Weekend nuts

Its taken me 5 batches to get the flavour balance spot on, thank fully we’re there now. These rosemary roasted nuts are lightly salted, with a delicate sweetness and a slightly spicy aftertaste.

Just as a simple fresh leaved salad epitomizes how best to eat clean, these heavenly nibbles serve as a perfect example of how to down tools with a lovely glass of wine on a Friday. If you want to loosen the boundaries a little, do it in style. Banish the nasty shop bought crisps and pop open a classy jar of home roasted delights.

weekend nuts_4

Picking the right nuts:

Try this one out with 300g mixed nuts. Make sure you have plenty of pecan halves and pumpkin seeds. Cashews, pistachios and almonds hold the flavours really well. I include only a few brazils and hazlenuts. These nuts are harder and don’t seem to roast as well.

The nuts take on different flavours from the seasoning depending on their shape and texture. It means every handful brings a slightly different taste sensation.

 The seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon – or a generous half!
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder – again you can make this a generous half if you like spice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange
Straight from the oven
Straight from the oven

The method:

To make simply put the ingredients in a bowl or jug and mix well, before pouring on the nuts on a roasting tray. Mix well with your hands. Then put into a 150 degree (fan) oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until they brown and the rosemary dries out a little.

Let them cool for 5 minutes or so… then crack on.

Happy Friday x

Romesco-ish sauce

What a glorious sunny day. I have loved prepping, tasting and writing up this little post.

I used to order Abel and Cole vegetables for a while in England. It was one of the stepping stones to my appreciation of decent fruit and vegetables and a good induction in how to use different seasonal produce. They put handy ‘how to’ cards in the box with easy ideas of how to make the most of your order.

I’ve taken one of their suggestions and tweaked it.  Their Romesco is a bread based sauce. I have switched in parmesan and upped the garlic to make a really flavoursome pesto style sauce or dip.

We’ve ploughed through three batches of this one, so I’m confident I’ve done something right.

bowl_1

You don’t need much of this sauce, but maybe grate some extra parmesan when serving. Try it with roasted vegetables, salads, pasta or fish.

You will need:

  • 1 x large roasted red pepper (up to 30 minutes whole, then peel skin off when cool)
  • 60g almonds
  • 60g parmesan
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves (roast whole for 15 minutes, then squeeze out the pulpy garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • 75g olive oil

ingredients_1

All you do:

  1. Pop the pepper and garlic in to roast at around 180 degrees (fan oven temperature).
  2. Toast the nuts for 20 minutes in a frying pan (without oil) on the hob.
  3. Once the pepper, nuts and garlic are ready, measure everything else while they cool.
  4. Once you have peeled the cooler pepper, pop the ingredients in a blender and blitz up.
  5. Taste and then tweak any of the ingredients if needed. (I used exactly as detailed here, but you may want to sharpen with more lemon or loosen up with more oil).
  6. Season to taste.

The best advice I can give, is that you pop the sauce in ice cube trays and freeze. Then you can use as and when you want it. It’s a go-to mid week option in our house, or a last minute choice if people are coming over.

My favourite way to eat this is to simply pop a couple of frozen cubes on top of a piece of fish, loosely wrap in foil then bake until the fish is cooked through and the sauce is warmed through.

tray_1

Beautiful! Hope you can try this one soon.

Garlicky mushrooms and herby greens

Here’s a simple yet wonderfully well balanced mid-weeker. Garlic, mushrooms, spinach and lentils make for such a warming bowl, but it’s the addition of tarragon that wakes up the flavour and makes this a complete dish.

garlicky mush_high res 1

Be brave with the garlic but be careful you get the right amount of tarragon. Just enough gives a hint of bittersweet, too much gives an aniseed flavour that overpowers the softer ingredients. The suggested measures below gives you leeway to add some more at the end if you want a bit more punch.

Things you might not know about tarragon…

  • Most tarragon we eat is French, the alternative being Russian tarragon which is less flavoursome.
  • Tarragon has a mild anesthetic property when used medicinally.  It also has sedative properties and can be used in tea as an aid for insomnia.
  • Herbalists sometimes use the herb as an digestive aid because of its ability to breakdown meat fats and proteins.
  • Fresh tarragon is one of the highest antioxidant value food sources among the common herbs. It is packed with vitamins including vitamin C, vitamin A as well as B complex vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, niacin and riboflavin.
  • Tarragon is an excellent source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, and zinc.

garlicky mush_high res 2

I’ve served this one with red carmargue rice. It’s got a good nutty flavour that works well with the mushrooms. It’s also adds a bit of crunch to the dish.

