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On Thursday I was invited to La Cucina Caldesi to attend a cookery class hosted by TV chef and food writer Tonia Buxton and my chums at Total Greek Yoghurt.
I was pretty sure the day was going to be a giggle even before I stepped inside the Italian Cookery School as someone had already mischeviously replaced the word “Italian” with “Greek” on the door.
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Once in and name badges on everyone started chatting and quickly sharing twitter handles, blog stories and cookery tips. Tonia came round with some fantastic slices of a traditional Easter Breads. I went for a slab of Flaounes which was full of spices, sesame seeds, cheese and dried fruits. It was delicious but turns out quite difficult to eat whilst making foodie small talk. I did manage to have a good chat to someone about barbeques…I don’t think I spat sesame seeds on to him, but if I did, Jonathan, I apologise :-)

Tonia put us all into small groups. I was with Selina from Taste Mauritius, Lucia from Lulabella’s Kitchen, Janey from Slice of Slim and Bailee from The Model Foodie joined us later. These girls are all hilarious and all fantastic cooks so we finished prepping our main course of Tonia’s Greek Lamb Pattie Tray Bake before everyone else (such swots!).
photo by Satureyes Photography
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We were so efficient that there was plenty of time for a Team PILE IN pic!
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Tray bakes safely in the oven Tonia gave us all a glass of rosé and got us to play a round of tsougrisma. Basically everyone gets a boiled egg which has been dyed red and you have to go round the room hitting your egg on the egg of each of the other players in an attempt to crack it and they all do the same to you.  It’s a bit like conkers because the winner is the person with the most intact egg at the end. Tonia won, but she had some clever technique going on so we weren’t surprised.Photo by Satureyes Photography

Eggs smashed and wine dispatched we started prepping our desserts of Anarocrema which is a layered dessert of crumbled filo pastry, a mixture of Total Greek Yoghurt, flavourings like cinnamon or rosewater and a type of cream cheese called Anari (made from the whey from halloumi) then topped with fruits, nuts and more filo. 20140420-124655.jpg

We got into a bit of trouble making our desserts as we kept adding sugar and rosewater to everything…I blame that jolly nice rosé.Photo by Satureyes Photography

Photo by Satureyes Photography

Selina had to leave the workshop early but had the forethought to bring tupperware with her…urm..GENIUS!

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And finally we made our starter of Sea Bream Fillets with capers, garlic, corriander and olives with a Tahini sauce. I loved this dish, it’s full of flavour and I really liked how we all ate it standing up straight out of the pan. 20140420-124729.jpg I had a fantastic day with Tonia, Total Greek Yoghurt and all the bloggers. Tonia is an absolute hoot – as well as enthusiastically jumping into the last pile-in photo she gave me a big chunk of the leftover Flaounes to take home for breakfast the next day! Check out her website for all her foodie happenings! All of her recipes from the day are below but head over to Total’s website for more yoghurty ideas! 20140420-124807.jpg
Hope you all had a fab Easter break xx


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Φλαούνες
Flaounes 

Makes around 40
Ingredients
For the Flaouna Mixture:

1 kg flaouna cheese
2 pkts hallomi
400g pkt cheddar cheese
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves
1 bottle of mastiki
12 eggs, plus 1 egg to crack and smear over the top of the mixture
1 pkt semolina (small)
2 ½ glasses (500g) plain flour
½ cup sugar (optional, I don’t put in much sugar as I put so many raisins)
20g dried yeast
5 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 pkts raisins, or to taste
 
For the dough                                                    

1kg plain flour
1 tsp salt            
1 tsp mehlepi
1 tsp ground mastic      
¾ glass (100ml) olive oil          
500g TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
3 tsp baking powder  
 
Method
 

  1. First make the Flauona mix. Grate the three cheeses – we usually do this the day before to dry them out.
  2. Chop the mint leaves. Grind the mastic with a pestle and mortar, adding a little sugar to prevent it from sticking.
  3. Crack all but 1 egg into a large bowl and beat, then add the semolina, flour, sugar, mint, yeast, cheese, cinnamon and last but not least the raisins. Mix well with your hands and flatten out in the bowl. Crack on the last egg, smearing over the top of the mixture, leaving to soak in.
  4. Now for the dough. To the flour, add the salt, mehlepi and ground mastic.
  5. Mix using the palms of your hands and add olive oil and the yoghurt.
  6. Slowly add water to make a dough consistency and knead well for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Separate into 4 balls, cover and leave to stand for 20 minutes in a warm place.

