Earl Grey Tea Loaf with Marmalade Glaze

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Happy Half Term!  I hope you’ve all survived.  We’ve had a lovely quiet week not doing much, which I think we all needed.  One afternoon I was even lucky enough to ditch the kids with daddy and escape ON MY OWN!!  My lovely friend and fellow blogger Lauren over at Black Dog Living invited me along with her to celebrate Teapigs 10th Birthday.  We got to sample lots of lovely teas including their new limited edition Jelly and Ice Cream Tea, and eat cake.  It was amazing! We got to drink whole cups of tea, hot, and talk to other grown ups, with no kiddy interruptions.  I couldn’t quite believe I was at a day time party with no children or creepy entertainers, and no crying over Pass The Parcel.  In fact, the only crying was from us when we had to head home.

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As a Northener, I like a good strong cuppa with now’t messed around with.  And I think I have fallen in love with their Everyday Brew.  Sadly, it’s not cheap, so I will be saving it for special occasions (and hangovers, it would definitely blast a hangover away).  I do like herbal and fruit teas, too, but I often find they smell incredible but taste flat.  So, I wasn’t expecting much from the Jelly and Ice Cream tea, if I’m honest, but it was fantastic! It really does tastes as good as it smells.  Apparently, I now know, this is because Teapigs use the the whole leaf and whole spices and flowers.  Other tea bags tend to just contain dried up sawdusty bits and bobs, hence they lack the same flavour punch. You can find out more here About Teapigs

All those lovely tea flavours inspired me to try and incorporate them in a recipe.  So here is my Breakfast Bread. The tea gives it a rich flavour and also keeps the loaf lovely and moist.  I’ve used Apple purée and a tiny bit of honey to sweeten this naturally.  and, of course, it is gluten and dairy free. It’s a winner! Eat on its own or slathered with cold butter!

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Gluten dairy and sugar free Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Earl Grey Tea Loaf with Marmalade Glaze 

INGREDIENTS

275g dried fruit (I used cranberries, raisins, sultanas and dried apricots)

300ml Teapigs Earl Grey Strong Tea (I used one tea bag, if using another brand you might need 2 tea bags)

zest of 1/2 orange (or lemon)

75g or 1/2 cup buckwheat flour

75g or 3/4 cup ground almonds

100g Apple & pear purée (I use Hipp purée pots)

5 tbsps melted coconut oil or butter

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

11/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

3 medium organic eggs

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1-2 tbsps honey

GLAZE

100ml Teapigs Earl Grey Strong Tea

2 tbsps St Dalfour Orange Spread (this is pure fruit and sugar free) or Marmalade

zest of 1/2 orange, thickly pared if possible

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METHOD

1. Oil and line a loaf tin and preheat oven to 170C fan.

2. Place dried fruit and orange zest in pan and pour over hot tea.  Bring to boil, cover and remove from heat.   Leave for 5 minutes so the fruit soaks up the tea and becomes nice and plump and juicy.  Alternatively, you can soak for several hours or overnight.

3. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre and crack eggs into it.  Whisk eggs well with a fork, trying not to incorporate the dry ingredients too much.  Whisk in melted oil, then vinegar and honey.  Mix well.

4. Stir in cooled dried fruit and Apple purée.

5.  Pour into lined tin and bake for approx 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

MARMALADE GLAZE

When your loaf is almost ready, make your glaze.

1. Place tea and marmalade into a pan, along with thickly pared orange zest. Bring to boil and simmer strongly for about 5 minutes or until a syrupy consistency.

2. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so. Use a cocktail stick to make holes all over top of cake.  Pour glaze on top and allow cake to cool in tin.

Gluten-free dairy-free Italian Chocolate Cake

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So I’ve recently come out of the closet and confessed that I am a secret blogger. It was a huge thing to put myself out there and tell everyone what I’m doing, I’m not particularly comfortable in the limelight.  Unless I’ve had a bottle of prosecco, but that’s another story… Surprisingly, people have been amazingly supportive, to my face anyway.  I’m not sure what I expected, to be honest, but certainly not the lovely reaction I have had.  The other thing I didn’t expect was for people to actually want to cook my recipes and ask me for recommendations!!

This morning, a Blog Fan (OK, it was my best friend from school) asked for a lactose-free gluten-free dessert she could make for family gatherings as she has a pesky allergic relative.  I can’t resist a bit of bait like that and immediately the cogs were turning.  The main challenge, as I saw it, is what can you make as a one-off if you are not intolerant yourself?  Something that doesn’t involve you buying weird allergy-friendly ingredients that are expensive and will lurk in your cupboard taking up valuable biscuit space for the next 6 months.  And, it needs to be tasty enough for the non-lactose or gluten dodgers to enjoy it and not feel cheated out of a good pud.

