Cheese Cocktail Biscuits

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


Continuing the theme of keeping Christmas simple, please raise your glasses to these deliciously rich Cheese Cocktail Biscuits! Quick and easy to prepare, these grain-free, low-carb nibbles are just perfect for handing out with pre-dinner drinks. Plus, they’re so tasty, you don’t need to serve any other accompaniments with them.

To get the party started, simply pile these elegant-looking, cheesy, crispy, buttery delights onto a platter and serve with ice-cold dry martinis, chilled Champagne, Manzanilla sherry or frosty glasses of dry white wine. Talk about eat, drink and be merry!

Because they can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container, they’re also the ideal finger-food to accompany drinks when unexpected guests pop-by. 

In fact, I think they’re at their crispiest-best when ‘twice-baked’ and still warm from the oven. So if I’m not going to serve them as soon as they’re made, I just re-heat as many biscuits as I need later on. Simply lay the pre-baked biscuits out on a baking tray and bake at 180℃ for a further 5 minutes, cool briefly on a wire tray and then serve warm to your guests. Totally delicious and utterly brilliant - they must be one of the simplest and fastest party foods to make and bake ever!

Cheese Cocktail Biscuits (makes 20-24 biscuits)

Ingredients

55g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

100g organic ground almonds

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

50g Sukrin reduced-fat organic almond flour

80g ‘Parmesan-style’ vegetarian cheese, finely grated

¼ tsp sea salt

large pinch of cayenne 

freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp cold water

1 small organic egg, beaten

1 dsp each of fresh rosemary and thyme leaves

Maldon sea salt flakes

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 180℃ /  350℉  / Gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the butter, ground almonds, almond flour, baking powder, cheese, sea salt, cayenne and black pepper into the bowl of a food processor and whizz until just starting to clump together - takes about 30 seconds.

Add the tablespoon of cold water and whizz again until a soft dough starts to form - takes about 15 seconds. 

Tip the dough onto a sheet of non-stick baking parchment and knead lightly until the mixture comes together into a ball. Flatten out into a disc with the palm of your hand, then place another sheet of non-stick paper on top of the dough - this will stop it sticking to your rolling pin. Roll out the dough evenly (do quarter turns of the paper every few rolls) to 4mm-6mm (½ cm / ¼ inch) then using a 5cm plain-edged cutter, cut into rounds.

Place the biscuits on the pre-lined baking sheet - they won’t spread much. Gather up the rest of the dough and re-roll the trimmings, cutting out rounds as before until all the dough is used up - you should end up with about 24 biscuits.

Lightly brush the tops of the biscuits with beaten egg, then sprinkle over the fresh thyme and rosemary leaves. Finally, add a small pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes to each biscuit. 

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the biscuits are crisp and golden brown. You may want to turn the baking tray around half way through the cooking time to ensure the biscuits bake evenly.

Transfer to a wire baking tray and allow to cool before serving, still slightly warm, with drinks.   

 

Notes

The quality and flavour of the cheese you use for this recipe is vitally important to the end result. I highly recommend you track down the Gran Moravia Parmesan-style vegetarian cheese I’ve used because it is so like Parmesan in both texture and flavour that even I am hard-pressed to tell the difference. It’s a real find for vegetarians who love the taste of Parmesan but don’t want to eat Parmesan Reggiano because it contains animal rennet. This Italian-made hard cheese is truly the one I rave about every time I need a cheese to look, taste and behave like Parmesan - not only is it vegetarian and costs a lot less money, even my pernickety Parmesan-eating cat loves it! 

 

Carbohydrate 1g Protein 3g - per biscuit

A more-ish accompaniment to pre-dinner drinks, these simple canapés are a real crowd pleaser. If you're making them ahead of time, pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp them up, before serving them to your guests!

A more-ish accompaniment to pre-dinner drinks, these simple canapés are a real crowd pleaser. If you're making them ahead of time, pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp them up, before serving them to your guests!


Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread

by Susan Smith in ,


No grains, no dairy, no eggs, no yeast…no kidding! Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Seedy Rye Soda Bread in the River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook this super-speedy, seedy bread is my Paleo/Primal-friendly grain-free ‘take’ on Hugh’s original recipe. I’m loving the fact that you can knock it up in about 15 minutes then bake and eat it within the hour. 

