Jan 2012

Got (not-dairy) milk

GOT (NON-DAIRY) MILK?

Today a headline in Daily Mail caught my eye: The white stuff: Drinking just one glass of milk a day could boost your brain power. Apparently a study shows that drinking at least a glass of milk a day will improve your memory. Now I am sure I was going to say something about that..... oops can’t remember.... must be my non-milk drinker’s brain ....fried. By the way the journalist forgot to mention this study was sponsored by the MILK BOARD (USA). Very reputable, independent study indeed.

It took me quite a while to figure out why I couldn’t ever eat porridge, rice pudding or even muesli made with milk without feeling nauseaous, I couldn’t get through the bowl. Yes it was the milk! I never drank the stuff on its own, even when in nappies I found the taste utterly repulsive. I don’t have an allergy, maybe just a slight intolerance, but there are many more reasons while I took a step back from dairy.

With non dairy milks I can finally enjoy porridge, rice pudding and muesli. No memory loss so far. My kids never took to drinking milk either, but they did like it in their cereal. Now they enjoy almond and coconut (not tin) in their breakfast, and they actually prefer it. The only problem is when a guest wants an proper English cuppa I GOT NO “NORMAL” MILK at home...
rice-pud

RICE PUDDING WITH BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

This rice pudding contains no refined sugar, it is sweetened with date syrup and the blueberry compote with the Good Taste award winner Sweet Freedom. Both are available online or in health food shops. The date syrup has a very concentrated date flavour hence a bit overpowering for the blueberries. Beware it will turn your rice brown!

The non dairy milk of choice here is oat milk. I find that is compliments the rice beautifully. Make sure to shake the carton first.

We do like to eat our rice pudding warm, not too stiff, if you prefer less creamy and runny consistency just cook it a few minutes longer.

Serves 4 (very filling!)

ingredients

rice pudding
100g (1/2cup) sushi (or arborio) rice
3-4 Tbs date syrup
750ml (3cups) oat milk
blueberry sauce
500ml (2 cups) blueberries
juice of half a lemon
1-2Tbs Sweet Freedom (or agave)
2 Tbs water
pinch of cinnamon
garnish
toasted almond flakes
lemon zest

method

  1. In a heavy bottom sauce pen, combine the milk, rice and date syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer gently for about 30min, or until desired consistency. Make sure to stir every so often, and very often towards the end of cooking time.
  2. For the compote, in a sauce pan, combine blueberries, lemon juice, sweet freedom (or agave), cinnamon and the water. Gently bring to simmer, cook just a few minutes, until some of the blueberries pop and create deep purple sauce.
  3. In a serving glass, put in some rice pudding top with blueberry compote and garnish with the lemon zest and almond flakes.
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The Magic of Mushrooms

THE MAGIC OF MUSHROOMS

Foraging for mushrooms is bit of a national pastime in the Czech Republic. During mushroom season people get up as early as 5am to get to the woods before anybody else, they guard their mushroom rich spots with their life. Even relatives will not disclose where they found their precious funghi.

There is a hierarchy among the mushrooms. The most desirable are girolles and porcinis, and some types of porcini are more sought after than others. It can sound a bit complicated to a novice, but every Czech child seems to know which are the basic edible mushrooms. I always loved searching the woods for chanterelles, they hide in banks of woodlands tucked away under tufts of grass. You can smell mushrooms in the woods as soon as you enter, their heady scent can be rather intoxicating.

we Czechs love to dry our mushrooms in the summer sunshine, keep them for the winter months. In the Czech cuisine there are many recipes using the edible fungi and quite a few of them are vegetarian. Mushrooms are a great meat substitute, the large ones can be simply grilled and used in place of a burger, chopped small can be used instead of mince, their rich flavour makes for a great gravy. They are fabulously and good for you too.

Unfortunately I have yet to discover places where to forage for mushrooms in UK, I am sure they must be around. In the meantime shop bought dried porcinis will have to do. They retain their flavour, it actually becomes even richer, and the scent is wonderful, just pour the boiling water over them to release it.

IMG_0786


Barley with mushrooms
This recipe is inspired by an old Czech recipe that is traditionally cooked at Christmas. The original tends to be made with loads of lard and baked. I made this dish much lighter and used extra herbs to enhance the flavor.

