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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sweet Chicory & Golden Sultana Cake – Freestyle!

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A few weeks back, I was challenged on Facebook to “freestyle” a recipe posted in the Telegraph’s website for a Sweet Chicory & Golden Sultana Cake – I thought yeah that looks great, how can I make it taste & look as good, but lower the sugar content and of course make it gluten-free and cow milk free.  While I wouldn’t call this particularly low GI in my opinion my version is a massive improvement on the original recipe, in terms of how healthy it is – and don’t worry it’s got the “yum factor!”  Here is what I did:

Ingredients:

225 g golden sultanas – (I went organic here but up to you)

600 ml english breakfast tea (I’m partial to a bit of organic Clipper tea, I used 2 bags)

2 white chicory roughly chopped (my local supermarket didn’t have red and only sold packs of 2)

160 g goat butter (For dairy free option, I would use coconut oil instead)

2 large organic free range eggs

2 tbsp coconut palm sugar (health food shop)

1 tbsp maple syrup

105 g Doves plain gluten-free flour (this is the flour blend: Rice, Potato, Tapioca, Maize & Buckwheat)

140 g ground almonds

1 tsp cinnamon (you know I’m partial to this – it tastes great, but also apparently it helps slow the rate at which sugar enters the blood stream)

1 tbsp psyllium husks (this is sold in health food shops & some supermarkets more on that later) and about 2 floz water

pinch Himalayan salt

1/2 tsp vitamin C powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Glaze:

1 tbsp St Dalfour apricot jam (this brand is fantastic as they just use fruit and no sugar so completely natural!)

gold leaf (optional – it is very expensive & just looks pretty)

Method:

Pre-heat the oven 150C

I used a 12 cup mini cake tray, with loose bottoms (Lakeland sells them online) I greased this with a little goat butter. Now down to business:

1) I brewed my 600ml of tea in a measuring jug I let it steep for 3 minutes before removing the tea bags (I used 2).  I then added the sultanas to soak for 20 minutes.

2) As in the original, I fried the chopped chicory in about 40 g goat butter for about 10 minutes until sweet & soft. I then used a slotted spoon and put the chicory onto kitchen paper and set aside.

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3) I drained the tea soaked sultanas – saving the tea in a cup for later.  I put the sultanas in the frying pan with the rest of the goat butter and added the coconut sugar.  I cooked this down gently until is was like dark caramel – only took a couple of minutes. I then set it aside to cool a bit.

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3) I then put the Psyllium husks in a small bowl and added about 2 fluid ounces of water and gave it quick stir – it instantly goes gel like.  In the same way that I use Chia seeds to get a gel like consistency to give a bit of bounce to my bread recipe; Pysllium husks work well in gluten-free cakes not to mention, adding a healthy dose of fibre.

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4) In a large bowl I mixed the plain GF flour with the ground almonds, psyllium husk gel, cinnamon and a pinch of salt.  I made a well in the middle and added the 2 eggs along with 4 tablespoons of the tea that I set aside earlier – I felt it needed a bit more than the original recipe stated. I then used an electric whisk to whizz it all together.

5) Next I added to the bowl the sultana mixture, and the chicory, along with the maple syrup and gave it another whizz with the whisk.

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6) Finally I added the vitamin C and the bicarbonate of soda – and whizzed away for 20 seconds or so!

7) Once the mixture was spooned into the greased mini cake cup tray, into the pre-heated oven it went.  I found they were ready in 35 minutes as I was doing mini cakes.  I’m sure if you used a full-sized cake tin as in the original recipe it would take about an hour.

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8) Once out the over I gently (using oven gloves) pushed them out the tin from the bottom.  Then very carefully used a sharp knife to gently lift the metal discs off the bottom.  I then placed them on a cooling rack to cool completely before starting on the glaze.

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Glaze time:

9) I confess I ate one of the cakes before glazing and it was delicious – and in my opinion perfectly sweet, but for an additional bit of gloss it does look and taste pretty good with the glaze on too! I gently warmed the Dalfour apricot jam and then brushed each cake.  I used tweezers to tear bits of gold leaf off for decoration as suggested in the original recipe – but to be honest while it looks pretty it doesn’t really add anything flavour wise – is extremely expensive and rather fiddly – so I would skip this unless you are having the Queen over for tea – or taking pictures like me! 😉

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Soups for the Soul

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I’m not one for wasting food. One of the best ways to get the most out of your roast dinner over a weekend is to use the bones & little scraps of meat left over to make a great stock for gravy & sauces, to be frozen for another time or to make the most heartwarming and delicious bowl of goodness – a soup for the soul.

