Apple, Carrot and Chia seed Muffins

Maybe they are not quite a ‘looker’, but they are super easy to make and super healthy to eat. Enjoy your cake for breakfast and feel good about it.

APPLE, CARROT AND CHIA SEED MUFFINS

(Adapted from Tesco Real Food)

Ingredients:

100g apples, coarsely grated

75g carrots, finely grated

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 lemon, finely zested

3 tbsp chia seeds

100g light brown sugar

75ml mild olive oil or vegetable oil

2 eggs

120g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. (However, I have to point out, I never managed to get 12 muffins out of it, only 9 maximum.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix the grated apple and carrot, cinnamon, lemon zest, chia seeds, sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, oil and eggs, until combined.
  3. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or until the chia seeds have expanded a little. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the carrot mixture, mix well to form a batter. Divide evenly between the muffin cases, and then scatter over the brown sugar, if using it. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 5 minutes, before removing the muffins on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

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Easy Vegetable Tray Bake with Halloumi and Pesto

Simple and delicious one-pan of your ‘5 a day’ supper. Easy adaptable to whatever is in season, but this Mediterranean selection works very well with Halloumi. Perfect addition for the BBQ or a picnic. Of course, it is even better with home-made pesto, but on this occasion I used shop-bought, which is also just fine. You also can use Feta cheese instead of Halloumi.

EASY VEGETABLE TRAY BAKE WITH HALLOUMI & PESTO

(Originally seen in ‘Red’ magazine)

Ingredients:

500g new potatoes, halved lengthways

3 Mixed Peppers, seeds removed, sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tablespoons good quality pesto

zest of ½ lemon, plus squeeze of juice

125g cherry tomatoes, halved

250g pack Halloumi cheese, thickly sliced

black olives (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain, then tip into a large, shallow roasting tin and scatter over sliced peppers. Drizzle over with the olive oil, salt, mix well, bake for about 20 minute.
  2. Meanwhile in a little bowl, mix together pesto, zest and lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon of water, if the paste is too thick. Set aside.
  3. Turn up the heat to 220°C. Add the halved tomatoes, olives, sprinkle half of the pesto mixture and sliced halloumi on top. Roast for a further 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Remove from the oven, drizzle over the rest of the pesto and serve straightaway.

Marmalade Brownies

With just a few simple tweaks, you can elevate your brownies to a different level. If you love orange flavour in chocolate, you’ll love these. I reduced significantly the amount of sugar and marmalade from the original recipe and it worked out very well. They are very fudge, gluten-free, with the perfect amount and flavour of bitter orange. Even better the next day!

GLUTEN-FREE MARMALADE BROWNIES

Ingredients:

200g dark chocolate

100g butter

4 eggs

100g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons ground almonds

5 tablespoons marmalade

3 tablespoons flaked or chopped almonds

pinch of sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line 25cm square tray with baking paper.
  2. Break the chocolate into the heatproof bowl and melt over the simmering water or in the microwave. Add the butter, stir well to combine.
  3. Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg white until meringue-stiff. set aside.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla, then fold in the ground almonds.
  5. Add the cooled but still warm chocolate mixture into the yolk batter. Then gently fold in the egg whites, a third at the time, do not knock the air too much.
  6. Pour the ready mixture on the the prepared tin.
  7. Gently warm the marmalade in a small saucepan with the spoon of water until it’s a bit loose. Then spoon this over the brownies mixture randomly. Sprinkle with the almonds on top and seas salt, bake for 20-25 minute or until the knife inserted int he middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin completely before removing and cutting into the squares.

Beef & Aubergine Fatteh

This recipe comes from the latest book by Nigella Lawson ‘At my table’. Since I  first saw it  a few month ago, I’ve already made it several times. It’s my new ‘go to’ recipe for dinner parties, as it’s perfect for sharing, easily adaptable to the vegetarian version (just replace the beef mince with Quorn/soya mince, or double the quantities of aubergine and add the mushrooms). I normally serve it with the roasted vegetables, couscous or herby bulgur wheat on side. Everyone loves it.

