Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

28 Jul

Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

It was far too hot to go out today and that’s not something I often say and for some reason my toddler has a definite leaning towards traditionally boyish ways.  I never pushed cars, the solar system or action toys to him, in fact I have offered his cousins dolls and teddies for him to play with but there is certainly no interest. In the same tune, he refuses to let me tie his sweeping hair back in this hotness and would rather have his hair stick in clumps around his busy little face.

Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

Unlike my toddler I don’t much feel like rushing around and the absolute last thing I wanted to do is stand over bubbling pots of simmering concoctions in this heat. I am also conscious that this autumn brings changes in life where I need to feel my best and so I need to eat the best. Cue my salad of sweet roasted carrots, nutty pink (paprika and turmeric stained) Quinoa, deep and clean mung beans and juicy tomatoes and wrapped up in an umami style miso dressing spiked with coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli and curry leaves. Well, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t right?

So, instead of growing irritable (and in calories from customary ice-cream eating) in the park with newly holidaying kiddies galore and lugging around drinks, sun cream, hats and changes of clothes we washed mountains lightly soiled (it is muck and clover not artificial soluble fertilizer so we got messy) organic vegetables from Riverford. I stood my boy at the sink and we chatted over the washing of gigantic and crisp lettuce leaves, shiny and even courgette, huge and bulbous spring onions, feathery-headed carrots (apparently Rory the rabbit loves them) and even broad beans, which we ate raw (shhh). I have to say, the flavors of the veg on their own are intense and a reminder that vegetables really don’t have to be a side-dish. The carrots are the star of this dish, just look at them…intense in their roasted skins. A lot of people throw away the feathery greens but for goodness sake keep them! They add fabulous texture to a salad and unsurprisingly, taste very carroty.

This is not posh nosh, but the quality and balance is there and you know, just making this salad with my boy has been so enjoyable and enriching.

For the full recipe, head over to great British chefs.

Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

This is a sponsored post but any views expressed are my own.

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

16 Jul

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Initially I thought this salad too simple to share the recipe for, but it’s so frigging good.

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Now, I am sure you know about how I have been simplifying my life recently. I have been spending weekends with less fretting about where this is all going and more time discussing the best parks and gastro pubs. The grand plan is less frequently referring to the clutter of attainments and more the sequence of activities the coordination of multiple children around the zoo. My Google searches aren’t so vocation oriented and are more about reincarnation, the key characters of the Mahabharata and people who are evidence of ‘devolution’.

This healthy vegetarian salad does not have anything to do with the feeling I got when I looked at the mirror this morning and the immediate bolt of, ‘oh goodness I look like one of those mothers’. It doesn’t relate to the inner sigh I experienced when I was writing this and felt my thighs cling together unfashionably. It certainly isn’t about wanting to fit into all those pre-career break professional clothes. OK, it is. BUT, it tastes SO frigging good.

Now, green garlic sounds exotic and exciting. It is pretty but it is essentially immature garlic before it separates into cloves and intensifies in flavour. Green, or spring garlic has a mellow and verdant flavour and works perfectly for this salad so don’t be put off by the idea of figs and garlic. The blend of sweet potatoes, aniseed-type flavoured Thai basil, creamy goat’s cheese and fleshy figs, there is even an even amount of lime to bring it all together…it’s almost too pleasurable. I am actually not kidding. I’m not…

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Ingredients

800g sweet potato, peeled cut into wedges

The juice of two limes

Half a bulb of green garlic

One large chilli, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Oil for roasting the potatoes

4 fresh figs cut into wedges, roughly 6 pieces per fig

65g of goat’s cheese

1 tbsp. sesame oil

25g Thai basil, shredded

Method

  1. Coat the wedges lightly in oil and roast them at 200 degrees for 25-30 minutes until they are crisp but definitely soft on the inside.
  2. To make the dressing heat the sesame oil and then add the chilli and garlic and sauté just until the garlic softens but don’t let it brown. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice and salt.
  3. Combine the roasted sweet potatoes, shredded basil and the dressing with the figs and dots of the goat’s cheese.
  4. Serve immediately.

