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WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

Barbecue season is in a full swing with invitations plenty. Traditionally barbecues are not the best place for somebody on a plant based diet. If you do happen to get invited to one, it’s good to have a plan. Last weekend I made this salad to bring to a barbecue together with some veggie burgers and sausages. I bring food with me to any dinner partyI am invited to, partly because I like to cook and feed people but it’s also a way to introduce people to some tasty plant based dishes. Most of the time even the biggest meat lovers enjoy something “different”.

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In this salad I used my home dried tomatoes, they taste more “tomatoey” than shop bought sun dried tomatoes. They are simple to make if you have a dehydrator but oven drying works well too. However you wont achieve the same consistent results as ovens tend to produce uneven heat.

If you are using shop bought dun dried tomatoes the best ones for flavour comparison are sun blushed tomatoes. Unfortunately most sun dried tomatoes are preserved in sunflower oil, the one oil we should have less in our diets. If you can’t make your own or can’t buy sun dried tomatoes that are not suspended in oil, than rinse the oil off under a running tap. The home dried tomatoes are also not salty like the shop bought ones tend to be. Adjust for the salt depending on what tomatoes you are using.

In this dish I would not use roasted peppers from a jar, they tend to have a briny taste, I much prefer the sweetness of the peppers I roast myself. I do prefer to roast them in the oven rather than on the flame of my gas hob. When roasted in the oven they become soft and sweet, even green peppers taste lovely when oven roasted. Just make sure you don’t forget to pierce them with a tip of your knife before roasting to avoid any pepper explosions.

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WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

6 bell peppers, assorted colours
2 cups cooked or 2 tins of white beans (canellini are the best)
1 tin or jar of artichokes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup home dried tomatoes (or sun blushed)
1 cup parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup juice from the roasted peppers
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Pierce the peppers in few pieces with the tip of the knife. Place in a baking dish or on a baking tray lined with unbleached parchment paper. Roast for 30min or until the skin is all blistered.
  • In the mean time n a dry pan roast the pine nuts will golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  • Place the peppers into a glass bowl cover the bowl with cling film to let the peppers steam, this makes it easier to peel the peppers. The peppers release juices, strain these and set aside. Peel the peppers, remove all the seeds. It helps to run the peppers under water to remove all the seeds.
  • Cut peppers into strips and put into a large bowl together with the beans and quartered artichokes.
  • In a blender combine the pine nuts, home dried tomatoes, parsley, garlic, roasted pepper juice, lemon, olive oil and nutritional yeast.
  • Blend till you achieve a thick dressing, about thickness of mayonnaise. Add more red pepper juice to thin out the dressing if too thick.
  • Mix into the beans, artichokes and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.




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Home Dried Tomatoes

Small ripe tomatoes

Dehydrator
Halve the tomatoes. Place them cut size up on the dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate at 43C (115F) for 14-18 hours for cherry tomatoes or more if the tomatoes are larger.

Oven
Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the tomatoes cut side up on the tray and bake at the lowest setting of your oven till dried. Times will vary depending on your oven and size of the tomatoes. After 3 hours check every 30minutes.


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VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

It’s the annual Vegetarian Week and people may be choosing to transition to vegetarian or vegan diets. When done right, eating the plant based way can do wonders for person’s health.

The key in a successful transition to a plant based diet is to focus on all the wonderful foods you can have rather than mourning those you have lost. What about cauliflower buffallo wings, cashew nut cheese, or homemade plant strong parmesan made out of nutritional yeast flakes and nuts? All these come pretty close to the real thing. And some, I think, taste even better.

Yesterday I went to a business lunch and ended up with one of the most tasteless vegan dishes I had in a long time. On the menu it sounded reasonable, stuffed pepper with roasted vegetables and herby couscous with a side salad. The reality was different. The couscous was overcooked, bland, flavoured poorly with herbs of the dried variety. The roasted vegetables were far and few between I did struggle to taste them. The pepper itself was undercooked. I was very happy that I didn’t end up with a green pepper and felt sorry for those who did. The only saving grace was the bottle of balsamic vinegar brought as a dressing for our side salad (the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber - yawn!), I wasn’t the only person who splashed it onto the meal to add some flavour. This is the type of meal that will never make people consider becoming vegetarian or vegan.

