Archive | April, 2011

Warm Potato Salad with Asparagus, Broad Beans and Hazelnut Mint Pesto

28 Apr Ingredients

This is a great alternative to all those rich mayonnaise based potato salads. It is spring on a plate. Fresh, seasonal, delicious and completely guilt free. I served it warm as a side dish with dinner and then cold for lunch the next day. Both ways were lovely. It would be great for a barbecue or buffet too.

I bought some beautiful baby new potatoes from the market along with fresh asparagus & broad beans. This formed the base of my salad now I just needed  a dressing. My mint plant on the roof terrace is growing like mad with all the rain so I had to use it. A basil pesto would work really well too but I think the mint with the new potatoes is heavenly. The hazelnuts add a slight sweetness which rounds off the flavours and brings it all together.

Warm Potato Salad with Asparagus, Broad Beans & Hazelnut Mint Pesto

serves 2 -3 as a side dish, vegan, gluten-free

  • 300 gr baby new potatoes, cut into 1/2 cm slices
  • 1 bundle fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off and cut in half or thirds
  • 200 gr broad beans
  • 50 gr toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint (keep mint stalks) plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 finely chopped small spring onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a grinding of black pepper

Put the potatoes and mint stalks in a large pan of cold, salted water, bring to the boil & cook until just tender. Add the asparagus & broad beans to the potatoes and cook for another 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and remove the mint stalks.

Meanwhile make the pesto. Process the hazelnuts, mint, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt & pepper to a paste. Taste and add more salt if necessary. If you need to add more liquid use olive oil, lemon juice or a bit of veg stock.

If you like you can peel the broad beans at this point if the skins are tough and you want a brighter green colour. Tip the potatoes, beans, asparagus and spring onions into a bowl, pour over the pesto and mix everything together well. Check seasoning again.

Serve straight away sprinkled with some chopped hazelnuts and mint leaves or store, covered in the fridge until about 10 minutes before you want to serve it. Let it come to room temperature then garnish as above.

This is a really elegant, flavourful side dish that can be adapted to what is in season or what you have in the fridge. Green beans would be nice if you don’t have asparagus and try swapping the mint/hazelnut for parsley/almond pesto.

It has just occurred to me that this is the perfect dish to take to a Royal Wedding party tomorrow. Everyone seems to be watching it on TV at someone’s house and taking something for the buffet. I must be the only person who won’t be watching it. It’s The Washer Up’s only day off so we are going out and getting our hair cut instead…. It’s not like I won’t see the dress or anything. I’m sure there’ll be nothing else on the TV for days……..

Good Luck Kate, you’re going to need it!!

Bhelpuri – A Spice Roasted Chickpea Salad

27 Apr DCIM100MEDIA

 

  I know I said it always rains at Easter but this year was ridiculous. On Thursday afternoon (the day before Good Friday) the sky turned an ominous shade of black and we were treated to one of the scariest thunder storms I have ever experienced. The loudest clap of thunder and lightning strike simultaneously conspired to blow up my modem and the electrics in the house. No internet, no TV, no shops open to buy a new modem and no processions to follow and photograph. Just rain, buckets full of it. The kind of rain that comes in the back door while you are mopping the flood at the front door. So I apologise for my recent absence and lack of Semana Santa documentation but I’ve just come back online today and I wasn’t going to go out in that rain and nor, I believe, did Jesus…

So, thankfully, now it has stopped raining and the sun is shining. The electric is back on and the new modem is working. I have lots of recipes to catch up with so I will get on with it. I bought some wholemeal puffed rice from the health food shop and was reminded of a salad we served as a special at the restaurant called Bhelpuri. Bhelpuri is a type of  Mumbai street food. There are many different versions some including potatoes rather than chickpeas but the common ingredients are puffed rice, tamarind chutney, onion, chilli, tomatoes & coriander. It is a dish with many different textures and flavours. The crispyness comes from the puffed rice and also crumbled puris ( a type of fried flatbread) as well as sev (a fried crispy noodle snack) also found in Bombay mix. I couldn’t find any Bombay mix here so I just used the puffed rice.

