mushrooms

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

IMG_5922
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MUSHROOM STROGANOFF


MUSHROOM STROGANOFF

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

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

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

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


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

Serves 4

ingredients

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


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

SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNE

The weather is slowly starting to turn, we even had to put the heating on in the mornings, it has been rather cold in the morning. Walking the dog today I had to brace myself against a very icy wind. No, I am not complaining, I am looking forward to cooking comfort foods. Vegan mac and cheese, bean goulash, curries and chillies, soups and of course lasagne.


swiss-chard-lasagna

My Swiss chard lasagne serves 6 people generously and has a fraction of the traditional lasagne calories and fat. There is no traditional white sauce (butter, flour, milk), no cheese, no meaty sauce. You may ask whats left? Delicious tomato sauce, ”meaty” mushrooms, ricotta like Swiss chard and tofu layer. And to top it off my “cheese” cashew and tofu sauce with a sprinkling of pine nuts. You can make this dish totally oil free or if you wish you can use 1-2 Tbs of oil. I am giving the option in the recipe. I used 1 tbs to saute the mushrooms but my tomato sauce was made without any oil.

I have also used whole wheat lasagne noodles. I didn’t cook them first but decided to let the lasagne stand for about a hour before baking it. The key to soft noodles is to make sure the tomato sauce is not too thick, I have also used the mushroom liquid that leeched out during cooking, I spooned some over each mushroom layer. Apart from moistening the noodles it adds extra mushroom flavour to the dish.

This is a perfect recipe to get the kids involved in. My daughter enjoyed making the Swiss chard layer and layering the actual lasagne. I will admit the end result didn’t look as neat as I would have liked but there are times I have to let go of being a control freak in my kitchen. Rough edges or not it tasted great.


SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA
Serves 6

ingredients
500g (1lb3oz) chestnut (brown) mushrooms, sliced
1tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
12 whole meal dried lasagne sheets
2 Tbs pine nuts
2 Tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
tomato sauce
1 tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1tsp oregano
125ml (1/2 cup) water

Swiss chard tofu layer
400-440g (1lb) Swiss chard
300 (10oz) g firm tofu
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp garlic
1 Tbs nutrition yeast
salt to taste

“cheese” sauce
100g (3 1/2 oz) tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashews
125ml (1/2cup) water
1 tsp each dried garlic and onion powder
salt to taste



swiss-chard-layerchardlasagna

method

  1. First make your tomato sauce. In a medium sauce pan, heat about 60ml (1/4) cup of water or 1 Tbs rapeseed oil. Cook the onion and garlic till softened. Next add the tomato puree, cook for a minute.
  2. Next add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20-30minutes.
  3. Make the Swiss chard layer. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly, than roughly chop it. Put all the chard into a large pot with a lid and cook till wilted. This should take just a few minutes. You don’t need to add any extra water as there should be enough residual water from washing the chard.
  4. When the Swiss chard has wilted, tip it into a large colander. Using the back of a large spoon squeeze out as much of the liquid from the chard as you can.
  5. Put the chard and all the rest of the ingredients for the Swiss chard layer into a food processor. Process till well combined and has a texture of ricotta cheese. Set aside.
  6. Next cook the mushrooms. Heat 60ml(1/4 cup) water or 1 Tbs rapeseed oil in a large frying pan. Cook the mushrooms till softened, about 5-8minutes.
  7. To make the "cheese"sauce put all the “cheese” sauces into a blender and process till smooth. Set aside.
  8. Now assemble the lasagne.Use a baking dish that is large enough to fit 3 lasagne noodles side by side (I have to snip off the corners of the lasagne noodles to fit them in snuggly). Start with 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Lay 3 lasagne noodles on top of the sauce. Next spread 1/3 of the Swiss chard mixture, 1/3 of mushrooms and another 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Continue with the noodles and rest of the layer until everything is used up. The last layer should be lasagne noodles.
  9. Top the lasagne with the “cheese” sauce and sprinkle pine nuts on the top.
  10. Bake in 180C oven for 40min. Let sit for about 10min before serving this will make it easier to serve the lasagne.

Ready for the oven
chardlasagna2
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100% RAW/MARINATED MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH WALNUT AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO PATE

100% RAW/MARINATED MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH WALNUT AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO PATE

One of my college assignments is to go on a diet for a week and do a presentation to the rest of the class. This is going to be quite an exciting experiment I can’t wait to see how we all get on. We have several liver detoxes, juicing and alkalising and ayervedic diet, and many more. My choice was quite easy. No, it is not Atkin’s because I do value my life :) I am going 100% raw for a week. I love raw food but have never done 100%, maybe for a day, but not for a week.

