Monday, 24 September 2012

Vanessa Kimbell's Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap

I am lucky enough to have been invited to join Vanessa Kimbell's latest event. The concept is similar to the Christmas Gift Swap however this time with a focus on vanilla and fair trade. To be more specific Ndali Fair Trade Vanilla.

Vanessa went out to Uganda earlier this year see where and how the vanilla is produced and the impact that fair trade has. Over the years I have increasing looked to buy local and where this isn't possible to buy fair trade but I have to admit that often this was without really thinking why. I was buying fair trade because I 'should' not because I really understood or that it resonated with me. Reading Vanessa's posts has really brought home the reason that fair trade just makes sense. The clue is in the title. It's fair! We all know it's wrong to steal from someone so why would we underpay farmers and producers?

For this reason I'm proud to be a part of the event and very grateful to all involved, including Vanessa Kimbell, Ndali Vanilla, Fortnum and Mason, Kenwood and The Fair Trade Foundation.

We were sent some vanilla and I already had some Ndali extract

There are four categories and I have decided to enter two - sweets and cakes.

I have made some vanilla latte fudge. I decided on this flavour largely as I seem to have a slight addiction to vanilla latte's.

My second gift is a rhubarb and vanilla crumble cake as I always think vanilla and rhubarb are the perfect pairing. It's not the most beautiful cake to look at but I think it tastes divine. We were encouraged to use as many fair trade ingredients as possible. The rhubarb I was given from a friends garden so as I didn't pay for it I guess it won't be fair trade unless I make her a cake in return!

I'll post later to let you know how the day went, but very much looking forwards to it.


Vanilla Latte Fudge

100g fair trade caster sugar
75g fair trade light soft brown sugar
227g tub of clotted cream
1/2-1 tsp of vanilla powder, depending on your taste
1tsp fair trade instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp of boiling water

Place all of the ingredients in a pan and stir continually over a very low heat until the sugar has all dissolved. I find that if you rush this part the fudge tends to be more grainy.

Stop stirring, bring to the boil and put the lid on. Turn it down and leave it for 3 minutes. Watch it to make sure the sugar doesn't start to burn.

Take the lid off and use a sugar thermometer to keep it boiling until it gets to 116 C.

Once at 116 C plunge the pan into a bowl of cold water and leave for about 20-30 secs before starting to stir. Stir it until the fudge starts to set and then pour into a container lined with greased cling film for it to set.

Leave to set overnight and then use a hot knife to slice into equal sized squares.

This is lovely with your favourite hot drink and would make a great present.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble Cake

For the rhubarb compote
About 4 lengths of rhubarb
2-4 tbsp fair trade soft brownn sugar to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake
2 eggs weighed with their shells on
The same weight of self raising flour
The same weight of fair trade sugar (I used a 50:50 mixture of caster and light soft brown)
The same weight of margarine or butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Crumble topping
75g lights soft brown sugar
100g plain flour
75g butter

Preheat the oven to 190 C

Start by chopping the rhubarb into small chunks and cooking slowly in a pan with the sugar. If it looks like it is going to catch turn the heat down and/or add a splash of water. Cook for 10-15 mins until the mixture it quite thick and jam like. Leave to cool slightly

Meanwhile make the cake. Mix all of the ingredients together and beat well.

Make the crumble mixture by using your finger tips to rub the mixture together until it forms the texture of bread crumbs.

Line an 8" cake tin and place the cake batter in the bottom, cover with a layer of rhubarb compote and top with the crumble mixture.

This also works well with berries it apple or I'd guess any fruit which is soft once cooked.

Bake for 30-40 mins until golden on the top.

Serve as a cake with a cup of tea or as a pudding with custard.

Steak with peppers, onions and spinach

This is another super quick dinner. I tend to cook the veg first and then flash fry the steak as I like it to be served medium-rare.

This is a made up recipe and I intensified the depth of flavour by dusting the steak in porcini mushroom powder before cooking it. The first time I heard of porcini mushroom powder is when my mum bought me some for Christmas last year, but not it's a staple in my kitchen. It is great in obviously things like a mushroom risotto but also adds depth of flavour to stews and steak.

