Saturday, 29 April 2017

Couscous and contemplation

Recipe of the week...
... Roasted tomato and
giant couscous Greek salad

Ingredients: Cooking oil, 300g (or more, if you like) cherry / vine ripened tomatoes, 200g giant couscous, 1 lemon, 150g feta cheese, salt and pepper, and a large handful of fresh basil.

Time taken: Just over an hour, start to finish, but not a lot of your time really. Kind of: five minutes and then a break. Then, ten minutes and then a break. Then, five more minutes. And that’s all.

Serves: Either x2 lunchtime portions or x4 accompaniments to whatever you’re having for tea (maybe this would go well with a quiche? Or with veggie burgers?)

Goood afternoon readers,

How are you all today, lovely people? Are you well? I hope you’re feeling good and patting yourself on the back after a full week at work. It’s becoming unusual, of late, to spend a full five days in the office. So well done for powering through the week! Are you off to a good start now with your long weekend?

That’s right, readers, everyone living in the UK is – once again – enjoying three-day Bank Holiday weekend. We’re spoiled with them, at the moment. Everyone gets Monday off work and we only have to manage four days in the office next week. Hurrayyy! This bank holiday is to celebrate May Day… which does not involve a sinking ship, and it doesn’t involve anyone dancing around a May pole anymore, as it did in the past.

We just spend three days setting up our gardens and caravan pitches, getting them ready for summer. And exiling our winter clothes to the loft or the top of the wardrobe. All the things we thought we were going to do with our Easter bank holiday, a week or two ago, but FAILED AT because we ate too much chocolate and just couldn’t move. The usual story.

To anyone in the UK, I wish you a wonderful long weekend! Hope you use this time wisely to see friends and family, and spend quality time with your loves ones. Generally – eat, drink and be merry, readers, in the best company you can find. To anyone not in the UK, sorry that I’m boasting again about all our time off work! I’m sure you’ll be having a fab weekend, too, and you’ll laugh another time when the tables turn and we’re working on your holiday.

For my weekend ahead, readers, I’ve made minimal plans. It’s been an eventful week for me with dental drama, and then nose drama, then the trains striking (mhmm – again), and with realisations from friends, plus I learned to parallel park a car.. all together it’s been a lot to handle. There’s been plenty going on with me this week, readers. Which is good!

It’s good. But it has also left me feeling a little worn out.. and contemplative. Like I can really relate with the end tooth on my lower right jaw, which I suppose – following the dental events of this week – must now find itself someplace it hadn’t expected to be. It hasn’t changed. No, the tooth’s stayed the same. But things have changed around it. And now, going forwards, it finds itself in a position where it’s the end tooth. And everything looks different for before, when faced with emptiness besides. Just staring down a black hole where you can’t see the bottom. Right at the edge.. looking down into darkness.

It’s possible – probable – that this is more how I feel, readers, than how my tooth feels (can teeth feel?). And this week I had a dream I sometimes dream where I’m pushing through the crowd at a house party looking for someone, but I can’t find them. Which makes me wonder what I’m looking for when I’m awake. But, my colleagues tell me this is just the feeling of being in your 20s, and nothing more.

I have one colleague who’s getting married today. She will be betrothed, voluntarily and maybe even permanently, to someone else today. That is really actually happening, possibly right now. And another colleague of mine turns 44 tomorrow, so he’ll become exactly double my age. But but but. My colleagues tell me that they remember, in their 20s, being unsure about whether it would all work out. Or how it ever could work out. And yet it did, it has, in the end.

