Bulgar wheat and roasted butternut squash salad {perfect packed lunch}

When I fall for a recipe, I fall hard — there are no occasional recipes in this house.  It’s a double edged sword of course, since eating something every other day can rapidly turn into never wanting to see it ever again.  You have been warned.

This salad started with the bulgar wheat pilaf from James Ramsden’s Love your Lunchbox — a lovely carby-but-wholegrain salad base — and several iterations later here we are.

If you have never had bulgar wheat and think it sounds horribly healthy and like it would taste that way, please try it cooked like this — it is healthy, but also delicious.  I promise.

Herby bulgar wheat and roasted butternut squash sprinkled amidst peppery rocket, cherry tomatoes, chunks of salty feta and thinly sliced red onion — all drizzled with a simple balsamic and honey dressing.  It’s veggie (I’m trying to reserve meat for evening meals lately), healthy and delicious.

In the same grand tradition that led me here, you can mix and match to find the combination you love best — I’ve suggested a few tweaks below but the possibilities are endless.

As the title suggests, this particular incarnation is designed as a packed lunch. I roast the butternut squash and make the pilaf ahead of time, then trundle the rest to work to chop and assemble in our basement kitchen complete with fridge and microwave.  If your facilities are more limited do your chopping before you leave home and toss together everything except the dressing — come lunchtime, just drizzle over the dressing and toss again.

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The quantities below are enough for 3-4 days worth of pilaf and squash, then just one serving of the rest as that’s the most logical way for packed lunch assembly — adjust as you wish!

INGREDIENTS

For the bulgar wheat pilaf (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g bulgar wheat
  • 200ml vegetable stock (I use 1/2 a stock cube for this amount)

For the roasted butternut squash (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and with seeds removed, chopped into chunks
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad (enough for 1 serving)

  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 bag rocket
  • 1/6 of a block of feta, cubed
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

For the salad dressing (enough for 1 serving)

  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Squeeze of honey
  • Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the pilaf

  • Heat a splash of rapeseed or olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and pop the kettle on
  • Once the oil is warm, add the onion and fry gently on a medium-low heat until soft
  • Meanwhile, dissolve your stock cube in the boiling water and set aside
  • Add the spices, stir and cook for a few more minutes until fragrant
  • Add the bulgar wheat and stir to coat before cooking for another minute or so, then add the stock
  • Bring to a boil before turning to the lowest heat, covering with a lid and cooking until the liquid is all absorbed and the bulgar is soft and fluffy.  It won’t take long for the bulgar to dry out, so if this happens turn off the heat and just leave the lid on until the wheat is soft – about 10 minutes maximum
  • Transfer the pilaf to a tupperware.  Once cool, this will keep in the fridge for about 4-5 days

For the roasted butternut squash

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180c (160c fan) and add the cubed butternut squash to a roomy mixing bowl
  • Add just enough olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Tip the squash into a baking tray (lined for easy clean up) and roast until soft and starting to caramelise — about 30 minutes
  • Transfer to another tupperware and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.  This will keep for about 4 days

For the salad

  • First, make the dressing.  I only ever eyeball this, and you know how much dressing you like.  I tend to aim for two parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar (I love vinegar but if you want a milder dressing, go for a 3:1 ratio) and then add a small squeeze of honey and salt and pepper to taste
  • Toss the rocket, cherry tomatoes, onion and feta in the dressing until well coated.  At this point you can reheat both the pilaf and the butternut squash in the microwave for a lovely warm salad, or leave them cold — either way is delicious.
  • Add the pilaf and squash to the rest, and toss again
  • Return to your desk to devour or better yet, find a sunny spot and enjoy

Mix it up: goat’s cheese or mozzarella instead of the feta / roasted aubergine or courgette instead of the squash / add sliced red or orange bell peppers / try a honey-mustard dressing

Listening to Bad Liar by Selena Gomez, Star of the County Down by The High Kings and Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Gooey Glastonbury brownies

Brownies — a classic, undoubtedly, but deceptively difficult to get right.  There are a lot of rich chocolate cakes knocking around masquerading as the real deal.  They’re very nice, but they aren’t brownies.  A gooey, very-almost-liquid interior finished with a cracked, shiny top is the order of the day here — lifted out of the oven tantilisingly close to being raw and perfectly squidgy once cooled.

