I get why Tony Stark wanted to go for schwarma now

I tried another Nigella recipe today, from her Simply Nigella book – Oven-Cooked Chicken Schwarma.

I deviated from the recipe as it was designed to feed between six and ten people, and greedy as I am, I could not possible eat that much. I’ll give her measurements and tell you how I amended them.

This was delicious – marinated chicken thighs, cooked in the oven, sliced and laid in pitta bread with shredded romaine lettuce (she calls for iceberg but I didn’t have any; lettuce, I feel, is merely water in solid form anyway and so it didn’t really matter) and red onion slices marinated in lime juice. I also made her Caramelised Garlic Yoghurt Sauce to go with it.

Lush. There are no pictures, as I scoffed the evidence. I’m including a picture I got from the internet that looks a bit like it.

schwarma

For the recipe you will need:

12 skinless and boneless chicken thighs   I used four, bone-in.

2 lemons

100 ml olive oil I used 50 ml, and it was far too much. 25 ml would be                                      better.

4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and grated  Frozen garlic, pre-minced.

2 tsp paprika

2 bay leaves   Forgot them, whoops. 

2 tsps cumin

1 tsp ground coriander  Didn’t have any. 

1 tsp dried chilli flakes  Dropped the jar and spilled them all on the floor.

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg  As if. From a jar. 

2 tsps sea salt flakes

lettuce leaves  She says iceberg in the method, but seriously, lettuce is                                 lettuce. 

 

Get a resealable freezer bag and put the thighs in it. Grate in the zest and squeeze the juice of two lemons into the bag, and add the oil, garlic, and everything else except the lettuce leaves.

Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least six hours, or up to a day.

Cook’s note – No way could I wait six whole hours for this. I think I managed about three? Still tasted nice. It did need the heat of the chilli flakes, but I managed to waste all of mine by merrily throwing the jar all over the kitchen. I’ll be finding them for months. 

When ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C. While this is heating up, take chicken from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.

Tip the chicken into a roasting tin, careful to make sure that they are side by side, not on top of each other. Roast for 30 mins until cooked through and golden on top.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare your veggies. I shredded some lettuce and marinaded some red onion slices in lime juice for about 20 mins. I had made the garlic sauce earlier – roast a garlic bulb in a 220 degree oven for 45 mins to an hour, sliced at the stem to expose the cloves, wrapped in a tin foil parcel.  When cooled, squeeze into Greek yoghurt and mix.)  I heated some pitta bread and loaded them up with lettuce and onions.

When the chicken is cooked, remove from oven. I sliced up mine and made pitta from them, adding the sauce on top of the sliced chicken. You can serve them whole, on shredded iceberg lettuce and with lemon wedges and cucumbers. I personally feel that cucumbers are the Devil’s Own Vegetable, so I will never do that, but to each their own.

This was delicious, and something I will definitely make again. Next time I’ll make sure that I add the chilli flakes. I’m not a heat freak, but this could do with a bit of spice. Failing that, I could make Nigella’s Ginger, Chilli and Garlic Sauce but that may be just a little bit too hot!

 

Who would have thought that I would be willingly eating chickpeas?

I am not a good eater.

No, that’s not right. I am good at eating. I am a seventh-level, buckled on the final hole, black belt at eating.

What I’m not good at is eating things that are good for me. I’m better than I used to be, but I’m heavier than I’ve ever been and that’s no good for my health or my self image.

So, I’m reluctantly trying to improve my eating habits. Don’t worry, this blog won’t descend into a diary of my chocolate cravings, but I do want to share good recipes.

This Christmas I was given several cookery books and today I decided to make a few recipes. First up, from Nigella Lawson’s Simply Nigella,  her sweet potato and chickpea dip.

I like to snack in front of the tv, so I thought I’d try and add another dip to my ‘salsa from a jar with added lime juice’ staple. The downside to this is that it takes a while to make, but Nigella does say that you can roast the potatoes and garlic in advance and refrigerate them for when you need them.