Why is it so hard for some chefs to make a decent vegan meal? Surely, with a little imagination, you can halve the peppers lengthways, roast them till soft, stuff them with couscous bursting with roasted veggies, chickpeas and lots of fresh herbs. What about toasted pine nuts to top it all of? How about a lush zingy dressing or a tomato sauce spiced with Moroccan spices to go with it??? Vegans and vegetarians don’t want their dish to be an afterthought, we want flavour!

My pesto recipe is full of flavour and I am giving you two different recipes to use it in :)

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VEGAN BASIL PESTO

2 cups basil pesto leaves, packed (you can also use parsley, or half and half)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 cup (50g) pine nuts ( walnuts or pistachios work well too)
juice of half lemon
5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a food processor or a blender and process till combined. Add more olive oil if the pesto is too thick.

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ROASTED VEGETABLE CIABBATA WITH PESTO
I don’t buy the commercial oil sprays, I have a Pampered Chef oil pump and use my own, good quality oil in it. No added rubbish.

3 bel peppers (red, orange, yellow)
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
olive oil (in spray bottle)
10 sun dried tomatoes
1 ciabbata loaf
vegan basil pesto above

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  • Preheat oven to 220C. Line a baking tray or dish with parchment paper. Pierce the peppers with a knife in few places (to prevent them from exploding), place on the tray and bake till the skin is blistered all over (turn halfway through) about 30-40min. Place the peppers in a glass bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and let the peppers steam, this will make it easier to peel them. When cooled peel off the skin, remove the core and seeds. Best done under running water. Tear into large pieces.
  • Slice the aubergine into thin round slices, about half centimetre thick. Preheat a griddle pan. Spray the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides, grill on both sides till the aubergine is cooked through (it should be easy to pierce with a fork). Set aside.
  • To make the giant sub sandwich halve the ciabbata lengthways. Spread the inside of both ciabbata halves with the pesto, be generous (I was left with about 2 Tbs of the above recipe after doing this).
  • First cover the bottom half of ciabbata with a layer of aubergine slices, than add a layer of pepper pieces. Next layer is the sun-dried tomatoes, than peppers and lastly the remaining aubergine slices. Top with the other ciabbata half.
  • Wrap the whole sandwich tightly in a cling film and refrigerate for at least half hour.
  • When ready to eat, unwrap the sandwich and cut into individual portions.
  • PS: There is no tidy way of eating it. Have a napkin on hand.

When making the above recipe I used 2 aubergines and found myself with slices from one left over. There was also 2 tbs worth of pesto. This is what I made for lunch with these leftovers. It was delicious and I will be making a large dish for the whole family soon!


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AUBERGINE, TOMATO AND PESTO BAKE FOR ONE

1 aubergine, sliced and slices grilled (see above)
2 tbs vegan pesto
1 tin of crushed tomatoes (or passata)
6 sliced olives, sliced


  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • In a small baking dish, place couple tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes. Sandwich the aubergine slices with the pesto.
  • Make a layer of the aubergine pesto slices, cover with half the tin tomatoes, scatter with olive slices. Next repeat with rest of aubergine slices and top with the remaining tomatoes and olives. Season between laters.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
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VEGAN SPANAKOPITA

VEGAN SPANAKOPITA

Cooking is my way to be creative. I am no good at drawing, my piano playing days are a distant childhood memory and when I sing my kids cover their ears. When it comes to food there are so many ways to get my creative juices going, I get inspired by ingredients or world cuisines to create new dishes. I love to “veganise” my old favorites or sometimes I have a go at recreating dishes I enjoyed in a restaurant.

My vegan spanakopita came to life as a mixture of the above processes. My husband and I had a rare opportunity to enjoy an evening meal out together (minus kids). We chose a Lebanese restaurant that featured many vegan mezze dishes on the menu. One of the mezze’s we had were delicious filo pastry tringles filled with lemony spinach. Few days later I came across Jamie Cooks Morocco while flicking through the TV channels. Jamie Oliver was making a sweet almond filo pastry “snail”. This is when the cogs in my brain started to turn. I love the way the “snail” looked and with my Lebanese spinach triangles still on my mind I thought of the traditional Greek recipe spanakopita, a filo spinach and feta cheese pie. I could see the spinach, the filo, tofu instead of feta, some pine nuts and lemon juice coming together. Surely I was onto a winner.

