What’s for Dinner, Babe?


Happy New Year (never sure about those capital letters)! Did you have a good break? Mine was fun and relaxed. I saw lots of friends and family, ate good food and got loads of sleep. Perfect really.

But! Now now it’s all over. Homes have been found for the new presents, the tree’s been taken down (I’m GUTTED, our tree and in particular the lovely bunting that my sister Jem made me looked beautiful this year) and we’re back to the grind. In JANUARY. The bleakest, poorest, most depressing month of the year. Getting up when it’s still dark after all those leisurely 10am wake ups is painful! And its at this time of year that you’re supposed to be healthier too, when you’ve got good and used to staying in all day and eating whatever you like, when you like. But sadly you can’t eat like Henry VIII forever, it’s time to bring back proper meals, at proper times.

Which brings me to… the dreaded “What do you fancy for dinner, babe?” text.

This text is generally received at about 4.15pm, while you’re still at work, possibly just after you’ve eaten your afternoon cake or Kitkat, so you’re not even hungry. You won’t have thought about dinner, apart from reading a Time Out review of a restaurant near work that you really fancy but can’t afford. You know there’s no food at home (apart from brie and Celebrations, obviously) so any dinner prep means a trip to the shops, which is annoying. This is generally a very stressful text. And, by the way, whoever receives this text is making dinner, so get in there first if you can. It’s part friendly query about your evening, part passive-aggressive declaration of war.

I know it can be hard to think of different, interesting meals to eat every night that don’t mean spending £10 to £15 on ingredients on the way home from work. It’s that reason we’re a nation of mince eaters. So I have made a list of my favourite go-to meals, so you don’t have this agony. You can thank me later.

Chicken Thai Green Curry

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We eat this meal so much. It’s from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals book and TV show but I’d say it takes around 40 minutes start to finish. The chicken in this recipe is pan fried under something heavy so it goes crispy, then we always shred it and stir it into the sauce at the end. I now always cook chicken this way, it’s so good.

Any equipment needed? Yes. This recipe is really only fast and easy if you have a food processor or a mini processor attachment on a hand blender, as you make the curry paste from scratch. You can do it with a regular hand blender, but the paste becomes weirdly smooth and creamy.

Tesco/ Co-Op/ Corner Shop trip required? Co-Op. Jamie generally likes a lot of ingredients so you’ll probably need a few fresh bits. A good cheat would be  buying a jar of minced lemongrass and some trays of frozen garlic and ginger cubes to keep on hand, but you’ll need to pop to the shop for fresh coriander and some green beans.

Find the recipe here.

Leek & Smoked Haddock Risotto

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This is from the BBC GoodFood website and we’ve only had this once, but it was so good. As it’s a baked risotto, it’s really quick to make- about 10 minutes to prepare and then you can ignore it for 20 minutes. No constant stirring required! The recipe specifies haddock as the fish of choice for this, but I used river cobbler because it’s much cheaper and apparently more sustainable and I really liked it. Pollock would work well too. One minor change I made was to add grated parmesan on top at the end, but I was told by my boyfriend that cheese and fish don’t go *shrugging emoji*.

Any equipment needed? Nope, just a pan you can use on both the hob and in the oven. We got Pro Cook ‘Le Cruset-esque’ ones for Christmas and they’re amazing.

Tesco/ Co-Op/ Corner Shop trip required? Mayyybeee the corner shop for some creme fraiche. But on the whole this is pretty much store cupboard stuff and it would work well with frozen fish fillets if you have any in. Oh, and the recipe says to stir in fresh baby spinach but I added in some of those frozen balls when I took it out the oven and put the lid back on till it thawed and then stirred through. Worked fine!

Find the recipe here.

Ramen Soup

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Another GoodFood recipe! It’s such a good site. I love ramen soups like this, particularly when I’m not feeling well. You can use pretty much any noodles you like for this, we used big thick soba noodles, but regular egg or vermicelli would be good too. For the chicken on top I cooked it the Jamie Oliver way on a griddle pan, for a bit of texture. And I have to admit, I did do soft boiled eggs for the top, but smashed them  (in my HULK-LIKE HANDS) while trying to take the shells off.

Any equipment needed? No, just big bowls to eat out of. As with most Asian cooking though, it is worth getting everything chopped and prepared before you start cooking as it comes together very quickly.