Let’s start with the spice roasted chickpeas. These are extremely addictive. You will be lucky if they make it into the Bhelpuri. I had to physically restrain myself from eating the whole lot straight off of the baking tray. They are a really tasty, healthy snack on their own and would be great as a nibble with drinks. I got this easy, delicious recipe from Alexa Marsden. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you….

Spice Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

vegan, gluten-free, adapted from Alexa Marsden

  • 1 jar/tin cooked chickpeas 400 gr, rinsed & drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Sharwood’s medium curry powder (do not use that horrible generic yellow curry powder) or see the original recipe for a spice breakdown
  • salt & black pepper

After you have rinsed and drained the chickpeas leave them to air dry.  Pre heat oven to 180 C. Mix the curry powder, olive oil, salt & pepper in a large bowl then add the chickpeas and toss to coat evenly. Arrange them in one layer on a lined baking sheet and put it on the lowest rack in the oven. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes shaking the pan half way through. Leave them to cool if you are physically able then tip into a bowl to serve with drinks or see Bhelpuri recipe below.

This is my recipe for Bhelpuri. I researched it and found that every recipe is different. I have given you a list of suggested ingredients You don’t have to use them all. There are no amounts you just add what you think, mix it all together, taste and adjust to your liking.

My Bhelpuri Recipe

serves 3-4 vegan, gluten-free

  • 4oo gr spice roasted chickpeas (above)
  •  puffed rice
  • sev (or Bombay mix)
  • roasted peanuts or cashew nuts
  • crushed puris or poppadoms
  • 1/4 onion or a few spring onions, finely chopped
  • diced cooked potatoes
  • 1 green or red chilli, finely chopped
  • tamarind chutney/ syrup
  • mango chutney
  • lemon juice (essential)
  •   handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tomato, deseeded & diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, deseeded & diced
  • little gem lettuce leaves to serve

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and season with salt & pepper. Add vegetables, chutney, lemon juice and coriander, mix to coat everything then taste and adjust to your liking. Serve in a big bowl or on a small lettuce leaf and top with more puffed rice, sev (Bombay mix) and coriander leaves.

Enjoy!!

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom and Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

21 Apr DCIM100MEDIA

Laos is in South East Asia bordered by Northeast Thailand, Viet Nam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia & China. It is another place on my list of must visit countries that keeps growing by the day. I found the link to this recipe on Tes at Home. Tes grew up in Northeast Thailand but now lives in India. This recipe is my vegetarian version of her childhood memories of  a dish called Or Lam that she found on Eating Asia.  I took ingredients and techniques from both recipes and cooked the rice in the same pot but it would normally be served with sticky rice on the side. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any fresh dill for this dish so I replaced it with fresh coriander. Feel free to substitute the dill back in or a mixture of both would be nice.

You start by making a curry paste with shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt.  This is fried off then veg stock is added before adding the vegetables. The idea is to cook the aubergine until it is very soft and thickens the stew. I used my metal tea infuser to flavour the dish with Sichuan peppercorns and black peppercorns. This way you get some of the aromatic heat from the peppercorns but not the full on numb lips experience. I used 15 of each in the tea infuser. You could also use a  piece of muslin tied at the top with string). Or crush a smaller amount of each to add to the dish, say five of each.

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom & Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1 large aubergine, quartered lengthways then cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 100 gr mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • 100 gr green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped( I used 2 garlic & 1 spring garlic)
  • 6 shallots (I used 1/2 spring onions), roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, roughly sliced
  • 3 lime leaves, sliced
  •  1 red or green chilli, roughly chopped
  • a handful of coriander stalks
  • 1 tsp salt (or 1 tbsp fish sauce)
  • about 500 ml veg stock
  • 15 Sichuan peppercorns
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 150 gr wholegrain rice
  • 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish

Put the shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt (or fish sauce) into a bowl or food processor and blend to a smoothish paste. Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add in the paste and stir fry for a minute. Add in the veg stock and put both sets of peppercorns in the tea infuser(or muslin bag) and hang it  over the side of the pan so it is submerged in the liquid (or throw in the muslin bag).  Bring to the boil.

