A Hygge Cwtch, Hug Life

The Danish word ‘hygge’ is the Welsh equivalent of a cwtch, if a cwtch could be explained as a lifestyle. Think comfort, cosiness, candle light, warmth and love. It sounds amazing, especially with Christmas ending and spending too much, drinking too much, eating too much and Brexit. A sense of calm and warmth that ‘hygge’ or fluffy slippers brings, is a much needed addition to our lives. The Danes are so right, as they normally are, about this ‘hygge’ notion. It’s about being calm, present and connected with others, a sense of family and camaraderie, without the use of your phone.

There is a big focus on nature, and the massive benefits of being outdoors for your mental health and wellbeing. It’s also about bringing nature inside, a borderless unity between the outside and inside. Which is where the inspiration for my  kitchen ‘hygge’ wall of plants came from.

The Danes don’t hide inside sulking about winter like us Brits do, they embrace and celebrate the coldness and the wonder of winter.  It’s about loving everything that winter brings and not just waiting for summer. If we didn’t have the cold months we wouldn’t have Christmas, bonfire night, halloween and new years. Not to mention, crisp winter days, snow, tomato soup, knitwear and slippers. So, get out there in some unfashionable snow boots and a waterproof onsie and explore some woods.

In brief, throw some aloe vera on your window ledge, get enough candles for a seance, get fluffy and furry things, but mostly throws, cushions slippers etc, go out for winter walks and get off your phone.  Plus cook all of these recipes and you will be ‘hygging’ the shit out of life.

A lovely Hygge place in Cardiff, where you can get all cosy and eat amazing stuff is Brod, which you can reread my blog post on.

Coco Nuts for this Curry 

I love this curry, and tend to add veg willy nilly, depending on what’s in the fridge. So feel free to add carrots, green beans, broccoli, baby sweetcorn, sweet potatoe, and what ever you have, that’s the beauty of a good curry recipe. The spices amount sound over the top, but once you have all of these spices they do go in lots of other curries.

This is good for a group of people, or as a family favourite, as it is so tasty and easy to whip up, it can be on the table in 30 minutes. In my house, we love this as a Friday night feast, with some halloumi, or chicken thighs. It freezes well, so keep any left overs, and its a fact, that curry is always better a few days later. You can make it a bit fancy by adding toasted pine nuts on top to serve. Or for extra goodness add a couple of handfuls of spinach 5 minutes before serving. Veggies and carnivores love this.

If you’re making it for your kids, then just leave out the chilli. Mine yum this up, as it’s lovely and creamy. Even one of my children, who is the fussiest eater known to man, will have the sauce, on some rice. Which trust me, means its a winner.

Serves: 4
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
Dollop of coconut oil, or any oil really
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
Thumb size piece of ginger, chopped finely
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon ground turmeric
Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 chillis, chopped finely
Dollop of tomato puree
Can of coconut milk
200g green lentils (if using fresh cook first, I’m lazy and use a tin of ready cooked)
250g button mushrooms
Cauliflower, half of a small one
Pine nuts, cashews, pistachios, if you want to be fancy pants.
Method:
Heat a little of the coconut oil in a pan and brown the mushrooms. Set them aside to add later.
Then add the rest of the oil, onions, ginger, garlic and all the spices and seasoning. Coat the onions in all the scrumptiousness, this bit smells so good. Stir occasionally on a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften.
Add the coconut milk, lentils and cauliflower, cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms.
Cook for a further 15 minutes, have it simmering on a low heat as you don’t want to over boil the coconut milk.
Toast some pine nuts (or nuts of your choice) 5 minutes before the end, and/or add spinach if your heart desires.

Cheesy,  Pleasey Lasagne

This lasagne got all round ‘mmm’s’ and ‘ah’s’, from the willing testers I cooked it for. They said things like ‘its better than a meat one’, ‘I bloody love it more than my husband, you’re the best.’ OK, the second comment isn’t real, I put that in, but the first one was real. I always think it’s a test of a winning recipe if meat eaters love it too. Blimey, this was so cheesy and tasty, that you’d be hard pushed not to want more.

A show off guest, said that that he does a similar recipe, but with 3 different types of cheeses. I then felt threatened, and made the other guests rate mine out of ten, and also after some interrogation, I found out he used a shop bought cheese sauce, the cheek of him. So if you want to turn this a bit fancier, you could add 3 types of cheeses, swit swoo.

Don’t be scared about making you’re own cheese sauce, it’s actually fairly simple, and I’ll walk you through it on here, and then you can knock up some cauliflower cheese. The key is to keep taking it off and onto the heat at certain points.

