Friday, July 30, 2010

BROWNIES 12 & 13

Ina Garten thinks I should be arrested!!  Well if she knew me she would think I should be arrested, well if she knew I made these Brownies she would think I should be arrested!!  All a very convoluted way to say that Ina thinks that anyone who makes Brownies without butter should be arrested, and I am here to confess, hands out, ready for the cuffs and to hear my rights.  IF I can just have another one with a nice mug of coffee, I'll go quietly!!

After the horribleness that were Brownies 4 I was slow to try Harry Eastwood's beetroot brownies from Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache, but I was wrong they are delicious, truly delicious - moist, densely chocolaty, perfect texture, taste, the works.  I know the fact that I used the organic beetroot from my weekly delivery helped, I know the fact that I baked them myself (instead of using the horrible vacuum packed precooked ones I used last time) helped, but I have to say that these were so good that I imagine they would overcome even the factory cooked beetroot.

I changed the method quite a bit as I had baked the beetroot before I read the recipe, so I will give you my method as that is what worked for me!!

Super Yummy (and not too bad for you) Brownies

400g        cooked peeled beetroot
100g        hazelnuts
3              eggs
220g        light muscovade sugar
1/4 tsp    salt
150g       dark chocolate (I used l00g Lindt 70% and 50g Lindt 85%)
2 tbsp     white rice flour
70g         cocoa powder (I used Green and Black)
2 tsp       baking powder
1 tsp       vanilla extract
30g         chopped hazelnuts for the top

Preheat oven to 160 C
Line a brownie tin with baking paper

Blitz 100g hazelnuts in the food processor into a fine powder.
Whisk the sugar and eggs until light and frothy (approx. 5 minutes)
Remove the nuts from the processor and then blitz the beetroot until smooth.
(my processor didn't get it smooth enough, so I then added it to the egg mixture and blitzed it with a stick blender)
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.
Meanwhile add the powdered hazelnuts, rice flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, vanilla extract and salt to the egg, sugar and beetroot mixture, stir through carefully.
Add the melted chocolate and combine.
Pour the mixture into the brownie tin and sprinkle with the 30g of chopped hazelnuts.
Bake for 35 minutes, until cracked on top but still moist in the middle.
When baked remove to a wire rack for 20 minutes in the tin.  Then cut into individual portions and allow to cool completely.

I have also experimented with the Blondies from this book, when I baked them I wondered how they would taste as brownies proper so I replaced two heaped tablespoons of rice flour for the same amount of cocoa, and they were very good, the blueberries didn't sit quite so well with the dark chocolate, so I tried them without

using chocolate chunks in place of the fruit and they were excellent - the perfect option when you can't get your hands on some beetroot.

Now for the rating - in an ideal world I would side with Ina and always have butter in my brownies, but for the real world the beetroot brownies would have to wing their way to the top of the list - for a delicious luxurious treat, with quarter the guilt factor!! 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I'm feeling like a mix between Suzie Homemaker and Barbara from "The Good Life".  And all because I picked a few flowers, made a cordial from them and then used the cordial to make some muffins - easily impressed with myself !!!!!!

Elderflower season has passed but while the little white beauties were still on the trees, I fulfilled my (totally misplaced) image of myself as an earth mother type and went foraging for elderflowers and nettles, to make cordial and soup respectively.

I had a very fruitful (sorry!!) expedition and came home with a big bag of nettles (the soup was excellent) and a large bunch of elderflowers.

I combined recipes from Darina Allen and The Friendly Cottage and ended up with a wonderfully fragrant , sweet but not over sweet drink - my son reckons that it makes a perfect post-sports drink.  This cordial will be a regular here every June, I intend to make at least a double quantity next year.

It was a no-brainer that I had to try Harry Eastwood's recipe for Raspberry and Elderflower Cupcakes, and they are really tasty, as always the usual fat is replaced with vegetables (courgettes here) and ground nuts (almonds here), this lightness works wonderfully with the sour/sweet aspect of both the raspberries and elderflower. 

