Spiced rhubarb compote with whipped ricotta and honey

spiced rhubarb compote with whipped ricotta and granola

For me April is rhubarb month. I can’t get enough of the stuff. I suspect the rest of my family get rather bored of it, but not me. Rhubarb crumbles, fools, cake and salsa… I’m not quite sure what it is – the vibrant colour, that distinctive sharp flavour, its sheer Englishness, or the simple fact that something that grows in such abundance like a weed could taste so good? Friends with rhubarb in their gardens know now to bring their surplus to me. Continue reading “Spiced rhubarb compote with whipped ricotta and honey”

Dried fruit and nut balls

dried fruit and nut balls

Admittedly, these might look like something you’d hang out for the birds in winter but trust me, these dried fruit and nut balls are delicious. Ask my children – they love them in their packed lunches or after school as a quick and healthy snack.

They’re very easy to make and the recipe is extremely versatile – play around with the recipe and add your own favourite nuts and dried fruits. I’ve used dried apple in this version as I’d dried some of our own apples as one way of storing them. If you’ve never tried drying your own apples, you really should. The apples develop such a gorgeously intense flavour and they have a wonderfully satisfying texture, rather like chewing on a soft toffee but with none of the sugar-guilt. My girls can’t get enough of them.

Dried Apple Collage

If you fancy having a go, here’s what you do.

Peel and core your apples and cut into rings. Sprinkle with cinnamon or leave plain if you prefer. Spread out on a baking tray and put in a very, very low oven for a few hours. If you have an Aga you could put them in the bottom oven or do what we did and tie with string and hang in bundles over the top. They’re ready when they’ve gone all wrinkly and have gained that lovely chewy consistency.

We eat them as they are, chop them up and mix into plain yoghurt, or add them to homemade granola.

granola

But back to those dried fruit and nut balls. It’s simply a case of whizzing up all the ingredient in a food processor and then using your hands to shape the resulting mixture into balls or, if you prefer, bars. It’s a fairly messy business, which is probably why children quite like getting involved.

Dried fruit and nut balls

100g blanched almonds
100g walnuts
100g dried apple
100g dried fig
100g dried apricot
100g sultanas
20g dessicated coconut
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple juice

Put the nuts and dried fruit into a food processor and process until it you end up with a mushy, sticky mixture.

Add the oil and apple juice and whiz again briefly to combine.

Mould the mixture in your hands into small balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge (for a couple of weeks) or the freezer (for a couple of months).

I wrap individual balls in foil, like sweetie wrappers, when I put them in the girls’ lunchboxes.

dried fruit and nut balls

 

Since my children enjoy them in their lunchboxes, I’m including both these fruit and nut balls and the dried apple in November’s Family Foodies challenge, which as you probably know has lunchbox ideas as its theme.

family-foodies

What brunch dish will you bring to the Breakfast Club?

Breakfast Club: because breakfast should be more interesting than tea & toast or coffee & cereal.

During December, I am delighted to be hosting Breakfast Club, a bloggers challenge created by the very talented Helen at Fuss Free Flavours to encourage more creativity in the kitchen for that all important first meal of the day. I really hope you’ll join in the fun by entering a dish or two.

Let’s do brunch!

The theme for Breakfast Club this month is Brunch. According to Marge Simpson’s charming Casanova of a bowling instructor, the über smooth Jacques, brunch is…

…not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don’t get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal!

Brunch is my idea of a perfect breakfast. The kind of lazy breakfast you cook and eat at leisure on a relaxed Sunday, when you’re not in a rush to get to work or school. The kind of laid back breakfast you take your time over with a large pot of coffee and a selection of papers.

So no, not the kind of breakfast I get to eat all that often, but I always make sure I indulge when the opportunity presents itself. And a very good idea to have a stock of good brunch recipes up your sleeve for when it does.

It’s very easy to enter a brunch dish into this month’s Breakfast Club:

  • Email me with the URL for your brunch recipe blog post
  • Mention in your post you are entering your dish into Breakfast Club, include the logo above, and add links back to both this post and the Breakfast Club page at Fuss Free Flavours
  • Entries can be submitted to other events
  • You are welcome to enter old posts/recipes but they must be republished with the logo and links above
  • If you use Twitter please use #blogbreakfastclub and tweet your entry, and I’ll retweet everyone I see
  • The closing date is Friday 28 December 2012.

Hopefully, that all makes sense but if you do have any questions, please comment below. I can’t wait to see your entries!

Oh and before I forget, Helen at Fuss Free Flavours is always on the look out for new guest hosts for the Breakfast Club, and last month’s round up is here.

