lentils

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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DAL SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO ‘CROUTONS’

DAL SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO ‘CROUTONS’

There is a big anti legume movement out there, yes I am talking about the Paleo diet. But did the Paleo man eat beans, peas or lentils? Apparently there is accumulating evidence that legumes were eaten by the Paleo humans. You can read more here:
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/beans-lentils-and-paleo-diet.html

We have been consuming pulses for a long time. As I found out from Wikki, traces of production of lentils have been found in Punjab dating circa 3300BC. Similarly dried pea seeds have been discovered in a Swiss Village dating back to Stone Age. We have done rather well eating beans for millennia. Pulses certainly aren’t responsible for our world wide health crisis.

In India dal is a daily staple. I remember reading an article by a couple or travellers who spent some time in a village in the Himalayas. As Westerners, spoilt by choice, they got slightly fed up by the daily dal and chapati combo. Clearly dal is the main source of protein in the largely vegetarian India.

Beans feature strongly in cuisines around the world. They were traditionally the poor man staple. I own a cookbook of historic recipes from a mountain region in my home country and the biggest section is the bean/lentil one.

There is a massive drive to eat clean, eat natural, eat traditional. Can it get more traditional than hoummus, ful medames, cassoulett, black beans and rice or dal? I think not. And as some of the latest studies are confirming the phytate’s (anti-nutrient in pulses) have anticancer abilities I am keeping them on my menu.

More on phytates: http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=phytates


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TOMATO AND DAL SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO ‘CROUTONS’
Make sure you season the dal well, it makes a world of difference to the taste.
Serves 4

1 cup red lentils
4 large tomatoes chopped or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 inch ginger, grated
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli
4 cups vegetable stock (I use Marigold vegan stock powder)
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, sliced
spray of oil
1 tsp garam masala
fresh coriander to serve

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • In a large sauce pan combine the red lentils, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, asafoetida, fenugreek and Kashmiri chilli.
  • Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 30-35 minutes, until the lentils are soft and falling apart. Check for seasoning.
  • While the dal soup is cooking, place the potatoes and onion into a roasting dish that will hold the potato in a single layer. Add the garam masala and spray lightly with oil. Toss to coat. Roast for 25-30 min until the potatoes are tender.
  • Serve in a bowl topped with the roasted potatoes and onions. Garnish with fresh coriander.

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LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY

LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY

You may think having a curry is not a good idea in the summery weather but I could argue that is always summer in India… This recipe is light, no heavy sauce or too much oil like you might get in your takeaway. The main ingredients are some of the favourite among the plant based folk; potatoes and lentils. Both are indeed very filling and satisfying.

Yesterday, we had few friends over for a mezze type eating feast. My Brazilian friend announced she was brining Brazilian potato salad. I didn’t want to rain on her thunder but I needed to let her know that I am also using potatoes. I was making a spiced Indian potato salad… To my delight she swept my worries away with a firm: “You can’t ever have enough potatoes!”

Lentils, unlike beans, are known to be easily cooked even without soaking. That may be a convenient feature but I still recommend soaking all pulses, even the very small red lentils. It takes a bit of planning, but if you know you will be making some delicious lentil curry or soup in the evening just start soaking your lentils in the morning (or indeed the evening before). Beans, I preferably soak for 24 hrs. The soaking degrades phytic acid that minerals in the pulses are bound to, thus soaking them will make the minerals easier to absorb.

Another good idea is to cook your pulses with a piece of kombu seaweed. The kombu softens and you can either munch on it (it is a bit slimy…) or blend it into a sauce or soup. Kombu is traditionally used in Japanese broths to add flavour but when cooked with beans or lentils it increases digestibility and reduces the notorious gassiness… Skimming the foam off the surface will also reduce the gas production later :)

In this recipe I have used lentils verte (Puy), these are not traditionally used in Indian cooking, but I wanted the texture of these European lentils. Indian dals tend to be more mushy and soupy ( and I do love them) but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to experiment a little. French - Indian fusion, this may just catch on...

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LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY
serves 4

ingredients
250g dried lentils, I used lentils verte - Puy (or 2 tins of puy lentils) soaked for 12 hrs
1 - 1inch piece of kombu seeweed (optional)
2 tsp coconut oil
10 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella or black mustard seeds
2 tsp coconut oil
1 large red onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
1 thumb piece of ginger, grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1/2-1tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or other chilli powder)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbs tomato puree
3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped and if you wish peeled and deseeded
1 and 1/2 - 2 cups water (this will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
200g spinach
1tsp garam masala.

