Food Safety Week

Summer Roast ChickenIt’s Food Safety Week (16th-22nd of June) and this year the Food Standards Agency (FSA) wants us to stop washing raw chicken. I was invited to a special FSA event to find out why.

My initial reaction to the invitation was highly enthusiastic (I love a good cookery demo) and I was keen to find out more and share my findings here on my blog. But the more I thought about it the more I wrestled with the idea. I have professional experience in two fields; Cooking and Facilities Management (specifically cleaning), which I fear may make me a rather unpopular dinner party guest. Most people both cook and clean to some degree and have learned these skills over a number of years…so probably don’t like to hear that something they are doing is wrong. The difficulty I have is that I need to know the safest way of working and once I know it…well I can’t un-know it.
If you’re cooking in my kitchen I will probably have one eye on what I’m doing and the other on making sure you’ve washed your hands, are using the correct colour coded chopping board/cleaning cloth/utensil for the task and if you so much as think about double dipping you’re out on your ear! Unfortunately for my friends and family I can be a little too eager to share gross food hygiene horror stories.

But this particular campaign isn’t aimed at professional chefs but to anyone and everyone who cooks chicken, especially at home, and the FSA are keen to reach as many people as possible with the message “Don’t Wash Raw Chicken”.

Food Standards Agency Campaign 2014 Campylobacter

The FSA have found that washing raw chicken in your kitchen sink before cooking it increases the risk of contracting campylobacter which is a form of food poisoning. They issued a press release on why they want to increase awareness now:

“The call comes as new figures released today show that 44% of people always wash chicken before cooking it – a practice that can spread campylobacter bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment through the splashing of water droplets.

Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. Around four in five of these cases come from contaminated poultry. The resulting illness can cause abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and vomiting. In certain cases, it can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a serious condition of the nervous system. At its worst, it can kill. Those most at risk are children under five and older people.”
Food Standards Agency 16/06/14

At the press event the speakers were Bob Martin from the FSA, Professor Sarah O’Brien from the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool and Home Economist Sue Ashworth who demonstrated how to prepare a raw chicken for roasting and whipped up a quick Caesar Salad. Even though we’d spent the morning talking about food poisoning I still managed to scoff a load of Sue’s chicken salad.

Sue Ashworth Home Economist Sue Ashworth Home Economist Sue Ashworth's Chicken Caesar Salad Sue Ashworth's Roast Chicken for FSA Event

I knew that raw chicken was something to be dealt with carefully but I thought that was due to the risk of salmonella. I was shocked to then discover the number of campylobacter cases far outweighs the instances of salmonella, e.coli and listeria put together! The facts kept getting scarier – the amount of organisms you need to consume to become infected is tiny and if you’re unlucky the effects can be horrendous. BUT this isn’t a public health scare. This isn’t like when BSE hit the headlines or Edwina Curie started flapping about eggs. From what I could understand from the data presented; cases of camplyobacter have been steadily high for many years. The FSA seem genuinely committed to bringing these figures down and, as well as this campaign, they are talking to farmers, suppliers and major supermarkets to reduce the contamination at all stages.

FSA Campylobacter Campaign 2014

So, now you know! There’s loads more information, if you want to hear even more grizzly details on the FSA website. All you need to do is tip the raw chicken straight into the roasting tray or frying pan directly from the packet then wash your hands. The bacteria is mostly on the surface and the high heat of the oven or the pan will destroy the bacteria for you…no go tell your friends, preferably at a dinner party so that I’m not the only one!

Summer Roast Dinner

Now for the tasty bit.  If all this talk of bacteria hasn’t put you off your dinner (and I really hope that it hasn’t) I’ve come up with a super simple alternative to a traditional Sunday Roast, perfect for a hot Sunday evening. Everything cooks together in one tray at the same time and there’s no sweating over a hot pan of gravy.

 

Summer Roast Chicken with Watercress

Serves 4

Ingredients
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 baking potato
5 sticks of celery
1 medium sized fennel bulb
1 head of chicory
5 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 eating apples
Salt & Pepper
1 medium sized free-range chicken
1 bag of watercress

For the dressing
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 dessertspoonfuls of olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C then drizzle the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a large baking/roasting tray.