Raspberry and Elderflower Cupcakes

2              medium eggs
140g        caster sugar
200g        grated courgette
3 tbsp      elderflower cordial
80g          rice flour
120g        ground almonds
2 tsp        baking powder
1/4 tsp     salt
120g        raspberries (I used frozen)

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line muffin tin with 12 paper cases

Whisk the eggs and sugar (a freestanding mixer is best here) for 5 minutes until very light and pale.
Grate the courgette and add to the egg and sugar mixture.
Mix through the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder and cordial.
Gently fold through the raspberries.
Divide equally between the muffin cases.
Bake for 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Elderflower Cordial

40 - 50 elderflower heads
2 kg      white caster sugar *
finely grated zest and juice of two organic lemons
75g       citric acid

Pick the elderflowers in the afternoon when they are dry. Check that there are no insects.
Make a sugar syrup by heating the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
Rinse the elderflowers gently and place in a very large bowl or very clean bucket.
Add the lemon zest and juice to the syrup. then add the citric acid.
Pour this over the elderflowers, making sure they are all immersed.
Cover and leave to soak for 24 hours.
Next day you are ready to bottle your cordial.
Run the bottles you are using through the dishwasher to sterilise.
Sieve the cordial into a large jug, I used a plastic sieve lined with kitchen paper.
Decant into your bottles of choice.  Store in the fridge.
I didn't have enough bottles so have frozen some in those ice-cube bags.

*I used golden sugar and although it tastes perfect the colour would have been nicer had I used white.

P.S. There is a lovely recipe for elderflower champagne on The Food Blog which I can't wait to try next year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I have rediscovered "Forever Summer" by Nigella Lawson recently, it was one of those books that I bought, tried one or two recipes and then forgot about - this was a mistake as it is jam packed with wonderful recipes that work beautifully and more importantly are easily changed to suit your taste and what you have in the pantry.

I tried the pineapple salsa with some organic ham and a tomato salsa, it was just perfect and was the ideal dinner on a very warm day (warmth - seems like a distant memory now!).The pineapple combined perfectly with the coriander and mint to lift the ham to sublime!

When I spotted some yellow courgettes in my  vegetable basket, I knew that this was the first recipe they were destined for!

It is a light tasty soup, again perfect summer fodder.  It is based on a Middle Eastern dish, where they believe that "eating yellow foods will result in laughter and happiness" - how could you resist trying that!!

I blitzed a couple of portions (faddy eaters!!) and for some strange reason it tasted much more substantial and warming - go figure!!

This is a version of Nigella's recipe for Sea Bass with Saffron, Sherry and Pine Nuts,  this time I used Plaice in place of the Sea Bass and it was excellent, the light delicate sauce  compliments the fresh flavours of the fish.  Neither the saffron nor sherry dominate, they just compliment.  I have cooked this with Sea Bass before and couldn't recommend one fish above the other - both were just right.  The dish would have looked better if I had used the white half of the plaice, but I think there is more flesh on the dark side.

This is the Old Fashioned Tomato Salad, and although it tastes lovely, it wouldn't be great on the "taste/labour ratio" scale.  There was quite a bit of faffing about making the Salad Cream, and I would prefer a nice garlic mayonnaise.

I loved this Short Pasta with Asparagus, Lemon Garlic and Parsley, but then I love anything with asparagus.  It is a super simple dish where you gently fry some garlic in olive oil add steamed asparagus and lemon juice to taste.  Combine with your pasta of choice and sprinkle over some parsley, yumm!

Finally, The Rainbow Room's Carrot and Peanut Salad was totally addictive.  Amo and I ate the whole bowl in the belief that "it's a salad therefore it's low fat and healthy", obviously this thinking was aided by the glass of wine (or two) we enjoyed with the salad!!!!  Well I suppose it was better than eating a bag of peanuts (not lower fat though :-{{ )  Here's the recipe

Carrot and Peanut Salad

4 medium carrots, peeled
75g    salted peanuts
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp groundnut oil
few drops sesame oil

Grate the carrots coarsely.
Combine with the peanuts, vinegar and oils.
Devour as you choose!

Friday, July 16, 2010


These are my favourites so far, they are (hope I'm not getting boring here!) from Harry Eastwood's "Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache" and started life as Mint Choc Chip Cupcakes, but ended up as White, Dark and Milk Chocolate Buns, to pander to the tastes of the hungry hordes (very, very small horde!!!) here.

