Sunday, 6 May 2012

Toasted coriander seed, Dulce du leche truffles

Doesn't looking at that picture make you want to pop one in your mouth and let it slowly melt on your tongue? Maybe it's just me but I am a resolute chocoholic. These little chocolate rock are completely soft and gooey, more like a ganache than a fully solid truffle. The coriander seed works surprisingly well, its warm and citrus flavours mingle with the sweetness of the dulce du leche and the chocolate just tops it off. Pop a couple on a plate and have with a coffee or a glass of red wine. Purely indulgent but totally satisfying. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Honey, Manchego bread parcels

These babies started with a visit to Sheridans Cheesemongers  on South Anne Street in Dublin. Firstly I was hit by the smell, almost damp and papery, but not unpleasant. It's a tiny space, crammed to the rafters with different cheeses all set out on display, where you can nibble on wafery slices that the staff will shave off the huge mounds. I had a look at the different jam accompaniments, saw the huge amount of work that seemed to be going on in a room tucked away behind the till, and went for a young Manchego. (It was six months old, the older one was eighteen months I think). It was mild, fruity, slightly grainy but delicious and perfect with the sweetness of honey.

I wasn't sure what to do with it at first, and my wedge had become the size of a waxy coin by others repeated trips to the fridge. While baking bread, I decided to use it for just that. These are great little mobile snacks, you could bring them on a picnic, lunch, on the bus, whatever. They're mildly sweet, with the tang of the cheese thrown in.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Weekend treat: Three chocolate and Baileys cheesecake

 This past while, I've garnered a whole new respect for pastry chefs, confectioners, chocolatiers, generally sweet makers all round. They are true masters in the kitchen and I've learnt this through my culinary failures lately and so a little gap in the blog. I've still been cooking away, but the grand ideas that I've had in my head, haven't been so easy to put into practice. 

I've tried several versions of vegetarian marshmallows, so no gelatine, instead various incarnations of carageenan. While they all tasted beautifully sweet and delicious, no matter what I did, I couldn't get them to set. Any tips greatly appreciated! Instead I froze the mixture and got a tasty, if kind of chewy, ice cream. Then for Easter, I tried to make a chocolate egg, bought a thermometer and tried to temper the hell out of that chocolate. Did it work? Not for me!

I was about to give up on anything sweet, when I hit upon a cheesecake idea for my mother's birthday. We all went around to her house and cooked a three course meal and this was the dessert. Of course, I didn't give it long enough to set, so didn't get to try it, but reports were that it was delicious the next day. So I made another mini one to try and here it is. Although, I think I may stay away from sweet things for a while. 

This is lucious, creamy, light and refreshing all at the same time. You'll want to go back for spoonful after spoonful, so it's a little dangerous! Keep for a little treat or a weekend pick me up and you'll be fine!



400g bourbon biscuits
270g butter
500g ricotta
 300ml creme fraiche
2 tsps caster sugar
150g good quality white chocolate, broken into small pieces
100g milk chocolate
4 tbsps Baileys cream liqeur

Start by lightly greasing a 12 inch spring form cake tin. Crush the bourbon biscuits either in a food processor or the old fashioned way - plastic bag tightly sealed and a rolling pin or other heavy object and have at it!. Melt the butter over a low heat and combine with the biscuits. Mix well to make sure the bourbons are well coated. Line the base of the cake tin with the biscuit mixture, pressing down with the back of a spoon. Try to cover every part, leaving no holes in the base of the cake. Pop in the fridge to chill for 30 minsutes to 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, whisk the creme fraiche until light and fluffy and gradually add in the ricotta, whisking all the time. Melt the white chocolate, I find the microwave is easiest when dealing with white chocolate. Adjust the power setting to about 60% for 1 1/2 minutes, take out and stir to make sure it is completely melted. Let it cool a little and then beat in with the caster sugar.

Roughly chop the milk chocolate, reserving a little for shaving to top the cheesecake. Fold in the milk chocolate gently. When the base has set, remove from the fridge and pour the cheese mixture into the tin. Spread it evenly around the tin. Chill in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. Next day you've got yourself a crunchy, creamy, kicking cheesecake. 



Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Orzo, coriander pesto and grana "brulee" with blood orange and fennel seeds

Today, I had a few blood oranges left in a dwindling fruit bowl and a bunch of coriander screaming to be used up. Wondering what to do with these beauties, I saw the cheeky glimmer of the packet of orzo hidden in the cupboard, and hey presto, here is the result. Inspired by the classic creme brulee, this is a savory take on it.

This is actually really quick to make, so perfect for the days when you're craving something a litttle different but don't want to spend hours in the kitchen. Also I'm trying, but not necessarily succeeding, to eat more lightly. With Spring having timidly slipped in, like a kid in the back of the class that's always late. It's arrived but not too sure of itself. I also haven't been too sure about what to eat, Some days it has been quite warm, then today, hailstones! So this is a good compromise, warming and refreshing.

Monday, 26 March 2012

5 uses for those leftover egg yolks and whites

If you're a baker, then oftentimes you'll be left with an extra egg yolk or two, or if a recipe needs just the yolks, you'll have a shellful of whites on your hands. Don't waste those eggy parts, here's 5 ways to use them up. 

Use the egg whites for:

  • Meringues
  • Macarons  (David Lebovitz)
  • Tuiles
  • Marshmallows - I'm working on a vegetarian version, shall report back!
  • Royal icing

And the yolks?

Friday, 23 March 2012

Sweet potato, chilli and lemongrass soup

I was pondering the soup possibilities yesterday with what I had in the cupboard. The giant sweet potatoes with the pink, woody skin seemed to speak to me. Add in the kick of a chili and the calming presence of lemongrass and we've got a killer soup. Not literally unless you add too much chili maybe. This is sweetly filling, serve white a white crusty bread. 


1 medium sweet potato,
3 shallots,
1 red chilli, deseeded,
1 lemongrass stalk, diced finely,
1 1/2 litres vegetable stock
2 tbsps olive oil
Salt to taste

Start by getting the oven on at 180C. Peel and cube the sweet potato and chop the shallots roughly. Add both to an oven-proof dish, drizzle over the olive oil and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or until just tender. 

Add the vegetable stock, sweet potatoes and shallots, chili and lemongrass to a large pot. Simmer gently for 15- 20 mintes and season to taste. Blend with a stick blender and it's ready to serve. A dollop of colloing Greek yoghurt is delicious on top

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Simply healthy: Yoghurt breakfast

This is a simple breakfast, but your body will thank you for the healthy kickstart to get going. The scents of the fruits alone were enough to wake me up and transport my mind to paradise beaches instead of grey skies. We can all dream. This will help keep the dream alive before you have to squash onto a packed train for the morning commute. Bonus is it won't take more than 5 minutes.  


Serves 1

1 bowl of Greek yoghurt
Pulp and seeds of 2 passion fruit
1/4 of blood orange, diced
1 tbsp honey

This recipe couldn't be any simpler. Slice the passion fruits in half and sccoop out the flesh and seeds and add to the yoghurt. Dice some of the blood orange and add that to the bowl. Drizzle over the tbsp of honey and swirl everthing together. You could also add some sunflower or flax seeds for extra crunch if you like.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Carageen Moss Pudding


A late treat for your Mother today, carrying on using Irish ingredients, using a Darina Allen recipe. Carageen is a type of seaweed that can be used in place of gelatine for us veggies. Its possible to go out during Spring at low tide to collect some yourself, but you should know what you're harvesting so maybe ask someone who knows or bring a book. Otherwise, you can pick it up in health food shops not too expensively.

This dessert is mild and milky with a very faint sea, not fish, aroma. Serve alongside a big dollop of jam like this rhubarb and cardamom, with a swirl of cream and some sugar or a little grated chocolate.

handful of carageen moss
800ml milk
1 egg
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Firstly, soak the carageen in tepid water for about 10 minutes, where it will expand in size. Drain the water and add to a medium pot along with the milk. Bring to the boil before turning down the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. 

At this point, separate the egg into 2 bowls. To the yolk, add the sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk briefly and then with a sieve placed on top of the bowl, pour the milk and carageen mixture onto the yolk mixture. Whisk continually to incorporate well. Now you can mush and squash as much of the   carageen in the sieve, into the milk mixture. The carageenan is what will make the dessert set. Whisk again for a few minutes. Check to see if it will set by placing a spoonful onto a saucer. If it stays in one place and doesn't run down, then it will set. 

