28 January 2013

Healthy Ham, Egg and Chips

Since having a baby I have been unable to read. Not literally, I'm not some sort of medical anomaly, but I just can't bring myself to read a book. It's strange, and slightly tricky as I still do one day a week working for a publisher. Magazines I can just about do however and Good Housekeeping is my magazine of choice. In fact it is Good Housekeeping and Nigellissima that have got me back into the kitchen even if what I'm choosing to cook isn't all that taxing. At least I'm cooking.

I never make ham, egg and chips. It's partly that it's one of those things that I think you can have in the pub and partly that whenever I do have it in the pub it comes with fat chips... which I loathe. I also think that if I were to have it at home it would morph into Brinner - bacon instead of the ham, bread instead of the chips and beans on the side to please Joe.

February's GH mag had a load of recipes that I wanted to cook in it and a rather lovely interview with Jennifer Saunders... added bonus. One of them was this Healthy Ham, Egg and Chips which seemed like a good way to use up some of the potatoes that have been hanging around for some time. I have also got into the habit of buying 12 eggs instead of 6 - mostly out of laziness - but it turns out that it's quite hard to use 12 eggs if you are not baking.

The recipe uses pulled ham hock which is apparently available in some supermarkets but they suggest using thick sliced ham if you can't find it. Tesco Metro didn't have either so Joe got two gammon steaks (250g) and grilled those up before starting the recipe which I think is what we'll do in future. Unless we can find any illusive ham hock. We also didn't have any fresh thyme (we used a sprinkling of dried), too few mushrooms and tomatoes and we ate it all quite happily between the two of us (not that I'd advise that... it was terrible gluttony on our part). I don't think I would have wanted any more tomatoes in it actually... it was very nice with the 150g we used. But here's the recipe as it should be - feel free to tinker with it at will.

Healthy Ham, Egg and Chips

Serves 4

3 medium potatoes, skin on and cut into 2cm dice
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
400g small closed cup mushrooms, halved or quartered as you like
4 fresh thyme sprigs
250g cherry tomatoes (although 100-150g fine as far as I'm concerned)
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
4 large eggs
125g pulled ham hock
chopped fresh parsley or chives to garnish

All the ingredients
 Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. You will need a large non-stick roasting tin and that's it!

1. In your roasting tin toss the potato cubes and onion in well seasoned oil and roast for 20 mins.

2. Add the mushrooms and thyme and toss together and then return to the oven for 25 mins or until the vegetables are tender and golden.

Adding the mushrooms
 3. Toss through the cherry tomatoes and mustard. Then make four spaces in the tin and crack in the eggs.

4. Return to the oven for 8-10 mins or until the egg whites are cooked.

Topped with ham and herbs

5. Top with the ham and herbs and serve.


21 January 2013

What to pack in your hospital bag

OK so there are lots of blog posts on this but I want to have my say. Here’s what you really need to pack in your hospital bag, plus a few extra’s that I was really pleased I had. I made this list when I came home as I had my sister and a few friends due a couple of weeks after me and there are so many lists out there it’s hard to know what you really need.

Quite often now you are sent home the same day as you had the baby but you never know what your labour is going to be like so better to have too much stuff than too little. My hospital keeps everyone in for 24 hours as a matter or course so you can be monitored and your baby can see the paediatrician. So all this is based on 24 hours in hospital in a ward.