 
Assembling

  1. Roll out the dough into a square, add a heaped amount of the flaouna mixture, fold into a square around the mixture and press the corners down with a fork
  1. Place the flaouna on a lightly greased baking tray. Glaze with a beaten egg that has had a little sugar added to make it a more golden colour. Make sure the egg yolk does not run as this will make the flaouna stick to the backing tray.
  2. Leave the flaounes to stand for 10 minutes before placing in the oven.
  3. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 180°C / Gas Mark 4 for the first 25 minutes or until well risen
  4. Do not open the oven door at all for the first 25 minutes as this will make the flaouna sink.
  5. Reduce the oven to 160°C / Gas Mark 2 for a further 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

 


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Greek Sea Bream Fillets with Olives, Capers, Lemon & Yoghurt Tahini Sauce
Serves: 2 or 4 as a starter/meze

Ingredients

4 sea bream fillets (or seabass)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
25g pine nuts
12 Greek green olives (takistès if possible)
1 tablespoon of capers
Juice of 1 lemon
½ x 15g pack fresh coriander, chopped
 
For the Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

1 large tbsp Total Greek Yoghurt
1 heaped tablespoon of wholemeal Tahini paste,
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large pinch sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Cold water to slacken, if needed
 
Method
 

  1. Lightly season the sea bream fillets.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, then add the fillets skin-side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the skin is crisp and golden brown.
  3. Turn over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes, until the flesh is opaque and just cooked through. Remove from the pan and place on warmed serving plates.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the garlic and pine nuts for 1 minute, until they start to lightly brown. Add the olives and capers and sauté for a further minute.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let it bubble for a minute then sprinkle in the coriander.
  6. Mix the yoghurt sauce ingredients together.
  7. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

Lamb Tray Bake 
Greek Lamb Pattie Tray Bake

Serves: 4


Ingredients

100g TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
100g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
400g lamb mince
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp ground cumin
4 red onions (2 finely chopped, 2 cut into wedges)
Large handful mint, chopped
4 waxy new potatoes, ie charlottes cut into wedges
4 courgettes, halved & quartered lengthways
250g pack midi tomatoes on the vine
2 unwaxed lemons cut into 6 wedges each
4 tbsp olive oil
100g feta cheese, crumbled

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C / 180°C Fan / Gas Mark 6.
  2. Put the breadcrumbs, the lamb mince, egg, plenty of seasoning and cumin in a bowl.
  3. Add the chopped onion and sprinkle in half the chopped mint. Give everything a good mix and shape into 8 patties.
  4. Lightly oil a large, shallow roasting tray and add the patties.
  5. Place the onion wedges on the tray around the lamb patties with the potatoes, courgettes and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake for around 40 minutes, turning & basting everything once halfway, until the lamb is cooked though and the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the feta and remaining mint.
  6. Serve with a yoghurt and tahini sauce.

Greek Salad

Tray Bake with Tahini and Salad


 
AnarocremaAnarocrema

Serves: 8
 
Ingredients

5 sheets of filo pastry
Olive oil to brush
1 kg unsalted Anari Cheese (or ricotta cheese)
750g Total Greek Yoghurt
 
Toppings

½ glass (125g) caster sugar
1 small Greek coffee cup (50ml) of rosewater
OR
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp honey
OR
3 tbsp honey
½ glass of orange blossom water
PLUS
1 glass halved walnuts
OR
1 glass chopped pistachio nuts
1 glass of fresh raspberries
OR
Chopped strawberries
 
Method

 

  1. Cut the 5 sheets of filo pastry in half to make 10 sheets. Place each stack side by side on a baking tray brushing between each sheet with some oil. Bake in a preheated oven (150°C / Fan 130°C / Gas Mark 2) for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool then crush into flakes.
  2. Place the Anari cheese in a bowl, breaking down with a fork. Add the Greek yoghurt & your preferred flavouring.
  3. Cover the bowl and pop in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to firm up.
  4. You need a pretty glass bowl to assemble the dessert, or single sundae glasses.
  5. First, scatter half the filo pastry into the base of the dish, then dollop in some of the cream mixture, layer some nuts & fruit & repeat.

Photo by Satureyes Photography

Recipes by Tonia Buxton and additional photos by Satureyes Photography.

Low Carb Diet

In response to my last blog post (where I offered to come up with dishes to help those on specific diets) I received the following email from a reader: (love the title she’s given me!)

