tomato

VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE


IMG_1625

VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE

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

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

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


IMG_1616

VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE
Serves 4-5

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

IMG_1619

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


IMG_1623
0 Comments

DAL SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO ‘CROUTONS’

DAL SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO ‘CROUTONS’

There is a big anti legume movement out there, yes I am talking about the Paleo diet. But did the Paleo man eat beans, peas or lentils? Apparently there is accumulating evidence that legumes were eaten by the Paleo humans. You can read more here:
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/beans-lentils-and-paleo-diet.html

We have been consuming pulses for a long time. As I found out from Wikki, traces of production of lentils have been found in Punjab dating circa 3300BC. Similarly dried pea seeds have been discovered in a Swiss Village dating back to Stone Age. We have done rather well eating beans for millennia. Pulses certainly aren’t responsible for our world wide health crisis.

In India dal is a daily staple. I remember reading an article by a couple or travellers who spent some time in a village in the Himalayas. As Westerners, spoilt by choice, they got slightly fed up by the daily dal and chapati combo. Clearly dal is the main source of protein in the largely vegetarian India.

Beans feature strongly in cuisines around the world. They were traditionally the poor man staple. I own a cookbook of historic recipes from a mountain region in my home country and the biggest section is the bean/lentil one.

There is a massive drive to eat clean, eat natural, eat traditional. Can it get more traditional than hoummus, ful medames, cassoulett, black beans and rice or dal? I think not. And as some of the latest studies are confirming the phytate’s (anti-nutrient in pulses) have anticancer abilities I am keeping them on my menu.

More on phytates: http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=phytates


IMG_9997

TOMATO AND DAL SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO ‘CROUTONS’
Make sure you season the dal well, it makes a world of difference to the taste.
Serves 4

1 cup red lentils
4 large tomatoes chopped or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 inch ginger, grated
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli
4 cups vegetable stock (I use Marigold vegan stock powder)
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, sliced
spray of oil
1 tsp garam masala
fresh coriander to serve

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • In a large sauce pan combine the red lentils, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, asafoetida, fenugreek and Kashmiri chilli.
  • Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 30-35 minutes, until the lentils are soft and falling apart. Check for seasoning.
  • While the dal soup is cooking, place the potatoes and onion into a roasting dish that will hold the potato in a single layer. Add the garam masala and spray lightly with oil. Toss to coat. Roast for 25-30 min until the potatoes are tender.
  • Serve in a bowl topped with the roasted potatoes and onions. Garnish with fresh coriander.

IMG_9996
0 Comments

SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE

SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE

Lasagne the ultimate comfort food, it’s right up there with mashed potatoes. The classic dish is loaded with cheese and white sauce made of butter and milk. Yep not so good for you, the planet and the animals…

This lasagne was made on my daughter’s request. She wanted something with the spinach “cheese” layer. It’s her favourite way to eat spinach (other than raw in a salad). When my girl says make me something with a vegetable I do jump (it doesn’t happen often).

I used dry lasagne sheets (egg free), no need to cook them. The only cooking required is making the sauce (or you can always buy a couple jars of a good tomato sauce I like Seeds of Change range) and wilting the spinach. Rest is done by whizzing things up and baking it in the oven. Great “make ahead” dish and will feed 8. It does satisfy a doubting omnivore too. My mom-in-law was a happy diner indeed.

IMG_0150

SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE
Serves 8

ingredients
tomato sauce
1Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 tins of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1/2 -1tsp sugar (optional; depends on the flavour of the tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste

spinach tofu ricotta
300g baby spinach
1 package Cauldron Tofu (396g, just under 1lb)
2 tsp yellow miso
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
juice of half a small lemon
2 tbs nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

silken tofu cheese sauce
1 package silken tofu
1/2 (70g) cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min)
1 tsp yellow miso
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 garlic powder
2 Tbs nutrition yeast
1/2 juice of half a small lemon
1/4 -1/2 (60-120ml) of water
salt and pepper to taste

12 lasagne sheets
large deep baking dish

method
  • 1. First make the sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic in 1 tbs of olive oil till softened. Add the oregano, tomatoes and water. Add sugar, salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for half an hour.
  • To make the spinach layer wilt the washed spinach in a sauté pan and drain throughly.
  • In a food processor combine the spinach tofu ricotta ingredients and pulse till combine but not completely smooth. Set aside.
  • Put all the “cheese” sauce ingredients with 1/4cup (60ml) of the water in a blender (high speed works best) or a food processor. Process till you get a very thick sauce (Greek yoghurt consistency) add more water if needed.
  • To assemble lasagne spread few tablespoon over the bottom. Layer 3 sheets of lasagne, 1/3 of spinach mixture, 1/3 of sauce, lasagne and repeat. You last layer should be lasagne sheets. Pour your silken tofu sauce over the top.
  • Bake at 180C for 40minutes of until the top is golden brown and lasagne tender (test with a knife)
  • Let sit for about 10minutes before serving.

IMG_0148

0 Comments

VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

It’s the annual Vegetarian Week and people may be choosing to transition to vegetarian or vegan diets. When done right, eating the plant based way can do wonders for person’s health.

The key in a successful transition to a plant based diet is to focus on all the wonderful foods you can have rather than mourning those you have lost. What about cauliflower buffallo wings, cashew nut cheese, or homemade plant strong parmesan made out of nutritional yeast flakes and nuts? All these come pretty close to the real thing. And some, I think, taste even better.

Yesterday I went to a business lunch and ended up with one of the most tasteless vegan dishes I had in a long time. On the menu it sounded reasonable, stuffed pepper with roasted vegetables and herby couscous with a side salad. The reality was different. The couscous was overcooked, bland, flavoured poorly with herbs of the dried variety. The roasted vegetables were far and few between I did struggle to taste them. The pepper itself was undercooked. I was very happy that I didn’t end up with a green pepper and felt sorry for those who did. The only saving grace was the bottle of balsamic vinegar brought as a dressing for our side salad (the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber - yawn!), I wasn’t the only person who splashed it onto the meal to add some flavour. This is the type of meal that will never make people consider becoming vegetarian or vegan.

Why is it so hard for some chefs to make a decent vegan meal? Surely, with a little imagination, you can halve the peppers lengthways, roast them till soft, stuff them with couscous bursting with roasted veggies, chickpeas and lots of fresh herbs. What about toasted pine nuts to top it all of? How about a lush zingy dressing or a tomato sauce spiced with Moroccan spices to go with it??? Vegans and vegetarians don’t want their dish to be an afterthought, we want flavour!

My pesto recipe is full of flavour and I am giving you two different recipes to use it in :)

IMG_7785


VEGAN BASIL PESTO

2 cups basil pesto leaves, packed (you can also use parsley, or half and half)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 cup (50g) pine nuts ( walnuts or pistachios work well too)
juice of half lemon
5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a food processor or a blender and process till combined. Add more olive oil if the pesto is too thick.

IMG_7800


ROASTED VEGETABLE CIABBATA WITH PESTO
I don’t buy the commercial oil sprays, I have a Pampered Chef oil pump and use my own, good quality oil in it. No added rubbish.

3 bel peppers (red, orange, yellow)
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
olive oil (in spray bottle)
10 sun dried tomatoes
1 ciabbata loaf
vegan basil pesto above

IMG_7795IMG_7795


  • Preheat oven to 220C. Line a baking tray or dish with parchment paper. Pierce the peppers with a knife in few places (to prevent them from exploding), place on the tray and bake till the skin is blistered all over (turn halfway through) about 30-40min. Place the peppers in a glass bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and let the peppers steam, this will make it easier to peel them. When cooled peel off the skin, remove the core and seeds. Best done under running water. Tear into large pieces.
  • Slice the aubergine into thin round slices, about half centimetre thick. Preheat a griddle pan. Spray the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides, grill on both sides till the aubergine is cooked through (it should be easy to pierce with a fork). Set aside.
  • To make the giant sub sandwich halve the ciabbata lengthways. Spread the inside of both ciabbata halves with the pesto, be generous (I was left with about 2 Tbs of the above recipe after doing this).
  • First cover the bottom half of ciabbata with a layer of aubergine slices, than add a layer of pepper pieces. Next layer is the sun-dried tomatoes, than peppers and lastly the remaining aubergine slices. Top with the other ciabbata half.
  • Wrap the whole sandwich tightly in a cling film and refrigerate for at least half hour.
  • When ready to eat, unwrap the sandwich and cut into individual portions.
  • PS: There is no tidy way of eating it. Have a napkin on hand.

