Sunday, 27 April 2014

Spring Salads with a Variety of Dressings

Quinoa and Barley Salad with Ratatouille and Roasted Nuts

Ratatouille is so simple to make, and I love putting it in salads. Add it to quinoa or barley, mix in some chopped coriander and a few squeezes of lemon juice, then top it with roasted nuts for a yummy alternative to standard salads. 

Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad with Mixed Nuts and Seeds

Pomegranates add that extra sweetness to salads, and if matched with a sour lemon dressing, you can't go wrong. Mix 2 tsp mayonnaise with 2 tsp dijon mustard, then add the juice or half a small lemon. Gradually pour in good quality olive oil until it reaches a good consistency.

Seafood Salad with Chicory, Grapes, Tomatoes and Fresh Coriander

Seafood mixes are a great way to bulk up salads and make them look and taste exotic. Use the dressing mentioned above, and add some honey to sweeten it up a little.

Mushroom and Pomegranate Salad with an Assortment of Nuts

Match the sweet pomegranate seeds with a balsamic dressing. Shake up 4 tbsp good quality olive oil with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, half a garlic clove (crushed), 1 tsp dijon mustard, a few dashes of worcester sauce and a pinch of sugar in a jam jar. If you shake it well, the ingredients won't separate. Add another sprinkle of vinegar if you want it extra tangy.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Rhubarb and Almond Cake


Just nipped out to get some rhubarb from the garden and made two of these delicious rhubarb and almond cakes. I adapted the original recipe ( a little, to make two delightfully moist and almondy cakes.

Ingredients (makes 16 slices) 

- for the cake

- 300g soft brown sugar
- 150 ml sunflower, or vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bicarbonate or soda
- 225 ml milk
- 200g rhubarb, chopped
- 50g ground almonds

- for the topping

- 25g ground almonds
- 50g flaked almonds
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp butter

1. Heat the oven to 180°c and prepare two similar sized cake dishes, either round or square. If you are using glass dishes there is no need to grease them, but cake tins will need to be greased with butter or greaseproof paper.

2. In a mixer, beat the sugar, egg, vanilla essence and oil. Then add the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Gradually pour in the milk until smooth, finishing off with the ground almonds. 

3. Take the knife out of the mixer and fold in the chopped rhubarb. Once everything is combined, separate the mix evenly between the two dishes.

4. For the topping, stir the almonds and sugar together and rub the butter in with your fingers. Share the topping over your two cakes and pop them in the oven for 35 minutes.

Serve with yoghurt, creme fraiche, or soured cream. Hot or cold, this is a delicious dessert or afternoon tea snack.

Rhubarb is in season between April and September. It can be kept for up to two weeks in the fridge, and freezes well when cooked. An ideal purchase for you over the next few months!

Easter Energy Balls

Happy Easter everyone! This is a few days late but we've had a busy weekend. I wanted to make a healthy alternative to Easter eggs as I knew we would be eating far too much chocolate over the Easter break. I had previously been put off by energy ball recipes that add honey, or a similar substitute. Knowing that dried fruit contains lots of natural sugar and goodness, I decided that no extra sweetener should be added, and winged my ingredients. Great as a snack or energy boost, it's amazing what you can make from very little.

Ingredients (makes 30 balls)

1st batch -

- 50g almonds
- 70g dates
- 80g prunes

2nd batch - 

- 100g prunes
- 70g figs
- 30g flaxseed (check out my flaxseed post to make your own)
- 10g chocolate (optional)

- desiccated coconut to coat

1. For the first batch, start by whizzing up the almonds in a food processor until they resemble large breadcrumbs. Then add the prunes and dates. Blitz the mix for a minute or so and then shape it into small balls.

2. For the second batch, place all the ingredients in the food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Using your hands, roll the mixture into small balls.

3. Finally, place a tbsp of desiccated coconut onto a plate and coat some of the balls in it by rolling them on the plate.  

Now to decorate...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Vegetarian Quiche with Goats Cheese and Tomatoes

Everyone seems to be scared of pastry, but it needn't be so daunting. It's one to wow the cavalry for sure. Quiche fillings are endless, so it's a great thing to try when you have a mish mash of ingredients in the fridge; and we all know using up leftovers will save the pennies. For those meat lovers, add some bacon bits or leftover roast chicken to the mix.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

for the pastry -

- 225g plain flour
- 100g butter from the fridge, cut into small pieces
- a pinch of salt
- 3-4 tbsp water

for the filling -

- 3 spring onions, chopped
- 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- one handful of mangetout
- 2 large broccoli florets, chopped
- 6 mushrooms, chopped

- 2 eggs
- 100g soured cream or single cream
- 60g milk
- 100g grated goats cheese, cheddar or parmesan
- pepper

1. Set the oven to 180°c and then start making the pastry. Sift the flour into a bowl, then add the salt and pieces of butter. Using your fingertips (your palms should be clean), rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs and all the starch is mixed in. When adding the water, it is important to do it gradually so that the pastry isn't too wet. Once the pastry forms a ball, knead it for a minute in the bowl. This will also help pick up any excess pastry. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place it in the fridge for around 10-20 minutes. (If you are the organised type, you could prepare the pastry up to a day in advance).

2. While the pastry is resting, you can get on with the filling. Add a little sunflower oil to a frying pan and brown the spring onions. After a few minutes, put in all the other vegetables, apart from the mushrooms (as they need less time to cook). Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes on a medium/high heat.

3. Leave the vegetables on a low heat and begin to blind bake your pastry. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the pastry. Place it over a suitable shallow dish and gently cut the excess bits off with a pair of scissors. (The excess can be used to make a smaller tart or saved for another occasion). You will need some baking parchment to separate the pastry from your blind baking beans (as shown below). Cook the pastry in the oven for 10 minutes.

4. While the pastry is in the oven, add the mushrooms to the rest of the vegetables and cook for a few minutes.

5. In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk, soured cream, grated cheese of your choice and pepper. Then add the cooked vegetables to the mixture, and pour everything over the pastry once it had been blind baked.

6. Cook the quiche in the oven for 25 minutes until golden and delicious, and serve with a light salad.