A Persian Feast…

For my birthday last month I was bought a wonderful cookbook, Persiana, from my Uncle and Aunty. The book is by Sabrina Ghayour, a food blogger and supper club hostess from London, and I had never actually heard of her before. However, I trusted my Uncle’s judgement (he is a trained chef and worked in the industry for years, so he knows good food). Also, the wonderful Gizzi Erskine is quoted on the front of the book to have stated “Sabrina Ghayour is a phenomenal Persian chef” – so, naturally I was more than eager to give the book a go to find out for myself what all the fuss was about.

During the Introduction to the book, Sabrina talks about her supper clubs and the simplicity of Middle Eastern food. She talks about how Eastern food can be (as has been) misinterpreted over the years, to be something more complicated or difficult than it actually is. She talks of how her supper clubs put emphasis on bringing strangers together; using food as the focal point for shared, convivial experiences during which all else is forgotten and food and enjoyment alone become the focus.

It all got me thinking. No, not about starting my own supper clubs (but maybe one day!) Thinking about inviting some close friends round for a feast of good food, good conversation, fine wine and of course, a few obligatory card games at the end the evening! Ok, the last bit was just a spontaneous (but fun) add-on…

I wanted to keep the menu light, summery and varied – because the weather’s been nice recently, and I love the idea of mezze platters, sharing plates and tapas. I think food is so much better when you can just place it all in the middle of the table and let your guests dive in. To make the experience even better, my friend Rachel bought her new ‘Swiss Grill’ to the table – an electric grill which allows you to grill food and keep it warm at the table, as well as having 8 individual frying pans which you can fill up as you chose and set them down on the ‘hob’ to warm through. It was like having a BBQ only inside, and without men and fire! Bliss! 🙂

The Food

A Traditional Persian Mezze Sharing Experience:

Spice & Salted King Prawns

large, juicy king prawns lightly coated in a salty spiced dry-mix then fried in hot oil to make them crispy, light and very morish

Turkish Adana Köfte Kebabs (Lamb)

juicy, tender lamb mince pummelled like a dough to combine with finely diced onion, diced red pepper, garlic, chilli flakes and fresh parsley

Chargrilled Aubergines

with saffron yogurt, parsley & pickled chillies

Shirazi Salad

a beautiful, vibrant and refreshing salad of diced cucumber, ripened vine tomatoes, red onion, pomegranate seeds and sumac

Griddled Halloumi

the classic!

Harissa-Marinated Asparagus

marinated in Harissa, lemon rind, lemon juice, honey and sea salt

Homemade Cacik

pronounced ‘jajik,’ a wonderfully cooling mixture of cucumber, Greek yogurt, parsley and  dill

Persian Herb Rice (Sabiz Polow)

basmati rice, parboiled with finely chopped parsley, coriander, dill and spring onions then steamed in a lidded pan with butter to created crispy, indulgent base

As you can tell from the variety above, we really did have a true feast! Most things I was able to cook and prep ahead, and then heat up on the Swiss grill (asparagus, aubergine, lamb kebabs). The halloumi cheese we just cooked there and then on the grill at the table.

The other dishes (herb rice, king prawns, cacik, and salad) were easy to make ahead and serve when it was time. I also popped a shop-bought flatbread in the oven too, which was great for dipping into the creamy cacik and eating with the kebabs. Next time though, I will try making one of Sabrina’s flatbreads from scratch as they look and sound delicious.

Well, there you have it. I just wanted to share our Persian feast with you to hopefully inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen. All the recipes I tried from this book were easy and delicious. The only dish I wasn’t keen on was the aubergine and saffron yogurt – I loved the grilled aubergine, but I found the dish was too bitter (teamed with the saffron yogurt) – perhaps just a Persian paring my palate isn’t quite yet used to!

As you can see, the girls didn’t hesitate to get their phones out and start taking pictures of the wonderful feast! Here are some of the snaps they took…

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Soulful Food Co. ‘One Pots’ plus Discount Code!

I have recently been in touch with the lovely and super-cool people at Soulful Food Co. and have been sampling their #SoulfulOnePots, with the view that if I like them, I will share a discount-code with you all as a little thank you for reading and following my blog. You will be pleased to know, they have turned out to be an absolute delight!