Trust me, this recipe is not as complicated as it looks, just be careful not to let your filo pastry dry out. Do not answer the phone or the door. Work fast and you will end up with a dinner party masterpiece. Spare pair of hands is a bonus, I had my daughter on hand. Serve with some homemade tomato sauce, salad and maybe some Greek olives for a super Mediterranean meal.

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VEGAN SPANAKOPITA

Serves 6

ingredients
1 kg (2.2lb) frozen spinach
2 large young onions with stems (or 6 spring onions, scallions), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried oregano
250g (9oz) extra firm tofu, grated
100g (4oz) pine nuts, reserve 2 Tbs
juice of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

270g (10oz) filo pastry, 6 large sheets (if frozen defrost first)
2-3 tbs olive oil


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  1. First let your spinach defrost. I take it out of the freezer several hours before cooking, set a large colander over a bowl, place the spinach into the colander and leave in a warm place. If I am impatient I just pour some boiling water over it.
  2. When the spinach is fully defrosted squeeze out as much water as you can. The most efficient way is to put it into a clean tea towel and twist and squeeze until most water runs out.
  3. In a large bowl combine the spinach, onion, garlic, dill, oregano, grated tofu, pine nuts (minus the 2 tbs) and juice of a lemon. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Prepare a large baking tray, you can oil it or line it with some baking paper.
  5. This is the fun bit. On a large clean surface ( I use my dining table), prepare the pastry. Lay the first sheet on the table, brush lightly with olive oil. Lay the next sheet in a way that it creates a long rectangle, make sure you overlap the shorter edges by about 5cm (2inches). Brush with oil. Repeat with the third sheet. Lay next three sheets on top of the first layer, brush with oil. You should be left with a very long double layered rectangle.
  6. Next place the filling evenly into the middle, creating a long line, see picture. Wrap the pastry around tightly but carefully, creating a long tube, like a strudel. Don’t worry about small tears. Make sure the seam is down. Next secure the edges by folding them over. The filling is not runny so don’t worry it won’t run out.
  7. Shape your your strudel into a coil creating a “snail shell”shape. Slide onto a baking tray. Brush with some olive oil (or non-dairy milk), sprinkle with pine nuts and carefully transfer onto a tray. (Extra pair of hands to hold the tray is very helpful at this point)
  8. Bake at 180C for 35-40 min, or until the pastry is golden brown.
  9. Transfer onto a serving platter and cut into wedges.

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CHOCOLATE RAW BARS

CHOCOLATE RAW BARS

Imagine this: you pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee if you prefer and you get that niggling feeling to have something sweet with it. Do you reach for a biscuit jar, a slice of Victoria sponge or a brownie? Or do you decide to be good and have nothing at all? What if there is a solution that gives you a well deserved treat without the butter, refined sugar and even flour. My chocolate raw bars are right on the money.

There has been a bit of an explosion of raw bars on the market lately. I am partial to Naked Bars, they taste great and are a perfect portable boost of energy. They are very popular in my nutrition class they seem to come out when we need a lift from that mid afternoon slump. As much as I love them I thought I could do better and cheaper myself.

Results were excellent, I must say Naked Bars have a competition, my son prefers mine and takes them to school. My friend who had one today asked for a recipe and to take some home with her. Another friend coming tomorrow... I am thinking I should start to package these. Enough of this self indulgent praise. Fire up your food processors and make these bites of indulgent gorgeousness too.


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CHOCOLATE RAW BARS

I do apologise for using American measure only but I got carried away (twice already) and didn’t weigh my ingredients, using cup measure is so much easier. 1 cup = 250ml.

