Chipotle Braised Brisket

Chipotle Braised Brisket

I love living in London for the simple reason of choice. We have a few brilliant butchers within walking distance from my house which I frequent on a weekly basis. Or if we liked we could get our meat from the farmers’ market. Our closest one is the one at Ally Pally and is the one we go to most often, but if we fancy making a bit of a trip then we sometimes go to Broadway Market over in Hackney on a Saturday.

Chipotle Braised Brisket

The grand choice of butchers and farms pretty much on our doorstep doesn’t always mean I can quite manage to leave the house though and once in a while I like to treat myself and buy our meat from Turner & George, an online butcher who deliver around London. The joy of this obviously being that it gets sent directly to my front door and I don’t even have to change out of my pyjamas. Turner & George prices are extremely reasonable and they do things like preserved bone marrow, boneless chicken legs and an absolute plethora of gluten-free sausages. Best of all, when it arrives, the order explains the provenance of each animal so you feel you know exactly what you are eating and where it came from. I don’t prefer either option, the butchers, the farmers’ market or an online delivery but it is fun to mix it up.

A few weeks ago after receiving my bounty from Turner & George after a particularly indulgent spree I found I had two beef briskets in my package. After checking with my original order it appeared that I had clicked on the item twice which was a bit of a pain. Brisket is a bit special occasion meat in our house, not due to its expense, as really it’s incredibly economical, but due to the longevity of its cooking time. Whereas your usual stewed meat might be done in 3 or 4 hours, to reach its optimum succulence brisket requires a good 8 hours of cooking time. I have tried whacking up the heat, slicing it thinly but have always been disappointed when I try to rush the process. As you can imagine, not every day allows for the level of organisation required to assemble your evening meal at 10am, and guarantee you are going to be in the whole day to monitor proceedings.

Chipotle Braised Brisket

Also, our household only consists of two hungry souls, well there are six but I don’t think I’ll count Willow, Wesley, Billy Buddy (and Little Bean yet) as far as portioning out the brisket is concerned. So a 1.5kg cut of brisket sees us through the week and then some. Two briskets then, wasn’t necessarily welcomed as good fortune, especially since freezer space is limited due to my ice cream obession.

The first brisket I prepared the day it arrived, I cooked it low and slow with plenty of onions, tomatoes and garlic and served it with a hot and spicy barbecue sauce. It wasn’t the prettiest affair but it was delicious. After working our way through that for a week I didn’t feel enough enthusiasm to repeat the meal so soon so I managed to squeeze the other brisket in the freezer, which called for a couple of tubs of ice cream to be promptly removed and eaten, and waited for inspiration to hit.

Chipotle Braised Brisket

I have been meaning to write about beef tacos on my blog for a while. We eat them a lot, they always feel like a bit of a treat as they come loaded with all the best things in life, cheese, sour cream and guacamole plus I have an excellent recipe for the cooking spices which I’ve been honing throughout my cooking years. When I decided that I would make tacos again this week I suddenly realised this was exactly what my extra beef brisket had been sent to me to achieve. A smokily spiced extravaganza but still packed with a mountain of onions and peppers just like my normal beef taco recipe. But here, the meat would be melting into the juices and softly scooped into the taco before being loaded with all its accoutrements.

Chipotle Braised Brisket Tacos

Needless to say it worked out particularly well, otherwise I wouldn’t be sharing it with you. I used both dried chipotle and chipotle in adobo for the chilli hit, then added sweetly smoked paprika, warming cumin and coriander to round out the spices. I piled sliced onions into the bottom of the casserole dish so that they became a sturdy thicket for the brisket and I added a litre of stock around the meat, as I have paid the price before for not adding enough cooking liquid to my brisket. Over the course of the 7-8 hour braise most of the stock is reduced to an aromatic syrupy gravy, sparky with lime and spices and cushioned with caramelised onions and the sliver of peppers which are added in the last half hour of cooking so they don’t disappear into oblivion.

I have eaten my Chipotle Braised Brisket two meals in a row in soft and warmed corn tacos but this evening I plan on rustling up some spicy coriander rice to accompany my next incarnation of this most delicious of briskets.

Chipotle Braised Brisket Tacos

Chipotle Braised Brisket

1.5kg beef brisket, unrolled
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roasted and crushed
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon smoked garlic powder
1 litre hot beef stock
1 dried chipotle
1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sugar
5 cooking onions, sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced thinly
1 green pepper, de-seeded and sliced thinly
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and sliced thinly

Serve with guacamole, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, spring onions and warmed soft corn tacos

  1. Take the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, paprika, garlic and seasoning and rub all over the brisket. If you have time you can leave the rub to permeate the meat for up to eight hours.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
  3. Soak the dried chipotle in the hot stock for 15 minutes. Take the chipotle out of the stock, then remove stalk and the seeds and chop finely.
  4. Put the chipotle back into the stock, then add in the chipotle in adobo, malt vinegar, lime juice and sugar and stir well until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Take a huge casserole dish and arrange the sliced onions in a heap at the bottom, then place the brisket on top. Pour the stock around the brisket, but not on top of the meat. Place the lid on and
  6. Cook the brisket for about 7 hours but do check every hour to make sure the meat isn’t going dry.
  7. After 7 hours, remove the brisket and cut into slices, the knife should melt into the meat.
  8. Stir the sliced peppers into the oniony chipotle gravy at the bottom of the casserole dish, then add the brisket on top, submerging it into the gravy so it doesn’t go dry.
  9. Place the lid back on the casserole dish and put back in the oven for about half an hour until the peppers are cooked and the brisket is pretty much falling apart.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

We had an utterly inspiring talk at our Women’s Institute meeting last night by one of our members, Alison Graham, about how to get the best out of your sugar. I have to confess I am an absolute sugar junkie and anything to help me curb the cravings but not obliterate cake and chocolate from my life is worth looking into.

