Black garlic pesto

Sweet, gooey, balsamic-y. Roast garlic is delicious, but the ghoulish-looking black garlic popping up now takes this to a whole new level. The cloves are sweet enough to eat as they are, or mash with a little ricotta and tomato puree to make an insane sandwich spread. The bulbs aren’t cheap (at least where I’m buying them) but this is no base-ingredient. It demands centre stage or adds the depth that makes something ordinary into something worth talking about. So of course my first foray into adventure with this little gem had to be something classic and delicious where the garlic could be both key and complemented…it just so happens to be vegan and a total comfort food to help you to the end of veganuary…

Chunky black garlic pesto (and the pasta dish to use it in)

Ingredients
40g pine nuts
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 bunch basil
4 large or 6 small cloves black garlic
100ml olive oil
Pinch of salt

Place the pine nuts into a dry pan over a medium heat. Toast lightly until all lightly browned. Keep stirring as they’ll burn easily.
Add these to a large pestle and mortar.
Finely chop the herbs. Mash the garlic a little with the back of a teaspoon.
Add everything to the pestle and mortar. You can use a processor for this but I like to keep the texture chunky and there is a little more control this way.
Mash until it reaches the texture you like. I’ve kept it chunky with many of the pine nuts still whole.
Add any more salt to taste.

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Divine pesto pasta
serves 2
100g wholewheat spaghetti
About 12 frozen king prawns (omit for vegan)
3 tbsp black garlic pesto
1/2 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 small bunch basil leaves
a few sprigs of parsley

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti, bring back to the boil, and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain.
Whilst the pasta is cooking: add the prawns to a large pan with a very thin layer of groundnut oil. Place over a high heat, stirring constantly. Cook for about 4 minutes or until cooked through.
Place the prawns and pasta into a large bowl and stir through the pesto and nigella seeds until everything is coated evenly.
Tear the basil and parsley and stir through.
Serve.

Honey-tahini pancakes

I’ve been back in the UK for barely more than a week. I’ve been thrown from glaring sunlight straight to the grey and misty mornings of winter. It’s hard to find the motivation even to drag myself from my warm bed into the cold world. Good coffee and something delicious for breakfast is a must, otherwise, why get up? Here’s something fabulous (and really not that unhealthy). Makes 4 small pancakes.

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Ingredients
1 large banana
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tahini paste
1 large egg
10g self-raising flour
cooking spray
1 tbsp maple syrup
Optional butter/icing sugar to serve

Method
Break the banana into 6 pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl. Microwave for 1 minute and leave to cool.
In the mean time, mix the honey and tahini into a smooth paste and set aside.
Once the banana has cooled, mash it with a fork until smooth. Add the egg and mix well with a fork. Finally add the flour and mix until a smooth batter has formed.
Heat a non-stick pan lightly coated in cooking spray. Add a tablespoon of the banana batter to the pan. Place half a teaspoon of the honey-tahini mixture on top of the batter, leaving a border of about 1/2 inch around the edge.
Cover this with a further half a tablespoon of banana-batter, and smooth out.
Cook over a medium heat for about 1 1/2 minutes. Use a spatula to lift the pancake and check the bottom is cooked and slightly darkened.
Flip (carefully!) and cook for a further 1 1/2 minutes until both sides are slightly browned.
Repeat with the remaining batter.
There should be a little honey-tahini mix left. Add the maple syrup to this.
If serving with butter, add it then drizzle the syrup over.
Enjoy with coffee ❤

