Saint & Sinner: Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge and Comté & rosemary gnocchi with pine nut garlic butter

There have been far too many weekends that have sailed by without me being able to get down to some proper cooking in my little Clapham kitchen.

I woke up famished on Friday and, after sticking my nose in the fridge and spotting a mango that was heading inexorably towards overripedom and a lump of 18-month aged Comté  from a recent (and unutterably delicious press evening), I decided to roll my sleeves up and knock up a terribly healthy breakfast and a decadent, butter-rich, carb-loaded lunch.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

I first encountered quinoa porridge when I subjected myself to a week of eating like Gwyneth Paltrow for a feature with Huffington Post. After a week of sugar/dairy/wheat/caffeine/alcohol/soy/fun-free eating I was ready to savage the next person who dared to wander past me holding a bar of chocolate or a cocktail, but I did get a taste for a couple of her breakfast ideas. NOT the squishy, kale-fuelled smoothies mind you, but her ingenious use for leftover quinoa.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

There’s always left over quinoa.

Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that’s a natural protein, is naturally gluten-free and is packed with iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fibre. When cooked, it lasts at least four days sealed in tupperware in the fridge or for a disturbingly long time when frozen.

This fruity, fibre-rich and crunchy alternative to oat porridge is doused in creamy almond milk and finished with a scattering of sliced strawberries, juicy mango and a splodge of runny honey.

All you need to do is cook the funny little grains beforehand until they explode into nutty spirals. I use about half a cup of uncooked grains per person fora single portion of porridge, but of course you can cook up lots and store it for the week ahead in the fridge.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

for the quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water

for the porridge

1 ripe mango sliced into thin slivers
5 ripe strawberries washed, hulled and sliced
3/4 – 1 cup of cooked quinoa (the 1/2 cup raw grain will expand into about this)
1/2 almond milk
a handful of almonds
1 tsp honey (you can leave this out if you like your food to be ultra healthy)

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

Method
  • Always start by rinsing your quinoa in a sieve as the husks have a strange, milky coating on them. Pop the quinoa into a saucepan with the water on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer until the water is absorbed and the grains have opened up. This should take about 15 minutes.
  • Fluff the grains up with a fork as you would cous cous and then add in the almond milk.
  • Gently heat this through until it’s piping hot and transfer to your breakfast bowl before decorating with the fruit and nuts and dribbling on the honey.

Blueberries also work really well with this, as does banana and a spoonful of almond butter. You can also add a spoonful of chia seeds into the mix for an extra protein boost.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

Comté and rosemary gnocchi with pine nut garlic butter

I’ve always loved gnocchi and can’t resist these fluffy potato pillows if I see them on a menu; although I must confess I’ve never attempted to make them before and was shocked at how simple they were.

Comte and rosemary gnocchi - the edible woman

The key to perfectly light gnocchi is using dry, fluffy potatoes. Always dry roast your potatoes in the oven and avoid boiling them to reduce their moisture content.

Plain gnocchi are simply delicious served with a dash of homemade tomato sauce or baked with a cheese topping, but they also absorb flavour very well, which is why I decided to include some grated, full-flavoured Comté and chopped rosemary in mine.

Comte - the edible woman

for the gnocchi

100g grated Comté (any hard, strong cheese would do just as well, like parmesan or gruyere, if that’s what you have in your fridge)
2 large baking potatoes (there’s a simple rule for measuring gnocchi portions that goes one potato per person per portion to about 75g flour)
150g plain flour
1 egg
a few large sprigs of rosemary, chopped very finely

for the coating

1 bag of fresh rocket
30g pine nuts
50g butter
1 large garlic clove, crushed

Method
  • Put the potatoes into a preheated oven at 200 degrees centigrade to bake until they’re completely soft. The best gnocchi are made with hot potatoes so you’ll have to test your pain threshold a bit with these!
  • When the potatoes are cooked, peel off their skins and push them through a potato ricer; the smoother and fluffier they are, the lighter your gnocchi will be. The best gnocchi melt in the mouth.
  • Gently mix in the cheese and chopped rosemary with a good pinch of salt and tip the flour out onto a flat surface. Pour the potato mix on to the flour and make a shallow well in the middle of your potato and flour mound.
  • Pour in the egg and bring the mixture together with your hands, kneading it into a soft dough (you don’t have to use all the egg – just if it feels too dry and refuses to come together without flaking)

