Choccywoccydoodah: Chocolate, Cake & Curses (Preface) – Book Review

Choccywoccydoodah lowres

COMPETITION

I have one copy of Choccywoccydoodah: Chocolate, Cake & Curses to give away. I’ll even throw in a copy of Chocolate Modelling Cake Toppers by Ramla Khan in case you want to get super creative. Just Like on the ComfortablyHungry Facebook page (not the post on this write up) to enter.

Terms & Conditions

  • Sorry I can only accept entries from people who live in the UK.
  • Closing date: midnight on 3 April 2015.
Celebration Refrigerator Cake

Celebration Refrigerator Cake

Being a frequent visitor to Brighton I have long been enthralled by the breathtaking displays in the Choccywoccydoodah shop. Brash, unconventional and occasionally a tad ghoulish (around Halloween at any rate) their designs appeal to my fascination with all things quirky.

What is the essence of the book?

Opening this book was something of a new experience for me. I’ve read plenty of food memoirs that include recipes but never anything quite like this. Imagine reading Grimm’s tale of Hansel and Grettel with a recipe for the gingerbread house at the end. It’s loud, proud and outlandishly colourful, just like their famous creations. A word of warning though. If you’re expecting a tome on how to recreate their designs then you will be sorely disappointed. This is a book that celebrates chocolate and cake. It is not an instruction manual.

About the author

Christine Taylor is the co-founder of Choccywoccydoodah which she established over 20 years ago with Christine Garratt. This is their story about how the idea for a chocolate shop was conceived with the aid of a bottle of gin, hard slog and, it has to be said, a great deal of talent.

Who will like it?

Chocoholics and fans of their TV series’ (the last of which apparently had over 2 million viewers world wide) will love it. If you have a sweet tooth and like things that are slightly left-field then this will be right up your street.

Who won’t like it?

If you are of a more staid disposition preferring things to be in black in white (quite literally) and lack a sweet tooth then it’s probably best to steer clear. As Christine states “Anyone who doesn’t celebrate with cake won’t be reading this book.”

Choccy Chestnut Roulade

Choccy Chestnut Roulade

What do I like about the book?

It has quite an unconventional feel to it. The edges of the pages are rough and unfinished, which I rather like. Subtle it isn’t but the garishness of the illustrations is most definitely needed in a book that would have been very brown (and very dull looking) without them. For the most part, the recipes are straightforward and easy to follow meaning that kids will adore using it as well.

What do I dislike about the book?

OK, I get that this book is about spreading the magic of chocolate and making dreams come true but frankly there is a bit too much talk of fairy dust, princesses and other worldliness for my liking.

Would I cook from it?

Christine says “chocolate and I quickly established ourselves as life long friends, mutually committed to bringing pleasure to those around us.”

I would describe chocolate as more of an acquaintance. I don’t mind chocolate and have had many pleasurable experiences with the brown stuff. But frankly I can take it or leave it. I like this book because (fairy tales aside) it’s fun and different. Would I cook from it personally? Probably not. It would, however, make a cracking Easter gift for a chocolate lover.

Where can you buy it?

Choccywoccydoodah: Chocolate, Cake and Curses (Hardcover) £25 from Amazon.

Dark Stuff

Dark Stuff

 

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Boiled Fruit Cake

Spring cleaning (or any sort of cleaning for that matter) is something I know I should do more often but rarely can muster any enthusiasm for it. It’s usually something that gets done when ‘needs must’ i.e. when I can no longer find anything in the ‘organised’ chaos I work in. At various times during the year my larder reaches the point where there is no room for an anchovy fillet let alone a sardine and the contents have to be reassessed. This is when I discover half full jars of chutney’s and the like that are bordering on antique so far are they from their use by date. There is also invariably an array of dried fruit which is begging to be used before it reaches a state of permanent mummification. This recipe is perfect for just that. It’s adapted from a recipe my mother has been making for years. Don’t be put off by the title. It’s actually very light and not in the least bit stodgy (despite what the name may imply). It’s incredibly quick and easy to make and great for recharging the batteries after a bout of spring cleaning.

