Tag Archives: food

Bake: Blood orange, almond and pistachio cakes

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As much as I love living in Leicester I’m often a little envious when I see London based bloggers nabbing all the rare and exotic produce. I know the world is a small place now and most ingredients are only a click of a mouse away but today I’m talking about the fresh stuff, the ingredients that won’t fit through your letterbox and that deserve to be selected and packed into a brown paper bag by your own fair hand. This leads me to the blood orange, I’ve been reeling at the torturous sight of all the blood oranges popping up on Instagram lately. From Holly’s beautiful blood orange, bitter chocolate and honey cupcakes to Ed Kimber’s Jaffa cakes there’s been some inspirational baking happening and i’ve been dying to sniff out some of these little tinkers for myself. With the season coming to an end I had almost given up hope, that is until C and I went out to dinner at Carluccios last week.

C spotted them first, I was so distracted by the multi coloured pasta selection I had neglected to check out the window display. Nestled amongst the usual meringues, biscuits and chocolate tarts sat a crate full of Sicilian Moro blood oranges just waiting to be snaffled. They are a lot smaller than your average orange with a red tinge to the skin and crimson red flesh. At 50p a pop they are slightly pricier, but they do have quite a bit more to offer, aside from being the most beautiful orange you could ever hope to cut into they are higher in antioxidants and superior in flavour. The first thing I did was squeeze one and drink it fresh. Amazing. Next job was to deliberate over what I could make with them, a tough decision which took quite some time with so many ideas and only 6 little fruits to play with. Sunday lunch was in the making so I eventually plumped for cake. Not just any old cake, something puddingy and indulgent for a sunday afternoon. This recipe only uses two blood oranges so I had enough left over to make a sorbet toO.

This makes 4 generous cakes or alternatively the recipe will work in an 18cm tin, just increase the bake time to 45-50 minutes. DSC00815

You will need:

  • 4 dariole moulds
  • 100g unsalted butter plus extra to grease the moulds
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50g pistachios
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 blood oranges

Pre- heat the oven to 145ºC prepare the tins by melting a little butter and painting it into the inside of the mould. Zest one of the blood oranges and reserve. Thinly slice the other blood orange so you have 4 perfect cross sections, flick out and discard any seeds. Place the slices into the base of the moulds. Juice the remaining blood oranges and distribute the juice between the moulds.

Lightly chop the pistachios and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.

Cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy. Whilst this is happening weigh the almonds, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and keep close to hand. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork until well mixed. Slowly add 1/3 of the egg into the butter and sugar mix and beat well to incorporate, then add a spoonful of the almond mix. Continue to add the egg and almonds in alterations until all incorporated. Divide the mixture between the 4 moulds and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inverted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

These cakes are best served warm, once they are cool enough to handle run a knife around the outside of the cake to loosen then invert onto a plate, sprinkle with a little ground pistachio (I ground mine in a coffee grinder- a new toy, massive excitement!)

blood orange and pistachio cakesblood orange pistachio cakes

So exotic Leicester wins again and I think I’ve ticked off all my winter food wishes this season. I’m ready for spring now, bring on the rhubarb…

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Eat: Amsterdam

Needless to say, food featured pretty heavily on our agenda in Amsterdam. We wanted to ensure we visited the tastiest places around in our short yet perfectly formed mini break. So with a little research before our trip, from fresh mint teas to afternoon cakes we did rather well!

You’ve had a taste of our breakfasts, heres what was on the menu for the rest of the visit……Bagel in Amsterdam

Tomato, Mozzarella and pesto on a wholewheat Bagel

Bagels and Beans was our first stop. After a few hours of travelling combined with an early start to the day we had worked up an appetite. Bagels and beans is a Netherlands based restaurant chain, and whilst we prefer independent eateries this was a promising start to the holiday with a choice of bagels from wholewheat to poppy seed, and a delicious offering of both veggie and meaty fillings you could basically build your own bagel sandwich, it was all to be had

pumpkin and black quinoa salad

Pumpkin, feta and Black quinoa salad with smoked Almonds

Vinnies is a laid back stylish eatery with a focus on clean, fresh and health ingredients. Their mantra is good. Home. Food. With two venues across Amsterdam I’d say this is a must visit for any discerning foodie.  Other delights available included warm lentil salad with roast mushrooms and thyme and roast aubergine with yoghurt and saffron sauce and pomegranate. The tea is amazing as well, fresh ginger and lime tea for E and Fresh mint tea for B, both served with a cheeky little homemade biscuit