 

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

15 Jul

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

I took my toddler to the pool today and because I’m hanging on to every precious day and really feeling the countdown towards loosening the cord a little more, I was even more patient with him. He was even more ecstatic than usual. ‘I love you so much in the swimming pool’ he told me, and he also told me that he was going to ‘demonstrate’ his ‘swimming skills’. He is not even 2.5years old yet.

So here is the thing. Whilst he was shivering post-swim under my deep red towel and as we walked to find a large changing cubicle he chatted away to a member of the cleaning staff. He asked her about her favourite planet, car and animal. She asked him if he likes chocolate and he didn’t reply. He noticed that three of this softly spoken and calm looking staff’s colleagues kept walking by but nobody said hello to her. He asked me why? Well. What do you tell a not-yet-2.5 year old?

I had the same questions in my first job at the Bank of England. I had the same question in my last role at a household name-type brand. I thought it would be different in my new world. My new world is cluttered and tangled in a new way because it has emotion and passion factored in.

I was quite tempted to change the topic, but thought better. I told him that some people like to feel important, like a super hero. Some people like think Mars is better than Earth. Mars is amazing because it is red and Martians and they think they are cool because they don’t get dehydrated but people on Earth think they are cool if they are have lots and lots of stuff. ‘But that’s messy isn’t it’ he asked. ‘Yes’, I said. It certainly is.

So, here is a recipe that isn’t cluttered, it is simple. But you can get messy whilst eating it-if you fancy celebrating the glorious mess that one can be (me for a start). If you read my posts regularly (thank you if you do) then you will be familiar with how I love to balance contrasting senses. In tune with that, the (certainly not bland) tofu is salty, warm and bold. The mango is sweet and juicy. Then you’ve got spring onions. Who is celebrating a messy life with me?

The hubby recently bought Dhruv Baker’s book SPICE for me as a thank you. I have been instrumental in helping him (the husband) shed a few KG in weight with some of the lean recipes I have been cooking and in his book Dhruv cooks duck with some of the essences that I have used in the tofu. It works.

Ingredients to serve two

One block of firm tofu

2 tbsp. soy sauce

One medium sized mango, cut into thin strips or julienne

3 tbsp. kecap Manis

1 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder

150ml water

3 star anise

8 taco shells

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp. cooking oil

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. galangal paste

3-4 spring onions, finely chopped

Method

  1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and leave it to stand until the excess moisture has been soaked up before cutting it into large chunks of roughly 3cm cubed.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the tofu until it is crisp and lightly golden.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, then the star anise and rice wine vinegar and mix through. Then add the 5 spice powder, galangal and kecap Manis and combine well.
  5. Pour in the water and reduce the heat to a medium to low flame and cook until the moisture has been absorbed and the tofu looks well coated and almost crisp.
  6. Compile the tacos by cooking the shells per packet instructions and adding the fillings as you like. Serve immediately whilst the tofu is still hot.

 

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

9 Jul

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

I have had a fuzzy couple of weeks, but bizarrely there has been some good to come out of this fog.

I have been in limbo between throat infection and glandular fever. I, the immunity hero who only suffered a single bout of flu in 5 years (it ended up being swine flu) have been down with more illnesses in the last two years than in the first entire lifetime. I blame serious exhaustion.

I fell asleep on the sofa today, before lunchtime, for an entire 13 minutes.  I know some of you are thinking, ‘I wish I could have a quick nap in the middle of the day’ but wait.  I have been known to knock out when I am not supposed to. I have done in lectures, even the postgraduate ones that were being paid for by the workplace at the risk of it being fed back to my employers, but I blame Saturday lectures for that. I have fallen asleep in meetings at work, especially the ones about the IT infrastructure, even when it concerned my pricing policies, but I blame the dimly lit rooms for that. I have fallen asleep in the toilets at work (I closed the lid first) and have  been late for meetings. Not much that I can blame for that one. It goes without saying that I have fallen asleep on the trains but surprisingly I have never missed my station.

