Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Coffee Commotion

Moment to moment, lip to cup, someone somewhere is sipping some sup!
This liquid sensation stirs its drinker from an aroma inventor to a deepest thinker! Hot roasted beans and sweet scented dreams are perfectly coupled with the thickest of creams, throw in some pumpkin and it’s the stuff of Halloween screams.

I love the smell of coffee, though rather than drinking it, my sup is usually green tea or chamomile, I save my coffee moments for an occasional coffee cake. One slice swirls the senses, without too much of a stir and is gentle enough to give a light lift, without a rocket reaction.

Last week, shortly after baking this, a flutter passed through the kitchen, tweets of a 3* Michelin Chef filming outside came to pass. Guess who? Golden tan, charm and a word beginning with the letter F, – no such words are welcome in a Feeling Food kitchen, for me it’s all about cooking with love. Needless to say, I’m sure the F-word clue gives it away, Gordon Ramsay – a seriously talented Chef, whose Royal Hospital Road Restaurant gave me one of my loveliest food experiences – Lobster Ravioli with a butternut squash puree and shavings of truffle, my taste buds enjoyed an awakening of earthy flavours sweetened with an amber like magnificence. It was a pleasant surprise to meet him.

In life, as moments pass, lets all treasure the magic and promise each one holds. We never know whom we’ll meet or what may happen next. The daily practice of cooking is full of such moments, just the other day this happened!

Special tip – When baking assemble all of your ingredients in the relevant measurements, before you begin, eggs and butter unless otherwise stated are best at room temperature. This will welcome flow into your kitchen, and make the whole experience more calming, timings are usually more accurate too.

This coffee cake is gluten free and delightfully moist, you’ll feel light and rejuvenated after, rather than gloopy and tired, the slump and milieu that often follows sweet indulgence is no more. I’ve used an Ella’s kitchen puree in this recipe/ though you can make your own by cutting a pumpkin into slices, deseeding it and bake for an hour, scoop out the pulp, whizz in a blender and freeze the extra. Whatever you prefer – in this recipe I’m concentrating on the cake. Lets purée another time.

Coffee and Pumpkin cake

Coffee cloud topping

Mascarpone 250g
Greek yogurt 250g
Strong coffee 3 tbsp
Sweet freedom 70g
Vanilla essence 1 tsp


Rice flour 200g sifted
Baking powder 1 tsp
Bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp
salt a tiny pinch
Butter 150g at room temperature
Sweet freedom 150g
Eggs 3 medium
Strong coffee 4 tbsp
Greek yogurt 2 tbsp
Pumpkin puree 100g

PRE-HEAT oven to gas 4, 180’, 350F
BUTTER and line with baking parchment a 23cm spring form cake tin.
SIFT together rice flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
BLEND butter in an electric mixer for about a minute, alternatively a good bit of elbow grease and toning for your arm muscles for a few more minutes.
ADD sweet freedom and continue to mix until fluffy.
FOLLOW with the eggs, coffee and Greek yogurt, mixing all the while.
FOLD in egg mix into dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
SPOON half the mixture into cake tin and smooth with the back of spoon.
SPREAD over the puree and pour over remaining batter.
BAKE for 1hr to 1hr10mins, pop in a cocktail stick, if it comes out clean your cake is baked, if not leave to cook for a few more minutes and check again, repeat until ready.
COMBINE all the coffee cloud ingredients in a bowl and chill.
ALLOW cake to cool in tin.
TRANSFER to a pretty plate and spread with your coffee clouds, fluffily or smoothly, whatever texture you prefer.
CHILL to set clouds and slice with love when ready to serve.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sesame Street

Sometimes I get lost; I loose my bearings, even with a map. And then, I decide to put the map away and follow my nose, my gut, my instincts, whatever you want to call them, and hey presto, more often than not, I find a way.

Me sitting outside a cafe, enjoying afternoon tea in autumn!
Names and associations, people and faces, food and taste buds, all share one thing in common - you. How we see the world, our experience of it, and perception of pretty much everything, is determined by our feelings and how we respond to them. Feeling good about food improves our quality of life; we have to eat, so why not enjoy it? Why not embrace meal moments with love?

From day dot we began an amazing journey, gorgeous meals along the way keep us floating and flowing smoothly. I love watching and listening to waves, an almost perfect sound, Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it”, I agree, well not in this world anyway. Perfection carries with it a knot of inadequacy, the very concept creates disharmony. Perfection is not my cup of tea. When I need some calm I look to the sea, so smooth yet tempestuous, so deeply splendid yet dangerous, so invitingly wondrous! Alternatively I look at a beautiful picture, not a perfect one mind you.