Add in the mushrooms, aubergine and rice, season with salt and boil for another minute. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about another 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the aubergine is soft and melting into the stock. If you like you can take out a ladle full of the stew and blend until smooth before adding back into the pot.

Add in the green beans and spinach, stir, cover and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes until the beans are cooked. Stir in the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning.

Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with extra coriander leaves.

Imagine yourself on the banks of the Mekong river watching the boats go by or strolling through a colourful food market selling exotic, unknown foods, listening to the strange language and trying to recognise the unfamiliar smells. I will get there.. one day….

South American Bean Cakes with Arepa Bun and Tomato Chilli Salsa

19 Apr Brazilian Bean Burger

 As promised, here is what to make with the rest of that can of kidney beans. I first made this recipe for Brazilian Bean Croquettes last summer during the World Cup. I decided I was going to make a lunch and dinner every day from the countries that were playing in the afternoon or evening game. It was quite a challenge especially being vegetarian but I really started to enjoy it and we ate some amazingly diverse food. From Cape Malay Samoosas, Jollif Rice from Ghana, German potato pancakes but the most memorable were these Bean Cakes from Brazil.

I have adjusted the original recipe slightly because it included breadcrumbs. As you know I am going gluten-free this month so no breadcrumbs for me. I used chickpea flour instead to coat the cakes but the breadcrumbs definitely give it extra crunch, so you decide.

To keep with the South American theme I wanted to try making Arepas. Arepas are a kind of bread pattie made from a special type of cornmeal. They are very popular in Venezuela, Columbia and the rest of Latin America. They can be grilled baked or fried and are usually stuffed or topped with cheese, eggs, meat or fish. Not that I needed any encouragement to try making these but the packet of the cornmeal is irresistable.

How cute? I actually bought the packet without realising it was for making Arepas just because I like the design. It’s not normal corn flour or cornmeal its precooked. Just look out for this packaging. You can’t miss it.  It’s really easy to make the arepas you just add hot water and salt to the corn meal and bring it together to form a stiff dough. Cut it into four then roll them into balls.

Wet your hands with some more hot water and roll the ball in your palm until smooth. Then press it out into a disc shape. Using more hot water (to glue it)  if it starts to crack at the edges.

To cook them I just heated a little oil in a frying pan and cooked them for 6 -7 minutes turning occasionally until they have what the Latin Americans call a cara (face).  And they really do develop a face, it’s hilarious…

I may have had the heat a little too high, but you get the idea.  Take them out of the pan and then keep them warm/continue cooking them for five or 10 minutes in the oven. Then slice like an English muffin. You can fill them with whatever you like but these bean cakes are great topped with a spicy tomato chilli salsa & some mashed avocado with lime juice.

Add some leaves and the spicy bean cake and you have a delicious vegan, gluten-free  Brazilian burger in a bun. Sometimes you need this kind of food. The kind of food you eat with your hands in front of the football. Or is it just me?

Brazilian Bean Cakes

makes 4 small cakes enough for 2 people, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 300 gr red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 or 5 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree, passata)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chickpea flour plus extra for dusting
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of chopped fresh coriander

Blend the beans and tomate frito (puree/passata) in a bowl or food processor. Heat the oil over a medium high heat and fry the onion with a pinch of salt until well browned (5- 8 minutes).  Stir the chickpea flour into the onions then add the bean puree, oregano, chilli, coriander and season well with salt & black pepper.

Cook until the mixture holds it’s shape and comes together. Cool, covered in the fridge then shape into 4 patties. Put some chickpea flour on a flat plate and roll and dust the cakes with the flour while shaping them. (You can also roll in flour, egg & breadcrumbs if you want) Then put them back in the fridge to chill.

