Having an intolerance to yeast means that most bread items are off the menu for me. Yeast pops up everywhere in most cuisines, so finding an alternative can be a challenge – and rather restrictive. Continue reading “Sweet potato flatbread”
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”
Working out what to have for a picnic or in lunchboxes can be a bit challenging at times, especially when you are eating with food intolerances or starting to follow a whole-food plant-based diet. For me, sandwiches tend to be off the menu so I’m always looking for something that’s satisfying, super tasty and not going to make me feel bleurgh at the end of the meal.
I am a big fan of scones – there’s already two recipes on my blog, these sweet dairy-free scones (one of my earlier recipes and so not quite as healthy as nowadays!) and these lovely savoury pumpkin scones. So why the need for another one? Surely two is enough?
Firstly, I don’t think you can ever have enough scone recipes! But apart from that, these savoury scones push the flavour boundaries further than the pumpkin ones, and contain a cheap, easy and super-nutritious vegetable – carrot.
I’ve already talked about how healthy carrots can be with my post earlier this week here. They can also be a useful agent in low-fat whole-food baking, acting as an egg and butter replacement whilst adding in some nutritional goodies at the same time. Carrots are complimented by a number of other flavours including mixed herbs, nutritional yeast (for that slight cheesy flavour) and a little mustard, all of which feature in this recipe.
If you suffer from food intolerances that mean yeast or mustard are off the menu, then you can just up the other flavours and not miss out on the lovely savoriness of these scones. And if you can’t have either, then just top up on the herbs, add a little extra salt and make them anyway for they will still taste wonderful.
Rather than going for whole-meal flour, I’ve started to use spelt for much of my baking. This older strain of wheat seems to be less of a challenge to many people’s digestion compared to modern fast grown wheat. It has a slightly nutty flavour and produces slightly lighter, fluffier scones than whole-wheat flour. Of course if you have an allergy or an intolerance to gluten, spelt is not for you. Fortunately, these scones work well with a good gluten-free flour mix like Dove’s Farm so you don’t have to miss out.
I like to make these scones in two round batches and then cut then into triangles. It saves time as you don’t have bother rolling out the dough and cutting them into shapes (and risk losing the air bubbles that make them light and fluffy) and you don’t end up with leftover dough that ends up getting thrown away. They do well in the oven too, producing a more even bake. Finally, if you make too many to eat in one or two sittings, then these freeze really well, perfect to grab for a quick lunch or snack.
So why not give these yummy savoury scones a try over the weekend? They are so worth the effort. And if you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
- 400 grams spelt flour or gluten-free alternative
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 150 grams carrot pureé (see note below)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 6 tablespoons water
- 4 tablespoons soya milk (or other dairy-free milk as tolerated)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon soya milk to brush over the top
- 2 tablespoons mixed seeds (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Place a silicon mat or non-stick baking paper onto a large tray.
- Place the flour, baking powder, salt, herbs and nutritional yeast in a bowl and mix together to combine well.
- In a separate, large bowl, mix together the carrot pureé, olive oil (if using), ground flaxseed, water, soya milk and mustard. Whisk together well to combine and rest for a couple of minutes to let the flaxseed thicken the mix slightly.
- Tip the dry mix into the wet (the opposite to how you normally do it when making cakes) and bring together with a large spoon and then your hands to form a soft dough.
- Split the mix into two equal halves. Carefully mold each half into a round and place on the prepared tray. Gently mark out 6 sections on each round with a knife, but don't cut all the way through. Brush the top with soya milk and sprinkle mixed seeds on the top (if using).
- Place the tray in the oven and bake for 16-18 minutes until the top is lightly golden and firm and the underneath sounds slighly hollow when you tap it. Transfer to a cooling rack.
- Once cooled, cut each round into 6 triangular portions. Serve whilst slightly warm or keep in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. If you want to freeze the scones, lay them out onto a non-stick baking tray and place in the freezer so each one freezes individually. Once hard, transfer to a freezer-safe container and return to the freezer. Remove and defrost scones as required.
