Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

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I often think that cauliflower gets a little overlooked as a vegetable, unlike its more ‘superfood’ cousin, the broccoli. Boiling it can be bland, like most things, but roast it and add a little spice and textures then you have a truly delicious treat. I wrote a piece a few years ago on the merits of the humble cauliflower here so do check it out.

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This recipe is quick, extremely tasty (ok I know I am biased), full of goodness and great as a lunch to take to work in a tupperware or as an evening meal. It can be eaten hot or cold so is hugely versatile. A slight chill is now in the air in London, although I am still hopeful for an Indian summer, so the warming cumin and cinnamon gives the dish autumnal comforting notes. The sweetness come from the cinnamon and the saltiness from the feta so no extra salt is necessary.

Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

serves 2 or 4 if serving with another dish 

1 cauliflower, chopped into florets and greenery removed

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g pine nuts, toasted

30g raisins or sultanas

1 small handful of fresh coriander

30g feta, crumbled

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (if using fan). In a large mixing bowl add the cauliflower florets and add the cumin and cinnamon powder along with the extra virgin olive oil. Mix gently with your hands so that the florets are evenly coated.
  2. Place on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes, so that the edges are nicely charred.
  3. Meanwhile heat a heavy frying pan and toast the pine nuts so that they begin to bronze. They bronze quickly so keep an eye on this. Add the raisins/sultanas to warm them and allow them to become soft. Place to one side in a bowl.
  4. Once the cauliflower is cooked add to a new mixing bowl and add the pine nuts, sultanas, coriander and crumbled feta. Toss gently and either plate up or leave to cool before adding to your lunch container.

I have also made this with prunes instead of raisins/sultanas, which works really well. Dates would also be another option.

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Chocolate, Chilli and Cinnamon Fondants with Cardamom Chantilly Cream

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Happy New Year everyone. As January strides forth I know that everyone sets out with very good intentions to exercise more, drink less, read more, be more sociable, cook more, be healthier and I honestly  think that to rebalance and set goals is a good thing. I am realistic though and I know that by February some of our old ways will have crept back.

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This pudding is probably the last thing you feel like eating in January after all the excesses of Christmas, but I think it is definitely a good one to have up your sleeve if you are having guests over. It is rich and decadent (I have to share a pot) and can be made well in advanced. I often make up a batch and then freeze them until I am ready to use them. From frozen, it’s simply a case of putting them in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 15-17 minutes and then they are ready. If you bake them without freezing them they only take  10-12 minutes.  Sponge like on the outside and rich molten larva on the inside. How easy is that?

Cardamom Chantilly cream is the perfect companion to the fondants and again very quick to whip up, literally. The cream takes the richness off the fondants and I personally love the taste of cardamom so think it works really well with the chocolate. I hope you agree.

So when you are back to eating chocolate give this a try and let me know how you get on. I can guarantee you will impress your guests.

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Chocolate, Chilli and Cinnamon Fondants

makes 8

2 tbsp butter, melted

cocoa powder, for dusting

200g cooking chocolate, broken up – I like this one (sometimes I use 100g dark and 100g milk)

200g unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

4 egg yolks only

200g plain flour

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp cinnamon powder

icing sugar for dusting

*******

Cardamom Chantilly Cream

250ml double cream

2 tbsp caster sugar

7 cardamom pods opened and then the seeds grounded

*******

1. Using the 2 tablespoons of melted butter brush the inside of the fondant moulds and then place in the freezer for 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the freezer and coat once again and immediately after coating one fondant mould add a little cocoa powder so that you completely cover the inside of the mould.

3. Preheat your oven (I use a fan oven) to 180 degrees.

4. In a pan gently boil some water and then place a bowl in the pan with the broken cooking chocolate and butter. Let the butter and chocolate gradually melt, stirring at intervals.