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method
  • First cook the lentils with the kombu in plenty of water for 20-30 minutes until they are just tender but still retaining shape. Drain and set aside
  • In a large sauté pan with a lid heat the coconut oil. Add the curry leaves, cumin and mustard (nigella) seeds. Heat till the mustard seeds start to pop and you can smell the aroma of spices. Take care not to burn.
  • Next add the onion and cook till soft and golden.
  • Add the ginger, onion, chopped green chilli (or add it whole with a slit down its side for less heat). Cook for 1 minute before adding the Kashmiri chilli powder and turmeric. Heat the spices for about 30 seconds.
  • Next step is to add tomato puree and chopped tomatoes, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 10 minutes of till the tomatoes start to soften.
  • When the tomatoes are soft and pulpy add 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of water (can use vegetable stock for even more depth of flavour). Add the potatoes and cook for about 15 minuter or until potatoes are tender.
  • Finally add the lentils and cook very gently for another 10 min to allow the flavours to combine. Towards the end stir through the spinach and garam masala and check for seasoning. Cook briefly just to let the spinach wilt into the curry.
  • Serve with rice, Indian bread and Kachumbar.


Kachumbar recipe:
http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog_files/3b5e144dc81a7f3dcff107839b220c7c-107.html

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LENTIL, PORCINI AND SPINACH SOUP

LENTIL, PORCINI AND SPINACH SOUP

My Dad is coming over for Christmas and he promised to bring more of his foraged, hand cut and dried over wood stove wild mushrooms. That’s why I have been clearing “the last year’s stock” by sticking the woodland treasures into everything. They add so much flavour and meaty chewy texture. I love them.

Due to the never ending supply courtesy of my Dad I use them very liberally, by large handfuls. The cupboard where I store the bags of mushrooms is drowned in the their characteristic scent (there is a reason why you can’t find dried mushroom scented candles in shops). Dried porcini tend to be rather pricy in the UK, but luckily you don’t need a lot, half an ounce will give plenty of flavour to your dishes.

For this recipe I used a mixture of lentils (one of those soup mixes from a shop), feel free to create your own mixture or use just one type of lentil. The soup will taste great with any type of lentil. Beware it is very filling, I did say it serves 4 generously, I mean generously. This is a main course soup. No need for bread either.

It freezes beautifully. My plan is to freeze a batch to have a quick lunch on hand when I have had enough of cooking over the holiday season. You may just need to add more stock when reheating. I do hope my Dad will approve of the use of his handpicked mushrooms (and won’t miss the meat ).

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LENTIL, PORCINI AND SPINACH SOUP
Serves 4 very generously.

ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped into small dice
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped into small dice
2 stick of celery, chopped into small dice
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbs of tomato puree
1 tin of tomatoes
15 - 30 g (1/2 - 1oz) dried porcini mushrooms
2 medium potatoes, cut onto 1cm dice
300 g (1 and 1/2 cups) lentils (I used a mix of red, puy and green)
6 cups (1.5 litres) of vegetable stock
200 g frozen spinach (300g fresh), defrost if using frozen

  • In a large stock pot heat 60ml water (or stock) and the onions, garlic, carrot, celery and rosemary. Cook with the lid on for about 10min or until soften. Add more water if needed.
  • Next add the tomato puree, cook for a minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, cook for 10 min with the lid on.
  • Next add the porcini, potatoes, stock and lentils. Cook on low heat for 30-40 min or until the lentils are cook. Depending on the how much the lentils absorb you may need to add more water if need.
  • Add the spinach, if using frozen defrost and let it heat through in the soup. If using fresh let it wilt in the soup.
  • Season and serve

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KALE, SWEET POTATO, RED LENTIL AND TOM YUM SOUP

KALE, SWEET POTATO, RED LENTIL AND TOM YUM SOUP

After the unusually warm autumn it is finally starting to feel much chillier. I noticed myself picking up the pace when walking my dog this morning in an attempt to warm up. I am not complaining, to me cold weather means I can eat lots of gorgeous comforting soups.

This soup is a favourite of mine, I am surprised that it has not made it onto my blog yet. Maybe it because I have never measured anything when cooking it. And I don’t seem to be to consistent when making it either, there seem to be a few variations to this recipe. I have made suggestions below the recipe if you want to try them out. It is so easy to make that it became one of my staples whenI was in college, I would cook it in the morning and take it in a flask for lunch.

This soup is full of flavour, high in protein, comforting and pleasantly spicy. I use a shop bought Tom Yum paste for speed (I have been planning to make my own but somehow nit hasn’t happened yet...). Just make sure you buy one without shrimp paste, I found a shrimp free one in an Asian supermarket). A Thai red curry paste is a good substitute but will not give the soup the same hot and sour undertones.


