Recipe: Delicious and Healthy Granola

It’s been a long time since I shared a recipe, which isn’t really representative of how much I love cooking. When I’m craving something delicious, homemade wins every single time – it’s always a hundred times more delicious, and the process of creating something (and filling the house with a delicious fragrance) is immensely relaxing and satisfying.

As soon as the weather warms up, I make great batches of granola almost every fortnight. It’s scumptious, healthy and sustaining (read: keeps 11am sugar cravings at bay) as a cereal (just add milk and fresh berries), or wonderful as a topping on plain greek yoghurt with honey or fruit compote, sprinkled on ice cream, or just poured into a little dish as it comes as a healthy nibble when you’re craving a snack, but not a zillion calories (I’ll pick at this when watching a movie, instead of a bag of sugary snacks). Just as importantly, it is infinitely customisable and the combinations of ingredients is entirely dependent on personal taste/what is at hand in the cupboard.

I’m never precise with the measurements – I just throw a pile of oats, some seeds and nuts in a bowl, add whatever dried fruit and juice I have to hand and stir until it looks about right. Feel free to change the ingredients to suit (delicious combinations are dried cherry and hazelnut, apricot and almond, or dried berries with choc chips added after cooking is a delcious combination if you don’t mind the calories, or just omit the dried fruit altogether and serve with fresh fruit instead).

Ingredients:

A few cups of plain rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1 cup roughly chopped nuts (any combination, such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios)
A good handful of mixed seeds (such as pumpkin, sunflower, linseed)
1 cup roughly chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, peach, cranberries, dried cherries, sultanas, raisins)
1/2 cup apple juice (though any  juice will do really)
2 tbs honey + 2 tbs maple or golden syrup (or 4 tbs honey if preferred)
2 tbs oil or melted butter
Small handful of dried coconut (shredded of flaked)
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
A large handful of rice bubbles, wheat flakes, chocolate chips or any other preferred additives

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius (35o farenheit). Lightly mist 2 large baking trays/sheets with cooking spray.
Combine the oats and cinnamon in a bowl until you’re happy with the proportions (no need to be too precise).
In a separate small bowl, combine the juice, vanilla extract, honey, syrup, salt and oil/butter. Add this to the dry ingredients, and stir well. Taste, and if it seems a little dry or not as sweet as you would like, add a touch more juice or honey (the mix should be moist and combined, though not saturated).
Spoon evenly into two large baking trays, and bake for approximately 20 minutes – or until almost dry and golden. At this stage, add the nuts, seeds, dried fruit and coconut (stirring in to combine and break up the baked mix slightly – you want a mix of small pieces and chunks). Bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until the nuts and dried fruit look slightly baked (do keep checking regularly, as the fruit can quickly burn) and the whole mix is a nicely crisp and golden.
Allow to cool completely in baking trays, then stir through rice bubbles (or whichever ‘unbaked’ ingredients you wish) – these will lighten the whole mix, and add another textural layer against the crunchy oats.

Makes 2 large mason jars worth.

What is one of your favourite versatile recipes?

Love, Miss B xx

Fudgey Bittersweet Chocolate and Cheesecake Cupcakes

Come Hallowe’en, I become obsessed by all things pumpkin pie. Even though I make (in my opinion) the best pumpkin pie, the Clever Boyfriend and my nearby friends hate the stuff, and thus I’m usually left to eat most of the thing myself. This means I have to limit myself to making it once a year  (I don’t want an entire pumpkin pie going straight to my thighs on a regular basis, you see…) and it becomes even more special.

Since not everyone is a fan of the traditional Hallowe’en pumpkin flavours (and those that are usually already have a favourite recipe), these little cakes are a great alternative. Their richness seems Hallowe’en appropriate, and the eggless base becomes a dark, fudgey (almost truffle-like) base which is offset nicely by the sweeter cheesecake top. And the best part? It impossible to eat more than a couple of these, so your thighs will generally be happier…

INGREDIENTS:

Bittersweet chocolate base:
190g plain flour
125g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
45ml vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar (you won’t taste this, but it is essential to react with the bicarb soda to make the cakes rise)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cheesecake top:
150g reduced fat cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
100g dark chocolate chips

Cream cheese frosting:
150g reduced fat cream cheese
150g icing sugar (sifted)
50g butter (room temperature)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 170c / 325f

For the chocolate base:
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarb soda until combined.
In a separate jug, stir together the oil, vinegar, vanilla and 125ml water.
Slowly add the liquid mix to the dry ingredients, mixing constantly. The mixture will become very thick; continue to beat until all the ingredients are completely combined. If mixing by hand rather than electric beater, you may need to add a little more water to allow the ingredients to combine – do this by slowly adding 1 teaspoon of water at a time until you have a thick, fudgey consistency.
Spoon the mixture into a muffin tray lined with paper cases (each case should be 2/3 full).