5. In a mixing bowl whisk (I use an electric whisk) the eggs, egg yolks and sugar so that it thickens slightly. This will take a couple of minutes. Add the flour and then gradually pour in the melted chocolate and butter. Continue to whisk. Add the chilli flakes and cinnamon. Taste to check on flavour. I sometimes add more chilli flakes at this stage, but it’s up to you!

6. Pour the chocolate mixture into a measuring jug and then pour into the moulds so that they are 3/4 full.

7. You can either put them in the freezer at this point, ready to use at another time or you can place in the oven immediately. If cooking from frozen place them on the centre shelf for 15-17 minutes. If cooking immediately cook them for 10 minutes. I like them really soft in the middle but if you prefer them less runny in the middle then leave them in the oven for an extra minute or two max.

8. Once cooked leave to rest for a minute before placing a plate on top of the mould and turning upside down so that it is the right way up. The mould will easily come away from the chocolate fondant. Should it need a helping hand gently shake making sure to hold the plate firmly in place.

9. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve with cardamom chantilly cream, which perfectly balances the richness of the chocolate with the smooth subtle tones of the the cardamom and cream.

********

Cardamom Chantilly Cream

1. Pour the double cream into a mixing bowl and whisk so that it firms up and peeks are created.

2. Add the caster sugar and grounded cardamom and continue to whisk so that it become light, thick and fluffy.

Store in the fridge until ready to use.


Banana, Cinnamon and Nutmeg Loaf

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Having afternoon tea is very much a British thing to do. Granted we may not always sit down to tea and scones every afternoon, but given half the chance then we probably would. Copious amounts of tea is drunk throughout the day, but at tea time – around the hour of 4pm, a little sweet treat or savoury dainty might make an appearance if you are lucky.

 

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It wasn’t always the case. In fact it was Charles II wife, Catherine of Braganza from Portugal, who started the trend of tea drinking in the seventeenth century. From the English royal court it spread to London’s coffee houses and from there into the homes where civilised tea parties would take place.

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If you want a no fuss cake that is easy to whip up, moist and produces delicious baking smells when cooking then look no further. This banana, cinnamon and nutmeg loaf won’t win prizes for appearance in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste.

 

 

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So put on the kettle, pour yourself a cup of tea in your favourite fine bone china teacup and sit back and relax with a slice or two of this moist banana, cinnamon and nutmeg loaf.

 

Happy Days.

 

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Banana, Cinnamon and Nutmeg Loaf

2 eggs, beaten

90g butter

150g light Muscovado sugar

4 bananas, mashed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

250g self-raising flour

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. In a large bowl mix the eggs, butter (which has been at room temperature) and sugar together and when it is smooth add the mashed banana, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Stir in throughly. I use a hand whisk but arm power works equally well if you do not have one.

3. Grease your non-stick loaf tin. I don’t tend to line my tin as I find that the loaf easily comes out of the tin when cooked.

4. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. It is done when you place a sharp knife into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean.

5. Place on a rack to cool slightly.

It is lovely to serve warm but equally lasts well for a few days.


Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Chilli Chocolate Truffles

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Foodie gifts are always the best. Not only do they show effort and thought but are guaranteed to bring a smile to the receiver and a warm fuzzy feeling to the giver. Recently friends who came for supper bought along four bags of spices from Turkey that they had picked up on a recent business trip. So I now have bags of sumac and spice rubs – you can imagine how overjoyed I was.

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Time permitting, I like to take food gifts, sometimes homemade sometimes not, to friends who are hosting suppers. I find my chipotle sauce always goes down well, or in fact any of my chutneys under the chutney section in my recipe library. Chocolate truffles are always a crowd pleaser and are also perfect for bringing out at the end of a dinner. They take minimal effort to make and you can make them a few days in advance and then store them in the fridge.

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I am more partial to milk than dark chocolate so I have double the amount of milk chocolate to dark, I find this ration works really well. You can do the opposite if you prefer dark. You can also get creative with these truffles and instead of adding cinnamon, sea salt and chilli flakes, who can add just one or perhaps another spice such as cardamom, or perhaps fresh mint, coconut, ginger, nuts, raisons, bacon – the possibilities are endless.

