Bacon Granola

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I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made this – and many thanks too to Nigel Slater. This recipe comes from his latest book ‘A Year of Good Eating’.

Ordinarily I would probably have missed this recipe – but chance brought me to it. Previously I had not owned any of his cookbooks – I just wasn’t drawn to them – I think I was put off by the long narratives and story telling – but how foolish I had been.

I happened to buy a cookbook from an actual shop (rather than Amazon) as a last minute Christmas present but decided after I got home that the cookbook was totally inappropriate and not suitable for human consumption. The book seemed to be popular simply because the authors thought it best to swear their way through every recipe. Anyway I took it back – got store credit – and chose the Nigel Slater book instead.

What a great decision that was!

As luck would have it I had a spare couple of hours to kill one day while picking up my daughter. I sat in a pub with a pint and worked my way through this book, page by page, checking out every single recipe.

If I’m honest I think I will probably make everything from this book – excluding maybe a small handful of fish dishes that don’t interest me – but this was the very first recipe in the book.

Sounds weird doesn’t it – bacon granola!

In fairness it isn’t granola at all. But who cares. We have it at least once a week. It fulfils Freya’s desire to have a bacon sandwich – but she doesn’t get the bread and she’s still satisfied.

It’s so easy to make – and you can modify the recipe based on what you have to hand – that said I rarely deviate unless I run out of almonds.

Simply buy a packet of smoked streaky bacon, cut it into little pieces and fry it in a pan with a good chunk of butter until it gets crispy (but not too much). Having the pan up high helps this – and means you get it made a lot quicker. There’s nothing worse than making this when it’s only 1 degree on the boat and you’re wearing little more than a dinosaur onesie!

Once the bacon is done you throw in some rolled porridge oats. Stir these in so that soak up the juices from the butter and the bacon and then add whatever makes you happy. Here I’ve added cranberries, skin on almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds.

I’ve added other nuts with equal success; I’ve also added popped quinoa and used up pots of those ‘pour over the top of salad’ nut and seed pot things that people sometimes buy you. I reckon you could tip pretty much anything from a Graze box into this (excluding the chocolatey things!).

Give it a good old stir to warm it through. I’ve usually turned the pan off before I add all the other stuff but I use cast iron cookware and it keeps its heat for ages.

Serve it with a dollop of really good creme fraiche.

I don’t think you’ll ever have a better breakfast – although we’ve also had it for lunch and probably at least once for dinner!

It’s so easy – really quick – all in one pan – and give you a warm tummy and lots of energy to keep you going through the day.

 

Moroccan Chickpea, Carrot and Date Salad with Paprika Dressing

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I have to say I didn’t see any food like this when I was in Morocco – more’s the pity; There are only so many tagines you can tolerate before you get bored!

This is another really tasty dish from Superfoods by Julie Montagu. Not only is it really colourful but it is full of interesting flavours.

It’s very simple and very quick to make but does benefit from marinating for an hour or so to let the citrus and paprika dressing develop. I didn’t use old spinach (honest) – it just goes that way after an hour.

This is yet another dish that uses dates. Dates are amazing although they do tend to have a consequence (if you know what I mean). It also uses chickpeas (which I used earlier in the week) so it might start to feel familiar if you’ve already had the sweet potato and quinoa bowls or the kale salad.

There is next to no preparation for this dish other than chopping a red onion, grating a couple of carrots and pitting a few dates – oh and talking the lid off a tin of chickpeas and draining them.

The sauce is a combination of olive oil, tamari (soy sauce), cumin, paprika and the juice of a lemon all whisked together and poured over the salad ingredients. Add a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves and give it all a good stir.

It’s very tempting to eat this straight away without letting it marinate – especially when you are hungry – but it does make all the difference.

You do feel like you are ticking all the boxes when you eat this – protein, leaves and gorgeous sweet dates all zinged up with lemony dressing. It’s great – and it’s very cheap to make – give it a go.