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KALE, SWEET POTATO, RED LENTIL AND TOM YUM SOUP
Serves 4

ingredients
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs - 2 tbs tom yum paste (or red curry paste)
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 orange flesh sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1cm dice
1 cup of red lentils
5 cups of water (4 cups if using tinned coconut milk)
50g (2oz) coconut cream (or tin of coconut milk)
4 cups of shredded kale
salt and pepper to taste
lime juice to taste
chilli flakes to taste

method
  • Heat 60ml (1/4 cup) water in a stock pot, add onion and garlic and cook till the onions soften.
  • Add the tom yum paste, kaffir lime leaves, sweet potato, lentils and 5 cups of water and coconut cream.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for 20 min or until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender.
  • Next add the shredded kale and cook for further 10min.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve with lime juice (I use up to juice of half a lime for my portion) and some crushed chilli flakes.

Variations:
Add tomatoes
- add 4-5 medium ripe tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomato after adding the tom yum paste, cook for 5-10min to soften, use one less cup of water
Change the greens - instead of kale you can use spinach (no need to cook, just let the spinach wilt in hot soup)
Change the sweet potatoes - use pumpkin or butter nut squash
Make it lower in fat - omit the coconut milk or cream, it will still taste delicious; you can add the above mentioned tomatoes instead
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MOROCCAN SPICED LENTIL AND SPINACH SOUP

MOROCCAN SPICED LENTIL AND SPINACH SOUP

My cupboard is always full of spices, that way I can always create a dish with influences from different cuisines. Sometimes I buy pre-mixed concoctions but I do love creating my own blends. They may not be authentic but it is all about the taste.

Last weekend we had a Moroccan feast so perhaps that’s why I reached for Moroccan spices again to make this lentil and spinach soup. It was thick, chunky and filling, just the thing one needs after a long dog walk through mist and fog. I though it could have done with a bit more chilli. Mind you I always have a handy chilli flake grinder or a bottle of chilli sauce within my reach...

This is a great soup for batch cooking, just double the quantities and keep some in the freezer for those “can’t be bother to cook” days. And if you want to shorten the preparation a bit more look out for Moroccan spice mixes such as Ras El Hanout in your spice isle.

I had about a cup of the soup left over for today, due to the lentils it thickened considerably overnight in the fridge. I considered pouring the leftovers over a baked sweet potatoes but had no patience to wait an hour for it to bake... I opted for sauteing some mushrooms, cooked couple handfuls of brown rice pasta and mixed it all together with the leftover soup and few squirts of ketchup. It turned out to be a very yummy lunch for one.


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MOROCCAN SPICED LENTIL AND SPINACH SOUP
Serves 3-4

ingredients
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped into fine dice
1 stick of celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp harrisa paste (depending on how spicy you like your soup)
1 tin of tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) red lentils
3-4 cups of vegetables stocks
100g spinach

method
  1. In a large soup pot heat 1/3cup (60ml ) water (or 1 tbs oil) and saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic till soften, add more water if the vegetables are starting to stick.
  2. Add the spices and cook for about 30seconds.
  3. Next add the harrisa paste and tomatoes and cook for couple of minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and vegetable stock and cook for 20min or until the lentils are soft, nearly falling apart and the soup is thick.
  5. Add the spinach leaves and let them wilt into the soup, this will take about a minute.

Leftover magic
leftover-bolognaise

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KALE TARKA DAL

KALE TARKA DAL

Last night, over some delicious food at our friends, we talked about our favourite cuisines. I couldn’t make up my mind, I like Italian for its delicious simplicity, Thai for its balance of flavours, Indian for its spiciness... Than there is Japanese, Czech, Moroccan, Syrian... I guess I just like delicious food.

I can spend hours watching cookery shows, chefs adding foams, smears of sauces, gels and jellies, freeze dried petals. We have elevated cooking to a form of art, it has become more than just food. However, in the end of the day, that's precisely what it is - food. Us mere home cooks will never use dry ice to make ice cream or jellify pea puree into pea like spheres. This doesn’t mean that a home cooked meal is somehow inferior to a 9 course tasting menu at a manor house restaurant.

As a home cook I love to look for inspiration from traditional cooking all over the world. No Michelin star presentation, no sommeliers, no pressed white table cloths or polished silver. Just simple nutritions flavoursome food. Dal is one of my favourite dishes. It is so comforting, easy and satisfying. It also is the perfect veggie meal, full of protein (25%), rich in B vitamins, iron and zinc. No wonder it is a daily staple all over India.

