cashews

STEAM FRIED SPRING GREENS (COLLARDS) WITH RED PEPPER AND CASHEWS

STEAM FRIED SPRING GREENS (COLLARDS) WITH RED PEPPER AND CASHEWS

Mexico, as it was announced today, overtook the USA in the obesity race. Mexico is now the most obese developed nation with 32.8% of people classified as obese. That is every 3rd person! Not overweight but obese! I was surprised the country of my birth, the Czech Republic, is occupying the 12th position. The UK (together with Russia) is 23rd, a surprise, I thought it would fare much worse.

Looking around me I don’t believe that the UK’s obesity crisis has improved. I think that unfortunately the nations above the UK have simply managed to get even worse over the last several years. The WHO (World Health Organisation) numbers show that some 35% of the world’s population is overweighed and 11% obese (these are 2008 numbers, probably higher today). Even more worryingly 40 million of children (under 5!) were overweight in 2011. More people die from being overweight and obese than from being underweight.

Couple days ago my kids and I walked up to the local playground and I couldn’t help noticing that out of 6 adults 3 were obese. Not overweighed, not needing to shed couple pounds, but obese. Luckily none of the kids were. This is becoming the norm.

What are some of the recommendations from the WHO?


  • limit energy intake from total fats and sugars
  • increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts (I call this plant based diet!)
  • engage in regular physical activity

See it’s a no-brainer (I know it’s not always that simple). My recipe fits perfectly within the WHO guidelines and is the tastiest way to cook spring greens I have made so far :)

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/news/america-fattest-obese-un-144341236.html


springgreensteamfry

STEAM FRIED SPRING GREENS WITH RED PEPPER AND CASHEWS
If you are feeding more people just add another bunch of greens

Serves 2

ingredients

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or I whole green garlic when in season)
1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
1 large red chilli (mild)
1 ramiro pepper (or red bell pepper)
1 large bunch of spring greens (collards), washed and shredded, tough stalks removed
1 tbs sweet soya sauce (ketjap manis)
handful of cashews

method
  1. In a wok heat 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Cook for 5 min till softened. Add more water if needed.
  2. Next, add the pepper and saute for 5 min till softened. Again add more water if needed.
  3. Add the spring greens and another 60ml of water.
  4. Cook for 5-10 min, or until most water evaporates. This depends how soft you like your greens.
  5. Add soy sauce and cashews. Cook for further 1 min.
  6. Serve with brown rice, quinoa or noodles.
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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
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FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

Christmas presents wrapped. Fridge and pantry bursting with food. The house is looking very festive. We are ready for some chilling, celebrating, eating and socializing. Christmas Eve day will be all about cooking for the evening. I love spending hours in the kitchen, pots on the cooker, gorgeous smells coming out of the oven. No rush. Yes I cook loads on Christmas Eve and just reheat and scoop on Christmas Day. Just as we did at home.

Kids love it, they can enjoy their presents without much of an interaction, me and my husband love it as we can spend time with them. And there are no mountains of dishes to wash and no feeling too stuffed to move. Perfect.

If you are still struggling to decide what to make for a veggie festive meal here is an idea. My stuffed peppers or if you prefer individual squashes. Nuts and cranberries with a hint of orange make a perfect festive combination! To make it easier, you can go for a wild rice mix, however those are usually made with white rice. I prefer brown rice therefore I went ahead with cooking my own wild and brown rice separately. The sauce is so yummy, my daughter said she could drink it! I will admit there was a bit of a fight over the last spoonful. it feels very luxurious. The best thing this meal will not make you feel heavy at all. Enough room for pudding.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xmas-stuffed-peppers


FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

Serves 4-6

stuffed peppers/squashes
80g (1/2cup) wild rice
90g (1/2 cup) brown basmati rice
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 tsp dried thyme (2 tsp fresh)
60g (1/2 cup) macadamia nut halves
60g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries
40g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds
1 orange, zest and juice
3 large bell peppers, red or yellow
or 4 small squashes

marsala cream sauce
125ml (1/2 cup) Marsala wine
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs tomato puree
sprig of fresh thyme
125mml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock
70g (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
250ml (1 cup) water

baby spinach 100g per person

  1. Cook the wild rice and brown rice according to package instructions in separate sauce pans.
  2. If you are using squash, slice the tops of and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Wrap them in some aluminium foil, leaving the top opening exposed. Place in a 180C oven for 30min.
  3. Next prepare the stuffing.
  4. In frying or saute pan heat about 60g (1/4c) water, add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and thyme. Saute till softened about 10min, adding more water if needed. Place in a bowl.
  5. Add the nuts, cranberries, juice and zest of the orange and both the wild and brown rice. Mix together.
  6. If using peppers, cut them in half lengthways, remove the core, membranes and seeds.
  7. Stuffed the peppers, try to get couple of flaked almonds or macadamias on the top.
  8. Place the peppers in a baking dish, add 80ml (1/3cup) of water to the dish, cover with aluminium foil and bake for 25min at 180C. Uncover and bake further 5min to get the nuts on top browned.
  9. If using the squash: after baking them for 30 min remove from the oven, stuff and cover in aluminium foil. Place back into the oven and bake for 20 min, uncover and bake further 5 min.
  10. While the peppers or squash are baking prepare the sauce. In a medium saute pan, bring the Marsala wine to simmer, add the thinly sliced onion and a thyme sprig. Cover and cook for about 20min or until the onions are soft.
  11. Add the tomato puree, cook for 1 min. Next add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer. Switch the heat off.
  12. In a high speed blender combine the onion mixture (thyme and all), cashews and water. Process till smooth. Pour back into the sauce pan and bring to a boil, turn down and let the sauce thicken, adjust seasoning. Don’t let this cook too long the sauce will thicken too quickly.
  13. Wilt the spinach in a large saute pan.
  14. Place a portion of spinach on the plate, top with the pepper and pour some sauce around (or over the top of the pepper). If serving the squash, serve the spinach on the side.
  15. Enjoy :)

xmas-stuffedpumpkin


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BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

My son enjoys a cup of tea with me. We get my teapot, some loose white or green tea (I have quite a collection), let it brew, pour and of course we sip and enjoy. The other day, holding a cup of tea, he told his sister : “You should drink green tea too, people who drink 3 cups of green tea a day get less cancer”. It made me laugh. Where did he get the information from? I guess my shouting out latest health headlines at everybody has made some impact after all.

There are many strategies how to get kids eating healthy. Everybody has an opinion. When my daughter was going through an extra picky period I even had the recommendation of just making her eat it. Too controlling! Making food fun? Honestly I am not into making faces out of fruit and veggies. I did try making start charts and giving rewards. We even had a colour coded chart to make sure she would eat a rainbow. It worked for a while but slowly she seemed to care less and less.