Next whisk the egg white in the other bowl to a stiff peak. Gently fold this into the milk mixture, to give a frothy top. Pop in the fridge to chill  and top with whatever you fancy.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Paddy's Day: Potato and wild sorrel cakes with wild garlic butter


Truth be known, it would be pretty tough trying to survive on a traditional Irish diet as a vegetarian. It's a cuisine packed full of parts of cows, pigs, fish and rabbits complete with a hefty portion of potatoes. While, I absolutely love potatoes, I often find I have to look further afield than Ireland to add a little colour and excitement to my dinner plate. Of course though, being the weekend of St. Patrick, I had to find something to tickle the tastebuds, of a more traditional kind. After going foraging in Howth, I'd picked up some fresh-from-the-ground sorrel and wild garlic, that I'd planned to put to good use.

This sorrel and potato cake is so easy to make, that it's a good one to do with the kids or in a rush in between nap times! The wild garlic butter packs quite a punch and you really don't need to use a lot.


Inspired by several Darina Allen recipes

3 medium potatoes
a handful of sorrel leaves of various sizes
1 (generous) tbsp of plain flour
4 tsp butter
1 handful of wild garlic
2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Peel and grate the potatoes by hand or in a food processor. Wash the sorrel leaves well and dry with kitchen paper. Remove large middle veins from the leaves and dice finely. Add to a medium bowl along with the grated potato and the flour and mix well.

Add the oil and 1 tbsp of the butter to a pan, over a medium heat and add the potato mixture. Spread out evenly in the pan and pat out to create a flat, even cake shape. Cook on one side until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes, before flipping over to the other side and cooking through.

Meanwhile make the wild garlic butter by creaming 3 tbsps in a small bowl. Wash the flowers and leaves thoroughly and pat dry. Dice finely, add to the bowl and mix well. Fold the butter out onto some cling film, roll into a sausage shape and secure both ends. Pop in the fridge to chill and harden. When it is ready, lavish it on top of the potato cakes and enjoy. Guinness is not vegetarian, so maybe skip that and go for a chilled cider instead. Flat cap, pipe and old beard are strictly optional. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Foraging in Howth


St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner and in honour of that, we decided to take a trip out to Howth. It's actually one of those places in Dublin that I never really take the opportunity to visit and that was my mistake. Climbing up the hill there are such stunning views that we often associate with far away places but, it's all right here on my doorstep.

Howth is still a fishing village, with a working harbour. The aromas of the days catch permeate the air and the streets are like a checkerboard of fish restaurants, along with more modern bars, mexican and asian restaurants and ice cream shops. But if you step away from all of this and chance to climb the hill, you'll find spectacular scenery and the freshest possible ingredients.  

I knew, that I wanted some sorrel for a St Patricks day recipe, but I also chanced upon some beautiful wild garlic, that will definitely be put to good use. Slow food Ireland has some guidelines here and here, for identifying and preparing both sorrel and wild garlic. Sorrel can be identified by it's citrusy, lemony taste and the wild garlic has a recognisably pungent, garlic smell if you crush the leaves or flowers in your hand. Fresh and free, what could be better.

And if you take a stroll around the harbour, watch out for the giant seagulls that try to steal your chips!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Mother's Day: Gift ideas for the foodie Mammy

Mother's Day is this Sunday and this will be my first as a mother, so it's extra special this year. Mothers certainly deserve a day to themselves, hopefully of rest and relaxation, because it's no easy job. In celebration of all the wonderful women, here's a gift gift for the foodies in your life.  

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Rhubarb and Cardamom Jam

Rhubarb season has arrived, and I'm taking full advantage of it with this ruby red jam. Slather it on a toasted bagel in the morning, or it would be perfect on a scone with cream, or like here, with a creamy mild cheese. It's tart, sweet and warm all at once, perfect Spring jam. 

400g rhubarb, washed
380g granulated sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon 
1 tsp of cardamom pods

(Makes 1 regular sized jar)

Remove the leaves and slice the rhubarb into 2cm pieces. Place in a bowl and cover with the sugar and lemon juice and leave to mascerate overnight. When you return, empty the rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice into a wide, low pot. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil until it reaches a set, but make sure that the jam doesn't burn. Test for a set by placing a saucer in the fridge to chill. Put a splodge of jam on the cold plate and pop back in the fridge for 10-15 seconds. If you can run your finger through it, and it wrinkles and doesn't run down the plate then it is ready. If if does run down the plate continue to boil and keep testing with the cold plate.

