Sunday, 10 October 2010

Laħam Fuq il-Fwar (Steamed Meat)

(Image courtesy of Food Urichin and Where's My Pork Chop)

Look who's finally back from that whole business of organising a wedding, getting married, going off on a minimoon then crashing back to reality this week...Seriously, to everyone who sent their congratulations, I couldn't have asked for a better day, everything went smoothly. A special thanks has to go to the boys and girls at The Freemasons Arms who did a smashing job at cooking nearly 60 steaks to every one's different tastes, making sure everyone had enough to drink and looking after us in general since we took over the dining room and downstairs bar for an entire day! So back on to the important bit, the cooking.

After being invited to participate in Where's My Pork Chop? A concept by fellow food blogger Food Urchin, I decided to make Laħam Fuq il-Fwar, literally translated as Steamed Meat (you can find his write up here). It's not something I had often as a kid, (as Food Urchin discovered) because of the sheer amount of garlic and in my even in my recipe I cut it down from the amount my mum normally used and it was still a little too strong. So if you intend to cook this for yourself I highly recommend cutting it back further if you don't like your garlic too overpowering.

Like a lot of Maltese dishes, this can be a bit of a 2 in 1 meal, traditionally the meat is steamed over a pot of soup, usually Brodu (Maltese broth), where the broth is served as a first course, the potatoes fished out as served with the steamed meat as the main with bread.

Laħam Fuq il-Fwar (Steamed Meat)

Serves 2-3, roughly 310 cal per serving


600g lean beef escalopes, or very thin slices of rump steak
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
100g bacon medallions
15g butter
1 tsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste


1. Bring a large pan of water to boil (better yet, broth rather than water), lower to the temperature to a gentle simmer.

2. Grease a heatproof soup plate (large enough to fit over the pan) with the olive oil, then layer the meat, garlic bacon and chopped parsley on top.

3. Dot the butter on top and season with the salt and pepper.

4. Cover with another plate or loosely with foil and steam over the water/broth for an hour and a half to two hours until the meat is tender.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Sorry about the hiatus

But I am getting married next week and have been inundated with work. So I promise when I have a spare hour to myself there will be a recipe for low GI breakfast muffins, a Maltese recipe for steamed beef, and an update on wedding food (after the wedding of course) and possible a review about the new Leon cookbook once I've finished reading it.

In the meantime, sit tight, normal programming will resume shortly.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Gluten and Dairy Free Lemon, Poppy-Seed and Cardamon Spiced cupcakes with a Lemon Drizzle

When it comes to baking, I'm more of a biscuit/fruit cake type person, and only really dig out the muffin cases if I'm making breakfast muffins. But tomorrow my work is having their summer party and as part of the whole "Summer Fete" theme, there's going to be a cupcake baking competition, with a few ladies from the Women's Institute judging.

So, for something very last minute (I wasn't going to enter in all honesty), and vaguely British Rajish I have made (gluten-free and dairy-free) Lemon, Poppy-Seed and Cardamon Spiced cupcakes with a Lemon Drizzle. So wish me luck tomorrow!

Lemon, Poppy-Seed and Cardamon Spiced cupcakes with a Lemon Drizzle
Makes 12 cup cakes


For the cakes:

100g Gluten-free plain flour (as mentioned previously, I find Doves Farm the best)
1 tsp baking powder
100g golden caster sugar
50g dairy free magarine, softened
2 large free range eggs
2 tbsp soy milk
juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
4 green cardamon pods, seeds removed and ground to a fine powder
2 tbsp poppy seeds
a few drops of yellow food colouring (optional)

For the lemon drizzle:

50g icing sugar
1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Method (for the cupcakes):

1. Line a muffin tray with paper muffin cases and preheat the fan forced oven to 190 degrees celsius.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cardamon and sugar.

3. Add the margarine, eggs, milk, lemon juice and zest and food colouring (if adding), whisk together until creamy, then fold in the poppy seeds.

