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My good friends Hett, Kirsty and Dean are about to set out on one hell of a physical challenge – cycling 1000 miles – the length of the UK from Lands End in the south of England to John O’Groats at the very top of Scotland. They will do this by cycling on average 100 miles a day for 10 days straight. There will be lots of hills and wild weather to contend with.

Thinking of them preparing for this gruelling adventure and the fact that Hett is an absolute granola bar fiend, led me to whip up a batch of these in an attempt to supply her with a granola bar full of goodness instead of being loaded with butter and sugar like most are.

These little snacks are a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and good fats and are extremely filling. They make a good breakfast option on the run and they can be frozen as well which is handy. There are a few ingredients in these that you may want to substitute i.e. hemp protein powder or agave syrup if you can’t find them. I’ve listed the alternatives for you.

However, the one ingredient that I think you should try to source are the chia seeds. These little black and white seeds are a complete superfood and when mixed with water to form a gel (not dissimilar to tapioca in appearance) they become a slow release form of carbohydrate; the perfect energy food. Because you don’t need a lot and they can be used in all sorts of recipes or added to smoothies, yogurt, cereal etc you will find you can buy a small bag of chia seeds and they’ll last a long time. Worth the extra effort needed to find them I think!

Hemp Protein, Banana and Chia Seed Granola Bars

Hemp Protein & Chia Seed Granola Bars (ingredients adapted slightly from Sarah Britton’s version)
 
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons chia seeds
6 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped (or any other nut)
1 cup dates, chopped (or any other dried fruit)
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup hemp protein powder (if you don’t have hemp powder use a protein powder that is as natural and neutral in flavour as possible)
1/4 cup linseeds or flaxseeds
2 tablespoons poppy or sesame seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup sunflower oil (or coconut, olive, walnut…)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons agave syrup (maple syrup or honey can be used)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2. In a small bowl, mix the chia seeds and water together. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients. I found it easier to use my hands for this to break up all the protein powder lumps.

4. In a food processor/blender or just mash with a fork; mix the bananas, oil, vanilla, and agave syrup. Add the chia seeds mix and pulse until smooth.

5. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

5. Pour the mixture into a 9″x11″ baking tray suitable for slices and press evenly until the top is smooth.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

7. Let cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares or fingers. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Hett, Kirsty and Dean begin their epic journey this Saturday and they are raising money for Diabetes UK. If you would like to sponsor them, then you can do so here. Good luck guys xxx

A quick post to share with you my hoisin glaze which I have used for years, mostly for salmon but it’s equally good with chicken or pork. This is perfect for when you want a super fast meal which is healthy, tasty but certainly not boring! These are the kind of things I really need at the moment to keep meals interesting and inspiring without any fuss. Continue Reading »

London is beautiful in spring time, everything seems fresh and new and there is a real sense of anticipation in the air that summer is just around the corner. The sublime smell of sun ripened tomatoes was almost overwhelming at our local market yesterday and how exciting to see the first bunches of English asparagus and bowls of big, juicy strawberries – surely this is earlier than normal?!

Tomatoes

This is the time for the first of many BBQs, easy, throw together salads, fresh vegetables with just a hint of dressing and the return of Somerset cider and chilled rose. It feels good to finally close the door on winter.

Last night, to take to a friend’s BBQ, I added the beautiful market asparagus to Ottolenghi’s Quinoa Salad from his cook book Plenty which I’ve talked about before here and here. There are so many easy, versatile and delicious recipes in this cookbook and this Quinoa salad is no exception.    Continue Reading »

There is a programme on the BBC at the moment about great British heritage foods that have recently fallen out of favour and why they deserve to be put back on the menu. Funnily enough, all three ingredients I used last night have each featured as desperately in need of revival.

Cauliflower

First up, the Cauliflower. It didn’t surprise me to see the cauli feature near the top of the most passed over vegetable in the produce aisle list. Whilst the popularity of broccoli has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, it has been at the expense of its poor cousin the cauli. Apparently, this is mainly because there has been such a sustained campaign to get us all to eat more green and brightly coloured vegetables. Which is not a bad thing of course, but it has certainly gone a long way to damaging the reputation of the Cauliflower as a highly nutritious vegetable in its own right.