Personally I love the combination of cinnamon, sea salt and a pinch of chilli flakes. Give them a try and leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

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Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Chilli Chocolate Truffles

200ml double cream

100g Green & Black milk chocolate 37% cocoa with sea salt

50g Green & Black dark chocolate 70% cocoa

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1  pinch of sea salt

1 pinch of chilli flakes

1 tbsp cocoa powder – for dusting

1. Place the milk and dark chocolate in a freezer bag and seal. Use a rolling pin to bash the chocolate into small pieces.

2. Gently warm the cream in a saucepan. When hot take off the heat and pour the broken up pieces of chocolate into the saucepan along with the cinnamon powder, sea salt and chilli flakes. The chocolate will melt within a couple of minutes. Give a good stir and taste to see if you like the flavour. Add a little more cinnamon powder, sea salt or chilli flakes as your taste requires.

3. Place into a bowl and place in the fridge for an hour and a half, by which time the chocolate will have become firmer to handle.

4. Roll in the palms of your hands to form small bite sized balls. I prefer them to look a little uneven compared to beautifully neat balls, but it’s a personal preference. Please note this part can become a little messy!

5. Roll in the cocoa powder and store  in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to eat. They will last for up to a week.

Instead of rolling the truffles in cocoa powder you could roll in pistachio, hazelnuts or coconut. Experiment and see what works for you.

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Saffron and Cinnamon Honey Served TWO ways – sweet and savoury

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Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. A plate of freshly steamed samphire with a knob of butter, a moule mariniere with crusty bread to mop up the sauce, a mature chunk of cheddar with a crisp apple, a boiled egg dipped into cumin powder, fresh tomatoes with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella drizzled in the finest extra-virgin olive oil, fresh asparagus dipped in butter (have you noticed there’s a butter theme going on here!). I could go on but in this day and age when many chef’s are pushing boundaries and creating new flavour sensations and wowing us with their scientific approach to the culinary arts it sometimes comes as a welcome relief to sit down and eat a meal that is not complicated and flash but is simple and truly delicious.

For those who have been following my blog for a while will know, I don’t really have a sweet tooth, well certainly not the kind to have dark chocolate cake/torte/mousse at the end of the meal. Growing up my favourite puddings were rhubarb crumble, pavlova, custard tart and anything with nuts in. Mr B on the other hand loves all the old English puds and often puts a request into my mother at around Christmas time to prepare one or two – things like jam roly poly, spotted dick, treacle pudding, tiramisu – she’s good at making all these, so I let her run with it.

Generally speaking we tend to just pick on fresh fruit at the end of the meal, which is not only delicious but also satisfying and involves no effort or preparation.

I recently came across a pudding however that immediately catapulted itself into the top league of puddings after the first mouthful. It involves 7 ingredients and can be whipped together very quickly.

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Saffron and Cinnamon Honey with Figs and Greek Yoghurt

adapted from Greek.food.com

5 figs, halved

2 large tbsp thick Greek Yoghurt per serving

2 tbsp honey

1 large pinch of saffron

1 large stick of cinnamon

40 g white sugar

300ml cold water

1. In a saucepan place the cold water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick and saffron and stir thoroughly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Simmer gently for around 15-20 minutes. Do not over cook as the liquid will turn into a thick toffee substance, which you do not want to happen.

2. On a serving plate/bowl add a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt and place three fig halves on top of each mound of yoghurt.

3. Finally gently spoon the scented honey over the figs and yoghurt having removed the cinnamon stick first and serve.

Note: You can also gently heat the figs in the honey for a minute on both sides, however I tend to prefer them fresh with the honey drizzled on top. Try both and see which you prefer.

As you are likely to have some sweet scented honey left over the following Scandinavian influenced open sandwich works a treat with the sweetness of the honey and the saltiness of the cheese and prosciutto/parma ham.

