Roast Beetroot and Carrots with Goats Cheese and Almonds

I love Thanksgiving. I feel like it’s all the best things about Christmas- the feasting, getting together with people you love- without all the stress (and cost!) of buying presents. I’ve lived in England for eleven years now, but I’ve still never failed to celebrate Thanksgiving in some way or another! A few times over the past five years that I have been living away from my parents, I have gone home, often with friends in town, to celebrate with my family (and eat my mum’s food!) Other years, I’ve gone solo, hosting from my student house or flat. This year, I went pretty big.

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Let me first just set the scene. I live by myself in a tiny one bedroom flat. There is a separate living room- but it’s certainly not big, and you struggle to fit more than one person in the kitchen at a time. Despite this, and much to my family’s amusement, I invited fifteen people for Thanksgiving dinner. I have a total of eight chairs- although squeezing eight around my table is a stretch! – and six sets of cutlery. The cutlery was not a problem, and I was able to borrow nine more knives and forks. For seating, I had to get a little more creative (again, much to the huge amusement of my family!)

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I got three large cardboard boxes, arranged them in a row on the floor and threw a table cloth over the top- a makeshift table. I then grabbed all the cushions from my sofa, and tossed them around the boxes for seats- Japanese style (on the floor). I was very impressed with my seating arrangements, although some of my longer legged friends were less so.

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But anyway, on to the food. Regrettably, there was too much sheer chaos in the kitchen when it came to serving for me to remember to photograph anything. This recipe was one of my side dishes- and it was so easy to make and delicious to eat that I decided to recreate it for a light lunch. My other vegetable sides were roast potatoes (compulsory, really) and brussels sprouts, halved and fried with parmesan, all covered with a good helping of mushroom gravy.

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Roast Beetroot and Carrots with Goats Cheese and Almond

to serve 6-8 as a side

6 raw beetroots

10 carrots

splash of olive oil

salt and pepper

half a log of soft goats cheese

handful of almonds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Peel your beetroots. Individually, wrap each one in tin foil (I have been experimenting with roasting beets for a while, and I’ve found that this method is way easier (and cleaner) than attempting to peel them after they’re cooked). Peel your carrots, and cut into sticks, then place in an oven dish. Drizzle a splash of olive oil over the carrots, as well as a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bake the beetroots for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are soft and juicy. The carrots need about 25-35 minutes. You want them softened slightly.

When the vegetables are finished, unwrap the beets and cut into cubes. Arrange the beetroot and carrots on a serving dish, and crumble over the goats cheese. Roughly chop the almonds, then spindle those over too. Finish with a  pinch of salt and pepper, and wait for the compliments to the chef to start flowing!

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xxR

Happy 2nd Birthday Chocolate Cake and Oil Paint!

Today is my blog’s 2nd birthday!

What better way to celebrate than share with you my favourite recipes from the past two years? (Apart from eating cake, of course!)

Rainbow Cake (Feb 15, 2013) was a huge hit- delicious and beautiful! Perfect for a party.

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Surprise Inside Cake (March 25, 2013) is another crowd pleaser. Maybe not the most highbrow cake ever baked, but sure to get a great reaction!

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Blueberry Lemon Cake with Poppyseed Icing  (September 25, 2014) was also a winner. Blueberries are without a doubt my favourite fruit, and poppyseed icing is a complete revelation. This is the perfect cake for a summer day.

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Lime Cake with Pomegranate Icing (May 15, 2014) is another lovely cake for a birthday, or even just a weekend afternoon. It’s light and fresh and zingy.

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These Creme Egg Inspired Cupcakes (April 2, 2013) are really fun to make and even more fun to eat!

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Raspberry Frangipane Tart  (June 12, 2014) HAS to be on this list. It is my go-to dessert for any occasion. So simple to make and perfect every time! It can also be given a Christmassy twist- as I did only a few a weeks ago with this cranberry version.

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Apple pie is of course a classic, and these Mini Apple Pies (October 14, 2014) are a wonderful new twist on an old favourite.

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 Foccacia (November 3, 2013) is the perfect bread for a cold winter lunch.

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Cinnamon Swirl Loaf (October 12, 2013) was and still is the best thing ever. Seriously, ask anyone who tried it.