But none of these badly-timed snoozing incidences have caused the chaos that 13 minutes in front of the telly, in my own living room caused today.

In the 13 minutes (with cartoons on the TV) my Tasmanian devil drew one the wall next to the bay window, tore up my recipe notes, emptied an entire kitchen cupboard onto the floor, filled up the tall kitchen bin with items that it certainly did not want to eat, unraveled two toilet rolls onto the cloakroom floor and every single toy car that my boy owns was strewn around the living room floor.

Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake.

Coconut is refreshing and quenching and smells so lifting and holiday like. I need a holiday, wonder if that will happen this lifetime? Coriander, green and renewing and with the jalapeno, it is so balanced. The fleshy figs are gentle and some say they are an aphrodisiac but clearly the mess-clearing isn’t, see…balance. If there is ever a ‘wake-up’ dish, it’s this one.

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Ingredients to serve 2

A can of coconut milk

30g coriander, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp. chopped jalapeno peppers

1 tsp. galangal puree

2 figs, sliced

About 200g Halloumi, cut into 8 slices

Method

  1. Blitz the coriander and jalapenos together and mix the puree with the coconut milk and the galangal
  2. Combine the spiced coconut milk with the sliced Halloumi and keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours
  3. Once marinated, place the Halloumi on a hot non-stick pan with roughly half the coconut milk mixture and cook until the juices have dried and the Halloumi has browned. Then flip the Halloumi over, add the other half of the spiced coconut milk and brown again
  4. Serve hot with the figs and some of the left over coconut milk paste as a dressing.

 

Apple, yoghurt, lime and cardamom pancakes

5 Jul

Apple, yoghurt, lime and cardamom pancakes

I have become a serial well-wisher. What about you? Are you overflowing with perpetual congratulation giving, spilling over with ‘well done’ encouragement and brimming with huge smiles and ‘that’s incredible’ commendations?

Apple, yoghurt, lime and cardamom pancakes

Back in the day I was encouraging and supportive on my friend’s achievements; grades, hockey team, someone playing netball or some art project or maybe even a musical instrument, a dance thing even. This then progressed to romantic relationships, holidays, buying first homes and getting married.  Everyone had their own thing didn’t they? Somewhere along the lines though, it changed.

Though these congratulating moments have stayed in my mind and still make me smile. When we got our a-level results my best friend didn’t get what she needed to, so we had to wait to find a university place for her and meanwhile I had scored a hat trick. We didn’t celebrate until she found her place, which she ended up being really happy with and it involved a lot of cheese in a regular Italian restaurant with a flirtatious waiter and even more cake. When we bought out first home we celebrated on the floorboards (there was no carpet or wooden floor) with a crowd of bums on cushions (we had no sofa) and chow Mein with fizzy apple juice lay on kitchen roll (no table, no tablecloth). More friends frequented that first place, which was tiny and awkward with the only bathroom flowing from the bedroom, than do our current home. More dinner parties were had on the cheap glass table in the first place than on the more solid and lasting wooden one we have now. Why?

As I scroll through my twitter timeline I see oodles of people who have done something tremendous. Every day, people are doing incredible things; writing books, climbing mountains, popping up in restaurants, TV, radio, magazines, all very wow-some. Then my Facebook feed is bursting with cute baby pictures and their older siblings and people getting married or visiting an incredible destination. Everyone on instagram is eating their way through the world. Wow. Everyone is amazing.

