Sep 2012

OKRA WITH TOMATOES AND COCONUT

OKRA WITH TOMATOES AND COCONUT

As a self proclaimed foodie I never pass an opportunity to look for new and exciting ingredients. Yesterday we decided to do our weekly shop in the treasure trove, the Aladin’s cave of wonders and one of my favourite shops in the whole wide world, Bristol Sweet Mart. Whenever I go I discover new exciting things to try and to cook with.

First, I must apologise for slowing down the shoppers who came to get their shopping done and found themselves stuck behind me and my kids (the alleys are quite narrow). We treat this shop as a museum. We explore the produce, the spices, the colourful lentils, the olives and noodles.... We look at sauces and teas and I teach them what I know and marvel over the things I have never seen before.

Guava and amla
amlaandguava

We sure found some new treasures: beautifully scented fresh guava (forget pot-purri these guys can perfume your house much better), fresh and dried powdered amla (AKA indian gooseberry or hog plum). I asked the cashier how to eat the fresh amla, she said she just eats them as they come. We tried that and they were incredibly tart and bitter. I may just stick to the dried powder and use it in smoothies as Dr Greger recommends:
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/a-better-breakfast/

My son wanted to try okra after seeing it on a Hairy Bikers episode and of course the Sweet Mart is the place to acquire some. I discussed the preparations with the helpful staff in the shop. I was instructed to wash it before I slice it, the other way the slime oozes out. Another advice was to fry it. I also talked to my friend who does cook okra, she stews it with meat. She made me laugh when she likened it to octopi as the slime reminded her of tentacles. I was a bit worried what my okra will end up like, but honestly it was great, no sea creature lookalikes coming out of my pot. Being warned about the slime I chose to fry, but still keeping it low in oil with only 1 Tbs. As we served it next to my spicy aubergine curry and some fiery parsnips (from Sweet Mart) I kept the chilli heat low using only half a chilli pepper, use more if you wish. The okra was definitely the star of the dish and will be gracing our table again soon.

http://www.sweetmart.co.uk/

okratomatococonut

OKRA WITH TOMATO AND COCONUT

Serves 4 as a part of an Indian meal


ingredients
400g okra
1 Tbs rapeseed oil (canola)
1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
15 curry leaves (fresh or frozen)
1/2 - 2 chillies (I used just a half due to other curries being spicy)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 large beef (beefsteak) tomato, peeled,deseeded and chopped
2 Tbs shredded coconut (fresh or
unsweetened dessicated)
salt and pepper

method
  1. First prepare the okra. Top and tail the pods and cut into about 4 pieces each (my daughter did that beautifully).
  2. In a wok or a frying pan preheat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, they will start to pop. Next add the curry leaves and the chilli. Cook for about half a minute or the leaves should sizzle but do not burn.
  3. Add the cut up okra, turmeric and stir fry for about 5 min.
  4. Add the chopped tomato flesh to the okra and cook for about 5 minutes or until okra softens.
  5. Last add the coconut to the okra and just stir together. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve alongside other curries, rice and chapatis.
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GENTLE SWEET POTATO, CARROT AND GINGER SOUP

GENTLE SWEET POTATO, CARROT AND GINGER SOUP

It has been estimated that about 15% of the population are Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers. Unfortunately I am one of them. My GP has done tests years ago to rule out Crohn’s and concluded that IBS it was. He prescribed some Fybogel sachets and antispasmodics to be taken every day. If I suffered weekly I would have probably taken all that he recommended however my IBS is not of very frequent occurrence and I hate taking any meds. Last three times I suffered were November (2011), August and September. I just couldn’t justify medicating myself with antispasmodics for something that comes once every few months. I will admit to having a trusty packet of strong painkillers in my drawer just in case the pain gets really bad, but it hardly gets used. I learnt to deal with IBS in my own way.

These are my personal strategies (different strategies work for different people):

I have tried to find a trigger food but without a huge success. Lactose is a very common trouble maker and indeed cutting out dairy has helped (less frequent flare ups) but it has not eliminated my IBS completely. Low fibre and high refined sugar diet tend to aggravate IBS however my fibre intake is generally high and refined sugar intake very low.