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall just happens to be my man of the moment in more ways than one. Pioneering war on waste and taking to task the supermarket's ridiculous stance on wonky veg, he is also a brilliant, down-to-earth, imaginative chef that seriously cares about the environment and sustainability. I salute you sir!

For this blog post, my job was to figure out which no-grain flour alternatives would emulate River Cottage’s inspirational rye-based bread i.e. to create a dense, semi-sweet, almost malty, rye-tasting soda bread, without the rye flour or honey that the original recipe calls for. I think I’ve done it! With the help of Sukrin and their fantastic range of alternative cold-pressed, fat-reduced nut and seed flours (I particularly like the cold-pressed sesame flour in this recipe for it’s distinctive depth of flavour), I was fully equipped and ready to go.  

This nutty tasting bread is deliciously satisfying, can be eaten in the context of either sweet or savoury, and is so quick and easy to make I’ve ended up making 4 loaves in the past 5 days! 

Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread (makes 1 small loaf - serves 6)

Ingredients - dry

20g organic pumpkin seeds

20g organic sunflower seeds

20g organic sesame seeds

20g organic golden linseeds

1 tbsp organic chia seeds

150g organic ground almonds

50g Sukrin sesame flour  

50g fine milled organic tiger nut flour

20g Sukrin reduced-fat organic almond flour plus a little extra for dusting the finished loaf

½ tsp sea salt

1½ tsp baking soda

 

To finish the loaf before baking

1 tsp seeds - for sprinkling

1 tsp Sukrin almond flour, for dusting

 

Ingredients - wet

100ml apple juice (I used Coldpress)

1 tsp raw cider vinegar

50ml water

2 tbsp avocado oil 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 200℃ (180℃ fan-assisted) 

Put all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and, using a fork, mix everything together really well.

In a jug, whisk together the wet ingredients. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and quickly mix everything together with a fork.

Allow the mixture to stand for 1-2 minutes, during which time the chia seeds will help thicken out the mixture. 

With the help of a spatula, tip the sticky but malleable dough onto a sheet of non-stick (parchment) paper and, using both hands, form into an approximate 15cm / 6” round. Slide or lift the shaped bread, still sat on its parchment paper, straight onto a baking tray.

Make a deep cross in the bread round (cutting at least halfway down through the dough) then sprinkle a teaspoon of extra seeds on top and lightly dust with a little more almond flour. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes in the pre-heated oven, or until a cocktail stick inserted in the centre comes out clean and the crust is a really dark brown.

Cool on a wire rack. Tuck in!

Top left: Make a well in the centre of the combined dry ingredients, then pour in the combined wet ingredients. Top right: Mix everything together with a fork. Bottom left: After shaping, score a cross in the dough. Bottom right: Sprinkle with extra seeds and dust with sifted almond flour before baking.

Top left: Make a well in the centre of the combined dry ingredients, then pour in the combined wet ingredients. Top right: Mix everything together with a fork. Bottom left: After shaping, score a cross in the dough. Bottom right: Sprinkle with extra seeds and dust with sifted almond flour before baking.

Notes

I regularly purchase organic nuts and seeds online (more availability and at a better price than most supermarkets) These are my go-to suppliers: Healthy SuppliesReal Foods; Red23; and, for tiger nuts, Na'vi Organics.

This bread will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container. After a couple of days, it can be used to make croutons or made into breadcrumbs for coating. 

If you want a nutritious, no-hassle, low-carb, home-baked bread for breakfast, simply measure out all the dry ingredients into a bowl and the wet ingredients into a jug the evening before, then cover with cling film. Next day, combine everything together and bake…good morning Primal Pronto!

 

Carbohydrate 15g Protein 12g - per serving

Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread is delicious served simply with lashings of organic butter.

Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread is delicious served simply with lashings of organic butter.


Roasted Squash Soup

by Susan Smith in , , ,


Autumn delivers an incredible array of squash, pumpkins and gourds, so what better way to celebrate the season than to come in out of the cold to a steaming bowl of glorious golden-orange Roasted Squash Soup? 

Creamy, with a distinct flavour and delicate sweetness, it contains neither cream or sweetener. It is comforting, delicious and vegan. You can serve it as it is but it’s even lovelier topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and sprigs of fresh thyme.

