Category Archives: bruncheon

We did it! Again.

11pm two nights before the wedding and we had undershot our 9pm target finish time by a mere two hours. Disposing of several kilos of fondant and wearing our ‘we hate fondant’ faces, tired and weary and slightly hysterical we battled with covering four cakes. This was day four in the week-long run up to the wedding. The preceding day Emma had made vast amounts of buttercream and the following and final day we were dowelling and decorating long after our willingness had gone to bed. Trials and tribulations of the past few weeks are too much a blur to recall here in detail but suffice it to say that more expletives uttered, hysterical laughter erupted and icing sugar coated moments were experienced in Emma’s apartment recently than ever before. After a rather seat-gripping nerve-wracking drive from London to Marlow with a four tier cake balanced in the back, the infamously muttered lines of ‘never again’ were repeated but I am sure like all declarations of good intent, we had said that the previous time. We really had been ambitious with this one. Each tier with distinct flavourings of chocolate, and white chocolate buttercream, lemon curd, and apricot jam (not to mention the finger-flavoured slice some poor guest must have eaten since somebody had poked a finger into the top tier. Grrr). In the end, it all ended well and the wedding was beautiful. Congratulations to you Renzo and Elsa and thank you so much for trusting us with the first cake slice of your wedded life.

 

 

Owning my Contradictions

hemp seeds

I know. Slowing down, speeding up. Chocolate and cheese with raw superfood probiotic packed smoothies. Its all here and it all forms part of the glorious concoction of foods that comprise my diet. Just as my life;, a balance of seemingly opposing forces, contradictions and organised chaos. Have I got the balance right? Definitely not. Is there such a thing as “right”? Probably not. I share here whatever occurs in my life and on my plate, in the realest form in which it occurs.
I get so confused with so many conflicting voices that reason with my dietary needs, my lifestyle choices and my emotional mindset that sometimes its hard to sit and listen to the silence speak. Lately I have been tuning into it and feeding my body what it asks for. Lately it asks for this. A lot.
blueberries

 

Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie

In approximate quantities, throw the following into your blender:

1 frozen banana
a handful of fresh baby spinach
a handful of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp of almond butter
1 tsp of bee pollen
1 tsp of hemp seeds
1 tsp of chia seeds
1 cup milk of choice (I like rice milk)

Blend. Drink. Own your contradictions.

Brunch. Yes.

No. I did not miss that annual food fest called Christmas. Believe me, I indulged in that fully. Everything from homemade cranberry sauce eaten straight from the warm pan to my aunt’s absolutely divine lamb curry; which feels a bit like the food is having a party in my mouth. I might even argue that the party hasn’t yet stopped; if I look at the chocolate boxes and mince pies strewn around my apartment as I sip the hot cocoa I’ve just made.

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Where was I? Oh yes, I had wanted to blog about all the wonderful things I made, and ate. I had wanted to post festive seasonal recipes and I had wanted to write about all the ongoings in my life post-India trip. The one thing I will successfully share with you is this sweet potato, spinach and bacon brunch with you: (there are far fewer things in life more important than food anyhow)….

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Ingredients:

Vegetable oil for cooking
Handful of cumin seeds
Pinch of salt
6 rashers of bacon, chopped into chunks
Handful of fresh spinach or kale
1 sweet potato, chopped and baked
2 eggs

As with other indulgent, delicious thrown-together brunch recipes, the quantities are really up to you. Just use the above as a rough guide to make enough to serve two.

Lightly fry the cumin seeds in oil. Add the chopped bacon until cooked. Add in the chopped, cooked sweet potato, and finally the spinach/kale until wilted. Serve the whole lot onto a plate, and use the same pan to fry the eggs. Perch the eggs on top and sprinkle with salt. Delicious.

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Breakfast: Bacon Granola and Butternut Pancakes

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Yes I know. This is a ‘weekend breakfast’ kind of post. These days I am both leaving the house and returning to it with the moon and stars, the weekends and the weekdays are becoming indistinguishable; as my propensity to combine hours of work-time and play-time is becoming ever more distinguishable.

Hold up. Play-time? Amidst the hectic schedule of my daily life the extent of my play-time resides in the pleasure of messing around in the kitchen with ingredients: dustings of flour, spices and sugar, smears of butter and oil, shards of grated cocoa and nuts. This isn’t a bad way to spend play-time and admittedly it’s become something of a sacred space; my kitchen, the place to which I retreat when I’m not at the gym (my other sacred space).