Unfortunately my husband doesn’t share my love of dal therefore I tend to cook it for myself for lunch or as a part of an Indian meal. I cooked this dal for my friend for lunch couple weeks ago and she has been reminding me to share the recipe online ever since. I know kale is not something you see in a traditional Indian dal but it works beautifully (so does spinach or Swiss chard) and as you may know by now I think there are never enough recipes for kale :)

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KALE TARKA DAL

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a part of a Indian Thali style meal

ingredients
1 and 1/2cup split mung dal
3 cups of water
2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
1 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric
ground black pepper
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
4 oz (120g) kale leaves (weight without the tough stalks)

for the tarka

1 Tbs coconut oil
1 small onion (or shallot), finely sliced
1 chilli, finely sliced
1/2 tsp nigella seed
1/2tsp cumin seed
20 curry leaves

coriander leaves to garnish

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method
  1. In a large sauce pan combine the mung dal, water, ginger, garlic, asafoetida, turmeric, pepper and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes (add more water if the dal seems too dry) or until the lentils are cooked through, falling apart. The consistency should be of a thick soup or porridge.
  2. Next add the kale and cook covered for 5 minutes or until the kale is soft.
  3. While the kale is cooking, in a small frying pan (or s heavy sauce pan) heat the coconut oil and fry the onion and chilli for 2 minutes (the onion should be brown) than add the whole spices for a minute. Add the onion and spice mix to the dal ( I love the way it sizzles).
  4. Serve garnished with lots of fresh coriander with some brown rice or a chapati on the side.
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DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

Last week you couldn’t escape articles claiming that butter is better for your heart than margarine. “Eat butter, avoid margarine” was one of the titles staring at me from my computer screen.

What do I think? I will not dispute that butter can be handled better by our bodies than margarines that contain trans fats(the ultimate bad boy among fats). The study, that the articles are based on, was done using safflower oil or margarine which was substituted for butter in the intervention group of men who have previously suffered heart attacks. The other group kept on carrying cheerfully with butter. The non butter group were asked to reduce their saturated fats to less than 10% of energy intake, and increase their polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) to about 15%. If my maths skills are right we are talking about 25% of energy from fat. I am sure some other fatty acids would make their way into their diet too, monounsaturated and hopefully some omega 3, taking their total fat intake even higher.

This takes me to what I learnt from my fat/fatty acid lecture last weekend. We all know that are recommended daily fat intake is 30% of our energy intake. Are these numbers really health promoting? In the 70s experts have analysed the fat intake of Japanese and Chinese people, who had
very low incidence of heart disease. The average intake came to some 14% of calories from fat (no butter or safflower margarine either). Now this number would have been too much to ask from the Western population that was eating over 40% of calories from fat. Therefore 30% was seen as an achievable goal.

Do you see where I am going? The men in the study above were still eating too much dietary fat. The fat in the intervention group was largely omega 6 fat. It is widely accepted that the imbalance (omega 6 too high) between omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids leads to inflammation that further leads to many chronic diseases. Drs Ornish, Esselstyn and Fuhrman all have incredible results in treating heart disease, they are routinely slowing the progression and even reversing heart disease. And believe me it is not through diets high in butter. On Dr Esselstyn diet, no oils are used ( no fats, not even nuts and avocados), Dr Furhman, says no to oil too, he will let you have 1 Tbs of oil provided your diet is otherwise up to his very strict standards and you are in good health. No oil therefore if you do have any heart problems. Dr Ornish, in his Medicare approved plan, looks at improving the ratios of the omega 6/3 fats, his recommendation is to use flax or canola (rapeseed) oil and fish capsules (fish few times a week ok if you are preventing heart disease, for heart patients he sticks to supplements). He doesn’t recommend using olive oil as it doesn’t contain the heart healthy omega 3 fats. Even though some oil is allowed he quickly points out the calorie implications of olive oil, that so many claim is the good for your heart fat. Yes, 1 tbs has 14g of fat comparable with a scoop of premium ice-cream that has 16g of fat, so if you are trying to loose a bit of weight (and many heart patients do) using oil may not be the smart way to go about weight loss.

