Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I hope all my American readers had a fantastic Thanksgiving yesterday! I love the idea of sitting and making time to take stock of what you appreciate, it’s a really beautiful sentiment. With that in mind and from the other side of the Atlantic, here is my addition to the plethora of lists circling the internet today of a couple of things I am thankful for:

Being able to visit friends across the country to celebrate their joint 30th birthday last weekend.

Finally getting to grab lunch at KERB a couple of weeks ago as I always managed to visit London on days it wasn’t on.

Getting the opportunity to assist behind the scenes of part of an episode of the new James Martin cooking show.

New Moleskine notebooks, because writing on the first page of a new book is one of the simple joys of life.

The London skyline, because I still get butterflies whenever I see it.

When I was asked to write a Thanksgiving themed recipe for the Daily Quirk, I had leftovers in mind. One of my favourite things about big family meals is the leftovers the next day. My Mom covers the entire dining room table with cold slices of roasted meat, both hot and cold vegetables and multiple types of potato. The whole family gorges themselves on multiple servings before spending the rest of the afternoon picking at chocolates. These macaroni cups are perfect as an extra dish at a buffet table as they are already divided into single serving portions.

To find the recipe head over to the Daily Quirk


Mulled Cider

The first steaming cup of spiced cider firmly in my grasp signals the beginning of Autumn for me. Irrelevant of the outside temperature, which overcoat I am wearing or the colour of the leaves, it is the sharp smell of fermented apples softened with spices that rings home the season.

This year like many before, my first taste of the season came at the local food festival. Nestled under the trees, among brightly coloured stalls and crowds of unfamiliar neighbours. The whole park echoing with the sound of gleeful children and musical performers situated at either ends of the festivities.

This cup was enjoyed quickly, perched on the end of a crowded bench whilst deciding which of the multitudes of traders we would visit next, with little thought or care as to when I would find another seller. Two days later and the fair was gone.

Like many recipes, this one had been lost in an overwhelming sea of potential dishes in my Pinterest account. The recent cold snap in the UK (some may call it Winter!) had me reaching for something warm and comforting this past weekend when I found this again. This was the first time I had made it from scratch and it was surprisingly easy, and used ingredients I already had in my kitchen.

Mulled Cider
serves 2 (can be easily multiplied)

500ml cider
3 tbsp brown sugar
5 cloves (plus extra for decoration)
3 cardamom pods crushed open
1 stick of cinnamon (plus extra for decoration)
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
1 clementine

Using a sharp knife slice the peel off the clementine, and then quarter the remaining fruit. Reserving a slice of peel per glass for decoration place the rest of the orange in a saucepan.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and warm over a low heat for 20 minutes to let the flavours infuse.

Poke little holes along each strip of decorative peel and poke cloves through each on, rest the peel over the side of the glass.

Place a cinnamon stick in each glass and then strain the liquid over it.

Enjoy warm.

Pumpkin Spice Banana Bread Muffins

If anyone were to ask, I would proudly say I eat healthily. I make dinners from scratch most nights, and try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. But this is not the whole truth, and what’s worse is I think I’ve been lying to myself as well.

It’s easy to overlook those places that processed foods slip into your routine. A chocolate bar when your days not going right, a take away when you’re tired. Individually they seem innocent enough, but they can soon add up.

One of the worst offenders in my house are granola bars. Initially introduced as an emergency snack to keep in my handbag (to quell any fits of hunger rage) they fully invaded and became a mid morning work essential.

Instead of relying on prepackaged treats, I have been experimenting with different baked goods that will keep until the end of the week and travel well (Dan’s current commute is about an hour and forty minutes). These banana bread muffins fit the bill perfectly, they are rich and satisfying, just what you need with a cup of tea at eleven am if you’re starting to flag. And because I am obsessed with the combination of spices after making my first pie a few weeks ago, I threw in a helping of pumpkin spice too.

If you’re interested in the recipe you can find it over at Little Ferraro Kitchen where I have shared a post this week. The lovely Samantha is away on holiday at the moment (and whilst the rain pours just the other side of the window pane I can’t help but feel a stab of jealousy). I can’t wait until she gets back to see more recipes like this ginger and lychee mojito and this gorgeous pear tarte tatin.

Apple Crumble

It’s funny, after over two years of blogging I have yet to share my most used recipe. After initial samplings have been eaten, and the rest of the next weeks blog contribution is packed away for Dan’s lunch box or passed on to friends this is the recipe I turn to for an end of the weekend treat.

This is my favourite winter dessert, made from memory, thrown in the oven next to roasting meat and potatoes. I used to replace half of the flour in a tradition crumble topping recipe with Alpen for a crunchier texture. Now I use porridge oats and whichever nuts, seeds and dried fruits I have to hand. Mixing a few sweet eating apples with the baking apple means that you can skip adding sugar to the fruit but it still balances out the tang from the Bramley apple.

Apple Crumble
serves 4

100g butter at room temperature cut into 1cm chunks
100g brown sugar
100g plain flour
100g rolled oats
20g sunflower seeds
20g nuts (I used a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
20g raisins
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seed
1x Bramley Apple
3x eating apples (like bramleys)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Peel, core and chop the apples into 1cm by 1cm chunks and distribute between four single serving dishes making sure to get a good mix of both apples in each.

Add 2 tbsp water to each dish and put in the oven for 15 minutes to start cooking the apples.

In a bowl mix together the flour and sugar. Add the butter and rub into the flour and sugar – you do this by repeatedly rubbing the pad of your thumb against the tips of your fingers in the mix – until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Top each of the dishes of fruit with the crumble topping and bake for a further 30 minutes until golden brown on top. If the topping begins to catch before the time id up cover with foil to prevent any further burning.

Serves hot with custard or ice cream, will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

1983 Party

A couple of weeks ago I found myself wandering through the middle of a tourist filled high street mid afternoon dressed as a Michael Jackson style zombie (carrying cupcakes) to celebrate one of our favourite partners in (drinking) crime, Rich’s 30th birthday. I love pretty much any excuse to dress up (and was pretty proud of my tutu that I whipped up in 30 minutes), and it was amazing to see how much effort people had gone to with their costumes. A few of my favourites were Super Ted, Freddie Mercury, an Ewok and Darth Vader, I don’t think I will ever get the image of those 80’s icons dancing together out of my head. A little later in the evening we ended up watching a live band at a little pub. I think the performers quite enjoyed having a crazy bunch of characters dancing in the front row (especially to their song ‘Sexy T-Rex’) and tweeted a photo of us at the end of the gig.

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