Sunday, 16 November 2014

Cornbread


Ingredients

1 1/2 cups Rachel's Organic Greek yoghurt, 1/2 cup butter,1 cup polenta, 3/4 cup self-raising flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 eggs
2 bell peppers, 100g sweetcorn, 1 small red chilli or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

Serves: 5 Preparation: 30 minutes

Cornbread is a fabulous example of mixing the best of both worlds in one dish. Savoury with sweet nuggets of corn and pepper, a little spicy if you like that sort of thing with a fluffy yet grainy texture on the inside and a fabulous toasty crust on the outside. I like this with my Mexican mole soup, or part of a fried breakfast but it can be eaten cool just as a snack on its own. 


1) Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 and grease a baking tray.


2) Melt the butter in a pan and whisk in the eggs and Greek Yoghurt.


3) Add the polenta, flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda to a bowl and mix thoroughly
. Pour the wet ingredients from the pan into the dry ingredients and mix together until a smooth batter is formed.

4) Dice the bell pepper and add, along with the sweetcorn (frozen is fine) to the batter and transfer to the baking tray.


5) Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top begins to turn golden and a skewer in the centre comes out clean. Cornbread can be eaten when cool, but is best toasted on a griddle.

Sugar-free pina colada muffins

Ingredients

350g spelt flour, 2 eggs, 2 tsp baking powder, 30g desiccated coconut 75g diced pineapple and dried cranberries, 150ml pineapple juice, 100g coconut palm sugar, 1 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tsp honey.


Serves: 6 Preparation: 45 minutes (plus an hour soaking)

When it comes to food critiquing, my husband is a man of few words, and many facial expressions so his reaction to these muffins of "oh my god! mmmmmm!!!" before grabbing a second one, posting a picture on Facebook and then begging me to bake some more for him to take to work with him says it all. These are absolutely luscious and will fill your house with the most incredible tropical scent. Plus they're sugar free and made from "good fat" and healthy flour! Hurrah!


1) Soak the dried pineapple and cranberries in the pineapple juice along with the honey for ideally an hour, then pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4.


2) S
ift together the flour, baking powder, dessicated coconut and set aside.

3) If the coconut oil has solidified, melt it gently, then whisk in the eggs and palm sugar before adding the pineapple and juice.


4) Roughly fold the wet ingredients into the dry - don't overmix it. Muffin batter should never be completely smooth. Spoon into muffin cases and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. I like to sprinkle a little extra coconut on the top before baking - the toasted coconut smells and tastes WONDERFUL.


5) Leave to cool, if you have the willpower, then devour. These are good for up to 3 days afterwards if sealed in a tupperware container but benefit from being gently warmed in the oven for a few minutes before serving after that!

Carrot, cardamom & caramelised onion soup


Ingredients


5 carrots, 1 potato, 2 onions, 6 cardamom pods, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 30 minutes

I love soup. I find all the chopping, stirring and pureeing very soothing, the warm smells that fill the house comforting, and I love ladling out steamy bowls of soup for people to dunk hot crispy bread into, dressing it with ever more creative croutons or swirls of cream and yoghurt. Some soups, like this spiced bowl of sweet carrotty joy, are so packed full of flavour that they don't even need any vegetable stock. This works just as well with sweet potato but the silkier soup will come from using a good waxy potato.

1) Peel and finely slice the onions, then slice the rings in half before adding the slices to a hot pan with the olive oil. Stir them well, breaking the strips of onion up, then leave to completely caramelise, stirring only when you see them begin to turn brown.


2) 
Crush one clove of garlic and add to the pan, along with the freshly ground cardamom seeds, ginger and allspice. Stir well and leave to sizzle for a few minutes.

3) 
Peel and dice the carrots and potato, then add to the pan. I like to stir them for a minute or two to add a little colour before adding the water.

4) Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes until the carrots and potato are soft, then add to a blender to puree thoroughly before serving.

Protein pesto salad




Ingredients

1 can cannellini beans, 250g red & white quinoa (Merchant Gourmet), 250g beluga lentils (also Merchant Gourmet), 100g fresh basil, 1 clove garlic, 50ml basil oil, parmigiano, 1/2 lemon, 50g pine nuts.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 5 minutes (+ 20 if using dried lentils and quinoa)

I always have a kilner jar of pesto on the go in the fridge so that in a rush for a quick meal I can chuck some pasta or gnocchi or buschetta together in about 5 minutes flat. I was recently asked for a recipe for a healthy, satisfying salad packed with protein and this is one of my favourite picnic staples. Merchant Gourmet make fabulous little pouches of cereals and grains which seriously cut down on prep time, but Quinoa and lentils are quick enough to cook from scratch using the instructions below.


