Sweet Roasted Plums

Saturday, 31 August 2013

This weekend I was both excited and disappointed to see plums at the market.  Excited because plums! disappointed because, like blackberries, they hail the beginning of the end of an all too fleeting summer which still feels impossible to me.  My absolute favourite variety are victoria plums which are an English plum with a yellowish colour flesh and red mottled skin.  They are small and sweet and pop in to my mouth far too easily.

I am no stranger to roasting fruit.  It is one of my favourite ways to make a quick and easy dessert.  I decided to roast some of the plums with a little maple syrup and a drop of balsamic vinegar.  The flavours worked perfectly and the plums were transformed becoming soft, sweet and caramelised in the oven.  They are perfect with ice cream, or natural yoghurt which is my favourite way to have them.  I think they would be fantastic on pancakes.  I’m ready to embrace Autumn, the sun is still shining but the temperature has dropped a little.   There is a nip in the air when I get up early for work.  If this is the kind of food I am going to be eating then it will make saying goodbye to summer a little less painful.

I based my method here on Heidi Swanson’s recipe for roasted strawberries in her book Super Natural Every Day.
8oz, 225 g plums, washed and cut into quarters
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup depending on how sweet you want them
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
A few drops of balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.  In a small bowl whisk together the syrup and oil.  Toss the mixture with the plums so they are well coated.  Arrange the plums in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet.  Roast for about 40 minutes until the juices are beginning to thicken and the plums are soft and caramelised.  Scrape the plums in to a small bowl and add a few drops of balsamic vinegar.  Serve warm or let them cool and refrigerate.

Super Seed, Kale and Rice Salad

Sunday, 25 August 2013

It’s August bank holiday weekend and I feel like summer is trickling away too fast.  The way I know this is by all the wonderful summer produce I can’t keep up with.  I had so many things in my head that I wanted to make with fresh peaches, strawberries and raspberries and now suddenly we are at the end of August.  The garden is full of blackberries, more than we can pick, plums and figs are turning up at the market.  I literally can’t keep up!  So instead I bring you a kale salad which may be a poor substitute for summer fruit but hopefully those summer fruit will be making an appearance in some form soon.

I understand if you are asking yourself, does the internet really need another kale salad?  It seems I can never get enough of the stuff which is just as well because my favourite variety, cavolo nero, has just become available here again.  I’ve returned home from the market today triumphant with two big bags full...give me all the kale!  I’m guessing by now I only have die hard kale fans still reading so I’ll get on with it.  This salad came together one lunch time when I had put a pot of rice on to boil but hadn’t really got my act together regarding what I was actually going to eat with it.  After hunting around in the cupboards I decided to toast up some seeds for a bit of crunch.  Sesame seeds are a great source of protein and they add a subtle nutty flavour to a dish.  Pumpkin seeds also pack a powerful punch when it comes to your health.  They are high in protein, iron, zinc and magnesium.  I threw in some dried cherries for their sweetness and finished off with crumbled goat cheese.  Feta would be a good substitute.  Kale of course provided the vegetable element with its dark green leaves it is a great source of iron, calcium, vitamin C and is packed with antioxidants.  We’ve since had this rice dish a few times with roast chicken and with salmon which was delicious.

Super Seed, Kale and Rice Salad Serves 2
75g red camargue and wild rice or brown rice is fine.
Handful of kale leaves roughly chopped and stems removed
Toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds
Dried cherries
Hard goat cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice half a lemon
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon cyder vinegar
A few chives finely chopped
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C, 400°F
To make the dressing combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
Cook the rice according to the pack instructions.  While the rice is cooking toast your seeds.  When the rice is ready drain, rinse and set aside to steam away any excess water.  Put the extra virgin olive oil in a baking tray, add the kale and cherries and toss.  Place in the oven for 2 minutes until the kale is just wilting and the cherries are plumping up.  Remove from the oven and add the rice and the toasted seeds.  Finally add the dressing and toss everything together.  Serve topped with crumbled goat cheese.  If you don’t want to use the oven for this you could make everything in a skillet or frying pan on the hob.  

Back on the Smoothie Game

Friday, 16 August 2013

Last year, every weekend morning you would find me in the kitchen busily making smoothies.  I was quite obsessed.  But then, like the fickle girl I can be, I just suddenly stopped.  I don’t remember why, how or when.  Suddenly that was it.  The one woman smoothie production line ground to a halt, my blender lay dusty and unloved for months.  When I saw this recipe on My New Roots it re awakened my inner smoothie making gene...stick with me here...and so I dusted off my blender and made the most amazing smoothie.  I think the problem was I just lost my inspiration.  I made the same smoothie every week.  I loved it but it just got old.  It reminded me I need to mix things up a bit and try different ingredients more often.  We still have the central game players, frozen banana, kale, almond milk but a few unexpected guests have turned up to make this smoothie way more interesting.  In particular it’s packed with protein which is something I don’t always feel features enough in my diet.  It also makes the best of summer fruits peaches and blueberries.  So make this smoothie, it tastes like heaven in a glass, thick and creamy with pops of fruit and it’s really good for you.

For those who are put off the whole frozen banana idea, all you need to do is peel and chop up your banana and stick it in the freezer on a plate for about an hour.  You want it frozen but it doesn’t need to be rock solid.  I’m sure you’ll be riveted to know that I do this first thing in the morning and then pop off and have a shower.  By the time I drag myself back downstairs it’s usually had a good 45 minutes in the freezer and is ready to use.  Freezing the banana just makes the smoothie extra creamy but it’s by no means essential.  Happy smoothie making!

