Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Recipe - Pumpkin Buckwheat Buns (Gluten-free)

Halloween is here which marks the final night of my pumpkin recipes.

This recipe was a bit of an experiment, which raises a an incy wincy problem...my measurements for the ingredients may be a little vague as foolishly I didn't make notes as I was throwing it together (thinking I would remember). One day I'll get used to writing this blog, it's still early days and I'm still learning, please bear with me.

To the best of my knowledge this recipe is gluten-free.

Note: Baking powder often contains gluten, there are many "gluten-free" versions available in the shops such as Doves Farm Baking Powder.

Pumpkin Buckwheat Buns

Small and not too sweet. Convenient for breakfast on-the-go or enjoyed with a brew.

Ingredients (makes 4 little buns):

Dry:
1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder (gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds (the shelled green kernals)
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

Wet:
1/4 cup of almond milk (or any milk you choose)
1 medium egg
3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or honey)

Suggestion: You may like to try adding some fruit; banana, cranberries or currants would make a nice addition.

Method:

Pre heat oven to 200C.

Lighty grease a muffin or small cake baking tray.

Whisk together the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients then add to the wet. Stir until well mixed.

Spoon mixture into muffin baking tray or cases.



Bake for 35-45 min until cooked through. If in doubt, poke with a toothpick or skewer, if it comes out clean then they are cooked.

Allow to cool, then remove from tray (or cases).

Enjoy drizzled in maple syrup and maybe a little butter.


Pumpkin Buckwheat Buns

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Recipe - Pumpkin Bread (savoury)

In a bid to use up my pumpkin puree and not gluten-free flour, I decided to bake some pumpkin bread. There are plenty of recipes for pumpkin cakes and sweet loaves out there so I thought I would attempt to create a savoury one. It served as a useful experiment for my suspected wheat intolerance. I knew I wouldnt be able to resist its warm, fresh loveliness.

The result of the bake: A tasty loaf with a lovely crispy, dark crust and a hint of sweetness (and slightly orange colour).

The result on me: At least four thick slices eaten, at the cost of a bloated tummy. Gluten-free baking recipes will follow.

Ingredients:

500 grams of wholewheat flour
200 grams of strong white bread flour
10 grams of dried yeast
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds (de-shelled)
300 grams of pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon of butter
250 ml of warm water

Method:

Mix together the yeast, sugar, butter, pumpkin puree and water in a bowl. Set aside.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then add the wet yeast mixture. Add gradually, ensuring that you stir well with each addition and that it is thoroughly mixed. Set aside approx 100 grams of the flour into a separate bowl.

Cover the mixing bowl and leave dough to rest for 20 mins approximately.

Stir the salt, seeds and remaining flour together and add gradually to the dough and mix in well. Turn it out on to a flour dusted surface.

Knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. Dust the bowl with a little flour and pop the dough back in. Sprinkle a little flour over the top of the dough and cover.

Leave it to rise for approximately 1 hour, in this time it should roughly double in size.


After the hour, leave the dough in the bowl and press the air out by "punching" the dough gently.

Turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead briefly, not for more than a couple of minutes.

Shape the dough. I made mine into a large, round-ish shape.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C.

Place unbaked loaf onto a lightly oiled baking tray and sprinkle with a little flour and leave to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

Then pop it into the hot oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Loaf

Fresh, warm, bread and butter

I have to say, for me, it was worth a bit of bloating. I have (for the benefit of my tummy) decided to now focus primarily on gluten-free recipes. However, not exclusively, as I'm sure the odd "wheat" recipe will sneak in.

I will clearly state if a recipe is gluten-free or not, to the best of my knowledge.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Explanation of Differences Between Wheat and Gluten, Intolerance and Allergy

Following on from my post yesterday, I thought it may be useful to explain the differences between wheat and gluten, intolerances and allergies as it can be quite confusing.

Differences between an allergy and an intolerance:
(www.nhs.uk)

Food Allergy: Usually involves a rapid response to food by your immune system. Symptoms may include a rash, wheezing, itching. It is easily diagnosed through testing. Examples of allergens include; nuts, shellfish and peanuts.

Food Intolerance: Symptoms tend to present more slowly and last longer. Cravings may occur for the problem food. Symptoms usually involve the digestive system and may include bloating and stomach cramps. Intolerances can be tested for,  but are less easy to diagnose than an allergy. Examples include lactose (the sugar in milk) and wheat.

Coeliac Disease: A digestive condition caused by gluten intolerance. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Symptoms may include diarrhoea, wind, weight loss and mouth ulcers. If diagnosed, then a gluten-free diet is usually advised for life.

Differences between wheat and gluten:

Wheat is a grain, commonly used in its ground form as flour. It is often the main ingredient of bread, breakfast cereals, baked goods (biscuits, cakes, pancakes, cookies and so on). Malt, semolina, bulgar (groats) and durum are all products from wheat. Spelt is thought to be a subspecies of the common wheat.

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (cross between wheat and rye).

What grains can be eaten on a gluten-free diet? According to the Mayo Clinic the following grains and starches may be part of a gluten-free diet:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat (despite its name it is actually related to rhubarb and not a wheat)
  • Corn and cornmeal
  • Flax
  • Gluten free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato etc...)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

Avoid:

  • Wheat (wheat products: bulgar, kamut, spelt, semolina, durum)
  • Barley
  • Rye

Always read food labels carefully. It is surprising how many products contain wheat and therefore gluten. These can include: beer, bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, breakfast cereals, gravy, pasta, salad dressings and more.

