Black beans cakes with quinoa and avocado salad

This past week, I’ve been organising. I’m going to be moving from my current house *into an as of yet undecided location* in about a month, so I’ve decided to get a head start on things and start sorting through what I wanted to keep and what I couldn’t be bothered to lug around with me.

Most people will think I’m a bit loopy – I mean, come on, I’ve got a month to do all of this. Where’s the rush?

However, while I completely understand the validity of such a comment, I can’t help it. I’m organised. So sue me.

First to go were the beauty products – you just can’t imagine how many out of date bottles I had in my room and bathroom! I threw away an entire bag of creams and pills and such I couldn’t use anymore and I’m pretty sure I’ve kept some things I’ll never use either.

Second came the papers – you really do accumulate so many useless pieces of paper as a teacher, it’s unbelievable! Those went straight to recycling.

Lastly came my favourite and most hated part of the spring cleaning – getting rid of my old Olive magazines. Because, seriously, those things weigh a ton and I just can’t bring them with me everywhere.

It sucked throwing them away, but it did come to some good – before tossing them, I went through each and every single one to find recipes I’d earmarked and never gotten around to making, cut them all out and put them in a recipe folder. I have now got a BILLION recipes to try.

The first one to catch my eye was from Olive’s latest edition – black bean cakes with quinoa and avocado salad. I love trying new vegetarian options and black beans are one of my favourite beans as well!

They were amazingly easy to make, zingy and tasty, and the quinoa salad had me at the first bite. Can’t say my picture is very flattering, but believe me, you won’t regret this simple, summery vegetarian dinner option!

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

FOR BLACK BEANS CAKES:

400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed

5 spring onion, chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

Small bunch of coriander, stalks chopped and leaves set aside

5 tbsp breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

Coconut oil

FOR SALAD:

1 pack ready cooked quinoa

1/2 avocado, diced

1/4 cucumber, diced

1/2 red pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 lemon, 1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges

1. Heat some coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook spring onion and red chilli until softened, then add cumin and chopped coriander stalks. Cook for a further minute.

2. Put the red chilli and spring onion mix into a bowl with the rinsed black beans, salt and pepper. Using a hand blender, pulse together. Alternatively, you can use a blender. Stir in 5 tbsp of breadcrumbs. Form into 6 small cakes and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

3. Mix the quinoa with the diced vegetables, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and set aside to serve.

4. To cook the black bean cakes, heat some coconut oil in a pan. Dip the cakes in the beaten egg then roll in some more breadcrumbs. Fry until golden and heated through.

5. Serve with the quinoa and avocado salad, some coriander leaves and lemon wedges.

6. Enjoy!

PS. The quinoa salad is also delicious on its own!

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Salad season!

I’ve started to realise that I use the word favourite a lot.

“That’s my favourite.”

“This is my favourite.”

“Wait, no, actually, THAT’s definitely my favourite!”

Right, so I get a little overexcited about things.

 – Sorry, not sorry, that’s just me –

And right now, I am overexcited about SALADS.

Yup, salads.

I very rarely eat salads during autumn or winter – I’d rather have something hot to warm me up – but during spring and summer, I could have nothing but.

Delicious salads, every day.

Quinoa, roasted sweet potato and onion salad

Not only are they delicious, but it’s so much fun inventing new salad recipes with whatever I’ve got in the fridge or the pantry.

Latest creation: freshly picked iceberg lettuce from the allotment, a few baby plums, crumbled feta cheese, crispy pancetta cubes and homemade croutons made from homemade pumpkin seed and sunflower seed bread.

YUM.

Baby plum tomato, feta, crispy lardons and crouton salad

So, please, pretty please, if you guys have good salad recipes/ideas lying around, comment and tell me. I am dying to try new things and am going to exhaust my own salad recipes pretty quickly at this rate!

Quick and easy tomato and mascarpone spaghetti

Some days, you just don’t feel like cooking.