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Open Sourdough Sandwich with Prosciutto, Cheese, Rocket, Peach and Scented Honey

Per Serving you will need:

1 slice of sour dough bread

1 slice of prosciutto

2 slices of cheese – I used Italian Taleggio La Baita above, but crumbled soft goat cheese also works really well

small handful or rocket/arugula

1/2 (half) peach

drizzle of scented honey (re above recipe)

pinch of coarse black pepper

Serve

I tend to make this open sandwich in the following order: bread, prosciutto, cheese, rocket, peach (or can be before rocket), honey and black pepper.

It makes a very satisfying lunch as the flavours compliment each other so well. For this photo shoot above I used white flat peaches but I think the sweet yellow flesh peaches would probably look more attractive on an open sandwich.

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Homemade Cajun Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Bulgar Wheat and Red Chard

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As those who have been sweetly following my blog for a while now will know, I adore healthy, appetising salads that combine and fuse together different meats, fish, vegetables, fruits and pulses. Whilst a simple green or rocket salad tastes sublime with a splash of lemon or a vinaigrette, I always like to prepare new flavour combinations that really lift a salad and take it to a new dimension. If you take a look under my recipe library above you will see a good variety of salads that I like preparing and eating. Purests may well say they are not salads as they are substantial meals unto themselves, but in my book they come under ‘salads that rock’, I hope you agree.

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At the moment, wonderful vibrant red chard is available so I bought a bunch hoping to do something creative with it. I adore the brightness of the stems – similar looking to rhubarb.  When it is young it is similar to spinach in that it can be digested raw or cooked. Rich in nutrients, it’s a winner in a salad from a health and looks perspective.

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When you make my Cajun rub, make sure you properly smother it over the chicken breasts. I find that making a few incisions into each breast helps release the flavours all through the chicken.

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I would be lying if I said that I have been eating quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and bulgar wheat for years, but the truth of the matter is that aside from health food stores, it wasn’t readily available. Today, however, it is accessable in most mainstream food stores, certainly in London. My packet looked like this. After rinsing it through with cold water it simply needs boiling for 12 minutes and viola it is ready to eat.

Have you got any great salad combinations that work well together? If so I would love to hear so leave a comment below so we can all share ideas.

Homemade Cajun Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Bulgar Wheat and Red Chard

Serves 4-6

to make the Cajun rub

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp rock salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 hot paprika

2 tsp of fresh thyme

1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg

2 tbsp olive oil

*********

500g chicken breasts (4 chicken breasts, skins removed)

120g red and white quinoa with bulgar wheat

1 litre fresh cold water

250g new potatoes

150g fresh red chard, chopped into fine short strips

2 handfuls of fresh seedless red grapes, halved

1/2 lemon juice

seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Start by making the Cajun rub. Combine all the ingredients, except the olive oil. Stir together and if you have a spice grinder give them a quick whizz in there so that they are perfectly blended together.

3. Lay your chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish and make a few incisions into the breasts so that you can push the rub into the incisions to give it that extra flavour. Place the Cajun rub all over the chicken breasts on both sides and then add the olive oil so that that the chicken is not dry.

4. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, turning the breasts once during cooking.

5. In a pan boil the 1 litre of water and when it is boiling add the red and white quinoa and bulgar wheat and leave to simmer for 12 minutes. Then drain and leave to one side.

6. Boil the new potatoes for up to 15 minutes in a separate saucepan with boiling water. Drain and leave to one side

7. Wash the red chard and pat dry. Finely slice the shard – as if you were making coleslaw. Wash the grapes and slice in half.

8. Finely slice the Cajun chicken, making sure not to get rid of the Cajun juices that will remain in the ovenproof dish.

9. In a mixing bowl add a little of the chicken, chard, quinoa and bulgar wheat, grapes and new potatoes. Give them a gentle mix with your hands before adding the same ingredients again in small portions so that they all mix well together. Add the lemon juice and the Cajun juices in the ovenproof dish. Season as necessary.  Transfer to a serving bowl/platter.

