Wednesday, 28 December 2011

cucumber wakame salad and fish sandwiches

hello lovely readers! long time no speak. i hope you all had a very wonderful Christmas, and are looking forward to 2012 :)

Christmas was incredible this year, so much fun was had! instead of taking photos galore, i did lots of cooking and eating - helping Farmor cook the usual smorgasbord for Christmas Eve, then we had duck for Christmas lunch, and then a marvellous array of nibbles for dinner... it was yummy. there was nonstop family arriving and departing of course, but that's how i like the festive season to be!

so, i thought i'd share a few of my most recent eats with you, as well as a funny little video:

aubergine carrot noodles with wakame cucumber salad - random weird meal that turned out to be very delicious. i think i have a new found love of wakame... i purchased some dried in Oz, and brought it back with me, and it's so tasty.

more brown rice congee! i seriously love this stuff... i could eat it every morning (if i didn't love oats and buckwheat loads too!)

plenty of walks with little Bruno have been had the last couple of days...

the ultimate fish sandwich, made by my brother's fair hands... crispy fish, boiled egg, radish, cucumber, spinach, mayo, toasted cranks. serious yum.

if you really want to know how to make this sandwich, then check out my latest Youtube video!!:

my favorite gifts this Christmas were my favorite perfume and dark chocolate from my boyfriend Pete (yes, this is the first time you're hearing about this...more later!) and a tiny silicone spatula from my friend Emily, which i've already used 3 times.

so, how was your Christmas? what's your favorite thing to do when you're bored?

currently listening to: dedication to my ex by lloyd - love the beat.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

wild mushroom foraging

a few weeks ago i mentioned that my brother, jonny and i had been out foraging mushrooms from the wild... so today, i thought i'd share some photos, and a little info about what occurred that fateful afternoon.

firstly, it's probably very important to say that you have to be extremely careful when mushroom foraging - some are very poisonous and even deadly. BUT, there are really good guide books and a great wealth of online resources to help guide you to know whether what you've found is actually edible, so it's worth giving it a go, because they can be super nutritious, very tasty, and are of course, FREE.

jonny and i have been meaning to go mushroom hunting for a long time now, and one sunny wednesday afternoon we just decided to go for it. bag in pocket, dog on lead, wellington boots on, off into the local fields and forests to search for fungi.

and we found some nestled in some nettles, in a field full of sheep.

we found two other varieties, but decided that they were too small, and too questionable to bother picking (one lot was growing on a rotting tree stump, the others were randomly growing by the footpath where dogs run, hmm). the ones that we found were massive, so even though we didn't know what variety they were, we figured they were in a good location, and because they weren't red with spots on, that we'd be at least 50% of the way to knowing they were probably edible.

when we got back home, we did some serious online research, checking photo after photo to make 110% sure that we weren't going to poison ourselves. wild about britain was very helpful, as was
this foraging guide to mushrooming. we decided that our mushrooms were shaggy parasols (macrolepiota rhacodes) and that therefore they'd be fine once cooked!

we were absolutely terrified that we might poison ourselves, and so jonny decided that the only way to try them was to cook them very thoroughly, to be on the safe side and avoid 'gastric upset' which can sometimes occur with shaggy parasols.

so what did we do?

firstly, jonny fried them in butter and mixed in some herbs and cream cheese to make a mushroom sauce type thing, which we had with swede fries, swedish red cabbage and chilli chutney. the flavour of the shrooms was very intense, and delicious!

then the following day, we made a mushroom omelette. which was divine! rich flavours, simple, wild ingredients. and i'm sure lots of extra goodness from their having been grown in the outdoors near some sheep.

so next time you fancy a little free wild mushrooming: be appropriately cautious, be thorough in your research for identifying them (make sure to check regional websites for tips on what grows locally and where - UK mushrooming guides will vary from the US and France, for example) and then go for it! but probably don't eat them raw.

have you ever been mushrooming? what's your favorite way to eat mushrooms?

currently loving: the january issue of Vogue - so so pretty...

