Special Fruit and Nut Rice

I have been making this ‘special’ fruit and nut rice for years.  It has always been a firm favourite in my family and such a handy dish to have in the freezer as it is delicious with curry and most hot meals, as well as being a tempting side dish to have on the table to go with salads and cold meals etc.

I have no idea where the recipe came from as it was written on a scrap of paper from probably 40 odd years ago.  It is one of those recipes which changes slightly each time I make it, depending on which seeds, nuts and fruit I add.   I always make a large quantity and freeze it in portions, as it doesn’t seem to last long in our house.

I have guessed the weight of the nuts, seeds and fruit as I tend to take handfuls out of the large bags I keep and nearly always add more cashew nuts as they are my favourite.  I used to always spend ages chopping up my dates and apricots but now I buy the large 1k bags of ready-chopped fruit from Wholefoods and it is so much easier.

INGREDIENTS:

1k (uncooked weight) long grain rice, cooked and drained
1k (uncooked weight) long grain rice, cooked with 1 tablespoon+ turmeric added to water and drained
1k onions, peeled, chopped and sautéed in a little oil of choice
250g unsalted cashew nuts
250g almond flakes
250g pumpkin seeds
250g pine nuts
250g chopped ready-to-eat apricots
250g chopped ready-to-eat dates
250g pistachio nuts
250g sunflower seeds
250g sultanas
Optional: sesame seeds, linseeds

METHOD:

In a very large bowl, mix all ingredients together.

This rice is so versatile it goes with many dishes.

Pack into suitable containers – either one or two servings size, and freeze.

Serve hot or cold.  If serving hot, reheat thoroughly.

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Grilled Courgette Salad

This recipe came at just the right time as I was given a bag of delicious home-grown courgettes recently.

So easy to make and extremely tasty, this salad can be served on its own or as a side dish for another meal.   I chose to serve it with some roasted sweet potato ‘chips’ and it was the perfect summer evening meal.

INGREDIENTS: Serves 2 as a main course

2 or 3 courgettes (depending on size)
50g fresh or defrosted peas
50g pea shoots
50g toasted pine nuts
2 tsp oregano
1 teaspoon garlic granules
½ teaspoon paprika
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 teaspoon raw honey
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Coarse Ground Black pepper and sea salt

METHOD:

Mix together the dressing – oregano, garlic, paprika, lemon, honey and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and set to one side.

Wash the courgettes and cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil.    Heat a griddle pan and cook a few ribbons at a time using tongs to turn over and get char marks.

Add the courgette ribbons to the peas and pine nuts and toss with the dressing.

When ready for serving, toss with the pea shoots and season with black pepper and sea salt to taste.

Delicious Grilled Courgette Salad

NB:  All photographs used in this blog have been taken by me, and are of food I have prepared and cooked myself.

Original recipe courtesy of Schwartz.

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Marshmallows using Honey

Everyone needs a treat sometimes and these are the perfect ‘sweets’ to hide in the cupboard.  I say hide, because if you leave them out they definitely don’t last very long!

I made a batch of these marshmallows recently when my grand-children came to stay and I managed to make them last for the whole week, just letting them have one or two occasionally.  They really did go down a treat and both grandad and I loved them as well.   They are very simple to make and keep well in an air-tight tin.

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ tablespoons powdered gelatin
½ cup cold water
½ cup local organic honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Cacao (optional – for dusting)

METHOD:

Line a straight-sided container with parchment paper and then lightly oil the paper.  I used an 8” x 8” baking tin.

Put half of the water in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a mixer which has a whisk attachment).   Sprinkle over the gelatin and set aside to soften.

Place the honey, salt, remaining water in a small pan over a medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil until it reaches 240° on a sugar thermometer (soft ball).  This took about 5 minutes in my pan.   Remove from heat.

Using an electric whisk,  or the whisk attachment in your machine, dribble the hot syrup down the side of the bowl whilst whisking.  Once everything is combined add the vanilla essence and beat for 12 to 15 minutes until the mixture is really thick and fluffy and looking like marshmallow fluff.   Scrape into the prepared tin and leave uncovered for at least four hours, preferably overnight to dry.

Turn out of the tin and peel off the paper (which comes off surprisingly easily).  Cut into shapes.  Roll half in unsweetened cacao.

Delicious marshmallows

I have also sprinkled some marshmallows with freeze-dried raspberry powder and wow!  Absolutely delicious with the sharpness of the raspberry and the sweetness of the marshmallow.

An alternative coating could be toasted unsweetened shredded coconut.

My favourite – rolled in cacao.

NB:  All photographs used in this blog have been taken by me, and are of food I have prepared and served myself.