Therefore before you go and run to that tub of butter, look at the diets that have real results in preventing, slowing the progression and reversing heart disease. What do I do? First I get my good fats from seeds (esp flax and chia) , nuts and avocados, not from processed oil. Mostly I cook without oil, if I do use it I make sure there is no more than 2 Tbs in the whole meal for 4-6 people, but mostly only1/2-1Tbs will be used. Soups, stews, pasta sauces and dips all taste great without oil. Curries and roasted vegetables do taste better with a little bit of oil, but here I measure not pour. And believe me If I ever have any indication of a heart problem, even the curry will become oil free :)

more info on this study:
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/February/Pages/omega-6-fat-diet-heart-disease-death-risk.aspx

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HEARTY PASTA
This is a very hearty robust dish. I either use wholemeal or half white paste (kids think that is a real treat)

Serves 6

ingredients

125ml (1/2 cup) green or brown lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 portobello mushrooms, cut into small about 1cm pieces
1/2 cup of Marsala wine (or other fortified wine)
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 tsp each dried thyme and oregano (or 1 Tbs each fresh)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of vegetable stock
1 Tbs mushroom ketchup or veggie Worcestershire sauce
500g pasta (whole meal or half white)


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method
  1. Cook the lentils in about 750ml (3 cups) of water for 20 minutes until soft but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, in a large saute pan heat about 80ml (1/3 cup) of water and add the onion, celery and garlic. Saute till softened.
  3. Add the mushrooms and the Marsala. Cook until most of the wine is cooked away.
  4. Next add the tomato puree, cook for about 1 min.
  5. Next add the herbs, tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock and the mushroom ketchup.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 min.
  7. Add the lentils and simmer for further 10 -15 min.
  8. In the meantime cook your past till al dente.
  9. Add the pasta into your sauce and serve.

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THE BIG 40 - ROASTED ROOT VEG AND PUY LENTIL SALAD

THE BIG 40
ROASTED ROOT VEG AND PUY LENTIL SALAD

“Just remember, once you're over the hill you begin to pick up speed.”
Charles M. Schultz

The big 40. Yes, I have joined the club last Sunday. I had a few pre-birthday drinks with my gorgeous girlfriends the previous weekend and this weekend was spent with family. Many women do seem to worry about turning 40, we all say :“it’s down hill from now on...”. I feel, however, that I am the happiest I have been. I have a great family, wonderful husband, two amazing kids who are my ray of sunshine everyday. I have got some fabulous friends and am working toward my goal of becoming a naturopathic nutritionist. I wouldn’t change any of this for being younger.

When you turn 40 you should:

  • Look after yourself even more. As we age we do need to ensure we eat well and move even more than before. Antioxidants plenty! Natural cosmetics! No junk!

  • Surround yourself only with people who are good for your soul (this may be hard at work, but in your personal relationships it is a must). Be there for your friends, call them, text them, hug them, feed them, laugh with them...

  • Find time for yourself everyday, it can be a cup of tea and a few chapters of a good book, a walk with the dogs or a spot of meditation. Anything that relaxes you is a good thing.

  • Spent time with the people closest with you. A glass of wine with your partner, shopping trip with your daughter or the latest Bond movie with your son are moments to treasure forever. Cook and eat together, dance and laugh everyday. Appreciate every minute.

  • Have goals. They may be small or big. Whether you want to run a marathon or learn to samba make sure you enjoy working towards them. Learning keeps us young.

  • Think before you speak. You don’t have to always speak wisely, but your words should never hurt.

  • Realize that wearing stilettos will not make your night out any more fun... they may just make your feet hurt like hell!

  • Enjoy the healing power of food (and enjoy my recipes)


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ROASTED ROOT VEG AND PUY LENTIL SALAD

Serves 4 as a main dish salad

ingredients
250g (1 cup) Puy lentils
1 large parsnip, cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 tsp rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs ras-el-hanout (or Moroccan seasoning)
1 whole garlic bulb
3 Tbs cider vinegar
3 spring onions, finely chopped

method
  1. Cook the lentils in 3 cups of water for about 25-30min. Lentils should be soft but still holding their shape.
  2. Let the lentils cool.
  3. While the lentils are cooking put the parsnip, carrots and sweet potatoes, mixed with 2 tsp of rapeseed oil and the ras-el-hanout, on a baking paper lined tray. Add un-peeled garlic cloves to the tray.
  4. Roast for 25-30 min at 200C oven. Take care not to over cook the garlic cloves.
  5. Add the roasted vegetables to the lentils.
  6. Squeeze the garlic flesh out of the skins, mash them into a smooth paste. Add the vinegar combine togeher and add to the lentils.
  7. Mix in the spring onion. Serve warm or at room temperature.


veggies ready for the oven
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BEETROOT, RED LENTIL AND SEED BURGERS

BEETROOT, RED LENTIL AND SEED BURGERS

Last study weekend one of my friends brought my aubergine and butternut squash curry for lunch and another one had my kale koftas. Couple of days later, on the school run, another friend told me she made my butternut squash and pear soup for dinner. She took it for her lunch to work the next day and ended up sharing my recipe around her office.

