potato

CZECH SAUERKRAUT SOUP

CZECH SAUERKRAUT SOUP

Today I went to my favourite local Polish shop. Lech, the owner is so friendly, my kids love him (and it’s not just for the free lollipops he gives them). Of course I was the only non Polish person there. I did get few puzzling looks for speaking English as the entire clientele seems to be from Poland :) I tend to shout Thank You in Polish very loud when I am there.

I love going to the Polish shop, here I can impress my kids with being able to translate what’s written on the packets (I grew up on the Czech/Polish border) and of course I can get certain groceries that are the same or very close to some of the foods I grew up with. Pickled gherkins and sauerkraut are always on the list.

I was complaining to Lech that there aren’t any Czech food shops around and he, bless him, offered to get me some Czech groceries via his friend who is driving to Slovakia. How very nice! That’s what I call customer service.

My friends, just like my cooking, come from different countries. And as much as I love to explore foods from around the world it is always comforting to have something that brings me back to my roots. Sauerkraut soup is definitely one of those things. Yes, it is an acquired taste if you are not used to sauerkraut. My husband loves it (he has been converted to more than just Czech beer) however my mother-in-law was less than impressed when I put a bowl in front of her the other day. She however likes my other Czech offerings so I won’t hold this one against her :)

In true international spirit I used Czech dried marjoram (the best in my opinion), Hungarian paprika (legendary), Polish sauerkraut and Devon grown Riverford potatoes. They all came together into a very familiar taste of home. This soup is one of my favourite quick lunches, not only because I love it, but mainly because I always have all the ingredients on hand.

If you want to keep the soup gluten free, as I often do, just omit the flour and leave the soup more of a broth consistency. When I fancy thicker, more goulash soup, consistency I add flour at the beginning to make a roux. As you know I tend to use very little or no oil in my recipes. You could go totally oil free but I believe that cooking the paprika in oil brings out the flavour and 1 tbs between 4 portions amounts to almost nothing.

Please make sure you don’t use your best (and expensive) raw sauerkraut from a health food shop. A jar (or a bag from the Polish shop) is perfect here. If you are a sauerkraut novice use just 1 cup and drain it (or even rinse it). I love it full on!



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CZECH SAUERKRAUT SOUP
The added flour will help thicken the soup, you can easily omit this as I very often do for a more broth like soup and of course to make the recipe gluten free. They are equally delicious.
variation:
Add some sliced vegetarian sausage or cubes of smoked tofu to make the soup more substantial.

Serves 4 (or 3 hungry people)

1 tbs rice bran oil (or organic rapeseed)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1tbs paprika
1 tsp caraway
1 tsp dried marjoram
1tbs flour (optional)
4 cups vegetable stock
3 medium potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1-2 cups of sauerkraut
1 clove garlic

The one without flour
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  • In a large sauce pan heat the oil and add the onion. Sauté gently till translucent.
  • Add the caraway and paprika and cook for a few seconds in the oil.
  • Add the flour and cook for about 30 seconds stirring constantly (you can omit the flour for a thinner soup)
  • Add the stock. If using flour add a small amount fist while stirring to combine with the flour, than add rest of the stock.
  • Add the potatoes, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 20minutes.
  • If you are not used to the flavour of sauerkraut than add just 1 cup and drain if first. I cut through it with a knife or scissors to avoid long strands of cabbage in my soup. If like me you love sauerkraut add 2 cups. I don’t even bother to drain all the liquid…
  • Let the soup simmer for further 5 minutes.
  • Before serving add crushed clove of garlic, stir into the soup.
  • You can serve some sourdough croutons on top, I just eat it on its own :)


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LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY

LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY

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

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

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

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

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

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LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY
serves 4

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

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


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

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POTATO AND COURGETTE FRITTERS

POTATO AND COURGETTE FRITTERS


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This is my take on the very popular potato and courgette fritters. The recipe is close to my heart, based on the very traditional potato “pancakes” that my grandmother used to make. She would make stacks of them, sometimes using 5 kg of potatoes in one go. I still remember the endless grating (we did it by hand as using food processor would result in coarser texture)…. She used to fry them in a rather awful hydrogenated fat. But they did taste delicious. We ate them without anything, just stacks and stacks of potato pancakes. Delicious!!!

