mains

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

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

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

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

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

quick-chickpea-tagine

QUICK CHICKPEA TAGINE

Serves 4

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

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


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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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TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

TOFU WITH QUICK BBQ SAUCE

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

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

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

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

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

http://zenhabits.net/soy/

BBQtofu-detail

TOFU IN QUICK BBQ SAUCE

Serves 4

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

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

BBQ-tofu
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DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

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

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

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

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

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

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

hearty-pasta2

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

Serves 6

ingredients

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


hearty-pasta

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

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FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

Parsnips. I have to admit I have not tasted a parsnip before moving to the UK. It is not a vegetable you find on the Czech table. I do admit there are many vegetables I would rather eat than parsnips. I don’t hate them but they do not excite me very much. If you put and aubergine and parsnip in front of me I know which one I would choose.

This is where my vegetable box comes to its force, I don’t get much of a choice what is delivered. And as I like to eat seasonally I do have to give even parsnips a chance. They sure deserve it, these roots are rich in fibre, Vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6 and B1, they do contain good amounts of minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. This sure make parsnips much more interesting.

What is the best way to cook them? I love them roasted (see I said love!!!), with spices and some maple syrup. This definitely brings out their natural sweetness. I am not keen on a parsnip mash, but a soup can be delicious, especially with plenty of warming curry spices thrown in.

Last time we found ourselves in Sweet Mart supermarket we decided to buy some gorgeous Indian savoury snacks. My husband bought a portion of fiery parsnips, not something I was drawn to. I made an aubergine curry that night and we had the parsnips on the side. Beyond all expectations I must admit we were hooked instantly, the tender sweet parsnips went so well with the heat of the chili and the acidity of the tomatoes. Delicious!

No surprise that as soon as I found myself with a few parsnips, I had to try to recreate this amazing dish. I only had a Scotch Bonnet pepper in the fridge which is not a typical Indian ingredient. It worked really well, lending the dish not only its fiery heat but also its lovely fruity flavour. My husband called it a close match. When he had the leftovers next day he than admitted it was a
very close match. Rested for a day and being gently reheated the sauce got even better, stickier and more intense. Parsnips have never tasted this good!

fiery-parsnip-curry

FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed (canola oil)
1 tsp nigella (kalonji) seed
15 curry leaves
1 onion, sliced
1 inch ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Scotch bonnet (Habanero chilli), left whole and slit with a knife. (chop up finely for an extra spicy curry)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
5 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into chunky batons
375 ml water
fresh coriander

fiery-parsnip-curry-2


method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil. Add the nigella seeds and curry leaves. Wait for the seeds to start popping. Take care not to burn them.
  2. Add the onions and cook them on medium heat till they are soft and brown.
  3. Next add the ginger, garlic and the Scotch Bonnet pepper. Cook for a minute.
  4. Add the spices, cook for about 30seconds.
  5. Next add the tomatoes, cover and cook for about 5min.
  6. While the tomatoes are cooking prepare the parsnips.
  7. Add the parsnips to the tomato together with water.
  8. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Cook gently for about 30min until the sauce it reduced and parsnips are very tender.
  9. Uncover the dish and turn up the heat for about 5 min. You should end up with a very reduced, sticky sauce.
  10. Serve with some fresh coriander and rice. Yum!

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CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

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

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

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

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

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

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


cauliflower-sweetcorn-curry


CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

Serves 4

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


caulisweetcorn-curry-2

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

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COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

This week I was catching up on my post Christmas ironing, two back breaking sessions each lasting two hours! To make my job easier I watched some cookery shows on TV. Watching Nigella made me realised how much we have in common. No I do not indulge in pigs ears, deep fry bounty bars or have an obsession for alliteration.

Like Nigella, however, I am obsessed with food. I am obsessed with eating it, cooking it, writing about it, talking about it. I love discovering new flavours and ingredients (like the yellow carrots I bought today). Most of all, like Nigella, I love cooking for myself.

You won’t see me grabbing a quick sandwich or couple of Ryvitas for lunch. I believe it is not a waste of time to cook or prepare something delicious just for one. This is my me time, I love it. Of course not everybody has the time, that’s where batch cooking comes to its force, freezer full of stews and soups can ensure you have a nutritious meal when pressed for time. Even salads can be made ahead. Some keep really well even for a few days. Just don’t try to store tender leaves that have a dressing on.

Lunch for one can be a brilliant way to use up odds and ends from your fridge or pantry. Got some leftover rice, one lonely noodle nest or half a pepper in the fridge? Bits and bobs get my cooking mind going! Yesterday I found that lonely nest of noodles, some Brussel sprouts and a recipe idea was born. Delicious it was too! If you want, double it, triple it.... just maybe go easy on multiplying the curry paste, you don’t want it to blow your head off. I did fancy some edamame beans or just regular green beans, but my freezer was bare.... hence the peas. Can’t complain, they did taste great.

brussels-sprout-noodles

BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL
Beware that Thai red curry paste very often contains dried shrimp or fish sauce, if like me you want to avoid those, read the ingredients!

For 1

ingredients
1/2 cup of light vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
80g of flat Asian noodles (rice, wheat or buckwheat, whatever you have)
1-2 tsp vegan red curry paste (they very in heat)
1 cup of Kara coconut or other non dairy milk (not coconut milk from a can)
12 Brussel sprouts
couple handfuls of frozen peas, green beans or edamame
1 Tbs smooth peanut butter
juice of half a lime
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat the veg stock, add the onions and simmer till soften.
  2. In another medium sauce pan cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water.
  3. While the onions are sauteing prepare your Brussels sprouts. Peel off any unappealing leaves of the sprouts, cut of the stalk end bit and halve them lengthways.
  4. Add the curry paste and coconut milk to the onions together with the Brussels sprouts.
  5. If using green beans or edamame add them now too.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 5 min or until the Brussels sprouts are tender.
  7. Now add the peas and peanut butter. Heat up together, the peanut butter should melt into the sauce.
  8. Add the cooked noodles, just heat them up.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice.
  10. Serve generously garnished with chopped coriander and an extra lime wedge.



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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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BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

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

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

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

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

braised-beans-1

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

Serves 4

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


braisedbeansalsa

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

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

braised-beans-2

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BEETROOT, RED LENTIL AND SEED BURGERS

BEETROOT, RED LENTIL AND SEED BURGERS

Last study weekend one of my friends brought my aubergine and butternut squash curry for lunch and another one had my kale koftas. Couple of days later, on the school run, another friend told me she made my butternut squash and pear soup for dinner. She took it for her lunch to work the next day and ended up sharing my recipe around her office.

This makes me
so happy. I love cooking for people and I love when they cook my recipes. Sharing food is one of life’s great pleasures. When people enjoy my food it truly warms my soul. Don’t we all love sharing a great meal? Is this why TV cookery programs are ever so popular and chefs are enjoying a celebrity status?

