Man Flu Is Pretty Bad After All and Lemons in the form of Cake to the Rescue!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The last couple of weeks our house has been under the weather.  First my husband had it so I naturally dismissed it as a case of man flu...then I was felled too.  Runny noses, aches and shivers, coughs and a throat that felt like I swallowed a bag of razor blades.  I feel like all I’ve been eating is soup and the different flavours started to become indistinguishable.  Now I’m emerging the other side my taste buds and appetite are both making a small come back.  So even though I have many excellent soup recipes in my arsenal I don’t want to think about soup for a bit.  I’d much rather talk about this cake instead.

I mentioned this cake a while back and I’ve made it often this year.  For some reason I’ve never quite gotten round to posting the recipe which comes from the ever inspiring blog Sprouted Kitchen.  It’s moist, has a wonderful kick of lemon and lasts for several days if you can resist eating it all in one go.  Please don’t skip the lemon glaze.  It is a very easy extra step and really gives the cake a strong zap of lemon flavour and adds a nice crunch to the outside. 

I’m writing the recipe up here even though I didn’t change much so that you have the flours by weight should you choose to bake that way.  Enjoy.  It will brighten up the greyest of winter days!
2 large eggs
120ml olive oil
60ml plain natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
120g total demerara sugar
120g ground almonds
100g brown rice flour
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Lemon Glaze
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F
Line a 9” loaf tin with parchment paper and set aside.
In a bowl mix together the eggs, oil, yoghurt, lemon zest and juice. 
In a large bowl combine the flour, almonds, sugar, ground flaxseed, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
Combine the dry ingredients with the wet and mix well.  Pour the mixture in to your prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 – 50 minutes.
While the cake is baking make the glaze.  Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and cook over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.  When the cake is ready remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before inverting the cake on to a cooling rack.  Prick holes in the top of the cake and pour over the lemon glaze.  Allow the cake to continue to cool completely as it absorbs the lemon glaze.

Butternut Squash, Pecan, Goat’s Cheese and Honey Toasts

Saturday, 7 December 2013

I suppose I have to admit that winter is upon us.  The leaves are dropping from the trees in rapid succession, some of them are already bare, others are hanging on to their golden nuggets until those blustery winter winds finally win the battle and send them heading to the ground.  Soon we’ll be hanging Christmas decorations (most of you probably already have) and before we know it welcoming in a new year.  I’m not quite ready to let go of autumn yet so I’ve been taking quite a few photos of our weekend walks before winter is well and truly here and I forget all about those sometimes golden, sometimes grey skies.

I am also enjoying all things butternut squash.  You have been warned.  Last weekend when I was hunting around for something to eat for lunch I reached for the River Cottage Veg book which always seems to yield something tasty and easy that I can throw together.  The recipe uses sourdough as the bread of choice, which I am sure would be the way to go, however since I’ve yet to try making gluten free sourdough, sub whatever gluten free bread you have.  It will still taste fantastic, I promise.  Here the slightly sweet, caramelized flavour of the roasted squash is balanced out by melted goat’s cheese, toasted pecans and it’s all finished off with a drizzle of honey.  I threw in some kale too, but you should expect that of me by now.

Recipe adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 2
A handful of toasted pecans (or nut of choice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
200-250g butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite size cubes
2 leaves of cavolo nero kale (optional) stems removed and chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or thyme
50g goat’s cheese (I used hard goat’s cheese, you could also use cheddar)
2 thick slices of gluten free bread, toasted
A trickle of clear honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C, 400°F
Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Lay the squash out in a single layer, sprinkle with rosemary and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for about 30 – 40 minutes until the squash is tender and beginning to caramelize around the edges.  If you are using the kale I add this to the pan five minutes before the squash is ready.  You just want the kale wilted in the heat of the oven.