1) If using raw quinoa and lentils: Soak for 5 minutes and rinse thoroughly in a sieve before transferring to a pan. Depending on where you buy it, quinoa naturally has an acrid coating called saponin which you don't want flavouring your food! Cover with lightly salted water and bring to the boil for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently as it soaks up the water and fluffs up, then remove from the heat, add the drained and rinsed cannellini beans and set aside to cool.

2) To make pesto: add the fresh basil leaves to a mortar bowl and grind to a fine pulp. Sautee 1 crushed clove of garlic in the basil oil and add to the mortar bowl along with a pinch of salt and a handful of pine nuts. Grind thoroughly, adding lemon juice, basil oil and parmeggian to taste.


3) Stir 2 tablespoons of the pesto into the quinoa, beluga lentils and beans and either serve or refrigerate for up to 5 days for lunch. If you want to vary this a little from day to day (I liked to make a batch on a Sunday and portion it out for the week) it's nice to sprinkle pomegranate jewels though it, or add some salad leaves, or chopped cherry tomatoes or bell peppers (raw or roasted) and I especially love blitzing up some spinach or kale in the blender and stirring that through)

Spinach & avocado soup


Ingredients

800g spinach, 1/2 nutmeg, 1 onion, 1 avocado, 1 potato, 1 tsp avocado oil.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 20 minutes

I love soup. I find all the chopping, stirring and pureeing very soothing, the warm smells that fill the house comforting, and I love ladling out steamy bowls of soup for people to dunk hot crispy bread into, dressing it with ever more creative croutons or swirls of cream and yoghurt. This soup is so thick and glossy and brimming with super-healthy spinach and avocado to keep those winter colds at bay.


1) Peel and finely dice the onion and the potato. Add the onion and avocado oil to a pan and allow to soften (about 5 minutes if you've chopped it finely enough) before adding the potato and enough water just to cover them (ideally about 1/4 pint)

2) When the potatoes are soft (about 10 minutes), add the spinach to the pan in installments, stirring well as it wilts down. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid away from the other ingredients (do not discard).

3) Halve the avocado around the stone and twist it apart. Remove the stone and scoop the avocado flesh from the shell. Add to a blender and blitz thoroughly. Add the contents of the pan and puree, adding a little of the liquid at a time until the desired consistency is reached. I like a good, thick soup but this is entirely your preference.

4) Stir in about half of a freshly grated nutmeg (don't ever bother with the powdered stuff - it tastes and smells of nothing!) with half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (and salt if you wish, though I never do) to season, and serve.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Caramelised onion & aduki bean soup


Ingredients

2 white onions, 5 shallots, 1 can aduki beans, 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 20 minutes

This soup is RIDICULOUSLY simple. It seems impossible that something can taste so delicious without stocks, herbs, spices, seasoning or more than two ingredients... but it's true, with just onions and beans and twenty minutes, you too can have this velvety thick, satisfying soup which is packed with flavour.


1) Peel and finely slice the onions and shallots. Pop the rings from the onion slices with your fingers and add to a pan with a knob of butter, stirring only when the onions begin to brown in order for them to caramelise evenly.


2) When the onions are soft and caramelised (about 15 minutes) add the aduki beans and a cup of water. Bring to the boil and transfer to a blender to puree before serving.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Chestnut hummus

Ingredients

400g chickpeas (dried or canned), 1 bulb garlic, olive oil, 1/2 can chestnut puree plus lemon juice, sesame seeds/tahini and paprika to taste.

Preparation: 30 minutes (canned) 1hr 45 plus overnight soaking (dried)

I love Merchant Gourmet's chestnut puree. I use it to thicken my vegetarian gravy, soups and stews but it wasn't until recently that I ever had leftovers to decide what to do with. And lo, yet another variation on hummus! This also works beautifully as a vegetarian pate if you pack down into a container and allow to chill in the fridge.


1) Roast the entire bulb of garlic at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Squeeze the garlic puree gently from the cloves and add to your food processor.

2) If you are using dried chickpeas leave them to soak in cold water for a minimum of 6 hours (ideally 10-12) and cook them for 1 1/2 hours, changing the water frequently to avoid a bitter aftertaste.

3) If using canned chickpeas drain them and rinse well. It's entirely your choice whether you shell the chickpeas first - personally I prefer the texture with them shelled and find the process (pinching gently then shucking) very soothing! To avoid shelling them you can add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the water and boil them for 5 minutes - the shells will be so soft that you won't even notice them when pureed.


4) Place the chickpeas and the chestnut puree into your blender and pulse thoroughly, drizzling olive oil through until the desired texture has been reached
.

5) Flavour to taste with lemon juice, tahini/sesame oil/sesame seeds and season with salt and a pinch of smoked paprika. Stir through and serve or store in the fridge.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Ingredients
1/2 can pumpkin puree, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 leek, 250g macaroni, 1 pint vegetable stock, 1 tsp truffle oil, 100g cheese, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp sage, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 sweet potato.