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Sticky Chicken with Roasted Cashews

The original recipe called for ketchup which I don’t use but I have tiny tubs of a tomato sauce in my freezer which I make in bulk from …..you’ve guessed it …tomatoes plus onions, herbs etc.  No two batches are ever the same but it’s what we use instead of ketchup and it’s delicious and fresh tasting.

I dry-fried my cashews in a pan on the hob to roast them and probably added far more than 1/2 cup as cashews are one of my favourite nuts and I can never get enough.

INGREDIENTS:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup plus extra cornflour (gluten-free)
Sea salt and black pepper
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil or oil of choice
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
½ cup good chicken stock
¼ cup Tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons coconut sugar
½ cup roasted cashews
Bunch spring onions, finely sliced.

METHOD:

Chicken coated in cornflour and seasonings

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces (bite-sized) and place in a large bowl with the ¼ cup of cornflour and seasoning to taste.

Toss well to coat the chicken in the flour.

Heat the oil in a large fry pan and cook the chicken in a single layer for 3 to 4 minutes each side until lightly browned and cooked.   You will need to do this in two batches unless you have an extra large pan.   Put the cooked chicken to one side.

In a bowl or jug, mix together the stock, tamari, vinegar, tomato sauce, chilli sauce and sugar.

Drain excess oil from the pan, leaving about 1 teaspoon.  Add the grated garlic, ginger and half of the spring onions.   Cook for 30 seconds, stirring well.  Pour in the wet ingredients and bring the sauce to a simmer.   Mix a couple of teaspoons of cornflour with a little water and add to the sauce to thicken slightly.   Cook for a minute.   Add the chicken and cashews to the sauce and toss to coat and heat through.

Add chicken and cashews to sauce and ensure piping hot

Serve on a bed of rice, noodles or zoodles and sprinkle with the remaining spring onions.

Sticky Chicken with Roasted Cashews

I served my Sticky Chicken with my Special Fruit and Nut Rice and it was delicious but it would work equally well with plain rice or spiralized vegetables of your choice.

Depending on the size of your chicken breasts, serves 4, or 3 hungry people.

Recipe adapted from Cashew Chicken by Dinner at the Zoo.

NB:  All photographs used in the blog have been taken by me, and are of food I have prepared and served myself.

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Chocolate Ice Cream

Who doesn’t like having a container of ice-cream in the freezer?  Especially if you are a chocolate lover and summer is upon us.

I was amazed at how creamy this ice-cream was but as with many home-made ice-creams, it does need to be taken out of the freezer at least 20 minutes to half-an-hour before using at it freezes ‘hard’.

INGREDIENTS:

2 x 14oz cans coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge.
2/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder
400g dates, stoned
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened almond milk

METHOD:

Place a large mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.

Meanwhile, add moist, pitted dates to a food processor and blend until small bits remain.   If your dates are a bit dry, soak for ten minutes in hot water before using.

Slowly add a little hot water until a thick paste is formed.

Without tipping the cans, scoop out the coconut cream, which will have ‘set’ reserving the water for another use.   Put the cream into the chilled mixing bowl.

Whip until creamy and smooth.

Add the cacao, vanilla, almond milk and half of the date paste. Whip until fully blended.

Taste and adjust for sweetness by adding the remaining date paste and/or more cacao.

Transfer to a container, cover loosely and freeze.

Freeze for just a couple of hours for a mousse-like ice-cream, or overnight for a firmer one.

Leave to ‘come to’ for at least 20 minutes before scooping into bowls and sprinkling with cacao nibs.

2016-10-28_19-18-26_428 Chocolate Ice-Cream with Cacao Nibs

Unlike many chocolate products, cacao nibs are naturally low in sugar;  they are highly nutritious, providing an impressive amount of protein, fibre, healthy fats, minerals, and plant compounds like flavonoids.

Recipe adapted from Dana,  Minimalist Baker

NB:  All photographs used in this blog have been taken by me, and are of food I have prepared and served myself.

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June 2019 – Updated Biography

Has it really been over a year since we moved into our beautiful new home on the Isle of Wight?

5th March 2018 was the day we finally received the keys and we moved in the following week during what was to be the “Beast from the East”.  Rain, snow, hail and cold, cold weather.  At least we found our heating worked really well.   I was even dared by my daughter-in-law Sarena of Boost and Balance, to strip down to my underwear and roll around in the snow; followed by a hot shower then another roll-around.  Yep – I did it and I can honestly tell you that it was so exhilarating and I just glowed afterwards.  It was fun too.   Even my husband joined in.  Thank goodness our garden is extremely private – it’s not called a walled garden for nothing!

