Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ham and Vegetable Gratin with Celeriac Mash

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 celeriac head (450g)
half an onion (I use 50g frozen)
1 leek (100g)
Your choice of filling vegetables - I used
   1 courgette, chopped into bite sized pieces (200g)
   80g kalettes, roughly chopped
   200g broccoli spears
30g butter
90g ham, shredded
20g panko breadcrumbs
20g reduced fat grated cheddar
black pepper, nutmeg, paprika
250ml milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
8g arrowroot powder or kudzu

Nutrition Info (per serving)

Calories: 301
Protein : 15g
Carbohydrate: 31g
Fat: 14g
Dietary Fibre: 6.5g


  1. Wash and roughly peel the celeriac.  Chop into large pieces and microwave in a covered container with a little water for 7 minutes.
  2. Mash the cooked celeriac with the butter.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  4. Heat 1tsp oil in a frying pan to medium hot and fry the onion and leeks for about 10 minutes.
  5. Microwave the kalettes, and courgette for 3 minutes in a covered container without water.
  6. Microwave the broccoli spears for 2 minutes in a covered container with a little water.
  7. Drain all the vegetables and put in an oven proof container.
  8. Add the ham.
  9. From the 250ml milk, measure out approximately 50ml into a small bowl.  Stir in the arrowroot/kudzu and mix well.
  10. Heat the rest of the milk in a saucepan with a good sprinkling of paprika and nutmeg.  When the milk is hot, pour in the arrowroot/kudzu mix, stirring thoroughly.  The mixture will thicken. Add more seasoning to taste.
  11. Mix the sauce into the vegetables and ham, cover with the celeriac mash, and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and cheese.  Finish with a good grating of black or rainbow pepper.
  12. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Balsamic Agar Jelly 'Caviar' Pearls

Agar pearls are very easy to make, and look effective and taste good on sweet and savoury dishes.  They keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.  They are quite time-consuming though, preparation is needed, and you do need some equipment.  A few years ago, one of my brothers gave me a molecular gastronomy kit which was a lot of fun, and how I first started making these.

You can use many different liquids for these, but balsamic vinegar is probably the easiest to start with.  Cold spherification makes solid pearls, it's a different method to make liquid pearls - I haven't mastered that yet!

What you will need
A tall glass, at least 15cm.  You are using a tall glass so that the pearls have enough time to set as they pass through the cold oil and form a spherical shape before they reach the bottom of the glass.
Disposable pipette
Small slotted spoon
High accuracy food/diet scales
Cooking oil to fill this glass, it can be cheap oil - I use rapeseed oil
80ml balsamic vinegar
1.2g agar agar powder

  1. Fill the glass with cooking oil, and put in the coldest part of the freezer for at least an hour and a half, until the oil is thick.
  2. Put a small amount of the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan, dissolve the agar agar powder, add the rest of the vinegar and bring to the boil.  When it starts to bubble, continue to boil 1 minute stirring continuously.
  3. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  You do not want the liquid to set, but it must be cool enough that it will set before it reaches the bottom of the cold oil.  If it thickens too much, you can heat it again to make it melt.
  4. Fill a pipette with the balsamic agar liquid and release drops into the cold oil, holding the pipette just above the top of the oil, and moving all over the surface of the oil so that the drops individually form. 
  5. Do half the liquid then, using the slotted spoon, drain the pearls into an airtight container.  Rinse out the pipette with hot water.
  6. Put the oil in the freezer for 30 minutes, reheat the balsamic liquid (no need to boil this time as the agar is already well-distributed), cool and repeat.
  7. Drain the remainder of the pearls into the container.  Being vinegar, they can kept in the fridge for several weeks.
  8. Wash the oil off the pearls before use.  
Note:  You can see from the picture, that some of the pearls are oval-shaped.  This happens when the oil becomes less cold and thick, and the pearls drop too quickly.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cocoa Fudgy Protein Bars

This is a combination of half a dozen different recipes I found on the web, just mixing together the quantity of ingredients that felt right, and that gave the right kind of nutritional value.  It kind of took me back to my childhood, making mud pies in the garden :)

You really would not know that the recipe contains beans.  The finished result is quite soft and fudgy.  I used cannellini beans, but any bean would be ok.

Nutrition Info per bar (makes 10)
Calories: 169
Protein: 6g
Carbohydrate: 26g
Fat: 5g
Dietary Fibre: 6g

1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained
50g oats
20g hemp powder
20g cocoa powder
50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
200g light soya milk
200g dried soft figs
1 heaped teaspoon molasses (20g)
30g granulated xylitol


  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Put the beans in a large bowl and crush thoroughly with the back of a fork.  
  • Stir in the oats, hemp powder. cocoa powder, coconut and xylitol.
  • Put the figs and milk in a blender and blend until finely chopped.
  • Stir into the dried mixture, along with the molasses.
  • Pour into a greased 20cm non-stick square metal baking tin, and smooth.
  • Bake for 25 mins.
  • Remove from the oven and cut into 10 bars, leaving in the tin.  It will be firm on top, but of a squidgy consistency.  Cool in the tray on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  • Wrap individually in foil and store in the refrigerator.

Savoury Parmesan and Marmite Protein Bars

In the UK, you can't buy savoury protein bars, so I've been thinking about this for some time.  Sweet protein bars tend to use dried fruit as the 'glue', so I had to google for ideas as to what 'glue' to use for these savoury bars.  Quinoa seemed to be used quite a bit, which is of course also high in protein, so perfect here.

These do dry out quite well in the oven and become fairly crispy on the outside, which was the texture I was going for.

I think next time, I shall actually cut it into 10 bars instead of 12, which will give 146 calories, 8g protein and 4g dietary fibre.

Nutrition Information per bar (makes 12)
Calories: 122
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrate: 11g
Fat: 6g
Dietary Fibre: 3g

80g dried quinoa (cooked)
100g oats
40g hemp powder
20g salted almond kernels
20g salted pistachio kernels
30g milled flaxseed
50g grated parmesan
1 heaped teaspoon marmite (17g)
80g light soya milk


  • Cook the quinoa according to instructions.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • In a large bowl, weigh out the oats, hemp powder, flaxseed and parmesan.  Mix in the marmite with your fingers until it's distributed through the ingredients.
  • Grind the nuts together in a blender and mix into the dry ingredients.
  • Mix in the quinoa, and stir in the milk until the mixture forms a paste.
  • Grease a 20cm non stick square metal baking tin, and press the mixture down well.  Score into 12 rectangles.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 mins until firm and browned (yes, you will actually be able to tell they've browned!).
  • Remove from the oven, cut into bars, allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Wrap individually in foil, and store in an airtight box for up to a week.