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Autumn sweet potato swirled bread

sweet-potato-breadThe year is on the turn. My walk home smells like pine and dusty earth. For some reason it makes me think more of america than england. It’s drier here than normal but autumn clothes hang like leaves from the rails in the shops. I know in my body that autumn is here. My boyfriend laughed at me because I was sad I would miss most of it. “You’ll be in Tanzania. That’s going to be must more exciting.” I didn’t reply because I can’t put into words the sort of love and want so deep in my gut it makes me feel almost sick. The only word that feels really right for this time of year is mellow. It’s the image of a low mist hanging over a field on a bruise-blue morning; the first chill in the air; the first time you pull on a sweater; it’s the idea of the night around a camp fire. Not so long ago, autumn meant harvest time for most and that was a time of plenty but those people depended on that to see them through the winter. There would be celebrations of a successful harvest and they would be all the more meaningful because it was the ending of the warmth before a hard winter set in. Though we live in a time of plenty where imminent winter is no longer likely to bring the risk of illness and starvation, I still feel some sense of urgency in my will to enjoy the weather. Part of my love is a fear for how soon it will be over.

For all my ramblings, I have a recipe to help celebrate my love of this time of year. Cake is wonderful for celebrating but honestly, I think I prefer the wholesomeness of bread. This is soft, sweet and delicious. It is bread to make your mouth water and your house smell divine.

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Ingredients
For the sweet potato puree – 
150g sweet potato
50ml milk

For the dark dough –
125g plain flour
100g wholemeal self-raising flour
10g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
seeds of 5 cardamom pods, roughly chopped
25g margarine
1 tsp yeast
90ml warm water
pinch of salt

For the light dough –
225g plain flour
10g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
seeds of 5 cardamom pods, roughly chopped
25g margarine
1 tsp yeast
75ml warm water
pinch of salt

Roughly chop the sweet potato into slices of about 1cm. Place in a heatproof bowl and microwave for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add milk and sweet potato to a food processor and blend into a puree.

Place all the ingredients for the dark dough into one large bowl and all those for the light dough into another. Add half of the sweet potato puree to each. Mix, then knead each dough into a ball of smooth, elastic dough.

Place a clean tea towel over each and leave at room temperature to rise for an hour.
After an hour, knead each again a little then roll out into a sausage shape the length of the loaf tin. I use a 2lb loaf tin 21cm/8 inches long. Twist the two doughs together and roll a little on the board until they for a single sausage shape. Place this in a lightly greased tin. Place the tea towel over the top and leave at room temperature for a further 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 392°F.
Bake the loaf for 30 minutes. Cover the top in tin foil if it is browning too quickly and check it is done by tapping the bottom and checking it sounds hollow (all ovens are different).

I hope you love it as much as I do!

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Black sesame hummus

My mum is against eating anything not-food-coloured, which seems sensible until you find out it means she won’t eat Oreos. Fortunately, after some suspicious looks, she agreed to try my latest kitchen experiment. I don’t know that I’ve turned her around, but this at least has her seal of approval.

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Grey hummus might not be the most photogenic or appetising creation, but it tastes damn good. Black sesame seems to be found more commonly, though not exclusively, in sweet foods but after discovering an extortionately priced pot of black tahini online, I knew I wanted to try is. The recipe is unlike ordinary hummus. It’s rich, sweet and salty. Adjust the ingredients to your liking, try new things (maybe add something to make the colour a little less-sludge-like).

Ingredients

3 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tbsp olive oil/vegetable oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
200g chickpeas cooked until very soft
3tbsp water

Method

Grind the sesame into a fine powder (a coffee grinder is perfect!)
Tip the seeds into a bowl and add the oil, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Mix into a thick paste.
Finally blend the chickpeas and water. Add the tahini and continue to blend until fully mixed.

Cook celery! Here’s how

Celery is totally underrated. I’ve learned this on a diet which precludes me from eating onion or garlic. Celery is too rarely sidelined – eaten raw, or included only in stock. So here is a gorgeous, healthy broth to make the most of that celery…

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Ingredients (serves 2)
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp dried coriander
2 tsp sumac
pinch salt
1 celery heart, chopped
100g puy lentils
500ml vegetable stock
4 large handfuls curly kale leaves
4 tbsp chopped dill

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Mix together the tumeric, coridaner, sumac and salt and add to the oil to begin to infuse. Add the celery and lightly sauté for 2-3 minutes. Stir until covered in the oil and beginning to soften.
Add the lentils and stir to cover with the oil and spices.
Pour over the stock and pour in the vegetable stock.
Top with the kale.
Bring to the boil and then turn down to a low simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are al dente.
Take off the heat and stir in the dill.