To serve 10-12 as a dip, or one greedy person in front of a Criminal Minds marathon you will need:

750 g sweet potatoes

1 bulb of garlic, whole and unpeeled

2 limes

2 tsps of sea salt flakes

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

225g cooked and drained chickpeas or one 400g can, drained

4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C and prick the skins of the sweet potatoes. Roast the potatoes for about an hour until the insides are soft – larger potatoes may need longer.

At the same time as the potatoes, you can roast the garlic. Cut the stalk end off the garlic so that the tops of the cloves are exposed. Wrap the bulb in foil loosely, sealing the top to make a little parcel.

Cook’s note – Don’t mix up the stalk and the root of the garlic, like I did the first time. That’s really dumb. The garlic cloves fall apart and you feel like an idiot. 

Let the garlic and the sweet potato  cool.

Cook’s note – Unless you have asbestos fingers, do let them cool properly. 

When you’re ready to make the dip, peel the skin of the sweet potatoes away and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Squeeze the cloves of garlic into the bowl too.

Cook’s note – You can grab the root of the garlic bulb and squeeze most of the softened roast garlic out in one go. It was like squeezing a giant spot, simultaneously disgusting and immensely gratifying. I strongly recommend everybody to try this at least once. 

Add the zest of both limes and the juice of one, along with the paprika, salt, chickpeas and ginger. You can use a stick blender or a food processor to make your dip.

Cook’s note – I used frozen ginger and blasted it in the microwave for a minute to defrost it. Ever tried to peel and grate ginger? No thank you, sunshine. I bought my frozen ginger in Asda and thoroughly recommend having it in the freezer, alongside frozen chilli, garlic and other herbs/spices. 

Nigella then sprinkles pomegranate seeds over her dip, although I didn’t because I didn’t fancy trying to eviscerate a pomegranate. When I pass a supermarket next I’ll get a pack of ready-evicted seeds and see if it makes a difference.

The lime and ginger are really important in this dip, as neither chickpeas or sweet potatoes have a particularly strong taste. I dislike hummus because of the texture of the chickpeas used to make it, so I wasn’t sure I’d like this. However, I could only find a little can of chickpeas at the supermarket so I didn’t have as many as specified in the recipe. As such, the texture was fine to me.

This would be even healthier if I used vegetable crudites to eat it with. However, I am yet to hit that peak of virtuous behaviour and I used a slightly stale pack of tortilla chips instead.

I liked this dip so much I’m considering using it as a side for meals, served warm instead of cool.

sweet potato.png

This is the picture that accompanies the recipe in her book. Mine wasn’t far off this – the texture looks to be a little different, but perhaps that’s because of my aversion to the full amount of chickpeas.

This made enough for two large servings for one, suitable for dipping into as you watch TV. It can be stored in a covered container for up to two days from making.

 

The problem with spanking romances

spanking

 

Oh dear. I think I might be about to say something controversial.

Won’t be the first time, and won’t be the last, so here we go: I don’t understand why spanking novels are as popular as they are. 

Yes, I know, I know. I only write spanking romances. It seems stupid of me to bite the hand that feeds me.

However, the thing is that I try to read as many other spanking romances as I can and I’ve discovered that many of them do nothing more than anger me. I wanted to know how other authors dealt with the problems that challenge me whenever I fire up the laptop, and instead I find that they don’t deal with them at all.

Alright, let me try and be more clear.

I’m a feminist. I believe in the equality of men and women. I also believe that sex is fun, and whatever you do in bed is perfectly fine as long as everybody is on board with it. If I choose to play a submissive role sexually it has no bearing on how I expect to be treated outside the bedroom. If I choose to extend that role into my life outside the bedroom, then I would expect to have the respect of the dominant.

The key words in the previous sentences are choose and respect. 

