), I have fitted a fancy floor, I have taught myself how to BUILD A SODDING TABLE, none of which is easy.

But this lack of space, to live and work, and drink my tea, has been the hardest of all.

And that makes me me all the more delighted to show it off to you.

Because we now have space.

We have managed to create space for awesome breakfast clubs…

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For sitting down with a cup of tea...

And celebrating the fact that together, we have made this with our own hands and swear words and not sleeping for more than four hours a night for the last month.

We have made some space.

And, if you are ever struggling a bit, you can totally come round.

We have space now.

This is doing it yourself.

This is doing it yourself.

I am standing in front of the food hygiene inspector, telling her we will have a finished floor within the next few weeks.

I am hosting a breakfast club, and praying no guests want to actually see the Little Pink Kitchen.

I am hoping, praying, willing with all my might that doing it all ourselves will be worth it.

This is doing it yourself.

I am planning the other half of the room, the dining room.

I am using the Ikea 3D planner.

I am excited about doing it myself.

This is doing it yourself.

I am helping the builder hoist the beam into place.

I am making cups of tea and heating sausage rolls.

I am trying to imagine the room that this will become.

This is doing it yourself.

I am putting a wash on.

I am connecting the temporary plumbing supply.

I am causing the heating to switch off by plugging the washing machine into the power.

I am very cold on this bleak November day.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am welcoming a photographer in to take pictures of the oh-sp-desirable Little Pink Kitchen.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am dismantling my spare fridge, just so that there is a dust-free cupboard for my packaging.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am being filmed by a crew, who dare not point their cameras at any part of this house other than that one finished bit.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

This is doing it yourself.

I am putting my filthy work clothes on after a solid 12 hours of actual work.

I am pointing a torch up the chimney.

I am pulling the liner down.

I am covering everything, everywhere in dust.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise our washing machine finally has a home.

This is doing it yourself.

I am finding soot in my ears.

I am cleaning door frames, and window frames and boxes.

I am coughing.

I am coughing.

I am coughing again.

This is doing it yourself.

I am busy.

I am tired.

I am making tea in our kitchen.

I cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

I sit on the floor, with the dog.

This is doing it yourself.

I am opening the box.

I am remembering how carefully I packed the box, how well I wrapped it, to make sure its contents would be free from dust.

I pick out a container.

I notice the soot.

I sigh.

I wash my hands, and pick out another container.

I notice the soot.

I remember the door handles.

I look at the soot.

I remember the protective sheet.

I look at the soot.

I try to remember a time without soot.

This is doing it yourself.

I am helping Mr P fit insulation.

I am determined to end this chaos.

I am sawing, and sticking, and spraying expanding foam.

I am breathing in the dust.

This is doing it yourself.

I have lost my voice.

I cannot garner the attention of the receptionist when I am delivering lunches.

I am coughing up insulation.

This is doing it yourself.

I am on a billboard.

I am in a magazine.

I am achieving all of my business goals and more.

I still cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.

I am overwhelmed.

I am unable to reply to even basic queries.

I am losing work.

I envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I am aware I will be dealing with this for months to come.

This is doing it yourself.

I am lifting plasterboard into place.

I am remembering that I have been doing this for weeks, months, lifetimes now.

I am drilling holes and filling them with screws.

I am planning sockets and switches and lights and shelves.

This is doing it yourself.

I am in the reclamation yard.

I am so pleased the guy working there thinks my plan to build a table will work.

I am ordering legs.

I am researching pocket holes.

This is doing it yourself.

I am ordering fabric.

I am choosing light fittings.

I am thinking about paint.

This is doing it yourself.

I am surrounded by things.

I am working while crouched on the bedroom floor.

I have no space to unroll my yoga mat.

I envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I still cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.

I order the dining chairs I have been dreaming of for the last 15 years.

I am finally able to afford them because we are doing it ourselves.

This is doing it yourself.

I do not know where the sauce pots are.