Meanwhile open the cardamom pods and crush the seeds in a pestles and mortar, the scent is citrusy and delicious.

When it has reached a set, remove from the heat, skim the surface of the jam and add the crushed cardamom. You can now leave it to rest for 10 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilised jars and cover. If you're feeling generous you could multiply the quantities here and share. 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Kotijuusto: Homemade Finnish cheese


The idea of Mozzerella making popped into my head last week, but unfortunately, I had no vegetable rennet. So the suggestion was put to me instead to make this "kotijuusto" which literally means home cheese. It's easier to make and the result is mild and creamy with a crumbly texture, a worthy substitute! In Finland, it's eaten with cumcumbers and tomatoes, but a rhubarb and cardamom jam that I made, paired really well with the cheese. (Post to follow on the jam) It seemed a little strange to add eggs to cheese but hey, I went for it and it works. I found the recipe here


1 litre full fat milk
1/2 litre buttermilk
2 organic eggs
1 tsp salt

Add the whole milk to a medium pot and bring to the boil. In a separate bowl, add the buttermilk and eggs and whisk together until fully combined. Add to the pot with the boiling milk, in a slow, steady stream, stirring continuously before bringing back to the boil. When it has reached a boil, remove from the heat, add the salt and set aside for 30 minutes so that the curds and whey begin to separate.

When it has rested, line a large bowl with a muslin cloth. Pour the cheese in and then gather up the muslin and tie up high, to let the liquid strain through. Leave overnight. When you come back remove the cloth carefully and behold the milky round ball you have created. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

How to: DIY vegetable stock

This is a simple one, but good to know how, when you run out of the powered cubes. I've been there, where I started to make a soup or risotto, I reach for the handy stock cubes and ...whoops we're all out.

You can add really any selection of vegetables you want, though I've found to stay away from brassicas in a stock i.e broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc. They make the stock bitter and it justs tastes off. Other than that, you can throw almost any vegetable in there. If you make a huge pot, use what you need and freeze the rest, you won't run out again, and the taste is so much fresher. 


I found the tip for using prunes in Yotam Ottolenghi's book, Plenty. They really do give more body and a fully rounded flavour.

For this stock I used

2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 medium white onion
1 medium red onion
1 tomato
4 garlic cloves
2 prunes
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 sprig of thyme
1 small handful of parsley
1 tsp salt

Add everything to the pot with 1 1/2 litres of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Let the stock rest for 15- 20 minutes before using so that it really absorbs all of the flavours.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mind blowing Mud Pie


 The other day, the babies and me were watching "Up" and it got me thinking about what we did when we were kids. Often climbing up trees, going on mini adventures but especially making mud pies. So this was a little nostalgic, but this time a hell of a lot tastier! Not that we often ate the mud pies we made, but actually when I was a kid, that was probably one of the foremost things that gave me a love of food. Mud pies and desserts made with mashed up rose petals, daisies, dandelions and water. They weren't really a success either, but our hearts and our instinct for hunting for food were in the right place I think. Well roses and dandelions are edible anyway. 

With this mud pie, I have taken the best bits from many different sources* and the result is pretty charming. It's luscious as a drink from Willy Wonka's chocolate river, so only a tiny slice will satisfy the most deviant of chocolate cravings. It'll set you right up for eggs from the Easter bunny.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: Skinflint Dublin

After reading reviews of Skinflint here, here, here and here, although they were a mixed bag, I really wanted to like this place. We turned up on a Saturday evening and there were maybe three other people there in the small space. Along with the name, the aesthetic is "recession chic" (I hate these coined terms, along with the dreaded, ubiquitous "pop-up"). Old doors serve as tables, industrial lighting over each table, higgledy piggledy picture arrangements and the seats are high stools at communal tables.

As has been well documented, the pizzas have each been given the name of a staff member's mother. So far, so twee. We went for the mozzerella sticks served with a chili jam. Where food, is basically using just one ingredient, you better make bloody sure it's the best quality ingredient you can find. Skinflint falls on it's face here. The cheese was dull as mildly cheesey dishwater. The chilli jam was better - sweet with a slight kick.

