Aubergine, walnut and rocket spaghetti

No matter how much you enjoy cooking, there’s always the times when you just want something quick and easy that doesn’t keep you tied to the kitchen whilst it’s cooking. Particularly on those busy weekdays. Even though we’re still in lockdown and not physically going anywhere, I’ve found my weekday evenings seem to be just as busy with online meetings, webinars or social chats.

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Creamy mushroom pasta

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!

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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”

Purple power

Broccoli is definitely part of the ‘in’ crowd when it comes to superfood veg. Once only served as over-cooked mush (and sadly still is in some establishments), broccoli comes into its own when prepared and served with a little thought and attention. As much as I love those bright green tight florets, and eat them whenever I can, there’s a purple sibling that, in my mind, trumps green every time – the beautiful, delicate and seasonal purple sprouting broccoli (PSB).

Green broccoli by itself is pretty amazing, packed full of healthy nutrients like vitamins A, C and some B vitamins, as well as manganese, iron, various phytonutrients and of course fibre. The phytonutrients in broccoli are amazing at helping to support the body’s detoxification and one in particular helps eliminates the nasty leftovers out of the body. So it’s great ingredient to use for a body spring clean.

So what’s so good about the purple stuff? Simply put, it just is! PSB has all of the benefits of green – and more. A higher amount of nutrients like zinc and iron, more B vitamins and more fibre, as the stems and leaves are eaten as well as the florets. And it’s purple, and purple food is good!

Even with normal broccoli, I always eat as much of the stem as possible, saving the thick stalk to use in soups or stir fries. The stem is packed with fibre and nutrients so is just as important as the florets. And because the stems of PSB are so much thinner, they’re easier to eat. And the leaves of PSB – now they really are a winner as they are packed full of calcium, potassium and vitamin C, so great for your bones and immune system. In fact, PSB just has more antioxidants than it’s green counterpart, but needs care as they are also more readily lost in the cooking process.

It’s rare to find PSB in supermarkets, although I have noticed it a couple of times. I’ve tried to grow my own as it’s one of those veg that is so gorgeous picked and eaten within a short period of time, but the slugs love them too and my crop is woeful to say the least! Veg boxes are your best bet for fresh, good quality PSB.

We had a gorgeous bagful this week in our Riverford veg box and I couldn’t wait to dive in and munch it all up. I find the best way to prepare it to retain as many as the nutrient goodies as possible is to give it a quick wash, trim off the woody end and then slice up the the stalk so it’s thinner, then steam briefly or stir fry quickly. It’s beautiful deep flavour and colour is retained that way, along with the goodness.

I made this simple pasta dish and it was wolfed down – even the teenage boy who suddenly declared he doesn’t like broccoli (!) tucked in with gusto, so it’s confirmed teenage friendly. Keeping the PSB lightly cooked gives texture and flavour. If you can’t get your hands on any PSB, then of course use green – it’s still fabulous, even without the purple power!

Purples sprouting and walnut spaghetti
250g purple sprouting broccoli
1 onion, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper
50g walnuts, lightly toasted
extra virgin olive oil
spaghetti – wholewheat or gluten free
Start cooking your spaghetti as this will takes the longest. Once this is up and bubbling, prepare the PSB. Rinse under a running tap, trim any woody ends then slice the stalks up the centre to make thinner. Place in a steamer and steam for a couple of minutes – do not over cook as you’ll loose the nutrients. Meanwhile, saut√© the onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic and steamed PSB and stir fry on a low heat for a few more minutes – add a little of the steaming water if the pan gets a bit dry so the garlic doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper. Add the PSB mix to the cooked spaghetti, and serve topped with the walnuts and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.