Sunday, 27 July 2014

Alex's inspiration

Every now and then Alex goes all culinary creative.  He'll suddenly get a craving for a food or mixture of foods and will talk me through the sort of dish he envisages them forming together.  My challenge is to take his musings and turn them into an actual dish.  Sometimes what he invents in his own head sounds amazing, other times I adapt here and there.

Tonight's effort was courtesy of one of said moments.  The other day Alex said:
" Tomorrow night love, is it alright if we have some butter beans, maybe warmed through with some garlic and olive oil, and some herbs of some description, with some roasted tomatoes and asparagus with maybe some avocado on the side or something?"  He gets all Italian chef with his hands when he talks this through as well.

I thought that sounded really rather nice, minus the avocado on the side thing, and so that is what I created tonight.

Firstly I chose baby tomatoes on the vine for the super sweet tastiness and I roasted them on a bed of chopped up fennel (because it is ridiculously good for you and it was £1 for a giant bag full at the market), crushed garlic and torn basil, drizzled with olive oil, black pepper and Maldon salt (obvs). 

While all that was doing I lightly steamed some baby asparagus.

For the butter beans I used coconut oil (SO nice and excellently healthy alternative to other fats) and very lightly fried a load more garlic in that before adding the beans to just heat through - I wanted the garlic to retain it's tang and the beans to retain their bite rather than go mushy.

Then I added the juice of half a lemon and a load of chopped up fresh parsley (having determined that as the best herb to use here, I think because it's very fresh and peppery so would counteract the soft buttery beans) and seasoned it too.

Then I just lobbed it all on a plate really.

This time, Alex done good. Very good.  We both made lots of "mmmm" type noises during consumption.

Food like this just makes me SO happy.  A. because nutritionally these sorts of natural whole foods just do, fact. B. because we invented this all by ourselves and worked together C. because it tasted super yum and D. it's all just so darn satisfying...from an appetite and an accomplishment sort of point of view.

It's this making stuff up using lovely ingredients type of cooking (and eating!) I really love.

Peaches and cheese

Today sees a new twist on the whole fruit and cheese combo.  This time I do know where I got the inspiration and that's my new cookbook, which like every new cookbook I buy (um, lots), is now my most favourite cookbook in the world ever.  It's Hemsley and Hemsley - the art of eating well and I love it. Well, I love looking through it, have yet to make anything from it!

Anyway, today whilst flicking through I spotted a salad with peach and goats cheese. I didn't stop to read the recipe but whilst out shopping I decided all I wanted to eat for lunch was indeed a peach and goats cheese salad.  So I made it up. 

My version went like this:

Rip up some butterhead leaves and chuck on some chopped up nectarine ( I remembered I don't like the furriness of peaches!), chuck on some soft goats cheese, drizzle on some of the yummy honey, mustard dressing mentioned in an earlier post, dry fry a few pine nuts til nice and brown and chuck them on too. Just for good measure I also drizzled on some basil flavoured olive oil and some walnut flavoured olive oil and served with some heavenly focaccia from Waitrose. 

O. M. G. I don't like to blow my own trumpet but it was delish. The dressing was so lovely and unctuous and hints of the basil and walnut flavours added a lovely fresh, grassy, earthy dimension to what could have been quite sweet and flat otherwise. 

Can't believe I used to run a mile at the thought of fruit in savoury dishes before! (I still draw the line at duck a l'orange and sultanas in curries tho. Bleurgh.)

Having eaten it I checked the Hemsley and Hemsley recipe to find it really quite different to mine and involving peas, red onion, courgettes and mint - one to try another day!

Green goddess

Since discovering green, whenever it was, I do like to experiment with different varieties every now and again.  This morning I fully intended to have an almond, avocado, spinach, banana and peanut butter one. Only I didn't have any spinach or bananas which made that quite tricky.

