Mar 2012

WHITE BEANS AND ARTICHOKE SPREAD

WHITE BEANS AND ARTICHOKE SPREAD

There was a time I thought I couldn’t imagine my life without cheese. How foolish was that?! Not eating cheese is easier than I thought (not when eating out) and I don’t miss it at all. I think I miss some of the dishes I used to make but I am slowly getting through reworking them and quite frankly with discovering new favourites many of the old food memories are rather faint now.

We all know cheese is not healthy, in the USA it is responsible for the majority of saturated fat intake as the consumption had nearly tripled since 1970 to 31lb per person. In UK cheese consumption is on the up too (some 12.5% between 1999-2009), mainly due to people spending less time in their kitchens and relying on ready meals and take aways. Convenience food seems to be loaded with cheese, especially the veggie options. Companies have made the cheese content their selling point, just take a look at the take away pizza companies trying to intice us with “double the amount of cheese” and “stuffed crust”. That should be enough to keep us away but unfortunately it seems to draw more people in.

Cheese sandwich maybe be a lunch of choice for a lot of traditional veggies but looking back I think of it as quite a boring way to eat. For the sake of your health, the poor dairy cow and the environment try something new and full of flavour to put on your bread or in a wrap. Here is my quick and easy white bean spread, made in minutes in a food processor. It makes a great change from hummus and is as versatile.


whitebeanspread

WHITE BEAN AND ARTICHOKE SPREAD
If you want to make this spread into a dip just add some of the liquid from the tinned beans. If you are using sun dried tomatoes and artichokes preserved in oil rinse them under running water to get the oil off.

ingredients
1 tin of white beans (canellini or butter beans), drained (keep the liquid)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
8 sun dried tomatoes, reconstituted
1 tin of artichokes, drained

method
  1. Put all ingredients into a food processor or a blender. Process till quite smooth but still with some texture (see photo). If too thick add some of the reserved bean liquid.
  2. Spread on some good quality whole grain bread. I like the thin fermented rye or organic quinoa breads.
  3. Garnish with thinly sliced vegetables, red onions, cucumber, tomato...


whitebeanspread2
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COLD BEETROOT AND APPLE SOUP

COLD BEETROOT AND APPLE SOUP

Another gorgeous sunny day, hubby working from home and some beetroot in the fridge. That got me thinking about making a cold soup for our lunch. I haven’t had many cold soups in my life, actually as far as I can remember only twice. A fantastic gazpacho (this coming from me who doesn’t like raw tomatoes) and a chilled berry soup. My husband though it tasted a bit like a sorbet, which is a great idea for next time...

Cold soup can be an alien prospect to some but once you try it you may get hooked. The flavour is so vibrant and zingy, it really makes your taste buds dance. My beetroot was cooked but next time I will try the same recipe completely raw .

One thing about this soup is that it is better eaten in smaller portions. The flavour is so strong that a whole soup bowl is very overwhelming. This however makes it a fantastic starter for an elegant dinner party, or even better served in shot glasses as an amuse bouche at a cocktail party. I can just see them lined up in a row, the gorgeous deep colour, topped with a head of young alfalfa and radish sprouts, who could refuse...

COLD BEETROOT AND APPLE SOUP
If you have a high speed blender (Vitamix or Blendtec) this soup will be a child’s play to make. If using a less powerful blender or food processor please see my tips below.

Make this soup ahead and keep in the fridge before serving.

Serves 4 as a starter portion ( I will have to see how many shot glasses I could fill next time....)

coldbeetrootsopdetail

ingredients
1lb beetroot (cooked or raw)
2 tart apples ( I used Granny Smith)
1 slice of ginger (roughly 4mm thickness)
pinch of chile flakes (or 1/4 of fresh chilli pepper)
1 lime (if using high speed blender half of a small lime will be enough)
3 spring onions
1 cup of apple juice
cupful of ice
pinch of salt (or to taste)
alfalfa and radish sprouts for garnish


beetrootcoldsoup

method for high speed blender
  1. In your blender combine the beetroot, 2 halved apples, slice of unpeeled ginger, chilli, half of a small lime, spring onions, apple juice, salt and ice.
  2. Process till smooth (don’t let it heat up), this should take about one and half minute.
  3. Serve topped with the alfalfa and radish sprouts and a slice of lime.

method for other blenders or a food processor
I am not sure how well other blenders would deal with the rather hard raw beetroot, so experiment or maybe use the cooked one to be on the save side.

  1. Cut up the beetroot, core and cut up the apple.
  2. Place in the blender together with the ginger, chilli, zest of 1 lime and juice of half (or one whole lime - to taste), sliced green onions, apple juice and ice.
  3. Process till smooth.
  4. Serve topped with the alfalfa and radish sprouts.
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MAC AND WHIZZ

MAC AND WHIZZ

Classic macaroni and cheese used to be one of my family’s favourite dishes, we would have it at least every other week. I would make the cheese sauce out of butter, white flour, dairy milk and at least half a pound of cheese, mix in the white pasta and there you have it. This classic mac and cheese can have around 18 - 25g of fat per 1 cup. That is bad enough but I have yet to meet a person who would eat just that one cup of mac and cheese.

