Category: Easy

For the times when you want something super simple to make.

Plum and Apple Crumble Flat Crust

Plum and Apple Crumble Flat Crust

This summer’s been pretty crazy for me. Not because I’ve been all around the world or have gone on a fascinating internship or the like, but because it’s been the first summer in well over 4 years that I’ve just stopped and let myself think. I tend to plow on through life head first, doing as much as I can and I often wear myself out in the process, so this summer I’ve let myself rest, re-coup and try to sort out my head a bit.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health guilt recently and the downward spiralling effect this can have on an already fragile mind. By mental health guilt I mean feeling as though you have no right to be depressed or feeling low because you think others have it worse than you. I think this something that a lot of people with depression experience at some point and I’ve been feeling it a lot myself recently. After all, I’m a white, middle class woman from a stable family in a relatively stable part of the world. I’ve had all the education I could wish for, all the opportunities I could imagine and yet I still find myself coming back to this really dark place.

Something I think that’s important to remember when you feel this way is that all pain is relative and personal. Everyone has different life experiences and struggles, and you can never know the full story behind what someone else is experiencing. Therefore, when it comes to mental health, it’s ultimately impossible to say that one person deserves help more than someone else, or that someone’s pain is worse than another’s. Surely if you feel in pain and it’s affecting you, you deserve the help and support you need, regardless of whether someone else has it worse or not. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the UK’s mental health system from my experience. At the moment there is massive under funding in the NHS and so as a result the only ones getting real treatment (and even then after a long waiting time) are those who are suffering at the most extreme level. This of course makes sense and it is important that we treat the most serious cases first, but it does make those with more minor, yet still serious conditions, feel as though their problems aren’t serious enough to warrant treatment – which when you’re feeling like you have no right to feel depressed in the first place isn’t helpful.

We can’t change this overnight, but we can start to make those who can make the changes more aware of the mental health crisis in the UK by talking about it more openly. There are great charities and campaign groups such as Young Minds and Heads Together who are doing amazing work to get better mental health provision in the UK, and supporting them in their work is probably the best shot we have to influence major change at ground level. For now though I’ll just say it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t matter if someone has it worse than you or if you don’t feel like you have the right to feel depressed.  Depression isn’t a choice, and although it can be formed out of circumstance it is inherently biological and beyond a person’s control. Therefore if you do feel down or low, in need of treatment or even just in need of a talk, reach out for it. Don’t feel like it needs to get worse before you’re allowed to get better, or that you’re being over-dramatic and should just calm down. It’s thoughts like that which lead people to end up in really bad places that are even harder to get out of.

For me it’s by no means been an easy summer, and I doubt it’ll be an easy autumn but I am looking forward to a new academic year and a change of scene. By taking it slow over the past couple of months I’ve found a rhythm for living which I hope I can translate into my working term at Uni and fingers crossed I can keep myself relatively stable. Most importantly for me I have re-kindled my love of cooking. Now, of course this never really went away but I’ve had a tricky relationship with food in that I cook to de-stress, but recently the mere idea of cooking has stressed me out.  Sometimes I don’t have the energy to cook, sometimes I don’t want to eat anything, and sometimes I just don’t have the patience. However I’ve started to find that these times are all totally fine and normal, and the important thing is that I always come back to the kitchen sooner or later and have fun when I’m there!

This new, relaxed approach to my cooking is how I eventually came up with this plum and apple crumble ‘flat-crust’. I wanted to make a tart but really couldn’t face the paph of lining a tart tin or blind baking etc, so I found that this was a great compromise. As it’s not made in a tin you don’t have to worry too hard about what awful shape your pastry is being rolled into which is a really nice thing. As long as it’s vaguely round and flat, you’re good. Quick, delicious, full of warming autumn flavours and all that good home comfort stuff we like to see around this time of year!

Recipe

Serves 12

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 175g Plain flour
  • 2 tbsp Caster sugar
  • 115g Butter
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp Water

For the filling

  • 2 Bramley apples (or medium sized cooking apples)
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ¼ tsp Ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 3 Plums
  • 1 Egg

