Sean’s Avocado Kale Salad aka California in a Bowl

This weekend I found myself talking with friends, rather too animatedly, about my love of avocado’s…turned out they also loved them so I didn’t feel like too much of a weirdo!  I have always loved avocado’s but my love has definitely grown since moving to California where they always seem to be in abundance, amazingly large and beautifully ripe. I love that, when in season, I can get two or three for a dollar and, if I stop at a roadside fruit stand sometimes 10 for a dollar!!! I’ll quite happily eat them for every meal – with eggs for breakfast, on toast for lunch and in a salad for dinner.

We’ve tried them every which way (I think) but one of my favourites is in a salad that I have dubbed California in a Bowl, because it not only uses avocado but also a sprinkling of toasted almonds, and every Californians favourite leaf, kale. Apparently the new kale for 2015 is cauliflower but I don’t think CA has fully embraced this new veg trend yet! Before I share I will divulge that I snaffled this recipe from a friend, and I’m hoping he won’t mind if I share it with you…

Avocado Kale SaladSean’s Avocado Kale Salad                  aka California in a Bowl

1 Avocado

1 Bunch of Kale           (Lacinato/Dino works best)

2 Tbsp’s of Toasted Almonds

1 Clove of Garlic                                 (or more if you prefer)

1 Lime

1 Tbsp Mayonaise

Olive Oil

Crush garlic into a paste (using a mortar and pestle if you have one). De-stem the kale and slice thinly. Roughly chop almonds. Peel, pit and slice the avocado. 

In a small bowl, combine mayo, garlic paste, juice from half of the lime, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Avocado Kale SaladIn a medium bowl, add kale, a bit of juice from the other half of the lime and a dash of olive oil. Tenderise the kale scrunching it with yours hands. Combine kale, chopped avocado and almonds. Add as much of the garlic mayo dressing as you like. Toss.

You can also substitute the lime with lemons and mayo with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or sour cream. 

Top Tip: to ripen avocado’s put them in a paper bag with a banana, if you have one, and leave for a day or two.


Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

WCinco_de_Mayo,_1901_posterith a move from London to California came a whole new calendar of  holidays. One of those is today ‘Cinco De Mayo‘ – ‘5th of May’ in Spanish.  Now you don’t actually get the day off but they make a bit of a song and dance about it…literally.  In the US Cinco De Mayo is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage though the day actually commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Right, that’s the history lesson over for the day (phew!) though you can read more about it here if you’re feeling particularly studious.

IMG_20150504_151327258Anyway, as with most holidays, I usually get most excited by their inevitable relationship to food. So when He told me they were having a bbq at work to celebrate and that everyone had to bring something I felt that was my cue to get on Pinterest… .  I wanted to avoid anything high profile as I’ve come to realise that people are quite particular about their Mexican food here and didn’t want to cause Him any unnecessary embarrassment by getting it wrong, so I thought I’d try my hand at something sweet. I’ve made these Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes before but I needed to make something that would stand up to the sunshine. That’s when I hit upon a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies – genius! Granted, they are by the very un-Mexican Martha Stewart (with a few of my own tweaks) but they are very addictive and pretty easy, considering my aversion to baking.

For those of you that are interested here’s a link to the recipe I used and below are the things I did slightly differently.

  • I used 1 cup of white sugar and 1/2 a cup of soft brown sugar in the cookie dough mixture.
  • Double roll the cookie dough to give a bit of an extra kick.
  • If you like the idea of a little more spice, sprinkle the remaining sugar and spice mix over the top of the baked cookies, once they’ve cooled.
  • For those that don’t measure in cups this article with conversions from cups to grams is pretty handy.



let them eat cake!

So for some reason my other half volunteered me to make a friends birthday cake.  For those of you that don’t know I’m not really a baker, the only cake I can usually be bothered with is Nigella’s Guinness Cake – the best cake in the world and about 10,000 calories per slice but totally worth it! Anyway…I can cook and I’m not bad at that but for some reason I don’t generally have the patience for baking…it’s too precise…too much can go wrong, and the results cannot usually be improved by covering in hot sauce!

It wasn’t just any birthday either, it was her blinkin’ 40th (she’s much, much older than me!!). Her husband, delighted to be handing over the responsibility, tells me that he doesn’t want anything fancy just a banana cake, with cream cheese frosting and jam in the middle…fine, fine and fine…then he casually drops in ‘oh and if you can just pipe Happy 40th Birthday on the top, that’d be great’ – yep, good one!

So I find my recipe on Pinterest (where I spend far too much time), decide that one cake won’t be enough so double everything, whilst at the back of my mind plotting a sneaky way of avoiding having to pipe anything.

And this, my friends, is what I ended up with…an oval chalkboard and sticky backed letters with a ’40’ sprinkled on the top.  Definitely cheating but so much better than the alternative!

I was pretty happy, until I realised I had to transport this bad boy 80 miles, up to St Helena in a limo-style party bus, where we were celebrating said birthday! Anyways, the birthday girl and her husband seemed very pleased and it tasted pretty good…as did the numerous glasses of wine I drank in relief of a slight dicey culinary mission accomplished.

So for those of you that are interested, here is a link to the recipe I used and below is how I adapted it to make a layer cake.

  • Use a 9 inch, spring form cake tin.
  • Double the cake ingredients and make two cakes. Though it was more time consuming I mixed two separate batches of batter to make sure the layers would be the same height.
  • Bake the cakes for 1hr and 30mins (or until cooked all the way through) and then transfer them to the freezer for 45mins like she tells you to.
  • Double the quantity of frosting.
  • Using a sharp bread knife even off the top of the bottom layer.
  • Put it on a 9 inch cake board. Cover it with a layer of frosting and some raspberry jam, warmed a little on the hob.
  • Then flip the top layer over so the bottom is facing upwards (if that makes sense).
  • fill in the gap where the two layers meet, all around with frosting, then cover the rest of the cake starting at the top and working your way down the sides.