Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tomato, Anchovy & Garlic Spelt Spaghetti

I recently was looking through old holiday snaps, and found myself looking at our holiday to Sicily a few years ago. I was 4 months pregnant in Sicily, I spent 10 days there and I came home looking about 8 months pregnant (not joking). After Argentina and South East Asia, Sicily is definitely one of the best places I've ever visited from a foodie point of view. Everything, and I mean everything I ate was absolutely delicious. One of my favourite Sicilian dishes was Pasta Con Le Sarde. It's a pasta dish like nothing you would get in Italy, with some very strong distinctive flavours; sardines, fennel, saffron, and sultanas. I found myself ordering it for lunch nearly every second day. I forgot about pasta con le sarde until recently. I noticed a lonely looking tin of John West Anchovies in my cupboard. While I didn't have any fennel, or sardines in the house; I decided to make a gutsy pasta dish with my humble tin of anchovies.

Whilst doing the weekly shop last week I spotted a packet of spelt spaghetti in the pasta aisle, I have long heard of the health benefits of spelt vs wheat; but I have never really tried any spelt products. I have tried gluten free pasta, and found it revolting. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, the texture was as normal pasta and the taste was almost the same as wholegrain pasta, just perhaps a bit nuttier. I'm a true convert, I am now excited to go buy spelt flour and see how I can integrate it into my diet instead of plain and wholemeal flour.

Anyways, on with the recipe. This is a real store cupboard meal, something you can conjure up at the end of the week when the fridge is almost empty. Just a few vine tomatoes and a clove of garlic are required for freshness, and a lemon that will help make the sauce sing. All in all this is a tangy pasta dish with a distinctive bite to it. Now I need to bulk buy anchovy tins, so this meal is always just a mere 12 minutes away


  • 75g of spelt spaghetti (per person)
  • 3-4 vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 6-7 black olives, pipped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tin of anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Put the water on hob and bring to the boil. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. 
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
  3. Finely chop the anchovies and add to the oil. Add the tomatoes also.
  4. Cook everything for a few minutes.
  5. Add a few spoons of pasta water and the lemon juice.
  6. Finally, half the olives and add to the sauce. 
  7. Season the sauce and add the herbs.
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix well to coat every strand of spaghetti.
  9. Finally, plate up and grate the Parmesan over the pasta with the preferred quantity.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Balsamic Blueberry Compote - The Perfect Breakfast Accompaniment

Our most popular request for breakfast in the Bed & Breakfast is our Pancakes! We traditionally serve the pancakes with a small bottle of maple syrup and either strawberries or blueberries. I thought as a new twist to keep thing fresh I would devise a new interesting topping for the pancakes! Thus I came up with this balsamic blueberry sauce. Its simple to make and any leftovers can be stored in the fridge to top on toast, as an accompaniment to a venison dish or even on vanilla ice cream. One of my other favorite uses is as a topping to my homemade granola.

You don't normally associate balsamic vinegar with sweet dishes, but it works so well with blueberries and indeed strawberries, they are a secret love match! The vinegar really brings out the 'blueberriness' of the the blueberries, if that makes sense. The sauce is perfectly balances with a hint of lemon juice and a drop of maple syrup for a healthy natural sweetness. Once you try this sauce, you will be trying to come up with excuses to make it again and again!


  • 250g of blueberries
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic syrup
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Put the blueberries into a saucepan, and add the syrups and the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  2. It's that simple!!

Apple Pancake Rings - The low Fat Pancake Alternative

I was making pancakes over the weekend on Valentine's morning for Alan and Aoife when I thought wouldn't it be fun to dip some fruit into the pancake batter and see how they would come out. Apple rings won hands down. They are actually a great low fat alternative to regular pancakes for tomorrow's pancake day.

