Comfort Food Pesto Brown Rice Bowl with Courgette and Feta

When I was little, and, admittedly, not so little, pesto pasta was my ultimate comfort food. In fact, it still sort of is! Just imagine, you are getting home after a long day, it’s raining, you’re tired, you just want to hop in your pjs, put on some rubbish tv and tuck into a big huge bowl of steaming pesto pasta, covered in cheese.

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Sounds like heaven to me!

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This is the lighter, more grown up (gluten free) version. It tastes just as good, if not better- trust me! And it’s much much better for you. Brown rice is much easier to digest than its white equivalent (and, not surprisingly, pasta!) and it’s full of nutrients such a potassium, calcium and fibre. It’s also really rich in antioxidants.

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Topped with homemade basil pesto, grilled courgette and a sprinkling of feta, it’s literally the perfect comfort food- comforting you and your body!

Pesto Brown Rice with Courgette and Feta 

for the pesto:

1 large bunch of basil

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon pine nuts

pinch of salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whiz until they form a sort of runny paste. Start with just a small amount of olive oil, and add more if you think it needs it. You don’t want it to be too oily, but it should be fairly runny so it is easy to mix into the rice.

1 large courgette

clove of garlic, finely chopped

about 1/2 a cup of brown rice (will feed two- just add more of everything if you are feeding more people)

small wedge of feta

salt and pepper

Start cooking the brown rice. It is a good idea to rinse it beforehand to get rid of the starch. Cook it as per the cooking instructions on the packet, or as you normally would.

While the rice is cooking, cut your courgette into thing strips, lengthways, so that it looks a bit like wide ribbons. Heat a tiny splash of olive oil in a griddle pan (or a normal saucepan if you don’t have one) and add your garlic. When the pan is hot, turn it down to medium heat and place the courgettes in it. They will take about  3-5 minutes on each side, depending on how thinly you cut them. You can keep turning them to make sure both sides are cooked. You want them slightly chargrilled but not too burnt!

When they are all cooked, place them on a plate. When the rice is cooked, spoon a generous serving into each bowl and stir in a good dollop of the pesto. Cut the courgettes into smaller pieces, about bitesize, and mix these into the rice. Finally, crumble the feta over and add a basil leaf to decorate. Season with salt and pepper if needed, cuddle up in front of the TV and enjoy!

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xxR

Flourless Chocolate Decadence Cake

I have recently been diagnosed as coeliac, which means that I can’t eat any wheat or gluten containing products, so conventional baked goods are out of the question! At first, I was just pleased to hear that, after what has been a very long process that involved numerous trips to hospitals and doctors and various tests, something has finally been identified.

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But, then, I started to have a bit of a meltdown. A lot of my favourite foods contain gluten, not to mention my obsession with baking! I was really panicking about things that are very far in the distant future like my wedding cake (no ones going to want to come to a wedding and have to eat gluten free cake!) and questions like what if my children are really fussy eaters and only want to eat pasta with grated cheese (me at age five)?! And pizzas on the barbecue….

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But, after about 24 hours of pure freak out, I managed to snap out of it, and have spent the last couple of weeks researching gluten free recipes profusely.

I went home for the weekend with my sister while my parents were away, so we decided to bake the most ridiculously decadent flour less chocolate cake ever, partially as a celebration of my new gluten free diet (waaah), and partially because Phoebe desperately wanted something sweet and I wasn’t about to miss out on the fun!

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Don’t be fooled. Just because this cake is gluten free, doesn’t mean it is particularly healthy. It is still full of chocolate, butter, sugar and all the other wheat free things that make a cake a cake. The lack of any sort of flour makes it really soft and gooey, almost like a giant brownie, with the most luxurious melt-in-the-mouth consistency. It is also ridiculously easy, with only 5 ingredients, so I thoroughly recommend you whip it up this weekend, whether you’re gluten free or not, and enjoy it in the sunshine!