Heat 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and cook until browned on both sides. About 3 minutes a side.

Arepa Buns

makes 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • 300 ml hot water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225 gr masa harina flour (precooked corn flour see photo above)
  • about 1 tbsp oil for frying

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and gradually add the hot/warm water, mixing with a wooden spoon to form a stiff dough. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes then cut into four and roll into balls. You may need to wet your hands with some more hot water to make it easier. Flatten the balls with the palm of your hands into discs about 3 inches in diameter about 3/4 inch thick. Use the hot water to smooth out any cracks around the edges.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the arepas for about 6-8 minutes turning 3 or 4 times until they are golden & crispy and have a cara, face. Drain on paper towels then put in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes while you cook the bean cakes.

Tomato Chilli Salsa & Avocado Puree

enough for 4 bean cake arepas, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic/ young garlic green parts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • the juice of 1/2 lime
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree/passata)
  • salt & black pepper

Blend everything together in a bowl or processor. Check seasoning and add more salt/lime juice/olive oil if necessary.

  • 1 small avocado
  • the juice of 1/2 a lime
  • salt & black pepper
  • chilli oil

Put everything in a bowl and mash together with a fork. Taste for seasoning.

To serve cut the arepa through the middle, spread tomato chilli salsa on one side and the avocado puree on the other. Put the bean cake in the arepa, add some leaves, close, squash down and devour, trying not to get tomato salsa down your front…..!

Avocado Bean Salad With Lime, Cumin and Coriander Dressing

18 Apr Avocado Bean Salad

I just had to share with you my latest “go to” lunch salad. It’s quick, easy and delicious. It’s also vegan & gluten-free but that’s not the point. The point is that I’ve had it for the past three days and I still love it. That is a record for me as I have an extremely short attention span when it comes to food. I get bored really quickly, I need new things all the time. So here it is my new favourite salad, until I get bored and find another one…..

Avocado Bean Salad with Lime, Cumin & Coriander Dressing

serves 1, vegan, gluten-free

  • a big handful of rocket/mixed leaves
  • 1 small avocado, stone removed and chopped
  • the juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1o0 gr cooked red beans or pinto beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 spring onion/scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 spring garlic, green parts, finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a handful of sunflower seeds
  • fresh coriander leaves

Put the salad leaves in a large bowl with the chopped avocado and squeeze the lime juice over the avocado to stop it turning brown.  Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the sunflower seeds & coriander leaves and toss with your hands to coat everything evenly. Pile the salad into a bowl or large plate and top with the sunflower seeds & coriander leaves. Serve with an extra wedge of lime on the side if you like.

This would be really good with an ice cold bottle of lime wedged Coronita or even a classic Margarita…….Salut!

I have a fantastic recipe for the rest of the can of beans that I will post in the next few days , so save them. Get ready for South American Bean Cakes with Arepa Bun and Tomato Chilli Salsa…!!

Orange Blossom and Almond Soft Oat Cookies

16 Apr Uncooked Biscuits

 It’s all about the orange blossom here at the moment. As soon as you walk out of the front door the smell hits you. An exotic floral fragrance that is just synonymous with spring in Andalucia.

These pretty little innocent white flowers give of such a powerful scent. We went for lunch last Sunday at Santiago’s restaurant. To be sat in the beautiful garden surrounded by orange trees and the delicious perfume of the blossom is a real treat. In fact every time the wind blew we were treated to a gentle rain of orange blossom petals. “Una lluvia de flor de azahar” to quote Mery the waitress….

I have to admit that I did have a few spoonfuls of a dessert on Sunday, I couldn’t resist. It was a frozen mango margarita cheesecake I think. Whatever it was, it was delicious. I am doing really well with the detox but I do crave something sweet occasionally. I’ve been wanting to make an oaty biscuit/cookie without flour, butter or added sugar. It’s quite a challenge but I think I’ve cracked it with these. The sweetness comes from some Orange Blossom honey that I bought from a local producer. I used ground almonds instead of flour because I love the flavour and moistness it gives to the biscuit and also because we are surrounded by almond trees.


