Make-ahead, Snacks & Treats

Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crispy Wholegrain Flatbread

These wonderfully moreish crisp flatbreads are a simple solution to an inevitable problem: Carrots just get boring sometimes! I wanted something that I was actually looking forward to dipping into my hummus. I found it! These are adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s rosemary flatbreads. I tried doing the recipe first with thyme, because I don’t own a rosemary plant, but the delicate taste was lost during cooking. All that was left was the saltiness from the sea salt sprinkled on top. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved this. So, I paired it with some freshly ground black pepper, and swapped half of the flour for the wholegrain variety, and I was left with an incredibly tasty, crunchy bread for dipping.

Maybe it’s not a coincidence that my craving for something less ‘veggie’ came when I entered into the final year of my PhD. I do, after all, think I am a little bit of an emotional eater. I remember a few weeks ago I was annoyed with Liam over the phone, hung up, and immediately headed for the waffle shop in Liverpool Street station (oopsie!). I didn’t even enjoy eating it. Making crisp flatbreads for hummus-dipping is definitely a more sensible option. They even taste great on their own if you want a little cheeky nibble here and there.

Anyway, PhD times. I think it is more the commute to/from London that is slowly wearing me down, rather than the lab work. The workload/stress is ramping up though, and after a long day, the last thing I want is to have to spend the next hour and a quarter getting home. (Poor me, I know.) A lot of the time I’m still feeling the buzz from working. I think to myself ‘yeah I’ll to this, this and this when I get home! I feel great!’. Then I get home… I feel like crawling right into bed!

These flatbreads will last for a little while in an airtight container (I think we have kept them for about 4 days – but then we had eaten them all! I’m sure they would last for longer though). You can break them up to get them in a container, or alternatively, you can make mini flatbreads! I haven’t actually done this, but I keep wanting to. Next time, definitely.

Ingredients:

115g Plain flour

115g Wholegrain/wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (125ml) water

1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

For on top of flatbread:

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 220 C (200 C Fan)

2. In a large bowl, mix together the two flours, baking powder, salt and pepper.

3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Add the water and oil, and mix with a wooden spoon until everything comes together into a ball. Tip it out and knead a few times.

4. Split the ball into 3 pieces (or more to make mini flatbreads), and wrap all but one up in cling film.

5. Place the ball on a large piece of greaseproof paper, and place a large piece of cling film on top. Roll the ball out with a rolling pin until it is really quite thin. Like a couple of millimeters in thickness. 

6. Peel the cling film off carefully. Brush a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top, then sprinkle on a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

7. Pop in the oven and bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Check on it though, you don’t want it to burn!

 

Hope you enjoy 🙂

 

Alice x

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Make-ahead, Salads

Kale & Pearl Barley Salad with a Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette

Believe it or not, there are quite a few scrumptious uses for kale that don’t involve a blender (I do love a green smoothie though!) This kale and pearl barley salad is definitely one of them.
Since I made the switch from soup to salad earlier this year, probably around march/April time, I’ve been eating the same boring salad. Quite an achievement though. Anything else and I would have been bored senseless by now. Anyway, I needed a change, and I don’t quite feel like giving in to soup season just yet.

This salad has more of an autumnal, comforting taste than my usual, and combines a lot of my favourite things. Lemon, honey, sunflower seeds, avocado, feta, red onion. Amazing. The lemon-honey vinaigrette really softens up the kale, and makes it surprisingly delicious, and the pearl barley packs it out so it really is a filling lunch.

When in Ireland last week, I realised how much I love salad. Too many days (basically, anything more than 1) were spent making custom baguettes in delis and cafes for my liking. Custom baguettes, you see, because apparently most places in Ireland don’t cater very well for the vegetarian types. I ate so much bread in such a short space of time. Ugh! So this salad was a doubly nice change for me upon my return.

Kale is something I’ve come to love in the past year or so. It is high in vitamin K, which is needed for bone health and normal blood clotting. It is also a great anti-inflammatory food, as well as being good for cardiovascular health and implicated in cancer prevention.