The purpose of the exercise is to pick a plan and follow it. I was originally going to follow Matt Amsden’s Rawvolution but the breakfast required 2 young Thai Coconuts per day which is not something I have readily on hand. Quite frankly I could not see myself wrestling 2 coconuts every morning. Not on a school day! Kids breakfast, lunch, coconuts... too much to handle.

I am starting the 100% plan tomorrow and will report everyday (or that’s the plan). I am using The Raw Food Diet by Christine Bailey, this means her recipes not mine. Not something I am used to doing, not three times a day. There is lots of planning and preparation, I have shopped, soaked, chopped, processed, dehydrated and I am ready.

Before I start my exciting endeavor here is my own raw recipe for marinated mushrooms stuffed with walnut and sun dried tomato pate. Enjoy.

yum yum
veggies

MARINATED MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH WALNUT AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO PATE
Serve these with a green salad for a light dinner. They are also fab as canapes.

Serves 4 as a main dish with a salad, or 8 as canapes

ingredients
300g (10oz) small portobello mushrooms
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Braggs Liquid Aminos (or Tamari or Shoy)
100g walnut
handful of parsley
30g (1oz) sun-dried tomatoes not packed in oil
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt

stuffed-raw-mushrooms

method
  1. First prepare the mushrooms. I like to peel the outer skin, it allows the marinade to penetrate easier.
  2. Put the mushrooms into a glass bowl, add the balsamic vinegar and Braggs Liquid Aminos.
  3. Cover with lid or cling film and leave to marinate for 24 hrs in the fridge. Make sure you gently shake the mushrooms now and than.
  4. Make the pate. I used my own “sun-dried” tomatoes made in the dehydrator. If using regular sun-dried tomatoes, soak them for half an hour.
  5. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and process till ti comes together to a coarse pate. You may have to add 1 or 2 Tbs of water. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.
  6. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Divide the pate among the mushrooms and serve.
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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

hearty-pasta2

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)


hearty-pasta

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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MUSHROOM SOUP WITH GOLDEN CHANTERELLES

MUSHROOM SOUP WITH GOLDEN CHANTERELLES

This is the time of the year when, back in the Czech Republic, people flock to the woods and forests with baskets in their hands. The purpose of this madness? Mushrooms of course. My Dad told me about his latest mushrooming expeditions that bore a basketful of some of my favourite mushrooms, golden chanterelles (also known as girolles). I must admit I was jealous and may have to plan my next trip around the mushroom season.

To my surprise a little plaster for my sorrow was found in a supermarket. I stumbled upon a small (100g) punnett of golden chanterelles. Ok I didn’t pick them myself, I didn't walk miles through the woods until the perfect grassy bank was found. I didn’t get the chance to lift the tufts of grass to discover the golden treasure underneath. But I did get to eat them.

A lonely 100g pack will not feed many so I have stocked up on other mushrooms to make a soup and used the chanterelles as a garnish, a little flavourful golden crown jewel to sit on the top of the otherwise dull colour of my yummy soup. My son couldn’t get enough and proclaimed the golden chanterelle to be his favourite mushroom too. Next I will be searching for fresh porcini...


MUSHROOM SOUP WITH GOLDEN CHANTERELLES
If you have a very young garlic you can use the whole bulb, it is very mild and will not make the soup too garlicky. As for regular garlic, one large clove will work instead.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 whole very young garlic, or 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
450g (1 lb) of mushrooms (any type will do, I had a mixture)
120ml (1/2cup) Marsala wine (or sherry)
2 cups light vegetable stock
cashew cream (1/2 cup cashews - 1 cup water)
for garnish:
100g (3-4oz chanterelles)
1 tsp olive or rapeseed oil
pinch of salt

chanterellesoup

method
  1. In a large sauce pan heat 2 Tbs of water, add the onion and garlic and saute till softened, add more water if they start to stick.
  2. Add the thyme and mushrooms and saute until they start to soften about 5 min. Pinch of salt will help bring out the juices out of the mushrooms.
  3. Next add the Marsala and let it boil for a minute to cook off the alcohol.
  4. Add the stock and simmer gently for about 10min.
  5. Using a stick blender (of a regular blender) whizz up the soup till fairly smooth.
  6. Finish the soup with the cashew cream.
  7. In a small non stick frying pan, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms, pinch of salt and fry until just starting to caramelize on the edges.
  8. Serve the soup topped with some of the golden chanterelles.
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SUPER VEGGIE STEW

SUPER VEGGIE STEW

Last week I got asked by two different people about protein. Everybody seems to be concerned about getting the right kind protein and enough of it. When I am asked where do I get my protein from I like to answer with the classic: Where do gorillas get their protein? (and hippos, giraffes, elephants, rhinos....)