Salad at Vinny's, Amsterdam

ginger tea and cake- vinnies

And of course, there was cake…

Gluten free polenta and cherry cake and Chocolate pistachio brownie with salted caramel sauce

vinniesCake at the Rijksmuseum

Coffee muffin and chocolate brownie with hot chocolate

We wiled away a rainy afternoon in the Rijksmuseum and with just 4 hours of exploring we barely scratched the surface of all there was to see. We decided to focus our visit to the current 20th century photography exhibition, Modern Times. When we grew weary and in need of a sugar hit, the cafe was nearby at the ready so we could sit down and swop notes on which of the works had most inspired us

lavinia good food

Lavinia good food this was certainly a highlight. A bustling Saturday lunchtime service meant we were lucky get a table but we were so happy we did. The food, atmosphere and vegetable cocktails combined with an open counter of fresh salads and a view into the working kitchen made for an amazing experience

lighting- lavinialavinia good foodPizza at Lavina Good Food

 To start: Spelt pizza with pumpkin, pear, rocket, blue cheese and flaked almonds

The pizza base had been rolled so thin it was light as air and as flakey as puff pastry

lunch at lavinia

A salad bar selection which included: Brussel sprout and mushroom salad

fennel, feta, orange and cumin seed salad with pomegranate 

celery, walnut and grape salad

And we have to talk about the Veggi cocktails which were an unexpected bonus, crammed full to the brim with fresh fruit and veg- cucumber, pear, fennel, granny smith, pear, lime and ginger for E and Beetroot, carrot, orange, ginger, dill and lime for B. Simply amazing flavour combinations, I’m totally asking for a juicer for christmas!

 carrot cake

Carrot cake with cream cheese, honeyed oats and mulberries 

Raw cocoa cake at Lavinia Good Food, Amsterdam

Raw dark and white chocolate tart with toasted seeds and fresh strawberries

Did we mention we like cake? Pudding was washed down with delicious homemade chai tea made to an in house spice blend recipe

pears on the market

For our final foodie fling we took a stroll down to the Noordermarkt which held host to a treasure trove of delights. Fresh autumn produce and oyster shucking were all on the menu

oyster shucking on the marketgreen smoothies

And of course, our street food favourites included fresh pressed vegetable smoothies and the mighty stroopwafels!

Do you plan where you want to eat before you go away on holiday? Or do you just go with the flow? 

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EAT: Hermanus

Hermanus

It’s now been a good few weeks since I returned from holidaying in South Africa with my mum, but I’m still buzzing with how amazing the whole 10 days were!

We by no means exhausted the country, or even the few places we visited, but I wanted to share some of our experiences and pass on a few recommendations for places to visit and eat

After the 11 hour flight from London to Cape Town we were picked up by car and travelled another 90 minutes to the seaside town of Hermanus

Why here you say? Because during springtime in SA it’s where you can stand on the coast and clearly see Southern Right Whales frolicking in the waves

We also thought it would be a calm location to relax into the holiday before we tackled the more touristically-demanding streets of Cape Town

So expect a post of beautiful landscapes to follow soon, but I thought I’d kick off my South Africa series with something close to my heart… my stomach!

EAT: The Eatery

When travelling I generally use two methods to find the best places to eat – search Tripadvisor for restaurant reviews and/or ask a friendly local where to eat

Beef and vegetable soup from The Eatery in Hermanus

The Eatery was recommended to us by the owner of a beautiful shop selling crafts made by regional artists

We both decided to go for vegetable and beef soup, with a thick slice of toast – delicious!

It was at this lunch that we realised just how much we were getting for our money in South Africa – two bowls of soup, two coffees and a bottle of water to share for R95 (around £2.50 each!)

