Monday, December 31, 2012

Hooray it's Hogmanay!

Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of New Year. I think it's fair to say that no-one celebrates New Year quite like the Scots, but why?

Apparently, during the Protestant Reformation period Christmas was virtually banned in Scotland as it was viewed as a Roman Catholic celebration. Somewhere along the line New Year became the time for having the day off work and celebrating, but the festivities were frowned upon by the Church and often forced underground. In modern times, Hogmanay celebrations are seen as a huge part of Scottish culture and have spread throughout the world.

A traditional Hogmanay delicacy is the black bun, a rich fruit cake with a thick pasty crust. I have read somewhere that originally it was a lump of coal, good job times have changed. Traditionally, it was carried by the first person to enter the house after midnight and symbolised good luck and prosperity. Ideally the "first- footer" would be a tall, dark (and handsome maybe?!) man.

We are not in Scotland yet but with the move just a few short weeks away celebrations will involve a Scottish-themed dinner including haggis (lemon sole for me), rumpledethumps and Tipsy Laird (Scottish trifle).

Time to go and prepare, I have a haggis to handle, trifle sponges to soak and a tall, dark man on his way bringing a cake (chance would be a fine thing).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Recipe - Dark Chocolate Chip Scones with Orange Mascarpone

As promised, the recipe for my Boxing Day hit.

Dark Chocolate Chip Scones with Orange Mascarpone Cream



Ingredients (makes approximately 6 scones)

Scones

250g of self-raising flour (gluten-free could be used if required)
55g of butter
30g of caster sugar
70g dark chocolate chips
125ml of milk
1 beaten egg for glazing

Orange Mascarpone Cream

1 small orange - freshly squeezed juice and rind
200g mascarpone cream
Approximately 1 tablespoon of icing sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

In a large mixing bowl rub the softened butter into the flour and sugar using your fingertips until it has a fine breadcrumby texture.

Stir in the chocolate chips and gradually add the milk until it forms a soft dough.

On a lightly flour dusted surface turn out the dough and pat out until approximately 2.5cm or more in height.

Cut using a pastry cutter (be quick when cutting, do not twist).

Pop the scones on to a baking tray, with a few centimetres between each one as they will expand.

Glaze the top of the scones with a little of the beaten egg using a pastry brush (or in my case fingers).

Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes until golden.

Whilst the scones are baking, make up the orange cream.

In a bowl mix together the mascarpone, icing sugar, orange juice and zest. Squeeze a little extra juice on top and a sprinkle of the rind to pretty it up.

Easy, peasy, orange squeezy! Delicious.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Favourite Festive Foods

Boxes of chocolates eaten, Christmas cake diminshed and Christmas pudding long gone, the transition back to the the usual, humdrum foods is well under way.

What have been your  favourite festive foods this year? These are some of mine...

Christmas Classics
Christmas cake with a slab of strong cheddar and Christmas pudding with brandy butter are two of my festive favourites.

Christmas Dinner
Mum's roasties (see "Mum's Christmas Kitchen Tips"), red cabbage and of course the lovely but often controversial brussell sprouts.



Christmas Baking
I was not organised enough to bake my own Christmas cake, but I think moving house ten days before Christmas Day is a viable excuse. However, I did rustle up dark chocolate scones with an orange mascarpone cream (recipe to follow), that went down a treat as part of the Boxing Day evening tea spread.


Christmas Gifts
The combination of sea salt and chocolate/caramel was popular with foodies gifts in our household this year. This included the tongue tingling Charbonnel & Walker Sea Salt Caramel Truffles and Rococo Sea Salt Wafers. Needless to say, they didn't last long.

 

The salt and chocolate/caramel combination seems to be on trend again or did it ever go out of fashion? Salted chocolate and caramel have always been a delicious pairing. Salted caramel was being produced by French pastry chef Henri Roux in the early 80's. During the 90's in Paris, Pierre Herme became known for his much beloved salted caramel macaroons. It is now a common combination that is featured on the mass market by the likes of Haagen-Dazs, Hotel Chocolat and Lindt. Salted Caramel Mocha and Salted Caramel Pecan Bar even feature at Starbucks.

Whatever your festive favourites may have been, here's hoping you have indulged and enjoyed.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mum's Christmas Kitchen Tips

During Christmas I have spent much time in the kitchen with Mum and consequently been privy to some kitchen cookery tips.

First up, how to re-create Mum's Roasties, which are quite simply the best roast potatoes ever.

Mum's Roasties
Pour some oil of choice (olive) and place some butter in a roasting tray in the oven at 200C.
Maris Piper potatoes are recommended as, "they go nice and fluffy inside". Scrub and cut to size.
Par boil in a large saucepan and drain.
Return them to the saucepan and whilst the pan is still hot (return it to the stove/hob turned off but still hot), "dry the potatoes, but careful not to burn them".
Roughen the potatoes with a fork to "fluff them up".
Coat the potatoes in sea salt and toss them around in the "spitting hot" oil and butter in the roasting tray.
Roast in the oven at 200C for approx 30-40mins, remembering to toss them around a couple of times during roasting.
The roasties should be "golden in colour and crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy inside".

Gravy
Add a couple of tablespoons of redcurrant jelly to the juices (stock) from the cooked meat and vegetables to thicken and sweeten the gravy.

