Quick and cakey beer bread. Bread. From beer.

butter beer bread recipe quick easy bread

beer bread

Lauren no function bread well without. A little Simpsons quote for you, there. Because Simpsons. But also because beer. Me and bread go together like Homer and beer. But wait. What if you combine bread and beer? Does that make me Homer? Let’s find out!

Much as I love bread, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been bothered to make it at home. Hell, we can rarely even stand to have it in the house for fear of my lack of self-control. Quick bread recipes and no-knead breads are awesome if you hate all the waiting around – like my sweet potato bread – the first recipe I ever posted on here. This beer bread recipe is just as cakey as that but full of stuff sure to send your cholesterol soaring. Save it for the rarest of treats. Or a football snack.

beer bread instructions easy bread recipe

buttery baked beer bread

I’m not a huge fan of beer, but during the big football thing which happened recently, there was more of it kicking around the house than usual. So I nabbed a bottle and chucked it in to a bowl with some flour and my word – what happened was more magical than you can even imagine. An indulgent, buttery fluffy cakey bread, infused with the dark flavours of gigs and sunny pub gardens.

Do you like bread?

Do you like beer?

Good. Of course you do. Try this:

Quick, cakey beer bread recipe

Ingredients

A bottle of beer (I used a bottle of Theakston’s Old Peculiar)

350-375 grams* plain flour

50g golden caster sugar

110g butter, melted (unsalted) plus extra for greasing

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

beer bread recipe make bread using beer

1 – Heat your oven to 170 degrees c.

2 – Grease and line a loaf pan – I used my trusty (sadly discontinued) 1.5L Le Creuset deep-dish stoneware loaf pan – not bragging, just indicating size/volume.

3 – Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in to a large bowl, then gradually pour the beer in, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine. It should resemble regular cakey batter. Add a little more flour if it looks a little too wet.

4 – Pour half of the melted butter in to your lined pan, then dollop in the batter, then pour the remaining melted butter on top. It’ll make an oozy gloopy ugly butter/batter/butter sandwich and look puddley and fatty and gross but you won’t regret it. Your arteries may, but your taste-buds will not.

beer bread recipe old perculiar baking

Bake for about an hour – give it a look and a prod at the 50 minute mark. It’ll look bubbly and full of fluffy craters, but with a decent crust.

Turn out on to some baking paper and serve warm with (even more) butter smeared on a slice.

You’re welcome/I’m sorry. Enjoy!

bread using beer recipe

(*I STILL HAVEN’T BOUGHT SCALES. I AM GREAT AT GUESSING AND HATE MATHS. SORRY)

 

A lovely bit of squirrel (and a quick, ballsy blueberry jam recipe)

A post of two parts, here. We had our friends Nick and Roisin over for Friday night dinner last week. We’d been talking about doing this for ages, but having Roisin massively help me with some career-type stuff (she is an incredible recruiter and I highly recommend her brains) and with the current series of Friday Night Dinner hitting the half way point, it was time.

challa recipe blueberry toast

Friday Night Dinner with Nick & Roisin

My family are Jewish. I don’t associate with that myself belief-wise, but I do associate  massively with the traditions of food, family and Friday nights (let’s call this ‘Jew-ish’).

Taking my (non Jewish) boyfriend along for a Friday night meal at my mum and dad’s is a joy – his face on discovering the delicious, restorative elixir that is my mother’s chicken soup (more on that later this week), and introducing him to such Geisler-isms as ‘Meat Cream’ are the highlight of any family dinner. I’m pretty sure it has given him a whole new perspective when watching Robert Popper’s perfectly-observed sitcom, too.

“Meat cream?!”

Part of the Jewish laws of keeping kosher include a prohibition against mixing meat and milk. The biblical explanation is to not “cook a kid/goat in its mother’s milk”. There are different interpretations and ideas about where this comes from, but the one I find most logical is a basic ‘circle of life’ respectfulness. There’s a proverb about not taking eggs while the nest is watched by the mother. That sort of thing.