Making your own broth/stock is apparently highly nutritious – rich in vitamins and antioxidants especially Phosphorous, Magnesium, and Calcium – so great for bone health.  Also, I have read (in science literature) that bone broth contains two very valuable amino acids called Proline and Glycine – these are the key components of building connective tissue – the biological glue that literally holds our body together and in addition, these amino acids also help to reduce inflammation in the body.  Perhaps this is why home-made chicken soup is always recommended for people recovering from colds or sickness.

I have two soup recipes here; one is Chicken soup and the other is an Asian-inspired Duck soup.  For the Chicken soup I used whole grain or brown rice – this is more nutritious than white rice and is a low GI option (for a less hearty soup just leave the rice out).  I also topped it with my favourite superfood veggie, Kale!

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For the Duck soup – I topped it with Dulce which a slightly spicy and highly nutritious seaweed (Iron, B6, B12 & Iodine) – it works well with fish & seafood dishes but also great in this soup. You could perhaps try adding buckwheat or quinoa noodles which would make a nice low GI addition, but this weekend when I made it, I left the noodles out as I wanted something a little lighter to compliment the glorious weather!

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For the Chicken Soup:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (carcass left over from a roast dinner)

enough filtered water to completely cover the carcass – (about 2 litres I found)

1 onion

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic

good pinch of Himalayan salt

black pepper

small bunch of fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, parsley (or whatever you prefer)

100g Kale, shredded

50g cooked brown rice (optional)

Method:

1) Put the chicken carcass in a large casserole pan.  Pour in enough filtered water to completely cover the chicken. I have been known to just do this stage, put the lid on and leave it until the next morning to go on to the next stage – it just depends on how much time you have.

2) Next throw in a pinch of salt & pepper, the bay leaves, a few sprigs of rosemary & thyme (save the parsley for later,) 1 carrot – whole, 1 stick of celery – whole, half an onion (no need to chop) – then lid on. Bring the water up to a boil, before lowering the temperature right down to the lowest setting, and simmering away for about 4 hours until the bones separate when prodded.  Time enough, to do some house chores, sort your schedule out for the week, read a book, watch a movie or whatever floats your boat! 😉

2) Put a colander over a large bowl and pour the meat broth into it.  Allow to cool. What you then do, is pick out any bits of meat left and set aside for later – throw out the bones, skin, veg & herbs etc.

3) Put the broth in the fridge for 30 minutes or so – this will help any fat to solidify a bit on the top.  You can then skim the fat off with a large spoon.  If you just want to use this for stock you can either freeze the lot or pour into ice trays to make “stock cubes,” to use in sauces for later.

4) Then put the clarified broth back into your large casserole pan.  Add the shredded meat, crushed garlic, and the last of the veg: onion (finely chopped), celery, carrot – roughly chopped (I like mine quite chunky).  Then gently bring up to the boil and back to a simmer again.  Gently simmer for about 15 minutes.

5) When the carrot and celery are tender – but still with a bit of bite (you don’t want to lose all the vitamins by over-cooking!),  add in the cooked brown rice and warm through for about 2 minutes. Then add in the Kale, give it a good stir, turn the heat off and put the lid on for 5 minutes – this will wilt and steam the Kale.  Finally add the chopped parsley and more salt & pepper to taste. Serve on its own. If you have added the rice – it makes for a fully rounded lunch or light supper or if without the rice, you could serve it with a bit of Bella’s bread! 😉

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Asian inspired Duck Soup:

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Ingredients:

Duck carcass (I used a crown as it was on offer at the supermarket!)

enough filtered water to completely cover the carcass (again I found about 2 litres worked fine)

1 Carrot

1 stick celery

1 onion

4 star anise

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp juniper berries

6 spring onions, finely chopped (save the softer green ends to add at the end – why waste it?)

2 sticks lemon grass, finely chopped

1 courgette, finely chopped

50g fine green beans – chopped into inch long pieces

1 red chilli, chopped (take seeds out if you don’t like it too hot)

2 cloves garlic crushed

small bunch of coriander shredded

20g dulse (dried seaweed) you can get this from a health food or Asian supermarket.