As you know, I have recently been on a health-kick. I’ve decided to get my ass in gear and start exercising, as I was starting to feel a little ‘under the weather’ (as we all do from time to time). I attributed these feelings to my sheer lack of exercise, eating too many calories and not getting the right balance of nutrition in my diet. Over the past few weeks, I have cleaned up my diet, stopped eating for the sake of it and joined a really nice gym where I have been working my ass of to try and get into better shape and health.

So… The arrival of 6 healthy, hearty #SoulfulOnePots therefore, couldn’t have come at a better time. For the past week, I have been fitting them into my diet (mostly for lunch, which means snacking less in the day) and sometimes for dinner (perfect when you’re in a rush – you will see why later).

Here is a summary of what I thought of each pot – and at the end of the article, there is a discount code for you to enjoy a whopping 35% off your #SoufulOnePots online order! You are welcome!!

How they taste:

Official Name & Description: Mexican Bean & Sweet Potato with Quinoa. A rich & warming bean fiesta of a stew, with sweet red pepper, tomatoes & lentils.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Low Salt, Gluten Free, Vegan, 262 Calories per tub.

My Verdict: Overall this tasted absolutely fantastic. Great textures from the variety of beans (black beans, pinto beans and red kidney beans) and also green lentils. The lentils have a slight bite to them which is lovely. The sweet potato is firm but squidgy and soft in the middle, nice bite-sized chunks. Loads of flavours from the added herbs and spices, particularly fennel seeds and cumin which gives an authentic Mexican flavour. LOVELY!

Official Name & Description: British Pulled Beef Chilli with Black Barley. West Country Beef, slow cooked till tender, in our fresh take on the classic chilli con carne.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Dairy Free, Lean Protein, 2 of your 5-a-Day,  391 calories per tub.

My Verdict: The beef in this one pot is tender, meaty and there is plenty of it. Absolutely no accompaniment needed if you’re having this for lunch like I was. It’s packed full of loads of fresh red peppers, onions, kidney beans and celery which all contribute to the wholesome flavour. A great level of spice and seasoning, from both the fresh red chilli used and the cayenne pepper, chilli powder and pepper. Delicious.

Official Name & Description: Free Range Thai Green Chicken Curry with Kelp Noodles. Our own fragrant take on the eastern classic with babycorn, sweet potato and red pepper.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Lean Protein, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 441 calories per tub.

My Verdict: This was one of my favourites, simply because I love Thai curry and this one is done really well, whilst still maintaining balanced nutrition. I had never tried Kelp noodles before, but can honestly say they are light with a great texture (a little bit like glass noodles but without the starch). As the kelp is raw and very low in carbs, this allows rest of the food fill you up, which I found kept me fuller for much longer (so less/NO snacking, yay!) The chicken had a great ‘pulled chicken’ texture, and the veggies were crunchy as if they has just been stir-fried. Absolutely tonnes of fragrant, tasty Thai flavours coming through too: lemongrass, coconut, basil, coriander and chilli. So much nicer than the Innocent Veg Pot ‘Thai Green Curry,’ by a clear mile. DIVINE!

Official Name & Description: Free Range British Pulled Pork Stew with Chorizo, Beans and Spelt. Hearty & rustic, with smokey British chorizo & nutty grains of finest Somerset spelt.

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No picture! So here’s a pretty picture of the packaging!

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Low G.I, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 315 calories per tub.

My Verdict: For just 315 calories per tub – this is seriously impressive. I forgot to take a photo of this one, as I was in a rush after work to get home, eat dinner, and get my ass to the gym. So, I just grabbed this one pot from the fridge, heated it in the microwave and ate it straight out of the tub. As I am used to brown rice, I must say the texture of spelt as an alternative is a little strange to get used to at first – but it is an overall more nutritious option with more fibre and less calories per portion. The sheer flavour from the pulled pork and smoky chorizo more than made up for the new texture. You can tell a lot of love has been put into slow cooking this very hearty and nutritious stew. I ate it about 45 minutes before my gym session and it gave me enough energy to absolutely smash it!

Official Name & Description: Free Range Moroccan Chicken Tagine with British Spelt. Chunks of chicken, veg, apricots & almond, slow cooked in delicious North African spices.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Lean Protein, Dairy Free, Low G.I., 2 of your 5-a-Day, 395 calories per tub.

