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Smoothie Bowls

Smoothie bowls are a great breakfast idea and they can be made up in advance. The possibilities are endless, but one of my favourite breakfast smoothies is a combination of frozen blueberries, frozen cherries, almond milk, soy milk and protein powder. I bulked this up a bit by adding some cooked quinoa and then topped it with sliced banana, chia, strawberries, dried apricots, almonds and a few chocolate nibs.

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To get the best smoothie bowls, you need to be a little bit organised at the start of the week. If using quinoa, wash and cook up a small amount and keep it in the fridge in a sealed container. Put some chia seeds in a jar and soak them – they should swell with the water and form a gel like slurry. The smoothie can be made up in advance but will probably need a stir in the morning, then all you need to do is add your toppings.

Frozen berries make a great smoothie base because you don’t have to add ice. You can use blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and some of the mixed berries too. Fresh berries are also good but don’t add the coldness to the smoothie.

You can use whatever milk you like and add yoghurt – thick greek yoghurt has a great protein content – and if you prefer not to add dairy you can use coconut yoghurt. For a bulkier smoothie you can add protein powder, quinoa, oats, psyllium husk and shredded coconut, and you can also soak cashews in water and whizz them up in the blender for a lovely cashew cream. I like to mix my milks so that I get a good fat/carb/protein mix.

Toppings can be fresh or tinned fruits – peaches, pears, apples, banana, strawberries, kiwi, lychees, pineapple.

You can also add nuts – if they are slightly toasted, that’s even better, and you can crush them too. You can also sprinkle desiccated coconut over the top.

Dried fruits make a great topping – sultanas, apricots, dates, figs.

Soaked chia is a nice addition, also agave syrup, maple syrup, honey and even a slight drizzle of nutella. Yum. Every bowl can be different, and they are fun to make.

Ricotta Pancakes

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I love a pancake, and I am always on the lookout for new pancake recipes. This one creates quite a thick batter and the amounts given are for one big one or two smaller ones. This one has no wheat flour, it is made with coconut flour and ricotta with some psyllium husk to make it light and fluffy. I topped mine with some frozen berries that I heated with a little water, a scoop of coconut yoghurt, honey and a sprinkle of granola.

Recipe – mix all the ingredients up in a jug or bowl:

60g ricotta
1 egg
1 dessertspoon of psyllium husk
1 dessertspoon of coconut flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 dessertspoon of shredded coconut (optional)
a little water or soy milk

Heat a little oil in a frying pan (I use vegetable or groundnut oil), then scoop the batter into the pan (it will be too thick to pour). Smooth it out with a spatula and heat on low  to medium heat for approx 5 minutes before flipping over and cooking for another 5 minutes.

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It looks quite thick but the inside is soft and light. Topping options are endless including nutella, strawberries, peaches, nuts, honey, agave syrup, yoghurt, and cream.

 

 

Pickled Chillies

We grew some chillies over the summer months and were surprised at how huge the crop was. After making green masala paste, we decided to pickle some. This was our first try at pickling, so we bought some assorted jars. We had approx 250g of chillies to pickle. This recipe can be scaled up if you have more.

The first thing to do is sterilize the jars and lid with boiling water. Leave them with the boiling water in them while you wash the chillies. Trim the tops, leaving a little bit of the stalk if you like, and give them a good wash.

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Then prick each chilli along the length of the flesh around 4-8 times with a pin. This will allow the pickling liquid to soak in.

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Empty the boiling water from the jar(s). Next, you might need to use some tessellation skills, but pack the jars with chillies, trying to leave as few gaps as possible. We found that 250g chillies packed quite nicely into a 500ml jar.

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Now make the pickling liquid by combining

  • 125ml white vinegar
  • 125ml cold water
  • half a teaspoon of sugar
  • half a teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • half a teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • half a tablespoon of salt
  • 2 bay leaves

in a saucepan. Heat up the pickling liquid so that the salt and sugar dissolves, but don’t boil it.

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Now pour the pickling liquid into the jar, filling it right to the top so that the chillies are covered. If there isn’t enough liquid top up with some white vinegar and screw the lid on tightly. Leave the pickle in the fridge for a few weeks. After the first week check to make sure that all chillies are submerged and top up with vinegar as required.

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Chicken with chilli, ginger and mushrooms

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This is a Ken Hom recipe which I have adapted and every time I cook it, I get compliments from our guests. The original version does not use chilli, so you can leave it out if you want to, but I think it adds a nice dimension. The chunks of chicken in my picture are quite large but if you are feeding a  lot of people, make smaller chunks so that it cooks more quickly and evenly.