Boiled Fruit Cake

Makes 1 23cm square cake (about 8 – 10 generous slices)

Ingredients

  • 240g dried fruit (any will do but chop larger fruit like figs, dates, apricots and prunes into smaller pieces)
  • 140g light brown sugar
  • 70g runny honey
  • 230ml milk
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • zest of an orange (unless you are using mixed fruit that already contains peel)
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • A little caster or Demerara sugar for decoration (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160℃. Grease and line a 23cm square brownie tin or a 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Put the fruit, sugar, honey, milk, butter and orange zest (if using) into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
  3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into the boiled fruit mixture. Mix together thoroughly then add the ground almonds followed by the eggs.
  4. Spoon into the prepared tine and bake for 30-35 minutes (possibly a bit longer if using a 20cm round tin) or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Allow to cool for a while in the tin before transferring to a cooling rack. Sprinkle with caster or Demerara sugar before serving.
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Coffee, Walnut & Cardamom Cake

Serves 8 – 10

Coffee Walnut & Cardamom Cake close up

Ingredients

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder mixed with 2 tbsp crème fraîche or Greek natural yoghurt
  • 200g walnut or pecan pieces
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened (for the icing)
  • 350g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp espresso powder mixed with 1 – 2 tsp boiling water
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom (for the icing)
  • 2 – 3 tsp Greek natural yoghurt

Coffee Walnut & Cardamom Cake slice 1

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃. Butter and line the bases of two 20cm, loose bottomed cake tins.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and 1 tsp ground cardamom into a bowl. Stir in the ground almonds.
  3. Cream the 225g of the butter and 225g of the golden caster sugar until light and fluffy (I do this in my Kitchen Aid or using an electric whisk). Break in the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition then gradually beat in the flour mixture (if you are using an electric food mixer make sure you reduce the speed before you start adding the flour).
  4. Add the coffee and crème fraîche mix then fold in 100g of the walnut pieces.
  5. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for around 25 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before icing.Coffee Walnut & Cardamom Cake overhead
  6. While the cake is cooking, heat the caster sugar and water in a small pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and caramelised. As soon as the sugar has turned to a nutty caramel colour, remove from the heat then add 50g of the walnut pieces and quickly stir to coat the nuts in caramel. Pour onto a greased or lined baking sheet (I use a silicone liner) then allow to cool and set.
  7. In a food processor combine 150g butter with the icing sugar, coffee and water mix, ½ tsp ground cardamom, 50g walnut pieces and 2 tbsp Greek natural yoghurt. Process until you have a thick paste (add a little more yoghurt if the mixture is too firm). The buttercream should be spreading consistency but not runny.
  8. Once the cake has cooled spread half of the buttercream on one cake. Put the other cake on top of the buttercream to create a cake sandwich then spread the remaining icing on top of this cake. Place the caramelised nuts in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin to light crush them. Don’t go mad! You want a variety of rough pieces not a finely ground powder. Sprinkle the crushed nuts over the top of the cake and enjoy a slice with a nice cup of tea!

Coffee Walnut & Cardamom Cake slice 2

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Venice: Recipes Lost & Found (Hardie Grant)

VENICE_COVER_FINAL.indd

I always think a good gauge of how truly authentic a foreign cookery book is can be discerned by the reaction of one of it’s fellow nationals.

“Ooo! Carnival sweets,” exclaimed my Italian sister-in-law as she leafed through my copy of Venice: Recipes Lost and Found. The ‘sweets’ she was referring to are actually frittelle, doughnuts filled with an almond cream ubiquitous in Venice around Mardi Gras (“‘Feed me these on a daily basis and I will be yours forever’” muses Katie Caldesi in her intro to the recipe). My sister-in-law knows and loves the food from her homeland so if she is impressed by an Italian cookbook then it must be good and authentic.

GH9A8731CaldesiVenice

What is the essence of the book?

Unlike generic Italian cookbooks Venice focuses on the cuisine of one of the world’s most romantic cities. What makes this book particularly interesting is that it takes it’s inspiration from the past as well as the present revealing some surprising influences along the way.

About the authors

Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi have been teaching students how to cook Italian food at their cookery school, La Cucina Caldesi, in London for more than 15 years. Having met them both it’s obvious they are very passionate about food and cooking. I imagine their cooking courses are bucket loads of fun. They also run Caffe Caldesi in London and Caldesi in Compagna in Bray.

