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Saturday, 30 April 2016

John Whaite's Fried Butter Beans and Avocado ( plus... pictures from the shoot - Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients)

I'm not usually one to brag, however, on this one occasion you'll find that this isn't the case as I have quite a bit of stored up information which I can now finally off load to you all. Aahhhh! (Can you hear my sigh of relief?)

Firstly, I can announce that I came 2nd in this year's Pink Lady Food Photographer Of The Year for the young 15-17 category. My photo - 'A Handful of Raspberries' was picked out by the illustrious panel of industry experts from the thousands of worldwide entries (over 7,000 entries to be precise!) and I was lucky enough to be invited to the Mall Galleries in London for the Finalist Awards evening, held on the 26th April 2016. It was a great experience in itself and to be in the same room alongside some of my idols (David Loftus- Jamie Oliver's food photographer, and Jay Rayner) was certainly a highlight for me! You can view my photo alongside all the other 2016 finalists' here. But if you do have a chance I would really recommend visiting the Mall Galleries, it's open to the public for a free exhibition but hurry as it's only there till the 1st May. 

On another note, this seems like ages ago now, but way back before Christmas time, John Whaite kindly invited me for work experience on shoot for his latest cookbook - 'Perfect plates in 5 Ingredients', published just this month. I picked up invaluable tips and tricks on cooking, food styling and photography, as well having a right good laugh and being able to try every dish going! It went to waste otherwise and so it would be rude not to really...

 Below are a few snapshots from my time spent with everyone on shoot for the book. 


John and me

LOTS AND LOTS of ingredients on standby - trying out a front book cover shot

John's latest book is pared back but plentiful, from breakfasts to puddings, there's a dish fit for every moment and mood, the brilliant part is that each recipe only requires 5 ingredients (apart from what we call essentials - salt, pepper etc...) but imagine how much of a time saver this is! I always sigh whenever I see a long list of ingredients because firstly I have to check I have them all, and if not - go and buy it, then weight it all out. Effort. 5 ingredients makes everything so much more simpler and that's what's perfect about it.

Photographer Helen Cathcart hard at work

From literally making my way one spoonful at a time through every recipe in this book, there's this one (Fried Butter Beans and Avocado) that I couldn't wait to try out at home. Mainly because I love a good brunch recipe and it's got avocado's in it!! All good brunch recipes have just got to include avocado in some form or another right?!

In essence, I like the fact that it's another veggie alternative to the classic fry up, wholesome and filling and I'd say healthier too. 

Recipe by John Whaite from Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients

Fried  Butter  Beans  and  Avocado

Serves 2


1 medium red onion
400g can butter beans
1 garlic clove
1 ripe Hass avocado
About 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar

50g unsalted butter
sea salt
black pepper


Peel and halve the onion, then slice it as finely as you can manage. In a frying pan heat half the butter over a low gentle heat and when it melts, add in the sliced onion. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tsp of the sherry vinegar. Allow the onions to cook gently and caramelise until soft but not coloured, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Once the onion has cooked, put them aside in a small bowl and then drain the butter beans. Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the frying pan with the drained beans and remaining butter. Fry over a medium heat, tossing frequently until the beans are tender and coloured partially. 

Slice the avocado in half, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Roughly chop the avocado into pieces. Add the avocado to the pan with the cooked onions and fry for a few minutes longer. Serve onto plates and sprinkle over salt and pepper along with a drizzle of the remaining vinegar to taste. 
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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Quinoa Granola (sugar-free and gluten free)

I thought that this week a breakfast recipe was in order as I'm constantly trying to find new and not-so-boring cereal alternatives to my weekday mornings. The problem with cereals is, as I've just mentioned: BORING! And when you've just about had enough of your cereal rota (everyone does have one right?) I do struggle to come up with on-the-spot alternatives which won't make me late for college, and that keep me full till lunch, (which believe me, is a hard task when I'm tempted with the daily smell of freshly baked sixth form coffee bar croissants lingering under my nose till noon!) 

Adding quinoa results in a crispy, crunchy, golden, satisfying and nutrient packed granola, everything you'd want a bowlful of this stuff to be! And with one 1/2-cup serving containing more than 9 grams of protein, it definitely has the potential to make me walk right past those tempting croissants. 

The only thing I'd say is that apart from it being incredibly simple - just chucking all the ingredients into a bowl, the most time-consuming element of this recipe is the getting everything out and weighing it all up, as there's quite a long list of ingredients which you can see from below. And although this recipe can be modified for easiness, such as buying a big bag of ready mixed dried fruit and nuts, I'd suggest making this big batch up at the weekend, when you've plenty of time to spare. Once you've made a batch, you can enjoy it all week long: the granola can be stored in a glass jar for up to two weeks. So another thing you can add to your cereal rota eh? 

What I love about granola is that it's so versatile, one day you could serve it with milk, and the next with yoghurt with all manner of fresh fruit toppings, depending on what you've got lying around. My favourite has to be milk though, with blueberries and chopped banana. 