Cake storage
Do not keep a moist cake in the same tin or storage container as biscuits as the cake will make the biscuits soft. Personally, I am a bit sceptical about this but have been informed with conviction that the moisture from the cake will soften the biscuits.

Christmas dinner side dish
Mashed carrots and swede with a sprinkle of nutmeg and baked with cheddar cheese topping.
According to Mum swedes and turnips are the same thing, I have been insistent that they are not and have done the obligatory Googling to explore further. Apparently in Scotland the swede is known as turnip or"neep" and turnips are known as "neeps" too (?) (the more I read on this the more confusing it gets). "In the north of England and Scotland the turnip is called neep; the word turnip often refers to the larger, yellow root vegetable which is also known as the "swede" (from "Swedish turnip")."
They are actually two different varieties of brassica, turnips are usually smaller than swedes and whiter in colour.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wishing you all a joyful Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.


Evil Santa- our favourite family tree decoration so-called because wherever you are in the room he seems to be watching you- not sure what that says about our family!

Love and Peace to all x

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas - Stocking Up

Stocked up and ready for the big day following a trip to the local farm shop. We were planning on getting there for 7am but got caught up with cups of tea and chit chat, good job too as apparently it was heaving at opening.

Isn't it fascinating how much food we buy in preparation for two days? I was determined not to get caught up in the panic but found myself chucking allsorts into the trolley until it was full (luckily it was a mini trolley).



Mum was looking forward to buying their lovely big, chunky chocolate brazils. However, shock horror, the brazil nut tub was empty. I bought a sympathetic box from the local Spar, not quite the same.

Fruit and vegetables bought and lots of yummy extras, all set for tomorrow, I hope you are too.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Scones, scones and more scones

If you have read my previous blogs on this subject, you will know I am a big fan of scones and planning on spending much of my life baking when we open our Tearoom in Scotland.
Fabulous old scales
As you may be aware I have just moved in with my folks as a temporary stop before our big move to Scotland, hence why my kitchen items are currently unavailable. I have had to adjust to a different kitchen, including the scales! (see picture above).

Plain scones and dark chocolate chip scones have been baked, ready to freeze for Boxing Day evening tea spread.

Rebecca's Scone Factory!
An orange mascarpone "cream" will accompany the dark chocolate chip scones and of course the classic plain with clotted cream and jam.

Unfortunately, no gluten-free version yet. After yesterday's quite painful shopping experience and the awful weather I whimped out of venturing to the shops to buy the necessary flour. They will have to follow.

Feels good to be back in the kitchen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas - What's In Your Fridge?

I love it when the fridge is full, it doesnt come easy this time of year though does it? This mornings trip to Sainsbury's involved traffic jams, queues and trolley bashing, and that was all before 8am.

What's in your fridge this Christmas?

Christmas, an excuse for many of us of us to eat whatever the heck we fancy for at least one day. In our household, there will be turkey and after deliberating between a vegetarian wellington or fish, we have opted for fish. Monkfish tail was the plan, filled with sage and onion stuffing, but no luck so far. Nevermind, a nice cod loin will do the job.

Nosily peering into other people's shopping trolleys today made me think about what people are eating this Christmas. Speaking to family and friends it's interesting to hear how many people are not going down the usual roast goose of turkey route; vegetable tagines, turkey curry and roasted lamb to mention a few. Inspired, I decided to do a bit of reading about traditional Christmas meals around the world.

Australia
With enviably warm temperatures this time of year Australians may be inclined to turn away from the British tradition of a roast, and choose seafood instead and barbecues are a popular choice. This is a time when prawns, lobster, shellfish and a full of array of summer fruits are used to their best. A Christmas Day meal may involve a seafood barbecue followed by something tropical and fruity such as a mango and passionfruit pavlova.

Chile
After a meal of chicken, turkey or other Christmas favourites, Chileans are known to enjoy a sweet fruit and nut sponge cake known as 'pan de pascua’. This is accompanied by 'cola de mono’, literally the 'monkey’s tail’ is a drink made from milk, coffee, vanilla, cloves and liquor.

Czech Republic
The main Christmas meal is often eaten on Christmas Eve and often consists of a fish soup, a selection of salads, eggs and the most important dish – carp. Dinner is commonly finished with a sweet strudel type dessert.

Denmark
A traditional roast meal of pork, duck or goose may be served alongside baked potatoes, red cabbage and topped with gravy. For dessert, rice pudding, is traditionally served at midnight on Christmas Eve with a single almond hidden within. The lucky person whose dessert contains the almond is given a small gift and is thought to have good luck for the coming year.

Finland
A warming Christmas casserole of macaroni, swede, carrot and potato is a popular choice. Served alongside the traditional ham or turkey or even a whole cooked salmon. It is also common to have a number of meat and fish sides and a salad made of potatoes, carrot, beetroot, apples and cream.

Germany
Roast goose remains the favourite Christmas meal in Germany, and is usually served with potato dumplings, red cabbage, carrots, parsnip, pickles and a wine-flavoured sauce. Like a lot of Europe, the festive meal is usually eaten on Christmas Eve. Germany is also known for its range of Christmas sweets, from the marzipan filled stollen fruit cake (one of my favourites) to gingerbread.