For the cheesecake topping:
In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips until evenly dispersed (do not overmix).
Scoop this mixture on top of the chocolate mixture (about 1 tablespoon in each case).

Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to touch and the cheesecake has become golden (do not overcook as cheesecake will become dry).
Leave to cool slightly before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: beat together the icing sugar and butter until the mixture is creamy and well combined. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely incorporated. Continue beating at high speed until the whole mixture becomes light and fluffy (about 5 mins).

Once cool, ice each cake with the cream cheese frosting (below) and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

Makes 12 regular cupcakes.

What are you making for Hallowe’en?

Love, Miss B xx

Raspberry, parma and goat’s cheese salad

The last long days of Summer have this week definitely turned into the crisp days of Autumn. To me, that spells the end of long breezy evenings with the windows thrown open, long afternoons lazing by the river enjoying the smell of the grass (even though it makes me sneeze), and stone fruits and berries so juicy they trickle down one’s arm.

I love the changing seasons, but always panic at thought of not being able to have something for another 6 months. Wanting to make the most of these jewel-coloured treasures before they disappear for the year, I stocked up on raspberries, blackberries and the last of the English strawberries at the farmer’s market. Some have gone into tarts, others into clafoutis. But my favourite way to enjoy them is to honour their beauty in a blissfully simple way.

Though the combination of flavours in this salad may sound somewhat strange, it absolutely works.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2):

Rocket (that’s arugula to my lovely American readers), baby spinach or other salad leaves, mixed with a few torn basil leaves

I small wheel of soft goat’s cheese (at room temperature or slightly warm), torn

I small punnet raspberries

5-6 slices parma or prosciutto ham, torn

Small handful of cherry or grape tomatoes

1/4 red onion, sliced very finely (optional)

Large drizzle of good quality olive oil

Balsamic vinegar (raspberry or pomegranate vinegar also work beautifully), freshly cracked pepper and sea salt, to taste

Throw the lot in a bowl, toss, done. Best served outside in the fading sunset, chilled rose in hand.

Do you have a favourite seasonal recipe at this time of year?

Love, Miss B

The holy grail of cake

I’m sure we all have a go-to recipe: the one we turn to when we don’t know what else to make, and yet which somehow seems perfect in every situation. Whether I want to console a friend, cheer my colleagues on a Monday morning, pack something perfect for a picnic or take a small offering when visiting someone’s house, apologise to the Clever Boyfriend for being too busy during the week or when I’m just craving something luscious and sweet (but not cloyingly so), this moist, heavenly carrot cake is always the first thing I turn to.

While I’m extremely partial to a fancy French tart, clafoutis, or tray of rosebud madelines, there’s something about a cake that is both endlessly satisfying and yet simpler and healthier than most others. No matter when I make this or for whom (grown men, fussy fashionistas and children alike), it never elicits less than a satisfied moan – surely the greatest compliment after baking something yourself. I used to make this with my mother as a child, and we would basically just throw things in a bowl. So pay attention to the measurements of the dry ingredients, but feel free to take the rest as a guide (if in doubt, err on the side of too much carrot/orange/moistness). I promise you’ll love it!

THE PERFECT CARROT CAKE:

This makes 12 perfect cupcakes. If it is a cake you desire (as I did this time), simply double the volume of the ingredients listed below and bake at 150 degrees rather than 180, for approximately an hour rather than the 25 minutes I prescribe for the cupcakes (or until lightly golden, springy and when a skewer, inserted into the middle, comes out clean).

Ingredients:

I cup granulated brown sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 tbs orange juice and the zest of 1 orange

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs (preferably organic)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp mixed spice (or your own combination of nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc.)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup + 2 tbs plain flour

1 1/2 – 2 cups grated carrots (depending on how moist you like your cake – I prefer more)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish

Approx. 250g low fat cream cheese

1/2 cup icing sugar

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (350 F). Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners (or if making a cake, line a round or loaf tin with parchment paper).

In a bowl, combine sugar, oil, orange juice and zest, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and eggs. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Sift in flour and mix well. Stir in carrots, walnuts and coconut.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin liners (or fill a cake tin evenly). Bake for approximately 25 minutes (if making cupcakes), or until the tops are light and springy and a skewer inserted into their centres comes out clean.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl combine cream cheese, icing sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and beat until smooth and fluffy. I also like to add a good dose or orange or lemon zest, and a dash of their juice (this makes for a nice, tart cheescake-flavoured icing). Allow cakes to cool completely before icing. Frost, and garnish with a sprinkle of shredded coconut and some edible dried lavender (if feeling daring).

Tres, tres bien!

So tell me my lovelies, do you have a closely guarded cake recipe that always turns out beautifully? If so, i’d love to hear!

Love, Miss B xx