How much protein do we really need? If you are following UK or USA daily allowance you should be eating about 0.8g per 1 kg of your ideal body weight. Requirements are higher for children, pregnant and lactating women. World Health Organisation sets their daily allowance much lower at 0.45g per 1 kg of your ideal body weight. This means that about 5% of your calories should come from protein. I suppose you could shoot for somewhere in the middle.
Remember human breast milk is 5% protein!

What kind of protein do you need? We have been told for years that animal protein equals high quality protein and vegetarian sources are somewhat inferior. This is not so. According to Janice Stanger, Ph.D. (The Perfect Formula Diet): “Your digestive system is designed to break down all the proteins you eat into amino acids before you absorb the food in your intestines. This is true for both plant and animal protein.” These amino acids are than stored and put together when needed. Very clever our bodies. As long as you getting all your amino acids it doesn’t really matter what source they come from.

Can you be protein deficient? This is incredibly rare in the Western society. You could lack protein if you only eat refined carbs... If you eat varied diet, are not hungry, feel well, maintain healthy weight than you are getting enough protein. Unfortunately typical Western diet is far too rich in (animal) protein which makes it rather hard on your kidneys. Other implications? I would say read The China Study (Dr Colin T. Cambpell) all is explained there.

What are my favourite protein sources? Green veggies, legumes, grain, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, millet, nuts and seeds.... Did you know that nearly half of calories of green leafy veggies come from protein? The recipe below has around 33g of protein in you add 2 cups of cooked quinoa you can add another 16g (brown rice 10g). The quinoa version gives you around 12g per portion (more if you like your portions big).


sweetpotatospringstew

SUPER VEGGIE STEW
Serves 4

1 Tbs olive oil (or 60ml - 1/4cup of water)
1 large onion, chopped quite finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 inch of ginger, grated
1-2 red chilli, finely chopped
3 large portobello mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut pieces
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tin of black beans
375 (1 and 1/2cups) of vegetable stock
200g (about half pound) of spring greens (collards), tough stalks removed and leaves thickly shredded

  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil or water and saute the onion till soft. Next add the garlic , chilli and ginger and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the mushroom, cook till softened (if using water add some more if mushrooms start sticking).
  3. Next add the potatoes, tomatoes, black beans and the vegetable stock. Cook for about 20 minutes till sweet potatoes soften.
  4. Add the spring greens and cook for further 5 minutes or till the greens are tender.
  5. Serve with cooked quinoa or brown rice.
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NOT SO CORNISH PASTY

pasty-banner

NOT SO CORNISH PASTY


Around the world people love cooking various ingredients in pastry cases very often formed into half moon shapes. Think of Cornish pasties, calzone in Italy, empanadas in Latin America, pierogi in Poland or gyoza dumplings in Japan. They are all different but the philosophy is the same. Roll a dough into a circle, fill with yummy filling and bake, boil or steam.

My husband’s family comes from Cornwall, the home of the world famous Cornish pasty, the, local speciality that dates back centuries. Any Brit will tell you that pasties were the perfect  “packed lunch” for the Cornish tin miners. Easily portable, the flaky pastry case was stuffed with beef, swede (in Cornwall called turnip), onion and potatoes. Apart from salt and pepper that was it. Sometimes one corner of the pasty encased a portion of stewed apple for dessert. 

Cornish people are very protective of their pasty, even down to the crimping of the edges. There is only one right way to do it and they will snigger at any rogue attempts. My husband’s grandmother made pasties at home. I had her pasty once, with vegetarian filling, only to discover years later that the pastry was made with lard :( This might have been the only animal product I had since going vegetarian... 

