Friday, 20 December 2013

Cherry chocolate spice cake

200g butter, 100g icing sugar, 75g dark chocolate, 120g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100g self raising flour, 25g cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking powder, 150ml red wine, 1 tsp cinnamon,
1/2 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp allspice, 100g natural glace cherries, 2 packs chocolate fingers, 1 pack maltesers. 

Serves: 6 Preparation: 1 hour

When it comes to Christmas, mulled wine is at the top of my list of indulgences. The scent fills the house and warms the blood. When it comes to festive cakes, not everyone likes the traditional fruit cake so I always make an alternative. Last year it was mulled wine cake, which was lovely... but this year I wanted something a little more decadent, which meant at LOT more chocolate. Unlike the "dry" spice cake of last year, this cake involves cherry mulled wine syrup to flavour the cake, glaze the cake and ice the cake. A holy trinity of taste that I will definitely be making again and again!

1) Bring the red wine, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cherries to the boil in a pan. Add 20g sugar and simmer until the wine has reduced to a syrup, pour through a sieve (saving the cherries) and set aside to cool.

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

3) Add a tablespoon of the mulled wine 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.

4) To make the chocolate icing, melt the chocolate gently in a bain marie. Cream together 100g butter and 100g icing sugar, then slowly add the melted chocolate and a tablespoon of the mulled wine syrup, whisking continually.

5) Using the remainder of the mulled wine syrup, glaze the cake thoroughly before spreading on the chocolate icing. To decorate the cake, stick the chocolate fingers round the edge, using the chocolate icing as sort of grouting. The chocolate fingers form a sort of dish in the centre to fill with maltesers and the mulled cherries. I also dusted this with edible gold shimmer because CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Chestnut gravy


1 1/2 pints vegetable stock, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, 1 tsp nigella seeds, 2 onions, 1 tbsp garlic salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 can chestnut puree.

Serves: 10 Preparation: 30 minutes

Vegetarian gravy. It is what it is but it rarely competes with a "proper" gravy in terms of colour, texture and flavour. This Christmas, treat your vegan and vegetarian guests to a beautiful, fragrant sauce that isn't bulked out with thickening agents and flour that compromise the flavour. Speaking of flavour - what could be more Christmas than chestnut and nutmeg? Bring it on! (Mashed potato snowmen optional)

1) Peel and thinly slice the onion, then pop out the rings. Add to a pan with the olive oil and nigella seeds and sizzle until soft.

2) Add the rosemary, thyme and garlic salt, then stir in the chestnut puree.

3) Add the vegetable stock and bay leaf and stir until the chestnut puree has dissolved.

4) Season to taste with salt pepper and freshly grated nutmeg and serve.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Chorizo butter


Butter, chorizo.
Preparation: 10 minutes (plus 5 hours for chilling)

You know how it goes, it's almost Christmas and you've either run out of money or run out of ideas and desperately decide to bake biscuits or make chutneys or jam as extra Christmas presents. Not that chutneys and jam and biscuits are bad Christmas presents - I'd far rather receive some biscuits made with love than something shop-bought and full of preservatives and additives - but for most people it's a hassle to organise during an already pressured time of year.
Well enter clarified, flavoured butter. For the meat-lover in your life, this will make the most fabulous bacon sandwich bread spread they've ever had. And for roasting potato wedges? Fuhgeddaboudit! Delicious. And all it takes is 10 minutes, a pan, a knife and some kilner jars.

1) Slice and dice your chorizo (it's up to you what ratio you use to butter - I tend to use about 1/4 of a chorizo per 500g of butter but even if you only have a knobby end of chorizo left, you can still render a surprising amount of colour and flavour out of it!) and add it to a cold pan.

2) Gently heat it, dry until some of the fat begins to seep out, then add the butter. Taking a spatula, stir constantly as the butter begins to melt and the chorizo begins to sizzle.

3) Do not allow the butter to burn, turn down the heat once it begins to sizzle.

4) After around 2 minutes, pour the butter through a sieve to separate the chorizo pieces and then scoop off the "froth" that you will see on the surface of the butter.

5) Pour the now clarified butter into your kilner jars and seal. Chill in the fridge and dish them out as presents!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Peanut buttered mash


1 tsp peanut butter for every potato.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Over the years I have shared many mash recipes on this blog. Whether potatoes or other root vegetables, whether herby, garlicky, buttery, cheesy, spicy or creamy - mashed potato is the food of the Gods. When I was recently sent some luscious Whole Earth peanut butter, I knew it would add a great salty richness to my mash. I tried this with and without adding regular butter and honestly it's delicious either way so this is vegan friendly.

1) Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks and bring to the boil in a pan of water. Leave to simmer until soft (about 20 minutes depending on how small you cut your potatoes) then drain away the water through a colander.

2) Using a potato ricer, masher or food processor, mash the potatoes and stir in a teaspoon of peanut butter for every potato before serving hot.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Peanut butter & honey fudge


100g butter, 475g muscovado sugar 125ml milk, 200g peanut butter (I used Whole Earth 3 nut butter), 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 400g icing sugar, 3 tbsp honey.
Serves: like, an army Preparation: 10 minutes plus chilling time

Fudge is just one of those things which is good in small doses... yet in order to make it one must make an awful lot of it. Even with the addition of peanut butter to cut the intense sweetness, this is still awfully rich. Therefore in the run up to Christmas - why not make some treats for the people that you love?

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the muscovado sugar. Once it has melted completely, add the milk and bring to a rolling boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter, vanilla essence and honey.

3) Fill a bowl with the icing sugar and 
pour in the fudge mixture. Beat until all of the icing sugar has melted, then pour into a baking dish and chill in the fridge until firm before cutting into squares.

Carrot hummus

400g chickpeas (dried or canned), 1 bulb garlic, olive oil/Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, sesame seeds, 2 carrots (you can use sesame oil or tahini but personally I find them too bitter and prefer the texture of sesame seeds).

Hummus, ah hummus. One of the great wonders of the food world.

So delicious and versatile that I have not the words to describe my love for it. I have created several versions of hummus for this blog, from classic to broad bean (AGH!), beetroot to ginger and basil to salted caramel apple (yes really!) but this is my 9 month old son's favourite lunch so it's been on the menu regularly for the last 3 months.

1) 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.

2) 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! 

3) Peel and slice the carrots into chunks. Roast along with the entire bulb of garlic at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Squeeze the garlic puree gently from the cloves into a food processor and add the carrots. Pulse until combined.

4) Place your chickpeas into your blender and pulse thoroughly, drizzling olive oil through until the desired texture has been reached. If you would prefer to make this lower in fat, you can use Greek yoghurt in place of olive oil.

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.

Almond buttered bean salad


2 tbs almond butter, 1 tsp truffle oil, 1/4 cup peas, 1/2 courgette, 1 avocado, 1 can cannellini beans.

Serves: 4 (or two as a side dish) Preparation: 10 minutes

Winter to me (like every other season as a vegetarian I suppose!) is somewhat bean-centric. Soups and stews galore are packed with the wonderful range of colours and textures that these little nuggets of protein provide. This salad combines the delicate flavour of courgette and cannellini beans with gutsy almond, earthy truffle and sweet, fresh peas. The dressing is slick and silky with avocado.

1) Rinse the beans and bring to the boil in a pan of salted water for 5 minutes.

2) In a separate pan, warm the almond butter and truffle oil, stirring until a runny dressing has formed, then take off the heat.

3) Slice the avocado in half and use a tablespoon to scoop it from the shell. If the avocado is ripe enough the stone will pop out with a spoon but another good method is to prick it with a knife and pull it out. For the purpose of this dish, roughly dice it into centimetre thick pieces and stir gently into the almond and truffle dressing along with the peas. Some of the avocado will melt to form a thicker sauce and the remains will add texture.

4) I like thin slices of raw courgette in this dish, but you can roast chunks of it if you prefer. Add to the pan of dressing then drain the beans and stir through before serving warm or cold.

Orzotto: roast vegetable & goji berry


1 cup pearl barley, 1 pint vegetable stock, 3 sun dried tomatoes, 1 bell pepper, 1 courgette, 1/4 cup goji berries, rosemary, thyme, butter, white onion.

Serves: 2 Preparation: 1 hour

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. Using spelt or pearl barley as an alternative to rice makes a wonderful change to the Italian classic but pearl barley, unlike spelt and rice can be left to cook with the whole pint of stock making it less high-maintenance to cook. This flavour-packed combination of roast courgettes, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and juicy goji berries is perfect to fight Winter lurgy

1) Dice the bell pepper and courgette and roast in a little olive oil for 15 minutes in a covered dish. Dice the sun-dried tomatoes and add them along with the goji berries to the roasting dish to allow them to rehydrate in the roasting juices.

2) F
inely dice the white onion and sautee until soft in a little butter. Season to taste with rosemary and thyme and add the pearl barley. Stir through until coated in fat, then add the roast vegetables and vegetable stock.

3) Leave to simmer with the lid on for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the stock has almost all been absorbed, leaving a wonderful silky, fragrant sauce.

Peanut butter bread


500g strong white bread flour, 7g yeast, 100ml apple juice, 200ml milk, 2 tbsp peanut butter (I like Whole Earth peanut butter), olive oil.

