Posts tagged sept2011
Crumble topping

Want to whip up a quick healthy dessert?

A bowl of fruit and crumble topped with a blob of soy yoghurt is your five minute answer!

I was reminded to put this post together when the boy grumbled that he was still hungry after the soup I served for lunch a couple of days ago. Five minutes later and we had a nice hot bowl of healthy apple crumble to finish off our meal.

This is a great simple recipe for getting all your fats, carbs and proteins, oh and did I mention it was made from oats…. You know how muchI love oats!  Any fruit can be used but I have used apple here. I also used this topping for the fried plantain recipe. So versatile.

Recipe: crumble topping

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 100g oats
  • 1 to 2 tbs peanut butter
  • 1 to 2 tsp agave nectar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Method:

Lightly toast oats in a dry frying pan for a minute or so. Add remaining ingredients and keep moving round pan until melted and the oats a fully coated and just beginning to brown in places. Spoon over dessert or fruit… or just eat them as they are (wait a couple of minutes for them to cool first!)

If you are making the apple crumble as pictured. Dice the apple and pan fry this first with a little coconut oil and some cinnamon. Once nearly cooked, add the ingredients as per the method above, or if you’d prefer to have the apple as a base with the crumble on top- keep the apple aside and top with the oats. Finish off with a blog of soy yoghurt or cream.


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Soup Glorious Soup - Courgette, Pea & Mint

I love soup, especially when teamed up with a warm home baked roll. This post is likely to be the first of many soup related recipes… now that the weather is beginning to turn autumnal and also since purchasing my Thermomix soup-making is so ridiculously easy (easy without one too I might add!)

But, as typical British weather has it, on the first day I sit down to lunch with a bowl of hot comforting soup- the sun is hot and shining outside! Oh well, that didn’t stop me.

Soups are good for the soul in so many ways and so endlessly versatile. I can’t imagine many better ways to enjoy a such a healthy boost that tastes so comforting, refreshing and moreish in one bowl. Bumped up with pasta, bread or rice and there you have a quick simple meal for all times of day (and all weathers!) As with many of my recipes, this soup is also a great freezer companion- so whip up a big batch!

This soup was a full on ‘veg patch lunch’ as I used one of the last of the courgettes from my vegetable patch (summer is more definitely coming to an end) and also some fresh veg patch peas (mixed with some frozen ones as I didn’t have enough fresh ones) and last but not least some fresh mint leaves that are trying their best to take over the whole area!

Recipe: Courgette, pea and mint soup

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 20g coconut oil
  • 10g olive oil
  • 1 medium onion- diced finely
  • 300g courgette chopped finely
  • 150g peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 400g hot vegetable stock
  • Handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 150g soy yoghurt (soy milk or other milk alternatives could also work but be slightly runnier)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat coconut and olive oil in a large sauce pan and sauté onion until softened. Add the courgette and sauté for another 5 minutes before adding the stock, mint and peas. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the soy yoghurt/milk and stir through before pouring the soup into a blender or food processor and blitzing until smooth. (you could also use a hand blender but I haven’t tried this as I make the entire thing in my Thermomix)

Serve will a warm roll or two… and pretend its cold and windy outside whilst you’re all warm inside!


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Breakfast oats

I love oats and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of them! No really… there are just so many topping options. This is the way I start pretty much every day, and in times when a quick fix is in order then I’ll often have oats for lunch or dinner, particularly if I’ve had a late gym class and need a quick and healthy but substantial fix before bed.

Typically I keep the base the same and vary the toppings. Something like this…..

Serving of raw oats soaked in soya milk (the exact amount depends on time of day or how peckish I’m feeling) see also important note below on soaking.

  • 1 tbs of mixed seeds (I combine my own mix of sesame, flax, sunflower and pumpkin seed)
  • 1 to 2 tbs of soy yoghurt dolloped in the centre of the bowl on top of the oats
  • Sprinkling of raisins
  • If you like your oat base a little sweeter then add up to 1 tsp of agave nectar.

Toppings… right this is where you can really go crazy! 