My pasty is not like the traditional one. The pastry is different, of course I don’t use lard but I also keep away from any vegetable shortenings that would make a credible replacement. Therefore I have decided to use a yeast dough, slightly crossing over the the calzone territory. Yes the texture is different, but it went down really well with the family. 

The filling of course is rather different too, no beef here, instead we have luscious combination of sweet potatoes, mushrooms and spinach, gorgeous healthy vegetables, and in keeping with Cornish pasty seasoned with lots of pepper.

The plan is to serve it to my mum-in-law next time she comes for a visit, I will dodge the comments about my lack of crimping but hopefully she will enjoy my take on the food she grew up with. 



NOT SO CORNISH PASTY

ingredients

the dough

1 cup of warm water
1 Tbs of olive oil, plus more for the rising of the dough
1 tsp of agave syrup 
1 sachet of instant (or fast acting) yeast
150g (1 cup) of fine wholewheat flour 
225 g (1 and 1/2 cups) of wholewheat spelt flour
salt

the filling 

2 medium large sweet potatoes (roughly 600g, just under 1 and half lb)
1 Tbs olive oil (separated)
3 large portobello mushrooms
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
200g (about half a lb) baby spinach
salt and lots of pepper to taste

IMG_2166

method

  1. First make the dough for the pasty.

  2. In a large bowl mix the warm water (just hand warm, not boiling hot) with the agave syrup, olive oil and yeast. Stir. Let it stand for 10min to get the yeast activated, the mixture should start to bubble up.

  3. Next start mixing in the flour. Don’t add all the flour at once, each flour is different and can yield different results at different quantities. After about 1 and half cups add 1 tsp of salt, get your hands in, mix, adding more flour until you get soft pliable dough, not dry or stiff. You are making a basic bread dough.

  4. Invert the dough on a floured surface and knead for at least 5 min until you get a smooth ball of dough. Add more flour if dough is sticking to your surface too much.

  5. Rub a little bit of olive oil all over your ball of dough, place in a large bowl, cover with cling film and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hr or until it has doubled in size.

  6. Preheat your oven to 200C.

  7. While your dough is rising, peel your sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch dice, place in a roasting dish lined with some baking paper. Add 1/2 Tbs of olive oil making sure all pieces are coated. Roast in a the oven for about 25 min or until the potatoes are cooked through and  caramelized along the edges.

  8. In a large frying pan, heat another half a Tbs of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for about 5 min or until soft. 

  9. Add the garlic in and cook for further minute.

  10. Cut the mushrooms into 1 cm pieces and add to the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 min or until mushrooms are soft. Don’t forget to season everything.

  11.  Next add in the spinach, cook until it is just wilted (about 1 min). 

  12. Place the vegetables into a bowl together with the roasted sweet potatoes. 

  13. Mix all the vegetables together, breaking some of the potatoes as you go. Season with plenty of pepper. Set aside.

  14.  When your dough has risen, invert it onto a floured surface and knead for about 2 min.

  15. Divide the dough into 4 (this makes large, calzone size pasties) or 8 pieces (for smaller pasties - perfect for picnic).

  16. Make sure to divide your vegetable mixture accordingly. 

  17. Roll each piece of the dough into a large circle (the dough should be quite thin, think pizza), place the filling on one half of the circle leaving about 1/2inch border. Fold the other half over trying not to make any holes. Press the edges down with a fork.

  18. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the pasties on top. Bake for about 25 minutes in a 200C oven or till the pasties are lightly brown and sound hollow when you tap on the pastry.

  19.  Enjoy!



IMG_0061

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QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Hearing the word “malnourished” most of us would imagine the poor starving children in Africa and would never even think that this could be a problem much nearer us. Today the UK edition of Huffington Post ran a story claiming that more than a quarter of patients are malnourished when admitted to hospital. We are not talking about old people, this is across all ages. The article claims some 26% of 20-29 year olds are affected. I had to snigger at the accompanying picture of a smiling young lad in a hospital bed eating a large hamburger and chips (if that is hospital food than there really is no hope).

This is not a surprising fact, especially not when you are familiar with the work of doctors such as Joel Fuhrman or Mark Hyman. They will confirm that even obese people can be malnourished due to their poor diet that lacks nutrition. They are overfed but undernourished. Just take a look at the rubbish some people are putting into their supermarket trolleys. Restaurants are not better, another story that graced the papers today introduced UK Pizza Hut’s new limited edition pizza. Forget cheese stuffed into your pizza crust, you can find a hot dog there now! If there was an award for “how much c..p you can put into a customer in one sitting” Pizza Hut would certainly get the top prize.