Dear foodie agony aunt, 

I’m attempting a low carb diet and a few days in I’m already running out of meal ideas and I’m starting to lose steam… :(
Criteria:
– I can have meat of any kind, but the leaner the better.
– Eggs
– Dairy (ideally low fat)
– Vegetables
– On the occasions when I eat carbs they should be low GI and very small portions
– Minimal use of oils/fats

Once a week I’ll be having no carbs during the day at all, so those days will be the hardest to vary. What I want to avoid is meals like spag bol but without the spag (where the carb is so clearly missing it’s depressing!).

Help!


Ahoy there Reader!

Thank you so much for writing in :-) Firstly, however I should say that cutting out a food group entirely is not always the best idea, so I’m glad you are permitted to have some carbohydrates in your diet. But more importantly, everyone is different and if you know this plan works for you I admire your determination to stick to it.

Right, now first let’s address the spag situation. Grab yourself a good vegetable peeler – mine is one of those ‘Y’ shaped speed peelers and it was from Morrison’s and cost 80p! It’s one of the best peelers I’ve ever had (and no this post is not sponsored by a supermarket).

1. Using a vegetable peeler create long ribbons – here I’ve used courgettes but carrots work really well too, or a mixture of both is even better!

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2. Drop the vegetable ribbons into a pan of boiling water and cook for no more than about 3 minutes.

3. Drain and serve your vegetable mock-spaghetti with your bolognese sauce.

Alternatively make your own pesto.

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This is a great way to use up store cupboard bits and you can vary it how you like or to suit your dietary plan.
Here I used a mixture of almonds and cashews, blended with rocket leaves and a little olive oil. I would normally have added garlic but I had to go out that afternoon so I flung a few capers in instead. Olives work well too and a little grated hard cheese…

Basically you need:

- a leaf (basil, spinach, rocket, mint or watercress)
- a nut (pinenuts, brazils, cashews, almonds or walnuts)
- a dash of olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste

Optional extras:
- grated hard cheese like Parmesan, Gruyere, Comté
- crushed garlic
- olives, capers and anchovies
- lemon juice

Blend all of your chosen ingredients together in a blender or smash them up in a pestle and mortor. Taste and adjust the ratio or seasoning as you like, have fun experimenting!

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My second suggestion is an alternative to rice. It’s so simple it’s barely a recipe, but it’s super delicious!
All you do is coarsely grate some peeled butternut squash. Then pop it in a non-stick frying pan without adding any oil. Dry toast the grated butternut squash turning it frequently with a spatula so that it can all cook evenly. After about 5 minutes it should be tender but with slightly scorched edges, serve immediately with your main dish. I think this would be delicious with grilled fish and a green salad or with a good spoonful of chilli con carne!

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Healthy eating and getting fit can be really difficult. I hope these recipes are helpful and what’s great is they actually take less time to cook than traditional rice or pasta!
I’ve started trying to get fit by doing some yoga and jogging. I’m not fit enough yet to brave the jogging route down regents canal – at busy times it can get quite hairy with Cyclists, Dog Walkers, Joggers and Canada Geese all getting tangled up under a footbridge.
Instead of joining them I’ve cleared a small area of floor space in my bedroom and use an app which shouts out various exercise or yoga instructions! So currently, my idea of a work out is to jog basically on the spot whilst a disembodied voice shouts “almost there” and “you know what to do!”. I normally find this really boring but I discovered that the jogging routine is approx 30 minutes long so there’s no reason why I can’t watch TV or a film to keep me entertained. So last night I jogged to an episode of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on iplayer! Yay for cardio workout + satire! I felt much better about eating some more broccoli and pepperoni pizza… and a glass of my housemate’s red wine ;-)
x

If you’re stuck for recipe ideas too, please do send me a message via the contact form or head over to my Facebook page.

Healthy Resolutions

Ahoy there team!
How are the New Year’s Resolutions going? I can’t even remember what mine were and it’s only just the end of February! If you’re still on a health kick, nice work! Whether you’re doing it to shed a few seasonal pounds, avoid foods which aggravate your system or alleviate an underlying health issue it’s always difficult to break old habits and stick to new ones.

In this blog post I wanted to write a recipe for some of my favourite people who are on a strict plant-based and whole-food diet. The recipe I’ve chosen is for bulgur wheat and salsa wraps which really super easy are great for sharing. They’re based on fajitas but instead of sour cream I’ve used tahini sauce and instead of cheese there are tasty toasted pumpkin seeds. Use shop bought whole wheat tortillas or make them yourself from whole grain spelt flour.

Spelt Flour Wraps

Bulgur Wheat and Fruit Salsa Wraps

The process of piling in as much of each of the fillings as you like is fun and I hope feels more like a treat and less like a diet food.

