Sunday, 23 June 2013

lunchbox week #06

lunchboxes are getting more exciting as summer comes into full flow and local produce is in abundance. loving organic chard, kale and spinach from our farm shop attached to every evening meal, and snuck into lunches too...

i hope you're finding some inspiration in these lunchbox posts - i'd love to hear what you have, so please do leave a comment!

chicken, sweet potato and spinach curry (with plenty of other veg thrown in) - leftovers reheated are absolutely perfect! something hot is always welcome on a wet and windy work day.

potato and boiled egg salad, with dill, cucumber, baby tomatoes, celery and greens. YUM! a little olive oil dressing was all that was required.

butternut squash and red lentil stew - one of my favourite recipes (adapted from one from Waitrose), low on carbs and packed full of tasty nutrients. also very quick and easy to cook - great for batch cooking and keeping for lunches for several days. even tastes good cold!

simple light salad with avocado, raisins, dill, radish, tomato, cucumber. sometimes this is all i want when i've eaten a little too much heavy food the night before, or i've eaten late...

seafood curry/stew with sweet potato, spinach and smoked haddock. really very delicious and quick to make. this is a staple recipe in our household. perfect followed with, or preceded by (if you're following food combining properly!), a tasty apple.

let me know if you'd like any of the recipes for these, and i'll do my best to get them posted up!

also, stop by for a behind the scenes look at what i do at work on garlic & sapphire... thanks for reading :)

currently listening to: so good to me by chris malinchak

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

pea and pesto soup recipe

this is a really easy recipe, and it's so tasty! it's the perfect thing to take to work, eat for lunch with some crispbread, or enjoy as a little summer starter.

i made this on monday when i realised that i had chicken stock, lettuce and pesto to use up in the fridge... and i'm so happy i did. this would work with pretty much any seasonal greens you've got lying around, and you could substitute the pesto for a handful of fresh herbs instead.

for lunch today i had a serving of pea and pesto soup with cucumber, tomato and houmous 

perfect with fresh basil leaves on the top... and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

pea and pesto soup
serves 2-4

1/2 tsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 gem lettuce, sliced
750ml chicken stock
2 cups/250g frozen peas
1/2 tsp lime juice
2 Tbsp pesto
salt and pepper

1. sauté the onion, garlic and celery in the coconut oil for about 5-10 minutes.
2. add the bell pepper, lettuce, chicken stock and peas.
3. bring back to the boil, then lower the temperature and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on.
4. add the lime juice and pesto and blend with a hand blender until smooth.
5. season to taste, and serve warm.

cook's notes:
 - this will freeze beautifully, and keeps well in the fridge for 3 days.
 - amazing topped with diced black olives, pine nuts or fresh parmesan

i've got some tasty lunchboxes to share with you all... so keep you're eyes open for the next lunchbox week post. 

thanks for reading!

i would love to know, what's your favourite summer soup recipe?

currently listening to: miracle by matisyahu - a cute summery tune.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

27 birthday surprises

it was Pete's birthday last month, and as a celebration i organised a surprise weekend for him. i planned it out to the finest detail, and filled 27 envelopes with 27 slips of paper with a different instruction on it...

he had no idea what we'd be doing that weekend, or where we'd be going, or who we'd be seeing. somehow (not sure how) i managed to keep it all a secret.

here is a little bit of a photo documentary of what happened...

 the first surprise is that we were going to Bath, where he'd never been and always wanted to, and i happen to know quite well from many visits to the spa and shops. we went on the train, and it was gorgeous weather.

i had prepared a picnic the night before, chicken and hummus salad, of course. which we devoured sat opposite pulteney bridge (the spoon is from a particular frozen yogurt store in London... apologies).

we spent the rest of the day looking round the shops, discovering harvest coop (you must go when you're there, it's the best wholefood store outside of london i've been to) and eating out at the most amazing italian called Sotto Sotto, which i booked two months in advance. we followed this with drinks out at Rev's and a little dance, before catching a 10pm train back to Bradford on Avon, where we were to stay.

our b&b was divine. gorgeous room, comfy bed, welcoming host and amazing breakfast. herb cottage was a good choice, thanks to tripadvisor. and the breakfast was perfection - hot homemade porridge with homemade jam, seed mix, apple puree and yogurt. followed by a cooked breakfast of your choice...

