Monday, 24 March 2014

Beetroot and Apple Borshch

The recipe I have for you today isn’t actually one of mine – I stole it, I admit. But I liked it so much I thought I’d share it with you today.

Borshch (or borscht, as we English-speakers tend to spell it) was everywhere when I lived in Russia – in local fast food joints, in huge pots in the canteen at the school I taught at, and simmering away on the cover of many a cookery book. There are many variations on this basic beetroot soup, but, sadly, it is almost always made with meat. But Russians are famously hospitable, so although I couldn’t pop into a café for my beetroot fix, I could coax Russians into making vegetarianskii borshch for me.

This recipe is not so traditional – I’ve never seen one with feta or apples before – but it came out really well.

And here's how it turned out for me:

I didn't use sour cream (very un-Russian) because I'm not a mega fan, but the feta was delicious! I also avoid blending soups - and all the borshch I ever saw in Russia is chunky!

I was planning on making my own bread and didn't get a chance - but hopefully I will be getting a bread recipe to you soon that would be just perfect with this soup!

Have you ever had borshch in eastern Europe? What are your favourite beetroot recipes?



Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Pancakes with roasted veg and feta

Yesterday was Pancake Day in the UK. This time of year is full of different festivals - carnival, Fasching, Mardi Gras, maslenitsa - and they're all to do with celebrating and eating lots of food before you knuckle down and give something up for lent. We celebrate it by making pancakes (over lent you wouldn't have been allowed to eat rich foods like eggs and milk, so people used to use them up by making pancakes - or so British children are told!). Pancakes in the UK are thin, pretty much the same as French crêpes. You can eat them however you like, but the most common way is to sprinkle over sugar and then squeeze over lemon juice. It's sweet and sour at the same time - and it's delicious.

As I completely forgot to buy eggs yesterday, my celebrations are a little late. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get measuring milk and sifting flour - pancakes are delicious any day of the year! It felt kind of sad to make sweet pancakes just for me, so I decided to make myself a nice savoury pancake-based dinner.
For two people, you need:
100g flour (about 2/3 cup)
Two eggs
300ml milk (I used almond milk)
Hot sauce (you judge how much!)

Vegetables!! This is up to you, I used courgette (zucchini), pepper, and mushrooms, but anything that roasts up nicely will do
Feta (if you don’t eat dairy but still want a salty kick, you could try using capers instead of feta)

Chop up the veg and get it in a preheated oven (about 180 C or 350 Fahrenheit will do nicely). Whilst it's cooking, you can mix up the pancake batter. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl, push a little well into the middle, and crack the eggs in there. Pour in about a quarter of the milk, and then get whisking. The batter will be really thick, so you'll need to add the rest of the milk in stages, until you get to a consistency a bit like thick single cream (I think single cream is "light cream" to you Americans).

Once you have the batter and the veg is almost done, heat a pan and some oil (I used virgin coconut oil), and get a ladle out and drop the batter into the pan. I got a bit ladle-happy, so my pancakes were kind of thick. Watch the batter like a hawk, and as soon as it starts to bubble, flip it.

Spoon over the veg, crumble over the feta, sprinkle over some olives. And repeat.

How do you celebrate this time of year in your country? Are you giving something up for lent?



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Tempeh rendang

I'm back. I feel like it's not the first time I've said that. In the last year I feel like I have been here, there, and everywhere, and sometimes I had barely enough time to cook and eat, never mind think about interesting recipes to photograph and share. So what have I done? I finished my degree, number one (this blog is now officially being written by a Cambridge graduate). Then I celebrated in the (shockingly warm and consistent) sun, packed up my life, said goodbye to my friends and family, and moved to Germany. I live in the south west near Stuttgart, not too far from the Swiss border. And why, I hear you ask, did I move here? To start working as a translator and copywriter. So there we are, that has been my life for the past few months – but I have run out of excuses. I have my job, I have my flat, I have a spatula.

