What I've been cooking #6: Simple

Ottolenghi is one of those food writers I have wanted to try for a long time. I fawn over his recipes on the Guardian every week but as he is well know for being a bit of a faff, I had yet to try a recipe personally. The list of ingredients has always put me off. But I was lucky enough to be sent a copt of his newest cookbook Simple at work. When it arrived I had a quick flick through, turning over so many pages of what I wanted to make. The ingredients are pretty easy to find and the imagery is just beautiful.  I now want to buy all of his cookbooks and am eagerly checking Amazon to see if they become reduced. I honestly couldn't recommend this book and have loved every single thing I've tried. It's not really much of a midweek book but I absolutely adore it for weekend cooking, for when you have a bit more time in the kitchen. So what did I make?

Blueberry, almond and lemon loaf
Ah this was absolutely delicious! It came out as more of a drizzle cake because I ran out of icing but I think I prefer it this way. I'd definitely make it into a drizzle into the future. The blueberries and lemon were the perfect partnership. They both really made the cake taste so fresh and light. I can see myself making this cake over and over again.

Pasta Alla Norma
If I could, I would eat aubergine every day for dinner so it's a bit of a mystery why I had never eaten this pasta dish before. Roasting the aubergine before gives it such a deep, delicious flavour and really does make the dish. There's just something about roasted vegetables isn't there? For something so simple, Pasta All Norma really hits the spot. It's a great dish to cook when you have friends round as it tastes so delicious but won't make you spend all your evening in the kitchen. I served it with lashes of parmesan on top and homemade garlic bread.

Braised eggs with leeks and za'atar
We love tomato based bake eggs in our household so I was intrigued to see how these ones would taste. Filled the the brim with leeks and spinach, these feel like a much lighter option. But the added feta gives it something a little extra. Next time I would emit the salt seasoning during cooking as I found it a little too much with the cheese. The dish was pretty filling and we didn't even need any crusty bread.

Butterbean mash with muhammara
Found in Levantine and Turkish cuisines, this hot pepper dip is originally from Aleppo, Syria. It's so simple to make, the most difficult and time consuming thing is roasting the peppers. The butterbean mash has a similar taste to hummus and was very addictive. Next time I would add some more chilli flakes in to give it a bit more of a kick. I ate this with some delicious cumin and coriander flatbreads from Rachel Allen.

Spiced 'Shepherd's pie' with butterbean mash
This was another winner! I loved the addition of the butterbean mash, it help make it feel 'lighter'. I omitted both the apricots and the olives as we're not fans. I think it needed another tablespoon of Harissa as I was very cautious. Next time I'll use two tablespoons. Again it's quite time consuming so is another weekend job. But it's 100% worth spending the time on it.

Slow cooked chicken
I had every intention to make the corn curst but completely forgot to buy sweetcorn in our weekly shop. So we ended having it as a stew instead and I served it with salad. It was absolutely delicious and I think it is my favourite recipe in the book. I loved the kick of the Harissa and the tender chicken that just fell apart. It's the perfect dinner for a cold winter night. It does take quite a long to cook so it's definitely not one for week nights.

Avocado butter on toast wth tomato salsa
This was a massive faff and I'm not quite sure it was worth it. The butter mixed with avocado didn't really blow me away. It was tasty but it's not going to replace my normal method of making avoiding on toast. I can't be bothered to get the stand mixer out every time. I did however love the addition of the cumin seeds so will be using that little touch more frequently.


Four places to go for a winter road trip in the U.K

The Causeway Coast
It's no secret that one of my favourite places in the U.K is Northern Ireland and the Causeway Coast is up there as my all-time favourite place in the U.K. I'm so excited to be heading back over the Bank Holiday weekend. It's such a beautiful place in the world and there is so much to do. The Causeway Coast runs from Derry to Belfast and is full of lots of little gems. The places to see are endless and thanks to the short distances between places you can see so much in such a short amount of time. My personal favourites include Balintoy, Portstewart, Derry and Binevenagh Mountain.

The Scottish Highlands
There's nowhere better in the U.K for a road than Scotland in my opinion. The vast open road is so beautiful and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. It's so hard to believe you're in the U.K. We were lucky to have friends who moved to the Highlands so we took full advantage. The Highlands are full of little cute villages, incredible castles, very friendly locals and picturesque beaches. If you're basing yourself near Inverness, make sure you schedule in Tarbat Ness lightbouse. Here you'll catch seals and dolphins which will be the highlight of your trip!

I've visiting Cardiff a handful of times now and it's got a special place in my heart. The city is the perfect size for a couple of days, with no end of delicious restaurants to enjoy and many streets to get lost in. I'd definitely recommend a trip to the castle and a wander along the bay - spot some Touchwood and Doctor Who filming sights while you're there!

There's just something about being by the sea isn't there? Plymouth isn't the prettiest of places but there is so much fun to have there! Make sure you book in a tour at the Plymouth Gin distillery, take a trip over to Cornwall on the boat, trek to the top of the lighthouse and take a stroll around the cobbled streets of the Barbican.

Do you have any recommendations on where to go for a U.K road trip?

The best places to buy houseplants

Since I've moved out I've been on a mission to turn my home into a mini jungle and I'm slowly getting there. My houseplant collection is building up slowly but surely and I've even managed to keep them alive. Lets just not talk about when I killed a cactus within my first few months of being in my new home. I've got so much better! But I've discovered not all house plants are created equal and some companies will try and make you take out a bank loan in order to afford to buy them. So here are a few good-value places I've discovered along my quest.

This Swedish giant is so much more than just flat-packed furniture. It also boasts a killer house plant selection. They aren't the cheapest I've found but they're definitely not the most expensive. The plants on offer always look really lush and well looked after. I picked up my Aloe Vera plant for just £3 which was a completely bargain considering how huge it is. It's getting so big to that I'm going to have to re-pot it soon.

Lidl change their houseplant selection around quite frequently so once you see one you like, you have to buy it straight away. It might not be there next time you visit! The selection isn't massive so its a place you have to have patience with. Keep popping back until they have one you like. My beloved cheese plant is from here and it's gone from strength to strength. Not bad for around £4!

Bloombox Club*
I did a piece on houseplant subscriptions at work and as a result I got to try out Bloombox Club. My comped subscription has now come to an end but I loved it. After we've paid for Vegas in the New Year, I'm going to sign up for it again. You can choose to sign up for every month or for a maximum of three months and Bloombox will send you a plant. It costs £17 for one without a ceramic pot and £35 for one with a pot. I have loved all three plants I've received and the pots have been great too. All so different from the last one.

It almost becomes the law that once you move out you start to spend all your weekends in Homebase. It was during one of these many trips that I became obsessed with the house plant selection. They have so many to choose from and again they don't cost the earth. This is probably one of my favourite places for the sheer number of different species.


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