Monday, 10 April 2017


Recipe of the week...
... Sweet Potato Tagine

Ingredients: 1 large glug of cooking oil, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 aubergine, 1 sweet potato (or 2 if they’re quite small), 1 courgette, 2 stalks of celery, 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 1 handful of dried apricots, 2 handfuls of raisins, 1 tablespoon tomato puree, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 mugs of couscous, 1 vegetable stock cube, 2 teaspoons coriander, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika.

Time taken: An hour (Half an hour prep and half an hour to cook).

Hi readers,

Hope this finds you well. More than well! Hope you’re having an all guns blazing start to the week!! Firing out emails and answering the phone WITHOUT hesitation.

As I write, readers, it’s a Monday afternoon in April and Brits everywhere are recovering from the hottest weekend of the year so far… may I speak for the nation when I say what cracking weather we’ve had! It really didn’t disappoint! Clear blue skies, ice cubes fizzing in lemonade, feeling the warm sun on your face, barbecues sizzling, ice creams melting fast, lawn mowers mowing away, and beer gardens overflowing… we turn out for the sun.

Me and my lovely friends
enjoying sangria in the sun

Back to work today and I’m not the only one sporting a lobster-like sunburn! As it’s April, and all good thing come to an end, the weather’s settled back down to normal today and we’re waving goodbye to our heatwave. But, along with our glowing noses and singed shoulders, it feels as though everyone’s putting their best foot forward today and getting the week off to a good start.

Doesn’t the sun bring out the best in everyone? I think so. When the sun comes out, it’s something everyone can enjoy and it’s an event that we all share in. We rip up any plans we’d made and get ourselves out in the garden instead. We invite friends over, crack open a beer and speak with neighbours we haven’t seen in months (and don’t mind all that much). We get our legs out, cream each other up, and burn all the same. We laugh about it.

And proud

I love the sun. Love love love it. I hope you all got to enjoy it while it lasted, readers, and I hope you had a cracking time this weekend. Don’t be too sad to be back to work today! There are still great shows on TV (Broadchurch! One Born!), new films out at the cinema (I want to go see City of Tiny Lights – has anyone seen it?), and there’s ace new music to discover (I’m listening to a playlist I found on The Hungry Yogis’ blog.. which you can find here) and so much to look forward to in life. Just think.

Like FOOD.. glorious food. If you aren’t feeling too weighed down by the immense amount of BBQ food inside you, readers, I’m sure you can appreciate we’ve only six days left to go until Easter Sunday. That’s right – just six days until we’re tucking into a delicious roast and scarfing our way through more chocolate eggs than a bunny could imagine.. even in his wildest bunny dreams.

Even more than that

And, meanwhile, we can’t have any one starving before Easter! Not when we’re this close. Six days allows plenty of time for some wonderful recipes. No matter how busy your week ahead looks – why not carve the time into your calendar to cook a proper meal? Treat your insides! I’m writing to you this week, readers, to share a tasty recipe that I first tried out for a dinner party I threw not long ago.

I had a bunch of friends over one weekday evening, for food and chatter, and needed an all-in-one-pot kind of recipe to feed lots of hungry mouths! I try to broaden my friends’ culinary horizons when it comes to veggie food (and my horizons, too!) and give unusual dishes a go, and have one friend who’s allergic to milk, so I was looking for something a bit different to try, and it had to be dairy-free.

Next time we're having a
compulsory dress code

In the end, I settled on a recipe I found in Vegetarian Nosh for Students. This recipe book is a favourite of mine (and will probs continue to be cherished loooooong after my student days are past) as its recipes are straightforward and fuss-free, with cheap ingredients and inventive shortcut steps, and you always end up with filling, tasty food at the end of the day.

I found recipe for a colourful-looking vegan Sweet Potato Tagine, tripled the quantities of ingredients (to feed a houseful of friends) and hit the shops to get everything in. Prepped veg the evening before and had no trouble on the night, cooking and chatting away with a wine in my hand! All went to plan and everyone tucked in and said they’d really enjoyed the food. Which is a big relief.. one bad recipe and they might stop coming round!

