Orange and Pea Shoot Salad in my Garden Wilderness

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

This weekend I finally got to enjoy eating outside in our garden.  We dragged our rickety old table out of the shed and equally rickety and mouldy chairs (note to self, stop leaving things out in the rain).  After a quick dust off I was ready to enjoy my first lunch alfresco and this orange salad is what I had.  We aren’t the best gardeners by a long way.  I always have good intentions.  Every year I plan to grow vegetables but aside from a dalliance with tomatoes I haven’t yet succeeded in that dream.  We’ve let our garden get a tad overgrown lately.  I like to think we were going for the natural look, creating a peaceful wilderness style oasis.  But really the grass just needed a good cut.  Thanks to my husband that at least is sorted now.

So to the salad.  It was inspired by this salad from the hugely popular blog Joy the Baker.  Her blog is full of colourful and inspiring food and of course lots of cake!  There still seems to be a fair amount of Spanish grown citrus around at the moment. Although I couldn’t get hold of blood oranges these un-waxed organic oranges were perfect.  I used a mixture of pea shoots and spinach for my base then added sliced avocado, toasted pecans, crumbled feta and of course the sliced oranges.  I drizzled extra virgin olive oil over the top and voila, lunch.

Fruit Filled Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

Friday, 25 May 2012

I urge you to make these muffins.  I know it’s hot and sunny outside.  You want to sit in the garden with a glass of wine and relax.  You don’t want to put the oven on, it’s too hot for the oven.  Right now you are only interested in things you can barbeque.  I understand, it’s been a long week but you can do that after you make these muffins.  If you make these muffins you will have a delicious breakfast waiting for you.  You will have muffins for a week of breakfasts.  Just think of the time it will save.
These muffins are pretty fantastic.  Possibly the best breakfast muffin I’ve tasted.  I made so many that I sent some in to work with my husband.  They went down well.  The thing about these muffins is the abundance of fruit. Lots of juicy fruit that adds moisture and sweetness to the muffins.  Choose whatever combination of berries you like.

Adapted from Seriously Good! Gluten-Free Baking by Phil Vickery.

Notes: The original recipe called for 125g sugar however I reduced this and doubled the amount of fruit.  The recipe also included 1 tablespoon of glycerine and ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum.  I omitted both of these and did not find the muffins suffered in texture.  These were some of the most moist and best tasting muffins I have ever made. J
Makes 12 Muffins.
200g gluten free porridge oats
284ml carton buttermilk
50g unrefined golden caster sugar
150ml sunflower oil
1 medium egg, at room temperature
180g brown rice flour
20g tapioca flour
1 ½ teaspoon gluten free baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g frozen or fresh berries (I used frozen raspberries, blackcurrants and blueberries)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C,400°F.  Prepare a muffin tray with 12 muffin cases.
In a mixing bowl combine the oats, buttermilk and sugar and set aside for 20 minutes (this is important as the buttermilk soaks into the oats and softens them).
In a jug whisk the oil and egg together then pour in to the oat mixture.
Add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and combine. 
Finally add the fruit and mix gently.
Spoon the mixture in to the muffin cases and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (again mine took closer to 30 due to my useless oven) until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack then eat!

Roasted Rhubarb

Monday, 21 May 2012

I never really took much notice of rhubarb, but for some reason this year it caught my attention.  I always thought of it as rather tart and sharp in taste.  Being a child of the seventies it reminded me of school lunches, an over stewed, slimy mess beneath a stodgy lid of crumble, served with lumpy custard.  Not very appealing!  I decided to keep things simple for my rhubarb re-initiation.  I found a recipe for roasted rhubarb at BBC GoodFood.  Roasting things always appeals to me.  Although my version did go a little bit mushy, it tasted divine.  We had ours with natural yoghurt but I think it would also make a great topping for pancakes, on porridge or even rice pudding.  Now that I have discovered a love of rhubarb I need to make the most of the short season and maybe even tackle a crumble. 

The recipe I used can be found here.  Predictably I reduced the amount of sugar.  Happy Rhubarb eating.

Asparagus and Pea Quinoa Risotto

Friday, 18 May 2012

I fear this is becoming a weather blog.  I seem a little preoccupied with the weather and here I go again.  I thought this time I might avoid mentioning it but I’m afraid it’s becoming a habit.  You see it is supposedly asparagus season but sadly the British asparagus season has been a bit of a non event this year thanks to weeks of rain and cold... So, the asparagus I used here, while purchased at my local fruit and veg market, comes from Italy where presumably the sun is shining and asparagus shoots are happily poking their head above ground.  I can’t say I blame the British asparagus for being a bit reluctant. I don’t really want to go out in the rain either.  I do still want to eat platefuls of asparagus and pea risotto however.  Asparagus and peas say summer is coming while risotto is one of my comfort foods, warm and creamy.   I’ll try and quit harping on about the weather in the future.

Lately I’ve been adding quinoa to my risotto.  It works beautifully as the nutty texture of the quinoa seems to compliment the risotto rice but blends in so as not to be too noticeable.  It is a sneaky way of making the risotto a bit lighter.  If you don’t like the idea then simply replace it with more Arborio rice. 
Serves 2
1 bunch of asparagus washed and woody stems removed
½ cup frozen peas
50g (2oz) quinoa rinsed
75g (3oz) Arborio risotto rice
1 small onion finely chopped
Knob of butter
1 garlic clove crushed
500ml stock
Zest half lemon
Parmesan, grated
Olive oil
First make the risotto.  In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil then add the onion and cook until translucent but not coloured, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Next add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.  Add a knob of butter to the pan then once melted add the quinoa followed by the rice and cook for one minute stirring to prevent sticking.  Add a ladle full of stock to the pan to deglaze.  You can keep your stock hot in a separate saucepan simmering on a low heat.  Continue to add the stock a ladle full at a time until absorbed, gently stirring with each addition until all of the stock is used up.  This should take 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is cooked to your preferred consistency.
Five to ten minutes before the rice is cooked add the asparagus and frozen peas to the pan.  Continue cooking the risotto, by the time it is ready your asparagus and peas should also be cooked.  When everything is ready turn off the heat, stir in the lemon zest to taste followed by some of the parmesan.  Cover the pan and leave for two minutes before serving with extra parmesan grated on top if you wish.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