When making the above recipe I used 2 aubergines and found myself with slices from one left over. There was also 2 tbs worth of pesto. This is what I made for lunch with these leftovers. It was delicious and I will be making a large dish for the whole family soon!


IMG_7806

AUBERGINE, TOMATO AND PESTO BAKE FOR ONE

1 aubergine, sliced and slices grilled (see above)
2 tbs vegan pesto
1 tin of crushed tomatoes (or passata)
6 sliced olives, sliced


  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • In a small baking dish, place couple tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes. Sandwich the aubergine slices with the pesto.
  • Make a layer of the aubergine pesto slices, cover with half the tin tomatoes, scatter with olive slices. Next repeat with rest of aubergine slices and top with the remaining tomatoes and olives. Season between laters.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
0 Comments

SPICY BLACK EYED PEA STEW WITH KALE

SPICY BLACK EYED PEA STEW WITH KALE

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

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

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

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

SPICY BLACK EYED PEA STEW WITH KALE

Serves 4

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

black-eyed-pea-kale

method

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

KALE TARKA DAL

KALE TARKA DAL

Last night, over some delicious food at our friends, we talked about our favourite cuisines. I couldn’t make up my mind, I like Italian for its delicious simplicity, Thai for its balance of flavours, Indian for its spiciness... Than there is Japanese, Czech, Moroccan, Syrian... I guess I just like delicious food.

I can spend hours watching cookery shows, chefs adding foams, smears of sauces, gels and jellies, freeze dried petals. We have elevated cooking to a form of art, it has become more than just food. However, in the end of the day, that's precisely what it is - food. Us mere home cooks will never use dry ice to make ice cream or jellify pea puree into pea like spheres. This doesn’t mean that a home cooked meal is somehow inferior to a 9 course tasting menu at a manor house restaurant.

As a home cook I love to look for inspiration from traditional cooking all over the world. No Michelin star presentation, no sommeliers, no pressed white table cloths or polished silver. Just simple nutritions flavoursome food. Dal is one of my favourite dishes. It is so comforting, easy and satisfying. It also is the perfect veggie meal, full of protein (25%), rich in B vitamins, iron and zinc. No wonder it is a daily staple all over India.

Unfortunately my husband doesn’t share my love of dal therefore I tend to cook it for myself for lunch or as a part of an Indian meal. I cooked this dal for my friend for lunch couple weeks ago and she has been reminding me to share the recipe online ever since. I know kale is not something you see in a traditional Indian dal but it works beautifully (so does spinach or Swiss chard) and as you may know by now I think there are never enough recipes for kale :)

mung-dal

KALE TARKA DAL

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a part of a Indian Thali style meal

ingredients
1 and 1/2cup split mung dal
3 cups of water
2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
1 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric
ground black pepper
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
4 oz (120g) kale leaves (weight without the tough stalks)

for the tarka

1 Tbs coconut oil
1 small onion (or shallot), finely sliced
1 chilli, finely sliced
1/2 tsp nigella seed
1/2tsp cumin seed
20 curry leaves

coriander leaves to garnish

kale-dal

method
  1. In a large sauce pan combine the mung dal, water, ginger, garlic, asafoetida, turmeric, pepper and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes (add more water if the dal seems too dry) or until the lentils are cooked through, falling apart. The consistency should be of a thick soup or porridge.
  2. Next add the kale and cook covered for 5 minutes or until the kale is soft.
  3. While the kale is cooking, in a small frying pan (or s heavy sauce pan) heat the coconut oil and fry the onion and chilli for 2 minutes (the onion should be brown) than add the whole spices for a minute. Add the onion and spice mix to the dal ( I love the way it sizzles).
  4. Serve garnished with lots of fresh coriander with some brown rice or a chapati on the side.
0 Comments

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

0 Comments

ROASTED TOMATILLO AND TOMATO SOUP

ROASTED TOMATILLO AND TOMATO SOUP

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

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

close cousins - tomatillos and tomatoes
tomatillos-details

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

the finished product
tomatillo-soup

ROASTED TOMATILLO AND TOMATO SOUP

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

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

roasted tomatoes and tomatillos
tomatilo-roasted

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

COURGETTE KUGEL

COURGETTE KUGEL

Foolishly I have trusted the weather forecast. Who wouldn’t want to trust the promise of summer’s last attempt to stick around? The reality is that the freshly washed clothes that I left (ok forgot) outside overnight got even wetter than they were from the washing machine. I guess I have to admit that the autumn has taking its rightful reign. At least last two days were mild enough to sit outside in the afternoon.

Autumn also means I will have to get myself organised for my final year of college. Exciting as it is I am also a bit nervous (understatement) about taking clients for the fist time. Last year we were the observers in the back of the classroom, this time we will be in the hot seat. My plans to revise over the summer didn't seem to materialise too well so I am trying to catch up now.

Part of the being organised is getting food prepared for the weekend so that it is easy for my husband and kids to cook a meal when I get back from college in the evening. My courgette kugel is such a recipe. You can make it ahead and just simply stick in the oven when needed.

Kugel is a traditional Jewish bake, pudding or casserole, usually made with egg noodles or potatoes, sometimes rice. It can be sweet or savoury. I like the comfort of such food. This is a vegan version of a kugel. It is creamy, rich and comforting as if made by a Jewish Grandmother.

I have also made this recipe with four courgettes instead of the 2 leek/2 courgette combo. It was as good. Nice thick tomato sauce complements the kugel perfectly. And of course salad and green veggies. This makes a big batch so any leftovers should be cooled quickly and reheated thoroughly. Enjoy!

kugel

COURGETTE KUGEL
Serves 6

ingredients
kugel
2 fat leeks
1 1/2 cup basmati rice
2 courgettes
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1 pack of silken tofu (300g, 10oz)
1 Tbs tahini
4 sun dried tomatoes
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste

method
  1. Thinly sliced the leeks and place together with rice into a large sauce pan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Drain the rice and leek mixture and set aside.
  3. Grate the two courgettes and mix with the rice and leeks.
  4. To make the sauce blend together the water, cashews, tofu, tahini, sun dried tomatoes and nutritional yeast. Season.
  5. Place the rice mixture into a large baking dish, add the sauce and mix well.
  6. Bake at a 180C oven for 40-50 minutes, until set and golden brown on the top.
  7. Serve with a tomato sauce, salad and some green veggies.

kugel-detail

0 Comments

SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNE

SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNE

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


swiss-chard-lasagna

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

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

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


SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA
Serves 6

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

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

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



swiss-chard-layerchardlasagna

method

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

Ready for the oven
chardlasagna2
0 Comments

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.



0 Comments

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

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

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

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

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

quick-chickpea-tagine

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

Serves 4

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

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


0 Comments

ROASTED VEGETABLES, SPICED CHICKPEAS AND CASHEW CORIANDER SAUCE

ROASTED VEGETABLES, SPICED CHICKPEAS AND CASHEW CORIANDER SAUCE

Yesterday I watched BBC program about insect eating. Stefan Gates, the culinary globetrotter, explored the idea whether insect eating could save the world. We are all aware that the worldwide meat demand is becoming rather insatiable. In addition to the meat centric Western diets, new emerging economies are abandoning traditional ways of eating and consume more and more meat. We are faced with rising prices and incredible cost to the environment. Insects on the other hand are plentiful (in warmer climates), cheap, low methane producers, high in protein and apparently tasty. Insect farming would definitely be better for the environment than cattle farming.

Stefan in another BBC report tried to convince some students (yes they will try anything once!) to sample his meal worm burgers. He added nuts, vegetables and spices... he basically made a veggie burger with the addition of some ground up meal worms. Needles to say students didn’t think insect eating will become the next big thing in our restaurants.

Do we really need to find more animal protein sources? It is easy to get enough protein in our diet from plants. No need to bite on insect shells, ant eggs or grinding worms into burgers. And no, the though of tarantula bottom tasting very creamy (as the Cambodian children described it) is not appealing at all. I will stick to my veggie diet :)


roasted-veg-spiced-chickpea

ROASTED VEGETABLES, SPICED CHICKPEAS AND CASHEW CORIANDER SAUCE
There are a few steps in this recipe but it is worth it. Great dinner party dish.

