Archive for the 'Sophie Michell' Category

Banana bread with macadamia nuts

March 1, 2010

I learned from Orangette the technique of throwing age-mottled over-ripened bananas into the freezer for baking later. They look very underwhelming when you take them out, all blackened and sludgy, but if you can get past peeling off the slimy skin you’ll have a little puddle of pure, fragrant banana bread gold.

This was so easy I was suspicious: whizz bananas, butter, egg and milk in the blender and stir into a bowl of flour, sugar and chopped nuts. I thought my batter was a bit thick, but I shoved it in the oven and hoped for the best. Within minutes a warm, sweet-smelling fug filled the flat, causing me to leap up and check every 5 minutes until it was done. I managed to restrain myself for about 20 minutes before cutting a slice, and it was every bit as light as I could have hoped, with, to me, the perfect level of banana flavour, almost caramelly.

You could play with this quite a lot – I imagine many people would like icing, for a start, but I wanted to keep to the recipe first time. The notes state that you can also chargrill and serve it warm again the next day.

Banana bread with macadamia nuts  Serves 8+

2 very ripe bananas
100g butter, melted
3 tbsp milk
1 egg
250g plain flour
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
50g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180c and grease and line the bottom of a 500g loaf tin.

Throw the peeled bananas, butter, egg and milk into a blender and blend for a minute or two until smooth and creamy.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and nuts. Pour in the banana mixture and mix until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and roughly level. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until risen and browned – if it seems to be browning too much before it’s done, you can cover it loosely with silver foil. When ready, a skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Nice warm.

From Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.

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Feta hotcakes with honey and crispy bacon

March 1, 2010

I really like breakfast. So much so that I don’t like to miss an opportunity to eat it, even when it’s not breakfast time. Yesterday I effectively ate three breakfasts: porridge for actual breakfast-breakfast, these thick spongy pancakes for a breakfast-lunch, and banana bread for a breakfast-snack.

Both the hotcakes and the banana bread were taken from the brunch section of ‘Fabulous Food’, but here’s the thing: while I really like breakfast, I do not especially like brunch. I discovered this last year, which a group of friends and I over-enthusiastically branded the ‘year of brunch’. We imagined lazy weekend mornings with stacks of American-diner style pancakes with maple syrup, decadent hours devoted to nothing but reading the paper and eating french toast, hell, there was even talk of investing in a shared waffle iron. Ultimately we only had a few brunches before it all fell apart through our own laziness, but I was secretly not that upset. The problem is, if I have brunch, I can’t have breakfast. That’s one whole meal carelessly obliterated, and I don’t take well to missing meals. I am a carefully calibrated breakfast-eating machine, and it proved extremely difficult for me to wake up late enough for brunch rather than springing hungrily out of bed at my usual hour, putting the kettle on and making a huge bowl of porridge.

The demise of brunch was for the best, I think: this way I get to eat breakfast for breakfast and lunch, and I like that a lot.

Feta hotcakes with honey and crispy bacon  Makes 9 hotcakes

125g buckwheat flour
25g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g feta (the recipe says reduced-fat, but I couldn’t bring myself to)
4 rashers bacon (or more, if you want)
200ml milk
1 egg
sunflower oil, for frying
2 tbsp honey

Mix the flours and bicarbonate of soda in a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the centre. Beat the egg in the milk and pour the whole lot into the well, drawing the flour from the edges in and beating until you have a thick batter. Crumble in the feta. The consistency should be about that of thick yoghurt, so add more flour if necessary. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Put the bacon under a medium-high grill to crisp.

Heat a little sunflower oil in a non-stick pan and ladle in rounds of batter. You should get 2-3 cakes from a ladleful. Cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, until bubbles start to form on the surface, then flip and cook for a further minute on the other side. Keep warm while you finish cooking all of the batter.

Serve 3 or more hotcakes per person with a couple of rashers of bacon and honey drizzled over the top.

Adapted from Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.

Fried eggs with dates

February 27, 2010

Sometimes, you need simple recipes that are little more than ideas to add into your repertoire, for the times when you don’t really want to cook but you don’t really want to eat any of the things that immediately come to mind. And then you remember that other, slightly odd thing you also used to eat sometimes when you first discovered it and that happens to be exactly what you want for lunch. I think fried eggs with dates is destined to become one of those things.

In the middle of last year I started working part-time – not very part-time, just Wednesday and Friday afternoons off – but this means that on Wednesdays and Fridays I can eat lunch at home. The pleasure of being able to eat something on toast for lunch mid-week is not to be underestimated, I’ve found. I almost always feel like toast, and it’s particularly comforting when a whole free afternoon stretches out ahead of you with many cups of tea to be had and, perhaps, another slice of toast a bit later on.