Courgette fritters is what I always order at The Terrace Cafe in Seaton, Devon. As I don’t do a lot of frying these days this is a real treat. Adding courgettes to the potato makes the pancakes more fragile and they will more likely fall apart. To prevent this you must squeeze as much water out of the courgette and potato mix. Use floury potatoes they will have more starch to help them stick together. You may have to add more buckwheat flour if the mixture looks too wet. Make sure you cook them as soon as you make the mix, leaving it stand will make the mixture wet again.

Enjoy with a lovely green salad, maybe a bit of sweet chilli sauce if you wish and a scoop of hummus on the side to make it a complete meal. They do taste delicious at room temperature making them perfect picnic food or take to work lunch.


beautiful mint from my garden
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POTATO AND COURGETTE FRITTERS
Makes 10 fritters (serves 2 -3 with a salad, or 6 as a part of mezze)

2 medium courgettes
2 large potatoes (about 600g)
Flax egg (1 tbs ground flax + 3 Tbs water)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tbs of fresh mint leaves
2 Tbs of fresh chives
1/4 cup (30g) buckwheat flour, or more if needed
salt and pepper to taste
Rice bran oil or coconut oil for frying

mixture before adding the flax egg and buckwheat flour
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  • Make the flax egg by mixing the flax seed and water. Let sit at least 5 min or till it becomes thick and gloopy.
  • Finely grate the courgette and potato. Place in a tea towel in squeeze all excess water.
  • Chop the mint and chives finely and add to the potato and courgette mix together with the flax egg and buckwheat flour. You may need to add more buckwheat flour if the mixture is too wet.
  • In a non stick pan (I use Green Pans) heat tiny bit of oil. Place about 1/2 cup of mixture into the oil, flatten and shape into a fritter. Cook on a medium heat till golden brown on both sides and cooked through.
  • Serve with a salad.

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NEW POTATO, ROASTED TOMATO AND CHICKPEA SALAD

NEW POTATO, ROASTED TOMATO AND CHICKPEA SALAD

Guess who’s back?! Yes, I am back online. We are still not connected but my clever techie hubby bought me a nifty device to get me onto to world wide web. Much appreciated! 1891 emails are slowly downloading...

Our house move went really well, I have great admiration to the removal men who tirelessly lifted and shifted all our stuff (it was a lot of stuff!!!). While packing I was careful not to overload the book boxes (there were lots of them) but they carried 2 at a time!!! The physicality of their job is unbelievable. I was tired just watching them.

My new wall hanging:
chicken

My first week in the new house had lots of ups but a few very overriding downs. Second day in our house I went down with some stomach bug which left me in bed for a whole day. This was accompanied with a rather painful acute tooth infection. I spent over 4 days on painkillers, something I hate to do, they left me unable to speak coherently and rather sick to my stomach. Finally (after the Bank Holiday) I got to see my dentist who put me on very strong antibiotics. Yuck! But believe me I was in so much pain that I was ready to take anything! These horrible things made me feel absolutely knackered, with a headache and nausea. But guess what, the pain is gone! Now I am awaiting an appointment for a dental surgery to remove the partially erupted wisdom tooth that has been causing me so much trouble!

Even though I was going through the above c..p I have been enjoying the new house. We all do. Especially now that everything has been unpacked and assigned its new space. We are eagerly waiting for the new turf to settle to fully enjoy our new bigger garden. Especially since the weather has been so fabulous! Hopefully next year I can claim a patch to start a kale plantation!

Another highlight of the last 2 weeks (yes we have been in the new house 2 weeks today!!!) was meeting
Eric Brent, the man behind the fabulous HappyCow.net, who came to visit our annual VegFest in Bristol. It was fabulous to meet the man in person and I hope I can keep providing HappyCow with more recipes. I was planning to take a photo with him but somehow my painkiller fogged mind forgot! I think this could give me a good excuse to travel to San Francisco!!

potatochikpeaberbere

NEW POTATO, ROASTED TOMATO AND CHICKPEA SALAD
I made this for a friend who came to lunch. Easily doubled to serve four.
Serves 2

ingredients:
8-10 new potatoes, cut in halves
6 medium tomatoes (plum tomatoes are great)
1-2 tsp Berbere spice mix (or Cajun)
2 cloves garlic
1/4tsp dried thyme (1 tsp fresh)
pinch of salt
1 tin of chickpeas
4 spring onions
juice of half a lemon (or to taste)
100g (3oz) baby spinach or other green salad leaves
2 Tbs fresh coriander, chopped.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Cook the potatoes in boiling water for about 15 minutes or until just tender. Drain and place into a large salad bowl.
  3. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, place in a small baking dish (no need to oil it), sprinkle with the Berbere spice, thyme and salt. Place the 2 unpeeled garlic cloves next to the tomatoes.
  4. Bake for 20min, shake the dish halfway through.
  5. Next add the chickpeas to the tomatoes, shake to coat with the spices and any tomato juices. Bake for further 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the garlic, gently squeeze the soft garlic flesh into the bowl with potatoes. Add the chickpeas to the potatoes, mix together to coat the potatoes with the spices and tomato juices.
  7. Let the potato and chickpea mix sit for about 30 minutes.
  8. When ready to serve, place spinach leaves into larger salad (pasta) bowl, top with the potato chickpea mix, squeeze some lemon juice over and sprinkle with coriander. Enjoy.