Times change, and even though I am on a mission to avoid pretty much everything in the classic recipe, my love for mac and cheese remains. Finding a suitable alternative became my goal. First I tried few vegan mac and cheese recipes that I found on the web. Later I tweaked and experimented until I came up with my version. There are few reasons why I love this dish. I can still get that mac and cheese fix minus that heavy dairy induced feeling afterwards. I have sneaked in somewhere around a pound of butternut squash, a vegetable very much hated by both of my children (victory dance!!!). They always scoff the lot even though they now know what lurks inside. My son still says he prefers the dairy heavy version but that did not stop him to make his way to the pot for seconds... Slow but steady steps and he may even change his mind one day.

There is a reason why I am calling this Mac and Whizz, all you need is a good blender to whizz up the sauce. Pretty quick and easy. You could also use a food processor.

macandwhizz

MAC AND WHIZZ
This recipe makes loads, but reheats well. To reheat just add a touch of water and bring to a gentle simmer, stir often till heated through..

Serves 6

ingredients
1 lb butternut squash (about half of a larger one, peeled weight), cut into 2 inch cubes
500g (1lb 2oz) whole wheat macaroni
1 cup of cashews soaked
2 cups of water
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp paprika
1 tsp dried onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs miso (the lighter colour the better)
60ml (1/4 cup) Nutritional yeast
salt and pepper

method
  1. First steam the squash till soft, this will take about 10-15 min depending on the size of your pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, place all the remaining ingredients and the cooked butternut squash into your blender. Process till smooth. Depending on your blender this will take a few minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, return into the cooking pot or a large sauce pan together with the sauce. Bring to a simmer for couple of minutes, the sauce will thicken nicely.
  5. Serve with some steamed veggies and a big green salad.
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BARBECUE SAUCE

BARBECUE SAUCE

What a beautiful day! On my way to pick up kids from school the temperature reached 19.5C, pretty good for March 23rd in UK! And the weekend forecast is looking great too. You could call it barbecue weather.

Maybe that’s what possessed me to make a batch of barbecue sauce. Or it could have been the cooking show I watched yesterday. American diner, disclosing (in part only) their signature sauce. Lots of white sugar went into that one. That made me think I could do better, I didn’t add (directly) any refined sugar into my sauce. At the same time it made me think how many everyday food products have hidden added sugar. One such food is ketjap manis that I used in this sauce.

We (our household) enjoy ketjap manis, the wonderful Asian soya based sauce. It is rich, sweet and full of flavour making it perfect in stir-fries or as a marinade for tofu. Unfortunately the sweetness comes (of course) from palm sugar. There are few kinds, I would expect the palm sugar in my ketjap manis is more likely to be the date palm sugar which is made from the sap of date palm. Coconut palm sugar is made form the buds of coconut tree flowers, how romantic. Interestingly the vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier uses coconut palm sugar in his recipes. Apparently coconut palm sugar has more micronutrients (http://coconutpalmsugar.com/Nutritional_Information.html) than other sweeteners but I still believe the less you use the better.

Barbecue sauce must have a degree sweetness and I decided to use my trusty dates to achieve this. They melt into the sauce lending it their gorgeous rich sweet flavour without the sauce being too “datey”. Smoked paprika adds some gorgeous smokey aroma that is so typical in an American style barbecue sauce. You can choose either hot or sweet smoked paprika. I went for the sweet one to entice my kids to eat it. I am glad to say they enjoyed it, but I would have prefered bit more of a kick. I guess next time I will make 2 different batches!

bbqsauce


BARBECUE SAUCE
If you don’t have any ketjap manis you can use dark soya sauce, or just use the 1/4 cup of light soya sauce and add an extra date. This is not an exact science just trust your taste buds.

Makes about 1 litre (4 cups)

ingredients
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
3 Tbs tomato puree
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
375 ml (1 and 1/2 cups) of water
60ml (1/4 cup) ketjap manis
60ml (1/4 cup) light soya sauce
60ml (1/4 cup) apple cider or white wine vinegar
1 Tbs Mushroom ketchup (or veggie Worcestershire sauce)
5 Medjol dates, stones removed

method
  1. In a large saucepan heat 60ml (1/4cup) water. Add the onion, celery and garlic and saute till soft adding more water it the vegetables start to stick.
  2. Add the thyme, cumin, paprika and tomato puree. Cook for about one minute.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes, water, ketjap manis,soya sauce, vinegar, Mushroom ketchup and dates.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the thyme stalks and pour the sauce into a blender. Blend until smooth.
  6. Store in the fridge for couple of weeks or freeze in batches.

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CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP

CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP

Couple days ago I finished reading The Food Revolution by John Robbins. It is one of those books everybody should read, one of those books that can change the way you live your life. I admire John Robbins immensely, not just because he has been able to walk away from life of luxury his father’s business was offering (Baskin and Robbins) but mainly because by doing so he has been able to live according to his admirable principles and thus changing lives of many people.

When I watch John’s talks and interviews I can’t help but feel the love he exudes. He is so passionate about a better more compassionate way of living that it would be hard not to be influenced by his thoughts and ideas. There are many very important topics covered in The Food Revolution. I admit to going through many different emotions while reading this book. John’s exposure of the American meat and dairy industries, their inhumane practices made me weep. Biotech companies and their money grabbing ways without any regard for the disaster in their hands left me speechless and angry. This book also brings hope, renews a belief in the good that is in people. I
loved The Pig Farmer chapter, it made a point of how we should never judge a book by its cover. When shown a different path, people have the power to change their way, and in small steps change the world.

