My 100th recipe welcomes in 2018 – Honey you got the yogurt?


Honey you got the yogurt?

The first time I had Greek yogurt was on vacation on the island of Crete the largest Greek island, located at the southern edge of the Aegean Sea. This is going back some 30 years living in the UK, a small island compared to the rest of Europe, but since it was the hub for international travel, it made getting around the globe pretty easy from Heathrow airport.

In my twenties I had itchy feet to travel to Europe to live and taste firsthand the variety of cuisines from France, Spain, Italy and of course Greece to immerse myself in the culture of countries whose cuisine had inspired so many great restaurants around the world. In the 80’s and 90’s, French cuisine still dominated the industry, and young chefs fought for positions in Paris and Lyon to work under the master chefs. For me the next best thing was to travel and spend the next few years on vacation eating my way around a particular area, then choosing other places to broaden my horizons. For my mates it was the beer and girls, the sea, sand and sex vacation, for me it was the culture and the food (don’t get me wrong beer and girls still played a part – believe me).

What excited me the most was to taste my way around a new foreign city or town, sample the local produce, cheese, wine, cured meats, and baked goods. This opened my eyes to a real education you could only get by packing your bags and traveling to a new destination. Meeting the people of that region, being part of their lives for an hour or a day, living in their shoes and absorbing as much information as possible, enlightened my life once I got back home and relived the experiences in my mind, over and over again. Creating new and inventive dishes that one could try on the restaurant menu, giving customers the chance to experience your vacation without leaving the restaurant, but who knows inspiring  them to take the opportunity to fly somewhere new and experience the real thing. To me education is travel and always will be – I’m so pleased I have the travel bug and continue to travel through work and also pleasure, my never-ending bucket list just keeps getting longer with new and interesting places to visit.

So try this yogurt and honey recipe and see if it inspires you to pack your bags and head to Grete, Greece or any of the European counties that are busting with history, fabulous people, food and culture in 2018, Happy New here’s to the best year ever!!!! Travel wise travel safe and enjoy LIFE!!!!

Honey yogurt

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups of mixed fresh fruit, figs, grapes, apples, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, melon, strawberries – your choice

4 mint leaves chopped

2 cups low if fat Greek yogurt

4 tablespoons local honey with honey comb

2 tablespoon pistachio nuts, crushed

How to make:

Take four to go cups or glass bowls, add the fruit, and then scatter over the chopped mint leaves, spoon in equal amounts of yogurt over the fruit. Drizzle with the local honey then top with a small piece of honey comb and crushed pistachio nuts – enjoy!!!!

Gluten-Free Banana Bread


Gluten-Free Banana Bread

One loaf

I can’t remember a day that I didn’t eat a banana. Did you know it’s actually the number one selling fruit in America-kids love them, parents love them, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy biting into the soft creamy texture of that fruit. I’m sure some people don’t like them, but for me a day without eating a banana would be like a day not brushing my teeth. It seems to be part of my daily routine. So I’m always looking for new recipes to try with bananas, especially the ones that get a little over ripe.

I have the perfect job working with food every single day. A big plus is that my job involves developing recipes, and it’s pretty easy to come up with creative ways to use certain ingredients. So, here we go with banana bread, yep I’m sure there are 100’s of banana bread recipes on the web, so there is nothing new here, but this recipe is a gluten free with the added bonus of almond butter, pecan nuts and raisins to add texture moisture and flavor. So, if your craving a slice of deliciousness give this recipe a try! You won’t be disappointed – it’s naughty but nice – enjoy!!!!

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

One loaf

Ingredients:

3 medium very ripe bananas, peeled

3 large eggs

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten free)

½ cup almond butter

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup raisins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°f and line a 2lb bread pan with parchment paper.

Place the bananas, eggs, oats, almond butter, maple syrup, baking soda, vanilla, and salt into a blender. Then blend until you have a smooth batter, about 1 minute. Turn off the machine and fold the pecans and raisins into the mixture.

Spoon the batter into prepared pan and bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely, if you can’t wait, slice while still warm and enjoy.

