coconut

MADRAS PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP



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MADRAS PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP

When creating food plans for my clients I find myself repeating : Batch cook soups, add beans and lentils for protein, freeze them, take to work for lunch. It has become a mantra.
I think that soups should be the first thing a person learns to cook. They are incredibly easy, versatile and practical, especially since they keep, freeze and reheat very well. They are an easy way to get a variety of vegetables into those who don’t like eating many (pesky children…).

The most difficult process about this soups is cutting up the pumpkin, I don’t particularly enjoy cutting through the hard skin of the squash. Even my large chef’s knife seems to get stuck inside the cut. Sometimes I feel that hammer and chisel would be a much better tool than a knife. However after struggling through the first cut things get easier. Of course you can make your job even easier and use a butter nut squash. (Or as I often do enlist the help of another person, usually my husband)

Finding a good curry powder is essential for this soups flavour. I tend to get mine from an Indian supermarket or use Steenbergs organic blends. Spice blends sold in supermarkets tend to have rather strange things added - milk powder???!!! Noooo! Yes, if you don’t want any dairy in your diet you have to check curry powders too. Madness! Some of the commercial curry blends tend to have funny aftertaste that just spoils the taste of the finished dish.

You can blend to soup but I do like a bit of a texture - I do get bored with the sameness of a large bowl of blended soup at times. This soup lends itself for a variety of toppings, coriander leaves, lime wedges, sliced chillies, sourdough croutons, coriander and mint chutney… I like to eat mine with fresh chopped coriander and a big squeeze of lime. And of course this soups is ideal for freezing!

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MADRAS PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP
Serves 4-6

ingredients
1 kaboocha or sweet mamma squash
2 tsp coconut oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped (or grated with microplane grater)
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 tbs madras spice mix (I used Steenbergs organic madras blend)
1/2 cup red lentils
6 cups vegetables stock
1 tin of coconut milk
lime
fresh coriander

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method
  • Using a heavy chef’s knife cut the pumpkin into wedges, remove the stringy inside with seeds.
  • Place onto a baking tray and bake at 200C for 30-40min till pumpkin flesh is soft and caramelised. Set aside and let cool.
  • When cool enough to handle remove the flesh from the skin (by the way the skin is edible too, use if you are planning to blend the soup smooth).
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large stock pot (this makes a big batch of soup) and add the onion. Saute till softened before adding the ginger and garlic and cook for another minutes stirring constantly taking care not to burn the ginger and garlic.
  • Add your curry spice and cook briefly for about 30 seconds.
  • Next add the pumpkin flesh, red lentils, 6 cups of vegetable stock and 1 tin of coconut milk.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for 30minuted until the soup is thick and lentils are cooked tender (falling apart into the soup).
  • I like to take a potato masher and mash any large pieces of pumpkin into the soup.
  • Add lime juice to taste and garnish with coriander leaves or any other toppings as suggested above.
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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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BANANA COCONUT FLAPJACKS

BANANA COCONUT FLAPJACKS

Sugar has been getting a lot of bad press lately. And I will say rightly so. We do eat far too much and many of us don’t realize all the hidden sugars in processed foods. However I hate when a banana is being compared with coca cola or fruit smoothie with a glazed doughnut for sugar content.

Unlike cola banana has fibre, potassium, protein, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium,manganeses, folate and it even has a small amount omega fats in the right proportion. And yes a medium banana has 27.5g sugar. One can of cola has 33g of sugar and that’s pretty much it.... I know which one I would choose to eat.

Breast milk tastes sweet and maybe that’s why, from a very young age, we have an affinity for sweet taste. I notice my craving for sweet treats goes up when I am doing intense studying. Around 3pm every college weekend, there are serious calls for chocolate and if you happen to have a bar in your bag you score a lot of points with fellow students.

Last week I spend revising for an exam and even it involved a lot of sitting my need for food went way up. Brain needed fuel. Three overripe bananas in the fruit bowl and half an hour later I had these rather yummy banana coconut flapjacks. Yummy squidgy energy giving bars.

