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Posts in 'Recipes'

Cooking with Chickpeas - A Channa Masala Recipe
Although they’re not much at their first appearance, it’s surprising how incredibly tasty Chickpeas can be to cook with. They are not in fact a bean nor a pea, but rather a legume, which is classified as both a vegetable and a protein food. Isn’t it remarkable how something so small can target two food groups?

Chickpeas are perfect for vegans, vegetarians or anyone on a meat –free diet, as their protein count is astonishing.  They contain 19g per 100g, only 8g less than the ‘go-to source’ chicken.  On their own, Chickpeas are quite bland, so when combined with other ingredients, the protein content will equalise that of meat.  Yet this isn’t the only reason why we should start consuming more of these legumes.

Health Benefits of Chickpeas

  • They are also recognised for their high fibre content. Fibre rich foods do not only aid in digestion, they balance pH levels in the gut, increasing healthy bacteria and eliminating unhealthy bacteria.

  • They are ‘good-carbs’. The carbohydrates in Chickpeas are complex carbs, which means they are digested slowly and stored as energy to be used later. This helps control blood sugar, as it allows for sugar to move more slowly into your bloodstream; therefore this will not suddenly spike blood sugar levels.

  • Typically, Vitamin C is known for its immune boosting qualities, yet zinc and copper are too equally as effective for the development of immune boosting cells. Chickpeas contain 17% of our daily intake of zinc and 30% of copper per 165g.


Although more widely known to be used in Indian, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisine, they are so versatile that they can be used in most dishes. Why not try them sautéed with garlic mushrooms and served on toast? Or fry them with garlic and combine with a paprika and cumin yoghurt mix and add them to a baked sweet potato?  They’re texture  allows them to be blended and work well as dips, such as Hummus or, my favourite, chickpea and red pepper.

However, I cannot ignore a dish that I believe chickpeas work best with. Channa Masala is favourite in Indian cuisine. The spices and chillies, combined with the smoothness of the chickpeas, create an amazing combination of flavours and textures.

 

Channa Masala  

 

Ingredients

 

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 large cinnamon stick

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

½ tsp asafoetida

2 tbsp gram flour

200g tinned chopped tomatoes or passata

2 tsp tomato puree

2 tsp finely chopped garlic
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Quick & Easy Tomato & Bocconcini Salad Caprese
It shouldn’t matter if you believe that it’s a fruit or a vegetable; there is no doubt that tomatoes should be a key ingredient to include in your diet.  Whether they’re a meaty, succulent red beef tomato or a sunny yellow cherry tomato, they all have excellent nutritional qualities and an abundant source of vitamins and antioxidants.

The acclaimed red colour is typically associated with the carotenoid pigment in plants, Lycopene, however tomatoes can be any colour and still contain a rich source of Lycopene. But why do we need it? This pigment is an antioxidant, which is responsible for clearing any potentially damaging and cancer-causing oxidants from the body and stops them from being reabsorbed again. Good news - you can even gain your Lycopene intake from tomato ketchup!

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

  • Widely known for their vitamin content such as vitamin A, K and especially vitamin C. Did you know a single tomato provides a quarter of our daily intake per 100g? It’s a close competitor with oranges and other citrus fruits.

  • Reduces cholesterol through the Lycopene preventing lipid oxidants being produced, and therefore prevent cardiovascular diseases. It reduces levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and Triglycerides which are dietary fat found in the blood.

  • Counter the effects of cigarette smoke. The coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid found in tomatoes could help reduce the harmful nitrosamines substance caused by smoking.

  • Beneficial to our appearance, providing treatment for our hair, skins and teeth. The nutrients in tomatoes are absorbed into skin cells and protect against the effects of UV rays and the aging process.


The opportunities for consuming tomatoes are pretty much endless. They are perfect used as a sauce for pastas, pizzas, meat dishes or as base for Indian cuisine.  Finely chop them for a brilliant focaccia or bruschetta topping. Wilt them slightly and serve with a poached egg on toast for a healthy and nutritious breakfast. Blend them to make a hearty winter soup, a summery gazpacho or a tomato juice, which is beneficial to help cure sunburn (and brilliant when drunk with vodka and a dash of Tabasco!)

With summer approaching, I love this take on the classic tomato and mozzarella combination, as the freshness of the tomato and the creaminess of the bocconicini is heightened by the sweet and sour balsamic dressing.

