Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Lemony & Zingy - Your Minimalist Houmous

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How beautiful is summer?  I bet that your weekends are action packed with BBQs, garden parties and delicious, mouth watering food.  Which is why I thought that I would share this little crowd pleaser with you.  I love home comforts and outdoor house parties are perfect if you can only cope with a garden party .  When you choose to take your party outdoors (and why not, it's not every year that summer arrives in London); you may decide to add houmous to the menu.  If you do, say no to the supermarket branded varieties and pick this little beauty instead.  It's a multiple winner for taste and nutrition.

I first came across this recipe in a cute little French recipe book.  I decided to try it out and have had several requests for the recipe since.  It's so easy to make and so intensely zingy you will be pleasantly pleased at it's intense flavour when matched with cool cucumber or celery sticks. You cannot go wrong with this unique taste of chickpea goodness!  

Nutrition tip: when you make your own houmous, you have control of how much oil gets added to the final recipe.  YOU are therefore always in control of what you eat.


INGREDIENTS

3 fat garlic cloves
Large pinch of salt
400g chickpeas from a tin (drained, but reserve the liquid)
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons tahini paste
Olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons


DIRECTIONS

1. Add the chickpeas into a blender and blend with approximately 1/4 of the juice from the tin.
2. Finely chop the garlic cloves then using your knife, mix in the the pinch of salt.
3. Add the salted garlic, paprika, cumin and tahini paste into the blended chickpeas.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and blend.
4. Add more of the drained liquid and olive oil until you achieve a smooth, creamy paste.
5. Finally add the juice of two lemons and blend well.
5. Serve with freshly chopped parsley and pomegranate for a burst of colour.

Enjoy!  



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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cheese For My Valentine (Boursin Light Review)

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"Du pain, du vin, du Boursin".. Sound familiar?  If you know the saying (some bread, some wine, some Boursin) you are probably French or you are a cheese lover and watch a lot of TV.  The advert with this popular slogan is permanently tattooed in every French person's mind (or so I'm told) but how does cheese fit in with your New Year's resolution on Valentine's day?

If you are planning to celebrate Valentine's at home, either with friends or with a loved one then you may be considering a cheese platter.  Soft cheeses are usually the way to go but Boursin like many is a full fat soft cheese.  Based on 40% as fat, a thin spread on bread or crackers is certainly recommended.  You will especially like the garlic & herb flavoured variety as it will add a little something to your cheese board.  I say hold back on the garlic choice if it's your first Valentine together as a couple.  The 'pepper' flavour might be more suitable if you want to save your breath.

For the health conscious, Boursin Light is a delightful option as it ticks all the boxes for fat content.  If you are not sure how to read labels, then please refer to Be Shopping Savvy which will teach you the principles of label reading.  The Light variety contains 9% fat, thus passing your nutrition screening tool for fat with flying colours.

If it sounds like a drag to be compromising on taste with a low fat cheese option, then consider throwing in chopped tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes and even some of your favourite fresh herbs.  Mixed together, this will make a scrumptious dip for cut up vegetables.  So starter is done.  Anything left-over can even be used as a filler for sandwiches the next day.  

What's more this purse-friendly option could also make the perfect addition to home made pasta bakes and will leave your heart singing with joy for skipping the cream for that white sauce.

There isn't a fool proof way to tackle Valentines Day, but with careful attention to ingredients and close-ups of nutrition labels, Valentines can be a terrific day for you.

Happy Valentines Day!



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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Host A French Style Festive Feast

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Welcome back lovely readers!  You have probably had one of the most amazing times of your life, feasting and celebrating with loved ones.  I love Christmas so much because I get to walk down the beautifully lit Champs Elysees and of course spend time with some of my favourite people.

Speaking of favourite people, I had so much fun baking with my two favourite girls over the Christmas holidays.  To ensure that there was something to delight the girls for dessert, my Christmas helpers Margot who is six and Pauline who is now three, helped me measure, mix and then finally bake these gorgeous chocolate cup cakes.



Cupcakes are incredibly popular and a fantastic treat food that also follow the rules of portion control.  You definitely cannot go wrong with these mini cup cakes.  They are a delight to make with the little ones too.  Just make sure that they keep their sticky fingers away from the bowl so that at least most of it does end up baked!

