Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto

Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto

Where are all the Deliciously Ella recipes I hear you ask. Well – I have been making them – I just haven’t blogged them yet.

This book is a tricky one for me. As are all the dishes I have made so far. The book is effectively a collection of blogged recipes from a lady that needed to change her eating habits to overcome illness. As a consequence Ella has had to cut out lots of good stuff.

I admire her for producing a whole book with the limited ingredients she has at hand but for me I am struggling with the lack of punch or pizzazz that I like to get from the things that I make.

Obviously this is going to put me in the doghouse with many people (especially those that love this book) but it isn’t working for me.

This risotto really isn’t a risotto at all – even though it looks like one. If you follow the recipe to the letter it isn’t particularly tasty either. I found it quite bland. I pepped mine up with a squeeze of lime. I think some coriander and some creme fraiche might be a good addition too!

To make it you roast some beetroots skin on, peel them once they are soft and blitz them in a food processor with coconut milk, lemon juice and seasoning.

While the beetroot is roasting, cook the buckwheat until it is al-dente. Then combine the two ingredients and serve.

It’s very easy to make and I absolutely guarantee it is good for you – just looking at the ingredients will tell you this – but for me there just isn’t enough flavour.

I’ve made four or five things from this book now and the same issue exists with all of them. My tastebuds just want more – so I usually add something else to liven it up.

That said Freya says she feels much better, less bloated and generally healthier this week – so this does seem to be having an effect.

My experience in the past is that low fat or diet books (not that this is really either of those) tend to cut out so much that the food is dull. You just know it’s low fat and it leaves you wanting. Not that this should be a problem for most – it just doesn’t float my boat.

One thing Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Hemsley and Hemsley and the Honestly Healthy girls achieved is both the light and health without sacrificing the great flavours and textures. For me this book falls down in this area.

Don’t let that put you off. One man’s meat is another mans poison!

Lunches

The Guardian posted a good article today about the cost of work lunches:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/17/the-ultimate-packed-lunch-save-1000-a-year

It is certainly true that I never buy anything from the sandwich trolley that comes round three times a day (even does bacon rolls!). The cost far outweighs the quality or the satisfaction that comes from eating a sandwich from a carton.

Freya and I tend to adopt the method of making too much for dinner and bringing the leftovers in for lunch the next day. Sometimes I’ll actually make two dishes the previous night – one for dinner – one for lunch.

My favourite recently – generating the most curiosity – was the Parsley, Walnut and Anchovy Pesto.

So – I plan on creating a new category and putting a bit more focus on lunches that you can bring in or easily prepare with just a kettle, microwave and toaster.

Watch this space.

Pancake Day

Bacon, Spinach and Cheddar Pancake

In the UK it was Shrove Tuesday yesterday; or pancake day if you prefer.

Most people forget pancake day these days. It was always a big deal when I was growing up – but the only pancake you’d ever get was dressed in a squeeze of lemon and some sugar. Maybe I was just deprived but it’s all I knew in the 70’s and early 80s.

We already had pancakes this week; Freya and I met up with her brother and his girlfriend in Chelsea for Dutch Pancakes in My Old Dutch. It wasn’t bad although £10 for a pancake with a few pizza toppings is a bit much. That said the beer was reasonably prices and I have a very nice Kriek Boon – which usually costs a lot more.

I promised Freya pancakes this week – and hoped to have a few for dinner before going to our regular Rock’n’Roll dancing class  – but North Circular traffic put a stop to that. It did allow us a good two hours to think about the pizza toppings. It also allowed an amusing text exchange between a couple of my friends – who eventually admitted defeat to my relentless pancake puns.

Bacon, Spinach and cheese was the eventual winner – going totally against the ‘no cooking meat on the boat rule’. Rules are made to be broken though.

Pancakes are pretty easy to make – it’s only eggs flour and milk. Some people add melted butter to the batter, some add and extra egg yolk, some add oil. I opted for the extra yolk option but only because I had one lying around from a previous recipe.

You need your pan to be super hot. I always make my pancakes in a mix of butter and oil – and wait for the butter to brown. I also tend to make savoury pancakes a bit thicker than the sweet variety as the toppings tend to tear the base and it all goes horribly wrong if you need to grill the cheese afterwards. You just can’t shift them out of the pan! Thicker is better in this case.

I fried the bacon in a pan first – I used really cheap bacon bits from Morrisons – I think they were only 89p – in keeping with the frugality of pancake day. In hindsight a better quality of bacon might have been better – less salty for a start – although it didn’t bother me.