And I have a recipe for you: tempeh rendang. Had you heard of rendang? Me neither. A friend mentioned it in conversation, and I turned to my old pal Wikipedia for information. Rendang, as it turns out, is an Indonesian dish that originates from the Minangkabau ethnic group. It’s a slow-cooked curry brimming with spices. Yum. And it can also be made with tempeh or tofu, so no meaty obstacles to overcome. Do you fancy trying it out too? Here’s how…

For two people, you need:

About an inch (2.5cm) of ginger
An inch of galangal (or more ginger, if you don’t live near an Asian supermarket)
A stalk (or two) of lemongrass
A heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
Half a teaspoon of turmeric
Garlic – about four cloves
Two or three shallots (mine were quite big, so I only used one-and-a-half)
Dessicated coconut (unsweetened if you can find it)
Chillis! I used Srirachra because I had no chillis (and actually I used too much and burnt my mouth), but I’d guess you want about two red chillis, depending on your tolerance
Lime juice. OR Kaffir lime leaves. I couldn’t find any leaves, so I used about four tablespoons of lime juice

Oil for cooking – I used virgin coconut oil
A tin of coconut milk (I used light)
Tempeh. Or tofu. Or a mixture! I used both and I think the tofu came out better
Rice or noodles, to serve

If you have a blender, this will be a lot quicker for you, because all of the ingredients in that first block need to be mixed together into a paste. You lucky things can throw everything into the blender and mix until smooth. My kitchen is still a little poorly equipped, so I chopped everything as small as possible and mixed it by hand. It will look something like this…


Oil a large saucepan (which I’m told is called a skillet over the pond) and warm it up over a medium heat, before tipping in the paste. Stir and stir and don’t let it burn. It should start thickening up and smelling pretty amazing, and that’s when to add in the coconut milk. Traditionally, the meat is added in before the coconut milk and the whole thing is cooked for hours – but seeing as neither tofu nor tempeh needs to be cooked for a long time, I decided to make the sauce first and let it cook down before adding in the protein.

This will need to cook for a while over low to medium heat – you want most of the coconut milk to evaporate. I left mine for about an hour and forty-five minutes. You can either let it get really dry, or stay a little saucy (ooh-err). I let mine get really dry, but next time I’m going to keep a little more liquid, because rice and noodles are dry too!

Cut the tempeh or the tofu into chunks, and add it in when the sauce is approaching your desired consistency  – I’d leave it for fifteen or twenty minutes after that to make sure it cooks through.

In the meantime, you can prepare some rice (traditional) or some noodles (what I happened to have in the cupboard) and get ready to serve your rendang.


Do you like Indonesian food? What is your favourite way to serve tempeh?



Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Chana Masala - Chickpea Curry

Did you know that India is about 40% vegetarian? And that even non-vegetarian Indians mostly only eat meat occasionally? I know Indian takeaways in England are full of chicken jalfrezi etc., but there is a big veggie tradition over there with plenty of recipes to choose from. Plus, Indian recipes always have great sources of protein like chickpeas and lentils. I made this chickpea curry with a friend the other night for the first time, and it was delicious without being too hot or needing too many expensive spices!

For two people, you need:

A can of chickpeas (or a similar amount of dried chickpeas, soaked and boiled)
A green chilli
About 3cm of ginger
Three cloves of garlic
An onion
A teaspoon of cinnamon
A quarter teaspoon of garam masala
A potato
Curry paste (I used mild, but I suppose you could go hotter if you wanted!)
About half a pack of passata
A lemon
Some fresh mint
Plain yoghurt, to serve (optional)

There's a lot to chop, so you'd best get chopping! Onion! Ginger! Garlic! Chilli! Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and get the onion in there first. Cook for a few minutes, stirring away, until the onion starts to colour. Then add the garlic, chilli, and ginger, and give it another couple of minutes.

Now it's time for passata, curry paste, and the spices. Pour in and stir together until it's all combined - you don't want pockets of chilli and pockets of cinnamon in the finished dish! You can also add the potato (peeled and cubed) at this stage. Top the pot up a little with water - it will boil down a bit, and you don't want it to stick and burn.

Bring the pan to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. When the potato is almost soft enough to eat, add in the chickpeas and give it another five minutes of simmering.

Dish up, squeeze over half a lemon per person and garnish with a good handful of mint leaves.

Are you a curry fan? What's your favourite type to make at home?

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Healthy frozen yoghurt pops

I love Magnums. And Cornettos. And Soleros. But, as summer is the season of delicate dresses and short shorts, I decided that a lower-calorie version of these treats was probably in order, and that the best way to get hold of one would be to simply make it.

So off I went to buy a lolly mould - lollies are what we call popsicles over here, and yes, that's a u in mould - and yoghurt, berries, and honey, to make the easiest, healthiest lollies you've ever had. You don't need to spend a lot of money - mine cost £1.50.