I mean, be honest: it happens to the best of us! And, despite my love of cooking (and my best intentions), it happens to me ALL. THE. TIME.

And I have found my easy solution to those lazy days – tomato and mascarpone pasta.

It’s easy: boil water. Add spaghetti. Fry half a chopped onion. Add tomato purée and mascarpone. Mix in with pasta when cooked and drained. Sprinkle over some parmesan. EAT.

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If you’re feeling up for it, dice a cherry tomato or two  to throw into the mix. Adds a bit of freshness.

The great part about this dish: it only takes as long to make as your pasta takes to cook, and it’s still healthy!

I also used wholemeal spaghetti to make it a little healthier – although I must say, I personally really enjoy the taste and extra crunch of wholemeal spaghetti.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

75-100g wholemeal spaghetti

1/2 roughly chopped onion

5-6 cherry tomatoes, diced

1/2 tbsp tomato purée

1 tbsp mascarpone

Salt and pepper to taste

Coconut oil

Parmesan

1. Boil some water in a large pot. When bubbling, add spaghetti.

2. While spaghetti cooks, heat some coconut oil in a small pan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add tomato purée and mascarpone, mixing thoroughly.

3. Drain the spaghetti, then place back in pot. Mix tomato mascarpone sauce in with the spaghetti. Drop in the diced tomato.

4. Plate pasta and sprinkle parmesan on top.

5. Enjoy!

I tried: Hello Fresh

So, as my last post stated, I recently received my first Hello Fresh box: after trying out Gousto last year, I had to try this second option. I’ve been busy cooking up the dishes they delivered these past few days. Here are my thoughts on the experience:

1. Delivery:

The box could have been delivered anytime during the day, but it arrived fairly early in the morning (around 11, I think). It was left on my front porch, exactly like I had specified – there were no issues with the delivery at all.

2. The Box :

IMG_3866The box looks simple: brown, with the Hello Fresh Logo on it. Once opened, the contents were very well organised, refrigerated ingredients on one side, fresh (vegetables and fruit) and dry ingredients on the other. Also included in the package were three beautifully designed recipe cards and a pack of Jordan’s Strawberry and Blueberry Granola, which I was delighted to see.

3. The recipes : 

First off, I should specify that I ordered the vegetarian box. Unlike Gousto, you cannot specifically choose which three meals you’d like to receive, as these are randomly picked for you. However, Hello Fresh do have a list of the different dishes available per week on their website (for the current week and the two following weeks).

While the “omnivore” box has a number of meal options (meaning you would only receive three meals out of about ten), the vegetarian menu only includes three items a week. Hence, you can know what meals you’ll be receiving in advance.

The three dishes I received I was, well, less than sold on at first. However, after having cooked and eaten them, I am absolutely bowled over! All three turned out delicious; the flavours were very well balanced and I’ll definitely be keeping some of these recipes in my belt for some other time.

This pasta dish was fresh, zingy and cheesy – I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Power Pasta of the Gods with Peas and Parsley

My personal favourite of the three? This amazing roast sweet potato, onion and tomato salad with spiced halloumi. I’m a big fan of Halloumi cheese and this was definitely a lovely new way of eating it – I haven’t tried spicing it up before and it was very tasty. I loved the Mexican spice mix Hello Fresh included with the recipe.

Mexican Tomato Jumble with Spiced Citrus Halloumi

This dish was the real surprise of the three: I left it til last because I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it quite as much. However, it was completely the opposite. I discovered freekeh, a roasted grain with a nutty taste. I love it already 😉

Springtime Freekeh Salad


My verdict? 

Overall, a lovely experience ordering from Hello Fresh. The recipes were easy to follow and delicious.

The downside? Generally, I wouldn’t be able to afford this: 3 meals for 2 for £36 (for the vegetarian box), although relatively reasonably priced, just goes beyond what I can spend by myself. I got a £25 discount voucher on my first Hello Fresh box from Amazon a few weeks ago and thought I’d take the opportunity to test it. I would definitely recommend trying it out for couples, though!