People with a wheat intolerance may not need to avoid all products containing gluten. For example, I suspect I have a slight wheat intolerance and notice symptoms especially after eating white bread but have lesser symptoms or even none at all from rye and spelt.

If you suspect that you are suffering with any of these I would suggest you seek the advice of your G.P.

You may also like to consider a consultation with a Nutritional Therapist. BANT is the professional body for practitioners of nutrition, you can search for a registered Nutritional Therapist near you on the BANT website.


Many different flours are now readily available including gluten-free

Sunday, October 28, 2012

London - Gluten-free, trying to be


This weekend I left behind my country bumpkin, pumpkin cooking ways for "fast food" in the fast lane of London. A jam-packed weekend of lectures with unfortunately no time for exciting culinary adventures. Only, sadly, convenience foods on-the-go.

It has come to light recently that I seem to have a slight wheat or gluten intolerance, therefore, I try to be gluten-free most of the time. Consequently, I have become aware of gluten-free options and was interested in what the city would have to offer.

The weekend started with a steaming bowl of (gluten-free) porridge before venturing out into the cold, dark morning. First stop was the train station to buy a hot tea to warm my hands. Not hungry, but as always, I perused the food options. Firstly, I was struck by the glaring "Ginsters" fridge of wheat and meat, wheat and meat and more wheat and meat.


Best of British?!
Pastries were served at the counter alongside a sad looking basket of fruit. When a hot beverage is ordered the staff repeat the same script, "would you like a pastry to go with that?". I expect they have pastry sales targets to reach, having worked a second job at my local Blockbuster once upon a time, I know about these things. I remember having to sell a certain amount of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream one week, popcorn the next, and so on. I was never very good at it.

On to the train where fellow passengers bought croissants, muffins and pastries. Bacon baguettes seemed to be the breakfast of choice in my carriage (lucky staff, if they were the sales target!).

In London the situation improved. Lunch was a short but sweet trip to Planet Organic. Plenty of options there, fresh fruit, vegetables, hot soup, vegetarian options, gluten-free and on and on. However, organic, "healthy" food does not tend to be cheap. I realised this as I put back the £6.49 packet of raw crackers and resisted buying the £3.00 slice of raw, gluten-free cheesecake. I stocked up on a salad and some wheat-free crackers (not the £6.49 ones!). Oh and a gluten-free panettone, which was nothing like a panettone, but nice nonetheless.


Planet Organic - Beautiful Veg

Planet Organic- Fabulous Flours (inc many gluten-free)
At Paddington before jumping on my train home I scanned the various food outlets, The Bagel Factory, Cafe Nero, Upper Crust et al. I was struck by the lack of options for wheat (or gluten) intolerant people. Granted, if you walk away from the platforms there are more options including Marks and Spencer's, Sainsbury's, Yo Sushi. However, if dashing to get a train and needing some "fast food" the choices of  gluten-free are very limited. In fact, forget the gluten-free requirement, to simply buy a nutritious, healthy snack arguably Marks or Sainsburys would be pretty much the only options. The "Souper Douper" outlet may be an option for juices, porridge, soup but nothing more substantial. Luckily, I had some supplies from Planet Organic stashed in my bag including my new favourite naughty (or not so naughty) treat by Ombar. They have a range of raw, natural chocolate bars. Try them, they are lovely.

Bread, bread, bread


Ombar...Yumbar!
This was really my first experience of trying to be gluten-free, on-the-go, in the City. I was surprised at how difficult it can be especially when buying convenience foods on a budget. A recent report from the NHS states that approximately 45% of people in the UK suffer from a food intolerance, with wheat being one of the most common. Coeliac disease is an allergy to the gluten part of wheat protein that usually requires a lifelong gluten-free diet. Coeliac UK estimates that there are approximately 125,000 people who have been diagnosed with coeliac disease. In terms of "fast food" or convenience foods, gluten-free options should surely be more readily available. There appears to be a huge gap in the market, if I had the finances and business acumen, I know what I would be doing now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recipe - Pumpkin Porridge


Comforting, warming, feels like a hug in a bowl...my Pumpkin Porridge.

If you have been following my recipes, you will know that I am a fan of porridge and given that it is pumpkin recipe week, I just had to try combining the two. Trust me, it works. If you dont believe me, you'll just have to try it.

Ingredients:

40-50 grams of porridge oats (depending on how hungry you are, I like a big bowl)
1 cup of almond milk (or any milk you choose)
3 tablespoons of pureed pumpkin
1/2 a tablespoon of chia seeds (optional)
Incy pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger

Toppings: chopped pecans and/or walnuts, blackstrap molasses (alternatives maple syrup or honey), a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash more of milk.

Method:

In a saucepan over a medium heat, bring the oats and milk to a gentle boil.

Stir in the pumpkin puree (I know it feels wrong, but do it!) and chia seeds if you have them.

Cook over a low heat for approximately 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add in the spices and heat for another few minutes, keep stirring. You may want to add a little more milk or a drop of water here if it has become too thick for you.

Pour into a bowl and finish with a topping of chopped pecans, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a drop more milk and a drizzle of blackstrap molasses (if you prefer it sweeter you may wish to add maple syrup or honey).

Now, tell me that's not warming your cockles...?

Pumpkin Porridge
Must dash, this country bumpkin is off to the big smoke for the weekend, wish me luck.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to Make "Easy Peasy Pumpkin Puree"

Many recipes require pumpkin puree, including my own (more to come). You can buy it tinned but you can make it easily at home following my simple method. Fresh is best!

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Puree

My method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Rinse the pumpkin under a tap and wipe dry.

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and the membrane surrounding them. Keep the seeds (see Roasted Pepitas Recipe), they are way too tasty and nutritious to waste.