However, the main reason I have never got overly excited about this particular cruciferous is because I’ve never really thought about it beyond cauliflower cheese or as a side to the Sunday roast. Both of which are delicious, but not something I tend to make that often.

So standing in the vege aisle this week, as I reached over the cauliflower, drawn to the bright green broccoli next to it, I suddenly remembered the plight of the cauli and my mind was made up, cauliflower would be on the menu tonight!  At this point I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it. But it didn’t matter, by then I was on a roll. I wasn’t content with just saving the cauli, I was determined to do my bit for cabbage and pork as well! Another two foods that have dwindled in popularity in recent years. The cheap, full of water and sulphates type pork certainly isn’t in need of any more encouragement. I’m talking about proper pork, grown in healthy conditions and free from additives. Proper pork is still very cheap compared to other meats and tastes delicious. So a couple of pork loin steaks and a head of cabbage for a tasty apple and cabbage slaw it was. And here’s what I did with the cauli that started this all off – so simple, yet so tasty!

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower serves 2
– 1/2 head of cauliflower
– olive oil
– sea salt
– fennel seeds (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

2. Cut the cauliflower lengthways about 1/2 cm in thickness. It will crumble a bit, but this is fine, don’t discard the crumbs, once roasted they are the best bit!

3. Gently toss the cauli with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of sea salt and fennel seeds if you’ve got them and place in a single layer, crumbs and all, on a baking tray or in a shallow baking dish.

4. Place in the oven for 25 minutes or until the sides are starting to brown slightly.

5. Remove from the oven, set aside covered in foil to keep warm until ready to serve.

Cabbage & Apple Slaw

Cabbage & Apple Slaw serves 2
– 1 green apple, grated (Granny smith or Bramley)
– 1 cup shredded white cabbage
– 1 spring onion, sliced thinly or a small bunch of chives, chopped
– handful of raw or slightly toasted walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
– 1/4 cup mayonnaise (handmade or good quality store-bought is fine)
– 1 teaspoon runny honey

1. Combine the grated apple, shredded cabbage and spring onions or chives and walnuts.

2. Mix the mayonnaise and honey together, taste and add a little extra mayo or honey depending on how sweet you want it.

3. Add the mayonnaise and honey mixture to the other ingredients and toss to coat evenly.

Cabbage & Apple Slaw

For the pork loins, simply brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with cracked black pepper, sea salt and a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional). Cook under a preheated oven grill or on the BBQ over a high heat for 2-3 minutes each side and then rest for a further 2-3 minutes before serving with the cauliflower and cabbage and apple slaw.

Peppered pork with roasted cauliflower and cabbage & apple slaw

 Why Hummingbird Cake of course!

 

Hummingbird cake

I’ve made this a number of times for special occasions and it’s always a winner, especially with the boys for some reason. They of course always wolf down a couple of pieces, making sure to lick all the cream cheese icing off their fingers at the end and then proclaim they don’t have a sweet tooth…always! 😉

Hummingbird cake

Anyway, the trusty Hummingbird cake came out again for my friend Hett’s birthday party on the weekend and I took a couple of pics. Unfortunately, no photos of the cake cut as I didn’t think it was quite appropriate to turn up with a half cut cake for the birthday girl! But hopefully you’ll get the picture and believe me when I say this cake is so moist, full of flavour and exceptionally easy to make it’s worth considering when you have some ripe bananas that would normally go into a banana cake.

I use the Hummingbird Bakery recipe and like all their recipes I’ve tried, it’s pretty foolproof and produces excellent results. A very good baking book to add to anyone’s collection (thank you Anna!).

Hummingbird Cake from Hummingbird Bakery

Ingredients:
300g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
300ml sunflower or canola oil
270g peeled and mashed, over-ripe bananas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
300g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g tinned pineapple, drained and cut into small pieces
100g roughly chopped walnuts (or pecans)
600g sifted icing sugar
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold
extra cinnamon for dusting over the icing
extra nuts for decorating
3x 20cm cake tins for a tiered cake, or you can just make it in one 20cm tin

 1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit) and make sure your oven tray is sitting in the middle of the oven.

2. Oil or butter the cake tin/s and line with greaseproof/baking paper.

3.  Place the sugar, eggs, oil, mashed banana and cinnamon in a large bowl and beat with an electric beater until all the ingredients are well combined. Don’t worry if the banana and oil makes the mixture look a bit curdled or split.

