Spiced carrot and red chard pancakes

This is a delicious vegan dish, a combination of shredded carrot pancakes with roasted spiced carrot – carrot upon carrot! – topped with a mint-garlic-lime juice df yoghurt.

Inspired by Nikki Webster’s scrummy recipe I added red chard to mine here below for extra colour and antioxidant goodness.  Spinach or kale, cavalo nero or even something like radicchio with its slightly sharp tang, would be delicious.  Really, the choice is yours.
Antioxidants are on my mind big-time due to my current auto immune and post-chemo clients not to mention the background noise of Covid-19, so I multiplied the antioxidant ooomph that spices offer and added lots of ginger, turmeric and garlic.

These gram spiced pancakes are a fabulous base for all sorts of other meals.  I topped them with a mixed rainbow salad last week and last night ate them with fish (cumin and garam masala rubbed on hake before grilling).
It’s so good to wriggle a recipe into the shape that suits your individual taste – and the occasion.
Have fun, and I hope you enjoy this dish 🙂

Ingredients:

Serves 2

Spiced carrots:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 – 1 tsp chilli flakes
1 large or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
4 cms knob ginger, grated
3 medium carrots, diced into small cubes
6 large red chard leaves (I finely sliced some of the stalks as well); or 2 large handfuls of young spinach or kale, roughly chopped
250ml filtered water
4 tbsp desiccated coconut, lightly roasted
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Carrot pancakes:

140g gram flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch chilli flakes – optional of course!
80g grated carrots
handful fresh coriander, chopped
300 ml luke warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

Yoghurt Topping:

6 tbsp plain coconut- or almond-based yoghurt (I used Coconut Collaborative’s df)
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic, squeezed
4 tbsp chopped fresh mint (about 5 medium leaves per tbsp) or 3 tbsp dried
sea salt to taste

Mix these together and your topping is done!

 

Method:

Carrot pancakes:

Mix all the dry ingredients, add the pressed garlic, olive oil and water.  Blend well then stir in the chopped coriander and grated carrots.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes whilst you start the carrot curry below.

To cook the pancakes, add some olive oil to your non-stick pan then use a soup ladel to pour in your mixture (you’ll figure out the size you want after the first ‘trial’ which is always a good tester for size and taste).
Once bubbles form in the pancake and the edge darkens a little, ease the spatula beneath it and turn.  After the first one your pan usually finds its mojo.
Cover with a cloth or place in a low heat oven whilst you make a total of about 8 small pancakes.

Meanwhile….

The carrot curry:

Heat the oil then add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they start popping add the other spices and stir before frying the chopped onions till they soften.  Then comes the garlic and ginger followed by the diced carrots and water.  Cover and leave to simmer for about 10 mins, adding your chopped chard or greens so they wilt but don’t get cooked to nothing!

Meanwhile….dry roast the coconut in a pan until it just colours then stir it into the carrot-chard mix and season with sea salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon a generous amount onto the pancake base and dollop the mint yoghurt on top.  Add extra mint for decoration (I forgot in this photo!)

Enjoy!

 

 

Time to plug into nature

We’ve been watching far more nature programmes these past months.  So reliably uplifting, nature doing its thing.


Recently Spring Watch was on BBC, a very popular programme here in UK.  Two weeks of learning more about the amazing changes Spring brings with it.  We saw beavers and otters, fish, badgers, butterflies, you name it. 
The main focus, as always, was on nesting birds and their fledgings, with some precarious nests being built on high and others balanced in bizarre places just inches away from predators.  We watched parent birds constantly feed their young until finally most of the fledglings defied the odds and flew off.  A cheering message.  Reassuring to see nature going about normal business at a time when our world is so very far from normal.

The presenters talked about more wildlife and birds being about due to less traffic and noise, less activity in towns and built-up areas.  They shared some breath-taking videos and photos the public sent it.  People who were isolating or not working or on furlough – children still off school – all having more time to notice daily changes in their gardens and nearby parks. 

Every night it felt like an escape from the daily Downing Street updates and world statistics and scenes of angry demonstrators.  And yet nature is just as much a part of our reality as Covid-19 and world news.   A happier part that we can tune into every day – every hour of every day if we want!   Nature can most definitely help us feel better, lifting our mood with a surge of endorphins – those happy hormones – as we watch new life unfold around us.