My Verdict: Lovely and warming spices (ginger, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper and cinnamon). There is less spelt in this one so the texture less noticeable. There was perhaps a little bit too much carrot for my liking, but for lunch this was a very satisfying dish, which would be lovely as a dinner with some homemade chapatis.

Official Name & Description: Butternut, Lentil & Spinach Hotpot. Gently cooked with coconut, lemongrass & a warming hint of Indian spices.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low G.I., Gluten Free, Vegan, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 388 calories per tub.

My Verdict: I must admit, I think (subconsciously) I saved this one until last, because I didn’t fancy it as much as the others. However, this one turned out to be my favourite overall. The chickpeas, cauliflower, spinach, split peas and green lentils all work together really well to give a light but hearty texture. The spices used are really warming (turmeric, mustard seeds, cardamon powder, ginger and red chilli), which give the hot pot a lovely little kick. The only drawback is that the potato-to-squash ratio favoured potato a little too much for my liking. On the ingredients it says 7% of both, but there was certainly a lot more potato than squash!

Overall, I would highly recommend these lovely pots of flavour-packed wholesome goodness. I think they would be a great purchase to supplement your own home-cooking as they are healthy, nutritious and overall taste fantastic! They are £3.49 per tub plus P&P to buy online, which is a little bit on the pricy side, but you get what you pay for, and these really do taste great and the ingredients are top notch. Use the discount code for 35% off your order, see below. 

All of their packaging is fully recyclable too, which is awesome.

As promised, please use code SCRAN35, for 35% off  your Soulful Food order, which is valid until the end of May 2015.

I was sent the Soulful Food One Pots on a free-of-charge basis, to taste and try and feature on my blog. All opinions above are my honest and actual thoughts on the products supplied.

Gizzi’s Roast Duck & Noodle Soup

Earlier this month, I received a cookbook for my birthday by a chef and award-winning food writer I have become quite a fan of over recent months. Her name is Gizzi Erskine and she is a Scottish born, cat-loving, super cool babe who looks like a 1960’s pin up model and cooks the most fantastic Asian-inspired dishes. She was also a writer for the Sunday Times Magazine, and trained at Leighs School of Food & Wine. The book is pictured below. I also go Ruby Tandoh’s CRUMB, but more on that later.

Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts by Gizzi Erskine
Not all of her cooking is Asian inspired, but a great deal of it is. The book I received is named ‘Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts,’ which seemed apt, as this is pretty much how I like to live – be good in the week and indulge a little extra at the weekends. The recipes in the book range greatly from Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and Indian influences to her stylish, modern takes on British and American classic dishes too – like Fish Pie, Fried Chicken and Sunday Roasts.

The concept of the book is simple – quick, nutritious, low calorie but full-flavours in the week and indulgent feasts at the weekend! Although it was a Friday night – we wanted something quick to put together, so after much deliberation between 3 or 4 of the possible recipes we felt like trying right away, we decided on the Roast Duck Noodle Soup and were NOT disappointed. I thought I would share the recipe with you – as it really was delicious, easy and tasted just like something from the most authentic of Japanese noodle bars!

The book says all in all the recipe takes 45 minutes to prep and cook, and it serves 2. However, as we couldn’t find duck leg that evening, we opted for a duck crown which took a little longer to cook. It also upped the portion size and gave enough leftover duck to have Saturday night crispy duck pancakes! WINNING!

What you need:

  • 1 x 250g duck leg (we substituted this for duck crown, and roasted the whole thing then just used a third of it for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 100g egg noodles
  • 1L chicken stock
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp star anise
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame sauce
  • 3 shitake mushrooms, quartered
  • 50g enoki mushrooms (although I couldn’t find these, so I just doubled up on the shitake)
  • 2 heads pak choi, thickly shredded
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • a few chives, thinly sliced
  •  1 red Thai bird’s-eye chilli, sliced
  • a few sprigs of fresh mint (Bradley’s not too keen on mint, and this is just a garnish, so we left it out)

What to do:

Heat the oven to 180*C/Gas 4. Season the duck with salt and pepper, lay it on a roasting tray, pop in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, until the skin is crispy and the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone.

