Almondina

After Christmas many of us want a break from big heavy sit down dinners. With cheese and grazing boards becoming popular, almondina are the perfect addition to lend some interest if you’re bored of crackers.

This is also a great recipe to use up any left over nuts or dried fruit. I actually think it’s better to have mix of fruit and nuts.

Ingredients

175 Grams Nuts (I used a mix of almonds, walnuts and pecans, but any mixture will work)

125 Grams Plain flour

25 Grams Brown sugar

125 Grams Dried fruit (I used roughly chopped apricots and dates, if you are using smaller fruit like raisins or sultanas, keep an eye in them during the second bake as they can catch quickly)

1/4 Tsp Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1/2 Tsp Salt

175Ml Milk

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius). Grease a loaf pan
  2. Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and combine
  3. Stir in the milk with a wooden spoon and when thoroughly mixed transfer to the loaf tin and bake for 60 minutes
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  5. Wrap in cling film and freeze for 1 hour. This will help you slice the almondina thinly. Do not freeze for longer than this
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius) and line a baking sheet with parchment
  7. Take the almondina out of the freezer and remove the cling film
  8. With a bread knife, slice the loaf into 1/2 cm thick slices and place on the baking sheet for 12-15 mins (until they brown around the edges), before cooling on a wire wrack
  9. These will last in an airtight container for up to a week

Potato Latkes

Food is one of the best ways to nurture people but also remember those who we loved.

We are in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Hanukah. I’m not Jewish, but my much loved sister in law Bobra Fyne was. She was great at describing the customs surrounding the holiday and was a brilliant story teller (she was one of my favourite people in the world).

She also shared my family’s love of carbs and was an amazing cook, and so I made these as a way to remember her.

Squeeze your grated potatoes in a clean tea towel to remove as much liquid as possible

This is a simple recipe from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. While grating the potato is a bit of a faff the results are delicious served the traditional accompaniments of sour cream or apple sauce. Similar to a potato rosti, they can be served as an appetiser or side dish.

Ingredients

1kg Potatoes

2 Eggs

1 Tsp Salt

Oil for frying

Method

  1. Peel and grate the potatoes, rinse in cold water to remove the starch.
  2. Drain in a colander. Depending on the type of potatoes you use, you might need to put the grated potatoes in a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess liquid. Transfer to a large bowl
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and add to the potatoes. Mix until combined
  4. In a large pan, add just enough oil to cover the base and heat over a medium heat
  5. Add a tablespoon of the potato mixture to the pan at a time and flatten slightly so they cook evenly, (they should be thin enough to make sure you don’t have raw potato in the middle)
  6. When brown, turn with a spatula and cook until brown on he other side
  7. Drain on kitchen paper and serve while hot

Pierogis (Polish Dumplings)

Potato and cheese pierogi

I visited Krakow recently, and loved everything about the place. What I really fell in love with were pierogis, served in pretty much every restaurant.

Our food guide told us the it’s really common in Polish homes for members of the family to get together and make huge batches of pierogis, especially at certain times of year, like Christmas.

This weekend I got together with my Krakow travel companions to drink maybe more than we should and make pierogis.

A few cocktails while cooking with friends. If you’re entertaining family over the holidays I would recommend this as a great way to get everyone involved and keep them entertained.

Pierogis are fairly easy to make and we worked in a kind of production line which made it even easier. I would definitely recommend getting your friends together and giving communal cooking a go. By the time you chat, laugh and have a few drinks you can make loads of them. I didn’t have a recipe for these so we used the BBC Good Food recipe and the dumplings tasted exactly like what he had in Poland.

Pierogis freeze well, double up on the recipe and you can pull them out of the freezer for a quick week night dinner. You can also make a sweet version by simply replacing the filling with raw blueberries and serve topped with sour cream.