Hello Fresh delivery today – very excited!

Guess what I received today?

My first Hello fresh box.

I was saying a few weeks ago I wanted to try this one after having already ordered (and loved) Gousto a while back.

The box was waiting for me on my front step at lunch time, full of yummy, fresh ingredients for three vegetarian recipes. And a free pack of Jordan’s granola.

I’ve already cooked one of the recipes, a zingy, veggie pasta dish which was simply delicious. The two others look just as tasty.

Post of my cooking experience coming up soon.

Sugar-free baked beans

If you live in England, you must know that a full English breakfast is not complete without beans – baked beans, that is. If you’re going to brunch in England, and brunch right, you’ve got to have some of these with your eggs!

Now, the only brand you should be buying, my British friends tell me, is Heinz: nothing beats a tin of Heinz baked beans. The contents of which pack a whopping 9.8g of sugar per serving (1/2 tin or 200g). Even the reduced sugar and salt version has 6.7g of sugar per portion (1/2 tin or 200g)!

I never fully understood the concept of baked beans; we don’t eat a whole lot of beans in France. The first time I saw someone eating beans on toast (in my mind, the nutritional equivalent of carbs on carbs with sugar sauce), I did a double-take! However, I must admit, they have kind of grown on me – but I would rather eat them homemade to actually know what I’m eating.

I have really scoured the internet to find a proper baked beans recipe that I would find truly satisfying, and this one really did it for me (although I did tweak t a little). I love the strong tomato sauce, balanced with the sweetness of the rice malt syrup (all glucose sweetener) and the acidity of the apple cider vinegar. Slow-cooking really thickens the sauce and makes the beans perfectly tender. Make a big portion and keep in the fridge to enjoy, heated, at breakfast, dinner or as a snack. You can even freeze it in portions and keep for up to three months!

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2-3 tins cannellini beans

1 red onion, diced

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp rice malt syrup

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Coconut oil

Salt

Pepper

1. Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the diced onions and cook for 6-8 minutes.

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2. Stir in the chopped garlic, tomatoes, rice malt syrup, apple cider vinegar and 400ml water, then tip in the beans. If using dried beans, make sure you’ve soaked them overnight and pre-cooked them for an hour in simmering water.

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3. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1½-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until you have a thick sauce and tender beans.

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4. Serve the beans on toasted bread, with grated cheese, if you like, or as part of a complete full English breakfast.

5. Enjoy!

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Original recipe found here

Asparagus with homemade French mayonnaise

Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of mayonnaise (especially store-bought), but when I saw Dana from I Got Cake use a similar technique to make a dressing to her amazing-looking Caesar Salad the other day, I was reminded of this easy recipe from my childhood. I remember making this while my mother and grandmother bustled around the kitchen in our Normandy home, preparing lunch and dinner for ten or more people every day. As such, I guess this simple homemade mayonnaise recipe reminds me of my childhood, family and my burgeoning love of cooking.

The mayonnaise recipe couldn’t be simpler and really tastes 100x better than any mayonnaise you can get ready made in a supermarket. It can be used in much the same way (even in sandwiches, if you’re a fan), but I remember it most used three ways at home: with freshly-boiled asparagus, steamed artichoke leaves and steamed whelks and prawns – our Normandy home being close to the seaside, fresh seafood was often on the menu, with fresh bread, rock salt and this mayonnaise.

Interesting old French wives’ tale: this mayonnaise won’t take if it’s made by a pregnant  woman, according to my grandmother. Indeed, if a pregnant woman tries to make this mayonnaise, it will apparently split. I’ve never been able to test this old wives’ tale, but if you are expecting, beware!

Side note: this mayonnaise keeps for about a day or two in the fridge, but is best when at its freshest!

 

Ingredients:

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 egg yolk

125 ml oil

1 dash apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

Salt

Pepper

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together dijon mustard and the egg yolk. Lightly salt and pepper.