The spinach was spinach beet from my garden

And I served it with salad, also from my garden.

Recipe to follow

Chicken cataccioa and minted courgettes

This is another recipe I picked up whilst on a cookery holiday with my mum.

The recipe is slightly different to what I have always thought of as traditional. I'm not sure if that is my ignorance or if this is a regional variation but I don't really care as this version is fab!

I paired it with minted courgettes using baby courgettes grown by my our fair hand.

Recipe to follow

Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken

This has become a real favourite for an easy dinner and you can always roast two chickens so that you have leftovers for lunches and dinners later in the week.

Again it is a Tessa Kiros recipe originally which I have prob my adapted a little over time. I know I cook it slightly differently as she finishes her chicken under the grill whereas I prefer to roast it.

It is great served with a variety of salads for a light dinner.

One observation I would make is, that in my humble opinion, oregano is about the only herb which is worth buying dried.

Recipe to follow

Lamb Tava

I love any dishes that you can throw all of the ingredients in a pan, leave them for a few hours and they become more than the sum of their parts. Tessa Kiros' Lamb Tava is one of these dishes. It is all about great flavours and ingredients.

It is a Cypriot dish from her book Falling Cloudberry's and became a firm favourite after it's first outing.

Recipe to follow

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Diana Henry's Roast Chicken with Quinoa and Feta Stuffing and Lebanese Beans

I love a Sunday roast but when the weather is warmer (or not cold at least) I don't feel like a full Sunday lunch with gravy and so on.

As I've mentioned before I think that Diana Henry is one of the most underrated cookery writers I have come across and this is one of her recipes which I love.

She roasted the chicken with the stuffing inside but I don't like to do this as I don't think you an fit enough in!

So I just simply roasted the chicken with a little herb butter under the skin and no stuffing. I like to use roasting bags (which you can buy in the supermarket near the cling film) as I think they result in really moist chicken. I forgot to take a photo of the chicken but it just looked like a roast chicken so nothing unusual!

I made the stuffing separately. I mainly followed her recipe but removed the bread that she uses and replaced it with quinoa so that it was gluten free.

While the chicken is roasting sauté one finely chopped onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook for a couple of minutes. Add a packet of chopped cherry tomatoes. Stir into quinoa cooked according to the instructions on the packet add 100g chopped feta, a handful of chopped mint and parsley, 1 tbsp tomato purée, an egg and seasoning and stir. Put into an oven proof bowl and bake in the oven with the chicken for around the last 45 mins. You may need to cover it with foil to prevent it from getting too brown and dried out.

I served it with her Lebanese beans and some green salad.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add a roughly chopped onion and sauté until soft. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook for a couple if minutes. Add 4tsp ground cumin, 800g tomatoes (I used tinned) and season. Stir well and add 75ml of water and 1/2 tablespoon of tomato purée and a squeeze of lemon juice. Cover the pan and sweat the tomatoes for about 15 mins until they are soft and mushy. Add 500g chopped runner beans and cook for 15+ mins until they become really soft. Add additional water if the moisture starts to dry out and additional seasoning if you need it. You can finish with a few torn mint leave if you like.

Boiled eggs with asparagus 'soldiers'

This is great for a decadent Sunday breakfast (or any day you fancy a treat!)
Start by boiling your eggs to your personal taste. I like 5 minutes for a large egg so the white is set but the yolk is still runny.
Whilst the eggs cook blanch the asparagus by placing it in boiling water for a couple of minutes. You still want it to hold its shape and have a bit of crunch. Drain and wrap each spear in a slice of Parma or Serrano ham.
Serve with the top cut off the egg and the wrapped asparagus spears to dip in the yolk.