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CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

It is freezing outside, snow is on the way according to the forecast. An actual weather warning has been issued for our area. I do hope for quite a thick blanket of snow for the kids and dogs to play in, enough to build a substantial snowman and maybe get the sledge out. We have to grab every opportunity here in England, the snow rarely last more than 2 days.

There is nothing better than a bowl of steaming hot soup, stew or indeed a curry after playing in the snow. I may just make this one again. I got the idea of pairing up cauliflower with sweetcorn from Madhur Jaffrey, the queen of Indian cookery. Aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato) is one of my favourite traditional Indian combinations. Spuds had to go into my new creation too. Tomatoes, spices... and a new curry is born!

Speaking of aloo gobi, I found another great variation on the theme, an aloo gobi ball, that I bought in my favourite veggie supermarket Wild Oats. It was delicious but rather fiery, causing me to hiccup during the whole car journey home. We have since renamed it to Burn Your Gobi Ball.

My son is getting into his curries, but doesn’t quite enjoy too much heat hence leaving the green chilli whole, that way you get the flavour without too much heat. Feel free to chop it up or indeed add another one if you like it even hotter! Do search for fresh or frozen curry leaves, I buy them fresh from my other favourite shop Sweet Mart and keep them it the freezer. Cook them from frozen, nice and easy.

A lot of my recipes are oil free, but I have yet to take the plunge with curries. However in comparison with traditional Indian cooking I use far less oil. You get a great result with just half a tablespoon. I think that hitting the whole spices and leaves with hot oil creates amazing flavour base for you curry. I use rapeseed oil but I am sure coconut oil would be great too if that is your preferred medium for frying.

Keep an eye on the cauliflower, it shouldn’t fall apart but needs to be tender. Melt in your mouth potatoes are an imperative too. If you prefer you can add the tomatoes in the last few minutes of cooking to get a fresher tomato taste, I like them cooked well. Enjoy with rice or an Indian flat bread and top with some fresh coriander if you happen to have some in the fridge. Leftovers are great heated up in a tortilla - quesadilla style!


cauliflower-sweetcorn-curry


CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

Serves 4

ingredients
1/2-1Tbs rapeseed oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 green chilli pepper, slit in the middle (or chopped if you prefer a spicier curry)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp turmeric
black pepper
2 tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 cup of sweetcorn (frozen is fine)
500ml water
salt to taste
fresh coriander


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method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and cumin seeds. Heat till they start to pop.
  2. Add the cauliflower and onion, fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and chilli fry for 1 minute.
  4. Next add the garlic, ginger paste, turmeric and black pepper together with tomatoes. Fry for 1 min.
  5. Add the sweetcorn and water. Cook till potatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened, about 20min.
  6. Season and garnish with fresh coriander if you wish. Serve with rice or Indian breads.

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BORSCHT WITH ATTITUDE

BORSCHT WITH ATTITUDE

Growing up the only beetroot we ate came pickled from a jar. Nothing wrong with a bit of pickled beetroot I always thought it was delicious. I do think that Czech pickled beetroot is so much better than the one I can get in the UK. So much sweeter, yummier, I especially love the whole baby beetroots, it wouldn’t be a problem for me to eat a whole jar in one sitting....

These days I do prefer to use fresh beetroot. The possibilities are endless. I can always marinated it to get a lovely pickle like taste. I love raw, grated beetroot in salads, juiced, made into smoothies or raw soups. It is also great roasted with balsamic vinegar, or simply boiled and made into salads or mixed with grains to make a “risotto” (check out some of my other beetroot recipes).

Everybody is familiar with Russian Borscht, the famous beetroot soup. I know, traditional recipes don’t need to be messed with but I couldn't resist playing with it a bit and here is the result: borscht with attitude. I have infused the Russian soup with some Thai flavours. It will sure wake up your taste buds! I do wonder if my Russian friend will like it...

borscht-with-attitude

BORSCHT WITH ATTITUDE
This is easily doubled if you are feeding more people. I didn’t think kids would go with the spiciness of this dish hence the 2-3 portions...