These buns tasted truly indulgent, not the slightest hint of sandal wearing hippyish health food!!!!  Absolutely yummy, if you are into mint chocolate do try them in their original version, otherwise (also!) try them this way:

White, Dark and Milk Chocolate Buns

2              medium eggs
160g        caster sugar
200g        finely grated courgette
90g          rice flour*
100g        ground almonds
1 tbsp      cocoa powder - heaped (I use Green and Black)
2 tsp        baking powder
1/4 tsp     salt
100g        assorted chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases

Whisk the eggs and sugar for at least 5 minutes, until pale, light and fluffy.
Stir in the grated courgette.
Fold in the flour, almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt.
Finally add the chocolate chunks and mix well.
Divide the mixture between the prepared muffin cases (an ice-cream scoop is handy for this)
Bake for approximately 20 minutes.
When a skewer comes out clean remove from the oven and allow to rest on wire rack.

*Harry specifies white rice flour, I (with huge difficulty) sourced it and have found that it makes little difference.  Any rice flour is fine, I normally use Doves Farm, but have also tried a wholegrain rice flour which was grand too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


This is a great recipe to have under your belt.  It involves more shopping than preparation.  It tastes wonderful - fresh, vibrant and oh so tasty.  It makes a fantastic dinner party dish - totally made in advance.  The tapenade can be made up to a week before you need it.  Just spread it over your fish (cod, haddock, hake, actually any thick white fish) pop it in the oven and wait for deliciousness!!

The recipe comes from Delia's Winter Collection, and I can see why she put in that book, it would bring some much needed sunshine to a cold winter's meal.  It also makes for a wonderfully light, tasty summer meal too!

Other than the fresh basil, the ingredients can all be kept for ages, making this a great meal to have up your sleeve for when the basil is cheap or when you have little time to prepare for visitors.

Sun Dried Tomatoe Tapenade

1              jar sun-dried tomatoes (reserve the oil)
1              tin pitted black olives (175g) drained
30g/1 oz   basil leaves (this is alot of basil!)
1 tsp         (heaped) green peppercorns in brine, rinsed and drained
2               big garlic cloves
1               tin anchovies (50g)
3 tsp        (heaped) capers, drained and dried.
3 tbsp       oil from the tomatoes.*

Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blitz into a coarse paste.

Spread your fish of choice with the tapinade and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes.

I find that the tapenade will be enough to serve about 12 portions, and that it keeps really well in a jar in the fridge for quite some time if you keep it covered with oil.

*The rest of the oil is great in a salad dressing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Dominic over on Belleau Kitchen (a wonderful, entertaining blog) has issued a challenge to find the perfect roastie.  Now I know that mine are not perfection but after many years of working on them, I think they are pretty good!!

My great discovery on the roast potato front is time .... they need to be roasted for far longer than any cookery book instructs, I find that the best roast potatoes I make are on days when someone turns up late for dinner!!  So my "secret" is to roast the spuds for at least 1 1/2 hours, then you get the desired crispy outside and soft, yielding center.

I use Rooster (red skinned) potatoes, peel and boil them, until nearly cooked.  Mine are usually too cooked to do the tossing about bit after they are drained (!) but if possible I give them a gentle toss.  Next I pour them carefully onto the roasting tray, pour over extra virgin olive oil* and bung in the oven at 180 C.

Cook for as long as you can stand, then enjoy your very low effort roasties.

*A spout like this is a great addition to the kitchen, and makes drizzling olive oil over the potatoes very exact, and less wasteful. (My inner Suzie Homemaker coming out again!)

Friday, July 9, 2010


My two current obsessions .... Sudoku and  vegetable muffins, could be worse I suppose!  (I won't mention the fact that I got up during the night last week because I hadn't finished the sudoku, or that I got up before 6 the other morning to make these muffins - that would be slightly OCD wouldn't it?!!)

Anyway the muffins were actually worth getting up for .... they had a wonderful chocolate hit, perfect texture and all that goodness from the sweet potato.  I should confess at this point  that although I have made many cupcakes and muffins from "Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache" I have omitted the icing from all of them - my idea of being on a diet!  These cupcake/muffins were a (very welcome)  revelation in that on the second day they had developed an icing like top, very strange but absolutely delicious!!