This is a basic recipe, so definitely try it with different fruit - or combinations of fruit.

For four lollies you need:

One-and-a-half bananas
A handful of raspberries
Honey or agave nectar (I tested both and they were both delicious)
About ten tablespoons of 0% fat yoghurt (I'm sure this can be done with soya or coconut yoghurt, if you don't eat dairy)
Two teaspoons of porridge oats (optional)

Get out the blender! You're going to blend the fruit and the yoghurt in two batches. For the first batch, cut up the bananas (save a couple of chunks), pour over half the yoghurt and a spoonful or two of honey or agave nectar.

Blend! Pour! Instead of just filling mine straight up to the top, I filled them most of the way, then poured over about a teaspoon of oats and the bits of banana I saved, just for apperance and a bit of texture variation.

Same thing again, but this time - raspberries. Clear out the blender, but in the raspberries, yoghurt, and honey or agave, and blend. And pour. And poke a few whole rapsberries in at the top.

All you need to do now is put the lids on - push them down firmly! - and freeze. They're probably going to take about four hours before they're frozen solid. To get them out, take them out of the freezer for a few minutes to soften a little, then give them a bash!

What are your favourite summer flavours for ice cream or lollies?



Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sauce d'arachide à la camerounaise

Don't let the language fool you - this recipe isn't French, but Cameroonian, and for those of you who aren't linguists, it's a peanut sauce, normally made with chicken. A friend of mine, Simo, is half Cameroonian, and this is the dish she always requests when she goes home from uni, so we decided to vegetarianise it together.

 Simo and I at Jesus College May Ball, Cambridge, 2013

I used plain Quorn fillets to replace the chicken, but I know that these aren't available everywhere - and I've heard they contain small quantities of egg, so vegans beware! If you don't want to use Quorn or can't get hold of it, I think tempeh would work pretty well too - but I'd leave it to 'marinate' longer than the Quorn!

I can absolutely see why Simo insists on this - it's delicious! But I mean, really good. But I mean, really really good. It's also incredibly filling, thanks to all the protein. The peanut butter makes it a bit calorific, but if you get high-quality peanut butter, it's all good fats.

For about three servings, you need:

Quorn fillets (two per person), OR as much tempeh as you fancy
An onion
Garlic, and plenty of it. Let's say three big cloves
Two veggie stock cubes
A lemon, for the juice
Tomato purée - three or four tablespoons
A sweet potato
A couple of carrots
Peanut butter! I think it's definitely worth getting a good brand with 97-99% peanuts, and definitely no added sugar. I used about 250g - but I added it a spoon at a time, so you could vary this.
Salt. I don't usually salt anything, but Simo says there HAS to be salt
Rice, to serve

Chop up the Quorn into chunks, chop the garlic and onions, and mix them in a tupperware box or a tin - something you can put in the fridge. Crumble the stock cubes in, and cut and squeeze in the lemon juice. Add in the tomato purée and stir to coat. Pop it in the fridge to let the flavours steep for a couple of hours.

In the meantime, you can skin and chop the carrots and the sweet potato into big chunks. When the Quorn is ready, get out a pan, pour in some oil or spritz with cooking oil spray, and tip in the Quorn and all its accompaniments. Cook and stir for about five minutes, then add in the carrot and sweet potato, and give it another three minutes or so.

 I had bad cooking facilities at uni (no hob, no oven!), so that's why these are on a grill and not in a pan

Pour over boiling water - say, 750ml, but I do everything by eye, and you don't want the sauce to be too sloppy. Let it boil and then simmer until the carrots and potato are soft. Take it off the heat and start adding in the peanut butter, one spoon at a time, and stirring until it melts into the sauce. Make sure it's pretty peanutty, and reasonably thick. Salt to taste and serve with rice.


Do you have any lesser-known recipes passed on by friends or brought back from holiday?




This is a hard post for me to write right now. I am in a house without chocolate. The shops are shut. I desperately want some Cadbury's. And this recipe is chocolatey, let's make no mistake. It's also super-easy to whip up for a birthdays, parties, or any other occasion (I made the tiffin in these photos for a supervisor after I wrote one of my less-impressive essays), especially as it doesn't need baking. It's pretty much a melt, stir, and shove in the fridge job.

