Millet and vegetable bake

With the weather so wild and windy at the moment, it’s great to have some tasty comfort foods to help stay warm and cosy. This delicious bake is easy to make, is totally satisfying as well as packed full with healthful nutrients including a good dose of plant-based protein.

You may think that millet is just for bird seed, but you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s an ancient grain (although officially it’s a seed) that has been used as a key staple throughout the world for thousands of years. It was widely used in Europe during the Middle Ages but fell out of fashion, replaced by newer, cultivated grains.

It has many guises – in India its ‘ragi’ and in Africa ‘teff’. You can find it as grains or ground into flour. If you follow a gluten free diet, you may well already be cooking with teff flour (and if you haven’t tried it, do. It’s delicious!). When we were living in India, ragi porridge and pancakes were common.

So why do I get excited about millet? Apart from the fact I’m a bit of a nerd about these things, it’s because:

  • it’s packed with amazing nutrients plus a shed load of gut loving fibre
  • it tastes delightful, which is of course most important!
  • the grains have a light but firm texture so feel good in the mouth
  • it’s great to cook with something different for a change.

Apart from plant protein and fibre, millet is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in particular as well as some of the B vitamins and choline (something the anti-plant eaters say is lacking in a plant-based diet….). Millet also contains quercitin, a powerful phytonutrient that has anti-oxidant properties plus helps support the body right at cellular level. Quercitin is often taken as supplement by people with chronic health problems. And indeed it can help deal with a crisis but once the body is back in balance, it’s always better to have it in food (again, in my humble opinion).

Millet doesn’t take long to cook; there’s no soaking or long boiling times required. I like to lightly toast millet grains before popping them in boiling water or stock. It only takes a couple more minutes and enhances the lovely nutty flavour. But you can by-pass this if you’re in a hurry.

The amount of fluid you need depends on what you are planning on doing with it. For a porridge or pudding, extra fluid is good so it’s soft and sticky. For a savoury dish like the recipe below you want to retain some texture, so a little less fluid is good. Letting it steam for a while after all the fluid has been absorbed also helps to fluff up the grains, but again is not vital if you are in a hurry.

As a general rule, use a ratio of 1:3 – 1 measurement of millet to 3 measurements of fluid. If you use cups then this is easy! If not, then try grabbing a small tea cup or bowl and measuring that way. The amounts in the recipe below is just under 1:3 as the grains needs to be cooked but not soggy before going into the oven to be baked.

One of the objections I hear from people is whole-food plant-based eating requires spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Which is true – it can do. But there are recipes which don’t need you to be standing over a cooker all of the time – this is one of them. It may look like there’s a lot to do, but everything can be done at the same time – roast the veg whilst the millet cooks and the sauce is prepared. Then bake it in the oven and the job is done.

What veg you add to this dish is entirely up to you. This recipe is actually a great way of using up bits and bobs left over in the bottom of the veg drawer, reducing food waste and your shopping bills. In fact that’s another thing to love about millet – it’s super cheap (currently you can get it for £1.29 for 500g in Grape Tree), helping to make a plant-based diet affordable. I’ve used Brussel sprouts and green beans in this version, but I’ve added anything from broccoli to mushrooms to radishes. It really is so adaptable.

If you are nut free, use a plant-based cream like oat or soya instead of making the cashew nut cream. And if you have to avoid nutritional yeast, add a little more garlic powder and/or mustard and adjust the seasoning to how you like it.

The bake is filling and can sustain the hungriest of appetites. I usually serve it with some extra green veggies on the side, just to push up the daily veg count 😉

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on.

Millet and vegetable bake

A tasty nutrient packed and adaptable main meal that won't dent the food budget.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 4 portions

Equipment

  • 1 High speed blender like a nutri-bullet
  • 1 large baking dish

Ingredients
  

For the millet

  • 150 g millet grain
  • 450 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 large bay leaf

For the veggies

  • 1 medium red or white onion sliced
  • 200 g Brussel sprouts rough outer leaves trimmed
  • 150 g green beans cut into 2 cms pieces OR
  • 1 medium head of broccol trimmed and cut into florets

For the sauce

  • 75 grams cashew nuts soaked in hot water for at least 2 hours
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mixed herbs
  • salt and pepper to taste

To top

  • 3 tbsp sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Instructions
 

For the veggies

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC
  • Add the sliced onion, trimmed Brussel sprouts and trimmed beans or broccoli to the baking dish. Drizzle a little water or olive oil over the top and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the veg and stir a couple of times.