For the Crumble topping

  • 75g Butter
  • 2 tbsp Plain flour
  • 2 tbsp Porridge oats
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp Ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Begin by making the pastry. Put the flour and sugar into a bowl and mix together with a round bladed knife (a regular table knife). Add the butter and use the knife to cut it into chunks in the flour.
  2. When you can’t cut the butter up any more, go in with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. (Shaking the bowl from side to side every now and then will help bring the lumps to the top).
  3. In a small bowl mix together the egg yolk and water and then mix this into the breadcrumb mixture. Mix with a table knife until a smooth dough forms. Wrap the dough in cling film and then leave it to chill in the fridge for at least an hour, or until needed.
  4. Now move onto the filling. Peel, core and then roughly dice the apples and put them into a large pan. Add the sugar, ginger and cinnamon and bring to a gentle simmer over a low heat. Leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes until broken down and golden, stirring the mixture every now and then to make sure nothing burns on the bottom of the pan. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool until needed.
  5. Meanwhile halve and de-stone the plums. Then slice the plums into smallish pieces (I find I get around 5 slices from each half).
  6. Now make the crumble topping. Put the butter and flour into a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour until you have a breadcrumb texture again, like you did with the pastry. Add the sugar and oats and then mix together with a spoon to make a crumbly mixture.
  7. When ready to start assembling pre-heat the oven to 180˚C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  8. Take your pastry out of the fridge and place it on a sheet on clingfilm on a work top. Place another sheet of clingfilm over the top and gently roll the pastry into a rough circle (don’t worry if you end up with more of a square, it won’t matter in the end!). Take a plate, cake tin or generally round object around 11” in diameter and use it as a guide as to how far to roll the pastry. You’ll want it around 0.5 – 1 inch wider all around, than this template.
  9. Peel the top sheet of clingfilm off the pastry and flip it over onto your lined baking tray. Then peel off the other sheet of clingfilm. Lay your template on top of the pastry and gently score the circular shape into the dough with a knife, being careful not to cut all the way through!
  10. Spoon the stewed apple inside the circle you’ve just marked, leaving a ½ inch gap around the edge. Next take your plum slices and lay them around the edge, making their top edges line up with the circle you’ve made. You should now have a ring of plum slices bordering a pile of apples.
  11. If you were worried about the edge of your pastry now’s the time we’re going to sort that out. If you have any bits that are really sticking out from the plum edge, and some other bits that are really close to it you can carefully peel off a chunky bit and squish it onto somewhere lacking in pastry. Then gently roll up the pastry all around the edge until you reach the plum boarder, to make a crust.
  12. Take the crumble topping and sprinkle it over the exposed apple filling. Then crack the egg for the topping into a bowl and whisk it up with a fork until the yolk and white are mixed. Brush a little egg around the edge of the pastry and then sprinkle over a little more brown sugar to give a crunchy crust.
  13. Bake the tart in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the plums are shrivelled, and the crumble top and pastry are golden brown. Serve warm with fresh plums and custard!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave any comments, thoughts or feelings on anything in this post below!

Emma x

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Healthy Banana Split

Healthy Banana Split

Something that’s really hard to balance when you’re trying to eat healthy is that end of a meal slump when you want something sweet but not so sweet it’ll spike your blood sugar. This is where these beauties come in! I used to eat banana splits a lot as a child, piling them high with sweets, ice cream and chocolate, but now I’ve found a way to make them healthy and just as delicious! Start with a banana and some yogurt (whatever variety you like) and then you can top that with whatever you want. Personally I like a mixture of fresh fruit with some nuts and a little bit of super-dark chocolate, but you can top yours with whatever you fancy – which is partly what makes it so good!

Recipe

Serves 1

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Banana
  • 3 tbsp Greek Yogurt (or yogurt of choice)
  • 1 Passion fruit
  • A handful of fresh Berries (I went for strawberries and raspberries)
  • 1 Chunk (about 50g) of 100% cocoa chocolate
  • A few Coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp Runny honey
  • Optional extras (granola, nuts, melted chocolate, peanut butter, ice cream etc)

Method

  1. Peel and then slice your banana in half and splay out on a plate or in a bowl.
  2. Spoon the yogurt generously over the top, sandwiching the two banana halves.
  3. Prepare your fruit toppings, for example halve the passion fruit and scoop out the seeds and then hull the strawberries. Scatter the fruit over the top.
  4. Grate the chocolate over the top of this, sprinkle over the coconut flakes and finish with a drizzle of honey. Add any extras you want to the mixture and the enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

 

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Black Wild Rice, Cherry, and Rocket Salad

Black Wild Rice, Cherry, and Rocket Salad

Recently I’ve decided to try going on a detox again and this time I’m really going to try to get into the habit of healthy eating. I’ve said this before, however at the moment I’m not going away in the near future, I’m not being catered for and I’m free to really focus on what I’m eating, so I’m determined to make this work. They say it takes 30 days to make a habit and 90 days to make a lifestyle, so that’s what I’m aiming for! As of yet it’s going really well: I’ve started thinking out of the box and I’m now getting into the habit of making things that will nourish my body but also taste great. I am craving cake and would like nothing more than to make some danish pastries right now, but I’m standing strong and I’m hopeful that this time I won’t crack.  Something I experimented with the other day was this wild rice and cherry salad and I was chuffed with how well it worked. Delicious, filling and super quick to throw together!

