Homemade Rosemary Focaccia

Nothing smells better than freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. Making your own focaccia also costs about a third of the price of buying one from a fancy bakery or deli.

Like most people I don’t bake my own bread everyday. At the weekend when you have a little more time its nice to shake off the stresses of the week and kneading bread is a great way to work off any residual tension. Although this bread only needs 5 minutes kneading and you’re rewarded with amazingly tasty bread that can be sliced in half for sandwiches or is a delicious side dish served along side soups, stews, or pasta.

I’ve used a traditional salt and rosemary topping, but caramelised onion or olives are also brilliant alternatives. This also freezes really well.

Ready for the oven

Ingredients

500 Grams Strong white flour

7 Grams Dried yeast

1 Tsp Salt

300-400 Mil Luke warm water

4-5 Tbsp Olive oil

2-3 Sprigs Rosemary

Method

  • 1. Mix your yeast with 300ml of luke warm water and set to one side while you measure out the flour and add it to a large bowl
  • 2. Add a teaspoon of salt to one side of the (this will stop it coming into direct contact with the yeast and killing it). Make a well in the centre of the flour, add two tablespoons of olive oil and the water and yeast mix.
  • 3. Mix well, you may need to add more water, your dough should be quite soft and sticky, but not super wet
  • 4. Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes (or until the urge to punch someone has passed, if I haven’t mentioned it before I sometimes “rage bake”)
  • 5. Clean the bowl you were using, (I always give the bowl a quick wipe with a little oil to stop your dough sticking). Put your dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel and prove for one hour
  • 6. Grease an 8 x 12 inch tin with some olive oil and transfer the dough from the bowl to the tin. Stretch the dough out to fill the tin. Cover with a tea towel again and prove for 45 minutes
  • 7. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degree (Celsius). Remove the tea towel from your baking tin, and with your finger tips press little dimples into the dough
  • 8. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil across the top of the dough. Pluck leaves of rosemary and poke them into the dough (it will just sit on top and then fall off if you don’t). Sprinkle a teaspoon is salt across the top of the dough (sea salt is best if you have it, but just use a little less ordinary salt if you don’t)
  • 9. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes

Spicy Yellow Split Pea Soup

Autumn is definitely here, and it’s time to break out the one pot comfort food recipes. I love recipes that I can make from what I usually have in a cupboard or the fridge and this one of them. Dried yellow split peas are really cheap, and packed full of protein and fibre. They also work brilliantly in Indian dishes like dhal.

This is a really rich satisfying, cheap and easy to make meal. Perfect for chilly days when you want something nutritious and satisfying. It’s also packed with lovely warming flavours like ginger, chilli and garlic.

This soup freezes well or can live in your fridge for 3-4 days.

Ingredients

1 Leek (finely sliced)

2 Carrots (grated)

250 Grams Yellow split peas

1 Litre Vegetarian stock (I used 2 stock cubes to make this)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated), or 1 Tsp of ground ginger if you don’t have the fresh stuff)

1 Tsp Tumeric

3-4 Cloves of garlic (minced)

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

Method

  • Heat the oil in large pot over a medium heat, and add the leek and carrot. Cook for 5-10 minutes until soft
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Turn up the heat bring the soup up to just before the boil
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Serve topped with toasted hazel nuts or pumpkin seeds for a little extra crunch

Spinach Falafel

Sometimes if you’ve been overindulging your body tells you to eat something healthier. When that happens, this what you should be eating. Packed full of flavour and protein these little falafel are great as the protein element of a main meal or in wraps for a tasty and filling packed lunch. These falafel are baked rather than fried, which helps make them even healthier.

I made these with cannelini beans, (I thought I had chickpeas in the cupboard, but you could probably use any type of tinned beans). These are also gluten free and suitable for vegans.

Ingredients

400 Gram Can of cannelini beans or chickpeas

2 Tablespoons Porridge oats

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 Tablespoon Tahini

2 Cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

100 Grams Spinach

1 Teaspoon Salt

Handful of Coriander or parsley (toughly chopped)

Tablespoon Sesame Seeds (optional)

Oil for spraying

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Add all ingredients (except the sesame seeds) to a food processor and blend until you have a smooth mix
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment, the falafel mix should be quite soft, so I used a tablespoon to scoop the mix on the baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are using them and bake for 15 minutes before turning them and bake for another 15 minutes

“Super Food” Salad

People still argue about if super foods actually exist. Regardless of this, everything in this salad is good for you, and tastes delicious.

