Monday, 14 September 2015

Slow cooked squid and chorizo stew with garlic mayonnaise

I love squid, its cheap, versatile, good for you and tasty. You can also get it all nicely prepared at fish counters, ready for you to cut into rings.

When most people think of how to cook squid they think of quick cooking, to keep the squid tender, because tough squid is horrible. However you can also cook squid very long and slow and the result will be the same, a meltingly tender squid.

This dish takes a few hours to cook but minimal effort, and the result is delicious, do not miss off the garlic mayonnaise, it transforms the dish completely.

Squid and chorizo stew with garlic mayonnaise

50-100g chorizo
pinch of thyme leaves, dried works too
100ml mild veg stock
250g cherry tomatoes, left whole 
250g squid, cut into rings
250g potato cut into bite sized chunks
small handful of fresh parsley
one clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
Crusty bread/ toast to serve

Heat a casserole pot and add the chorizo, heat gently until the oil starts to be released. Add the thyme and cook for another minute. 

Add the stock, careful it will sizzle and the cherry tomatoes. Pop on the lid and leave for 10 minutes over a gentle heat. After 10 minutes add the squid to the pan, making sure it is nestled in all the juices, return the lid and cook over a gentle heat for an hour. 

After an hour give everything a stir and add the potatoes, return the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes. 

Whilst the potatoes are cooking crush the garlic clove and mix with the mayonnaise.

When the potatoes have finished cooking stir through the parsley and divide into bowls. Top with the garlic mayonnaise and a final sprinkle of parsley. Serve with crusty bread/toasts for soaking up all the juices. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Blueberry chia jam

I love blueberries, they feature heavily in my breakfasts and smoothies. I always have a bag in the freezer, its so cheap to but them this way and using them frozen in smoothies keeps the smoothies cold and creamy. 

Using chia seed to set fruits into a 'jam' is quick and results in a healthy jam not laden with refined sugar.

Blueberry Chia Jam

250g blueberries, fresh or frozen 
25g chia seeds
tablespoon of lemon juice

Place the blueberries into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. They should release quite a lot of liquid.

Add the chia seeds, stir to combine and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking.  Cook until it has thickened and looks a jammy consistency.

Transfer to a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge. 

I love this jam as it is, if you need it a little sweeter, this may depend on your blueberries, add 1-2 tsp maple syrup to taste when you are first simmering the blueberries. 

I had this jam for breakfast a number of ways. I topped almond overnight oats (using this homemade almond butter) with pear and blueberry chia jam.

I made almond chia pudding topped with pear and blueberry chia jam, this was amazing. 

I also made cinnamon porridge and topped with pear and blueberry chia jam. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Cardamom maderia cake

I imagine many people are just as excited as I am that 'The Great British Bake Off' is back. I also suspect that many of you are inspired to bake the baked good featured in the show, I know I am.

Last week was cake week and the contestants had to make a signature maderia cake, a frosted coffee and walnut cake, with sugar work, and a show stopping black forest gateau. I must admit, I at first thought that I had not made a maderia cake before but as soon as I heard the description and saw a picture I realised that I had made plenty, I was simply uncouth and called them 'loaf cakes', because of the tin used to bake them, well now I know the actual name for such bakes!

The maderia cake round made me realise that I had not made one for ages, and I surprised by Paul and Marys reservations about a cardamom and orange loaf cake because one of my personal favourites is a cardamom maderia cake. I have not made this since I was told to lay of gluten, so I crossed my fingers and got baking.

It turned out perfect. A dome, a crack, a close texture but not dense, and the beautiful perfect flavour of cardamom shining through. I can't recommend this cake enough it may not dazzle in the looks department but it tastes amazing and goes absolutely beautifully with a cup of tea.

Cardamom maderia cake

190g dairy free spread (I used pure)
190g golden caster sugar
The seeds from 10 cardamom pods crushed in a pestle and mortar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
3 medium eggs
190g plain GF flour (I used dove farm)
1/2 tsp xantham gum
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons of natural soya yoghurt 

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C FAN and grease a 900g loaf tin, lining the base with baking parchment.