Stress can bring IBS on and reducing it through relaxation and meditation, or just simple "me time" is very helpful. The stress doesn't have to be only psychological I do tend to get IBS after a cold or any other infection. Hence supporting my immune system is also very important in minimising the frequency of IBS flare ups.

Listening to my body has been the first line of defence. I can spot my symptoms when they are just starting, slight tinge in my back (yes I get horrid back pain with my IBS) and going off food are the first indications of a brewing trouble. I can actually be halfway through a meal when I realise I can’t stomach another spoonful. This is a definite sign as I am generally known for my insatiable appetite.

When I spot the first signs I just have to stop eating, 24 hrs usually does the trick and can stop (or at least lessen) the pain which can be rather unbearable. The pain I experience starts in my back followed by pain in my abdomen, especially the upper part. Nausea, bloating and constipation are soon to follow. Hot bath relieves the back pain for a while, unfortunately it doesn’t last...Hot water bottle and wrapping myself in blankets helps a little too.

After 24 hrs of not eating I start gently. A plate of boiled potatoes is usually my first choice, and yes they taste amazing! Some broccoli on the side a tahini sauce seem to be gentle enough not to bring any pain back. I can't eat any raw foods for 48hrs apart from bananas when IBS attacks. And strictly no alcohol or anything with vinegar.

I have a bottle of probiotic powder and I should be taking them everyday. However I am notoriously bad at taking supplements... I try to put them in my smoothies, on top of my porridge or into my soya yoghurt...that is if I remember. I will have to set a reminder on my phone....( I am much better with my B12) Probiotics are a key treatment for IBS.

My IBS and I have been on a journey, getting to know it well had been an important strategy, I am on top of it most of the time. And I am determined the turn most of the time into always.

Here is a gentle soup that I made last time I had IBS. It is delicious and you don’t have to have IBS to make it :)

sweetpotatocarrotsoup

SWEET POTATO, CARROT AND GINGER SOUP

Makes 2 portions

ingredients
1 onion, chopped finely
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
vegetable stock
fresh coriander (cilantro) - optional

method
  1. Put onion, ginger, sweet potatoes and carrot into a sauce pan.
  2. Cover with vegetable stock. It should reach about 1/2 inch above your veggies.
  3. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30min or till veggies are tender.
  4. Blend till smooth.
  5. Serve garnished with coriander.



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TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

In an ideal world I would have a large garden, preferably a forrest garden, full of delicious fruits and veggies waiting to be picked and turned into delicious dishes. The reality is different. My garden is a postage stamp size and my dog’s second name could be “the destroyer”. Unfortunately I have a list of plants that have succumbed to his digging, chewing or just simple stomping upon...(he is rather large). There was a blueberry bush, golden currant bush, strawberry plants, raspberry canes.... At least the red currant, Audrey Hepburn rose and my plum tree have survived his advances so far. My poor rosemary plant had a close call the other day...

Last Sunday morning I woke up before the predicted torrential rains started. Armed with a plastic bowl and a dining room chair I embarked on my plum harvest. I do hope my neighbours were still asleep and didn’t see me in my pyjamas balancing on the chair with a bowl in one hand... It must have been a sight. But I managed to pick all the plums before the rain and wind...

Even though plums are delicious on their own but I though I should try making them into a chinese spiced plum sauce free of the usual MSG and additives. The sauce went really well with grilled tofu skewers. Use any purple plums you can get your hands on. With plums being in season at the moment I am sure local farm shops and markets will be selling them cheap.