But this runs deep and seems to stick around, regardless of belief, because it affects taste, flavours and meal options. As Nick is Jewish too, I thought I better check that there isn’t anything he or Roisin don’t eat. Considering Nick eats his way around London as The Mystery Diner, (he tells me he carried out 66 mystery dines last year, so keep on your toes, London restaurants!) I was surprised when he said he wouldn’t have milk and meat together, but obviously understood.

challa recipe blueberry jam recipe

Friday night challah

As a kid, we never had a creamy or cheesy sauce on a meaty pasta dish. Didn’t try Parmesan until I was a teenager, and never had a ham and cheese toasty until university. We didn’t keep kosher when we ate out, but at home, my mum worked hard to make sure that what we saw her do didn’t contradict what we were taught at a Jewish primary school. And meat cream? Well, as you can’t have milk after a meaty meal, that rules out dairy for pudding. So dairy-free cream for our crumble became “meat cream”. It’s stuck and continues to sound hilarious to us and any guests.

However, even since being old enough to make my own choices and cook my own meals, I have never found the idea of, say, carbonara, appetising. I rarely opt for cheese on a burger because I think it seems too indulgent, but I think it’s actually a throw-back to being told that these two things simply do not go together. Food habits are hard to break.

challa recipe lauren geisler food blog

Food habits are hard to break – my grandma always had the little crusty first slice of the challah so I still always save it for her… then remember she died almost 15 years ago and eventually eat it with a smile. These are her butter knives, too…

I bought a massive plaited challah for us to share as a starter – this is the fluffy, sweet soft bread eaten over the Sabbath. It is perfect for dipping in your chicken soup but as my mother has shamefully yet to teach me how to make it, we just had some dips, pickles and chicken liver pate before diving in to a lemony garlicky roasted chicken for our main course. Perfect.

But that challah was a beast. It was huge. I have serious addiction issues with bread – even more so when it’s infused with sugar like this – but even I was feeling defeated after a second slice. I was, however, looking forward to toasting some up for breakfast the next morning to have with some Proper Deli Cream Cheese (none of your smooth runny Philadelphia for this bread, please).

Lauren Geisler food blog cream cheese blueberry challa recipe

Thick, deli-bought cream cheese, for showing toasted challah the respect it deserves.

We also had some leftover blueberries from our fruit salad (ie dairy-free) dessert, so I whipped up some super-quick blueberry jam. So after that whole long Jew-food infused spiel, I actually give you a recipe for…

quick blueberry jam recipe lauren geisler food blog

Quick easy balsamic blueberry jam

Jam doesn’t have to take hours slaving over huge sticky pots or involve trestle tables at a WI event. You only need two ingredients and about five spare minutes. This is a great way to preserve blueberries while you get fuller packets for your pennies at this time of year, but might struggle to get through them before they go soft.

1 – Wash your berries and remove any stalky bits.

Quick blueberry jam balsamic recipe Lauren Geisler food blog2 – Pour the berries (as many as you like, really) in to a hot pan – no oil or butter required.

3 -When the fruit starts to sweat and soften, you’ll notice they’ll turn a darker redder colour and swell up and glisten. Add a full teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

balsamic blueberry quick jam recipe food blog lauren geisler

4 – Keep the heat up – the berries will turn sticky as they sizzle in the vinegar as everything starts to combine and sweeten.

5 – Test a few berries with the back of a teaspoon – if they feel soft and squishy and burst easily, releasing red jammy goodness, you can kill the heat. This entire process only really takes a few minutes.

Balsamic blueberry jam Lauren Geisler food blog recipe

6 – Prepare your breakfast – I toasted our leftover cholla and plastered on some of that thick amazing cream cheese but this jam is amazing with pancakes, too.

Lauren Geisler food blog recipe blueberries blueberry jam

7 – Transfer the jam to a small clean pot or dish to cool and solidify a little, and you’re done!

Easy quick balsamic blueberry jam recipe challaDon’t believe the jammy hype – you don’t need fancy sugars or big pots and thermometers. Just some balsamic vinegar and lashings of thick, cream cheesy toast. Voila.

Lauren Geisler blueberry jam recipe

Weight a minute! A kitchen tour and the search for scales.

I thought it might be time to show you around my kitchen. Although there is still one major thing missing. I still don’t have a set of scales. It is, however, full of charity shop treasure, beloved hand-me-downs and second-hand nick-knacks, which you may enjoy snooping at.

Kitchen tour Pyrex Kitchen tour vintage egg cups kitchenalia lauren geisler Darren Hayman print

Vintage Pyrex and a print by Darren Hayman

You’ll also be delighted to know that I actually took all of these whilst the kitchen was in a total state and the sink was full of dishes. This is the beauty of focusing on the details and little vignettes. You’d never know…

 

kitchen tour lauren geisler tintin

However. There really is something important missing here.

