Saturday 28 May 2016

Massive mushrooms stuffed with sundried tomato, pine nuts, basil and cheese

As the climate becomes more Mediterranean so should our diets! I don't mean to trivialise climate change, it's just that in the UK a slight climate change isn't such a terrible thing. Weather has never bean our strong point. So far this year it's been a lovely Spring  and today felt positively hot. Days like these I like to eat light food that makes me think of holidays in Italy or the South of France. These mushrooms are perfect for  sitting in your garden with a glass of wine and envisioning the glistening Mediterranean Sea, even if you're just staring into your murky pond.

2 Portobello mushrooms or similar 
200g ricotta or another soft, white cheese
Handful fresh basil
5 sundried tomatoes
Handful pine nuts, toasted 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices halloumi
Garlic clove
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the mushrooms upside down in a baking tray and put the oven on 150 degrees C. Fry the halloumi cheese for 3min each side or until golden. 
Blend the ricotta with the basil, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and olive oil, reserving a few pine nuts and sundried tomato for topping. Season. Stuff the mushrooms with your ricotta mixture and top with the remaining bits: halloumi, sundried tomato and pine nuts. Bake for 25min. Serve on a bed of rocket and eat outside in the sunshine if at all possible.

Saturday 14 May 2016

Spelt and tahini cookies, sugar-free

Seemingly overnight Spring has brought with it many wonderful things: shiny, new leaves on the trees; showers of cherry blossoms; the first warm rays of sunshine and also, happily, it has also returned to me my love of cooking. Motherhood dimmed my passion for the act of cooking somewhat in the first few months as I focussed exclusively on the butter bean (who's not so little these days). Yet here I am, joyfully spending an entire weekend by the stove. Over the past few days I have baked sourdough bread, made aubergine curry, an Alfafa sprout salad and these spelt cookies, twice. They were good the first time but I felt like I could improve the recipe by subtracting half the butter. Yes, you read it correctly the recipe has been improved by adding less butter.
150g spelt flour
4 tablespoons tahini 
100ml runny honey 
2 tablespoons ground almonds
1 tablespoon soft butter 
1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 egg

Topping: either Eridanous Sesame Paste (you can buy this at Lidl) with honey or 2 tablespoons tahini and 1 tablespoon set honey and 1 tablespoon soft cheese like mascapone or Philadelphia


Melt the butter in a large pan. Once it has melted add the tahini. Stir for 1min on a low heat then turn the heat off. Stir in the flour, followed by all the other dry ingredients. Finally, add the egg. Mix it well to a paste the consistency of peanut butter. Pull off bits of the dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Flatten the top and lay them all out of a greased baking tray or on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Bake for 12min at 180 degrees C.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Roasted purple carrot and sage soup, and earth-mothering

I am doing my own brand of earth-mothering right now. I can't quite bring myself to use cloth nappies, but I am washing my bubba in camomile water and using the most eco friendly, natural products possible. I'm probably not going to do prolonged breastfeeding, yet I am still doing it at 5 months and will try to keep going for the rest of the year (though that's not to say formula won't get introduced at some point too). I guess I am trying to be as much of an earth-mother as I can without making my life too inconvenient. I think that's a fair compromise. I do dream of living somewhere more green and growing my own organic fruit and vegetables, but for now this is just a dream while we survive our first year in busy Hackney. Luckily, we do have some (over-priced) organic shops here now. This is where I found my purple carrots for this earthy soup.
Roast the purple carrots with a handful of sage leaves, some rapeseed oil and Maldon sea salt on 200 degrees C for about 20min. Reserve a few crispy sage leaves for decoration and blend everything else with some good quality stock (I used chicken stock). Return to the pan and season with more sea salt, white pepper and mustard powder. Serve with a dollop of soured cream, some alfafa sprouts and those crispy sage leaves you put aside.

Ingredients (serves 2)

6 purple carrots
500ml chicken or vegetable stock 
Handful sage leaves
Rapeseed oil for roasting
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Sea salt and white pepper
Soured cream to serve
Alfafa sprouts to serve

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Quinoa, spinach and almond salad with orange and cinnamon dressing

I spent my pregnancy cooking and eating Polish food: practicing my dumpling making; stuffing my face with caramel and cream and cookie dough; making many, many doughnuts (three times in the space of 2 months) and generally re-working my favourite recipes. The book is coming out in July, now there's a stubborn stone sitting on my hips and penance. But penance doesn't have to be unpleasant. I won't lie, the beginning is hard, but it becomes more enjoyable with time. Both the exercise and the food. Tracey Anderson is getting (marginally) easier to handle and I'm remembering my favourite healthy recipes. This crunchy salad has a Middle-Eastern flavour and doesn't make you feel like you are doing penance at all. Ok, so it's not cardamon-custard seductively wrapped in choux pastry (it's in the book, you'll love it), but it is flavour packed none-the-less.

300g cooked quinoa
Handful fresh spinach, chopped
50g almond flakes, toasted
1 carrot, grated


Juice of 1 small orange
2 tablespoons olive oil
Large pinch of cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste

Tuesday 3 May 2016

4 month sleep regression, a different approach

Ah the dreaded 4 month sleep regression, turning our perfect sleepers into... not so perfect sleepers. I feel uncomfortable with a lot of the advice I've read online: move your baby into another room now; leave the baby alone to cry; holding baby is a negative habit we need to break... I'm sure it works for some but at what cost? Of course, we all love to sleep (especially when sleep is what's lacking), yet as my Greek friend pointed out when I was still pregnant and he was surviving on 4 hours a night with a 7 month old: "we used to not sleep at night for stupid reasons, at least this a very good reason to not sleep". So, I'm doing the opposite of what I've read and when she wakes up, I bring the bubba into bed with me. Controversial. I even nurse her a few times in the night. Whenever she wants in fact. Why? Because I want to show her that I am here for her during the hard times. Of course at some point she can have her own bedroom, but I'm not going to push her away just because she's being needy. Less controversially, I have also brought her bedtime forward by an hour and I'm making sure she gets 2 naps during the day. These things are not only helping me get more sleep, but, more importantly, the bubba is not getting upset when she wakes up anymore. The sleep regression is annoying for her too and I feel like she needs my support more - not less - during this difficult moment. It's only been a couple of nights of improvement, so whether my tactics work longterm or not remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, I feel good doing this and Delfi feels better too. We are in Eastbourne at the moment with my folks, while my partner is away filming. The change of environment could have been what kicked off this regression. I'm glad, as it has motivated us to find a more appropriate schedule and to teach my daughter a sense of trust.
I know, I know, this is supposed to be a food blog, but I just wanted to express a different perspective on the 4 month sleep regression, without shoe-horning a recipe into it. Thank you and goodnight.