This recipe makes quite a lot, but have no fear - it will all go. Here is a base recipe, you can vary it however you like. My most recent version was cherry and coconut. Some kind of nut and some kind of crysallised or dried fruit are pretty safe bets.

You need:

150-200g digestive or oat biscuits
200g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter (I usually use soya margarine and that works out just fine)
150g golden syrup (if you live in a country where you can't get golden syrup, i.e. not England, you can use agave nectar or honey)
Glacé cherries (natural coloured, if you can get them, and chopped into halves or quarters)
Roasted hazelnut pieces

You need some tupperware or a tray with high sides for this. I'd say a big lunchbox-style tupperware is about right. Line that baby with clingfilm (or saran wrap, if you're a Yankee), preferably in one big sheet.

Get the biscuits in a strong freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin, a can opener... your bare hands, if you're hardcore. The main think is to break them down into little mini pieces. A lot of it will pretty much turn to crumbs - don't worry about it.

Melt together the chocolate, butter, and golden syrup, either over water in a saucepan, or in the microwave. Whilst it's still liquid, stir in the cherries, the biscuit pieces, and the hazelnuts. Pour into your clingfilm-lined receptacle, and smooth the top out a little. I hardly took any photos, but this is the one I do have!

Whack your tiffin in the fridge, and leave it to set. It should take a couple of hours, but it might take longer, depending on what mood it's in. I would leave about five hours before you need it, just to be extra safe. Once it's solid, just turn it out onto a plate and chop into bite-sized pieces. I'm so sad I don't have a photo of this last stage, because it looks really cute with all the biscuits, cherries, and hazelnuts peeking through the chocolate.

What is your favourite quick pudding to make? Do you make tiffin or fridge-cake? What are your favourite fruits and nuts to put in?



Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Emy's Lotta Grain Stew

I go through phases of cooking a particular dish for all of my dinner guests. This is my current favourite, and it has - unless my friends are all lying to me! - been very well received. It's also super-healthy. Even if you want to leave out the cheese, it's full of protein, fibre, gives you a good helping of veg, and hey, garlic is good for you too. If you can't find any spelt, try some barley - but don't boil it for as long, or it will turn into mush.

For 2-3 people, you need

About half a butternut squash
Two or three gloves of garlic, chopped
A bay leaf
Veggie stock or bouillon
Quinoa (I judge the amounts of these two by eye)
As much feta as you dare

Peel, deseed, and chop that squash. I grill mine (if you're going to do the same, chop it reasonably small, or it will never, ever cook through), but it would be delicious roasted as well, I'm sure. Add the garlic about halfway through roasting/grilling.

Once the squash is cooking, put the spelt in a pot and just cover with water. Add the veggie stock and the bay leaf,and boil for somewhere between ten and twenty minutes - until the water has pretty much absorbed.

Once the squash is getting near done - say, for the last five minutes or so - add some water and the quinoa, and cook until it turns translucent. Most of the water should also have been absorbed or boiled off - this is stew, not soup!

Mix in the squash, and as much or as little feta as you like, pick out the bay leaves, and voilà!

What are your favourite grains? How do you like to use them?



Saturday, 8 June 2013

Clementine and Chocolate Cheesecake

Yeah, you heard me. Clementine and chocolate cheesecake. So in supermarkets here, and I don't know if this is just an English thing, but they often have free cards or even magazines with recipes. Nice, right? Of course, they suggest you buy all their own brand stuff, which is where they getcha - but this is a recipe I picked up from Sainsbury's long ago, and finally got to try recently. A friend, Judith, and I, cooked dinner and baked a cake for another friend - Diana's - birthday. It was well-received, let's just say that.

You need:

75g unsalted butter
200g ginger snaps (those are a ginger-flavoured biscuit/cookie, anyone outside the UK...)
100g orange fondant dark chocolate thins - We couldn't find these, so we used orange-flavoured dark chocolate. Lindt Lindor do a good one!
150g dark chocolate
100g caster sugar
200g soft cheese (the recipe says it needs to be full fat! You have been told!)
250g tub marscapone
3 medium eggs
2 clementines (don't peel these babies, just slice them into thin rounds)

Preheat your oven to 160C (that's 320F). You need a cake tin (with a removable base is easier, as always) that's about 20cm across. Line it and grease it.