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

cherry almond mince pies with a buckwheat crust

happy advent everyone! today i want to share with you the ultimate homemade mince pie - which happens to be sugar free and gluten free too, as well as packed full of delicious fruits and nuts.

these are so good that my highly critical brother scarfed 3 of them in about 2 minutes, and then proceeded to get one from the local bakery to test, and returned to tell me that mine were superior in all aspects...not too sweet, and with a lovely flavourful crust.

actually, i happen to agree with him. it's very difficult to eat a shop bought mince pie after you've made them yourself. and so i've been making my own for the last few years. it may seem like a long process, but it will be so worth it!

cherry almond mince pies with a buckwheat crust

for the crust:
240g (1 1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
125g butter, cubed and cold
1 beaten egg (+1 for egg wash)
1 tsp vinegar
3 Tbsp iced water

1. begin by aerating the flour and salt by lifting the flour through your fingers.
2. rub in the cold fat, until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. beat together the egg, vinegar and water, then stir into the flour using a knife to cut, stir and bring pastry together.
4. form a slightly sticky ball of dough with your hands.
5. knead lightly for 2-3 minutes.
6. flatten and refrigerate. this will keep in the fridge for at least 24 hours, if not a couple of days. or you can make ahead of time and place in the freezer.

for the cherry almond mince meat:
250g (1 1/2 cups) sultanas or raisins
1 lemon, grated and juiced
1 cup hot water
100g (1/2 cup) almonds, finely chopped
2 tsp mixed spice
2 apples, grated
a little freshly grated nutmeg
100g (1/2 cup) canned cherries, drained
1 Tbsp marmalade
1 dsp vanilla extract
100g (1/2 cup) suet (you can use traditional, gluten free or vegetarian)

1. soak the sultanas/raisins in the lemon juice, zest and hot water for about an hour, until plump.
2. mix all the other ingredients in, and then place in a saucepan to simmer for about 1 hour, until pulpy and glossy.
3. this will keep in the fridge for a fortnight, due to the sugar content and the suet. made ahead of time, it will allows the flavours to enfuse even more! you might even have a little leftover for another batch...

to assemble the mince pies:
1. divide your pastry into 4, and roll out until the width of a coin.
2. cut circles out to fit your tart tin or cupcake tray, and smaller ones to act as lids
3. place the large circle in the tray, fill with mincemeat and cover with a lid.
4. brush over with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar or edible glitter.
5. bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden, at 180c

cook's notes: these freeze beautifully. so make lots, and keep some in a container in the freezer until Christmas Day to enjoy with the family.

i hope you enjoy making these - i love the process, and the smell as they cook, as well as how good they taste reheated and served with a little greek yoghurt or creme fraiche.

 currently listening to: the christmas song by nat king cole - the most gorgeous and warming Christmas song ever!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

lessons in saving money and budgeting

otherwise titled, 'what i learnt from the big budget challenge'. thanks to Laura for being a wonderful host for the last two months, and for doing round-ups of everyone's very interesting and helpful posts.

i've personally learnt loads from having done this challenge, and so today i want to share with you all some of the wisdom i've gained, and a few practical tips for ways you can reduce your grocery budget. because, really, it'd be a little pointless if i didn't share my secrets with you all!

first though, let's look at some numbers that have accumulated in the last 2 months...
  • 39 receipts from 11 different places
  • 16 of those were from Waitrose, where a total of £150.60 was spent, with an average of £1.36 per item
  • 9 of those were from Lidl, where a total of £136.93 was spent, with an average of 80p an item
  • 5 of those were in Tesco, where a total of £56.73 was spent
  • the others were from the market, local Nisa, Well Natural, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, the local Garden centre and tool shop - totalling £55.71
  • all in all £399.97 was spent over 2 months for all the food and household items for 3 people. that's £6.45 each day, or £44.44 each week.

things i learnt:

1. we are so very blessed!
2. using herbs and spices to their full potential is key.
3. that using what you have in stock, or what's on offer is far cheaper than planning your meals.
4. foraging wild produce is exciting, delicious, easy and free!
5. eating seasonally is essential for health, happiness and your wallet. local markets are the best place to find good deals on seasonal fruit and veg.
6. growing your own veg is ultimately rewarding.