We stole 26 minutes of normality today. After dinner we were in the car and the boy fell asleep. We spent 26 minutes being nice to each other (the husband and I) and he again told me that he missed me. We talked about the old days, when life was simpler. We just went to work and the gym came home and ate and chilled and went exploring at the weekends. We smiled at each other and talked about the new kid’s pool I had discovered with shallow water and slides, a huge plus being that I wouldn’t have to hold the boy. We considered cinnamon donuts but decided that our bellies didn’t need sugar, but our lives certainly did.

So, I decided to do something nice in real life. Breakfast.  The breakfast that thinks it is naughtier than it is. Apples are juicy and good but don’t be fooled into thinking that they alone will make this dish. The light and fluffy pancakes need the sourness of yoghurt, the zesty lime and aroma of cardamom to avoid them feeling bland. In my opinion the yoghurt is the star of this show, but please will you let me know what you think? The sweet, sour, zingy and perfumed pancakes are the best way to start the day…being nice in the most real way.

 

 

Ingredients to serve four

200g plain flour

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. ground cardamom

3 golden delicious apples, peeled and grated

350ml plain, natural yoghurt

The zest and juice of one lime

50g sugar

Oil for frying the pancakes

Agave nectar, honey or syrup for drizzling

Icing sugar for sprinkling on top of the cooked pancakes

Method

  1. In one bowl whisk the eggs together before adding the yoghurt and sugar. Mix thoroughly and add the lime juice and zest.
  2. Fold in the grated apples and ensure that the mixture looks even.
  3. Mix the ground cardamom and baking powder with the plain flour in a separate bowl before combining it with the wet ingredients
  4. Heat a very thin layer of oil on a non-stick pan and then add dessert spoonful’s of pancake mixture and then flatten them slightly. Lower the heat to a low-medium flame and once they catch a golden colour on one side, flip them over and brown the lightly on the other side.
  5. Serve the pancakes immediately with icing sugar dusted on top and a drizzle of syrup.

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes- Switzerland inspired recipe for World Cup 2014

4 Jul

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes

It was a toss between a silky Swiss cheese fondue inside a small and round harlequin squash, or cheesy, creamy polenta. Just imagine; creamy, oozing and salty cheese mingling with sweet and light squash that has become so tender that you could scoop it out with a spoon and slip in into your mouth for taste bud ecstasy! OR it’s the creamy, smooth, golden polenta with a light sour note from the buttermilk that’s in perfect harmony with the even and perfectly pronounced Gruyere.  Then this dreamy polenta is topped with light, peppery, spiked, lemony, cumin spiced exotic mushrooms.  It’s a tough life isn’t it, when you have such hard choices to make.

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes

When I was asked to prepare a Switzerland inspired recipe as part of the world cup 2014 excitement my mind raced between potatoes, cheese, chocolate and bircher muesli. After visiting three supermarkets in search of the squash (which proved a fun adventure for my two year old, who reminded me of that questionable adventure based TV show- ‘The crystal maze’) there was none of the squash. At the same time I thought I had better not tarnish the efforts I have been making to eat leaner foods this summer and it is probably wise to limit myself on the cheese. To be honest, a little gruyere goes a long way, so you won’t feel that you are missing out by eating cheese and cream for dinner.

Chaat masala is pungent Indian spice and definitely not from Switzerland, but then I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mix it up a bit, right?  It is a masala that is peppery, salty and spiky as it contains black salt. The smell isn’t so endearing but don’t let that put you off, it lifts the mushrooms to a whole new level. You will find it in most Asian Grocers and even some larger supermarkets.

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes

for the full recipe head over to Great British chefs

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

1 Jul

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

I taught a cookery class the other day and after I had introduced the dishes a gentleman who told me knew the general drill asked, “So where is the protein”. As I explained where the protein was and how in a vegetarian diet that is varied and borrows recipe from the world, there is plenty of delicious and nutritious variety…look at the pulses, tofu, lentils…

You know what followed don’t you? Yes, there was an upheaval of the ‘tofu is dull and sanctimonious’ debate.