Orange blossom & almond is a classic combination used in a lot of Middle Eastern desserts and pastries. The orange blossom water I used to flavour the biscuits has an unusual, exotic floral taste that is unlike anything else. It perfectly compliments the almonds, dried apricots and dates that I added to follow on with Moorish theme. Pistachios & rosewater would be lovely too if you can’t get orange blossom water.

The other new ingredient I used instead of butter or milk was Crema de Almendras (Almond cream). I’m not sure if it is called almond cream in English or whether it is almond paste/butter. As you can see from the image below it is a thick creamy almond paste. I bought the diabetic version which is sugar-free but is made with fructose so it is sweet.

The result is a soft, chewy almondy biscuit with a background of orange blossom. Delicious, and great for a healthy snack when you need something sweet.

Orange Blossom & Almond Soft Oat Cookies

makes about 20, vegan, gluten-free

  • 150 gr (2 cups) rolled oats
  • the juice of half an orange
  • 3 tsp orange flower water
  • 120 gr (1/3 cup) orange blossom (or whatever) honey (oil the measure first so that the honey slips out easily)
  • 25 gr (1/3 cup) flaked almonds
  • 175 gr (2/3 cup)crema de almendras (sugar-free almond paste)
  • a few drops of almond extract
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda (or baking soda)
  • 8 dates, stoned and chopped
  • 8 dried apricots, chopped
  • 25 gr (1/4 cup)ground almonds
  • a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Soak the oats in the orange juice and orange blossom water while you prepare the other ingredients. Mix everything together in a large bowl until well combined.

Line a baking sheet (or 2) with baking paper and drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the tray(s). You will need two trays or to do it twice. You should have 9 – 12 on each tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack if you can wait that long….

Serve under an orange tree or next to some flowers with a pot of mint tea for the full Moorish taste explosion……

Moment of Gratitude or “Things that made me smile today…”

Our Hydrangeas, aren’t they gorgeous…

Our Aloe Vera plants flowering and the shadows on the wall…

Stunning!!

Mediterranean Roasted Veg with Basil Bean Puree and Toasted Pine Nuts

15 Apr Mediterranean Roasted Veg

It has definitely decided to skip Spring here and go straight to Summer, at least for the moment. It always rains at Easter though, every year, without fail. Just as the re-enactment of the crucifixion gets going. Poor Jesus (a very honoured young man from the town) up on that cross in the pouring rain. It all adds to the dramatic effect, I suppose. I’ll be following the processions and documenting all that is Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Alhaurin next weekend. You’ll get to see some photos of the most important date in the town’s religious calendar and hopefully feel some of the atmosphere and theatre of it all. It really is not to be missed.

Anyway this pre- Easter heat wave has got me craving summery food and, to me, there is nothing that says Summer more than Mediterranean roasted vegetables. I love roasted veg, I don’t know why I don’t cook them more often. It is easy, packed full of flavour tastes like sunshine on a plate. You can roast them with whatever herbs and spices you like. I went for the classic garlic and rosemary because I have a rosemary plant on my terrace that is growing like mad at the moment. I added a pinch of dried chilli flakes too because I think it brings out all the other flavours but if you don’t like chilli, leave it out.

I went for the all time Top 3 (in my opinion) summer Mediterranean vegetables. Red pepper, aubergine and courgette with an onion (red would be nice) thrown in to bring it all together. I roasted them on 3 trays all at the same time. One for the pepper & onion, one for the courgette and one for the aubergine. They take about 30 – 35 minutes to get nicely browned. I put some whole unpeeled garlic cloves on the tray to roast as well for about 10 – 15 minutes. I love roasted garlic it’s sweet, mild and smoky and tastes amazing in my favourite butterbean mash.