Who will like it?

Anyone who wants to find out more about Italian regional cooking particularly if you also have an interest in culinary history.

Who won’t like it?

If you’re looking for a basic entry level how to make pizza and pasta book then this isn’t for you.

What do I like about the book?

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m a sucker for anything to do with food history. For me the recipes were refreshingly new (albeit old – if that makes sense!). I had no idea about the influence the spice trade had on Venetian cooking until I read this book. It’s extremely well written – Katie has an excellent way with words which live up to the enticing pictures and recipes they support. I also like the fact that there are some delicious vegetarian recipes in here such as Fantastic Cheese, Spinach & Leek Pie (yes, it really is!).

What do I dislike about the book?

Personally, I love it as it ticks all of my boxes in terms of its historical and recipe content. Although there are some straightforward recipes in the book I still think it would appeal to the more adventurous cook rather than the novice. That said, even if you never attempted to make any of the recipes (which would be a shame) it’s a beautiful book to read.

Would I cook from it?

I’d be mad not to! The Chicken with Ginger, Dates and Saffron is divine and tastes more like a dish you would expect to find on the Indian sub continent (it’s also featured in the March issue of Sussex Style magazine). So far the recipes I’ve tried have been easy to follow (although perhaps quite lengthy to make) and delicious to eat.

GH9A7724CaldesiVenice

Where can you buy it?

Venice: Recipes Lost & Found is available from Amazon priced £19.99 (RRP £25)

You can see the recipe for Venetian Pear Tart from this book here

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Hot Blueberry Oatcakes with Cinnamon Maple Butter

centredinternationalwomensday

I’m abandoning my usual mantra of keeping it seasonal to write this post in support of International Women’s Day (#IWD2015), celebrated annually on 8th March. It has been observed since the early 1900s and is a day where the achievements and rights of women are recognised and celebrated across the globe. As part of the awareness campaign people are being invited to paint their websites, blogs and emails purple for the day. I didn’t fancy getting garbed up as Violet Beauregarde for the occasion but did think that using blueberries (despite not being in season at this time of the year in the UK) would be a fitting tribute. Incidentally, purple was one of the colours adopted by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK to symbolise the plight of the Suffragettes. The colour is thought to signify justice and dignity.

I also have one copy of Share – The Cookbook compiled by Women for Women International to give away. It’s a beautiful book containing over 100 delicious recipes from some of the world’s top chefs and humanitarians such as Aung San Suu Kyi. To enter the draw simply like the Comfortably Hungry Facebook Page (closing date: 13 March 2015).

Hot Blueberry Oatcakes with Cinnamon Maple Butter

Blueberry Oatcakes LR

Makes around 20 – 24 cakes

Ingredients

  • 110g oatmeal (I used Mornflake’s medium oatmeal but you could use fine oatmeal or even rolled oats instead).
  • 300ml milk (I used skimmed but any milk will do)
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 110g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 175g blueberries

Method

  1. Begin this recipe the evening before you plan to make the oatcakes by soaking the oats in the milk overnight.
  2. I also make the butter the evening before. Place 100g softened, unsalted butter with 3 tbsp maple syrup (you could use a little more syrup if you have a really sweet tooth) and the ground cinnamon into a small food processor then mix until combined. Alternatively, place these ingredients in a small bowl and cream together with a wooden spoon. I like to spoon this mixture onto a piece of clingfilm so that I can roll it into a sausage shape. This makes it easy to slice ready to go onto the hot oatcakes in the morning. Refrigerate until the next day.
  3. The following morning pre-heat a griddle or large, non stick frying pan over a medium high heat. While the griddle is heating up place the oat mixture, flour, baking powder, eggs, caster sugar and melted butter into a blender or food processor then blend until combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.
  4. Spoon 1 – 2 table spoons of the oatcake mix onto the hot griddle. This will spread to give you a cake around 8 – 10cm in diameter. Feel free to make them larger if you wish (you’ll just wind up with fewer oatcakes). Be warned, including the blueberries seems to make these unevenly shaped cakes but clearly their appearance doesn’t affect their flavour (and who seriously wants to be messing around with perfect circles at breakfast time?). When you see little bubbles rising and bursting on the surface of the oatcakes it’s time to flip them over. Leave them for a minute or two to finish cooking then remove them from the griddle. Keep the oatcakes warm in a low oven, covered with foil to prevent them drying out, while you use up the rest of the batter. Serve warm with a thick slice of the cinnamon maple butter melting on top.
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The Gingerman Reboot – In Pictures