Kitchen tour lauren geisler vintage egg cups kitchenalia scales cooking blog

Funny little built-in corner shelves

Kitchen tour vintage egg cups kitchenalia lauren geisler egg cups

The old Denmark Legoland milk bottle is one of our all-time favourite things

I do desperately want/need some mechanical scales. I hate the small displays on digital scales and the constant threat of batteries running out at a crucial moment, or the likelihood of pushing the wrong button when trying to operate anything with a finger covered in sesame oil, so mechanical is definitely the way forward. In fact, just yesterday a lovely reader sent me a message on twitter which was mainly full of kind praise (and an amazing-sounding cheesecake recipe) but essentially indicating that writing any more non-factual non-measured recipes would pretty much be unethical.

Kitchen tour teapot thrifting vintage kitchenalia Lauren Geisler food blog vignette

I got these little soup bowls from a charity shop this week for £1 each. For complicated maths reasons we have 5

I bought a big Salter bowl scale for my mum as a gift last year, when the wall-mounted flip-down one she’d had since about 1979 finally gave in. Fun fact: As a kid, I thought it was called Salter because she measured salt in it.

Lauren Geisler kitchen baking baby photo

Baking at home with my mum…

Turns out she measures all kinds of things in it, but her kitchen is a little bigger than mine. I need something unobtrusive, that doesn’t take up too much counter-top space or can just be put away in a cupboard.

Although I quite like how big mechanical bowl scales can (will) end up being re-purposed as a fruit bowl when not in use.

As our kitchen is quite white and bland, I rely on our ‘stuff’ to brighten the place up. I’ve got a few red bits and pieces around am really digging this minty fresh blue at the moment.

Typhoon blue scales, Lakeland

Typhoon blue scales, Lakeland, £40

£40 is pretty high in my budget (for anything, really), but not bad for a piece of mechanical equipment which shouldn’t ever really stop working unless I drop it or do something ridiculous yet not uncharacteristically clumsy to it.

My main man William Morris said “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. With that in mind, I remembered the big John Lewis anniversary hubbub. A whole bunch of awesome brands and designers have recreated classic designs (or come up with new heritage-focused special editions).

John Lewis Wesco retro scales

John Lewis Wesco retro scales

Yum. There’s a slight variation in design (and price) with this clean, stainless steel M&S number.

M&S mechanical scales

M&S mechanical scales

It looks pretty inoffensive and sturdy. The lack of colour is pretty appealing as it’s likely to look fine whatever my kitchen looks like, wherever I go.

Actually committing to choosing one has somehow gone beyond a joke and become some sort of challenge now. The last recipe I posted, my chickpea fritters, managed to rely on spoon-based measurements. I wonder how long I can keep it up? I’ve checked out my local kitchenware shop too. The service was rude and the products aren’t that great. I’ve since found out that it is run by the same family who own loads of (quite similar, not fabulous) shops in the area, so I feel less precious about saving my big corporate online shopping bucks for “the little guy”.

We’re away visiting my brilliant little godsons this weekend, but not before cooking a lovely big Friday Night Dinner for friends tonight. Recipes to follow next week…

Not just food. (Also, some food.)

Exciting things have been happening around here. Not just in the kitchen.

We had our lovely pals Sam and Livvy over for dinner before going away at the weekend, which was glorious and fun and possibly a bit too alcoholic for our early start the next morning. These two somehow manage to combine incredible foodie skills with a love of craft and living relatively nearby, thus curing my We Don’t Have Any Friends Nearby phobia and my need for crafternoons and homemade biscuits.

Moroccan feast chicken tagine recipe

Friday night Moroccan feast

I made a big ol’ Moroccan feast including a chicken and chickpea tagine, some jeweled couscous and some baked chickpea fritters. I’ll come back to those.

We headed up to Sheffield early enough for me to photograph my beautiful friend getting ready for her wedding. I’ve managed to edit 24hrs of shooting down to a nice round 100 photos to work on, and only stopped snapping to briefly collapse in to a puddle of tears in the middle of the city centre when my best friend appeared from round the corner.

1950s tea length wedding dress lauren geisler photography

See? Not just food photos…

She had flown over from Sydney as a surprise, especially for the weekend. Although the bride knew. And some other people. But I had no idea – although oddly on the way to St Pancras, I saw a whole chain of ‘us’ stuff – meaningful little things that make no sense to anyone but me and her – to the point that it became uncanny enough for me to send her a text telling her that “it’s basically like you’re really here”, thinking she would read it late Saturday night Sydney time. Spooky, eh?

