Posts Tagged With: simple

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

I know this may sound complicated, but it ain’t!  A light and simple summer time lunch which is a bit of a looker and won’t have you hanging out in the kitchen or shops for too long. The method is so easy and there are only a handful of ingredients. You want to be outside right, dancing in the sunshine, listening to reggae!!!

This is what you could call a restaurant style dish, I served it recently to some friends and it’s that kind of Saturday night dinner party plate. Dishes like this look much more complicated than they actually are, I think that makes for a good restaurant dish. Making our lives easier in the kitchen doesn’t mean the quality and presentation of food has to suffer. The contrary is generally true. The more chilled and effortless we are in the kitchen, the better the end product. Thats how it works in the BHK anyway!

KING CAULI
Cauliflower is so versatile and its finely getting some real kudos in the ‘foodie’ world. Long overdue! I actually endured the glorious cauliflowers former incarnation recently, that drab and vacuous, steamed way beyond death thing, that graces serving dishes in function rooms across Britain. It was at a wedding. Any flavour that the poor florets had were mercilessly boiled out. What a shame, I only hope they used the stock.

Cauli makes our sauce here super creamy, it actually contains pectin, like apples, which helps to thicken things up nicely. I use cauliflower in soups and stews when looking for a touch of silky creaminess. I’ve even used cauliflower in a chocolate torte which was actually really nice. It was for my Mum’s 60th birthday cake, which was admittedly, a bit of a risk. But no one could have guessed, primarily because I didn’t tell them about the secret ingredient until after they’d eaten at least two slices and showered compliments on the richness of the torte etc. Then I went in, a bit smug. No one was that surprised. They know what I’m like.

Of course, we’re all crazy for roasted cauliflower at the minute and bar maybe potatoes, few veggies can match cauli when it is nicely caramelised and a bit charred around the edges. Yumah!

A plate fit to grace a party

A plate fit to grace a party

Recipe Notes
You’ll probably have a little too much sauce from this recipe. You can thin it down with vegetable stock to make a lovely soup.

If your hazelnuts are not toasted, just pop them on a baking tray and into the oven for 10 minutes. Keep your eye on them.

You can easily cook the cauliflower on a bbq if you prefer. Cauliflower is perfect for all kinds of bbq style behaviour.

Asparagus can be substituted for a number of veggies in this dish. What ever is looking good and seasonal, I’m thinking peas, broad beans, kale, even peppers or squash. Cauliflower is fairly neutral and takes well to many other veggie flavours.

I served this with pan fried mushrooms and spinach with roasted potatoes. Unless you are looking for a light meal, I’d advised some of your favourite, complementarty sides.

The BitsFor 4
1.25 kg cauliflower (a big one)
600g asparagus spears
3 cloves garlic
500ml soya milk (unsweetened)
1 big handful toasted hazelnuts (finely chopped)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Do It
Preheat an oven to 225oC.

Cut off the asparagus tips (first three-five inches), then chop the stems until you get to the woody bit. Try some, if it’s fibrous, you’ve gone too far.

Trim the leaves off the cauliflower by slicing off the majority of the base stem. Then cut into 3/4 inch slices straight across, use a long knife. Now cut off the ‘hearts’ of cauliflower, basically nicely shaped florets. The more broken, smaller pieces of cauliflower, add to a saucepan for the sauce. This should be roughly 1/2 the cauliflower. Use any leftover pieces of stem for the sauce.

Drizzle some oil onto a large oven tray, add the cauliflower hearts and season with salt and pepper. Toss a little so they are covered with oil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Until they are well caramelised, I’m talking dark brown colours and charred bits here.

Add the soya milk and garlic to the cauliflower in the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is just breaking down. Add the asaparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes more then leave to cool. You can do this in advance, preferably before the cauliflower is roasting in the oven. Using a stick blender or food processor, blitz the sauce until nice and smooth.

Just before serving, grab a frying pan, add a dash of oil and on a high heat, cook the asparagus tips. Fry for 5 minutes, until they caramelise and then season with a touch of salt and pepper.

Serve on big warm plates, add a few spoons of sauce to the centre, use a spoon to form a circle/ square (depending on the shape of your plate), form a row of asparagus tips along the centre, with four large cauliflower florets either side. Finish with a good scattering of hazelnuts. Or anyway you fancy.

This kind of dish demands a nice glass of chilled white wine (with or without bubbles).

Enjoy!!!!!

Enjoy!!!!!

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Ginger & Chocolate Treats (Simple festive fun)

Ginger & Chocolate Treats

Ginger & Chocolate Treats

This is a relatively inexpensive and super delicious festive treat or gift. These sweet thangs are warming and dangerously moreish. Add to that the fact that they only take a few minutes to get together and we have ourselves a Christmas classic! At least in the Beach House anyway. If you’re the kind of person who loves licking chocolate off things (who doesn’t!!!) then this is the one for you.

This recipe basically an assembly job, dipping crystallised ginger into dark vegan chocolate. The sweet ginger combined with the bitter chocolate is an utter sensation!