Italy
Christmas lunch in Italy is often a multi-course affair, with many dinner's consisting of antipasto, pasta, roast meat, salads, pudding, cheese, fruit, topped off with brandy, chocolates and strong espresso. Many Christmas spreads will also include a Panettone, a traditional Italian cake.

Norway
The main festive meal is often enjoyed on Christmas Eve and this often involves tucking into cod, haddock or lutefisk. For those living inland pork chops or meatloaf are a more common choice.

Philippines
Filipinos enjoy a Christmas Eve feast on the stroke of midnight that can include 'queso de bola’ an edam cheese ball accompanied by jamon (Christmas ham) and 'tsokolate’ (hot chocolate). The main meal is usually finished with 'puto bumbong’, a purple rice dessert cooked in bamboo and smothered with butter, plenty of shredded coconut and sugar.

Poland
The traditional Christmas Eve dinner consists of either twelve or thirteen courses, one for each of the twelve apostles and an optional extra course for Jesus. No meat is eaten, instead carp or pike may be served with a sweet-and-sour sauce or a spicy horseradish sauce. Other courses may include mushroom soup, sauerkraut, pierogi (dumplings), biscuits and poppy-seed rolls.

Portugal
The Portuguese may traditionally celebrate Christmas Eve with a special meal of salted dry cod paired with boiled potatoes, all enjoyed right on the stroke of midnight.

Sweden
The Swedes are famous for their smorgasbords, and for Christmas some households create impressive spreads that may feature ham, meatballs, cheese, caviar, sausages and raw or pickled herring.

What will be served at your table this Christmas?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Differences between High Tea and Afternoon Tea

Thanks all for your feedback on Afternoon Tea favourites, unsurprisingly classic plain scones, jam and clotted cream came out tops.

During my "Tea" research the difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea has been questioned. Here are my findings...

Afternoon Tea (Low Tea)

An afternoon treat typically of tea, sandwiches, scones and cake often eaten between 3-5pm.

Legend has it that Afternoon Tea was started in the mid-1800s by the Duchess of Bedford. Around this time kerosene lamps were first introduced and in wealthier homes eating a late dinner by lamp light became fashionable. 

The story goes that the Duchess found herself with a "sinking feeling" (thought to be fatigue from hunger during the long wait between meals) and decided to have some friends over for assorted snacks and tea. This idea of an afternoon tea spread across high society and became a favourite past time of ladies of leisure.

It would usually be served on a lounge (low) table or coffee table, hence the name "Low Tea".

High Tea (Meat Tea)

A hearty tea and supper typically eaten between 5-7pm usually involving a hot, savoury dish followed by cakes, bread, butter and jam and often cold cuts of meat. High Tea features different traditional dishes depending on the region.

Regional favourites include:

England: Shepherds Pie, steak and kidney pie.
Ireland: Irish fruit cake, rarebit, bacon and egg pie and oatcakes.
Scotland: Haddock, kippers, shortbreads, Dundee cake and drop scones.
Wales: Welsh rarebit, poacher's pie and onion cake.

High Tea is associated with the working class traditionally eaten by labourers, miners and other workers after a hard day of manual labour.
This tea would be served at the high or main dinner table, hence the term "High Tea".

So there we go folks.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Operation Scotland - Phase One Completed

What a weekend, I would happily never see a cardboard box again! Shame there are about twenty big ones waiting for me in the garage. I'm now temporarily living at my folks until we complete on the Scotland house.

In my next life I'd like to be a dog
We treated ourselves to an Indian on Saturday night after the big move and boy did we deserve it, naughty but very nice. I resisted the peshwari naan that I used to love but guzzled down a couple of glasses of wine (medicinal purposes).

I can now actually find the headspace to think about Christmas. Vegetarian wellington with shiitake mushrooms and pearl barley (recipe courtesy of Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School),  gluten-free scones (chocolate and orange maybe?) and lemon and thyme torte are in my thoughts. Job done with presents, they are wrapped and under the tree. I did my Christmas shopping in a very focused two hour slot a couple of weeks back, good job I've got a small family.

Dinner for the folks tonight courtesy of moi, king prawn stir-fry with a big bundle of beautiful, fresh vegetables.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting ready for the off

Surrounded by boxes and binbags, I am just about ready for the off,  just need to bubble wrap the T.V and I'm pretty much good to go.
Arghhhh!
Tomorrow will be time to say goodbye to Taunton, I have been thinking about my time here. One of my favourite places in town is St Mary Magdalene church, it is a stunning building and I have a bit of a sad confession. In recent months with all this going on, I have been making what you might call "pilgrimages" to St Mary's during my morning run. I pause at the church, run on the spot and put my hands on the church brickwork for a few seconds whilst I say a few words. I have found myself begging, wishing, I guess you would call it praying, to some greater force for everything to work out. I guess someone was listening. I must have looked pretty blooming odd though, good job it's dark at that time.

Pounding the pavements early in the mornings I see the same people. There is a homeless chap I call "Army Bob", we always speak, well sort of, he usually shouts random comments, "Bingo", "yee-hah" and "go go" to name a few. I see the same window cleaners, commuters, dog walkers, I wonder if they will think "where's that runner?".

I have little to report on food, given that this week has been a case of using up what is left. What I would say is that if you ever get a chance to visit The Willow Tree restaurant then go, it's fabulous.  Run by a husband (chef) and wife (front of house) team this small, intimate restaurant uses the best local produce the region has to offer. I've not eaten there in about two years but have very fond memories of special evenings there.

