pepper

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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ROASTED AUBERGINE AND PEPPER DIP/SAUCE

ROASTED AUBERGINE AND PEPPER DIP/SAUCE

Last night we were watching the Red Nose Day on TV, amazing amount of money was raised for some very worthy causes. All of the stories of the people in need, whether in Africa or the UK, are truly heartbreaking. An African woman died from AIDS leaving behind her HIV positive daughter. The medicine she was supposed to take to keep her alive cannot be taken on empty stomach as it can be too toxic. She gave up her share of food so her daughter had enough to take her medicine thus condemning herself to a premature death.

Today walking through the town we came across a Mexican restaurant serving a 3 pound burrito. It may not be as big as those on Man V Food but still nobody needs to eat this much in one sitting (not even for a lousy T-shirt). See the disparity? Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

The sad thing is that the type and amounts of food people in the Western world eat today can result (and it sure does) in chronic diseases and an early death. Not to mention the destruction of the environment. I couldn’t believe that I read in the today’s Daily Mail article about king prawn production in Thailand. To keep up with the demand from the Western world, man groves in Thailand have been destroyed to be converted into prawn pools. Fishing for the prawn feed destroys the marine life. The workmen, trafficked from poorer countries, work in terrible inhumane conditions. This makes me very angry. I could say my conscience is clear, I don’t eat prawns, thus don’t participate in this appalling industry. However this is about all of us. I do appreciate not everyone will stop eating prawns but everyone should be aware of where their food comes from and be shown how to make better, more ethical choices. This is the only planet we have and we are collectively responsible for its future.

I have posted the article on my facebook, but if you haven’t read it here is the link. Truly shocking:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2294246/Love-eating-prawns-Youll-right-tell-THEY-fed-on.html

Ponder over the article with a bowl of this on hand :)

aubergine-pepper-dip

ROASTED AUBERGINE AND PEPPER DIP/SAUCE
This is such a versatile recipe. Great as a stir in sauce for gnocchi or pasta (pesto style), fabulous on bruschetta or rye bread, yummy as a dip, homemade baked pitta or tortilla chips... Just make sure you crush the garlic clove before putting it into the food processor, nobody likes to crunch on a piece of garlic...

ingredients
1 medium aubergine (eggplant)
1 red pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
5 sun dried tomatoes
1 cup of parsley
1/2 cup walnuts

Great as a stir-in sauce for gnocchi or pasta.
gnocchi-roasted-aubergine

  1. Heat grill (broiler) on high. Line a baking sheet with some aluminium foil. Pierce the aubergine and pepper with a skewer or the tip of a sharp knife.
  2. Place the aubergine and pepper on the baking sheet and put them under the grill.
  3. Grill until the pepper skin is blackened and the aubergine very soft. This will take 10-15 minutes. You may have to take the pepper out before the aubergine is done.
  4. Put the pepper into a bowl and cover the bowl with cling film, this will make it easier to take the skin off. When cooled, peel the pepper. Remove the stem and seed but reserve the juices that collect inside the pepper.
  5. Make a slit lengthways into the aubergine and scrape out the flesh.
  6. Put the pepper with juices, aubergine, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, parsley and walnuts into your blender or good processor.
  7. Process until all ingredients are well chopped and mixed together.
  8. Use this as a quick stir in sauce for pasta or gnocchi, spread for bruschetta or a dip for pitta chips.
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FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xmas-stuffed-peppers


FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

Serves 4-6

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

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

baby spinach 100g per person

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

xmas-stuffedpumpkin


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BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

broccolicauliflower-bake

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

Serves 4

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

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

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LESSONS FROM IKARIA/ MEXICAN-STYLE BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP

LESSONS FROM IKARIA/ MEXICAN-STYLE BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP

It would be near impossible not to get touched by the story of Stamatis Moratis that was published in the New York Times. This man’s incredible recovery from terminal lung cancer is just amazing. It is not an unexplainable miracle, this is the power of healthy food, absence of stress and being a part of community (and a bit of luck). Moving to the island of Ikaria is not practical for everyone however learning from the “Ikarian” life style would make a huge difference to anybody’s life.

The Ikarians stop and relax, socialize, don’t stress over not having much. They play dominos and drink wine. They centre their diet around plant based foods most of which they grow themselves. They live to a ripe old age without being plagued by the diseases most Westerners seem to suffer from.

Believe me I am inspired! Food? I have that covered, I do rather well in adhering to the whole foods plant based diet. Unlike the Ikarians I do not drink wine much at all. I don’t think it is wine that makes them live as long as they do. Having friends to share a glass of wine with is more important that the wine itself. A shared pot of green tea will surely do the same. Being around good friends is good for the soul and body.