The barley in my recipe is natural whole barley as oppose to pearl barley variety which is a more refined polished grain.

Serves 4 generously

ingredients

15-20g dried porcini mushrooms
300g whole barley
vegetable stock
1 medium chopped
1 Tbs rapeseed or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g mushrooms
1 Tbs rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 Tbs parsley, chopped


IMG_0778

method

  1. Soak the mushrooms in boiling water, use enough water to make up about 500ml (2 cups). Soak for 20min. Take the mushrooms out and reserve the liquid.
  2. Put the barley and about 750ml (3 cups) of vegetable stock in a large sauce pan. Boil for 20 min. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a wide saute pan heat the olive oil and cook the onion till soft. Add the rosemary and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 min.
  4. Add the garlic, drained porcinis and the marjoram. Cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the barley, reserved mushroom soaking liquid and half the parsley. Season.
  6. Cook gently till most of the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 10min.
  7. Serve garnished with the reserved parsley.

IMG_0793
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Hooray for Kale chips

Another convert to kale chips. My sister-in-law sent me a text today with this simple exclamation: “Hooray for kale crisps”. Call them chips or crisps they are a fabulous snack that everybody seems to like. In our house they are the most kids friendly way to eat the mighty kale. Also this is the perfect recipe for kids to help with.

So what is all the fuss about? Kale is the queen of all veggies, the most nutrient dense one out there, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and even protein. Eat it raw, steamed, in soups, stews, in juices and smoothies and of course as chips.

kale-whole

When making kale crisps, I find a proper bunch of kale (preferably organic) is better than the shredded supermarket variety. You can still use supermarket kale for chips, however they tend to shred it into strips with the stalks left in. And these are tough, inedible. Removing them is rather time consuming. Bunched kale gives you the opportunity to remove the stalk and leave the kale in larger pieces.

The chips keep really well in an airtight container just make sure the container is perfectly dry.

Basic kale chips

Roughly 120g of kale is enough for 1 baking tray. If using method number 1, cooking kale chips at higher temperature, start checking them after about 5 min, I remove the ones that are done and put back in the oven and check again in 2 min. My oven has heat spots so I don’t ever get all the chips perfectly cooked at one time. Also smaller pieces will obviously cook first.The lower heat method takes longer of course, but you are less likely to burn them.


kale ready for oven:

kale-on-tray
makes one baking tray of chips:

ingredients

120g(about 4 oz) kale, stripped away from stalks, torn into roughly same size pieces
1/2Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

method:

1 Preheat the oven ( see step 4 and 5). Wash the kale pieces and spin them dry in a salad spinner.
2 Place the kale into a bowl large enough to hold all the kale. Add the oil and salt. Mix well.
3 Line a baking tray with grease proof paper. Place the kale on the baking sheet in a single layer.
4 Method 1: Bake in 180C oven for about 10 min. Start checking after 5 min. Take out any pieces that are done, they should have no moisture in them and will be crisp all over, not burnt. Place the rest back into the oven and check every 2 min.
5 Method 2: Bake in 150C oven for about 25min. Again check after 10min, and keep checking in 5 min intervals.

Salt and vinegar kale chips

Prepare as above just add 1 Tbs of apple cider or white wine vinegar at the same time as olive oil and salt.

Chips ready to eat:


kale-chips
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Whopper my way

Whopper my way

Burger King introduced a new burger, 966 calories and 58g of fat. Exactly what we need, more fat, more burger, more bacon, I do hope it is served with a side order of statins and a syringe of adrenalin just in case the diners need to kick start their heart. New staff training manual should include how to use a defibrillator and every fast food branch rather keep one on site ready to go.

Here is one of my much healthier burgers, it is made with lentils and carrots. Doesn’t sound very exciting right? But behold my son said said it was LUSH and made me promise he can have the leftover one in his lunch box tomorrow. He wants it topped with the celeriac remoulade too. Better put a reminder into my phone....

