A Makeshift Reuben

So late on Friday night we got into a complicated sandwich discussion….not so much the choice of filling but the choice of bread or vehicle for this sandwich. My friend is adamant that croissants are the way forward instead of bread, I gave it some thought and surely its not much different to using a brioche roll or loaf. The sweetness and the flakey pastry makes for an ideal toasting, then he announced that a pastrami and sauerkraut combination, I raised my eyebrows, traditionally this holy combination is reserved for salt beef, rye bread, adding a good dollop of thousand island dressing/mustard and some swiss cheese and toasting it just so the cheese melts. A New York classic, something I have not enjoyed properly since my last trip to New York over 10 years ago.I was apprehensive to even take on such a combination, it felt like betrayal using a croissant instead of the sourness of rye bread. Despite this when I went to the shops the ingredients magically dropped into my cart as I made my way round.After getting home and realising that I didn’t have mustard or thousand dressing (not something I ever buy normally so not surprised I forgot) it became what will now be known in our house as a makeshift reuben.Its best to use slightly stale croissants partly for holding the weight of the filling and partly because the sauerkraut will leak a bit and counteracts the dryness.I adapted the thousand island dressing by mixing tomato paste and salad cream and layered up the croissant, it looked quite convincing (sorry no pictures) but it bothered me that there was no rye. My friend inhaled it declaring at the end ‘not half bad’. I chickened out and used normal wholemeal bread, it was delicious but I did feel like my jewish nanna was looking over my shoulder scolding me for not doing it properly….For this recipe you will need:1 croissant per person2 strips of pastrami per person1 tbsp of sauerkraut per personcheddar cheese if desired2 – 3 tbsp of salad cream2 tbsp of tomato pasteMix the salad cream and tomato paste together and set aside.layer the pastrami, sauerkraut and cheese inside the croissant and drizzle the dressing over the top. At this point feel free to try it out on the toaster but this is an unknown quantity for me.
Source: A Makeshift Reuben

House Hash at The Retreat

I always think of ‘house hash’ as an American dish but we of course have similar in British recipes ‘bubble and squeak’ comes to mind.A quick lunch (after a failed attempt at the local vegetarian restaurant which was full already) in The Retreat in Ilminster, Somerset (UK) had my father and I both opted for the house hash. The bold combination of ingredients was one I had not seen before. Sauté potatoes with bacon, broad beans, samphire topped with a poached duck egg on top. We eagerly awaited it’s arrival, it did not disappoint. The egg might have been cooked just a little bit more for my taste but otherwise a flawless dish.It got me thinking about the traditional recipes, corned beef hash and other classic dishes. What’s yours favourite combination? Share in the comments below I’m always intrigued to dish new recipes!
Source: House Hash at The Retreat

I Finally Found Purple Sweet Potato

So after months of food envy on Instagram I finally have the opportunity to get my hands on some purple sweet potato. I rushed to the grocers first thing Monday morning and was greeted with a multitude of great offerings (the 50p box was my friend). There they were, slightly different to the orange colour sweet potatoes I am used to, I also understand its possible to get white ones which are much like yams? If anyone knows more about this please do let me know as I am intrigued by the different types. In the picture below the one at the top (the rounder one) is a ‘Standard’ and the other two are the purple ones, they appear longer and more finger like. One unusual thing about these purple potatoes is that they stay purple when cooked, quite often the colour drains from the vegetables as they cook! The taste was quite unique and in my opinion it might have been better to add just a touch more seasoning, I still have some left so I will be experimenting further in the week.Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these exotic vegetables!!!
Source: I Finally Found Purple Sweet Potato

Frugal Recipes for the Unispired

Firstly please feel free to comment your thoughts on this!Some of us live a life of luxury, some of us live beyond our means and some of us live frugally. The definition of frugal is ‘simple and plain and costing little’. With this in mind, I recently discovered the Instagram chef @miguelbarclay who has written a book called One Pound Meals. This contains recipes for dishes which cost £1 a portion, this intrigued me, obviously if you were cooking for more than one you simply multiply the ingredients by the number of people eating.There have been many projects aimed at eating on a very low budget, I think the lowest i’ve heard of is £1 a day, it is possible to do but if i’m honest the real struggle is for the people who have to. I am in a very fortunate position that I do not have to be that restricted, having said that it is possible with some careful planning to eat well on such a budget, but it requires care and effort. Not for the busy you say? Personally I dont believe there should be an excuse of i’m too busy to eat, your body needs nourishing, if you want it performing well and firing on all cylinders then fuel it with some awesome food!Reading through it there are so many recipes to try, some classics and even some new ideas for me to try. In my personal opinion I would recommend buying a slow cooker or ‘crockpot’, for several reasons but mainly because it will solve your chilli/ragu problems for ever. Advice from a 2nd generation Italian told me that your ragu needs at least 4 hours cooking if not longer, so my answer is the slow cooker – no leaving the cooker or oven on just plug it in and go. This goes for both meat and vegetarian versions, I find the tomatoes respond much better to the slow cooking process and become rich and thick.The subject of the ‘One Pound Meal’ was also discussed in The Times with reference to gourmet dishes, now this is where it gets a little tricky for me, the quality of some of the ingredients recommended are not necessarily what I would choose, but I understand that they have been chosen with the price of the dish in mind. I have every intention of trying those recipes but possibly with slightly different ingredients, as he said in the book he spent time taking ingredients away from a dish to make it simpler and cheaper. There is no reason for anyone not to enjoy adapting and experimenting with the recipes and ingredients in this book further to their own personal tastes. Link to @onepoundmeals Instagram here
Source: Frugal Recipes for the Unispired

