Oreo Cookie Brownies are one of those things that I had been looking forward to an excuse to make. Not because I wanted to eat them – because I really didn’t, I like an occasional Oreo but am not a huge fan, and I’m not a huge brownie fan either – but because I wanted to see what the process of making them was like. So, when one of our neighbours mentioned a bake sale for charity that they wanted something for, I went “AHA! I have just the thing” and went straight out and bought the ingredients. Sometimes when I make something like that I see the finished product and think “oh, actually, I am looking forward to eating that”. That didn’t happen with these. My stepfather tried some and said they were very nice, and apparently they sold very well. I still didn’t want to eat any. All of this is basically to say “these are apparently very nice but I only ate a small corner and therefore don’t have an opinion”. They did smell lovely when baking. The recipe is originally from Lorraine Pascale‘s book Baking Made Easy, but as always I fiddled about with the recipe.
This salad is neither stressful to make, nor does it involve any baking. It deserves to be here because it is delicious and because it is a good thing to make when you are stressed. Mostly because it is remarkably easy and also because you get to bash pistachio nuts about which is a nice stress reliever. The recipe comes from the May/June issue of the Co-operative Food Magazine. I had it for lunch at a friend’s house the other week and thought I would try it out on my stepfather, a man who believes that every meal should involve meat. In a nice turn of events he really liked it.
- 200g couscous
- 300ml boiling water
- 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil – I replaced one of these with 1tbsp of lemon extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of one lemon – I didn’t use this, because of the aforementioned lemon oil
- 40g shelled pistachios, chopped – the easiest way to do this is to put them in a sandwich bag and hit them with a rolling pin.
- 3-4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
- 100g peas – fresh or frozen it doesn’t really matter. I used frozen. Cook them until they are just done and leave to cool.
- Handful of fresh mint – mine was straight from the garden
- 70g wild rocket
- 250g halloumi, cut into slices
- Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl, add the boiling water and 1tbsp of oil. Cover and leave to one side for 5 minutes (or until done)
- Whisk the oil, lemon zest, and juice together to form a dressing. I just whisked the two types of oil together.
- Once the couscous has cooled, combine it with the pistachios, spring onions, peas, mint, and rocket.
- Cook the halloumi until it is nicely golden and browned on the outside and gooey in the middle. Try to resist stealing a piece either when slicing or when just cooked. I … I did not succeed at not stealing some.
- Serve, topped with the halloumi and drizzled with the dressing.
This makes enough for four servings, and as my friends and I discovered, three hungry people can actually eat it all, and given that it is just me and my stepfather, I’ve had two packed lunches out of it. A small tupperware of it gives you enough energy to get through a self-defence class and a bus journey home.
My workplace recently held a bake-sale to raise funds for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to bake something new, and different, and … look, I’m not going to lie, slightly complex and deserving of checklists. I forgot to take a picture of those, so you don’t get to see the three different post-it notes I had going at one point. There are plenty of things in this world that I can bake without having the recipe in front of me – many of which are on this blog. Shortbread, chocolate buns, or melting moments, are three examples. But I have a large collection of recipe books and a lot of the time they just sit there as I bake something I know by heart and, whilst I read recipe books like novels, that is a shame. So I pulled my copy of Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen: Recipes From A New York Kitchen off the shelf and spent a wonderful half an hour flicking through looking for inspiration. There are quick recipes in the book and I can recommend the ‘Rushed Pizza Dough’ wholeheartedly but I had a day that was mostly free and I really like cinnamon, so Gooey Cinnamon Squares it was. There are three parts to this creation: a soft cookie base, a gooey layer, and then the burned cinnamon/sugar topping. I recommend not thinking too hard about the amount of sugar. A) because I don’t believe there are *bad* foods and B) because you cut the end result into tiny squares so all that sugar is also divided into tiny squares. I imagine that you could reduce the amount of sugar, but there are very few recipes in the world that I have bothered to do that with in my baking life and this definitely isn’t one of them.
Seed cake is one of those things I’ve read a lot about. It seems to appear in novels with alarming frequency – particularly if you read a lot of classic children’s literature, or Agatha Christie’s. I’ve been idly curious about it for a long time, but never thought about baking it particularly. And then I made plans to get together with a friend, started planning the cake I would bring to lunch and realised I was a little bit bored with all the cakes I make frequently and decided to try something new. Now, this friend is also a big fan of classic children’s literature, so I thought they’d appreciate a seed cake and did some googling. I ended up using Nigel Slater’s recipe from The Guardian, which you can find here.
Baklava has been on my ‘to make’ list for ages, and when I asked a friend what baked good I should bring as a thank you for their spare bed, they replied baklava. Super, thought I, and then had a massive faff trying to source all the ingredients without leaving the village. (I managed this only by sending my stepfather to the supermarket for filo pastry.) It turns out that baklava is actually quite easy to make, although mine did have a slight structural integrity problem that I think would be solved by making slightly more sugar syrup and adding it in two stages rather than one. But only slightly more sugar syrup because the consensus on these was that they were less sickly-sweet than commercial baklava and that that was good because it meant you could eat more than two pieces at a time.
I know a few people who are kind of not into cheese straws. Not people I know who can’t eat cheese, but just people who don’t think there is a place in 2014 for cheese straws because they remind them too much of the 70s. I … don’t understand this, because cheese straws are butter, cheese, some salt and pepper, and the magic of 12-15 minutes in an oven turns them into a food from heaven. Then again, I like cheese a lot. I tried to give up cheese for Lent once, and it didn’t go very well. My attempt to give up coffee for Lent (which, if you’re going to do it, do not do it in the Lent that falls in the third year of your undergraduate degree when you are trying to write a dissertation, work 20 hours a week, keep up with your reading, and occasionally see your friends) went better, which is saying a lot. Sorry, everyone I lived with at that point.
All of the above is to say that if you aren’t particularly bothered about cheese, or you think cheese straws should have been abandoned in 1979, you may want to click away now. Go and look at pictures of kittens or baby otters. Because this recipe contains a lot of cheese. We’ve had a block of extra-strong cheddar sitting in the cheesebox for a while, because we bought it for another recipe, but only needed a quarter of it, and then we had a load of exciting cheese to get through. I was really bored of seeing it sit there, and didn’t want to throw it out (it’s cheese! It might have cried! [I might have cried]), so I made cheese straws. Currently there is a plateful downstairs, but I don’t know how long they’ll last. I need to type this quickly or there won’t be any left for me.