Healthy veggie burger is a fantastic vessel for hidden vegetables, and if prepared in advance, quick and easy school night meal. They freeze great, before or after cooking, so think in advance or store the leftovers. If freezing from uncooked, line a tray that will fit into your freezer with a greaseproof paper or cling film, put the burgers on top, in a single layer. When frozen solid put into a freezer proof bag. You can cook the from frozen, add 5 min on top of the recommended cooking time.

IMG_0775

Roasted carrot burgers with celeriac remoulade
The size of your burgers will depend on the size of your bun, so shape them accordingly. Nobody likes a small burger in a large bun, and the other way things get a bit too messy. My burger buns were on the small size, therefore I ended up with 8 burgers. If you are making 4 burgers allow extra 5 minutes in the oven.

When cooking the lentils try to cook out all the water, towards the end of cooking make sure to stir if you don’t want to end up with lentils stuck to the bottom of your pot. I chop my onion in a food processor, quicker and no tears as with the grating. Change your blades and grate your celeriac in a food processor too.

The best thing about making these burgers is, that since they do not contain any animal products, you can always taste them for seasoning without the fear of food poisoning.

ingredients:
the burgers:
450g (1lb) carrots, cleaned
1tsp olive oil
200g (1 Cup) red lentils
550ml/21/4 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped very small or grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 TBS cumin
salt and pepper to taste
50 g bread crumbs
whole wheat burger buns
lettuce leaves torn into manageable pieces

the remoulade
1 celeriac, peeled and grated
1 heaped Tbs whole grain Dijon mustard
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 heaped Tbs dairy free mayonnaise
salt + pepper to taste

method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Cut your carrots into 1 inch chunks. Add 1 tsp of olive oil and using your hands mix well making sure all carrot pieces are covered with oil.
  2. Line a baking sheet with grease proof baking paper, put carrots on top of it and roast them in the oven for 30-40 min, until the carrots start caramelising along the edges and are quite tender when pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool.
  3. While the carrots are roasting, cook the lentils. Bring them to boil (no salt) and reduce the heat. Make sure the lentils are just simmering, otherwise the water will evaporate before they become tender. This will take about 15min. Check on the lentils, if there is still too much water, cook a bit longer stirring constantly until most water is gone. Put into a bowl and set aside. Any residual liquid will be absorbed while the lentils are cooling.
  4. When the carrots are cooled chopped them in a food processor. Aim for a very small pieces, not a carrot mash, you do want some texture.
  5. Mix the carrots, lentils, onions, cumin, seasoning and breadcrumbs together. Shape into 8 burgers. You can refrigerate them at this stage.
  6. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof baking paper, place the burgers on top and bake for 30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.
  7. While the burgers are cooking make the remoulade. Just mix all the ingredients together, taste for more lemon juice or seasoning.
  8. To assemble burger, put a little bit or remoulade on the bottom of the bun, some lettuce leaves, burger and top with a large dollop of the remoulade. Last but not least the top half of your bun. Serve.




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Type 2 denial

TYPE 2 DENIAL

There is no doubt Type 2 diabetes is sweeping the world, as I learn at college yesterday, there are about 180, 000, 000 cases worldwide. 90% of those are Type 2 diabetes. As Type 1 means a lifetime insulin injections, Type 2 can be, in most cases, prevented, managed and even reversed.

I was always aware that this is a very serious condition, but my lecturer opened my eyes to just how serious it really is. Complications are numerous, heart failure, stroke, loss of feeling to extremities (which often lead to amputation), kidney failure and loss of eyesight. Photos of leg ulcers and gangrene would put anyone off. These are risks everybody should be aware off.

Unfortunately people are still in denial, just google Paula Dean and diabetes, the queen of American high calorie high fat cooking, who still will not admit her diet could have anything to do with her diagnosis. On the other hand, doctors like Neil Barnard, John McDougall or Michael Klapper have had amazing results treating this disease with diet only for many years.

Where the “western diet” and fastfood chains go diabetes Type 2 follows. China and Japan are seeing rise of cases. I think we have to take a step back, take a long look on our diet and lifestyle and act. Prevention is always better than cure.



QUINOA AND BULGUR WHEAT SALAD
I have cheated here and bought a pack of quinoa and bulgur wheat mix, very convenient. You can mix your own, half and half, 4-2 whatever you fancy. In that case however cook the grains separately, drain and mix together. I am not a great fan of raw tomatoes but I can imagine a few halved cherry tomatoes would go wonderfully with this recipe.

