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Lemon cake with yoghurt drizzle

I have pretty much given up sugar in the past couple of months, I’d like to share more of my experience of cutting it out, but for now I wanted to share my first attempt at a sugar free sweet treat.

I found this nice sounding recipe for lemon bars and liked that it was simple and didn’t use a list of weird and wonderful ingredients.  Mr Rigg loves lemon drizzle cake and this sounded like it might make something pretty similar.  I’ve make cakes before with ground almonds and they usually come out moist – this lemon cake was no exception.

Moist lemon cake

Because there’s no raising ingredients, it’s pretty much the thickness of the batter you pour into your tin, but what it might not give in depth it provides in flavour and texture.

It’s sticky and moist and sweet, but with a lovely tangy lemon taste.  I even made a ‘drizzle’ to go over it, using raw yoghurt and maple syrup (as suggested in the original recipe) – however, the original looks more like whipped cream (I think this is because Greek yoghurt is very thick), whereas the raw yoghurt I used is much runnier.

If you’ve never experimented with natural sweeteners (like me!) then I would really recommend giving this recipe a try – you might be surprised how delicious it is.  It would make an excellent pudding served warm.

Lemon cake with no sugar

Lemon Cake

To begin with I preheated my oven to 180°C.

Firstly I placed my butter (1/2 cup) into a little saucepan on a low heat to melt it.  Once it was melted, I mixed in 1/4 cup of local honey and 1/4 cup of organic maple syrup, and a 1/4 tsp salt.

In a separate mixing bowl I beat together 2 eggs, 2 additional egg yolks, and the juice and zest from 1 lemon (our lemon was a jumbo one which made for a very lemony cake).

Then I added the melted butter and syrup into the egg mixture and gave it a good whisk.  Finally, I added 1/2 cup of organic whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of ground almonds.  Mix that together and pour it into a baking tin I’d lined with greaseproof paper.  Bake it for about 30 minutes.

Finally, I made a yoghurt drizzle by mixing in a bit of maple syrup.  I found that you don’t want this yoghurt to be really sweet as the tartness of the yoghurt is perfect against the lemony cake.  We ate ours warm with a tiny bit of lemon zest to make it look pretty.

I wanted to add that just because I’ve given up sugar (as in the white stuff, and its counterparts) I’ve not gone made on the natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, fruit juices etc.  I have been cutting it all out as far as possible, just having a tiny amount in dark chocolate, honey, and watered down apple juice.  This lemon cake was primarily to satiate Mr Rigg’s love of sweet treats and I have only eaten the tiniest of pieces.

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That’s what I’m asking myself this morning.  And no, that’s not a typo, I really do have a kilo of clotted cream.  Why, you ask?  Well, last night the company I work for held a stakeholder meeting in a local community and as part of dinner we served them delicious mini chocolate cakes with strawberries and a dollop of clotted cream.

With open community meetings you never know how many people are going to turn up, even if you tell people they must RSVP.  So we usually end up with some leftovers which are divided up amongst the team.  I came home with two ice cream tubs full of fresh strawberries…and a kilo of clotted cream.

I’ve truly never seen so much clotted cream in one tub – it makes your heart stop just to look at it!  Sadly it’s not the deep golden yellow coloured cream of my childhood holidays in Devon, with that gorgeous crust that forms (my favourite part).  But none-the-less it’s clotted cream and I need to dream up how to use it.

Ice cream is my leading idea at the moment.  Primarily because it means Mr Rigg and I don’t have to get through a kilo of clotted cream before it goes off!  And also because I’d like a new challenge and haven’t made ice cream before.

Perhaps I might make raspberry and clotted cream ice cream – billed as a ‘sophisticated version of raspberry ripple’.  Or maybe I’ll just make a simple clotted cream ice cream to go with lemon and saffron cake which evokes childhood memories of saffron buns eaten in Devon on my granny’s terrace.

I could even save a little clotted cream to eat as it is, with strawberries and rose petals in a dainty sandwich

The choices!

The other night Mr Rigg made us a delicious dinner of asparagus, mint and lemon risotto.  He found this great sounding recipe of Jamie Oliver’s, and although we did deviate from the recipe Jamie is always full of inspiration.

What did we do differently? 

  • Well, we cooked our asparagus in the oven like we did here
  • We cooked the risotto the way we normally do risotto, rather than learning a slightly different way. 
  • We added lemon zest as we were adding stock.
  • We stirred the sliced cooked asparagus and sliced mint into the risotto at the end.
  • And only added a spritz of lemon juice at the end to taste.

However, without Jamie’s recipe as a starting point I’d have never thought to combine asparagus, mint and lemon together in a risotto.  And you should – it’s divine!