When the star of the show arrived, the pizza, we were ready to dig in. Although we were hungry, we couldn't have managed a full one each, so shared an "Angela" between two. Described as having grana, mozzerella, pecorino, thyme and sauted onion. It arrived at our table, with a little ceremony involved at the altar of pizza. Instead of the rounds we're used to, it looked like it had been through a stretching machine, which resulted in a long rectangle. The waitress, brandishing a shiny mezzaluna, wasted no time in slicing it into manageable slices.

We got stuck in quickly, but anticipation soon ebbed away with each bite. I would describe it as a totally joyless affair. Skinflint's much lauded use of Odlums flour in their base, complete with pallets of it in the corner, just does not hold up. It was so thin, as to almost resemble a cracker. The three day fermentation process that they profess the dough goes through, could not be tasted, because it was just so thin. Here we have a case of bigger would actually have been better. The mix of different cheeses were not discernible. The most overpowering flavours was the onion, which was sweet and succulent and the thyme, but I don't really look to a pizza to get my herby kicks. When you order pizza, you take for granted a tomato sauce, but if you're looking for that here, forget it. Essentially were were served some expensive cheese on crackers, it was not pizza.

Accompanying this we ordered the roasties. My god, it's hard to get a roasted potato wrong, but somehow they managed it. A good roast potato should be crispy on the outside, fluffy inside. Skinflints roasties, still had the skin on, which is fine for wedges, not so on roasties. They were a sad, soggy business that I wouldn't want to repeat.

Being veggie, I haven't experienced the food in Skinflint's sister restaurants Crackbird and Jo'Burger, where I understand it's a case of classics done good, sometimes with little twists. With pizza, it's already achieved that level of perfection all by itself. It doesn't need to be messed with. Skinflint tried and I'm sorry but it fails.

The atmosphere is nice here, service was friendly but the most important thing, it's food, lets it down massively. It's great that Skinflint has created new jobs, great that they support Irish suppliers, but they greatly need to work on the food.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Fantastic pizza


 Pizza is one of those foods that people can be evangelical about, and I totally understand why. If you're gonna have pizza make sure it's excellent pizza. Sure, even a frozen pizza from the supermarket was such a treat when I was a kid. Through to when I was growing up and started ordering takeaway pizza. But then I went to Naples. I went to antica pizzeria Da Michele. It was made (even more) famous by being featured in Eat, Pray, Love, but it was doing pretty ok before that I would say! They have a ticket system, where you get a number. A line stretches out the door and you can go in when they call your number. Inside is pretty unassuming, actually almost a little clinical with white and green tiled walls that the light bounces off of. But, when the pizza arrives you're almost guaranteed to be a pizza convert if you weren't before. 

The pizza base is light, chewy yet crispy and the cheese just melts and falls apart in your mouth, carried along with the sweet tomato sauce. The pizzas are huge but they make you want to go back for more, MORE!

So trying to recreate that at home, I've been left a little disappointed by what's on offer, so I've been trying to accomplish in my own kitchen what I couldn't find in many Irish restaurants and I think, while maybe not quite Neopolitan pizza, I think I've come pretty close. 

While I don't have a wood fired oven handy in my apartment, There are a couple of things you can do to make the best pizza possible at home. 


Start by getting the oven on the highest temperature, for about half an hour before you start making the pizza. Place a baking tray on the bottom shelf, so that it will be hot when the pizza is ready to go into the oven.

For the base

250g tipo 00 flour
3.5g dried yeast
200ml tepid water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
a little semolina flour for dusting the base
olive oil 

For the sauce
1 tin of cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree 
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
juice of half a lemon

1 buffalo mozzerella ball  plus extra for sprinkling
parmesan or grana padano (optional) 

Start with the dough. Add the tipo 00 flour to a bowl and create a little hole in the middle. Put the yeast and a little water into the space you created plus the sugar and stir, try not to add the flour in yet. Leave for a few minutes until the yeast starts to froth. Add the salt at an outer edge as we don't want to mix it straight away with the yeast; salt kills yeast. Slowly stir the flour into the yeast in the middle, until you are bringing all the flour in and add the rest of the water. 