I’ve included this recipe in the Primal Pronto section of the blog because although the squash takes about 45 minutes to roast, the ingredients list is short and it’s such an easy soup to make. Basically, the squash roasts in the oven whilst you unhurriedly fry-off an onion and boil a kettle of water. Then all that’s left to do when the squash is cooked, is to spoon its flesh into a blender with water and vegetable bouillon powder and whizz to velvety smooth perfection.

Roasted Squash Soup (in mugs), Vegetarian sausages with Autumn Coleslaw (recipe coming soon) and Primal Pronto Energy Bars are the perfect outdoor grub to eat around the bonfire with family and friends to help make your Guy Fawke’s celebration a night to remember. 

Roasted Squash Soup (serves 4)

Ingredients

1 medium-sized organic squash (I used onion squash but if you can’t get hold of one use butternut squash instead)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1.2 litres water

1 tbsp Marigold organic vegetable bouillon powder

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

 

Instructions

Boil a kettle of fresh water. 

Pre-heat the oven to 190℃  375 ℉ Gas mark 5

Cut the top end off the onion squash then cut down lengthways into 4 quarters. Scoop out the seeds and fibres (discard these) then put the quarters of squash skin-side down on to a baking tray. 

Brush the cut surfaces with olive oil and roast in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the squash in soft. 

Whilst the squash is cooking heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the onion, cover and cook gently for about 8 minutes until it is soft and just starting to brown. 

Add 1 litre of hot water from the kettle and the bouillon powder to the pan, bring to a simmer, then cover and take off the heat. 

When the squash is cooked, scoop out the flesh into a blender or food processor (discarding the skin) along with the onion/vegetable stock. Puree together until velvety and smooth.  

Tip the puréed soup through a metal strainer into a clean pan. At this stage, you can stir in in a little more water to make a consistency that’s pleasing to you. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper and gently heat through.

Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil in a small non-stick frying pan set over a moderate heat and fry the pumpkin seeds for 1-2 minutes until just toasted. Tip the pumpkin seeds onto a plate lined with piece of kitchen paper.

Serve the hot soup in 4 warmed bowls with the toasted pumpkin seeds and thyme sprigs on top of each bowl. 

 

Carbohydrate 22g Protein 3g - per serving

An array of homegrown squashes make a beautiful Autumnal display. Image courtesy of  Mirror Imaging Photography

An array of homegrown squashes make a beautiful Autumnal display. Image courtesy of Mirror Imaging Photography


Primal Pronto Energy Bars

by Susan Smith in ,


Fast, no-bake Primal Pronto Energy Bars will keep everyone coming back for more. And why not? Full of energy-boosting nutrients and resistant starch, these grain-free, gluten-free, naturally sweet nibbles can be enjoyed at any time you feel yourself flagging, or when you just fancy something sweet to eat, because they don’t contain refined sugar. 

Great for kids as a Bonfire Night treat, to take on long autumnal walks or as a pre or post-workout snack, these energy bars will revive and sustain you with delicious fudgy, chocolatey goodness.

With only 5 ingredients, they should only take about 15 minutes to bring together (plus 30 minutes to chill). But be warned, they’re more-ishly yummy and can disappear faster than you can make them! 

Primal Pronto Energy Bars (makes 12)

50g coconut oil

150g organic Medjool dates, stoned weight (about 8 dates)

150g milled tiger nuts

50g raw organic cacao powder

1 tbsp organic pure vanilla essence

 

Instructions

Boil a kettle of clean water.

Remove the stones from the dates then put them in a small heavy based saucepan with enough boiling water from the kettle just to cover. On the hob, bring the water back to the boil then reduce the heat to very low and simmer the dates for 5 minutes to soften. Drain well.

Place the coconut oil in a small saucepan over a low heat until just melted, take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Put the softened dates, milled tiger nut flour, cacao powder, vanilla essence and coconut oil into a blender or food processor and process until all the ingredients are fully combined.

Transfer the mixture into a shallow dish or baking tin, pressing it down well and spreading it out evenly. Smooth the surface with a flat edge spatula (or the back of a metal spoon) and mark into even pieces. 

Put the mixture into the freezer for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

 

Notes

Cut into small squares and decorated with edible flowers or flower petals these make elegant petits fours to serve with an espresso coffee as a grand finale to a special meal. 