Recipe very slightly adapted from My New Roots.
Makes 1 huge glass or 2 smaller ones.  This was plenty for myself and my husband.
1 cup blueberries, mine were frozen
1 frozen banana and frozen peach (same method as banana)
5 large basil leaves
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 teaspoon bee pollen (optional)
1-2 teaspoons pea protein powder (optional and use more if you like)
1 handful of kale, finely chopped and stems removed
200ml almond milk

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  I usually do this in stages starting off with the kale and almond milk and then adding the other ingredients one by one.  It’s easier on the blender that way.

Roasted Aubergine, Tomato and Goat Cheese Pasta

Friday, 9 August 2013

Over this summer I decided to take every Friday off work.  Not only does it enable me to feel smug on a Thursday but I also get to make the most of summer spread out over long weekends.  I love not having to spend my Friday evening stuck in traffic as all of London seems to be on the move for the weekend getaway.  It seems to me the three day weekend really should be introduced.  In fact it was Winston Churchill who as Prime Minister in the 1950s saw the potential in the four day working week for the future: “give the working man what he’s never had – four days’ work and then three days’ fun”.  How right he was and if only...

I’ve been making this pasta every summer for years.  My husband loathes aubergines so it’s usually a solo affair.  It works well as a weekend lunch or a quick week night dinner.  If I add chopped up sausages I can usually persuade my husband to eat it as long as I go light on the aubergine.  More for me.  If I’m feeling flush then I’ll use toasted pine nuts instead of the toasted almonds.  Olives are another nice addition.  It’s a hearty Mediterranean style dish perfect for warm summer days.

Recipe adapted from BBC GoodFood Serves 2
1 large aubergine cut in to chunks
200g cherry tomatoes cut in half
Handful of basil leaves chopped
Handful almond flakes toasted
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Hard goat cheese, grated
150g gluten free pasta
Preheat the oven Gas Mark 7, 220°C, 425°F
Place the aubergine chunks and whole garlic clove in a baking tray and drizzle with oil.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, give everything a stir and add the cherry tomatoes to the pan.  Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile cook your pasta according to the pack instructions.  When your veg is ready and your pasta is drained, remove the garlic from the pan, snip off the ends and squeeze the roasted garlic out on to a board.  Mash with a fork and return to the vegetable pan.  Add the pasta, basil and some of the goat cheese and mix everything together.  The pasta will mop up the lovely juices from the aubergines and tomatoes.  Serve in bowls sprinkled with flaked almonds and more goat cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

*Churchill quote from the Guardian

Gooseberry, But Not the Fool

Friday, 2 August 2013

Over the summer my husband is assisting on a feature film and as I type this, a film crew is in my back garden filming a scene in which a girl is offered drugs at a family BBQ.  I don’t know what it is about my back garden that says drug den but I’m trying not to focus on that.  Instead I’m focusing on these gooseberry bars.  For the uninitiated gooseberries are a summer fruit native to Europe.  They are quite tart in flavour and most often eaten in crumbles or in the gooseberry fool which is a well known English dessert although having said that I’ve never actually eaten one.  Apparently they have been popular in England as far back as the reign of Elizabeth 1st. 

When a friend gave us a big bowl full of gooseberries from his garden my first instinct was hooray, free food and secondly to make a crumble but my husband pulls a face every time I mention crumble.  He is not a fan.  However he has no problem at all with crumble bars.  I know what you are thinking.  Surely the leap from crumble to crumble bar can’t be that big but apparently it is.  So when I saw a delicious looking recipe for raspberry breakfast bars from Jeanette at Everybody Likes Sandwiches I thought it looked like the perfect vehicle for my gooseberries.  It worked really well.  I had to substitute gluten free brown rice flour for the spelt flour which did lend a fairly crumbly texture but if you keep them in the fridge they hold together reasonably well.  They are delicious without being overly sweet and the tartness of the gooseberries is counteracted once they are cooked.  I should have done a layer of jam as was recommended in the recipe but sadly I was out of jam that day.  Maybe I should have made some gooseberry jam too!

Recipe adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches.
1 cup/115g/4 ½ oz brown rice flour
1 cup/100g/4oz gluten free oats
½ cup/50g/2oz ground almonds
½ cup/25g/1oz toasted coconut flakes
1/3 cup/60g/2 ½ oz brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
 ½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
2-3 cups/300g/10oz gooseberries washed, stems removed.  I kept most of mine whole but you can cut them in half if you prefer.
1 tablespoon demerara sugar for sprinkling.

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F.  Line an 8x8 pan or I used an 11 x 6 pan with parchment letting the edges hang over to form a sling.

In a mixing bowl combine the flour, oats, ground almonds, toasted coconut, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Next add the coconut oil, egg and vanilla extract and combine until a crumbly dough forms.  Reserve ¾ cup of dough to one side and press the rest in to the bottom of your pan.  Scatter the gooseberries across the dough then top with the rest of the reserved dough in rough clumps.  Finally sprinkle with demerara sugar.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes then remove the bars from the pan using your parchment sling.  Allow to cool completely before cutting in to squares.  Store the bars in the refrigerator.