It’s lemonade time again! I already pointed out how I have a slight obsession with making up lemonade flavours even when the weather isn’t displaying the tropical heat that makes lemonade so much more refreshing. Nevertheless, I still have a soft spot for lemons (and whatever fruit is on sale at Tesco) so this recipe for nectarine and thyme infused lemonade was what I came up with last weekend. What’s great is that the flavours are so subtle and the final colour of the lemonade, once the nectarine and thyme is strained out, is a beautiful amber colour that make me wonder why infused lemonades aren’t THE next big trend. Because they totally should be!
Recipe for Nectarine & Thyme Infused Lemonade
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
1 cup hot water
1 cup sugar
3 nectarines, pitted and diced
2 Sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup lemon juice (6 lemons)
1 nectarine, pitted and sliced.
6 cups cold water
In a small saucepan, add hot water, sugar and nectarines and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer until sugar has dissolved, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add thyme and let cool for 15 minutes.
In a large pitcher, strain the peach mixture and lemon juice. Add the cold water and sliced nectarine. Add ice or refrigerate. Serve cold, with colourful straws.
One of the most satisfying events for any cook is using a brand new knife for the first time. Out of the package, a thorough clean and a sharp slice gliding through that tomato like it was a chunk of soft tofu. If you cook at all, a good knife can make the kitchen experience much more pleasant with a sharpened knife by your side. It’s arguable the most important cooking utensils you can own, yet why do so many of us let the blade wear down, causing endless frustration? Sigh with me now if you’ve tried cutting something as simple as a cucumber with a blunt knife (…sigh). But slicing a carrot with a dull blade is more challenging than keeping the knives sharp, so there’s no need for the extra irritation. It’s not hard to keep those knives sharp and with a few tips and tricks you can make you kitchen knives last longer and stay sharp. Even the cheapest of knives can benefit from some good quality care and it help extend their lives.
1. Never cut on glass: it’s all too tempting to save a dish and cut up those sandwich toppings on the same plate you’ll be eating off of. But with each click of the knife against the glass, a knife somewhere loses its wings or something like that. It’s essentially like cutting on a surface harder than your knife, as ceramic and glass are typically harder than steel. Best stick to a few good quality wood or bamboo chopping boards to extend the life of the blade.
2. Sliding the knife: speaking of chopping boards, never slide the knife blade down over the board to clear away whatever you just chopped. I’ve now trained myself to simply flip the blade over and use the top as my slide tool. Your knife will forever thank you for it.
3. Cleaning: never dishwash your knives. Dishwashers get hot and the dishwashing cleaning tablets are often more abrasive than your average dishwashing liquid. Plus often knife handles are made of wood or plastic which doesn’t bode well in the dishwasher. So maintain the life of the blade and handle by a simple hand wash in warm water.
4. Store with care: it’s worth investing in a knife block or magnetic board to keep the knives from sliding around the drawer, bumping the sliding across various surfaces and other utensils, forever dulling the blade. Plus today’s average knife blocks are pretty stylish and can add a nice bit of class to the kitchen. Any excuse to get an awesome knife block.
5. Don’t forget to sharpen! Purchasing a good quality knife sharpening rod is a solid investment and there are plenty good quality, inexpensive options out there. Ceramic is usually the best and easiest to find, and as mentioned before, ceramic is a harder substance than steel so it helps even out the blade and get it sharp again. And don’t be afraid about how to use it, it’s really simple – as an example from Jamie’s Kitchen Tutorial. Good luck and get sharpening!
There are two types of people in the world; those on Team Cupcake, and those on Team Pie. I am of the latter, and love nothing better than baking a fine pie and sharing it with friends and family. Cupcakes are cute, small and too perfect for me. They’re a personal-sized serving of sugar and flour, overly sweet and impossible to eat. Even with the memo about how to properly eat a cupcake, you can’t exactly tear apart the perfectly presented lemon zest cupcake with organic vanilla lavender icing and crystallised ginger topping. You’re expected to eat it like a dainty lady at afternoon tea with grandmama because the baker put so much effort into this tiny piece of art. Not for everyone.