Serves 2-3

ingredients
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced into 1cm (less than 1/2 inch) pieces
2 medium beetroot, diced into 1 cm pieces
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 Tbs vegetarian Thai red curry paste
1 medium-large potato, diced into 1 cm pieces
2 cups shredded cabbage
125ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened almond milk
lime to taste
fresh coriander

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat about 80 ml (1/3 cup) of water.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft.
  3. Add the carrot and beetroot together with the red curry paste.
  4. Cook for about 1 min.
  5. Next add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook for 10min before adding the potato.
  7. Cook further 10 min before adding the cabbage.
  8. Cook further 10 min or until the beetroot is cooked through.
  9. Add the almond milk and just heat up.
  10. Finally add lime juice to taste (I used juice of half a lime and a bit extra at the table)
  11. Serve in soup bowls garnished with coriander.

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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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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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KENYAN IRIO CAKES WITH TOMATO SPINACH

KENYAN IRIO CAKES WITH TOMATO SPINACH

The London Olympic Games are about to start. Years of preparation will culminate in the highly anticipated opening ceremony and display of sporting excellence. We all have our favourites, I am definitely rooting for the Czechs, my tennis heart will be supporting Switzerland and of course as a British resident I will be pleased with any medals going to the Brits. But there is another team that me and my fellow Bristolians will have a soft spot for.

The Olympic teams arrive many weeks before the actual start of the Games. Driving to kids to school quite a few weeks ago I noticed a huge banner at our neighbouring University welcoming the Kenyan team. Athletes from Kenya were staying next door to us and they trained at the sports facilities of our local college. My friend’s son had a twinkle in his eyes when he showed off the autographs from the whole team at school. He certainly was inspired and promised me his autograph when he becomes the world champion.

So here is a recipe for the Kenyan team, a thank you for the inspiration they gave the local kids. I have based it on a Kenyan classic, irio, a bean, sweetcorn and potato mash. Irio is fantastic as it is, but I wanted to make it a bit more special and created irio cakes served with lovely tomato spinach that would not (I hope) be out of place in any Kenya home. My daughter asked if she will run as fast as the athletes after eating these.

IMG_3250
ready for the oven


KENYAN IRIO CAKES WITH TOMATO SPINACH

irio cakes
2 large baking potatoes (mine were 800kg or 1,7lb)
250g (2 cups) sweetcorn (tinned or defrosted from frozen)
1 tin red kidney beans, drained
2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
cornmeal

tomato spinach
1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 tomatoes, skinned and seeded
450g (1 lb) spinach (preferably mature spinach)
1 Tbs lemon juice
salt to taste

IMG_3254


  1. Pierce the skin of your potatoes and place them in a 200C (390F) oven. Bake for about an hour or till skewer goes in without any resistance. Remove potatoes from the oven and let cool down.
  2. Halve the potatoes and scoop the flesh out into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Turn the oven down to 180C (350F).
  4. Add the drained beans, sweetcorn and scallions to the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Using a potato masher mash the ingredients together. The sweetcorn and most beans will remain intact while to potato will turn into a mash. The whole mixture should come nicely together.
  6. Place some cornmeal in a shallow bowl (or a plate). Divide the mixture into equal portions and make cakes, 6 for a starter portion and 4 for a main dish.
  7. Roll each cake in the cornmeal and place on a baking sheet lined with a grease proof (baking) paper. Bake for 30min or till they start to brown. Turn them half way through. (You could also fry these cakes if you wish.)
  8. While the cakes are baking prepare the spinach. If using mature spinach remove the stalks, wash thoroughly and cut up, I used large scissors to cut up the spinach.
  9. In a large saucepan heat the oil, add the spices and cook till they start to pop, take care they do not burn them.
  10. Chop up the tomatoes and add them to the spices together with 2 Tbs of water. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
  11. Add the spinach to the tomatoes, season with salt then cover with lid and cook on low heat for 10min or until the spinach is very tender (if using baby spinach reduce the cooking time). Add the lemon juice.
  12. Serve the cakes on top of a spinach mound.