Cut the halves into two.

Place the four big pumpkin quarters face down (skin up) on a baking tray, pour in approx 200ml of water.

No need to oil or season in this instance as the puree is going to be used in several different recipes. However, if using it for something specific such as a soup you may want to season (see Punchy Pumpkin Soup recipe).

Roast in the oven for approximately 45 mins or until they are tender.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, take the skin off. If you're lucky it may just peel off or you may need the help of a knife. Alternatively, scoop the flesh out of the skin with a spoon. Bin the skin (go on...I'll let you).




Blast the pumpkin in a food processor or blender until it is smooth.

If you want it extra smooth (or your blender is not great, like mine) pass it through a sieve by pressing it with the back of a spoon over a deep bowl.




Job done! Easy, peasy pumpkin puree, now we're ready for more delicious recipes.

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Puree

Review - "The Corner Shop" Deli, Trull, Taunton

I was scooting about in my car earlier when the sight of a new (dear looking) deli, "The Corner Shop", caused me to stop abruptly to jump out and explore.

The Corner Shop, Honiton Road, Trull, Taunton, Somerset
My eyes lit up when I saw the assorted delectable delights at the deli counter including home-baked pasties, flans, pies, sausage rolls and pork pies. Also fresh olives, anchovies, cured meats, cheese, antipasti and more.

Look good don't they? 
Fresh hot soup and sandwiches with a range of fillings are also available.

There was a large basket of fresh breads and also home-made cakes and tempting sweet things. Plenty of foody products are available in the shop from reputed brands such as TeonisTyrells, Dorset Cereals, with an emphasis on local produce.

Seasoning, oils, pickles, crisps, cookies and more

Fresh bread, coffee, chocolates, vanilla pods...

"The Corner Shop" opened on the 4th October this year. It is owned and run by Sharon Cooper who has an obvious love and flair for good food. She is personally responsible for the fabulous looking savoury cheese buns amongst others.

Situated near to Taunton town centre (two minutes in the car), close enough to nip to if you are visiting the town. If you work in town why not pop there in your lunch break for a well deserved treat. I bet you would be hard-pressed to find something as good in town. It is also convenient for passing traffic as it sits on the main Honiton Road next to the convenience store and Post Office. 

I'm definitely going back for the Somerset Camembert and Sharon's savoury cheese buns.

Good luck to you, "The Corner Shop".

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Seeds- Roasted Pepitas Recipe

Don't bin the pumpkin seeds! With just a little love and attention they make a nutritious and tasty snack.

These little beauties are also known as "pepitas" which stems from their Spanish/Mexican roots.

Here's hoping you have nice stash of pepitas from the dishes you've been making with me this week. From a medium sized pumpkin I scooped out approximately 120 grams, quite impressive. They can contain up to as many as 500.

Whole seeds
Whole pumpkin seeds usually consist of an outer white husk (shell) which contain the olive-green coloured seeds (kernals). Some varieties of pumpkin produce seeds without a husk.

The question is when eating do you leave the husk on or take it off?

The outer husk is quite tough and a little bitter but full of fibre and nutrients. It is also quite time consuming and fiddly to remove each and every husk. Personally, I enjoy them whole and all that plant goodness is not wasted.


Shelled seeds

Pepita Power:

Minerals: The seeds are a source of bone-building manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, energy-producing iron and immune-supportive copper and zinc. They are particularly known to be a valuable source of zinc. The amount of zinc is optimised if you leave the husk on as it is especially concentrated in the endosperm which is removed along with the husk. Whole roasted pumpkin seeds contain approx 10 milligrams (mg) of zinc per 3.5 ounces.

Anti-oxidants: The seeds provide the anti-oxidant Vitamin E in a variety of forms along with a range of anti-oxidant phytonutrients.

Protein: They contain approximately 10 grams of protein in every 35 grams of seed.

L-Trytptophan: 1 gram of seed contains approx 5.69mg of L-tryptophan which is known to be beneficial to anxiety disorders. Some people eat seeds as a preventative measure against anxiety attacks and depression.

Hopefully, I have persuaded you to leave the husks on. Let's put those seeds to good use and make some roasted pepitas amigos!

Roasted Pepitas:

Ingredients:

Loads of pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Olive oil
Salt
Any seasoning you choose: allspice, cinnamon, cayenne, black tea (powdered). I kept mine simple with just olive oil and salt.

Method:

Scoop out the seeds, rinse and wipe clean.

You want the seeds to be dry before roasting. Spread them out on a baking tray and leave for several hours or overnight (you can always finish them off with a hairdyer, but try not to blow them around the kitchen like I did).

Once they are dry, pre-heat the oven to 120-140C.

Drizzle the seeds with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt (or seasoning of your choice),  mix with your hands ensuring all the seeds get coated.

Spread the seeds out in a single layer on the baking tray.

Bake for 20-30mins (longer if you prefer them more golden).

Remove from the oven, leave to cool and enjoy.

If you resist eating them all, they can be stashed in an airtight container.

Note: In a bid to preserve precious nutrients I kept the temperature relatively low and did not roast them for very long. If you prefer them more golden, you may wish to turn up the heat and roast for longer.




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recipe - Hot and Spicy Pumpkin Wraps


You will probably know by now that I have a bit of a thing for hot food. Therefore, you may like to modify this recipe (less chili?) to suit your own tastebuds, yours may be more delicate than mine.

I used buckwheat flour for the tortillas. Despite it's name, it is not a wheat and is gluten-free, it is actually related to rhubarb. It does have a "twang" to it; quite a nutty, bitter flavour. You may like to change the recipe and use a plain flour instead. I personally love it and often have buckwheat flakes for breakfast (see my breakfast bloggings on buckwheat).