Chunky chicken and vegetable soup

This soup is great as you can use whatever veg you have left over and in fact whatever meat. Some left over roasted lamb would be good for example, or just leave it out. You could also add your choice of beans. I think butter beans would work well. Just put in what you fancy/have. It's as simple as that!
I placed the following in a pan, you could fry the veg and chicken up first for more flavour but I didn't bother. I just chucked it all in and cooked it on the hob. What could be easier!
- 1 leek roughly chopped
- 2 carrots roughly chopped
- 1 pepper roughly chopped
- two large handfuls of kale roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
- two chicken legs with the skin on (just throw them in as they are)
- 1/2 litre of chicken stock
- salt and pepper
Boil the above for about 45 mins until all of the vegetables are soft. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook for a few more minutes. Remove the chicken legs and allow to cool slightly until you can touch them without burning your hands. Remove all of the meat and discard the bones. Chop the meat into smallish pieces and put back into the soup and stir.
Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate until you want to eat it. I make two big soups on a Sunday and eat them through the week. Just remember ones with meat in might not last for a week so eat these first!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is a funny thing. It looks and acts a bit like couscous but is in fact a seed so it's a lot better for you. I love it's flavour as well which is slightly nuttier than couscous. This could also be made with bulgar wheat or buck wheat, or a mixture.

Start by cooking the quinoa according to the packet instructions. Mine was to boil it for 20 mins. Drain well and put to one side to cool. Diana Henry has a recipe which toasts the quinoa first, which I imagine to be delicious, but I haven't tried this yet.

While it cools make a dressing from a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, the juice and zest of half a lemon, a handful of chopped mint and parsley, half a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Chop your choice of veg up. I uses carrots, cucumber and spring onion, all raw but a mixture of roasted onion, peppers and courgette would be good, or some blanched asparagus.

Once the quinoa is cold mix with the dressing and vegetables. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon to taste

Apologies for the rather ugly container but it was ready to go to work!

A green goddess (or monster!) smoothie

This smoothie looks frankly terrifying as its dark green, but it's extremely good for you and you can't taste the 'green' taste. In fact it tastes a bit like a non alcoholic mojito

Place the following ingredients in a blender
Serves 1
- a handful of mixed berries
- a couple of sprigs of mint
- a chunk of cucumber about 3 inches long
- a teaspoon of spirulina powder (you can buy this in health food shops or substitute with a handful of spinach leaves of just leave it out)
- juice of half a lime
- an egg white (optional if you want to up the protein, read why here)
Blend all of the ingredients until smooth, you could blend with ice if it was a warm day, and serve.

Almond Protein Shake

This shake is high in protein and ideal for after a session at the gym instead of a bought protein shake, which contains god knows what!

Place the following ingredients in a blender:

Serves 1

- 100ml of your choice of chilled, unsweetened, non-dairy milk (I uses almond milk)
- 75ml of natural yoghurt (I use 0% Total Greek yoghurt)
- 1/4 a pack of silken tofu (this isn't the tofu that you get in the chiller which is spongy in texture. It's found in the Asian section in the supermarket in the shelves in a cardboard/foil packet)
- a small handful of roasted almonds (roasting them isn't essential but it gives a great flavour)
- a few drops of vanilla extract (I used Ndali, as it is fair trade)

Blend all of the ingredients until smooth and place into a plastic beaker with a lid for after your workout

Berry, nut and chia seed smoothie

One of the key things I have been trying to follow is eating smaller portions more regularly and trying to keep my blood sugar on an even keel.
Although fruit is good for you, particularly berries, it does still contain sugar, in the form of fructose. Apparently eating protein at the same time reduces the impact of this on your blood sugar.
Place the following ingredients in a blender or a jug if you're using a hand blender
- a large handful of berries. I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
- about a tablespoon of roasted nuts (they don't have to be roasted but I find them so much tastier. I used mixed nuts)
- about half a tablespoon of chia seeds (these are optional but apparently very good for you. Read more here)
- 200ml of your choice of chilled, non dairy, unsweetened milk (I used oat milk)
Blend until smooth and serve. If its a hot day you can blend with ice. This is obviously easily doubled, trebled etc.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Homemade Granola

I love granola with Total 0% Greek yoghurt but shop bought cereals and granola's are mainly filled with sugar.

It's so easy to make it yourself and you can make exactly the mixture you like plus you know what goes into it. Win, win!

You can also make it gluten free, just make sure the oats you buy are gluten free.

