peas

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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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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TRADITIONAL CZECH CHRISTMAS PEA SOUP

TRADITIONAL CZECH CHRISTMAS PEA SOUP

Christmas Eve is the BIG day in the Czech Republic, we have a Christmas dinner and open our presents in the evening. In my Czech/English family we mix customs from both countries. We still have our main meal on Christmas Eve, usually inviting few friends over. Presents, however, we open on Christmas day, as it is customary in the UK.

The same applies to our food, we mix some Czech traditional dishes (split pea soup, braised red cabbage. potato salad), few English ones (bread sauce, sprouts, cranberry sauce, roasted parsnips and carrots) and as there is no turkey or carp (Czech traditional Christmas meal) on our table, we are free to try a new dinner centre piece each year.

Traditional Czech pea soup has definitely earned its place on our international menu. I have had it made the same way, on the same day, for last 40 years! In our house it happened to be purely vegan. The only change I made was the addition of frozen peas, for color and sweetness. Every year I wonder why I only make this delicious soup on Christmas Eve.

splitpeasoup

TRADITIONAL CZECH CHRISTMAS PEA SOUP
You may have to increase the cooking time (each batch seems different), the peas should be very soft before the soup goes into the blender. If you are making the soup ahead make sure you have some water on hand, it thickens as it stands.

Serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a light meal

ingredients:
1 1/4 cup (250g) split green peas, soaked overnight and drained
1 medium to large carrot, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, with the leaves, roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp dried marjoram
6 cups (at least) of water
2 tsp of vegan stock powder ( I use Marigold)
1/2 cup (125ml) frozen peas
bread for making croutons about one small slice per person ( I used a spelt and sunflower loaf, but any good quality bread will do, no pre-sliced white!!!)
1 Tbs of canola or olive oil


splitpeasoup2
method
  1. In a large saucepan (stock pot) combine the split peas, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, marjoram and water.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn down the hear and simmer, covered, for about 1 hr. The peas should be very soft.
  3. After the hour of cooking add the stock powder and cook for further 10-15 min just to let flavors combine.
  4. Puree the soup in a food processor till smooth. Add more water if the soup is too thick.
  5. Return the pureed soup to the saucepan and add the frozen peas, heat up only.
  6. While the soup is cooking cut the bread slices into 1 inch cubes. Place into a bowl and combine with the oil.
  7. Spread the bread cubes onto a baking tray and broil ( grill ) until golden brown, about one on each side. You can make the croutons well ahead.
  8. Serve the soup with the croutons on top.

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AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

Thanks to the brilliant Vegan Dad (look up his blog) I found this article about... actually I am not sure what it is about. The title promises to enlighten the reader about vegetarian health, exploring 7 unhealthy foods vegetarians eat. Turns out the article is a bit vegetarian bashing... apparently it is a myth (a big one) that vegetarians eat vegetables. Generalising are we? Or am I an exception? I know for fact that I am not.

Quote from Shannon Kadlovski, a nutritionist:
"Vegetarian simply means someone who does not consume animal protein, but does not indicate that this person is otherwise consuming a healthy, balanced diet." I am sorry but as somebody who does not consume animal protein I would never make a sweeping statement about meat eaters, because I do believe that there can be healthy meat eaters just as unhealthy vegans or vegetarians.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/20/7-unhealthy-foods-vegetarians-eat_n_1897146.html#slide=1543414

So lets have a look at the seven deadly sins, I mean unhealthy foods vegetarians eat:

1.
Tofu - Kadlovski says tofu is high in oestrogen causing hormonal imbalances if eaten in excess. First we should say that phytoestrogens not oestrogens are present in soya products. The science is divided on effects of phytoeostrogens but for example according to Cornell University phytoestrogens may actually help to lower oestrogens. My view on tofu? It has been eaten for centuries in Japan and China and their breast cancer rates have always been marginal in comparison with the west. Nor have I ever heard of problems with male fertility due to tofu in these countries. As for oestrogen: animal products, fat in the diet and body (obesity) all increase levels of oestrogen. So yes I am a vegetarian that eats tofu, maybe once or twice a week and no I don’t think it is unhealthy.