Beat the butter, sugar, cardamom and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition. 

Beat in the flour, xantham gum and baking powder until just combined before finally beating in the yoghurt. 

Transfer the cake mix into the prepared pan and level before baking in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until golden and a cake skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for a few moments before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

This week was biscuits. I wanted biscotti, one of the challenges to eat alongside the show. However I was a smidge short on time after work and so had to cut them while they were too warm, My biscotti are so so craggy but delicious never the less. I really want to share them with you so think I will just have to rustle up another batch in the next few weeks, this time on a weekend!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Vanilla almond butter

I have a confession. I love vanilla. It has a reputation for being plain and boring but I do not understand why. It gives such a distinctive flavour and I enjoy desserts and bakes flavoured purely with this exotic spice. Vanilla also complements and lifts so many other flavours such as chocolate and berry fruits.

Vanilla also pairs extremely well with nuts and, as I found out, lifts the already delicious almond butter to a whole new level. I am a big fan of making my own nut butters for a number of reasons 1) it is much cheaper to make my own 2) I know exactly what is going into it 3) I can experiment with new flavour combinations.

It could not be simpler to make nut butter, you simply need a powerful food processor and a little patience!

Vanilla almond nut butter

150g skin on almonds
1 tsp unrefined coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla paste

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend! First the nuts will turn to a fine flour-like texture, keep going and it will come together as a ball, jut let it keep going and you will be rewarded with a super creamy almond butter. The time this takes will depend on your processor. 

The amounts in this recipe make a small jar, I am definitely doubling it next time!

I have experimented with this almond butter a number of ways.

It is delicious stirred into porridge, especially delicious if raw cacao and a dash of maple are also stirred through, chocolate almondy porridge topped with a sliced banana is an oh so delicious and nutritious start to the day!

It is also fabulous in chia seed pudding. I made chia pudding with almond milk and left overnight, I then blended with a good dollop of almond butter and a third of a frozen banana, before layering up with a little extra banana. So good.

I also stirred a spoonful through pear overnight oats served with blueberry chia jam. More on the jam in a later post.

I also plan to experiment with other homemade nut butters... if I can drag myself away from this vanilla almond one that is!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Coconut and lime crème brulee

I love crème brulee, smooth and creamy with just the right amount of bitter caramel on top. It was often my go to dessert in restaurants but sadly, since I have been unable to have lactose, many desserts, especially my beloved crème brulee, are not an option when out.

However with the arrival of lactose free cream into my life I can make this beautiful dessert whenever I want. This recipe is a little less fraught then that of a traditional crème brulee as it is not baked in the oven, no worrying about whether your eggs will scramble! All the cooking is done on the stovetop and then the custard is left to set in the fridge. So no, not traditional but simpler and the finished result is just as tasty.

This version with lime and coconut is the perfect summer dessert, there is just enough lime to bring a subtle zing to the creamy coconuty custard, truly a match made in heaven.

This recipe uses lime zest so I am going to enter it into this months alpha bakes, this moth hosted by Caroline. I would recommend reading her blog for interesting bakes!

Coconut and lime crème brulee

serves 4

250ml lactose free double cream

300ml coconut cream
zest of two limes
1 tsp vanilla paste or the seeds from one pod
6 egg yolks
50g caster sugar plus a few teaspoons extra for the topping
1tbsp cornflour

In a pan heat the cream, coconut cream, lime zest and vanilla until just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour. 

Whisk the egg yolks with the 50g of caster sugar and cornflour. 

Pass the cream through a sieve to get rid of the lime zest. and then bring back to just below boiling point. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg, sugar and cornflour mix then return the whole mixture back to the pan. Cook over a low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring continuously, until thick, it will be very thick but do not go to far or you will curdle the eggs!

Pass the thick custard through a sieve and then divide between four ramekins. Chill for at least an hour, preferably longer, to set.

When ready to serve sprinkle caster sugar over the top and caramelise with  blow torch.  