I typically have grated apple and a sprinkling of cinnamon, one of my favourites. At the moment I’m also really into nectarines so a chopped up nectarine (or both apple and nectarine if I’m making up a bowl for the boy too). Blueberries or raspberries are also super yummy- use a small handful of frozen ones at a push if there are no fresh ones available, particularly if teamed with fresh grated apple…. Can you see the familiar theme with the apple obsession! I think a sprinkle of cinnamon works well with most fruit to give a warm spicy boost.

These last couple of days with the morning sun streaming through the kitchen window I took a few pictures of my breakfast bowls…. You’ll never want a boring old bowl of cereal again!

Important note:

If uncooked, raw oats ideally need to be soaked prior to eating (if you are not making them into porridge which I am not) I soak my oats in soya milk for approximately an hour or so (that’s usually all the time I have in the morning) but overnight is better!

The soaking bulks up the oats prior to digestion and prevents the need for heating which denatures the protein- it keeps the breakfast raw. Most importantly soaking helps to break down phytates in grains which, if not broken down, may prevent proper digestion of the nutrients. Soaking breaks down the phytates and allows the body to properly absorb all the good content of those whole grains. I use soya milk, but any ‘milk’ alternative could be used.


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My veg patch

I have a vegetable patch. Not that unusual, I mean loads of people have them these days now that being healthy is much more the ‘in’ thing and doing it yourself gives the thumbs up to ‘people power’!

The difference is that my veg patch is at work. Now I think far fewer people could make that claim! Don’t get me wrong I also grow some veg on the patio at home but it is the veg patch we’ve created in the field outside the office where I work that really produces.  It began as a team effort, to compliment the company ethos to be green and sustainable and also to take advantage of the countryside setting where the office is based- pretty unusual for an architects practice- no high rise city office block here! 

It’s only really me who looks after the veg now, but I don’t mind that at all. I’m quite proud of my patch and all that it’s taught me over the last three years.

I enjoy spending my lunch breaks doing a little gardening, planting some seeds or picking a selection of veg and wrapping them up in little bags for my colleagues to take home (otherwise, despite their best intentions and promises of going outside to pick some veg for themselves it won’t get eaten!). I've grown an assortment of fruit and veg over the last few years but my biggest successes have been strawberries, potatoes and courgettes- keeping up with the courgette harvest is a challenge in itself, I ended up practically forcing them upon people!

Hidden amongst the veg!

Early season planting the seed potatoes with the amazing meadow backdrop (not a bad place to work- even if it is work!)


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Chocolate shortbread

I had been wanting to make shortbread for a long time, but for me it was a battle of wills- shortbread is traditionally so full of butter and refined sugars and flours and... hmmm not a lot else!  It sat at the back of my mind for a while until enough was enough and I was determined to find a way to create a tender crunchy, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread style cookie.  I think I have succeeded here! I may well need to make a few more batches to really 'test' out the recipe properly... that will keep the boy happy as he claims these cookies to be the best so far!

The main ingredients I subbed were coconut butter for the traditional butter (any mild flavoured oils would also work well) and a mix of agave, stevia and rapadura (raw evaporated cane juice) for the refined sugar. It is worth noting here that the runnier the oil/butter is the easier it is to use as otherwise it can become more difficult to create a dough if the coconut butter is too solid- I had a few troubles here initially so I think it is very much down to getting a nice runny butter consistency and then mixing the ingredients together without delay!

I have been going a bit crazy recently trying to come with a way to make crunchy cookies without any (or much) granulated sugar. Typically granulated cane sugar provides the structure that creates the crisp crunch and chewy texture of cookies. Many of my earlier cookie experiments with agave just didn't have this elusive crunch! I'm still working on it and have a few more ideas up my sleeve. The recipe for the shortbread uses part granulated sugar but also supplements some of the flour for polenta which helps bring back the crunch, the coconut butter also creates the delicate texture.

....... Enjoy!

Recipe: Chocolate shortbread

Ingredients

(makes approx. 20)

  • 200g coconut butter (homemade from coconut flakes- could use coconut oil also)
  • 40g agave
  • 40g rapadura (or other unrefined granulated sugar)
  • ¼ tsp pure stevia
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 40g ready to cook polenta
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 150g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 70g arrowroot

Method

Whisk melted coconut butter with sugars and stevia and vanilla in a large bowl for a couple of minutes.  Mix dry ingredients together and slowly add to the wet ingredients until a thick but pliable dough is formed. Roll into a cylinder approx. 6cm diameter and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (may not be necessary if stable enough). Cut into 1cm thick rounds (nice if they end up a bit ‘squashed’ circle looking). Lay on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake for approx. 15 mins at 180C.

