Eating Seasonally

I was recently asked to contribute to a guest post on the Puma Hotels website and the post has just gone live! Check it out on their blog as well as some great information about eating seasonally. Here’s my contribution to the post.

Eating seasonally used to come naturally when I lived in Melbourne, but there was a bit of re-learning to do when I moved to the UK 4 years ago! The change in weather, different ingredients and the fact that most foods are available year-round now, whether they are in season or not. This can be quite handy if you have a particular craving for something, but it’s still most sensible to focus on eating what’s in season. It’ll save you money, taste better and give you a huge variety of foods to eat year round. There’s great websites to check out if you need inspiration – like Eat the Seasons and BBC’s Food pages. Kale is a big favourite in our house, and while we our #1 recipe is baked kale crisps, kale pesto isn’t far behind. Here’s the recipe for kale pesto pasta with goats cheese.

Kale pesto with spaghetti and goats cheese

Kale pesto with spaghetti and goats cheese

I’ve also included a very quick dessert recipe. I’m really loving passionfruit now and have been having it as a dessert when I feel like I need some sunshine in my day (e.g. every day. Thanks Glasgow!).

Quick passionfruit dessert
1 passionfruit
1 small tub of yoghurt
Coconut shavings
Rice malt syrup, to taste 
Passionfruit and coconut yoghurt

Passionfruit and coconut yoghurt

Top the yoghurt with the passionfruit. Stir in, and add rice malt syrup to taste (it tastes like honey). Top with coconut shavings. A great light winter dessert to get you through the gloomy days!

An Australian Christmas Feast featuring Pavlova

Here I was, all set to write up a post about our Australian Christmas when I discovered I’d already done that back in 2011. How time flies when you’re having fun!

Our feast in 2013 was quite similar to the original (after all, that is the point). This year there was a few tweaks – I grilled prawns for that delicious flavour kick and let them cool for the prawn cocktail starter. We got a Wiltshire roasted ham on the bone and I made up a ham stock with the bone and last few shreds of ham. There was also a side of creamed spinach rather than kale for a change and some oven roasted peppers (red and green, to make it festive!).

All decorated!

All decorated!

The real highlight of this year though was the pavlova. Because I was sick, I ended up making it a week later than our Aussie Christmas feast. This was probably a good thing as I struggle to eat that much food in one day!

I grew up with a real love of pavlova (I was a bit of a sugar addict – eating tins of condensed milk and spoons of icing sugar when I could!). My mum always made (and still does!) pavlova for Christmas and it was a kind of magical dessert to me, being made from so few ingredients. I’ve tried to make do with shop bought pavlova but it just doesn’t have the gooey, chewiness to it that is so important (and delicious!).

I’m glad to say that I think I have now perfected the pavlova making process and wanted to share the recipe. This is one I have adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe which is no longer online. If you’ve never made a pav, I think you should – it is really a lot more straightforward than people make out and whatever the result, it will (probably) be delicious!

Perfect Pavlova

Ready for baking!

Ready for baking!

Ingredients:
4 egg whites (medium eggs)
225g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Vegetable oil for baking sheet

Out of the oven!

Out of the oven!

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 180C or 160C for a fan oven.

2. Cover a baking tray with baking paper/parchment. Drizzle around 1 tsp of vegetable oil and rub it all over the paper/parchment.

3. Whisk the egg whites with an electric beater in a large, clean bowl.

4. Once the egg whites are stiff and shiny (takes me around 3-4 minutes) then start adding the sugar. A few tablespoons at a time is fine and make sure it’s all beaten in before adding the next few tablespoons.

5. Keep going until all the sugar is added – you should whisk until it is glossy and stands up in peaks. To test, switch off the beater and pull it out of the pav in an upwards direction. Your pav should get a nice quiff if you’ve beaten it enough!

6. Add the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and give it another quick beat (10-20 seconds) to incorporate.