A few nights back I had dinner with someone dear to me at the Mint and Mustard Indian restaurant. Delicious, fresh Indian food in a clean and funky setting, I recommend it.

The dogs have had a happy day eating up the remaining treats in their biscuit barrel. They know something is up though, I guess I would too if my bed had been thrown away.



Fear not, they do have big cosy blankets as temporary beds.

Right, back to the boxes...wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How do you like your Afternoon Tea?

I keep dreaming up ideas for the tearooms and would love to hear your thoughts on the following:

Afternoon Teas

What topping do you like best with a scone?

For me its got to be raspberry jam and clotted cream.

Favourite sandwich?

Personally, classic smoked salmon and cream cheese or cheese and chutney.

Are there any cakes, biscuits, pastries in particular that you like to have as part of an Afternoon Tea?

Strawberry tartlets.

Any feedback would be much appreciated by the usual means; Comment below, Facebook, Twitter or email (rebeccarenahan@googlemail.com).

Many thanks kind people, if you respond I'll throw in a free scone (at least) if you come to visit in Scotland!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Keep or Bin?

Keep or bin, keep or bin, keep or bin? My mantra of the last couple of days,  as I pack and get ready to move. The aim is to be ruthless and so far so good. I cleared out my shoe cupboard, resulting in two bin bags full of shoes to go, that's got to be at least 30 pairs. Now that's what I call ruthless! How many pairs of shoes does a girl need in rural Scotland?!

I have found a ridiculous amount of plastic tubs and jars, it's amazing how much stuff is hiding in the back of kitchen cupboards, they are like some kind of tardis. Most of my kitchen stuff has been boxed up now, just leaving essentials. I expect to be having some random meals this week using up what is left and no baking I'm afraid.

Argghhhh!
Some people may say I'm a bit of a neat freak, so being surrounded by piles of stuff and boxes is proving a little testing. Nevermind, I only have to survive until Saturday and you wont hear me grumbling, it will all be worth it. It has actually felt really good, very cleansing, ridding old ghosts ready to start anew.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Scotland - " Matters of the Heart"

It's official, I'm in love.

Let me explain...

My folks mentioned to me a few short months back that they were considering relocating to Scotland. I joined them on a trip to investigate and by the end of the weekend I decided that if they were going then I was going too. Since then we have been up for several weekends, viewing properties and investigating areas. On our trip last weekend we found the house, "I love it!!", I kept mouthing to Mum when the agent wasn't looking. I was hooked right away, the views, the location, the Victorian features and modern touches and then we were shown the garden with the most magical woodland area. It is beautiful, I love it.

The writer Gwen Raverat in her memoir "Period Piece" describes the feeling perfectly when she describes the country home of her grandfather, Charles Darwin.

"I adored those pebbles. I mean literally, adored; worshipped. This passion made me feel quite sick sometimes. And it was adoration that I felt for the foxgloves, and for the stiff red clay of the Sandwalk clay pit; and for the beautiful white paint on the nursery floor. This kind of feeling hits you in the stomach and in the ends of your fingers, and it is probably the most important thing in life. In the long run, it is this feeling that makes life worth living."

Love makes life worth living.

It has been quite a stressful couple of months, selling two houses between us and finding a new home and we are not done yet.

In the last week my house finally sold and I was able to hand in my notice at work. I have spent years doing a job to pay the bills; no love, no passion. It felt good.

The plan is to run a guest house, retreats and a vintage style tearoom specialising in afternoon tea. We are buzzing with ideas and excitement.

View from the driveway
I have just over a week to get packed and out of my house. Therefore, I may be a little quiet, I've got so much to do. Cooking and baking will be limited to using up what is left in my cupboards. If I come up with any ingenious creations I'll let you know!

Please keep fingers and toes crossed for us, I will keep you updated...


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scotland - "Matters of the Tummy"

Where to start? That is the question. I have returned from Scotland (hopefully you read my, "To Scotland With Love", blog on Friday) and have a lot to report. I will start with the easiest subject first,"Matters of the Tummy", to be followed by,"Matters of the Heart".

Friday night was dinner at the fabulous Riverhill Deli in Helensburgh. The deli opened in 2010 and serves fresh, local produce and exotic goodies from further afield. Apparently the chef, Johnny, is a keen forager, picking up local homegrown produce to bring to the tiny kitchen. They have plenty of scrumptious baked delights, this time they had some very good looking macaroons and scones on the counter amongst many others.

I opted for "Scallops in chilli, coriander and lime butter" to start.


 Followed by comforting, warming "West Coast Fish Stew", packed full of delicious local seafood on saffron potatoes.
 

To finish, "Cinnamon Creme Brulee and homemade shortbread", delicious.

                                                                    

The next morning at the hotel I was slightly disappointed that there were no tattie scones on the breakfast menu and surprisingly no porridge either! However, they did good poached eggs so I was happy.

Despite passing many Fish & Chips shops over the weekend, I managed to resist the temptation. I did peer through their windows looking for the infamous deep fried Mars Bars but again they eluded me, but I did see deep fried pizza on the menu of one (eek!).

As you can tell, my tummy had a great weekend but what about my heart?

