Latest Posts

Moist Banana Chocolate Marble Cake

I haven’t made a cake in a long time, well actually I have, tell a lie; I made Parkin last week, the Yorkshire version of sticky ginger bread. The prototype came out really nice and sticky, but the full version was very dry, I think I added too much of the coarse oatmeal. So began my search for a moist cake recipe to compensate for my failed attempt at baking. This banana chocolate cake is so easy to make: its spongy, and moist – I was dancing round the kitchen when I took it out the oven! I deliberately kept it on a low heat because I wanted to retain as much of the moisture as I could, I don’t know if that makes a difference. Have a try and let me know how it works for you!

Moist Banana Chocolate Marble Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
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INGREDIENTS:
  • 3 1/2 cups self raising flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 medium eggs
  •  2  bananas (large)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped 
  • 4 teaspoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
METHOD:
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°F. Grease an cake tin generously with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Add the mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla extract and beat until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Cook on high power in 20 second intervals, stopping to stir in between, until about 80% melted. Stir until smooth, letting the residual heat in the bowl melt the remaining bits of unmelted chocolate. Add the cocoa powder and stir until dissolved. Add half of the banana bread batter to the melted chocolate and stir until well combined.

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5. Spoon the plain batter and chocolate batter alternately into the prepared loaf pan. Swirl the batters together with a knife or long kebab stick (don’t overdo). Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and set on the wire rack to cool completely.

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Red Hummus Stuffed Chicken w/ Veg Spaghetti

Loretta's Kitchen

Sometimes leftovers make the best meals: after making a batch of hummus, I wasn’t sure what else to use it for besides dipping tortilla chips into it. Then there were the left over carrots, aubergine and courgette from a quick vegetable roast I made a few days before. I hunted around for ideas and recipes but couldn’t find anything that really appealed to me: I found many recipes for chicken smothered in hummus, but I felt like that was a bit of a waste and wasn’t convinced the hummus would stick to the chicken while cooking. So in an effort to preserve all the great flavours of the paste and not to lose the vibrant colours and textures from the left over vegetables, I devised what was actually a very tasty dish. It really is less complicated then it looks.  Enjoy!

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Cheesy Courgette Chips

 

Yummy on their own or as a side dish, these courgette chips are easy, fun and healthy to make.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2-3 Courgettes (green and yellow)

3 egg whites
3 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Thyme
salt/pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 230C/Gas 8. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Finely slice the courgette as into discs
3. Mix one bowl with breadcrumbs, seasoning, cheese, thyme and in a separate bowl mix the egg whites
4. Dip 2-3 discs first into the egg white before turning them into the breadcrumb bowl. Make sure both sides are fully coated
5. Spread the chips evenly across the baking sheet from the oven, with no overlap and place in oven to bake for 20-5 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Serve immediately

Perfect Fried Chicken: The Science bit

The days of munching on a bargain box of chicken and chips from KFC smothered in ketchup (I thought I was too sophisticated for the likes of Chicken Cottage or anything ‘cheaper’), are long behind me. But I still miss the crunchy coating and juicy chunks of white meat from that greasy cardboard box; I didn’t really care to know which 11 herbs and spices the Cornel chose to dunk and fry my precious chicken thighs in, I was just happy they bothered to season it at all.

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All these years I have been satisfied with, well good fried chicken that tasted amazing, but never  had the KFC combination of crispy, juicy and finger lickin’ tasty…time and time again. Maybe that’ been your experience too: just how do they do it? Well I think I have the answer.

Here’s the breakdown:

Stage 1 – The Chicken:

For this type of recipe, it makes more sense to avoid the chicken breast and wings; chicken breast has too little flavour and takes way too long to cook. While the wings have too little meat to really soak up the marinade. So you’re left with legs and thighs I’m afraid. For the recipe pictured, I used boneless and skinless thighs which I cut again into halves.

Stage 2 – The Water Bath

After having cleaned your chicken (with a combination of distilled vinegar, lime and or salt, rinsed through with water). Its time to give the chicken a good soak. This is probably the most important stage of the whole process – if you want to achieve juiciest, plump hunks of meat, then a water bath is key.

By water bath, I mean brine, salty brine. When chicken is soaked in brine, the salt dissolves protein in the meat’s muscle, making it looser so that it can retain more moisture. Also, the longer the chicken sits in the brine the deeper the brine will penetrate into the meat. This means built-in seasoning before you even start coating it!

I recommend a full 6 hours submerged in a salt/sugar-water based brine. Here is a suggested water bath to use:

1/4 cup Dijon Mustard

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

1 medium white onion finely chopped

3 garlic – crushed

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 -3 cups of water

Fresh herbs

3 tsp salt

  • Fry the onion and garlic until soft, add the sage leaves and then the brown sugar and mustard until it dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients including the water. Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes and cool completely before pouring over the raw chicken. Marinate in water bath overnight.

Stage 3 -The Milk Bath

Some recipes combine the water with the milk bath (by milk I mean buttermilk). I prefer to separate the two as I don’t like the tangy flavour that the buttermilk leaves the chicken with once cooked. What the milk bath does is add an extra layer of tenderness to the meat, here is also where you can knock yourself out with bolder flavours.

I recommend only 4 hours submerged a butter milk mixture. I suggest adding variations of the following: smoked paprika powder, onion powder, garlic paste, thyme, black pepper, fresh herbs.

Be sure that you transfer and drain the chicken from the water bath before transferring it to the milk bath.

