oil free

CAULIFLOWER MADRAS BITES

CAULIFLOWER MADRAS BITES

Have you noticed that cauliflower has become extremely fashionable lately. I am talking beyond the traditional cauliflower cheese. You can turn this cruciferous vegetable into mash, rice, couscous or even buffalo wings.

Even if the low carb craze/grain phobia is partially to blame for this, it actually resulted in some rather tasty dishes that I personally adore. Cauliflower buffalo wings from PETA website have long been a firm favourite in my family. Even the kids love it. So I thought I will play with the concept a little and create a cross between “chicken” tikka and cauliflower pakora.

I have tried this recipe before with a whole cauliflower, thinking it would make a great centerpiece but it ended up undercooked. Separating the cauliflower into florets has solved this problem. The cauliflower bites are perfectly tender and the batter cooked all the way through.

These are perfect for a party with a spicy fruit chutney or yoghurt dip (the new KOKO coconut yoghurt makes a good raita). Or serve it alongside lovely curries for an Indian Thali dinner.

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CAULIFLOWER MADRAS BITES

ingredients
1 medium cauliflower
1 cup non dairy yoghurt (I like KOKO coconut or Alpro coconut/soya yoghurt)
1Tbs (or more if you like it spicy) of madras curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 Tbs gram (chickpea) flour
salt to taste

method

  • Separate the cauliflower into medium sized florets.

  • In a large bowl mix the yoghurt, spices, salt and chickpea flour until well combined.

  • Coat the cauliflower in the yoghurt mixture.

  • Line a baking tray with baking powder and place the coated cauliflower florets onto the tray. Spoon any left over yoghurt mix over the florets.

  • Bake at 180C for 25-30 minutes or till golden brown and tender (test with a toothpick or tip of a sharp knife)

  • Serve with chutney or coconut yoghurt raita.


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VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE


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VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE

Like most kids mine adore pasta. Whenever I cook some for dinner I get pretty much no complaints and empty plates. It may not be very popular in today’s age of carb hating world but I have not issue with pasta as long as there are loads of veggies and some protein (nuts in this case) on the same plate too. This comforting bake can be assembled ahead and baked just before dinner. Ideal for a Monday evening when still reminiscing of the weekend.

For the topping I made a cashew sauce with some vegan cheese on top, totally delicious. I don’t use vegan cheese very often, it is not the most natural ingredient but once in a while there is a place for it. The topping can be made without the vegan cheese; just add 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes to the sauce and perhaps even make double the amount of the cashew sauce.

The tomato sauce can be also made purely with roasted tomatoes, in that case just use double the amount of tomatoes you are going to roast and omit the tinned ones. To further bulk up the dish add some roasted vegetables; peppers, courgettes, aubergines are my favourite. White beans or chickpeas would fit in here quite well too. If I wasn’t cooking for my daughter I would add some red chilli flakes to the bake too. But there is always hot sauce for those who need it :)


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VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE
Serves 4-5

10 medium tomatoes
12 cherry tomatoes
60 ml (1/4cup) water or 2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbs tomato puree
1 tin tomatoes
400g pasta (macaroni) - regular or gluten free
Cheese topping:
1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min or longer)
1/2 water
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
vegan cheese grated (if not using vegan cheese add 2 tbs nutritional flakes into the cashew sauce mix)

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  • Cut the larger tomatoes in half, leave the cherry tomatoes whole. Place into a roasting tin, the larger ones cut size up.
  • Roast in 200C for about half hour or till the edges start to caramelise. Blend in a blender till smooth.
  • In a sauce pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) water or 2 tsp of olive oil, add the onions and garlic and saute till softened.
  • Add the tomato puree, saute for 1 minute. Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer for 10 min. Next add the blended roasted tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste
  • In the meantime cook the pasta.
  • In a blender blend the cashews, water, mustard and lemon juice till smooth.
  • Mix to pasta with sauce, pour into a baking dish. Spread the cashew sauce over and sprinkle with the vegan cheese.


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CAULIFLOWER ALMOND SOUP

CAULIFLOWER ALMOND SOUP

Cauliflower is one of the vegetables my kids have a very negative reaction to, it’s the run in a different direction kind of response. I grew up eating cauliflower prepared in various ways but now I am trying to come up with recipes that make cauliflower not taste like cauliflower as a way to trick the kids into eating it. I don’t want them to miss out on the glorious nutrition this vegetable possesses.

I think I really succeeded with this recipe. It has a very robust savoury flavour that will (or could) convince any cauliflower hater. To be perfectly safe I just keep my mouth shut in case the word cauliflower slips out. Don’t get me wrong I do, with great satisfaction, announce the truth after the plates have been left clean :)

Adding almonds and beans is a way to boost the protein and fibre content and they are the key in masking the cauliflower flavour notes. I have garnished the soup with toasted sesame seeds but any soft herbs (parsley, chives, coriander, chervil) work well too. Hemp seeds are another great topper adding the illusive omega 3 fatty acids to the soup.

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CAULIFLOWER ALMOND SOUP
4 servings

ingredients
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
3 large leeks, sliced and rinsed
1 small cauliflower (about 3 cups), divided into florets
1 tin (or 1 cup) white beans (canellini, butter)
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup ground almonds

method
  • Heat a medium/large sauce pan on the stove. Add the cumin seeds and dry toast for about 1 minute, take care not to burn them. Remove half and reserve for garnish.
  • Next add the leeks with any residual water from washing them.
  • Cook for couple minutes to soften, adding few tablespoons of water if the pan gets dry.
  • Next tumble in the cauliflower and beans adding the vegetable stock.
  • Cook for 20minutes on a medium heat.
  • Transfer the soup into a blender, add the ground almonds and puree till smooth. Add more water if the soup is too thick.
  • Return to the pan to reheat.
  • Serve the soup garnished with the cumin seeds or herbs.



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HOMEMADE PLUM KETCHUP

HOMEMADE PLUM KETCHUP

In the news today: Google offered to buy Impossible Foods for 300million dollars! I admit this was the first time I heard about Impossible Foods, a company that produces plant based meat and cheese products that imitate the real stuff. $300mil may be hard to say not to, but Impossible Foods have done just that. With Bill Gates and Tony Fadell (Google) as their investors they are not short of funds. The prediction is, Impossible Foods will become a multi billion company.

Why is this story important? It is a proof that the desire for plant based foods is on the increase. This trend is quite evident locally here in Bristol. Several new veggie places have opened recently, more and more restaurants and food establishments offer vegan choices. More of my friends are eager to tell me about them reducing their meat intake. Even if this means having just two veggie meals a week, it is a step in the right direction for their health, for the planet, for the animals.

People who are new to eating vegetarian or vegan tend to reach for the type of product Impossible Foods are producing. I myself don’t always have time to make everything from scratch so there are always Good Life nut burgers lurking in my freezer for a quick midweek meal.

If you are having veggie sausages, burger or indeed vegan cheese sandwich why not try these with my homemade plum ketchup. It is a cross between a chutney, ketchup and Chinese plum sauce (without all the added nasties). Easy and quick to make. I have a real hankering after a vegan sausage sandwich with a bit of vegan mayo and some plum ketchup….


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HOMEMADE PLUM KETCHUP
yield about 1 1/2 cups

ingredients
2 1/2 cups plums, very ripe, halved, stones removed,
1 small red onion
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 1/2 tsp apple pie spice (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp all spice, pinch of nutmeg)
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or another chilli powder)
1/4 tsp crushed chilli flakes (optional)
80 ml water
1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1-2 Tbs jaggery (depending on the sweetness of your plums)
2 Tbs sherry or red wine vinegar

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  • Put all your ingredients into a medium size sauce pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust sweetness, the amount of jaggery needed depends on the sweetness of your plums.
  • Place into a blender and blend till smooth. Alternatively pass through a fine sieve (this will yield less ketchup).
  • Pour into a clean (preferably sterilised) kilner (mason) jar. Cool and store in the refrigerator for about a week.
  • Serve with roasted tofu or tempeh, nut roasts, veggie sausages or burgers or in a vegan cheese sandwich.

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CHICKPEA AND SUNDRIED TOMATO “MEATBALLS”

CHICKPEA AND SUNDRIED TOMATO “MEATBALLS”

This morning, I read an article discussing how men still see going vegan as something that makes them look weak. It’s the perception versus reality. With more and more athletes switching to the plant based lifestyle this perception should change in time. If you have doubts just watch Rip Esselstyn (in the documentary Forks over Knifes) climbing up the fire station poll, using arms only, chanting “real men eat plants”. Or check out the insane work outs of vegan athlete Frank Medrano on Youtube!

Recently, I have discovered Jim Smith and his blog http://www.finallyourtime.com . It is very inspiring to see that a change is possible at any age and indeed with great benefits. Jim has seen several health issues resolved after changing his diet, for example his Parkinson’s disease symptoms have disappeared. Read and get inspired.

And make some chickpea and sun-dried tomato balls, they are scrummy! I am making them today for a bunch of 12 year olds who are coming for dinner! Serving them spaghetti with meatballs style and doubling the recipe. Let’s home they will enjoy them as much as my family did. I may not tell them what is in them. KIDS can be awkward!

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CHICKPEA AND SUNDRIED TOMATO “MEATBALLS”
Makes 20

1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp paprika
6 sun dried tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 Tbs Tahini
1 cup breadcrumbs (regular or gluten free)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Add the onion, garlic, paprika, sun dried tomatoes, chickpeas and Tahini into your food processor. Process till all ingredients are well combined.
  • Add the breadcrumbs and seasoning. Combine well using hands.
  • Shape into walnut size balls, it will make about 20. Wetting your hands with water when doing this.
  • Bake on a baking tray lined with parchment paper for about 20 minutes or till golden brown. Turn the chickpea balls halfway through.
  • Serve with pasta and tomato sauce, or as a component of a mezze spread.


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SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN ENCHILADAS

SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN ENCHILADAS

Finally last Sunday I got to sit outside in the garden with a glass of cold German Riesling. I started to think about summer dishes. The warm spell unfortunately didn’t last long (just one afternoon). Cold Monday meant that instead of courgette spaghetti with coriander pesto I ended up making these hearty sweet potato and black bean enchiladas.

Of course enchiladas are Mexican but out of laziness and convenience I used my new Creole seasoning mix. I did want to try it out and let’s be honest there are many similarities in the spices used in Creole and Mexican cooking. No need to be a purist on a Monday evening right? If you want to use single spices than a mixture of cumin, coriander, paprika, chilli, thyme, oregano will do the trick. This is what I love about cooking, you can always improvise and make each dish your own.

Otherwise this is a pretty straightforward dish to make, it takes a bit longer than my usual Monday evening meal but it’s worth the effort. It also tastes great the next day (yes I scoffed the leftovers) and freezes well too so its perfect for batch cooking. Don’t forget the usual guacamole, salsa, sour cream (cashew lime cream) and a crunchy salad.

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SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN ENCHILADAS
Oil free if no vegan cheese used

1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 green pepper, chipped
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 tsp Mexican, Creole or Cajun spice mix
1 Tbs tomato puree
440g (1 lb) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1 tin of black beans
1 cup enchilada sauce
1/3 cup water
salt and pepper
10-12 corn tortillas
80g (3oz, about 1half cup) vegan cheese (optional), shredded

enchilada sauce
2 tins of tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tsp Mexican, Creole or Cajun spice mix

To serve:

salsa
avocado
cashew lime cream (1 cup cashews, 1/2cup water plus more if needed, juice of a lime, salt to taste)

  • Preheat 80ml (1/3 cup) of water in a medium sauté pan with a lid. Add the onion, celery, garlic and pepper, sauté till softened adding more water if needed.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, blend all the sauce ingredients in a blender. Set aside.
  • Add the tomato puree and spices to the vegetables and cook for one minute.
  • Next add 250ml (1 cup) of the enchilada sauce, sweet potatoes, black beans and water. Simmer covered for 20-30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are cooked and the sauce is very thick (see picture of the mixture).
  • In a large baking dish, spread about 1/4cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the dish. Put about 2-3 heaped tablespoons of the filling in the centre a corn tortilla, roll and place into the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Poor the remaining sauce over and top with the vegan cheese if using.
  • Bake for 30 min in a 180C oven.
  • Serve with the cashew lime cream, avocado and salsa.


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SPICY CARROT SOUP

SPICY CARROT SOUP

Most of my lunches start by opening the fridge and the pantry in hope I will get inspired. Rarely I have a plan. My only aim is tasty quick nutritious food. This method is not dissimilar to cooking lunches with my great grandma during summer holidays when I was a child. We would go into the garden, pick fresh veggies and herbs, sometimes we picked mushrooms from the nearby woods and make a lunch. Every day we had a vegetable soup to start with. These days I am not picking my vegetables fresh from my garden ( I wish I could) but the process is still the same.

Today I had far too many sad looking carrots hanging around. Therefore making carrot soup seemed like a good idea. In my opinion a good carrot soup needs some spice or it will taste too much like cooked carrots. I know this may sound a bit strange but cooked carrots bring back rather unpleasant memory or primary school when I was forced to eat overcooked carrots for school lunch with disastrous results….Adding ginger, garlic and chilli allows me to enjoy the benefits of cooked carrots without the bad memories.

When it comes to carrots I prefer eating them raw. We are not however very good at chewing them efficiently enough to break down the cell walls to receive the maximum benefit from beta carotene. Cooking carrots makes beta carotene more available to the body. The conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A (preformed only available from animal products) is more efficient with a bit of fat added. Therefore adding the teaspoon of coconut oil as suggested in the recipe may aid this process. Alternatively you could sprinkle the soup with some hemp seeds before serving.
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SPICY CARROT SOUP
Oil free if coconut oil not used.

1tsp coconut oil or 60 mil (1/4 cup) water
1 onion
1 tbs minced ginger
2 large cloves of garlic
1 chilli pepper
5 medium to large carrots, sliced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
2 medium tomatoes,
1 litre, (4 cups) light vegetable stock
Coriander (cilantro) leaves for garnish

  • In a medium size saucepan heat the coconut oil or water, add onion, garlic, chilli and ginger and cook gently for 5 minutes.
  • Next add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for 30minutes.
  • Blend with a stick blender or in a stand up blender.
  • Garnish with some fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves. Enjoy.



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RADICCHIO, GRAPEFRUIT, CELERIAC AND POMEGRANATE SALAD

RADICCHIO, GRAPEFRUIT, CELERIAC AND POMEGRANATE SALAD

When the idea for this salad came to my mind I knew it would look striking. I also knew that it would not be everybody’s favourite. My husband was definitely one who would not like the bitterness of the radicchio or the grapefruit. He doesn’t like either. My son loves grapefruit but even he was put off by the bitter taste of the radicchio.

I realise I am not selling this recipe too well but I absolutely loved it. And that is why I wanted to put it on my blog. There must be other fans out there, right? Yes, the radicchio and grapefruit bring quite a bit of bitterness to the party but the celeriac mellows everything out and the pomegranate and clementine juices together with maple syrup add sweetness that counteracts the bitterness. The salad definitely brightens up the winter table and challenges the taste buds.

The dressing is simply made of the fruit juices of the fruit that I used in the recipe. There is quite a lot of it, but it makes a nice drink too. I have used all the juices but you can use half and drink the rest. Something tells me it would taste nice as cocktail with a bit of bubbly.

Celeriac - not the prettiest veg in the box :)
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RADICCHIO, GRAPEFRUIT, CELERIAC AND POMEGRANATE SALAD

2 medium pink grapefruits
Half a celeriac (celery root)
1/2 medium head of radicchio
1 medium pomegranate
1 clementine
2 tsp - 1 Tbs maple syrup
salt to taste

Pink beauty :)
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  • With a sharp knife peel the grapefruit, remove the peel and the white piths. Remove the segments from the grapefruit, place into a salad bowl.
  • Squeeze the juice out of the “remains” of the grapefruit into a smaller bowl.
  • Peel the celeriac and grate coarsely. Food processor makes the job easier. I used spiraliser which made it a bit of a chore. Add to the grapefruit.
  • Finely shred the radicchio and add to the salad.
  • To prepare the pomegranate bash it with a wooden spoon, or against a chopping board. Than cut into half and squeeze out the seeds and juice into a strainer, catching the juice into the bowl with the grapefruit juice. Squeeze the juice of the clementine into the pomegranate and grapefruit juices.
  • Add half of the mixed juice (or all of it) to the salad and add the maple syrup. Mix well and enjoy.
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BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES

BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES

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

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

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

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BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES
makes 15 squares

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

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


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WASABI KOHLRABI APPLE SALAD

WASABI KOHLRABI APPLE SALAD

After numerous bowl of courgette (zucchini) noodles I thought I should use my spiraliser on something else. Apples in a fruit bowl and a green kohlrabi in the fridge, I thought why not? Making apple noodles was very easy with a firm apple (not so easy when I tried it with a softer one...). The kohlrabi was easy until I got about 2/3 of the way and the spiky part of my spiraliser decided it didn’t want to cooperate any more. I did managed to get to the end with sheer determination... and without spiralising my own fingers...

Of course you could use a grater or one of those julienne peelers to prepare the kohlrabi and apple if you don't have every kitchen gadget going like I do. I love the long thin noodles spiraliser makes but the salad will taste fab whichever way it is prepared.

Apple and kohlrabi turned out to be a fantastic combination. The sweetness of the apple combined with the tart apple is a marriage made in heaven. The crucial thing is that the apple is tart and crisp. I have made this salad with a sweeter apple and it didn’t work as well.

Make the dressing first as the apple may discolour if left standing waiting to be dressed (or sprinkle with half the lime juice). You want to preserve the crisp colour of the salad. Garnished with black sesame seeds it looks quite striking. And will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Serve it as you would coleslaw, or with a hunk of soya and ginger marinated baked tofu.


kohlrabi-apple

WASABI KOHLRABI APPLE SALAD

1 medium to large kohlrabi
1 large firm apple, preferably tarter one
juice 1 lime
1-2 tsp wasabi paste (according to taste)
1-2 tbs water (or more if the dressing seems too thick)
1 Tbs tamari
1 tsp coconut sugar (or coconut syrup)
2 Tbs almond butter
black sesame seed for garnish

  1. Combine the lemon juice, wasabi paste, water, tamari, coconut sugar (or syrup) and almond butter to make a dressing.
  2. Peel and grate the kohlrabi. I used my spiraliser for this job but a grater or food processor will work great too.
  3. Next spiralise or grate the apple.
  4. Place together in a large bowl.
  5. Pour the dressing over the apple and kohlrabi and mix well.
  6. Garnish with black sesame seeds.

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SWEET AND SOUR CAULIFLOWER PICKLE

SWEET AND SOUR CAULIFLOWER PICKLE

Cauliflower maybe one of the most underused vegetables around. In the UK it is usually prepared a side dish for a Sunday roast, and almost always smothered with cheese sauce. You may be able to find it in a vegetable curry in an Indian restaurant. Even in the vast number of my cookery books, cauliflower hardly features in 1 or 2 recipes per book.

This is a shame, as cauliflower is such an incredibly nutritious vegetable. This is hardly surprising as it is a close cousin to the more popular broccoli. Cauliflower has been link to cancer prevention, especially bladder, breast, colon, prostate and ovarian. Cauliflower, like all cruciferous vegetables, will boost your liver detoxification process helping to clear excess hormones or toxins out of your body. It contains many antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, querceting, rutin, kaempferol to name a few, these help to reduce oxidative stress. Cauliflower also contains anti-inflammatory nutrients that make it incredibly useful in maintaining our cardiovascular health. Sulphoraphane in cauliflower has been shown to help prevent overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori in your stomach.