Melt the butter and crush up the biscuits. The best way is to put them in a freezer back and have at it with a rolling pin. If you are me, the pieces will get absolutely everywhere, no matter how careful you try to be. Mix the two, then press them flat into the base of the tin.

Melt the chocolate and the orange chocolate (or the fondant thins, if you managed to find them). In the meantime, start mixing the sugar, soft cheese, marscapone, and eggs together in a big bowl. Don't panic if it looks disgusting and doesn't smell too great at this stage. Just keep mixing.

Once the chocolate has melted, add that in and mix some more, until it looks like something you'd want to eat.

The biscuit base should have set by this time, so pour the chocolate over, then arrange the clementines on top in a circle around the edge.

Bake that baby for an hour. A knife pushed into the middle should come out clean once it's done. If you can wait to eat it cold, that's what the instructions say - but we ate it warm!

 Happy birthday to Diana!


Are you a baked cheesecake fan? What are your favourite flavour combos?



Thursday, 6 June 2013

An Apology and a Promise

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I must offer my most profuse apologies for having been away from my blog for so long. I've missed writing up recipes, getting feedback... yes, I've even missed fighting with Photobucket to put my pictures up! I have a good excuse though, I promise - I have been in my final term of my final year at Cambridge and I was in a revision and exam cave. I absolutely promise that I am back, and with recipes galore!

It's tradition here to spray finalists with champagne (or, well, at least cava) when we finish. Bonus picture!



Sunday, 14 April 2013

Mini Healthy Yummy Pancakes

This recipe appeared in the March edition of the Healthy Food Guide - one of my favourite cookery magazines! OK, I love Vegetarian Living and Cook Vegetarian, and obviously they have an edge in that I could make all the recipes, but they quite often have a lot of cakes, pastry, and cheese - and if you're anything like me, you really have to limit how much of that kind of thing you eat! So enter the Healthy Food Guide - it might not be completely vegetarian, but it is completely healthy.

These are called "fluffy berry pikelets" in the Healthy Food Guide, and they make a nice part of a weekend breakfast, or a good light pudding. My friend Antonia came to stay with me and had a sudden attack of pancake cravings, so this is what we made!

The recipe says this makes twelve - but I'd say it's more like 20! A serving is three pancakes, and has 254 kcal.

85g self-raising flour
25g caster sugar
125ml skimmed milk
1 medium egg
Cooking oil spray
300g low-fat yoghurt, 4tsp honey, and 320g mixed berries

Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in the sugar. Make yourself a well in the centre, and add in the milk and egg (which you should beat together in a bowl first!).

Spritz a frying pan with cooking oil spray and heat it to a medium heat. These cook pretty quickly, so don't go crazy or they'll burn!

A tablespoon of batter makes one pancake, so spoon it out and cook for a couple of minutes. Once you start seeing tiny bubbles, flip it over onto the other side and cook for another couple of minutes. You'll probably need to spray some more oil in between pancakes to stop them from burning.

Arrange the pancakes in stacks of three (I like my stack asymmetrical) and dollop over the yoghurt, drizzle over the honey, and heap over the berries!

What do you like to put on pancakes? Do you have any ways of making them healthier?



Thursday, 4 April 2013

Lighter Mac 'n' Cheese

Mac 'n' Cheese, or, for us Brits, Macaroni Cheese - it's comforting, isn't it? It's just the right mix of chewey and gooey and cheesy. But it's not so healthy. And I want to be healthy! So today, I cracked out a recipe from the newest Slimming World magazine for a lighter version of this comfort dish!

To serve four, you need:

300g dried macaroni
Fry Light, any other low calorie cooking oil spray, or, if you want, real oil - but not much, if you want it to stay healthy!
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
400ml vegetable stock
4 tbsp tomato purée (I completely forgot about this and didn't put it in mine)
200g fat-free natural yoghurt
1 level tsp English mustard (I hate mustard, so I used some Henderson's Relish instead - it's only made in Sheffield, but you could sub in veggie Worcestershire sauce)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
120g Red Leicester, grated (I used reduced-fat mature cheddar instead)

The magazine suggests romaine lettuce leaves dressed with lemon juice as a side - I steamed carrots, spring greens, and broccoli instead.

Preheat your oven to 200C (400F), and get some water boiling. Cook the macaroni and then set it aside.