This is another versatile recipe and you could add other spices, chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit to the mixture. I made a second batch with coarsely ground cranberries and cacao chunks. You could also reduce the cocoa powder slightly and add up to 1 tsp chocolate extract to make the cookie a richer chocolate taste if needed (however I haven’t yet tried doing this).


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Plantain Banana Cake

Following my experiments at the weekend I had one more ripe plantain sitting in the cupboard just waiting to be used. It looked lonely and forlorn all on its own trying disguise itself to fit in with the bananas but not quite managing to pull it off!

I had planned to make a banana cake for some time and so I thought it could be an ideal way to use up my last plantain. This was going to be a little experimental since plantain is not quite the same as a banana but I felt confident enough that it would still do the trick. I was right…

The plantain worked a treat! It’s difficult to know exactly how it would have turned out had I just used bananas but I have a feeling that the plantain gave the loaf a more starchy bready texture which worked really well to give a firmer structure to the loaf as a substantial ‘mid-morning snack’ which really helped to fend off the munchies until lunch! This was lovely swerved warm (to melt the choc chunks) with a little vegan butter or cream frosting…………….. Mmmmmmm.

Recipe: Plantain banana cake

(fills one 20cm loaf tin )

Ingredients

  • 60g rapadura (or agave syrup) and a pinch of pure stevia
  • 1tsp flax and 1tbs hot water to gel
  • 200ml soy yoghurt
  • 2 tbs coconut butter/oil (any oil would work)
  • 1 ripe plantain and 1 ripe banana well mashed (or 3-4 ripe bananas)
  • 40g finely chopped dates
  • 200g wholemeal and white spelt flour mix (or one or the other)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2-3 tbs poppy seeds or nuts
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg                                 
  • 50g dark chocolate chunks (optional but more decadent!)

Method

Mix melted coconut butter with yoghurt, flax, sugars and stevia in a large bowl for a couple of minutes. Add the mashed banana/plantain and mix until well combined. Mix remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl then add to the wet ingredients. Once well combined, pour mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake at 180C for approx. 50-60 minutes. Check with a toothpick to see when cooked and keep an eye out for top browning (if it looks as though it’s getting too brown loosely lay tin foil over the tin).


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Pan Fried Plantain With Cinnamon Pan Crumble

I came across plantain entirely by accident whilst out shopping for something entirely different (no I didn’t find what I was looking for!) A new ethnic food market stall caught my attention and I had a little browse. So many random and exciting things, many of which I’d never even heard of gave rise to many new ideas in my mind. I’ll probably be going back there sometime soon!

I decided to play it safe and not get carried away on my first visit, after all that hadn’t been the reason I’d actually ventured into town. However, I couldn’t help but be seduced by plantain…..

I’d had plantain once before at a bbq where it was cut into thick diagonal slices and simply bbq’d until soft and the pale creamy yellow flesh had turned a deeper shade. It was delicious and I kept coming back for more.

A plantain looks like a ‘big banana’ but the starchy texture makes it more like a cross between a banana and a sweet potato. It can be used in sweet or savoury dishes and either in its green (unripe) or yellow/black (ripe) state. 

Once home, I did a little investigation to see what the options were, having never cooked it before I wanted to do it justice if I could! The most popular recipes seemed to be sweet dessert/brunch type snacks using ripe plantain, either grilled or fried with spices or syrup. An ideal opportunity for a Sunday brunch. So this morning, instead of the usual oats (as much as I love my oats- more on those later), I decided to surprise the boy with cinnamon fried plantain topped with peanut butter oat crumble (ok so I couldn’t quit the oats entirely!!)

