Tuesday, 25 September 2012

12 BEST FOODS FOR YOUR BRAIN- blackberry and apple crumble recipe


An article in the weekend papers caught my attention.

12 best foods for your brain” it claimed.

It quoted research from Dr John Briffa in the
Journal of the American Medical Association and his research into the value of fish oil supplements. 

There followed a list of 12 food stuffs

They included:

Dark chocolate
Red onions

Not bad, in fact, it’s quite a tasty collection.

There is only one on the list that I’m not wild on, oysters. But 11 out of 12 is good.

What was even better was that the Teenagers in the family also agreed.


Red onions

So we decided to create a menu using as many of the above list. It was surprisingly easy and very appetizing.

 So here is our healthy menu that should help improve concentration and ward off dementia, great for all ages and stages!!


Orange, red onion and olive salad

(See August posts for this recipe)

orange, red onion and olive salad

Salmon steaks poached on a bed of spinach

 For the devoted meat eaters you can substitute a steak here served on a bed of wilted spinach and both served with a mixture of thin homemade sweet potato and potato chips. With a delicate homemade hollandaise sauce made with fresh eggs


Apple and blackberry with walnut crumble.

The recipe for this crumble has a hint of walnut in it and is below.


Coffee and dark chocolate

Ok maybe not for the younger members of the family! But water can be drunk by all ages throughout, so, by my reckoning that is 11 out of the 12 best foods in one sitting.
Yep I ignored the oysters...

Here’s the crumble recipe that ticks off 2 of the 12


Serves 4-6
Preparation time 10-15 minutes 
Cooking time 25 minutes


1 kg  1lb 4oz Cooking apples
150g/ 6oz  Black berries or more if you can get them
2 tbsp soft brown Sugar
250 ml water  

240 g/ 8oz  Flour
110g/ 4 oz Sugar
75g / 6 oz Nuts
110g/ 4oz Butter


1.     Peel and chop the apples and put in a saucepan wwith the blackberries and water then simmer for 15 minutes.
2.     Put the butter and flour in a bowl and either blitz gently or mix by hand until bread crumb like.
3.     Add the sugar and chopped walnuts and then mix again.
4.     Put the fruit into a deep oven proof dish and cover with the crumble mix and bake in a pre heated oven at 190 degrees for 30 minutes.

Apple and blackberries with walnut crumble

The subtle sweet walnut topping works really well with the fruity blackberry and apple.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

VEGETARIAN ROASTS- tasty lentil and nut roast recipe

Lentils and herbs

We love our roasts here and with autumn creeping in I really enjoy a good Sunday lunch. This week was no exception as we had friends coming.

As we seem to have had rather a lot of fish over the summer, see previous posts from North Uist, and below for a little reminder of those Sicilian markets and the gorgeous light...sigh...that seems a million miles away now.

Fish market, Sicily.

Fish market, Sicily

Sword fish

 I opted for a nut roast, with a mixture of nuts, lentils and cheese with a generous amount of Italian seasoning as well as fresh spinach. 

Unlike some nut roasts this one doesn’t look anaemic as it has a great mix of colours from the lentils and veg in it.

Appetizing food is always a bonus!

So here is my recipe for Lentil and nut roast... perfect on its own, or with roast chicken. 

Puy lentils


Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 40 minutes
Serves 4-6


¼ Red pepper
3 oz chopped mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
5oz puy lentils
4oz mixed chopped nuts
2 tsp Italian herbs
1 egg beaten
2oz cheddar cheese
1 courgette chopped
2oz spinach
Slug of olive oil
350 ml /12fl oz Vegetable stock


1.     Put the olive oil in a large saucepan with the chopped pepper, onion, courgette, mushrooms and garlic and fry for a minute or two until slightly soft.
2.     Add the Italian herbs, then
3.    Tip the dry lentils into the pan and stir so they are coated in the oil and herb mixture.
4.     Once coated pour over half the stock and bring to the boil. When it boils turn the heat down and let it simmer until the lentils are soft. You will need to keep adding extra stock until you have used it all. Be careful not to add too much though as you don’t want the lentils cooked with too much spare water left. This should be about 15 minutes
5.     Remove the pan from the heat and add the mixed nuts, beaten egg and spinach.
6.     Line a loaf tin with baking paper, tip the mixture into it and press down, then put in a preheated oven at 190 degrees for 40 minutes until it is slightly golden and crispy looking.

Lentil and nut roast

The good thing is that it can be made in advance, put in the fridge and then reheated and is delicious hot or cold as a snack or with salad...      

Sunday, 16 September 2012



“What’s that?” asked a certain daughter disapprovingly, as she lifted the lid of the casserole containing a bubbling mass.

 “Lunch!” I replied, enjoying the rich aroma’s escaping round the kitchen.

“Oh great, you want us to eat it? What with?”

The conversation felt horribly familiar.

When they were little I used to make savoury pancakes, some with ratatouille, as they wouldn’t eat it on its own, and others with cheese and ham. It was a great way to get lots of veg into reluctant little ones. I thought we had moved on from that now they are teenagers.

So guess what we had for lunch?

Savoury pancakes with ratatouille!

 Followed by sweet pancakes of their choice.

I have to confess it has taken me a while to be able to eat ratatouille again after over dosing on the stuff in my early twenties. It was cheap and easy to make and one Autumn I ate it every week, on its own, with couscous, pasta....in lasagne..I was broke, very busy and the veg was cheap in the market.

