Romesco white bean dip

For those of you holidaying abroad this summer, or considering it’s the end of August, have already spent your week away and have hoiday blues. You’ve wined and dined eating the local cuisine, immersed yourself in a new culture, had many failed attempts at the local lingo, driven on the wrong side of the road and made many memories.

That’s what holidays are really about the memories.

A certain time and place, the view, the company, it all adds up to make these memories. Ever had lunch on a beach drinking a glass of wine, to go and buy that very same bottle to take home, but when it comes to drinking, it just doesn’t taste as good. Or asked the waiter for the recipe for that sublime paella or meze dish to cook it at home, it most likely won’t taste as good.

So I bring to you a take on a famous sauce from the northern region of Spain, Catalonia. The romesco sauce is punchy from the paprika and cayenne but rich due to the almonds and Spanish olive oil. If you’ve ever experienced a true romesco sauce, no this won’t be the same, it may not be as good, it may even be better?!? But it has its feet stuck firmly in its roots.

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The original sauce uses bread as a thickener, a good white sourdough or chunky country loaf is ideal as it also imparts some flavour. Here though I’ve opted for some white beans. When making a dip I tend to gravitate towards a plantbased protein, typically in the form of lentils or beans, so whether it comes to afternoon snacking or building a big veggie bowl it will keep me sustained. White beans help to thicken the dip and provide a creaminess meaning less oil is needed plus who doesn’t like an alternative to hummus!?! I may feel the urge to bathe in it, but sometimes a change is necessary, so in comes this bright red beauty.

How much chilli, and which variety of chilli you use is comepletely up to you. I use a picante paprika by La Chinata, it is the hot smoked kind so has a good kick, if you’re using paprika just from the supermarket you may need to add a little more to get the right smoky level. Also I used half a dried ancho chilli which has sweeter fruity notes and isn’t too spicy but dried chilli flakes will substitute just finneeeeee. You won’t need to rehydrate these so just add straight to the food processor.

 

I served this in a few different ways, just as a dip with crudites, once in a big veggie bowl packed with sweet potato and courgette chips, avocado, some grains and greens. Another time in a packed lunch with olives, carrot, extra butter beans and a few other veggies thrown in the mix. Stir in some extra olive oil, vinegar if you like and a drop of water to make a killer salad dressing that will liven up any old salad. Or serve with some simply cooked fish or chicken or steak, or smeared underneath a plate of roasted meditteranean veg. I like to work on a leftover lunch policy, they are always the best ones. Throw together whatever is lingering, the crazier and more random sure will be the better!

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Enough chatting, let’s hop to it!

Romesco white bean dip

  • Servings: one big bowl full
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Ingredients

  • 1 tin of white beans (I used haricot)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree ( I had 2 tbsp of tinned cherry tomatoes that were leftover)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond butter or a handful of almonds (roasting them would make it taste even better)
  • 1/2 dried ancho chilli (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp picante smoked paprika (use 1 tsp of paprika if it’s not as strong)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 good pinches of salt
  • small handful of fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Set the oven to 190C/170C fan. Place the peppers on a tray and put in the oven for up to 45 minutes until the skin is blackened and the peppers are soft. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile put the 1/2 ancho chilli in a mug and pour enough boiling water over to cover and leave to rehydrate.
  3. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel away the charred skins and remove the seeds and white membranes. Then put into a food processor.
  4. Place all the other ingredients along with the ancho chilli (not the water though) in the food processor and blitz until a smooth puree is formed.
  5. Taste and check for seasoning, salt, smokiness, acidity, spiciness and adjust as you like.
  6. Scoop into a serving bowl, garnish with extra parsley or store in a Tupperware where it will keep for around 5 days.

Have you got any favourite recipes from past holidays that you make on repeat at home? Maybe it’s the peri peri chicken from Portugal, a rabbit stew from Malta (that’s one that is on my list) a further flung pav bhaji from Mumbai or fava, one of my favourite Greek dishes that I still haven’t got round to cooking. Don’t you worry I’ll be in a yellow split pea frenzy by the time I’m back in my kitchen!

Enjoy the last of your summer!

