Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Pear, Honey and Almond Cake

We really are a nation of wasters in the United Kingdom, especially when it comes to fruit.

Fruit of course doesn't last too long and our first instinct when an apple or a banana gets a bit bruised and soft is to throw it away. But please stop! There are so many great things you can do; apple and pear puree, mashed banana for a simple banana cake, smoothies, mixed fruit pulps to fold into porridge and muesli for a start.

One of my favourite things to do is make a cake and pears are just right when they seem too delicate to the touch and the skin comes away just by pushing it. Combine them with almond and honey and things just get better.

Think twice before throwing away your bruised and soft fruit; the internet is packed with ways to save you money and of course, everybody loves a good cake.

Pear, Honey and Almond Cake

4 ripe pears, cored and cut into thick slices.
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp honey
120g margarine or soft butter
2 eggs
120g sugar
60g self-raising flour
60g ground almonds

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Butter a shallow pie dish or a loose bottomed cake tin.
2 - Heat up the sugar gently in a non-stick frying pan and add the pears. Cook gently until golden, turning once. Pour in the honey, shake and remove from the heat. Put the pears and syrup in the bottom of the pie dish or cake tin.
3 - In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until fluffy. Fold in the eggs one by one then gently fold in the flour and almonds.
4 - Tip over the pears and spread evenly. Cook in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
5 - Tip up onto a plate and serve just warm.




Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Cod and Lentil Masala

In these days of watching what I eat, I'm turning more to low fat proteins and using less oil in my cooking.

The most important aspect to me as a food lover and cook is to ensure that the food never lacks in flavour. So far so good, especially with this flavour packed curry; a myriad of flavours from sweet tomato, nutty cumin and the aniseed of fennel seed which pairs so well with fish.

I've used chunky cod in this curry (or masala, which basically means a mixture of spices). Cod holds its shape well but any firm fish will do. Look for ling, pollack, whiting or even salmon and trout. Enjoy, health and food lovers.

Cod and Lentil Masala
Serves 4

1 red onion
A thumb size piece of ginger
5 garlic cloves
1 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1 tsp each of fennel seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala
1 tbsp tomato purée
500g tomato pasata
100g brown lentils, cooked
300g cod, cut into large chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

1 - Either finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger or blitz in a food processor to form a paste.
2 - Heat up the oil in a non stick pan and add the paste. Cook, stirring, until it begins to caramelise.
3 - Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute. Finally, add the pasata and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until reduced and thickened.
4 - Add the fish and lentils. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Taste for seasoning, you may want more chilli. It should be sweet, spicy and aromatic.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Orange, Walnut and Honey Cake

Memories of Cyprus come flooding back again with just one mouthful of this simple, yet utterly delicious cake. Sweet and sticky from honey, zesty and fruity from whole oranges, it will meet the approval of any sweet-toothed pudding lover.

You can make this recipe using the ingredients below in a traditional springform 8" cake tin, but I made mine into individual cakes using cylinder ramekins, ideal for dinner parties.

Orange, Walnut and Honey Cake
Makes 1 medium cake or 8 individual ramekins

2 whole oranges
100g caster sugary
100g honey
200g soft butter or margarine
3 eggs
100g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
50g walnuts, crushed into small pieces

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Butter and line an 8" springform cake tin or 8 individual ramekins.
2 - Wash and quarter the oranges and remove any pips. Place into a blender and blitz into a puree.
3 - In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and honey. Whisk in the eggs one by one then fold in the flour and almonds. Finally, fold in the walnuts and orange purée.
4 - Fill the cake tin or ramekins then place in the centre of the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
5 - While the cake is cooking, place the juice of one orange and 50g honey into a saucepan and bring to the simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside. When the cake is cooked, skewer it a few times then drizzle over the orange honey syrup. Put aside to cool.
6 - Serve with Greek yoghurt, crumbled walnuts and honey.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Turkey Kofta with Greek Cous Cous Salad

I've just returned from the beautiful island of Cyprus with the usual holiday blues. What better way to banish those blues than with a plate of food that reminds you of the simple beauty of Greek/Cypriot food?