Preparation: 3 hours minimum

That phrase "the best thing since sliced bread" is such a misnomer. Anyone who makes their own bread will agree that the worst thing to happen to bread was the Chorleywood bread press. Processed bread has no soul and if you care about what you put in your body you will be horrified to read the ingredients on your shop-bought bread and discover that it's not just flour, yeast, salt and water but a whole host of preservatives, rising agents, bleached flours and even bread flavourings! It makes a person wonder if the reason we are the generation of food intolerances that you never heard about from our ancestors is because the food we eat bears such little resemblance to actual food.
But hippie rant over... this recipe makes utterly delicious bread. Fact!

1) Warm the milk gently in a pan, stirring the peanut butter into it until melted, then add the apple juice. If you want to use chunky peanut butter, this will leave you with a bit of texture in your bread - but sieve the chunks from the milk to add back in later.

2) By hand: Sift together the flour and yeast in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Slowly add the milk mixture, stirring with a spoon until a sticky mass has formed. Tip out onto a work surface and rub your hands with olive oil. Work the dough - kneading and stretching out the glutens in the flour until you have a silky, smooth ball of dough that is no longer sticking to the work surface. By processor: add your dough hook attachment and add the ingredients. Personally I still think this dough benefits from being hand manipulated but if you prefer to use a machine that's up to you! 
If you are using chunky peanut butter, at this stage add the chunks back to the mixture by flattening out the dough a little, tipping them on and then working the dough back into a ball to spread them out evenly

3) Rub your hands and a clean bowl with a little olive oil, stroke the surface of the dough until lightly oiled and then add to the bowl. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag and leave somewhere warm for about 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

4) Turn the dough out onto a work surface and "knock it back" - this doesn't mean pummel it violently, it means deflate it gently with your fingertips and then form it back into a ball for a second rising in a proving basket.

5) After knocking back the dough, you can leave this for a third or fourth rising (this gives it a better texture and flavour, but honestly this means staying in the house almost all day!) or get baking. Slash the top of the bread twice to allow it to rise, then b
oil a kettle of water and pour it into a roasting dish. This needs to go on the bottom of your oven to keep it steamy and moist. Now pre-heat the oven to 9 or 10 (basically your highest setting!) with a tray or baking stone in the oven and quickly transfer your ball of dough onto the baking tray/stone and shut the door.

6) After 8-10 minutes, turn down the oven. If a dark crust is forming quickly then bake for 40 minutes at gas mark 3. If it has just begun to colour bake it for 30 minutes at gas mark 4. If the dough looks the same colour then your oven is rubbish (sorry! Buy an oven thermometer and this will really help) and you will need to bake it for 40 minutes at gas mark 6.

7) When your time is up, carefully take the bread from the oven and shut the door to keep the heat and steam in, in case it needs further baking. You'll know it's ready if there is a firm crust on the top and the softer bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Transfer to a cooling rack and don't be tempted to carve straight into it because you'll squish it and the remaining moisture in the dough will create a soggy layer at the bottom which will never go away. Sad bread. SAD BREAD! Once the bread has cooled for 20-30 minutes and is no more than a little warm to the touch you can dig in!

This makes amazing toast, lovely bacon and fried apple sandwiches but personally I like it spread with a good chocolate hazelnut spread.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Roast garlic & avocado dip


1 avocado, 2 garlic cloves, bread (I baked olive loaf this morning).

Serves: 4 Preparation: 15 minutes

There are some things I prepare for lunch that are so quick and simple that I hesitate to call them a recipe, but this was just too luscious not to share. 2 ingredients and some good bread and you have the perfect lunch or quick supper or a fabulous dip.

1) Roast the garlic cloves in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees
. Peel the skins off and add to a blender.

Slice the avocado in half and use a tablespoon to scoop it from the shell. If the avocado is ripe enough the stone will pop out with a spoon but another good method is to prick it with a knife and pull it out. Add the avocado to the blender and pulse thoroughly until the mixture is smooth, creamy and the garlic has become thoroughly amalgamated. Season to taste.

3) Spread onto the bread or use for dunking crudites and crackers.

Roast tomato & sweet potato soup


1 lb tomatoes, 1 can coconut milk, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 sweet potatoes, coriander, chilli flakes, 1 orange, butter.

Serves: 6 Preparation: 1 hour

This soup was a sort of Frankenstein's monster, I'll be honest, but whilst the majority of time I plan to create a specific recipe - sometimes something evolves from a "bung it" and turns out to be spectacular! I've been all about pistachios this week and whilst roasting some tomatoes to make bruschetta with my pistachio pesto I had a glut of roast tomatoes left over and also some baked sweet potato so decided to make soup. To make the juicy tomatoes go further and add a silky feel to the thick sweet potato I combined it with coconut milk and then suddenly this scrumptious spicy warm Autumn soup emerged!

