Monday, February 1, 2016

Healthy Peanut Butter & Strawberry 'Jelly' Smoothie

Be honest now, how many of you actually make the recipes you've saved on Pinterest, let alone give them a second look after you've pinned them? Myself included, probably not many, am I right?

I've recently made it a point, a mental resolution if you will, to go through all my saved pins on my Pinterest boards and actually get myself to try out some of the recipes. For the past month or so, when I sit down to prepare my shopping list I set aside a few minutes to go through my boards and pick out a recipe or three, which I can then recreate during the course of the week. Most of the times its in the form of salads for lunch, but whether or not I stick to the recipe exactly, I like that it gets me thinking about why I pinned a certain recipe and that I can then say I've actually tried it. 

That's pretty much how the inspiration for this smoothie came about. I came across the gorgeous image of this Mashed Berries and Peanut Butter Shake on my Breakfast board and knew it was right up my ally for morning breakfast. 

It literally takes two minutes to prepare, and although the original recipe uses sugar, salt and vanilla extract I decided to leave these out to make it more palatable and guilt-free as my morning fuel. I also added chia seeds into the mix to give it a little extra health kick. I have to admit the Brit in me has never been a fan of 'PB and jelly' as a combo so I was a little skeptical at first 'coz I personally think peanut butter and berries shouldn't really go together. And yet the reality is I actually couldn't believe how good this was. Every spoonful was addictive and it really was as good as eating an indulgent and moresome dessert, if not better. Creamy and salty, sweet and juicy all in one, and just so, so good. 

Needless to say I'm definitely glad I went through my pins!

Healthy Peanut Butter & Strawberry 'Jelly' Smoothie
Inspired and adapted from Kiran Tarun
Serves 1

8-10 strawberries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 banana
1 cup of milk (I used unsweetened coconut milk)
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
Strawberry and crushed roasted peanuts to garnish

1. Blitz the strawberries together with the chia seeds in a blender for about 3-5 seconds, so that there are still chunks of strawberry left.
2. Empty into a large glass, and give the blender a quick rinse with water.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients into the same blender and blend until smooth.
4. Pour over the strawberry mixture, and garnish with the strawberry and crushed peanuts before serving with a spoon.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potato with Tahini Labneh Dressing

I've been seeing stuffed sweet potatoes around for a while now and immediately fell in love with the idea of them. At times when I'm feeling uninspired and/or lazy come lunchtime, I'll often grab a sweet potato, pierce it, put it in the microwave for 8 minutes (turning it halfway through), and once cooked through, I'll cut it in half length-ways and slather with lots of butter. Eaten with a spoon straight out of the skin its bliss and perfect for a cold day. But stuffed sweet potatoes are on a whole other level and coming across so many variations made me figure I could easily step it up a notch and make my own version. 

On this particular day when I decided to try out a stuffed sweet potato I had some quinoa salad left from the day before, and it was the perfect quick fix I was looking for. I really liked this combo so decided to stick with it and share it with you guys. 
With quinoa, roasted baby asparagus, sweetcorn and pomegranate this is a hearty, nourishing and complete meal in itself, especially if you use a large sweet potato and eat extra salad on the side as well. Pomegranate always adds that crunchy sweetness I love and when I made this a second time I added feta which gives a salty contrast to the sweetness of the potato. A generous drizzle of tahini, labneh, garlic and lemon dressing adds a delicious creamy kick. Dare I mention a trendy diet word or two and say this version here is gluten-free and vegetarian as well.

Don't forget to add a generous drizzle of tahini, labneh, garlic and lemon dressing for a creamy kick as mentioned in the recipe below. You could omit this and use a cashew cream instead if you wanted to make a vegan version. As with most vegetarian recipes I always say to feel free to swap out for different vegetables and make the recipe to your own taste. The quinoa really just forms the base of the 'stuffing' here. Infact you could easily make this a healthy weekday recipe too by adding shredded chicken or minced beef to the mix. 

Even if you don't stick to the recipe here, next time you're stuck on what to eat for lunch or evening meal, try stuffing your sweet potato with a homemade salad. It will fill you up and the options you can fill them with are endless. 

Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potato with Tahini Labneh Dressing
Serves 1

One large sweet potato, baked or cooked in the microwave
1 cup of quinoa, boiled and seasoned 
A small handful of boiled sweetcorn
5-6 olive oil roasted & seasoned baby asparagus, sliced
Crumbled feta
Handful pomegranate arils
Coriander, pepper and dried chili flakes to garnish
Baby spinach, to serve

1. Prepare the tahini labneh dressing as below.
2. Gently cut the sweet potato in quarters, without slicing all the way through. so that the potato is still in one piece. Use your hands to prise the sweet potato open leaving space in the centre to spoon the quinoa into.
3. Mix together all the rest of ingredients apart from the garnishes.
4. Spoon the quinoa salad into the centre of the sweet potato.
5. Drizzle the tahini labneh dressing over the stuffing, and garnish with the coriander, pepper and chili flakes.
6. Serve with a side of baby spinach if desired. 

