Carrot, Parsnip and Apple Latkes with a Cucumber Ribbon Salad


I haven’t cooked anything new for a while. We’ve been running down our fridge as we spent several days at Freya’s and my Mums and didn’t want anything to go bad. Freya has been reupholstering our sofa and it needs lots of space – one thing we don’t have on the boat.

These Latkes are from a new book I have called Mildred’s. Mildred’s is a vegetarian restaurant in Soho and this book has some pretty amazing recipes.

This is the first thing I’ve made from the book so it’s too early for me to give it the big thumbs up – but I have a shortlist of many dishes so watch this space.

I picked this out as it seemed light and was just the ticket for a hot summery day.

It’s pretty simple. Grate carrots, parsnips and apple into a bowl. Add coriander, cumin, chilli powder, fresh ginger, polenta, flour and egg and combine.

Then just fry the latkes in batches.

I did struggle a bit with these. They weren’t keen on staying together at the beginning and I had mixed results throughout the cook.

The salad was simply a cucumber cut into ribbons with one of those wide vegetable peelers and then mixed with chopped green chilli, lime zest, lime juice and spring onions.

The combination of the two was quite excellent. The cucumber neutralises the kick of the ginger and the chilli powder.

Certainly one to make again. I was planning on making some courgette and haloumi fritters after I’d made these but they were more than filling enough.

I’ll do those tonight!

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cheesecake

The planned BBQ at Freya’s parents on Sunday almost became a wet one. It was windy and rainy all day, in complete contrast to the previous day – which was sunny and hot and made our Monopoly Board Pub Crawl a very pleasant day indeed.

Aside from all the BBQ’d food – which was delicious – I knocked up this cheesecake in response to Freya’s mums request. It wasn’t quite the desconstructed cheesecake she wanted but it was quick and easy – and time wasn’t on my side on Sunday.

The recipe comes from Nigelissima by Nigella Lawson, so as you can imagine it isn’t particularly low in fat, or low in anything for that matter.  It was made in less that 10 minutes. You just needed to firm it up in the fridge for a while.

Simply blitz some digestive biscuits with some hazelnuts, butter and a scoop of Nutella until you get a soggy biscuity mess. Press this into a spring loaded cake tin.  Then whip the rest of the jar of Nutella with some icing sugar and some cream cheese until smooth. Spread this over the biscuits. Finally top with some crushed hazelnuts.

I did it all in Freya’s mums Thermomix in seconds. Must get one of those!

Clearly I didn’t do this last step. I forgot to keep some nuts to one side so I ended up adding strawberries as a topping instead. Looks just as good I think.

This is delicious. Everyone’s eyes lit up at the prospect of a Nutella anything and it tasted as good as it looked.

Not good for the diet. But amazing all the same

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Chickpeas in a Spicy Tomato Sauce


What a lovely few days of weather we are having lately. Summer is finally coming it would seem.

I threw this together in less than 15 minutes in an attempt to replicate to some degree Jamie Oliver 15 minute meal that we saw on TV over the weekend. I think I was close enough.

All I did here was empty a tin of drained chickpeas and a carton of passata into a pan and bring to a simmer with half a red chilli and couple of spring onions.

While they are simmering form meatballs from lamb mince mixed with Garam Masalla and fry them off. When they are done add them to the sauce.

I sprinkled chopped coriander on the sauce before serving but that was all I did.

I’m sure there was a salad in there somewhere when we watched the show but this was more than enough.

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.

Very Low Calorie Chicken Caesar 

Last night was dancing night. Rock n Roll at Hedsor Social Club with a live band – Greggie G and his Crazy Gang. It was great to catch up with all our friends that we usually see on a Tuesday when we have a dance lesson with Jumping Jim and V.

If you fancy giving it a go, come along. It’s great.

Before we went out I just had time to knock up two very easy and very tasty salads – this was one.

Most Caesar’s are pretty high in calories and fat but this one from The Superfood Diet was very healthy indeed.

It only has one cooked element; the chicken breast. I just roasted it in the oven for 29 minutes and let it cool down before slicing it

While you’re waiting for the chicken you make a dressing of Greek yoghurt, a small amount of full fat mayonnaise, honey, curry powder, coriander, mint and dill.

All those fresh herbs and a but of curry powder really wake up low fat dishes – which can otherwise really taste dull.

