Roast Aubergine With Yoghurt Dressing

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This is a sumptuous Middle-Eastern inspired dinner.  The aubergines are sliced in half, rubbed with oil and cumin seeds and baked until soft.  You then top them with a beautiful yoghurt dressing, toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander.  Allow about 10 minutes of effort and 50 minutes of roasting.

Cumin seeds are definitely one of my most *exciting ingredients*  I also sprinkle them over soups and once had an unforgetful wrap filled with fried halloumi, beetroot, yoghurt and cumin seeds!

Roast Aubergine With Yoghurt Dressing (serves 2)

  • 2 aubergines, sliced in half lengthways
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 200g Greek or natural yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp cashew nuts/pine nuts , toasted (do this by frying them on a high heat in a dry non-stick pan, shaking regularly, for about 30 seconds – 1 minute until golden – careful not to burn!)
  • 1 handful of roughly chopped coriander

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Gently score the 4 cut halves of aubergine flesh with criss cross cuts, then carefully rub/brush over 1 tbsp of oil between them and sprinkle over the salt and pepper and cumin seeds.  Roast for around 50 minutes until browned and soft.

While the aubergine is roasting mix the yoghurt, garlic and lemon juice together.  To serve, spoon the yoghurt dressing over the aubergine then top with the toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander.

 

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A Handy Guide to Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals are notoriously confusing to choose from.  And the marketing behind them can be very manipulative.  With this is mind I have put together a handy guide to making healthier choices with cereals.  I hope you find it helpful!

ADVERTISING: Many cereals will tell you lots of positive things to draw you in, particularly childrens’ cereals.  Just because it’s wholegrain’, ‘low in fat’, ‘fortified with vitamins and iron’, has ‘no added salt’, ‘no added sugar’, ‘no artificial colours or flavours’, has a healthy sounding name or photos of glowing kids and sprigs of wheat doesn’t mean it’s not high in sugar!  

COMPARE BRANDS: Most supermarket brands and Nestle use the helpful ‘traffic light system’ on the front of the packet – this shows whether fat, sugar and salt are high (red – a bad choice), quite high (amber – not a great choice but ok sometimes) or low (green – best choice).  Kelloggs hasn’t signed up to the traffic light system – their nutrition info is all in blue – so is the least easy to understand.  

SUGAR GUIDELINES: This is the recommended amount of daily sugar for the different age groups (you don’t need to count the sugar naturally present in milk, yoghurt and whole fruit): Adults and Children over 11 years 30g; 7-10 year olds 24g; 4-6 year olds 19g.

BEST AND WORST CHOICES: The best cereals to choose are wholegrain ones (for longer-lasting energy) which are also low in sugar, salt and fat (particularly sugar).  So aim for the sugar tab on the traffic light bit to be green.  Branflakes, porridge and shredded wheat are all good choices.   Although not wholegrain, cornflakes only have 2g of sugar per 30g bowl so are an okay choice some of the time.  And definitely better than crunchy nut cornflakes, which contain 12g of sugar per 30g bowl!  This is nearly 2/3 of the daily recommended amount of sugar for a 4-6 year old.  Cinnamon Grahams and Coco Pops both contain 8g of sugar per 30g bowl.  And some mueslis and granolas can be very high in sugar.

PORTION SIZE: 30g is a small bowl and many kids and adults have much more than that for breakfast.  Try weighing out the amount you all have and then work out the total sugar – you may be shocked!  Note that some cereal boxes (usually those aimed at adults) will tell you how much sugar per 40g/45g so check closely.

MAKING CHANGES: If you/your kids love sugary cereal, consider mixing it with a healthier similar cereal and over time reducing it until you are only left with the healthier choice.   Or buy a few new, more healthy cereals for people to choose from, so atleast people feel there is some choice.  Topping cereal with fruit provides greater nutrition and a little natural sweetness.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (vegan/non-vegan)

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I always assumed that Sticky Toffee Pudding was a bit of a technical feat, but not so.  It’s super easy to make and tastes wonderful!  This recipe comes courtesy of vegan entrepreneur Tegan The Vegan, a lady who lives local to me and has built a very loyal following since starting her vegan food business.  The pudding can be made with either regular dairy or vegan butter.   Eat it with regular custard or vegan custard or cream (available in some supermarkets and health food shops).

Thank you Tegan!  (Check out http://www.facebook.com/teganvegan or @teganveganLDN for more info about her vegan treats).

Sticky Toffee Pudding (serves 10)

For the cake

200g pitted dates
100ml water
250ml soya milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
115g dark brown soft sugar
115g regular butter or vegan margarine/butter  (vegan marge/butter can be found in some supermarkets/health food shops)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
200g self-raising flour

For the toffee sauce

150g butter or vegan margarine/butter
200g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.

To make the cake, chop the dates in half, cover with the water and soya milk in a small saucepan and simmer until the dates are soft (around 10-15 minutes). Take off the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. It will froth up, but that’s okay! Leave to cool while you make the rest.