My daughter hates raisins or indeed any dried fruit apart from mango, so I opted for chocolate chips (not that I had to convince myself too much). If you are feeling more virtuous swap them for whatever dried fruit you fancy or just double the amount of nuts.

bananacoconutflapjack2

BANANA COCONUT FLAPJACKS
Makes 12 bars

ingredients
3 very ripe medium bananas
3 Tbs coconut oil, melted
135g (1 1/2cups) porridge oats (gluten free for a gluten free version)
90g (1cup ) coconut flour
45g (1/2 cups) plain chocolate chips
45g (1/2 cups ) walnut pieces

method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. First line a 10x6 inch (15x25cm) baking form with baking paper.
  3. In a large bowl mash the bananas. Add in the melted coconut oil, porridge oats and coconut flour. Mix well
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  5. Tip the mixture into your prepared baking form, press down with a spoon and bake for 30min or until golden brown.


bananacoconut-flapjack
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CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

Today I met up with friends for lunch. They chose Wagamama, a pan Asian noodle place. I have eaten there a few times so had no worries.

First the waiter forgot my miso soup and pickles, he just brought my main dish straight away. I started to eat it and after getting through about a third I discovered an alien (to me) food. OK I admit I first thought this was an oyster mushroom but at a closer look I recognized from my distant memory this was indeed a good sized piece of chicken.

I returned the dish, expressing my disgust. They apologised and quickly made a new portion of my noodles. They also finally brought my (luke warm) miso soup and even offered a free dessert. I ended up paying only for my fresh blueberry apple and ginger juice. Still I felt disappointed.

Everybody makes mistakes we are only humans. However if this was a peanut in a dish of somebody who has severe nut allergy or some breadcrumbs in a coeliacs dinner we would call it serious. This could be a life and death situation. Of course I won’t suffer an anaphylactic shock should I put this piece of chicken in my mouth. I just like to receive what I ordered, I have a reason (actually reasons) why I am a veggie and I would like eateries to be more respectful. Not so long ago at Yo Sushi I saw a piece of breaded tofu being sliced on the same chopping board with the same knife as the breaded chicken. Is it carelessness or ignorance? Attention to detail makes a big difference.

no chicken in these noodles :)
laksa-thing

CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU
This is my take on laksa. It is a lot thicker than laksa should be, but that can be remedied by adding a bit more water. Thicker sauce makes it very comforting and thats how I like it.

I was cautious and added just one chilli pepper but regretted it later, it could have done with at least 2. Of course it depends on the type of chillies you have and your "heat resistance".

serves 4

laksa paste
laksa-thing-paste

ingredients:
paste
1/2cup macadamia nuts
2 stalks of lemongrass, outer leaves peeled, coarsely chopped
1-3 red chillies, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely cut
1 bunch of coriander (about 2 cups)
1 inch of fresh turmeric root (or 1 tsp dried turmeric), peeled and sliced
1 inch ginger rood or galangal, peeled and sliced
2 large banana shallots

16-20 baby aubergines
1 1/2 tbs rapeseed or coconut oil
250g (9-100z) firm tofu, cut into bite size pieces
1 tin coconut milk
500ml (2 cups) of water
1 Tbs tamari
1 tsp coconut nectar sugar
10 kafir lime leaves
1-2 limes
fresh coriander for garnish
1 red chilli
250g (9oz) rice noodles,medium thickness.

baby aubergines

baby-aubergines-


  1. First make the paste. Place all the ingredients into a blender or a food processor. Blend to a coarse paste. You will have to stop and scrape the sides few times. Set aside.
  2. Cut of the stalks of the baby aubergines, halve them and place into a roasting dish. Add 1 tbs of oil and mix well. If using coconut oil you should melt it first. Roast the aubergine in a 200C oven for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large wok heat the remaining 1/2tbs of oil. Add all the paste and cook gently for 2 minutes.
  4. Next add the coconut milk, water, tamari sauce, coconut sugar, kafir lime leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the noodles. Soak them in just boiled water for 10minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Next add the roasted aubergines, and tofu into the wok. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add the rice noodles into the wok and let just heat through.
  8. Add lime juice and salt to taste.
  9. Serve topped with coriander and sliced chillies and some lime wedges.