Hot and Spicy Pumpkin Wraps

Ingredients (Serves two):

Pumpkin filling:
500g of pumpkin- de-seeded and cut into thick slices
1/2 an onion-  thinly sliced
1 garlic clove -finely chopped
1 red chili (optional- add if you like your food hot)
1 teaspoon black onion seed
1 teaspoon of ground cumin seed
1-2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of chili flakes
Several tablespoons of plain natural yoghurt (or soured cream)
Fresh spinach
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
Flat leaf parsley
A squeeze of lemon or lime

Tortillas:
100g buckwheat flour (or flour of your choice)
Pinch of salt
Water

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Place the pumpkin slices in a roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil, seasoning, chili powder and chili flakes. Roast in the oven for approx 30 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked through but still firm. After 15 mins turn and add a whole red chili (if you fancy it extra hot).

In a mixing bowl make up the tortilla batter. Add water to 100grams of buckwheat flour and pinch of salt until the mixture has the consistency of a smooth, pourable batter. Set aside.

Once the pumpkin and chili are cooked remove from oven and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the pumpkin and cut into cubes of approx 1cm. De-seed and chop the chili.

Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add the cumin, black onion seeds, garlic and onion. Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft. Add the pumpkin and chili, stir and heat through. Add a squeeze of lemon and remove from the heat.

Heat a lighty oiled frying pan over a medium heat and pour in some of the batter. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side until slighty browned. You will want to make the tortilla soft and thin enough to wrap.
(the recipe makes approx 2 large ones)

Place the tortillas on a plate, add some spinach leaves and top with the pumpkin filling, some fresh parsley and a dollop of yoghurt. Wrap and eat.

Serve with a cooling (!), fresh green leaf salad.

Hot and Spicy Pumpkin Wraps


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recipe - Pumpkin Cannelloni with Fried Sage

Today wasn't the best of days, but at least it ended with a bloomin' good dinner...

Try this ever-so easy and slightly indulgent cannelloni dish.

Pumpkin Cannelloni with Fried Sage

Ingredients (makes 6 cannelloni, enough for 2-3 people):

650g approx of pumpkin
3 garlic cloves
200g of ricotta cheese
1 big handful of grated Grana Padano (or parmesan)
1 large tablespoon of chopped sage leaves
A big pinchful of whole sage leaves (7-8 approx)
6 oven-ready lasagna sheets
50g of unsalted butter
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cut the pumpkin into big chunks and simmer away in saucepan of water for approx 20-25mins. Cook until soft, leave to cool then remove skin, mash until smooth.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic. Crush the cooked garlic into a paste using a pestle and mortar.

Add the garlic, ricotta, Grana Padano and chopped sage to the mashed pumpkin and stir it all together gently until its all mixed in. Season to taste and set aside.

Cook 6 lasagne sheets in a saucepan of boiling water for approx 2-3 minutes (until just soft enough to roll into the cannelloni tubes), remove and drizzle with a little olive oil to stop them sticking. Keep approx half a cupful of the water.

Spoon approx 4 tablespoons of the pumpkin and cheese mixture onto the centre of each lasagna sheet and roll into a cannelloni tube, repeat for all.

Oil a baking dish and pop in the cannelloni.

Pour the reserved water over the cannelloni and cover the dish with foil. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins until the pasta is cooked.

Meanwhile, fry the whole sage leaves in butter over a medium heat until the butter is golden and the sage leaves are slighty crispy.

When the cannelloni is ready, remove from the oven and serve with a drizzle of the butter and top with crispy sage leaves.


Pumpkin cannelloni with crispy, fried sage

Monday, October 22, 2012

Recipe - Punchy Pumpkin Soup

It's that time of year, the nights are drawing in, winter is just around the corner and a bowl of hot soup with crusty bread is becoming one of my favourite meals again.

Follow this simple recipe for a hot pumpkin soup that packs a punch:

Ingredients (serves 4):

500g of pureed pumpkin (about half a medium pumpkin)
1 finely diced red chili
1-2 teaspoons of chili powder (2 large teaspoons of hot chili powder for me)
400 ml vegetable stock
Half a teaspoon of garlic granules
A small tub of soured cream
Salt & pepper

Tip: keep the pumpkin seeds, they make a great snack (recipe ideas to follow).

Method:

Firstly make the pumpkin puree.

I chose to roast my pumpkin but you could cook it anyway you like e.g. boiled or steamed.

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks (leave skin on, its easier to remove once cooked), season and roast in the oven at 180C for approx 45-55 mins.

Remove from the oven once soft and cooked through.

Leave to cool, then remove the skin.

Blast in a food processor or blender (I then passed it through a sieve, only as my blender isn't that effective and I wanted it smoother).

In a saucepan over a medium heat combine the pumpkin puree, vegetable stock, chili powder, garlic granules and seasoning. Add extra water if required.

Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for approximately 5 minutes.

Serve hot with a spoonful of soured cream and some finely diced red chili to garnish.

Punchy Pumpkin Soup

Time for me to 'fess up. I baked a soda loaf to have with the soup but wasn't that happy with it (although I ate it quite happily). I think the recipe needs tweaking, I'll get back to you on that one.

Pumpkins


With Halloween just around the corner and many of us grappling with a pumpkin and a sharp knife, I thought it would be apt to bring you some pumpkin inspired recipes this week.

Before we get cooking, here is some pumpkin info:
The pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes squash, cucumber and melons. They are native to North America and a traditional part of Thanksgiving meals in the States.