I just made the batter as per normal and dipped the apples into the batter coating them well, and then frying them using low calorie cooking spray oil. I did notice that the 'softer' apple is better than the crunchier variety!! Here's the recipe:


  • 100g of plain flour
  • 300mls of milk
  • 1 free range egg
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of oil
  • Soft apples cut into thin rings and core removed (number of apples depends on how many rings you want, I generally get 4 rings from an apple, you may want to make regular pancakes for others in the house)


  1. Make your batter the night before.
  2. On the day, heat a pan on medium and spray the pan with low calorie spray.
  3. Dip the rings into the batter and fry in the pan, cooking each side for 2 minutes.
  4. Serve warm immediately. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Healthy Homemade Granola - A Happy Accident

My flapjacks are famous amongst my family and friends Serena's Flapjacks; however as I always mention the wet ingredients binding all the healthy oats and seeds together is extremely fattening, butter, peanut butter, golden syrup, and brown sugar. Yesterday I tried to create a low fat version of these flapjacks using natural Canadian Maple Syrup and coconut oil. Unfortunately there wasn't enough of a binding factor to these two ingredients when mixed with the dry ingredients, leaving the end product too crumbly. A disaster when trying to cut into bars. But never one to waste food I bashed the whole tray up and put my newly baked granola into an air tight jar for future breakfasts.

I had my first helping of this granola this morning with some thick 0% Greek yogurt and my homemade blueberry balsamic compote. I must say it was the best breakfast I had all week, I didn't snack once until lunch time, and I am actually quite delighted that the flapjacks didn't end up working out. Back to the drawing table for those, however this low fat healthy homemade granola is definitely here to stay.


  • 300g of oats
  • 100g of desiccated coconut
  • 100g of sunflower seeds
  • 100g of pumpkin seeds
  • 20g of chia seeds
  • 150g of sultanas
  • 50g of plain flour
  • 100g of sesame seeds

Binding Ingredients

  • 1 cup of maple syrup
  • 1 cup of coconut oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients (except for the wet ingredients) in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  3. Heat the maple syrup and the oil until combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly ensuring everything is coated well with the syrup and oil mixture.
  5. Lay the granola mix on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, in a thin layer (use 2 trays if required)
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring frequently until the granola is nicely toasted. 
  7. Place the toasted granola in an airtight container. This will keep well for 2 weeks.
My serving suggestion is 0% greek yogurt and homemade blueberry balsamic syrup. Delicious!!!

The recipe for the granola I make in my Bed and Breakfast is Sika Lodge's Granola

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Extremely Versatile Quinoa Stuffed Beef Tomatoes

Healthy doesn't have to be boring, and these tasty stuffed tomatoes are extremely healthy and super fun. The recipe is here is extremely versatile, you can replace the quinoa with cous cous, bulgar wheat, rice, or even orzo. You can also inter change the vegetables also, customizing your stuffed tomatoes to your own person taste. You may even go so far as to stuff some peppers instead of using tomatoes altogether. So every single element of this dish can be replaced. Even the cheddar cheese can be replaced with either, feta, goats cheese and even haloumi. So there you have it, the most inter-changeable recipe I have ever written!!!!

These tomatoes are the perfect lunch time dish. I chose quinoa over cous cous and all the other grains, because it is a high protein ingredient with a low GI; meaning this should keep you fuller for longer. The tomatoes are not however just for lunch, these would be the perfect accompaniment to a main course fish dish at a dinner party. You could even have them prepped ahead, and just bang them in the oven for 15 minutes before serving the main. They look very impressive, yet secretly easy peasy to make. Here's how:


  • 1/2 cup of quinoa 
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 3 mushrooms, cubed
  • 1/2 courgette, cubed
  • 1 small can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 of a red onion, diced
  • 6 mint leaves, shredded
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin powder
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 2 tbsp of grated cheddar
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 beef tomatoes


  1. Add the quinoa to pan on a medium heat, add the water and cook for 12 minutes.
  2. Drain the quinoa and set aside.
  3. Add a wok to a medium heat, add the onion, tomato paste and cumin powder. Cook out for 5 minutes.
  4. Then add the mushrooms, courgettes and chickpeas, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the quinoa and the seasoning and mix really well, heating everything through.
  6. Finally add the mint and mix through.
  7. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. 
  8. Slice the top off the tomatoes, and cut out a hollow hole in the tomato.
  9. Spoon the quinoa mixture into the tomato and sprinkle each tomato with 1 tbsp of cheese.
  10. Place the tomatoes in an oven proof dish, replace the lid on the tomato, and add half a cup of water to the dish. (This prevents the tomato from sticking to the dish and keeps the finished product moist)
  11. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. 
  12. Serve with a simple green salad.