Part of hosting lovely Christmas lunches and dinners (like they do on the 24th of December in France) is the excitement in setting up the table.  I love the use of candles to create soft lighting but also these beautiful crystal glasses and ornaments to set the scene in such an elegant manner.





A glass of champagne (or two) is my favourite aperitif.  Served with appetizers such as these 'surprise' bites or amuse-bouche was a winning combination.  Each little pastry had either goats cheese, salmon, pesto, spinach or sundried tomato based fillings in them.  Truly delicious.





Seafood was featured on the 24th dinner but also for Christmas lunch.  These crevettes were incredibly delicious.  If you love seafood then your taste buds would have sung in joy over this gorgeous seafood bake made with prawns, scallops, mussels and white fish in a creamy béchamel sauce.  I simply must have this recipe!




What a surprise that lamb was chosen for both meals but duck has been a popular choice in previous years.  The first dish was a beautiful roast prepared using home grown rosemary.  Beautiful!  The second lamb meal that we ate for Christmas lunch was prepared with a pork, mushroom and fig stuffing.  It tasted incredible and was perfectly accompanied with rich and luxurious dauphinoise potatoes, quickly followed with a green salad for healthy measure.







I am horrified that we could eat more but of course we did.  A French meal is never complete without a cheese platter and plenty of wine.  The key to enjoying these calorie rich and yet gorgeously tasty meals is to stick to small portion sizes and resist extra helpings!




Dessert was ice cream laced in a vanilla and caramel flavour or wicked chocolate.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was the modern version of bûche de Noël.  

The homemade option was Cannelés de Bordeaux.  It is a little pastry like cake with a caramelised shell and a soft center.  It is prepared using flour, milk, butter and eggs and flavoured with rum and vanilla.





I must confess that I did have seconds and so am already looking forward to the weekly running club to work off any Christmas wobbles!  I had so much fun and am truly lucky to have experienced delicious and lovely French meals with some of my favourite people.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a lovely New Year!  Where did you spend Christmas lovely readers?


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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Should You Ditch The Diet This Christmas?

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If you are still counting calories during this festive season, then you might just miss the boat called life.  This is the season of parties, celebrations and special moments with loved ones whereby it really is possible to have fun and still stay in shape.

Sound too good to be true?  Throw out the million excuses that you can think of for why you cannot keep up your solid exercise routine and you will soon discover that you can continue to slip into your gorgeous party outfits night after night.

It's all about solving the calorie, booze and exercise balance.  Let's face it, who wants to count calories or even consider the fat content of that delicious dessert staring at you?  You have been working so hard all year that surely you can loosen up, be merry, eat, drink, indulge but then be motivated enough to burn it off the next day.

If it makes you nervous to let go, then calorie solve by simply slotting in an extra exercise session.  It doesn't have to be a monstrously long session on the treadmill either.  Perhaps a 30 minute work-out during your lunch break?  Or a short power run before work.  Not only will the burst of exercise invigorate you; the shorter work-outs will also motivate you to invest more energy into the activity you choose.  Taking this break from your usual routine will help you appreciate the change and enable you to enjoy your well deserved party night all the more.


CALORIE BUSTERS

When you are presented with a multitude of yummy dishes to try, why not share them with your neighbour at the dinner table?  This is not just about saving calories either.  This is one smart idea where yes, you do reduce your intake of high calorie foods but you also get to try a lovely range of dishes minus the guilt.  Portion control will never let you down!








Don't forget your veggies.  It may be party season but this is no time to forgo your valuable source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.  Pile your plate high with vegetables and salads.  It will get you full quicker, reducing the temptation for more.





Once you are full, it's time to have fun, so put your dancing shoes on and hit the dance floor.  


Yes that's right, dancing your dinner off will be great for your figure and will keep you away from that dinner table.  It's so much fun too, so how can you possibly say no?

Try to go easy on the booze or cocktails but if you really have over done it, try not to panic.  Just slot in a short but vigorous exercise date the next day.  It's achievable and your figure will thank you for it!




Enjoy your week lovely readers!   It's the most magical time of the year, so have a blast.


