recipe: balsamic and basil strawberries

Ok so bear with me, this may sound like a strange one but it actually tastes really good!

IMG_5320

I’ve got a lot of uni work on at the moment and I always feel like I work better with something tasty by my side to snack on as I work, to fuel my brain obviously. Usually, my go to studying snack is a big bag of wasabi peas, I love those spicy little suckers! However, my diet seems to change with the seasons because as soon as the sun comes out I find myself craving all things fresh and fruity, so I’ve said goodbye to wasabi peas and have found myself a new studying snack, these delicious balsamic and basil strawberries! They’re not only just as tasty as wasabi peas but probably a lot better for me too. I came across this recipe online when I was looking for new ways to use up some of my basil and I must admit I was a little skeptical at first, vinegar and strawberries?! but trust me, it works, plus it’s really quick to whip up and you only need four ingredients, so there’s absolutely no reason for you not to try it out!

 Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • approx 5 basil leaves

Step one:

Remove the stems from your strawberries and then slice them up (the strawberries not the stems!)

Step two:

In a bowl, mix your strawberries with 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tbsp of granulated sugar. Leave your mix to sit for about 30 mins, don’t leave for too long otherwise they will go too mushy.

Step three:

Chop your basil leaves and stir into your mix.

Done!

This dish is so versatile, you can have it however you like. I suggest serving it with a dollop of cream, ice cream or crème fraîche, or having it as a pancake topper/filler,  or on top of a scone!

Perfect for getting you through exam season, or any season!

recipe: ditch the takeaways 2: chicken chow mein

Another post helping you to ditch those takeaways! This time around I’m targeting a Chinese takeaway favourite, chicken chow mein.

Chicken chow mein in itself isn’t actually that unhealthy when you think about it, its full of protein and vegetables after all. However, your average takeaway chow mein is packed full of fatty oils and additives, transforming what would be a relatively healthy dish into a majorly unhealthy one! The calories in a serving of takeaway chicken chow mein varies from restaurant to restaurant but it could be anywhere from 600 calories to over 1,000 and will cost you approximately £4.50! My chicken chow mein recipe makes two servings at about 530 calories per serving and will cost about £4 per serving to make (cheaper if you already have some of the ingredients growing on your kitchen windowsill like I do!) I used magically regrown spring onions and a red chilli from my chilli plant.

By making it yourself, you know what you’re eating and can cut back on those sneaky extra calories without cutting back on taste.

chow mein     VS   IMG_5244

Here’s how I did it…

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 2 dried egg noodle nests
  • 1 bag of mixed stir fry vegetables
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1inch by 1inch chunk of root ginger (grated)
  • 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 red chilli pepper (deseeded)
  • 2 spring onions (halved and sliced lengthways)

IMG_5228

Step one:

In a bowl, mix together your crushed garlic, grated ginger, finely chopped chilli, soy sauce and tomato puree.

IMG_5229

Step two:

Chop your chicken into chunks and then mix into your marinade, set aside.

IMG_5230

IMG_5231

Step three:

In a large pan, bring water to a boil, add your noodles cook for 3-4 mins and then drain.

IMG_5233

Step four:

In a wok, heat a little oil, tip your chicken an marinade in and stir fry for about 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

IMG_5234

IMG_5236

Step five:

Add your stir fry vegetables and spring onions and cook for a further 2-3 minutes before adding your noodles.

IMG_5240

Step six:

Add your oyster sauce, along with a tbsp of water, toss everything together and allow it all to heat through for about a minute.

IMG_5239And serve!

IMG_5248

IMG_5244

Who needs a takeaway anyway?

DIY self watering planter

I stumbled across the idea of self watering plastic bottle planters recently on Pinterest and instantly thought that it was such an awesome idea that I had to give it a go myself. Not only do these self watering planters make looking after your plants super easy by keeping the soil at just the right moisture level (perfect for exam and deadline season, I feel like I’m losing my head right now!), but they’re also a great way of reusing your old plastic bottles. Plus, I think they make a nice, quirky addition to your windowsill. They may not be stylish in the conventional way but they’re different and I really like their novelty.