So here it is, a traditional Italian Chocolate Torta Caprese.  This is a traditional chocolate cake from the island of Capri, made with dark chocolate and ground almonds.  It is really easy to make, delicious, rich, chocolatey and moist.  And, mainly, something I always love in free-from recipes, is its not a substitute.  It’s a stand-alone gorgeous cake that was supposed to be made this way, not a list of substitutions that make it almost as nice as it should be.  It does contain sugar, but I have reduced the quantity so it’s not too sweet, and, considering the rest of the cake consists of nuts and eggs, it packs quite a protein punch so shouldn’t hit your blood sugar too hard.

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Now, according to my extensive research (google) there seem to be two different ways to make a Torta Caprese.  You can chop the chocolate very finely so that this is a marbled, fudgy, choc chip sort of affair, or melt it. The first time I made this, I chopped it, second time I melted it and much preferred that option. The third time, I did what any sensible person would do and did both! Amazing!

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Traditionally, this is dredged with icing sugar but I thought that was a bit dated, plus icing sugar isn’t the healthiest option.  Instead, I dusted over a little cocoa and made some dark chocolate curls to scatter over the top. You can never have enough chocolate!  In fact, if I was making this for a dinner party I would probably add an extra 25g of chopped dark chocolate, but that would make it very rich, be warned!!

I’m going to experiment with this recipe. I have a feeling it would be beautiful with ginger or organge flavoured dark chocolate or made with half ground hazelnuts/half almonds.

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Chopped chocolate version

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Melted choc version

INGREDIENTS (makes 24cm round cake, serves about 10)

200g dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks 70% dark)

250g ground almonds

5 large organic eggs

175g sugar (I used unrefined dark muscavado as its less processed and nice and fudgy, but any sugar would be fine)

100g coconut oil OR 100ml olive oil (or melted butter if you can have it) plus extra for oiling tin.

1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

pinch salt

cocoa for dusting (optional)

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 170C fan.  Generously oil and line a 24cm round tin with baking paper.

2. First, if you can be bothered with this part, make your chocolate shavings. Turn large bar of chocolate over so smooth side is facing upwards, pull a large knife firmly towards you, the chocolate should curl up. Keep going until you have a handful or so. Set aside in a cool place. Alternatively, skip to next step.

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2. Chop 50g of the chocolate finely (see picture above).  I chopped some very finely and left some chocolate-chip sort of size so there was a mixture of textures.  You could also pulse it in a food processor.

3. Melt 150g chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave.  Once melted, add coconut or olive oil. Allow to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, separate eggs into two bowls.  In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk whites until they form stiff peaks.

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4. With the same whisk (you don’t need to clean it in between so long as you have whisked whites first) beat yolks with sugar until pale and creamy.  Add vanilla essence and salt. Mix in tepid (it mustn’t be hot or it will scramble the eggs!) chocolate and oil mixture.

5. Next, mix ground almonds and then chopped chocolate into egg yolk mixture.  Carefully fold in egg whites, about a third at a time, until fully incorporated. No streaks of egg white please!

6. Pour into tin and bake for about 50 minutes a skewer almost comes out clean and it is firm to the touch.

7. Allow cake to cool in tin. Once cool, serve as it is or dust with cocoa and pile chocolate shavings on top, if using.

Enjoy on its own or with cream/soya/ coconut cream. This cake just gets better and better as it gets more moist after a day or two thanks to the almonds, so it’s great to make in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Gut Recipes. Chicken Pho, Pickles and Lashings of Ginger Beer, hurrah!

 

The Norovirus has swept through our house this last 10 days.  Daughter and I have both been ill and it will be an absolute miracle if the boys don’t get it too.  No doubt small boy will get it over half term so I will spend a third week confined to the house 😫  On the plus side, there’s nothing like a good tummy bug for weight loss and I have lost 4lbs.  Hurrah!  Sadly, this weight loss seems to be focused almost entirely on my boob area.  Why is life so bloody unfair??!!

So, anyway, this weekend I have decided we need a some extra nourishment and I’m going to make plenty of things which are good for gut health.  The main one is bone broth, see my recipe for Brilliant Bone Broth Bone broth contains Glutamine which helps maintain the function of your intestinal wall; Glycine which stimulates production of stomach acid and aids digestion and Collagen which can heal the gut lining.  Scientists are beginning to realise just how important gut health is to our overall health and wellbeing, and poor gut health is being linked to an increasing number of diseases as well as obesity and even depression. Did you know 80% of the happy hormone serotonin is produced in your gut? Nope, me neither. It is the largest sensory organ in the body and apparently  70% of our immune system is in our gut.  So it’s pretty important to look after your tummy.

