Category Archives: Savoury

What to do with left over pancake batter

This is my creative take on using up spelt pancake batter mixture from “pancake day” or Shrove Tuesday as it’s more traditionally known.

Oven baked Vegetable flan

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Ingredients

(For the batter)
100g spelt flour
150 ml almond milk
1 egg, separated (whisk the egg white until fluffy)
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp sesame oil

(For the mixed vegetables)
1 head broccoli, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
65g chickpeas
2 tbsp omega seed mix
50g tofu
100g spring greens with bean sprouts
5 spring onions,  finely chopped
1 tbsp each cumin, coriander and fennel seeds
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A small bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped.
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Mix the batter ingredients together and set aside in an oven dish.
2. For the vegetables, heat the oil in a medium pan over a high heat and fry the broccoli for 5 minutes, turning consistently.
3. Next, add the rest of the vegetables, tofu, garlic and seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes.
4. Combine the vegetables with the batter in the oven dish and bake
for 20 minutes.
5. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped mint leaves.

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Chestnuts

Chestnut vendor When we were on holiday in Madrid a few years back I remember buying the most amazing roasted chestnuts (pictured right) – freshly roasted in vast cauldrons – from the many street vendors around the city.

They were dished out to us piping hot in small paper bags – often selling for as little as 1 Euro per 100g (a large handful).

Here in the UK, since the chestnut season is so brief (September to December) I think it’s always useful to take advantage whilst we can.

Types / availability

· Whole peeled chestnuts, canned or vacuum-packed, are available from most UK supermarkets. 450g fresh chestnuts (weighed in their shells) are equivalent to 175g dried, reconstituted chestnuts or 350g tinned or vacuum packed nuts.

· Canned chestnut purée, plain or sweetened, available in tins, is a godsend as it saves hours of preparation for use in pudding recipes.

· Chestnut flour (gluten-free and with a slight earthy smokiness) is often available from speciality food stores and delicatessens. This is useful as a substitute for flour in cakes (see below), pancakes or as a thickener for soups and stews.

Chestnuts roastedCooking with fresh chestnuts

Fresh chestnuts should be cooked and never eaten raw – due to their high acid content. I find the oven to be the most effective way of roasting them.

First, pre-heat the oven to 200 C / 390 F.

If you are using fresh chestnuts which contain the outer shell / husk then one of the most important steps before roasting is to cut an incision in the shell using the end of a sharp knife.

Alternatively you can roll your foot over them until they crack slightly. This prevents sudden explosions of chestnut shrapnel from inside the oven due to a pressure build up in the shell.

Next, place approximately 200g chestnuts on an oven tray and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Once cooked, peel off the tough shell and the papery thin skin underneath. Peel the nuts whilst hot – it’s impossible to peel a cold chestnut – to ensure the complete removal of the inner brown furry skin, called the ‘tan’, which is bitter.

Alternative recipes

A great cake recipe of Italian origin is Montebianco – using chestnuts, chocolate and coffee, with layers of mousse, praline and almond meringue. Who could say no to that?Chestnuts aerial view

If you prefer something a bit more homely then I cannot think of anything more inviting than steaming ladlefuls of hot chestnut soup.

First, take 1kg fresh, cooked and peeled chestnuts (or 600g pre-packaged and vacuum-packed), 1 onion, 1 garlic clove (finely chopped), 25g butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 litre stock and 1 tbsp brown sugar.

Next, In a saucepan, heat a the butter with the olive oil over a medium heat, then add the garlic and onions. Cook them for about 5 minutes or until they become soft and begin to brown.

Add the stock, brown sugar and bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and blitz with a hand blender until smooth, then adjust the seasoning to taste.

The soup is naturally creamy so there is no need to add cream.

Serve into soup bowls and enjoy.

Autumn reflections – with a comforting hummus dish

I think the Autumnal time of year is a great opportunity to cosy up with friends and family and share food which is a little bit more comforting than we might do in Spring or Summer – foods like mackerel, chicken casserole, spinach, kale, beetroot, pumpkin and other root vegetables (oven-roasted).

Don’t get me wrong; I love the Autumn for what it is, especially the vibrant orange colours of the leaves on  the trees against the dusk skies – see below – and the briskness, crispness and freshness that we experience most mornings in the UK. Autumn skies

I recently posted a blog on how to make homemade falafel and I posted another blog on making your own dips for entertaining a crowd.

The purpose of this blog is to delve, once more, into Middle Eastern cuisine, with a recipe for creamy hummus – something I’ve always found to be a good accompaniment to vegetable or meat dishes.

