Saturday, 24 January 2015

kale and avocado breakfast muffins

... what I adore about holidays - other than the sun and the sea and the salsa - is the inspiration I get for food ideas.  No matter how convinced you are that breakfast is breakfast is breakfast there's always a culture or cuisine that will knock your socks off your traditional ideas of eggs and bacon.  I remember a work trip to Singapore where we were served a dim sum style breakfast which was rather fabulous but not what I was used to at all but you know me, i'm really not fussy about what I eat or when I eat it.  I have a friend who doesn't understand how the Europeans eat cheese for breakfast - again, I don't see an issue with this... It doesn't seem to matter how many times I go to California I am always surprised about how influential Latin American cuisine is on the every day... I will never look at breakfast in the same way now that i've had chipotle spiced potatoes with my huevos rancheros...

... with the start of the year being the time when we all start thinking about planning our holidays the good folk at ebookers have recently launched their Bonus+ programme... they are the first online travel agent that will allow customers to earn rewards on flights, hotels and packaged trips all in one place with both business and leisure travellers being rewarded with meaningful discounts, bonuses and exclusive added value services. The launch of Bonus+ coincides with ebookers’ new brand proposition and website refresh, highlighting ebookers’ commitment to always give it’s customers a more rewarding travel experience... so now it's even easier to travel and stuff your face with food - oh, of course I mean be influenced by all the incredible cultures...

kale and avocado breakfast muffins
to me these egg 'muffins' sum up the California breakfast experience in every mouthful.  To start with they're not really muffins at all, they're just muffin-shaped omelettes, carb-free and nicely healthy, like all well behaved Californian food, secondly they have a pinch or two of chipotle spice in them which adds this wonderful depth and punch, most unexpected to us Brits and finally they contain both avocado and kale, two of the Californian superfoods of the moment...

100g baby kale or curly kale
1 large ripe avocado - finely chopped
a handful of cherry tomatoes - finely chopped
100g creamy goats cheese
2 large free-range eggs
1 egg white
salt and pepper
a pinch of chipotle seasoning (optional of course...)
100g strong cheddar - grated

pre-heat the oven to 170C

i've used my 6-hole deep muffin tin but this would work in a 12 hole mini tart tin, which I sprayed generously with some Lurpak cooking mist

steam the kale until tender, then once cooled place this into a bowl with the goats cheese, chopped avocado and tomatoes.  Season well and stir together

in a large bowl beat the eggs for a couple of minutes then in another bowl beat the egg white till it reaches soft peaks and gently fold the egg whites into the beaten eggs

place two tablespoons of the kale and avocado mix into each muffin hole and gently pour the egg mixture on top until each muffin hole is filled about two thirds full.

sprinkle each muffin with a little grated cheese and bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes

i'm working with ebookers to develop recipes inspired by my travels and have another post coming soon... and to help inspire you my dear readers, ebookers have generously given me £100's worth of Bonus+ travel points to give away to one lucky Belleau Kitchen reader... so watch out for that giveaway coming soon on the blog...

eat and of course enjoy!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

salted caramel and peanut butter 'stuck-on-the-bottom' cake

... and suddenly the UK is gripped by freezing weather, snow and high winds... it's quite incredible how it just suddenly happens.  One minute we're enjoying a mild winter where every single person I know has either suffered from or is about to suffer from a stinking cold because the weather has been too warm and there are just too many bugs in the air and the next minute, bam... that cold front slaps us across the face and in true British fashion we get snowed in with one inch of snow, the rail networks breakdown and the roads become impassable... it just wouldn't be the same country without one of these weeks at some point between November and March.  For me it means staying close to home with the heating on full whack and slowly eating my way through the house.  All the obvious edibles go first and then whatever's left gets made into cake...

salted caramel and peanut butter stuck on the bottom, almond and honey banana cake
you know when you sneak those teaspoons of peanut butter from the jar in your cupboard and the peanut butter gets stuck on the top of your mouth, well this cake is like that, but the peanut butter gets stuck on the bottom of the cake... it's also one of those cakes that's made from the stuff in your cupboard that's probably well past its 'best-before' date but you just don't want to throw it away.  My weekends are usually back at the cottage but this weekend we're down in London and I thought that the cupboards could do with a bit of a clear out... this is always a big mistake because there's just so much stuff to get through and I always feel guilty by the amount of stuff that's past its best.  Although the half pot of Tesco Finest Salted Caramel Chocolate Spread and teeny slither of chunky peanut butter stuck to the bottom of an old jar did inspire me to bake, so it can't be all bad...