Once you’ve make your pancake, top it with trimmed spinach leaves, your cooked bacon and a generous handful of grated cheese. Pop it under the grill and let the cheese bubble.

When it’s ready slide it onto a plate and serve.

I made enough batter for two each but one was enough really. It was very filling and very very tasty.

I think I might start making pancake pizzas from now on. It uses up eggs and milk and there’s always something you can put on a pizza/pancake.

My Kitchen

927951_707115999347753_1291181383_n (1)My kitchen is … very small – it’s on a boat after all. I have lots of gadgets but they are all in storage. The only electrical gadget I use now is a Nutribullet. My limited cupboard space is full of: oils, spices, brown rice, quinoa, nuts. Everything else I buy fresh – every day – as required.

My favourite piece of kit is … my knives. If you don’t have sharp knives then cooking isn’t fun. If chopping an onion has the potential to injure you – then go buy better knives! My Globals are amazing.

My diet comprises largely … wholefoods and plants – I hardly every eat meat; I don’t cook meat on the boat. If we go out – we might have a cheeky bit of chicken here and there!

My storecupboard staple is … nuts. Adding nuts to any salad creates an extra texture, making the salad more exciting.

When I’m starving I … toast some pumpkin seeds, add tamari and serve on top of a grated courgette. It’s quicker than making toast!

Everything is better when you … swap rice for quinoa, pearl barley, buckwheat or freekeh. The substitutes are nutritionally superior.

My best-kept kitchen secret is …  boiling cauliflower ruins it. Roast it after rubbing it in a little oil and cumin. Let it char. You’ll never boil cauliflower again.

I’m currently obsessed with … Moroccan and Middle Eastern food. We are going to Marrakech in April and food from that area inspired the choice.

Chickpea salad with avocado mayo

Chickpea Salad with Avocado Mayo

Friday lunches are a bit hit and miss. Usually because Thursday night is Film Club at work and we don’t tend to get home until quite late. This week we watched ‘Cube’ which is a very low budget Canadian film about some people that have been put in a cube full of rooms and traps. It wasn’t bad but the acting was pretty poor. That said I will be giving Cube Two and Cube Zero a go just to see if they get any better!

We got home pretty late and I prepped the mayo for this before we went to bed. It’s a very good vegan mayo and is almost a runny guacamole. The ingredients are quite similar except for the lack of any chilli.

The may is simply a large avocado, rapeseed oil, a little english mustard and some cider vinegar in my Nutribullet and blitz until smooth. Couldn’t be easier.

Serving was simply some crisp lettuce, chickpeas, the mayo and some sunflower seeds.

The dish is another Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall offering from River Cottage Light and Easy. The mayo had me curious the first time I flicked through the book and I knew it could be used elsewhere so why not give it a go.

Personally I think the mayo didn’t go so well with the chickpeas. The dish was very balanced and was quite tasty but there are better things I would have put it with – even just dipping Nachos in it would have made me happy!

Not bad though! Sorry about the picture – It kind of all got thrown on the plate in a rush!

New Potatoes, Asparagus and Eggs

New Potatoes, Asparagus and Eggs

Every other weekend we don’t really get to eat very well. My daughter comes to stay on Friday thru’ Saturday and then on the Sunday we go to Freya’s parents. Killing two birds with one stone as it were!

My daughter lives a fair old way away and by the time I’ve picked her up and brought her back to the boat it is usually way too late to eat. So we tend to have a big lunch on the Friday and power through to Saturday morning – or we grab something on the way to picking her up.

After spending the day in the British Museum on Saturday and safely dispatching my daughter back to her mother, I got home and threw this together. Very little effort – just time  roasting the vegetables. But it is very tasty.

The plan was for Freya to cook while I took Olivia home but there was a mix up with the boat keys so Freya ended up sat in a pub knitting for two hours while I was gone. On the plus side I now know that the Magpie and Crown has two new Craft Ales on tap – and both were excellent!

This recipe is also from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook. I’d highlighted it as one of the dishes I was going to make when I skimmed the book and it was well worth it. I love asparagus and it goes very well with eggs too.

It’s not much of a recipe more than bake stuff in the oven. You bake the potatoes, then add the asparagus, then right at the end make four wells and crack an egg into each well. Bake until the eggs are done and serve. Very simple indeed.

On Sunday I remade the Shallot and Mushroom risotto and the Brussels Sprouts, Puy Lentils and Walnuts for the six of us. It seemed to go down well although it wasn’t as good as the first time I made it. The only thing I changed was the stock and the quantities – their oven was just more feisty than mine and the onions were overdone in my opinion!