Do you get stuck thinking of things to have for lunch to take to work or college, or even at home? If you’re lucky enough to have access to a canteen or take-away that has whole-food plant-based options that’s great. But it can become an expensive habit. And whilst hummus is a wonderful thing, it’s fair to say that not everyone wants to eat it every day for lunch!
This creamy bean recipe is super tasty and versatile too. You can eat it as a stand alone salad, pack it into a wrap or sandwich as a filling or use to top a baked potato. I’ve even served it in crunchy lettuce leaves for a buffet lunch, as you can see in the photo below.
The mix of raw veggies give it a satisfying crunch. The beans are filling and absorb the flavours well. They also help create the creamy texture alongside the gorgeous dairy-free tofu mayo.
Apart from the versatility in uses, you can also easily adapt the ingredients in case of food intolerances or dislikes, or just to mix it up. I’ve used celery, peppers and red onion, but you could use spring onion, cucumber, courgette, sweetcorn, carrot or any other finely chopped veg you like. And with the mayo you could add in fresh herbs like coriander or chives to create delicious fresh flavours.
And of course the other thing that can be varied is the bean. I’ve used cannelloni beans, but chickpeas or butter beans would work well too. One base recipe, many options!
The mayo is super easy to make and will keep in a jar in the fridge for up to a week. It’s also perfect for anyone with a nut allergy or who has to eat nut free for some reason. Make sure you use soft or silken tofu rather than a firmer one, otherwise it won’t blend well to create the creamy texture. If you cannot tolerate fresh garlic, then leave it out, but it does give a little extra flavour. And the extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil provides that final creamy embellish, as well as some wonderfully helpful anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, making it a great option for anyone following a low saturated fat programme like OMS.
So if you want a lunch time alternative, why not give this a go? Do let me know how you get on, and what flavour combinations work for you.
Creamy mashed beans mix
400g tin white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1/2 yellow pepper, finely diced
1 medium stick celery, finely diced
For the mayo:
100g silken tofu, drained
1 small clove garlic, mashed
1/2 teaspoon french mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or hempseed oil
salt and pepper to taste
Make the mayo by placing the tofu, garlic, mustard and lemon juice into a small blender bowl and blend until smooth. Add the oil and seasoning and blitz again. Taste and add more mustard, lemon, oil or seasoning as needed. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
Place the drained beans into a medium-sized bowl and roughly mash. You want them broken up but retain a little texture. Add the finely chopped vegetables then stir in enough mayo to cover – don’t add too much if you’re using it for sandwiches otherwise it will ooze out! Check the flavour, add more seasoning if needed and either use straight away or cover and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
One of the many wonderful things about eating a whole-food plant-based diet is that it’s a constant voyage of discovery. Wherever I am, there are always new ingredients to try out, or local recipes to adapt. Some experiments are a success, others not so much. It’s definitely not dull, that’s for sure.
Some of the tastiest ideas come from necessity rather than choice. Todays recipe is the perfect example; we needed lunch but there was only a random mix of bits and bobs left in the fridge. Fortunately, one of those things was a tub of fresh borlotti beans bought at the market the previous weekend, cooked and waiting for inspiration.
I’m over in our new house in Portugal at the moment. One of the many things I love about this area is the local fruit and vegetable market held in the local town square every morning. It’s everything you could want from a farmers market – small, local producers selling fresh seasonal products direct to the buyer. There’s colour fruit and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds as well as fresh bread and the odd jam or chutney. This photo is of me waiting patiently at my favourite tomato stall. The elderly lady you can see is the mother of the chap who grows this amazing crop at his farm just down the road to my house. It really is local produce!
Some stalls sell freshly podded beans. And I mean fresh – you can watch them do it, nimble fingers with many years experience popping out beans at quite a speed. This fresh means they are packed with many more nutrients than anything that’s tinned or dried. I bought a huge bag for just €3 which made four different meals – cost effective as well as super healthy.