I can only find knives, not forks.

I need forks.

I hum Alanis Morrisette, and think that perhaps one day, I will look back on this day and smile.

I envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I wipe the tears from my face.

I give a presentation about running a successful business.

This is doing it yourself.

I write the date the plasterer can come in permanent ink on the wall.

I plan out what lies ahead.

I think of the necessities, like electrics and plumbing.

This is doing it yourself.

I still have a business to run.

I still can only find knives, not forks.

I still envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I still cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am welcoming another film crew into the building site.

I am in awe of their shiny hair.

I am apologising for the mess.

This is doing it yourself.

I don’t want to drink wine.

I don't want a bath.

I don’t want to make jokes.

I am bored of rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise I can’t do it all on my own any more.

This is doing it yourself.

I accept offers of help, of space, of cups of tea.

I drink wine.

I have a bath.

I start responding to those messages I ignored.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise the fog is lifting.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise that in a few short weeks, I will have somewhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.

A green smoothie that actually tastes nice

A green smoothie that actually tastes nice

I remember quite clearly when green smoothies and juices first became a ‘thing’ and I read one too many articles about how thin I would become and how I would no longer crave any foodstuff containing any more than 23 calories and how they would, I don’t know, improve my sex life and do the dishes and make the dinner.

Except the dinner wouldn’t need to be made because I all I would need to feed body, mind and indeed soul was a nourishing green juice.

I even bought some kind of ‘supergreen’ powder to pimp up my smoothies.

Then, when I didn’t become some kind of overnight instagram celebrity, I went on a ‘juice fast’.

Christ alone knows why, but for some reason, in the run up to a holiday, I figured three days of drinking nothing but juice would atone for the 362 days previous to this.

It didn’t.

It just made me so uncontrollably hungry that on day 2, when I was out for dinner with people from work, I commanded a bread basket off the waiter before I had even given him my coat.

And do you know what?

I went on my holiday, looked every inch the food lover I am in my bikini and had not one damn to give.

Because I was on holiday, in the sun, drinking rose wine instead of green juices and merely asking for any pictures that were posted on social media to involve some kind of clothing that wasn't a neoprene bikini.

It was one of the most liberating weeks of my life.

When I came home, I nearly ditched the blender and the juicer and the supergreen powder.

But there was one teeny, tiny little problem.

There was one smoothie in particular that I really rather liked.

And, over the years, its has become a regular part of my breakfast line-up.

Some days I have eggs & toast. Some days I have porridge (like normal porridge, made with milk and maple syrup and almond butter, not that stuff that looks pretty on Instagram yet tastes of nothing). Some days I have yoghurt and fruit and shizzle.

The only reason I don’t include pastries in that line-up is because approximately 3 minutes after eating a delicious croissant, I am hungry again, and I need breakfast to keep me going until, well, lunch.

Which this smoothie does, as well as tasting good.

Try it.

