Pea and Mint Hummus

May 27, 2015

When the weather get's warmer I like to do away with big meals and have lots of light things in the fridge that can be part of a selection of small plates, compliment each other, and can be made in batches to limit evenings spent in the kitchen instead of on the deck with a glass of wine in hand!

Hummus is a classic dip, is so easy to make and, once you've invested in a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of sesame oil, incredibly cheap to make.

Traditionally hummus is made with tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds. I was making hummus a couple of years back and had run out of tahini and so sploshed in some sesame oil in its place.... and have never bought tahini again.

Sesame oil lasts forever (pretty much), doesn't need to be refrigerated and I prefer the flavour, which isn't as bitter as tahini can be. It also saves you having to buy another ingredient as sesame oil can do double duty in your hummus as well as in your noodles, stir fry or salad dressing

The addition of peas and fresh mint, apart from the jazzy colour, freshens up the hummus and makes it lighter with a great herby, zing. Perfect for summer.


1 can of chickpeas
1 'can' of frozen peas, thawed (use the empty chickpea can to measure them out)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
large bunch of mint, as much as will fit in your grip
salt and pepper


Using a decent blender or food processor to make this hummus will give you a lovely light texture.

Drain your chickpeas and use the empty can to measure out the same amount of frozen peas. Thaw quickly in a sieve, under cold running water for a few minutes. Darin all the water from the peas, give them a little jiggle in the sieve to free up any hidden droplets.

Leave the chick and regular peas in the sieve to dry, whilst you whizz up your garlic cloves and oil in the blender until well chopped. Add you sesame oil and lemon juice now as well, so that they will be well mixed in amongst the finish hummus.

Tumble all the peas into the blender along with the mint and whizz until smooth and bright, bright green.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve with a little fresh chopped mint.

This is lovely with some salty, wholemeal cracker and some thinly slice prosciutto draped on top!


Piña Colada Chia Breakfast Pots: The 'Cocktail' Pudding Cup!

May 20, 2015

Chia pudding has been about on Pinterest for a while now, and is revered amongst those in the healthy know. 

Everything about chia is good news:

Chia seeds are often referred to as a “superfood,” which simply means they’re relatively denser in nutrients compared to other foods. These seeds have around 140 calories per two tablespoons, along with a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. They also contain all nine essential amino acids, which are the muscle-building protein building blocks our bodies need but don’t produce naturally—we have to get them through our food. Chia seeds don’t need to be ground before eating to get the nutritional benefits—eating them whole will have the same effect, and how you like to eat them is just a matter of personal preference.

The only thing that's not good news about chia, as far as I'm concerned, is that the popular manner of consumption has been christened with the moniker 'pudding'.

Pudding to me is something rich, dense, probably sticky, and likely served hot with custard. It's the name of a very old fashioned class of British desserts such as the Jam Roly Poly, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Spotted Dick.

It does not scream healthy, light and fresh.

I know that 'pudding' is used here Stateside to describe a soft consistency-ed foodstuff, but still it conjures up sickly sweet, artificial, plastic cups in my mind and, again, doesn't say 'i'm delicious... and healthy!'

I like to think of chia 'pudding', when made with coconut milk as this is, as a dairy free or vegan yoghurt. 

It has the same light consistency and taste fresh, like your doing something good to your insides.

Chia is one of those things that may seem expensive when you buy a bag, but when you see what those little guys can do, you realise they have some serious bang for your buck. Only a couple of tablespoons can make enough for a few days worth of vegan yoghurt.


1 1/2 cups of coconut milk- the one I used was quite a thick consistency, almost like Greek yoghurt
1 cup coconut water
3 tablespoons chia seeds
3 tablespoons shredded, unsweetened coconut
sprinkle of salt
fresh pineapple to serve
fresh mint to serve


Simply mix all of the ingredients, except the pineapple, together in a bowl. Cover, then place in the fridge over night.

To serve, layer the chia yoghurt with fresh pineapple with chopped mint leaves and enjoy your totally-ok-to-have-before-work-cocktail, breakfast chia piña colada cup!


