Berrynana Smoothie (1)

Persian Love Cake and a Marriage Proposal

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Heavily spiced and beautifully balanced – Iranian cuisine is definitely a new interest of mine. I was lucky enough to attend a Persian dinner party on Saturday with some good friends. I was also fortunate enough to receive a marriage proposal! Of course I accepted – so this has definitely been a Valentine’s weekend to remember. In fact, it has been the best weekend I’ve had for a long time – the food was exceptional, the proposal unexpected and the hangover, well rather inevitable.

I’m not one to attend a dinner party empty handed. Of course taking wine is perfectly expectable, but whipping up a delicious, decadent dessert is even better. Given that the theme for the evening was Persian food, I set about researching some recipes and I found myself confused as to why I hadn’t discovered Iranian food sooner. It all looks so wonderfully unfamiliar and exotic – that excites me a little. There is certainly nothing boring about cardamom, saffron and rose water all rolled into the one recipe. I stumbled upon a recipe for a Persian Love Cake on the brilliant Twigg Studios blog written by Aimee Twigger. What better recipe for a Persian dinner party on Valentine’s weekend?

There is something quite wonderful about a cake decorated with crimson rose petals and bright green pistachios – it’s a real show-stopper. I couldn’t quite believe how well it complemented the Raan (roast leg of lamb in yogurt that Bryan cooked) with spiced side dishes of spinach, cauliflower, rice and potatoes.

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Our friend Bryan’s surname is Haines and we call him the Haines Manual, because he is a endless fountain of knowledge. I asked him for the Raan recipe and he bought out this book, the cover fell apart from the pages as I opened it – obviously a rather old and well used book. Bryan tells me it has many a delicious Iranian recipe – The Yoghurt Book by Arto Der Haroutunian (Syrian born). The book was first published in 1983, but I’m hoping I can find a copy online. I will have a go at the dish myself at some point and share the recipe with you, once I have photographs to go with it.

The Persian Love Cake was made with many of the same ingredients, cardamom, saffron, almonds and complemented the meal beautifully. You can view the recipe here.

I still can’t quite believe that I’m engaged – let the wedding planning commence.

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Berrynana Smoothie (1)

Blueberry & Almond Pancakes

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Ordinarily, I’m a fan of pancakes with sugar and lemon. It’s reminiscent of my childhood, when mum and dad would goof around in the kitchen and more of the pancakes would end up on the wall, the ceiling and the floor than on the plate. But we’ve all made bog standard pancakes right?

If you are one of those people who buy the ‘pancake mix’ already made, this is the part where you should hang your head in shame, for you are essentially buying overpriced flour. Pancakes are not difficult to make – flour, eggs, milk and vegetable oil. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it?

We decided to make our pancakes over the weekend, for one of two reasons really. We had Richard’s children and we knew they would want a piece of the action, and secondly because I barely have time to feed myself in the week now, let alone lark about making pancakes and photographing them for my blog. Oh and of course, so that I can strategically post this on my blog the day before Pancake Day.

We managed to find a spare hour on Sunday, so we set about making them; of course everyone wanted something different. I had to be the odd one out and decide I didn’t want plain pancakes. I wanted to make something a little more interesting – I decided on American style blueberry and almond pancakes. They are that bit more substantial, not great for the diet mind. This recipe makes around 10 pancakes.

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Blueberry & Almond Pancakes
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150ml milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150g fresh blueberries
  • 1tbsp powdered sweetener
  • Maple syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks, placing each in their own large mixing bowl. Add the almonds, flour, baking powder and milk to the yolk. Mix well to form a thick batter.
  2. Add the salt to the egg whites and whisk until you have stiff peaks. Fold this into the batter.
  3. Heat a pan on a medium heat. Using a ladle pour your batter into the pan, topping the pancake with 5-6 blueberries. Once the pancake starts to look golden around the edges, flip the pancake using a spatula. These pancakes only take about 1 minute on each side in a hot pan.
  4. In a separate saucepan, place 100g blueberries over a high heat, sprinkle with 1 tbsp powered sweetener and allow to cook until the berries have burst and are a deep purple liquid.
  5. Serve the pancakes stacked and drizzled with blueberry sauce. You can also add a splash of maple syrup if it takes your fancy.

 

Berrynana Smoothie (1)

Batch cooking for the entire family – baby and all

Now I’m not talking hundreds of portions of shepherd’s pie that will take up your entire freezer space and leave you, well quite frankly, fed up with shepherd’s pie. But, picture this. You come home from a long day at the office, the kids need help with their homework, they need bathing – oh and there’s that jigsaw puzzle you promised to help your child finish. You then spend an hour cooking dinner, washing up and by the time you sit down in the evening you’re frazzled and falling asleep. Sound familiar? Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Batch cooking will make your life a little easier. I love to make extra portions that I can pop in the freezer for those times when I’m rushed and cooking is the last thing I have the time or energy for. Not only does batch cooking save you time and energy, it generally works out to be much cheaper, and it can even help you to eat healthier, more nutritious food.

My boyfriend would probably say I have an obsession with batch cooking; I’m always saving ‘a bit for lunch tomorrow’, or cooking extra to see us through the week. Recently, this obsession has stepped up level. I’ve just started weaning my daughter Jemima, something I think I’m enjoying more than her. She is actually a really good little eater and I’m determined to ensure that she tries as many new foods as quickly as possible. Having done my research on the subject, it would appear that this approach is less likely to result in a fussy eater. I’m not sure I’d cope with having a child that is a fussy eater.

To ensure I’m giving my baby the very best start in life, I’m applying a ‘no jarred or packet food rule’ – if it isn’t fresh, she doesn’t have it. Both Richard and I are in agreement on this. We often comment when we see parents giving their babies chocolate buttons and such. Why on earth would you feed a baby chocolate? They don’t know what it is until you introduce it, so why subject your tiny baby to so much sugar so early in their eating experience? It will most likely put them off wanting other things, such as broccoli. Who wants to eat broccoli over chocolate given the choice? I’m certain this will provoke a lot of debate, but ultimately it’s your choice as a parent what you feed your child; I just want to make sure she’s getting the healthiest start I can give her. Chocolate buttons can wait until she’s that bit older.

I digress. I’ve made the decision to go back to work fairly early. Jemima is not even five months old, so I had to ensure that she had enough meals at the ready and that jarred food wouldn’t become a quick go to for the childminders. She’s spending her week between nursery and various family members, so being prepared is the way forward. I’m not going to be getting the blender out every night to make her lunch for the next day! To make up a months worth of various vegetable and fruit purées probably took me less than 90 minutes. Surely that’s worth spending the time over a weekend. You’ll save a shed load of money too!

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If you are beginning the process of weaning, I’ve found that some of the best foods to start with are potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, broccoli, stewed apple and pear. And, you can start by mixing any of these with baby rice or breast/formula milk to create more of a familiar taste for baby too. Sweet potato is definitely Jemima’s favourite so far.

Happy batch cooking folks!