When the squash is nearly ready light the grill and lightly toast the bread.  Remove from the grill and top with the squash, kale, goat’s cheese, pecans and finish with a drizzle of honey.  Return to the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

The Dining Room, The Cauliflower and The Grain Free Pizza.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

I’m sitting in my dining room, which has just been painted white by our landlord after years of peeling paint and strange patches on the walls.  I feel like I have a blank canvas to play with, full of potential.  Our living room on the other hand is packed full of our dining room furniture and pretty much resembles Steptoe’s Yard.  But I get to start again in this room.  This weekend we’ll start to drag stuff back.  I’ll put my vintage plates lovingly away in the dresser.  My husband will enjoy reorganising our music collection far more than a person should.  We’ll argue over how the books should be arranged and in what order.  Pretty soon it will look much as it ever did, a thoroughly lived in room with all the tapestry of our lives strewn about.  But for now it’s a blank canvas and how often do we get one of those?

I was going to make a tenuous link about pizza bases being a blank canvas but I won’t do that (except I just did). This is a pizza base with a difference since it is made from cauliflower.  I’d seen quite a few recipes for grain free pizza bases made from cauliflower around the internet and the idea intrigued me.  When I saw this recipe on Green Kitchen Stories the simplicity of the recipe appealed to my sometimes lazy attitude towards cooking and so I took the plunge and gave it a try.  It was a great success and my husband declared it the best “gluten free” pizza he’d had.  Notice he said “gluten free” because quite frankly if you are looking for this base to taste like real pizza you will be disappointed.  Personally I’ve forgotten what pizza tastes like but I know this isn’t going to replicate.  It does stand out on its own as a delicious alternative with a slightly nutty, sweet taste and softer texture. 

Since my husband can’t eat tomatoes these days I went for a goat’s cheese topping with roasted fennel and pear.  The result was delicious.  The sweetness from the caramelised fennel and pears complimented the tang of the goat’s cheese perfectly.  We’ll definitely be making this again many times in the future.

Pizza base recipe adapted from Green Kitchen Stories:  Serves 2-3
1 cauliflower (how much you use will depend on the size of the cauliflower)
80g ground almonds
1 tablespoon of dried rosemary (or whatever dried herb you like)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs beaten
Preheat the oven Gas Mark 6, 200°C, 400°F
Line a baking tray with parchment and set aside.
Chop the cauliflower in to florets and process in a food processor to make a fine, rice like texture.  You should end up with about 700ml of cauliflower rice.  I started off in batches and stopped once I had reached 700ml.
Add the ground almonds, rosemary, seasoning and mix together with your hands.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs.  Mix together until a dough is formed, you will probably need to use your hands for this so be prepared to get messy.  Transfer the dough to the baking sheet.  It will be quite loose and sticky.  Push the dough out towards the edges of the baking sheet and flatten with your hands until a flat base is formed.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 fennel bulb finely sliced using a mandolin
1 pear finely sliced.
Hard goat’s cheese sliced
While the pizza is baking in the oven, place the fennel on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for about 15-20 minutes until the edges are beginning to caramelise and the fennel is slightly softer. 
When the pizza base is ready remove from the oven and top with the fennel, sliced pear and finally the goat’s cheese.  Return to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.

Roasted Butternut Squash Rice Bowl

Thursday, 14 November 2013

I’m making an early appearance this week due to a hectic weekend ahead.  I’ve a free evening, home alone with too loud Bon Jovi to keep me company (sorry neighbours).  Rather than stare at the walls I thought I’d talk to you lovely people instead.

I feel like I should almost apologise for posting yet another of my rice bowls but I can’t seem to stop making them.  Once I discovered the magic that some toasted nuts, dried fruits and a bit of goat cheese can bring to a bowl of brown rice and vegetables it seems to be an unstoppable express train headed for my mouth.  You can totally make it your own and just throw in whatever combination of roasted vegetables, nuts and dried fruit you want.  I’m having a thing for butternut squash at the moment so here I used it to add a vibrant touch of orange to my bowl of rice.  There is no end in sight to my love affair with pistachios and for a little festive seasonal colour I used cranberries as my dried fruit of choice.  Kale or some sort of green always makes an appearance.  I made a quick dressing out of olive oil and maple syrup.  Honey would be a good sub.  I think roasting the butternut with a little maple syrup would also be a good plan.  I don’t think I need to write this one up.  Here’s the bones of the recipe, mix it up to suit your own style and tastes.  I roasted the butternut for 35 minutes at Gas Mark 6, 200°C, 400°F on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Apple, Cinnamon and Almond Layer Cake