Quitting sugar is one of the latest fads that diet gurus seem to be peddling which is all well and good but is it really practical? I’m sure most of us simply want to understand our bodies better from an informed perspective and enjoy the odd treat without being slaves to our 4pm sugar crashes. These days we are becoming more aware of what we eat, what triggers our eating habits and the science behind it. There seems to be new information to guide us all the time as nutritionists and scientists learn about how our bodies react to natural substances like gluten and processed substances like everyday cane sugar. All we can do is take the information on board and decide how it can work for us so that our food is giving us energy and not taking it away.

keep calm and no sugar

The ordinary cane sugar we buy for baking or using in our tea and coffee is made up of half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is in all foods and is the good sugar which our body needs to make and store energy. It’s glucose we crave when we need a sugar fix and our bodies recognise it and use up every calorie of it. Fructose is the interloper. That’s not to say all fructose is bad and if you eat it in the form of a piece of fruit then you’ll be fine, thanks to the fibre in the fruit which helps your body digest the fructose. It’s when fructose is not in its natural state though that you will have a problem. Even if you do a simple thing like blitzing your banana to make a smoothie or juicing your apple, then you are breaking down the fibre before you eat it. Without its fibre bond, your body cannot recognise the fructose so it doesn’t provide an insulin response, it moves to your liver unaided to form fatty acids which swim around your body until they are deposited as body fat.

Not only that but because your body hasn’t recognised the fructose you might as well have not eaten it in the first place, your body will still crave the glucose it wanted in the first place and will insist you try and get yourself more. So instead of having just the one glass of apple juice or one chocolate bar, you will crave another then another. If you stick to just the glucose in the first place you are giving your body what it needs and you should feel fully satiated.

So basically fructose, when not found in whole fruit, is not a good thing to be eating. It was surprising to me though that many of the sugars we consider as natural and healthy like honey or maple syrup are also just fructose so has the same effect within our body. This is also not to mention the obvious fake sugars out there like sweeteners and corn syrup which again are just fructose. There is a whole bunch more reading that I need to do on this subject as I’ve only had a taster and I have found it fascinating. Alison recommends reading Sweet Poison by David Gillespie for more information and I’ve already bought it for my Kindle.

IMG_6309

In the meantime to celebrate this fascinating talk and enthused by this new way of looking at sugar I wanted to bake something using pure glucose which is the good sugar our bodies need for energy. I saw these amazing looking Extra-Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownies from Pinch of Yum last week and knew this would be the recipe I would use as a base as I’ve been desperate to make them.

Lindsay had already done the hard work and made them dairy free since she uses Coconut Oil instead of butter in her brownies. However, I adapted it a bit by substituting the sugar in the form of rice malt syrup, which is a blend of glucose and maltose. Then to really get on board the health wagon I made it gluten free by adding coconut flour which also amped up the coconutty taste and added cocoa to boost the intense chocolateness. I couldn’t just leave it there though and topped the brownies with a rich ganache made from dark chocolate and a smidgen of coconut milk to thicken it. The coconut milk I use, as I’ve advocated before, is from Pride and is very thick with almost no liquid. The thinner your coconut milk the thinner your ganache will be so it might not be so easy to spread. I then sprinkled a liberal amount of unsweetened desiccated coconut on top to finish them off. The end result wasn’t overwhelming coconutty but definitely had a delicious hint and I have to say these are one of the best brownies I have ever made. They are dense and fudgy but also light without making you feel all stodgy inside after you have eaten them. They feel like a decadent treat but also wholesome like you are doing your body a favour by eating them.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

Although I’m not sure I could tear myself away from all different types of sugar entirely, I love baking and cooking too much to restrict myself, I have certainly come away from these brownies and Alison’s talk by knowing that this way of living would be completely achievable if you still want to indulge in your treasured treats. The brownies were nice on day one, delicious on day two and then days three and four the brownies were absolutely sublime. These started off being just an experiment but they have ended up being firm favourites of mine.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

125g 70% dark chocolate
160g coconut oil
200g rice malt syrup
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g coconut flour
25g cocoa
½ teaspoon salt

For the ganache:
100g 70% chocolate
1 tablespoon coconut milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line and grease a 9 inch square baking tin.
  2. Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a bain-marie and melt together.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and pour in the rice malt syrup, stirring until thoroughly combined.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together in a separate bowl then stir into the chocolate mixture and pour into your baking tin.
  5. Bake the brownies for 20 minutes then remove from the oven.
  6. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight to set before removing from the tin and topping with the ganache.
  7. To make the ganache melt the chocolate and coconut milk together in a bain-marie.
  8. Once the chocolate has melted and the mixture has thickened you can immediately use it to adorn the top of your brownies.
  9. For the final touch sprinkle on some unsweetened desiccated coconut then cut into squares.

Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars

Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars

I make no bones about it, these energy bars have been shamelessly ripped from the Nakd bar. I was completely reliant on Nakd bars when I worked as a TV Producer. I was either too busy to have breakfast so I grabbed one of these, maybe I had edits that ran over lunch so I kept going by pulling one of these out of my bag, or I was working late which meant that dinner was pushed until I got home at some heinous hour and my Nakd bars would once again save the day. I always had heaps of them crammed into my desk drawer, handbag and coat pockets.

Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars

Since I’ve been working from home, I haven’t found the need to rely so much on shop bought snacks, there is usually cake around or I’m recipe testing so I can munch on a bit of whatever I’m cooking or baking. Can you tell I was a bit more diet conscious when I wasn’t slouching around in tracky bums, baggy t-shirts and slippers all day.

Well, I’m upping the health factor in my life at the moment, making sure I achieve my 5-a-day, consume my 700mg of calcium and perhaps not rely on chocolate to fill the spare five minutes I have whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. With healthy eating comes healthy snacking so although I won’t rely on these bars like I used to it’s incredibly handy having something in that I can have if I need a sugar or protein hit. If I’m going for a long walk with Billy Buddy then I find that one of these is absolutely perfect for my dipping energy if I’m getting pulled around by an excitable little dog.

Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars

Having exhausted all the flavours of Nakd bars during my obsession with them I always wanted to give them a go myself, after all there is only about four ingredients listed on the back of the packets. I should have carved out time to do this years ago, as they were one of the easiest things to prepare. If you own a food mixer then that’s all you need to whizz up the ingredients before you press into a tin, refrigerate and then cut into bars.

When I set about making these I didn’t have any particular plan in mind other than I wanted to use up some of my dried cranberries; I severely overestimated how many I would need over Christmas and my larder is overrun with them. I love cranberry and macadamia together and then found buried in the back the remains of a packet of macadamias which hadn’t gone out of date yet – score! There weren’t quite enough nuts so I amped up the quantity by substituting almonds. I also added dates which are the main ingredient in any Nakd bar to bind the bars together, I used plump sticky medjool dates to add juiciness and deeper flavour. There are more dates than cranberries in this recipe but the dates add the background note whilst the overriding zingy flavour is of the cranberries. I couldn’t resist adding a tablespoon of freeze dried raspberry powder either for more berry flavour.

Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars

They worked out better than expected. The raspberry powder lifts the whole bar so it tastes fresher somehow. You can get raspberry powder from Father Christmas when he puts it in your stocking to open on Christmas morning or if you weren’t quite as lucky as I was then it’s easy enough to buy online.

These bars should keep for about a week in the fridge but you could also double the quantity I’ve suggested here and stick them in the freezer so you have lots to keep you going. I made mine in a smaller quantity of eight so I can move onto another flavour when these are done.

Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars

Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars

Makes about 8

180g medjool dates, pitted
75g dried cranberries
75g macadamia nuts
50g blanched almonds
1 tablespoon freeze dried raspberry powder

    1. Place all the ingredients in a food mixer and whizz up together for a few minutes until the nuts have completely ground into the dried fruit. It should come together into a sticky ball.
    2. Tip the fruity nuttiness into a rectangular baking tin lined with cling film so that the cling film hangs generously over the side of the tin.
    3. Press the mixture into the tin so the surface is completely even, then wrap the cling film back over the top to protect it.
    4. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up then remove the cling filmed mixture from the tin. Peel off the cling film and cut into evenly sized bars.
    5. Wrap each bar back up individually in cling film or baking parchment then store in the fridge for about a week or keep in the freezer.

SHOP THE RECIPE

Here is the raspberry powder I used for this recipe.
Freeze Dried Raspberry Powder 150g
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Energy Boosting Snack Ideas – FREE PDF!

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Cashew Chicken Satay with Carrot and Coriander Salad

Cashew Chicken Satay with Carrot and Coriander Salad

The deli counter was a big thing growing up. It was my favourite destination during our weekly trips to the supermarket and it was here that my sister and I were allowed to choose one treat to snack on in the car on the way home. I always, without a doubt, chose the chicken satay. Thinly skewered pieces of cooked dry chicken covered with a tasteless spices and rammed onto cocktail sticks. I loved them. I have no idea if you can still buy them anymore but I remember as soon as Mum had loaded the car up with the shopping, I would rummage carelessly through them for my promised chicken satay. As I clambered into the car I was already tearing the label in half which held the wimpy plastic deli bag together and brandishing my prize. Before the car engine had even been started the skewer had been devoured in one, two, three bites and the wooden stick tossed with abandon over my shoulder (until I was told off by Mum for littering the car and made to reclaim it dutifully).

My love of chicken on a stick has not diminished into adulthood. I usually wait until summer’s barbecue season before overindulging in chicken kebabs but as soon as the first of January hit I have been hankering after the chicken satay skewers of yore, except done, hopefully, a little better.

I am still coming to terms with my horrendous computer crash, which I suffered just before Christmas. One of the most frustrating things about losing all my work is all the recipes which I had great ideas for that have now been lost in the ether. Hopefully though if I thought of them once, I might recall them one day again. There are some ideas though that even though they went down with my hard drive they have never been relegated to the recesses of my mind. These, must have been the best of the bunch and are the ones I am now excited to share.

Cashew Chicken Satay with Carrot and Coriander Salad

This Cashew Chicken Satay is one of those recipes. I don’t know when I first thought of it but like all my greedy thoughts it was hastily typed into my laptop and saved into a list of hundreds of recipes, destined for the kitchen far into the future. However, for some reason, this recipe has stayed with me and has been saved from destruction by my memory.

I was so happy then when it worked out just as I had hoped it would, in fact, if I may be so bold I think it worked out better and is definitely going to become a regular part of my mid-week repertoire. Cashew nuts are just as tasty as the more traditional peanuts in a satay. They are slightly sweeter so they lend a more tempered and delicately flavoured result but one I actually think I prefer despite being a fully paid up member of the Peanut Butter Forever fan club. This also means it’s suitable for most January detoxes which tend to eschew peanuts. There is nothing I like better than adapting a recipe for a healthy eating plan and finding you have lost nothing at all in the translation.