I find crystallised ginger way too sweet to eat as it is, so dipping it in chocolate is the perfect way to make it appealing to all. The process, like most festive cooking shenanigans, is loads of FUN! The ginger is also very warming we find, especially helpful up here in wild and wonderful Wales.

One part of Christmas that we love is the way that it focuses our minds on how we eat and how we can feed our loved ones. We tend to get more creative and throw ourselves into crafts, arts, baking, all sorts of activities that we maybe overlook in the year.

Pop these into little bags with fancy bows and you’ve got a gorgeous little crimbo pressie for loved ones, neighbours, work colleagues, the postie…….. With any leftover chocolate, why not pop a few nuts into the mix, or dried fruits. Walnuts are particularly satisfying as the chocolate sticks in the nobbles and bobbles of these funky nuts.

Recipe Notes

You may like to dust these treats with cocoa/ cacao or even cinnamon.

Ginger & Chocolate Treats - still a little soft to scoff

Ginger & Chocolate Treats – still a little soft to scoff

If you are short of time and still want to create some homemade magic, here we are:

The Bits

250g crystallised ginger
150g very dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa content is best)

Do It
Boil a kettle. Add boiling water to a small saucepan. Pop a glass bowl over the saucepan and gently warm the water. Break up the chocolate and pop in the bowl.

Stir and melt the chocolate until it has mostly melted. Keep stirring, the rest of the choc will melt.

Using a skewer (cocktail sticks are best) dip your ginger pieces into the just melted chocolate and place on a chopping board/ tray covered with greaseproof paper. Be sure to allow excess chocolate to drip off, shake it a little, so there is just enough to cover the ginger. Otherwise you’re left with a puddle of chocolate that sets in a funny shape (this however can look very cool!)

Leave to cool at room temperature and once the chocolate has solidified, eat one to test it. At least one……..Then bag up, pop in a sealable container, gift wrap………enjoy!!!!

Any spare chocolate?  Grab some nuts/ dried fruit and coat them for extra treats.

Nutty Chocolate Delights!

Nutty Chocolate Delights!

Foodie Fact

Although this recipe is by no means the healthiest one we’ll post, ginger is still ginger and has some shining bonuses to make our bodies smile.

Ginger is especially good for the digestive system, both soothing and inflammatory.  Ginger is also packed with anti-oxidant properties and is generally immune boosting and can help with nausea.  All of this sounds like a perfect reason to incorporate more ginger into our diets (these treats being the sweetest by a mile!)

Our little 'naff' tree sparkling away - our corner of chintz in the BHK

Our little ‘naff’ tree sparkling away

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No-Knead Everyday Loaf

No-Knead Everyday Loaf

No-Knead Everyday Loaf

Risk free, no brainer baking.  Perfect!  If you have never made bread before, start here…….if you’re a pro kneader, give this one a whirl, you’ll be surprised by the results.

This is bread making without all the fuss and mess.  In fact, its as simple as; combining, baking, eating.  This is a light loaf, with a slightly crumbly finish, like an Irish soda bread (without the faint twang of soda).  You can really taste the yoghurt which is a nice addition, giving richness to the loaf.

This is a bread that we make regularly and is perfect for a quick loaf in a hurry.  There is no proving or hanging around with this one.  Mix it up, whack it in the oven and before you know it, your whole house is fragrant with the joys of imminent warm bread.  Homemade bread is the only way to go and with recipes like this, its hassle free.

Adding sparkling water to your baking really adds a lightness to proceedings.  Normal water works fine here also.

Jane nibbling on a Tostada con Tomate - One of the recipes in our new cookbook - Peace and Parsnips

Jane nibbling on a ‘Tostada con Tomate’ – One of the recipes in our new cookbook – Peace and Parsnips

Modified from the awesome vegan baking book ‘The Vegan Baker’ by Dunja Gulin

The Bits – Makes a 1/2kg loaf (around 8-10 slices)

275g unbleached white flour

125g wholewheat flour

2 teas baking powder

50g rolled oats

1 ½ teas salt

250ml soya milk

225ml water (sparkling water is best)

4 tbs soya yoghurt (unsweetened)

2 tbs olive oil

Everything in neat bowls, probably the tidiest bread making recipe (no flour everywhere for a start)

Everything in neat bowls, probably the tidiest bread making recipe (no flour everywhere for a start)

Seed Mix

3 tbs rolled oats

1/2 teas caraway seeds

2 tbs flax/linseeds or sunflower seeds (any seed will do….)

Loaf ready for the oven

Loaf topped and ready for the oven

Do It 

Preheat an oven to 220oC (425oF).

Sift the white flour with the baking powder, then stir in the oats and salt.  Mix well.

Mix in the wet ingredients and combine well with a trusty wooden spoon until a sticky dough is formed.  It should be easy to spoon, add a touch more water if needed.

Line a loaf tin with oiled baking parchment, the neater, the better.  Sprinkle half of the seed mix on the base and then spoon in the bread mix.  Level with a spatula (a wet one works best) and sprinkle over the rest of the seed mix.