Wouldn’t it be great if these chefs promoted healthier way of eating instead of basting everything with butter and free-poring olive oil over their food? Jamie Oliver has always been at the forefront of the “food revolution". Nobody can deny his passion and dedication. All that aside, his book Foods in Minutes was awarded the Worst Cook Book of 2011 by PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). The meatball sandwich clocks up more fat than a Big Mac and has more than double the calories. Looking through his most recent book, Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, it looks like Jamie has listened. In his latest collection of recipes he has scaled down the oil and other fats. He has also included nutritional info. It is a step forward. Will Nigella join him?

Today’s recipe was a surprise to me. Why? Both kids loved it! Yes, my daughter and son happily munched their way through these. My son even contemplated taking the one leftover burger to school for his lunch. These were his words:”I think I will have it for school, I don’t care if my friends think I am a freak!” It sure made me laugh!

beetroot-burgers

BEETROOT, RED LENTIL AND SEED BURGERS

ingredients
180g (1 cup) red lentils
2 cups water
2 medium beetroot, cooked
1 tsp vegan bouillon powder (I use Marigold)
150g (1 cup) seed mix (linseed, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower..)
3 Tbs gram flour

method
  1. In a medium saucepan combine the lentils and water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 mins, or till the lentils are soft and most of the water has evaporated, drain any remaining water. Sit aside to let the lentils cool down.
  2. Place the cooled lentils in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Grate the beetroot and add to the lentils.
  4. Next add the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Line a baking tray (one that fits your fridge) with a grease proof. Make 8 burgers from the mixture, place them on the tray and chill for at least half an our.
  6. Bake at 180C for 20min, turn over and cook for further 10min.
  7. Serve in a burger bun or as I did with some mashed potatoes made with almond milk.

beetroot-burgers-2
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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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TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

In an ideal world I would have a large garden, preferably a forrest garden, full of delicious fruits and veggies waiting to be picked and turned into delicious dishes. The reality is different. My garden is a postage stamp size and my dog’s second name could be “the destroyer”. Unfortunately I have a list of plants that have succumbed to his digging, chewing or just simple stomping upon...(he is rather large). There was a blueberry bush, golden currant bush, strawberry plants, raspberry canes.... At least the red currant, Audrey Hepburn rose and my plum tree have survived his advances so far. My poor rosemary plant had a close call the other day...

Last Sunday morning I woke up before the predicted torrential rains started. Armed with a plastic bowl and a dining room chair I embarked on my plum harvest. I do hope my neighbours were still asleep and didn’t see me in my pyjamas balancing on the chair with a bowl in one hand... It must have been a sight. But I managed to pick all the plums before the rain and wind...

Even though plums are delicious on their own but I though I should try making them into a chinese spiced plum sauce free of the usual MSG and additives. The sauce went really well with grilled tofu skewers. Use any purple plums you can get your hands on. With plums being in season at the moment I am sure local farm shops and markets will be selling them cheap.

plums

TOFU SKEWERS WITH CHINESE SPICED PLUM SAUCE

Serves 4, sauce yield -2 cups



ingredients
the plum sauce:
440g/1 lb plums
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp chinese spice
2 Tbs coconut palm sugar
1 Mejdol date, chopped
2 Tbs rice vinegar
160ml (2/3c) water
pinch salt
2 tsp tamari or other soya sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)

tofu skewers
500g (1lb 2 oz)
1 red pepper
4 small onions
half a pineapple

plum-sauce

method
  1. If using bamboo skewers, soak them first for at least 20min.
  2. To make the sauce put all the ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 min.
  4. Place the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth (take care when blending hot liquids - it could end up on the ceiling, I start with the lowest speed to prevent redecorating the kitchen)
  5. While the sauce is cooking, remove the tofu from its packaging and dry on some paper towels.
  6. Cut into large cubes. I had 24 pieces - 3 per skewer.
  7. Cut the pepper into large pieces. Quarter the onions. Cut off the pineapple skin and the core. Cut the pineapple into bite sized pieces.
  8. Thread the tofu, pepper, onion and pineapple onto skewers.
  9. Preheat the grill (broiler) and place the skewers under. Grill for about 5 min each side, or until the tofu, veggies and fruit start to caramelise.
  10. Serve with the sauce and some rice or noodles on the side.

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DIET ON A HARLEY/ SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

DIET ON A HARLEY/ SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serves 4

spicyaubergineandchickpea2

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

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

spicyaubergineandchickpea
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SEVEN DEADLY SINS/ AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

SEVEN DEADLY SINS/ AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aubergine-curry

AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

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

You can use cashew nut cream instead of coconut milk.

enough to serve 8

ingredients

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

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

aubergine-curry-detail

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

A LESSON LEARNT / PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

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

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

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

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

PASTA WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

serves 4

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

redwinetomatosauce

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

redwinetomatosaucepasta
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THIS LITTLE PIGGY...

THIS LITTLE PIGGY...

Yesterday I took kids for a breakfast in a farm shop cafe. I have been using up my fruits and veggies before leaving for our holiday on Sunday butomehow I used it up too fast and needed more fruit. Farm shop seemed the best solution, I could pick up some produce and treat the kids all in one place.

We enjoyed our lovely veggie breakfast while watching the rain outside the windows. On the way out, fruit and few veggies in the bag, the rain eased off for just long enough for kids to feed the adorable piglets. The farm shop leaves a bucket of fruits and veggies not good enough to sell outside the shop.

Three months old piglets waiting for heir apples
pigies

The three months old piggies really enjoyed their apples, happily grunting and squabbling over the fruit that got more and more covered in the sticky brown mud. I suddenly had this heavy feeling in my heart while watching those happy spotty piggies, I couldn’t stand the thought of them ending on the butcher's counter one day. At that point the farmer arrived and told the kids there are 5 days old piglets hiding in one of the huts. We had to have a look. We could just see them peeking from the dark corner, too scared to explore the big wide world just yet.

They seemed rather big for such a young age. The farmed explained it was because they were only 5 of them, plenty of milk for all. I said to him that I suppose that is a bad thing for them in the long run as they going to get fatter too quickly. I did mention I was a vegetarian and don’t really like the idea of them being turned into ham and pork chops. This farmer didn’t look at me with disapproval as one would expect, he said that maybe because of their size they may become great breeding pigs. Funny, the pig farmer tried to soften the blow and I did appreciate it.

Still I couldn’t stop thinking about those innocent little pigs, and their fate. I wish there was a Charlotte out there for each little piglet. On the way home my kids and I had a discussion about it all. My son sad he was happy we have brought him up a vegetarian (even though he thinks meat looks tasty).

limeynoodles


LIMEY LEMONGRASSY AUBERGINE NOODLES
Aubergine is traditionally cooked with lots of oil. If you have a good non stick wok you can get away with half a tablespoon as long as you follow my method. You will get soft moist aubergine without the grease. Makes sure it is cooked through, the pieces should be easy to squash with a fork. There is nothing worse than undercooked aubergine!!!