Friday, November 30, 2012

To Scotland with love

Today is a happy day. Firstly, it's Friday. Secondly, I have the day off work and most importantly I am flying to Scotland, with my folks, for the weekend. I have had several weekends in Scotland recently, and will be spending a lot more time up there in the not too distant future (all will be revealed...).

Scotland is a special place to me, it's in my blood. My beloved and sadly departed Grandpa was a Glaswegian, my mum was born in Campbeltown on the Kintyre Peninsula. Even though I have never lived there, it feels like home.

It is also home to some of my favourites; scones, my beloved porridge and of course "Fish Suppers".

Scones

Originally hailing from Scotland. One of my absolute favourite treats, fresh with jam and cream, I swear you can't beat it especially with a good cuppa. The word "scone" is derived from the Gaelic word "sgoon" and rhymed with "gone" not "bone". The original scone was thought to be round and flat, made with unleavened oats and baked on a griddle (or girdle, in Scotland) and cut into triangle-like quadrants for serving. Today, many would call the large round cake a bannock, and call the quadrants scones. It was when baking powder became available that they evolved into the oven-baked, risen scones that we know and love today.

Tattie (potato) Scones

Ever ordered a Scottish breakfast intrigued by what a tattie (potato) scone is? I have (albeit the meat and black pudding), at first glance I was disappointed, the flat pancake did not resemble any sort of scone I had seen before. However, after tasting I was not let down. Basically, a tattie scone is what we know as a potato cake and served with runny eggs is simpy delicious, beats toast hands down if you ask me.

Porridge

If you know me, you will know I love my porridge (See my Porridge recipes).  Breakfast this weekend may be a difficult decision for me, tattie scones or porridge? Maybe, I'll push the boat out and have both.

Traditional Scottish porridge is made with oats, water and salt. Today, most of us people prefer sweetened porridge with the addition of milk and sugar, syrup or honey. I am actually having adulterated porridge as I write this, with seeds, raisins and honey.
In more ancient times, porridge may have been one of the worlds' first 'take-away' or fast-foods. Ancient Scots would cook up a huge pot of porridge, then let it cool and 'set', before cutting it into slices which they would put in a sack (or in their pockets) to be eaten later on that day, the original "breakfast bar".

Fish Supper

Fish and chips is often referred to a "fish supper" in Scotland. It always makes me think of my Grandpa, he used to love his fish suppers on a Friday and always with brown sauce.

You may believe that fish and chips hails from England. However, Dundee City Council claims that "in the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy, the chip, was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city’s Greenmarket."

In Scotland, fish supper is traditionally made with haddock, while in England it tends to be cod. In my recent trips to Scotland I have been impressed by the chippy choices; deep fried scallops, haggis, black pudding, calamari, etc... I know it's not exactly good for you, but every now and then can't hurt! However, deep fried Mars bars are another matter! An NHS study in 2004 revealed that an estimated 22 percent of all Scottish fish and chip shops offered deep-fried Mars bars. I am yet to find one, not that I want to eat one but I am intrigued. I also heard on the radio the other day that deep fried pizzas are starting to feature on chippy menus, yet to be seen also.
Apparently, sales of deep fried Mars bars peaked at between 50-200 bars sold per week in some restaurants, with a national average of 23, eek!


I haven't featured the dogs for a while, here is Coober cuddled up and watching the box with me on the sofa last night, oblivious to the fact he will be going to the kennels today...uh oh!

Coober and Reindeer pajamas

I may not be wearing my reindeer pajamas to Scotland but one thing I will definitely be wearing is my Grandpa's wedding ring. The ring is so big, that it is even too big for my thumb! I wear it at times as a pendant, it may sound corny but it feels as though Gramps is with me when I wear it.

Grandpa's Wedding Ring
C'mon then Gramps, we've got a plane to catch, let's go home.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recipe - Chia Cornflour Biscuits (Gluten-free)

This is a recipe I threw together as a tribute to the Tarahumara "running" tribe (see earlier blogs), combining chia seeds, corn flour, gluten-free flour, Agave nectar and a squeeze of lime.

As far as I am aware this recipe is gluten-free. Cornflour is made from corn and considered to be gluten-free. However, during manufacturing cross contamination with wheat may occur. Therefore, if you suffer with Coeliac Disease (gluten intolerance) you may wish to buy a gluten-free brand.

Recipe - Chia Cornflour Biscuits (Gluten-free)

Ingredients (makes approximatey 16 small biscuits)

80 grams of cornflour
80 grams of gluten-free plain flour
50 grams of caster sugar
A big squeeze of lime juice
A tablespoon of Agave nectar
3 tablespoons of chia seeds
100 grams of softened butter
1 egg

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

In a mixing bowl add the caster sugar to the softened butter and mix together.

Add the egg and briefly beat the mixture together.

Stir in the chia seeds.

Add a squeeze of lime and a spoonful of Agave nectar (or alternative), mix in.

Gradually sift in the flour, stirring after each addition.

Mix well, use your hands to bring it all together but try not to overwork the dough.

Roll out the dough onto a floured surface.


.Roll out to approximately 1/2 cm thick (if that, keep them nice and thin) and cut into shapes of your choice.



Place on a lightly greased baking tray, pop in the middle of the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes until just golden and cooked through.

Remove and leave to cool. Enjoy.


