Saturday, 29 June 2013

random recipes round-up #29

...yet again another month has sneezed violently across the year with nothing as polite as a bless-you as it wipes itself on the sleeve of our lives...  and as I suspected you've all been amazing when it comes to helping me on the road to recovery with some amazing healthy and happy recipes and it's a really mixed bag, many of which look far too good  to be anywhere near healthy but i'm not sure I care... I also love the fact that there were two random recipes disasters this month... they seem to be getting rarer, so it's nice to have two in one month!

... so let's start at the very beginning of the month with my own recipe for chocolate brownies with prunes and almonds randomly selected from the Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection...

catch the rest of your amazing entries after the jump...

Monday, 24 June 2013

Pimm's blackberry and elderflower Queen's Head jelly

... as many of you will have seen by my recent facebook and twitter feeds The Persuaders has been doing some amazing work with Pimm's... this summer we've created the Pimm's Indoor Summer Garden.  It's a 'pop-up' bar in the heart of London, celebrating all that's wonderful about the great british summer, including the dreary and wet weather... our bucolic garden offers an oasis out of the rain where you can book a pic-nic blanket complete with hamper full of tradition british grub.  We even built a very cute potting-shed which doubles as a bar and retail space where you can purchase not only jugs of the lovely Pimm's but all kinds goodies such as garden games, hand-crafted pic-nic blankets and these really rather fun HRH queen's head jelly moulds...

... Pimm's also has a new flavour exclusively launched for this summer, Blackberry and Elderflower... it's very british in its hedgerow inspiration and it's very sweet and delicious... so much so that I think it makes a rather wonderful ingredient for this naughty and very adult jelly...

... the Pimm's Summer Garden is in 5 Great Newport Street in London and open till this Saturday evening... to book a blanket you can call 07466 827923... the Queens Head jelly Mould is available at the pop-up garden or on-line here.

Pimm's blackberry and elderflower jelly
the queens head mould is quite large... it takes two litres of liquid, the more the merrier if you ask me... and the trick as always with these kind of things is the liberal use of sunflower oil wiped on the inside of the mould before filling which should guarantee an easy and successful turn-out.  I also used 4 packets of gelatine powder as the alcohol never truly sets so you do need to help it on it's way... the addition of the mint leaves, a traditional ingredient for a Pimm's really adds something special to the flavour, plus those blackberries were a bonus find in the supermarket... i was too lazy to do a double-set of my jelly which would have meant I could have had the fruit in the middle of but I still love them in here...

1 3/4 litres lemonade
1/4 litre Pimm's
3 sachet's of gelatine powder
mint leaves
sunflower oil
a little white chocolate

run a little sunflower oil on the inside of the jelly mould

in a large pan, heat the lemonade and pimm's with the mint leaves until nearly boiling, then take it off the heat and add the gelatine powder and stir well

pour into the mould and pop in the fridge for 24 hours until completely set

serve with a few drops of melted white chocolate

with the mint and the little drops of white chocolate high-lighting the queens jewellery this dish also qualifies me for this months we should cocoa, the theme of which is of course mint... we should cocoa is the brain child of choclette from the chocolate log blog and is hosted this month by from Victoria at a kick at the pantry door...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

cheese and spinach baked eggs pots

... firstly an apology for the dreadful photography... the iphone is not the instrument a food blogger with any kind of reputation should use but I rushed back to London yesterday and I forgot to bring my camera... you'll just have to imagine how beautiful these little souffle-type pots really look and more importantly just how incredible the kitchen smells, filled with the fug of baked eggs with cream, glorious Castello cheese and fresh spinach...

