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.