I made two shapes and found the flatter, round biscuits were the best. When I make them again I will keep them really thin, flat and also add some lime zest.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Recipe - Pinole Power Porridge (Gluten-free)

Good morning all,

Here is the next instalment of the Tarahumara themed recipes (see Saturday's blog). One of the ways this extraordinary "running" tribe apparently eat their energy boosting food, pinole, is as a "porridge". This is my recipe for "Pinole Power Porridge". Pinole is basically cornmeal (ground corn), sugar and spices. This recipe does require added flavour as cornmeal can be rather bland without. See my suggestions for spices in the recipe; vanilla, orange and ginger would also work well. Cornmeal porridge is also known as grits, polenta or maizemeal.

As far as I am aware this recipe is gluten-free. Cornmeal is made from corn, therefore, it is considered to be gluten-free. However, it could be produced with machinery that manufactures wheat and contamination may occur. If you suffer with Coeliac Disease (gluten intolerance) you may wish to buy a gluten-free brand.

Recipe - Pinole Power Porridge (Gluten-free)

Ingredients (1 bowlful)

Approximately 50 grams of cornmeal (maizemeal)
Spices: 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Water
1 tablespoon of Agave nectar (or syrup, honey, maple syrup)
Small handful of sultanas (optional)
Optional topping: a glug of hazlenut milk, chopped pecans and sultanas


Method

Put the corn meal in a medium sized saucepan, add approximately 200ml or water, stir and heat gently.




Add the spices, Agave nectar (or syrup) and the sultanas, stir in.

Heat gently on the hob for about 15 minutes, stirring regulary. Add water as required until desired consistency is achieved.

Once cooked, remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl and hey presto!

Add whatever toppings you desire.


Pinole Porridge
Yum! I will be adding this to my ever-expanding "Porridge" recipes.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Recipe - Baked Pinole (Gluten-free)

Following on the Tarahumara theme (see Saturday's blog) here is the recipe for another staple of their diet; pinole. Pinole is made from cornmeal (maizemeal), it is a source of carbohydrates and therefore energy. According to Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run" book it is a favourite food of the Tarahumara tribe who use it both pre-run and during to help them re-fuel.
Pinole proved to be quite elusive but after rooting around on the Internet I have managed to find some recipes and adapted them to create my own.

As far as I am aware this recipe is gluten-free. Cornmeal is made from corn, therefore, it is considered to be gluten-free. However, it could be produced with machinery used to manufacture wheat and contamination may occur. If you suffer with Coeliac Disease (gluten intolerance) you may wish to buy a gluten-free brand.

What is Pinole? A mixture of ground corn (cornmeal) also known as maize (maizemeal), sugar and spices.

How is it eaten? In a variety of forms including "porridge", baked as a type of biscuit or as a drink.

Recipe - Baked Pinole

Ingredients (approximately four slices)

1/2 cup of ground corn (maize) meal
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of Agave nectar (or honey, maple syrup, golden syrup)
Water

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Toast the cornmeal in a frying pan over a medium heat, until it is lightly browned then remove from the heat.



In a bowl, mix the toasted cornmeal, cinnamon and Agave nectar (or alternative). Add water until you get a kind of dough-like consistency.

Transfer the mixture to a greased baking tray.


Bake in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes until golden brown.


The end product tasted nice but the texture was a little dry and crumbly. It needs some refinement, maybe the addition of a nut butter. I will persevere, more on this to follow.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Recipe - Chia Fresca Drink (Iskiate)

As promised in yesterdays blog, a recipe for Chia Fresca (Iskiate) the "sports drink" of the Tarahumara. A simple recipe using water for hydration, chia seeds for energy, protein and nutrients and sugar and lime for flavour. My recipe is adapted from those I found on the Internet, replacing sugar for Agave syrup. The syrup dissolves readily in water and has a lower glycaemic load than refined sugar. It is also a product of Mexico so seemed fitting. Drinking seeds may sound a little odd, but it really is very refreshing and feels good for you, I swear it gave me a boost! I would most definitely rather drink this than a manufactured energy or sports drink.

Recipe - Chia Fresca Drink (Iskiate)

Ingredients (1 serving)

250ml of cold, filtered or bottled water
The juice of half a lime
1 spoonful of Agave syrup or sweetener of choice (try starting with a teaspoonful and add more if needed)
1-2 heaped tablespoons of chia seeds

Method

Add chia seeds to a glass of water and stir. Leave for at least 15 minutes, the seeds absorb water and form a gel which makes them easy and smooth to drink.


Stir well

Seeds beautiful seeds!
Add the lime juice and Agave syrup then stir well until the syrup dissolves.

Easy peasy lime squeezy!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Running Fuel - Secrets of the Tarahumara: Chia Seeds and Pinole

Thanks to this awful weather, flooding and consequential weekend home alone, I have decided to indulge by writing about the second love in my life, running (second only to food of course). During my "Chia Seeds" blog I mentioned the Tarahumara tribe briefly and the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. I thought I would share with you some "secrets" of the Tarahumara tribe and their amazing running ability.

Who are the Tarahumara?

The Tarahumara (a.k.a. Raramuri - "running people") are an elusive, reclusive tribe that inhabit Mexico's Copper Canyons. They are probably the greatest long distance runners on the planet. They have an ability to run 50 to 100 miles at a time with ease, speed and for pleasure and they do this well into old age. Legend has it that Francisco Almada, a Tarahumara champion, once ran 435 miles and others in the tribe have been known to run 300 miles at a go. Dr Dale Groom stated in the American Heart Journal, "Probably not since the days of the ancient Spartans has a people achieved such a high state of physical conditioning".

