Apparently this past weekend was the coldest August bank holiday on record.  I didn’t think it was as cold as all that actually – but on Monday the heavens opened and it didn’t stop raining all day.

Perfect weather for ducks…. and soup.  I like the way the changing seasons give an excuse for wearing cardigans and making comfort food.  So I made two soups over the weekend – the first, spicy lentil soup with squash, tomato and green beans, a Rick Stein recipe.  To be honest I didn’t think much of this – you throw the vegetables into the pot at the same time as the lentils, so they end up rather mushy.  I used split peas/chana dal instead of tur dal – one more thing used up (once I finish eating it that is – that’s work lunches for this week sorted).

I also made tomato, chickpea and coconut soup, from Love & Lemons (see their site for some really pretty food photography).  It was glorious, especially when eaten with some potato and rosemary sourdough from Gail’s.


Ahem.  I was too hungry to bother much with garnishes.  This one’s definitely going into rotation.

I kept  little coconut milk back for another recipe I’m hoping to do this week, and I actually had to buy more chopped tomatoes, so with these two recipes I used up some tinned chickpeas and the split peas.  I also finished some spices like my smoked paprika and turmeric.

I’ve updated the list – the dried beans and tinned food are nearly all gone!


Work lunch idea – Curried chickpeas

I’m trying to plan my work lunches ahead, preparing a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday ready to take to work. Last week my workmates and I had an away day with lunch on Monday, so I prepared this on Monday evening and it lasted for three lunches – however I was on a mission to use up my chickpeas, so I did use more chickpeas than the recipe stated.

The recipe is from the Made in Hackney cooking workshop I went to earlier this year.

Curried Chickpeas

1 onion, diced (could also be shallots)

1 can chickpeas (400g), drained

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked

As much spinach as you like (I used about half a bag with each lunch)

Heat a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the coconut oil and cook onions until soft, about 10 minutes.

When the onion is soft, add the curry powder and stir for 15-20 seconds before adding the chickpeas. Continue to cook for another minute or until the chickpeas are warmed through.


Season and remove from the heat.

Roast the nuts and add them at the end.

Then in bowl put the spinach, and add the chickpeas on top.

If you are taking this to the office, you will need to re-heat the chickpeas separately and add them on top of the spinach.

Eating al desko

I’m still slowly working my way through the list, and also getting through some things not on the list – for example I used up some pomegranate molasses last week and finished some turmeric today (I still have two jars of that though!).  I have started going through my spice cupboard but I need to psych myself up to complete that task.  I’ve also used the soba noodles in a stir fry – pretty boring so not included here – and a tin of bamboo shoots that should have been on the list but was hiding at the back of the cupboard.

Also worth mentioning – I used some of the muscovado sugar to make a sugar scrub, as I noticed my legs were looking a bit, erm, scaly.  Not a good look when there’s still an outside chance of flashing my pins this summer, so I mixed it up with some sweet almond oil, and my favourite combination of rosemary, geranium and orange essential oils.  The bath turned a lovely shade of caramel as I rinsed off the scrub and a mud mask I also applied!  But my legs are now silky smooth.


Cheating is not eating

Last night I got home from work and decided to have a baking blitz (I’ll pay for it with tomorrow’s spin class – is there a more painful form of aerobic torture?). There were two obvious choices for the ingredients I had on hand – Bakewell tart and a nice dark ginger loaf.

I love Bakewell tart. I finally had Bakewell tart in Bakewell a few months ago and I’m afraid I was a bit disappointed with the offering there – it came with icing on it, which made it too sweet, and there was too much almond essence. Buy a good quality essence I say, and halve the amount any recipe says or omit it completely. It’s full of almonds anyway.

Here’s the bit where I cheated. Firstly, I used shop bought pastry instead of making my own to use up more flour. And then I didn’t have any baking beans (you know, the ceramic ones)… but I did have a lot of dried beans. So, while I didn’t actually manage to use up the ground almonds or white sugar and I had to buy raspberry jam to make it, I did manage to use up the black-eyed beans!

I used the BBC’s recipe (omitting the icing, of course) and it turned out really well. I don’t think I cooked it for long enough, but I quite like it that way, even if it’s triggering a slight allergic reaction due to the almonds still being a bit raw…


In the interest of using things up I also went with the time-honoured tradition of turning leftover pastry into jam tarts – in this case, mini jam tarts.


I also made a ginger loaf using this recipe, although I meant to use this one. I got distracted with both windows open and made the wrong one – oops! I didn’t use the topping and I didn’t really like the syrup – I usually drizzle with melted honey and lemon juice.  I thought I had my own ginger cake recipe up here but I don’t – I’ll have to post it up here one day but I didn’t use it this time as it’s reliant on ingredients I was already out of, like glacé ginger. This cake used up the golden syrup, and most of the muscovado sugar.


Aduki beans with spicy tomato-mackerel sauce

This recipe comes from my Ghanaian-British friend Penny, who made it when I went to hers for lunch one day.

I’ll just describe it loosely, as ingredients can be adjusted to taste. I had about 250g dried aduki beans to use up, so I boiled them for around 30 minutes until they were soft. While the beans were cooking I chopped and sautéed half of a large onion until soft – it was left over from something else so you could use a whole onion if you wish. I added a tin of chopped tomatoes and a roughly chopped scotch bonnet pepper (de-seeded). At this point I blended the lot together, making sure I got all of the pepper bits well blitzed.


I had a fillet of smoked mackerel left over from this week’s lunches, and also a tin of mackerel – this is where my version differs from Penny’s as she wasn’t trying to use stuff up! I flaked these into the sauce and added the aduki beans.


Served with couscous, because that is what I have! Ok, so it ain’t pretty, but it tastes great – especially with the spice from the scotch bonnet. Yes, a de-seeded scotch bonnet pepper, blended into a sauce is nothing to be afraid of – it adds a very pleasing warmth rather than blow-your-head-off heat.

There’s still some couscous left so I can’t check that off the list just yet, but this meal used up the mackerel and aduki beans (as well as the leftover onion) – and I had to buy a new tin of tomatoes.

Blitzing through the ingredients

Last week I made some dal and muttar paneer. I served it with brown basmati rice and some poppadoms I found lurking in the cupboard. It used up the rice, poppadoms, some peas I had in the freezer, a tin of tomatoes, and red lentils.


I forgot to take photos of my lunches from last week. I made a black bean salad, inspired by this recipe with some differences – I used dried beans instead of tinned, and tinned corn instead of fresh. So that’s the beans and corn used up now. The list is looking a bit better, and I’m starting to stack up empty containers in the cupboard.

Plum and pistachio cake

I had some hulled pistachios to use up, and decided they would become cake. Plums were £1 a punnet from the supermarket, and tasted so sweet once cooked. That’s the only way I can eat them – I’m allergic to raw plums so a cake like this offered me the perfect opportunity to get my five a day!

I took this to work, so the pictures aren’t stunning. My workmates loved it though.

Out of the oven.


I got the recipe here.

Mango sticky rice

I have written about mango sticky rice before. Every year I look forward to the short but very sweet alphonso mango season, those few weeks when my principles fly out the window and I buy air-freighted Indian mangoes by the boxload.

Unfortunately this year the EU decided to impose a ban on imports of Indian mangoes, and my local Indian shop has suffered a great blow to its trade.

However, I happened to have some frozen mango, so I used up my sticky rice and a tin of coconut milk (I still have one tin left so can’t cross that off the list just yet) to come up with this:


One more thing crossed off the list. And the frozen mango is used up too.