A busy day of gardening both at home and the allotment. 

We planted out some pea seedlings that Buddy had tried to destroy previously – fingers-crossed they will survive.  They are supported with some chicken wire and bamboo canes.

I went to Kenyon Hall Farm and spent large amounts of money on beautiful herbs, more pea and broad bean plants, two Delphiniums and some asparagus for tea.

At the allotment I planted out six types of thyme:

Common

Lemon

Golden

Doone Valley

Redstart

and Vey

As you can tell I love thyme!

Next followed two chive and two heartsease plants. 

These are added to the lavender, tarragon and sage plants already dug into my new herb beds.

Happy digging!

This is simply divine – if you love fish and chips this is a beautiful alternative.  Get cooking!

Hot fish and chip salad

Hot ‘fish and chip’ salad

Serves 2 hungry mouths

For the ‘fish and chips’
100g white fish (Coley was my choice)
Fine bread crumbs
200g waxy new potatoes
Groundnut oil
Olive oil
For the dressing
Couple of teaspoons of capers
Big bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 generous tsp Dijon mustard
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
To serve
Watercress

Slice the new potatoes in half lengthways and parboil for 5 minutes.  Allow to steam dry for a couple of minutes.

In a large frying pan, heat enough olive oil to cover the base of the pan.  Add the parboiled new potatoes, cut-side down and fry gently – turn when are golden underneath – this should take about 5 minutes.

Fried potatoes

Meanwhile, cut your fish into fingers.  I chose Coley from my local fishmongers – this piece of 100g cost less than £1.50 – what a bargain!  As the fish monger said, “Cheaper than Mr Birdseye!”

Fish fingers

Blitz up your breadcrumbs so they are fine and delicate – I used up some focaccia from last week.  Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.  Toss the fingers of fish in the breadcrumbs to coat.

Before frying your fish – prepare the dressing.  Blitz up all the dressing ingredients adding enough oil to make a loose dressing and enough lemon juice to give it a nice acidic tang.

Lemon caper dressing

In a non-stick frying pan heat enough groundnut oil to cover the fish fingers.  When hot, carefully add the fish fingers – they should bubble and crackle as they enter the oil.  The oil might spit so watch out! 

Fish fingers

The fish fingers should take a couple of minutes to cook through and start to turn golden.  Drain on paper towel when cooked.

Add a good handful of watercress to your plates.  Add the fried potatoes and the fish fingers.  Finely drizzle with generous amounts of the dressing.  Serve additional dressing in a bowl for people to add as they like.  Eat straight away!

This recipe is inspired and slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’.

Hot fish and chip salad

Hot fish and chip salad

Hot fish and chip salad

Smoked Salmon

Welcome back and a Happy New Year to you!  N and I have just returned from a weekend with my family, which has been lovely, although it is much quieter now we’re back home…

I haven’t taken many foodie photos over Christmas, to be honest I haven’t enjoyed food much over the festive period as I’ve had a grotty cold for two weeks.  How miserable! 

My taste buds went completely and I couldn’t taste anything – I felt like eating bread and butter as it didn’t make much of a difference what I ate as it was only to fill my belly.

Smoked Salmon

That being said, we have enjoyed some delicious smoked salmon, and a gift of some oak smoked salmon was particularly good – I could actually taste it! 

Our favourite way to eat smoked salmon is on thinly sliced bread with a good smear of butter, lots of freshly ground black pepper (for me) and a good squeeze of lemon. 

Smoked Salmon

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I am currently holed up in bed, for what looks like the week, with suspected swine flu – oh joy!  N is picking up my dose of Tamiflu on his way home from work, and hopefully I will be back to good health in no time.  So, after spending the night sleeping upright on the sofa and not getting to sleep until about 3.30am I am trying to cheer myself up by sharing the latest from the allotment.

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Last week N and I lifted all the onions and shallots growing on the allotment.  I have never grown onions or shallots, but grown from sets they are pretty hassle-free, apart from the odd weeding session.  I’d noticed the last time I’d been to the allotment that their green spiky tops had started to wither and fade, so pulled out my Grow Your Own Veg book by Carol Klein to find out how to harvest them.

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N used a fork to carefully lift the clusters of shallots and onions out of the soil, and I followed behind breaking up the shallots, rubbing off large clods of earth and popping them into my basket.  It was that simple.

Once we got home, we set about putting them out to dry.  Rather conveniently we were away over the weekend at a friend’s wedding, so we cleared the draining board and counter top next to the sink – the sink has a large window that lets in lots of light, which I thought would be the best place in our house for the onions to dry out.  We lay down a couple of tea towels and used the wire stand from inside the grill tray to allow air to circulate around the onions – which is what the book had recommended as ideal.