Kofta, in it's more simple turn, is a type of meatball combined with spices and usually served with flatbreads, yoghurt-based dips and salad and consist of any ground meat. These use turkey but feel free to use your meat of choice.

Utterly delicious, family friendly food that is so easy to make - what is there to not like about the food of this nation? Give it a go.

Turkey Kofta with Greek Cous Cous Salad
Feeds 4

500g minced turkey
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander and paprika
A pinch of ground cinnamon and chilli
A handful of fresh chives, basil, mint and oregano or one or two of these fresh herbs if and when available

For the salad
200g dried cous cous
1 red pepper, sliced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of fresh spinach, chopped
A few good black olives
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil

1 - To make the koftas, combine all of the ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Form palm sized balls then roll into a slightly elongated shape like in the diagram. You can slide these onto sticks and BBQ or in my case, simply form the shapes. They should make around 10-12. Put aside to rest in the fridge for an hour or two.
2 - To make the cous cous, pour into a large bowl then stir in boiling water that just covers. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.
3 - Remove the clingfilm then fluff up with a fork. Once cool, stir in all of the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Heat up a large frying pan, griddle pan or grill and cook the kofta, turning regularly until cooked through and golden brown. Squeeze in some lemon juice just as they are finishing to deglaze the pan and add more flavour.
5 - Serve the cous cous in bowls with 2-3 kofta each, a scattering of torn fresh basil and some fresh lemon.





Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Fish, Potato and Samphire Stew

A lovely, citrusy Spanish style fish stew. Delicious with a glass of chilled white wine or a cold beer. Change the fish if you prefer oily fish such as salmon or trout, use clams instead of mussels and if you can't get any samphire, stir in chopped spinach right at the end.

Fish, Potato and Samphire Stew
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
A pinch of saffron
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tspn sweet smoked paprika
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1" thick slices
1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 lemon, sliced
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
3 skinned fillets of white fish such as haddock, sliced into large chunks
2 large handfuls of fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded.
1 large handful of samphire
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, saffron, chilli and paprika. Soften without colouring.
2 - Add the potatoes and pepper. Pour over enough stock to just cover then place in the lemon slices. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potato is just beginning to soften.
3 - Add the fish and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Then add the mussels and samphire, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
4 - Remove the lid and taste for seasoning. Serve in large bowls with a scattering of fresh parsley.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Gluten Free Coffee and Walnut Cake

And so the gluten free challenge continues. This challenge entailed trying to make one of my favourite ever cakes without it having a dry, sandy texture, which baking with rice flour based gluten free flour can often do. I've cooked this cake many time before and I'm heavily indebted to Nigel Slater from Kitchen Diaries, a recipe I've tweaked once or twice but not to this extent.

The kind people at Hillfarm Rapeseed Oil recently sent me a bottle of their golden, cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil. I'm not sure if they will be surprised to hear that I used a glug of their oil in a cake rather than a savoury dish, but oils are often used to add moistness to bakes and in this instance, it made perfect sense. Not only did it moisten, it also added a touch of its golden colour and a slight nutty taste to complement the walnuts. It has been a fabulously versatile oil that I've used mainly for pan roasts.

This recipe and quantities can be made with normal flour and the oil can be replaced with olive, vegetable or sunflower oil.

