Banana bread loaf

I’m so happy to say I’ve been getting some wonderful feedback from people who have read my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie. As well as gaining some useful insight from the first half (which covers loads of information about health, food and plant-based eating), they’re loving the recipes.

It seems that my simple banana bread recipe is a particular favourite. I’m not surprised as it’s really easy and super yummy. It’s also the one that gets raved about whenever I make it for an event or shared lunch. Continue reading “Banana bread loaf”

Red onion gravy

I love gravy! To me it’s a key part of any roast dinner, but particularly Christmas dinner. I think it’s so key that I’m giving you two versions as part of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar (spoilers!). For day 16, I bring you a delicious red onion version.

If you’ve not made gravy from scratch before, particularly a meat-free version, you’ll be glad to know it’s not difficult. It does tastes different from shop-bought or instant versions (which often contain added extras you may want to avoid like gluten or yeast), and takes a little time. But you’ll be glad to know it is not too labour intensive and not only do you know what’s in it, it tastes gorgeous too!

Red onion is the key ingredient. Giving a slightly sweeter flavour than white, it gives a rich, caramelised flavour when cooked down. That’s the key to the depth of flavour which is why it’s worth giving it a little time to brew.

Red onions also have some extra nutritional properties that can benefit your health; the red pigment contains flavonoids, phytonutrients that can help reduce inflammation and are particularly good for people with allergies and asthma, a bonus for the sensitive eater. Eating red onion raw provides the best amounts, but if you cook slowly on a low heat like this gravy, much of the beneficial properties remain. Horray!

I make this plant-based gravy throughout the year, but for Christmas I’ve added a little extra sweetness by including some of my homemade rosemary jelly. Shop-bought recurrent jelly or something similar works just as well.

So if you need a gravy that’s tasty but safe to eat, then give this a go. But if you’re not an onion lover, don’t fret – there’s another option to come!

Red onion gravy

  • 2 red onions chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • Sprig of rosemary or thyme
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1-2 tablespoons rosemary or redcurrant jelly
  • salt and pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons of stock in the bottom of a large pan. Add the onions, bay leaf and a pinch of salt and sauté on a low heat until soft and caramelised. Stir from time to time to make sure they don’t burn. Add a little extra stock if needed and make sure you scrape up any caramelised bit from the bottom of the pan.  Once they are super soft, turn off the heat, pour in 250ml of stock then leave to cool. Pop the mix into a blender and blend until smooth – remember to remove the bay leaf beforehand.

Pour the onion mix into a clean saucepan. Mix the cornflour with a little of the remaining stock. Pour the rest of the stock into the pan with the tamari, rosemary jelly, salt and pepper. Heat gently then once simmering, add the cornflour mix and stir continuously as it thickens and becomes glossy.

Taste and add more seasoning or jelly as needed. Serve piping hot, but remember to remove any whole herbs before hand. 

Roasted maple parsnip salad

Parsnips are an essential part of our family Christmas dinner. They’re sweet and creamy and just utterly delicious simply boiled or roasted. But sometimes you might want something a little more fancy. So for day 13 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, here’s a warm roasted parsnip salad for you to try out.

Even though parsnips have this gentle natural sweetness, adding maple syrup intensifies the flavour even more. Combine that with the sulphur sharp red onion and rich savoury walnuts and you have a cacophony of textures and flavours that will delight your tastebuds.

Parsnips are particularly delicious at this time of year as the temperatures outside start to plummet. The frost converts some of the starches to natural sugars, making them sweeter and more appealing to the palate. And even though they are a white vegetable, these hardy roots are packed full of healthy fibre and provide a surprising amount of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium and folate. Add that with the other ingredients and you have a warm rainbow salad that is good for your body and your tastebuds.

So if you’re looking for something slightly different, why not give this a go? If you do, remember to let me know how you get on.

Roasted maple parsnip salad (serves 6)

  • 500g parsnips peeled and cut into long chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 100g walnuts
  • 1 bag mixed salad leaves of choice
  • a couple of handfuls fresh parsley
  • vegan parmesan or flaxseed oil (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Place the walnuts onto a small baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes until they release an aroma. Remove and leave to cool.

Place the parsnips in a bowl with the olive oil and maple syrup. Season with the salt. Tip out onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 25 minutes, turning a couple of times, until soft and lightly roasted.

In the meantime, thinly slice the red onion and chop the parsley. Scatter the salad leaves over the bottom of a serving dish. Once the parsnips are ready, transfer to the serving dish, spreading them out equally over the salad leaves. Sprinkle the red onion, parsley and walnuts over the top. Add vegan parmesan or flaxseed oil if desired and serve immediately.

Christmas canapés

If you’re hosting drinks or having a party this Christmas period, you may be wondering what to have for nibbles. There’s lots of different snacks to buy, but when you have food sensitivities or are following a whole-food plant-based diet this can be a real minefield due to the additives and extra ingredients you want or need to avoid. This is particularly pertinent if you are dairy or gluten free, as either or both of these pop up everywhere in snack food.