Serves 4-5 (From Sweet Peas & Saffron)

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked pearl barley

4 cups of kale ribbons, stems removed

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 medium red onion, finely diced

1 avocado, cubed

100g feta, crumbled

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons honey

 

Directions

1. Wash the pearl barley a couple of times in clean, cold water and drain. Pop in a pan of boiling water and cook as detailed on the packet instructions, or just simmer until cooked. When the pearl barley is cooked, rinse under cold water to cool it (so you can add it to the salad straight away!)

2. Put all the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar, put the lid on a shake thoroughly to mix. Pour all over the kale, and with your (clean) hands, rub it into the kale really well. I love this bit.

3. Add the sunflower seeds, chickpeas, red onion, avocado, feta and cooked pearl barley to the kale and mix.

3. Serve straight away or chill until needed.

4. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Alice x

 

 

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Make-ahead, Salads

Mixed Bean Salad

As summer draws to a close, and the darker, colder days are on the horizon, tuck yourself into a healthy and colourful salad to keep the spirits high! Less of the summery cucumber and lettuce, more of the wholesome bean. When it starts to get colder outside, and soup season is just round the corner (nearly Christmas!) it is so much easier to just reach for the ‘comforting’ foods. I find that making a big batch of this bright bean salad keeps the hunger pangs, and therefore the temptation, at bay.

Oops, I forgot the pepper and sweetcorn!

Oops, I forgot the pepper and sweetcorn!

In the summer, Liam and I had a barbeque with our parents (where they met for the first time!), and we made a lovely, fresh pearl barley salad and a Moroccan-style couscous salad, inspired by salads I’d seen in the shops. It is incredible how easy it is to make some of the items off the supermarket shelf. I have become a bit of a homemade-food freak as of late. I even asked Liam if I had become the fun police (he said no, and that it is good I have principles!). I just don’t like knowing I am eating all of the preservatives off the shelf, that I could avoid by making food at home. (Told you, fun police.)

This mixed bean salad is a supermarket-salad inspired recipe, where I just worked out the best ratios of the key ingredients and mixed them to create a side/snack that tastes all fresh and light, but is actually nice and filling. I use tinned, cooked beans for this salad, and while you could go the whole hog and cook the beans yourself, it would take a lot of time and effort for something that really should be quick and easy. I can still compromise!

Since moving into our house, I planted the herbs out in bigger pots in the garden, where they have flourished (apart from Greek basil, whom I sincerely apologise to for all the months of neglect on the windowsill). The mint and parsley grow like crazy now, which is great because I needed a big handful of each for the salad. Having fresh herbs growing in the garden draws more appeal to making this mixed bean salad myself too, as the cost comes to less than buying the equivalent from a supermarket.

Both me and Liam eat this as a snack during our day at work (I eat mine mid-morning to fuel me until a later lunch!). As veggies, we sometimes find ourselves lacking in protein-rich meals, so we added this to our day to up our intake. If you split the salad into 6, each serving contains roughly 10g of protein. It’s all win, win, win!

Ingredients:

1 can mixed beans/pulses, rinsed and drained

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 can borlotti beans, rinsed and drained

1 large handful fresh mint, washed and finely chopped

1 large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

Optional (but well worth it):

1 large red pepper, finely diced

100g frozen sweetcorn

Directions:

1. If using, cook the sweetcorn in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes. Once cooked, run under cold water in a sieve.

2. Mix the cooked sweetcorn with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and season generously.

3. Chill in the fridge in a sealed tub (it will keep for a while – I’ve gone up to 4 days,  it will probably last a bit longer).

4. Enjoy.

Well, that was easy!

I hope you enjoy all that autumn brings!

 

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Mains, Make-ahead

Cauliflower & Chickpea Malaysian Curry

I realised recently that I use a lot of coconut these days. Whether it’s coconut flakes in muesli or porridge, coconut oil in place of vegetable oils, or coconut milk in a whole variety of dishes, usually paired with lime, coriander or chilli (or all of them!). A little time ago I posted a recipe for sweet potato with coconut, pomegranate and lime, which only needs a teensy bit of coconut milk, and I found this recipe so as not to waste the rest of the tin!