I’m staying true to my British roots and talking about the weather.  It’s sunny!  This weekend we have a friend visiting.  We’ve been walking, talking, eating, drinking, watching superhero films (Iron Man 1 and 2, Captain America) and enjoying our home town in tourist mode by visiting the castle and the museum.  I’ve been so busy having a good time I forgot to mention this flapjack I made last week.  I urge you to make this flapjack.  It will help you face a long day at work.  It will brighten up your cup of tea.  It will stop you dozing off at your computer (maybe).

I spied this recipe for Chewy Granola Bars (aka Flapjack) on Orangette, the original recipe came from Smitten Kitchen.  I love how easy they are to throw together and how lovely and chewy they are without being too sweet or nearly breaking your teeth.  They also keep in an air tight container for up to 5 days.  Perfect for a week worth of snacks but I doubt they will hang around that long.
Recipe adapted from Orangette
155g gluten free rolled oats
35g gluten free oat flour (or grind 35g oats in a food processor)
30g sugar (Original recipe calls for 67g)
110g pecan halves
25g coconut chips
40g dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
85g cacao nibs (or 70% dark chocolate chopped)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
85g almond butter or peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g unsalted butter melted
6 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F.  Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment.
In a mixing bowl stir together the oats, oat flour, sugar, pecans, coconut chips, cacao nibs, dried cranberries and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl whisk together the almond butter, vanilla extract, melted butter, honey and water.  Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and mix together well.  Pour the mixture in to the baking pan and press the mixture down firmly to ensure an even surface.  I used Molly’s tip of using cling film to save getting your hands sticky.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the flapjack is brown around the edges.  (I have an appalling oven so mine took a bit longer.)  Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool in the pan.  This may take a few hours.  Once fully cooled, remove the flapjack from the pan using a knife to cut around the edges.  You should be able to simply lift the flapjack out of the pan by pulling up the parchment paper.  Cut the flapjack in to squares.  They are a bit crumbly so you might want to set them in the fridge for a bit longer to avoid this.  I didn’t bother as I couldn’t wait to start picking and hey that’s what crumbs are for after all!

Roasted Carrot and Fennel Rice Salad

Monday, 7 May 2012

I was up bright and early this morning excited by the sunshine streaming in the bedroom window.  I had barely showered and dressed before it had already made a swift exit leaving slate grey in its wake.  So in response to all the grey we’ve been experiencing lately I bring you a colourful rice salad.  Bright orange carrots are mixed with fennel and roasted.  Kale adds a bit of green.  Lemon adds a splash of brightness to the taste.  Feta and olives bring a touch of Mediterranean flavour and colour.  You can really use whatever vegetables you like that are in season.  I never get too hung up on measurements for salads like this.  Just combine things as your instinct tells you. 

Inspired by Gluten Free Girl and the Chef 
Serves 2
100g (4oz) brown rice rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large carrots peeled and chopped into small chunks
1 fennel bulb chopped into chunks and fronds removed
3 kale leaves chopped in to small pieces and stems removed (I used cavolo nero kale) Spinach would also work here if Kale isn’t in season.
¼ cup of unsweetened coconut chips
¼ cup of olives
Feta or goats cheese crumbled
For the dressing:
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 200°C 400°F.  Cook the rice according the pack instructions or your preferred method. (I simmered mine for 35 minutes).  Meanwhile put the olive oil in a roasting tin and add the carrots and fennel.  Place in the oven and roast for twenty minutes.  Remove from the oven and add the coconut chips.  Combine everything together and continue roasting for another ten minutes then add the kale and roast for another five minutes until the vegetables are cooked, the kale is slightly wilted and the coconut chips are golden brown.

Combine the cooked rice with the roasted vegetables.  I usually chuck mine in to the roasting pan and mix everything together but you could use a separate bowl.  Serve topped with the olives and feta or goats cheese and a drizzle of dressing.

To make the dressing combine the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil in a jar and shake until well mixed.  Serve immediately.

Almond Butter and Jam Sandwich Biscuits

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

You wouldn’t believe the time I wasted deliberating over whether to call these biscuits or cookies.  Obviously being a native of this fair isle we call the United Kingdom I was thinking biscuit.  I started pondering other sandwich biscuits like jammie dodgerscustard creams or bourbons.  Sorry to disappoint but these biscuits taste nothing like any of those.  In my book they taste better but then it is a very long time since I have eaten those biscuits.  That would be back in my heady gluten eating days.  Whether I call them cookies or biscuits it makes absolutely no difference to how good they taste.  I just had to have mine with a cup of tea.

The recipe comes from the fabulous blog by Sarah Britton called My New Roots.  She always conjures up amazing tasting healthy treats.  The ingredients for these biscuits include some of my favourite things, namely almond butter which I could eat by the truck load and maple syrup.  I realise ingredients for healthy baking can be a little pricey.  I did shell out for some chia seeds as I have wanted to try them in my baking for a long time but I subbed the coconut palm sugar for unrefined golden caster sugar to keep costs down.  I also used store bought almond butter but it’s on my list to try making my own.  You should be able to get all these ingredients from your local health food shop.  I followed Sarah’s recipe using strawberry jam as my filling.  You can get the full recipe here.