26 September 2012

Autumn baked apples with pecan and dried fruit stuffing

It is that time of year again. It is getting cold, wet and blustery outside, Autumn is now in full swing. The rain was so heavy this evening that my bicycle brakes failed on me as I was hurtling down a hill, narrowly missing a head on collision with an oncoming bus. Thankfully I weaved onto the path just in time, but it put the s**ts up me enough to think it may be time to buy that new bike I've been banging on about for an eternity. But anyway, enough about my near-death experiences, Autumn is a time of soft fruits, golden trees, soft light and harvest moons. I do love this time of year.

This is a proper Autumnal recipe. Hot, soft baked apples with nuts and dried fruit and a big dollop of hot custard. I imagine Greek yogurt would go well with this too, or good quality ice cream. This recipe wasn't spiced, however to make this an even more special seasonal dish, adding any or all of the traditional Christmas spices* could set this recipe alight.

This is my Mum's recipes. She doesn't remember where she got it from, so all measurements are estimated (as with all my recipes.. sorry, it runs in the family). It is really easy, and you can use whatever you have in the cupboards. It is highly adaptable. The recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, whatever you like. A great, easy, healthy dessert.

Autumn baked apples with pecan and dried fruit stuffing 

 Serves 3 (can easily be doubled)
3 large eating apples
30g butter/ non-dairy margarine
45g demarera sugar
1 tsp mixed spice* (see below, optional)
Handful pecans (and/or other nuts, flaked almonds are LOVELY)
Handful raisins, sultanas, cranberries (or whatever you have)
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees
  2. Core the apples using an apple corer
  3. Score the outside of the apples, just above the centre
  4. Mix the butter, sugar, spice (if using), nuts and fruits together in a bowl
  5. Stuff the mixture into the cored apples
  6. Place the apples in an oven proof dish
  7. Pile any extra mixture on top of the apples
  8. Add a splash of water to the dish to help the apples soften in the oven
  9. Place in the oven for around 35 minutes, until the apples are soft
  10. Place an uncooked pecan on top of each baked apple
  11. Serve with custard, Greek yogurt or ice cream
*Spice mix
You can buy mixed spice from the supermarket, or make your own.
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cloves
1tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground coriander
  1. Blend all spices together, and store in a sealed jar away from light.

14 September 2012

Avocado and Marmite on toast (a homage to the black stuff)

Ok, so I can't call this cooking, it is more of an amalgamation of a handful of ingredients (well, isn't all cooking, really?). If you have never tried avocado and Marmite together, DO IT NOW! Alright, so Marmite has the whole love/hate thing going on, therefore it may not be to everyone's taste. But if you are a lover as I am, then the creamy taste of avocado compliments the umami (savory), salty taste of Marmite incredibly well.

I read a while ago about a professor coming up with the theory that if we send Marmite to the Middle East, it could bring peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict due to the high zinc content it possesses. You can find the article HERE. It was also on the BBC show QI if you prefer Stephen Fry to charm you with the story (as I unequivocally do).

Whilst on my hunt for Marmite trivia, I also stumbled across THIS very interesting article. After the March 2012 earthquake in Christchurch NZ, one of the cooling towers in the only Marmite factory in New Zealand got damaged, forcing the factory to close. This in turn caused a shortage in Marmite, causing panic buying, with the media sparking the term 'MARMAGEDDON'. They offered advice such as only rationing your Marmite usage to once a day, and only using it on toast so it spreads thinner and ultimately lasts longer. Oh Marmite, what a life it would be without you.

Anyway... try this recipe, it's yummy!

Avocado and Marmite on toast
Serves 1 
2 x good quality wholemeal/ multi seeded bread
Butter (or dairy free alternative)
Marmite (to taste)
1/2 ripe avocado
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, torn
Cherry tomatoes
  1. Toast the bread 
  2. Once toasted, butter one side of the toast and spread the Marmite to you taste. Due to the creaminess of the avocado, you can definitely apply a little more Marmite than usual, as the avocado neutrilises the strong flavour of the Marmite.
  3. Split the avocado into half, and mash it up to make a kind of spread.
  4. Spread the avocado onto the toast.
  5. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper on top and scatter the basil leaves on top.
  6. Wash the spinach and quarter the cherry tomatoes, and add as a side salad.

01 August 2012

West Indian style bangers and mash

You British foodie purists will probably say this is blasphemy, but we dabbled with the good ol' classic bangers and mash. Well, it has elements of the classic, but in fact if you dissect it, it actually contains none of the essential ingredients. There is no meat for one. Or [much] potato. Or gravy really.... but it does shout comfort food, and my goodness does it taste good.

It's not a looker, but it doesn't half pack in some great West Indian-esque flavours. Enjoy!