So, I bunged in what I did have instead. Which turned out to be:
A skin friendly, anti-inflammatory, slow energy burning baby avocado
Some frozen super food, iron-rich spinach I rooted out of the freezer
An apple for antioxidants and fibre
Some anti-inflammatory celery (which uses more calories to digest than it has in it)
Almond milk (always the base of choice and always unsweetened. I hate it when they sneak sugar in for no reason)
A drizzle of pure maple syrup  - not the nasty mucky 'maple flavoured syrup' kind. It's not great but it's better than sugar especially in baby drizzles.

There are so many reasons to drink green smoothies for breko. It's a great and yummy way to get more veggies in, and super nutrient rich green veggies at that, they set you up all fresh and clear headed for the day ahead, they release energy slowly, they can be drunk on the go, they're filling and they're yummy.  Plus, if you're having one of these you're not having sugar laden cereal or lard ridden bacon butties.  I do eat other things for breakkie but a smoothie is my go to especially during the week as all I need to do is chuck a load of stuff in, whizz it up, bottle it and take it with me to school.

Anyway, the result of today's experiment was clearly quite nice as this is all there was left...

Watermelon and Feta

The other day I just decided I fancied a watermelon and feta salad.

I've no idea where the notion to combine these two flavours came from, but boy did it work.  The crisp, watery sweetness of the melon really contrasted beautifully with the soft, creamy, tangy saltiness of the feta cheese.  Feta is one of my favourite ingredients, especially in salads and this was defo a favourite combo.

For a bit of added crunch and earthy depth I toasted some pine nuts and used a mixture of nice soft butterhead lettuce and peppery rocket.  Then to balance the whole thing with a bit of acidity I made a lovely dressing with mustard, olive oil, honey and white wine well as the beloved Maldon salt.

And I must say the result was rather pleasing and super yummy. I love making up new recipes (new to me anyway ) so I allowed myself a little moment of pride as I munched my way through it.

You could be forgiven for dismissing the humble watermelon as just a load of watery nothingness, but you'd be wrong. It is in fact a super healthful fruit full of lycopene (normally associated with tomatoes), excellent inflammation basher and muscle relaxant (handy for the old sciatica and whiplash) and full of vitamins and minerals.  Check out everything the lovely pink juicy one has to offer here.

You might also be thinking, yes, but feta, olive oil, pine nuts...that's a lot of fat! So what?  Fat is good, natural, healthy fats in moderation that is.  Try telling the Greeks and Italians (two of the healthiest nations around) to stop eating oil and cheese and see what happens.  We actually need fats in our diet  (not the kind in a double bacon cheeseburger)  for loads of different reasons so boo to the fat bashers.

So, all in all, very happy with this result, and to feed the happy a bit more, it even looked pretty.

Lovely lollies

The other week, whilst off work with whiplash, feeling sorry for myself and in danger of feeding my sad with entirely the wrong type of food, I took inspiration from a blog post I saw and instead of nipping out to buy an icecream, I nipped out to buy the ingredients to make the strawberry creamsicles I'd spotted on

This fed my happy for several reasons:

1 - I'd caught myself stumbling towards a common hole in my road to wellness but instead of falling down it (again), I diverted myself around it
2 - Taking action and busying myself being creative and making something took away the craving to eat anyway
3 - Instead of being full of sugar, fat and all manner of random nasties, there's nothing in these but greek yoghurt and mushed up strawberries
4 - They were really rather jolly looking and nice when they were done!  Now I want to try different combos...maybe nectarine and honey? yum.


My first post isn't actually about a meal I cooked myself, but a lunch I ate at Bel and the Dragon in Cookham.  It deservedly makes the inaugural post and you only need look at the pictures to see why this meal fed my happy quite so much.

So so so pretty, full of flowers (which I LOVE), extra yummy and so super-ridiculously-healthy.

The starter was seared yellowfin tuna, mustard wasabi and soy.

The main course was Secretts Summer Salad with grilled Mediterranean vegetables and quinoa.

Neither menu description gave any hint of just how lovely these dishes were going to be, which meant the pleasant surprise when they arrived just added to the whole happiness thang.

This was a real winner of a meal full of beautiful, vibrant, fresh and natural ingredients which I was able to savour (visually as well) slowly and mindfully.  It left me feeling fresh and sated but not full, heavy or guilty.