I arrived at the Gingerman in Brighton’s Norfolk Square arm in arm with my hunger expecting my taste buds to be indulged. And indulged they were with a sumptuous four course lunch to celebrate the new look Gingerman. The interior of Ben McKellar’s flagship restaurant is perhaps a little less formal than its previous incarnation but the food is still top notch.  Dishes brimming with flavour and flair were impeccably paired with wines from Bibendum and effortlessly served by the Gingerman’s staff. One fellow diner commented that surely a Michelin star would be shooting in McKellar’s direction soon. Now that would be a coup so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

IMG_0795Chicken Wing, Parfait, Chou Farci, Sweetbread, Mushrooms and Honey Brioche – Served with Grillo Parlance, Fondo Antico

IMG_0797

Hand Dived Scallops with Onion Puree, Salsify, Smoked Bacon, Quail Egg and Sauce Vierge – Served with Milton Riverpoint Viognier

P1010741Pork Fillet with Cheek, Belly, Crispy Ear, Cauliflower, Smoked Potato and Brie Croquette – Served with Bolney Estate Pinot Noir and Huia Pinot Noir

P1010743

Passion Fruit Souffle with Mango and Meringue – Served with Moscato d’Asti, Vietti

 

 

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Blood Orange Tart

Serves 8 – 10
Blood Orange Tart LR

 As featured in the March 2015 issue of Sussex Style magazine.

Ingredients – Pastry

  • 150g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds or ground hazelnuts
  • 100g cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 large egg

Ingredients – Filling

  • 100g soft unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 130g ground almonds or ground hazelnuts
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • Juice and zest from two blood oranges plus one blood orange, segmented (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method

  1. To make the pastry place the flour, almonds or hazelnuts, butter, icing sugar and lemon zest in a food processor. Process until combined. Add the egg then process again until a smooth ball of dough is formed. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200℃. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of around 3 – 5mm. Line a deep 23cm loose bottomed flan tin. Cover the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake for 10 mins then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5 mins. Remove the tart case from the oven and reduce the temperature to 150℃.
  3. For the filling beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks followed by the almonds or hazelnuts, juices and orange zest. It doesn’t look very pretty at this stage but it will sort itself out when it cooks!
  4. In a separate, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until the stiff peak stage. Fold these into the orange and nut mixture then pour the filling into the pre-baked tart case. If you like you can use the additional orange segments to decorate the top of the tart. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35 – 45 mins until just set. Leave to cool and serve at room temperature or cold.

Blood Orange Tart Slice LR

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Review of Spoonfuls of Honey by Hattie Ellis (Pavilion Books)

9781909108295

I’ve be contemplating becoming a bee keeper for some time now. I recently read that in medieval times “bees were believed to be holy and virginal and able to whisper in God’s ear”*. Not that I consider myself particularly holy and with two children to call my own I can hardly lay claim to the latter. But there is something quite tranquil and unselfish about the honeybee in spite of their tireless productivity so I can see why they were dubbed with these religious characteristics.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Bilton household is less convinced than me of the merits of the bee so there are no hives on the horizon for the foreseeable future. What we do all agree on, whole heartedly, is our love of honey, the product of these industrious creatures. Thanks to Hattie Ellis there is a new cookbook devoted to the culinary uses for this nectar beyond spreading it on your toast. Hopefully, the more I cook from this book I will gradually be able to persuade my brood to see the benefits of keeping bees for ourselves. Fingers crossed.

*The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black

What is the essence of the book?

The clue is in the name. This is a cookbook containing recipes based around a single ingredient, the humble jar of honey. The first section is a potted guide to the sticky stuff from the A – Z of Honey through to Honey and Health. Eighty delicious recipes follow on from this with suggestions for breakfast dishes through to tea time treats.