I love raw cauliflower, I find myself stealing florets from my fridge for a snack but my very favourite part is inside of the stalk, a treat for the chef. Cauliflower pairs up beautifully with sweet and sour flavours and as I love anything pickled I came up with the following recipe. If you want to it on the day of preparation it will be more a salad, but leave it in the fridge overnight (or even 2 days) and you get a lovely pickled cauliflower, as is soaks up the sweet vinegar dressing.


cauliflower-pickle

SWEET AND SOUR CAULIFLOWER PICKLE

ingredients
1 tbs coconut sugar
3 Tbs cider vinegar
1 half red chilli, finely chopped
2 cups small cauliflower florets
2 small onions
2 small red onions
4-6 large green olives, sliced
2 tbs raisins or sultanas
1 tbs capuchin capers
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbs parsley

method
  1. In a medium size bowl combine the coconut sugar and cider vinegar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the finely chopped chilli.
  2. Slice the onions as thinly as you can into rounds. Add to the bowl together with cauliflower, olives, raisins, capers and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Chill for at least couple of hours or up to 2 days. Let it come to room temperature before serving.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the parsley.

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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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CHUNKY VEGETABLE AND BARLEY SOUP

CHUNKY VEGETABLE AND BARLEY SOUP

Lately I have increased the amount of juicing I have been doing and have been enjoying their fresh zing in the mornings. Lunches, possible due to the awful relentless rain and wind, have been largely soups. Warming, soothing and a wonderful way to use up odds and ends in the fridge.

This soup is exactly that. Many odd pieces of veggies rescued from the vegetable drawer cooked in flavoursome broth with the addition of barley to give the soup more body and sustenance. You could of course any veggies you find lurking around, swede, turnip, courgette, celeriac, peppers, peas, sweetcorn....anything goes.

Add some herbs or different grain, quinoa or brown rice would be lovely. I wold cook these separately and add to warm up just before serving. Which ever way you go this will warm you up in this wet wintery weather.

barley-soup

CHUNKY VEGETABLE AND BARLEY SOUP

serves 3-4

ingredients
1 onion
1 celery rib
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 large potato
1/4 cauliflower
half broccoli
1/2 cup barley
veg stock

method
  1. Peel the onion, peel the potato and parsnip. Cut all the vegetables into fine dice (about 1 cm/1/3inch).
  2. In a large sauce pan or stock pot add all the vegetables and barley.
  3. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables by about 5cm (2 inches).
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 20min or until the barley is cooked. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Enjoy.
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RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

My cookbook library comprises several hundred titles. I will have to estimate (some are still in the garage in boxes since our May house move) but it could be somewhere between 500-600 hundred titles. I love looking through recipes, getting inspired but I am rather bad at actually following recipes. I keep telling myself I should plan better and maybe make couple of recipes a week from one of the many amazing books I own.

Last weekend I picked up
Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen, a book my husband brought for me from San Francisco. I was amazed to find a recipe that I had all the ingredients for. I made Ani’s garden pate and tested in on our friends who were coming for drinks and nibbles. Who would have thought that something made of celery and carrots could taste this good. I added some coriander and splash of tamari, because I simply can’t help myself. This will definitely be a mainstay in my repertoire. Yum!

Ani's Garden pate
Garden-pate

Another dish I made for nibbles were raw chocolate truffles. These were of my own recipe. I admit I have been craving chocolate and these really hit the spot. We made them disappear rather quickly. They are incredibly easy (just 4 ingredients) and have the potential to keep in the fridge for about a week but I doubt they will last more than couple days. I have been commissioned (by my son) to make more -
FAST.

raw-chocolate-truffles

RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
You may need more or less Medjol dates, this depends on their size and moisture. Mine were on the dry side and I had to add a few more than the recipe states. Simply keep adding dates and test if the mixture stick together when pressed.

ingredients
1 cup of almonds
1 cup of walnuts
6-8 Medjol dates, pitted
3 level Tbs of raw cacao powder

method
  1. Using a food processor, process the almonds and walnuts into coarse powder (you want few coarse bits to add texture).
  2. Next add cacao and enough dates to achieve the desired texture. The mixture should be moist and easily pressed together to roll a ball.
  3. Roll balls size of a walnut, you should get about 16-20 truffles out of this mixture.
  4. Refrigerate (this will firm the truffles up) and nibble when you fancy something sweet.

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SPICY BLACK EYED PEA STEW WITH KALE

SPICY BLACK EYED PEA STEW WITH KALE

My friend J is very religious about her kale smoothies, she has been having one every morning for a while now. This is of course a fabulous was to start a day. Last weekend she brought her smoothie to our college. On Sunday she didn’t quite manage to drink it all and by the end of the day it oxidised and resembled a very unpleasant stool sample (sorry - nutritionist joke...). It was a long day so anything to amuse ourselves with...

There is no doubt kale is the queen of vegetables and everyone should be enjoying it if not daily at least weekly. The message is finally getting through, according to an article in the Guardian supermarkets (M&S and Waitrose) are recording increase in sales of the super vegetable. Celebrities and celebrity chefs are finally promoting something worth promoting. Kale is nothing new, apparently it used to be one of the most popular vegetables is Europe before the war. Another thing we can learn from our ancestors.
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/05/celebrity-endorsements-kale-cool

No celebrity chef has to convince me, I love it. But what is the best way to eat your kale? Raw or cooked? I alternate between kale salads, smoothies, chips and cooked kale. Kale possesses immune system boosting properties, cooked or raw. Interestingly a 2011 study has shown that cooked"to death" kale (we are talking boiled for 30min) showed more immunostimulatory effects than the raw. No matter how you like your kale, it will do your body good. I love adding it into most of my vegetable stews, like the black eyed pea one I am sharing today.

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/kale-and-the-immune-system/

SPICY BLACK EYED PEA STEW WITH KALE

Serves 4

ingredients
1 onion, diced
1 celery, sliced thinly
1 carrot, diced into small dice
2 red peppers, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried oregano (1 tbs fresh)
1 tsp dried thyme (2 tsp fresh)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 tin tomatos
2 tins black eyed peas, rinsed
1 cup vegetable stock
4 cups of kale without stalks

black-eyed-pea-kale

method

  1. In a large saute pan (with lid) heat about 125ml (1/2 cup) water. Ass the vegetables and cook till softened and most of the water is cooked out.
  2. Add the spices, chipotle and tomato paste. Cook for about 1 min.
  3. Next add the tomatoes, black eyed peas and vegetable stock. Cook on low heat for about 20 adding water it the sauce thickens too much.
  4. Add the kale and cook for further 10 min stirring halfway through.
  5. Serve with brown rice or quinoa. If you have any on hand a swirl of cashew cream or chopped avocado will make a great topping.
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KERMIT THE SMOOTHIE

KERMIT THE SMOOTHIE

My attempt to detox has hit a wall today. I have been really good avoiding all the things I wanted to avoid - wheat, sugar, alcohol. Today however I took my daughter to the cinema and a lunch of her choice (a girls day out). Unfortunately on top of wanting a pizza she also chose a restaurant. The only dairy and meat free item on the menu was a tomato and olive pasta. My daughter was laughing saying “ detox no more” while I was crying into my far too oily overcooked plate of wheat (!!!).... I think if you break your detox you really need to do it with something that is worth it like Jamie Oliver’s spaghetti alla Norma not this pile of rubbish.

Never mind I am back on track. And as my fridge is jammed packed of veggies this shouldn’t be a problem. I have been eyeing the celeriac and beetroot in my veg drawer so hopefully they will come together into a delicious salad tomorrow. Earlier today I was going to make some kale chips today but I noticed a large caterpillar was swimming in the water as I was washing the kale. The green creature was saved but left me with some rather unappetising deposits of “recycled kale” among the dark green leaves. I thought dehydrator just won’t do and kale will have to be cooked at much higher temperature. That recipe will be coming soon.

Today I will give you a kale smoothie I had a few days ago. It was so neon green that my friend who saw it on my personal Facebook page exclaimed: “What have you done to Kermit???” Hence the name. Delicious it is and rest assured no frogs (or caterpillars) were harmed in making of this breakfast.

kermit-the-smoothie

KERMIT THE SMOOTHIE

Serves 1-2

ingredients
2 cups kale leaves
2 cups frozen mango
2 Deglet Noir dates (or 1 medjol)
1 slice of lemon (with skin)
2 tbs ground flax
1/2 tsp probiotic powder
1 1/2 cups water (or coconut water)

Just put all ingredients into a blender and blend till smooth.
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BABY PEPPERS WITH CASHEW CHEESE

BABY PEPPERS WITH CASHEW CHEESE

One more day to go before we see the year 2013 off and welcome the new and exciting year 2014. By now I am ready for a detox! Yes, I have overindulged and under-exercised. There was chocolate, or shall I say there were chocolates, wine, meals consisting of several dishes (even though healthy they were rather gargantuan). And than there were yesterday’s cocktails provided by my friend. She makes cocktails by emptying her bar contents into a jug and topping this concoction with some juice. I do admit they were unassumingly lethal yet delicious.

Do I feel a degree of guilt? Sure I do, but no point dwelling on this, I am detoxing starting the 2nd of January. And recording what I eat on this blog will definitely help the cause. But first, we have our New Years Eve celebration ahead of us. We always have lots of nibbles like sushi, dips, olives, little sandwiches and lots of other things. The aim is to fill up our plates with stacks of bits and bobs and keep going back for more.

My baby peppers with cashew cheese look indulgent and are (of course) dairy free. They are very easy to make. You can even play “guess what’s in the filling” with your guests (just make sure they don’t have a cashew nut allergy!). If you feel brave you can use some mild chillies instead of baby peppers.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! MAKE YOUR YEAR 2014 FILLED WITH LOVE, LAUGHTER, HEALTH AND DELICIOUS PLANT BASED FOODS.


stuffed-baby-peppers

BABY PEPPERS WITH CASHEW CHEESE

1 cup cashew nuts
1/4 (60ml) + 1tbs water
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
salt
lemon juice
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
10 olives, chopped into small pieces
small handful of basil, chop finely
14 small sweet peppers

  1. Soak the cashews in water for about 2 hours.
  2. Drain the soaked cashews, place in a blender together with 1/4 cup water and the nutritional yeast and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Blend till smooth (or as smooth as you can get it). You will have to scrape the sides of the blender few times. If the mixture is too thick you can add extra tablespoon of water.
  3. Put the cashew cheese into a bowl. Season with salt, add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives and basil.
  4. Cut the tops of the baby peppers and carefully scoop out the seeds. Using a small spoon (or if you fancy a piping bag) fill the peppers with the cashew cheese.
  5. Chill before serving.

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CAULIFLOWER, LEEK AND BEAN SOUP

CAULIFLOWER, LEEK AND BEAN SOUP

Cauliflower season is back! It has been making appearance in my weekly veggie box for past few weeks. White, crisp and sweet, it lends itself perfectly as a base for a creamy soup. In my version I have paired this nutritious brassica with leeks and beans which further enhance its creaminess.

Last year, at Christmas, my sister-in-law cooked some cauliflower soup for a starter. As she pulled it out of the fridge to reheat it, she opened the lid of her storage container and the most awful smell wafted around the kitchen. She exclaimed it smelled like &*%£. Subsequently the whole lot was poured down the sink. Be this a lesson to you, cook and eat, do not store and especially do not take leftovers to an open plan office for lunch (unless you really don't like your colleagues) . Cauliflower and broccoli soups indeed have the ability to smell in an extremely unappetising fashion when stored.

For this recipe I used cannellini beans that were cooked from dry but you don’t have to do the same, a tin of cannellini beans (or any other white beans) will work great too. Simply drain and add at the same step. If you don’t want to use the wine (I don’t always have a bottle open in the fridge) you can achieve a similar undernote of gentle acidity by squeezing some lemon juice into the soup before serving.

I garnished my soup with lightly toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley, but this is where you can let your imagination run wild. How about home made sun-blushed tomatoes, sourdough croutons, basil leaves, homemade pesto or some smoked paprika. Now my mouth is indeed watering, I have a cauliflower in the fridge, cooked white beans in the freezer, now all I need is couple of leeks ... Today’s topping? Maybe the tomatoes that have been dehydrating since 9am and some basil. Yum.

cauliflower

CAULIFLOWER, LEEK AND BEAN SOUP
Serves 2-3

2 large leeks
2 cloves of garlic
1 small cauliflower
125ml (1/2cup) white wine
2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or 1 tin, drained)
3 cups of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to tast
lightly toasted pine nuts and parsley for garnish

cauliflower-and-bean-soup

  1. Slice the leeks (mainly the white part) and wash thoroughly. Put the leeks into a medium size stock pot or sauce pan with 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Cook till soften.
  2. Crush the garlic and add to the leeks.
  3. Next add the wine, boil for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol.
  4. In the meantime cut the cauliflower into florets. Add these to the leeks together with beans and vegetable stock.
  5. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  6. Blend the soup in a food processor or with a stick blender until smooth. Season.
  7. Garnish with pine nuts and parsley.
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ROASTED TOMATO MAC AND “CHEEZE”

ROASTED TOMATO MAC AND “CHEEZE”

Last night I watched a 3 part BBC documentary titled Cherry Healey:Old Before My Time.
Cherry Healy explored the effects of alcohol, drugs and obesity on young people’s health. What surprised me the most was the totally carefree attitude of the “20 something” generation towards potentially life threatening consequences of “having a good time”. When confronting the ravers (high on ketamines and other drugs) or the way over the alcohol limit party goers Cherry got the same answer : I will worry about it later, now we are having fun.

Can we afford this kind of attitude? Seeing the pain of the parents who lost their children to drugs (not a regular user) or alcohol was heartbreaking. So was seeing a woman in her 30’s looking 9months pregnant due to the fluid accumulation caused by liver failure. Or a young man who had to have his bladder rebuilt (due to drug use) and is now left with the unsightly task of draining mucus from it every couple of weeks. The pain of the young mother who couldn’t look after her children due to her alcohol addiction. Another young mother on more medications than a pensioner having to have her stomach reduced to an egg size in a potentially dangerous surgery. This was a last attempt to reverse her obesity and hopefully need for all the medication but mainly give her children their mother back.

This documentary series should be shown in schools, before kids embark on these health and life damaging habits. I want my kids to see it, partly to scare them but mainly to educate them. Educations is the most powerful weapon we have. The good news that largely we have our health in our own hands. It is time we realise it. Young bodies are resilient but certainly not invincible.

If you haven’t seen it worth watching on BBC catch up.

roast-tom-mac&cheeze-2

ROASTED TOMATO MAC AND “CHEEZE”
This is yet another version of the family favourite mac and cheeze, usually I make it with butternut squash blended into the sauce, but I had none. Therefore I came up with this version. Kids were rather happy, eating seconds ( and thirds).

Serves 4

ingredients
4 medium tomatoes
400g (just under a pound) macaroni or other tube shaped pasta
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup non dairy milk
1 cup water
1/2 tsp dried garlic
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp corn flour (corn starch)
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of peas (frozen are fine)
3 spring onions, finely chopped
basil to garnish (optional)


thick and creamy
roast-tom-mac&cheeeze-3

method
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet with a aluminium foil or other non-stick paper. Cut the tomatoes in half and roast in the oven for 30min.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
  3. Next place the rest of the ingredients (apart from peas and spring onions) together with the roasted tomatoes (you can remove the skins) and any tomato juices left in the bottom of the roasting pan into a blender. Blend till smooth. Adjust seasoning.
  4. Place the pasta, sauce, peas and spring onions into a large pan. Heat till the sauce starts to bubble and thickens.
  5. Serve immediately with some fresh green salad and some steamed veggies.

Before being heated and thickened
roaste-tom-mac&cheeze-1

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ROASTED TOMATILLO AND TOMATO SOUP

ROASTED TOMATILLO AND TOMATO SOUP

Have you discovered tomatillos yet? I absolutely love them! Unfortunately they are still very hard to find here in the UK but they are worth searching for. Luckily Riverford, who deliver my organic veg boxes, have been supplying them (when in season) for 2 years running. You can even buy a salsa verde kit from their website. Occasionally tomatillos are available in our local Mexican shop Otomi. Failing that, they carry jars of tomatillo salsa verde, these are a good start for a tomatillo novice.

Why do I love tomatillos? First and foremost it’s the flavour! They are tangy, zingy and fresh tasting. On top of being delicious they are very good for you. Tomatillos contain phytonutrients withanolides that have been found to have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. They are a good source of vitamin C, E and carotenoids such as betacarotene, lutein, zeaxanthin. Tomatillos also contain host of minerals such as potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus and manganese. Not bad for something that looks like an unripe tomato...

close cousins - tomatillos and tomatoes
tomatillos-details

So far I have only used these Mexican gems in a salsa, but I was ready to expand my tomatillo horizon. Soup seemed like a good start for experimentation. Paired with tomatoes (who are their close cousins) and chillies I was sure (ish) to be onto a winner. I must say I was very pleased with the results. The downside was I only managed to make one lunch portion of soup...However thought this amount would be perfect for the very fashionable dinner party amuse-bouche. Served in shot glasses with a nice coriander leaf and a slice of lime perched on the rim of the glass this would make a very impressive pre-appetizer. Flavour explosion guaranteed! So you can either eat the whole lot yourself (like I greedily did) or you can wow your guests. Whichever way you go... Enjoy!

the finished product
tomatillo-soup

ROASTED TOMATILLO AND TOMATO SOUP

Serves 1 greedy person for lunch, 6-8 as an amuse-bouche in shot glasses

ingredients
200g (7 oz) tomatillos
150g (5 oz) tomatoes
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 cup of well flavoured vegetable stock
coriander leaves for garnish

roasted tomatoes and tomatillos
tomatilo-roasted

method
  1. Peel the papery husk of the tomatillos (this is a sticky job), wash well.
  2. Line a baking dish with aluminium foil in a way that it will catch all runaway juices. This will also prevent the tomatillos and tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of your pan.
  3. Roast the tomatillos and tomatoes in a 200C oven for 20 minuter or until they start to blister and split (see photo).
  4. In a medium sauce pan heat 60ml of water, add the onions, garlic and chilli and saute for 5 min or till softened. Add more water if needed.
  5. Next add the tomatillos and tomatoes with all their juices.
  6. Add the vegetable stock and cook covered for about 10minutes.
  7. Blend in a food processor or using a stick blender.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves.
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SUN DRIED TOMATO KALE CHIPS

SUN DRIED TOMATO KALE CHIPS

There are not many people who are willing to cook for me. I can actually count them on the fingers of my hand. I know this is familiar to anybody who eats differently than what is seen as the norm. Whether you are gluten free, vegan or raw you will find yourself being invited to very few dinner parties. You will be seen as the awkward. Hopefully one day the awkward will be the norm and the norm will become awkward.

My friend J is my dinner party buddy (that sounds way to posh! We just like to cook for each other). We have a very similar food philosophy. Nobody else gets excited about kale coming to season the way we do. We will text each other about organic kale’s appearance on the shelf of the Better Food Company. She has even brought me a bag of kale as a present before. She knows me well.

kale-chips-sundriedtomato
kale pieces stripped off the stalks

I have been trying to convince other non believers into embracing the humble yet amazing kale. I would say my success is about 50/50. Kale chips are the ace card in my pocket. Most people who try them fall under their spell. In one day I had 2 friends on the phone asking for my kale chip recipe :) Yesterday another friend announced they were eating kale chips all last week. I couldn’t be happier.

Brendan Brazier’s “sour cream” and onion kale chips still are the most popular in our house, but these seem to be close second. I think anything tastes better with sun dried tomatoes. If you still are a kale chip virgin please have a go. Even if you don’t have a dehydrator, they taste great made in the oven too (both methods are in my recipe). They will loose their RAW tag but they will still make an incredibly healthy and tasty snack.