If you want to serve it with special fried rice as in the picture, make sure that you have some cold cooked rice available. This is then fried in a wok in a little oil with onion, frozen peas and egg approx 4-5 minutes before serving the chicken. Fry the onion first so that it is soft, add the peas so that they thaw, then either add a pre-cooked one egg omelette that has been chopped into small pieces, or cook a raw egg in the oil and break it up with the spatula before adding the rice. Toss the rice around in the wok to distribute the onion, egg and peas, and keep going until it is heated through.

Another bit of prep to do at least 30 minutes before cooking is to take the dried mushrooms, put them in a bowl or jug, and cover them with boiling water to give them time to reconstitute. You don’t have to use dried mushrooms, but if you do, you get a real depth of flavour and you can use the mushroom water to make the stock.

For the Chicken, ginger and mushroom you need (serves 2-4 people):

Chicken – thighs are more juicy, but you can use breast if you prefer, 100-200g per person should be plenty. This should be filleted and cut into 1 inch chunks.

Chicken marinade – this is enough for 2-4 servings:
Light soy sauce – 2 teaspoons
Shaoxing rice wine (or sherry) – 1 tablespoon
Sesame oil – 1 teaspoon
Cornflour – 2 teaspoons
Black pepper – approx half a teaspoon

Other ingredients:
Dried mushrooms – 25g – make sure these are soaked at least 30 mins ahead of cooking.
Fresh mushrooms (get a nice exotic mixture if you can – shiitake, cloud ears, brown) – 25g
Chilli – 1 small chilli of any variety – regular (or jalapeno if you are a chilli fan)
Ginger – must be fresh – 3 tablespoons peeled and cut into shreds
Garlic – 2 tablespoons peeled and chopped
Shallots or red onion – approx 4 tablespoons finely sliced – this equates to about half a red onion
Fish sauce – 1 tablespoon
Oyster sauce – 1 tablespoon
Sugar – 2 teaspoons
Chicken stock – 150mls – you can buy this ready made or make it up with the mushroom soaking water and a heaped teaspoon of good quality chicken stock powder
Groundnut oil – for cooking – probably a few tablespoons, I always guess mine
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh coriander and spring onion for a garnish – if you have some handy – this is optional

Method:
Things to do 30 minutes before cooking:

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in water that you have just boiled in the kettle. They should be soft after about 30 minutes – leave them longer if not. Save the soaking water to make the stock (but remove any leftover bits from it by straining through a tea strainer). Remove the stalks and discard them, slice the mushrooms and set aside.
  2. If you haven’t got stock already made up, make up 150ml of chicken or vegetable stock by either a) using a stock cube or b) a heaped teaspoon of good stock powder with 150 – 200 mls of the mushroom water. Simmer in a little pan to dissolve all of the cube or powder and set aside. Bear in mind that some will evaporate so use more than 150mls of water and top it up if necessary.
  3. Marinate the chicken in 2 teaspoons of light soy, 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and some salt and pepper. Ken Hom says to use one and half teaspoons of salt, but I leave the salt out because the soy is quite salty. I do add about half a teaspoon of pepper though. Once the liquid marinade is mixed through, add about 2 teaspoons of cornflour and mix again – this will make the coating thicker and cling to the chicken, give it a good mix so that it isn’t lumpy.
  4. Prep all the ingredients – peel and finely slice the ginger, garlic and shallots, slice the mushrooms. Slice the chilli and remove the seeds if you don’t like your food too spicy.

Cooking the chicken for the first time (this can be done in advance if you are prepping this for a busy dinner party):

  1. This first cooking gives the chicken the flavour of the ginger and chilli and also makes the ginger and chilli lovely and crispy to add another nice texture to the dish.
  2. Put approx 2-3 tablespoons of groundnut oil in a pan or wok and heat it until it is just smoking.
  3. Add the chilli and ginger and fry for a minute until crispy.20180330_180742.jpg
  4. Add the chicken and fry for another 4-5 minutes until almost cooked. The time will depend on how big the chunks are – if in doubt slice a piece to see if it is almost cooked through – if it is too pink, leave longer.20180330_18083820180330_181442
  5. Drain the chicken and reserve approx 1 tablespoon of the oil. Keep all of the crispy chilli and ginger pieces. If you are clever in the way that you do this, you shouldn’t have to clean the pan.