When the chicken is done simply combine some mixed leaves, the chicken, some pitted green olives and half a bell pepper with the dressing and mix well. Finally serve with pistachios.

This comes out at about 150 calories a serving compared to a regular Caesar which tends to push 900 calories. Granted there was no bacon but I didn’t think the dish needed it. And pistachios are far cooler than croutons any day!

This salad was amazing. It was too big in fact. Really tasty and bags of flavour. I loved it.

It’s always nice to be complimented on your weight loss too. Our friends at Hedsor all said we’d lost tonnes of weight. So good like this really works!

Carrot, Walnut and Quinoa Salad

 I had planned on making three dishes tonight but after the amazing Tabbouleh I decided to forget about one of them and just put this really simple carrot salad together.

This is probably the best carrot salad that I’ve ever eaten. What makes it super amazing is the walnuts and the red chilli. Phenomenal.

This salad is also from The Superfood Diet by Gurpareet Bains. New book – two out of two great recipes.

I’d already held back a small amount of cooked Quinoa from the Tabbouleh; and again that is the only cooked element. Putting it together you add walnuts, a red chilli, a shallot, fresh coriander and garlic to mirin, white wine vinegar, and walnut oil. To this mix add your grated carrot and your cooked Quinoa.

I grated half the carrot recommended in the recipe – not out of laziness – I just thought the picture in the book looked too carroty. I wanted to see the Quinoa and the chillies and for it to look more interesting. I think this was a great move.

You serve the dish with some poppy seeds sprinkled over the top. I didn’t have any so I used nigella seeds instead.

Like the Tabbouleh this dish definitely benefits from an hour in the fridge for the flavours to develop. This salad will be seen again at this weekend’s BBQ – weather permitting!

Gluten free Quinoa Tabbouleh

Wednesday night saw us being really naughty and eating a burger in The Railway – a JD Wetherspoons in Putney.  Freya was meeting someone so I waited in the pub patiently with a pretty good pint of Devils Backbone American IPA. Tough as it was I managed.
Today was time to rebalance the scales and have a much lower calorie dinner – just to put us back on track with the diet.

This dish comes from a new cookbook that I only received today – The Superfood Diet by Gurpareet Bains. He has previously published Indian Superfood and it is a great book too so I knew I’d made a good choice.

It’s the first of two dishes we ate today. Both are very low in calories and both very very easy and tasty and good for you.

The only thing you cook in this dish is the Quinoa – unless you fancy cooking your own Puy Lentils. I never do; the precooked stuff from Merchant Gourmet is spot on for this kind of thing – especially given you serve the dish cold. If you cook the lentils you’ll have to cool them!

To the cooked and cooled Quinoa you add Puy Lentils, fresh petite pois, fresh broad beans, a red onion, a spring onion, parsley and mint and mix it all together.

The recipe says you can use frozen peas and broad beans and this will soon be a necessity as the fresh variety will be hard to come by soon.

To the mix you add a really simple dressing of lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and black pepper. I added lots of lemon juice and all the bits still left over – segment skins and all. It made the dressing super lemony.

Finally, stir the dressing into the Tabbouleh and chill for an hour to let the lemons infuse into the salad.

This salad is amazing. So tasty, crunchy, lemony and herby. Really great salad.

We are having a BBQ at the weekend and if we do I’ll certainly make this again as a side.

For my Tabbouleh I used mixed Quinoa which had red, black and white Quinoa combined. Regular quinoa can get a little too fluffy and looks a bit plain on the plate. The mixed quinoa cooks at different rates and you get some interesting textures; it looks prettier too.

Loved this. Will definitely make it again.

Chicken Fatteh

First rule of cooking. Check how long something will take to cook before you start making it. That was my mistake last night – but hey it was good – it was just a late dinner. 

This feast of a recipe is from A Bird In The Hand by Diana Henry. The second dish I’ve made from the book.  I did say all her recipes were simple. This one is simple too – it’s just time consuming as there are many elements to the dish. I think it took me two hours to bring this to the table – but when I did it looked very inviting and comforting.

There are many components to this dish:

  • a tomato sauce
  • the chicken
  • a chicken stock reduction
  • the rice
  • crispy pitta breads
  • spiced aubergines
  • a garlic yoghurt
  • a dressing of nuts and pomegranate seeds

Each component takes a bit of time – and I’m sure with a bigger kitchen and more oven and hob space I could have done many of the elements concurrently. Sadly our tiny galley kitchen on the boat and a small oven/microwave combo can’t really cope and things have to be done one at a time.