SUN DRIED TOMATO KALE CHIPS
1 bag of kale with stalks (350g, 12oz)
2/3 cup cashews (soaked for half an hour and drained)
1/2 cup water
4 sundried tomatoes, soaked for 30 min
1/2 tsp dried garlic
1/2 tbs brags aminos (or tamari)

kalechips-sundried-tomatoes
the sundried tomato sauce

  1. Strip the kale leaves from their stalks.
  2. Wash thoroughly. Rip any larger pieces into bite size pieces.
  3. Dry will in a salad spinner. You will need to do this in three batches. Place the kale into a large bowl (you will need the largest bowl you have)
  4. In a high speed food processor blend all the remaining ingredients into a smooth sauces.
  5. Pour the sauce over the kale leaves and massage it into the kale so that all the leaves are cover with sauce.
  6. If using a dehydrator, place the kale onto your mesh dehydrator sheets (I use 3 in my Excalibur). Dehydrate at 115F (46C) for 12-14 hrs. Crunch test after 12 hours, if the kale chips are not crunchy enough dehydrate for couple more hours.
  7. If using an oven preheat it to 300F (150C). Spread your kale evenly on 2 baking trays and bake the chips for about 25 minutes. After the first 10 minutes keep checking on our chip every 5 minutes. Every oven is different and the kale chips can burn quickly.
  8. Store in an airtight container.
  9. Enjoy!

kalechips-sundried-tomato
crunch time
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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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BUTTER BEANS WITH ROASTED PEPPERS AND PAPRIKA

BUTTER BEANS WITH ROASTED PEPPERS AND PAPRIKA

We are enjoying last few days of summer holidays. In just a few days kids will be back to school and we will all have to get back into a routine. I have been trying hard to persuade the kids to go to bed earlier but I have yet to be successful. At least I have ironed and labeled uniforms, got new lunchboxes, school bags... I am ready (ish).

Our holiday in the Czech Republic was fabulous, friends, family and good food. I think we all gained weight... Unfortunately restaurants outside of Prague are still not quite aware what a meatless dish may be... Under vegetarian food you can find ham, bacon, tuna... I guess, in some people's eyes, meat is a piece of a cow not cubes of ham...In a restaurant with a rather extensive menu I found pretty much nothing, the only meatless salad had anchovies in the dressing. I was ready to just eat side-dishes but the waiter assured me they can cook some veggie meals. And then my daughter ended up with bacon in her spinach gnocchi dish! Grrrr!!! Long way to go...

Luckily we had loads of lush home cooked food provided by my lovely friend :) Blueberries in a salad? Genius! Even my Dad stepped up to the stove and managed to prepare (with his girlfriend’s help) a great meatless/cheeseless feast (that was hard for him indeed). I just felt we never stopped eating! I was in a permanent state of fullness.

Coming back to the UK meant getting back into routine and kind of detoxing. Fridge is full of delicious veggies. How happy I was to see that kale is now officially in season!!! No more horrible chopped supermarket kale! Proper gorgeous rich leaves are in the fridge! I made my first kale chip batch in months! And managed to get my friend and her daughter hooked on them. She even wants to pay me to make kale chips for her!!! Yes, they are that good!

Here is a quick bean recipe that will surely become a staple. I have used a tablespoon of oil to gently cook the garlic and rosemary, but it can be easily made oil free too. I went for some sweet paprika that I bought in the Czech Republic but a hot one would be equally great (if you don’t have a daughter who hates anything spicy!). To make this recipe extra quick I used roasted peppers from a jar, but if you want to roast your own go ahead. The dish went down really well, but that may be down to kids wanting to got play outside after dinner.


butterbeans-and-peppers

BUTTER BEANS WITH ROASTED PEPPERS AND PAPRIKA
These beans are great with a chunk of whole grain or rye bread, quinoa, brown rice or as a topping for a jacket potato. They work equally well as a part of a mezze type meal (or bits and bobs as we call it).

Serves 4

1 Tbs of rapeseed (canola) oil or 60ml (1/4 cup) of water or veggie stock
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp sweet (or hot) paprika
1 Tbs tomato puree
2 roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup of water (or vegetable stock)
2 tins butter beans, drained and rinsed

method
  1. Gently heat the oil (or water). Add the garlic and rosemary and cook till garlic softens.
  2. Next add the paprika and gently cook for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the tomato puree and cook for about 1 min, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and a pinch of salt. Cook gently for about 15-30mins.
  5. Enjoy!

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MEXICAN TOFU SCRAMBLE WITH CORN TORTILLAS

MEXICAN TOFU SCRAMBLE WITH CORN TORTILLAS

Last week we stopped at my favourite Mexican shop Otomi. They carry Mexican mirrors, Luchador costumes, tortilla presses but mainly some lush Mexican ingredients. I usually stock up on some tomatillo salsa and chipotle peppers there. This time I also grabbed some fresh corn tortillas (like Otomi on Facebook and they will let you know when these are in stock). Kids also tried a Mexican sweet, ground peanuts with icing sugar pressed into a patty. To my surprise they found it way to sweet!

The corn tortillas became an integral part of our Sunday morning brunch, they became the perfect vessel to hold my tofu scramble. I did regret not having any avocados to go on top of my creation. Avocados never seem to last in our house :) The scramble turned out great, I could have eaten the lot myself.

I used some chipotle sauce from Otomi to spice up the scramble but a fresh red chilli or any hot sauce will be great too. My 1 Tbs was a bit conservative since I am feeding kids. If you like it hot add some more. I spiced mine up with some spicy tomato salsa. A nice platter of tropical fruits on the side and you can really feel the Mexican sunshine coming into the dining room...

mexican-tofu-scramble-2

MEXICAN TOFU SCRAMBLE WITH CORN TORTILLAS
serves 4

ingredients
1 small onion
1 small yellow or red pepper
1 celery stick
1 tomato
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp oregano
300g (10oz) tofu
1 tbs chipotle sauce
1/2 - 1Tbs Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
fresh coriander
8 corn tortillas
salsa to serve

mexican-tofu-scramble

Method
  1. Chop the onion, celery, pepper and tomato into small dice.
  2. In a medium frying pan heat about 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Add the onion, celery and pepper. Cook till softened for about 10min, adding more water if the vegetables start to stick.
  3. Next add the tomato, cook for couple of minutes till starting to break down.
  4. Add the spices and cook for a minute.
  5. While the mixture is cooking crumble the tofu.
  6. Add tofu, chipotle sauce and Bragg Liquid Aminos to the pan and mix well together.
  7. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring to combine all the flavours, and most of the moisture has evaporated.
  8. Lastly add the yeast flakes, stir to combine.
  9. Heat your tortillas in a hot dry frying pan.
  10. Fill the tortillas with tofu scramble, top with coriander and salsa. Enjoy!

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ANYTIME FRUIT AND NUT BARS

ANYTIME FRUIT AND NUT BARS

Few years ago I read an article written by a mum who decided to take all electronic devices away from her kids during their summer holidays. She was astounded how quickly they started to entertain themselves (surprisingly no boredom). I am not as brave as this mum, but I have been setting limits on the screen time. I do it anyway, but during school holidays there are hours to fill unlike during school year.

It has been great to see, that on the days when we don’t have plans to go out, kids have found ways to enjoy themselves. We’ve had endless diving into the paddling pool to fish out toys, tennis rackets came out of their hibernation (my son spent three hand blistering hours bashing the ball against the house on one day), we had bobbing for toys in the kitchen sink (= flood) and numerous (very loud) games of UNO. Star Wars Lego has been spread all over my son’s floor (I forgot how painful stepping on a lego brick can be). My daughter has started her own “all about the human body” book and has put together numerous dance shows for me to watch. The best thing, they have been spending a lot time together without much bickering. The dreaded words "I am bored" haven't been heard much either.

The point is kids are pretty good at entertaining themselves when the push the button entertainment is taken away. It is noisier but happier without TV, Xbox or ipad. It is also healthier. And to fuel them I have made these anytime bars. I call them anytime bars because they can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack and they are also perfectly portable to take to picnics. They are rather open to variations, just swap the nuts and dried fruits for whatever you happen to have in your pantry :)

anytime-bars


ANYTIME FRUIT AND NUT BARS

makes 10 -12 bars

ingredients
1 cup porridge oats
1 cup spelt flour
1 banana
4 Mejdol dates
1/2 cup of non dairy milk
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 -1 tsp cinnamon
1 apple, finely diced

  1. First combine the oats and spelt flour in a large bowl.
  2. In a blender combine the banana, Medjol dates and the non dairy milk. Blend till smooth. Add to the flour/oat mixture.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.
  4. Spread the mix into a baking paper lined 10x6 (15x25cm) baking dish, press down firmly. Bake in 180C oven for 30-40 min or until golden brown on the top.
  5. Let the bake cool down, cut into bars and enjoy. Store in an air tight container for up to 4 days.

anytime-bars-2

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STEAM FRIED SPRING GREENS (COLLARDS) WITH RED PEPPER AND CASHEWS

STEAM FRIED SPRING GREENS (COLLARDS) WITH RED PEPPER AND CASHEWS

Mexico, as it was announced today, overtook the USA in the obesity race. Mexico is now the most obese developed nation with 32.8% of people classified as obese. That is every 3rd person! Not overweight but obese! I was surprised the country of my birth, the Czech Republic, is occupying the 12th position. The UK (together with Russia) is 23rd, a surprise, I thought it would fare much worse.

Looking around me I don’t believe that the UK’s obesity crisis has improved. I think that unfortunately the nations above the UK have simply managed to get even worse over the last several years. The WHO (World Health Organisation) numbers show that some 35% of the world’s population is overweighed and 11% obese (these are 2008 numbers, probably higher today). Even more worryingly 40 million of children (under 5!) were overweight in 2011. More people die from being overweight and obese than from being underweight.

Couple days ago my kids and I walked up to the local playground and I couldn’t help noticing that out of 6 adults 3 were obese. Not overweighed, not needing to shed couple pounds, but obese. Luckily none of the kids were. This is becoming the norm.

What are some of the recommendations from the WHO?


  • limit energy intake from total fats and sugars
  • increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts (I call this plant based diet!)
  • engage in regular physical activity

See it’s a no-brainer (I know it’s not always that simple). My recipe fits perfectly within the WHO guidelines and is the tastiest way to cook spring greens I have made so far :)

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/news/america-fattest-obese-un-144341236.html


springgreensteamfry

STEAM FRIED SPRING GREENS WITH RED PEPPER AND CASHEWS
If you are feeding more people just add another bunch of greens

Serves 2

ingredients

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or I whole green garlic when in season)
1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
1 large red chilli (mild)
1 ramiro pepper (or red bell pepper)
1 large bunch of spring greens (collards), washed and shredded, tough stalks removed
1 tbs sweet soya sauce (ketjap manis)
handful of cashews

method
  1. In a wok heat 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Cook for 5 min till softened. Add more water if needed.
  2. Next, add the pepper and saute for 5 min till softened. Again add more water if needed.
  3. Add the spring greens and another 60ml of water.
  4. Cook for 5-10 min, or until most water evaporates. This depends how soft you like your greens.
  5. Add soy sauce and cashews. Cook for further 1 min.
  6. Serve with brown rice, quinoa or noodles.
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FERMENTED CABBAGE

FERMENTED CABBAGE

My internet hell is finally over. We are connected. The other day my daughter exclaimed she can’t live without it! Now, she doesn’t have to. I did think this was a good opportunity for the kids to see what it was like in the “olden days” :)

As you may know from my last post I have recently had a course of rather strong antibiotics for a tooth infection. I have realised how much this affected my recent digestion resulting in gurgling, bloating and just not feeling right. I am no doubt the medication had a lot to do with that. Of course I have been taking some good quality probiotics (and no, the yoghurt drinks are not good enough! - I get asked that a lot).

To speed up my recovery and repopulate my lost friends (I am truly sorry to expose you to antibiotics my friends, but the pain was unbearable) I have started home fermenting. Genetically, we are 99% microbes. Looking after our friends may just be the most important thing we can do to maintain our health. And scientists agree. Lots of research is showing links between our microflora (or lack of) and poor health.

Apart from being raw, full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fermented vegetables contain live bacteria. This is just what your digestions needs. And it is not a new idea either. Fermented vegetables have always been a staple in many cultures, you can’t imagine a Korean meal without some kimchi, Japanese table will always have some fermented vegetables or indeed the amazing miso whilst tempeh is a staple in Indonesia. I grew up eating sauerkraut as did anyone from Germany to Latvia.

Fermented vegetables, especially raw sauerkraut, are starting to appear in health food shops. Anywhere from £8-10 for a 750g jar this is not a cheap item. Fermenting your own however is cheap as chips. OK I haven’t gone as far as making sauerkraut yet, but my fermented cabbage is delicious and I have no doubt it is abundant with some friendly bacteria. I feel they are smiling at me from the jar!

One last note: If you are taking a portion with you for a lunch, make sure your container is tightly sealed. I have learnt the hard way. My fermented cabbage juice spilt all over my lunch I brought with me to college. Not only everything smelled of fermented cabbage juice, but the rest of my lunch was swimming in it. I am sure that apricots marinated in cabbage juice will not become the next food trend!

fermented-cabbaga-kilner

FERMENTED CABBAGE WITH CARROTS

ingredients
1 hispi cabbage (also called sweetheart), small to medium size
1 medium carrot
1/2 tsp caraway seed (optional)
salt (see below)

1 litre preserving jar (Kilner)

  1. First you need to sterilise the jar. I boil some water in a large sauce pan that will fit my jar. Put the jar in together with the lid and let quickly bubble over. Just a few seconds if fine. I leave the jar in the water until I need it.
  2. Next remove the outer cabbage leaves. Generally couple will do, keep the cleaner one, wash and set aside.
  3. Using a knife thinly slice the cabbage, you don’t need German precision, it’s just cabbage :) Put into a colander and wash thoroughly.
  4. Coarsely grate the carrot. Mix together with the cabbage.
  5. Carefully remove the jar and lid from the water.
  6. Put all the cabbage/carrot mix into the Kilner jar. Make sure you pack it in. I use the pushing stick from my juicer to do the job. If using you can sprinkle the caraway seeds between layers. Don’t overfill the jar, I leave about 1 and 1/2inches cabbage free. Now top the cabbage with the reserved whole cabbage leaf, this will ensure the cabbage stays submerged.
  7. Next, make the salt solution. I find that 2 cups of filtered water with 3/4-1tbs of salt do the job for 1 jar. Stir well to dissolve. Pour the salt water into the jar, leaving about 1inch below the top of the jar. The juices will rise during fermentation. Screw the lid on but not too tightly.
  8. Put the jar somewhere warm, I use my airing cupboard (the builder who came to fix my airing cupboard door was rather surprised to find a jar there...). Any warm space will do, you could try to balance it on top of a radiator when in use. I have discounted this idea due to free roaming kids and dogs....
  9. Check the cabbage everyday, open the lid, smell it, inspect the juice. The juice will go cloudy, you will be able to smell the fermentation (not too different from cider or sourdough smell). On the third day have a taste of the juices, it should be fizzy, pleasantly sour (3-4 days are usually how I like it). Transfer into cold store, fridge in my case. You can eat it straight away or let the flavours develop further in the fridge.
  10. I generally have a small (Chinese tea bowl) with my lunch. I especially love drinking the juice!

Day 4
fermented-cabbge-detail

Day 14
fermented-cabbage-2weeks
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BAKED SWEET POTATO FALAFELS

BAKED SWEET POTATO FALAFELS

The other day my son told me how a boy from his class bought a pack of biscuits for breakfast and brought it to school. My son was pretty pleased because his friend share the biscuits (and trans fats!) with his school mates.

My friend and I were talking about this over a nice lunch. We were trying to get our heads around how a 10 year old can be put in charge of buying his breakfast. I know he is not the only one, I hear stories of my son’s school friends buying extra large chocolate bars and cans of Red Bull before school.
We are both mum’s who understand how important good nutritions is for everybody, and especially growing kids. We can’t imagine being is a situation where we wouldn’t have anything in the house for kids to eat at breakfast. But there are households where this is the case, it is easier to give a child couple of quid and send them to a shop. I find that very sad. Especially since there has been a 4 fold increase in children treated in hospital for conditions linked to obesity.

My friend than talked about how her mum had knowledge about healthy eating without having access to the information we have today. The difference is she cooked, her mother cooked, her mother’s mother cooked. They passed the knowledge down the generations. Today the situation is different, many parents (I don’t want to blame the mum’s only) don’t cook, they look at the price and convenience when it comes to food not its nutritional value (healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive just look at http://agirlcalledjack.com/). Nutrition education at schools is not great, or dismissed by parents as rubbish. I did speak to someone who complained about school filling her daughters with rubbish and now she is refusing to even have a cake at home...

I have found, with my own kids, that it is not always easy to convince them to eat healthy. I know if I gave them money to buy their own breakfast they would walk out with a bar of chocolate or a croissant. And there are many things they refuse to eat. I still have the sweet potato hurdle to overcome. I do keep trying though... I came up with these sweet potato falafels hoping they might not realize... OK the colour gave the sweet potato away and than came the refusal but this will not stop me trying...


sweet-potato-falafel
BAKED SWEET POTATO FALAFELS
These can be also made into larger burgers, the mixture will make 6 burgers. They are also delicious cold the next day in a pitta bread with salad. They are yummy with a mango chutney.

ingredients
1 large sweet potato
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 small onion, cut into chunks
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup rolled oats (use gluten free oats for gluten free version)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3 Tbs hemp seeds
2 Tbs of chickpea flour (if needed)

Makes 12

sweet-potato-falafels

method
  1. First peel, cut into large pieces and steam the sweet potato till soft.
  2. In a food processor process the chickpeas, onion, garlic and oats and process till the ingredients are coming together. You may have to stop and scrape the mixture down from the sides.
  3. Tip the mixture into a bowl, add the drained cooked potatoes, cumin, coriander and the hemp seeds. You can also add couple tbs of fresh coriander (which I didn’t have on hand).
  4. Using your hands mix everything together while crushing the sweet potatoes.
  5. If the mixture is too sloppy you can add couple tablespoons of chickpea flour.
  6. Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper. Make 12 - 16 falafels (I made 12 larger ones). The job will be easier if you wet your hands before shaping your falafels, the mix won’t stick to your hands. I find it I have to wet my hands every 3-4 falafels.
  7. Place the falafels on the baking sheet and bake at 180C for 20 minutes turning over half way through.


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RAW CARROT COOKIES


RAW CARROT COOKIES

Our broadband has still not been connected. I am not in love with my temporary intermittent connection but I guess that’s all I have for the moment. Patience required. Another thing that has given me grief is my new fridge. Apart from being a tad smaller than my old one, I have found out that my lower fridge drawer is freezing my vegetables. Rocket with ice-crystals was the first victim, but I just assumed the temperature was too low. I adjusted it but I still pulled out solidly frozen cucumber and courgettes from the fridge the day after.

The cucumber, unfortunately, had to be binned. The courgette I attempted to cook in a stir-fry. Slicing it from frozen wasn’t easy! I honestly thought about using a saw. And the result? Well I have had better...

After seeing my frustration my husband read the fridge instructions (yes we should have done that earlier!) and we found out that the bottom drawer is designed for meat and fish, and will freeze vegetables. Not even the suggestion of putting up the temperature to max has worked. This drawer is now assigned for kids lunch box smoothies, and my array of flax, hemp and chia seeds. I am feeling a bit angry at SMEG for making a veggie unfriendly fridge. I do normally have more veggies and fruits that one drawer can contain! On the other hand this is making me plan my meals better so there may be a positive in this after all.


raw-carrotchia-cookies

RAW CARROT AND CHIA COOKIES
My friend made a vegan carrot cake to have after our dinner the other day and I must say it went down a storm. It also inspired me to make raw carrot cookies. My son did say they looked like something stuck on the bottom of a shoe (thanks mate!) but he did admit they tasted great.