It was January 2013 when we saw each other last, so she had never met my boyfriend before – something I always thought should be a big deal, but which went (obviously) brilliantly and hilariously well. Mainly because they are both brilliant and hilarious. Hooray!

This was the halfway point in our Year Of A Billion Weddings and we’ve both felt so fortunate to not just be considered part of so many couples’ special days, but that none of them have felt like a chore or been anything other than absolutely gorgeous and fun. I worked my arse off taking photos from 10am-10pm, and have made a tiny dent in the huge job of editing a selection.

I’ve taken a cue from the bride’s tea-length 1950s-style frock and the groom’s (amazing) blue suede shoes (at the risk of sounding cliched but hey – cliches are so for a reason, right?) and applied a bit of a vintage finish to the few I’ve worked up so far…

vintage wedding photography lauren geisler

Gorgeous home-grown bouquet and a vintage Bentley. Just gorgeous.

Chewy & Matt had a church service (my first ever!), followed by an awesome party in a tipi in the middle of the Peak district. All of the flowers for her bouquet, the buttonholes, and the decor were home-grown, and all the veg for the meal came from the groom’s allotment. The music was awesome, the views were breathtaking and the cake was cut using the bride’s grandfather’s sword from the first World War. And best of all, I got to party with my bff.

vintage bentley 1950s wedding lauren geisler photographer

Back to the food. I was so excited when the nibbles came out during the reception. Not only was I absolutely starving – seriously – hats off to pro wedding photographers (I think I aged about 12 years waiting to hear that she was happy with the few finished samples I sent over this afternoon) – shooting weddings is properly exhausting and I felt like I’d done an entire days’ work by the time we hit the venue – but I spotted a tray full of chickpea fritters being handed round. Having made them the night before, I was eager to compare. They actually turned out to be way more moist and warm than mine, as they had been freshly deep-fried. I oven-baked mine and kept them warm at a low heat whilst the rest of my dinner cooked, so they dried out a bit. It’s a good recipe, but I reckon they are at the best fresh out of the heat. Or fried…

Baked Chickpea Fritters (makes 12 fritters approx)

chickpea fritters moroccan recipe

Baked Chickpea Fritters recipe

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped

3 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 egg

A little dry polenta (or rice flour) for coating (about 3 tablespoons)

polenta coated chickpea bites

Polenta-coated baked chickpea fritters

1 – Heat the oven to 180 degs.

2 – In a large mixing bowl, use a potato masher to shmoosh up the chickpeas. If you have some sort of fancy food processor, you can probably just chuck everything in there in one go and be done with it, but I don’t have one, so you have to sit through my slow manual instructions.

3 – Mix in the onion and garlic, season with the spices, some salt and pepper, and the fresh herbs.

4 – Beat in the egg and breadcrumbs and stir to combine. The consistency will be similar to my Thai Fishcake recipe, or any other sort of fritter/burger-type thing. You should be able to form little patties on a tablespoon and have them hold their shape.

5 – Coat the holes of a muffin pan in a little oil – I put some oil on a paper towel, then wipe the oil in to each hole to coat.

6 – Roll the mixture in to balls – you should be able to make approx 12-16 depending on the size. Roll each ball in to the polenta to coat.

7 – Place a ball in each hole of your muffin pan, and cook for about 20-30mins. When they are brown and a little crunchy, they are ready.

Serve with some yoghurt for dipping. I topped yoghurt with crushed pistachio kernels which was a bit yummy.

baked chickpea fritter appetisers

Baked chickpea fritters – perfect Moroccan appetisers

We’ve come home to what passes for ‘normality’ to find that my beloved’s entry in the Comic Sans for Cancer competition has been selected for their exhibition in August (amazing!), and that I have a few exciting content/writing-based job interviews and meetings lined up – including a food-related one. Good times. (Incidentally, if you’re hiring, here I am on LinkedIn being all professional and job-hunty.)

Now I just need to decide what to make for dinner tomorrow night…

Asparagusto! Easy cheesy baked asparagus recipe.