Not only are they incredible runners but it is not uncommon for them to live to over a hundred years without the disease and illnesses of our modern existence.

What makes them the greatest runners?

This is the all-important question, if only we knew the answer. We can, however, surmise based on information by the likes of Christopher McDougall author of the book "Born to Run", Caballo Blanco a running legend who lived among the tribe and Scott Jurek current running legend (and my hero) who joined them for the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. Two reasons of particular interest have been suggested:

Firstly, they do not "baby" their feet in expensive trainers. They run basically bare-foot in an extremely simple "sandal" with no cushioning and no support.

Secondly, diet, the staples of which (according to McDougall and others) are pinole and chia seeds.

Barefoot Running

"One surprising advantage the Tarahumara seem to have is their lack of technology. They essentially run barefoot and experience very little injury. Over the years running shoes have become more cushioned and more high-tech. Rather than improving our runs, these developments seem to have worsened them. The latest running shoe is causing the average runner more harm than good. The foot is desgined to run. Simplicity is key." Bill Rodgers, San Francisco Chronicle.

The best runners in the world, (the Tarahumara, Kenyans, Ethiopians) run barefoot, fact. Personally, I bought my first pair of Vibram FiveFingers about four months ago and have not put a pair of running trainers anywhere near my feet since. I am lucky to have never had a running related injury but had noticed that my knees were starting to ache especially going up and down inclines or stairs. Since running "barefoot" the aching has ceased, I have not had one injury, blister or pain. My running technique has changed and improved with very little heel strike, resulting in a lighter, easier, more natural style.

"The best runner leaves no tracks" (Tao Te Ching).

Diet & Nutrition

The Tarahumara diet is based on readily available foods. The staples of which are said to be "pinto beans, squash, chili peppers, wild greens, pinole and lots of chia".

Iskiate a.k.a. Chia Fresca

This refreshing "sports drink" popular with the Tarahumura is made with water, chia seeds, sugar and lime. As described in my "Chia Seeds" blog, these little seeds are nutritional gems packed full of omega fatty acids, protein, iron, calcium amongst other nutrients. Once dissolved in water they form a gel, making them incredibly easy to drink. The water provides essential hydration and sugar for energy.

Pinole

A recipe for pinole has proved quite elusive. As I understand it, pinole is essentially ground corn (cornmeal) with sugar, spices and water. It can be consumed in different forms e.g. as a porridge, a drink or as a biscuit/cake. Corn (maize) is a cereal grain of which the Americas are the biggest producer. Corn is central to Mexican food and even a fungus of maize (huitlacoche) is considered a delicacy. Corn provides energy in the form of carbohydrates, it is low in fat and readily available to the Tarahumara.

And they like beer! Not your average lager though, their special brew "tesguino" is very lightly fermented, low in alcohol and high in nutrients. It is reported to be a corn beer that includes wild geranium which is said to be, "anti-everything; anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and an anti-oxidant."

Recipes for Chia Fresca and Pinole to follow.

"When you run on the earth and with the earth, you can run forever." (Raramuri Proverb).
 
 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stranded in Sodden Somerset

It felt strange to wake to silence this morning. I have grown accustomed to the pitter patter, or rather hammering, of the rain. My early morning runs have turned into "flood watch". Standing over the river today it felt quite humbling watching the water roaring beneath me.

French Weir, Taunton



  Apparently, more rain is forecast for this weekend.

River Tone, Taunton
I was due in London this weekend for lectures. However, trains to Paddington have been cancelled and I'm certainly not going to attempt to drive, that would just be stupid! Looks like I'll have the excitement of reading about phytonutrients and organic acids all on my lonesome...


I headed to my local health food shop this afternoon and stocked up (any excuse!), which included chia seeds and cornmeal, which I was impressed to find. Interesting recipes to follow this weekend.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chia Seeds

I have mentioned chia seeds several times in my recipes, here is some information on these nutritious little seeds.

Chia Seeds

What Are They?

Deemed as a "superfood" these teeny, tiny seeds are grown from the Salvia hispanica plant, a flowering member of the mint family, native to central and southen Mexico and Guatemala.


Chia Seeds

Only approximately 1-2mm in length with grey or brown marbled colouring and smooth pebble-like surface. They have a mild, nutty taste.

The people of the ancient Aztec and Mayan empires reportedley revered chia seeds as vital nourishment.

The word "chia" is derived from the word "chian" meaning oily, which makes sense as they are a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Chia seeds are now readily available in health food stores and online e.g.Healthy SuppliesWholeFoodsOnline.  Other products include, white chia seed and chia oil.

Nutritional Value

According to the Nutritional Science Research Insitute 100g of chia contains approximately:
  • Protein: 20.7g
  • Fat: 30g of which :
  • Saturated fat: 3.1g
  • Mono-unsaturated fat: 1.9g
  • Poly-unsaturated fat: 25g, of which Omega 3: 18.6g, Omega 6: 4.8g and Omega 9: 1.6g
  • Carbohydrate: 41.8g (of which 41.2g is fibre)
  • Calcium: 714mg
  • Iron: 16.4mg
  • Niacin (B3): 613mg
  • Thiamine (B1): 0.18mg
  • Riboflavin (B2): 0.04mg

Chia seeds are gluten-free.

