RSS Feed

Category Archives: Summer

Lazy daze Summer Picnics: Mini Quiches and more…

Posted on

I’m little behind on my blogging, I started this post last week but have not got around to posting it until now.  I was delighted however to be invited to do a guest blog for The Good Web Guide all about Sauerkraut!

So this is what I started last week: My gorgeous hubby had his birthday last weekend and what better excuse than to have a gathering and make the most of the glorious sunshine! A picnic seemed like the most obvious style of feasting  for the day. We went all out and bought a special hamper style cool bag in honour of this special day – much to our friend’s amusement as they thought it looked rather like a baby’s basinette/carrier! Well we are not there yet but good to know we have some equipment on standby for the future! 😉

IMG_3199

The art of great picnic-ing is prepping in advance so all you need to do when you arrive at your desired spot is: pour some cheeky glasses of chilled Proscecco, kick your shoes off, spread your rug and lay out your picnic spread!

This is what we had: Slices of Prosciutto & Salami, Olives stuffed with Pimento, Manchego cheese (Spanish sheep cheese), Goat cheese, Mini Shallot and Mushroom Quiches, Chicken Liver Pate with crackers, my Super Dope Kale Salad, Mini Sesame rolls, and a massive Carrot cake with Goji berries and a Lavender cream cheese frosting!

IMG_3097   IMG_2970

So lets start with me’ mini Q’s – I am still so buzzed about these – they turned out so well.  Also doesn’t everything look so cute mini size!  So the genius of this recipe is that the pastry is in fact made with Sweet potato and Buckwheat a glorious combination of nutty and slightly sweet and it makes a lovely low GI alternative to “normal” pastry.  I’ve talked about Buckwheat before but here are some interesting tit bits I’ve learned about it recently: It is related to Rhubarb and Sorrel and because it grows super fast, disease is not generally a problem and so very little pesticide use is found on the crop, in fact it will die if grown with most chemicals – I mean “Hello?” Awesome-ness! It is one of the best sources of easily digestible proteins and high in Rutin, who’s properties are known to help lower blood pressure. If that wasn’t enough for you – it is also apparently very rich in Iron and Antioxidants along with lots of minerals such as Copper, Zinc and Niacin.

Now lets look at the Sweet pots’ goodness factor! Ostensibly they are high in B6, C, Iron and Beta Carotene. They also contain Vitamin D – the sunshine Vit! I know we are having a good streak of sunshine recently here in the UK but we tend to be a little lacking on the sunshine visits.  In fact a lack of vitamin D can effect your energy levels, mood, bone and teeth health. Another important mineral they contain is Magnesium which is known as the relaxation and anti-stress mineral. Now talking to you ladies out there – from personal experience I have been known to turn into a mega bitch because of pre-menstrual tension and I have found that by making sure I get enough magnesium each month can really help combat this – my t’other ‘alf also apreciates it! 😉

Alright I know you are as excited as me now, so I’ll get into the main body of the recipe now – here is what I did:

Mini Shallot and Mushroom Quiches – makes six mini Q’s (or one large one just add an extra egg)

Pastry:

1 medium sized Sweet Potato

1 cup or 125g Buckwheat Flour

Pinch of Salt (Himalayan for extra health benefits)

Sprinkle of grated Nutmeg

Knob of Goat butter (just use Coconut oil if avoiding dairy completely)

1 Tblsp Coconut Oil

Filling:

3 Echalion Shallots, finely chopped

200g Button Mushrooms, sliced (you could swap out the mushroom for peppers (2 peppers will do) if your not a fan of the mushrooms or even add some chopped ham for more protein)

1 cup (about 1/4 litre) of Bouillon Stock

Few springs of fresh Thyme

Pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

80ml (which is about 1/2 a can) coconut cream

10z Goat butter

3 large free range organic eggs, beaten

60g Grated Ossau Iraty sheep’s cheese grated (or leave out if avoiding dairy)

Black pepper

1) For the pastry add the chopped Sweet potato to a pan with the coconut oil, and a splash of water, cover with a lid and bring up to the boil – and turn the heat down a notch to let it simmer away for about 30-35mins until the potato has softened. Check on it occasionally during this time to make sure the potato doesn’t burn – you might need to add a tiny bit more water if the simmer has got too fierce!  Once softened let it cool with the lid off for a few minutes.

IMG_2935

2) In the meantime you can start on the filling. Chop the shallots and the mushrooms. Over a medium heat fry the shallots with the Goat butter until they start to go transparent (about 2-3 mins) , then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 3 minutes or so until the mushrooms gain a bit of colour. Then add the fresh thyme – I tend to pull the leaves from the main stem particularly if it is a bit woody. Then add the Bouillon stock and bring up to a simmer.  You are going to let this cook away until almost all the liquid has been reduced – about 15-20mins. Turn the heat off and let it cool for a few minutes.