Stage 4 -The Coating  

Now you are more than half way there. This stage is very easy provided you remember this combination: 3:1. That is 3 cups of self-raising flour to one cup of cornstarch. Yes that’s right – the key to KFC’s bubbly textured chicken is cornstarch. You want a crispy coating, therefore you need the juices of the chicken to remain encased in the chicken without making the coating doughy or too hard. Cornstarch acts like a sponge – absorbing the moisture without forming a tight dough around the chicken. Also the raising agents in the self-raising flour means you form a lighter, crisper coating.

I recommend the 3:1 combination, with any added dried herbs and spices you wish.

Stage 5- The Double Dip

So this is your chicken conveyor belt:

  1. Butter-milked chicken
  2. Bowl of plain flour
  3. Bowl of 2 eggs whisked with dash of milk and 2 tbsp of the buttermilk mix in 1.
  4. Large bowl of the 3:1 flour

Ideally you need a deep fat fryer (at 170-175C), or a deep-frying pan of hot oil (no more than 4-5″deep). I used a fryer for this recipe. Once the oil has reached the desired temperature you begin the 1-4 sequence above. Make sure you shake off as much of the butter-milk from the chicken at the beginning as you can. Once the chicken as reached 4, placed it in a lightly floured plate for 2 minutes before transferring to the fryer for 6 minutes (or longer if meat is on the bone). This will give the flour and egg time to bind with the chicken. Don’t worry if the flour at level 4 starts to get lumpy this is good! This is exactly how you achieve the crispy outer coating we all love on our chicken!

If need be, you can finish the chicken off cooking the chicken in the oven once it has left the fryer.

You won’t regret this…

Baked “Black-Brie” (and toast)

So LLK has had a long and restful siesta, thank you to all who have been keeping in touch with me via e-mail and posts online, asking for recipes and cooking tips.

So to kick things off again I thought I would start with a few appetisers: baked brie with a warm blackberry sauce. The blackberries have a sharp tart flavour which is offset by the honey just a little.

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This would make an amazing starter, breakfast, or even BBQ! Now I come to think of it, if you simply wrapped the brie in foil and baked it on the BBQ grill for a few minutes the cheese would capture all the flavours from the BBQ…ok this has me thinking.

It literally takes no more than 10 minutes to make, simple things…enjoy!

  • Servings: 4-5
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INGREDIENTS:

1 whole Camembert

1 cup fresh blackberries

1 tbsp water

1 tbsp honey (to taste)

1/2 tsp cornstarch

Sliced sour dough bread (toasted)

METHOD:

Pre-heat the oven to 250C

Remove all packaging from the Camembert, finely slice the top off to expose some of the cheese underneath before placing on a oven tray.

Bake in oven for 10 minutes, keep checking to it at intervals.

While its baking place half the blackberries in a saucepan with the water and honey. Allow the mixture to boil and the fruit to disintegrate. Season or sweeten to taste.

Stir in the cornstarch (dissolved in a little water)

Allow the mixture to cool slightly before pouring through a sieve to remove the seeds. Then add the remaining blackberries to the sauce and set aside.

Remove the cheese from the oven and pour the blackberries over the top. Serve with sourdough bread and fresh basil leaves if you wish!

Pesto Vinaigrette

So you made some Pesto which goes really well with the hot ribbons of tagliatelle you made. That kept you interested for a couple of days. But now you’re tired of pasta, and pesto is following close behind to be stored at the back of the fridge and forgotten.


It really doesn’t have to end this way. Really.

A couple of splashes of lemon and white wine vinegar – and you have revived the green sauce to become Pesto dressing, perfect for drizzling over a tomato and mozzarella salad.

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The croutons as pictured were made simply preparing a dish of olive oil, ripped fresh thyme, crushed garlic and salt, heating in the oven for a few minutes before tossing in ripped up pieces of a good loaf of white bread and returning it to the oven to crisp.

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Now if that doesn’t get your taste buds going, then maybe make less Pesto next time…enjoy x

Pesto Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 5
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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons pan roasted pine nuts

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon, juiced)

¼ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

METHOD:

Pan fry (dry) the pine nuts for 2 minutes until toasted slightly. Allow it to cool. Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of your food processor (or hand blender). Pulse until coarsely chopped. While the machine is running, drizzle in the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and blend until smooth.

For best flavor, use immediately, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Rasta (Homemade) Pasta

Follow the step by step guide to the perfect fusion of crispy jerk chicken with a creamy pasta sauce, this time YOU make the pasta!

(see step by step pictures to making the pasta)

Rasta Homemade Pasta

  • Servings: 2
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INGREDIENTS:

For the pasta:

approx. 500g pasta (00) flour

4 free range eggs

pinch salt

For the Pasta Sauce (per person):

1/2 Red/ Green Sweet Peppers – sliced

1/2 White onion – sliced

3 garlic cloves – crushed

2 Spring onions – sliced

1/2 tin of plum tomatoes – crushed into a pulp

1 -1  1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 veg stock jelly

1tsp cornflour

2 cups grated cheddar cheese (mild to strong)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves – chopped

Pinch of Black pepper and Sal

For the Chicken:

2-3 chicken breast fillets (with skin on)

2 tbsp ginger/ garlic paste

2 tbsp jerk paste

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

Oil (to fry chicken in)

Method:

For Chicken:

1. Clean and marinate the chicken in the ingredients listed above for a minimum of 6 hours.

2. When ready to fry, pour 2 tbsp of oil into a frying pan, when the pan is hot place the chicken (skin side down) into the pan for 10-15 minutes (medium to high heat). Do not disturb the chicken by flipping it, or checking it. You want it to be crispy so you have to wait!