7. Gently pour out your pav onto the baking paper/parchment. You can use a large spoon to shape it into a circle, and I like to make the edges a bit higher than the middle for easy topping. You want the size of the pav to be about 20cm and around 5-8cms high.

8. Put the pav in the oven and turn the temperature down to 120C or 100C for a fan oven. Cook it for 1.5 hours and then turn off the oven. Some recipes say not to ever open the door, although because our light is broken I did a couple of times with no adverse effects. Just be quick about it if you’re going to do it – think like a ninja!

9. Leave the pav in the oven to cool – I probably left it for another 1.5 hours before taking it out, but you can leave it overnight depending on when you started cooking!

10. It should slide off the paper/parchment really easily thanks to the oil, and you can then pop it on a plate/tray and decorate. I like mine with berries and cream, but passionfruit is also lovely.

Enjoy!

There – it couldn’t be simpler. I’ve read a lot of pavlova recipes in my time and they can make it so complicated with extra ingredients, rules and scaremongering. I am pretty relaxed about the whole process and haven’t had one fail yet. Yeh, sometimes they crack but you can just cover it with cream or berries!

So, are you going to give making a pavlova a go? Please post if you do!

Scottish Macaroni Appreciation Club (SMAC) – Mummy Mac Off!

The amazing SMAC is launching the first Mummy Mac Off on Sunday 19 January and they are looking for Scotland’s best home made mac!

So, do you think you’ve got what it takes? You can check out the details on facebook and if you fancy entering, just get in touch with SMAC!

SMAC! Mummy Mac Off. Have you got what it takes?

SMAC! Mummy Mac Off. Have you got what it takes?

Your esteemed judge on the day will be myself (I am so excited I might burst) along with the amazing Sean Batty from STV! I can’t wait to try the delicious mac creations on the day, so please consider entering and coming along!

In celebration of all things mac, here’s one I made this week to prepare my tastebuds. I love the recipe from Economy Gastronomy and am yet to find a better one. And yes, before you comment, I did have to use fusilli pasta as there wasn’t any gluten free macaroni at the supermarket.

Fried artichoke hearts

Fried artichoke hearts

This time I already had some bacon that I’d cooked at lunch, so just needed to fry off the artichokes. You could probably skip this step if you wanted but I liked giving them that golden crunch.

Bechamel sauce

Bechamel sauce

My tip for bechamel sauce is to relax – it can easily go wrong, and if you think things are heating up too quickly then remember you can just whip the pan off the stove onto a cold bit. Take it slowly and just keep stirring. I often switch to a whisk if I think things look too lumpy.

Variety of cheese!

Variety of cheese!

One thing I really love about mac is to use up the miscellaneous bits of cheese loitering in the fridge – this time I used comté, red leicester and cheddar. These were all on the brink of turning bad, so just chop around any mould and use it up!

Finished!

Finished!

I normally omit the tomatoes but had some that needed using up. I like to do a topping which is a mix of parmesan and panko breadcrumbs for that ultimate crunch!

Yum! So will you be entering the Mummy Mac Off?

Aubergine Daal

Over the holidays I’ve been making a concerted effort to get back into home cooking. With life being a bit hectic it has been too easy to resort to eating out or ready meals from Waitrose for dinner. Cooking is my favourite way of relaxing so I have been practicing our routine of meal planning for the week again, and trying some new recipes. Part of this involved a mammoth cull of our recipe binder – it was filled with recipes made once, whether or not they were worth repeating, and oodles of duplicates. I’ve now cut back so we just have the recipes that are tried and tested favourites – something around 30-40 options to use as the basis of meal planning. There’s definitely some gaps in there – side dishes, veggie options – but it’s a good start!

Something that I wanted to work on was to be a bit more adventurous and cook some dishes that I wouldn’t normally go for. I spied Aubergine Daal in Jamie Oliver’s new book, Save with Jamie and cooked it last night. What a winner it turned out to be! I suspect 2014 is going to be year of the daal in our house! With a bag of split peas coming in at 55p, two aubergines for £2, 3 red onions for £1.25 and rogan josh curry paste for £1.65, I price this meal at around 90p per portion.