With that in mind, I’m not too troubled by the road ahead. I’ll crawl or walk or run it, together with lots of friends and family, and the odds are in favour of things working out in the end. Plus, there’s bound to be decent food and good songs along the way. This last week, I’ve been scouting around for new music and I’ve been listening to the Hungry Yogis’ April playlist (which you can find here). I’m really enjoying, and very much recommend, the following five tracks…

1.     Gorillaz – The Apprentice 
A song to walk to. Strut along the pavement feeling ever so slightly badass. Likely, you’re listening to a cooler track than those other pedestrians are.
2.     Phantoms – Just A Feeling ft. VERITE 
A song to run to. A steady beat and kind of sexy. As YOUR body will be, by the end of the run, once you pound it into shape.
3.     Khaled – Keep Me 
A song to shower to. Not too many words for the water to drown out, and a mellow groove for you to shampoo in time with, as you sing along.
4.     Trevor Hall – Indigo 
A song to cook to. Swaying as you stir and humming along with the tune. Dance around your kitchen and enjoy yourself, even if folk are watching.
5.     John Mayer – Love on the Weekend 
A song to soundtrack your long weekend. This John Mayer track is what the long weekend sounds like to me. Pretty chilled out.

Definitely give these songs a listen, readers. Plus, in the spirit of decent food, I’ve been dabbling with a new recipe today, which I highly advise you try. This recipe came about following a family meal out to a snazzy restaurant, over Easter weekend, where I ordered a roasted butternut squash which came topped with giant couscous… giant couscous! Totally new to me, I had never ever heard of this before being a thing.

Was spreading word of the revelatory giant couscous, while down south last weekend, and my bestie Floss was all like… this has so been a thing forrrever, Hayley. Even my mum uses it. So, apparently, in London they’ve known for ages. They’ve had it all along, but have they told anyone up north? What do we think, is this a thing up north, readers?? Giant couscous?

Did anyone else up here know? Up in this place where the people relish relish and speak more in sounds than words, where grey skies loom and passion for the game outweighs skill on the pitch, with hills taller than its buildings and with plenty of grit, just never in icy road conditions… I’ll stop!! But were we told?

Who knows. But Google’s in on the game. I had a quick search and found a simple recipe online for a roasted tomato and giant couscous Greek salad (you can read the original here). I threw this together today, for a healthy Saturday lunch to enjoy after a late morning run, and it tastes really good. Here’s the recipe in just 10 simple steps…

1.     Heat the oven to 180C, open a window and pour yourself a refreshing drink.
2.     Halve your tomatoes and spread these about on a baking tray. Drizzle with cooking oil, and season with salt and pepper.

3.     Carefully transport your tomatoes into the oven, to roast for the next 25 minutes.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: While they do, you can take a break for about a quarter of an hour. I used this time to arrange some fresh flowers, a bunch of yellow spray carnations, into assorted little make-do vases to sit around the house and brighten the place up.
4.     Then, when your tomatoes have ten minutes to go, set the kettle boiling and measure 200g couscous into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt.
5.     Fill the bowl to the brim with boiling water, then cover with a plate and leave the couscous for 5 minutes to cook.
6.     Once your couscous is cooked, drain, tip it into a large mixing bowl and mix with the juice of your lemon and a glug of cooking oil.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Giant couscous is cooked when each grain has grown to about the size of a bb pellet or a Solero shot (remember those!).

7.     Then, safely take your tomatoes out of the oven and turn this off. Tip them out into a bowl or onto a plate, so they can cool away from the hot baking tray.
8.     Leave both your bowl of tomatoes and your big bowl of couscous to cool to room temperature. This might take half an hour or so – plenty of time to tackle some chores, or roll out your yoga mat.
9.     Once everything has cooled, tip your tomatoes into the bowl of couscous along with a large handful of basil leaves – which you can use your hands to tear up as you add to the bowl – and the feta cheese – crumble this into the bowl with your fingertips.
10.  Finally, give everything a good stir together and you’re ready to go! Serve up, tuck in or Tupperware for another day.

Food and flowers 😊

What do you think, readers? Does this sound do-able? You might struggle to locate giant couscous in a small shop (I got mine via an online food order from a large supermarket), but once you manage to find some then all the other ingredients are straightforward to source, and the steps of the recipe are easy to follow.