Cashew Chicken Satay with Carrot and Coriander Salad

I paired my Cashew Chicken Satay with a bright rainbow carrot salad, singing with fresh coriander, the bite of spring onions ,the occasional heat of green chilli and the zing of lemon juice. This kind of salad is perfect for January as it’s robust and crunchy and jam packed full of drizzly rain busting flavour and colour.

Cashew Chicken Satay with Carrot and Coriander Salad

Cashew Chicken Satay with Carrot and Coriander Salad
Serves 2

For the Cashew Chicken Satay:
2 chicken breasts
100g natural unsalted cashew nuts
a small piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 shallots, peeled
1 red chilli
1 stalk lemongrass, outside woody part removed
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce or coconut aminos or tamari
2 teaspoons honey
100ml coconut milk

For the Carrot and Coriander Salad:
2-3 large carrots, grated
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Spring onions, roughly chopped
Green chilli, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon salt
black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Slice the chicken into strips and set aside whilst you prepare the satay sauce.
  3. Scatter the cashews onto a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 8 minutes. Remove the cashews from the oven and tip straight into a food mixer. Mix the cashews together to make cashew butter which could take up to 15 minutes but persevere until the cashews form a lovely smooth paste. (for more detail on making cashew butter see here).
  4. Add the fresh ginger, garlic, shallots, red chilli and lemongrass into the mixer and pulse everything together until smooth.
  5. Then add the ground coriander, turmeric, coconut oil, soy sauce and honey and mix again until you have achieved a smooth paste.
  6. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the satay sauce and set aside for making the pouring sauce later, cover and put in the fridge. Pour the rest of the satay sauce over the chicken pieces and rub into the chicken so that it’s thoroughly coated. Cover and place in the fridge for at least four hours but preferably overnight to marinate.
  7. Before you cook the chicken you can prepare the salad.
  8. Mix together the carrots, coriander, spring onions and chilli together in a large bowl.
  9. To make the dressing pour the lemon juice into a small glass and whisk up with the ground coriander, salt and pepper until the salt has dissolved. Carefully pour the olive oil in, whisking all the while until the dressing has emulsified. Pour over your salad and set aside whilst you finish the satay chicken.
  10. Turn your grill or griddle on to a high setting. Remove the chicken from the fridge and thread onto skewers until all the chicken has been used up. Place the chicken skewers under the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes each side.
  11. Whilst the chicken is cooking you can make the pouring satay sauce by taking your reserved 3 tablespoons of satay sauce and placing it in a small saucepan with 100ml coconut milk. Stir together and heat gently until it reaches a gentle boil. Remove from the heat.
  12. Serve your cashew chicken satay skewers over the carrot and coriander salad and drizzle over the satay pouring sauce.

Coconut and Chia Breakfast Bowl

Coconut and Chia Breakfast Bowl
I never know what to have for breakfast. I consider myself an incredibly unfussy eater as I will pretty much vacuum up anything, but when it comes to breakfast I stumble. I always wake up feeling a little nauseous, pregnancy or no pregnancy. I can’t do fruit – too acidic, dairy increases the nausea, I don’t like eggs and bread is a no-go for me except high days and holidays. The only thing that really sits well with me is protein and nuts.

Coconut and Chia Breakfast Bowl

I like my breakfast simple, quick and healthy and now it’s January and I’m looking ahead to the incredibly life changing year that’s in store for me I want to treasure my body and start each day with good intentions, even if I have succumbed to my Christmas chocolate stash by 4pm.

Chia Seeds

I’ve been making this Coconut and Chia Breakfast bowl for the past few mornings and it has fit my fussy bill completely. It’s not too sweet, it’s dairy free, has lots of protein from the nuts and coconut and is surprisingly filling. Plus I love chia seeds.

Coconut and Chia Breakfast Bowl

You can buy chia seeds from any health food shop and they are good to go on anything but they are best when paired with liquid. When cooked into the coconut milk they swell up to form little bubbles with a slight pop in the mouth. That is what I love about this breakfast bowl – the texture. Often I think I care more about the texture of a food than the taste and this one has it all; the creaminess of the coconut, the slight crunch of the almonds, the chew of the figs and the pearly goodness of the chia. It’s a terribly satisfying breakfast.

Coconut and Chia Breakfast Bowl

Since this only takes about 10 minutes to prepare I have been rustling it up with no effort in the mornings but if you enjoy those extra 10 minutes in bed I see no reason why you can’t make it the night before and fridge it until the morning, although it will mean that the finished result softens slightly but that might be to your preference.

I serve mine with either toasted coconut shavings or sliced banana, perhaps even an extra drizzle of maple syrup if I dare.

Coconut and Chia Breakfast Bowl

Coconut and Chia Breakfast Bowl
Serves 1

200g Coconut Milk
2 tablespoons Chia Seeds
25g Desiccated Coconut
30g Whole Almonds, toasted then roughly chopped
40g dried figs (about 2), roughly chopped
½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Maple Syrup

  1. Place all the ingredients in a medium sized saucepan.
  2. Bring everything to a gentle boil as you stir it all together.
  3. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes so all the coconut milk is absorbed.
  4. Serve with a topping of your choice.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake (gluten-free)
This cake has become one of my favourite cakes of the season and is an absolute winner on my cake stall on a Sunday. It’s one of those all-rounder cakes which is good any time of the day; for breakfast, elevenses or a tea-time treat. It’s also elevated by the fact that it is gluten-free and dairy-free so it is perfectly amenable to the most common of food intolerances. I even had a lady come to my stall on Sunday who couldn’t eat any fat and this one perfectly ticked the box for that dietary requirement too. And did I mention that it’s deliciously moist, packed full of spicy fruity flavour and gilded with a crunchy golden praline too? Well it is.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

Although my experiments with gluten-free flour and gluten substitutions are ongoing, I have found that my most successful gluten-free cakes are the one that are created without any thought at all in the direction of flour. I know of one cake company that specialises in ‘accidently gluten-free’ cakes which I think is a lovely way of describing that their cakes were never intended to go anywhere near gluten in the first place. These cakes have an identity of their own, without feeling like inferior substitutes of the real thing.