 

Vegan Pavlova with fall fruits

Vegan Pavlova with fall fruits

If I had to pick one dessert as my all-time favorite it would be Pavlova. I remember it just like yesterday having my first bite of that mouthwatering divine dish. I was on vacation with my Auntie Sadie and Uncle Bob in St. Helier on the island of Jersey, the largest of the four Channel Islands off the coast of France. I was 13 years old and it was my first vacation outside of England. My aunt and uncle went there every year and had been for the past 20 years. They had previously taken my brother Michael and my sister Julie, now it was my turn, also my first time staying in a hotel! We as a family used to stay in my auntie Irene’s caravan every year in one of my favorite places Walkworth. To this day every time I visit the North East of England I drive to Walkworth and wander around this beautiful historic village remembering the good times with my brother and sister. We had great memories swinging from rope into the cold waters of the river, swimming, having ice cream at one of the local stores to visiting Amble the fishing village just 3 miles away on the coast, and playing in the golden sands but not daring to venture into the cold water of the North Sea. What a difference staying in a luxurious hotel with a swimming pool than a caravan in a farmers field. It always seemed to be raining in Walkworth, I still had a great deal of fun with my siblings, but this was different and the sun was out all 10 days of my visit.

One afternoon while sightseeing around St. Helier, we stopped for afternoon tea at a local tea shop. Again this was the first time I had a cucumber sandwich which was cut into a triangle and had no crust. Have to admit at the age of 13 it didn’t appeal to me then. But what did entice was the tray of cakes that accompanied the sandwiches and pot of tea. There it was an enormous pavlova the size of my hand, covered with whipped cream and fresh fruit. My mouth was watering, “can I have it” I said to my aunt, she looked and smiled and said “Of course you can, but you better get it before your uncle Bob sees it, be quick”. What do they say your eyes are bigger than your belly, well be quick was not the thing to say, I whipped up the plate on which the Pavlove sat, the plate came my way but the pavlova didn’t, it headed into the opposite direction of me and straight onto the lap of my uncle.   Luckily his napkin was over his lap and both he and my aunt thought it was hysterical, they laughed so much they started to cry. Luckily they ordered another pavlova for me to try – to this day I still remember that incident every time I make or buy a pavlova and take a bite.

So trying to be a little more on the healthy side and trying out new things I thought let’s make an eggless pavlova and see how it turns out – to my amazement it’s actually delicious, so go on and give it a try – you know you want to!!!! It’s naughty but nice!!!!

Vegan Pavlova with fall fruits

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

Puree:

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon confectionary sugar

Meringue:

1 cup liquid from 1 can of chickpeas

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (amazon)

1 cup fine sugar

Garnish:

2 cups fresh coconut cream (whipped and chilled)

1 cup blackberries

1cup raspberries

Fresh mint leaves

Pre-heat oven to 200’F

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

How to make:

Place the blueberries and the confectionary sugar into a blender and blend until smooth, then place into the fridge.

Whisk the chickpea liquid, vanilla extract, xanthan gum and cream of tartar until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk in the sugar, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.

Fold in ½ of the blueberry puree.

Spread ¾ the meringue mixture in a circle on one baking tray, then pop the remaining mixture into a zip lock bag, squeeze out the air, snip off one corner and pipe out small balls of mini meringues on the other baking tray.

Bake the large meringue for 3 to 4 hours and the small ones for 1½ to 2 hours.

Turn off heat, and leave to cool in the oven completely.

Spread the coconut cream over the meringue base. Top with blackberries, raspberries, mini meringues, a dusting of confectionary sugar, the remaining puree and a scattering of fresh mint leaves, serve.

 

Happy birthday Alison – Victoria sandwich cake

Today would have been my beautiful wife’s birthday so, in her memory, I am posting one of her favorite cakes, Victoria sandwich cake with strawberry jam and whipped cream, delightful, to say the least. I don’t normally make many cakes these days, as we try to stay away from processed sugar and dairy, but this is a special day so let’s have a slice of cake in memory of a wonderful wife, daughter, mother, aunt, sister and best friend to so many – Alison Davies.

Alison had a sweet tooth when it came to cakes. She loved bara birth which is a spotted Welsh bread filled with dried fruit, sliced and spread with salted Welsh butter. She also loved Welsh cakes. Her indulgence would be a slice of cake, oozing with sweet cream and sticky jam. There is a wonderful cake shop in Swansea market (it may be gone now as it’s been 13 years since we left the shores of Wales for our new life in Charlotte, North Carolina). We would go there every Saturday to buy fish, shellfish, freshly butchered meat, and freshly baked bread. The boys would have an ice cream from “Joes” and Alison and I would have a slice of Victoria sandwich cake and a cuppa tea before heading home. It’s amazing how time flies, that was 13 years ago, the boys, 8, 6 and 2 at the time, would be running around the market causing mayhem, their mam in good health and enjoying watching three healthy boys play. Time is something you can’t get back.  I try to instill in my boys the fact that you must enjoy every minute of every day as “time stops for no man”, as they say.