And, to me, this food tastes great! It looks good on the plate, with different colours mixing together, like something you might order in a restaurant. And its strong taste packs a punch with fresh cheese and tomato flavours… this dish makes for a cracking lunch to visualise while you’re out pounding the pavement on a run! The textures are all quite soft (which is perfect for me after dental drama this week), but if you wanted more to chew on then you could throw in some nuts or seeds, perhaps, for added crunch?

Readers, I hope you give this recipe a go. I do. As the food is a treat to eat! And, if you have a try, please let me know how you get on in the kitchen. Did you follow the steps okay? Did it turn out well? What did you think of the taste?? Or, if you’re looking at this recipe, readers, thinking not in a million years… then shout out – what is it that puts you off? Not sold on the concept of giant couscous? Or does this just not look like something you’d eat?

Let rip with your thoughts on the recipe, readers, and perhaps you can suggest more giant couscous recipes for me to try? I’m well stocked and looking to experiment with this grain, so please do share if you have a favourite recipe you can recommend! I hope to hear from you soon, readers, and hope you have a truly wonderful time this weekend.

Chef safely,


... and some wonderful food!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Bank holiday memories and hash for the road

Recipe of the week...
... Brussel Sprout Hash
Ingredients: a glug of cooking oil, 1 large parsnip (or 2 small ones), half a dozen shallots, half a dozen Brussel sprouts, 2 eggs, a shake of Herbes de Provence.

Time taken: 45 mins (quarter of an hour veg prep and then half an hour cheffing).

Serves: One mighty portion.

Hi readers,

How are you today? Hope you’re well and feeling upbeat about the return to work, after our long four-day weekend. Did you have a proper relax and a decent catch up on sleep? And did you have lots of fun, too?? And lots of chocolate! Hope you managed to strike a balance, readers, between Easter antics and a recharge of your batteries.

Work got me an egg and wrote my name on it!
All is forgiven.
I’ve had a hoot this weekend, readers. Made it out on a night out (a rare occurrence these days!) and, despite the numerous hangovers around the table, we managed a harmonious family gathering. Had a big Easter lunch and toasted Sheff United (the family’s no.1 footy team) who have won an unusual number of games this season. They’re going to play better teams next season and – no doubt – lose an alarming number of games. But for now, at least, it’s good news.

This weekend, I also took the train to Scarbs for some salty fresh air, and had a catch up with the wonderfully wise CoolyColey. We slurped milkshakes together by the sea. And I ventured to Wakefield, too, to spend a day with Suzeroo. Baked an Easter cake-pancake together! Do you find, readers, that spending time with your best of friends – once you make it to them, wherever it is they may be living – is the easiest thing in the world?

Our pancake-cake (entirely 2D)
I think – you go weeks or months or what feels like years (maybe it is!) without seeing your best friends. Then, suddenly, they’re there again. You have a big hug and there’s some remark about the journey/weather/occasion. And you fall back into step. You shoot through gossip central, on into comfortable silences.

Did you have the chance to see your friends or family this weekend, readers? Or, like me, have you had the pleasure of both friends and family for company, filling your bank holiday with fun? I hope you did, readers. Later in life, you won’t look back on the sad times and you might not recall those you lost touch with, but you’ll definitely remember having fun with the fools that lasted. Who knows… maybe you’ll remember spending this weekend with them?

Never a dull moment when they're around

CoolyColey shared with me an article, this weekend, which is definitely worth a read. The article is called ‘Single Minded: The Difference Between Being Single And Being Alone’ by Bella Mackie (which you can read here), and it highlights the positives tied with being single minded. And the opportunities, and the acceptance, that enable single minded people to live happy lives today. As no one need feel alone – whether single or in a relationship. A good read.

My weekend has also been brightened, readers, by a little new music. I’ve been listening to some tracks by a band I’ve hit upon, called Blaenavon, who will be playing at my city’s summer music festival, Tramlines, in July (try the track… Take Care). Also, I loaded my music library with the Hungry Yogis’ March playlist – which you can find here – containing a big range of new-to-me songs. Good stuff to listen to while out jogging, I think, or while watching the world go by out of a train window (try the track… Sorry Hills). 