Makes 9-10 cookies

ingredients
2 medium carrots
1 medium eating apple
2 Tbs chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
tiny pinch of salt (optional)
1 cup pecans (or walnuts)
4 medjol dates
1/3 cup raisins

method
  1. Grate the carrots and apple very finely using a box grater. I find my food processor doesn’t grate the carrots finely enough. Place into a large bowl.
  2. Add chia seeds, cinnamon and salt into the bowl. The salt is not necessary but brings out the flavour of the cookies.
  3. Next in a food processor grind the pecan nuts till you achieve quite a fine texture, few larger bits are fine.
  4. Add the pitted medjol dates and process till the mixture starts coming together
  5. Add the date pecan mixture to the carrot apple mix. Add the raisins and mix thoroughly.
  6. Take enough mixture to roll into an apricot size ball, flatten it to make a cookie and place on your dehydrator sheet.
  7. Dehydrate at 115F (45C) for 8 hrs, turning half way through. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can use oven at its lowest setting, with door ajar.
  8. These cookies will keep in the fridge for 2-3 of days. But they may get eaten before that... :)



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BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND ORANGE SOUP

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND ORANGE SOUP

The house move is getting closer and closer, 7 days to go! Yesterday our lovely friends came to help us with the disaster zone that was our attic. Thank you!!! The day before (after watching The Croods with kids in the cinema) I sorted boxes of old cooking magazines. With all my books in boxes I resorted to couple of old Good Food magazines to read in my bath. There I came across a Valentines ( February 2008 issue) menu from the celebrity chef James Martin. The geek in me had to add up the calories, fat and protein of the romantic menu. Rather than romance you may expect a coronary...

Here are the results, per serving:
kcal - 2500
fat - 194g, sat fat - 70g
protein - 90g

Based on the British Nutrition Foundation RNI’s this meal contains over 500kcal, 124g of fat (50g sat) and about 50g more protein than an average women needs in a day (of course needs vary according to body shape, but trust me nobody needs 194g of fat!!!).

People tend to idolise TV chefs, they nearly posses superstar status. This gives them a lot of influence and they should be using it in a positive way. You may say the above meal is a celebration meal, only for special occasions. I agree, we do not make a three course meal every day. Still I think this is irresponsible. UK like the USA is experiencing obesity crisis, the health service is finding it hard to cope. We now have thirteen year old children having bariatric surgeries and their health suffers as a result of such intervention. This generation of children may die before their parents unless things change.

I would like to challenge TV chefs to create some healthy tasty meals, but from what you can read below, this may be near to impossible. When challenged, John Burton Race had a bit of a tantrum. By the way what does he call moderation???:

"It's a very good idea to watch your saturated fats," said John Burton Race, a Michelin-starred British chef whose recipes were evaluated by The Fat Panel. "But I would rather eat one spoon of full-fat cream ice cream than sit there with a gallon of unsweetened yogurt. I would rather eat these foods which are naughty but nice in moderation than try to look around for substitutes. It's just a pointless exercise."

And on he goes:

"It's ridiculous," said Race, pointing out that the panel harped on 100 grams of butter in his baked apple recipe, which also included dried fruits, nuts and the whole fresh apple."If you want something really indulgent, one of the lovely, rich things in life, have it in balance and moderation," Race said. "I'm sure that it won't kill you."

I will repeat Dr Esselstyn’s words again: “Moderation kills!” Chefs only get the message when faced with their own mortality. Maybe its time to start making changes sooner.

Read more at:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=7071103&page=1#.UZDnjo6TQ0s


butternut-orange-soup


BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND ORANGE SOUP
Yummy, spicy soup. No added oils just good fat from the walnuts.

Serves 4

1 onion, chopped
3 sticks of celery, chopped
1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped (deseeded for milder soup)
120ml (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
750ml light vegetable stock
For the topping:
large handful of parsley
handful of walnuts

  1. In a medium sauce pan heat about 60ml (1/4cup water) and saute the onions, celery and chilli till soft. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick.
  2. Add the orange juice, butternut squash and vegetable stock.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for half an hour.
  4. While the soup is cooking chop together the parsley and walnuts.
  5. Serve the soup garnished with the parsley and walnut mix.

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QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

During my 100% raw food week I used half a bottle of olive oil, a whole cup, and about 3/4 cup coconut oil. Not something I would normally do. I am back to my low oil lifestyle now.

Last Sunday I had a sample of some lovely food from an Alkalising diet my friend is following and today another friend brought me some lemon and coconut muffins from her Ayurvedic diet. All very delicious! Yum yum! Aren’t friends who feed you the best kind?

Remember me saying I was fed up with salads last Friday? Well, it didn’t last that long. But having some cooked food has been lovely too. Especially pulses. That was one thing I really missed. I know you can have sprouted pulses on raw food diet but I just don’t like them... Sprouted seeds are yum but not sprouted chickpeas, they are not my cup of tea...

Inspired by my lunch at the Wheelwright Inn last weekend I decided to make a quick chickpea tagine for dinner tonight. Warming spices, veggies, chickpeas, tomatoes that were not getting any younger and of course some couscous. Perfect meal for this sudden change of weather. Yesterday we were enjoying gorgeous sunshine and today rain, rain and more rain. It is supposed to rain tomorrow again, I am glad to have some tagine leftovers waiting for me.

quick-chickpea-tagine

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

Serves 4

ingredients
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbs tomato puree (paste)
4 tomatoes, chopped (skinned if you prefer)
2 courgettes (zucchini), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pepper (I had green), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
8 dried apricots, halved
1 tsp date syrup
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 tbs parsley or coriander, chopped
1 cup of couscous

method
  1. In a large lidded saute pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) water, add the onion and garlic and saute till soft. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick.
  2. Next add the spices and tomato puree, cook for half a minute and add the tomatoes. Add some water if the mixture is starting to stick.
  3. When the tomatoes start to break down add the courgettes, peppers, apricots, date syrup and chickpeas. Add 250ml (1 cup) of water.
  4. Cook gently for 20 minutes or until the sauce is rich and thickens.
  5. Prepare the couscous. 1 cup of couscous, 1 and 1/2 cup just boiled water (or vegetable stock), cover with cling film and let sit for 5 min.
  6. Serve the tagine with couscous garnished with chopped parsley or coriander.


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NOT SO TRADITIONAL BABA GHANOUJ

NOT SO TRADITIONAL BABA GHANOUJ

When I was little, probably the age my daughter is now, my grandmother brought home a couple of aubergines (aka eggplants). This was the first time we met, me and aubergine of course. My grandmother did what all Czech people do to vegetables, she breaded it and fried it, schnitzel style. I remember not really enjoying the aubergine.

That night, I had a dream, you might call it a nightmare (it was for a seven year old girl). In this dream I was chased by a gigantic aubergine. Yes you can laugh but this traumatic experience caused me not to eat aubergines for many years (or maybe it was the fact that I didn’t enjoy it?).

Many years later, in my 20’s, I had an aubergine again and I have never looked back. It is definitely the vegetable I would take with me onto a dessert island. It is incredibly versatile, an amazing base for many veggie meals, it feels and taste substantial. If cooked properly it is beautifully silky and takes on all the flavors it has been cooked with.

It is very easy to cook aubergines wrong, I have been served undercooked inedible aubergines in restaurants (and I always let them know!). Don’t serve an aubergine unless it is squashed easily under very little pressure with a wooden spoon or a fork. It needs to be melt in your mouth, soft and silky.

Here is one of my favorite aubergine recipes, baba ghanouj (or baba ghanoush). It is popular in many Middle Eastern countries, you can find it in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and via Turkey even in Bulgaria. Traditionally this recipe is made with lashings of olive oil, but I love my oil free version. If you really wish you can always drizzle a bit of good quality extra virgin olive oil over the top to make it more authentic.

Baba ghanouj is perfect for a mezze meal, light lunch or just as a dip with some pitta chips and a nice glass of wine. I believe this is a recipe to serve to an aubergine hater, just don’t divulge the main ingredient.

babaghanouj


NOT SO TRADITIONAL BABA GHANOUJ

ingredients
2 aubergines (medium to large)
1 Tbs tahini
juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt
handful of parsley, finely chopped

method
  1. First prepare the aubergine. Leave the aubergines whole just prick several times with a point of a sharp knife (this will prevent any possible explosions). If you are using a grill (broiler) preheat it to its highest setting, place aubergine onto a aluminium foil lined baking tray and place the aubergine about 1 inch away from the grill. You can also use your gas hob, place the aubergine straight over the flames. I do prefer the grill method, you get a more evenly cooked aubergine.
  2. Turn the aubergines often and cooked until the aubergine collapses. Feel the aubergine using tongs, it should feel very soft when squeezed gently. The skin should be charred. Under the grill it should take about 20-30min.
  3. Let the aubergine cool.
  4. When the aubergine has cooled down, slit the skin down lengthways and scoop the soft flesh out, discard the skin. Place the flesh into a food processor.
  5. Add the tahini and garlic and process until you get a puree with still few chunks left in it (no baby food).
  6. Add the lemon and salt to taste and chopped parsley. Place in a serving bowl.
  7. If you really have to you can drizzle some olive oil, but other great toppings are cumin, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts or paprika.
  8. Enjoy!

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CRUNCHY FENNEL AND APPLE SALAD

CRUNCHY FENNEL AND APPLE SALAD

All this week I have been working on my food diary assignment for college (not quite finished yet). As our house move is nearing I have also made a insignificant attempt to start packing. So far I have managed what you could call a drop in the ocean. To my horror I will have to repack several boxes as I have used the wrong size for books... The removal man has spoken!

Yes I am slightly overwhelmed with the task ahead, the fact that I only have one weekend free of college this month is amplifying my panic. Stress and panic are not good for my IBS so I am downing barley grass each morning (YUCK) and try to focus on the positives ahead. I have calculated that August might be the month I will finally relax, and believe me I am very much looking forward to that.

My food diary assignment has been a very fascinating endeavor indeed. It has been rahter tedious but a great eyeopener. I have analyzed couple days of my diet and my conclusion has affirmed that apart from vitamins B12 and D, there is nothing missing from my plant strong food. B12 and D I take as supplements. Eagerly I am waiting for some sunshine to get vitamin D the most natural way. Unfortunately we are having a freaky kind of spring down here so the drops have to step in for now.

My mum-in-law said to me: “Seeing how much you eat I am surprised you are not bigger.” Yes I like my portions big however my food diary confirms that even I eat large volume my calories are well under control. It’s all good and confidence boosting! Yes, plant strong diet does your body good. I do wish plant based diet could also make me more efficient in packing....


fennel-apple-salad

CRUNCHY FENNEL AND APPLE SALAD
This is a very yummy crunchy refreshing salad. No apologies for using lemon/miso combo as a dressing again, I am loving it! Any leftovers will keep till the next day you may just have to add more lemon juice to it as cucumbers loose water and dull the flavour.

Serves 4 as a side salad

ingredients
1 fennel
1/2 large cucumber (about 220g, 1/2lb)
80g radishes
1 large apple
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp of white or yellow miso (I used live miso)
1-2 tsp date syrup

method
  1. Slice the fennel, cucumber, radishes and apple into very thin slices. You can use a food processor, box grated or a Japanese mandolin. Of course sharp knife will do too! Put all the veggies into a large bowl.
  2. Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Add to the salad bowl and mix well.
  3. Enjoy.

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KALE AND AVOCADO SALAD WITH MISO

KALE AND AVOCADO SALAD WITH MISO

Does the world need another massaged kale salad recipe? Without a doubt!!! One can’t have enough kale. Even my kids have fallen under its spell. They love Brendan Brazier’s sour cream kale chips, but they also love this salad.

Couple weeks ago I invited a friend over for dinner and made this salad to accompany our mains. My friend watch with amusement as my husband, kids and I fought over the last portion. She proclaimed we were a weird family. I take it as a compliment.

We are all aware of the superior nutrition kale possesses, there are countless articles circulating on vegan websites. It is packed with minerals, vitamins, protein and fibre. When you massage, chop or chew kale you release the fantastic isothiocyanates. These are very potent cancer fighters and help your liver in its hard daily task of detoxification. Pair kale up with the other ingredients in my recipe and you have a dinner of champions.

kale

Now the practical bits. Any white or yellow miso will do great in this recipe (just don’t use brown). I have recently discovered live miso paste in my favorite health food shop chiller. When I opened the lid slight steam (or is it smoke?) seemed to have risen from the jar. The miso was extra zingy and strong, but delicious. If you are a miso virgin you may want to start with the less extravagant version.

Lemon and lime work equally well here. I use whatever is in the fridge. If I have both, I will choose the lime. To make this recipe fully raw, use 1 Tbs of raw agave instead of the 2 Tbs of mirin. I prefer mirin, it had the right amount of sweetness and is a natural partner to miso. They are from the same country after all.

One last note. If you do find you are fighting your loved ones over the last bite, just double the portion. Vegan is about love after all.


IMG_5907

KALE AND AVOCADO SALAD WITH MISO
Serves 4

ingredients
1/2lb (200-250g) kale, stalks removed, shredded
1 heaped Tbs yellow (or white) live miso
juice of 1 lime (or small lemon)
2 Tbs mirin
3 spring onions (scallions)
1 large avocado

method
  1. Place the kale in a large bowl. Add the miso, lime juice and mirin.
  2. Massage the kale and the dressing ingredients together for about 2 minutes. The kale will collapse and the dressing will coat all the kale leaves.
  3. Slice the onions thinly and add into the onions.
  4. Peel the avocado and remove the stone. Cut the avocado flesh bite sized pieces and stir through the leaves.

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PINK QUINOA SALAD

PINK QUINOA SALAD

Last weekend at college we learned about phytonutrients and superfoods. I feel that we have only scratched the surface, there are thousands of phytonutrients, some have been well researched and some have not yet been discovered. What a fascinating subject!

My college friend put on her Facebook page: “After a whole weekend at college the conclusion is: just eat your fruit and veg!” I couldn’t have said it better. And as our lecturer pointed out we should aim for 10 and everything over that is a bonus.

The bad thing about phytonutrients? They all come with rather complicated names and I have to learn and remember them for my upcoming exam. Together with biochemistry, all vitamins and minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, orthomolecular nutrients... Yes I shall be busy over the next 3 weeks...

Quick nutritious recipes should get me through it! Just like this pink quinoa salad. You must admit it looks fabulous. It tastes great too. I will try to post as much as my study schedule allows me.


pink-quinoa-salad

PINK QUINOA SALAD
Sushi seasoning is sold in bottles in Japanese sections of Asian shops or supermarket. I use it to season sushi rice (of course) it takes the guess work out, perfect balance every time. It tastes great as a dressing too, it may need a bit of vinegar or lime juice if too sweet for your palate. I used cider vinegar, but rice wine vinegar would be fantastic too.

Serves 4

1 cup quinoa
1 large carrot
1 medium beetroot
3 spring onions
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 Tbs capers
small handful of parsley
2 Tbs sushi seasoning
1 Tbs cider vinegar

  1. Rinse the quinoa well. Bring a medium pan of water to boil (about 1litre), add the quinoa and cook for about 15min. Rinse under running cold water.
  2. Coarsely great the carrot and peeled beetroot. Place in a salad bowl.
  3. Slice the spring onions into thin rings.
  4. LIghtly toast the sunflower seeds in a dry pan, take care not to burn them.
  5. Add the onions, sunflower seeds, quinoa, capers, parsley to the carrots and beetroot..
  6. Season with the sushi seasoning and vinegar.

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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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BALANCING LIFE WITH P&B QUESADILLA

BALANCING LIFE WITH P&B QUESADILLA

Yesterday I managed to drop my Kitchen Aid food processor on my fingers. As I was putting it away in its rather tight space I dropped it on one finger on my right hand, that made me pull my hand away which shifted the weight of the appliance and it landed on another finger of my left hand. Only 5 minutes later I tried to stop a falling porcelain dish from breaking by offering my foot to soften the blow. The dish is fine but it was indeed heavier than I anticipated. To top it all off, this morning I managed to drop a serving spoon on a glass. The glass cracked. I put it into a plastic bag to take it to the bin outside. But alas, the bag had a hole in the bottom, the glass fell out, first it hit my foot and than shattered into many pieces! Bits of glass in a puddle, bits of glass in the gravel, bits of glass embedded in the wooden step that was made soft by the heavy rainfall. To prevent kids feet and dogs’ paws from an injury I had to remove the shards one by one....

Good things, I believe, do balance the bad things. Here are few of the good, balance shifting things. Having a breakfast with my lovely friend this morning was good for the soul. We enjoyed our food whilst watching the gorgeous song birds outside the farm shop cafe windows. Later my kids were praised by their dentist for their excellent dental hygiene, which made me puff up with pride. And finally, we exchanged contracts on our new house, making our big move very final. My husband and I have opened a nice bottle of Verdicchio to celebrate.

Sometimes, when things go bad, something gooey may just shift the balance. No, I am not promoting comfort eating but I can’t seem to find enough excuses to make my gooey sticky filling P&B quesadilla. So if things are falling on your feet, you are getting fingers stuck in the door and you managed to process a piece of plastic wrapping with your courgette dip (yes that is another story...) just grab a tortilla, peanut butter, banana and just smile :) Remember to let it cool down a little bit before eating or you may just burn your lips :)

P&B-quesadillas

(BREAKFAST) PB AND B QUESADILLA
These are fabulous for breakfast, they really fill you up. They will also hit the spot anytime you fancy something sweet and gooey.

Serves 1

ingredients
1 large tortilla
1-2Tbs organic peanut butter
1 small banana
pinch of cinnamon (optional)

method
  1. Spread the peanut butter over the tortilla.
  2. Mash the banana over half of the tortilla.
  3. Sprinkle with cinnamon if using. Fold the tortilla over.
  4. Preheat a large frying pan.
  5. Place the tortilla into the frying pan and dry fry for about 1 min on each side or till the tortilla crisps up and is golden brown.

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VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE

VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE

Some days only a cake will do. I baked this one on our very snowy Friday. School was closed, kids were defrosting from sledging and making snow angels, the dog was melting all over the floor. It sure seemed like a perfect time to make a cake.

I do not like to used too much sugar in my cooking, in this cake I used only 1/2 cup . It will serve 8 which means around 1 Tbs of sugar per serving. That is a fraction of sugar in most cakes. On top of this (of course) there is no butter, oil, or eggs used in this recipe. Quite a low cal, low fat treat.

This cake was tested over the weekend on my family and friends. My Brazilian friend H said she liked it even though she hates mangos! She told us when she was growing up in Brazil, kids would pick ripe mangos off the trees, eating them straight away with juices dripping all over their faces, hands and even hair. I thought that was an amazing image but apparently it put her off mangos for life.

If you feel the same way about mangos you can substitute your favourite fruit for them. I think peaches or cherries would be fantastic. How about blueberries or a large not too ripe pear. I have a feeling we are going to make many versions of this surprisingly light cake.

mango-cake

VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE
I used all whole meal (wheat) flour but to make the cake slightly more kids friendly you may want to use half white half whole meal. I must say my son enjoyed it as it was.

Makes 8 good slices

ingredients:
200g (1 and 1/2 cup) of fine whole meal (wheat) flour - or half white half whole meal
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs ground linseed soaked in 3 Tbs water
100g (1/2 cup) unrefined (or raw) sugar
250ml (1 cup) almond milk
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 large mango, peeled and cut into large dice
2 Tbs flaked almonds

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
  3. In a small bowl mix the ground linseeds with the water and let sit couple of minutes
  4. In a measuring jug or a medium bowl mix the almond milk, sugar and vinegar together. The mixture will curdle, that is expected no worries :)
  5. Add the soaked linseed, and the almond milk mixture to the flour mix. Mix well together using a large whisk or a wooden spoon.
  6. Fold the mango cubes into the cake batter.
  7. Pour into a 8 inch (20cm) spring form cake tin that has been lined with baking paper (or lightly greased).
  8. Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top of the cake batter.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40min. Check halfway through, it the almonds are starting to brown to quickly cover the cake with aluminium foil for rest of the baking time.
  10. To check the cake is ready insert a skewer into middle of the cake, it should come out clean.

mango-cake-2
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YELLOW CARROT SALAD

YELLOW CARROT SALAD

Kids seem to get a kick out of quirky and unusual things. Yellow carrots, therefore, were a big hit. I was a bit worried they may not taste good, as it was the case with the beautiful stripy aubergines I bought a few weeks ago. Glad to report yellow carrots delivered on taste.