Sometimes I meditate, whilst looking at a rose!
Some of my favourite meals start in the sea. I love tuna and this combo is bombastic and delicious! I think you’ll love it to. Simply delicious, it’s very easy to make and makes midweek suppers a total delight. Tuna is a healing fish if ever there was, among its magical qualities to embrace, lowers blood pressure, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and is an excellent source of protein, packed with omega-3, so your glossy mane will be even shinier;-) And your memory will receive a happy boost too!

Though Mummies, pregnant women, and young children, please go easy on tuna. Like all things balance is the key. Especially avoid blue fin tuna, it’s facing extinction – Look for the blue msc tick, this applies to buying fish in general.

The recipe I’m sharing has a coat from antiquity,” Open sesame!” Yep, this nutty tasting delight bursts open when it reaches maturity – the seed contains two unique substances, sesamin and sesamolin, which protects the liver from oxidative damage, so after a few servings each week you’ll be feeling great, they also reduce pain and swelling for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

I love to serve these with a raw courgette salad and brown rice. They’d go well with whole-wheat noodles too.

Tuna Cakes

Serves 4 as a main – 6 as a starter

Tuna steaks, 450g
Egg yolk, 1
Sesame seeds 150g, in a small bowl
Dried chilli, ½ crushed
Olive 0il 1 tbsp
Red onion 1 finely chopped
Garlic clove, 1 finely chopped
Egg, 1 whisked in a small bowl

WHIZZ tuna in a blender.
STIR in egg yolk and season well, leave to one side.
HEAT oil in pan and lightly fry onion and garlic for a few minutes.
MIX onion and garlic with tuna and sprinkle in chilli, stir well.
MOULD pattie like cakes, roughly the size of a golf ball, flatten slightly.
DIP tuna cakes in whisked egg and then into sesame seeds.
PLACE on a sheet of baking parchment and chill until ready to serve.

These are great to make in advance and take minutes to cook.

FRY on a medium heat for a couple of minutes either side.
DELIGHT in these deliciously savoury cakes!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Feeling Good Everyday

Feeling hungry? How hungry? Often what we eat is dictated to us by habit and convenience – what’s available? At best we choose seasonal produce, at the other end of the spectrum we accept fast food or whatever’s in the fridge.

Feeling food is about taking the time to understand and connect with our hunger.  Sometimes a bowl of salad just wont do, a slice of red onion on top or maybe two? A sprinkle of coriander and drizzle of fine extra-virgin olive oil, a scratch of pepper, now there, that's much better!

We are creatures of habit, lets create new ones, where feeling good about our choices is part of our everyday routine, a given rather than a stumbling over chance. “Choice”, the key word, through exploring them we in turn build our understanding of our bodies and its deeper needs. We see the world more clearly and with brighter eyes.

Sometimes ice cream hits the spot, sometimes a clear vegetable broth, sometimes a lightly seared scallop. There is no one way, each day lets take the time to listen to the rumbles! For me when I’m listening and responding truthfully I’m most happy, happy minds and happy tummies go hand in hand.

Yesterday I made some Aubergine Stacks, I love the look of stacking food! In fact here's one I made last week!

Stacks are in many ways a blank canvas for your taste buds, follow the basic recipe and have fun stacking your favourite flavours – vary the cheeses, play with herb combinations, see what else you come up with, most of all enjoy and nourish well. I use Merchant Gourmet Puy lentils for simplicity, they're delicious and come in different flavours and are available from most shops, though if you have time to cook your own, great!

Special tip – Combine brightly coloured foods on your plate, literally the brighter your plate, the richer it will be in antioxidants. With the changing seasons, now’s a good time to celebrate vibrant colours and build our immunity to colds. Squashes are a great source of colour right now.

I like to serve these stacks alongside a fresh green salad, depending on hunger, some baked sweet potatoes too is a lovely addition. Here’s to Feeling good on Friday!


Aubergine Stacks

Serves 4 as a main/ 6 as a starter

Aubergine 2 medium, cut into 1cm thick slices
Rock salt, a sprinkling
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Lentils 150g cooked weight
Feta cheese 150g cut into bite size pieces
Parmesan 30g

PRE-HEAT oven to 180’ gas 4.
SALT aubergine slices, leave for ten minutes and rinse.
HEAT a large frying pan, when hot,
ADD olive oil, you may need to do this in two batches, if so, save half the oil for second batch.
SEAR aubergine slices on both sides for two minutes.
LAY on a flat clean surface.
POP a chunk of feta on half the slices.
SPOON over the lentils and press down.
PLACE another slice on top.
POP another piece of feta on top and sprinkle with Parmesan.
COOK in the oven for 12 minutes.
SERVE alongside your favourite salad for a satisfying and delicious meal.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Three little Ginger Pigs went to the market . . .

I feel strongly about animal welfare and am interested in Free-range farming, so jumped at the chance to take part in a Butchery workshop at The Ginger Pig.

