Author Archives: nikkiclarke

Beetroot Muffins

muffin 002With all the baking thats going on in the UK at the moment it seems like a good time to get on board with healthier options. Carrot cake gets all the press when it comes to cake baking, here we use beetroot maximising the earthy flavour and awesome colour that it gives out. The individual muffins help me in the restraint department. When we make a big cake I just keep carving ‘carpachio’ slivers off until the cake has disappeared. Individual cakes helps me display a modicum of inner strength, convinicing myself that one is enough. If you don’t have muffin cases then use baking paper New York deli style. Suitable for gluten free.

Ingredients (makes 8 muffins)

200g ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free baking powder if you want to keep the recipe gluten free)
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
60ml oil
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g beetroot (once peeled and grated)
Zest of one orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Lightly oil the muffin tin and put a paper case in. If you have a silicone muffin tin, there is no need to use cases.

Take a mixing bowl and mix all of the dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl whisk together the eggs, oil and vanilla. Fold the two together. Stir in the grated beetroot and the zested orange.

Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and pile nice and high, so that the muffins will rise above the line. Put into the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a nice golden colour on top and an inserted wooden skewer into the centre of the muffin comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Festive Cookies

CookiesThis recipe will give you a seriously good cookie. The combination of chestnut flour, allspice, orange and fig resonates with the festive season. I just cross referenced a normal cookie recipe from the internet and all of them were in the region of 100g of butter and 225g of sugar. This recipe uses no butter, 60g of sugar and has the added bonus that it is gluten free and tastes as moorish as a normal cookie. Most health food shops will stock chestnut flour. You can use a different flour if you are not bothered with gluten free eg; spelt.

Ingredients (makes 10 to 12)

100ml oil
100g chestnut flour
60g demerara sugar (or Xylitol)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsps ground allspice (or nutmeg)
1 egg
50g hazelnuts
100g dried figs
Zest and juice of half a large orange
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the hazelnuts into a pyrex dish and roast them for around 10 minutes or until they have a slight golden colour. Remove and leave to cool down. Turn the oven down to 160.

With an electric whisk (or by hand if you don’t have one), whisk together the egg, sugar and vanilla. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and allspice and lightly mix together with a spoon or spatula. Roughly chop the hazelnuts or crush them with the back of a frying pan. Cut the figs into small squares, add the orange zest and juice and give a good mix together.

Cookie2Your mix will yield 12 cookies so use that as a guide to size. Spoon onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray – you will probably need two, approximately two inches apart as they will spread a little when baking. Lightly press them down with the spoon. Place into the oven. After 8 minutes or so, remove from the oven and press them down with your hand. The total cooking time will be 15 to 20 minutes – you could turn them over for the last couple of minutes, to ensure they are totally cooked underneath.

Leave to cool completely, as they firm up even more in the cooling process. If they last longer than one hour store in a tupperware or biscuit tin.

Griddled Aubergines with Sheeps Yoghurt and Pomegranates

This is as good as any introduction to ‘griddling’.  Aubergines really drink oil but cooking them this way will mean you have better control over how much oil you use.  The pomegranates are a great finishing touch but don’t worry if you can’t find one in the supermarket, the dish holds up anyway without them.  This is a sharing dish that goes on the table.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 aubergines
1 small pot (100g) of sheep or goats yoghurt. ‘Total’ brand is perfect
1 lemon
1 pomegranate
2 spring onions
2 green chillies
Maldon sea salt
Pepper
Sunflower oil (or any oil, sunflower is my preference for this recipe)

Method 

Cut the aubergine long ways into three or four thick slices depending on its size. You have to level off the rounded outer bits so it sits on the griddle pan.  Put the griddle pan on the flame and brush with the oil.  Lay the slices onto the pan and turn the heat to medium.  Cook each side until the skin is well marked and the aubergine is golden. Take off the heat and lay onto kitchen roll, repeat the process until all cooked.

Dab off any oil from the aubergine with the kitchen paper then lay onto a large plate.  Put the yoghurt into a bowl and mix a teaspoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Cut the spring onions and the green chillies into rings, not too thick.  Empty the seeds out of the pomegranate.  Dress the plate when it is ready to go to the table by evenly drizzling the yoghurt over the aubergines, sprinkle over the spring onions and green chilli then finish with the pomegranate.  There are no problems prepare this dish in advance.

Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Croutons

 

Here’s the thing;  if you put 250ml of double cream into cauliflower soup, like every other recipe I have read,  then for sure you will have a rich and scrumptious soup. That soup will also be intensely  calorific.  This is a lighter soup relying on the cauliflower being cooked properly and not stewed. This alongside the addition of the mustard which adds some depth and a small amount of zero yoghurt finished off with a scratch of parmesan on the croutons (which can be left out if you wish) gives it depth and richness with out the fat content.

Ingredients

1 large white onion
1 small to medium cauliflower (450g)
2 cloves of garlic
1 litre of stock (either homemade or from an organic stock cube)
1 tspoon Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
30g parmesan
Spelt bread (or any old bread you have in the house)
Natural yoghurt

Method

Roughly chop your onion and cauliflower keeping them seperate.  Take a good pan and cover the bottom with the oil,  place onto a mid heat and sweat off the onions. Try not to brown them as this will colour the soup the wrong way, you want it as light as possible. Add the garlic and cauliflower, keep stirring for 5 mins then cover with stock. Let this cook out for about half an hour.

Meanwhile prepare the croutons. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut the bread into small squares, toss with some oil. Put on to a baking tray lined with paper. You only need enough for about 8 squares in each bowl. Toast off in the oven when they are ready take out and scratch some parmesan over them. Put back in for another minute. Put to one side until the soup is ready.