4. Divide the mixture between the paper muffin cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they're golden coloured and firm to the touch. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack.

Method (for the lemon drizzle):

1. In a small bowl, sift the icing sugar and caster sugar together.

2. Mix in the lemon juice until it forms a paste.

Method (to finish off):

1. While the cupcakes are still warm, prick a few small holes on top with a cocktail stick.

2. Drizzle the icing over the top of the cupcakes with a spoon and leave to finish cooling and for the icing to set.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Gluten-free yoghurt, pistachio, cranberry and orange blossom water cakes

Well, I say cakes, but these are half way between a cake and a scone - a bit of an experiment thanks to the yoghurt that the lovely people over at Total and Traffic Partners had sent me, if you remember from this post.

They're lovely on their own, but even better with a dollop of cream or some jam. I've used the full fat yoghurt for these, but I'm sure it would work with the 0% fat yoghurt too.

Obviously it doesn't have to be gluten-free, you can use normal flour if you want, but if you do, cut down the yoghurt amount by 2 tablespoons.

Gluten-free yoghurt, pistachio, cranberry and orange blossom water cakes

Makes roughly 16 cakes depending on the size of cutter you use (I used a tumbler glass).

225g Gluten-free flour (I find the Doves Farm stuff to be the best)
1 tbsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
60g unsalted butter
30g brown sugar
30g honey
40g chopped, unsalted pistachios
40g cranberries
2 tbsp orange blossom water
1 large egg
8 tbsp yoghurt


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and lightly grease a baking tray with butter.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.

3. Rub the butter into the flour mixture, until it has the texture of small breadcrumbs.

4. Mix in the spices, pistachios, sugar, honey, orange blossom water and cranberries.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and yoghurt, quickly mix this into the cake mix – it should become a slightly wet dough.

6. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until cracks and bubbles disappear. Roll out so it is about a 1.5cm thick.

7. With your cookie cutter (or in my case a tumbler), press out rounds in the dough. Roll up the excess dough, roll out again and continue making rounds until there is no dough left.

8. Place the tray in the hot oven for a couple of minutes to melt the butter a little, take it out and lay your rounds out on it, sprinkling them with a little flour.

9. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

10. Let them cool a little, then serve with cream and jam.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Bigilla (Maltese Broad Bean Dip)

With my trip back home to the old country last week my taste for Bigilla, a traditional Maltese broad bean dip, was reawakened. It's incredibly tasty and a great alternative to hummus, usually served with Maltese water crackers called Galletti or on toasted sour dough bread. In Malta, people will either make their own or buy it by weight from markets – though these days you'll find them in ready made up tubs in the local shops.

Bigilla usually has red chilli added to it for a fiery kick, though some prefer to leave the chilli out, while others will add Tabasco for extra heat. Here, I'm giving the recipe my mother gave me, her recipe calls for the tyoe of dried broad bean that has skins, but unfortunately I could only get the skinless ones. If you can get a hold of them with the skins, it will give the Bigilla the authentic brown colour rather the "white" colour of the version I have made here. Both are equally tasty, though there is an earthy depth to the skin-on version.

With this recipe you can make it in advance and serve it cold (it will keep in the fridge for a few days, just add a little extra oil to preserve it), or eat it warm.

Take note that the beans are soaked overnight, please allow time for this. As well as a cooking time of about 1.5 hours.

Bigilla (Maltese Broad Bean Dip)

250g Dried Broad Beans (available in most Middle Eastern shops)
2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
finely chopped chilli (optional, but highly recommended)

1. In a medium sized pan, soak the broad beans in cold water overnight.

2. Drain the broad beans and just cover with clean, fresh cold water and bring to boil over a medium heat.

3. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and simmer for 1 - 1.5 hours. When the beans start going soft, mash with the back of a fork, keeping an eye on the water level, it shouldn't be sloppy, but a nice thick paste with a bit of texture from the broken up broad beans. Don't let it dry out!