It won’t magically make you slimmer, or do the dishes, or solve any of your problems, but it will be a delicious part of your breakfast repertoire.

~~~~~~~~~

Throw a banana in your blender.

Add a load of strawberries, removing the green bit first. 

I want to say, like 6 or 7 strawberries but strawberries come in all shapes and sizes and these ones were massive, so I put fewer in.

Its a smoothie, not a nuclear science experiment.

We can be a bit free and easy with these things.

Thank goodness.

Add some milk.

Any kind of milk.

Since the Great Bread Basket incident I am trying to stay clear of giving up things just for the sake of it, so I stick with dairy.

Coconut or almond are really nice too.

Free and easy, people.

Free and easy.

Smoothie.

Not nuclear science experiment.

Add a couple of tablespoons of nut butter.

Well, I say a couple of tablespoons.

But peanut butter is so hard to leverage out of the tub that a large dollop works as well.

Enjoy avoiding food waste by licking every last smear off the spoon.

Mmmm.

Peanut butter.

I do love it so.

Add a of handful of spinach.

You can use kale, or another green if that floats your boat.

But, to me, kale in a smoothie just feels and tastes a bit, I don’t know, good for me. And all chewy and worthy and full of bits.

Whereas spinach whizzes up really smooth and allows you to focus on a breakfast that tastes nice, as opposed to a smoothie that forces you to contemplate the poor life choices that have led you to have to chew your way through three hundred millilitres of sludgy green pond for breakfast.

Blend the whole lot up, then add another handful of spinach and blend again.

Pour the whole lot into a glass, enjoy your breakfast and get on with your day.

Enjoy!

A green smoothie that actually tastes nice

Serves 1. Cooking time 5 minutes.

  • 1 banana
  • 5-7 strawberries
  • 150ml milk of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  1. Put all the ingredients save one handful of spinach in your blender and blend.
  2. Add the second handful of spinach and blend again.
  3. Serve.

Roast asparagus, potato and egg salad

Roast asparagus, potato and egg salad

So then.

Spring has sprung. 

Well actually, seeing as we are now in June, Summer has happened.

I mean, for a couple of weeks there it was really quite glorious what with actual sunshine and happy people and BBQs and outdoor activities.

Or drinking wine on patios, at the very least.

Which is sort of an outdoor activity.

I mean, I even braved a bare leg.

SORRY.

I don’t know what came over me there. I started thinking this was some kind of fashion blog, and started talking in the singular. Because that is what they do in fashion land; a vivid red lip, the ultimate navy trouser.

I’m quite sure I’ve talked about this before.

But that would be because it is nonsensical.

I have two lips.

I wear a pair of trousers.

My LEGS, they have been bare.

I mean, the bare leg thing did not come easily. I had to do some emergency fake tanning, and it was only after I started manically rubbing it on that I realised the dubious looking foam was bought in preparation for my little sister’s wedding.

Which was three years ago.

This clearly isn’t a beauty blog, either.

This is a food blog.

So instead of talking about my bare leg(s) and my dubious fake tan I’ll talk about this being the time of year where there isn’t actually that much that is in season to celebrate.

There is, however, asparagus.

A vegetable with a really short season and a really huge taste so let us celebrate it. 

Or, if not celebrate it, then at the very least enjoy eating it.

Which I hope you do this salad; a simple assembly of the best spring ingredients. The roasting might take a while but you can use that time whatever way you please; to hoover out the cutlery drawer or play with the dog or realise it is bare leg season and maybe it is time to haphazardly apply some fake tan.

Whatever works for you.

Enjoy!

~~~~~

Take some baby potatoes, but in half and par-boil for 10 minutes.

So they look like this.

Before that boiling, they looked a little bit like, erm, raw potatoes.

Before the slicing, they looked a little bit like, erm, whole raw potatoes.

You get the idea.

Grab your asparagus spears, and snap in two.

They will naturally snap at the point where we should eat them.

Snazzy, huh?

Put your potatoes and asparagus on a baking tray and drizzle with oil and a sprinkling of salt.

Roast for 15 minutes.

Bring a small pan of oil to the boil, and lower an egg in, boiling for 7 minutes.

When it is cooked, top the boiling water out of the pan and run under the cold tap for a minute or two.

Then peel.

A picture of a freshly peeled egg is a very strange thing, I’m not going to lie.

Make the dressing by whisking together some oil…

Some dijon mustard…

And a pinch of salt and sugar…

Together with a splash of white wine or cider vinegar.

I make my dressing in a mixing bowl, because then I can just add my leaves on top.

For some reason, I like simple, soft salad leaves.

This may or may not be a reflection of my personality.

Oh well.

Toss the leaves in the dressing.

If you are going to take a picture of this, it simply must be a bit blurry.

Although why the hell would you take a picture of this? 

Except to put up on the internet and overshare your thoughts on asparagus and a strong red lip?

Anyway.

Dress the salad.

Top with the cooked asparagus and potatoes.