Tesco/ Co-Op/ Corner Shop trip required? No! The beauty of this recipe is that you can just chuck in any near-death vegetables and tinned sweetcorn, so as long as you have some noodles in the cupboard, you’re good to go. You may need to go to an Asian supermarket to get Nori seaweed paper, but let’s be honest, you probably won’t bother. I didn’t.

Find the recipe here.

Crispy Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes

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This is honestly one of my favourite ever dinners and it’s so easy. I’ll link the recipe below but basically: put cherry tomatoes and garlic in large pan, place chicken legs on top, scatter basil and drizzle oil, cook. That’s it. Half way through the cooking time I chuck in a tin of cannellini beans and then serve it with crusty bread. Excellent dinner.

Any equipment needed? No, none at all. Just remember to season the chicken well.

Tesco/ Co-Op/ Corner Shop trip required? Tesco for chicken legs and fresh basil (the plant on your window sill is dead, btw), but it’s totally worth the trip.

Get the recipe here.

Basil Pesto

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Yes, boring old pesto, stirred into pasta. I know its a cheapo studenty dinner, but if you make your own it makes all the difference. If I’m on my own I’ll just have it with pasta, but when we’re both in I stir through tagliatelle and place white fish on top, that’s been steamed in foil with a bit of lemon.

Any equipment needed? Yep, food processor or at the very least a pestle and mortar.

Tesco/ Co-Op/ Corner Shop trip required? Co-Op. I guarantee you’ll need at least one of the ingredients, probably pine nuts.

Get the recipe here.

So there you go, a Monday to Friday of meals and not a beige dinner in sight. Let me know if you cook any!

Final Signature


2015 Resolutions


Happy New Year!

Time to think of the ole’ resolutions.

I know a lot of people think NY resolutions are bollocks, but i kind of like the idea of them; listing all the things you want to change this year just seems to make sense to me. I’ve come up with 5, without having to resort to the usual healthy eating or getting fit ones.

My boyfriend has also asked if i can have one that involves me chucking old clothes to clear up space in the wardrobe, but that ain’t happening…

1. Remember birthdays and generally get better at keeping in touch with people. (Facebook doesn’t count!)

This is the main one because I SUCK at this. I am always the person sees you post the (now mandatory) “Thanks for the birthday love guys, I’ve been very spoilt” Facebook post, waits 20 minutes then writes a happy birthday message so it doesn’t look like I only remembered because YOU mentioned it. Don’t look at me like that, we’re all guilty of this.

I’m generally just quite bad at keeping in touch with people. I tend to refer to everyone I know or used to be close to as my friends, to which my boyfriend always patiently asks “Are they really your friend? When did you last see them?” which I think is a little rude, but I also think he’s got a point. I partly blame social media. I use Facebook and Twitter constantly so I therefore know what’s going on in most of my friends and acquaintances’ lives; I know when they’re seeing someone new, what they cooked for dinner and even (if they’re an over-sharing Susan) when they last went to the doctors. I comment on statuses and say congratulations when big things happen, so I feel like I’m still in the loop and socialising.

But I’m not really socialising. All my (real!) friends and I are very busy now, with boyfriends and babies and weddings and increasingly stressful jobs, so we see each other less and less. We are in our 30s, after all. I talk to people online and email occasionally but I probably physically see my friends maybe once a month, once a fortnight at the most. I’m lucky I’ve got a boyfriend at home, close friends at work and a twin sister and mum that I talk to all the time, or I would truly be a hermit. Remember when you said “When we all move out and get our own places, we can just go round each others houses and see each other all the time. We’ll probably save loads of money, too.”? Did that come true for anyone??

SO, I’m going to try and keep in touch with my friends better! It’s not as simple as announcing “You’re seeing more of me from now on, I’ve signed us up for a bowling league!”- as I mentioned, my friends are busy people, but I’m definitely going to check my calendar for birthdays, make an effort to text, email and send cards more, and just try and see people more. I did a kind of ‘soft launch’ of this by actually writing and sending out Christmas cards and I’ve downloaded a birthdays reminder app, so wish me luck!

2. Make lunches for work and waste less food

Speaks for itself really, but spending up to £5.00 a day on lunch when I have the food to easily make sandwiches or salad at home, honestly makes me feel a bit disgusted with myself. As does the constant ‘forgetting to freeze leftovers, so having to throw away half a pie’ situation. No more!