Serves 4

ingredients
roasted veggies
2 red pepper
2 medium parsnips
2 sweet potatoes
2 onions
2 aubergines
1/2 tbs rapeseed oil

spiced chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped
1/2tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam massala
2 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced
1/2 c water
2 tin of chickpeas, drained
lemon juice to taste
salt to taste

cashew coriander sauce
1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min and drained)
60-90ml (1/4-1/3 cup) water
1/2 tsp dried garlic powder
1 tsp dried onion powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbs fresh coriander, finely chopped

250ml (1 cup) couscous

method
  1. Cut up all the vegetables into bite size pieces place onto a roasting tray, mix with the 1/2 of oil and roast at a 200C oven for about 30-40 min or until all vegetables are cook through and start to caramelise
  2. While the vegetables are roasting make the spiced chickpeas. In a medium saucepan heat about couple tablespoons water, add the garlic and chilli and cooked till softened, adding more water if needed.
  3. Next add the turmeric and garam masala. Cook briefly for about 30seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the spices and cook for about 5 minutes until they become soft and pulpy.
  5. Next add water and the chickpeas. Simmer for the rest of the cooking time of the vegetables, about 20min. Add lemon juice to taste just before serving.
  6. Prepare the couscous. Put the couscous in a large bowl, pour just boiled water over it, the water should cover the chickpeas by 1 cm. Cover with cling film and let it sit until the rest is finished.
  7. Finally prepare the sauce, put cashews, water, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice and process till smooth. Add in the chopped coriander.

coriander-sauce
0 Comments

TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

It seems to me today will be one of those days I will do anything to distract myself from revision. I cleaned the kitchen, sorted out my vegetable drawer, folded the laundry that was hanging on the airer for couple of days. I put another load of wash on, hung it up to dry... and now I am writing a blog. You could say writing a blog about soya is partly a revision for my upcoming exam.

Apparently the sale of soya based veggie burgers, sausages and roasts have gone through the roof in response to the horse meat scandal. Horse meat seems to be everywhere, if you eat meat there is no escaping it but choosing the highly processed soya meat analogs may not be a healthy alternative either. The food writer Joanna Blythman, in response to the increase in soya burger sales, wrote a rather condemning article about soya. I do agree with her on the soya protein isolates (thats what you will find in the above mentioned products), these are not healthy foods. However soya isoflavones, the phytonutrient found in more natural soya products, have shown many health benefits. Isoflavones may reduce breast cancer risk (works best if given from adolescence), boost survival in breast cancer patients, lower cholesterol and they may also lower hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause.

When I choose soya I go for no GM preferably organic, I tend to stick to tofu, miso, tempeh, edamame and I do like a soya yoghurt, especially the vanilla one... YUM. Personally I don’t like the after taste of soya milk and the soya cream sold in shops is mainly vegetable oil. I choose the more traditional soya foods you would find in Asia over the processed Westernized soya products. My kids love tofu, and if I have a block in the fridge I can always come up with a quick and tasty dinner. Believe me
quick is the word of the moment. The recipe below is what I came up with the other day, the only downfall was I had to restrain the kids from eating ii all otherwise my husband would have gone hungry after getting home late from work :)

Here are two views on soya. The above mentioned Joanna Blythman article and a fab post from Leo Babauta’s Zenhabits blog.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2284435/Horsemeat-scandal-Think-soyas-safer-choice-meat-Think-again.html

http://zenhabits.net/soy/

BBQtofu-detail

TOFU IN QUICK BBQ SAUCE

Serves 4

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medjol dates
700ml (about 3cups) passata
120ml of water
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
2 Tbs soya sauce
1 Tbs coconut nectar sugar (or maple syrup)
1 x 400g (just under 1 lb) block of firm tofu

In a deep wide saute pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) of water, add the onions and garlic. Put the lid on and let the onions and garlic soften. Add more water if they start sticking.
Next add all the rest of ingredients (apart from) the tofu and simmer for about 20-30min, you should get thick rich sauce.
Drain your tofu, dry with paper towels (I wrap the tofu in several layers and press on gently to squeeze the water our). Cut into bite size pieces.
Place the tofu into the sauce, and simmer for further 10 min. Shake the pot occasionally, stirring might break the tofu.
Serve with brown rice and a large green salad.

BBQ-tofu
0 Comments

DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

Last week you couldn’t escape articles claiming that butter is better for your heart than margarine. “Eat butter, avoid margarine” was one of the titles staring at me from my computer screen.

What do I think? I will not dispute that butter can be handled better by our bodies than margarines that contain trans fats(the ultimate bad boy among fats). The study, that the articles are based on, was done using safflower oil or margarine which was substituted for butter in the intervention group of men who have previously suffered heart attacks. The other group kept on carrying cheerfully with butter. The non butter group were asked to reduce their saturated fats to less than 10% of energy intake, and increase their polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) to about 15%. If my maths skills are right we are talking about 25% of energy from fat. I am sure some other fatty acids would make their way into their diet too, monounsaturated and hopefully some omega 3, taking their total fat intake even higher.

This takes me to what I learnt from my fat/fatty acid lecture last weekend. We all know that are recommended daily fat intake is 30% of our energy intake. Are these numbers really health promoting? In the 70s experts have analysed the fat intake of Japanese and Chinese people, who had
very low incidence of heart disease. The average intake came to some 14% of calories from fat (no butter or safflower margarine either). Now this number would have been too much to ask from the Western population that was eating over 40% of calories from fat. Therefore 30% was seen as an achievable goal.

Do you see where I am going? The men in the study above were still eating too much dietary fat. The fat in the intervention group was largely omega 6 fat. It is widely accepted that the imbalance (omega 6 too high) between omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids leads to inflammation that further leads to many chronic diseases. Drs Ornish, Esselstyn and Fuhrman all have incredible results in treating heart disease, they are routinely slowing the progression and even reversing heart disease. And believe me it is not through diets high in butter. On Dr Esselstyn diet, no oils are used ( no fats, not even nuts and avocados), Dr Furhman, says no to oil too, he will let you have 1 Tbs of oil provided your diet is otherwise up to his very strict standards and you are in good health. No oil therefore if you do have any heart problems. Dr Ornish, in his Medicare approved plan, looks at improving the ratios of the omega 6/3 fats, his recommendation is to use flax or canola (rapeseed) oil and fish capsules (fish few times a week ok if you are preventing heart disease, for heart patients he sticks to supplements). He doesn’t recommend using olive oil as it doesn’t contain the heart healthy omega 3 fats. Even though some oil is allowed he quickly points out the calorie implications of olive oil, that so many claim is the good for your heart fat. Yes, 1 tbs has 14g of fat comparable with a scoop of premium ice-cream that has 16g of fat, so if you are trying to loose a bit of weight (and many heart patients do) using oil may not be the smart way to go about weight loss.

Therefore before you go and run to that tub of butter, look at the diets that have real results in preventing, slowing the progression and reversing heart disease. What do I do? First I get my good fats from seeds (esp flax and chia) , nuts and avocados, not from processed oil. Mostly I cook without oil, if I do use it I make sure there is no more than 2 Tbs in the whole meal for 4-6 people, but mostly only1/2-1Tbs will be used. Soups, stews, pasta sauces and dips all taste great without oil. Curries and roasted vegetables do taste better with a little bit of oil, but here I measure not pour. And believe me If I ever have any indication of a heart problem, even the curry will become oil free :)

more info on this study:
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/February/Pages/omega-6-fat-diet-heart-disease-death-risk.aspx

hearty-pasta2

HEARTY PASTA
This is a very hearty robust dish. I either use wholemeal or half white paste (kids think that is a real treat)

Serves 6

ingredients

125ml (1/2 cup) green or brown lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 portobello mushrooms, cut into small about 1cm pieces
1/2 cup of Marsala wine (or other fortified wine)
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 tsp each dried thyme and oregano (or 1 Tbs each fresh)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of vegetable stock
1 Tbs mushroom ketchup or veggie Worcestershire sauce
500g pasta (whole meal or half white)


hearty-pasta

method
  1. Cook the lentils in about 750ml (3 cups) of water for 20 minutes until soft but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, in a large saute pan heat about 80ml (1/3 cup) of water and add the onion, celery and garlic. Saute till softened.
  3. Add the mushrooms and the Marsala. Cook until most of the wine is cooked away.
  4. Next add the tomato puree, cook for about 1 min.
  5. Next add the herbs, tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock and the mushroom ketchup.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 min.
  7. Add the lentils and simmer for further 10 -15 min.
  8. In the meantime cook your past till al dente.
  9. Add the pasta into your sauce and serve.

