Friday, 26 October 2012

beetroot houmous

I'm always amazed at the selection of houmous in the shops, roasted pepper ones, caramelised onion ones, full fat ones, healthier lighter ones and so on.  But none taste as good as a simple homemade one...  With such a fabulous colour, this houmous makes a statement whatever the occasion.  I served it with homemade bread sticks as a simple afternoon snack.

The bread sticks are made by simply whacking any old bread you have in the oven, preheated at about 180 for a few minutes until crispy.  They keep really well in an air tight container, ready for you to pull at at any last minute wonder.  

My little girl loves snacking on them and I get a real kick out of making something from nothing.

Beetroot Houmous

You'll need:
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 whole cooked beetroots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2-3 lemons, juice
  • salt and pepper

1) Place chickpeas, beetroot, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice in a blender and blend till smooth.
2) Season with salt and pepper.  Add more lemon or olive oil if you feel it needs more.
Note:  If you buy raw beetroots and need to cook them. The best way of doing this is to cut off the tips and leaves and wrap each one individually in foil.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for at least 30 minutes or more, till soft.  Once cooked, the skin peels off easily.

Top Tip:
To get more juice out of your lemons, put them in the microwave for a few seconds and you'll have double the juice.

Monday, 22 October 2012

warm hearty bean stew

I not sure about those in the Southern hemisphere, but up here in the North we are in need of something warm and comforting.  It's time to bring out the good old faithful, the warm and hearty butter bean stew or Fasolatha as its know in Greece. 

This is a staple in our house and in Greece for that matter.  A very popular dish amongst villagers who practically live on it, and is no wonder they live as long as they do... This is pure food for the soul and great for lowering cholesterol.  Its as healthy as healthy gets.

Serves 4

You'll need:
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 tin butter beans (you can use any type of bean, works just as well with cannellini beans or chickpeas)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 slices of bacon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • Parmesan (option, for serving)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar


1) Saute onion till transparent
2) Add the carrots, celery, tinned tomatoes, bacon and simmer gently for about 30 minutes till veggies are al dente.  Season with, sugar, cumin seeds and salt and pepper to taste.
3) Add the beans and cook further till the veggies are soft and tender
4) Serve with grated Parmesan and fresh bread.

Monday, 15 October 2012

pasta primavera

I found these pretty pasta swirls in Tuscany and have been saving them for something special.  I wanted to make something tasty yet still maintain their beauty...this is what came to mind.  A refreshing pasta primavera served cool with my take on a Spanish Caprese salad.

I love this meal for its simplicity and fresh flavours.

The original idea uses fresh basil however when I came to making it, I realised I didn't have any, and had no choice but to go with what I had - fresh coriander.  I loved this change and it has now become my recommended version.

This dish works best using sweet vine ripened tomatoes.

Pasta Primavera
Serves 4

You'll need:
  • 400g pasta shapes (you can use whatever shapes you like, fusilli, shells, tubes)
  • vine ripened tomatoes (about 12-14 depending on how much sauce you prefer) 
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped  (you can use basil if you prefer)
  • grated Parmesan
  • 2 Tbs olive oil, good quality
  • salt & pepper to taste

1) Bring the pasta to boil in a pan and cook until al dente, remove and rinse with cool water.
2) In a separate bowl, finely chop the tomatoes making sure to pour all the tomato juices in the bowl.  Add the grated garlic and chopped coriander, mix and leave till all the juices are mixed.
3)  When the pasta is ready add the pasta to the tomatoes and mix with a good swig of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and grate fresh Parmesan over and serve

~ ~ ~

I love serving this pasta with a Spanish inspired tomato salad.   I know what you thinking, a slight case of tomato overload but trust me these two dishes work very well together with the flavours all marrying up deliciously.

Now I can't take all the credit for this salad.  It's an adaption of a Jamie Oliver creation.

You'll need:

  • 10 ripe vine ripened tomatoes
  • half a length of chorizo
  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

1) Slice the chorizo and fry gently in a pan until it starts to crisp.
2) Roughly chop the tomatoes.  I like it quite chunky not too refined.  Add the sliced mozzarella.
3) Add the chorizo and pour the oil from the pan over the salad.  Add the chopped mozzarella.
4)  Pour over the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

a pear a day

When a friend told me she had a pear tree I knew a chutney day was in order.  I did not expect all the other delicious goodies that came with it.  Below are three very simple and very delicious recipes with pears.