West Indian style bangers and mash

Serves 3
'Chorizo' style smoky spicy sausages:
115g dried sosmix (e.g. Granose)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
2-3 sprigs thyme

Roasted butternut squash mash:
1 butternut squash
2 red skinned potatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Butter (optional)

West Indian coconut gravy:
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
Coconut cream
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 veg stock cube
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme

Steamed broccoli with toasted soya cumin mixed seeds:
1 Broccoli head
Large handful mixed seeds (sunflower, sesame, poppy, linseeds, whateve you have on hand)
Soya sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin

  1. Turn the oven onto 220 degrees.
  2. Peel and chop the butternut squash into 6-8 lenghways pieces. Deseed.
  3. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and salt
  4. Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes, or until soft and slightly charred in places
  5. Meanwhile, add the sosmix to a bowl. 
  6. Chop the garlic and add, along with the thyme leaves, chilli and smoked paprika. 
  7. Follow the packet instructions for amount of water needed, stir and leave for 3-4 minutes
  8. Finely chop the onion and garlic for the gravy, and add to a pan on a medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Cook down to soften the onions, about 10-15 minutes.
  9. Add the stock cube, chilli flakes, thyme and coconut cream. Add a splash of water to thin the gravy out. 
  10. Place on a low heat to thicken and let the flavours develop
  11. Roll sosmix into 12 chipolata style sausages. Place in a frying pan with a splash of olive oil and fry, turning occasionally.
  12. Bring a pan of salted water up to a boil. Peel the potatoes, chop and add to the pan. Boil for about 10 minutes.
  13. Place a steamer over the potato pan. Chop the broccoli into florets and steam for 8-10 minutes.
  14. Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Add the seeds to the pan and toast for 2-3 minutes. Add cumin powder and a splash of soya sauce. Take off heat and set aside. 
  15. Once the squash is done, place in a bowl and mash with the potatoes. Check seasoning and add olive oil/ butter for richness.
  16. Plate up the squash mash, sausages, broccoli and seeds.

Spring green soup

This was meant to be just a standard pea and mint soup, but I kept on finding other green things to stick into it. I wanted to up the protein to make it a meal so I threw in some edamame beans, and some mung beans I had started sprouting a couple of days before. All in all a satisfactory healthy green soup. Really quick to make and full of nutrients.

Spring green soup
 Serves 2
1 garlic clove
1 veg stock cube
100g frozen petit pois (or garden peas)
Handful spinach
50g frozen podded edamame beans
30g sprouted mung beans*
3 tbsp creme fraiche (or can use soya/greek yogurt)
Handful fresh chopped chives
Handful fresh chopped mint
Salt and pepper
Chive flowers and mint leaves to garnish
  1. Place a saucepan on a medium heat. Finely chop the garlic and add to the saucepan along with the stock cube and about 300ml water
  2. Add the edamame and mung beans to the stock and cook for 3-4 minutes
  3. Turn down the heat so the water is at a simmer. Add the petit pois, mint and spinach and cook for a further 4-5 minutes
  4. Add the chives and creme fraiche (or alternative)
  5. Heat gently for 1-2 minutes
  6. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed
  7. Whizz up using a hand blender or food processor
  8. Garnish with chive flowers, mint leaves, chives or more creme fraiche
*To sprout mung beans, soak however many you want in a bowl of cold water overnight. In the morning, drain the water off, rinse the mung beans in the bowl and cover with a plate. Each morning, rinse the mung beans so they are damp but not sitting in water. Within 2 days you should see the beans bursting out of their casing. They should keep on growing into beansprouts in about a week. Great in salads, soups, stir frys, curries, anything. AND they are AMAZING for you.

09 July 2012

Spanish new potato and cheddar frittata

5 new potatoes
6 very good quality organic eggs (eggs are the main ingredient, so it's worth buying the best you can get, the taste and colour is so much better)
A good handful freshly chopped chives
75g extra mature cheddar (we used Davidstow)
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees 
  2. Thinly slice the potatoes into medalions
  3. Pour over cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 6-8 minutes, covered
  4. Beat the eggs with salt, pepper and half of the chives
  5. Layer the potatoes across the bottom of a deep dish baking tray
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes
  7. Add the rest of the chives and grate the cheese over the top
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until firm and the cheese is a light golden brown
Guest blogger, Jack.

Asparagus, green bean and rocket warm salad

A really tasty, zesty salad to go with a mix of other Mediterranean dishes.

Serves 4
200g tenderstem (thin young spears) of asparagus
300g green beans, top and tailed
100g rocket
50g butter
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and black pepper
  1. Heat 20g butter in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the asparagus and beans. Turn to a high heat and cook for about 6 minutes, or until tender. 
  2. Wash the rocket and pat dry. Place in a serving dish, and mix the beans and asparagus in the dish. Keep the griddle pan on the heat.
  3. Add the rest of the butter, the lemon juice and the salt and pepper to taste to the pan until the butter has melted.
  4. Drizzle the butter dressing over the salad.
Guest blogger recipe by Jack.