And chop the egg in half and put it on top.

Dinner.

Done.

Roast asparagus, potato and egg salad

Serves one. Cooking time 30 minutes.

  • 6-8 spears asparagus
  • 5-6 baby potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 2 big handfuls salad leaves
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • Pinch sugar
  • 2 pinches salt
  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. Slice the potatoes in half and add to the water.
  4. Snap the asparagus spears in two, reserving the tips.
  5. Drain the boiled potatoes and add to a baking dish with the asparagus tips, 1 tablespoon oil and one pinch salt, mixing well.
  6. Transfer the potatoes and asparagus to the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Bring another pan of water to the boil and lower in the egg, boiling for 7 minutes.
  8. Once boiled, run the cold tap over the egg to cool down, then peel.
  9. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining tablespoon of oil with the vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt.
  10. Add the salad leaves and toss well.
  11. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the roasted asparagus, potatoes, and halved egg.

Onion bhajis

Onion bhajis

Mr P has been at his funny business again.

No, not THAT funny business.

The funny business involving wires and cables and soldering irons and switching about of things so that I am no longer capable of switching on the tellyvision. Except this time he has taken to my van.

You see, in the run up to Christmas the man was an angel and a saint and helped me deliver approximately 243 million boxes of party food across the city and he realised quite why I am so obsessed with creating the perfect playlist with just the right amount of terrible 90s dance.

So, in a bid to improve my driving experience he decided to fit a subwoofer.

In a very old transit connect.

For those of you who don’t know what a subwoofer is, it is basically the thing that takes up half the boot of the car belonging to your local boy racer, and they can set up the sound levels all wrong and drive around down with the heavy thud of dance music their only friend. Well, maybe not their only friend but they can’t actually give anyone a lift because the subwoofer takes up too much room and in any case, the poor corsa has been lowered so much they can’t take any weight. Especially if their friends live in an area with speed ramps.

Speed ramps are the boy racer’s enemy.

Its almost as if they were designed to be so, or something.

Anyway, while these boys racers drive round, it is the subwoofer that makes the thud.

And apparently this was priority number one for my little van over Christmas.

This week I was quite interested in stuff on the radio, so I did not unleash full playlist power upon my new, improved sound system. I sort of, erm, forgot about it. And then, for some unbeknown reason I was thinking back to days of yore and I was reminded of Lizard by Mauro Picottosome deeply cool music by a band that doesn’t even exist yet.

I shuffled through Spotify, turned up the volume and raved like a good thing all the way down Chichester Street.

Until the drop.

Where it began to sound like there was some sort of captive in the back of the van, banging to be set free. Or some kind of pneumatic drill. Or some sort of boy racer who had set up their sound levels all wrong.

Mr P has taken to the ‘sub’, as these things are known if you are down with the kids, with a can of sealant and an air of defiance. He will shortly be doing laps of the area to make sure everything is tickety-boo for future van raving appreciation of bands that don't exist yet. 

If you live in the area, I can only apologise.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The onion bhaji wrap is by far and away the most popular lunch offering in the Little Pink Kitchen. Here is how you make the bhaji part. The rest is up to you, but if you really can’t be bothered, order one here any day they are on the menu.

Finely slice a medium sized onion.

Throw into a bowl with a heaped teaspoon of curry powder (I use fairly mild stuff for this)…

And a pinch of salt, and stir well.

Add 50g gram flour. 

Gram flour is chickpea flour, which produces the crispiest batter ever and you can totally buy it in the supermarket.

Get on that case.

And 100ml water.

Mix.

Cover the base of a frying pan in a slick of vegetable oil and heat over a medium, erm, heat.

Once it is warm, drop is heaped teaspoons of mixture. I like loads of crispy batter bits, so keep mine quite small.

After a few minutes, flip and cook the other side.

Drain on some kitchen paper.

I forgot to take a picture, but if you imagine an onion bhaji sitting on some kitchen roll, that is what it looks like.

