Friday, 22 May 2015

honey banana blueberry upside down cake

... not to sound like a broken record but still no improvement on the back and it is wearing me down slightly.  I can be fine for a while and then I stand up and the pain is unbearable. My chiropractor cays it will get better but quite frankly I think I need a new back!  We're in Dublin this week for work.  I love Dublin, it's such a great city and the food on offer is phenomenal.  There seems to be an inventiveness about the Irish chefs that we're not getting over in London.  I feel all the London chefs are quite 'samey' in their approach and they tend to react to trends which means everything eventually looks and tastes the same whereas over here there are some great original concepts. Of course i'm wildly placing everyone in a box of nonsense based on very little fact but it's just a vibe that I pick up from my culinary journeys through the streets of town...

... back to the UK tonight and a long weekend with plenty of cooking so I promise some less sporadic blogging for the rest of the month!

honey banana blueberry upside down cake
believe it or not this is the first cake i've baked in three weeks... and I even had a slice, which was so incredibly intense, the sugar hit was almost unbearable... almost.  It's a delicious cake and a riff on my mums classic banana loaf which is a breeze to make.  I pop it in the fridge once it's made and eat in in slices from the fridge.  It seems to stay moist for ages that way and there's something about cold cake that is so 'puddingy' which I really love...

225g self raising flour 
115g butter - at room temp 
115g brown sugar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons runny honey
1 ripe banana - mashed
1 ripe banana - sliced
100g blueberries
2 large eggs

pre-heat the oven to 170C and line a cake tin

pour the honey into the bottom of the cake tin and lay slices of banana onto it then set aside

In a bowl, mix the flour, butter and sugar into breadcrumbs then add the cinnamon and stir in

beat together the eggs and the other banana and pour this, along with the blueberries into the flour mix and beat together with a wooden spoon.  It should turn into a perfect butternut you may need a drop of milk to help

gently pour into the tin and bake in the oven for 45 mins at 170c 

remove and cool on wire rack before turning over to serve

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 15 May 2015

chilled pea, cauliflower and wasabi soup

... so my week hasn't got any better and quite frankly i'm entirely fed up.  My back has not improved despite visits to my lovely osteopath Elaine and now I have the added joy of what I think is a flair-up of my diverticulitis.  Not fun.  So i've not been cooking anything all week.  My appetite has totally wained, which is probably not a bad thing but it means there's been no inspiration from the kitchen.  I hate times like this.  Obviously I don't want to be sick.  I am a very bad patient and would rather just be left alone than fussed over... but also I hate not being inspired by food, it's like my passion switch has been knocked to 'off' and I can't restart it.  I know it will come back but you'll have to excuse me whilst I don't post much stuff...

... fortunately I made this soup last weekend.

chilled pea, mint, cauliflower and wasabi soup
now that i'm full swing into my low-carb #AlternativeEatingPlan the humble cauliflower is taking centre stage... I've always been crazy for cauliflower which is lucky because the stuff grows like wildfire in the fields around Lincolnshire.  It's unbelievably healthy and is a great low-carb alternative to potato, especially in soups as it does the same thickening job and makes things extra creamy.  This soup is inspired by The Viking who is crazy for a chilled pea and mint soup made by a well-known high-street sandwich brand and I promised him something better... it's such a simple soup to make and is lovely both warm and chilled but if you have the patience and a warm day then do go for the chilled option as you won't regret it...

5 spring onions - finely chopped
1 medium cauliflower - finely chopped
 750g frozen or fresh peas
1 litre good vegetable stock
1 tablespoon wasabi paste (or more if you prefer a bigger kick!)
2 tablespoons TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
chopped chives
a little extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

heat a little butter and olive oil in a large pan and add the spring onions and let them gently sweat for about 5 minutes, then add the cauliflower and peas and stir all together.  Turn the heat down, season with salt and pepper, place the lid on and let them soften for another 5 minutes

add the stock and half the wasabi and let it gently simmer for 15 minutes then remove from heat

when the soup has cooled a little, whizz it all together with a hand blender until very smooth then taste and add the greek yoghurt and more wasabi paste to your taste

pop it in a large container in the fridge and let it chill entirely

serve with fresh chopped mint and chives and some swirls of yoghurt

i'm entering this soup into the brilliant new Cool Cauliflower Recipe Collection link-up and blog-hop hosted by Choclette from Tin and Thyme and Karen from Lavender and Lovage

