The Romance of the Garden Bounty

It seemed like such a good idea at the time…

I’m always super enthusiastic about growing our own fruit and vegetables and when the first crops start coming through it’s very satisfying to be eating them hours or even minutes after they’ve been picked.  But as summer progresses and crops start to come in thick and fast, we suddenly have more courgettes/peaches/apples/rhubarb than we know what to do with; even after giving some away it can become a bit of a burden. This year was no exception and it became time to find some new ways of using the excess.

I found a couple of new courgette recipes this year; one savory and one sweet.  The savory recipe is based on a very simplified version of the Breakfast Fritter recipe in Donna Hay’s book “Life in Balance”.  I wanted a light batter for the fritter and this recipe achieves that by using egg whites and a small amount of rice flour.  It’s actually a great base for adding whatever vegetables that you want to.  On this occasion I added grated courgette and served them with lemon juice, plenty of salt and some Chevre cheese that I had in the fridge.  They’re great eaten fresh from the frying pan while the next one is cooking!

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The sweet courgette recipe is a stand out cake from Julie Le Clerc’s book “Made by Hand”.  It’s a chocolate courgette cake with walnuts, raisins and buckwheat flour.  It bakes to a gorgeously dark colour, uses up HEAPS of courgette and when it’s fresh, it’s crispy on the outside and moist in the middle…the way a good cake should be.  I’ve made this more than once and it’s definitely become a favourite.  I’m a bit lazy when it comes to icing and the great thing is that this cake doesn’t need it.  It’s got a gorgeous, deep, satisfying flavour.  I would like to say that because of this, one slice is enough *cough*; but really…is one slice of cake ever enough?!

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Blackboy peaches were the next big glut that needed dealing to.  Usually I just stew them or put them in crumbles (so good!) but they’re such nice peaches that I felt like I should try and do something more interesting with them for a change.  The first thing I did was make them into a Blackboy Peach and Raspberry Tart using the Peach Tart recipe from “Jane Grigson’s Fruit” book.  This is a great recipe that gives plenty of tips and techniques for preventing soggy pastry (which I’m happy to report that I achieved). The way the fruit is laid out looks absolutely stunning and the flavour is intense and beautifully offset by the cream.  As the icing on the cake, I glazed it with a homemade rhubarb and rose jam – to die for.

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The next peach recipe is by Emma Galloway – Peach, Rosemary and Yoghurt Cake from her book “My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes from my Real Food Kitchen”.  I don’t often use the harder herbs like rosemary in sweets so I’m always excited when the opportunity arises.  The batter is a mix of ground almonds and rice flour which gives it a lovely texture and the yoghurt and peaches help retain moisture in the cake.  Really really delicious and the rosemary adds a subtle piney flavour.  I’ve made this cake twice; on the second time around I didn’t put it in the fridge for a day or two – this was a big mistake because it went mouldy.  I was traumatised when I had to put it in the compost! *sob

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I know that looks like ash but it’s actually a mixture of rosemary and icing sugar 🙂

The last thing that I did with the blackboy peaches was to make a dessert from “Martin Bosley Cooks”.  This was also divine and a really straight-forward recipe.  Just crumble up amaretti biscuits and mix the crumbs with egg and brown sugar; spoon over the top of halved peaches and bake in the oven until tender and caramelised…drool.

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They’re topped with creme fraiche and mint

We tend to get a lot of rhubarb and raspberries in the garden as well (hence including the raspberries in my peach tart earlier).  We collect these with the intention of doing something delicious with them and then promptly forget about them/can’t be bothered…lucky compost (but poor us)!  I often put them into a clafoutis or a crumble (when I remember to) and this year I used them to make a Ricotta, Rhubarb and Raspberry Loaf using Annabel Langbein’s Miracle Cake recipe; this is from her book “Endless Summer”.  It’s so rustic looking and gets a gorgeous crispy top.  When my daughter bit into it it made her gasp which I think is a pretty good sign!  This one probably won’t get made as often as the others though because I don’t often have ricotta in the house and I don’t like to make special purchases for baking (is that weird?!).