Sunday, 10 November 2013

There are few combinations that work better than apples and cinnamon so this cake is already a win without even really trying.  It’s a pretty rustic looking cake, a bit rough around the edges.  I like it that way, minimum effort in cake decoration but maximum taste is always my preference.  It’s not overly sweet but then I did reduce the sugar as is my way.  With a bit of yoghurt on top it makes a good winter pudding.  After a stomp across the downs in a tonne of mud it’s perfect with a cup of tea.  This is the third time I’ve made this cake.  That’s how good it is.  The recipe is adapted from Jamie Magazine.  I’ve started buying it recently and my purse isn’t going to thank me for these purchases.  A few years ago I gave up buying magazines.  The price and the fact that they were half full of advertising put me off.  This current little slip is mainly due to the fact I find recipes like this.  If you can use a mandolin to slice the apples it makes for a prettier end result but if not just slice with a sharp knife.  It will add to the overall rustic effect.

Adapted from Jamie Magazine Autumn edition.
100g (4oz) rice flour (or plain flour if you don’t need it to be gluten free)
100g (4oz) ground almonds
2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
180g (6oz) unsalted butter, softened or if you want to make it dairy free use 180ml olive oil
100g (4oz) demerara sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling *recipe calls for 180g so I reduced the amount.
3 eggs
1-2 eating apples finely sliced
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F
Grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking parchment and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the flour, almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt.  In a large bowl mix together the butter and the sugar and then beat in the eggs.  Carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet until well combined.  Pour half the batter in to the prepared cake tin then top with a layer of apple.  Pour over the remaining batter and finish with a layer of apple on top.  Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Autumn Bits and Bobs

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

As I type this, my lap top feels like it’s about to overheat so maybe I’d better speed things up.  I thought I’d take a few moments to appreciate autumn with its contrasts, colours and interesting weather!  Here’s a little of my autumn so far...

I kicked off the season with a visit to a friend who took me antique hunting in Saffron Walden.  I loved this underground antique shop and it was actually pretty reasonably priced too!

I’ve been experimenting with a few smoothie variations.  This one is blueberry and pear topped with bee pollen which I love!  I also like this tea towel a bit too much.  It may feature in a few too many posts in the near future.

I’ve made Sprouted Kitchen’s lemon loaf a few times.  It is absolutely delicious. 

I’m continuing my quest to own all Bruce Springsteen’s albums on vinyl.  It’s good to have a dream... 

These walking boots get taken through their paces at this time of year.

I never tire of the autumn light.

Still our favourite winter stew on repeat at the moment.

We took a trip to Southsea and visited The Garage Lounge on a friend’s recommendation.  The decor is fantastic.

I couldn’t test out the bread or cakes as they weren’t gluten free but I could definitely appreciate the display, gorgeous glass cake cabinet.

Having a few days holiday from work led to me inevitably catching a cold!  I’m powering through with lemon, ginger and honey tea in my favourite cup.  Simply fill your cup with hot water, add some grated fresh ginger, a squeeze of honey and a slice of lemon.  I’d love to hear your natural cold remedies!

How is your autumn going?

Curried Sweet Potato Soup and Windy Weather

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Here in the UK it’s a batten down the hatches and pull the draw bridge up sort of situation.  It’s windy, rainy and horrible out there and more grim weather is on the way.  Making soup seems like the ideal solution and while I love a pot of soup simmering on the stove, this one can actually be made in 15 minutes so it’s perfect if you are impatient and more to the point, hungry.  The earthiness of the sweet potatoes works perfectly with the warming ginger and the curry paste gives it a nice kick.  The toasted almonds give it a smoky fragrance and a lovely crunch. It’s quick to make, simple and filling.  I snapped the instagram below on a lovely autumn day in my local park, just to remind us autumn isn't all gale force winds and heavy rain!

Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food
The key here is to grate or finely chop your sweet potato in a food processor to save cooking time, however if you don’t want to do this then chop the sweet potato into chunks and simmer for longer until tender.  Grating can be very labour intensive which is why I cheat with a food processor!

Serves 2
1 large sweet potato, grated.  (mine was 500g unpeeled.)
1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
1 shallot or small onion chopped
½ tablespoon fresh root ginger finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry paste (I used tikka masala)
500ml gluten free stock
Handful of toasted almonds

Peel and grate your sweet potatoes or whizz in a food processor which saves a lot of time and set aside.  In a saucepan heat the oil then add the shallot and sauté until soft, add the ginger and continue to cook until fragrant. Next add the curry paste and continue to cook for one minute.  Tip in the sweet potato and mix well.  Pour over the stock and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the potato is soft.  Allow the soup to cool slightly then whizz in a blender.  Return the soup to the saucepan and heat through.  Season to taste and serve with toasted almonds on top.  Some fresh coriander would be nice too.

Banana Bread Granola Bars

Sunday, 20 October 2013

These granola bars have been giving my work day snacks a real lift over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve made two batches so far using a mix of different nuts, seeds and dried fruit and both were equally delicious.  By Thursday we’ve always run out.  I have a bad habit of getting home from work ravenous and these bars have been far too easy to reach in to the fridge for and start nibbling.  They are the perfect texture, slightly chewy but with bite.  It’s no surprise that nuts and dried fruit are made to work together, the chocolate takes them up a level.  For banana haters, you can’t really taste the banana but it works as a great binder along with the almond butter. 

The recipe comes from the beautifully photographed blog The First Mess which is packed full of tasty and healthy recipes.  Pop over there for the recipe and to see how chocolate drizzling can be accomplished neatly.  My first effort looked like the work of a small child not yet in control of their motor skills.  The second batch, photographed is only marginally better.

I used maple syrup instead of brown rice syrup because I didn’t have any.  You can choose your own combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruits/chocolate.  I used brazil nuts, pistachios, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, raisins, cranberries and cacao nibs.  Make them, your lunch box will thank you!

Find the recipe here.

Parsnip and Pea Risotto

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Last weekend I thought I’d been having a busy time of it lately, then this week happened and I realised I’d had it easy.  Just to add to my already simmering stress levels my car decided to break down.  I’m looking ahead with hopeful anticipation to a less hectic week and a fully functioning car to get me from A to B.  Oh and I totally missed my blogs second birthday but since it’s a blog and not a person I think I can get away with it.  Meanwhile, Autumn has fully arrived with grey skies and rain pouring down.  I’ve started making lots of stews and risottos.  Anything I can eat out of a bowl makes me feel comforted and warmed.  As much as I dislike the cold I do adore winter root vegetables and parsnips are always at the top of my list.  As soon as they were available at the market I busted out one of my favourite winter risottos.  It’s a starch fest but it is oh so good.  I particularly love this after a long day at work.  I get home, relax in a hot bath and then make this in my pyjamas.  Music on in the background, I love the ritual of gently coaxing the risotto in to a lovely creamy texture.  Parsnips are sweet and starchy, making the texture even creamier.  The peas balance things out with a dash of vibrant green.  Much needed vitamin C as cold season is upon us.

