Sunday, 25 March 2012

Simplest Salad

Spring has officially sprung in Brighton!! And with this glorious change in weather comes the inevitable healthy eating plan, in the vague hope that I may become ‘beach ready’ for Summer. Not only that, Ben is training to run the Brighton Marathon on the 15th April, and cramming in as much carbohydrates into each meal as is humanly possible. Not so great when I’m cutting down on carbs, but I have been managing to create healthy oven baked fish or chicken and steamed vegetable themed meals, with added carbs for Ben on the side. Delicious yes, but pretty boring blog material. 

Up until relatively recently I was not a fan of salad. This was until I holidayed on the Greek island of Alonissos. Up in the chora of the island are some fantastic restaurants including one that made just about the best spinach salad ever. Consisting of lardons, egg, crisp spinach and a deliciously acidic dressing, that salad was just.. amazing, and I am so thankful to have found it and realised that salad actually isn’t that bad. 

Here is my salad of the moment, all the ingredients can be swapped for whatever you have in the fridge, the dressing is fabulously versatile. I would, however, always include the egg and avocado, as I think they are delicious in salads. 

Serves One
Salad leaves (I use Sainsbury’s Bistro Salad)
3 Falafels (I use Cauldron Falafels)
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
a handful of thinly sliced chorizo sausage
1 boiled egg, peeled
1. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl.

- For the Dressing - 
3 tsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard 
a shake of dried oregano
a few splashes of Maggi seasoning
1. In a clean old jam jar, shake up all the ingredients to make a thick dressing. Check the flavour and drizzle over the salad.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Rainbow Cake

Around about a month ago I texted my good friend Rose to check that she was free on the 10th March for a very important baking mission. I had seen the rainbow cake doing the rounds for a good few months on the blogs and just knew that I had to make it. After visiting countless sites and watching plenty of videos I felt prepared enough to try it out for Ben's Birthday. 

Rose arrived at 1pm and it wasn't until 5pm that we were finished (and thats with using the trusty KitchenAid too). Thankfully, we managed the whole thing with just one minor hiccup, the second batch of frosting just wouldn't whip, but this was quickly solved with five minutes cooling time in the fridge. 

19 egg whites, 750g of butter and a whole kilo of sugar, this cake is not good for you in any way shape or form, but it just looks soooo pretty!! The cake itself is moist and tasty, and the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Frosting is to die for (definitely my frosting of choice from now on). Simply white with a few sprinkles on top, the cake appeared unprepossessing from the outside, and it was not until Ben had cut a slice that its true wonder was revealed. Beautifully defined and vibrant stripes of colour, this cake was famous on Facebook within 5 minutes, and I think Rose will agree that we make a dream baking team. 

We followed the original Whisk Kid recipe, following the tutorial on the Martha Stewart website for pointers. We made the cakes in three batches (I only have two tins), they came out pretty flat, which is totally fine. To create the colour we used a combination of gel colours (available in Sainsburys) and liquid food colouring which also worked perfectly (you will need ALOT). To make Vanilla Swiss Meringue Frosting we swapped the lemon for a couple of capfuls of vanilla essence, and we assembled the whole thing on some baking parchment, sliding it on to a clean plate when finished. 

Thank you for all your help Rose, and Happy Birthday Ben xxxxx

Friday, 9 March 2012

Herby Lamb Burgers with Beetroot Mayo and Goats Cheese

It seems beetroot is having a bit of a moment in my kitchen. Having not really incorporated it into recipes previously, the earthy flavour and vibrant colour of beetroot is sneaking in to salads, risottos and now burgers too. As with the Beetroot Risotto I made a few weeks back, here the beetroot mayonnaise is accompanied by goats cheese. Like lemon and meringue, pork and sage, lamb and rosemary, goats cheese and beetroot really do compliment one another perfectly, and in this instance they both compliment my lovely homemade herby lamb burgers perfectly too.

A bit more interesting then your regular ketchup or barbecue sauce accompaniment, a dollop of this beetroot mayonnaise on your burger tastes great and looks stunning too. Served with some spicy sweet potato wedges and you’ve got yourself one of the most colourful and pretty plates of food out there.

Serves 4
Pack of lamb mince, about 400g
1 red onion, half grated, half thinly sliced
handful roughly chopped mint
2 tsp dried oregano
a good glug of Lea and Perrins
salt and pepper
olive oil
3 tbsp low fat mayonnaise
2 cooked beetroot (from a vacuum pack), finely chopped
goats cheese (either a soft roll to spread or the kind with the hard skin to slice)
4 burger rolls, halved
salad leaves and fries to serve
  1. Mix the lamb, grated onion, mint, oregano, lea and perrins and some salt and pepper in a bowl, and form into 4 burgers.
  2. Prepare the beetroot mayo by mixing the beetroot and mayonnaise together in a bowl.
  3. Heat a large frying pan until hot, rub the burgers with olive oil (as you would a steak) and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked through.
  4. To assemble the burgers, spread the goats cheese on to each inside of the burger rolls (or place slices on to the inside of the rolls), place the burger on the bottom half of the rolls, add a handful of salad leaves if you wish, then a dollop of beetroot mayo, and a few slices of onion. Top off with the top of the roll and serve. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

Dough Balls with Garlic Butter

I am of the opinion that if you go to Pizza Express for dinner, its pretty much the unwritten rule that you order the dough balls with garlic butter to start. Ben on the other hand thinks that, along with a pizza, this equals dough overload, and by the time I actually get to the main I’m pretty much full. Now this may be true, but he really can’t deny that dough balls are wonderful, especially with copious amounts of garlicky butter (or even Nutella).

So on Saturday night we found ourselves in dough heaven/hell, depending on your dough stance, with some big Hawaiian pizzas and plenty of dough balls to go with. Yum. I served mine with the King of all garlic butters, which consisted of not one but two cloves of raw crushed garlic. If you’re not so keen on the zing of a lot of garlic, and don’t want to repel all those within a 1 mile radius, perhaps opt for a more conservative one clove..

Makes enough for 2 greedy people
200g strong white bread flour
¾ tsp instant yeast from the tub
¾ tsp salt
¾ tbsp olive oil
a large wedge of softened butter
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  1. Preheat the oven to 240C. Put the flour in a large bowl, and stir in the yeast and salt using a wooden spoon. Make a well in the centre and add 150ml of warm water and the olive oil. Bring together with the spoon until you have a fairly wet dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for around 5 minutes until smooth. You can leave the dough to rise under a tea towel in the bowl, but this is not essential.
  3. Roll the dough into evenly sized balls and place on a baking tray. Place in the oven on the top shelf and bake for around 15 to 20 minutes, until the balls have puffed up and browned.
  4. Meanwhile, soften the butter further with two forks in a small bowl before adding the crushed garlic and mixing.
  5. Serve hot.
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