So why Glastonbury brownies?  This recipe is from Nigel Slater who has a glorious knack for describing his culinary creations.  Although Nigel calls these his ‘very good chocolate brownies’, and they are, it’s his subtitle that has stuck (pun intended?) with me — ‘a 24-carat brownie as dense and fudgy as Glastonbury mud’.  Yes please.

N.B. This recipe is fairly forgiving — 70% cocoa solids are delicious, but it works just as well with Asda’s own brand plain baking chocolate. The caster sugar can be replaced with bog standard table sugar, and a mix of brown sugars you have to hand if need be, or if you’d prefer it.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 250g plain or dark chocolate
  • (Optional) 50g white chocolate
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
  • 60g flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180c, 160c fan or gas mark 4 and line a 23cm by 23cm baking tin with grease proof paper
  • Using a handheld mixer (or a stand mixer if you’re lucky) beat the sugar and butter together for a few minutes until light and fluffy — keep going until it’s creamy
  • Set 50g of the dark chocolate aside, then melt the rest however you like (I find bain-maries a faff, and luckily one of my mother’s life lessons was how to melt chocolate safely in a microwave. It burns easily, but the key is checking the chocolate often, and stopping when there are still some chunks unmelted — stir to melt the rest.)
  • Chop the remaining dark chocolate (and white chocolate if using)
  • Break three eggs into a small bowl and add the egg yolk before beating lightly with a fork
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • With the mixer running, gradually add the egg and beat well after each addition
  • Fold in the melted chocolate, then the chopped chocolate, with a large spoon
  • Finally fold in the flour mix without knocking the air out (gently but firmly)
  • Scrape into the tin, smoothing the top
  • Bake for about 30 minutes.  It’s worth checking at 25 minutes, and then again every 3 minutes – you want a skewer to come out slightly sticky with some moist crumbs, just not completely coated in raw mixture.  Remember the brownie will keep solidifying as it cools, so err on the wet side.
  • Serves 12, or one after a bad day

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Listening to Twist and Shout by The Beatles, Respect by Aretha Franklin and Your Song by Rita Ora.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

{microwave} lemon curd

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Spring has sprung in London, and what more appropriate way to welcome the bright, sunshiney days than with a bright, sunshiney kitchen project? Enter: lemon curd. It’s smooth and buttery, oh-so-lemony and — most importantly — sunshine yellow.

This version is made in the microwave, so it really couldn’t get much easier. It’s from an ancient microwave cookery book and mum has been making it for years. On the first properly warm weekend of the year, I asked her to text me the recipe and about half an hour and many lemons later I had my own jar full of sunshine.

Enjoy it on toast, as a cake filling, in cupcakes or by the spoonful.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lemons
  • 4oz (115g) butter, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz (230g) sugar

DIRECTIONS

  • Zest and juice the lemons before adding to a microwaveable bowl
  • Add the sugar and eggs, and whisk until combined
  • Add the cubed butter, and give the mixture a gentle stir to distribute evenly
  • Microwave for 5-6 minutes in total, whisking very thoroughly every 30 seconds
  • When it’s ready, the curd should be starting to thicken – remember it will continue to thicken as it cools
  • Remove from the microwave and keep whisking until the curd reaches about room temperature
  • Sieve the lemon curd into a jug (for easy pouring) to remove the zest and any lumps*
  • Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge (I can’t vouch for this lasting for much more than a week at most, because it’s never around that long…)

*I prefer my lemon curd totally smooth and without any zest but many people prefer it with some bite / texture – skip this step if you fall into the latter camp.

Listening to What’s Inside by Sara Bareilles, Confident by Demi Lovato and The Minnow & The Trout by A Fine Frenzy.

 © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Elderflower and almond cake

This is the most moist cake (try saying that three times, fast) I have ever made. By a million miles! It’s similar in many ways to a lemon drizzle in texture, but the ground almonds make it both denser and squidgier. The cream cheese frosting is not overly sweet, which perfectly offsets the sugary goo of the cake itself. This is summer in a pudding – yellow sponge dripping with elderflower and lemon, swirls of bright white frosting and a sprinkling of crushed pistachios make it a joy to behold. And to eat.

Special shout out to my mum, who not only made the elderflower cordial featured here but also nursed it on the train down from Darlington to London and then carried it around the city all day to give to me. Thanks mum!

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Ingredients

225g butter at room temperature

50g self raising flour

200g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

225g golden caster sugar plus 15g extra

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

4 eggs, beaten lightly

150ml undiluted elderflower cordial (I used homemade, but you can buy in shops too)

150g cream cheese

150ml double cream

A generous handful of chopped pistachios

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c (160 fan) and grease a 9 inch springform cake tin or similarly sized loose bottomed one with butter or a non-stick cooking spray.  Line with greaseproof paper.
  2. Using a mixer of electric whisk, cream together the butter, lemon zest and 225g of sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well between each addition.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and almonds then add this to the butter-sugar mixture.  Mix together scrape into the cake tin, smoothing the top gently.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes until risen and golden.
  6. While the cake is cooking make a syrup by combining 100ml of elderflower cordial, the extra sugar and lemon juice in a small pan, stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat to cool.
  7. Once it’s done, leave the cake in the tin to cool, pricking lots of holes all over with a skewer, then pour over the elderflower syrup, spreading it all over the cake’s surface so it sinks in evenly.  Leave to cool completely.
  8. For the frosting, mix the remaining 50ml elderflower cordial and the cream cheese together until smooth.
  9. Add the double cream and mix again until really smooth.  When the cake is completely cool, remove it from the tin gently and cover with the frosting, using a knife to create swirls if you like. Scatter over the pistachios and devour.

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Listening to: Your body is a wonderland by John Mayer, Send my love (to your new lover) by Adele and Hold Up by Beyoncé.

I adapted this recipe from eat the right stuff, the main change being swapping the marscapone for cream cheese. Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Sunken apple and honey cake

Well hello there. You’re looking lovely today. I know it’s been a while… But I have to say I’ve made my peace with falling firmly under the ‘occasional blogger’ category. And for me — a resolutely all-or-nothing, perfectionist kind of human — that’s actually something rather special. But I will admit I’ve missed it (and shout out to the lovely Rhonda who says she misses me too!) so here I am with a recipe I hope you’ll love and an overlong introduction you might appreciate less.

I’ll cut to the chase (finally) and say this cake is delicious. The sponge is simple and not overly sweet, but combined with soft apple and a slightly salted honey glaze it reaches new heights. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

For the sunken apples

4 smallish apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Cake mixture

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup runny honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 decent pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
160g plain flour

Honey glaze

1/4 cup honey
A generous pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F/175c/155c fan.
  2. Coat a 9-inch springform tin with butter or a nonstick spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  3. Prepare your apples: place each quarter core side down on a chopping board, and use a knife to create parallel thin slices only cutting halfway through the apple so it holds together. If you accidentally cut all the way through (I did!) then just reassemble once you come to put on top of the cake in a minute.
  4. In a bowl, gently toss your apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.
  5. Prepare cake mixture by beating the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric whisk until fluffy.
  6. Add the honey and beat until combined.
  7. Add your vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined.
  8. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over the top, and mix for just 5 seconds until they disappear.
  9. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined each time
  10. In a separate bowl with hastily cleaned and thoroughly dried beaters (unless you own two sets, you domestic goddess you), beat egg whites until stiff.
  11. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake mix to lighten it a little.  Fold in the rest in three additions. It will seem initially like it’ll never combine — persevere with gentle, patient folding. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared — a couple of faint streaks is fine.
  12. Spread the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top.
  13. Arrange apple quarters face down over the cake mixture.  You don’t need to smush them in, just nestled on the top is fine. Pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.
  14. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely.
  15. Before serving, if you’d like the glaze to look glossy, or whenever the cake is cool, if you don’t mind if the honey sinks into the cake, make the honey glaze. Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it thins to a glaze consistency — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake and enjoy.