The secret ingredient of this cake, well actually it’s not so secret as I’ve put it right there in the title of the recipe, is a spiced pear butter. You may recall a couple of weeks ago I was waxing lyrical about the apple butter I used as the main ingredient of my Toffee Apple Cupcakes, well this pear butter is made in much the same way and is just as delicious. It feels almost criminal to take the pear butter and use is solely for this cake, despite how wonderful the cake is, but don’t worry I’ve amped up the quantities of the butter in the recipe below so it should be enough to make two cakes, or you can use the rest to spread on a crumpet, dollop on your granola with a bit of yoghurt or even serve with your Sunday roasted pork joint. These are round and about the same uses I suggested for your apple butter, if the ideas were good the first time then I have no problem in recycling them.

The pear butter replaces the fat in the cake and is whizzed up with egg yolks and sugar to form the base of the batter. Ground hazelnuts, which I ground myself by whizzing up roasted and blanched hazelnuts in the food processor, are used to thicken the batter and give it body. Then finally, whisked and stiffened egg whites are folded in to aerate the batter and to ensure the height of the cake is kept during the bake.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

Now this cake cannot help but sink a little in the middle during the end of the bake, do not fear this is natural, and once it is decorated with the hazelnut praline and icing then it’s not noticeable at all. However, I have found a way of slightly counteracting how much the cake sinks by, and this is a new trick that I have incorporated into a lot of my cakes recently, including my brownies and my loaf cakes. To ensure an even bake you want to forget about the ubiquitous 180°C that is bandied around in recipes. In fact I went to a culinary salon with Rosie Lovell who suggested that 180°C is entirely too high and when she submitted her first book to her publishers she had to fight with them to maintain all her recipes at 170°C. It seems that the food industry is reticent to change but I agree entirely with her. In fact, for some of my cakes, like this one, I would even take it further. I like to bake this cake at 150°C for the first 10 minutes, then turn the temperature up to 160°C for the next 40 minutes until the cake is risen, is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. There is nothing wrong with low and slow as far as baking goes, not all our cakes have to be in and out of the oven in half an hour. The only thing I would say about this method is to check the cake after the first 20 minutes and you’ll probably notice that it’s reached its colour peak. So just cover the top of the cake with a bit of domed tin foil for the rest of the time to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

200g pear butter (recipe below)
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g golden caster sugar
250g ground hazelnuts
1 tablespoon baking powder

For the hazelnut praline:
2 tablespoons caster sugar
50g roasted and skinned hazelnuts

For the glaze:
125g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons almond milk

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C and line and grease a 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Whisk up the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak and set aside.
  3. Beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until pale and thick.
  4. Mix in the pear butter.
  5. Add the ground hazelnuts and baking powder. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Stir a third of the whites into the batter to slacken it off, then gently fold in the remaining whites.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 10 minutes, turn the oven up to 160°C and continue baking for around 40 minutes until firm to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Once the cake is ready, remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the cake tin before removing.
  9. To make the hazelnut praline heat the caster sugar in a medium sized saucepan, without stirring, until it has all melted and is turning a golden brown. Very quickly add the hazelnuts, turning in the melted sugar, then pour out onto baking parchment.
  10. Leave the praline for about 5 minutes until just cool enough to handle then pull the nuts apart so that the caramelised sugar is pulled into strands. Then roughly chop some of the hazelnuts. Sprinkle the whole nut praline and the chopped nuts onto the top of the cake.
  11. To make the glaze mix the icing sugar with the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the almond milk. Add some more almond milk if needed until the icing is just runny enough to drop over the cake. Decorate the cake with the icing any way you would like.

Pear butter
6 soft conference pears
200ml perry or pear cider
2 tablespoons of brandy
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon allspice

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients, and stir to combine. Cover the saucepan, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the pears are soft.
  2. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  3. Once the pears are soft, then blend the pears and cooking liquid together until completely smooth.
  4. Pour into a deep roasting tray and place in the oven.
  5. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes with a fork until the butter is dark and as thick as clotted cream.
  6. Allow to cool then place in the fridge to chill until needed.

Pork Belly, Apple and Caramelised Walnut Salad

Pork Belly, Apple and Caramelised Walnut Salad
My second favourite food is salad. My first is cake (obv). I eat at least a salad a day, most of the time two and it’s usually salad for breakfast round my way.

I have been writing a lot on this blog and in my newsletter about how much street food I have been enjoying recently, at Dalston Street Feast, Broadway Market, Kerb at Kings Cross and even our very own Ally Pally farmers’ market but one of my main gripes is the lack of vegetables on offer to accompany these amazing foods. Duck confit, Korean barbecue, haggis and soft shell crab. Love ‘em. But why must they all be stuffed into buns? All they need to do is chop up a bit of cucumber, iceberg and tomato, if nothing else, and offer that as an alternative accompaniment, I’m sure they would double their appeal. I have spoken to a few people recently who simply can’t get invested in the street food scene due to the dearth of healthy options. Not all of us can eat burgers and melted cheese all weekend and get away with it. Especially if we are scarfing down cakes for the rest of the week (ahem).