7. keeping things simple is key - simple flavours, simple combinations, simple meals.
8. that Lidl's is awesome!
9. that shopping around is the best way to get a good deal, and by keeping receipts or a cost book you can figure out where is the cheapest place to buy essential staples.
10. beans and lentils truly are the cheapest and healthiest sources of protein out there, and can be used in a variety of different and exciting ways.
11. making things from scratch is way cheaper.

12. i really don't need any more clothes for a long time...
13. it's easier to be healthy if you spend less money, because you'll be reducing your expensive meat and dairy intake, and increasing the amount of cheap veg and fruit.
14. i don't NEED an everyday intake of dark chocolate and yogurt to keep me going! my body is well equipped to survive and thrive on whatever sustenance i give it :)
15. free exercise is the best exercise!

check out each weekly post in detail for more info on exactly what was spent where and why:
week 1 - in which i lay down my rules for the challenge, and tell you how much we used to spend on groceries...
week 2 - where i bought antique knives for £1 at a local fair, made chickpea marrow torte and foraged lots of blackberries from hedgerows near our house
week 3 - learnt to make barley chappattis, finished my patchwork quilt and went to my first car boot sale where i purchased a huge jumper for only £1
week 4 - where i realised that what we spend on food is ridiculous in comparison to those who have NO food, and we cut our weekly spending budget by £15.
week 5 - when i made raisin oat bannocks, foraged wild apples by the side of the road and enjoyed a hot picnic feast at the allotment with ginger parkin.
week 6 - i discovered sweet red bean paste, had a delivery of woodchip at the allotment and discovered pinhead oatmeal
week 7 - when i made brown rice congee, bought our Christmas ducks for the freezer and roasted allotment squash
week 8 - in which i foraged mushrooms with my brother from an obliging field, sold a coat in a trade store and at chili chutney with everything

currently listening to: god rest ye merry gentlemen by annie lennox - yes, the Christmas playlist has now commenced!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

leftover oatmeal pancakes and favorite books

i hope you're having a great day!

today i simply want to share with you my latest eats, and some links to delicious ideas and recipes:

leftover oatmeal pancakes. what else do you make when you've got leftover oatmeal? instead of following a recipe, i just mixed the leftover oatmeal with a little baking powder, cinnamon and an egg, whisked with a fork, and voila!

tuna melt with crispy kale. a simple, cheap and satisfying lunch - my favorite that takes longer to prepare than it does to actually eat it.

 ♥ new potato, cavolo nero kale and tomato tarragon stir fry. a very delicious dinner, whipped up after the realisation that new potatoes were in fact low GI (how did i not know this?) and also because it's so rustically simple and satisfying to cook things with a little creme fraiche, stock and herbs.

homemade mince pies. with buckwheat shortcrust pastry and cherry almond mincemeat filling. oh my word, the recipe is coming soon for this one...

on a walk with dog - there was much fun to be had kicking up all those leaves :)

 thanks to peas and crayons for another epic WIAW!

and lastly, i was recently asked for some book recommendations, so i thought i'd share with you this video that i created for my Youtube channel, telling you my fave health and recipe books:

of course, had i taken this video now i would also have to include my very own breakfast cookbook, just because of the acheivement it represents and the amount of times i open it in the week.

what are your favourite cookbooks and health books?

currently listening to: paradise by coldplay - i know you've probably all heard it a million times, but after being thoroughly unconvinced to begin with, i now really love it :)

Monday, 28 November 2011

paprika molasses beans and christmas lights

hey all! i hope you are starting to feel in the holiday mood, aka happy, generous and thankful. i've been doing my upmost to get into the spirit of the festive season, even though it hasn't snowed like last year, and it's not even december 1st yet. don't judge me, i just l.o.v.e. Christmas.

there are poinsettia's in the house, i've begun compiling this year's holiday playlist, i've been to the local Christmas lights switch on event, and i attended an advent 'darkness to light' procession at Salisbury Cathedral - incredible! with 1300 candles and beautiful choral singing, i felt very festive indeed.