Recipe

Serves 2

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 100g Black wild rice
  • Roughly 8 Fresh cherries
  • 4 tbsp Puy lentils
  • 50g Feta cheese
  • A handful of Rocket

Method

  1. Fill a medium sized pan half way full with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the rice. Stir once and then leave on a gentle simmer until soft to preference.
  2. Meanwhile, halve and de-stone the cherries and leave to one side for now.
  3. Then put the puy lentils into a medium sized bowl and microwave for 20 seconds to gently warm through.
  4. Drain the rice and then add it to the bowl with the lentils. Stir gently to combine.
  5. Portion the rice out between your two plates. Arrange the halved cherries on top and then scatter over chunks of the feta cheese. Finish with a sprinkling of rocket leaves.

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

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Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Hello I’m back! It’s been a little while since I last posted anything as I’ve just been through exam season – but now I’m on the other side and ready to start bringing back the recipes. I thought I’d start this new season not with something particularly summer-y (have you seen the weather this past week!) but rather with a full-proof comfort food staple that everyone should know how to make.  A bolognese is such a versatile warming sauce – you can have it with baked potatoes, rice, or pasta, spicy or not spicy, and with any extra veg you want. It’s also easy to make in batches and freeze so it’s the perfect student food for busy times like exam season.

Another reason why I wanted to bring out pasta in this post is because at the end of the month I’ll be off to Italy for several weeks with some friends (yey!) and so I’m gearing myself up for mountains of pasta, pizza, tiramisu and gelato! When over there I’ll be soaking up the culture and art, but first and foremost I’ll be trying to sample as much of the local cuisines as possible so if you have any recommendations for places to go in Rome, Florence and Venice please drop it in the comment box at the end of this post!

Recipe

Serves 4

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

For the Bolognese

  • 1 White onion
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Clove of garlic
  • 2 Carrots
  • 8 Chestnut mushrooms (optional)
  • 400g Minced beef
  • 500g Passata
  • 500ml Beef stock (1 stock cube dissolved in 500ml boiling water)
  • 1 tsp Mixed herbs

To serve

  • Pasta for 4 ( I went for fresh tagliatelle)
  • 100g Cheddar cheese
  • A few leaves of fresh Basil

Method

  1. Chop the top and bottom off the onion. Then peel off the skin and finely chop. Put the oil into a large pan and place it over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and gently fry for 4-5 minutes until just starting to caramelise.
  2. Meanwhile prep the rest of the veg. Chop the ends off the garlic clove and the carrots. Then peel both. Crush the garlic and set to one side. Then quarter the carrots length-ways and chop into small chunks.
  3. Add the garlic and the carrots to the onions once they’re just starting to colour and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Halve and then roughly chop the mushrooms and then add them to the pan. Fry for another minute and then tip everything into a bowl.
  5. Add the mince into the same pan as what you cooked the veg in. Fry over a medium heat until the meat is browned all over. Add the vegetables back into the pan and then add the passata, beef stock and mixed herbs. Reduce the heat and leave to gently simmer until reduced and rich in flavour (around 25 minutes).
  6. Meanwhile boil the pasta in a pan of boiling the water according to the packet’s instructions.
  7. Season the bolognese with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta and distribute it between your serving dishes. Top with spoonfuls of the bolognese, some grated cheese and fresh basil!

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

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Salted Caramel Brownies

Salted Caramel Brownies

Oki so I have my first exam on Thursday (*insert panicked stress noise*). I’m sure it’ll be fine but I’m still  in a roller coaster state of ‘oh it’ll all work out’ and ‘oh man I have so much work to do!!!’. I guess this isn’t helped by the fact that my levels of motivation have hit rock bottom and I’m currently in a state of perpetual procrastination. So I’m going to leave this post short (again) and try to do some work – little and often right?

(Just as a heads up though – these are great revision snacks! They also work really well with jam or fresh berries in the middle instead of the caramel if you’d rather!)

Recipe

Makes 16 squares

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 210ml Vegetable oil
  • 320g Light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 4 Medium eggs
  • 80g Cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate, as it has added sugar and less cocoa, and so has much less flavour)
  • 130g Plain flour
  • 50g Milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 170g Caramel
  • ½ tsp Salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Line a small, square tin (mine was 20×20 cm) with butter and baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the oil, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs and whisk until fully combined. Add the cocoa and whisk again (go slowly here as the cocoa will go everywhere if whisked too fast). Then add the flour and the chopped chocolate and whisk until fully mixed
  3. Pour half the mixture into the lined tin and smooth out with a spatula.
  4. Mix together the caramel and the salt in a bowl and then blob it over the brownies. Top with blobs of the remaining brownie mixture and then use a knife to swirl the two a little.
  5. Bake the brownies in the oven for 25-35 minutes. Be careful not to over bake here, as you want brownies to be slightly gooey in the middle. If you’re used to baking cakes I’d say take them out 5 minutes before you’d think it’d be ready if you were making a cake.
  6. Cut into 16 squares and serve! (They’re especially good with fresh berries and cream!)

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

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