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 11 May 2015

kale, tenderstem and fennel summerstrone

... truth be told I had a shit week last week.  I'm not going to rant about specifics here but it's been one of those weeks that's started bad and has simply gone down hill... the kind of week where you just wish you could climb into bed and sleep it off for seven days...obviously the #AlternativeEatingPlan doesn't help as I think my lack of sugar and carbs is making me hugely grumpy but to top it all off I awoke on Friday morning with the worst pain in my lower back and now not only am I in a foul mood but I can barely move...not fun... oh and i'm now sporting the hangover from hell because of course I thought i'd drown my sorrows in gallons of Prosecco.  Don't shout.

kale, tenderstem and fennel summerstrone
I love adapting winter old-favourites into summer recipes... the classic minestrone is always great for a fresh update with whichever vegetables you have lying around and if, like me you're trying to cut down on carbs, you can simply not add the pasta and you've got a healthy, fresh and filling soup packed with summery goodness...  what I love about this type of soup is that you can see the vegetables in all their glory and you know that there's no rubbish hidden in there.  Plus, you've got a really good soup that tastes amazing from the moment it's ready and even better the next day!

this is an ingredient list but to be honest just go with what you've got in your fridge...

1 bunch Spring onions - finely chopped including the green stems
1 large teaspoon dried oregano
1 large carrot - cut into batons
1 fennel bulb - chopped
2 large sticks of celery - cut from the bunch
2 large handfuls of chopped kale
100g tenderstem broccoli - cut into thirds
a large handful of chopped fine beans
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
100g fresh or frozen peas
1 litre good quality vegetable stock
fresh rosemary and thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives

in your largest soup pan saute the onions in a little butter and olive oil and throw the oregano and rosemary and thyme in at this stage and let those flavours mingle

add the carrots, celery, fennel and fine beans, stir around, place the lid on and let the veg sweat for 5 or 6 minutes until soft

add the tinned toms, the kale, peas, tenderstem, the bay leaves and the stock and let it bubble gently for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat, pop the lid on and let it sit for at least an hour before re-heating and eating, if not over night.

i'm entering this soup into the brilliant cooking with herbs link-up hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage... it's also going over to the new let's cook with peas link up hosted by Nayna from Simply Food and of course it's going over to no croutons required hosted by Jac from Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa from Lisa's Kitchen

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

sticky toffee pudding cake fingers

... every Thursday, without fail, we have a marketing meeting with our favourite client and every Thursday, without fail, I get pestered for cake.  I've never taken cake to this meeting for a couple of reasons... firstly, as i've explained, the meeting is on a Thursday and I usually bake at the weekends so by the time the meeting comes round i'm knee deep in the stresses of the working week and the last thing i want to do on a Wednesday night is bake... secondly, i've left it so long now that I honestly don't think I can take the pressure. There's such a fuss made and I keep trying to explain my way out of it.  So much so that now, many of the marketing team swear that I don't even bake any food for my blog, I simply find photo's on the internet and pass them off as my own!

As it happens I made these glorious sticky toffee pudding cakes on the recent bank holiday Monday and popped them into the freezer and utterly forgot to take them down to London with me... so i'm sorry girls, you'll just have to wait for another week...

sticky toffee pudding cake fingers
this tray bake cake is my classic sticky toffee pudding recipe but i've added figs and sultanas to the traditional dates as I happened to have them in the larder.  I've also added a dash of brandy to the water that i've soaked the fruit in so these are very grown up cake slices.  Seeing that i'm on my #AlternativeEatingPlan I didn't actually take a bit during photography but The Viking - ever willing guinea pig - told me they were delicious but ridiculously sweet, which is why i've not slathered them in toffee sauce, rather offered the toffee sauce for dipping if you choose... and he chose...