It can be eaten at room temperature or when the chicken, potatoes, quinoa and bulgar wheat is still warm.

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Bavani’s Cinnamon and Ginger Dal (Parripu)

Very recently I was served this comforting and fragrant dal by my Sri Lankan friend, Bavani. It tasted so darn good that I immediately asked her what she put in her red split lentil dal and proceeded to cook it the following night for the toughest of critics….my husband AND father-in-law. Yes I am definitely keen and eager when I come across a good recipe! They both gave it a definite thumbs up and declared it was unlike all the other dals they eat on a regular basis.

Don’t get me wrong I love my red split lentil dal, but this one tastes so completely different that I will definitely be cooking it from time to time. It’s not a true Sri Lankan dal or parripu, as it is known in Sri Lanka, but instead Bavani’s version of lentil soup for the Western diet. A true Sri Lankan dal would contain turmeric, green chilli mustard seeds, curry leaves, curry powder etc, but I think Bavani’s alternative will definitely appeal to a wide audience. It has a gentle chilli kick and subtle cinnamon and ginger undertones, very different from my red split lentil dal which has turmeric and panch phoron.

Red split lentils are the easiest of all lentils to cook as they are cooked in 10 minutes and do not need any soaking first – so perfect for a quick meal when you are tired and exhausted after a manic day. They are also really cheap and most importantly – healthy, so perfect for the bank balance and general well-being.

Bavani’s Cinnamon and Ginger Dal (Parripu)

Serves 4

400g red split lentils

2 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable if you don’t have mustard)

1 whole garlic bulb, peeled and sliced

1 thai red chilli, thinly sliced

2 cinnamon bark sticks

half tsp of asafoetida

1 tsp cumin powder

2 inch of fresh ginger thickly sliced

2 carrots, sliced into small cubes

1 tsp salt

fresh coriander, chopped to serve

1. Place the red split lentils in a pan and run under cold water and wash through thoroughly, using your hands, a couple of times. This is to clean the lentils before cooking them.

2. Place boiling water into the pan with the red split lentils so that there is a good inch of water above the lentils. During the course of the cooking you may need to add more boiling water if all the water has been soaked up or if you prefer the dal to be more soup like in consistency! The lentils should be cooked after ten minutes – if you place one lentil between your forefinger and thumb it should be soft to touch; the colour will also have lightened.

3. In a large separate saucepan/wok heat the mustard oil and add the garlic and red chilli and gently cook for a couple of minutes before adding the carrots, cinnamon bark, cumin powder, asafoetida and the fresh ginger. (You want to keep the ginger fairly thickly sliced so that they are easy to identify and scoop out before serving). On a low heat mix the ingredients together for roughly 6 minutes.

4. Transfer a large spoonful of the cooked red split lentil dal to the saucepan and mix together and then place all the ingredients BACK into the saucepan with the dal. Stir in throughly and add the salt – to taste.

5. Let the dal simmer for a further five minutes or until the carrots are completely soft. You may find you need to add a little more boiling water at this stage. It is not an exact science but more one of personal taste. Add a little water at a time as you can always add a little more if necessary.

 6. Before serving scoop out the fresh ginger and cinnamon bark. Serve with fresh coriander and eat either on its own, with rice or a chapati.

It also works really well accompanying Speedy Salmon Curry,  Goan Hot and Sour Pork Curry, Chicken Liver Curry, Goat Curry


Croissant Bread and Butter Pudding

Have you ever been in the situation of having croissants in your bread bin slowly going stale over a couple of days and not wanting to simply discard them?

I was in this very dilemma recently so thought that the best option was to either:

(a) feed them to the birds

or

(b) make croissant bread and butter pudding.

I opted for (b)…………..sorry birds you’ll have to make do with normal bread crumbs!!

Lardy? Most definitely.