They take approximately 90-120 days to grow, generally planted May-June time and picked in October, ready to be carved out and decorated as Jack O' Lanterns at Halloween.

They can grow very big indeed, especially the Giant variety. The heaviest was recorded in the U.S weighing in at 1810 pounds! Yowser!

Apparently, we can thank the Irish for the Jack O' Lantern tradition which began hundreds of years ago and originally used turnips and potatoes. When Irish immigrants arrived in America they started using the pumpkin, bigger and easier to carve, and a new tradition was started.

Pumpkins are a rich source of nutrients including Vitamin A (beta-carotene), B Vitamins, Vitamin C and more.

You wouldnt think it by looking at it but pretty much the whole pumpkin is edible including the seeds (pepitas), leaves and flowers.

Lets get carving then...



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recipe- The Great British Scone


The great British scone, one of our greatest culinary achievements if you ask me. No airs or graces, simple and honest. Best served fresh, still slighty warm so that the butter or cream (or both!) melts just a little. It doesn't get much better than that does it? Tell me your mouth isn't watering now?

For such a simple baked good there are several different ways you can go about making them. Do you use buttermilk? Which raising agent? Today I kept mine simple as follows:

Ingredients (makes approx 6-8, depends how big you like them):

250 grams of self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
50 grams of caster sugar
Approx 125ml of milk
Approx 50 grams of softened butter

To serve: Clotted cream and jam (raspberry for me).

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 200C.

In a mixing bowl stir together the flour and baking powder, rub in the butter using your fingertips until it has a breadcrumby texture.

Stir in the sugar and then gradually add the milk (you may not need it all) until it forms a soft dough.

On a flour dusted surface turn out the dough and pat out to approx 2.5cm thick (height).

Cut into circles using a pastry cutter (or a glass).

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

Bake in the oven until golden, approximately 15 minutes.



Scone with cream and jam

I did exactly the same for the chia scones but added approximately 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with the sugar. The outcome was a drier scone but the seeds added a nice bite.


Chia seed scone

Cream or Jam first?

Round this way, this is an important decision as it reveals your allegiance to either Cornwall or Devon. For the Cornish, jam goes first then the cream on top, in Devon it's cream first.

Tips for baking scones:

Do not over work the dough.

When shaping with a pastry cutter be quick about it; pat the cutter down then lift off briskly, do not twist.

Do not pat out the dough too much, keep it high (2.5-3cm) to make them tall and light.

And finally...do you pronounce it scon or scoan? For me its scon.

Scones, Scones and More Scones


I finished the nightmare task that was my essay today, phew! It was a real horror. Free from the shackles of my computer I ventured out to get some groceries. I wandered around the aisles in a zombie-like state, lack of sleep finally catching up with me. Anyhow, I managed to get my mitts on some goodies, including some proper Cornish clotted cream which was on offer, only 59p! I'm sure you can guess what that means...scones!

After my savoury experiment yesterday with avocado and cream cheese, today its back to the classic scone. Although I did make some with chia seeds thrown into the mix which were rather nice also (recipes to follow).

p.s. I came across this advert whilst in the supermarket which made me chuckle, "Ready Baked Jackets"! Surely not?! Now thats just darn lazy.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Avocado and Cream Cheese Scones

For some reason I fancied potato cakes for lunch but didn't have any or any potatoes for that matter. In a bid to not get distracted from my essay for too long, I had a rummage around my kitchen to see if I could find anything inspiring, rather than hitting the shops. Low and behold I found an over-ripe, not terribly inspiring avocado in the bottom of my fruit basket (left over my from baked avocado and egg recipe earlier this week). I really fancied baking something (de-stressing) so opted to try a new creation; avocado and cream cheese scones.

I feel a bit "wheated-out" from the last few days (and the cookies) so I used gluten-free Doves Farm Rice Flour. To make them a little less naughty I used "Truvia" a brand of stevia sweetener in place of caster sugar.

Ingredients (easily makes four large scones):

125g of rice flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tablespoons of Truvia (as an alternative to caster sugar)
Large pinch of salt
A generous grinding of black pepper
1 avocado (mashed)
1 large tablespoon of cream cheese
3-4 tablespoons of milk approx
2 tablespoons of softened butter

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 200C

In a mixing bowl stir together the flour, bicarb of soda, sugar ("Truvia"), salt and pepper.

Rub the soft butter into the flour, using fingertips, until it looks and feels like big breadcrumbs.

Mash up the avocado with a fork until smooth, mix in with the cream cheese then add to the flour mix.

Mix it all together gently and gradually add enough milk to make a soft dough.

On a floured surface turn the dough out and pat out to approx 2.5cm thick.

Cut into circles using a pastry cutter (or a glass).

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

Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden.


Avocado and Cream Cheese Scones
Serving suggestion: spread with butter, top with a poached egg and wilted spinach on the side, season and enjoy.


Avocado and cream cheese scone with poached egg and wilted spinach

A Naughty Weekend and Old School Sweetness


Good morning all,

Awake at 4:30 this morning, out the door for a run by 5:00, the start of a gruelling weekend I fear.

I have to face a rather daunting essay this weekend after weeks of  being very effective at putting it off. I started work on it last night and worked doggedly until I climbed into bed in the early hours, eyes burning from staring at the screen and too tired to even bother putting my jim jams on. I found myself wide awake at Silly O'Clock mind racing on thoughts of fried fish (don't worry, it's part of the essay). I have instructed family and friends not to make contact as I battle down the hatches and fait accompli by tomorrow night at the lastest.