Heat a pan, spritz it with oil, and throw in the tomatoes, garlic, and spring onions. Fry them off (keep stirring!) for about three minutes.

Get a big mixing bowl out and beat the stock, tomato purée (if your memory's better than mine), yoghurt, mustard/Worcestershire sauce, and eggs. Mix in most of the cheese - maybe 80g. I'm not going to lie, it doesn't look very pretty or smell particularly appetising at this stage! Persevere. It will be fine, I promise.

Tip the macaroni and the fried tomatoes, garlic, and onions into the mixture, and stir through so all the pasta and veg is coated.The original recipe suggests using four individual ovenproof dishes, but I used a big casserole dish - who needs all that washing up??? Scatter the rest of the cheese over the top

Bang it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until it browns on top and starts bubbling. Make your salad or steam some veg whilst it's cooking and - hurrah! Healthy AND comforting macaroni cheese!

What healthier verisons of classic foods do you make?



Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Fitting Exercise into your Life Part Two - Blogilates!

Hopefully you've already read Part One of my post on fitting exercise into my life, and maybe even my post on losing weight and being healthier. This time I want to share one of my favourite workouts - Blogilates!

People always seem to mention Pilates as a relaxing exercise. It's gentle and calming, isn't it? Yeah? Not the way I like it! Cassey Ho, the fitness instructor (and force of nature) behind Blogilates, really knows what she's doing. I've noticed a big difference in my strength just in a few weeks of doing her videos - in fact, thanks to Cassey, I even did a real proper sit up for the first time in my life! Pilates is a series of toning exercises using mostly your own bodyweight, focusing especially on core strength. It can be gentle, but Cassey knows how to really push you!

Do you think you've experienced real pain before? Wait for the bicycle crunches!

Are you one of those language purists who can't stand the misuse of the word literally? If I say, "I'm literally dying," are you about to spring in and correct me? Well, OK, no my heart didn't literally stop, but I think you should try some of these workouts and see if you don't find a 'literally' phrase on the tip of your tongue!

And it doesn't stop there! Cassey also does cardio videos, HIITs, and recipes! If you sign up to the mailing list (and I promise she doesn't send spam!), you can even get passwords for thought-out workout calendars - so you don't have to strain your brain working out how to combine the videos! There are recipe videos and ideas, and even plenty of vegan recipes for us animal product eschewers, along with plenty of advice on living healthily. Can't afford a gym or a personal trainer? I'm afraid that's no excuse!

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum

 A word of warning: these videos are really really hard! If you are going straight into this without a high level of fitness or strength, you will find them difficult. DON'T let that demotivate you. Make yourself notes - how much you manage of each video. How many of each exercise you managed to do. Work on increasing it until you can keep up with Cassey for the whole video (and yes, I'm still working on that too!). And celebrate your little successes, please!

This is all my own opinion, I promise - no ad deals or anything! But check out Blogilates website - there are links to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and both of her Youtube channels. I think it's fantastic that she's uploading all this for free and is so passionate about helping people become fit and healthy - me included.



Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Bun and Cheese

So, for once, I am going to be able to bring you a celebration recipe before the celebration itself! Bun is a sweet bread made in the Caribbean and traditionally eaten at Easter with slices of cheese. It has similar ingredients to English traditional Hot Cross Buns, so it's likely that the recipe was taken from English colonisers and adapted. And some good news? It's easily vegan-isable! As long as you have some vegan cheese, some soya or other non-dairy margerine, and some egg replacer (or flax eggs)... if anyone does make a vegan version, I'd love to hear about it! It seems like it has a lot of ingredients, but none of them are hard to come by. I put this recipe together from a few different ones I've looked at!

You need:

3 1/2 cups of flour
2 1/2 cups of sugar - I'd go for brown sugar!
4 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons melted butter (I used soya margerine)
2 eggs (I'm sure you could use egg replacer or flax eggs here)
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mixed peel
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup chopped glacé cherries
1 cup stout or beer (I used Guinness)

Preheat the oven to 150C, or 300F.

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl, and add the sugar, baking powder, mixed peel, sultanas, and glace cherries. Mix those babies together.

Add in the spices, then make a little well in the centre. Pour in the melted butter, the eggs (beat them first!), and the vanilla extract, and mix again. It will start looking like fine breadcrumbs.