IMG_2934

IMG_2936

IMG_2940

3) Add the cooled and softened Sweet potato to the food processor along with a knob of goat butter (or Coconut oil if you want to avoid dairy) and blitz until smooth. Then add Salt, black pepper and grated nutmeg to taste.

4) Then back to the Mushroom Shallot mixture. Add the Coconut cream, some black pepper and stir well.

IMG_2952

5) Put the pureed Sweet potato mixture into a bowl with the Buckwheat flour and combine well to make a dough consistentcy.  Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for about 30-60mins – it just makes it easier to handle later. In fact if you wanted to, you could make the pastry the day before and have it in the fridge overnight if time wise it is easier for you to do this in stages.

IMG_2943

6) Once chilled bring the pastry out. Break off a handful and roll into a ball, then press it into a greased and lined mini flan tin (I actually double lined mine as it makes is easier to extract from the tin later see pics) The pastry will press really well, and you should be able to get a reasonably flat surface – doesn’t need to be perfect a rustic quality adds to the charm! It helps to use greaseproof paper to assist you while you press the pastry into the tin- see below:

IMG_2947      IMG_2946      IMG_2948

IMG_2949      IMG_2951

7) Prick the bases with a fork and put in the oven for about 10 minutes just to get the cooking started.

8) Now add the beaten egg to the Mushroom/Shallot/Coconut cream mix.  Then spoon a little of the mixture into each of the flan bases and then sprinkle with a little of the Ossau Iraty sheep cheese on the top.

IMG_2955

IMG_2985

9) Finally bake in the over for 20-25 minutes until the cheese has melted and gained a little colour and the egg is set.  I promise the coconut cream does not give it a coconut taste for those that don’t like coconut – trust me, I tested these on a “non coconut lover” and he gobbled them with gusto! These little beauties are fab hot or cold – and wouldn’t they be lovely served with a little rocket watercress salad as a starter for your guests at a dinner party or just a little light lunch? But they were fantastic for our picnic!

IMG_3008

IMG_2978

IMG_2969

IMG_3202

This last pic above is a Red Pepper version that I did in a large Flan pan – same amount of filling & pastry ingredients just without mushrooms.  My top tip is to blister and blacken the peppers  (I used two red peppers) on a direct flame on the hob – then wrap them in cling film for a few minutes  to loosen the skin and then peel the skin off.  This just adds a slight smokiness and brings out the sweetness of the peppers. You do this before adding them to the shallots at stage 2.

The crackers, Chicken Liver Pate and Carrot cake went down very well too and I will post the recipes for these shortly but for now here are a few pics:

IMG_3063 IMG_3097 IMG_3049

  IMG_3060

 

Sexy Little Nectarine Tart: From Family Feast Day

Posted on

IMG_2846 Just to repeat the story in case you missed it from Family Day Feast: When I was a kid my family used to go on the odd holiday to Menorca and those holidays were all about the BBQ’s one of the recipes my mum picked up around this time was Nectarines poached in wine and cinnamon – I can honestly say the combination of Nectarines and cinnamon is just heaven and the aromas when they cook are a heady floral combination. Nectarines are full of Vit C, Beta Carotene and Lutein a super antioxidant cancer preventor! I’ve talked about Cinnamon before but in case you forgot here’s the sweet & low… it regulates blood sugar levels, is anti inflammatory so helps with joint pain related to arthritis, helps aleviate menstrual pain and balance hormones.

With all this in mind I came up with this Sexy Little Nectarine Tart, served with Coconut Cream:
IMG_2862

Ingredients:

For the Topping:

6 unripe Nectarines
200g of (juicy) Dried Dates
2 inches of a  whole Vanilla Pod, snip with scissors
3 tsp Cinnamon
Splash of Water
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 Tblsp Coconut Oil

For the Base:

200g Ground Almonds
50g Cashew Nuts
50g Pecan Nuts
100g of Coconut Flour
2 Tblsp Coconut Oil
60g Goat Butter
1 desert spoon of mild Honey
Pinch of Salt

Glaze for the Topping:

1 oz Goat butter melted,
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp honey

Pre-heat the oven 150’C

Method:

1) I Started with the topping: I Scored the Nectarines (four lines top to bottom), put them in a pan with the Coconut oil, Lemon Juice, a splash of water and 2 teaspoons of the Cinnamon; put the lid on and over a medium heat brought them up to a boil and then turned the heat down and allowed them to simmer for about 20 minutes, turning the Nectarines occasionally so they cooked evenly.  I wanted them to soften slightly but also retain their shape.

IMG_2713

IMG_2721

* I pulled the Nectarines out at this stage and put them aside to cool, leaving the nectarine juices left in the pan.