Crispy cheesy baked asparagus recipe

It’s Friday! This week appears to have lasted about 412 years. We’re away for the weekend for a lovely old chum’s wedding in a tipi in the middle of the Peak District which I am massively excited about. Less excited about the 6am start tomorrow, but we’re heading up as early as possible so I can photograph her getting ready. Aww. We’re easing the pain of the early start by having friends round for dinner tonight, which means more cooking. Hooray! I’ve already decided for my own sense of calm (I am really struggling using the SLR in the kitchen without somehow managing to accidentally cook it – any tips gratefully received), that I will try and take some general “having people round for dinner” photos rather than “here is what I cooked and how to cook it”. We’ll see.

In the meantime, here is something perfect for the current weather – fresh green summery veg with all the cosy comfort of crispy baked cheese. It’s basically what warm-but-rainy evenings are made of.

How to cook asparagus tips

Asparagus is kinda gorgeous and alien-looking…

Asparagus gets laughed at a bit because of The Smelly Wee Gene thing. I’m glad to not be afflicted by such diuretic dramatics and also think that if we were all so concerned with what happened to our food after we ate it, we’d probably hardly eat anything at all. Which would be rubbish.

I never much cared for asparagus as a kid. My mum would often boil it until it was limp and a bit yellow, which tasted a bit bleurgh to my delicate young palate. When I went to art college in Loughborough, my mum would grab armfuls of the stuff on her occasional visits, as it was crazy cheap in the market there for some reason. It’s crazy cheap at the moment, too. So I grabbed a pack of the slimmer stemmed variety to have with some grilled salmon the other night.

how to prepare asparagus

the ol’ fisty twist ‘n’ rip

People tend to chop the woody stalky bits off the end. If you give the asparagus a little rinse in cold water first, you can twist the ends off (just less than an inch is usually fine, I find) easily using your fists.

how to cook asparagus easy baked recipe

Begin by heating the oven to 150 degrees, and arrange the asparagus on a lined baking tray. Like beautiful slimey green tendrils. With creepy claw-like pincer hands. Errr… yum?

Ingredients

100g apprx. plain flour*

100g unsalted butter

100ml milk

1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon mustard

As much delicious cheese as you see fit. (I used about 25g I think?)

salt & pepper

*I have an ongoing problem with weights and measures. The main problem being that… I don’t own a set of kitchen scales. I KNOW. It’s becoming damn near impossible to cook/write down what I do without them though so next week, I promise. Maybe. If I remember.

Alexandra Palace farmers market cheese

Ally Pally cheese by Wildes

Let’s talk about cheese for a second. This would be fine with cheddar. It definitely requires grated hard cheese, but the flavour is up to you. I like my cheese stinky and ripe and a bit blue. The stinkier the better, I say. We bought some brilliantly locally-named ‘Ally Pally’ from the farmers’ market at the weekend, made by the great Wildes Cheese. It has been delicious and this was a great way to use up the last of it.

This is a really quick easy recipe – 10mins prep, 10 mins cooking. Amazing.

1 – While the oven heats up, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan.

2 – Once melted, add the flour and whisk together to form a golden runny mixture.

3 – Kill the heat, and very gradually add the milk, whisking as it pours in. You’ll notice it starts to combine and form a sauce getting thicker and thicker.

4 – Get the pan back over a gentle heat and keep stirring for another few minutes, until the sauce has thickened up.

5 – Off the heat, add the egg yolk, some mustard, salt and pepper. Give it a little taste at this point to see if it needs anything else. I had paprika on standby but forgot to add it. It might work. It is impossible for me to say.

creamy cheesy baked asparagus recipe

You’re ready to pour the sauce over the asparagus. Cover as much or as little of the vegetables as you want. You could leave the tips and ends poking out to get nice and roasted (recommended), or you could probably cover the whole lot in cheesy gloop.

Sprinkle your cheese on top over the sauce, and bake for 10 minutes.

Crispy cheesy baked asparagus easy recipe

golden asparagus glory

Finish it off with a blast under the grill to get that golden crust of cheese. Beautiful.

Serve with some grilled fish, or anything really. I had planned to add a poached egg on top but after all that whisking and almost grilling the camera and my cardigan sleeve, I really didn’t have the energy. This is probably all a lot easier if you don’t photograph it as you go along.

Good job you’ve got me to make those mistakes for you, eh?

Crackin’ crackling – perfectly puffy pork belly

perfectly puffy pork belly lauren geisler recipe

I love stretching different writing muscles. Also eating. And cooking. I’m also a fan of Things Going My Way and life generally taking an upswing. When things are looking up, celebrate with food. When things start going your way, keep learning, keep pushing yourself. The more I write about food, the more people pop up to tell me to keep going. Now things are moving in a direction other than just towards the fridge. Hooray!

