Tag Archives: working

What’s not to love about fried rice balls?

Oooh, it’s been a crazy few weeks from making gigantic crop circle emojis with the UK’s most subscribed male vlogger for a work client, to filming a TOWIE star eating weird and wonderful aphrodisiac foods for National Orgasm Day (which is a thing, apparently, who knew?) for another client, there’s one thing you can say about PR and that it’s never dull. It’s exhausting and sometimes frustrating, but it’s never dull. Well, it’s sometimes dull but there’s always something new and exciting to get stuck into just around the corner. And then I drove (sailed?) a boat for about four minutes, I saw Goldie perform Timeless with a live orchestra which was possibly the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen and I’ve been significantly lacking in sleep for about a month.

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So I’m honestly glad of the downtime because it meant I finally got back into the (ugly 1970s monstrosity) kitchen at the weekend. The wino had a stag do that started at midday on Saturday and he stumbled back into the spare bed at 4am on Sunday. Terrible debauched behaviour and obviously for me and my wallflower demeanour, I was frankly shocked and appalled. Ahem.

When the wino is out for the evening, I use the opportunity to make dinners he won’t like – and he weirdly is not a fan of risotto – but I love its gooey, unctuousness so I whipped up (an intentionally) large batch of wild mushroom and spinach risotto with a shit load of parmesan thrown in for good measure. Given that it’s July but it feels like October, and ITV2 was showing Love Actually, despite it not being Christmas, it was the perfect wintery dinner.

So yeah, risotto made and enough to serve four and whilst it’s in my nature to cook too much, this time I did it on purpose so I could make arancini. I freaking LOVE arancini – I mean risotto is awesome but frying rice into BALLS? With cheese stuffed in the middle? FOR DINNER? Heaven.

Recipe below – I served it with sticky ribs that weren’t that nice, but I’ll work on that marinade and cooking time recipe and share it when it’s better.

Arancini – serves about 3-4 people, depending on how hungry you are
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to make the risotto

  • 200g risotto rice (I used arborio)
  • 500ml stock (you may need more or less than this – all depends on your rice and other bits)- my stock was a mix of the water I used to soak the dried porcini and chicken stock as that was all I had. Keep this at a simmer on a burner, it’ll need to be warm as you add it to the rice.
  • 200g mixed types of mushroom (I used portabello, oyster and shitake)
  • 10g porcini, rehydrated according to packet instructions and then chopped with the other ‘shrooms
  • 1 bag of spinach, lightly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • I shallot, finely minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10g butter
  • 40-50g parmesan
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn (about 5g)

Heat the olive oil and lightly fry the garlic and shallot until softened, add the mushrooms, give the whole thing a little stir to stop it from sticking. Cook down for a few minutes, till the mushrooms start to give off liquid, then add the rice to the pan, stirring once to coat it in the garlicky mushroomy mix and then ladle on a ladle full of hot stock. Stir continuously until the stock is all absorbed by the rice, then add another ladleful of stock and repeat until your rice is cooked. Stirring gives the risotto that lovely gooey finish so don’t skimp on the stirring. It’s relaxing. When the rice is cooked, add in a knob of butter, the spinach, the grated parmesan and the salt and pepper and give the whole thing a little stir so the spinach gets beautifully wilted. Throw the basil in at the end for flavour.

With the leftovers, put them in the fridge, covered, overnight.

In the morning (assuming you’re having arancini for dinner) take the leftover risotto out of the fridge along with about 100g of mozzarella or other soft melty cheese. Rip the mozzarella into tiny chunks and put to one side. Take a small handful (like golfball sized) risotto and flatten it out onto your palm – put a chunk of cheese into the middle and then bring the rice back on itself, rolling to make it even and the cheese well hidden in the middle. Repeat till you’ve used all the rice – I ended up with 9 balls. Put this back in the fridge and leave to chill for a couple of hours.

Next up is pane-ing the balls – so egging and breadcrumbing the outside so they become all delicious when fried. Beat a couple of eggs, grab a packet of panko breadcrumbs, dip the rice into the eggs first, then roll in breadcrumbs and leave to one side. I did two pane layers, (eggs – breadcrumbs – eggs – breadcrumbs) which made it extra crunchy. Up to you though, I had time to kill, you may have better things to do with your life. Put these back in the fridge for at least an hour.

