Monday, 29 May 2017

A commitment to a moment.

Recipe of the week...
... Spinach and Mushroom Spaghetti

Ingredients: 200g wholemeal spaghetti, 1 vegetable stock cube, 120g fresh spinach leaves, 250g chestnut mushrooms, 1 white onion, 150-400g Greek yoghurt (depending how creamy you like your pasta), cooking oil, and salt and pepper.

Serves: Two decent platefuls of spaghetti.

Time taken: Half an hour or so.

Hi readers,

How are you all today? Are you doing okay? Not feeling too worse for wear, I hope, as we near the end of the Bank Holiday weekend. (Yes – to all readers outside the UK – we’ve had ANOTHER Bank Holiday weekend. Can’t get enough of them! Although, sadly, this does spell the end of our glorious run of four day weeks – we aren’t treated to another til the end of August now. Sigh sigh sigh).

Have you been up to much with your long weekend, readers? Hope you’ve been out enjoying the sunny Spring weather, while it lasted! And I hope you’ve been making the most of your time in the sunshine, spent with friends and family. As a write, readers, I’m in bed in my room in Sheffield and it’s raining a little bit outside. My room doesn’t look much like mine anymore as I’ve officially Started Packing, ahead of moving house next Saturday.

With just a week to go, I rolled my sleeves up this weekend and set about bagging and boxing up most of my things. There are now three different heaps of my stuff about the house. Mounds of shoppers filled with homeware and kitchenware and books and shoes... and I haven’t even packed any clothes yet (which, really, you’d think is all a human being needs – their clothes) but already there is A Lot of Stuff.

Like, if I lay down on the floor and my stuff was rained down on me, I would definitely die. It’s a killer amount of stuff. So, it’s been  good to have had the long weekend, really, as an opportunity to get cracking with packing (see what I did there??). But. Knowing that I have to unpack it all again, somewhere new, next weekend is like ohhhh MY GOD why why why why whyyyyyy meee. The prospect isn’t filling me with joy, readers.

Sadly contemplating my shell of a bedroom right now, I’m reminded of a line from a book I’ve been reading these past couple of weeks. Bittersweet, by Stephanie Danler. If you appreciate good food and drink, witty / clever / sarcastic lines, and the lure of a dangerous man – do go read this book. Pronto. The line that spring to mind, as an apt descriptor for my mood at present, iiiiis…

“You know what I dislike? When people use the future as a consolation for the present. I don’t know if there is anything less helpful.”
Bittersweet, Stephanie Danler. p.346

… this, I firmly agree with. Yes, maybe I’ll be moved in five days. Maybe I’ll have dropped a dress size and attained a gorgeous boyfriend in the process. Two of them! Who knows. But right now: It’s drizzling. And I’m sat in a stripped room populated mainly with re-usable carrier bags, bulging with my stuff and including certain items that I shouldn’t really have packed. I was being overenthusiastic and now I can’t find several things that I want back. It’s likely I won’t find them for a week or more. They’re lost in a sea of supermarket branding.

This present moment may be a little shit, readers, but – do not fear – as I’m going to turn it around with some great food. There will be a girly evening in. Nail polish, chocolate, chick flick. All will be well again. First, though, I want to say a big GO YOU to anyone who got the worker bee tattoo done this weekend, in support of the fundraiser for those victims and families affected by the terrorist attack in Manchester last week (you can donate here).

For anyone who doesn’t know, there’s been a tattoo appeal going on over the Bank Holiday weekend and tattoo parlours up and down the country have been giving their time to help out. If a person donates £50 towards the MEN fundraiser, then they can go get the worker bee tattooed at no cost. Loads and loads of people have been doing this, they’ve been queuing to get through the doors of tattoo parlours, and now the fundraiser is over 90% of the way towards hitting its target. Incredibly, with over fifty thousand supporters.  

I’m awed by it. By people! And the great things that they can bring about and achieve. As is the point of the quote from Bittersweet, there is no help in telling those poor people on the receiving end of the Manchester attack that tomorrow will be a better day. Help comes from those people who go out and do something about it – anything they can do – to make a real difference today. High five to anyone with a worker bee healing on you right now!

It feels to me as though, when everything rocks a little, like everything did seem to do last week in the wake of the attack, that people come together more. Like shaking a box full of beads. It’s felt by all and it’s experienced in unison. Everyone’s rattled. We’re all still thinking about it and talking about it, and trying to comprehend what happened. And we go on.