Serves: 4 Preparation: 30 minutes

I absolutely adore mac and cheese. So much so that despite it's obvious perfection, I am constantly re-inventing it in order to have it more often, without being bored. This version is about as far as the traditional roux-based cheese sauce as you can get, but it's healthy, can be made lactose intolerant or vegan-friendly by u
sing a wheat-free pasta or substituting the layer of cheese with a dairy-free alternative respectively. As Autumn rolls in, I go pumpkin crazy and this truly is an out-of-this world dish.
Check out some of my other favourite versions: avocado mac and cheese using my roast garlic and avocado puree, cauliflower mac and cheesebroccoli mac and cheese and of course mac and peas.

1) Use 3/4 of the vegetable stock to put the macaroni on to boil, reserving the remaining 1/4 for the sauce.


2) Slice and dice the leek finely (discarding the root and leafy ends) and add to a pan with the truffle oil. Sautee gently, adding the garlic (crushed) once it begins to soften.


3) By the time 
the garlic begins to sizzle the macaroni should be ready - drain and set aside, reserving a ladle of the vegetable stock to add to the leek and garlic. Reduce this by about 50% and add the pumpkin puree, herbs and spices.

4) If the sauce is too thick, add a little more vegetable stock to thin it out (or cream if you want to be REALLY decadent), then stir in the drained macaroni.


5) Transfer to an oven-proof dish and grate the sweet potato and cheese onto the top. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes (until the cheese is gooey and golden and the sweet potato is just beginning to crisp) and serve hot.    


I very rarely add salt as standard to a dish, advising only to season to taste, but in this case I found a tiny bit of salt and black pepper to be a nice touch once I'd removed a portion for my toddler.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Mango sorbet


Ingredients

2 mangoes, 1 tsp honey (or agave syrup if you are vegan).
Serves: 6 Preparation: 20 minutes

It has been sorbet central over here in the Lavender Kitchen. At this time of year the fruit in my bowl ripens so fast in the last of the summer heat, so I find myself making smoothies, jams and chutneys and baking puddings and pies and tarts galore so as not to waste any fruit. Mango sorbet is a particular favourite of mine because the buttery, silky texture of mango feels like it MUST be sinfully bad for you - and yet this sorbet contains nothing naughty at all!


1) Peel and slice the mango. There are many methods for doing so, from hedgehogging it to simply hacking away until you find the thick, rough core that stretches the full length of the fruit. Personally, I approach it like an avocado, slicing it towards the middle but not completely in half, then rotating it until it comes apart, revealing the core which can then be sliced away.


2) Transfer the fruit to a food processor (y
ou'll want to save every single drop of the gorgeous juice as you're slicing it - I scrape it from the peel, from the chopping board etc) and puree thoroughly.

3) Add the honey and taste - remembering that freezing something dulls the flavour, so if it isn't sweet enough, it most certainly won't be when it's frozen! Add extra honey if necessary, but a ripe mango should certainly be sweet enough
.

4) Transfer to your ice-cream maker and churn until frozen. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, transfer to a suitable container and freeze, removing every 30 minutes to whisk it to ensure that linear ice crystals do not form, solidifying the texture.

Matcha, ginger & cucumber iced tea

Ingredients

1/2 cucumber, 1L water, 1/2 ginger root, 1 tsp matcha powder.

Serves: 5 Preparation: 5 minutes (plus 1 hour for chilling and infusing)

Matcha is a super-concentrated green tea powder, packed with antioxidants and nutrients, available from the mighty Teapigs. When they sent me some for #Foodspiration, I wondered whether I could concoct a super-healthy iced tea which didn't need sweetening to combat the slightly bitter taste of green tea. Cucumber water is one of my favourite summer drinks - so refreshing and cleansing - and it really works a treat here. In place of ginger, the juice of half a lemon or lime works beautifully, as does 25ml of apple juice.


1) Peel the cucumber and slice finely, discarding the tapered end.


2) Peel and finely slice the ginger and add, along with the matcha powder to your drinks container.


3) 
Transfer the cucumber to your drinks container (I like Kilner bottles because when pouring, the cucumber remains in the bottle, but with a little vigorous shaking and a touch of water, they slide right back out again when it's time to clean the bottle) and top up with water. Shake to disperse the matcha powder and chill in the fridge. Give it a little shake before serving each portion to ensure the powder doesn't settle back to the bottom.

Pear & Matcha sorbet

Ingredients

4 over-ripe pears, 1 tsp matcha, 1 tbsp honey (or agave syrup if you are vegan).

Serves: 6 Preparation: 20 minutes

Matcha is a super-concentrated green tea powder, packed with antioxidants and nutrients, available from the mighty Teapigs. When they sent me some for #Foodspiration, I knew that the first thing I wanted to do was make a glorious green tea sorbet, and the beautiful grainy-sweetness of pears is so wonderful with tea. And lo, this super-food sorbet was born!