I have used dairy free Plamil mayo, which is more tart in flavour that regular mayonnaise. Red peppers are from a jar, preserved in brine not oil.

quinoa

ingredients
250g pack of quinoa and bulgur wheat mix
2 roasted red peppers, from a jar
3 Tbs of dairy free mayonnaise
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 carrot, grated
1 small red onion, finely chopped
half a cucumber, chopped into 1cm dice
15 olives, halved
2 Tbs parsley

method
  1. Cook the grains according to package instruction. My mix took only 10 min. Drain, rinse under cool running water. Make sure all water drips out.
  2. For the dressing, in a blender (or small food processor) blend together red peppers, mayo and vinegar, pausing to scrape the sides.
  3. Mix the dressing into your cooled grains.
  4. Add the carrot, cucumber, olives and parsley.
  5. Serve as it is, or mix with green baby leaves.

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Give sprouts a chance

GIVE SPROUTS A CHANCE

Poor brussel sprouts, they have a very bad reputation, nobody seems to like them. They are only put on English tables at Christmas and that is only due to tradition. Everybody seems to blame them for after Christmas dinner flatulence (I guess nothing to do with the thousands of calories eaten in one setting). They are boiled to death, endured and quickly forgotten for another year.

Brussel sprouts do need an image change. I think they are rather pretty, mini little cabbages, green gems you could say. They definitely are nutritional gems. Powerful anticancer food, full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they promote heart health, have anti-inflammatory properties and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. A lot of power in this small vegetable.

No, I am not expecting a major brussel sprout revolution, however they do deserve to be on our plates more often. Please give sprouts a chance.

BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH APPLES AND WALNUTS

Slicing the brussel sprouts thinly is a very clever way of preparation. Not only they cook very fast, but they do take on a whole new identity, you may even forget what you are eating. The apple juice counteracts any of the bitterness making this a very fresh and tasty side dish. Allow about 7-10 sprouts per person ( I am talking adults here), after all veg should be half of our plate.

IMG_0669

ingredients
40 brussel sprouts, discard any discoloured outer leaves and the stem, slice thinly
100 ml apple juice (preferably fresh juice, not from concentrate)
2 large apples, cut into matchsticks
handful of walnuts (can be toasted)

method
  1. In a sauce pan heat the apple juice, add the sliced sprouts, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 5 min. Test if tender enough for your taste.
  2. Add the apple and heat through.
  3. Mix in the walnuts and serve.
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Is it rice or is it pasta

IS IT RICE OR IS IT PASTA?

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 oinion. 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.
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Are we having tofu, really?

ARE WE HAVING TOFU, REALLY??!!

Those were my daughter’s exact words as she proceeded to jump up and down with excitement asking me for a slice of plain tofu. No, I am not bragging about my daughter being a superior healthy food loving child. She is definitely not but tofu (or as she use to call it TOFOOD) is definitely one of her favourites. Paired with noodles, two happy kids in the house, without too much effort.

Like Nigella I get rather excited about finding new ingredients in food shops of any kind, sometimes gems can be found during a regular shop to a supermarket, but I do love to visit ethic shops, health food shops, delis and markets. One of my latest finds (in a supermarket) was a bottle of vegetarian oyster sauce. Perfect for tonight’s dinner.

tofu-noodles

TOFU AND BROCCOLI NOODLES

My kids are chilli phobic, my husband not overly keen, so there is no chilli in this recipe but if I was making this for myself I would add some chilli to the ginger +garlic step. At least there is the option of adding some chilli sauce at the table...

I have used whole wheat eggless noodles but any other noodles will be great. There are so many fab noodles on the market, brown rice, buckwheat, green tea.... the possibilities are endless.