4. Once all the broad beans have softened and mashed, gradually add the oil a tablespoon at a time, mixing in as you go. You want it to be smooth – too little oil will make it dry and floury, too much and you'll get a slick mess.

I was very lucky to receive a gift of Maltese olive oil made from
the remaining indigenous olives grown in Malta and have used it in my Bigilla.

5. Stir in the parsley and garlic, gradually add salt and pepper, tasting as you go. That's the key thing with Bigilla, is taste, taste, taste.

6. If you're adding chillis, again, do it gradually and taste as you go. In this version I have only added a heaped teaspoon worth of chilli to give it a little kick but keeping it mild. If I didn't have guests eating it, personally would have added another heaped teaspoon.

7. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley on top – don't forget the crackers!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

That warm fuzzy feeling

Massive thanks to Gary from Roast Potato who made my Maltese roast potato recipe and blogged about it here:

Also others on Facebook and such who have been using my recipes, thank you, it really is appreciated.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

What to do with a month's supply of yoghurt...

This just turned up at my work today, thanks to the lovely people over at Total and Traffic Partners.

Though a couple have been bagged by a couple of work mates already! Now what to do with them? Yoghurt, rose and pistachio cake? A curry? A dark chocolate mousse (Thanks to my good friend Beth for the recipe)? Scoff the lot over breakfast...?

Ah the possibilities...

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Braġjoli – Maltese Beef Olives

Beef olives are found all over Europe, the Maltese have their own variation called Braġjoli which is either baked or braised in a wine or tomato sauce. I made these last week and served them with the Patata fil Forn from my last post. It went down a treat with a very good friend asking if he could have the leftovers for his lunch (I have the Maltese tendency of cooking too much!).

My preferred way of cooking them is to brown them, then braise them in a wine, garlic and tomato sauce with lots of bay leaves and marjoram. They go fantastically well with Patata fil Forn and steamed veg (I served them with thickly cut carrots and broccoli florets here), as well as creamy mashed potato. You can prepare the beef olives ahead of time as they do need quite a bit of time to cook – this is very much a slow food dish.

Braġjoli – Maltese Beef Olives

Serves 4 - 6 (About 270 cal per beef olive)


For the braġjoli:

30g breadcrumbs
100g lean bacon or thick cut ham, chopped into small pieces
200g extra lean beef mince
2 medium hard boiled eggs, chopped into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp each of salt and pepper
500g lean topside beef, cut into 8 thin slices (any cut with too much fat marbling won't stand up to being flattened out as it will tend to collapse)

For the sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
150ml red wine (the stronger, the better)
1 beef stock bullion, dissolved in 100ml boiled water
400g chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon marjoram (dried is fine)
4 large bay leaves
1 tbsp chopped parsley
season to taste

Method for the Braġjoli:

1. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, bacon, mince, eggs, garlic, onion, parsley and seasoning, mixing thoroughly.

2. On a protected surface, take a slice of the topside and flatten out further by beating it out with a meat mallet (or a rolling pin) until it's about 3mm thick.

3. Take 1-2 heaped tablespoons of the stuffing and spoon onto the centre of the flattened out "steak". Roll up tightly by tucking the sides over the stuffing and rolling up. Secure with cocktail sticks.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other slices. Set aside. If preparing ahead, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate.

Method for the sauce:

1. In a large casserole dish or heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat and brown the braġjoli all over with the bay leaves, you may need to do this in a couple of batches. Set aside.

2. In the same oil, brown the onions and garlic. If it sticks, add a little of the wine to get at the crispy bits.

3. Pour in the rest of the wine, add the chopped tomatoes, stock and marjoram, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and carefully add the braġjoli, making sure they are well covered by the sauce.

4. Cover and simmer over a low heat for about an hour and a half to two hours, checking the moisture level. If need be, add a little water now and then.

5. Stir through the rest of the parsley at the end of cooking, check the seasoning and remove all the cocktail sticks before serving – this can be a little bit of a messy job, so take out the braġjoli first and do it on a separate plate before spooning over the sauce.