Recipe: fried plantain with cinnamon crumble

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • One large ripe plantain- sliced on the diagonal approx. 10mm thick
  • Generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon- approx. 1 tsp 
  • 1 tbs oil (I used coconut)

For crumble topping:

  • Approx. 50g oats
  • 1 tbs peanut butter
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • ½ tsp cinnamon 

To serve- 2 large tbs soy yoghurt (or more)

Method:

Heat oil in large frying pan until hot then carefully place strips of plantain covering the pan. Fry on either side for 3-4 minutes until golden yellow and beginning to crisp.

Transfer cooked plantain to a side dish and without delay pour the oats into the pan and add the peanut butter, agave and spice. Stir briskly for approx. 2 minutes until the oats are toasted and clumpy.

Assemble the plantain on plates, add a dollop of soy yoghurt to the centre and top with the oat mixture and more yoghurt if prefered.

Mmmmmm…… perfect Sunday brunch or dessert!


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Me and my... Thermomix

I gave in!

Over the last year in which my interest in food has really off I have been struggling along with a mini Kenwood food processor, and I didn’t even have that for the first few months! It was originally a birthday present and I had asked for a ‘basic cheap one’ (it cost about £25!) as I didn’t know how much I’d actually use it…. What was I thinking!

I used it practically every day and most tasks it performed just fine- chopping onions, grating carrots, mixing sauces etc. But in the course of the last few months as my desire to be more adventurous grew, my little Kenwood begun to quite clearly fall short of the mark and get a little blunt and battered in the process. For one thing it only had a small capacity bowl and for another- well it quite simply couldn’t hack it!  I distinctly remember reading other peoples blog posts on how they had made their own coconut butter from coconut flakes and nut butters from nothing but the whole nuts…. my interest had been sparked… and I tried, I really did try!

One packet of coconut flakes and 20 minutes of processing in the Kenwood combined with the slightly worrying smell of overheating resulted in… slightly ‘oilier’ ‘stickier’ coconut flakes. The time had come to invest.

I knew that whatever I was to get next would need to see me through the rest of my life! Ok well maybe that’s a little extreme, but you get the general picture. So I was willing to put some money behind this thing, as to me it was worth it.

After some hard core research there seemed to be two real contenders: the Vitamix and the Thermomix, both of which seemed to have loyal cult followings.

To cut a long story short, these were my concluding factors:

Vitamix- pros:

  • Cheaper (approx. £450)
  • Transparent jug
  • 7 year warranty

Vitamix- cons:

  • Can only heat food from the friction effect not an independent heating element.
  • Appeared tricky to get the remains of food out from around the blades (i.e nut butters)
  • Taller jug (not as practical when on the work top- I’m not that tall).

Thermomix- pros:

  • Can heat and process food independently to speed setting for much more controlled cooking
  • Flat bottomed jug that also disassembles easily to get all food remains
  • Shorter more compact unit
  • Multi-functional- grinds, mixes, cooks, sautés, steams etc

Thermomix- cons:

  • Price (approx. £880)
  • 2 year warranty

I appreciate these summary points are fairly brief and I do not claim them to be absolute fact (my research has it’s limits!) however for me, I just couldn’t get the Thermomix out of my head…. So many options!! Thermomix is big in the UK, Australia and other European countries but as far as I am aware, not yet available in the USA, hence why the Vitamix came up time and time again as I did my research- big in the USA.

Before making my final decision I arranged for a demonstration so I could see the potential of the Thermomix in my life first hand.  It did not disappoint. A lovely lady called Shirley came out to visit me and we tried out numerous recipes with the various ingredients I’d been asked to provide for the purpose of the demonstration.  There were a few recipes that we had to adapt and ‘veganise’ i.e the cheese sauce became a parsley sauce. At the end of the demo we also made a cashew and brazil nut butter…. I was sold on this alone. Simply drop nuts into Thermomix basin- crank up the speed dial and about 20 seconds later… ta da, a beautiful creamy nut butter!

Amazing….

….My new toy arrived 2 days later!

 

Many of the recipes in the blog will have been made using the Thermomix for all or part of the process. However I appreciate that many people don’t have access to such a device so I tend to describe my recipes in more general ‘blender’ or ‘processor’ terms. However if I feel that the success of a particular recipe very much depends on a high powdered processor (i.e nut butters) then I will be more specific.


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