  • 2 towels – I took 1 and had a shower straight after having Ned and then needed another one for my overnight stay... which was annoying.
  • Shower gel
  • Deodorant 
  • Razor (sounds bizarre but when you've had a sleep and the baby's sleeping and you get a chance to have a proper shower you really want to freshen up and I was sad not to have my razor) 
  •  2 nighties 
  •  Big, comfy black undies 
  •  Maternity pads (Boots are the most comfortable, Sainsburys own brand are good too) 
  •  Maternity bras (1 is fine though you'll want a couple more for when you get home - I like these) 
  • Breast pads (Johnson and Johnson are by far the best but not individually wrapped Lansinoh or Boots own brand are also good)
  • Nipple cream 
  • Baby wipes (suitable for newborns) 
  • Nappies 
  • Nappy bags 
  • 5 baby vests 
  • 5 sleep suits
  • 1 or 2 cellular blankets 
  • 2 baby hats (they will probably wear one the whole time they are in the hospital 
  • Dressing gown for you (it is unbelievably hot in the ward but you will be going to the loo etc so it’s nice to have a dressing gown) 
  • Flip flops or slippers (my feet were too swollen for slippers) 
  • Eye mask (if you like to sleep in total darkness) 
  • Hair ties 
  • Plastic bag for your dirty laundry 
  • Flash wipes for the bathroom etc (the bathroom where I was was really clean but... well, you leak and it’s nice to just have something to hand to have a bit of a clean up after you’ve had a shower etc).
I took an ipod and speakers which I didn’t use. Anything else you need your husband or friend can bring you after you’ve had the baby. A lot of people recommend ear plugs but from my experience newborns actually sleep quite a lot and I would have been too anxious about him if I'd had earplugs in.

15 January 2013


My husband has never been able to pronounce things correctly. So much for his university education. When I met him he would say burlesque to rhyme with barbecue, it was only a couple of years ago I sorted out the Arkansas problem for him and literally months ago that we had a sit down discussion about reneged having a hard ‘g’. I thought it was all over but no, thanks to Nigella and her lovely new book Nigellisima I now have to deal with regular requests for the ‘Meatatza’. He means Meatzza. 

On second thoughts maybe this annoying inability to pronounce quite a simple word was a deliberate ploy to get me to cook it so we could move on. It worked. I cooked it for our romantic Friday night that I’d been planning involving booze and a new Midsommer Murders that actually ending up being me and Most Haunted while Joe wolfed his Meatzza and returned to his computer to get his award for slowest. Worker. Ever.

A quick word on Nigella’s latest series – loved it. Far less simpering and saucy sideways glances, amazing figure, amazing clothes, updated fab makeup and yummy recipes. A big improvement (although I did watch and love Kitchen she was a bit OTT wasn’t she?). And the accompanying book is just lovely – completely different to her usual look and easy to follow.

Now for the Meatzza which she says is the most requested recipe in the book. It was delicious and very simple to make but kind of hefty. Admittedly the recipe is for 4-6 people and there are only two of us, and yes we did finish it (see my constant twitter complaints about how I’m not losing weight even though I’m breastfeeding). But on its own for 4-6 people I feel it would need something with it – salad or tagliatelle perhaps?

Also would like to add that mince doesn't photograph well... I tried.


Serves 4-6

500g minced beef
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
3 tbsp breadcrumbs or porridge oats (not instant)
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, peeled
salt and pepper to taste
butter, for greasing
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp garlic oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 x 125g ball of mozzarella (not Buffalo), halved then sliced
few leaves fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7. You'll need a large mixing bowl and a round baking tin,  although I used a round Le Creuset, about 28cm in diameter. I didn't add enough salt, do not be afraid of salt in this recipe, it is your friend, if in doubt heat up a small frying pan and fry off a tiny bit of the mince mixture to try it for seasoning.

1. In a large bowl, using your hands, combine the mince, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley and eggs. Grate in the garlic and add some salt and pepper. Do not overwork it, just lightly mix together, or the meat will become compacted and dense. 

2. Butter your dish or baking tin and turn the meat into it, pressing the mixture lightly with your fingers to cover the bottom of the dish. 

The mince base

3. Make sure you've drained as much juice as you can from the chopped tomatoes, then mix the tomatoes with the garlic oil, oregano and some salt and pepper and spread, using a rubber spatula, lightly on top of the meat base. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top.

4. Cook for 20-25 minutes by which time the meat should be cooked through and the mozzarella melted. 

5. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes then cover with the basil leaves and cut into wedges like a pizza to serve.


11 January 2013

This says it all...

Normal blogging should be resuming soon but for now Happy Friday...

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