Autumn really has hit with the wind, rain and dark evenings. So time to hunker down with some comfort food 😉 Continue reading “Warming rainbow veggie chilli”
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”
It’s turned proper cold this week – suddenly it feels like winter. And the good winter, with mornings decorated with frosty patterns, air so chilly it makes your nose tingle and clear blue skies with lots of sunshine. That’s something I think we’ve all been craving after the last few grey and rainy months! Continue reading “Brussel sprout masala”
I love aubergine. Unfortunately my husband can’t stand them. He’s very tolerant of my plant-based experiments, but sadly aubergine is his red line that can’t be crossed! Which is not too much of a problem as there are so many other delicious plant-based foods to play with. Plus he’s often away, so aubergine becomes my indulgence when he’s on his travels. Continue reading “Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine”
Following on from my ‘brain food’ post yesterday (plant-based foods that are particularly good for the old grey matter) I wanted to share one more with you – mushrooms. According to an article on the BBC website this week, a research study suggests that people who eat mushrooms more than twice a week have less age-related cognitive decline that those who didn’t. This means they performed better on memory and recall tests, good news for mushroom lovers!
The study was small and the research cannot make a direct cause and effect link (so hard to do as there are so many other factors to take into account). However, it does suggest there is something in mushrooms that can benefit the brain. As with all fresh produce, mushrooms contain a whole array of micronutrients and phytonutrients. In fact, mushrooms as medicine is a huge area of research at the moment. Continue reading “Creamy mushroom pasta”
It’s day 8 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, into the second week already. I hope you are enjoying the posts and feeling inspired to try something new this Christmas period.
If you’re new to whole-food plant-based eating you may be wondering what in the world you are going to eat for the big event – Christmas dinner. There are various pre-prepared and fake meat options available to buy, but to be honest none of them taste quite as good, or are quite as cheap, as making your own.
If you want to try something different, Christmas chestnut tartlets are really delicious. But if you want to stick to something more mainstream, then nut roast is your answer. I already have a simple nut roast on the blog from a few years ago. This one today is a slightly different take on that; still simple and definitely delicious.
Now you may have noticed that I’m not one for using things that come in a packet. Having food sensitivities means that most products are not an option. Rather surprisingly, stuffing is one that I can eat, or at least some brands are ok. And I’ve never quite worked out how to make my own that tastes right, so it’s good to have something to fall back on.
Most standard stuffing mixes like Paxo contain wheat, so if you are intolerant to wheat or gluten, it’s be to go for specific gluten-free options like Mrs Crimbles. Also, if you avoid fats like palm oil, then beware of some supermarket brands as they tend to be on the ingredients list. Again, Mrs Crimbles might be the option here as there’s no added refined oils.
Even so, any stuffing mix is not exactly packed with lovely nutrients – most of them have been lost in the processing. But if you’re anything like me, the rest of the meal is a rainbow array of veggies and whole ingredients. A small amount of stuffing wont’s cause too much harm in the big scheme of things (unless that’s all you eat – then there’s other problems!).
What the stuffing does add is additional flavour and texture, breaking up the nut roast a bit and just making it a bit more interesting and festive. Bake it long enough for the oils in the nuts to help create a lovely crust on the outside whilst remaining soft on the inside. I’ve found that this nut roast goes down well with non-veggie family and friends which is a big plus.
So if you’re planning on serving a nut roast this Christmas, why not give this one a go? And if you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
Stuffed nut roast (serves 6)
- 200g mixed nuts (I used brazil, cashew and almond)
- 170g pack stuffing mix (gluten-free if needed)
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 medium leek, rinsed and chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
- 2 tablespoon tamari or 1 teaspoon marmite
- 50g oats (gluten-free if needed)
- salt and pepper
Place the nuts in a food processor and grind so the nuts are finely chopped. Try to avoid over-grinding to a powder as you want a little texture without big chunks of nut. Make up the stuffing mix with the correct amount of boiling water stated on the box. Do not add any oil or dairy-free spread. Mix well and leave to one side to firm up.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a medium-sized saucepan and sauté the onion, leek and carrot with the bay leaf for 10 minutes with the lid on to retain the moisture. Stir regularly to makes sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add a little more water and drop in the garlic and mixed herbs. Stir well and cook for another minute.