They started life as cappuccino cupcakes, but with a bit of tweaking ended up as chocolate, self icing muffins in my kitchen!!!  This is how I made them:

Self Icing Chocolate Muffins

2         medium eggs
160g   caster sugar
200g   peeled and finely grated sweet potato
100g   rice flour
100g   ground almonds
2 tsp   baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp  hot water
3 tbsp  cocoa

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line muffin tin with muffin papers

Mix the sugar and eggs for 5 minutes until light and fluffy (Freestanding mixer excellent here)
Grate the sweet potato while this is mixing.
Add the sweet potato to the egg mixture and combine carefully.
Stir in the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder.
Combine the water and cocoa to make a paste, then add this to the batter.
Divide between the muffin cases (ice cream scoop very handy here)
Bake for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven when a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I've had a bit of a scone making marathon recently - don't really know why, but once I started, I kept thinking of other recipes I wanted to try!!

If I'm apportioning blame (it's always good to blame someone else!!) ... I think we'll have to take a look at this post over at Tea and Wheatenbread, scones have been to the forefront of my mind since I read that  (can you blame me?).  As always RhyleysGranny was on the money - really easy and incredible taste, with that perfect ever so slightly crumbly texture.

When I had the processor out, I thought I'd continue with the theme - as had become my habit recently, I turned to "Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache" as I had spotted a recipe for Honey and Sunflower Ginger Scones.  Ms Eastwood has stipulated that the veggies should be hand grated for her recipes, but I thought I would test that (bit of a rebel here!!) - and I have to say that for this recipe, processor grated carrot was just fine. (That said I imagine that softer vegetables would need the gentler handling of a hand grater).

These scones are simply wonderful, I will have to admit that I am a bit of a ginger fiend - love the stuff, but the ginger here is a gentle back note to the more savoury than sweet scone.  I ate my scone with some Dubliner cheese (sharpish Cheddar type cheese) and it was a marriage made in heaven.  I have hidden some of the scones in the freezer to have later in the week with soup - I'm thinking carrot and ginger, or would that be too much?

Honey and Sunflower Ginger Scones

220g           white spelt flour
1 tsp            ground ginger (heaped)
2 tsp            baking powder
1/2 tsp         salt
1/2 tsp         bread (bicarbonate of) soda
200g            peeled carrot - very finely grated
30g              butter, cold and cut into cubes
25g              raw ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp          honey
3 tbsp          sunflower seeds (I'll use more next time)
flour to dust the work surface.

Preheat the oven to 200 C
Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Grate the carrots in the food processor.
Add the flour, ginger, baking powder, salt, bread soda, and pulse.
Add the butter, raw ginger and honey and pulse until the mixture starts coming together.
Add the sunflower seeds and pulse a couple more times.
Remove this mixture to a floured surface, and pat out to about 4cm thickness.
Treat the dough very gently - it's the difference between light and tough scones.
Using a pastry cutter (6cm) and a single pressing down action (don't twist) cut out your scones. I got 9.
Place on the baking sheet and brush with a little milk, and sprinkle a few sunflower seeds over them.
Bake for 17 - 19 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack to cool.

I am nominating these scones for the July edition of  No Croutons Required to be served with this salad.

At a coffee morning recently, I asked a neighbour for her scone recipe - her scones are always incredibly light, they could nearly fly off the plate they are so light.  I felt more than a little shamefaced to realise that she uses the same recipe as me, hers are so much nicer than mine!!!  I'm going to have to get to the bottom of this.  I know she uses unsalted butter - but that couldn't make them lighter.  Anyway, as a first step in my "improve my scones" project, I thought I'd try making them in the food processor (it worked with the wholemeal ones above, so why not my usual ones).  I was wrong, these came out flatter than normal, they tasted fine but not quite as light as I want them to be.

I'm going to carry on with this project and report back with the recipe and method when I get them just right!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010


My organic vegetable box seems to get better and better every week.  Last week Niamh delivered a fantastic box of loveliness - those strawberries tasted like about ten strawberries concentrated in each one - the sort of strawberries that I imagined farmers wives giving to Enid Blyton's Famous Five for their picnics (along with lashings and lashings of ginger beer!!).

Those are the peas that didn't see the cooking pot despite my having planned to use them in the pea and rice soup I posted on Monday (they were delicious!)*.  In the right hand corner there is a pot of Lemon Balm, which I used in a salsa verde type sauce for some fish.

Lemon Balm Salsa Verde

3 tbsp      lemon balm - chopped
2 tbsp      coriander - chopped
2 tbsp      parsley - chopped
2              anchovies - chopped
2              garlic cloves - grated
2 tbsp       capers - drained
zest and juice from one lime
extra virgin olive oil.