Any left over stuffing can be made into patties by beating an egg through it and dipping into breadcrumbs. Fry in a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan until golden brown.

Patata fil Forn - Maltese Roast Potatoes

Maltese Roast Potatoes are quite different from the usual Sunday "roasties" we get here in the UK. For a start, the potatoes aren't par-boiled in large chunks, but sliced finely. These are incredibly popular and in our family we almost have to fight to the death for the last crunchy. Most of the time slices of thickly cut meat or chicken pieces will be laid underneath so that they poach along with the potatoes. Normally a lot of salt and pepper is used along with a little curry powder, but my mother's variation uses powdered vegetable stock, so I have omitted the salt here.

Patata fil Forn (Maltese Roast Potatoes) - Serves 4 large portions


1 large onion, sliced in to rings
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced, lengthways into 5mm rounds
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons powdered vegetable stock
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons of oil


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

2. Layer the base of a baking dish with a layer of half the onions, over this layer half the potatoes. Sprinkle with half the garlic, stock, pepper, curry powder and drizzle a tablespoon of oil over the top.

3. Repeat with the second layer.

4. Slowly pour in some water to just come up with the bottom layer of the potatoes (about 5 - 10 mm).

5. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes until the top layer is golden brown and most of the water has evaporated. Serve with your usual roast, stews, or even between a couple of slices of bread with your favourite chutney (great for when you have left overs!)

Monday, 21 June 2010

Kusksu (Maltese Spring Soup)

This soup is traditionally made in May when fresh broad beans are at their best and almost always served on Good Friday. With frozen broad beans available it's now made all year round, but is still delicious. It was a major comfort food for me and everyone has a preference on how it is served, some families add cauliflower, others peas or potatoes.

My mother would crack an egg into hers to poach, I loved to scoop on some ricotta, which would then set in the hot broth, best though is fresh Maltese sheep cheese, collectively called ġbejniet.

Kusksu (Maltese Spring Soup)
Serves 4-6 - About 200 cal per serving, not including garnishes.

2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion (about 200g), finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
120g tomato concentrate
180g dried kusksu (sometimes labeled as Israeli couscous, pasta beads will be fine or orzo pasta in a pinch. The one I get is a Neil's Yard one available at Holland & Barret)
300g broad beans (fresh is better, but frozen can still be used, skins removed from the larger beans)
1.5 L water or chicken stock
5 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp torn, fresh basil

To garnish (optional):
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
or preferably fresh ġbejniet (Maltese cheese) - if you can get a hold of it!

1. In a large pan, heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic until it starts to brown.

2. Add the tomato paste, fry for a few more minutes, add the broad beans (if using frozen, add later with the couscous), seasoning, bay leaves and half the basil.

3. Pour in the water (or stock), bring to the boil, then reduce heat so it gently simmers.

4. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stir in the kusksu cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Check the seasoning and turn off the heat

5. Serve in bowls with a dollop of ricotta or ġbejna, or poach an egg in the broth before serving. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan and fresh basil.

(Image appreciatively stolen from here as we got carried away and ate the soup before we could take a picture! Though my variation doesn't use peas, you can add them if you like).

Friday, 18 June 2010

Breakfast Club #1: Asian Challenge - Baby Clam Rolled Omelette with Ssamjang

Having been challenged to create an Asian breakfast via Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Sarah from Fingers and Toes, as part of The Breakfast Club, here is my entry.

At first I was going to make Nasi Lemak, but left with facing a jar of left over baby clams and wondering what to do with them, the idea hit me to make an omelette based on the oyster omelettes found all over East Asia. Instead of serving it with the usual chilli sauces, I've served it here with the highly addictive condiment, ssamjang, a Korean mixed chilli-bean paste usually made up of doenjang, garlic, gochujang. And I mean addictive - when ever The Tallest and I go to our favourite Korean restaurant, Kimchee in Golders Green, the waitress always smiles knowingly when ever we ask for more.