Stir in the chopped nuts, tamari or marmite and oats. Mix well, adding a little water if needed to help combine. Simmer for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently so the mix doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease a 2lb loaf tin with olive oil. Spoon half the nut mixture into the base of the tin, pressing down well in the corners. Spread the stuffing mix over the top then finish off with the remaining nut mix. Make sure you spread out each layer well to get a good spread. Place the tin in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and it feels firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Slide a knife around the outside of the nut roast to loosen it from the tin and carefully turn the tin over onto a chopping board. Tap the bottom of the tin and ease out the loaf. Leave to cool for another couple of minutes then cut into slices and serve.
If I ever ask my family what they fancy for dinner, more often than not the answer is dal. Ever since our time living in India, it has become a firm favourite for all of us. And we’re not the only ones as the page with my simple dal recipe (find it here) is one of the most frequently visited on the website.
As you have probably gathered by now, I love a bit of rainbow eating. Adding a variety of colourful vegetables to dishes can increase their micro and phytonutrient properties enormously. And dal is the perfect base for a rainbow make-over, so it just had to happen!
Just changing from white to red onion improves the phytonutrient profile, as the red pigment contains anthocyanins. These tiny chemicals help support cell functions and act as anti-oxidants, neutralising free radical activity. Essentially, they contribute to supporting our health. There are a huge number of different types of anthocyanins, and as with all phytonutrients they work best together as a team, hence why whole-foods are always the best option.
Sweet potatoes and spinach contains their own variety of micro and phytonutrients too, as does turmeric, tomato and the curry leaves. In fact this rainbow dal really is a veritable smorgasbord of pigments! Add in the fab fibre content and this dish really is one that will make both your taste-buds and your body buzz with joy!
The most important thing about this rainbow dal, though, is that it tastes gorgeous! Adding the extra vegetable gives it more body and texture, so all the senses are cared for. Serve it with a good dollop of dairy-free yoghurt and some steamed wholegrain rice and it will fill the hungriest of stomachs too.
So next time you’re cooking up a dal, bring a bit more rainbow power to the dinner table and give this one a go. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on. Enjoy!
Rainbow dal – serves 4
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 medium tomatoes
2 medium or 1 large sweet potato
10-12 curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
225g yellow split peas
for the tempering:
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 dried red chillis and/or 2 fresh red chillis sliced lengthways
2cm piece of ginger thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh coriander
Chop the onion and tomatoes, finely chop the garlic. Peel and dice the sweet potato.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of a medium sized saucepan until bubbling then add the onion. Lower the heat and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add the chopped tomato, curry leaves and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the sweet potato. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the ground tumeric, lentils or yellow split peas and a good pinch of salt. Leave to cook for a couple of minutes then add the water. Pop on the saucepan lid, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the water is absorbed, the sweet potato soft and the dal is thick and sumptuous. Add the spinach leaves and cook for another couple of minutes until wilted.
Heat a small non-stick pan and add the cumin and black mustard seeds. Once the seeds start to pop and release their aromas (about 1 1/2 minutes), turn off the heat and add the dried red chillis and ginger. Shake the pan and let them cook in the residual pan heat. After a couple of minutes, tip the tempering into the dal, stir well to combine and heat through gently.
Finally, add a squeeze of lemon juice and the fresh chopped coriander then serve.
I have a bit of a gripe about risotto. It’s not that I don’t like it, far from it; it’s a regular weekday staple in our house. It also tends to be the go-to dish for restaurants wanting to offer a vegetarian or vegan option. It’s a safe option, but safe can also be boring. And that’s the gripe! At the risk of sounding ungrateful, it doesn’t take much imagination to create a normal run-of-the-mill risotto, and equally it doesn’t take much to jazz things up a bit. After all, isn’t that one of the reasons for going out for dinner?