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Aubergine Daal
Note: the original recipe is served with handmade chapatis but I didn’t bother with these, and just had a side of rice. 

Ingredients: 
2 aubergines, chopped
2 red onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbs of ginger, chopped
5 tbs of rogan josh curry paste
olive oil
500g packet of yellow split peas
1 veggie stock cube

Aubergine (eggplant!) daal

Aubergine (eggplant!) daal

1. Heat oven to 180C.

2. Put the aubergine, onion, garlic, ginger and curry paste into a roasting tray. Pour over some olive oil and give it all a mix so there is an even coverage.

3. Roast for around 25 minutes.

4. Put half the roasted vegetables into a deep saucepan. Add the split peas, stock cube and 2 litres of water. Simmer for 1 hour & 20 minutes or until its got a nice thickness to it. You’ll need to stir every now and then.

5.  The other half of the roasted vegetables can stay in the tray – just turn off the oven and pop the tray back in to keep warm.

6. Serve with basmati rice, topped with the roasted vegetables!

Do you cook daal at home and have a great recipe to share? Please do!

Carrot, leek and mustard seed soup

I’m hopefully going to be able to stop apologising for the gap between posts soon – there’s word on the street that my husband and blogging partner in crime is going to start putting up some posts so here’s hoping we won’t be keeping you waiting!

In the meantime, here is a delicious recipe I made recently. It’s perfect for Halloween as well, with the gorgeous bright orange colour so if you’re still thinking about a starter – or even something to keep warm on the stove while you take the kids out guising then this might just be the recipe for you!

Basket of goodies from Greener Scotland - eat in season!

Basket of goodies from Greener Scotland – eat in season!

Carrot, leek and mustard seed soup

Serves 8
Prep time: 15m
Cooking time: 30m

  • 10 large/900g carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 large/200g leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 large/150g onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock (use a low salt stock where possible)
  • 250ml skimmed milk
  • 50ml low fat yoghurt to serve
  • Handful of chopped fresh chives

Recipe from Daniela Forbes via Greener Scotland

Carrot, leek and mustard seed soup

Carrot, leek and mustard seed soup

1. Place a large pan on a medium heat with the rapeseed oil. Once the oil is hot add the mustard seeds to the pan. Leave them to bubble and pop slightly and release their aroma, for about a minute or two. Don’t let them burn.

2. Reduce the heat slightly and add the chopped onions, leeks and rapeseed oil, with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook them until they are soft and translucent for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the carrots to the pan, stir and allow them to sweat for 5 minutes. Add the hot stock to the pan, put the lid on and bring to the boil. Once boiling remove the lid, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

4. Remove from the heat, add the milk and use a hand held blender to liquidise.

5. Serve with a swirl of low fat yoghurt and chopped fresh chives.

Carrot, leek and mustard seed soup

It’s the perfect autumn/winter warmer recipe, and you’ll have so much of it that you can easily split it up and freeze it for a quick lunch on the go.

So, what will you be cooking this Halloween?

 

Thanks to Stripe Communications/Greener Scotland for sending me a basket of goodies to make this recipe! 

 

Basel tart

Where have you been? And what the hell is a Basel tart, I hear you cry. Well, Yelp has been keeping me pretty busy (understatement!) – but, if you want the honest truth, this job has made me the happiest I’ve ever been in a job. It’s just so me. I can’t explain it any better than that.

Basel tart

As promised however, I wouldn’t let this blog die. Thankfully I was contacted by Titan Travel recently who asked me to make a Basel tart and blog about it. I needed that kickstart! Apologies for the delay in posting this as it is technically June’s supperclub, but better late than never.

photo 3

You can read all about the Basel tart over on Titan Travel – but all you really need to know is onion, bacon and Gruyere. Hello dream combination of food! The recipe looked pretty straightforward, just whip up some pastry, cook a filling and stick it in the oven. It actually wasn’t that easy when it came to making it (I’m definitely no pastry whizz) and took a little longer than expected, but the results were glorious and incredibly tasty.

photo 4

The only change I made to the recipe was to add less cheese. The recipe calls for 450g of Gruyere … that is a hell of a lot of cheese, so I cut it back to more like 300g. The result was still immensely cheesy, so I was glad I did. When I make this again in the future I’d use pre-made pastry as well just to save time. The tart itself is really rich and indulgent – definitely a great dish to make for a treat or if you’re having guests over.