EAT: The Cuckoo Tree

This was an amazing find on Tripadvisor – the kind of place you’d probably not even notice if you weren’t looking for it (in fact we struggled to find it even when we were looking – but that says more about our navigational abilities than anything else)

Lunch at the Cuckoo Tree in Hermanus

Run by a mother and daughter, The Cuckoo Tree has only a handful of tables inside and outside in their lovely courtyard, which is also frequented by lots of garden birds

We arrived for lunch, and had every intention to dedicating the next few hours to eating, drinking and chatting away

Mum went for a chicken noodle dish, whereas I went for toast topped with many of my favourite things – roasted veg, salad, goats cheese and nuts – amazing!

And for pudding mum automatically went for her favourite, lemon meringue pie, and I went for the almond and fruit tart with a side of homemade orange ice-cream for good measure

EAT: Bergundy

The fact Bergundy was incredibly conveniently located 30 seconds walk from our hotel is part of the reason we ate their twice in our three night stay in Hermanus – but the excellent food and friendly service also played a part

Bobotie at Bergundys, Hermanus

And this is where we ticked off two SA specialities from our non-existent-list – malva pudding and bobotie

Malva pudding is a little like sticky toffee pudding, but much lighter – and very tasty

Bobotie is quite difficult to compare to anything we eat in the UK – it’s basically spiced minced meat and dried fruit topped with a layer of egg, and at Bergundy it was served with a side of sweet potatoes with added brown sugar

It tasted amazing, but all the sweetness and richness soon became overwhelming and we were both forced to give in halfway through the meal – a shame, but very glad we tried it

Have you tried bobotie? What did you think…?

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Eat: Healthy on the road

Lunch from Iydea, Brighton

For the past few months I’ve been travelling pretty heavily for work around the UK

In fact, over the past few weeks in particular I’ve spent more time in hotels than in my own bed!

Constantly being on the road is a standard behaviour for many people, but it’s a new to me – so I thought it might be useful to pass on a few tips I’ve learnt along the way… starting with food

I’m pretty health conscious at home – I avoid processed food, buy local and organic foods where I can, monitor the amount of sugar and bad fats in my diet, try to eat mainly whole foods…

I’m no saint – I find it hard to turn down ice-cream or homemade cakes, but I was worried about what it would mean to not be able to have so much control over my diet and cook for myself

** Disclaimer – I’m not a nutritionist – feel free to disagree with my choices! **

Toast for breakfast

BREAKFAST

I love breakfast – it’s probably my favourite meal of the day – quite often once the thought of it pops into my head, I just have to get out of bed and put the kettle on

This means it’s a particularly dangerous time for me to overeat, when every day I’m now faced with multiple options in the form of a buffet table and/or delicious sounding menu

I’m not a massive fan of fried food or eating meat in the morning, so at least I largely duck the eternal pull of the Full English

But I still have had to reign myself in, and these are some of the “rules” and tips I’ve been living by…

  • Avoid the bread, unless freshly baked on site (it will only be the rubbishy stuff)
  • Check if the eggs are free range, ask for them to be freshly poached, boiled or scrambled
  • Ask if they do porridge (they usually do, even if not on the menu) – ask for it to be made with half milk/half water
  • Read the cereal packets and yoghurt tubs – you’ll be surprised by how much added sugar there is
  • Fresh fruit is good (especially if you can nick some for a mid-morning snack!)
  • Ask for still water, rather than sugary juice
  • Monitor portion sizes – avoid ‘eyes bigger than stomach’
  • If you’re staying at a posh hotel with an amazing menu, this is the time to go wild and have the flaky pain au chocolat or smoked salmon and scrambled egg!
  • If you’re staying at a budget hotel with a very processed buffet, don’t be scared to sneak in your own food (and just use their milk) No one will notice!

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DINNER

I’ve got no problems with eating alone – I’m quite happy to take a book along to a restaurant with me and just get on with my meal

  • TripAdvisor is your friend – it’s such a great app to have on your phone to search nearby restaurants and check out the reviews
  • Try to eat at independent restaurants where you’ll get more of an experience and feel for the place
  • But don’t feel bad about going back to trusted chains – sometimes it’s easier to know what you’re getting
  • If you are going to a chain, check out the nutritional info on their website to work out some of the healthier options
  • Be demanding again! Don’t want much dressing on your salad? Ask for it on the side

Having said that, most of the time I choose to eat my evening meals in the hotel – getting a selection of food from a nearby supermarket and having a mini picnic in my room

(Sometimes I’m just forced to ear in my hire car, on my knee – see photo above from a service station on the A1 earlier this week!)