1) Add the tomatoes, whole, to a lidded ovenproof dish and roast at 200 degrees for 25 minutes. This keeps every bit of that luscious tomato juice and has a completely different flavour from just boiling the tomatoes in stock. Bake the sweet potatoes in their skins for the same amount of time.

2) Peel and slice the onion and sautee in a little butter. When the onions are soft, add the garlic cloves, crushed, then take off the heat before they begin to brown.

3) Add the onions and garlic to a food processor along with the tomatoes - juice and all - and blend thoroughly. Pass through a sieve and back into the pan, then peel and blitz the sweet potato and add the smooth puree to the concentrated tomato flavoured juice in the pan.

4) Add the coconut milk, season and taste. At this point I added the juice and zest of an orange but depending on the variety of tomato you use, your soup may not need this additional tang. It's a judgement call! Simmer for a further 20 minutes.

5) Serve with crushed chilli flakes and chopped coriander.

Pistachio crusted potatoes


Potatoes, pistachios, olive oil.
Preparation: 30 minutes

After making my Carrot & Wensleydale salad, I had some of the seasoned pistachio mixture left. I was going to make Dukkah, a firm favourite of mine, but I had some fabulous potatoes from my favourite stall at Leeds Market and decided to make a lovely crispy coating

1) Slice the potatoes (half the flavour is in the peel, leave it on!). I wanted the nutty coating to really cling to the potatoes so I crinkle cut them, but if you don't have a crinkle cutter (check your food processor!) then you could score the potatoes with a fork.

2) Add the potatoes to a bowl with a glug of olive oil and toss to coat the potatoes. If you're not terribly proficient at tossing (fnar) then cover the bowl with a plate or a layer of cling film and shake them about thoroughly.

3) Add the ground pistachios, salt and pepper to the bowl and repeat the tossing/shaking until evenly coated.

4) Add the potatoes to a baking tray and roast in the top of the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees. If you're serving these as a side dish they're really convenient to share oven-space with a bit of chicken breast or whatever. These are delicious served hot but also work really well cold in place of croutons to add texture to salad or soup.

Carrot & Wensleydale salad


Carrot, Wensleydale, pistachios, clementine.

Preparation: 5 minutes

I know, I know I only posted a carrot salad recipe the other day but with flavours this wonderful, can you blame me for sticking with a good thing? This salad is so quick to make, travels well and with a double hit of protein from the cheese and pistachios it's satisfying too. Tangy sweet clementine juice goes perfectly with carrots but the peppery pistachio and sharp cheese contrast beautifully.

1) Grind the pistachios in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of sea salt and black peppercorns. I like the nuts to be mostly powder with a few bigger chunks but if you prefer a completely fine powder, go for it!

2) Peel the carrot and grate into a bowl. Add 3/4 of the pistachio powder and stir through before squeezing in the clementine juice

3) Grate or crumble through the Wensleydale and the remainder of the pistachio powder to season and either serve or save!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Beetroot, carrot & feta salad


Garlic, walnuts, olive oil, 1 carrot, 1 beetroot, 150g feta, poppy seeds, 1 clementine
Preparation: 15 minutes

This stunning salad, using my walnut & garlic paste, is a complex mix of flavours and textures but the juicy carrot and beetroot, the tangy rich feta and the savoury garlic marry together beautifully. A wonderful quick lunch for one or a great side dish to share.

1) Peel and grate the beetroot and carrot, zest the clementine and squeeze in a little of the juice. Stir through and set aside.

2) Cut the feta into cubes and roll in a dish of poppy seeds.

3) Stir a tablespoon of walnut paste into the carrot and beetroot mix, then serve with the feta.

Roast garlic & walnut paste


3 bulbs garlic, 200g walnuts, olive oil.
Preparation: 30 minutes

The ability to produce different flavours from one ingredient merely by cooking it a different way is one of the great joys of cooking for me. Garlic when roasted produces a creamy, almost sweet puree and it is that which forms the basis of this luscious paste which I'm going to feature in a number of recipes in the coming weeks.

1) Roast the garlic in the oven for 20 minutes, then squeeze out the jelly-like cloves from the skin. Crush through a garlic press to release the pureed garlic.

2) Finely chop the walnuts or pulse in a blender and add to the garlic. Stir through a good glug of olive oil, season and set aside. I like to keep it in a kilner jar in the fridge.