Thanks to Titan Travel for providing £15 worth of Waitrose vouchers for me to make this recipe. For the full recipe, just visit this link. Do let me know if you make it!

Foodie Penpals

Last month I finally signed up to Foodie Penpals - a great parcel exchange idea organised by This is Rock Salt who I had the pleasure of meeting late last year.

How does it work? Each month you are assigned a penpal to send a gift of £10 value to, and in return a penpal sends you a gift. There is some email exchange beforehand so you can give your dietary requirements or requests if you want!

My two penpals were both UK based so I didn’t request anything special, and neither did my penpal. I stupidly forgot to take a photo of my parcel before I sent it off, and my penpal doesn’t blog – but here is what I sent: whiskey tablet from The Good Spirits Co, Glasgow. I had popped in there to pick up some Nucoco chocolate as I was going for a locally produced (in Glasgow) theme! I got a bag of the dark chocolate (70%) chocolate drops which you can use to make hot chocolate – but recommend eating them with yoghurt! Added to the parcel were some Scottish oatcakes, as well as two small taster bottles of Auchentoshan (single malt Scotch whisky made just outside of Glasgow). I hope my penpal liked everything she got!

Here is a picture of the parcel I received:

Foodie pen pal parcel

I could smell the popcorn from outside the box! It was pretty enticing, I’ve never received a popcorn-smelling-parcel before. My penpal obviously had a wee peek at the blog and saw that I like all things healthy and natural! In it there is Pearled Spelt, a couple of Munchy Seeds, Chorley Cakes and Eccles Cakes as well as the two bags of homemade popcorn. Because life has been chaotic I haven’t had a chance to try anything apart from the popcorn (YUM!) but I look forward to trying it all this week.

Thanks to This is Rock Salt for organising such a huge endeavour  and thanks to my penpal for my great parcel. Head over to her blog if you’re keen on taking part yourself.

What would you send if you were sending a foodie parcel to someone?

 

Chicken and feta sausage rolls

This recipe is my go-to saviour for when I need to make something to take a dish along to a party or gather. I am not a baker in the traditional sense (I could happily live a cake-free existence if required) so I always like to take something savoury. I also have a load of friends who are way better at making cakes than I’ll ever be!

A friend of mine suggested it to me, and after making it once I was hooked. These will convert people who will proclaim “but I don’t like sausage rolls!”. Well, if they like chicken, they will love these. I did start wondering whether a “sausage roll” is still a sausage roll if it’s made from chicken. Hmm, tough philosophical question … I’ll come back to that another day (or you can comment below and let me know what you think!)

Top view of the sausage rolls

500g minced chicken meat
1 small eshallot, finely chopped
grated zest ½ lemon
4 tablespoons chopped rocket
4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
100g feta cheese crumbled
2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Combine all ingredients except pastry and egg and mix well with your hands. Season well with salt and pepper. Halve each sheet of pastry. Divide meat into 4 sausages the length of the pastry, and place one slightly off-centre on each strip. Brush one edge of pastry strip with beaten egg and then fold over the other to enclose sausage meat. Press down to seal with the back of a fork. Brush with beaten egg. Cut each roll into 2 or 3 smaller sausage rolls, and prick each with a fork. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and meat. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Bake in preheated 220°C oven for 25 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm. Makes 8-12.

Side view of the sausage rolls

The recipe is originally from The Australian.

In the UK it can be hard to find chicken breast minced, so I just buy breasts and put them in the magic bullet to mince them up. Works perfectly! I then do the same with the rocket and crumble the feta by hand. If you make these, be sure to comment and let me know if you loved them. These always go down a treat at a party!