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I haven’t mentioned the apples yet even though they’re actually our biggest crop. Luckily they’re great eating apples but we do get a lot of wind-fall ones that aren’t so good to eat.  You’d think this would call for copious amounts of apple crumbles but despite the number of desserts I’ve just mentioned, we don’t actually eat them often. We generally find that by the time we finish dinner we don’t have any room left for a heavy pudding. This year I used some to make Earl Grey Tea Jelly from Diana Henry’s book “Salt, Sugar, Smoke”.  I love Earl Grey tea (and I’m a bit of a tea addict in general) so I couldn’t resist this recipe.  It’s quite easy to make and also gave me the opportunity to use my jelly bag and boiling-water canner (small pleasures!).  I haven’t actually used this jelly since I made it but it tasted pretty damn good when I was licking the spoon!  The recipe suggests using it with ice cream or pannacotta (yum!) or with duck or game.  I imagine it would be pretty good on toast as well to be honest!

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And the final recipe from my garden glut is a bit of a cheat because it isn’t actually things from my own garden but just a build up of stuff in the fridge. Somehow we ended up with a huge number of carrots and a cauliflower from the market that had been sadly neglected.  Luckily I had just bought Nicola Galloway’s book “Homegrown Kitchen” which has a recipe for Crunchy Winter Vegetable Pickle using lacto-fermentation as the preserving method.  I love a bit of fermentation so couldn’t resist using said vegetables to make up a batch.  These I have tried since I made them and they’re delicious.  So far all I’ve done is eat them straight out of the jar…I need to up my game; the recipe suggests eating them with eggs or stirring them through rice with some herbs; sounds like excellent advice to me!

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So finally the garden has calmed down for the winter – I just picked our last courgettes yesterday – and the need to frantically use produce has passed.  Of course, next year I will have completely forgotten about the amount of work it takes and will once again romanticise the idea of bottling, preserving, baking and puddings and it’ll start all over again!  But to be honest…I love it really 🙂

(See, I’ve forgotten about the hard work already!).

Persiana

Easy decadence

A few months ago I bought a cookbook by Sabrina Ghayour called Persiana which, as the name suggests, is full of all sorts of Middle Eastern and Persian delicacies that make me feel decadent just reading the recipes.  How can I possibly resist going out immediately to purchase edible rose petals and dried limes to add to what I already thought of as a well stocked middle-eastern pantry?  And of course, once I had possession of these gorgeous goodies I absolutely had to cook with them.  Below are some photos of what I’ve cooked from this book so far, and trust me when I say that these won’t be the last!

This first one is Spiced Vegetable Soup cooked on the recommendation of the person who sold me the book…we weren’t disappointed.  Beautiful and hearty topped with a pistachio herb oil.

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Baked Eggs with Feta, Harissa, Tomato Sauce and Coriander is Persiana’s version of Shakshuka and like all Shakshuka’s, it’s a great start to the day.  One thing I liked about this version is that it doesn’t contain capsicums so it’s a good one for the winter months.

Persian Dried Lime, Lamb & Split Pea Stew…O…M…G!  This one was amazing!  I wasn’t able to find dried limes in time for this recipe but used pickled lemons instead (on the advice of the man at the Middle Eastern supermarket) and they infuse the dish beautifully…and I always love the texture of split peas, satisfyingly soft and yet firm.  Definitely a winner.

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I served the lamb stew with a Bulghur Wheat Salad.  This was supposed to have pomegranate seeds in it but there aren’t any around at the moment so I used dried cranberries soaked in lemon juice instead.  They made a good substitute and since then I’ve seen that you can buy dried cranberries that are soaked in pomegranate juice which would probably be even better!

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If you want to try something sweet, Spiced Carrot, Pistachio and Almond Cake with Rosewater Cream was a great way to use up a bag of pistachios that had been sitting in the cupboard for a while.  It’s more of a dessert cake (very moist and crumbly) but I was quite happy to take it to work and eat it with a fork.  It has a lovely flavour, is gluten free and totally decadent.