3. After 15 minutes turn the chicken over for another 10 minutes and then place in a heated oven to finish cooking covering the pan with foil. You can baste the chicken with the remaining marinade whilst in the oven. It should be in the oven for a further 10 minutes or until cooked through.

4. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing.

For the Pasta:

Make a pile of the 00 flour with a well in the centre. Crack in the eggs and a large pinch of salt. Working from the centre with a fork beat the eggs, bringing in a small amount of flour at a time. When the dough is solid enough to handle kneed using the heel of your hand and dust with flour until it is no longer sticky. This should take about 10 minutes.



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Alternatively break the eggs into a bread maker with a pinch of salt and set on the dough cycle, adding the flour with a spoon until the desired texture (soft and springy without being sticky to the centre) is achieved. Cover the dough with cling film and let it rest for 20 minutes.

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Roll out dough using a floured rolling pin to a rectangle approx 2mm thick, flouring well and turning as you go. If necessary, trim the edges for a straight line. Bring the furthest edge to the centre. Followed by the nearest edge to meet at the centre. Dust with flour again, and repeat the process again until you have a thin strip of pasta, with the seam running along the centre.

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Cut the strip of dough in half to make it more manageable, working on one half, slice into 0.5cm thick pieces all the way along.

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Then using a long knife with the blade facing away from you, slide under the furthest half of the dough, so the back of the knife is lying with the central seam along it. Twist the knife so the blade is on your board and then lift in the air – the pasta should fall down in ribbons.

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Slide the pasta off your knife on to your board, and allow to dry 10 minutes prior to cooking.

To cook – bring a large pot of water to the boil with enough salt to make it taste briny (like the sea). Cook for 3 – 4 minutes (moving the pasta with tongs when you first drop the pasta in) al dente.

For the sauce:

1. Fry the white and spring onion with the garlic in a pan with oil until soft.

2. Then add the sweet peppers, try not to over cook the peppers.

3. Add the tomato sauce and allow it to reduce for 3-4 minutes. If you like a rich sauce, you can always add a tomato concentrate paste.

4. Pour the milk and cornflour into a bowl and mix before adding to the sauce. Stir until it begins to thicken.

5. Add the cheese and basil and veg jelly. Stir in gently. You can turn the stove off at this point and season the sauce to taste.

6. Bring all the dishes together by stirring in the pasta with the sauce.

Food at 52 Cookery School: The Italian Job

One of my ultimate dreams is to own a house with a very large, fully equipped, sociable kitchen. Kitchen’s for me have always been a place where you ‘whistle while you work’: you talk about your day, current events even laugh at yourself.There are many reasons for this: cooking can be a pretty daunting experience, even for me. Finding new recipes online and trying to duplicate them at home can been hit and miss: the measurements can be off or the author fails to explain some of the techniques clearly. Unless you have the privilege of having an experienced Chef next to you probing your sorry attempt at pasta dough, the temptation to slip away to the local takeaway quickly emerges.

However after spending an evening with John and friends at Food at 52 Cookery School, I am relived to say that there is no better place to get your culinary experience on the right track.

Add ‘Passionate’ and ‘Welcoming’ to the title ‘experienced Chef’  and you would have John Benbow, the founder and resident Chef of Food at 52 based in Clerkenwell. Food at 52 actually started in his family home, No.52 not far from where the cookery school is now based, where he provided cooking classes covering a wide variety of cuisines. It caters for all levels of cooking so if you are simply looking to improve on your skills or extend your cuisine, Food at 52 is a brilliant start.

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As like any other family home, I rang the door bell to Food 52 and was led into the lounge area decorated in interesting vintage artefacts, which did so much to relax and engage conversation. We had all selected the Flavours of Italy course; the brief had provided us with a selection of possible recipes, but we didn’t know until we arrived which recipes we would be making,  so there was a lot of anticipation. 

It was when John led us into the vast homely kitchen, that we were told what we would be cooking that night – at least 4 authentic Italian dishes. The first thing which caught my eye was the Smeg Fridge, which I imagined to be filled with homemade relishes and organic goodies. A close second was the large oak table prepared for us with aprons and individual cutting boards. This was not going to be a spectator course for sure, we were going to work for our supper.

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As the soothing music played in the background, John took us through what we would be cooking, which included two sweets: Biscotti and Amaretti Semifreddo. Without delay John took us through step by step how to make Tagliatelle (from scratch) and answered all our questions about the recipes. He was very accommodating: many of us may never own a pasta maker or the other gadgets that most cooking schools take for granted, so where possible John utilised elbow grease to roll out the dough; you could see he genuinely wanted us to see how accessible and easy cooking can be when you understand the rules.

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Needless to say once the first recipe was on its way, our mouths were watering, so while we waited for the pasta to cook we dipped fresh chunks of Focaccia bread into bowls of oilve oil and sipped on generous refreshments which lined the table.

Cooking was truly a communal experience: we worked at the same pace, keeping check on each other and sharing our cooking woes and travel stories. Everything we made, we shared which added to the satisfaction.

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If I could take anything away from the course, it would be the cooking techniques: from how to hold a knife correctly for chopping, to creating a more flavoursome pesto to achieving the perfect crunch to our almond biscotti. And of course where would we be without a doggy bag of food to take home, just to savour the experience the following day.

Food at 52 makes no compromise on flavour or quality: good quality ingredients always give you better results. Food at 52 represents authentic recipes made accessible in a fun, welcoming environment.

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Rice ‘n’ Peas Risotto w/ Crispy Okra

We sat in our regular cafe spot not far from Highbury and Islington Station; me mulling over an overly sweet Chai Latte, him a large, mug of Americano, our opposing tastes in beverages mirroring our personalities…

Him: “Have you made it yet?”