plums

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

Serves 4, sauce yield -2 cups



ingredients
the plum sauce:
440g/1 lb plums
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp chinese spice
2 Tbs coconut palm sugar
1 Mejdol date, chopped
2 Tbs rice vinegar
160ml (2/3c) water
pinch salt
2 tsp tamari or other soya sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)

tofu skewers
500g (1lb 2 oz)
1 red pepper
4 small onions
half a pineapple

plum-sauce

method
  1. If using bamboo skewers, soak them first for at least 20min.
  2. To make the sauce put all the ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 min.
  4. Place the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth (take care when blending hot liquids - it could end up on the ceiling, I start with the lowest speed to prevent redecorating the kitchen)
  5. While the sauce is cooking, remove the tofu from its packaging and dry on some paper towels.
  6. Cut into large cubes. I had 24 pieces - 3 per skewer.
  7. Cut the pepper into large pieces. Quarter the onions. Cut off the pineapple skin and the core. Cut the pineapple into bite sized pieces.
  8. Thread the tofu, pepper, onion and pineapple onto skewers.
  9. Preheat the grill (broiler) and place the skewers under. Grill for about 5 min each side, or until the tofu, veggies and fruit start to caramelise.
  10. Serve with the sauce and some rice or noodles on the side.

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SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

There is no denyingl that the Hairy Bikers are a loveable duo. They have always been the two overweight middle aged Harley riding chaps who like nothing more than good grub. They still are all that except they managed to loose quite a few pounds and are looking rather trim. Of course they also have a diet book out. I had a chance to have a good look through it today.

First I have to say that anybody who looses excess weight deserves a credit. How did Si and Dave managed to shed their pounds? They claim calorie counting and portion control was the key. They devised lower calorie meals without compromising flavour. I would never doubt that their food would lack flavour. But (yet there is one) I can’t claim their diet book is a healthy one.

No doubt they have replaced their usual butter, cream, pastry with lower fat versions. However I couldn’t help but notice that this book is still extremely heavy on meat. Carbohydrates don’t seem to appear that often (and indeed are not included in the calorie count) . Most of the carbs I saw were of the refined variety. They do recommend grilling meat as a way to cut down on fat, but I see carcinogens! Vegetables seem to be an afterthought: 300g of carrots vs 700g of lamb in a hotpot, no extra veggies in their chilli con carne... There are only a handful of recipes in the 'vegetable and salad' chapter and of the few salads most seem to include meat...Desserts? Their cup cakes may be lower in fat but they are still covered with icing made out of icing sugar (that is converted to fat in your body). There is one recipe I would make: the spicy vegetable and bean stew, my kind of food.

The Hairy Bikers are trying to help Britons to combat obesity, a commendable undertaking, but they could do more. As celebrity chefs they have influence and should use it to promote more healthier cooking. Not just replacing full fat mince beef with a leaner version. What is wrong with a veggie and bean chilli? Leaner bacon and egg will not make as much difference as a green breakfast smoothie would. IFor the entertainment value I will still watch their shows as they indulge their appetite through their travels. I don't think I would take their dietary advice.

Here is my low fat recipe. A spicy stew of aubergines and chickpeas with warming Moroccan spices, perfect for the suddenly chilly nights. I know "another aubergine recipe" but I do feel there are never enough aubergine recipes in one’s repertoire :)

SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW
Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that includes whole range of spices, even rose buds. In Morocco this is a blend of the best spices the shopkeeper had to offer. They vary enormously so beware of how hot your mix is. My favourite brand is the Seasoned Pioneers.

Serve with couscous, rice or quinoa and some green salad or veggies. Also great served with a flat bread.

Serves 4

spicyaubergineandchickpea2

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
2 medium aubergines, cut into bite size pieces
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs ras el hanout seasoning (or Moroccan seasoning)
2 tbs tomato puree
1 Date, finely chopped (or 1 Tbs agave, date or maple syrup)
1 tin of chickpeas, rinsed
1 Tin of chopped tomatoes

  1. In a non stick pan heat the olive oil and add the aubergine. Fry gently until soft and cooked through. If the aubergines starts to stick add some water. Remove and set aside. (For oil free version steam the aubergine first.)
  2. Add the onion to the pan and garlic to the pan, cook gently till softened. Add a bit of water if sticking to the bottom.
  3. Put the aubergine back to the onions and garlic. Add the ras el hanout and the tomato puree. Cook stirring constantly for about a minute.
  4. Next add the date, chickpeas and tinned tomato.
  5. Cook on a gently heat for 20 min or till sauce is rich and thickened.

spicyaubergineandchickpea
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AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

Thanks to the brilliant Vegan Dad (look up his blog) I found this article about... actually I am not sure what it is about. The title promises to enlighten the reader about vegetarian health, exploring 7 unhealthy foods vegetarians eat. Turns out the article is a bit vegetarian bashing... apparently it is a myth (a big one) that vegetarians eat vegetables. Generalising are we? Or am I an exception? I know for fact that I am not.