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Flourless Chocolate Cake 

2oog dark (gf) chocolate

2oog butter

2oog caster sugar

5 eggs

cocoa powder, to sprinkle on top

Begin by melting the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir it occasionally if you want (this is highly therapeutic and really enjoyable, so I recommend you do it!) Once it has melted, set it aside to cool.

Separate the eggs into two bowls. Add 1oog of the caster sugar to the yolks and whisk until they are pale and fluffy, which should take about 5 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, until they look like cloud and really hold their shape. You need the fluffiness to make your cake rise, so the firmer the better! Once they are stiff, add the remaining sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Poor the cooled chocolate into the egg yolks and whick well. Then, fold in the egg whites. Be careful not to knock the air out of them. Pour your mixture into a greased and lined baking tray.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 45-5o minutes, or until the top is crisp. The inside should still be gooey. Don’t worry if the top starts to crack- that’s part of the charm! Leave it in the tin to cool, then sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top and enjoy with cream or ice cream and plenty of strawberries!

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xxR

Chai Spiced Cake with Ginger Icing

I am a self-confessed kitchen control freak. Ask anyone who has ever lived with me/ baked with me/ baked near me. I try so so hard not to jump in and take over, but sometimes, I simply can’t help it.

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Last weekend, three of my cousins came to visit. We very rarely see each other- two of them are really little and live in France and the other, who’s my age, in Exeter (which is basically as long a journey!) so it is always a treat when we can all get together. The house was absolutely full of girls, even more so than usual, and my dad was pretty overrun. After a long lunch and a catch up, and in between the outbursts of singing, the continuous dancing taking place in the kitchen, the nail painting and sisterly bickering, we decided to bake. It was my aunt’s birthday the next day, so one of my cousins wanted to make a cake for her tea party birthday celebration.

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She had decided on a chai tea spiced cake with ginger icing- which, of course I highly recommended as I love it (and have used it numerous times e.g. here and here.) I am also partial to a chai latte in a coffee shop, especially one made with plenty of  almond milk, but, I have to admit, I have never bothered to buy a bag and make it at home. I am much more of a green tea person. So, of course, I was interested. I love spices so it sounded right up my street. Sadly, I didn’t get to taste any, so honestly I am not sure how a chai cake tastes, but my cousin tells me that it was really yummy, especially when paired with the ginger icing.

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This time, thankfully, I managed to control my controlling tendencies, for the most part anyway! Martha, my cousin, might disagree… We also had to contend with our younger cousin, Carla, attempting to wrestle the spoons from our hands to link at every opportunity, and, of course, there was a fight to lick the bowl at the end!

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Despite the sheer chaos that ensues when six cousins come together in a kitchen, the end result was beautiful, and, I’m told by everyone who ate it, delicious too.

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Chai Spiced Cake with Ginger Icing

For the cake:

2 chai teabags

15oml boiling water

3oog butter

44og sugar

6 eggs

33og self raising flour

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Begin by steeping the two teabags in the boiling water, as if you’re making a pot of tea. Put that to one side to cool.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Sift together the flour and the spices, then add to the butter mixture. Once the tea is completely cool, add that to batter.

Spoon the batter into a greased and lined cake tin, then bake at 18o degrees for 5o-6o minutes, or until it is starting to go golden brown on the top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

For the icing:

15og butter

3oog icing sugar

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon of milk, if needed

Beat the butter and sugar together until it is light in colour and fully combined. The best way to do this is in a mixer with a whisk, simply because it makes the lightest icing (and involved the least effort from you!) However, if you don’t have a mixer, a wooden spoon will also do the trick! Once it is completely combined, stir in the ground ginger. Add a splash of milk if you need it to loosen the mixture. You don’t want it runny, but it needs to be spreadable.

When the cake is cool, cut it in half. Spread half your icing over the first layer and sandwich the second on top. Then, spread the rest of the icing over the top, decorate and devour with a big cup of tea (chai tea optional).

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xxR