Roast beetroot & carrot curry


1 can coconut milk, 1 can chickpeas, olive oil, 1 white onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 beetroot, 2 carrots, 1 tbs cumin, 1 tbs turmeric, 1 tbs coriander, chilli powder to taste.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

Autumn to me means a glut of roasted vegetables and beetroot with its luscious silky purple juices is never far from my mind. Using roasted vegetables in curry is somewhat unusual, I know, but that magical alchemy gives a better flavour and texture and they look so beautiful without all the colour leaching away. I like to roast a job lot at the beginning of the week to put in the fridge for salads, pasties, and to make stews and soups. They're incredibly cost-effective and this curry is utterly delicious.

1) Peel the carrots and beetroot, drizzle with a little oil and roast in a covered dish for 40 minutes

2) Peel and dice the onion and sautee in the oil until soft. Add the garlic, spices and chickpeas and stir through.

3) Spoon the thick cream which will have risen to the top of your can of coconut milk (discarding the water below) into the pan and stir through. Allow to simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes (or until the chickpeas are soft) then add the carrot and beetroot and garnish with coriander. Serve with rice or naan.

Kohlrabi & carrot stew


4 carrots, 1 kohlrabi, 1 white turnip, 500g mixture of pearl barley, haricot beans, split peas, red split lentils, marrowfat peas, 1 pint vegetable stock, 2 white onions, olive oil
Serves: 6 Preparation: 2 hours (plus overnight for soaking)

As Autumn sets in, my time in the kitchen is often spent soaking beans and roasting roots for rich, hearty stews to comfort me in the cold damp months ahead. Reluctant as I am to put the freshness of summer behind me though, this clean, simple stew is the perfect way to link the seasons together.

1) Rinse the dried pulses thoroughly in cold water, then soak overnight until they have rehydrated. Drain away the excess water.

2) Peel the carrots, turnip and kohlrabi and slice into half inch sized chunks. Drizzle with a little oil and roast in a covered dish for an hour.

3) Peel and dice the onion and sautee in a little oil until soft, then add the carrots, turnip and kohlrabi along with any roasting juices.

4) Add the pulses and vegetable stock and stir through. Simmer for an hour, season well and then either serve or save! Personally I always prefer stew the day after it's made, but if you can resist dunking some fresh bread into your stock pot then you're made of stronger stuff than I!

Italian roast potatoes


New potatoes, olive oil.
Preparation: 1 hour

This recipe is absurdly simple, and yet the best potato recipes often are. The flavour of a good potato really needs no further enhancement and following on from my previous suggestions for perfectly baked and perfectly chipped potatoes - these luscious wee beasties are gorgeous just as they are, but are also incredibly versatile as the basis for a cold salad dressed with pesto, spiced yoghurt or herb-rich mayonnaise. Mmmmm

1) Toss the potatoes, skins and all in olive oil to ensure an even coating. Add to a roasting dish and roast for 1 hour at 220 degrees until the skins begin to blister and turn golden brown.

2) Serve!

Cauliflower and celeriac soup with pistou


1 white onion, butter, 1 cauliflower, 1 celeriac, 1 pint vegetable stock, basil leaves, basil oil, almond slivers.
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. This soup has a velvety smooth texture and a wonderful earthy flavour which is beautifully contrasted by the swirl of pistou (a French equivalent of pesto made of almonds, which are the cauliflower's perfect flavour partner).

1) Peel the celeriac with a sharp knife by cutting about a centimetre off both ends and sides, leaving a squareish core. Prepare the cauliflower by removing the leaves and slicing the stem to the base. Slice around the stem to release the florets. Dice both and set aside

Peel and dice the onion and sautee in a little butter until soft. Stir in the cauliflower and celeriac, then add the vegetable stock and simmer on the hob for 20 minutes.

To make the pistou, add a good handful of fresh basil leaves to a mortar bowl and grind to a fine pulp. Lightly toast the almond slivers, shaking and turning the pan until they just turn golden brown, before adding to the mortar bowl with a glug of basil oil and grinding thoroughly.

Separate the vegetables from the liquid using a colander and puree thoroughly in a blender.

Pass the pureed cauliflower, celeriac and onion through a sieve and back into the stock, then stir through until the soup has been incorporated. Serve with the pistou.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Spinach with puy lentil & pistachios


400g spinach, 100g puy lentils (I love Merchant Gourmet's ready to eat pouches), 50g pistachios, 1 tbsp olive oil, nutmeg.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 10 minutes

Spinach, ah spinach. I never tire of coming up with ever more delicious ways to shovel this wonderfood into my mouth. Soft spinach, juicy bursting lentils and the salty crunch of the pistachios - salad perfection! This would make a scrumptious and beautiful side dish and also works well stuffed into pitta with a little crumbled feta for food on the go.