I feel under the circumstances (lacking sleep, stress, boredom) that it is going to be a weekend of naughty treats. It started yesterday with a delivery from Ben's Cookies. They very kindly sent me a tin of cookies as a "thank you" for my review (see previous blog). Last night (about two lines in to the introduction of said essay) I began my "taster menu" of cookies. They are all delicious by the way, but I still feel a peanut butter and chocolate one would be a great addition to the already ridiculously sweet and scrummy range. I love the shiny red tin, thank you Ben's.


Uh Oh, I'm in trouble...

I nipped to the shops to stock up for the weekend and whilst waiting to be served I noticed an array of old school sweets.



I didn't realise they still made "Nerds" or "Parma Violets", who buys "Parma Violets"? Does anyone actually like them?!

This lead me to reminisce about my culinary habits during my school days. I remember at secondary school I would have Cherryade Panda Pop every day, 25p they cost back in those days and it was almost flourcescent it was so bright, I wonder if they used beetroot colouring (see beetroot blog)? Wishful thinking, more likely to be artifical colouring I'm sure. Along with my Panda Pop I remember distinctly I would buy a bag of yoghurt coated raisins and salted cashew nuts for snacks and at break time would often often indulge in a warm ice bun from the canteen. Oh happy days!

Breakfast was a bowl of buckwheat porridge, a pretty good start, however, there is a red tin of cookies gleaming away on the table opposite me...

Time to stop my ramblings and concentrate on the task at hand, wish me luck.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Recipe - Pink Beetroot Pancakes

I love these pretty, pink pancakes that taste even better than they look.
Try using a cookie cutter to make them heart-shaped. Imagine how impressed your loved one would be if you made these for breakfast in bed.

Ingredients (for approx 6 pancakes):

1 mug of plain flour
2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
1 raw, grated beetroot
Approx 150ml of apple juice
Olive oil (for the pan)
Pinch of salt
Optional toppings: yoghurt or butter and honey, a squeeze of lime.

Method:

Sieve the flour and bicarb of soda into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the egg into the well and a pinch of salt.

Beat well and then add the apple juice gradually, keep beating until it is smooth and lump-free.

Fold in the grated beetroot, it will turn the pancake batter a fantastic bright pink colour.


Pretty in pink

Heat a small frying pan to a medium heat with a little olive oil.

Pour in a dollop of the pancake batter into the centre of the pan.

Cook until set, flip the pancake and cook both sides for 1-2 minutes.




I squeezed a little lime juice on the pancakes, stacked them and topped with a lashing of yoghurt and honey.

Not the best presentation, but I didn't have anyone to impress!

Recipe - Beetroot "Beet 'Em" Juice

Beetroot "Beet 'Em" juice, so-named due to the benefits that drinking beet juice is thought to have on sports performance.

Drink 500ml at breakfast to give you a great kick start to the day.

Ingredients (for approx one pint):

1 raw beetroot
1 raw carrot
1 raw apple
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger
A squeeze of lime
Water (I added approx one small cupful to the mix, you could add apple juice instead if you prefer it sweeter)

Chop 'em up, pop 'em in your juicer and give 'em a good blast.

Enjoy it cold and best served straight away.

Go get 'em tiger!


Vegetables at Breakfast - Beetroot

It's the final day of the "Vegetables at Breakfast" and I feel I have saved the best for last, the beetroot. I have even done two recipes for this beauty.

Beetroot is a root vegetable, no vegetable fraudsters this time (see previous blogs). The beetroot is one of several varieties of beets, others include chard, spinach beet and sugar beet.

The humble beetroot is a rich source of anti-oxidants and nutrients including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C. They also contain the compound, betaine, which is known to be important for cardiovascular health.

Beetroot has featured in the press recently as evidence suggests that it can improve sports performance. A University of Exeter study last year found that drinking 500ml of beetroot juice before exercise improved stamina. A second Exeter study found that it appeared to improve performance by increasing the speed of cyclists. The reason behind this is thought to be thanks to nitrate, a nutrient found in soil that helps "build" protein. This converts into nitrite in the body and then to nitric oxide. This widens blood vessels, increases blood flow and reduces the oxygen needed by muscles ,therefore, enabling them to work more effectively. Sporty-types may be interested in my Beetroot "Beet 'Em" Juice recipe.

Beetroot has an earthy but sweet taste and is known for its vibrant purple-red colour. The pigment is used as a dye and to add colour to strawberry jam, tomato paste, sauces and strawberry ice cream amongst others. It makes fantastic looking pink pancakes, check out my recipe!

When handling beetroot be aware that the colour can be difficult to get out but it is water-soluble so will budge eventually. You may want to wear an apron when handling it or dark clothes (if like me you always forget the apron!).

Tip:
Dont peel or cut the beetroot before cooking as the colour and nutrients will leach out. Instead, gently clean the beets by gently scrubbing them and twist off the green tops. You can then boil, bake or roast and of course it can be enjoyed raw too including the green tops.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vegetables at Breakfast - Tomatoes

Day Four of "Vegetables at Breakfast" and it is the turn of the ever so popular, much loved tomato.

The tomato is another "pseudo-vegetable" (see previous blogs) as it is actually a fruit but we tend to use it in the kitchen as a vegetable.

Pasta sauce, tomato soup, ketchup, salsa...just a few of the many recipes in which tomato is a key ingredient and I think we'd all agree that the classic combination of tomato, mozzarella and basil takes some serious beating! Simply delicious.

Believe it or not, there is thought to be in the region of 7,500 varieties of tomato. Popular varieties include beefsteak, plum, cherry, campari and heirloom. It belongs to the nightshade family which includes potatoes (not sweet), peppers and aubergine.

