Pistachio and Feta Dip with Tenderstem Broccoli

Pistachio and Feta Dip

One thing Freya absolutely loves to eat is this dip. Since the first time I made it she was blown away and we’ve had it many times since.

It comes from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour – which I bought after having a really disappointing Persian meal in a restaurant in Brentford, London. I decided I could do better – bought the book and have made many things from it since.

This is a very quick dip to make – if you have a Nutribullet, a Vitamix or (if you’re wealthy) a Thermomix.

Simply put shelled pistachios, olive oil, feta cheese, dill, coriander, garlic, a red chilli some greek yoghurt and the rind and juice of a lemon in a blender and blitz until smooth.

As you can see I served mine with some raw tender stem broccoli.

The dip has so things going on. It’s salty, nutty, has a chilli hit and is creamy and smooth. I don’t think I’ve ever made a better dip.

Persiana is a great book – the best one I’ve found in its category.

I made quite a few tagines from the book (which I loved). Unfortunately this left me disappointed when I went to Morocco and their food was bland and uninteresting in comparison.

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.

Ultra Choc Brownies

Ultra Choc Brownies

Freya finally got her wish for a chocolate dessert last night with these Ultra Choc Brownies – from – you guessed it – Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook.

There have been two slabs of dark chocolate floating around the back of the fridge for over a month since my failed attempt to get my daughter Olivia to make cookies with me. I seem to recall I made them while she watched TV (or played with the iPad – I can’t remember) and then Freya and I ate all of them because she forgot to take them home with her.

Anyway – rather than have this chocolate gradually disappear square by square (not unlike the bag of marshmallows that seemed to suggest we either had mice or secret marshmallow stealer) – I figured I’d use it to make these brownies.

The recipe calls for chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids. Mine only had 60% but it didn’t seem to matter. It also called for coconut oil – which you won’t find everywhere. Morrisons didn’t have it – they didn’t even know what I was on about! I ended up getting mine from the small Turkish supermarket on Brentford High St. I bought a few bottles as I figured I might make these again!

To make these you melt the chocolate and coconut oil over a bowl of water (they way you’re supposed to) and let it cool down to barely warm. While that’s cooling whisk a couple of eggs with light brown sugared some vanilla extract. I didn’t have any so I split a vanilla bean I found in that back of the cupboard!

Then sift some ground almonds, rice flour and baking powder. Add the egg mix, and the chocolate mix and fold it all together. Finally add some chopped walnuts. You end up with a thick batter which should pour easily into a baking tin. It’s a good idea to line the tin with parchment or you’ll never get the brownie out!

Since we moved onto the boat, we found a leak on one of the roofs so we used our silicon baking tin as a ‘stopper’ and it’s been out there for over 6 months. Suffice to say we didn’t use it – we bought another one!

Bake the mixture until a skewer comes out clean – then take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tray. Let it go cold in fact or it will probably fall to pieces as it is quite fragile.

While it was cooling we watched Guardians of the Galaxy. Far better than The Maze Runner – and full of that Marvel humour that I love. If you want to see how far CGI has come on over the years – and how it is put to good use –  this is the film for you!

By the end of the film the brownie was cool enough to eat! So I cubed it and we had a few squares. Well – you’re never sure with just one piece are you!

They are fairly gooey on the inner squares – fairly crumby on the outer squares. One things for sure – they are very chocolatey. The nuts add a very nice texture too!

According to the book if you leave them in the fridge they will get fudgey. I shall be finding this out today!

UPDATE: They very much do become more fudgey after a day in the fridge. Must be the coconut oil. So – make them – and be patient – they will be so much better this way!

Popcorn with Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Runny Honey

Popcorn

I’ve never really understood why people buy bags of popped popcorn. Granted its not that expensive but the bag is rarely big enough. Especially if you’re me. And if you make your own you can flavour it as you like!

While watching the Chinese epic Red Cliff (5 hours!) Freya said she wanted dessert. Well we didn’t have anything. Freya will tell you that I don’t make puddings. Much to her disappointment. I did promise to make more sweet things in 2015 but it’s just not something that tickles my fancy. Savoury all the way for me!