I am team pie. I prefer to bake something large, with visible chunks of delicious fruit that makes my little flat smell dreamy, then proceed to share the pie with loved ones. And I sometimes want that extra slice – I don’t want portion control because I’m indulgent on occasion – and I worked hard, and I’ve earned a second slice thank you very much. Pies are also a very seasonal, with the fruit fillings based on what is on sale this week at the supermarket. And you can try different pies at once! Imagine trying three small slices of cupcake – people would look strangely. But instead, I can attend a pie party and try pumpkin, apple and plum without feeling like a gobble guts.
So here’s to Team Pie!
Apple, Pear and Cranberry Pie
Basic buttery pie crust
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup butter, chilled
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4-8 tablespoons ice water
1 egg, beaten, for the wash
For the fruit filling
4 granny smith apples, thinly sliced
2 pears, thinly sliced
2 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked over
¼ cup white sugar
1 orange, zested
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons flour
- To make sure you can get a super crispy crust, I recommend placing all the crust ingredients (butter, flour, salt, sugar) in the freezer 30 minutes before using. Everything should be cold. Start by mixing the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl before adding the butter. Using a pastry cutter, mix the butter and flour until it becomes a coarse mixture - don't worry if there's a few chunks of butter.
- Start by adding 4 tablespoons of ice cold water. The water should hold the dough together, but the dough shouldn't be at all sticky, more like a soft clay consistency. Add more tablespoons, one at a time, until the dough is uniform and holds together, but not sticky.
- Divide the dough in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for one hour.
- Meanwhile, mix fruit, sugar, orange zest and spices in a large bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. You can roll out the bottom while you're waiting.
- Remove one half of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little extra flour over the dough ball and begin rolling into a thin circle. Roll out the circle a little bigger than needed so it entirely covers the pie dish. I usually turn the pie dish upsidedown over the dough to see if it's going to fit. Gently transfer the rolled out dough to a pie dish, cut the overhanging edges (leaving an inch for sealing the top) and pour in prepared filling.
- Place in the fridge while you drain the liquid from the fruit. Toss 3 tablespoons of flour with the fruit mixture and pour it into the bottom pie crust. Put the whole thing back in the fridge while you sort the top out.
- Now for the top, I made a lattice crust using these fabulous instructions but I reckon the pie would be better with a full covered crust because apples and cranberries don't bubble and ooze quite as much as say, cherries or strawberries. So similar to the bottom crust, roll the top out large so it can comfortably cover the filling and has enough extra on the side to seal the dough. Gently transfer to the pie dish and carefully position it over the filling. Trim the excess edges and begin sealing the dough by tucking the top under the bottom edges, sealing in the filling and crimping with pressure from your fingers
- Brush the top with an egg wash and give it a decorative pattern or design to allow extra heat to escape while baking. Fan bake at 190ºC for 40 – 60 minutes until the crust is a nice golden brown and the filling is bubbling and the crust is a nice golden brown. Lay foil on the bottom of the oven just in case the filling spills over :)
- Let cool for a few hours before serving, to let the insides set.
Can someone claim to have the recipe for the perfect brownie? Well of course not! However, you can come pretty close to brownie nirvana if you know how to make the perfect brownie with a versatile recipe. This is my tried and true recipe that never fails me. Plus it’s slightly healthier (yes, it’s still a recipe for brownies) than the average because it uses no butter and tastes so good with some whole wheat flour and a little wheat germ if you have some on hand. Yet every time I make it, I can tweak something here and there to match exactly what I’m craving for at the moment.
Make Your Perfect Brownie Every Time
So if you want fudgy brownies that are deliciously soft and almost like cake batter, watch the clock after 15 minutes and take them out when the tester isn’t quite clean; it should come out a little oily and a few speckles of chocolate. The trick with brownies is that they cook for another few minutes after you remove them from the oven, so if you leave them in until they’re perfect, you’ll end up with dry crumbly brownies.
