1 September 2014

Courgette and feta tart




The lovely people over at Curry's asked if I would create a recipe to share in their student cookbook. This is a really quick, cheap and easy to make recipe that still tastes delicious and is perfect for a crowd. It's also a good main course for when you've got friends over, served with a big side salad and new potatoes and it's also super yummy cold (as a hungover midnight snack!)
Here's a link to their campaign. 


Ingredients:

1 packet puff pastry (you can even buy a ready-rolled one)
2 medium sized courgettes
2 garlic cloves
200g packet of feta cheese
Handful of tomatoes, different sizes is fine, roughly chopped
Large handful mint, finely chopped
Fresh basil, finely chopped
A few olives, chopped in half
Zest of 1 lemon
Olive oil
Parmesan


Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Put a baking tray in the oven to warm up.

Roll out your pastry into a large rectangle. Lay it on a piece of baking paper on the preheated baking tray and spike the middle of the pastry rectangle a few times with a fork (this stops the middle from puffing up too much.)



Bake the pastry in the oven for 10-15 minutes until it has started to turn golden brown and the edges are puffed up nicely. 

Meanwhile, wash and cut your courgettes lengthways into thin slices. Put a frying pan on a high heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Peel and chop the garlic cloves finely and then add to the pan. Fry the garlic for a few minutes and then add in the slices of courgette and fry until they are tender and start to take on some colour (you may have to do this in batches.) Once you have cooked the courgette slices, lay them on a piece of kitchen towel on a plate in order to soak up any excess liquid. 

Once the pastry is baked, remove it from the oven and top with half the feta cheese, crumbled over the pastry. 
Then lay over your courgette slices, overlapping each one slightly. Top with the tomatoes, fresh mint and basil, olives and the remainder of the feta cheese. Grate over the zest of 1 lemon and some parmesan cheese. 


Drizzle over a little olive oil and then return to the oven to cook for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted slightly and the tomatoes are caramelised. 



Let it cool slightly before cutting into big wedges and serve with a big green salad, lentils or new potatoes. 








22 August 2014

Sweet potato brownies with pecans and a toasted marshmallow frosting




In need of something gooey, fluffy, sticky and sweet?
Well then say hello to these sweet potato and pecan brownies topped with a pillowy layer of marshmallow frosting- (slightly toasted of course!)
(Yes it may create a bit of a messy marshmallow explosion in your kitchen but then thats part of the fun of baking!)









I'm a big fan of the blog Deliciously Ella - it's such a good source of inspiration filled with really healthy but super tasty recipes. Ella has a great attitude towards food and all her recipes are gluten free and free from refined sugars which is great if you're looking for a tasty recipe without all the guilt and health problems that come with too much refined sugar, wheat and bad fats.

Inspired by Ella's sweet potato brownies and a recipe I recently came across for butternut squash cake, I decided to have a go at my own take on her brownies, adapting the recipe and topping it with a squidy and sticky toasted marshmallow frosting. Yes- these brownies are a healthier version of my normal recipe but then as a tea time treat I couldn't resist topping them with something sweet and delicious- and who can resist the smell of marshmallow frosting slowly toasting under the grill?!! (It's like the best bit of a campfire without the sogging, sleep-deprived camping bit!)
The frosting is actually way easier than it sounds- the basic recipe is a bit like Italian meringue and is cooked over a pan of simmering water.


Ingredients: (to make 10-12 brownies)

2 medium sweet potatoes (700g peeled weight)
225g dates
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla paste (not flavouring or extract- you need the real stuff here!)
1.25tsp ground cinnamon
100g ground almonds
75g rice flour
75g pecans
4 tablespoons cocoa powder (or raw cacao if you have some!)
3 tablespooons runny honey
Pinch of salt

For the frosting:

4 large egg whites
200g caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2tsp vanilla paste

Blowtorch or hot grill


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.

Peel your sweet potatoes and chop into rough chunks.


Steam the sweet potato chunks over a medium-high heat for 20 minutes or so until soft and tender.



Remove from the heat and add the sweet potato to a blender along with the dates, honey and vanilla.
Blitz until smooth and creamy. Let the mixture cool slightly before you blitz in the egg.


In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, ground almonds, ground cinnamon, cocoa, salt and the pecans, roughly chopped.




Then pour the sweet potato mix into the dry ingredients and mix well- if it is too stiff to mix by hand, then use an electric whisk. The mixture will be quite dense and sticky but this is fine.

Grease and line a rectangular baking tray with greaseproof paper. Pour in the mixture and smooth over with a metal palette knife. Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes until firm and a knife, when inserted into the brownie, comes out clean. 
Cool on a wire cooling rack and then cut into squares. 