1) Peel the pears and slice the fruit away from the core.


2) Puree thoroughly in a blender, adding the honey and matcha when a smooth texture has been achieved.


3) Taste before transferring to the ice-cream maker, remembering that freezing something dulls the taste, so if it isn't sweet enough, it most certainly won't be when it's frozen! Add a little extra honey if necessary, then churn until frozen. 

If you do not have an ice-cream maker, pour into a suitable container and freeze, removing to whisk every 30 minutes to ensure that linear ice-crystals do not form, solidifying the texture.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sugar-free gingerbread biscuits



Ingredients

250g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 tbsp ground ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, 75g coconut palm sugar, 1 egg, 75g butter, 1 tsp hazelnut honey (optional).
Serves: 30-40 Preparation: 1 hour

Being the mother of an 18-month old starchild and an all-round healthy person myself, I am wicked-keen to replace refined sugar in all of my baking and cooking wherever possible. There are some recipes however where honey, banana or fruit juice just won't cut it - biscuits need sugar. It's science! So this month I am experimenting with *deep breath* Coconut palm sugar, coconut palm blossom syrup, agave syrup, and hazelnut honey which is just about the most delicious caramel-textured substance that I have ever encountered. 

These wonderful crisp gingerbread biscuits are spicy and sweet and will fill your house with the most amazing Christmassy smell.

1) Sift together the dry ingredients - flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda - and add to a food processor along with the butter. Blitz until fine breadcrumbs are formed.


2) Whisk the egg with the hazelnut honey if you're using it and add it, along with the sugar into the food processor and blitz through until the mixture comes together into a stiff dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes whilst you pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (and clean up, if you're anything like me!).


3) LaRoll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface (I like to sprinkle a little extra ground ginger and allspice onto the surface as it not only gives the dough that lovely slightly freckled appearance but is just another excuse for The Tastiness) and roll out the biscuits to about 1/2cm thickness.


4) Cut out the shapes of your choice - stars of course being our preference! - and transfer to a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.


5) It is of course traditional to decorate them, but I prefer to dust edible gold rather than ice them.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Mediterranean tart





Ingredients

Pastry: 4oz plain flour, 2oz butter
Filling: 4 eggs, 75g marscapone, 75g sun dried tomatoes, 75g artichokes, 3 bell peppers, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried basil
.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour (plus pastry chilling)

I adore tarts. Crammed with vegetables and set in a creamy egg filling with melt in the mouth pastry, they are a meal in themselves or great with salad. This tastes of pure sunshine and is super quick to prepare.


1) To make the shortcrust pastry, cut the butter into small cubes and drop along with the flour into a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Drip in 2-3 tablespoons of cold water until the mixture quickly forms a ball. Wrap this in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 15 minutes. Once chilled, roll out and press firmly into a buttered pastry case. Bake blind for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.


2) Whisk the eggs and marscapone together, then stir in the oregano and basil.


3) This tart can be made quickly by using sun dried tomatoes and artichokes from a jar, drained well to remove the oil, but I would recommend roasting the peppers yourself as the longer they are marinated, the less sunshine sweetness they tend to have. Slicing around the core to remove the seeds, I roast these for 15-20 minutes and then peel off the blackened skin. 


4) Layer the vegetables in the tart case and pour over the egg and marscapone mix, then bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 5 for 30-40 minutes. The tart should be solid, rather than wobbly in the centre with a golden surface just beginning to form.


5) Serve hot or cold.

Baby flapjacks



Ingredients



50ml coconut oil, 1 banana, 150g oats, 75g mixed seeds (I like pumpkin, linseed, poppyseed, sunflower and flax seeds) 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50g dried fruit (I like cranberries & apricots but figs, raisins & dates are also great.)
Makes: 12 Preparation: 45 minutes

I adore flapjacks and granola for the same reason - the smell and flavour of those gorgeous toasted oats. Absolutely mouthwatering.
As a follow on from my baby breakfast muffins, which are sugar free and very low in fat, these flapjacks are also baby friendly in that unlike traditional flapjacks which are full of butter and syrup, these are bound by banana and coconut oil and stuffed full of glorious seeds and dried fruit instead of things that will make your kids hyper and unhealthy. So if you or your kidlets fancy a sweet treat that travels well then these will not disappoint.


1) Culinary coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature, so melt it gently in a pan to return it to liquid form and stir in the vanilla essence.


2) Mash the banana with a fork, or puree in a food processor and whisk into the oil until it has been fully incorporated. If you have an extra sweet tooth you can add a little honey too but it really doesn't need it if your banana is ripe.


3) Stir in the oats, dried fruit and seeds and allow to rest whilst the oven pre-heats to gas mark 5.


4) Rub a little of the coconut oil around your baking tray to grease it, then press the mixture firmly into the tray ensuring that it is packed as tightly as possible to allow it to bind fully in the oven and not fall apart when cut into bars.


5) Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack (it should just slide off the tray but if you've used a deep one, try putting the cooling rack over the top and just flipping it over) and slice into bars whilst still warm. Once cool they can be eaten or stored for up to a week.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Crab and samphire risotto


Ingredients

1 pint fish stock, 1 cup risotto rice, 1 white onion, 1/2 tsp dill, 1 cup brown crab meat, 1 cup white wine, 1 tbsp butter, samphire.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 30 minutes

I hate the smell of fish. I'm sorry, but I do. I know it's pretty pathetic for an otherwise adventurous food blogger to turn her nose up at such a basic food but I just cannot cope with it. I wish with my whole heart that I could because it's so good for you, so I was delighted to create this dish for my husband and son recently and it NOT stink my house out or require me to cook with Vick's Vapo Rub slathered under my nostrils. This is a winning dish if you're cooking that all important third date meal for someone. *winks*
All risottos (no matter what the ingredients) can be made in 3 simple stages. The first is called tostatura - coating the rice in fat, the second involves cooking off some alcohol and the third involves releasing the starch from the rice one ladle of stock at a time.


1) Peel and finely dice the onion, and sautee in the butter until soft (about 10 minutes).


2) Add the rice and stir through until it becomes translucent, save for a white dot in the centre. 
Add a good glug of white wine and continue stirring until it has cooked off, then add the first ladleful of stock.

3) Continue adding the stock to the risotto, one ladle at a time, adding the crab meat, samphire and dill with the second to last ladle of stock. Serve hot, finishing with an indulgent dash of cream if you wish. Remember, risotto should be soupy, not solid!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Schwarzwälder kirschtorte


Ingredients

120g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100g self raising flour, 50g cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking powder, 1L double cream, 25g dark chocolate, 3 tbsp cherry jam, 4 tbsp kirschwasser liquid plus cherries to decorate.
Preparation: 1 hour

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of Germany and my final recipe as they won last night!. Following my glorious adventures with Kirsch, I knew that my final dish for Germany would HAVE to be the iconic Black Forest Gateau. Chocolate and cherries are a marvellous combination and this simple chocolate sponge, laced with kirsch and smothered in cream to form a moist, trifly concoction is utterly moreish.

1)  Cream together 100g sugar and 100g butter using an electric whisk, then whisk through the cocoa powder and eggs, one egg at a time.


2) 
Add a tablespoon of the kirsch syrup and sift together the flour and baking powder. Whisk into the cake batter, then bake in a buttered tin for 35 minutes at 155 degrees or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely before slicing in half horizontally.

3) Whisk the cream using an electric whisk or hand beater until stiff peaks form and transfer to a piping bag. If you wish you can add vanilla seeds and icing sugar before whisking but I'll be honest, I think the clean taste of the cream is necessary to cut through the richness of the chocolate and the heady, boozy cherries.


4) Spoon the remaining kirsch syrup onto the top layer of the chocolate cake (it will absorb more easily if you do this on the cut side rather than the top side, alternatively you can poke a few holes with a skewer into the top) then sandwich it together with a layer of cherry jam and whipped cream in the middle and the remainder of the cream on the top.


5) Shave the chocolate using a grater and sprinkle liberally over the cream. Stud with cherries and allow to rest in the fridge until chilled before serving.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Kirschwasser


Ingredients



1lb cherries, 1/2 cup caster sugar, 1 cup alcohol (beer, brandy or red wine, are traditional) 1/2 tsp vanilla essence, 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
Preparation: 20 minutes

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of Germany. Kirsch is a glorious, heady cold fruit soup consisting of essentially booze and whole, pitted cherries. In researching this recipe I found so many variations from those using milk or soured cream to those using beer or red wine. In the end, I went with a mixture of sloe gin and brandy simply because that was what I had in my cupboard and I can assure you that it is a knockout combination!

1) Pit the cherries, discarding the stones and add the fruit to a milk pan


2) Measure in the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla essence, top up with the booze and either 1/2 cup water or the excess cherry juice if you are using canned cherries (I used fresh fruit so I topped this up with a little apple juice).


3) Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Revel in the utterly divine smell. REVEL I SAY.


4) Chill and serve! I tried this with a blob of soured cream and also with sweet dumplings and I'll be honest I preferred it just on its own!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Spatzle


Ingredients



2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk or water.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 45 minutes

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of Germany. Spatzle are a sort of cross between a noodle and a dumpling - thicker and fluffier than pasta - and are served tossed with butter and sausage, sometimes lentils and vegetables. I served mine with spinach and cheese because SCREW YOU IT'S MY BLOG! I should also warn you that should you have had the impression I did, that pushing something through a potato ricer or colander would make actual noodles, well you'd be wrong. Spatzle translates to "little sparrow" which (aside from being highly disrespectful to Edith Piaf in my humble opinion) apparently explains why this is supposed to look like little gobbets of chewed up bubblegum, scraped off the bottom of your Docs. Looks aren't everything though, and this tastes delicious!