Pop in the oven and lower heat to 200oC (400oF) and bake for an hour.  If you’re using a fan oven, check after 30 minutes that the top is not burning (our oven is a beast and tends to burn tops).  Cover with more parchment if this is happening.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin. Turn out and peel off paper.  Leave to cool further on a wire rack, the crust will now crisp up nicely.

Store as you do, this bread lasts well, 5 days.

We let it cool outside, meaning you can start eating it sooner!

We let it cool outside, meaning you can start eating it sooner!

Serve

Warm with Marmite and good olive oil or some of Jane’s lovely Apple and Tomato Chutney (coming soon on the B.H.K).  This loaf is a good toaster.

Foodie Fact

Oats are a concentrated source of fibre and nutrients, a pocket battleship so to speak.  They are very high in minerals like manganese, phosphorous and copper.  It contains beta-glucan, which is a special type of fibre that actually lowers cholesterol.  Isn’t nature kind!  Have loads of fibre also means that oats help to stabilise our blood sugar level, meaning a better metabolism and less freaky weight gain.  Oats are very cool.

Sunset last night from the BHK window

Sunset last night from the BHK window

 

Categories: Baking, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Pot Wonder! Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Corn and Millet Casserole

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Millet is birdseed right?!  No,nononononononono.  We see it more as future of food and it certainly makes a tidy casserole.  Millet can be creamy and fluffy, sweet and savoury, roasted or steamed like cous cous (although gluten free).  It is a hugely versatile grain and one that we peck at regularly.  We reckon Millet also has a bad rap due to the sub-standard outdoor equipment shop (named ‘Millets’) that has tried to steal some this wonder grains glory.

This is one of those substantial veggie dishes which makes me think of old fashioned vegetarian fare from the Cranks days (one of the first veggie restaurant chains in the UK, sadly now closed, but there is one left in Totnes I believe, fighting the good fight).  We have a load of Cranks recipe books from the ’70’s and ’80’s in the kitchen where I work and I love to leaf through their worn pages and pick out some proper golden oldies.  Most are simple and hearty, I love their simplicity, it feels like honest food.  This casserole is a perfect, quick, one pot wonder for a chilly autumn eve.  If I was a mother of many children (and lived in a shoe!) this is the type of dish I’d make every Tuesday or Wednesday……Its even a little bit pretty, with striking colours.  Not something you associate with the word ‘casserole’. 

I’d had a busy day cooking for quite particular meditators at the retreat centre (it’s a lovely place called Trigonos) and was not exactly in the mood for more pot and pan bashing.  Jane stepped in and whipped up this little beauty in a flash and it was a very comforting, wholesome dish, filled with the joys of early autumn and millet.  Millet is a superstar, see the ‘Foodie Fact’ below for the many reasons why.

Cooking grains, especially slightly odd ones like millet, can be tricky at first.  Once you’ve mastered a few techniques, millet is simple to prepare, not dissimilar to rice but even sweeter and a tad nuttier.  Here are some ways we like to go about it:

Tips on Cooking Millet

There are three main ways to treat millet.  Always rinse it first and leave to soak for a couple of minutes, picking out any weird looking things that float to the top.

Fluffy – mix one part millet to two and a half parts water in a pan and bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  This will result in light fluffy grains, something like a rice with bells on.

Mashed – follow the steps above, but stir regularly adding water as you go.  Keep stirring and adding little splashed of water until you have your desired ‘mash’ consistency.

Toasty – In a dry saucepan on medium heat, toast the millet gently for around 7 minutes, stirring regularly until the turn a darker shade of gold.  Then add the water, cover and cook for 25 minutes.

I generally like to add just twice the amount of water to millet which cooks the millet, but gives it a little more bite.  Millet is so versatile, one of its many amazing traits (WE LOVE MILLET!!!!)

Getting the best from your birdseed (I mean millet)

Millet swells up nicely, roughly the same volume as rice.  If you have leftovers, it makes for a great alternative in Britain’s new favourite dish, Tabouleh or any cous cous/ quinoa style awesome salad.  You can also mix leftover millet with milk, warm and serve for breakfast as a porridge sub (adding your favourite adornments).  I also like to make millet Halwa, using it instead of the traditional semolina.  I find millet more flavoursome.  Millet will aslo make the best burgers/ falafels, it has a slight stickiness to it, espcially if you cook it like mash.  There is also the option of grinding your millet into flour (use a coffee grinder or a decent food processor) and add it to bread/cake/muffin recipes, it makes for a mean gluten free flatbread.

Jane is enjoying her new cookbook, The Mystic Cookfire by Veronika Sophia Robinson, a mighty tome overflowing with pot bubblin’ recipes and a huge amount of wonderful guidance regarding a holistic, vibrant approach in the kitchen and in life generally.  I bought it for Janes birthday and since then we’ve tried a few of the lip-smacking recipes and love ’em.  If we were dishing out marks out of 5, we’d give it a 4.9999999999999999999999999. I believe this recipe resembles the ‘Carrot and Courgette Casserole’ in T.M.C.

