Monday, August 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Heaven

I made chocolate chip cookies the weekend before last. They are SO easy, and coming from someone who never bakes and has admittedly passed off Betty Crocker brownie mix brownies as her own work (sorry to my future mother-in-law), you know that means they're a cinch.

I have to pay homage here to the Betty Crocker website (and cool retro cookbook my mother bought me three Christmases ago) for the foolproof recipe it provides. With super-easy American cup measurements. Why, oh why, doesn't the UK use cups? Anyway, if you don't have a measuring cup with cups, use a normal sized coffee mug. With this recipe, you can't really go far wrong.

Chocolate-chip cookies (adapted from the Betty Crocker website)



cup granulated sugar


cup packed brown sugar


cup butter or margarine, softened



2 1/4

cups self-raising flour


teaspoon baking powder (only if using plain flour)


teaspoon salt, and 1 tsp almond essence


1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, or 375 degrees F.

2. Make sure butter is soft (I microwave mine for 10 seconds if it’s just come out of the fridge. Otherwise, use a sunny windowsill for half an hour). Mix sugars with butter in a large bowl and add the egg.

3. Mix in flour slowly until consistency of the mixture is doughy (if using plain flour add baking powder too). Add salt and the dash of almond essence. The mixture should be greasy enough to coat your hands with a glossy sheen, but stiff enough to roll into balls.

4. Cut up a chocolate bar (none of those pansy-ass readymade chips for me, I like to use a Cadbury's Bourneville bar or some fairtrade Co-op dark chocolate) into little chips, about half a centimetre squared usually does it. Add to the dough and mix well. At this point you can also add other things to personalise your cookies if you like; hazelnuts, pecans, or Reese's pieces have all been used in the past in my kitchen.

5. Roll into individual 2cm wide balls and flatten as you place them on baking sheets. Cook in the oven for about 7 or 8 minutes if you like them slightly soft and gooey, like I do.

6. Serve to anyone you'd like to make friends with. It honestly works. People go mental for freshly baked things. I now believe that thing about having bread baking if you're trying to sell your house...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Keen on Quinoa

This week, I had been catching up on the blogs I follow and was reading a great post about bulgar wheat on Little Bit in London, a great foodie/London life blog I've been following for a while. In this post, Emm wrote about how she craved some quinoa (which I always have in my sundries cupboard, and I commented on where you can find it in London. It's really pretty common, and I get mine either online when I do an Ocado order, or in my personal favourite, Greensmiths in SE1 - a wonderful little independent supermarket I've blogged about on numerous occasions. You can also find it in some larger branches of Sainsbury's - they stock it in their 'free-from' aisle, plus it's usually stocked in health food stores.

Anyway, after reading Emm's post I decided to honour the wonderous Peruvian super-seed and make it the main feature of a crunchy, fluffy, deliciusly healthy salad. Usually I make my own version of a yummy cashew nut, sunflower seeds, pea and tofu quinoa salad with toasted sesame oil, a la the Crussh super healthy lunch chain's own healthpot, but I was looking for something a bit different - fresh and summery. Trawling the interweb I typed in 'quinoa salad' and hey presto, I found this amazing little recipe. I've adapted a bit, but I bet the original recipe's yummy, too.

Quinoa, Avocado, Cucumber & Radish Summer Salad


1 cup quinoa

2 avocados, peeled and diced

a healthy squeeze of lime juice

1/2 low-salt vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 2 cups water

10-12 chopped radishes (diced)

1/2 cucumber, diced

3 spring onions, finely chopped


3 tsp. lime juice

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

salt and pepper

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

handful fresh coriander, chopped


Put the rinsed quinoa on the hob on a medium-high heat and bring to the boil with enough water to just cover the grains. Add all the other ingredients to a bowl and mix gently, so as not to break up the avocado too much.

Once the quinoa has absorbed all of the stock, turn off the heat and fluff up with a fork. Leave to cool for a few minutes and add the toasted sesame oil to help separate the grains. Add the chilli, salt, pepper and toss in with the other salad ingredients. Mix gently, and add the olive oil and lime juice one spoonful at a time until you get the desired dressing. Garnish with the coriander and serve with some grilled or pan-fried chicken breast for a very tasty and healthy lunch or dinner.