Spiced Lamb Kefta with Butternut Squash, Pistachio Pesto, Feta, Cranberries and Almonds.  There’s a burst of sweetness from the currants in the Kefta which goes nicely with the lamb and spices.  The mixture was a bit loose so I added a decent amount of breadcrumbs to get the right consistency.  The pumpkin with the pesto is amazing, almost like a nut butter.  I used the leftover pesto as a pasta sauce which was also divine.

Lamb Shank, Black Garlic and Tomato Tagine was a great use for a couple of huge shanks that I had in the freezer.  If you haven’t come across it before, black garlic is garlic that’s been slow cooked until it becomes caramelized, sweet and delicious.  To be honest, it’s so good I could eat it on its own and it melts into the tagine to provide little surprises of flavour every now and again.

Persian Saffron Chicken, Fennel and Barberry Stew…this is the only one of Sabrina’s recipes that I would categorise as just ‘good’ rather than ‘amazing’.  It tasted good, it just didn’t have the gutsy flavour of some of the other recipes.  By the time the fennel had cooked for so long it was pretty tasteless and it really relied on the barberries to add oomph.  Still…one average recipe amongst a bunch of crackers isn’t too bad.

Poussin with Harissa and Preserved Lemon enabled me to use a poussin that I’ve had in the freezer for quite a while now.  We got all excited when we saw them at the local butcher a while ago but they were so expensive that we only bought one…it then proceeded to sit in the freezer because I could never think of what to do with one small bird.  Eventually we just got it out of the freezer and ended up having it for breakfast!  The harissa and preserved lemon blended together to make a rub…a genius idea, I’ve never thought of blending preserved lemons before but it opens up so many more uses for them.

Tray Baked Rose Petal Lamb Chops with Chilli and Herbs…of course I had to make something that included the edible rose petals!  These chops were amazing, so much flavour from the marinade and fast enough to make on a weeknight.  They are served with a herb and chilli drizzle which is quick and easy to make and very tasty.

To go with the lamb chops I made a Fattoush Salad with some slight variations.  I didn’t have any tomatoes (it’s the end of winter), I used jarred chargrilled capsicums instead of fresh and I used rocket instead of lettuce.  This salad is amazing…it is so crunchy and fresh and the dressing is wonderfully zesty which was a great match for the rich lamb chops (which were quite salty).

My rating for this book so far?  Totally fab!  So if you’ve been thinking about trying it out I would highly recommend it.  I hadn’t realised quite how many recipes I’d already made from this book and out of the 12 recipes I’ve cooked, 11 were amazing and 1 was good…that’s a pretty good strike rate!

Rebellious Baking

You might remember from previous posts that I’ve been trying to cut down on my sugar intake this year.

I don’t usually make changes to baking recipes because of the “science” involved

I started out using recipes that were designed to be low sugar but lately I’ve gone back to more traditional recipes which I’m adjusting to make them healthier. It’s quite fun deciding what to change and to see if it’ll work out or not;I don’t usually make changes to baking recipes because of the “science” involved so my recent experiments have made me feel rather rebellious!

The first recipe I adjusted was Nigella’s Banana Bread recipe from “How to be a Domestic Goddess” (you can find this recipe here).  This banana bread was soooo good that it has been promoted to my new go-to recipe.  But really, how could it not be good when it’s full of rum-soaked saltanas?!  It has walnuts in it as well which are dee-lish.

What did I change – I changed half of the flour from white to wholemeal and I reduced the sugar by about 1/4 of a cup.  Not huge changes but I thought it best to go gently at first.

Result – this recipe is delicious and didn’t seem at all impacted by the changes I made.  The cake is very moist which makes it a bit fall-aparty but it’s an issue I’m prepared to put up with!  It’s possible that the crumbliness was caused by the wholemeal flour.  Outcome – successful change.