We have been revelling in the weather of late and Beach House has been bathed in sun for three days now.  THREE DAYS OF SUN.  So much, we don’t know what to do with it all.  If only we could bottle it for January time!   Dad’s here and revels in a good feed, we’ve been picnicking in the garden, what we call a ‘Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure’.  Random jars, packets and potions appear on a chopping board and then we go and sit in the long grass and if you’re Jane, paint rocks, if you’re Dad, drink wine and if you’re me, do both.

Picnic time

Picnic time

All of these ingredients came in our veg box this weeks from Pippa and John in Bethel (few valleys to the East-ish).  Its fully organic and this situation always brings smiles to our bellies and faces, we even topped it with parsley from the garden for that extra homegrown vibe.

A B.H.K. 'Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure"

A B.H.K. ‘Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure”

You could use any variation of vegetables with this recipe, just make sure that they will cook evenly (harder vegetables will need cutting thinner than softer ones).  Soggy veg is simply unacceptable behavior!!!!  Millet absorbs alot of liquid, you may prefer this dish served with a little soya yoghurt on the side, mix freshly chopped herbs and a little lemon juice into the yoghurt an even better version appears.

How to handle a cob

Sweetcorn is one of my favourite autumn treats.  They are probably best roasted or steamed whole and gnawed at like a content doormouse, but sometimes the cob just gets in the way and you want to spread those kernels for extra YUM!  The technique goes like this;  stand the cob on the stem end, holding it firmly between thumb, index and middle finger, bring a sharp knife, in sawing motions down the cob, cutting evenly at the base of the kernels.  They should come off in a lovely corn sheath, you then simply twist the cob around slightly and continue your merry sawing until all kernels are liberated.  This takes a little practice and please watch those lovely digits.  There is no comparison here with sweetcorn from tins, they are two very different shades of delicious-ness.

Mwynhau!  (Enjoy!)

P.S. – Dear Brits, you know how we generally use cups.  Soz.  Its just so much easier than weighing things out in grams.  Is this a pain for you to convert?

The Bits – For 4

2 tbs olive oil
2 medium carrots (sliced into thin batons)
1 small red onion
1 small red cabbage or half a medium sized one (sliced)
2 corns on the cobs (kernels removed using a sharp knife – technique mentioned above)
1 cup millet
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 2/3 cups good vegetable stock

2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teas ground coriander
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas smoked paprika
Large pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like a big chilli kick)
1 teas ground ginger
2/3 teas ground cumin
1 teas sea salt (to taste)

Optional Tasty Extra

2 tbs light tahini (mixed with 2 tbs water – stirred in at the end)

Garnish

1 handful of fresh leafy green herbs (coriander or parsley will work well)

 

Do It

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or a casserole dish (hob friendly). Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, then add the carrots, corn and cabbage. Fry and stir for 3 minutes, then add the millet, seeds, sultanas, salt and spices, pouring over the vegetable stock.  Warm an oven to 180oC, pour into a casserole dish, pop a lid on and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are softened and the millet is cooked and fluffy. Try some, if its slightly ‘chalky’ when bitten, give it another 5 minutes.

Alternatively, if the oven is not on, opt for the pan-casserole, a Beach House approved phenomenon which saves energy.  Basically, follow the above method, but simply pop a lid on the saucepan and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

If the millet has absorbed all of your gorgeous stock and you feel its a bit dry, simply pour in a splash warm water (from the kettle is best), stirring as you go. Until you reach your ideal texture.

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Serve

Sprinkle over some fresh leafy herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. We have also stirred light tahini into this dish, which is amazing!  We served ours with a light green salad.

Foodie Fact

Millet has been around since we dropped down from the trees and started wandering around.  It is very popular in African and in India they make roti  out of ground millet.  It is much more widely consumed outside of Western countries and in India especially, is making a real comeback.  It seems that we turned our back on millet, opting for what seemed like more appealing grain varieties, specifically rice and wheat.  Most countries in the West ate millet before we discovered corn and potatoes in Latin America.

Millet is not so common, but you’ll always find it in your friendly local health/ wholefood store in the grain section (although it is actually a seed).  It is worth the extra effort and we admit to being millet hoarders, we can never buy just one bag of the stuff.

Millet is high in magnesium  which makes it good for the heart, like oats, and can also help to fend off migraines and asthma.  It is high in fibre and also contains phyto nutrients (like antioxidants), especially lignans (very good guys).

Add to all of this the fact that Millet is completely gluten free and grows very well in the U.K. we surely have a contender for the future of allergy friendly, nutritious grain of the future.

Its also cheap.  Cheep!

Did someone say millet?

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Simple Blackberry Compote and Tips on Berry Foraging

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

We decided to let our brambles run wild this year, the back of the garden has sprung into a thorny, berry heaven.  Brambles are so prolific and need no encouraging to take over the joint!  We’ve had a bumper crop with kilos of blackberries flying into the kitchen and looking for a home.  I like what the brambles have done to the nether regions of our garden, creating a home for all sorts of cool creepy crawlies and a decent amount of little mice, which are big friends to our developing garden.