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Sunday, 25 November 2012

How To Host A Japanese Dinner Party With The Wow Factor

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This is an indulgent dinner party that ticks all the right boxes for health.  What it demonstrates is that you can have fun, pig out and still feel satisfied knowing that your dinner party wins between the wow factor, delicious food and treats that incorporate healthy foods.

With only a few years of cooking experience under my belt, it's no wonder that I often get green with envy at the expertise that my girlfriends display when they host their dinner parties.  In this post, you will feast your eyes at a wonderful choice of delicious Japanese foods that will tease and tantalize your taste buds.

To begin with, we had gorgeous crunchy vegetables (see pictured above).  They were coated in a potato and wheat flour batter that was mixed into a paste using water, then fried.  Yes fried. For the heart healthy version, what you could do is pan fry or spray lightly in oil then bake in the oven until crispy.

Next to be served were Takoyaki balls, which are essentially balls made from a wheat flour based batter then cooked in a special takoyaki pan. These were filled with octopus and topped with thin shavings of dried fish.  They are served with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. Gorgeous.



A Japanese dinner party should draw on its heritage, the lovely sushi.  Absolutely ideal for the health foodie amongst your guests.  The lovely couple who prepared these hand rolled sushi rolls had recently attended a sushi culinary course and were thrilled to be able to show off their newly acquired skills.  They did a beautiful job too.  Each roll was lovingly filled with avocado, salmon, pickled ginger, omelette, crab or cucumber.  Packed full of flavour, each bite definitely did not fail to please.




Remember that when preparing sushi at home, you will need to purchase sushi grade salmon and go fresh to retain flavour and colour.  The rice for sushi also needs to be prepped with vinegar, sugar and salt or mirin.  


One of the reasons why I love Japanese cuisine is also because of the amazing china and serving dishes that you get to use.  The little soup bowls or side bowls for sauces are often intricately painted with lovely floral designs that you will need very little to decorate your table.  The food and serving plates will do the advertising for you.

This course was swiftly followed by the main.  The vegetarian option was Agedashi tofu. If you are wondering what that means, don't worry, so did I!  All I can tell you is that it was a beautiful silky tofu dish in a savoury sauce.  It is apparently a dashi sauce.  Although the tofu is traditionally deep fried, in this instance, it was not.  The delicate salty flavours of the sauce was perfect for the tofu.  Yummy.



The leading dish was chicken katsudon served on a bed of egg fried rice.  I would recommend trying this dish as it really was just so tasty!  You will enjoy the combination of dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and eggs in this recipe.



Once you are almost full stop eating immediately as you will definitely want to indulge over dessert after a short break.  Dessert is a course not to be missed, especially when it is presented in a watermelon glistening with sugared watermelon sorbet and peeping green tea ice cream.


If that's not quite enough cuddle up with a loved one or a friend as you may want to share a green tea flavoured pannacotta.  It's perfect, creamy, delicious and light.  So beautifully presented in individual tea cups - this is a dessert not to be missed.


I was delighted when my girlfriend shared her recipe for these little green beauties with me.  Her recipe was inspired by this lovely blog that created Fusion Green Tea Panna Cotta.  You will need Japanese green tea powder or Matcha, cream, sugar, gelatine powder, milk and vanilla extract.  A wonderful idea for a Japanese themed dinner party.


What do you recommend preparing for a Japanese themed dinner party?  Do comment below lovely readers, I do love hearing from you!


Recommended Reading


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Sunday, 18 November 2012

How To Star Style Your Food Photographs - by Melissa Bakth

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It is with enormous pleasure that I introduce to you Melissa.  She captures some of the most beautiful food photographs that I have ever laid eyes on.  You can almost reach out and grab the delicious delights that she has photographed.  I bet they taste amazing too.  You may be familiar with her food journalism pieces in Desi-Info and do look out for her food article coming out in Living South Magazine next month for Christmas hot spots.  Most importantly she has also been involved in an art direction shoot with David Loftus; Oh My God - yes!  If she's good enough for Jamie Oliver, then she's definitely good enough for A Light Perspective.  Enjoy this guest post my lovely readers!


Food and design are my two greatest loves. Food photography is for me, the perfect combination of them both. There is nothing worse than a beautifully prepared meal that is terribly photographed- case and point, many of those horrible 90’s cook books. You all know the ones I mean- sterile, flat and unappetising.