For the tahini labneh dressing

1/4 cup tahini,
3 tbsp labneh
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp lemon juice

1. Mix all the ingredients together and add a couple of teaspoons of water to make the dressing slightly runny. Add a little more water if needed. 
2. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for upto a week.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Breakfast Smoothie & Yogurt Bowls 12 ways

If you follow me on Instagram you probably already know how much I like to post pictures of my breakfast. First thing in the morning I have the full day ahead of me, the most energy and all the time to be a little more playful and creative with my food, and of course to photograph it as well! I only really eat either one of two things for breakfast - a loaded smoothie, or a breakfast bowl. As a result, I've come to love trying out different versions of yogurt and smoothie bowls, sometimes planned and sometimes thrown together with whatever fruit I have that at the time, but I still never get tired of coming up with different combinations. I love the textures, flavour and aroma that putting together yogurt, fruit, granola and various toppings gives when you make a parfait. Cool creaminess from the yogurt or smoothie base, sweet juiciness from the fruit and that wonderful crunch which comes with granola, seeds and nuts.

I nearly always use full-fat natural yogurt because I find the texture of Greek yogurt too heavy and filling for me personally, but the great thing is you can substitute as you please - flavoured yogurt works just as well too. I also normally add a little local honey to my bowls - this usually helps to cut out any tartness from sour fruits, but of course you can choose to omit this or use any other sweetener instead such as agave. As you'll see below I use a lot of berries, mostly because they don't require any cutting up; just a quick wash and they can be tossed into the bowl. 
To make things more healthy and nutritious I like to mix chia seeds and ground flax seed into the yogurt or smoothie base, add a few drops of natural coconut oil, plus a dash of cinnamon powder when I can remember!

There are no real rules. Switch out fruit toppings depending on whats in season and what your taste-buds prefer, and experiment with making your own granola mixes or toppings too. The combinations are endless. 
Here are some of the ones I've created in recent months, and I hope they inspire you to create your own too!

1. My go-to and favourite smoothie is a banana base blended with coconut milk, raw cacao powder, ground flax seed and some peanut butter. I've been making this for a few years now and I can't get enough of it. Here I've topped it with some sliced banana, raw cacao nibs and chopped walnuts. See my post on Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Smoothie for the base recipe. 

2. Yogurt with strawberries, papaya, and blueberries, topped with a drizzle of honey, slightly toasted almonds, dried goji berries and a sprinkle of cinnamon powder. Adding another fruit to my bowl of berries helps to switch things up slightly to keep me from getting bored. 

3. I love to add figs into my yogurt bowls when they're in season and here I've added it with blueberries and pitted cherries too. The dried rose petals give a lovely floral hint. This is a great combination to enjoy during late summer.

4. The second smoothie I love to make often is a banana and coconut milk base with berries. Here I used mostly blackberries and raspberries, topping the smoothie bowl with homemade matcha granola, sliced strawberries, chia seeds and bee pollen.

5. For those days when you have a little more time on your hands, why not layer your ingredients (granola, yogurt and fruit) into glasses? This is especially nice for when you have guests or family staying around or over for breakfast, or even just as a little weekend treat. I blended some mango puree to compliment the sourness of using passion fruit pulp, and added raspberries to make presentable mini parfaits. 

6. Another one of my favourite's to make when I want to make that extra effort is the Rose, Orange Blossom and Pistachio Breakfast Parfait. This Middle Eastern inspired parfait looks so pretty and the combo is heavenly. 

7. Figs make a lovely addition to breakfast bowls when roasted in the oven for a couple of minutes with honey drizzled over. The caramelized aroma makes a great pairing with pistachios and they taste great added to a warm bowl of porridge too. 

8. I love this combination of strawberries, pomegranate, orange rind and mint with yogurt for a cool and refreshing start to my mornings in the summer.  

9. What I love about layered fruit smoothies is that its likes tasting two different types of smoothies in one. Eventually it all mixes up too so you end up with a mix of two flavour combos. Here I combined a layer of mango and banana with raspberries and banana. Another combo I really love is avocado and milk with strawberry and banana. Yum!

10. A great way to sweeten your breakfast bowl is by making fruit 'jam'. Simply boil together your choice of fruit (berries work best) with a little sugar and water. Once it has thickened slightly to a syrup like texture leave to cool for a few minutes before pouring on top of your smoothie or yogurt. Alternatively you can simply blend some berries to drizzle over. I've been loving 'strawberry chia jam' lately by blending strawberries and mixing in chia seeds. 