On our green and good isle, Britain, we are enjoying a good start to September, the extra rays of sunlight are resulting in some massive, succulent blackberries, so we’ve been making chutneys, wine (this recipe will no doubt appear here soon) and compotes/ jams. We are nicely stocked for the upcoming Christmas/ birthday present-athon. What better gift than a spicy chutney?

Blackberries are such a bountiful autumnal bonus and along with elderberries, are two of my favourite fruity treats. This is such an abundant time of year, it seems like all the warm weather we’ve had this year has come to fruition. Its hanging from almost every bush! It makes all that messing around with soil and late night slug raids on the veg patch worth while. We can eat from the land and there are few things more satisfying than a fruit salad made from you’re own (British!) garden.

Berry foraging bonus - fresh lavender smells around the house

Berry foraging bonus – fresh lavender smells around the house

Blackberries are native to Northern Europe and they grow as far north as Siberia!  Our berries, like most, just run wild all over the place.  You can be more organised and precise and run them up trellises etc.  But thats proper gardeners territory and we’re not there yet.

When making this compote, it will rarely get easier when playing with pots and pans. Two ingredients and a little heat, a jar and a cool place.  All you need for a knockout compote.  We took this in what is known as a ‘sugar free’ direction as a friend was visiting who is avoiding the heinous white powder.  A sprinkle of dates sorts out all of our sweet tooth requirements and also brings a thicker texture to the party.  Taste the compote after 5 minutes bubbling on the hob and add more dates if not quite sweet enough.  We are not sure how long it will last in the fridge, this compote is not made as a ‘preserve’ but should be eaten soon after cooking.  We’ve had a huge pot in the fridge now for over three weeks and its fine.  I did think that the reduced sugar content would shorten its life, but its still soldiering on.

Good blackberries are essential for this type of embellishment free behaviour, raid you local hedgerow to find the finest blackberries.  You will probably have a nice time too, just avoid those vicious thorns and if picking on a road, avoid speeding buses!

TOP TIPS FOR BERRY FORAGING

–  Never pick anything edible around train tracks, they regularly spray chemicals around the tracks to stop weeds growing.  Never pick berries that are cocked dog leg height, for obvious reasons.

–  Be careful not to squash berries when picking them, if you do, we suggest popping them into your mouth.  Try to keep your hands clean when picking fruit, the occasional scoff is very hard to resist (and all part of the fun).

–  Only pick berries that are plump and soft, the ones that fall off in your hand.  If you have to tug it, it ain’t ready for munching.  Leave if for a few days and then go back for it (blackberries grow and ripen quickly).

–  Use the berries straight away, that day.  If they look dirty, or you don’t fancy wild berry munching, submerge berries in cold water when you get home, give them a swish around and then leave them to drain, laying them out on kitchen paper when ready.  Handle them very gently, until they are dry-ish.  Then pop in the fridge covered loosely.  This works for us.  But as mentioned, the sooner they disappear into happy bellies, the better.

–  When picking blackberries, look at the white bit (where the stem should be), this is where maggots reside.  If there are maggots hanging out, ditch the berry on the ground and continue undeterred.

–  Don’t wear your new white shirt or trousers.

The Bits – Makes 2 regular jam jars 

800g freshly picked blackberries

2 big handfuls of chopped dates (to taste)

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add the blackerries and dates, bring slowly to a boil and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the berries have broken down.  Stir regularly, do not allow the base or edges of the compote to catch and burn.

Very easy Blackberry Compote

Very easy Blackberry Compote with some Rye Bread

Serve

The resulting deep purple gorgeous-ness can be spread on warm toast with soya yoghurt or with chopped bananas and nut butter.  Very pleasant when spooned over your morning bowl of muesli or even frozen and made into a sorbet (we haven’t tried this yet).  You could also make a wonderful dressing with it, by adding balsamic vinegar and a touch of oil and seasoning.

Foodie Fact

Blackberries contain a low-calorie sugar substitute called Xylitol, which is low GI, meaning slow absorption into the blood stream.  Blackberries are high in fibre and are full, full, full of antioxidants like vitamin C and chemicals called phenolic flavanoids (good guys).

See below for the physical after effects of a days blackberry picking.

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Categories: Foraging, Recipes, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

Gertrude's Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

A quick one here that goes out to the Tasmania crew, Fran and Steve of The Road to Serendipity fame.  Fran has requested Gertrude’s (Jane’s Nan) recipe ever since seeing it on a previous post.  Well Fran, here it is, better late than later.  Soz…….

Just to rave about Fran and Steve for a moment, their blog is a massive slice of living off grid (with two cool dogs Bezial and the mighty Earl and bags of awesome looking food, nature, ideas, good livin’, love and plenty of peaceful vibrations).  They really are shining examples of living close to nature and Tasmania looks incredibly beautiful judging by their photos.  There can be few more dedicated and prolific bloggers than our Fran and we always appreciate her enthused feedback.  It is people like Fran who keep this little old blog rocking!  Cheers guys for your constant stream of inspiration and kindness.  You make the blog world a brighter place to be.