Now work the dough with your hands until it becomes silky and elastic. Cover and leave for 30-60 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Put the cherry tomatoes through a fine mesh sieve to remove the skins and seeds. Add the puree, salt, sugar and lemon juice to the bowl. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. 

When you come back to it, knead the dough again for a few minutes and roll out. The professionals might just use their hands, but I'd advise a rolling pin, especially if you want a thin crust. Dust the dough with the semolina flour. Now is when I put the dough onto the hot tray and speedily make up the pizza. I find doing it this way, makes it beautifully crisp underneath. Place it on the tray, seolina side down. The semolina add to the crispness

Drizzle with a little olive oil and spread it over the dough. Add the tomato sauce and the mozzerella. Place in the oven for 10- 15 minutes until the cheese is golden and oozy. 

Grate over some Parmesan or Grana Padano (optional) and enjoy some seriously good pizza.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Love is.... sharing food together

I had this vision in my head for this post of a big Moroccan spread. What could be a more sensuous food for Valentines day than Moroccan food. The pungent aroma of spices in the air had me picturing bedouin tents under the stars, lavish silks and satins, beautiful lanterns that only sparks of candlelight escape from, dark desert nights, camels and castles.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hot chocolate making

I'm excited to have my first video on tofu for tea. I want to focus on the process of food, how it transforms from ingredients into something magical. It's almost like alchemy. I personally love to watch people cook, it's like meditation in a way, it centres and calms. And in the end we get to have something yummy!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Changing of the seasons salad

As spring nudges its head around the corner, I feel like welcoming it in, inviting it home for a cup of tea. Its a bit timid and winter is still in charge around here even though in Ireland we haven't had the snowfall that's hit other places. But there is something in the air, the wheel of the seasons is turning and it feels like life is about to kickstart again after a long hibernation.

This salad is perfect for now. root vegetables and Spanish oranges are in season together for just a short window in the year. It's like a reminder that spring is just around the corner, even if it's not here yet. A salad packed full of vitamins and minerals and the colours just look beautiful arranged together on a plate.


Serves 2

4 handfuls of spinach
2 medium beetroots
1 orange
40g quinoa
3 tbsps apple vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Peel and slice the beetroot into chunks. Add them to an oven dish with the apple vinegar, olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Stir to make sure the beetroots are coated in the mixture. Cover with tinfoil and transfer to the oven at 180C for approximately 40 minutes.

While the beets are halfway through, get the quinoa on. Rinse first with cold water, then add to a medium saucepan filled one third of the way with water. Bring to the boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer and leave to cook for about 20 minutes.

Slice the orange into segments and then half those segments. Slice the feta. Wash and wring out the spinach.

Add the spinach, then the beetroots, oranges and feta. Sprinkle over some quinoa. The juices that the beetroots were roasted is a great dressing; drizzle over the leaves and serve. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

Pear and Vanilla Jam

Been busy jam making this week and this was one of the best to emerge from the bubbling pots on my cooker. The pale golden colour with flecks of black vanilla just begs to be eaten and let me tell you its mmmmm. So good on toast, rice pudding, ice cream, biscuits, the list goes on. A boring slice of toast in the morning can be ramped up with this jam. It was so easy to make but well worth the effort. Oh and you don't actually need pectin for very many jams. There's usually a way around using it, so I'm not sure why so many recipes call for pectin. So far anyway, I haven't needed to use it, just some good old lemon juice works just as well. I have just been making small batches, which works quite well to retain the flavour of he fruit. You can multiply the quantities used here up to 1 or 2 kg at most I would say. Any more and it will be hard to get the fruit to cook quite evenly. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

101 vegetarian foods everyone should try

Sometimes when I meet someone new who doesn't know any vegetarians, they ask "but what what do you eat?" Some people have the notion that it's all just mung beans and lentils. While they are important, thats not all veggies eat. So with those people as inspiration, I came up with a list of foods that everyone, veggie and meat eater alike should try. I have yet to complete the list myself, but seriously, you're opening up a whole world of taste here. Some on the list are fairly ordinary, some more adventurous, some you may need to take a flight to try, but you'll have fun getting through it.