Decadent? Well just a little bit.

Healthy? We’ll just pass on that one shall we.

Bread and butter pudding is a much loved British dessert that we can all fondly (well for the most part!) remember eating as children. Today there are so many varieties of the dish to tempt and inspire. As well as stale bread or croissants you can also use brioche or panetonne – the possibilities are limitless. I stumbled across a rather interesting and amusing website called ‘The British Bread and Butter Pudding  Appreciation Society’ when looking into the exact origins of the pudding. Do check it out here to find some interesting facts about the dish.

My daughters asked me to omit sultanas, which would normally be my go-to fruit of choice to put in the pudding, and asked for chocolate drops. The closest thing I could find in my pantry to little chocolate drops were giant chocolate buttons, so as a treat I scattered a few of these in the pudding. You can basically add any fruit to the mix – summer berries would be delicious and colourful or even blackberries in the late summer, early autumn. If you do end up using sultanas do remember to soak them first in warm water or the ones you scatter on the top will become hard and rather burnt.


I had a couple of almond croissants getting stale so added these with my regular croissants.

Croissant Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8

5 stale croissants, sliced into thin segments

3 eggs, whisked

400ml semi-skimmed milk

150ml double cream

2 tbsp caster sugar and an extra sprinkling to go on top

pinch of cinnamon powder

pinch of nutmeg

1 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp of vanilla extract

handful (or two!) of chocolate drops

1. Preheat an oven at 180 degrees (I use a fan oven). Slice the croissants evenly and line them in a greased ovenproof dish.

2. Whisk the eggs and then add the milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, vanilla extract and some of the chocolate drops. Whisk/stir the ingredients into the eggs.

3. Pour the mixture over the croissants and leave for 10 minutes to let the mixture soak into the croissants.

4. Before putting in the oven scatter with a few extra chocolate drops , along with a sprinkling of extra caster sugar.

4. Place in the oven for 30 minutes and serve immediately.

Naughty but very very nice!


Mary’s Granola Bars

Mary McCartney has been gracing the pages recently of certain magazines here in the UK, namely The Saturday FT Magazine (April 21st 2012) and the June issue of ‘Red’ Magazine. Known for her talent behind the camera it was a revelation, albeit a positive one, that she has just produced a cook book called ‘Food‘ that she wrote and photographed. For those who are unaware, the McCartney clan are passionate vegetarians and Mary has clearly channelled her love of all things vegetarian into her own tome. Between the two magazines I now have just under 20 of her recipes, which should appeal to a wide audience in that they look straight forward to execute and appetising enough to warrant an attempt at making.

I thought that I would follow her take on the granola bar, which to all intense and purpose is a glorified healthy flapjack right? I am always thinking of little snacks to feed Big A and Little Z when I collect Big A from school, so thought Mary’s granola bar idea would be perfect to give them to fill the gap before supper.  I am also a huge fan of agave syrup, (which I also used in this recipe) which was right at the top of her ingredients list.

The recipe is so incredibly easy that it would be perfect for Big A (whose 6) to cook on her own, with a little overseeing from Mama of course! I followed the recipe religiously, but I think I will get creative next time and change some of the ingredients around. For example I think the bars would also be delicious with pecan nuts, hazelnuts, dates, dried cranberries, coconut. If you get carried away with some new ingredients that work do let me know and maybe next time I’ll follow your suggestion.

Granola Bars

Sourced from Mary McCartney’s recipes in The Saturday FT Magazine, April 21st 2012

Makes 12-14 slices

200ml agave syrup

50g butter

4 tbs vegetable oil

1/4 ground cinnamon

1 tbs vanilla extract

200g porridge oats

80g cornflakes

100g almonds, coarsely chopped

100g dried apricots, coarsely chopped

100g raisins or sultanas

2 tbs sunflower seeds

2 tbs pumpkin seeds

 1. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. I used a 25cm x 25cm tray. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Heat the agave syrup in a pan for a few minutes and then add the  vegetable oil and butter. Take it off as the butter melts.