It was interesting to see how much close-up photography was in the programme this year.  Filming the tiniest insect under a convoluted camera lens.  Seeing a mote of dust floating in water only to discover it was a creature with astonishing talons and fangs.   

It made me think about the macro and micro world we’re living in right now.  How we are changing focus far more than we might normally do.  Moving from the macro picture of what’s going on in our global community, to the micro picture of what’s happening in our personal lives, what we’re eating for dinner tonight.

Changing our focus, our lens, constantly is hard work.  It can be overwhelming thinking on different planes all the time as we try to absorb today’s communal bigger picture whilst looking after our micro world.  Feeding the family, understanding the latest Covid rules, tapping out work emails, seeing second spikes abroad, helping with homework, feeling for angry demontrators, watering the garden.  No wonder so many are saying they don’t want to listen to the news, that it’s too much.   

Most of the posts I’ve shared over the past months have had something to do with plants or gardens, walks or healing foods.  Giving myself and others some mindful space to plug into nature.  Giving those happy endorphins a chance to rise and expand. 

We all need a breather from this bigger macro picture so we can find balance and mindful time in our micro worlds.  This is where nature shines.  It’s right here, outside our windows and front doors.  So easy to bring into our daily lives.  Walking, weeding, cycling, sitting and watching.   Birds peepsing, petals opening, rain falling. 
The sky outside, is it blue or grey where you are right now?  Are buds unfurling or is winter mist drawing in?  Tell me what’s happening around you, I’d love to know.  x   

Ginger-lime marinated chicken

Just skidding in before the month of May moves on.  I’m not sure why I didn’t post this earlier, given how aware I am of time passing.  Counting the daily fall in Covid cases and the lessening of restrictions – long may that last! – and watching the unfolding of spring each day.  Time has slowed down in so many ways…and yet filled up in other ways.

Aside from a website glitsch – yes, that’ll help put the brakes on – I’m also wondering if it’s because my routine has changed.  Suddenly more working time for online webinars, and more free time to walk and weed.  And these wonderful light evenings.  Sitting outside or taking time to water the garden, looking at each plant, seeing how it’s doing in this unusual heat.
Cooking more!  Planning meals and writing food lists so that ‘unnecessary journeys’  for extra food shops don’t happen.  Are you spending more time cooking or thinking about food?  I certainly am!

This recipe is a lockdown version of a fab Rebel kitchen recipe from years ago.  And apparently that was a follow on from Rick Stein’s Indian cookbook chicken kebabs.   So it’s covered some miles with a few tweaks here and there to make it one’s own.  I’ve taken the kebab out of it because I preferred it baked, turned out so tender and moist.

We’re loving it so much it’s a weekly repeat since lockdown began – sometimes with salmon fillets instead of chicken.  And more recently lathered on cauliflower florets, delicious!  Such an easy recipe, and that combo of lime, ginger and cardomon is divine.
If you use fish, then I’d suggest a more solid one like salmon, rather than a flaky white.

The marinade is pale and you don’t want to overbake to get colour, so I’d suggest adding a bright mixed salad or some rainbow veg to zhuzh it up.  To make it look like it’s amazing taste.
Here, in this photo, the chicken’s on a bed of mashed butternut-sweet potato instead of rice.  I couldn’t find a green mango the second time we ate it, when I thought, yes, a photo’s needed because this must be shared.  It works well with mashed starchy vegetables, but I do love that green mango rice!

website marinate chicken

 

Ingredients

Serves 2
2 chicken breasts cut into bite-size portions
60g grated fresh ginger
1 lime, juiced
1 red chilli, seeds removed and chopped finely
2 tbsp yoghurt (use coconut yoghurt for dairy free; or you could use coconut cream instead!?)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Mango fried rice

140g mixed rice (brown, basmati, wild)
1-2 tbsp tamari sauce
1 green mango, cubed
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp oil
a generous handful of toasted slivered almonds – save some for decoration at the end

 

Method

Mix together the lime juice, grated ginger, spices and yoghurt then add the chicken cubes and mix well.  Let marinate for at least four hours, ideally overnight.
When ready to cook, place the chicken in its marinade on baking paper or parchment in a 160C degree (360 F) oven for approx 20-30 mins (depends on the size of those chunks and whether it’s a fan-heated oven).
Meanwhile, boil the rice and set aside when done.
When the chicken is almost ready, put the rice into a heated pan with oil.  Add the cubed mango, lime juice, tamari and most of the toasted almonds and fry for about 5 minutes.
When ready, place the chicken on the rice – sprinkle the remaining almond slivers on top – and serve alongside colourful steamed veg or a rainbowl salad.
Let me know how you like it!

