Skinny is the Word

Now that Easter is officially off the scene, it’s time to stop eating chocolate bunnies and eat more like a bunny!  I’m sure you are aware the government have recently upped the stakes (or should that be beef steak tomatoes) and announced that five portions of fruit and veg a day just doesn’t cut it anymore and advise we should be aiming to consume a daily  seven!.  Phew, that’s a lotta consuming!  What’s the best way to get all these lovely nutrients in your system in one fell swoop?  A one shot wonder of delicious juice and the nicest I’ve tried so far have to be by local juice and super food company, Skinny Malinky’s.  Blended lovingly by Paula Heaney, she combines a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, crafting each juice meticulously to deliver wondrous benefits to the body, mind and soul.  7 a day? Wee buns 🙂

Juice collection copyright

Find Skinny Malinky’s @ https://www.facebook.com/skinnymalinkys

 

You are my Sunshine

I chose to make lemon curd this week as opposed to buying it simply because it worked out cheaper, tastier and gave greater satisfaction than effortlessly dropping into Tesco just for convenience.  Nothing really good or really worth it comes from convenience, a little bit of elbow grease lubricates the soul and feeds the mind, releasing feel good satisfaction of ‘I did that’.  I pretty much had everything I needed in my store cupboard to make the curd, all I needed to purchase were a few plump juicy lemons at less than a £1 and I was good to go.  As any keen baker I’m sure will admit, grating and juicing citrus fruit is not high on the big list of fun things to do in life but its necessary so I quit whining and got on it with.  Be careful not to spill your precious lemon juice (from experience), its like liquid gold by the time you’re finished the zesting and juicing palava!  I creamed some butter with sugar, chucked in an egg and stirred over a medium heat until I had a lovely rich, thick  yellow emulsion brimming with flavour and a beautiful citrus blast that infused the whole kitchen.  So there you have it, my very own little pot of pure sunshine.  Make yours and spread a little happiness 😀

Homemade Lemon Curd

 

Ingredients

(yields 1 jar)

40g butter

50g caster sugar

1 egg

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

 

Method

Place the zest and juice in a heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (be sure the water isn’t touching the bowl).  Crack in the whole egg and whisk together.  Cream together the butter and sugar and add to the lemony mixture.  It will look curdled and lumpy to start with but keep stirring until you get a mayonnaise like consistency.  I like to check it by dropping a little onto a cold saucer and if it sets nicely then its ready.  Decant into a steralised jar and seal.  I’m sure it will be eaten within a day or so anyway but will keep for up to a couple of weeks in the fridge. After blogging this I also made the curd with limes (quantity 3 as they are smaller) and it was so deliciously tart and sweet – try it!

Market Day at Queens

Yesterday I trotted along to Queens for a little foodie indulgence as the they hosted an Artisan Market, organised by the university’s own Institute for Global Food Security.  Among the tasty delights were delectable macaroon’s by the lovely Eva Paris, some sweet and spicy partnerships by Passion Preserved and not to forget the good old spud, reinvented by the fantastic Mash Direct.  On the sample table were oils by Harnetts Oils, one of which I tried was Hemp oil.  Now that was different!  It had quite a strong flavour, nothing like that I’ve tasted in an oil before but very delicious nonetheless!  My friend Jenny was there with Keen keeping the fine people of Belfast stocked in nut butter – she sold out three hours before the end of the day!  All in all it was a cracking day, showcasing some wonderful local produce that is completely home grown and made right here in Northern Ireland.  Most of these local traders can be found every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at our very own St George’s Market (https://www.facebook.com/StGeorgesMarketBelfast) So get your butts down there and don’t miss out!

Bouraghgammon Eva Paris Harnetts Oils dipping saucers Jenny ay Keen Mash Direct Passion Preserved

Roll Up! Roll Up!