My pasta recipe sure takes less time than ordering and waiting for the hot dog monstrosity to be delivered and will not leave you malnourished either.

ragupasta

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4-5 large portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2-1inch dice
1 tsp dried oregano (or Italian herb mix)
2 bay leaves
1 heaped Tbs tomato puree
125ml (1/2cup) fortified wine (such as Marsala or sherry, but a good red will do too)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of canellini beans, drained
275ml (1 and 1/2cup) strong vegetable stock (I made mine with Vecon)
350g (12oz) wholemeal rigattoni or penne pasta
fresh oregano to garnish

method
  1. In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and peppers and saute for about 5 minutes or till softened.
  2. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  3. Next add the oregano, bay leaves and tomato puree. Let cook for about one minute.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the fortified wine, bring it to a boil to cook out the alcohol.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans and vegetable stock. Cook for about 20min until the sauce is rich and thickens. Season.
  6. While your sauce is simmering cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  7. Add the past to your sauce, stir through.
  8. Serve garnished with fresh oregano or basil and a big green salad on the side.
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MUSHROOM, SWEET POTATO AND GREENS STEW

MUSHROOM, SWEET POTATO AND GREENS STEW

Do you remember Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat series? First she would confront the serious food offender with a table full of the foods they consumed the previous week. It all looked beige and depressing, greasy and quite frankly dead. The next step was to introduce them to the plethora of nutritious gorgeous vibrant and lively foods. The food on the second table was alive. I would be excited to see all the amazing produce. The food criminals had long faces and were usually disgusted by the taste of their new food. Not for long though.

If you are addicted to high fat, high sugar, high animal and processed diet it is hard at first to adjust to vibrant plant based goodness. But it only takes few weeks and your taste buds get exited, they become alive. Vibrant food means vibrant mind and body. It means vibrant you.

Food should be colourful, vibrant, flavourful and full of goodness. Just like this very simple lunch I had today. It may take a bit longer to prepare than a sandwich, but it tastes great and packs an antioxidant punch. These ingredients are some of the nutritional heavy weights; luscious orange sweet potato, satisfying green spring greens, earthy brown mushrooms and don’t forget the mighty garlic. As I always say to the kids, if you eat like this your body will say : “Thank you”.


MUSHROOM, SWEET POTATO AND GREENS STEW

The cajun spices go so well with the sweet potato, there is no need for salt in this dish.
I managed to eat the whole bowl of this, the excuse being it is only veggies and there is no added oil. But realistically it should serve 2, possibly with the addition of some brown rice or lentils on the side. I can even see it wrapped inside a nice whole wheat wrap or chapati.


Serves 2 (or a very hungry 1)


3heavyweights

ingredients
1 orange sweet potato
1 head of spring greens (collards)
1 large clove of garlic
150g (2cups) of brown mushrooms (cremini)
1 tsp cajun seasoning

method
  1. Peel the sweet potato and cut into bite size pieces. Put into a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and gently boil till soft.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the water, reserve the cooking water.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking cut up the mushrooms (mine were small I only halved them).
  4. Prepare the spring greens, cut out the stalks and shred the leaves.
  5. In a medium sized frying pan heat about 60ml (1/4 cup) of the cooking water. Add the mushrooms and garlic and gently cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  6. Add the cajun seasoning and cook for 30 seconds.
  7. Next add the shredded spring greens to the mushrooms, let them wilt and cook for about 3 minutes. Add more sweet potato cooking liquid if needed. Taste the greens, if you prefer them softer cook longer.
  8. Add the sweet potato and heat up. Serve.
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MUSHROOM POLENTA WITH KALE AND BEANS

MUSHROOM POLENTA WITH KALE AND BEANS

Yesterday I stumbled upon couple of lectures by Dr Tim Riesenberger, a physician who happens to be a Seventh-Day Adventist. He reminded of an article I remember reading few years back in National Geographic magazine in a dentist surgery. The article was about the so called Blue Zones. These are demographic/geographic areas where people live measurably longer lives. These places are the islands of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.