4. Have the flour already sifted in another bowl along with the baking soda, salt and vanilla extract. Add very slowly to the wet ingredients, beating continuously until all ingredients have been mixed in completely.

5. Stir in the chopped nuts and pineapple.

6. Pour the mixture into the tin/s and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean and the sponge bounces back when touched.

7. Leave to cool in the tin/s for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing and decorating.

For the cream cheese icing:
1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a large bowl with an electric hand beater on the lowest speed until well mixed.
*Tip* whenever a recipe calls for creaming or beating butter and sugar/icing sugar, I always start by beating the butter on its own first because that way when you add the sugar it won’t fly all over the kitchen!

2. Add all of the cream cheese and continue beating until completely incorporated. Turn the beat to the faster speed and beat until the icing is light and fluffy but before it starts to turn runny – about 5 minutes.

3. Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing generously all over (and between layers if you’ve gone for the tiered option) and dust with cinnamon and decorate with the extra nuts, chopped or left whole.

This cake will make 10-12 slices and will keep very well due to the oil and nuts, but make sure you wrap in tinfoil and place in the fridge because of the cream cheese icing!

Lemon and asparagus risotto with seared scallops

Recipes that call for a constant stove-side vigil, stirring continuously are not most people’s idea of fun. However, when the weekend rolls around, I love nothing better than a slow cooked casserole, pie or roast. A Sunday evening favourite of mine is risotto. Yes, I know risotto is the epitome of food babysitting, but hear me out on this one because it’s worth the care and attention it demands.

If you approach a risotto with the right attitude, you will be rewarded with a dish that is heart warming and fragrant with a depth of flavour enough that it will stand on its own two feet unlike many other dishes which don’t look complete without ye olde faithful sidekicks mashed spud and leafy greens.

For me, making risotto is relaxing. I love the crackle of the rice hitting the pan, the delicious perfume released by the wine as it hurries to catch the sizzling rice and the therapeutic ritual of a ladle of rich stock, gently stirred until absorbed followed by another ladle, stir, ladle and stir. It’s reassuringly repetitive and extremely rewarding if you’re prepared to be patient and attentive.

There are a few key things to making a risotto. Firstly, the quality of ingredients is vital because there is nowhere to hide in a dish that is all about flavour. The most important being a great stock. I tend to only make risotto when I know I have some homemade stock on hand but a good quality liquid version from the supermarket is a good second choice. Don’t use stock cubes though, they just won’t cut it.

Of course proper risotto rice goes without saying – arborio or carnaroli and last but not least there are two important technical things to remember. Firstly, sautéing the onion and celery over a very gentle heat is crucial so that they soften without colouring. Secondly,  not being too vigorous with your stirring. Gently stir in the same direction or even just ‘agitate’ the pan. You just want to ensure that the rice fully absorbs the stock before you add the next ladle without either the rice or vegetables catching. If you over stir, your risotto will be on the gluggy side which is not the result you’re after. Except for increasing the temperature when you add the wine, the entire process of cooking risotto is gentle.

This simple, zesty risotto is perfect on its own. However, asparagus and of course lemon are great partners with any shellfish and as we’d just picked up some fresh, hand dived scallops from our local farmers market, this risotto got a wee upgrade. If you don’t want to add shellfish, double the quantity of parmesan.

Lemon and asparagus risotto with seared scallops (serves 4)
 
Ingredients:
– 850ml vegetable or chicken stock
– olive oil
– half an onion, peeled and sliced finely
– 2-3 sticks of celery, sliced finely
– 300g risotto rice
– 1/2 cup of dry white wine
– 1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1cm wide pieces, leaving the spears intact
– 50g butter
– 1 handful of grated fresh parmesan cheese
– juice and zest of one lemon
– salt and cracked black pepper
– 1 dozen fresh scallops
– sprinkling of chopped parsley or coriander

1. Bring 500mls of the stock to a simmer in a small saucepan.

2. While the stock is heating up, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large pan and add the onion and celery. Over a low heat, gently saute the vege until soft but not coloured. This will take about 15 minutes.

3. Once the onion and celery have softened, turn up the heat and add the rice. It will sizzle as it starts to fry so keep it moving so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.

4. After a minute or so, the rice will turn translucent. At this point add the wine. The wine will puff and release a lovely fragrance as the alcohol burns off.