WrapsSalsa

Salsa
1 red chili
1 apple
2 tangerines or other small oranges
Small bunch of coriander
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

1) Finely chop the chili, apple, tangerines and coriander and put everything into a large bowl or serving dish.
2) Pour over the lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper.
3) Stir well and put into the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Bulghur Wheat

Bulgur Wheat
4) Put 1 cup of bulgur in a heatproof bowl.
5) Add 1.5 cups of boiling water, cover and leave for 15-20mins or until all the water has been absorbed

Tahini Sauce

Tahini Sauce
3 teaspoons light tahini paste
6 teaspoons of water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

6) Mix the tahini and water together until the mixture is the consistency of thick cream. Add the cumin and stir well, add a splash more water if needed.

Lettuce, Pumpkin Seeds, Lemon and Avocado

To serve
1 little gem lettuce (shredded)
1-2 Ripe Avocados (sliced)
Lemon wedges
Pumpkin seeds (toasted)

7) Load up your own wraps and dig in!     Help Yourselves!

DinnerAdding Lettuce Ready to roll Finished Wraps More SalsaDesserts are often off the menu when you’re trying to stick to a healthy plan, but I’d find them super hard to give up entirely.
My favourite discovery is this banana ice cream, it’s made with blended, frozen bananas and that’s it! Genius! It really does end up like a premium ice cream but with the calorie count of, well…a banana!
And it doesn’t end there. Missing pastry? Try using ripe avocado instead of butter in your shortcrust recipes. Ok, so it doesn’t come out as crisp and rich but it’s not half bad. I made a sweet potato pie with avocado pastry recently and served it with banana ice cream and a cheeky drizzle of maple syrup! Yummers!

Sweet Potato Pie

I would absolutely love to hear from you about healthy eating and special diets. What foods are you currently avoiding? Send me a message in the comments box or via the contact page and I may be able to write a brand new recipe for you too.

Have a super weekend x

Oxford Marmalade

It’s marmalade season…although in terms of eating seasonably it doesn’t appear to be my year!
My fruitless search for forced rhubarb and wild goose-chase for full fat goat’s milk meant that it wasn’t a total shock when I couldn’t find a Seville orange anywhere. Seville oranges might be the marmalade makers choice but I’d planned to blog about marmalade this week and once it’s in the notebook, well, there’s no turning back! (with or without the right oranges!)
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Instead of Seville oranges I picked up a selection of oranges, clementines and lemons.
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I like recipes you don’t have to read (odd for a food writer I know) like those cake recipes where you use a yoghurt pot to measure out all the other ingredients or the “half fat to flour” rule for pastry.
For this marmalade I weighed out all he fruit I’d bought and it came to 1.3kg. For the sugar I used double that weight so used 2.6kg of demerara and the same number but in litres of water (2.6l). This seemed to be the simplest way and hopefully a handy rule of thumb for future marmalade adventures.

This batch is Oxford Marmalade for 2 reason: the first is the traditional addition of black treacle and the second (to make it really authentic) is that I sent a jar of the finished marmalade on at very own vacation to Oxford University!
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1) The first step is to prepare the fruit. Cut each orange or lemon in half and squeeze out all the juice into a bowl. Then turn the fruit halves inside out so you can pull the flesh away from the peel. Put everything except the peel into the bowl with the juice.
2) Once all the fruit had been separated like this, slice the peel up into matchstick sized pieces and set aside.
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3) To cook the marmalade put the water, fruit juice, pips and flesh into a pan and bring to the boil. Allow the mixture to bubble away for about 15 minutes.
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4) Then pass the mixture through a metal sieve to get rid of the pips and bits of fruit. Put the strained fruit juice back on the heat and add the chopped peel. Bring back up to the boil for an hour or until the peel is soft and the juice has reduced by about half.
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5) Once the peel is soft you can add the sugar and a tablespoon of black treacle, this is the slightly scary part. You need to make sure that the sugar dissolves and then heat the mixture until it reaches the correct setting point. The traditional (fun) way to do this is to put a plate or saucer in the freezer and then when you think the marmalade is ready you put a few drops of it onto the cold saucer and allow it to cool. Then if when you press the blob of marmalade with your finger it wrinkles (the marmalade not your finger) then it’s ready. But, keep watching your marmalade and make sure that your saucepan is very large…if you take your eye off what is essentially boiling sugar, it will try to make a break for it and that’s not a good look! If you can see it starting to rise up make sure your hob gets turned off quickly and stand well back while it calms down. Don’t try and touch it – it’s properly hot!