200g self-raising flour
100g salted butter
80g dark brown sugar
100g caramel chocolate spread (could use nutella)
50g chunky peanut butter
50g almond slithers
2 tablespoons honey (i'm using some gorgeous Clarks Honey)
2 ripe bananas - mashed
3 large free range eggs

grease and line a large loaf tin - mine is a 2lb tin and pre-heat the oven to 170C

mix together 1 tablespoon honey, the chocolate spread and peanut butter and spread this into the bottom of your loaf tin - set aside

place the flour, sugar and butter into a large bowl and rub together with your finger-tips until it resembles breadcrumbs, stir in the almond slithers

in another bowl, beat the eggs, add the mashed banana and 1 tablespoon honey and beat together then pour onto the flour mix

stir the flour mix together with a rubber spatula until you have a thick batter and then pour into the loaf tin

bake for 40 minutes in the oven on 170C or until a skewer inserted comes out clean

set aside to cool in the tin for 10 mins then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack until completely cool - be careful here as it will be a little runny, so place a plate beneath the rack

the peanut butter and caramel stuck on the bottom adds just the right amount of nastiness to a very simple cake...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

omelette arnold bennet

... i've just got back from a work trip to Belfast and Dublin and a jolly old time I had too... it was full-on work so there was very little actual time for seeing either beautiful city but I did get to meet some adorable folk who were so welcoming and I ate the most incredible sushi in Belfast at a restaurant called Zen... it was so fresh and quite sublime and even though the restaurant was having their Christmas party and we arrived quite late they insisted that we stay and eat... on the other hand we stayed at the most pretentious hotel in Dublin called The Gibson which had a proper case of the Emperors New Clothes... it was cold and un-inviting, the food was bad and it took the bar staff 30 minutes to look-up and then make a whiskey sour... not good.  It still amazes me how, as guests, we seem to pander to the whim of the chef when surely we should be the one's who should be looked after?  How difficult is it to make a decent caesar salad?... One day I shall be held in reverence at one of these establishments and have a dish named after me... much like Arnold Bennet...

omelette arnold bennet
who'd a thunk you could cook an omelette in a slow-cooker - and who'd have thought you'd want to spend 2 hours cooking an omelette - but cook and omelette you can... and no ordinary omelette, indeed the arnold bennet is the king of omelettes... the writer Arnold Bennett was so delighted with the egg, smoked haddock and parmesan concoction that chefs at the Savoy hotel created for him, he insisted on it being made wherever he travelled.  At the Savoy, Omelette Arnold Bennett remains a standard dish to this day... i've not actually been down to the Savoy to try it but after eating my home-made one I am sorely tempted.

3 large free-range eggs
150g smoked haddock - cut into chunks
fennel tops - thinly sliced (traditionally it would be spring onions but I didn't have any and the fennel worked soooo well)
25g parmesan - finely grated
3 large free-range egg whites
salt and pepper

line your slow-cooker with greased proof paper... I went down the fiddly route of cutting and shaping but apparently you can buy slow-cooker liners

in a large bowl, beat the whole eggs then add the haddock, spring onions and parmesan and stir together

in another clean bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed, then gently stir this into the beaten egg mix and season

pour into the slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours... the bottom will brown and crisp slightly but the top will remain pale and interesting, just how I like it... you can pop it under the grill for a few moments if you prefer

my inspiration comes from the brilliant book Slow Cooked by Miss South - the Queen of the Slow Cooker and of course I am entering this recipe into the Slow Cooked Challenge hosted so beautifully by Janice from Farmersgirl KitchenThe theme this month is soup but i've bent the rules of this challenge so many times I think Janice has given up caring... I will no doubt be making a soup at some stage this month but until I do...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 12 January 2015

dried apricot, fig and fennel seed flapjacks

... this is my first sweet treat of the year and seeing that we're two weeks in already I think I can safely post something a little naughty so try not to shout me down... plus I'm off to Ireland today for work and it looks as though it's bloody freezing over there so i'm going to need fattening up - well probably not.  I took a look at myself in the mirror last night and I look like i've melted, which I'm not sure is the ideal look for a man in his very late thirties, although i'm starting to think I may start telling people i'm 10 years older than I really am and then people might start thinking I look more fabulous than I do. I think part of the problem is that I work in an industry which is quite youth orientated so i've decide that when it comes to activities outside work I can only socialise with people older and fatter than me although I would worry that this would only work like a goldfish... you know, the fact that a goldfish grows to the size of it's surroundings, so if you keep it in a small bowl it stays small but if you put it in a large pond it has room to grow and therefore grows bigger... so old skinny people it is then...