How do we do that?  Taking good quality probiotic supplements will improve your gut microbiome.  As will eating naturally probiotic foods, which include garlic, leeks and onions, artichokes, bananas (I’ve been having them on my porridge every day this week), natural ‘live’ yoghurt, and fermented or pickled foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kimchi (they mustn’t be pasteurised though, as this destroys the good bacteria).  So, as well as making bone broth and OD-ing on probiotics, I have made a homemade pickle, and for the kids, a fermented fizzy ginger drink.

Here come the recipes…

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GINGER POP

Enid Blyton, eat your heart out. The famous five would have loved this shit. Fanny and Dick would never have caught the Norovirus if they had drunk this.

Jolly hockeysticks!

INGREDIENTS

large root of ginger (about 5 thumbs in total)

1 tbsp unrefined sugar
spring water

METHOD

This takes about 10 days to make in total. Hopefully it will be worth the ball-ache.

Day 1: You need a clean bottle with an airtight stopper. Rinse through with boiled water to sterilise.  Grate about 1 inch ginger into bottle and add 1 tsp sugar and cover with spring water. Leave in warm place for 24 hours.

2. Repeat process for 5 days until mixture begins to bubble. This is your ‘Ginger Bug’. I love that name!

3. You can use your Ginger Bug to make any flavour Pop you like, add some cooked rhubarb, orange juice, lemon… The world is your oyster. I’m just sticking to the ginger to begin with. So, add any extra flavourings, then top up your bottle with water and ferment for a further five days, then it’s ready to drink. It should be slightly sparkling. I will let you know how ours is doing in 10 days time…

VIETNAMESE CHICKEN PHO

 

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is actually pretty quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS (serves about 4)

2 litres bone broth or chicken stock

2 litres bone broth (or chicken stock, it just won’t have quite the same gut healing capability)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely grated or crushed

2 thumbs of ginger, finely grated

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 star anise

veg – we like sliced Pak Choi and a mixture of different types of mushrooms, you could also use courgetti noodles or just throw in a bag of pre-prepared stir-fry

To serve

100g beansprouts

small bunch roughly chopped coriander

1 lime

1 red chilli, chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

soy sauce

METHOD

1. Bring bone broth to the boil in a large pan. Meanwhile prepare and chop veg.

2. Add whole chicken thighs and all other ingredients apart from veg. Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.

3. Remove chicken thighs and shred using 2 forks.  Whilst you are shredding chicken, pop veg into pan to cook.  Return shredded chicken to pan and cook for a further minute or two.

4. Ladle generously into bowls and serve topped with beansprouts, spring onions, coriander, chilli, soy sauce and a wedge of lime.

 

PICKLED VEGETABLES

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I’m not a big fan of sauerkraut or kimchi, or anything too pickle-y or fermented come to think of it, so I hope I like these.  They look very pretty sitting in the jar, so that’s a good start.  Raw garlic and onions are supposed to be brilliant probiotics but can both be a bit harsh on the tastebuds, so fermenting them shound give them a more mellow flavour whilst retaining all their raw benefits. Best of both worlds!  PS You must use spring water for this as tap water contains chlorine to kill bad bacteria in the water supply, but that also means it will prevent the very bacteria we are trying to create in this process. Doh!

INGREDIENTS

veg – anything you like… I used 2 cauliflower florets, baby corn, green beans, 1/2 red pepper, small red onion, 2 garlic cloves,  1 small carrot.

1 tbsp sea salt or Himalayan salt

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 star anise

METHOD

1. Wash a kilner jar and rinse through with boiled water.

2. Fill with veg, leaving a 2cm gap at top to allow water to cover completely and to allow room for the veg to swell up. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp salt. Close lid and shake jar well, this ensures salt fully covers the veg and preserves it and also helps to break down the cell walls of the vegetables, which will accelerate the lacto-fermentation process (I know, get me! 🤓 )

3. Add star anise, pepper and mustard seeds.  Top up with spring water until veg is fully submerged (if it’s not, mould can form).

4. Keep in a warm place for 3-4 days and then it’s ready to eat.  I’ll let you know how it tastes on Wednesday…!

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach Cupcakes – yes really!