Quote from Shannon Kadlovski, a nutritionist:
"Vegetarian simply means someone who does not consume animal protein, but does not indicate that this person is otherwise consuming a healthy, balanced diet." I am sorry but as somebody who does not consume animal protein I would never make a sweeping statement about meat eaters, because I do believe that there can be healthy meat eaters just as unhealthy vegans or vegetarians.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/20/7-unhealthy-foods-vegetarians-eat_n_1897146.html#slide=1543414

So lets have a look at the seven deadly sins, I mean unhealthy foods vegetarians eat:

1.
Tofu - Kadlovski says tofu is high in oestrogen causing hormonal imbalances if eaten in excess. First we should say that phytoestrogens not oestrogens are present in soya products. The science is divided on effects of phytoeostrogens but for example according to Cornell University phytoestrogens may actually help to lower oestrogens. My view on tofu? It has been eaten for centuries in Japan and China and their breast cancer rates have always been marginal in comparison with the west. Nor have I ever heard of problems with male fertility due to tofu in these countries. As for oestrogen: animal products, fat in the diet and body (obesity) all increase levels of oestrogen. So yes I am a vegetarian that eats tofu, maybe once or twice a week and no I don’t think it is unhealthy.

2.
Processed cheese I do agree a lot of lacto/ovo vegetarians do heavily rely on cheese as their protein source but why the emphasis on processed cheese? Even when I ate cheese it was never the processed kind... it was organic.

3.
Vegetarian hot dogs. Again I agree, not healthy, but the same goes for meat (pink slime) hot dogs. Products like veggie hot dogs are great for the transition to a veggie diet but I doubt that many vegetarians/vegans rely on these. I can’t remember last time I had a veggie hotdog myself.

Protein powders. I have never used these. Actually the only person I personally know that uses whey powder is my meat eating friend who I am convinced gets way too much protein from his diet already.

5.-7.
White pasta, white rice, white bread. I can only speak for myself here but 90% of pasta, rice and bread me and my family eat is certainly not white. Surely we don’t believe that the non vegetarians all eat whole versions of these?

Can we all agree that even though some vegetarians choose to eat all or some of the above, most meat eaters include most the above items in their diets too. Vegetarians and vegans are still a minority (unless you live in India) and considering the health crisis (heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers...) criticising vegetarians makes for bad politics. Everybody despite their dietary choices should be making healthier decisions , mainly including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and cutting out the junk.

aubergine-curry

AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

This dish freezes very well. Make it as hot and mild as you wish by adding or omitting the chililes. This is a huge portion but great when you have friends over. Tastes even better the next day. I like to eat leftovers wrapped in a large tortilla wrap with some mango chutney.

You can use cashew nut cream instead of coconut milk.

enough to serve 8

ingredients

First blend to paste:
3 large onion
1-2 chillies
2 inch ginger
6 cloves garlic

Curry:
1 Tbs oil
3 aubergines cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces
1 Tbs oil
2 tsp nigella seeds
10 curry leaves
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp jaggery (optional)
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces
1 tin coconut milk (can be light)
250ml water
1 cup of peas
fresh coriander (cilantro)

