Tapenade #2

I am not one of those people who naturally selects olives as a nibble.  It could be because I’ve not tasted many quality olives, or that I have not had them in the right setting, although I do love them in Spaghetti alla Puttanesca – spaghetti as if made by a whore – which is absolutely delicious and a complete taste sensation.  But a slight digression from my point.

Occasionally, however, olives do find their way into our kitchen and are often left languishing in the ‘I’m going to freeze you if it’s the last thing I do’ fridge.  Which is where little things like tapenade come in very handy.

For those of you who may not be completely au fait with the tapenade, it’s a posh dip which goes very nicely with crisp breads, sticks or slithers of something crispy, and a lovely glass of something refreshing.  Yes, we have entered early evening aperitif territory.

Now as you will see from the picture, my tapenade has a slight greenish hue to it which I can explain immediately.  In the perfect tapenade recipe, you would use just black olives, but the ones we have in our fridge are combination olives – by that I mean a tub of black and green – so although I put all the black ones in first, I have added some green, just for numbers.  But don’t be put off by the colour, if you enjoy the tang of a green olive, you will enjoy them in this tapenade.

Of course if you cannot bear the thought of a green olive passing your lips then the best olives, apparently, are kalamata or nicoise.  So now you know.

You don’t need to make heaps of the stuff as, unlike other dippy bits, tapenade is a ‘less is more’ kinda food.  A complimentary twinkle rather than a main star.

So, onto business.  You will need: 200g black olives, 3 tablespoons capers *, 2 anchovies, I fat clove garlic, 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, juice of half a lemon, 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Put everything barring the oil, into the food processor and whizz up.  Add the olive oil through the funnel whilst the processor is still on.

It is worth pointing out here that things like capers and anchovies can often be packed in a whole heap of salt.  If so, give them a wash before adding them, otherwise your tapenade will be very salty.  Although some may say this is a good thing, and a fine reason for another G & T, salt does take away from the subtleties of the other flavours.

As with all dips, indeed all food, quality controlling as you go is essential.  You may need to add a little more lemon, or indeed a shake of pepper, it is entirely up to you.  However you decide to indulge, there is one thing that never fails to hit the right spot, and that is the deep end of week feeling, drink in hand, nibble to hand and the last rays of sunshine.


*It is at this point that I realised I hadn’t actually put the capers in my tapenade so stopped writing, got out the food processor, quickly added them in to the mixture, whizzed up, washed up and sat back down to continue writing.  That’s the goddess lifestyle for you…




We are now on day four of no sugar, and my initial ‘rabbit in headlights’ approach is slowly being replaced with a more considered, less panic driven, one.

Now you may be thinking that I am revealing myself to be a bit of a numpty here, surely I should have considered the impact of giving up sugar and therefore have mentally prepared myself for the challenge ahead?  And if this is the case, what’s with the ‘rabbit in headlights’ scenario?

Well all I can say in my defence, is that I genuinely didn’t think I had so many sugar products in my life.  Yesterday I spent the day yearning for a pear.  Today I have had a coffee and, much to my chagrin, have realised that it only highlights my dependence (I usually have ‘just a spoonful’ of sugar in my coffee).

At the same time, I do not want to start going down the crisps and peanuts route simply because they don’t have sugar in them.  So I have, today, whipped up a little something which I love, and takes minutes to make.  Hummus.  Houmous. Hummous.  Spell it as you will, it all means the same.  A beautiful Levantine food comprising of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, cayenne or paprika and garlic.

Or combinations thereof.

You see the wonderful thing about Hummus is that you don’t have to use all the ingredients on the list to make a beautiful dip.  In fact, it is a very personal dish which you can, without fear of ruining the essence of it, adapt to your own desire. How splendid is that?

The other wonderous thing that has flooded the market (forgive me my slight exaggeration) is the tinned chick pea.  A joy, a pleasure and also the catalyst for the quickest Hummus making, bar none.

I whizzed up, with my trusty steed of a hand blender, one tin of drained chick peas, a clove of garlic, a pinch of cayenne and a glug of olive oil.  As the chick peas come in salted water I don’t add salt.  I don’t have any tahini in at the moment so left that out, and instead of just sprinkling cayenne on top of the dip I also added some into it and therefore decided to leave out the lemon juice.

So whilst the boys are merrily munching on malt loaf, we have had Jacob’s flatbreads dipped in hummus.


Cheese and Lentil Loaf

cheese and lentil loaf

This is an old favourite that I used to make when I was a student.  A recipe originally taken from Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen Book, and made on a regular basis as it really is delicious hot or cold and makes a great snack food.  Which is lucky as since giving up sugar – I am now on day 2 – I am trying to beat the urge to snack on bananas.  Let me tell you, when there’s a whole bowl of fruit sitting in front of you waving hello, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to turn a blind eye.

Not that it is in anyway comparable to the multitude of atrocities which humankind bestows upon itself.  A point made very succinctly in another ‘ditch the modern food evils’ diet.  The Whole30 programme.  I don’t know whether you have heard of it, but basically it is a bootcamp for only eating certain foods in which they remind you, albeit very politely, that giving up cheese etc for 30 days is nowhere near akin to losing a right arm.  Well, I’m not sure they use that very same example, but the point is, it’s not true hardship or pain.

Anyway, back to the cheese and lentil loaf.

Wash 175g of red lentils and place into a pan filled with 350ml of water. Pop the lid on and cook for 10 – 15 minutes checking that the pan doesn’t boil dry.  There’s nothing quite like the smell of burnt lentils on the bottom of a pan, and they’re a devil to get off.

When cooked add 110g of grated cheddar cheese, 1 peeled and chopped onion, a tablespoon of fresh parsley or a little less if you decide to use fresh thyme, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, a splash of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of single cream an egg and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix it all up and pour into a greased loaf tin.  Bake at gas mark 5 for approximately 50 minutes.  I say approximately because you need the top to be firm to touch which may take longer than 50 minutes.

Let it cool for 10 minutes and eat with whatever you fancy.  Potatoes, rice, salad, homemade tomato sauce, broccoli…

The world is your oyster.


photo (61)


Funnily enough, I am not a big fan of coleslaw.  Having only really experienced shop bought or fast food outlet coleslaw I have always found it to be too sloppy, soggy and overwhelmed with what I always presumed was mayonnaise.  Therefore I have always put myself into the ‘not for me’ corner.

That is, until a couple of years ago when I was working on a project, and someone wanted to make coleslaw.   So, we grated a few carrots, chopped up a couple of onions, and finely sliced a white cabbage.  These were all tossed together in a large bowl where a splash of lemon juice, salt, pepper and a few dollops of mayonnaise were added.

I tell you what, it’s absolutely fabulous.  The vegetables are crunchy, the mayonnaise not too overwhelming, the flavours a wonderful accompaniment to other foods, chips especially.  Obviously, the down side is the vegetables cannot be left too long in each other’s company if you want to keep the crunch, as they begin to soften. However, there are so many plus sides to this bowl of perfection that it is completely worth over indulging to ensure the whole lot is finished off.

And I’ll tell you something else as well, it’s as cheap as chips to make.

*grins in a self satisfied manner*