Baby Clam Rolled Omelette with Ssamjang

Serves 1 - 310 Calories per serving


2 medium eggs
50g shelled, cooked baby clams
2 spring onions, finely chopped
50g carrot, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp groundnut oil
1 large sheet of roasted seaweed (sushi nori is fine)
a heaped tablespoon of ssamjang (I use the Sunchang branded stuff, you can find it in green tubs at Korean grocers and in China Town)
gem lettuce leaves to serve


1. Whisk the eggs with the clams, onions, carrot, garlic, salt and pepper.

2. In a large, heavy based pan, heat the oil gently, keeping it on a low heat.

3. Slowly pour in the egg mixture, making sure it spreads evenly. It's very important that you keep the heat low, you want to cook this gently.

4. When it has started to set, place the sheet of seaweed on top of the omelette.

5. Using a spatula, carefully roll up the omelette in the pan.

6. Take the omelette out of the pan and rest for a couple of minutes, this will set it a little more so you can slice it easier. Slice into 2cm thick pieces.

7. Serve cross-section side up and eat it by placing the omelette into the lettuce leaf, dolloping on a little ssamjang, rolling it up and eating it.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Quick Mid-Week Seafood Stew

I'd hesitate to call this Maltese, but it certainly uses the flavours of capers, garlic, bay leaves, a little curry powder and garlic. I'm hoping to get my hands on Octopus soon so I can do this properly. I've bought my ingredients separately from the fish monger, but you can use anything you like or pre-mixed seafood, totally up to you.

Quick Mid-Week Seafood Stew (Serves 2) - Roughly 310 calories per serving


1 tsp olive oil
100g diced shallots
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
about a tablespoon thyme (remove the stalks)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt (season to taste)
juice of half a lemon
50g capers
60g black olives, sliced
100g monkfish, cut into thick chunks
100g cooked prawns
100g squid, sliced into rings, or scored pieces
50g cooked, shelled baby clams
75g cooked, shelled mussels
Lemon zest for garnish


1. In a medium to large saucepan, over a medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Add the onions and stir, cook until it starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking until they have browned.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and spices, vinegar, capers and olives, bring to the boil then lower heat to a gentle simmer.

3. After about 10 minutes, add the monkfish, make sure it's well covered. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes.

4. Add all remaining seafood and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.

5. Serve with spaghetti or fresh crusty bread. Garnish with lemon zest and you're done.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Maltese Fair - Saturday 26th June 2010

In a couple of weeks there's a Maltese fair in East London run by the Maltese Culture Movement, it's mainly to celebrate the feast of St. Paul & St Peter (Imnarja), but stalls will be set up where you can buy traditional Maltese food, snacks and drinks including frozen pastizzi you can take home to cook and the national soft drink, Kinnie.

Date: Saturday 26 June 2010

Roland Philipps Scouts Centre in East London, 65 Copley Street, (off Stepney Way) London E1 3DF.

Time: It's after mass (11am), so the stalls should be up and running by noon.

Click on the picture for the link:

Friday, 11 June 2010

Bulgar wheat with broadbeans, tomatoes and ricotta

Perfect for a light lunch, either eaten cold as a salad, or can be heated up for a mock risotto. I usually make this the night before for my work lunches, I find it tastes better the next day. It's dead easy to make too. For a non-vegetarian variety you can add shredded pieces of roast chicken or grilled lamb.

Serves One (315 calories)

40g dry bulgar wheat
100g broad beans (can use fresh or frozen)
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
50g ricotta cheese
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1/4 tsp sumac
salt and pepper to taste

1. Make up bulgar wheat according to packet instructions. Usually I just soak it in about 125ml just boiled water for 20-30 minutes.

2. Peel the outer skins the broad beans (as they can taste bitter). If using frozen, boil in a small pan of water for 1 minute, plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process, then peel the skins.