0 Comments

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


caulisweetcorn-curry-2

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.

0 Comments

BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

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

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

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

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

braised-beans-1

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

Serves 4

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


braisedbeansalsa

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

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

braised-beans-2

0 Comments

COURGETTE SALAD WITH TOMATO SALSA DRESSING AND WALNUTS

COURGETTE SALAD WITH TOMATO SALSA DRESSING AND WALNUTS

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

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

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

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

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

courgette-salsa-salad

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

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

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

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

0 Comments

FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP

FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP

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

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

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

UK Japan

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

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

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

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


fennel-tomato-soup

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

Serves 4 generously (6-8 as a starter)

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

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

peppers-and-fennel
0 Comments

OKRA WITH TOMATOES AND COCONUT

OKRA WITH TOMATOES AND COCONUT

As a self proclaimed foodie I never pass an opportunity to look for new and exciting ingredients. Yesterday we decided to do our weekly shop in the treasure trove, the Aladin’s cave of wonders and one of my favourite shops in the whole wide world, Bristol Sweet Mart. Whenever I go I discover new exciting things to try and to cook with.

First, I must apologise for slowing down the shoppers who came to get their shopping done and found themselves stuck behind me and my kids (the alleys are quite narrow). We treat this shop as a museum. We explore the produce, the spices, the colourful lentils, the olives and noodles.... We look at sauces and teas and I teach them what I know and marvel over the things I have never seen before.

Guava and amla
amlaandguava

We sure found some new treasures: beautifully scented fresh guava (forget pot-purri these guys can perfume your house much better), fresh and dried powdered amla (AKA indian gooseberry or hog plum). I asked the cashier how to eat the fresh amla, she said she just eats them as they come. We tried that and they were incredibly tart and bitter. I may just stick to the dried powder and use it in smoothies as Dr Greger recommends:
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/a-better-breakfast/

My son wanted to try okra after seeing it on a Hairy Bikers episode and of course the Sweet Mart is the place to acquire some. I discussed the preparations with the helpful staff in the shop. I was instructed to wash it before I slice it, the other way the slime oozes out. Another advice was to fry it. I also talked to my friend who does cook okra, she stews it with meat. She made me laugh when she likened it to octopi as the slime reminded her of tentacles. I was a bit worried what my okra will end up like, but honestly it was great, no sea creature lookalikes coming out of my pot. Being warned about the slime I chose to fry, but still keeping it low in oil with only 1 Tbs. As we served it next to my spicy aubergine curry and some fiery parsnips (from Sweet Mart) I kept the chilli heat low using only half a chilli pepper, use more if you wish. The okra was definitely the star of the dish and will be gracing our table again soon.

http://www.sweetmart.co.uk/

okratomatococonut

OKRA WITH TOMATO AND COCONUT

Serves 4 as a part of an Indian meal


ingredients
400g okra
1 Tbs rapeseed oil (canola)
1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
15 curry leaves (fresh or frozen)
1/2 - 2 chillies (I used just a half due to other curries being spicy)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 large beef (beefsteak) tomato, peeled,deseeded and chopped
2 Tbs shredded coconut (fresh or
unsweetened dessicated)
salt and pepper

method
  1. First prepare the okra. Top and tail the pods and cut into about 4 pieces each (my daughter did that beautifully).
  2. In a wok or a frying pan preheat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, they will start to pop. Next add the curry leaves and the chilli. Cook for about half a minute or the leaves should sizzle but do not burn.
  3. Add the cut up okra, turmeric and stir fry for about 5 min.
  4. Add the chopped tomato flesh to the okra and cook for about 5 minutes or until okra softens.
  5. Last add the coconut to the okra and just stir together. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve alongside other curries, rice and chapatis.
0 Comments

SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

There is no denyingl that the Hairy Bikers are a loveable duo. They have always been the two overweight middle aged Harley riding chaps who like nothing more than good grub. They still are all that except they managed to loose quite a few pounds and are looking rather trim. Of course they also have a diet book out. I had a chance to have a good look through it today.

First I have to say that anybody who looses excess weight deserves a credit. How did Si and Dave managed to shed their pounds? They claim calorie counting and portion control was the key. They devised lower calorie meals without compromising flavour. I would never doubt that their food would lack flavour. But (yet there is one) I can’t claim their diet book is a healthy one.

No doubt they have replaced their usual butter, cream, pastry with lower fat versions. However I couldn’t help but notice that this book is still extremely heavy on meat. Carbohydrates don’t seem to appear that often (and indeed are not included in the calorie count) . Most of the carbs I saw were of the refined variety. They do recommend grilling meat as a way to cut down on fat, but I see carcinogens! Vegetables seem to be an afterthought: 300g of carrots vs 700g of lamb in a hotpot, no extra veggies in their chilli con carne... There are only a handful of recipes in the 'vegetable and salad' chapter and of the few salads most seem to include meat...Desserts? Their cup cakes may be lower in fat but they are still covered with icing made out of icing sugar (that is converted to fat in your body). There is one recipe I would make: the spicy vegetable and bean stew, my kind of food.

The Hairy Bikers are trying to help Britons to combat obesity, a commendable undertaking, but they could do more. As celebrity chefs they have influence and should use it to promote more healthier cooking. Not just replacing full fat mince beef with a leaner version. What is wrong with a veggie and bean chilli? Leaner bacon and egg will not make as much difference as a green breakfast smoothie would. IFor the entertainment value I will still watch their shows as they indulge their appetite through their travels. I don't think I would take their dietary advice.

Here is my low fat recipe. A spicy stew of aubergines and chickpeas with warming Moroccan spices, perfect for the suddenly chilly nights. I know "another aubergine recipe" but I do feel there are never enough aubergine recipes in one’s repertoire :)

SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW
Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that includes whole range of spices, even rose buds. In Morocco this is a blend of the best spices the shopkeeper had to offer. They vary enormously so beware of how hot your mix is. My favourite brand is the Seasoned Pioneers.

Serve with couscous, rice or quinoa and some green salad or veggies. Also great served with a flat bread.

Serves 4

spicyaubergineandchickpea2

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
2 medium aubergines, cut into bite size pieces
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs ras el hanout seasoning (or Moroccan seasoning)
2 tbs tomato puree
1 Date, finely chopped (or 1 Tbs agave, date or maple syrup)
1 tin of chickpeas, rinsed
1 Tin of chopped tomatoes

  1. In a non stick pan heat the olive oil and add the aubergine. Fry gently until soft and cooked through. If the aubergines starts to stick add some water. Remove and set aside. (For oil free version steam the aubergine first.)
  2. Add the onion to the pan and garlic to the pan, cook gently till softened. Add a bit of water if sticking to the bottom.
  3. Put the aubergine back to the onions and garlic. Add the ras el hanout and the tomato puree. Cook stirring constantly for about a minute.
  4. Next add the date, chickpeas and tinned tomato.
  5. Cook on a gently heat for 20 min or till sauce is rich and thickened.

spicyaubergineandchickpea
0 Comments

KALE KOFTAS WITH SPICED TOMATO SAUCE

KALE KOFTAS WITH SPICED TOMATO SAUCE

As a parent I have an incredible urge to protect my children from all the bad things that happen it the world. On the other hand I do believe that knowledge is power. Macmillan Cancer Support have conducted a survey of 500 children aged 9-16 to find how much they knew about cancer. They found out that children in the UK are lacking cancer knowledge, for example 97% didn’t know that sunburn causes cancer, and a small number (4%) believe that a person can contract cancer from another person.

This made me conduct a survey of my own. My kids know quite a lot, they are aware that alcohol, smoking, high red meat consumption, sunburn and also obesity increase chances of contracting cancer. They can explain that cancer is caused by rogue cells dividing uncontrollably. They can also name several vegetables that offer the best protection against cancer. My son said concluded: “Of course we know quite a bit, we live with you!”

Unfortunately it is not only me sharing my acquired knowledge that makes them more informed than the average, sadly their Grandad died from cancer last summer. They, like many children today, have experienced the impact cancer can have on a person’s life. Not only children but most adults find cancer extremely frightening, but knowing what lifestyle changes can reduce our risk of getting this disease can be empowering.