I stumbled across a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for a Malaysian-style baked chicken curry, and, meat aside, it sounded really delicious!
When choosing the vegetables to substitute the chicken with, I didn’t want it too complicated, like I’d just thrown a bag of frozen mixed veg in there. Too many times now I’ve been out to a restaurant for what would have been a really lovely curry, only for that pleasure to be dampened by a rubbish mix of lank veg.
I’m not too picky when it comes to this, really! I chose cauliflower because I love the chunkiness in there, and chickpeas because, well, who doesn’t love a chickpea? It sounds more like the veg you might put in an Indian curry, but they really work great in this coconut-y curry too.

When we make meals in our house, 90% of the time we make sure there is enough for at least 6 portions so we can freeze the rest and save us a whole load of time in the future. This curry is another great one for that, as it makes 6-8 portions! We definitely need a bigger freezer! 
Another thing I like about this curry is that, because I make a big curry to give us more portions, I can put in a whole cauliflower and a whole can of chickpeas (or more if you want!). There is no wasted veg that will sit in the back of your fridge, rotting away, because you didn’t know what yo do with the rest, or you hadn’t incorporated an extra half a cauliflower into your meal plans. No waste = happy times!

Unlike Hugh’s curry, this one doesn’t require any browning or baking. Phew! Just one pot on the hob – perfect.

I just wanted to say – I had no idea how to photograph this! I like the first image, but it isn’t like any of my others. It was frustrating! Meals like curries, soups, stews and chillis aren’t very photogenic. Annoying! I tried my best. It tastes good, anyway!

Ingredients:

2 heaped tsp cumin seeds

2 heaped tsp coriander seeds

1 heaped tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp ground fenugreek

1 large (or 2 smaller) onion(s), peeled and roughly chopped

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large chilli, roughly chopped

1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

400g tin chopped tomatoes

400ml tin coconut milk

1 cauliflower head, cut into florets

1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Basmati rice, to serve

Directions:

1. If you want, dry roast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a pan for a few minutes, until fragrant. Pop them in a pestle and mortar and grind into a powder, then mix them with the turmeric and fenugreek.

2. Add the chopped onion, chilli, ginger and garlic to a food processor, and blend to a coarse paste. You will probably need to scrape the sides down a couple of times to get it all blended nicely.

3. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the spices and cook for a minute or so, then add the onion paste and cook for about 5 minutes, until the paste has softened, stirring constantly.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, cauliflower florets and chickpeas to the pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer with the lid on for about 25 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked but not too soft. Stir frequently to stop it sticking to the bottom, and add a bit more water if needed.

5. Top with coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice.

 

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Breakfast, Make-ahead

Bircher Muesli

Bircher muesli is one of my favourite breakfasts. Especially at the minute, when there are luscious, fresh, locally-grown berries for sale everywhere, just ready to become the topping for my creamy, oaty breakfast. My favourite has to be strawberries and blueberries/raspberries (which anyone will know if they happen to quickly glance at my Instagram account). I’m a berry addict! Although, I am also partial to a topping of banana or dried figs.

I’ve not had much time to experiment with my breakfasts lately as I’ve been bogged down with preparation for my mid-PhD report/presentation/viva, but this trusty muesli has had my back. It is always there to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step. All I have to do is make sure I remember to prepare the muesli on a Sunday evening (which is super easy) and I am then provided with a quick and nutritious breakfast for the next five days – perfect for the working week, when I don’t really have to the time in the morning to be slaving away over breakfast.

Thankfully, I successfully completed my PhD upgrade, and I’m now looking down the bleak and frightening road that leads me to the end. At least for now my time has freed up a little, and I can concentrate on cooking up some good food to keep me healthy through the tough times ahead! Sometimes it is hard to stay on track, especially after a bad day (or bad week!) in the lab, but I find that lots of pre-made meals, such as this Bircher muesli, makes it a lot easier to shun the foods commonly associated with ’emotional eating’.