6) When it’s ready put the marmalade into clean, sterilised and preferably warm jars. I wash mine really well with hot water and washing up liquid and then put them into the oven to dry before carefully pouring in the hot marmalade.

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My marmalade did try to escape from the pan but it does clean off pretty well with a soft cloth and warm water.
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Clearly my marmalade had somewhere it wanted to be…so I sent it on a road trip to Oxford, I think it had a good time! Thanks for sending me these photos Damian!
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Goat’s Cheese

Spitalfields

This is Joe. When I first met Joe I was in his living room wearing pyjamas with my mascara halfway down my face. I had been painting the town red the night before with his housemate – my good friend … Continue reading

Crumble

This week I decided to write about Rhubarb. After much thought, research and contemplating possibly pairing it with fish, constructing an elaborate sarnie or shaking a cocktail I opted for a good, old fashioned rhubarb crumble recipe to banish a few winter blues.
But hey there, hang on, where’s all the rhubarb?! I thought it was forced rhubarb-o’clock…am I wrong? Or, did you eat it all while I’ve been sleeping?
Anyway, after traipsing round 3 supermarkets and at least 6 grocers this week I am still rhubarb-less.
On my way home yesterday (past the final green grocers before our street) my flatmate Damian spotted a big pile of quince. I haven’t cooked with quince before so I was quite excited to give it a go. Also quince gets a nice mention in the poem The Owl and the Pussycat which we had been discussing earlier that afternoon after spotting someone sporting a rather fetching Christmas jumper with an owl design on it on the Piccadilly line.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,”

-Edward Lear

Talking of owls there’s a lovely photograph by Deana Kolencikova at the Taylor Wessing portrait photography prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery at the moment. The photo is called ‘Man with Owl and Lucy’. Lucy is a white west highland terrier who I remember seeing with her owner and his owl walking along Bridlesmith Gate in Nottingham one morning. Her owner was politely talking to passers by who wanted to know more about his owl but he wanted to make sure people knew how frustrating Lucy found being upstaged by the bird. Anyway, back to the quince…

Quince and Apple Crumble

…there’s no mince in this crumble (you might be pleased to know) and I don’t have a runcible spoon…although I do have a plastic spork or two somewhere which I think is nearly the same thing. In this recipe, I’ve added fragrant cardamom and a splash of rosewater (which in my head gives it a bit of an Old Elizabethan vibe). It’s very tasty, give it a go…and if you’re in London pop into the National Portrait Gallery…or look out for Lucy next time you’re in Nottingham. Whatever you’re doing this weekend just don’t tell me how delicious all your rhubarb recipes are because that’d be mean  x

Quince & Apple Crumble (aka not Rhubarb Crumble)

Ingredients
1 quince
1 Bramley apple
100ml water
1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
50g Demerara sugar
1 teaspoon of rosewater

For the crumble topping:
200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
100g Demerara sugar
50g rolled oats
Pinch of salt

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Crumble base prep
2) Peel, core and slice the apple and the quince. Lay the slices in a large ovenproof dish and pour over 100ml of water, the ground cardamom and 50g of sugar.
3) Bake in the oven for 45 minutes (stirring occasionally to ensure that the top layer of fruit doesn’t get scorched).
4) Meanwhile, make the crumble topping by rubbing the flour and butter together between your fingers until it resembles fresh breadcrumbs.
5) Now stir the remaining sugar, oats and salt into the flour and butter mixture and set aside.
6) When the fruit is soft sprinkle over the rosewater and then cover the fruit with the crumble topping.

Cooked apple and quince

rosewater and crumble topping
7) Return the dish to the oven for 25-30, minutes or until the topping is crisp and starting to turn golden at the top and edges.

Cooked Crumble
8) Serve with custard, cream, yoghurt or ice cream.Crumble dishes Crumble with cream

Crumble Dish

Happy New Year!

Firstly a very Happy New Year, I hope you all had a wonderful time over the festive season and have exciting plans for 2014. Secondly I want to apologise for the long silence…

In the time between now and my last blog post I’ve had the official launch party for my first book “Cooking Without A Kitchen”, become newly single and moved in to a lovely flat in East London.

Photo © Jonathan Rose

So swings and roundabouts seems to sum up the last few months. Whichever one of those is better (swings in my opinion, roundabouts make me feel a bit queasy) then that’s where I currently find myself as things are definitely looking up.