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COCONUT TURMERIC STEW WITH SWISS CHARD

COCONUT TURMERIC STEW WITH SWISS CHARD

What is your vice? One of my friends thinks that a day without a cake is not worth living, another one can’t relax without a glass of wine in the evening. My daughter cannot pass a cheese stall at a food fair without tasting it and my husband enjoys his weekend beer.

This weekend I made a lovely turmeric vegetable stew with coconut milk. According to one of Dr Greger’s videos ( www.nutritionfacts.org) , coconut milk has the same effect on our arteries as a hamburger. Pretty scary! Does this mean that coconut milk is my vice?

When I think about coconut milk Thai food springs to mind. We all associate Thailand with green or red Thai curry, Thom Ka soup, or coconut milk desserts. Therefore I did some digging to find out about heart disease in Thailand. I came upon a brilliant overview which you can check out in full via the link at the end of this blog.

Thailand had become more industrialised and Westernised in the last 30 or so years, this has impacted on the way the Thais eat. From 1960 to 1995 the consumption of rice,cereals and tubers has gone down by about 1/3, fish and seafood stayed unchanged, however meat and poultry consumption has gone up by 4 fold, dairy was not used at all in 1960 by 1995 has become more prevalent. Veg and fruit was up (good news), but so were fats and oils from animals sources, whereas fats and oils from plant sources were down (coconut?). Consumption of sugar, as everywhere in the word, is on the way up too.

Cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of death in Thailand since 1989, indeed non communicable diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity) have overtaken communicable diseases (transmittable). In Thailand, people are getting “Western” diseases due their diet and lifestyle change. To quote the report: "
Eating patterns have shifted from a traditional Asian diet – cereal- based and low-fat – to a more Westernised diet characterised by increased consumption of animal products, fats and sugars and decreasing consumption of complex carbohydrate foods.” Traditional diet high in carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and low in animal foods, and moderate in fish/seafood served the Thai’s well for centuries even with coconut milk being a major part.

I am not advocating using coconut milk daily, I use it in moderation (always with lots of veggies) perhaps once or twice a month, less than it is traditionally used in South East Asia and Pacific. I treat it as a vice and indulge rarely. As my lecturer once said, if you are going to eat the occasional piece of cake, make sure you enjoy it. I try to adhere to 90/10 and I make sure I don’t feel guilty about the 10%.

Note: If you are trying to loose weight or have a cardiovascular disease, it is best to stay away from coconut milk all together:)

http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/nutrans/research/bellagio/papers/PHNThailand-Vongsulvat.pdf

COCONUT TURMERIC STEW WITH SWISS CHARD
Make sure to use black pepper when cooking with turmeric, it seems to awaken its anticancer power!

Serves 4
rainbowchard


ingredients
1 onion, chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1 cup vegetable stock
black pepper
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 large bunch of rainbow (or regular) Swiss chard
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
1 tin of coconut milk (whole or reduced fat) or 1 1/3 cups of cashew nut milk
3 spring onions, finely chopped
lime

turmeric-stew

method
  1. In a large lidded saute pan heat some water (1/3cup - 80ml) and add your onion, garlic and chilli. Cook gently till softened.
  2. While these are cooking wash the Swiss chard. If you have large leaves, cut them away from the stalks. Cut the stalks into bite size pieces and shred the leaves. Keep them separate.
  3. Add your turmeric and black pepper to the onions. Stir around for a few seconds.
  4. Next add the stock, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard stalks and chickpeas.
  5. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Gently boil covered for about 10 min.
  6. After the 10 minutes add your Swiss chard greens and cook further 5 min or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  7. Just before serving stir in the spring onions and lime juice to taste. (you can also add some fresh coriander - cilantro)
  8. Serve with flat breads, brown rice or rice noodles.