About the author

What Hattie Ellis doesn’t know about honey probably isn’t worth knowing. Spoonfuls of Honey is a natural follow on from her in depth look at the history of honey and the honeybee, Sweetness & Light. She also happens to be an acclaimed author and received both the Guild of Food Writers Food Book of the Year and the Miriam Polunin Award Best Book on Healthy Eating in 2013 for What to Eat: 10 Chewy Questions About Food. Spoonfuls of Honey has been shortlisted for the André Simon Book Awards 2014.

Who will like it?

Although this isn’t being marketed as a health book it would probably appeal to anyone looking for alternative, yet natural, sweeteners to sugar (although the recipes in Spoonfuls do not eschew sugar entirely). And of course anyone who adores honey.

Who won’t like it?

The book does contain plenty of savoury recipes but each with a sweet edge to them. Therefore, if you don’t have a sweet tooth then this probably isn’t for you.

What do I like about the book?

I love it’s sense of adventure. The recipes take you on a virtual world tour in a time machine. So you could be reading a recipe for Roman Honey Baked Ham one minute then one for a Roast Grouse with a Honey, Blackberry and Whisky Sauce the next. Hattie has an eloquent way with words so the first section of the book is a particular pleasure to read.

What do I dislike about the book?

I’ve ruminated over this question for a while but honestly I can’t think of anything that I dislike about it. But then I am a bit of a geek when it comes to cookbooks…

Would I cook from it?

Already have. The Honey Cinnamon Buns were a big hit in our house as were the Honey Oat Cookies. The Sweet ’n’ Hot Jerk Chicken Wings are up next closely followed by the fig tart below

Where can you buy it?

Spoonfuls of Honey is currently available on Amazon priced £16.59 (RRP £20)

Fig and Honey Frangipane Tart 

Serves 6 

05.fig and honey tart 2

Ingredients

  • 8 fresh or dried figs (or 4 fresh and 4 dried)
  • 60g/2¼oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp honey (a fragrant heather or greek honey works well), plus 2½ tbsp honey, to glaze
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or rum
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g/1¾oz ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • single cream or custard, to serve
  • pastry
  • 70g/2½oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 30g/1oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method

  1. First make the pastry. You can do this quickly in a food processor by pulsing the flour, salt and butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then adding the egg and pulsing until the dough comes together in a ball, adding a little cold water if necessary. To make the pastry by hand, put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg using a round-bladed knife, adding a little cold water if needed, to bring the dough together into a ball. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. If using dried figs, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes.
  3. Heavily dust a work surface with flour. Dust your rolling pin and the top of the dough and roll out to form a large thin disc, about 25cm/10in in diameter, giving it a quarter-turn every few rolls to keep it even. Use the rolling pin to carefully lift the pastry into a 20cm/8in round loose-bottomed tart tin.
  4. Gently push the pastry into the sides of the tin and trim off the edges. Chill for 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Put a baking sheet into the centre of the oven. You do not precook this pastry and the heat of the baking sheet will help the bottom to cook through.
  6. Mix the butter and honey together using a hand-held electric whisk or a food processor – or by beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add the brandy and eggs and stir in well. Fold in the ground almonds and flour. Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture into the pastry case and spread evenly.
  7. Cut the figs in half, removing any stalks, and arrange on top of the frangipane mixture.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes. Turn down the oven to 160°C/325°F/ Gas 3 and cook for a further 15–20 minutes. If the pastry looks as if it is burning, cover the edge of the tart with foil. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, gently heat the honey for the glaze. When the tart is slightly cool, remove from the tin and put on a serving plate. Brush the honey generously all over the top to give it a gleaming finish.
  10. Serve warm or cold, with single cream or crème anglaise, flavoured with a touch of brandy, if you like.
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Persimmon, Walnut & Brillat Savarin Salad with a Pomegranate Dressing

Seasonal fruit is a little thin on the ground in Britain during the winter months. It is an austere time of the year when you can be forgiven for looking beyond our shores for a natural sugar hit. Thankfully, our days are brightened by golden globes of various citrus fruit and the lesser appreciated persimmons.

