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 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

Oat and buckwheat bread

If you struggle with eating ‘normal’ bread (by that I mean the supermarket offerings!), then this oat and buckwheat bread might just be the thing for you. This was last weeks live cooking session on Facebook – in case you missed it or would like the whole recipe without having to watch me jabber on for 20 minutes, here it is.

If you haven’t got buckwheat flour, then you can make your own but toasting buckwheat groats and then blending it into a flour using a high-speed blender or food processor. Alternatively, you could try quinoa, millet, spelt flour (if you don’t want to be gluten-free) or even just all oats. Be mindful about the amount of ground flaxseed you use if you are using a wheat-based flour (and therefore one with gluten) as this will help hold the bread together more. Reduce the flaxseed by 1 tablespoon otherwise your loaf will be rather dense. Plus if you need to be super-careful with gluten, then make sure use use gluten-free oats.

The seeds add extra flavour, texture and nutrients to this bread; if you haven’t got everything I’ve listed then improvise with whatever is in your cupboard, or leave them out. Baking in current times is a challenge whether it’s due to lack of stock or even just getting out to the shops. Fortunately, this recipe is very flexible, so go with what you’ve got.

Storage wise, this loaf keeps for 4-5 days, but if you know it’s not all going to be eaten then cut into slices and freeze. Then you can pull out the amount you want whenever you want it. Just defrost and use plain or pop in the toaster to perk it up.

I hope you enjoy making this bread – don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

Oat and buckwheat bread

A tasty loaf thats easy to make, can be gluten-free and is packed full of important nutrients as well as loads of healthy fibre.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 12 slices

Ingredients
  

  • 40 grams whole oats
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 150 ml warm water
  • 340 grams oats ground into a flour
  • 115 grams buckwheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 375 ml water
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds extra for top of the loaf

Instructions
 

  • Mix the chia seeds and whole oats with 100ml water and leave for a few minutes to thicken
  • Line a 2lb baking tin with non-stick baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC./390ºF.
  • Add the flour, oat flour, salt, baking powder, ground flaxseed and seeds together in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Pour in ¾ of the water and the thick paste and stir well to combine. It should come together to form a sticky but not wet mix. Add more water to get the right consistency (remember the flaxseed with absorb water so if its sticky to start it will dry out).
  • Transfer mix to baking tin. Level the top and sprinkle extra sunflower seeds on top. 
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is toasted and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Transfer to a cooling rack.
Keyword bread, buckwheat, child-friendly recipe, easy recipe, freezer, gluten free, high fibre, oats, whole-food bread

Easy baked veggie cakes

Yesterday was a busy one in The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen – not that we went anywhere of course, well not physically anyway. For yesterday I beamed live into other peoples homes via my first live cooking demo via Facebook.

I had no idea if it would work, but it did! And rather wonderfully there were people popping by from all sorts of countries. The internet really is an incredible asset for these current times, helping us all keep in touch in times of physical isolation.

I started off with one of the most popular hands-on cooking experiences on my workshops – easy baked veggie cakes. These super tasty bites are great because:

  • they are really easy to make
  • they are super adaptable and work for most veggies hanging around in your fridge
  • if you include a range of veggies they’re packed full of amazing phytonutrients
  • they get you in contact with your food
  • kids can have fun making them – and hopefully eating them too

Popping these in the oven means there’s no added oil; the caramelisation of the sugars in the veggies makes them go brown and crispy all by themselves. And that way you lovely natural flavours too.

These make great snacks and lunches; make a bigger batch and keep some in the freezer for those days when you’re out and about and don’t have time to cook (which will happen again at some point in the future…….).

I know not everyone is on Facebook, so here is the video from yesterday in case you wanted to see it. And I’ve added the full recipe below so you don’t have to sit through it if you have better things to do!

I hope you enjoy making these tasty little bites – do let me know how you get on. And stay safe and well.

Easy baked veggie cakes

These super easy but delicious veggie cakes are a great lunch or snack. Kids love making them - and eating them too.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Servings 12 portions

Ingredients
  

  • 500 grams grated vegetables eg a mix of carrot and/or parsnip and/or courgette and/or celeriac and/or sweet potato and/or turnip
  • 1 medium red or white onion, sliced or 4 spring onions or 1 shredded leek
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 cm piece fresh ginger grated
  • 50 grams chickpea (gram) flour or whatever flour you have
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 handful fresh herbs, chopped

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4
  • Place the grated veggies into a bowl with the finely sliced onion, garlic and ginger. Mix together well with your hands then add a teaspoon of salt and the fresh herbs and mix together well again.
  • Add the chickpea flour, mix well, then leave to stand for 10 minutes. The salt will draw the water out of the veggies and help bind it together.
  • Take a spoonful of mix and squeeze it together in the palm of your hand. If it binds well, it's ready to use. If it doesn't stick, add more flour as needed until it does. The exact amount depends on how watery your veggies are (ie: courgette will need more than parsnip)
  • Press a big spoonful of the mix into a round patty in the palms of your hand and place on the baking tray. Repeat until all the mix is used up.
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Once the top of the veggie cakes are firm, carefully turn them over and bake for another 5 minutes or so until browned and crispy.
  • Serve hot or leave to cool and eat when you're ready.
Keyword easy recipe, gluten free, healthy kids, healthy lunch, OMS friendly, plant based, snack

 

Vegetable and butter bean soup or stew

This winter seems to have been very long! The wet, grey days are beginning to take their toll, although any time the sun does manage to make an appearance is a wonderful moment to behold! March is the beginning of spring; the crocuses and daffodils have bravely popped their colourful heads up, but I definitely don’t feel it’s time to move from comforting soups and stews to lighter, more spring-like meals. Continue reading “Vegetable and butter bean soup or stew”