Usually this is because I’ve had a long day of work and just want to relax in my own space

I’ve heard about people doing all kinds of crazy things with hotel kettles and producing meals, but I tend to stick to cold stuff…

  • Use Google Maps to search for nearby supermarkets (I have to say Waitrose and M&S in particular are my favourites!)
  • If, like me, you have an expenses budget, don’t feel you have to spend ALL of it – avoid buying more than you really need to eat
  • Check packaging – how processed is the sandwich you’re about to buy? Sometimes it’s healthier (and cheaper) to buy the bread, filling and a side salad separately
  • Whenever you see free plastic cutlery, take two sets – always handy on the road! (Eating with proper plate, knife and fork has become a bit of a luxury for me)
  • As in general life, I try to stick to largely veggie food in the week – and I often find searching for local veggie and vegan restaurants turns up some good options (Brighton was amazing for this – you have to visit Iydea!)

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GENERAL TIPS

  • It’s easy to think, ‘I’m away from home so I definitely deserve to eat a big bar of chocolate in  my hotel room… every night’
  • Try to avoid the tempting hotel freebies – instead of eating the free biscuits, I usually take them home with me – I’ve not had to buy a new packet for ages
  • Not a fan of UHT milk? Ask the hotel bar or reception for a little jug of fresh – much nicer!
  • Following on from this, one key thing I’ve learnt when staying in hotels – is don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want, they’ll probably be able to accommodate!
  • When your actually travelling make sure you take a big bottle of water with you, plus some healthy snacks – bananas and nuts are good, if you have time cut up some carrots
  • Know someone in the place you’re visiting? Drop them a message in advance. I’ve arranged breakfast, lunch and dinner with several friends and former colleagues during my travels – much more fun than a table for one, especially if they can show you the sights!

Do you travel for work? What tips would you add for eating on the road?

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Make: White peach, honey and Lavender Sorbet

white peaches and lavender

Can you believe it’s August already? This summer has raced by in a whirlwind of  activity and i’m a little sad that the end is now in sight. Of course there is plenty to look forward to for the coming months but in order to eek out the last of this summers sunshine i’m turning my attention to sorbet. Nothing screams summer more than a ripe peach, team these with lavender in a refreshing sorbet and this recipe makes for a winning summer combination. I have a preference for white peaches, I just think they are sweeter and fresher but this recipe would work just as well with yellow peaches. A note on lavender, 2-3 sprigs doesn’t sound like a lot but a little goes a long way. Use only a few sprigs for a soft background flavour rather than an overpowering soapy taste, the peaches are the star of the show and their flavour needs to shine through.

You will need: 

  • 4 ripe white peaches
  • 2-3 sprigs of lavender
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 Tbls honey
  • the zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 75ml of water

poaching

Peel and slice the peaches, if they are really ripe the skin is easily teased away from the flesh with a pairing knife. Place all of the remaining ingredients into a saucepan and gently heat to a rolling boil to make a syrup then turn of the heat and throw in the peaches. Rather than boiling the peaches in the syrup and risking them turning to mush the residual heat from the syrup will gently poach them and infuse the delicate flavour from the lavender whilst retaining the peaches freshness of flavour. Allow the fruit and syrup to cool completely then remove the lavender sprigs and blitz the mixture to a fine pulp with a stick blender or a food processor.

If you have an ice cream maker, churn the peach mixture according the  manufacturers instructions until frozen then transfer to a Tupperware container and freeze until ready to use.

If you do not have an ice cream churner transfer the peach mix into a tupperware container and freeze for half an hour or so until semi-frozen, give the mix a good stir to break up any ice crystals that are forming then freeze for a further half an hour before stirring again. Repeat this step until the sorbet is firm.

Remove the sorbet from the freezer 20 minutes before you wish to serve so it can soften a little. Place an ice cream scoop into boiling water and allow to stand for 10 minutes or so before scooping.

bowl

Serve the sorbet in a bowl topped with a few lavender flowers and crushed amaretti biscuits or alternatively apply generous scoops of the mix into ice cream cones, less washing up this way!

cone

How are you making the most of the last of summer?

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