Pan con Tomate (Tomatoes on toast!)

My husband travels a lot with his job. Whilst it takes him to all sorts of interesting places, some locations can be a bit challenging when it comes to finding healthy plant-based food options. Each country has its local breakfast options – this week he’s off to Bangalore and so he’s looking forward to getting a delicious masala dosa in the morning. Continue reading “Pan con Tomate (Tomatoes on toast!)”

Apple and oat muffins

Muffins were in the news earlier this year following a report that outed many shop-bought versions as being the less-than healthy option they might appear to be (click here for the link). Some blueberry ones tested didn’t have anything close to a real blueberry in them, just some synthetic sugar replacement. Plus lots of refined sugar and oils. That’s definitely not a healthy muffin! Continue reading “Apple and oat muffins”

Embellished avocado toast

I’ve realised the breakfast section in my recipe index is a bit thin on the ground. Strange, as I love breakfast and can never go without. Even when I used to start work early in the morning, I still had to munch through something to power me up for the day, even if it was before the birds had even thought about waking up. And I’ve never understood people who say they don’t like breakfast – how can that be?

The old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has been questioned in the last few years. Various experiments and studies have been undertaken to determine if you are likely to gain or lose weight if you miss out a morning meal. Guess what – the answers differ! Some people do, some people don’t. The idea that if you do a physical job you need to eat more, but if sedentary should consume less are all connected to the old idea that food is about energy units. But of course food is about so much more than energy!

Away from weight gain or loss, there is a consensus that people who eat breakfast are more likely to consume more micronutrients during the day as well as fibre, which is all good. But then again, if breakfast consists of sugary cereal and a bunch of empty calories then that’s no help at all! Eating breakfast does appear to help balance blood sugar levels during the day, but only if refined carbohydrates and sugar are avoided – so coco-pops are not helpful!

I guess the key to these studies shows that there is no right answer, because we are all different. Getting to know our bodies, what works for us and keeps us healthy and understanding the value and benefit of what we are doing makes a real difference. Since I started eating whole foods and dairy free, I’ve found my breakfast keeps me going much longer with no sugar lows or shakes until lunchtime. Some days I only feel like a light breakfast – some fruit and dairy free yoghurt maybe. Other days I’m up for something more substantial like scrambled tofu, especially at the weekend when things are more relaxed and sometimes breakfast is more brunch!

Avocado toast is one of my favourite breakfasts, easy and quick on a busy morning, simple to embellish on a lazy one. The toast for me is either wholegrain sourdough or a home made superfood bread, a gluten free and nutrition-packed lovely (the recipe will appear some time soon!). There’s fibre and minerals in the wholegrain and fabulous monounsaturated fats in the avocado, the healthy, anti-inflammatory fat that our bodies just love. The fat and protein in the avocado also help keep me feeling full for longer.

I like to add a good swirl of organic flaxseed oil on my toast before smashing the avocado on top; packed full of super health omega 3 fatty acids, it adds a lovely rich flavour, a great dairy free alternative to butter.

To add a few more goodies and start getting my 10 a day, adding some lightly sautéed mushrooms and a handful of fresh rocket or spinach really embellishes ordinary avocado toast and I highly recommend it. You may feel this is more of a lunch idea than breakfast, but all over the world, peoples idea of breakfast is different – my son was served spaghetti carbonara for breakfast in Vietnam!

So if you are a breakfast lover like me, give this little dish a go one morning – it will put a smile on your face and joy in your tummy!

Original kedgeree

Every now and then my husband gets the urge to have a session in the kitchen. Apart from the inevitable mess, I love it when he’s inspired to try out something different – not only does it give me the night off, but it’s usually something he’s been thinking about for a while and researched within an inch of it’s life. Big contrast to my sudden inspiration, throwing things together to see what happens approach!

He’s been mainly plant based for over a year and a half now which is quite a surprise to both of us! Having gone for it, he’s quite happy not to go back eating to meat and dairy for now as it stops him from pigging out on pastries and burgers. There are a few things he misses though (thankfully beer is plant based). Oddly, one is kedgeree, something we rarely ate but obviously on his list of ‘foods I love’. So he decided to get researching to make a completely plant based version.

It didn’t take him long to discover the original version of kedgeree – kichiri, a simple Indian comfort food, traditionally given to those under the weather. Legend has it that kedgeree, which includes milk, fish and egg, was devised by Colonial Brits in India, then brought back to England, although according to Wikipedia, there is some contention that it appeared in Scotland in the 1700’s; the India connection remains intact though. When exactly a fish, rice and egg combo became a breakfast dish, I’m not so sure.

Kichiri is the perfectly balanced plant based dish. A mixture of rice, lentils and some super spices, it’s tasty, satisfying and remarkably moreish despite the simplicity. The lentils give it a little bit of texture and it’s aromatic rather than spiciness, so gentler on the palate.

Rice and lentils create the perfect plant based protein – both these lovelies contain the full range of essential amino acids. Even though it’s one of the top arguments detractors will come up with when you decide to go plant based, there’s no fear about missing out on protein as long as you eat a wide range of products. And of course wholegrain is best as more nutrients are retained. And lentils give you much more than just protein – they also have a wonderful dollop of fibre, manganese, iron and B vitamins amongst others.