Tomatoes are known for containing high concentrations of the anti-oxidant lycopene, which gives them their red colour. Lycopene is thought to have many health benefits and scientific studies indicate that it may play a part in lowering the risk of cancer and heart disease. Studies also suggest that lycopene in cooked tomatoes may be more easily absorbed by the body than in raw tomatoes. Therefore, you dont need to worry about zapping all the nutrients out of them when you cook them.

Tomatoes at breakfast evokes thoughts of them fried or grilled as part of a "fry up", but why not think outside the box? Consider a "salad" of fresh sliced tomatoes and slices of hard boiled egg, tomatoes grilled on toast (even better with cheese on toast), tomato juice smoothie or even better still delicious tomatoes and mackerel on toast (see my recipe).

Recipe - Tomatoes and Mackerel on Toast

Try this easy, tantaslising dish which really celebrates the tomato.

Ingredients (for two):

Two mackerel fillets
6 tablespoons approximately of crushed tomatoes (bought readily crushed) or approximately 8 large salad tomatoes to crush yourself
A handful of cherry tomatoes (approx. 6-8)
A small handful of fresh basil
A squeeze of lime juice
2 substantial slices of bread of your choice (wholemeal seeded or rye are good choices)
50g of butter
Tabasco (optional)
Seasoning

Method:

Pre-heat the grill

Crush the tomatoes. I have discovered an easy way to do this, cut the salad tomato in half and hold by the skin, grate using a box grater until all that is left in your hand is the skin. Easy peasy!



Do this for all the salad tomatoes (skins can be binned) and add to a saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil, seasoning, and a dash of tabasco if you like (big dash for me).


Tomato-tastic


Cook the tomato mixture over a medium heat for approximately 15 mins bringing the mixture gently to the boil, letting it simmer and reduce. After 10 mins or so add the cherry tomatoes and a bunch of basil leaves, leave to cook for another 5 mins and smash up the cherry tomatoes with a spoon. For the the easy option just buy a can of crushed tomatoes.

Smother the mackerel fillets with the crushed tomato mixture but reserve two tablespoons.

Grill the mackerel for approx 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 50g of softened butter to the reserved tomato mixture and a good squeeze of lime juice.

Pop the bread under the grill also (or in the toaster) for a couple of minutes. Then whilst warm, spread on the tomato and lime butter.

Serve the mackerel on top of the toast with a sprig of basil and more seasoning.


Tomatoes and mackerel on toast



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vegetables at Breakfast - Quinoa Salad

Good morning all,

Another day, another breakfast and here we are at Day Three of "Vegetables at Breakfast" and I'm feeling brave or stupid enough to suggest...salad. Do not run away in disbelief, please bear with me.

This dish is a combination of vegetables, fruit and quinoa. I have exalted the qualities of quinoa before in my earlier blogs. Basically, quinoa is a tasty and nutritious grain-like seed, a source of complete protein and fibre as well as vitamins and minerals. It packs a powerful nutritional punch, it's versatile and absorbs flavours well. It can be used as an alternative to rice, couscous and even porridge oats.

Ingredients (2-3 portions):

One cup of cooked, cooled quinoa
One small apple diced
Half a red pepper diced
Half an avocado finely chopped
A big handful of spring greens finely shredded
Half a carrot finely chopped

Suggested toppings: plain or Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese.

Dressing:

Two tablespoons of cider vinegar
One tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
One tablespoon of honey
A large pinch of salt and pepper
Squeeze of half a lemon or lime

Method:

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl.
Add the prepared vegetables and fruit, mix well.



Then add the cooked and cooled quinoa, and gently stir it all together and mix thoroughly.

Why not try having half the salad topped with yoghurt (plain or Greek) for breakfast, and have half for lunch with cottage cheese.

Enjoy!

Quinoa Salad with Cottage Cheese

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recipe - Baked Avocado and Egg

This is a very simple recipe (almost as easy as toast and jam I promise), nutritious and delicious.

Ingredients (for one):

Half an avocado
One medium egg
Seasoning
Optional: bread on the side, fresh coriander and hot sauce.

That's it!

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Cut the avocado in half and carefully remove the stone.
Break the egg and place in to the well left from removing the stone. You may need to scoop out a bit of the well if it doesnt look big enough to hold an egg.
Place in a suitable oven proof dish, season, and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.

I like the egg to be runny, topped with some fresh coriander and a drop of hot sauce, but not everyone's choice at breakfast maybe.

It is especially scrumptious when you scoop up some soft avocado and runny yolk with fresh seeded wholegrain or rye bread.

This would make a great, lazy late weekend breakfast or lunch.


Baked avocado and egg - delicious!

Vegetables at Breakfast - Avocado

Day Two of "Vegetables at Breakfast" and the star of the show today is the avocado. If you didn't read yesterday's blog, I will point out that I realise it is actually a fruit but I think it's fair to say in our culture we do view it and use it as a vegetable. I'm going to call it a "pseudo-veg" along with other culprits in disguise such as tomatoes, squash, pumpkin and more.

Avocados hail from the the Americas, Mexico produces millions of them each year. They are colloquially known as the alligator pear (I love that) due to the shape which is similar to a pear and their leather-like looking skin.

Avocados are little nutrient bombs. They are packed full of monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and protein. They are a surprisingly high source of carotenoids, usually associated with red and orange produce.

You will want to ensure your avocado is ripe before you tuck in. Ensure it is ripe and ready to eat by placing it in the palm of your hand and squeezing it gently with your fingers. It should give with slight pressure but still be firm and not squishy.

Tip to ripen:
Place in a brown paper bag (or wrap in newspaper) and leave at room temperature, pop in an apple or tomato and leave it a day or two.