Friday, 31 July 2015

Spicy peanut butter and vegetable stew

Its cold outside and I am wrapped in a blanket, is it really the last day of July!? I need food that is warming and delicious but it is not really the time of year for meaty, slow cooked stews and casseroles, with plenty of root vegetables, it feels a bit wrong, not to mention many of the ingredients are out of season.

The sweet potato and chickpeas make this a substantial meal and the whole dish provides plenty of different textures, a good meal to feed those people who think a meal without meat is not a meal.

This recipe is warming, hearty and delicious, comfort food that nourishes from the inside out, a dish that can be eaten all year round. 

I love that this recipe contains both spice and peanut butter! The spice level can be adapted to suit our own palette.

Spicy peanut butter and vegetable stew 

serves 2, easily doubled

1/2 red pepper, diced
stick of celery. diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne
100ml of vegetable stock
2 heaped tablespoons of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tin of chickpeas
good couple of handfuls of spinach or kale

brown rice to serve
yoghurt (soya if avoiding dairy) and chilli flakes to finish (optional)

In a nice big casserole pot sauté the pepper, celery and potato in a 1/2 tbsp of  oil of your choice (olive, coconut, vegetable, whatever) for 5-10 minutes, add in the spices and cook for a minute more. 

Combine the peanut butter and hot stock , just whisk to combine with a fork, and add this along with the tomatoes to the pot. Give it all a stir and pop on  lid, leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Check on it after 15 minutes, give it a stir and add a splash more stock/water it it needs it.

After 30 minutes add in the chickpeas and kale/spinach and cook, without the lid, for 5 more minutes.

Serve with brown rice, if you like, and a dollop of natural/greek yoghurt and sprinkle of chilli flakes.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sausage and fennel carbonara

This dinner is a revelation. It came about after a busy day and raiding the kitchen for ideas. I normally plan every meal I am going to have in a week and then do the shop but this week got a bit out of sync.

I had a couple of leftover GF sausages, a third of a fennel bulb and as usual my cupboards contained pasta, eggs and garlic, there was even some parmesan in the fridge, so the dish made itself

I simply put some GF pasta on to cook, removed the two sausages from their skins and broke up the sausage meat into a pan and cooked until brown, continuing to break up the sausage meat as it cooked. I added some chopped fennel and garlic to the pan with the sausages and continued to sauté for a few minutes longer.

When the pasta had finished cooking I drained off most of the water and added in the sausage fennel mix. I also threw in a few frozen peas at this point as I felt the dish could do with more vegetables. I put the pan back onto a low heat, stirred in a couple of eggs, seasoning and a handful of grated parmesan.

This is a really flavoursome diner that I would actively chose to make again, its amazing what you can come up with after rooting through the freezer/fridge cupboards.

I try not to waste food but I suspect many of us could make a number of meals from what we already have stashed at home instead of buying new ingredients. Its worth thinking about when carrying out your next shop.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Orange and raspberry polenta sandwich cake

Polenta is an ingredient that appears a fair amount when reading about gluten free baking. It is not an ingredient I had tried in a sweet dish and I was interested. 

I saw recipes for sandwich cakes that contained polenta and thought they looked pretty good, just like a Victoria sandwich and I am a BIG fan of the Victoria sandwich.

My husband is a big fan of raspberries, and as Scottish ones are in season, they were an obvious choice for the centre of the cake. But what to pair with them? Lemon and raspberry is a classic combination but for some reason I did not want that, I decided to move onto another citrus fruit, the orange.

I also used lactose free cream to sandwich the cakes together, to make the cake completely dairy free you could use soya cream or it is possible to whip cold coconut cream beautifully.

This cake turned out really well and is so delicious. It may look like a Victoria sandwich but the texture is different. It is a heavier cake with a fabulous stickiness, possibly from the orange. The lightly whipped vanilla cream and raspberries pair beautifully with it. I cannot see this cake lasting very long in any household but due to the cream it will need to be stored in the fridge until you have finished devouring it!