To make the frosting, add the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar to a heat-proof bowl. Mix together with an electric whisk until combined. Then place the bowl over a pan of simmering water on a medium heat (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.) Whisk the mixture over the heat with a balloon whisk continuously until it reaches 120 f on a thermometer (or hot to the touch- it will take around 5-6 minutes to get to this point.) At this stage the sugar should have all dissolved and the mixture should be slightly thicker and more pillowy. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk with the electric whisk on full speed for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture forms glossy and stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla paste for another 1 minute. 


Then using a palette knife, top each square of brownie with a generous layer of the marshmallow frosting. 



Use a fork to create little peaks on top of each one and then grill the brownies in batches under a hot grill for 15-30 seconds until the marshmallow begins to toast and turns a golden brown colour. 




Then dig in!! (campfire sing-a-long optional)



PS: If you have any of the frosting mix left over, you could make a mini lemon meringue pie using a pastry base, lemon curd as the filling and then pipe over the frosting. Then put the whole thing under the grill for a few minutes to brown the top. (or you could just sandwich the marshmallow mix in between two digestive biscuits- YUM!)

Adapted from: http://deliciouslyella.com/recipe/vegan-sweet-potato-brownies-gluten-free/
Frosting recipe inspired by http://www.chow.com/recipes/30784-marshmallow-frosting

11 August 2014

Moroccan lamb koftas with homemade flatbread and pickled red cabbage





Just a quick recipe post for you all tonight- I've just got back from a weekend at Wilderness festival and am exhausted!
It's such a good festival and has a really nice feel to it.
It's family-friendly, full of creativity and has so many varied things going on you are spoilt for choice, including lots of foodie antics - I was lucky enough to attend the Simon Rogan banqueting lunch where we were all treated to a 4 course sharing meal including the most delicious and tender beef brisket I have ever tasted! Hopefully one day I'll make it to his restaurant in the Lake District (I better keep saving!)

This is a recipe for spicy Moroccan lamb koftas and easy peasy flatbreads. It's a great meal if you're feeling a bit bored of the typical British BBQ and need something new and flavoursome to whack on the barbie!

Ingredients:

400g lamb mince
Big handful of fresh thyme, mint and parsley
Salt and pepper
2tbsp olive oil
Large handful breadcrumbs, white or brown (about 1 and a half slices, crumbed)
11/2 tbsp ras el hanout spice
1tsp sumac
1/2tsp chilli powder

Natural yoghurt
Fresh mint

1/2 large Red cabbage
2-3tbsp white wine vinegar
1tbsp caster sugar
Sea salt

350g self-raising flour
350g natural yoghurt
sea salt
1tsp baking powder


Method:


Finely chop the fresh herbs and add to the lamb mince in a large mixing bowl. Season well with salt and pepper and then add in the olive oil, breadcrumbs and spices. Mix well with your hands and then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.

Next mix together the flour, 350g natural yoghurt, baking powder and a small pinch of salt in a separate mixing bowl. Form the mixture into a dough and then leave to rest, covered with a tea towel.

Turn on the barbie!!

Meanwhile roughly shred the red cabbage and toss in a bowl with the white wine vinegar, sugar and a dash of sea salt and leave it to pickle.

Take the lamb mixture out of the fridge and using your hands, divide and shape the mixture around skewers into long sausage shapes.
Once you have done this with all the mixture, return the skewers to the fridge.

When the BBQ is hot enough, remove the skewers from the fridge, drizzle with a little olive oil and place on the BBQ. Keep the lid on at all times in order to cook the koftas right through. (This will take about 5-10 minutes- make sure to carefully turn the koftas)

Whilst the koftas are cooking, roll out the flatbread dough and divide into 6-8 pieces. Roll each piece into an oval shape and slash a few cuts down the centre of each one. Put a large frying pan over a high heat and then one by one, add the flatbread. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until puffed up and taking on colour.

Once the koftas are cooked and golden brown, remove them from the BBQ and serve with the warm flatbreads, pickled cabbage, a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and some natural yoghurt mixed with finely chopped fresh mint.

Adapted from:
http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/easy-flatbreads

3 August 2014

Pan fried scallops with chorizo, pear, sea vegetables and rocket






Scallops are something I'm quite scared of cooking. Cooked well they are delicious but a second too long and they are chewy and tough. I've made a vow to confront a few of the ingredients I tend to avoid cooking- seafood is one of these! Seafood is one of the only things I'm quite picky about - to the astonishment of most of my friends, I hate sushi- I think it's just something about the texture of raw fish! However, I absolutely love most other types of fish including scallops. 
It's a well known fact that scallops and black pudding or pork are a match made in heaven, and so for this dish I've paired beautifully soft scallops with spicy paprika chorizo. Served on a bed of mixed sea vegetables and rocket with caramelised pear, it's a really impressive starter or light supper. 
The sea vegetables I've used are samphire, sea aster and okahijiki, available in packs from Waitrose. I've had samphire in many a fish dish before and I love its slightly crunchy, really sea salty taste but I'd never tried sea aster or okahijiki. 
The whole dish is very easy to prepare and incredibly quick to cook so perfect to knock up for dinner- the most important element is how you cook the scallops but I have some handy tips below!!