One chapter was very personal to me, in My Friend Mike, John talks about his friend’s unhealthy lifestyle and his consequent battle with cancer that he ultimately lost. John described how angry he felt over what happened to his friend: “Inside I was angry and hurt. Angry at Mike for not taking better care for himself, angry at God for letting this happen, and angry at myself for not having been able to prevent it.” If John only new how I needed to hear these words, I went through the same emotions when we lost my amazing father-in-law to cancer last summer, together with the immense grief and loss, I was angry at him for the same reasons John was angry at Mike, I was also angry at myself for not being able to make him listen to my advice and angry at myself for feeling angry. Anger felt so inappropriate. I could not be sure at all whether my dietary advice would have helped him at all, but that was all I had. John validated for me that it was ok, it was natural to feel that way.

If you haven’t done so yet please read this book, it may just change your life. Let me finish with a quote from The Food Revolution:
“Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.”


caulichickpeasoup

CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP
This is a very easy soup. You can even omit the step of pureeing part of the soup. It is worth it though, as it thickens the soup and gives it a fuller flavour. You can also puree the soup completely if you so wish.

3 leeks, washed and sliced
1 stick of celery, strings removed and sliced
3 medium potatoes, cut bite size pieces
1 small cauliflower, separated into small florets
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
1l of vegetable stock
plenty of black pepper

  1. In a large sauce pan combine all the ingredients (except the black pepper).
  2. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20min.
  3. Put 3 ladles of soup into a blender and puree till smooth. (I removed all my chickpeas out of the liquid destined for the blender, simply because I wanted as many whole chickpeas in my soup as possible)
  4. Returned the smooth puree into you soup, heat up.
  5. Season with black pepper and serve.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND EDAMAME PEANUT STEW

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND EDAMAME PEANUT STEW

Every day I look at the latest health news and what particularly caught my eye in the last few days were several articles on the causes of obesity. It is a rather mixed bunch of possible causes. Here is the list:

  1. The less you sleep the more weight you gain
  2. The environment in mothers womb (due to lifestyle) might be linked to obesity
  3. CO2 concentrations in the air increases weight gain
  4. Gene mutation so called “greedy gene” causes weight gain
  5. Obesity is fuelled by gender-bending chemicals
  6. Obesity is contagious (microbe imbalance)

Wouldn’t it be nice if things were so simple? On the other hand if these studies are right we are all destined to become the chubby mobility scooter bound people from Wall-E. Of course things are not so simple, none of these studies seem to be conclusive. NHS behind the headlines had debunked the womb environment argument, the study only found a link to height not weight (but weight makes a better headline). The greedy gene mutation was studied in mice, but is extremely rare in humans. CO2 and gender-bending chemicals? Hm I am going to wait what NHS behind headlines comes back with but it seems extremely far fetched.

There has been an explosion of TV programs about obese people trying to loose weight and changing there lives. I particularly like
Obese a year to save my life (preferring the UK version) especially because the program explores the reasons behind the overeating habits of the person. Another great one is Supersized v Superskinny, how fantastic to be shown both sides of an eating problem. What is the common denominator of these programs? The people who are obese are eating 2-3 times their daily recommended calorie intake and lead sedentary lifestyles. They don’t seem to be particularly overdosing on CO2, or toxins from cans or having a gene mutation.Their sleep problems are stemming from their weight not vice versa. Most of them, under the right guidance and support ,strong will and determination, loose weight and regain health and energy.

It is human nature to blame something else, gene, toxin, our mothers, but in most cases it is us who are responsible for our health. Even if scientists come up with a pill that allows us to eat tons of doughnuts without putting weight on this would not equal health. Education is one of the most important ways to bring on a healthier future.


BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND EDAMAME PEANUT STEW
This stew is rich creamy and spicy. I have not used any added oil in cooking it, especially because I am adding peanut butter in the end which is high in fat. This dish serves 4 very satisfyingly therefore the amount of fat from the peanut butter is just about 10g per person (about what one average pork sausage would have).

Serves 4

peanutstew

ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (use a peeler to remove the stringy parts)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 small to medium, bell peppers (2 different colours), cut into 1cm (about 1/3 inch dice)
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, slit in the side
3 sprigs of thyme
450g (1lb) butternut squash (cleaned weight), cut into bite size pieces
1 orange sweet potato, peeled cut into bite size pieces
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
375 ml (1 and 1/2cup) of vegetable stock
130g (1 cup) shelled edamame beans (I used frozen)
80g (1/3 cup) smooth organic no sugar added peanut butter
fresh coriander for garnish

method
  1. In a large casserole pan heat 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Add the onion, celery, garlic, peppers, Scotch Bonnet and thyme. Saute till vegetables soften about 10min, add more water if they start to stick.
  2. Add the tin of tomatoes, the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  3. Next add the butternut squash and the sweet potato. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 min.
  4. Add the edamame beans and simmer for further 20min.
  5. To finish the dish add the peanut butter, let it heat through and melt thus creating sumptuous creamy sauce. Don’t forget to fish out and discard the Scotch Bonnet!
  6. Serve with quinoa or rice, garnish with fresh chopped coriander. Some steamed green veggies on the side will finish this dish perfectly.


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Kitchen Gadgets

ASIAN STYLE CARROT AND CUCUMBER SALAD

My husband, like most men I know, loves gadgets. He does have an excuse, it is part of his job to know about the latest technical marvels, but I suspect he would know the latest iPad features even if he worked as a shoe salesman. I am not saying that gadgets leave me cold, I could not imagine life without my iPhone, after all it has been used to shoot my blog photos but the gadgets I really love are those I can use in the kitchen.