Tomato and butter pasta sauce

I read about this recipe while we were in Australia, I can’t remember where from now but there are lots of recipes floating around. It is impressively simple, and yet packs a huge flavour punch. Give it a try one night when you need a comfort meal like a hug, and can’t really be bothered cooking anything more complicated.

Tomato and butter pasta

Tomato and butter pasta

Ingredients:

2 x 400 gram tins of tomatoes (preferably whole tomatoes, and a fancy brand if you feel like lashing out)
4 tbs of butter
Pasta – any kind works well. I used a packet of casareccia pasta which I got at the Zizzi launch – they use it in a pasta dish with chicken, tomato and spinach. It is a really lovely pasta that is soft and delicate, and holds the sauce really well.

  1. Simply melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the tomatoes. Bash them a little bit so they break up. Leave the sauce to simmer for about 45 minutes.
  2. Serve over your (cooked) pasta. Don’t overload the pasta with sauce – you want a nice coating but not drowning in sauce.

You might be reading this and thinking “but that’s it?!” … yes, that’s it. The butter and tomato taste amazing together, and sometimes it’s the simple recipes that really rock your world. I dare you to try it and tell me what you think of it.

Rice paper rolls

I am a huge fan of rice paper rolls and make them every now and then for lunch or dinner. What is great is that you can put whatever you want in them, there is no set recipe. I made them last night, and a few people asked me how they’re made so I thought I’d put this post up!

Rice paper rolls

Rice paper rolls

Ingredients:

  • Rice paper roll sheets – I use Blue Dragon brand which you can buy at Whole Foods Giffnock
  • Protein filling – last night I used cooked prawns, I have also used cooked chicken and tinned tuna in the past. Any meat would work well and perhaps something like tofu if you are vegetarian
  • Noodles – I use vermicilli or any kind of thin rice noodle
  • Vegetables – again, feel free to use what you have. I used carrot (pickled in soy and rice vinegar) and green capsicum (pepper)
  • Herbs – fresh mint and coriander are absolutely heavenly
  • Sauce – you can either make a dipping sauce, or a sauce to include in the wrap. I made satay sauce from crunchy peanut butter, coconut cream, mint and soy sauce.

Method:

  1. I started off by prepping the prawns. They were already cooked, so I just marinated them in some lime juice (half a lime for around 300 grams of prawns). 
  2. For the noodles, I had got a packet from Asda which just required a zap in the microwave for a minute. I did this early on so they wouldn’t be warm when it came to wrapping up the rolls.
  3. Chop your capsicum (pepper) – long thin strips work best.
  4. Pickle the carrot – this is totally optional. You could just use carrot as it is, but I really love pickled carrot. I used 1tbs of rice vinegar and 1tbs of soy sauce for 1 large sized carrot, shaved with a speed peeler.
  5. Make up your sauce. I used around 2tbs of peanut butter, and then about 2tbs of coconut cream, 1tbs of soy and a sprinkle of mint. Just mix it all up until it has a loose consistency.
  6. Chop up all the herbs.
  7. Then you’re ready to go! The rice paper sheets have instructions on them – simply put a sheet in warm water for around 15 seconds. Then transfer onto a clean tea towel and dab off the excess water. Put on some noodles, capsicum, carrot, prawns, then the sauce and prawns in a pile in the top, middle of the sheet.
  8. Wrap by starting with the bottom, fold it up and over the filling. Then fold over the left hand size, and roll.
Rice paper roll

Rice paper roll

Based on what we ate last night – one person could eat around 3 of these for dinner. We ate 4 each and that was a bit too much really! To make 8 rice paper rolls we used 300g of prawns, one capsicum, one carrot and one small bag of rice noodles. These are great for a super fresh tasting dinner when you feel like something that will refresh you. I also love a no-cook dinner every now and then.

Please let me know if you try them and if you come up with any different combinations!