2) Next I did the base: I put the Cashews and the Pecans in the food processor and blitzed until fairly fine, then I added the Grounds Almonds, Coconut Flour, Goat Butter, Coconut Oil, Honey and salt – and gave that little lot a quick blitz to bring it all together to make a kind of dough.

IMG_2743

3) I lined a flan tin and gave it a little grease up (coconut oil) for good measure! See how I used two pieces of greaseproof paper and separated the central circular disk below.

IMG_2746 IMG_2747

Then I put 3/4’s of the dough on the lined circular disk, laid another sheet of greaseproof paper over the top and used a rolling pin to roll it out and get a smooth bottom:

IMG_2748 IMG_2750

Once I had nearly a full circle I placed the circular disk bottom on top of the lined flan tin (the bit with the hole).

IMG_2753 IMG_2754

Then I added the remaining dough and used my hands to push the dough into the crevices.

IMG_2755

Before I put it in the oven I pricked it a few times with a fork.

4) I then put it in the oven – now full disclosure here I put it in for too long at this stage – I put it in for 12 minutes – really it only needs about 6-8 minutes – because it is going to cook again with the topping.  It just needs a little bit of colour but not as much as mine below.  The reason I felt it was too long was the base was the tiniest bit dry in the end result – however it tasted great and the coconut cream made it sing! In fact this is a desert you can make easily a day or two before you plan to serve it, just keep it in the fridge – it’s a knock out!

IMG_2762 IMG_2757

5) Next up I added the Dates to the pan with the left over Nectarine juices and snipped in the 2 inches of the Vanilla pod and a splash of water over a low heat, brought the pan up to a simmer and gently cooked until the Dates and the pod had softened – about 10 mins. Then I let it cool.

IMG_2727

IMG_2726

6) I Slice the cooled Nectarines into segments like this:

IMG_2724 IMG_2732

7) I blitzed the Date Mixture, pod and all, along with a few slices of Nectarine (no more than half of a Nectarine) with 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon. I urge you to taste this mixture – just sensational! 🙂

IMG_2734

IMG_2736

8) I spread this mixture onto my cooled/semi cooked base.

IMG_2764 IMG_2766

9) I then added the sliced Nectarines to make a nice pattern on top:

IMG_2768

10) For the Glaze: I melted the Goat butter with the Cinnamon, Ginger and Honey, took less than a minute to melt together. Then I brushed it over the nectarines:

IMG_2769  IMG_2770

11) Finally I put the whole thing back in the oven for about 15 minutes.

12) Out the oven I allowed it to cool completely before removing it from the pan and chilling it in the fridge.
IMG_2847 IMG_2846 IMG_2848
Coconut Cream: You can serve it as a pouring cream – it is nice to chill it down before serving though. For a thicker cream: pick up a can of coconut milk (or actual coconut cream) that is free from any nasties like preservatives – you know the deal natural as possible. Put the can in the fridge for at least an hour. Then spoon off the top more solid stuff at the top and put it in a bowl (left over runnier bit can be put into a smoothie or used for Quinoa breakfast).  My hand whisk efforts were poor but with an electric whisk you can get a better thicker consistency.  This is just a lighter option to the classic dairy cream options and of course much easier to digest. Num, num num! 😉

IMG_2857

Family Feast Day

Posted on
So last weekend I organised a little family get together kind of a belated father’s day feast as I didn’t get to spend the actual day with my great Pa.  I love get together’s like this, my brain automatically starts going into a creative spin, because it is an oportunity for me to try out new recipes. Now some of my creations last weekend were a monumental hit and of course I will share these with you my fellow “bleeps”.  However to give you full disclosure one of my efforts was not quite up to scratch so has been put in the “work in progress pile” – more on that later.

Despite the mixture of gloomy skies, sporadic showers and the blink and you might miss it sunshine – summer we are currently having, we thought we would be bold and go for a BBQ style feast.  My family is not big, so gathered together we were just 6 adults and 2 kids under 5 but you know this style of food works perfectly for giving people options.  This is what was on the menu:

Rosemary Chicken Thighs

Gluten Free Sausages (from the “Good little sausage company” http://goodlittlecompany.com/)

Pork ribs with a homemade glaze

Kale, Feta & Apricot Salad

Roasted Rosemary/garlic new potatoes

and for dessert…

Banana Bread and a Nectarine Tart with Coconut cream.

Wowsers just writing this is making me hungry again!

IMG_2815 IMG_2829 IMG_2803

The Sausages and the Chicken I didn’t do anything fancy with other than a little seasoning for the chicken and a few sprigs of Rosemary snipped straight from my dad’s beautiful garden – it really sets the taste buds up in anticipation of a feast with the lovely fragrant aromas of Rosemary wafting through the air.