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My 7 year old daughter is beyond excited for Halloween this year.  She always enjoys it, but this year I have been coerced into buying loads of decorations already and she would like us to have a party.  Arghhh, that means I really need to tidy my house!  In fact, I probably just need to nuke it.  Anyway, all this Halloween excitement got me wondering how I can make Halloween a little healthier. Trick or Treat is all about the sweets and chocolate… Imagine if you presented a bowl of fruit to a crowd of trick or treaters unfortunate enough to knock on your door?  It’s not going to happen, is it?  But, maybe we can make it a little bit more nutritious and give the kids a bit less of a crack-cocaine sugar rush? And definitely cut out the artificial colourings where possible.

First-stop, cupcakes.   Inspired by a big bag of spinach and my Sugar Free Buckwheat Banana Muffins recipe, I decided to see if I could make some  ghoulish cupcakes that were sugar-free, gluten-free and lactose-free… Ta-da!

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INGREDIENTS (makes 12 large cupcakes or approx. 16 medium sized)

50g or 1/2 cup ground almonds

75g or 1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 heaped tbsp coconut flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 large eggs

150g spinach

1 banana

1 tsp vanilla essence

1\4 cup or 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup or 4 tbsp honey/maple syrup (I use a mixture of both)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

METHOD:

1. Blend spinach, banana, eggs and vanilla essence until smooth.

2. Sift flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add ground almonds and pour in spinach mixture.

3. Melt coconut oil and honey/maple syrup together in saucepan. Allow to cool slightly and then mix with rest of ingredients. Add apple cider vinegar (it will bubble up when you add the vinegar).

4. Spoon into cake cases, fill them quite high as the mixture doesn’t rise a huge amount.

5. Bake at 170C for 15-18 minutes until nice and springy and a skewer comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack.

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ICING

Now, the icing I used is not sugar free. In an ideal world I would make a sugar free frosting, but I reasoned I had done pretty well with the cupcakes and life is possibly a bit too short for sugar-free icing.  They are perfectly nice without a topping, see pic below.  If you want to make a sugarfree icing, instead whip the coconut cream with a tablespoon or two of raw honey (it is much thicker than pasteurised honey or maple syrup, which would make it far too runny) I have tried to keep my icing from being too sweet with some sugar substituted for coconut flour.

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INGREDIENTS:

100g unsalted organic butter, dairy free spread or a tin of coconut cream (you can buy small tins of this or refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight, turn upside down and open, pour off liquid and you will be left with coconut cream)

75g icing sugar

2 heaped tbsp coconut flour (optional, just makes it less sugary)

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp favourite milk or water (only if you are using butter)

1 tsp matcha green tea powder

METHOD

1. Allow butter to come to room temperature so that it is soft enough to whisk.  Alternatively, refrigerate coconut cream or milk for several hours or overnight. Whip butter/spread/coconut cream on medium for 1 minute until smooth and creamy.

2. Add coconut flour and 1/3 sugar and whisk well, continue to add sugar in thirds until well incorporated and icing is light and fluffy. Whisk in vanilla and milk, if using.  Alternatively, for a sugar-free version, whisk in some raw honey to taste.

3. When you are happy with flavour and consistency, whisk in matcha tea powder, using more or less until you have reached desired shade of ghoulish green.

And decorate! I had a go at making some dark chocolate spiders with a piping bag, they need much more practice! I also forgot to refrigerate them before peeling them off the baking paper so they broke easily – don’t make that mistake!!  Below, I also made some bloodshot eyeballs out of giant white chocolate buttons, sugar free 10o% fruit spread with a dark choc chip pupil, and poppy seeds made brilliant black sprinkles.

I still  can’t quite believe how colourful and vivid these cakes naturally are. My daughter was amazed by them, and for once she was free of criticism, hurrah!

Clean Green Pad Thai in Five

Last weekend we stayed with Nanna, my Mum-in-law.  She lives up north, near a beautiful beach (yes, Up North can be beautiful and yes they have beaches, with rolling sand dunes and everything! I can say all of this because, I too am from this part of the world. It’s really very pretty, take a look).

It’s not all grim Up North.

After a lovely morning collecting (fighting over) seashells, we had Sunday lunch in a cosy pub. We all plumped for roast beef, even our 7 year old daughter, she loves roast beef 😍), apart from our 17 year old niece who wouldn’t dream of eating a slab of red meat and always likes to be a bit more exotic. She went for the Pad Thai.

“What’s that?” asked Nanna

“Pad Thai”

“What?”

“PAD THAI”

“Pat’s Eye???? That’s an unusual name”

Uproarious laughter. It took some time before any of us could recover enough to explain it was P-A-D  T-H-A-I.