To get things started, I thought I’d give you my brunch recipe. I found it hard to choose which one as I have so many brunch favourites. I love pancakes and did think about entering these indulgent lemon and ricotta pancakes.

Or how about a more virtuous start to the day with some homemade granola?

But then I do also find it hard to resist a good fry up, but really – who needs a recipe for that? And so I’ve decided on…

The full English pizza

I know it sounds a little crazy. Or maybe a lot crazy. But this is a perfect and fun weekend brunch, particularly when you’ve had a few drinks the night before and need some stodge to sort you out. It’s essentially all the usual suspects you’d find in a cooked English breakfast but on top of a pizza. Gorgeous. And you probably won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

I get up early to make the pizza dough. Then go back to bed for a bit with a cup of tea while the dough rises. But if that sounds to you like too much of a palaver, then ready-made pizza bases would make life a little easier.

Makes 4 pizzas

For the dough:

400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
250ml luke warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

For the topping:

200g spinach
knob of butter
passata, about half a jar
4 pork sausages, grilled and sliced
4 rashers bacon, grilled and chopped
mozzarella, 2 x 250g balls
4 free range eggs

To make the pizza dough, put the flour, salt, dried yeast and oregano into a large mixing bowl and mix well.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the lukewarm water and oil. Gradually work the flour into the liquid, making a soft dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

Flour your surface before tipping the dough onto it. Knead the dough by stretching it away from you, then pulling back into a ball. Do this for five minutes or so, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film and put in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. This is when I retire back to bed for a while.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 or use the middle of the top oven of an Aga.

Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and divide the dough into four balls. Stretch or roll out each ball until you have a thin circle about 22cm across. Place the pizzas onto slightly oiled baking sheets.

Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the spinach and cook gently until wilted.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of passata onto each pizza, smoothing out with the back of the spoon. Spread some spinach over each base (squeeze out any excess butter), followed by the pieces of sausage and bacon, and finish with torn pieces of mozzarella. Be careful not to overload the centre of the pizza, where you’ll be cooking your egg later.

Bake the pizzas in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully break an egg into the middle of each pizza. Return to the oven for 3 to 4 minutes until the white is just cooked but the yolk is still soft. Enjoy at your leisure!

December’s entries for Breakfast Club:

  1. Turkey, Cranberry & Stilton Christmas Brunch Muffins from Fuss Free Flavours
  2. Beet Greens & Red Pepper Frittata from On Top of Spaghetti
  3. White Chocolate &  Cranberry Christmas Cookies from Chez Foti
  4. Buck Rarebit from Credit Munched
  5. Courgette and Mushroom Omelette with Garlic and Parsley from Bangers & Mash
  6. Swiss Scrambled Eggs, Croissants and Shakes from Fabulicious Food
  7. Mushrooms on Rye Toast from The Garden Deli
  8. Minestrone Soup from Divine Foods Living
  9. Nduja Potato Cakes from Foodycat
  10. Christmas Breakfast Muffins from Elizabeth’s Kitchen
  11. Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake from Kavey Eats
  12. Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from Mondomulia
  13. Brunch Quesadillas – Fab Food 4 All

Granola – my favourite start to the day

Someone once told me that when you start making your own granola, you never go back to eating the shop bought stuff again. And how right they were. I made up my first batch at the start of the summer and I’ve been addicted ever since. Better still, your homemade version will probably contain a lot less sugar and fat.

OK so it’s essentially a sweeter take on muesli but it’s so much tastier. Plus when you make your own you can use all your favourite fruits and nuts. So you don’t like dates? No problem, replace them with apricots or prunes instead!

While my husband’s not a fan, the girls and I like to eat it in the morning with yoghurt and fresh fruit. They call it the crunchy stuff. Whatever you call it, it’s a lovely start to the day I reckon.

My recipe is based loosely on one I found in a Leon cookbook, although it changes every time I make it depending on what I happen to have in the store cupboard. This is how I made my latest stash…

Granola

200g rolled oats
125g sunflower seeds
75g honey
30ml sunflower oil
100g hazelnuts, chopped
100g flaked almonds
100g dried dates, chopped
125g sultanas
100g currants

Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 4.

Put the oats and sunflower seeds in a large bowl, pour in the honey and oil and mix together well so the oats and seeds are completely coated. Cover a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper and spread the oat mixture evenly across it. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the oats are golden.

Meanwhile dry fry the hazelnuts and almonds on the hob until they are ever so slightly browned and leave to one side to cool.

When the oats have cooled, pour into a bowl and combine with the hazelnuts, almonds, dates, sultanas and currants.

Store in a large airtight container – a kilner jar is perfect. The granola will keep for around a month.