Category Archives: Dairy

Veg box delivery services

I was reading recently that sales of Organic food and beverages in Europe and the US are on an upward trend going into 2016. This is great news.

As some of you may know Scotland has some of the best produce in the world – particularly, in my view, when it comes to the organic root vegetables – largely due to the quality of the soils.

With that in mind I’ve been thinking recently about East Coast Organics – the fresh veg box delivery service and farm from Pencaitland in East Lothian, Scotland. They provide us with a fortnightly delivery of the freshest and most delicious vegetables – nothing like the bland, treated stuff you’d buy in supermarkets.

In choosing a well-run service I was inspired by their business model, sourcing and commitment to ethics and sustainability.

Organic vegetable box

Their produce is grown in 10,000 square feet of polytunnels giving the company a wide potential for growing organic vegetables; such as carrots, beetroot, kale, mushrooms, spinach, leeks, garlic, onions and peppers – to name a few.

We always receive always a nice heap of wrinkly biomass with all sorts of earthly surprises – such as the occasional snail nestled in a head of broccoli – or salad leaves which are often “on-the-turn” before we’ve even opened the bag e.g. the lettuce can sometimes be quite mushy – but who cares: it’s only a lettuce!

The carrots and beets are often caked in soil – having been freshly pulled out of Mother earth. Supermarkets in the UK are restricted from selling “wonky carrots” to the consumer due to some harsh EU regulations on vegetables – with the vegetable box this rule simply does not apply. Also, I personally feel much healthier; there’s a certain vitality that comes with knowing that your vegetables haven’t been heavily treated with insecticides.

We do, however, reach a slight saturation point with the amount of potatoes in the veg box each week. I like a variety of carbs during the week and so, although I love roast tatties, it’s not going to fly night after night.

Overall, the service saves time on the ‘big food shop’ for the convenience of home delivery. It also helps to circumnavigate supermarket supply chains which often involve enormous air miles and spoilage.

On that note I’d like to invite you to sign up for a service with East Coast and check it out for yourself.

Summer canapes

A few months ago I published a blog on “entertaining a crowd” which focused on a variety of dips for canapes / appetisers. I’ve decided to revisit this subject – this time focusing on something a bit different.

What comes to mind when you think of “Canape” ?

For me, it brings to mind large prissy platters at fancy parties that quite simply overdo things – like thinly sliced carpaccio of beef with quail’s eggs or weird shot glasses filled with foam – who has the time for that?

Well, I like to keep things simple.

The Recipes

These recipes are great for appetisers, breakfast, brunch, lunch or just as a snack or appetizer. All you need is any type of crisp bread, flat bread (e.g. pitta), oatcake, sliced baguette, crackers or you could use a pizza base, sliced into bite-sized portions, toasted, fried or grilled until crispy and topped with the ingredients.

Once assembled all that’s required is a quick drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Flaked salmon crisp breads

I’ve used Peter’s Yard rye flour crisp breads for this recipe. Utterly delicious.

Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 200g hot smoked salmon, flaked
  • 4 – 6 Peter’s Yard crisp breads
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Arrange the crisp breads into “half moon” shapes and top with the salmon.
  • Drizzle over the lemon juice/zest, olive oil.
  • Serve on a plate in the sunshine!

“Tricolour crisp breads” of tomato, basil and mozzarella

You can grill these crisp breads for a couple of minutes to warm and soften tomatoes and mozzarella.

Tri colour crisp breads

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g mozzarella cheese, sliced into small chunks
  • a handful of fresh basil, torn
  • 4 – 6 crisp breads
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Brush the tops of each crisp bread with olive oil.
  • In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, olive oil and mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper together until combined.
  • Drizzle each crisp bread with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Serve.

(For grilling)

  • Heat the grill to a medium-high heat and grill the crisp breads, on a heat-proof tray, for 2-3 minutes . Serve.

Crackers and Camembert

An old classic. Slightly less colourful than the previous recipes but just as appealing.

Crackers and Camembert

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 round of Camembert (you can also use Brie), sliced into chunks
  • 6-8 crackers
  • Butter, for spreading

Directions

  • Spread each cracker with butter and top with cheese.