Pad Thai, or Pat’s Eye as it will now forever be known to me, is one of my all time faves, but, although gluten free, it can be a bit of a greasy carb fest, so here is a healthier, greener version. It’s also super quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

1 pack prawns or 2 chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 lime

coconut oil

1/2 small pack coriander, roughly chopped

1/2 red chilli, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes)

VEG – any combination of the below.  My favourite is a bag of beansprouts, 1/2 small head red cabbage, 1/2 head broccoli, 1 red pepper and 2 carrots (julienne or spiralized)

You could also use: courgetti noodles, sliced mushrooms, pak choi, green cabbage, leeks, or just a big bag of mixed stir fry if you want something really quick and easy

4 spring onions, finely sliced

chopped roasted peanuts or a spoonful of sugar free chunky peanut butter or almond butter

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METHOD

1. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large heavy based pan or wok.  Chop your all of your ingredients so they ready to throw into the pan.  Chop brocolli into small florets which will cook quickly.

2. If using chicken, fry this first for 2-3 mins. If using prawns, skip to next step.

3. Add garlic, 2/3 of spring onions and prawns, if using. Fry for 1 minute.  Add broccoli and red cabbage and any chunkier veg that will take longer to cook.  Squeeze in half of the lime and add fish sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until brocolli is al dente.

4. Add your quicker-cooking veg, soy sauce and honey and stir fry for a further minute or two.

5. Serve with remainder of spring onions, chilli and coriander scattered on top and a teaspoonful of nut butter or chopped peanuts. Serve with a wedge of lime.

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Lamb Kleftiko

This doesn’t photograph so well, you can see that, but don’t judge a book by it’s cover, it tastes amazing!  We LOVE this in our house. We first had Kleftiko on a trip to Kefalonia many moons ago and as soon as we got home I set about working on my own version. Kleftiko is a traditional Greek lamb dish, slow cooked with herbs, tomatoes and potatoes. It is garlicky, tangy, rich heaven on a plate. Every restaurant we have been to on various trips to Greece seems to have their own version of this. And the more I googled it, the more variations I found.  So this is my very own hybrid, slightly quicker and easier version. In my humble opinion, it’s the coating of the lamb with the garlic that really makes this amazing, so don’t forget that part whatever you do!

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This does contain feta cheese, so is not lactose free as such, but many lactose-phobes like myself can tolerate sheep’s or goat’s milk cheeses as they don’t contain Casein, also known as A1 protein, which is found in cow’s milk. Casein is the guilty party that can make cow’s milk hard to digest. There is a helpul blurb about cheese for the lactose intolerant here This will also still taste delicious if you don’t want to use the feta, just add an extra squeeze of lemon for additional tanginess.

This Kleftiko can also be made in individual baking paper parcels for a     30 minute midweek     version. Making it in parcels is also a nice twist on the presentation and means you can make  smaller quantities for 1 or 2 rather than making a big pot. SCROLL DOWN TO END FOR METHOD.

It can also be made more traditionally with a whole shoulder of lamb, which makes for a gorgeous Sunday Roast. Mmmm…. And if you want a lighter or paleo meal, I often omit the potatoes and use an extra courgette, or some sliced, fried aubergine. I’m sure you could also easily make this in a slow cooker, just omit the stock.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

4 shoulder or lamb leg steaks (ideally organic)

3-4 carrots

2 large potatoes

2 red onions

2 courgettes

1 tin chopped or plum tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp mint (fresh or dried)

2 bay leaves

100ml stock/bone broth/water

Extra Virgin olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

1/2 pack feta cheese

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180C (170 fan). Rub your lamb steaks with crushed garlic and set aside.

2. Oil casserole dish. Slice potatoes thinly and layer at bottom of dish. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of the herbs and spices. Slice carrots and place on top of potatoes. Slice onions into thin rings and layer on top. Pour stock over.

3. Place garlicky lamb on top of onions, add another pinch of herbs and cinnamon, drizzle with EVOO and a squeeze of lemon.

4. Pour over tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over remainder of herbs and cinnamon. Crumble over 3/4 of feta. Slice courgette into 1cm thick rounds and layer on top.

5. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until pots and carrots are tender. If a lot of liquid remains, cook without the lid for a further 20 mins; the longer you cook it, the tastier it will be. I often turn the oven down to 140C and cook for an extra hour with the lid off so the sauce really thickens up.

Serve with green or roast vegetables, and sprinkle the remainder of the feta on top for extra tang and presentation brownie points. Drink lots of red wine alongside.

QUICKER AND LIGHTER OPTION: If making individual portions in parchment paper, lay carrots and onions in middle of a large square of parchment. Lay garlicky  lamb on top, cover with a few spoonfuls of chopped toms, herbs, spices and feta. Top with courgette. Fold sides together to form a parcel and bake for 30 mins.