after breakfast we walked to a nearby farm shop called Hartley's, where we met up with my grandparents (who live nearby) and ate a very delicious lunch....

i had the spring platter, with hummus, coronation coleslaw, waldorf salad, green salad and feta salad. seriously yummy. the boys had the ploughmans, which was so big neither managed to finish completely, much to their dismay.

after that we went to the nearby Quoins Organic Vineyard, for a spot of wine tasting. there was about a dozen other people there to tour the vines and hear about how grapes are grown and wine is made in this country...

the wines were pretty tasty. and we've got one bottle of the white to drink on a special occasion in the future... perhaps our 10th wedding anniversary or my 30th or something like that.

we hiked back to the b&b. i picked wildflowers. Pete kicked around a stray ball.

the following day we went back into Bath, and Pete went on a filter coffee course at Colonna & Small's - the most amazing coffee place in Bath, and the best i've ever tasted. they serve speciality coffee, with freshly roasted beans, and it's fantastic.

Pete's course was with Max (the 6th best Barista in the world, 1st in the UK) and he had a blast learning how to choose beans, how to brew, what temperature, etc. Max was kind enough to let me sit in and learn too, and it was so interesting... afterwards we had to have a cup, with some dark chocolate truffles, sat outside in the sunshine.

the coffee training couldn't easily be topped. it was Pete's highlight. but afterwards we went to Paxton & Whitfield to get some delicious cheese, and then headed over to my brother's house for a scrumptious barbecue.

we ate until we couldn't eat any more. my brother had prepared roasted sweet potato, chicken, salad and baconaise (so wrong, but so good), washed down with peach bellinis or red wine.

there's no better way to end your weekend than by hearing your niece say in her 2 year old accent, 'baconaise is deee-licious' repeatedly. of all the phrases and words she has in her vocabulary, this is a brilliant one! (along with borscht of course - seriously cute)

so all in all, the 27 envelopes were very appreciated, and we had an awesome time in Bath! the city is amazing, and Bradford-on-Avon is so cute. if you get a chance to visit either, you should.

currently listening to: the nashville soundtrack - i quite cheesily enjoy the programme, and have a huge soft spot for country music...

Sunday, 2 June 2013

black bean chocolate cake recipe

black bean chocolate cake, yes, a chocolate cake made without flour, but including cooked black beans. this makes it gluten, wheat, dairy free, and sugar free. it's also ridiculously tasty, cheap to make, reliably rises every time and is perfect to offer guests.

i've been meaning to share my version of this recipe for quite some time. like 3 years. but, for some reason, i haven't yet. it's become the most requested thing for me to cook, i even made two for my own wedding topped with chococo ganache and edible glitter...

the texture is very moist and spongy, and its a very rich cake. if you don't like the intense cocoa flavour, then do try a white bean vanilla sponge instead. it's very versatile.

black bean chocolate cake

1 tin (or 1 1/2 cups) cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
5 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6Tbsp butter (or coconut oil)
1/3-1/2 cup honey (or agave nectar)

1. heat up the oven to 160c/325f. grease and line a large cake tin.
2. in a blender or with a handblender, mix together the beans, 3 eggs, vanilla and salt until very smooth.
3. add in the cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, and blend in.
4. in a separate bowl, mix together the butter and honey until light and fluffy.
5. add 1 egg to the buttercream and mix for 1 minute. repeat with the second egg.
6. add this to the blender and beat until smooth.
7. pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
8. remove from the oven when firm to the touch and let rest for 15 minutes before turning out.

cook's notes:

  • this cake improves with age, as the flavours have time to mesh with each other.
  • the batter will be quite runny, but don't worry!
  • if you want to substitute in other sugars, then please do this to your taste. if you are using a non-liquid sweetener, make sure to add in 1 Tbsp water to the mixture.
  • this is delicious topped with a simple agave meringue frosting, whipped cream with fresh berries, melted dark chocolate, or chococo ganache (melted chocolate and coconut cream)
let me know if you try this, and how it goes!

thank you so much for reading :)

currently listening to: at last by etta james