For the millet

  • If you are toasting the millet, pop it into a large non-stick frying pan and toast on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, giving it a good shake every now and then. When you smell nutty aromas, turn off the heat. Do not let it burn!
  • Whilst the millet is toasting, pour the vegetable stock into a pan along with the bay leaf and bring to the boil.
  • Carefully pour the millet into the vegetable stock (it can really bubble up so beware), pop on the lid and reduce the heat. Leave it to simmer for 10 minutes then check the pan - most of the stock will have been absorbed. Once it's all gone, turn off the heat and leave it to steam with the lid on for a couple of minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaf from the millet.

For the sauce

  • Drain the cashew nuts into a sieve and rinse. Pop the nuts into a blender jug and cover with water - you want about 1 cm above the nuts. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  • If the cream is super thick, add more water - you want a single cream pouring consistency. Taste the cream and add more flavours if desired. Season well.

Make the bake

  • Once the veggies are just soft and lightly roasted and the millet is cooked, remove the veg from the oven. Carefully tip them into the millet pan. Pour over the cashew cream and mix well to coat everything. If it still feels a little dry, add a little extra water but don't overdo it!
  • Spoon the mix back into the oven proof dish, sprinkle the seeds over the top and pop the dish back into the oven.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Serve straight away piping hot.
Keyword easy vegan, OMS friendly, plant based, plant protein

 

Parsnip and cauliflower soup

I love parsnip soup. And I love cauliflower soup. So it only seemed like a natural progression to try the two together. And it was definitely worth doing!

When cooked, parsnips are naturally ‘creamy’ – and so is cauliflower. When cooked and blended together, it creates a lovely rich and unctuous texture that is wonderfully comforting, perfect for those grey January days.

I’ve used both a curry powder mix that contains turmeric as well as a little additional turmeric. This is to ensure that as well as super tasty, this soup also gives the immune system a bit of a helping hand.

Turmeric is a beautifully golden yellow spice (or root rather) that contains some powerful medicinal compounds that have been well researched for their positive effects on both the body and the brain. The main compound studied is curcumin, although there are many more within turmeric that all work together as a team, so as always, trust nature and consume turmeric as a whole rather than an individual compound.

To maximise absorption of these helpful compounds, it’s best to consume alongside some black pepper (for the compound piperine that massively aids absorption) and a little fat. As you know, all my food is cooked without oil, but I have included some almond milk plus I like to garnish my soup with a drizzle of cold-pressed flaxseed oil. This provides some healthy omega 3 fatty acids and helps absorption of the turmeric compounds.

This soup keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days plus it freezes well, so you can make a big batch and have portions on hand when you need a tasty lunch that will hug you from the inside out! Enjoy.

Parsnip and cauliflower soup

A deliciously thick and warming soup perfect for chilly winter days.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Soup
Servings 4 big portions

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 4 medium parsnips peeled and diced
  • 1/2 medium cauliflower chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons medium curry powder
  • 700 ml vegetable stock
  • 100 ml almond milk or dairy-free milk of choice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • drizzle cold pressed flaxseed oil optional

Instructions
 

  • Place a medium-sized pan on a medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften.
  • Tip the parsnips into the pan and sauté for 3 minutes, then add the cauliflower and garlic along with a little extra water to stop it sticking to the base of the pan. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the ground turmeric and curry powder and stir in to coat the veggies. Pour over the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  • Pop on the saucepan lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the veggies are soft.
  • Turn off the heat and add the almond or dairy-free milk of choice. Using a stick blender, blend to smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Gently reheat if necessary then serve piping hot with a little extra black pepper and glug of flaxseed oil
Keyword cauliflower, gluten free, healthy soup, OMS friendly, parsnip, plant based

Maximising the opportunity to eat well

“We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly” says designer and author Anna Thomas. And it’s so true – food is a basic essential of life. But there’s so much food available (to most of us) alongside so many opinions on what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ that deciding what to eat has become complex and confusing. Continue reading “Maximising the opportunity to eat well”

Making a difference

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a challenging year to date. There is so much going on in the world that it can seem so bleak. And overwhelming. There has been much sadness and loss. But if you can look past that, there’s some positives too, in particular in relation to the environment.