My problems as a writer, especially of a writer of historical fiction, are many and varied. My sentences run on too long, I disagree with my editor over the use of the Oxford comma, I seem disinclined to use exclamation marks and I seem incapable of writing a woman being sexually abused and call it a romance.

So many of the books I have read in the spanking genre seem to think that if the couple in the book have a disagreement, the dominant is perfectly within his rights to spank (or whip, or paddle) the submissive until she changes her mind. This is what I have real problems with. A couple will always have disagreements. They will argue, they will act in ways that annoy or frustrate the other. However, instead of talking out the issue first, explaining their point of view and their actions, so many books leap straight to the ‘punishment’ of the submissive for daring to disagree with her dominant. Only after the punishment, and often sex, does the dominant let the submissive explain her actions.

This makes me itch inside. I can understand a dynamic where one partner willingly gives up their authority over their body to another, and will accept judgement on their behaviour, leading to punishment. What I can’t understand is a submissive partner putting up with a dominant who spanks first and listens afterwards. How poor does your sense of self have to be before you’ll tolerate that happening to you? That isn’t a man acting without thinking because he’s so madly in love with his partner that his feelings are overwhelmed. That’s domestic abuse!

I don’t understand how readers want that. I don’t understand how writers think that it’s ok to write that.

The trickiest thing for me to write in my books is the idea of consent, especially as I write historical fiction. The idea of a man beating his wife was considered understandable then, even if it was something that made people uncomfortable. Even with that get-out clause, I still struggle. I don’t like reading about women being abused by their partners, so I won’t write that. Yet I still have to find a way to get her over the hero’s knee (or spanking bench, or library table, or…) and liking it.

It’s hard. I don’t think that I’ve managed to get it fully right yet. I completely understand that it’s tricky for everybody. I just don’t think that some writers are trying hard enough to show that there’s a difference between a woman willingly handing her autonomy over to a partner who cares for her well-being and a woman who’s in a relationship with somebody who likes the domination and punishment, but isn’t so keen on accepting that the submissive partner has the right to be listened to and cared for on more levels than just the sexual.

Just my opinion, but one that makes it hard to find what I consider “good” spanking fiction. If anybody has any recommendations, I’d be glad to have them!

Recipe recommendation

I love cooking because I love eating. I love eating so much that I really have to work hard in 2016 to shift a ton of weight, but that is another series of angsty blog posts for you to skip over.

It’s Christmas time, and for the last few years I’ve found myself making this gorgeous popcorn recipe I found on Buzzfeed. Before I tried this, I’d never really thought of mixing sweet and savoury flavours together before. Being British I could have either maple syrup or bacon, not both together! Something about this recipe caught my eye though, and I gave it a whirl.

(Well, I gave it a whirl after I converted the American measurements into British measurements, anyway. Fahrenheit to Celsius, cups to milliliters, it takes a little time.  Oh look at us America. Two nations, divided by a completely ridiculous aversion to the metric system.)

Bacon-Peanut Caramel Corn

Makes 16 cups.

Cups? Who measures popcorn in cups?

INGREDIENTS
½ cup popping corn kernels (or use 16 cups pre-popped popcorn)
1 tablespoon canola oil     I didn’t bother with this as I bought the popcorn.
1 lb sliced bacon     I just used one packet.
1 ¼ cup pure maple syrup   This is one small bottle and a third of another.
2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts  I used a pack of unsalted cashews
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper  Whatever you do, don’t use any more!
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon kosher salt  Is this a thing in America? I just used sea salt.

Special equipment
Large (at least 4 quart) sauce pot with lid (if using pre-popped corn, you won’t need this)
Large (at least 4 quart) heatproof mixing bowl
Large skillet  Frying pan, for those of us across the pond. 
2 large baking sheets
Parchment paper or wax paper  Baking or greaseproof paper. 

PREPARATION
1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 300°F.  150 degrees C. 

