Wednesday, 8 July 2015

My alkalising vegetable juice

Having put my body through a lot lately, what with wedding season upon us (three in six weeks, anyone?) and beautiful English summer days resulting in delectable barbecues just about every other day - one just cannot have enough real English (Cumberland actually) sausages; my body is definitely on the acidic side and my face is not thanking me for it. 

We did manage to be rather good for a couple of weeks amidst all the early summer excitement and went in heavy on fruit and vegetables, which resulted almost instantaneously in clearer and glowing buttery skin - I would never have believed this tosh had it not happened to me - which led me to researching the benefits of "alkalising" myself. Oh, that and because my Dad has "just" bought an alkalising water filter and has been expounding the benefits of being an alkali being, so I promised to look into it, being a filial child and all. I may be six months late but better late than never...

It is really not too surprising then that meat and sugar (including high sugar fruit) is acidic (yang, in Chinese "food fengshui" terms) where as green veggies and lemons are alkali (yin) to the human body i.e. Duck = acid and thyme = alkali; I'm (easily) pleased that my blog appears very balanced, both yin and yang at the same time! We must be not ashamed to take pleasure easily whenever we can...

What I am not clear about is whether just having vegetables without fruit, would yield the same good results and I'm keen to be my one guinea pig. So trusty Waitrose provided a half head of spring cabbage, three celery stalks, an English cucumber, a quarter lemon including rind and an inch of ginger. And water either alkali filtered or just mineral water. Having never put my blender to good use before, I decided to join the juicing / blending craze, and decided to have my alkalising broth gaspacho style. 

Hopefully this will come in handy to balance out all that bone soup I've been having; cin cin!

Say hello to good skin and bye bye to that very resilient six month old spot!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The best Tumeric and Cumin Chicken - ever

What with all my special dietary requirements and the endless advice from multiple specialists: less meat, more spices, fruit and nut, ostrich, vitamins, detox.., I am easily the most healthy person, food-wise, whom I know - apart from my dad at least, but that (or he) is just crazy with a capital C and is a full feature movie for another day.

OK, I do admit that occasionally I may have crisp-eating fests where entire packets of "SHARE" sized bags are scoffed, but I deserve it for being a saint 90 percent of the time. And sharing is over rated anyway no matter how good it makes you look. And my crisps are grilled, not fried. So there.

Back to the point - and I do have one - a specialist of mine had specifically recommended that I have more tumeric. Tumeric is a fragrant, yellow spice from the ginger family and used liberally in Indian cuisine. It is warm and peppery and gives you a nice little hug from the inside. Most importantly, it is really good for health as it has loads of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents which suits someone who does not have a body which detoxes itself quite efficiently enough - me.

More by accident and pure laziness as I was too tired to cook, I threw some tumeric, cumin powder (another super power spice) and salt on some chicken thighs, stuck it in the oven at 180 degrees for 25 minutes and raised the temperature to 220 degrees with the grill on for another 10 minutes, and 10 minutes of resting later, we literally had chicken heaven on a plate. Nothing could be easier and simpler and yet produce such heart warming, rustic, gusty food. It is so good and simple you must try it.

To be healthy, one would discard the skin, but by then the skin would be thin and crispy as all that unhealthy fat would have been rendered onto the cooking tray, that eating the crispy skin would do you less harm than the unhappiness that would follow from denying yourself it. But do avoid dipping any breads into the rendered fat collected in the cooking tray - that WOULD be full of unsaturated fat. Unless you are like my other half who does not care. If so, then dip away.

Note to self - I must take better pictures next time...

Yuzu cake - results revealed

As we never know when and where the fatigue-wind blows, a short period later, we return with full zest and heartiness. It is time to reveal the results of the yuzu cake and it was an unprecedented success! It is meant to be a "heavy" (think afternoon tea type cake) cake as it is intended for a wedding, and yet delightfully fluffy and fresh in the mouth. It was not wide off the mark, with just enough yuzu to make the cake sing...!

It was devoured in less than 24 hours, and I will have to make it again in case it was first-time-lucky and learn how to stack them things. Stack or no, it will all be eaten I bet (hope).

Monday, 30 March 2015

Yuzu cake

It's time to start trialing wedding cakes and I had originally wanted a lavender cake only to find out that they do not like lavender. I decided to try a Yuzu flavoured cake instead. I had first blogged about yuzu here, which is a firm favourite in our household especially with salads. It is still a relatively new flavour in the west but it's catching on fast as it tastes so yummy - think citrus with umaminess if that is even possible.

I also wanted an indulgent cake and am hoping that yuzu combined with sour cream would strike that decadent and yet fresh balance. However, when making a wedding type style cake especially for the first time ever, it is best to read up on how to roll out fondant, and to make fondant flowers.... I am personally not a big fan of fondant icing so I rolled it out really thin, and when I tried to cover the cake with it, *tear*.... A whole host of other issues also showed-case my rookie-ness.

But the true test is in the pudding - tomorrow night will be the taste test.. wish me well!

Recipe to follow after taste test! 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Aztec style chocolate, allergy free!

