Haloumi with Melon, MInt and Balsamic Syrup

Yes this sounds like a weird combo, but it’s lovely. Honest. The sweet, juicy melon contrasts well with the crisp, salty haloumi and the mint and balsamic syrup add another layer of taste depth to it (oooh get me, how pretentious does that last bit sound ). The balsamic was an addition suggested by my boy and it really works. He loves dipping his haloumi in to it.

For 2-3 people you need:
1 block haloumi, drained and patted dry
1/2 melon cut into bite sized chunks
1/2 tsp dried mint
1 tbsp balsamic syrup
1 red onion, cut into wedges

Cut the haloumi into thickish slices. Place on a hot griddle pan and fry till golden on both sides (about 8 mins). Fry the onions on the same griddle till lightly softened.

Once cooked, place the haloumi onto a plate and add the onion and melon. Sprinkle over the mint, season with pepper and then drizzle over the balsamic syrup.

Spanakopita

This is very easy to make but looks impressive and is another yummy dish for warmer weather. It travels well so is ideal for picnics or packed lunches.

For 4-6 portions you need:
290g bag of fresh spinach, washed and drained
1 large onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil for frying plus extra for brushing the filo pastry
2/3 of a 250g pack of filo pastry
1 block of feta
2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed well
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Begin by frying the onion in the oil over a gentle heat for about 10 mins till softened. Add the spinach and cover with a lid. Allow the spinach to wilt then chop roughly with scissors in the pan. Season with pepper and nutmeg and add the capers and crumble in the feta. Mix well.

Meanwhile brush a baking tray with oil and layer in the filo, brushing each sheet with a little more oil. Use half the filo to line the base of the pan. Spoon over the spinach and feta mixture then top with the remaining filo, again brushing each sheet with a little oil. Tuck in the overhanging pieces of pastry and brush the top with oil. Score into diamonds then bake in a hot (200 degree) oven for 30-40 mins. Best served at room temperature.

Piedmont Peppers (v)

It’s been hot today. 32 degrees of hotness in Bradford. Unheard of! And it’s still uncomfortably close now. So what you need on a day like today is proper food from the Med. And these are to *die* for. OMG they are good. I love this recipe, but the original from St Delia contains anchovies and is therefore decidedly un-vegan friendly. My version substitutes olive tapenade, vegan pesto and salted capers, and by golly it works. Nom. Nom. Nom.Nothing beats the taste of the Med, with a glass of red vino to hand and a sunset to warm your soul. Serve with mountains of crusty bread and perhaps a rocket salad to cut through the richness of the peppers themselves.
For 2-3 people (depending on greed) you need:
3 peppers, cut in half with the stalks left on but de-seeded
2-3 baby plum tomatoes per pepper half, cut in to halves
2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
1/2 jar black olive tapenade
6 dessert spoonfuls  of vegan red pesto
2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp good quality olive oil
Good quality bread to eat with them
Place the pepper halves on a shallow roasting tin. Fill the hollows with tapenade, then pesto, then garlic, then tomatoes and finally scatter over the capers. Season with pepper (no salt!!) and drizzle over the oil. Roast in a hot oven for 30-45 mins till soft and slightly charred. Scoff. Best served at room temperature.

Lemon Bars

I’ve neglected my blog recently (sorry) and was horrified to see I’d only done one post in June and that wasn’t really me as that was a guest blogger (I’m sure you lot were all very pleased with the break from constant food related tweets…). Anyway. It spurred me on to find new recipes to try and this one from the Hummingbird Bakery cook book (p112) seemed perfect for a hot summer’s day and lemons in the fruit bowl to use up…

The recipe is a lovely, zingy one with a lemon shortbread base and lemon curd-y topping. When you make the base, dollop bits of the dough all over the tin to make it easier to spread out evenly. And make a slight lip all round the edge to contain the topping and stop it from spilling over the sides and making the whole thing a bit too sticky to eat with your fingers. This is delicious served with lemon curd ice cream or thick, Cornish, clotted cream. Yuuuuuuuuuuum!

For the base you need:
290g plain flour
70g icing sugar
230g butter, cut into cubes
2 tsp grated lemon zest

For the topping you need:
3 eggs
210g caster sugar
juice 3 lemons
zest 1 lemon

Blitz the ingredients for the base in a food processor and then turn out and press into a lined baking tin (33x23x5cms; the lakeland lidded traybake tin is the perfect size). Bake in a moderate (170 degrees) oven for about 20 mins till lightly browned. Leave to cool slightly.

Mix together everything for the topping and pour over the cooked base (see, that’s why you needed the lip…). Bake for 10-20 mins till the topping is set. Leave to cool and then scoff. They say leave it overnight in the fridge but I say it’s nice at room temperature 😛

Mocha Frappachino (v)

It’s hot today. And I am very tired. Time for a cold coffee…

For one person you need:
250ml double strength coffee (brewed with 2 scoops coffee for one small cafitiere)
3 tsp sugar
2 tbsp chocolate swedish glace
100ml soya milk
Handful ice cubes

Make the coffee and chill it well. Place everything into a blender goblet and blitz till smooth. Drink.

Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake – eventually!

Hi folks

A few weeks ago, I held a charity bunfight in aid of The MS Society. They hold one every year, called Cake Break, and it’s all backed by the Hairy Bikers. I did debate inviting them to show up, but I bottled it at the last minute 🙂

Anyway, I made myself even more insufferable than usual by pestering all my Facebook and Twitter pals to bake me goodies to sell to raise money. Those of you that follow me there will no doubt already be shuddering at the memory! However, the very gracious host of this blog made me the Infamous Courgette Bread to sell. And then even more graciously invited me to share the recipe for the Chocolate Guinness Cake I made myself for the event with all you lovely foodies. Because, even if I do say so myself, dang, it was Good!!!

My version is detailed here, based on a couple of things I forgot to buy and had to sub instead, or that I always use alternatives for anyway. I will be posting a link to the original at the end. Nigella’s site has a nice picture on it too (I forgot to take any, I was so busy selling. Which was a good thing!)

FOR THE CAKE

250ml Guinness
250g unsalted butter
75g cocoa
400g fruit sugar
1 x 142ml pot sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
275g wholemeal flour
2 1/2teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

FOR THE TOPPING:

300g Morrisons extra light cream cheese
150g icing sugar
125ml Elmlea double cream

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C (mine’s a fan oven so I set it at 175°C), and butter and line a 23cm springform tin (it doesn’t say what with, so I used tinfoil, worked fine).
  2. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb. (The smell by this time is incredible!)
  3. Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. (I cooked it for an hour, but made the mistake of putting it in the top of the oven. The top 2mm of the cake did catch slightly, but I just trimmed it off).
  4. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
  5. When the cake’s cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsieved icing sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.
  6. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Now, the original recipe calls for caster sugar. I have used fruit sugar for everything for years, as at one time I was on a strict low GI regime. It will taste just as good, I promise you. In fact, probably better. I also always use Elmlea instead of cream, a holdover from when I had gallstones. But the wholemeal flour was just a happy accident; it was all I had in and I suspect it stopped it from being a bit sad and gloopy. All I know is, I consider myself a passing fair cook and this astounded even me! It was truly delicious.

One last thing – remember I mentioned the top of the cake caught in the oven? Well, I trimmed about 1cm off, which still left a substantial cake. These quantities also made a lot of frosting, so i just turned the burnt bit over, put the rest of the frosting on it, and had another mini cake all to myself! Mega!

And Nigella’s unadulterated original is here: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-guinness-cake-3086

Try it. And let me know if yours is as nice as mine was 🙂 And cheers Becka for inviting me to blog.