Harissa roasted carrots

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Autumn has abruptly arrived in London with a thick cloudy grey sky proudly announcing the first day of October. Rain coats on and hoods pulled up, Neil headed to his favourite meat seller at the market and I dashed over to the veg stall. I'm always enticed by the colour, but also on this occasion, the large tarpaulin providing shelter from the rain. Rummaging among the squashes, beetroot and carrots, I talked with the stall owner about how we were both looking forward to the new seasons vegetables filling our roasting trays.

These sweet orange and purple carrots are given a kick from being roasted in Harissa, a hot chilli pepper paste and topped with a creamy tahini dressing and a scattering of dukkah and pomegranate seeds.

This recipe can be a wonderful side or turned into a main meal when served with puy lentils or roasted chickpeas.

Ingredients
6-8 carrots
1 tbsp Harissa
A few lemon slices
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey
2 tbsp water (more if needed)
Dukkah
Pomegranate seeds
Pinch of salt and pepper
A few mint leaves

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the coconut oil in a roasting tin and melt in the oven. Scrub and wash the carrots and cut in half length ways. Place the carrots in the roasting tin and coat in the oil. Add the Harissa and rub over the carrots. Throw in a few slices of lemon and a couple of garlic cloves and cook for 25-30 minutes.

To make the dressing put the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, water, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well. Squeeze out the soft garlic from the roasted cloves and add to the dressing. Mix well and add a little more water if the dressing is too thick.

Serve the dressing with the carrots and top with dukkah, pomegranate seeds and chopped mint leaves.

Coconut, cranberry & orange cookies

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I'm bursting with Team GB pride, but sadly what has been a wonderful and all consuming Olympic Games is now over. So with the time I would have spent glued to the TV, I instead set out to create a short video for one of my favourite cookie recipes - I hope you like it.

These coconut cookies are super simple to make and very adaptable. In the past I have made them with chocolate chips or sultanas - but this cranberry and orange combo always comes out on top.

Ingredients, makes nine cookies
2/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut + a little extra to sprinkle (optional)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup of dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 large (or 4 small) eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
Zest of one orange

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the coconut flour, desiccated coconut and dried fruit in a bowl and roughly combine. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, salt, maple syrup, coconut oil and orange zest and mix well. The mixture will appear quite wet at first but quickly thickens into a dough.

Roll the mixture into balls then press slightly to flatten into cookies. Place the cookies on a lined baking sheet and scatter a little extra desiccated coconut on top if desired.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are golden at the edges. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container.

Note: The cookies also freeze well. I often pop half the batch in the freezer - mainly to stop myself eating them all within a couple of days. Recipe easily doubles for a bigger batch.

Chicken & kale salad with peanut dressing

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When visiting San Francisco last month, I had one hell of a kale salad that was served with roast chicken and a peanut dressing. Maybe it’s because I'd spent all day walking around the city and my then tired and hungry state would have had me appreciating any chair in any restaurant with anything edible in front of me, but… I have to admit this simple salad was one of the best meals I had during our four week trip to America. 

Now I’m home and eager to recreate the recipe adding a few extras like the carrot ribbons for sweetness, red cabbage for crunch and ginger to the dressing for more heat. I can see this raw salad becoming a new lunchtime favourite and as it’s made with hardy vegetables, easily keeps in the fridge for a few days.

Ingredients, serves two

For the salad
8-10 stems kale with stems removed and leaves roughly torn
1 large carrot, shredded into ribbons using a potato peeler
1/4 red cabbage, finely sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, skins removed
1 free range organic chicken breast
1 tbsp coconut oil
Salt and pepper

For the dressing:
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lime juice
Thumb size piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
1/3 cup of water

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C. Use the melted coconut oil to grease a baking dish and also to coat the chicken. Season with salt and pepper then cover the chicken with baking parchment tucking the edges into the sides of the pan so it's snug around the chicken. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Place the kale in a large bowl and pour over the lemon juice. Using your hands, massage the kale for a few minutes so it becomes more tender. Add the carrot ribbons, sliced cabbage and spring onions to the bowl - gently mix with the kale.

Once the chicken is cooked leave it to cool slightly before slicing into thin strips, then add to the salad bowl.

To make the dressing simply place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with fresh coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds.

The recipe makes a good amount of dressing which keeps well in the fridge for up to a week if not all used on the salad.

California road trip

Last month I spent three weeks traveling around California with my family. We started our trip in San Francisco then rented a car and drove down to San Diego, stopping at Monterey, Yosemite, Sequoia and LA on the way. We had so much fun exploring each of these beautiful and distinctively different areas of America's west coast.

Along with taking hundreds of photos (here are a few favourites) I was keen to create a little holiday video - it's turned out to be the best way of sharing and remembering our adventures. Thanks for watching.

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. Kale is hailed as the ultimate superfood and we all know we should be eating it, but why? This fact-bursting article written by Dana from healthyline.com will give you all the info you could possibly want on this delicious leafy green, so go give it a read.

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.