After my last Stuff On Toast post my mum sent me a text message saying “OMG Alice, I’ve been making scrambled eggs wrong for the last 40 years!” (though she probably didn’t say OMG as she is part of the generation that thinks LOL means Lots Of Love) So I have decided to dedicate this recipe to her, as she originally taught me about the brilliant combination of spinach, mushrooms and an egg.
She uses those ingredients in a lovely gnocchi dish that she makes regularly, but for those days when boiling up gnocchi seems like one step too far I find it just as nice to have this on a good slice of toast. You can even have it without the toast if you’re feeling, like, super healthy or something. But the last time I did that I had to have four hobnobs two hours later, so it’s not recommended.
Start by putting your mushrooms on in a saucepan with the butter, melted. Use a bit less butter if you aren’t feeling as sinful as me.
Boil the water ready for your poached egg. I find the Delia Smith method pretty foolproof (egg in frying pan of simmering water, simmer for one minute, turn heat off, let them sit in water for 10 minutes).
When the mushrooms are nearly done throw in the spinach and pop the toast in the toaster.
Butter toast and serve with mushrooms and spinach on top. Put poached egg on the pile of yumminess… season with a touch of salt.
When Hux was first born I used to cook quite a lot. Now, before you give birth, one of the bits of advice you always read is to make sure you have loads of prepared food in your freezer, ready to turn into easy and delicious meals. I did some of that but also managed to whip up some masterpieces for dinner, so much so I’d get people asking me open-mouthed, “how do you DO it all?”.
I’d feel a bit smug, maybe shrug and say, “you know… You do what you can”, all the while thinking in my head how I was such a supermum. The making babies/cleaning the house/cooking dinner thing, woah what a doddle.
WRONG. The reason I could spend so much time in the kitchen was that Elfie would be out with her grannies and Hux would sleep all day. I basically had nothing better to do than cook or watch Jeremy Kyle, and most of the time food won.
Now Hux is growing up and demanding more of my time (he wants books, rattles waved at him, tummy time, park trips… typical demanding man) I’m finding I’m able to cook less and less. And so I turn to my blog’s namesake dish as we tend to eat a fair few meals, specifically lunch, atop a piece of toast.
One of our favourites (and simplest) of these is the classic scrambled egg on toast. I’ve honed this recipe through years of practice and I’m not ashamed to say that recently I discovered I’d been making it wrong for about 18 years. I used to cook the egg in a microwave, oh the shame! It’s taken a lot of practice but I’ve found the key to scrambled egg success is a low heat, minimal added liquids and a lot of care and attention. It only takes a couple of minutes to cook but can be ruined in literally 10 seconds – you have to watch it like a hawk.
Crack eggs into a bowl or large mug and whisk well. Season with salt and pepper.
Melt butter over a low heat and add eggs.
Stir every thirty seconds or so.
When they are about thirty seconds away from being done – i.e. still quite wet – take off the heat and stir well. As soon as there is no liquid left in the pan tip them out, you don’t want them to continue to cook.
If you would like to have yours a bit wetter, add milk or cream as you remove them from the heat and stir well.
One of the worst things about pregnancy is that looong list of things you can and can’t eat and the grey area that surrounds whether or not you can eat so many different types of food. For every happy barbecue eating preggo (me) there will be another espousing the dangers of eating meat cooked outside on a gas grill. Ditto shellfish, sushi, wine (a small amount obviously) and varying types of cheese. Where do you draw the line and just have a taste of Stilton with your friday night thimble of red wine?
I tend to be a member of the ‘whatever feels right’ club and eat, well, whatever feels right. I’m eating prawns but no mussels (woe!). After heavily researching laws on Sushi preparation in the UK prior to a visit to Nobu when I was 14 weeks pregnant with Elfie I will eat that too (but will stick to cooked options mostly). I will have a glass of wine once a week if I am having a special dinner and yes, I had a taste of Stilton at Christmas and it was diviiine.
By the way, no matter how hard you try, nothing will prevent you from catching Norovirus as I did when I was pregnant with Elfie. Now that was a week of hell and completely unrelated to whatever I was eating at the time. You can most likely blame yucky tube germs for that one.
Anyway, I like to find ways of eating things that would otherwise be ‘forbidden’ during pregnancy; namely cheeses. I’ve eaten deep fried Brie, blue cheese gnocchi, and this – a gorgeous Goat’s Cheese tart. I think it’s a great lunch dish when served with a salad of herby salad leaves, though would also be brilliant for a lighter dinner or even a picnic or as part of a buffet. It’s a dish of convenience that takes minutes to knock up and looks beautiful when it comes out of the oven.
We get together with some very lovely friends of ours every month or so to eat, drink and laugh. We became friends about the same time Will and I became a couple (so I guess about 8 years ago) and love them to pieces. There’s nothing better than our raucous night full of wine, food, conversation and Guitar Hero (apart from that time we drank the 1982 bottle of red that was older than me. That did not feel good the next day). But these sorts of soulmate friends are bigger than supremely corked wine: they’re for life.
These friends we have (hi, Rupert and Su!) are perfect in every way but one. They are both vegetarians*.