I’ve mentioned Gubbeen before and in the same breath I’ll mention The Ginger Pig, both share a passion and care for their animals, which is admirable. I choose free-range pork every time and urge you to do the same, it truly tastes better and is a win win for everyone, animals and humans alike. Our friendly Butcher explained the difference between stressed meat and good meat, stressed pork is very pale in colour or dark with red specks, which are capillaries dotting through the meat. Try to avoid these cuts. Three key points to share -

  1. Buy Free-range meat, where possible.
  2. For good crackling, lightly score skin all over and then rub in plenty of salt, leave for at least ten minutes, then wipe off excess liquid and place in a very hot oven for 20 minutes before reducing heat.
  3. Pork, like fish, is best fresh, and should be kept wrapped in paper in the fridge, to avoid stinky smells.

Now, I’ve had a special request from a lovely lady for a one-pot wonder. This recipe I’d like to share is one of my absolute favourites and coincidentally involves Pork accompanied by Prawns! Sea and land come together for a gastronomic taste explosion, that will warm you up on the coldest of days.

Surfers Stew
serves 4 generously - freeze left overs, great for an unexpected guest

boneless pork belly 500g, skin removed and cut into mouth-size chunks, ask your butcher to do this!
olive oil, 1tbs
unsmoked lardons, 200g cubed
medium onions, 2 roughly chopped
smoked paprika, 1 flat tbsp
chorizo sausage, 200g roughly chopped
anchovies 5
tinned tomatoes 1 tin
red wine 1/2 bottle - or vegetable stock 500 ml
flat leaf parsley, 1 large bunch roughly chopped
Black beluga lentils 250g
King prawns 8, peeled

HEAT oil in a large non-stick pan with a lid.
ADD pork belly and lardons, sear until browned all over.
THROW in garlic, onion and paprika, stir well and cook for a few minutes.
STIR in tinned tomatoes, chorizo, lentils and anchovies.
GRIND in a generous amount of black pepper, there is no need to add any salt.
SIMMER on a very gentle heat for two hours, half and hour more, even better.
STIR prawns, replace lid and leave to simmer for a further 5minutes.
BEFORE serving, stir in parsley and serve with your favourite crusty bread.
PORK never tasted so good!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Simply Salmon

Simple times, simple pleasures. Gentle petals, truest of treasures. Time is passing and each moment echoes life’s unraveling melody. Dreams and thoughts unfold, while nourishment and love give us strength and hope. Each day presents a new bud of promise.

Today I’m sharing the simplest of starters. It’s the opening tune to a very happy ode. Orange shimmer, wrapping creamy gold! Often when we think of preparing a three-course meal at home, the idea may seem unattractive and foreboding. Not so, I trill, instead I’d like you to think of the joy and care it presents.  The opportunity to celebrate, savour life and treat friends to a Simple Salmon Starter feels swimmingly good.

Tina Turners – You’re simply the best, comes to mind. Simple is the opposite of drama, save that for the X Factor and Gamu Nhengu's wild card entry this saturday! Instead enjoy calm and good conversation over this lovely smoked salmon starter.

Special tip – When preparing a three course meal, choose two courses that are prepared in advance and save one for nearer your guests arrival, for floating and happy smells that will wet appetites, allowing you to relax and enjoy your company. Entertaining will feel like water off a ducks back;-)

This recipe includes alfalfa sprouts, relative of the gorgeous green legume Dynasty. You can sprout your own in only seven days and now because of their rich nutritional abundance producers have cottoned on and conveniently they’re available in most supermarkets. These threads of green goodness help lower blood pressure, inhibit inflammation, reduce short sightedness and help boost our immunity. Feeling good has never been so easy with Alfalfa!

Swimming closely along side in the goodness front is one of my favourites, smoked salmon. The champion of hearts, it may help fight coronary heart disease and it is said to reduce depression in pregnant women! So this starter is perfect for a delicious health boost too. For simplicity I've used a deli filler (alternatively, make your own by mixing cream cheese with  chopped smoked salmon and a squeeze of lemon) whatever works for you!

I love this quote by Neill Armstrong;

I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.

Simple Salmon Starter

serves 6 as a starter

smoked salmon, 6 slices
lemon, 1/2  juiced - other 1/2 cut into thin slices
cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwich filler, 6 heaped teaspoons 
alfalfa sprouts, a handful 
seasonal leaves, 100g
balsamic vinegar to finish

LAY smoked salmon on a large clean plate.
SQUEEZE lemon juice over the slices and season.
SPOON cream cheese mix into the centre of each piece.
FOLD the corners of the salmon to make little parcels, origami memories come to the fore! 
SCATTER leaves on serving plate and place your lovely parcels with a slither of lemon on top too.
GENTLY top each parcel with a generous pinch of alfalfa sprouts and season.
DRIZZLE with balsamic and serve when the moment takes you.