Putting it all together:

  1. Reheat the wok or pan with the remaining tablespoon of oil (don’t worry if you lost it all, just add another tablespoon of fresh oil).
  2. Add the shallots and garlic and fry for a minute to soften.
  3. Add the mushrooms (dried and fresh), and continue to stir fry and soften.20180330_181801
  4. Add the fish sauce, oyster sauce, stock and sugar. Return the chicken to the pan.20180330_181848
  5. Leave to simmer for 3-5 minutes to make sure that the chicken is cooked through.20180330_182228
  6. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to adjust seasoning if necessary.
  7. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh coriander and sliced spring onions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home made baked beans

Canned baked beans….meh. They’re great for a quick and convenient snack, but beware – the average can of beans has 21g of sugar. It is simple to make your own, you then know exactly what goes into them, and you can also mix up your beans if you like. You don’t have to use haricot, you can use cannelini, pinto, navy, any type you like or a mixture.

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My recipe uses chorizo, you can also use bacon if you don’t like the strong flavour of chorizo, or if you are vegetarian, you can leave out the meat and up the flavour stakes with additional herbs and spices. This recipe makes enough for 4 serves for dinner or approx 6 batches of smaller lunch-time serves. Quite an easily portable snack too. You can also serve more people at dinner by adding other ingredients to the plate such as toast, cheese, eggs, sausages, chips, hash browns and sauteed mushrooms.

Ingredients:

2 x 400g cans of beans of your choice (you can also use dried beans if you soak them overnight)

1 x 400g can of diced tomatoes (or about 6 large Roma or Truss tomatoes skinned and chopped)

1 average sized onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, very thinly sliced or chopped

1 chorizo chopped into small dice, or two to three rashers of smoked bacon diced

1 teaspoon of Worcester sauce

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Half a teaspoon of cumin powder

1 teaspoon of mixed herbs, dried, fresh or freeze dried

1 teaspoon of vegetable stock powder

salt/pepper/sugar to taste

Method:

Prepare the chopped ingredients

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If using canned beans, drain them:

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Fry the chorizo (or bacon) in a few tablespoons of olive oil until it is slightly crispy and the fat has rendered.

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Add the onions and garlic

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Once the onion begins to soften add the flavourings – mustard, cumin, paprika, herbs, Worcester sauce, stock powder.

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Stir everything to combine well and then add the tomatoes.

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Half fill the tomato can with water, swirl it to rinse the last bits of tomato and add it to the pan.

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Add the beans, but try not to stir them too much (this tends to mush them up. Shake them around the pan.

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Leave to cook for 20 – 30 minutes until the beans are soft enough to eat. Add salt and pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need to add sugar, but if you do, consider adding some honey or agave syrup instead of granulated sugar.

Serve in a bowl with fresh crusty bread and some grated cheese. So simple and tasty that you’ll probably never buy cans of baked beans again.

Crustless mini quiches

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These mini quiches are lower in carbohydrate content and dairy casein than regular quiches. They use ricotta which has hardly any casein protein in it and little mature cheddar for some extra cheesy flavour. I baked mine in a larger size muffin tray, but you can make them mini muffin size or regular muffin size and reduce the cooking time slightly. Cooking times vary from oven to oven, but you know they are perfect when they are just very slightly wobbly in the centre.

They are ideal for a quick brekkie, and if you don’t have muffin cases, you can use squares of baking parchment and scrunch them into the muffin tray indents.

Other than the cheese, you can put whatever you like in them. I dry fried some bacon, mushrooms and onion and added it before baking them, but you can use anything. Here are some suggestions:

broccoli
peas
sun dried tomatoes
cauliflower florets
spinach
prosciutto
small pieces of sausage
capsicum
pieces of butternut pumpkin
Just make sure that all of the extra filling ingredients are cooked or part-cooked beforehand so that you don’t get any raw veg or meats in your quiche !

Ingredients (makes 4 large muffins):

Mixed pre-cooked filling – see above
3 eggs
salt
pepper
1 teaspoon mixed herbs (dried) e.g. basil, sage, oregano, thyme, mint, coriander
I used a standard dried herb mix, but you can also use fresh or choose the herbs separately
50-70g ricotta cheese (depending on how much you like it and how much filling you have)
approx. a third of a cup of finely grated cheddar

Mix together the eggs, salt, pepper, herbs and ricotta – give it a good whisk with and electric whisk to make it as light as possible. The mixture might look a bit strange, but it will turn out fine.
Stir in the pre-cooked filling and most of the cheese – save a little cheese for on top.
Place mixture in muffin cases and sprinkle extra cheese on top.

Bake at 190 deg C for approx. 20 – 25 minutes.

 

 

Home made granola

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Do you know exactly what goes into your breakfast cereal ? The regular supermarket cereals tend to be full of sugar and additives, and the more sophisticated cereals are expensive for what you get.