Serve, as a side to a curry, or wrapped up in a tortilla with mayonnaise mango chutney and a few sneaky pickles.

Enjoy!

 

Onion bhajis

Serves 2. Cooking time 10-15 minutes.

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mild curry powder
  • 50g gram flour
  • 100ml water
  • Large pinch salt
  • Vegetable oil, to cook
  1. Finely slice the onion
  2. Add to a bowl with the curry powder and salt, mixing well.
  3. Add the gram flour and water, and mix well until combined.
  4. Coat the base of a frying pan with vegetable oil and heat over a medium hob.
  5. Add spoonfuls of the onion mixture to the oil, cooking for 2-3 minutes each side.
  6. Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

 

 

 

South Indian red lentil dahl

South Indian red lentil dahl

It had been a gruelling process.

Caught in a seemingly never-ending circle of temporary employment contacts, one of the agencies I was registered with suggested putting my CV forward for a post in a big shiny law company. By this point, I was well-versed in the process. I ironed my smartest dress, borrowed that jacket from my Mother, located a matching pair of heels and bought a new pair of 10 denier tights. I have a whole drawer full of 10 denier tights.

I read up on the company and prepared a presentation. I emailed my presentation off in good time, I saved a back-up on a USB and I even emailed a copy to myself. Just in case. As I say, by this point, I was well-versed in the process.

I sat in front of the panel, smiling my brightest, giving my most well thought-out answers. I gave realistic answers to difficult questions, I detailed why I would be a good fit. I smiled one last time, thanked the panel and left. I handed in my visitor’s pass. I rushed back to the office, thankful that this time I didn’t have to feign an emergency appointment. The waiting was to begin.

I may have been well-versed in the process, but this was the part I couldn’t settle by buying a new pair of tights, or donning my brightest smile. This part, this waiting, was always so hard. Every buzz of my phone or ping of my email resulted in a somewhat nervous twitch. I had mentally run through every possible outcome, from blank rejection all the way through to trading in my visitor’s pass for a shiny staff ID.

This time, the outcome was different.

So bright was my smile, and so well-versed in the nuances of IT training, I was to come back to interview for a different post. An Important Person In Charge Post.

This process I was not so well-versed in.

Instead of a mere pair of tights, I bought a whole new suit this time.

Instead of reading, I met up with an old schoolfriend who worked there to talk me though the company.

My two (yes, two) presentations were rehearsed, emailed and saved in every format known to mankind.

I did online tutorial after online tutorial on house styles and legal jargon. I read legal magazines, IT journals and article after article on just how the Microsoft suite can be tailored. 

I even watched the CEO of the company’s annual speech.

I was ready.

And, much as it would be hilarious to say that the interview itself was a disaster and I laddered those precious 10 denier tights, that would be a lie. I did my presentations, one via video-link. I answered their questions, I smiled as brightly as I could and I realised I was somewhat out of my depth.

This time, Jo, one of the interviewers walked me to the front door. She told me that I should set up my own business, that I had a lot of skills to sell. She told me that there was something very different about me, and if I kept doing what I was doing, that it would all work out.

The next day I got the call. The gruelling process was over.

The messenger told me that the panel thought my creativity would be stifled by suits and the corporate world but that they were very, very impressed. She sent through the feedback, and I read it in floods of tears, ashamed of my quirks. I considered dying my hair brown and painting my kitchen cream and pretending to be conventional.

Except I couldn’t forget those words.

Keep doing what you are doing, and it will all work out.

Over the past year, I have worked my arse off to create my very own food business. It is such hard work, and this city is flooded by so many amazing food businesses I frequently panic, but keep doing what you are doing, and it will all work out. One of the victims of this work, this effort, these 14 hour days for weeks on end has been my writing, where the Little Pink Kitchen all started.

I miss it.

I miss talking shite and sharing recipes and wondering if everybody else has the same mental train of thought that I do. I miss taking pretty pictures and reassuring people that actually making soup really is not that difficult.