3. Add all the ingredients to the syrup mixture and gently fold in together so that all the ingredients are evenly covered in the syrup.

4. Transfer the contents of the pan to the baking tray and firmly press down evenly.

5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

6. Take tray out of oven and leave to cool. When it is cool, cut the granola into square, rectangles – whatever shape takes your fancy! The baking parchment will come away easily once the granola has cooled.

7. Store in an air tight container.


Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

Foodies in London will be very familiar with the names Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who first set up the successful deli/bakery/patisserie cum restaurant  called ‘Ottolenghi’ back in 2002 in Notting Hill.  Their passion and flair for cooking was evident from the start and their venture soon became a food lovers magnet, in particular I remember the mounds of mouth watering salads piled high on large dishes for you to help yourself to. We are not talking about a few lettuce leaves with tomatoes and cucumbers thrown in. Oooooooooh no, their salads were, and in fact still are, on a whole different playing field. They are the most imaginative and more-ish that you will come across, to the extent that it is actually hard to decide which to tuck into. Decisions, decisions!

In 2010 Yotam published a book dedicated to vegetarian food called ‘Plenty’ and a number of his salads were put into the book. It’s beautifully put together and I am convinced it would persuade even the most carnivorous amongst you to try some of the recipes. He has in many respects made vegetarian food, and indeed salads, look sexy.

Today they now have four delis as well as launching a very successful restaurant called, Nopi.  Basically they are on a roll and London cannot get enough of their talents. That is not to say that Yotam and Sami only cook vegetarian food, far from it. Their cooking is heavily influenced from their childhoods in Israel and their style of cooking definitely has a Mediterranean edge to it, with wonderful meat and fish dishes to whet the appetite.  They cook all the kind of dishes that I am attracted to – basically ones that are full of bold flavours, which they describe rather endearingly as the ‘noisy’ flavours: ‘lemon, pomegranate, garlic and chilli’. The other cookbook, which is a definite must for those who like their style of honest cooking, is ‘Ottolenghi, The Cookbook‘. They also have a new book,  ‘Jerusalem’, in the wings, launching later this year, which I am looking forward to buying.

It was from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook that I discovered ‘Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey’. I was immediately attracted to the recipe as it had a wonderful range of interesting ingredients – in particular I like the fact that it had ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon, hazelnuts, honey and rosewater. I had never cooked with rosewater until I started cooking this recipe; I love the fragrance  and subtleness that it brings to the dish.  The  exotic smells coming from the oven takes me back to happy times exploring Morocco and the Atlas mountains.

 Roast Chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey

Sourced from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Serves 4

10 chicken thighs (or a combination of wing, leg and thighs)

2 onions, roughly chopped,

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g unskinned hazelnuts

75g honey

2 tbsp rosewater

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

1. Trim the fat of the chicken thighs and then mix in a bowl with the chopped onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, pepper and salt. Leave to marinate in the fridge for over an hour –  or overnight if you are really well organised. I wasn’t so left it in the fridge for a couple of hours!

2. In a preheated over – 180 degrees if using a fan oven (10 degree hotter if not), place the hazelnuts on a tray to roast for 10 minutes.

3. Roughly chop the roasted hazelnuts – I give them a quick wizz with my hand blender and set aside.

4. Place the chicken, skin side up, in an ovenproof dish/roasting tray in the oven with the onions and juice surrounding it and leave to cook for 35 minutes.

5. In a new bowl mix the honey, rosewater and nuts to create a rough paste. When the 35 minutes cooking time for the chicken is up, spread the paste over the chicken and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown.

6. Whilst the chicken is cooking for the final 10 minutes, put on the rice/or prepare the cous cous.

7. Serve the chicken with either rice or cous cous and garnish with spring onions – I preferred to do this over the cous cous. There will be plenty of sauce full of deliciousness to serve over the chicken.