I tend to stick with breakfasts that are ‘pre-made’ (maybe I should change that phrase to ‘pre-homemade’?) because they mostly involve a lot of oats. I have a thing for oats, if you hadn’t noticed. The fibre in them is really great for digestive health and cholesterol levels, and they have loads of great minerals, such as manganese, selenium and phosphorus, that we require for numerous different cellular functions.

There’s nothing better that starting your day with this!

This is what you need:

180g whole rolled oats

350ml water

1 tsp cinnamon

50g raisins/mixed dried fruit

40g almonds, chopped

25g coconut flakes

1 apple

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (not pictured – oops!)

(You can play around with the amounts and types of nuts and dried fruit you use – the ones here I guess are guidelines.)

This is how you make it:

Add the oats, cinnamon, dried fruit and nuts to a large bowl. Add the water, cover in cling film (or put into a tub and seal the lid).

Leave to soak overnight.

In the morning, grate the apple. Mix the grated apple and Greek yoghurt into the oats.

Keep it in the fridge in a covered bowl for the next 5 days! If it separates a little, just give it a stir before you scoop some out into your bowl.

Stay happy,

Alice x

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Make-ahead, Salads

Asian-Inspired Crunchy Quinoa Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

I don’t think Liam will mind me saying this, because it is true, but I am definitely the more health-minded out of the two of us. I am (obviously) vegetarian, but Liam still eats meat on the odd occasion. I love eating a light and leafy-green salad for my lunch, but Liam likes something more ‘substantial’. This Asian-inspired crunchy quinoa salad has won him over on the salad front. Hoorah!

This main ingredients for this salad are taken from the Ambitious Kitchen. It is not so much about the salad (it is still really good anyway), but the ginger-peanut dressing. I have to say, it is absolutely genius. It really does make everything come together and taste wonderful. Liam and I are HUGE fans.

I do love everything about this salad: the protein-rich quinoa, high-fibre chickpeas and the crunchy red cabbage, pepper and broccoli. It is making me salivate just thinking about it!

The other day, my mother rang me asking if I’d ever eaten ‘Kwi-Noh-Ah’. Of course, I said, but I hastily corrected her pronunciation. I did get it wrong when I first read it though, as I’m sure many of us did. Quinoa is great, though, and is classed as a ‘whole protein’ due to its impressive amino acid content, and it also contains more healthy fats than other grains. Apparently, in 1 cup of quinoa (185g cooked) there is also 21% of your fibre for the day. Bonus!

This really isn’t a complicated recipe. It just requires you to cook the quinoa (which is super easy) and chop up/grate a load of veg. The dressing is made by just stirring a load of things together, and it magically somehow tastes like heaven.  What I imagine heaven would taste like if I believed it to exist and also have a taste, anyway.

This makes around 6 servings, so it is perfect for me to make at the weekend for my lunch during the week. I just keep it in a big bowl in the fridge, covered in cling film, then scoop a portion out into my lunch box every morning. Add a few spinach leaves on the side, a lime wedge and the ginger-peanut dressing, and when I open up my lunchbox to reveal this salad a little smile appears. I love love love it!

This is what you need:

Salad:

1/3 – 1/2 small red cabbage, shredded

1/2 broccoli head, cut into bite-size pieces

1 red pepper, diced

1 small red onion, diced

160g carrots, grated

1/2 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

Dressing:

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp honey (or agave)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 – 2 tbsp water (to thin if you want to)

This is how you make it:

Rinse quinoa in a jug of cold water then drain in a sieve. Place into 1 1/2 cups boiling water over a medium heat and half cover. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally (make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom – if you need a bit more water for it to cook, just add some). When cooked, set aside to cool a little.

While this is cooking, prepare all of the vegetables:

Shred the cabbage by slicing very, very thin slices with a serrated knife. Blanch the pieces of broccoli for 20 seconds by just boiling some water in the kettle and pouring it over the broccoli in a jug/bowl. Rinse under cold water to stop it cooking any more. Grate the carrot, and dice the pepper and onion.