Orange and raspberry polenta sandwich cake

225g dairy free spread (I used Pure sunflower)
225g caster sugar (I used golden)
4 medium eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla paste/extract
zest of an orange
50g plain GF flour (I used dove farm
175g fine polenta
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

250ml of lactose free cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract/paste
200g raspberries

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5 and grease two 20cm sandwich tins, lining the base with baking paper. If. like me, you do not have two tins simply bake the cake in two batches. 

In a large bowl, beat the butter and 225g caster sugar together until creamy and light, I used my stand mixer to do this but an electric hand whisk or good old fashioned elbow grease would work too.

Gradually add the egg, little by little, until all the egg is worked in and the mix is pale and fluffy. If the mix looks like it’s starting to split, add 1 tbsp of the flour, then carry on. 

Beat the vanilla paste/extract and orange zest into the mix, then fold in the dry ingredients. Spoon half the batter into each tin and level the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes (mine took 25) until risen and golden.

Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. 

When the sponges are cold, whip the cream with 1/2 tsp vanilla paste/extract until it holds a firm peak. Use to sandwich the sponges together along with the raspberries. I put about of the third of the cream onto the bottom cake, top with raspberries, then add the rest of the cream. 

This provides a more stable base for the second cake and prevents the fruit bleeding to much into the sponges, I hate it when they go soggy because of this! This cake would look beautiful with a light dusting of icing sugar but I had completely run out.

Spaghetti with sardines, tomatoes and olives

Take a look at the ingredients below.

How many do you already have in your cupboards/fridge? Even if you had none of them, (really?) to buy them all is still cheap. 

Oily fish are so incredibly good for us and it is recommended that we have one portion a week. If you are uncertain about sardines, mackerel etc. Then trying them in a pasta dish is a good way to introduce them to your diet. Need more convincing? These two tins of sardines in water cost 80p. Not each, together.

These ingredients come together to make a truly delicious dinner in little more than 15 minutes. It may not be much to look at, seriously trying to get a decent enough photo and eat my dinner while it was still hot was a challenge, but I promise the taste is excellent.

Quick, cheap, tasty and good for you, what are you waiting for?

Spaghetti with sardines, tomatoes and olives

serves 2

150-200g Gluten free spaghetti
2 tomatoes
12-15 pitted green olives
2 tins of sardines in water
1/2 lemon
pinch of sea salt
pinch of chilli flakes (optional, if you can't tolerate any spice leave them out)
oregano, fresh or dried (optional, if you have it great, if you don't and will not use any in another recipe do not buy it specially)

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan large enough to hold your pasta. Cook pasta according to packet instructions. 

While the pasta is cooking chop the tomato and olive into small diced pieces. 

When the pasta is done drain most of the water leaving a couple of tablespoons worth in the pan. Place back over a very low heat. Add the tomatoes and olives and flake in the sardines. The bones are edible, they kind of crumble and break up over heat, if you prefer you can remove the large spinal bone. I tend to do this. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add the salt and chilli if you are using. Give everything a good mix to make sure everything is evenly distributed, sprinkle over the oregano if using and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Chocolate fudge cake

This deliciously oozy cake is gluten and lactose free, it also contains one and a half avocados. Now I love avocados, I truly do, but wondered what they would bring to this cake. 

Well the cake is moist and fudgey and the frosting... oh the frosting. I could literally eat just this by itself. Its obscene how much did disappear into my mouth whilst assembling the cake... but hey avocado and dark chocolate are good for me, right?

This cake keeps well in an airtight tin, if it is warm in your kitchen I would suggest keeping it in the fridge and allowing slices to come to room temperature before serving. 

The recipe is adapted from one in bbc good food magazine.

Chocolate fudge cake

Cake ingredients

150g lactose free butter (I used arla)

150g avocado flesh
275g light brown sugar
350g plain gluten free plain flour (I used dove farm)
1\2 tsp xanthan gun (I used dove farm)
50g cocoa powder (I used green and blacks)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
400ml lactose free milk or unsweetened almond milk (I used halk and half simply because it was what was in my fridge)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla paste

Frosting ingredients

80g avocado

90g lactose free butter
125ml lactose free milk
30g cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate (check to make sure its dairy free)
250g icing sugar

First preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins or, if like me, you have one simply bake the cake in two batches.

