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!

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