Although some will still deny it, the climate is in crisis. But when humans went into lockdown, the natural world was gifted a much needed break. We used less resources, created less pollution and just had less of an impact on the environment. Animals roamed more freely, skies cleared and demand for oil dropped so much the price crashed.

But did this really make any difference? Well, apparently it did.

Have you heard of Earth Overshoot Day? It’s the day in the year when the human demand for natural resources and services exceeds what the earth can regenerate in a that year. Last year it was 29th July, which means we spent 5 months of the year taking more out of the environment than it could recover. That’s a shocking figure! In 2018 it was 1st August, 2017 – 2nd August. So as you can see, it was gradually getting worse each year.

This year, however, Earth Overshoot Day was 22nd August – that’s a big improvement, but still leaves 4 1/2 months of excess resource usage (especially now we’re out and about more!). So that’ still a big problem, but by the date moving so significantly (even though it wasn’t by design!) it shows that improvements are possible. If you want to find out how this was calculated, you can read about it here. Although I don’t think anybody will say that living with pandemic restrictions and related economic challenges is the best way to move forward!

Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. One of the biggies is also connected to how we can improve our health and resilience – eat a plant-based diet. Because plants agriculture uses less land and natural resources and produce less emissions than animal, changing to eating a plant-based diet has a direct impact on the environment. For the better. Which might not make much difference when one or two people change (although it still does) but when hundreds and thousands do, it can make a huge difference.

Which is why the groundswell in people looking to make positive changes to their diet is so exciting. It’s the slither of light in a otherwise dark and overwhelming problem. Every food choice can make a difference if we want it to. Even down to what milk you put in your coffee.

August 22nd was also World Plant Milk Day (an odd coincidence). The rise in demand for plant-based milks has led to a wave of disinformation questioning the environmental impact of plant milks. And of course there is some. But compared to dairy milk, it’s much less, especially when you look at the effect of huge, intensively farmed dairy herds that are increasingly found throughout the world. Have a look at this table to see the environmental impact of the most popular milks (including cow).

Seeing information like this shows the stark reality of our choices. And how those choices can make such a positive – and negative – impact. Certainly one of the things I love about plant-based eating (and there are many!) is that I know my choices are having a better impact on the world around me.

When I first changed to a plant-based diet, the information out there was limited. Now it’s everywhere, which is awesome as it makes it much easier, and more acceptable, to change. Plant-based food, ingredients and recipes are readily available – it really is the best time to eat more plants, especially as we are still mid-pandemic. Plant-baed eating boosts immunity and helps deal with chronic health issues, both big topics at the moment as well.

If you are looking to shift to plant-based eating but are still not sure where to start, or you have been trying but just can’t get inspired, then have a look at this amazing plant-based diet info stack – 22 incredible resources (courses, books, cooking classes, apps) that will definitely help you head in the right direction. It’s all online, so no physical resources used, and only $49 (approx £38). But it’s only available for another 48 hours though.*** I don’t normally promote things like this, but I can assure you it’s an amazing offer – and you’ll find a version of my course in there too! It’s a feel good offer for challenging times.

I hope in a few years time we can look back at 2020 and see it as a positive turning point, rather than the havoc and chaos we have today. I really do believe we can all make a difference in many ways but particularly by eating amazingly tasty whole plant foods. We have nothing to lose!