Ingredients: (to serve 2)

Handful of samphire, sea aster and okahijiki
Butter
6 scallops (roe and muscle removed)
Salt and pepper
1 lemon
Groundnut oil
Chorizo
White wine vinegar
2 pears
Rocket

Method:

Wash and prepare your scallops. I bought mine already removed from their shells but if you have bought scallops in their shells, here is a good video on how to remove them!
Make sure you remove the muscle and orange roe from the scallop with a sharp knife.
Season the scallops and leave to one side for a moment.



Wash your vegetables and then put a frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add a generous knob of butter, let it sizzle a bit and then throw in your veg. Trust me, this will smell amazing- a mix of fresh sea air and rich creamy butter!
Pan fry the veg for 2-3 minutes until tender and then transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.


Next, remove the outside skin from the chorizo and chop the chorizo sausage into small pieces (you need about 5 pound coin sized pieces for each person.) Then fry the chorizo in the hot pan you used for the veg- you don't need to add any extra oil here as the chorizo will naturally release its own oils as it cooks. 


Fry for 3-5 minutes until the chorizo is golden and crisp, then remove from the pan. 
Next, fry your scallops. You may need to add a little groundnut oil at this stage to the hot pan. Then fry each scallop for one minute on one side, and then flip them over and fry for another 30-40 seconds, before finishing with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. (Try to place them in the pan in order so you know which one you put in first and therefore which ones need turning first!)
Remove the scallops from the pan. 

Wash the pears and then slice thinly lengthways. Add to the pan and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes until golden, sticky and caramelised. Then add 1tbsp white wine vinegar. 

Serve the scallops on top of the sea vegetables, a handful of fresh rocket leaves and the caramelised pear. Top with the chorizo and another squeeze of fresh lemon and voila!






30 July 2014

Vietnam-part 2

Welcome to Halong Bay.







A Unesco World Heritage Site- commonly known by many of us Brits as "that place they went to on Top Gear!"
It's a surreal place, and to be honest, when I first saw it I was a bit disappointed. I'd imagined it to be much taller and so tightly packed together that you really had to weave in and out. However, then I realised that I was seeing it from the deck of a rather large ship! Once at sea level in a kayak, the scale and beauty of it was much clearer. It really is quite spectacular.







In the kayaks we rowed in and around the bay and over to one of the fishing villages formed of floating houses. It's amazing how these people live their lives, making do with the natural
resources around them, using boats as floating grocery stores, catching squid under lights at night time and building floating houses - which raised many questions, how do they get their post?!








Not sure I'd want to live in this one!!

We also stumbled across the famous floating bar from that Top Gear programme that sadly  was closed as well as the brightly coloured boats they use for squid fishing- they hang lights from the boat and use them at night to attract the squid.


Halong bay is formed of around 2000 islands - legend has it that the islands were created by a great dragon from the mountains! It's now a thriving tourist site where flocks of boats weave in-between the islands dropping groups off here and there to explore the caves and hidden bays. We were surprised by just how green the islands were and to find out that there were goats living on them- I imagine clinging on to the steep rock face!!

We stayed on one of those typical cruiser ships that takes you in to the middle and then puts down anchor over night whilst you have a meal and experience a night sleeping in the cabins before setting off again the next day to visit the beach and viewpoint. 






Sorry for the misty photos- it was so humid that my camera really couldn't cope!!



From Halong bay we flew to Hue. 
Hue is what I would describe as a kind of in-between place. Everyone seems to stop there on their tour for a night or so before moving onto Hoi An.
It's famous for its old imperial city modelled on the Forbidden City in China and its beautiful temple.  





We were also shown around a traditional Vietnamese house with its beautiful old wooden shutters. 









As well as the famous old imperial city and temples, Hue is also known for its slightly spicier food. 
I sampled the spicy grilled beef with pineapple which was definitely a bit of a hair raiser! 




Since our travels in Sri Lanka last year, we were also all craving some banana fritters. The bananas out here are small and sweet with a much stronger banana flavour than we are used to. Mix this with a crispy deep fried batter and passion fruit sauce and I'm in heaven! 


From here we took the famous mountain view drive from Hue to Hoi An, the foodie capital of Vietnam- more to follow in the next post!