Friday, 28 August 2009


Well yes, I know I have been absent lately. Like all of us I am busy busy i could not even take a picture of my lovely carrots i pick up at Hackney city farm each week...still dirty, still tasting of the earth, still in need of lots of cleaning... So yes you got a "stock photo" But with the carrots I fresh, so flavourful, it would be a shame to just make veg or chicken stock out of not these carrots...with these I have been working on a fab gluten free, low fat recipe for carrot cake!!!

I know, its summer, we all try to get outside, do all sorts of activities and pack everything in before the suns goes away till next why bake cakes inside when i could just eat fresh fruit and make trifles and stay in the sun...Not sure!!! I love fresh fruit, and please buy and eat as much as you can while its ripe, local and cheap...but i must say...I felt inspired to make a cake for the courses I teach...I need to do a bit of baking that not only is fresh and healthy but portionable, packable, and very kid friendly!!! So before i have my last lil bit of summer with a trip to southwest France with friends, I wanted to pass on this great, simple, and healthy carrot cake recipe that I have been working on for some of the communities I cook with/for. And how do you know its good...its been eaten too fast to take pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

400g ( 3 cups) flour ( we use gluten free) SIFTED PLEASE
1.5 t baking soda ( bicarbonate of soda)
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 t mixed spice powder
250 g (1.5 cup) sugar
4 eggs, beaten
100 ml( 1/3 cup) vegetable oil
250 ml(1 1/3 cups) applesauce
300g ( 3 cups) carrots , peeled and grated
250g ( 1 cup) pineapple chunks, fresh
75g ( 1/2 cup) chopped nuts ( pecans or walnuts will do)

150 g ( 8oz) low fat cream cheese
150g (1/2 cup) powdered sugar
low fat yogurt

  1. Preheat oven to 190 C ( 375 F)
  2. Grease two round ( or one large rectangle) baking tins.
  3. Sift dry ingredients ( flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and mixed spice) in a bowl with sugar.
  4. Mix eggs with applesauce, oil, pineapple, carrot and walnuts in a large bowl.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and fold gently. Do not over mix
  6. Pour cake batter into baking tin and bake for 40 minutes in center of oven.
  7. Check if cake is done by putting a thin wooden skewer into cake and observe if batter sticks to skewer, if so the cake is not done. If skewer comes out dry then you and the cake are golden!!
  8. Remove cake from oven and let cool in tin.
  9. Combine cream cheese and sugar into your icing and you may sub in some low fat yogurt for some cream cheese to this if you want a thinner and even lower fat icing that will be looser less hard.
  10. If you want to layer the icing between the cakes, let cake cool completely, make sure icing is quite stiff ( refrigerate for an hour) and then spread thoroughly, refrigerate again and then enjoy!!!

Need a quick dessert while having a bbq...grill some peaches and then serve with honey and mint tossed yogurt.

Or as we did in our Dad BBQ cookery that I teach...slice a banana down the middle (in the skin) toss in some chunks of dark chocolate and put it on your still smoldering bbq/grill and cook till soft and gooey on inside and charred black on the skin ( I got this recipe from a friend I must confess,...but its too easy and good to not pass on!!!)...

Simple...fresh fruit and veg my friends...tis the them while you can...and can them for when you cant!!!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Old School Comfort Food ...MALI STYLE

TIGA DIGA NA...,Most of you out there are already confused, but let me enlighten you on another joy of the peanut. It is a survival food for many folks in West Africa, that which is eaten raw, roasted, made into oil, and after having spent a couple years living in Western Mali, I at times besides yearning to be back there living... simply crave my staple food...Tiga Diga Na...which translates to Peanut butter sauce. Its what I often ate twice a day, and sometimes in the village of Manantali where I lived, during Ramadan (which is what spurred this memory food) we would even have it for a quick pre sunrise breakfast.

