Fresh Guacamole and Flat Breads

Ingredients:

2 medium sized avocados
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
juice of half a lime
2 – 3 small garlic cloves
Coriander (optional)
Peel the avocados and mash with a fork, adding the salt, pepper, oil, lime juice. Chop the tomato and mince the garlic cloves. Mix everything together well. If you chose to, mix in the coriander. That’s it! It’s ready to serve!

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Cream of Leek and White Bean soup ~ and chive oil

So we are through the Christmas holidays, an inch more on our waists and the kitchen fridge heaving with the half eaten left overs from the big family dinners and boxing day party platters.

Here is a simple soup: velvety and comforting enough to sooth any seasonal colds (as well as hangovers at that).

leeksoup22

Ingredients:
2 leeks, sliced and washed
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
50g of unsalted butter
1 large cup of cannelloni beans (or borlotti, or kidney beans) softened or tinned.
4-5 cups of vegetable stock
A bay leaf
Spring of rosemary
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 cup of single cream (optional)

Start by melting the butter and frying off the onion and garlic until caramelised then add the leeks, stirring until soft. Add the bay leaf and rosemary. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil before adding the beans. Season to taste. Allow the soup to simmer with the lid on, for about ten minutes or until the beans are starting to disintegrate.

Let the soup cool so that it is blendable in a food processor or with a liquidizer. When you are ready to serve, reheat to serving temperature, take off the heat and add the single cream at the last minute. Serve with a drizzle of chive oil (or a topping of fresh chives).

leeksoup

Sweet Potato Lunches

It’s time for a healthy post, after that last one…

Higher in vitamins A and C than a white potato varieties and slightly lower in calories, the sweet potato could potentially revamp that classic baked potato favourite. If you’ve never tried it it’s a great tasting, and highly versatile alternative to the average potato. Sweet potato pie for desert is a fantastic tasty treat for late summer to autumn evenings. Sweet potato wedges with Cajun seasoning (or even just paprika) with a sour cream dip are a lovely social snack or to accompany steak nights, fajitas, barbecues or even a bowl of chilli.

But I love sweet potatoes for lunch, under a fresh salad of Cos lettuce with my favourite sweet and salty combination of goats’ cheese and pineapple chunks. What you fill a potato with is really down to preference, but is my favourite and gets my taste buds jumping for joy. What’s more is the fact that, they taste great cold too – so it’s this fantastic packed lunch-able for the school of office.

TipRun a metal skewer through the sweet potato from top to bottom. This will help to conduct the heat through the centre of the potato. Place it on a tray and rub it with olive oil and a bit of salt, before placing it in a hot oven on about 200º for around 40 minutes (depending on the size of the potato). If the metal skewer gives easily as you try to remove it, the potato is done. It will feel softer than a normal potato.

Slice it open and mash a little more olive oil (or butter if you fancy) and a crumble of goat’s cheese into the centre. Cover with your favourite salad veg – I used spring onions and celery for a peppery undertone, really sweet tomatoes, lettuce and some cucumber and radish for added crunch. Top it off with more pineapple and finally plenty of goats’ cheese.

Other great fillings that I love for a baked sweet potato are:

  • Beetroot, shallot and Emmental and watercress
  • Extra strong Cheddar, sour cream and guacamole
  • Tuna, red onion, Mozzarella and rocket

What do you like on yours? ~

Elderflower ~ Cordial, Wine, Champagne

I love how much superstition surrounds these age-old beautiful trees.

From the Anglo-Saxons who believed the plant contained the soul of a witch and that cutting one down would free her spirit to find revenge, to the early Christians who said that Christ’s cross was made from the wood of an Elder, this tree has caught the imagination of people for centuries and inspired them across Europe and western parts of Asia. These days the elderflower is more known for its immune-boosting ability for colds and flu remedies, prophylactic qualities for hay-fever sufferers, even a homeopathic treatment for people with catarrh and sinus problems.

Sparkling elderflower cordial is like a splash of summer in glass. It has all those scents of a sunny day in the garden. But I had never made it myself until I found my Grandmother’s written instructions for her own recipe. These were penned in large letters over the printed five minute ‘appointment’ slots of a doctor’s diary and pressed specifically between the pages of the ‘Medicines’ chapter in the book, Recipes from an Old Farmhouse by Alison Uttley. I am lead to believe a very close friend who was, in fact, a doctor, gave her these recipes. I’m sure that these Elderflower recipes is just as medicinal now, as my Grandmother thought it was then.

Elise’s Elderflower Cordial:

Ingredients:
25-30 heads of flowers (gathered on a sunny day when the bees are on them)
4pts boiling water
2lb caster sugar
1 lemon
1 orange

Method:
Give the elderflowers a shake to remove any unwanted insects and cut off any thick stalks.  Zest the skins of the orange and lemon, slice the remaining fruit and add these to a large bucket with the flower heads. Pour over the water and leave over night.

Strain the cordial through a fine sieve and heat in a pan gently. Stir all the sugar to dissolve. Allow it to cool, before decanting into sealable bottles.

Dilute one part cordial with five parts water (still or sparkling), over ice with a sprig of fresh mint. Add a shot of vodka or gin for an adult twist.

Elise’s Elderflower Wine:

Ingredients:
10 – 15 heads of flowers
3 lbs. sugar
1 lemon
8pt. boiling water
A handful of raisins

Method:
Cut off any big stalks on the elderflower heads. Put everything in a plastic bucket, and pour over the boiling water. Stir and leave for a five days, stirring twice daily. Keep well covered.