so, i haven't bought my presents yet, not even close really, but i have got a list, which i feel is pretty good going. every year i say i'll do it early, but i never really get round to it. at church yesterday i talked with several women who have already wrapped all their gifts...impressive organisation or what?!

anyway. onto some of my latest eats:

paprika molasses beans with egg fried brown rice and courgette.

you may ask 'why alissa, why on earth, would you make homemade beans when you can buy them for 26p from Lidl?' - the answer is because a) they are delicious, b) i never have before and c) it's good value for money if you make a lot.

making baked beans in a slow cooker is quick and fun, and so much more flavourful than a tin - yes, even an expensive Heinz tin. it's pretty simple to do, with the help of the beautiful as american as apple pie cookbook that i picked up for £1 at a charity shop last month. or, there's a beautiful recipe for Boston beans at just hungry, which is very similar to the one i used, except i added some smoked paprika, Worcestershire sauce and applesauce, and swapped the ketchup for tomato puree and a little red wine vinegar.

seriously good stuff.

♥ curried carrot, sweet potato and broccoli with a fried egg on cranks organic wholemeal with butter bean paste, and a little chilli chutney on the side.

butternut squash mac and cheese with spinach and chopped salad. this is such an awesome recipe - i mixed my butternut 'cheese' sauce with some cooked butter beans for extra protein. yum.

the local Christmas lights switch on event - there were loads of people, and christmas songs, and gorgeous fireworks. a lovely occasion to be part of, and officially the start of the season for me!

currently listening to: a very she & him christmas - i know it's a little early, but i've started compiling some awesome tracks for this year's festivities :)

what's your favorite christmas song? have you ever made your own baked beans?

ps. today i am the featured blogger on Foodista! check it out here...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

rice stuffed squash and crispy cavolo nero

happy thanksgiving everyone! i know i'm not actually American, but i appreciate any opportunity for giving thanks and spending time with family... and to eat pumpkin pie too, of course.

today i want to share a simple recipe for a very delicious dish, that's made with scrummy allotment vegetables and pantry staples...

stuffed squash with brown rice, mushroom, red onion and crispy kale

the crispy cavolo nero kale with it is one of my favorite things to pick up from the market - nutritious, but mostly just really delicious!

 mushroom and brown rice stuffed squash with crispy kale

1 small round squash
1 red onion
a couple of handfuls of mushrooms
1 cup cooked brown rice
a little vegetable bouillon
cracked black pepper
fresh parsley
1 ball of mozzarella
4-5 large cavolo nero kale leaves
1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil

1. cut your squash in half, take out the seeds and place face down in a baking tray filled with a little water. bake in the oven until tender - or for about 35-45 minutes.
2. fry your red onion and mushrooms in a frying pan until soft.
3. add the cooked brown rice into the pan, and add in a little water and a sprinkle of vegetable bouillon, black pepper and fresh parsley. simmer until the water has been absorbed.
4. place the mixture in the cooked squash halves.
5. slice up you mozzarella ball, and place on top. place in a hot oven, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
6. tear the cavolo nero into the frying pan with the butter or coconut oil. fry until the oil has disappeared, and it becomes crispy - whilst the squash is cooking.
7. enjoy! serve with a little dill yogurt dip or homemade ketchup.

cook's notes: this recipe would taste good with most any grain, vegetable combination - the balance is important so that the textures are right. try quinoa and broccoli, buckwheat and red pepper, or chickpea, cauliflower and aubergine.

and now for the latest from the big budget challenge...

well, this week we've not done too badly...
  • there's currently £7.74 in the account. hmmm. this is a reflection on the reduced budget, and the fact that whenever i go shopping with my mum, i somehow seem to buy loads more for no apparent reason. does anyone else find this?
  • we spent £8.46 in Waitrose, and £27.84 in Lidl. we purchased a few staples, but lots of fresh produce too - perhaps more than was required however. i added up all the 'extra' things that mum put in the basket, and they totalled £4.16. BUT, then i added up all the extra things i added in the basket so i didn't appear stingy, and that totalled £4.82!!