Cheese Sauce (exact amounts in the recipe below)

  • Start with a large dollop of butter and melt it slowly on a low heat. Once melted, take it off the heat and then add plain flour, until the mixture turns into a play dough type creation. So add a tablespoon of flour at at a time, and keep stirring it until you get the play dough, takes about 1 minute. You may have to add to the heat again to get the play dough consistency, so this is where you do a bit of an ‘okey cokey’ with the pan and the heat.
  • Then, add a splash of full fat milk (other milks will do even coconut) and sort of knead it with a wooden spoon, add a few more splashes of milk and any lumps, don’t panic, just keep kneading with the spoon. Then add back to the heat, and stir, which will thicken it also. Add a bay leaf. This takes about 2 minutes.
  • Then add the grated cheese, and stir in again. Add some more milk if it goes a bit thick. Then warm gently, don’t allow to boil. This whole process takes a few minutes.

 

Serves 6

Oven: Gas Mark 190 deg C, or 375 deg F

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic

Handful of rosemary

1 onion

300g mushrooms, I love button mushrooms, but you can use a mixture

200g spinach

200g fresh lasagne sheets

50g pine nuts

Teaspoon of nutmeg

For the cheese sauce

1.2 litres (2 pints) whole fat milk

Fresh bay leaf

50g (2oz) butter

50g  (20z) plain flour

250g (8oz) mature cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven, 190 deg C.

Use a 4 pint lasagne dish.

Toast pine nuts for no longer than a minute, on a low heat, until they are browned. Place to one side.

Fry the onions, crushed garlic, rosemary, mushrooms, and stir through. When the mushrooms are nearly cooked add the spinach in batches, it seems alot, but it cooks down. drain some of the juice.

When you have done this, add the mixture to the pine nuts.

Make the cheese sauce using the ingredients above.

Save a 1/4 of the cheese sauce for the top of the lasagne.

Add the spinach, mushroom etc to the cheese sauce and stir in. Get the bay leaf out, and place to one side.

Add the lasagne sheets to cover the bottom of your dish, then add a layer of the cheesy sauce mixture, then repeat 3 times.

Finally, add a final layer of lasagne sheets. Then add the final layer of the cheese sauce, and grate some cheese over the top. Bury the bay leaf in the top layer, in the middle.

Place in the oven for 35- 40 minutes, until its all golden, like Donald Trump’s fake tan.

 

Nut- Hell of a Cheesecake

This absolute work of art is just as sexy as it’s owner, Nigella Lawson. At desperate times, I have been known to eat biscuits dipped in Nutella, when the kids are in bed, and I am house prisoner with nothing else sweet to eat. So, when I stumbled across this recipe it was music to my ears. It has both biscuits and Nutella, but it’s a bit of an upgrade to just these two ingredients. Also, it doesn’t require any baking, so it may count if you’re on a raw food diet, I am of course joking, just incase anyone flips out. I’ve made it the night before, as I’m having two of my dearest friends over for tea tomorrow. I’m hoping they won’t mind I had a slice, just to test it. Bloody hell, it’s good.

I added a little shake of vanilla extract and I went a bit nuts with the hazelnuts on the top of the cheesecake (excellent pun).

Serves: 8-12

250 grams digestive biscuits

75 grams soft unsalted butter

1 x 400 grams jar nutella (at room temperature)

100 grams chopped toasted hazelnuts

500 grams cream cheese (at room temperature)

60 grams icing sugar (sifted)

Method

Break the digestives into the bowl of a processor, add the butter and a 15ml tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump. Add 25g/3 tablespoons of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse until you have a damp, sandy mixture.

Tip into a 23cm/9inch round springform and press into the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.

Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined.

Take the springform out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top to cover and place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results.

Good Old Spag Bol

Who doesn’t love a good old spag bol? It is a regular in most people’s homes. But, a few people have messaged me to ask what are the key ingredients to the perfect spag bol, as they often find it hit or miss. To share the love, I’ll share my 3 key ingredients to a fool proof spag bol. you guys won’t tell anyone right?!

Celery- cut it up really finely if you have any fussy eaters in the family, or even if you don’t like celery at all, I promise you it makes such a difference, and you won’t be running to be sick with an overwhelming celery taste.

Bacon- I’m sorry to all the veggies out there, but bacon makes a spag bol average to delicious. It revs up the scrumptious factor.

Nutmeg- This sweet, cheeky ingredient means that you get a sense of sweetness and warm through the bolognese. Lots of cooks add sugar to their sauce, so this has the same effect, but naturally sweetens the sauce.