Even though I bought them from the supermarket, where all the fruits and vegetables seem to be of uniform shapes and sizes, the yellow carrots were wonky and gorgeously misshapen. Just the way veg should be.

yellow-carrots

I wanted to accentuate the sunshine colour of the carrots and adding a yellow pineapple seemed the best way to do. It turned out to be a perfect choice as it not only looked great but everybody loved the gorgeous sweetness and freshness of this simple salad.

It was served as a part of a mezze meal. My friend was just at the tail end of a detox so I wanted to serve fresh, easy, uncomplicated food. Apart from the carrot salad we had my raw courgette dip (
http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog/files/cd27fb3b34f77fee3058fa84c453ae2d-72.html ), beetroot falafels (/www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog/files/ac326fc7e745955899b46d24741566c2-108.html ) , olives, lots of raw veggies to go with the falafels, tahini dressing and spicy patatas bravas (those I forgot to photograph... will make them again soon). It was freezing outside but we sure were eating sunshine :)

yellow-carrot-salad

YELLOW CARROT SALAD

ingredients
4 large yellow carrots
1/2 medium pineapple
2 large oranges

Using a box grater finely grate the carrots.
Cut the peel and the core off the pineapple and chop into small bite size pieces (about 1 - 1.5cm)
Mix the carrots with the pineapple and add the juice of 2 oranges.
Serve. This salad will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.


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COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

This week I was catching up on my post Christmas ironing, two back breaking sessions each lasting two hours! To make my job easier I watched some cookery shows on TV. Watching Nigella made me realised how much we have in common. No I do not indulge in pigs ears, deep fry bounty bars or have an obsession for alliteration.

Like Nigella, however, I am obsessed with food. I am obsessed with eating it, cooking it, writing about it, talking about it. I love discovering new flavours and ingredients (like the yellow carrots I bought today). Most of all, like Nigella, I love cooking for myself.

You won’t see me grabbing a quick sandwich or couple of Ryvitas for lunch. I believe it is not a waste of time to cook or prepare something delicious just for one. This is my me time, I love it. Of course not everybody has the time, that’s where batch cooking comes to its force, freezer full of stews and soups can ensure you have a nutritious meal when pressed for time. Even salads can be made ahead. Some keep really well even for a few days. Just don’t try to store tender leaves that have a dressing on.

Lunch for one can be a brilliant way to use up odds and ends from your fridge or pantry. Got some leftover rice, one lonely noodle nest or half a pepper in the fridge? Bits and bobs get my cooking mind going! Yesterday I found that lonely nest of noodles, some Brussel sprouts and a recipe idea was born. Delicious it was too! If you want, double it, triple it.... just maybe go easy on multiplying the curry paste, you don’t want it to blow your head off. I did fancy some edamame beans or just regular green beans, but my freezer was bare.... hence the peas. Can’t complain, they did taste great.

brussels-sprout-noodles

BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL
Beware that Thai red curry paste very often contains dried shrimp or fish sauce, if like me you want to avoid those, read the ingredients!

For 1

ingredients
1/2 cup of light vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
80g of flat Asian noodles (rice, wheat or buckwheat, whatever you have)
1-2 tsp vegan red curry paste (they very in heat)
1 cup of Kara coconut or other non dairy milk (not coconut milk from a can)
12 Brussel sprouts
couple handfuls of frozen peas, green beans or edamame
1 Tbs smooth peanut butter
juice of half a lime
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat the veg stock, add the onions and simmer till soften.
  2. In another medium sauce pan cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water.
  3. While the onions are sauteing prepare your Brussels sprouts. Peel off any unappealing leaves of the sprouts, cut of the stalk end bit and halve them lengthways.
  4. Add the curry paste and coconut milk to the onions together with the Brussels sprouts.
  5. If using green beans or edamame add them now too.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 5 min or until the Brussels sprouts are tender.
  7. Now add the peas and peanut butter. Heat up together, the peanut butter should melt into the sauce.
  8. Add the cooked noodles, just heat them up.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice.
  10. Serve generously garnished with chopped coriander and an extra lime wedge.



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ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS

ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS

Couple days ago I started to read The Spectrum by Dr Dean Ornish. Fascinating read! I love the man’s philosophy, spirit but also the fact that everything he suggests is backed by science. And any man who can do a TED MED presentation with a baby in his hands certainly gets my vote.

Dr Dean Ornish has amazing results in slowing the progression and even reversing heart disease with lifestyle changes. His method is even available on Medicare in the USA. Quote from The Spectrum:
“ Our research has shown that your body has a remarkable capacity to begin healing itself - and much more quickly than people once realised - when we address the underlying causes of illness. For many people, the choices we make each day in what and in how we live are among the most important underlying causes.”

No surprise I was eager to read today’s big news article (in several papers) :
Tomato pill could save lives. Indeed a new “tomato” pill has been developed, it contains lycopene in amounts equivalent to eating 6lb of tomatoes daily!!! That, I do admit, would be a very difficult thing to do. The trial has been on a small scale but scientist are very optimistic, predicting this pill could save thousands of lives. Further trials are of course needed.

Ateronon (the pills name) has shown to improve the function of the endothelial cells and boost their sensitivity to nitric oxide. Dr Dean Ornish’s, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn’s or Dr Joel Fuhrman diets will do the same. No need to wait for Ateronon to come to the the market just follow the advice of one of these doctors.

Even if this pill does prove to be as successful as the scientist behind its development tell us, there may still be a downfall. People like to pop a pill instead of improving their lifestyles, it is the easy way out, but not s solution. I believe it is Dr Fuhrman who said : "You can't medicate your self out of a bad diet." I certainly prefer the benefits of a healthy diet over any pill.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2258035/Wonder-pill-harnessing-health-secret-Mediterranean-diet-cut-risk-strokes-heart-attacks-fight-cancer.html


carrot-hummus


ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS

Makes about 2 cups

ingredients
3 medium carrots
1 tin chickpeas, drained, chickpea water reserved
1 garlic clove
1 Tbs tahini
1 Tsp ground cumin
juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
large handful of chopped fresh coriander

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Cut the carrots into carrot sticks
  3. Line a small baking tray with baking paper. Add the carrots and 4 Tbs of water. Roast for about 30 min or until carrots are caramelized and softened.
  4. In a food processor or a blender combine the carrots, chickpeas, tahini, cumin, lemon juice and process till quite smooth, adding the chickpea water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
  5. Stir in the chopped coriander.
  6. Enjoy!
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GRANDMA HANA’S SAUERKRAUT SALAD

GRANDMA HANA’S SAUERKRAUT SALAD

It is the 1st of January 2013. The first day of the new year. After a night of celebrating many of us are making new year’s resolutions. Weight loss will and exercise will be at the top of the list for sure. The papers are already rating diets and introducing new ones. Manhattan diet anyone? This morning I have received an email suggesting I hold a detox party!

Eating healthy shouldn’t be reserved only for January. It should be something we simply just do. I have a big appetite. My mum in law asked me how come eat as much as I do and don’t put weight on. It certainly is the foods I choose to eat, and the foods I choose not to. And I don’t always have a New Year’s Eve buffet in front of me.

So for a healthier 2013, let’s eat real food. Cook from scratch more. Eat more raw foods. Let’s realize our health is in ours hands. Move, smile, love more and stress less. Make time for yourself, the people you love. Make choices right not only for you but for the planet. Live with compassion. Be a part of the big picture.

And if you have over indulged the last week or so, try my grandma’s cleansing salad. Three ingredients, minimum effort and it is incredibly healthy. One of the salads ingredients is the super sauerkraut. It only contains 27 calories per cup, while being full of Vitamin C and probiotics. What a perfect start to the new year!

Saurkrautsalad

GRANDMA HANA’S SAUERKRAUT SALAD
You may notice carrot in my salad, this was part of the sauerkraut that I bought from my Polish shop. If you can, get some unpasteurised raw sauerkraut to get the beneficial bacteria. If you can’t find it you can use sauerkraut from a jar too.

Serves 4

ingredients
3 cups sauerkraut
2 medium apples, diced
1 medium red (or sweet white) onion, finely chopped

method
Just add everything together and enjoy.
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UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

My kids love udon noodles. Every time we go the local Asian supermarket we end up with several packs of fresh ready cooked udon noodles. Together with the wonderful tofu that sits right next to them in the refrigerated counter we have a start to a delicious meal.

Kids like their noodles stir-fired with few veggies, tofu and soya sauce. That’s what they had for lunch today. I fancied something more exciting but restorative at the same time. What could be better than a fragrant Asian style broth with veggies, tofu and noodles. Perfect for rainy day, perfect to counteract any Christmas indulgences.

If you can’t find ready cook udon noodles buy them dried and cook according to the package instructions. They tend to come separated into portions, very handy. You can also use other type of noodles; ramen, soba, rice vermicelli... Conveniently any tofu will do for this recipe, if using soft or silken tofu just be careful not to break it up. Maybe best added after the noodles have softened. Feel free to add any other veggies; thinly sliced peppers, mangetout, green beans or mung bean sprouts will work great. To get the best out of the miso paste add it at the last minute, let dissolve into the broth but do not boil.

You can also make just the broth without the noodles and sip it. This is perfect if you have caught any of the wintery colds and infections, maybe add more garlic for even bigger healing punch. You can imagine your colds or infections melting away with every spoonful.

udon-broth

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH
Serves 2-3

ingredients
4 cups of light vegetable stock
1 leek
1 medium carrot
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 large clove of garlic
pinch of red chilli flakes
1/4 of Savoy cabbage
1 Tbs soya sauce
100 g of tofu
2x200g (3oz) pks of ready cook udon noodles
1 Tbs yellow miso paste
2 spring onions (scallions)
fresh coriander (cilantro) to serve

method
  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Cut the root and the dark green leaves off the leek. Cut the leek in half widthwise (you should have 2 tubes, about 2-3inches long). Cut the leeks into long thin strips (julienne).
  3. Cut the carrot into julienne (again cut it in half widthwise, than julienne)
  4. Add the carrots and leeks into the stock, simmer.
  5. While the stock is simmering finely julienne or just finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add to the stock.
  6. Finely shred the cabbage and add to the stock.
  7. Add the soya sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Cut the tofu into small dice. Add to the stock.
  9. Next, add your udon noodles and heat until they loosen up and warm through.
  10. Add the miso paste and just let dissolve. Do not boil.
  11. Last add the spring onion.
  12. Serve in large soup bowls garnished with some chopped coriander (cilantro).


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FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

Christmas presents wrapped. Fridge and pantry bursting with food. The house is looking very festive. We are ready for some chilling, celebrating, eating and socializing. Christmas Eve day will be all about cooking for the evening. I love spending hours in the kitchen, pots on the cooker, gorgeous smells coming out of the oven. No rush. Yes I cook loads on Christmas Eve and just reheat and scoop on Christmas Day. Just as we did at home.

Kids love it, they can enjoy their presents without much of an interaction, me and my husband love it as we can spend time with them. And there are no mountains of dishes to wash and no feeling too stuffed to move. Perfect.

If you are still struggling to decide what to make for a veggie festive meal here is an idea. My stuffed peppers or if you prefer individual squashes. Nuts and cranberries with a hint of orange make a perfect festive combination! To make it easier, you can go for a wild rice mix, however those are usually made with white rice. I prefer brown rice therefore I went ahead with cooking my own wild and brown rice separately. The sauce is so yummy, my daughter said she could drink it! I will admit there was a bit of a fight over the last spoonful. it feels very luxurious. The best thing this meal will not make you feel heavy at all. Enough room for pudding.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xmas-stuffed-peppers


FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

Serves 4-6

stuffed peppers/squashes
80g (1/2cup) wild rice
90g (1/2 cup) brown basmati rice
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 tsp dried thyme (2 tsp fresh)
60g (1/2 cup) macadamia nut halves
60g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries
40g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds
1 orange, zest and juice
3 large bell peppers, red or yellow
or 4 small squashes

marsala cream sauce
125ml (1/2 cup) Marsala wine
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs tomato puree
sprig of fresh thyme
125mml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock
70g (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
250ml (1 cup) water

baby spinach 100g per person

  1. Cook the wild rice and brown rice according to package instructions in separate sauce pans.
  2. If you are using squash, slice the tops of and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Wrap them in some aluminium foil, leaving the top opening exposed. Place in a 180C oven for 30min.
  3. Next prepare the stuffing.
  4. In frying or saute pan heat about 60g (1/4c) water, add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and thyme. Saute till softened about 10min, adding more water if needed. Place in a bowl.
  5. Add the nuts, cranberries, juice and zest of the orange and both the wild and brown rice. Mix together.
  6. If using peppers, cut them in half lengthways, remove the core, membranes and seeds.
  7. Stuffed the peppers, try to get couple of flaked almonds or macadamias on the top.
  8. Place the peppers in a baking dish, add 80ml (1/3cup) of water to the dish, cover with aluminium foil and bake for 25min at 180C. Uncover and bake further 5min to get the nuts on top browned.
  9. If using the squash: after baking them for 30 min remove from the oven, stuff and cover in aluminium foil. Place back into the oven and bake for 20 min, uncover and bake further 5 min.
  10. While the peppers or squash are baking prepare the sauce. In a medium saute pan, bring the Marsala wine to simmer, add the thinly sliced onion and a thyme sprig. Cover and cook for about 20min or until the onions are soft.
  11. Add the tomato puree, cook for 1 min. Next add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer. Switch the heat off.
  12. In a high speed blender combine the onion mixture (thyme and all), cashews and water. Process till smooth. Pour back into the sauce pan and bring to a boil, turn down and let the sauce thicken, adjust seasoning. Don’t let this cook too long the sauce will thicken too quickly.
  13. Wilt the spinach in a large saute pan.
  14. Place a portion of spinach on the plate, top with the pepper and pour some sauce around (or over the top of the pepper). If serving the squash, serve the spinach on the side.
  15. Enjoy :)

xmas-stuffedpumpkin


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BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

Lately I have noticed that even though my weekly food shop tends to fit into fewer and fewer bags the amount I pay for my groceries remains suspiciously about the same. My fridge doesn't seem to be overflowing anymore either. Yes, food prices have gone up, and it is uncomfortably noticeable. There is a good thing to this. I buy less, plan more and waste less.

There are many healthy and good for the wallet foods. My favourite low cost food must be the fibre and protein rich beans. Tinned beans are a good buy but dried beans are a true bargain. You get an even better deal if you can bulk buy. Beans are a great store cupboard ingredient and a real must in any veggie kitchen.

I admit it is much quicker to open a tin, and I do always have some in the pantry, but cooking your own is kind of a meditative process. You can add herbs and aromatic vegetables, cook them just the way you want them. You may not get the uniform consistency of tinned beans but home cooked beans soak up flavours that you cook them with. Yum! A little planning goes a long way, it is always best to soak beans over night, this makes them easier (and quicker) to cook. I am a great believer in having a rough menu plan, have the basics sorted and adjust depending what else is in the vegetable drawer (or the weekly veg box).

My pinto beans were soaking and gorgeous bunch of Swiss chard was lurking in my vegetable drawer. Together, with fabulous tomato salsa, they came together as a very nutritious and comforting dish.

braised-beans-1

BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA
I have used parsley in my salsa to keep with the flavours in the beans, coriander will be great too.

Serves 4

beans
225g (1 cup) dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
large sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled left whole
1 stick of celery, cut into 3 pieces
1 small bunch of parsley, stalks included (you can tie it with a string to make it easier to fish out later)
1 medium onion, halved, leaving the root intact
2 tsp stock powder ( I use Marigold vegan powder)
1 large bunch of Swiss chard


braisedbeansalsa

tomato salsa
1 small red onion (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped
1/2 - 1 chilli, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped ( I like to deseed and skin my tomatoes)
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lime
small bunch of parsley or coriander

  1. Drain your pre-soaked beans, place them into a large stock pot. Add 1.25l (5 cups) of water. Add rosemary, bay leaves, garlic, celery, parsley and onion.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are soft. (Start checking the beans after 40min).
  3. When the beans are soft fish out the onions, vegetables and herbs. Strain the beans reserving 250ml (1 cup) of the liquid.
  4. Return the beans and 1 cup of liquid back into the stock pot.
  5. Separate the thick white stalks from the leaves of the Swiss chart. Cut the stalks into bite size pieces. Add them to the beans and bring it all to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 min.
  6. Next shred the green leaves and add to the beans. Cook for further 5 min.
  7. To make the salsa, mix all salsa ingredients in a bowl and let rest for at least 30min. It is best to make it ahead, the flavours will come together. I make it just as I start cooking the beans.
  8. Serve a bowl of beans and chard topped with the zesty pasta. Brown rice, quinoa or good wholemeal bread are all great accompaniments.

braised-beans-2

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COURGETTE SALAD WITH TOMATO SALSA DRESSING AND WALNUTS

COURGETTE SALAD WITH TOMATO SALSA DRESSING AND WALNUTS

Another great study weekend, this time we had our first client clinic. We observe, take notes, discuss, learn. What an amazing experience! I can’t wait till this is my job. Helping people and doing it through diet is a fabulous way to make a living (I can’t ever get tired about talking about food and nutrition!).

What struck me with our clients, and it is true with so many of us, was the lack of fruits and veggies in their food diaries. I am sure we all think we are eating quite healthy. However upon a closer look it may not be so. It is not uncommon to go through the day with one token banana and not much else on the 5-a-day front. A cheese or ham roll, packet of potato crisps and a can of cola is a very typical take to work lunch. Unfortunately this is not going to do a whole lot for your body. Out of a bag side salad sitting next to a ready meal for dinner is nothing to get excited about either.

I am lucky to be at home for lunch, this enables me a bit of planning and thinking about what I eat. Today it was leftover vegetable soup, couple slices of rye bread, an apple and an orange. I also sneaked in few kale chips. I do tend to cook soup in larger batches, freeze or just keep it in a fridge for a few days. I don’t see cooking for myself as a waste of time, cooking for one is cool, I can eat whatever I like. I can eat all the things rest of the family may not go crazy for. It may just be a sweet potato baked in the oven with some spicy greens and chickpeas on top. In my eyes, that is heavenly. And when I am pressed for time, I will have a hummus, grated carrot and seed wrap, or an avocado, lime and spring onion wrap with a bit of cayenne for some kick.

At college, everybody makes an effort to bring a very nutritious lunch. We are, after all, studying nutrition. There are quinoa salads, flasks of soup, pots of hummus, leftover veggie curries, lentils, rye breads. Everybody carries boxes of nuts and dried fruits, kale chips, fruits and veggies. We all plan ahead to ensure we eat well. It is all about getting into the habit and finding a little bit of extra time to prepare some yummy, healthy and portable dishes. Your health is surely worth extra few minutes a day.

This salad takes minuted to make and carries an amazing zing that is sure to wake up your taste buds.

courgette-salsa-salad

COURGETTE SALAD WITH TOMATO SALSA DRESSING AND WALNUTS
Make sure you to add the walnuts in just before serving. If left sitting in the lime juice they will taste rather unpleasant.