I miss doing what I do.

And so, in the spirit of New Year’s resolve, I plan to keep doing what I do.

And for now, that is write.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

A soupy lentil curry, which makes a really tasty lunch with some naan. If you really can’t be arsed to make it yourself, its on the lunch menu this week, so you can totally order some.

Enjoy!

South Indian red lentil dahl

Serves 2. Cooking time 25 minutes.

  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or light olive oil
  • 2 cm piece ginger
  • 2 handfuls red split lentils
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • 2 tsp dried cumin
  • 2 tsp dried coriander
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • Fresh coriander and plain yoghurt, to serve
  1. Heat the oil over a low heat.
  2. Finely chop the onion and add to the oil. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Finely chop, grate or blitz the ginger and chilli (and a food processor or pestle & mortar).
  4. Add the cumin and coriander to the pan, cooking for a minute.
  5. Add the ginger and chilli mix to the pan.
  6. Add the lentils, stirring well.
  7. Add the coconut milk and stock, cooking for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Serve, garnished with coriander and yoghurt if desired.

Peppa fucking Pig

I know I write about food.

I know I write about funny stuff that people are supposed to identify with, like drinking so much you forget your husband's important boss's name and in fact where you live so you can get a taxi home after a night on the gin.

But tonight, things are different.

I have spent my weekend surround by the fertile.

The natural parents.

Those who are doing the greatest, most satisfying job of all.

Raising the next generation.

And I applaud this.

Genuinely, I do.

I see the sleepless nights.

The chaotic houses.

The changing of opinions on everything from reusable nappies to dummies to breastfeeding to Peppa fucking Pig.

And I wonder.

Where people like me fit in.

People who don't hate children.

People who see how much joy they bring to your lives.

But people who wonder if they will ever be 'enough' for a child; who wonder if they will ever be able to embrace the sleepless nights and the chaotic houses and the Peppa fucking Pig.

Because people like 'us', and, dare I say it, people like me, slip between the gaps. We don't fit into the 'mother' description, and all of the great things that this hat allows you to achieve. 

Neither do we fall into the 'no children ever' crowd, where our enjoyment of wine and disregard for bedtimes be celebrated, rather than chastised.

But here we are, somewhere in the middle, not quite sure of how we feel about anything or anyone. 

And FUCKING HELL do I wish I had the answers.

I don't.

But I do now that my husband supports whatever stance I take on this.

And my parents, much as they long for a grandchild, love me and care for me and wish me only happiness in this life, children or not.

So if you don't have parents like mine, that is my duty right now.

To give a shit.

Whether you are doing handstands after shagging to make that sperm do its best.

Or whether you are on the sofa drinking too much wine and wondering where it all went so wrong or right.

I give a shit.

To that army of women (or men, Mr P and I get interrogated on this matter fairly equally TBF), you are not alone.

To women who have children, I will probably never understand the tiredness, the chaos, the Peppa fucking Pig.

To woman who have decided to never have children, I will probably never understand a luxury holiday, or an all-white living room, or a commitment that doesn't fall through.

To women like me, I understand the anguish. I understand the questioning. I understand the wondering if you are doing the right thing.

You are absolutely not alone.

And, if you need anybody to chat to, I have the gin on ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiced parsnip and apple soup

Spiced parsnip and apple soup

Can we just take a moment to talk about Autumn?

Its one of those things that social media seems to go batshit crazy over and I get it, really, I do.

Although I am a little bit sad because I think this might be the final year that I get to wear the most amazing wooly tights ever. 

I bought them in New Look in the Tower Centre with the proceeds of my first week of work in Claire's Accessories. Little did I know at the time that I was buying the absolute best wooly tights in the world and no matter how many other pairs of tights I buy to try and replace them, they go all saggy around the gusset (WHAT A WORD) or the manufacturers seem to think that being tall must mean you have rugby player legs or the snazzy cable pattern stops at the ankle like we are all barbarians or something.