Loving their taste in music!

Readers, I’ll stop now and get on with my recipe. BUT I hope that you had a fabulous long weekend and that you’ve made it back to work today feeling happy and energised. Starting as we wish to go on – let’s make this a fantastic week. And why not kick it off with a wonderful new recipe? Like my recipe of the week, readers, for Brussel Sprout Hash?? 

This recipe is a killer way to use up any leftover veg you may have lingering in your fridge, from the Easter roast this weekend. I was inspired to give this recipe a try after seeing an Instagram post from @cleaneating_paleo who had given something similar a go… with a delicious looking tea resulting.

Hash a la @cleaneating_paleo

So, I googled “sprout hash” and found a recipe for ‘Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash’ by Angela Simpson, on a website called Greatist (which you can read here). I followed this recipe but subbed the sweet potato for parsnip instead – as parsnips were on sale at the supermarket for only 6p (!!!) – and set about throwing together a hash for my tea last night.

It went well, readers. I’m not going gush but – dear lord – this hash was a fine way to end my long weekend. Eaten while watching the finale of Broadchurch on TV (what did you think of the ending??) and while savouring my final few hours of freedom. It tasted how your leftover veg should taste, readers, like they’ve been used for the power of good! Fancy trying your hand at this recipe? Well, here’s how to cook up a Brussel Sprout Hash in just ten simple steps…

Recipe: Brussel Sprout Hash

1.     Set some soothing tunes playing and pour yourself a tasty beverage.
2.     Time for veg prep! Peel your shallots and cut these into quarters, chop the ends off your parsnip and cut it into bite-sized chunks, then lop the bottoms off your sprouts and cut these in half.
3.     Heat your oven to 200C and boil the kettle.
4.     Pop your parsnips into a small saucepan and set these boiling for 5 minutes.
5.     In the meanwhile, heat a little cooking oil in a skillet or a small frying pan.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If, like me, you would have to google ‘skillet’ to know what one of those is… a frying pan works fine. Just turn the heat to medium/low and make sure to keep everything moving around the pan, so you don’t singe your sprouts.
6.     Set your Brussel sprouts and shallots frying, and then take your saucepan off the heat and drain the parsnips.

7.     Add the parsnips to your frying pan, along with a good shake of Herbes de Provence.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If, like me, you totally forget the herbs for a good five minutes… just style it out. Get shaking and add them as soon as you remember. It’ll be alright.

8.     Keep everything moving around the pan for five more minutes until all your veg are browned and coated in herbs, then make 2 small indentations in mixture and crack an egg into each one.

9.     Turn the heat off under your frying pan and carefully transport it into the oven, to bake for ten minutes. Use this time wisely… set the table and wash some dishes!
10.  Once your eggs reached desired doneness and your veg has turned slightly golden, then turn off the oven and safely lift your pan out onto the counter. Plate up – so you don’t burn yourself on the edge of the pan while eating – and tuck in!

To a delicious plateful of
Brussel Sprout Hash
And that, readers, is that. You chuck it all in a pan. And then you chuck the pan in the oven. And then something wonderful happens, and you tuck into a steaming plateful of hash. Which is actually, when you look at the ingredients list, quite healthy I’m going to say! 3 of your 5-a-day on that there plate. And not a carb in sight.

What do you think, readers? Are you tempted to give this a go? Do you have some veg you could do with using up? Be creative! Whatever’s lingering in your fridge… get it out of there! I wouldn’t recommend adding trifle to the pan, but I do think you have quite a deal of scope here for adding and subtracting ingredients. Making it up on the spot. Seems like my shallots expired five months ago without me noticing! And into the pan they went.

The 8th November?!
Readers, if you give this recipe a go… let me know how you get on. What did you put in the pan and did it work? If it didn’t work, what should we never ever put in the pan? This would be good to know. Do share any tales of hash-related kitchen adventures, whether highly successful or to warn future generations. And do have a brilliant week back at work. Take it by storm.

And sprout safely,