Monday, 15 August 2011

Vegetable filo tart

This is a handy recipe to have when you need something quick. By using a food processor to grate the veg and cheese you can have this one in the oven in 15 -20mins.

1 Large onion, finely chopped.

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 med carrots

2 med courgettes

1 med potato

1 med / large sweet potato

1 cup raw nuts (cashew, Brazil, walnut etc.) roughly chopped

2 tbsp. fresh mixed herbs, finely chopped (or 2 tsp. dried herbs)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100g cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pack filo pastry (6 sheets)

A handful of seeds, - sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, poppy or a mixture

Enough olive oil for brushing pastry

Preheat oven to 180°C / gas mark 5.

In a food processor with the grating attachment on, grate the carrot, courgette, potato and sweet potato. Transfer to a bowl and add in, onion, garlic, nuts, cheese, eggs and seasoning.

Unroll the filo pastry and keep it covered with a tea towel while you work (this stops it from drying out).

Grease a baking sheet large enough to fit the pastry. (You can overlap a little or fold in edges if you need to).

Place 1 sheet of pastry on the baking sheet. Brush with oil. Repeat with another 2 sheets.

Put all the veg mixture onto the pastry and spread out evenly.

Cover with the remaining pastry (brushing each one with a little oil as you go).

Brush the top of the tart and sprinkle with seeds.

Now for the REALLY IMPORTANT bit!!! Cut the tart into whatever size pieces you are going to serve. If you cut it when it comes out of the oven the pastry breaks all over the place and you are left with a horrible mess – trust me – I speak from experience!

Bake in preheated oven for 20- 30 mins until lightly golden.

Serve with a colourful salad.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sticky date and honey pudding

I was feeling in need of a little indulgence the other night so I made a version of the BBC cook books ‘guilt free sticky toffee pudding’. I received a round of applause from my husband, he said it was the best pudding he had ever eaten – high praise indeed for something that was thrown into the oven while dinner was cooking!!!!

175g pitted dried dates

8 Tbsps. Honey

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs, separated

85g self-raising flour

0% fat Greek yogurt and extra honey to serve (optional)

Serves 4

·         Heat oven to 180°c/gas mark 4. Grease 4 x 200ml pudding moulds/ramekins.

·         Put the dates and 175ml water in a pot and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

·         Put into a blender/processor with 4 Tbsps. Of honey and the vanilla extract. Blend until smooth.

·         Transfer to a bowl; add in the egg yolks and flour.

·         In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff then carefully fold into the date mixture.

·         Put 1 Tbsp. honey into the base of each mould/ramekin, and then fill with the mixture.

·         Cover each tightly with foil and stand in an oven proof dish and pour in hot water to come half way up the sides of the moulds.

·         Cook for 1 hour until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 2 mins, uncover and run a knife around the edges. Invert onto serving plates.

·         Drizzle over yogurt and honey to serve if liked. Enjoy! 

Monday, 30 May 2011

Quinoa, feta and seaweed salad

2 of my friends have recently discovered the delights of this wonderful nutty little grain. Quinoa truly is a super food. It is a great vegetable source of complete protein but is much easier to digest than meat and has a far lower fat content. It is really easy to cook and is amazingly versatile. Use it for a substantial salad, in bakes, as a simple alternative to rice and sprouted it can become a wonderful ingredient in raw muesli. I have to say that this salad recipe has got to be one of my favourite ways to eat it. Alan and Damian, this one’s for you!!

I like to make a big bowl of this to keep in the fridge for a few days. (You can half the ingredients if you think it will make too much)It makes a wonderfully filling lunch or supper served with a little grilled fish and a big leafy salad.

500g Quinoa

1 tsp. turmeric*

Enough veg stock to cover quinoa by about 2”

A good handful of dried seaweed (see note below)

1 red pepper (deseeded and diced)

1 green pepper (deseeded and diced)

1 small carrot, finely diced

1 red onion, finely diced

½ block of feta cheese, roughly cubed (about 100g)

1 small bunch coriander, chopped

A few mint leaves, finely chopped

For the dressing

4 Tbsps. olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. cider / white wine vinegar

1 tsp. whole grain mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

½ tsp. dried chilli flakes (if using fresh chilli, chop finely and use amount according to taste)

Wash and rinse the quinoa well. Heat a large pot and dry fry the quinoa with the turmeric for 2 mins, stirring continuously.(I love to use turmeric* in as much cooking as possible as it has great anti-cancer properties and gives a wonderful golden yellow colour – indeed the ‘poor- man’s saffron’! However be careful as too much can be bitter). Pour over the stock (be careful as it will splutter!) If you haven’t soaked your seaweed add it in at this point. There is no need to add extra salt as the seaweed (and later the feta) has enough to flavour the quinoa. Bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and cover pot with a tight fitting lid. Allow to cook undisturbed for 10 – 15 mins until the water has been absorbed. (There should be little dimples on the surface.) Carefully check to see if it is cooked – it should be soft but still have a small bite. If it is not fully cooked add a little more boiling water, cover and cook for another 5 mins.