If you want yummy chewy brownies, leave them in until the tester comes out clean. The wholemeal flour really helps with making them a bit thicker and chewier without drying them out at all.
Like that perfect crispy top on your brownies? Simple solution: egg beaters! Because this is a egg-filled recipe, it’s perfect for getting that silky crinkle top. In fact, that top layer is actually just meringue from the eggs, so beat the eggs with an egg beater for a few minutes before folding them into the batter.
And the add-ons that work with the recipe never stop! I sometimes add and tablespoon of peppermint extract (and perhaps some mint lollies) to make peppermint brownies. But any oil or extract can be added to give this versatile brownie recipe that extra kick, like lavender or citrus oil. And I could go on and on about the nuts, but I’ll stop here. Enjoy your highly customisable brownies!
The Easiest Chocolate Brownie Recipe
¾ whole wheat flour
¼ + ⅓ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups sugar
¾ cup tablespoons vegetable oil
White and dark chocolate bars, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, sift the flour, coco powder, salt and baking powder. Toss in the wheat germ if you have some and mix it in. Make a small well in the centre.
In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs together. Fold in the vanilla extract, oil and egg-sugar mixture and begin to fold, mixing as little as possible until ingredients are almost combine. Just before everything is fully mixed, add the chopped dark and white chocolate and stir together until everything is perfectly mixed.
Grease a rectangel casserole dish (9in x 13 in) and bake in a preheated oven at180ºC for 20 - 25 minutes (unless you want them super fudgy) and keep a close eye on them after the 20 minute mark. Take them out when the tester comes out clean but be sure not to over cook them, as they'll cook another few minutes once you take them.
Let them cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Yum.
Kombu what? Maybe you’ve heard about this thing called kombu being thrown around various vegan and health food blogs. It could easily give you the impression that kombu is something difficult to use or exclusive to hard core foodies. Kombu is rather the opposite, and a great addition to the kitchen!
Think of kombu as an edible and healthy seaweed from the kelp family. It’s most popular in Eastern Asia where people add it and eat it in all sorts of ways, particularly a staple in Japan. It wasn’t exported to the West until the 1960s where it was hard to find then, located only in a sprinkling of health food stores. Nowadays you’ll probably be able to find it at most organic or Asian supermarkets near the other seaweed products like wakame and arame.
There are a few ways to use kombu, here are my favourites:
Cook with beans to soften them. This also releases plenty of kombu’s nutrients into the beans, while the amino acids in the seaweed break down the beans and get them nice and soft. This is my number one way to use kombu as I find cooking the beans from scratch, as opposed to buying tinned, is easier on my tummy and greatly reduced the salt intake. After your beans have soaked overnight, bring the pot to a boil, throw in a stick of kombu and reduce to a simmer until done. From their, you can toss it in the bin or, as my macrobiotic auntie once told me: ‘it’s not cheap, so I’m going to get all the nutrients I can out of it’ before she’d devour the small piece of kombu. Personally, if I’m making something that compliments the texture and flavour of kombu (such as bean salads or veggie burgers) I’ll just toss it right in. It doesn’t taste like much, but auntie was right that there’s some nutrition still there.
Toss it in soup. Next time you’re cooking up some pumpkin soup or minestrone, throw in a stick of kombu while the broth simmers. Take it out shorty before you serve the soup, chop the kombu up and return it to the pot. It helps enhance the flavours and adds a bit of delicious earthy flavour too!
Making vegetarian soup stock. This is the main way kombu is used in Japan. It’s used as the basis for many vegetarian soup recipes like miso soup and tofu based soups. With the addition of bonito (which is basically dried, fermented and smoked fish shavings), the broth becomes dashi, which is the basis for many favourite Japanese soup recipes.