 

Green curry paste

Here’s a photo of the ingredients I was able to find at the moment in lockdown for a green curry paste.  The recipe’s from a cookbook I was given almost thirty years ago when Thai food was really popular in Sydney – still is!  Each page gives evidence of how often it’s been used, splashed with sauce from my beaters or from sticky fingers mid-read.

website green paste

So much better – & healthier – making your own base as there are no preservatives and you can add and subtract to suit your own taste.  I couldn’t get some of the ingredients as the Thai store is currently closed.  I’ll make mention of the ones I’ve not included (in italics in brackets) and how I replaced them.  This recipe as is definitely stands alone, it’s delicious!  And a great base for any green curry dish whether vegetarian or with fish, chicken, lamb, duck.
Next month I’ll try to post a recipe for a chicken curry dish where I’ve used this as the base.
Enjoy and stay safe!

Ingredients:

Makes about 8 tablespoons
(I used 5 tbsp for 4 servings)

1 tsp cumin seeds (I only had ground cumin powder which was fine)
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
8 fresh green chillies, seeded and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 stalks lemon grass, outer hard leaf removed, flat-knife-crushed then chopped
3 dried large kaffir lime leaves, chopped, central stem removed
(3 coriander roots, chopped) I added 3 extra tbsp chopped coriander leaves & stems instead)
(3 cms galangal)  I used 3 cms fresh ginger, chopped & would probably stick to it, delicious
(2 tsp shrimp paste)  I used a dollop of fish sauce instead.  for a vegetarian version you can get that extra layer with miso paste or even a splash of tamari
3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Method:

Heat your pan and add the coriander and cumin seeds (or powder) until you have aroma.  Then crush them in a pestle and mortar or a small blender together with the peppercorns.

Now add the rest of the ingredients and blend anyway you can. I use a hand held stick blender and it works fine as long as I chop the coriander leaves small.  You can also pound it all by hand.

This is a great starter for any green curry and can be stored in the fridge up to 4 weeks.

FODMAPS diet, why and how

Moving away from the theme of viruses – hooray! –  and talking to you today about the FODMAPS diet, specifically the low FODMAPS diet.
If you’re wondering what this word even means, it’s an acronym for terms describing certain carbohydrates (and their fermentable effect on digestion):  Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols.
Easy to understand why the acronym’s preferred.  Those carbs are quite a mouthful!

low FODMAPS

Fodmaps are found naturally in a wide range of foods.  They are different types of carbohydrates that are not easily absorbed in the gut, and which therefore can kick off IBS-type symptoms in some people.

Due to this diversity of potentially troublesome carbs it can be difficult to navigate the low FODMAPS diet, so here is a broad brush stroke of information to help you decide if you want to give it a go, either with a therapist, or on your own.

Let’s look a bit closer at this acronym.
Fermentables:  This is what happens when your gut bacteria ferments undigested carbohydrates.
Oligosaccharides: mainly found in wheat, rye, pulses but also garlic and onions..and more.
Disaccharides: mainly in dairy produce, including those yoghurts you might be eating daily because you believe they’re healthy (which they are for some, and perhaps for you, once you’ve been eating low FODMAP and introduced it later, in a small way; possibly only occasionally.  All very individual).
Monosaccharides:  these mainly cover fructose and include a variety of fruit plus honey – and corn syrups (do read labels when you go shopping!)
Polyols:  these are also found in different veg and fruit; also in articial sweeteners.

First thing to keep in mind when considering this diet is that you have to be dealing with IBS symptoms.  This isn’t a weight loss programme, nor is it a particularly healthy diet to keep in your life.  On the contrary.  As it excludes a lot of normally healthy prebiotic foods, this is an eating regime to do SHORT-TERM in order to reduce your IBS-ish symptoms.  Some prebiotic foods are included but not many, and you need these prebiotics for a healthy gut, for your diversely populated microbiome, hence this isn’t a diet for the long haul.

I normally suggest two to three weeks with clients, but if you’re feeling vastly better on it then an extra week or two is fine.  Monash university, which developed it in the first place years ago, and have an excellent app (more about that below), states you can follow it up to eight weeks.  Personally, I prefer clients to move back onto some of those ‘missed’ higher FODMAP foods earlier than that.

