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Paleo Pie with Sweet Potato & Fennel Mash

Recently, I attempted to roughly work out the probability of ever seeing myself with a flat stomach. Sure, it’s fairly unlikely with my love of beer, pies and sweet treats, but I’ve recently been put onto the Paleo diet at the local Crossfit. Now, I was totally content to keep this dull diet stuff to myself - workday salads, grilled chicken thighs with whatever vegetables now dominate my fridge – but you clicked on the link, so you clearly wanted to know a bit more.

The trouble with Paleo is that you have to be super prepared and own an overwhelming amount of Tupperware boxes. Adopting Paleo is like making food choices along a very narrow line that divides food into two categories of “Acceptable” and “Nope”. I like to think this recipe sits in the middle of that line. It’s totally Paleo, but tastes like proper food should.

Organic Mince

Paleo Pie with Sweet Potato & Fennel Mash (makes 6 portions)
1kg organic mince
20g dried Porcini mushrooms & 250ml boiling water
2 medium diced red onions
500ml beef stock
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 chopped carrots
1 sprig of rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato puree
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
125g sliced mushrooms
2 gloves of crushed garlic
1.25kg sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds

First, brown off all the organic mince in small batches with the rapeseed oil and set aside. In the same pan brown the onions and once they start to caramelise add the tomato puree. Fry for a couple of minutes before pouring in a cup of cold water to deglaze the pan. Add the mince back to the pan and mix together so the ingredients get to know each other.

Dried Porcini Mushrooms

Add the tinned tomato, chopped rosemary, garlic, beef stock, carrots and sliced mushrooms to the pan. Soak the Porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 5 minutes, and then add the mushrooms and liquid to the pan. Turn the heat down and simmer until it reduces to look like the photo below.

Cottage Pie Mince

Paleo Sheperds Pie

Meanwhile, peel your sweet potatoes and warm you oven up to 200°C.  Mash the potatoes and stir in the ground up fennel seeds. To assemble, add the mince to a large oven dish and spoon over the mashed sweet potato. Place in your pre-heated oven for twenty five minutes and you’re done. I find its best served with steamed broccoli.

Two loaves of Chocoloate Goodness

Twisted Chocolate Almond Loaf

It has been way too long since I baked a loaf of anything. Making the ever-so-popular mini pretzels was fun. The double egg glazed burger buns? Yep they were a laugh, but I think making the sourdough starter sort of ruined the joy of baking for me. It was too much hard work, with little reward and I needed something to lure me back to my giant jar of flour.

Enter Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest recipe book, jam packed full of inspirational ideas, that found its way into my birthday wishlist. Now here was something to kick-start me into baking again, especially the take on a classic krantz cake. Granted it’s a lot of work, but the reward…well my key recipe tasters (Anna and some mate’s down the road) said it was well worth it. A couple of small tweaks to his classic recipe and I was bitten again by the baking bug.

Twisted Almond Loaf

Twisted Chocolate Almond Loaf (makes two loaves)
530g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g caster sugar
2tsp dried fast-action yeast
grated zest of one lime
3 large free-range eggs
120ml water
1/3 tsp salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes, at room temperature
sunflower oil, for greasing

To  make the dough combine the flour, sugar, yeast, lime zest and salt into a large mixing bowl. I don’t have a fancy food mixer, so I attempted it by hand. Add the eggs and water, then mix until the dough comes together. Then start adding the butter, just a little bit at a time, until it melts into the dough. Keep kneading until it becomes elastic, smooth and a little bit shiny. You’ll need the extra flour to keep dusting it so it doesn’t stick. Once done, place in a large pre-greased bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight to proof.

Chopped Almonds

Chocolate Almond Filling
50g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
130g dark chocolate
120g unsalted butter
100g almonds, with their skins on
2 tbsp caster sugar

Chocolate Spread

Lightly toast the almonds in a pan, then roughly chop and set aside. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over bowling water until combined. Then mix the chocolate together with the icing sugar and cocoa powder to make a spreadable paste.


Grease two baking tins with sunflower oil and line the bottom with grease proof paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide in half. Keep the remaining half in the fridge. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Then with a palate knife spread half the chocolate mixture over the dough rectangle, leaving roughly a 2cm border. Sprinkle half the toasted almonds and half the caster sugar on top of the chocolate mixture.

Spread with crushed almonds Roulade

Then brush a little water around the 2cm border so it sticks. Using both your hands roll it like a roulade and gently stick the wet edge so it looks like a giant burrito.

Trimmed Edges Lengthways Trim Chocolate Twist

Trim 2cm off each end with a large serrated knife. Now take the same knife and cut lengthways down the middle, dividing the log into two pieces.  You should have layers of dough and chocolate mix showing. Gently press together and then plait the two pieces together. Once you get to the end, press the two pieces together and place the whole thing into your pre-greased loaf tin to proof. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients. Leave both loaves to proof under a wet tea towel for around 90 minutes.