2. While continually whisking, pour oil into mustard-yolk mixture little by little.

3. Whisk in vinegar or lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste.

4. Enjoy – I personally dip asparagus spears or the edible end of artichoke leaves in the mayonnaise before eating them.

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Sugar-free breakfast granola

These past few weeks, I’ve often felt like eating cereal and muesli. I’m not sure why this is, because I rarely eat that kinds of foodstuff. Perhaps it’s because my housemates often have cereal in the cupboards and eat it for breakfast or as a snack, or maybe I’ve seen too many ads on television – who knows?

The fact of the matter is, however, that if you eat mainly sugar-free and are paying attention to the amount of added sugar in your food, buying cereal in a supermarket is close to impossible. I’ve taken strolls down the cereal aisle many a time, and few if any of the cereals I’ve seen have less than 15g of sugar per 100g serving, which basically adds up to almost 2 teaspoons of sugar per portion (the boxes recommend 40g servings, but who really respects those, huh?).

I quickly realised that, to satisfy my cereal craving, I’d have to make my own. I hence decided to make my own granola, cutting out the unnecessary sugars found in honey and dried fruit. Inspired by I Quit Sugar’s recipe for Coco-nutty granola, I made my own sugar-free homemade coconut and mixed nut granola, using, well, no sweetener. I decided to eat it in Greek yoghurt, which I eat without sugar anyway and adds a good source of protein to any breakfast or snack.

The result? Delicious – exotic coconut, crunchy oats, chia seeds and nuts, all mixing beautifully with the rich, greek yoghurt. I am totally bowled over by this recipe and will be keeping freshly-made granola in my cupboard from now on!

PS. I’m alright with the no-sugar version, especially with the sweet cinnamon and coconut, but you can add a sweetener, to taste, if you wish: rice malt syrup would be my choice, but honey would work just as well.

5 servings

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of rolled oats

1 cup of roughly chopped nuts (I used brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds)

1 cup of desiccated coconut

3 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon of chia seeds

1 tsp of cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 130°.

2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

3. Cover a baking tray with baking parchment. Put the granola mix on the baking sheet and spread the mixture out evenly.

4. Cook for 20 minutes in the oven, turning mixture halfway through cooking time so it cooks evenly.

Here's my mix halfway through cooking - should be a bit darker and more golden when finished.

Here’s my mix halfway through cooking – should be a bit darker and more golden when finished.

5. Take out of the oven and let cool. This granola can be eaten as soon as it has cooled or be kept for up to two weeks in the cupboard.

6. Enjoy!

Sweet potato dauphinoise

My mother often made Gratin Dauphinois for us when I was a child, as a hearty side dish to some delicious meaty Sunday main. I looked forward to this very much, and still do, as I absolutely adore this warm and creamy potato gratin, the bottom potatoes melting in my mouth, the cheesy top having gotten crunchy and crispy under the grill and the nutmeg adding its distinctive nutty aroma.

I still make it myself, sometimes simply because I’m in the mood for it or if I cook for a large enough number of people, as it is a very satisfying dish which to be honest doesn’t really take that much preparation time. However, I’ve played around with it a little to make it a bit healthier: my main trick is to use sweet potatoes as well as classic, white potatoes, which gives this old French classic a new twist – as well as a higher dose in vitamin A and a lower calorie count.

In any case, this dish really is a wonderful side dish and scrummy comfort food, perfect for Sunday lunch, dinner party or a cosy Sunday evening. A must-try!

Serves 3

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, washed and peeled

2 potatoes, washed and peeled

150 ml crème fraiche or double cream

1 tsp of nutmeg

Salt

Pepper

50g cheese (English cheddar or French comté, for example), grated

1. Preheat oven to 180° celsius.

2. Chop potato and sweet potato into even slices, not too thick. Wash the starch off the potatoes, then put them in a bowl with the crème fraiche or double cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix them well, covering all slices evenly.

