Keeping it simple

There’s no getting away from it, food has got super complicated! Every day I come across a new article or piece of research that claims a specific nutrient is the new cure for a disease or chronic health problem. Today’s one covered how vitamin C and E, but not other nutrients, could prevent Parkinson’s Disease. How much of these and why, they weren’t sure. And of course it concluded that more research is needed! Continue reading “Keeping it simple”

Simnel cake

Spring has finally arrived in all her glory; it seems to have been a very long winter this year! Gorgeous Spring blossom and buds are everywhere, like this gorgeous magnolia coming into bloom near my house.

As it’s only a few days now until Easter, baking is at the forefront of my mind. Even though the Easter holidays are going to be much quieter than normal this year, there’s still something lovely about a toasted hot cross bun (did you see my sourdough hot cross bun recipe?) or a slice of cake – like this Simnel cake.

Simnel cake has been made at this time of year since Medieval times. Originally it was just for Mother’s Day, but then became associated with Easter. If you’re not too sure what Simnel cake is, it’s a light fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and/or on top, decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent the disciples (Judas being the twelfth one who’s missing). To finish it off, the marzipan can be lightly browned using a blow torch or under the grill – if you dare!

Apart from the fruit element, there’s not that much that’s traditional about my version of Simnel cake! It’s egg free, dairy free and works well with gluten free flour. It’s low in sugar and refined oil (and you can miss it out completely if you like). And the marzipan is vegan too. The only thing I can’t make it is nut free. Although you could just make the fruit cake and forget about the marzipan. In fact, if you just want a tasty, plain fruit cake then do just that. It’s lovely!

This recipe includes glacé cherries. I’m always torn by these as they do contain a lot of sugar plus they bring back memories of my childhood of some horrid tasting ones. You can substitute more dried fruit for the cherries if you prefer. One top tip is to rinse the glacé cherries under a running tap to wash off some of the sugar syrup before using them – this helps to stop them dropping to the bottom of the cake as well as reducing the sugar content.

As you can see, I’ve not gone in for traditional decoration (no surprise there!). The mini eggs on top come from a company called Doisy and Dam who make chocolate products without animal ingredients or highly processed ingredients. Sadly they still contain lots of saturated fat from the cocoa butter so are not suitable for anyone follow a very low fat diet like Overcoming MS, but if you’re not, then check them out as apparently they’re a bit good.

If you enjoy fruit cake, then you will love this Simnel cake. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on. Wishing you a very Happy Easter!

Simnel Cake

A vegan and gluten free version of this traditional Easter cake. Miss off the marzipan and make a delightful light fruit cake.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Cake
Servings 12 slices

Equipment

  • 18 cm loose-bottomed cake tin

Ingredients
  

  • 1 portion vegan marzipan see link below
  • 270 grams self raising flour wholemeal or gluten free
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder gluten free if needed
  • 1 medium unwaxed lemon grated rind and juice
  • pinch salt
  • 400 grams dried mixed fruit
  • 150 grams glacé cherries rinsed and chopped
  • 250 ml soya milk
  • 50 grams coconut sugar
  • 60 ml olive oil or extra soya milk if oil free

Instructions
 

  • Line a 18cm loose-bottomed cake on the bottom and sides with a double layer of non-stick baking paper (this helps to minimise the risk of the edges getting over-cooked)
  • Make the marzipan as per the recipe in the link below and leave to firm up for 10 minutes.
  • Whilst the marzipan is firming up, weigh out the flour, baking powder, lemon rind and salt into a large bowl. Stir well to combine. Add the dried fruit (not the cherries) and stir again.
  • In another bowl or large jug, measure out the soya milk and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Let it curdle for a couple of minutes then add the coconut sugar, olive oil and chopped glacé cherries.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC
  • Cut the marzipan in half. Place one half onto a silicon mat or sheet of non-stick baking paper. If it's really sticky, add an extra sprinkle or two of ground almonds and roll it out to a circle roughly the same diameter as the cake tin. Put to one side.
  • Pour the wet cake ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly and quickly to combine. Make sure you've scrapped up all the flour from the bottom of the bowl.
  • Spoon half the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin and spread it out. Carefully pick up the rolled out marzipan on the silicon mat or baking paper, turn it over above the tin and carefully peel it off to cover the cake mix. Don't worry if it breaks a bit as it won't get seen!
  • Spoon the remaining half of the mix over the top of the marzipan layer and spread it out to fill the tin. Tap the tin on the work top a couple of times then transfer it to the oven.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes. Check to see if the cake it baked by piercing it with a skewer - if it comes out clean it's done. If not, return to the oven for a couple of minutes and check again. Be careful not to over cook - the cake continues to firm up once out of the oven.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  • Finish decorating the cake once it is completely cold. Roll out the remaining marzipan and place over the top of the cake. If you're making marzipan balls, you'll need extra (see note below) or decorate with mini eggs or chicks as you desire.

Notes

Vegan marzipan recipe can be found here
If you are covering the cake with marzipan and making 11 balls, please double the recipe found in the link above.
Keyword Easter,, fruit cake, gluten free, OMS friendly, plant based, vegan

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.

Continue reading “Aubergine, walnut and rocket spaghetti”

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