Homemade courgette (zucchini) hummus with spices

Grilled courgette (zucchini)

Grilled courgette (zucchini)

I was fumbling around in the vegetable box receently thinking what might make a decent hummus recipe. Courgette’s (Zucchini) are one of my favourite vegetables and are pretty versatile – so I settled with that.

Grilled, fried or roasted, the courgette is blitzed in a food processor with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), aduki beans, fresh garlic, tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, herbs, spices and extra-virgin olive oil.

It can be eaten hot or cold.

You can use it as a dip for pitta bread, spread it on a wrap or pair it with roasted vegetables and any meat dish.

Hummus complete

Hummus

It’s gluten-free, low-carb and vegan friendly. Nutritionally, it also has a decent amount of protein and fibre.

Ingredients

Chickpeas (garnazo beans), aduki beans and tahini

Chickpeas (garnazo beans), aduki beans and tahini

  • 1 courgette (Zucchini) – grilled, fried or roasted
  • 400g can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 400g can aduki beans, drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  • ½ tsp salt, more to taste
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper

    Ingredients for hummus (clockwise from top - chickpeas and aduki beans, courgette, spices, lemon, garlic and coriander leaf)

    Ingredients for hummus (clockwise from top – chickpeas and aduki beans, courgette, spices, lemon, garlic and coriander leaf)

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 tbsp coriander or more fresh herbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

 Directions

  • Cut courgette into ½ inch thick strips, brush with a little olive oil and grill on medium heat until charred and tender.
  • (Alternately courgette may be roasted in the oven until tender. If you have very large zucchini with thick skin, you can half it lengthwise, roast in the oven and then scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin out, if necessary)
  • Place the grilled courgette along with the rest of the ingredients (except the oil, coriander herb and 2 tbsp of the chickpeas and aduki beans) in a food processor, and puree until relatively smooth.
  • Serve it in a bowl, making a little circular “well” using a spoon, and drizzle a little olive oil in the well.
  • Garnish with the 2 tbsp chickpeas and aduki beans and mix in the coriander herb.
  • Serve either warm or chilled.
Blitz hummus

Blitz hummus

Blitzed with coriander

Hummus blitzed with coriander

 

How to make homemade (baked) falafel

Falafels are a handy “store cupboard” meal for an easy weekday lunch or dinner. You can make a large batch and demolish them whenever takes your fancy – which, for me, would be for every meal.

Falafel Salad

The falafel patties will keep for several days in the fridge. Having said that, they do start to crumble and dry out the longer you leave them. If this happens just drizzle some extra oil over the patties before baking.

The recipe below is for a colourful salad – but you can easily turn the patties into mini burgers and stuff them into pitta bread with sliced tomato, rocket and fried red onion. Just a suggestion.

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the falafelHomemade Falafel

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas
  • 1 x 400g can mixed beans (kidney, borlotti and black eyed beans)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 lemon, zest grated
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander (herb)
  • Salt and pepper,
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour OR 1 egg (for binding the ingredients together)

For the salad

  • 2 tbsp red cabbage mayonnaise
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 2 x red and yellow pepper, sliced
  • a handful of rocket
  • 1 tomato, sliced thinkly
  • 1/2 small cucumber, chopped
  • 1 tspb jalepeno peppers

Directions

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Fry the onion over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for a further two minutes and remove from the heat.
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas and mixed beans and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the sautéed onion and garlic and crush together with a potato masher until the mixture is broken down.
  • Add the cumin, mixed herbs and lemon zest and mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the flour / egg and mix together.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Divide the mixture into 16 walnut-sized balls and place on a non-stick baking tray.
  • Rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  • Remove the falafel from the fridge, drizzle with the remaining oil and bake for 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown. Turn occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  • For the salad, arrange the ingredients on a plate with sliced (cooked) falafel placed on top.

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.

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!

Nuts about Almonds!

Always good for a munch when you’re feeling peckish – almonds are without doubt one of my favourite store cupboard ingredients.

Almonds

Oven roasted almonds

Although this delicate, mellow and creamy nut might not seem as exciting lined up against it’s more flavourful cousins; namely the walnut, pecan or brazil varieties, almonds do have their strong points; like providing the foundation for all great baking recipes, exotically flavoured tagines, pilafs and stews.