I used a small Waitrose (24.5cm x 17.5cm / 9½ x 7”) non-stick baking tray, which was the perfect size for these energy bars.

 

Carbohydrate 19g Protein 2g

Although they're an ideal portable outdoor snack, they're also a real after-dinner treat served with coffee. 

Although they're an ideal portable outdoor snack, they're also a real after-dinner treat served with coffee. 


Eggs Florentine

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


I’ve come in for a bit of flack recently from people who say they’d like to eat simple, tasty, healthy (low-carb) food on a regular basis, but at the end of a long day are too tired, busy or hungry to cook the recipes I post on Primal Plate’s blog. 

I can empathise, but like everything else in life, whether you cook or don’t cook really depends on your perception and priorities. The likes of Jo Wicks (The Body Coach) and TV celebrity chefs may be able to briefly convince you that it’s possible to knock up a delicious meal in 15 minutes flat, but try a couple of their ‘simple’ recipes out for yourself (how about a vegetable stir-fry?) and you’ll likely conclude one of two things; 1) there’s something wrong with you because it’s taken you nearly an hour to cook a meal that’s should have taken a quarter of that time, or; 2) it’s a con, so next time you’ll just buy a ‘ready-meal’ instead. 

The fact is, it wouldn’t take me much less than 15 minutes to singlehandedly boil an egg and prepare a couple of slices of buttered toast - let alone to create a family meal. Realistically, if you want to eat well, you need to make space in your life to cook. That said, many Primal Plate recipes are no more complicated than the fast and furious meal suggestions promoted on television and social media. 

Many of the recipes I post often involve nothing more than throwing everything together in a bowl, whacking it into a tin and getting on with life whilst the oven does its thing. I suggest you start with Grain-free Bread and take it from there. 

However, if you want ‘speedy’ recipes, look for those that have no more than 5 main ingredients. For example, Primal Plate’s Courgetti with Cherry Tomatoes & Asparagus, Leek, Stilton & Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms or Italian Style White Fish in Tomato Basil Broth. You can add today’s recipe for Eggs Florentine to the list. 

Personally, I don’t find cooking a chore when it’s a shared opportunity to create something tasty to eat with the people I love, but on this occasion, just to satisfy my curiosity, I asked my ‘sous chef’ John to step down from his food-prep duties, whilst I switched on a stop-watch and got on with making Eggs Florentine without his help. 

No slouch in the kitchen, I could make this recipe in my sleep! In my head, I’d roughly calculated 12 minutes to steam-boil the eggs, 2 minutes to peel them, 4 minutes to make a quick cheese sauce, 3 minutes to wilt and drain some ready-washed spinach and 4 minutes final cooking time under a hot grill. Total: 25 minutes. 

But not so fast! It actually took 37 minutes 21 seconds to bring everything together and about 3 minutes to finish if off under the grill - i.e. 40 minutes for an experienced cook to prepare and serve a simple meal for three people. A novice cook would take longer. My point is, there’s a lot of kidology going down in the kitchen! What you see on TV cookery programmes and on social media is not what you get. I know, because I trained Sarah to compete in Junior Masterchef and the winner in her heat had the majority of his ingredients for his curry pre-made by his mother! Sure, a professional celebrity chef could probably chop an onion in 20 seconds flat but who peeled the damn thing in the first place? Eggs Florentine requires you to grate cheese and peel eggs - simple enough to do but time-consuming. If you’re being filmed, you can make these behind the scenes tasks magically disappear but you have to allow for these ‘extras’ when cooking at home. 

In my case, every partner I’ve ever had (similarly my children) will step into the breach to fulfil the role of peeling, chopping, slicing, grating - as well as the ongoing washing-up. A glass of wine in hand, our combined efforts to get the meal on the table heralds the end of our working day and the start of social time. It’s pleasure not pain and something we all look forward to. 

None of the photographs on Primal Plate are ‘staged’ - it is the actual food we’re about to eat that day. Primal Plate is a cookery blog and its raison d’être is to encourage people to spend more time in the kitchen and learn how to eat properly. By showing you what we eat and sharing innovative, primarily vegetarian recipes that aren’t made with sugar, grains, legumes, unhealthy fats and cancer-causing meat I hope to convince people that cooking at home pays dividends on the time invested, namely: quality time spent with your family, delicious dinners, optimal health, quick loss of excess body-fat and easy weight maintenance.  