Baking with Coconut Flour

Ive heard a lot about coconut flour over the past few months, heralded as the latest gluten-free option. Living in a small town in the Westcountry, UK such things take time to be available in the shops for us. When in my local Home Sense I spotted some in the food aisle purely by chance. I grabbed it and brought it home, I put it in the baking cupboard and temporarily forgot about it. This week I decided I had to do something with it (not because of the expiry date but because i’d been looking forward to trying it out.Bemused at what to make I studied the back of the packet for some inspiration, there was a simple loaf recipe, so with some adaption of the recipe (I was one egg short and frankly thought it needed some dried fruit adding at least). Having melted the coconut oil I realised that despite my carefulness it was still quite warm, sticking it in the fridge for 10 minutes should do the trick – or so I thought (not quite). Adding the coconut oil to the eggs I was slightly apprehensive of the results but quickly brought the mixture together and put it in the loaf tin. Safe to say it took no time at all to cook and there wasn’t too much rise on it. Having said that it kinda tastes like a giant macaroon which is pretty cool :-)There was a minor dropping incident which means I didn’t take an after photo….Just means I will have to make another.
Source: Baking with Coconut Flour

Chai Hot Chocolate

I love chai spices, the mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and pepper always comfort me. In winter the cold temperatures draw us to hot drinks, you see a plethora of different options in your local coffee shop or cafe, choosing from gingerbread lattes to spiced hot chocolate to chai lattes. Do you wish you could make these quickly and easily at home? Lets face it the practicality of going out to a coffee shop at 9pm to get a chai hot chocolate is not great not to mention the costs associated with buying such things. As a student we had a tradition of being frugal and of course found cheap ways of making our favourite treats so that even on a skint day we would have something. Using store bought hot chocolate we would make a paste with a little milk and add the hot water on top giving it a good stir to ensure that you have a fairly decent froth on top (not quite Neros but hey it was cheaper than going and getting one).Sometime last year I was in exactly that position, the desire for chai hot chocolate had risen on a Sunday night! Not practical. After giving it some thought I wondered – could I use a chai teabag to make a chai hot chocolate? I couldn’t see why this wouldn’t work it was merely a case of perfecting the technique.So I headed off to the kitchen determined that not only was this a brilliant idea but one I could share with others to inspire them, a nifty little life hack if you will.So you will need the following ingredients:~ Store bought hot chocolate of your choice (The brand is entirely up to you as both taste and budget do play a part in this)~ 2 tablespoons of Milk~ one chai teabag OR one cup of chai tea made with loose leaves, you will need to make the chai quite strong in this case for the flavours to infuse properly.~ Any toppings you might like – mini-marshmallows/cinnamon extra cocoa.Combine 4 tsp of your chosen hot chocolate with the milk, if using the teabag add this now and make sure it is incorporated into the paste. If you are using loose leaf tea then all you will need to do at this stage is add the hot chai stirring vigorously to combine.If you are using a teabag you need to add the hot water at this stage again stirring vigorously to combine and make froth.If you like you can top up with a bit of extra milk at this stage but this is optionalAdd your toppings if you are using.Settle down and enjoy! If you are wondering what the torture type looking contraption is in the picture, it is a mini hand frother – widely available. This is for the times when you don’t have a microwave (I don’t) and you still want proper frothy milk (without using hot water from the kettle) of course you could use this to make traditional milk based hot chocolate but I think it’s a little more hassle than my quick version. I hope you give it a try and enjoy, let me know your thoughts.
Source: Chai Hot Chocolate

Veganuary – Are you in?

As an omnivore I have no wish to go completely vegan or vegetarian, having said that I love discovering different types of cooking and different recipes, so naturally I am intrigued by the chemistry of vegan baking, the ways in which pulses are used instead of traditional proteins.When I spotted Veganuary floating around on Facebook – I had to investigate – there are a confusing number of blogs out there extolling the virtues of vegan or ‘plant-based’ diets and I wondered what they would suggest as ‘accessible’ dishes to those who have never cooked vegan before.I clicked on the colourful advert which took me to an equally colourful website. I was presented with a sign-up page to give me access to my starter-pack. The pack includes various meal plans which you can download in pdf format and are arranged into some useful categories – such as family friendly and love to cook which is a nice touch. They are simple timetables with dishes (with corresponding link to website) and even include snack suggestions which is useful for people who are looking to address their diet as a whole.
Source: Veganuary – Are you in?

New HRT Bliss Balls Recipe – Dare I Say Even Better Than The Cake?

