Oct 2014

BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES

BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES

Overripe bananas in the fruit bowl mean only one thing: cake time!!! As my kids both don’t like bananas (other than in a smoothie) this happens often. I love baking with bananas, they are a great substitute for butter or oil in a recipe and add sweetness without the need for added sugar.

Athletes often snack on bananas, they are a great source of low glycemic carbohydrate. They do however offer more than being an efficient pick me up. As a rich source of potassium they can help lower blood pressure. They also contain plant sterols, theses can block the absorption of dietary cholesterol thus could be helpful in keeping our cholesterol levels healthy. Bananas are a good source of fibre which, of course, helps to regulate our digestion i.e. keeping things moving. FOS (fruictooligosacharides) is another component of bananas, FOS is metabolised by bacteria, helping us keep our friendly microbiome healthy. Interestingly per weight, banana has more vitamin C than a peach! Who knew??!!

My banana date pecan pudding squares have the texture of Jamaican sweet potato pudding (hence the name). If you are looking for a texture of a cake than walk away now. If you like stodgy, you should enjoy these. I will admit that my kids are not keen but I have eating half of it already…No gluten, no refined sugar, no eggs, no oil or dairy. And they will keep moist, can’t tell you how long as they do not seem to last beyond the second day….

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BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES
makes 15 squares

ingredients
1 flax egg (see below)
1 cup dates
1 cup almond milk
3 overripe medium bananas
1 cup gluten free oat flour (I blitzed oats in a blender)
1/2 cup gluten free flour (I used Dove)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

method
  • First, prepare the flax egg by combining 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit till needed.
  • In a blender process the dates and almond milk till fairly smooth (few chunks are ok). If you don’t have a high speed blender you can soften the dates by soaking them in the milk first (at least 30min).
  • In a large bowl mash the bananas, than add the flours, date milk and flax add. Whisk till well combined.
  • Finally stir in the pecans.
  • Pour the batter into a 15cm x 25cm (6 x 12 inch) baking dish that has been lined with a nonstick paper.
  • Bake at 180C for 30 - 35 min to till set.


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CURRIED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP WITH COCONUT

CURRIED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP WITH COCONUT

A recent study has reported that in 2012 the average price of more healthy foods was about three times higher – £7.49 for 1,000kcal compared to £2.50 for 1,000kcal of less healthy foods.
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/10October/Pages/Healthy-food-costs-you-more-claim.aspx

As the article pointed out this calorie comparison is controversial since healthy foods tend to be less calorie dense. Basing this research on calories only is very misleading. You would need to buy approximately 30 cucumbers to achieve 1000 calories whereas it only takes one packet (20 biscuits ) of ginger nut biscuits to do the same. Keeping this “logic” in mind, 1000 calories of cucumbers, 30 whole cucumbers (in today’s Tesco prices) would be £14.70. A packet of Tesco ginger nut biscuits cost a mere £ 0.39! This comparison doesn’t make a lot of sense. I bet if we compare a homemade lentil vegetable soup with ready made meals for 4, the soup would come on top.


Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. If you cut out the rubbish, look for seasonal produce and are prepared to improvise you can eat well on a budget. Recently I have noticed a lot of fruit and veg shops popping up, there is one called 5 a day not far from my house. Last week I drove by another advertising a bowl of produce for just one pound. These shops may not stock organic produce but any fruit and veg is better than none. I also love to get large bags of pulses or brown rice from Sweet Mart, a local ethnic food shop. Their herbs come in huge bunches and are much cheeper than supermarket ones. Their spices are also a bargain and make anything taste extraordinary.

I believe the problem is not the price, but the lack of cooking knowledge. So many people don’t know what to do with fresh produce (and many can’t be bothered). Any produce can be made into soups, stews, stir-fries, salads, veggie burgers. The wonderful Jack Monroe has proven just that in her successful blog A Girl Called Jack. Her blog is full of healthy recipes she creates for herself and her little boy for mere £10 a week.