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They look really beautiful, these soil encrusted orbs which glow a brilliant amber where the papery outside layer has been removed.  Now we just need to store them properly in order to keep them as long as possible into the autumn – that’s if we can resist making a meal from them.

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One of my favourite onion recipes is Pasta with Lemon and Onion.  Simply saute an onion (any kind will do, ordinary, white or red) in some olive oil and a knob of butter until soft.  You can pop a couple of sprigs of thyme in to impart its flavour if you like.  Add in the zest of a lemon, season with salt and pepper.  Remove the thyme sprig before tipping into your drained pasta.  Loosen it up a little with some extra virgin olive oil, squeeze in lemon juice to taste, and add a good handful of finely chopped parsley.  Eat with a sprinkling of Parmesan.  We had this for tea last night and it is just so homely – like a big hug.  Perfect for people suffering from swine flu or other flu-like bugs!

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Feeling that a cold might be creeping up on me gets me planning all the ways I can try to fight it off.  These ‘ways’ usually involve food.  We have been eating lots of garlic, onion, lemons, herbs, chicken stock, and drinking orange juice and hot honey and lemon.  If my throat gets stratchy and sore, I head for the cupboard, grab a teaspoon, scoop out a spoonful of ‘spring flower’ honey brought back from our travels in the Loire, and slowly suck on it.  It coats your throat and tastes delicious, plus I’m sure I’ve read that honey has antibacterial properties.  It certainly does the trick.

So when N woke up on Saturday morning with a sore throat too, it was essential to fill our bellies with something healing for lunch.  We opted for a firm favourite in our house, a pasta broth.  Its part soup, part broth, part bowl of pasta.  At its most basic you cook some teeny pasta in stock rather than water and add any combination of tiny diced vegetables.  Every time we make cook this dish it is slightly different, a different combination of vegetables, herbs and seasonings.

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This time we cracked open a tub of frozen homemade chicken stock, to ensure the best possible healing powers, no stock cubes today.  I used the vegetables that we had lying around in the fridge – a lonesome carrot that had got forgotten at the bottom of the salad draw, a small white onion, a chunk of celery, some sunblushed tomatoes, a few oyster mushrooms, and a bulb of fresh garlic. 

Firstly, I finely diced everything – except the mushrooms and sunblushed tomatoes, which were roughly chopped.  The onion, celery and fresh garlic were sweated in a little oil.  Next the carrot was added, stirred a little, then the mushrooms added.  The mini pasta was added (we used a small pasta shaped like rice) and stirred in, then the chicken stock added and the whole lot simmered. 

With a couple of minutes to go before the pasta is cooked, the sunblushed tomatoes are added.  I also added a sprinkle of dried herbs.  Once the pasta is cooked, I added a handful of chopped parsley and the juice of a lemon – the lemon juice just lifts the whole dish and transforms it – for me it wouldn’t be the same without it.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  You will find that most of the liquid gets absorbed by the pasta, so it’s more like a sloppy pasta dish.

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Serve it up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and an extra grinding of black pepper if you’re me.  You could also add some grated Parmesan or a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.  Bread or toast with a smear of butter is also a must to mop up any remaining broth.

hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

This recipe should be tried by all – it’s delicious.  A fantastic winter soup that will bring a little ray of summer sunshine into these cold and dismal days.  It bursts with rich tomato and zingy lemon, but with deep earthy lentils and hearty pasta twirls.  And what’s more, it is made from store cupboard staples.  We ate large bowlfuls with grated Parmesan and a sprinkling of torn parsley.  For lunch the next day I finished up the leftovers with a pile of sunflower sprouts and a drizzle of oil.

Tomato, Lemon and Lentil Soup

Serves 2
(this is what the recipe says, but really it’s two large bowlfuls and one for lunch the next day)

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
400g tin plum tomatoes
60g red lentils
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable stock
75g fusilli
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Delicious garnishes: torn flat leaf parsley or sunflower sprouts

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and gentle fry the onion, garlic and carrot until soft.

Add the tinned tomatoes and break up a bit. Add the red lentils and stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.

While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta in a separate pan. This is really important – the first time I made this soup I thought I would save on washing up and bunged the dry pasta in with the soup to cook. The soup turned out more like a stew as the pasta absorbed too much of the cooking liquid.

When the soup has had its 30 minutes, use a hand blended to blitz it up a little bit so that it is a mixture or smooth and coarse textures. Add the pasta and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Make sure you taste the soup and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper until the soup bursts with flavour in your mouth.

Serve in warm bowls with plain or with a garnish of your choice.

soup with sunflower sprouts

soup with sunflower sprouts

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from Family Food by Silvana Franco.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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