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Pear and Almond Crumble

I have had pears in my organic fruit and veg box for the last 3 weeks running. Lots of them. There are only so many we can eat. So, I’ve been trying to be creative. Last night we had pork loin steaks pan fried with a sprinkling of fennel seeds, baked sweet potato and broccoli, and I threw a thickly sliced pear into the pan with the pork for the last few minutes. Yum. Pork and pears is delicious. If you don’t believe me, you must try Jamie Oliver’s Pork, Pear and Parsnip recipe Here.  Anyway, that used up one pear, so I was still left with a fruitbowl-full. So I decided to make a crumble.

My crumble is gluten and sugar free, but of course.  I did ponder putting a bit of sugar into the crumble mixture. I thought honey or maple syrup would make it too soggy and distinctly non crumbly. I often wonder why some “sugar free” recipes might contain 1/2 a bottle of maple syrup or a cup of honey. What’s the point?  Cutting sugar out of your diet is not about swapping it for another sweetener. It’s about re-training your tastebuds and improving your health with a lower GI diet.  Yes, processed white sugar is the worst form of sugar, but anything very sweet, such as honey or a ton of dried dates made into a ‘raw brownie’  will also effect your blood sugar, adrenal system and waistline. They are less bad for you, rather than good for you, Is one way to think of it.  Anyway *clims back off soapbox* I try to make my cooking low in any form of sugar where I can. And so by the same token, I have no issue with using a spoonful of really good, organic muscavado or Demerara sugar here and there.  I hope that makes sense, it does to me anyway 🤔

So, without further ado, here is the recipe, handmade by me and t’kids this afternoon.  Feel free to add any other fruit you like: a handful of juicy blackberries or an apple or two would be lovely.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

6 medium sized pears, fairly ripe or thereabouts

1 100g pot Hipp organic pear & apple purée (optional)

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla essence/paste/seeds

1/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

50g oats

75g ground almonds

2 tbsps butter or coconut oil

25g pumpkin seeds

optional: 25g chopped walnuts or pecans (My kids aren’t big fans, so I often just add these to my own bowl later)

good pinch salt

OPTIONAL: 1 tbsp muscavado, demerera or coconut sugar

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180C.  Chop your pears into various sizes. You want some to have a bit of texture (about 1 inch slices) and some to reduce down to form a sauce (about 1cm).  Cook on a low heat with a splash of water, the honey, vanilla and half of the cinnamon for about 5 minutes until soft… ish. How much cooking they will need depends on how ripe they are, so use your judgement. If you’re using it, stir through your purée, it makes a nice sauce.

2. Meanwhile, spread oats out onto a baking try. They are crispier and have more flavour toasted and are easier to digest.  Cook in oven for about 6-7 mins, keep an eye on them, you just want them just starting to turn golden and toasty.

3. Allow oats to cool slightly, mix with almonds and rub butter or oil in to form a breadcrumb type texture. Stir through sugar (if using), salt, seeds/nuts and rest of cinnamon.

4. Top fruit with crumble mixture and bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, custard, coconut yoghurt… If it’s not quite sweet enough, drizzle with a little honey, maple syrup or even (ssshhh!) a sprinkling of sugar. I always add a handful of extra walnuts to mine, just because I love walnuts.

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Burrito Lasagne… Burragne? Basagne? Any ideas?

I will openly admit it, I hold my hands up, this is not the ‘cleanest’ of my recipes. And it is neither wheat nor dairy free. Sorry. But it is unprocessed, organic and tastes AMAZING!!! It is also super easy  to make and is loads healthier than your average burritos or lasagne, which is why I’m going out on an intolerant limb and including it.

A few months ago my daughter innocently commented that “we always have the same things to eat” and I realised with horror that she was right! Since her younger, pickier brother came on the scene, I have experimented less and less as each attempt was met with failure. And whilst I try different things for me and the husband, or we might give a new recipe a go at weekends, I do tend to churn the same things out for the kids on weekdays. Well, no longer! I hit the supermarket with a vengeance! Some time later, after traipsing round trying to ignore small boys screams for chocolate/magazines/ anything, I trundled out with some mild Moroccan spice (see Tantrums and Tagines) which was a total waste, and some corn taco shells. Which were a hit! As they are essentially Doritos/crisps I was right to assume small boy would woof them down like a rabid dog. Brilliant.