And this brings me to the next stage of the diet.  After your three or so weeks of ‘low’ eating, you then gradually introduce one higher FODMAP food, from one of the above groups, back into your menu to see how it feels, to check if you react and have symptoms.

This sort of challenge is what a lot of clients try out in order to identify ‘intolerance’ foods.  Exclude then reintroduce, one at a time, giving yourself days inbetween to allow some slower symptoms to emerge – or not.

With the FODMAPS approach – which is not about intolerance foods but about hard-to-digest carbs – once you’ve followed it for your two or three weeks, you then introduce a higher FODMAP food to your meal.  In a small way the first time, then building up slightly the following day.  On the third day you try a ‘normal’ (not huge!) amount of that food with your meal.

I recommend waiting a couple of days before you try another new higher FODMAPS food so that you’re not overloading your digestion, not challenging it too much.
Some people find their old gut symptoms return when they’re stepping up the amounts, so back off with that food, wait a couple of days and then try another higher FODMAP food.  Waiting those two days inbetween these trials gives pause for your digestion.

Always play it safe.  Stick to re-introducing one new food in one FODMAP group at a time.  Start small and gradually.
Everyone is different.  Some digestions are more sensitive or reactive than others, and this is one reason why it may help to work with a practitioner.
Another reason to work with someone:  You might be starting this diet because you feel you’ve “tried everything”.  Left out gluten then excluded that daily biscuit or sweet, reduced wine hugely, stopped the pizzas, left out some cheese.
This approach can often be too random, and if nothing else, there should be a logical and informed plan to how you go about changing your diet.  Some people may want the support of a nutritionist or naturopath with this plan.

Also important to be aware of is that a lot of gut distress can be due to overgrowths of yeasts or bacteria or parasites.  Stool tests would then be indicated, or other home test kits to rule out SIBO or gut permeability for instance.  Dietary changes alone won’t clear up an overgrowth of pathogenic gut bacteria, and eliminating sugars (& using a pessary) won’t resolve systemic candida.

Stress, too, can play a huge role.  In clinic, when talking about stress, often a client will say, ‘yes I’m stressed but isn’t everyone?’  Short-term stress, sure.  That’s part of life, and your body is wonderfully geared to coping with it.
Ongoing chronic stress, however, should never be considered the norm.  A low FODMAPS diet might relieve some gut symptoms but if underlying anxiety, stress, anger or insomnia are big in your life, the triggers to your digestive distress, then switching diets won’t be the magic bullet.  (Luckily there are lots of other magic bullets that can help you!)

All this low and high FODMAP food talk may sound like a pfaff but you can either work with a therapist or use something like the Monash University FODMAP app.  And if you don’t use apps there are some excellent online lists of food and recipes you can print off.

If working on your own, take your time to read about the FODMAP diet first.  Get your head around the aim of the diet, the foods and stages it involves so you are fully committed and have your kitchen stocked and those menu plans in place.  And don’t feel you have to eat a food just because it’s low FODMAP.  If you don’t normally want a banana, don’t eat it just because it’s ‘allowed’!

For those of you thinking life will be a vegetable misery for the weeks you’re on this diet you’ll be jumping for joy.  There are loads of fab veg which are low in FODMAPS.   Animal protein isn’t a problem, and there are good options for vegetarians like tempeh, eggs, quorn…

The above photo shows just a few vegetables I had at hand for some clients last month.  Instead of their regular follow-up, we had an extra hour of going through the foods together, then cooking a couple of dishes and eating the low FODMAP way.

Key points to remember:
First make sure this diet is right for you, that you’ve ruled out other players such as gut overgrowths, intolerance foods, stress….
Work with a therapist if you can, especially regarding the above issues you may not have considered.
If going it alone, I recommend downloading the above-mentioned Monash University app. There are other apps on the market – do take a look online – but this is the one I’m familiar with and which is specifically for tracking and working with FODMAPS and not overall diets.  Otherwise, google low FODMAPS diet and print off the food and menu lists.  Get your kitchen and your head ready for a couple of weeks of changed meals.

If you’d like any more information about the FODMAP diet I always offer 15 mins free calls.  And if you have any other worries about diet, health or well being do please contact me for a chat.