Comte and rosemary gnocchi - the edible woman

  • Shape your mix – trying not to work it too hard as this makes the gnocchi tough – into a fat sausage and half it with a knife or pastry card.
  • Roll each dough sausage out into a thin snake. Cut 1-inch pieces off the snake and pop onto a lightly floured tray. You can try to give them the distinctive gnocchi ridges by rolling them over the back of a fork…as you can see from my little monstrosities, I wasn’t very adept at this!
  • Set a pan of water on to boil and put the crushed garlic, butter and pine nuts into a pan over a medium heat. Let the butter melt and caramelise the pine nuts but try not to burn it.
  • Drop the gnocchi into the boiling pan of water. They cook in under a minute and you’ll know they’re done when they pop up to the surface and bob around.
  • Remove them with a slatted spoon and drop them into the hot pan of garlic and pine nut butter, coating them in the sauce. Add in the rocket and let it wilt before serving straight away with a twist of black pepper and a few shavings of leftover cheese.

Comte and rosemary gnocchi - the edible woman

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To The Lighthouse: A Day at Trinity Buoy Wharf

As I’m sure you already know, (what with all the pictures of kids dressed up at their favourite fictional characters being posted all around the world) yesterday was National Book Day and, in honour of one of my best-loved books, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, I decided to go to London’s only lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

“She felt… how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.”

So I ventured far out east, through the scrabbling phalanx of suited office workers scuttling like ants around Bank station and out on the DLR to East India Docks.

Walking past the mud-churned waters of The Thames, along the edge where tiny moorhens and hulking seagulls were nosing through the debris that surfaced as the water peeled away from the mud at low tide, I discovered that it’s actually quite hard to miss Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Trinity Buoy Wharf

Even more so now considering that the whole area here near London City Island is undergoing a major facelift and the under contraction areas are currently fenced off with iron gates and patrolled by high-vis wearing sentries.

The site has been a workshop for crafting beacons, marks and signs for the sea since Trinity House’s corporation of mariners and shipmen moved in in Tudor times. TBW was closed more than 450 years later in  1988 when it was purchased by the London Docklands Development Corporation.

In 1996, Urban Space Management took the site on a long lease and today, this industrial enclave has taken on a decidedly cultural edge with everyone from design students at the University of East London to opera companies making their home in the cavernous warehouse studios, old stone houses and Crate City – lego stacked and primary colour painted metal crates. It’s even home to the London Parcour Academy.

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As I wandered around, the brackish breeze with its edge of burning rubbish rising up from the water and swirling around me, I realised that TBW has managed to achieve something rare in London.

They’ve made a place that’s interesting without being heaving with tourists; historic without being pretentious; gentrified without feeling privileged and cool without feeling remotely hipster.

I could have spent all day here, but only had a morning, which was just enough time to squeeze in the following.

10 things to do at Trinity Buoy Wharf

1. See London’s last remaining lighthouse

Designed and built by James Douglass in 1864, this elegantly-wrought lighthouse is the last one standing in modern day London.  The caramel-coloured stone edifice with its honeycomb hat of metal and glass was dubbed the Experimental Light house after the work done in its eaves by the scientist Michael Faraday.

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2. Experience The Faraday Effect

Designed by Fourth Wall Creations, The Faraday Effect is a tiny, multi-sensory and interactive museum and one of the smallest collections of curiosities in London. Despite its diminutive size, you’ll be surprised at how long you can spend in this tardis of a museum learning about the life and work of Michael Faraday, the famous Scientific Advisor to Trinity House.

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3. Seek out the sculptures

Alongside the wood that’s been painted cobalt and burgundy and around the scarlet and banana yellow metal crates, there are softly rusted and worn metal sculptures to be found.

Many of these are moving machines made by Andrew Baldwin and are scattered around the wharf, but below piece was created by Yoshie Jujioka using items found lying around LBW and now sits on the side of the Boiler House.

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4. Check out the big red boat

This colossal crimson ship moored behind the Big Boys Diner isn’t quite what it seems. It’s owned by Ben Phillips, an engineer who bought the 500 tonne lightship at an auction and converted it into an audio recording studio, renaming it Lightship95 along the way.

You can’t exactly just hop aboard if you feel like it, but you can book a recording session on the boat by emailing ben@lightship95.com.

Besides, even if you aren’t a budding musician, this brute of a boat makes for spectacular viewing from the safety of the dock.