This recipe is taken from a scrap of paper written by Gertrude, who is no longer with us.  Gertrude lived to the ripe old age of 96 and dictated this recipe as Jane made it and Keith (Jane’s Dad) scribbled it all down word for word, quaint little sayings and all.  Goodness knows how many times this cake was made, Jane was brought up on it.  All of this means that this is a recipe we hold very dear and even closer to our hearts.  It also makes a lovely light chocolate cake and is ever so easy to make.

This will make one small sandwich cake, double the mix for a big ‘un.

The Bits

4oz margarine (good stuff), 4oz caster sugar, 1/2 teas vanilla essence, 2 eggs (beaten), 4 oz self raising flour (sieved), 1 heaped tbs cocoa (sieved), pinch salt, 1 teas milk (if needed)

Do It

Preheat oven to 190oC (360F)

In a mixing bowl, paste the margarine and caster sugar together with a wooden spoon.

Slowly add the eggs to the paste, stirring nicely.

Gently add the the flour and cocoa, fold into mix.

Add salt and milk if mixture is too dry, should be thick batter texture (that plops off a spoon).

Pour into two small round baking tins (6 inch) with marg rubbed on sides and bottom.  Use baking parchment if you don’t trust the non-stickness of your tin.

Clean out bowl with finger, give to Jane.

Get Nan to smooth it over.

Slam tins on table twice each.

Place in oven, 2/3 the way up.

Check in 1/4 hour with a wooden chopstick or skewer.  It should be clean when retracted.

Serve

We filled our with a fine dark cherry jam and grated dark chocolate on top. Although I hear Gertrude was quite partial to a little butter icing.

We Love It!

‘Cause Gertrude made it.

Foodie Fact

Eating cake makes you happy.

 

Categories: Baking, Budget, Cakes, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

Jane and I have been visiting the local hedgrerows and horsefields recently and have regularly come back with a bumper crop of nettles and wild garlic.  It is such a wonderful time of year for these abundant herbs, they’re also easy to identify so there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be taking advantage of one of natures finest freebies!

This is a pistou (French/ Italian) not a pesto (Italian), mainly due to the lack of nuts.  If you add pine nuts, or anyother nut, you’d probably call it a pesto.  Otherwise both are potent blends and something rather special to have hanging around the fridge.

There are a vast amount of edible shoots, leaves and berries that we are not aware of (by we, I mean us at the BHK!)  We have books, we have TV programmes, but you cannot beat getting out there and having a look at whats growing for yourself.  For example, we have recently learnt that young hawthorn leaves are a rare sweet treat.  We’re taking it easy and adding a few new foraging delights to the menu each year.

Wild garlic and nettles have magical health properties.  Nettle tea is a staple at this time of year and this pesto blend makes the most of both.  It can be kept in the fridge for while and adds a unique flavour to anything it touches.  Dressings, soups, stews, bread, to name a few we’ve stuck it in.

Nettles were used extensively in ancient Tibet and the Buddhist saint Milarepa was said to live on them when on retreat, turning green and enlightened.

Jane and I getting the potatoes in - May

Jane and I getting the potatoes in – May

Jane and I have gotten ourselves into a multitude of busy situations, gardening being but one.  There has been much rain recently and today we managed to get out into the garden and pop the potatoes into the earth.  We also have much beetroot, cavolo nero, spinach, rocket, rainbow chard, sunflowers and I can’t remember the rest.  Needless to say, we are excited about the prospects of the Beach House Garden this year and have our fingers well crossed for a mild, wind-free summer.  Very, very, very wishful thinking.

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pesto

Nettle and Wild Garlic Pistou

The Bits   

60g nettle leaves, 40g wild garlic leaves, 4 garlic cloves (crushed), 100ml evoo, 100g veg pecorino (using wild flower rennet), 1 pinch salt and 2 pinch pepper

Do It

Blanch nettle quickly (30 seconds) in simmering water, this will keep them nice and green and take the sting out of them!

Blend together until paste formed.  Add a little more olive oil if you like in runny.  For old fashioned style, use a pestle and mortar, if you’re modern, whizz in a food processor.  Simple as this.

Serve

In a pistou stew, see below, or spread on toast!  It really comes to life tossed in warm pasta.

We Love It!

It literally grows on trees (or below them).  This is our type of gardening, wander around pick it, no digging or engaging the brain.  Go for a walk with a plastic bag and one rubber glove (those nettles take no prisoners) and you have a harvest on your hand.

Foodie Fact

Nettles contain bags of chlorophyll, calcium, iron, trace minerals, vitamins and proteins.  They can be made into paper, hair lotions, thread, soil enricher (great on tomatoes!), disinfectant for  stalls and stables, cups of tea…..It is a tonic, diuretic, astringent, anti-asthmatic, chi strengthener, anti-anaemic, laxative and a nettle brew can heal damage tissue.   It strengthens kidneys, lungs, intestines and arteries with regular use.

