Seedy crackers

Crackers are great! Crisp and crunchy texture that carries off all sorts of flavours, they’re perfect to have in the cupboard for lunch or snacking. What’s not to love? Well, for many people, the ingredients in shop-bought crackers are not ideal, particularly if you have food intolerances, follow a specific way of eating for health or want nourishing whole foods that don’t include ingredients that have a negative effect on the environment. Continue reading “Seedy crackers”

Courgette, carrot and kohlrabi salad

The courgette glut continues! It’s amazing how quickly they grow, seemingly able to transform from  fledgling to enormous beast over night! They taste so good, fresh and grown without chemicals. We’re not bored of them – yet!

I used to find courgettes very bitter, but the flavour now seems much calmer. They’re delicious raw and work really well in salads, either grated or cut into thin strips with a peeler. Serving thin strips makes a salad look a bit fancy ;).

This simple salad is almost an alternative coleslaw; the kohlrabi replaces green cabbage and the courgette is an added extra. What’s different is the dressing – it’s not a thick, creamy calorie-laden mayo but a fresh, zingy sauce that contains just four ingredients – lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. It brings the veggies to life using an oil-free dressing whilst letting them be the main attraction rather than masking them with strong flavours.

Kohlrabi is a funny looking vegetable. I first discovered them when I started having a weekly Riverford veg box delivered. It’s part of the cruciferous family so it’s packed full of healthful nutrients and phytonutrients, even though the flesh is a bit white and bland looking. The skin can be different colours – the one I had was purple on the outside – so it’s good to try and use some of that if possible, although sometimes it can be a bit tough and woody. If you’re lucky, some of the leaves will still be attached – these also contain wonderful phytonutrients as well as vitamin C, so lots of lovely anti-inflammatory nutrients there.

The kohlrabi bulb also contains vitamin C and lots of potassium, particularly good for helping to reduce blood pressure and looking after electrolyte balance right down to cellular level. Both vitamin C and potassium are easily lost once a food is cooked, so having it raw is a real nutrient bonus.

Amongst the various phytonutrients, kohlrabi is a good source of quercitin. This tiny compound is essential at cellular level and can help support a healthy blood pressure, reduce inflammation and help with allergies – particularly useful at this time of year if your hay fever is out of control.

If you can’t find kohlrabi, try using daikon radish or finely shredded green cabbage. The lemon juice in the dressing will help your body absorb many of the nutrients from the greens, especially iron. Adding in the carrots, courgette and red onion (if you can handle it!) makes this super simple salad a smorgasbord of vitality!

Over the summer I’ll keep adding super salads to the blog, along with other seasonal delights. What would you like to see coming up in the future?

Courgette, carrot and kohlrabi salad

A quick and delicous nutrient-packed fresh summer salad.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Salad
Servings 4 portions

Equipment

  • Food processor for grating - advisable!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 medium carrots scrubbed and trimmed
  • 1 medium courgette washed and trimmed
  • 1/2 medium kohlrabi washed and trimmed
  • 1/2 red onion finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh herbs finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

for the dressing

  • 1 lemon juice only
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard or mustard of choice
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Grate the vegetables in a food processor (ideally to save time) using a small grater disc. Transfer to a large bowl and mix well with your hands to muddle up the veggies.
  • Add the red onion, seeds and fresh herbs
  • Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Toss to coat and serve.
Keyword anti-inflammatory diet, healthy salad, quick lunch

 

 

Courgette compendium

One of the outcomes of lockdown for us is we have had time to create new raised beds to start growing our own veggies. This is actually the third time we’ve done this (we kept moving!) and these ones are by far the best. For a start, we have much more space (oh boy do we have space!) rather than squeezing them into a small corner of a small garden as before. That’s not to say that growing veggies in a small space is not worth it. It definitely is. We also spent more time researching and learning how to grow in tandem with nature. Less impact, more output.

This end bed isn’t finished yet – a good place to deposit grass cuttings.

Not that I can really take much credit for our lovely new beds! My hubby spent more time and energy researching and building them. After much debate he chose to use a technique called hugelkultur. A centuries old technique from Germany and Easter Europe, it uses garden debris as the source of nutrients needed for new plants to grow. It’s basically a big compost heap!

We wanted to build up a structure to our beds, so we used wood to create an outline and dug down a little into the soil, taking off the grass layer and a little more. This gave a large area that needed filling – fortunately we have a lot of garden debris to use! A few logs on the base were covered with more tree cuttings, then grass cuttings, stuff from the compost bins, more grass, some sand, then the top grass layer we cut out, the soil dug out and finally finished with some bought organic compost (as we wanted to use them now). We buried so much! Covered up, the debris will break down, releasing nutrients into the soil providing nourishment for our fresh produce. Well that was the plan – we were not too sure how well it would work year one…..

Beans and squash going rampant!

I am pleased to say, so far so good! The squash in particular are going crazy and the beans are prolific. And the courgettes that were planted rather late are just beginning to flourish. So much so, I see a glut coming in a few weeks time!

Courgettes are funny vegetables. I love them now, but used to hate them as a kid. Their high water content can make them tricky to cook. In soups and stews they have the potential to make them too watery, fritters and veggie cakes too wet and steamed they can go from firm to a horrid mush in the blink of an eye. But on a good day, with the right treatment, they are a delight.