Pork Belly, Apple and Caramelised Walnut Salad  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have been thinking about starting a market stall for a while and I have to say it was a big toss up between cakes and doing street food type grilled meat and salads. I love cake, it is my soul mate, I think about it night and day; during my crossfit workouts, when I’m having a lie-in on Sunday mornings and whilst I’m walking the puppy (whom now he is 1 years old should probably start to be referred to as a dog). However, as a consumer there is such a lack of freshly prepared salads, and I don’t mean the salad stalls that only serve vegan, carb enriched foods. I mean healthy, robust protein driven salads that can actually serve as your main meal. This time round I’m going with my heart and am so excited to be launching my own cake stall at a new farmers’ market in Harringay next month but at some point I would definitely like to be able to follow my other dream of opening an amazing place where salads reign supreme. The burger backlash has got to come at sometime, no?

5Pork Belly, Apple and Caramelised Walnut Salad  |  Stroud Green Larder

I love a salad with a big hearty flavour. The smack-you-round-your-chops heavy protein hitters like roast lamb shoulder, steak and here, pork belly, fit in with a light bright salad so much more comfortably then heavy carbs. You get all the joy of your favourite roast without being weighed down and you leave your meal feeling sated instead of stuffed. Plus, there’s more room for cake.

I had fallen out of love with pork belly for a while. When it first arrived on the scene it was everywhere, and actually if you go to any local drinking hole that likes itself as a bit of a gastropub then it probably still serves it, maybe with a bit of red cabbage if you’re lucky but definitely with mashed potato. For such an amazing cut of meat it got boring. Too many of these pubs serve it badly, floppy fat, dried out meat and in the worst offence that I have encountered recently, it was sliced in half and served without the signature crackling so the meat was paper thin and flabby.

Pork Belly, Apple and Caramelised Walnut Salad  |  Stroud Green Larder

However, pork belly is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in my kitchen, mainly because I came up with this salad which just seems to be the perfect balance of apple crisp, crackling crunch, melting meat, sweet walnuts, peppery dressing and a touch of sour from the green pepper, another misunderstood vegetable. I ate this salad three days running and didn’t get bored. I’m thinking of making it again this week and I can think of no greater example of how glorious, satiating and life affirming a proper salad can be.

Pork Belly, Apple and Caramelised Walnut Salad
Serves 4

1.5kg pork belly
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed
½ tsp garlic powder
zest ½ lemon
¾ tsp salt
black pepper
1 apple
2 little gems
1 green pepper
6 spring onions
2 celery sticks

Caramelised walnuts:
60g walnut pieces
30g caster sugar
2 tsp salted butter

Dressing:
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp white wine vinegar
plenty of salt and pepper
¼ tsp honey
30ml extra virgin olive oil

  1. Remove the pork belly from any packaging then place it on a plate unwrapped in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  3. Slash the fat on the top of the pork belly, making sure not to penetrate the flesh then place it on a rack in the sink and pour a kettle full of boiling water over to open up the slashes which will help to create a crunchy crackling. Pat the pork dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Next mix together the rosemary, fennel seeds, garlic powder, lemon zest, salt and pepper then rub all over the pork belly skin.
  5. Place the pork belly on a rack on a deep roasting tray and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat down to 170°C and continue roasting for about 3½ hours or until the crackling on the pork belly is golden and crisp.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to rest whilst you make the rest of the salad.
  8. For the caramelised walnuts, place the walnuts, sugar and butter in a small saucepan and stir so the walnuts are thoroughly coated. Let the sugar dissolve into the butter then cook for about 3 minutes until the caramel turns a dark brown. Remove from the heat then quickly transfer the walnuts to baking parchment, separating them out from each other so they do not dry in a solid lump. Work with haste as the caramel will harden as soon as it starts to cool.
  9. Prepare the rest of the salad by slicing the apple, shredding the little gems, slicing the green pepper very thinly and dicing the spring onions and celery sticks. Mix together in a large salad bowl.
  10. To make the dressing, pour the mustard and vinegar in a small dish with plenty of salt and pepper and whisk together until the salt dissolves, then whisk in the honey. Drizzle the olive oil into the dish, whisking hard to emulsify the dressing, once it’s all mixed in, taste for seasoning.
  11. Assemble the final salad by shredding the pork, then toss together with the rest of the ingredients, drizzling with the dressing at the last minute.

Pork Belly, Apple and Caramelised Walnut Salad  |  Stroud Green Larder

Coriander Sweetcorn Fritters

Coriander Sweetcorn Fritters

Food envy.

I have food envy a lot.

I am envious of restaurants people have been to that I can’t get a table at (Dabbous I’m looking at you, although we have finally managed to get a table for my birthday in November, woo! and we’re only two years late to the party), I am jealous of food I shouldn’t eat (my husband went to the final of Burger Monday a couple of weeks ago and I turned down the ticket due to a sudden flash of food guilt, I’ve been regretting it ever since), I am jealous of recipes I didn’t write (see my Pinterest page on Puddings and Pies, all of these look amazing and I wish I had made them) but the worst is when you are envious of something right in front of you.

That’s how I felt the other week when we embarked upon an innocuous mid-week meal at our local Thai in Crouch End (Pandan Leaf if you are interested). We both had the same menu so it wasn’t that I couldn’t have chosen them if I had wanted, god knows what I actually ordered. I barely batted an eye when he ordered the sweetcorn fritters, I probably had some fishcakes or something to think about. Oh yes, that is what I ordered, I just remembered, not a terribly innovative choice, no wonder I forgot. Anyway, those fritters. I may even have been a little disappointed that he ordered them, I am not a big sweetcorn fan and I am often dissuading him to include them in our weekly shop, feigning the fact that they are a bit pointless unless we are having a barbecue.