My favourite kitchen appliance is my Vitamix mixer, those who have it will agree that this unbelievable machine quickly becomes a part of the family. Not only it makes super smooth smoothies but it will make nut milks, nut butters, hummus, soup and much more. Just make sure to keep the turbo button off when introducing a hot tomato soup to it, from my own experience, it makes kitchen look like a CSI crime scene. Vitamix may be a rather pricy gadget but well worth the investment.

Tomorrow should be the day I welcome my new eagerly awaited dehydrator. I can’t wait to use it, but I do promise not to forget my old friends for the new one. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great kitchen helper. Take my olive/cherry pitter, without it I would be covered in cherry juice or chasing escapee olives around my kitchen.

Another old favourite of mine is my julienne peeler, it easily juliennes carrots, courgettes, cucumbers and other veggies to make perfect stir-fries or salads. It did a great job helping me make todays recipe, Asian inspired cucumber and carrot salad. One problem with the julienne peeler is that there will be some vegetable wastage, you will have bits of carrots left over, save them for soup or stock, I fed them to my dogs for a crunchy treat. You will also be left with the seedy watery middle part of cucumber (pop it into a green smoothie). All worth it for the perfect uniform strands of veggies. If you don’t own one of these magic gadgets you can also just grate the veggies on a box grater or in a food processor. Japanese mandolin would do the trick beautifully.

julienne peeler
juliennepeeler


ASIAN STYLE CARROT AND CUCUMBER SALAD
Taste and adjust your dressing as you go, depending how much you like wasabi use less or more. Rice vinegar is quite mild but if you are replacing for another vinegar you may have to use less. You can also replace the sweet freedom syrup with palm sugar or stevia.

ingredients
4 medium carrots
1 large cucumber
5 spring onions
1-2 tsp wasabi powder
1 Tbs sweet freedom syrup (or agave)
2 Tbs light soya sauce or tamari
5 Tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs black sesame seeds
1 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 Tbs chopped fresh coriander


carrotcucumbersalad

method
  1. Using your julienne peeler cut the carrots and cucumbers into long strips. It takes a bit of practice but after a while you will become a pro.
  2. Cut the roots and the dark green part of the spring onions. Cut the onions lengthways into thin strips.
  3. To make the dressing mix the wasabi, syrup, soya, vinegar and sesame oil. Taste and adjust the flavours.
  4. Poor the dressing over the vegetables, add the sesame seeds and coriander.
  5. Serve as a part of an Asian inspired meal.
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COLCANNON MY WAY

COLCANNON MY WAY

“If you're lucky enough to be Irish, then you're lucky enough.” Irish saying

Today is St Patrick’s Day so it is very fitting to celebrate the Irish. I have always had a soft spot for everything Irish, the superb literature, uplifting music, the dark rich beer or the sexy accent (I still remember hearing Liam Neeson in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives for the first time). My apologies to Scotland but I also believe that Irish Whiskey is the best in the world. The Czech in me also identifies with the Irish through our common love of the humble potato.

Potatoes have always been closely associated with the Irish diet. Not native to Ireland they became incredibly popular after their introduction in the late 16th century. As a crop they were incredibly successful, not only because they thrived in the Irish soil but were also highly nutritious. The poor Irish labourers especially became dependent on the potato. It is interesting that due to diet high in potatoes the Irish peasants were more healthy than those in England (and Europe) whose staple food was the less nutritious bread.

Unfortunately the Irish were so dependent on potato that the 6 year long potato famine (which started in 1845) caused the deaths of 1 million people, and 20-25% of Irish populations to emigrate.

Today potatoes are vilified, the crazy low carb diets tend to compare potatoes to sugar. In my book sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever, however potato is rich in whole host of vitamins and minerals. Potatoes contain significant amount of vitamins B6, B1, C, Potassium, folate, magnesium and even iron. They are rich in fibre (especially if eaten with the skin), low in fat and calories. It is possible to stay healthy on a diet of potatoes only, but diet of sugar only would surely lead to one’s demise.

Here is my take on Colcannon, the traditional Irish dish. The original is made with spring onions (scallions) and heaps of butter and sometimes milk. I have replaced the spring onions with slowly caramelized regular onion and there is not a smidgen of milk or butter. I admit to loving this dish so much that I often make a whole plate for my lunch and savour every last forkful.


Irishmash

COLCANNON MY WAY
I have added some caraway seeds to this dish, that is the Czech in me you can omit it from the recipe. I just can’t imagine cooking potatoes without it!

Serves 4 as a side dish

ingredients
5 medium potatoes, unpeeled
150-200g (about half pound) kale, stalks removed, roughly torn
1/2tsp caraway seed (optional)
1 Tbs rapeseed or olive oil
1 very large onion
salt and pepper

method
  1. First slice the onion as thinly as you can. In a medium frying pan heat the oil and cook the onion till soft and golden brown. This will take about 20min. Stir from time to time to prevent burning.
  2. Cut the unpeeled potatoes into large chunks, place into a large saucepan and pour in enough water to just cover the potatoes. Add the caraway seed if using.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook for about 12 minutes.
  4. Next add the kale and cook for further 6 minutes.
  5. Drain the potatoes and kale, mash together with potato masher. You are not looking for a smooth mash, more a crushed potato texture.
  6. Stir the onions through the kale and potato mixture. Season with salt and black pepper.
  7. Enjoy it as a side dish, or like me eat a whole plateful on its own.


