Rhubarb Granita

There’s a lot of rhubarb around at the moment, but what to do when it’s a scorcher of a day and rhubarb crumble is not the most ideal dish for the menu? Why not try this gorgeous candy floss pink, icy and refreshing rhubarb granita instead? Maybe you think you’re not a rhubarb fan? Well this recipe has converted rhubarb haters after one just one taste and this frozen pud will delight everyone either in the hot weather like today or as a wonderfully interesting palette cleanser.

This granita has none of the bitter, sour stringyness you can get from a bad rhubarb dessert, instead it’s tangy, sweet but sour and really rather delightful. The tart zingy icy crystals are wonderfully refreshing and you’ll be sure to look at rhubarb in a whole new light. I added grenadine this time for added colour and a touch a sweet fruitiness but it’s still delicious without. Go on give it a go, and let me know what you think 🙂

Rhubarb Granita

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, gluten-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes enough for 4-6 portions

400g rhubarb

150g sugar

150ml water

1-2 tbsp grenadine (optional)

1. Wash the rhubarb and chop into 5cm lengths.

2. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let it bubble along for up to 30 minutes until the rhubarb has completely broken down.

3. Strain through and fine sieve and let the liquid cool. Stir in the grenadine if using.

4. Place in a container and freeze until just frozen (at least a few hours in the freezer). Break up with a fork and enjoy the tart tangy icy crystals

Tropical flapjacks

Sunny days call for not just food for outdoors but also bright tropical flavours, hence the inspiration for these deliciously lush oaty bars.

Flapjacks are one of the best packable foods- they’re sweet and delicious and stand up to be lugged about in a hot backpack, and even in the worse case scenario of them getting squashed they still make a rather delicious crumble. Besides they’re energy giving qualities are legendary and not surprising once you see the quantity of sugar and syrup they contain!

The tropical flavours are provided by a good dose of desiccated coconut, a handful of dried mango and a smidgen of pineapple juice, all topped with a optional squiggle of pineapple icing. It may be optional but it certainly looks nice!

Another of the beauties of flapjacks is that they freeze brilliantly. I often make a batch, portion them up and then freeze most wrapped in parchment. When it comes to making picnics or packed lunches you simply pop a frozen flapjack into a lunchbox first thing in the morning and by lunchtime you have a delicious fresh homebred treat.

Tropical Flapjacks

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, can be gluten-free if use gluten-free oats, vegetarian and vegan)

200g dairy free margarine (I use Pure soya or sunflower)

200g demerara sugar

180g golden syrup

2 tbsp pineapple juice

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt

50g dried mango, chopped

50g dessicated coconut (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup, pineapple juice and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats, coconut and dried mango
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Serve plain or top with a squiggle of pineapple icing (125g icing sugar mixed with 1 tbsp pineapple juice)

Teriyaki aubergine

*** Disclaimer – this is a sponsored post. I received a free bottle of Hon Mirin and took part in an online cook along. The recipe posted in this post is from the Sozai Cooking School and not my own. However, the comments and recommendations are my own***

I’ve always wanted to know how to make a good and authentic teriyaki sauce especially as Big S has become a fan of Asian flavours, but when I’ve made versions before the resulting dishes were a bit too sweet and sickly. So I was delighted to be asked to take part in an online cook along sponsored by Hakutsuru Hon Mirin and which promised the ultimate teriyaki. 

It was a really fascinating couple of hours. I knew nothing about Mirin before the class other than the name! Now I feel that I have a little insight into this really interesting ingredient and I hope to use it in a variety of dishes. Hon Mirin is apparently very popular in Japan but hardly heard of in Europe, hence this event to celebrate Hon Mirin’s global launch. Hon Mirin (with Hon meaning real) is a sweet rice seasoning/alcohol made from glutinous rice, rice koi and alcohol. It has a pleasant sweet taste, a bit like a sweet sherry and none of the additional salt you get in cheaper alternatives.  It also has the advantage of being allergen free and contains no artificial ingredients – perfect for us. 🙂

Having used this mellow alcohol in a couple of dishes (we made minstrone soup and teriyaki) I would really recommend searching out a bottle for your store cupboard (and I’m really not saying that because I got a free bottle!). It really did add a lovely umami richness to both dishes and the shine in the teriyaki sauce was outstanding. Right now, Hon Mirin is only available on the TK Trading website, but hopefully it’ll become more widely available as more people come across it’s versatility. I really didn’t think it would add much to a minestrone soup but actually the mellow sweetness was a nice addition that enhanced the tomato flavour.

If you’re interested in learning more Japanese cooking skills then do check out the Sozai cooking school which runs lots of interesting online cook alongs, the instructor in my class was really knowledgeable and a great teacher.

I’m posting the teriyaki aubergine recipe from the Sozai cooking school, but if you wanted to use chicken or salmon, simple cut into bite sized pieces and then follow the instructions below.

Teriyaki Aubergine

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 2

7 tbsp Hon Mirin

2 tbsp water

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 aubergine, sliced in half lengthways

1-2 tbsp cornflour

  1. Mix together the Hon Mirin, water and soya sauce and set aside
  2. Score the aubergine flesh and then dust all sides with cornflour
  3. Heat some flavourless oil on a medium to high heat and cook the aubergine on both sides until golden and throughly cooked through. This will take 5 or so minute son each side. Remove from the pan.
  4. Wipe out the pan to remove any excess cornflour. Return the aubergine to the pan and add the teriyaki sauce. Cook on a medium to high heat, basting the aubergine until the sauce has reduced and you have a sticky soft aubergine.
  5. Serve with rice and steamed green veg.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

I don’t know about you but I find lunches the most difficult meal to cater for, especially right now where we’re all at home all the time, we have differing timetables and differing ideas over what makes a perfect lunch!