Once fully cooked and all the water absorbed (If any water remains just drain it off in a large sieve).

Tip quinoa into a large bowl and while it is still hot add all the other ingredients.

Put all the dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid and give it a good old shake!

Pour the dressing into the bowl and toss everything together well. Allow to cool and let all the flavours mingle.

Serve with some extra chopped fresh coriander or parsley. YUM!!

Note: you can really use any seaweed you fancy for this salad. One of my favourites is kombu, I also love sea lettuce and if I’m stuck (like when I made this batch) I just rip up some sheets of dried nori (the stuff you make sushi from) and throw it in at the very end. You can either soak your seaweed before, drain then chop it up and add to the cooked quinoa or as I prefer add dried chopped seaweed to the quinoa as you are cooking it. That way you are getting all the flavour and not losing valuable trace minerals when you chuck out your soaking water!

P.S Really you can throw any combo of veg and herbs that takes your fancy into this salad. Just one word of advice…..Make it big – you will be back for more!!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Easy Peasy spinach pasta

Just as the name suggests, this recipe is a cinch! It’s really quick, easy and tasty. It is a good way to use fresh new baby spinach, but older stuff is fine too. It is gorgeously green and creamy. A perfect early summer supper dish. See note below for variations.

Serves 4

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp. veg oil

250g spinach, washed, destalked and roughly shredded

400g crème fraiche / Greek yogurt / sour cream

1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg or ½ tsp. dried

Salt and pepper to taste

350g – 400g whole-wheat / spelt pasta

Grated parmesan or other hard cheese, grated and fresh parsley, chopped to garnish.


Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy based pan. Cook onion and garlic gently without browning for 5 mins. Add the spinach and cook until wilted 3 -4 mins).

Put crème fraiche / yogurt / cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper in with spinach mixture.

Cook gently, stirring occasionally until heated through. Make sure not to have the heat too high, if the sauce boils it will curdle.

Put into a blender and whizz until smooth. (If the sauce is too thick add a little water)

Drain the pasta and return to the pot, add in the spinach sauce and stir well to combine.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley to serve.

Note: a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes (pre-soaked if not in oil) and some sliced black olives or sautéed mushrooms mixed into the sauce before serving, makes a tasty change. Use your imagination to throw in whatever you think will work!


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Carrot & cashew nut strudel

Perfect for a weekday meal or a picnic treat. This strudel is so quick and easy to make. You can make this with filo pastry if you prefer – lay out 4 – 6 sheets of pastry, brushing each one with olive oil. Layer up together then spread over carrot and nut mix and roll up as for puff pastry.

500g carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

220g cashew nuts (you could use other nuts or a mix if you fancy)

2 slices wholemeal bread

250g baby spinach, washed and roughly shredded

2 Tbsp fresh mixed herbs, chopped (or 2 tsp dried herbs)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp veg oil

1 packet puff pastry (jus- roll do a vegan one now)

©       Preheat oven to 200°C/gas mark 6

©       Blend onion, garlic and carrot in a food processor until quite fine (but still with a bit of texture – you don’t want a puree!) Empty into a large bowl.

©       Break up the bread and blitz to rough breadcrumbs in the processor. Add in the nuts and whizz again.

©       Add to carrot mixture with spinach, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix in oil and combine everything well.

©       Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a large rectangle. Cut in half along the longer side. Grease 2 large baking trays.

©       Divide the carrot and nut mixture between the 2 pieces of pastry, spread to within ½” of the edges. Brush the pastry edges with water.

©       Carefully roll up each piece and press the seam gently to seal.

©       Place each roll on a tray, seam side down. Brush the tops with milk/ soya milk and sprinkle with a mixture of sesame and poppy seeds.

©       Make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts in the top of each roll. Bake for 20 – 30 mins until golden.