Makes 10 bars

ingredients

1 cup walnuts
1 cup desiccated coconut, unsweetened
10 Medjol dates
2 Tbs raw cacao powder
1 Tbs Maca powder (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 goji berries
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped (each nut into about 4 pieces)

method

  1. In a food processor combine the walnuts and coconut, process till you get reasonably fine texture, it will not be as fine as ground almonds.
  2. Add your cacao and maca powders and whizz around shortly, just until mix trough.
  3. Next add the dates into the mixture and process until it all starts coming together. To test it take a bit of the mix and press together between your fingers. If it sticks together and holds shape you are ready. If the mixture is not sticking together you may need to add another date.
  4. Tip the mixture into a bowl and add rest of the ingredients. Mix well so the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  5. Line a 10x6 inch baking dish with a grease proof paper. Tip the mix into the baking dish and press down to get a compact rectangle.
  6. Chill in the fridge for at least couple of hours before cutting. They will keep a several days in the fridge easily.
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BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD

BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD

Every Monday deserves a big news in the field of medicine. The one that stands out today is the breakthrough in treating obesity, a “flab jab” (to steel a tabloid headline) or, in a more scientific language, a somatostatin vaccine. This article explains how the jab works:
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120709/New-somatostatin-vaccines-promote-weight-loss.aspx

We all know the obesity problem is out of control and there is a part of me that thinks this jab may not be such a bad idea. There are many people who, for whatever reason, will not (even though I am sure they can) change their lifestyles. A jab seems like a very easy solution to a very serious and expensive problem that is spreading through many countries around the world.

The other and much louder part of me believes that this is an utter madness. This jab is promoted (by many newspapers) as a way to stay slim on a junk food diet. I am sure that eating diet of junk food without the weight gain will appeal to a lot of people. This will ensure a huge profit for the company making the vaccine and by default to fast food outlets and processed food manufacturers. You may be able to eat rubbish and not put massive amounts of weight on, maybe even stay slim (the mice this was tested on lost 10% of their weight). However, as we know, being slim does not assure person’s good health. If you choose eating a junk food high calorie dense diet the chances are you will be malnourished regardless of your weight. A weigh loss jab surely won’t change this.

In the words of Dr Mark Hyman:
“We can’t medicate our way out of a bad diet.” And he is right, medication is not the answer. Medication has further implications, it is always toxic. For example diabetes medicine increases the risk of dying from heart problems and statins (the cholesterol lowering medication used to reduce heart attacks) increase Type-2 diabetes. This is a vicious circle. I am sure we will find negative side-effects to the above mentioned jab in due course. Instead of waiting 10 years for this jab to be approved just eat yourself to health (and healthy weight ) instead.


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BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD
This salad has an outrageous colour and fresh, fruity flavour. You can use shop bought already pre-cooked beetroot, they tend to be bigger so use about 8.

ingredients
12 baby beetroot
2 oranges
2 small red onion
2 celery stalks
salt
handful of walnuts

method
  1. First prepare your beetroot. Scrub them clean but keep root ends intact. Cook beetroot in boiling water for 20-30min till tender. Cooking time will depend on the size of your beetroot.
  2. Let the beetroot cool down, slip of the skin and cut of the root and stalk ends. Cut each beetroot into 6 wedges. Place in a bowl.
  3. Next segment the oranges. Using a sharp knife (serrated knife works well too) cut off all the peel including the white pith. Holding your orange in the palm of your hand over the beetroot cut segments away from their skins. When you have removed all the segments squeeze the juice from what is left from your oranges.
  4. Thinly slice the red onion and add to the beetroot.
  5. Remove strings from the celery stalks and slice quite thinly. Add to the salad.
  6. Season with salt (optional) and pepper.
  7. Place the salad in a serving bowl and top with the walnuts.
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Rhubarb ice cream

RHUBARB ICE CREAM

This weekend was marked by my son’s 10th birthday. He was very excited about getting into “double figures”. He celebrated hard and it might have taught him a very important lesson.

Nobody expects kids sleepovers to be a subdued affair but I didn’t expect three 10 year olds to be capable of staying up more or less all night. There might have been couple of hours of sleep somewhere. When I went to take breakfast orders my sons face said it all...yes he looked terrible.

The day after sleepover morning he woke up with a sore throat and a very raspy nearly asthmatic cough. The lesson he learned was that child’s body is just not meant to got on so little sleep. It is as if his body panicked due to the stress of lack of sleep and the result was contracting an opportunistic infection. This may be just a theory but I am sure to remind him how he felt before every sleepover. Now he is on lots of vitamin C rich fruits and veggies and early nights.