1) Dry toast the pistachios in the pan for 2-3 minutes before adding the oil, a little freshly grated nutmeg and the spinach.

2) Stir on the hob until the spinach has wilted, then season (adding more nutmeg if necessary) and stir through the lentils before serving.

Super-protein chicken salad


Roast chicken, 1 pint chicken stock, 1/2 cup spelt, 1/2 cup quinoa, 1/2 cup wild rice.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 1 hour

My beloved yet insane husband is doing Tough Mudder this week (please sponsor him!), and it is up to me to pump him full of protein, lest his muscles fail him and he die.
No pressure then! This salad, using leftover roast chicken and some of the stock made from the carcass has had him salivating at lunch time and is perfect picnic fodder too!

1) Spelt takes the longest to cook at 50 minutes. Soak it in cold water for 5 minutes, drain, then add it to the pan of chicken stock, stir through and leave to simmer.

2) Wild rice takes 30 minutes, so after 20 minutes add to the spelt and stir through.

3) Quinoa takes just 15 minutes, so add to the pan 15 minutes after the wild rice, stir through and leave to cook.

4) If you'd like to serve this hot, drain away any excess stock (though after the best part of an hour it should all have been absorbed or evaporated!), stir through the leftover chicken, season and serve. Otherwise allow the grains to cool before adding the chicken.

Ale & mustard potatoes


1 King Edward potato, 50 ml Hobgoblin ale, 1 tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp grainy mustard.
Serves: 2 Preparation: X

Coming as I do from the right side of the Pennines, I must of course deny all knowledge of what a Lancashire hotpot is *narrows eyes* but allowing potatoes to cook in delicious liquid and then crisp up doesn't half make a cracking dish. I invented this quick, simple side as part of my vegetarian alternative to the potatoes I had cooked in the juices of a roasting chicken and it's returned time and time again to my table.

1) Finely slice your potato (I don't bother to peel it - half the flavour's in the skin!) with a mandolin, food processor attachment or a good knife and add to a pan with enough ale to just submerge the potatoes. Parboil for 5 minutes, allowing the ale to reduce and soak into the potato a little, then drain away the excess ale.

2) Add the butter and mustard to the potatoes and stir through, then layer in a baking dish.

3) Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the skin just begins to turn golden, season and serve.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Vegan cauliflower cheese


6 tbsps cashew nut cream, 50ml water, 1 cauliflower, 1 tsp mustard
Serves: 4 Preparation: 30 minutes

My approach to cauliflower cheese is unparalleled. Indulgently finished with cream and two kinds of cheese, richly flavoured with Guinness and mustard it is everything a person could want. For vegans however, one would think cauliflower cheese was... well... impossible! But it's not and what's more it's absolutely delicious. I used cashew cream flavoured with no more than a teaspoon of mustard and a teaspoon of salt and black pepper and was blown away by the creamy, delicate sauce topped with a fine crispy crust.

1) Prepare the cauliflower by removing the leaves and slicing the stem to the base. Slice around the stem to release the florets.

 Steam or parboil the cauliflower for about 6 minutes, strain and set aside to rest in an ovenproof dish.

3) Spoon the cashew cream into a pan, pour in the water, add the mustard, salt and pepper to taste and reduce on the hob for 5 minutes.

Pour the sauce onto the cauliflower and bake for 20 minutes at 220 degrees until a golden crust begins to form and serve!

Cashew nut cream


500g cashew nuts
Preparation: 30 minutes (plus overnight for soaking)

If you are a vegan, nuts are not just a magical source of fat and protein - they are also dairy substitutes. Milk can be extracted from coconut, almonds and cashew nuts, is naturally sweet and incredibly can even be whipped just like cream to use in puddings. Cashew nut cream is perhaps the most versatile of all - with a little seasoning it becomes a savoury bechamel-style sauce and when reduced in a pan it becomes a perfectly respectable cheese substitute for pasta. It can be frozen or kept for a few days in the fridge.

1) Put the cashew nuts in a bowl, cover with water and leave overnight.

2) Pour into a pan and simmer for 5 minutes.

3) Pour the nuts and water into a blender and pulse thoroughly.

4) Parse through a sieve and decant into a kilner jar or tupperware box to store

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Tofu & aubergine soba noodles


6 baby aubergines, 150g tofu, 3 tbs pomegranate molasses, 1 red chilli, 3 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, 175g soba noodles.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 30 minutes (plus overnight for marinating)

Being allergic to soya, tofu is something that never makes its way into my vegetarian cooking. When I was asked recently to come up with a recipe, I asked my guinea pigs to describe the texture for me and as a result decided to treat them like the aubergines - melt-in-the-mouth sponges to soak up delicious flavours. The marinade is sweet and spicy from the pomegranate molasses and chilli combination, but with a smoky umami undercurrent from the soy sauce.