1) Sift the flour and salt into a bowl if using a hand mixer, or into your stand mixer if you have a Kitchen Aid (bastard.)


2) Whisk the eggs together, make a well in the flour and add the eggs and milk/water. Get your dough hook out and let it going for about 20 minutes, until you see holes in the dough as it pulls away from the sides.


3) If you're mixing this by hand... I have no advice for you except that you're probably mad and or have terrific arm muscles.


4) Squidge the dough through a colander or potato ricer and into a pot of boiling water. Once the noodles float to the top they're done! Strain them and transfer into a bowl of ice water to cool down, then dry off and either put them in the fridge to use later or toss them in a little butter before serving with meat or cooked in the sauce of your choice!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

BBQ ribeye steak in Jack Daniels sauce


Ingredients

150ml Jack Daniels, 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tsp chipotle chilli paste, 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp dark muscovado sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp groundnut oil.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 20 minutes, plus 1-2 days for marinating

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of America. Steak and baked potato with soured cream is an American institution, and sexing up the steak with this luscious, mouthwatering, sticky Jack Daniels sauce certainly made my husband very happy!

1) To make perfect baked potatoes, please see my previous recipe. Serve with a little butter mashed through and a generous dollop of soured cream. I also finely diced some salad onion and chive but this is a matter of taste of course!


2) To prepare the marinade, peel and finely dice the onion, crush the garlic and sautee in the groundnut oil until completely soft. Add the sugar and bring to the boil until it melts into a gorgeous, dark caramel liquid.


3) Remove from the heat and stir in the chipotle chilli paste, pomegranate molasses, soy sauce and salt. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then transfer to a tupperware box or ziplock bag and add the meat, rubbing it in to ensure maximum coverage. Leave to marinate at least overnight, but for best results for 2 days before cooking.


4) To cook, simply add (from room temperature) to the BBQ and sizzle. I cooked these for a minute and a half on each side to ensure the centre was still nice and pink and juicy, but this is of course a matter of taste.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Gurkensalat


Ingredients

1/2 Cucumber, 2 large tomatoes, 1/4 white onion, 2 tbsp soured cream, 1 tsp dill, 1 tsp parsley, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp dijon mustard.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 5 minutes (plus half an hour for chilling)

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of Germany. Most of you will know my feelings about raw onion by now, I absolutely LOATHE it with a fiery passion and never include it in my own food, including coleslaw which is a common side dish in German cuisine. As I have, however, posted many coleslaw recipes before from the conventional carrot and cabbage combination to those including beetroot and pear, I decided to force myself to eat raw onion by making Gurkensalat instead, a cucumber and tomato salad with a creamy mustard and vinegar dressing given depth by dill and parsley. Did I pick out the onions after tasting it? Yes. Was it otherwise delicious? Absolutely.

1) Whisk together the soured cream, vinegar, herbs, mustard and sugar. Rather than use it immediately, I allowed it to rest for half an hour in the fridge for the flavours to really come together and the soured cream to thicken back up a little.


2) Slice the onion and cucumbers finely enough to be translucent when held up to the light and the tomato as it comes.


3) Stir in the dressing and serve! If, like me you are not so fond of onions, scatter them on the top and after trying them and dress the rest of the salad later!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Pastel de nata


Ingredients

Custard: 3 tbsps plain flour, 1 ¼ cups milk, 1 ⅓ cups caster sugar, ½ tsp vanilla essence, 6 egg yolks, 1 tsp cinnamon.
Dough: 220g plain flour, 7g yeast, 160ml milk, 2 1/2 tsp caster sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbs vegetable oil, 150g butter.

Serves: 9 Preparation: 2 hours (plus overnight)

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of Portugal. Pastel de nata are stunning little cinnamon custard tarts, with a gorgeous flaky croissanty crust that has to be tasted to be believed. It's a LOT of work to make these, but they're well worth it and they freeze well.

1) To make the dough for the pastry case, please see up to step 5 of my croissant recipe.


2) To make the custard, bring the sugar and cinnamon to the boil in a pan with 2/3 cup of cold water until a syrup forms- don't stir it!


3) Separate the milk with 1/4 in a bowl and 1 cup in a pan. Whisk the flour in with the bowl of milk until smooth and set aside. Meanwhile, scald the milk in the pan, then whisk in the flour-milk mixture.


4) 
Add the cinnamon sugar syrup into the hot milk and flour whilst whisking furiously (you might want to ask someone to help!) then take off the heat once it is a smooth, just pourable consistency. Stir in the vanilla and set aside.

5) When the mixture has cooled just enough for you to comfortably touch it without swearing (about the temperature of a cup of tea if that helps!) whisk in the egg yolks and set aside to cool.