Serves 4

ingredients
for the tofu
1 package of firm tofu
1 Tbs each ketjap manis (or dark soya sauce), light soya sauce, agave syrup, ketchup
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 large head of broccoli, separated into florets, cut in half lengthways if too large
200 g whole wheat eggless Chinese style noodles
1/2Tbs rapeseed (canola) oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs ginger, finely chopped
5 spring onions, white parts thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
5 Tbs veggie oyster sauce
2 Tbs light soya sauce
1/2 cup cashews, dry roasted

method
  1. Preheat oven to 190 C. Cut the tofu into bite size pieces. In a bowl combine the soya sauces, ketchup, agave and sesame oil.
  2. Line a roasting sheet with baking paper, place the tofu on it in a single layer, and bake for about 20 min or until the tofu starts to caramelise on the edges.
  3. Steam broccoli for 3-4 min to crisp tender. Set aside.
  4. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok, add spring onions, ginger and garlic. Stir fry for a minute. Add the red bell pepper, stir fry for a minute.
  6. Add the broccoli, tofu and noodles. Next put in the sauces, heat through. If the noodles seem too dry add few tablespoons of water.
  7. Scatter with cashew nuts and serve.
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The warm spicy feeling

THE WARM SPICY FEELING

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.

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Get up stand up, stand up for your hummus

GET UP STAND UP, STAND UP FOR YOUR HUMMUS

Last week many newspapers printed a very similar article about hummus being a high calorie snack. World Cancer Research Fund was concerned about us being misinformed and lacking knowledge of what is a high calorie food. Of course high calorie foods contribute to obesity and thus cancer and other diseases. Hummus was branded one of the bad boys at some 332cal per 100g (half a supermarket pot). For comparison a jam doughnut has about 252 calories per 100g. I am not sure which hummus WCRF is talking about but I found calorie count from 177 to up to 317 for plain hummus.

Now hummus is a very ancient fellow. First recipe dates all the way to 13th century and I doubt it was a cause of obesity in 13th century Egypt. It is a very nutritious snack, containing iron, Vitamin C, B6, folate, fibre, calcium and protein (unlike the jam doughnut). I know which I would choose, I swear I will always love hummus no matter what bad press it (unjustly) gets.

You should read nutritional labels if you are concerned about the calorie content of your food, or you can just make your own hummus. It is easy chickpeasy.

SMOKEY BUTTERNUT SQUASH HUMMUS

I make all of my hummus without the olive oil. Omitting mere 2 Tbs of olive oil saves you 238 calories and 17g of fat per recipe. But by all means add couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to this recipe if you want to. This explains why my photograph is not all shiny as most pictures of hummus are as they get drizzled with olive oil. Looks good in a photo but I prefer to eat mine without the oil.

You can use this hummus as a spread or dip, but warmed up it replaces mashed potatoes beautifully.

ingredients
1/2 (about 400g) butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs (heaped) Tahini
1 tin of hummus, drained liquid reserved
1 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
juice of 1 lemon
more smoked paprika to sprinkle on top

method
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Place butternut squash chunks in a roasting pan add the half tablespoon of olive oil and with your hands mix thoroughly. Season with salt. Roast for about 30min until edges of butternut squash start to caramelise and are soft when pierced with a skewer. Let the squash cool down.
  2. In a food processor combine the squash, chickpeas, garlic, paprika, lemon juice and salt. Add some of the reserved liquid.
  3. Process till smooth adding more liquid if needed.
  4. Transfer to a serving, bowl sprinkle with more paprika and enjoy.

Humus 1
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The big pantry cleanup

THE BIG PANTRY CLEAN UP

In an ideal world I would have a large walking pantry with shelves on all walls, food organised and clearly visible, but I guess I would loose the excitement of finding things I forgot I had... January pantry clean up it is, everything out, shelves cleaned... No I will not lie to you I am a self confessed food hoarder, I love never to be caught short when it comes to cooking a meal. There are always many options and possibilities. Red lentils, Puy lentils, brown lentils, mung beans, chickpeas dried, tinned beans of all varieties,tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, salsa, coconut milk(both cooking and drinking one), almond milk, dried mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, dried ancho and chipotle chilies, sea weed, wasabi powder, brown rice, sushi rice, wild rice, red rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, oats, wholemeal macaroni, penne and orzo, barley couscous, wheat couscous, spelt flour, gram flour, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, agave syrup, date syrup and the list goes on.