This mashed bean recipe has been floating round my head for a while. It’s super simple but amazingly tasty, although it’s not the prettiest one to look at! But ugly ducklings can bloom into something wonderful, so don’t be put off by its appearance. With the thyme, garlic and lemon juice, it’s like a Mediterranean version of recooked beans, super tasty and rather moreish.
Lunchtime can be a bit of challenge at times when eating plant-based. I’m often asked for lunchbox ideas, anything that’s not hummus. Not that there’s anything wrong with hummus! It’s just good to have a change. Although this recipe is served warm here, it can be enjoyed just as much cold as a sandwich or wrap filling with some crunchy vegetables and an extra pinch of salt.
If you don’t have access to fresh borlotti beans, don’t worry, tinned will work. Rinse them well first then pop them in the pan with everything else. If you are using fresh, pre-cook them in a little vegetable stock before mashing together will the herbs and lemon to make sure they are soft and creamy. If you can’t find borlotti beans, use cannelloni or even flageolet instead.
I served these crushed beans with a spinach and tomato salad and a couple of slices of homemade sourdough bread. Fresh, simple and delicious. If you make these, let me know how it goes, and how you ate it too. Enjoy!
Warm mashed beans with lemon and thyme (serves 3-4)
400g fresh or tinned borlotti beans
2 fat cloves garlic finely chopped
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
juice 1 lemon
salt and pepper
flaxseed or extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped chives or parsley to garnish
Place the beans and the garlic in a small pan along with 4 tablespoons of water. Heat gently stirring regularly to stop the garlic from burning. Add the thyme. When the garlic releases its aroma, carefully mash the beans until they are all broken down but with some texture. Turn off the heat, pour in the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and pour in a good glug of flaxseed or extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Finally garnish with the chives and serve.
Here’s a super-quick and tasty dressing to liven up any salad or to drizzle over a spicy soup, curry or baked dish (like the Baked Spicy Stuffed Aubergine).
I prefer unsweetened soya yoghurt for this dressing. If you can find Sojade, I would highly recommend as I think it has the best flavour. Otherwise I use Tesco own brand soya yoghurt. If you are soya-free you could try a coconut based yoghurt but make sure there’s no added sugar. It would taste foul!
If you are not a fan of coriander (and I know there are a few people out there who have a passionate dislike) you could add fresh mint leaves instead; they would have a similar cooling effect.
As this is so easy to make, I usually make it in small amounts for a specific dish, but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days so if you want to make a larger amount just double or quadruple the amounts.
I hope you enjoy making this super-quick but tasty dressing – let me know how you get on.
Dairy-free coriander yoghurt dressing
150ml dairy-free yoghurt of choice
1/2 bunch fresh coriander (or mint) leaves
2 tablespoons lime juice (optional but makes it zing)
salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a small blender pot and whizz for 10 seconds or so to combine. Taste and add more seasoning, lime or coriander as needed and whizz again. Serve chilled.
I often get asked where the ideas for my recipes come from. Sometimes, I just make things up on the spot, others are inspired by something I have read or seen in a magazine or on the internet. Occasionally, an idea rumbles around in the back of my mind for a long time then suddenly comes together. These pumpkin scones are in that category.
Before my dairy-free and plant-based days, I had an amazing recipe for pumpkin scones that I think appeared in a Riverford veg box. They were delicious. It disappeared when we packed up our house for storage whilst we were overseas never to be found, and no longer on the Riverford website (or not that I could find anyway). Now I cook mainly fat-free as well, I wanted to work out how to successfully replace the fat ingredient, using pumpkin puree as an oil and egg replacement; a few attempts resulted in very dense, bullet-like scones. Not for general consumption!
Finally, I cracked it! These savoury pumpkin scones are seriously satisfying and tasty, as well as super healthy. And they are just like normal scones in texture and weight, not a bullet in sight! Perfect for lunch or afternoon tea, they’re also fabulous dunked in a warming winter soup. Definitely worth the time spent thinking about them!
