Breakfast, Dips and spreads

Pear Butter

pearbutter2

I love the magic quality of this recipe, in which just one ingredient – pears – cook in a bit of water until they are completely transformed.  The result is a naturally sweet spread perfect for toast or pancakes, or stirred into some natural yogurt.  It is also a great way to use up any pears that are less than perfect or slightly past their prime.

This is good fun to make with children. They can chop the pears and stir the pot, and will be amazed at how cooking can completely change an ingredient.

Pear Butter

4 large pears or 6 medium (about 1.2 kg total)

200 ml water

Core and chop the pears, but do not peel them, and put in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until pears are tender, about 1 hour.

Once the pears have softened, remove the lid and continue cooking for another 2-3 hours, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is smooth and brown and there is no visible liquid. You will need to stir more frequently towards the end of cooking, to avoid scorching.

Cool to room temperature and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate.

 

Breakfast, Dips and spreads

Blueberry Chia Jam

blueberrychiajam

Happy new year! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and had a good break. To get started cooking in 2016, I am sharing a recipe that we will be making in my GAPS For Breakfast workshop next week. This workshop is now sold out – sorry! – but I will be holding it again in April 2016. Details of other upcoming workshops are in the sidebar or on my Events page.

Chia seeds are not only loaded with nutrients, but also very versatile in cooking. For those with an egg allergy, chia seeds can be used as an egg substitute. Chia seeds can be used to make a delicious gluten-free porridge. And here they are used to make a pan of runny fruit set into a jam, without the added sugar of traditional jam. Instead I have just added a touch of honey for sweetness. Chia jam is also incredibly quick to make compared to traditional jam, which is more of a “project”. I hope you enjoy it!

Blueberry Chia Jam

300 g fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons chia seeds

½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Yield – one small jam jar

Put the blueberries and honey in a pan and heat on the hob stirring frequently, until the blueberries have burst and the liquid is boiling. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chia seeds and cook for another 10 minutes, continuing to stir.

When the jam has thickened, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Taste and add more honey if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate. Keeps for up to one week.

 

Side dishes

Autumn Slaw with Honey-Ginger Dressing

slaw

The children have only just gone back to school but already it feels like winter is on its way. It has been rainy with grey skies these past few days, and there are already flus and coughs and colds going around. This crunchy Asian-inspired slaw is a wonderful source of immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C, but is also a riot of bright and zingy flavors and colors – just the thing to ward away the germs and cheer up a dreary evening.

We had this slaw last night with pulled pork wraps, a family favorite. But just add some leftover roast chicken or poached salmon, and you have a main course salad. It is also a great lunchbox option, as the flavors actually improve from resting for a couple of hours (but check whether your school’s allergy policy allows sesame seeds).

The inspiration for this recipe came from Jenny Rosentrach’s Dinner: The Playbook. In her “30 day plan for mastering the art of the family meal”, Jenny sets out a foolproof plan for getting family dinners on the table every night. Although not that many recipes in the book are allergy-friendly, it’s a good read if you struggle to get organized at dinner-time or just need to shake things up in your dinner rotation. Jenny also blogs at Dinner: A Love Story.

Autumn Slaw with Honey-Ginger Dressing

For the dressing:

1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar if you are not on GAPS)

1 tablespoon fish sauce (look for a sugar-free version if you are on GAPS, such as Vietnamese Phu Quoc Fish Sauce)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons honey

For the salad:

1/2 head of red cabbage, finely shedded (I use my Oxo Mandoline slicer for this)

3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks

25 g baby spinach (a small handful), stems removed and finely shredded

10 snow peas, strings removed and sliced on the diagonal

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a large salad bowl and whisk well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I find I don’t usually need to add salt as the fish sauce is salty).

Add the salad ingredients and toss. Serve immediately or chill for up to 6 hours.

Jenny Rosenstrach’s tip: “If you are afraid your kids won’t touch it, separate out the elements you are sure they will like and reserve some dressing for them as a dip”. Sounds sensible to me!

Side dishes

Quinoa salad with broad beans, avocado and cucumber

quinoasalad

I absolutely love broad beans (favas), and get very excited when they are in season. The other day I picked up some young fresh broad beans from Natoora that were absolutely tiny and tender, and made this quinoa salad, which pairs well with grilled lamb or poached salmon.