This weekend I tried to defy the laws of physics by fitting a much too large Swiss roll tin into a much too small oven.  After much deliberation between myself, the tin and the oven and a lot of racket to which the dog scampered upstairs to save itself from most likely what it thought was the sound of the world ending, I conceded – Swiss roll tin 1, me 0.  So, not to be totally defeated, I hunted out a smaller tray (hmmmph!).  I’ve never attempted to roll sponge so this was an interesting little endeavor.  Once the sponge was out of the oven and slightly cooled off, I removed it from the tray and began loading it with the jam, cream and raspberries.  I decided the sponge may be more pliable when still slightly warm so I began rolling.  Now trust me, you don’t just launch into this sort of manoeuvre lightly – I had to psych myself up quite a bit before approaching the bench to potentially deconstruct what I had spent the best part of the morning preparing.  At this stage its win or lose, fight or flight, no pain no gain!  Ok not that bad but I had already lost one round to that stupid tin and it was game on!  Like a plaster, you just got to get in there and get out ( I think I shut my eyes at one point)  When I looked down, to my delight I had what closely resembled a decent looking Swiss roll!  There were a few cracks in it but then nobody’s perfect.  They add character, like so many things in life 🙂

Raspberry Swiss Roll

 

Ingredients
3 free range eggs
75g/3oz caster sugar
75g/3oz self raising flour, sifted
Filling
75g/3oz raspberry jam
125ml/ 4 1/2 fl oz whipped double cream
100g/3 1/2oz fresh raspberries
Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and grease and line a 23cm x 30cm/9in x 12in Swiss roll tin.  Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Fold in the flour and spoon the mixture into the tin.  Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until light and springy to the touch (keep a close eye on it, it goes from not baked to baked in no time!).  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes then gently turn the sponge out onto another piece of greaseproof paper.  For the filling spread the jam onto the sponge and top with the whipped cream leaving a small border around the edges.  Sprinkle the raspberries over the cream.  I didn’t follow any form or fashion for this bit, however make sure there are a few at the edges so you can see them poking out once the sponge is rolled.  Bring the sponge in front of you lengthways and begin to roll the edge up, tucking it under and applying light pressure until you have the whole sponge rolled.  Use the greaseproof paper like a sushi rolling mat if you need to (I didn’t but everyone has a different way of doing things).  Don’t worry if there are a few cracks, like I said it adds nicely to the homemade look.  Top with a few extra raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar and serve.   Scrummy loveliness!
Recipe from http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/swiss_roll_08913

Well that takes the biscuit!

Did you know that a team of professional scientists have actually conducted experiments to discover which biscuit is the best biscuit to dunk in a cup of tea?  Yes, really!  The result?  Good old Rich Tea apparently.  Not my personal go-to biscuit but then I’m not much of a dunker.  However, when it comes to the Italian’s favourite biscotto (the Italian word for biscuit)  biscotti beats Rich Tea’s ass like Rocky Balboa vs Julian Simmons.  Often crammed full of little gem like clusters of dried cranberries, crunchy roasted almonds or delicious chunks of nougat.  I baked mine strewn with flashes of bright green pistachio, rich dark chocolate chips and a hint of vanilla.  Behold a biscuit made for dunking!  The Italian’s always get it so right.  Enjoy with hot, velvety coffee, sweet dessert wine or even a glass of cold, creamy milk would entirely compliment these wonderful little biscuits.  If you haven’t tried biscotti yet, it is honestly one of the simplest things in the world to make and after you’ve made it, you’re thoughts will be consumed with the endless possibilities of ‘what can I make it with next…?’.  Enjoy!

 

Double chocolate & pistachio biscotti perched on a coffee cup

Double Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients List

90g plain flour (if you want to make chocolate like I did replace 2tbsp with cocoa powder)

1tsp baking powder

55g sugar

35g shelled pistachios (leave whole)

1 egg yolk

1/2 tsp vanilla paste

25g dark chocolate chips

dash of milk

 

Method

Heat oven to 160 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Put all the dry ingredients into a baking bowl and mix together.  Add the egg yolk and mix to form a dough.  I found the mixture a little dry so if this is the case do like I did and add a little milk until it comes together (be careful not to make the dough wet though).  Shape into a log (about 6inches approx), place on the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cut into slices then place back in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes to crisp up.

 

Serving suggestions as above, enjoy!