I’ve stopped 1:1 consultations during these times of social distancing, but skype, facetime and landline consultations work really well and have been part of my clinic for years.  Our voices and ears are in fine form and can side-step viruses to cross towns, counties and oceans via amazing technology.
How lucky we are for that!

Gf/df buckwheat banana pancakes

Here is February’s delayed post and Shrove Tuesday’s delayed pancakes.  Was a hard month that ran away with me but better late than never (and for me this was worth the wait!)
I have an idea for my March post bubbling away, so I’ll be on the case soon 🙂

I tried a vegan version of this I saw on Instagram.  The pancake looked great but when I tried – several times! – it kept sticking to my copiously oiled pan, refused to cook through, didn’t want to stay in a circle and basically wouldn’t be friends.  Another day, another vegan attempt.  Until then, an added egg made this into one of the tastiest pancakes I’ve ever eaten.  I used to not be a huge fan of buckwheat but I’ve now got lots of delicious combos that work.  I think the mashed bananas within really makes it.  And I’m so happy to have such a delicious gf/df option for breakfasts and treats.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

buckwheat pancake

Ingredients:

6 small pancakes
80g buckwheat flour
tsp gf baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch sea salt
2 mashed ripe bananas
250 ml coconut milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 egg
Enough light olive oil or odourless coconut oil to create a good base in your choice of pan so the mixture doesn’t stick; approx 2 tbsp worked for the small pan I used.
Topping:
Coconut yoghurt (to which I added a splash of maple syrup coz the bottle was there, lol).  Berries and a sprinkling of cinnamon to top it all off.

Method:

Mash the bananas, beat the egg then add them to the coconut milk, maple syrup and vanilla essence, then mix together. Gently add the sieved buckwheat flour, sea salt and gf baking powder.  Stir until well mixed.

Heat either odourless coconut oil or a light olive oil in your fave pancake pan (some pans really don’t respond well to pancakes – my oldest one loves them) and then go for it.
Pour a little mixture in the pan; when you see bubbles forming on the top of the pancake it’s ready to flip.  Gently ease your ‘flipper’ beneath it as the mashed banana can sometimes stick to the base.

I make small pancakes mainly because my first one or two seldom work; I don’t want to waste too much of all that deliciousness.
Also, this way you can pile up a few, add your yoghurt and fruit topping to create a mini pancake tower.

Not just for Shrove Tuesday!

High cholesterol, some facts and foods

It’s almost February, which seems so unlikely as the year only just began moments ago, surely?

In keeping with my new year’s resolution (which actually only dawned on me a week ago, well past new year, oops) I’m going to post more health info blogs on my website rather than just the short social media chat and occasional recipes.
This will keep me on my toes with some mindful research and deliberation, and will hopefully give you something to read and think about; a chance to make comments and suggestions as it’s all a learning game.  We are indeed unique, so our experiences will be very individual.

 
cholesterol lowering

On this last day of the first month (and almost the eleventh hour! Been a long day…) I’m kicking off with the somewhat prosaic topic of high cholesterol.
Oh I know, it feels like we’ve been here, done that, however, in the last two days I’ve seen four clients who came for very different health reasons but all have alarmingly high cholesterol.  Scarily high LDL in fact (more about that below).
I took it as a sign to blog about some cholesterol facts and foods.
Apart from this coincidence – these four clients sharing more than they will ever know – the topic of cholesterol has become quite a controversial one; well worth having a chat about.

Contrary to conventional medical thinking these past decades, many studies now show that high cholesterol is NOT the be-all and end-all of CV risk.
A big statement, some may think, however these studies are proving that the measure of cholesterol is not always relevant.
Some people have a high ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol but are living to a healthy heart-attack-free age because, in part at least, their equally rising ‘good’ cholesterol has been offering them protecton.  Studies are also showing that when high cholesterol IS relevant to a person’s heart health, it’s not the only ‘measure’ that plays a significant role.  As I said, it’s not the be-all and end-all of CV disease.
This is not to say we ignore it altogether.
There is a place on the heart health table for trying to keep high cholesterol in check; certainly if there are other contributing negative factors gathering around that table.  Factors such as eating the wrong foods, chronic stress, insufficient exercise, overall body inflammation, smoking, weight gain (obesity is inflammatory and, like stress, it worsens all conditions), familial history of strokes and heart attack, and age (we remove excess cholesterol less efficiently as we get older).

