Simple Guacamole + How To Choose An Avocado

guacamoleAs a thank you for reading yesterday’s ‘bumper post’ (i.e. tediously long) on Black Bean Quinoa Chili, today I give you the much shorter companion post of Simple Guacamole. This stripped-back version of the popular  dip is the perfect foil for a more complex dish like chili. And a must-have for parties and Super Bowl gatherings. But guacamole is superb with – and indeed in – so many other foods. Because guacamole really needs no introduction I will just let this easy and healthy recipe speak for itself.

Simple Guacamole

The only secret to a good guacamole is to use perfectly ripe avocados, a little salt and a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon. After that, it is down to personal taste. Below the recipe I give add-in suggestions, ideas for how to use guacamole, and hints on how to know when an avocado is ripe.

How do you like your guac?

2 perfectly ripe Hass avocados (see below)

½ lime (or lemon)

½ tsp good salt, like Maldon

Because you aren’t going to be making pretty slices with the avocado, the easiest way of removing the stone is to squeeze the avocado, then slice it in half lengthways – the stone loosens with the initial pressure. Remove the stone (tip of knife/spoon/fingers) and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl. Immediately squeeze in the lime or lemon juice and crumble in the salt.

Mash well with a fork or a pastry cutter (shown). Most people like their guacamole at least a little chunky so don’t be too enthusiastic with the mashing. Serve immediately, or cover with cling film/food wrap so that it is touching the surface – this helps prevent oxidation/browning.

We find guacamole – and avocados generally – are best at room temperature and used within one or two days. This isn’t a food for keeping. But then again, why would you?

Fripperies:

¼ tsp each of garlic and onion powder (store cupboard option – what I often do)***

½ red onion, finely minced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 medium tomato, deseeded, degorged and finely chopped

Jalapeno or serrano chili, deseeded and diced

A few tablespoons of good quality salsa (or homemade, of course)

½ tsp ground cumin

A dash or two of hot sauce or chipotle in adobo

A few tablespoons of fine curd cottage cheese or Quark – to extend the guacamole or make each serving slightly lower in fat (up the seasoning too)

Watermelon, fine dice

Roasted and chopped peppers

Pomegranate seeds (very nice option)

Chopped leaves and soft stem of coriander/cilantro leaves

What to do with your Simple Guacamole. Of course it is perfect with raw vegetables and tortilla chips. But here are a few more ideas:

as a mayonnaise substitute in sandwiches (beautiful with a chicken, bacon or turkey sandwich)

to top chili and in baked potatoes

in quesadillas; on tostados and huevos rancheros

on toast with chopped tomatoes (one of our fave quick breakfasts)

mix into eggs/soft tofu for scrambled eggs or scrambled tofu (yes, really)

add to grain and bean salads

stir into pasta with extra lime and some chilli and tomatoes

mix with hard egg yolk for devilled eggs, or with chopped egg for a no-mayo egg salad.

You get the picture.

Here is a short video to help you decide if your avocado is ripe.

In addition, it is good to look at the little stem knob – flick it off and if it is yellow-green underneath it is ripe, if it is brown – give it a miss as it is already gone over. If you can’t flick it off (i.e. you have to twist it) it will usually need another day or two. Keep ripe avocados in the refrigerator until you use them. To ripen avocados (or at least try to – some never will), pop into a paper bag with another fruit. Or for a slower ripening, just set the under-ripe avocado on top of a bowl of fruit. See this link to ripening avocados for further options and explanations – and a tip NOT to try.

***Low Residue Diet-friendly optionguacamoleavocado shells and pit

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A Trio of Blinis for New Year’s Eve

blinisIt is my ‘bad’ luck that I am posting two pancake recipes in a row. Bad is obviously in inverted commas because of course how can any reference to pancakes be bad? Dropping a whole pile of them on the floor – that would be bad. But devoting two posts to nearly the easiest thing you can do with flour? Surely not. But in case you were thinking this is a redux of the last post, save for some fancy stuff on top, you would be mistaken.
Continue reading

Chocolate Frosting with a Whole Food Twist

chocolate-black-bean-frostingIt is not very often that I go a bit crazy with my own cooking. Like most cooks and food bloggers I will make stuff, serve it, write about it, but gosh don’t I get embarrassed when people like it. Do you do that too?

