I love the idea of using fresh and dried fruits in my baking. It helps to cut back a bit on the fat you have to use but more importantly it keeps my cakes and treats with just the right level of sweetness. Prunes, apple sauce, bananas and beetroot are all great additions to anyone’s baking; but my current obsession is dates. I haven’t found much that dates don’t go with yet, but admittedly my baking does tend to focus on chocolate so I can’t really say I’ve made an exhaustive search. Obviously they might make your sponge cakes go a funny colour so I don’t think I’d recommend going that far but I’m all for using them to help reduce my children’s sugar intake over Easter. Fortunately these chocolatey brownie nests are perfect for this time of year and make a great change from the perennially popular chocolate and cornflake combination that pops up everywhere in April. I’m not knocking that combo, they are a great way to get your children into the kitchen and I don’t know anyone that can resist them, but we all like a change once in a while. And, of course, a brownie. Try them; you’ll definitely get your chocolate fix and (hopefully) this combined with the extra fibre from the dates will keep you from diving back into the cake tin too soon after.
One of the reasons why meat free Monday is such a great idea is that cooking veg is usually much less time consuming than a similar meat dish would be (in fact for that reason I think I’d change it to meat-free mid week if it were up to me, but all you meat lovers out there can breath a sigh of relief- it isn’t). And right now we’re finally coming to the time of year now when nature is really on our side, when most of the veg just needs the briefest of cooking times or even just dressing, helping make our lives so much easier and stress free. And tastier. Take this family friendly curry for example. It’s jam packed full of some really healthy spices and is ready in just less than half an hour. Perfect for any mid week night when the time (and more probably inclination) just isn’t there for starting on dinner preps before lunch is even finished.
So my love of mushrooms is pretty well documented on this blog, so much so that is probably something I don’t really need to go over again. But, as my children will tell you I do like to over emphasise things, or as they would say bang on a bit. Although in my defence I would say that certain things such as mushrooms (and yes boys, if you are reading this, things like table manners) are worth the odd bit of repetition.
I do love where I live. Who wouldn’t? It is pretty and rural and full of healthy things like fresh air and country walks. But just sometimes I miss some of the things I used to able to pick up at a moment’s notice when I lived in Frankfurt or New York. Take miso soup, for example. It’s not something that turns up on my local supermarket’s shelves. Why not, I do not know. They have all manner of horrible soups to make up in a cup, the kind that always leave a powdery residue on the bottom of any cup and always taste the same whilst giving absolutely no nutrition whatsoever, no matter what flavour you buy. But no miso. When most of us were struck down with the dreaded flu, all we wanted to eat was a nice warm miso soup, but despite my rudely healthy husband (I have not got over that yet, I am the healthy one round here) kindly bringing back supplies from London, we just didn’t have enough to go round. From my sick bed I gathered the family around and vowed that as soon as I was fighting fit again I would experiment until I found a version that I could knock up quickly and painlessly in my own kitchen so we would never have to go without again. I am happy to report that I did just that and now luckily we can get back to enjoying the country walks without cursing the lack of miso soups. Continue reading
The other day I discovered another great ingredient. I’ve never been the biggest fan of peanut butter. I can’t help it, I just find it a little bit too flat tasting. And, yes, I do know I’m swimming against the tide here. But the good news for people like me is that there are now so many other great tasting nut butters out there that you can use instead. Macadamia, cashew and almond are all regulars in my kitchen but a few weeks ago I discovered a new gem which I hadn’t seen anywhere before and that was raw walnut butter.
I have something to confess. I had forgotten all about Glamorgan sausages until just the other day when I was reading through a Riverford recipe leaflet. You know how it is. You make something, realise how delicious it is and add to your repertoire for the next couple of years and then bit by bit it gets nudged out of the way by new and trendier dishes. Something similar happened to me and Glamorgan sausage. I admit it; it shouldn’t have. These gorgeous little veggie sausages are jammed packed full of some of my favourite flavours and are a fabulous way to use up any semi-stale bread you might have hanging around. But with a cupboard full of leeks, a family always craving cheese, and a handy reminder from the Riverford kitchens, I figured now is the time for the sausages to stage a comeback.
Now I have written a couple of posts before about breakfast and I think I’ve made it my opinion on breakfast cereals known. Unless you are buying the really over processed, brightly coloured, so sweet it’ll make your face pucker kind, cereal/ muesli comes in boxes that clearly were not meant to feed a family of 6 (or at least not a family of 6 that doesn’t live in a supermarket) and they are incredibly expensive. But even I have to admit that they are unbelievably convenient. Hence the reason we all keep going back to the cereal cupboard every morning.
Now cauliflower is still very much in season where I am but sadly, as I’ve talked about before it is not a vegetable that has people jumping up and down with excitement. Unless, of course, you’re following a low/ no carb diet in which case it pops up everywhere you look as a hard working substitute for a wide variety of ingredients from mashed potatoes to rice and crisps/ chips. I have to confess though that I am not a lover of all things low carb, especially at this time of year. Personally, I’m pretty sure that we are meant to eat some carbs. Perhaps not in the quantities that some people do, and definitely not in the over-processed state that a lot of people do, but (for me at least) the world becomes quite a depressing place without them. However, something good does come from everything and the endless substituting cauliflower for potatoes has shown the world just how well the two go together and nowhere is that more obvious than in this one pot gratin.