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VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

Vietnamese cuisine is not something I am very familiar with, actually I think the only Vietnamese food I have ever had was a starter of rice paper rolls in a pan Asian restaurant. When I was growing up, a group of young Vietnamese people came to my home town for a work experience. My Dad (who at that time worked for the same company) found himself in the dorms where the group was staying. He came home telling us about one of the lads who showed him how to make rice noodles. This was rather exciting, as I have never heard of rice noodles before. Those times (we are talking around 25 years ago) there were no Asian ingredients in the small Czech town where I grew up, so making your own rice noodles must have been a much appreciated skill.

The other day I was looking through one of my cookbooks and found a Vietnamese chicken curry. I though I would give it a go (minus the chicken of course). I didn’t settle for following the recipe, I did more researching and concocting until I came up with my version. Next time I may even try making my own Vietnamese curry powder.

There is a similarity with other Asian curries; like many Indian curries the Vietnamese version is based on dry spices. The addition of lemon grass is characteristic for Thai cooking and so is the use of Thai basil. The curry is thinner than the Indian version which makes it perfect to accommodate rice noodles; this is rather reminiscent of a Malaysian laksa. Using potatoes is definitely the result of French influences. The French introduced many ingredients to Vietnam such as coffee, tarragon and even baguettes. What an amazing melting pot!

vietnamesestylecurry

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY
I must admit I used regular basil because I didn’t get around to going to an Asian shop to buy Thai (Holly) basil. It still tasted great. I used extra turmeric to enhance the colour of the curry as my curry powder didn’t have quite enough and the curry was looking a bit insipid. The extra teaspoon made a lot of difference, we eat with our eyes after all :)

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed oil (or 2 Tbs of water)
8 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 stalks of lemon grass, tough leaves removed, finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 Tbs mild curry powder (or Vietnamese curry powder)
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 tin of coconut milk ( I used light)
250g (about 1/2lb) green beans, topped and tailed, cut into halves
250g tofu ( I used firm), cut into bite size dice
I pack of rice noodles ( I used thick noodles)
Thai basil and red chillies for decoration

method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil and add the shallots and lemon grass, cook on gentle heat until softened. Add the garlic and chillies and cooke further minute to soften.
  2. Next add the curry powder and stir around for about 30seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  3. Add the potatoes and stir around just to coat with spices.
  4. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and cook for 10min.
  5. Next add the green beans and cook for another 10 min or until potatoes and beans are tender.
  6. While the curry is cooking soak your rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
  7. Just before serving add the tofu and noodles to the curry and heat through.
  8. Serve topped with basil and extra thinly sliced chillies.

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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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JERSEY ROYALS, ASPARAGUS AND CREAMY CHIVE SAUCE

JERSEY ROYALS, ASPARAGUS AND CREAMY CHIVE SAUCE

During my last college lecture our amazing lecturer stated: ”You guys are freaks!”. No we don’t dress funny or behave in any unusual way. What she meant was that we eat differently than the norm (it was a compliment). And yes people see it as sort of a freakishness. She did say how awful that eating healthy has become some sort of a middle class whim. Norm it should be.

There are many responses I get when I mention my plant based diet. There are those who get very defensive, those who just state they could not be without meat and dairy. Very often I hear: I don’t really eat much meat myself”. I am happy to discuss my way of eating further or just leave it at that. Although I do have to bite my tongue sometimes. Like the time I heard a mother say, I buy the cheap sausages for my son, the gourmet ones are wasted on him. This kind of thing infuriates me, to think that children are given cheap c..p.

By now both of my kids being veggies have been widely accepted by their friends. My son had been asked a few questions throughout his school years so far. He had to explain what being vegetarian and vegan means. He had to reassure a friend that we do eat more than just lettuce. The other day I bought him a vegan pepperoni style snack sausage so he could take it to school in his lunch box to prove a point. And his friends actually thought it was delicious (I am surprised he shared). When I came to school for my weekly reading with his classmates one asked me what is a vegan. I explained. He than looked at me and said: “I went vegetarian once, it was the worst day of my life!” That made me laugh.

Last week my son had a chance to show my website to one of his friends. He reported to me that his friends reaction to pretty much all the pictures (apart from the chocolate pot and cake) was YUCK. I am sure he would say yuck to the chocolate cake if he knew it had pureed prunes in it... I know kids tend not to like anything unfamiliar but it is a shame. I guess we should all become freaks.