This didn’t really matter – we weren’t that hungry and we were ploughing our way through this seasons Australian Masterchef. This season is currently showing in Australia – and I have the means to acquire the episodes. I guess you’ll have to wait if you’re in the UK. It’s very inspiring. Makes me want to move to Australia and get on the show – and use such amazing produce. They have things you just don’t get in the UK like Pigface, Marron and Abalone! They also have the weather – how could you turn that down!

Anyway, as I said before, each of these components are pretty easy to make, just time consuming.

The tomato sauce just needs to cook down to make it really rich and sweet – cut that corner and you’ll spoil the dish. Most people don’t cook tomato sauces for long enough and the full flavour of the tomatoes doesn’t come out. I think mine was cooking down uncovered for 40 minutes.

The chicken is rolled in olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and cloves and oven roasted for 80-90 minutes – but once it’s in it’s in and you can forget about it. When it’s ready you take it out of the oven and leave it to rest under some foil for 30 minutes. By serving time it is so tender it just falls off the bone. I used thighs and drumsticks. I think the darker meat is the better solution here. I imagine 90 minutes of roasting on a breast would really make it dry.

When the chicken is done you scrape the pan down with some water and reduce it to half its volume to get a really nice chicken gravy

The basmati rice is added to some onions that you have previously fried to golden with some butter, more cumin and more cinnamon. You then cook it in chicken stock until it is light and fluffy. The rice was perfectly cooked when it was ready and beautifully fragrant and subtly spicy.

The crispy pitta breads were simply brushed in melted butter and baked in the oven until they were crispy.

The aubergines were fried golden in olive oil with cumin and chilli flakes pressed into the surface. When they are ready you squeeze lemon juice over them. These were great – they’d be great on their own for sure.

The yoghurt was simply greek yoghurt with garlic stirred through and the topping was pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

You assemble the whole dish in layers of rice, tomato sauce, chicken, coriander and parsley, the gravy, the yogurt and the bread and just keep building it up until it’s all in the serving dish. Finally top with the nuts and seeds.

It was huge. I think I should have realised that it served 8-10 people before I made it! Fortunately I was reserved and only served up two portions.

The rest – well that’s dinner for a few days for sure. But that’s one meal of leftovers I really look forward to eating again.

Would I change anything – probably not. But you could easily leave out the chicken and make this as a salad for a BBQ. You could also probably substitute the chicken for feta or halloumi and make it vegetarian and just run either of those through the salad when you are building up your layers.

This dish is definitely a keeper – I’ll be sure to make this again.

Mexican Griddled Chicken, Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad with Chipotle Mayo

This amazingly tasty dish comes from Diana Henry’s – A Bird In the Hand.  Her style of cooking and the simplicity of her recipes should be a winner for most people that don’t want to slave over meals.

I really like this book.  There was isn’t a thing in it I wouldn’t eat and it is far superior to every other chicken book I’ve ever seen. She also published A Change of Appetite – which I’ve cooked from many times.

This dish combines sweet potatoes, quinoa, avocado and a chipotle Mayo that is to die for – and of course the chicken. The sweet potatoes are phenomenal – they are roasted and then griddle fried with chilli flakes and cumin seeds pressed into them. Amazingly smoky!

It took a while to make and in hindsight I should have marinated the chicken for a lot longer than I did. I only left it an hour but I think the four hours recommended in the book is more reasonable. Even overnight might be better given how basic the marinade is; it only has lime juice, garlic, a small amount of ground cumin and oil.

This could so easily become a vegetarian salad by swapping out the chicken for Halloumi or maybe even just leaving it out. It would be a great companion to a BBQ.

There are many components to this dish but they are all very achievable; perhaps the Mayo will be a challenge for anyone that doesn’t have a stick blender as to need to add the oil gradually so that the Mayo emulsified. Mine split a little – but i didn’t affect the taste.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was leaving the chicken thighs whole with the bone in. This was more through oversight than choice. When I make it again – I which I will – I’ll remove the bone and slice the chicken into the salad. It’ll be a more enjoyable eat this way I think.

I might even consider preparing the chicken with a ras el hanout marinade as I think a punchier chicken might bring more to the dish.

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!