I definitely lost my mojo a bit regarding cooking new recipes during our first year in Seaview, even though I was the proud owner of numerous new cookery books (a big thanks to family and friends), a whole drawerful of papers with delicious-looking meals pulled out of magazines or newspaper clippings, plus of course literally dozens and dozens of recipes I’d bookmarked to try from the internet.    I did have an excuse though as we had such plans for our lovely new home and with the help of some really fantastic people from plumbers to carpenters, plasterers to painters, roofers, tree surgeons and a real gem of a gardener, our forever home is almost as we want it.    I say ‘almost’ because we are having quite a few things done this summer!    It’s called our forever home as we hope never to move again.   I do remember making some different chutneys at the end of the summer as we had a glut of tomatoes, and I tried them out on our carpenter who was working here at the time.   Christmas Day I received a lovely text message from him to say he had made these chutneys and had just opened them and they had aged beautifully.

We were so lucky in finding our gardener – a wonderful Irish chap called Bill who put his head down and worked, and worked and worked until our lovely walled garden was in some semblance of order.  He survived on as much coffee as I could make and never seemed to stop working all day.  We are blessed with having an original “Walled Garden” which even has the original rings still protruding from the walls for training the fruit trees.  Our bungalow is built in the original orchard of the “big” house Fairy Hill and this walled garden is first shown on the 1862 Ordnance Survey and occupies part of the orchard area indicated in 1793.  All four of the former kitchen garden walls remain, with the western and southern walls forming the road boundary to the plot.  The 2.4m high northern wall, in stretcher bond brickwork retains traces of white paint in the location of where a glasshouse once stood.  The three other walls are in random coursed stone rubble with rounded stone coping and about 2.1m in height.   What a story these walls must hide!

Part of our Walled Garden with the new trees

Our garden is laid mainly to lawn with some raised beds where I grow my herbs.    The urge to recreate an orchard kept growing in our heads and we visited a specialist fruit tree nursery in the centre of the Island where we met an amazing chap who explained how we could train a variety of fruit trees up our walls using the existing hooks.   Such an exciting time deciding what to plant and where, and we ended up choosing a number of apple trees (eaters and cookers), three different plums and two apricots to train up one long wall.   We also have two standard pear trees and an amazing peach tree which delivered six of the most delicious peaches I have ever tasted in it’s first year with us.  A cherry tree was already here and I must remember to net it this summer as the birds beat me to the fruit last year.   I’ve also planted three goji berry bushes, two kiwi plants (male and female), a fig tree and we have two bushes – either blackcurrant or redcurrant.  They were a gift from our friendly plumber but he couldn’t remember which they were.  It will be interesting to see the fruit.   Also here was a delicious blackberry trained up part of a wall – the tastiest blackberries ever but covered in the most awful spines which seem to catch me every time I either prune it or harvest the fruit.

Last year was a nightmare as we had so little rain (the same is happening this year).  With all our trees being so newly planted, we were forever watering them to keep them alive.  Again, this year, we have had so little rain that at the time of writing this (early June 2019) our water-butts are completely empty and the ground rock hard.  I have even taken to emptying our bathwater into the rainwater butts to recycle the water.

The Isle of Wight is only about 2 miles off the southern coast of mainland England but it seems to have its own little climate and many plants flourish here much better than on the big Island.  I am really looking forward to picking our own fruit and turning some of it into delicious new recipes.

With so much going on in our new home and garden, I have tried out very few new recipes let alone written them up for my blog.   What I have cooked is the most tasty, delicious Isle of Wight leg of lamb – not cheap but wow, it was worth every penny.  I have never tasted lamb like it.   At Christmas I decided to be a bit different and instead of a turkey (which I love) I treated my family on Christmas Day to an evening meal of Isle of Wight food: lobster, dressed crab and shell-on prawns all caught locally.    Christmas Day lunch went down a treat as I decided to do an American Charcuterie Board which looked spectacular, was easy to get ready and there wasn’t much left over – a sure sign it was enjoyed.  I served it with my homemade Seed Crackers.

American Charcuterie Board

We don’t eat Charcuterie very often so it becomes a special treat when we have it perhaps once a year.

I didn’t lose out on my turkey as for Christmas Eve I made my favourite Turkey Bobotie – I made a huge one hoping to freeze down a couple of  left-over portions for using up later but the family got in first and devoured the lot!    A cranberry and orange glazed ham saw us through Boxing Day with plenty left over.   I did try out a couple of new desserts but have still not written up the recipes.  They are on my “to-do” list.