2. To make popcorn:
In a large sauce pot, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium-low heat, then add popping corn kernels. Cover the pot, and shake to coat the kernals with oil. In about a minute, kernels will start to pop. Shake the pot, still over medium-low heat, occasionally. When the popping sound has slowed to less than 1 pop every 10 seconds, turn the heat off and uncover the pot. Pour popped corn out into the large, heatproof mixing bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels.

I used 200g of pre-popped popcorn, or two large bags from the supermarket.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook half the bacon until the fat has rendered out and the meat is crispy. Remove cooked bacon from skillet and allow to cool on a plate or cutting board, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the rest of the bacon to the skillet, and repeat. Set aside the cooked bacon, leaving the bacon fat in the skillet.

4. With the skillet still over medium heat, add the maple syrup, peanuts, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and kosher salt, stirring to combine. Heat the mixture for about a minute, until it starts to bubble, then remove from heat and set aside.

5. Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, cut it into large strips (about 1 inch long and ¼ inch wide). Add bacon to the popcorn in the large mixing bowl, then pour the maple syrup mixture on top. Mix with a heatproof spoon or spatula, until all the popcorn is evenly coated with the maple syrup mixture.

6. Spread the popcorn out over the two baking sheets, and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Popcorn may feel slightly soggy but will crisp as it cools.

Let the popcorn cool completely on the baking sheets (if you put it in the airtight containers to early, it’ll be soggy). Once it’s cool, divide into gift jars and cover. Popcorn will keep for five to seven days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Good luck trying to make this last five to seven days. It is so delicious it will barely last five hours! It makes a lot, but trust me, you’ll eat it all.

popcorn

 

 

Wow. Apparently I’ve made some money.

First of all, hi. Once upon a time this was a real blog, not something I dropped into once or twice to plug a book release. Then real life took over and between keeping on top of the day job and trying to write I let this slide. New resolution: at least two blog posts a week, not including book release posts.

Today, I got an email regarding royalties. I need to say that a clause in my contract says that I am not allowed to discuss this matter in any detail, so I’m going to be deliberately vague. Not that I would have mentioned figures anyway; Mum always insists that talking about money is vulgar, which is a bizarrely middle class notion from a solidly working class woman but we all have our little idiosyncrasies, don’t we?

Anyway, I got my first ever royalty statement. I’ve been thinking about this for a little while as a matter of curiosity rather than anything else. I had convinced myself that I would never sell enough copies of my books to earn any royalties; I was satisfied with the advance payment (again, no details) from my publishers. I have been able to buy a few new things that I needed, with money left to tuck away in a little savings account. To be completely honest, I rather felt a little sorry for my publishers. The fools! They paid me advances that they would never make back! Ha! I get to see my name in eBook print, and they pay me for the privilege!

I think this only goes to show just how naive I am about the whole way this publishing thing works.

Today I got my royalties statement and even though it doesn’t tell me how many copies I sold, it did tell me that my publishers owed me royalty money. It’s not J K Rowling money, not by a long chalk, but it was a genuine surprise to discover that my very first book, the one that I think is my weakest, earned me so much. Well, so much to me. As I think we’ve established, I have no idea about things like this work. At all.

With some fairly simple maths, I think I can work out roughly  how many copies of the book I sold and again, I’m amazed. This, from what I think is my weakest book? My word!

Best of all, my publisher said that the next time I’m due royalties, the amount will be more!

I think flabbergasted is probably the best word to describe me right now. It’s not huge sums of money at all but to me, who never expected to earn anything from them at all, it’s an absolute fortune.

gast

 

 

The Incorrigible Annabelle Spencer

Available now on Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com and the Blushing Books website!

This is a bit of a departure for me – this is by far the most explicit book I’ve published! Let’s just say that Annabelle Spencer gets her horizons broadened by the devilishly handsome Duke of Rothmuir!

I hope people like this new Ruttingdon series. The sequel will be published in January, and I hope to have the third book finished soon after that.

Enjoy!

TheIncorrigibleAnnabelleSpencer