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili
1. Tofu is bland
a. A blank canvas more like! Is a potato bland? Well of course it is if you just boil it and eat it on its own. Tofu is inviting you to soak it, marinade it, dress it, bake it, fry it, scramble it; for goodness sake just do something to it. Nobody is asking you to eat naked slivers of spongy pointlessness as your main meal. Have you ever put it in a curry? It soaks up the juices and then releases them in succulent and generous bursts in each mouthful. Have you ever marinated it? It catches essences like a long-lost embrace. Have you scrambled it with some spices and veg-you won’t miss the egg!
2. Tofu is expensive
a. Is a block of tofu more expensive than a steak or chicken for a family dinner?
3. Tofu mushes up too quickly
a. Wrap it up in kitchen paper and leave it to stand for a 15 minutes if you are using firm tofu to shallow fry or in a curry and if you are using silken tofu then add them into a stock rather than when stir-frying vegetables.
4. I can just eat meat for the protein
a. Yes of course. Tofu is an protein source for a) those want to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet b) those who cutting down on meat to enjoy health benefits c) those who want to address food shortages in the developing world d) those who want to positively influence the environment
5. I don’t like the texture of tofu
a. Not sure I would be if I just ate it as it is. I like it shallow fried and then spiced and doused with soy, rice wine vinegar and chili. When I have friends over I sometimes deep fry it and they became crisp with a lovely chewiness inside and I add them to noodle soups and sometimes we assemble our own. I make, Vietnamese spring rolls where I use tofu in a slippery bite, and then there are kofta, which are spongy and juicy. Do you like scrambled eggs? Then you will like spiced and scrambled tofu in a pitta or wrap.

Funnily enough when I asked for feedback half the group asked for another class demonstrating different techniques on preparing and cooking tofu. Well…

You could use this recipe on your next barbecue and here a few of my other recipes for tofu if you haven’t already seen them

crispy chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yogurt dip

tandoori tofu and cauliflower tacos

hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprouts and asparagus Vietnamese spring rolls

soy-masala tofu, quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

Ingredients
One block of firm tofu (I used the cauldron pack)
20g sesame seeds
60g almonds
2 tbsp. agave nectar
One large red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Salt to taste
A few dashes of your favorite chili sauce
40g sorrel leaves
For the dressing
5 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. chili oil
Method
1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and rest it until the excess moisture has been soaked up.
2. Toast the almonds and sesame seeds until they lightly brown and the seeds begin to pop before taking them off the heat.
3. Place the sesame seeds, almonds, sorrel, agave, oil, chili, salt, chili sauce all in a food processor and grind it to a paste.
4. Slit the tofu open by making 4-5 lines across the tofu and then fill them as deeply as possible without breaking the tofu block but try and hit the bottom.
5. Lightly grease a non-stick pan and then place the tofu and cook until browned, a little charring is quite pleasant so don’t worry.
6. When once side is browned, flip it over and repeat. I usually start with the un-slit side first
7. Drizzle over some of the dressing and serve immediately- you will get the best effects when the tofu is still hot.

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

25 Jun

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Throughout my 20’s I had infrequent contact with a self-indulgent and woeful lady who recurrently stressed to me that having children is the hardest thing in the world.  She meant raising them. She would stand over me as I slumped into the sofa, and she wafted an overstating finger above me whilst popping eyes glared at me, ‘it’s so hard’. I focused my eyes on the coarse hairs that grew under her chin and listened. I nodded as she told me how there is immense and overflowing love but there is no time even for a facemask or money left to buy clothes. I looked over at my husband and my expression clearly whispered, ‘I will still buy clothes’.

But look, I thought, people all over the world are popping them out. People in towns, cities and remote villages manage it and educated or uneducated, rich or poor, young or old…people all over the world and for as long as time has existed have been having children. So really, come on…

As my little one played with his friends in our garden and I looked at his sweaty little face reddening underneath layers of gritty sun cream. Underneath the wide forehead he gets from his daddy is a face that is so much like mine but that’s not the thing that sinks my heart and ties it in a knot.