 

A-peeling Performance

After spying some rather sorry looking bananas in my fruit basket (which by the way, contains little more than an old apple and some monkey nuts left over from Halloween – shameful…), I was destined to make ‘banana something-or-another’ last weekend.  As a twist on ye olde banana loaf, I whipped up a scrummy banana cake and put my bruised and over ripened bananas out of their misery.  As my naked cake sat cooling I pondered what to adorn it with so, after a quick rifle through the cupboards, I returned armed with strawberry jam and dessicated coconut (I think you know where this is going).  I topped the cooled cake with warmed jam and the obligatory coconut to complete the bananas transformation into ….voila!  Jammy Joeys of course!  Serve these moist and crumbly little cakes warm, drowned in thick, creamy custard and some more jam if you wish.  This simple dessert transported me back to my childhood days of Sunday dinners followed by the comforting pud Mum whipped up whilst I sat watching Little House on the Prairie.  So release those tired old bananas into something wonderful!

 

Jammy Joey baking sheet

Jammy Joey baking sheet close

Ingredients List

280g self raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature

2tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil (I actually used 0% fat greek yogurt)

170g granulated sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 large egg white at room temperature

4 large ripe bananas

1tsp vanilla extract

60mls milk (I used coconut milk)

1/2 jar of strawberry jam

dessicated coconut

 

Method

Preheat oven to 180°. Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, oil or yogurt, and sugar. Beat in eggs and egg white, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mash bananas with milk. Set aside.

Gradually mix half of dry ingredients into butter mixture. Mix in bananas. Mix in remaining dry ingredients. Pour cake batter into prepared baking pan.

Bake 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. I needed to bake mine for about an hour.  Cool cake in pan on wire rack

Once cake has cooled, smooth warmed jam over the surface of the cake and then scatter the coconut on top to cover the jam.

Allow to set for about 20 minutes then slice into squares or however your heart desires!

Notes

Recipe adapted from All You.

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Friday I’m in Fudge

Two polar opposites made with the same ingredient this week, Weightwatchers chocolate mousse and the other a full on fat fest with a sugar chaser, FUDGE!  I opened a tin of condensed milk for the Weightwatchers mousse recipe only to discover I needed a mere thimbleful of the stuff and was left with more or less a full tin with no plans for its consumption.  The mousse was very good but with enough condensed milk leftover to make mousse for 10 neighbours and their dogs I needed a different recipe pronto.  I don’t know how long an open tin will last for, despite the fact I took to eating some of it with a dessert spoon, I still had a lot left.  So after peering at recipe after recipe for cheesecakes, coconut ice (which was a contender) and more cheesecakes I decided fudge was the easiest solution as I had all the ingredients to hand and didn’t need to trail around Sainsbury’s looking for organic grass fed, no preservatives, reduced salt, gluten free paelo wafers or some such nonsense (ingredient lists can be like that!).

There you have it, a simple fudge recipe with a few little added extras including pecan and maple nut butter and chopped medjool dates.  A little chunk of niceness x

Pecan and Maple fudge

Pecan and Maple Fudge

Creamy Fudge with pecan and maple nut butter and medjool dates

397g tin of condensed milk

150mls of milk

450g demerara sugar

115g butter

2tbsp pecan and almond nut butter (I used Keen)

7-10 chopped dates

150g chopped pecans

20cm square tin lined with baking parchment

Method

Place the ingredients in a large non-stick saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes stirring continuously and scraping the bottom of the pan.  Check with a sugar thermometer that the mixture has reached 118 degrees or  you can use the soft ball method to check if the fudge is ready by dropping a little of the mixture into a jug of iced water.  If it forms a ball then it’s ready.  Remove from the heat and beat the fudge until very thick and starts to set.  Before the mixture gets too thick add the nut butter and chopped dates.  You can either add the chopped pecans now or squidge them on top of the fudge mixture once poured into the tin.  Leave to cool and set then cut into squares and enjoy!