Then I remembered we had a massive bag of popcorn kernels. So what better than some salted, runny honey popcorn. It takes minutes and can’t really go wrong.

Grab a big pan (if you’re making lots). I used my All Clad Tagine – which is very big! Then heat some oil and 100g of popcorn kernels on a high heat until they start to pop. Then reduced the heat and let the popping continue until it stopped.

If you’re impatient like me the popping won’t have stopped and you’ll have popcorn flying everywhere! No doubt I’ll find a few popped kernels next time I do the boat cleaning (‘housework’ to most of you).

Fish them out of the pan into a bowl – sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt and then drizzle with honey and stir with a couple of wooden spoons. Don’t overdo it or it’ll be too sticky to eat and will go soft.

Suffice to say I made a second batch. Well – it was a long film !

Parsley, Anchovy and Walnut Pesto

Parsley, Anchovy and Walnut Pesto

Last night was Film Club night – we watched Frida. It’s very good – you should watch it!

Most Film Club nights end up with us nipping over to Moes (poor mans Nandos) for half a chicken and rice because we haven’t got any food left over from lunchtime.

I was better prepared this week and made this pesto which, when mixed with white beans and served on lettuce leaves, makes for a very nice snack. It probably would have gone very well with some chicken from Moes!

Pesto has undergone quite the transformation over the years. My first recollections of it were the Sacla jars which you would stir through some pasta when you were too lazy to cook anything proper. Since then everyone and his dog has been making their own jars of the stuff, including Jamie Oliver and Lloyd Grossman. I’ve always found them very vinegary or jar/tin tasting which I imagine is down to the preservatives they add.

I always understood pesto to be basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan blended with olive oil but it is seems that the current trend is to call any blend of herb, nut, oil and cheese a pesto. Strictly these variations aren’t pestos – but then again there’s lots of fizzy white wines passing themselves off as champagne these days!

I’ve made many different types in the last year, ones with coriander, parsley, different cheeses, different oils and a variety of nuts. This pesto from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s ‘River Cottage Light and Easy’  is another variation on a theme – but its one of the best I’ve made.

Simply blend parsley leaves, garlic, a tin of anchovies (oil as well), walnuts, some rapeseed oil and a little lemon juice to taste and you’re done.

If you have a Nutribullet you can made this in less than a minute and it will be very smooth.

I’ve copied Hugh’s serving suggestion of stirring through some white beans and laying on some lettuce leaves.

I loved this. It has a real punch to it. Many pestos are quite bland but this is far from it. The anchovy really packs in flavour. Just don’t add more salt – anchovies are salty enough as it is.

There was quite a bit left over which I imagine we will use up with some feta and salad in our tortilla wraps for lunch today.

So far I’m really enjoying this book. Simply cooking. Great taste. That’s what we all need when we have little time to spare.

Raw Hemp Granola Bars

Raw Hemp and Granola BarsOne thing Freya and I are very bad at is snacking. If we are going to the boat for a few hours we’ll always pop into a shop and come out with cookies, crisps and other bad things that we really shouldn’t be eating. More often than not we buy cheese and bread – even worse. I blame the supermarkets – they never have anything wholesome and healthy for you to grab. In fairness if we were to plan a bit better we’d always have something to take with us – but we never do.

Anyway – in light of me struggling to keep any food down at the moment – I thought I’d knock up some healthy bite sized snacks.

Honestly Healthy for Life has a number of snacks, the first one I’ve chosen is the Raw Hemp Granola Bars.

These are really easy to make. There’s no cooking (obviously – it says raw) – but you will need a blender to blitz everything together.

These bars contain coconut oil, rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and dates. Mine contained some figs too because I’d run out of dates and made the volume up with something similar. Annoyingly I needed the figs for another dish but that will now have to wait !

These taste amazing – a squidgier version of the Granola that I made earlier in the week. I’ll certainly be knocking up batches of these each week instead of being naughty with the Waitrose Chocolate Chip Cookies. That said – the recipe says it makes 12 – I’ve probably made 30. And they only keep for a week – so just bear in mind you’ll be eating a lot of them – or generously giving them away.

They might even do for our weekly team meetings at work – cake isn’t good for you guys !