2.
Processed cheese I do agree a lot of lacto/ovo vegetarians do heavily rely on cheese as their protein source but why the emphasis on processed cheese? Even when I ate cheese it was never the processed kind... it was organic.

3.
Vegetarian hot dogs. Again I agree, not healthy, but the same goes for meat (pink slime) hot dogs. Products like veggie hot dogs are great for the transition to a veggie diet but I doubt that many vegetarians/vegans rely on these. I can’t remember last time I had a veggie hotdog myself.

Protein powders. I have never used these. Actually the only person I personally know that uses whey powder is my meat eating friend who I am convinced gets way too much protein from his diet already.

5.-7.
White pasta, white rice, white bread. I can only speak for myself here but 90% of pasta, rice and bread me and my family eat is certainly not white. Surely we don’t believe that the non vegetarians all eat whole versions of these?

Can we all agree that even though some vegetarians choose to eat all or some of the above, most meat eaters include most the above items in their diets too. Vegetarians and vegans are still a minority (unless you live in India) and considering the health crisis (heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers...) criticising vegetarians makes for bad politics. Everybody despite their dietary choices should be making healthier decisions , mainly including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and cutting out the junk.

aubergine-curry

AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

This dish freezes very well. Make it as hot and mild as you wish by adding or omitting the chililes. This is a huge portion but great when you have friends over. Tastes even better the next day. I like to eat leftovers wrapped in a large tortilla wrap with some mango chutney.

You can use cashew nut cream instead of coconut milk.

enough to serve 8

ingredients

First blend to paste:
3 large onion
1-2 chillies
2 inch ginger
6 cloves garlic

Curry:
1 Tbs oil
3 aubergines cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces
1 Tbs oil
2 tsp nigella seeds
10 curry leaves
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp jaggery (optional)
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces
1 tin coconut milk (can be light)
250ml water
1 cup of peas
fresh coriander (cilantro)

aubergine-curry-detail

method
  1. In a large nonstick saucepan heat the oil and add the aubergine. Gently fry just till starting to brown, sprinkle with salt and cover with a lid and cook till soft. Stir often make sure they don't stick. Remove the aubergine pieces and set aside.
  2. Add 1 cup of the onion paste into the pan and cook slowly until it starts to change colour and all moisture has evaporated, no rushing here or the curry will be bitter. (Traditionally quite a bit of oil is used and mixture is cooked till the oil separates from the paste)
  3. When the onion mixture is cooked out add  2 tsp nigella seeds, 10 curry leaves. The seeds should start to pop.
  4. Add rest of the spices: (cumin, coriander and turmeric) cook these for about 30 seconds.
  5. Next add 1 tin of tomatoes and 1 tsp of jaggery (palm sugar) or brown sugar (you can omit this).
  6. Let it cook for 5 min till tomatoes soften.
  7. Put in the butternut squash together with the coconut milk and water and simmer till butternut is soft. Season with salt.
  8. Add in the aubergine and peas, cook for just a couple of minutes or till the aubergine is heated up and peas cooked or defrosted.
  9. Last stir in some fresh coriander.
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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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MISO TOFU KEBABS WITH LEMONY QUINOA

MISO TOFU KEBABS WITH LEMONY QUINOA

It’s 4th of July and everybody in the US is celebrating. No doubt barbecues and fireworks displays will be fired up. This got me inspired, I had 2 blocks of tofu in my fridge and some kebab skewers in a drawer. Tofu kebabs is the obvious way to marry these two.

Tofu and a kebab skewer don’t not always make a very successful combination. You see them looking perfect in a magazine, buy a block of tofu, cut it up into large dice and try to impale these on a bamboo skewer. And than disaster strikes, the tofu falls apart and you are left with a mess and have to make a stir-fry instead. I have been there before. My solution has been to bake or grill the cubes of tofu without putting them on a skewer.

Now, however, my kebab luck has finally changed. I found the perfect tofu that is easy to put on the bamboo skewers. While grilling them I turn the kebabs over couple of times and they stayed intact. How exciting!!! My superb very extra firm (and organic) tofu comes from my veg box supplier (Riverford). It is made by Dragonfly. I am sure me and Dragonfly tofu will become firm (forgive the pun) friends for years to come.


tofu

MISO TOFU KEBABS WITH LEMONY QUINOA

I paired my kebabs with quinoa but rice, couscous even Asian noodle salad would be great. Baked sweet potato chips would work very well too. Or just a nice crisp salad. Next time I would thread some vegetables between the tofu cubes, small mushrooms, pepper, shallots, cherry tomatoes would all work really well. Pieces of pineapple would be great too.