... I woke up this morning with a craving for something rich and creamy, you know how you do... i'm sure I was dreaming about cheese during the night because the good people at Castello sent me a very cute little hamper with some miniature cheeses in it and the thought of their creamy goodness must have seeped into my subconscious somewhat... the result was that by morning I was hankering for some cheese love...

cheese and spinach baked eggs pots
these are very very simple to make and from start to finish probably take less than 10 minutes... I used one egg per pot and one different mini castello cheese portion but you could use any creamy cheese, brie would be amazing or a stronger stilton would also be fab... the great thing about the castello cheese is that they are wrapped in their own seasoning so they work really well for a little hit of taste... I used the creamy blue, the creamy white, the black pepper halo and the chive... the addition of the spinach gives the little pots a bit of an 'eggs benedict' flavour and lifts them from the ordinary into the 'really rather chic if you ask me' camp...

... and yes, they collapsed the moment they came out of the oven but for those first few seconds they did look rather resplendent in all they puffed up glory!

4 large free-range eggs
100ml single cream
4 mini castello cheeses
a handful of spinach

you will need 4 ramekin style pots that are buttered and ramp the oven up to 200C

firstly wilt your spinach in a pan with a teeny dash of water, this should take seconds with the pan lid placed on top.

take a large bow, break one egg into it, add a splash of cream (roughly 2 tablespoons) and beat together with a fork, then add your cheese... if it's a cream-cheese it should easily fork into the egg mix, if it's a brie type cheese them simply break it into the egg.

pour the mixture into the ramekin and then add some spinach leaves if using or leave plain if the cheese is heavily flavoured, place on a baking tray... then move on to the next ramekin

once all four are done bake for 5 mins until golden and risen and serve immediately

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

rhubarb, olive oil and spelt cake

... so i've just spent the day demo-cooking at the Lincolnshire Show, which went very well thank you for asking... and I browsed sheepishly over my much neglected blog and realised that if I don't post something soon it may shrivel into a tired old husk... much the way i'm feeling right now... so I thought i'd whip up a cake, also killing two birds with one stone as this months alphabakes has the letter R as its messiah... and so here I am, thinking about the kind of simple cake I can bake when i realise that not only do I have no butter in the house but I have a very small amount of white sugar, no flour other than spelt, no scales to measure anything with and only two eggs.  It's not that times are hard it's just that nearly all my equipment is at the show ready for my second day tomorrow and after a midnight flight from London last night I didn't stop off at the supermarket for basic...

... but would I do a thing like let you good folk down... would I heck... and with a quick 'forage' into dear neighbour Tracey's rhubarb patch, a lot of free-form cake ingredient improvisation and a frustrating ten minutes converting grams into cups I give you quite a lovely cake... thank you very much...

rhubarb, olive oil and spelt cake
you can see that the cake has a very puddingy quality to it that I simply adore... this was not intentional, it is ever so slightly underdone but did I also mention that I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning to prep some lovely foragers quiches for the show (the general public are gannets I tell you... GANNETS!) and the right hand side of my lovely, not that old oven blew a fuse, rendering me with just one regular oven... sounds like i'm griping doesn't it... well I am. I'm tired and i'm grumpy and i'm going to miss my friends this weekend...

2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon orange water
2 teaspoons ground ginger
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 large free-range eggs
300mil milk
8 stalks of rhubarb - chopped

preheat the oven to 190C and grease a 23cm springform cake tin

combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk all the wet ingredients in another bowl, then pour the wet into the dry and stir together

pour a third of the cake batter into the cake tin and then layer on half the rhubarb, then another third of the batter and the rest of the rhubarb followed by the remaining cake batter

bake for about 45 mins until risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean

the alphabakes challenge is brought to you by Caroline from Caroline Makes and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker... this months letter of inspiration is R...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Electric Bar & Restaurant - Lincoln

belly of pork at the electric bar and restaurant

... sometimes, when you live and work with your partner, even though you're pretty much spending all your time together it can actually be quite lonely and as the lines between relationship and work blur you can very often find yourself looking for moments not to be with that person just so that when you are together it makes it more special... that may seem like the longest and oddest sentence ever but I can assure you that it's true... and with work so full-on like it has been recently The Viking and I find very few moments just to be friends...