dried apricot, fig and fennel seed flapjacks
you can pack up your Christmas decorations and clear the house of cards and baubles but it seems that the cupboards are still full of packets of dried fruit as though they are a final reminder of the festive period... obviously we really don't mind, they seemingly last forever anyway but these flapjacks are a great way to use anything up that's taking up too much room - an excuse for an early Spring clean if you will... the fennel seeds add a sophisticated aniseed flavour that cuts through all the sweetness too.

makes 12 large flapjacks
6oz butter
8oz soft brown light sugar
6 tablespoons golden syrup
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
8oz mixed dried fruit - I used apricots, figs and dates - chopped
12oz rolled oats

pre-heat the oven to 180C and lightly oil a traybake tin - I used a classic Swiss Roll tin.

melt the butter, sugar, syrup and fennel seeds in a pan and then once melted take it off the heat and add the oats and dried fruit and stir well

pour into the baking tin and bake for 20-25 mins until golden

cool on a wire rack but cut them into squares whilst they're still a little warm

i'm entering these flapjacks into the Tea Time Treats bloggers challenge hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Jane from Hedgecombers.  The theme this month is packed lunches and these little beauties will be making their way into my lunch box all week...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 9 January 2015

kale, mushroom and beetroot lasagna with mozzarella béchamel

... if you know anything about California you'd be able to tell instantly from the title of this post that i've just returned from the annual winter sojourn to the sunshine state... Kale is like a culinary rash over there. A superfood that to my mind has turned into a bit of a super-villain... from burger bar to sushi restaurant, from vegan brunch to traditional Mexican, it's on every menu in town... and it seems to be heading this way over here too. It's absolutely hysterical - and of course the Californian's don't see the irony - and most times i've ordered it it's been absolutely disgusting. Some of the kale 'salads' were literally huge piles of steamed kale tossed in some kind of dressing with a few other things thrown in but the proportions are so out of balance that for 30 minutes you're eating nothing but kale... not fun. I realise it's super-healthy and we did have an incredible kale smoothie that tasted great but that was only because of the added ginger and lime... and if I refer you to the comments from my last post it seems that many of you agree with my thoughts... so hopefully here's something nice with just a little kale...

... hysterically on popping out to the shops today my local market actually didn't have any kale - shock horror - so i'm using some left-over pre-chopped kale and some cavolo nero which is working just as well...

kale, mushroom and beetroot lasagna with mozzarella béchamel 
when I first started to think about this lasagna I knew I wanted to create something healthy with layers of vegetables and sauces but I wasn't sure exactly how the construction would come together. At first I was thinking i'd do something classic with pasta and béchamel alongside a rich tomato sauce but then I thought that perhaps I should do away with the layers of pasta altogether and use the kale as a substitute which i've done here, also adding a sliced beetroot layer for colour... it also means I can use a very small amount of mozzarella béchamel and not feel too guilty... it's worked really well and I must say i'm very pleased with the outcome. It's a little time consuming but well worth the effort.

100g kale / cavolo nero / cabbage at a push
2 or 3 beetroots - thinly sliced
100g portobello or field mushrooms - thickly sliced
fresh rosemary and fresh thyme
1 large teaspoon of orgeno - dried or fresh
olive oil and butter
salt and pepper

for the tomato sauce
this sauce needs a minimum of two hours, longer if possible
2 medium onions - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
butter and olive oil
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x tin's worth of half white wine, half stock or water
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
fresh basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano

for the mozzarella béchamel
750ml full fat milk
75g unsalted butter
2oz plain flour
250g fresh mozzarella
salt and freshly ground pepper

pre-heat the oven to 160C and line a baking tray with parchment or foil

make the tomato sauce first, or if you have time, make the sauce the day before for extra flavour - add the onions to a large hot pan with olive oil and a little butter and gently saute them for about 20 mins on a medium heat, with a pinch or two of sugar and some chopped fresh herbs... keep your eye on them, they want a little golden colour but you don't want them to stick, add the garlic and sauté for another 10 minutes

add the tinned tomatoes, wine, vinegar and stock to the onions, turn the heat to it's very lowest and let them plop away gently for at least an hour and a half if not longer.