Enough cryptic rambling. Sorry – I’m hungry. I’m about to make you hungry too by reliving last night’s game-changing pork belly.

“Game changing” is also funny because something something football.

Now. Pork.

perfect easy recipe pork belly

perfect pork belly with crackling (sorry mum)

Having been brought up in a Jewish home, I still consider myself relatively new to cooking pork. Without getting my parents in to some sort of social ‘trouble’, they kept a kosher kitchen when I was growing up, and the occasional taste of bacon as part of a ‘naughty hotel breakfast’ made anything porky a special treat.

And what a special treat this is.

I’ve only cooked pork belly twice before. The first time I ever ate it was at a long-table tasting evening at the brilliant Hampstead Butcher & Providore. Served on the most perfectly-cooked couscous (I was told it was cooked in stock, which made it so flavourful and delicious that I have genuinely not cooked it any other way since), the belly had the perfect combination of salty, crunchy puffy crackling with soft, succulent slowly-roasted meat beneath. It has become one of those meals that has lingered in my thoughts, passed in to part of my personal legend. One of those meals you remember. Also there was a cheese course and loads of free wine.

pork belly recipe crackling

crunchy flavourful crackling with succulent roast pork belly

I digress. I tried to recreate that perfectly-puffed up pork belly once before, using some steps from a Jamie Oliver forum. It was ‘OK’, but it was not The One. My office is situated in a traditionally Jewish neighbourhood, and the nearby shops predictably struggle to sell much pork, reducing it for quick sale. I spotted a pack of 6 belly strips and decided it was time to try again.

Rather than list ingredients and try to write A Proper Recipe this time, I’m just going to list the steps I took. I served this with couscous (cooked in stock, always. Always.) with tiny chopped bits of chorizo, raw red onion, lemon juice and tomato stirred through it. I add the bits and pieces before adding the stock to the couscous, so it all heats up together and the flavours muddle and season the grains.

Perfectly puffy pork belly

1 – Heat the oven to 200 degrees

2 – Score a few lines in to the rinds of each strip of pork belly.

3 – In a dish, cover the pork in boiling water, making sure the rind is covered.

4 – Drain after a minute, and pat dry using paper towels.

5 – Drizzle the pork skin with a little olive oil, rubbing to coat.

6 – Sprinkle sea salt on to the rinds, and rub the crystals to get in to the scored lines and stick to the oil.

7 – Set the belly strips skin-side-up on a wire rack over a tray – a grill pan is fine. Cook at high temperature for 10-15 minutes. This is what is going to help that rind really puff up and make amazing crackling. It will smoke, and steam up your oven door, but stick with it. Be brave.

easy recipe for pork belly crackling

roasted pork belly with grilled crackling

8 – Bring the temperature down to 150 degrees and continue to cook for 30-40 minutes longer. Keep an eye on the meat and check it’s not over-cooking or drying out. Don’t be scared of the crackling starting to brown and toughen up. That’s what we want…

perfect pork crackling easy recipe

pork belly with grilled crackling

9 – Once the meat is looking pretty much done, give it a 5 minute blast under the grill to bring up that crackling. It will hiss and sizzle and crackle. There’s your clue. When it crackles. Crackling. See? Let it stand for a few minutes (really, not just to photograph it), and serve with couscous and some fresh herbs. (I used parsley and coriander mixed with some fresh lemon juice).

pork belly with couscous recipe

pork belly served with couscous, salad and fresh herbs

I like to keep the rest of the plate fresh and green as belly is kind of fatty and indulgent. Balance. And pretty colours. Enjoy!

 

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy! Cheat’s Paella Recipe

quick easy paella recipe

Easy Peasy Paella!

I seem to have somehow spent the week attempting to achieve ‘food blogger’ status, thanks to some kind encouragement on Twitter and the seemingly endless, generous resources of fellow writers/photographers/hungry internet people. I studied photography at university for 4 years, but they don’t teach you any of the awesome tricks I’m starting to learn. For the most part, what I figured is that other than books, or tips, or guides, that what I really need to do is Just Keep Going. Practice makes perfect.

Practice makes Paella.

Sort of.