... so it was with speed of a jaguar in full attack that we pounced at a rare moment to be together outside a work situation... although in our line of business are we really ever not working... with an invite to dine at The Electric Bar and Restaurant at the Double Tree Hilton in Lincoln...

... Lincoln is a beautiful city.  It has all the amenities of your regular 21st century city; a high-street with the all the usual brand thugs, a modern and exciting university, a couple of large retail parks and then rising above all this modernity is the pinnacle of religious fervour that is the cathedral and castle, resplendent in all their glory on the top of the hill.  This older part of town is breathtakingly beautiful with all it's cobbled streets lined with tea-rooms and boutiques and as you amble slowly up the truly well-named Steep Hill you arrive at Lincoln Cathedral with gasps of awe...

... and it's a view of this stunning cathedral that greets you when you sit down to dine at The Electric Bar and Restaurant up on the 5th floor of the Double Tree Hilton situated in the newly restored waterside Brayford wharf and fortunately the good design is reflected in the bar and restaurant interiors which have a contemporary look that has tones of art deco, particularly the bar area where we started our evening with a very good glass of rather punchy Bloody Mary.... The Viking and I dined very well... as you know, The Big V is a vegetarian and it's always a disappointment to dine out anywhere even slightly 'posh' as contemporary chefs seem to neglect the vegetarian, offering choice upon choice for the meat eater but just one item for the vegetarian... and even though this was the case at The Electric the choices for him were exceptionally good and particularly well thought...

... we were both offered an amuse bouche of mushroom veloute served with some beautifully dinky mini-breads, gratefully eaten, followed by a creamy Jerusalem artichoke risotto for The V and a light and summery duck terrine for me... our main course was a Lincolnshire Poacher Tortellini for the V and a gorgeous Rack of Lamb served with an inspirational pea and mint puree that I ate with relish.  As you can imagine after all this goodness our bellies were well and truly stuffed but we forced ourselves on a very cute rhubarb crumble and a banana toffee brulee that was quite simple dangerous...

... the whole evening was an utter joy and we were well looked after by the attentive and informative staff (I ask a LOT of questions about all kinds of stuff) and we left thoroughly and merrily stuffed... the meal was priced at roughly £35 / head with a bottle of wine which I think is perfectly acceptable for the quality of food and location... i've noticed that the menu has changed slightly since our first visit, which I think is a brilliant thing and keeps regular visitors enticed as well and new visitors intrigued...

...definitely a beautiful way to round off a lovely day in the great city of Lincoln.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 14 June 2013

cheesy pasta bake with broccoli, green beans and linseed's been a completely crazy week again and what was once Monday is now Friday and I can't quite believe how i've managed to fit it all in... between the lovely film crew from spending the day in my kitchen filming me for a new collection of short stories about food heritage and making a Total Greek Yoghurt celebration cake at an Eric Lanlard masterclass, which quite frankly was a little more like a frenzied episode of the Generation Game than a study in elegant patisserie, I think i've done quite well not to collapse... body still healing and I've realised that 2 weeks in bed means I have no strength for the basic things like standing up for more than an hour or running up the escalator at Oxford Circus (believe me, I had to sit down for 10 minutes)... which is why a hearty bowl of fresh and healthy pasta and vegetables is exactly what I need to revive myself... quick and easy and just very very tasty...

cheesy pasta bake with broccoli, green beans and linseed
I was recently sent some very tasty laughing cow light with emmental from the good people at the laughing cow who make the famous delicious cheese triangles... I always remember eating the original French la vache qui rit when we went on holidays to France as a child and have loved them ever since.  I've always found them to be a very good quality processed cheese and when you're in need of something cheesy and creamy on toast in the middle of the night they're a little triangle of loveliness... and now they're extending their range into a few other flavours... it's nice to see them grow up a bit with the emmental and blue cheese flavours... which work great on their own or perfect in this creamy cheesy pasta bake...