The current rage with cacao nibs and all things cacao (including good old chocolate) is driving the price of cacao beans through the roof. Apparently, in the near future, we would no longer be able to afford chocolate due to intense cacao tree shortage. To battle this horror of horrors, some techy dudes are finding ways to print chocolate as a method which uses less chocolate whilst boosting it's taste permeation. I am sure printed chocolate could very well be yummy and all, but I am not taking any chances for now. Before real chocolate disappears from the face of the earth, we should all have at least tried chocolate made in it's intended original form.

Since I discovered my small list of intolerances three years ago, I have been consuming a speciality chocolate from Modica, Italy, which is supposedly made in that original and ancient Aztec method. Made from roasted cocoa beans, it is then ground by a giant stone pestle and mortar, before it is gently heated to 35-37C with some sugar which remains undissolved, to form cold-worked chocolate (think cold-pressed olive oil). It is extremely yummy, if rather a little grainy as you would expect from the sugar, not that I mind as the grainy-ness actually makes me feel very Aztec. And there are no additions, nothing funny, nothing processed - just good old cocoa beans and sugar, making it extremely intolerant-friendly! Apparently, unprocessed chocolate is very good for you, so it is a win-win situation.

Unsurprisingly, I am hoarding quite alot of this Aztec-late at home, as every trip to the homeland returns with at least 10 bars of yummy goodness in the suitcase. I do not see this changing in the foreseeable future, in fact, I think with all the chocolate warning, I am in need of a bigger suitcase. That, or we should crowd-fund to buy a cacao tree farm in Mexico together. Anyone?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The best lavender berry jam

As part of preparing my first wedding cake, we are testing unusual flavour combinations. Lavender is always a hard one to incorporate into food as too much of it simply reminds us of soap, and too little of it and it is lost. We've cooked with lavender in savoury food (Rachel  Khoo's lavender honey chicken, lavender duck breast with thyme and honey) and we think the key is to always balance with honey. Surely then it must be easy to incorporate lavender into sweet dishes?

Our brainchild is then lavender jam as it has two uses. Firstly, as we will be using fondant icing on the cake, jam (or buttercream) would need to be used to glue the icing to the cake. Lavender jam would also add another level of lavender flavour (whether in a positive or negative manner is still to be determined) to the cake.

I love jam (possibly because of all that sugar) and always have homemade jam /compote in the fridge / pantry. This lavender berry jam leaves a slight after-tang and yet does not overpower. It is delicious spread on corn thins or home made bread, or eaten together with dairy free ricotta cheese. mmm.

Easy Lavender jam recipe:
1kg blueberries and raspberries
800gms golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp lavender flowers, slightly crushed
1/2 green apple peeled, cored and small diced
zest of half a lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice

Put berries and sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil stirring constantly. When boiling, add it remaining ingredients and keep at a rolling boil for 30 minutes (220 degrees if you have a thermometer), stirring occasionally. This is usually the jam set point i.e. if you put some jam on a cold plate, you should be able to draw a line through the jam, without the jam pooling together again. Let cool overnight and put into a jar(s). It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge. The jam can be stored in a pantry for 6 months if canned and sealed, while hot, in a hot sterilised jar, with the rims wiped with damp paper towel before sealing.

Next jam should surely be lavender and lychee...?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Charred green vegetables soup

There are times when we all try to avoid talking to our Mums, aren't there? "You look like you need a facial" must be one of those times. On her relentless quest to make me look half charming and somewhat presentable (see, also), my Mum then spent the next hour extolling the pleasure, the effectiveness and the importance of a good facial, and that I should wait not another minute to book myself on a full 3 month facial programme. Even as I am grown rather accustomed to the onslaught of self improvement suggestions and persuasive arguments that flow freely my way, "looking older than your age" still manages a hurtful stab in the heart region.

It did not all end badly as my Mum did say I should also do a fruit and veg detox for a week or so, in tandem with the barrage of facials and massages one simply must have. I wasted no time in telling her of my latest invention, a broccoli, spinach and quinoa soup. Born out of laziness and therefore necessity, and rather convenient timing in my defense against above assault, it was surprisingly scrumptious and I felt detoxed just by looking at it. As it is full of dark leafy green goodness, and surprisingly easy to make, I did have it back to back for 3 days. I do not agree that I am obsessive, rather, cooking broccoli does leave a pungent-ness in the flat, so best to make a large batch and freeze until needed.

To serve 3-4 as a starter:
1 head of broccoli (cut into pieces)
1/2 packet frozen spinach
1 onion (sliced)
1 clove garlic diced
50gms quinoa
700ml Chicken / Bone broth
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Dried chilli flakes
Salt and Pepper

Dry fry broccoli, onions, quinoa and chili flakes on high heat for 10 minutes. This should char the broccoli and onions. Dry frying chili flakes made the Italian half have a sneezing fit so if you are prone to that, add the chili flakes in last, together with the garlic. Add in garlic, sea salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add in broth and bring back up to boil before adding in frozen spinach. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes on low heat and then blend with a hand held blender (off the heat) until desired consistency. Taste and adjust.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of dried chillies flakes.