  • i got some frozen beans and peas for the freezer, because it's a good quick dinner for someone else to make, and we all adore them.
  • we haven't eaten any dahl for over a week, or any socca either. there's something a bit weird about having too many veggies in the fridge - i feel i need to eat them all as quick as possible, so they don't 'lose nutrients' or something, and then when there aren't any left i feel like i'm depriving myself.
  • my brother jonny and i have been mushroom foraging - more pictures and info on that to come soon (there's a sneak preview on my facebook!)... but suffice to say we are both still alive, and neither of us have suffered with 'gastric upset' due to poisonous fungi.
  • last Saturday i picked up some money that i had earnt from a secondhand clothes store - £22.50 in total for one coat that i never wore. i have spent some of it already, but there's still a little bit of spending money left for the next week! handy for Christmas present buying :)
  • i have a new job working for my church office - i am so enjoying it, and it's helping me earn a little extra cash as well as spend time with awesome people helping to organise events, and learn a few new skills.
  • i'm loving eating up the chili chutney that i made for the bonfire banquet - it goes very nicely with loads of things. and also we've been eating carrots, potatoes, squash and red onion from the allotment, even though we haven't gone up there in a while because it's so cold.

currently reading: the tuscan year by elizabeth romer - i'm only on the first few pages, but i'm so excited to learn more about real tuscan living.

Monday, 21 November 2011

dessicated coconut pancakes

hey everyone! i hope you are all excited about this week and the opportunities it might bring. i never fail to feel enthusiastic about who i might meet, what i might do and things i might learn - every day is a gift, and so very precious to us.

today, i want to share with you a delicious recipe from my new breakfast cookbook, Healthy Breakfast Recipes - these coconut pancakes are made with dessicated coconut, and are very easy, cheap and quick to make and enjoy in the morning.

here's a quick video showing you exactly how to make them -  full recipe and photos below:

coconut pancakes recipe
serves 2

1/2 cup (50g) ground dessicated coconut
1 egg
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp milk
a pinch of salt

1. mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with a fork.
2. leave to rest for 30 minutes, or keep overnight in the fridge.
3. heat a frying pan to a medium temperature, and add in a little coconut oil or butter (if it's nonstick, skip this)
4. once hot, add in spoonfuls of the mixture and wait about 2 minutes before flipping over, cook until golden both sides.
5. serve hot, with a little homemade jam and a dash of coconut cream or applesauce.

cooks notes: if the mixture seems a little too thick, add in a little more milk to bring it too the consistency of whipped mashed potatoes. this depends on the size of your egg and the type of dessicated coconut you use.

♥ i ate all of mine pretty quickly...

what's your favorite pancake recipe? do you use dessicated coconut in your cooking?

currently loving: painting a fleur de lis pattern on this year's Christmas teatowels - it's a very pretty design i think :)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

brown rice congee and christmas budgeting

hey everyone! today's post i want to share with you a favorite breakfast recipe of mine - brown rice congee.

congee is a thai dish involving grinding rice, adding it to boiling water and stirring until thick. it's a great one for those who want to steer clear of wheat and gluten, and is super fast. this is usually a savoury dish, but i prefer it sweetened and served like regular porridge...

if i can't convince you that this is super easy, super yummy, and highly nutritious, then hopefully the photos, and the fact that this will cost you next to nothing to make, will encourage you to give it a go!

it makes a great breakfast, enjoyed along with Vogue and Waitrose Weekend magazine :)

the texture is pleasant, it hardens after you serve it into the bowl, and so cuts like regular oatmeal.

brown rice congee recipe
serves 1 or 2, adapted from the whole life nutrition kitchen

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
2 cups water (or almond/coconut milk)
a sprinkle of salt

1. grind the brown rice in a coffee grinder, until half as flour, half as halved coarse grains (a little like medium oatmeal).
2. heat the water/milk in a small saucepan, then once it reaches a simmer, whisk in the ground rice.
3. bring to a boil, stirring all the time.
4. reduce heat to simmer, cover with a lid and leave to cook for the remainder of the rice's normal cooking time (look at packet for instructions - 10-20 mins is about right).
5. every few minutes remove lid, whisk and add more water/milk if necessary.
6. scoop into bowls, and add your toppings - honey, ground flaxseed and fresh berries tastes wonderful!