One of my Christmas desserts

January and February this year saw quite an upheaval with my kitchen missing for 7 weeks, but since having my lovely new kitchen installed and settling back home after a rather pleasant holiday in Miami Beach (a treat for my 70th birthday) I am finding my feet again with new recipes.   Let’s hope my mojo is coming back to stay!!

I am amazed that at 70 years of age (I don’t feel 70) I still get excited to find new recipes and you will often find me in the kitchen happily cooking tried and trusted ones as a relaxing hobby, or puzzling over a new one as I tend to change ingredients a bit here and a bit there.   At the time of writing I have a recipe for Banana Balls sitting in my kitchen which I am dying to try out.   Along with banana, avocado, cheese, chives and tapioca and rice flours, these balls once cooked come with a minty yoghurt dipping sauce.  My mouth waters just thinking about them.

I have recently joined a group called Island Apron – people on the Island who love cooking and sharing recipes, hints etc.  I have been out to a lunch with some of them and when a fun competion occurred recently I entered.  The competition asked us to post a picture of a meal we had just cooked and I had just made my favourite Scotch Eggs (gluten free for my husband of course).  Unbelievably I won the competition with the most votes and received a lovely little prize.

I prefer my yolks fully cooked but some like them still runny.

I also belong to two other groups on the Island – The Newbies (people who have recently moved over to the Island, or within the last few years) and The Overners (people who have moved over here or want to move over here).  There is always a coffee morning, lunch or afternoon meeting going on and I have made many lovely friends through these groups.   When my big ‘70th’ loomed in May and my family couldn’t get over until the weekend, I invited The Newbies to a “Slice of Cake and a Glass of Bubbly” at a local garden centre on the day.

Not something we have often but made especially for my friends by the chef at the garden centre.

Firstly I cannot praise the garden centre enough as they made the afternoon absolutely wonderful, sectioning off the best bit of the restaurant for us and the chef cooked some  delicious fresh cream and strawberry cakes and there was plenty of  bubbly on the tables. I felt very honoured to have more than 40 Newbie friends turn up to share my birthday with me, and I believe everyone really enjoyed themselves.   The chef even made some fresh cream gluten-free cakes for my husband who was overjoyed.

I hope over the next weeks, months, years to be sharing many delicious and tasty recipes with you all.  I would like to thank all the wonderful people who follow my blog and it never fails to amaze me when I  look on the WordPress statistics to see where you all come from – thousands of people from all corners of the earth.   I still get a thrill when I receive a message from WordPress saying that there is unusual activity on my account.  On taking a look I see that for some strange reason, a couple of my recipes are taking Japan by storm, or another one is suddenly going viral in Bangkok, or perhaps an age-old recipe is being viewed hundreds of times in Spain.  The internet is a marvellous thing.   Thank you to those of you who write to me, send me recipes or just leave a small comment on my blog.  I appreciate every one of you.

I also need to thank my lovely daughter-in-law Sarena of Boost and Balance for showing me a healthier way to start living.  Over the years I have watched with interest her progress on becoming a Holistic Naturopathic Nutrition Therapist and I have nothing but admiration and praise for her for the work put in to qualify for her degree.  Her blog is well worth a good read and I know she is available for any help or questions.

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Fresh Fig and Vanilla Cream Pie with Almond Crust

I used ideas from two recipes to make my Cream Pie.  The pie crust and idea came from the original recipe of Vanilla Cream Pie with Fresh Figs from Eleanor Ozich but I made a richer filling similar to the White Chocolate Tart by Catherine Bachelor.

This pie was absolutely delicious although I could have sliced my figs a bit finer but they were very ripe and a bit squishy.    Deliciously rich, so this pie could serve 8 people.  I really enjoyed the almond crust which could be used with a variety of fillings.

INGREDIENTS:

Pie crust:
2 ½ cups ground almonds
3 heaped tablespoons coconut oil or butter (melted)
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon water

Filling:
2 cups mascarpone cheese (I used 2 x 250g tubs)
¼ cup double cream
¼ cup melted white chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Topping:
Fresh figs, peeled and finely sliced

Glaze:
2 tablespoons honey, warmed

Mix the ground almonds, coconut oil/butter, honey and water in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.   Grease an 8” to 9” flan ring and press dough evenly over the bottom and sides.

Bake at 180°C for 12 to 15 minutes until light brown.    Leave to cool completely.

Beat the mascarpone cheese, double cream, melted chocolate and vanilla essence together and pour into the pie crust, smoothing the top.   Chill.

Decorate the top of the pie with thinly sliced fresh figs and brush with the warmed honey.

Keep in fridge until ready to serve.

Fresh Fig and Vanilla Cream Pie with Almond Crust

NB:  All photographs used in this blog have been taken by me, and are of food I have prepared and served myself.

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