Blueberry, lemon & poppy seed muffins

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I've often read, heard and been told that a successful blog has to have consistency - something that has been lacking on this site recently. It's easy to roll out the ever popular 'I've been too busy' excuse and this is true to some extent - as a freelance designer I have to make the most of the work opportunities when they are there. But I'll also admit to not having the drive to post recipes over the past few weeks which I'm putting down to a lack of activity and creativity in the kitchen. I've been distracted by work, admin and making travel plans meaning easy, quick and familiar meals are on repeat - roasting vegetables, steaming kale and frying eggs.

This weekend I've been able to spend some time baking and I'm currently enjoying one (or two) of these muffins as I write this post. The recipe has been adapted from a previous post, swapping winter flavours with summer ones. The muffins carry a zing from the lemon, crunch from the poppy seeds and sweetness from the blueberries. Undeniably ideal for a summer snack. I usually pair one with a smoothie for breakfast.

Ingredients, makes 12
1 cup / 100g oats
1 cup / 100g ground almonds
1/2 cup / 60g buckwheat flour
2 tbsp ground flax
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla powder or extract
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/3 cup / 80ml melted coconut oil
2/3 cup / 160ml unsweetened yogurt
3 large eggs
1tbsp maple syrup
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup / 120g of fresh or frozen blueberries + a few more to add on top

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan) and generously grease a muffin tin with coconut oil or butter. You can also line the tin with muffin cases if preferred.

Place the oats into a food processor and grind into flour. Place the oat flour into a mixing bowl along with the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, flax, baking powder, bicarb, salt, vanilla powder, poppy seeds, lemon zest and blueberries - mix well.

Melt the coconut oil and allow to cool slightly. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, yogurt, maple syrup, lemon juice and cooled coconut oil - mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until it all comes together. Don't over mix. Divide the mixture into the muffin tin, place a few extra blueberries on top of each muffin and bake for 15-18 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool slightly, making them easier to remove from the time. Put the muffins on a cooling rack and allow them to reach room temperature before placing in a storage tin.

These muffins are best eaten within a few days of baking. They also freeze well, just pop them in a freezer bag and enjoy at another time.

Red lentil dhal

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I know, I know, it's spring, so why on earth am I posting a Dhal recipe. The truth is I'm like Old Mother Hubbard this week and when the fridge is bare I have to turn to my trusty pulses and spices - no bad thing I'm sure you'll agree. I've been making this recipe regularly as a homage to one pot meals that are quick, effortless and pack a flavour punch.

Making the most of my store cupboard essentials, the last white onion and a bag of past its prime spinach, I set to work. The result is a warm and comforting bowl of goodness with heat from the ginger and spices and wonderful colour that only turmeric can achieve.

Now I'd best get over to the market or we'll have turned yellow from living off this dhal for too long.

Ingredients, serves 4
250g red lentils
400ml tin of coconut milk
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 white onion
1 large sweet potato
3 large handfuls of baby spinach
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 heaped tsp garam masala
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
5 cm piece of fresh ginger
1 chili
4 cloves of garlic
500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Juice of half a lemon

Method
Heat the coconut oil in a large pan (one with a lid) on a medium heat. Finely chop the onion and add to the pan. Finely chop the garlic and chilli and add to the pan with the onion. Grate the ginger and add in with the cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric and paprika. Give everything a stir to combine.

Peel and roughly dice the sweet potato into thumb size pieces, not making the chucks too small and add this to the pan. Allow the sweet potato to cook for a few minutes before pouring in the lentils, tinned tomatoes, coconut milk and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and bring the pan to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and place a lid on the pan. Cook on a low-medium heat for about 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and the sweet potato is soft.

Remove the lid and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Throw in three large handfuls of baby spinach and gently stir this through the dhal.

Serve and enjoy.

Baked eggs with Feta & kale

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There's no shortage of farmers markets in London, which is great, but what's really great is that a new one has opened up just minutes from my house, no exaggeration, it's literally around the corner. We go every week - Neil heads to the meat stall and I hunt down the best of the seasons veggies. We've been impressed by the quality and the prices and enjoy being able to talk to the people who grow food for us.

The market began in autumn last year and at times, especially during January, has been quiet and struggling for customers. I'm desperate for this little market to do well, and hope that as spring and summer arrive it will become more popular.