Not only that, almonds are also extremely nutritious:

  • They are rich in vitamin E which promotes healthy skin, bones and acts as an intoxicant which protects cell membranes.
  • Compared to other nuts they also contain the second highest amount of magnesium, after Brazil nuts, which is necessary for healthy teeth, muscle, nerve function and great for energy distribution throughout the body.
  • They are also high in protein and monounsaturated fats.

Almond varieties:

Almonds aerial view

Oven roasted almonds aerial view

  • Whole almonds

My favourite almonds are the skin-on whole variety (brown in colour) although blanched almonds (white in colour, skin-off) are also available.

I whole find almonds eaten straight from the packet a little bland; it usually helps to toss them in a little olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper before blasting them in a hot oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Not only does this bring out their flavour but it also gives them a crunchier texture.

  • Ground (powdered) almonds

Great for home baking (think lemon, almond and poppy seed cake) – lending a chewy consistency to cakes and excellent for a healthy flour substitute for making pancakes.

  • Flaked almonds

These are readily used as a garnish on savoury dishes like Moroccan tagines, pilafs and Indian curries. On the sweet end of the spectrum you’ll find toasted and flaked almonds adorning all manner of cakes and sweet pastries – like Bakewell tarts, nutty florentine biscuits, pralines, creamy trifles and (my favourite) sweet almond croissants filled with marzipan paste.

On that note, feel free to browse my recipe for Macaroons from a previous blog.

Recipe ideas:

If I’m not eating almonds straight from the packet or munching them straight from the oven I’ll often use a food processor to prepare smoothies, milkshakes and thick sauces.

  • For a great smoothie recipe – blitz a handful of almonds with 150g blanched kale, 1 banana and 2-3 dates, along with a good splash of almond milk or water. This can be chilled in the refrigerator or served at room temperature.
  • For a bright, fiery sauce you can’t go wrong with Romesco – from the Catalonia region in Spain. Romesco is made with almonds, roasted red peppers, garlic, tomatoes and a thick slice of country bread for texture, making it an excellent accompaniment for meat, fish and as a dressing for roasted vegetables. Just take 100g of whole roasted almonds, 4 garlic cloves, 2 diced tomatoes, 3 roasted red peppers (blackened on an open flame or roasted for 20 minutes in a fierce oven) and 1 red chilli. Add this to a food processor with 100ml olive oil, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar, 1 tbsp smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth.

I’ve focused two recipes below: the first has all the flavours and textures from the Middle East; with the second offering up a healthy non-dairy alternative to milk.

Almond, apricot, pomegranate, quinoa and bulgur Pilaf

Pilaf is a long-standing favourite of mine which usually contains rice, spices and various other grains. I’ve gone with quinoa and bulgar as the two main ingredients which give the dish a fantastically nutty texture.

Almond, apricot, quinoa and bulgar pilaf

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g each of uncooked quinoa and bulgar wheat
  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzos
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • salt and pepper to taste
Almond, apricot, quinoa and bulgur pilaf ingredients

Ingredients (clockwise from left): quinoa, bulgur wheat, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chilli flakes and (middle) 1 whole cinnamon stick

To garnish

  • 100g mixed almonds
  • 75g apricots, chopped
  • 75g pomegranates
  • a handful of coriander

Directions

  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan, then fry the onions, coriander seeds and cumin seeds until soft and golden. Add the garlic and chillies and fry for 2 minutes, then add the quinoa, bulgur, stock and cinammon. Season, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the stock is absorbed or until the you have fluffy grains. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Garnish with the remaining ingredients and serve.

Homemade almond milk

A fresh and tasty vegan alternative to cow’s milk. You will need a blender.

Almond milk recipe

Ingredients

  • 200g whole almonds
  • 570ml/1 pint water
  • 6-7 good quality pitted dates (Medjool variety are good) OR 3-4 tbsp maple syrup

Directions

  • In a container, soak the almonds in just enough water to cover.
  • Cover with a towel and let it sit in a cool place for about 8 – 12 hours.
  • Pour off the water from the almonds and rinse well.
  • Place the rinsed almonds into a blender, add the water with the dates or maple syrup, blending for a few minutes on high speed until well mixed.
  • Strain the almond milk through a very fine sieve or a bag strainer and serve. You will be left with some almond meal residue in the sieve or bag strainer (you can use this for macaroons, cookies, almond but butter or other baking recipes).

Alternative flavour suggestions

Add these extra ingredients at the blending stage

  • Chocolate almond milk: add 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Cinnamon milk: add 1 tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg
  • Vanilla almond milk: add 1 tsp vanilla extract or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod