Tuesday, 28 September 2010

chocolate coconut truffles and homemade tortillas

hello dear readers! it's been so wonderful to take part in project food blog, and i'm so grateful for all of your votes and comments - if you haven't yet had the chance, please do put in your vote for Not Just Apples (just click on the right hand box where it says 'Vote For Me')... i'd so appreciate it!

so, i bet you all want to know how little Bruno, our new puppy, is getting on in our house. and the answer would be, wonderful! he is a little terror most of the time, eating my trouser legs and chewing the new carpet. but he's learning how to sit though, which is brilliant. i can't wait to take him walking - only 1 week and 6 days to go until his vaccine's cleared, yahoo!

so, as i was figuring out what my next post should be about, i came across a bunch of summer food photos that i hadn't already published, and they were too beautiful to not document on this here blog:

raw chocolate coconut truffles - i found the recipe on kimberley snyder's blog (i love her blog, it inspires me to be healthier), and realised i had all the ingredients in the house, so made them straight away! and my family couldn't tell the difference between these and regular truffle centres...

summer breakfast with loganberries (grown on the allotment - these 6 were about a third of our total gathering!) - milk, oats, apple sauce, cherry compote and sultanas. and probably linseeds and cinnamon if i had anything to do with it...

i ate out friends houses quite a number of times, which was lovely. and i am so thankful to have friends who can not only cook, but cook healthy, tasty food. here is a sampler: potato wedges, chicken, bacon and avocado salad with hummus and rice salad. Kim really knows her spices!

then i ventured into creating my own tortillas - really easy and very quick to do. they cost a fortune to by ready made, so i decided to have a go at making my own with this recipe and i was so pleased. there's now a permanent supply in the freezer, ready to go at any moment

the joy of tortillas is that you can fill them with leftover vegetables from the fridge, a few slices of chorizo and a little mayonnaise and they taste fabulous, mmmmm

i also had the pleasure of being lent a book called the garden cottage diaries, which was a brilliant look at life in the eighteenth century. i created one of the recipes from there which was most talked about - barley bannocks. they were actually quite delicious with a pretty good flavour, not at all like the cardboard slices i thought they would be.

my favorite dish of the summer - spanakopita. i made these a lot and froze them for quick lunchtime snacks - perfect compliment to a tomato salad or just lovely by themselves followed by an apple for dessert.

what a random mix?! oh well, these are at least some of the highlights of my summer eats. i will miss summer food, but i am such a soup/stew/pumpkin/squash/apple fan to not want autumn to keep rolling in...

just fyi, if you are a UK food blogger or you would like to take part in a cookie exchange, the lovely salad and sequins is organising one - so check out her blog for more info.

currently listening to: islands by the xx

Sunday, 26 September 2010

greek calamari and rose almond cake

so, i want to start this post by saying a massive thank you to all of you who supported me through the first round of project food blog. it is thanks to you that i have succeeded on to round 2!

for challenge number 2 we've been asked to create a classic dish from another culture - something that you aren't familiar with cooking, and something that's a little out of your comfort zone.

i have chosen to recreate some of the greek dishes i had when we went to athens and the islands last year. i've already tackled hummus and moussaka - in fact i'd cooked these before i even went. but there was one dish in particular which i've always been a little terrified of cooking, but that i adore eating and ate on so many occasions when i was on the islands. that is calamari, aka deep fried squid rings.

calamari is a pretty classic mediterranean dish, which you can get in Greece, but also in Italy, France and Spain... the list goes on. we just never ever have it in the uk. so, on my quest to perfect calamari i started with my favorite cookbook, Falling Cloudberries, which always has fantastic and legitimate flavour combinations - from here i found great ideas for flavours to pair the dish with - fried red peppers with garlic and vinegar, garlic and lemon mayonnaise and tomato feta salad.

i also looked over some of the photos of when we were in Greece (see here, here and here) - almost everything was garnished with parsley and lemon wedges, served with a green salad and came with a dip. so, in true style i knew my meal had to reflect that!

so, armed with my ideas, i headed to my local Waitrose to find the ingredients. on my search for squid i came across a few different options, and in the end i decided to pick the freshest possible. i walked up to the fish counter and asked about the squid tubes - it's a strange thing to ask for if you never have before. and to my delight they weren't particularly expensive; less than £1 for one, which was pretty good going, perhaps we can eat them more often (somehow i thought squid tubes would be of a similar cost to most other seafood). i got 3 tubes, enough to serve two generously.

when i got back home i started to assemble my ingredients...

fried red peppers is a recipe that i took from the book Falling Cloudberries. it's easy to make, and a delicious way to eat red peppers. it makes them sweeter, juicier and just tastier in general. they are fried in olive oil vuntil soft and then you add in garlic, rosemary and a dash of red wine vinegar.

creating a feta salad is something that i am now quite familiar with. but i've never made it with our own homegrown cucumber and tomatoes before! simply chop large chunks of both vegetables and add some feta cheese to the mix, drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.

and now for the tough part; i was attempting to follow this recipe, for Kalamarikia Tiganita. i started by slicing up the tubes - weird consistency, but very easy to chop - not as rubbery as i thought they would be. then dredge in flour, sieved off the excess and threw into a big pot of exceedingly hot sunflower oil. i've never deep fried anything before in my life - i'm more of an oven baker or fryer. so, for me this was a totally new experience. after a minute or two out they were nice and golden and ready. ok, not so difficult at ALL, then! this may in fact be a recipe that children can even make...

presented on the table, it kind of looks like an authentic mezze platter, don't you think?

and last but not least, the dessert. i think this may be the best cake i have ever made actually. it was moist and yet not crumbly. it was light and yet dense somehow. it also had the most delicious flavour. greek yogurt cake was one of the first things i ever baked as a child, and it was fun to create a more adult version. here is another falling cloudberries recipe - i must have an addiction to that recipe book! it's full of rose water, almonds, yogurt and semolina, and i am so chuffed with it!

so, in conclusion, calamari is not expensive, it's not difficult, it's actually really easy. and it doesn't take a genius to make it. it is also pretty healthy too - another good reason to make it more of the time - check out this article about it's health benefits.

i loved creating these dishes, so thanks foodbuzz for the opportunity to push my comfort boundaries that little bit further!

have a glorious day x

currently listening to: the sisterhood of the traveling pants soundtrack - it reminds me of santorini!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

wild cherry compote and hedgerow jam

so, after my last post about wild foraging i thought it only sensible to let you in on the sort of things i've been making with all that produce! it's been a struggle trying to think of things to do, and there's been a lot of googling going on to find ideas, but eventually....

watercress soup - i've never heard great things about this. it sounds really diet-y and tasteless to begin with. and really i do prefer it fresh in salads rather than boiled to submission. but we had so much of it, that it would be impossible to have eaten it all fresh before it started to wilt. so armed with fresh basil and some tasty root veg, i made this watercress soup, not bad for a first attempt! 

back in august, my brother and i were sneakily told about a cherry tree growing up a nearby lane. so of course, we went to investigate. we found a tree absolutely packed full of cherries, so we gathered in a whole load. after eating lots of them fresh right there and then, i decided they would make a beautiful compote to have with breakfast - and oh was i right! it was a bit of a pain stoning them, but worth it, because it was so tasty! simply take some fresh cherries and stew in a little water until 'smooshed'.

i've always wanted to make jam. and this was the year for it. plenty of wild fruit was available to me to use, and i already had my jam sugar waiting in the cupboard...so, blackberries were washed and apples were peeled and diced ready to put into a large pot with a little water and some sugar. and a few hours later, placed into sterilised jars ready to eat throughout the winter. i ended up making 7 jars, and then 7 more jars with elderberries in too. my family are more than happy with having enough jam to last a whole year!

and the real joy is that it's so easy to do! i used the saucer test to check when it was ready to jar up - which worked a treat. although it took a lot longer than thought to acheive the right consistency. next year i may try using grape juice and pectin, instead of sugar - i'd like to be able to eat it more frequently, and feel healthier when i do!

it tastes really good with homemade drop scones, and a bit of greek yoghurt, mmmm.

the apples are a mystery - there are still loads of them! i keep using them but they keep returning. i think a dorset apple cake is in order. but i did enjoy them in these french apple and almond slices - very nice, a good treat at the end of a long day, and incredibly quick to make. and yes, i did burn them a little, oops!

to make apple and almond pastries:
 - simply take some puff pastry sheets and cut into rectangles (you could do circles or squares if you prefer, but i like the look of these!)
 - mix together ground almonds with some apple juice and a little honey.
 - spread the almond mixture over the centre of the puff pastry shape, and then layer with sliced apples.
 - brush with honey and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
 - bake in the oven until golden.

* thanks for all of those of you who have voted for me in project food blog! i really appreciate it, and your kind comments too... if you haven't yet voted, you still can by checking out my profile and hearting it!

currently listening to: breakable by ingrid michaelson

Monday, 20 September 2010

wild foraging in the english countryside

throughout august, i managed to do quite a bit of wild foraging in our nearby fields and hedgerows. me and my brother decided one day to hop in the car and see what wild food grows nearby. there's some obvious stuff, but the more you start looking, the more you see. here's what we found:

elderflowers. there's lots of these scattered around the british countryside. and thankfully you can use the elderflowers to make cordial in the early summer and by late summer you can use the elderberries to make jam and pies! many of my friends made cordial this summer, and it was wonderful to have it quite frequently. (and the elderberry has high vit c, vit a, potassium and fiber levels too!)

hazelnuts (or filberts, as i believe they are known in the US) are all around this time of year, so you just need to be on the lookout - they are pretty difficult to spot unless you happen to be looking - and be sure to crack off the outside to get into the centre of it. i can't wait until the ones around here are a bit riper (we also have a twisted hazel in the garden) so i can make this version of chocolate hazelnut spread to lather on toast and melt on top of hot porridge in the morning!

watercress - this is something i never thought of looking for, but was growing in abundance in a nearby river! it's so expensive to buy in the supermarket, and totally free to take from the river. it was way tastier than shop bought, sweeter rather than bitter (which was a surprise). and with the rivers being so low at the moment, you might not get too wet!

we collected quite a stash...

blackberries were definitely another very important thing to forage for. i grew up on my grandmothers' blackberry and apple jams, and i absolutely love the taste of blackberries in anything and everything! and there are millions out there waiting to be picked, and they've almost finished their season too, so get going! you can freeze them also, which is a great idea, so you can have them year round in crumbles and muffins...

i do love these bad boys...

wild eating apples, as well as crab apples are available this time of year, and in serious abundance if you find a good tree, or you can help a neighbour out by helping pick from their trees - they are usually more than happy for you to take some!

as always with foraging it's important to be careful of how much you take, so there's enough for other people and for wild animals too.

next time i'll show you what i made with it all too!

and, if you haven't already, it would be wonderful if you would go ahead and vote for me on foodbuzz for project food blog. go on over to the right hand column at the top where you see 'official contestant: vote for me', click on it and send in your vote - that'd be lovely!

currently listening to:  remember by misty miller

Friday, 17 September 2010

uniqueness and definition

some of you may know about project food blog already. but for those of you who haven't come across it yet; it's basically a fantastic opportunity for one blogger to become the next food blog star by competing in 10 challenges! so, naturally, i thought i would enter...

the first challenge is to describe what defines me and what makes this blog unique

well, i suppose, there are quite a number of things that really makes Not Just Apples different from all the other food blogs out there:

♥ firstly. me. my opinions, my ideas, my recipes, my thoughts are all over this blog, and without that NJA wouldn't be any different from any other blog. but because i believe that we are a summation of everything we've ever experienced, places we've been, people we've met; what you see written on my blog is an amalgamation of all these things.

my heritage. my food heritage is really important to me, and i believe it has had a tremendous effect on the things i cook and the way i create food. it is really my grandmothers who have been my main influence:

my paternal grandmother, Farmor (right), comes from Gothenburg in Sweden, and although she's lived in the UK for decades, her Scandinavian heritage still affects every single meal she makes. my maternal grandmother, Nanna (left, with me), is a pretty typical English home cook, who has been growing, harvesting, foraging and cooking her own produce since she was a little girl. they've made me passionate about good, 'proper' food that's clean and unadulterated - 

my personal history. if there's one thing that changed the way i eat it's this. when i was 11 i was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. and ever since then i've been trying hard to find delicious ways of eating food that supports my body instead of fighting it, this means trying out lots of low GI foods and baking with little or no sugar. 

my travels. i have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to many different destinations in my lifetime, and each place is always marked by a particularly amazing dish, food or meal i had whilst i was there; french toast on manly bay, moussaka in folegandros, seafood pizza in villefranche sur mer. i look forward to trying out new things, and then experimenting with them when i get home - even though not all my recreations are right first time, i keep trying!

my youtube channel. i've had a Youtube channel now for a while, and have an amazing group of subscribers who watch all sorts of videos, all of which are aimed at promoting a healthy, balanced lifestyle. some of the videos i've created are: what's in my fridge, nut milk for beautiful skin, summer breakfast recipe and a swedish feast.

my allotment. i've been growing my own food for a short while now. and finding different ways of preparing all the produce has been a lot of fun! it's been one of the most rewarding things i've done, and it's so interesting to see something from seed to table - who knew how jurassic a courgette plant looks, and how short the bean season is? it has given me a new appreciation for fresh, local and seasonal produce. so much so, i've even started foraging wild foods.

my format. each writer has their own preferred way of sharing information, and i've always strived on this blog to have beautiful photographs mixed with interesting text. i never wanted each post to be a recipe, instead i wanted to share more of what i actually eat on a daily basis, as well as reviews on cookbooks, shows and products. 

this blog is a fantastic journal (of sorts) to me. and getting involved with the food blogging community has been a brilliant source of inspiration too - in terms of health as well as trying new recipes - which often seem to go hand in hand in food blog land. 

it would be wonderful, my lovely readers, if you would vote for my blog this coming Monday 20th September - i'll give you more details on how to do that when voting opens, but you should just be able to click on the link that reads 'see my profile' and go from there...

hope your day is wonderful!

currently listening to: crystalised by the xx

Monday, 13 September 2010

new puppy and tomatoes galore

yes, you read that right. we are getting a new puppy! tomorrow a particularly cute cocker spaniel will be joining our family, and i am so excited. some of you might know if you watch my youtube channel that we looked after my brother's little dog Odin for almost a whole year before he went off to Morocco to become a gundog. i was the main person that walked and looked after him, and it was really sad to see him go.

so i am more than hyped about our new dog. unfortunately he doesn't yet have a name. we were thinking Wesley or Forrest, but we are so unsure... any ideas?

we pick him up tomorrow afternoon! i am so looking forward to the little bundle of cuteness, and being able to take him for walks and runs when he's a little older. but for now we get to pick him up and play with him and have him sit on our laps and sleep.

now, onto a more foodie note, i've been playing around with tomatoes a lot lately because we've just got so many of them at the allotment, in all different shapes and sizes, literally.

we've had big cooking tomatoes and tiny snacking ones. medium balloon shaped ones for fun and medium regulars for putting on top of lasagne and slow roasting.

when we headed up to pick them the other day there were so many we had to fill up an egg box with some. our secret to growing so many and them not getting any diseases - planting marigolds next to them. there's a little hint for all you growers out there!

my first thought when i saw such a quantity of tomatoes was 'how nice would these taste sun-dried!' to which i proceeded to chop them up sprinkle with salt, pepper, fresh basil and olive oil and put in my oven at a ridiculously low heat (about 100c) for a very long time (overnight, or about 8-10 hours, or longer depending on variety and size) to create my own oven dried tomatoes...

and was it a success? well, my mum loves them, which is saying something because she is not a big tomato fan. but the flavour is so enhanced and powerful, and the texture so pleasant that these little babies are just right on toast, with eggs, blended and put on homemade pizza, or just as a sneaky snack from the fridge. mmm.

with scrambled eggs on toast, oven dried basil tomatoes are just perfect. 

this also means that i can store them for longer in the fridge than i would be able to otherwise, which is wonderful. i think i might try blending them up into a sauce to put with a pasta dish or on a pizza, because i think that would be so delicious!

also i am entering into Project Food Blog, as you will see from the little widget in my sidebar - it's a very exciting challenge, and I'd love your support on it.

currently listening to:  praise you in this storm by casting crowns

Thursday, 9 September 2010

circulation - the secret to good skin

i have to start by being really honest. i am not a great exerciser. there. you have it. i don't think i have ever grasped just how important it is though - maybe that's been the problem.

when i was at school i actually did pretty well - once exercise was no longer compulsory i joined the nearest gym - which i loved. you could run for ages whilst watching MTV, relax in the pool and steam rooms after a good session of cross training. and actually when i look back at photos of myself at that time...

Exhibit A:

i don't remember having any problems with my skin. i never worried about it - i was one of the 'lucky' few who didn't have a battle with acne or spots. i always thought it was just good complexion - and a pretty good diet that did it.

then when i went to uni i got more and more interested in healthy eating and food, and i ran every other morning throughout my first year. 

Exhibit B:

and now, although my skin is OK, it's nothing in comparison to what it was. it has more breakouts, and the 'glow' that you get from exercise isn't there naturally... i spend more time on it, put more makeup on it, and just generally fuss about it more.

so what do i learn from looking back at these photos? and what can you also take away with you?
 - exercise is important! 

and not just pilates and yoga dvd's, or a bit of gardening, or a short walk at lunchtime. no, it has to really get your circulation going. otherwise you stagnate. all those bad things in your skin can't get flushed away nearly as quickly, and so you skin breaks out because the circulation isn't working correctly to get rid of the dirt.

when you go for a run or a session on the cross-trainer, you boost your circulation, enabling your body to work at it's best level, it's cleansing level. you let out sweat (essential cleansing! - it's good for you) and if you drink water whilst you do this - which you NEED to - then you'll help the cleansing one step further too.

so that's what i've been doing. stagnating. sitting in my own grime. ew, it's gross, but necessary, because essentially that's what i've been doing. and i think that's probably why loads of people in their early twenties get breakouts more than at school - because they are less active.

obviously it can swing the other way, you can exercise too much! you need to be careful to exercise with a thoroughly cleansed face (with perhaps only a light layer of mineral make-up if you are really self conscious, and a little mascara) so then when you start to get warm and your pores open it won't let in any dirt that's sat on your face. finishing your exercise by jumping in water is usually a great idea, and sitting in a steam room (which gyms often have) is fantastic - or having a hot shower. i always wait until my face has returned to a regular-ish temperature before i rinse it off with water.

there are a few other ways you can improve the circulation without full hardcore body pumping exercise - although it really is the best, as you benefit from so many other benefits at the same time. you can go for a full body massage - it stimulates all the systems under the skin, especially the lymph system (aka, waste disposal unit!) and promotes a fantastic healthy glow. 

body brushing is another way to get this same effect - i've been doing this and have noticed a distinct difference. i once heard someone say that if you have time to brush your teeth, then you have time to brush your body. and it's so true. you just gently sweep the body brush towards your heart in long strokes, in the morning and before bed. it's worth a try, and should be really helpful for those with bumpy skin texture.

so, in conclusion, i think i'd better start running again, what do you think? well, we'll be getting a puppy next week, so soon i'll be forced out of the house to walk for at least 2 hours...perhaps i can break into a run halfway through.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

patty pan squash adventures

one of the weird and wonderful things that has grown in our allotment this summer is patty pan squash. i had never heard of it before my grandmother gave us a little plant to put into the ground this spring. i adore squash and pumpkin throughout the winter, so the idea of a summer variety was fantastic!

♥ they look like little bright yellow bells with scalloped edges. i think they are a lovely shape. you can not eat the stems or the seeds, but the skin is edible once cooked.

♥ the first way we ate these fantastic squashes was to oven roast them, which is simple to do, but does not fully compliment the flavour of the vegetable. so our next way to cook it was to make a patty pan squash and basil soup recipe. de-seed and chop up the squash, fry gently in butter, with one onion and a clove of garlic. add some stock, simmer for 10-15 mins and then blend with an electric blender, adding several sprigs of fresh basil to the mix. served with hot buttered toast, this is a wonderful summer soup, and perfect for freezing to have in the winter too.

♥ the sweet and light flavour of these squashes made me want to experiment a little, and so i turned a standard pumpkin pie recipe into a sort of patty pan squash pie (which tasted a little like an English egg custard tart!). These miniature ones were lovely, and just perfectly portioned. Be careful to squeeze out excess juice from the squash so the pie filling is quite dense and sets well.

the other fantastic thing about this vegetable is that it's been spectacularly easy to grow. with lots of water to encourage it to establish roots well, they have flourished since then in much the same way as a courgette (zucchini)

currently listening to: rambling man by laura marling