Pistou Stew - Recipe to follow

Pistou Stew – Recipe to follow

Categories: Foraging, Garden, Healing foods, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Rough Whole Grain Loaf – Our Daily Bread

Rough Brown Loaf

Rough Whole Grain Loaf – Simple, simple, simple

Our favourite loaf is so very simple, we thought it worth sharing.  There are an infinite number of bread making additions and methods, but this is the simplest we’ve found and the results are consistently great.  Most shop bought bread is nowhere near up to scratch and expensive by comparison.  We buy a great organic flour that makes around five loaves for the price of one decent loaf in the shop.

It is a very easy to get a loaf baking, a great cooking technique to have in the locker.  Bread making is a rewarding corner of the cooking world, with most bakers get up before the crack of dawn and are kneading and proofing alone in the dark.  I always imagine that they enjoy what they do and the peace and quiet of this time.  The smell of fresh bread wafting around is always priceless!

The kneading is the tough-ish bit, but is quite therapeutic and leads to well toned forearms and bulging biceps!  We call it the ‘100 hand knead’ stage, in a honour of our vintage martial arts film collection.  Its a real bread bashing workout and a great thing when approached in that way.   After kneading you will find any previous worries or concerns have evaporated.  Ahhhh, kneading is very relaxing and a little like giving your dough a good massage.  I do love making bread, there is something very primal about the whole process.

I think, therefore I bake.  Baking in general is a more cerebral approach and one that jars with me. I was never a fan of chemistry at school, all that fiddling around with pipettes and test tubes. Baking reminds me of that really, its a little precise for my liking. I do enjoy it however, once I get around to it and my experiments are rarely predictable!  Bread making is quite different from frilly cup cakes though.

Jane and I don’t eat alot of bread, we tend to save it for a special treat and today we are celebrating Sunday. We’re both off work and ready for some home baked foods.  Bread is  so simple, there is no use scrimping on ingredients.  Get great, organic flour if you can and a good live yeast.

Our main problem at this time of year on the Beach House is heat.  We don’t have much!  It can be difficult to get our bread rising in warm place, beside the fire can be too hot, we’ve tried the oven on the lowest setting and that half baked the dough.  We are now trying the airing cupboard, seems like a logical place to put food!

Whole brown flour loaves can be a little on the heavy side, we use very strong flour.  It makes for great, dense toast.  If you want to lighten things up, add a quantity of white flour (depending on how light you like it).  If you’d like to make it richer, add a tbsp of butter or good oil.

The important thing here is the whole grain wheat element.  If you buy flour or bread that claims to be wholewheat, it isn’t always whole grain and that is where most of the good nutrition within flour is.

Regarding gluten-free-ness, well this isn’t, but can easily be adapted to using spelt and other flours.  Jane and I have found a little wheat does us no harm at all and we feel great after munching our homemade loaves.

So here’s one of our favourite loaves, simple and lacking finesse, but you’d expect nothing more!

This recipe makes on big loaf, although we normally double the quantity and make two (one for the freezer).

The Bits

500 g strong malted whole grain wheat flour, 1 teas live yeast, 2 teas honey, 1 teas salt, 1 tbs sunflower oil, 350ml warm water

Dough rising by the fire

Dough rising by the Beach House fire

Do It

We don’t have a suitable mixer for getting the dough together, so we use our hands, old school style.

Add your flour, yeast, salt, oil and honey to a large bowl.  With one hand gradually pour the water into the bowl, with the other mix it in.

Get  the dough out onto a floured surface, now carry out the ‘100 hand knead’ which is basically kneading the dough 100 times or for around 10 minutes.  You may like to use the fist technique or the base of the palm.  Whichever suits your mood.  When the dough has a good bit of elasticity, form a ball and place in a bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Leave in a warm place for an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Then knead the dough again a few times , taking out the big air bubbles and then cover again for another 15 minutes.  The more handling, the heavier the dough, so be gentle.

The hundred hand knead, bulging biceps just out of shot

The legendary ‘100 hand knead’, bulging biceps just out of shot

Now pop into a tin lined with parchment or as we do, roll into a log-like shape, the odder looking the better. Make it round for a ‘cottage loaf’, each shape has a name, why not make up a new one!  Leave for another 1/2 hour to get nice and springy and light.

Pre-heat an oven to 220oc and place on a baking tray, we oil the tray if not using a tin.  Bake for around 20 minutes, check after 10 and cover with foil if the top is getting too dark.

Serve

You know how you like it!

We Love It!

Better than the vast majority of baked cotton wool that you find in shops and economical and nutritious to boot.

Foodie Fact

I see bread as a powerhouse for carbs and energy.  What a great idea someone had, grind wheat up into tiny particles and packing it into a tasty loaf, for workers and people lacking quantities of food, this was the ideal bite!

If  you are eating whole grain wheat bread then you are getting a good dose of fibre and minerals in your loaf and not just a load of refined sugars.  Whole grain bread has 4 times the amount of fibre as white.  Whole grains also release sugar into your system slower, meaning less cravings for sweet foods and other blood sugar madness.

The wheat germ also contains good amounts of vitamin E, folates and even omega fats that help the brain.

If you are not a fan of brown bread, you can buy albino grains that have all the nutrition and non of the the brown.

BUY WHOLE GRAIN!