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SZEKELY GULYAS VEGANISED

SZEKELY GULYAS VEGANISED

Yesterday I went out with my girlfriends to an Indian restaurant. We were seated next to an Indian family with two young children. While admiring the children’s impeccable restaurant behaviour (don’t we all wish...) I noticed they were all eating in the traditional Indian way, with their hands. I also noticed a plate of very English chips (French fries) on the table.

This made me think about traditions and habits we all have, treasure or perhaps sometimes even endure. Food seems to be strongly associated with habits and traditions. As John Robbins puts it: “Our familiar foods give us comfort, reassurance, and a sense of identity. They are there for us when the world may not be. They can be friends, loyal and true.”

Unfortunately this notion of tradition (or a habit) can stand in the way of change. All vegetarians and vegans have experienced conversations about their choices. We have all heard opinions that humans are omnivores and it is unnatural for them not to eat meat. However research is showing us that a plant based diet is the most beneficial one to adopt.

I wouldn’t dispute that humans have always included some meat in their diet. One thing is clear it was never consumed in the quantities we see today. My grandmother was born in 1926 and she used to describe her family diet as mainly meatless, they only had meat on Sundays. Her father became an incidental vegetarian when the times were hard, offering his meat portion to the children.

It may be a strange thing for a veggie to write about meat, but my aim was to show that many of the traditions we embrace may very recent. It is time to take a step back and embraced diet based on whole plant foods; the most natural way to eat. I accept that not everybody will take the plunge and stop eating meat and dairy, but even a small step can make a difference. We can and should create new traditions for a better future.

My friend G., during our dinner yesterday, said that even if she is not going to stop meat completely, knowing me had inspired her to eat more vegetarian meals and explore new ingredients. This left me with a warm feeling indeed (or was it the curry?).

The recipe I decided to make is steeped in my country’s history. For some 400 years the Czechs were part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and even these weren’t the easiest times for my compatriots, we embraced foods of both Austria and Hungary as our own. I grew up never questioning whether Apple Strudel or Gulyas is Czech or not. It became part of my country’s culinary tradition. Szekely Gulyas (or as we call it Segedinsky Gulas) is one of these dishes. Here I present the veganised version using seitan as a replacement of the traditional pork.

Gulyas-2-

SZEKELY GULYAS VEGANISED
We always had Czech dumplings with this gulyas but rice, quinoa or even pasta work great.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp sweet paprika
2x285 g (10oz) tins seitan, cut into bite size pieces
250g (1 and 1/2cups) sauerkraut, drained
500ml vegetable stock
1 Tbs liquid aminos
1/2 cashew cream (made out of 1/2cup cashews and 1/2 cup water, you may have some leftover)

method
  1. In a large wide pan heat the oil and saute the onion till softened, about 10 min.
  2. Add caraways seeds and paprika, saute for about 30cm, take care not to burn the paprika.
  3. Next add the seitan, sauerkraut, vegetable stock and liquid aminos.
  4. Cook on low heat for about half an hour.
  5. Add the cashew cream and let warm through.
  6. Serve with rice or pasta. Garnish with extra paprika.
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MUNG BEAN AND AUBERGINE STEW

MUNG BEAN AND AUBERGINE STEW

Unless you have been on an intergalactic flight you must have read or heard the latest reports on red meat coming from Harvard University. Every news channel and newspaper has covered the story. The message is that simply adding an extra portion of red (unprocessed and processed) meat will significantly raise your risk of premature death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

If you are following nutrition this is not a big surprise. This information comes from a very credible source and really can’t be ignored. The meat industries are not taking this lightly coming out with condemnations trying to discredit the research. It is sad to see them be more interested in profit rather than health of their fellow men.

These are the words of Frank Hu, PhD, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health who published the study on red meat and higher rates of premature death: “ We should move to a more plant-based diet. This can substantially reduce the risk of chronic disease and the risk of premature death.”

My advice is to look toward some wonderful healthy proteins to replace the meat. Mung beans are a great place to start, they are easy to digest legumes, easy to cook and very tasty. I made them into a gentle stew, no spices just fresh herbs.

mungbeans

THREE HERB MUNG BEAN AND AUBERGINE STEW
This is perfect with green veggies, kale or broccoli are fabulous. We also had bulgur wheat but any grain will work, and even mashed potatoes! Adding the kombu will not only impart flavour but also help the digestion of the beans.

ingredients
1.25l (5 cups) vegetable stock
220 g (1 cup) mung beans, soaked overnight
1 inch piece of kombu seaweed (optional)
2 medium aubergines (eggplants)
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Tbs olive oil or 60ml (1/4 cup ) vegetable stock
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 Tbs fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 Tbs Tamari sauce or liquid aminos
3 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped


mungbeanstew

method

  1. In a large sauce pan combine the vegetable stock, soaked beans and the piece of kombu. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, skim off and discard any foam that may form on the surface. Cover and simmer for about 40 -50 min or until the beans are thoroughly cooked. Remove the kombu piece, but do not drain the beans.
  2. Preheat oven to 200. Cut the aubergine into bite size pieces, coat with 1 Tbs olive oil and place onto a roasting tray. Roast for 20min or until the pieces start to caramelize and are soft and squashy. Set aside.
  3. In a wide saute pan with high edges, heat the 1/2 tsp of olive oil (or 60ml stock), add the onion and saute for 5 min or till softened.
  4. Next add the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Cook for further minute till fragrant.
  5. Next add the beans with their cooking liquid, aubergines and tamari (or liquid aminos). Simmer for about 10min.
  6. Stir in the parsley and adjust seasoning. It shouldn’t need salt if you used salted vegetable stock, just freshly ground pepper.
  7. Serve with a side of your choice.
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VEGETABLE STOCK

