Warm Buckwheat Salad with Roasted Beetroot and Cumin Cauliflower

I love entertaining. I enjoy cooking for my friends so much, I would probably have to classify it as one of my hobbies! I can get quite carried away though, spending hours pouring over cookbooks and food magazines deciding what to cook, and then yet more hours in the kitchen. I tend to go a bit overboard with candles and flowers- definitely a hazard, but it does make my flat look and smell beautiful! I am always determined to think up new things to cook when I have people over, and this buckwheat salad was a recent creation of mine.

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Buckwheat itself is a fairly new discovery for me, and something I have discovered as a gluten-free option. The name is misleading- it is in fact entirely gluten-free (unlike bulgar wheat, which is not! Confusing!) It has a nuttier flavour than quinoa, which enables it to balance out stronger tastes, like beetroot and cauliflower. It is also super easy and quick to cook, and is delicious hot or cold.

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I was so excited to finally see raw beetroot in a supermarket that I had to buy it. In America, roast beets is common- in fact, it is rare to find pre-cooked beetroots. Here, they always seem to be already cooked, which does make the whole thing a bit easier, but you also lose out on the deliciousness of a freshly roasted beet. They are delicious warm too!

Together with the cumin crunch of cauliflower and chickpeas and the nutty buckwheat, this is a delicious side dish or main course. Serve with a large helping of best friends and laughter.

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Warm Buckwheat Salad with Roasted Beetroot and Cumin Cauliflower

serves 6

4 large or 5 small beetroot

1 cauliflower

1 tin of chickpeas

3 tablespoons ground cumin

about 150g of buckwheat

handful of mint leaves, chopped

for the dressing:

juice of half a lemon

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. The first time I made this, I roasted the beetroot with their skins on, which seems like the sensible thing to do, but then they were extremely difficult to peel. I burned my fingers repeatedly and turned everything in my kitchen a deep shade of purple. So, new plan- peel the beetroot using a veg peeling while they are still raw, then wrap each one in tin foil, place in a roasting tray and bake in the oven for at least 45 minutes to an hour, or until they are soft all the way through.

Cut the cauliflower into smallish florets, and put in a roasting dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil and the cumin. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until they are browning and softish. Don’t overcook them or they will be a bit mushy and ruin the textures of the salad. About 5 minutes before they are finished, drain the chickpeas and add them to the roasting dish, giving it a bit of a toss to coat them in cumin.

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Meanwhile, cook your buckwheat. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the buckwheat and simmer for 8 minutes. Then, drain.

While the buckwheat is cooking, you can make your dressing. Simply mix the lemon juice, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper in an old jam jar.

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Now you are ready to assemble. Place the buckwheat on your favourite serving dish, then add the cauliflower and chickpeas. Cut the beetroot into small chunks and mix those in too. Finish with your dressing and mint leaves and give the whole thing a good toss before serving.

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xxR

Black Bean Brownies (gluten and dairy free)

Adapting to a gluten free diet is, for me, a case of changing all my expectations. No matter what people might say, things without gluten just aren’t the same as things with. It’s not that they’re worse, necessarily, just different, and at the moment I’m working on not expecting a gluten free brownie to taste exactly like the normal, glutenous, sugar packed brownies that I have been enjoying for the last 21 years.

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If you, like me, have recently had to make the switch to a gluten free diet, the key is adapting. It doesn’t mean that you’re consigned to a life bereft of all your favourite foods. It simply means that the expectations you have of your favourite foods will change slightly.

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I’ve been bogged down recently with a 10,000 word dissertation about nationalism in Mexican fashion after the 1910-1920 revolution. I’ve loved writing it, but it has commandeered most of my time, leaving me unable to really start dabbling in the world of gluten free baking. I’ve been using up all the normal flour left in my cupboards over the past few weeks, baking endless loaves of bread and cakes that I can’t eat. However, as of last Thursday, my dissertation is done, handed in and out of my hair, leaving me completely free from all uni commitments and, subsequently, with an awful lot of free time of my hands.

In between celebrating with my friends and freaking out about what I’m going to do with my life, I have finally had the chance to snoop through my local health food store and pick up a variety of gluten free ingredients.

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These brownies are my first foray into rice flour, and, I think, quite a successful one. They use black beans (my absolute favourite food, although not necessarily as an ingredient to bake with!), coconut oil and honey, making them not only gluten free but also dairy and refined sugar free. Infinitely healthier than your everyday brownie, and just as tasty! They are gooey and really rich- eat them while they are still warm for ultimate gooey-ness!

Black Bean Brownies

1 tin black beans (23og)

3 tbsp coconut oil

15og your favourite dark chocolate

2 eggs

150ml maple syrup/ agave nectar

60g rice flour

pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees and line a square tin/ ceramic dish with baking paper.