Serves 4 as a side salad but will do nicely for 2 as a “raw pasta” dish

ingredients
2 medium courgettes (zucchini)
1 medium beef tomato
pinch of salt
2 spring onions
1/2 red chilli
juice of 1 lime
1/2-1 Tbs agave syrup (to taste)
handful of coriander (cilantro)
1/2 cup walnuts

method
  1. Using a swivel peeler cut the courgette lengthways into long ribbons. Leaving the centre part with seeds behind. Place the ribbons in a bowl.
  2. Next make the dressing. Cut the tomato into quarters, using a sharp knife remove the seeds and skin. Dice the tomato finely, place into a small bowl and add a pinch of salt.
  3. Finely chop the chilli and spring onions and add to the tomatoes together with lemon juice and finely chopped coriander.
  4. Add the dressing to the courgettes and let sit for about half an hour in the fridge.
  5. Just before serving add the walnuts.

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BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

My son enjoys a cup of tea with me. We get my teapot, some loose white or green tea (I have quite a collection), let it brew, pour and of course we sip and enjoy. The other day, holding a cup of tea, he told his sister : “You should drink green tea too, people who drink 3 cups of green tea a day get less cancer”. It made me laugh. Where did he get the information from? I guess my shouting out latest health headlines at everybody has made some impact after all.

There are many strategies how to get kids eating healthy. Everybody has an opinion. When my daughter was going through an extra picky period I even had the recommendation of just making her eat it. Too controlling! Making food fun? Honestly I am not into making faces out of fruit and veggies. I did try making start charts and giving rewards. We even had a colour coded chart to make sure she would eat a rainbow. It worked for a while but slowly she seemed to care less and less.

Last year, when I was studying Biomedicine for my course, my daughter got very interested in the human body and especially cells and the immune system. We had to watch lots of Youtube videos of cells dividing, immune cells gobbling up invaders and blood cells gushing through veins and arteries.

This gave me an idea. I started to explain to her how healthy food makes our cells happy. I tell her what nutrients she is getting from her food and what they do inside her body. I also mention the bad stuff, how harmful certain foods can be. The other day, on my computer, she saw picture of foods that cause cancer v foods that protect from cancer. It sure made an impression on her. Maybe kids need to know exactly why we want them to eat health giving foods. Saying: “because it is good for you” doesn’t seem to cut it. And we need to lead by example! Kids do learn from us.

Admittedly all is not perfect, she will still rather have a piece of chocolate than a carrot, but she has been trying new fruits and veggies lately in a rate that I have not seen before. Did I finally find a strategy that works?

While making this broccoli and cauliflower bake I didn’t think she would eat much of it. Perhaps the broccoli. The sauce? Only is she didn’t know that a pepper was in it...I was setting myself for a fall. On top of it all she decided to help me cook. Oh no! I couldn't just hide the pepper in the sauce! She did watch with great interest the red pepper’s skin getting blacker and blacker on the flame. She helped me make the sauce. She helped me pour it onto the veggies and sprinkle pine nuts on top of the bake. And to my surprise she ate cauliflower and scraped the rest of the pepper sauce out of the dish. Success!!!

broccolicauliflower-bake

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

Serves 4

ingredients
1 red pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 medium cauliflower
150g (5 oz) of silken tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
125ml (1/2 cup) water
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs pine nuts

method
  1. Roast the pepper. You can do it directly over the flame (I use a large metal skewer to make it easier to hold the pepper) or roasted under a grill (broiler) or simply in the oven until the skin is blackened and blistered. Make sure you prick the pepper with a skewer or a tip of the knife to prevent it exploding.
  2. When the skin on the pepper is blistered place it in a bowl and cover with cling film, this will create steam making it easier to peel the pepper. Remove the seeds.
  3. Next steam the cauliflower and broccoli. I prefer to do them separately since the cauliflower takes longer to cook. Aim for about 6 min for cauliflower, 4 min for broccoli.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking place the peeled and deseeded roasted red pepper, tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast into a blender and process till smooth. Add more water if too thick, you want sauce that is little bit thinner than the classic bechamel sauce.
  5. Place the broccoli and cauliflower into a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for 30min or until golden brown on top. Serve.

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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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REDUCE WASTE/ ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP

REDUCE WASTE/ ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP

Apparently, here in the UK, we throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink every year. For an average family with children this means £680 ending up in a compost bin. In my case this would mean some 5-6 weeks of food being wasted.

Jan Kees Vis, the global director for sustainable sourcing development at Unilever (what a mouthful!), says that food is “too cheap” resulting in too much food wasted. Food waste takes place mainly in restaurants and homes.

In Australia they have come up with the brilliant OzHarvest initiative. Shops, restaurants, hotels, delis and others donate surplus food to the needy. Check out the website :
http://www.ozharvest.org/index.asp Sound like a fantastic way to reduce waste!

Sheepishly I will admit to throwing away a whole bag of salad leaves and a rather disgusting half a pack of radishes that hid under bags of kale and other fresh veggies for a while. Yes, it did make me feel guilty! Indeed this was a case of bad planning.

Mr Vis claims it is the low cost of food that is behind food waste. I am not so sure about that. The food that is cheap, the processed food, is not what ends up is out bins. These foods have a suspiciously long shelf life. The foods that we throw away are more likely to be perishables. According to the Love Food Hate Waste website fruits and vegetables do indeed account for 26% of our food waste,followed by drinks, bakery products, meals, dairy and meat. Together these foods make 83% of our food waste. http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

In my opinion careful planning is the key to reducing waste. Shop with a shopping list, don’t buy more that you need and keep an eye on your perishables to make sure you use them before they go off. I tend to go through my fruit and veg the day before my organic box delivery. I turn what's left them into soups, salads, dips or smoothies.

The fruits we waste the most are bananas, apples and oranges. Brown bananas are great for baking, making smoothies or simply freeze them and blend them (on its own or with other fruits) to make a fab super quick ice-cream. Apples can be juiced or blended in smoothies, I like to stew them to make some apple sauce (great in fat free baking) or a compote. They are also great in a cabbage or carrot salad. Not so fresh oranges are still great juiced or “smoothied”. They also make a yummy base for a salad dressing or can be added to a soup (carrot and orange, yum).

Remember my celeriac and pear salad? This is what happened to the other half of the rather large celeriac. It became a part of yummy root vegetable soup.


root-vegetable-soup

ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP
Nice and easy, just chop throw it into the pot and blend...

Serves 4

ingredients
1 onion, chopped
1 small or (as in my case) half a large celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium parsnips, cleaned and cut into chunks
2 medium carrots, cleaned and cut into chunks
1 medium to large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
sprig of rosemary, tough stalks removed and leaves chopped
1.25l (5 cups) of vegetable stock

method
  1. Place all the ingredients into a large sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil. reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 45min
  3. In batches pour soup into your blender and blend till smooth.
  4. Serve on its own or topped with some of lime coriander cashew cream.

Lime, coriander cashew cream:
http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog/files/f76e5eb9a33b938f4667bb68c4c61a56-131.html


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MEXICAN-STYLE BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP

MEXICAN-STYLE BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP

It would be near impossible not to get touched by the story of Stamatis Moratis that was published in the New York Times. This man’s incredible recovery from terminal lung cancer is just amazing. It is not an unexplainable miracle, this is the power of healthy food, absence of stress and being a part of community (and a bit of luck). Moving to the island of Ikaria is not practical for everyone however learning from the “Ikarian” life style would make a huge difference to anybody’s life.

The Ikarians stop and relax, socialize, don’t stress over not having much. They play dominos and drink wine. They centre their diet around plant based foods most of which they grow themselves. They live to a ripe old age without being plagued by the diseases most Westerners seem to suffer from.

Believe me I am inspired! Food? I have that covered, I do rather well in adhering to the whole foods plant based diet. Unlike the Ikarians I do not drink wine much at all. I don’t think it is wine that makes them live as long as they do. Having friends to share a glass of wine with is more important that the wine itself. A shared pot of green tea will surely do the same. Being around good friends is good for the soul and body.

And so is soup. This one has more Mexican influences than Ikarian but it does use their favourite staples, beans, potatoes and vegetables. My friend K shared it with me which made it taste even better. Make it today and share with a friend or a loved one.

Link to the original article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/the-island-where-people-forget-to-die.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1&

Mexican-bean-soup


MEXICAN-STYLE BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP
I have grated the carrot, it thickens the soup and I like grated carrot in soups. You can just dice it if you wish.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated (or finely chopped)
1 red pepper, cut into 1 cm pieces
1 larger potato, peeled and cut into 1 cm dice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tin of red kidney beans no salt added, drained
1 cup tomato passata
3 cups vegetable stock
2 large tortilla wraps
fresh coriander or spring onions for garnish
Optional : cashew cream made of 250ml (1 cup) of cashews and 180ml (3/4 cup) water

  1. In a large soup pan heat about 60ml (1/4 cup) of water and saute till softened. Add more water if the onion starts to stick.
  2. Next add the chilli, garlic, celery, grated carrot and red pepper to the onion and saute for about 5 min, adding more water if needed.
  3. When the vegetables have softened add the potato and spices. Cook about 1 min.
  4. Add the beans, passata and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20-30min until.
  5. While the soup is cooking preheat the oven to 200C. Cut each tortilla in 10 wedges, place on a baking tray and bake till crisped up, turn them over half way through. About 5-10 min. The tortilla wedges will start to brown at the edges.
  6. Serve the soup with the wedges on the side garnished with fresh coriander/spring onions and cashew cream if you wish. It is delicious without the cream too.
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MINI SPELT BANANA LOAVES

MINI SPELT BANANA LOAVES

My son spent 5 days on his school camp last week. In preparations, while packing, I was trying to give him lots of well meaning advice. The usual: listen to your teachers and instructors, don’t do anything silly, make sure you shower (at least twice please!), change your underwear daily, brush your teeth.... and of course :”Please try to eat at least a little bit healthy.”

I was hoping for the best, but I knew there would be temptations on every corner. He did come home with a huge bag of sweets, but also a present for his sister (aaahhhh). He had a pudding every day and quite a bit of cheese. On the other hand, he said, he made sure he ate salad and a bowl vegetable soups every day. Pizza was on offer as a part the salad buffet, but apparently he only had it once because he didn’t want to eat too much unhealthy food. “And mum, I always asked for extra vegetables!” This left me wanting to dance a jig! I restrained myself. First and foremost I don’t know how to dance a jig and I really needed to keep my cool. Pretend this is not a big deal... But I did tell him how proud I was.

Few weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my friends about my kids and foods. I did tell her how I do bore them out of their skin telling them about the nutrients in the food they eat. She did say to be careful so they don’t rebel few years down the road. And yes, this is a possibility, but what teenager doesn’t rebel? I do believe that some of this information will stick in their head and they will come to see healthy food as the norm. At the moment my 10 year old seems to be doing quite well.

As a parent you can hope for the best. There are far too many kids who see junk food as the norm and these habits are hart to break. Even if my kids deviate from “our norm” from time to time, going back to whole natural foods won’t ever be alien to them.

Whilst helping me cook pasta for dinner, my son said “I hate brown pasta, we had normal pasta at camp”. Still he managed to eat 2 plates of the horrible hated brown pasta, saying it was rather nice.... Nice try! Next thing is weaning him of the sweet stuff... spelt mini banana loaves without added sugar are a good start.

mini spelt banana loaf with a glass of almond milk
bananaloaf-with-milk

MINI SPELT BANANA LOAVES

These loaves are more dense than a regular cake, they remind me of bread pudding. One easily serves 2 people.

Makes 4 mini loaves or one standard loaf

ingredients:
2 Tbs ground chia seeds
125ml (1/2 cup) water
250ml (1 cup) of almond (or other non dairy) milk
3 Medjol dates
2 medium overripe (or very ripe) bananas
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp bicarb soda
260g (2 cups) wholegrain spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 medium apple
Walnuts about 2 Tbs per loaf

ready for the oven
bananaloaf-unbaked

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. First mix the ground chia seeds and 125ml (1/2cup) water. Let sit for 10min, the mixture will sort of jellify....
  3. In the meant time put almond milk, dates and bananas into your blender and blend till smooth.
  4. Add the vinegar and bicarb soda to the almond milk mixture.
  5. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and pinch of salt.
  6. Grate the apple and add to the flour together with the almond milk mix and soaked chia seeds.
  7. Mix together well.
  8. You can mix in the walnuts now or leave them for the topping (you can double the amount of walnuts and use them both in the cake mix and on the top if you wish)
  9. Divide the mix between 4 non stick mini loaf pans.
  10. Top with the walnuts and bake 25-30min or until the cake springs back when you press it with your finger. You can also use a skewer - the loaf is cooked when it comes out clean.
  11. Let cool in the tins and invert carefully (any runaway nuts are an extra treat for the cook)

mini spelt banana loaves straight from the oven (one without nuts for my daughter)
bananaloaf-baked
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PINK WHEAT BERRY RISOTTO

PINK WHEAT BERRY RISOTTO

Every October I get slightly uneasy about the sea of pink ribbons everywhere. You simply can’t escape Pink October, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Seems a worthy cause, and in many ways it is, but I still feel uneasy. I worked in a breast cancer screening clinic and saw the enthusiasm and believe in the cause in everybody who worked there. On the other hand I also saw a close relative being called back (twice!) for further tests after her mammogram was "abnormal". All turned out fine, however the stress, fear and agony caused by this was immense. The scientist at Cochrane institute have reviewed countless screening programs and based on the results the prestigious Lancet came to this conclusion: "there is no reliable evidence from large randomised trials to support screening mammography at any age."

I am all for making women aware of breast cancer symptoms. With breast cancer accounting for 1/3 of female cancers in the UK this is very important. On the other hand I don’t like the fact that this might be just a case of having excellent PR. While breast cancer takes the spotlight are we forgetting about all the other cancers and chronic diseases? Are they somehow less important or less dangerous?

The talk is about finding the cure, and indeed most of the money raised will find its way to pharmaceutical companies (not that they are strapped for cash). Why isn’t money going to cancer prevention, educating women about making the right choices? Making them aware not only of signs and symptoms but also lifestyle changes that may prevent this dreadful disease. This surely would be a huge step forward. Most women seem to believe it is all in their genes, however this is the case of only 5-10% of breast cancer cases, the rest is lifestyle induced. But even our genes are not infallible, Dr Ornish’s research has shown that plant based diet can alter the expression of some 400 genes.

Need some lifestyle tips? Check out these strategies from Dr Fuhrman (
http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/prevent_breast_cancer.aspx )

I will be staying away from the pink ribbon products as many of them do not quite promote the lifestyle choices for cancer prevention. Anyone for jaffa cakes, mayonnaise or Lucozade in the name of breast cancer? Profits and marketing? These do not address the real issue. However to honour the women (and men) who have died, survived or are battling breast cancer I have created a delicious pink recipe. It is loaded with cancer fighting beetroot, onions and garlic. I served it with my kale and mango salad, so rich in powerful phytochemicals. (
http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog/files/505c1c9a50e75f3ec9aa905b4d268494-99.html ).

pinkwheatberry2

PINK WHEAT BERRY RISOTTO
Serve 4

ingredients

200g (1 cup) wheatberries
750ml (3 cups) vegetable stock (or water)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 medium beetroot (beets), cooked and diced
125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock
125ml measure (1/2 cup) cashews soaked and drained
250ml (1 cup) water
juice of half a lime
3 Tbs parsley, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper

pinkwheatberry

method
  1. First cook the wheatberries in the stock for 25min or according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan heat up 60ml (1/4cup) water. Add the onion and garlic and saute till softened.
  3. Add the diced beetroot, wheat berries and the 125ml (1/2cup) vegetable stock and gently heat mixing the ingredients well.
  4. In your food processor make the cashew cream by blending the 1/2cup of cashews and 1 cup of water.
  5. Pour the cashew cream into the wheat berry mixture and simmer till the dish is thick and creamy. This will take about 5 min. Stir constantly.
  6. Stir in the lime juice, parsley and black pepper.
  7. Serve with a green salad on the side. (See my kale salad recommendation above)


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FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP

FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP

You might have noticed that I absolutely love fruit and vegetables. It makes me happy when I come from a shop and construct a rather unstable pyramid in my fruit bowl. It makes me happy when I open my fridge and find an array of veggies to make a delicious salad or soup. I get excited when my veg and fruit box is delivered on Tuesdays. I can jump for joy over a gorgeous kohlrabi, plump aubergines, kale or super sweet butternut squash. I love the taste, colours, the culinary possibilities but I also appreciate their health giving properties.

Now there may be a new reason why to get excited about fruit and veggies. Scientists at the University of Warwick seem to have found a correlation between happiness (and mental well being) and consumption of F and V. More research will have to be done but I sure like the idea. According to the findings the ideal number of portions, to see the happiness benefit, is seven a day.

The British are struggling to get there 5 portions of F+V into their daily diet and would find the extra 2 portions near impossible. UK does have one of the lowest F and V recommendations. Let's look at Japan; their recommendations are 13 portions of vegetables and 4 portions of fruit daily. Need motivation? Here are some numbers:

UK Japan

breast cancer 26/100 000 8.6/100 00
heart disease 122/100 000 30/100 000
obesity 23% 3.2%

I know fruit and vegetable consumption is not the only reason for the above numbers but it surely has an impact. Get eating more veggies and fruit, for happiness and health, or simply because they are delicious.

The numbers:
http://www.nationmaster.com/index.php
The article on the happy research:
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/10/study-if-youre-keen-to-stay-cheery-7-fruits-and-vegetables-a-day/263467/

Now get some veggies in with this fab soup. It is very kid friendly, looks like a tomato soup and they sure don’t notice the other sneaky vegetables.


fennel-tomato-soup

FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP
This soup looks like a tomato soup but has a lovely taste of fennel. Don’t worry about chopping the veggies to precisely as it will be blitzed anyway.

Serves 4 generously (6-8 as a starter)

ingredients
1 large onion
2 fennel bulbs
1 large clove garlic
2 red peppers
1 Tbs tomato puree
700 (nearly 3 cups) tomato passata
2 cups of vegetable stock
handful of basil
fennel fronds or basil leaves for garnish

method
  1. First chop the onion and saute in 60ml (1/4 cup) of water in a large sauce pan.
  2. Cut out the hard core off the fennel bulb and chop into small chunks.
  3. Peel and finely chop the garlic.
  4. Chop the peppers.
  5. Add all the veggies to the onion. Add a bit more water and saute for about 5 min.
  6. Add tomato puree and cook for further minute.
  7. Add the passata and vegetable stock.
  8. Simmer for 30 minutes or till the veggies are tender (check the fennel, it must be tender).
  9. Transfer your soup into your blender together with basil and process till smooth (take care with hot soup in a blender).
  10. Serve garnished with basil leaves or fennel fronds.

peppers-and-fennel
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BLACK BEAN STEW WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

BLACK BEAN STEW WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

Sometimes I stand in front of my fridge or pantry and can’t think of anything to cook. My daughter was standing beside me and said: “Mum, there is pasta, there are lentils; if you have rice you can make that rice and lentil thing we all like. Or I can have giant couscous and you guys have something with chilli...” Simple.

My vegetable box is arriving tomorrow and that is why my fridge veg drawers are looking rather pathetic. One pepper, 2 bunches of celery (what do I do with those???), half a bag of spinach, some fresh turmeric, piece of ginger, chilli peppers and a quarter of hispi cabbage. I have to mention the lovely kale my friend gave me (a much appreciated present indeed), it did already find its way into the dehydrator to be turned into kale chips - I think I have developed a case of kale chips addiction. In my pantry I found 2 tins of shiny South American black beans asking to be transformed into a yummy dish. The wheels in my brain started to turn (squeak squeak) and a lovely spicy black bean stew started to take shape.