I bought  a big bunch of beautifully scented basil too. The smell of fresh basil screams summer to me and I had an idea to make a basil pesto bean mash without the cheese, cream or butter (because of the detox).  What I ended up doing was a kind of deconstructed pesto. I blended the five roasted garlic cloves with a tin of butterbeans loads of sliced basil leaves some lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. I decided to leave the pine nuts out and use them toasted as a garnish to give an added crunch. Who knew pesto without the parmesan was so good? Because nobody told me. It’s a revelation, totally delicious and in no way lacking in flavour in the absence of cheese. If you don’t believe me try this recipe, it’s my new favourite thing. Pesto, no parmesan is my friend…

Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1 large red pepper, deseeded & cut into wide strips
  • 1 red onion, peeled & cut into wedges
  • 1 large courgette, thinly sliced, lengthways
  • 1 aubergine, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (or more)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 pinches of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 5 or 6 unpeeled cloves of garlic for the bean mash

Preheat oven to 200 C. Put the sliced veg on three lined baking trays. The pepper & onion on one, courgette on the second and aubergine on the third.

In a small bowl, combine the crushed cloves of garlic, chopped rosemary leaves, chilli flakes, olive oil, salt & black pepper. Brush a little of this mixture over each piece of veg, you  may need to add more oil. 

If you are making the roasted garlic for the bean mash put 5 or 6 cloves of unpeeled garlic on one of the trays and remove from the oven after about 15 minutes until softened.

Roast the veg in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until slightly charred and tender.

 Roasted Garlic & Basil Pesto Butter Bean Puree with Toasted Pine Nuts

serves 2 vegan, gluten-free

  • 5 or 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, roasted (see above)
  • 1 tin/jar 400 gr cooked butter beans (or any white bean), drained & rinsed
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 3 or 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 – 20 large basil leaves, stacked, rolled up and finely sliced
  • salt & black pepper
  • a handful of pine nuts
  • basil leaves, stacked, rolled and finely sliced for garnish

 Put the rinsed & drained beans into a bowl or food processor. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins into the beans. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the pine nuts and blend to a smooth creamy puree.

If it is too thick add more olive oil or a splash or stock/water.  Taste for seasoning, you may need more salt, lemon juice or basil.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan, shaking occasionally, until slightly browned. Keep your eye on them or they will burn. When you are ready to serve heat the bean puree in a saucepan.

If you want to make pesto, no parmesan replace the butterbeans with a handful of toasted pine nuts, blend and adjust seasoning to taste. It’s lovely on baby new potatoes…..

Serve a big spoonful of the deliciously creamy bean mash next to a twisted pile of the Mediterranean roasted veg. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and shredded basil leaves. Eat and remember, this is good for you. It tastes so good you’d think it was bad….

Red Peppers are super-rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, both powerful antioxidants with anticancer effects. The aubergines & courgettes are rich in potassium, which helps to balance fluid levels in the body.

Moment of Gratitude or “Things that made me smile today”….

A herd of goats blocking the road…

Buen Fin de Semana!!

Black Bean Chilli with Avocado Lime Salsa

12 Apr Black Bean Chilli

 I bought a pack of dried black beans last week because, as you know, I am doing a detox which means lots of beans, chickpeas, lentils etc. As I have mentioned before, I have got a bit of a habit of buying dried legumes and then never using them, therefore I have a cupboard full of loads of different types of dals, beans and lentils. I was determined, this time, to use them straight away because I’ve never cooked with black beans before. Not just because I couldn’t fit them in the cupboard…

I did a bit of research and found out that most people advise soaking the beans overnight before cooking them, so this is what I did. Very organised of me, I know. I think it cuts down on the cooking time. A lot of colour comes out of the beans into the water which is quite alarming, you discard this water and cook the beans in clean water or a mixture of water & stock, which is what I did.  Another tip is not to season the beans until they are nearly cooked. If you cook them in salted water it makes them tough apparently.