Last year, when I was studying Biomedicine for my course, my daughter got very interested in the human body and especially cells and the immune system. We had to watch lots of Youtube videos of cells dividing, immune cells gobbling up invaders and blood cells gushing through veins and arteries.

This gave me an idea. I started to explain to her how healthy food makes our cells happy. I tell her what nutrients she is getting from her food and what they do inside her body. I also mention the bad stuff, how harmful certain foods can be. The other day, on my computer, she saw picture of foods that cause cancer v foods that protect from cancer. It sure made an impression on her. Maybe kids need to know exactly why we want them to eat health giving foods. Saying: “because it is good for you” doesn’t seem to cut it. And we need to lead by example! Kids do learn from us.

Admittedly all is not perfect, she will still rather have a piece of chocolate than a carrot, but she has been trying new fruits and veggies lately in a rate that I have not seen before. Did I finally find a strategy that works?

While making this broccoli and cauliflower bake I didn’t think she would eat much of it. Perhaps the broccoli. The sauce? Only is she didn’t know that a pepper was in it...I was setting myself for a fall. On top of it all she decided to help me cook. Oh no! I couldn't just hide the pepper in the sauce! She did watch with great interest the red pepper’s skin getting blacker and blacker on the flame. She helped me make the sauce. She helped me pour it onto the veggies and sprinkle pine nuts on top of the bake. And to my surprise she ate cauliflower and scraped the rest of the pepper sauce out of the dish. Success!!!

broccolicauliflower-bake

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

Serves 4

ingredients
1 red pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 medium cauliflower
150g (5 oz) of silken tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
125ml (1/2 cup) water
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs pine nuts

method
  1. Roast the pepper. You can do it directly over the flame (I use a large metal skewer to make it easier to hold the pepper) or roasted under a grill (broiler) or simply in the oven until the skin is blackened and blistered. Make sure you prick the pepper with a skewer or a tip of the knife to prevent it exploding.
  2. When the skin on the pepper is blistered place it in a bowl and cover with cling film, this will create steam making it easier to peel the pepper. Remove the seeds.
  3. Next steam the cauliflower and broccoli. I prefer to do them separately since the cauliflower takes longer to cook. Aim for about 6 min for cauliflower, 4 min for broccoli.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking place the peeled and deseeded roasted red pepper, tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast into a blender and process till smooth. Add more water if too thick, you want sauce that is little bit thinner than the classic bechamel sauce.
  5. Place the broccoli and cauliflower into a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for 30min or until golden brown on top. Serve.

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CELERIAC AND PEAR SALAD WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

CELERIAC AND PEAR SALAD WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

This study weekend we more or less scratched the surface of our body’s biochemistry. Everybody’s head was spinning. Complicated it is indeed but also unbelievably fascinating. As I comfortably sit here writing this blog thousands of biochemical reactions are happening in my body. DNA is zipped and unzipped, transcribed and copied, proteins are formed, enzymes are working hard at speeding up chemical processes, energy is being produced and stored... We are quietly unaware of the amazing work happening beneath the surface.

To do all this efficiently your body needs the right type of fuel. Just like a car. Luckily the damage may not happen as quickly as when you put unleaded into your diesel car. It is never too late or too early to make improvements to our eating habits. Healthy balanced diet will make for a healthy efficient body. That’s what I keep telling my kids (and they occasionally make that pretend yawn when I do! GRRR!).

Getting kids eat a balanced diet can be a challenge at times. My son did mention one of his friends survived school camp eating plain pasta and chips (oh and one chicken leg). As I have mentioned in my previous blogs my daughter is not great with her vegetables. Therefore I jump for joy whenever she takes liking to something she previously didn’t like or refused to try. She helped me make todays recipe. During the preparation I encouraged her to try the pear (she always “hated” pears) and the celeriac (she has never even attempted to try it). To my surprise she exclaimed she loved the pears! And indeed she ate a whole one the very next day. The celeriac was not such a raving success but when dipped into the cashew cream it went down rather well. I am happy to say she ate a portion of the salad with her dinner. Another step forward:)

celeriacpearsalad

CELERIAC AND PEAR SALAD WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

The recipe for lime coriander cashew cream will yield more than you need (it is difficult to process smaller amounts), it will keep in the fridge for couple of days, great as a topping for a soup.

Serves 4-6 as a side salad

ingredients

250ml (1 cup) cashews soaked in water for at least 30min.
125ml - 160ml (1/2-2/3 cup) water
juice of 1 and 1/2 limes
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1 small celeriac (celery root) - or as in my case half of a very big one, peeled
2 asian pears (or any other pears that are not too soft), peeled
salt and pepper

celeriacpearsalad2

method
  1. First make your dressing. Drain the cashews from their soaking liquid. Put cashews and 125mo (1/2 of water) into the blender. Blend till smooth. If the mixture is too thick add more water.
  2. Transfer the cashew cream to a bowl and add the lime juice and coriander. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare your vegetables. You can just grate the vegetables in a food processor or using a box grater. I used my mandolin to slice the celeriac into super thin slices and julienned these with a knife. The pear I sliced with a knife and julienned. :)
  4. Mix with some of the dressing. I used about 2/3 of the quantity.
  5. Chill until ready to serve. The salad taste even better the next day.

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PINK WHEAT BERRY RISOTTO

PINK WHEAT BERRY RISOTTO

Every October I get slightly uneasy about the sea of pink ribbons everywhere. You simply can’t escape Pink October, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Seems a worthy cause, and in many ways it is, but I still feel uneasy. I worked in a breast cancer screening clinic and saw the enthusiasm and believe in the cause in everybody who worked there. On the other hand I also saw a close relative being called back (twice!) for further tests after her mammogram was "abnormal". All turned out fine, however the stress, fear and agony caused by this was immense. The scientist at Cochrane institute have reviewed countless screening programs and based on the results the prestigious Lancet came to this conclusion: "there is no reliable evidence from large randomised trials to support screening mammography at any age."

I am all for making women aware of breast cancer symptoms. With breast cancer accounting for 1/3 of female cancers in the UK this is very important. On the other hand I don’t like the fact that this might be just a case of having excellent PR. While breast cancer takes the spotlight are we forgetting about all the other cancers and chronic diseases? Are they somehow less important or less dangerous?

The talk is about finding the cure, and indeed most of the money raised will find its way to pharmaceutical companies (not that they are strapped for cash). Why isn’t money going to cancer prevention, educating women about making the right choices? Making them aware not only of signs and symptoms but also lifestyle changes that may prevent this dreadful disease. This surely would be a huge step forward. Most women seem to believe it is all in their genes, however this is the case of only 5-10% of breast cancer cases, the rest is lifestyle induced. But even our genes are not infallible, Dr Ornish’s research has shown that plant based diet can alter the expression of some 400 genes.