The cake is easy to make and delicious. Go on, give it a try and enjoy a slice and think of all the good times with your family – happy cooking, or should I say, happy baking.

Happy birthday Alison

Victoria sandwich cake

Makes 12 slices

Ingredients:

For the cake

8oz unsalted butter

8oz fine sugar

4 medium eggs

8oz self-rising flour, sieved

1 level teaspoon baking powder, sieved

For the filling

6 tablespoons strawberry jam

½ pint heavy whipping cream, whipped with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the vanilla icing

8oz confectioners’ sugar, sieved

3oz unsalted butter

1-2 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line two 8 inch cake tins

How to make:

Pre-heat your oven to 360’F.

Put all the cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and whip until smooth 2 – 3 minutes until smooth and well combined.

Divide your mixture between two lined cake tins.

Place both tins in the middle of your pre-heated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until firm and golden brown in color.

Allow them to cool for five minutes then turn them out, remove the paper and cool on a cake rack.

Spread the jam over the top of one of the cakes then spread over the whipped cream. Then sandwich the two pieces together and dust the top with confectioners’ sugar.

Or for something even more delicious mix your vanilla icing ingredients in a bowl until smooth and spread over the top of the cake, slice and serve.

 

Fresh North Carolina cherry compote with vanilla yogurt

Fresh North Carolina cherry compote with vanilla yogurt 

I made this recipe on the Charlotte Today Show last week and received so many requests for the recipe; I thought I’d include it in my blog, so here we go!!!

I love living in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second fastest growing city in America. The excitement of a relativity small city with a huge heart, with all its bustling people, to the number of great breweries to the abundance of fresh locally grown produce at the local farmers market. In season at the moment are delicious NC cherries ready to eat as is or added to salads, cakes, smoothies or one of my favorites – mixed with yogurt for breakfast. During the week I make the compote the night before and serve it cold!!! If I know I’m going to be in a rush to get to work the next day. Otherwise I make it on the weekend and serve the compote warm. Anyway, give it a try and see what you think, Enjoy!!!

North Carolina Growing season:

Depending on your precise area of the state, growing seasons and crop availability will vary.

Apples, August through February (cold storage until spring)

Arugula, available year-round but best in spring and fall

Asparagus, spring

Basil, May through November

Beets, year-round

Blueberries, May into July

Broccoli, May and again in October and November

Broccoli Raab, October into December

Brussels sprouts, October through December

Butter Beans, July and August

Cabbage, May through December

Cantaloupes, July and August

Carrots, year-round

Cauliflower, October through December

Celeriac/Celery Root, October through January

Celery, September through November

Cilantro, year-round

Chard, March into December

Cherries, late spring and summer

Fresh North Carolina cherry compote with vanilla yogurt

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4lb. fresh NC cherries, pits removed

¼ cup dried cherries

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 cups plain Greek yogurt (My boys love Siggi’s)

1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon chopped pistachio nuts

How to make:

Place the fresh and dried cherries into a saucepan along with the maple syrup, bring to a simmer on the shove and cook for 8 to 12 minutes until the fruit is tender and the juices are thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped basil, allow to cool slightly.

Take a small bowl and add the yogurt and vanilla seeds from the pod or the vanilla extract give a quick stir, then divide the yogurt between four bowls, top with the warm cherry compote and sprinkle over the chopped pistachio nuts and serve.

 

Almond butter & banana baked oatmeal squares

Almond butter & banana baked oatmeal squares

For those days when you fancy a muffin but know you need something more healthy and hearty like oatmeal, try these perfect almond butter and banana baked oatmeal squares. I have a banana every day, either as is or added to cereal, a smoothie or a baked good. If I buy too many I freeze then for later use, again either in a smoothie or even ice cream. If really ripe, then use them in a recipe like this, as overripe banana produces the best flavor ever in baked goods. Eaten straight from the oven or allowed to cool these bars taste delicious, any left overs (I very much doubt it), bag them and pop them in the fridge over night, they work really well the next day warmed in the microwave for a few seconds before eating, a great breakfast for the kids or a snack later in the day.