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5. Liston to tides of The Thames with the Floodtide Listening Post

As I was standing and admiring the view in front of the Aluna clock, I was jolted out of my reverie by the metallic whispering that grew in volume until it sounded like the chirping of a steam engine. Turning around I realised that the noise was coming from a rust-covered post that dripped gleaming steal pipes like a trident.

The ingenious Floodtide Listening Post is a mechanical music machine that plays notes determined by the rise and fall and the sweep and wash of the river Thames’ tides.

The sweet, reedy lament of the pipes wasn’t exactly how I imagined the oily, clouded depths of The Thames would sound if it spoke, but this siren song shouldn’t be missed.

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6. Take in the view

From the docks, across the chocolate-coloured water, the sky opens up and you can see the spindly, latticed bridges stretching out and clutching on to cobalt blue cargo boats; the hive of activity smashing around the adjacent industrial sites and the spikes of the O2 building stretching upwards, where the cable cars of the Emirates Air Line dip and sway between fat, fluffy shreds of cloud.

It may not be the prettiest view of London, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting.

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7. Spot the details

My favourite thing about TBW was its smattering of curious objects and adornments, from the abandoned carcasses of super-sized letters and sumo wrestlers locked in battle on barrel lids to easy-to-miss carvings and decorations.

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8. Go on a graffiti hunt

As well as Electric Soup – the zany under the sea mural painted by New Zealand Artist Bruce Mahalski over a former shop front on Orchard Place – there are lots of ever changing and vividly-coloured tags and paintings all along the walkway from East India Docks DLR station to the water’s edge at TBW, just keep your eyes peeled to spot them.

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9. Learn to tell Alunatime

Sticking up from its stone foundation like a rusty lollipop, the Alunatime is the city’s first (and probably only) moon and tide clock.

Powered by the tides, the intricacies of the lunar phases and tide cycles are etched into its circular base and chart the natural rhythms of the Earth. It’s rumoured that this Alunatime is acting as an early version of the huge one that’s planned for Greenwich Peninsula, so you’d better get to grips with your lunar cycles now.

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10. Satisfy your hunger pangs at Fat Boys Diner

Nestled amid the box crates and beached boats is Fat Boys Diner, an American incongruity that seems curiously at home at TBW.

Designed and decked out like a real diner with cream and maroon leather booths, table-sized jukeboxes and a long stretch of formica bar, this natty little place serves up Americana classics like cheeseburgers, malted milkshakes, grilled cheese sandwiches and, of course, gigantic slabs of apple pie.

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Fatboy Diner

As the weather was so gloriously lovely, I couldn’t resist filling my camera’s memory card with a whole reel of colourful images from the docks.

Here are just a few more of my favourites.

 

My Favourite Things: February

The book I couldn’t put down; the drink I could drink forever; someone’s wise words that stuck with me; the place I didn’t want to leave…sometimes all you want to do is fall in love all over again with the things you lusted after, adored and coveted last month.

The Album

Jungle by Jungle has been the backing track to everything this month, from drinking and dinner parties to frantically typing up work at my kitchen table.
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The Book

I rediscovered my love of Angela Carter in this little masterpiece. Beautifully written, heartbreakingly raw and fully explored in my review for February’s books coming this weekend.

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The Drink

There was no contest last month, it had to be this ridiculously healthy yet naughty tasting Sloe Beet cocktail from my favourite new south London haunt, London Grind.

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The Food

Last month it was more of an ingredient that I simply couldn’t stop eating, pomegranates!

The Images

In February I rediscovered Pinterest, which has lead, naturally, to hours being spent creating and curating colour-coordinated boards and little collections of dreams and loves. The board that grew the most was my pink one, Pretty in Pink. For some reason I couldn’t stop finding endless images of beautiful rosy things, so here are a few of my favourites.

The Movie

Last month I finally caught up on the final few Oscar nominated films I was yet to see. The last one I watched was Whiplash. I had put it off until the end, honestly thinking that I wouldn’t like it much.

I was wrong.

Whiplash may just be the best film I have seen in years, let alone a month. A powerful, brutal, bloody war epic of a music film with a throbbing, insistent and unflinching soundtrack that left me breathless and my jaw on the floor in awe. Full Metal Jacket with drums…although much better than that sounds.

See it. Now.

The Place

It was a close call between the wonderful The Word on the Water and Keats House in Hampstead, but in the end my happy place last month was in the salon at Keats House listening to historical flautist Yu-Wei Hu and guitarist Johan Lofving perform a programme inspired by Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale.