Just me, then
Do you have a dinner party coming up soon? Or maybe you just fancy cooking something a bit different? Trying out new flavours? Giving a colourful veggie recipe a go? And munching through for 5-a-day in one plateful?? Hell yeahhhh! Readers, if you’re tempted to give this Sweet Potato Tagine a try for yourselves, here’s the recipe in just twelve simple steps…

Recipe: Sweet Potato Tagine

1.     Set some sensational tunes playing and – as there are quite a few of them – gather all your ingredients together on one counter where you can see them all and where nothing can be forgotten.
2.     Time for veg prep! Arm yourself with a sharp knife aaand cut your aubergine up into bite-sized amounts, peel your sweet potato(es) and chop into cubes, cut your onion up into wedges, finely chop your cloves of garlic, cut your courgette into bite-sized chunks, and chop our your stalks of celery.
3.     Heat the oil in a wok or a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Fry until you see the garlic browning and the onion beginning to soften.
4.     Then, add the coriander, cumin and paprika to the pan, and fry for a minute more.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Of these three seasonings… I only actually had paprika. So I cheerily described the dish as “off season” to friends and cooked hoping for the best. I switched coriander for Herbes de Provence and subbed cumin for a sprinkling of chilli flakes instead. And the dish turned out pretty well considering! I’m a lucker sometimes. But, I will advise, that if you’re in a shop and you’re not sure your spice rack is as well stocked as you’re hoping it is.. maybe invest in the proper ingredients!
5.     Add the courgette, aubergine, celery and sweet potato to the pan and fry for a few minutes, stirring well to combine everything together.
6.     Add the tinned tomatoes and a mugful of water, along with the raisins, apricots and sugar. Stir to combine and turn the heat up high.
7.     Once your tagine begins to boil cover it with a lid or some foil, and turn the temperature back to a medium heat. Leave to simmer gently for ten minutes.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: I use this time to set the table, top up drinks, and breathe deeply. Keep going… you’re nearly there! The house should begin to smell tasty.
8.     Add the chickpeas and tomato puree to the pan, stir to combine, and then cover again to simmer for a further five minutes.
9.     Now, while your tagine finishes cooking, fill the kettle and boil some water. Pour the couscous into a large bowl and crumble a stock cube over it. Add boiling water until this rises a centimetre or so above the couscous, and stir the contents of the bowl.
10.  Then cover the bowl with a plate and leave your couscous to stand for five minutes until all the water is absorbed.
11.  Uncover and use a fork to fluff up your couscous, then spoon this evenly between the four plates.
12.  Then – last but not least – switch off the hob and dish up your tasty tagine, spooning on top of the couscous. Serve dinner to your horde of hungry guests!

A real crowd pleaser ... Sweet Potato Tagine
Readers, to say the ingredients list looks quite dauntingly long.. isn’t this such a simple recipe?! You just add everything to a pan, bit by bit, cook through and then serve on a bed of couscous. This is my kind of recipe! I promise you, readers, if I can cook this at the end of a busy day at work, with several pairs of eyes watching me, and a glass of wine in my hand… then anyone can do it! And I believe you can.

Fancy giving this recipe a try? I highly recommend! Going into this, I was a bit unsure about adding fruit to a savoury dish. Would it be a Hawaiian pizza kind of fandango? A sweet and sour sauce? A cranberry stuffing? I am not a fan, readers, in general of recipes that mix sweet and savoury flavours. Only recently have I opened my mind to the notion of sweet and salty popcorn. It’s a whole new world.

But, of course, I wouldn’t be writing to you if this recipe didn’t taste KNOCK OUT. I think Sweet Potato Tagine is a keeper, readers! It’s fruity and vegetabley and – somehow – it just works. No one turned their nose up at the table. In fact, everyone was full of (genuine, I hope) compliments, and I took tagine into work as a packed lunch for days afterwards and it didn’t get old. A tagine dream.

Give this recipe a go, readers? And fill me in on how you do in the kitchen? And let me know whether or not you like the tagine? Sounds a plan. Meanwhile, my housemate will still be telling everyone he had tangerine for his tea and it didn’t taste all thar orangey…

Power on and have an amazing week, everyone.

Chef safely,


And look at my pretty new tealight holder!
A thing of beauty, I think.

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