A few notes on my method.  I use quinoa in my risottos.  I’ve spoken about this before.  I think it is a great idea as makes it an all round healthier and slightly lighter meal.  It’s also a great way to hide quinoa for those who aren’t so keen.  You get a slight nutty crunch but it really isn’t very noticeable.  If you hate the thought then simply use more risotto rice instead.  I also don’t use white wine to deglaze the pan as I never seem to have a bottle open at the right time!  We’re not really white wine drinkers in this house.
Parsnip and Pea Risotto
Serves 2
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-2 shallots finely chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
Knob of butter
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in to fine matchsticks about an inch in length
½ cup frozen peas
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
35g (1 ½ oz) quinoa rinsed (optional)
75g (3oz) Arborio risotto rice (more if you aren’t using the quinoa)
600ml gluten free stock
White wine to deglaze the pan (optional)
Hard goats cheese or parmesan, grated

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or sauté pan.  Add the shallot and gently sauté until translucent.  Add the parsnips and continue to sauté until they are just beginning to soften slightly.  About 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes more.  Next add a knob of butter to the pan and when melted add the quinoa followed by the rice.  Now add your thyme leaves.  Cook for a couple of minutes before deglazing the pan with either a little stock or white wine.  Once the wine or stock has been absorbed by the rice begin to ladle in your stock stirring gently between each addition.  (I usually keep the stock heating in a pan on the back burner).  Continue this process for 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is cooked and the stock is used up.  If you run out of stock you can add more water from the kettle.  5 minutes before the risotto is ready add the frozen peas.  When the peas are cooked through and the risotto has reached your desired consistency add some grated parmesan, turn off the heat and allow to sit covered for 2 minutes.  Serve and grate more parmesan over the top.

Comfort Food: Almond Butter and Banana Toastie

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Things have been so busy lately hence the silence in these quarters.  I don’t have anything decent to share with you as I haven’t had much time for cooking so here is my current comfort food obsession which can be thrown together in a few moments.  I’m sure you are no stranger to the whole concept of a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  You either love or hate the idea of this combination.  My husband wouldn’t go near one.  I however view this as the ultimate comfort food.  I graduated a few years ago from peanut butter to almond butter as my favourite sandwich filling, not just for the taste but the health benefits too.  Any kind of nut butter would work or chocolate spread would be amazing and totally indulgent.  Since it’s a grey October day I felt like a toastie was in order so I made an almond butter and banana toasted sandwich and it was scrumptious.  I probably could have gone a little more liberal with the almond butter, it should really be oozing out the sides of the sandwich but nevertheless, this was just what I wanted.  If I had more time and was a better food blogger, I would have made the almond butter myself, it’s good to have something to aspire to.  For now, shop bought will have to do.

I used a grill for this but I imagine you could also use a skillet.  Toast your gluten free bread on one side then remove from the grill and top the toasted side liberally with nut butter of your choice.  Place a layer of sliced banana on top then make a sandwich leaving the untoasted sides facing outwards.  Return the sandwich to the grill and finish off toasting each side of the bread.  Once golden brown remove from the grill and devour.

Figs with Everything!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

I was going to call this Figs for Friday, an equally cringe making title but I guess I missed the opportunity there now that’s its Saturday.  Instead last night after I spent some quality time with the M25 on my way home from work I made a version of this chicken and coconut korma, then watched a few episodes of 30 Rock until I nodded off in the chair and my husband declared I should go to bed.  Sadly a fairly average Friday evening around here at the moment.  I don’t know if it’s the change in weather but I have been feeling monumentally tired this week.  I think blaming the weather is generally considered a reasonable conclusion for most things.  Anyway, figs have been featuring a lot in our diet lately.  I love fig season, my husband’s not so keen...which just means more for me.

A couple of things I’ve enjoyed.  This salad is a riff on the super seed kale one I posted a few weeks ago.  This time I cooked up some lentils with the rice, used toasted pistachios instead of the seeds, chopped up fresh figs instead of the dried cherries and used a few drops of balsamic vinegar in the dressing in place of the cider vinegar.  Figs, pistachios and goat cheese work so well together.  Sticking with that theme I also used figs on top of my favourite gluten free pizza crust with goat cheese, toasted pistachios, basil and some lambs lettuce.  The sweet figs made a delicious pizza topping and cooked up perfectly under the grill.

I hope you find some delicious ways to enjoy figs before they disappear.  Here are a couple more ideas from the archives!  Have a good weekend x