1) Slice the tops from the aubergines and slice in half lengthways. Sprinkle the inside half with salt to draw out the bitter juices, then wipe them with some kitchen towel after 5 minutes. Slice each piece in half widthways.

2) Slice the top from the chilli and slit it lengthways. Scrape out the seeds with your knife and discard. Cut the flesh into pieces and add along with the chunks of aubergine and tofu to a freezer bag.

3) Add the pomegranate molasses, oil and soy sauce to the freezer bag, seal and shake well. Leave in the fridge overnight.

4) Pour the contents of the freezer bag into an ovenproof dish and roast for 25 minutes at 200 degrees.

5) Add the noodles to boiling water and stir until soft (about 5 minutes), drain and pour in with the aubergines. Season with a little salt and serve hot or cold.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Yorkshire Brack


150ml black tea (I use Earl Grey), 225g self-raising flour, 175g golden caster sugar, 400g dried fruit (I use chopped figs, sultanas and raisins), 1 large egg.
Preparation: 2 1/4 hours (an hour for soaking, an hour for baking)

When I was a little girl, at Christmas my family would always have a slice of cheese with Christmas cake and for the rest of the year, a slice of cheese with everyday brack. It's a very Yorkshire thing to do so in honour of Yorkshire day, here is my favourite Yorkshire recipe. A fat-free cake that is so quick and easy to make that it really has no business being as impressive as it is to eat. The fruit also never sinks as it can sometimes do in fruit cake. But that's Yorkshire for you. As they say, "if it isn't Yorkshire, it's shite."

1) Leave the tea leaves to infuse for 10 minutes, then pour through a strainer into a bowl of dried fruit. Soak the dried fruit for an hour.

2) Beat the egg and sift in the flour and sugar. Pour in the dried fruit and tea and stir through until a smooth batter has formed. If the mixture is a little dry, add a touch of milk.

3) Smooth into a loaf or cake tin and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.

4) Serve each piece with a good slice of cheddar.



1 tbs Passata, 2 tbs basil oil, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp honey (or agave syrup if vegan). Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, basil, old bread, kamalata olives.

Preparation: 5 minutes

Panzanella goes back to the 16th century, but it wasn't until the 20th century that this Florentine version emerged: stale bread soaked in oil, vinegar and tomato with herbs and mixed with salad. Back in the day - only onions were used, not tomato. And given that I loathe uncooked onions with a fiery passion, I am very glad indeed that it's no longer the 16th Century! You know, that and smallpox. I serve mine with cucumber, olives and cherry tomatoes but you can of course use salad leaves or other fruits and vegetables if you wish. I save my heels of bread and make this for a quick supper or a scrummy lunch.

1) To make the dressing, combine the oil, vinegar and passata and season to taste. I like to add a little honey to cut the acidity of the vinegar but this depends on what you are mixing into your salad of course! If you're vegan, you can use an alternative.

2) Tear the bread into bitesize chunks. I have done this with the leftover heel of ciabatta, spelt bread, you name it - any crusty loaf will do. If all you have is sliced bread or you don't bake your own, then I would recommend toasting the bread first.

3) Stir the bread into the dressing and stir in the other ingredients. Serve immediately. If you'd like this as a packed lunch, make up a little jar of dressing, a foil wrap your chunks of bread and keep them in your box of salad to prepare just before eating.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Lavender-almond croissants


Croissants: 220g plain flour, 7g yeast, 160ml milk, 2 1/2 tsp caster sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbs vegetable oil, 150g butter.
Glaze: lavender jam Filling: 2 eggs, 100g ground almonds, 100g caster sugar, 100g butter, 1/2 tsp lavender

Serves: 12 Preparation: we're talking well over 8 hours...

Croissants aux amandes were invented, I believe, to revitalise day-old/stale croissants so you could buy croissants and just glaze and fill them if you prefer. Lord knows making croissants is a labour of love, one which will leave a sheen of butter on your table and leave you with aching hands from the lamination (layers of butter and dough which produce that magical flakiness - if your croissants don't fill your bra with crumbs, you aint doing it right!). Whether you bake or buy your croissants, my lavender jam makes the perfect glaze and the lavender almond cream in the centre is OUT OF THIS WORLD. Just look at those lovely shiny crescents, the effort is so worth it!

Baking the croissants

1) Combine the yeast, 3 tsps of warm water and 1/2 tsp sugar in one jug and set aside until it begins to froth. Add the vegetable oil. In a separate jug, dissolve 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt in the milk.