Need some lifestyle tips? Check out these strategies from Dr Fuhrman (
http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/prevent_breast_cancer.aspx )

I will be staying away from the pink ribbon products as many of them do not quite promote the lifestyle choices for cancer prevention. Anyone for jaffa cakes, mayonnaise or Lucozade in the name of breast cancer? Profits and marketing? These do not address the real issue. However to honour the women (and men) who have died, survived or are battling breast cancer I have created a delicious pink recipe. It is loaded with cancer fighting beetroot, onions and garlic. I served it with my kale and mango salad, so rich in powerful phytochemicals. (
http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog/files/505c1c9a50e75f3ec9aa905b4d268494-99.html ).

pinkwheatberry2

PINK WHEAT BERRY RISOTTO
Serve 4

ingredients

200g (1 cup) wheatberries
750ml (3 cups) vegetable stock (or water)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 medium beetroot (beets), cooked and diced
125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock
125ml measure (1/2 cup) cashews soaked and drained
250ml (1 cup) water
juice of half a lime
3 Tbs parsley, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper

pinkwheatberry

method
  1. First cook the wheatberries in the stock for 25min or according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan heat up 60ml (1/4cup) water. Add the onion and garlic and saute till softened.
  3. Add the diced beetroot, wheat berries and the 125ml (1/2cup) vegetable stock and gently heat mixing the ingredients well.
  4. In your food processor make the cashew cream by blending the 1/2cup of cashews and 1 cup of water.
  5. Pour the cashew cream into the wheat berry mixture and simmer till the dish is thick and creamy. This will take about 5 min. Stir constantly.
  6. Stir in the lime juice, parsley and black pepper.
  7. Serve with a green salad on the side. (See my kale salad recommendation above)


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BLACK BEAN STEW WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

BLACK BEAN STEW WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

Sometimes I stand in front of my fridge or pantry and can’t think of anything to cook. My daughter was standing beside me and said: “Mum, there is pasta, there are lentils; if you have rice you can make that rice and lentil thing we all like. Or I can have giant couscous and you guys have something with chilli...” Simple.

My vegetable box is arriving tomorrow and that is why my fridge veg drawers are looking rather pathetic. One pepper, 2 bunches of celery (what do I do with those???), half a bag of spinach, some fresh turmeric, piece of ginger, chilli peppers and a quarter of hispi cabbage. I have to mention the lovely kale my friend gave me (a much appreciated present indeed), it did already find its way into the dehydrator to be turned into kale chips - I think I have developed a case of kale chips addiction. In my pantry I found 2 tins of shiny South American black beans asking to be transformed into a yummy dish. The wheels in my brain started to turn (squeak squeak) and a lovely spicy black bean stew started to take shape.

Did you know that in Brazil black beans hold its own spot on the country’s food pyramid? The people of Brazil are recommended to eat black beans each day. One rather brilliant idea! Dr Fuhrman also includes beans (legumes) in his G-BOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, seeds and berries) the magic foods that everyone should be eating daily for optimum health. We know that beans are rich in protein, fibre, minerals such as iron but did you know that also contain antioxidants? Apparently they are as rich in antioxidants as cranberries! And yummy too!

blackbenastew

BLACK BEAN STEW WITH CASHEW LIME CREAM

ingredients
the stew
1 large celery stick, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 red chilli peppers, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cut up into pieces about the size of beans
11/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp thyme dried or 1tbs fresh
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs tomato paste (puree)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tins of black beans, drained
375ml (1 and 1/2 vegetable stock)
100g (3.5 oz) fresh baby spinach
the lime cream
1 cup cashews soaked for at least 30min
1/2 and 1Tbs water
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp dried onion
salt to taste

blackbeanstewtortilla

method
  1. In a large deep saute pan heat 60ml (1/4) water. Add the celery, onion, garlic, chilli pepper and saute till softened. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add in the red pepper, spices, herbs and tomato puree. Cook for a minute.
  3. Next add the drained black beans and vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour.
  5. While the stew is simmering prepare the cream. Drain the cashew nuts. Place them in a blender together with 1/2 cup and 1 Tbs water, lime juice and dried onion.
  6. Process till smooth, test for seasoning. Chill until needed.
  7. Stir the spinach into the bean stew until it just wilts and serve the stew straight away.
  8. Serve the bean stew topped with 2 Tbs of lime cream per person. Brown rice or quinoa make a great side dish, kids will love some organic tortilla chips too.

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NUMBER ONE FOR THE CHINA STUDY/ BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

NUMBER ONE FOR THE CHINA STUDY/ BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

The Huffington Post recently asked readers to vote for the best health book out of 50 chosen titles. I was jumping with joy when I found The China Study by T.Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell occupying the number one spot.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/09/best-health-books-huff-po_n_1862250.html

http://www.thechinastudy.com/


Reading The China Study was indeed a turning point for me. Go back 2 years: I am watching a Man V Food episode with my kids. (They both find it rather entertaining with my daughter shouting GO ADAM GO whenever Adam Richman is battling just another heap of meat, cheese, grease and white flour. ) My son casually says that he would like to eat meat. Shock horror!!! My kids have been vegetarians from birth. To be honest I always expected this question to pop up but I hoped it would not. Especially since I always maintain that should my kids decide to eat meat I would allowed them to do it. Not without a bit of education first.

That evening I stormed the internet and searched for “the healthiest diet”. I am not sure what I was expecting to find. As if by magic the first thing that popped up was The China Study. Not long after reading the article two copies of the book were in my Amazon basket (my friend’s birthday was coming up). I read it immediately and never looked back. Indeed my vegetarianism was confirmed and more. The dairy had to go too.

Professor Campbell is, along with other plant based diet promoters, often accused of “vegan agenda” by his critics. The diet he promotes is however a result of decades of sound research. His (and other researches') findings lead him to the conclusion that diet without animal proteins is the best way to prevent chronic disease.

My son is old enough to understand charts from this book and together with few You Tube videos this was convincing enough for him to vow never to eat meat and reduce dairy (not 100% but he is doing great). My daughter still likes cooking shows but anytime she sees meat being cooked she utters “poor chicken, cow, fish....” They may still change their minds one day but we are safe for now.

My recipe stems from one that used to be my kids favourite, baked mac and cheese. I have posted a recipe “mac and whizz” before , these two recipes are similar, with mac and whizz being the speedier version. Baked mac and (no) cheese has tofu added to the sauce which makes it more suitable for baking. It souffles and browns nicely. I also added some crunchy topping to make it extra special.