Serves 2

ingredients
1/2-1 Tbs rapeseed (canola) oil
2 medium aubergines, cut into bite size pieces
2 stalks of lemon grass, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch of ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3 Tbs tamari
200g whole wheat or rice noodles (cooked according to packet instructions)
juice and zest of half a lime
2 spring onions (scallions) finely chopped

method
  1. Heat the oil in a wok (that has a lid) and add the aubergine. Add a pinch of salt. Stir the aubergine around until it starts to brown. Add 1 Tbs of water and cover with lid. Cook until the aubergine is soft and cook through. Remove the aubergine and set aside.
  2. Add the lemon grass, ginger, garlic and chilli to the wok and stir fry until soften. You can add a tablespoon of water if the veggies start to stick.
  3. Next return the aubergine to the wok and add the noodles.
  4. Add the tamari and lime juicy and stri-fry till the noodles are heated through.
  5. Add the lime zest and the spring onions and serve.

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OUTRAGEOUS BEETROOT FALAFEL

OUTRAGEOUS BEETROOT FALAFEL

Falafel, together with hummous, may just be the most famous Middle Eastern food. It originates from Egypt but is equally home in Israel, Palestine or any vegan household around the world. Traditionally, falafel is made from chickpeas, broad (fava) beans or mixture of both. These are soaked, ground, spiced and deep-fried.

Falafel, apart from the deep-frying, is extremely healthy. These spiced morsels are high in protein and fibre while also rich in many minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, iron, folate and others. Usually served in a pitta pocket or flat bread together with salad and tahini dressing it makes a perfect plant based meal.

As much as I respect traditions I decided to try and up the stakes, beef up that nutrition content and lower that oil content. My beetroot falafel looks outrageous with its deep dark red colour, and lusciously moist. Baked in the oven it is also free of oil. I used tinned chickpeas rather than soaked uncooked ones, mainly because I didn’t use the deep frying method of cooking, but convenience was definitely a factor too.

You can serve these in the traditional way in a pitta bread, or on top of a salad. They will also make fab canapes. There is no better accompaniment to falafels than tahini sauce. Just to be different I made 2 different tahini sauces. The other day I acquired some raw black sesame tahini and I thought using next to the traditional creamy coloured tahini would create a great contrast on top of the red falafel morsels. No pressure here, making just one tahini sauce is perfectly fine, just double the quantity. Any leftovers are great as salad dressing.


beetroot-falafel

OUTRAGEOUS BEETROOT FALAFEL
Makes 18

ingredients
falafels
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of fresh coriander (cilantro), about 2 handfuls
salt
2 medium carrots
3 small beetroot (mine were 160g /5.6 oz together)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbs black sesame seeds
1 Tbs white sesame seeds
1 Tbs tahini
40g (1/3 cup) gram flour

tahini sauces

3 Tbs regular tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2-4 tbs water

3 Tbs black tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs water



falafel-mix

method

  1. In a food processor combine the chickpeas, garlic, fresh coriander and salt.
  2. Process together, this will need a lot of stopping and scrapping down the sides. The texture should be a mixture of creamy smooth with some coarser pieces. See the above picture.
  3. Place the chickpea mixture into a mixing bowl.
  4. Finely grate the carrots and beetroot. I used my box grater for this job as my food processor doesn’t grate finely enough.
  5. Add to the chickpea mixture.
  6. Next add the cumin, tahini, sesame seeds and gram flour.
  7. Using your hands mix thoroughly.
  8. Form the mixture into walnut size balls and slightly flatten them.
  9. Place into the refrigerator for half an hour.
  10. Preheat oven to 180C.
  11. Line a baking tray with greaseproof (parchment) paper and place the falafels on top.
  12. Bake for about 15min, turning halfway through the baking time.
  13. While the falafels are baking make the sauces. Just simply mix the tahini and lemon together adding water until the desired consistency is acheived.
  14. Enjoy.




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CHICKPEAS AND KALE WITH BERBERE

CHICKPEAS AND KALE WITH BERBERE

My Dad, who was visiting for two weeks, was scouring the supermarket for his favourite hot smoked paprika. While in the spice isle I notices a small box of Berbere spice mix. Of course I had to have it. Before I buy any spice mix I check the ingredients, anything that has MSG is quickly discounted as are any spice mixes that are padded up with ingredients that shouldn’t be there are rejected too. My berbere mix had nothing sinister in it.

How surprised I was when, after opening the metal box, I found a beautiful concoction of whole spices that hit my nose with an intoxicating heady fragrance. Berbere is a punchy spicy mix from Ethiopia. It always contains chillies and array of fragrant spice. As with most spice mixtures there are variations but mine, apart from chilies, contained black pepper, cumin, coriander, fennel, cloves, allspice, ajwain seed, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg.

Berbere spice mix
berbere-spice

One spice I admit was totally new to me, the ajwan seed. Of course I had to look it up. Ajwain seed is common in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and comes from the same family as carrots, fennel and dill. Ajwain is believed to increase digestive function, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. In India it is used to ease asthma and as an ingredient in cough remedies.

I used my berebere to spice up chickpeas and kale that made a perfect topping for a baked potato. I only had white potatoes in my vegetable box but the spiciness would go beautifully with a baked sweet potato. I put 2 teaspons of berbere in my mix, the result was spicy but not blow your head off. The spicy hit of the chillies seems to be eased by the rest of the gorgeous spices.


berberechickpeakale

CHICKPEAS AND KALE WITH BERBERE

Serves 4 as a baked potato topping, 2 if served alongside grain

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp berbere spice mix
1 large tomato, peeled, deseeded and chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree (paste)
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
200 g kale, tough stalks removed, leaves shredded

  1. In a frying or saute pan (you need a larger one to accommodate the kale later) heat couple tablespoons of water. (you can use 1 Tbs oil if you wish)
  2. Add the onion and garlic and saute on medium heat until soft. Add more water if the vegetables start sticking.
  3. Next add the berbere and stir around, saute for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomato to the pan and cook for about 5-10 min until softened.
  5. Add in the tomato paste and cook for about 1 min.
  6. Next add in the chickpeas and about 100ml (under 1/2cup) of water. Cook for 5 min until the sauce thickens.
  7. Add the kale in and stir it into the sauce. Cook until tender, about 10 min. Add more water if the mixture seems too dry.
  8. Serve over baked white or sweet potato, or over some brown rice or other grain.

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INSPIRED BY THE OLYMPICS: KENYAN IRIO CAKES WITH TOMATO SPINACH

INSPIRED BY THE OLYMPICS: KENYAN IRIO CAKES WITH TOMATO SPINACH

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

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

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

IMG_3250
ready for the oven


KENYAN IRIO CAKES WITH TOMATO SPINACH

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

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

IMG_3254


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

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WHERE DO I STAND ON THE FLU VACCINE FOR KIDS

WHERE DO I STAND ON THE FLU VACCINE FOR KIDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP


smokedtofusausages

ingredients

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

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


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


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VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

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

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

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

vietnamesestylecurry

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

Serves 4

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

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

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OLIVE OIL AND THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

OLIVE OIL AND THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

Last Saturday I attended a day of talks organised by my college. One of the segments was a cookery demonstration and a talk on the Mediterranean Diet. My friend and I were watching in bit of a dismay as the chef poured lashings of olive oil on her fennel and orange salad (about 2Tbs per 1/3 of a fennel bulb) and than fried couple of fillets of sea bass in a very generous pool of rapeseed (canola) oil. My friend confronted her about the amount of oil she was using. Her response was: “ I never count calories and we need fat and olive oil is a healthy fat!”