When the quinoa is cooled, mix with the vegetables, coriander and chickpeas.

To make the dressing:

In a pan over a low heat, stir the peanut butter and honey for about 30 seconds. Take off the heat and stir in everything else. If you want, add a small amount of water to thin.

Note: If you smell the dressing, the vinegar will make your nose crease. Taste it, it will be lovely.

Stay happy,

Alice x

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Make-ahead, Soup

Moroccan Carrot, Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

I have a problem, and I don’t think I’m alone in it. My problem is that I just can’t say no! I’m one of those people that doesn’t like to miss out, in situations varying from a night out with some friends, right the way down to Liam getting himself a drink from the kitchen. I want one too! Ha! So, when there are a pile of scrummy-looking cakes on offer in the office, baked by some of my colleagues’ fair hands, I definitely can’t say no. I just have to try one.

This week there have been no less than three types of cake on offer. People have been busy over the weekend! A peanut butter and chocolate cake with a crumbly biscuit base and whipped cream topping, some lovely moist banoffee cupcakes and some delicious white chocolate and macadamia brownies. Oh my! There was no way I could resist all of these. In actual fact (and as you can probably guess), I tried all three. (Oops!)

I like to think I’m a relatively healthy person, but if I deny myself these occasional treats, well, I would probably go insane. I think it is healthy (for my mind) to allow myself things I want, rather than denying myself and leaving myself feeling unfulfilled. After treating my tastebuds, I looked at what I had to eat for the rest of the day: carrots and hummus, sugarsnap peas, an apple, a banana, a salad for lunch, and soup for dinner. Thankfully I can afford to treat myself once in a while.

I think this is what people who try to ‘diet’ forget. It isn’t about starving yourself, or following a strict ‘rabbit food’ regime, but about eating healthy and filling foods and allowing yourself a cake, or a pizza, for example, every now and again. Balance is key, and no-one is perfect!

After my cake day, I returned home to this soup, which I had made at the weekend and frozen in portions of 2. It makes 8-10 portions, so that is 1 portion of this soup a week for myself and Liam, for the next 4-5 weeks! It is a bonus if my healthy food works out as pretty darn cheap per meal as well. I found this soup on the Food52 site, and was instantly sold.

This soup is foolproof really. I’m sure anyone can throw a load of vegetables and spices into a pan and leave it to cook, then blend it all up. If you are into making your own soup, you should definitely try this one, the flavours are just wonderful. If you have never made your own soup before, well, this is is a tasty way to start.

With 6 carrots and a huge sweet potato in this soup, it contains loads of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in our bodies. This is an essential nutrient, important for keeping our cells moist and happy, and therefore able to stay free from infection. The antioxidants in these vegetables are thought to slow the degeneration of our eye health, and are also implicated in cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Time to get the blender out!

Oh, and this is Liam’s favourite soup. Convinced?
 

This is what you need:

2 tbsp olive oil

2 medium white onions

5-6 large carrots

1 large sweet potato (approx 550-600g)

1 cup red lentils

1 tbsp harissa paste

2 tsp Ras el Hanout (you can buy this from a regular supermarket – I got mine from sainsburys)

8 cups (approx 2 litres) vegetable stock (I used 2 Knorr stockpots to make 4 cups (1L) of stock, then added another 4 cups (1L) of just water.

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

To serve:

Slice of wholegrain bread/ciabatta/your favourite bread for soup!

1 tbsp full-fat Greek yoghurt

A few coriander leaves

This is how to make it:

Heat the oil in a large pan, then cook the onions for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the remaining ingredients, put the lid on at an angle to crack a bit of room between the lid and pan, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let cool slightly, then blend with a stick blender until smooth.

Enjoy with Greek yoghurt, coriander and some bread to mop it all up.

Either freeze the rest for up to a few months, or keep in the fridge for a few days.

 

Stay happy guys!

Alice x

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