3. Stir the broad beans, tomatoes, ricotta, lemon juice, mint and sumac, season to taste and Serve.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

On gifts and things

The Tallest and I have sent out the invitations and keep getting asked "so what do we give you as a gift?". To be honest, we don't need anything, money is helpful but not necessary, we've lived together for over 5 and a half years, so have most of the things we need, though a heavy duty broom for the patio and some gardening equipment will be much appreciated by me (really need to start my herb and veg garden).

But if I were one of those freak brides who through a tantrum because they want some overpriced piece of gadgetry, any of the following will be much appreciated by me (I'm kidding of course, I'll get them for myself eventually):

So what do you eat?

I get this question a lot, I mean at least once a day. It doesn't take long to work out that my eating habits aren't the norm. My work colleagues, bless them, know and understand why I have a "second lunch" at 3pm.

Since November last year I was determined to get healthy and feel better about myself, especially with the impending nuptials in a few months time. So, I started going to the gym. This soon led to analysing and completely redesigning my diet. I stopped having sugar in my tea and coffee, eventually I'd cut coffee out almost completely and only have one or two cups of black tea a day. I started eating 5 - 6 meals a day to give my metabolism a boost and keep my blood sugars regular. I eat more raw fruit, veg and wholegrains than I ever did (for me this was one of the bigger achievements, since I never touched fruit as a kid and salad? FORGET IT!).

To support my body, since the gym sessions turned into 3, then 4 and before I knew it I was going 5 - 6 days a week, I do take supplements and protein in the form of either shakes or bars (but strictly only after workouts) to help repair and maintain the muscle. My calorie intake is quite low compared to average (but quite normal and safe for someone of my height), so I have to be very, very careful with food choices.

So here's the breakdown of an average day:

Meal One: Usually porridge made with water, with fresh fruit, some nuts and a little honey. Though I have experimented and made rice porridges, semolina and polenta for breakfast. If I do have toast, it'll be a seeded wholegrain bread topped with things like ricotta and peaches.


Meal Two: A protein bar or protein shake, and I'll eat some fruit with a cup of tea when I get to the office.

Meal Three: Lunch will always have a complex carb added to it to keep me going the rest of the day, for example, yesterdays lunch was sushi and rice, today it's wholemeal pitta, ham, tomatoes and goats cheese, tomorrow is bulgar wheat with ricotta, chicken and broadbeans.

Meal Four: Usually steamed veg or a salad with some chicken, or I'll have fruit and a raw chocolate bar (such as the Nakd bars) as a treat, though I usually have yoghurt and some carrot sticks with low fat hummus. Depends my mood.

Meal Five: Something snacky like a handful of blueberries, a few nuts or some crudites.

Meal Six: I avoid complex carbs in the evening since my body does not need the energy before I go to bed, so to wind down I'll have a herbal tea (fresh mint or chamomile) and dinner will consist of veg and meat in some form (more often lately I omit the meat, but The Tallest will grump about it). E.g. an vegetable and fish curry (made with a little oil and tomato based), or a clear broth with loads of veg and free range chicken, or the summer favourite, griddled lamb steaks with harissa rub, courgettes, peppers and aubergine.

I've found eating this way had helped a lot, I don't have sugar crashes any more, I wake up feeling much better without any bloating from cutting out complex carbs in the evening, my complexion has improved. I'm slowly moving towards cooking methods that are as quick as possible, especially when it comes to vegetables to make sure as little of the nutrients as possible are damaged.

Mind you, I still will make a roast from time to time, and stews are fantastic, as they're usually packed full of veg (great way for sneaking in vegetables for kids to eat since they won't see them as easily). Though I've laid off the cakes and biscuits almost entirely but will very occasionally make low-far bran muffins (fantastic for breakfast too, with a bit of ham and soft white cheese, yum).

And with that, I'm off to the gym.