Homemade pear chutney

Chutney may be a bit daunting for some, but it's very simple to make.  As long as you don't mind your house smelling of vinegar for a few hours you'll be alright.

This is a sweet and spicy recipe adapted from delicious magazine and as the source suggests would go deliciously with your Christmas meal or any leftover ham.  Tie a ribbon around and would make a great gift.

You'll need:
  • 1 kg ripe pears
  • 150g dried prunes, chopped
  • 150g sultanas
  • 150g raisins
  • 200g shallots, finely sliced (or finely sliced red onions)
  • 2 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 300g light brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 600ml cider vinegar
1) Peel and core the pears, then chop them into chunks.  I wanted a chunky chutney so roughly chopped all the ingredients, but you can do whatever suits you.
2) Place the chopped and dried fruit in a large pan together with the sugar, cinnamon and shallots.
3) Pour half the vinegar in and mix till all the sugar is dissolved.
4) Then pour the remaining vinegar in and simmer for approx. 30 minutes till it starts to thicken.  If it's still runny simmer for a further 10 -15 minutes, but remember it will thicken even more when it cools.
5) Divide warm chutney between your sterilised warm jars.  This is very important to create the vacuum needed in the jars to preserve the chutney.  See below for sterilising jars.


Sterilising jars:  Clean your jars with hot water and leave on drying rack to dry.  Preheat the oven to 140 degrees and place the clean jars in the oven to warm through, approx 15 minutes.  Remove warm jars and fill with chutney while chutney and jars are warm - this creates the vacuum and will keep for up to 6 months in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight.

Next on the agenda,

Pear Cake

This is the simplest cake I've ever come across and can be used with most fruits so long as they are not too juicy, works just as good with a tin of fruit cocktail...  In fact I think it's so simple would go as far to say its fool proof.  Try it, it's worth it.

You'll need:
  • 50g melted butter
  • 500g ripe buttery pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 75g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp apricot jam (for the glaze)
  • icing sugar for dusting
  • creme fraiche (to serve)
1) Heat oven to 180 degrees.  Grease a 20cm cake tin with butter
2) Put the prepared pears in a bowl with the lemon juice to prevent them from discolouring
3) Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.  Melt the butter in the microwave and pour in the eggs mixture.  Add the flour, sugar and baking powder
4) Add the pears with their juices and pour into the cake tin.  Note: if your pears are very ripe you may need to add 3 more tablespoons of flour.
5) Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean then place on a wire rack and let cool
6) for the glaze, mix the apricot jam with a little boiling water to make a runny paste.  Then pour over the cake and dust with icing.  
10) Serve with creme fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

And finally the 'pears' de resistance...

Cinnamon poached pears in chocolate blankets

These poached pears are very simple, and very quick to do.  I always thought poached pears were slightly old fashioned but when you take into account how easy they are and how tasty they are, I think they still have it when it comes to making an impression.  Being pure fruit and a little dark chocolate coating they remain a healthier option when it comes to sweets. 

Another serving suggestion with the actual poached pears, is to thinly slice the poached pear and serve it on a cracker with blue cheese (I would happily serve that as a starter at a dinner party).

You'll need:
  • 6 ripe eating pears
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 300ml water
  • 100g dark chocolate
1) Peel the pears leaving their stalks on.  Pour lemon juice on the pears so they don't discolour.
2) Place sugar in pan with the water and bring to boil or till the sugar is dissolved
3) Place the pears in the pan with the cinnamon stick.  If necessary add more water in the pan till all the pears are covered
4) Simmer for 20 minutes or till pears are soft.
5) Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 sec on high heat (careful not to burn).  Then pour over warm pears and serve immediately.

Gluvine poached pears with double cream

Now these are very precious little things.  If you enjoy a mug of mulled wine in front of the fire, you will love these pears.  Again they are very simple to make and you could have a decadent dessert ready in 20 minutes.  You could even prepare them beforehand and just warm them up before serving, not mention drink whatever mulled wine is left in the pan...