IMG_5201
my self watering planter next to some parsley grown by my mum

These self watering planters are particularly good for growing herbs indoors. You can use these planters to grow your herbs either from seed or from already grown, I decided to transfer my mint plant over into mine.

As a DIY project, it’s relatively fuss-free. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on equipment, most of the things I use people tend to have lying around the house, and it only takes fifteen minutes start to finish.

Here’s how!

Materials:

  • recycled drinks bottle (with cap)
  • string (£1, Poundland)
  • scissors
  • sharp/utility knife
  • hammer and nail (or drill)
  • potting soil (£1, Poundland)
  • seedling or seeds (I used my mint plant, price of seeds/seedlings can vary)

total cost to make: £2

Step one:

Remove the label from your drinks bottle. Use your knife (be careful please!) to pierce a hole about halfway down your drinks bottle, then use your scissors to cut the bottle in half.

IMG_5174

IMG_5175

Step two:

Using a hammer and a nail (or a drill), pierce three holes into the cap of your drinks bottle.

IMG_5178

Step three:

Cut three lengths of string and tie together at the top, leaving a couple of inches of string above the knot and bit more than that beneath it.

IMG_5179

Step four:

Thread the string through the holes on the bottle cap and screw the cap onto the drinks bottle.

IMG_5180

Step five:

Place the inverted top half of your drinks bottle on top of the bottom half of the bottle.

IMG_5183

Step six:

Plant your seedling/seed. Make sure the potting soil is relatively compact.

IMG_5186

Step seven:

Fill the bottom half of your drinks bottle with an inch or two of water (enough so that the strings are submerged).

IMG_5194

And that’s about it! (Easter chick optional)

IMG_5210

IMG_5203

Fail.com/rosemary

I posted a while back asking for advice as to why my windowsill herbs hadn’t sprouted yet. Almost as soon as I published that post, my herbs miraculously started growing beautifully (they must read the blog!) and have continued to do so at a wonderful pace.

All of my herbs that is, apart from one. Rosemary. I don’t know where I have gone wrong with my rosemary but after weeks and weeks and weeks, this is all I have to show for it.

IMG_5115

I’m not sure whether I should persist or admit defeat and start again from scratch (or buy a seedling?).

So don’t expect any recipes using rosemary any time soon unfortunately! Unless it’s bought from a supermarket that is, but that would be cheating.

recipe: ditch the takeaways: pizza margherita

We are all guilty of indulging in a takeaway every now and then, myself included, and that’s ok, a little bit of naughtiness once in a while never did anyone any harm. However, due to their unhealthy nature, making takeaways a regular thing can end up doing you quite a bit of harm unfortunately. Did you know that some takeaway meals can push you way over your daily maximum salt, sugar and fat allowance? Which can lead to some pretty nasty consequences on your health, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Takeaways often seem like the convenient option, with minimum effort involved, and as a busy student I know how appealing this can be. My housemate has long uni hours as well as holding down a part time job and he often comes home at the end of the day and orders a takeaway for dinner, sometimes up to five times a week! When you consider the effect that’s having on his health and his bank balance, is it really worth it? I don’t think so.

I’m going to show you how quick and easy it actually is to whip up your own takeaway style dishes using cheap ingredients alongside produce you can grow yourself, for half the price and the calories to save you all of the pounds.

Dominos pizza is a much loved student favourite, but with a medium sized margherita pizza coming in at £10.99 and a whopping 1,296 calories, I thought I could do better myself and I did, with my pizza coming in at around £6 to make and about 800 calories!

dominos  VS  IMG_5109

Here’s how I did it…

Ingredients:

For base: 

  • 150g strong white bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 100ml warm water

If you prefer, you can buy ready made bases but it’s really easy to make your own!