6) Pre-heat the oven to 290 degrees celcius and grab your pastry from the fridge. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 1cm thickness and cut it into squares the approximate size of your chosen muffin tin dimples. Wet your fingers and press the dough into the muffin tin, moulding with your fingers until you've created a "lip" about 1/2cm above the muffin tin surface and pour in the custard.

7) Bake until the edges of the pastry are brown and the custard has a good wobble on. Serve warm, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Fufu




Ingredients

1 yukka/cassava root, ½ cup butter, 2 plantains.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of Ghana. Fufu is used as a side dish in the way we would eat mashed potato, but also in place of bread to scoop up soup. The plantain gives it a wonderful sweetness which I find works wonderfully with traditional peanut soup.

1) Peel the rough bark from the yukka/cassava root with a knife and chop off the ends. Dice into chunks the way you would a potato.


2) Bring to the boil in a pan of cold water and leave to simmer for 30 minutes until soft.


3) In the meantime, add the whole plantain to a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer until you see the skin begin to split, then remove and peel.


4) Add the cooked plantain and the yukka/cassava to a blender with the butter and puree until smooth and elastic.


5) Allow to cool just enough to handle, then serve with soup.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

New England Clam Chowder


Ingredients

1 lb potatoes, 1 lb clams, 1 pint vegetable stock, 4 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp dill, 50ml double cream, 2 tbsp butter, 2 stalks celery, 1 white onion, 1 tbsp plain flour. Bread

Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour


As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of America. If, like me, you're vegetarian then separating a portion to add sweetcorn to just before the clams go in makes this really easy dual-chowder! It's a lovely hearty soup, just the thing to comfort one on a cold day (please ignore the fact that it is June!) - especially if you serve it in a bread bowl!

1) Peel and slice the potatoes into inch cubes and set aside, peel the onion and dice it along with the celery.


2) Add half the butter to the pan and sautee the onion and celery until completely soft (about 10 minutes), then add the remainder of the butter along with the flour and whisk until a roux has formed.


3) Add the potatoes, bay leaves and vegetable stock to the pan and stir through. Once the potatoes are cooked, add the clams and dill and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes.


4) Hollow out a bread bowl by cutting a circle into the top of the crust and scooping out the soft centre with your fingers. Stir the cream into the soup, season to taste with salt and black pepper, then ladle into the bread bowl.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Bratwurst with braised cabbage


Ingredients



1 white cabbage, 1 onion, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar, 1 tsp mustard, 4 bratwurst sausages.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 30 minutes

As part of the World Cup Food Challenge 2014, this recipe represents a traditional meal of Germany. It feels like such a cliche and so unimaginative to instantly associate Germany with sausage, but if you look past the meat (typical vegetarian, eh?) and simply delight in the utter fragrant glory of the bed of cabbage, I can promise you that this dish is a national treasure for a very very good reason.


1) Peel and chop the onion into 1/2cm slices. Pop out the rings and add to a pan along with the butter and cloves. Sautee gently until the onion is completely soft and translucent and take the pan off the heat. Pick out the cloves and discard.


2) Cut the cabbage into 1/2cm slices, then slice into thin strips. Parboil for 5 minutes, drain and add to the pan of onion.


3) Return to the heat, add the vinegar and mustard and stir through until the cabbage becomes soft, adding a little extra butter for glossiness if desired.


4) Grill or fry the sausages for 6-8 minutes, then serve atop the cabbage.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Spinach, feta & beetroot cannelloni


Ingredients
1 beetroot, 200ml passata, 1 leek, 1 small white onion, 1 carrot, 400g spinach, 150g feta, 50g cheddar, 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg, 12 cannelloni tubes, olive oil, 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/2tsp basil, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 glass red wine.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 30 minutes (plus overnight)

Words fail me to describe just how luscious this dish was. Spinach, as you know, is my absolute favourite and I would genuinely eat it three times a day without ever getting remotely bored of it. Mmmm spinach. But even those without my passion for it, will love the combination of tangy feta and fresh juicy spinach, smothered in a rich tomato and beetroot sauce
. For best results, prepare a day in advance. By allowing the pasta to rest overnight, the juices from the spinach will begin to soften it, meaning it can cook for less time in the oven and avoid that horrible "leathery" texture that can happen when the sauce isn't sufficient enough to "boil" it, as dried pasta really does require this.

1) Combine the fresh spinach, nutmeg and feta in a food processor until a thick puree has formed. Fill the cannelloni tubes using a teaspoon and a little patience and transfer to an ovenproof dish. 


2) Use the grate option on your food processor to blitz the onion, leek, carrot and beetroot together, then transfer the soffrito/mirepoix to a pan with a glug of olive oil and allow to sizzle for 5 minutes until soft and juicy. I like to add a glass of red wine for extra flavour and cook it off at this stage, but this is entirely optional.