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE
This recipe serves a crowd, so please feel free to halve everything (but the butternut squash). I am always happy to serve it twice, just with different veggies on the side. Makes a great potluck dish too.

bakedmacandcheese

Serves 8

ingredients
500g (1lb 6oz) whole wheat macaroni
sauce
1 cup of cashew nuts
3 water
250 g tofu (preferably silken)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and steamed till soft (or roasted)
2 tsp onion powder
3/4tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white or yellow miso
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped Tbs nutritional yeast
squeeze of lemon to taste
crumb topping
60ml (1/4cup) pine nuts
2 tbs nutritional yeast
3 Tbs bread crumbs

bakedmacandcheese2

method
  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions.
  2. In a food processor combine all the sauce ingredients and process till you get a smooth thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Mix the pasta and sauce and pour into a large baking dish.
  4. Next place the pine nuts into a food processor and pulse until you get bread crumb texture.
  5. Mix with the nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for about 30-40min or until the top is golden brown.

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KNOWLEDGE IS POWER / KALE KOFTAS WITH SPICED TOMATO SAUCE

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER / 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.


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EVEN FRENCH WOMEN GET FAT

EVEN FRENCH WOMEN GET FAT

Back from our holiday in Disneyland Paris. We all had a blast and kids wanted to stay at least another five days. I must admit that even before we left for Disneyland I was already dreading the food. Not much understanding of veggie needs in France. Indeed I have returned with a bout of my irritable bowl syndrome which has been a very rare occasion over the last year and a half... Not sure whether it was the much richer food, less fibre or just the stress of a long tiring drive (and I was just the passenger).

Do you remember the book
“French Woman Don’t Get Fat” ? Well, I have to report that they certainly do. I am sure we all have an image of Marion Cotillard type woman in her Channel suit, elegantly lifting a Gitane to her Dior adorned lips while talking about French literature with her charming scarf wearing male companion. None of that in Disneyland. And yes French women, men and especially children are getting larger too. All around the world we seem to be on a slippery slope. I could not believe a young boy I saw in our hotel (about 14). His family were visiting the park from the Middle East. He was so large that he struggled to walk, his breathing was laboured and he was sweating profusely. It was painful to see. This was not a rare sight.

Interestingly in the Middle East, China and India it is the affluent who are putting weight on. Fast food, in these countries, can still be a luxury enjoyed by the well off. I remember when the first McDonald restaurant opened in Prague in the early 90’s the cost of a hamburger was twice of what a decent restaurant meal would amount to. On the contrary, in countries such as the USA, Great Britain and indeed France (even though it only has obesity levels comparable with the USA 30 years ago...), the poorer tend to be larger, due to junk food being cheap.

Sometimes, though, I can’t but think that blaming the cost is only an excuse, healthy food doesn’t need to be expensive. As I don’t go to McDonald’s I am not sure about the prices but I believe that you will have to spend at least £12 to feed a family of four. My veloute soup is for sure a quarter of the price or less. It is filling and much much better for you. This veloute (oh la la, how very French) is as rich as the egg yolk and cream thickened French veloutes. All thanks to the magic of a mere 1/3 cup of cashews. Provided you can get a white sweet potato (I had some from the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range) the soup has a beautiful pale yellow colour, good enough for a Channel suit :)

sweetcorn-veloute


SWEETCORN AND CELERY VELOUTE
If you are not using a high speed blender make sure to soak the cashews for at least half an hour in some water, drain before adding to the soup.

Serves 4

i
ngredients
3 large stalks of celery
1 medium onion
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet potato, preferably white variety, peeled and diced
500ml measure (2 cups) sweetcorn (frozen or fresh)
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
80ml measure (1/3 cup) of cashew nuts
cracked black pepper and coriander leaves for garnish

method
  1. In a large sauce pan heat up about 60ml water (1/4 cup), add the celery and onion and cook till softened. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of your pan.
    2 Next add both potatoes, sweetcorn and the vegetable stock.
    3 Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20min or until the potatoes are tender.
    4 Transfer the soup into your blender, add the cashews and process until smooth.
    5 Serve garnished with coriander and cracked black pepper.
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FRUITY SAVOY SLAW

FRUITY SAVOY SLAW

The other day I found myself pressed for time and not in the mood for any major cooking efforts after a day at the seaside. For occasions like that I have some Dr. Prager’s veggie burgers in my freezer. They may be not as good as homemade ones but they are loaded with veggies and perfectly convenient.

While the burgers were happily baking in the oven I decided to whip up a quick slaw, as the burgers needed something fresh and crunchy accompaniment. The only cabbage in my fridge was of the Savoy variety, not usually associated with coleslaw, but it was a very young one I thought it might work perfectly. You could use other cabbage such as white or pointed hispi cabbage.

I attacked the cabbage with my Pampered Chef mandolin, it was quickly turned into cute curly strips. My carrots kept falling out of the dratted guard which left me thinking I should have invested in a proper finger slicing Japanese mandolin. Frustrated I opted for the trusty box grater. The apple and pear were julienned using a sharp knife. Begin by slicing them into thin discs and than cut into thin matchsticks.

Lack of cashews forced me to use vegan mayo in my dressing, but cashew cream would have been my preferred option. Cashew cream is naturally sweet so you need to increase the amount of cider vinegar. To make the thick cashew cream use 1/2-1 cup raw cashews and enough water to just cover the nuts, this makes more than you need so reserve the rest for later use (cream sauce, cream soup or even a larger batch of the dressing). There are many types of vegan mayo, the one I used (Mayola) is more of a cream dressing in consistency and is tarter than the usual mayo. Just employ your taste buds when making this dressing.

savoyslaw


FRUITY SAVOY SLAW

ingredients
1/2 young Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed, thinly shredded (about 3 cups)
3 carrots, grated
1 pear, julienned
1 apple, julienned

dressing with mayo:
3 Tbs vegan mayo
1 Tbs whole grain mustard
1 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs agave syrup

dressing with cashews:
3 Tbs thick cashew cream
2 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs whole grain mustard
1 Tbs agave syrup

savoyslawdetail

method
  1. In a large bowl combine the cabbage, carrot, pear and apple. Toss well.
  2. In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the dressing of your choice. Pour over the slaw and mix well.
  3. It taste best if you can let the salad rest in the fridge for half an our. Keeps well in the fridge for two days.

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Golden Treasure

GOLDEN TREASURE

This is the time of the year when, back in the Czech Republic, people flock to the woods and forests with baskets in their hands. The purpose of this madness? Mushrooms of course. My Dad told me about his latest mushrooming expeditions that bore a basketful of some of my favourite mushrooms, golden chanterelles (also known as girolles). I must admit I was jealous and may have to plan my next trip around the mushroom season.