So for day 11 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, here are 9 recipes already here on the blog that might just help you out.  

 

 

Savoury Welsh cakes http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/plant-based-welsh-cakes-for-st-davids-day/ Not just for St David’s day after all! Make up the dough, then use a smaller cookie cutter to create bite-sized Welsh cakes. Top with a little dairy-free boursin (below)  and a sprinkle of chives to jazz them up, and look pretty too. 

Baba ganoush http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/the-mighty-aubergine/ I love rich, smoky baba ganoush. This goes really well with the sesame coated chickpea dippers featured on day 9 

Creamy mashed beans http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/lunchtime-creamy-mashed-beans/ Lunchbox filling gone posh! Grab some super crispy lettuce leaves and fill with a couple of spoonfuls of the creamy mashed beans. Top with finely chopped parsley and you have an interesting canapé in your hand.

Dairy-free ‘boursin’http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/gorgeous-dairy-free-boursin/ Not exactly like the real thing, but a very tasty creamy dip with cheese-like properties. Make it super thick and use it to top Welsh cakes or fill trimmed celery sticks. 

Lentil and walnut patéhttp://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/amazingly-tasty-lentil-and-walnut-pate/ Grab some mini oatcakes or rice cakes and top with this delicious savoury paté. Garnish with some chives to make them look pretty.

Beetroot hummushttp://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/the-brightest-hummus-ever/ Why serve normal plain hummus when you can make it pink? 

Pumpkin diphttp://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/pumpkin-licious-dip/ If hummus is too mainstream, try this pumpkin dip instead. Infused with warming spices, it’s so delicious you might not want to share it with your guests!

Baked onion bhajis. http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/onion-bhajis-a-super-food/ Make mini bhajis and serve with mango chutney or a dairy-free yoghurt dip on the side. Not only do they taste delicious, there’s no greasy fingers afterwards as they’re baked not fried.

Farinata. http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/farinata-or-frittata/ I always make this when I’m catering for a buffet, partly because it’s quick and easy, but you can use whatever mix of flavours you want. Leek and pea work well, as does red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes. Use a larger rectangle tin so it’s thinner, then cut into bite-sized pieces when cold. 

 

 

Chickpea dippers

Christmas is a time for buffet lunches and snacking, or at least that’s what seems to happen. My family seem to get through a lot of breadsticks at this time of year. But for sensitive eaters, that may not be such a good thing. Day 9 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent calendar is a great alternative to bread sticks, perfect for dipping in hummus, flavoursome dips or just nibbling by themselves.

Rather oddly, breadsticks are one of the things I really miss. Once I discovered my sensitivity to yeast, anything bread-related was out the question. Not only that, but many contain some form of dairy so the were doubly banned.

Crudities are obviously the healthiest thing to dip – fresh, crunchy veggies that add flavour and extra nutrients, but sometimes you just want something a little more firm, yet stodgy. These chickpea dippers hit the spot.

Chickpea flour is one of those wonder ingredients that makes life eating a plant-based diet so much easier. It’s also gluten-free, so perfect if you have a gluten intolerance. Apart from being packed full of plant-based protein, fibre and a whole host of nutrients, it has a useful stickiness when combined with water. In this case, it helps to create a soft dough with very little effort. But be warned – add too much and it ends up a sticky nightmare and you have to start again. So approach with great care.

Once baked, these dippers have a lovely savoury flavour; the sesame seeds on the top add an extra level of flavour. If you are sensitive to sesame, you don’t have to miss out. Use a neutral nut butter like cashew or even some olive oil. 

This recipe makes a modest 14-16 dippers. If you are catering for larger numbers, then just double or even quadruple the amounts and bake in batches. And add extra herbs and spices if you want to mix the flavour up.

I hope you give these a go. They are rather delicious and seriously moreish. Let me know how you get on.

Chickpea dippers (makes 14-16)

  • 150g chickpea/gram flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander/parsley (optional)
  • 4-5 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  •  

Sift the chickpea flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the salt. Stir together well to combine. Add the tahini and rub in with your finger tips to create a breadcrumb-like texture. Add the fresh finely chopped herbs if you are using.

Add 4 tablespoons of water. Stir in with a spoon at first, then use you hands as it starts to come together to form a stiff dough.Knead for a couple of minutes to makes sure everything is well combined and coming together. If it’s too dry, add a little more water but be very careful. This dough goes from being too dry to too wet very quickly! Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Place a silicon mat or piece of baking paper on the worktop. Sprinkle a little chickpea flour on it, then place the dough in the middle. Sprinkle some more flour on the top, then roll out to a rectangle approx 1 cm thick. 

Transfer the dough to a non-stick baking sheet by turning the silicon mat over the sheet and carefully peeling the mat away. Lightly dampen the dough surface with water and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top. Mark out 14-16 sticks with a knife then bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until firm and golden. 

Remove from the oven, transfer to a cooking rack and leave to cool completely. Finally, carefully cut the chickpea dippers out following the marked lines and trim the edges. Keep in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

Raw gingerbread balls

Gingerbread is synonymous with Christmas, but sometimes it’s good to have something a bit different to the norm. So for day 7 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent calendar, I bring you raw gingerbread balls.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a bit partial to a tasty energy ball. I’ve posted a few different ones over the years including yummy carrot cake balls and last years raw Christmas cake balls. 