This makes me
so happy. I love cooking for people and I love when they cook my recipes. Sharing food is one of life’s great pleasures. When people enjoy my food it truly warms my soul. Don’t we all love sharing a great meal? Is this why TV cookery programs are ever so popular and chefs are enjoying a celebrity status?

Wouldn’t it be great if these chefs promoted healthier way of eating instead of basting everything with butter and free-poring olive oil over their food? Jamie Oliver has always been at the forefront of the “food revolution". Nobody can deny his passion and dedication. All that aside, his book Foods in Minutes was awarded the Worst Cook Book of 2011 by PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). The meatball sandwich clocks up more fat than a Big Mac and has more than double the calories. Looking through his most recent book, Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, it looks like Jamie has listened. In his latest collection of recipes he has scaled down the oil and other fats. He has also included nutritional info. It is a step forward. Will Nigella join him?

Today’s recipe was a surprise to me. Why? Both kids loved it! Yes, my daughter and son happily munched their way through these. My son even contemplated taking the one leftover burger to school for his lunch. These were his words:”I think I will have it for school, I don’t care if my friends think I am a freak!” It sure made me laugh!

beetroot-burgers

BEETROOT, RED LENTIL AND SEED BURGERS

ingredients
180g (1 cup) red lentils
2 cups water
2 medium beetroot, cooked
1 tsp vegan bouillon powder (I use Marigold)
150g (1 cup) seed mix (linseed, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower..)
3 Tbs gram flour

method
  1. In a medium saucepan combine the lentils and water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 mins, or till the lentils are soft and most of the water has evaporated, drain any remaining water. Sit aside to let the lentils cool down.
  2. Place the cooled lentils in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Grate the beetroot and add to the lentils.
  4. Next add the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Line a baking tray (one that fits your fridge) with a grease proof. Make 8 burgers from the mixture, place them on the tray and chill for at least half an our.
  6. Bake at 180C for 20min, turn over and cook for further 10min.
  7. Serve in a burger bun or as I did with some mashed potatoes made with almond milk.

beetroot-burgers-2
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SPINACH SWAMP BURGERS

VegFest 2012 - SPINACH SWAMP BURGERS

We had another scorching day, perfect weather for hanging out at the harbour and eating some yummy vegan treats. Annual VegFest came to town and as usual didn’t disappoint. We tried loads of great food. Tested some natural cosmetics. Ended up with a bag full treasures, and one melted raw chocolate bar that was in the VegFest goodie bag. It has found a sanctuary in the fridge before it meets an untimely end...

How excited I was to meet and have a chat with the fabulous Jackie Kearney, who made it, despite being a vegetarian, into the last four of Masterchef 2011. We all fell in love with her bubbly personality and her Asian inspired veggie food. I was very disappointed when she didn’t make it to the top. After lunching on her fabulous Jungle curry I am even more convinced that she should have won... It tasted great. Check out her recipes and appearances on her website:
http://www.thehungrygecko.com

After all the smoothies, bubble teas, raw bar, vegan sausages and cheeses, chocolates and ice-creams, my kids got soaking wet at the Millenium square in the water feature. Apart from crushing my sunglasses by sitting on them this was a fantastic family day out. Bring on the next VegFest.

For dinner we had lentil and spinach burger served in a pitta bread. Accompanied with some delicious Reggae Reggae mild sauce, avocados, tomatoes, red onions and salad leaves. Chickpea salad on the side, this was a perfect al fresco dinner. I have to warn you these burgers don’t look pretty, they are swamp green (hence the name) before cooking. After cooking they turn slightly muddy brown, not much of an improvement. They taste good and that is what counts. They are also packed with iron and protein.

Make sure you season this burger well, the spinach needs it. Cook them straight away as the spinach will leak more water and a wet burger means sticky burger... I used some vital wheat gluten in the recipe, I like the texture it gives but you can use gram flour if you don’t have any on hand.

spinachburger

SPINACH SWAMP BURGERS

The spinach: I was convinced I had fresh spinach but sadly that wasn’t true. Luckily there was some frozen one, perfect for this recipe. The 200g when defrosted and squeezed out of water yielded 1 cup. To get the same amount from fresh you will need about 1lb.