Make another well and pour in the beer, and mix. I forgot to take a picture of mine at this stage, but it got a lot darker and was quite sticky - a bit like Christmas cake mix. It also smells gorgeous! Spoon it into a greased and lined baking tin. From what I understand, a loaf shape is traditional, but I only have a cake tin, so cake shape it is! Pop the bun in the oven (and please, please make a witty comment whilst doing so), and let it cook for about an hour and fifteen minutes. You can stick a knife through it and check it comes out clean - when it does, it's cooked through.

Have you ever had bun and cheese? What is your favourite Easter food? Do you ever make your own traditional treats?



Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

Quinoa? For breakfast? YES. I made this recipe from 101 Cookbooks today - it was easy and very filling! I changed the quantities to 1/3 cup of quinoa, water, and milk, seeing as it was just for me.

What do you like to use quinoa for?



Monday, 25 March 2013

Sundried Tomato Pesto

Making pesto! My favourite Domestic Goddess hobby. Maybe you've seen my Beetroot Pesto? No? The Edamame Bean version? This time it was a jar of sundried tomatoes that inspired me. Get your food processor out ladies and gents, because this is EASY.

You need:

About 100g sundried tomatoes
30g of pinenuts
30g or so of cheddar (I think you could easily leave this out or sub in a little vegan cheese if you don't do dairy)
A couple of cloves of garlic
You might need some oil - olive oil or the oil the tomatoes came in will do!

Toast the pinenuts by dry-frying them in a pan. Keep an eye on them, because they want to burn, and you will need to leap in and stop them. Grate the cheese. Peel the garlic cloves and chop them a little (no need to make them too fine, but it works better if you've cut them up a little). Chuck it all in a good blender or a food processor.

Blend until it's as smooth as you like it (I usually make my pesto quite chunky), and, if you prefer it runnier, add some oil a tablespoon at a time. I try and add as little as possible to cut the calories - there's plenty of oil in the tomatoes and pine nuts. That's it - so get to it!

What are you favourite pesto ingredients? And what do you use your pesto for, once you have it?



Friday, 22 March 2013

Irish Soda Bread

I'd like to share with you Ladies and Gentlemen, my very first loaf of bread (and in fact, my second, which has been baked even whilst writing this post). I'd never baked bread before because - let's be honest - it's scary. I once looked at some bread recipes only to be confronted with words like 'starter' and 'prove', and I had to close the book and sit down until I was calm. So when I saw a recipe for Irish Soda Bread, I was beside myself with glee - there's no proving! No yeast! No starter! And very simple ingredients.

I should start by saying that I have been informed by a very dear Northern Irishwoman that this bread is simply referred to as 'soda' over there, and should be eaten untoasted with butter and jam. I should also say that I'm no authority, but soda bread doesn't have butter or currants or anything like that - but I think those are common in American recipes. It's really just lovely, dense, tasty bread!

You need:

450g flour - plain white or wholemeal
150-200ml buttermilk (about a cup and a half to two cups)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (that's baking soda for you Americans)
A few twists of salt (maybe half a teaspoon, for those of you who don't have a grinder!)

That's it, honest.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Sieve the flour, bicarb of soda, and salt into a big bowl and give it a stir. Mould a well in the middle with your hands (this reminds me of helping my Dad mix cement when I was little). Pour in a cup and a half (that's about 150ml, maybe a bit less... accurate, I know!) of buttermilk.

The weird extra-whiteness around the edges is just from the camera

Use your hands to mix the flour and the buttermilk. I promise it's not as sticky as it looks! Just press and fold and roll the bread around until it comes together in one big lump, with no dry flour left. You might have to add the rest of the buttermilk, but be careful, and do it a little at a time! The dough shouldn't be sticky or wet.

OK, you'll need to wash your hands! Once they're less doughy, move your bread from the bowl onto a floured surface, and shape it so that it's round and an inch or two thick. Then use a sharp knife to cut an X in the top. Tradition demands it!

Pop into the oven on a baking tray (I line mine with baking powder so) and leave it for about half an hour, depending on your oven. Ours is quite fierce, so don't be surprised if it takes more like 45 minutes. When the top has turned golden and the bread makes a hollow noise if you tap the bottom, it's done!

This did NOT get this much darker! The other pictures are from my first (white) loaf, and this is my second (wholemeal) one - but the photos of this one came out much more nicely!

Do you make bread? Are you like me and find baking terms confusing? What do you normally have on your soda bread?