You'll need:
  • 6 ripe pears
  • 30ml  lemon juice
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 sachet of mulled wine spice
  • half a bottle of cheap red wine
  • double cream
1) Peel the pears leaving their stalks on and pour the lemon juice over them so they don't discolour
2) Pour the wine, sugar and sachet of spice in a pan and bring to boil
3) Place the pears in the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Pears should be totally covered and start to take on a red colour.
4) Once pears are ready remove and serve warm with double cream.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

mozzarella herb muffins (Low GI)

This time of year is a very busy time in the garden.  Everything doing what they need to do to prepare for the winter. Trees loosing their leaves, squirrels collecting and storing their food and plants buckling down on low energy mode.  I wanted to make the most of the herbs before they disappeared.  I picked all that were left and decided to make these healthy herby mozzarella muffins.  They make a wonderful savoury afternoon snack for children and great to take round to friends.

Makes 12

You'll need:

  • 1 cup mozzarella
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup oat bran (or plain oats)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 4 chopped cherry tomatoes (or 1 chopped regular tomato)
  • 2 large bunches of herbs (mint, parsley, chives, oregano; approx 10 Tbs in total)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 15ml olive oil
  • 15ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2) Mix dry ingredients together
3) Add herbs, yoghurt, oil and vinegar and mix well.
4) Grease a muffin pan well
5) Spoon mixture into the pan and bake for 25 mins or until golden.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

wild mushroom & chorizo stroganoff

Autumn time in Sweden is all about 'Autumn Forest Gold' the lovely wild yellow mushrooms (Chanterelles) found everywhere.  The markets were pretty well stocked and I couldn't resist such delicate looking things, I had to bring some home.  After individually picking each one, my plan was to get these little guys home in one piece.  I soon realised I didn't have enough space in my hand luggage and had no choice but to shove them in the main hold luggage :( 

I was quite surprised when they arrived on the other end still intact and begging to be eaten in a creamy smokey sauce.  This stroganoff is quick and simple, ready in 20 minutes.  You'll impress everyone involved.

Serves 2

You'll need:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 400g wild mushrooms (you can use a selection of any wild mushrooms, I used Chanterelles, however Shitake or Porcini would work just as well)
  • chorizo (half)
  • 8 tablespoons creme freche
  • lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • small bunch of parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • splash of white wine
  • lemon zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
1) Saute onion till transparent
2) Add the mushrooms and gently fry till they get juicy
3) Add splash of white wine, lemon zest and lemon juice
4) Add the chorizo and parsley
5) Add the creme freche (or plain yoghurt) and simmer gently on low heat for a few minutes till its all blended together and warm throughout.
6) Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a bit of parsley on top and serve with boiled basmatic rice.

Stockholm, understated yet beautiful

Stockholm is undoubtedly the land of my milk and honey in Europe.  It’s a beautiful race, I mean place, clean with extraordinary architecture and oh so styling shops.
I had always thought of Sweden as a must see for anyone into modern design and in particular interior design.  Everything and I mean everything has been designed - from the chairs in the airport to the fridges in the corner cafes and supermarkets, they all possess a certain 'coolness' that can only be known as, the Scandic style.
It was recently on a trip to Stockholm that I really got to grips with the local food.  The unique tastes and inspiring combinations left me thinking this place has much more to offer than just beauty and style, its delicious too!!!
I love the fact that they are into all things super-foods, with breakfasts including bowls of cinnamon and seeds to sprinkle over your yoghurt.  Different types of health breads, rye, spelt, crackers and I thought wow these guys are onto something good, do fat Swedish people even exist? 
The pickled herrings are well worth a taste, and best eaten on a rye cracker lined with boiled potatoes, a real cacophony of flavours and textures.  The herrings come in all sorts of marinades from the sweetish honey mustard type to the more lemony tangy type.  All very good and hard to choose a favourite. 

Another favourite was the Swedish moose which I tried for the first time.  It was surprisingly up my street, very lean and tender, and was served with green mash (parsley) and an inspired cinnamon pickled beetroot.  
And I couldn’t resist their cinnamon buns and hot chocolate.

This is my idea of a hotel breakfast... by passing the eggs and bacon


Swedish moose stew, served with parsley mash and cinnamon pickled beetroot

I loved so much of these had to bring some home with me.