Roast duck crown, split into two halves. We used the smaller half for this recipe.
Roast duck crown, split into two halves. We used the smaller half for this recipe.
Mix together the honey, five-spice powder and half of the soy sauce in a bowl. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat an place the duck in the hot pan . Pour over the honey mixture and cook gently until sticky and glossy. Remove the duck from the pan and shred the meat. (IF you are being ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ – this is the part where you REMOVE the skin, which harbours most of the fat). As it was Friday night, we decided not…

The duck basting in the honey/soy glaze.
The duck basting in the honey/soy glaze.
Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water with a pinch of salt until tender. Drain well.

Heat the stock, ginger, garlic and star anise in a large saucepan, add the oyster sauce, sesame oil and remaining soy sauce and stir to combine. Add salt TO TASTE (I didn’t here – as I thought it tasted divine already!) Simmer for a few minutes.

Once you add the pak choi, noodles and duck to the broth just bring it back to the boil then it's ready to serve!
Once you add the pak choi, noodles and duck to the broth just bring it back to the boil then it’s ready to serve!
Remove and discard the ginger, garlic and star anise from the broth using a slotted spoon. Add the shitake mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the pak choi, enoki mushrooms (if using), spring onions, chives, noodles and duck. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Divide between bowls and garnish with chopped chilli and mint (if using). Enjoy!

Gizzi Erskine's Roast Duck & Noodle Soup
Gizzi Erskine’s Roast Duck & Noodle Soup

 

Review: Gusto, Alderley Edge

Last Sunday, the boyfriend and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Gusto in Alderley Edge for a bite to eat. We booked a table just a couple of hours ahead, and they had enough space to squeeze us in.  We were seated in a beautiful booth right near the window. Perfect for a spot of people-watching and of course, excellent lighting, just in case I got the urge to take any photos of my food… 😉

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Beetroot, red onion and cranberry bruschetta with goat’s cheese and a walnut dressing.

To start, I decided on the bruschetta. They have 3 bruschetta options in total (impressive), but after a little deliberation I chose the beetroot, red onion and cranberry bruschetta with goat’s cheese and a walnut dressing.  The bread was substantial enough for a starter but still light and crispy, which worked really well with the toppings. The goats cheese was also slightly toasted which worked, and the walnut dressing really was delicious. I could have eaten a whole other piece if it were there – not sure what that says about the portion size, as I was particularly ravenous!

Bradley chose the Fritto misto of sardine, prawn and squid with pan fried garlic polenta, green gazpacho and lemon purée. It goes without saying he enjoyed it; he had eaten the entire thing before I had chance to take a photo… 🙂

For the main course, we both decided we fancied a steak. As not to be too greedy, and keep options light, we went for the 28 day-aged flattened rump steak with garlic, chilli, peppercorn, sea salt, rocket and Grana Padano cheese. We shared 3 side orders to bulk it out a little, steamed spinach with sea salt, fries and Italian fried courgettes. The steak was well-cooked, perfectly seasoned and still hot throughout from the griddle. I mention hot throughout as sometimes you find flattened steaks to be a little too cold once they reach the table. It was also melt-in-your-mouth tender and we both ate every last bit. The chilli flakes are also such a good addition, which gives it a subtle but noticeable bit of spice. Yummy.

The sides were also excellent – fries, hot, nice and crispy and the spinach tasted really fresh and was seasoned well with the sea salt. However, it was the Italian fried courgettes which really stole the show. So light, so crispy, seasoned to perfection with the courgette still maintaining it’s slightly bitter flavour inside. A very generous portion too which helps when sharing! The texture and bite remained in the middle of each lightly battered strand. Genius, and the best version of fried courgettes I have ever tasted. Well done, Gusto!

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28 day-aged flattened rump steak with garlic, chilli, peppercorn, sea salt, rocket and Grana Padano

On to puddings, and I decided to keep it stodge-free and simple, so went for this delightful little Ginger panna cotta with confit clementine. I was so pleasantly surprised by this pudding, the panna cotta was perfectly set and you could still see the writing of the mould on the top, which I thought was a nice touch- intentional or not! The panna cotta itself was light and creamy, with prominent ginger and a soft vanilla flavour coming through. It was accompanied by a medley of strawberries and clementines which were sweet but still had a lovely bite to them, which indicated they were nice and fresh. Carefully sprinkled beneath and above them was a crunchy chocolate dusting which added a lovely extra sweetness and texture. Just yummy.