What is cholesterol anyway?
A waxy fat-like substance that’s surprisingly important to our health.  It helps make our hormones, converts sunshine (when it’s around!) to vitamin D, is necessary for digestion and brain function, and assists in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.  Vital in fact for all our cell membranes, so we really don’t want to have too little of it.

When we talk about cholesterol we’re actually talking about the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around our bloodstream.  These are fat on the inside and protein on the out and come in various forms, the two most relevant being, LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the so-called ‘baddie’ of the two, but yes there’s more to it than that regarding particle size and actual ‘badness’; too involved to go through here but there are excellent sites to read about these).  And secondly, HDL, the high density lipoprotein which is the ‘good’ cholesterol as it’s protective in that it takes excess cholesterol back to the liver where it’s then used or excreted. (It’s the efficiency of this disposal which can slow down with age, as mentioned above).  By removing excess cholesterol the build-up of fatty plaque in your arteries is avoided;  a build-up which is associated with low density lipoprotein, LDL and which can then lead to narrowing of the arteries and atherosclerosis.

When you have your cholesterol measured it’s the ratio of these two – LDL and HDL – that’s important to be aware of, not just the total number.

A large proportion of cholesterol that’s circulating in your blood is produced by the liver and intestines; the rest is from diet.  This may explain why some people with high cholesterol haven’t had the huge improvement – reduction – in ‘numbers’ that they expected after radically changing their dietary habits.

Nonetheless, for many people the effectiveness of dietary change regarding high cholesterol is extraordinary.  I’ve seen it in clinic;  one reason I wanted to write this post.  It’s an easy and very successful first port of call.  Together with getting off your sofa!

So, what are the foods that will make a difference, which will help you avoid taking medications, those statins that can have side effects and which are so very controversial?

Take a look at the photo accompanying this blog.
Eat more of these foods, the likes of flax seeds containing plant sterols that are shown to significantly lower cholesterol.  And oats with their soluble fibre.  More leafy green fibre such as spinach, chard, kale, radicchio, romaine lettuce, fennel, dandelion, spring greens, rocket, chicory… the list is endless!  And more cruciferous veg like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage.
Also tocotrienols – found in the Vit E family and in the likes of walnuts and virgin olive oil which have shown improvement in arterial health.
And turmeric, always!  It’s not just a way of lowering inflammation but it improves vascular function in coronary artery disease and can suppress early atherosclerotic lesions (similar to lovastatin).

Eat far less meat, less overall saturated fats, less ‘whites’ (rice, potatoes, sugar, flour), less fried foods, far less sugars and salt.
Give up smoking, hooray!
And try to get stress levels down, down….

Last but by no means least, get moving.
Exercise will help rebalance your body, move your blood, shift stagnation, drop some kilos, soften the stress in your life, improve energy and alertness, increase happy hormones – and will most definitely help lower your high cholesterol.

 

Curry miso with roasted veg, buckwheat noodles and egg

I love the days in between Christmas and new year when the crazy festive bustle is over and New Year’s Eve seems a way to go.  Some quieter times can suddenly happen when you meet up with a friend for a cuppa, or play with some of your Xmas presents, or even go on an outing (that felt very brave – surely I needed to cook for a gaggle or clear up the festive mess, change bedlinen?)

Here’s the result of one late afternoon’s play with a cookbook by Gizzi Erskine.
A quirky mix of recipes with a bit more ‘meaty’ than I expected, but also delicious vegetable dishes with fascinating flavours, a combination of Asian and Polish and more….

When I stand in a bookstore and leaf through a cookbook I instantly see some stand-out recipes, the ones that make me want Ownership of the book.
This recipe is one of those.  The curry miso soup has so many decadently delicious ingredients, just reading it made my mouth water, already tasting the heady rich miso-soy broth.

My recipe here is slightly different to the original; I’ve made it mine.  Still gluten and dairy free, I added some roasted gem and chicory because they were in our kitchen and I love leafies.
I left out the tofu and kimchi only because we needed a holiday from tofu, and the kimchi had magically vanished.  I did offer a side dish of other pickled veg, but it remained untouched.  Our plates already had enough going on – and yes, I should make mention here that there is also quite a bit going on in the making of this dish.  You’ll have a warm glow of achievement when you serve up, lol!