11. Here is another example of a more colour-driven smoothie bowl I made recently - blackberry and banana smoothie base, topped with overnight chia coconut milk, berries, blood orange slices and bee pollen. How gorgeous is that orange?!

12. Last but not least, my go-to combination on most days - yogurt and whichever berries I can find in my fridge! I like to switch up the granola, add different nuts and seeds and a dash of cinnamon powder.

Do you enjoy smoothie or yogurt bowls for breakfast, and what is your favourite combination to make?


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gourmet Doughnuts in London (and the UAE)

Dum Dum Donutterie

If you love your desserts and baked goods like me, you might have possibly noticed that the popularity of doughnuts has been steadily on the rise (pun intended) in the past year or so. I don't just mean any doughnuts of course, but more specifically gourmet doughnuts.

Sure Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts may just be the thing when you're looking for a sugary sprinkle topped treat for a few dirhams, but visit a special artisanal bakery and you'll find the humble doughnut made with honest, preservative free ingredients, and filled and topped with all kinds of imaginative combinations and creative ingredients that will make you wonder why doughnuts were never made like this before.

And why you ask did I decide to write about the current popularity of the dough baked good? Well, last year when I visited London in October (yes this post is pretty late in the making), I made it a mission of mine to visit all the gourmet doughnut hot spots in the city. I've also been fortunate to handle the social media of the UAE's very own gourmet doughnut spot, Love Doughnuts in Abu Dhabi, for over a year now. In fact if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you'll have probably noticed I post a lot about them already. Regardless, with the addition of a few more high-end doughnut offerings already on the UAE scene its clear that the region is catching onto the bug too.

When it comes to gourmet doughnuts expect to pay a little bit more than your average doughnut and if you haven't actually tried a one yet you're definitely going to want to after this post!

Crosstown Doughnuts

Although Crosstown Doughnuts now has a stand alone store in Soho, at the time I visited they had a concession in Selfridges and sold through weekly markets. I'd heard a lot of brilliant things about Crosstown and couldn't wait to try their offerings. I first visited them at the food hall in Selfridges (as this is also where St John's Bakery has a doughnut concession). It was the end of the day so a lot of their produce had already sold leaving me to only give their Vanilla Bean Glazed doughnut a go. This is their gourmet take on the classic sugar glazed doughnut and despite it being the end of the day, the sourdough bread was still soft, the glaze was still intact (how annoying is it when doughnut glazes melt away) and it proved to be a satisfying doughnut. 
However I was keen to try their more creative flavours and after a couple of days I visited their stall at Leather Lane Market in Holborn, where I managed to catch them early whilst a lot of flavours were available. I picked the Sea Salt Caramel & Banana Cream, and Spiced Apple and Pear Crumble doughnuts, and proceeded to a nearby park to enjoy my treats on a bench. Both flavours couldn't have been more further from each other and yet both deserve a mention. In fact even a year on I can still remember how good they were. 

The Sea Salt Caramel & Banana Cream is an ingenious combination of chocolate sourdough, fresh banana cream filling, and topped with sea salt caramel and chocolate 'soil'. Three words - I loved it. It's a doughnut I still dream about to this day. Ooey gooey banana cream, a lightly chocolate dough and that delightful hint of caramel sweetness.

I'm not usually one for warm fruity British desserts but I couldn't help but choose the Spiced Apple and Pear Crumble doughnut because of the time of year and for nostalgic reasons. I'm glad I did as the flavours pleasantly surprised me - the spices in the filling really came through and it tasted exactly like an apple and pear crumble actually does. 

The doughnuts from Crosstown Doughnuts were definitely memorable. The flavours were sharp, the dough was soft and bouncy, and the fillings were generous (something I enjoyed with these flavours). Looking through their website they have some incredible drool-worthy combinations which I can't wait to try more of in the future. 

Dum Dum Donutterie

I made Dum Dum Donutterie my first doughnut pit-stop upon arriving in the city. I visited their concession at Harrod's and opted for their Zebra Baked Doughnuts - a butter croissant dough, filled with chocolate buttercream, topped with chocolate and sprinkled with more chocolate. Essentially a 'cronut', it was quite frankly everything you could imagine and want in a croissant-doughnut hybrid. Crispy and soft layers infused with ample buttery chocolate cream which oozed out with every bite. I thoroughly loved it.