for the pudding
100g dried stoned dates - finely chopped
100g raisins - finely chopped
50g dried figs - finely chopped
175ml boiling water plus a dash of brandy if desired
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g self-raising flour
2 large, free-range eggs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
85g butter
140g demerara sugar
2 tablespoons treacle or 2 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar
100ml milk

for the toffee sauce
175g light muscovado sugar
50g butter
225ml double cream
1 tablespoon treacle or dark muscovado sugar

pre-heat the oven to 170C and line an oblong baking tray... mine is 32cm x 23cm and roughly 3cm deep.

place the finely chopped dates, raisins and figs into a bowl with the boiling water, vanilla extract and if using, the brandy and set aside until cool

in a large bowl beat the sugar and butter together with an electric hand whisk... keep going until you have a smooth-ish paste... it will never be perfectly smooth like a regular cake butter as the proportions of sugar are too high but keep going until it looks lighter.

add one egg and beat in followed by half the flour and beat in, then half the milk and beat, then add the second egg and beat followed by the remaining flour and beat in.  Now add the spices and the treacle or sugar followed by the remaining milk and beat again.

tip the soaked fruit into the batter and beat in once more then pour the batter into the tray and bake for 20-25 mins until risen and firm - set aside to cool in the tray for a few mins and then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack

to make the toffee sauce simply melt the butter, sugar and half the cream in a pan, stirring all the time.  Allow it to gently come to the boil, then add the treacle or sugar and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes and let it darken without burning.  Take it off the heat and stir in the remaining cream.  Store the sauce in a sterilised jam jar for up to a month in the fridge

dates are grown in many of the warmer countries of Europe such as Israel, Turkey and Greece and therefore I am entering these sticky toffee fingers into the Eurovision themed Treat Petite bloggers challenge hosted by Stuart the CakeyBoi and Kat The Baking Explorer

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Top 5 Fridge Essentials

... last year I had an enjoyable time sharing my top 10 store cupboard ingredients.  It was actually a cathartic experience and one I know made many of you think about your 'can't-live-without' items... this year the good people at Beko, who make a wide range of superior fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers have asked me to name the top 5 things in the fridge that I simply must have... besides milk and butter, we all have those essential items in the fridge we can’t live without, the kind of things we grab when all else fails and you realise that with these items you could rule the world... or at least knock up a delicious meal without having to leave the house.  They're also the first items I would purchase and stock a new fridge with or a fridge in a new or holiday home.  They make me feel confident that at least one thing in life is covered and should the hoards descend or the zombie apocalypse finally happen, things will be OK...

... so, without further ado here are the top 5 things in my fridge I can't live without...

Fresh Coffee
I never used to be a big fan but The Viking is a coffee fiend and I guess it just rubbed off on me.  I think if we were stranded on a desert island this would be the number one luxury item we couldn't live without.  It's a total addiction and whilst I don't consider myself to be a fresh coffee snob I have most definitely not drunk instant coffee for close to 10 years... Like all fresh products it needs to be kept in the fridge.  I'm not really a brand queen when it comes to coffee and who needs to be when you can purchase the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, Fairtrade Columbian and the Co-opertive Fair-trade Ethiopian which are both very good indeed.

TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
There is only one Greek Yoghurt and that is TOTAL made by Fage.  They do a few different varieties and i'm not fussy.  This moth i'm all about the 0% which is perfection.  I use it in so many things from scones to sauces to soups to smoothies to just eating it directly from the tub.  It feels like a treat because it's so thick and luscious and it peps up so many dishes yet I can also serve it alongside a slice of chocolate cake and it feels so sophisticated.  I guess I could live without it but i'd be a very grumpy boy.