cook's notes: you can multiply this recipe to serve a greater number of people! and kick it with some spice at the beginning of cooking time for a little flavour enhancement - cinnamon, cloves or fresh nutmeg would taste gorgeous.

now onto the latest from the big budget challenge:

well, it's been another interesting week - i never seem to have a boring one in terms of budget finds!
  • there's currently £9.56 in the account. BUT, that's only because this morning when there was over £50, we decided it was time to get our Christmas ducks for the freezer (and because they are currently half price in Waitrose, there's no better time for it). they cost £16.13, and although i personally thought one would be enough, i was overruled.
  • i also bought some things for the house which were on offer, and we've been needing to get in preparation for Christmas - bathroom sealant (£5), a shower curtain (£7), a compost bin with filter (£4.50 - thank you Tesco), Cillit Bang (£3.05) and super glue (99p - to fix my favorite spoon rest, and not have to buy another one). we want the house to look good for guests in the weeks to come...
  • olive oil was on half price offer in Waitrose too, so i got some of that.
  • plus, mum and i have bought double items this week accidentally because we both went shopping - so we've got lots of Cranks wholemeal in the freezer, lots of butter in the fridge and serious quantities of baking powder in the pantry.
  • and also, yesterday evening we went to the theatre (CFT - Madness of George III, it was amazing!), and on the way there we stopped for some dinner at M&S and so that went on the card too - deli chicken, reduced moroccan hummus and wholewheat bagels to dip = genius cheap supermarket takeaway meal.
  • the fridge seems to be performing minor miracles, in continuing to remain stocked, even though we keep eating!
  • last weekend i purchased a couple of plates for £1.80 from Street with my auntie, and i bought a Christmas tree decoration for £2.99 - i do this each year, so one day when i have a tree of my own, i'll have gorgeous memorable decorations to put on it!
  • i've been snacking on wild hazelnuts - the ultimate in local, free, nutritious snacks!
  • we've also roasted a giant squash from the allotment - which we've eaten in a variety of ways, in soup, in stir fries, in omelettes. very delicious with lots of cracked black pepper, and totally free.
we've finished writing the Christmas to-do list, in prep for the holiday season. the next thing on the list to prepare for Christmas are some spanakopita, which will be frozen down for Christmas tea, and then i've got to practice my steamed plum and almond pudding  - i can't wait!

how are all your budgets looking as you get closer to Christmas?

currently watching: the food hospital on channel 4 - interesting stuff, but there's so much untapped potential in the idea. i just wish they were a little more adventurous.

ps. thanks to the lovely Faye @ Raw Lawyer for reviewing my apple cucumber brown rice salad - so glad you liked it! check out her version and pics here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

poppy barley kasha and russian apple scrambled eggs

thanks so much for the gorgeous response to my breakfast cookbook, as well as to my red bean paste pancakes! i will try and redo those, and see if i can come up with an easy no-sugar recipe for you all - i have a good idea of how to do it, but it will take a little tweaking :)

today i'm taking part in another WIAW, thanks to Peas and Crayons, but this time with a little Russian twist ♥

i mentioned recently that i was reading 'the food and cooking of russia' - a book i got out of the library in October. i've been taking notes, scribbling down recipes and trying out some interesting flavour combos since then. i love russian food, because it's humble and simple - it has no pretention.

without actually going to russia, this is the closest glimpse i have gained of their culture - you can learn a lot from food...

barley and poppy kasha with sliced fresh plum and honey

this recipe intrigued me so much, and i'm still rather confused. there is seriously great potential in the combination, but i've never seen anyone soak and mash poppy seeds before, so i will have to try several times before it 'releases oil' and stops being crunchy. otherwise the flavour is awesome, and i love barley for breakfast, so it's a winner!

apple scrambled eggs with radish salad and sour cream dressing

not so much a recipe, rather an idea that the book suggests. another simple 'use-what-you've-got' russian meal. simply fry up apple wedges in butter, then add beaten eggs into the pan. add salt, pepper, sour cream and fresh parsley. and then, if you're anything like me, serve it with leftover marrow chickpea torte for a bit of spice.