3. Look more groomed and glamorous

In my natural state, I am scruffy, curly-haired and honestly, a little spotty. I look alright when I put the work in, but I can’t always be bothered to make much of an effort beyond the exact same makeup every day and a quick hair straighten.

I would like to look more glam and grownup though so I’m going to make a conscious effort to improve myself in the following areas:

  • Care for my skin by taking my makeup off at night moisturising properly
  • Use all the colours in my new makeup palettes and not just the nude champagne one every day
  • Moisturise my legs everyday
  • Wear perfume more
  • Look after my hair and grow out my crop (although my boyfriend pointed at Shirley in Eastenders the other day and said “That’s just what your hair’s going to look like soon”, so looking forward to THAT)
  • Finally stop biting my nails

That’s actually quite a long list when you write it down, isn’t it?

4. Blog more

I do really like writing this blog, I just have a hard time actually getting round to it, or thinking of stuff to write about. I want to try and post things once a week, or at least once every 10 days if only because it makes me try and think of new things to cook.

5. Read more

I love reading and I did read quite a lot last year, but I would like to get through more books in 2015. I just find sitting reading a book quite anti-social when I’m not on my own so my boyfriend and I tend to watch TV together instead.

I’ve been reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson for MONTHS so I want to start by finishing that and then reading at least one book a month. I would like to put book reviews on here too, but my critique of books tends to be simply ‘hate, like or love’ so I’m not sure they’d be too long, but I might give it a try, which would add to Resolution 4! It’s all coming together!

I’ve kind of started on all the resolutions, except the reading and 5 days in, it’s going well! Has anyone else made any resolutions? Please let me know in the comments if you have.

I also saw this http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/im-so-im-so-proud-of-you#.sue51KK4do on Buzzfeed which is sweet but very ‘Pinteresty’ . It also has the worst name ever (The REMEMBERLUTIONS JAR!!) but I might give it a go.

I hope everyone had a great NYE and here’s to a top 2015!

Clare xx


UPDATE: On new year’s eve (A super-fun night of Chinese, drinking and board games) my friends and I decided to start going to our local quiz night once a month. We shall see if this actually happens, but I’m hopeful!

ZIGGY UPDATE: Our little cat is now so friendly that he was referred to a ‘needy’ the other day! He follows me everywhere from the moment I wake up, demands to share all our meals and sleeps on the sofa, flat on his back like he’s sunbathing. I’m so pleased we got our water-loving weirdo, he’s a brilliant addition to our home. I’ve also found out that just before we got him, Ziggy got his old housemate pregnant and she’s now had 4 kittens. #PLAYA





Adventures in Cycling

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I’ve got a new laptop! My old one became more and more useless until it would only stay on for about 4 minutes, at which time a big sign saying “CORRUPTION!” would flash up and it would close itself down and restart. Which, as I’m sure you can appreciate, was pretty annoying. It was about 6 years old though, so I can’t be too angry.

So goodbye Dell, hello MacBook Air! My new laptop is beautiful, fast and I can do things I’ve meaning to do for ages, like edit my iTunes to be slightly less embarrassing (so long All Saints album and I Love College by Asher Roth). It also means that I can write on this blog again, hurrah! I know everyone’s been missing my ramblings about my pedestrian cooking…. But I’ve also been thinking that I’d like to write about more than just pasta and cake, which leads me to this post, about cycling.

As soon as we found a new place to live which was a bit further out of Chelmsford than our old flat, I got a bike through my offices’ Cycle 2 Work scheme. I borrowed £300, which got me a Pendleton bike, lock, helmet and lights, all from Halfords. The C2W scheme (as all the cool kids call it) is a great idea as you basically rent the bike from your employer, with the money taken out monthly through PAYE. My payment is £25.00 per month, which isn’t too painful at all.

I had two main reasons to start commuting to work by bike. Firstly, I am very tight and I hate paying to park my car. The only alternatives are the bus, which is almost as expensive, or a boring, 40 minute walk, so I decided to start cycling. Secondly, I wanted legs like Taylor Swift.