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Cinnamon Spiced Courrone (January 17, 2014) is basically a giant cinnamon roll. What’s not to love?!

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It’s all about blueberries for breakfast. Pancakes, buckle, on their own…

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Chocolate Fondants (July 16, 2014), need I say more?

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I love Sugar Cookies (December 6, 2014) for any occasion- but especially Christmas. Try making  hearts for Valentine’s Day or eggs and bunnies for Easter if you just can’t wait that long (I can’t)!

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Mexican food is my all time favourite. This Mexican feast (July 29, 2013) is honestly the best in vegetarian Mexican.

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BBQ Pizzas (July 7, 2013) are the perfect summer supper. You have to try them. It will change your outlook on pizza forever.

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Thank you all so much for baking with me for the last two years, and continuing to do so!

All my love,

xxR

 

Some thoughts on France

Why are the French so good at food? I mean, seriously. And why is it so much better than here? A quick hop across the channel- hardly world’s apart culturally or climate-wise!- but the food is simply a million times tastier. So why? I mean, what do they have that we don’t?

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And I’m not just talking about the artisan patisseries, boulangeries, fromageries that line every street in Paris and are the centrepiece of each rural village. Even the supermarkets stock the most delicious, fresh, vibrant selection of fruit and vegetables you can imagine. Lettuces so large and fresh that they still smell vaguely of earth, tomatoes so round and red that they don’t even look real. How can they be getting it so right? Supermarket bakeries, which in England toil to produce an adequate granary loaf, are producing row after row of baguette, pain and l’ancienne.  And don’t even get me started on the pain au chocolat!

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I’ve just come back from a summer of French travels- from my grandparents holiday home in the rural, remote Loire Valley, to a truly cultural, Parisian experience. But, regardless of location- be it the sunny south of France, the bustling city, or the complete middle-of-nowhere countryside, the connecting factor seems to be the quality of the food. It seems to be so much fresher (and, as a result tastier!) than any we get here- far less air miles, and far more vitality. The food feels healthy and you feel healthier eating it. (Apart from the bread, cheese and wine- of course! But even that feels weirdly wholesome- definitely compared to cheap airy white loaves the English adore so much!)

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I love the French, and I love being in France- I love how relaxed and laid back everything, and everyone is. People have time for each other. Oh, and I love laying on the beach, swimming, mooching around Parisian shops and dragging my boyfriend to galleries. And of course, I love the food. And the idea that food is important, and should be made time for. Be it meals at leisurely meals at expensive restaurants, picnics on the Champ de Mars, quick lunches at crowded cafes, baguettes, piled high with fromage de chevre, Roquefort and camembert, or pain au chocolat in bed!

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Perusing the markets to find the cheapest, and tastiest, fresh produce and handmade cheeses is definitely the best option when in France! Even in the tiniest of towns in rural France, the entire population (be it small) turns out to buy from the local farmers, bakers, chesemakers who line the streets in force. One women was absolutely insistent that we sample (and then buy!) her cheese aged ‘three years in cave.’

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Bread is crunchier on the outside and softer on the inside, cheese tastes stronger and has a softer texture, wine is cheaper and far better than any in England. So why? What is it about France that makes their food so good?

I put this down to lifestyle. The French seem to be very good at living- they know the importance of relaxing, of sitting down with friends and family, and eating good food. In France, everything closes in August. Like, everything. This can be annoying if you are a tourist eager to explore the food markets of Saint-Germain (me), but if you are French, it must be amazing. Everything closes, no one has work- it is the ultimate summer holiday.

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Walking around Paris, you get the sense that taking time to have a nice meal, a cup of coffee, and a long chat, really is very important to the French. Without fail, the brasseries and cafes whose seats spill out onto the streets, are always crammed with huge men around the tiny tables, sipping their espressos or pints of beer.

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We could learn a thing or two from the French- stop rushing around, take time out to eat, drink, relax and enjoy the company of those around us! I think that if we put more effort into enjoying food- and really good, tasty, healthy food- the quality of what we eat would improve. Say yes to the artisan bakeries, freshly baked bread, and locally grown produce. Be more French.