Is it too early for homemade lemonade? Last year, I became known as Queen Lemon because what felt like every weekend, I was making some sort of variation on simple lemonade. The original recipe for lemonade consists of just lemons and sugar syrup mixed together and chilled. But I like to consider the basic recipe just the foundation of what can be hundreds of different types of delicious refreshing lemonades, ready to be explored. And even better, if you find a recipe you love you can even make it into popsicles! I may be getting ahead of myself though, considering how cold is unfortunately still is outside. I’d safely say that the lemon is my favourite fruit and I’ve always been a sour fan – opting for the sour flavoured ice creams and lollies.
Though my friends tell me I’m lemon-obsessed, they certainly don’t seem to mind while they sip their delicious lemonade. So here’s a recipe for my first lemonade of the season and one of my favourites, mostly because of the colour and the extra sourness the berries add. I prefer frozen raspberries for this recipe because they help cool down the lemonade and the change in colour, from light pink to a darker shade, happens so gradually and beautifully.
Raspberry Lemonade Recipe
1 cup hot water
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice (6 lemons)
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
6 cups cold water
Lemon and lime slices for garnish
In a small saucepan, add hot water and sugar and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer until sugar has dissolved, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large pitcher add the lemon juice, raspberries, cold water and cool sugar syrup. Add ice or refrigerate. Serve cold, with colourful straws.
Travel and food go hand in hand – a destination’s dishes can tell you a lot about its history, culture, and traditions, as well as offering you a great insight into local life. But, just as every place differs greatly from the next, so does the food that is available. From Ecuador to Italy, everywhere has special delicacies, some of which are much, much stranger than others. However, whilst it might be daunting eating something that makes you shudder, you might find that some dishes are actually enjoyable and, dare I say it, delicious – why else would they be a national favourite?
Fried Tarantulas – Cambodia
If you’re scared of spiders, you might want to overlook this dish which makes regular appearances at Cambodian street stalls. Because it’s not tiny little house spiders we’re dealing with here, it’s full-sized furry tarantulas that have been fried in all their glory, fangs and all. Originally, the eight-legged creepy crawlies were eaten by starving Cambodians during the cruel reign of the Khmer Rouge. Today, however, they are considered a delicacy and are sought out by visitors from all over the world who snack on them for only a few cents. It might seem like the act of a dare, but tarantula is supposedly delicious when pan fried with a sprinkling of garlic and salt.
Balut – Philippines
From the outside they look like unsuspecting eggs. On the inside, though, it’s a whole other story because if you crack open the shell you’ll be greeted with a baby chicken – surprise! Now there’s no need to ponder whether the chicken or egg came first. Jokes aside, Balut is a popular delicacy throughout the Philippines and is made by boiling fertilised eggs just before they are due to hatch. Depending on your preference (read: whether you want beak, claws, and feathers), you can select the age of the foetus which can range between 17 and 21 days. Follow the locals’ lead and crack open the egg and slurp down the broth before eating the yolk and foetus. Balut can be found everywhere, particularly on the stalls of street vendors and is considered to be a tasty snack by both locals and visitors.
Puffin Heart – Iceland
Puffins are notoriously cute birds, renowned for their clumsy footing and bright-coloured beaks. In Iceland, though, they are considered an important source of sustenance and are hunted in a sport called sky fishing where the low flying birds are caught in a large net. It is a traditional Icelandic delicacy to eat the fresh heart raw whilst it is still warm straight after the bird has been caught. It may sound like something out of a horror film, but puffin meat is supposedly delicious; like a richer, fishier version of chicken and duck.
Cuy – Ecuador
Cuy has caused a divide of opinions between visitors to Ecuador, even between meat eaters who consider eating a cute, furry guinea pig a step too far. It might seem cruel to cook what is, elsewhere in the world, a family pet but in Ecuador guinea pigs have been a delicacy for many years and are bred purely for eating. Cuy tends to be cooked or fried whole, complete with head and feet and served with side accompaniments like salad and potatoes. Still not tempted? This staple Andean dish surprises many with its delicious flavour, similar to that of a rabbit.