Me: “Made what? The Roti Wrap? The De-constructed Ackee and Saltfish? He had thrown so many weird and wonderful recipes ideas at me over the last few months I couldn’t keep track, and I wasn’t sure if he really wanted me to take him seriously.

Him: “The Rice and Peas Risotto (blank stare). I think if you make it with coconut milk, it’ll be a great fusion you know…?”

Me: “Oook…?” I tried to picture it in my head. I was stepping onto sacred ground here: NO ONE messes with rice and peas…a famous chef was publicly humiliated for his version of rice and peas which insulted the whole of the global black population. How would I pass such a test??? Why was my boyfriend setting me a challenge that could go disastrously wrong?

So after all of that I present to you Rice n Peas Risotto! A true fusion of two sacred recipes – let’s hope your taste buds like this union 😉

Thank you M xx

Rice 'n' Peas Risotto w/ Crispy Okra

  • Servings: 3-4
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INGREDIENTS:

Rice and Peas

1 cup Italian Arborio Rice

1 cup Red Kidney Beans (soaked in water over night)

4 Cloves Garlic – with skin on

1 whole Scotch Bonnet

1 Vegetable Stock Jelly

1 Large Spring Onion 2 tsp Fresh Thyme

1/2 Onion finely chopped

1/2 tsp ginger/garlic mince 2 Spring Onions, finely chopped

1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

3/4 cup Dry White Wine

1/3 cup Parmiggiano (hard cheese)

Crispy Okra

6 Whole Okra 2 tbsp Gram Flour

1 tbsp Cornflour Pinch Salt

1 tbsp Garam Masala powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric pinch Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Chilli powder Vegetable oil – frying

METHOD:

Rice and Peas

1. In a large pot put in the soaked red peas (drain off the water it was soaked in), 3 whole garlic cloves (with skins on), scotch bonnet, large spring onion, half the fresh thyme, salt and 4 cups of water. Boil the peas for 30-40 mins or until the peas are tender but still whole. You can remove the garlic skin and mash it into the stock 15 minutes into the cooking.

2. Separate the peas from the stock, using a sieve. Discard the spring onion stems and scotch bonnet. Keep the stock for later, you should have about a cup of rich red stock! Dissolve the vegetable stock jelly in the red stock.

3. In a frying pan, fry white and spring onions, garlic/ginger mince until soft (2-3 minutes). Add the drained peas to the onions and warm through for a couple of minutes before adding half the white wine. Allow the peas to simmer on a medium to high heat for 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the rice and add the red peas stock. Stir in, lower the heat to medium. Cover for 4 minutes.

5. Stir in the coconut milk, remainder of the white wine, gradually. You should have a thick sauce. Taste the sauce and season to taste. Keep Stirring and adding the stock, if need be, add some hot water. Cover and allow the rice to swell always leaving a little liquid.

6. To finish stir in the Parmiggiano. 

Crispy Okra

1. Rinse the okra and dry with kitchen towel .Slice the Okra 4 into length ways.

2. In another bowl add the dry ingredients.

IMG_0979_2 3. Combine the okra and dry seasoning except the two flours. Allow the okra to marinate for 10 minutes before adding the flour to the mix.

4. Shake the excess powder off and transfer to a kitchen towel why you heat the oil.

5. Add the okra to the oil in two parts. Fry for 3-5 minutes, the okra should float to the top and be golden in colour. Transfer to kitchen towel.

Black Garlic Aioli w/ Parmesan Balsamic Roasted Cauli’s

So this packet of black garlic sat at the back of my cupboard for the longest while. I would shift it around, pick it up and put it down. I was afraid to open it and start the process of probing, tasting and experimenting. But eventually I got the confidence to read the blurb on the package;

It reads:

unnamed                                                                                                                                                      “Black garlic is sweet meets savory, a perfect mix of molasses-like richness and tangy garlic undertones. It has a tender, almost jelly-like texture with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency similar to a soft dried fruit. Hard to believe, but true. It’s as delicious as it is unique”

So after finding the courage to open the packet, I found the bulb to be quite soft and easy to pull a part. Then came the great revelation – the black garlic itself: the texture reminded me of a soft jelly baby – very smooth and toffee like. For something that is suppose to have aged, near fossilised, there is no pungent strong smell, at least not of garlic anyway. Instead a subtle sweet molasses like aroma. Chewing on a little of it, I found that it had a very dense, sweet flavour, nothing like garlic at all.

I could see black garlic being used to add more depth to sauces, meats, stir fries or even sweets involving chocolate or christmas puddings to add more richness to the deep flavours.

I chose to make a black garlic aioli because I wanted to retain the sweet vibrant taste of the garlic in a recipe. The aioli is very easy to make and should last for one or two days after. Be sure to use only good quality free range eggs to avoid any risk of salmonella poisoning.

Black Garlic Aioli w/ Parmesan Balsamic Roasted Cauli's

  • Servings: 3-4
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INGREDIENTS:

For the Black Garlic Aioli 

2 black garlic pods – minced into a smooth paste

1 large free range egg yolk

1/4 cup of ground nut oil

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

A pinch salt and pepper

(utensils, small pot of boiling water, metal bowl, whisk, tea towel)

A squeeze of lemon juice.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 whole Cauliflower floret  – cut into florets

2 raw Garlics – crushed

salt/ pepper – to tasteA

A drizzle of oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

METHOD:

1. Toss the cauliflower, oil salt and pepper in a pan and roast in the oven for 20-25 minute, or until the cauliflower starts to turn a golden brown. Stir in the pan once to ensure even cooking.

2. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and stir in the cheese and balsamic vinegar and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, this time under the grill. Roast until golden brown and crispy.

3. Fill a sauce pan 3/4 with water and allow to boil.

4. Place in the metal the egg yolk, salt and pepper and minced (you can use the back of a spoon to do that).

4. Start to whisk the eggs and slowly drizzle in the oil a little at a time. You will see the sauce begin to thicken. With about half of the oil left, you can afford to pour in more oil at a time as you continue to whisk.

5. The squeeze in the lemon juice and continue to whisk, the sauce will appear a little lighter but still be slightly thick, add any other seasoning you wish at this stage, more lemon if you like.

6. Then returning to the boiling pot of water, turn the water to a simmer, place a tea towel over the pot and then place the metal bowl of aioli over the towel. Whisk for 1-2 minutes, you should feel the sauce thicken a little further, you are ‘cooking’ the egg slightly – like a custard.

7. Remove the bowl after 1-2 minutes and continue to whisk if neccessary. Spoon the sauce over the roasted cauliflower and serve.

 

Sunday Brunch: Shaksuka Eggs

I’ve been meaning to make this dish for the longest while. The mouth-watering pictures of Shasuka Eggs, (Tunisian dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce) flooded my pinterest page long before I knew the name of the dish. I love breakfasts, I could have them all day.

I used to work in an all-day breakfasts cafe in Nottingham as a student: scraping down the greasy hot plate where I fried eggs, bacon, mushrooms and sausages before slapping them onto large oval plates with two slices of white toast. I loved assembling the items on the plate and seeing people stroll in at 2pm for a full English. The greasy spoon just off the town square served nothing more all day, everyday. You would never dream of serving Shasuka Eggs in a cafe like that, even if it used more or less the same ingredients.

I only managed to eat half of this dish midday today, I’m back home now, so I think I will definitely warm up some more crusty bread and finish off the rest of it. A skittle is probably the best investment in a pan I have made to date, I love it! You only need the one pan to fry, grill and serve! Share your results with me I will love to see them!

Shaksuka Eggs

INGREDIENTS:

2 large eggs

half white onion – finely chopped

Half Green Sweet Pepper – finely chopped

1 cup of Passata Sauce

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 fresh tomato roughly chopped

2 garlics – crushed (I used 1/2 tsp of ginger/garlic paste)

1/4 scotch bonnet pepper – finely chopped

1 tsp fresh or dried thyme

1/4 vegetable stock jelly

Pinch of Black Pepper

Optional: Parmesan Cheese, Tarragon leaves.

METHOD:

1. Sautee the onions, garlic and peppers in a little oil until soft. Add the thyme and tomato paste and stir for 1-2 minutes.

2. Add the fresh tomato and allow it to break down slightly (2 minutes) before adding the passata sauce.

3. Add the remainder of the seasoning and a little water if the sauce gets too thick. It should be a thick sauce so that the eggs can rest on top. Season to taste.

4. Crack 2 eggs on each side of the pan and cover the pan with a lid. Or place the pan in the oven grill for 5-6 minutes.

5. Cook the eggs to the consistency you want, garnish with cheese and chopped tarragon leaves. Then serve with some warm crusty bread!

Smokin’ Fried Plantain

Plantain…isn’t is just a big banana?

Well no, because unlike regular bananas, it can’t be eaten raw. However just like a dessert banana, the longer its left to ripen, the sweeter and softer it becomes!

Since as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed ripe Plantain in various ways: steamed, baked, fried… Basically if you treat it just like a potato you can make some really interesting dishes: salads, chips, crisps, even mashes. Unlike it’s close cousin the green banana, which I also love, but I’m finding hard to be win over to the masses because of its firm waxy texture (which makes it good for potato salads)  – see my ‘Fig Salad’ recipe for example 😉

To fry the plantain, you want the banana to be firm with some dark spots (like the middle row below), too soft and you won’t be able to slice it well, and the high sugar content will cause it to caramelise and stick to the frying pan. Not a pretty sight!
plantains

This recipe combines two of my favourite ingredients: plantain and chipotle paste to make the a dish which I think will be featured a number of BBQ tables this summer. Get ready for some finger lickin’ plantain!

Smokin' Fried Plantain

INGREDIENTS:

4 Ripe Plantain
4 Potatoes
1 Red sweet pepper – chopped or sliced (medium size)
1 Green sweet pepper chopped
1 Onion – chopped (medium sized cubes)
1 tbsp Ginger and Garlic paste
1 tbsp Chipotle paste
1 vegetable stock jelly
1 tsp tomato paste
1/4 warm water
Vegetable oil (fry)
A few sprigs of thyme

METHOD:

1. Peel each plantain completely and sliced down the middle. Then chop each strip into 1 inch pieces. Do the same with the potato (see picture)
2. Heat 1 1/2 inch of oil into a frying pan, test the oil with a piece of potato, the gas should be on a medium to high heat.
3. Fry the potato first in batches (should take 10 minutes each), stirring the potato occasionally until cooked. Drain on kitchen towel paper
4. Then fry the plantain separately – this should take 5 -6 minutes. It cooks very quickly, when it floats to the top, you will know its ready, allow it to brown to the colour you desire. Drain on kitchen towel paper as well.
5. Then in another frying pan with a tablespoon of oil fry the onions, peppers and thyme until soft but still with a crunch to the texture.
6. In a separate bowl, mix the ‘wet ingredients’, the seasoning basically and add the warm water to help the ingredients combine into a thick paste.
7. Add the potato, plantain, onions and peppers to the sauce and turn over gently to distribute the flavours. serve immediately!