 

 

 

Radish and Avocado Salad with a Chia Tahini Dressing

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Another great dish – especially if you like radishes – is this one from Julie Montagu’s Superfood cookbook.

Again crazy simple – but for me this one is only good within 30 minutes of making it. Leave it too long and the dressing loses itself in the salad ingredients – to the point that you wouldn’t even know it was there. So make it – and eat it straight away.

All you do is chop and slice stuff; some radishes, a couple of red peppers, a red onion, a spring onion, and an avocado. To this you add a handful of kalamata olives (I removed the stones from mine), and a handful of torn or chopped coriander and the dressing.

The dressing needs to be blended. It’s made up of chia seeds, tahini, cumin seeds, lemon juice, parsley, tamari (dark soy sauce), honey, salt and chilli powder.

I bought myself a new toy over Christmas. The NutriBullet just wasn’t good enough for breaking down things and is so frustrating to empty and clean; so I bought myself a high speed blender that was more up to the task. I now have an Optimum 9200 – which is a strong contender to the Vitamix and almost half the price. It blitzed through those ingredients in seconds and is far easier to clean, empty and use!

Anyway, I digress. The dressing is poured over the salad ingredients and then you simple toss them together and serve.

As I said before the dressing on this is amazing; but if you’re making it in advance (for your lunch perhaps), keep the dressing separate and pour on at the last minute.

This is a great salad; full of crunch and flavour – I loved it and will be making it again.

Ottolenghi vs Anna Jones

NOPI and A modern way to cook books

I’ve been waiting for both these books for some time.

A modern way to cook by Anna Jones is the follow up to her bestselling book from last year ‘a modern way to eat’. I think I made almost everything from this book during my year eating on vegetarian food and I was amazed at the simplicity of the recipes and the accessibility of all the ingredients.

This new book has a similar vibe to Jamie’s 15 minute meals. Boil a kettle, have some pans on, bish-bash-bosh food in 15-30 minutes (mainly). It’s hardly surprising as she has worked with Jamie on other books and series – focussing on style and behind the scenes things – maybe she’s responsible for the awesome chopping boards he throws the food on!?.

I can’t wait to cook from this book. It’s full of quick and easy recipes for when you just can’t face a couple of hours in the kitchen.

NOPI by Ottolenghi is another matter. This is the first book he’s released where I’ve thought ‘I really must read this recipe carefully before I start’. Most of his other books are throw it together, medium duration dishes, that pack tonnes of flavour and leave you feeling warm inside. This book is more refined. You can tell this by the gold edging on the pages!

This book also sees Ottolenghi cooking with meat and fish (his last books were generally vegetarian). I love this. I love cooking vegetarian – but the odd meat dish here and there is very welcome.!

The recipes in NOPI will take you a while, and in some cases you’ll be prepping them the day before. Especially the desserts.

I can’t wait to cook from these books. And I can’t wait to blog about them!

Jambalaya

Don’t worry I won’t go quoting lines from that song by the Carpenters!

A quick glance in the fridge today and I found a gammon steak and some spring onions. These needed using up before the weekends continued DIY spell on the boat so I looked through a number of books and found this recipe from Sally Butchers Salmagundi.

Jambalaya is somewhat similar to a paella. This particular version is served cold and is ideal for picnics, barbecues or outdoor eating. I chose it because the temperature inside the boat has been 25 degrees today and I really didn’t fancy a hot meal.

This is pretty easy to make. Boil some gammon in water with a bay leaf and some thyme until it’s cooked, remove the gammon and cook the rice gently in the cooking liquid with some chopped tomatoes.

While that’s cooking you have 15 minutes or so to dice some red and green pepper; slice some onion, celery and spring onions and chop some chorizo or other smoky cooked sausage. Also chop your cooked gammon.

You also make a dressing of garlic, lime juice, green chillies and rapeseed oil – which I blitzed in my Nutribullet.

When the rice is done, let it cool and then mix everything together. That’s it.

This far exceeded my expectations. What was just going to be a leftover rice dish turned out to be flavoursome, crunchy, comforting and the sauce was really zingy and lifted it to another level.