Scrumptious summer salad recipes

I’ve included these recipes as a tribute to the bright and joyous colours of summer (UK not included). They’re rather eclectic but the flavours are definitely there. Hope you enjoy them.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash aerial Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2 Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Smoked mackerel, mozzarella and red pepper salad with wholegrain mustard root mash

They say never to pair fish with cheese but I think this recipe works wonders. The strong flavour of the mackerel is well matched with the creaminess and texture of the mozzarella. Finally, the oiled peppers and mustard mash give it some additional punch alongside the crunchy gem lettuce.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 100g smoke mackerel, cooked
  • 100g reduced fat mozzarella cheese, torn into small chunks
  • 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, in oil/char grilled (pre-packaged)
  • 1 baby gem lettuce
  • A handful of lambs lettuce

For the root vegetable – mustard mash

  • 500g mixed root vegetables: I used 1 small swede, 1 small celeriac and 2 carrots
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Directions

  • For the root vegetable mash, put the vegetables in a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes until tender. Drain well, then mash adding the butter and mustard.
  • Mix together until the butter has melted.
  • Add some salt and pepper then serve.
  • For the salad, arrange the mackerel, mozzarella, salad leaves and mixed peppers in a bowl and pour over the oil from the mixed peppers.
  • Mix together thoroughly before serving alongside the mash

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens

This vegetarian recipe has great East Asian flavours and is seriously flavourful. The soba noodles offer a decent alternative to wheat pasta, if you are gluten-intolerant, and the dish itself offers a healthy balance of protein, carbs and very little fat.

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g soba noodles
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • A small cube of fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 150g firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into small cubes
  • 4 Spring onions, sliced lengthways
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • (optional) a handful of leafy greens
  • (optional) 2 tbsp almond nut butter
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • In a large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. Add the broccoli florets for the final 5 minutes of cooking. Cook until tender.
  • Drain the water then toss the noodles and broccoli with 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
  • Next, in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and honey; set aside.
  • Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes. Set the tofu aside in a small dish.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat, adding the garlic, ginger and spring onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
  • Add the soy sauce and honey to the pan and toss in the soba noodles, broccoli florets and tofu.
  • (optional) Finally, stir the almond-nut butter into the pan until well mixed.
  • Season to taste and then serve alongside the (optional) leafy greens.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

This is a colourful and crunchy recipe which can be eaten as a main or side dish.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small red cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded finely
  • 6 carrots, cut into thin strips (a decent food processor should have an attachment blade for this)

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil,
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice,
  • Salt and pepper,
  • 150g broad beans,
  • (optional) a handful of coriander,
  • (optional) a sprinkle of sesame seeds, or some other variety of Omega 3/Omega 6 rich seeds (linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

Directions

  • Mix the sesame oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl to make a dressing and then set aside.
  • Boil a large saucepan of water, add the cabbage and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the broad beans and simmer for 1 minute more. Drain the vegetables, leave to cool, then toss with the grated carrot, dressing and (optional) coriander leaves and sesame seeds.

Smashing Pumpkins: 3 ways with pumpkin seeds

When I have an inevitable energy slump in the afternoon, usually around 3 o’clock, I always need to go foraging for food. For instance a slice of hot toast smothered with crunchy peanut butter with a few berries or a mashed banana on top. Oatcakes with roasted nuts are another option, or perhaps a chunky granola bar, encased in sugar syrup and smothered with seeds. Pumpkin seeds

I think you can see where I’m going with this… Pumpkin seeds also fall into this category.

As far as all-round health benefits are concerned they’re pretty hard to beat. Their nutrition is, shall we say, “brain boosting” – with zinc, magnesium and Omega-3 in abundance, all of which are beneficial when it comes to improving memory and critical thinking skills.

This is definitely a good choice for the afternoon cognitive deficit.

As well as for snacking pumpkin seeds are great for general cooking purposes; such as garnishing sweet and savoury bakes; blitzing into a pesto sauce for pasta or pureeing into a smooth and creamy seed butter or for toast.

For the recipes below I’ve opted for a selection of 3 of the best (and indeed simple) uses for pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seed breadPumpkin seed bread

Seeded bread recipes often call for different seed varieties like linseed, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. This loaf uses only the latter of the four – which I find the most flavoursome.

Ingredients

  • 20g fresh / 14g instant yeast
  • 500g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 5g salt
  • 10g unrefined sugar i.e. brown cane sugar or demerara
  • 50ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 275ml/9fl oz warm water
  • 150g pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Heat a small pan to a medium-high heat and spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly. Toast for around 7-10 minutes, shaking the pan so they do not catch or burn. Remove from the heat and leave to cool
  • In a bowl mix together the yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil until well combined. Add the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together as a soft dough.
  • Add the pumpkin seeds and knead gently for 5-8 minutes, or until the seeds are combined and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
  • Set aside in a warm place to prove for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • When the dough has proved, transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden-brown.

Porridge with pumpkin seeds and maple syrup blackberries

There are countless recipe variations around for porridge – what can you expect for something that’s Porridge with pumpkin seeds and blackberriesbeen around since 1000 BC..

This is my take on it.

Ingredients

  • 50-75g steel cut oats
  • 250ml water or milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • a generous drizzle of maple syrup

Directions

  • Put the oats in a saucepan with the water (or milk) and salt.
  • Slowly bring to the boil over a low-medium heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time and watching carefully that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Before serving, pour some boiling water into your serving bowl, leave for 10 seconds, then pour out. This warms the bowl in preparation for the porridge.
  • To serve: Pour into the warmed bowl, spoon the pumpkin seeds on top and drizzle with honey.