1. Hummus

2. Dhal

3. Champagne

4. Courgette flowers

5. Wild strawberries

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Comfort food - Lentils with rice, sumac sweet potato and sour cream

Comfort food seems to be the buzzword around lately. Everyone needs comforting all of a sudden, whether it's the economy, January blues or maybe just a plain old food hug needed. Whatever the reason, I do know that apart from fuel and nutrition, this is one of the things that food does best! The right food can instantly make us feel that everything is going to be ok. Warm and revitalising, it doesn't even have to be expensive. Just a few simple ingredients and like a sea made of cotton wool it washes over us and makes the boo boos going away! Essentially we're all babies; just bigger with more cooking ability! 


(Serves 2)

1 large sweet potato
150g basmati rice
60g lentils
1 medium red onion
splash of olive oil

Wash the basmati rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Wash the lentils in cold water. Get the lentils on a high heat for about 4-5 minutes, then turn down to a simmer and cook until tender, approximately 30 minutes. While the lentils are cooking add the rice to a separate pot, add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 10-12 minutes.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into cubes. Slice the onion and add to an oven dish along with the potato. Add a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of sumac and a little salt, stir through to make sure everything is well coated. Cook in the oven at about 180C for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Take the lentil and mix with the rice, add a little salt. Top with spoonfuls of the sweet potato, onion mixture. Add a dollop of sour cream, serve and prepare to smile!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Casarecce con cavoletti di bruxelles

The above title sounds much better than what the English translation brings to mind. Casarecce pasta is a nice change from the usual penne or fusilli, but it's what's worked through the pasta that adds the excitement - Brussels sprouts. My god, as a vegetable they've been done a terrible disservice. What usually springs to mind is the overcooked, waterlogged and limp sprouts plopped onto the side of a plate at Christmas. This is what has put many people off, but done properly, they can be a real treat. Even finely shredded raw Brussels sprouts have a pleasant quite sweet flavor. Here they are cooked slowly to hold onto that flavour, and I promise, miles better than the Christmas afterthought they are often served as. True winter comfort food.  


Serves 2

200g Casarecce pasta
180g fresh Brussels sprouts
glug of olive oil
1 medium red onion
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp dried sage
pinch of sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
juice of half of lemon
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
grana padano, grated, to serve

Fill a medium saucepan two thirds of the way with water and bring to the boil. Add a little salt and the pasta. Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave the pasta to cook for 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick. Drain, but save some of the cooking water.

Remove the stalk end of the Brussels sprouts and add to a food processor and shred finely. Add the oilive oil to the pan, over a low heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 7 or 8 minutes. Next add the sprouts and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes until the greens start to go soft and tender. Add the tomatoes and stir again to mix.

To the vegetable sauce mixture, add the sage, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stir again and add a little of the cooking water from the pasta of the sauce is too thick, This will loosen it up. Just a tablespoon at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Add the pasta and stir to coat thoroughly.

Plate onto serving bowls and top with grana padano cheese. Its light, fruity flavour really works well here. Surely one of the best Brussels sprouts meals you've had in years! :-D


Friday, 13 January 2012

Simple lunch: Baked potato with parsnip and pomegranate salad

A healthy quick fix lunch that hits the spot. A little indulgence with the potato is made up for with this saintly salad that explodes with vitamins and minerals. It's a jazzed up, more interesting version of the old reliable of baked potato and salad, which can be a little drab and boring. Not to worry, this will fizz, bang and wallop in your mouth, giving you a kick usually reserved for sweets but in an altogether more virtuous way.


Serves 1

1 medium floury potato
2 tbsps sour cream
zest and juice from half of one lime
handful of spinach - washed
1 small red onion - sliced
1 small parsnip - peeled and grated
3 tbsps pomegranate seeds
drizzle of olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

Get the oven on a medium heat, about 150C. Wash the potato well and prick a few times with a knife. Place in an oven dish and put in the oven. There's no need to wrap the potato in foil, it will cook just as well without it.  Leave for between 40 minutes to 1 hour. You can tell the potato is ready by checking if a knife slides easily in.

Add the potato to a serving plate, top with a dollop of sour cream and grate over the lime zest.

Add the handful of spinach leaves, scatter over the grated parsnip, onion slices and pomegranate seeds. If parsnip seems a strange addition, let me reassure you that raw parsnip is almost sweet, better than the cooked version.