VEGETABLE STOCK

In the Czech Republic, you could not imagine a Sunday meal without a starter of soup. Most of our soups were based on clear broths usually made out of beef bones but using only vegetables in not uncommon. As a girl I used to spend a large portion of my summer holidays with my step great grandmother at her farm (not a working farm). Everyday we had a soup for lunch, we would go to the garden and pick some fresh vegetables, cooked them in some water and perhaps added homemade noodles and herbs fresh from the garden.

A good stock is a great thing to have lurking around. There are some great vegetable stocks on the market but I do like to make my own on occasion. That way I know it is virtually fat free and I can control the salt content. Homemade vegetable stock is a great way to use up some surplus or tired looking veggies. It is nearly magical how the pile of vegetables gets cooked down into flavoursome golden liquid.

Onions are a must in any good stock. I leave the brown skins on, just remove the very outside layer, make sure you wash the root, or just cut it off. The skins will add to the stock’s colour. My grandma used to use brown onion skins as a dye.

Root veggies add sweetness to your stock, back at home we would always use carrots and celeriac. Don’t forget to use the leaves of celeriac or celery, they are a fantastic flavourful ingredient. Another classic ingredient is parsley use mainly the stalks and keep the leaves for garnish. Thyme and bay leaves add wonderful fragrance of the stock. So does the allspice, which may not be a traditional ingredient in stock making but I love the flavour it adds.

There are so many uses for a home made stock. Soups are the obvious choice, but you can use it for cooking your grains or legumes. I love cooking my brown rice in a vegetable stock, it gives it a lovely colour and of course adds lots flavour. Since I don’t salt my stock it is fantastic for cooking legumes from raw as they should not be cooked with salt. Vegetable stock is also a great base for stews and sauces.

Don’t feel you have to religiously stick the the ingredients below, use what you have in your vegetable drawer add outer lettuce leaves, broccoli or cauliflower stalks, mushrooms, fresh or dried (for a dark savoury broth), few garlic cloves, fennel, rosemary and other herbs. The possibilities are endless.

vegstockingredients


VEGETABLE STOCK
The resulting stock will have a gorgeous light golden colour.

Yields about 2,5l (10cups) of stock

ingredients
5 celery stalks, including any leaves, trimmed and cleaned
3 leeks, half lengthways and wash thoroughly between the layers
1 large onion, washed, unpeeled and quartered
1 celeriac, peeled (cut off the nobbly skin with a knife) and roughly cut up
5 carrots, scrubbed, each cut into 3 pieces
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
15 peppercorns
3 all spice berries
2 bay leaves
parsley, mainly stalks
2 large sprigs of thyme
3 litres (12 cups) of water

method
  1. Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
  3. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl large enough to hold it. Let it cool down completely.
  4. Discard the cooked vegetables ( I keep the carrots to put into my dogs’ dinner)
  5. When cooled place the stock into freezer safe bags or containers. Freeze or keep for 3 days in a fridge.

vegstockfinished
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LENTIL SLOPPY JOES

LENTIL SLOPPY JOES

As a country UK is not doing great in fruit and vegetable consumption, this year we have only achieved 14th position among European countries. it is also known that the widely accepted 5-a-day target was set lower than what it should be. This was done purely because 5 portions is already rather daunting for a lot of Brits, the actual 10-12 would seem a very unachievable goal.


Today 5-a-day made it into 2 headlines:
1. How giving your children five-a-day can actually damage their teeth
2. UK adults are not getting 5-a-day of fruit and veg, and kids are drinking too much fruit juice

The first article warns that too much fruit juice and smoothies can damage children’s teeth. This certainly is a valid point however there is more to tooth decay in today’s children. I remember a documentary about children with rotting teeth by the age of 3, these kids were falling asleep with a baby bottle full of formula toddler milk. Worse you can see coca cola in baby bottles. In my daughters year there is a boy who was famous for bringing Lucozade in his water bottle to school(from 4 years of age). We also can’t forget the sweets and chocolate bars. It is hard to believe that fruit juices and smoothies only are responsible for increased tooth decay in children.

The juice-teeth connection is mentioned in story 2, but more importantly this story highlights the fact that 61% of adults are not getting their 5-a-day, a sad number that has gone up since last year (56%). Economic downturn might be the reason for this, as junk food is so much cheaper than fruit and veggies. But education has a lot to do with it too. These days Brits on average eat only about 3 1/2 portions a day (roughly 280g). And no Terry’s chocolate orange definitely doesn’t count!

Try this recipe to up your portions of veggies. It has onions, peppers, celery and tomatoes. Lentils count towards your daily goal too. Big green salad on the side and you are doing better than the average Brit.

LENTIL SLOPPY JOE
Anything called sloppy will be hard to photograph. Tomato based sauces and artificial light are defeating my photography skills. Must have make this again in daylight! As it disappeared rather quickly, nobody will complain if I do.