Benefit Cosmetics Total Moisturiser
bit of a tough call between this and cheese but cheese is such a large category and I can't really rub cheese on my face for younger-looking skin.  Ever since my good friend and ex-model Jenny told me that she keeps much of her beauty regime in the fridge i've been doing the same with my moisturiser. I don't know entirely how true it is but I believe it lasts longer and there's nothing better than applying a cool cream to your face in the morning... this Total Moisturiser by Benefit is truly brilliant and yes, I do work for them but I still choose to buy the stuff myself because I know results when I see them.  Many people are un-aware they even do a skincare range but this stuff has one numerous awards.   It's super-thick and in fact I don't use it every day so keeping it in the fridge extends its shelf life for sure.

Chicken Thighs
of course no Belleau Kitchen Top 5 would be complete without the chicken thighs... I haven't always been cooking with them but since I discovered how inexpensive and tasty they were about a decade and a half ago i've never looked back.  Chicken thighs are simply heavenly.  They have an incredible balance of meat to fat ratio that's not really found anywhere else on the bird and therefore take a long slow roast really well.  They impart their gorgeous juices into any veg that you cook them with and you can serve up a pretty impressive, filling and tasty one-pot meal with very few ingredients in the house.  All the major supermarkets sell them in packs and they really are so cheap you can afford to buy the best quality free-range chicken, so no excuses... make sure they're skin-on and bone-in for extra flavour... and of course I have over 25 chicken thigh recipes on my blog!

Free-range Eggs - large
... I love eggs. One of my favourite simple pleasures is a fried egg on toast, the white a little crispy at the edges and the yolk firm yet just runny enough to ooze its golden gloriousness all over the buttered toast and probably my chin.  Like all food eaten in moderation eggs are good for you. Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods money can buy - they are a natural source of many nutrients including high quality protein, vitamins and minerals, plus a medium egg contains less than 70 calories which is a win win if you ask me. Eggs are naturally rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium and iodine. They also contain vitamin A and a number of other B vitamins including folate, biotin, pantothenic acid and choline, and essential minerals and trace elements, including phosphorus.    I'm loving the gorgeous Happy Egg Co eggs at the moment as they believe in the welfare of those chickens and of course a nice cosy farm-life means tasty eggs...

fyi i've not included cheese in this list as quite frankly that would take up the entire list and deserves it's own list... it's own post... oh heck, it deserves a dedicated blog... you get the point...

and there you have it... I wonder what your top 5 fridge essentials are?

... oh and fyi to any PR people out there who are developing ideas to work with food bloggers.  The above post is not usually the kind of thing that would appear on Belleau Kitchen but I chose to take part in the campaign purely because the email I received from the PR agency was one of the most genuine and honest emails i'd ever received.  The sender didn't patronise me by telling me they were fans of my blog, they introduced themselves and got straight to the point.  A point that made sense and had genuine synergy with the blog of someone who likes food.  They also offered me a voucher for a decent high-street department store with a pretty nice monetary value that felt like they'd actually planned their budgets properly and been honest to their clients... 

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

wild garlic cheddar pesto baked mushrooms

... oh I do love a lazy long weekend.  It's like a special treat isn't it?  That extra day to play with means that you don't have to feel guilty doing nothing on one of the days and you still have a full weekend to do the regular weekend stuff... and of course for me it means an extra day in the kitchen without the stress.  I've been lavishing my weekends recently as work has been particularly stressful.  As you all know I do love my non-blogging work life but like anything you're passionate about it can become deeply stressful so the down times really count and of course usually the weekends aren't long enough.  As it happens i've woken up this bank-holiday weekend and The Viking, god bless him, is under the weather so we've had the fire on and been wrapped in blankets.  I shouldn't say this so gleefully really but he's such a dynamo that sometimes it's nice to have him slow down a little. It means I can catch my breath too and don't feel quite so guilt that every meal needs to be photographed first before it's ready for him to eat... oh the trials and tribulations of a food blogger eh?