Tacos are not the healthiest thing on the planet, but they are gluten free (hurrah!) and a welcome variation from the rice/pasta/potatoes conveyor belt as they contain corn. I like to ‘rotate’ the kids grains where I can to try to prevent them from becoming intolerant, to get as many different nutrients in them as possible, and just for a bit of interest and flavour. Taco filling leftovers are also fab with wraps to make enchiladas or burritos, or just with some rice, so you have several different meals from one creation. RESULT!

Burritos in particular were such a hit that I played around with them and created this little beauty of a recipe. Once you try this you will never make lasagne again. It takes less than half an hour to make this. Seriously, bit of chopping, 20 minutes total cooking… BOOM! Kids tea. DONE!


RECIPE

500g minced beef (ideally grass fed or organic)

1 onion, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped/crushed

1 red pepper (or any colour, doesn’t matter)

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tin kidney beans

2/3 tin chopped tomatoes

3 large tortilla wraps (I use these Crosta Mollica Organic Flatbreadthey literally contain wheat, oil, salt, unlike most other wraps which contain a million ingredients)

2 handfuls grated organic cheddar

METHOD

1. Fry onion in olive oil for a few minutes, turn heat up and fry mince until browned. Then add spices, herbs, garlic and chopped pepper and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add kidney beans and 100ml water, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes. The mixture should be fairly dry, you don’t want the wraps to go too soggy. Simmer with the lid off for a few more minutes if there is too much liquid.

2. Lightly oil an oven dish that will hold your wrap without it overlapping the edges or coming up at the sides. Or, cut your wraps to fit the dish you have. Lay your first wrap down and top with half the meat mixture, making sure it goes all the way to the edge of the wrap to keep everything moist. Add the next wrap and repeat with rest of meat. Top with final wrap.

3. Mash chopped tomatoes roughly with a fork to create a smoother texture. Spoon over top wrap, again making sure everything is well covered so it doesn’t dry out. Season with a little extra oregano, salt and pepper. Top with grated cheese. Bake in oven (180C) for 10 minutes or so until cheese is all bubbly and golden.

Serve with sour cream and/or guacamole if your kids will eat them. FYI mine won’t.

Chia Porridge With AMAZING Toppings

Some mornings I want something more substantial than my Paleo Porridge and this is perfect for a bit of carb loading of the slow release variety.  Chia seeds are perfect for adding protein to your porridge, which will keep you feeling full until lunch, plus all their other benefits.

If you can’t be bothered clicking on the link, I will summarise – they contain protein, amino acids, iron, fibre, calcium, magnesium, omega 3s. OK?

Chia seeds have no flavour so are perfect for mixing into things (and sneaking into kids yogurts etc for a protein and nutrient boost) but what is also brilliant about them is their texture. They form a gel consistency when mixed into liquid, so are a perfect thickener to soups, stews, smoothies, and of course porridge. You won’t even notice they are there! Unless you are my husband, who thinks they are a bit gloopy and frogspawny in porridge, which is a shame.  But even he will eat them in yogurt as he likes the fact they are tasteless. so, persevere with chia!

If you’re feeling organised, you can soak your ingredients the night before, then all you have to do is heat it up in the morning for a super speedy breakfast. I soak it all ready to go in the pan on top of the hob, so it couldn’t be easier, even for an organisation-phobe like me.

You don’t even need a recipe for this.  I use  around a handful of organic jumbo oats per person and a heaped tablespoon of chia. Add about a mugful of almond (or any other) milk depending on how thick you like your porridge and a tiny pinch of salt. Soak overnight and then warm up in the morning or, if making from scratch, simmer on the hob for about 10 minutes.

Then the fun can really begin with…

FLAVOURS AND TOPPINGS

HOT CROSS PORRIDGE

This is possibly my fave. I LOVE hot cross buns, I could easily eat a whole packet. So I am often on the lookout for something similar, but healthier, and this is IT. Just don’t try to toast and butter it.

Add raisins, chopped apricots, a few twists of lemon zest, 1/2tsp mixed spice,  pinch cinnamon and few gratings of nutmeg at the cooking/soaking stage. This helps the fruit to get all juicy and plump and lovely. Top with pumpkin seeds and grated apple for a bit of texture. And honey, always honey. 

BANANA CINNAMON  

Ooh no, maybe this is my fave… Add 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon at cooking/soaking stage, top with sliced banana and honey. 

SPICED APPLE

Add cinnamon, mixed spice and raisins at cooking/soaking stage. Once cooked, stir through 1/2 grated apple per person, chopped walnuts and top with apple puree (I use Hipp or Organix baby puree, apple and pear, its organic, cheap and easy, yippee! Hipp Puree). Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

CRUNCHY NUT 

Add cinnamon, sliced banana, chopped walnuts and a spoonful of almond or nut butter. Dreamy!