Red Hummus Stuffed Chicken w/ Veg Spaghetti

Sometimes leftovers make the best meals: after making a batch of hummus, I wasn’t sure what else to use it for besides dipping tortilla chips into it. Then there were the left over carrots, aubergine and courgette from a quick vegetable roast I made a few days before. I hunted around for ideas and recipes but couldn’t find anything that really appealed to me: I found many recipes for chicken smothered in hummus, but I felt like that was a bit of a waste and wasn’t convinced the hummus would stick to the chicken while cooking. So in an effort to preserve all the great flavours of the paste and not to lose the vibrant colours and textures from the left over vegetables, I devised what was actually a very tasty dish. It really is less complicated then it looks.  Enjoy!

Red Hummus Stuffed Chicken w/ Veg Spaghetti

INGREDIENTS:
Chicken:
2 chicken breasts (butterflied and marinated)
1/2 handful fresh spinach leaves
String or toothpicks (tie/ seal chicken)
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 egg – whisked
salt/ pepper/paprika
oil – frying
Vegetable Spaghetti:
1 Carrot – finely sliced
1/2 Large Aubergine – finely sliced
1 Courgette – finely sliced
1/4 red and yellow sweet pepper – finely sliced
1/2 vegetable stock jelly
1/2 tsp tomato paste
METHOD:
The Chicken
1. At least 4 hours before, clean and marinate the chicken breast: butterfly slice the chicken breast. Then take some cling film and a rolling pin or pan cover the chicken and gently pound the fillet to flatten it and create a larger surface area to fold.
2. Marinate the chicken with fresh thyme, minced onion, garlic and lime juice.
3. Take 3 pieces of string about 10cm each and line up horizontally on a chopping board. You want to then lay one of the fillets on top of the strings.
4. Take a spoon or more of the hummus and place in centre of the fillet, cover with 2-3 spinach leaves. Then bring the sides of the fillet upwards and fold it in to form a parcel. Use the string to seal the chicken into place. Do this for the second fillet also:
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5. Once sealed, roll the chicken in the egg and then dip into the flour until fully covered. 6. Pre-heat a pan of oil (1.5″ oil). Roll the chicken in flour once again and dust off any excess then place in the frying pan at a medium heat with the seal of the chicken facing upwards. 7. Fry on each side for up to 6 minutes. 8. Finish cooking the chicken in the oven if necessary.   Spaghetti: 1. I prefer to use a julienne cutter to get the thin slices. Once cut heat up a little oil in a pan add the tomato paste and vegetable stock to dissolve. 2. Then toss the vegetables in and stir for 3 minutes. Do not overcook. Turn the fire off and keep stirring.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

This version does not disappoint – it’s full of flavor and wonderfully creamy. Hummus is a really versatile addition to your food pantry, which has sadly been relegated to dips, chips and wraps, so if you’re interested what else its good with, check out my next post:

IMG_0622

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup tahini
¼ cup  extra-virgin olive oil
1 can chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1 roasted red peppers
2 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Minced parsley, to garnish

 

METHOD:

1. Cut the red sweet pepper in two, drizzle with oil and place under the oven grill for 20 minutes or until the skin has begun to blacken, peel and soften. Once cool, there is no need to peel the skin, simply roughly chop and set aside.

2. Take the remainder of the ingredients and transfer to a food processor. Blend to a smooth paste. Then add the red pepper and blend again. Season to taste.

3. Store in fridge for up to 3-4 days.

 

Soft Spinach Tortilla

These tortillas are unbelievably soft and tasty. The bright green dough is what strikes you first before you rip it open and dip it in some cool hummus or filling of your choice. I love how these wraps turned out, a lot better than I expected. To re-heat them, I recommend you fold them and place it in the toaster for a 10-20 seconds if your feeling lazy like me, keeping a close eye on it of course, otherwise a minute or two in the oven.

You won’t regret it…;-)

Soft Spinach Tortilla

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 10-12 wraps.

3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 TBS vegetable oil and 1 tsp unsalted butter (optional)
1 good handful of fresh spinach leaves
1 c. milk, warmed in the microwave or on the stovetop

METHOD:

1. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt until evenly mixed.

2. Add the vegetable oil and stir until crumbly dough is formed.

3. Place the spinach and warm milk and butter in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the spinach into the flour and stir to combine. If mixture is too wet, add a little bit more flour.

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3. Knead the dough with your hands for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin. Break the chilled dough into 5-6  golf-ball sized balls. Roll each ball out into a very thin circle about 8 inches in diameter. The thinner the dough is, the more pliable the wrap will be.

5. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Spray with oil then cook the wraps in the frying pan, for about 30 seconds on each side or until wrap has stiffened slightly and is golden brown in spots.

6. Let cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Cheesy Chipotle Rice ‘n’ Beans

I have to thank my friend Hayley for the inspiration behind this recipe. Last month she asked me to come up with a couple of lunch box recipes for students, tired of limp sandwiches and luke-warm pasta bakes. I completely understood where she was coming from as I have the same dilemma for work lunches; she wanted something tasty, fresh and filling that didn’t look like a dogs dinner after day 3; cheap but not compromising on nutrition and quality. Yeah she wasn’t asking for much really ;-).

I’m not a great fan of brown rice. I know many people who eat it religiously and preach about its benefits, but to me it always felt like more effort than it was worth, until I created this recipe. I strongly recommend the use of short grain brown rice: it retains its shape and has a slight nutty texture and taste to it which means it can stand the pressure of being tossed around in a pan without turning into mush like so many other rice grains do.