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Tiny friends rushed around busily and purposefully with his toys as he watched. One snatched his ball as he watched, as kids often do at this age. My little one let her and decided to go and water some plants instead until another friend announced that he would do it instead. But that was OK and my two year old headed for the trampoline but alas his was bounced off. He quietly returned to me and tucked himself under my arm, ‘mumma I want my ball, it’s mine’. The bitter-sweet irony, as I could almost feel the sand under my feet on a school trip. I felt the pressure inside, even as a toddler as I was worried that my parents would be disappointed that I wasn’t as lively or vivacious as the other children or lacked the confidence to climb through the tunnels or jump off the bars as they were doing. I remember sitting near the teachers and watching the sand tumble through my feet and clearly feeling that somehow there was a waste here but I was too young to really understand the concept of money. I know I should talk to guests when they arrived at our home, when my parents told me to even more so, but I was too shy to make conversation and just willed them to turn their loud and animated interrogation off.

And here we are again. A nice boy that I made nice, to some degree, as his primary carer…but now, how to instil some personal robustness or survival instinct in him? At what point do my own experiences of the world become his perceptions? I don’t want my experiences to dirty his mind…and for someone who wouldn’t talk look at me now…I talk a lot, in front of crowds.

Here is to the bitter-sweet, hot and cool of life. A salad that tingles and zings with each mouthful of crunch from the beansprouts and alfalfa, heat from the chillies, silky smoky aubergine, nutty almond bites and sweet kecap manis. It’s loaded. I like loaded. Juicy orange and green tomatoes burst in the mouth…it’s all going on in this healthy plate. Life eh?

Ingredients to serve two as a main dish or four as a side dish

3 medium-large aubergines

4 good pinches of alfalfa sprouts

A couple of handfuls of almonds

100g beansprouts

An onion, thinly sliced

100g orange tomatoes, sliced

100g green tomatoes, sliced

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

The dressing

10 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp. kecap Manis

3 tbsp. sriracha sauce

Method

  1. You will need to coat the aubergines in oil and roast in the oven at 180 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until they are shrivelling and soft enough to pierce. Allow them to cool before removing the skin and scooping out the pulp and mash it lightly on a large plate.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the onions, beansprouts and almonds and stir fry 3-4 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  3. Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients and smoothing any lumps with a fork
  4. Layer the aubergine pulp, then on top add the tomatoes, beansprouts mixture, alfalfa and the drizzle over as much dressing as you like.
  5. Serve with flatbread and share (try).

 

Strawberry and Thai basil lemonade

22 Jun

Strawberry and Thai basil lemonade

Strawberry and Thai basil lemonade

This could potentially be my last full summer with the boy. Potentially. This time next year I will be in the swing of it (I hope) and he will be in nursery.

This time last year I took him to pick berries in our local fruit picking farm ten minutes down the road. He was wearing a little white t-shirt with a red heart on it and it grew the colours of the season throughout the hours. Sadly the fruit flies had attacked the crop of strawberries but the blackberries were in abundance. At not even a year and half old he chattered away to me but had not cracked the concept of picking the fruit to take home, so he made repeated attempts at sticking the fruit back onto the shrubs. How does time do this to us? I remember where I had parked, the exact spot, like it was a few weeks ago. The pram wouldn’t open properly because I had had accidently wedged a pack of nappy wipes in the bottom tray and I took multiple bottles of water to douse the berries with, just in case he wanted a taste.

We picked gooseberries to make chutney with and raspberries that decorated my breakfast porridge until the winter kicked in. We made blackberry, lychee and apple crumble.  We made a lot of memories that I wish he could hold onto and relive, but he is so young. The memories are mine though, the baby is gone and the toddler will too soon. But the memories will always be mine and I won’t have the guilt, because I have done my best so far and I know that. All the swimming, cuddling, water play and splashing, the shopping trips and chatting over fruits and vegetables, cooking together, soft play, the park, the play dates the trips on the train to London…all of it…they will always be mine to hold.