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For starters I flippin’ love East London. Ok, so there are quite a few people with complicated moustaches who seem incapable of smiling or wearing socks with their brogues (what’s that about?!). But, there are cheerful organic grocers everywhere and I can go for long strolls along Regent’s Canal whenever I want, ooh and on Sunday I can wander down to Columbia Road and buy flowers! London Fields station itself smells like malt loaf all day long because there’s an independent brewery at one end of the road and a sourdough bakery at the other. It’s brilliant. You get the picture.

shopping Broadway Market London Fields Regents Canal

2014 can’t be all about eating and skipping along flower markets though I’ve got to get some work done too. I have promised to help out with those on New Years resolutions diets by coming up with a fun healthy vegetarian or vegan recipe once a month, watch this space. At the moment I’ve had a request to provide recipes which are free from oil, sugar, meat, fish and dairy but please do get in touch if there is something you are also trying to cut out or eat more of, I’d love to hear from you.

Now for a recipe! As part of settling in to my new neighbourhood I spent the morning sussing out the local shops and with my purchases whipped up this tasty warm salad. If you haven’t cooked little gem lettuce before I strongly recommend you give it a whirl it’s delicious; surprisingly nutty and the bitterness you often get from the leaves in the centre is mellowed by the cooking process.

Panfried Little Gem and Garlic Crouton Salad

Pan Fried Little Gem and Garlic Crouton Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 thick slices of sourdough bread
Olive oil
Small Bunch of chives (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 little gem lettuces
100-150g of marinated anchovy filets
1 ripe avocado
1 garlic clove (crushed)
Salt and Pepper

Method

1) Cut the bread into large cubes and fry in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden.

2) Throw the crushed garlic into the pan with the croutons just briefly to soften it and take the rawness out.

3) Take the pan off the heat and tip the croutons onto some kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil.

4) In a small bowl mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and chopped chives together. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside in the fridge until later.

5) Wash the lettuces but keep them whole and slice any muddy or discoloured ends from the stalk. Cut the prepared lettuces into quarters and fry in a non-stick pan without any oil until they start to brown. Pop the cooked lettuce onto a plate and drizzle over a little olive oil or better still use some of the marinade from the anchovies.

Pan fried little gems

6) To serve arrange spoonfuls of the yoghurt dressing onto the plates, top with the little gems, slices of avocado, anchovies and then scatter over the croutons and season everything with a generous amount of black pepper.

Little Gem Salad

Bonfire Feast

I’ve always thought of black treacle as the bitter cousin of golden syrup, useful only for bonfire toffee (aka treacle toffee) and fruit cake…how wrong I was. I rediscovered its usefulness when trying to come up with a no-cook version of a balsamic reduction for a dish in my book (I’m in constant book promo mode I know, I know) and I’ve been keen to experiment with it further ever since.
So, this week I’m dusting off that little red tin at the back of the cupboard and celebrating the general super duperness of black treacle by using it as a base for a salad dressing and piling it into a new take on a treacle tart in my bonfire night menu.

Another unsung hero of the season is the marrow. My friend Zara, her daughter Florence and I lugged an enormous marrow home from their allotment last week and invented this dip together which forms the basis of my starter.

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Marrow Baba Ghanoush
Serve with cheese straws, crisps, crudités or as I did, with little croquettes made from mashed sweet potato or pumpkin.

Ingredients
1 marrow
Salt
Black Pepper
Olive oil
50g cream cheese
Small bunch of chives
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Method
1) Preheat the oven to 200°c
2) Cut the marrow into large wedges and place on a baking tray, skin side up
3) Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper
4) Roast for 30-40 minutes or until the marrow is really soft and the skin is caramelised or scorched in patches.
5) When the marrow is well roasted place it in a blender with all of the other ingredients. Blend until smooth.
6) Can be served warm or cold which means you can make it the night before and just pop it in the fridge.

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Venison Hot Dogs
I think hot dogs taste better outside on a cold day and they’re easy to hold and eat with a sparkler in your other hand!
To make them super special I’m using venison sausages and a cheeky drizzle of dark chocolate. Trust me it works! To balance out the richness of the hot dogs I’ve made this firework ‘slaw with brightly coloured veggies and a black treacle dressing.