Almond butter & banana baked oatmeal squares

Serves 8

1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon low sodium baking powder

2 bananas, peeled and cut into chunks

½ cup all natural unsalted almond butter

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

To serve for breakfast you could add any of the following per portion;

½ cup of your favorite mixed berries (such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)

½ banana, peeled and sliced

½ cup of warm homemade almond milk or store bought unsweetened almond milk

How to make:

Preheat oven to 375’F and line an 8 x 8 inch baking tray with parchment paper.

Place all the ingredients into your food processor and pulse until all the mixture      is well    combined, pour the oat mixture into the tray lined tray.

Place the tray into the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden on top and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then cut into eight equal pieces and serve with a cup of warm almond milk or your favorite mix of berries.

Banana & Almond Butter Ice Cream

Banana & Almond Butter Ice Cream

Silky smooth, healthy and delicious – this is ice cream we are talking about!!! Isn’t it? Yes, you heard right, this banana ice cream is healthy!!! Smooth, delicious and literally takes five minutes to make (once the bananas have been frozen) with only two ingredients to boot. I used to crave something sweet on an evening watching TV, but every now and again I get this urge to for “ICE CREAM”, if only for one spoonful. A while ago, messing around with over ripe bananas and freezing them for smoothies the next day, I thought, “hey, can I make ice cream using them?”, quick answer YES. When mixed with almond butter or peanut butter you have this smooth almost “Ben & Jerry” deliciousness which the whole family will love and it’s not loaded with processed sugar or whipped full of air.

The health benefits of eating a banana a day include helping with weight loss, reducing obesity, curing intestinal disorders, relieving constipation, and research suggests helping with conditions like dysentery, anemia, tuberculosis, arthritis, gout, kidney disorders, urinary disorders, menstrual problems, and burns. Bananas have also been found to help with reducing blood pressure, protecting against heart disease, improving the immune system, reducing the severity of ulcers, ensuring healthy eyes, and building strong bones.

Raw almonds are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats and antioxidants. The American Heart Association recommends consuming four servings of nuts per week for the best health benefits. A small handful can help you avoid an afternoon energy crash. A few quick tips are to replace croutons and full-fat cheese in your salad with a handful of raw almonds or make your own almond milk by adding them to your daily smoothies – almonds come in my top ten of foods to eat every day or at least every other day.

Banana & Almond Butter Ice Cream

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

3 large ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into even size rounds

1 cup smooth almond butter or peanut butter (optional, if you have a nut allergy just leave them out, you will still get a lovely ice cream just from the bananas themselves)

How to make:

Place the sliced bananas into a large zip lock bag, remove as much air out of the bag as possible and zip closed.

Place the bag into the freezer for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the bag from the freezer and tip the frozen banana into a food processor. Blend until smooth, scrapping down every 30 seconds, until the banana looks like soft serve ice cream, this might take 3 to 4 minutes to happen.

If you’re not adding the almond butter, then transfer the banana ice cream into a fresh zip lock bag and place into the freezer until it sets like normal ice cream, then use when desired.

If you’re adding the almond butter, add as soon as the banana looks like soft serve ice cream and blend until silky smooth or fold in to make a swirl effect, then pop into a zip lock bag and freeze until needed. Enjoy this true delight!!!!

 

 

Black cherry olive oil cake

Black cherry olive oil cake

Last weekend at my local farmers market, I picked up some beautiful black cherries. Biting into the succulent flesh was amazing but after eating a handful, I thought what can I make with this precious seasonal fruit that myself and the boys will enjoy after dinner. Then a thought popped into my head, a long time ago in my spare time between split shifts at my normal restaurant job, I used to make desserts three days a week for a fine dining restaurant to earn extra cash as a young aspiring chef.

Quite often I’d make the classic Southern French dessert “Clafoutis” which is like a thick crepe batter cake studded with fresh ripe cherries and baked in the oven. So when I got back home, I started to think of how could I make this different from the original recipe. I’m always trying to think of new and interesting recipes that are easy and fun to make at home. So follow along and make this decadent cherry cake that is easy and wonderful, then relax and enjoy a slice after dinner or as a snack between meals.

Black cherry olive oil cake

Serves 8

Ingredients:

4oz plain flour, sieve

1 teaspoon baking powder, sieve

¼ teaspoon sea salt, sieve

4oz sugar, sieve

2 large eggs

4floz olive oil

3 tablespoons almond milk

1 zest of lemon

1 ½ cups fresh black cherries, stones removed (or canned cherries, drained)

6 tablespoons crème fraiche

Pre-heat oven to 360°F, grease and line an 8 inch cake tin

How to make:

Place all the ingredients a part from the cherries and crème fraiche into your robo coup or blender and blend until you a have a smooth and creamy batter, then pour into the prepared cake tin.