Every week we read articles about the benefits of Mediterranean Diet. We are informed that eating a diet high in veggies, fruit, fish and olive oil is the best way to protect ourselves from heart disease and cancers. Olive oil is hailed as the secret to long life and good health. Are these claims right?

Dr Dean Ornish states that the benefit of olive oil is only due to replacing the more saturated fats in person’s diet, this of course will bring some benefits. Just by replacing (weight for weight) butter with olive oil you will see lowered cholesterol levels. This is not due to the magic powers of olive oil but just merely thanks to abolishing the butter. Dr. Ornish promotes rapeseed oil as a much healthier option especially for its Omega 3 content. Still it is a high calorie food.
http://www.pmri.org/publications/newsweek/The_Great_Olive_Oil_Misconconception_Dr_Dean_Ornish.pdf

Drs Esselstyn and McDougall advise against the use of all oils and Dr Fuhrman allows around 1TBS of oil a day provided you are healthy weight, in good health and active. He advises against oil consumption if trying to loose weight. The Pritikin Longevity Centre recommends keeping oil consumption to 1 teaspoon a day.

When doing my research on the matter I came across the fascinating world of Monasteries on the Greek Mount Athos. The male population of monks have surprised experts by their incredibly low prostate cancer rates (about 1/4 of of the international average),further cases of lung, bladder and bowel cancers are non existent; so is heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The monks eat a diet rich in plant foods; fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, soya and pulses. They eat twice a day and meals last only 10min leading to calorie restriction. They strictly observe
3 non dairy/no olive oil days in a week. Dairy is rather rare to the island as no female animals (except for cats) are allowed on the monastery premises. The monks observe weeks of fasting when only vegan diet is consumed. They eat fish on feast days only, i.e Christmas. They get by on very little sleep as the day starts at 3am with an 8 hour long service. Their everyday routine doesn’t change, it consists of prayer, silence and work (the monks are as self sufficient as possible). Their are cut off from news from the outside world which in my opinion contributes to further calmness of mind and non existence of stress.

We may not all choose to live like monks on Mount Athos but we could all do with adopting their way of eating. As for oils I used them sparingly, some days (like the monks) we have none at all, others I may have use 1/2- 2 Tbs in my cooking (this is to serve 4). I do prefer to get my fats from seed, nuts and avocados.

To find out bit more about the olive oil controversy have a look at this very informative article from the Pritikin Longevity Centre:
http://www.pritikin.com/your-health/healthy-living/eating-right/1103-whats-wrong-with-olive-oil.html


artichokeandpotato

SUMMER STEW OF GLOBE ARTICHOKES AND POTATOES
To prepare the artichokes you need the patience of a Mount Athos monk. It is not an easy task at first but once you get a hang of it, believe me, it will get easier. Just have a large bowl for all the cuttings, you will end up with lots of remains to put on your compost heap. There are some great step by step guides on the web. All the effort is well worth it, fresh artichokes are delicious and so different from the jarred ones ( which I equally love).

Serves 4

ingredients

4 large globe artichokes
2 lemons
400g (just under a pound) of small new potatoes
500ml homemade vegetable stock (or light bought vegetable stock)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 large cloves of garlic
1 cup peas or broad beans

method
  1. First prepare the artichokes. Fill a bowl, that will hold the artichokes, with water and juice of a lemon (this prevents artichokes from going brown). Depending on the length of the artichoke stalk cut some off leaving about 2 inches. Pull off the outer leaves of the artichokes, when you see light more tender leaves using a sharp knife cut off the top half of artichoke, scoop out all the choke (purple and light green feathery strands) until you are left with the heart. Cut off any remnants of the tough leaves on the outside of the heart. Peel the stalk. When working with the artichoke rub any cut (exposed) area with lemon to prevent browning. When finished place the artichoke into the lemon water before proceeding with the next one.
  2. Cut the artichokes into 4 pieces lengthways.
  3. Clean the potatoes, halve the larger ones, leave the smallest one whole.
  4. In a large lidded pan heat the veggie stock, add juice of half a lemon, the artichokes, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme and garlic. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and simmer covered for about 20min or till tender.
  5. Add the peas (or shelled broad beans) and cook for further 2 min.
  6. Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the lemony stock.

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TWO HAPPY CUSTOMERS

TWO HAPPY CUSTOMERS

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

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

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


Mexicancasserole1
Here is the recipe:

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

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

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

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

jalapeno peppers
8 soft corn tortillas
1 tin of refried beans

method
  1. First make the sauce. In a sauce pan heat the oil (or water) and saute the onion till soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the spices, cook about 30 seconds.
  4. Next add the tomatoes, season, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30minutes.
  5. Next make the spinach layer.
  6. Put spinach, tofu, nutritional yeast flakes, dried onion and garlic, salt and pepper into a food processor. Process till quite smooth (it will resemble ricotta cheese).
  7. Now layer the casserole. Make sure that you use a deep round casserole dish that will fit the tortillas snuggly. First put some tomato sauce on the bottom. Layer: tortilla, 1/3 refried beans, tortilla, 1/2 spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce topped with jalapenos, tortilla, refried beans, tortilla, spinach with tofu, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos, tortilla, beans, tortilla, tomato sauce with jalapenos.
  8. Bake at 180C. Bake it covered for the first 20min and than uncovered for 15min.
  9. Let sit for 10min before serving, you will get better layers. Serve with a crisp salad and some avocados (or guacamole).

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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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REVISION WEEK LUNCH: BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CHICKPEA SALAD

REVISION WEEK LUNCH: BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CHICKPEA SALAD

A whole week of revision. On Saturday I have my final Biomedicine exam therefore I have been buried in books and lectures, making notes and tables, drawing pictures. By now I can draw a mean neuron!

When I am this busy it would be easy to eat rubbish, but I can’t and don’t want to do that. When it comes to grabbing a sandwich I get bored very quickly. Even I love hummus there are only so many hummus wraps I can eat. Taking a break to make a quick, nutritions and delicious lunch will only enhance one’s study performance. Another break to take dogs out will clear head and refresh the brain for further info intake.