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Ginger panna cotta with confit clementine & fresh strawberries

Overall we really enjoyed our meal at Gusto, Alderley Edge and will return no doubt again in the future. We paid full price for our meals – but used their Dining Club card which allowed 20% if booked online, as recommended by M-DOG, Manchester Dining Offers Guide! Thanks, M-DOG!


 

Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake, by The Cake Duchess

After the success of being featured in the wonderful Great British Cookbook, the Cake Duchess has literally been swept off her feet with orders for her wonderfully decadent and stunningly decorated cakes – which seem perfect for any occasion.

One look at her Instagram account and you will be drooling; instantly craving one of her sweet little treats,  so lovingly hand-crafted,  decorated to absolute perfection and using the finest of ingredients. There was one little beauty, however, which caught my eye more than any of the others – and that was her mighty Salted Caramel and Popcorn Cake. It, looks, to, DIE, FOR! Wouldn’t you agree?!

Well, the lady herself, (also know as Amy Vyse, from Nottingham) was good enough to share her secret recipe, and here’s what she had to say about it:

“This recipe is for my famous, best-selling cake  ‘Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake.’ The cake consists of layers of caramel sponge, filled and coated with a salted caramel buttercream, then topped with a caramel drizzle and of course, popcorn! What more could you want from a cake!!”

I am really happy to share this wonderful recipes and exclusive photos with you on my blog. If you try this cake – please make sure to tag @TheCakeDuchess and @SophiesScran on twitter – and use the comments at the bottom of the page to let us know what you think! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • Butter for greasing
  • 7 medium free range eggs
  • 430g caster sugar
  • 400g butter
  • 430g self raising flour
  • 1 x 395g tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 100g sweet popcorn
  • Edible Glitter (optional)

For the Buttercream

  • 240g butter softened
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 100g caramel (see recipe below)
  • Pinch of salt

As this is a long and complex recipe, we have split it into chronological sections to make it simple to follow!

Method:

1.  Making the Caramel

To begin you need to start by Making the Caramel. Now of course, there is quick and a long method to making caramel – either buy it premade from a shop or follow the recipe below. It is fine if you chose either, but below is the most satisfying by a long way!

  • Remove the label from the unopened tin of condensed milk. Fill a deep pan with water and bring to boil. Carefully place the tin into the pan, making sure there is enough water to completely cover it at all times, keep topping up the water when necessary. Gently simmer for 3 hours.
  • When the 3 hours is up, remove the tin from the water and allow to cool completely before opening. When you peel back the lid, there is nothing better than the sight you are greeted with – thick, gooey, indulgent caramel!

caramel

2.  Now for the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 150* and grease 2 x 6” (15cm) round cake tins with butter. Line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper.
  • Place the butter and sugar in bowl and mix on high speed until light and fluffy.
  • Break the eggs into a separate bowl, ensuring no egg shells spoil your batter, (we will add some texture later!)
  • On a low speed, mix the eggs into the sugar and butter mixture and beat until all is combined. If your mixture looks like it has curdled add a small spoonful of flour.  Once combined, sift flour into the mixture and beat until smooth.
  • Now add 200g of the beautiful caramel, and gently fold into the mixture until you have a lovely evenly coloured batter.
  • Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave the cake to stand for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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3.  For the Buttercream

  • Cream the butter until soft, and mix in the icing sugar – remember to turn the mixer down when adding icing sugar, or you will end up with a snowstorm effect in your kitchen 😉
  • Once combined and stiff, add the caramel and pinch of salt and mix well.

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4. Time to Ice

  • When the cake has completely cooled you have two options, you can skim the tops off of your two sponges and leave them whole, or you can cut them again to give the cake 4 layers instead of 2.
  • Once decided, place your cake on a cake board or plate and spread a spoonful of the buttercream on each layer. Add the next layer and repeat – until you reach your top layer.
  • Next, we need to ‘crumb coat’ the cake. This is to seal in any stray crumbs, and create a smooth surface to the cake. A second layer will then be applied for a perfectly smooth finish.
  • Spoon a large dollop of buttercream onto your cake, and smooth over the top of it with your palette knife or cake scraper. The Cake Duchess swears by her cake scraper, and says you can pick one up for about £4 at your local Hobbycraft or cake decorating shop. 
  • Slowly scrape the surface to make sure you have a perfectly smooth and flat top.
  • Spread the icing around the sides of the cake and use your choice of utensil to make sure it’s smooth.
  • Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, then repeat and leave for another 30 minutes.
  • Once the cake is chilled, remove from fridge and place the remaining caramel into a piping bag (if you don’t have a piping bag you can use a sandwich/food bag by snipping off the corner).
  • Slowly, around the top edge of your cake, pipe the caramel so it creates a lovely ‘dripped’ effect down the sides of the cake.
  • To finish, top with popcorn pieces and sprinkle with a little edible glitter!

Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake

There you have it! The Cake Duchess’s famous Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake. DIVINE! 

Amy would love to see your finished cakes, so please make sure you tag @the_cakeduchess on Twitter, @thecakeduchessnotts on Instagram if you make this amazing celebration cake!!

With Love, Sophie & The Cake Duchess -x-


 

Recipe: (Slightly) Healthy Beef Burgers with spicy wedges & slaw

Burgers still seem to be all the rage out and about in the foodie word at the moment, and being a true burger fan, I must admit, I don’t think I will ever bore of them. However, what does make the burger a slightly less sustainable option for me is the potential greasiness and overall fat content – not so good if you’re trying to ‘be good’ ahead of your summer holidays! As my mum is currently doing really well on Slimming World, she advised me to give one of their recipes a go. The whole idea of Slimming World is based around eating the foods you like, – but reducing the fat content where possible and using lots of seasoning and fresh herbs to make sure you still maximise on flavour.

I say ‘slightly’ healthy burger here, as I have made a fair few adaptations to the original recipe. Afterall, I was cooking for my boyfriend and 2 of his friends, so didn’t want to make it too healthy! These ones are fried in light cooking oil spray – but would also be perfect on the BBQ.

The recipe serves 4 people and takes about 1 hour to come together.

What you need:

For the wedges

  • 4 medium sized baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the burgers

  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • ½ tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thyme leaves (or you could used dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Low calorie cooking spray (olive oil version) for cooking

For the coleslaw

  • 200g red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • finely shredded 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated (using a food processor is easiest, if you have one!)
  • 3 tbsp fat-free natural yogurt
  • 1 level tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 1 spring onions, roughly chopped

To serve

  • 4 brioche buns
  • 4 slices of smoked back bacon (see point 5 below, as you may want to grill your bacon beforehand)
  • 8 slithers of cheddar cheese (2 for each burger)
  • Green salad leaves of your choice
  • Tomato ketchup & Light mayonnaise

What to do:

1. Using clean hands, mix together the beef mince, egg yolks, chilli flakes, paprika and thyme leaves. Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty – make sure the mixture is fully combined, and don’t skimp on the seasoning – add plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper.2. Divide the combined mixture into 4 portions, and using your hands, shape each portion into a burger. Cover with cling film and set aside in the fridge for 30 mins until ready to cook.3. Preheat your oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas 7. Parboil the wedges for 6-8 minutes until just tender. Drain well and leave to cool in a colander for a few minutes, until some of the moisture has evaporated.

4. Coat the wedges in the Rapeseed oil and chilli flakes, season very well with salt and pepper and transfer them to the baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle over the paprika, and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once after 10 minutes and adding more paprika if needed.

5. As your wedges are cooking, make your coleslaw and cook your bacon. I have a George Foreman grill – so used that to grill my bacon losing any excess fat. Alternatively, you could lightly fry it in some low calorie cooking spray or grill it beforehand.

6. For the coleslaw, put the fresh red cabbage, grated carrot and spring onion in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and mayonnaise, then stir into the cabbage mixture. Season to taste and set aside in the fridge until serving.

7. Place a frying pan sprayed with low calorie oil spray over a medium-high heat and cook the burgers for 5 minutes on each side until just cooked through. For the second 5 minutes of cooking time, add the cheddar and bacon on top of the burgers.

[Tip:] if your frying pan has a lid, pop it on top for the last 2 minutes of cooking time, which will help melt the cheese and warm the pre-cooked bacon on the burgers. At this point, also pop your brioche buns on the bottom shelf of the oven to warm through slightly before serving.

8. To serve: remove buns from the oven and lightly coat each side with some light mayo. Add the lettuce leaves to the bottom bun, then place the burger with cheese and bacon on top. Divide the wedges up into 4 and serve alongside the burgers, with a big dollop of the homemade coleslaw from the fridge!