This recipe is adapted from my Sugar Free - Sue Quinn book, which I wrote about in last week's post. I'm a sucker for it, I'll gladly admit that. And you can't blame me really when there's just so many recipes that I want to give a go. Thanks to the apple juice and cinnamon, there's enough sweetness in it to not need a syrup hit - à la honey or maple, which is the conventional choice of most granola recipes.  So a healthy brekkie all round, I say, which most, if not all store-bought cereals and granolas can't say for themselves, no matter what the catchy brand slogan, namely 'healthy' and all that jazz. Sugar is the culprit in all this and so save yourself the consumer pitfall and make it yourself. Then you can control what goes in it first hand, plus you can add in whatever fruits/nuts/seeds you like! 

Quinoa  Granola  (sugar - free and gluten free )

Serves 8+


200g rolled oats (make sure they are non-contaminated, pure oats if GF)
180g quinoa (raw)
75g flaked almonds
25g brazil nuts
50g walnuts
50g pistachios
50g cashew nuts
30g dried mango
40g chewy banana chips
40g dried berries (I used cranberries, raisins, inca, blueberries & cherries)
30g dried tropical fruit (I used apricots & papaya)
40g pumpkin seeds
40g sunflower seeds
25g desiccated coconut
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
100ml melted coconut oil
250ml unsweetened apple juice
1 large egg white


Preheat the oven to 150°C/ 300°F / Gas 2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, combine the oats and quinoa. Roughly chop all the nuts and add to the bowl. Roughly chop the fruit ingredients and add to the bowl but reserve a handful for later. Then add in the seeds, coconut, cinnamon, coconut oil and apple juice. Mix well. 

Whisk the egg whites till frothy in a separate little bowl and then stir into the mixture. Spread out onto the prepared baking tray, you may need 2 baking trays if it doesn't all spread out flat. Bake for 15 minutes. Then give it a stir to make sure it bakes evenly. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on the tray, then stir in the reserved dried fruit. Store in an airtight container, it will last for a few weeks. 

Serve with milk or yogurt and top with fresh fruit. 
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Friday, 8 April 2016

Chocolate Energy Bars [sugar-free, dairy and gluten free, vegan!]

I know what you're thinking..."what?! How can these be sugar-free (as well as all those other things)??" Well my friends, they're not too good to be true, and these are in fact all the stated above. That's because these bars gets their sugary-ness from the fresh dates which make up the bulk of these bars. Along with flaked almonds so they're gluten free and good quality cocoa powder to make them chocolate - obviously! 

They're called energy bars because they make an awesome snack, perfect to last you all week as a pick me-up treat between meals that won't leave you feeling guilty. They'll actually leave you feeling fuller for longer and thanks to all the added extras there's a wealth of benefits too! 

Last year, reported by the Daily Telegraph, "A handful of nuts can save your life" after a Dutch study found a link between daily nut consumption and a reduced chance of dying from a number of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease. These chocolate energy bars will supply you with your daily fix of nuts - being rich in walnuts and pistachios.

And it doesn't just stop there...the health benefits of dates are reported to promote good digestive health due to containing fibre, boost heart health, are rich in magnesium – a mineral known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, reducing stroke risk & blood pressure, and finally boost brain health (so I'll be getting lots of these stashed away with all my exam revision coming up!)

This recipe is taken and ever so slightly adapted from 'Sugar Free: Over 60 Recipes with No Added Sugar' by Sue Quinn, published this year. I was bought this book for my birthday and I am loving it! The handy book is an excellent starting point if your looking to reduce (or even eliminate) added sugar in your diet. The recipes are innovative and most happen to be vegan too, there's a whole host of recipes ranging from breakfasts to desserts as well as simple basics such as ketchup. What I love is that unlike many other sugar-free books which actually call for honey, agave or other sugar syrups, this book doesn't and are all natural! The book is an eye opener too with it's stylish design/photography making for an enticing approach to sugar free food. 

Chocolate  Energy  Bars  [ sugar-free,  dairy  and  gluten free,  vegan ] 


Makes 20 bars

400g pitted fresh dates
60ml melted coconut oil
2 tsps vanilla extract (unsweetened)
40g good quality cocoa powder (unsweetened and check labels if gluten-free - if needed)
125g ground almonds
1 heaped tbsp golden flaxseeds
40g pistachios, roughly chopped
40g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g dried berries - I used a mix of cranberries, golden raisins, inca berries, cherries & blueberries
50g sunflower seeds
2 tbsp desiccated coconut


Blitz the dates in a food processor to a paste, add the melted coconut oil, vanilla and cocoa, then blitz again until a smooth mix. Tip the paste into a bowl and add in the ground almonds and mix with clean hands or a wooden spoon. Add the remaining ingredients apart from the dessicated coconut and mix together until evenly dispersed. 

Line a 20cm square cake tin and line the base and sides with foil. Tip the mixture into the lined tin and press down firmly with your hands or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with the coconut and lightly press in. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours or until set. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge. 
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