Spice-roasted pumpkin seeds with cumin, coriander and cardamom

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Ingredients

  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, cardamom and salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add seeds, lower heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well then transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and pat dry.
  • Meanwhile, mix the oil together in a bowl with the ground spices.
  • Transfer the seeds to a medium bowl, toss with the flavoured oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour total. (They will become crispier as they cool.)
  • Set aside to let cool completely then shell or eat whole.

Related:

Peanut Butter and date flapjacks recipe

Homemade cashew, cocoa and date ‘Nakd’ bars

Nuts about Almonds!

Something sweet…

Having done a few posts on this blog up to now, I realised that the majority of them have focused heavily on food of the ‘savoury’ variety. I can’t think why this is – other than the fact that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

In any case, I thought I’d redress the balance, and focus this week’s post around a couple of familiar and comforting pudding recipes, starting with the nation’s favourite: Ice Cream.

Ice cream in the UK has had a makeover; we are now blessed with an alluring range of flavours to choose from. Gone are the days of the ubiquitous “raspberry ripple”, “mint choc chip” or “chocolate soft scoop”, to be replaced by a new breed of adventurous concoctions like cardamom and pistachio, bitter almond and salted caramel or double rocky road. Hold on, did somebody say bacon and egg?

References to Heston Blumenthal aside, the UK ice cream market is in rude health. The combination of thick double cream, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk in this new myriad of flavours is enough to excite anyone.

There are some seriously good ice cream outlets around the UK, nestled away in small market towns throughout the country. Growing up in Scotland, we would often take family trips to Giacopazzi’s in Milnathort, Fife, usually for a gigantic tub of vanilla, with raspberry sauce and ‘sprinkly bits’. More recently, during regular trips to Portugal, my fiancee and I have been blown away by the incredible gelato from Santini’s Gelati in Lisbon.

But before I get all giddy espousing the wonderful qualities of the white stuff I’d like to offer a caveat on some of the underlying issues of commercial ice cream production.

I think it is taken for granted that all ice creams are created equal. Not so. Much of the bulk ice cream packs found on our shelves in the UK, or from any Mr Whippy dispenser, are made with non-dairy fats like vegetable oil or palm oil. In other words, they contain no actual milk content whatsoever.

Added sweeteners, flavours and stabilisers have muddied the waters even further.

Ultimately, this bears little similarity to the real thing, other than the temperature. One could argue that this keeps costs down and prolongs the shelf life of the product but, for me, this compromises on the overall taste.

Therefore, I think we need to exercise due diligence to make sure we’re getting ‘proper’ ice cream as opposed to the cheap stuff that you often see dripping down a drain on a hot summers day.

On that bombshell, I’ve composed one incredible ice cream recipe below* which really does the stuff justice.

Alongside one further pudding recipe.

*ice cream maker not required. 

Pistachio ice cream with blueberries

Pistachio ice cream

Serves 1 – 2

Recipe for “no-churn Pistachio ice creeeam!”

courtesy of BakingMad.com –

Ingredients

  • 397ml condensed milk
  • 600ml double cream
  • 80g pistachio nuts, shelled
  • A small handful of blueberries

Directions

  • Place half of the pistachios in a food processor or spice grinder and process until fine. Roughly chop the remaining half. 
  • Place the double cream and condensed milk in a bowl with the ground pistachios and whisk until thick (an electric whisk would save time). 
  • Fold in the roughly chopped pistachios and place in a freezer proof container. 
  • Place in the freezer overnight.

Blueberry and lemon cheesecake

Lemon and blueberry cheesecake closeup

Hom, nom, nom!

Serves 4 -6

Ingredients

  • 200g all-butter shortbread, finely crushed
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 85g butter, melted

For the filling

  • 300g half fat cream cheese
  • 300g full fat cream cheese
  • 150g sugar
  • 250ml pot soured cream
  • 4 eggs, 2 egg yolks
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • blueberries, to serve
  • 2 tbsp blueberry or raspberry jam

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • To begin making this cheesecake recipe crush shortbread in a food processor, put into a bowl and add the almonds and melted butter.
  • Mix well, then press into base of the tin. Put in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
  • The filling is easy; just put all the ingredients into the food processor and blitz until well blended.
  • Put a double layer of foil around the tin, as you are going to bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Put the lined tin in a roasting tin, pour in the filling, then put it into the oven and pour around 2cm (¾in) boiling water from the kettle into the roasting tin. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and leave the cake to cool in the oven for 1 to 2 hours. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight.
  • For the topping, cook the blueberries with a few spoons of water and the jam in a medium pan for about a minute.
  • Leave to cool before pouring on top of the cheesecake.