This recipe is for one of mu son’s favourite ice-creams. Like me he loves rhubarb. My husband and daughter are not keen on it at all. Rhubarb is one of those love it or hate it foods. My grandma loved rhubarb however one day after eating a jar of rhubarb compote she ended up in agony with pain caused by kidney stones. Yes, rhubarb can cause kidney stones so if you do have a tendency to get them it is advisable to stay away from the pinky stalks.

Of course rhubarb needs sweetening, otherwise if will not be very pleasant. It would be actually be rather disgusting. When making this recipe I started with 4 Tbs of coconut palm sugar, but eventually had to increase it to 6. Taste as you go. Frozen ice cream will taste less sweet than the mixture before freezing.

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RHUBARB ICE-CREAM
Don’t forget to soak your almonds overnight!

Makes 4-6 servings.

ingredients

350 g (12 oz) rhubarb
6 Tbs of coconut palm sugar (also sold as coconut nectar)
2 cups of water
250ml (1 cup) of raw almonds
375 ml (1 and 1/2 cup) of water

method
  1. Soak the almonds in water overnight.
  2. Cut up the rhubarb into half inch pieces, place into a small sauce pan with the coconut palm sugar and 2 Tbs of water. Bring to a boil and cook after the rhubarb is falling apart and you get a thick compote. Let it cool way down.
  3. While your rhubarb is cooking make the almond cream: Drain the almonds put them into your blender. Add 375ml of fresh water and process till smooth. Pour the cream into a cheese cloth and squeeze out as much as you can. Discard the almond meal (or save for making dehydrator cookies)
  4. Mix the cooled rhubarb compote with the almond cream. For best results chill in the fridge before putting into an ice-cream maker.
  5. If using an ice-cream maker follow the manufacturers instructions, all makes are different.
  6. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, put the mixture into a container and place in your freezer. Every 2 hrs remove out of the freezer and whisk thoroughly to remove any ice-crystals (electric whisk works best). Repeat this until the ice-cream freezes.
  7. Remove from the fridge for 20min before serving.
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CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

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.

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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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The Diamond Jubilee/Coronation Chickpea Sald

Jubilee-Banner

THE DIAMOND JUBILEE/CORONATION CHICKPEA SALAD

The whole of UK will be enjoying an extended four day weekend to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen’s coronation took place on 2nd June 1953 (she came to throne in February of the previous year). Sixty years on the throne deserve a recognition, many celebrations are planned including street parties all around the country. And of course we celebrate best with some great food (and drink) in hand.

Probably the most famous dish, from the two Coronation Banquets in 1953, is the Coronation Chicken. The recipe was created by Constance Spry and Rosemary Huyme. Constance suggested to make curried creamy chicken and Rosemary (the chef) executed the idea. For months now Coronation Chicken inspired dishes have been on the shelves of supermarkets, you can choose from the traditional chicken, veggie rice version or a Coronation dip. There even is a coronation ice-cream in an ice-cream shop in London.

I felt inspired and created my own plant based version of the famous dish. As in the original version I used a curry powder. When I made curries I blend my own spices but the generic curry powder taste is what makes this recipe traditional as that is what they would use in 1953. Just make sure you use a good quality one, I get mine in an Asian shop. You can also use a good curry paste.

The original version is mayo heavy and I didn’t want to just open a jar and replace the regular mayo with a vegan one. Therefore a tofu/cashew dressing was born, the quantities given make more than you will need but it tastes great and you will find other uses (great with new potatoes). The salad ingredients can be easily doubled to make enough to feed a crowd, it makes a great potluck dish.

Here is to the Queen who just keeps going with seemingly boundless energy through the ups and downs she has encountered in the 60 years on the throne. I will be raising a glass of Pimm’s to her health.