To my surprise a little plaster for my sorrow was found in a supermarket. I stumbled upon a small (100g) punnett of golden chanterelles. Ok I didn’t pick them myself, I didn't walk miles through the woods until the perfect grassy bank was found. I didn’t get the chance to lift the tufts of grass to discover the golden treasure underneath. But I did get to eat them.

A lonely 100g pack will not feed many so I have stocked up on other mushrooms to make a soup and used the chanterelles as a garnish, a little flavourful golden crown jewel to sit on the top of the otherwise dull colour of my yummy soup. My son couldn’t get enough and proclaimed the golden chanterelle to be his favourite mushroom too. Next I will be searching for fresh porcini...


MUSHROOM SOUP WITH GOLDEN CHANTERELLES
If you have a very young garlic you can use the whole bulb, it is very mild and will not make the soup too garlicky. As for regular garlic, one large clove will work instead.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 whole very young garlic, or 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
450g (1 lb) of mushrooms (any type will do, I had a mixture)
120ml (1/2cup) Marsala wine (or sherry)
2 cups light vegetable stock
cashew cream (1/2 cup cashews - 1 cup water)
for garnish:
100g (3-4oz chanterelles)
1 tsp olive or rapeseed oil
pinch of salt

chanterellesoup

method
  1. In a large sauce pan heat 2 Tbs of water, add the onion and garlic and saute till softened, add more water if they start to stick.
  2. Add the thyme and mushrooms and saute until they start to soften about 5 min. Pinch of salt will help bring out the juices out of the mushrooms.
  3. Next add the Marsala and let it boil for a minute to cook off the alcohol.
  4. Add the stock and simmer gently for about 10min.
  5. Using a stick blender (of a regular blender) whizz up the soup till fairly smooth.
  6. Finish the soup with the cashew cream.
  7. In a small non stick frying pan, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms, pinch of salt and fry until just starting to caramelize on the edges.
  8. Serve the soup topped with some of the golden chanterelles.
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TAKE AWAY THE TAKE-AWAY

TAKE AWAY THE TAKE-AWAY

You know the drill. It has been a long day you don’t fancy cooking and the take way menus are calling to you. You order more than you need, spend more than you should, wait nearly an hour, eat more than you intended, fall onto the sofa and complain about being stuffed. At that precise moment you make the ground breaking decision that you won’t ever make the same mistake again. Until....

Couple weeks ago I decided that we treat ourselves to an Indian take-way, we were in the vicinity of a greatly popular Indian restaurant so we popped in to get some curries to accompany our Saturday movie. When we got home and opened the bag I noticed that at the bottom of the take-way bag was roughly a centimetre of oil. It must have leaked out of the containers and looked extremely unappetising. I was glad the curry came in a very sturdy plastic carried bag.

It does amaze me how many people eat take-aways several times a week. Kebabs, pizzas, burgers, curries and the UK’s most popular Chinese take away is a big business. Instead of dialling the number or getting into your car to get to the nearest take-away restaurant we have to put on our aprons and start cooking healthy delicious meals at home. We have to involve kids in food preparation too, this recipe is brilliant for that. My fusion curried burgers are much better for you than any take-away.

curryburger

CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

If you don’t want to end up with a large piece of garlic or ginger in your burger make sure you chop the garlic and ginger before putting them into the food processor.

No oils added.

Makes 6 burgers

ingredients
85g (1/2 cup) brown rice
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 tin chickpeas
1 red chilli
1 inch ginger, peeled, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
pinch of asofetida
salt
2 Tbs mango chutney
1 Tbs tomato paste
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped
25 g (1 oz) of breadcrumbs
Whole wheat burger buns or pitta pockets


method

  1. Cook rice according to the package instructions, let it cool down.
  2. Put the following ingredients into your food processor: chickpeas, onion, red chilli, ginger, garlic, spices, mango chutney and tomato paste.
  3. Process together until well chopped but not smooth.
  4. Add the rice and pulse together few times till mixed through.
  5. Put the mixture into a large bowl, add the coriander, cashews and breadcrumbs.
  6. Shape the mixture into 6 burgers. The mixture is rather wet but if you wet your hands between each burger they do come together very well.
  7. Place the burgers onto a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet.
  8. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  9. Bake for 25-30 min in a 180 oven, turning the burgers halfway through.
  10. Serve in a bun or a pitta pocket (I enjoyed mine wrapped in lettuce leaves). Garnish with your favourite sauces and toppings.

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MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Desserts

MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Dessert

The best for last. Desserts. Not much room for veggies here. Fruit is the star. Lately fruit has been vilified by many. Fruit is largely excluded from the low carb high protein diets due to their high carbohydrate content. Too much fruit, some say, hampers your weight loss. Yes fruits are high in sugar but that is what makes them so utterly irresistible. It is sugar packaged by nature not a processing plan. Of course you are also getting loads of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Our ancestors surely found fruit the easiest food to gather.

I cannot imagine world without fruit, it is my favourite snack and makes a perfect dessert. Great fresh fruit salad is an incredible treat, of course the fruit must be its flavoursome best. When I was a child every June my grandmother went to search for first cherries, she tied them into mini bunches with a string and presented these ruby red bouquets to the family. It was a yearly ritual, we knew summer was in attendance.

Yes I am a fruitaholic, but I am not the only one. Dr Douglas Graham has based his 80/10/10 diet on fruit. Yes he recommends 80% of person’s daily food intake consumed in the form of fruit. My sport hero and compatriot Martina Navratilova certainly agrees. Even if I wouldn’t take up this diet full time I would never say no to an all fruit binge especially in this hot weather.

Plant based diet doesn’t mean that your only dessert option will be just fresh fruit, of course there is so much more to choose from. Raw desserts are my favourite, they are incredibly inventive and satisfying. From raw ice-creams, to tarts and cheesecakes you just can’t go wrong. You don’t have to give up baked desserts either, it is easy to substitute eggs, milk and butter, to make fab muffins and cakes. Just search for black bean brownies on the internet and you may be surprised how many recipes pop up. You can eat your way toward your 10-a-day with some yummy sweet treats.