You couldn’t do better than adding the fantastic kale to your diet. Kale contains isothiocyanates which induce cancer destroying enzymes and inhibitors of carcinogenesis. Unfortunately these amazing facts don’t necessarily mean kids are going to love the rather acquired taste of this green leafy vegetable. Made into koftas, however, kale is transformed into a child friendly meal. Lycopene rich spiced tomato sauce complements these koftas perfectly, enhancing the anticancer properties of this dish even further.

kalekofta2

KALE KOFTAS WITH SPICED TOMATO AND APRICOT SAUCE

Can be oil free.

Serves 4

ingredients

Kale Koftas
200g (1/2lb) shredded kale (tough stalks removed)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp olive oil
50g (1/2cup) walnuts
60g (1/2cup) cashews
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs tahini sauce
2 Tbs gram flour
(you will need 8 skewers)

Spiced Tomato and Apricot Sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 Medjol date, chopped
8 dried apricots, quartered
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tins of tomatoes

kalekoftas


method
  1. First make the koftas.
  2. If using bamboo skewers make sure you soak them in water for half an hour.
  3. Steam the kale for 5 min or until wilted. Cool the kale down.
  4. In a small frying pan heat the 2 teaspoons of oil and gently fry the onions until well caramelized. (You can saute the onions in water for oil free version, they will not get caramelized the same way though)
  5. In a food processor combine the kale, onion, garlic, walnuts, cashews, spices, lemon juice, tahini and gram flour. Process till all well combined with some texture still remaining.(I prefer to pulse the mixture so I can keep an eye on it)
  6. Divide the mixture into 8. Mold each mound of the mixture around a skewer into a kofta shape. Place onto a aluminium foil lined baking tray. Chill in a fridge for half an hour.
  7. While the koftas are resting start on your sauce.
  8. In a medium sauce pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) water and add the onions and garlic. Cook until tender.
  9. Next add the tomato puree and cook for about a minute.
  10. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer gently till ready to serve.
  11. Preheat the grill (broiler) and cook the koftas for about 3 minutes on each side.
  12. If you prefer a smooth sauce blend it in a blender.
  13. Serve the koftas (they slip of the skewer easily) with the sauce alongside some veggies and couscous.


0 Comments

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

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

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

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

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

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

serves 4

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

redwinetomatosauce

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

redwinetomatosaucepasta
0 Comments

MAGIC ONIONS AND KACHUMBER

MAGIC ONIONS AND KACHUMBER

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

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

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

redonions


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

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


kachumber

KACHUMBER

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

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


0 Comments

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.

0 Comments

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP

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

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

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

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

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

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

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP


smokedtofusausages

ingredients

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

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


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


0 Comments

THREE BEAN SALAD

THREE BEAN SALAD

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

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

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

threebeansalad

THREE BEAN SALAD
Oil free recipe.

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

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

ingredients

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

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

MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE

MEXICAN LAYERED CASSEROLE

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

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

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



image1


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

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

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

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

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

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

0 Comments

WHEATBERRY PILAF WITH ROASTED TOMATO DRESSING

WHEATBERRY PILAF WITH ROASTED TOMATO DRESSING

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

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

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

wheatberriepilaf


WHEATBERRY PILAF WITH ROASTED TOMATO DRESSING

Serves 4

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

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

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


0 Comments

RUNNER BEAN SALAD WITH RAW TOMATO DRESSING

RUNNER BEAN SALAD WITH RAW TOMATO DRESSING

The other day I made my butternut squash edamame and peanut butter stew for my friend. Kids had noodles with tofu and veggies instead. They are not keen on spicy food (my son is starting to discover it slowly) and I just wanted to make sure they get fed. While tucking into my stew I did my best to entice my son to try some. He just said: “But I don’t like butternut squash!” Yes I knew that but I still insisted that he should give it a go. His reply was: “You don’t like raw tomatoes and nobody makes you eat them... it is the same with butternut squash and sweet potato for me.”

Now nobody likes as “smarta..e”. Right?! Kids always seem to have an answer and yes it did make a lot of sense. The role of us parents is to outsmart our kids while we can ( I quiver realising this will not be possible for much longer). Therefore I came up with a bullet proof strategy (or so I think). My last bulgur wheat salad recipe had raw tomatoes in it. And today I made another raw tomato recipe. All this in hope that if I start eating my food nemesis my son maybe more likely to confront his or at least will have to come with another smart argument whilst trying to avoid it. I will let you know if it works.

Today the tomatoes didn’t quite cooperate the way I wanted them too. I had a plan and they were having none of it. First I cut a cross into the skin, than poured boiling water over them, left them for a minute, cooled them in cold water and NOTHING. The skins would not come off!!! So I decided to change my plan and just deseeded and blended them rebels skin and all which resulted in a rather yummy dressing for my runner beans. My son loved it, my husband didn’t even notice he was eating raw tomatoes (yes he doesn’t like them either...) and I proved a point! Job well done.

runnerbeans1

RUNNER BEAN SALAD WITH RAW TOMATO DRESSING

serves 4 as a side salad

ingredients
300g (about 3/4 lb), sliced thinly on the diagonal
4 small to medium tomatoes (mine were about the size of a smaller round plum)
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs water or use another Tbs of oil
salt and pepper to taste

method
  1. Put the beans into a steamer basket and steam for about 4 min or until tender but still with a little bit of a bite. Place cooked beans into a bowl of iced water to cool and stop cooking. Set aside.
  2. In a blender process the rest of the ingredients until you get a thick smooth sauce.
  3. Toss the beans with the dressing and serve.


runnersalad
0 Comments

BULGUR WHEAT SALAD WITH CRUNCHY VEGGIES AND HERBS

BULGUR WHEAT SALAD WITH CRUNCHY VEGGIES AND HERBS

Couple days ago, Daily Mail ran a poll on their website. The question asked was: Is a vegan book aimed at children appropriate? (Unfortunately I am unable to find the exact words from the website but this is close enough) When I added my vote to the tally, there was about 10% more people convinced that veganism shouldn’t be taught to children.

The article that started this poll was a review of Ruby Roth’s new book
Vegan is Love. I must give the usually judgmental DM a credit for a well balanced article. There was a quote from Nicole German, an American dietician, who deemed the book dangerous, leading to possible malnutrition in the young impressionable children. Rest of the article was however very reassuring (quoting the likes of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) about the safety and health benefits of a well planned vegan diet for children.

Finally the tide seems to be changing and plant based/vegan diets are getting the recognition they deserve, with more and more research confirming their benefits in preventing and even reversing many chronic diseases. Of course not every vegan diet is healthy, chips and Oreos are vegan too.

There were number of comments that followed the article, one especially disagreeing with veganism being promoted to children and calling for charges to be pressed against parents whose child suffers through their negligence. In this case the legal system should brace themselves, there are plenty malnourished obese kids around who suffer by being fed low nutrition calorie dense fast foods. Most vegan parents know far more about nutrition than the average parent, simply because they have to. Yes there are few stumbling blocks, like vitamins B12 or D (in our climate) but there are easy to deal with. In my opinion a plate of lentils with brown rice and veggies on the side is a much healthier meal than Big Mac with chips any day!

As far as the book goes I am planning to order it very soon for my children, we have Ruby’s previous book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, which is a fantastic way to introduce kids to the way animals are treated in today’s food production. Since I started to take dairy out of my diet, I decided not to impose the same decision on my kids. I do cook vegan dishes but if they want a cheese sandwich to take to school I wan’t going to argue. I wanted them to make their own decision. After reading the above book both of them decided to be “more” vegan. They still want to have the option of eating a pizza at friend’s house or at a party. And I will respect that but in a way wish they were never introduced to dairy in the first place.

Amazon US allows to have a peek at some of the pages of the book and from what I saw there is nothing I wouldn’t want my children to know. Such knowledge will lead to a more compassionate way of living. It is a shame that this book is most likely going to end up in vegan/vegetarian households only, it should be in every library and read at schools.

The original article:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2131090/Ruby-Roths-new-childrens-book-Vegan-Love-sparks-outrage-graphic-images-unhealthy-diet-message.html


BULGUR WHEAT SALAD WITH CRUNCHY VEGGIES AND HERBS

This salad is very lightly dressed just with lemon juice and tiny bit of olive oil, if you want a stronger flavour you could add a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. I like to be able to taste all the veggies and herbs without being over powered by dressing.