Pork Blood Cake – Italy
Italy is world-famous for its food – you know, all that pasta, pizza, and spaghetti? In fact, Italy’s food scene is so big that people are heading there to learn specifically how to make authentic dishes on trips like the Italian Cooking Tour by H n A Travel. However, whilst there is a massive variety of basic Italian food, there are also some more unusual offerings. Take pork blood cake, for example. In Italy, it is believed that no part of a pig should be thrown away, as every piece of it can be used in some way or another. So, in some instances, the blood is used to make traditional cakes which are supposed to be extremely delicious despite their slightly questionable ingredients.
Do you get enough fruit and vegetables in your daily routine? The reality is that many of us don’t always get our fill of veggies and fruit even though it’s one of the simplest ways to consume some much-needed nutritions. There are a few ways to get more of them into your daily routine such as adding a banana to your morning porridge, doubling the amount of called for veggies in soup and pasta recipes, Meatless Monday, playing with new and interesting vegetables and having a bit of fruit for dessert instead of biscuits. The trick is to make it habit, so you can get your dose of daily vitamins and nutrients without even thinking about it.
The infographic is via Fruit 4 London. They’re one of the capital’s favourite fruit suppliers, and specialise in office fruit delivery baskets and fruit baskets to homes across the city. Just another way to get your five a day : ) byClare Carmichael My Passion for Food
Everyone loves classic mac n’ cheese. And if you don’t love it, you may not have experienced the real deal. When I say macaroni and cheese, I’m not talking about the boxed noodles with powdered cheese that’s ubiquitous on the supermarket shelves in America, I mean the homemade, real cheese version. I fell in love with the creamy goodness when I lived in the US on a high school exchange and haven’t turned back. It’s like a bowl of cheesy comfort, with that stick-to-your-ribs effect that makes it perfect on these extra cold London nights when I’m totally finished with winter, and ready for the spring to come and rescue me.
But the original and classic recipes for macaroni and cheese calls for lots of cheese and full fat cream, considered pretty heavy for any health conscious individual trying to keep it relatively light. That’s where I came up with a lighter recipe, using a less-fatty cheese sauce and whole wheat macaroni noodles. In the past, I’ve also made it with mushrooms and spinach for some added veggies, but sometimes pure is best. Or pure with healthy moderations :)
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Boil a large pot of water and add a pinch of salt. Add the pasta until it's just cooked, about 8 minutes. Strain and rinse with cold water and set aside while you prepare the cheese sauce.
Melt butter in a large saucepan on the stove top, set to medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour in very small portions to ensure it doesn't clump. Heat up the milk for 30 seconds in the microwave to bring it closer to room temperature. Then gradually stir in the first cup of milk in small doses, mixing thoroughly after each addition, otherwise the sauce will not mix evenly and the flour will clump.
From there add the remaining milk, salt and pepper and bring to milk to almost boiling. Be sure not to entirely boil the milk and keep stirring it constantly, scraping the bottom on the pot as to make sure the milk doesn't burn and give the pasta a nasty flavour. Do this for a few minutes, until the milk mixture starts to thicken. Once the milk is heated and the consistency is thicker, add the cheese and stir until all is melted. In a large casserole dish, mix the pasta and cheese sauce together.
I wouldn’t call it cooking inspiration, but recently I came across something seriously shiny, glittery and just the kind of fun I like in the kitchen. The creative Deli Garage from Germany recently came out with an edible spray paint food finish to spice up those veggies and add a shine to your daily meals! And the company has the reputation to back up its edible spray paint as they provide food colouring and style to gourmet pastry chefs and upmarket foodies. Now they’ve released a handheld can of metallic fun for the masses and I’m rather interested in getting my mitts on some. From the Deli Garage website:
Off with the lid and on with the spray. Finito! Food Finish will chrome-plate and gold-coat anything in the kitchen that comes under its nozzle – from summer strawberries to the Christmas goose. And with two new colours, you’ll have your food blushing red and moody blue in a jiffy. Food Finish is completely neutral in taste and harmless to eat.
The next dinner party is going to rock when I show up with the golden cupcakes. I’m never one to shy away from brightly coloured objects!