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CORONATION CHICKPEA SALAD
salad:
1/3 cup (60g) wild rice
1/2 Tbs rapeseed (canola) oil
1 small to medium red onion, finely diced
2 tsp mild curry powder
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs raisins
6 dried apricots, cut into roughly raisin size
4 spring onions, white part only, finely sliced
handful of toasted flaked almonds
handful of fresh coriander chopped

the dressing:
1/2 cup (60ml) water
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 pack of Mori-Nu silken tofu (about 170g - 6oz)
1 heaped Tbs mango chutney
good pinch of saffron
2 Tbs lemon juice
pinch of salt

method:

  1. First cook the rice in 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30min. Drain and cool down. Set aside.
  2. In a frying pan heat the oil, gently saute the onion until tender but do not brown, about 10 min.
  3. Add the curry powder and cook for 30 seconds. Next add the tomato puree. Stir together.
  4. Add the chickpeas and 2 Tbs of water to the frying pan. Season with salt. Cook gently until the water is evaporated and the chickpeas are coated with thick curry paste. Let the chickpeas cool down.
  5. When the rice and chickpeas have cooled down place them into a bowl and add the rest of the salad ingredients.
  6. To make the dressing blend all the ingredients in a blender till smooth. Pour some of the dressing over the salad, mix well. The salad should be very creamy. You can overdo the dressing a bit, it thickens in the fridge. Chill.
  7. Decorate with some almonds and coriander. Enjoy.
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MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Desserts - FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Dessert
FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

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

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

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

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

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

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FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

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

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

MORE FRUIT AND VEG
Part 4: Mains
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BARLEY BARLOTTO

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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MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 2: Snacks - “CHEESY” COURGETTE DIP

MORE FRUIT AND VEG
Part 2: Snacks
“CHEESY” COURGETTE DIP

Have you noticed how snacking can creep up on you? After a long day, you get home, feeling slightly peckish or just outright starving, dinner won’t be ready anytime soon or you may be waiting for the rest of the family to come home for dinner. What do you do? Open the fridge or cupboards and scoff anything in your sight. That’s when we are most likely to eat to wrong stuff. Potato crisps, cakes, biscuits, chocolates...

Many times I heard my friends saying how they make themselves a cup of tea, open a packed of biscuits and just keep going. One is never enough. My solution is not to buy any biscuits in the first place but that will keep you feeling peckish. Keep in mind that 1 biscuit averages around 75cal and gives your body no nourishment whatsoever. Only cravings and unhealthy sugar spikes.

Why not snack healthily and work towards your fruit and veg quota while doing so? The obvious and easiest way is to have some fruit around, just grab and go. Cut up veggies are another easy option. With a little bit of planning you can make fruit and veggies even more sexy.

One of our favourites is keeping grapes in ziplock bags in a freezer. I buy a huge box in Costco, take them off their stalks and freeze them in batches. My son says they are better than sweets. Freezing intensifies the flavour and since they are frozen you will take a while eating them. Perfect when watching a movie.

Some of our snack staples include kale chips, dehydrator apple or banana crisps, Medjool dates, raw “balls” and bars, hummus with carrot sticks or linseed crackers (or good quality, sometimes homemade tortilla chips) with homemade guacamole (have you noticed shop bought one has double cream in it?!!!) or good salsa.

My snack recipe is courgette dip, it is raw and incredibly versatile, the pine nuts give it a cheesy texture, reminiscent of ricotta. You can use it as a dip, spread, or even stir it into your pasta “pesto” style. And of course it counts towards your 5(or 10)-a-day.


“CHEESY” COURGETTE DIP

courgettedipdetail

This dip will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, if you are making it ahead use 2 Tbs of lemon juice. When stored the lemon juice looses some of its power.

Makes about 1 cup

ingredients:
2 young crisp courgettes (zucchini)
70g (1/2 cup) pinenuts
1 small garlic clove
1 cup basil leaves, packed
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
salt to taste

courgettedip

method:
  1. Grate your courgettes coarsely, mix in 1 tsp of salt. Place the courgettes in a collander that is set over a bowl. Put a small plate on top of the courgettes and place some full tins on top to weigh it all down. Leave for about half an hour.
  2. Place your courgettes in a cheese cloth (clean tea towel or a good quality paper towel will do the job), squeeze as much of the water out as you can. You don’t want a watery dip.
  3. In a high speed blender or a food processor combine all ingredients and process until the desired texture (see picture)
  4. Garnish with basil leaves and pinenuts and serve with vegetable crudites or crackers (preferably raw).
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RAW BANANA AND BRAZIL NUT COOKIES

RAW BANANA AND BRAZIL NUT COOKIES

Weight Watchers are coming to our high street. With shops in the USA, Australia and China, we shouldn’t be surprised that UK, the fattest nation in Europe, would be next. Honestly I really want to like this idea, having accessible shops for anyone to pop in for a one to one consultation, get weighed, be advised, buy their low calorie lunch. I am not sure how much WW will charge but they are a multi-billion business so I am sure sound financial forecasts are in place to make this a monetary success.