Serves 4 as a main dish salad.


bulgursalad2

ingredients
180g (1 cup) bulgur wheat
375ml (1 and 1/2 cups) just boiled water (or vegetable stock)
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 medium beef tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1 small kohlrabi, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
8 radishes, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 large lemon
heaped handful (1 cup ) smixture of parsley and mint, finely chopped (I used ration 3-1 parsley to mint)

method
  1. First cook the bulgur wheat; put the grain into a large bowl, pour over the just boiled water (or stock). Cover with cling film and let sit for 10-15 min or until all the water is absorbed.
  2. Add the drained chickpeas to the hot bulgur wheat. Season with salt and let cool down.
  3. In the meantime chop all your vegetables.
  4. Mix all the ingredients into the cooled bulgur-chickpea mixture. Mix well.
  5. Serve :)

0 Comments

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.



0 Comments

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

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

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

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

ragupasta

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Serves 4

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

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

STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY

STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY

baby-aubergines

My kids are addicted to the Australian Junior Masterchef. After our holidays we have a few episodes to catch up with. Yesterday we watched the kids cooking some fab looking curries. That and my trip to a supermarket in an area where lots of ethnicities come together made me think of curry. I stocked up on some wonderful ingredients like fresh curry leaves, coriander with the root intact, baby aubergines, Japanese horseradish, Polish pickled gherkings and Mexican chipotles. Don’t worry I am not putting all of this into my curry, that would be just plain mad.

Since living in the UK I can hardly imagine a week without having a curry. Without claiming any authenticity I think I can make a good home made one. I like to be able to control the amount of oil and the level of spice and of course it gives me a free hand in choosing the vegetables. I know there is something addictive about Indian take aways and restaurants, but the amount of oil on the top of each dish is a bit scary. Even the American chef Bobby Chinn (Bobby Chinn Cooks Asia) was a bit surprise by the amount of oil the Indians use in their cooking. My today’s curry is made with 1 Tbs of oil only and as it serves 4-6 it amounts to a very small amount per person.

There is nothing worse than badly cooked aubergine. I have had many dining experiences ruined by undercooked aubergines making me very cautious when dining out. Indian restaurants cook them well, but of course this is because they tend to be fried in lots of oil. Aubergines are like sponges soaking up any amount of oil they are introduced to. I decided to steam them first, to ensure the “dissolve in your mouth” sensation I so love. The baby ones look great on a plate making this a fab dinner party dish. Enjoy.

STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY
I was thinking 4 aubergines per person, but if served as a part of an Indian themed meals it should serve 6. I have ground the cashews quite course I like the bite but you can grind them fine to create a smoother sauce.

Serves 4-6

stuffedaubergines

ingredients
the stuffed aubergines:
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, cut into few pieces
2 large cloves of garlic
1 red or green chilli, halved
3 Tbs fresh coriander (include roots if you can find them)
1/2 tsp salt
16 baby aubergines

cashew and tomato sauce
1 onion
1 inch piece of ginger
2 large cloves of garlic
1 chilli pepper
1 Tbs of rapeseed oil
8 curry leaves
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asofetida (optional)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
500ml (2 cups of water)
1 tsp sweet freedom syrup (or palm sugar, agave, brown sugar)
130g (1 cup ) of cashew nuts
1 tsp garam masala
fresh coriander

babystuffedaubergines2

method
  1. In a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) finely chop together the ginger, garlic, chilli and coriander. Add salt.
  2. Slit the aubergines lengthways into quarters, do not cut through the stalk to keep the aubergine intact. (see picture)
  3. Put some of the ginger mixture inside each aubergines. Fingers are the best tool for this, just remember you are handling chillies so do not rub your eyes!
  4. Place the aubergines into a steamer basket and steam for about 10-15 min until tender, set aside.
  5. To make the sauce in a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) process the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli into a paste. If using a food processor add a tablespoon of water to help it along.
  6. In a large wide saucepan (with a lid) heat up the oil. Add the paste, be careful it will splatter. Cook on medium heat until all the water had evaporated and the paste darkens slightly (about 5-7 min).
  7. Add the curry leaves and spices, cook for half a minute, take care not to burn the spices.
  8. Next add the chopped tomatoes, turn the heat up and cook for five minutes till. Squish any big pieces of tomato.
  9. Add the sweet freedom syrup, salt and water.
  10. Put the aubergines into the sauce and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
  11. In the meantime process the cashews to your preferred texture (see note above).
  12. Add the cashews into the sauce, this will thicken it.
  13. Next add the garam masala and the fresh coriander.
  14. Serve with Indian breads and rice.
0 Comments

BARBECUE SAUCE

BARBECUE SAUCE

What a beautiful day! On my way to pick up kids from school the temperature reached 19.5C, pretty good for March 23rd in UK! And the weekend forecast is looking great too. You could call it barbecue weather.

Maybe that’s what possessed me to make a batch of barbecue sauce. Or it could have been the cooking show I watched yesterday. American diner, disclosing (in part only) their signature sauce. Lots of white sugar went into that one. That made me think I could do better, I didn’t add (directly) any refined sugar into my sauce. At the same time it made me think how many everyday food products have hidden added sugar. One such food is ketjap manis that I used in this sauce.

We (our household) enjoy ketjap manis, the wonderful Asian soya based sauce. It is rich, sweet and full of flavour making it perfect in stir-fries or as a marinade for tofu. Unfortunately the sweetness comes (of course) from palm sugar. There are few kinds, I would expect the palm sugar in my ketjap manis is more likely to be the date palm sugar which is made from the sap of date palm. Coconut palm sugar is made form the buds of coconut tree flowers, how romantic. Interestingly the vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier uses coconut palm sugar in his recipes. Apparently coconut palm sugar has more micronutrients (http://coconutpalmsugar.com/Nutritional_Information.html) than other sweeteners but I still believe the less you use the better.

Barbecue sauce must have a degree sweetness and I decided to use my trusty dates to achieve this. They melt into the sauce lending it their gorgeous rich sweet flavour without the sauce being too “datey”. Smoked paprika adds some gorgeous smokey aroma that is so typical in an American style barbecue sauce. You can choose either hot or sweet smoked paprika. I went for the sweet one to entice my kids to eat it. I am glad to say they enjoyed it, but I would have prefered bit more of a kick. I guess next time I will make 2 different batches!

bbqsauce


BARBECUE SAUCE
If you don’t have any ketjap manis you can use dark soya sauce, or just use the 1/4 cup of light soya sauce and add an extra date. This is not an exact science just trust your taste buds.

Makes about 1 litre (4 cups)

ingredients
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
3 Tbs tomato puree
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
375 ml (1 and 1/2 cups) of water
60ml (1/4 cup) ketjap manis
60ml (1/4 cup) light soya sauce
60ml (1/4 cup) apple cider or white wine vinegar
1 Tbs Mushroom ketchup (or veggie Worcestershire sauce)
5 Medjol dates, stones removed

method
  1. In a large saucepan heat 60ml (1/4cup) water. Add the onion, celery and garlic and saute till soft adding more water it the vegetables start to stick.
  2. Add the thyme, cumin, paprika and tomato puree. Cook for about one minute.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes, water, ketjap manis,soya sauce, vinegar, Mushroom ketchup and dates.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the thyme stalks and pour the sauce into a blender. Blend until smooth.
  6. Store in the fridge for couple of weeks or freeze in batches.

0 Comments

VEGETABLE STOCK

VEGETABLE STOCK

In the Czech Republic, you could not imagine a Sunday meal without a starter of soup. Most of our soups were based on clear broths usually made out of beef bones but using only vegetables in not uncommon. As a girl I used to spend a large portion of my summer holidays with my step great grandmother at her farm (not a working farm). Everyday we had a soup for lunch, we would go to the garden and pick some fresh vegetables, cooked them in some water and perhaps added homemade noodles and herbs fresh from the garden.

A good stock is a great thing to have lurking around. There are some great vegetable stocks on the market but I do like to make my own on occasion. That way I know it is virtually fat free and I can control the salt content. Homemade vegetable stock is a great way to use up some surplus or tired looking veggies. It is nearly magical how the pile of vegetables gets cooked down into flavoursome golden liquid.

Onions are a must in any good stock. I leave the brown skins on, just remove the very outside layer, make sure you wash the root, or just cut it off. The skins will add to the stock’s colour. My grandma used to use brown onion skins as a dye.

Root veggies add sweetness to your stock, back at home we would always use carrots and celeriac. Don’t forget to use the leaves of celeriac or celery, they are a fantastic flavourful ingredient. Another classic ingredient is parsley use mainly the stalks and keep the leaves for garnish. Thyme and bay leaves add wonderful fragrance of the stock. So does the allspice, which may not be a traditional ingredient in stock making but I love the flavour it adds.