Enough talking here is the recipe before I get back to infectious diseases and other delights...


butternutsuqashchickpeasala

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CHICKPEA SALAD
This can be served hot straight from the oven or at room temperature. Whatever you do wait till you are ready to eat before you add the spinach. T

serves 2 as a main dish salad, 4 as a starter

700g (about 1 and 1/2lb) butternut squash (it was a half of a large one)
2 medium red onions
1 Tbs of olive oil
1 tin of chickpeas (no salt added)
2 tsp sambal oelek
1 Tbs rice vine vinegar
2 tsp brown rice miso
200 g baby spinach leaves

method
  1. First preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Peel and deseed the butternut squash, cut into larger bite sized pieces.
  3. Peel the onion and cut into chunks (each onion in about 8 pieces)
  4. Put onions, butternut squash and olive oil into a medium size roasting dish, toss together and place in the oven
  5. Roast for 25 min than add the drained chickpeas and roast for 10 more minutes.
  6. In the meantime combine the sambal oelek, vinegar and miso together.
  7. Remove the vegetables and chickpeas from the oven and toss with the dressing. Place on top of spinach leaves and serve.


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Welcome wheatberries

WELCOME WHEATBERRIES

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

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

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

wheatberriepilaf


WHEATBERRY PILAF WITH ROASTED TOMATO DRESSING

Serves 4

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

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

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


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VegFest 2012

VegFest 2012

We had another scorching day, perfect weather for hanging out at the harbour and eating some yummy vegan treats. Annual VegFest came to town and as usual didn’t disappoint. We tried loads of great food. Tested some natural cosmetics. Ended up with a bag full treasures, and one melted raw chocolate bar that was in the VegFest goodie bag. It has found a sanctuary in the fridge before it meets an untimely end...

How excited I was to meet and have a chat with the fabulous Jackie Kearney, who made it, despite being a vegetarian, into the last four of Masterchef 2011. We all fell in love with her bubbly personality and her Asian inspired veggie food. I was very disappointed when she didn’t make it to the top. After lunching on her fabulous Jungle curry I am even more convinced that she should have won... It tasted great. Check out her recipes and appearances on her website:
http://www.thehungrygecko.com

After all the smoothies, bubble teas, raw bar, vegan sausages and cheeses, chocolates and ice-creams, my kids got soaking wet at the Millenium square in the water feature. Apart from crushing my sunglasses by sitting on them this was a fantastic family day out. Bring on the next VegFest.

For dinner we had lentil and spinach burger served in a pitta bread. Accompanied with some delicious Reggae Reggae mild sauce, avocados, tomatoes, red onions and salad leaves. Chickpea salad on the side, this was a perfect al fresco dinner. I have to warn you these burgers don’t look pretty, they are swamp green (hence the name) before cooking. After cooking they turn slightly muddy brown, not much of an improvement. They taste good and that is what counts. They are also packed with iron and protein.

Make sure you season this burger well, the spinach needs it. Cook them straight away as the spinach will leak more water and a wet burger means sticky burger... I used some vital wheat gluten in the recipe, I like the texture it gives but you can use gram flour if you don’t have any on hand.

spinachburger

SPINACH SWAMP BURGERS
The spinach: I was convinced I had fresh spinach but sadly that wasn’t true. Luckily there was some frozen one, perfect for this recipe. The 200g when defrosted and squeezed out of water yielded 1 cup. To get the same amount from fresh you will need about 1lb.

We had Reggae Reggae mild sauce with our burgers, simply because we are addicted, but any great sauce will work, even the humble ketchup.

ingredients
200g (1 cup) Puy lentils
200g frozen spinach (or use fresh, see above)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup (packed) parsley
1 heaped Tbs tomato puree
2 tsp of cumin
4 spring onions, white parts only
salt and pepper
3 Tbs of water
3 Tbs of vital wheat gluten
(if you don’t have the wheat gluten use 3Tbs of gram flour minus the water)
salt and pepper to taste

spinachburger2

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. First cook the lentils in plenty of water until they are soft, about 25min.
  3. Next prepare the spinach. If using frozen just defrost and squeeze all the water out. If using fresh wilt the spinach in a hot wok or frying pan and also squeeze the water out.
  4. In a food processor process the lentils, spinach, garlic, parsley, tomato puree, cumin and spring onion until it all comes together. Season.
  5. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl, add the vital wheat gluten and water. Using your hands mix thoroughly, you will see strings appearing within the mixture resembling stringy cheese. (If you are using the gram flour just mix thoroughly)
  6. Mould the mixture into 6 burgers.
  7. Place the burgers onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
  8. Bake for 30min turning halfway through the baking time.
  9. Serve in warmed round pitta breads with variety of toppings.

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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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Not so Cornish pasty

pasty-banner

NOT SO CORNISH PASTY


Around the world people love cooking various ingredients in pastry cases very often formed into half moon shapes. Think of Cornish pasties, calzone in Italy, empanadas in Latin America, pierogi in Poland or gyoza dumplings in Japan. They are all different but the philosophy is the same. Roll a dough into a circle, fill with yummy filling and bake, boil or steam.

My husband’s family comes from Cornwall, the home of the world famous Cornish pasty, the, local speciality that dates back centuries. Any Brit will tell you that pasties were the perfect  “packed lunch” for the Cornish tin miners. Easily portable, the flaky pastry case was stuffed with beef, swede (in Cornwall called turnip), onion and potatoes. Apart from salt and pepper that was it. Sometimes one corner of the pasty encased a portion of stewed apple for dessert. 

Cornish people are very protective of their pasty, even down to the crimping of the edges. There is only one right way to do it and they will snigger at any rogue attempts. My husband’s grandmother made pasties at home. I had her pasty once, with vegetarian filling, only to discover years later that the pastry was made with lard :( This might have been the only animal product I had since going vegetarian... 

My pasty is not like the traditional one. The pastry is different, of course I don’t use lard but I also keep away from any vegetable shortenings that would make a credible replacement. Therefore I have decided to use a yeast dough, slightly crossing over the the calzone territory. Yes the texture is different, but it went down really well with the family. 

The filling of course is rather different too, no beef here, instead we have luscious combination of sweet potatoes, mushrooms and spinach, gorgeous healthy vegetables, and in keeping with Cornish pasty seasoned with lots of pepper.

The plan is to serve it to my mum-in-law next time she comes for a visit, I will dodge the comments about my lack of crimping but hopefully she will enjoy my take on the food she grew up with. 



NOT SO CORNISH PASTY

ingredients

the dough

1 cup of warm water
1 Tbs of olive oil, plus more for the rising of the dough
1 tsp of agave syrup 
1 sachet of instant (or fast acting) yeast
150g (1 cup) of fine wholewheat flour 
225 g (1 and 1/2 cups) of wholewheat spelt flour
salt

the filling 

2 medium large sweet potatoes (roughly 600g, just under 1 and half lb)
1 Tbs olive oil (separated)
3 large portobello mushrooms
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
200g (about half a lb) baby spinach
salt and lots of pepper to taste

IMG_2166

method

  1. First make the dough for the pasty.

  2. In a large bowl mix the warm water (just hand warm, not boiling hot) with the agave syrup, olive oil and yeast. Stir. Let it stand for 10min to get the yeast activated, the mixture should start to bubble up.

  3. Next start mixing in the flour. Don’t add all the flour at once, each flour is different and can yield different results at different quantities. After about 1 and half cups add 1 tsp of salt, get your hands in, mix, adding more flour until you get soft pliable dough, not dry or stiff. You are making a basic bread dough.

