No matter how much you enjoy cooking, there’s always the times when you just want something quick and easy that doesn’t keep you tied to the kitchen whilst it’s cooking. Particularly on those busy weekdays. Even though we’re still in lockdown and not physically going anywhere, I’ve found my weekday evenings seem to be just as busy with online meetings, webinars or social chats.
It’s only a week until Christmas Day! Have you decided what you’re having for Christmas lunch this year? It could well be nut roast – and why not? It’s delicious. Especially if you jazz it up a bit with a filling, like this stuffed nut roast recipe. But what if you fancy something a bit different? Or can’t eat nuts? What else can you make for that special meal?
This super tasty roasted squash and lentil filo swirl might just hit the spot for you. The soft and flavoursome filling contrasts perfectly with the crunchy flaky filo on the outside. And it looks dead posh too, even though it’s pretty simple to make.
To make this recipe easier, it’s a good idea to roasted the squash ahead of time so it’s ready for when you want it. And to make it even easier, you don’t even need to take the skin off. Peeling squash is just all too much 😉 It’s enough to wash the skin, then slice, remove the seeds inside and cut into chunks to tip into a roasting tray. Simple!
I’ve used filo for this tasty swirl as it contains only a few ingredients and is easy to use. But if you’re gluten free, it’s not ideal. You can buy it, but it’s hard to find. And you can make it, but it’s pretty tricky!
As an alternative, you could use bought gluten free pastry either short crust or puff pastry. But these can contain higher levels of saturated fat or animal fats, which again is not ideal. So an alternative is to use a large cabbage or winter greens leaf. Yup you read that correctly! It’s not as crazy as it sounds, honest!
Remove the inner stem and lightly steam for a couple of minutes. You want it to soften but not cook. Refresh the leaf in some cold water, pat dry, then place some of the filling on one side and wrap it up in to a little parcel. Secure with some thin strips of leek or a cocktail stick. This can then be baked in the oven. It’s not a swirl, but it still tastes fab!
Of course, this recipe can be made any time of year – it’s not just for Christmas! But if you do make it for Christmas Day, I hope you enjoy it with all the normal trimmings. Do let me know how you get on!
Roasted squash and lentil filo swirl
- 1 medium squash
- 1 medium red onion
- 2 bay leaves
- 150 grams mushrooms a woodland mix or chestnut mushrooms are good
- 2 fat cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, coriander and cumin
- 250 grams cooked puy lentils
- 50 grams dried cranberries or raisins soaked in warm water
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 handfuls fresh coriander and/or parsley chopped
- 4 sheets filo pastry
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or soya milk
- extra sliced almonds and chopped herbs
Roasting the squash - can be done the day before
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas4.
- Chop the squash into smallish chunks –there's no need to peel at the moment. Place in a large baking tin, massage in a tiny bit of olive oil (optional) and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so until soft and lightly caramelised. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Make the filling
- Finely chop the onion. Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a medium-sized pan and add the onion and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes until soft. Stir regularly and add a little more water if needed to ensure the onion doesn’t stick.
- Finely chop the mushrooms and garlic cloves. Add them to the pan with the tamari. Stir well and sauté for a few more minutes.
- Chop the squash into small pieces – remove any thick, chewy bits of skin but otherwise keep the skin if its soft from roasting. Mash half the squash, keep the other half chopped.
- Add the squash to the pan along with the spices and lentils. Stir well. Add the soaked fruit along with a little of the soaking water and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the ground flaxseed, sliced almonds, fresh herbs and lemon juice. Leave to cool for 15 minutes. The mix with thicken slightly.
Construct the swirls
- If not already on, pre-heat the oven to180ºC/350ºF/Gas4. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
- Divide the mix into 4 in the pan.
- Carefully lay out a sheet of filo pastry onto the worktop or large board long side horizontal (landscape). Spoon one portion of the mix along the top edge of the pastry in a narrow line. Brush the rest of the pastry lightly with olive oil or soya milk and carefully roll into a long sausage shape.
- Pinch one end of the sausage to seal then care wind it up into a swirl. Transfer to the baking tray using a spatula and brush the top with more olive oil or soya milk.
- Repeat the process another 3 times until you have 4 swirls on your tray. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly brown and crisp.
- Garnish with almonds and herbs if you are serving straight away or leave to cool and keep in the fridge for 24 hours. Gently reheat in the oven before serving.
Autumn really has hit with the wind, rain and dark evenings. So time to hunker down with some comfort food 😉
When you hear the expression ‘comfort food’, what do you think of? For many its stodgy bread, rich puddings, cake or chocolate eaten with a mix of guilt and pleasure. Often associated with childhood or times of abundance, sweet calorie-laden comfort food certainly does hit the pleasure centres in the brain, but for how long? And with what effect on the body?
Whilst I remain a huge fan of cake (for life would be dull without it!), I prefer my comfort food to nourish as well as nurture. Something nutrient dense and warming, like a big hug on the inside that has more than a fleeting effect – and doesn’t go straight to my hips!
This rainbow chilli is my perfect comfort food for this time of year. Packed full with veggies of different hues, it’s pleasing to the eye as well as the body. Every colour has its own tiny powerful phytonutrients, many of which act as anti-oxidants that help reduce inflammation and support the immune system, super important with all the autumn colds going around. And of course there’s Covid too!
And it’s not just the veggies that get up to good on the inside, but the spices as well. Chilli is super warming and contains compounds that help with chesty coughs and colds (amongst other things) and cumin helps calm the digestive system as well as supports immunity.
