Friday, 3 June 2016

Lily's Classic Tomato and Basil Sauce

I am yet to come across someone who doesn't love a bowl of spaghetti and freshly made tomato sauce...while we might often reach for the jar from the supermarket, I firmly believe that making your own is miles better not just in terms of its flavour and freshness, but also in saving a few pennies- this for example cost roughly €1.50 as opposed to a €3.50 pre-made jar. Click here to see my video of the beautiful fresh food market Marché Forville in Cannes, and how I like to make my tomato sauce!

-5 servings-

1 clove of garlic (grated)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
2 carrots (grated)
3 fresh tomatoes (roughly chopped)
1 jar of tomato passata (446ml roughly)
a handful of fresh basil
salt & pepper


Fry the garlic with a good glug of oil over a medium heat in a large frying pan with the dried herbs.

Stir for 2 minutes until it begins to smell wonderful, but watch it like a hawk to prevent it from burning!

Remember that you can always add a splash of water to cool the pan down.

Add the tomatoes and carrots and soften for 3 minutes.

Pour in the passata and 1/2 a jar of water.

Season with salt and pepper and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

Blitz with the fresh basil until beautifully smooth and serve with spaghetti or rice for a perfectly simple weekday supper.

Marche Forville, Cannes

Marche Forville, Cannes

Flowers at the Marche Forville, South of France

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Monday, 4 April 2016

No Bake Granola Bars

I am writing this half tucked up in bed/ half hopping two steps across to the kitchen to check on a small saucepan of bubbling dates in my tiny 20 something m ²  apartment in Cannes (technically called a studio en français;). I love my tiny kitchen dearly but unfortunately my baking experiments in the microwave  haven't quite cut it...think black, as dark as charcoal black!  Anyhow, if anything, the lack of an oven pushes me to be more inventive and find alternatives through concocting granola bars such as these. Easy to make and perfect for a rushed morning, or a cheeky snack whenever you like.

Click on the video below to see me actually making them in my studio in Cannes...


1.5 mugs of oats
A pinch of salt
1 mug of sunflower seeds
1 mug of deglet noir dates cut into small chunks
2 mugs of boiling water
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon


Dry-toast the oats, sunflower seeds and salt for 3 minutes in a large frying pan to intensify their flavours, and create interesting textures.

Soften the dates in the boiling water with the coconut oil and ground cinnamon for 15 minutes.

Combine everything together in a bowl.

Once cooled down, shape the mixture into a rectangular shape before refrigerating for 30 minutes to firm up and cut into generous squares!

Optional chocolate sauce

3 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder


Melt all 3 ingredients together until you're left with a shiny and smooth sauce to pour over the granola bars.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My Homemade Chicken Stock

Since moving to my new apartment in Cannes, I have sussed out all the local fresh food markets (of course!). So every weekend, I have the pleasure of practising my French whilst seeing all the beautiful colours that each season brings. Last Saturday was no exception…after a trip to the marche Gambetta, a walk across the road took me to the ‘boucherie marche’. I’d passed it a couple of times and had noticed a long line of customers. So I plucked up the courage to go inside where two elderly customers were already being served. The butcher was busy with a big order of ‘deux escalopes de poulet, des oeufs frais, steak, etc’ and then said ‘qui est apres?’ (Who is next?)

‘Moi!’ I said…

‘Alors, madame (!), qu’est que vous voulez?’ (So, Madame, what would you like?)

‘Je voudrais un poulet fermier’ (I would like a free-range chicken)

‘Cuit? (Cooked?)

‘Mais non, juste un poulet entier…comme celui-ci’ I said pointing to the bird I wanted ’s’il vous plait’ (Ah no, just a whole chicken…like this one)

A series of questions followed, some of which I didn’t quite understand…

Later on, long after I had returned from the butchers, with some trepidation, I opened up the package. 

It seems that my lack of French culinary/ boucherie vocabulary left me with the chicken’s heart and a wobbly neck…can you imagine my face!

In spite of the wobbly neck, I do really recommend buying the whole chicken and learning how to chop it all up. You will not only save money, but I find there is something rather rewarding about using up every last piece, in some way or another. 

At home, we occasionally make our own homemade stock, but it is my two grandparents, who make a homemade stock every week out of whichever meat they have…ham bone, chicken, ox tail, you name it! So that is why I dedicate this recipe to them today. 


1 whole chicken
1 red onion
8 garlic cloves (whole)
2 carrots (skin on)
any old herbs you have lying around…this week I used a large handful of fresh mint
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
salt and pepper


I like to begin by pulling up apart the chicken (sounds brutal I know!). So start by cutting the thighs away from the breasts, and place aside.

Then, using the backbone as a guide, carefully slice away the two breasts, leaving you with the carcass and the two wings.

Of course you can take off the wings as well, but once I’ve had enough cutting up the other pieces, I tend to just poach this meat with the carcass. 

Place the carcass (and wings) into a large pot. 