There are so many uses for a home made stock. Soups are the obvious choice, but you can use it for cooking your grains or legumes. I love cooking my brown rice in a vegetable stock, it gives it a lovely colour and of course adds lots flavour. Since I don’t salt my stock it is fantastic for cooking legumes from raw as they should not be cooked with salt. Vegetable stock is also a great base for stews and sauces.

Don’t feel you have to religiously stick the the ingredients below, use what you have in your vegetable drawer add outer lettuce leaves, broccoli or cauliflower stalks, mushrooms, fresh or dried (for a dark savoury broth), few garlic cloves, fennel, rosemary and other herbs. The possibilities are endless.

vegstockingredients


VEGETABLE STOCK
The resulting stock will have a gorgeous light golden colour.

Yields about 2,5l (10cups) of stock

ingredients
5 celery stalks, including any leaves, trimmed and cleaned
3 leeks, half lengthways and wash thoroughly between the layers
1 large onion, washed, unpeeled and quartered
1 celeriac, peeled (cut off the nobbly skin with a knife) and roughly cut up
5 carrots, scrubbed, each cut into 3 pieces
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
15 peppercorns
3 all spice berries
2 bay leaves
parsley, mainly stalks
2 large sprigs of thyme
3 litres (12 cups) of water

method
  1. Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
  3. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl large enough to hold it. Let it cool down completely.
  4. Discard the cooked vegetables ( I keep the carrots to put into my dogs’ dinner)
  5. When cooled place the stock into freezer safe bags or containers. Freeze or keep for 3 days in a fridge.

vegstockfinished
0 Comments

LENTIL SLOPPY JOES

LENTIL SLOPPY JOES

As a country UK is not doing great in fruit and vegetable consumption, this year we have only achieved 14th position among European countries. it is also known that the widely accepted 5-a-day target was set lower than what it should be. This was done purely because 5 portions is already rather daunting for a lot of Brits, the actual 10-12 would seem a very unachievable goal.


Today 5-a-day made it into 2 headlines:
1. How giving your children five-a-day can actually damage their teeth
2. UK adults are not getting 5-a-day of fruit and veg, and kids are drinking too much fruit juice

The first article warns that too much fruit juice and smoothies can damage children’s teeth. This certainly is a valid point however there is more to tooth decay in today’s children. I remember a documentary about children with rotting teeth by the age of 3, these kids were falling asleep with a baby bottle full of formula toddler milk. Worse you can see coca cola in baby bottles. In my daughters year there is a boy who was famous for bringing Lucozade in his water bottle to school(from 4 years of age). We also can’t forget the sweets and chocolate bars. It is hard to believe that fruit juices and smoothies only are responsible for increased tooth decay in children.

The juice-teeth connection is mentioned in story 2, but more importantly this story highlights the fact that 61% of adults are not getting their 5-a-day, a sad number that has gone up since last year (56%). Economic downturn might be the reason for this, as junk food is so much cheaper than fruit and veggies. But education has a lot to do with it too. These days Brits on average eat only about 3 1/2 portions a day (roughly 280g). And no Terry’s chocolate orange definitely doesn’t count!

Try this recipe to up your portions of veggies. It has onions, peppers, celery and tomatoes. Lentils count towards your daily goal too. Big green salad on the side and you are doing better than the average Brit.

LENTIL SLOPPY JOE
Anything called sloppy will be hard to photograph. Tomato based sauces and artificial light are defeating my photography skills. Must have make this again in daylight! As it disappeared rather quickly, nobody will complain if I do.

Makes 6

sloppyjoe

ingredients
100 g (3 and 1/2oz) brown or green lentils (or use a tin of lentils)
1 Tbs olive oil (or 60ml -1/4cup water)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 bel pepper, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 Tbs tomato paste
couple sprigs of thyme
1 tin of tomatoes
125 ml (1/2 cup vegetable stock)
1 tsp sweet freedom syrup or 1/4tsp stevia
salt and pepper to taste
6 whole wheat medium sized hamburger buns

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan bring 500ml water (2cups) to a boil, add lentils and cook for 20-25min, or until soft to bite but still holding their shape. Drain and let cool.
  2. In a large wide saute pan, heat the olive oil or water, add the onion, pepper and celery. Cook on medium heat for about 10min or until soft, taking care not to colour.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Next add the tomato paste, cook for about 1 min, this will allow it to caramelize bringing out sweetness.
  5. Remove the tough stalks from the thyme, chop the leaves and soft stalks, add to your saute pan together with the tinned tomatoes, lentils, vegetable stock and the syrup or stevia.
  6. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 30min until the sauce is very thick.
  7. Toast your buns under our grill (broiler) or in a toaster.
  8. Top each bun with 1/6 of the mixture and serve with some pickles and green salad.




0 Comments

SPINACH, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND OVEN DRIED TOMATO SALAD

SPINACH, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND OVEN DRIED TOMATO SALAD

The beautiful fresh baby spinach in my organic vegetable box just called out to be eaten in a salad. Tender crispy sweet leaves came straight from the field.

Like other leafy greens spinach is a nutritional giant. It is full of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, but over all tastes fabulous.The baby leaves are so sweet that even kids like it. I love adding spinach to my kids smoothies, they can’t even tell it is in their glass, especially when you add some dark berries that hide the green colour. This salad however hides nothing. It looks like a rainbow.

Unfortunately I am not a fan of fresh tomatoes (I can’t stand the seeds surrounded with that jelly like juice) , however I do love them cooked, sun dried or oven dried, the concentrated flavour is irresistible. Lucky for me, the almighty antioxidant lycopene is more available from cooked tomatoes so it is a win-win situation. The concentrated tomato flavour goes incredibly well with the sweet roasted butternut squash, add red onions for bit of a bite and seeds for some crunch. Perfect lunch I say!

butternutspinach2

SPINACH, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND OVEN DRIED TOMATO SALAD
To make the balsamic vinegar glaze (syrup) just place about 125ml (1/2cup) vinegar in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil and cook till reduced and syrupy. You can also buy already prepared balsamic vinegar glaze, just beware of added sugar.

Serves 2 as a main dish salad (4 as a started or side dish)

ingredients
450 (1lb) butternuts squash, prepared weight (peeled, seeds removed)
1 tsp olive oil
oven dried tomatoes (see below)
1 small red onion (I used about 1/4 of a medium large one)
2 Tbs pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or mixture of both)
100 g (3 1/2 oz) baby spinach leaves
oven dried tomatoes (see below)
Balsamic vinegar glaze to drizzle (about 1 Tbs of balsamic ) or use just balsamic vinegar.

Oven dried tomatoes
4 medium vine ripened tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil

First make the oven dried tomatoes.
Preheat the oven to 120C.
Use the 1 tsp olive oil to grease the bottom of the baking dish big enough to fit the tomatoes in one layer.
Place the tomatoes in your baking dish and season.
Bake for about 2 hours (or longer if needed), you are looking for texture of sunblushed tomatoes, they should loose most of their moisture but still be soft unlike sundried tomatoes.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

The salad
method
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Cut up the butternut squash into bite sized pieces, place on a non stick baking tray, add the oil, using your hands coat the butternut squash pieces with the oil. Surprisingly 1 tsp will do the job. Season with salt and pepper if you wish.
Roast for about 20 min or until the pieces start to caramelize and are cooked through (pierce with a knife). Remove from the oven and let cool.
Slice the red onion as thinly as you can.
Preheat a frying pan, add the seeds and toast them, take care not to burn them. Let them cool down.
In 2 large bowls place the spinach leaves, top with the rest of the ingredients and toss lightly. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar glaze.


0 Comments

WINTERY VEGETABLE, BEAN AND PASTA SOUP


Yesterday we had our first and probably last snowfall of the season. Kids got excited, dogs were running mad in the rather thin snow cover. I was thinking soup, hot, comforting, chunky bowl of soup.

My kids like tomato soup; smooth, sweet, uncomplicated. I knew I was taking a risk by putting a bowl of chunky vegetable soup in front of them. Adding pasta to it was meant to soften the blow.

To my surprise they ate it, cabbage, peppers and all. Ok I did promise them they can choose a treat from the oriental supermarket if they chomp their way through a bowlful. Whatever works I say.

