Friday, 17 October 2014


I am a terrible impulse buyer… Terrible. So when I went to my local and favourite natural food shop to buy some organic apple cider vinegar, I spotted a bag of chestnut flour. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as chestnut flour, let alone how to use it. But that didn’t stop me. I love chestnuts and I was excited to find a new ingredient, so the flour made its way into my shopping basket J

However, once I was back home with my impulse buy, I had to do some research on how to use it. I love doing this kind of research: it gives you so much inspiration.

My research led me to a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, published in the Guardian a few years ago. Some of you who follow Sandra’s Holistic Kitchen will know I am a fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and that his book, River Cottage Veg Every Day, is one of my favourite cookbooks.

The recipe is for a cake called Castagnaccio. It is really not a traditional cake; the chestnut flour has no gluten and you do not use baking powder. You do not even have any eggs into which you could beat a bit of air. So the Castagnaccio has a very dense texture.

Because I can’t leave well alone, I tweaked the recipe to make the most of the beautiful orange flavour by soaking the sultanas in the juice of the orange you need to zest and use the juice again in the cake batter. I also folded the majority of the sultanas and pine nuts into the cake itself and sprinkled the rest on the top of the cake. I actually wished I had used all the sultanas inside the cake as the ones on top burned whilst cooking (as you can see on the photo.) So my recipe below reflects this.

Here is a link to the Guardian article with Hugh’s original recipe:

 And here is my tweaked version…




1 orange, zested and juiced
25g sultanas
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
400g chestnut flour
60g caster sugar
A pinch of sea salt

30g pine nuts
1 good pinch fresh rosemary leaves


First of all, soak the sultanas in the orange juice while you prepare the rest of the recipe (make sure they soak for about 10 minutes so they can plump up.)

Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan.

Grease a 22cm springform cake tin (or similar) with some of the oil or butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and whisk in the sugar, salt and orange zest.

Drain the sultanas over a measuring jug in order to reserve the orange juice. Add enough water to the orange juice to get 400ml of liquid.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the water and orange juice into your dry ingredients until you have a smooth batter, then add the olive oil, beating as you add it.

Fold two-thirds of the pine nuts and all the sultanas into the cake batter.

Pour the mixture into the tin, scatter the rest of the pine nuts over the top of the cake as well as the rosemary leaves.

Bake for about 45 minutes. Once cooked, cool in the tin for 10 minutes then take out of the tin before cooling completely on a cooling rack.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Chicken Cacciatore

There are recipes for which there are as many versions of as there are cooks in the world and I love that; I love the idea of taking a “traditional” recipe and make it mine.

My aim with Sandra’s Holistic Kitchen is to create or re-create recipes and make them easy, affordable and, most important of all, delicious.

I didn’t invent Chicken Cacciatore but I have tried to come up with a version that is as fuss-free as possible, that keeps the chopping to a minimum and is ready in under 45 minutes (from start to finish!) without compromising on the flavours. I had to tweak this recipe a few times before I got something I was happy with and, in this final version, the hero of this recipe is definitely the balsamic vinegar; it lifts the recipe and gives it a pleasant, almost smoky, tang.



Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients (serves 2):

2tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts (no skin)
½ onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp sage
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
1tbsp tomato puree
150g mushrooms (I chose button mushrooms so I wouldn’t have to chop them)
Small handful of black olives, pitted and halved
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large saucepan, fry the chicken breasts in 1tbsp olive oil, over medium-high heat, until the meat is sealed and golden (do not worry if your chicken catches a little bit at the bottom of the pan as you will deglaze it later on.) Set aside.

Reduce the temperature to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Cook the onion and celery for 7-8 minutes until softened, stirring often. Add the garlic, thyme and sage and cook for a further minute, until the garlic and herbs are fragrant.

Add the balsamic vinegar and leave to boil for a minute to deglaze the pan (you can help the process by gently scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.)

Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and mushrooms to the pan and stir. Return the chicken to the saucepan; bring back up to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the chopped olives and cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered (to allow the sauce to reduce a little.)

Taste your sauce and add salt and pepper to taste (I think this recipe benefits from quite a robust seasoning, but as always, please add your salt at the end: it’s easy to add some more if your dish is lacking seasoning but it’s impossible to take it away once it’s in your pan.)

I like to serve this chicken with home-made mashed potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes are enough for 2 people.)