Tunes

Heres some Rodriguez ‘Sugar Man’ to play when you’re kneading:

Categories: Baking, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Quick Green Lentil Stew (Beach House Basics)

This is one for the ‘Beach House Basics’ page; the place to go for simple food, prepared with love (of course!).  Good food does not necessarily mean complex with loads of ingredients and this is one that we make regularly.

Sometimes, when writing this blog, I forget that people just want something easy.  I normally put the more elaborate or special occasion dishes that we make, but really, the everyday food is just as good, just not quite as fancy.

This stew can be made with puy lentils, which many would class the ‘king of lentils’ (they are rather nice), I feel that green lentils make a good substitute.  The lemon, chilli and coriander give the stew a lift, making it great for this time of year (its springtime in Britain).

Like so many recipes, this could be used as a side dish, but for me, it deserves to be center stage.  Adding the potatoes means this is a definite main course filler.

The coriander is something we had in the kitchen, but you could use any fresh green leaf herb really and the lemon could always be a lime instead.

This recipe needs dried lentils that need soaking (overnight).  Otherwise this is minimal fuss and maximum munch!

This recipe will be a good dinner for two people, though we normally cook in bulk and dip into it over a few days.

Green Lentil Stew

The Bits 

1 cup of green lentils (soaked overnight) or one tin, 1 clove garlic (finely chopped), 1 great carrot (chopped) , 2 large tomato (chopped), a few new potatoes (sliced), 1/2 teas of chilli flakes, 1 big handful of coriander, juice of half a lemon, knob of butter (vegans add a glug of olive oil), 1 pint of good veg stock (as needed).

Do It

Drain soaked lentils (a quick wash for them) and cover with your veg stock (approx 1 inch above lentils) in a saucepan.  Add a little sea salt and bring gently to the boil, then cover and simmer.  Cook as per packet guidelines (30 minutes should do), try one for ‘bite’.

Once lentils are 10 minutes from being cooked, stir them and add your potatoes (it should be looking quite stew-like by now) and cook for 5 minutes, then add your garlic, chilli, carrots and tomatoes, cook for a further 5 minutes.  Then stir in the butter (or olive oil), lemon juice and coriander and place a lid on the stew, turning the heat off.  Let the flavours marinade for a few minutes and then serve.

Serve

We normally have it topped with a little olive oil and toasted sunflower seeds, with brown rice and yoghurt.   Just by itself with a fresh green salad is also great.

We Love It!

This is perfect for when you only have a small window of time to work your kitchen magic!

Foodie Fact

These wonder legumes are filled with cholesterol lowering fibre, they also help to maintain your blood sugar levels.  They contain high levels of six important minerals, two vitamin B’s and protein, with hardly any calories.

 

 

Categories: Budget, Dinner, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Recipes, Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Chilli Onion Marmalade (Beach House Basics)

Buster smells cooking

I have always loved this gooey, sweet stuff.  Especially with a good wedge of Stilton.  I remember years ago, I made my first batch and was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it was.   This is the case with so many recipes, you just need to give them a go.  For this reason, we have created the Beach House Basics page (see at the top of the page).

The Beach House Basics will be a page dedicated to simple, cheap and normally quick recipes that we cook regularly.  With just a little time and effort, we can make so many more homemade goodies, to our own taste and not rely on mass produced, factory made fare.

The Beach House Basics page will not include the ‘Foodies Fact’ and ‘Boozie Bit’ section.  It will be straight to the point, that is, great recipes.

We would love you to get involved with the Beach House Kitchen, letting us know your favourite, most simple and rewarding recipes. We’ll pop them on the ‘Basics’ page with a nice link you.

This recipe reflects my taste, hence a little chill and coriander.  The basic recipe, without spices, is great on its own and I normally omit the sugar, the onions being sweet enough.  Onion Marmalade is a great staple relish to have hanging around, always there to add a delicious tangy sweetness to your plate.

Sweaty Onions

The Bits

6 white onions, glug of olive oil, 1 teas chilli flakes, 1 teas coriander seeds, 1 teas black mustard seeds, 1 bay leaf, 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 tbs brown sugar (depending on your sweet tooth), s + p to taste.

Do It

Slice onions finely, heat a large heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat, add olive oil, add onions, and all other ingredients (except the vinegar), gently cook (don’t brown) stirring regularly for roughly 45 minutes.  The onions will gradually brown and go sticky.  Add the vinegar halfway through cooking, taste to check for balance of sweetness with sharpness.  Add more balsamic or sugar if you like.  The flavours will mellow when cooled.  At end, take out bay leaf.

When cooled, put in a nice jam jar or tupperware, ready to be lathered on biscuits or crackers, preferably with a nice lump of potent cheddar.

If you are not planning on using the onion marmalade immediately, wash a Kilner jar or a couple of jam jars, rinse thoroughly, then dry in a warm oven. Stand them upside down on a clean tea towel.

For jam jars, fill them, then cover the marmalade with a disc of waxed paper while still hot, then seal with a dampened disc of clear plastic, secure with an elastic band and screw back on the top.  Label and store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months, then use as required.

Categories: Budget, Recipes, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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