BEEF & AUBERGINE FATTEH

(Nigella Lawson recipe)

Ingredients:

For the base:

4 pitta breads, split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles

For the sauce:

500g Greek-style yoghurt

4 tablespoons tahini, at room temperature

1 lemon, juice only

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1–2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to taste

125g pomegranate seeds

50g toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 tbsp finely shredded mint leaves (optional)

 

For the ‘meaty’ layer:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 aubergine, cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus extra for sprinkling

1–2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to taste

500g beef mince

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. To make the aubergine-beef layer, warm the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden colour.

  3. Turn the heat up to medium, add the aubergine cubes and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the heat down if they look as if they’re catching.

  4. Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes. Turn the heat up to high, add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it’s lost its red colour. Turn the heat back down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, then take off the heat.

  5. To make a sauce, pour about 3cm of just-boiled water into a fresh pan and put over a low heat. Sit the bowl with the ‘tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt’ mixture on top, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Beat well until the yogurt is slightly above room temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream. Set aside.
  6. Toast the pitta breads and cut it into triangles.
  7. To assemble, arrange the crisp pitta triangles on a large plate. Top with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the yoghurt-tahini sauce. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper or paprika to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and, finally, strew with the finely shredded mint leaves. Eat with your fingers, nacho-style.

 

Lake Maggiore

We’ve just returned after a rather spontaneous trip to Italy. It took us about 5 days beforehand to come up with the idea, or to be precise, it was my sister who came up with the idea of us all together going to Lake Maggiore. So we did, and even ended up also going through some parts of Switzerland, as we were near by and thought why not to explore further on. As a result, it proved once again, that deciding and planning things on the spot, it’s not always a bad idea. Sometimes it’s necessary to forget all the travel books and just drive where it takes you, discovering the things as you go along.

Magnificently scenic, Lake Maggiore has a unique geographical position: it borders with Piedmont, Lombardy and Ticino canton in Switzerland. It is the second largest lake in Italy, it stretches nearly 50km and has a depth of 372m. It’s a great destination for someone who’s interested in enjoying the harmony of peaceful atmosphere, Italian food culture and historical sights.

Along the lake there’re numerous villages and cities worth visiting. Below there are just few of them, which were particularly highlights for us. On the first day we visited Laveno Mombello, Ispra, Arona and Stresa. Most famous of them are two below:

Laveno Mombello, Italy

In the 19th century, Laveno Mombello was home to important ceramic industries. Today, it is a port town that connects the province of Varese with Verbania and the famous Borromean Island across Lake Maggiore.

Stresa, Italy

Once a fishermen’s village, now a popular tourist attraction, mainly because of descriptions of famous writers such as Stendhal, Byron and Dickens.

Town prospered in the 1800s with two noble families in town, the Borromeo and the Visconti. When steam ferries and rail lines increased in this zone, tourism traffic to Stresa and Lake Maggiore increased as well. Some grand hotels were built and famous travellers followed, like Rockefeller, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw and Hemingway. Stresa became known as a spa center.

On the second day we drove to Switzerland and visited Lugano, Bellinzona, Locarno and finishing our day back to Italy in Luino.

Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano is the largest town in the region of Ticino, it is not only Switzerland’s third most important financial, banking and business centre, but also a town of parks and flowers, villas and other important historic buildings. The two closest mountains to Lugano, Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè, give you an outstanding panorama of the town, Lake Lugano and the alpine scenery.

Below there is a mix of our highlights in pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheesy Chicken Meatloaf

My Mum was recommending to try this recipe for ages, but for some reason I always dismissed it. Maybe because we are not really big sandwich or appetiser fans, which this recipe is particularly good for. One day, something took over me and I decided to have a go, and I didn’t regret it. I think it’s brilliant recipe and I only wished I discovered it earlier. It takes no time or effort to prepare, and as a result you’ll have the most succulent, tender and delicious meatloaf. Of course, it is great sliced in sandwiches, but you can also have it on its own with just salad, or with added any grains/pulses/roasted vegetables. Also, it’s perfect dish to take with you to the picnic or beach.