Sweet Caraway Shortbread Cookies

May 15, 2015

When my little brother was a baby, my mum used to use caraway gripe water to settle him when he was collicky. She may well have used it when i was tiny as well but I can't remember that far back!

It wasn't until Charlie and I moved in together and he cooked me one of his mum-taught recipes (she prepped him well with a solid repertoire of classic recipes!), steaming carrots with butter and caraway seeds, that the smell of them hit me and I was instantly two years old again.

Memories of sitting in our kitchen in Oxford, me with my toes no where near touching the floor, and my little bro grizzling and crawling about on the tiled floor, suddenly came flooding in, so vivid and yet clearly having not been up at the from of my mind for nearly twenty years. It's amazing how evocative fragrances can be!

 Shortbread is one of the simplest cookie (or biscuit as we Brits say) recipes. Its a failsafe ratio of white sugar, butter and flour: 1 part sugar: 2 parts butter: 3 parts flour.

They need to be cooked on a low heat, slowly so that they don't colour too deeply and keep their light, buttery, sweet flavour.

I always use salted butter when I bake. This will make patisserie chefs and bakers gasp in horror that I don't do my own seasoning to unsalted butter. We all know that salt exaggerates the tastes with a dish, even more so with sweet dishes, taking them to a more complex and sophisticated level.

I find that the amount of salt in ready salted butter is always better than my attempts at seasoning my own. For the untrained baker and home cook, salted butter is a simple way to add that extra level of flavour to sweet dishes.

These cookies have cracked caraway seeds in the dough, and are topped with a ground caraway sugar to give them a fragrant, botanical taste that's distinctive and unique.

Ingredients: Makes 12 2 3/4 inch/7cm round cookies

1/2 cup white granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top
1 cup salted butter
1 1/2 all purpose or plain flour
3 tablespoons of caraway seeds (2 for the dough, 1 for the sugar topping)


Place 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds into a grinder, pestle and mortar or fine bladed food processor, and whizz them until they've all been cracked. Unless you have something super dooper like a Vitamix you'll probably still have a lot of seeds still near their full size. As long as they've all had a good blitz and you have some chopped, cracked and powdered caraway you'll be fab.

Use very cold butter to make the dough. if you can try and cool down your hands as well by rinsing them in cold water (make sure to dry them well!) it will help to retain a lovely crumbly texture of the finished shortbread.

Add the flour, sugar and caraway in to a large bowl. Chop the butter in to the dry ingredients, or to make things super quick, you can grate very cold butter into the bowl. Rub the butter into the sugary flour until you have a wet sand consistency.

"When adding butter to dry ingredients, make things super quick by grating very cold butter"

To bring everything together into a dough, sprinkle in a little cold water. You'll only need a very small amount, use a teaspoon at a time so you don't end up with a sticky mess.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1/4 inch/1cm thick. Be sure to use enough flour so the dough doesn't stick, and don't overwork the dough other wise you'll end up with a chewy, tough biscuit instead of a light crumbly one.

Cut out your biscuits, I used a 2 3/4 inch/7cm round cutter but you can use any size or shape you want, or just cut them freehand. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment.

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350f/175c, you don't want them to colour too deeply as it will make them a bit too bitter and have more of a snap than a crumble to their texture.

Whilst the biscuits are baking, blitz two tablespoons of sugar with one tablespoon of caraway seeds to make the sugar to sprinkle on top of the cooked biscuits.

When the biscuits are beginning to turn golden on the edges, remove them from the oven. They will still be a little soft but will firm up as they cool. When they are hard enough, remove from the tray and pop onto a wire rack, then sprinkle with the sugar whilst they are still warm. 

Allow to cool completely before enjoying their crumbly, butter sweetness!


Kitchen Garden: The delight of growing things

May 11, 2015

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Spring has happened. Actually it appears we've just skipped ahead to Summer....

We've had a tricky year so far with lots of ups and downs, as usual these things never happen when you feel entirely equipped to deal with them, so you handle it all the best way you know how. Turns out, my coping mechanism is gardening. 