D and I generally have lunch and take the dog for a walk before the girls have even finished their morning lessons, so lunches have to be ready to be reheated or eaten cold. Right now, in mid-Winter slides and sandwiches seem rather less appealing and a hot option is preferred, but then there is the issue of keeping things warm for the lunches in stages. It has transpired that soup ticks all the boxes; it’s warm and nourishing, can easily keep warm and mostly all the family members like it. Also, there is something wonderfully homely about having a pot of soup on the hob and it makes me feel like I’m winning on the lunch front!

This soup is not only very easy to make from mainly store cupboard ingredients but also pleases the ‘bit-a-phobes’ (both children!) who only like smooth soups, but adds extra substance with the addition of rice to keep tummies full until supper time. I add chilli paste to mine as we all like slightly spicy food, but so feel free to leave it out if you’d rather have a more mellow soup for lunch.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 4

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp chilli paste

2 tsps balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar

400ml passata

400ml vegetarian stock

1/3 cup rice

1/2 tin sweetcorn (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sweat the onion  until soft and translucent – try not to get too much colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree and chilli paste (if using) and cook for a further couple of minutes. 
  3. Pour in the tomato passata and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Taste and season. 
  5. Blitz if you want a very smooth soup and return to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  6. Add the rice to the simmering soup and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. If using sweetcorn, add a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking.
  7. Serve with a hunk of bread or a sandwich for a hearty and warming lunch.

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pâte de Fruits (Fruit Jellies)

I’ve always loved to make homemade sweets, and as pate de fruits are such an essential part of Christmas (especially for the French side of the family) these homemade fruit jellies are the perfect addition to my 12 days of Christmas.

If you’re not familiar with pate de fruits they’re a fruity jelly sweet, like a soft fruit pastille, covered in sugar. Made with fruit juice, sugar and pectin they’re naturally vegetarian and allergy friendly despite being not particularly healthy. But then again it’s Christmas and it’s time for luxury and indulgence.

Making homemade sweets seems like the height of luxury and difficult techniques, but these are super simple and you end up with some beautiful 100% natural pure fruit pastilles. One batch makes enough for well over 50 jellies, making it easy to have some for our Christmas treats as well as an addition to my homemade hampers. As long as they’re kept in an airtight container they will keep for months.

This recipe is adapted from the fabulous book on preserving by Pam the Jam. I’d thoroughly recommend seeking it out if you enjoy delicious and exciting preserving. I’ve chosen a combination of pomegranate and grenadine as it felt suitably festive and packs a punch of flavour, but you can easily swap any juice you’d like.

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pate de Fruits

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 50-100 jellies

500ml pure pomegranate juice

juice of 1 lime

3 tbsp grenadine

450g granulated sugar

15g pectin

75g glucose syrup

1 tsp flavourless oil

  1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment
  2. Pour the juices and syrup into a deep saucepan.
  3. Stir the pectin powder into half of the sugar. Sprinkle over the juice and stir, heating gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar, the glucose syrup and oil. Let the sugar dissolve. Then bring to a rolling boil.
  5. You want the temperature to reach 108 degrees Centigrade. This will take 10-15 minutes and you will notice the bubbles changing as the mixture heats. Be sure to scrape down the sides whilst the mixture is bubbling.
  6. As soon as it reached 108 degrees Centigrade, take the pan off the heat and pour into the lined tin.
  7. Leave to cool, then cover with baking parchment. Once fully cold and set cut into pretty shapes. Squares or triangles are the most efficient but I like using mini cookie cutters to stamp out little shapes.
  8. Roll each shape in caster sugar and then store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

Cucumber and Rice Noodle Salad

I don’t know about you, but when we’re all at home (and obviously thanks to Covid-19 that is ALL the time right now) I struggle with lunch ideas the most. The other meals and snacks I find I can think up ideas, be creative and non-repetitive, but for some reason lunches often stump me. I guess it’s just one meal too many each day.

However, as I now have plenty of time to get creative with the contents of my fridge and pantry I’m trying to have at least part of each lunch as an exciting, fresh, healthy new idea.

This rice noodle salad is loosely inspired by an Ottolenghi dish; it’s fresh, tasty, easy to make with mainly store cupboard ingredients. Perfect for these days when popping to the shops is a dim and distant memory.

Cucumber Rice Noodle Salad

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

100g rice noodles

1 tbsp olive oil

30ml vinegar

15g caster sugar

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

thumb size piece of ginger, julienned

3 mint leaves, finely shredded

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 cucumber, sliced in half, seeds removed and cut into half moons

  1. Place the noodles in a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave to sit for about 15 minutes
  2. In another bowl combine the sugar, vinegar and shallot. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the julienned ginger and finely sliced shallot to the vinegar mix and leave to infuse
  4. Drain the noodles once soft and mix with the olive oil so they don’t clump
  5. Add the chilli, cucumber and noodles to the vinegar mix, stir well and leave for 10 minutes for the flavours to mix
  6. Add the herbs and poppy seeds if using, toss and serve