IMG_2809

The Potatoes I actually par- boiled (10mins) as the kids were ready to eat their own arms off they were so hungry; before adding them to a roasting tray with a few whole skinned cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of Rosemary, all drizzled with light Olive Oil and then bunged into the oven 200C for about 30mins to roast them off.  The Sausages were perfect for keeping everyone going before the main event – these sausages are very tasty indeed – not only are they Gluten Free, they have no artificial colours or stabilizers and are made from lean pork, the pigs are also allowed to root and forage freely – and if all that wasn’t “good” enough for every pack you buy, they give someone in a developing country the means to grow themselves a meal every day for 2 weeks! Seriously start stocking these “good” little guys! 🙂

Good little Sausages

IMG_2799

Next up my mum picked up this massive rack of pork ribs from the local butcher – I mean easily 12 large juicy ribs worth – ambitious in terms of imagining we might get through it all but I love having left overs so actually, pretty darn awesome! This is where my new recipe didn’t quite live up to the “dream.”  I had this idea of making a glaze for them; so on the Saturday I sent myself off on a mission down Brick Lane to get a block of Tamarind; I  know you can buy these ready-made sauces/glazes but to find one that is without Gluten, Sugar and is not full of, let’s face it ‘crap’ and fits the “Sha-Zam” bill on the taste buds, is hard!

I have to say although what I created tasted fantastic, I don’t think I can honestly say it was a glaze… Let’s just say the cooking and execution of this dish needs a little more development.  I actually started the rack off on in the oven for 45 minutes, then I added my “glaze” and that is when it hit the BBQ.  Don’t get me wrong the finished result was very tasty but for my liking the meat did not sing with all the flavours I had put together, perhaps because I did not marinade the meat or treat it to a slower style of cooking… in addition to that the “glaze” element didn’t really happen and perhaps this is because my recipe was not packed full of sugar! But don’t worry, the challenge has been set, I am on the case I will conquer this and then give you all the deets.

IMG_2776 IMG_2793

IMG_2804 IMG_2829

The Kale salad was a mega hit – most people think Kale is just for the frying pan or for dehydrating into those tasty little crisps but if you really want the mother load of “Vit Hits” – leave it alone – let it be its raw natural self!  I first had raw Kale in LA and it was kind of a salad revelation – this gutsy leaf is not shy of flavour doesn’t wilt under pressure and I can’t leave this nugget out – it’s a superfood packed to the gunnels with Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. A diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers, it’s also high in fibre and has a touch of sulphur which all helps in detoxifying the body – I mean hello health!  Hard to think this was and I am sure still is still grown just for the purposes of feeding cattle!

IMG_2803

So here is my…and in the voice of Will.i.am SUPER DOPE Kale, Feta Apricot, Salad – the genius of this is you can knock it up quickly even dress it and not worry about it looking like a mushy mess an hour later!

IMG_2797

Ingredients:
1 large bag of Kale, washed & whizzed in a salad spinner
1 bag of Pine nuts, lightly toasted – instruction on: https://bellasfreestylekitchen.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/the-lunch-box-plan/
1 packet of Feta Cheese
1 Handful of Dried Apricots, finely chopped
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
Black pepper
Dressing
Good glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tblsp Balsamic Vinegar (check it is Gluten Free)

Method:
Pretty self-explanatory really: A big bowl, add the main ingredients and toss together, then for the dressing don’t be shy with the Olive oil and just a dash of the balsamic makes the perfect balance. You don’t need to add extra salt as the cheese is salty and the apricots (full of Vit A, C & Fibre) do that yin yang thing with the cheese and the pine nuts add an extra awesome crunch factor.

Desert – don’t know about you but I think the success of any good gathering is a choice of deserts – perhaps this is because more often than not, when I eat out, my dietary requirements usually dictate my desert choice; which generally is limited to just a sorbet.  Really I don’t quite know why chef’s have not got more imaginative with their desert menus to create sweet dishes that are not only exciting and suitably lush but also healthy – it’s really not that hard!

My Banana bread was a show stopper in the taste department particularly with the kids. Here’s the scoop: Bananas are full of Potassium and B6 and a good source of fibre – Yeah bring it!

IMG_2835 IMG_2842

Bella’s Banana Bread

Click on the link below for the recipe:

https://bellasfreestylekitchen.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/bellas-banana-bread-from-family-feast-day/

Final desert – when I was a kid my family used to go on the odd holiday to Menorca and those holidays were all about the BBQ’s one of the recipes my mum picked up around this time was Nectarines poached in wine and cinnamon – I can honestly say the combination of Nectarines and cinnamon is just heaven and the aromas when they cook are a heady floral combination. Nectarines are full of Vit C, Beta Carotene and Lutein a super antioxidant cancer preventor! I’ve talked about Cinnamon before but in case you forgot here’s the sweet & low… it regulates blood sugar levels, is anti inflammatory so helps with joint pain related to arthritis, helps alleviate menstrual pain and balance hormones.