Start by putting 200g of rolled oats into a bowl, add a handful of chopped nuts (I used pecans and flaked almonds) and a smaller handful of chopped dried fruit (I used dates, apricots and cranberries), a dessert spoon full of coconut oil (this is optional, but is a good fat and can now be bought in most supermarkets), one egg, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Mix well and place in a thin layer on a baking tray and bake at 180C for about 15-20 mins until it is golden. If you want it sweeter you can add agave syrup or honey, but this obviously makes it less healthy.

Allow to cool and store in a air tight container.

I like to serve it with Total 0% Greek yoghurt, which is lovely, thick and creamy and not acidic like some natural yoghurts.

Healthier Cooked Breakfast

Being British, a decent cooked breakfast is a welcome treat on a Sunday, but we all know they aren't always the best for you. So I made this lower fat and sugar version, which was a great substitute.

I poached the egg and grilled the tomatoes and bacon to avoid adding any additional fat and removed as much of the fat from the bacon as I could. I did fry the slice of black pudding but in minimal oil and then added the mushrooms. Rather than use ketchup, which is full of sugar I made some from scratch. I started by cooking chopped cherry tomatoes with a little beef stock cube, some freshly ground pepper, a squeeze of tomato puree and a splash of balsamic vinegar, yummy!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A week of clean eating

I love food. Having a food blog is probably a good indication that I enjoy food and cooking, but I really, really do. I'm obsessed. I don't finish a meal before planning the next one (and the one after!). I spend huge swathes of time thinking about flavours and combinations and what I'm going to cook next.
I also concentrate on eating the best I can, in terms of time, and money. I aim not to eat processed food and would prefer to buy cheaper cuts to have better quality meat. I've always thought this way to a certain extent, but more recently have been reading more about healthy eating philosophies such as James Duigan's @cleanandlean and @metaboliceffect. Basically, they advocate eating unprocessed foods, especially protein/healthy fats/vegetables and cutting out sugar, alcohol etc.
This is in stark contrast to a lot of traditional 'diet' advice, which focuses on low calorie and low fat rather than food which is good for you. I honestly don't know how the supermarkets and food companies get away with marketing products which are full of chemicals and sweeteners as 'health' ranges.
So I thought I'd share some of what I'd been eating this week. I like to eat little and often do tend to have 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. Recipes to follow!
Breakfasts included:
- Summer Porridge
- A healthy cooked breakfast with sugar free homemade ketchup
- homemade, sugar free, granola with Total Greek yoghurt. I always buy Total Greek yoghurt. Yes it's pricey in comparison to the supermarkets Greek style yoghurt but it's much thicker and creamier (even the 0% fat one) and it doesn't have the same acidic taste that some natural yogurts do
- cooked porridge with cinnamon and nutmeg
- boiled eggs with asparagus wrapped in Parma ham as the soldiers
Snacks included:
- a handful of berries and a handful of raw nuts
- oat cakes with sugar free hazelnut butter (it's so much nicer than peanut butter and tastes very similar to nutella)
- homemade hummus and crudités (I use this recipe as I like the chunky texture but have recently read a Silvena Rowe recipe for a smooth hummus I'll try it soon and post the results)
- berry, nut and chia seed smoothie
- my almond protein shake for after the gym
- a green goddess (or monster!) smoothie - I promise it tastes amazing. A little bit like a non alcoholic mojito, it's such a dark green colour because I added spirulina powder, but you can't taste it once it's whizzed up
- cooked chicken or salmon with cucumber or tomatoes
- Total Greek yoghurt with berries and seeds
Lunches included:

- Chicken and Barley Soup
- quinoa salad
- chicken salad
- roasted vegetable salad
- chunky chicken and vegetable soup
Dinners included:
- Diana Henry's Roast Chicken, with quinoa wheat and feta stuffing and lebanese beans
- Tessa Kiros' Lamb Tava
- Tessa Kiros' Lemon and Oregano Chicken
- Chicken cataccioa and minted courgettes
- Steak with peppers and onions

Hopefully this will give you some healthy, clean eating ideas.