Nutrition wise, courgettes are excellent sources of vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrients like betacarotene, zeaxanthin and lutein. You’ll also find a reasonable does of B vitamins, manganese and vitamin K (which is in the news at the moment relating to the Covid 19 virus). Vitamin C and phytonutrients play an antioxidant role in the body, quashing damaging free radicals. Betacarotene, zeaxanthin and lutein all support eye health which is good to know if you are at risk of macular degeneration or other age-related eye conditions. Potassium is important for good blood pressure control and is a key player in cell health. It’s easily lost once food is processed, so eating courgettes raw or lightly cooked can really support your health. If you’re interested in how to manage your blood pressure or health issues with food, we discuss this in much more detail in my online course.

If you are heading into a glut of courgettes – lucky you! There’s so much you can make with them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make summer soups. This courgette and cumin soup is particularly tasty
  • Add them to pasta sauces, veggie chillis, stir fries, fajitas or risotto. This red rice risotto works well with courgettes.
  • Stuff them! One of the recipes on my Eat Well Live Well course is a gorgeous aduki bean stuffed courgette boat (another good reason to take the course 😉 )
  • It’s getting a bit retro now, but use them to make courgetti. Here’s a BBC Food article about what to do.
  • If you squeeze out excess water, courgettes make tasty fritters and veggie cakes.
  • sweet courgette loaf

    Make cake! Oh yes, courgettes provide moisture and nutrients to cake – it’s a great way to get courgette haters on board! Try this easy courgette loaf cake.

I’ll be experimenting with more recipes over the next few months by the looks of it, so no doubt you’ll see more ideas on the blog soon as we work our way through them. What are your favourite courgette recipes? I’d love to know.

As for our veg garden, it has a lot of room for development. I can see many more beds being built over the next couple of years as we learn more about growing our own food in a way that supports and sustains our local ecosystem. We’re not aiming for self-sufficiency, but being plant-based we certainly hope to grow more than we buy. Let’s see what happens!

Chickpea sandwich spread

One of the things discussed on my Eat Well Live Well course is how to successfully transition to eating a whole-food plant-based diet with minimal pain and maximum pleasure. Change can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be an austere process. One of the most frequent difficulties I hear is “but what do I eat for lunch?”.

If you’re used to making a cheese or ham salad sandwich, or going to your local sandwich shop or deli for chicken or tuna mayo baps, thinking of new and tasty fillings can seem a bit daunting. Of course there’s always hummus – and who doesn’t love hummus? – but not every day!

You could go for the vegan alternative and have fake meats or vegan cheese. But these ultra processed, factory-made products are often full of damaged fats, concentrated proteins and few nourishing nutrients. Maybe ok every now and then, but certainly not a staple and not if you are eating a whole-food plant-based diet to transform a health condition. For that, you need real food that’s had limited processing.

This chickpea sandwich spread is a mix between a tuna mayo alternative and the acidic sandwich spread filling I used to get as a child (did you ever have that? I’m not sure if I ever liked it, but I do have fond memories of it – weird!).

Chickpeas are an awesome source of plant-based protein, fibre, potassium, iron and magnesium (to name a few). They share the fabulousness of all pulses (this blog post tells you more). They also take on other flavours well so can be used for all sorts of recipes. Which is handy as they are also super cheap so good if you are feeding a family on a budget or relying on a student loan to keep you fed and watered.

This filling can be used for sandwiches, baps or wraps. If you are gluten free or avoid bread, then pop it on a baked potato or use as the star of a simple salad. Vary the fresh herbs to whatever you have to hand or the season. Parsley and chives work well as standard flavour. If you use coriander, swap the lemon for lime juice and add a little ginger for an Eastern flavour. Basil or oregano create a more Mediterranean vibe, so swap the spring onion for a little red onion if you have it. Or, if you can’t tolerate onion, just leave it out and try adding a few capers for a more sour taste.

As you can see, this base recipe is so flexible you can create a different combination for every day, or for the season. And as eating and socialising outside are going to be more popular if you want to meet up with friends (due to the pandemic), you might find this recipe features a lot over the next few month. Just adapt it to what you have available and what you like to eat. And enjoy!

Chickpea sandwich spread

A quick and tasty filling for sandwiches, wraps and more that's easy to adapt to taste and fridge contents.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course lunch, picnics
Servings 2 portions

Ingredients
  

  • 4 heaped tbsp cooked chickpeas
  • 1 lemon, juice only grated rind optional
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • water if needed
  • 1 medium spring onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley and chives chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and chopped optional

Instructions
 

  • Place the chickpeas in a bowl with the lemon juice and Dijon. Mash with a fork, adding a little water if it's too dry. You want soft, mushed chickpeas with a little texture and a thick sauce.
  • Stir in the spring onion, herbs and seasoning (plus capers if using). Mix together well and taste for flavour - add more seasoning, lemon or Dijon as required.
  • Use to filling your bread of choice or as suggested above. Keeps in the fridge for 2 days.
Keyword gluten free, lunch, picnic food, plant-based diet, sandwich