Monday, 7 June 2010

More food discoveries

Found a New Favourite Food™ at the supermarket the other day. With my determination to eat a better diet, I'm always on the lookout for foods to snack on which are a bit better for me than the average chocolate bar. Enter raw fruit, nut and cocoa bars in the form of Nakd Cocoa Loco:

Seriously addictive, I had two bars yesterday and another today, at about 100cal a bar, it's a lot better for you than the average chocolate bar and you get one of your 5 a day too (really, you should be eating a lot more than this, but that's another rant). They have other flavours too including Apple Pie, Berry Cheeky and Banana Bread (sadly I can't have this one because I'm allergic to banana), but will definitely be up for trying the others – possibly even work out how to make my own, since the ingredients are all easily sourced. For now, I'm quite happy scoffing on a Cocoa Loco bar with my cup of coffee for morning tea.

Friday, 4 June 2010

On things grown locally

I, and I assume, like a lot of my fellow foodies try and buy produce locally, rather than the sort that is shipped in from other countries (obviously with exceptions where some fruits and vegetables just can't be grown in the British climate).

Since I moved to the UK five and a half years ago, I've made a lot of firsts when it comes to eating food in season. It DOES taste better, lasts longer and without the overwhelming guilt of air miles. I remember the first time my future-mother-in-law cooked me asparagus, it was the beginning of the very short season and she simply steamed it and served it with salt, pepper and butter. It was heaven.

Jersey Royal potatoes are another and I make a point of buying a couple of bags every year, savoy cabbage too...the list goes on.

Today brings me to my newest discovery, while feeling a little peckish, I was about to pick up my usual tub of blueberries (sadly grown in Turkey) when I glanced up and saw these strange extra large blackberries grown in Kent. I've never been a major fan of blackberries because of the tartness, but thought I'd give these a go. My lord, they were delicious, the right amount of sweetness and tartness and with a size that makes it feel like a proper snack food – I scoffed the lot.

A little research (I read the label) led me to discover they were Karaka Blacks, originally from New Zealand, but grown in the UK and are the sweetest variety. They look like mini corn cobs to me, but definitely a new favourite. I bought them in Waitrose, but I'm sure they'll be available elsewhere.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Savoury porridge

With this whole new (ok, the last 5 months) fitness regime I must admit I've become a porridge addict. I actually go to bed looking forward more to breakfast than coming home from work to prepare an evening meal. So this has lead me to some experimentation and a bit of inspiration from some medieval recipes.

I've had almost every combination of sweet porridge imaginable, with ricotta, pistachios and honey, with almonds and sour cherries, with plain old honey or a few blueberries. Even getting my flavourist future mother-out-law to make up batches of essences and flavours for me so I can have perceived sweetness/alcohol flavours without the sugar or the alcohol (she's made me a cracking rose water and almond flavour - my current favourite, creme bruleé is next).

This soon led me on to researching porridge in other countries, like the awesome savoury rice porridge from Korea and other East Asian countries, polenta with syrup and nuts from Italy and semolina, thanks to my mum reminding me I used to scoff it when I was a kid.

So this morning I tried my hand at savoury porridge (I did have one failed experiment a year ago by mixing cheddar into a milk-based porridge - it was gross), inspired by a few medieval cooking books I came across recently. This time, it turned out fantastically and made me feel fuller despite the same calorie amount as the sweet porridges I'd normally make.


35g Scottish oats
200ml water
5 slice of ham (I used pork loin since it's lower in fat and not boosted so much with water)
10g shaved parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp olive oil
A few raisins (optional)


In a small saucepan, combine the oats and water, bring to boil and allow to simmer.

Tear the ham into chunks and add to the porridge and stir in the olive oil and pepper.
Stir in the cheese and if using (I find the sweet and salty combo is perfect with the pork loin ham), the raisins.

Once porridge is cooked through, serve.