Gluten Free Coffee and Walnut Cake

200g salted butter
200g Demerara sugar
3 large eggs
200g gluten free self-raising flour
100ml Hillfarm rapeseed oil

2 tsp coffee granules
75g walnut halves

For the butter cream:
150g butter or margarine
300g icing sugar
2 tsp coffee granules
Walnut halves

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gm4. Grease and line a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin.
2 - Cream the butter and sugar until soft and light. You can go manual and beat with a wooden spoon or use an electric mixer.
3 - Crack in the eggs one by one and thoroughly combine. Then, gently fold in the flour.
4 - Put the walnuts into a bag and whack with a rolling pin until broken up, the fold into the cake mixture.
5 - Dissolve the coffee granules in a tsp of boiling water and along with the oil, gently fold in. Pour into the cake tin, place onto a baking tray and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes. Test with a skewer to see if it is cooked (if it is still uncooked in the centre, cake will stick to the skewer.) Remove and cool on a wire rack.
6 - To make the butter cream, best the butter or margarine until light and fluffy the. Bat in the icing sugar 50g at a time. Dissolve the coffee in a tsp of boiling water and fold in.
7 - Remove the cake from the tin. Using a sharp knife, cut approximately across the middle. Spread half of the butter cream into the centre and place on the top part of the cake. Spread the remaining butter cream on top and decorate with walnut halves.



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Slow Cooker Asian Pork and Aubergine

This is an incredibly simple slow cook stew that celebrates the great flavours of south east Asia: hot, sweet, salty and sour.

Use a cheap cut of pork such as the shoulder or steaks from the leg and the meat will just fall apart at the touch of the fork. The aubergine, vast in number at the start of the stew, absorbs and melts into the sauce making it rich and velvety.

I can't really sell it enough - just make it and enjoy it with plain rice and perhaps a baked sweet potato. It will be a good decision.

(This recipe is for a slow cooker but can be replicated for cooking in an oven set to GM2/150C.)
Sunflower or vegetable oil
1kg pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
2 aubergines, cut into chunks
1 tbsp demerera sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with a little hot water
1 large onion, chopped
A large pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 thumb size of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp fish or soy sauce
Water
Fresh limes
Fresh coriander

1 - Pre-heat your slow cooker.
2 - Heat up a tbsp oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the pork and quickly brown all over. Remove to a plate.
3 - Add the aubergine and quickly brown all over. Return the pork and stir in the sugar. Cook, stirring all of the time, to caramelise the sugar. Tip into your slow cooker.
4 - Heat up another tbsp oil and add the onions, ginger, chilli, star anise and cinnamon. Cook until softened then add to the pork and aubergine.
5 - Pour in 200ml water, the tamarind and the fish sauce. Cook on the medium setting for 5-6 hours until the pork is meltingly tender. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh coriander.
6 - Time to tweek with the flavours. Squeeze in the juice of one lime and taste. You want the right balance of salty, sweet, hot and sour. Adjust the quantities of fish/soy sauce, sugar, chilli and lime to your tastes.
7 - Serve with plain boiled rice, fresh coriander and wedges of fresh lime.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Coriander Crusted Seabass with Fennel and Lentil Salsa

This is a bit of a mix up of influences, using Asian style seasoning on the fish coupled with a south American salsa which contains lentils. Fish and a hot and sour salsa go so well together, as does crunchy fennel. The no-fuss salad is simply fennel, thinly sliced and tossed with lime juice and seasoning.

The whole plate of food is what you would consider super healthy which, once tasted, will prove to any doubters that well prepared, healthy food can be packed with amazing flavour and texture. Experiment with the fish; replace the seabass with a firm fish such as red mullet, snapper, salmon or trout.

Coriander Crusted Seabass with Fennel and Salsa
Serves 2

Two fillets of sea bass, scaled and deboned
2 tbsp coriander seeds
Salt and pepper
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil

For the salsa
100g brown lentils, cooked according to the instructions and cooled
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion, finely diced
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 lime
A splash of olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - Crush the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar. Mix in with a little salt and pepper. Slice the skin of the fish at intervals which will help it to crisp up. Rub in the coriander and put aside.
2 - Put the thinly sliced fennel into a mixing bowl, season and squeeze over the lime. Put aside.
3 - To make the salsa, put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine. Put aside for 5 minutes whilst you cook the fish.
4 - Heat up the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the fish skin side down and leave for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Flip over and cook for another 2 minutes.
5 - To serve, place a pile of salsa onto a plate alongside the fennel salad. Place the fish onto the salsa along with a wedge of fresh lime.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Moroccan Beef Cous Cous

A very quick, delicious and healthy meal for the whole family. I used lean minced beef to keep the cost down but the meat can be substituted with lean cuts of beef, chicken or pork. Half an hour from start to finish, this is an absolute must for any busy family looking for something speedy and balanced to feed hungry mouths.