In another excerpt…

What did he call his tattoos?
A commitment to a moment?
Bittersweet, Stephanie Danler. p.228

… it’s a wonderful and a terrible moment that we’re in, readers. I’m grateful to experience the spirit of togetherness, fostered in the wake of the attack, and I hope that it won’t be lost as the tattoos heal. And – with that – I’ll say no more. I’ll leave the fundraising total to rise and will leave you, terrific readers, with one final thought… which is that good food alllways improves the present moment. Disprove me, I dare you. Or try your hand at my recipe of the week, which can be yours in just ten simple steps…

Recipe: Spinach and Mushroom Spaghetti

1.     Pour a drink, calm your mind and set something upbeat playing.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Me and my dad have been listening to the album that’s been released alongside Guardians of the Galaxy 2, with all the songs from the film. There are some GREAT tunes on there – I recommend. 
2.     Fill the kettle and set it boiling, and sort veg prep while you wait. Peel your onion and chop into small pieces, and quarter your mushrooms.
3.     When the kettle’s boiled, set a two-portion amount of spaghetti cooking in a saucepan with half the stock cube crumbled in.
4.     Heat some cooking oil in a wok or a large frying pan, and fry your mushroom and onion for five minutes until they’re beginning to brown.

5.     Then, add 200ml water from the saucepan, along with your yoghurt and the rest of the stock cube.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: I added 150ml yoghurt as I’m not a fan of very creamy sauces, but if you’re thinking ‘the creamier the better!’ then go for it. Add up to 400ml if you like.

6.     Meanwhile, once your spaghetti is cooked you can take this off the heat and drain.
7.     Leave the contents of the pan to simmer until the ingredients come together, and they begin to thicken and look more like a sauce than a liquid.

8.     When things are getting saucy in the wok, tip your fresh spinach into the pan and – one wilted – then add the pasta.
9.     Give everything a good stir together and season with salt and pepper.
10.  Then, take off the heat and divide between two plates. You can serve up and tuck in!

Et voila!
A plateful of Spinach and Mushroom Spaghetti
What do you think, readers? Are you keen?? Does this sound do-able? I found the recipe in Tesco’s May 2017 edition of their free magazine (entitled ‘The Healthy Issue), on page 67, and decided to give it a go as a simple, healthy, tasty dinner. Ordinarily, I almost always rely on a shop-bought sauces, but this recipe provides a great way to make your own sauce without many ingredients and without it being particularly time consuming or difficult to do.

Also, I like that you can make this dish more or less creamy to suit your taste. And that creamy sauces don’t necessarily have to be cheesy, though they often are. Plus – you have options. You could switch the spaghetti for tagliatelle, if you like, or a regular pasta like penne or fusilli. And, if you’re vegan, you could adapt the recipe by switching the Greek yoghurt for a plant-based alternative (like Alpro).

Have I convinced you yet, readers?? If not, may I add what a filllling.. delllicious.. richhh and indddulgent plateful of food this is. Truly, it’s a delight! Go on, readers, give this recipe a try and please let me know what you think. Did things go to plan in the kitchen? Did your pasta turn out well? And did you enjoy the taste of it?? Keep me posted on your antics in the kitchen (good or gory) and please send all recipe feedback my way! Hit me with it!

Until next time, readers, in a new room on a new road in a new month,

Spaghetti safely,


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A Spring salad on a terribly sad day.

Recipe of the week...
... Roasted Spring Veg Salad.

Ingredients: 1 baking potato (or a handful of baby potatoes), 80g pack of tenderstem broccoli, 110g pack of asparagus, half a dozen cubes of feta cheese, a drizzle of cooking oil, a drizzle of your favourite salad dressing, and salt and pepper.

Time taken: 40 mins-ish.

Serves: One big plateful.

Evening readers,

As I write, it’s May 2017, and it’s the day after the attack on the MEN Arena in Manchester. So far, 22 people have died and over 50 are injured, as a result of the attack. We’re beginning to learn the names and hear the stories of those who have lost their lives. In the words of Chris Upton, head teacher at a school attended by an eight year old victim, "The thought that anyone could go out to a concert and not come home is heartbreaking.”

In November 2015, at the time when the attack on the Bataclan in Paris occurred, I had been merrily drinking in a bar. I found out the next morning and, as it was the weekend, I took my time the next day to contemplate the lives of those that had been lost. And the events of their deaths. I cried at my leisure, in private, and I lit a candle and watched the flame flicker. It felt as though everyone in the country as doing the same.