X

 

Snackalackin’

First up in my little holiday and travel series comes snacks. You know that feeling, we all have it, when you’re on a long journey whether it’s the train, plane or car and you’re seriously bored. All you can think about is what to eat next, you need something to satisfy that nagging in the back of your mind. Sweet, salty, or a bit of both.  The need grows stronger the less you try to think about it until you have to give in and find something QUICK, however the next services are miles away or the only option you have is beige food. EW

I like to believe that snacks are my thing. No matter how long or short my journey out is, I will never be caught without something in my bag to nibble on. People always laugh at the amount of food I bring with me to places, but when lunch is still 2 hours away, I’ll just sit over here nibbling away, then you’ll be laughing. 

There’s always so many different opinions on snacking, what some people think are right and others think are wrong. That snacking between meals is bad for you, or that you should eat 4, 5 or even 6 small meals a day. You see, I like to believe that you do what feels right for your body, what makes you feel full of beans and ready to take on the big bad world, not lie on the sofa afterwards in need of a sleep. Personally I can’t handle eating three large meals a day, my blood sugar levels drop in between and I turn into the hulk, I’m not kidding. Also I love a good snack, maybe more than my actual meals. At the moment I have been trying to put a little bit of weight on to get back some shape to my body and try to build some actual muscles (no more 10 year old boy chic for me), so it’s been three meals a day and three snacks. Eating every 3-4 hours is what I like to do, but be intuitive. 

Think of whole foods when it comes to your snacks, nothing processed. It’s best if it doesn’t even have an ingredients list, but if it does make sure it only contains things that you recognise to be as food. No chemicals here please.

At snack times I try to follow the principle of always eating some form of protein, especially if pairing it with something sweeter. That way you have energy in a steady stream and no spiked blood sugar levels leaving you needing more only an hour or so later. 

Here are some ideas for ya:

  • Banana coins with peanut butter, cacao nibs and cinnamon
  • Apple slices with nut butter, almond or hazelnut is really good
  • Celery or carrot sticks with nut butter or tahini, add a few raisins for ants on a log styleee
  • Some yogurt with berries (coconut, Greek or goats is lovely, if you eat dairy try to stick to organic and full fat)
  • Chunks of cucumber with hummus, sprinkle on some paprika for a punch
  • Chunks of cheese with crackers or some crudités, also with apple slices 
  • A handful of nuts and seeds with some fruit or veggies
  • 1/2 an avocado with lemon salt and chilli, I like to eat this with crackers, a small piece of toast or with some seeds
  • Medjool dates stuffed with nut butter, sprinkle of cinnamon, a lil bit of pink salt. Do it with tahini, DARE YA!
  • Homemade muesli bars or energy balls (keep on reading for the recipe kids)
  • Some chia pudding, go crazy with the toppings, nut butter, fruit, sprinkley things from your cupboard
  • Maybe some banana bread toasted with butter or coconut butter or nut butter
  • Leftovers from breakfast lunch or dinner (yes I do like to eat cold curry)
  • Some boiled eggs with spinach or avocado
  • A little smoothie, not just fruit though, try to throw in some veggies and a source of fat and protein

I could go on and on and on….nothing is that special or trying too hard, just things found in the fridge or cupboard that fills the big gap between feastings. You’re probably thinking that I eat a lot of nut butter, well yes you’re right I do, it’s an addiction I probably need help. You only live once though, might as well enjoy the peanut butter whilst you can.

Find a peanut butter with no added extras, i like meridian and it must be crunchy!

Speaking of peanut butter, here’s a recipe that I threw together one day when I really fancied some peanut butter energy balls, with cacao nibs. Not like a cookie at all, but kinda sorta is, I’ll let you be the judge of that one. They’re not too sweet like some of these types of recipes can be, but will give you boundless energy and two will keep you going nicely.