This year, fortunately the strawberries were not predatory to any pests and I was bouncing with joy when I found alpine strawberries, in all their floral tasting glory, decorating the borders of my garden this year! They have light, lavender like taste and are utterly sweet without so much of the latent tang. It is time for a fresh start and a sweet one I hope, much like this recipe for strawberry and Thai basil lemonade. Not only does it look pretty and alluring, it’s curiously sweet, sour, fruity and herby essences are pretty darn sexy. It is true. Sexy is good in a drink, do it.

Ingredients to serve 4

3 cups water

200g strawberries washed and hulled

½ cup sugar

About 15 fresh Thai basil leaves

The juice of three large lemons

Method

  1. Chop the strawberries into quarters and then combine them with the lemon juice, water and sugar, mix well and then heat the mixture on a low-medium flame in a non-stick pan.
  2. Warm the ingredients through until the sugar has dissolved but don’t boil the liquid as the strawberries will start to lose their essence.
  3. Blend the strawberries with the liquid until it’s a smooth liquid and then add the Thai basil leaves and allow it to reach room temperature before popping it in the fridge to cool.

 

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

20 Jun

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

I wonder if you share my terrible habit and guilty pleasure. It is so irresistibly wrong yet so right that I convince myself that it is worth it, between remorseful moments.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

My justification? Well it starts a little something like this. This is of course not an excuse. I’m busy, so busy that it is hard to think sometimes and thinking is important, isn’t it? I need a quick fix, especially when I am out and can’t stop, after all, what would happen if I totally ran out of steam? That would be dangerous, wouldn’t it? Sometimes I feel sore inside and I need a pick-me-up…I think about it a lot. In the bath, on the train and even in the park with squealing children around…well, with all that commotion, I deserve it don’t I.  And then at the end of the day, when I slump into my spot on the sofa, my body throbs with fatigue, I need it. I need a treat, I deserve one don’t I?  And it is summer! We are making memories at the zoo, picnics in the park, lounging in the garden with friends or by frolicking by the sea and what happens.

Yes, out comes the sugar and we don’t even notice it. I think it’s addictive and in this season of parties and picnics I find it harder to say no…well, everyone is doing it aren’t they?

I come from a family of diabetics and I really should know better. My body needed less sugar when I had my boy and it showed, very much. So I really should know better.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

And here is what I am taking to the next picnic in the sun that we are currently enjoying. Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins. I adore slow roasted cherry tomatoes, the flavour is tongue tingling, sensationally rousing. I am hooked on that feeling of popping something into my mouth and having an intense flavour burst that revives me. Often I think of sugar for that instant hit, but it really doesn’t have to be that one. These tomatoes with their sweet zing and spicy kick really do hit the spot.

Now for the green stuff; mellow spinach adds texture to these muffins whilst the salad fennel adds peppery notes and there is a bit of cheese going in there too, it releases a really alluring aroma as the cheese bakes. ‘ahhh’ factor right here.

Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

2 eggs

2 tsp. piri piri spices

Salt

A couple of glugs of olive oil for roasting the tomatoes

2 handfuls of red Leicester cheese

A handful of pine nuts

200g spinach, finely chopped

300ml milk

90g melted butter

30g salad fennel

225g good quality cherry tomatoes

Method

  1. You will need to pre-prepare the tomatoes. Do this by slicing them in half and placing them cut sized up on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and the piri piri spice mix. Roast them in the oven at 140degrees for about an hour. Allow them to cool.
  2. To make the muffins combine the flour, salt (I used about 1 tsp.) and the cheese, salad fennel and spinach and mix thoroughly before adding the tomatoes and mix again.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and grease the muffin trays.
  4. In a measuring jug combine the milk, butter and eggs and whisk it all until it is smooth.
  5. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix it all to a batter.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

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