aubergine-curry-detail

method
  1. In a large nonstick saucepan heat the oil and add the aubergine. Gently fry just till starting to brown, sprinkle with salt and cover with a lid and cook till soft. Stir often make sure they don't stick. Remove the aubergine pieces and set aside.
  2. Add 1 cup of the onion paste into the pan and cook slowly until it starts to change colour and all moisture has evaporated, no rushing here or the curry will be bitter. (Traditionally quite a bit of oil is used and mixture is cooked till the oil separates from the paste)
  3. When the onion mixture is cooked out add  2 tsp nigella seeds, 10 curry leaves. The seeds should start to pop.
  4. Add rest of the spices: (cumin, coriander and turmeric) cook these for about 30 seconds.
  5. Next add 1 tin of tomatoes and 1 tsp of jaggery (palm sugar) or brown sugar (you can omit this).
  6. Let it cook for 5 min till tomatoes soften.
  7. Put in the butternut squash together with the coconut milk and water and simmer till butternut is soft. Season with salt.
  8. Add in the aubergine and peas, cook for just a couple of minutes or till the aubergine is heated up and peas cooked or defrosted.
  9. Last stir in some fresh coriander.
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BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

The Huffington Post recently asked readers to vote for the best health book out of 50 chosen titles. I was jumping with joy when I found The China Study by T.Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell occupying the number one spot.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/09/best-health-books-huff-po_n_1862250.html

http://www.thechinastudy.com/


Reading The China Study was indeed a turning point for me. Go back 2 years: I am watching a Man V Food episode with my kids. (They both find it rather entertaining with my daughter shouting GO ADAM GO whenever Adam Richman is battling just another heap of meat, cheese, grease and white flour. ) My son casually says that he would like to eat meat. Shock horror!!! My kids have been vegetarians from birth. To be honest I always expected this question to pop up but I hoped it would not. Especially since I always maintain that should my kids decide to eat meat I would allowed them to do it. Not without a bit of education first.

That evening I stormed the internet and searched for “the healthiest diet”. I am not sure what I was expecting to find. As if by magic the first thing that popped up was The China Study. Not long after reading the article two copies of the book were in my Amazon basket (my friend’s birthday was coming up). I read it immediately and never looked back. Indeed my vegetarianism was confirmed and more. The dairy had to go too.

Professor Campbell is, along with other plant based diet promoters, often accused of “vegan agenda” by his critics. The diet he promotes is however a result of decades of sound research. His (and other researches') findings lead him to the conclusion that diet without animal proteins is the best way to prevent chronic disease.

My son is old enough to understand charts from this book and together with few You Tube videos this was convincing enough for him to vow never to eat meat and reduce dairy (not 100% but he is doing great). My daughter still likes cooking shows but anytime she sees meat being cooked she utters “poor chicken, cow, fish....” They may still change their minds one day but we are safe for now.

My recipe stems from one that used to be my kids favourite, baked mac and cheese. I have posted a recipe “mac and whizz” before , these two recipes are similar, with mac and whizz being the speedier version. Baked mac and (no) cheese has tofu added to the sauce which makes it more suitable for baking. It souffles and browns nicely. I also added some crunchy topping to make it extra special.

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE
This recipe serves a crowd, so please feel free to halve everything (but the butternut squash). I am always happy to serve it twice, just with different veggies on the side. Makes a great potluck dish too.

bakedmacandcheese

Serves 8

ingredients
500g (1lb 6oz) whole wheat macaroni
sauce
1 cup of cashew nuts
3 water
250 g tofu (preferably silken)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and steamed till soft (or roasted)
2 tsp onion powder
3/4tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white or yellow miso
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped Tbs nutritional yeast
squeeze of lemon to taste
crumb topping
60ml (1/4cup) pine nuts
2 tbs nutritional yeast
3 Tbs bread crumbs

bakedmacandcheese2

method
  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions.
  2. In a food processor combine all the sauce ingredients and process till you get a smooth thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Mix the pasta and sauce and pour into a large baking dish.
  4. Next place the pine nuts into a food processor and pulse until you get bread crumb texture.
  5. Mix with the nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for about 30-40min or until the top is golden brown.

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RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD

RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD

Not surprisingly, yet another research has shown the link between red meat consumptions and the increased risk of heart disease, bowel cancer and Type-2 diabetes. This recent Cambridge University study also looked into meat production and our carbon footprint. Studies after studies are coming up with the same results yet only a handful of us are taking notice. It is important to keep this news in the public view.