Put the avocado and the sugar in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Transfer to the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large bowl with a hand held mixer ready. Add the rest of the cake ingredients to the bowl and whisk until a velvety liquid batter is obtained. 

Divide between the tins and bake for 30-40 minutes (I have a cool oven mine took the full 40 minutes) or until fully risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean

Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

When the cakes are cool you can make the frosting, begin by melting the chocolate, over a bowl of hot water, then let it cool for a few mins. Bring the milk to a simmer then whisk in the cocoa powder, also set aside to cool for a minute. 

Beat together the avocado and lactose free spread with electric beaters until creamy and smooth. Into the avocado mix tip in the melted chocolate, milk/cocoa mix and icing sugar and mix until you achieve a thick shiny frosting. I beat my frosting for ~5 minutes then I had to leave it for about 20 minutes at room temperature to thicken up a little. 

Use the fudgey frosting to sandwich your cakes together and cover the top. I did not decorate it but for a celebration this cake would look impressive with some sort of decoration on top.  

The beginning

Welcome to my new blog! Although this blog is new I am not new to blogging. I have/had another blog which I started in 2012, a baking blog (let them eat cake), filled with 234 posts on delicious baked goods, but after much soul searching have decided to retire this blog.

So why the change? Two main reasons have promoted this change. Firstly my health. I started suffering gastrointestinal symptoms and was very quickly informed that I could not have lactose. Fine I thought, I can still bake, with a few substitutions here and there. But then more symptoms appeared and I was told to stay off gluten, better, yet still the symptoms persisted. Baking was a little trickier but by no means impossible. Polyps were found and removed, better, yet symptoms persisted, 8 months later another polyp removed and many biopsies of my colon taken. I am now awaiting biopsy results to see if the cause of my symptoms can be identified. I feel better with non processed home cooked meals and treats than processed food. Lets be truthful even without my symptoms I suspect most people do!

The second reason is not as dire, simply my interests have changed, I still love baking, I made my own wedding cake a couple of months ago!When my now husband and I first moved and got our first jobs post university money was tight. Main meals had to be something that fit a budget and that I knew worked, mistakes would be too costly. One area I could experiment was baking, if a cake went wrong we may not have had cake but we would not go hungry. A few years into working and our financial situation is better, I can experiment with new ingredients, new cooking techniques and I find myself wanting to experiment with everything, savoury and sweet.

So my new blog will showcase food that I love, and that friends and family love. Some will be simple, some will be extravagant, some will be savoury and some will be sweet but one thing is for sure, it will all be food I find delicious.

Nowadays many blogs have 'a thing', a niche. They cater to a certain diet or lifestyle choice. I do not wish to force this blog to do that. I am not a vegetarian or vegan but enjoy this way of eating so plant based dishes will feature amidst meaty plates. Its true I cannot have lactose so will use substitutions, some of these substitutions are still dairy so please do check if you are dairy free. Right now I have been told to stay off gluten but should I be allowed to reintroduce it please be prepared for an onslaught on freshly baked bread recipes!

I do not seem to fit into a specific diet plan niche, so what do I believe?

I believe in non processed food. I believe in fresh nutritious food prepared  at home. Though I am no saint... the occasional processed food stuff is going to sneak in. And so what. If the majority of your diet is unprocessed your body will cope just fine. Trust me.

I believe food should provide energy and vital nutrition to our bodies, when I say nutritious I do not necessarily mean low calorie. No, I mean food full of vitamins, good fats, protein, fibre and carbohydrates.

And  I believe treats should be treats. I am all for making them a smidgen healthier if they still taste indulgent BUT sometimes I just want that warm chocolate chip cookie from the oven, and you know what that's ok too!

So welcome to my blog, full of nutritious meals and indulgent treats that will hopefully have you inspired in your own kitchen.