for the bake
500g Garofalo Fusilli pasta
a handful of purple sprouting brocolli
a handful of green beans
1 teaspoon linseed
50g parmesan
4 laughing cow cheese triangles

for the cheese sauce
50g butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 pint milk and 1/2 pink veg stock

50g parmesan 
50g mozzarella 
4 laughing cow cheese triangles

start by par-boiling the pasta in a lot of boiling water... take it as far as the al dente stage then drain and pour into your baking dish

next steam your veg, again to the al dente stage, it needs a little bite as it's going to be baked again and you don't want it turning to mush, layer the veg over the pasta in the baking dish

now make your cheese sauce by heating the butter gently in a small sauce pan, then once it's melted take the pan off the heat and add the flour.  Stir this until you get a thick paste, then add a little drop of milk and stir this in... continue this way, placing the pan on and off the heat and you stir until you have a nice thick sauce, once all the milk has gone let it bubble very gently for about 5 minutes so that the flour cooks off then add the mustard and the cheeses and stir in.

pour this sauce over the pasta and veg, then add a few more torn bits of cheese and a sprinkling of parmesan and some linseed then bake for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 10 June 2013

carrot, flax and spelt layer cake - a tea time treat

... we have a very quaint little health-food shop in our local town of Louth called the Louth Wholefood Co-Operative, tucked away on a side street in the shadow of the stunning church of St James and whilst you may have to hunt high and low to find it, once inside it's like a treasure trove of goodness... packed to the rafters with fabulous produce from herbal teas to organic soap and quite literally everything in between.  It's one of the those shops that you find yourself saying things like 'wow, I can't believe they stock this here...' in some kind of snobbish southern way, as though they'd never heard of gluten-free in the shires... so impressed am I by this adorable shop that I spend far too much money in there and now that I have an actual dietary reason to frequent the store and I don't have to find an excuse to go in to purchase halva, I may enquire about purchasing shares...

... the lovely lady who run's the shop was very good at persuading me to purchase a bumper selection of goodies including some flax powder, which is incredible at aiding digestion, as well as convincing me to try baking with spelt flour instead of regular flour... i'm now totally in love with spelt which has a wonderful earthy quality and quite an intense heady aroma... i'm very much enjoying this little voyage of discovery...

carrot, flax and spelt layer cake with a honey and cream-cheese frosting
I wanted to bake a 'healthy' cake for this months tea time treats bloggers challenge, the theme of which is layer cakes... now I'm well aware that there's really no such thing as a healthy cake but I think i've taken the essence of this traditional carrot cake recipe and deconstructed it so that each ingredient is a healthier option than the regular cake ingredient... the resulting cake is lovely, if not a little chewy... more like a giant health bar than a sponge cake but i'm really not complaining, it was fun to bake... tea time treats is hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked

for the cake
2 large free-range eggs
5fl oz sunflower oil
4oz soft dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
200g spelt wholemeal flour
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 teaspoon flax powder
200g coarsely grated carrot
grated zest of one orange
50g chopped dried apricots
50g chopped dried prunes
50g desiccated coconut
2oz pistachio nuts - roughly chopped

for the cream-cheese frosting
200g cream cheese
200g mascarpone
juice and zest of one orange
2 tablespoons honey

you will need 2 x 20cm cake tins - greased and lined.

in a large bowl beat the eggs, oil, sugar and honey for 3 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved.

add the flour and stir in, then stir in the remaining ingredients (half the pistachios) until well combined.

divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake on 180C for 25 mins or until golden and risen, set aside on a wire rack to cool for 10 mins before turning out of the tins and letting cool entirely.