Whilst the snow was still on the ground, we set about building my kitchen garden.

We're lucky to have a fair bit of land for a city lot, so we wanted to make the most of the space, making it look pretty as well as being functional.

We built 4 beds, each measuring 4ft x 4ft x 1ft, this give us 64 square feet of growing space but makes it easy to move between the plants on dividing paths rather than wading through soil.

After researching and gleaning advice about materials from my keen gardener friends, I plumped for Pine boards for my beds. Cedar was a close contender, but with it not being easily obtainable in the deep 12 inch boards I wanted, and also being pricier than the pine (due to it's very long outdoor life span, which I was sure I'd make the most of, as I might be back in Blighty in 15 years...) Pine was the winner.

I chose untreated wood as I didn't want chemicals to leech into the soil and, in turn, anything growing in it. Though not explicit in it's name, pressure treated wood is actually chemically treated, untreated pine boards that aren't in a very wet environment (I'm looking at you England) will last without many signs of degrading for a good five years. Eco friendly wood treatments are available, such as shellac or lindseed oil, which are natural and will extend the life of your beds without compromising on good veggie intentions.

We filled the paths of our 'parterre' garden with white marble chips, on top of a weed membrane. We chose the white chips as they would reflect the sun and get as much light to the plants in the day as possible. It also looks beautifully clean, which appeals to my slight OCD.

The beds were filled with a mixture of toil soil and fetilizer (well rotten manure), up to about the 10 inch mark. As my beds were being placed on top of earth, they really are as deep as I care to dig, meaning I can plant depth loving potatoes and carrots quite happily in them. As such I could have gotten away with a shallower bed but, honestly, I prefer the look of the deep ones.

As well as the beds, I've got some herb tubs on our deck. I was thinking of having the herbs in the beds but wanted to save the real estate for vegetables. I'm not a massive fan of plant pots, the simple terracotta ones are alright, but they need to be big. Anything that's been fancied up to look like a fancy plant pot really turns me off.

I used these gorgeous Behrens metal tubs (pictured at the top) from Home Depot. They are huge and metallic which helps to reflect light and help the little herbies grow.

To turn any pot or tub into a suitable plant pot you need to made a few quick adjustments:

1) Pierce some holes in the bottom for drainage. Tubs that have no where for excess water to run will very quickly become a swampy rotten mess. Use a large nail or a screwdriver, and a hammer to bask 4 or 5 holes in the bottom of the tub.

2) Fill the bottom inch with gravel, broken crockery or rocks. This, again, helps the water to drain, it also adds a little ballast should your pot be light and vulnerable to tipping.

3) If you are using a large pot like mine, don't fill the earth right to the top. MAke sure they is enough for a good root system to develop in then stop filling. The huge advantage to pot plating is that you can move the pots to protect the plants in inclement or extreme weather. By leaving a bit of a wall arounf your new plants you are giving them some extra protection against wind, which will also allow for water to absorb in tot he soil better than evaporating away quickly.

4) Consider using metal or reflective pots. The increased light will help your plats photosynthesis and grow. If you live in a place of extreme heat and light, this might not be appropriate, unless you plant is particularly heat and light loving OR you are planting in a shady area.

Finally the day came to add some little vegetables!

Being that I'm convinced that cauliflower is the new kale, I immediately got a row of these little lovelies in.

It's my first time growing anything other than tomatoes, strawberries and herbs so I'm taking a bit of a 'throw everything at it and see what sticks' approach. I have done a bit of research about who are good bed buddies and who do not get along though:

With this lovely sunshine and plenty of watering, I'm excited to see what's going to come to fruition (or vegition?), and cook some home grown, home cooked meals straight from my garden.

On a personal and somewhat soppy note, I never had such an urge to make things grow. I've dabbled with herbs and strawberries, but this year I've felt such a need to plant things, nuture them and see them flourish. I'm hoping that channeling my efforts into growing something that will in turn enrich mine and Charlie's life, even in the short term, is a healthy way to throw all that energy and is going to do its thing for out karmic health as well!