Blueberry pierogis with sour cream

Ingredients

For the dough

250 Grams Self Raising Flour (sifted)

1 Tsp Salt

3 Tbsp. Vegetable oil

250-300ml Warm Water

For the filling

250 Grams Mashed potatoes (this is a great way to use up left overs, make sure the mashed potatoes are cold before using)

50 Grams Butter

1 Onion (finely chopped)

250 Grams Cottage Cheese

Method

  1. Add the flour and salt to a bowl, add the oil and then gradually add water and mix until you have a soft dough. Gather into a ball, knead for 5 minutes, wrap in cling film. Chill for 30 minutes
  2. While the dough is resting, melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the onions over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown
  3. Mix the potatoes and cottage cheese together and stir in two thirds of the fried onions. Mix until thoroughly combined
  4. Roll the dough out as thinly as possible (nobody wants a thick doughy dumpling). Use a cookie cutter or class to cut 4-5 cm circles
  5. Put a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of the circle and lightly wet the edges of of circle. Fold over to create a half moon and press the edges closed tightly
  6. Heat a large pot of water to just before boiling, add the pierogi, about 6-7 at a time (depending on the size of your pot, just be careful not to overcrowd the pot)
  7. When the pierogi start to float, lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Keep cooking the pierogi until all the dumplings are cooked.
  8. Serve on a large plate, and sprinkle the remaining fried onions over the top

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

Cheese, Corn and Jalapeno Fritters

I’m not always super organised when it comes to planning meals (how many of us actually are).

There are dishes I love that need mashed potatoes, and I don’t always remember to make some the day before, or don’t want the fuss of making it.

The lovely people at Mash Direct were kind enough to send me some of their products to try. I was reminded that I hadn’t made these little flavour bombs in ages. Having ready made mashed potatoes was really handy.

I served these fritters with a fresh tomato salad and they were delicious. I can also highly recommend them for breakfast along with eggs.

Serves 4

Ingredients

400 Grams Mashed potatoes (I used a pack of Mashed Direct mash, it also works really well with their champ)

150 Grams Sweet Corn (frozen or canned is fine)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Jalapeno pepper (finely chopped, with the seeds removed, if you like these super spicy you can add more)

100 Grams Mature cheddar cheese (grated)

1 Egg

1 Tbsp Plain flour

3 Tbsp Oil

Method

  1. Fry the onion with 1 tablespoon of oil to a frying pan over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes allowing the onion to brown and caramelise, add the jalapeno pepper and cook for 5 mins
  2. Add the potatoes, corn, onion, peppers, egg, flour and cheese into a large bowl and mix well
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on a large frying. Add a tablespoon of the fritter mix to the pan at a time, and press flat with a spatula. Don’t try to cook more than 2 or 3 at a time
  4. Cook for 5 minutes or until brown before turning (you need to let a brown crust form first or else they’ll be difficult to turn). Drain on kitchen towels before serving

Michael’s Easy Cannelini Bean Soup

My brother made this soup for me and I loved it.  He only gave me the recipe on condition of a name check, so thanks Michael.

This is proper comfort food, and while the recipe is Vegan friendly it’s a really hearty stick to your ribs meal in a bowl.

I’m not vegetarian, so I topped the soup with some bacon I had left.  But in fairness it’s equally delicious with out it.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

400 Gram Tin of cannelini beans

2 Stalks of celery (fine chopped)

2 Carrots (grated)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Vegetable stock cube (or tablespoon of buillion powder)

2 Cloves of garlic (crushed or very finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Boiling water

Method

  1. Add the oil to a deep sauce pan and heat over a medium heat
  2. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion softens but doesn’t colour
  3. Then add the carrot and celery and cook gently for an other 10 minutes
  4. Stir in the garlic and beans (including half the water they came in), crumble in the stock cube, add the boiling water and stir well.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the the vegetables are soft and then serve with crusty bread

Herby Potato Salad

Potato salad is lovely summer dish, but not everyone is a fan of mayonnaise.

This version is a little bit lighter and can be enjoyed by vegans too.

Waxy potatoes are probably best, but either is fine. This is such a great side dish, it goes with virtually everything.