But no those 16 year old tights are very dear to me.

I understand the Autumn excitement.

Really, I do.

I love a fire and a good book and the internal switch from automatically reaching for white wine to red.

But here in the REAL world I was still having to shave my legs in September. The leaves on the trees may well have been falling, but fake tan application was on the rise.

And then, once the weather finally decided to get with the programme, it is either so beautifully sunny those hiding inside with books and pumpkin spiced lattes are denying themselves some of the most glorious sunrises and sunsets and days you can get all the bed sheets dried on the line.

And then there are days like today, where the rain can't wait to fall from the sky, and everything is just a bit grey and soggy and it doesn't matter two jots what your wooly tights look like because they will be hidden under a technical anorak.

To get over the crushing disappointment that Autumn isn't quite like Instagram and Pinterest depict, I mostly get excited about the BEST thing about it all.

Soup.

I sodding love soup, and its hug-in-a-bowl properties are only enhanced by Northern Irish weather.

Try this one. It isn't quite as exciting as the perfect wooly tights, but it is sweet and a little spicy and honestly so delicious I make double portions when it is on my lunch menus and spend the rest of the day eating it all straight out of the saucepan every time I walk past.

Mrs P, keeping it classy since she spent her first pay packet on tights.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To make parsnip soup, guess what you are going to need?

That's right.

An onion.

Roughly chop that bad boy.

Melt a little butter over a low heat.

And add the chopped onion.

After playing with your tiny mind about onion being the base for a parsnip soup, you will eventually need some parsnips.

Peel those bad boys.

(I'm really sorry, I don't know why I keep referring to 'bad boys'.)

(It's all come over a bit Jamie Oliver round these parts.)

(Sorry Jamie.)

Whack the end off the parsnips.

(SEE. WHY COULDN'T I JUST SAY 'CHOP'.)

And cut the parsnips into chunks.

( My temporary madness appears to have subsided.)

(Sorry about that.)

Throw the parsnip into the pan with the onion.

Add a heaped tablespoon of medium curry powder. 

I used a 'madra' blend, but feel free to use whatever takes your fancy. Korma is especially good in this soup.

Add a litre of vegetable stock.

I really think life is short and dinner is hard and stock cubes are just fine.

Although I use so much ruddy stock what with my daily soup making for the people, that I buy vats of the stuff.

A normal size cube is dandy.

Now our spiced parsnip and apple soup has both parsnip and spices, we might need to add an apple.

Chop it into rough chunks, and add to the pot.

As you can see here, really rough is fine.

Bring the whole lot to a boil, before allowing to simmer for 20 minutes.

Fire in some milk.

I always use full fat milk in everything because I am some sort of social leper who really enjoys the judgemental raised eyebrows I get in coffee shops for asking for it.

Seriously.

Sometimes they have to go to a special fridge and check it is in date, what with the rest of the population drinking skimmed and milking almonds and whatnot.

Also when you freeze soup, the fat particles don't do weird things and leave you with that bizarre separation you sometimes get in frozen soup.

So full fat it is for me.

Feel free to use whatever kind of milk you want, though.

(I really don't know where my brief science interlude came from.)

(Just be thankful it didn't last long.)

Grab a blender and blend the soup up.

Serve.

Think of it as a tribute to the world's greatest wooly tights, never to be replaced.

Spiced parsnip and apple soup

Serves 4. Cooking time 30 minutes.

  • 4 parsnips
  • 1 onion
  • 1 eating apple
  • 30g butter
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 150ml milk
  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion.
  2. Melt the butter over a low heat.
  3. Add the onion to the butter, cooking for 5 minutes.
  4. Peel and roughly chop the parsnips.
  5. Add to the onion.
  6. Add the curry powder.
  7. Chop the apple, removing the core, and add to the pot.
  8. Add the vegetable stock, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  9. Add the milk and blend the cooked soup.
  10. Serve.