I’ve now been cycling to and from work at least 4 times a week since April. And although I am in no way an expert (I still can’t lift my left hand off the handlebar to signal and I once fell off trying to go up a curb) I have discovered a few things about novice cycling. I thought I’d celebrate my first blog post on my new laptop by imparting some of my new-found wisdom.


Do you really need to cycle?

Before you buy a bike and plan your new two-wheeled way of life, I’d stop and consider: How long is your current commute? If it’s less than a 10 minute walk, I wouldn’t bother cycling. By the time you’ve found all your bike bits, got the bike out the shed, cycled to work, locked up your bike and retouched your makeup, you’ll probably be taking about the same amount of time, if not longer. You’ll also have considerably shitter hair. By all means still get a bike, but maybe just use it for after work and weekend adventures.

To helmet or not to helmet

For me, the main reason I wear a helmet is not that it might stop me dying*, it’s that it keeps my hair down while cycling and stops it getting too bashed around by the wind. Yes, I’m that shallow. But I do appreciate that they do play a part in keeping you safe. I like knowing that if I fall off, my head is slightly protected. There are some really cool helmets around (cyclechic.com have some beautiful Bern ones) but in my opinion, you are not going to look cool in any cycling helmet, so you may as well get an ugly £30.00 one, instead of spending £80.00 on a pretty one.

Generally, the accessories suck

One thing I realised a few days into cycling was that I needed a rucksack. And not a cool, cute one from Topshop, a big ugly one that would fit all my work stuff: lunch, snacks, backup disks, kindle and possibly a change of shoes and a jacket. I got one from JD Sports in the end. Since then, I’ve added some black and pink fingerless cycling gloves and a black metal basket to my accessories collection. All this stuff is practical and useful and the bag has padded straps and is super comfy, but I’m not going to be featured in any cycling style guides any time soon.

I’ve found that generally, cycling accessories are pretty hideous. There is lovely stuff online (and on Etsy particularly) but the stuff in the big cycling shops is definitely more at the ‘functional’ end of the style spectrum. My advice is to shop around and be prepared to pay a bit more than you thought if you want pretty accessories to match your lovely bike.

One accessory I’ve bought that I DEFINITELY recommend everyone try is cycling shorts! I bought them to go under dresses and skirts when I’m cycling (my undies just aren’t glamorous enough to flash, unfortunately) but they’re so bloody comfy that I wear them all the time. Highly recommended.

Your desk drawer will start to resemble Superdrug

I might just be horribly unfit, but after a 20 minute bike ride, I am not looking my usual glam self. I decided that instead of spending the day feeling scruffy and untidy, I’d just get into work a bit early and sort myself out.

My desk is now like the toilets of a cheap and nasty West End club, except without the lollipops and I won’t charge if you borrow something. I have spare straighteners, styling product, hairspray, deodorant, concealer, blusher and face wipes and I can re-do my face and hair in about 5 minutes, much to my boss’s amusement.

Prepare to be hated

One thing I’m never sure about is whether to use the bell or not, which is more polite; to ask people to move or to just ring your bell? I thought it was better just to say excuse me be but once I was cycling on the pavement around the Army & Navy (scary!) and a lady said “God! Use your bell!” when I asked her to move. So you can’t win.

While you cycle about, minding your own business, you will get dirty looks from both motorists and pedestrians. The motorists, in my opinion, don’t really have any right to moan. By cycling you’re easing road congestion, freeing up spaces in carparks and helping the environment. As long as you’re cycling safely and not riding no-handed on the wrong side of the road, texting, they can’t really complain.

Pedestrians on the other hand, I think have a point. You’re on their turf, in their way. I just follow the rule that if it’s a narrow pavement and there’s more than one person about and I really can’t go on the road, I get off and walk. Yes, it slows me down and messes up my Map My Ride time, but I think it’s worth it for not being spat on by mums with pushchairs. Which could happen in Meadgate.

So there you have it! All I have learnt from my 6-ish months as a cyclist. As I mentioned before, I am in no way an expert so if you have any comments, or just want to inform me exactly how Cycle 2 Work operates, feel free to let me know.

And regarding my Taylor Swift leg goal, no change so far. But then, Taylor is 5 inches taller and 9 years younger than me, so I’m not sure what I was expecting really.

Clare xx

* I intend to die the same way that Krusty faked his death: crashing into the side of a mountain, flying a plane with my face on the side, evading tax.