Slightly Healthy Burgers with spicy wedges & slaw

Hope you enjoy this (slightly) healthy burger recipe! If you try it, let me know how you get on and tweet a picture to @sophiesscran 🙂


 

Recipe: Best Party Hummus

Hummus is a really easy, simple recipe which can be knocked together in no time based mainly on ingredients you can always keep in the cupboard. I like my hummus to be lemony, garlicky and with a hint of warmth from the cumin. There are loads of variations you can experiment with but this one seems to be a real crowd pleaser. It makes enough for about 6 people as a starter, or more as part of a party selection. This weekend I made it with my Thyme & Tabasco Sausage Rolls for a few friends and it went down a treat.

What you need:

  • 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas (reserve the liquid, plus a few chickpeas for topping)
  • 3 tbsp. tahini
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. crushed sea salt
  • 6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • The juice of 2 large lemons
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • A pinch of Paprika for dusting
  • Greek basil (for topping)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling, optional)

What to do:

  1. Get the bowl-blade option ready on your food processor. Rinse the chickpeas in cold water and add to the bowl. Next, add the tahini, garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin and a few tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the tinned chickpeas. Turn on the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil as everything combines.
  2. When the mixture is fully combined, tip it into a serving dish. Drizzle with some more extra virgin olive oil and decorate with a few whole chickpeas. Sprinkle with paprika and finely chopped Greek basil leaves for decoration.

 

SpamellaB’s Guilt-free Ginger Cakes with Spiced Lemon Cream

As you may have noticed, my food blog is somewhat lacking in something… Can’t quite put your finger on it? Well, I will tell you. It’s SWEET STUFF! This is just one of the reason’s I am really excited about this blog-swap with the amazing Health Food Blogger Pamela ‘SpamellaB’ Bustard of www.spamellab.com. Since we met last year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, we have been friends ever since. So this post-swap is long overdue!

[A note from Pamela:] When Sophie and I decided to write a guest recipe for each others’ foodie blogs, it was a surprise to think it had taken us this long to exchange a piece of our love for food! I love reading Sophie’s informative restaurant reviews and visually brilliant recipe posts; her passion and personality shine through.

As I focus on clean eating and gluten-free treats, I wanted to make something that looks indulgent for her readers but can still be enjoyed totally guilt-free! You can use normal flour if you wish, and also make this into one big cake or loaf but keep in mind the cooking time might need to be extended. I hope you enjoy!

What you need:

Ginger Cakes:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ cup stevia or other natural sweetener
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 150g unsweetened apple puree (either cook peeled and chopped apple chunks, or buy in supermarkets in the canned fruit aisle – much quicker!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 4-6 tbsp milk (can use cow’s milk, soya or almond)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Spiced Lemon Cream:

  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • ¼ tsp each of ginger and cinnamon
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Spamella B's Ginger Cakes with Spiced Lemon Cream...
Spamella B’s Ginger Cakes with Spiced Lemon Cream…

Get baking!

  • Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C and grease (and if possible, line) your loaf or cake tin. I used four small Gugelhupf tins but it’s up to you which you prefer – the mixture will make enough for about 8-10 servings.
  • Put the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, ginger and sweetener) in a large bowl and mix well.
  • In a blender, whizz up the apple puree with the eggs, yogurt and 4 tbsp milk until you have a smooth consistency. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir gently until all combined and you have a thick batter-like texture.
  • Spoon the mixture into your prepared tins and bake for at least 30 minutes – if you have divided up the mixture between smaller tins, the cake(s) should be ready by now – you want them to be risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. For larger cake or loaf tins, you may need to cover it and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, leave to cool for 20 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

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  • For the ‘cream’: Put the coconut milk, ginger, cinnamon, honey and vanilla in a small pan and heat on a high heat until it’s nearly to the boil. In a cup mix together the cornflour with about 1 tbsp cold water and mix to a paste. Whisk this into the coconut mixture and continue whisking on a low-medium heat until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon rind, then, leave to cool.
  • Ready to indulge? Simply spoon some of the sauce (either warm or cold) on top of the cake, add a few pieces of crystallised ginger if you wish and tuck in!

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Don’t they just look amazing! Thank you so much to Pamela for baking these absolute little beauties for my blog – and for bringing a bit of sweetness which my blog clearly needed! -x-

Keep up to date with Pamela’s blog posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss any more of her wonderful ‘indulging innocently’ recipes.