This is a very simple protein rich meal that can be served over rice or creamy polenta( a western version of a corn meal mash called Kaba toh), but mostly I ate it every day over millet, not the wonderfully light couscous like millet we all should be eating each and every day/week since its a grain that also gives you super amounts of protein, but whole millet, unhusked and cooked down to a thick porridge consistency. Please try this recipe and serve it with whatever whole grain you have. And unlike most people eating this in rural West Africa, try to serve it with some extra veggies!!! Because unlike the folks living there, you have access to all the vegetables you NEED, and simply most of us don't WANT to eat them.

1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 inch fresh ginger, smashed
1 T Tomato paste ( puree in the UK)
1 tomato chopped
1/4 of a small cabbage, sliced
1 cup peanut butter ( all natural, no added sugar or anything...just smooth nuts friends!!!)
3 cups vegetable stock ( depending on consistency desired)( can use bouillon cube with water for ease of use and its actually what everyone does in the village!)
1 Habenero chile pepper ( whole, uncut)
1 dried fish ( I actually used a smoked herring) but you could use any fish or try 1-2 cups stewing beef, lamb or chicken
Fresh lime

In hot pan over medium heat add oil and then sweat down onion, garlic, ginger for 10 minutes till translucent ( add water if necessary to prevent burning...50 ml at a time)
Once very soft, add tomato past and cook this down for 3 more minutes.
Add tomatoes and cabbage and cook 5 minutes till softened ( again, add a bit of water as necessary)
Add dried fish to pan and coat with flavours.
Add warm vegetable stock to pan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Add peanut butter to pan and use spoon or large whisk to dissolve it into the liquid.
Bring to simmer, add Habenero and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until oils from your peanut butter start to separate onto the top of your sauce...
Taste sauce and finish with salt, pepper, a squeeze of lime and a dash of chili powder if you like.
Serve individually or as the photo above shows, communally with cleaned fingers ready for steaming hot goodness!!!

Serve this dish over your whole grain and use the habenero like a sponge in reverse ( squeeze it into your area of food and push the heat onto the grain)

Often people serve with greens fengruk, but you could try shredded kale or chard added in before adding the peanut butter and letting it simmer till really really soft.

One could add a small portion of dried or smoked fish to the sauce and then serve sauce with a grilled/bbq fish as well.

IF you want to use unhusked millet, soak it over night, then drain, toast the kernels and simmer one part millet to 3 parts water, until cooked and softened to your liking (you can always drain it if you don't want it too creamy and desire it more like a fluffy rice texture).

If desirous of using meat, I would add the meat (seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder) first to the pan, get it nice and browned and then continue with the recipe. The smaller the cuts of meat, the faster it will cook, the larger, the longer it will take ( this may necessitate a bit more water in your sauce to keep from burning). The key is to allow the meats to cook till fork tender, so slow and low is the tempo!!!

Na Duminike!!!!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Millet stuffed portabellas

I love millet. There I said it. Not many people love this amazing grain; and me, i am damn proud of my love. I guess a couple years living in a small village in western Mali eating it every day converted me. So honestly, I really love my millet...big millet with the husk on it cooked forever until its sticky like risotto, small lil millet that cooks like rice, fonio ( the lil -lil guys i can only find in Mali), the other day i was searching for big old millet and no one had it ( i should have checked at a shop selling bird food a friend said!!!), except for an Indian grocer who said they sold this type to grind into flour for a type of chapati...well well...millet chapatis...soon enough soon enough...but for now let me make an new foray into millet for the non lovers of this amazing, super protein dense whole grains!!!!