We had Reggae Reggae mild sauce with our burgers, simply because we are addicted, but any great sauce will work, even the humble ketchup.

ingredients
200g (1 cup) Puy lentils
200g frozen spinach (or use fresh, see above)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup (packed) parsley
1 heaped Tbs tomato puree
2 tsp of cumin
4 spring onions, white parts only
salt and pepper
3 Tbs of water
3 Tbs of vital wheat gluten
(if you don’t have the wheat gluten use 3Tbs of gram flour minus the water)
salt and pepper to taste

spinachburger2

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. First cook the lentils in plenty of water until they are soft, about 25min.
  3. Next prepare the spinach. If using frozen just defrost and squeeze all the water out. If using fresh wilt the spinach in a hot wok or frying pan and also squeeze the water out.
  4. In a food processor process the lentils, spinach, garlic, parsley, tomato puree, cumin and spring onion until it all comes together. Season.
  5. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl, add the vital wheat gluten and water. Using your hands mix thoroughly, you will see strings appearing within the mixture resembling stringy cheese. (If you are using the gram flour just mix thoroughly)
  6. Mould the mixture into 6 burgers.
  7. Place the burgers onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
  8. Bake for 30min turning halfway through the baking time.
  9. Serve in warmed round pitta breads with variety of toppings.

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LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

“You are not wearing lentils”; I said to my daughter today (and yes both kids exploded with laughter). I was meant to say sandals but had lentils on my mind. Looking at the rain outside it was definitely not a day for sandals but it sure was a day for a warming lentil soup.

Dr Joel Fuhrman posted on his facebook page recently the fact that the longest lived societies eat beans almost everyday. I am sure this includes other legumes like the wonderful lentils.

Pulses (or legumes) have a bad reputation for being hard to cook, needing to be soaked and cooked for long periods of time. While this is true for beans to some extent (but still worth the effort), lentils require no soaking and much less preparation time. Especially the wonderful red lentils.

Few years back I watched a documentary about the Khan family of India, whose 5 (out of 7) children had the horrible genetic condition progeria. Children with progeria age rapidly, with the average life expectancy being only 13 years. Two of the Khan children were still alive age 22 and 23, and another died aged 24 (two at 13 and 17). This kind of longevity is not very common in progeria sufferers and most die of heart failure. The two surviving Khan boys were full of life and their heart damage was much less than most of their Western counterparts. The doctors were amazed and attributed this to the Khan’s family poverty which meant their diet was extremely heart healthy based on vegetables and lentils (or dal as they call lentils in India).

Lentils are the perfect food, delivering great amount of protein, iron, folate, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, thiamin, B6 and of course fiber. All this while being very low fat and free of cholesterol. They are delicious and satisfying melting into soups and stews or as a base for veggie loafs or burgers.

Today I used them in a very quick soup for lunch together with leaks, tomatoes and potatoes. Chopping and blending included, this soup should take about 30min to make. Make a double batch because it freezes extremely well.

lentilleeksoup


LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

Serves 4-6

ingredients
4 leeks, white parts only
200g (1 cup) split red lentils
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 l of vegetable stock
2 medium potatoes, cut onto 1cm dice
2 Tbs of chopped fresh coriander

method
  1. First slice the leeks and wash them thoroughly to remove any grit.
  2. Add all the ingredients (except for the coriander) into a large sauce pan.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20min or until the lentils and potatoes are soft.
  4. Puree with a stick blender (or in a large blender - take care when blending hot soup).
  5. Stir in the coriander and serve.



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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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CARROT AND LENTIL PATE WITH RUBY RED SALAD

CARROT AND LENTIL PATE WITH RUBY RED SALAD

My friend G asked me yesterday if it was hard cooking vegetarian food. My other friend D jumped in saying: “Linda loves cooking, so it isn’t hard for her at all”. She was right my love of cooking definitely makes it easy.

I can see why it would be a daunting prospect for anybody who hasn’t got any experience with cooking meals free of animal products. When you watch any cookery shows chefs have a tendency to base their meal around protein by which they mean meat. I base my meals around protein too, in a much looser sense of the word. I don’t cook thinking here is my protein, here is the carbohydrate, here is the side of veg... I cook with the knowledge that a) we really need less protein that most people think and b) protein doesn’t just equal meat, it is abundant in plants. Therefore, with variety, my meals are naturally protein rich (or just right for my needs)

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, in his TV series accompanying River Cottage Veg Every Day, talked about going vegetarian for the duration of writing this book so that he could see the vegetables as the centre of his recipes, not just as an accompaniment to the meat. That is the perfect approach for anybody who wants to include more veg in their cooking. Put veg on the front page.