if you want to make any of your favorite meals russian, consider adding sauerkraut, sour cream, fresh parsley or dried mushrooms. these seemed to be in most of the dishes in the book!

russians seem to get pretty creative with buckwheat groats and barley too, which makes for a very interesting read. and you have to give credit for any place whose staple foods are fermented cabbage, sour cream and boiled eggs.

the side salad was a chopped delight of sliced beetroot, cucumber, radish, tomatoes and greens. yum yum!

one of the simplest things you could ever have is boiled egg on toast, but in russia, it seems, they mix boiled egg with herring, dill and mustard and grill it until it smells fishy. it was so yummy!

traditional methods and recipes of any country are rather hard to come by; most of them have been simplified or quickened for our modern society, thereby destroying both flavour and nutrition.

sometimes our 'advances' are good, like frozen vegetables for instance, but more often than not, by skipping a vital step in the preparation of food, we make things less digestible and miss out on vital nutrients. lots of the recipes in the book are time-consuming, but i personally think it's worth it.

wild hazelnuts / cobnuts - not really russian, but the book is so much about working with what you've got naturally, so wild foraged hazelnuts definitely won as my evening snack!

so, there you have it, a strange day really, but an unexpectedly delicious one. thanks WIAW!

have you ever tried russian food? do you use poppy seeds in your cooking?

currently reading: the bbc weather report for my local area - trying to fit in a little weeding up at the allotment before it gets too cold and the ground too solid to do anything much.

Monday, 14 November 2011

my book is published!

before i start writing this post, i want to say a massive thank you to every single one of you who reads this blog - without your encouragement and support i might never have published (or even attempted to!) my new recipe compilation. your kind words, helpful criticism and genuine wonderfulness have played such an important role in the creation of the healthy breakfast recipes cookbook.

Healthy Breakfast Recipes is a compilation of my favorite morningtime recipes, all made with whole, unprocessed foods, without sugar or refined flour.

i wanted to create a useful and simple resource for people that celebrates my favorite meal of the day, and encourages a little creativity and variation at breakfast. i hope you can pick this up and be inspired to start the day with exciting flavours, textures and ingredients.

the book features over 70 recipes, and has plenty of gluten free, low gi recipes. it's available as a Kindle as well as paperback, and i hope you'll agree that it's a very reasonable price in both formats. you can see a preview on Amazon, and have a sample sent to your smartphone if you would like.

chapters include:
  • traditional breakfasts
  • pancakes & waffles
  • around the world & european
  • eggs, scrambles and omelettes
  • on the go

selected recipes:
  • strawberry buttermilk waffles
  • swiss bircher muesli
  • plum clafoutis
  • huevos rancheros with chorizo and chili
  • spelt, cashew and apricot rolls
  • buckwheat porridge with cinnamon
  • breakfast burritos with grilled banana
  • chocolate peanut butter bars

several of the recipes have already featured on this blog, and are listed in my favorite recipes tab, including cinnamon almond milk and coconut banana waffles.

over the next few weeks and months i will be sharing some of the recipes from the book on NJA, and i'll also be videoing some too, so you can see them in action!

purchase your copy from:

don't you think they'll make great Christmas presents? the cover and illustrations are so beautiful, that had my entire family not already purchased their own copies already, i'd be giving one to each of them along with a packet of homemade granola as gifts...

and please do let me know what you think :)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

carrot fudge and red bean paste pancakes

so, i guess you are looking at the title of this post and thinking that i've completely lost it! well, i have and i haven't. one of these recipes was delicious, and one was a disaster... and both of these have happened because of my new experiments with cheap, thrifty recipes.

let's start with the epic fail, that i like to call carrot smoosh:

this is otherwise known as world war two carrot 'fudge'

and yes, it really was bad. i used this recipe from the frugal wartime recipes of great britain. and i don't know if it's a genuine recipe (my grandma had never heard of the concept) or it was made up for the article out of some piece of hearsay, but i don't think even in wartime you'd be convinced this was either a) fudge or b) tasty. imagine grated carrots mixed with orange juice and set into a jelly, and that's exactly what you get, hence the bright colour.