3) Add the herbs and passata, then simmer for a further 10 minutes and set aside to cool down to room temperature before pouring over the cannelloni. Allow to rest in the fridge overnight.


4) Top with the cheddar cheese, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes, then serve hot.

Cauliflower mac & cheese




Ingredients

1 cauliflower, 100ml double cream or almond milk, 1 leek, 200g cheddar and gruyere, 2 cups macaroni, 1 tsp mustard, 1 leek, 1 tbsp butter.

Serves: 2 Preparation: 30 minutes


Mac and cheese and cauliflower cheese are both, individually, comfort foods of glory. In typical fashion for this greedy, cheese-obsessed foodie, I like to have my cake and eat it too, but this dish is surprisingly light and needn't be too cheese heavy, for those who may wish to cut down on their fat intake and it's a genius way of getting vegetables into children or adults who may be fussy about vegetables for reasons best known to themselves.

Cauliflower and almond are perfect partners, the nutty flavour of the almonds goes so beautifully with the cheese and by ramping up the savoury notes with leek and mustard, less cheese is necessary to achieve the desired results. Oh if you wish you can use double cream, but seriously - the almond milk gets a massive thumbs up from me here!

1) P
repare the cauliflower by removing the leaves and slicing the stem to the base. Slice around the stem to release the florets and add to a pan of boiling water. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and yielding, but do take care not to overcook it or the taste will be impaired and let's face it - you're killing off the nutrients!

2) Slice the leek, add to a pan along with the butter and sizzle until soft. Transfer to a blender and pulse thoroughly, adding the almond milk, mustard and drained cauliflower bit by bit until a smooth puree is formed.


3) Simmer the macaroni for 6-8 minutes in boiling, salted water, then drain and return to the pan.


4) Pass the cauliflower, leek and almond mixture through a sieve and into the pan, adding half of the cheese (grated) to stir through the mixture.


5) Transfer to and ovenproof dish and top with the remaining grated cheese. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes at 200 degrees and then serve hot. I personally prefer a gooey cheese topping to a crispy golden one, and besides you don't want the gorgeous, unctuous macaroni to dry out, but this is of course a matter of taste. Should you be the sort of person who prefers a solid slab of pasta, then by all means cook it for longer! (I'm afraid I must judge you just a little though, especially if you also like mac and cheese pies... *rolls eyes*)

Chicken risotto


Ingredients

1 pint chicken stock, a good handful of roast chicken, 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot, 1 small white onion, 1 tbsp butter, 1 glass white wine.
Serves: 3 Preparation: 25 minutes

Because I'm a vegetarian, when I roast a chicken for my husband and son, there is inevitably a decent amount of meat remaining. As I always boil up the carcass for stock, chicken soup is often the next dish on the list - but why not utilise that lovely fresh stock and leftover meat for a chicken risotto?
All risottos (no matter what the ingredients) can be made in 3 simple stages. The first is called tostatura - coating the rice in fat, the second involves cooking off some alcohol and the third involves releasing the starch from the rice one ladle of stock at a time.

1) Finely dice, or blitz in a food processor the carrot, onion and celery in preparation for your soffrito/mirepoix or "aromatics" as we so unromantically refer to this magical mixture in England. Transfer to a pan along with a generous knob of butter and sizzle sizzle sizzle away until the onion, celery and carrot are completely soft. This takes around 10 minutes by which time the carrot will have bleached down to a rather pleasing golden orange.


2) 
Add the risotto rice and stir until the rice becomes transparent, revealing a white dot in the centre. Add a good glug of white wine and continue stirring until it has cooked off, then add the first ladleful of stock.

3) 
Continue adding the stock to the risotto, one ladle at a time, adding the chicken with the second to last ladle of stock. Serve hot, finishing with an indulgent dash of cream if you wish. Remember, risotto should be soupy, not solid!

Carrot, apple & cardamom salad


Ingredients

1 Carrot, 1 apple, 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 orange.
Preparation: 5 minutes

To say a salad is supposedly a simple affair for lazy Summer days, the majority that I make involve very little of the "chuck it in a bowl and scoff it" mentality. But whilst life is too short for artfully decorating a plate with blobs of apple gel and dill emulsions at home, I do believe a little marinating goes a long way.

This salad is breathtaking in its simplicity - shaved apple and carrot with a gorgeous, zingy orange and cardamom dressing to bring out the flavour of the carrot and stop the apple from browning (should you wish to brown bag it.)

1) Peel the carrot and apple, discard the skin and then simply carry on peeling! Transfer the slivers of fruit and vegetable flesh into a bowl and set aside.


2) Combine the olive oil with the juice of the orange, season with a tiny smigdeon of salt (no, not a pinch - a smidge!), black pepper and the cardamom.


3) Pour the dressing into the bowl, toss the carrot and apple until the cardamom and pepper is evenly distributed and either serve or set aside until required.

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