Tasty breakfast ideas with Vita Coco coconut milk alternative

So today I’ve taken up the challenge to come up with a breakfast idea using Vita Coco – a coconut milk alternative which is great for those with dairy intolerances and tastes delicious, too.

Of course, while I was pondering it I came up with two ideas, so decided to share them both with you. One is a more healthy option – a satisfying ginger porridge. Or you could treat yourselves with my tasty cardamom pancakes.

I had the idea of using spices in my breakfast dishes as their health benefits are widely accepted and they add a tasty element of surprise – the perfect way to wake up your taste buds. Plus coconut and spices are wonderful partners.

Ginger porridge with pistachios, raspberries and honey

This ginger porridge has a real zing and ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects can help with muscle pain and soreness, it’s great for treating nausea and is even thought to help lower blood sugar. The pistachios add a nice crunch and the sharpness of the raspberries works wonderfully with the sweetness of the honey. A great way to start your day.

Serves 2

Ginger spiciness goes perfectly with raspberries and pistachios

The ingredients

80g Quaker oats

500ml Vita Coco coconut milk alternative

1 tsp ground ginger

A handful of shelled pistachios

10 raspberries

About 2 tbsps runny honey

The instructions

Pour the milk into a pan and add the ground ginger. Heat to a low simmer and add the oats. Stir until thick and creamy.

Split the porridge between two bowls and top with the pistachios, raspberries and honey.

Add a dash more of Vita Coco if you like your porridge a bit runnier.

Ingredients for a delicious porridge to start your day

Spicy pancakes with cardamom and vanilla

Pancakes always seem like a real breakfast treat. These are spiced up and sweetened with the addition of cardamom and vanilla. I love the taste of cardamom and it’s said to help with digestive problems as well as being a good detoxifier. Ayurvedic medicine swears by the tea as a means of fighting depression. And it’s really delicious in pancakes!

Serves 4

Fluffy pancakes with a touch of exotic spice

The ingredients

140g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp ground cardamom

130ml Vita Coco coconut milk alternative

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg, beaten

2 tbsp melted butter or olive oil

The instructions

Mix the flour, baking powder, caster sugar and cardamom together in a bowl.

Mix together the milk, vanilla, egg and butter.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and beat with a fork until you have a smooth batter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium and add a knob of butter. When it’s melted, add a small ladle of the batter. Wait until it begins to bubble, turn and cook until golden brown.

Continue until you’ve used all your batter.

Serve with blueberries.

This recipe is an entry into the Dairy Free Style Your Breakfast challenge with Vita Coco and Foodies100. See more great breakfast ideas at http://vitacoco.com/uk/


Recipe: Hot smoked salmon in my Big Easy barbecue

Okay summer still hasn’t really arrived in London – sometimes it never really does – but I am certainly not going to let that prevent me from getting out into my garden and lighting the barbecue. Especially now that I have my brand new Char-Broil Big Easy barbecue which has the power to roast, smoke and barbecue. You can read all about the UK’s first three-in-one smoker, roaster and grill in one package here and also discover some lovely roast chicken recipes to try out.

Today I’m getting more adventurous (as promised) and trying something for the first time. I’m going to hot smoke some lovely fresh salmon. First step is to make a marinade and give the salmon 2-3 hours to soak up the flavours.

Getting ready to marinate in front of my CharBroil Big Easy

Honey Jack Daniels marinated smoked salmon

Serves 2

The marinade

3 tbsps Honey Jack Daniels

2 tbsps brown sugar

2 tbsps soya sauce

1 tbsp dijon mustard

Mix all the ingredients and marinate one piece of filleted fresh salmon per person for 2-3 hours

Recipe: Hot smoked salmon

Give the salmon fillets time to absorb the flavours

While the salmon is marinating get your smoker ready. There is a pull out box on the side of the Char-Broil Big Easy where your wood chips go. You can buy a range of wood chips from many places. I got mine from smokingwoodchips.co.uk and today I’m using some of the plum chips.

Measure out the chips you need and soak in water for about half an hour. This is to ensure you get a lot of smoke for your cooking. Drain, spoon the chips into the smoker box and insert into the barbecue.