Corn  |  Stroud Green Larder

So the starters arrived and I probably started gobbling at my fishcakes because how was I to know what was going on over the other side of the table, when out of the blue I was offered a little morsel of his fritter to sample. That’s all I remember, the rest is a bit of a blur. I seem to recall shooting my hands across the table and pulling the plate before me, casting my fishcakes asunder and devouring the rest of his fritters but I couldn’t swear on that fact.

I have vague memories of my father making sweetcorn fritters when I was young and these little buddies tasted so familiar. Whether he made them the once or it was a regular thing I have no idea but they must have inadvertently released some sort of proustian moment. Whatevs, they were delish and a half and food envy is not a pretty sight.

Coriander Sweetcorn Fritters  |  Stroud Green Larder

At the weekend we were at Broadway market queuing for The Frenchie. Well, at least my husband was queuing for The Frenchie. I was having another food envy moment as I had eaten too much cake the day before and was attempting to draw the line somewhere and was miserable about doing so. So we were queuing and I was casting a grumpy eye about, whilst at the same time trying to discourage the puppy from eating whatever gubbins people were dropping on the pavement, when I noticed the stall next to The Frenchie selling fresh corn on the cob. That’s nice, I thought, how very farmers’ market, amidst all the new trendy street food, although admittedly they were also serving it grilled with butter, they weren’t completely behind with the times. These sweetcorns though were rousing a bit of interest in me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was suddenly conjuring up in my mind fragrant coriander, the heat of chilli and the zestiness of lime. I was imagining sweet kernels crunchy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside and plunged into umami rich dipping sauce. As I slowly awakened from this reverie I noticed something had changed, I was still queuing next to my husband but now I had three corn on the cobs sticking out of my handbag.

So thus these fritters were born and they are pretty damn yummy. No food envy, no fear.

Coriander Sweetcorn Fritters  |  Stroud Green Larder

Coriander Sweetcorn Fritters
Makes 8-10

3 corn on the cobs
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
2 spring onions, diced
½ red chilli, finely chopped
zest of ½ lime
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground ginger
5 tbsp plain flour or gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp coconut oil

Dipping Sauce:
4 tbsp lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water
½ red chilli, finely chopped

  1. Remove the entire husks from the corn cobs and place the corn in a large pan of boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes then remove them with a slotted spoon.
  2. Strip the corn kernels from the cobs using a sharp knife then set them aside.
  3. In a medium sized bowl add the rest of the ingredients, except for the coconut oil, and mix together until thoroughly combined. Finally mix in the sweetcorn.
  4. In a wide based saucepan gently heat up the coconut oil for 5 minutes.
  5. Fry the fritters in batches. Take 50g of the sweetcorn mixture, ball it up and drop into the hot pan, gently press with the back of a spatula to spread out a little. Add another couple of fritters to the pan in this way then cook for 3-4 minutes each side until golden.
  6. For the dipping sauce, combine the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl and mix well. Once the sugar has dissolved stir in the water and chilli. Serve with the fritters.

Grilled Pork Chop with Apple and Blackberry Spiced Relish

Blackberry and Apple Spiced Relish
Just because blackberry week is coming to an end, don’t think this is the last you will see of this debonair fruit. I still have mountains of them to work through in my freezer. However, the urgency is gone, I no longer feel the burning need to add blackberries to everything and from now on I will only endeavor to use them if absolutely essential, or only once a day, instead of several times.

I just want to get one final recipe in the bag though this week and this one is ideal for dipping your hand into the freezer and pulling out a fistful to drop into your sauce to keep your apples company. It’s a quick and easy relish to eat with your Sunday roast or as part of a mid-week supper. I have served it with pork chops this week but it goes equally well with game birds although it’s a bit early in the season for that.

Blackberry and Apple Spiced Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Blackberry and Apple Spiced Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Now I always feel a bit Homer Simpson for saying this but pork chop really is my favourite thing to eat for dinner. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until you want to throw a gnawed pork chop bone at me, but it’s the perfect cut of meat. It’s robust and juicy if you cook it right which means taking it out from under the grill juuuusst when the pink juices have disappeared. The thick sweet crackling should frame the chop and be as much a priority of the cut as the meat itself. The rind needs to be magnificently firm, which should always be the case if you source your meat from a good butcher. If you slice into the fat before putting it under the grill, which you definitely need to do, then when cooked they will pull gently off like crunchy golden jewels.

Blackberry and Apple Spiced Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

I keep the seasoning of the pork chop extremely simple, just salt and pepper, when served with this relish as it does all the work for you. Do taste before serving as each apple and blackberry differs in sweetness so you might want to adjust your maple syrup accordingly. However, I was aiming for something a little sweet, a little tart and boisterous with flavour. Now, I have had this twice this week, the first time I didn’t crush the fruit after cooking and the second time (when I took the photos) I did crush the fruit. It’s up to you how you serve it but I think next time I would revert to the non-crushed relish, it was a little prettier. Ho hum, we live and learn.

The most frustrating part about being a food blogger is the necessity to hold yourself together and take the photos when you are ravenous, your belated lunch calling out to you from in front of the camera. Many a photo shoot for me has been cut short due to my terrible greed and lack of self-control. I can’t lie, this was one of those times. But I don’t regret a thing.