So why am I posting a risotto recipe? Well, if I can knock up a super tasty and slightly different risotto, I’m sure a professional chef can too! This recipe is packed full of flavour and textures as well as a whole host of wonderful nutrients that will make your body sing with joy! And it doesn’t need a pile of butter and cheese to make it taste good. The star of the dish is the rice – red rice.
I first discovered red rice whilst living in India. The little organic shop I visited down the road had a selection of different types all locally grown. It was quite an education browsing the shelves! Red rice has two key benefits over it’s more common relative, brown. The taste and the nutrients.
Taste wise, red rice has a slightly nutty earthy flavour that comes through in the dish but doesn’t dominate. It holds it’s texture well but is still quite starchy so becomes slightly sticky like arborio rice when cooked. On the nutrients side, because it’s a whole-grain it still contains the healthy fibre and bran, as well as protein and essential omega 3 fatty acid. Then there’s a whole host of micronutrients like manganese and magnesium, similar to whole-grain brown rice. The key to red rice is it’s colour.
Red plant-based foods contain special phytonutrients called anthocyanins, the same as those found in strong red and purple veggies like red cabbage, red onions and radicchio. These phytonutrients are very active anti-oxidants and help mop up damaging free-radicals that harm the body. There’s much research going on about these wonderful nutrients and just how they work in the body. There’s a growing body of evidence that shows they are particularly good for eye health and inhibiting the growth of tumours. I get very excited about phytonutrients and their wonderful effect on the body!
Most of the veggies in this risotto are roasted whilst the risotto is cooking and then laid over the top. This helps to preserve and develop the flavours and nutrients rather than them getting boiled away. It doesn’t take any longer than adding them the traditional way, as both can be done at the same time. The watercress pesto is an added final extra dollop of flavour just to top it all off. It’s eye-catching colourful, deliciously tasty and completely dairy-free.
Red rice can be found in large supermarkets and independent health food shops, so have a look out for it and next time you’re planning risotto for tea, give this version a go – your taste-buds and body will be very happy if you do!
Red rice risotto with roasted rainbow veg (serves 4)
300g red rice rinsed and soaked for 20 minutes or so
6 medium carrots, rinsed and sliced in half horizontally
2 red peppers
5-8 asparagus spears (if in season) trimmed and sliced in half if they’re fat or 1 large courgette sliced lengthways
dash of olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 fat cloves garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
up to 1500ml vegetable stock
100g peas, defrosted
salt and pepper
fresh oregano (optional)
watercress pesto to serve (optional)
Red rice takes a bit longer than arborio rice, so start cooking that before roasting the vegetables. Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of a large pan and sauté the onion for 5 minutes until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and continue to cook. Drain the rice then add to the pan, stirring well to coat with the onion and garlic. Stir in the thyme then pour in half the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Once most the stock has been absorbed, add more to cover and continue cooking. Repeat this until the rice is soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed then add the peas and cook for another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Whilst the rice is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Whilst it is warming up prepare the vegetables. Arrange the carrots and pepper on a large baking tray, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and place in the oven. Add the asparagus once the carrots and pepper start to soften, about 10 minutes before the end. Once soft and caramelised, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a minute or so. Remove any blistered skin from the red pepper and cut it into slices.
If you are using pesto, follow the recipe here, replacing the basil leaves with a bunch of washed and trimmed watercress.
Once the rice is cooked, stir in the fresh oregano (if using) and check the flavour – add more salt and/or pepper as need. Serve the red rice risotto in bowls then layer the roasted vegetables on the top. Finish with a dollop of watercress pesto (if using) and serve.
I often get asked where I get my recipe ideas from. The answer is – all sorts of places; magazines, recipe books and menus are the most obvious sources of inspiration. Seeing something I like the look of but can’t eat is also a great starting point, as this really triggers my imagination and creative juices – these are the dishes that really surprise people. And then sometimes I just wake up in the morning and get hit by the thought “I wonder if……?” Continue reading “Cauliflower and carrot tart with pesto”
Just in case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m all about eating amazingly tasty food that just so happens to be good for the body too. Just as well, as I use the food I eat to keep myself healthy, and keep my multiple sclerosis under control. Continue reading “Lentil and buckwheat bake”