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the banana bread…we were obviously too focused on eating it to think about preserving it for posterity!

The next recipe I meddled with is a family favourite that my Gran always used to make.  It was actually quite a big deal for me to change this recipe because I didn’t want to lose the essence of what makes Gran’s Brown Betty special…however the other option was not to make it anymore which didn’t appeal either.

What did I change – I left the quantity of sugar the same but I replaced the white sugar with a mixture of coconut sugar and rapadura (only because I didn’t have enough coconut sugar).  I read online that these sugars can be difficult to cream with butter because they’ve got larger granules so I ground them a bit finer in my mini blender and they creamed up nicely.  I also substituted pure maple syrup for the golden syrup and replaced all the white flour with wholemeal flour.

Result – you can taste the wholemeal flour but the flavour is still really good and by the time we’d been eating it for a couple of days we had adjusted to the change in flour.  The texture was good and most importantly, it still had that certain special something that is distinctive to Brown Betty.  So this time I went a bit further by changing the type of sugar and using all wholemeal flour.  Next time I will try reducing the quantity of sugar as well and see how that goes.  Overall a successful experiment.

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This is an outstanding dessert!

I have to admit that I made very little change to this last recipe but it didn’t contain a lot of sugar in the first place.  This is a dessert recipe for Roasted Figs with Pomegranate Molasses and Orange Zest from Ottolenghi’s book “Plenty More”.  If you want to try this recipe you can find it here.

This is an outstanding dessert!  The sauce consists of pomegranate molasses, strips of orange zest, thyme sprigs, lemon juice and brown sugar.  The figs marinate in this before being grilled with another sprinkling of brown sugar until caramelized…very easy!

While the figs are grilling the sauce is reduced and thickened then drizzled over the figs, which are sprinkled with thyme leaves and served with a dollop of sweetened mascarpone and greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of orange zest…devine…it looked stunning and tasted stunning!

This recipe would be great for a dinner party because most can be done in advance.  The mascarpone and yoghurt is whipped and put in the fridge and the figs can be left to marinate for a reasonable period of time until needed.

What did I change – there are only 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in the recipe but even so I cut this in half and I only used 1/2 tablespoon of icing sugar in the cream.

Result – I think the above says it all…devine!

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For my next experiments I’m keen to try replacing the white flour not just with wholemeal flour but other flours such as buckwheat, brown rice and almond meal etc.  Even though I’m still in the early stages of making these adjustments, there’s something very satisfying knowing that my treats are nourishing(ish).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highs and lows of a weeks cooking…

Each day I like to have something nice for my morning or afternoon tea and lately I’ve been trying recipes that have no refined sugar.  Recently I made some Brown Butter Apple Cakes from Eleanor Ozich’s book “My Family Table”.  The only sweetener in these cakes is 1/4 cup of honey.  Personally I found the flavour of the honey a bit overpowering and yet the cakes seemed to lack flavour…I’m not sure if that’s just part of getting used to using less sugar or whether something is lacking in the recipe.  Other options for sweeteners included maple syrup and brown rice syrup so one of these may be better.

Something I’ve noticed with Eleanor Ozich’s recipes is that she uses a mixture of baking soda and vinegar as a substitute for baking powder.  As I’m not gluten free and I’m not a big fan of the taste of baking soda I used baking powder in these cakes which worked out very well.  Despite some of the flavour issues, these cakes are certainly beautiful to behold so I hope to improve future batches so that the flavour can meet the visual expectations…there’s nothing more disappointing than something that looks delicious but doesn’t follow through on the tastebuds.

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As well as nice morning tea I also enjoy a nice breakfast and muesli is one of my favourite breakfast foods.  Another Eleanor Ozich recipe is for Raw Shredded Coconut, Chia and Almond Cereal from her book “My Petite Kitchen”.  This took about 5 minutes to throw together and it is really tasty.  It has a great nuttiness which I love in a cereal and a tart sweetness from the cranberries.  The coconut adds a tropical feel and goes really nicely with thick Greek yoghurt…mmmm…

The first morning that I tried this I served it with yoghurt and drizzled it with freshly stewed raspberries and peaches from the garden to which I’d added a little bit of vanilla sugar…very decadent and delicious!  A great start to the day.