I had to go Mexican on the flavours here. I lot of the recipes I saw using black beans were for soup which you can easily do by adding more stock or water. I wanted something a bit more substantial for dinner. You could also serve it with some corn tortillas/nachos for scooping up the chilli and avocado salsa which would be great for entertaining. Put a big bowl of the chilli with a dish of the avocado salsa and a pile of corn tortillas/nachos and any other extras like grated cheese, sour cream, chopped spring onions and fresh coriander on the  table. Just let everyone help themselves “family style”.

Black Bean Chilli with Avocado Lime Salsa

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

  • 250 gr dried black beans (you can used 500 gr cooked just rinse and drain them and add them in with the tinned tomatoes and a bit of veg stock)
  • 500 ml clean water
  • 500 ml veg stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (or more if you like)
  • 2 or 3 tbsp chipotle chilli salsa (or chipotle chillis in adobo)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes
  • 150 gr sweetcorn
  • 2 or 3 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • green parts of spring onion finely chopped for garnish
  • coriander leaves for garnish

Rinse the beans and pick out any foreign bodies. Put them in a large bowl, cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight.

Drain the beans and put them in a saucepan with the veg stock and clean water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1- 1 & 1/2 hours until the beans are tender.

When the beans are nearly cooked heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat then add the cumin seeds & coriander seeds. When they start to pop add the onion, celery, carrot and green pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened and the onions are translucent then add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Stir in the tomato puree, chipotle salsa, chilli powder, ground cumin, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and tinned tomatoes. Season well with salt & black pepper and add sweetcorn.

When the beans are cooked remove two ladles full of beans and stock to a bowl or processor and blend until smooth.  If the rest of the beans are really liquidy tip out some of the cooking liquid and reserve it in case you need it later. Pour the blended beans back into the rest of the beans, stir and add into the tomato mixture. Cook for a further 10 minutes and then check seasoning. (You can add back some of the bean cooking liquid or veg stock now if you want it more soupy).

For the Avocado Lime Salsa

  • 1 avocado, roughly mashed
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 red chilli,deseeded & finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • fresh coriander, leaves & stalks, finely chopped

Mash all the ingredients together in a bowl and taste for seasoning. More lime/salt/ chilli/coriander?

Serve in warmed bowls topped with a dollop of the avocado salsa, some chopped spring onions and coriander leaves.

The black beans have a lovely flavour and a surprising creaminess which makes this a really comforting, spicy dish perfect to eat in front of the TV with a spoon or equally good for casual entertaining.

And if you needed any more incentive: Avocados are rich in vitamin E and alphacarotene, both powerful antioxidants that help prevent furring of the arteries and heart disease. They also contain monounsaturated fat which lowers blood cholesterol as well as essential omega 6 fats that promote healthy skin. People have commented on how well I look, it must be the avocados….!!

Lentil and Spinach Dhal with Cashews and Coriander

9 Apr

This is my kind of comfort food.  All the flavour of a take away curry with none of the fat. It is easy, quick to cook (after the chopping) and really delicious. You could serve it with some whole grain rice if you like or poppadoms but on its own is just fine and filling enough. The soft spicy lentils with the irony richness of the spinach are topped off with toasted crunchy cashews, fragrant coriander and all the flavours are brightened by the zingy lime juice.

Lentil & Spinach Dhal with Cashews & Coriander

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  •  1/2 tsp panch pooran (an Indian whole spice mix) use fennel seeds if you can’t get any
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • about 250 ml veg stock
  • a 400 gr jar/ tin cooked lentils, rinsed
  • a tin of chopped tomatoes 400 gr
  • about 150 gr fresh spinach leaves (about half a bag)
  • 125 gr cashew nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (about 1/2 a lime) and some wedges to serve
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped and leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and panch pooran/fennel seeds until they start to pop. Then stir in the onions, celery, carrot, a big pinch of salt & grinding of black pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes until softened but not browned then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another minute being careful not to burn the garlic. Add in the ground spices and a splash of stock if it seems dry and cook for another minute.

Tip in the lentils, tomatoes, veg stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes then add the spinach, put the lid on and cook for another few minutes until the spinach has just wilted.  Season with salt, stir through the chopped coriander and lime juice and taste for seasoning.