1 tbsp Tamari – gluten-free soy sauce (available at most supermarkets make sure it is naturally brewed and GM free too)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 lime juice (optional)

Method:

1) Same as the chicken soup – cover the carcass in filtered water so completely submerged – add the bay leaves, star anise, juniper berries, whole carrot, whole onion, whole celery, salt, pepper.  Lid on, bring up to a boil then lower the temperature to lowest setting – simmer for about 4 hours.  Next, strain into a bowl and allow the liquid to cool. From the solid stuff you’ve just strained, pick out any bits of meat, and a few of the juniper berries and set them aside for later. Throw the bones skin, star-anise, veg etc out. Put the liquid broth in fridge for 30 minutes and when the fat has solidified a bit, skim it off the top.

2) Put the broth back into your casserole pan along with the meat and juniper berries that you set aside earlier, together with the garlic – crushed, chilli, lemon grass, courgette, white part of the spring onions and green beans. Gently simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes until the veg is tender – but again, not over done!

3) Put the Dulse (dried seaweed) into a bowl and cover with water to rehydrate.

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4) In the meantime, turn the heat off and add to the casserole pan, the green part of the spring onions and the shredded coriander – put the lid on and leave for a couple of minutes to wilt.

5) Finally rinse the Dulse thoroughly under cold water, gently tear it up and add to the casserole pan. Ladle the finished soup into bowls.  Season with black pepper and a splash of Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and a few drops of sesame oil & a squeeze of lime to taste. If you like it spicy add a little extra fresh chopped chilli too.

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You might ask is it worth it? Well I definitely think so – your not wasting anything and you get a few more meals out of that Sunday roast, not to mention all those health-boosting powers! 🙂

Himalayan Salt

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It was while I was in South Africa filming Sniper Reloaded that I first encountered a bag of funny pink salt on a shelf, in the kitchen I was sharing with Chad Michael Collins and Billy Zane.  We were all staying at this lovely family run hotel called Kosmos Manor overlooking Hartbeespoort Dam.  It was actually a great bonus that while we were away from home, we could all cook our own food – or if we wanted we could also request the friendly staff to cook something up for us too.  We would all come back on our days off with a selection of goodies to last us a few days, with our own shelves to keep things on.  I wasn’t as healthy then, as I am now and of course, these two gorgeous men had come from LA where health, diet and fitness is in-grained in most people, particularly those who are in showbiz.  I noticed Chad liked to eat a lot of grass-fed meat, while Billy had brought his own special pink salt all the way from LA.  So I was already curious and wanted to know more.  After shooting the movie, I moved to LA and it was there that this curiosity took me on a wonderful journey of discovery, learning about all sorts of unusual and healthful ingredients.

You may think salt is just salt right? Well, no actually it isn’t.  There are different types of salt and it is the processing of the salt that really makes the difference between an ordinary table condiment or a super boost in the nutritional stakes.

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Sea salt is popular as it sounds like it must be naturally formed right? Well yes it comes from sea water, which is evaporated at high temperatures; it is an improvement on the higher processing methods that some table salt goes through, including bleaching and added additives. However at the end of all this high heat treatment, sea salt is left with only around 8 minerals.

The reason Himalayan salt is apparently the superior seasoner of choice is because it has 84 minerals and trace elements and it is not processed or heat-treated.  It is mined at the Khewra Salt mines and the mineral content is naturally composed in a highly absorbent form that the body can easily use.  It is a little more pricey than other salts on the market, because it is mined, but the superior health benefits are surely worth it.  Buy from a reputable company as you want to make sure you are getting the real deal – ask at your local health food shop or research online.

Of course it goes without saying that over use of any salt is not recommended.

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Apparently Himalayan Salt…

1) …promotes vascular health – so supports healthy heart function.

2) …promotes PH balance in the cells of your body, particularly you brain cells.

3) …promotes blood sugar health, balancing out those insulin levels.

4) …helps reduce the signs of ageing – always a plus!

5) …promotes superior absorption of food particles through your intestinal tract.

6) …supports respiratory health.

7) …helps prevent muscles cramps – so helpful when exercising.

8) …supports your libido – can’t be bad! 😉

9) …assists in the generation of hydroelectric energy in all the cells of your body – helpful for increased stamina.

10) …promotes bone health and strength.

11) …promotes regulation of a healthy sleep cycle.

12)… tastes great and it’s pink! 🙂

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