to make the frosting simply beat all the ingredients together in a bowl until thick, add more honey if you like it sweeter, then spread half of it onto the bottom layer, place the top layer on top and spread with the remaining frosting... drizzle with a little more honey and a grating of orange zest then crumble the rest of the pistachio's on top.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

celeriac, lettuce and pea soup

... since my internment at the Whipps Cross holiday camp my sleeping patterns have been completely messed up and totally unpredictable... the dear nurses would come in at the most peculiar hours, throughout the 'night' waking you up, strapping things to your arm and sticking thermometres in your mouth, all in the name of science and after 4 nights I was going a little crazy with the sleep deprivation and I think it's still effecting me... i'll be happily getting on with my day one minute only to find myself fast asleep the next.  Mornings can start as early as 5am and no amount of pretending to be asleep seems to fix it... i'm lucky it's summer and there's plenty of light, i'm sure if it were winter i'd be curled in a ball under the bed...

... my stomach is also very much touch and go at the moment and i'm experimenting with different foods which is quite exciting... my big thing at the moment is flax seed as it's exceptionally good for digestion - but more of that in a later post. Some days i'm handling the roughage quite well and really enjoying the benefits of all the incredible fresh fruit and veg... but other days my stomach simply can't handle anything other than a glass of water and i'm not convinced this blog would do very well if I simply posted photo's of my H2O consumption...

celeriac, lettuce and pea soup
of course half way between water and solids comes the much varied food group known to most as soup and now that summer's in full swing the choice and variation of vegetables out there is seemingly endless... almost every greengrocers I went into this week had the sadly ugly face of celeriac leering at me from the fake grass covered shelves like a poorly produced Dr Who villain, plus a plethora of lettuce in the fridge swung the flavour of this soup in a rather tasty direction... it tastes of pure goodness and whilst the celeriac seems like quite a delicate flavour it actually adds a very subtle aniseed undertone to the bowl which is enhanced by one or two of my favourite fennel seeds... a good soup for a healthy belly and hopefully some well timed sleep...

1 medium onion - finely chopped
1/2 a large celeriac - peeled and cubed
1 large head of round lettuce
400g frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 pints of good quality veg stock
greek yoghurt and chives to serve
olive oil and salt and pepper

in a large pan saute the onions on a gentle heat with a little olive oil until soft, then add the celeriac and stir.  Place the lid on the pan and let the veg sweat for 5 mins, then add the lettuce, peas and fennel seeds and let them sweat again with the lid on for a further 5 mins.

add the stock and let it gently simmer for 20 mins, then in with the hand-held whizzer until thick and smooth

serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt, some chives and a pretty chive flower for colour

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

a floral giveaway

... does anyone still ask for a nasty plastic supermarket bag anymore... I know they must, in fact I see them do it with my own eyes but it does seem incredible that with so many alternative options available that anyone even has the gaul to not bring their own bags to the supermarket... ok, we're not all perfect and sometimes life gets in the way but now that we're all a little more aware of the damage that these seemingly endless supply of plastic bags can do to the environment it seems a little odd to me that they're still available as an option...

... the brilliant dotcomgiftshop have a large selection of very cute shopping bags, amongst some other lovely gifts on their very user-friendly website... they recently asked me if i'd like to review a couple of items and sent me to their site to chose what I wanted to receive... after suffering a small embolism from the choice of retro-chic goodies I settled on this adorable mini milk-bottle crate complete with 6 mini milk-bottles as they reminded me of the time when we were given a small bottle of milk during break at school.. I realise this ages me tremendously and that many of you won't have such rose-tinted memories of being forced to drink warm milk at school but I loved it and I thought these little beauties would make very sweet wild-flower vases... and after raiding The Viking's glorious garden for some stunning specimens I'm sure you'll agree...