Scatter over the black cherries and pop into the oven, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, test with a skewer in the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean the cake is ready to be removed from the oven.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning out of the tin, cut into eight even size wedges and serve warm with a dollop of crème fraiche.

All day banana bread with granola and maple topping

All day banana bread with granola and maple topping

Serves 10

Why the all-day banana bread? Easy!!! This works fabulous first thing in the morning for breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice or a hot cup of coffee. It could be served for lunch with a ripe apple or pear or even a side salad. Dinner time as a light dessert or even as a snack with a cup of tea when you need that quick energy burst to get you through the rest of the day. As with all my recipes, you’re using natural products that are not overly processed. Yes, you have butter and eggs but when this is sliced into 10 portions you’re not overloading your system with too much saturated fat or sugar – remember everything in moderation. Enjoy this all day banana bread anytime of the day!!!

Ingredients:

1 Stick unsalted butter, soften

3 Large ripe banana, peel and sliced

¾ cup maple syrup, plus 1 teaspoon to drizzle over finished loaf

2 medium eggs

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup whole meal flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup homemade granola of your favorite granola mix

Pre-heat oven to 350°F, grease 2lb loaf tin

How to make:

Place the first 7 ingredients (but only 2 of the bananas) into your food processor and blend until smooth.

Spoon the mixture into a bowl and fold in ¾ cup of the granola.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin

Layer the remaining sliced banana down the middle of the banana bread, then scatter the remaining granola over the top of the loaf.

Place the tin in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and rest for 30 minutes before removing the bread from the tin.

Drizzle over the teaspoon of maple syrup, cut into slices and serve.

 

No bake – gluten free – chocolate cookies with banana ice cream

No bake – gluten free – chocolate cookies with banana ice cream

OK who doesn’t love cookies and cream??? It’s a staple; you just can’t get away from.

From Granma to grandchild we all love the taste, the aroma, the texture. Yes it’s one of those moments in life when everything is good, the world stops spinning and you think, wow “life is good”. And it is, it should be, we only live once, especially when you can make a healthier version of a delicious treat. This is no overly processed cardboard box mix or plastic wrapped carton of cookies with over aerated ice cream full of dyes, chemicals and preservatives. This is you making this treat in your kitchen using ingredients you can name (not a  chemical you can’t pronounce) ingredients you know that are safe to consume – as in all things – everything in moderation.

As always have fun in the kitchen and enjoy your cookies & cream.

No bake – gluten free – chocolate cookies with banana ice cream

Makes 6 cookies or 3 cookie sandwiches

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons light muscovado sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons almond milk

2 tablespoons smooth almond butter or peanut butter

4 tablespoons Gluten-free Porridge Oats

3 tablespoons banana ice cream (see recipe below)

Line a sheet pan or baking sheet with baking parchment.

How to make:

Place the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk into a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn up the heat and boil for 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almond butter until smooth you have smooth consistency, then stir in the oats and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Divide the cookie mixture into 12 even size pieces, then spoon onto the prepared sheet pan, slightly flatten with a knife to form a cookie shape. Place the tray into the fridge and allow to chill for 2 hours or until set.

Remove the tray from the fridge and spoon ½ tablespoon of banana ice cream on to six of the cookies, then place a cookie on top of each spoonful of ice cream and sandwich them together. Eat immediately.

Banana Ice Cream

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

3 large ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into even size rounds

1 cup smooth almond butter or peanut butter (optional)

How to make:

Place the sliced bananas into a large zip lock bag, remove as much air out of the bag as possible and zip closed.

Place the bag into the freezer for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the bag from the freezer and tip the frozen banana into a food processor. Blend until smooth, scrapping down every 30 seconds, or until the banana looks like soft serve ice cream, this might take 3 to 4 minutes to happen.

If you’re not adding the almond butter, then transfer the banana ice cream into a fresh zip lock bag and place into the freezer until it sets like normal ice cream, then use when desired.

If you’re adding the almond butter, add as soon as the banana looks like soft serve ice cream and continue to blend until silky smooth, then pop into a zip lock bag and freeze until needed. Enjoy this true delight!!!!