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If there's just one food that seems to have appeared out of nowhere in the last few years, it's got to be quinoa. It's so popular that the UN named 2013 International Year of Quinoa in recognition of its high nutritional content.
 
It's hardly surprising that this pseudo-cereal - which is actually a seed related to beets, spinach and chard - has become such a big hit. It's a complete protein and contains more calcium than milk, and it's also a rich source of iron, manganese, B vitamins and dietary fibre.
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Of all the food crazes that have come and gone in the last 10 or 20 years, there's one that's showing no sign of going anywhere anytime soon and that, my friends, is the juicing phenomenon. You can't open a newspaper or a magazine without a gorgeously dewy-skinned model telling you that the secret to her other-worldly glow and fabulous figure is all down to raw food and vegetable juices.
 
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Unlike us, our frugal friends over in France, Italy and Spain are huge fans of bread that is stale. We, on the other hand, throw away more bread nowadays than any other food, which is such a shame, when you consider how many delicious dishes can be conjured up from the stuff.
 
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My sister (being four years older than me), has always been the organised one. She used to call a 'conference' each year, a few days after Easter Sunday. We'd have a meeting in her bedroom to decide what we were going to bake with our leftover Easter eggs. We'd scheme about the different chocolate cakes or buns we were going to make, pooling our resources to find out what we could really achieve. I haven't changed much. I always try and find creative ways to use leftovers, whether they're from Easter eggs or from a succulent roast of sweet spring lamb.
 
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An intense citrus flavour with a zing redolent of raspberries, the blood orange is high up on the list of my favourite fruits. They're usually a treat that appears in our shops at Christmas, and they usually stay on the shelves until about the end of March.
 
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The end of January is almost here and I've been surprised to see how well I've stuck to a few of my New Year's resolutions. One of which is to include lots of healthy pulses and grains and even more vegetables into my diet. I've found it's actually an easy resolution to keep, as I've been making recipes that are so delicious, it's no effort at all to adhere to.
 
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The fragrance of a fish pie brings me back to my childhood. Here are a few twists on this classic too. 
 
No fish has found itself in a more soothing dish than a warming, steaming fish pie. Fluffy, cheesy mashed spuds give way to moist fish and a rich, creamy sauce. My mum is a great cook and I have such fond memories of the fabulous fish pie she would make for our family. The sweet smell would waft up to my room as it baked, that heady mixture of fish, potatoes and plenty of cream.
 
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Rachel Allen

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It's easy to make your own home-made sausages, without a mincer or a sausage-maker.
 
I am rarely as comforted by food as when I'm eating a plate of juicy sausages, covered in gravy with some creamy spuds. It isn't complicated, nor is it sophisticated, but it always brings me such warmth and pleasure. Any butcher should be able to make a good sausage, but making your own allows you to put just what you'd like in them, and more to the point, it's lots of fun!
 
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Taking inspiration from Italy, yet using ideas from Ireland and around the world, make toppings for bruschetta.
 
If I'm having people over for dinner and want to make it an occasion, I like to serve a little treat. A teaser for the meal ahead. It should always be delicious, but rarely fancy and never fussy. For me, bruschetta is the perfect middle ground. It can have a really creative and fabulous-tasting topping, but at the end of the day it's still just something delicious on toast!
 
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Test your culinary skills with a spot of stir-frying.

The wok is the most versatile cooking pot. Across Asia, cooks use woks for deep frying, steaming, making sauces and cooking noodles. They don't need an armoury of different pots and pans in the kitchen. A medium-sized wok will make most meals in a household, and it is essential for that most versatile of meals, the stir-fry, which is a dish that can be adapted to practically any ingredient you have in the fridge.

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Rachel Allen

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