  4. Invert the dough on a floured surface and knead for at least 5 min until you get a smooth ball of dough. Add more flour if dough is sticking to your surface too much.

  5. Rub a little bit of olive oil all over your ball of dough, place in a large bowl, cover with cling film and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hr or until it has doubled in size.

  6. Preheat your oven to 200C.

  7. While your dough is rising, peel your sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch dice, place in a roasting dish lined with some baking paper. Add 1/2 Tbs of olive oil making sure all pieces are coated. Roast in a the oven for about 25 min or until the potatoes are cooked through and  caramelized along the edges.

  8. In a large frying pan, heat another half a Tbs of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for about 5 min or until soft. 

  9. Add the garlic in and cook for further minute.

  10. Cut the mushrooms into 1 cm pieces and add to the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 min or until mushrooms are soft. Don’t forget to season everything.

  11.  Next add in the spinach, cook until it is just wilted (about 1 min). 

  12. Place the vegetables into a bowl together with the roasted sweet potatoes. 

  13. Mix all the vegetables together, breaking some of the potatoes as you go. Season with plenty of pepper. Set aside.

  14.  When your dough has risen, invert it onto a floured surface and knead for about 2 min.

  15. Divide the dough into 4 (this makes large, calzone size pasties) or 8 pieces (for smaller pasties - perfect for picnic).

  16. Make sure to divide your vegetable mixture accordingly. 

  17. Roll each piece of the dough into a large circle (the dough should be quite thin, think pizza), place the filling on one half of the circle leaving about 1/2inch border. Fold the other half over trying not to make any holes. Press the edges down with a fork.

  18. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the pasties on top. Bake for about 25 minutes in a 200C oven or till the pasties are lightly brown and sound hollow when you tap on the pastry.

  19.  Enjoy!



IMG_0061

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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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Whatever next?

WHATEVER NEXT?

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

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

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

ragupasta

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Serves 4

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

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

WE ARE WHAT WE EAT

Every day I look at the latest health news and what particularly caught my eye in the last few days were several articles on the causes of obesity. It is a rather mixed bunch of possible causes. Here is the list:

  1. The less you sleep the more weight you gain
  2. The environment in mothers womb (due to lifestyle) might be linked to obesity
  3. CO2 concentrations in the air increases weight gain
  4. Gene mutation so called “greedy gene” causes weight gain
  5. Obesity is fuelled by gender-bending chemicals
  6. Obesity is contagious (microbe imbalance)

Wouldn’t it be nice if things were so simple? On the other hand if these studies are right we are all destined to become the chubby mobility scooter bound people from Wall-E. Of course things are not so simple, none of these studies seem to be conclusive. NHS behind the headlines had debunked the womb environment argument, the study only found a link to height not weight (but weight makes a better headline). The greedy gene mutation was studied in mice, but is extremely rare in humans. CO2 and gender-bending chemicals? Hm I am going to wait what NHS behind headlines comes back with but it seems extremely far fetched.

There has been an explosion of TV programs about obese people trying to loose weight and changing there lives. I particularly like
Obese a year to save my life (preferring the UK version) especially because the program explores the reasons behind the overeating habits of the person. Another great one is Supersized v Superskinny, how fantastic to be shown both sides of an eating problem. What is the common denominator of these programs? The people who are obese are eating 2-3 times their daily recommended calorie intake and lead sedentary lifestyles. They don’t seem to be particularly overdosing on CO2, or toxins from cans or having a gene mutation.Their sleep problems are stemming from their weight not vice versa. Most of them, under the right guidance and support ,strong will and determination, loose weight and regain health and energy.

It is human nature to blame something else, gene, toxin, our mothers, but in most cases it is us who are responsible for our health. Even if scientists come up with a pill that allows us to eat tons of doughnuts without putting weight on this would not equal health. Education is one of the most important ways to bring on a healthier future.


BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND EDAMAME PEANUT STEW
This stew is rich creamy and spicy. I have not used any added oil in cooking it, especially because I am adding peanut butter in the end which is high in fat. This dish serves 4 very satisfyingly therefore the amount of fat from the peanut butter is just about 10g per person (about what one average pork sausage would have).

Serves 4

peanutstew

ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (use a peeler to remove the stringy parts)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 small to medium, bell peppers (2 different colours), cut into 1cm (about 1/3 inch dice)
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, slit in the side
3 sprigs of thyme
450g (1lb) butternut squash (cleaned weight), cut into bite size pieces
1 orange sweet potato, peeled cut into bite size pieces
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
375 ml (1 and 1/2cup) of vegetable stock
130g (1 cup) shelled edamame beans (I used frozen)
80g (1/3 cup) smooth organic no sugar added peanut butter
fresh coriander for garnish

method
  1. In a large casserole pan heat 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Add the onion, celery, garlic, peppers, Scotch Bonnet and thyme. Saute till vegetables soften about 10min, add more water if they start to stick.
  2. Add the tin of tomatoes, the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  3. Next add the butternut squash and the sweet potato. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 min.
  4. Add the edamame beans and simmer for further 20min.
  5. To finish the dish add the peanut butter, let it heat through and melt thus creating sumptuous creamy sauce. Don’t forget to fish out and discard the Scotch Bonnet!
  6. Serve with quinoa or rice, garnish with fresh chopped coriander. Some steamed green veggies on the side will finish this dish perfectly.


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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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Bad news for red meat

BAD NEWS FOR RED MEAT

Unless you have been on an intergalactic flight you must have read or heard the latest reports on red meat coming from Harvard University. Every news channel and newspaper has covered the story. The message is that simply adding an extra portion of red (unprocessed and processed) meat will significantly raise your risk of premature death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

If you are following nutrition this is not a big surprise. This information comes from a very credible source and really can’t be ignored. The meat industries are not taking this lightly coming out with condemnations trying to discredit the research. It is sad to see them be more interested in profit rather than health of their fellow men.

These are the words of Frank Hu, PhD, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health who published the study on red meat and higher rates of premature death: “ We should move to a more plant-based diet. This can substantially reduce the risk of chronic disease and the risk of premature death.”