5. Wait until the rice has absorbed all of the wine then reduce the heat and start adding the stock, ladle by ladle, gently stirring and waiting for the rice to fully absorb each ladle of stock before adding the next.

6. Keep adding the stock until the rice is just al dente, with a slight bite to it. You don’t want to over cook the rice. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add boiling water. The rice will take between 10-15 minutes to cook.

7. Once the rice is al dente, heat half of the remaining stock in another large pot and add all of the rice along with the asparagus. Bring the risotto up to a gently boil stirring the rice continuously.

8. Add the rest of the stock ladle by ladle. Keep tasting the rice though so that you don’t over cook it. You might not need all of the stock.

9. Turn off the heat and with a wooden spoon, beat in the parmesan, butter and most of the lemon zest and juice. This is what makes the risotto nice and creamy. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Then put a lid on and let the risotto rest while you cook the scallops.

10. In a fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Pat dry the scallops, give them a light season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and add to the pan. After 1 minute, turn the scallops over and squeeze some lemon juice over them for extra flavour. After no more than 1 more minute, they will be done. You’re looking for a nice caramelised golden brown colour. Remove from the heat.

11. Divide the risotto between serving bowls, placing a few scallops on top. Sprinkle with the rest of the lemon zest and juice and the parsley and serve with a lovely glass of the leftover wine!

Hello! I’m sorry I’ve been absent for so long but starting my new job has required my full attention over the past month. Boy I’d forgotten how draining the first few weeks in a new job can be. Not in a bad way, thank goodness, just in a ‘wow, my brain is full and starting to ache’ kind of way.

So I’ve been very neglectful of my writing, which I hope to improve on now that things are starting to fall into place. I have another confession to make (may as well off-load everything now and start with a clean slate!). I know I promised you lots of wonderful spicy delights from my trip to the sub-continent, but whilst I have been using a lot more spices in our everyday meals, I’m yet to try one of the delicious curry recipes that I collected while I was there. Funnily enough, we’ve been craving other tastes since returning, but when the time comes to revisit India, I will of course share with you all.

What has been making regular appearances at the Casa Kilburn dining table, then? Well I know it sounds slightly boring, but I’ve been relying on the humble soup in its various guises. Yearning for hearty and warming flavours as the cold continues to drag and the need for speed when I walk in the door at 7.30pm shattered from work has contributed to this and I’ve been saved on more than a few occasions with my very easy and quick chicken miso noodle soup. I’m not sure where I picked this recipe up a number of years ago, but it’s worth having up your sleeve when you are after something healthy, filling and full of flavour. It’s also versatile, you can substitute the vegetables for pretty much whatever you have to hand, replace the chicken with pork or tofu and if you don’t have miso paste in your cupboard, replace with the same amount of chicken stock. Easy. Enjoy!

Chicken Miso Noodle Soup (serves 4 or two with leftovers for lunch the next day!)

Chicken Miso Noodle Soup

Ingredients:
– 1.5 litres miso or chicken stock (I use brown rice miso paste and the ratio is generally 1 teaspoon per 250ml water)
– 2 chicken breasts (boneless & skinless)
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 large or 2 small shallots (peeled & thinly sliced)
– 1 small piece of ginger (cut into thin strips)
– 1 large or 4 baby fennel bulbs (thinly sliced)
– 1 dried or fresh kaffir lime leaves (don’t worry if you don’t have these on hand)
– good handful of shiitake mushrooms (dusted gently & sliced thinly)
– 100g dried rice noodles or 200g fresh rice noodles
– salt and pepper
– handful of coriander (roughly shredded or chopped)

1. Place 1 litre of the miso stock into a pot with the chicken breasts and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the pot from the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the stock.

2. Add the oil to a large pan and over a medium heat, fry the shallots, ginger, kaffir lime leaf and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes stirring often to keep from catching.

3. Add the fennel and continue frying for another 2 minutes.

4. Add the 500mls leftover miso or stock and bring everything up to simmer. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

5. While the vegetables and stock is simmering, shred the chicken and put aside. Strain the liquid the chicken had cooked in through a fine sieve and add to the vegetables.

6. Add the chicken and noodles to the vegetables as well and season with salt and pepper.

7. Simmer gently for a further 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Add the coriander (optional!) and ladle into bowls.

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