Persimmons in a bowl LRThe persimmons you will most likely find in your neighbourhood supermarket are likely to be the variety grown in Israel. They are also known as Sharon fruit named after the valley in which they grow. These make economical eating (although not in terms of the monetary value ascribed to them) as they can be eaten whole skin, seeds and all. A deep amber in colour they look rather like a sungold cherry tomato on steroids topped with a papery, brown cap. They have a unique flavour but if I were pushed I would say they fall somewhere between a plum and an apricot (although not as juicy as the former).

Their firm texture means they slice well and can easily be incorporated into a salad. I have paired them here with a rich and creamy Brillat Savarin cheese and tossed in some walnuts for added texture. The piquancy of the pomegranate molasses prevents this combination from becoming cloying and the pomegranate seeds are aesthetically pleasing but also add another textural dimension. They’re not essential so leave them out if you like.

Incidentally, a lightly chilled sparkling white or rose wine, such as Ridgeview’s Victoria, is an excellent drinking partner for this dish.

Persimmons & cheese salad LRServes 4 as a light lunch or starter

Ingredients

  • 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tbsp walnut oil ( or more olive oil)
  • 2tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic crushed with a little sea salt
  • Pinch of sugar (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 200g Brillat Savarin cheese (not too ripe – it shouldn’t be trying to escape from the fridge) or a mild goats cheese
  • 2-3 ripe persimmons
  • 200g mixed salad leaves
  • 100g walnut pieces (or halves roughly chopped)
  • Pomegranate seeds to garnish (optional – the seeds from one pomegranate should be ample but you can buy pre-packed pomegranate seeds in some supermarkets)

Method

  1. To make the dressing put the oils, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and crushed garlic in a small jar. Replace the lid and shake vigorously until combined. Test a little to check the seasoning. Add salt and pepper according to taste and a pinch of sugar if it’s a little sharp. You can make this up to a day ahead if you like.
  2. For the salad, cut the cheese into 1cm cubes (I don’t bother removing the exterior of the cheese). Wash the persimmons and slice off the end with the stalk then cut into quarters. Cut the quarters into slices (roughly 4-5 per quarter). This stage can be done an hour or two in advance.
  3. Place the salad leaves in a large bowl and pour over 2 – 3tbsp of the well shaken dressing. Toss to coat then divide between 4 shallow bowls or plates. (You can pour the rest of the dressing into a jug and serve separately for those who prefer to drench their salad).
  4. Arrange the persimmon segments in a circular pattern on top of the leaves with the pointed edge facing outwards. In the centre of the fruit circle place some of the cubed cheese. Scatter with walnuts and pomegranate seeds if using. Serve immediately.
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Don’t mention the D word – A review of Gut Gastronomy

We are well and truly ensconced into January now. For most of us the remnants of our Christmas over indulgence (mince pies, cake and alcohol) have disappeared. Your thoughts may be gliding towards eating more healthily or perhaps even a diet.

Diet, closely followed by Detox, are words I have grown to abhor. Diet’s are invariably wacky short term fixes whose results disappear as quickly as a plate of chocolate digestives at a fat fighters meeting. And who seriously enjoys drinking an endless procession of disgustingly gloopy “good for you” juices in an effort to cleanse their digestive system?

That said, there are obvious benefits in eating more healthily particularly after the seasonal excesses of December. When I received the press release regarding Gut Gastronomy I was sufficiently intrigued by the title to find out more about it.

Gut Gastronomy jacket

What is the book about?

In a nutshell, Gut Gastronomy is designed to help revive your digestive system through a series of alterations to your diet, such as the elimination of caffeine, dairy products and alcohol by following a 21 day plan. The aim is to improve your overall health by “cleansing and healing the digestive system to make it more efficient, improving elimination, reducing fluid retention and alleviating bloating and inflammation”.

Crucially it is not a diet book in the common parlance of the word although the authors do claim that the plan can aid in weight loss by improving the function of your gut.

Who wrote the book?

Gut Gastronomy is based on a food plan devised by Elaine Williams and Stephanie Moore of Grayshott Manor (a spa hotel in Surrey). The book has been written by Vicki Edgson, a practising nutritional therapist and Adam Palmer the Consultant Executive Chef at Grayshott Manor.

Who will like it?