CARROT AND LENTIL PATE WITH RUBY RED SALAD
With the salad try to have equal amounts of the veg.
Carrots for the pate can also be steamed, I prefer the roasted flavour. I have roasted them without any oil but you can use a little bit of olive oil.
They both yield quite a few servings, keep in the fridge for about 3 days.

carrot-pate

ingredients
CARROT-LENTIL PATE
1 small potato (about 80-90g/3oz)
90g (1/2cup) red lentils
230g (1/2 lb carrots), cut into sticks or chunks (sticks cook quicker)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 tsp miso paste (any will do)
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbs fresh coriander, chopped
squeeze of lemon to taste
freshly ground pepper

RUBY RED SALAD

3 medium carrots
1 large beetroot, raw
half a red cabbage
pinch of salt
juice of 1 large orange
2 Tbs raspberry vinegar
couple handfuls of pecans or walnut

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Cook the potato in its skin (or use leftover cooked potato). Cook for about 30min, or till soft when pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool. When cool enough to handle peel and put through a ricer or mash thoroughly.
  3. In a small sauce pan place the lentils and 375 ml (1 and 1/2cups) water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15-20min till lentils are soft and almost all the water is gone. Let cool. Rest of the water will get absorbed as the lentils are cooling down.
  4. Line a baking tray with a greaseproof paper, place the carrots on top and roast for about 20-30 min till the carrots are soft and begin to caramelise. Remove the carrots from the oven and let them cool down.
  5. In a food processor, combine the lentils, carrots, garlic, spring onions, miso, cumin and coriander. Process into a a pate consistency, mainly smooth with some texture (see picture). The pate shouldn’t need salt as the miso is quite salty.
  6. Tip the pate into a bowl and add the mashed potato and lemon juice to taste.
  7. For the salad, fit your food processor with the grating attachment, grate the carrots, beetroot and cabbage.
  8. Transfer to a large bowl, season with salt, add pecans, the orange juice and the vinegar.
  9. Serve the pate and salad with some oatcakes or flat bread.
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THICK CASHEW CREAM


We humans are creatures of habit. When it comes to food so many of us rely on the same recipes every week, same items in our shopping baskets. Better the devil you know is a dangerous if not stagnant place to be, we should be looking forward, reinventing and bettering ourselves. I know it may seem daunting to change habits, I did mourn creamy sauces and other similar stuff too. But than I realised that a whole new world has opened up to me. There is a plethora of new tastes to try, it has become an adventure, a creative process. And I relish every new discovery, new flavour combination, new exciting product.

Cashew nut is nothing new, I have always enjoyed them as a snack, in a stir-fry or curry. However its ability to morph into perfect cream or milk has definitely enriched my cooking and excited my palate. No more living without creamy sauces, no need to substitute with the rather processed soya cream (vegetable oil being the first ingredient...). The first time I encounter cashew cream was in the fabulous book The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen. I was intrigued and even I took some months before taking the plunge, once I did I never looked back.

Compare cashews with double cream and I know which one I would rather eat. The cashews win in most categories, less overall fat, less saturated fat, more protein, vitamins and minerals. Cashews may only have about 50% of the calcium of cream but this definitely isn’t a good enough reason to pour double cream over our food. While cashew nuts are mildly anti-inflammatory, our double cream actually promotes inflammation. Many medical scientists now believe that inflammation sets the stage for chronic diseases, another fact that makes me 100% sure that cashew cream is the way to go.


THICK CASHEW CREAM
Having a great blender makes all the difference. I am lucky to have the super powerful Vitamix, it makes smooth nut milks in no time. If your blender doesn’t quite manages to make perfectly smooth cashew cream just strain it.

ingredients
150g/ 1cup cashew nuts
250ml/1cup water

method
  1. Soak the cashew nuts in water for at least 30min. You can soak them over night in your fridge. This softens the nuts making them easier to blend into cream.
  2. Drain the cashews. Put in a blender and add fresh water.
  3. Blend till smooth.

creamylentils

SUPER CREAMY LENTILS
This is a super rich filling dish. I served mine with sweet potato wedges dusted with paprika and some steamed broccoli.

Serves 4-6

ingredients
200g (1cup) Puy lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
1tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4-1/2tsp of chilli flakes
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 portion of cashew cream (made out of 200g/1 cup cashews and 250ml/ 1 cup water)
lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper
parsley or coriander to garnish

method
  1. Place the lentils and vegetable stock into a large saucepan, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 20-25 min, they should be soft to bite but still hold their shape. Set aside but don’t drain.
  2. In a wide saute pan heat the oil, add the onion, pepper and garlic and gently saute till softened, about 10min.
  3. Add the chilli flakes, and cook for another minute.
  4. Next add in the tomatoes, cook about 2 min to soften the tomatoes (you can add couple tablespoons of water to help it along).
  5. Put in the lentils with the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat down and simmer for 5 min.
  6. Add in your cashew cream and heat through. If the mixture is too thick just add some water and heat.
  7. Season and add lemon juice to taste.
  8. Serve garnished with parsley or coriander.
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