suffice it to say, i won't be making this recipe again. but i will try my hand a carrot halwa one day.

i even tried to turn the copious amounts of this carrot fudge (that i was going to take to the allotment bonfire party, but would've been too embarrassed) into cupcakes - my mum dared me to turn it into something edible, but the cupcakes still had a dodgy jelly texture that was just quite wrong.

needless to say it provided a lot of laughter, if not sustenance.

but, one disaster that ended up turning into an amazing discovery, occurred when a vegan red bean cupcake recipe decided not to cook.

i experiment all the time, and putting beans into cakes wasn't exactly new for me (my chocolate black bean cake is a greatly requested recipe amongst family and friends). but it turns out that eggs are pretty important, and flax seeds won't cut it when beans are involved.

so after these 'cupcakes' being in the oven for 40 mins without any change in texture or colour, besides becoming a little darker and probably enriching the flavours, i removed them and smooshed them all up in a bowl into a very delicious paste, that reminded me of sweets my dad used to bring back from work trips to Tokyo.

so, i googled what to do with red bean paste.

and since i am a pancake fanatic, i decided upon this shanghai red bean crepe recipe, but exchanged the regular flour for buckwheat (of course)...

these were yummy with a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of sesame seeds!

sweet red bean paste might be an acquired taste, but it's one that i love :)

and you know what, we polished off the lot!

and i'll be making them again for sure! i'll be experimenting with my red bean paste recipe a little before i give it to you, because i'm not sure whether it's best to cook it on the stove, or bake it like before to get the same depth of flavour. it's sugar free and vegan, and i know that the more experimentive of you out there will adore it! the paste keeps for ages in the fridge, and it's lovely in or on pancakes, or in your morning oatmeal (seriously good).

so, moving on to less weird things... the latest update from the big budget challenge:

this week we've done pretty well - the days have completely flown past since my last budget update post, and
  • there's £37.74 in the bank and £5 cash in my purse. i spent £7 at the market on Tuesday, £5.01 in Waitrose, £6.12 in Lidl and £8.51 in Tesco. that brings me in under budget this week!! instead of being seduced by what looks good, i bought only things we needed to get us through the week.
  • did you know that a tin of baked beans from Lidl's cost 26p, and it's got the simplest ingredients list i've ever seen, and the smallest amount of carbs?! awesome. i got 4 tins.
  • the allotment is looking really beautiful - we had a big load of woodchip delivered to do even more ground covering for the winter, and i've been trying to weed the pathways before putting it down. it takes a long time to weed properly, but all the rain we've had has helped soften the earth a little. plus, we've discovered the joy of a thermos full of hot water to make tea whilst we're up there!
  • last week's apples from this obliging tree are still going well - they are so yummy and crisp, and there's loads left in the fruit bowl, despite my eating one every day.
  • i picked up a couple of Christmas presents from an antique's market this week - i've been making lots of gifts, like i do every year, but i saw a couple of things that were perfect, and at a very good price, so i bought them - but i only spent £3 in total, so that wasn't bad!
  • i almost bought a coat from a charity shop for £7.50. it was a Topshop green jacket, in great condition, and at a tenth of it's original price it was an absolute bargain. but the thought of my already crammed wardrobe deterred me from purchasing it.
  • we've been experimenting with pinhead oatmeal and medium oatmeal to make a delicious hot morning breakfast. i actually prefer the pinhead, because after a good nighttime soak, it cooks quickly and has a very sweet flavour.
  • i discovered massive pots of herbs and spices at the market for only £2, but resisted buying any until i actually need some, and picked up a tiny sachet of rosemary for just 60p that will fill up a standard herb jar twice. our market is the best. 
what's you worst or best kitchen disaster? do you visit your local market?

currently anticipating reading: the help by kathryn stockett - i'm waiting for it to come into the local library (i'm loving my weekly trips to the library!) as it's the first book that will be discussed at the new book club - we had a great first meeting, and it was a lovely venue, and a fab cheap/free social thing to do.

ps. i'm currently doing a giveaway on my AlissaEvelyn youtube channel - check it out if you want to win prizes all the way from Australia!