We all know if you eat less and move more weight loss should follow. It is not a rocket science. Last September a study came out claiming that weigh-loss courses such as Weight Watchers were more effective than the national standard care weight loss. Sounds good right? The participants who took part in a year long study were either assigned WW program or the standard care weight loss program. Those on WW lost on average 5.06kg as opposed to the 2.25kg on standard care.

Any weight loss is a good thing, however to me 5.06kg in a year is a rather small number, especially if you have a lot of weight to loose. At the raw food seminar I met a man in his 60’s who lost about 20lb in 4 months of his raw food journey and he is feeling fantastic. Plant based diets (raw or not) have a great record in helping people loose weight without feeling hungry whilst ensuring superior nutrition.

There are many people who loose loads of weight on programs like WW and that is a good thing. The one element that really worries me is the low fat meals that Weight Watchers are selling. They may be low calorie low fat but far from healthy. They may remove the fat but add lots of other stuff (I so want to say c..p) that in no way should be part of a healthy diet. Here I present to you Heinz Weight Watchers Banoffee Dessert:

Water, Toffee Sauce (12%, Glucose Syrup, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Dextrose, Condensed Skimmed Milk, Invert Sugar, Water, Butter, Stabiliser - Pectin, Emulsifier - Polysorbate 60, Flavouring), Sugar, Skimmed Milk Powder, Banana Puree (6%), Wheat Flour, Glucose Powder, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Vegetable Oil, Inulin, Whey Powder, Brown Sugar, Curls (1%, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Whole Milk Powder, Whey Powder, Cocoa Mass, Emulsifier - Soya Lecithin, Flavouring, Colour - Paprika Extract), White Chocolate (1%, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Whole Milk Powder, Whey Powder, Milk Sugar, Emulsifier - Soya Lecithin, Flavouring), Pork Gelatine, Stabilisers - Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Sodium Alginate, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Dextrose, Sorbitol Syrup, Egg Powder, Fructose Syrup, Barley Starch, Modified Potato Starch, Egg Albumen, Caramelised Sugar Syrup, Flavourings, Dried Glucose Syrup, Colours - Curcumin, Paprika Extract.

Do you really want to eat that??? Or how about some of my raw banana cookies minus the added rubbish.

RAW BANANA AND BRAZIL NUT COOKIES
I have used my dehydrator to make the cookies, if you don’t have one you can use your fan oven, turn it to the lowest setting, keep the door open and bake for about 2 hrs, just keep checking on them. These cookies will not be classed RAW but still delicious.

To make the orange powder: Peel an orange using a swivel peeler, taking only the zest off, none of the white piths. Dehydrate at about 125F for about 2-3 hrs until dried enough to make a powder easily. Store in an airtight container. You can also use fresh orange peel in the cookies or replace with dried ginger.

Makes 14

brazilcookies2

ingredients
130g (1 cup) Brazil nuts
60g (1/2 cup) raisins
1 tsp orange powder (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
2 medium bananas
1 Tbs sweet freedom syrup (or agave)

method
  1. Place the Brazil nuts in a small bowl of a food processor. Process till quite fine with some bigger pieces for nutty texture.
  2. Add raisins, orange powder, bananas and agave to the food processor.
  3. Process till the mixture starts coming together.
  4. Using a American tablespoon measure, place mounds of mixture on top of a dehydrator Teflex sheet.
  5. Dehydrate for 1 hr at 145F.
  6. Turn the dehydrator to 125F and dehydrate for further 3-4 hrs. Turn the cookies over and place on a dehydrator sheet without the Teflex sheet after 1 hr.
  7. The cookies are done when they feel quite dry on both sides. They will still be moist inside, if you want crunchier cookies dehydrate for another hour.

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ROASTED VEGETABLE NUT AND SEED ROAST

ROASTED VEGETABLE NUT AND SEED ROAST

I Love food 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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