Makes 6

sloppyjoe

ingredients
100 g (3 and 1/2oz) brown or green lentils (or use a tin of lentils)
1 Tbs olive oil (or 60ml -1/4cup water)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 bel pepper, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 Tbs tomato paste
couple sprigs of thyme
1 tin of tomatoes
125 ml (1/2 cup vegetable stock)
1 tsp sweet freedom syrup or 1/4tsp stevia
salt and pepper to taste
6 whole wheat medium sized hamburger buns

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan bring 500ml water (2cups) to a boil, add lentils and cook for 20-25min, or until soft to bite but still holding their shape. Drain and let cool.
  2. In a large wide saute pan, heat the olive oil or water, add the onion, pepper and celery. Cook on medium heat for about 10min or until soft, taking care not to colour.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Next add the tomato paste, cook for about 1 min, this will allow it to caramelize bringing out sweetness.
  5. Remove the tough stalks from the thyme, chop the leaves and soft stalks, add to your saute pan together with the tinned tomatoes, lentils, vegetable stock and the syrup or stevia.
  6. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 30min until the sauce is very thick.
  7. Toast your buns under our grill (broiler) or in a toaster.
  8. Top each bun with 1/6 of the mixture and serve with some pickles and green salad.




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ENERGY BARS

ENERGY BARS

“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates

Medical doctors are amazing, the knowledge they have to learn and retain (!), the responsibility they carry on their shoulders is immense. There is however a room for improvement. Dr Dean Ornish emphasised in one of his TED talks that you can’t only mop the floor, you also have to fix the tap. Don’t only treat symptoms, treat the cause.

Recently I watched my friend L struggling with her baby’s eczema, her son (born last September) was waking at night trying to scratch the itchy red skin, clearly suffering. She was at a breaking point, no mother wants to see their child in discomfort. Naturally she visited her GP and a dermatologist. Unfortunately their approach was using topical creams (not even emollient) and if those would not bring much relief, he was to be put on glucocorticoids. Rather scary prospect for a baby.

My friend decided to contact a naturopathic eczema specialist. Since she is breastfeeding her son, she was prescribed an exclusion diet. It is a big change, she isn’t even allowed her beloved green tea at the moment, but her baby boy’s skin is clearing up. Next step will be reintroducing foods to find the triggers. What a fantastic news! I wish her doctor was able to recommend a similar approach, it has no side effects! Actually it does, my friend feels great! she told me this way of eating is making her feel “light”. And of course there is not better feeling than seeing her beautiful son’s eczema on the retreat.

ENERGY BARS

This is perfect for “grab and go” breakfast or just a quick energy boosting snack. If you want to make this completely refined sugar free, skip the chocolate chips.
Makes 10 bars


energybars2


Ingredients
1 Tbs ground flax seeds
150g (1 and 3/4 cups) oats
50g (1/2 cup) pecans, chopped
80g (1/2 cup) dried apricots, chopped roughly into quarters
30g (1/4 cup) sunflower seeds
35g (1/4 cup) raisins
2 small bananas mashed, makes about 125ml (1/2cup)
1 Tbs date syrup
1/2 dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)

method
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  2. First in a small bowl add 60ml (1/4 cup) of water to the flax seeds, let stand while preparing the rest of ingredients. The mixture will become viscous somewhat reminiscent of an egg.
  3. Mix together the oats, pecans, apricots, sunflower seeds and raisins.
  4. Add the mashed bananas, date syrup and flax seed mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Line a 10x6 inch (15x25cm) baking dish with a greaseproof paper. I used a drop of water under each corner to keep it in place.
  6. Put all the mixture into your baking dish, press down firmly.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 min or until the top starts to turn golden brown.
  8. Let cool and cut into bars.



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SPINACH, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND OVEN DRIED TOMATO SALAD

SPINACH, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND OVEN DRIED TOMATO SALAD

The beautiful fresh baby spinach in my organic vegetable box just called out to be eaten in a salad. Tender crispy sweet leaves came straight from the field.

Like other leafy greens spinach is a nutritional giant. It is full of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, but over all tastes fabulous.The baby leaves are so sweet that even kids like it. I love adding spinach to my kids smoothies, they can’t even tell it is in their glass, especially when you add some dark berries that hide the green colour. This salad however hides nothing. It looks like a rainbow.

Unfortunately I am not a fan of fresh tomatoes (I can’t stand the seeds surrounded with that jelly like juice) , however I do love them cooked, sun dried or oven dried, the concentrated flavour is irresistible. Lucky for me, the almighty antioxidant lycopene is more available from cooked tomatoes so it is a win-win situation. The concentrated tomato flavour goes incredibly well with the sweet roasted butternut squash, add red onions for bit of a bite and seeds for some crunch. Perfect lunch I say!

butternutspinach2

SPINACH, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND OVEN DRIED TOMATO SALAD
To make the balsamic vinegar glaze (syrup) just place about 125ml (1/2cup) vinegar in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil and cook till reduced and syrupy. You can also buy already prepared balsamic vinegar glaze, just beware of added sugar.

Serves 2 as a main dish salad (4 as a started or side dish)

ingredients
450 (1lb) butternuts squash, prepared weight (peeled, seeds removed)
1 tsp olive oil
oven dried tomatoes (see below)
1 small red onion (I used about 1/4 of a medium large one)
2 Tbs pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or mixture of both)
100 g (3 1/2 oz) baby spinach leaves
oven dried tomatoes (see below)
Balsamic vinegar glaze to drizzle (about 1 Tbs of balsamic ) or use just balsamic vinegar.