For a little more spice, serve with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a dollop of greek yogurt to top!

A sunny winter salad

New Year’s resolutions anyone? Or is that all old hat by now? Well, call me cliché but I’m on the typical health kick and I thought I’d share a salad with you lovely folks.

Ingredients – serves 2
200g carrots (about 3 medium)
1 tsp melted coconut oil
pinch of salt (I use chili salt)
3 large celery sticks
2 medium beetroots
1 apple
1 pot salad cress
Half an orange
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sumac
Ground black pepper

Chop the carrots into thumb sized pieces and toss in the oil and salt. Roast for 20 minutes at 250°. Set aside the carrots until cool.

Chop the celery, beetroot and apple into dice-size chunks and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss. Voila! Enjoy xx

Chocolate, walnut and halva tray-bake-cake

I’ve wanted to try Halva for so long and baking it in to brownies seemed like it could only be a good idea. I’ve been trying all sorts of ways to develop a good, crispy-on-the-outside low FODMAP brownie recipes but I haven’t got there yet, so if anyone can help me, please…advice!

Until then, I have what I am calling a tray bake instead. This is chocolate cake at it’s best – soft, rich and slightly crumbly without being in the least dry. You wouldn’t even know it was gluten and dairy free (honest).

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Ingredients
200g banana
150g dark chocolate (vegan if you want it dairy free)
25g dark brown sugar
25g cocoa
25g ground almonds
1/2 tbsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 bicarbonate of soda
60g chopped walnuts
60g crumbled Halva (make sure to avoid any with honey in if low FODMAP)
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Roughly break the banana into a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 50 seconds. Take a knife and thoroughly mash the banana. Break the chocolate into the bowl with the banana and heat again for 50 seconds.
Mix the chocolate and banana until you have a smooth, chocolate paste.

Add sugar, cocoa, almonds, coffee, salt and bicarb and mix well.
Stir in the walnuts and halva.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a clean bowl. Add the yolk to the other ingredients and combine.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks (about 1 minute with an electric beater). Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the egg white mixture into the batter to loosen it. Then slowly add the batter to the egg white, mixing together with a metal spoon so as to beat out as little air as possible.

Pour into a tray lined with grease-proof paper and bake for 15 minutes.

Edible gift tags

If you want to do something a bit different with your wrapping this year, why not make your presents just a wee bit more delicious? This year I decided to make edible gift tags.

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Loads of templates for boxes can be found online. I used silver spray paint to decorate mine. They’re just about an inch across – just ideal for a single truffle or chocolate, or – if you’re feeling a little more creative – I made tiny versions of these beautiful Swedish chocolate biscuits. Happy gifting!

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Salmon, feta and parsley salad

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This is another lovely low FODMAP recipe, though you may want to replace the fate if lactose is a problem for you.

I’m home for the holidays and this means I’ve returned to my comfort zone: Ottolenghi recipes. This is an adaptation of a parsley and barley salad.

Ingredients
20g Thai black rice
100g basmati rice
1 tsp za’atar
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
150g feta
1 small salmon fillet
3 tbsp lemon juice
150g flat leaf parsley
1 large green bell pepper
1 tsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper

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Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the Thai rice. Bring back to the boil and allow to simmer for 10 minutes before adding the basmati rice. Allow this to cook for a further 15 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Mix the za’atar, coriander seeds, and cumin in a bowl. Add the olive oil then break the feta into roughly 1cm cubes. Mix this all together and set aside to marinate.

Form a parcel of tin foil and place the salmon fillet inside. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp of the lemon juice and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked through (depending on the size of the fillet).
Use two forks to break the cooked salmon into flakes.

Finely chop the parsley and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the rice, feta, salmon flakes, parsley, and pepper. Mix in the allspice, remaining 2 tbsp lemon juice and salt and pepper.