Ingredients
For the firework ‘slaw:
1 carrot, peeled
1/4 red cabbage
1 beetroot, peeled
Small bunch of radishes, leaves and stalks removed
1 teaspoon of black treacle
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the hot dogs:
2 red onions or 4 large shallots
Knob of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
5-6 juniper berries
1 tablespoon of red wine (leaving plenty left in the bottle for serving with dinner)
2 bay leaves
8 venison sausages
8 brioche rolls
100g of dark chocolate (at least 70%)
English mustard

Method
1) Finely slice the onions or shallots and place in a large frying pan with the butter, oil, juniper berries and bay leaves.
2) Soften gently on a low heat for 15-20 minutes then stir in the red wine.
3) Heat for another minute or so to allow the wine to soak into the onions.
4) Cook the sausages in the oven for about 25-30 mins (as per the packet or your butchers instructions)
5) Melt the chocolate either in a bowl fitted over a pan of simmering water or if you (like me) can’t be bothered with all that; pop the chocolate in an oven proof dish and chuck it in the oven very very briefly (don’t let it burn or you’ll have to start again).
6) Warm the brioche rolls for a couple of minutes in the oven then split them lengthways and stuff in the onions, sausage, dash of English mustard then a very light drizzle of melted chocolate.

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To make the accompanying ‘slaw. Stir the black treacle and balsamic vinegar together until well combined. Then whisk in the olive oil a little at a time, season with salt and pepper and set aside. Finely chop or grate the vegetables and toss in the dressing just before serving.

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Bonfire Brazil Nut Tart
Dessert has all the flavours of treacle toffee but it’s softened by the buttery brazil nuts (…went a bit Greg Wallace then sorry, can’t help it it’s well yummy!)

Ingredients
200g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
100g cold butter, diced
1 large free-range egg
Cold water to bind

300g golden syrup
300g black treacle
100g fresh breadcrumbs
150g chopped brazil nuts
2 tbsp of whiskey

Method
1) Rub the butter and flour together with your hands until it looks like breadcrumbs.
2) Lightly beat the egg and add it to the flour and butter. Stir in a little cold water too, just a tablespoon or so, just enough to bring it together to a smooth, soft dough.
3) Dust your work surface with flour and then roll out the dough to line a medium sized spring form cake tin or tart case (mine was an 18cm cake tin, which was probably a bit too deep so you might be better with something slightly bigger to make a shallower tart)
4) Chill the pastry in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and preheat the oven to 190°c
5) Blind bake the pastry (line the pastry case with grease proof held down with baking beans) for 15 minutes then (remove the paper and beans) and bake for a bit longer, until starting to turn golden brown.
6) Stir all of the remaining ingredients together and tip into the pastry case.
7) Bake the tart for 30 minutes.
8) Serve with double cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.

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Have a super bonfire night xx

Soup Season

Is it soup season already? It must be as I seem to be spending most evenings curled up on the sofa with a blanket watching The Great British Strictly X-Factor Come Dancing Bake-Off!*
So, without further ado, dig out those slipper socks, whip up this delicious soup recipe and hibernate. See you all in the Spring ;-)
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OK, ok, so not really going into hibernation; some of us have dishes to wash and a book to promote (any excuse for a plug). With that in mind and the horrendous news (which I cannot seem to escape) that there are only 64 days until Christmas I have added a bonus recipe to this soup dish – just double up on a few of the ingredients (see below) and you’ll have a stunning little salad treat for tomorrow, giving you even more relaxing telly time! Hooray! X

Roasted vegetable soup with figs and balsamic dressing

Makes 4 portions
Ingredients
1 Butternut squash
1 Beetroot
2 Onions
4 Garlic cloves
1 baking potato
3 carrots
Olive oil
Grated or Ground Nutmeg
Salt and pepper
200ml milk
300ml boiling water or chicken stock
4 Fresh Figs
Few sprigs of Fresh Thyme
1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of Black treacle

100g goats cheese or 2 tablespoons of toasted flaked almonds (optional)

Method
1) Preheat the oven to 200°c
2) Peel the beetroot, potato, butternut squash, onions and carrots and cut into chunks. Put the chopped veg into a large roasting dish and drizzle over 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt, black pepper and about half a teaspoon of grated or ground nutmeg.Throw in the garlic cloves (unpeeled) and roast for 30-35 minutes or until they are soft and the potatoes are golden and starting to caramelise at the edges.
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3) Once the vegetables are in the oven cut a deep cross in each of the figs to almost cut each one in quarters (but not all the way through). Pop them on a smaller baking tray or oven proof dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
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4) Roast the figs towards the end of the vegetable cooking time as they only need 15 minutes.
5) To make the balsamic dressing simply whisk together 1 tablespoon of the oil from the vegetable roasting tray with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and the teaspoon of black treacle. Set a side until serving.
6) Carefully remove the skin from the now roasted garlic and discard. Put the peeled garlic and roasted vegetables in a blender with the milk and 300ml of boiling water (or you can use chicken stock if you prefer) blend until smooth. Add a dash more water if you want a thinner consistency.
7) Pour into shallow bowls, top each one with a few thyme leaves, a roasted fig and either a sprinkling of toasted almonds or pieces of soft goats cheese. Drizzle a little of the dressing over each one and serve.
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Bonus recipe
Peeling and chopping vegetables can be a bit boring so why not put a few chunks of the roasted vegetables to one side for tomorrow before blending? Save a bit of the balsamic dressing too, an extra fresh fig and a lump of goats cheese.
Simply scatter some rocket or watercress on to your plate, add the cold roasted vegetables, chopped fresh fig and goat cheese then pour over the balsamic dressing make an elegant seasonal salad.