There is a lot of elbow room to be creative.  You could add different roasted veg, like I did.  Or make it vegan by leaving out the egg, or swap it for marinated chicken or add more noodles.
I’ll be sticking to this one as it was delicious.

curry miso

Ingredients for 2 portions

(the soup part is enough for 4 portions)

2 tbsp coconut oil or virgin olive
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 cms ginger, chopped
2 tbsp curry powder (I used Steenbergs organic)
1/2 tsp turmeric (I used Rachels’ turmeric paste; worked fine)
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (or the amount to suit you; OR add 1 tbsp soy bean chilli oil instead)
200g white miso paste (I used Clearspring)
3 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp Marmite (oh joy it was still in our larder from our youngest son)
2 tbsp tamari sauce
1.2 litres boiling water
400ml soy milk or any non-dairy milk (I used Mylk)
200g shiitake mushrooms, sliced (I used portabello & ‘exotic mix’ )
100ml teriyaki sauce
2 free-range eggs, boiled for 6 minutes, then put in iced water, then peeled
80g buckwheat noodles per person, cooked al dente (then dunked in iced water to stop the cooking process)
3 slices roasted butternut squash per person
1 roasted gem lettuce, halved
2 roasted red chicory, halved
spring onions, chopped
tsp sesame seeds

Optional: 200g firm tofu, thickly sliced, or pieces of marinated chicken….

Method:

In a medium pot or deep pan, heat the oil and add the chopped onion till it softens, about 10 mins.  Add the garlic and ginger and sweat a few minutes before adding the turmeric, coriander and curry powders, then the chilli flakes (or above mentioned chillli oil).
Stir for a couple of minutes then add the water and whisk in the miso paste and marmite.  Add the mirin and tamari.  Cook on a low simmer for 30 mins to reduce, then add the non-dairy milk.  Blend till smooth and put aside until you are ready to reheat.

Meanwhile, in a little oil roast the butternut slices in the oven until slightly caramelized.  Add the halved chicory and gem lettuce for the last  8 or so mins of that roasting.  You want these to be slightly charred on the outside but still with some crispness, some body.

Whilst roasting, put the cooked, peeled eggs in a bowl of teriyaki sauce, coat and leave until you’re ready to put the meal together.
Fry the sliced mushrooms in oil and put aside when done.  If you’re adding tofu or chicken then you could fry these now and also marinate them in teriyaki sauce.
Cook the buckwheat noodles in boiling water; they only need a few minutes but follow the packet’s instructions, then dip in iced water and place on the side until you put the dish together.

Putting it together:

Reheat the soup.
Divide the noodles between the two bowls as well as the roasted butternut slices, 1/2 roasted gem lettuce and chicory.
Pour in the hot soup so some of the ingredients are peeking out.  Remember there will be liquid left over for you to repeat another meal of two portions, hooray!
Add the halved egg, and if you’re using tofu or cooked chicken, add those.
Sprinkle the chopped spring onion over the top (& the sesame seeds I forgot in this photo, lol).

Now enjoy your delicious work of art!

Vegan Christmas chestnut and sage soup

This creamy (no-cream) soup always tastes so special because I only ever make it at Christmas, plus chestnuts are still somewhat exotic for me.  They simply weren’t on our family’s radar when growing up in Australia.
I first came across them when I moved to Germany.  Roasted chestnuts, oh my!  Love at first bite.
This is a minimum effort maximum effect dish.   Its few ingredients tell the whole story with no pips ‘n squeaks or complications.  No room to go wrong.
I usually cook it a few days before Christmas as it freezes well, plus it makes me believe I’m organised, lol.   I’m surprised I haven’t posted the recipe before now on my website (was I keeping it all to myself??!)
My gift to you this Christmas, (and I just spy Merchant’s chestnuts are halfprice @ Tesco’s online.  Yessss, double portions this year).

website soup

Ingredients

4 peeps (for 6, add another pkt chestnuts and 0.5 litre veg broth)

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium or 2 small red onions, chopped finely
c 8-10 sage leaves, chopped, plus extra whole leaves for garnish
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 litre vegetable stock
400g vacuum-packed chestnuts, roughly chopped

Method

Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat and sweat the onion until soft and translucent.  Add the sage and garlic; gently fry for a minute before pouring in the stock and adding most of the chestnuts – save some for garnish, together with a few extra fried whole sage leaves.
Cook for about 15 minutes, remove from the heat, cool slightly and blend.
That’s it!
Return to the pot and reheat gently when it’s time to serve with a garnish of fried sage leaf and some chopped chestnut.  You could also add a dollop of yoghurt for a non-vegan option.

When food is the enemy

Recently I saw two new clients who are having serious problems eating food.  People with allergies and intolerances are frequent clients, however both these people have quite extreme issues going on.
One has been on such a restrictive diet for the past year he’s now frightened to try anything new, or for that matter anything old.  He saw his doctor in January who said he had IBS and reflux; he was given antacids and told to watch what he eats.
All year this man has been watching his food, to the point that there isn’t much now left on his plate to watch.  After seeing his doctor back in January, he began searching online, trying out too many different hypo-allergenic diets, gradually eliminating so many foods that he’s now left with a sad and paltry selection; some quite bizarre.  He’s tired all the time, he tells me, and has lost too much weight.  “My joints hurt. I don’t know what to eat coz everything gives me heartburn”.  As he talks his leg jiggles the table between us.

food warning

Another new client the day after was a woman eating a reasonably healthy diet.  After hearing, however, about her regular reactions that are verging on anaphalaxis, I was surprised – in awe! –  at the variety of food she’s actually coping with.
Her allergy consultant has prescribed steroids which she takes when she has these severe reactions, worse and more frequent in recent times:  A tightening in her chest and throat, swollen lips, breathlessness, sometimes a sudden drop in blood pressure.  Scary stuff indeed.  She’s had to swap meds several times as she reacts to those as well (no surprise).
“What can I eat?” she asked.  Such an upbeat smiley woman, I would’ve loved to have given her an instant answer.

So, what to recommend when food becomes the enemy?

It may sound simplistic, or like some grandmother’s proverb but the logical start is, heal the gut.  These words are repeated around the globe every day by most nutritional therapists I’m sure!  And not just when food intolerances or bloating, flatulence, reflux and the like have become issues.  Given that 70% of our immune system is in our gastrointestinal system, we should all be wanting our digestion to be as happy as possible.

Healing the gut might mean different things for different people.  Removing certain gut microbes that shouldn’t be there, or are running rampant; increasing beneficial gut bacteria, strengthening the gut wall junctions, improving bile flow, increasing low levels of digestive enzymes or gastric acid a.o.  Some or all of the above; depends on the individual.
At the same time, too, expanding that digestive picture to include other important players linked to the health of our GI tract –  like the endocrine and nervous systems.

Food naturally will come into it, has to be part of the equation.  Not just because we have to eat to survive, or because that’s why people seek out a nutritional therapist, to find out which foods they should eat.
More due to that well-worn saying, we are what we eat – so true (just a shame it’s lost its impact with over-use). 

Food is a big part of healing the GI tract, of reducing chronic inflammation, of sustaining energy and improving well being.  Some foods have the potential to scupper digestive, or overall health – just think how sugar can spike everything into chaos in the body when it takes over every meal and isn’t treated with caution, kept to just an occasional treat.
Other foods have the nutrients, the astonishing ability to improve our immune health.  Those superpower foods, the likes of turmeric, green tea, fish oils, rainbow plant-based and fermented foods.  Or simply eating a balanced diet with healthy fats and quality protein (not to mention the humble green leafy veg, my fave… I’ll stop there, lol!)

After this posed question – what can I eat? – a dialogue begins. Discussing family history and other current health issues;  peeling back the layers and connecting as many dots as possible.  Trying not to overwhelm with too much information – that can be hard.  Working through food diaries and the results of lab tests. Seeing some of the puzzle pieces come together.
More often than not, the first step will focus on that healing of the gut as well as making careful changes to diet and invariably to lifestyle as well.  Suggesting people change habits they may rely on because they are part of their history, or convenient, needs to be considered.  The process has to be manageable and not too unfamiliar or threatening.

Removing, replacing, healing and restoring.  Adapting to the individual, to that person’s specific needs.  It’s a process, one step at a time.  A sharing of knowledge where it’s important to respect the difficulties in play.  Showing how food can be such a powerful medicine – as well as something delicious to eat!  And always with the aim of helping clients make food their friend and not the enemy. 

Appleaday’s Xmas gift this year, a 10% discount on first consultations – skype or 1:1 – during the month of Feburary 2020.  Email or message me on social media for available dates & times.

(Please note: the two clients above gave me permission to use some of their information.  I’ve kept it as general and vague as possible for privacy reasons).