Moroccan Beef Cous Cous
Feeds 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
100g green beans cut into small pieces
1 tsp each of ground cumin, paprika, coriander
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A pinch of chilli powder
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp honey
250ml water

200g cous cous
A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1 fresh lemon
Salt and pepper

1 - Put the cous cous into a bowl. Pour over boiling water until just covered. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.
2 - In a wok or large frying pan, heat up the oil. Add the onion, carrot, pepper and green beans. Cook for 10 minutes until beginning to soften.
2 - Add the spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.
3 - Add the tomato puree, crumbled stock cube, honey and the water. Bring to the simmer, cover and cook gently for 15 minutes.
4 - Taste for seasoning. Fluff up the cous cous with a form then stir into the meat mixture with the spinach, cherry tomatoes and fresh coriander. Squeeze in half of the lemon and cut the other half into wedges.
5 - Serve with the lemon and some more fresh coriander scattered over.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Asian Beef, Savoy and Peanut Salad

Salads shouldn't be boring and this one is anything but. Asian flavours of sour, hot, sweet and salty combine with raw veg and beef in a 15 minute start to finish super meal.

Too healthy for you or lacking in carbs? Toss in some brown rice and/or quinoa to bulk it up. Lovely stuff.

Asian style Beef, Savoy and Peanut Salad
Serves 2-3

1 Savoy cabbage
4 carrots, grated
A handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
2 sirloin steaks

For the dressing
1 crushed clove of garlic
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp honey

A handful of peanuts

1 - Thinly slice a whole Savoy cabbage and combine in a large mixing bowl with grated carrots and lots of coriander.
2 - Heat up a griddle pan. Season your steaks then sear on each side to your desired redness. Set aside to rest whilst you make the dressing.
3 - Mix together the dressing ingredients and then mix thoroughly in with the salad. Set aside for 5 minutes.
4 - In a hot pan, toast the peanuts then remove and either bash in a pestle and mortar or roughly chop.
5 - Thinly slice the beef, mix in with the salad and top with the peanuts. Serve with fresh pieces of lime.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Spring Lamb with Thyme, Lemon and Garlic


Last night it was back down to earth with the remnants of the week’s leftover vegetables and our favourite, 'bubble and squeak'. A few spring lamb chops left to soak in thyme, garlic and lemon are the perfect lip smacking accompaniment. It has everything that easy, no fuss cooking should have and the key to making the most of a simple yet special thing.

Spring Lamb with Thyme, Lemon and Garlic
Feeds 3

6 lamb loin chops

For the marinade
2 cloves of garlic
10 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the 'bubble and squeak'
Any leftover vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
Salt and pepper

1 - To make the marinade, crush the garlic and thyme in a pestle and mortar or a food processor with a good grinding of salt and pepper until you have a green sludge. Mix in the lemon juice and olive oil.
2 - Put the chops into a bowl and pour over the marinade. Rub in and leave to sit for at least 1 hour.
3 - Heat up a frying pan until smoking, or heat up a grill to its highest setting. Cook the lamb chops without moving for 2 minutes each side until char-grilled but still pink inside. Leave to rest for 2 minutes.
4 - To make the bubble and squeak, simply mash all of your leftovers together with seasoning and form into little 'cakes'. Pan fry until crisp and golden.
4 - Serve with bubble and squeak or boiled potatoes and a simple salad, ensuring that you drizzle over the pan juices.