Roasted squash and lentil filo swirl

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

A delicious main course for those special meals filled with delicate seasonal flavours and comes with a satisfying crunch.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
resting time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 4 swirls

Ingredients
  

  • 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

To garnish

  • extra sliced almonds and chopped herbs

Instructions
 

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.
Keyword Christmas, entertaining, OMS friendly, plant based, vegan

 

Okra and potato masala

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

A super tasty vegetable curry that is packed full of healthy fibre and amazing flavours
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 medium portions

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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).
Keyword curry, gut health, no oil, okra, OMS friendly

Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine

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.

He’s not the only one who can’t or won’t tolerate aubergine. Some people find it too bitter (although this is much less of a problem now than in the past as cross-breeding has removed much of the bitterness) whilst others can’t stand the texture, particularly when it’s over-soft and mushy. Then there are those who are sensitive to produce from the night-shade family which includes aubergines. Continue reading “Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine”

Luscious lemon curd

The days leading up to Christmas are getting super busy – one reason why my post for day 14 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar is a bit late. In all this busyness, it’s handy to have tasty jars of things on hand to jazz things up a bit. 

One of those things is lemon curd. Until recently, I hadn’t eaten lemon curd for years. Traditionally made with butter and eggs that doesn’t fit the whole-food plant-based way of eating, it just wasn’t on my radar. Then suddenly out the blue I had a sudden craving for it, so just had to find out how to make it.

Thinking it would be rather complicated, I was delighted to discover that it was actually incredibly simple. As well as dairy-free, it’s oil free and contains a minimal amount of sugar. Plus with all the vitamin C in the lemons and the wonderful anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, you could almost say it is good for you – maybe!

This recipe makes a jam jar full of luscious lemon curd and will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Use it for topping toast, scones or rice cakes or for dolloping on pancakes. Add it to porridge or rice pudding for something different. You could use it for a lemon tart filling or of course lemon meringue pie. And it works fantastically as a filling for cakes instead of buttercream. I’m looking forward to making some lemon curd cupcakes at some point, but maybe after Christmas!

So if you fancy something slightly unChristmasy this Christmas, then give this a go. And don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Luscious lemon curd

Juice and rind of 2 lemons
250ml dairy-free milk of choice
3 1/2 tablespoons corn flour or arrowroot powder
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8th teaspoon ground turmeric

Place all the ingredients into the jug of a blender and whizz for 10 seconds or so to combine well.

Pour into a medium-sized pan and heat gently, stirring constantly. It starts to thicken quite quickly and you don’t want lumps to form. Keep whisking until it’s very thick and sticking to the spoon or whisk. Leave to cool slightly then transfer to a clean jar. Cool completely then keep in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Sweetcorn and courgette fritters

Sweet corn and courgettes are right in season at the moment, and it’s a bumper crop. I love sweetcorn. Ripened during the long sunny (hopefully!) summer days, fresh corn is so sweet and succulent it’s a joy to eat. Sometime it can be hard to buy unprepared cobs in the supermarket, so I like to get my sweetcorn elsewhere – farmers markets or shops, greengrocer or veg box schemes are all good sources of cobs still covered in their husks. That way you get to unwrap them, revealing the vibrant yellow kernels voluptuously packed in tight, clinging to the side of the cob, ready and waiting to be eaten.

Courgettes are prolific this time of the year, especially if you manage to beat the slugs and snails to grown them yourself, or if you get a veg box delivered. Although they tend to be available most of the year, I prefer them at this time as they tend to be less watery and more flavoursome. Not that I used to like them – whether it’s my tastebuds that have changed, or it’s the courgettes, but I used to find them bitter and quite unpleasant. That all changed when I went on honeymoon to Egypt (a few years ago now!). The hotel’s restaurant always had a buffet style service, and courgettes were served in a huge vat, just lightly cooked with nothing added. It wasn’t just the cooking that was light – the courgette skins were a really pale green, almost white, as if they had been bleached by the searing dessert sun. And maybe the sun also altered the flavour, as these had all the courgette taste, but none of the bitterness. Suddenly I was a courgette fan.

Which is a good thing, as they are packed full of super nutritious goodies like vitamin C and potassium as well as fibre, and of course lots of water. They are really useful veg to have around as they can be used in a whole range of dishes, either as a base ingredient or the main star.

But no matter how much I love both sweetcorn and courgettes, when there’s a lot of them about at the same time, it can be a challenge to find new ideas to use them. So to help out, I’m going to do a few extra posts over the next few days with some ideas for you to try.

The first are these gorgeous sweetcorn and courgette fritters. Now fritters are not usually on the menu at home as traditionally they contain milk, eggs and are fried in loads of butter or oil. But after a little playing around, this recipe still deserves the title of fritter even though it’s dairy free, gluten free, plant based and baked so oil free too. The good news is that they taste amazing, and are gulped down in a flash at home – phew! Great for a light lunch served with a zingy dip or served up with different vegetables or salads to make a more substantial main meal.

To make these fritters beautifully caramelised without frying, I use a silicon baking mat instead of an oiled baking tin or pan frying. Whole healthy fats are really good for us, but refined oils are not as their altered molecular structure can be harmful to our bodies, and cooking oil at high temperatures affects that structure even more. The silicon baking sheets cook everything really well and still gives a gorgeously browned outside, plus nothing sticks – very clever! It’s an essential item in my kitchen cupboard now and would highly recommend them.

So if you fancy ‘frittering’ away a little time, give these a go and see what you think. There are loads of flavour combinations you could use – let me know if you try something new.

Baked sweetcorn and courgette fritters (makes 12)

1 large cob of corn, cooked
1 medium courgette, grated
3-4 spring onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons chickpea (gram/besan) flour
1 tablespoon polenta
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free if needed)
90mls dairy free milk
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Place a silicon baking mat onto a large cookie tray. Place the grated courgette into a sieve and press out some of the fluid (not too much as it will contribute towards the total fluid content). Place the squeezed courgette, sweetcorn, spring onion, garlic and chilli into a bowl, mix well and put to one side. In another bowl, mix the gram flour, polenta, seasoning, baking powder and ground flaxseed together. Pour in the dairy free milk and whisk together to form a batter. Leave for a few minutes to allow the flaxseed to swell and absorb some of the liquid.

Tip the veggie mix into the batter and mix well until everything is combined and holding together well on a spoon (i.e. not too runny). If your mix is a bit thick, add some more dairy free milk, if it’s too runny, add a little more chickpea flour. Let the mix sit for a minute or two.

Dollop a heaped spoonful of mix onto the prepared baking tray and spread out a little with the back of the spoon. Repeat until the mix is used up. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or so until the top has set. Flip the fritter over and cook for another 10 minutes until the base is browned. Serve with freshly made chunky cucumber guacamole (link here soon).

Beautiful broad beans with olive tapenade

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.