My delicious soup comes to roughly £3.50, this includes a pack of curry spice mix and bunch of coriander, the latter can be omitted saving further £.74p. I buy my curry mixes at my favourite ethnic supermarket, the spice mixes are made in house and their taste is miles ahead of those sold in supermarkets. A sizeable bag (about 3 x supermarket pots worth) costs less than £80p. This is what I call a true bargain. I did find cheaper tinned carrot and parsnip soup (£2.30 for 2 tins ) in a super market but it had dairy and wheat flour and stabilisers added. And honestly can you really fill up 4 people with 2 tins of soup? You would probably need that pack of ginger nut biscuits for afters :)

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CURRIED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP WITH COCONUT

ingredients
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 inch ginger, finely chopped
1 tbs curry powder mix (I used Bombay mix)
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2-3 cups vegetable stock
1 tin coconut milk
lime juice to taste
fresh coriander, chopped

method
  • In 1/2 cup water (or vegetable stock) sauté the onion, garlic and ginger till soften.
  • When water has evaporated add the spices and stirring constantly cook for 30seconds.
  • Next add the vegetables, stock and coconut milk. Cook gently for 20-30min till the vegetables are tender.
  • Puree the soup in a blender (or with a stick blender) till smooth.
  • Add lime juice to taste and add coriander as a garnish.

Cooking up hot steamy soup
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MUSHROOM STROGANOFF


MUSHROOM STROGANOFF

My friend asked me the other day if I had a good mushroom Stroganoff recipe. I have made Stroganoff style mushrooms before but never actually wrote down the recipe. I had to rectify the situation and provide my friend with a recipe she wanted.

Mushroom Stroganoff is a bit retro, it has a bad reputation among us plant eaters as it tends to be the one (and sometimes only) dish offered by restaurants without imagination. You know what I am talking about. One gets fed up with mushroom Stroganoff, mushroom risotto, flavourless vegetable curry and last but not least the ubiquitous vegetable lasagne.

Unlike my mushroom Stroganoff the restaurant “favourite” will contain dairy (sour cream) just like the Russian beef original. I used my old favourite cashew cream to achieve the creaminess and lemon juice to add the sour cream tang. I love the way cashew cream thickens sauces and you really can’t taste the cashews after cooking it for few minutes with other flavours.

In my house, my daughter is a good indication of a successful dish. She left the table to get a spoon so she could savour every last bit of the sauce. Result! I hope that my friend, who I am sure has eaten some authentic Stroganoff in Russia, will approve too.


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MUSHROOM STROGANOFF
You can make this oil free and cook the onions and mushrooms in water or stock, however the Czech in me knows that you get the best flavour out of paprika if it hits the oil.

Serves 4

ingredients

30 g (1oz) dried wild mushrooms
1 tsp oil ( I used rice bran)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp paprika, sweet (hot if you want a spicy Stroganoff)
1 Tbs tomato paste
550g (1lb 3 oz) mushrooms (any will do)
60ml (1/4c) red wine
200g (1/2 lb) smoked tofu ( I used Taifun tofu with sesame seeds)
200ml vegetable stock
60g (1/2 cup) cashews blended with 1/2 water
lemon juice (I used 1 small lemon)
parsley for garnish
gherkins on the side


method
  • Rehydrate the mushrooms, place the mushrooms in a measuring jug add enough water to achieve 200ml.
  • In a saute pan heat the teaspoon of oil and sauté the onions till translucent.
  • Add the paprika and cook for about 30seconds taking care not to burn it.
  • Next add the tomato paste and cook, string constantly, for 30seconds.
  • Add the fresh mushrooms and cook till softened.
  • Pour in the wine and bring to a boil.
  • Next add the tofu, vegetable stock, dried mushrooms with the liquor. Simmer for 10min.
  • Finally add the cashew cream. Simmer for 5 min.
  • Just before serving add the lemon juice to taste.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve with gherkins on the side.
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