To make enough for a hearty bowl for one or two small portions with rice you will need:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 fat garlic cloves or 3 regular – it’s good to go BIG on garlic with mushrooms
  • 100g mushroom
  • 100g spinach
  • 100g cooked lentils
  • 150ml veg stock (if using shop bought try the low salt Bouillon such as Marigold)
  • Tablespoon tarragon – but potentially more at the end of the cooking, see below

Serve it with:

  • 25g – 40g red rice – which doesn’t sound a lot, but the dish doesn’t need anymore or the rice will become the main event
  • Generous spoonful of natural yoghurt

It’s a doddle to make, here’s how:

  1. Wash the rice thoroughly in cold water then cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat slightly for around 20 – 30 minutes till the grains are squeezable in your finger tips.
  2. While the rice is cooking, add your oil to a pan on a moderately high hob, add the onions and garlic. Give them a good five minutes to soften right down.
  3. Add the mushrooms and lentils and keep on a medium heat for around 5 minutes until the mushrooms start to soften.
  4. Add the stock and turn the heat down, allow the ingredients to cook for up to ten minutes.
  5. Put the spinach and tarragon on top and wait for it to wilt into the other ingredients, stirring gently once or twice to help the process.
  6. Make a final check on flavours and season, maybe adding some more chopped tarragon either now or to the end plate.
  7. Things should come together around the same time. Drain your rice and give yourself half with a generous measure of the mushrooms and sauce.
  8. Finish with a big spoonful of natural yoghurt.

(A serving with 25g rice and yoghurt contains approximately 220 calories)

Once made you can cover and keep this one overnight to reheat on the second day.

I hope you enjoy this simple and nourishing bowl of goodness.

If you have time, read more about clean eating or take a look at my lifestyle principles to see how clean eating can be part of your daily world.

Majestic Masala

This is a sublime curry. Defined by its subtle layering of spices, this dish is perfect for a Saturday night in. Even better when there’s enough left to develop, savoured as a heartwarming Monday supper.

Masala with lamb_4

Masala with chickpea and spinach_5

My husband first learnt this one on a cookery course with Prett Tejura back in England. (more on Prett’s cookery school). To achieve the carefully balanced layers it’s important to source good spices, measure the ingredients correctly and follow the method carefully.

We tend to make the sauce a day or so in advance. That’s not a must – but having tried both ways, I think there’s a greater depth of flavour when the curry is made in advance.

To make enough masala for 2 people (with lots of seconds for another day) or a generous meal for 4, you will need:

• 2 medium white onions finely chopped
• 4 tbsp sunflower oil (There are more notes about cooking oil at the bottom of this post)
• 5cm stick of cinnamon
• 8 cloves
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• 1 tsp cumin powder
• 2 tsp garam masala
• 1 tsp turmeric powder
• ½ tsp red chilli powder
• 3 tsp crushed garlic
• 2 tsp crushed fresh ginger
• 2 tsp chopped green chillies (the smaller ones pack a better punch)
• 1 can of chopped tomatoes
• 2 tsp salt (to your taste)
• Generous handful chopped coriander
• Meat or vegetables to add to the Masala sauce (see how we do it below)

Making the masala

1. Place the oil in a cooking pan and heat, add cloves and cinnamon until they sizzle.
2. Add the onions and cook until they turn golden on a medium heat, stirring occasionally. It’s important to take your time over this stage. It should take around 10 minutes for the onions to soften and cook.
3. Add the remaining dry spices. If the pan gets sticky just add a little water. Don’t rush, this is where the spices and onions gently mellow and infuse. It’s how the layering of flavours develop for the end dish.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, ginger and green chillies. Add more green chilli if you prefer it hotter (we do add another teaspoon).
5. Simmer for 5-10 minutes with the lid on. The masala will be ready when the oil appears on the surface.

Finishing the dish

This is a classic example of how we do things two ways here. We make the curry sauce then divide in half.

Version 1 – We add (around 350g) chopped shoulder of lamb and a little water to the sauce, before slowly cooking for around an hour. Chicken would work well too, reducing cooking time also.

Masala with lamb

Version 2 (my dish) – I add chickpeas (soaked overnight and cooked in water), spinach and a little water to the other half, before heating for 20 minutes. This half is mine to enjoy with brown basmati.

Masala with chickpea and spinach

The optional (but pretty delicious) extras

Boiled brown basmati:
Make sure you wash your basmati thoroughly and cover in cold water for 30 minutes before you cook. Add boiling water and salt and cook without the rice soaking up all the water. It’s ready when you can squeeze the grains. Try adding a clove, a cinnamon stick and a wedge of lime to this rice to liven it up.

Minted yoghurt:
We just use simple natural yoghurt, then add chopped fresh mint and a squeeze of lime.

Mango chutney:
Have a look at my homemade clean eating mango chutney recipe. It’s fresh fruity flavour compliments, rather than overpowers the curry. It’s more natural than anything you can by in a jar.

mango_1

This Magestic Masala is a sumptous weekend treat.  I hope you get time to make this one soon.