My recipe today is fruit based, cut up and put on skewers kebab style makes it fun to eat, especially for those kids who may find fruit boring (how could they???). I made a simple coconut and cashew dip to make it a bit more special.

fruitkebabs

FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

ingredients
Fruit of your choice
to make 8 kebabs I used:
1 large punnet of strawberries
half a pineapple
2 large bananas
1 kiwi (for a special request kebab...)
the dip
3/4 cup (185ml) water
1 cup cashews
1-2 Tbs coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 Tbs toasted coconut to decorate (just toast your dessicated coconut in a dry frying pan till golden)

method
  1. Cut up your fruit and thread on skewers.
  2. In a blender process the cashews, sugar and water till smooth. Add more water if too thick.
  3. Add the coconut and whizz up quickly just to stir through.
  4. Serve kebabs with the dip on the side.
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MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 4: Mains

MORE FRUIT AND VEG
Part 4: Mains

Main meal of the day, whether you have it at midday or evening, is a great opportunity to load up on some veggies and fruit too. I aim is to get around 10 (preferably more) portions every day. My evening meal is the last opportunity to meat my quota. There are so many ways to get plenty of veg into your meals. Soups and stews can easily add up to several portions without even trying. Experiment with curries, veggie burgers or loafs, roasted veggies mixed with grains and pastas, chips (fries) made out of roots, and of coarse don’t forget the greens they are great in just about any dish. A big salad on the side and something fruity for dessert; it is hard not to get all the fruit and veg you need on a plant based diet.

It wasn’t always this plant strong. I grew up eating the normal Czech diet, which is rich in meat and potatoes with veggies taking on a rather insignificant role. However we had quite a few vegetable based dishes too. There is a great array of vegetable dishes in the Czech culinary tradition. Unfortunately these are usually considered too simple to be served to guests. Simple very often means very delicious.

There was a time when I wanted to get away from the usual and explore the food my grandmother grew up with. I loved the discovery and she loved the memories these dishes brought to her. She grew up on largely meatless diet, her family could only afford to have meat once a week. She gave me a superb grounding in vegetarian cooking without even realising it. She showed me how easy it is to use veggies or grains as a base of a dish. She always made a simple salad, or just cut up raw veggies on the side. Her food was fantastic every time even if it consisted of only few ingredients that many would find uninspiring. I am sure she would enjoy my butternut squash barlotto.


BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BARLEY BARLOTTO

This is creamy like an Italian risotto without the cheese and butter. You can just serve a whole bowl of it or as I did top some large roasted portobello mushrooms with it. Looks impressive enough to serve at a dinner party.

I considered adding some nutritional yeast flakes to the cashew sauce but decided against it because I didn’t want anything to overpower the gorgeous butternut squash flavour. You can add 2 Tbs if you wish.

Green salad on the side is a must, rocket works great with the sweet squash.

Serves 4-6 (or 8 if used as a stuffed mushroom starter )


barlotto2

ingredients
200g (1 cup) barley
1 medium butternut squash
1 Tbs olive oil separated (2 x 1/2 Tbs)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
8 sage leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 (70g) cup cashews
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup roasted butternut squash
salt + pepper

method
  1. If you can soak the barley overnight or at least for several hours. Drain.
  2. Cook the barley in plenty of vegetable stock or seasoned water for 15-20 min. If not soaked the barley will take roughly twice as long. Test it, it should be swell up, be soft with bit of a resistance. It kind of pops between your teeth, but shouldn’t be hard. Drain and set aside. This can be done while ahead.
  3. Peel your butternut squash, cut into bite size pieces. Place onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and coat with 1/2 tbs of olive oil. Roast till cooked through and starting to caramelise around the edges. Set aside.
  4. In a large saute pan with high edges heat the other 1/2 of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and gently saute till soft. Add the sage and cook for about 1 minute.
  5. While your onions are sauteing, place 1 cup (250ml) of the butternut squash, 1/2 cup of cashews and 1 and 1/2 cup of water in a blender. Process till smooth.
  6. When onions are soft, add the barley and rest of the butternut squash to the saute pan. Stir together and heat through, you can add some water if the barley starts sticking.
  7. Add the cashew nut sauce to the barley mixture, stir through and heat up together. You are aiming for creamy but not too soupy texture. Season and serve.
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RAW FREEDOM

RAW FREEDOM

There is no doubt that eating as nature intended is good for us. We all know that including more fruit and veggies in our diet is the key to good health. Eating the majority your fruit and veggies raw can further amplify their magic health giving powers. I have been trying to incorporate more raw foods into my daily menus. I love green smoothies and raw desserts, make my raw crackers, but I still wanted to know more. The obvious solution? A raw food seminar!

Saskia (Raw Freedom, the wonderful raw food coach) runs her classes from her house. Not only you will find out about why and how to eat raw, you will also have plenty to taste. Wonderful raw lunch is included and rest assure she makes sure you leave with a tummy full of delicious raw goodness. I wanted inspiration and that is what I got. As you may know I already use cashews to make creamy cheesy sauces, but having raw courgette “pasta” with it was a new discovery ( I need to invest in a spiraliser). All the food was amazing from the guacamole mushrooms to the zingy purple salad. And if you think that you will lose out on your favourites when eating raw there was a cheesy tart and 4 different amazing raw ice-creams.

The best thing about Saskia was her infectious enthusiasm for raw food and her enviable vitality. She is not trying to persuade anyone to become 100% raw, that would be daunting, she inspires you to have a go and discover what raw food can do for you (less wrinkles anyone?). If you need a bigger push and support she offers one to one coaching, which is tailored to your individual needs.

I have several raw cookbooks and when I look at the recipes they seem very daunting. Long lists of ingredients, some of which are extremely difficult to find in my immediate area and too many steps to get through. I love my cooking but those kind of recipes make me give up before I start. Saskia’s recipes are nothing like that, they are easy and very doable. I left very inspired, raw chocolate ice-cream in the freezer, I feel poised to embark on the quest of including more interesting raw foods in my family’s diet.

To get inspired and well fed check out Saskia’s website, go to her next seminar or book one to one coaching. I am sure you will feel amazing.

http://www.rawfreedom.co.uk/#

To inspire you even further here is a couple of Saskia’s recipes (with her permission) that I just had to make for my family today.

Saskia's-fruit

GINGER & MINT FRUIT SALAD WITH CASHEW CREAM

Saskia presented this as a special treat for breakfast, I think it would make a perfect dinner party dessert!

Serves 1

Make a delicious fruit salad for one from a selection of the following fruit:
banana, papaya, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, mango, grapes, nectarine, dates, pineapple, orange, apple, plums...

Add:
4 mint leaves, chopped
1/4 inch ginger, finely chopped or grated

cream
handful of cashew nuts
1 orange, juiced
2 Medjool dates

Blend the nuts with the orange juice and dates, adding water if necessary to get the right consistency. Pour over you fruit salad and indulge.

Saskia's-soup


SPINACH SOUP

Watch Saskia making this recipe on her website.