Strain into an airtight non-metallic container and leave the cordial to work. Syphon off into bottles and drink after three months.

Elise’s Elderflower Champagne:

Ingredients:
7 heads of flowers
8pt. cold water
1 lb. sugar
2 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Method:
Warm a little of the water and melt in the sugar. Once dissolved, add this to the rest of the water. In a bucket put the elderflowers, sliced lemons and vinegar. Pour the water over the flowers and leave for twenty-four hours.

Strain, bottle and drink in ten days.



Carrot and Coriander (Cilantro) Soup

Richly nutritious and healthy soup for lunch or dinner, starter or main – this is a simple soup that can be vegetarian friendly and even freeze-able for use at a later date. I know a lot of kids who love the sweet flavour that carrots provide when cooked in a decent stock and along with stack of croutons, it’s a fantastic and tasty way to serve up a vitamin boost for the little ones too.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onions (chopped)
6 large carrots (chopped)
1 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 pt. good chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup single cream (optional)

Method: 
Throw the carrots, onion and garlic into a large pan with a dash of olive oil and fry until the vegetables begin to soften. Once soft, add in the stock and simmer until the carrots are tender – the smaller the pieces the faster this will take. Add the chopped coriander, leaving aside a handful for garnishing later. Allow for cooling briefly before blending. Sieve for a smooth velvety finish.

Reheat to a serving temperature, season with salt and pepper and finally, if you’re using it, stir in the cream.

Serve with a side of warm crispy ciabatta and a final garnish of coriander  – and a splash of Tabasco sauce if you are feeling reckless.

Vegan Pancakes

So here is the first foodie challenge of what may become many. If you want to get in touch with something or have a food-related question, see the bottom of the post for details.

This challenge (set by @jhmuzak) was to make pancakes suitable for vegans – pancakes that tasted nice and not like soggy cardboard. So here is the recipe I concluded upon:

Ingredients:
150g plain flour (sifted)
4 tsp. caster sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
250 ml soy milk (or almond milk)
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. veg oil, plus extra for frying.

Method:
Put the flour, caster sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the vegetable oil into the milk and pour slowly into the dried goods, whisking all the while to make a smooth batter. You can use an electric whisk, if you prefer.

Heat a pan and add a little oil to grease.

To make crêpes, pour a little of the batter into the centre and confidently tilt the pan until the mixture thinly coats the surface. When the edges of the batter begin to dry out, flip the pancake over and crisp the other side.

If you prefer thicker stackable American-style pancakes, do not tilt the pan. Allow the edges of the batter to set or wait for small bubbles to appear before turning with a spatula.

Serve with your favourite pancake condiments like syrup, sugar, lemon juice, blueberries or other fruit.  ~

If you have a foodie challenge you wish to set, or have some food-based curiosity you want looking into then drop me a comment, a message, or tweet me @lisaannreeves. Hope to hear from you! 


Green Summer Salad with Chicory

Unfamiliar fruit and vegetables: you know the ones. You might have seen a foreign fruit on a supermarket shelf but never bought it yourself. You might have tasted an unusual vegetable in a restaurant but haven’t the foggiest idea how to prepare it. If this is you, don’t worry. To be honest I think there are a lot more of us than we’d care to admit.

Should this sound familiar, how about picking one of those packs of fruit or veg at you local grocers that you wouldn’t normally buy? You might even be surprised. Give yourself a little challenge this summer. Over the next few weeks I want to highlight some of those not-your-every-day-veg, with interesting facts about them and hopefully some good recipes to boot!

So I will start on the topic of Chicory (aka. Endive):

If you have never used it before, Chicory tips are a lovely salad leaf with a slightly bitter flavour. Because of this bitterness, it makes an interesting addition to a salad. It is also high in vitamin C.

So this salad green salad with chicory should mean no more generic Iceberg lettuce or salad-in-a-bag for you next time!

My Grandmother loved a chicory salad, often adding lengths of celery for crunch and apple slices for a contrasting sweetness. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
3 tips of chicory (red or green)
1 large head of celery
1 apple (Cox variety is a nice choice or any other eating apple)
1/2 a cup of walnuts
Parsley to garnish

For a very simple French dressing (optional)

2 parts good olive oil to 1 part white wine vinegar.
You may add a teaspoon of whole grain mustard to every cup of French dressing made if you fancy an extra kick, a splash of apple juice to sweeten or even both.

Method:
Split off the chicory leaves and place in a bowl along with thin slices of apple and similar sized lengths of celery. Then if you wish, toss through a little French dressing (nothing too strong). Garnish with walnuts and parsley.

Serve immediately. Preparing this salad beforehand will result in the chicory and apples browning in the open air.

I love this recipe because it is so versatile. It goes well with barbecued chicken kebabs and flat breads, or a cold roast beef platter. Chicory is also a great braised. Slice the tips roughly in half at an angle and brush with a bit of oil, before placing on a griddle briefly with a bit of onion or under a direct flame in grill or over a barbecue. Like this, chicory tips are a fantastic accompaniment with a chunky bit of pan-fried fish steak or fish en papillote.

So think about giving your self a challenge one day next week with a fruit or vegetable that you’ve always wondered about, but hesitated to buy at the supermarket. You never know what you might enjoy.    ~