Savoury pumpkin scones (makes 6x7cm wide scones)
400g spelt flour (use plain gluten free if needed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme or sage
150g pumpkin puree*
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water
4 tablespoons rice or soya milk
a few pumpkin seeds for decoration
* I make my pumpkin puree by roasting a few slices of pumpkin or squash with the skin on in the oven, covered with tin foil (the steam helps it cook and retain it’s fluid). When cooled, I removed the skin and then mashed it in a bowl before adding the other wet ingredients.
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with parchment or a silicon baking mat.
Mix the pumpkin puree, olive oil, flaxseed and water and the rice milk together in a bowl. Make sure they are well combined. In another bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt and herbs and mix together well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and cut in with a knife until the mixes start to combine, then use your hands to bring it all together.
Remove from the bowl and knead gently on the worktop until you have a soft dough. Carefully flatten the dough with your palm until it’s spread a bit and 3cm thick. Using a 7cm wide cookie cutter, cut out your scones and place onto the baking tray. Re-knead the dough and flatten a couple of times until you have used it all up. Brush the tops with dairy free milk and add pumpkin seeds for decoration. Bake in the oven for 14-18 minutes until lightly golden on top and firm on the bottom. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a tray. Enjoy!
Everyone is different; we look, sound, feel and act differently, and so it follows this is reflected in what we choose to eat, from what we just love to something that may potentially be lethal if we’re allergic to it. Food choices are influenced by a whole multitude of factors from family, religion or health to income, location or social standing. It’s a fascinating subject.
When it comes to food allergies or intolerances, anything goes – there’s no end to the variety of substances people can be allergic to. This could be due to the makeup of a person’s microbiota, the billions of bacteria and other microbes that live in the gut. In the same way a person has their own characteristics externally, their internal makeup does too! It’s an exciting area of research, but not really that new as ‘alternative’ therapists have been going on about gut health for decades!
Despite our individual differences, there are a number of foods that people are more commonly sensitive too – the ‘Big 8’. Top of that list is dairy, followed by eggs, fish and shellfish, then nuts and peanuts, wheat and finally soybeans. Interesting that most of these are used in processed foods in some form, either as a main ingredient or a chemical derivative. Another good reason to avoid the ready-meal aisle!
I often get asked my opinion about soya products; it’s amazing how controversial a small bean can be! One of the biggest issues is that in the US, the vast majority of soya products come from genetically modified crops. Living in Europe, we don’t have the same problem but I always aim to buy organic soya products if possible, or check where in the world it has come from to avoid GM – consumer choice.
Soya is a key feature in a lot of vegetarian food, whether as tofu or tempeh, textured protein or in vegetarian or vegan products or ready meals. This is often used as a criticism of a more plant based diet, particularly as an increase in growing soya crops is responsible for deforestation and the devastation of tropical rainforests. What’s interesting though, is that about 75% of soya crops are actually used for animal feed, not human consumption. So you may avoid eating soya directly, but if you eat meat, unless it’s grass-fed, you’re also consuming highly processed soya. The world of food production is a complicated place these days!
Another issue with soya products is that it is thought to be a hormone disruptor, particularly for the thyroid gland. For some people, this may well be true. As I mentioned above, we’re all different, and foods can harm as well as heal, so it’s good to be aware if your thyroid function is compromised, but then there are lots of factors that might be involved, far to many to talk about in a blog post. Current research has found little correlation*, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Soya contains isoflavones, phytonutrients that can help balance hormone levels, good for ladies of a certain age suffering from hot flushes due to oestrogen fluctuations! But maybe another reason that soya may be associated with disrupting hormones is the type and volume of pesticides and insecticides that are used on non-organic crops. Chemicals and humans don’t tend to go together well, even when deemed ‘safe’.