Then you’re ready to cook. I shallow fried these, being absolutely petrified of pans of hot boiling oil and refusing to buy a deep fat frier for the sake of my arteries and how much I’d love it. I heated about 150ml of oil in a pan (I would have used just veg or sunflower oil but I didn’t have any so instead used EVOO – middle class twat that I am). Fry on all sides for a couple of minutes per side until they’re golden brown all over, then put on kitchen roll to drain.

Serve with some kind of sauce – I imagine a tomato sauce would be ace with this (I didn’t make one so simply dipped into sriracha, because as we know, sriracha goes with everything)

Enjoy!

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A lot of herbs in a cake (and a commuting rant)

I’ve been a little slack in posting of late – well, it’s been a week but I was trying to do two posts a week and I think I’ve done one in a fortnight and whilst I’m pretty darned sure no one has been pining over my lack of posts, I am truly sorry for being a little bit rubbish.

In my defence I started working in an office again last week. Whilst everyone is really quite lovely and the work is interesting, it’s been a big ole mindset shift from being able to work in my pajamas from 9-11, then catch up on the previous night’s TV at 11am with a cuppa and a biscuit, then maybe have a shower at about 1pm, then do some more work, then contemplate dinner from about 4pm, I’m now actually accountable for what I do between the hours of 9-5. As Dolly said, what a way to make a living. Or something like that, I’m a fiend for mishearing song lyrics.

Anyway, yes, working – great. Being back in London on a daily basis – great. Commuting – actually sucks eggs. Why do people do this? (probably to be back in London, I’d imagine). But everyone seems so bloody angry about it and the Met line seems to be filled with people who tut. Enough with the tuttery please, it makes commuting (which isn’t fun) even less fun. And everyone must stop wearing black. I mean, I wear a lot of black, but my current handbag is pink. Black macs, black trousers, black backpacks. Cheer up buttercups, you work in the best city in the world, it’s spring (ish), get some colour in your lives. And smile. AND STOP TUTTING.

Rant over.

I do have a couple of posts lined up on various bits and pieces (like the lovely day out I had with my dear friend Charlotte who writes the lovely Baking Betsy blog but is so much more than just her blog!) but today I mostly want to talk about the <deep breath> orange rosemary thyme cinnamon clove polenta cake I made at the weekend. <And exhale>.

So I mentioned last week how my herb garden is growing a treat and I do really like using herbs and spices in sweet things. We had yet another lunch (such hardship) to go to on Bank holiday Monday so (as per boringly usual) I offered to bring dessert.

Because the herb garden is so fruitful, I decided to raid it for a cake. And because my wino loves an almond based anything, I thought a polenta and almond cake would work, and we had some oranges that were fast approaching the big orange playground in the sky and the rest as they say, came together beautifully. Do they say that? I have no idea. It was maybe a little Christmassy for May bank holiday, but heck, Christmas is awesome so I won’t hear any complaints, OK?

Here’s the recipe and some pics, anyway. Hope you enjoy. Next week, I may even leave the rosemary out of a pudding. I know right? CRAZY.

Orange cinnamon clove thyme rosemary polenta cake (with almonds too) 

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  • 5 small oranges or two large ones (I had that easy peeling variety but any orange would do)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 eggs
  • 200g polenta
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves

For the syrup

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml hot water (from the kettle, freshly boiled)
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tsp mixed rosemary and thyme, finely chopped

Grease and line a 23cm tin – I used a spring form one and if you do, make sure you line all the sides and the bottom – there may be some leakage if not.

Put the oranges, cloves and cinnamon into a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, until the oranges are super soft. At this stage preheat the oven to gas mark 4 – approx 160C.

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Take the oranges and spices from the pan, slice in half and remove the seeds (if they have any). Leave to cool, then put them into a blender and blend till you have an orange puree. Skin, spices and all.

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Beat the eggs so they’re light and airy – it’ll help give your cake a little rise.

Measure out all the other ingredients into a large bowl, then beat in the eggs, followed by the orange puree.

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Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin, put into the oven and bake for 50mins – 1 hour.

Whilst the cake is baking make the syrup by simply dissolving the sugar in the hot water, then adding the herbs and zest and allowing to steep. When the cake is cooked, prick a few holes into the top with a skewer and pour half the syrup over it.

Allow the cake to cool before pouring the rest of the syrup over – the flecks of orange and green look just lovely on the top of the cake.

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Slice and serve with a spoonful of cream or ice cream or creme fraiche or yoghurt. Or if you’re rubbish like me and forget all those things, it’s really nice on it’s own too. Promise.