Fortunately I made twice as much as I needed so that’s tomorrow’s dinner taken care of too!

Just as well. We have another floor to sand, dye and stain and lots of other boat DIY tasks to get done done during our unusually commitment free weekend. And it’s going to be a warm dry weekend – happy days!

Carrot and Mung Bean Salad

Carrot, Feta and Mung Bean Salad

 

Another dish from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, I made this last night after we’d already had our evening snack of halloumi wraps.

We eat out at lunchtime way too often for my liking and every time it costs us over £10. It soon adds up – and it eats into the day. It’s rare that we can go out for lunch in less than an hour. Worse than that we never eat healthily at lunchtime. Fast-ish food is never that going to be healthy in Hatfield.

I knocked this up pretty quickly (maybe 35 minutes) whilst watching the new David Attenborough series ‘Life Story’. You have to see it – it’s shot in 4K – gorgeous photography!

Anyway, this recipe is quite easy – finding dried mung beans is the hardest bit. I found mine in a turkish supermarket. I’ve since been assured that many indian shops stock them.

Cook some mung beans in water until they are done but still have some bite. While they are simmering away, cook some carrot batons in very little water with a little sugar and salt.

When both the mung beans and the carrots are nearly done, fry some fennel seeds, caraway seeds and cumin seeds in a little olive oil until they pop.

Drain the mung beans, add the popped seeds and toss together with some garlic, white wine vinegar and chilli flakes. Let is cool down.

Finally, add the carrots, chopped coriander, lemon zest and diced feta and gently toss together with a little more olive oil.

This really is a tasty dish and one I will be making often. It’s very filling, has many textures and is very colourful. Leaving it overnight to allow the garlic and vinegar to soak into the beans makes all the difference.

Ottolenghi strike again. I’m really looking forward to making ‘Red Onions with Walnut Salsa’ on Thursday when I cook again.

Tuesday’s is now ‘Free Sausage and Mash’ with a pint night in the ‘Horse and Groom’ in Old Hatfield. You really can’t turn that down ! We had it last week and the sausages were excellent – coming a close second to the amazing gravy that covered them !

Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf

Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf

Artichokes twice in a week. And why not!

This is another great recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More.

Now I’ve made everything I set out to make from the first 100 pages of the book. Today I looked at the next 75 pages and have already earmarked another 15 dishes. This is one seriously good book.

Since buying this book I’ve bought many more but it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting to them anytime soon as this book is so so good. Even pouring loads of vinagrette over the book by accident hasn’t reduced by excitement. If only I had PDF’d it sooner – then it would have just been an iPad that needed to be wiped clean!

Ottolenghi says in his book that this isn’t as exciting in appearance as most of his dishes. I disagree. It looks great. More importantly it tastes fantastic and is pretty easy to make providing you have all the ingredients.

Fregola isn’t something you just find on the shelves of every supermarket. I ended up ordering mine from Amazon as Ocado were out of stock.

Fregola is essentially Giant Couscous. It comes in many guises:

– Iranian Couscous
– Moghrabieh
– Giant Couscous

They are all essentially the same although moghrabieh is quite a bit larger than fregola and does take more time to cook.

Anyway, back to the recipe.

This dish is made all the better with the garnish of a green chilli pesto which you drizzle over the top when you’re ready to eat.

The pesto is simply some green chilli, olive oil, preserved lemon, parsley and garlic all blitzed together until almost smooth. My trusty Nutribullet came into action again and did a great job.

The Pilaf is very easy to make too – and doesn’t take that long.

Caramelise some onions and then add some butter, the fregola, artichokes and stock and cook until the fregola has absorbed all the liquid.

Stir in some torn Kalamata olives, toasted flaked almonds, red wine vinegar and chopped parsley and you’re done.

I can’t praise this dish enough. I could eat this everyday. It is very tasty and really hits the spot – and is very filling.

It keeps well too – in fact it tasted better the next day when we reheated it for lunch at work. I guess all those flavours just infused even more into the fregola!