 

Heirloom Tomato & Bocconcini Salad Caprese

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar

  • 600g ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into thin wedges

  • 1 x 220g ctn baby bocconcini, drained

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, large leaves torn


 

Cooking Instructions

  1. Place the oil, vinegar, garlic and sugar in a small screw- top jar. Season with salt and pepper and shake until well combined

  2. Arrange the tomato and bocconcini in a shallow serving dish. Top with the basil. Drizzle over the dressing to serve.

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Spinach with Beetroot & Chilli

I'm quick to the finish, 'cause I eats me Spinach, I'm Popeye the sailor man! (toot toot)"


 


Pop-eye loved it and so do we! But spinach does much more than simply boosting our strength to gain bulging muscles, it’s one of the world’s healthiest foods! It’s widely known for being one of the richest sources of iron amongst vegetables containing 3.5 mg per 100g (not as much as originally believed after German chemist Erich von Wolf accidentally misplaced the decimal point while writing up his findings to 35 milligrams!)

Consuming iron rich foods helps our bodies to continually produce red blood cells for oxygen transportation and prevent the iron-defiancy condition Anaemia. By adding a splash of lemon juice or orange juice to your spinach while cooking helps preserve and absorb the iron content more efficiently. Yet how else does spinach benefit us?

  • It plays an important role in our eye health as they contain carotenoids, which are organic pigments found in plants. They help protect our retinas, provide protective light filtering properties, helps reduce eye tension, and fights against age related diseases.

  • It’s one of the best vegetables for potassium content. 100g of spinach contains 558mg of potassium, which is 16% of our daily intake. This is important for bone health and reserving muscle mass.

  • It’s full of antioxidants and vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, C and K. Vitamin K is incredibly important for brain health and helps reduce neural damage in Alzheimer’s patients.


Hightly versatile, Spinach is brilliant incorporated into any cuisine. Eaten fresh, it acts perfect as salad base. However if you prefer you spinach wilted, it’s amazing paired with feta or ricotta cheese for the Greek dish Spanakopita, or if topped with pine nuts and raisins if you’d prefer a Spanish take on it. My favourite is this Indian dish using beetroot, chilli and peanuts for an added crunch and a sprinkle of spice.

 

Spinach or Red Chard & Beetroot

Ingredients

2 tsp Coriander seeds – Roughly milled

2 dried chilli Red chilli

1 tbsp oil

1 medium finely chopped onion

2 tsp garlic

½ tsp turmeric

½ to ¾ tsp salt

4 baby plum tomatoes cut lengthways.

50g Beetroot cut into julienne strips if red chard is not available

250g Red Chard or Baby/young spinach leaves

30g or 2 tbsp red skinned peanuts roasted and roughly chopped

 

Cooking Instructions

  1. Lightly roast the coriander seeds and the whole chilli for a few minutes either in a wok in an oven. Crush them in a pestle and mortar and then set aside.

  2. Roast the red skinned peanuts separately and when cooled crush them a little and blow away the excess skin shells, set this aside.

  3. Heat the oil in a deep pan or wok and add the crushed chilli and coriander sizzle for 30 seconds or until you smell the gentle aroma.

  4. Add the chopped garlic and onions and cook until lightly golden brown for approximately 5 to 6 minutes.

  5. Now add the turmeric, salt and tomatoes, stir in to blend the colours.

  6. Follow with the beetroot and then a minute later the spinach.

  7. Gently fold the spinach into the onion and spice mixture, turn the spinach over to take heat from the base of the pan, but careful not to over cook it or allow the moisture to release from the spinach.

  8. Just as the spinach is beginning to wilt – remove from the heat and sprinkle the peanuts, toss gently and serve immediately with some chapatti’s or potatoes.


 
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Butternut Squash and Green Beans
Healthy and nutritious, this recipe transforms these two vegetables into an appetizing side accompaniment, or as a vegetarian main meal. Butternut squash has been more commonly known in the last 20 years, and combined with its bulky exterior, it’s often found that many people simply do not know how to prepare or cook it.

It has an amazing creamy texture and vibrant colour, yet Butternut squash does not only look and taste good, it does good! It’s an extremely high antioxidant food, meaning it cleans and filters the body of any oxidative stress caused by various means, such as poor eating habits or chemical/sun exposure. Not only this, it has a whole range of other health benefits.

Health benefits of Butternut squash

  • Contains Vitamin A, which is the source of cancer preventing antioxidants. It’s important we receive Vitamin A from our diet, as when taken in a high quality from supplements in can become toxic.

  • Vitamin A reduces inflammation, the cause of most diseases and infections, so not only helps with the fight against cancer; it also helps prevent the common cold.

  • High potassium content which aids in healthy bones. Extremely important for the older generation and pregnant women when brittle bones are at a higher risk, which could result in Osteoporosis.