If there is a recipe you love, but find too complicated or time-consumming and would like me to give it the Sandra's Holistic Kitchen treatment (I'll be gentle, I promise,) please let me know. I'd love to help out!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Spicy Chicken, Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Stew

This recipe started out as a soup in my head, loosely inspired by the popular and traditional sandwich filling, Coronation Chicken. But the first time I tried it out, it came out as a spicy broth with chunks of chicken and sweet potatoes swimming in it. The thing is, it was perfectly nice to eat but it didn’t have the texture I was imagining. In my head, it had been a comforting soup, spicy and aromatic. I had the spicy and aromatic, but I was missing the comforting factor.

So I put this recipe away and decided to revisit it at a later date, which was this weekend when I had a moment of inspiration… Red lentils! This is what I would need to add to my soup to give it some bulk and make it comforting. I am a genius and the problem is solved… Except that I put too much red lentils in my soup and ended up with a stew… Sigh.

But wait! I served my soup-that-turned-into-a-stew to my 12 year-old, accompanied by some home-made flat breads and he wolfed it down, even said “it’s one of those recipes you’ll have to do again. Soon.” Seal of approval!

And actually, as I started eating and was readying myself for the disappointment of having yet again failed at making a soup, I realised that the stew I ended up with was spicy and aromatic AND comforting. Tick, tick, tick!

It is a recipe that is perfect for autumn, for when the days are becoming shorter and you can’t go out without wearing something with long sleeves anymore. It would be perfectly suited to being prepared in a slow cooker (providing you soften your onions and brown your chicken first.)

And it all starts with a spice mix of 11 spices (if you count black pepper as a spice…)


Spicy Chicken, Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Stew


For the Spice Mix –


2tsp coriander seeds
1.5tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp mustard seeds
5 cardamom pods, split with seeds scraped out
1tsp cinnamon
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground Cayenne pepper


Toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cardamom seeds in a dry frying pan. Your seeds are toasted when they become very fragrant (around 50s-1min); some of the seeds will even start popping and jumping out of your frying pan so be warned! Your pan needs to be really hot so be careful as your seeds could burn easily; be sure to move them in the pan continuously.

Leave the seeds to cool for a little while then grind them in a coffee grinder or with a pestle and mortar.

Mix your ground seeds with the rest of the spices (cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, clove, turmeric, ginger and Cayenne pepper) and mix thoroughly.

You only need 2tsp of this spice mix for the following recipe, so you’ll have some leftovers. Simply put your left-over spice mix in a well-sealed jar for use at later date.




For the stew –

Ingredients (serves 3 or 4):

2tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
375g chicken, diced
2tsp spice mix (see above)
80ml white wine
600ml chicken stock
2tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp apricot jam
½ tbsp mango chutney
100g red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 or 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
50g sultanas
30g flaked almonds, toasted


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, over medium heat. Cook the onion for 7-8 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the red chilli and cook for a further minute.

Increase the temperature to medium-high and add the chicken to the saucepan. Cook until sealed and brown. Add the 2tsp of spice mix and cook for another minute until the spices are fragrant (do not worry if your chicken catches a bit at the bottom of the saucepan; you need those brown bits to give your stew some flavour.)

Pour the white wine in and use it to deglaze your saucepan (the white wine will start to bubble and its natural acidity will help lifting those flavourful brown bits from the bottom of the pan; you can help the process along by gently scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.)

Once you have deglazed your pan, add the chicken stock, tomato puree, apricot jam, mango chutney, red lentils and sweet potatoes. Mix thoroughly, bring back to the boil then lower the temperature back to medium and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the sultanas and leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and the potatoes are fork tender.

Serve garnished with toasted flaked almonds and accompanied by Naan or flat breads (to toast your almonds, toast them for a minute or so in a very hot, dry frying pan, moving them often until they become golden. Once again, be careful; as your pan needs to be very hot, your almonds could burn easily so keep an eye on them.)


Sandra’s note: I should warn that this recipe is quite spicy and has a bit of a kick; I love spicy food and so does my son, but it may not be to everyone’s taste. In this case, please omit the red chilli in the stew recipe.