For sauce:

  • 50ml passata
  • 1/2 a clove of garlic
  • small handful of basil leaves (preferably that you’ve grown yourself! Finely chopped oregano works too)
  • salt and pepper to season

For topping:

  • 1/2 a mozzarella ball (I used half fat)
  • paramesan, grated
  • handful of cherry tomatoes

IMG_5083IMG_5014

Step one:

To make your base, combine your flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Then make a well in the middle of your mix and pour your water and olive oil in. Bring your mix together into a soft dough using a wooden spoon then knead your dough for about five minutes until soft and smooth.

IMG_5085

IMG_5087

IMG_5090

IMG_5093Cover with a tea towel and set aside whilst you make your sauce.

Step two:

To make your sauce, finely chop your garlic and in a bowl mix it together with your passata and basil leaves.

IMG_5092Step three:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough into a thin, round (ish) shape and place onto a baking tray.

IMG_5097

Step four:

Spread your sauce onto your base evenly. Slice up your mozzarella and cherry tomatoes and add along with your grated parmesan.

IMG_5099

IMG_5100

IMG_5101

Step five:

Cook your pizza in the oven at 220 degrees celsius for about 10-12 mins or until the cheese is golden brown and the dough is crisp.

IMG_5109

IMG_5114

IMG_5110

Drizzle over a little bit of olive oil and enjoy!

You can use this recipe as a base for any other pizza recipe you want to try, get creative by adding different topping combinations! I love parma ham with rocket and anything with pepperoni!

In the battle of girl vs takeaway, I think girl wins!

recipe: mexican night!

My favourite thing about coming home from uni for the holidays is having those long overdue catchups with my friends and family. Last night I got together with two of my best friends for a night full of gossip, laughter, movies and Mexican food (and a little bit of wine perhaps) and it was so much fun, I really have missed them!

We decided in advance that we would keep it simple with nachos and tacos and I was given the very important job of providing the dips. I went for the classics, guacamole and chunky salsa! I couldn’t wait to tell the girls that I actually had grown some of the ingredients in the dips that they were eating, it never fails to sound impressive!

Both dips are super easy to make and require no cooking at all. I used chillies from my chilli plant, spring onions that I had magically re-grown and coriander from my windowsill herb garden.

IMG_4779

IMG_4799

For the guacamole…

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper

IMG_4757

Step one:

Remove the skins and stones from your avocados and place them into a bowl.

IMG_4762

Step two:

Finely chop your spring onions, garlic, chilli (remove the seeds!) and tomato and add to the bowl with the peeled avocados.

IMG_4770

Step three:

Add the juice of your lime to your ingredients.

IMG_4775

Step four:

With a fork, mush (yes, that is the technical term) all of your ingredients together, it’s ok if you don’t get it completely smooth, a few chunks just adds to the overall taste I think!

IMG_4778

Step five:

Season with salt and pepper and keep refrigerated in a sealed tub (or cover with clingfilm) until used.

IMG_4779

For the salsa…

Ingredients:

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 a garlic clove
  • 1 lime
  • coriander leaves
  • tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Step one:

De-seed your tomatoes and roughly chop into small chunks and place into a bowl.

IMG_4781

Step two:

Finely chop your garlic and your chilli (remove seeds) and add to the bowl with your chopped tomatoes.

IMG_4784

Step three:

Add the juice of HALF of your lime to your ingredients (trust me, I originally added the juice of a whole lime and it was waaaaay too acidic) and also add a tbsp of olive oil

IMG_4786

Step four:

If you want to, you can add a splash of tabasco sauce to give it a kick!

IMG_4790

Step five:

Mix together all of your ingredients, mushing them together with a fork.

IMG_4793

Step six:

Roughly chop some coriander leaves and stir into your salsa. Season with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated in a sealable tub (or cover with clingfilm) until used.