Personally, I do include soya in my diet. It’s a great source of plant based protein, fibre and minerals and as well as phytoestrogen, it has other isoflavones beneficial for health. I don’t eat it every day, I check it’s source and tend to avoid highly processed ready meals, so mainly have it in the form of soya milk, yoghurt, tofu and edamame beans. But that’s my choice, which won’t be right for everyone!
If you don’t have a problem with soya but haven’t ever tried edamame, do give them a go. These are young, unprocessed soya beans. Bright green, fresh and packed with flavour, I love eating them straight out of the pod as a snack or starter at Japanese restaurants. This is soya at it’s most unprocessed, and so in my mind it’s healthiest – all the fibre and nutrients remain intact rather than lost in processing. Edamame have to be cooked otherwise it’s poisonous but only takes a couple of minutes, so no big deal. They can be added to salads, stews or just eaten straight from the pan. Alternatively, try this super tasty and simple dip to get a mouthful of flavour and bellyful of nutrients. If, however, you know that soya’s not for you, then peas work just as well – still lots of protein and fibre, just a slightly darker green. Enjoy!
Edamame (or pea) and mint dip
1 cup edamame bean or peas – defrosted if frozen
juice of 1 – 2 limes depending on size
20g fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper
Bring a pan of water to the boil and simmer the beans or peas for a few minutes until cooked. Drain and refresh with cold water. Leave to cool.
Place the beans or peas in a small food processor with the mint, lime juice and salt and pepper. Blitz until smoothish – a little texture is good – adding more lime juice or a dash of water if too thick. Add a glug of flaxseed oil, blitz again and taste. Add more lime juice, mint or seasoning if needed. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.
In my mind, broad beans are forever connected with my dad. When I was very young, the house we lived in had a big garden. We had the obligatory swing and slide, a cute little wooden wendy house for us to play in and a purpose built sand pit that the local cats just loved to use as their toilet of choice!
Dad claimed the top right hand corner for himself, and create three large strips for growing vegetables. I’m sure he grew many different types of produce, but the only one I remember is broad beans. His beans grew in abundance, and it seemed we had them as a vegetable every day. The problem was, I hated them! I tried to like them – after all, they were fresh and my dad had put a lot of effort into growing them, but they were just too bitter and unpalatable to an unappreciative six year old. So I chased them round the plate, tried to hide them in my lap and generally just whinged and moaned so much, my parents gave up. We moved the following year to a house with a smaller garden, so no more vegetable patch for dad, and no more broad beans for us.
It took years before I would eat the dreaded broad beans again. When I realised how beautiful and sweet they tasted once the tough outer layer was removed, I felt sad that we missed out enjoying the fruits of dad’s labour. And now I grow a few of my own veg, I also realise how much our moaning and complaining must have annoyed him!
Broad beans (otherwise known as fava beans) are packed full of flavour and fabulous nutrients, so they really are worth a try. For a start, they have loads of fibre that will keep your gut happy and healthy. They are also full of B vitamins, including folate which is an essential vitamin for cell growth and development, so perfect if you are pregnant, or planning to be. Along with the B’s, broad beans also have good amounts of minerals such as manganese, iron and magnesium and a fabulous dose of potassium. Broad beans are a good source of plant based protein too, so will help keep you full for longer.
Whilst you can buy them frozen, fresh beans are best, and although they are a little time consuming to prepare, it’s worth it. Buy juicy pods that are not too large and break them open to release the beans inside. Tiny ones don’t need the next layer removing, but in general pop your beans into a pan of boiling water to blanche for a minute or two, then drain and leave for a couple of minutes until they have cooled enough to be handled. Pinch off the outer skin to reveal the brilliant green pod within.
We had guests recently, and I served broad beans with olive tapenade as part of a tapas style meal. The strong, sharp flavours of the tapenade complements the gorgeous fragrant beans. It’s incredibly moreish, but unlike normal tapenade, this one has no added oil so is super healthy and guilt free, so you can eat it until your heart, and stomach, is content.