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Original recipe from yep, you guessed it, Smitten Kitchen.  All photographs and the ramblings at the top are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Double chocolate brownie cookies

Picture the scene.  It’s Sunday night. You want to bake a tin full of goodness for work tomorrow. But should you make brownies or cookies? Answer: both. And don’t hold the chocolate chunks.

I found the answer to my cookie vs brownie dilemma on Smitten Kitchen which, by the way, is pretty much my go-to baking blog after the perfection of her salted chocolate chunk cookies.

Described by one of my colleagues with a completely straight face as ‘one of the best things I have actually ever eaten’, I recommend this most excellent of hybrid baked goods to you.

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Ingredients

115 g unsalted butter
115 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
190 g dark or light brown sugar
25 g granulated sugar
2 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
45 g cocoa powder
130g plain flour
115 g dark chocolate, chopped into fairly generous chunks

Directions

  • Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in the microwave or a very low heat on the hob.  Remove from the heat when the chocolate is almost melted, then stir until smooth.
  • Whisk both sugars into the melted butter and chocolate mixture before adding the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.
  • Whisk in the baking soda and salt, and sieve the cocoa powder into the batter.
  • Next, sieve in your plain flour and stir until combined.
  • Add the chunks of chocolate and stir in.
  • Pop the bowl into the fridge for about half an hour (but apparently you can leave it in for up to a few days).  The chilling makes these easier to scoop.  If you leave the batter in for longer than 30 minutes it’ll harden more, so leave to sit at room temperature for a little while before spooning out.
  • Once the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 175°c.
  • Scoop the dough into about two-tablespoon sized mounds and place evenly on a tray / trays lined with baking paper, allowing room for them to spread out a little.
  • Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, at which point they will still definitely look like they aren’t baked.  Take them out anyway, because you don’t want to lose the fudgy, soft centre.
  • Let the brownie cookies firm up on the trays for a few minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy warm if you can, but in case you’re not up for demolishing the entire batch in one sitting or you have people in your life who expect you to share, these are also yummy (and still fudgy – yay!) once cooled.

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This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. The photographs and other words are  © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

A weekend in the windy city {Dublin}

I know, I know, okay? When people refer to the ‘windy city’, they mean Chicago. But when we visited Dublin last month, Ireland’s capital made a very serious case for claiming the title. It also drizzled very lightly the entire time. It is not an exaggeration to say that even when it was sunny it was drizzling. But despite the adverse weather conditions and the almost knife fight which we witnessed outside a pub (I wish I was joking) we had a lovely time.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the north of Ireland – it’s where my mum is from – but very little in the South (the Republic). But one thing that all of Ireland has in common is that it feels its history very keenly. I think this probably has to do with the fact the violent events which have defined the country’s history are not long over. And sometimes the odd headline reminds you that those issues are not entirely laid to rest. So you cannot visit Dublin and avoid the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent fight for independence from Britain. Photographs of the revolutionary leaders adorn pub walls; songs tell old stories of national pride. The bullet holes from 1916 still pepper the walls of the General Post Office.

Here are a collection of photographs from the city – I hope you’ll enjoy flicking through. Oh, and if you need a soundtrack, the first picture is of folk heroine Molly Malone, her statue stands in Grafton Street.  Here is The Dubliner’s version of the wonderful song about her.

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Molly Malone, Grafton Street

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The Guinness Factory

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General Post Office, O’Connell Street

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Pint of Guinness

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The Old City

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Temple Bar

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Light bulb moment

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Cream bicycle on cobbles

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The River Liffey

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Irish election poster

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Deli

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O’Neill’s

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Dublin Castle

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Ocean currents

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.