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25 Jan 2015

National Breakfast Week: Banoffee French Toast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it can also be the most exciting.  There's nothing I love more than waking up on a day off and pottering around the kitchen, without a care in the world.  It can be nutritious, set you up for a long day or it can be plain old fun.  Fun breakfasts are my specialty and with this week being National Breakfast Week I thought I'd share a few of my favorites.  Pancakes and waffles and french toast, oh my!

First of all is this unbelievably decedent banoffee french toast.  This one is best kept in the banks for that special occasion, or to get you out of trouble if you've been a naughty girl or boy.  Who can resist these thick slabs of brioche soaked in a maple eggy wash, slathered in caramel and fried bananas?! I'm drooling, you should be too!

Banoffee French Toast
Serves 2
1 loaf brioche, sliced into 2cm thick slices
25ml whole milk
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 glug of maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 bananas, peeled, cut in half and sliced lengthwise
50g soft brown sugar
Small handful of raspberries or blueberries
Butter for frying
Tub of mascarpone cheese
Jar of store bought toffee / caramel sauce
In a large shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Set aside.
Place a large, heavy frying pan over a medium heat and melt a knob of butter, dip your bananas in the brown sugar to coat before adding them to the frying pan.  Cook until lightly caramalised and smelling delicious.
Rinse your pan out and add another knob of butter over a medium heat.  Dredge two slices of brioche in the egg mixture before placing in the hot pan.  Cook until golden brown on both sides.  Do the same with two more slices
To assemble your toast spread one slice with a thick layer of mascarpone, two pieces of caramalised banana and some berries. Repeat with the second layer and drizzle with toffee sauce. Sit back and enjoy.

19 Jan 2015

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Whenever I have to explain the concept of gluten free to a customer in my shop; I'm usually met with a curled lip and a snort of disgust (while I try and contain an eye roll) and attempt to convince them that gluten free is not a dirty cake for sickly people.  If there was ever a cake to convince people that gluten free can be just as good, if not better, than a normal cake then this is it.  

This cake packs a super intense hit of chocolatey, gooey goodness with the added bonus that an actual chimp with a whisk could knock it up in a matter of minutes.  Three ingredients and an oven is all it takes to get this bad boy from your screen to your mouth.  What are you waiting for, get whisking!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 large eggs
450g good quality plain chocolate, chopped
250g unsalted butter, softened

Heat your oven to 160°C and grease the line the bottom and sides of a 8" spring-form cake tin with greaseproof paper.  Wrap the outside of the cake tin with tin foil and place in a large baking tray with high sides.  Fill and boil a kettle, you'll be making a Ban Marie to bake your cake later.

Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer, or use an electric whisk and beat the eggs until doubled in size, this should take around 5-7 minutes.  While your eggs are fluffing up melt together the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.  Once the chocolate is melted fold in half of the egg mixture using a spatula, repeat with the remaining egg until the batter is smooth and streak free.  

Pour the batter into you prepared tin and place it, still inside the baking tray, in the oven.  Being very careful, pour the recently boiled water into the baking tray until it reaches half way up the side of the cake tin.  Bake for 25 minutes until risen and just barely set, it should look a little bit like a chocolate brownie.  Take the cake tin out of the Ban Marie and place in the fridge until completely cooled.

When ready to serve remove the cake pan and carefully peel off the greaseproof paper.  Dust with icing sugar and serve with mixed berries and cream.

12 Jan 2015

Oat and Blueberry Cookie Pies

Do you ever just find yourself daydreaming about cookies? I do, quiet often, more often than I care to admit.  Luckily I have the luxury of using my job as an excuse for my fixation for these sweet treats, in all honesty it's just because I goddamn love a good cookie! 

In my mind these giants were supposed to be adorable little cookies sandwiched with butter cream and jam, nothing more than a mouthful. As you can see, I didn't quite manage the dainty little morsels I set out to make. My inner monologue seemed to take over while I was rolling the dough, 'that's not big enough', was repeating over and over in my head till I eventually ended up with these monstrous cookie pies. 

These babies are super adaptable. Just replace the dried blueberries with whatever you've got on hand, I'm thinking chocolate chips with a peanut butter and Nutella centre next time.