It is not that we aren’t grateful for adulation – not at all, please don’t stop – but we can be a bit awkward and weirdly shy. My schtick is that I hem and haw and say something like “oh, it doesn’t have enough salt in it,” or “it was in the oven about five minutes too long” (that was yesterday’s rebuttal to the lemon polenta cake I brought to a class). To some this may smack of false modesty, but I am sure that the majority of the time most of us praise-rebuffers are not fishing for compliments: we genuinely don’t think our offering is worthy of special mention. We’ve made it, we hope it is edible. End of.

But for today and today only, I will retract my inner self-critic and say that I really quite like this frosting AND I will smile politely and say “thank you very much” to anyone who likes it too. I’m quite chuffed with it because, to my knowledge, it is original and, crucially, tastes pretty much like chocolate frosting should taste – creamy, chocolatey, lickable. And the whole food twist? Black beans. Yup, black beans.chocolate-black-bean-frosting

Some of you will have made avocado frosting – and that’s really tasty stuff – but recently while cooking some black beans up for a savoury dish I just thought, why not? Why not indeed. They are awesome in black bean brownies (I’ll post my own version soon), so why wouldn’t they be good in something else in the chocolate-cocoa canon?

I knew it would need a wee help with the texture – a bit ‘floury’ on its own – so I added a little peanut butter (although cashew would be even better as it is milder). Melted good quality chocolate in place of the nut butter would be divine, but I wanted to see how ‘pure’ I could get it. I was totally shocked that I didn’t have to immediately stick it in the bin (we have no dog). None of it made it into the bin. My very truthful family helped out with the ‘cleaning up’. If they hadn’t given their thumbs up – or rather fingers in – I would’ve gone no further with this cranky idea.

If you dare to make this up do have more patience than have I: blend the heck out of the frosting. I blended as best as my tiny attention span would allow, but dark flecks are visible. The bold among you could pass them off as chocolate chips (?). Maybe pushing the beans through a sieve or food mill would be even better. You would also be more patient with the spreading and decorating.

It IS a bit nutty, and I wouldn’t recommend whacking it on anything too healthy (date-sweetened oat & chia cookies need not apply), but I think it would be a fun frosting on homemade chocolate cake, fairy cakes, anything with a nut or coffee flavour in need of frosting, even a dip for fresh fruit (it was nice with banana slices). I frosted up chocolate and beetroot muffins for a few nutrition groups and no one guessed the surprise healthy ingredient. The closest anyone got was avocado. Good guess. My next go with this will be to add malt syrup for a Horlick’s/Ovaltine vibe. That might be pushing it…

What weird stuff have you concocted lately?

chocolate-black-bean-frostingChocolate-Black Bean Frosting

Last year: Spinach and Walnut Dip (Spinach Pkhali)

Two years ago: Kale-Berry Smoothie

Unusual? Yes. A pretty good doppelganger for the real thing? I think so. If you have had black bean brownies (my recipe soon) you will know that somehow this ingredient works with chocolate and cocoa. I’ve just taken it in a slightly different direction: on top.

This black bean frosting was taste-tested on over 30 people: all thought it was chocolate frosting. With ingredients mainly of the store cupboard variety I hope you try it and give your verdict. Spread it on a decadent cake for a kind of calorie and fat balancing act, or do what we do and use it on my beetroot chocolate cake/muffins.

The following is just a guide – start with these amounts, blend, taste and adjust as you like. Makes enough to spread on one small cake or 9 muffins.

60g (slightly heaped 1/3 cup) cooked and rinsed black beans or adzuki beans

1 ½ tbsp cocoa or cacao powder

1 very heaped tbsp smooth nut butter (cashew would be mildest but I used peanut butter with good results)

2 tbsp (+) runny acacia honey or maple syrup

Pinch of fine salt

¼ tsp vanilla powder or paste (extract is to strong here – you taste the alcohol)

Enough warm water to get a smooth frosting (I used about 1 teaspoon)

METHOD: Pop everything into a blender and blend like mad. Keeps for four days, refrigerated in a covered container.