IMG_4799

Both dips went down really well with my friends, as did the tacos and nachos we made! I would post a recipe about how we made them but it almost seems too simple for a recipe (and they didn’t include any ingredients I had grown)! For the nachos we simply grated some cheese over tortilla chips and put them in the oven to melt and for the tacos we cooked up some beans, onion and peppers with some mincemeat and added pre mixed taco seasoning and then filled up some taco shells with the mix!

IMG_4819

IMG_4822Sorry, I couldn’t really get any good pictures, the lighting was bad and it was all eaten too quickly! Cooking with your friends is such a fun way to spend an evening together and it works out way cheaper than going out to a restaurant to eat when you split the price of ingredients between you all, so why not get your friends together for a Mexican night? We’ll definitely be doing it again, probably taking it a step further with some sombreros and tequila!

recipe: quick and easy potato salad

If you were looking for ways to put your magically grown spring onions and cress to good use then this will be the perfect recipe for you! If not, then follow the links and give them a go and then come back here and make this delicious dish with your own fresh produce (or I guess you could buy them from the supermarket but that’s not what I’m trying to encourage here!)

Spring has finally sprung and what better way to welcome in the warmer months than to whip up the ultimate summer dish? Potato salad is a must have for me at any picnic or BBQ, it’s fresh, full of flavour and works so well as an accompaniment to meat dishes. It’s not only delicious, it’s also super student friendly, it requires very little effort to prepare and is cheap too!

This recipe makes a basic potato salad but feel free to add whatever you like to it to liven it up a little, try adding some bacon bits, some capers, fresh vegetables or a chopped up hard boiled egg.

IMG_4816

Ingredients:

  • 5/6 new potatoes
  • mayo
  • small bunch of chives
  • 2/3 spring onions
  • cress (I used my cress heads!)
  • any add ins (I used bacon)

IMG_4802

Step one:

Wash and slice your potatoes (no need to peel them).

IMG_4804

Step two:

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and then add your potatoes. Boil for about 10 minutes or until cooked.

IMG_4811

Once cooked, drain your potatoes and set them aside to cool.

Step three:

Whilst your potatoes are cooling, chop your chives and spring onions.

IMG_4806

Step four:

Once your potatoes have cooled, mix in a few squirts of mayo, your chopped chives and spring onions, and your cress. Season with salt and pepper.

IMG_4814

Step five:

Mix in any add ins that you like, I used bacon!

IMG_4816

Keep refrigerated until needed and then enjoy as a delicious side dish or on it’s own!

Doesn’t it taste like summer?

Ps. you might have noticed that my kitchen is different, that’s because I’m not home for Easter for the next three weeks! I love using my home kitchen, my Mum is way more stocked up than I am at uni, I’m definitely going to be making the most of it. Happy Easter everyone!

growing from scraps: a little bit of magic

Did you know that some foods you can re-grow with the scraps that you would usually just discard?

‘What is this witchcraft?!’ I hear you say, but yes seriously, you can! Leeks, spring onions, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, celery and lettuce are just some of the things that you can grow from scraps, no magical powers required.

It may not be as quick as going to the shop, but it sure is cheaper and way more fun.

I tested this out using some spring onions scraps left over from a recipe that I will post about in the near future! It really was very easy to do and I loved watching as onions grow bigger by the day!

I used:

  • recycled glass jar
  • the root ends of some spring onions
  • water

Step one:

Place your spring onion ends root down into your glass jar and fill with a little water, ensuring to not fully submerge your scraps.

Step two:

Place on a sunny windowsill and watch them grow!! Make sure to change the water in the jar daily. After about three days your spring onions should begin to grow, harvest them when they are full size. Repeat and never have to buy spring onions again!

IMG_4229 IMG_4353IMG_4424

IMG_8484

Here’s a handy little diagram that I found here which tells you all about the different things you can grow from scraps and how to do it, as you can see, they’re not all as simple to re-grow as spring onions are.

growing scraps

I think I might try garlic next!

recipe: spicy tomato sausage pasta

I love my chilli plant.