Fried eggs with dates   Serves 1 as a hearty snack

According to Sophie Michell, who classes this as a ‘pre-party stomach liner’, this is Persian in origin. It seems slightly odd, but actually works really well – I can’t explain how exactly, but it does.

1 thick slice bread
small knob of butter
1 egg
2 large, soft dates

Remove the stones, if any, from the dates and roughly chop.

Put the bread on to toast. Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a small frying pan and crack in the egg. Sprinkle the dates into the white of the egg and fry until the white is set but the yolk is still runny.

Serve the egg up on the toast with a sprinkle of salt.

From Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.

Asian-style crab omelette

February 27, 2010

So far, if this week could have a theme I think it would be ‘Asian quick and easy’. It makes sense, really, to pick several recipes invlolving, say, coriander, chillies and lime so that you can use them up throughout the week, rather than buying a big bunch of herbs for one recipe and leaving them to mulch in the fridge. That way you only need buy a couple of extra forms of protein to combine with the store cupboard into a different meal each night.

I may just be trying to justify the very expensive pot of hand-picked white crab meat I bought for an omelette, but in fairness nothing else in the recipe costs much. And you could equally make it with prawns, marinated tofu, even just stir-fried vegetables. I like the crab though, it adds a touch of luxury. I think omelettes need a little luxury to become a worthwhile supper dish, even if it’s just a glass of wine on the side.

Asian-style crab omelette  Serves 2

4 eggs
2 tbsp milk
100-150g crab (I only used 100g as that’s what size the tubs came in)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 spring onions, finely sliced
small handful coriander
sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp oyster sauce (I used a bit of fish sauce and a bit of soy sauce)

Beat the eggs with the milk and season.

Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan and fry the spring onion, chilli, garlic and ginger for 3 minutes. Add the crab and heat through. Remove from the heat and stir through the coriander.

Heat 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium-low heat (you can use the same one, crab removed), and pour in half the egg mixture. Tilt the pan, allowing the uncooked mixture to fill the spaces, until you have a firm but just set omelette. Slide onto a plate and keep warm while you make the other omelette in the same way.

Fill each omelette with half of the crab mixture, fold and serve, sprinkled with the sesame seeds. Drizzle over oyster sauce, fish sauce and/or soy sauce to taste.

Adapted from Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.

Nasi goreng

February 23, 2010

What with busyness meaning I failed to really do the Leon book justice, we’re moving right along to ‘Fabulous Food’ by Sophie Michell. I picked this one up while at a photogrammetry conference in Leicester. Yes, if I say that my job involves travel, that makes it sound interesting and glamorous, but the reality is a little different. I have been to some fantastic places, true, but all too often I’m alone in a Holiday Inn in Leicester. It can get lonely. Generally, my main weapon against loneliness is consumption: i.e., I eat or I go shopping, preferably both. To my mind, the two most comforting places to head for in any strange city are 1) the second hand shops and 2) the art galleries. Some strange nesting instinct causes me to feel more at home in a hotel room if I can surround myself with unnecessary new purchases, like 15-piece tea-sets (socio-legal studies, Canterbury). You can’t buy much in an art gallery, but they make me feel calm, and they usually have a cafe.

Where am I going with this? Fabulous Food is probably not the sort of book I might have otherwise bought. It’s full of the sort of hyper-girliness that I find quite grating, all fitting into little black dresses, not drinking beer because it’s not ladylike and not cooking for a man until the third date. The food though, appealed to me. This week I feel like eating simple, quick food that makes me feel a bit healthier, and this nasi goreng really fit the bill – a doddle to make while famished, with enough crunch and chew and freshness to still feel rewarding.

Nasi goreng  Serves 1

Note: portion sizes in this book are small. When I made this for dinner last night I almost wept at its meagreness, but then I actually felt oddly full afterwards, so I’ve left it as is. However, I would suggest doubling the amount of rice if you’re hungry.

100g cooked rice (about 35g raw rice)
100g prawns (you could use tofu to make it veggie)
small handful salted peanuts
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
lime quarters, for serving

Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan or wok and stir fry the garlic, spring onions and chilli for a couple of minutes. Add half of the vegetable oil and the prawns and cook for 3 minutes. Add in the rice, soy sauce and chilli sauce, stirring and heating the rice through.

Meanwhile, fry the egg in the rest of the vegetable oil, making sure that the yolk stays runny.

To serve, mound up the rice, scatter with peanuts and top with the fried egg. Lime quarters on the side.

Adapted from Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.