And yes, I know that I could have turn this stew back into a soup by adding more chicken stock J but I really didn’t want to be messing with the balance of flavours I ended up with. If you really wanted to make this as a soup, then use only 60-70g of red lentils but personally, I find it quite lovely as it is in all its stew-y glory… J

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Yum! Festival of Food and Drink (part 2)

As I started my series of Yum! Food Festival blogs with a very meaty sausage roll and as I am preparing another blog regarding Stanley’s Brasserie’s Brisket Sandwich, I think the carnivores amongst us are well catered for so far. So, it is time to give the other end of the foodie spectrum some attention thanks to the cooking demonstration and recipe by Katy Beskow, from vegan blog Little Miss Meat-Free.

Katy, on the Main Dish stage, during her demonstration.

As Katy writes on her website, she is a “self- taught home cook and food writer with a passion for simple, delicious dishes,” who loves “creating foods that surprise people when I tell them it’s vegan. It’s like a wonderful, flavoursome surprise!”


You can find Little Miss Meat-Free on:

During her demonstration, Katy shared two recipes with us: Beetroot Risotto and Double Chocolate Cupcakes.

I was most intrigued by the Beetroot Risotto. I love risotto but I usually make mine with roasted butternut squash or asparagus and peas; beetroot is not a vegetable I would have thought of using so I had to give this recipe a go. And it works beautifully! The finished product is a magnificent ruby colour, which in itself is an absolute delight, but is also creamy (without the addition of dairy), and fresh thanks to the addition of lemon juice at the end of the cooking.

Here is the link to Katy’s original recipe:

The recipe below is my take on it, using the notes I made during Katy’s demonstration, but I’ll make sure to try this recipe again following Katy’s original instructions.

Little Miss Meat-Free’s Beetroot Risotto (the Yum! version)

Ingredients (serves 3)

2tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp dried thyme
150g Arborio rice
4 small cooked beetroot, diced
600ml vegetable stock
Juice of half a large lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Your onion should become soft and translucent but should not be browned. This is what you’re looking for:

Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a further minute until the garlic becomes very fragrant.

Add the rice to the pan and stir thoroughly until the rice is well mixed with the onions and coated with the oil.

Add your cubed beetroot to the pan.

Add one ladle of the stock to the pan and stir until it has been absorbed. Then add the stock one ladle at a time, and stir very often. Do not add any stock until the previous ladleful has been absorbed by the rice.

Once you have used all your stock, your rice should be cooked through and the texture of your risotto should be creamy, thanks to the starch in the Arborio rice.

Add the lemon juice to the risotto (do not omit the lemon juice; it complements the earthiness of the beetroot and bring freshness and zing to the whole dish.)

Taste your risotto and add pepper and salt if needed (always put salt in your dish at the end of your cooking time; you may need to add more or less depending on the salt content of your vegetable stock.)


Even if you are not vegan, please give this unusual recipe a go; you will be pleasantly surprised. Thank you Katy for sharing it with us!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Yum! Festival of Food and Drink 2014 (part 1)

The Yum! Festival of Food and Drink took place in Hull on the 7th, 8th and 9th of August. It was a showcase of local and regional food and drink producers, with stalls ranging from cheeses, breads, olives, honey and much, much more. And, as well as all those local goodies, there were many stalls inviting you to experience food from around the world.

I was invited to be part of a team of food bloggers that would attend and blog about the event. If you follow Sandra’s Holistic Kitchen on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you will have seen a ton of shared info and links about some of the products I enjoyed (and their dedicated producers, of course J.)

However, I wanted to do a bit more about the Yum! Festival of Food and Drink as I spent a wonderful three days there as one of their bloggers, chatting with stall-holders and sampling gorgeous products. But, I wasn’t quite sure where to start as I had an abundance of information after three days.

And then I realised that, for me, the best way to start is always with a recipe (or two!)

The Yum! Festival provided us with great cooking demonstrations by local and regional chefs. I attended as many of those demonstrations as I could, to the point that the compère for those demonstrations, Darren Lethem (KCFM radio presenter – Find Darren on Twitter at started to wonder if I had a season pass! He started referring to me as “the resident blogger” and wanted to make sure I would mention on here that he wore very nice suits. I can report that he did indeed wear very nice suits! J

Darren was a fab compère for the event; he seemed to put all the chefs at ease and was good at asking relevant questions regarding their techniques or choice of ingredients. He also didn’t mind laughing at himself, especially when he was served a particularly spicy and fiery chicken wing!
Darren Lethem, host of the Yum! cooking demonstrations.

I really enjoyed these demonstrations and appreciated these chefs sharing their recipes, tips and techniques with us. So, in what I hope is the first blog in a series dedicated to what I discovered at the Yum! Festival of Food and Drink 2014, I am sharing with you two recipes today: Thieving Harry’s sausage roll and Stanley’s Brasserie’s Louisiana slaw.