Ever since it came into my life it has brightened up my kitchen windowsill, loyally providing me with an abundance of beautiful, fresh, delicious chillies on a regular basis that since the success of my thai sweet chilli sauce have been a welcome addition to many a dish, this spicy tomato sausage pasta included.
IMG_8469

Pasta with tomato sauce is a staple student meal, its quick, simple and tasty, but sometimes can be a little, well…boring. But not this recipe, this is pasta with a bit of a kick, guaranteed to spice up your dinner (literally) without breaking the bank. All of the ingredients are really cheap to buy if you go for the basic supermarket brand (they’re just as good for things like this once cooked, trust me!) I used fresh chillies from my plant and fresh basil from my herb garden and I encourage you to do the same, it really makes all the difference!

This recipe makes enough to serve two.

Ingredients:

IMG_8458

  • 1 large fresh chilli or a few smaller ones
  • small handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 spicy peperami (so studenty but so good)
  • two handfuls of dried pasta of choice
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Step one:

Finely chop your garlic and chillies.IMG_8460

Step two:

Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan and add your garlic and chillies. Cook for one minute on a medium heat to allow the flavours to infuse with the oil then add your basil leaves and cook until wilted.

IMG_8462

Step three:

Whilst the garlic, chillies and basil are cooking, chop up your peperami into small chunks.

IMG_8464

Step four:

Add your chopped tomatoes and peperami to the pan with the garlic, chillies and basil and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for ten minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

IMG_8465

Step five:

Meanwhile, cook your pasta by putting it in a pan of boiling water and allowing it to simmer for 10-12 minutes. You can use whatever kind of pasta you like, I just chose the Sainsbury’s penne version as it was the cheapest!

IMG_8466

Step six:

Once your pasta has cooked, drain it and serve with your sauce on top. Garnish with basil leaves if you want to be extra fancy like me.

IMG_8467

IMG_8469Enjoy!

How to harvest your indoor herb garden

If you’re like me and a complete novice at growing your own herbs then you probably assume that when you want to use some of your fresh herbs to cook with you just pull off a few leaves from wherever and that’s that. However, that’s not that apparently. If you don’t harvest your herbs properly then you can restrict your plants growth and ultimately kill them, which something I was completely unaware of until I noticed my mint plant looking a bit worse for wear and scoured the internet to find out why (don’t worry, it’s fine now after a bit of TLC). So for any other beginners out there I’ve put together a little guide on how to harvest your way to happy herbs.

herbs

Rules of thumb:

Don’t be too eager! Allow you plants to grow before you start harvesting from them.

Never cut off too many leaves from your plant! Your herbs need to absorb sunlight through their leaves in order to grow. If you have no leaves, your herbs might as well be sitting in a dark cupboard because they won’t be able to absorb any light.

Basil:

When harvesting basil, use scissors or your fingers to cut off the top couple inches of stalk and leaves. You should still harvest your basil even if you are not using it because this encourages it to continue to grow. Basil will start to grow flowers after a while, make sure to cut these off otherwise the leaves will think that the plant is coming to the end of it’s life cycle and will stop absorbing sunlight.

Mint:

Mint is quite a resilient herb so you can pretty much pick at random and your plant will continue to grow. Make sure to prune regularly and cut off any damaged leaves to ensure healthy growth.

Chives:

Once your chives reach 15cm tall you can harvest them anytime you like. Cut your chives using a pair of scissors and make sure to leave at least 5cm of growth above the soil to allow it to grow back.

Oregano:

The most flavourful oregano leaves are found at the bottom of the plant, so these ones are the best to harvest for use in cooking.

Rosemary:

To harvest rosemary cut the stems using a pair of scissors and then prune them of their sprigs. Apparently harvesting in the morning produces the most flavour.

Happy harvesting!