People living in blue zones not only have a higher chance of reaching 90 (and many 100) but they do so in better health than rest of the world. Their long, healthy and happy life is not only about what they eat, but diet is an important part of the blue zone success. The diet is mainly (apart from the Sardinians) low fat plant based with meat and processed foods largely off the menu. They also tend not to smoke, they drink alcohol in moderation, keep active, stay positive, are an active part of community and put family above all. These are easy to reach goals in everybody’s live. Go and create your own blue zone too.

polentakale

MUSHROOM POLENTA WITH KALE AND BEANS
The polenta can be made ahead and kept in the fridge.

ingredients
Mushroom polenta
1/2oz (15g) dried porcini
200 g mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
10 sage leaves, thinly shredded
250g (1 and 1/2cup) quick cook polenta
1l (4 cups) vegetable stock (make it form the soaking mushroom liquid and vegetable stock)

Beans and kale
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250 (1 cup) ml veg stock
1 tin of canellini beans, drained
150g (1/3lb) kale de-stalked and torn into pieces

method
  1. First soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, reserve the liquid, and chop the mushrooms up.
  2. In a medium frying pan heat about 60ml (1/4cup) of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cook till the mushrooms soften about 5min. Add the porcini mushrooms cook for further 2 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the vegetable/mushroom stock to a boil. Slowly add the polenta and sage, keep stirring. When the polenta thickens, turn down the heat and let bubble for couple of minutes. Stir in the mushrooms.
  4. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper, spread the polenta on top, about 1/2inch thick. Smooth the top. Let cool.
  5. In a large sauce pan heat 60 ml (1/4cup) water (or stock) and cook the onions and garlic, gently simmer till softened. Add the vegetable stock and beans, bring to a gentle boil.
  6. Add the kale, cover and simmer for 10-15min or until the kale is tender.
  7. Season with plenty of pepper.
  8. While the kale is cooking, preheat the grill (broiler).
  9. Cut the polenta into triangles, place on top of grease proof paper lined baking sheet. Place under the grill and grill for about 2 min on each side.
  10. Serve the kale and beans with the polenta triangles.

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BARLEY WITH MUSHROOMS

THE MAGIC OF MUSHROOMS

Foraging for mushrooms is bit of a national pastime in the Czech Republic. During mushroom season people get up as early as 5am to get to the woods before anybody else, they guard their mushroom rich spots with their life. Even relatives will not disclose where they found their precious funghi.

There is a hierarchy among the mushrooms. The most desirable are girolles and porcinis, and some types of porcini are more sought after than others. It can sound a bit complicated to a novice, but every Czech child seems to know which are the basic edible mushrooms. I always loved searching the woods for chanterelles, they hide in banks of woodlands tucked away under tufts of grass. You can smell mushrooms in the woods as soon as you enter, their heady scent can be rather intoxicating.

we Czechs love to dry our mushrooms in the summer sunshine, keep them for the winter months. In the Czech cuisine there are many recipes using the edible fungi and quite a few of them are vegetarian. Mushrooms are a great meat substitute, the large ones can be simply grilled and used in place of a burger, chopped small can be used instead of mince, their rich flavour makes for a great gravy. They are fabulously and good for you too.

Unfortunately I have yet to discover places where to forage for mushrooms in UK, I am sure they must be around. In the meantime shop bought dried porcinis will have to do. They retain their flavour, it actually becomes even richer, and the scent is wonderful, just pour the boiling water over them to release it.

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BARLEY WITH MUSHROOMS

This recipe is inspired by an old Czech recipe that is traditionally cooked at Christmas. The original tends to be made with loads of lard and baked. I made this dish much lighter and used extra herbs to enhance the flavour.

The barley in my recipe is natural whole barley as oppose to pearl barley variety which is a more refined polished grain.

Serves 4 generously

ingredients

15-20g dried porcini mushrooms
300g whole barley
vegetable stock
1 medium chopped
1 Tbs rapeseed or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g mushrooms
1 Tbs rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 Tbs parsley, chopped


IMG_0778

method

  1. Soak the mushrooms in boiling water, use enough water to make up about 500ml (2 cups). Soak for 20min. Take the mushrooms out and reserve the liquid.
  2. Put the barley and about 750ml (3 cups) of vegetable stock in a large sauce pan. Boil for 20 min. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a wide saute pan heat the olive oil and cook the onion till soft. Add the rosemary and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 min.
  4. Add the garlic, drained porcinis and the marjoram. Cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the barley, reserved mushroom soaking liquid and half the parsley. Season.
  6. Cook gently till most of the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 10min.
  7. Serve garnished with the reserved parsley.

IMG_0793
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