If by any small chance you’re reading this from your home in Clapham or Battersea            then head over to the Lavender Hill Farmers Market, SW11 5UW, 10:00am - 2:00pm every Saturday. You won’t be disappointed.

This week our farmers market haul included free range eggs and organic kale.

Ingredients: serves two
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 white onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
2 large handfuls of kale (I use curly)
1 large handful of spinach
Juice of half a lemon
4 medium free range eggs
50g feta cheese
Handful chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200C. Heat the coconut oil in a good sized frying pan (the type which can also go in the oven) over a medium heat. Finely chop the onion, add to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Next finely chop the garlic and chilli, add to the pan with the onion and mix well. Allow this to cook for a minute.

Turn the pan down to a low heat. Wash the kale then add this to the pan with a small splash of water to create some steam. Cover with a lid and allow the kale to cook for 15 minutes.

Once the kale has cooked remove the lid and add the spinach, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix well then place the lid back on for a minute allowing the spinach to cook.

Remove the lid and make four little wells in the pan, cracking an egg into each. Season the eggs with salt and pepper then place the frying pan in the oven and bake until the eggs are firm but the yolks are still runny. This can take 1-5 minutes depending on your oven.

To serve crumble over the feta and chopped walnuts.

Week day breakfast jars

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So far February has been non-stop. A packed working week and weekends spent away from home, have at times left my fridge bare, my washing unwashed and the house certainly not looking its best. But it feels good to be busy.

Neil and I often find ourselves talking about what life would be like, if we didn’t live in London. I long to be closer to my family and best friends, and even though they only live a couple of hours drive away, the distance can sometimes be overwhelming. I dream of a big garden with a vegetable patch, fruit trees and chickens roaming around, but most of all just being able to drop by my mum’s house in the evenings for dinner. For Neil, it’s a garage, well actually a double garage and a large driveway for him to indulge in his love of cars and mechanics. One day it will happen, I’m sure of it.

But for now it's the London life. This city is unbearably busy and at times very angry. It’s difficult not to be affected by the negative mood of grumpy and frustrated travellers or to block out arguments and police sirens. But there are things about London that I do love and will miss if we do move away - the little side streets with unfamiliar coffee shops, faded lettering on old signs and the way beautiful landmarks appear out of nowhere when you turn a corner. My current commute takes me into Waterloo station, I then make a 20 minute walk along The Cut and Union Street with the Shard growing intimidatingly in front of me, to a small studio next to Borough Market – one of my favourite areas of the city.

As soon as I wake up I’m thinking about food. I love to eat, which is probably why I get so excited about the first meal of the day. These breakfast jars are ideal for busy mornings and totally adaptable to what’s in your cupboards and fruit bowl. There is no excuse not to have a healthy breakfast and I promise these jars will fill you up until lunch, something a croissant certainly wouldn't do.

I make my jar and Neil’s, the night before and leave them in the fridge. In the morning I add some fresh fruit which takes minutes and we simply put the jars in our bags. I prefer taking my breakfast to work as the commute allows me some movement before eating, also the jar is back up to room temperature, making the most of the flavours.

This post shares three of my go-to breakfast jars as I couldn’t pick a favourite.

Overnight oats
Ingredients
1/3 cup oats
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp ground flax
1 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut
½ tsp ground cardamom
2/3 cup milk (I use oat or almond)

Toppings
Strawberries
Fresh mint

Method:
Measure out the oats, chia seeds, flax, coconut and cardamom into a jar and stir to combine. Add the milk and mix well. Place the lid on the jar and leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning top with chopped strawberries and some fresh mint.

Chia pudding
Ingredients
2 tbsp chia seeds
½ cup milk (I use oat or almond)
¼ tsp vanilla extract

Toppings
Greek yogurt
Nut butter
Blueberries
Pomegranate seeds

Method
Measure the chia seeds, milk and vanilla extract into a jar and mix well. It’s best to then leave the jar to sit for five minutes then stir again as the chia seeds may sink to the bottom.
Place in the fridge overnight. In the morning top with Greek yogurt, nut butter, blueberries and pomegranate seeds.

Beetroot and berry smoothie
Ingredients
½ beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped
½ cup of frozen berries
Handful of spinach leaves
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ cup water

Toppings
Greek yogurt
Fresh raspberries
Walnuts
Pumpkin seeds
Sunflower seeds
Unsweetened coconut flakes

Method
Simply place all the ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into a jar and top with Greek yogurt, fresh raspberries, coconut flakes and some nuts and seeds for added crunch.