 

So we know it’s incredibly beneficial to our diet, but how can we cook it?

 

"A quick tip when peeling your butternut squash is to pop it into the microwave for 2-3 minutes to soften the skin before removing."


 


It can be roasted, boiled, baked, seasoned with garlic and honey, pureed or blended. When roasted, butternut squash doesn’t need to be peeled and the skin can be kept left on. It’s brilliant as a soup or in a risotto, as these dishes really exposure its sweet flavour. Find one of my favourite recipes below, as I love the softness of the butternut squash combined with the crispness of the green beans.

 

Butternut Squash and French Beans recipe

Serves 2 as a side dish

 

Ingredients:

150g cooked Butter nut squash cut into 1.5 cm pieces

75g cooked French beans – trimmed and ends off cut into half or thirds depending on the size

1 tbsp oil & 25g butter

1 tsp cumin seeds

¼ tsp red chilli powder

¼ tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp mango powder

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

1 small handful of fresh coriander

1 tbsp toasted flaked almonds

2 tbsp water – as required

 

Cooking Instructions:

  • Heat oil and butter in a pan, add the cumin seeds and sizzle for 5 seconds.

  • Add the, garlic, ginger, chilli powder, black pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, mango powder and salt, stir and cook with the lid on for a minute on a low heat.Shake the pan or stir to ensure it doesn’t stick.

  • Add the precooked butternut squash and French beans and cook for a further few minutes on a low heat with the lid on (putting the lid will create water/steam which provides a little moisture)

  • Add the water to enable a little sauce to develop and to prevent the spices from overheating. Continue with the lid on to create further condensation and steam cooking.

  • Garnish with fresh coriander and toasted flaked almonds and serve at once.

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Beetroot - the superfood
Beetroot is a superfood known for its deep, earthy flavour and shocking purple colour, yet not only a brilliant vegetable to add vibrancy to a summer salad, it has a whole range of health benefits meaning it’s a food we simply cannot ignore.

Its nutritional value is outstanding. Non-existent in fat and low in calories, it’s perfect for when watching your weight.  In contrast, it has a high fibre content, therefore valuable in aiding digestion.

Beetroot nutritional facts

  • Rich in manganese, which is good for bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas.

  • High levels of iron, which plays an important role in red blood cell production and haemoglobin; the protein that transfers oxygen around our body.

  • Contains naturally occurring Nitrates, which converts to Nitric Oxide when in our bodies. Nitric Oxide in return then helps to relax and dilate our blood vessels, meaning blood flow is enhanced and therefore lowering our blood pressure.

  • An excellent food for keen fitness fanatics. By boosting the oxygen transportation in our blood, it will overall increase our energy and stamina when exercising.

  • Purifies your blood, and liver, as it helps support detoxification. It cleanses the body by removing the toxins that have been flushed out by the liver, rather than letting them be reabsorbed.

  • Betacyanin, one of Beetroots key antioxidants, and the reason for the vivid colour, has an extra quality as it prevents the production of cancer forming compounds.


While most people eat boiled or pickled beetroot, roasting this vegetable does bring out an exciting and even more enhanced earthy flavour.  Surprisingly, it has a meaty characteristic, perfect as a meat substitute.  Its blood building properties also replaces the protein element often associated with eating meats.

Warm, roasted beetroot can often lift a simple salad when paired with ingredients such as red onion, pomegranate, and parsley.  Find my favourite recipe below in a creamy feta salad, it’s the perfect combination of contrasting flavours and textures.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

To Roast

500g fresh raw beetroot – peeled and cut into thin wedges

2 tbsp garlic infused oil or rapeseed oil

1 tsp whole grain mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

4 garlic cloves still in their skins

2 sprigs of fresh garden rosemary

5-6 large leaves of fresh sage

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp Honey

1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

 

For the salad

1 small thinly sliced red onion

1 tbsp fresh coriander

Half lemon zest & ¼ juices

Watercress or rocket

100g feta cheese

Salt & pepper to season

Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

 

Cooking Instructions:

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180º C, Gas mark 4.

  2. Place the beetroot, oil, wholegrain mustard, salt and pepper on a large baking tray and toss together. Roast for about 30 minutes.

  3. Now add the garlic, herbs, balsamic vinegar and honey and roast for another 15 minutes, until the beetroot is tender.

  4. When cooked, serve with a thinly sliced red onion, fresh coriander, a little lemon zest, a dash of lemon and some watercress salad.

  5. Crumble some feta or ricotta cheese.  Season again with sea salt and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, and finally drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil.

  6. Then enjoy...


 
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