My advice is to look toward some wonderful healthy proteins to replace the meat. Mung beans are a great place to start, they are easy to digest legumes, easy to cook and very tasty. I made them into a gentle stew, no spices just fresh herbs.

mungbeans

THREE HERB MUNG BEAN AND AUBERGINE STEW
This is perfect with green veggies, kale or broccoli are fabulous. We also had bulgur wheat but any grain will work, and even mashed potatoes! Adding the kombu will not only impart flavour but also help the digestion of the beans.

ingredients
1.25l (5 cups) vegetable stock
220 g (1 cup) mung beans, soaked overnight
1 inch piece of kombu seaweed (optional)
2 medium aubergines (eggplants)
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Tbs olive oil or 60ml (1/4 cup ) vegetable stock
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 Tbs fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 Tbs Tamari sauce or liquid aminos
3 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped


mungbeanstew

method

  1. In a large sauce pan combine the vegetable stock, soaked beans and the piece of kombu. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, skim off and discard any foam that may form on the surface. Cover and simmer for about 40 -50 min or until the beans are thoroughly cooked. Remove the kombu piece, but do not drain the beans.
  2. Preheat oven to 200. Cut the aubergine into bite size pieces, coat with 1 Tbs olive oil and place onto a roasting tray. Roast for 20min or until the pieces start to caramelize and are soft and squashy. Set aside.
  3. In a wide saute pan with high edges, heat the 1/2 tsp of olive oil (or 60ml stock), add the onion and saute for 5 min or till softened.
  4. Next add the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Cook for further minute till fragrant.
  5. Next add the beans with their cooking liquid, aubergines and tamari (or liquid aminos). Simmer for about 10min.
  6. Stir in the parsley and adjust seasoning. It shouldn’t need salt if you used salted vegetable stock, just freshly ground pepper.
  7. Serve with a side of your choice.
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The Sorry State of 5-a-day

THE SORRY STATE OF 5-A-DAY

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


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

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

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

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

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

Makes 6

sloppyjoe

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

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




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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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Vibrant eating

VIBRANT EATING

Do you remember Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat series? First she would confront the serious food offender with a table full of the foods they consumed the previous week. It all looked beige and depressing, greasy and quite frankly dead. The next step was to introduce them to the plethora of nutritious gorgeous vibrant and lively foods. The food on the second table was alive. I would be excited to see all the amazing produce. The food criminals had long faces and were usually disgusted by the taste of their new food. Not for long though.

If you are addicted to high fat, high sugar, high animal and processed diet it is hard at first to adjust to vibrant plant based goodness. But it only takes few weeks and your taste buds get exited, they become alive. Vibrant food means vibrant mind and body. It means vibrant you.

Food should be colourful, vibrant, flavourful and full of goodness. Just like this very simple lunch I had today. It may take a bit longer to prepare than a sandwich, but it tastes great and packs an antioxidant punch. These ingredients are some of the nutritional heavy weights; luscious orange sweet potato, satisfying green spring greens, earthy brown mushrooms and don’t forget the mighty garlic. As I always say to the kids, if you eat like this your body will say : “Thank you”.


THREE HEAVY WEIGHTS IN A BOWL
The cajun spices go so well with the sweet potato, there is no need for salt in this dish.
I managed to eat the whole bowl of this, the excuse being it is only veggies and there is no added oil. But realistically it should serve 2, possibly with the addition of some brown rice or lentils on the side. I can even see it wrapped inside a nice whole wheat wrap or chapati.


Serves 2 (or a very hungry 1)


3heavyweights

ingredients
1 orange sweet potato
1 head of spring greens (collards)
1 large clove of garlic
150g (2cups) of brown mushrooms (cremini)
1 tsp cajun seasoning

method
  1. Peel the sweet potato and cut into bite size pieces. Put into a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and gently boil till soft.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the water, reserve the cooking water.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking cut up the mushrooms (mine were small I only halved them).
  4. Prepare the spring greens, cut out the stalks and shred the leaves.
  5. In a medium sized frying pan heat about 60ml (1/4 cup) of the cooking water. Add the mushrooms and garlic and gently cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  6. Add the cajun seasoning and cook for 30 seconds.
  7. Next add the shredded spring greens to the mushrooms, let them wilt and cook for about 3 minutes. Add more sweet potato cooking liquid if needed. Taste the greens, if you prefer them softer cook longer.
  8. Add the sweet potato and heat up. Serve.
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Chocolate and ancho


CHOCOLATE AND ANCHO

A nice bowl of chili has been on my mind for a few days now. Steaming hot, spicy, comforting bowl of chili. So after a gorgeous lunch with friends at Cafe Ronak (a fantastic falafel wrap) and a walk around the shops (stops to 4 health food shops included) I got onto my chili.

Chocolate is the secret ingredient in a proper chili. It makes it rich, dark, velvety and sumptuous. It leaves you thinking what is in that chili? That is if you use dark chocolate of course, a bar of Dairy Milk would leave you thinking what the .... was she thinking?! The other secret ingredient in this chili is a Mexican dried chili, you can use Ancho or Chipotle. I used Ancho, which is a dried Mexican Poblano chili and can vary in flavour from surprisingly mild to rather spicy. These chillies have a smokey flavour that works so well with all the other spices.

The best thing about a bowl of chili is that it is incredibly versatile, eat it just as it is with some homemade tortilla chips, serve it with rice or quinoa, wrapped in a tortilla, on top of a baked potato (regular or sweet), it will even go with pasta. Go crazy with toppings of your choice; jalapenos, avocados, thin slices of red onion or chopped spring onions, sweetcorn, salsa... the possibilities are endless.

THREE BEAN CHILLI WITH ANCHO AND CHOCOLATE

If you like your chili spicy leave the seeds and membranes in your jalapeno, or use two. You can also use hot paprika or even add 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper.
To make the homemade
tortilla chips, cut tortillas (wheat or corn) into strips or triangles, place on a baking tray in one layer (you may have to do in in batches), and bakes at 200C oven for about 2-3 minutes on each side, till they are golden brown.

Serves 6

3beanchili

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed oil (or 1/4 cup of water)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 jalapeno chili, finely chopped (or any other chili), deseeded if you want milder flavour
1 Ancho chili
1 large red pepper, chopped (about 1cm or 1/2inch pieces)
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika (hot or sweet)
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 Tbs liquid aminos (optional)
1 tin black beans
1 tin red kidney beans
1 tin of pinto (or borlotti beans)
500ml (2cups) of stock (make it out of ancho soaking liquid see in method)
30g (1 oz) of dark good quality chocolate (75%)
Toppings: I used chopped fresh coriander, slices of avocado, thinly sliced red onions and homemade tortilla chips

method
  1. First soak the Ancho chili in boiling water for about 10min. Remove it and reserve the liquid. Chop the Ancho chili quite finely.
  2. In a large wide saute pan heat the oil (or 1/4 cup of water). Add the onion and saute till softened.
  3. Next add the garlic, jalapeno chili, bell pepper and cook for 2 min.
  4. Add the spices and Ancho chili. Cook about half a minute taking care not to burn the spices.
  5. Next add the tomato paste, cook it for about a minute.
  6. Add the tinned tomatoes, liquid aminos, if using. Make up 500 ml (2 cups) of liquid out of the strained Ancho soaking liquid and vegetable stock. Add it to the chile.
  7. Next put in the beans, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for about an hour. The sauce should be thick with a deep colour.
  8. To finish the chili add the chocolate, let it melt into the sauce. Stir.
  9. Serve with your favourite sides or toppings.
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Enter blue zone

ENTER BLUE ZONE

Yesterday I stumbled upon couple of lectures by Dr Tim Riesenberger, a physician who happens to be a Seventh-Day Adventist. He reminded of an article I remember reading few years back in National Geographic magazine in a dentist surgery. The article was about the so called Blue Zones. These are demographic/geographic areas where people live measurably longer lives. These places are the islands of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.