 Peanut butter and cacao nib energy balls

Ingredients

100g oats

75g almonds

75g desiccated coconut

25g hemp seeds

2 heaped tbsp hemp protein powder (or any protein powder that you like)

1 tbsp maca powder (gives a sweet malty flavour and hella energy)

1-2 tsp cinnamon, depending if you like cinnamon as much as me

Pinch of salt

6 big squishy medjool dates (can use normal dates just soak first in boiling water)

3 big tbsp peanut butter, I like crunchy

3 tbsp coconut oil

Big handful cacao nibs

  1. First pulse the almonds in a food processor until broken down into smaller chunks
  2. Add all the other ingredients, except the cacao nibs and blend until the mixture has a sticky consistency and you can form it into a ball. If needed add more coconut oil, peanut butter or a splash of water if it still feels on the dry side.
  3. Add in the cacao nibs and blend until they’re evenly mixed in
  4. Squish into balls, I think I made around 15 smaller ones, but make whatever size you like bigger or smaller until you run out of mixture
  5. I rolled them in some extra cinnamon and maca (think posh truffles), or roll in more cacao nibs, desiccated coconut, goji berries, raw cacao powder or leave them naked and free. Whatever you want to make them pretty
  6. Pop in the freezer for 20 or 30 minutes on a plate or a tray. Now this is where I always go wrong and forget about them until 3 hours later. Then transfer to a Tupperware and keep in the fridge or the freezer. They keep best in the freezer, so take a few out at a time to thaw in the fridge ready for whenever you need a pick me up

Soft and gooey medjool dates are what you need here for that caramelly richness

Two ready to go for some poolside snackin’

If it’s snacks for a plane journey you’re needing you’ll have to stay clear of yogurt and nut butters, but the majority of the others will all travel well, especially energy balls ^^ hint hint. Get yourself loads of Tupperware boxes in different sizes to take things in so nothing gets squished or spills in your bag, then you’re just about set. Let the snacking envy COMMENCE!

Lots of love, sunshine and happy travels

X

Not so plain plane food

I’m writing this post about being prepared for plane journeys whilst I’m sat at the airport, delayed. No I don’t have much food to eat just some fruit, nuts and a Rawbite bar, so there’ll be a desperate stop off in M&S when we eventually touch down in England. Don’t follow my lead folks! 

Croatia has been the destination for my jollys this summer, somewhere a bit different and new to explore.

I was meant to be here relaxing, but that didn’t happen, instead it was spent learning my driving theory (pray to the road gods), but when I’m back on home turf expect plenty of nattering about noshing. Not gonna lie, the reason I like to go on holiday is for trying new cuisines and searching for some local gems, I prefer it more than the lounging around all day, that makes my legs ache. Until then I want to write a post about travelling whilst still remaining healthy and not succumbing to the dreaded plane food, or popping open the Pringles at 5 o’clock in the morning.

It’s a post that’s commonly found on lifestyle and wellbeing blogs around this time of year. Like me you probably read them to get lots of ideas, for snacks, how to avoid ‘little miss hangry’, things to pack for when you get there, the necessities that most definitely won’t be provided but make life a hell of a lot easier. It also means more time sunbathing less time shopping in supermarkets.

(Anyone else LOVE foreign supermarkets or is it just me? Maybe it is, it can be bloody hard to know what you’re buying half the time, you can never find organic produce, and no one speaks a word of English, but hey that’s the whole fun of it!)

I know, you’re sick of hearing it, but the only way to avoid the microwave mush is preparation. Just a quick little plan and food prep in some tupperwares to stick in your carry on for when that grumble arrives, and when it comes boy does it moan loudly.

Maybe your flight is only a quick two hours up and down, or you’ve flown half way around the earth and lost an entire day. No matter how long the flight, you will have been up probably 3 or 4 hours before you even perch your bum on that airplane seat, it’s time for a nibble. QUICK

I’ve been recently to Manchester airport, so I know what shops are there and what options there are for that early morning breakfast. If you are ever in the UK you will probably be able to rely on Pret a Manger whether you’re gluten, dairy, sugar free or vegan, vegetarian or don’t care and want a bacon butty, they’ve got something for you. With two types of porridge on offer, one traditional and cooked with milk-SUPER creamy I can guarantee-the other a five grain which is both gluten and dairy free made from pinhead oats, amaranth, quinoa, brown and light flaxseeds all cooked in coconut water. There’s honey, a dried fruit and seed mix or berry compote to jazz it all up, and that’s a pretty good filling breakfast right there. There’s also breakfast sandwiches, pastries, yogurts and granola, fruit pots and açai bowls (which I am yet to try), the tea is lovely and I’ve heard the coffee is pretty darn good too. You won’t be spending a lot of money and will get something fresh and the majority is British and organic. That floats my boat. 