As we’ve been friends for so long I’ve stopped banging on about the whole “but don’t you miss bacon?!” thing, especially since they have started eating fish, and I now enjoy the challenge of meat-free cooking for them. I don’t like to use quorn or other equivalents so try and get my inspiration elsewhere.
Rupert and Su were supposed to come and visit this Friday but didn’t due to poor Elfie getting rushed into hospital (more on that soon) so I found myself with some left over vegetarian ingredients to cook with this week.
Therefore I give you my mushroom, pea and tarragon pie; good enough to eat even if you’re a carnivore and easy enough to add meat to if you can’t face a meatfree meal.
*This is a joke, I don’t have anything against vegetarians. Although, don’t you miss bacon?
If you really do need meat, add leftover roast chicken to the pies before the lids go on.
Recipe type: Main
1 large onion, sliced and chopped
100g quartered chestnut mushrooms
100g halved and sliced portobello mushrooms
100g peas, fresh or defrosted
80ml double cream
a pack of ready made jus-rol puff pastry
1 beaten egg
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C
Fry the onion in a little oil until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook for 5-10 minutes until browned and any liquid has evaporated.
Add the peas, tarragon and cream. Bubble up for a couple of minutes and season with salt and pepper.
Cut 2 puff pastry lids according to the size of the dishes you are using, or use 1 larger one (I do this by putting my dishes face down on the pastry and cutting one cm around). Seal the edges with a fork.
If you’re quick you can create some fancy pastry art on to put on top (I did an ‘A’ and ‘W’ for ‘Alice’ and ‘Will’). I wasn’t quick enough in the photographed example and my lids sunk a bit.
Brush with egg and bake for 25-30 minutes, until puffed and golden
Here’s the thing about this stage of pregnancy: I’m constantly nauseous, a feeling that goes away when I eat, but the thought of food makes me heave. This makes ingesting nutrition a little hard and I have found myself on more than one occasion scoffing some unoffensive HulaHoops which is the only thing that helps with the nausea. Generally I will get hungry at around 11pm but then only for something completely ridiculous (Hooter’s chicken wings, McDonald’s apple pie). I can’t win.
So when I come across a food that doesn’t make me want to puke my guts out I have to go for it. I have to eat like I’m never going to eat again, because if I don’t the feeling will go away and I’ll be left nauseously hungry. Which is gross.
Last week the only food I could stomach was feta-based salad dishes. This week it’s Pringles. For ten minutes today it was griddled courgette. There is no method to this foetus’s madness.
The salad kick last week coincided nicely with the UK’s famous Indian summer so I went all-out and put together some interesting combinations. I have no idea if these salads will appeal to anyone else or if they’re just some weird pregnancy thing, but here they are for all the Feta lovers out there:
Watermelon, Feta and Griddled Courgette salad
I strongly believe there are few foods more majestical than griddled courgette. It’s a total ball-ache to slice so thinly and cook in batches but is so totally worth it.
Serves one for lunch.
1/3 of a block of Feta
Slice the courgette as thinly as possible using a mandolin or even the large gratey bit that comes on the side of a cheese grater (and looks like the bottom part of this!).
Brush the slices with Olive Oil and griddle in batches.
Chop the watermelon into small pieces and de-seed while you’re waiting for the courgette to cook (I often skip this step).
Chop the feta into pieces.
Mix together in a bowl and serve – the combination of watermelon and courgette will produce enough lovely juices so you won’t need a dressing.
Grape, Celery and Feta Salad
This recipe originated from raw food supremo Deb (I 100% recommend her amazing avocado chocolate mousse). I don’t like celery but I love this salad.
Serves one for lunch.
2 sticks celery
Large handful red grapes
1/3 block of feta
1 dessertspoon each of honey and balsamic vinegar
Chop the celery, feta and avocado into small pieces, and the grapes in half.
Mix in together.
Mix honey and balsamic together with a splash of olive oil and drizzle over.
Classic Greek Salad
So this salad isn’t completely ‘classic’ as it uses cheat’s olives from a jar. One of the things I love most about Greek salads in Greece is the way they serve their feta on top of their salads in one lump (and the way you buy Feta from huge buckets kept in fridges in the supermarket), but as I’m lazy and like to eat with one hand I chopped mine up.
Serves one for lunch.
1/4 small jar of black olives
3 salad tomatoes
1/2 a small red onion
1/4 block of feta
Pinch dry herbs (preferably oregano)
Chop the cucumber, tomatoes, onion, olives and feta; mix together.
Drizzle with Olive oil and scatter with herbs.
I used to be lazy, in the days when I had more time than I knew what to do with it. My default modes were sleeping, eating or working. There wasn’t much in between.
More recently I’m more tired or busy than lazy and would rather spend my free time moo-ing like a cow for Elfie (although I’m not into cows exclusively, I’m open to baa-ing and neigh-ing too) over cooking for a dinner party. But I would still never invite anyone round for dinner without expecting to serve them a full three courses, or serving them something that wasn’t home-made in an immaculate house with ironed linen napkins. It’s a standard I unwittingly set around five years ago and I’m now too stubborn to renege on it. I know, I know.
This Pea, Mint and Pancetta soup is my go-to starter when I’m really pushed on time or energy. Minimal ingredients, minimal cooking, minimal calories but maximum taste.