More recently, since I had a garden and the space, I have started to grow veg; beans, courgettes, tomatoes, peppers. However this year, despite my care and attention the crops have been non-existent.

Sadly not a single courgette.

The rest of the family are quite relieved that I’m not trying to be self sufficient or anything like that, as we’d be starving already.

 My green fingered neighbour Jo, who is my garden guru, hasn’t had much luck either, and blames the weather. That cold wet summer. Thank goodness we have good veg shops nearby! These are from Jo's garden.

Courgettes from Jo's vegetable patch

courgette flowers

The great thing I think about ratatouille is its versatility. You can have it on its own. It can be used as the filling for lasagne, as a pasta sauce....the options are endless. Even with fillets of pork for the meat eaters of us.

At the right time of the year, ie now in the autumn, it is also really cheap to make. So is a great thing for young students or those of us on a budget.

The quantities in the recipe below allow enough to fill pancakes for 4 plus some left over a small 2 person lasagne or pasta sauce.

Ratatouille pancake

Ratatouille PANCAKES
Serves 4
Preparation time 10-15 minutes
Overall start to eating: 30-40 minutes


1 aubergine
1 red or orange pepper
1large onion
4 courgettes
4 cloves of garlic
Large tsp of mixed herbs
3 400g tins of chopped tomatoes, plus half a tin of water as well.


4oz plain flour
A pinch of salt
2 eggs
10 fl oz -275 ml- milk
A little oil for frying

A handful of Grated cheese is optional but very delicious sprinkled on the ratatouie before you roll the pancake.

1.     Chop all the onions and aubergines first, and lightly fry in a large pan.
2.     Whilst these are cooking chop the peppers, garlic and courgette and add to the pan stirring until the vegetables soften, this takes a couple of minutes.
3.      Add the mixed herbs and tins of tomatoes then transfer into a casserole dish and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
4.     Now get on with the pancake mixture. Put the flour and pinch of salt in a large bowl and add the egg mixture and start whisking.
5.     Gradually whisk in the milk until everything is combined and the mixture is smooth.
6.     Let this stand whilst you wash the pans then heat some butter or oil in a medium frying pan.
7.     When this has warmed ladle in some pancake mix- it should cover the base of the pan but not be too thick. Let this cook for a minute or two.
8.     When the mixture starts to bubble up gently the pancake is ready to turn, or flip, depending on how confident you feel.
9.     Continue making the pancakes until all the mixture is finished. You should have about 8 depending on the size of the pan!
10.                        Now put the ratatouille in a line in the middle of the pancakes add cheese if you want, roll and eat.

Ratatouille pancakes

 If you want to prepare these in advance place the filled rolled pancakes in an oven proof dish, sprinkle with cheese and then place in a warm oven to keep warm or reheat.  That’s what I did as you can see in the photo above.

Bowl of ratatouille 

Lots of left overs for another day!

Thursday, 13 September 2012



Scallops and samphire...2 things that don’t feature on the average teenage vegetarians weekly meal planner, however over the last few weeks, when we were in the Outer Hebrides, we came to eat rather a lot of them.

Deserted windswept beach on North Uist, Outer Hebrides.

Lobster pots

In fact I can’t believe that this time 2 weeks ago we were picking samphire on a windswept Hebridian beach and diving ..Well snorkling in my case ..for scallops.


Before the memory is swamped by routine I thought I would share it with you in case you have a chance to escape for a seaside walk this weekend and gather your own samphire or even scallops!

I have to confess I didn’t actually get many scallops...(a few technical hitches with my duck dives!!), unlike Richard, but I did haul lobster pots - see Richard Bramble’s blog

and fab photo’s of the boys braving the waves to check the lobster pots on my birthday!! 

With Richard’s local knowledge and years of practice we dropped pots and caught several lobsters as well as collecting great hauls of scallops from different locations.

Lobsters on the beach

Fresh lobster straight from the pot

The lobsters were SO beautiful we were all inspired to paint or photograph them, and the velvet crabs, that had also climbed into the pots. 

Beautiful Lobster tail.

Velvet crab

Teen V wasn’t too impressed by the whole catching and cooking of the lobsters, feeling it was rather barbaric. 

It brought to the fore the whole reason why she became vegetarian in the first place, she enjoyed the samphire more.

Picking samphire in North Uist

For the rest of us it was fantastic to catch something and eat it.

 Luckily on the day we had our big Pollock haul Teen V was elsewhere as I’m not sure she would have appreciated the Pollock slithering in the bottom of the boat around her feet..despite the delicious Pollock curry we had later that evening.

That was the day we saw the sea eagles close up, which was spectacular.

Fresh Pollock 

Richard Bramble and H with the prize pollock.

I don't in principal like to put pictures of people on this blog. I prefer the food to be the main feature. However I do have to make an exception here, just to show off the huge Pollock because I'm sure no one would have believed me if I had started to explain just how big it was!!! 

So, if you are looking for a starter, side dish or healthy snack and happen upon some samphire it is well worth the effort- minimal!-  of picking some.

It is delicious lightly fried in a little olive oil and butter for about 4 minutes. It has been called sea asparagus and I can see why.

Samphire in butter and olive oil. 

The other night I threw handfuls into the spinach sauce I was making for pasta and was surprised how well it went. I also added it raw, to the mixed green salad and again it worked really well.

It is best picked in July and August so get hunting before the season is over!

Returning from a day out in North Uist

The next time I tuck into a scallop, a sprig of samphire or a fish curry I will think of the windswept landscape of North Uist.