I believe if you know there’s a better option at the airport grab it whilst you can, maybe pick up a salad or grain bowl, some fruit or nuts. No you won’t want it then but you’ll wish you did a few hours later, or even plan further ahead for something to eat when you arrive at your hotel or apartment, you won’t know where anything will be and what shops or restaurants will have to offer, so something healthy and fulfilling to look forward to means one less thing to worry about. And for me flying is way too stressful as it is.

So, you’re flying from an airport where you know there are no decent cafes or restaurants, and you don’t want a plate of chips? Then meal prep away people!

If it’s breakfast I need to take then I usually go along the overnight chia oats route, but make it seriously thick. I’m terrified that one day they’ll take it from me so I’ll just have to gobble it all down at security. On my last flight abroad I discovered a new idea from Hemsley and Hemsley. It’s basically a Quaker Oats mug porridge but super charged and will give your body some lovin’. 

It’s so simple, just stick in a coffee cup and ask them to cover with boiling water, pop the lid on and wait for the magic to happen. Alright, it’s not going to be the prettiest looking thing, but is an English breakfast from Ryan Air going to be either? If you can top it with some fruit like berries, apple or banana and you have a balanced meal that will keep you satisfied much longer than any hash brown from Maccy D’s.

Quinoa Kettle porridge

This is a recipe from Hemsley and Hemsley’s book, Good and Simple. I made a batch to take away to Greece with me for quick and easy breakfasts but also took some for my breakfast on the plane. The original recipe calls for quinoa flakes however I didn’t have any of these at home, so for a purse friendly version opt for some simple rolled oats, or route through your cupboards and use a mixture of other flaked grains if you have them, such as brown rice flakes, buckwheat flakes, millet flakes, all will be good here. When I made the recipe I used a scant tbsp of maple syrup which hardly added any sweetness at all so I probably would add 2 next time. For a sweeter tooth add up to four, if you’re eating healthier wholesome foods they’ve got to be enjoyable, it shouldn’t be torture!
If you fancy a cold breakfast, I’ve also tried soaking this overnight in the fridge. Add 1/2 cup (or more if it seems too thick) of milk of your choice or water, stir and cover and leave overnight. In the morning mix it up adjust the thickness to your liking by adding more liquid and top with fruit.

Ingredients
120 g quinoa flakes or oats, millet, buckwheat, brown rice flakes
120g coconut oil

100 g ground almonds

50 g goji berries, raisins or dried cranberries are good here too

50 g desiccated coconut or flaked coconut for chunkier bits

2 tbsp cinnamon, I also added 2 tbsp maca for some extra sweet maltiness

3 heaped tbsp chia seeds

3 heaped tbsp ground linseeds (mine is a combination of goji berries, sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds)

2-4 tbsp maple syrup (optional) or try date syrup or rice malt syrup

A handful of cacao nibs (optional) I added these because I LOVE THEM, it’s not completely necessary though and up to you

  1. Spread the flakes in a large roasting tin or baking tray, no more than ½ cm thick, and pop in the oven to bake at 180ºC fan for around 10 minutes, or until smelling toasty and they are golden brown. 
  2. Take out the oven and tip in a bowl along with the coconut oil, the heat from the flakes will melt the oil.
  3. Mix in all the other ingredients and stir really well, taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary. Leave to cool in the bowl
  4. Store in an airtight container, or divvy up into 4 or 5 portions in sandwich bags ready to be grabbed for those rushed mornings.
  5. When you’re ready to eat spoon out 4 to 6 heaped tbsp or pour your measured portion from the bag into a bowl. Add half a cup of boiling water, cover with a plate for 5 minutes and wait for the magic to happen.
  6. After the times up, give it a good stir, add more water if you like it thinner.
  7. Top with yogurt (Greek, coconut, goats, sheep) add some fruit and enjoy.
  8. If you are travelling, put the porridge mix in a coffee cup from a coffee shop, ask them to cover the porridge with boiling water. Pop on the lid to wait for it to thicken and there you have a quick, tasty transportable breakfast.