So I know I am not in a position to be needing an alternative to HRT but none the less I am on a quest to learn how to make a variety of bliss balls. I got the idea for the HRT adaptation because someone was asking me about the cake recipe my mum used to give out to her patients. It seemed a good idea to make the recipe and see what i was dealing with (having a couple of willing guinea pigs already) well despite my best efforts (i pride myself in my baking skills) the cake was heavy and not particularly appetising. The challenge was set! It got my creative juices flowing and off I went, it took a bit of time to adjust the recipe from cake to ball but after some research on phytoestrogen levels in ingredients I was well on the way to success. I discovered that flaxseed had three times the amount of phytoestrogen levels as soya does, which was fantastic news for the recipe as it already included some flaxseed and it just meant a bit of tweaking to make these delightfully yummy moments.
Now for the recipe, normally there should be a plethora of pictures showing different stages of the recipe to guide you, but honestly these are so easy I trust all of your capabilities, if you wish to share your results I would love to hear about them!
250g of Oats (Preferably gluten free but not vital)
135g Pitted Dates (Preferably soaked)
60g Golden/Brown Flaxseed/Linseed
30g Sunflower Seeds
30g Pumpkin Seeds
2 x Handfuls of Cranberries
Handful of Cacao Nibs (Optional)
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter or other nut butter
2xDsp Honey/Maple Syrup/Agave
135ml Soya Milk (Approx)
Coating options: Cocao, Goji Berries, Matcha Green Tea, Coconut anything you like really!
Step One:
Using a mixer/bullet blender mix the Dates, Seeds, Cranberries and Cacao until small chunks
Step Two:
Add the oats again and pulse to incorporated thoroughly
Step Three:
Add Nut Butter and Sweetner and pulse again until it starts coming together
Step Four:
Add the Milk gradually until it becomes a very stiff paste (a little bit sticky but not gooey as it will not set)
Step Five:
Roll your balls in your preferred coating and place on greaseproof paper on a tray and refrigerate/freeze for a couple of hours. They will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month if they last that long! One a day is an acceptable ‘Dose’ I hope you enjoy and please let me know if you like it!!

Macaroons, Chillis and Tiffin Flapjack

Whilst out yesterday the postman kindly delivered the traditional box of chillis from DSC_0034my Dad via Sea Spring Seeds, he knows i love them and they always send such pretty types and colours although they don’t send the guide with them anymore so its pot luck as to the heat rating and spiciness unless you really know your chillis well. I always put them in a bowl or a jar as they just look so pretty plus it means they wont spoil in the fridge.
It struck me as i woke up this morning that so far since i have stopped working i haven’t managed to get much further in the quest of sorting my future, i know this is a large task and it will take time but i honestly thought i would be more motivated by now. Yes i have spent a month travelling on my own round Europe (a time which i do not regret) but if i’m honest i don’t feel like i’ve progressed that much mainly due to being so tied to home, i spent (in my opinion) too much time leaning on my crutches and not enough time actually putting myself out there and really learning about myself, which saddens me to a certain extent. My friends and family have commended me for my bravery, but to me it feels like nothing…much in the same way that many things feel like nothing…i went to university, i got a mortgage, i got a job that i hate (which admittedly was the point at which i said to myself no more) its like i’m going through the motions of a life i don’t want to live…but conversely i’m now faced, having challenged this fact, with the task of creating the life i do want and that to me is much more scary, especially when i cant seem to throw myself out of my comfort zone.
DSC_0031#1With this in mind (and my innate need to bake when i am feeling unsettled)
i decided to make some macaroons (not before you are disappointed the colourful french fancies but the delicious simple version made with either coconut or almonds) they are the simplest and most gratifying thing to bake they can also be spiced with all kinds of things and of course dipped in chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 100g/3½oz caster sugar
  • 160g/5½oz desiccated coconut or ground almonds
  • 1 tsp grated lime zest (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (optional)
  • 100g of Chocolate melted (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/355F/Gas 4.
  2. Use your hands to mulch the egg whites, sugar, coconut, lime zest and juice in a bowl until they lightly come together.
  3. Either With wet hands, press the mixture into a flat, square shape about 1cm/0.5in high.
  4. Use a small upturned liqueur glass to cut out small rounds, and place on a lightly oiled or nonstick baking tray.
  5. Or roll into balls by hand if you want ‘bounty’ style bars then you could just cut the square shape into bars
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes in the centre of the oven until very lightly golden, just touched with colour.
  7. Cool the macaroons on a wire rack for a few minutes
  8. Dip in the chocolate (optional)
  9. Store in an airtight jar

DSC_0032
As an after thought i also made some Tiffin Flapjack (due to lack of biscuits oats were used to replace hence the flapjack element using a great recipe from Niknoks Chocolate Tiffin, its a good way of using up the little bits of dried fruit/nuts/seeds and random cooking chocolate you have lying around and is best done in a disposable foil tray (20x20cm) saves on washing up and means that you wont damage any nice non-stick pans you might use.
I love sharing recipes and food with people i think its important that if you are going to eat you should at least properly, speaking to my friend last night she triumphantly announced that she had used the simple ice cream recipe which i had shared with her only a few weeks before and that everyone loved it, the best feeling was the look of achievement on her face was so heart warming.