Quinoa Primavera

This (slightly pretentiously titled, I’ll admit) quinoa salad is the ultimate in Spring dinners. Firstly, it is a beautiful, Spring-green. And it is stuffed full of green, spring-like vegetables.

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This is also my celebration of Meat-free Week! For me (as a lifelong vegetarian) every week is meat free. I’m not one of those vegetarians who is out to convert people, each to their own is very much my motto.

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However, eating less meat is a good idea. I’m not saying eat none necessarily (although that is great too- trust me!) It’s good for you, good for the planet and good for the animals! Even if you cant bear to give up meat, it is always wise to eat more quinoa, avocado and broccoli. So I thoroughly recommend this salad, even if you have to have it with a steak!

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Quinoa with broccoli and asparagus and avocado and mint pesto

Quinoa- enough for two people, about 1 cupful

Half a head of broccoli

1 bunch of asparagus

half a lemon

sprig of mint leaves

handful of pumpkin seeds

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For the pesto:

Half a very ripe avocado

Good handful of mint

2 cloves of garlic

Big pinch of salt and pepper

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Begin by making the pesto. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it forms a loose paste. If you don’t have a food processor, you can mash the avocado by hand, finely chop the mint and garlic and mix together, then season.

Cook your quinoa as you normally would. I put it in a saucepan with double the quantity of boiling water, and half a veggie stockcube. Simmer until the water has all been absorbed and the quinoa softened. You don’t want it to become porridgey, so I always go easy on the water at first and then add more later, if it needs it.

While your quinoa is cooking, cut your broccoli into very small florets. You want them sort of bitesize. Boil the broccoli for about 5 minutes and the asparagus for about 2. Drain, and then cut the asparagus into small chunks.

Toast your pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan for about 5 minutes or until they start to darken in colour slightly. Don’t leave them there for too long because they burn really easily!

When the quinoa and vegetables are cool, mix together in a serving bowl. Add the pesto and mix well. Squeeze the lemon over the quinoa, then finely chop the mint and sprinkle on top with the toasted pumpkin seeds.

Delicious as a side dish or a main course!

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xxR

First Day of Spring Lemon Cake

Today is the official first day of Spring. Apparently. In London it is nothing but grey and cold. But the first day of Spring is something to celebrate, sun or no sun.

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It is also the International Day of Happiness. So despite the heavy cloud covering all of London, I am feeling pretty good! Spring is on its way, even if it isn’t that apparent today….

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This cake is perfect for injecting some much needed sunshine into an otherwise very grey day. It has two whole lemons in it, which makes it not only the colour of pure sunshine, but also gives it a citrus flavour that screams summer.

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Whole Lemon Cake

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For the cake:

2 unwaxed lemons

275g butter

275g caster cugar

275g self raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 eggs

1 tablespoon milk

Place the lemons in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the lemons are very very soft. Cut them in half and remove the pips, then put the whole thing, skin included in a food processor and blitz until it is fairly smooth. Put the lemon mixture in a small bowl.

Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and milk, then add half the blitzed lemon.

Divide between two greased and lined baking tins and bake at 180 degrees celcius for 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

For the icing:

250g icing sugar

125g butter

splash of milk, if needed

Whisk the butter and icing sugar together until it is light and fluffy, adding the milk if necessary to loosen the mixture. Add the remaining blitzed lemon and mix well.

Sandwich the cakes together with plenty of icing in the middle and on the top. Decorate in the most spring-like way you can (I used dried rose and cornflower petals- be creative!)

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xxR

Teabag Biscuits

This is the third in my series of hot drink inspired and flavoured baked goods. (I have also recently made tea infused cupcakes with honey icing and hot lemon and honey mini cakes). This series, let me just add, was entirely unplanned and unintentional.

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I made these a few weeks ago as part of Fairtrade Fortnight with fairtrade tea and fairtrade chocolate, but they are an absolute hit and I simply had to share them. For a start, they are adorable. But they are also delicious. It is way way too easy to eat about six in a row, washed down with a big mug of tea, of course.

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While we’re here- just a tiny bit about fairtrade. It’s so so so important and also much easier to support than you would think. Did you know that all Sainsbury’s tea and coffee is fairtrade? I did not until about two weeks ago. Tesco, Waitrose and M&S also all sell fairtrade coffee and tea. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose’s bananas are fairtrade. So is all Cadbury chocolate. It’s almost definitely easier and cheaper than you think!