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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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MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Desserts - FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Dessert
FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

The best for last. Desserts. Not much room for veggies here. Fruit is the star. Lately fruit has been vilified by many. Fruit is largely excluded from the low carb high protein diets due to their high carbohydrate content. Too much fruit, some say, hampers your weight loss. Yes fruits are high in sugar but that is what makes them so utterly irresistible. It is sugar packaged by nature not a processing plan. Of course you are also getting loads of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Our ancestors surely found fruit the easiest food to gather.

I cannot imagine world without fruit, it is my favourite snack and makes a perfect dessert. Great fresh fruit salad is an incredible treat, of course the fruit must be its flavoursome best. When I was a child every June my grandmother went to search for first cherries, she tied them into mini bunches with a string and presented these ruby red bouquets to the family. It was a yearly ritual, we knew summer was in attendance.

Yes I am a fruitaholic, but I am not the only one. Dr Douglas Graham has based his 80/10/10 diet on fruit. Yes he recommends 80% of person’s daily food intake consumed in the form of fruit. My sport hero and compatriot Martina Navratilova certainly agrees. Even if I wouldn’t take up this diet full time I would never say no to an all fruit binge especially in this hot weather.

Plant based diet doesn’t mean that your only dessert option will be just fresh fruit, of course there is so much more to choose from. Raw desserts are my favourite, they are incredibly inventive and satisfying. From raw ice-creams, to tarts and cheesecakes you just can’t go wrong. You don’t have to give up baked desserts either, it is easy to substitute eggs, milk and butter, to make fab muffins and cakes. Just search for black bean brownies on the internet and you may be surprised how many recipes pop up. You can eat your way toward your 10-a-day with some yummy sweet treats.

My recipe today is fruit based, cut up and put on skewers kebab style makes it fun to eat, especially for those kids who may find fruit boring (how could they???). I made a simple coconut and cashew dip to make it a bit more special.

fruitkebabs

FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

ingredients
Fruit of your choice
to make 8 kebabs I used:
1 large punnet of strawberries
half a pineapple
2 large bananas
1 kiwi (for a special request kebab...)
the dip
3/4 cup (185ml) water
1 cup cashews
1-2 Tbs coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 Tbs toasted coconut to decorate (just toast your dessicated coconut in a dry frying pan till golden)

method
  1. Cut up your fruit and thread on skewers.
  2. In a blender process the cashews, sugar and water till smooth. Add more water if too thick.
  3. Add the coconut and whizz up quickly just to stir through.
  4. Serve kebabs with the dip on the side.
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DATE AND ALMOND BALLS



After eating at a new all you can eat buffet restaurant (yummy curry!) I didn’t expect my friend D would want to hold me to my promise that next time she’d come over I would make her my date/almond balls. Promise is a promise and that is why even with a full tummy (while my Earl Grey was brewing) I put a batch together.

To be honest these morsels of yumminess have been my most requested recipe. Those who taste them want to make them. They are perfect snack if you fancy something sweet. Dates are after all nature’s candy. With the help of a food processor they are incredibly easy and quick to make. I always have a huge bag of almonds in the freezer and Medjool dates in my pantry so there is never an excuse not to roll a few up.



DATE AND ALMOND BALLS

If you are using almonds from your freezer do defrost them first, it takes about half an hour, not only this will make the work easier on the food processor but the balls seem to come together better too. I store the balls in an airtight container in the fridge, they firm up a bit. If you don’t like coconut you can also use sesame seeds to roll the balls in.

ingredients

1 cup /250ml almonds
7-8 Mejdool dates, stones removed
1/2 cup/125 ml shredded coconut

method

  1. In a food processor grind the almonds, make sure the pieces keep some texture (about bulghur wheat size). You don’t want to end up with almond flour.
  2. Add the dates and process until mixture starts to come together. Test it but squeezing some of the mixture together, it should hold its shape.
  3. With wet hands make walnut size balls and roll them in the coconut.
  4. Chill in the fridge if you can wait.

Date Balls

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