Talking of this has prompted me to mention the cherimoya fruit that I tried today for the first time. It too hails from the Americas I believe (I got mine from Morrisons, see Sunday's blog). It reminded me of an avocado in its texture, size and shape. It has a creamy texture and a mild, tropical taste. Apparently, Mark Twain once called cherimoya “delicious-ness itself”, I think mine must have been under ripe... I have one left which is now in a paper bag.


Cherimoya

Monday, October 15, 2012

Recipe: Sauteed squash with seeds and yoghurt

Sautéed Squash with seeds and yoghurt

Ingredients (enough for two):

1 small squash -in this case I used half a small onion squash and half a harlequin squash
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of runny honey
Plain yoghurt
Cinnamon

Method:

Cut the squash into medium sized chunks (2-3cm)
De-seed the squash - keep the seeds to one side
Melt the butter over a medium heat in a frying pan (medium sized with a lid)
Add the squash and honey
Cover with lid and cook for approx 20-30 mins until soft (turning the squash periodically).
Add the seeds after 10-15 mins,  toast in the pan along with the squash.
Remove once the squash is soft and the seeds are lightly toasted and golden in colour.
You could remove the flesh of the squash at this point if you prefer (its much easier than trying to cut it off before cooking). I chose to leave the flesh on as I like to use the whole vegetable if possible.
Pop the cooked squash into a bowl with a generous dollop of natural yoghurt, sprinkle the toasted seeds on top.
Finish with a drizzle of honey and a shake of cinnamon.

I found that the harlequin worked best in this dish as sweeter than the onion variety. The dish could also be made savoury if preferred and would make a nice accompaniment for a spicy dish.

Sauteed Squash with toasted seeds and yoghurt


Vegetables at Breakfast - Squash

Here we go, Day One of the "Vegetables at Breakfast" week . If you read my last post you will know that I got quite excited by all the lovely new vegetables in Morrisons and will do my best to bring you some interesting breakfast recipes using vegetables as the main star.

Today is the turn of squash. Now, before any Smart Alecs tell me that squash is not a vegetable, I know that it is actually a fruit botanically speaking as they contain the seeds of the plant. For the recipes this week , I will be using fruits that we perceive and use as vegetables such as squash, tomatoes and avocados.
Onion and Harlequin Squash
Squash are members of the Cucurbitaceae family (often referred to as gourds)which includes cucumber, melon, gourds and pumpkin. I was going to use pumpkin for today's recipe but they were massive, we would of been having pumpkin all week.

There are many varieties of squash from the well-known butternut squash to the less known acorn, spaghetti, turban (buttercup) and kabocha varieties.

They are very versatile and can be baked, roasted, stuffed, pureed or fried and used in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Morrisons new "Fresh" range

On my way home today I stopped at a Morrisons store en route. It's not my usual supermarket but as it was getting near closing time I thought I better stop and stock up (if you read last post, Mum's grocery parcel won't last me that long). Well, Morrisons has changed! I dont know if its the same nationwide but this store in particular has introduced a new "Fresh" range of vegetables and herbs. It looks quite theatrical with vegetables and herbs presented on ice with a sort of dry ice effect. If it gets people interested in new vegetables then it can only be a good thing.


At least four different varieties of aubergine

Fresh herbs and samphire
The new "Fresh" range has a huge variety of vegetables and includes many different fresh chilis, several varieties of ginger, garlic, white asparagus, samphire and more. This may not sound like a big deal to city dwellers reading this, but here in the rural South West this is pretty darn good. If my local store has introduced the same range,  I may even consider changing my supermarket allegiance.

Needless to say I got rather carried away, returning home with a variety of mushrooms, harlequin and onion squash, and more. I'm well stocked for my "Vegetables at Breakfast" week, just got to decide what to do with it all...

Folks and Flapjack

I think we have reached the right time in our relationship to introduce you to my folks...

When I refer to my "folks" I am referring to my Mum, (that's Joy to you) and my "other Dad" Pete (I'm not a fan of the expression "step-dad"). That's of course not forgetting my beloved Dad but he doesn't live with them, that would be weird.

Very full apple tree at my folks
Whenever I visit my folks, I always leave with a parcel of food. Despite leaving home at eighteen years of age, this ritual still occurs despite my false protestations of "I don't need anything Mum", "you don't need to do that". Mum knows best though.

Today was no different, as I was preparing to leave Mum was rustling around in the fridge gathering foods for the parcel, chirping "are you sure you won't eat these anchovies?", "please take this marmalade, we wont eat it".

I left with the bag of groceries and disaster very nearly struck as I realised I had forgotten the flapjack (a favourite and staple part of the grocery parcel). Luckily, I hadnt actually left the drive yet so disaster was averted as Pete dashed off and got me a stash. Fully loaded I hit the road.



The best flapjack you'll ever have
I asked for the flapjack recipe, however, Mum doesn't really do recipes. In a truly motherly fashion she uses intuition and whatever ingredients are in the cupboard. The flapjack is different every time, but always the best.
Pushed for the information this is what she said, in her own brief words (it was by text message):

Ingredients:
4oz of good butter
4 tablespoons ish of syrup or runny honey
3 oz of brown sugar
8 oz of rolled oats

Method:
Melt butter, syrup, sugar in saucepan until melted and bubbling.
Add the oats and any dried fruits if desired.
Place mix in shallow tin.
Bake in low oven 140degrees or thereabouts until lightly brown.
Turn off oven and leave to cool completely.

As I write this I am actually munching the said flapjack, sipping tea (and missing home a little if I'm honest).