A cucumber raita completes this dish perfectly – using dairy free yoghurt of course! You could get flashy and add make a little spicy tempering to go on the top – toasted cumin and mustard seeds with a couple of dried red chillis and some fresh curry leaves to finish. Lovely.

So why not give this a go and see what you think – is definitely different to kedgeree but still comfortably familiar!

Kichiri (serves 4)
160g green lentils
270g wholegrain basmati rice
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 onion, diced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of salt
1 litre water
couple of handfuls fresh coriander
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the cumin and black mustard seeds until they start to pop. Add the onion and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add the carrot and red pepper and cook for another minute or so, then add the garlic, rice and lentils as well as the ground coriander, turmeric and salt and cook on a low heat stirring all the time. After a minute or so, carefully pour in the water, bring to the boil and pop on the lid. Turn the heat down low and cook for 15-20 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the lentils are tender. Turn off the heat, and leave to steam for a couple of minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh coriander over the top to serve. Enjoy!

Scrambled tofu

Wouldn’t it be great to find a dish that is quick and easy to make, and suitable to eat at any time of the day? Well, I’m happy to say that tofu scramble fits the bill just perfectly. A great breakfast alternative to scrambled eggs, a quick and easy lunch option or bulked up with a range of vegetables for a more substantial evening meal, tofu scramble is super easy and packed with masses of flavour as well as a shed-load of nutrients.

I first came across scrambled tofu in India on one of the cooking courses I attended. There’s an Indian breakfast dish called Akuri that is basically scrambled egg with vegetables and chilli. Replacing the eggs with tofu created tofu akuri and I have to say I really didn’t like it! Looking back, I think it was the type of tofu used but I avoided trying it again for some time. Then whilst in New York last summer, we found a fabulous boutique cafe that served scrambled tofu and I decided to give it a go again. And was delighted I did. It was amazing and I’ve been making it at home ever since.

There’s a lot of mixed opinions on tofu. Tofu is made from fermented soya milk, and it’s the humble soya bean that courts controversy. Many people are concerned about genetically modified soy that is grown mainly in the States along with the fact that vast swathes of land, including previously pristine rainforests, are used to grow it. But most of the soy grown is actually used for animal feed, not for direct human consumption, and as long as you know where your soya and tofu comes from, or buy organic, you can make sure that you’re not unwittingly consuming GMO if you don’t want to. My favourite is Dragonfly tofu, made down in Devon, but there a number of different options in the shops, it’s all a matter of taste.

Strictly speaking, tofu is a processed product and not whole food as the soya bean has been cooked and strained to get milk then strained again to separate off some of the fluid. Calcium carbonate (or traditionally seaweed) is added to help it set in a block. But even with this processing, it’s still a great product to include in a plant based diet as it’s high in protein as well as calcium, iron and manganese. Being dairy free, it can be used in dishes as an alternative to cheese and cream, as well as an ingredient in it’s own right. Soya products also contain phyto-oestrogens that are particularly useful for women especially around the menopause and research shows that it can help reduce the incidence of breast cancer. It can also help lower bad LDL cholesterol so suitable for both women and men!

There are a number of different types of tofu – silken, firm, extra firm, smoked or flavoured. By itself, it doesn’t score high on taste or texture, but it absorbs flavours really well and so can be a great asset in the plant based kitchen. For tofu scramble, firm works well. Silken is lovely and soft but can be a little watery, extra firm can be a bit dry. I have used lightly smoked and it gives a different flavour, but I prefer to use plain so I can taste all the flavours. The key is to experiment and discover which one you find most enjoyable.

There is an ingredient you can add to recreate the ‘eggy’ flavour and aroma of egg – kala namuk or Indian black salt. Which is not black but pink! You can find it in Indian food stores and online. Give it a sniff and your nose is hit by seriously strong sulphur wafts. It’s has a strong flavour too, so if you use it, use with caution – a pinch really is enough.

Cooking this for breakfast, I tend to go simple and just add in a few herbs or mushrooms. But if I’m using this for a quick but substantial supper, I cook a pan of additional vegetables such as courgette, mushroom, peppers and spinach, and stir them in at the end with whatever fresh herbs I have to hand. You can serve it on toast, or with saute potatoes or salad. Really, it’s up to whatever you feel like, and what ever you have in the fridge – there are no rules! So why not give it a try and see what combinations you can come up with. Let me know what your favourite turns out to be.

Scrambled tofu (serves 2) basic recipe

A tasty breakfast or brunch lovely on it's own, with added veggies or as part of a bigger breakfast.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes
Course Breakfast, brunch
Servings 2 portions

Ingredients
  

  • 200 g tofu - silken, firm or extra firm drained
  • 1 small onion or shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • pepper to taste.
  • pinch kala namak or Indian black salt (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of waterl in a small pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion until soft. Crumble in the tofu and cook gently for a minute then add the turmeric, tamari, pepper and kala namuk if using. Continue to heat gently for another few minutes then serve.

Notes

I like to add mushrooms to my breakfast tofu scramble, so add in some finely chopped mushrooms when the onion is nearly cooked and saute them for a few minutes before adding in the tofu etc. Before serving, I sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the top and serve on a bed of baby spinach leaves.
Keyword breakfast, brunch, egg free, plant based, tofu