This week I found myself experimenting with a recipe for pumpkin pancakes at 6am on Saturday when it was so dark outdoors that it felt more like a midnight snack than a pre-work breakfast. Admittedly the bacon granola was made on a Sunday, not least because Nigel Slater wrote that it’s a Sunday kind of breakfast. It really is.

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I decided to post both of these recipes not because they were life-changingly amazing nor because I’ve added either of them to my regular repertoire of weekend breakfasts but because they were unusual and because they characterise the joy of playing with ingredients. Oh, and because I promised my fabulous foodie-friend Paraskevi that I would. I can’t wait to hear how your own version goes Skevi! :)

And with these good morning recipes, I bid you goodnight. Happy playing.

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BACON GRANOLA

Recipe from Nigel Slater

6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
40g butter
100g rolled oats
50g whole or flaked almonds
50 pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp hemp seeds
handful of dried cranberries
4 tbsp crème fraiche

Cut the bacon into small chunks and fry. Add butter to a shallow pan and tip in all ingredients except crème fraiche and bacon. Leave to warm over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally. When the oats are golden and smell warm and sweet, add in the bacon. Tip the whole lot into a bowl and stir the crème fraiche lightly through.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH BREAKFAST PANCAKES W PECANS

135g butternut squash puree*
2 eggs
½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp ground ginger
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ cup wholewheat flour
coconut oil for frying

Greek yogurt, maple syrup and pecan nuts to serve

Stir all the pancake ingredients together. Heat a tbsp of coconut oil in a pan and add a heaped tbsp. of batter. I found that in order to cook through I spread the mix out thinly. Once golden brown underneath, flip and cook the other side.

*cut in half and roast a whole butternut squash. Once cooked through til soft, wait for the squash to cool and peel off the skin. Scrape the flesh into a food processor and add 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp lemon, 2 tbsp brown sugar. Blend. Add contents to a pan and simmer gently for 20mins until the sauce thickens. Cool and store in a jar (for pancakes, or spreading on toast, or simply spooning straight into one’s mouth)!

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3 ways with courgettes

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I have lots of cousins and lots courgettes in my refrigerator. The cousins aren’t in my refrigerator of course, the courgettes are. Both are equally vocal. The cousins communicating all manner of things from encouraging and engaging to teasing and tantrums. The courgettes are calling for me to cook them. I guess that so many of my courgettes have been eaten thinly sliced and tossed raw into salads that it’s a fair request. When I didn’t know what to do with the amount of courgette amassing in my fridge I turned to Deb Perelmen’s plethora of recipes for I knew she would have some fun things to do with the vegetable. And fun things she did have. So I hereby give you three of my favourite things to do with courgettes: The aforementioned courgette salad that I have been eating all too frequently through summer, courgette fritters and courgette bread (which we all know is actually cake but I’m sticking with calling it bread. It sounds healthier).

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Speaking of healthy (and cousins); my cousin Daksha having taken a renewed approach to health and fitness (and how very proud of her I am for doing so) had been asking me for the recipe for courgette fritters. I had promised her a recipe post, oh I don’t know, about… a month ago. Every week since I have been thinking “yep, I’ll do that at the weekend”, and then Sunday comes and goes and suddenly Monday is upon me and I’m in the middle of this chaos called daily life yearning for the weekend again. What, how?! As my aunt pointed out this could have something to do with the hours I while away experimenting with recipes in the kitchen but I’m sticking with the story of my own personal time warp. Kind of like right now. Sunday night. Tick tock…

Courgette salad

Ingredients
1 medium sized courgette
1 tbsp  olive oil
handful of pine nuts
1 tbsp pesto
squeeze of fresh lemon

Using a vegetable peeler (or a mandolin if you are lucky enough to have one of those), top and tail the courgette and thinly slice until you have ribbons of it on the plate. Squeeze over some fresh lemon, and spoon through the olive oil, pesto and pine nuts. Simples.

I often eat this on it’s own although I have on occasion mixed it through some pasta and melted feta. That’s pretty awesome too.

courgette salad

Courgette fritters

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
1 large courgette
1 egg
½ cup buckwheat (or normal flour)
half an onion, sautéed (optional)
seasoning
oil for cooking (I prefer coconut oil here)

Grate the courgette and season with salt. Leave to sit for ten minutes.

Squeeze the water from the vegetable either by wringing it through a cloth, or pressing it hard into a sieve until all the liquid has been drained. It’s the less-fun part of the process but you’ll be thankful you did it otherwise you’ll end up with soggy courgette fritters and no-one wants that.

Put the grated, squeezed courgette into a bowl and add the egg and half cup of flour plus some salt and pepper. Mix it all together.