©        To serve cut into slices. Delicious served hot or cold with purple sprouting broccoli and baked potato or simply a big seasonal salad.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Chocolate Easter nests

The only time of the year I can get my kids to eat all bran is at Easter – no you didn’t misread!! Most children seem to follow the universal law that if you cover it in chocolate they will eat it! I’m the kind of person that likes to take full advantage of this anomaly – all for the greater good you understand.
These little nests are a great chance to get kids eating some healthy stuff that they might not usually go for. I made these for my nieces and nephews last Easter and some family members gazed on in disbelief that I had managed to sneak some of the good stuff into the festive celebrations!

The nests are so easy that they don’t really qualify for recipe status. They are really a version of their plainer sugar laden cousin, the rice crispy bun.

You can really mix and match this as you go along.
The basics are:
 150g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa)
All bran cereal (sugar free if possible)
A mixture of dried fruit and nuts, i.e. raisins, sultanas, apricots, dates, figs, cranberries, walnuts, pecans, Brazils, cashew nuts, desiccated coconut (unsweetened)

Break up the chocolate and melt in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.
Once it is melted throw in handfuls of chopped fruit and nuts and all bran until coated well in the chocolate.
You can add as much or as little as you like but it’s nice to get a good balance between chocolate and other ingredients. This year I went for sultanas, cranberries, and pecan nuts.
Line 6 small bowls with tin foil and spoon the mixture into the bottom of the bowls making sure it is evenly spread on the bottom (this helps the nest to stay intact), push the excess up the sides of the bowl to form the nest shapes. Chill for a few hours until set. Remove from the tinfoil and pop in a few mini chocolate eggs. (If I could have got away with mini clementines in there instead, oh believe me I would have!)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Raw chocolate, orange & cinnamon mousse tart

This has got to be one of my all-time favourite desserts! It is based on a delicious mixture of fruits and nuts.It is sugar free (only naturally occurring sugars from the fruit), wheat / gluten free and dairy free so suitable for a wide range of diets. Even if you ate this for breakfast it would be 100 times healthier than the ‘standard’ cereal and toast breakfast! With Easter just around the corner you can enjoy this beautiful indulgence – completely guilt free!

I recently had the great pleasure of cooking a meal for ‘The international Celtic Women’s Ass’ while they were touring around Ireland. I made this tart and it was well received. This one’s for you Mary – enjoy!

1 large orange, zest and juice
1 cup pitted dried dates
1 cup cashew nuts (raw – not roasted, unsalted)
1 tsp. cinnamon

*Soak the dates in orange juice for ½ - 1 hour (this softens them and infuses them with a lovely orange flavour)
Strain the dates, keeping the juice.
Place the dates in a food processor and blitz until roughly chopped.
Add the nuts, cinnamon and ¾ of the zest. Blitz again until combined but still a little course, you want something similar to a cheesecake base rather than a puree. Add a few drops of the orange juice, but only just enough to bind the mixture.
Spread this mix in a sandwich tin or similar (I use silicon one as it comes out really easily when cut). Press down with back of a fork to make an even base. Put in the fridge until needed.

Mousse topping:
1 cup dates, soaked in very hot water ½ - 1 hour (*you can soak the 2 lots of dates, separately i.e. 1 lot in juice and 1 lot in water, at the same time to cut down on waiting)
1 large or 2 small avocados, (must be fully ripe)
1 banana
2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder (if you don’t have this you can use unsweetened cocoa powder)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Orange juice saved from soaking 1st lot of dates
Left over orange zest to garnish

Strain dates, discard soak water. Place in a food processer and blitz until as smooth as possible. You may have to stop and scrap down the bowl once or twice. (You can add a drop or 2 of juice to loosen mixture.)
Peel and dice avocado and banana and add to the processor with the cacao / cocoa and vanilla extract.
Add a little reserved orange juice. Blend well until you have a nice smooth puree. Add a little more juice if the mixture seems too thick but be careful not to make it too thin. You want a mousse like consistency.
Spread this mixture evenly over the base and refrigerate until needed.

Note: I find if you pop the tart in the freezer for an hour or so to firm up it is easier to cut into portions.
This amount makes 8 small portions but it is very rich so you only need a little!
Garnish with the reserved orange zest. I love to serve this with fresh raspberries when in season, or mixed frozen berries (thawed) or for real decadence with homemade coconut, mint & choc chip (and spinach!) ice cream – see my smoothie recipe for details.