Before I began cooking, painting was my thing, and I have found that a lot of the great food stylists out there apply the same rules of the canvas to the lens. Here’s my hit list of 5 easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy tips to styling your food shots.


1. Texture



Texture plays a huge part in food; both in it’s preparation and it’s photography. Often when we cook a meal, we are advised to add ingredients that will form layers of texture, and this is something I would also greatly advise when you photograph your food.  Dishes that have dynamic exteriors, or those that have great contrast in their surfaces make for great subjects. Even something as simple and un-extraordinary as a humble strawberry can be a pleasure to photograph with it’s pitted skin and green foliage.


2. Props/ authenticity



A fantastic way of transforming your shots, is to use accessorize your plate. The lists of possibilities are endless, crockery, cutlery, ribbon, chopping boards and so on. The trick is to find to things that will match your dish and give your photos an extra lift. Cooking a curry, then why not photograph in an authentic tiffin carrier? Homemade bread looks great in an organic basket and chopsticks make for a simple stamp of the East. You get my point. If you can’t find what you want in your own kitchen, then raid your mum’s house- trust me, I’ve picked up some absolute gems from mine; and if you’re after something a little different, then head to your local charity shop. There’ll be a veritable treasure chest of goodies there. Last visit, I picked up a set of beautiful hand glazed 1920’s tea-cups for 80p. Who say’s you can’t put a price on happiness?



3. Garnishing



Another prop that people often forget is garnishing- and I’m not just talking about a sad sprinkling of parsley- I mean, enough already, there are other herbs out there! No, by garnishing, I mean, taking any part of your dish and using it to really tell the story of it. Jamie Oliver is an absolute master of this. After you have prepared your meal, always leave a handful of ingredients so that you can topple it on the surface and finish your dish. Items like seeds and herbs are great as they will give great texture and vivid colour and will always look fresh. 



4. Difference in heights


Now this seems like an odd one, but photographing food that is stacked looks amazing. There is no particular science to it, but as with the element of texture, stacking techniques create shadows and the more inventive the food arrangement, the more interesting the shot. 


5. Creativity




At the end of the day, food is meant to be fun, so have fun with photographing it. There are no rules, so always try to push what you can do with it. More inventive and adventurous presentation will engage your viewers and make your food come alive, so give it a go!


By Melissa Bakth.


What do you think lovely readers?  Do comment below with your thoughts or questions for Melissa.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Perfect Eggless Banana & Chocolate Cake

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Chocolate; she is your best mate when you are feeling down, or so you think.  You decide to indulge in a chocolate feast by baking a cake, but to your very dismay you realise that you have run out of dark chocolate.  You are also expecting guests tonight and your plans for producing the perfect indulgent dessert is suddenly tainted and there is absolutely no time to rush out to the shops for dark chocolate...  Where on earth are you going to find a milk, egg, wheat and soy free chocolate cake recipe now I wonder?

Relax, this is an excellent choice requiring only a few ingredients.  This is quite a dense cake and is very rich in flavour.  You will only need to serve a thin slice.  It could be really delicious when accompanied with a dairy free fruity sorbet.  Heaven.


INGREDIENTS
250ml water
200g soft brown sugar
75g dark brown muscovado sugar
125g dairy free margarine
35g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon wheat & gluten free baking powder
225g gluten free self raising flour
3 tablespoons ground almonds 
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon egg replacer + 1 tablespoon nut milk

FOR THE GANACHE
45g dairy free margarine
50g caster sugar
40ml water
80g icing sugar
18g cocoa powder


DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 ºC.  Grease a round baking tray and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan add the water, sugars, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Allow to simmer over a low heat.  This should take only 5 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool until warm.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the mashed bananas with the gluten free flour.  Next add the egg replacer mixed with a tablespoon of nut milk.
  4. When the chocolate solution is warm to touch, pour into the flour mixture and beat to create a smooth runny texture.
  5. Pour into your greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 40 - 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. To prepare the ganache, in a separate saucepan place the margarine, caster sugar and water and allow to simmer.  
  7. Sift the cocoa powder and icing sugar then add to the saucepan.  Mix well.
  8. Allow to cool, cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 20 minutes.  
  9. When the glace is firm enough, beat it with a wooden spoon to soften a bit then coat the cake generously.
Serves - 8 - 10 slices





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