With all this in mind I came up with this Sexy Little Nectarine Tart: For recipe click here:
https://bellasfreestylekitchen.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/sexy-little-nectarine-tart-family-feast-day/

IMG_2848 IMG_2862

Coconut Cream – easy peasy – how to: at the bottom of “Sexy Little Nectarine Tart.”

A final personal thought: It was wonderful to spend this day with my family and in particular to be able to say goodbye to our wonderful family dog Jemma who at the ripe old age of 14 was really starting to struggle with old age and painful arthritis, she sadly passed on the Monday.  She was a much-loved member of our family and will always be fondly remembered. R.I.P Jemma.

IMG_0784

Smokin’ Meatballs

Posted on

IMG_2663

I think we all start to have them – you know when you’re in a couple – there are certain meals you really enjoy eating together and sometimes it even becomes something you have 2-3 times a month.  Well this is one of those dishes I roll out pretty frequently because I know it’s a big hit.  Now I’m not going to lie I have been known to cheat and buy a packet of Duchy Organic meatballs (which are great as they are gluten-free & they have top-notch farming standards so you know you’re getting the good stuff!) to serve with my thick tomato sauce.  But really to get the full showstopper of a meal and the “I’ll love you forever” moment from your t’other half – you gotta go from scratch – and don’t worry it’s not much extra effort. These Smokin’ balls are full of flavour and work well as a winter warmer, but I say why confine these tasty balls of deliciousness to winter! 😉

You might be wondering why my meatballs are smokin’ well not because I set them on fire but I really love Hot Smoked Paprika, it just adds this really awesome earthy, spicy, smokiness to the dish.

Now traditionally meatballs are served with spaghetti or perhaps rice or bread – and you know that’s fine, there are some good GF pastas out there – (the Corn versions are high GI so not the best if you want sustained energy).  I want to show you how easy it is to plan meals that don’t revolve around breads, pastas and cereals.  I like to serve my meatballs on a bed of steamed Courgette ribbons – they act as a great accompaniment and the meal is fully rounded with proteins, fats and the low GI carbs come from the vegetables.

The Meatballs

400g  (Organic) minced beef 20 % fat (Organic will taste better but is also better for your health – the meat is not pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones – but completely up to you)

¼ of Onion (finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (* minced) * see instructions on this.

small bunch Thyme (* finely Chopped)

small bunch Parsley (* finely chopped)

small bunch Basil (* finely chopped)

1tsp Hot Smoked Paprika

A dash of Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Thick Tomato Sauce:

500g Carton of Passata (sieved tomatoes)

200g or half tube of tomato puree

Half a carrot

¾ of Onion

A dash of light Olive oil

4tsp  Bouillon stock powder (check it is Gluten free, I tend to go for the yeast free & reduced salt – most natural) made up to 1/2 litre with boiling water

Pinch dried Oregano

1 Bay Leaf

2 cloves garlic

The Bed:

3 Courgettes – sliced into ribbons

A sprinkle of Sea Salt

1) To start finely chop the herbs, garlic, onion, (*) but if I’m honest I tend to bung them all in the food processor with salt, pepper,  the hot smoked paprika, a dash of olive oil – and give them a quick blitz – saves time…

IMG_2574

IMG_2575

2) Next I put the minced beef in a bowl and add the herb/spice mix – you have to get your hands in here to really integrate it all.  Then take little bite-sized amounts and start balling them up and put them on a plate, depending on the size you should get about 18-20 balls.

IMG_2576 IMG_2584

3) Then you want to make the Courgette ribbons with a peeler, if you have a mandolin you can always go for a finer noodle style if you prefer.  I then put them in a colander and sprinkle the courgette ribbons with salt – this draws out the excess water and any bitterness.

IMG_2587

IMG_2590

4) For the tomato sauce, I roughly chop the rest of the onion (3/4’s should be left) and half a carrot – (the other half I usually eat – sometimes dunk in Sunbutter or home-made mayo… as the warm up act!)

5)  Now back to the balls: I heat up a large frying pan medium heat and then add all the meatballs – no oil here as they have their own fat.  You want them to get an even colour on all sides.   Once nicely browned, turn the heat off and leave them to rest.

IMG_2606

In the pic above they need a just a few more minutes to get a more even colour.

6)  Now you can start the sauce: roughly chop the carrot and onion and then in a little olive oil, gently fry for a couple of minutes until the onion starts to go a bit transparent.

IMG_2595

7) Add the tomato puree and stir for a couple of minutes – the paste will go a touch darker.

IMG_2605

8) Then add the Passata, the bouillon stock (half a litre), one bay leaf, black pepper, (you won’t need extra salt here as the bouillon is salty) and a pinch of dried Oregano. This is the same tomato sauce recipe I use for my Bolognese – it’s great in my opinion!