Fill with enough cold water to cover the bird and add in the onion, garlic cloves, carrots, herbs, ginger and a generous amount of salt and pepper. 

Pop on a lid, bring to the boil for 10 minutes, skimming off any froth. 

Bring down to a low simmer, and cook for about 25-30 minutes. 

Pour the stock into another large pot over a sieve, catching all the vegetables and carcass. 

Allow to cool and store in the fridge/freezer to use as a base for delicious soups, stews, bolognaises, anything you can think of!

Friday, 1 January 2016

A loaf for lunch: Lily's Dairy-Free Soda Bread

It is not unusual for me to spend the whole day at home in the kitchen, and today was no exception. I began the first day of the year by making banana pancakes...delish.  A few hours later, with a pot of soup bubbling away on the stove, I felt a loaf of homemade ought to be russled up! Don't assume that to make this loaf, you'll have to spend the whole day in your kitchen though. It should be ready within an hour. 

So here is my dairy-free take on the classic cris-crossed Irish soda bread. Instead of yeast acting as the rising agent, the combination of bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk cleverly pushes up the dough into a crispy, dense bread. Since I am allergic to dairy, buttermilk was no good for me. After a little internet research, adding either vinegar or lemon juice to the milk makes for a good substitute. If the process of making the bread isn't delightful enough, I always tend to feel quite proud after making this and sharing with my family. A good loaf and a pot of homemade soup to be shared with one another to begin the new year. That's what it's all about really, for me anyway. If you'd like to see how I make this, here's a video of me in the kitchen! 


170g of wholemeal spelt flour
170g of rye flour
a good pinch of salt
1/2 a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
290ml of rice milk/ dairy-free milk
1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice/ apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. 

Begin by pouring the lemon juice into the rice milk, and let this sit for at least 5 minutes. 

Then mix together the two flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda. 

Pour in the honey into the milk mixture and add this to the bowl of dry ingredients. 

Bring everything together to form a dough, adding a little spelt flour if it's sticking to your hands.

Lightly knead and form into a ball. Place on a lined and lightly floured baking tray, softly flatten. 

Finally, make a cross in the dough and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Lily's Dairy-Free Christmas Cake

Every year for as long as I can remember, my Grannie made a Christmas cake especially for me and my sister. This was such a treat for two reasons, one because we could actually have a piece of cake like everybody else at tea time, and also because the whole cake was just for us! Since returning from Paris, I have been making the most out of having an oven again and thought I'd quite like to try a new spin on my Grannie's original recipe! I wanted to share something that everyone can now enjoy with their family and friends. It is the perfect thing for anyone allergic to dairy, eggs and nuts, whilst happening to be refined sugar free too! For extra darkness and richness, I have added blackstrap molasses, and have swapped dark brown sugar for a mixture of honey and maple syrup. I've also added a couple of other ingredients, like the stewed apple (basically apple puree!) to allow more moisture in the cake. If you'd like to see how I make this cake at home, click on the link below!

Lily's Dairy-Free Christmas Cake

dedicated to my brilliant Grannie

300ml of black tea
3oz/ 85g of honey
2oz/ 56g of maple syrup
1/2 a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses
2oz/ 56g of coconut oil
1 large cooking apple (stewed)- roughly 2.5 oz/ 70g
6oz/ 170g of currants
6oz/ 170g of sultanas
zest of 1 orange
3 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 tablespoon of chia seeds (mixed with 3 tablespoons of water)

10oz/ 283g of spelt flour
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar/ white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Begin by mixing the chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and leave aside while it forms a jel-like consistency.

Then peel and chop up the cooking apple into small-ish chunks. Allow this to stew with a little water for about 15 minutes while you prepare everything else.

In a large saucepan, drizzle in the honey, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup and coconut oil. Scatter in the currants, sultanas along with the orange zest, mixed spice and 300ml of brewed black tea.

Simmer very gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 20 minutes, your kitchen will smell of Christmas (what's more to love?!) and the dried fruit will have absorbed all the rich and dark flavours. Leave this aside to cool...if you are impatient like me and my Grannie, fill up the sink with cold water and leave the saucepan bobbing around until the mixture is completely cool.

Once cool, slowly fold in half of the spelt flour into the saucepan. Then, in a jug or even a mug, mix together the bicarbonate of soda with the vinegar. Add the frothing mixture to the saucepan and then fold in the other half of the spelt flour. It is important not to over-stir the mixture, otherwise you will end up with a tough cake!
Clearly felt the need to smell the blackstrap molasses before it went in to the pot!

Pour out the mixture into a lined circular cake tin, evenly distributing it outwards. Cut another sheet of greaseproof paper to cover the cake (this will prevent the sultanas and currants in the cake from burning on the top!).