Did you know that in Brazil black beans hold its own spot on the country’s food pyramid? The people of Brazil are recommended to eat black beans each day. One rather brilliant idea! Dr Fuhrman also includes beans (legumes) in his G-BOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, seeds and berries) the magic foods that everyone should be eating daily for optimum health. We know that beans are rich in protein, fibre, minerals such as iron but did you know that also contain antioxidants? Apparently they are as rich in antioxidants as cranberries! And yummy too!

blackbenastew

BLACK BEAN STEW WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

ingredients
the stew
1 large celery stick, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 red chilli peppers, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cut up into pieces about the size of beans
11/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp thyme dried or 1tbs fresh
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs tomato paste (puree)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tins of black beans, drained
375ml (1 and 1/2 vegetable stock)
100g (3.5 oz) fresh baby spinach
the lime cream
1 cup cashews soaked for at least 30min
1/2 and 1Tbs water
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp dried onion
salt to taste

blackbeanstewtortilla

method
  1. In a large deep saute pan heat 60ml (1/4) water. Add the celery, onion, garlic, chilli pepper and saute till softened. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add in the red pepper, spices, herbs and tomato puree. Cook for a minute.
  3. Next add the drained black beans and vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour.
  5. While the stew is simmering prepare the cream. Drain the cashew nuts. Place them in a blender together with 1/2 cup and 1 Tbs water, lime juice and dried onion.
  6. Process till smooth, test for seasoning. Chill until needed.
  7. Stir the spinach into the bean stew until it just wilts and serve the stew straight away.
  8. Serve the bean stew topped with 2 Tbs of lime cream per person. Brown rice or quinoa make a great side dish, kids will love some organic tortilla chips too.

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SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PEAR SOUP

SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PEAR SOUP

Suddenly I realized that it was getting dark much earlier than just a few weeks ago. There is a chill in the air when I let the dogs out in the evenings. I am not quite ready to let the summer go, especially since we had a very poor one here in the UK. I long for a few more evening meals in the garden but the nature of things cannot be changed.

Instead I am getting excited about the autumnal bounty of fruits, veggies and nuts. I am looking forward to warming and comforting meals, movie nights whilst cuddled up on the sofa and cups of tea warming my hands after a dog walk.

A delicious soup is the ultimate comfort food, and the abundant autumnal produce is full of gorgeous deep flavors to warm up person’s belly and soul. This week I found myself with a butternut squash, some overripe pears and punchy chilli peppers. Perfect for a hug in bowl, err I mean soup.

IMG_4552

SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PEAR SOUP

Serves 4

ingredients
1 large onion
2 ribs of celery
2 stalks of lemon grass
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 chilli pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 butternut squash
4 small pears (2 large ones)
1litre (4 cups) of vegetable stock


IMG_4524

method
  1. First chop the onion and celery. Make sure you peel the celery to remove the tough strings.
  2. In a large soup pot heat 1/4 cup of water, add the onion and celery and cook till softened.
  3. Next finely chop the lemon grass, chilli pepper (deseeded if you wish) and garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes or till softened.
  4. Peel your butternut squash and chop into bite size chunks. Core and peal the pears and cut into quarters.
  5. Add pears and butternut squash to the soup pot.
  6. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the hear and simmer for 30min or till the squash is tender.
  7. Blend in a food processor till smooth.

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PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

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

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

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

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

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

serves 4

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

redwinetomatosauce

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

redwinetomatosaucepasta
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SALAD WITH MANGO AND CHIA SEED DRESSING

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY MAY START WITH A SALAD

Yesterday I posted an article from The Independent on my Facebook page that criticised the governments efforts (or lack of) to tackle the obesity crisis. The predictions are staggering, by 2050 some 50% of children are expected to be obese or overweight and in the same year the annual cost of obesity is predicted to be £50bn. Year 2050 may seem like a distant future but we need to do something now so these numbers never come true.

Today I saw a disturbing article about the rise of breast reduction surgeries (funded by NHS) on girls under 16, the youngest being 11. These are not cosmetic surgeries, NHS is not that generous, these procedures are due to obesity. These girls are suffering serious back pains and apparently cannot exercise due to their large bust. I do find this outrageous and can’t but get angry at the people who have failed these girls and allowed them to get into this kind of situation.

A recent study at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California shows that obese children have a raised risk of gallstones. The risk is 4x larger for the moderately obese and 6x for the extremely obese. My aunt used to suffer with this painful condition that has always been associated with adults not kids. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially children.

I do strongly believe we have to assume personal responsibility for what we feed our kids. As for the government, maybe taxing the processed, sugary and fatty foods would be a good start. The money made from these taxes should be put into companies who supply healthy food, the fruit and vegetable growers and the companies struggling to produce and sell healthy options in market flooded by cheap junk. The money should also go into education of both adults and children. Maybe that way we can avoid health tragedies.

When it comes to personal responsibilities, salad is always a good start, especially one with dressing made without any refined oils. I constantly try to come up with oil free dressings and finely feel like I struck gold with this one. It is slightly French inspired (I used some fine Dijon mustard). The oil replacement? Chia seeds soaked in water, the jelly like mixture makes a great emulsifier similar to oil. And since chia seeds are an amazing source of good fats they will also boost the absorption of fat soluble vitamins from your veggies.

Chiamangosalad


SALAD WITH MANGO AND CHIA SEED DRESSING

I love using broccoli stalks, it makes me feel great about reducing waste but they are very delicious indeed. You can substitute julienned kohlrabi for the broccoli.

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side salad

ingredients:
salad
1/2 a red leaf or dark leaf lettuce
1/3 of medium red cabbage (about 2 cups)
3 stalks of broccoli
half a medium red onion
1 mango

chia seed dressing
1 Tbs chia seeds
60ml water
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp agave syrup
2 Tbs sherry vinegar


cgi

method
  1. First, make the dressing. Soak the chia seeds in water for about 10min. You should end up with jelly like texture, it kind of resembles frog spawn :)
  2. Add rest of the ingredients, stir thoroughly until well emulsified. Set aside.
  3. Make the salad.
  4. Wash the lettuce and tear into bite size pieces.
  5. Shred the red cabbage as thinly as you can, I used a knife but a food processor or mandolin will work great.
  6. Next peel the broccoli stalks and cut off any hard ends, cut the stalks into thin matchsticks (julienne).
  7. Slice the red onion as thinly as possible.
  8. Peel the mango, cut the mango cheeks away from the stone and slice very thinly.
  9. Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing and serve.
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SWEETCORN AND CELERY VELOUTE

SWEETCORN AND CELERY VELOUTE

Back from our holiday in Disneyland Paris. We all had a blast and kids wanted to stay at least another five days. I must admit that even before we left for Disneyland I was already dreading the food. Not much understanding of veggie needs in France. Indeed I have returned with a bout of my irritable bowl syndrome which has been a very rare occasion over the last year and a half... Not sure whether it was the much richer food, less fibre or just the stress of a long tiring drive (and I was just the passenger).

Do you remember the book
“French Woman Don’t Get Fat” ? Well, I have to report that they certainly do. I am sure we all have an image of Marion Cotillard type woman in her Channel suit, elegantly lifting a Gitane to her Dior adorned lips while talking about French literature with her charming scarf wearing male companion. None of that in Disneyland. And yes French women, men and especially children are getting larger too. All around the world we seem to be on a slippery slope. I could not believe a young boy I saw in our hotel (about 14). His family were visiting the park from the Middle East. He was so large that he struggled to walk, his breathing was laboured and he was sweating profusely. It was painful to see. This was not a rare sight.

Interestingly in the Middle East, China and India it is the affluent who are putting weight on. Fast food, in these countries, can still be a luxury enjoyed by the well off. I remember when the first McDonald restaurant opened in Prague in the early 90’s the cost of a hamburger was twice of what a decent restaurant meal would amount to. On the contrary, in countries such as the USA, Great Britain and indeed France (even though it only has obesity levels comparable with the USA 30 years ago...), the poorer tend to be larger, due to junk food being cheap.

Sometimes, though, I can’t but think that blaming the cost is only an excuse, healthy food doesn’t need to be expensive. As I don’t go to McDonald’s I am not sure about the prices but I believe that you will have to spend at least £12 to feed a family of four. My veloute soup is for sure a quarter of the price or less. It is filling and much much better for you. This veloute (oh la la, how very French) is as rich as the egg yolk and cream thickened French veloutes. All thanks to the magic of a mere 1/3 cup of cashews. Provided you can get a white sweet potato (I had some from the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range) the soup has a beautiful pale yellow colour, good enough for a Channel suit :)

sweetcorn-veloute


SWEETCORN AND CELERY VELOUTE

If you are not using a high speed blender make sure to soak the cashews for at least half an hour in some water, drain before adding to the soup.

Serves 4

i
ngredients
3 large stalks of celery
1 medium onion
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet potato, preferably white variety, peeled and diced
500ml measure (2 cups) sweetcorn (frozen or fresh)
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
80ml measure (1/3 cup) of cashew nuts
cracked black pepper and coriander leaves for garnish

method
  1. In a large sauce pan heat up about 60ml water (1/4 cup), add the celery and onion and cook till softened. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of your pan.
    2 Next add both potatoes, sweetcorn and the vegetable stock.
    3 Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20min or until the potatoes are tender.
    4 Transfer the soup into your blender, add the cashews and process until smooth.
    5 Serve garnished with coriander and cracked black pepper.
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OUTRAGEOUS BEETROOT FALAFEL

OUTRAGEOUS BEETROOT FALAFEL

Falafel, together with hummous, may just be the most famous Middle Eastern food. It originates from Egypt but is equally home in Israel, Palestine or any vegan household around the world. Traditionally, falafel is made from chickpeas, broad (fava) beans or mixture of both. These are soaked, ground, spiced and deep-fried.

Falafel, apart from the deep-frying, is extremely healthy. These spiced morsels are high in protein and fibre while also rich in many minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, iron, folate and others. Usually served in a pitta pocket or flat bread together with salad and tahini dressing it makes a perfect plant based meal.

As much as I respect traditions I decided to try and up the stakes, beef up that nutrition content and lower that oil content. My beetroot falafel looks outrageous with its deep dark red colour, and lusciously moist. Baked in the oven it is also free of oil. I used tinned chickpeas rather than soaked uncooked ones, mainly because I didn’t use the deep frying method of cooking, but convenience was definitely a factor too.

You can serve these in the traditional way in a pitta bread, or on top of a salad. They will also make fab canapes. There is no better accompaniment to falafels than tahini sauce. Just to be different I made 2 different tahini sauces. The other day I acquired some raw black sesame tahini and I thought using next to the traditional creamy coloured tahini would create a great contrast on top of the red falafel morsels. No pressure here, making just one tahini sauce is perfectly fine, just double the quantity. Any leftovers are great as salad dressing.


beetroot-falafel

OUTRAGEOUS BEETROOT FALAFEL
Makes 18

ingredients
falafels
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of fresh coriander (cilantro), about 2 handfuls
salt
2 medium carrots
3 small beetroot (mine were 160g /5.6 oz together)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbs black sesame seeds
1 Tbs white sesame seeds
1 Tbs tahini
40g (1/3 cup) gram flour

tahini sauces

3 Tbs regular tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2-4 tbs water

3 Tbs black tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs water



falafel-mix

method

  1. In a food processor combine the chickpeas, garlic, fresh coriander and salt.
  2. Process together, this will need a lot of stopping and scrapping down the sides. The texture should be a mixture of creamy smooth with some coarser pieces. See the above picture.
  3. Place the chickpea mixture into a mixing bowl.
  4. Finely grate the carrots and beetroot. I used my box grater for this job as my food processor doesn’t grate finely enough.
  5. Add to the chickpea mixture.
  6. Next add the cumin, tahini, sesame seeds and gram flour.
  7. Using your hands mix thoroughly.
  8. Form the mixture into walnut size balls and slightly flatten them.
  9. Place into the refrigerator for half an hour.
  10. Preheat oven to 180C.
  11. Line a baking tray with greaseproof (parchment) paper and place the falafels on top.
  12. Bake for about 15min, turning halfway through the baking time.
  13. While the falafels are baking make the sauces. Just simply mix the tahini and lemon together adding water until the desired consistency is acheived.
  14. Enjoy.




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MAGIC ONIONS AND KACHUMBER

MAGIC ONIONS AND KACHUMBER

It would be hard to imagine cooking without onions. They are a based of so many dishes lending great flavour but there is so much more to the humble onion. We are constantly bombarded with the latest exotic superfoods like goji berries, macca powder, chlorella... the onion may look rather ordinary and unimportant.

Onions are one of my food superheros. They may not be trendy and exotic but they rightly deserve their superfood label. Onion cell walls contain alliinase, the enzyme that is released by chopping or crushing. The alliinase than catalyses the release of organosulfurs, hence the sulfuric acid smell and tears when we chop onions. The onion uses this as a protection agains herbivores. These chemicals are what makes onions so special.

The above mentioned compounds are what makes onions such a great cancer fighting food.
Dr Fuhrman in his book Super Immunity (a must read!!!) states that “epidemiological studies have found increased consumption of allium vegetables is associated with lower risk of cancer at all common sites.” The numbers he mentions are staggering, just 80g portion of onions 7 times a week has provided these stats:
56% reduction in colon cancer
73% reduction of ovarian cancer
88% reduction in esophageal cancer
71% reduction in prostate cancer
50% reduction in stomach cancer.
Amazing right?

redonions


Onions are not just a cancer fighter, they have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. They are rich in chromium that helps to balance blood sugar. Onions are the richest dietary source of quercetin (not in white onions) which may just reduce your hay fever or asthma symptoms, but can also raise the good HDL cholesterol and ward off blood clots.

The best thing about onions? Apart from being delicious they are cheap as chips and very available (no excuse!). I know that not everybody likes to eat them raw but in this Indian recipe they mellow out while they meld with all the other flavours creating a delicious salad/salsa/relish type concoction. Serve it traditionally with curry but is fab with veggie burgers, burritos or even on top of a veggie chille.


kachumber

KACHUMBER

ingredients
1 large tomato
2 red onions (medium) or 1 large
1/2 cucumber
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of half a lime
2 Tbs coriander leaves

method
  1. Deseed the tomato and chop quite fine (think salsa). Put it into a medium bowl.
  2. Next chop the onion and cucumber into roughly the same size pieces as your tomato.
  3. Add the salt, cayenne pepper, lime juice and coriander leaves (I like to leave these whole).
  4. Rest in the fridge for half an hour for the flavours to develop. Bring to a room temperature before serving.


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CHICKPEAS AND KALE WITH BERBERE

CHICKPEAS AND KALE WITH BERBERE

My Dad, who was visiting for two weeks, was scouring the supermarket for his favourite hot smoked paprika. While in the spice isle I notices a small box of Berbere spice mix. Of course I had to have it. Before I buy any spice mix I check the ingredients, anything that has MSG is quickly discounted as are any spice mixes that are padded up with ingredients that shouldn’t be there are rejected too. My berbere mix had nothing sinister in it.

How surprised I was when, after opening the metal box, I found a beautiful concoction of whole spices that hit my nose with an intoxicating heady fragrance. Berbere is a punchy spicy mix from Ethiopia. It always contains chillies and array of fragrant spice. As with most spice mixtures there are variations but mine, apart from chilies, contained black pepper, cumin, coriander, fennel, cloves, allspice, ajwain seed, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg.

Berbere spice mix
berbere-spice

One spice I admit was totally new to me, the ajwan seed. Of course I had to look it up. Ajwain seed is common in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and comes from the same family as carrots, fennel and dill. Ajwain is believed to increase digestive function, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. In India it is used to ease asthma and as an ingredient in cough remedies.

I used my berebere to spice up chickpeas and kale that made a perfect topping for a baked potato. I only had white potatoes in my vegetable box but the spiciness would go beautifully with a baked sweet potato. I put 2 teaspons of berbere in my mix, the result was spicy but not blow your head off. The spicy hit of the chillies seems to be eased by the rest of the gorgeous spices.


berberechickpeakale

CHICKPEAS AND KALE WITH BERBERE

Serves 4 as a baked potato topping, 2 if served alongside grain

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp berbere spice mix
1 large tomato, peeled, deseeded and chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree (paste)
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
200 g kale, tough stalks removed, leaves shredded

  1. In a frying or saute pan (you need a larger one to accommodate the kale later) heat couple tablespoons of water. (you can use 1 Tbs oil if you wish)
  2. Add the onion and garlic and saute on medium heat until soft. Add more water if the vegetables start sticking.
  3. Next add the berbere and stir around, saute for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomato to the pan and cook for about 5-10 min until softened.
  5. Add in the tomato paste and cook for about 1 min.
  6. Next add in the chickpeas and about 100ml (under 1/2cup) of water. Cook for 5 min until the sauce thickens.
  7. Add the kale in and stir it into the sauce. Cook until tender, about 10 min. Add more water if the mixture seems too dry.
  8. Serve over baked white or sweet potato, or over some brown rice or other grain.

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SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP

The big health news today is definitely the UK Government’s plan to vaccinate healthy children against flu. Most articles say “children are to be given” others talk about “being offered” a free flu vaccine. Whether offered or being given the way BBC reported this news tonight it looks a sure thing.

I know there are three camps when it comes to vaccinations:
1. No worries, feel vaccines are necessary to protect children, happy about it
2. Not comfortable but will do ahead with the usual childhood vaccines
3. Vehemently against it
I have always been in the second camp, I feel uncomfortable giving this horrible cocktail of dead or weakened viruses mixed with chemicals to my kids. On the other hand I felt that I would rather they wouldn’t contract diseases such as polio or diphtheria...

When it comes to flu vaccine I am leaving the “in the middle” camp and I am making my way to camp 3. We have managed to eradicate polio and diphtheria in most countries due to vaccination. We will not be able to do that with flu. This fellow is clever, not only there are many strains, the influenza virus can mutate to keep us guessing, therefore vaccines have to be reworked each year. Nobody knows which strain of flu may be rampant during a particular year therefore there are no assurances.

Most of the articles state that children very rarely suffer complications from the flu. Last time I had flu I was out for several weeks, my son (who was around 4) just fell tired and had no appetite for just one day. That was all. This vaccine is meant to reduce the spread of flu via kids, ensuring what is called herd immunity. This makes me very uncomfortable.

We should look for a voice of reason and that, for anybody in health field, is Cochrane Database of Systemic Review. Dr Fuhrman (in his book Super Immunity) mentions Cochrane review of flu vaccine: “The Cochrane review also looked specifically at the vaccination for children against the flu. After reviewing the data on fifty-one studies addressing the effectiveness and safety of flu vaccines for children, the Cochrane reviewers were shocked with our government’s (USA) policy of universal vaccination“. In the USA the scientist behind Cochrane review noted that most of the 15 members on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices had financial ties to the vaccine industry. Not a big surprise is it?

In no way, I would belittle how dangerous flu can be, and the vulnerable need to be protected. But I do wish for an independent research, careful consideration and when this scheme is rolled out, I want parents to be given an option to opt out and without being pressured by both government and surgeries.

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP


smokedtofusausages

ingredients

sausages
4 spring onions (scallions)
8 sun dried tomatoes
2 tins of canellini beans
225g (1/2lb) smoked tofu, cut into large pieces
2 heaped tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
Cornmeal

smokey ketchup
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbs cider vinegar + 1 Tbs water
1 or 2 Medjol dates (to taste)
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 and 1/2 cups tomato passata


method
  1. First chop the spring onions, I used food processor to do the job.
  2. Next add the sun dried tomatoes, chop roughly.
  3. The beans go in next and process until mostly smooth.
  4. Add the tofu, paprika and nutritional yeast to the food processor and process till well combined but not completely smooth.
  5. Remove the blade from the food processor. Pour some cornmeal into a shallow bowl.
  6. Make 8 sausages out of the tofu mixture (wet hands before each sausage) and roll them in the cornmeal.
  7. Place the sausages in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  8. Prepare the ketchup.
  9. In a small saucepan place the vinegar, water and shallow, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the shallot is soft and the liquid is gone.
  10. Add the paprika, dates and tomato passata, cook on low heat for about 30min until rich and thickened. Let it cool down.
  11. Place the sausages on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake at 180C for half an hour, turning half way through. The sausages should be golden brown.
  12. Serve with a crisp green salad and the ketchup on the side.