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Another Eleanor Ozich recipe I’ve made recently is Summer Soup with Lettuce, Leek, Peas and Mint…except I used kale instead of lettuce because it’s late autumn.  It tasted really good up until the point that I added the mint which seemed to bring an odd taste to the soup.  It might be that mint and kale don’t go very well together and I probably should have tried one of the other suggested herbs such as thyme.  The buckwheat also didn’t take as long to cook as the recipe suggested; I would have preferred it a bit chewier.  I need to learn to test my grains more regularly because I often find that my grains are overcooked.  The liquid also dropped a lot while it was cooking to the point that I could eat the leftovers with a fork.

So next time…more liquid, less cooking time and no mint!

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To go with my soup I made a loaf of sourdough bread using a recipe that I’ve been using for years now.  I decided to experiment with making the loaf with 100% wholemeal spelt flour and because it was an experiment I made half quantity.  It did well for the first rising but it didn’t really rise at all for the second rise and it didn’t rise at all in the oven…I’ve never had that happen before!  It looked like a complete flop of an experiment…a very flat loaf indeed! However, when I cut into it it had the lovely chewy, slightly sticky sourdough texture, a great crumb and of course, the main test of all things edible…a great flavour.

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Moving now to Emma Galloway’s new book “A Year in my Real Food Kitchen”, I made some of her Lentil Patties with Horseradish Mash and Sauerkraut.  I soaked the lentils for 4-5 hours to aid their digestibility and then cooked them for about 12 minutes…strangely this was waaaay too long, they probably only needed 5 minutes (like I said, I need to learn to check these things earlier).  The patty mixture itself was pretty quick to make; the only chopping required was some onion, garlic, thyme and parsley, the rest of the ingredients were pantry staples by the spoonful…oh, except for the breadcrumbs which needed toasting and whizzing.

I made the mixture up on the Sunday so that they would be a quick meal for Monday night. When it came to forming the mixture into patties I found that it was too dry.  Given that I’m not vegan I added an egg to the mixture to help bind them which worked pretty well.  Even so, the patties are fairly fragile but stay together if handled gently.

Half quantity mixture provided me with 6 decent sized patties.  I used purple potatoes for my mash so they looked very cool and the flavour of the horseradish was just lovely.  On the subject of mash – I’ve discovered the best way for me to make a nice creamy mash (not something I’m usually very good at) is to push the cooked spuds through a sieve…I definitely need to invest in a potato ricer to make this process faster.  In this case the potatoes were a bit waxy to be used for mash but they came out really nicely after a dose of the sieve treatment!

The lentil patties were lovely too – the thyme and oregano gave the patties a really nice savoury flavour which was accentuated by the crispy fried edges.  The texture was also nice although I felt the mash was too soft an accompaniment; even though the patties had texture, the lentils were quite soft and floury which was very similar to the potatoes.  But the flavour combination of the patties, the horseradish mash and the sauerkraut and rocket was excellent.

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And finally, another recipe that I’ve cooked recently from Emma Galloway’s book is Saffron-Buttered Pumpkin with Herbed Brown Rice…this is soooo good!  The most arduous part of this recipe was cutting up my pumpkin which had a very thick skin!  After that was done it was plain sailing.

The chunks of pumpkin cook in a lightly spiced tomato-y sauce until tender and are served on brown rice that is full of fresh herbs.  But the absolute icing on the cake are the vinegar soaked raisins that go on top – such a lovely sweet and zingy burst to contrast with the earthy pumpkin and saffron flavours.  This is a real star of a recipe that I totally recommend.