With last night’s attack on the MEN Arena in Manchester, again, I didn’t find out until the next morning. I went to bed early last night and was sleeping by the time news broke. When I woke up this morning and saw the alert on my phone, I was so terribly sad. And moved. Suddenly wide awake, reading in the news that so many people at that concert wouldn’t be waking up today. And yet it was a weekday. So, I had to be out the door within 30 minutes, and on a train half an hour later.

The attack has been sharing my thoughts all day, vying for attention alongside commute-related and work-related thinking. I’ve been tearful throughout the morning and then the afternoon, distracted, and checking for updates on the story. But it’s a strange thing to be busy and to be moved at the same time. You’re publically not-at-all-okay. This event isn’t something you can miss work for, as you aren’t involved in any way, but you feel involved.

Readers, I’m 22 years old. When 9/11 happened I was just seven, and when we had the London 7/7 attack I was eleven. On both occasions, I was at school at the time. I was among friends and being looked after by adults. I don’t remember the Cold War or the Balkan Wars or the IRA. The fall of the Berlin Wall or the Hillsborough disaster. I haven’t experienced these things, haven’t become used to them, and just feel terribly sad for everyone affected or killed during the attack in Manchester last night.

I love going to gigs and concerts and hate that anyone can lose their life at one. Senseless isn’t a word that I really use, but it seems right here. As the attack last night makes no sense to me. I think I will remember the feeling and the people from my commute this morning. People checking their phones for updates as they walked towards the station, gazing out at the world from the windows on the train, wiping away tears in the bus terminal.

My thoughts were and are still with anyone caught up in the events of last night. It’s a terrible thing to have happened, and I wish it hadn’t. Certainly, it’s moved me. And I hoped that it’s moved the people that could do something about terror attacks, so that this might not have to happen again in the future. In the meanwhile, I suppose we carry on. We try to do right. And try to help one another, like the people in Manchester did last night.

In the spirit of carrying on, and maybe hoping to lifting your spirits, I do have a recipe for you, readers. Perhaps this will give you something to take your mind off the events of last night, for a small while. This recipe is for a really simple, light evening meal. This requires only five ingredients and pays you back with 2 of your 5-a-day. I found it in Tesco’s May 2017 edition of their free magazine (entitled ‘The Healthy Issue’), on page 66, a recipe for Roasted Spring Veg Salad.

Want to give this a go? Here’s how it’s done in just ten simple steps…

Recipe: Roasted Spring Veg Salad

1.     Shake away your cares, crack open a window and heat the oven to 200C.
2.     Cut your potato up in bite-sized chunks and tip them into a baking dish.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: I used up a baking potato I had lingering in my cupboard, but I imagine you can use any kind of potato you like. How could this go wrong?
3.     Drizzle with cooking oil and then stir about the dish until evenly coated.

4.     Season with salt and pepper, then safely transport your potato into the oven to bake for quarter of an hour.
5.     After 15 mins, safely take the potatoes out of the oven and add your broccoli and asparagus to the dish.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: I just chucked them in as they were, without chopping them up or prepping in any way. But, do whatever make you happy.
6.     Drizzle a little more oil in there, and stir all the veg until they’re well mixed together and evenly coated in oil.
7.     Crumble a small handful of feta cheese over the veg.

8.     Return to the oven and leave to bake for another quarter of an hour.
9.     When the veg and cheese have all browned, and look as though they’re good and cooked, then you can remove them from oven and turn this off.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: At this point, you may want to drain away any cooking oil left in the bottom of the dish, so that it doesn’t make it onto your plate.
10.  Spoon everything out onto a dinner plate and drizzle with a splash of your favourite salad dressing (I used a balsamic vinaigrette). Now... tuck in!

And there you have it, readers. What do you think? Is this salad tasty, or what? And healthy, too! This is a dish that’s all about great big flavours, you’re making use of seasonal British vegetables, it looks fab on the plate and it fills you up… would anyone beg to differ? I’m a fan of this recipe, readers, and hope that it goes down a storm with you, too. Maybe give this a try, while we still have Spring to enjoy?

Mostly, readers, I hope that you’re okay. I hope you can reflect on the events of last night, as I am, but still feel the sun on your face today. Still attend concerts. Still remember all those things that are good in the world, and newly appreciate those people you hold dear.

In memory of those who lost their lives last night,