Bake for 55 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

Allow to cool (if you can wait) and enjoy with a nice pot of tea, and maybe your family and friends too!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Sweet potato, carrot and barley soup (two ways)

I've come to realise that I'm a bit of a routine girl, one who has recently become very fond of the mighty sweet potato. As this root vegetable regularly finds its way into my shopping trolley, here are two recipes, both equally delicious in their own right and perfect for this time of the year. After a blustery walk or even just a long day, you have two to choose from...a backup if you ever get bored of the first one I suppose.

Sweet potato, carrot and oregano soup with a subtle kick

serves 5-6

2 large sweet potatoes (no need to be too precise with the size of chunks as we're blitzing here!)
3 carrots
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
600 ml of vegetable stock
1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
150g of pearl barley

Begin by bringing the barley to a boil and then letting it simmer for an hour to an hour and a half (depending on the cooking instructions). 

Finely chop up the onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, and carrots. 

Begin by gently frying the onion in either a little olive oil or even water (#studentproblems) in a large soup pot. Allow this to soften on a medium- high heat for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic.

After two more minutes add in the sweet potatoes and carrots. Let these fry for about 5 minutes before adding in the chopped tomatoes, stock, cayenne pepper, dried oregano and a pinch of pepper. 

Give this all a good stir, pop on a lid and let it bubble away for about 30 mintues on a low heat. 

Taste and see if it needs a pinch of salt (I tend to add this at the end as the chopped tomatoes I buy here in Paris seem to always contain salt, as well as the stock cube). 

Blend this altogether until smooth and add in the pearl barley once cooked. 

Take 2 (featuring cumin and ginger)

serves 5

2 large sweet potatoes (no need to be too precise with the size of chunks as we're blitzing here!)
3 carrots
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
600 ml of vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 inch of freshly grated ginger

Follow the same instructions above and enjoy! 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Lilana Apple Pudding (adapted by Lily)

Whenever the day comes that you don't feel like making an apple crumble, and you want to attempt something a little more exciting, a tiny bit more challenging, try this. This is the sort of baking that I find truly thrilling and joyful.

The first time I tried out this recipe, there was a very high chance that it could have gone completely wrong. Burnt on the top, undercooked in the middle, not sweet enough, gritty texture. But once I'd whisked one last time, I was left with a twinkling feeling in the back of my mind, that it might just work! Anyhow, I can't take complete credit for this...yes I made this up on the spot, with all new ingredients. However, I did base the quantities and basic ingredients from a recipe my Grannie adapted to suit her granddaughter's allergies. (ad lib: I am still impressed that I could remember all the quantities and measurements, off pat, as I had left my recipe book à Paris!) Anyhow,  Grannie discovered in recipe books from the Second World War, all kinds of substitutes for rationed foods such as eggs. For example, the fizz that occurs when vinegar and bicarbonate of soda come together is just as good as the rise that an egg or two would give in a cake, or indeed an apple pudding like this.

I have substituted white sugar for a mixture of the wickedly dark and powerful blackstrap molasses and maple syrup. The molasses gives a wonderful richness and dark colour, contrasting with the sweetness of the maple syrup and vanilla. I have also swapped regular plain flour with the more nutritionally dense spelt flour, and dairy-free spread for coconut oil. There's just one more thing regarding the etymology of the recipe's you tend to share almost everything with siblings when you're growing up, when my little sister Alana was born, Grannie had to change the original name from Lily Pudding and as the noble sister that I am (even at the grand old age of 1 and a half years old), I allowed it to be evolved into Lilana Pud, obviously!

For the apples:
4 cooking apples (about 1/2 a pound)
4 teablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

the pudding:
2 ounces of coconut oil
1.5 ounces ounce of maple syrup
1/2 an ounce of blackstrap molasses

6 ounces of spelt flour (I've only ever used wholegrain, but I'm sure white would work perfectly too!)
a pinch of salt
1/4 of a pint of dairy- free milk (rice milk works well)
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees farenheit. 

Begin by peeling, and slicing the apples into thick slices. In a large frying pan, add the apples with the maple syrup, vanilla extract and a little water (to prevent sticking). Stew these for about 15 minutes, until soft, but not mushy like a puree. 

Cream together the coconut oil with the maple syrup, blackstrap molasses and honey with a fork, until well combined. Add the flour and salt until it forms a crumble- like mixture. 

In a jug, add the vinegar to the milk and then stir in the bicarbonate of soda. 

Slowly pour the fizzing milk into the crumble mixture. You very well might not need all of the milk. You want to be left with a thick consistency that coats the apples, but do go slowly as you don't want it to be too sloppy! 

Pour the stewed apples into a baking dish (I like using a round ceramic dish where the apples can spread out evenly). Pour over the sponge mixture, covering all the apples if you like. It is sometimes quite nice to have a couple poking out the top!

Bake for 25 minutes and check with a fork to see if it's cooked the whole way through. If the fork comes out clean, then you're good to go! If not, bake for another 5 minutes. 

Serve with dairy-free icecream, or simply as it is.