So you’ve eaten your breakfast, had a snack whilst watching Jurassic park for the 100th time in your life (btw my last post is all about snacks with a recipe involving peanut butter, YES PLEASE). Next follows lunch or dinner. The liquid ban throws a bit of a spanner in the works for this one. Meaning no dressings. A salad without a dressing is just sad and wrong. So the best route around this is packing something that won’t wilt and can stand being chugged around in your bag all day. Maybe a grain or lentil salad?

Don’t groan, trust me with this, if done right they can be seriously good. To make it interesting roast up some veggies with paprika or fennel seeds, chuck in a load of chopped herbs like parsley, coriander, mint, basil, dill, anything you have lurking really, mix it all up with your chosen grain, quinoa or buckwheat is fab. Maybe with some cheese like feta or goats cheese, some beans like chickpeas. Add in something fresh such as tomatoes, chopped cucumber or pepper, top it with something crunchy like seeds or nuts maybe some dried fruit too. Mix everything up in a bowl then you could stir some hummus (LIFE), chilli flakes or tahini through or pesto or tapenade to bring the pizzazz, AND don’t forget s+p. Chuck in your Tupperware with a hunk of lemon to squeeze on when you eat it and you’ll have a dinner that everyone else will be jealous of. 

Sorry was that a bit confusing? Let me break it down for you:

Base (use one or as many as you wish, these are only examples if you have any other ideas I’m sure it will be great)

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Farro
  • Brown rice
  • Amaranth
  • Puy lentils
  • Green lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Butter beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans

Roasted veggies
I always like to roast my veg in ghee, coconut oil or rapeseed oil in a preheated oven on about 180, until caramelised.

  • Sweet potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Courgette
  • Aubergine
  • Fennel
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Beetroot
  • Celeriac
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sprouts

Adding spices to the veg as it roasts is a seriously good plan, get experimenting to find different spice combinations you like. Try any of these and get mixing and matching.

  • Cinnamon
  • Paprika
  • Chilli flakes
  • Fennel seeds
  • Caraway seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Dried oregano
  • Ras el hanout
  • Garam masala
  • Turmeric
  • Sesame seeds
  • Za’atar
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • Don’t forget good old salt and pepper

Fresh veggies

Adding some fresh veg gives your salad more texture and colour, think variety and remember that 5 a day!

  • Defrosted frozen peas
  • Chopped up pepper
  • Chopped cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Raw fennel
  • Grated carrot
  • Grated beetroot
  • Avocado (beware it will go brown)
  • Cooked broccoli
  • Cooked green beans
  • Sweet corn 
  • Spring onion
  • Red onion

Flavour hits
Now comes the exciting parts. This is your substitute for a salad dressing, something thick enough to avoid that dreaded confiscation but makes your tastebuds happy. Try stirring one or more, if you’re feeling adventurous, of these through your salad:

  • Hummus
  • Tapenade
  • Pesto
  • Tahini
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Chilli flakes/hot sauce
  • Guacamole
  • Mustard
  • Any other dip you have on the go

And finally…Crunchy munchy extras, you should add just ‘cos

  • Raw or roasted nuts (anything from almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamias you cannot go wrong)
  • Raw or toasted seeds ( eg. Sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp seeds)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, chopped dates, chopped figs, sultanas, chopped apricots)
  • Chopped fresh herbs (parsley, coriander, mint, dill, chives, basil)
  • CHEEESEEEEEEE (feta, cheddar, goats cheese, sheeps cheese, grilled halloumi). I’m going to stop there because it’s cheese and doesn’t need an explanation.
  • Roasted chickpeas, think of them like croutons
  • Hard boiled egg (consider your fellow passengers, or don’t if they’re tilting their chair back into your face)

So there you have it. A salad that can be taken anywhere, plane journeys, car journeys, picnics, work packed lunch, or just for lunch in your own home. Don’t let the fact that I’ve written it as plane food stop you!

Perhaps make it an extra large one, something to pick at later or if you’re on a long haul flight have the leftovers for dinner.

So relax, enjoy your flight and your holiday wherever you end up this summer.

One last thing from me, HYDRATE! 

X