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The granola of unemployment (or how I learned to turn off Netflix)

I’ve now officially finished working at my last job and have spent the last four weeks or so officially not working. Which has been awesome, but I am going slightly insane, what with talking to the cat, binge watching truly terrible series on Netflix (so far four seasons of The Vampire Diaries, which is like a rubbish combination of True Blood and Buffy), hanging out with my folks and being incredibly impressed by the quality of cars in the car park when I pick my niece up from her fancy school.

So, in my downtime from all that hard work, I’m spending a lot of time in my kitchen. My 1970s monstrosity of a kitchen, but a kitchen nonetheless. And as it’s (nearly) Christmas, there’s many an aroma of cinnamon and ginger and cloves emanating from within its orange and beige interior. But baking and eating aforementioned baked goods, doesn’t really promote good heart health when the most exercise you get all day is walking from the fridge to the sofa and back again.

From my earlier post, you’ll see that I’ve been on a bit of a juice binge recently but a girl cannot live on juice alone so I’ve been experimenting with granola and crackers.

First up, granola. On paper, I should hate granola – it’s dried fruit and nuts, neither of which makes me salivate. But turns out, coating them in a mix of honey and butter and baking them with oats, seeds and the merest hint of spices and a sprinkling of dark muscovado and then baking till they’re gooey and crunchy at the same time makes them utterly delicious. And it’s incredibly simple too, you just need to decide what you want to add to the oats and seeds.

I’m using US measurements (sorry) but I couldn’t find a good granola recipe to adapt on a UK site. And besides, it is a little trial and error because everyone likes different flavours or more or less crunch so don’t panic if you’re not happy with how this turns out, just try different variants on cooking time or oven heat.

Base ingredients: 

  • 1/2 stick of butter (this is about 57g in metric measurements)
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 2.5 cups of oats – not the quick cook kind but proper old school oats
  • A selection of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc etc)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar – I used dark muscovado because I like the treacly taste, but use whatever you have apart from icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt (about half a teaspoon but depending on what fruits you use, it could take more)
  • A selection of ground spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, all work well. Add to your taste, I do about two tsps of cinnamon to half a tsp of ginger and a pinch of cloves

Other ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup of nuts – pecans, almonds, brazils, cashews all work well – I find the taste of walnut a little overpowering but that’s just personal preference
  • 3/4 cup of dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, blueberries, apricots (chopped, obviously), pineapple (I’m stopping there before this becomes a long list of fruit that can be dried- that’d be tedious)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (do this instead of the fruit or half the amounts if you’re doing a combination of fruit and chocolate)

Method

  • Preheat your oven to gas mark 6 or equivalent and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper
  • Melt together the butter and honey over a low heat till its all combined and set aside to cool whilst you mix the dry ingredients
  • Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl including whatever nuts you choose – but don’t add the fruit at this stage
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together – using your hands seems to make it easier to get everything evenly distributed
  • Pour in the honey and butter mix and stir till every oat is coated in butter and honey
  • Spoon the mixture into the baking try and press flat
  • Bake for approximately 15-25 minutes, giving the mix a stir half way through

You’re looking for a glorious golden shade on your oats so keep an eye on them to make sure you’re not going from gloriously golden to ‘burnt toast’ – this can happen quite quickly

  • After you’ve removed the tray from the oven at the end of the cooking time, quickly stir in the dried fruit or chocolate chips of your choice and then press flat again
  • Leave to cool in the tray – after it’s cooled, you should have a crunchy toasty tray full of delicious granola – break into bite sized chunks and store in an airtight jar. I’m gifting this with some crackers for Christmas, so have put into small Kilner jars
  • It should keep fresh for a good couple of weeks like this. It’s perfect as a healthy snack, on yoghurt or as a smoothie topping. Or just with milk for breakfast – it’s terribly versatile

Today I’ve made two batches: the first featured almonds, walnuts, cranberries, raisins and the second was cherries, blueberries, pecans and dessicated coconut. I added the coconut at the first stir (halfway through the baking) so it didn’t get tooooo toasted. The second batch I screwed up a little (hell, we all make mistakes, right?) by using the wrong sized cup to measure oats so the mix is a little chewier than I’d like.

Here they are:

granola: ready for gifting Granola: raisins, cranberries, almonds Granola: blueberries, cherries, coconut