steam the kale until al dente then set aside

lay the sliced beetroot onto the baking tray and either drizzle with a little olive oil or spritz with an oil or butter spray, season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with a little thyme - bake for 30 mins or until beginning to soften, you don't want to over-ook this, you still want a little bite - once cooked, set aside

in a large pan, heat some olive oil and butter and then saute the mushrooms with a little oregano until soft, use a medium heat and let them really gently sweat down, after about 10 minutes add a lot of freshly grated pepper and then cook for a further 5 mins or until soft and golden - set aside
to make the béchamel sauce, heat the milk until hot but not boiling, then remove from the heat
in another saucepan, melt the butter, then remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Put the pan back on a gentle heat and cook the flour, stirring continuously for about a minute

take the pan off the heat again and add a little of the milk, continuing to stir. Adding the milk slowly and stirring like this will ensure no lumps form. Continue to add the milk a little at a time until it is al encorporated, then return the pan to the heat and cook until the sauce comes to the boil, season, turn down the heat to its very lowest and cook gently for another 15 minutes, making sure to stir often... add the mozzarella and stir until melted

now it's time to construct the lasagna... I started with a layer of kale followed by a layer of tomato sauce, then mushrooms, then béchamel and then beetroot and repeated as I went... finish off with the béchamel and perhaps a sprinkling of grated parmesan

bake in the oven for 20 mins until piping hot and serve immediately

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

welcome to 2015

the viking and I taking a stroll along Laguna Beach

... hello all and happy new year... I won't deny it but I really enjoyed twenty fourteen... work was hard but exciting, my health was incrementally better than the previous year and whilst I love a good moan, the blog also brought me a lot of joy... twenty fifteen is promising to be another good year, there will be more hard work but it already looks like it will be as thrilling as last year, i'm promising myself that I will also work hard at improving my health even more and of course I have plans to weave the story of this blog into my life a little more so that I have a better work/life balance... i'd like to aim to go back to the reason I started this blog which was to write about the food I cook and the food I enjoy and my life as a lover of food... there will be plenty of, hopefully delicious and inspirational recipes and I look forward to being inspired by others and discovering new cooks and blogs along the way.  Of course I will try and be as generous with my comments on all my favourite blogs as I can be and hope to share my thoughts and inspirations in a positive way...

... in the meantime (and until I get back to the kitchen) here are some postcards of my recent holiday to California... the home of Kale...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

cinnamon and cranberry festive 4 plait loaf

... you know how when you're feeling poorly you can't remember what's it's like to be well and when you're feeling fine it's hard to quite grasp that feeling of illness... well I think Christmas is a little like that.  All year long you're either loathing or really looking forward to it because Christmas has this kind of magic mysticism to it but then once it's here - which seems to happen earlier and earlier each year - it's like being gripped with an illness that you can't seem to shake... running around like a fool... spending more money than you can afford... dreading the big day and then boom, it's all over and you can't quite remember what all the fuss was about, leaving you juts about well enough to start dreading the new year!

cinnamon and cranberry festive 4 plait loaf
if like me you're not so bothered about a christmas cake or christmas pudding but are still keen to savour that christmas taste then try this super-easy sweet bread.  It's not quite a stollen but it has all the christmassy spices and sticky goodness without being heavy or sickly.  I've thrown in some cranberries, apricots and sultana's but you can grab any kind of dried fruit for this.  The plaiting is super easy and I followed this excellent video which was very informative.  I made the decision to put the plait into a cold oven which is a slow-baking technique i've used before which usually adds a gentle rise to the loaf but it doesn't seem to have worked here... plus I think my oven was a little too hot as it's very dark in some places although to be honest it doesn't taste burnt so mate it's simply the huge amounts of sugar that have caramelised... so just a little warning when baking...

for the dough
450g plain flour
75g golden caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 sachets of fast action dried yeast
75g butter - melted
200g milk
1 egg - beaten
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
100g mixed dried fruit - i used cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped dates and sultanas
1 tablespoon honey - warmed

sift the flour into a large bowl and add the dried fruit, sugar, salt, spices and yeast.  Gently melt the butter then add it to the milk and beaten egg and pour it into the flour.  Bring it together (I use a rubber spatula) and then once combined use your hands.  It will be sticky and look a little ragged.

tip it out onto a floured surface and oil the bowl.  Knead the dough for a few minutes until the surface becomes smooth and the while dough becomes a little drier.  Place it back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow it to rise for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size... because it's so packed with sugar and fruit it may take longer than a regular loaf of bread to rise

flour your surface and divide the dough into 4 equal portions, roll these into long sausages and plait into a loaf (see video above)

set aside covered in a little oiled cling film for about 30 minutes

place in an oven, switch it on to 200C and let it bake until the oven reaches temperature, then reduce the temp to 180C and bake for a further 25 mins - set aside to cool

as it's cooling brush liberally with honey and sprinkle with pretty christmas colours

eat and of course, enjoy and a very merry christmas to you all!



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