For Pamela’s blog, I rustled up a Gluten Free Harissa Falafel with a Quinoa Tabbouleh. Click the link to see the recipe and feel free to share!!

The Italian Awards come to Manchester

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So, the day is almost here. Tomorrow is the day I finally get to meet Michael and the team in person – the organisers of The Italian Awards UK. In their own words;

“Italian Communities across the UK are a vital and integral part of our hospitality industry; everyone has their own personal favourite Italian, and here at The Italian Awards we aim to recognise the true favourites across the country.

We strive to recognise excellence, and pick out the very best in categories ranging from “Best Pizza” to “Best Interior Design”. Giving initial voting power to the general public allows us to generate finalists that truly are the nation’s favourites, battling it out to become the best of the best.

Come join the family and help us decide this year’s worthy winners.”

Exciting concept, right? Well, this year, 2015, is the very first time The Italian Awards are coming to Manchester. Usually based out of Glasgow, the awards are a spectacular event celebrating all things Italian food in the UK. I’m am delighted to tell you that I have been chosen as an official blogger for the awards. I will be helping Michael and the team along with Taste Today and a few other great bloggers from the Manchester area. The awards themselves are set for September this year…Very exciting times!

Photo credit: http://scottishitalianawards.co.uk
Aldo Zilli, photo credit: http://www.scottishitalianawards.co.uk

I should also tell you that they have a celebrity judge on board, who joined them last year in Scotland and will again this year in our very own Manchester… The one and only Aldo Zilli! (@AldoZilli on Twitter). If you don’t already know, Aldo Zilli is an award winning celebrity Italian chef and restaurateur. He was the founder and chef-patron of some of London’s most exciting and innovative restaurants, Signor Zilli, Zilli Fish, Zilli Green, Zilli Café and Zilli Bar. He has also done consultancy work to help out other famous Italian restaurants such as Prezzo, and he has released many fantastic Italian cookery books. He’s also done countless TV appearances, and in 2012, he helped launch the upmarket Italian restaurant San Carlo Cicchetti in Manchester and London’s Piccadilly. He is now in partnership with San Carlo Group, who have 14 restaurants in the UK and four overseas. IMPRESSIVE!

Please keep posted for more regular updates on this wonderful affair. After tomorrow’s initial meeting, I will be able to tell you much more about our plans. If you think you can add value to the awards in any way, please feel free to contact me on sophiesscran@gmail.com, and I will be happy to see if there is something you can assist us with!

Ciao for now!

Sophie -x-

Mushroom & ‘Smokehouse’ Smoked Streaky Bacon Risotto

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As some of you may know, I wrote my first article for Taste Today last week, and it was based on the wonderful Cheshire Smokehouse, their history, their food and their amazing shop based just on the outskirts of Wilmslow, Cheshire.

As part of the article, I chose a product off their shelves and with the help of the Smokehouse’s owner Darren Ward, told the readers all about the full life cycle of their wonderful smoked streaky bacon. I then put it in this wonderfully indulgent, satisfying and creamy risotto.

You can read the full article on Taste Today’s website by clicking here, but for now, please enjoy the recipe from it! This scrumptious dish serves 4 people, and takes about 35 minutes.

What you need:

  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 6-8 rashers of The Cheshire Smokehouse Smoked Streaky Bacon, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1L good quality chicken stock
  • 300g risotto rice
  • Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 100ml dry white wine (plus extra, for sipping whilst stirring, if desired!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated to serve

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or ceramic casserole dish and cook the onion and Cheshire Smokehouse Smoked Streaky Bacon for 5 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the mushrooms, garlic and bay leaf, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes – until the mushrooms really start to release their juices.
  3. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the wine, and continue to cook (and stir) until all the liquid and juices from the mushrooms have been absorbed.
  5. Next, add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring well and waiting for most of the stock to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful. This process with take about 20 minutes – so I recommend you grab yourself a glass of wine as a reward for all this laborious activity!
  6. Continue until all the stock is added and the rice is cooked.
  7. Once the rice is cooked, removed the risotto from the heat and add the lemon zest, fresh parsley and season to taste with the black pepper.
  8. Serve with a little extra parsley and some grated Parmesan.

Hope you enjoy this one, love Sophie -x-

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