Oven dried tomatoes
4 medium vine ripened tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil

First make the oven dried tomatoes.
Preheat the oven to 120C.
Use the 1 tsp olive oil to grease the bottom of the baking dish big enough to fit the tomatoes in one layer.
Place the tomatoes in your baking dish and season.
Bake for about 2 hours (or longer if needed), you are looking for texture of sunblushed tomatoes, they should loose most of their moisture but still be soft unlike sundried tomatoes.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

The salad
method
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Cut up the butternut squash into bite sized pieces, place on a non stick baking tray, add the oil, using your hands coat the butternut squash pieces with the oil. Surprisingly 1 tsp will do the job. Season with salt and pepper if you wish.
Roast for about 20 min or until the pieces start to caramelize and are cooked through (pierce with a knife). Remove from the oven and let cool.
Slice the red onion as thinly as you can.
Preheat a frying pan, add the seeds and toast them, take care not to burn them. Let them cool down.
In 2 large bowls place the spinach leaves, top with the rest of the ingredients and toss lightly. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar glaze.


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MIGHTY 4 SALAD

MIGHTY 4 SALAD

Everyday we are advised to eat new exotic superfood, acai or goji berries, chia seeds, noni juice, Indian gooseberry and many others. How did the generations before manage to survive without these?

No I don’t dispute the health benefits of the above foods, but in my opinion all plant foods have their own super powers. The quick and simple salad I put together today is made of everyday ingredients and according to studies can protect you heart and eyes, lessen tumour growth, help reduce blood pressure, lower risk of asthma and help regulate your blood sugar.

What are these mysterious superfoods? The humble beetroot, apple, celery and walnuts! Combined together in a refreshing salad dressed only with raspberry vinegar. There is a reason why I don’t use any oil in this salad. The walnuts are rich in Omega 3 oils, the kind we all need to get more off. Olive oil, on the other hand, is rich in Omega 6 oils and we tend to have far too much of these in our diets. We need some fats to absorb vitamins from our veggies efficiently, in this salad the walnuts take care of that rather efficiently. Perfect balance.

You do have to put up with the beetroot colouring the rest of your food pink, no surprise there. If you don’t have raspberry vinegar any other fruity mild vinegar will work well. White balsamic would be great. The apple should be crisp and juicy, not too sweet, it needs to offset the sweet mild beetroot.

beetapplesalad

MIGHTY 4 SALAD
I used 1 large beetroot that I cooked till soft (about 45 min) you can use precook beetroot, as they are usually small I would use 3. There is no need to be too precise with the ingredients if you like more apple add more apple...The recipe can be easily doubled, tripled....

Serves 2

ingredients
1 large beetroot
1 large juicy apple
2 celery stalks
handful of walnuts
2 Tbs raspberry vinegar
salt and pepper

method
  1. If using raw beetroot, wash it well but don’t cut of the ends as this would expose the flesh and make the colour leach out. Put in a saucepan cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook till soft. Large beetroot will take about 45 min.
  2. Cool the beetroot and peel, this skin should slide off easily. Cut into 1/2 inch dice.
  3. Cut the apple into 1/2 inch dice.
  4. Using a vegetable peeler or knife remove the strings from the celery stalks. Slice quite thinly.
  5. In a dry frying pan toast the walnuts, take care not to burn.
  6. Mix all ingredients together, dress with the raspberry vinegar, season with a pinch of salt and plenty of fresh black pepper.

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EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

It must be quite obvious by now that I love my greens and it is not just for their amazing nutritional properties. I love the taste! They are so versatile and can sneak their way into so many different dishes.

Today my green star is Swiss Chard. Contrary to its name, this mighty green comes from the Mediterranean. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about chard in the 4 century B.C. The Romans honoured chard’s medicinal properties, and to this day it is an incredibly popular vegetable in Italy.

Unlike other greens, Swiss chard gives you two textures in one. In a mature plant, you get the thick sturdy white stalk, and the green leafy part. Stalks of kale, spring greens or even older (large leaf) spinach are too tough to eat and usually just thrown away. The Swiss chard stalks are perfectly edible and very delicious. Usually the stalk and leaves are separated, and the stalk starts its cooking first, requiring couple minutes more than the leaves. The Italians sometimes cook them completely separately, treated as 2 separate vegetables. Baby chard on the other hand is cooked in the same manner as baby spinach.

My Swiss chard recipe is for a very quick and easy soup. This is a very easy way to cook Swiss chard, no need to separate stalk from leaves. Give it the right name and it will become kid friendly, I am thinking Shrek Soup or Swamp Soup. Wouldn’t it be great for Halloween with a spiderweb made from cashew cream? I will keep it in mind.

swisschardsoup


EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

If you can’t find Swiss chard, just use spinach, it will work great in this recipe too.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 litre of vegetable stock
2 leeks
3 medium potatoes
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch of mature Swiss chard (mine was 250g, just over 1/2lb)
freshly ground black pepper

method
  1. In a large sauce pan start heating the vegetable stock.
    2 Slice the leeks, and wash out all the grit. Add to the stock.
    3 Peel and dice the potatoes, add to the stock together with the garlic and caraway seeds.
    4 Cook on medium heat for 10 min.
    5 Slice up the Swiss chard, wash thoroughly and add to the soup.
    6 Cook for about 8 minutes.
    7 In a blender (or using a stick blender) puree the soup, season with lots of black pepper.

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