This particular study has shown 3-12% reduction in colorectal cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes risk. The scientist are only talking about a reduction of red meat intake from 91g to 53g per day. I would like to see the numbers for people who cut their red meat consumption down even further or indeed cut it out completely.
http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/12032/20120911/goodbye-red-meat-cutting-reduce-carbon-footprint.htm

Another study that caught my eyes is the link between mother's (and even grandmother's) diet and their daughters (granddaughters) increased risk of breast cancer. High fat diets in pregnancy can increase your daughter’s, granddaughter’s or even great granddaughter’s breast cancers risk by 55-60%. These are some scary numbers. And yet we get “nutritionists” promoting high animal fat low carb Atkins style diets.

This study proves that not only we are what we eat but our children are what we eat too!

http://www.sciencecodex.com/pregnancy_exposures_determine_risk_of_breast_cancer_in_multiple_generations_of_offspring-98216

The last study? Omega 3 supplements don’t cut risk of heart attacks. If your overall diet isn’t great Omega 3 supplement will not make much of a difference. Eating healthy plant based diet is the answer. You could include fish in your diet if you wish (I don’t) or choose from some of the many sources of non animal Omega 3 fatty acids. Chia seeds, linseeds, walnuts and kale are some of my favourites.

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357266
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/09/11/us-heart-omega-idUKBRE88A1C020120911


redpepperwalnutspread


Now one super speedy natural Omega 3, antioxidant rich, planet hugging recipe:

RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD
This spread is fab on some crusty whole grain bread but can be used as a pasta sauce pesto style.

I used peppers from a jar, but it is easy to roast your own. Just place on a foil or baking paper lined baking tray and bake (200C) or broil until peppers start blistering all over. Put into a bowl cover with plastic wrap to let peppers to steam, this makes them easy to peel. Peel and de-seed. Catch any juices from inside of the peppers.

ingredients
1 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 roasted red peppers, from a jar works great
1 raw red pepper
small bunch of parsley, leaves only, chopped

method
  1. Put walnuts, garlic and peppers into your food processor/blender.
  2. Whizz up into a course pate consistency.
  3. Add in the parsley and whizz shortly till well incorporated throughout the spread.


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KALE KOFTAS WITH SPICED TOMATO SAUCE

KALE KOFTAS WITH SPICED TOMATO SAUCE

As a parent I have an incredible urge to protect my children from all the bad things that happen it the world. On the other hand I do believe that knowledge is power. Macmillan Cancer Support have conducted a survey of 500 children aged 9-16 to find how much they knew about cancer. They found out that children in the UK are lacking cancer knowledge, for example 97% didn’t know that sunburn causes cancer, and a small number (4%) believe that a person can contract cancer from another person.

This made me conduct a survey of my own. My kids know quite a lot, they are aware that alcohol, smoking, high red meat consumption, sunburn and also obesity increase chances of contracting cancer. They can explain that cancer is caused by rogue cells dividing uncontrollably. They can also name several vegetables that offer the best protection against cancer. My son said concluded: “Of course we know quite a bit, we live with you!”

Unfortunately it is not only me sharing my acquired knowledge that makes them more informed than the average, sadly their Grandad died from cancer last summer. They, like many children today, have experienced the impact cancer can have on a person’s life. Not only children but most adults find cancer extremely frightening, but knowing what lifestyle changes can reduce our risk of getting this disease can be empowering.

You couldn’t do better than adding the fantastic kale to your diet. Kale contains isothiocyanates which induce cancer destroying enzymes and inhibitors of carcinogenesis. Unfortunately these amazing facts don’t necessarily mean kids are going to love the rather acquired taste of this green leafy vegetable. Made into koftas, however, kale is transformed into a child friendly meal. Lycopene rich spiced tomato sauce complements these koftas perfectly, enhancing the anticancer properties of this dish even further.

kalekofta2

KALE KOFTAS WITH SPICED TOMATO AND APRICOT SAUCE

Can be oil free.