If using bamboo skewers do soak them in water to prevent burning.

The quinoa was asking for a herb to be added to it but I thought it would overpower the kebabs.

Serves 3-4

ingredients

tofu kebabs
500g (1lb and 2oz) of very firm tofu (I used 2 packs of dragonfly organic tofu)

marinade:
3 Tbs brown rice miso
3 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs tamari
1 Tbs agave syrup (or another sweetener or just omit)
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar

lemony quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa
1 tsp olive oil
1 courgette, cut into 1cm dice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 spring onions, cut into half cm slices
1/2 cup of peas, I used frozen
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
tofukebabs


method
  1. Cut the tofu into large cubes, I got 12 from each block of tofu, 24 in total.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, mix well.
  3. Place 1/3 of the marinade on the bottom of a dish (I used a baking dish) that will hold all tofu pieces in one layer. Place the tofu pieces on top, pour rest of the marinade over. Cover the dish and let marinate in the fridge for an hour ( or longer).
  4. When ready to cook, thread the tofu on skewers. I used 6 skewers with 4 cubes each for 3 diners, if serving 4 use 8 skewers with 3 pieces of tofu each. (You can thread some veggies between the tofu pieces) Place the kebabs on a baking sheet lined with alluminum foil ready to be placed under the grill (broiler). Pour any remaining marinade over the kebabs.
  5. Cook your quinoa: rinse quinoa under running water, place in a sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 min, drain.
  6. Half way through the cooking time place the kebabs under your grill and cook 3 min, turn over cook another 3 min, turn over again and give it 2 more minutes. The tofu pieces should start to caramelise on around the edges.
  7. While the quinoa and kebabs are cooking prepare your vegetables.
  8. Heat 1 tsp of olive or rapeseed (canola) oil in a frying pan. Add the courgettes and cook until they start to caramelise.
  9. Add the onion and garlic, for a minute.
  10. Add the peas and cook for a further minute until just heated through.
  11. Tip the quinoa into the vegetables and mix through. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice (to taste).
  12. Serve.
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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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BROWN RICE WITH BEANS, PEAS AND SWEETCORN

BROWN RICE WITH BEANS, PEAS AND SWEETCORN

This week every paper in the country ran a story about statins. The headlines announced that everybody over the age of 50 should be taking the cholesterol lowering drugs statins. According to BBC there are currently between 6-7million people in the UK taking statins every day. That means roughly 10%, about 1 in 10. According to the new recommendations this number would go even higher.

Statins save lives, there is no doubt about that, mainly in people who had already suffered a heart attack or have other cardiovascular problems or can’t lower their cholesterol sufficiently with diet and lifestyle change. However giving statins to people within the low risk category scares me.The problem with statins is the same as with all drugs, they come with side effects. I read that some 28% quit taking them because of the side effects. Just looking at the comments (that follow the recent stain articles online), from people who have had bad experiences with statins. How about memory loss, severe pain in joints and muscles, muscle wastage, depression, kidney and liver problems, lack of appetite, sickness, apathy, night sweats, sexual disfunction... On top of this they also raise the risk of Type-2 diabetes (which is out of control so no need to push the numbers any higher).

It worries me that anybody would even entertain the idea of giving a certain drug to everyone over certain age. I want to be prescribed medicine if I really need it. I try to avoid taking medicine if I can help it I won’t even take a pain killer for a headache; water and rest usually helps. I don’t want to be made into a patient if I am not ill. We wouldn’t be taking daily antibiotics just in case we might catch a bacterial infection sometimes in the next few years... Let’s give statins to the people who do need them, and who will benefit, but let’s put more effort into education people and help everybody lead a healthier lifestyles.

Cholesterol can be easy to control with a plant based diet. There are countless success stories, just look up Dr Fuhrman, Dr McDougal, Dr Barnard, Forks over Knives, Engine 2 Diet and many others. To quote Dr Margaret McCartney (I will be reviewing her book Patient Paradox soon) on statins: “ These tablets save lives - but the life they save will probably not be yours.”