Oat & Blueberry Cookie Pies
Makes 12 - 14 cookies

250g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g porridge oats
150g dried blueberries

150g unsalted butter, softened
100g Philadelphia soft cheese
500g icing sugar
Blueberry jam

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and prepare a baking tray with parchment. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla then, using a wooden spoon, mix in the remaining cookie ingredients.
Roll heaped tablespoons of the mix into balls and place onto your prepared tray leaving a little room for spreading, flatten slightly. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until just golden. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the filling, cream the butter, Philadelphia and icing sugar together, add a splash of milk if a little stiff. Spread over half the cookies followed by a dollop of blueberry jam.  Sandwich with the remaining cookies and enjoy.

7 Jan 2015

Butternut Squash and Gruyere Soup with Spiced Chickpeas

Christmas is over and the goose has gotten fat, and by the goose, I mean me!  A month of eating whatever I like, whenever I like, has left me a bit on the chubby side and craving nutrients. How do I rectify this, with diet and exercise? Why no, have you met me?!  I've just exchanged my ludicrous lunches and mid afternoon snacks with a bowl of homemade soup.  I mean, surely this will help me blitz my muffin top...right??

This is the perfect winter warmer to keep your tummy full and happy.  It packs a good old punch of chilli too, which is never a bad thing.  The roasted spicy chickpeas add a pop of protein and help keep you fuller for longer.  The cheese is simply there because it's nice and I'm greedy, feel free to leave it out if you're wanting to save the calories.

What's your favorite homemade soup to help beat the bulge?

Butternut Squash and Gruyere Soup with Spiced Chickpeas
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
Serves 4

For the Soup:
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
300ml vegetable stock
100g gruyere cheese grated
100ml reduced fat coconut milk, keep some for a drizzle

Spiced Chickpeas:
1 tin of chickpeas, drain and rub them dry in a clean tea towel
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 large pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon

First of all make your chickpeas.  Preheat the oven to 170°C and prepare a large baking tray.  Place your dried chickpeas in a freezer bag and add the oil, close the bag and shake to coat.  Open and repeat the process with the dry spices.  Pour the chickpeas onto the baking tray and roast for 25 minutes.

While the chickpeas are roasting heat the coconut oil over a medium heat in a large pan.  Fry the onions until soft and slightly coloured.  Crush in your garlic cloves and cook for another minute or so.  Tip in the butternut squash and all the spices followed by the vegetable stock and simmer until the squash is tender, around 20 minutes.

Once cooked through transfer everything to a blender and process until smooth and creamy.  Pour back into the pan, stir through the grated cheese until melted before adding the coconut milk.  If the soup is still a little thick add some water until it reaches your desired consistency.  Check your seasoning, heat through and serve with the spiced chickpeas and a drizzle of coconut milk.

22 Dec 2014

Beetroot Brownies

We all know Christmas is about excess, I'm sure I'm not the only person overdosing on mince pies and roast potatoes at the moment.  Even with the promise of never-ending chocolate resources which the festive period brings there's always a little bit of my mind thinking about January.  When your waistline has taking a pounding from all the excess calories January is the time for repentance; cakes and puddings are out, kale and green smoothies are in.  

Even with all the good intentions in the universe we all know eventually we're going to give in, there's only so many times you can resist the biscuit tin.   The only thing to do is anticipate your demise and plan for it.  That's where these beetroot brownies come in.  Now I'm not going to sell these are a health food, even if I've tried to convince myself that they simply must contain one of my five a day.  What these brownies are good for is a nice hit of chocolate with around half the fat of a regular brownie.  Naughty but ever so slightly nicer.  

Just remember, this doesn't mean you can eat twice as much.  Naughty!

Beetroot Brownies

500g pre-cooked beetroot
100g unsalted butter
250g good quality plain chocolate
1tsp vanilla extract
200g light brown sugar
3 large eggs
125g plain flour
25g cocoa powder

Heat oven to 175°C and line a 20cmx30cm baking tray with greaseproof paper, you can also use a disposable foil tray if you're lazy like me.  Place a small saucepan over a low heat and melt the butter, stir in your chocolate and heat slowly till all melted together, remove from heat and set aside.  

Pop your beetroot into a blender and whiz till smooth.  Pour in the chocolate and butter and give another quick whiz to blend everything together.  While getting your blend on mix the sugar, vanilla and eggs together in a stand mixer till creamy and fluffy.  Pour your chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and mix until everything is combined.  Stir through the flour and cocoa and pour the batter into your prepared tin.  Bake for 25 minutes until just set.  Allow to cool completely and cut into squares.  

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