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BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD

BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD

Every Monday deserves a big news in the field of medicine. The one that stands out today is the breakthrough in treating obesity, a “flab jab” (to steel a tabloid headline) or, in a more scientific language, a somatostatin vaccine. This article explains how the jab works:
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120709/New-somatostatin-vaccines-promote-weight-loss.aspx

We all know the obesity problem is out of control and there is a part of me that thinks this jab may not be such a bad idea. There are many people who, for whatever reason, will not (even though I am sure they can) change their lifestyles. A jab seems like a very easy solution to a very serious and expensive problem that is spreading through many countries around the world.

The other and much louder part of me believes that this is an utter madness. This jab is promoted (by many newspapers) as a way to stay slim on a junk food diet. I am sure that eating diet of junk food without the weight gain will appeal to a lot of people. This will ensure a huge profit for the company making the vaccine and by default to fast food outlets and processed food manufacturers. You may be able to eat rubbish and not put massive amounts of weight on, maybe even stay slim (the mice this was tested on lost 10% of their weight). However, as we know, being slim does not assure person’s good health. If you choose eating a junk food high calorie dense diet the chances are you will be malnourished regardless of your weight. A weigh loss jab surely won’t change this.

In the words of Dr Mark Hyman:
“We can’t medicate our way out of a bad diet.” And he is right, medication is not the answer. Medication has further implications, it is always toxic. For example diabetes medicine increases the risk of dying from heart problems and statins (the cholesterol lowering medication used to reduce heart attacks) increase Type-2 diabetes. This is a vicious circle. I am sure we will find negative side-effects to the above mentioned jab in due course. Instead of waiting 10 years for this jab to be approved just eat yourself to health (and healthy weight ) instead.


beetrootandorange


BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD
This salad has an outrageous colour and fresh, fruity flavour. You can use shop bought already pre-cooked beetroot, they tend to be bigger so use about 8.

ingredients
12 baby beetroot
2 oranges
2 small red onion
2 celery stalks
salt
handful of walnuts

method
  1. First prepare your beetroot. Scrub them clean but keep root ends intact. Cook beetroot in boiling water for 20-30min till tender. Cooking time will depend on the size of your beetroot.
  2. Let the beetroot cool down, slip of the skin and cut of the root and stalk ends. Cut each beetroot into 6 wedges. Place in a bowl.
  3. Next segment the oranges. Using a sharp knife (serrated knife works well too) cut off all the peel including the white pith. Holding your orange in the palm of your hand over the beetroot cut segments away from their skins. When you have removed all the segments squeeze the juice from what is left from your oranges.
  4. Thinly slice the red onion and add to the beetroot.
  5. Remove strings from the celery stalks and slice quite thinly. Add to the salad.
  6. Season with salt (optional) and pepper.
  7. Place the salad in a serving bowl and top with the walnuts.
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BROAD BEAN AND PEA MINTED DIP

BROAD BEAN AND PEA MINTED DIP

Fava beans or as we know them in the UK, broad beans, are not just for Hannibal Lecter. These jade green jewels are a wonderful nutrititous summer treat. Their season is quite short so make the best out of it, they may be gone before you notice. Broad bean preparation makes a great job for kids, they love popping the beans out of their pods, just be prepared you may be chasing them (the beans not kids hopefully) all around the kitchen as they tend to shoot out in different directions. This provides a great entertainment.

My veg man delivered about 900g (2lb) of broad beans pods, after shelling them and removing the tough skin I ended up with about 250g (about 1/2lb 1 oz), actually it looked rather a meagre portion. I needed to think of a way how to make them go further. Pairing them with peas seemed like a great idea as they enhance the sweetness of the broad beans. I also had some fresh organic mint that came in my veg box. Perfect with both peas and broad beans.

A bright green fresh tasting dip was born. Adding up the numbers I calculated there was about 26g of protein it the amount this made. Quite impressive! Add to it the fibre, potassium, iron, calcium, folate, and the C and A vitamins; this dip packs a nutritional punch. I also found out that broad beans contain Levodopa (L-dopa), a chemical our body uses to produce dopamine. Therefore this dip should leave you in a great mood even without the Chianti.

broadbeandip

BROAD BEAN AND PEA MINTED DIP
Use this as a dip with pitta chips or as a spread on some sprouted bread. Makes a lovely dinner party started with some Melba toast. Edamame beans work as a great replacement for broad beans.

ingredients
900 g(2lb) broad bean pods, 250g (1/2lb and 1oz) podded
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 spring onion, sliced
handful of mint leaves
lemon juice

method
  1. First prepare the beans. After you have podded the broad bean, bring them to a boil in a sauce pan with just enough water to cover the beans. Cook for 2min and rinse under cold water, or plunge into bowl of ice cold water.
  2. Next pop the beans out of the tough skin. Set aside.
  3. If using frozen peas just leave them to defrost, fresh peas cook for 2 min and cool as you did the broad beans.
  4. In a small bowl of your food processor combine the beans, peas, mint, garlic, spring onion and process. You will end up with a coarse texture dip. Add some salt and lemon juice to taste.

braodbeanpeadip1

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THREE BEAN SALAD

THREE BEAN SALAD

As a response to my Mediterranean Diet post my friend R send me a link to a research that shows legumes are the reason Med Diet is more successful than others. This makes so much sense. We already know it is not the olive oil right? I felt inspired to put a three bean salad together to serve to our family visiting over the weekend.

Legumes are fantastic, not just because they are a powerhouse of nutrition, but for their versatility. There is so much you can do with them, add to salads, makes into soups, stews and sauces, they are (especially lentils) fabulous in curries and make a great base for burgers and loafs. I can’t get enough. They are also great for your budget, legumes are cheap, especially if you buy them dry! I always have dried for when I have had time to plan my meals and tinned for impromptu dinners.

These colourful pebbles are a fantastic source of protein. They also contain calcium, zinc, iron and selenium. They are regarded as one of the top anticancer foods but also very effective in lowering the bad cholesterol. We all need to eat more legumes! And if you experience flatulence as a side effect of eating beans just start slowly with more easier to digest mung beans. Another good tip is to cook beans and lentils with a pinch of asofetida (as they do in India) or a piece of kombu (common in Japan), this should make them easier to on your tummy.

threebeansalad

THREE BEAN SALAD
Oil free recipe.

I used tinned beans (or tetra packed ) for this salad. You can cook your own but it is a bit of a hassle if using different types of beans. You would have to have 3 pots on the go at once as they tend to have different cooking times.

This recipe makes a large batch, will easily serve 6-8. Keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days.

ingredients

8 vine ripened tomatoes (small to medium, not cherry, plum are great)
1 tin butter beans (or canellini)
1 tin chickpeas
1 tin red kidney beans
1 medium red onion
1 red pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbs cider vinegar
Handful of basil leaves

method
  1. First preheat the oven to 190C. Place quartered tomatoes in a single layer in a baking dish lined with grease proof paper. Bake for 20 -30 min until the edges of tomatoes start caramelising. Remove from oven a let cool down.
  2. Drain all your beans and place into a large bowl.
  3. Cut your onion finely, I used my mandolin to cut thin slices.
  4. Cut up the red pepper into 1 cm dice.
  5. Add your onions and peppers to your beans, mix together taking care not to break up the beans (butter beans tend to be more delicate than others).
  6. Make the dressing: In a blender or food processor whizz together the tomatoes, cider vinegar and the garlic till smooth. Season with some salt and pepper if you wish.
  7. Pour the dressing over your beans and mix well. Add torn basil leaves and stir through the salad gently.
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OLIVE OIL AND THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

OLIVE OIL AND THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

Last Saturday I attended a day of talks organised by my college. One of the segments was a cookery demonstration and a talk on the Mediterranean Diet. My friend and I were watching in bit of a dismay as the chef poured lashings of olive oil on her fennel and orange salad (about 2Tbs per 1/3 of a fennel bulb) and than fried couple of fillets of sea bass in a very generous pool of rapeseed (canola) oil. My friend confronted her about the amount of oil she was using. Her response was: “ I never count calories and we need fat and olive oil is a healthy fat!”

Every week we read articles about the benefits of Mediterranean Diet. We are informed that eating a diet high in veggies, fruit, fish and olive oil is the best way to protect ourselves from heart disease and cancers. Olive oil is hailed as the secret to long life and good health. Are these claims right?

Dr Dean Ornish states that the benefit of olive oil is only due to replacing the more saturated fats in person’s diet, this of course will bring some benefits. Just by replacing (weight for weight) butter with olive oil you will see lowered cholesterol levels. This is not due to the magic powers of olive oil but just merely thanks to abolishing the butter. Dr. Ornish promotes rapeseed oil as a much healthier option especially for its Omega 3 content. Still it is a high calorie food.
http://www.pmri.org/publications/newsweek/The_Great_Olive_Oil_Misconconception_Dr_Dean_Ornish.pdf

Drs Esselstyn and McDougall advise against the use of all oils and Dr Fuhrman allows around 1TBS of oil a day provided you are healthy weight, in good health and active. He advises against oil consumption if trying to loose weight. The Pritikin Longevity Centre recommends keeping oil consumption to 1 teaspoon a day.

When doing my research on the matter I came across the fascinating world of Monasteries on the Greek Mount Athos. The male population of monks have surprised experts by their incredibly low prostate cancer rates (about 1/4 of of the international average),further cases of lung, bladder and bowel cancers are non existent; so is heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The monks eat a diet rich in plant foods; fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, soya and pulses. They eat twice a day and meals last only 10min leading to calorie restriction. They strictly observe
3 non dairy/no olive oil days in a week. Dairy is rather rare to the island as no female animals (except for cats) are allowed on the monastery premises. The monks observe weeks of fasting when only vegan diet is consumed. They eat fish on feast days only, i.e Christmas. They get by on very little sleep as the day starts at 3am with an 8 hour long service. Their everyday routine doesn’t change, it consists of prayer, silence and work (the monks are as self sufficient as possible). Their are cut off from news from the outside world which in my opinion contributes to further calmness of mind and non existence of stress.

We may not all choose to live like monks on Mount Athos but we could all do with adopting their way of eating. As for oils I used them sparingly, some days (like the monks) we have none at all, others I may have use 1/2- 2 Tbs in my cooking (this is to serve 4). I do prefer to get my fats from seed, nuts and avocados.

To find out bit more about the olive oil controversy have a look at this very informative article from the Pritikin Longevity Centre:
http://www.pritikin.com/your-health/healthy-living/eating-right/1103-whats-wrong-with-olive-oil.html


artichokeandpotato

SUMMER STEW OF GLOBE ARTICHOKES AND POTATOES
To prepare the artichokes you need the patience of a Mount Athos monk. It is not an easy task at first but once you get a hang of it, believe me, it will get easier. Just have a large bowl for all the cuttings, you will end up with lots of remains to put on your compost heap. There are some great step by step guides on the web. All the effort is well worth it, fresh artichokes are delicious and so different from the jarred ones ( which I equally love).

Serves 4

ingredients

4 large globe artichokes
2 lemons
400g (just under a pound) of small new potatoes
500ml homemade vegetable stock (or light bought vegetable stock)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 large cloves of garlic
1 cup peas or broad beans

method
  1. First prepare the artichokes. Fill a bowl, that will hold the artichokes, with water and juice of a lemon (this prevents artichokes from going brown). Depending on the length of the artichoke stalk cut some off leaving about 2 inches. Pull off the outer leaves of the artichokes, when you see light more tender leaves using a sharp knife cut off the top half of artichoke, scoop out all the choke (purple and light green feathery strands) until you are left with the heart. Cut off any remnants of the tough leaves on the outside of the heart. Peel the stalk. When working with the artichoke rub any cut (exposed) area with lemon to prevent browning. When finished place the artichoke into the lemon water before proceeding with the next one.
  2. Cut the artichokes into 4 pieces lengthways.
  3. Clean the potatoes, halve the larger ones, leave the smallest one whole.
  4. In a large lidded pan heat the veggie stock, add juice of half a lemon, the artichokes, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme and garlic. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and simmer covered for about 20min or till tender.
  5. Add the peas (or shelled broad beans) and cook for further 2 min.
  6. Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the lemony stock.

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MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE

MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE

When you are constantly trying to come up with new recipes things can get a bit heated in the dining room. I am talking about feeding kids. They can be tricky customers. And sound creatures of habit, they like to eat what is familiar. Mum’s experiments can get rather a cold reception. Sometimes they just look at a dish in front of them and say YUCK. I just keep trying and it seems to be paying off at times.

Only last week my daughter ate (not happily but ate) a portion of miso dressed kale. Normally she only likes kale chips. After years of trying to persuade her she finally started to eat avocado this week, she will only eat it with raspberry or strawberry vinegar but it is going down. She is particular about her carrots they have to be raw not “wet”(meaning cooked). Pineapple she consumes in huge amounts provided it has been made into a smoothie. Even cherries and apricots get a seal of
approvement but only if “smoothified”... Peppers disappear into tomato soup and butternut squash into my mac and (no) cheese. It does take a lot of concocting but there is always a way.

Last night I was expecting the “Yuck I am not eating that” at dinner time. And yes those were the first words she uttered when she spotted the casserole dish. Honestly all she could see was the tomato sauce on top! I served her up one stripy wedge anyway. After tasting it she smiled and said: “Yummy! This is one of the best things you have ever made!” My son gave it 10/10. Two super endorsements! I thought this could be a kids pleaser but never imagined it would be this successful. Even the spinach layers disappeared!



image1


MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE
I used shop bought refried beans. You could make your own but it is a weekday and I know kids adore the taste.

As my kids are not keen on too spicy so I made half of the casserole with added jalapenos and half without. I marked one side of the casserole dish so I didn’t make a mistake of mixing it up, the dish will turn when you layering it. Imagine the look on their faces if they bit into a jalapeno!!!

ingredients
tomato sauce
1 Tbs olive oil or 60ml (1/4cup) water
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tins of tomatoes

spinach tofu layer
220 g (1/2lb) frozen spinach, deforested (or use lb of fresh)
250g (1lb 1oz) tofu
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp dried garlic
2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
salt and pepper to taste

jalapeno peppers
8 soft corn tortillas
1 tin of refried beans
vegan melting cheese on top (optional)

method
  1. First make the sauce. In a sauce pan heat the oil (or water) and saute the onion till soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the spices, cook about 30 seconds.
  4. Next add the tomatoes, season, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30minutes.
  5. Next make the spinach layer.
  6. Put spinach, tofu, nutritional yeast flakes, dried onion and garlic, salt and pepper into a food processor. Process till quite smooth (it will resemble ricotta cheese).
  7. Now layer the casserole. Make sure that you use a deep round casserole dish that will fit the tortillas snuggly. First put some tomato sauce on the bottom. Layer: tortilla, 1/3 refried beans, tortilla, 1/2 spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce topped with jalapenos, tortilla, refried beans, tortilla, spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos, tortilla, beans, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos. Top with vegan cheese if desired (I like it with or without)
  8. Bake at 180C. Bake it covered for the first 20min and than uncovered for 15min.
  9. Let sit for 10min before serving, you will get better layers. Serve with a crisp salad and some avocados (or guacamole).

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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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CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

You know the drill. It has been a long day you don’t fancy cooking and the take way menus are calling to you. You order more than you need, spend more than you should, wait nearly an hour, eat more than you intended, fall onto the sofa and complain about being stuffed. At that precise moment you make the ground breaking decision that you won’t ever make the same mistake again. Until....

Couple weeks ago I decided that we treat ourselves to an Indian take-way, we were in the vicinity of a greatly popular Indian restaurant so we popped in to get some curries to accompany our Saturday movie. When we got home and opened the bag I noticed that at the bottom of the take-way bag was roughly a centimetre of oil. It must have leaked out of the containers and looked extremely unappetising. I was glad the curry came in a very sturdy plastic carried bag.

It does amaze me how many people eat take-aways several times a week. Kebabs, pizzas, burgers, curries and the UK’s most popular Chinese take away is a big business. Instead of dialling the number or getting into your car to get to the nearest take-away restaurant we have to put on our aprons and start cooking healthy delicious meals at home. We have to involve kids in food preparation too, this recipe is brilliant for that. My fusion curried burgers are much better for you than any take-away.

curryburger

CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

If you don’t want to end up with a large piece of garlic or ginger in your burger make sure you chop the garlic and ginger before putting them into the food processor.

No oils added.

Makes 6 burgers

ingredients
85g (1/2 cup) brown rice
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 tin chickpeas
1 red chilli
1 inch ginger, peeled, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
pinch of asofetida
salt
2 Tbs mango chutney
1 Tbs tomato paste
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped
25 g (1 oz) of breadcrumbs
Whole wheat burger buns or pitta pockets


method

  1. Cook rice according to the package instructions, let it cool down.
  2. Put the following ingredients into your food processor: chickpeas, onion, red chilli, ginger, garlic, spices, mango chutney and tomato paste.
  3. Process together until well chopped but not smooth.
  4. Add the rice and pulse together few times till mixed through.
  5. Put the mixture into a large bowl, add the coriander, cashews and breadcrumbs.
  6. Shape the mixture into 6 burgers. The mixture is rather wet but if you wet your hands between each burger they do come together very well.
  7. Place the burgers onto a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet.
  8. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  9. Bake for 25-30 min in a 180 oven, turning the burgers halfway through.
  10. Serve in a bun or a pitta pocket (I enjoyed mine wrapped in lettuce leaves). Garnish with your favourite sauces and toppings.

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WHEATBERRY PILAF WITH ROASTED TOMATO DRESSING

WHEATBERRY PILAF WITH ROASTED TOMATO DRESSING

This isn’t an advert for Merchant Gourmet, but it could be. I just love their products. They sell the best puy lentils, my daughter’s favourite whole wheat giant couscous, their sundried tomatoes are full of flavour and not preserved in in oil. Every Christmas I buy their chestnuts and I even used their products in a gift basket for a friend’s birthday.

The latest product I spotted was a box of wheatberries. If you are wondering, wheatberries are the whole kernels of wheat that are milled into flour.They are similar to spelt or barley and can be used interchangeably in recipes. Wheatberries are high in fiber, about 6g per 1/4 cup, they are incredibly filling. They are chewy which makes them perfect food to practice mindful eating as it will you take a while to get through them. This is a good news because it means that you will probably end up eating less.

My wheatberries were paired up with some gorgeous green veggies and a dressing made out of oven roasted tomatoes and garlic. Isn’t it amazing how roasting tomatoes concentrates the flavour? This recipe has no fat added.

wheatberriepilaf


WHEATBERRY PILAF WITH ROASTED TOMATO DRESSING

Serves 4

ingredients
tomato dressing
6 medium tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic unpeeled
2 sprigs of thyme
Tbs of fresh oregano

pilaf
200g (1cup) wheatberries
1 litre vegetable stock
8 runner beans
1 bunch of asparagus
1 courgette
couple handfuls of peas

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking dish with some baking paper. Halve the tomatoes and put into the baking dish, cut side up. Roast for 10min.
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves to the tomatoes and roast for further 20min.
  3. Next cook the wheatberries in the vegetable stock. Mine took about 30min , just read the package instructions as you may have a different product.
  4. Prepare your vegetables. Slice the runner beans diagonally. Snap the woody end off the asparagus and cut them in half. Cut the courgette in half lengthways and slice diagonally.
  5. In a large saute pan heat about 125ml (1/2 cup) of vegetable stock. Add the beans, cover with lid and cook for 2 min. Next add the asparagus and cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 min (depending on thickness). Last add the courgettes and peas and cook for 1 min. Vegetables should be tender and all the liquid should be gone.
  6. For the sauce, place the tomatoes and garlic squeezed out of its skin in a food processor. Whizz up into a smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning and add the chopped oregano.
  7. Mix the cooked wheatberries with your vegetables and serve with the dressing on the side.


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