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!

Shawarma Chicken with Warm Chickpea Purée and Sumac Onions

We seem to be eating rather a lot of chicken lately!

This dish is from A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry. I finally bought my own copy having borrowed my Mother-in-Laws one last year.

In some respects it isn’t dissimilar to the Jamie Oliver dish I made from 15 minute meals. It just has a little more care and attention. They both end up pan frying chicken at a high heat very quickly.

I mostly ignore the treatment that chicken requires when cooking. If it says boneless chicken thighs I tend to just leave the skin on and leave the bone in – speed over appearance – but for a change I decided to out my Global knives to good use and bone and skin the chicken. It’s pretty easy with the right tools so I will put in the effort from now on.

The prepped chicken is marinated in garlic, lemon juice, cumin, turmeric and mixed spice for several hours.  The purée is made from cooked onion, garlic, cumin and mixed spice- to which you add your chickpeas and blend until smooth with some tahini, lemon juice and olive oil.

For once I found my Nutribullet to be a little irritating when pureeing. It isn’t very good at blitzing a lot of something – especially when it is thick. It is also incredibly difficult to get out of the container when you are done. I think a stick blender would have been better; I may even take a punt on something a bit more upmarket like a Vitamix or a Thermomix.

The sumac onions are simply some crisped up  red onions with sumac sprinkled on top. I crisped mine up on a bed of ice – but it suggests just using cold water.

When you’re ready to easy get your pan really hot and pan fry the chicken – a couple of minutes on each side – and serve with the chickpea puree and the onions.

This dish is very nice. The warm chickpea purée isn’t far off being a hummus and goes really well with the spices that marinade the chicken.

I served mine with pitta bread but I think it was largely unnecessary. We ate quite late and it was a struggle to finish it.  I also added a mint, radish and lettuce salad and a blob of yoghurt just to use up some salad I had in the fridge.

It’s film club tonight – and we are watching Ex-Machina. I made extra so we have an enviable snack for later.

I’ll certainly made this again – especially for the puree. It’s amazing.

New Year – New Books

Two cookery books have landed on my doorstep since new year.

  • Honestly Healthy Cleanse – by Natasha Corrett
  • River Cottage – Nice and Easy – by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

as well as the prospect of receiving Ella Woodwards – Deliciously Ella at the end of the month.

These books have similar goals – they just approach them differently. They all want you to cut down on acid forming foods that make you bloated – and there’s a general feeling that if you cook from the books and exercise a bit then you’ll probably lose some weight along the way.

Natasha Corrett continues on from her other two Honestly Healthy books with what is essentially New Year detoxes. The book is beautiful. There’s lots of ‘science’ at the beginning of the book and the recipes look amazing. Natasha’s book will probably not be for everyone as she uses ingredients you simply can’t pick up in your local supermarket. Ocado have recently started adding many of these specialist ingredients – but you just aren’t going to find Tamari or Spirulina powder in a Morrisons.

With the purchase of her previous two books I remember spending an absolute fortune on things I’d never heard of on sites such as souschef.co.uk and amazon grocery. I shortlisted 20 dishes from this book (which I’ll make once I get paid!) but I’ll have to wait until I can afford to make them. There’s a definite sense that you need to plan a weeks worth of Honestly Healthy dishes just so you don’t end up having loads of expensive ingredients sat in your cupboards. Granted I made a lot of recipes from the previous two books and I’ll probably do the same this time too – but this book might just end up sat on a lot of people’s shelves.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s book on the other hand takes ingredients that you’ll find absolutely anywhere and turns them into something special and healthy. He focuses very much on cutting out wheat and dairy – and there is a definite focus of vegetarian food – continuing on from his previous book ‘Veg’. He doesn’t bang on about cutting out meat and fish – he just uses them a lot less than he used to. Granted he encourages you to use the best tomatoes, carrots etc, but he pitches his wares to the everyday cook and I think most people buying this book will make at least half a dozen of the dishes. I’ve shortlisted over 30 already and I know they will all get made.

I don’t know what’s in store with Ella’s book yet – as it hasn’t been released – but from what is hinted at in the Daily Mail’s weekend supplement this week, the recipes will also be pitched at the everyday cook. I’m looking forward to this book as the previewed recipes are very low in fat – so I’ll be interested to see how this affects the taste. In my experience you do sacrifice taste when you take out the fat. The Quick Chilli I made on Monday was testament to this. It was nice – it just didn’t pack the punch of some other chillis I’ve made.

The next two weeks should see me posting some of Hugh’s dishes. Already shortlisted are:

  • Sweet Potato Rosti
  • Chickpeas Salas with Avocado Mayo
  • Quinoa and Gooseberry Tabbouleh
  • Beetroot Burgers
  • Puy Lentils with Brussels Sprouts
  • Baked Onions with Savoury Porridge
  • Parsley, Anchovy and Walnut Pesto with Cannelini Beans and Kos Lettuce
  • and many others

Watch this space.