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So a few things things that went well and a few things that didn’t quite work out with these recipes…but I learnt some new things and had some really stand out meals along the way. Bring on the next round 🙂

 

Speedy Mid-Week Meals

This has been a week of speedy meals; one of which I’ve cooked before but had forgotten how delicious and quick it is and the other two are recipes out of Eleanor Ozich’s recently acquired book “My Family Table”.

The first speedy dinner of the week was Spaghetti with Tuna, Lemon and Rocket from Nigella’s Italian inspired cookbook “Nigellissima”.

This is a fantastically fast meal.  Only the pasta needs cooking, the rest of the ingredients are simply warmed when they’re stirred through.  The lemon, spring onion and rocket give the dish a lovely fresh flavour and marry really well with the tuna.  For some reason I never like the idea of tinned tuna in a meal but this is a delicious combination and the added bonus (for my husband anyway!) is that there are hardly any dishes.  Just don’t do what I did and forget to retain some of the pasta water before draining it all down the sink!

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A lovely mix of colours too

The next speedy meal of the week was Fish and Lentil Stew – the first of two recipes out of Eleanor Ozich’s “My Family Table”.

This was another quick and easy meal…I picked up some fish on the way home from work and after that it took minutes to throw together.  Such simple ingredients – tomato paste, stock, lentils, fish and parsley – but such a great result.  The flavour of the fish permeates the stock and the tomato paste adds a richness to the stew.  The parsley provides a much needed freshness while the lentils add bulk and heartiness.  I took the leftovers to work the next day and one of my colleagues was very impressed at how “fancy” it looked…if only she know how easy it was!  I can see this recipe becoming a weeknight favourite.

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The fish looks a bit like tofu in this image but it IS fish.

The last of my speedy dinners this week was Quinoa Pilaff with Peas, Mint and Parmesan. One of the things that drew me to this recipe was the fried egg on top…always a winner in my book!

I didn’t realise it at first but this turned out to be a hilarious recipe!  Of the 4 ingredients mentioned in the title, only quinoa actually makes an appearance…there is no mention of peas, mint or parmesan in the ingredients list or the instructions!  However, I was rather looking forward to having peas in my meal so I added them to the quinoa half way through its cooking time.  I didn’t add mint because I’d already prepared some parsley and I couldn’t be bothered going back out to the garden (lazy I know).  And finally, I grated plenty of parmesan over the pilaff at the end.

I did make a slight variation to the cooking method of this dish – rather than putting the garlic and quinoa straight into the stock I toasted them in butter first.  I also used less liquid than the recipe suggested because I find that quinoa ends up too soggy.  So for one cup of quinoa (a mix of black and white) I added only 330mls of stock rather than 500mls. The end result was deliciously cooked but slightly crunchy quinoa, not at all soft or soggy.

This was sooo so tasty.  The egg and egg yolk complement the dish really nicely adding a richness that would have been missing without it.  The crunch of the quinoa adds a lovely texture with a pop of sweetness from the peas and the tang of the lemon…delicious!!

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What a tempting looking droplet of egg yolk…mmm…
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And a close up so that you can fully appreciate its beauty 🙂

But of course, with all these lovely fast and healthy meals we must be allowed a bit of a sweet as well!  That’s where the Black Bean and Date Brownie comes into play (ok I admit…it’s still pretty healthy!).  This is another recipe by Eleanor Ozich but this time from her “Petite Kitchen” cookbook.

These were also pretty quick and easy to make, however I did manage to overcook them despite her warning that I shouldn’t!  Next time I will have to reduce the cooking time even more than I did for this batch and see how I get on.  As a result of the over-cooking they were more cake-like without the usual fudgeyness that you’d expect from a brownie.  This was probably also affected by the fact that I used dried dates that had been soaked in boiling water rather than using fresh medjool dates, however it’s just not realistic for me to cook with the large quantities of fresh dates that seem to be required in healthy baking.

Despite the lack of fudgeyness I did find a most excellent way to enjoy them…warmed slightly and topped with a thick layer of mascarpone and dark chocolate shavings…mmm…delicious!

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It does look good doesn’t it?