If using onions (they do add texture and flavour to the fritters), sauté them in a little oil until translucent and soft. Add them to the mix.

Dollop a little of the mixture into a pan of hot oil and fry until the underside of the fritters are brown. Flip and cook the other side.

I love these served with home made mayonnaise.

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Courgette Bread (Cake)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients (yields two loaves)
3 eggs
200ml olive oil
220g sugar
350g grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla extract
420g wholegrain flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp teaspoon nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp salt
Optional extras: handful of chopped walnuts or pecans or raisins or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 6x11inch loaf pan, liberally.

Beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil, sugar, courgette and vanilla.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as any optional extras (nuts, chocolate chips raisins, if using). Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into the loaf tin.

Bake loaves for about an hour or until golden on top and an inserted knife comes out clean.

Share with cousins :)

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Cauliflower-base Pizza

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I know. I know what you’re thinking. This sounds fundamentally wrong. Pizzas, by their very nature are meant to be indulgent, unvirtuous and altogether fun. What on earth was I thinking when I made a pizza base out of shredded cauliflower? Of all things, cauliflower?!

It’s not the spring-air getting to me. It was a moment of inspiration I received from an article in the Guardian Food feature. Although, I was working on some spreadsheets at the time, so frankly, even wet lettuce with garlic paste would have seemed an inspiring prospect.

So. I went ahead and added ‘cauliflower’ to my weekly organic veg box delivery. And then, cancelled it. Using my iPhone, on the commuter train home. Yes, it was that urgent. In the dark commuting reality of the day, I realised the craziness of it all.

But then… it haunted me. I felt defeatist. Like I’d just given up on the idea of that healthy pizza. So… last night I went to the supermarket and picked up a cauliflower (as well as enough pizza toppings to disguise the taste lest it turn out as badly as I had expected it might).

I made it. I ate it. Every last bit. And not because I heard the voices of the school dinner ladies telling me I ought, not because I heard my mother’s voice telling me it was good for me. I ate it because…. it was yummy. Really, truly, scrumptiously yummy.

cauliflower

Gluten-free cauliflower based pizza

(recipe, barely adapted from atalovestory.com)

For the crust:
1 medium sized cauliflower, grated or shredded
1 egg
150g goat’s cream cheese
For the tomato sauce:
1 onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
400g tinned plum tomatoes
fresh basil, handful
pizza toppings of your choice

1. Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas6 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2. To make the crust, add the cauliflower to a pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Drain, then wrap in a teatowel and squeeze out any excess water.

3. In a bowl, mix the grated cauliflower with the cream cheese and egg, and season.

4. Spread the cauliflower mix across the baking tray and shape if you wish. Bake for approximately 30mins, or until firm and golden.

5. Whilst the crusts are baking, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and saute. Add teh garlic and stir briefly, then add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for about 20mins.

6. When the crusts are ready, spoon the tomato sauce over the top and spread evenly. Add toppings as desired (here I used baby spinach, parma ham, mushrooms, red peppers and mozzarella).

7. Bake for about 10mins until the cheese is golden/ toppings are just done.

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Buckwheat Pancakes

I have not been in the blog space for what seems like an eternity (an eternity being the about the whole of a week). So much has been happening since last weekend (everything from arguing that despite the mild embarrassment of frequently being ID’d for alcoholic purchases, I did not in fact submit an erroneous business birthdate of 1959; to eating my bodyweight in emotional salted-caramel-chocolate-coated-peanuts; to taking several hours and five trains to get home on Thursday evening; to going full steam with my body daily, on a battery recharge of about four hours nightly). It’s been a long and gruelling, but altogether rewarding week.

But. Less of that, and more of the important stuff. Blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Priorities, right?

I have been searching for a great buckwheat pancake recipe for some time, and there are many many variations out there. Ultimately, although they may exist, I never found one that was 100% buckwheat in form. And so, I got to work inventing one that worked. I used Molly Wizenburg‘s recipe as a starting point, based on her admirable dedication to finding good pancakes.

buckwheat pancakes

Recipe: Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Ingredients:

150g buckwheat flour
3 tsp sugar or xylitol
1/2 tsp baking powder
180ml buttermilk
70ml milk
1 large egg, yolk and white separated
1 tbsp coconut oil
maple syrup and fresh blueberries for serving (optional)

Method:

1. Mix together the fry ingredients; buckwheat flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

2. Pour the buttermilk and milk into a bowl or large measuring jug. Whisk the egg white into this milk mixture.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the melted butter. Whisk the yolk mixture into the milk mixture.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, the batter will be thick

4. Heat a large nonstick nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a little of the coconut oil and heat until melted.