Cheese scones

Cheese scones

One of the only subjects I actually had any natural aptitude for was Home Economics.

I really wasn't lacking in intelligence, but I struggled to apply myself and, even as a teenager, my tendency to fall left of centre had me in trouble quite a lot.

Turns out a County Antrim grammar school is not the place to try and debate feminism with teachers. Or absolutely ace the dreaded 'bleep test' every single term, yet be completely incapable of hitting a hockey ball in the right direction.

But along with the music department, the latin classroom with a teacher as leftfield as I was, and a maths teacher who had the ability to use my constant questioning to teach me new things, for a few years Home Economics was a safe place.

The learning about vitamins and minerals.

The weighing, and measuring, and keeping things orderly.

The workbenches, with their laminated lists showing the contents within.

The prospect of learning how to cook things.

Yes, a safe place indeed.

So safe that it took me almost a full term to figure out that we didn't actually do any cooking.

Our first 'practical' lesson was in the art of preparing a Cup-A-Soup; to make sure we could switch on a hob and measure some water, obviously.

By the time we actually learnt how to make scones I was somewhat overcome with excitement, subjecting my family to flavour experiments for weeks, months and years to come.

And scones still have a place in my heart, genuinely ready in such a short timeframe I have been known to make them for what proper food writers would call 'unexpected guests' but I call 'my Mother In Law staying for coffee after she has walked the dog'. This savoury variation on a theme also works well when I'm serving leftover soup for supper and need to provide something to make the offering seem like a proper dinner. 

These scones bring me back to a safe place, a place where even those who are somewhat left of centre belong, and for that I am thankful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Weigh out some self-raising flour.

And some butter.

Grate some cheese.

Place in a food processor and add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.

Admittedly the addition of dijon mustard has been discovered in my own free time, not within the confines of Ballymena Academy, but it takes these scones left of centre and into a very good place indeed.

Actually the food processor is the same. Back in the day we had to rub the flour and butter together by hand. Which i sometimes do because I'm a bit tragic and find things like that soothing, but sort of takes the recipe from 'ready in a flash' to 'you need to put your apron in the wash', so feel free to choose whichever method works for you.

Whizz up the ingredients (or rub together) until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Add some milk, fairly slowly. Sometimes the mixture needs a little less milk, sometimes a little more.

You want the dough to look like this, the crumbliness of the dough showing you that the end result will be nice and crumbly, not something that would survive being hit with a hockey stick (although I would probably miss the shot regardless).

Tip the dough onto a floured work surface. If you are really clever, use a chopping board or something.

It saves having to scrape random bits of dough and avalanches of flour off the worktop.

Your apron might even stay clean.

Press the dough down so it is all at about the height of your index finger.

If using a rolling pin makes you feel all Mary Berry and domestic goddess, knock yourself out. However, there really is no need.

Use a cutter (or an upturned glass if you don't have one) to cut your scones.

You will need to squash the dough back together to be able to use it all.

And your last scone might not be the prettiest.

But they will taste good.

(Also, this recipe makes enough for 4 scones. They really are best eaten soon after baking, and only TV chefs end up with unexpected guests, never mind 27 of them. If you do have hoardes to feed, the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.)

Sprinkle a little flour on your baking tray....

IMG_8361.JPG

And cheese on your scones.

Bake the scones for 15 minutes.

Serve.

School memories optional.

Cheese scones

Makes 4. Cooking time 20 minutes.

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 50g butter
  • 70g cheddar cheese
  • 75ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Place the flour, butter, 50g of the cheese and mustard in a food processor.
  3. Blitz until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the milk slowly, until the mixture starts to form a ball.
  5. Tip onto a floured surface and pat down until the dough is about 1cm high.
  6. Cut out your scones and top each scone with a little of the remaining cheese.
  7. Sprinkle a baking tray with flour and place the scones on top.
  8. Bake scones for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Serve.