Chocolate Almond Plate Proofing Loaf

The Sticky Syrup Finish
260g caster sugar
160ml water

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 or 190ºC. Remove the wet tea towel and place the loaves on the middle shelf of your oven for 30 minutes. While the loaves are cooking, boil the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Set the syrup aside and leave to cool.  As soon as your loaves are done, brush all the syrup across both of them. The recipe calls to use all of the syrup, so it might seem like a lot, but don’t worry the breads soaks it all up. Leave until warm, then remove from the tins and leave to cool before eating…I’ve certainly got the baking bug back.

Vintage Mirror

Vintage Mirror

It’s amazing what yarn someone will spin to try and sell something for a higher price. There we were at a local car boot sale, being slowly convinced that the picture frame we were looking at was actually a door. A door you say, but it has a big hole in the middle? Yep it’s a door for a bedroom and you can have it for £60….more like a hobbit’s door I thought. Finally we got him down to £20 and off we went to convert it into a rustic mirror.

At first glance we could see the condition of the frame wasn’t at it’s best. They had beveled one of edges and installed hinges so it could swing like a door. Unfortunately by beveling one of the edges they’d revealed the lighter colour of the wood. Our best option was to bevel the whole frame with a small hand plain and go for a rustic painted finish.

I was a little worried about the frame falling apart once we fitted a big heavy mirror in the middle of it and seeing as it had been used as a door, I had no idea how many times it had been slammed in a hobbit huff. So I used some corner brackets to make it a little more stable and solid. Finally the old hinges were removed, holes filled in with wood filler and all the prep work was done in less than an hour. Time for a cup of tea.

Painting proved to be the more tricky and time consuming part of the process. With so many nooks and crannies to paint on the carved frame it took ages – dab, dab, dab I went with the paint brush for what seemed like an eternity. We had some leftover chalk pain from the Toybox project, so I used that and went with two coats to ensure a clean finish. Once dried I took some wire wool and gently rubbed down the edges and across the details to give it that worn look. Be careful if you’re doing this yourself as the paint can rub away fairly quickly. To finish I used a simple wax to seal the paint.

The final part of the process was getting the mirror into the frame. I went to get the mirror from the glazier which was a nerve wracking experience. I’m a little clumsy, some might say very clumsy, so being in a warehouse filled with nothing but mirror and glass makes me slightly uncomfortable. Here I met Mike who I imagined to be the unluckiest person in the world – surely he’s broken the odd mirror? Nope not one. Amazing.


To finish I tacked the mirror into place with some pins and we were done. It was a little on the heavy side with the mirror in place so we used a fairly robust set of screw plugs to get it onto the wall. It looks great and cost less than £50 to make. So if you ever spot a frame, pretending to be a door, at your local carboot sale buy it and make a mirror.

eaten cheesecake

Chocolate & Poached Orange Cheesecake

Grated CheesecakeFirst it was bread, then pie – now pudding is the latest recipe challenge to to enjoy it’s moment in the sun. The reason? I’ve….erm, become addicted to the mystery box challenge in Master Chef. Basically, each week they get a mystery box of ingredients and have one hour to wow the judges with their creation. Almost always, from the relative safety of my sofa, I can think of something to make out of the savoury box. It’s always got a bit of meat, some veg and the odd jar of capers to throw you off course…but then there’s the tricky sweet box.  Just what the hell do you with a bottle of Grand Marnier and couple of blueberries? Pithed Orange Now I’ve never been brilliant at pudding, I’ll admit, but it’s clearly my weakness. Yes I can hear you mumbling ‘Come on Chris! Who has a food blog and can’t make a pudding’. It’s just that some clever clogs always manages to muster a winning tart from a box full of boring old rhubarb and a little bottle of Frangelico. So that’s my new challenge – try and make pudding with what’s lying around the cupboard. Like my own private pudding cooking challenge. Just without the time limit or the pressure of facing some judge. Chocolate & Poached Orange Cheesecake (serves 4)Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like a have a fridge full of cream cheese just in case I need it. Although I did have a few oranges, some leftover biscuits and about 3 blocks of chocolate in the fridge and here’s how I made it. Crushed Oreo 1 tsp vanilla paste 400g cream cheese 3 free-range eggs & 2 free-range egg yolks 100ml double cream 200g caster sugar Zest from one lime, orange and a lemon 150ml water 2 medium oranges 1 packet of Oreo or any chocolate biscuits (crushed) Milk chocolate for grating Add a 100g of the sugar to the 150ml of water leave to dissolve. Peel and segment the oranges trying to remove as much pith as possible. Then add to the sugar water and bring to the boil. Let it bubble for about a minute, then switch it off and leave to cool. Sweet Orange Custard Cheesecake Add the vanilla, cream cheese, eggs, cream, zest and remaining 100g of sugar into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl on a pan of boiling water (about 300ml) whisking constantly for about twenty minutes until smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and chill in the fridge. The finished mix will be thicker than a normal custard, but won’t fully set. eaten cheesecake To make each cheesecake, take four glasses/ jars and put three or four segments of oranges into the bottom. Add a little of the sweet orange liquid. Then layer in your crushed Oreo biscuits and spoon in the cheesecake mix. Finally grate chocolate over the top and you’re done. Did I win the challenge?

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