JERSEY ROYALS, ASPARAGUS AND CREAMY CHIVE SAUCE
Gorgeous fresh produce doesn’t need much tinkering. We also had some marinated tofu on the side.

ingredients
500g (1lb2oz) Jersey Royals or other small new potatoes
500g (1lb2oz) green asparagus, the thinner the better

Creamy chive sauce
280g (2 cups) of cashews
310ml (1 and 1/4 cup) water
juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried onion powder
salt
3 Tbs of chives, finely chop

jerseyroyals

method
  1. Soak the cashews in water for at least for 30min (or even overnight).
  2. First cook the potatoes, try to keep them whole if uniform size. Cut bigger ones in half. They should take about 15min. Test with a knife, there should be no resistance.
  3. When the potatoes have been cooking for about 10 min, start steaming the asparagus. Depending on the thickness this should take about 3min. Test with a knife the asparagus should be tender.
  4. Drain the cashews, put them into a blender with the 310ml of water, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, the onion powder and salt. Process until smooth. The consistency should be a bit runnier than mayonnaise.
  5. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the chives. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice.
  6. Serve the sauce alongside the potatoes and asparagus.


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BANGERS AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY

BANGERS AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY

Today I have spent many hours correlating information for my college assignment. It was a painfully slow process but I think I made giant steps toward being able to finish this paper within next few days. Phew!

Therefore not many words left in my head ... short post me thinks :) No matter what is happening a person must be fed and nourished and days like these; rain, more rain and intellectual (man! took me a while to spell intellectual) stimulation or should I say exhaustion; one needs comfort food.

To you I present BANGERS AND MASH WITH GRAVY! Vegan style. There are many steps to this recipe but only because you are making the sausages, mash and gravy. Luckily sausages can be made ahead and will look after themselves in the oven quite happily. This will give you time to concentrate on the mash and gravy and maybe even some green veggies on the side. Start cooking onions halfway through the fridge time of the sausages, they do take a long time to become gorgeously soft. I ran out of olives but had an olive puree which worked great.

sausagesandmash

BANGERS AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY

Serves 4

ingredients
For the bangers (sausages)
130g (1 cup ) of cashews
3 spring onions (scallions)
very large handful of parsley
1 roasted pepper (from a jar is fine)
1 heaped tsp black olive puree (or about 6 kalamata olives)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
70g (1 cup ) breadcrumbs

For the mash
8 medium potatoes
1 Tbs dairy free spread (I used pure) or 1 Tbs olive oil - can be left out
375ml (1 and 1/2 cups) Kara milk (drinking coconut milk not tinned coconut milk, or any other dairy free milk)
salt to taste

For the gravy
1 extra large onion (the bigger the better)
1 Tbs olive oil
125ml (1/2 cup) Marsala wine
2 cups of veggie stock
1 tsp of ketjup manis or dark soya sauce
2 Tbs water + 1 heaped tsp of corn flour (corn starch)

method
  1. Make the sausages. In a food processor grind the cashew nuts. Some should be very fine some still retain texture. Put into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a food processor finely chop the spring onions and parsley.
  3. Add the pepper to the food processor and pulse couple of times.
  4. Add the black olive puree (olives) and beans. Pulse till mixed together but not smooth. You want a texture of a coarse pate.
  5. Put into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Next add the cashews and breadcrumbs. Mix well together.
  7. Shape the mixture into 8 sausages. The mixture is quite sticky, wetting your hands will make the job easier.
  8. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  10. Next thinly slice the onion.
  11. In a medium frying pan heat the 1 Tbs of olive oil and start sauteing the onions. On a very low heat cook them until tender and start to caramelise. This will take about 20-30 min, stir occasionally.
  12. Place the sausages on top a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20-25 min or until golden brown, turning carefully halfway through.
  13. While the sausages are baking, peel the potatoes and boil till tender. About 15-20 min.
  14. When the onions are tender, raise the heat and add the Marsala wine. Let reduce till nearly all liquid is evaporated and the onions are dark and sticky.
  15. Add the stock, soya sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the cornflour/water paste. Let it thicken.
  16. Drain the potatoes. Mash the potatoes first (you can use a potato ricer). Heat the Kara milk and add together with the dairy free spread into the potatoes. Mash together and season.
  17. Now everything should be ready to serve. Enjoy!
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LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

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

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

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

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

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

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

lentilleeksoup


LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

Serves 4-6

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

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



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CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP

CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP

Couple days ago I finished reading The Food Revolution by John Robbins. It is one of those books everybody should read, one of those books that can change the way you live your life. I admire John Robbins immensely, not just because he has been able to walk away from life of luxury his father’s business was offering (Baskin and Robbins) but mainly because by doing so he has been able to live according to his admirable principles and thus changing lives of many people.