5. Ladle about a tablespoon of batter into the pan, adding another 2-3, providing they are not crowded. After one minute, add fruit, if desired, fresh blueberries work a real treat. When the undersides of the pancakes are nicely browned and you see the top begin to bubble, its time to flip them. Cook until the second side has browned.

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6. Set aside on a warm plate and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve warm with maple syrup.

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Black Salsify Fritters

Black Salsify

Trust Hugh-Fearnley to know what to do with black salsify. When said vegetable turned up in my veg box delivery, it looked like some accidental packing of mud and roots alongside my beautiful red pepper and fresh fennel. Salsify really isn’t the prettiest of vegetables (but then again neither is sweet potato and that tastes like heaven on a plate). I found this recipe for fritters and decided that it had ‘bruncheon’ written all over it. Especially on a Saturday whereby my diary shows ‘downtime’.

Such an exciting prospect, downtime. I came to some slow and painful realisations: that if I didn’t actually diarise time for myself, I wouldn’t get it; that scheduling sleep is infinitely better than perpetually complaining of fatigue, and that rest is a necessity, not an indulgence.

It’s all too easy to be fooled into thinking that activity equates to motion; to some forward movement of our lives. But running on a hamster wheel doesn’t get one very far, it simply gets one very tired. And speaking for myself, running is an easy smokescreen I create to avoid looking at what I really need to, running is being too busy to take the actions that actually make a difference.

So whilst luxuriating into a restful and pensive weekend, I made these fritters. I’m not going to pretend they were quick and easy to make, nor that the washing, peeling and coarse grating wasn’t laborious. It was. But, oh so worth it. After making and eating these fritters, I lay back on the sofa and stared out of the window, for about an hour. I can’t promise the same soporific effect of the ‘downtime drug’ that these fritters induced for me, but I’m willing to bet that you’ll like them, they are just too awesome.

Fritters Mix

Black Salsify Fritters

A Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall recipe, adapted

Ingredients

300g salsify
45g butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red chilli, finely diced
3 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp buckwheat (HFW uses flour)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Method

Peel and coarsely grate the salsify. Warm some of the butter in a frying pan and sauté the salsify until softened. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the garlic, chilli, coriander, egg and flour. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using your hands, form the mixture into six fritters. Warm the remaining butter and the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the fritters until golden, about four minutes a side. I love to eat this with bacon and homemade mayonnaise. Yum.

Frying Fritters

Sweet Potato and Spinach Frittata with Basil Oil

Do you ever have go-to dishes? Those meals that you know you can rustle up easily, using the contents of your cupboard, and be wholly satisfied and fulfilled both because you’ve been well fed and because you haven’t exerted much effort or time in doing so? If I had one such dish, this frittata would be it. I initially read about it in the Guilt Free Gourmet cookbook, where cavolo nero is used. I don’t always have cavolo nero and other such wonderful greens readily accessible at my greengrocers, so I have found baby spinach or chard to be great substitutes. And the dish has since been added to my repertoire of go-to dishes. It’s packed full of wonderful greens, vegetables and colours which makes it a culinary delight to devour with all of one’s senses. And it’s a good thing, too, because when I arrive home late from work some nights, tired, cold and in need of comforting, it is dishes like this that lift my spirits and stop me from eating ice cream sandwiches for supper (yep, it has happened).

Roasted Veg

Sweet Potato and Spinach Frittata with Basil Oil
adapted from Guilt Free Gourmet)

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into wedges
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small red onions, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes (or a few cherry tomatoes)
Bunch of spinach / chard/ cavalo nero, washed and roughly chopped
6 medium eggs
Bunch of basil
1 garlic clove

Method

Preheat oven to 180C (or preheat grill).

Toss the potatoes, onions and tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast in the oven for 30mins or until all the vegetables are very soft.

If using cavolo nero or chard, be sure to remove the stalks. If using spinach (I love to use baby spinach, keep the leaves whole), blanch in salted water for 1-2 mins, drain and move to a large gently heated frying pan. Add the roasted veg to the pan too.

Crack and beat the eggs and season well. Pour over the vegetables in the frying pan. Using a medium to high heat, allow the egg to cook on the stove for a few minutes. When you can see that the edges have cooked, move the pan into the over/ or under the grill for a further five minutes, or until you can see that all the egg is cooked through.

Finely chop the basil and garlic and combine with 6 tbsp olive oil to make a loose basil oil. Drizzle over the frittata and serve with salad.

Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an anytime awesome snack!

Grilled Frittata