And so is soup. This one has more Mexican influences than Ikarian but it does use their favourite staples, beans, potatoes and vegetables. My friend K shared it with me which made it taste even better. Make it today and share with a friend or a loved one.

Link to the original article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/the-island-where-people-forget-to-die.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1&

Mexican-bean-soup


MEXICAN-STYLE BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP
I have grated the carrot, it thickens the soup and I like grated carrot in soups. You can just dice it if you wish.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated (or finely chopped)
1 red pepper, cut into 1 cm pieces
1 larger potato, peeled and cut into 1 cm dice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tin of red kidney beans no salt added, drained
1 cup tomato passata
3 cups vegetable stock
2 large tortilla wraps
fresh coriander or spring onions for garnish
Optional : cashew cream made of 250ml (1 cup) of cashews and 180ml (3/4 cup) water

  1. In a large soup pan heat about 60ml (1/4 cup) of water and saute till softened. Add more water if the onion starts to stick.
  2. Next add the chilli, garlic, celery, grated carrot and red pepper to the onion and saute for about 5 min, adding more water if needed.
  3. When the vegetables have softened add the potato and spices. Cook about 1 min.
  4. Add the beans, passata and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20-30min until.
  5. While the soup is cooking preheat the oven to 200C. Cut each tortilla in 10 wedges, place on a baking tray and bake till crisped up, turn them over half way through. About 5-10 min. The tortilla wedges will start to brown at the edges.
  6. Serve the soup with the wedges on the side garnished with fresh coriander/spring onions and cashew cream if you wish. It is delicious without the cream too.
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KEY TO HAPPINESS/FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP

KEY TO HAPPINESS/FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP

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

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

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

UK Japan

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

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

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

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


fennel-tomato-soup

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

Serves 4 generously (6-8 as a starter)

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

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

peppers-and-fennel
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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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LATEST NEWS/ RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD

LATEST NEWS/ RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD

Not surprisingly, yet another research has shown the link between red meat consumptions and the increased risk of heart disease, bowel cancer and Type-2 diabetes. This recent Cambridge University study also looked into meat production and our carbon footprint. Studies after studies are coming up with the same results yet only a handful of us are taking notice. It is important to keep this news in the public view.

This particular study has shown 3-12% reduction in colorectal cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes risk. The scientist are only talking about a reduction of red meat intake from 91g to 53g per day. I would like to see the numbers for people who cut their red meat consumption down even further or indeed cut it out completely.
http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/12032/20120911/goodbye-red-meat-cutting-reduce-carbon-footprint.htm

Another study that caught my eyes is the link between mother's (and even grandmother's) diet and their daughters (granddaughters) increased risk of breast cancer. High fat diets in pregnancy can increase your daughter’s, granddaughter’s or even great granddaughter’s breast cancers risk by 55-60%. These are some scary numbers. And yet we get “nutritionists” promoting high animal fat low carb Atkins style diets.

This study proves that not only we are what we eat but our children are what we eat too!

http://www.sciencecodex.com/pregnancy_exposures_determine_risk_of_breast_cancer_in_multiple_generations_of_offspring-98216

The last study? Omega 3 supplements don’t cut risk of heart attacks. If your overall diet isn’t great Omega 3 supplement will not make much of a difference. Eating healthy plant based diet is the answer. You could include fish in your diet if you wish (I don’t) or choose from some of the many sources of non animal Omega 3 fatty acids. Chia seeds, linseeds, walnuts and kale are some of my favourites.

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357266
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/09/11/us-heart-omega-idUKBRE88A1C020120911


redpepperwalnutspread


Now one super speedy natural Omega 3, antioxidant rich, planet hugging recipe:

RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD
This spread is fab on some crusty whole grain bread but can be used as a pasta sauce pesto style.

I used peppers from a jar, but it is easy to roast your own. Just place on a foil or baking paper lined baking tray and bake (200C) or broil until peppers start blistering all over. Put into a bowl cover with plastic wrap to let peppers to steam, this makes them easy to peel. Peel and de-seed. Catch any juices from inside of the peppers.

ingredients
1 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 roasted red peppers, from a jar works great
1 raw red pepper
small bunch of parsley, leaves only, chopped

method
  1. Put walnuts, garlic and peppers into your food processor/blender.
  2. Whizz up into a course pate consistency.
  3. Add in the parsley and whizz shortly till well incorporated throughout the spread.


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THREE BEAN SALAD

THREE BEAN SALAD

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

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

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

threebeansalad

THREE BEAN SALAD
Oil free recipe.

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

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

ingredients

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

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

ONE DAY OF SNOW

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

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

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

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

wintersoup


WINTERY VEGETABLE, BEAN AND PASTA SOUP

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

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

Serves 4 as a main meal

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

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