BROWN RICE WITH BEANS, PEAS AND SWEETCORN

This made a huge batch, perfect if you are feeding lots of people. You can serve it as a side dish or it is satisfying as a main with some green leafy veggies or salad on the side.

I made the leftovers into spicy fried rice, I say fried but I used a bit of water in the frying pan and some chilli sauce and a splash of tamari. Delicious.

The brown rice I used was my favourite Thai Jasmine rice that I get in my local Oriental supermarket, but any brown rice will be great. Just follow the cooking time on the packet.

Serves 6-8



brownriceandbeans

ingredients
1 1/2 brown rice of your choice
3 cups of stock (or water)
1/2 Tbs olive oil or 60ml (1/4cup) of water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp Hungarian paprika (sweet or hot)
1 tin of red kidney beans, drained
1 cup of sweetcorn kernels (I used frozen)
1/2 cup of peas (I used frozen)
125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock

method
  1. Cook the rice in the 3 cups of stock according to instructions, set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan heat the oil or 60ml of water, add the onion and garlic and gook till softened.
  3. Add the spices, kidney beans and sweetcorn. Add the 125ml of vegetable stock, cook on medium until most of the stock is gone. This softens the beans and gives them lovely flavour.
  4. Next add the peas and the rice and heat through.
  5. Serve.
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KOHLRABI, LETTUCE AND PEA SOUP

KOHLRABI, LETTUCE AND PEA SOUP

Kohlrabi is still rather unknown in the UK. You are lucky to find it at farmers markets or through an organic box scheme. When kohlrabi was discussed on Riverford facebook page many of the comments were full of confusion about this wonderful vegetable.

In the Czech Republic, we have grown up eating kohlrabi, but we don’t really know what to do with a turnip or swede... My preference has always been to eat kohlrabi raw, in salads or just thinly sliced on top of a good piece of bread. When I manage to get one here in the UK (and I get excited when I do), I just peel it, cut it up and enjoy it’s sweet flavour unadulterated. What does it taste like? Similar to a young turnip, but much better, sweeter, crunchier. You could also compare it to the juicy core inside of a broccoli or cauliflower stalk. Yum.

The Czechs also use kohlrabi in broth based soups. Unfortunately as a child I never enjoyed pieces of boiled kohlrabi in my soup. Bad memories aside I thought to reinvent the soup idea and really enjoyed the results. The kohlrabi complements the flavours of tender sweet lettuce and green peas. I think this is a perfect light soup for spring (or summer).

To enjoy the best flavour of raw kohlrabi choose smaller younger ones, about the size of a medium apple. The older and bigger they get (especially towards the end of season, they tend develop rather tough woody texture). My kohlrabi was on the large side (the downside of box scheme - you get what you get), but surprisingly sweet and without any tough woody bits.

As far as nutrition goes, kohlrabi contains great amounts of fibre and Vitamin C, it is also a fantastic source of potassium. Other minerals in Kohlrabi include copper, calcium and phosphorus. As all members of brassica family the sweet crunchy vegetable contains cancer fighting phytochemicals. Give kohlrabi a go!


kohlrabi

KOHLRABI, LETTUCE AND PEA SOUP

ingredients
1 large kohlrabi (mine was 760g - 1 3/4 pound), peeled and diced into 1 inch chunks
1 litre of light vegetable stock
half of a large head of tender sweet lettuce
250ml (1 cup) of peas (I use frozen)
extra peas to add texture (if using frozen just defrost, if fresh cook in a separate pan till tender)

method
  1. In a medium saucepan bring the stock to a boil, add the kohlrabi pieces and cook about 15min till tender.
  2. Wash the lettuce and tear or cut into smaller pieces.
  3. If using a good blender pour the stock with the kohlrabi into the blender, add lettuce and 1 cup of peas, season and process till smooth.
  4. If using a stick blender, add the peas and lettuce into the stock let heat up but don’t boil and blend with your stick blender.
  5. Add the extra peas (about 2 Tbs per portion) and serve. ( I have defrosted the peas by pouring just boiled water over them)

kohlrabisoup

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