Blackberry and Apple Spiced Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Grilled Pork Chop with Blackberry and Apple Spiced Relish
Serves 2

2 Pork Chops
25g salted butter
1 apple, about 175g, diced
100g blackberries
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp maple syrup

  1. Take the pork chops out of the fridge 30 minutes before you are due to start cooking them. Remove them from whatever packaging they are in, wash them then pat with kitchen towels so they are bone dry. Cut into the fat rind several times, about 1.5cm apart, making sure not to pierce the meat, and then set aside whilst you begin the relish.
  2. Melt the butter on a low heat, then add the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Bring it to a lovely bubble then turn the heat right down for about 30 minutes to let the apples soften and the blackberries pool around them.
  4. Meanwhile you can grill your pork chops. I seasoned them both sides with salt and pepper and then placed them under a moderate heat on the grill. Cook them for about 10-15 minutes until the crackling turns golden on one side, then turn them over. The second side will be quicker so keep an eye on them. Every size and thickness of pork chop cook at a different temperature so be careful. Remove from the grill when the crackling is golden and the meat juices run clear.
  5. Remove the relish from the heat and either crush or don’t crush before serving with the pork chop and some greens.

Calypso Chicken

Calypso Chicken
Years ago when my mum was going through a bit of a clear out of a forgotten part of the attic, she came across my father’s old collection of food magazines from the 1980s. With no interest in them herself she offered them to me which I thrillingly accepted and I have been lugging them around with me ever since from house to house, bookshelf to bookshelf, much to my husband’s consternation.

Taste Magazines

They are an absolutely fascinating read and I pick them up every so often when I need a little bit of inspiration that pinterest and my many food blogs sometimes can’t give me with their wonderfully retro recipes and advertisements for Ambrosia custard. Last week I was thinking about the current food revolution in the UK but these magazines go to show that most of us have always cared about the provenance of food and great recipes.

These Taste magazines feel very different to today’s Olive, Delicious or Observer Food Monthly, there are a huge amount of lengthy articles, illustrated recipes and not much in the way of news and only a little on restaurants. Plus, for the most part, the photos, when they are not amusing in their rigid construction with the cooks hovering over the dining tables with magnificent perms and billowing blouses, are frankly a little off putting. I can while away hours flicking through these magazines, some of the articles are still relevant and there is just the same breadth of culturally diverse recipes as modern magazines cover today. Our generation didn’t invent the foodie, they have always existed but now they are just a bit louder, more demanding and they write food blogs.

Rum and Coconut Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

Rum and Coconut Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

Rum and Coconut Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

Rum and Coconut Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

I got a little bit lost in some of the magazines again this morning when I revisited them. Topics covered within the pages range from sections tasting the best supermarket canned sardines. There are articles extolling the virtues of cream, a lovely account of a visit to Beatrix Potter’s country garden and a very detailed piece on drying herbs. Another piece written about modern technology champions the microwave and there is also a hard hitting investigation on whether a couple can live on one 3 kg chicken for a week. Spoiler, they could but they wouldn’t want to. Nail biting stuff.

The recipes themselves range from an exploration of food on sticks to a complicated dish of jellied seafood followed by chicken mousse, which they claim is perfect for a romantic lunch to celebrate the royal wedding. Having spent the week making endless use of the blackberries which I have been foraging there is a lovely looking blackberry and caramel soft scoop ice cream recipe which I wish I had seen a few days ago. Although I did turn my nose up rather snobbishly at a hot potato and frankfurter salad and a low fat recipe for hollandaise which recommends replacing the butter with margarine, eww.

Taste Magazine

However, this recipe for Calypso Chicken which was nestled in a piece about Floella Benjamin’s Caribbean food heritage leapt out at me as soon as I read it. I didn’t think I had ever braised chicken in rum before but suddenly as I began to imagine the possibilities the whole world made total sense. It used creamed coconut, an ingredient which is more than often replaced in modern recipes with coconut milk. Plus angostura bitters is one of my favourite things to use in the kitchen, I usually add it to my fruit pie fillings but I can be more liberal now I know how much it lends to savoury dishes too. Alcohol plus cooking only signals good and tasty things.

I have been messing around with the recipe a little bit, changing the chicken breast to chicken legs to garner more flavour, and upping the quantities of some of the ingredients for more impact. The rum, ahem. It is a brilliant chicken recipe, so easy to put together with a perfect balance of spice in the rich coconut rum sauce. I have been serving mine with crisply fried plantain and fresh chillies sprinkled on top which sparks it off deliciously and have made it several times in the past couple of weeks.

Rum and Coconut Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

Expect to see more 80s recipes soon, now I have started I am going to find it difficult to stop. And I haven’t even begun discussing the crazily elaborate desserts, suffice to say they involve a lot of moulds, jellies and unnecessary garnishes.

Calypso Chicken
Adapted from Taste magazine, March 1987
Serves 4

4 chicken legs, boned
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp salt
black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, de-seeded and sliced
500ml chicken stock
50g creamed coconut
3 tbsp dark rum
good dash of angostura bitters
pinch of saffron
Chopped fresh chilli and parsley to serve

  1. Mix the cumin, garlic powder, chilli powder and salt and pepper together then rub generously over the chicken legs.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish on the hob and as soon as it’s hot add the chicken, skin side down.
  3. Fry the chicken for 10-12 minutes until the skin is crisp and golden. Then with a pair of tongs remove the chicken, set aside and add the onion and green pepper to the casserole dish.
  4. Heat the stock in a small saucepan until boiling, then remove from the heat and add the creamed coconut, rum, angostura bitters and saffron until they are well mixed together.
  5. As soon as the onion and green pepper has softened and are staring to colour in the casserole add the stock mixture, stirring in well with the onions and peppers. Bring up to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Add the chicken on top of the stock, flesh side down and simmer for 40 minutes until the sauce has reduced to thick and creamy.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped fresh chilli and parsley, then serve with crisp plantain.