As most of my soups, this one also has no added oil. I am not against using a olive oil altogether but I have cut down its usage to bare minimum. When I cook an oil free recipe I use the water-saute method. Just heat a small amount of water (about 60ml or 1/4 cup) and cook the veggies in it. It takes a bit longer than oil sauteing, you may have to add additional water, but the veggies soften beautifully. You can also use vegetable stock or wine to saute your vegetables.

wintersoup


WINTERY VEGETABLE, BEAN AND PASTA SOUP

Try to cut your onion, carrots, celery and pepper into same size pieces, about 1cm.

This is an Italian inspired soup, minus the olive oil and Parmesan. Instead of Parmesan I use the Nutritional Yeast Flakes, they taste great and are great source of B vitamins.

Serves 4 as a main meal

ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, de-stringed and chopped
1 carrot, chipped
1 small red pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 heaped Tbs tomato puree
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin borlotti beans (drained)
1.24l (5cups) vegetable stock (I used 2 veggie stock cubes)
1/4 medium green or white cabbage (2cups), shredded
100g (3/4 c) small pasta
chopped parsley or basil for garnish
Nutritional yeast flakes for garnish (optional)

method
  1. In a large stock pot heat 60ml (1/4) cup of water and add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and pepper, saute until softened, about 10min. Stir occasionally, to prevent sticking, add more water if needed.
  2. Add the tomato puree, stir around for about 1 min.
  3. Add the oregano, tinned tomatoes, beans and vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook gently for 30 min.
  5. After 30min, add the cabbage and pasta. Cook for about 10 min or until the pasta is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta sticking to the bottom.
  6. Garnish with herbs, nutritional flakes if using and serve with crusty bread (wholemeal of course)
0 Comments

THICK CASHEW CREAM


We humans are creatures of habit. When it comes to food so many of us rely on the same recipes every week, same items in our shopping baskets. Better the devil you know is a dangerous if not stagnant place to be, we should be looking forward, reinventing and bettering ourselves. I know it may seem daunting to change habits, I did mourn creamy sauces and other similar stuff too. But than I realised that a whole new world has opened up to me. There is a plethora of new tastes to try, it has become an adventure, a creative process. And I relish every new discovery, new flavour combination, new exciting product.

Cashew nut is nothing new, I have always enjoyed them as a snack, in a stir-fry or curry. However its ability to morph into perfect cream or milk has definitely enriched my cooking and excited my palate. No more living without creamy sauces, no need to substitute with the rather processed soya cream (vegetable oil being the first ingredient...). The first time I encounter cashew cream was in the fabulous book The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen. I was intrigued and even I took some months before taking the plunge, once I did I never looked back.

Compare cashews with double cream and I know which one I would rather eat. The cashews win in most categories, less overall fat, less saturated fat, more protein, vitamins and minerals. Cashews may only have about 50% of the calcium of cream but this definitely isn’t a good enough reason to pour double cream over our food. While cashew nuts are mildly anti-inflammatory, our double cream actually promotes inflammation. Many medical scientists now believe that inflammation sets the stage for chronic diseases, another fact that makes me 100% sure that cashew cream is the way to go.


THICK CASHEW CREAM
Having a great blender makes all the difference. I am lucky to have the super powerful Vitamix, it makes smooth nut milks in no time. If your blender doesn’t quite manages to make perfectly smooth cashew cream just strain it.

ingredients
150g/ 1cup cashew nuts
250ml/1cup water

method
  1. Soak the cashew nuts in water for at least 30min. You can soak them over night in your fridge. This softens the nuts making them easier to blend into cream.
  2. Drain the cashews. Put in a blender and add fresh water.
  3. Blend till smooth.

creamylentils

SUPER CREAMY LENTILS
This is a super rich filling dish. I served mine with sweet potato wedges dusted with paprika and some steamed broccoli.

Serves 4-6

ingredients
200g (1cup) Puy lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
1tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4-1/2tsp of chilli flakes
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 portion of cashew cream (made out of 200g/1 cup cashews and 250ml/ 1 cup water)
lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper
parsley or coriander to garnish

method
  1. Place the lentils and vegetable stock into a large saucepan, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 20-25 min, they should be soft to bite but still hold their shape. Set aside but don’t drain.
  2. In a wide saute pan heat the oil, add the onion, pepper and garlic and gently saute till softened, about 10min.
  3. Add the chilli flakes, and cook for another minute.
  4. Next add in the tomatoes, cook about 2 min to soften the tomatoes (you can add couple tablespoons of water to help it along).
  5. Put in the lentils with the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat down and simmer for 5 min.
  6. Add in your cashew cream and heat through. If the mixture is too thick just add some water and heat.
  7. Season and add lemon juice to taste.
  8. Serve garnished with parsley or coriander.
0 Comments

ORZO COOKED IN TOMATO PASSATA


It is orzo, pasta that looks like rice. In my family we love it. This time cook “eintopf” style. A meal cooked it one pot saves time and washing up, perfect recipe for a weeknight dinner. There is something utterly comforting about orzo cooked directly in tomato sauce. And anything both kids can eat a whole bowl (or two) of must be a good thing. Just remember to stir it every couple of minutes to prevent any sticking to the bottom of a pan. If you don’t wish to decorate your kitchen with tomato sauce make sure to use a lid, the sauce has a tendency to spit quite violently.
orzo


ORZO COOKED IN TOMATO PASSATA
Whole wheat orzo is a bit trickier to find, I tend to get mine from one of my favorite health food shops. Well worth it. If cooked like any other pasta, in boiling water it only takes about 6 minutes, cooking it in directly in a tomato sauce will take longer.
Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 small red pepper, cut into 1cm cubes
680g bottle of passata
600ml of water
300g orzo (preferably whole wheat)
parsley, basil or oregano for garnish

method
  1. In a large wide lidded pan saute the onion till translucent, add the garlic and red pepper. Saute for about 5 min, till the pepper softens.
  2. Add the passata and water, bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the orzo to the sauce and bring to a boil.
  4. Turn the heat down and cook for about 12 min or till the orzo is soft.
  5. Season and serve topped with herb of your choice.
0 Comments

MOROCCAN INSPIRED TAGINE OF WINTER VEGETABLES AND DRIED FRUITS



After extremely warm December the winter has finally arrived, temperatures dropped, grass has a lovely frosty hue shimmering in the wintery sunshine. It is absolutely gorgeous ! Weather like this is perfect for something warming, comforting, something that will fill your house up with irresistible aroma. What can be better than winter veggies, warming spices, rich sauce slowly simmering on the stove...I am using up some of my dried fruit stash, chickpeas (again), the other half of squash leftover from making the hummus and lots of different spices from my spice cupboard. It may not be North African weather here, but the gorgeous smells sure do evoke a Moroccan souk.

tagine

MOROCCAN INSPIRED TAGINE OF WINTER VEGETABLES AND DRIED FRUITS

The quantities of individual vegetables depend on what is in your veg drawer, my butternut squash made about half of the mix, purely because I wanted the use it all up. This dish will freeze and reheat well. You can use mild or hot paprika whatever you prefer, I went for the mild version making the dish more kid friendly. Preferably do not use smoked paprika for this dish.

Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix, each mix is slightly different as traditionally this is a special mix from each individual spice shop. I love mine to contain rose buds to lend the dish lovely but not overpowering fragrance.If you cant find ras el hanout, use any Moroccan spice mix or omit all together.

When preparing parsnips it is a good idea to cut out the middle core.

Serves 4 hungry people

ingredients
900g mix of carrot, parsnip and butternut squash, cut into large chunks, about 11/2 inches (4cm)
1 large red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot)
2 tsp ras el hanout or moroccan spice mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 heaped Tbs tomato paste
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of chickpeas
100g dried apricots
100g dried prunes
2 Tbs honey or dark agave syrup
2 1/2 c (725ml) vegetable stock
1 cup of barley couscous

method
  1. In a large pan on medium heat saute the onions in the olive oil till soft about 10min. Add the garlic and cook for further 1 min.
  2. Add all your spices, stir into the onions. Tumble in all your vegetables and quickly stir in to coat with the spices.
  3. Next add the tomato paste, let the cook about 30sec before adding the tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, dried fruits, agave (or honey) and the vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for about 1 hour, or till all the vegetables are tender and sauce is thick and rich. Season with salt if needed.
  5. Cook the couscous according to package instructions.
  6. Serve the tagine with couscous.

0 Comments