You could probably throw in a few fresh herbs in too like a little sage or parsley. Totally up to you.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Cake Trolley

At my work we have a cake trolley every Thursday, I volunteered to do it yesterday and as a treat, rather than shop bought stuff I made my own:

You'll recognise a couple of the pastries, the cake is a recipe based on my mum's cherry and almond sponge cake, though I added orange blossom water and pistachios on top. Will make it again soon and write the recipe up for you guys.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Pie Week

Was approached by Lurpak again for a recipe, this time to celebrate British Pie Week (1-7 March). I've sent them my mum's recipe for a tradition Maltese pie called an qassatat (the Q is silent, pronounced AHS-SAH-TAHT), it's kinda cross between a pastry and an open pie - basically street food in Malta. The easiest filling to do is ricotta the other is a beef and peas mixture (Mum's version included curry powder so it tastes a little like a samosa), there's also another traditional filling of spinach and anchovies - but I've never had a taste for hairy fish.

For the short crust pastry (or you can buy it ready made):

1 lb plain flour
8 oz unsalted butter
2 eggs
pinch of salt
pepper to taste
Cold water if needed

Cream the butter, eggs, pepper and salt together, gradually add the flour, working it in until it turns into a dough, if the dough is too dry, add a little water, about a tablespoon at a time. Roll into a ball, cover in a damp tea towel and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the ricotta filling:
1 lb ricotta
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp salt
a cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Optional: fresh broad beans, but make sure to peel off the outer skins)
Optional: a couple of heaped tablespoons of parmesan cheese.

For the glaze:
A beaten egg mixed with a couple of tablespoons of milk

Mix the ricotta in with the parsley, salt and if adding it, broad beans and/or parmesan cheese. Gradually add the beaten eggs so the mixture is still firm, but not runny.

To make the pies:
Take a small ball of dough and roll it out so it's about 12cm in diameter and about 3mm thick - use a saucer as a cutting guide.

Drop a heaped tablespoon of filling into the centre and wet the edges of the pastry with a little water.

Gather the edges of the filling and pleat it around the filling by pinching the edge around it, but not seal the top so the filling still shows. (this takes a little practice, it should look a little like a deflated balloon, here's a picture I ganked off another site:

Glaze the pastry with egg yolk and milk.

Place on a greased baking sheet and back in the oven for 30mins at 200 deg, then turn it down to 180 deg, continue baking until they're a golden brown.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Lurpak's blogger of the week

Massive thank you to the folks over at Lurpak who have made me their blogger of the week, over on Here's the featured recipe:

Roast Chicken with a spiced honey glaze.

1 Whole chicken (preferably free range)
3 cloves garlic
about a tablespoon butter
1 small onion
1 small lemon
a sprig of thyme
1 tbsp. honey
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven to 200°C (180°C for fan-assisted ovens).

To make the glaze:
mix the honey, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and the juice of a small lemon and season lightly. Set lemon halves aside.


Peel and thinly slice the garlic, mixing it into the butter with salt and pepper to taste. This will give the breasts in particular and lovely garlicky taste and keep them extra moist, the butter makes it especially moorish.

Take the chicken, neck facing you, and lift the skin away from the breast. Massage the garlic and butter mixture under the skin, pushing it along evenly. Rub any excess butter into the skin and on the thighs.

Season the cavity. Peel an onion and cut it into quarters, stuff the cavity with the onion, lemon halves and thyme.

Brush the glaze all over the chicken, then season with salt and pepper liberally.

Place in a roasting pan, breast side up and pour in half a cup of water to stop it drying out and make a gravy at the end.

Cook for 45 minutes per kilogram plus 20 minutes, basting occasionally (add more water if you find it drying out too much). You'll know it's ready when the juice from the thigh runs clear and the chicken's turned a nice golden brown.

Allow to rest for about 10 minutes and use the juices in the roasting pan as a gravy.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Lurpak photoshoot/recipe

A few months ago I was approached by a digital agency (and soon after the advertising agency) for Lurpak butter asking me to write a recipe for them, that soon turned into an invitation to a photoshoot so they could feature it (and being paid to boot!). It was great fun, here's the link to the pdf so far, I'll put more stuff up once I hear more from them.