Serve in warmed bowls sprinkled with a handful of toasted cashew nuts and coriander leaves with some extra lime wedges on the side.

 From the lentils you get an excellent balance of protein and complex carbohydrate as well as iron, B vitamins and soluble fibre that provides sustained energy and balance blood sugar levels. The carrots & spinach are super rich in beta carotene, which helps to protect the body from cancer and benefits the skin. The spinach also provides lots of vitamin C, folate and iron. Tinned tomatoes contain lycopene, another powerful anticancer nutrient and the cashew nuts supply protein, zinc & fibre.

I really didn’t know it was this easy to eat more healthily. I thought it would be a lot more difficult to give up cheese but I really don’t miss it and, as I said yesterday, I am not hungry, which is amazing if you know me. I am always hungry!! If you are not interested in the health benefits just ignore the paragraph above and enjoy the food. I just think it’s surprising/interesting how many good nutrients you can get from food and how good it tastes. And I haven’t even started on the health benefits of turmeric yet…..

Buen fin de semana!!

Green Bean Pilaf with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts and Raisins

8 Apr

I’ve decided to go on a detox diet for a month to see if I can lose some weight. It means no meat (obviously), eggs, dairy, wheat, sugar or alcohol for a month. My friend has lent me a Carol Vorderman detox book that has some good recipes in it that I am using as a base to work from. They are all quite basic in the flavour department so I will be amping up the spices to make sure every dish is delicious and full of flavour as well as healthy. I don’t want it to feel like I am on a diet or that I am being deprived and I definitely don’t want the food to be boring in any way.

I started about a week ago and I am definitely noticing a difference. I feel less bloated, lighter and less hungry, which is surprising. This is my breakfast smoothie that I am having every day. It is one or two crushed ice cubes blended with 1 banana, 5 or 6 strawberries, a big slice of pineapple, the juice of half an orange and a handful of oats. It is a lovely way to start the day and keeps me full until lunchtime which is great because I walk/jog 4.5km every morning with the dog.

This was my first vegan gluten-free meal, as you can see there is a little bit of crumbled Feta on the top, but that was the last of it I promise… Well I’m not promising anything really. That’s too much pressure and there is an amazing vegetarian “Scotch Egg” & piccalilli recipe that I am desperate to try. The only thing I am promising is that there will never be a boring, tasteless, bland recipe on this blog so don’t worry. I have plenty of exciting South American, South East Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian recipes up my sleeve that you wouldn’t even know were detox, so here we go…

Green Bean Pilaf with Almonds, Pine Nuts & Raisins

serves 4, vegan & gluten-free without the Feta. Adapted from Carol Vorderman’s Detox Recipes

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced in half lengthways, rinsed & finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 300 gr wholegrain (brown) rice
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 225 gr green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 30 gr pine nuts
  • 30 gr flaked almonds
  • 50 gr raisins (I used moscatel they are bigger & juicier)
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • a handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • greek feta (optional)

Toast the pine nuts and almonds in a dry frying pan, shaking occasionally until browned. Don’t take your eyes off of them or they will burn. Set aside to cool.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, leeks and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned then add in the garlic and cook for a minute more.

Add the coriander, cumin and rice and cook, stirring for a minute until the grains are glossy. Add the veg stock and the raisins and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid is almost absorbed and the rice is nearly cooked. Add the green beans, salt, pepper,stir, cover and cook for a further 5 minutes until the beans and rice are cooked. Stir through the chopped herbs, taste and serve sprinkled with the toasted almonds, pine nuts, a few parsley leaves and some crumbled feta (if using).

Wholegrain rice provides fibre, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and iron that white rice does not. Leeks and onions are rich in allyl sulphides which are protective against heart disease and cancer as well as providing folate and vitamin C. Pine nuts & almonds provide protein & calcium and are super-rich in heart healthy vitamin E and monounsaturated oils.

All that and it tastes great too, enjoy!!

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