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(*rock and roll!)

London Art Book Fair

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After many hours trundling the shops for something suitable to wear to the London Art Book Fair opening night yesterday, I finally settled on some very loud trousers, quirky sweatshirt, copper trainers and gold hoop earrings. I think I looked a bit like a rapper, which I decided was the obvious look to go for when promoting one’s first cookery book!

It started at 6pm so I gave myself plenty of time to get ready but I’d ordered the trainers online and spent most of the morning worrying that they wouldn’t arrive. Luckily they turned up in the middle of the afternoon leaving me just enough time to jump in the shower, half-heartedly pluck my eyebrows (tedious task) and have a bash at using a face mask. All was going swimmingly…until it wasn’t.

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First I washed off the face mask and whilst drying and straightening my hair I started finding clumps of clay still in my fringe and behind my ears from the mask – I managed to wash some of it out but by then didn’t have time to get rid of it all. Next, I knelt down to pick up my suitcase (needed to bring it to collect all my copies of the book) and my new trousers split at the seams. While Richard texted my chums to let them know I was running late I frantically hand stitched up my trousers. Now slightly fraught I noticed my hair had got itself in a right muddle; still half damp and sticking up at the sides where some of that stubborn face mask had lingered. I reached for my hairbrush and as I did so caught my thumbnail on a splinter of wood on the dining table which caused my thumb to bleed profusely for a few minutes. This was all going on whilst Richard was deep in conversation with a woman on the phone who was very keen to discuss the finer details of being miss-sold PPI. I wonder what she must have thought what with my yelps of “ouch” and “f@&k” in the background.

Right, deep breath, trousers fixed, bleeding stopped, and phone call ended we left the house for the launch party. We got half way down the road and I realised I’d forgotten the fabric pen I needed for signing the books. I walked briskly back to the house (couldn’t run in fear of splitting my trousers again) to pick up the pen. Pen located (and purse, which it seemed, I had also forgotten) I locked up and tried again. Half way down the street for the second time and thought I better check my phone to see if everyone was alright and hadn’t gotten lost…my phone…I’d forgotten my phone, back to the house…and so it went on. EVENTUALLY we got to Whitechapel Gallery and waited outside for a while…until we realised that everyone we knew was already inside looking at the book. You really couldn’t make this up. Thankfully we were greeted with free cold beers on arrival and the rest of the night was much much better. Helen arrived and gave me a fantastic key ring she had made to look like my book and my favourite stylist Rhodora approved of my clobber.

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Maria and Nina Vlotides from Pedestrian Publishing have done an amazing job on the design of the book and even helped make all of the covers by hand.

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Each book is ever so slightly different because the covers are made from tea towels hand screen printed by the lovely people in Otto’s team at Marshfield Print Studio and then they have all been lovingly stitched together and ironed.

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Because they’re handmade this is a limited edition run of 300 so if you can’t get to the book fair this weekend keep your eyes peeled for the Facebook announcements for when they’re listed on the online shop so you don’t miss out. Ooh and if you’re any where near Hampshire on the 22nd of September head over to the Whitchurch Country Fair, I’ll be there selling/signing books and am honoured to have been asked to judge the entries in the baking competition! Cannot wait! All the details for the event are here, do say hello!

Even though I split my trousers, cut my thumb, had terrible hair with clay in it and arrived so late that most people I know had read my book before I’d even seen it for the first time, I had a brilliant evening. It has taken three years of recipe experiments and copious notes and scribbles to get to this point and I couldn’t be happier. Thanks so much to all of you who read this blog and I hope you enjoy “Cooking Without a Kitchen” too.
Xxx

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My book can be found on the Pedestrian Publishing stand at the London Art Book Fair all this weekend. As well as my book they’ll be selling “Pavement Poetry” by Maria Vlotides and “Pharmapoetica” by Chris McCabe and Maria Vlotides, both amazing books. Also don’t forget to say hello to Otto Dettmer from Marshfield print studio as he’s selling his own work at the book fair and it’s lovely stuff.

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