Makes 1 large or 2 small bowls of soup

3 handfuls young spinach
1 avocado
1 spring onion, white part only
1 cm ginger
1/2 tsp mineral salt (pink Himalayan salt)
1/2 water

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.

To make the soup warm, use 1/4 pint boiling water mixing with 1/4 pint cold water to make the 1/2 pint water in the recipe.
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Freak and proud

FREAK AND PROUD

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

jerseyroyals

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


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Comfort time: Bangers and Mash

COMFORT TIME: BANGERS AND MASH

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

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

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

sausagesandmash

BANGERS AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

CURRY NIGHT

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.
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Mac and Whizz

MAC AND WHIZZ

Classic macaroni and cheese used to be one of my family’s favourite dishes, we would have it at least every other week. I would make the cheese sauce out of butter, white flour, dairy milk and at least half a pound of cheese, mix in the white pasta and there you have it. This classic mac and cheese can have around 18 - 25g of fat per 1 cup. That is bad enough but I have yet to meet a person who would eat just that one cup of mac and cheese.

Times change, and even though I am on a mission to avoid pretty much everything in the classic recipe, my love for mac and cheese remains. Finding a suitable alternative became my goal. First I tried few vegan mac and cheese recipes that I found on the web. Later I tweaked and experimented until I came up with my version. There are few reasons why I love this dish. I can still get that mac and cheese fix minus that heavy dairy induced feeling afterwards. I have sneaked in somewhere around a pound of butternut squash, a vegetable very much hated by both of my children (victory dance!!!). They always scoff the lot even though they now know what lurks inside. My son still says he prefers the dairy heavy version but that did not stop him to make his way to the pot for seconds... Slow but steady steps and he may even change his mind one day.

There is a reason why I am calling this Mac and Whizz, all you need is a good blender to whizz up the sauce. Pretty quick and easy. You could also use a food processor.

macandwhizz

MAC AND WHIZZ
This recipe makes loads, but reheats well. To reheat just add a touch of water and bring to a gentle simmer, stir often till heated through..

Serves 6

ingredients
1 lb butternut squash (about half of a larger one, peeled weight), cut into 2 inch cubes
500g (1lb 2oz) whole wheat macaroni
1 cup of cashews soaked
2 cups of water
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp paprika
1 tsp dried onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs miso (the lighter colour the better)
60ml (1/4 cup) Nutritional yeast
salt and pepper

method
  1. First steam the squash till soft, this will take about 10-15 min depending on the size of your pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, place all the remaining ingredients and the cooked butternut squash into your blender. Process till smooth. Depending on your blender this will take a few minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, return into the cooking pot or a large sauce pan together with the sauce. Bring to a simmer for couple of minutes, the sauce will thicken nicely.
  5. Serve with some steamed veggies and a big green salad.
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Traditions: Szekely Gulyas veganised

TRADITIONS: Szekely Gulyas veganised

Yesterday I went out with my girlfriends to an Indian restaurant. We were seated next to an Indian family with two young children. While admiring the children’s impeccable restaurant behaviour (don’t we all wish...) I noticed they were all eating in the traditional Indian way, with their hands. I also noticed a plate of very English chips (French fries) on the table.

This made me think about traditions and habits we all have, treasure or perhaps sometimes even endure. Food seems to be strongly associated with habits and traditions. As John Robbins puts it: “Our familiar foods give us comfort, reassurance, and a sense of identity. They are there for us when the world may not be. They can be friends, loyal and true.”

Unfortunately this notion of tradition (or a habit) can stand in the way of change. All vegetarians and vegans have experienced conversations about their choices. We have all heard opinions that humans are omnivores and it is unnatural for them not to eat meat. However research is showing us that a plant based diet is the most beneficial one to adopt.

I wouldn’t dispute that humans have always included some meat in their diet. One thing is clear it was never consumed in the quantities we see today. My grandmother was born in 1926 and she used to describe her family diet as mainly meatless, they only had meat on Sundays. Her father became an incidental vegetarian when the times were hard, offering his meat portion to the children.

It may be a strange thing for a veggie to write about meat, but my aim was to show that many of the traditions we embrace may very recent. It is time to take a step back and embraced diet based on whole plant foods; the most natural way to eat. I accept that not everybody will take the plunge and stop eating meat and dairy, but even a small step can make a difference. We can and should create new traditions for a better future.

My friend G., during our dinner yesterday, said that even if she is not going to stop meat completely, knowing me had inspired her to eat more vegetarian meals and explore new ingredients. This left me with a warm feeling indeed (or was it the curry?).

The recipe I decided to make is steeped in my country’s history. For some 400 years the Czechs were part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and even these weren’t the easiest times for my compatriots, we embraced foods of both Austria and Hungary as our own. I grew up never questioning whether Apple Strudel or Gulyas is Czech or not. It became part of my country’s culinary tradition. Szekely Gulyas (or as we call it Segedinsky Gulas) is one of these dishes. Here I present the veganised version using seitan as a replacement of the traditional pork.

Gulyas-2-

SZEKELY GULYAS VEGANISED
We always had Czech dumplings with this gulyas but rice, quinoa or even pasta work great.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp sweet paprika
2x285 g (10oz) tins seitan, cut into bite size pieces
250g (1 and 1/2cups) sauerkraut, drained
500ml vegetable stock
1 Tbs liquid aminos
1/2 cashew cream (made out of 1/2cup cashews and 1/2 cup water, you may have some leftover)

method
  1. In a large wide pan heat the oil and saute the onion till softened, about 10 min.
  2. Add caraways seeds and paprika, saute for about 30cm, take care not to burn the paprika.
  3. Next add the seitan, sauerkraut, vegetable stock and liquid aminos.
  4. Cook on low heat for about half an hour.
  5. Add the cashew cream and let warm through.
  6. Serve with rice or pasta. Garnish with extra paprika.
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Green bananas (no green ham)

GREEN BANANAS (NO GREEN HAM)
greenbanana
This week’s Riverford organic vegetable boxes contained free green bananas from the Dominican Republic. I am not talking the under ripe bananas you can get in shops, these were ultra green, alien kind of fruit. In the Dominican Republic, as I found out from Riverford video, these are cooked down, mashed and served topped with sliced red onions. Riverford also suggested deep frying them for spicy chips.

Time for another experiment in my kitchen, I wasn’t too enthused to start deep frying, that is not the plant strong way. The idea that came to me was a banana curry. I planned going down the more familiar Indian route, but when I stopped at the shop to pick up some green chili peppers I spotted the Caribbean staple, the almighty Scotch Bonnet pepper. That made me rethink my curry’s country of origin. Reggae started to sound in my head.