wild garlic cheddar pesto baked mushrooms
baked mushrooms or 'mushroom pizzas' as I like to call them are a great low-carb alternative to regular pizza.  You get all the wonderful melty cheesiness of a pizza but you're using the large field mushroom as a base.  It's such a simple idea and you can get as creative as you like, layering alkyds of toppings from the classic tomato sauce all the way through to this fabulous wild garlic pesto.  There's so much wild garlic about this year.  A few years ago we found a hidden little valley not 3 miles from the cottage, filled from wall to wall with the glorious ransom plant... the aroma alone gave the place away and with one small lane running through it all we had to do was pull over, open the door, lean out and start harvesting... i picked enough for these mushrooms and have also cleaned and wrapped some leaves in clingfilm for freezing... I think i have an idea about pea and wild garlic soup but I haven't quite formulated the recipe yet...

for the wild garlic cheddar pesto
a large handful (roughly 200g) of fresh wild garlic leaves - washed well
100g very strong cheddar - roughly grated
150g pine nuts
olive oil

for the baked mushrooms
8 large field mushrooms
1 ripe tomato - finely sliced
fresh oregano
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

pre-heat the oven to 160C

lay the mushrooms in an oven-proof dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little oregano and season well with salt and pepper, then place in a gentle oven for 10 mins until the mushrooms begin to soften and collapse a little

meanwhile, place the wild garlic leaves, cheddar and pine nuts into a blender or nutribullet type whizzer and blitz to a pulp... as you whizz it up, pour in plenty of olive oil... there are no real measurements here, you want a nice chunky paste

remove the mushrooms from the oven and set aside whilst you slice your tomatoes, then lay these onto the mushrooms - you may have to jigsaw pieces a little, drizzle each with a little balsamic then add one or two pieces of torn mozzarella followed by a good slathering of wild garlic pesto

place the dish back in the oven and bake again for 20 minutes or until the topping begins to turn golden brown

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

rustic ciabatta

... I realise the irony of posting a bread recipe at the start of a low-carb eating plan but this is going to be my last bread post for the month of May as i'm on a very strict, month-long, low-carb #AlternativeEatingPlan.  This is essentially a diet but I loath the D word.  There's just something about that word that leads directly to failure, too much pressure.  So my #AlternativeEatingPlan is all about reducing the carbs and the sugar.  I'm sort of going for a healthier version of the Atkin's Diet, which I did many years ago with exceptional results, but i'm allowing myself low-sugar fruits such as berries and nuts yet and still cutting out the brown and white carbs and high-sugar fruits such as oranges and apples... plus i'm only doing it for a month... As i'm sure many of my food blogger friends will testify to, the period from Christmas through to Easter can be a litany of chocolate, cake, stews and roasts and whilst I adore all this food it can be a bit of a slippery slope and unless you take control of it you can find yourself deep in the summer with a wobbly belly and tanned arms where you're too embarrassed to take your shirt off... so this is my attempt to regulate myself... I promise it won't be too boring for you all.  There will still be treats, i'll just make them for other people to eat...

rustic ciabatta
this didn't quite come out exactly like a proper ciabatta with the big airy holes but it tasted fabulous and the 'slapping' kneading process is great fun and makes you feel quite authentic... you need a very large bowl to do this and plenty of arm-strength so don't give up!

500g strong white bread flour
450ml luke warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil

preheat the oven to 200C

in a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and yeast

pour in the water then add the salt and combine - I use a silicone spatula for this - and once combined get stuck in with your hands

you want to beat the dough for 5 minutes - pulling and stretching the dough up high and then slapping it back down into the bowl - the dough will not be like any other dough you're used to, it's more like a thick pancake batter and is a bitch to get off your hands but you only have to slap it around for five minutes... and it's this stretching and slapping process that adds the air bubbles...

pour about a tablespoon of olive oil over the dough, cover with cling film and let it rise for about an hour or until doubled in size

once it's risen, pour the dough out onto a well floured work surface and without kneading, fold it over 'envelope' style into a classic ciabatta slipper shape

swiftly transfer to an oven tray, dust with flour and bake for 30 minutes or until risen and golden

let it cool on a wire rack if you can but I challenge you not to eat it warm!

eat and of course, enjoy!



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