Claims have been made that chia contains more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon, many anti-oxidants, minerals, it is a complete source of protein and contains more fibre than flax seed.

Christopher McDougall author of "Born to Run" is an advocate of the seeds. His best selling book is about the Tarahumara ultra-distance running tribe in Mexico who fuel their runs on chia seeds. He writes "if you had to pick just one desert-island food, you couldn't do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease".

How To Eat Chia Seeds

As you will see from my recipes (including Chia Seed Scones and Go Get 'Em Granola Bars) the seeds can make a great addition to baked goods, including bread.

Recipe Suggestions:
  • Add to savoury dishes such as couscous.
  • Sprinkle over salads.
  • Add to breakfast cereals and porridge.
  • Once soaked in water they form a gel that can be added to recipes e.g. jams, yoghurt and salad dressings.
  • Add to smoothies and drinks.
  • Add chia seeds to beaten eggs, soak for 10-15 minutes and use to make an omelette.
  • Make a thin batter using ground chia seeds and milk then bake to make thin crackers.
  • Add to bread and cake recipes.

With so many ways of using them and many reported health benefits, why not give them a go?

(Have I persuaded you P.B? You know who you are...)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Recipe - Go Get 'Em Granola Bars (Gluten-free)

This recipe makes delicious, chewy gluten-free granola bars, ideal for a pre or post exercise energy boost. Go get 'em!

Recipe - Go Get 'Em Granola Bars (Gluten-free)

Ingredients (makes approx 10 bars)

170 grams of jumbo gluten-free oats
170 grams of butter
1 dessertspoon of maple syrup
110g of light brown sugar
3 tablespoons of chia seeds
50 grams of mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and linseed)
30 grams of dried blueberries
1 tablespoon of cinnamon



Method

Pre-heat the oven to 150C.

Place the sugar, butter and maple syrup in a medium saucepan and heat gently until the butter has just melted.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the oats, seeds, blueberries, chia seeds and cinnamon, mix well.




Press the mixture into a greased baking tin.

Pop into the oven and bake for approx 45 minutes until lightly golden.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool before attempting to cut it.

Yummy, enjoy!


Go Get 'Em Granola Bar

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recipe - Festive Flapjack (Gluten-free)

Well the essay is going ok...the subject of which is beta-glucans which are really quite fascinating. They are phytonutrients occurring in cereal grains, baker's yeast, certain fungi, mushroom and bacteria. They are known as biological response modifiers because of their ability to activate the immune system. The consumption of beta-glucans is thought to have many health benefits e.g. lowering blood cholesterol,  regulating blood sugar levels, enhancing the immue system and more. One of the richest dietary sources of beta-glucans is thought to be oats, which leads me neatly onto today's oat inspired recipe "Festive Flapjack".

As I was making this recipe my Mum text (not knowing I was baking flapjacks today) to say she had just taken a batch of vanilla coconut flapjacks out of the oven, sound good don't they? Makes my recipe sound a bit dull in comparison, but then my Mum is the Queen of Flapjack.

Recipe - Festive Flapjack (Gluten-free)

Ingredients (makes approx. 8 big slices)

175g of oats (gluten-free) use jumbo oats if available
175g of butter (cut into chunks)
1 dessertspoon of maple syrup
110g of light brown sugar
75g of dried cranberries (soaked for an hour in hot water to re-hydrate)
1 tablespoon of allspice
1 tablespoon of cinnamon


Method

Pre-heat the oven to 150C.

Place the sugar, butter and maple syrup in a medium saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted.

Remove saucepan from the heat. Add the oats, cranberries and spices then mix well.


Press the mixture into a greased baking tin.

Pop into the oven and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before attempting to remove and cut. (Unlike moi, who not being able to resist its warm, unctuous-ness cut into it way too soon).

Festive Flapjack

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Recipe - Christmas Shortbread (Gluten-Free)

It is that time of the month again (I know what you're thinking, no not that time of the month). It's that weekend when I have to knuckle down and finish my latest essay for college. I have battled down the hatches and told people that I'm not available, with the exception of Sunday night when I get to venture out. Locked in the house for the weekend you know what I am going to do to distract myself from my studies...bake of course. The lovely person I am seeing tomorrow night is no doubt going to receive a tuppaware-ful of baked goodies.

Today, I made "Christmas Shortbread" so-named because the orange and allspice gives it a festive flavour.

Recipe - Christmas Shortbread (Gluten-free)

Ingredients (makes approx 12 biscuits)

125g of softened butter
50 grams of caster sugar
175g of plain gluten-free flour (Doves Gluten-Free Plain Flour)
Finely grated rind of a small orange
2 teaspoons of allspice



Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Beat the butter and then add the sugar. Cream together until smooth (this will require some arm power).

Stir in sieved flour, allspice and orange zest gradually, mixing between each addition. Add a squeeze of juice from the orange if the dough is a bit dry. Dust hands with flour and gently knead until smooth (do not over- work).

If you have time, wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to approx 1/2cm thick and cut into shapes.

Place on a baking tray, pop it in the oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.

Sprinkle with caster sugar is desired.