IMG_2614 IMG_2637

9) Put the lid on and bring it up to the boil and then turn the heat down and take the lid off, bringing it back to a simmer.  Then add the crushed garlic and the browned  meatballs.

IMG_2621

That little yellow roller (on the right) is really cool it rubs the garlic skin right off, no fuss and you don’t get garlic paws! 😉

10) Now you can let the tomato sauce pot simmer away for 45-60 minutes – plenty of time to catch up on any house chores, admin or plain old relaxing!

11)  At the 45 minute mark check it – you want the liquid to have reduced in the pan to half and the sauce to be a lovely rich, thick consistency.  Give it a few minutes more if need be. When it  is ready turn the heat off and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes.

12)  In the meantime you can rinse the Courgettes with water to get the excess salt off and then gently squeeze the excess liquid out with some kitchen paper.  I like to steam them for about 4-5 minutes so they retain their shape and of course their vitamins!

IMG_2630   IMG_2640

Finally, I add some fresh chopped parsley and basil to the meatball mix (pull the bay leaf out) and give it a stir. Give it a taste it might need a touch of black pepper.  In a pasta bowl or plate I lay a bed of Courgette ribbons out and spoon the meatballs over the top.  For a lighter meal you might find 4-5 meatballs per person is adequate but for a more filling meal 9-10 meatballs per person works well.

IMG_2645 IMG_2650

IMG_2654 IMG_2651

This dish has all the fantastic health benefits from the herbs and garlic. The red meat makes it iron rich and packed full of protein.  Perfect for us ladies wanting to balance our hormones!

The tomato sauce is rich in Lycopene, people who have diets rich in tomatoes, apparently have a lower risk of certain types of cancer. Meanwhile Paprika is loaded with Capsaicin which is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can ease chronic conditions like arthritis and joint pain. Capsaicin also helps improve blood circulation, thereby improving conditions like cold feet and hands. Paprika also has plant enzymes that can help neutralize stomach acids, thus aiding digestion.

Garlic: Lowers cholesterol, keeps you heart healthy 🙂 and is also a natural antibiotic!

Thyme: Its leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium.

Basil: Natural anti-inflamatory, magnesium and also a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and vit C.

Parsley: B 12, K, Vit C and A – keeps your immune system strong, heals the nervous system.

Lastly Courgettes: A little of Vit C, A, B Vits – thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc – yes please!

The Lunch Box Plan

Posted on

IMG_2495

IMG_2510

IMG_2281

IMG_2445 IMG_2303 IMG_2273

Sandwiches, sandwiches, sandwiches they are everywhere and if your trying to avoid the glutinous grain it can sometimes be tricky when you are out and about.  This does not mean it is impossible, sometimes it just means a little more thought goes into planning your day.  One of the things I like to do is make sure I have a selection of what I call “lunchables” ready to go in the fridge.   You know like the “Pig Candy” or some Feta cheese, Olives, nuts & seeds, boiled eggs, smoked Mackerel, Sardines or sliced meat left-overs from the night before, a few leaf varieties – like Kale, Chard, Spinach or Watercress, a box of shredded coleslaw mix ready to dress with home made mayo – all easy to mix & match – variety is key!  One of the best things I ever bought was a food processor it makes life so easy – you can shred veggies, grind nuts, blend sauces super quick and a little prep on a Sunday night for the week ahead goes a long way. I will also sometimes cook up a big batch of Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) which is similar in texture to Cous Cous (which of course is a big no no for us GF folk) but rather than it being a grain it is in fact a seed:

IMG_2520 IMG_2523

As a result it makes it far superior to Cous Cous (or rice even) as it is low GI, high in protein, and Riboflavin. It has a nutty kind of flavour but is neutral enough that it can take on a variety of flavours savoury or sweet. One of my favourite breakfast/desert things to do with it, is mix it (cooked Quinoa) with a little Cacao powder, warmed Coconut cream, berries, toasted seeds and honey! “Hello Yumminess!”

IMG_2544 IMG_2555 IMG_2547

But I digress – back to the savoury lunch box! So a classic summer recipe is Tabouleh and this is traditionally made with Bulgar Wheat (which is a no no for us GF folk) it usually has mint, spring onions and cucumber in it – this works really well with the Quinoa, dressed with fresh lemon juice, salt, black pepper and lots of Olive Oil.

Quinoa is readily available in most supermarkets now and is really easy and quick to prepare.  Most important is to rinse the Quinoa thoroughly with cold water before cooking – if you miss this stage you will find the taste can be quite bitter.