In a bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt your coconut oil and chocolate together, then leave it to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, blitz the black beans until they form a sort of paste. When the chocolate mixture is cool, add that and blitz to combine. Then add the eggs, maple syrup/ agave nectar, flour and salt and blitz until everything is well mixed.

Spoon into your lined tray and bake for about 30-45 minutes until the top is crispy and starting to crack and the brownies feel slightly firm to the touch. Cut into squares and devour with a handful of your favourite berries.

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xxR

Blueberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Everyone knows that blueberries are my favourite fruit. When I found loads of punnets in the reduced section last week, I couldn’t resist stocking up my freezer! I baked these cupcakes last Sunday when the sun was shining and the sweltering heat was making it really feel like summer. Today, sadly, isn’t quite so beautiful. IMG_9583 IMG_9587

I love London in the summer. Everything feels so laid back, much more so than in the winter. When it’s cold, grey and rainy, it’s difficult to enjoy anything. The herds of people in coats with heads bowed against the drizzle, rushing past each other turn into crowds spilling out of pub doors, Pimms in hand, and flocking to London’s parks.

Last Sunday was one of those pub going, park visiting days. We packed a huge picnic, donned summer dresses and sunglasses, and followed the hoards of people heading to Hampstead Heath, which, thankfully, I live about five minutes away from!

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It is rare that British weather is good, so when the sun shines, you really have to make the most of it. I also have something other than the gorgeous weather to celebrate. I finished my dissertation, and, subsequently my MA, on Thursday! So, sunshine or no sunshine, I’m very happy. And the prefect accompaniment to happiness is cupcakes, regardless of whether or not I can eat them!

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Blueberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:

2oog butter

2oog caster sugar

3 eggs

2oog self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon milk

1 punnet blueberries

Preheat the oven to 18o degrees Celcuis.

Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and mix well. Then add the flour and baking powder. Stir in the milk.

Line a muffin tray with cupcake cases and spoon a tablespoon of mixture into each case. Once the cases are full, place a handful of blueberries on top of each one and, using your finger, push into the mixture  slightly. I do it this way to ensure that all the berries don’t sink the bottom.

Bake for 15-2o minutes, or until slightly golden brown and firm and springy to the touch.

For the icing:

1oog white chocolate

25og butter, slightly softened

25og icing sugar

Begin by melting the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of over simmering water, then place it to one side and allow it to cool completely.

While the white chocolate is cooling, beat together the butter and icing sugar until it is pale and fluffy. If you have a freestanding mixer, it is best to use the whisk attachment to get the lightest icing.

When the chocolate is cool, stir it in. When the cupcakes have cooled, spoon a dollop of icing onto each cupcake and smooth. Decorate with a few blueberries and enjoy! IMG_9585

xxR

Lemon Quinoa with Kale, Cumin Chickpeas, Avocado and Tomatoes

Quinoa is honestly one of my favourite foods. It’s so versatile, easy to cook and I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t like it.

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I made this salad for my sister and I a few weeks ago. We were at my parents’ house, they were away for the weekend and we were hunting through the pantry for something to whip up and then devour in front of a movie. Our search yielded an abundance of quinoa, an absolute staple food for my family these days, as well as one very ripe avocado, green and purple curly kale, cherry tomatoes, a lone tin of chickpeas and a lemon. Happily, those are the perfect ingredients for a delicious supper, which also happens to be really good for you.

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We roasted the chickpeas in cumin, which is a fantastic thing to do any time for any salad, or even for a snack. Seriously, cumin chickpeas are to die for. We diced the avocado, sliced the kale and chopped up the tomatoes, then threw them all together with the quinoa and a really lemony dressing. The perfect thing to eat on a slightly rainy spring/summer evening with a lovely sister and a wonderful dog!

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Lemon Quinoa with Kale, Cumin Chickpeas, Avocado and Tomatoes

about a cup of quinoa

1 tin of chickpeas

1 tablespoon cumin

handful of kale leaves

1 ripe avocado

handful of cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:

juice of one lemon

about 2 tablespoons of olive oil

big pinch of salt and pepper

Begin by cooking the quinoa. I put it in a saucepan with double the amount of water, bring to the boil and simmer it for about 1o minutes. Preheat the oven to 18o degrees.

While it is cooking, drain and rinse the chickpeas and dry them off. Heat a tiny splash of olive oil in a big frying pan, add the chickpeas and sprinkle over the cumin and fry until they are crispy and well coated.

Chop the kale into small pieces, dice and avocado and cut the tomatoes in half. Place the tomatoes on a tray and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the skin starts to blister slightly.

When the quinoa has finished cooking, put it on a large plate or salad bowl. When it has cooled slightly, add the chickpeas, kale, avocado and tomatoes and toss.

Then make the dressing: mix the lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper in a jam jar. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if it needs it!

Dress the salad, give it a final toss and serve!

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xxR