2) Sift the flour into a bowl and add the two jugs of liquid. Mix thoroughly and then kneed for approximately 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for approximately an hour until it has TRIPLED in volume.

3) Knock the dough back, gently with your fingertips, cover and set aside again to double in volume. Finally knock back the dough again and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge.

4) Now comes the fun part... roll out the dough into a rectangle (about 30 x 20 cm in size) and using room temperature butter, spread liberally over the left 2/3 of the centre of the dough, leaving a half centimetre unbuttered border. With the unbuttered 1/3 at the left, fold to the right, and then fold again. Roll back out then dust with flour, cover with cling film and chill for 2 hours in the fridge.

5) Roll dough back out and repeat the buttering and folding, dust with flour, cover with cling film and return to the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

6) Finally, roll out to a rectangle approximately 50 x 10 cm and slice in half lengthways. Return one half to the fridge to chill and roll the other out to approximately 40 x 10 cm, then cut into 3 squares and cut these squares diagonally to leave 6 triangles of dough. Repeat with the dough in the fridge.

7) Roll the dough into croissants by rolling each triangle gently from the long side towards the point at the top, thus creating the classic layer pattern, and then bring the two edges together to form almost a circle. Allow to sit for a few minutes until the dough begins to puff back up a little, then bake in the oven at the highest setting (mine is 240 for 15 minutes)

Preparing croissants aux amandes

1) Cream the equal parts of butter, sugar and almonds together, then beat in the eggs. Grind lavender in a mortar and pestle and stir in. (If you wish, you could substitute the sugar for lavender jam in order to get the flavour)

2) Poke a small hole into the croissant at the side of the central layer and use a piping bag to fill with the lavender almond cream.

3) Dip a pastry brush into your lavender jam and glaze the outside of the croissant. From here, you can also scatter with slivers of almonds but personally I find this a little bit overkill! Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 5-8 minutes, until golden brown.


Blackberry lavender clafoutis/flaugnarde


200g blackberries, 200ml milk, 1 tbsp lavender, 1 lemon, 50g caster sugar, 30g plain flour, 2 eggs.

Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

Not a day goes by when I don't crave lavender. There is nothing that brings me such pleasure as when my house is filled with the scent of it infusing, or when I discover yet more flavours that it will enhance. Blackberry and lavender is by no means a stranger to this blog, but I do believe this is my first clafoutis post!
Technically a flaugnarde unless cherries are used, this is essentially a
 fabulous wibbly custard set with fruit and as desserts go, contains very little fat and sugar. So go for it!

1) Infuse the milk with lavender for 30 minutes. 
In the meantime, lightly butter your baking dish with a smear of butter on a clean cloth or piece of kitchen roll and tumble the blackberries over it.

2) Sift the flour and sugar together, zest and juice the lemon and beat together with the eggs. 

3) Add the lavender milk through a sieve to separate out the flowers and whisk thoroughly.

4) Pour over the fruit and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes and serve hot or cold.

Chocolate chip & coconut encrusted French toast


Chocolate chip brioche, dessicated coconut, butter, egg.
Preparation: 10 minutes

Following on from my chocolate chip brioche recipe, I have to admit that I have finally found a use for besmirching brioche in this way. It makes the most fan-fucking-tastic fluffy French toast when paired with a crispy coconut crust. Oh my oh my oh my. If you have one naughty treat this weekend, make it this. You're welcome.

1) Prepare two bowls, one with dessicated coconut and one with a beaten egg. Melt a knob of butter in a pan.

2) Dip your slice of brioche into the beaten egg, ensuring that it is coated, then into the coconut and turn over before adding to the pan.

3) Sizzle for one minute on each side, then serve!

Fine bean, pea & mozzarella scramble


Egg (one per person and one for the pot!), fine beans, peas, butter, bread, mozzarella pearls.

Preparation: 5 minutes

I am blessed with a very low-maintenance child who will happily play in the kitchen whilst I bake bread or make cheese. However, some days he quite rightly wants a bit more attention and knocking together a quick veggie scramble is absolutely delicious, and gives me enough of a protein kick to fuel our post-lunch playtime. In this hot Summer weather, peas and fine beans give this a sweet, refreshing crunch which is perfect with the creamy mozzarella and egg.

1) Top and tail the beans and slice into sixths. Add equal parts of peas to the pan (about 1/2 cup per person) with a knob of butter and sizzle for 2 minutes.

2) Whisk the egg and pour into the pan, stirring constantly until it begins to take form. Stir in the mozzarella pearls (always use from room temperature, it has no business being in the fridge!) and serve with toast.

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