Making your own granola is easy and cheaper. You get exactly what you want and it tastes great with yoghurt and berries on top. It’s portable – you can put some granola, yoghurt and berries in a jar and take them into work for an easy desk breakfast. I have a long journey so I pop some frozen berries on top (cherries, blueberries) and by the time I get to work the berries have thawed.

Start by lining an oven tray with baking parchment and set your oven to approx 150 deg C.

Now the fun bit – you can make it up as you go along. If you are allergic to nuts, leave the nuts out, if you are allergic to oats, leave the oats out. Choose from any of the following, but don’t add any chocolate chips or dried fruit at this stage because they will melt and burn. You just need nuts seeds and grains at this time. Generally, oats form the major part of the base, but if you are allergic to oats try something different like plain puffed rice. Grab a large bowl and get mixing – I generally use the following:

Porridge oats (steel cut) 1-2 cups
Puffed rice with no added sugar 1-2 cups
As much as you fancy of:
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
pine nuts
chia seeds
flax seeds
sliced almonds
shredded coconut
peanuts
walnuts
pistachios
hazelnuts
pecans
This is just a guide – you can use any nuts and seeds that you like

Stir through some coconut oil and honey (approx 4 tablespoons)
Spread it all out on the baking parchment  – the thinner the layer, the quicker it will toast – and stir through every ten minutes. It should take about 30 minutes to toast nicely, and it will be a lovely golden colour. Leave to cool.

Now you can transfer it to a plastic cereal container but beforehand you can stir through any of the following, or you can add them each time you get your breakfast ready depending on how you feel. Chop them or leave them whole :

plump dried apricots
prunes
dried peel
sultanas
craisins
cranberries
dried banana chips
dried figs
dark chocolate nibs

When you serve your granola, use a luscious thick greek style yoghurt like Gippsland (greek yoghurt has good protein content) or alternatively use ricotta cheese, marscapone, or soy/coconut yoghurt.

Top with fruit compote (really easy to make with frozen berries – just put some in a saucepan with a splash of water and a spoon of honey or sugar and heat gently for 5 minutes), or use tinned fruits, or fresh fruits like pineapple, peaches, strawberries and banana. A yummy good quality breakfast.

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Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry

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This delicious curry is relatively simple to make and is best made fresh – there’s nothing quite like freshly fried katsu chicken. If you want to be healthier, you can cook the chicken in the oven. The sauce comes in ready made roux blocks called Golden Curry and they have different strengths – this makes it really simple, but you can also make your own curry roux, so I am going to include the recipe for that too. To serve 2, one large chicken breast should suffice, but feel free to use as much or as little of the ingredients as you wish – these are the approximate quantities that I use.

Ingredients:

1 large chicken breast
Half an onion, chopped into large pieces
1 medium carrot sliced or large diced
1 medium potato large diced
Half a cup of frozen or fresh peas
Panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons of flour (any kind, but I use plain most often – you can also use almond flour)
1 egg, beaten
Half a teaspoon of chilli powder
Golden Curry Roux blocks (approx 20g per serving)
Vegetable oil (enough to fill your frying vessel to a depth of at least 2.5cm)

To make the katsu chicken:
1. Heat the oil in a suitable pan for frying – I tend to use a deep wide pan. It will be ready when you place a wooden spoon in the oil and small bubbles rise quickly from the spoon’s surface.
2. Put the flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs into 3 separate large bowls. Season the flour with salt and pepper, (and chilli powder if you feel so inclined).
3. Trim and wash the chicken breast. Pat dry. Place the chicken breast between two sheets of baking parchment and bash it with a rolling pin until it is flatter and thinner.
4. Cut the chicken into 2 or 4 equal size pieces (depending on how you think it will fit into your pan.
5. Coat the chicken pieces in the flour, shake off the excess, dip in the egg, then coat in panko breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs onto each piece.
6. Fry the pieces in the oil for approx 10 minutes, depending on size, thickness etc. Check that they are cooked by cutting into a thicker part of the meat and checking for pinkness.
7. When you are happy with the doneness, put them on some kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
8. You can also cook the chicken in the oven – approx 180 deg C for approx 20-30 minutes – again, check them regularly as the time will depend on the size of the pieces.
9. While the chicken is cooking, put the onion, carrot, potato and peas in a saucepan and cover them with just enough water. Simmer them until they are cooked.
10. Add the curry roux blocks to the vegetables and stir until dissolved. If the sauce is too thick, add some more water and keep stirring.
11. Slice the katsu chicken and serve with the vegetable curry sauce and some boiled rice.