The key ingredient here however is the chipotle paste: I love this stuff. I would add it to everything I eat. If you don’t already know, chipotle is not simply a name of a restaurant chain, its a a variety of jalapeno pepper which has been dried, smoked and ground into a paste, producing a earthy barbecue-y dark, rich flavour to your chillies and stews. You can find it in most major shops now.

For more student inspired recipes, tips of fitness and self esteem I would encourage you to check out her blog: Love Your Temple 

Cheesy Chipotle Rice 'n' Beans

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of short grain brown rice

1/2 onion finely chopped

1/2 can black beans – drained (keep liquid separate)

2 large garlic cloves – crushed

1/2 tsp minced ginger

1/2 courgette – sliced

2 plum tomatoes (and 3 tbsp juice)

2 tbsp sweetcorn

1 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

2 tsp fresh thyme

2 tsp chipotle paste 

1 vegetable stock cube / jelly

pinch salt/ black pepper

1 bay leaf

Method:

1. Put the rice in a large pot with 3 cups of water and the vegetable stock jelly. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked. It should be tender but still have a firm skin.

2. In a separate pan fry the onions and garlic and ginger for 3-4 minutes. Then add the courgette. Following that add the tomatoes and crush to form a sauce. Then add the chipotle paste, bay leaf and drained black beans with some of the liquid from the tomato and beans (about 1 cup). Allow it to simmer slowly for 3 minutes.

3. You should still have about 1/2 cup of sauce in the pan when you add the cooked brown rice, don’t worry if the mixture appears too wet as the rice will absorb the liquid eventually. After stirring for 2 minutes, add 1/2 cup of cheese and pour the mixture into a casserole dish or cast iron pan that can go straight in the oven.

4. Top the rice and beans with more cheese and optional worcestershire sauce for more depth of flavour – place under the oven grill until the cheese is melted or crispy, however you like it.

5. Serve with a garnish of spring onions. The dish can last in the fridge for up to 3 days after.

Pineapple & Ginger Cobbler w/ Coconut Whip

A twist on the ol’ peach cobbler, pineapple twist that is. The most satisfying part of any pie is the crust – it’s all about the textures, and oozing fruit pulp erupting through the cakey topping. This has to be the best cobbler topping I have ever had- you could practically eat it on its own like a warm cookie.

The whipped coconut cream is best served straight away, but can be stored in an air tight container for up to a week. It will harden in the fridge, the longer it stays chilled, simply mix until creamy again, when ready to serve.

Pineapple & Ginger Cobbler

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients: 

Filling:
1 ripe whole Pineapple peeled and cut in chunks
2 Tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

optional: squeeze of half a lemon

Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dairy milk or, almond or coconut milk
4 Tbsp canola oil or melted unsalted butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp sugar, to sprinkle on top

Coconut whip cream:

1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1 tablespoon maple syrup,
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, zest of 1/2 lime

 

Method:

Filling:

Preheat oven to 180°C.
In a bowl, combine the pineapple, 2 Tbsp flour, cinnamon, ginger, sugar and lemon zest.
Place in a buttered 10-inch pie pan or round baking dish.
Bake for 10 minutes.

Topping:

In a large bowl combine 3/4 cup flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, canola oil (or butter) and lemon juice.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix gently with a spatula, stirring until smooth.
Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto the pineapple.
Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

 

Coconut whip:

Carefully open the can of refrigerated coconut milk, you’ll find a thick white layer of coconut cream on top.

Scoop out the coconut cream into a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Make sure the bowl itself is not warm, (place it in the freezer for 5 minutes to achieve this).  Start scooping the cream out until you reach the water in the bottom of the can. Save the water for smoothies etc… Just don’t add this into the solid cream for whipping!

Using a mixer or hand beaters on high speed – whip the coconut cream for 3 to 5 minutes until it becomes fluffy and light, with soft peaks. Mix in your syrup, lime and vanilla.

Chocolate Bark with Bite

 

If you manage to make this sweet treat last a week, you did better than me. It’s unbelievably satisfying to eat and easy to make. Plus I think  it’s probably the healthiest chocolate bar(k) you’ll ever find, which makes it even harder to resist gobbling up?! So what gives this bark its ‘bite’? No it’s not the crunchy nuts or tangy cranberries trapped in the pool of chocolate like a welly caught in quick sand (terrible analogy).

It is in fact ginger. You could add finely chopped crystallised ginger to this recipe which was my original plan. However I didn’t need a lot so I opted for Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate (60% cocoa) with ginger. It’s awesome all by itself even before I started melting and shaping it.

This should take you no more than 30 minutes to prepare and that includes cooling time: I simply chucked it in the freezer which speeds up the hardening effect. Then once you’ve slipped it off the baking sheet, either with a knife or preferably by hand, break the chocolate plate into delicious nutty shards. Store in cool try place or the fridge if you prefer.

Chocolate Bark with Bite

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:
100g x 2 Green and Blacks Dark Chocolate (ginger)
2 handfuls of almonds – roughly chopped
2 handful – Dried Cranberries
2 handful – shelled pistachios roughly chopped
– Baking Sheet
– Glass Bowl/ Spoon
Method:
1. break up chocolate into a glass bowl. To melt either place over a saucepan of boiling water (being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl), and stir frequently until completely melted. Or place bowl in microwave and heat (medium setting) for 2 minutes, check the chocolate every 30 seconds to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
2. Pour the melted chocolate onto the baking sheet to about 1/4 inch thick. Or pour onto a greaseproof pan. Don’t worry about the shape of the chocolate spread. Try not to let it touch the sides if using either the sheet or pan.
3. Take a handful of each of the nuts/fruits and sprinkle over the chocolate.
4. Place sheet on a plate and place in freezer for at least 25 minutes or until hard.
5. Before serving/ eating, remove from freezer. If had then with a spatula separate the chocolate bark from the sheet/ pan. Then from the centre, break the bak into large pieces, then take one shard and break into smaller pieces if you wish.