... the good people at dotcomgiftshop also gave me one of these lovely French Daisy Shopping Bags worth £14.95 to give away as a gift to one lucky reader of my blog... the bag is made from oil-cloth and has a very cute 50's inspired daisy pattern on it and would be very handy to stuff full of lovely pic-nic goodies to take to the beach... all you have to do to be in with the chance of winning the bag is complete the rafflecopter thingy below... good luck to you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

baked plums and strawberries with ginger and balsamic

the day after I returned home from hospital I had a fruit delivery from fruitdrop... it was as though the kind fruit delivery people knew I had been ill and that a large box of wonderful fresh fruit was exactly the thing I need to set me on the road to recovery... of course this was not quite the case, it was simply a coincidence of dates but like all things karmic in this world, it's nice to think that someone out there is looking out for you just once in a while...

... there are lots of food delivery companies out there and fruitdrop are doing nothing particularly different but their USP as it were, is to encourage healthy eating in the workplace and a large box of fruit is a great place to start... my delivery contained a selection of good quality everyday fruit including a mix of apples, pears, bananas, plums, grapes, satsumas, strawberries and a glorious honeydew melon... all stuff we would normally purchase as a household and all in great condition as though picked in the store myself...

baked plums and strawberries with ginger and balsamic
my current high-fibre diet allows me to eat plenty of fruit but particularly anything stewed is great for the digestive system and with the added ginger this combination of fruits is subtly and beautifully easy on the pallet... the balsamic vinegar takes away anything too sickly and adds a little sophistication to the  whole thing... plus the juice is simply heavenly drizzled over greek yoghurt.

6 plums - cut in half, stones removed
a large handful of strawberries - topped and cut in half
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
greek yoghurt to serve

simply lay the fruit out in a baking dish, pour in the apple juice then sprinkle with sugar, ginger, vanilla and balsamic and roast on 150C for an hour, then cover with foil and roast for a further 30 mins until soft and tender

this yummy dish would make a perfect breakfast and so i'm entering it into this months breakfast club bloggers challenge, founded by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and this month hosted by Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen, with the theme of High Fibre.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 3 June 2013

superfast wholemeal sourdough

... i'm finally starting to feel like myself again and this can only be a good thing, all we need now is for the weather to at least pretend it's summer and the whole country might perk up a little... i'm feared that without a jubilee or an olympics we may all slump into a damp doldrum if we're not careful.  If I had my way i'd ensure the country of at least one enforced national tea party every month in the summer.  Home-made fairy cakes, bunting and cucumber sandwiches all an essential part of the kit.  With our growing reliance on the internet and mobile technology to 'keep us connected' we are I feel, more disparate than ever before and a little bit of community spirit goes a long way... I actually think it's one of the reasons why these dreadful, cheap television programs such as Britain's Got Talent etc. are so successful as what they actually do is bring the country together for a common cause and weather we're cheering a winner or booing an villain, there's nothing more us Brits love than a bit of national togetherness...

i'm glad I waited till I felt better to start baking bread again... they say you shouldn't bake bread when you're unwell as it will come through in your baking... well I think this lovely loaf is proof of an improving me... don't you think?

superfast wholemeal sourdough
i've stumbled upon a way to capture a little of that sourdough magic in a fraction of time it takes to grow a true sourdough starter... not that i'm advocating you shouldn't start a starter, it's a wonderful thing to be sure but if, like me, you're all over the place and tend to forget things easily when you're not focussed on one thing then you can end up killing the poor thing after you've spent months if not years growing it... this way you get a little glimmer of that glorious taste, not so much of the open texture but a lot of the crunch just with a lot less nurturing... the superfast starter you end up with here is enough for two loaves, one you can make after 8 hours and one the next day for an even fuller flavour...

to make the starter:
2 teaspoons fast-action dried yeast
225g white flour
300ml warm water

for the finished loaf:
200g strong white bread flour
175g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
175ml warm water

the night before you're going to bake (min 8 hours) combine the starter ingredients in a bowl until fully mixed.  wrap in clingfilm and set aside overnight.