Thieving Harry’s Sausage Roll:

Thieving Harry's.

After being a pop-up café, Thieving Harry’s is now placing roots at 73 Humber Street in Hull. Thieving Harry's focuses on great food, speciality coffee, tea and freshly baked cakes and savouries, all served in a welcoming environment with some of the best views in Hull.

Find more about Thieving Harry’s on:

Holly, Thieving Harry’s chef, gave a great demonstration and she gave us the recipe with measurements, which in my eyes makes her my hero!! Most of the other chefs had a tendency to throw ingredients in their pans without measuring too much, which is difficult when, as a blogger, you’re trying to write the recipe down to replicate it at home!

Holly, from Thieving Harry's, during her cooking demonstration.

I halved Holly’s recipe to make it “easier to handle.” But, seeing as my son moaned about the fact that we had only enough sausage roll for two meals (ONLY!), I think I should have kept the original quantities as they were! J

Ingredients (for the pastry dough):

175g plain flour
100g very cold butter
2-3tbsp very cold water


In a large mixing bowl, measure out the flour. Then, using a box grater, grate the very cold butter into the flour. To make this easier, toss the butter in the flour first – ensuring it is well coated with the flour – before grating it.

Add the very cold water, one spoonful at a time, while mixing the pastry dough with a palette knife (this stops the butter from melting under the heat of your hands.) You may need more or less water – it all depends on your flour – so make sure to add it only a little bit at a time to avoid making your pastry dough too wet.

Once the dough starts coming together, tip it on a well-floured surface and quickly shape it into a rectangular block. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill while you prepare the sausage mix.

Ingredients (for the sausage mix):

750g sausage meat (if you cannot find plain sausage meat, buy some of your favourite sausages and simply pop the sausage meat out of the casings)
¼ onion, finely diced
2-3 sage leaves, finely sliced
40g parmesan, grated


Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl (make sure the sage and onion are finely chopped.)


To make the sausage roll, preheat your oven at 200C/180C fan.

On a well floured surface, roll out your pastry into a long rectangle. Using a pastry brush, cover the whole pastry rectangle with some egg wash (which is simply one egg beaten with 1tbsp of water.) Lay the sausage meat on top of the pastry and shape it in a long log in the middle of the pastry rectangle. Fold the pastry over the sausage meat.

Roll in the flour to seal the pastry around the sausage meat. You can either cut the large sausage roll into smaller portions or bake it as a whole. Regardless of the method you choose (I chose to bake it as a whole,) brush some egg wash on top of the pastry dough and then sprinkle with a little rock salt.

Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown on top. If you have baked the large sausage roll, leave it to cool for a few minutes before slicing. The sausage roll can be enjoyed hot or cold.

My Thieving Harry's sausage roll.


Stanley’s Brasserie’s Louisiana Slaw:

Stanley's Brasserie

Stanley’s Brasserie can be found at 2 Paragon square in Hull. Stanley’s Brasserie offers the finest food, drink and surroundings for all occasions and for all of customers no matter what age.
Find more about Stanley's Brasserie on:

 James, the chef from Stanley’s Brasserie shared his recipe for a Louisiana slaw with us. During his cooking demonstration, he served it with a brisket sandwich but I thought it would work wonderfully with the richness of the sausage roll. James didn’t give precise measurements so I’ve had to work out the right amount of ingredients; this will serve four people.

James, from Stanley's Brasserie, during his cooking demonstration.


½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
½ green chilli, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced (James used Chinese garlic)
2 pickled gherkins, finely diced
½ red onion, finely sliced in half-moons
4tbsp vinegar (James used malt vinegar, I used apple cider vinegar)
2tbsp mayonnaise (for my home-made mayonnaise recipe, please see the following blog entry:


In large mixing bowl, mix together all the vegetables then add the vinegar and mayonnaise. Toss to ensure all the vegetables are coated with the dressing.

Stanley's Brasserie's Louisiana slaw served with Thieving Harry's sausage roll.

Thank you very much to Holly from Thieving Harry’s and James from Stanley’s Brasserie for sharing these wonderful recipes with us. There will be more in the next few days… Get ready for Stanley’s Brasserie’s Brisket Sandwich and Little Miss Meat-Free’s Beetroot Risotto.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The things you find in the World Food aisle!