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I read an interesting stat last week. Apparently, rumour has it, that the French are going off bread. Yep. Apparently so. The average Frenchman now eats just one third of a baguette a day, compared to three a day in 1900! Apparently pasta is the new carb of choice from Calais to Cannes.

So the French may be saying ‘pooh pooh’ to the baguette, but for me they are definitely still the flavour of the month.

xxR

Mexican Feasting

I went to Mexico in April, and, ever since then, have become completely and utterly enraptured by all things Mexican. So much so that I am planning on writing my final year dissertation on Mexican art during the revolution, and have also bought a teach yourself Spanish book- which, I must confess, remains unopened!

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Mexican culture (and food!) is all about colour and flavour! Bright colours of fresh peppers and avocados, paired with the spicey flavours of cumin and chillis are what make it just so unique and delicious- mexican food has always been one of my favourites!
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This summer the Royal Academy, in London’s beautiful Burlington House, is holding an exhibition entitled ‘Mexico: A Revolution in Art,’ which highlights work from Mexican artists during the unstable years of 1910- 1940. (Take a look! http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/mexico/ )
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The vivacity and life of Mexican culture has always inspired me, and indeed countless others, and this summer, I am unleashing my inner Mexican! (Well, I am going to eat a lot of Mexican food…) Starting with this feast!
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Now, I am vegetarian (okay, okay, so that’s not THAT mexican…) But being veggie doesn’t mean you can’t eat good food. (You know what really get’s my goat cheese- on the plane, if you book a vegetarian meal, you never get a chocolate pudding! The meaties always get pud! Why is this a thing? Just because you are veg doesn’t mean you are boring!)

Trust me- it really doesn’t. Plus, eating vegetarian food can make you feel really good. No no, I don’t mean about saving animals (necessarily) but just healthier, happier, wholesome-r. You know?

These black bean tacos served with homemade salsa, fresh guacamole and crumbly feta are the perfect summer weekend feast. Enjoy with a cold cerveza (or margherita- whatever floats your boat!) and good company.
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For the tacos:
125g flour
60g cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups water

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Heat up a griddle or frying pan with a little bit of olive oil.
Ladle in some mixture for the desired size of your taco, and fry for a few minutes- until the top is dried. Flip it over and cook the other side (sort of like pancakes!)
These can easily be reheated in the oven when you are ready for them.
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For the black beans:
1 onion
black beans (these can be bought in a tin- one tin will serve about 3 people)
a couple of cloves or garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
thyme
bay leaves
coriander
lime juice

Dice the onion and fry it with a little olive oil. Once they are soft and slightly golden, add the garlic, finely diced. Add the cumin and let it cook down for a moment. Add the beans.
Put in a few sprigs of thyme, a few of coriander and a couple of bay leaves.
Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Cook for about ten minutes, until the mixture has thickened. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime.

For the salsa:
2 tomatoes, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 red onion, finely diced
3 mild chillies, finely chopped
a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
salt
juice of half a lime
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Combine all the ingredients, adding extra lime juice, salt and chillies to taste.

To serve- place a dollop of beans on a warm taco, pile some salsa on the top, followed by slices of avocado and crumbled feta.
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xxR

Stressing Out Carrot Cake Cupcakes

It’s me that’s stressing out, not the cupcakes. I have two essays due next week PLUS a dissertation due after Easter, so I’m feeling a bit snowed under. I realize that baking is probably the least valuable use of my time at the moment, but I need to try and take my mind off the work load before I break down!

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Carrot cake is the ultimate relaxation device.

Carrot Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe adapted from here)

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1 c flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 c sugar

1/2 c vegetable oil

2 eggs, room temp

1 tsp vanilla

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 c (or about two large carrots) grated carrots

Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and sugar in a large bowl and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, vanilla and maple syrup. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is thoroughly combined. Grate in the carrots and mix.

Bake for 15- 20 minutes in a 180 degree oven.

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For the cream cheese frosting:

Mix a big dollop of cream with with about double the amount of icing sugar (I completely eyed this up, and then relied on tasting and testing to get it right.) It should be a smooth creamy consistency, but not too runny! Mix in some ground ginger (if you want- I think this is delish with carrot cake!) Grate some orange rind on top (again, totally optional, just looks pretty!)

 

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Enjoy!

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xxR