VERY MOIST CHEESY CHICKEN MEATLOAF

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoon olive oil

600g chicken fillets, cut into small chunks

1-2 onion (depends on the size), finely chopped

2-3 carrots (depends on the size), grated

3 tablespoons semolina

2 eggs

200g mild cheese (Cheddar, Edam, Leicester or any other hard mild cheese), grated

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Fry the chicken pieces with olive oil until all juices run clear and chicken ready, set aside.
  2. Add more oil to the same pan and fry chopped onion, followed by carrots, until it’s cooked and translucent.
  3. Transfer in the food processor, or using a hand blender, mix it all until preferable consistency. I like to keep it a bit chunky, not completely puréed, so I’d just pulse a few times. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add few tablespoons of water.
  4. When you are happy with the consistency, transfer it to the bowl (if you are using food processor) and add the remaining ingredients, season and mix it all well, then pour it into the prepared loaf tin (you might want to butter the tin first).
  5. Bake in the preheated oven at 180C for 30-45 minutes.

 

 

Road trip through Somerset & Raspberry Oat Slices

Over the Easter break we spent two nights, three days in rural Somerset, having a little road trip and visiting National Trust places. I know it sounds very grown-up, but we find it very therapeutic after a busy and sometimes stressful week to get away from towns, shops, news, chores and reconnect with the nature and simple things.

For some of you who are not familiar with National Trust, it is charity that works to preserve and protect historic places, spaces and historic landscapes.

Our fist stop was Montacute House, a grand Elizabethan mansion house with what used to be described as an ‘Elizabethan garden’.

Then we moved on to Lytes Cary Manor, which is much more intimate medieval manor house with its beautiful Arts and Crafts-inspired garden, was once family home to the Elizabethan herbalist Henry Lytes.

Next day we visited a place called Tyntesfield, a Victorian country house and estate, which serves as a backdrop to the story of Gibbs family who built their wealth from the guano trade. They transformed a Georgian house to a Victorian Gothic masterpiece and filled the house with the incredible collection of more then 60,000 objects.

This paces is amazing and so different from any other NT places we’ve been, it’s huge and packed with so many interesting things, that one visit is not enough to fully appreciate and experience everything this house has to offer.

On our last day before coming back home, we went to Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Lacock Village. The Abbey itself has almost 800 years of history of previous owners with sophisticated taste, who turned it from a nunnery into a quirky family home, furnished with well-loved mementoes and furniture. It was also a home of William Henry Talbot, creator of the first photographic negative and now this place counts as a birthplace of photography.

I also want to mention the place where we stayed for two nights. I found it on airbnb the night before we left, what luck it was. It is a small converted barn at Amberwell, small village of Alhampton, run by a lovely couple Jeffy & John. This place is perfect for the people who appreciate a low key country retreat, but at the same time Jeffy and John made you feel like a very special guests, providing everything you need for your comfort and more. The weather wasn’t great during our stay, but we didn’t mind at all, because after our day of the house and grounds trotting we were coming back to most comfortable and relaxing place with the log fire.

If you are in UK the and looking for the week-end away, I can not recommend this place enough: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/23850201

While we were there Jeffy treated us with tea and homemade raspberry slices. They were so good, that  I had to ask for the recipe and make them as soon as possible. It turned out to be one of this very uncomplicated bake, which proves again, sometimes less is more. And thank you again, Jeffy, for introducing these to us.

These oat slices are something in between flapjack and biscuits, and absolutely delicious. The original recipe asks for raspberry jam, since we arrived I already made them twice, once with the raspberry jam and another with homemade blackberry and apple, and the next time, I’d like to try them with the apricot jam. So here is the recipe (originally came from allrecipes.co.uk):

RASPBERRY OAT SLICES

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons light brown soft sugar

125g plain flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

pinch salt

100g porridge oats

125g butter, softened

250g good quality raspberry jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease one 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. Combine brown sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and porridge oats in a large bowl. Rub in the butter using your hands to form a crumbly mixture.
  3. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin, reserving the rest for the topping. Spread the jam over the base, but not quite to the edges as it will spread.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top and lightly press it into the jam.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into slices.
  6. Enjoy with a cup of tea!