You reap the consequences of your actions either way. With so many major health issues now affecting so many people, it’s time for us to get back in the kitchen and to teach our children to do likewise. 

It’s not just that people think themselves too busy to cook - it’s a lack of basic cookery knowledge that’s also part of the problem. Primal Plate is here to help. Off the top of my head, I can think of more than a dozen home-cooked, easy-to-make meals that we turn to for busy days, which haven’t yet featured on this blog. In response to your feedback, I’ll be rolling out my quick, tasty ideas in the forthcoming weeks and months. You’ll find these in the Recipes section of Primal Plate’s blog under Primal Pronto.

To start with, my variation on the classic Eggs Florentine recipe. It's made with spinach, hard steam/boiled eggs and topped with a flour-less Primal cheese sauce before being finished off under the grill. A truly indulgent brunch, light lunch or supper to treat family and friends to. 

Eggs Florentine (Serves 4)

8 organic free-range eggs

1 tbsp olive oil

500g organic spinach, ready-washed

225g crème fraîche (I used Rodda’s crème fraîche because it doesn’t split when heated)

200g Gruyere cheese, finely grated

1 dsp (20g) Dijon mustard

Pinch of cayenne pepper

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions

Boil a kettle of water. Pour about 2.5cm (1 inch) of the boiling water straight from the kettle into a saucepan. 

Place a steaming basket inside the pan and place the eggs into the steamer-basket (I find a collapsible steamer most useful because one-size fits all pans). 

Put the lid on the pan and steam/boil the eggs for 12 minutes until hard-boiled. 

Whilst the eggs are cooking, heat up a large pan (big enough to hold all the spinach) over a high heat. When the pan is really hot add a tablespoon of olive oil and throw in the spinach (you may need to do this in 2 or 3 batches - allowing each batch to wilt down slightly before adding the rest). Stir fry the spinach for 1-2 minutes until it has all wilted. 

Tip the cooked spinach into a colander and press out as much liquid as you can - I use a potato masher but the back of a spoon will do. Return to the pan and lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.

Heat the crème fraîche, mustard and 160g of the cheese together in a saucepan over a medium/high heat. Whisk continuously until the cheese has melted and you have a very hot, but not boiling, unctuously smooth, cheese sauce. Take the pan off the heat and season with a pinch of cayenne pepper and two pinches of sea salt.

Tip the eggs into a bowl of cold water then quickly peel them (if they're still too hot, hold them in a clean tea towel so you don’t burn yourself) then place each shelled egg onto a clean chopping board and cut in half.

Preheat the grill to high.

To assemble the dish: spoon the spinach along the bottom of four individual gratin dishes (alternatively, use one large gratin dish). Place four egg halves per person (yolk side down) on top of the spinach then evenly spoon or pour over the hot cheese sauce making sure each egg is covered. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese evenly over the top of the eggs.

Finish under the hot grill for 3-4 minutes or until heated through and golden brown. 

 

Notes

If you’re looking for quick, healthy, vegetarian and Primal meal ideas, organic, free-range ‘pastured’ eggs are the business! However, after all my years in the kitchen I’ve only just ‘twigged on’ to steam-boiling eggs! I can’t even remember where I read about this method, but it’s altogether a much easier and reliable way to boil eggs because you can take them straight from the fridge and, because they’re not actually immersed in the boiling water, they're much less likely to crack when the heat first hits them. They’re cooked to perfection in exactly 6 minutes for a soft-boiled egg and 12 minutes for hard-boiled. Primal Pronto at its best! 

Annoyingly, as with Parmesan cheese, it’s hard (impossible?) to find vegetarian Gruyere. Joseph Heler make British Gruyere with non-animal rennet but having spoken to them today, I was informed they do not supply their cheese pre-packed to supermarkets but rather to retail, wholesale food service suppliers as an ingredient for their ‘ready meals’. You may have more luck finding vegetarian versions of Emmental (the melting quality and nutty taste is quite similar to Gruyere) or Edam (always check the packaging to confirm it’s vegetarian) - use either of these instead of Gruyere if you’re strictly vegetarian.  

 

Carbohydrate 4g Protein 35g - per portion