Grilled Sardines With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic – The Pros and Cons of Buying Little Fish

I don’t really buy fish. In the supermarkets fillets are quite expensive, and at the fishmonger’s they don’t really like to fillet your stuff. It takes too long and whatnot. I love a good salmon steak any day of the week, and I would be willing to give up my life for a last meal of a rare tuna steak. But do note, these don’t usually have bones at all.
Now sardines, on the other hand, have plenty. So many that in every half bite you take there will probably be at least three. But there are many reasons that speak for buying these babies none the less.
The obvious reason is that they’re cheap. I bought four average-size sardines, whole, for 85 pence. Less than a pound for dinner? Yes please. Another pro is that they’re extremely healthy – I’m not sure why, but that’s what the Internet says so it must be true…
Another unexpected pro: by the time you finish one fish, you’ll probably be half full already. With all the effort put into pulling away a bite, picking out the tiny scales and then finally getting to swallow it, trust me, two sardines will be enough…
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So the cons. The main one for me is pretty much a pro too: and that’s all those tiny bones. I have severe paranoia of fish scales since I saw a friend of mine swallow a small bone when I was really young, and the scene terrified me. (But you know what? I’ve already told you that story here.)
Another personal reason against buying fish, especially whole, is that I have this fear that they’ll come to life. Weird, right? But with their eyes open and staring at me whilst I rub them with chilli and garlic freak me out. Once they’re in the oven I’m fine though.
So there’s that, you decide if it’s worth it. But if you do come by some whole sardines, here’s what I did to them.
For the taste:
2 whole chillies
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 lemon
Salt, pepper
Some fresh parsley if you have some
This recipe is pretty much taken from Jamie Oliver, but I didn’t have parsley for example.
Anyway, just slice your ingredients (except the lemon) and put them into a baking tray with some olive oil. Then in go the fish, and now you can make use of your half a lemon by squeezing the juice all over the fish. All that’s left is to toss it around so that the flavour gets everywhere, and in it goes at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.
You’ll know when it’s done, but if you want to look for something then look for the smell and colour. The fish’ll be bubbly and somewhat coloured, and if you try, you should be able to pull the flesh away really easily. Something like this:
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Served with some boiled or mashed potatoes with an extra squeeze of lemon, these babies are really tasty. Whether it’s worth the effort, I’ll let you decide; but every now and again, I’d say it is.

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Spicy Grilled Lamb Skewers – Introducing My Griddle Pan

Who would have thought that January sales can be about other things than clothing? All my favourite kitchen stores were having huge sales, and so I purchased two things that are otherwise always extra-expensive but now they were down to quarter price. First of all, I got a pestle and mortar, because I’ve had my eyes on those things for a long time – but they’re always priced around at least £30-£40. This time though, I got a heavy granite stone pestle and mortar set for £13.50, which is rather impressive. I could kill a man with that thing.
The other thing I got was, finally, a griddle pan, which is also something I’ve been meaning to buy but never got around to it. It’s red, cast-iron and it cost me £15 instead of £45. I think yes. And with this pan, I could do anything from breaking a foot in half to cause ever-lasting concussion. (Secretly I was shopping for self-defense weapons disguised as kitchen stuff.)
The griddle pan especially comes in handy now as weirdly enough, I actually started a diet. Just a light one, with lots of green tea, vegetables, granola, brown rice and wholemeal; honestly, I saw the Christmas pictures taken of me and I had the motivation. I’m also starting to exercise, little by little, mostly at home. But when I’m ready, I swear I’ll return to the gym.
But seeing as my pan arrived yesterday, here’s what I created:
grilledlamb (4)So this is actually a recipe I came up with by myself , so I felt pretty good about it. I had just the right amount of cubed leg of lamb left over, and the best part is that cooking this actually takes about 20 minutes tops.
So for the marinade, I used:
1 whole chilli
1 whole star anise
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp cumin
Salt, pepper
In this spicy mixture, I let the lamb sit for about 2 hours until it soaked up everything. I also soaked my chopsticks into water at the same time (prevents them from burning). And yes, chopsticks, I was too lazy to leave the house and get skewers so I had to get creative.
Anyway, having marinated, just pierce the meat and make good-looking skewers out of it. Heat the griddle pan with a touch of vegetable oil until practically smoking. Put in your lamb and fry until you get those beautiful stripes on all sides (I love those). Now comes the exciting part: I only aimed for searing, so colour – afterwards, I could just take the pan and put it into a 200 degree oven with a grill function set to medium-high and let the oven finish off the rest.
When it came out, it was just slightly pink on the inside and incredibly juicy. I served these with some plain rice and sliced vegetables, and they made an incredible meal.
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The taste and smell of the spices on the meat made this special, and yet it is perfect for any other night. I was so happy with this.
Yum!
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Blue Cheese Biscuits – A Classic Showstopper for Any Occasion