Anyone who feels a bit ‘blear’ post Christmas but who doesn’t want to go on an extreme juice diet will probably like this book particularly if you’re a keen cook looking for some healthy, innovative recipes. It will also appeal to you if you have an inkling that you may suffer from a food intolerance which perhaps is preventing you from losing weight.

Who won’t like it?

Coffee addicts and wine connoisseurs will probably take some persuading to follow the plan as caffeine and alcohol are strictly verboten! Vegetarians are unlikely to be wowed by it as most of the everyday recipes contain meat or fish (although there are some lovely veggie based soups like Red Lentil, Apricot & Preserved Lemon). If you dislike cooking with a vengence then this book definitely isn’t for you (the recipes look quite chefy which is not surprising considering one of the authors is a classically trained chef).

What do I like about the book?

This is the kind of cookbook that makes me salivate. The recipes are beautifully photographed, sound delicious and absolutely don’t read like diet recipes. This last point is greatly helped by the fact that no calorie content is listed for each recipe (which granted isn’t going to be very helpful if you are counting the calories). If I’m going to give up my beloved coffee and wine I don’t want to be reminded of the calorific sacrifices I am making to boot! The authors also provide easy to understand explanations for why the gut may be malfunctioning and clearly outline the benefits of the food items you are allowed to eat and the overall tone of the book is not too preachy. The plan also includes an element of fasting which seems a lot more practical than the 5:2 diet (you fast overnight and skip breakfast rather than lunch on two days a week) and there are follow up recipes provided for after you have completed the initial 21 days (see the Pea, Feta and Sesame lollipop recipe below).

What do I dislike about the book?

If you want to follow the plan in Gut Gastronomy to the letter the you need to make sure you have plenty of time on your hands. A lot of the recipes require lengthy preparation such as the fasting broth which literally takes hours to cook. However, many of the recipes can be made in bulk and frozen for use later on, which is a boon.

Some recipes require specialist equipment e.g. a dehydrator like the Beetroot, Horseradish and Seed Crackers although alternative methods for achieving the same results are provided. You’ll also need to invest in some specialist ingredients such as coconut flour which may not be readily available from a supermarket. This could make following the plan an expensive exercise.

Would I cook from it?

Definitely. The recipes sound and look delicious and actually don’t scream abstinence although I would need to make some adjustments to the suggested plan to make it fit into our lifestyle.

Where can you buy it?

Gut Gastronomy officially releases on 15th January and is published by Jacqui Small (@JacquiSmallPub) www.jacquismallpub.com. Available from Amazon price £20.40.

 Pea, feta & sesame lollipops with mint yoghurt sauce

GG_Pea, feta & sesame lollipops

Serves 4

For the lollipops:

  • 250g (8oz/2 cups) cooked garden peas
  • 125g (4oz) feta cheese
  • 10g (½oz) mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 30g (1¼oz/¼ cup) grated Parmesan
  • 2 organic free-range egg yolks
  • ½ tsp chilli powder 30g (1¼oz/¼ cup)
  • gram (chick pea) flour sesame seeds, for sprinkling
  • 60g (2½oz) coconut oil

For the radish salad:

  • 1 tsp hazelnut oil
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • ½ tsp local runny honey
  • 60g (2½oz) radishes, thinly sliced
  • 10 mint leaves, finely shredded

For the mint yoghurt sauce:

  • 100ml (3½fl oz) Greek-style yoghurt
  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • pinch of saffron
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • ½ tsp local runny honey

Use a stick blender to blend the peas, feta cheese, mint, fresh chilli, Parmesan, egg yolks and chilli powder. The mixture does not need to be really smooth – a few lumps are fine. Pour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the gram flour to tighten up the mixture.

With your hands, roll pieces of the mixture into 8 equal-sized balls. Flatten them a little and skewer with a lollipop stick. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and arrange them on a plate lined with greaseproof paper. Keep in the fridge until ready to cook.

Make the radish salad: whisk together the oil, vinegar and honey to make a dressing for the radishes. Toss lightly with the radishes and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle with the shredded mint.

Make the mint yoghurt sauce: gently stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Do not whisk them as the yoghurt will break up and become too runny.

To cook the lollipops, heat the coconut oil in a small pan and then shallow-fry them, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and hot in the centre. Serve the lollipops on the radish salad with the mint yoghurt sauce in a side dish for dipping.

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