Light the barbecue and put it on to high. Leave for about 10 minutes or until you can see smoke start to appear.

Fold tin foil into sizes slightly bigger than the salmon, take the salmon fillets out of the marinade and place on the foil. Place on the rack inside the barbecue and cook for about 15 minutes – checking regularly.

The sugar and honey in the marinade will make the skin crispy and add some slight blackening, which I love. You’ll find that the salmon is beautifully flakey and moist inside.

Beautifully soft and flavoursome salmon with chilli corn and potatoes

Today I served the salmon with some Jersey Royal potatoes (they are in season after all) and lovely sweetcorn which I cooked on the grill section of the barbecue above the smoking rack. Plus I made a simple sour cream sauce. Here’s how.

Sour cream sauce

150ml sour cream

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsps chopped fresh dill

Mix all the ingredients at least three hours before serving and keep cool in the fridge. This amazing and simple sauce is wonderful with all kinds of fish – and tastes amazing on potatoes, too.

This sour cream and dill sauce goes perfectly with the smoked salmon

Sweet chilli barbecued sweetcorn

2 ears of corn

2 tbsps sweet chilli sauce

A few knobs of butter

Place each ear of sweetcorn on a piece of foil large enough to wrap it in.

Spread the sweet chilli sauce over the sweetcorn with a knife. Add a few knobs of butter to each parcel.

Wrap the corns up fairly tightly and place on the grill of the barbecue which is at the top above the smoking .

Put them in at the same time as the salmon and they will be perfect by the time your salmon is cooked.

 You can read all about the fabulous Char-Broil Big Easy – the UK’s first gas three-in-one barbecue at www.charbroil.eu 

And watch this space for more great alfresco cooking ideas. Next week I’m going to be roasting some vegetables Moroccan-style (yes, in the barbecue) to match with our delicious local lamb chops. My mouth’s already watering just thinking about it.


Barbecue, roast and smoke in the Char-Broil Big Easy

So today I’ve got something new and different for you. Isn’t that exciting? I have recently been delivered the UK’s first Gas three-in-one barbecue. It’s called the Char-Broil Big Easy and it’s a neat grill (barbecue), smoker and roaster with a stylish somewhat sci-fi look to it.

It’s now occupying pride of place in my garden and over the next few months I’m going to be telling  you all about it and publishing recipe ideas for this wonderful addition to my cooking alternatives. And you all know how much I love cooking outdoors – must be in my blood.

Ready to go and looking good: My new Big Easy

Roast, smoke and grill

Okay, so here’s the low down. First up is the roasting option – and with the capacity to cook up to 11kgs of meat and vegetables in the basket insert you’ve got those large family gatherings covered. There’s also a special way to cook spare ribs by hanging them on four integrated stainless steel hooks – but more of that later.

For hot smoking, the Big Easy has a pull-out box to fill with wood chips of your choice – and who knew how many different types there were. I’ve ordered a selection in anticipation of some serious smoking coming up.

Finally, if all you’re after is a quiet barbecue, the Big Easy has a handy grill that fits to the top.

Rotisserie-style roast chicken

Today I decided to start with the simplest of tasks. My love of rotisserie chickens and my consumption of them (particularly in Spain) is widely known. And I had the thought that cooking a chicken in the Big Easy’s roasting basket would be a very similar process. So, keeping it simple like I said, I rubbed my chicken thoroughly all over with a little olive oil and propped it up in the basket. At 15 mins per 450g it was ready 35 minutes later. And perfectly ready! The aromas as I lifted the lid washed over me and transported me back to those rotisserie sellers in my favourite Spanish markets.

Char-Broil: chicken in the Big Easy

The chicken browns in the roasting basked

You can see from this picture how large the basket is. Having said that, it roasted with my smaller chicken (big enough for 4-5 people) perfectly. It’s also a really healthy way of cooking as your chicken isn’t sitting in any oil though it still comes out with lovely crispy skin.

Char Broil: Roast chicken in the Big Easy

Close up on the roasting chicken

Change the flavours of your roast chicken

Be adventurous and add international flavours to your chicken but making a butter or olive oil rub. Add fresh ingredients to butter, blend together and smear under the skin of your chicken or mix ground ingredients with olive oil and rub over thoroughly. Here are some ideas to get started.