Ingredients

750 Grams Potatoes (cut into 4-5cm chunks, I like to leave the skins on but peel them if you prefer)

1 Tsp Salt

1/4 Red onion (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine/cider vinegar

1 Tsp Mustard (I like to use grain mustard but Dijon mustard is fine too)

4 Tbsp Chopped herbs (I used coriander and parsley because it was what I had, but dill or mint or a mixture will also work)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the potatoes and salt to a pot and add enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, and drain the cooking water (Hold back 2 Tbsp of the cooking water)
  2. In a large bowl add the onion and sprinkle with the vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes (this will help stop that harsh raw onion flavour). Add the oil, mustard, herbs, and cooking water you held back from the potatoes and stir
  3. Add the potatoes while they are still slightly warm to the bowl and mix well to ensure they are coated with the dressing, this will allow them to help soak up the flavour

Crostini with Whipped Feta and Roasted Grapes

I love dishes made with ingredients I usually have in my kitchen. No part of this recipe is difficult, just break it into 3 steps, bread, feta and grapes.

The cheese, oil, yoghurt and spring onions before whipping

This is a pretty fancy starter but all the elements can be made well in advance and assembled at the last minute. If you want to make delicious canapes this also works brilliantly on wafer thin slivers of sour dough bread or those tiny little croustad cups you can buy in some delicatessens It’s also great for a lunch dish.

Straight from the oven, perfect once the grapes start to look s little shriveled

I love whipped feta, and it can be used in salads, wraps, sandwiches or as a dip. It’s also really good with roasted vegetables or sun dried tomatoes.

Feta, once it has been whipped

The roast grapes are something you might not have tried before, but their sweetness works really well with the saltiness of the feta.

Ingredients

For the bread

1 Ciabatta loaf (you can use other breads like sour dough or French baguette if you prefer), cut into 1-2cm thick slices

1-2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Clove of garlic

For the grapes

250 Grams Red grapes

1Tbsp Oil

1 Clove of garlic (finely chopped)

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Dried thyme, or 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Black pepper

For the Feta

200 Grams Feta cheese

2 Tbsp Yoghurt

1 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Scallions/spring onions (Optional), finely sliced

Black pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Remove the grapes from the stem and add to an oven proof dish along with the other ingredients. Swirl the grapes around to make sure they are coated with the oil, thyme and garlic. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the skins start to blister, remove from the oven and allow to cool
  2. Place the sliced bread on a baking tray and drizzle with oil on each side. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, remove and rub each slice with a clove of garlic
  3. In a large bowl, crumble the feta, and add the other ingredients and whip with an electric whisk for 5 minutes or until creamy.
  4. When the bread is cool, spread with a layer of whipped feta, and top with the roasted grapes

Broad Beans with Mint

I’m guilty of falling into food ruts, making the same thing or using the same ingredients.  The great thing about Summer is that so many gorgeous vegetables like broad beans come into season.

Yes it is a bit more fiddley to shell the beans, but it’s a good job to do while chatting in the phone or even better if you have kids, little fingers are made for jobs like this.

As a kid I wasn’t a fan of broad beans.  I’d only ever had them with the tough whitish green slightly bitter layer left on and boiled to within an inch of their life.  Fast forward and while visiting a friend her Mum made this dish.  With the outer layer removed the beans are  sweet and tender.  Add a mint dressing and you have a really light Summery salad.  This is also great in wraps and sandwiches.

Ingredients

1Kg Grams Broad beans in pods

2 Tbsp Oil (I used rapeseed oil, but any neutral tasting oil will do)

1 Tbsp White wine or cider vinegar

2 Tbsp Fresh mint (finely chopped) or 1 Tbsp dried mint

Method

  1. Remove the broad beans from their pods, and then peel off the whitish outer coating. This will show the tender green bean inside, gently pull the two halves apart
  2. Once you have shelled all the beans, blanche in boiling water for 1 minute and then transfer quickly to a bowl of cold water (this will help keep them bright green
  3. Add your oil, vinegar and mint to a large bowl and stir, add the beans and make sure they are well coated
  4. Season with salt and pepper if you feel it needs it