Sunday Best

Yesterday was Sunday.  Day of rest.  Put the feet up and reflect on the week’s achievements.  My reflection or more accurately speaking, realisation fell upon alcohol.  Having had a few (3 drinks damn it 3!) the night before, I came to the conclusion that bottles should come with another health warning stating ‘half recommended  serving size if 30yrs+’.  Ropey Sunday…..  Anyway, I managed to organize myself into the kitchen to cook dinner and decided to buck the trend of the traditional Sunday roast and opted to go Thai.  I  settled on a slimmer variation of the coconutty broth by following a recipe from chef Gizzi’s book ‘Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts’.  I substituted the peanut butter for all natural Keen Almond Butter and scattered chopped, roasted almonds to compliment further.  It was delicious and didn’t taste skinny at all served with wholegrain rice and spring onion slivers.  Definitely a keeper – Thai Sundays are staying!

Thai almond chicken curryThai almond butter curry

 

Ingredients List

2 chicken thighs, skin on and bone removed

1 tsp curry powder

a good pinch of sea salt

olive oil spray

30g Thai yellow curry paste (I used green and it was fine)

200g half fat coconut milk

200ml chicken stock

1 tbsp peanut butter (I used almond butter)

1 tbsp palm sugar (I used dark muscavado)

1 tbsp fish sauce

5 lime leaves

120g fresh cooked brown rice

1/2 small cucumber, deseeded and cut into matchsticks

4 spring onions, cut into matchsticks

a handful of beansprouts

1 tbsp of chopped toasted peanuts (or almonds)

a small handful each of fresh coriander and Thai basil leaves

 

Method

Rub the chicken thighs with the curry powder and salt, then spritz gently with olive oil.  Set aside.

To make the sauce, spritz a little oil into the bottom of a pan over a moderate heat.  Add the curry paste and fry for 2 minutes. Pour over the coconut milk and chicken stock and add the peanut butter or almond butter, sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves.  Bring to the boil then turn down and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.  Keep warm.

Heat a griddle pan until smoking.  Lay the chicken thighs into the pan skin side down and lower the heat to medium.  Grill for 4-5 minutes until the skin is crispy and lightly charred, then turn over and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove from the pan and set aside to rest on a plate for a few minutes.  Once rested, cut the thigh meat into thick slices, pouring any excess cooking juices into the curry sauce.

Divide the rice between bowls, then top each with the chicken, sauce, cucumber, spring onions, beansprouts and nuts.  Scatter over the herbs and serve.

 

 

 

On The Beet

We are all more than aware of the fact we need to look after ourselves (especially so as we clock up the mileage).  Five a day, exercise daily, treats in moderation and so on and so forth.  Well what better way to get all of the above than in the shape of a lusciously moist, decadently dark, unbelievably squidgy chocolate cake!  What! How? I hear you cry.  Let me tell you.  By baking from start to finish a rich chocolate beetroot cake.   However, I warn you this is no mean feat of a cake.  You gotta work this sucker!  On the plus side that’s your daily exercise quota nailed.  Now, moving on.  Grating beetroot is not for the faint hearted nor the image conscious at that.  Your hands will look like you just participated in an episode of Dexter if you do what I did and forget to wear gloves.  Its sooooo worth it though believe me, and the beetroot counts as one of your five a day!  Don’t question it, it does.  Really.  It’s a healthy cake.  Ish….

 

Once the grating is out of the way the rest is simples and after completing and conquering this masterpiece of moreishness you will get over the purple staining of everything you hold dear and bake it over and over again.  For it is the dense, fudgy, moist-to-the-point-of-compelling-you-to-dive-in-and-bathe-in-it’s chocolately crumb that will make you want to bake this cake and just eat it completely all by yourself x

 

Beetroot Cake with beets

 

Beetroot slice in a bowl

‘Keen’ on some nut butter

Picture it……It’s raining (actually you probably just need to look outside).  It’s cold, the wind is whipping up around the windows and the doors and you’ve got your boxset of Friends all ready to go.  What’s missing….?  Some yummy, scrummy, thick and golden roasted almond nut butter of course!  Indulge in its mouth watering glossiness as it settles onto its new home – a thick slice of cinnamon fruit soda baked fresh and still warm.  At that first bite I take a moment, the warm bread gently melting the butter releasing its sweet nutty aroma. Ahhhhhhh……………. Lets just leave that jar sitting there x

crunchy almond on cinnamon and raisin soda