Thai butter

Blend ginger, garlic, chilli and basil leaves with butter

Mediterranean oil rub

Mix lemon juice and dried oregano into olive oil

Moroccan butter

Blend dried cinnamon, cumin, saffron strands and fresh mint with butter.

Indian oil rub

Mix ground cardamom, cloves, coriander and curry powder with oil oil.

Watch this space for plenty more ideas on cooking with the fabulous Big Eas.

Up next I’m going to be smoking salmon – with some very special ingredients.

Find out more about the Big Easy and Char-Broil’s other products by clicking here.

Recipe book review: Saffron Soul

I love trying out new dishes in the kitchen and what better place to get inspiration than from a beautiful recipe book. I often sit on the floor surrounded by cookbooks trying to decide what to cook for dinner. Seriously, I can while away hours in a little food recipe world.

So I’m always delighted when I have a new book to try. I recently went to the launch of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek and was treated to some of her delightful dishes for breakfast. Most notably, the amazing tofu scramble with numeric and spices, topped with pink peppercorns and served with peppered sweet potato wedges and cumin tossed kale. Never has tofu tasted so good, like a spicy version of scrambled egg!

Mira’s quest in this book is to show us how Indian food can be healthy and delicious at the same time. Her range of vegetarian recipes are inventive, tasty and easy to make once you have all the relevant spices. She explains the importance and health-giving values of the main spices used in Indian cooking. For example, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, cumin is good for digestion and fenugreek may help control blood sugar levels and cholesterol. And of course they make dishes taste fabulous, too.

I cooked several recipes including the amazing spinach parathas. A recent love of mine – I’d never cooked parathas and was surprised at how well they came out! The cauliflower and pea curry was crunchy and packed with flavour. But my absolute favourite of the dishes I’ve cooked so far is the Gujarati dal, an amazing dish made with yellow split peas and an orchestra of spices.

How to make Gujarati dal

Here’s Mira’s amazing dal recipe. You will note that she says some of the spices are optional – I would advise that you put absolutely everything on the list in as they produce an amazing depth of flavour.

I used yellow split peas which I bought from my local supermarket.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

The ingredients

200g toor dal, yellow split dal or pigeon peas

1.2 litres boiling water

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

Half tsp fenugreek seeds, optional

1-2 dried red chillis, slit lengthways

2 cinnamon sticks, optional

2 cloves, optional

On quarter tsp asafoetida

10-15 fresh curry leaves

5 fresh tomatoes, chopped or 5 tbsps tinned tomatoes

Half tsp ground tumeric

Half to 1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1.5 tsp sea salt

3 tbsps brown sugar

Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Juice of 2 fresh limes

The instructions

Rinse the split peas in a sieve under running water until the water is clear, then tip into a saucepan.

Add the measured boiling water and boil for 1 hour on a medium-low heat until the dal is a porridge-like consistency.

With a hand-held electric whisk, whisk the dal so that it becomes completely smooth or blend it in a blender until smooth.

In a large, non-stick saucepan melt the coconut oil, then add the cumin and mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds have popped, add the dried red chillies, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves, then the tomatoes and stir for a minute.

Add the ground turmeric, red chilli powder, grated ginger, salt, sugar and coriander to the tomato mixture and stir.

Pour in the blended dal, squeeze the lime in and leave to simmer on a low heat for 10-15 mins until it turns orange-brown.

Taste the dal and add more lime or sugar, as required.

My copy of Saffron Soul is bookmarked with several slips of paper, ready for my next Indian vegetarian feast. This is a book I know I am going to be returning to frequently. And here’s how to win one of your own.

Reader giveaway

The prize

One copy of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek worth £13.20.

How to enter

Tell me what your favourite Indian spice is in the comment section of this post.

Terms and conditions

Competition only for residents of the UK.

Closing date for entry will be Sunday 28 May 2017 at midnight.

The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date.

The winner will be notified by email.

No cash alternatives to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable.

The editor’s decision is final.

Saffron Soul by Mira Manek is published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group. Out now.

