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Lovely aniseed-y fennel is in season at the moment and turning up in our box delivery.  And this makes me happy as there are so many things you can do with fennel to liven up a simple evening meal.  This stir fry is one example which makes a colourful, quick and easy supper.  Please excuse the lack of exact weights and measures, but such is the joy of the stiry fry!

Fennel Stir Fry

1 fennel, sliced into thinnish chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 red onion, sliced
1 small courgette, chopped
1/2 cupful of frozen sweetcorn
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
small piece of ginger, grated
handful of pine nuts
1 heaped tsp nori seaweed sprinkles (if  you have them!)
2 tblsp pineapple juice (or use orange or apple)
1/2 tblsp lime juice
1 tblsp tamari soy sauce
small amount of water
1 tblsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil and gently cook the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli.  After 4-5 minutes, add the rest of the vegetables and the pine nuts.  Stir them on a slightly higher heat for about 5 minutes or just starting to brown.

Add the liquid ingredients and the nori sprinkles.  Cook over a medium heat until the vegetables are softening, keep stirring and add water if necessary to stop the vegetables from sticking and help them cook.  When soft to your taste add salt and pepper.

Serve with brown rice and extra soy sauce as required.

We decided last weekend that a sunny day meant a trip to the seaside was in order.  It was also an excuse to visit somewhere new, so we packed some sandwiches and a beach blanket and headed to Hayling Island on the south coast.

photo: hayling.co.uk

Hayling is off the coast of Hampshire and is accessible by road bridge from Langstone, the first bridge having been built in 1824.  Before the bridge, it was possible to wade across to the island at low tide, but the island was often cut off in bad weather.  Fortunately the modern bridge is strong enough for vehicles and their passengers – on the original wooden bridge, bus passengers had to get out and walk across!

The island has a long history, but it became a seaside resort in the 19th century, especially with the arrival of the (now defunct) railway.

photo: hayling.co.uk

My favourite titbit of island history is that it was used as a decoy during World War 2 for the strategically more important Portsea Island close by.  Sadly, this did mean that the island was heavily bombed during the war, but the defences built at the time can still be seen on Sinah Common.

photo: hayling.co.uk

These days the funfair still seems to be going strong, but Hayling is also a hotspot for windsurfers and kitesurfers.  There are rows of gorgeous beach huts, a pebble beach, cafe’s and restaurants.  Plenty of bracing walks too – given the local passion for windsuring, I’m guessing the strong breeze we encountered on our trip are not uncommon!

To round off the day we stopped for dinner at the Royal Oak, just on the mainland side of the bridge in Langstone.  This pub is gorgeous, situated right on the water with fabulous views.  They also did a great selection of veggie food – we had a roast veg tatin and a goat’s cheese salad, and there were several more options.

The view from the Royal Oak

Vegan, gluten-free cakes are something of a holy grail in the baking world, which is why I’m so delighted with this recipe.  Yes, it does require a specialist ingredient, ground flax seeds, but the texture is so good I reckon it’s worth it!  The flavour is all banana, perfect if you love them!

Vegan Gluten-Free Banana Cake

225g (8oz) gluten free flour (I used 200g Dove’s Farm white flour, plus 25g Buckwheat flour)
2 heaped tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 tblsp ground flax seed
50g (2oz) vegan margarine
50g (2oz) demarara sugar
3 tblsp maple syrup
3 small ripe bananas, mashed
3tbls warm water

Set the oven to 180˚C, 350˚F and grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and flax seed in a bowl.  Melt the margarine, sugar and syrup over a gentle heat.  Add the melted mix, the water and the mashed bananas to the flour and stir well with a fork.  Make sure all the flour is mixed in.  The mixture should be a little runny.

Pour the mix into the loaf tin and shake to level the top.  Cook in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.  Take the cake out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.

 

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