When I watch John’s talks and interviews I can’t help but feel the love he exudes. He is so passionate about a better more compassionate way of living that it would be hard not to be influenced by his thoughts and ideas. There are many very important topics covered in The Food Revolution. I admit to going through many different emotions while reading this book. John’s exposure of the American meat and dairy industries, their inhumane practices made me weep. Biotech companies and their money grabbing ways without any regard for the disaster in their hands left me speechless and angry. This book also brings hope, renews a belief in the good that is in people. I
loved The Pig Farmer chapter, it made a point of how we should never judge a book by its cover. When shown a different path, people have the power to change their way, and in small steps change the world.

One chapter was very personal to me, in My Friend Mike, John talks about his friend’s unhealthy lifestyle and his consequent battle with cancer that he ultimately lost. John described how angry he felt over what happened to his friend: “Inside I was angry and hurt. Angry at Mike for not taking better care for himself, angry at God for letting this happen, and angry at myself for not having been able to prevent it.” If John only new how I needed to hear these words, I went through the same emotions when we lost my amazing father-in-law to cancer last summer, together with the immense grief and loss, I was angry at him for the same reasons John was angry at Mike, I was also angry at myself for not being able to make him listen to my advice and angry at myself for feeling angry. Anger felt so inappropriate. I could not be sure at all whether my dietary advice would have helped him at all, but that was all I had. John validated for me that it was ok, it was natural to feel that way.

If you haven’t done so yet please read this book, it may just change your life. Let me finish with a quote from The Food Revolution:
“Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.”


caulichickpeasoup

CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP
This is a very easy soup. You can even omit the step of pureeing part of the soup. It is worth it though, as it thickens the soup and gives it a fuller flavour. You can also puree the soup completely if you so wish.

3 leeks, washed and sliced
1 stick of celery, strings removed and sliced
3 medium potatoes, cut bite size pieces
1 small cauliflower, separated into small florets
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
1l of vegetable stock
plenty of black pepper

  1. In a large sauce pan combine all the ingredients (except the black pepper).
  2. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20min.
  3. Put 3 ladles of soup into a blender and puree till smooth. (I removed all my chickpeas out of the liquid destined for the blender, simply because I wanted as many whole chickpeas in my soup as possible)
  4. Returned the smooth puree into you soup, heat up.
  5. Season with black pepper and serve.

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COLCANNON MY WAY

COLCANNON MY WAY

“If you're lucky enough to be Irish, then you're lucky enough.” Irish saying

Today is St Patrick’s Day so it is very fitting to celebrate the Irish. I have always had a soft spot for everything Irish, the superb literature, uplifting music, the dark rich beer or the sexy accent (I still remember hearing Liam Neeson in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives for the first time). My apologies to Scotland but I also believe that Irish Whiskey is the best in the world. The Czech in me also identifies with the Irish through our common love of the humble potato.

Potatoes have always been closely associated with the Irish diet. Not native to Ireland they became incredibly popular after their introduction in the late 16th century. As a crop they were incredibly successful, not only because they thrived in the Irish soil but were also highly nutritious. The poor Irish labourers especially became dependent on the potato. It is interesting that due to diet high in potatoes the Irish peasants were more healthy than those in England (and Europe) whose staple food was the less nutritious bread.

Unfortunately the Irish were so dependent on potato that the 6 year long potato famine (which started in 1845) caused the deaths of 1 million people, and 20-25% of Irish populations to emigrate.

Today potatoes are vilified, the crazy low carb diets tend to compare potatoes to sugar. In my book sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever, however potato is rich in whole host of vitamins and minerals. Potatoes contain significant amount of vitamins B6, B1, C, Potassium, folate, magnesium and even iron. They are rich in fibre (especially if eaten with the skin), low in fat and calories. It is possible to stay healthy on a diet of potatoes only, but diet of sugar only would surely lead to one’s demise.

Here is my take on Colcannon, the traditional Irish dish. The original is made with spring onions (scallions) and heaps of butter and sometimes milk. I have replaced the spring onions with slowly caramelized regular onion and there is not a smidgen of milk or butter. I admit to loving this dish so much that I often make a whole plate for my lunch and savour every last forkful.


Irishmash

COLCANNON MY WAY
I have added some caraway seeds to this dish, that is the Czech in me you can omit it from the recipe. I just can’t imagine cooking potatoes without it!