Although I have been making quinoa for years, this time I tried Gwyneth Paltrow‘s technique for perfectly cooked quinoa – the trick is to use a paper towel to catch excess moisture – and it did come out perfectly cooked. Thanks Gwyneth!

Quinoa salad with broad beans, avocado and cucumber

175 g uncooked quinoa

400 ml water

750 g broad beans in the pod

1 ripe avocado

1/2 cucumber

a small handful of chives

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Serves 6 as a side dish.

Start by preparing the quinoa as it will need time to cool. Rinse the quinoa, then place in a pan with the water and a pinch of salt, and bring to the boil on the hob. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes – until all of the water has been absorbed by the quinoa. Take the pan off the heat, and place a paper towel between the pan and the lid. Leave this for 5 minutes to absorb any excess moisture, then fluff with a fork. Tip the cooked quinoa onto a large plate and spread out as thinly as possible, then leave it to cool to room temperature.

To prepare the broad beans, begin by opening each pod and removing the beans. Toss the beans into a pan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, then plunge the cooked beans into a bowl of cold water. Pop each bean out of its outer skin, and they are ready to eat.

Peel and dice the avocado and cucumber, and combine in a bowl with the broad beans and quinoa. Whisk together the oil and vinegar with a bit of salt and add to the salad. Sprinkle chopped chives on top and serve.

Snacks

Mushroom chips

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I love popping into my local Japanese supermarket and coming out with a complete impulse purchase. This week it was these very elegant yet substantial-looking mushrooms, labelled “Eringi”.

mushroomswhole

When I got home and googled Eringi, I realized these were the elusive King Oyster mushrooms (pleurotus eryngii) I had been looking for to make a recipe that caught my eye on the Nom Nom Paleo blog. Result!

After just a few minutes of prep using a mandoline, these went in the oven to cook until crispy. The finished chips deliver a very intense umami flavor. My mushroom-loving daughter was delighted with the chips, and I can confirm they made an unusual but delicious aperitif snack with a glass of wine.

mushroomchips2

Mushroom chips (adapted from a Nom Nom Paleo recipe)

2 king oyster mushrooms (about 200g) – or any other large mushroom such as portobello

1 tablespoon ghee, melted – or the cooking oil/fat of your choice

salt and pepper

Serves 2-4 as a light snack

Preheat your oven to to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel and dry carefully. Cut each mushroom in half lengthwise, then slice lengthwise using a mandoline on the thinnest setting.

Place the mushroom slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Brush lightly with the melted ghee, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

The chips will need about 60 minutes in the oven, but start checking after 45 minutes. When done, the chips should be completely crispy – there were a few slightly soft chips that I had to put back in the oven for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove from the baking sheet and blot on some paper towel, then serve immediately.

Breads and crackers

Sesame seed crackers

crackerstack

Happy new year! I wish you all a happy and healthy 2015.

My kids just went back to school today, and I had a great day doing some baking while listening to Serial (which I highly recommend). The breads I am developing are still a work in progress. These grain-free crackers, on the other hand, turned out really well. They are tasty enough to eat plain but also perfect as a base for whatever topping you fancy: sliced avocado, bean dip, nut butter, etc.

Perfect for an after-school snack.

crackerrack

Sesame seed crackers (adapted from Elana’s Pantry)

300 g ground almonds

100 g sesame seeds (I used half black and half white)

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

Makes approximately 80 crackers in two batches.

Preheat your oven to to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the ground almonds, sesame seeds and sea salt in a bowl.

Whisk the eggs and olive oil together, then add to the dry ingredients. Mix well. The dough will be very dry and crumbly. After initially mixing the dough with a spatula, I found it easier to work the dough with my hands until well blended.

Divide the dough in two half and set one half aside.

Place the other half of the dough on the baking sheet, and cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out thinly between the two sheets of parchment paper. The dough should be evenly rolled out (check there are no holes!) and cover the entire surface of the baking sheet.

Remove the top sheet of baking parchment and cut into squares or rectangles with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.

Bake for 15 minutes, until firm and slightly browned. Cool, then carefully break apart the squares before serving.

Repeat with the other ball of dough, or refrigerate for up to five days before using.