Why not give this a go one summer’s evening, along with some crunchy flat bread and a glass of something crisp and fresh? Cheers, dad!
Broad bean and olive tapenade (serves 4)
400g broad beans (shelled weight)
3 tablespoons pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
handful of chopped flat leafed parsley
handful of mint leaves, chopped
a few chives, chopped
1 small clove garlic, crushed
juice and zest of a lemon
Prepare the broad beans as mentioned above. Pop all the tapenade ingredients into a small blender and blitz for about 30 seconds – don’t over blend as you want texture, not mush. Season with some black pepper if required. Drop tapenade over the broad beans whilst they’re still warm to infuse the flavour. Can be served still warm, or cold.
I remember my first visit to an Indian restaurant so well. It was my then boyfriend’s sixteenth birthday and my parents had given me the money to take him out for a meal. I felt so sophisticated! Our food at home was very traditional British, so a curry house seemed exotic and slightly overwhelming. Fortunately my boyfriend was more experienced than me in Indian cuisine, and advised me on my menu choices – onion bhaji to start followed by a chicken korma.
It seems strange to say, but I found the korma a bit spicy! But I loved the crispy, crunchy texture of the bhaji, with it’s softer doughy centre, and it’s been a favourite ever since, although quality really does vary and those times when you end up with a soggy, greasy lump on your plate are most disappointing.
Onion bhajis are a definite British curry house favourite. Consumed as more of a teatime snack in India, they are part of the wider pakora family. Found less frequently in the UK, I discovered pakoras when we first moved to India. They are basically anything covered in a chickpea batter and deep fried. We used to order veg pakoras and try to work out which vegetable was underneath the opaque golden batter.
As delicious as pakora and bhajis are, there is a problem with them – the amount of oil that is absorbed into the batter as they are deep fried. Of course, it’s the frying that makes the batter so crispy, but cooking in refined oil not only increases the fat content but the molecular make up of the fats change when used at such a high heat. This is not good for What is good for our bodies, however, are the onions. Universally used in every cuisine around the world, onions are packed full of flavonoids and anti-oxidants that are beneficial to health, as well as a moderate amount of vitamins, minerals and fibre. The key phytonutrient is quercitin. Research shows that quercitin has a number of amazing roles in the body, and has been used in herbal medicine since ancient times. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral role, helping to support the immune system and protect against infectious diseases. Quercitin also helps prevent cancer developing, can help thin the blood and prevent blood clots and increase good HDL cholesterol whilst preventing bad LDL cholesterol from becoming toxic and attacking arteries. Pretty amazing stuff from one small bulb!
Interestingly, studies show that quercitin is much less effective when extracted and used in supplement form. Interaction with other phytonutrients make an onion a much more effective source, so consuming them in your diet is best. Of course, raw is best but onions are packed full of sulphur-containing compounds that can make them difficult to eat uncooked, so eating them anyway you can is all good.
So, how to make an onion bhaji tasty, crispy and healthy? The trick is to use the water in the onions to combine with the flour and stick everything together. This way, you don’t need a batter as such, and you don’t need to add any refined oil at all, just bake at a high temperature and the sugars in the onions will naturally caramelise and crisp up. They taste just as good, you can make them as spicy as you like and you know your body will love you for it. They’re dairy free, gluten free and fat free – but totally delicious!
Super food onion bhaji
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 heaped tablespoons of chickpea/gram flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
fresh chopped coriander
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together well, then put to one side for 5 minutes or so (up to 20). The salt will draw out the water in the onions and help bind everything together. When you’re ready, pick up a small amount in your hand and squeeze it together – you’ll be able to see if it will stick. You may need to add a little more chickpea flour. Use a spoonful at a time, and squeeze together to form a blob, then place on a slightly greased baking tray. Place in the oven at 200°c and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden. You may like to turn them half way through. Serve hot with slices of lemon and chutney of your choice. Enjoy!