My preference is to smother the sauce and pasta with a strong grated cheese. I steer clear of parmesan, as I think it smells like puke, but I know people love the ‘essence of vom’ cheese, so if I can get you to add celery, then who am I to judge, if you want to ruin it with parmesan.

Also the key is to simmer the sauce for 20-30minutes. However, if you dont have the time, then add a dollop of tomato puree, and add extra ingredients that will soak up and thicken the sauce. I always opt for a small tin of green lentils.

Serves 6:

Ingredients:

1 stick of celery

1/2 grated courgette

10 mushrooms, roughly cut up

1 onion

Small pack of mince, or quorn mince

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 slices of chopped up bacon, or a teaspoon of paprika

1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon oregano

Dollop of tomato puree

Method:

Cut up the onion and celery finely. Grate the courgette and chop the mushrooms. Crush the garlic, and roughly chop up the bacon with scissors into small pieces. Fry all of these for about 2 minutes.

Add the mince, nutmeg and oregano, and cook until the mince and bacon are cooked. Make sure you do this on a medium heat, so it doesn’t take all day, but also so it doesn’t burn.

Add the chopped tomatoes and reduce the heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Keep giving it a stir every 5 mins, and make sure it is simmering on a low heat.

If after this it still looks a bit watery then add the dollop of tomato puree and simmer for another 10 mins.

Then cover in hurl scented cheese, or don’t.

Fire Cracking, Chocolate Chilli Con Carni 

Chilli con carni hasn’t lost it’s appeal, ever since I was a little rip. This is the perfect dish to serve up on bonfire night, with a jacket potato or rice, for me nothing could be nicer.
But I think the best thing about this chilli, is all of the beans and veg that goes into it. You can sneak this in by grating or chopping it up into really small pieces, so that if you have a fussy eater, then hopefully they won’t notice as they are shovelling it into their gobs. The sweetness of the peppers and paprika make me start to dribble, and then the rustic lovely courgette just finishes it off. So, actually if you sell it to your daft children that this has chocolate in it, then they will glaze over that you will really be giving them 6 different vegetables, plus pulses, kapow, take that kids!

Also *cue dramatic music* this recipe actually doesn’t have any meat in it. You can of course add some mince if you wish, but there really is no need.

Serves 4:

1 onion finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

1 grated courgette

1 red or yellow pepper, chopped up finely

1 tin of kidney beans

1 tin of white beans

1 can chopped tomatoes

Handful of frozen sweetcorn

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

6 squares of chocolate

1 stock cube

Method:

Finely chop the onion and grate all of the vegetables.

Add to a small amount of oil in a frying pan and along with all of the herbs and spices. Mix well and make sure that the vegetables are coated in the spices fully. Cook on a medium heat for 5 mins, continually stirring.

Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, sweetcorn, stock cube and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Then add the squares of chocolate and stir it into the sauce, which will make it thicker.

Then simmer on a low heat for 15-20 minutes.

 

Halloween Chicken Stewooooooo

Basically, this is my never fail recipe for soulful chicken stew. If you’re ever ill or sad, then pop this in your belly for instant happiness, and I swear it’s better than any medicine for colds and flus.

I’ve added purple carrots, which you can get from most supermarkets these days, and local fruit and veg shops always seem to have them. They turn the chicken broth purple, and it looks all spooky and delicious. My kids love this, as they dig for the ‘spooky’ purple carrots, like treasure.

You can chuck in any left over veg that you have really, and especially any root vegetables. I usually add a broccoli towards the end as well, so that is still has some crunch. Or even sweetcorn, peas, whatever you have to be used up.

Ingredients:

2 thighs (boneless and skinless), chopped into bite sized pieces

1 onion, chopped finely

Handful of rosemary

Teaspoon of nutmeg

1 celery, chopped finely

2 orange carrots, chopped into bite size chunky pieces

2 purple carrots, chopped into bite size chunky pieces

10 new potatoes, or 4 roast potatoes cut into bite sized pieces

1 parsnip

10 mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces

800ml chicken stock

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C.

Fry the onion, celery, chicken, mushrooms, rosemary and nutmeg. There is no need to add oil as the chicken will produce oil as it starts to fry. Cook until the chicken is cooked, about 5-7 minutes.

Add all of the root veg that takes a while to cook, and stir and coat in all of the juices and herbs. Add the potatoes and then add the chicken stock.

Transfer to an oven proof casserole dish and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with cheese on toast.