2. Pick the leaves off the celery stalks (if there are any) and the fronds from the fennel and set aside for using in the dressing.

3. Wash and chop into large chunks the apple (discard the core and seeds), potato (no need to peel it), fennel, celery and chicory. Pile all these chopped ingredients and the garlic cloves into the roasting tray and toss in the oil. Season well with salt and black pepper then make a space in the centre of the tray for the chicken.
Roasting tray ready for the chicken to be added

4. Remove and dispose of all the packaging from the chicken and place it in the centre of the roasting tray, no need to wash the chicken first. Wash your hands in hot soapy water.
Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Apple, Chicory, Celery and Garlic ready to be roasted

5. Cover the whole tray in tin foil and roast in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

6. After an hour remove the foil and use a spoon to baste the chicken in the juices. Put the tray back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

7. Check the chicken is cooked through by inserting a sharp knife or a skewer into the thickest part of the bird. If the juices run clear and the meat inside is opaque white all the way through then it’s ready. If not pop it back in the oven until completely done.
One-tray Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Apple, Chicory, Celery and Garlic

8. To make the dressing, finely chop the fennel fronds and celery leaves (reserved from earlier) and add to the zest and juice from one lemon. Whisk the mixture whilst you gradually add 2 dessertspoons of olive oil until well combined, it should also thicken slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

9. To serve, scatter some watercress leaves on each plate, pile the roasted fruit and vegetables on top then add pieces of roasted chicken. Drizzle everything with the lemon dressing and enjoy, preferably outside with a cold glass of white wine.
Summer Roast Chicken

Summer Alternative to Roast Dinner

What are your favourite chicken dishes? Did you wash raw chicken before the campaign started? Do you have any questions on cooking or ideas you want to share? Do get in touch I’d love to hear from you. I’m on twitter as @miriamjsnice and you can throw all your kitchen queries at me using the hashtag #askmim. Alternatively say hi on Facebook or drop me a message via the Ask Mim! contact page.

Happy cooking xxx

Lamb and Vegetable Meatballs

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I really fancied making meatballs this week. Mostly because my Dad called me to tell me about some of the delicious meatballs he’s been making from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. I was also inspired by the lamb patties we made at Tonia Buxton’s Total Greek Yoghurt masterclass. Normally when I make burgers or meatballs I’m a bit of a purist and like to make them from nothing but meat. However Tonia’s recipe contained egg and breadcrumbs as well as spices and it gave a really nice texture and kept the meat juicy. I used all my breadcrumbs last week for those fish fingers plus I wanted to try something a bit different. So, instead of bread I decided to throw a load of grated vegetables into the mix. This really works because it makes the mixture go a heck of a lot further and I love the little flecks of green and orange running through the meatballs from the courgette and carrot – they look really quite snazzy!

Ingredients

For the Meatballs:
250g lamb mince
1 clove crushed garlic
1 large free-range egg
1 carrot (grated)
1 courgette (grated)
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Pinch salt

Plus 1-2 teaspoons of vegetable oil (for greasing the tray)

For the Sauce:
3 spring onions
2 teaspoons of vegetable or Olive oil
1 dessertspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 Clove of Garlic (crushed)
Approx 200g passata
Tea-cupful of water
Handful of sultanas
Salt and pepper to taste

150g of rice
Cold water

Optional: fresh basil, parsley or Parmesan cheese

Method
1) Preheat oven to 190°c and drizzle the vegetable oil on a baking sheet.

2) Place all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Really get stuck in squashing it all together so all the spices are properly mingled in with the meat and grated veg.

3) Once all the ingredients are really well combined divide the mixture into 10 and roll into meat balls.

DSC089474) Pop the meatballs onto the greased baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for around 15 minutes or until turning brown on the outside and cooked all the way through.