I hope you’ve all now finished digesting your Christmas dinners and lunches and post-Christmas leftovers – I know I have, and now the shame kicks in. But just until I start my diet (yeah, right), here’s another party recipe that is a 100% winner, no doubt.
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Ironically, I learnt this recipe from the maths teacher who got me out of high school (really). I mean, if it wasn’t for her, I probably would be worse off, but thanks to her brilliance (and patience), I managed to achieve a beautiful 60% on my final exam. Anyway, on one of our last lessons, she offered me a biscuit, and it was so good I had to have the recipe.
I make these biscuits every Christmas, and I’m not lying when I say that they are always the first to go. And this year was special, because they even turned out good-looking (not the picture above, unfortunately – I forgot to photograph the pretty ones. Yes, it’s true. Proof below.)
So here’s the recipe for the success-biscuits. Your ingredients:
300g flour (any kind)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3 tbsp milk
200g blue cheese – anything you fancy
So to start off with, mix the flour and butter together until they’re completely mixed. It will look like sand or bread crumbs. Once that’s done, add your wet ingredients (egg, milk) and mix – finally, crumble in the cheese. Mix this together until you have a dough that’s come together. The best thing now is to chill for half an hour.
I accidentally left it in the fridge for 2 hours. Woops.
Not that it’s bad for it, it’s just that it will need more time to warm up again so that you can work it. But thanks to my forgetfulness, I actually got to experiment with the dough. I cut it into two pieces – I put one aside to warm up. The other one, if you need quick results, is best to bash with a rolling pin (for stress relief and also to soften the dough).
So the first batch, I did like I always used to do. Roll the dough into a long, sausage-like shape – it’s best not to make it too thick to get smaller sized biscuits. Then slice the long sausage into little circles (these are your biscuits). The reason this is never pretty is that no matter how sharp your knife, the slices will still look more like squares than circles. Anyway, line a baking sheet with baking paper, pile your biscuits and bake them until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes).
The second batch turned out pretty because I waited – and I could roll out the dough properly and make some nice Christmas biscuits like so:
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So if you’re impatient, you’ll be left with less pretty, but none the less delicious biscuits and you have my word – everyone will love these. There’s a reason they’ve been a tradition at ours since I graduated from high school (wow. That’s a good 4 years ago now!)
Oh and… Happy new year!

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Holiday Fudge – Cheap, easy, pretty, delicious, or the perfect Christmas present

It’s pretty insane that Christmas is already over, isn’t it? I know this post might come just a little bit too late, but hey – there are distant relatives, Valentine’s day, post-Christmas friendly meet ups, and thousands of other excuses as to why make this delicious fudge. (Not to mention simply because you want to.)
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I’ve never made fudge before. I was told it is hard, needs a candy thermometer (just mentioning that will discourage many) and all kinds of rumours. Well, bah humbug. This fudge recipe is super easy to get right – and here are the ingredients:
500g brown sugar 
125g butter
120ml milk
250g peanut butter (I prefer crunchy, but whatever suits your fancy)
1 dash of vanilla extract
300g icing sugar

Ingredients and method are taken from this recipe – decorated below with my own tips and tricks.

So first off, just melt the butter. Then add the brown sugar and the milk and bring it to the boil. It may look like it’s too thick, too much sugar, not enough liquid, but that’s actually okay. Now, the original recipe says to boil it for only 2 or 3 minutes, but here’s what I found out in retrospect – boil it until your sugar is kind of melted. So instead of 2.5, don’t panic; boil it out for at least 4 minutes. Besides, boiling this sugary mix is going to look super entertaining.