*** the plant-based diet info stack is available until 04.59 on 26th August – so grab it now!

 

 

Refreshing melon, mint and lime salad

When I think of August, it brings to mind long, hot, sunny days (hopefully!), chilled glasses of Pimms and gorgeously ripe melons. The memories of sunny days and melon go back to my childhood (not so much the Pimms 🙂 ) when a slice of sweet melon was a delicious treat. Then as a teenager we holidayed in the Algarve and ate deliciously sweet, fragrant melon for breakfast every day. Wonderful memories. Continue reading “Refreshing melon, mint and lime salad”

Courgette compendium

One of the outcomes of lockdown for us is we have had time to create new raised beds to start growing our own veggies. This is actually the third time we’ve done this (we kept moving!) and these ones are by far the best. For a start, we have much more space (oh boy do we have space!) rather than squeezing them into a small corner of a small garden as before. That’s not to say that growing veggies in a small space is not worth it. It definitely is. We also spent more time researching and learning how to grow in tandem with nature. Less impact, more output.

This end bed isn’t finished yet – a good place to deposit grass cuttings.

Not that I can really take much credit for our lovely new beds! My hubby spent more time and energy researching and building them. After much debate he chose to use a technique called hugelkultur. A centuries old technique from Germany and Easter Europe, it uses garden debris as the source of nutrients needed for new plants to grow. It’s basically a big compost heap!

We wanted to build up a structure to our beds, so we used wood to create an outline and dug down a little into the soil, taking off the grass layer and a little more. This gave a large area that needed filling – fortunately we have a lot of garden debris to use! A few logs on the base were covered with more tree cuttings, then grass cuttings, stuff from the compost bins, more grass, some sand, then the top grass layer we cut out, the soil dug out and finally finished with some bought organic compost (as we wanted to use them now). We buried so much! Covered up, the debris will break down, releasing nutrients into the soil providing nourishment for our fresh produce. Well that was the plan – we were not too sure how well it would work year one…..

Beans and squash going rampant!

I am pleased to say, so far so good! The squash in particular are going crazy and the beans are prolific. And the courgettes that were planted rather late are just beginning to flourish. So much so, I see a glut coming in a few weeks time!

Courgettes are funny vegetables. I love them now, but used to hate them as a kid. Their high water content can make them tricky to cook. In soups and stews they have the potential to make them too watery, fritters and veggie cakes too wet and steamed they can go from firm to a horrid mush in the blink of an eye. But on a good day, with the right treatment, they are a delight.

Nutrition wise, courgettes are excellent sources of vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrients like betacarotene, zeaxanthin and lutein. You’ll also find a reasonable does of B vitamins, manganese and vitamin K (which is in the news at the moment relating to the Covid 19 virus). Vitamin C and phytonutrients play an antioxidant role in the body, quashing damaging free radicals. Betacarotene, zeaxanthin and lutein all support eye health which is good to know if you are at risk of macular degeneration or other age-related eye conditions. Potassium is important for good blood pressure control and is a key player in cell health. It’s easily lost once food is processed, so eating courgettes raw or lightly cooked can really support your health. If you’re interested in how to manage your blood pressure or health issues with food, we discuss this in much more detail in my online course.

If you are heading into a glut of courgettes – lucky you! There’s so much you can make with them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make summer soups. This courgette and cumin soup is particularly tasty
  • Add them to pasta sauces, veggie chillis, stir fries, fajitas or risotto. This red rice risotto works well with courgettes.
  • Stuff them! One of the recipes on my Eat Well Live Well course is a gorgeous aduki bean stuffed courgette boat (another good reason to take the course 😉 )
  • It’s getting a bit retro now, but use them to make courgetti. Here’s a BBC Food article about what to do.
  • If you squeeze out excess water, courgettes make tasty fritters and veggie cakes.
  • sweet courgette loaf

    Make cake! Oh yes, courgettes provide moisture and nutrients to cake – it’s a great way to get courgette haters on board! Try this easy courgette loaf cake.

I’ll be experimenting with more recipes over the next few months by the looks of it, so no doubt you’ll see more ideas on the blog soon as we work our way through them. What are your favourite courgette recipes? I’d love to know.

As for our veg garden, it has a lot of room for development. I can see many more beds being built over the next couple of years as we learn more about growing our own food in a way that supports and sustains our local ecosystem. We’re not aiming for self-sufficiency, but being plant-based we certainly hope to grow more than we buy. Let’s see what happens!