I didn't have space to try their actual doughnuts so decided to leave it for a few days later when I visited their branch at Box Park in Shoreditch. Unfortunately it was an unexpectedly cold and rainy walk from Liverpool Street station to get there and by the time I reached I already wasn't in the best of moods and craved a refuge spot. This time I ordered their Creme Brulee and White Chocolate & Pistachio doughnuts. In stark contrast to their cronuts I really didn't enjoy these. The Creme Brulee doughnut had barely any custard cream filling at all and was simply topped with crunchy caramelised sugar. Similarly the White Chocolate Pistachio had no filling and both doughnuts left much to be desired. I was pretty annoyed from my experience of these doughnuts, and although my mood wasn't great already I'm still not convinced this would have made a difference to my experience of them.

I should note what makes Dum Dum Doughnuts different to the other gourmet doughnuts reviewed here is that they are baked, not fried. Still they've managed to take the London doughnut scene by storm and I'm hoping the next time I try them it will be much better. 

Recently Dum Dum Donutterie announced they will be opening a branch right here in Dubai soon on Jumeirah Beach Road. 

Bread Ahead Bakery

Bread Ahead Bakery is another gourmet doughnut offering I had heard a lot of good things about prior to visiting. Although primarily bread-makers, they've garnered a lot of attention for their doughnuts at their stall in Borough Market, just around the corner from their oven baking headquarters. When I visited the market on a Saturday there was definitely a lot of buzz around their booth. All you have to do is take a look at their doughnuts to know there must be something good about them. My friend and I decided on a Creme Caramel & Salted Honeycomb, and Hazelnut & Almond Praline doughnut. 

Although they are not topped with anything on the outside, there is no scrimping on the filling which purposely oozes out and forms the base for crumbled toppings. In fact similarly to Crosstown Doughnuts, the dough is literally just enough to encase whats within. The doughnuts are rolled in sugar and have a rustic, old-school baked look to them. Sticky chins are inevitable! What you're getting here is really dessert, and for that I personally couldn't complain. 
Just like Crosstown, I've been dreaming about these doughnuts ever since. 

Bread Ahead have since opened an eatery offering an array of bites in Old Street.

St John's Bakery

Conveniently next to the Crosstown concession in the Selfridges food hall I managed to catch the baker filling fresh doughnut's with vanilla cream when I arrived and I knew I had to try one. I also went for a fruit jam filled doughnut, although I can't remember now if it was peach or apricot filled. These reminded me very much of Bread Ahead's doughnuts, in dough taste, texture and style. 

I would call these gourmet in the sense that they've clearly been made with high quality ingredients and by an artisanal bakery which has earned a reputation for its baked goods. If you're looking for simple sugar-rolled doughnuts with a good dough and classic jam and cream based fillings then these are for you. 

Love Doughnuts

London and the States may be in full swing of the gourmet doughnut craze now, but the Emirates, where new food spots regularly open up with lots of media fanfare, has been surprisingly slow to catch onto the trend.
However one such offering which did catch onto the gap in the UAE market is Love Doughnuts. Based in Abu Dhabi, the family run bakery slash coffee shop and gelateria opened up back in 2013 and was definitely the first to offer creative doughnut flavours using locally sourced and high quality, honest ingredients. 

Handmade everyday Love Doughnuts has a variety of its most popular flavours which it sells on a daily basis, but also introduces two to three new flavours as specials every month. Some of the flavours they've had in the past include Red Velvet White Chocolate & Strawberry, Dark Chocolate Lotus, Date & Tahini, Earl Grey & Passionfruit, and Peach & Green Chilli to name but a few! 

And yes I may be biased, but having tried a countless number of their doughnuts, they naturally come highly recommended. The quality is uncompromised and each doughnut is lovingly made from scratch. One look at their doughnut counter is enough to have your taste buds racing. Personal favourites include the Honeycomb Chocolate and classic Boston Cream, and I'm also partial to their gelato scooped between a warm sliced doughnut and topped with Belgian chocolate!

Jam Bar

Another doughnut offering in the UAE worthy of note is Jam Bar, which opened up about a year ago with a stall in Dubai Mall, and has recently opened a second outlet in Kite Beach. So far I've only managed to try a doughnut ice-cream sandwich, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although I haven't seen them market themselves as 'gourmet' doughnuts they definitely do hand-made doughnuts made with real ingredients. Retro in style, their offerings range from the standard cream and jam filled, to the more playful Princess Jasmine - filled with rosewater cream, and topped with a rosewater glaze and pistachio praline. 

As I also mentioned above, Dum Dum Donutterie are due to open soon in Dubai. Although I didn't enjoy their doughnuts I'll definitely be visiting their branch here to give them another try, if not for their cronuts. 

Have you tried 'gourmet' doughnuts yet? 

Disclaimer: although I work with Love Doughnut's in no way are these opinions obligatory to my service to them. I chose to write this review and all views are my own. 
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