It’s packed full of protein, flavour and different tastes and texture. I enjoy this with hummus, (so ideal for vegans and vegetarians). It’s also great in wraps with holoumi or as a side dish with grilled chicken or fish.

Ingredients

For the salad

50 Grams Endamame beans (I used frozen ones that I thawed)

100 Grams Quinoa (dried weight), cook as instructed on the packet

50 Grams Almonds (toasted and chopped)

2 handfuls Rocket/Arugula (or other peppery salad leaf)

1 large Carrot (grated)

1 Red pepper (cut in into 1cm chuncks)

400 Gram Tin of cannellini beans (use what ever type of beans you like, just drain them first)

2 Tbsp Pumpkin seeds

1 Large avocado (chopped)

Juice of one lime

For the dressing

2 Tbsp Olive oil

Zest and juice of 2 limes

2 Tbsp Corriander (chopped, you can use other herbs like mint or parsley if prefer)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cook the quinoa as instructed on the packet and allow to cool
  2. In a dry frying pan, toast the almonds and allow to cool before chopping (you don’t need to do this but it really does help improve the flavour)
  3. Chop the avocado and cover with the juice of one of the limes to prevent it from discolouring
  4. Add all the salad ingredients (except the rocket) to a bowl and mix well
  5. Add the dressing and check the seasoning, mix in the rocket just before serving

Healthy Spring Rolls and Dipping Sauce

I love the spring rolls I usually get from my local Chinese take away, but am conscious that they are deep fried and probably not great for my first waistline.

I wanted to make a slightly healthier version, so these are packed with vegetables and using filo pastry which can be baked rather than deep fried. This version is vegan, but you could also add cooked chicken or prawns if you wanted to add more protein. I used shop bought filo pastry which makes things quicker (anyone who makes their own probably needs to get out more), and is a great way to use up left over veggies.

Stir fried veggies

The dipping sauce was a bit of store cupboard throw together, (my favourite dip is usually shop bought sweet chilli sauce). I have a friend who is much more experienced cooking Asian cuisine and she told me that all good dipping suaces should include sweet, sour, salt, and heat. I’m definately making this again. These are great as a starter or side dish, but I enjoy them as a snack along with a cold beer.

Ingredients

For the spring rolls

270 Gram Pack Filo pastry

1 Onion (finely sliced)

1 Carrot (cut into matchsticks)

1 Red Pepper (finely sliced)

2 Handfuls Cabbage or any greens you prefer (I used some left over cooked cabbage I had, but if using raw cabbage make sure it’s very finely sliced)

4-6 cm Knob of ginger (grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (grated or finely chopped)

1 Tsp Chinese 5 spice powder

2 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (optional)

For the dipping sauce

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Tsp Chilli flakes/fresh chilli

1 Clove of garlic (grated or finely chopped)

1 Tsp Honey

1 Tsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp Warm water

1 Tbsp Vinegar (if you have rice wine vinegar is probably best, I didn’t have this so used red wine vinegar and it was fine)

Tuck and roll

Method

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan/wok, and add the vegetables, cook lightly for a few minutes and add the Chinese 5 spice powder, garlic and ginger, fry for another minute or two until the vegetables start to soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before trying to assemble the spring rolls
  2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Open your packet of pastry, most packs recommend that you cover the pastry with a slightly damp tea towel if you are not able to work quickly. This prevents the pastry from drying out and becoming brittle and difficult to work with
  3. I cut sheets of around 8-10 cm long and 6-8 cm wide (you can make smaller rolls if you prefer). Lay a sheet on your work surface and brush or spray with oil (those low cal oil sprays now a available are really handy, but just brush lightly with oil if you don’t have this) and top with another sheet of pastry, and repeat until you have 3 layers of filo pastry
  4. With the pastry lengthways in front of you, lay a good heaped tablesoon of your vegetable filling and place near the right hand corner of the pastry. Tuck short corner of the pastry over the vegetables and tuck on the sides and roll (as shown in the photo)
  5. Brush/spray the rolls with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are using them and place on a baking tray. Place in your heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden
  6. The dipping sauce is strainght forward, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir before checking the taste (you mighy want more heat, sweetness etc). Put into separate serving bowls, Serve along side the spring rolls