Just like with the Thai fishcakes, everything I’ve cooked this week has been totally dictated by the weather and memories of sunny times eating with friends.

how to cook quick paella

Chicken & chorizo paella with fennel and black pepper

My lovely friend Chewy is getting married next weekend, and I’ve been charged with photographing the day for her, which I am honoured, terrified and excited about in equal measure. On a group holiday to Spain a few years ago, we shared a villa and ate delicious food and drank cheap wine out on the balcony pretty much every night. It was bloody lovely. On our last night, we held an awards ceremony to remember all the ridiculous things we’d all done and I was super happy to win “Best Dinner” after making a huge paella for everyone which seemed to magically transcend various fears of seafood and vegetables.

That was 2009 and somehow I hadn’t made it since. Until last night.

Easy chicken chorizo paella recipe

easy peasy paella!

Despite saying over and over again to my love that I was “only taking photos for practice” (everything on here so far has been iPhone only – way more convenient for mucky hands in a tiny kitchen but looking at today’s offering, I get that SLR is definitely the way to go), I couldn’t resist ending the week with one last little recipe. So here is a totally basic easy peasy recipe for paella. As it includes peas and lemons, let’s definitely call it Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. Yep.

Paella is obviously traditionally full of seafood. Despite being a life-long lover of the stuff, I can’t get back in to fancying it much since food poisoning stole my prawn-loving appetite in January. So this has a small amount of chicken in, but the real stars in this are the little bits of flavourful veggies and herbs. A couple of people asked me to write some vegetarian recipes. This would be just as good and filling with the meat left out. Simple as that. Maybe add a teaspoon of paprika to recover the flavour if omitting chorizo. The fennel keeps it fresh and summary, whilst working really nicely on the sort of opposite end of the flavour spectrum from the chorizo.

easy quick paella recipe

Note to self: buy nicer utensils if continuing to photograph the plastic crap you’ve had for 10 years.

I also mainly used things we already had. So if you’re copying this, or “following my recipe” as people say, you don’t need any fancy risotto rice and you could totally adapt which veggies you use, too. This is MY paella. Customize!

Ingredients

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads.

1 litre vegetable stock.

1 onion, chopped.

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped.

2 spring onions, finely chopped.

1/4 fresh fennel. The vegetable not the seeds. Chopped.

1/2 a red sweet pepper, chopped.

Approx 200g long grain rice. (Allow for roughly 60g per person)*

Chopped chorizo – I used about 4 inches from a ring sausage.

Chicken breast – I used about 250g, chopped in to various sized pieces.

Handful of fresh peas.

Handful of fresh chopped coriander.

Handful of fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Salt and pepper.

Wedge of fresh lemon.

1 – Prepare the saffron by steeping in about 5 tablespoons of the stock for 20 minutes (do this first, and it should be ready to mash with the back of a spoon in to a paste by the time you’ve prepared everything else for cooking).

2 – In a large deep heavy frying pan, heat a little olive oil to soften the onions in. Once the onions are clear (don’t brown – keep the heat low), add the garlic and stir for a minute.

3 – Add the fennel, all but 1 tablespoon of the spring onion, the red pepper and the chorizo. Stir until the veggies are softening and coated in the colour and flavour from the chorizo. (or paprika if substituting).

4 – Add your saffron paste, and the rice. Coat the rice in the moisture coming off of the vegetables until it starts to crackle a little – like when cooking risotto.

5 – Add the chicken to fry off slightly, and pour in just enough stock to cover the rice (about 2-3 ladles).

easy way to cook paella

Easy peas-y fluffy flavourful rice

6 – On a medium heat, let the rice absorb the stock. It will slowly, gradually swell as it takes on the water and fluffs up. Be patient. Mine took about 20 minutes until it hit the really obvious turning point. Keep gradually adding liquid once it gets absorbed.

7 – Once the rice is looking cooked (taste it to make sure it isn’t crunchy – although a little bite is nice and will stop it going gloopy), add the peas and a squeeze of the lemon wedge. Stir well to combine everything.

Paella recipe

A bowl full of summer in the golden evening sunshine

8 – Add the fresh herbs right at the end, once the heat is off. Serve with some olives and crisp leafy salad.

Hornsea saffron bowl

The perfect excuse to use my Hornsea saffron bowl.

Seeing as I’m “just practicing” and all, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to style the table a little, with my lovely Hornsea ‘Saffron’ bowl, and these fabulous silver ‘Apostle’ spoons I inherited from my grandma.

Silver antique teaspoons

Perfectly olive-sized antique silverware

So. How am I doing, gang? Better photos? Easy enough to follow recipes?

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