When that’s done, turn off the heat and add your peanut butter and vanilla. Mix until smooth and nicely melted too. Put your icing sugar in a bowl, and pour your hot mix on top of it. This too will look like it’s too liquid, but just keep stirring until you get a nice, shiny paste. (Can you hear those calories sing?)

To make my fudge look awesome, I used some silicone ice cube trays to shape my pieces – they’re really awesome. I had a flower and a heart-shaped tray, so I filled those up, wiping away any excess on the top. If you don’t have those, just use any baking tray, like square or rectangle. Or whatever suits your fancy. Whack it into the fridge for a loooong time – I left it overnight to make sure.

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I was pretty positive that no one in my family would like the fudge – you know, too sweet, too fatty, too meh. To my surprise though, half of my huge batch was eaten on Christmas eve; and the shaped fudge made such an awesome present! If you’re stuck, broke or lazy, this really is the recipe for you. I mean, in the end, who doesn’t like this kind of sin?
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We’re Back to Meat – Apologies to Enthusiastic Vegetarians

So that vegetarian post really got you guys reading, huh? I always wonder why. For example, I already know that this post won’t get half as many of you interested as the previous one did. Even though this was really rather tasty…
Have I written about pork loin before? It’s a rather cheap cut, even for Waitrose, and I only discovered it last month. I love everything about it. Very tasty, very simple to cook, and it only slightly reminds one of a walrus’ privates. Not to put you off though, see for yourself.
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Anyways, I found this meat to be so easy to use. Flavour it as you want, then just whack it into the oven and it is ready in about 40 minutes or so.
For this occasion, I used a varied mix to spice up the dinner.
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But I’ll write it down just for the hell of it… So for marinading, I used
3 tbsp Worcester sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 big pinch of black pepper
1 big pinch of salt
1 tsp brown sugar
And now that I think of it, I gave it a small drizzle of honey too. Must have forgot to include it in the picture.
The fun part: rubbing this mixture into the mix. (Again, don’t be put off.)(Yes, I am very entertained by the similarity I mentioned before. Even though it reminds me of the movie Tusk, which honestly gave me nightmares and I made my boyfriend swear never to speak of it again. What a horrible film that was. Yikes.)
Back to topic…
I left this bad boy marinade for about 3 hours under a foil-cover. Before cooking, I added a cup of water, which evaporated slowly during the oven time and kept the meat extremely soft and juicy.
After about 30 minutes at 180 degrees, and then an extra 10 minutes with a grill function set to medium-high, cut into the middle of the meat to check it’s no longer bloody – and you’re ready to go for something like this:
porkloin (6)Doesn’t that look gorgeous?
Now I am aware that foodies are going to come at me with ‘where is the sauce’, and I am totally to blame. But I was too lazy, and that’s the honest truth. I would have gone for ketchup, but I am not a fan. So here’s a little competition for you! 
If you’ve got a great idea for a sauce for this dish, write the recipe down in the comments and I will give you a major reward. … well… How about a mention in my next post?
 PS. I just remembered the last time I made this…
Served with cubed, fried courgettes and cranberry jam.
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Also delicious.
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Vegetarian Break – Tomato and Mozzarella Re-interpreted