The Video

How could it be anything else other than this heart soaring video of Sergei Polunin dancing his flesh coloured tights off in an abandoned church?

Sergei Polunin, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle from David LaChapelle Studio on Vimeo.

The Want

I want these Alice High Heels from Boden. I want to wear them with ripped skinny jeans and a chunky cream knit and with black cigarette trousers and a crisp white shirt or worn-out denim dresses.

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The Words

From the mouth of the wonderful Angela Carter. Amen.

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Header Image: Julien Haler/Flickr

Baking Gluten Savvy Bread with Maria

For a long time now, gluten has beeen seen as the foodie devil incarnate, so I went along to a healthy bread class with Bake with Maria on behalf of Foodepedia to see if I could learn to be gluten savvy instead of gluten scared.

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“So, before we start, does everyone know exactly what gluten is?”

This seemingly innocuous question was asked by Maria Mayerhofer, the baking genius behind Bake with Maria, who is out to get Londoners baking and making, one beautifully executed cookery class at a time.

I stumbled up the residential steps to Maria’s Baking Lab on the edge of South Hampstead in the dark one rainy evening last week, utterly convinced I was in the wrong place until I spotted a doorway filled with light and, on closer inspection, emitting the encouraging smell of freshly baked cake.

As I walked into the teeny tiny kitchen and work space, I was immediately offered a raspberry financier and some still warm, buttered banana bread and, eyeing it suspiciously, asked if it was gluten free. A mistake, because Maria and her team don’t do gluten free, they do gluten smart, which is why I was there, to take part in a Gluten Savvy Bread Class.

Gluten, a protein composite found in wheat and grains, has had it hard these past few years. Accused of upsetting stomachs from New York to London, it’s been relegated to the unpopular food ranks alongside fat and, more recently, sugar – fat might be getting an invite back to polite dining society; the foodie jury is still out on that one. Today, gluten has almost become a dirty word, uttered by filthy bread cravers whose only socially acceptable outlet is spending £4 on an artisan sourdough loaf, which is the only sort of ‘healthy’ bread, obviously.

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I’ve heard countless people, from housemates to co workers proudly announce that they’re giving up gluten or claiming that they couldn’t possibly eat it as it makes them feel bloated as they cradle their tummies protectively. Now, real gluten allergies are no laughing matter. Coeliac disease is a terrible affliction and means sufferers can’t stand even a trace of gluten, from its presence in soy sauce to ale. Tom from Shipton Mill thinks he knows why people associate that bloated feeling with bread: it’s the quality of bread you’re eating.

At the time he said this he was encouraging me and a bunch of food writers to squeeze a bog standard sliced white loaf back into dough pellets like we all did as kids, while pointing out that these loaves, which he called ‘water standing up’, are mass produced, barely proved and full of additives and preservatives that are far more likely to cause irritation than actual gluten ever is.

Gluten free loaves didn’t get off easy either, as Tom pointed out that bread should have four ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt) while gluten free loaves often have closer to 13, with everything from sugar to starch, stabilisers and flavourings added to the original mix to keep it tasting and feeling like, well, bread.

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And so began our gluten education, or should I say re-education at the hands of Maria and master baker Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, the author of How to Make Bread, who walked us all through the astonishingly simple process of baking fresh, delicious breads at home.

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As well as explaining how spelt (which, incidentally hasn’t really altered for the past 6,000 years) is more easily digested by the body yet still contains gluten and showing us how to roll the perfect seeded baguette, Hadjiandreou showed us how to do a gluten wash – submerging raw dough in water and squeezing it until you’re left with a stringy residue – on different types of bread dough to see just how much gluten they actually contain.

And that’s exactly what the classes at Bake with Maria aim to do: to practically show you the joy of baking and serve it alongside a side order of specialist knowledge. As an added bonus you get to eat everything you make at the end of the class, which for us meant loaves hot from the oven and dripping with butter and Maria’s homemade hummus and beetroot dip and a warm baguette to carry home on the tube, much to the olfactory envy of fellow passengers.

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As we were sent home, each clutching our baguettes and beaming with a shared sense of gluten epiphany, there wasn’t one of us that didn’t believe what Maria had been saying to us all along: that healthy, very much gluten FULL loaves are quick and easy and incredibly cheap to make at home and everyone should be doing it.

 Visit www.bakewithmaria.com to see all upcoming pastry, bread and cake classes and for more information on prices.

Original piece written for the wonderful Foodepedia.co.uk and can be read here.