Take a stick blender, a magi-mix or a smoothie maker, and blend the soup until really smooth. Add the mustard and blend some more. If it is a little bit too thick, alter the consistency with some more of the stock. Knock down the yoghurt with just a little water so it is more of a pouring consistency.

To serve; Pour into a bowl, place a big pinch of croutons in the middle, then draw a circle of yoghurt around the croutons for a nice cheffy finish. Young thyme leaves or chives work well with with this soup sprinkled onto the croutons.

Pan-fried Trout and Provencal Vegetables

It is rare that I don’t put a sauce with fish, but the Provencal vegetables give the same context to this meal as a sauce, that being moisture and texture. This is one of those recipes where it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have one or two of the ingredients and for example, you can swap basil and parsley for thyme or rosemary.  We are just trying to encapsulate that southern France feeling and that is done by using ingredients that are typically grown and produced in Provence.  You can use any filleted piece of fish with or without skin for this, again I place a certain importance on pin boning, see chef´s tips for details or you can ask your fishmonger to do it, not saying he will as it is quite fiddly. Once you get into the habit it takes the eating of fish to the next level.

Ingredients (four people)

4 175g fillets of trout. (This is based on using the large salmon-trout fillets)
1  large aubergine
1 large red pepper
1 large courgette
3 lemons
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic
10 black olives pitted and halved
1 tablespoon of capers
10g parsley and basil mixed
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method

Cut the aubergine and courgettes into 3cm squares, again take your time to make  straight even cuts.  Toss them separately  in oil and lay the aubergines onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and lay them out next to the aubergines.Put the red pepper and the garlic bulb on whole and roast in a 200 degree oven for 20 mins.

After 10 minutes take out the tray and gently turn over the aubergines and make some space and put in the courgettes and olives for the final 10 mins, use your instinct if it needs more time then give it, I just worry about the courgettes being overcooked and too soft.

When cooked, put the roast pepper onto a plate and the vegetables into a bowl. This is a warm salad so don’t worry about serving it piping hot. Peel the pepper and cut it into a similar size to the rest. Thinly slice the spring onion into rings. Add the olives, capers, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Cut the roast garlic bulb in half through the middle and squeeze the paste into the bowl. Gently turn over the mix until it is thoroughly mixed being careful not to mash it up.

Put a non-stick pan on a high heat, brush with olive oil and lay the fillet into it skin side down.  Cook until crispy and turn over the fish and turn off the gas.

While your fish is cooking through, lay the plates out and spoon a quarter of the mix onto each plate making sure everyone has a bit of everything.  Cut the lemon and put it next to the vegetables, then lay the fillet skin side up slightly off centre on top of the Provencal mix

A Warm Salad of Broad Bean, Goats Cheese and Watercress

When I first moved to southern Europe the first sign that Spring was upon us was the mountains of broad beans that arrived at the market.  After  four months of root vegetable and  spinach something in a pod had landed.

The goats cheese melts into the warm beans to create a smooth creamy sauce without using cream.  The cheese gives enough salt so there is no need to add more.  If you can’t get watercress then rocket will be fine, you can use baby gems if that is all you can get as they are firm and hold the warm beans well. Watercress is preferable as it adds a depth of flavour from  its pepperiness.  If you haven’t got a zester then I highly recommend that you get one, you can go ahead with this recipe anyway without zesting and buy one next time you see one.

Ingredients  (four people)

1kg broad beans in the pods ( this will yield about 250grams after podding)
50g  watercress or rocket
125g goats cheese
50ml olive oil
1 medium sized lemon ( zested and juiced)
Black pepper

Method

Cook off the beans in boiling water for about five mins.  Whilst they are cooking break up the cheese into small pieces and put into a bowl, zest the lemon into the bowl with the cheese, grind the black pepper and add the olive oil .  Lay out the watercress onto a large plate and taste the beans to make sure they are tender. Drain the water off when they are ready and pour into the bowl.

Gently start folding the ingredients together until the goats cheese has melted and you have a even consistency. Pour the mix onto the leaves and finish with some more black pepper.

You don´t have to eat this straight away, it can sit for a while.

Griddled Aubergines with Yoghurt and Pomegranate

This is as good as any introduction to ‘griddling’.  Aubergines really drink oil but cooking them this way will mean you have better control over how much oil you use.  The pomegranates are a great finishing touch but don’t worry if you can’t find one in the supermarket, the dish holds up anyway without them.  This is a sharing dish that goes on the table.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 aubergines
1 small pot (125g) zero or low fat yoghurt
1 lemon
1 pomegranate
2 spring onions
2 green chillies
Maldon sea salt
Pepper
Sunflower oil (or any oil, sunflower is my preference for this recipe)

Method 

Cut the aubergine long ways into three or four thick slices depending on its size. You have to level off the rounded outer bits so it sits on the griddle pan.  Put the griddle pan on the flame and brush with the oil.  Lay the slices onto the pan and turn the heat to medium.  Cook each side until the skin is well marked and the aubergine is golden. Take off the heat and lay onto kitchen roll, repeat the process until all cooked.

Dab off any oil from the aubergine with the kitchen paper then lay onto a large plate.  Put the yoghurt into a bowl and mix a teaspoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Cut the spring onions and the green chillies into rings, not too thick.  Empty the seeds out of the pomegranate (see chef´s tips).  Dress the plate when it is ready to go to the table by evenly drizzling the yoghurt over the aubergines, sprinkle over the spring onions and green chilli then finish with the pomegranate.  There are no problems prepare this dish in advance.