Note: I use a standard jam jar as I find them to be the ideal size.

cauliflower, SPROUTS and a California checklist

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Having just booked what will be the final stop on our American west coast road trip I think it’s fair to say I’ll be wishing the next few months away with rapid anticipation and excitement. We, my family and I, have been planning this holiday for a while, researching, taking advice and adjusting our route so we can see and appreciate as much as possible. So now that all the accommodation is booked I can focus on the really important stuff – where to eat.

I’ve been compiling a list of restaurants, cafes, juice bars and of course, where to get the best ice cream and coffee. If you know of any useful blogs, books or even have a favourite hang-out anywhere between San Francisco and San Diego then I’d love to hear from you.

Much of our accommodation is through Airbnb, and having never stayed in an Airbnb house before (gasp), I’m also eager to check out the local farmer’s markets and food stores to make the most of our Californian kitchens. Any suggestions for local markets?

This warm salad has been a lunchtime favourite of mine over the past few weeks, mostly eaten in front of my computer screen as I book flights and hire cars. The lightly fried vegetables keep their crunch and fresh taste whilst taking on the flavour of the sage and mustard dressing.

Ingredients: serves 2
Half a cauliflower
120g brussels sprouts
1 tbsp coconut oil
4-5 sage leaves
Salt
Zest and juice of a lemon
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp mustard
30g feta
¼ cup walnuts
½ pomegranate

Method:
Remove the florets from the cauliflower and place them in a food processor. Pulse until you get a rice-like texture. Rinse and remove the outer leaves on the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Place the flat surface of the sprout on a chopping board and thinly slice. You can shred the sprouts in the food processor, but I like to keep them a little thicker by hand slicing – this adds texture to the salad.

Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan on a low/medium heat then add the cauliflower and sprouts and lightly fry for a few minutes. Finely chop the sage leaves and add these to the pan with a good pinch of salt and the lemon zest. Fry for a few more minutes.

To make the dressing mix the mustard, olive oil and lemon juice together.

To serve, place the cauliflower and sprouts on plates or in one large bowl. Drizzle over the dressing and scatter with crumbled feta, roughly chopped walnuts and pomegranate seeds

Celeriac chips with a spicy tahini dip

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There’s not much on offer at my local farmers market this time of year, but what they do have in abundance is celeriac. This ugly duckling of the vegetable world can sometimes go unnoticed as we reach for the leeks, beetroot and last of the seasons apples. But please don’t overlook the humble celeriac, they are affordable, long lasting and so versatile in the kitchen.

I often use celeriac as an alternative to potato, thickening a soup or as a creamy mash topping a shepherds pie. It’s also delicious raw, shredded in a salad and giving a nutty celery like flavour. But best of all, the celeriac makes great chips. I’ve been grazing on this recipe for a few weeks now, usually on a Sunday afternoon whist watching a film as the constant rain keeps falling outside. Teamed up with a spicy sun-dried tomato and tahini dip, these chunky chips are an ideal comfort food.

To make the spicy dip I used some large sun-dried tomatoes I brought whilst on holiday in Italy last year, along with a packet arrabbiata which is an Italian spice blend often used in pasta sauces. Bringing food home as a souvenir is a wonderful way to remember a trip, recreating and reminiscing of the tastes and smells you experienced.

If you wanted to make your own arrabbiata, simply mix together a majority of chilli seeds and flakes with dried basil, dried parsley, garlic and salt.

Ingredients, for the chips:
1 celeriac
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
Salt

For the spicy dip:
1/3 cup tahini
5-6 large sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp arrabbiata
1 tsp cumin
1 garlic clove
2 tsp olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste  

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200C and bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Peel the celeriac, removing all the green, I find using a paring knife much easier than a peeler as the skin can be quite tough. Chop the celeriac into chunky chips and place them in the boiling water for one-two minutes.

Drain the water and put the chips on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry. Place the chips on a baking tray and cover with the coconut oil. Sprinkle over plenty of salt and the chopped fresh rosemary. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the chips are brown with crispy edges.

For the spicy tomato dip place all the ingredients in a food processor, but only add half the water. Blitz into a smooth dip and add more water if needed. The dip keeps in the fridge for up to a week and is also great with raw carrot sticks.