The green bananas are rather hard to peel, cut of the ends, slit the skin lengthways and proceed to peel. Don’t expect one neat intact peel as from a ripe banana. When cooked the banana pieces hold their shapes extremely well and taste more like a starchy vegetable. I added some pineapple to freshen and lighten up the taste, the fruity zing goes well with the starchiness of the green banana. Few cashews add texture and protein to the dish.

The Scotch Bonnet boasts with 9 rating on the Scoville Chile Heat Chart, it packs a spicy punch, however it also brings wonderful fruity flavour to dishes. If you just slit the pepper and add it whole to your curry, you will get heat and flavour, but it will not be too spicy. If you do like it very hot, by all means chop the pepper up (just don’t touch your eyes afterwards).

Roti would be the perfect flat bread to go with this curry, but a chapati or indeed a tortilla wrap will do well here too. Rice or quinoa would work well too.

If you can’t get green bananas try making this curry with plantains.

CARIBBEAN STYLE GREEN BANANA CURRY
serves 2
caribcurryspice

ingredients

1 star anise
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
3 all spice berries
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp thyme
50 (1/2cup) cashews
1/2 -1 Tbs rapeseed oil
1 tsp ginger, chopped finely
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, make a slit in the side with a knife
4 green bananas, peeled and sliced (1/4inch slices)
1 tsp palm or brown sugar
375ml (1 and 1/2 cup water)
150g (heaped cup) fresh pineapple pieces (about 1 inch thick slices from a large pineapple)
salt to taste
lemon juice to taste
2 Tbs coriander leaves, chopped

method
  1. First make the spice mix. Heat a frying pan add the whole spices (star anise, coriander, cumin, mustard and all spice berries). Heat until fragrant, take care not to burn.
  2. Next toast the cashews, set aside.
  3. In a mortar and pestle, pound the spices (I removed the star anise, I was worried about not being able to pound it small enough and didn’t want sharp pieces in my curry). Add the cardamom and thyme and mix together.
  4. In a wok heat the oil, add ginger and cook 30 seconds, add the green bananas, the chili pepper and the spices (don’t forget the star anise), cook about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the water and palm sugar, cover and cook for 15min.
  6. After 15min add the pineapple pieces, cook further 10 min, until the bananas soften and sauce is very thick (there won’t be a lot of sauce left).
  7. Stir in the cashews, season with salt and lime juice.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with you chosen side.

bananacurry
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Happy Valentine's day

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

Valentine’s Day evening and we were playing a family game of Monopoly! Beaten by our son, me and my husband are just about ready to go to bed. Knackered.

I will admit I am not big on Valentine’s Day. It is like baked beans on toast, you have to grow up with it to really appreciate it. On the other hand I really love my orchid and the massage my husband bought for me. Kids were really excited and loved helping me with decorating the table. They also made a special red smoothie that they enjoyed drinking from wine glasses.

Admittedly today was the perfect opportunity for me to play with chocolate. Out of 70% dark dairy free bar I made everybody’s initial to put on their plate (we ate it for our starters!) and a heart to decorate my chocolate pots with. Perfect day spent with the people I love the most in the world.

VALENTINE DAY CHOCOLATE POTS
This is such an easy recipe, takes minutes to make and taste great. You don’t need Valentine’s Day as an excuse to make these. They are nearly guilt free, cashews, dark chocolate and no added sugar, just dates for sweetness. They are much lighter than traditional chocolate pots made with double cream.

Soaking the cashews overnight (or at least for 2 hours) this will ensure smoother cream and less work for your blender.

Serves 4

chocpots

ingredients
1/2 cup (125ml) cashew nuts soaked in 1/2 cup (125ml) water
2 Medjool dates, stones removed
100g (3.5 oz) 70% dark chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
to decorate:
50g (2oz) of 70% dark chocolate

method
  1. In a blender whizz up the cashew nuts, dates and water until smooth. Strain the mixture to ensure a smooth texture, the dates can leave few gritty bits behind.
  2. Place a bowl with broken up chocolate over a pot of simmering water (makes sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water and the water doesn’t boil rapidly). Melt the chocolate.
  3. Stir the chocolate and vanilla. Make sure the ingredients are well combined leaving no streaks in the mixture.
  4. Carefully pour (or spoon) into expresso cups and let set in the fridge for at least an hour.
  5. To make decorations, melt chocolate as above and pipe heart shapes onto greaseproof (parchment) paper. Let them set in the fridge. Be careful handling them as they melt readily when touched.
  6. Serve the pots decorated with the chocolate hearts or raspberries.
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Sweet mama squash - part 2

SWEET MAMA SQUASH - part 2

What a way to treat the rest of my sweet mama squash! The sweet roasted flesh made into a soup with thai flavours, sweet cashew nut milk, zingy lime. Utterly indulgent.

I could tell my husband looked rather suspiciously at the thickened soup I kept for his dinner. Why does cashew milk thicken everything like that??? After adding some water and reheating it he changed his mind very quickly. He said that the soup transported him back to our honeymoon in Jamaica where he ordered their curried pumpkin soup quite a few times. (Now this wasn’t my intention otherwise I would have made it for Valentine’s day!!!). Can of Red Stripe in his hand and he was in the Blue Mountains all over again. He only had one complaint, there wasn’t any left.... Next time I am making at least double the portion.

So please do make this soup. It is so simple, quick (after you have dealt with the squash) and really delicious. I know what I will be doing with the other sweet mama squash sitting in my vegetable box...

THAI FLAVOURED PUMPKIN SOUP
Any rich flavoured squash or pumpkin will work well in this recipe, even orange sweet potatoes (yams). Some of the squash gets pureed into the soup, some stays in pieces for texture.
I used cashew milk, quickly whizzed up from half a cup of cashews and a cup of water. Or use coconut milk.
This soup is thick enough to be served with some Jasmine rice for even more satisfying meal. I have added tofu pieces for extra protein.
If doubling the recipe I would double everything but the cashew milk.

Makes enough for 2 (big main dish bowls)

thaisweetmama

ingredients
about 500g (1lb2oz) roasted sweet mama squash
500ml (2cups) water (or l
ight vegetable stock)
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste (or 2 depending on the strength of your curry paste)
1 stalk of lemon grass (optional), bruised with back of knife
1 cup cashew nut milk
100g (3.5oz) silken tofu cubed (optional)
lime juice
fresh coriander

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the squash flesh with the water, curry paste and the lemon grass stalk.
  2. Bring to a boil, cook on gentle heat for about 5 min, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the cashew nut milk a heat.
  4. Add the cubes of tofu and just heat through. If too thick add more water.
  5. Fish out the lemon grass stick and discard. Add lemon juice to taste, chopped coriander and serve.
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Change is good

CHANGE IS GOOD

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.
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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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