the next morning, take a large bowl and combine all the loaf ingredients with 225ml of the starter until you have a dough, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until soft and elastic.  place in an oiled bowl, wrap in clingfilm and set aside for an hour or until doubled in size

meanwhile cover your starter and set aside to use the following day

after an hour, knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and fold into a ball shape, place this onto a baking sheet, cover loosely with an oiled sheet of clingfilm and let it rise for another hour, then dust with flour, slash across its top, spritz with water and bake in a hot oven (210C) for 10 minutes followed by 20 minutes at 180C

tap the bottom for that hollow sound to know it's ready, then set aside to cool completely before cutting.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

prune and almond brownies - random recipes #29 - healthy and happy

... there really only could be one theme for June's random recipes... i'd thought about being even more specific and asking for high-fibre recipes only but i kind of knew it would be taking liberties, so this month i'd like you all to gather your wonderfully summery, healthy and happy recipes... and there are countless ways you could make your selection... many books dedicate their first few chapters to soups and salads... or maybe you have a stack of diet cookbooks or summer cookbooks... or maybe you could do it by ingredient, choosing a combination of healthy items and then using an app or website such as eat your books, to come up with the recipe... however you chose, it needs to be a recipe that you consider to be healthy or one that makes you happy, the theory being that if it makes us smile and feel good then it can't be bad for us...

... I was very specific about the recipes I selected for myself... I went through all my cookbooks and looked closely at ingredients that are on my list of 'must-eats'... obviously there's a lot of high-fibre stuff in there but I think it's quite telling that one of the key 'good' foods I seemed to lock onto from the list was dark chocolate... strange that...

... but after a lovely rainy day of sifting through cookbooks I pulled together about 35 recipes all that fall under my healthy and happy theme... it was a great thing to do as I now have a bucket-load of yummy ideas from quite a wide range of books such as the brilliant, new Soup Can make You Thin by Fiona Kirk... River Cottage Veg Every Day... Complete Italian Food by Antonio Carlucci and of course the High Fibre Cookbook by Valerie Ferguson which I treated myself to earlier in the week...

prune and almond brownies
as you can imagine, i've been eating a LOT of prunes of the past couple of weeks... I actually quite like them but they do become a little chewy and tasteless after a while and I think I was getting prune fatigue... so when my random recipes lottery picker landed on this recipe from Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection I wasn't all that excited... I think one of my lovely well-wishers on twitter had suggested prune brownies and as mentioned above, dark chocolate, prunes and almonds are all on the good food list, it's as though these were invented just for me... as it happens I haven't tried them yet, i'm a little scared my stomach's not quite ready but The Viking tells me they are very good and I think they look damn fine...

makes 18 brownies - 9 of which I have frozen (i'm so good aren't I?)
I used a 12inch x 9inch baking tray - greased and lined

75g dark chocolate - I used some incredible Fair Trade chocolate from my local Lincolnshire Co-op.
75g pitted prunes - chopped
75g skin on almonds - chopped
150g butter
3 large eggs - beaten
330g demerara sugar
75g plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

prep your baking tin and set the oven to 180C

place everything but the butter and chocolate into a large bowl

in a small pan very gently and slowly melt the butter and chocolate and once melted simply pour onto all the other ingredients and combine then pour into your baking tin and bake for 30 minutes.  Let is cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning it out and cutting into squares

the rules for taking part this month are simple:

1 - gather all your healthy and happy books and recipes 
2 - randomly select one book, then open that book at a random page
3 - cook the exact recipe on that page (dietary restrictions / availability / affordability taken into consideration) don't cheat - you're only cheating yourself!
4 - post about your recipe on your blog, linking back to my blog, including the random recipes logo
5 - email me the link to your post to dominic at belleaukitchen dot co dot uk
6 - tweet me @belleakitchen including the hashtag #randomrecipes and i'll retweet all I see.
7 - entry deadline will be Fri 28th June

well go on then, what are you waiting for.. help me get healthy!



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