People living in blue zones not only have a higher chance of reaching 90 (and many 100) but they do so in better health than rest of the world. Their long, healthy and happy life is not only about what they eat, but diet is an important part of the blue zone success. The diet is mainly (apart from the Sardinians) low fat plant based with meat and processed foods largely off the menu. They also tend not to smoke, they drink alcohol in moderation, keep active, stay positive, are an active part of community and put family above all. These are easy to reach goals in everybody’s live. Go and create your own blue zone too.

polentakale

MUSHROOM POLENTA WITH KALE AND BEANS
The polenta can be made ahead and kept in the fridge.

ingredients
Mushroom polenta
1/2oz (15g) dried porcini
200 g mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
10 sage leaves, thinly shredded
250g (1 and 1/2cup) quick cook polenta
1l (4 cups) vegetable stock (make it form the soaking mushroom liquid and vegetable stock)

Beans and kale
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250 (1 cup) ml veg stock
1 tin of canellini beans, drained
150g (1/3lb) kale de-stalked and torn into pieces

method
  1. First soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, reserve the liquid, and chop the mushrooms up.
  2. In a medium frying pan heat about 60ml (1/4cup) of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cook till the mushrooms soften about 5min. Add the porcini mushrooms cook for further 2 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the vegetable/mushroom stock to a boil. Slowly add the polenta and sage, keep stirring. When the polenta thickens, turn down the heat and let bubble for couple of minutes. Stir in the mushrooms.
  4. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper, spread the polenta on top, about 1/2inch thick. Smooth the top. Let cool.
  5. In a large sauce pan heat 60 ml (1/4cup) water (or stock) and cook the onions and garlic, gently simmer till softened. Add the vegetable stock and beans, bring to a gentle boil.
  6. Add the kale, cover and simmer for 10-15min or until the kale is tender.
  7. Season with plenty of pepper.
  8. While the kale is cooking, preheat the grill (broiler).
  9. Cut the polenta into triangles, place on top of grease proof paper lined baking sheet. Place under the grill and grill for about 2 min on each side.
  10. Serve the kale and beans with the polenta triangles.

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Love Food

LOVE FOOD

That I certainly do but I also love the LOVE FOOD festival we go to quite regularly. Every month local producers of yummy food get together to introduce and sell their innovative products. We always leave with some goodies in the bag.

Today I was very pleased to see our familiar falafels, perfect for tomorrows lunch with some crisp veggies, tahini dressing in a wrap. There were several stalls with various sauces, I got some wonderful chipotle chilli one. My favourite wasabi and lime dressing will be perfect on Japanese noodle salad with crispy veggies. Two bottles of fruity vinegar for oil free dressing were promptly in my bag.

A welcomed surprise was a sushi stall, with great veggie options. We left with three boxes for our todays lunch. Much better than any sushi chain restaurant! As this was a Valentine’s edition of the festival we found ourselves in a Raw chocolate tent all decked out in decadent red that perfectly offset the beautiful unadulterated rich taste of 80% dark gorgeousness.

Kids were pleased with their freshly popped popcorn, one with Himalayan pink salt and the other with Magic sugar with sparkles. We all had a great time, apart from my sneezing fit after I managed to inhale some rare Keralan white pepper into my nose.


ROASTED VEGETABLE NUT AND SEED ROAST
Sunday roast veggie style. You don’t have to stick strictly to the nuts and seeds ratio just use what you have at home. If you only have almonds it will work too.

vegroastwhole

ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 350g)
3 medium carrots (about 250g)
1 large onion
1 tsp olive or rapeseed oil
50g (2oz) almonds
30g (1oz) Brazil nuts
30g (1oz) cashew nuts
30g (1oz) sesame seeds
50g (2oz) sunflower seeds
1 tin cannellini beans (or other white beans)
2 tsp tomato puree
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 Tbs light soya sauce
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
50g (2oz) rolled oats

rostedvegroast

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the carrots into quarters lengthways, the sweet potatoes into 8 pieces and the onion into 8 pieces. Add 1 tsp of oil, coat the vegetables.
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper,place in the oven and roast for 25min or until the vegetables are caramelised. Let cool.
  3. Reduce the oven to 180C.
  4. In a dry frying pan, dry roast the nuts until starting to brown. Set aside. Next roast the seeds. Set aside.
  5. In a food processor process the nuts until chopped still retaining texture. Put into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Put the roasted vegetables, garlic, beans, soya sauce, tomato puree and vegetable stock into the food processor and process until texture of coarse pate, with some of the ingredients processed smooth and some still retaining some texture.
  7. Put the vegetable mixture into the bowl with nuts, add the oats and mix well.
  8. Place into a loaf tin lined with baking paper sticking out at the ends by an inch (this will help to lift the roast out). Bake for 30min until the top is golden brown. Let cool in the tin for 5 min, lift it up with the help of the baking paper.
  9. Slice and serve with green salad any sides of your choice.
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The small things

THE SMALL THINGS

Today my daughter’s class held a cake sale to raise money for some new toys for their classroom. All the Mums (and one Dad) made some fabulous looking and tasting cakes. I decided to make dairy/egg free cupcakes, I thought it would be lovely for children with allergies to be able to buy a treat.

My trusty Robin Robertson (1000 Vegan Recipes) cupcake recipe at hand I was ready to go, only to realise that almond milk may not be the best milk to use with allergies in mind and not having any other send my heart racing... A light bulb moment and I saved the cakes with soya yoghurt!

My friend’s little boy came to the cake sale and bought 2, started to eat one, and came back for another. After a while he was back clutching another coin, wanting 4th one for his tomorrow’s lunch box. To see his smile and excitement just made my day, it was one of those the small things that make a difference. His mum told me this was the first time he was able to come to a cake sale and buy a cake (or 4). As my friend says: “Bless his cotton socks”. Good deed done. The warm feeling, truly priceless.

Tired out from the cakes sale and consequent traffic jam on the way home from school, I didn’t feel much like cooking. Stood in front of my fridge the only idea that came to my head was messy spaghetti. It really takes so little effort, open few jars, cut up few things, toss it together.... actually this is something I make in one portion quantity for my lunch, only takes 10minutes and beats any old sandwich.

MESSY SPAGHETTI
If I was making it for myself I would add some chilli flakes to the garlic, but with my kids in mind I did omit them this time.
messy-spaghetti

ingredients
400 g wholewheat spaghetti
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
20 each green and black olives, pitted and halved
2 Tbs mini capers
8 sun-dried tomatoes, cut up
8 artichokes, quartered
2 Tbs parsley, chopped

method
  1. In large pot of water cook the spaghetti.
  2. While the pasta is cooking heat a large frying pan (large enough to fit all the spaghetti when cooked) and toast the pine nuts. They should be fragrant and golden brown, take care they will burn in no time. Set aside.
  3. In the same frying pan heat the oil and gently fry the garlic (and chilli flakes if using).
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients (except parsley) and gently heat through. You can add couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.
  5. Add the spaghetti and toss with the sauce. Mix in parsley, pine nuts and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a green salad.
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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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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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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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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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