Of course, no chilli is complete without the beans. I use two different types in this one, kidney and pinto beans. Both have their own different phytonutrients as well as lots of plant protein, minerals and of course fibre. Keeping our microbiome – the colony of friendly bacteria living in the large intestines – happy is key to us being happy and healthy. And beans are full of gut loving fibre. They may make you fart, but beans are one of the healthiest foods you can eat – and yes they’re good for the heart too!
So if your evening is feeling rather dull and in need of something comforting, why not try this hug- in-a-dish rainbow chilli? It’s so good! And don’t forget to let me know how you get on. And if you feel in the need for something even more nurturing, then have a look at our next online retreat – Winter Glow. A whole weekend full of relaxation, company and great food ideas to really get you set for winter. Check it out here and come and get your glow on!
Warming Rainbow Veggie Chilli
- 1 medium red onion chopped
- 2 medium orange or purple carrots chopped
- 2 medium sticks celery chopped
- 2 medium bell peppers colours of choice
- 1 fat clove garlic finely chopped
- 400 gram tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder mild or hot
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 400 gram tin red kidney beans rinsed
- 400 gram tin pinto beans rinsed
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 40 gram fresh coriander or spinach chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the onion, carrots and celery. Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a medium-sized pan and add the veg with a pinch of salt. Sauté on a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly so the veggies don't stick.
- Whilst the veg are cooking, chop the peppers and garlic. Add the peppers to the pan with a little extra water if needed and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another minute.
- Pour the tinned tomatoes into the veg and add the spices. Stir well. Pop on the lid and simmer for 15 minutes until the veggies are soft.
- Stir in the drained beans and the tomato purée and cook for another 5 minutes. Add a little water to the pan if the mix is too thick - I like a good amount of sauce!
- Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped fresh coriander or spinach. Serve on a baked potato, with wholegrain rice or wholewheat wraps.
Okra is one of those ‘marmite’ vegetables – you either love it or hate it. I’ve not come across many people who don’t really have an opinion! Personally, I love it, but I do get why some of you don’t – it’s the slime factor!
I fell in love with okra years ago when I first discovered bhindi bajee at the local curry house. It was always my go-to side dish, although I tend to avoid it now as it’s often drowned in oil. When I went to India, though, I discovered there was so many more dishes it could be used in and used to cook with it on a regular basis. Of course the advantage there was it was locally grown and fresh; most okra bought in Europe has travelled a long way and can lose its vitality and flavour, which is a shame.
Okra contains some great nutrients including a good dose of magnesium, vitamins C, B6, folate and K. It also has some powerful antioxidants including polyphenols which have been connected to good brain and heart health, which is good to know.
The fibre is the star of this veg for me – or rather the mucilage is. This slimy type of fibre has two powerful supporting roles when it comes to health. 1) it binds with excess cholesterol and transports it out of the gut 2) it lowers the sugar absorption so can help maintain stable blood sugars and support people with diabetes. In fact, if you already have diabetes and are prescribed metformin, you might be advised to avoid okra as it is so effective. Which is a shame. It just shows how powerful food is when it comes to promoting good health. And why changing diet and lifestyle before going to medication can make such a big difference.
This masala is super easy to make – don’t be put off by the list of ingredients as those are mainly spices and flavourings. You can make this as spicy (or not) as you like; if you’re not into heat then leave out the fresh chilli and use just a little chilli powder. That way you get all the flavour without the burn. If you’re not in a hurry, make this in advance and leave the flavours to develop. Leftovers taste great the next day or can be frozen for another time.
I hope you enjoy this super tasty curry – the taste as well as the super body benefits. If you give this a go, do let me know how you get on.
If you’re interested in discovering more about how the food you eat can affect your health (and the world around you), then check out my online courses by clicking here.
Okra and potato masala
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 cm chunk fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 2 fat cloves of garlic peeled and grated
- 1 medium red or green chilli deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes chopped
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder kashmiri if possible
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 medium potatoes scrubbed and diced
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 250 grams okra washed, trimmed and cut into 3cm chunks
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon garum masala
- Toast the cumin and mustard seeds in a medium sized pan until they start to pop. Remove the pan from the heat and leave for one minute to cool slightly, then carefully add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan (it will be super hot and sizzle so take care). Put the pan back on the heat and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes then add the chilli, ginger and garlic to the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes, adding a litte more water if needed.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, coriander powder and ground turmeric to the pan. Stir well to combine and cook for another 2 minutes before stirring in the chopped potatoes and tomato purée. Stir well to coat the potatoes then add enough water to create enough fluid to just cover them. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the potatoes are just cooked.
- Add the okra to the pan and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so until it is just soft - try not to over cook it or you will get more slime than you might enjoy!
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with fresh coriander and a sprinkle of garum masala (both optional).
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.
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…..
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.
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!
I do love a good curry! Going to India really gave me a passion for Asian cuisine. There are just so many different types of dishes, many of which we rarely or never get to sample outside of the country, unless you’re lucky enough to have a friend who hails from there! Continue reading “Malabar curry”
Oops I seem to have lost a few days! My live cooking session on Friday was this tasty vegan quiche and I promised to upload the video and full recipe over the weekend and now it’s Wednesday….. time flies when you’re super busy! Continue reading “Vegan quiche”
One of the delights of buying seasonal veg boxes is that it introduces me to ingredients I wouldn’t automatically buy (or sometimes even see) in the supermarket. And being presented with a new ingredient means I also have the opportunity to be creative. My most recent challenge has been turnips. Continue reading “Turnip gratin”
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 stew”
Second in my series on quick meals, here’s a super quick stir fry that literally takes 10 minutes. Serve it with either brown rice noodles or leftover cooked whole-grain rice (properly reheated of course) and it’s a fully plant-based, gluten free meal that your tastebuds and body will love. Continue reading “Stir fried veg with chickpeas and green sauce”