Serves 4 as a side dish

ingredients
5 medium potatoes, unpeeled
150-200g (about half pound) kale, stalks removed, roughly torn
1/2tsp caraway seed (optional)
1 Tbs rapeseed or olive oil
1 very large onion
salt and pepper

method
  1. First slice the onion as thinly as you can. In a medium frying pan heat the oil and cook the onion till soft and golden brown. This will take about 20min. Stir from time to time to prevent burning.
  2. Cut the unpeeled potatoes into large chunks, place into a large saucepan and pour in enough water to just cover the potatoes. Add the caraway seed if using.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook for about 12 minutes.
  4. Next add the kale and cook for further 6 minutes.
  5. Drain the potatoes and kale, mash together with potato masher. You are not looking for a smooth mash, more a crushed potato texture.
  6. Stir the onions through the kale and potato mixture. Season with salt and black pepper.
  7. Enjoy it as a side dish, or like me eat a whole plateful on its own.


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EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

It must be quite obvious by now that I love my greens and it is not just for their amazing nutritional properties. I love the taste! They are so versatile and can sneak their way into so many different dishes.

Today my green star is Swiss Chard. Contrary to its name, this mighty green comes from the Mediterranean. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about chard in the 4 century B.C. The Romans honoured chard’s medicinal properties, and to this day it is an incredibly popular vegetable in Italy.

Unlike other greens, Swiss chard gives you two textures in one. In a mature plant, you get the thick sturdy white stalk, and the green leafy part. Stalks of kale, spring greens or even older (large leaf) spinach are too tough to eat and usually just thrown away. The Swiss chard stalks are perfectly edible and very delicious. Usually the stalk and leaves are separated, and the stalk starts its cooking first, requiring couple minutes more than the leaves. The Italians sometimes cook them completely separately, treated as 2 separate vegetables. Baby chard on the other hand is cooked in the same manner as baby spinach.

My Swiss chard recipe is for a very quick and easy soup. This is a very easy way to cook Swiss chard, no need to separate stalk from leaves. Give it the right name and it will become kid friendly, I am thinking Shrek Soup or Swamp Soup. Wouldn’t it be great for Halloween with a spiderweb made from cashew cream? I will keep it in mind.

swisschardsoup


EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

If you can’t find Swiss chard, just use spinach, it will work great in this recipe too.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 litre of vegetable stock
2 leeks
3 medium potatoes
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch of mature Swiss chard (mine was 250g, just over 1/2lb)
freshly ground black pepper

method
  1. In a large sauce pan start heating the vegetable stock.
    2 Slice the leeks, and wash out all the grit. Add to the stock.
    3 Peel and dice the potatoes, add to the stock together with the garlic and caraway seeds.
    4 Cook on medium heat for 10 min.
    5 Slice up the Swiss chard, wash thoroughly and add to the soup.
    6 Cook for about 8 minutes.
    7 In a blender (or using a stick blender) puree the soup, season with lots of black pepper.

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MULTI ROOT SOUP WITH RED LENTILS


My weekly organic vegetable box delivery is usually marked by frantic attempt to use up what is leftover from the last one. Even if the temperatures and budding daffodils tell otherwise we are in the middle of winter and root vegetables seem to be the bulk of what gets left in my veg drawer. Now that calls for a warming root vegetable soup.

A very dirty knobby, wouldn’t win a beauty contest, celeriac was pleading to me. I must say I am not a big fan of celeriac, I like it raw, thinly shredded in salads or blended in soups, but that is it, don’t serve it to me mashed or gratineed or in a chunky stew. Celeriac is however very low in calories, good source of Vitamin K, some B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper and manganese. Of course, as all veggies, great source of dietary fibre. Recently few studies have shown its anti-cancer qualities due to its antioxidant content which makes me think it is time I started to love the awkward root a whole lot more.

Root

MULTI ROOT SOUP WITH RED LENTILS

This soup is made with no added oil making it very low fat, low calorie and highly nutritious. Red lentils raise the protein content. The soup is blended so there is no need to be precise with the chopping of the vegetables. The amount I made serves 6 people easily.

serves 4-6

ingredients

1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 tbs mild curry powder (or your favourite curry blend)
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, tough middle core removed, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled, chopped
125 ml /1/2 cup red lentils
1 litre or more of vegetable stock

method

  • In a large stock pot , on medium heat , saute the onion in 1/4 cup of stock (or water) till soft. If it starts to stick to the bottom of the soup pot add more water. This will take about 10 min.
  • Add curry powder and garlic and heat till fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour.
  • Blend, check for seasoning and serve. You may need to add more water if the soup is too thick.

Soup 1

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