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Anyway, these biscuits are easy and quick to make- perfect for a Saturday afternoon cup of tea!

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Tea Flavoured Teabag Biscuits

225g butter

100g sugar

250g plain flour

2 tablespoons tea leaves- about two teabags worth

1/2 teaspoon salt

Begin by beating the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and tea, then add to the butter and mix well to ensure everything is combined. Roll the dough into two balls and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Don’t leave it in the fridge too long or it will be impossible to roll out!

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough. Then, cut it out. In the unlikely event that you have a teabag shaped cookie cutter, definitely use that! If not (like me) use a teabag as a template and cut around it with a knife. This is a bit more time consuming but it does the trick. While you are doing this, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Place the biscuits on a lined baking tray and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until slightly golden brown and crisp.

For the chocolate decoration:

100g chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. When the biscuits are completely cool, spread a little chocolate over the lower half of each one and leave to set.

Dunk in a cup of tea and devour!

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xxR

 

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries

Last weekend was my grandfather’s birthday and my mother threw a big lunch for all the family at our house.

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Gramps is 86, but he acts like he’s about 30, so I baked a cake to match his mental age. There were 18 of us, so I knew it had to be big. When I was little, my mum always made chocolate cake topped with a mountain of whipped cream and berries for birthdays, and those cakes were the inspiration behind this one.

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This cake is perfect for any occasion. It also reminds me of summer birthdays, which I’m so in the mood for after the sunshine this weekend!

Chocolate Birthday Cake 

For the cake:

240g plain flour

240g caster sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

60g cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

80g butter

240ml milk

2 eggs

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa, salt and butter in a bowl and mix until it is a sandy consistency. Pour in half the milk and beat until it is incorporated.

Whisk the eggs and remaining milk together in a separate bowl, then pour into the flour mixture. Mix until incorporated.

Grease and line a large cake tin and pour in two thirds of the mixture. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 170 degrees celcius. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. When it is cool, turn out onto a cooling rack and bake the other third of the mixture.

For the icing:

250g icing sugar

125g butter at room temperature

about a tablespoon of milk

Beat the butter and icing sugar together, then add the milk if needed to make it a more runny consistency.

To assemble:

200ml double cream

50g icing sugar

a selection of berries

Whisk the cream until it forms firm peaks, then add the icing sugar and mix in.

Cut the larger cake in half. Place one half on a cake stand. Spread half the icing over the cake, then place the other half on top. Spread the remaining icing over it, then place the last cake on top.

Spoon the whipped cream onto the top of the cake, and decorate with the berries.

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xxR

Vegan Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

My littlest sister is a fairly recent vegan convert. She’s actually doing impressively well, but it is driving my parents a bit up the wall.

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Last weekend the three of them came to visit me in London, and we headed to Cookies and Scream in the Camden Town Stables for some vegan cookies and ice cream. Having not eaten a bite of cookie or a mouthful of ice cream for the last three months, she was in absolute vegan heaven. In fact, we all agreed that they made some pretty fine goodies, vegan or otherwise. The brownies were the perfect amount of gooeyness and their peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were to die for.

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I would highly highly recommend a trip if you are in the area and are vegan, or even if you are in the area and are not vegan but love really well made, very tasty baked goods. I promise you won’t miss the dairy!

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Back in the kitchen I attempted my own vegan cookies. I have to admit, these were not as good. But it was one of my first forays into vegan baking, so I think they were acceptable. The peanut butter makes them really soft and gooey, with a subtle nutty flavour. They are best eaten warm- straight from the oven!

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Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

60g vegan butter

40g peanut butter

200g brown sugar

125ml almond milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

250g flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup choc chips- vegan (about 175g) (I used a bar of dark chocolate broken up into chunks- that worlds perfectly too)

pinch of sea salt

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Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugar, then add the almond milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, then add to the wet ingredients.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Spoon into small dollops on a baking tray. They spread a little bit, so give them some space. Sprinkle with sea salt (salt and chocolate- best combination) before popping them in the oven.

Bake at 180 degrees for 7-10 minutes.

Devour with a big mug of tea.

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xxR