Beat together the 115g of sugar and 115g of the margarine, then add the date mixture. Mix in the spices, then fold in the flour and mix. Spoon in to an approximate 20cm x 20cm greased cake tin (any shape is fine), and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the sponge bounces back when pressed and a knife inserted in the cake comes out pretty much clean.

For the sauce, melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan and add the sugar, golden syrup and vanilla essence. Gently simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring until well combined.

Prick the cooked cake all over then use half the sauce to pour over it. Reserve half of the sauce for serving with the pudding alongside some custard or cream. Devour!

Bakewell Tart – a British classic!

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Bakewell tart is a British classic and consists of shortcrust pastry and a layer of jam topped with frangipane and flaked almonds.  This awesome recipe (based on one by Mary Berry) is surprisingly straightforward to make. If you have never made pastry before don’t worry as it is pretty simple here, and if the rolling out isn’t going great you can just cheat and press the pastry in to the tin with your hands. Or you can buy ready made shortcrust pastry instead.

The filling really is just a case of mixing everything up and leaving it to puff up and get crunchy during the baking.  Then feeling really snazzy when it comes out of the oven.

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The bakewell tart looks gorgeous and tastes authentic.  Eat with cream or ice cream!

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Bakewell tart

For the shortcrust pastry
175g plain flour
75g chilled butter
2-3 tbsp cold water

(or buy ready made shortcrust pastry from the shop)
For the filling
2 tbsp raspberry/strawberry jam
125g butter, soft (I soften mine in the microwave)
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
1  egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
50g flaked almonds

To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and mix in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.  Attempt to roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a 20cm flan tin or similar.  If the rolling out doesn’t go too well just use your hands to press the dough to the bottom and around the edges of the tin, covering up any cracks.  Leave in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan).  Line the pastry case with foil and fill to the top with baking beans.  If you don’t have baking beans use dried beans or rice instead (this is to stop the pastry puffing up).  Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and cook for a further five minutes to dry out the base.

For the filing, spread the pastry generously with jam.  Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the flan tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown on top. If the almonds seem to be browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them burning.  Eat with cream or ice cream.

Greek salad (15 mins)

In my humble opinion Greek salad is one of the most delicious summer salads EVER.  The crunch of the cucumber and red onion, sweetness of the tomatoes, salty creaminess of the feta and the fresh tasting dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil and herbs are absolutely gorgeous!  I like to eat Greek salad piled on top of a toasted pitta.

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Finely chopped red onion is an excellent addition to add crunch and flavour to lots of dishes.  As well as salads it is great in macaroni cheese and tuna pasta bake.

In Greece they tend to serve Greek salad with a slab of feta cheese on top, but I think it is best chopped up and mixed with the other ingredients.  Thank you to The Guardian for inspiring me to use capers in the recipe, which are apparently a Greek salad staple in certain parts of Greece!  Allow 15 minutes to make the salad.

Greek salad (serves 2)

Large handful cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

1/3 cucumber, chopped small

1/4 red onion, chopped small and thin

12 kalamata olives, chopped in half (regular pitted black or green olives also work fine, but kalamata olives are particularly authentic)

Optional – heaped tsp capers

150g feta cheese

For the dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs/oregano

Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives and capers together in a large bowl.   Mix the dressing ingredients together.  Arrange the salad in bowls and sprinkle over the feta.  Pour over the dressing and eat with toasted pitta bread in the sun!

Easy Easter tea bread

Re-blogging this post seeing as Easter weekend 2016 is nearly here!

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easy tea bread nigella lawson

Thank you Nigella for this easy tea bread recipe, which makes a nice alternative to all that Easter chocolate!  It is a bit like fruit cake, with the moistness of currants, marmalade and tea, and is particularly good with butter.  Soak the mixed dried fruit the night before if you can, to get them really plump, then it only takes 5 minutes to mix all the ingredients together before baking.  Accompanying cup of tea is essential.  Happy Easter!

Ingredients

1 mug cold tea (no milk)

8oz (225g) mixed dried fruit (if you don’t like peel just use sultanas and currants)

8oz (225g) self-raising flour

4oz (125g) caster sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp orange marmalade

Grease a loaf tin.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.

Place the fruit in a small bowl and pour the cold tea over the top.  Soak overnight if possible, or until the fruit swells.  In a bowl combine the flour…

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Marshmallow crispy squares

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These marshmallow crispy squares are a great kids treat, contain four ingredients and are really easy to make.  You mix melted marshmallows with rice crispies, vanilla essence and butter then put the mixture in the fridge to harden.  I found the recipe on http://www.allrecipes.co.uk when I was looking for very low effort school fair recipes!  The school fair organiser said anything topped with a chocolate button or sweet sells instantly, hence the smarties.

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Marshmallow crispy squares (makes around 12)

50g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g marshmallows
100g rice crispies (or similar)

Grease a smallish baking tray with butter or margarine, or line it with greaseproof paper.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the vanilla. Melt the marshmallows into the butter, stirring. Add the rice crispies when the marshmallows have melted and stir until they are coated. Quickly pour into the prepared tin and press down tightly and evenly. Top with chocolate buttons if you like!
Let set for 2 to 3 hours. Cut into squares.