IMG_2524

IMG_2525

Put in a pan and cover until an inch above the line of the Quinoa with cold water.  Set on the stove and heat over a medium temperature – bring it up to boil and then turn the heat down and allow to simmer.  This should take about 6-7minutes and when the seeds have just started to “split” like this:

IMG_2536

Then turn the heat off and put the lid on – this allows the rest of the liquid in the pan to be absorbed and for the Quinoa to finish cooking with the steam left in the pan.  This makes a lovely alternative to rice or pasta with a drizzle of Olive oil.  For salad use allow it to cool before adding the additional flavours.

IMG_2542

For a more substantial salad, I like to roast some Red Peppers, Red Onions, and Aubergine with a little light Olive Oil and a few sprigs of fresh Thyme or Rosemary (roughly chopped and roasted at about 180c for about 40mins). Allow to cool and add to the cooked and cooled Quinoa.  Then it is all about adding the layers of flavour, next up is some crumbled Feta cheese (classic salty goat & sheeps milk cheese), followed by some fresh shredded mint, black pepper and a good dose of Extra Virgin Olive oil, and then to really make this salad rock, throw in some toasted Pine Nuts, Sunflower seeds and Pumpkin seeds.  Toasting these little guys really intensifies the flavours and turns any lifeless salad into a thing of glory! This is the kind of salad that can liven up the side dish element of a BBQ or Picnic gathering and offers a substantial dish for any vegetarian guests, but the best thing is, it lasts a few days in the fridge ready to fill your lunch box!

IMG_2499

IMG_2448 IMG_2435 IMG_2450

Toasted seeds easy peasy! In a dry frying pan over a medium heat add the seeds of choice – best to do them separately as they tend to toast at different speeds.  Watch them closely and toss them around in the pan occasionally to get the colour fairly even all over – once they start to get colour they can turn very quickly and start to burn.  The Pumpkin & Sunflower seeds actually make a crackling sound and continue “chatting” once you have taken them off the heat!  And what about a lovely alternative to popcorn – drizzle with a touch of Olive oil or melted goat butter & a sprinkle of sea salt – low GI and far more nutritous and filling!

IMG_2438 IMG_2429 IMG_2440

Seeds pack a powerful punch in their health giving benefits:

Pumpkin seeds are the only alkaline forming seeds which is great in helping balance the body. They are filled with lots of minerals including phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, vitamin K and high in Zinc.  They are anti-parasitic! They also contain L-tryptophan, which helps with good sleep and lowering depression. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin and niacin.  Serotonin is also very helpful in helping us to have a good night’s sleep. So they really would be a better option served at cinemas as an alternative to the low nutrient, high GI Popcorn!

Pinenuts: Rich in Vitamin A and lutein, both of which are known to support sharper vision. High in Vitamin D (strong bones) vitamin C (happy immune system!) and Iron (good news for the circulatory and nervous system.) The protein and magnesium in pine nuts makes them an excellent source of energy, so whenever you’re feeling tired, pop a few and feel like new!

Sunflower Seeds not bad either! Very good source of vitamin E “Hello younger looking skin!” In addition, sunflower seeds are a good source of manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and folate.  Ever tried Sunbutter?  Recipe coming soon! Awesome snack buddy! 🙂

 

Salad days needn’t be boring! The Ultimate Chicken Salad with Bella’s Pig Candy!

Posted on

Sunny days Hurrah!  Isn’t the UK great when the weather behaves itself! Now some of you might be of the opinion that a salad is like rabbit food and not very filling or satisfying – and yes some salads are like that, but with the salad days upon us, I want to inspire you to get creative and make the most of the warmer weather with delicious and (yup I’m going for the rhyme here) nutritious salads that certainly won’t resemble rabbit food by the time I’m done with them!  This recipe was inspired from my time living in LA.  There was this wonderful little Bistro/Wine bar on the corner of Melrose and Vine; if you didn’t know it was there you would very easily miss it, as it was in what they call a strip mall area right next to a “Laundromat!” The windows were curtained off with just a sign above saying  “Lou’s” – once through the door you were greeted by an intimate setting with classy decor and friendly banter from “Lou” himself.  They didn’t take bookings so it was all on a first come, first serve basis. In fact this place was so cool, mysterious and exclusive Natalie Portman sat just a table away from us two nights after Oscar night (Black Swan year). It was within walking distance of my apartment and perfect for having a bite to eat and a little glass of vino.  They had on their bar snack menu this devilishly good treat called “Pig Candy” –  (I don’t think Natalie would have been into this, as I believe she is Vegan). I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the chef who created it, but I thank you Sir, for inspiring me to come up with my own version of this perfect Salad topping for my ultimate chicken salad!

IMG_2292

Ultimate Chicken Salad with Pig Candy: Makes 2 large portions or 4 Small portions.