Hello, yes, I’m still alive – frankly just extremely busy trying to survive my MA course. I mean it is fun, but I feel lucky if I get to leave the flat at least once a week nowadays. But I’ve come back to try and bring back you lovely readers, especially because Christmas is approaching fast, and well, that’s my time to shine. None of the last year’s duck business this year though. Strictly cookies and truffles and… well… we’ll see I guess.
But for now, here is a recipe that I came up with on a desperate night. There is always the dilemma: should I hold back, lose some calories, eat those tomatoes that are about to go off and feel good about myself? Or should I order an unnecessarily huge amount of Chinese, devour it all by myself, and then wake up with a food baby and the shame… oh the shame…
So this time I was strong.
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The ingredients that I dug out of my fridge:
1 pack of mozzarella
1 can of butter beans
2 celery stalks
A jar of capers in brine
Garlic paste
2 huge tomatoes
And that’s all it took. Here’s how to make a delicious, baked, vegetarian muffin.
Drain the mozzarella and cut into small cubes. Take your tomatoes and carve out the insides – seeds, core, juice, until all you have is a hollow case. Season the inside well, especially with salt, as this will drain the moisture and give you a more firm case.
Squeeze a bit of garlic paste into the tomato and smear it on the bottom. Then, start packing your mozzarella. Halfway up the tomato, insert a handful of capers, then keep packing your cheese until the tomato is full. Drizzle the top with olive oil, add a couple more capers and season with pepper. Salt at this point is not necessary, because the capers will do the job just fine.
Now came the clever part: since my tomatoes refused to stand up straight, I popped them into a muffin tin. A bit more olive oil drizzled on top and they were ready to be baked at 180 degrees; I also put on the grill on medium to get a nice colour on the top.
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Honestly, this dish doesn’t even count as vegetarian. At least to me, if there is cheese involved, it is automatically acceptable. I mean, bring on the halloumi and melted brie or reblochon, and I’m happy.
So when these babies came out of the oven, I squeezed a bit more garlic paste on top and that gooey inside with the warm but firm outside made a fantastic dinner. It really is just mozzarella and tomato, just presented differently – not only is it healthy, it is also super quick. And I got to stuff my face with cheese, which is always nice.
Anyways, there are tons of recipe pictures that I’ve taken over the past couple of weeks, and they’re just waiting to be shared, so expect more to come. And then we’re entering Christmas cooking week, and that’s the best.
‘Till then!
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Milk Chocolate Brownies – For Loneliness and Sweet Teeth

I find brownies fascinating. When I was about six or seven years old, my kind-of-godmother (who was and is one of my childhood heroes of the kitchen along with my mother) got me and my brother an American cookbook for youngsters. It was illustrated with awesome drawings and had all the classic recipes from corn on the cob to mini sausage rolls. You even got these colourful measuring spoons with the book to make cooking even easier.
Unfortunately my English wasn’t quite there yet at that age, and so my first attempt at brownies was a complete failure. We scraped that sweet, burnt, collapsed mess from the bottom of the pan for weeks.
A couple of years have passed since though, and making these milk chocolate and cocoa brownies was my second attempt (well, that is if we can count my blondies from last year as brownies). It was a blast. I’m not a fan of cake – in fact I hate cake if it consists of anything else but icing – but these brownies are nothing like sponge. With a thick, gooey consistency, they literally melt in your mouth.
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This day also marked the first trial of my year-old silicone ‘tin’, which I absolutely adore – I just never had a chance to try it. I love the heart-shape, although I must say that for transferring a liquid batter in it into the oven, it is absolutely useless.
Anyway, for these delicious and crumbly brownies, you’ll need:
200g unsalted butter
200g milk chocolate for cooking
85g plain flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
250g brown sugar
3 eggs
So to start off, prepare. Butter your tin and line with parchment paper.
Put your sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk for about 7-8 minutes. Seriously. This has to rise in volume and look gooey and light brown. When that’s done, set aside.
Sift your flour and cocoa powder into a bowl and add a pinch of salt.
Finally, melt your chocolate and butter in a bowl above hot water until no lumps remain and you get that beautiful, shiny liquid consistency. Let this cool to room temperature before you proceed.
When the chocolate is cooled, add it to your egg and sugar mixture and fold the two together gently, so as to keep the volume in the mix. When  nicely encorporated, add your flour and cocoa to the bowl, sifting again, and mix everything together gently – don’t overdo it! It may look very liquid and lumpy, but don’t worry about that.
Transfer the mix to your tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 35 minutes. It is ready when the top has formed a kind of papery film and is slightly risen. Take the tin out and leave to cool completely. It may look soft and not at all brownie like – but this is when the magic happens. When you come back after your long stroll to distract yourself, you will see that the brownie has hardened and shrunk in the middle, and you may now cut into it.
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Honestly, these are so very simple and are good anytime, anywhere. I kept them refrigirated because I wanted them to firm up a bit, but they’re awesome when still kind of warm and gooey in the middle too.
Trust me. It’s worth it.
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 PS. Happy 1st anniversary to the blog!
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