10 second Fig Ice-cream

I can’t remember when I first tasted a fresh fig, but I know that since that day there has been no going back. I grew up eating a lot of dried fruit: dates, bananas, and figs. Bananas soon got banished and picked out of every cereal bowl it showed up in.

Frozen bananas on the other hand was just genius lurking in the pews: gone are the days of blackened fruit spoiling your fruit  bowl or attracting fruit flies or bread recipes. Now I can have ‘fresh’ bananas whenever I want them. Frozen bananas or any fruit make amazing fruit smoothies, but also desserts as this recipe demonstrates: you don’t have to use the dates, but because I love the caramel swirls like taste of figs in the dairy version of fig ice-cream, I needed something to substitute that. I love the rich pink colour the figs give to this ice-cream, half of eating is with the eyes as they say.

Quick, healthy, raw and ready in minutes!

Vegan Fig Ice-Cream

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 frozen Bananas – chopped into pieces 2 fresh figs – cut into four 3 pitted Dates

1 tbsp Maple or Agarve Syrup

Dash of Almond or any non-diary milk

1 tsp Almond Essence

1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

Chopped Pistachios (garnish)

METHOD: Place all the ingredients in a blender, straight from the freezer, no thawing allowed. Blend and add milk a little at a time to achieve your consistency you want.

Serve immediately!

White Chicken Chilli

I had no idea what a white chilli was until today. I had bought some chicken and really wanted to do something different with it. I also wanted an excuse to use the food processor I had recently bought (I make no apology, every other recipe will require a FP from now on!). That’s when I came across the ‘white chicken chilli’. I saw this as a great challenge – most eating is done with the eyes – vibrant colours and textures, so how can a recipe that looks and even sounds pretty bland still have as much punch as a regular chilli?

If you google white chicken chilli, all the recipes involve shredding the chicken, leaving you with a pulpy, mushy stew. I really didn’t fancy that. So I thought may be I could try combining my curiosity of ground chicken with a white bean sauce. The result – juicy, tasty chicken meatballs in a cosy white bean sauce. I love it! I really do.

White Chicken Chilli


Ingredients:

400 g diced chicken breast

2 cans of cannelli beans (keep liquid)

1 whole onion (half for chicken, half for sauce)

6 garlic cloves

handful of coriander leaves

1  1/2 tsp of ginger paste (reserve half tsp for sauce)

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch black pepper

1/2 scotch bonnet pepper (deseeded)

2 celery sticks

juice of half lime

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of salt

1 bay leaf

vegetable oil (to fry)

1 chicken or vegetable stock jelly

1 tsp tomato paste

few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 egg – whisked

2 tbsp cornmeal flour (medium coarse)

optional extra – sour cream, lime and tortilla chips

 

Utensils essentials: Food Processor

Method:

The Chicken:

1. clean the chicken with salt and lime.

2. place in the food processor – roughly chopped 1/2 onion, 4 garlics, scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, ginger and lime juice. Pulse to finely chopped consistency.

3. Add the chopped chicken, turmeric, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon to the food processor and pulse for 20-30 seconds until you have a mince like consistency. You may remove the bowl and stir the mixture by hand at this stage as you don’t want a smooth paste.

4. Add to the bowl, roughly chopped coriander, egg, stock jelly and cornmeal. Stir in and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the cornmeal to absorb the liquid.

5. Test the taste and texture of the chicken by frying a small spoonful in the frying pan. Adjust taste accordingly.

6. Proceed to gently fry the chicken meat balls: use a teaspoon to scoop the meat into a ball and fry in shallow oil, about 2 minutes on each side. I turned these ones 3 times as I wanted a rounder rather than a patty shape.

7. Keep the chicken balls warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.

 

The Sauce:

1. In a frying pan saute the onion, 2 garlic and celery.

2. Add the ginger paste, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and fry gently.

3. Drain the beans and add 3/4 to the pan, heated the beans through.

4. Take the remainder of the beans and the liquid and place in the food processor, pulse to a smooth paste. Add a little water if needed.

5. Add the bean paste to the beans and onions and add the bay leaf. Simmer slowly for 5 minutes then season to taste.

6. When ready to serve, pour beans into a dish and add the chicken meatballs on top. Serve with sour cream and tortilla chips for dipping!

Cardamom Pistachio Pancakes

Happy Pancake Day!

Loretta's Kitchen

pancakesIt was Shrove Tuesday a few days ago or Pancake Day to the rest of us which meant a floury of crepes and pancakes came flooding into the office for us to consume. I was curious to notice that my Boss hadn’t taken any of the crepes that had been brought in and so I inquired as to her withdrawal from the sweet treats. “I don’t like those kind of pancakes” she said, “I prefer the thick American style ones” to which we all nodded in agreement. “But they’re made from the same ingredients?” piped in another colleague of mine helping himself to the strawberries on the table. To some extent he is right, the only difference is the water content, classic pancakes have a bit more water so tend to be lighter and less dense. These pancakes below adapted from a Lebanese blog by Bethany Kehdy are nice…

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