golden curry

If you prefer to make your own curry sauce, do this:

Finely chop or whizz up half an onion, 2 cloves of garlic and a small (half cm) slice of ginger in a food processor. Cook in a little oil until fragrant.
Mix half a tablespoon of your favourite curry powder with one and a half tablespoons of flour. Stir this in and then slowly add equal quantities of vegetable stock and apple juice until it is a nice thick saucy consistency. Stir well to combine. Stir in half a tablespoon of garam masala. Taste to check the flavour.
If you don’t have apple juice you can whizz up a fresh apple and add this instead, but you will need to keep tasting to get the sweet/savoury balance right.
Now when you simmer the vegetables, drain the water off after cooking and add them to the sauce – you get the same result but all totally homemade.

 

 

 

 

Good Old Fashioned Shepherd’s Pie

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Shepherd’s Pie is one of those lovely warming winter dishes, nice tasty lamb mince with a mashed potato topping, finished off in the oven and served with veggies of your choice.

On the day that I made these 3 batches for the freezer, the supermarket had most of the ingredients I needed in a ‘bargain bucket’, and other than being a little misshapen or ripe, there was nothing wrong with them, hence the large quantities. I’ll give you the recipe here for 500g of mince which will serve at least 5 people and potentially 6 if you pack it with extra veggies. You can make one huge pie or split it into 3 portions as I have done.

Traditionally it does not contain zucchini or swede, but add whatever you like to make your own version.

Ingredients:

500g lamb mince, rinsed. (If it is very fatty you may wish to boil it first for a few minutes to get rid of excess fat then rinse in a sieve with boiling water.)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery diced
1 dried or fresh chilli (optional)
2 carrots diced
1 small swede peeled and diced (optional)
1 small zucchini/courgette diced (optional)
5 large ripe tomatoes diced (peel them if you feel so inclined)
a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a lamb stock cube
1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
Half a tablespoon of Soy sauce
a bunch of chopped chives (optional)
1 tablespoon of mixed herbs (fresh or dried)
2 bay leaves
200g of potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons of butter or spread
a little milk (optional)
40g approx of  grated cheddar cheese (optional)
salt and pepper

1. In a large deep pan, heat approx 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the lamb mince. Stir fry until it gets some colour and then add the onion, carrots, celery, swede, zucchini and chilli.
2. Fry until they begin to soften. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in some salted water in a large saucepan until they are soft enough to mash (takes about 10 minutes depending on the size of the dice).
3. To the lamb mixture add the tomatoes, fresh and tinned, herbs, Worcester and soy sauces, and crumble the stock cube in to the mixture. Rinse the tomato can with water and add, it if it needs thinning out a little.
4. Cook for approx 20 minutes, and taste. Add salt and pepper as necessary.
5. Drain the potatoes (leave a little water in the pan), return to the pan and mash with the addition of the butter, milk, part of the cheese and some salt and pepper to season.
6. Put the lamb mixture in an ovenproof dish and cover with mash. Top the mash with some cheese (as much or as little as you like).
7. At this point the pie can cool and be frozen for later use. If you are eating it now, pop it into an oven at 170 – 180 deg C for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese browns and bubbles. If reheating from frozen, thaw first (if you have time) for at least 2 hours, then reheat in an oven at 170-180 deg C for about 40 minutes. Cooking directly from frozen works but will take longer and a lower temperature is recommended to heat it through slowly before turning the heat up to 180 for the last 15 minutes.
8. Serve with a side of veggies such as peas, broccoli, spinach.

Optional other ingredients: Mushrooms, Eggplant, Button squash, Tomato paste, Sweet potato mash.
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Apricot Sesame Balls

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These power packed balls are really soft and succulent, you can vary the ingredients to suit your taste, but mine are laced with warm Christmassy spices that are a nice contrast to the sweet apricots. This recipe makes approximately 10 ‘mouthful sized’ balls.

Ingredients (all approximate – adjust them to suit your own taste):

70g Dried apricots whole or shredded

Half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Half a teaspoon of ground cardamom

Sesame seeds for coating (approx 15g)

1 cup of muesli of your choice – blitzed to make it finer in a food processor – not quite powder, but no big lumps

Method:

In a small saucepan simmer the apricots with a quarter of a cup of water and the cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom until the apricots have softened (about 12-15 mins), add a little more water if they look dry.

Cool the apricot mixture to room temp, then stir it into the muesli to make a soft paste.

Roll the paste into balls and roll them in sesame seeds. If the paste is a little dry add some more water, if it is a bit too moist, add some more muesli or some ground nuts.

Simple ! Enjoy.

 

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