olives

ROSEMARY SUMMER VEGGIE AND WHITE BEAN STEW

ROSEMARY SUMMER VEGGIE AND WHITE BEAN STEW

My lovely neighbour brought me a huge bunch of rosemary the other day. She was cutting her out of control rosemary plant and didn’t want to compost the lovely herb. She knew I would be a grateful recipient of such a gift. I do have grow rosemary in my garden but I admit any surplus produce from the neighbours is more than welcome in my household.

At college, one of my friends used to bring rosemary oil before exams. The tiny bottle was travelling around the room and we all had a good sniff to help our concentration and memory. I am not sure if it had any impact but research shows that blood levels of rosemary oil component correlate with improved cognitive performance.

Rosemary is beneficial for our brain health, it may prevent brain ageing and protect against neurodegeneration. Carnosic acid, a component in rosemary, is able to fight off free radical damage in the brain and promotes eye health thus protecting against macular degeneration.

The herb is high in antioxidants that neutralise free radical damage. There is also evidence that rosemary has anti-cancer properties. Research shows it may be an effective anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour agent. Cooking meat with rosemary reduces the formation of carcinogens associated with cooking meat at high temperatures.

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Rosemary is not one of those herbs you can just sprinkle raw over your meals. It is a very hardy, woody herb and needs to be cooked. I like to gently sauté it in olive oil first, this helps to release the flavour, but if you follow a strict no oil added plant based diet you can add rosemary to your pot of sauce or soup and still get the rosemary fragrance and flavour. I love adding it to roasted potatoes or butternut squash. The needle like leaves become very crunchy, it’s quite delicious.

I used 2 tablespoons of rosemary in my recipe, not an amount I would normally use but I am happy to say it didn’t overpower the delicate summer vegetables. Rosemary goes so well with the garlic and lemon in this light vegetable stew, it’s such a classic Mediterranean combination. Enjoy with some crusty sourdough bread or as I did with new season Jersey Royal potatoes (or any well flavoured new potatoes).

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ROSEMARY SUMMER VEGGIE AND WHITE BEAN STEW

1 Tbs of olive oil (I used extra virgin)
2 Tbs heaped fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, cut into bite size pieces ( I used thin skinned Romano pepper)
1 bulb of fennel, cut into bite size pieces
1 courgette, cut into bite size pieces
1 tin of artichoke hearts, cut in halve
1 tin of white beans, drained ( I like canellini)
1 cup of light vegetable stock (or white wine)
15 green olives, halved
lemon juice to taste (I used I whole lemon)


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  • Use a large lidded sauté pan or casserole. Heat the oil and gently sauté the rosemary, garlic and onion till softened. (For oil free version, use 1/4 - 60 mil of water, cover with lid and cook till softened)
  • Next add all the rest of ingredients apart from lemon juice, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and gently simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add lemon juice to taste, season and enjoy. I love the sauce that develops, it’s perfect mopped up with crushed potato or crusty bread.

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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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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.


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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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MESSY SPAGHETTI


Today my daughter’s class held a cake sale to raise money for some new toys for their classroom. All the Mums (and one Dad) made some fabulous looking and tasting cakes. I decided to make dairy/egg free cupcakes, I thought it would be lovely for children with allergies to be able to buy a treat.

My trusty Robin Robertson (1000 Vegan Recipes) cupcake recipe at hand I was ready to go, only to realise that almond milk may not be the best milk to use with allergies in mind and not having any other send my heart racing... A light bulb moment and I saved the cakes with soya yoghurt!

My friend’s little boy came to the cake sale and bought 2, started to eat one, and came back for another. After a while he was back clutching another coin, wanting 4th one for his tomorrow’s lunch box. To see his smile and excitement just made my day, it was one of those the small things that make a difference. His mum told me this was the first time he was able to come to a cake sale and buy a cake (or 4). As my friend says: “Bless his cotton socks”. Good deed done. The warm feeling, truly priceless.

Tired out from the cakes sale and consequent traffic jam on the way home from school, I didn’t feel much like cooking. Stood in front of my fridge the only idea that came to my head was messy spaghetti. It really takes so little effort, open few jars, cut up few things, toss it together.... actually this is something I make in one portion quantity for my lunch, only takes 10minutes and beats any old sandwich.

MESSY SPAGHETTI

If I was making it for myself I would add some chilli flakes to the garlic, but with my kids in mind I did omit them this time.

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ingredients
400 g wholewheat spaghetti
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
20 each green and black olives, pitted and halved
2 Tbs mini capers
8 sun-dried tomatoes, cut up
8 artichokes, quartered
2 Tbs parsley, chopped

method
  1. In large pot of water cook the spaghetti.
  2. While the pasta is cooking heat a large frying pan (large enough to fit all the spaghetti when cooked) and toast the pine nuts. They should be fragrant and golden brown, take care they will burn in no time. Set aside.
  3. In the same frying pan heat the oil and gently fry the garlic (and chilli flakes if using).
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients (except parsley) and gently heat through. You can add couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.
  5. Add the spaghetti and toss with the sauce. Mix in parsley, pine nuts and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a green salad.
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