Available from all good retailers. Photography credit:  © Jacqui Small

To find out more, visit www.miramanek.com

Recipe: Orange and lemon polenta cake

Recipe: Orange and lemon polenta cake

I love baking – not that I do enough of it. Mix a few ingredients in a bowl, pour them into a tin and cook – and voila, you have something delicious on your plate. Okay, it doesn’t always work out quite that way – I’ve had my share of baking disasters. But I’m telling you that this is recipe is going to become a firm favourite. It has few ingredients, takes so little time to make and tastes spectacular.

Recipe: Orange and lemon polenta cake

The golden brown outside and a promise of the citrussy inside

It’s light, sweet and zesty. And the addition of polenta (which I have never used in a cake before) gives it a surprisingly pleasant crunchiness. Of course if you don’t have polenta you could just leave it out but I do think it adds a little something extra.

Recipe: Orange and lemon polenta cake

Deliciously moist slices of citrussy cake

The ingredients

175g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g polenta

225g castor sugar

225ml olive oil

4 eggs

Juice and zest of 1 orange

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

The instructions

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas mark 3.

Mix the flour, baking powder, polenta and castor sugar in a bowl.

Make a hole in the middle and pour in the olive oil. Break the eggs into the olive oil.

Mix well using a wooden spoon until there are no lumps left.

Add the orange and lemon zest and juice and mix.

Grease a cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

Drop the mixture into the tin, smoothing it into the corners.

Bake for 1 hour, then check to see if it’s cooked by inserting a skewer gently into the cake.

If it comes out clean your cake is ready.

Let it rest for 5 mins before moving to a wire rack and removing the paper.

Recipe: Orange and lemon polenta cake

The beautifully yellow and crumbly cake


Recipe: Slow-roasted lamb shanks

Slow-roasted lamb shanks

I have friends that just can’t get that I actually find cooking a lot of fun. It’s creative, relaxing and extremely satisfying when you produce something that everyone loves. I recently spent a day with my 10-year-old niece Kelly cooking dinner for the family and will always remember her smiling face as we sat around the table eating. She was so happy that she had created this delicious food.

Okay, entertaining can be stressful, so you need to plan carefully and make sure you are very organised. The dishes I most like serving are those that can be all prepared and in the oven before your guests arrive. So you can spend time talking to your friends rather than being confined to the kitchen the whole night.

These slow-roasted lamb shanks are one of those.They do take a bit of preparation but you can do all that ahead – and clean everything up, too. And the dish is absolutely delicious and, I think, rather an indulgent treat.

Working out quantities is also easy – one shank and two onions per person means simple serving – and no wastage either.

Do you have a favourite dish you like to cook for guests? I’d love to hear about it.

Recipe: slow-roasted lamb shanks

The melt-in-the-mouth shanks ready to be served

The ingredients

Serves 6

6 lamb shanks

2 tbsps vegetable oil

12 shallots, peeled

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

4cm fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 bottle dry white wine

2 tsps ground cumin

2 tsps ground coriander

3 tsps ground cinnamon

1 tsp cayenne pepper

300ml water

2 tbsps mint jelly

2 tbsps chutney

How to do it

Turn the oven on to 130C.

Fry the lamb shanks and shallots in the oil until they are browned.

Transfer them to a large roasting dish.

Sprinkle over the chopped garlic and ginger.

Pour the wine into a large container and mix in the cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne. Then pour it over the lamb shanks.

Add the water.

Spread the mint jelly and the chutney evenly through the dish.

Season with salt and pepper.

Tightly cover the dish with tinfoil.

Place in the oven and roast for 5 hours. Check the dish regularly to make sure it is slowly cooking and to spoon some of the liquid over the lamb shanks. Gently turn the shanks over a couple of times during the cooking.

Serve with cumin roasted potatoes and your choice of vegetables.

My star anise carrot puree the perfect accompaniment, you can find the recipe by clicking here.

Recipe: slow-roasted lamb shanks

The browned shanks before the wine and spices are added

And you can find the recipe for the cumin potatoes (very easy and totally irresistible) by clicking here.

Recipe: cumin potatoes

Crispy little potatoes with deep cumin flavours