Make a paste from the anchovies, by mashing them with the side of a knife on a chopping board.  Add this paste to the chopped herbs, lime zest and juice.  If your capers are large - chop them up, otherwise just add to the sauce. Add good extra virgin olive oil to taste.  Season with pepper and serve with your fish of choice.

The lemon balm added an extra something to the sauce, it was wonderfully tangy and fresh, a lovely combination with  hake fillets. 

* Pea pods can be used to make a really tasty vegetable stock AND you have the satisfaction of feeling like a Suzie Homemaker (waste not want not!)

Friday, July 2, 2010


I know strictly speaking these are Blondies, but we're all friends here, I haven't made proper Brownies in a month (am way overdue a Brownie post) and they are the same family - so we'll go with these ... O.K.?

I am actually brimming with enthusiasm about these tasty treats - rich, decadent, delicious AND (fairly) healthy, can you believe it???  They come from Harry Eastwood's "Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache" - the most popular baking book in my kitchen at the moment.  She uses vegetables and ground nuts in place of butter or oil in her recipes, much less sugar than normal - all in all much healthier than your average recipes. I have to say that these recipes don't always pull it off (will blog in more detail soon), but I am getting a high success rate so far.

These were the nicest Blondies I have ever tasted - actually they come pretty high up the Brownie list as well, I'm thinking about third place, which is really good, considering the only fat they contain is in the egg yolks, almonds and 100g of chocolate, plus there is all that healthy butternut squash in there!

I did change the recipe slightly, I used blueberries in place of raspberries.  I  left a quarter of the Blondies fruitless, thinking that this would suit son #2 (have since found out that he doesn't like Blondies at all!). But it was a worthwhile exercise as next time I won't bother  with the fruit at all, as I think they made the finished confection too wet.

White Chocolate and Blueberry Blondies

3          eggs (medium)
120g    caster sugar
250g    finely grated butternut squash (peeled)
50g      rice flour (I used brown)
100g    ground almonds
1 tsp    cinnamon
2 tsp    baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100g    fresh blueberries (frozen would be far too wet)
100g    white chocolate (chopped into small chunks)
30g      flaked almonds  

Line a 22cm square brownie tin with baking paper
Preheat oven to 200 C

Beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes on high (a freestanding mixer is invaluable here)
While this is whisking away, grate the squash (good arm exercise!!)
When the egg and sugar mixture is pale and fluffy, add the squash and beat again.
With a spoon gently add the flour, ground almonds, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
Pour half of this mixture into the tin.
Scatter with the white chocolate and blueberries, then cover with the rest of the mixture.
Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top and bake for 25 minutes (I should have baked mine for about 35/40 minutes), but be careful not to overcook.
Cool in the tin for 20 minutes.
I got 16 portions from this recipe.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The weather has been really fantastic recently - a very unusual occurrence in these parts.  The past two years, summer consisted of a good week in May, when we all dashed out and bought wardrobes full of summer gear -  followed by wintry weather spent looking longingly at our lovely (and totally unsuitable) clothes, while dressing in warm tops and jeans!!!

Well I have been making hay while the sun shines (so to speak) and doing lots of cooking on the barbecue.  These are some burgers I threw together using just lamb, chopped mint and a nugget of feta cheese in the center of each one - yumm, and as easy as you can get.


I served these aubergines with the burgers, they come from Nigella Summer (I've been referring to it alot recently) and were a great match with the lamb.  I sprayed my sliced aubergine with olive oil* and then barbecued them - they came out just perfect (aubergine can be very oily if you're not careful).  They are stuffed with a mixture of feta, chili, mint, lemon juice and zest - I am using zest every time I use lemon or lime juice since I heard that the zest prevents skin cancer, double win (flavour and health)! 

I mirrored these flavours in the salad dressing, mashing up some feta in lemon juice, grated in some garlic and added this mixture to a low fat plain yogurt with a very small amount of olive oil.  All in all a pretty healthy meal.

* I have a plastic bottle with a spray top (bought it in Boots Chemist, in the travel section) which I  fill with equal amounts of extra virgin olive oil and water.  Far cheaper than the "light" oil sprays in the supermarket  and zero nasty additives.