For the dressing, mix together the olive oil and lime juice, stir to combine. You're looking for a 1:1 consistency. Add the cayenne pepper and salt and stir well. Drizzle over the salad.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Carrot, clementine and cardamom soup

This looks like a warm, sunshine-y bowl of Spring, while the taste is a comforting hug and an assurance that everything is ok, at least for a little bit! It is very simple to make so no complications here. Serve with some crusty white bread.


2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium red onions, finely sliced,
8 medium carrots, peeled and finely sliced
glug of olive oil
salt to taste
1.5 litres vegetable stock
juice of 3 clementines
1 tsp cardamom pods
sour cream to serve
black pepper to serve

Start by getting a medium saucepan on a low heat. Add the olive oil, potatoes and carrots. Cook for 15 minutes, then add in the onions and cook for a further 10 minutes. When the vegetables have begun to go soft, add in the vegetable stock and season with salt.

Turn to a medium heat and cook for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add the clementine juice. In a pestle and mortar, grind the cardamom pods until they open, remove them and then grind the seeds to a powder. Add to the food processor and blitz the soup until smooth.

Ladle into serving bowls and top with sour cream and a hint of black pepper. 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Miso marinated tofu with rice

I thought it was about time that I did a post about tofu! Tofu often gets a bad press, being the stereotypical food that meat eaters often like to jab vegetarians with. This is unfair, cooked properly, tofu can be delightfully crunchy, succulent and absorbs flavours well from whatever you choose to pair it with, while retaining its own mild and creamy qualities. It's a great source of protein and soya products have been shown to lower cholesterol. Try tofu today!


150g tofu
4 tbsps miso paste
6 tbsps sweet soya sauce
1 tbsp water
1-2 red chilis
100g sushi rice
sesame seeds to serve

First off, we marinade the tofu. Cut and rinse the tofu. You may want to press it with a little kitchen towel to get rid of excess water, but be careful not to overdo it or the resulting tofu will be hard and chewy. 

In a small bowl, mix the miso paste, soya sauce and water to a smooth paste. Spoon all over the tofu and put in a plastic box and cover. Leave for 4-6 hours or overnight for the flavours to develop. 

Next wash and cook the rice according to the instructions in my Karjalanpiirakka post. Cook on a high heat, covered for 1-2 minutes. Turn to a medium heat for 4-5 minutes and then a low heat for a further 4-5 minutes. Drain and leave to dry for a few minutes. 

 Add a little oil to a pan over a medium heat and add the tofu. Stir frequently so that it doesn't burn. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the chilli and a little salt. Cook for a further 5 minutes or until golden. 

Spoon the rice into serving bowls and top with the tofu. Sprinkle over some sesame seeds and enjoy. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Is this kedgeree?...

Comfort food craving has been the start to the new year. Unseasonal warmth then furious freezing storms, it's been a strange one. The storms have driven me indoors and looking for something to soothe.

This is not strictly kedgeree, but it compares to it. It would serve as a firey wake up call in the morning, or as lunch or dinner.


Serves 3-4

120g basmati rice
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 large red onion, diced
1 small red chilli
2 organic eggs
1 tbsp garam masala
juice of one lime
2 tbsps sunflower oil

Put the rice in a medium saucepan, and cover with cold water. To wash the rice, swirl it around the pan. The water will become starchy. Drain and repeat 7 times. This is a bit of extra work but it's worth it as the rice will have a better flavour. Leave the rice to soak for about 10-15 minutes. Add salt and place on a high heat for 1-2 minutes, then turn down to a medium heat and cook for a further 10 minutes. Drain and leave to steam dry.

Get the eggs boiling in a saucepan. 8-10 minutes for hardboiled eggs. Remove from the water and set aside.

Add the oil to a large pan on a medium heat. When it is hot, add the onion and chilli pepper. I used a Vietnamese Ot Hiem Do pepper, which is very hot so I only needed one. If you are using something milder, you could add more chilis, depending on how spicy you like it.

When the onions are translucent but not coloured, add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and stir well. Add the garam masala and lime juice and stir thoroughly again to incorporate everything.

Peel and slice the eggs, place on top and season  to taste. Get stuck in and forget the weather outside!
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