SIMPLE STUFF

My kids like it with just chopped apricots and honey. 

Being A Mum

This morning my daughter wanted to wear her trousers for school. They were not officially on the uniform list until this year and it hadn’t really occurred to me to buy them until I saw a very cute slim leg pair in M&S. I thought daughter would be a bit dubious, but she was thrilled with them! We talked about how they would keep her warm in winter and be SO much easier and quicker than a skirt and tights. How I loathe tights, the time it takes to put them on, the gusset hanging down below her school skirt, how they seem to shrink and go all bobbly no matter what you do. Daughter also has swimming at school for the first time this year and I know how painfully slow she is at getting changed. I love my daughter more than I could ever put into words, but she has the concentration span of a goldfish and is pretty lazy to boot – she tries to get dressed using just one hand a lot of the time, it is beyond painful.  So anyway, I think it’s clear I was looking forward to the school trousers.

So, as I said, it was her idea to give them a go today. She was very pleased with them and looked so sweet and grown up. As we were running out of the door (still brushing our teeth) I pointed to her zip, as she was flying low. “I didn’t know they had a zip,” she said. “they’re like boy’s trousers”  A few minutes later, as we are gently jogging to school (it’s 8.40am now) she says “I think everyone is going to laugh at me”. She is pink-eyed and chewing her lip. “They will think I look like a boy with long hair.”

“Does anyone else wear trousers?” I ask, slowing down my jog to a brisk walk.

“No. Well, I think one girl in another year”

Oh shit. I want to run home and get her changed. Or perhaps I could take her to school and then go back and drop a skirt off for her to change into? What should I do?

I take a deep breath. Daughter is not me. I spent all of school trying desperately to fit in, to say the right things, watch the right TV shows so I could join in the conversations, wear the same sort of thing as everyone else. But I always got it a bit wrong, I always felt on the back foot and left out, I was always a bit too much of a nerd. But daughter likes to be different. I ❤️ that about her. For Roald Dahl day recently, she wanted to dress as Matilda, until she found out lots of other girls were too. Then she decided (the night before -helpful!!!!!) to be Miss Honey. She was so proud of herself, and I was too.

I sometimes used to find myself cajoling her to do – or not do- things by saying “well everyone else will be going”, or, “fine, but you’ll be the odd one out (e.g. wearing shorts in February)” And then one day, I heard myself, and thought What Am I Doing?  Why am I encouraging her to be ‘like everyone else’, or to feel embarrassed to be different?  Since then I have been trying to encourage her to be different and to have the confidence to make whatever choices she wants to make. I may still draw the line at shorts in February mind you. Yes, daughter, even if you wear long socks with them to keep warm. In fact, definitely if you wear long socks with them. This is not 1973.

So, with this in mind, I took a deep breath and told daughter she looked fantastic, and if anyone laughed at her they were just a very mean person. And probably jealous that she had warm toasty legs.

At the door to her class, I told her teacher she was a bit worried. Miss Teacher was AWESOME. She was outraged at the thought that any child would be so mean and said she wouldn’t just keep an ear out, as I’d asked, she would MAKE SURE no one said anything.  I give daughter the thumbs up through her classroom window.  Teacher could obviously tell I was a bit worried too and reminded me it was Harvest Festival day. The class would be walking to church at 10am if I wanted to walk with them, i.e. check daughter was ok.

So, I cancelled small boy’s usual music singing group thing and raced home for half an hour to tidy up, and then raced back to school again. And there she was, gorgeous daughter, with her shiny plaits and gappy smile. Her teflon trousers billowing gently in the breeze. So happy and excited. I walked to school next to my daughter and a new friend of hers and they told me all about how they had to stand on the stage to say a prayer together. Daughter hadn’t told me she was saying a line.

And I thought, this is it. This is why I didn’t go back to work. To be here. So that I can listen to her momentary fears; so it’s me she tells when she is scared; so that I can walk her to school and tell the teacher; so that I can drop everything and go back to school just to walk her 5 minutes up the road.  Sometimes I would give anything to have a career again, to turn back the clock and make a different choice and work part time. To put my suit and heels on and catch the 7.27 to Waterloo. To have meetings, to get pissed off with clients, to laugh with colleagues and have after work drinks. Oh, after work drinks!! And Christmas parties! And just to have something to say when you meet someone new, “what do you do?” “I’m a mum” is a total conversation killer when the other person doesn’t have kids, I’ve found. The money would be nice, too.  But then, at times like this, none of that matters, and I am SO glad I’m here. Every day.

Sometimes my world feels as though it’s become very small, but today I don’t feel quite so insignificant after all.