For the next week I have decided to make my meals mostly from what is in the pantry and use the things that I forgot I had like my wonderful Egyptian broad beans. Hopefully this will give me more space, cut down this week’s food bill and fill me with a sense of accomplishment...

After this mornings efforts my pantry is looking much tidier, kids last year’s Halloween candy sorted out (shh!), piece of dark chocolate tested for freshness, all half opened bags of cashews poured together and now I am very excited about my next week’s culinary endeavours.
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How sweet is it?



After eating at a new all you can eat buffet restaurant (yummy curry!) I didn’t expect my friend D would want to hold me to my promise that next time she’d come over I would make her my date/almond balls. Promise is a promise and that is why even with a full tummy (while my Earl Grey was brewing) I put a batch together.

To be honest these morsels of yumminess have been my most requested recipe. Those who taste them want to make them. They are perfect snack if you fancy something sweet. Dates are after all nature’s candy. With the help of a food processor they are incredibly easy and quick to make. I always have a huge bag of almonds in the freezer and Medjool dates in my pantry so there is never an excuse not to roll a few up.



DATE AND ALMOND BALLS

If you are using almonds from your freezer do defrost them first, it takes about half an hour, not only this will make the work easier on the food processor but the balls seem to come together better too. I store the balls in an airtight container in the fridge, they firm up a bit. If you don’t like coconut you can also use sesame seeds to roll the balls in.

ingredients

1 cup /250ml almonds
7-8 Mejdool dates, stones removed
1/2 cup/125 ml shredded coconut

method

  1. In a food processor grind the almonds, make sure the pieces keep some texture (about bulghur wheat size). You don’t want to end up with almond flour.
  2. Add the dates and process until mixture starts to come together. Test it but squeezing some of the mixture together, it should hold its shape.
  3. With wet hands make walnut size balls and roll them in the coconut.
  4. Chill in the fridge if you can wait.

Date Balls

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The root of the soup

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

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

Root

MULTI ROOT SOUP WITH RED LENTILS

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

serves 4-6

ingredients

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

method

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

Soup 1

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My number one

After surrendering to a few mince pies and chocolates over the festive period it is time indeed to get back on track. Not that I couldn’t do with losing a few pounds but the mission is to feel great on the outside and keep the 10 trillion cells inside happy and functioning to their full potential. And yes I want to enjoy the food I eat too, because eating is what many people say I live for.

So here is my first recipe on the Plant Strong Living blog. It could only be an aubergine dish, it is inspired loosely by one I ate at a sushi restaurant in London. I did ask for the recipe but the waiter informed me that the sauce comes from Japan... not a very detailed description. I believe that my version is great, if only judging from the swiftness with which it always seems to disappear.

AUBERGINE SALAD WITH MISO DRESSING

For an oil free version, steam the aubergines. This recipes serves 4 if part of a Japanese style meal. On its own 2. For a more substantial meal toss with some cooked cooled soba noodles for a fabulous noodle salad. The chiili pepper can be omitted for a milder version of the dish.

Make sure your aubergines are cooked well, they should be squishy with no give to a fork. Undercooked aubergine is just plain nasty and quite undigestible.

ingredients

2 medium aubergines, cut into 2-3cm cubes
1 tbs of oil (olive or rapeseed)
2 heaped Tbs brown rice miso
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
4 Tbs mirin
1tsp agave nectar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 clove of garlic, minced
5 spring onions, sliced
1 red chili pepper, sliced (for less heat deseed and finely chopped)
2 Tbs sesame seeds

method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the aubergine in a roasting dish or a baking sheet with edges, large enough to the aubergine pieces in a single layer. Drizzle the oil over the aubergine, using your hands toss the aubergines in the oil until all pieces coated.
  2. Roast the aubergine in the oven for about 25 min till starting to brown and the aubergine pieces are soft and squishy when pressed. Let the aubergine cool down.
  3. For the dressing, in a small bowl, mix together the miso, vinegar, mirin and garlic. If too thick thin it out the dressing with a few tablespoons of water.
  4. Place the aubergine into a bowl and pour dressing over the aubergine, making sure all pieces are well coated.
  5. Next add the spring onions and chile pepper. Toss together.
  6. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over and serve.

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