Energy balls are great, especially if you have a sweet tooth as they hit the spot with sweetness but are free from shedloads of refined sugar. That’s not to say they’re sugar free, far from it! But the sugar is still bound up with the fibre in the whole foods plus there’s lots of extra fibre in the oats. This means the sugar is released slowly so it doesn’t give you a sugar rush, followed by a sugar low. This is much less stressful for your body and suitable for everyone; if you’re gluten-free, then gluten-free oats work really well too.

I always see energy balls as a wonderful benefit of eating a whole-food plant-based diet. The flavours are intense and they’re just so enjoyable. But I know some people find them too much of a faff, or haven’t got the right equipment to make them. If that’s you, then let me introduce you to Charlotte of Frog Hollow Catering. 

I met Charlotte a few years ago through The Mumpreneurs Networking Club (MNC) and she then came along to my Eat Well Live Course. As with many trained chef, she had previously thought that rich, animal-based food was the best way of eating, until she had serious health problems. She discovered the benefits of eating whole, plant food and started to use her skills in a different way. She now has a fabulous business making energy bites and delicious raw cakes. And I mean delicious! 

Charlotte has a range of products you can check out on her website here, but if you want something super special for Christmas, she makes these gorgeous raw chocolate truffles that are dairy-free, vegan and contain no refined sugar, just lots of fabulous nutrients and deliciousness. Last order date before Christmas is 18th December, so don’t delay if you want some. Btw, I’m not on commission here, I just love what Charlotte does!

Right, back to the gingerbread balls. Ginger is an amazing ingredient to include in your cooking, particularly at this time of year with all the colds and viruses going around. It contains an array of phytonutrient compounds that help with all sorts of things including nausea and pain. It can also help support the immune system and reduce inflammation. 

Ginger can be a bit perky on the flavour side of things though; I certainly find it more fiery than other members of my family. One of the benefits of making your own gingerbread balls is that you can get the flavour to your own liking. I’ve set it at a moderate level, but if you prefer more of a ginger hit then feel free to increase the amount of ground ginger.

These balls do contain almonds; if you have to eat nut-free, replace them with sunflower seeds. The flavour will be slightly different, but still works really well. And don’t forget that if you are strictly gluten-free, please use gluten-free oats. 

I’ve coated some of these with sesame seeds; they’re not essential but add even more nutrients and make them slightly less sticky to pick up. Feel free to omit if you so desire.

These are also great fun to make with the kids as they can get their hands in and fully sticky. If you give them a go, let me know how you get on!

Raw gingerbread balls (makes 18 )  

  •  75g dates, stone removed 
  • 50g oats (gluten-free if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 50g raisins
  • 100g almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)                                                   

Soak the dates in hot water for 10 minutes if they are very dry, then drain, retaining the water. Place all the ingredients apart from the sesame seeds into a food processor and blend until combined and sticky. Add a little soaking water if it’s too dry to bind.

Take a heaped teaspoonful of the mix out and roll it into a ball in the palm of your hand. Roll in sesame seeds if using. Repeat the process until all the mix is used up.

These balls will keep in an air-tight container for up to 7 days, or can be frozen. 

 

Roasted squash, red onion and Brussel sprouts

It’s Day 2 of the Sensitive Foodie Advent calendar. Today I have a simple vegetable dish that can be eaten hot as a side or cold as a salad, useful if you are going to a pot-luck and need to take a dish.

Butternut squash are now readily available all year round. Their thin skins means they soften easily when roasted so you don’t need to spend ages peeling or trying not to cut your fingers off. Lots of the beneficial nutrients are held just under the skin too, so it’s a double bonus.

Many people are still not keen on sprouts, maybe haunted with memories of over-cooked mush served up by eagle-eyed grandparents who insisted they were eaten with no exceptions. But sprouts can be delicious, and roasting in particular brings out their natural sweet flavour. It’s also hard to over-cook them this way too, so no more risk of mush.

The balsamic adds some tartness to the sweet caramelised veg. If you cannot tolerate vinegar, make a simple lemon and olive oil dressing instead. It will still taste delicious.

This simple dish is a cacophony of rainbow phytonutrients that your body will love. All will help keep your cells working well and help support your immune system at this time of year when there’s a multitude of bugs vying to spoil your festive season. So add this to a meal time soon, and don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Roasted squash, red onion and Brussel sprouts (serves 4-6)
1 medium butternut squash
1 red onion
400g Brussel sprouts
Olive oil
salt and pepper
For the dressing:
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Wash the skin of the squash and trim any rough edges but do not peel. Cut in half, deseed then cut into 2cm thick slices. Wash and trim the sprouts. Peel the onion and cut into thick slices. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, season with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes until the veggies are lightly caramelised and soft to the touch. Remove from the oven.

Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small jar and pour over the veg. Either serve warm, or leave to cool and serve as a salad.