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3. Take an ovenproof dish and butter the sides. Layer alternate slices of potato and sweet potato inside the dish, covering with the rest of the cream. Place the grated cheese on top of the potatoes.

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4. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the potatoes and the top is well gratiné (browned in the oven).

5. Serve as a side dish or as a main with a side salad or vegetables on the side.

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6. Enjoy!IMG_3356

Kitchen disasters and how to improvise

I often travel during the weekend: I’m in a long-distance relationship, love visiting friends and live a mere hour from London, so it isn’t surprising to see me heading to the train station on a Friday night, only to come back late on Sunday afternoon.

On the weeks I stay organised, I plan my weekly shop well enough to either have ingredients left over to cook a full meal on Sunday, or cook too much and leave some leftovers. This week, I wasn’t so lucky.

So on Sunday morning, on the train ride back, I was quietly thinking to myself what I could cook for dinner, scrolling through my WordPress Reader as I did (multitasking or procrastinating, I’m not sure which). That’s when I came across the most delicious looking dish on one of my current favourite blogs on WordPress right now, Cookin’ 5m2: a tomato and egg breakfast dish called Shakshouka, or Bayd bi Banadoura.

Cookin’ five square meters’ beautiful Shakshouka

Now, to tell you the truth, I’ve had the intention to cook a dish like this for a while now: Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, two of my greatest cooking inspirations, have a recipe similar to this in their cookbook, The Art of Eating Well, called Anytime Eggs, which I’ve been meaning to try…as soon as I could work up the motivation to 😉

So, when I saw this post, I knew I had to make it. I looked at the ingredients: tomatoes, onions, cumin, eggs…and I knew I miraculously had everything I needed to make this dish in my kitchen. Pretty handy, too, as shops would have been closed by the time I made it back home.

Very happy with myself, I got home, sure I would have a meal for the night. I start making a loaf of bread in the bread maker to pair with the eggy tomatoes. Dinner time rolls around, the smell of freshly baked bread drifts up to my room and my stomach grumbles: time to get cooking! I get my onion and garlic, slice, dice, chop ’em up, throw ’em in a pan with some coconut oil, sweat them, add the spices, add the tomatoes, the tomatoes, the…Wait…Where are the chopped tomatoes?

Halfway through the preparation of my meal, I realise I don’t have the key ingredient to finish making the Shakshouka. And after a little snooping, I also had to come to the conclusion that my flatmates didn’t either. My onions are cooking, but my mind is blank: what am I supposed to eat now?

If this has ever happened to you, I’m pretty sure you can imagine how I felt: half-empty fridge, no inspiration whatsoever, hunger setting in… I imagined every pairing I could: everything from celery to clotted cream (that last one wouldn’t have been very good, I’m sure).

IMG_3229I finally settle on adding some chopped yellow pepper to the mix, the one vegetable I had which I could imagine going well with onions and cumin, as well as a dash of tomato concentrate. I scrambled an egg in the vegetables, took out some leftover wraps, and made myself some vegetable burritos with a side of cheese and crème fraiche.

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Not the dinner I was expecting, but it wasn’t bad! A little  slapdash and not my most well-perfected dish ever but a good example of the fact that you can still eat healthy, yummy food  when you’ve got no recipe!

And I’ve gotta say, I’m pretty happy with myself: I used to be terrible at kitchen impro! If I didn’t have the exact ingredient I wanted, I wouldn’t make the dish. And now, I can come up with meal ideas and improvise really easily. Which is not only handy when it comes to finishing leftover ingredients, but also a good way of discovering some delicious new food combinations!

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Anyway, I made my own eggs in tomatoes tonight: I still had to see what it was like, and I’m glad I tried it! It was just as hearty and delicious as I imagined, and I recommend you check out the recipe linked above on Cookin 5 square meters’ website. A lovely, warming meal on a cold night – and probably a delicious breakfast as well!

And if you don’t have everything, all is not lost! 🙂 Improvisation is easier than you think.