Serves 4

ingredients

Kale Koftas
200g (1/2lb) shredded kale (tough stalks removed)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp olive oil
50g (1/2cup) walnuts
60g (1/2cup) cashews
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs tahini sauce
2 Tbs gram flour
(you will need 8 skewers)

Spiced Tomato and Apricot Sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 Medjol date, chopped
8 dried apricots, quartered
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tins of tomatoes

kalekoftas


method
  1. First make the koftas.
  2. If using bamboo skewers make sure you soak them in water for half an hour.
  3. Steam the kale for 5 min or until wilted. Cool the kale down.
  4. In a small frying pan heat the 2 teaspoons of oil and gently fry the onions until well caramelized. (You can saute the onions in water for oil free version, they will not get caramelized the same way though)
  5. In a food processor combine the kale, onion, garlic, walnuts, cashews, spices, lemon juice, tahini and gram flour. Process till all well combined with some texture still remaining.(I prefer to pulse the mixture so I can keep an eye on it)
  6. Divide the mixture into 8. Mold each mound of the mixture around a skewer into a kofta shape. Place onto a aluminium foil lined baking tray. Chill in a fridge for half an hour.
  7. While the koftas are resting start on your sauce.
  8. In a medium sauce pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) water and add the onions and garlic. Cook until tender.
  9. Next add the tomato puree and cook for about a minute.
  10. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer gently till ready to serve.
  11. Preheat the grill (broiler) and cook the koftas for about 3 minutes on each side.
  12. If you prefer a smooth sauce blend it in a blender.
  13. Serve the koftas (they slip of the skewer easily) with the sauce alongside some veggies and couscous.


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PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

Kids were watching “Are You Being Framed” this evening. They were laughing at the clips of the falls involving roller blades and skateboards. It made me think how peculiar we humans are. We are quite happy to put ourselves in danger of falling off boards on wheels, throwing ourselves off bridges tied to a springy rope or indeed swimming with sharks. Maybe we need an adrenalin rush that we used to experience in our distant past. Do we need a new thrill since that eat or be eaten threat is not with us anymore?

Do I dare to compare the way we eat to the dangers that adrenalin junkies may put themselves through? I am sure that anybody jumping out of an airplane knows their parachute may not open on the way down and only a handful of people will take the risk. On the other hand, most of us know that certain foods are simply bad for us. They can be disease causing and therefore life threatening. Unlike the unopened parachute the damage from a bad diet can take a while before it is obvious.

It is not only junk (processed foods high in sugar, trans fats, saturate fats, additives...) that can cause the damage, large amounts of red meat or dairy foods are not ideal either. It is possible to get used to eating a rubbish diet and feeling all right (it may be that you don’t know any better), but once you start eating clean, unadulterated food you sure notice a difference. You will especially feel the impact if you overdo it on the junk after eating healthy for a while.

Yesterday was a last day of summer holidays and I took my kids to the cinema and out for a lunch. I do let them choose what they want when we are out and my son went for a portion of mac and cheese with tortilla chips crumbled over the top. The only redeeming feature was the fresh tomato salsa that adorned the dish. He hasn’t had mac and cheese for a long time and to be honest he loved it. His tummy? Not so much. We got home and he started to feel the effects. Pain, nausea, bloating. It was very uncharacteristic for him not to eat anything for dinner! He has learnt a lesson and even if he makes a similar choice again, I will be able to remind him how such food made him feel... Hopefully he may just prefer this pasta recipe instead.

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

serves 4

ingredients
1 onion, chopped quite finely
1 large stick of celery, chopped quite finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red pepper, chopped into 1cm pieces
2 bay leaves
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
1 Tbs tomato puree (paste)
120 ml (1/2 cup) red wine
2 tins of tomatoes or 900ml jar (3 and 1/2 cups) of passata
400 g whole wheat (or gluten free) pasta
parsley or basil

redwinetomatosauce

method
  1. In a large saute pan heat about 60ml (1/4 cup) of water.
  2. Add the onion, celery, garlic and pepper and saute till softened. Add more water if vegetables start to stick.
  3. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and tomato puree.
  4. Cook for about a minute before adding red wine. Bring to a boil and reduce by half.
  5. Next add the tomatoes and let simmer on low heat for about half an hour.
  6. Cook the pasta and add to the tomato sauce.
  7. Serve garnished with parsley or basil.

redwinetomatosaucepasta
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