DSC08948 5) While the meatballs are cooking away stick the rice on to boil. I rinse my rice before I boil it and cook it in a pan with about 2-3cm of cold water on top. I bring it to the boil and then let it stay boiling for about 10 minutes. Then I put the lid on and turn the heat off and let it sit in its own steam for another 10 minutes…but everyone has their own tricks for rice – if in doubt follow the instructions on the pack.

6) So, rice is on, meatballs are in, all that's left now is the tomato sauce:
Chop the spring onions and fry them gently in the oil until they're starting to soften.

7) Stir in the crushed garlic for just a couple of seconds then add the balsamic vinegar, passata and water.

8) Throw in the sultanas and leave to simmer (stirring occasionally) for about 10 – 15 minutes or until it has reduced a little, you want it about as thick as the passata was before you added the water, if not just slightly thicker. Season to taste.

9) When the meatballs are done take them out of the oven and when you're happy with the sauce pop the meatballs into it and give them a stir round to give them a good tomatoey coating.
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10) Serve your meatballs and tomato sauce on a bed of rice with a few fresh herbs scattered around or a cheeky grating of Parmesan cheese.

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If you make this recipe or any others on my blog do let me know and don’t forget to get in touch too if you have any recipe requests or cooking queries. Love hearing from you all. Have a fab weekend and Happy Cooking xx

Fish Fingers

I must warn you, my reason behind making fish fingers this week isn’t particularly thrilling. I wish I could recount some whimsical, nostalgic tale… or discuss Doctor Who serving them with custard …even explain that I needed comfort food for some sob story or another. The truth is much less exciting. Basically I found the end of a loaf of rather nice black olive bread (which I had left in it’s bag on the kitchen table for a couple of days) and although still perfectly edible, it had become so stale that if thrown, it could probably smash through a brick wall! I hate chucking things away so I thought I’ll make breadcrumbs and that led to FISH FINGERS and here we are. I have decided to share it because it actually turned out to be a lovely, healthy meal made from mostly store-cupboard regulars. The salty capers and gherkins in the sauce plus the lemon juice on the pea salad mean’t that the whole dish is packed with so much flavour I don’t think the dish needs extra salt or butter in the mash – give it a whirl let me know what you think.
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Fish Finger Dinner

Serves 2
Ingredients

For the Fish Fingers
2 Fillets of fish (I used salmon)
Approx 50g of stale bread
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 handfuls of frozen peas
few sprigs of fresh mint
juice of half a lemon
Olive oil

Sauce
5-6 small radishes
2-3 mini gherkins
1 teaspoon of capers
1/2 teaspoon of djion mustard
1 tablespoon of Greek Yoghurt

Method

Start by making the sauce. I must add that I was tempted to call this Tartare Sauce but with so few ingredients in common with the traditional I was worried about getting slammed with the trades descriptions act. It is a bit like tartare sauce…but not really…it does go bloomin’ well with the fish fingers though, honest!
1) Finely dice the radishes, gherkins and capers.
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2) Add the mustard and yoghurt to the chopped ingredients and stir well.
3) Pop into the fridge until needed.
4) Next, chop the sweet potatoes into chunks and put into a pan of boiling water. Let boil for 20 minutes whilst you prepare the fish.
5) Cut each fish fillet into thick strips – for the fillets I used I just had to snip them in half with scissors but you could cut them into three if yours are bigger.
6) Put the stale bread into a food processor and blitz to make breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can use a grater but it will take ages if the bread is as stale as mine was.
7) Dip the pieces of fish into the flour, then into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs. If there are still breadcrumbs left in the bowl after the first dip, pop the fish back into the egg and then in the breadcrumbs again to get them all used up.
8) Place the fish fingers on a baking tray greased with a teaspoon of vegetable oil and put into an oven preheated to 180°C for 15 – 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. 
9) When the fish is nearly ready put the frozen peas into a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water, leave to stand until defrosted (around 5 minutes).
10) Drain the peas and add the lemon juice, chopped mint and a splash of olive oil, mix well.
11) To serve, drain and mash the sweet potato and serve alongside the fish, pea salad and the sauce.
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What leftovers inspired you this week? Or are you feeling uninspired by your store-cupboard ingredients? Send me a message and I could write a recipe just for you xx

Try Total

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