I’ve already made a list of the next few recipes that I want to try from Eleanor Ozich’s books as well as some recipes out of another recent purchase…Emma Galloway’s cookbook “My Real Food Kitchen”…good times ahead 🙂 xx

 

Eating Through the Days

My standard breakfast fare consists of untoasted, unfruited muesli and to be honest I’m quite happy to eat that every day.  Even when I go out for breakfast I’m quite often tempted to get the muesli (except usually the muesli is a bit too elaborate for my taste).  However, lately I’ve been trying some alternatives to muesli in an attempt to vary my diet and nutrition and I’ve been enjoying them very much.  Below are some images of the breakfasts I have partaken recently…

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Steel cut oats topped with banana, activated sunflower seeds, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup (inspiration from the Deliciously Ella Everyday cookbook)
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Chia Breakfast Pudding topped with…yes…untoasted, unfruited muesli!  Very tasty, from the Deliciously Ella cookbook
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Apple Pie Smoothie Bowl topped with…toasted and fruited muesli (I’m really branching out now!).  From the Simplicious cookbook by Sarah Wilson.  It wasn’t quite thick enough initially so I added some rolled oats and chia seeds.
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Go-to-Green-Smoothie from the Hemsley & Hemsley cookbook.  Very zingy and full of goodness (almonds activating in the background!).

I’ve been cooking a few more healthy snacks as well for my morning tea…

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Cinnamon and Raisin Cookies from the Hemsley & Hemsley cookbook.  These are gluten free with very little sweetener (other than the raisins).  They taste really good but have a very crumbly texture from the almond meal.
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Broc Bites from Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious cookbook.  These are little savoury bakes filled with broccoli and tons of cheese.  I added a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and parmesan cheese on top which give them a lovely heat and crispy outside with a gooey cheesiness to the dough.

I’ve been making more interesting salads for my work lunches too and trying to get the ingredients organised in the weekend so they don’t take so long to put together.  This consists of cooking grains in advance, boiling eggs, rinsing and drying lettuce etc…

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This was my own concoction inspired by the various healthy cookbooks I’ve been reading lately.  This salad consists of quinoa, butter crunch lettuce, avocado, green sicilian olives, red cabbage and green peas.  After this photo was taken I also added sauerkraut, home made japanese-style pickled beetroot (from the Momofuku cookbook) and some powerhouse dressing (from the Simplicious cookbook).
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This salad was really good.  It’s also out of Simplicious and is called Puttanesca Festival Abundance Bowl.  Julienne carrots, radish leaves (instead of rocket), leftover chargrilled courgette, tomato, olives, tuna and powerhouse dressing.  It was supposed to have pesto in it but I already had powerhouse dressing made up in the fridge.  I heated it up a little bit which was very pleasant.
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These are Power Up Salad Bowls from Anabelle Langbein’s Endless Summer book.  Beans, roasted kumara, kale, cranberries, grapes, seeds and nuts and a chia seed dressing.

Following on from all these lovely salads I need a good hearty dinner.  Recently I’ve been trying to use up all the white rice and pasta that we have in the cupboard…as part of my healthier eating I want to change over to wholemeal pasta but in the meantime I have to make do with white…

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Pasta with Lamb Ragu from the Nigellissima cookbook.  We had leftover roast lamb in the freezer so I used that instead of lamb mince.  It’s flavoured with Worcester sauce, chilli, oregano and dried mint which gave it a wonderful tang/heat/freshness.
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I’ve had a box of half-used pasta sheets in the cupboard for more than a year now so I decided to be really clever and made the same ragu sauce but this time layered it into a tin with the lasagna sheets and grated cheese…so delicious and some might say improvisational!
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While I was in an improvising mood I decided to get a bit intuitive as well (see goals)! I produced this meal by combining onion, tinned tomatoes, grated courgette, leftover roast kumara, chickpeas, cumin, and chilli flakes all served on a bed of barley.  I’m not sure how I achieved it but it had a lovely tang almost as though it had lemon juice in it…really tasty.