I’ve given the recipe sharing a break for a couple of weeks but this week I would like to include this unusual sweet over at Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays, and to Heather for her Sweet Wednesday Link Party. Please go and visit their great sites for ideas and more.

chocolate-black-bean-frostingchocolate-black-bean-frosting

Tea-smoked Tofu Gado-Gado (Indonesian Peanut Sauce Vegetable Salad)

gado-gado-with-tea-smoked-tofuYes, I have looked at the calendar. Yes I do realise that it is November. I even suspect that some of you will have had to plough your driveway to get to work, or at least switch from shorts to long trousers. In fact today here in Edinburgh we awoke to our first bright and frosty morning – all sparkly sidewalks and retina-searing but ineffective sun. And, here I am blogging about salad. Not a little – possibly acceptable – side salad, but a proper, in your face, entire meal kind of salad. With protein, fat, carbohydrates – the lot. Continue reading

Roasted Pumpkin Hummus with Cauliflower and Walnut Crumble {gf/df}

winter-squash-pumpkin-imageBotanically identical to tender-skinned summer squashes, winter squashes are my unsung hero of autumn-winter eating. Not only do they keep well – you can forget about them for over a month and they will still love you – they are just about the most useful and delicious of the cold weather crops. Butternut squash, acorn, Delicata, kabocha, Hubbard, sugar pie, red kuri, spaghetti, Hokkaido – and loads more – their tough unyielding armour holds rich, sweet, nutritious flesh. Continue reading

How To Make Labneh

how-to-make-labnehFor many of you labneh will need no introduction. Anyone keen on Middle Eastern food will have no doubt at least come across a mention of this delicious and creamy cheese in the food press, or even some cookery programmes. You may even have had a smear of it as part of a mezze in a Lebanese restaurant. But did you know that it is ridiculously easy to make? And make really well? how-to-make-labneh Continue reading

Beetroot and Cashew ‘Hummus’

beetroot & cashew hummusI probably really shouldn’t call this a hummus, but dip just sounded so tentative, so boring. And this faux hummus is anything but boring. How can anything this colour be boring? I ask you. It would be boring if I blathered on about how ridiculously healthy it is (although it is). Or how well it goes with any dipper, from lowly tortilla chips to freshly cut market veggies (it does). But it is not at all boring to hide in the kitchen and surreptitiously eat a saved back bit with a teaspoon, while simultaneously plating up a meal for 6 people (I have). Never-mind the telltale purple moustache. Hides the real one. Continue reading

Roasted Asparagus with Carrot-Miso Dressing

roasted asparagus with carrot-miso dressingPeeking shyly from sandy soil, these soldiers of Spring are a true April-May delicacy. Whether pale, undercover and interesting, exotic purple or (appropriately) spring-green, asparagus attracts us like no other vegetable. A few of you may  demure from its herbal charms, but for the rest of us the arrival of this short-lived crop is nothing short of sigh-inducing. It is one of the few vegetables that really is at its best nearly naked, save for a butter sauce, or something like this carrot-miso concoction. To be honest, I like it best  plainly roasted, then finished off with lemon and salt as it comes out of the oven. If I can be bothered it instead  gets tossed onto a griddle pan to get those pretty, restauranty charred bits, but the oven is fine.  I could eat it this way for days on end, only turning to ‘fancier stuff’ like this sauce when the sudden novelty wears off, or when just a heap of oddly-addictive vegetation – no matter how wonderful – won’t suffice. Continue reading

Quick Hot Chocolate Sauce with Iced Berries


hot chocolate sauce with iced berriesHave you got your romantic meal planned? Asparagus? Oysters? Caviar? Perhaps Spaghetti Bolognese a la Lady and the Tramp? Or, are you being whisked off for a slap up meal, after having sipped Champagne in a rose petal bath? Well, if you are like me and not particularly romantic, forward planning, or fond of lolling in baths, this quick and easy recipe is a cheat’s way of getting in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Continue reading

My Quest for Perfect Hummus

hummusI can’t really remember the first time I had hummus. Being raised in a Deep South  commuter town, whose main highway was hemmed in with strip malls, Burger Kings and Dairy Queens, I seriously doubt it was there. We did have  - and it is still there today – a lone Greek restaurant, but I only ever remember the ubiquitous but very pleasant Greek salad, with its starchy ‘garnish’  of yogurty potato salad as a sop to American tastes. But hummus? I don’t think so. This was the era of aerobics and low fat after all. If I had been more adventurous, and less figure-conscious, I would no doubt have found the hummus and been hooked from the get go. Restaurant hummus is always far superior to that we can make at home. Or, so I thought. Continue reading