(Tip: Other ingredients which would work well are chopped almonds, sultanas, corriander, apricots, grated carrot, grated cucumber. The list is endless. Feel free to experiment)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Healthy Sweet Potato Pancakes

Pancake Tuesday is fast approaching, so it's time to whip out those pancake pans and get flipping!! When running the Bed and Breakfast, cooking pancakes everyday is obligatory. I would normally end up flipping up to 20 pancakes every morning, serving them with maple syrup and  a homemade berry compote. Here's the recipe for them Sika Lodge's Pancakes.

In continuing my new year health kick, this Pancake Tuesday I'm making a healthier, more wholesome pancake batter this year. Step up the humble sweet potato!! Sweet potatoes are rich in fibre and beta carotene, high in vitamin B, vitamin C and potassium. I've also replaced half the flour with wholemeal flour. In addition I have added baking powder to make the pancakes fluffy.

I found these pancakes are delicious alone with a dash of maple syrup or even some almond butter, but they got me thinking that they would be equally divine with smoked salmon and a chive & creme fraiche dressing. It would be a superb and elegant dinner party starter.

As my little girl has gone crazy for these, I am wrapping the leftovers and placing them in a freezer bag and freezing them for future snack times. They will merely take 30 seconds to defrost in the microwave.


  • 70g of plain flour
  • 50g of wholemeal whole
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon 
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml of milk
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup


  1. Pierce the sweet potato all over with a sharp knife, wrap in 2 sheets of kitchen paper and cook in the microwave for five minutes.
  2. Peel the cooked potato, mash it and cool completely.
  3. To make the batter, mix the flours,  and the baking powder in a wide bowl. Add the egg to the milk and beat well.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the milk and egg.
  5. Whisk well to incorporate the batter.
  6. Add the maple syrup and mashed sweet potato, and continue to whisk until everything is completely incorporated.
  7. Allow the batter to stand for an hour if you have the time.
  8. Heat a non stick pan on a medium heat and pour in a ladle full amount of batter per pancake. 
  9. Wait for little bubble holes to appear on the pancake before turning to brown the other side.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Healthy Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my ultimate comfort foods. It's delicious, though not always waist line friendly. I would never have lasagna mid week, always keeping it as a weekend cheat meal. However, I have come up with a way for me to have lasagna mid week and staying very healthy.

My roast vegetable lasagna will have even the hardiest of carnivores looking for seconds, making this the perfect meat free Monday dinner. Whats also great about this recipe is that you can swap the vegetables in this recipe for many other types of vegetables, e.g spinach, aubergines, beef tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli etc. Also this recipe has my basic tomato and white sauce recipes, that can be used in so many other recipes.

Serves 4


  • 4 lasagna sheets
  • 1/2 cup of low fat grated cheese

Tomato sauce

  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced 
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves

Roast Vegetables

  • 1 red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 5-6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • Spray Olive oil
  • 3-4 twigs of fresh thyme

Low fat Bechamel Sauce

  • 25g of plain flour
  • 25g of low fat butter spread
  • Skimmed Milk
  • Nutmeg


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  2. Lay the chopped vegetables on lined baking trays and scatter the thyme leaves around the trays and spray with low cal olive oil spray
  3. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, get a saucepan or wok on a medium heat, use some spray oil again on the wok/saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a minute, then add the tomatoes, and thyme and cook to reduce the liquid by half. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir it though. Set aside once cooked.
  5. In a small saucepan, on a medium heat, add the low fat spread.
  6. Whisk in the flour until all the butter is absorbed, to make a roux.
  7. Add the milk a bit at a time, whisking constantly, until a white creamy sauce is made. When you are happy with the consistency, grate in a small amount of fresh nutmeg.
  8. When the vegetables are soft and cooked, add them to the tomato sauce and mix through.
  9. Get a oven proof lasagna dish and put half the tomato vegetable mixture in the bottom of the dish, spreading it evenly.
  10. Top with 2 sheets of lasagna pasta. Top the pasta sheets with the remaining tomato sauce mixture.
  11. Top the sauce with the last 2 pasta sheets. Spread the bechamel sauce over the top pasta sheets and scatter the cheese all over.
  12. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  13. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before cutting, as if you cut a lasagna straight from the oven, it will fall apart when you try to take out the portions.

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