And to finish…a pudding…rice pudding to be exact to try and use up some of the rather large quantities of short grain rice I have in the cupboard.  This was a very quick and easy recipe to make (compared to some recipes).  It is a Nigel Slater recipe that we found online…grease the dish, bung everything in, stick it in a hot oven for an hour and Bob’s your uncle!

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I don’t need to tell you how good this was…(soooo good!).

Energy boosting, low sugar snacks

My healthy eating is continuing to improve as the year goes by.  It’s interesting that I’ve always considered myself to be a healthy eater and in comparison to a lot of people I probably am.  But some reading I’ve done lately has made me realise that I still eat too much sugar and too much refined flour and grains. The books I’ve been reading include Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, Hemsley and Hemsley: The Art of Eating Well by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, The Unbakery by Megan May and the Deliciously Ella books by Ella Woodward.  These have all been great reads and have inspired me to do better.  As my first step to reduce refined sugars and grains in my diet I’ve been trialing a variety of different snacks.

The first snack I made is Sushi Rice Balls from Annabel Langbein’s “Endless Summer”. (Yes these were made with white sushi rice but I made these before I decided to reduce refined grains as well).  These are very quick and tasty and a nice energy boost in the afternoon (and would be even better if made with brown rice rather than white!).  They contain sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and spring onions and the seeds give them a lovely satisfying crunch.

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As a sweet treat I made Almond and Chia Energy Bites from “Deliciously Ella”.  The sweetness comes solely from the dates which are also highly nutritional.  Ella says you have to use Medjool dates for her recipes but these are so expensive (especially when you’re expected to use 2 mugs of them!).  I’ve found that dried dates soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes work fine.  Extra nutrition comes from the almonds, raw cacao powder and chia seeds.  These are great when you need something sweet and when a Sushi Rice Ball just won’t cut the mustard!

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The next snack was a bit of an experiment which I’m happy to say worked out extremely well!  Even though I want to eat more healthy food, you’re probably like me and have a few favourite recipes that don’t quite fit the new eating regime…Courgette Loaf is one such recipe.  We (usually my husband) make courgette loaf every year when they are in abundance in the garden.  Rather than discard the recipe I decided to tweak it a bit.  I substituted 2/3 of the white flour with whole wheat flour, replaced the white sugar with a mixture of coconut sugar and date syrup and I replaced half of the vegetable oil with coconut oil.  This made the loaf significantly better for us and it still tastes delicious.  Next time I make it I will tweak it further and see if I can make it even healthier.  The recipe was based on a recipe in “Harbour Kitchens” by the residents of Lyttelton in Christchurch.

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Another loaf I really enjoy is banana bread.  I usually make the recipe out of the “Edmonds Cookbook” but this time I tried the Hemsley and Hemsley recipe from their book “The Art of Eating Well”.  I like the fact that while Hemsley and Hemsley try to cut down on wheat they still use ingredients like butter and eggs.  This recipe uses a mix of almond meal and ground flax seeds as the flour, some baking soda as a raising agent, bananas, eggs and butter as the wet ingredients.  This is a beautifully moist, dense loaf so it really fills you up especially when topped with almond butter, sliced banana and chia seeds…so good…

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And my final attempt at a healthier snack is another Hemsley and Hemsley recipe called Multigrain Loaf.  The photo in the book made it look like a normal sized loaf of bread but actually it’s quite small.  Despite this it’s very satisfying as it’s chock full of seeds and buckwheat flour and the binding agent is roast squash or kumara (squash in this case).  I wasn’t quite sure about the flavour of the buckwheat flour to start with but I’m quickly adjusting to it.  It’s really nice topped with avocado or a firm goats cheese with a bowl of soup.

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It’s been great trying out these new recipes and adjusting much loved ones.  Sometimes it feels like “healthy” recipes will take more effort but actually they don’t if you choose the right ones.  And it feels so good knowing that everything you’re eating is delicious as well as nutritious.

🙂 xxx