1 cup pearl millet ( large grains with husk/shell still on) soaked over night in water. (or use any other leftover cooked grain such as rice, quinoa, millet, barley, and skip the grain cooking steps!!!!)
4 portabella, stems removed ( save for stuffing)
1 small head fennel, fine dice
1 red pepper fine dice
portabella stems, small dice
1 zucchini, fine dice
2 cloves garlic
2 T tomato paste
4 T Grana Padana, or any other hard cheese, grated
1 T toasted fennel seeds, ground
1/2 t toasted chili flakes, ground

  1. Preheat oven to 375 ( 190 c)
  2. Drain your soaked millet and put in a medium sauce pan over high heat.
  3. Heat 4 times the amount of water as you have millet and pour over millet( let millet get a light toast on it before adding water) cover, simmer over medium heat, and cook till water has evaporated
  4. In hot saute pan add oil then sweat down the red pepper, fennel and mushroom stems.
  5. After vegetables have softened, add courgette ( zucchini) and garlic and cook a further five minutes.
  6. Add dried spices and toss to coat.
  7. Add tomato paste and cook a further 2 minutes .
  8. Check the millet, are the kernels fully cooked through ( is there still water, then drain, not enough water then add a bit more...its that easy)
  9. Toss vegetables with millet. Then add in cheese and season with salt and pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil ( EVOO).
  10. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes ( more if using unheated leftover grains) until warmed through and a bit toasty on top.
I served this with a roast cauliflower puree (recipes on the blog, 28 June 2009) that was a combination of the recipe for roasting the cauliflower, then pureeing!!! That and a nice green salad will give you a healthy vegetarian summer meal with more protein than you could have believed ( millet truly is a super grain).

Use regular millet as you would rice. I simply heat a pan, add 1 part millet( of the yellow variety more common to your supermarkets) and once toasted, pour over just under two parts boiling water, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Then fluff the grain with a fork and you have a substitute for couscous that actually is a whole grain ( couscous is merely a very small form of pasta) and so tasty.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Get your five a your pancakes!!!

I have been trying so hard to get my five fruit and vegetables each and every day...and most days its not so bad...fruit with cereal for breakfast, some veg at lunch, fruit for a snack...and a couple bits for dinner...but sometimes you find a nice way to get a bunch a 'dem veggies in a way you are not some crispy, spiced pancakes!!! Oh, so easy, so tasty...zucchini, carrot and corn pancakes...

400 grams ( 3 cups) shredded courgettes ( zucchini)
300 g ( 2 cups ) shredded carrot
200 g ( 1 cup) grilled corn kernels ( char the whole ears either by grill under your broiler, or on bbq and then slice em off...)
1 red onion shredded
1 bunch green onion, fine diced
8 T flour
1 t baking powder
3 eggs
1 T fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
1/2 t chili flakes, toasted and crushed
2 T vegetable oil

  1. Combine zucchini, carrot, and red onion and leave in a colander with a weight over it (plates with a can of beans, anything to help press out liquid) until the vegetables release some water (30 minutes is fine, 2 hours is fantastic)
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, spices, baking powder, and eggs. Mix to a smooth paste.
  3. Add in all the corn, green onion and other vegetables and mix to coat.
  4. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat and then add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of pan.
  5. Fry vegetable pancakes (you can make very small ones, or one super size pancake...but eight average size cakes can be made from this recipe) 2 minutes on both sides till well browned.
  6. Remove browned pancakes from pan and place on a baking sheet.
  7. Finish cooking in a warm oven at 375 F ( 190C) or let cool, freeze and finish cooking in oven next time you are in need of a helping hand toward your five a day!!!

Of course any vegetable that shreds can be used in these pancakes...beets would be colorful and well served to serve with a saute of beet greens...spinach can be fine chopped and tossed in and be a tasty addition to any, you could even go back to basics and throw some potato in 'em!!!

I say, Load up the veg and serve these pancakes with a quick stew of chickpeas and Swiss chard or under a seasonal ratatouille!!!As well no one would complain if you made some roasted red pepper and chive flecked sour cream to dollop on top.

Or have them with what we had sunday night...fennel and chili crusted lamb chops on the bbq, asparagus, and a roasted pepper, corn and pickled fennel salsa. And with that you would be as happy as we were Sunday night sitting out overlooking the streets of East London and savoring our sunday pancakes for dinner!!!