I love the World Food aisle at Tesco – it is quite the treasure trove for a nutritionist and recipe developer. It is often there that I find my most unusual ingredients such as chickpea flour and coconut oil for example, but also bigger bags of ground almond and rice flour, for my gluten-free baking, much cheaper than anything I would find at the baking aisle. The same goes for bags of nuts, herbs and spices (again, much cheaper than buying those little glass jars.)
Mainly, the food you can find in the World Food section tends to be Asian or Indian, but from time to time, the shop must receive a different kind of stock and all of a sudden, you get the pleasant surprise of finding a few shelves of Caribbean foodstuff. The potential for foodie discoveries is never-ending! J
So, imagine my excitement (and my son’s) when we found a few shelves of American products on Friday. I shall not tell a lie, most of the stuff was incredibly unhealthy or ridiculously expensive (£7 for a box of Lucky Charms cereals?! I still haven’t recovered from that one) and I still can’t get the image of marshmallows bigger and thicker than hockey pucks out of my mind.
However, I could not resist buying a couple of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I discovered them when I went to Chicago 22 years ago during a student exchange (no, I did not wince with pain as I typed 22! J) When I was staying in Chicago, my lovely host family gave me a pretty basket full of chocolate goodies for Easter; amongst said goodies were Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and they were oh so delicious! It was actually in Chicago that I discovered peanut butter full-stop, and to this day, I still enjoy a peanut butter and jam sandwich from time to time J
But the one thing I was most excited to find in that little US corner of the World Food section was pumpkin puree in a tin. I love adore(!) pumpkin and always feel sad that you can only find it in the shops around Halloween time. Which means that I buy about three of them in one go before they disappear from the shops, and we end up eating all things pumpkin for a week or so… We have nicknamed this time of year “Pumpkin Madness Week.”

At the sight of pumpkin puree, the words “pumpkin pie” came to my mind immediately and, of course, I could not resist buying a tin. I’m actually thinking of going back to Tesco to see if they have any tins left and make a little stock of them for the next few months. And, if a few Reese’s Peanut Butter cups find their way in my shopping basket at the same time… Well, I shan’t feel too bad about it J

Please note: you do not have to use tinned pumpkin puree for this recipe; you can as easily make your own pumpkin puree. Dice your pumpkin and steam it until it is fork-tender; then, puree it in your food processor or using an immersion blender. However, this results in a very watery puree, which would make it very difficult for your pumpkin filling to set. I would recommend squeezing the excess water out of the pumpkin puree by placing it in a clean kitchen towel and simply wringing the water out. Once you end up with a “drier” puree, you are ready to use it for this recipe.




Pumpkin Pie


Sweet pastry dough
(for the basic sweet pastry dough recipe, please follow this link to my previous blog on this topic:
2 large eggs

150g golden caster sugar

½ tsp sea salt
1.5tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
250ml evaporated milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
425g pumpkin puree


Preheat your oven at 200C/180C fan.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the pastry dough and line a pie dish (the deeper it is, the better.) Pop the pie dish back into the fridge to chill the dough whilst you prepare the pumpkin filling.

In large mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, salt, spices and pumpkin puree using a hand whisk (but do not beat too much air into the mixture; you do not want it to rise.)

Then, blind bake your pastry dough. In order to do this, first take the pie dish out of the fridge and dock the dough (poke little holes all over the surface of the dough with a fork; this allows the steam to escape and stops your dough from rising.) Then, cover the dough with one layer of baking parchment and one layer of foil (be careful to properly cover the edge of your dough to protect it from the heat; this is a sugary pastry dough and it therefore has a higher tendency to burn.) Fill the lined pastry case with baking beans (ceramic or otherwise; their weight will further prevent your dough from rising) and bake your pastry shell for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, take your pastry shell out of the oven and turn your oven down to 170C/150C fan. Remove the baking beans, foil and baking parchment. Pour your pumpkin mixture in the pastry shell and place back in the oven. Bake for a further 35-40 minutes until the pumpkin mixture is set (a cake tester inserted in the centre should come out clean.)

If the edge of your pastry starts to burn during baking, protect it with a double layer of foil, being careful for the foil not to touch the surface of the pumpkin mixture.

Once baked, leave your pumpkin pie to cool for at least 20-30 minutes before you try to slice it (otherwise it will fall apart.) It can then be served with a garnish of toasted pumpkin seeds, or even a generous dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.