Preheat the Oven 200C

Topping: Bella’s Pig Candy:

A  packet of Free-range Bacon Lardons (you won’t use all of this necessarily – as it will just be a handful on the top of the salad – what is left can be used as a snack or for another salad creation)

A Drizzle of Maple Syrup

A Sprinkle of Cayenne Pepper

Main Salad:

2 Free range Chicken breasts with skin on

Drizzle of Walnut Oil

Sprinkle of dried Oregano

Salt & Pepper

1 Romaine Lettuce

A handful of Radishes finely sliced

A sprinkle of snipped fresh Chives

1/2  an Avocado

Dressing: Fresh Garlic Mayonaise – this makes enough to store in a jar in the fridge to use in other salads or for dunking crudite as a snack! Will keep for about a week)

4 Fresh egg yolks (Organic Free-range if poss) Ideas for what to do with left over Egg white in a later post….

2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Clove of Garlic

2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard (check ingredients for any wheat/gluten – remember the purer the better on anything shop bought/processed)

Approx 1/4 pint Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Salt (Himalayan if poss) & Black Pepper

Method:

IMG_2268

1) First thing is to get the chicken cooked.  Place on a baking tray, drizzle with Walnut Oil, sprinkle with the Oregano, Salt and Pepper and roast in the oven (200C) for about 40mins.

IMG_2263

2) While the chicken is on you can prepare the Pig Candy. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the Lardons (no need to add any extra oil). As the lardons cook you will see the fat melt into the pan.  Stir occasionally to get an even colour all over. You need to cook these for about 10 minutes to get them to go crisp.

IMG_2271 IMG_2273

3) Once cooked pour the lardons onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess fat.  Wipe the excess fat from the frying pan with some kitchen paper too.  Over the lowest heat now add the Lardons back to the frying pan and sprinkle with the Cayenne Pepper and add a small drizzle of Maple Syrup stir quickly for about 15 seconds and take off the heat.

4) Put the Pig Candy onto a plate and place in the fridge to set.

IMG_2275

Now for the Mayo:

1) Add the Egg Yolks to a food processor and blitz until the egg yolk starts to go a bit paler. At this stage slowly add the Olive Oil whilst the processor is still going around. The colour will slowly start to fade as the mixture starts to thicken. Next add the Apple Cider Vinegar one tablespoon at a time. After that add the crushed garlic (you can leave the garlic out if you don’t like it), Salt, Pepper and finally the Mustard – keep blending for another couple of minutes to further smooth and thicken the mixture. At this stage give it a little taste to check the seasoning – you might want to add a little more oil, salt or pepper or even a touch more vinegar – personal preference here but if you add anything more – just give it another whizz in the processor to make sure it is fully combined.  Add the mixture to jar and store in the fridge to chill down.

IMG_2303

Check the Chicken to see how it is doing – If it is cooked by this point pull it out and leave on the side to cool and rest.

IMG_2270

Next the Veg:

1) Wash and chop the lettuce into slices like this:

IMG_2276

2) Slice the Radishes, the Avocado and the Chicken like this:

IMG_2280 IMG_2281

3) Now for the plating up. Place the lettuce on a plate or serving dish, toss together with the Radishes, the Chicken, a few snipped Chives and then gently add the Avocado so not to bruise it or make it go mushy! Drizzle with a little Olive Oil and gently toss together. Then sprinkle a small handful of the Pig Candy over the top and finally to finish spoon in a criss cross pattern a little of the fresh Mayo across the top. Rejoice in the sun and Enjoy! 🙂

IMG_2288

Ok now remember what I said about Fats? Don’t worry – most of the excess saturated fat is drained off the bacon – and there is just a small drizzle of Maple Syrup (high in Manganese) which is a natural sweetener. So although I wouldn’t recommend you eat Pig Candy every day – It is just a topping for a salad to make it a little more interesting and flavoursome.  The salad as a whole is full of healthy fats, Vitamin E, High in protein, B Vitamins, and Vitamin D.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Wonderful stuff actually lowers bad cholesterol, aids digestion has even been shown to be beneficial for people with Arthritis  conditions.  You can actually make a refreshing drink with it too – sparkling water, splash of the ACV, pinch of Cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of maple syrup, couple of shredded mint leaves and a slice of lime!

Olive Oil – well we all know how good this stuff is!

Free range/organic? Well this is up to you, but I think an animal that has had a good happy life allowed to roam and forage and is not full of growth hormones & anti-biotics etc is not only going to taste better but is also more beneficial to our hormonal balance and immunity when we eat them… I know it is not always possible to have this stuff due to the expense/availability but sometimes it is worth it for an extra health/flavour boost!

And finally the egg yolks in the mayo nutritionally have something called Choline in them.

Choline has a variety of functions in the body, it regulates several metabolic pathways, and aids detoxification in the body.

In fact Choline deficiency over time can have serious implications for our health. Symptoms of choline deficiency include fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems, and nerve-muscle imbalances. Extreme dietary deficiency of choline can result in liver dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, and impaired growth. Need I say more?