Before I go, here’s a few words on cooking oils.

A mini guide to cooking oils

There is so much conflict on what oils are good/clean and what should be avoided. For every view in one direction, there’s a contradiction in the other. Here’s a little guide that might help you when choosing oils for cooking and salads.

First up, coconut oil

I use a lot of coconut oil on this blog. That isn’t a must, but it’s been highly advocated recently and I simply enjoying cooking with it.

Once coconut oil was a massive no no due to its high saturated fat content. However now there is recognition that some saturated fat is good for us. The composition of the medium fatty acids are broken down fast by our bodies and therefore rarely stored as fat, but burned off instead.

A guide to what oil and when

You need to consider what you’re making as to what oil you need. This means:

1. Consider the temperature you need it. High smoke point oils are best for cooking (olive oil is actually best used without heat or used at lower temperatures).

2. Consider the flavour. Please don’t use olive oil for Indian cooking. It’s derived from olives – not suitable for the delicate aromatic spices we lovingly add to our pan. Equally if using coconut oil, look for a mild flavour variety to avoid this overpowering your meal.

3. Source well. Typically the better the oil the less processing involved. You want to avoid any label that alludes to genetic engineering.

4. Use oil sparingly if at all. Don’t be afraid of just skipping the oil. Break the habit and try roasting vegetables on their own or having a salad without a dressing. I rarely use oil through the week – meaning a little sunflower oil on a Saturday night is no bad thing. Balance doesn’t just exist in one meal, it’s the whole 7 day week, the month, and onwards.

Specific oils

Great for cooking:
High smoke point oils – coconut oil, avocado oil and almond oil

Great for cold dishes:
Try cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, unrefined safflower oil, unrefined walnut oil and unrefined sunflower oil

Steer clear:
Avoid cooking with anything with hydrogenated in the label. This includes palm oil (highly processed) and vegetable oil. The process to make this is so unnatural and so far from vegetables as we know them.

The most important final word on oils:

MODERATION 

I hope this helps x

Mango chutney

I have procrastinated about making mango chutney for some time. I’m a massive fan, but when I look at recipes out there and see ‘1 kg of sugar’, I shudder a bit and shelve the thought for another time.

It was the mangos that led the way though. I found a greengrocer selling ripe mangos and felt I had to face up to it. So with a little experimentation, I have made my first, very lovely, honey sweetened mango chutney.

mango_1

mango_2

I like mango chutney with curry dishes, but I’m also partial to a generous helping on salads or with some pan fried fish. On this basis I’ve developed a mildly spiced but softly sweet chutney, one that compliments rather than over powers.

salad_2

To make the chutney jar shown I used:

  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or your preferred oil)
  • ½ teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 250 ml white wine vinegar
  • 100 ml honey

How to do it:

  1. First peel the mango and chop as much flesh from the fruit as you can. Put in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and cover in cling film overnight.
  2. The next day sauté the onions in oil. Take your time over this, you want the onion really soft.
  3. Pop the garlic into the oven whole to roast for 15 minutes. You can then just squeeze out what you need as a soft pulp. It’s perfect in this form for a chutney.
  4. Add the garlic and spices, keep on the heat. If the onions and spices start to stick to the pan at the bottom just add a little water. You want to take up to ten minutes on steps 3 and 4 together.
  5. Add the mango, honey and white wine vinegar, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down to a gentle simmer. Don’t put a lid on the pan. Also don’t be put off by the smell of vinegar.
  6. You have to be patient now and over the course of an hour to an hour and a half keep visiting the pan and stirring gently. You want to reduce the liquid till it’s sticky and soft.
  7. Once it has reduced down, leave to cool, then check seasoning and add to a jar. (I didn’t add any more salt to this than the original sprinkle to the mango).

The taste really develops as this cools and then again intensifies once added to the jar.

Try it with…

The salad shown works amazingly well with the chutney. It’s just a simple lambs lettuce salad with white balsamic, feta, chickpeas, pine nuts and chia seeds.

salad_1

I hope you get time to try and enjoy.

One egg wonders

I bought these lovely little pans on Monday and have spent the week making dinky dishes for the children and I. I’ve made some mini tapas style dishes and lots of mini omelettes. In fact once I started down the egg path there was no turning back. We’ve loved these hot from the pan and sometimes left to cool and eat as a tortilla.

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The great thing about eggs

Eggs are quite incredible really. Each little 70 – 80 calorie egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals plus antioxidants. They also contain every type of B vitamin, including choline, which is really valuable for healthy brain function. We’re supposed to have around 300ml choline a day. One egg provides a third of this in one small calorie hit.

They’re also an excellent source of high-quality protein. Importantly they contain the essential amino acids in the right ratios, so our bodies can make full use of all the protein in them.

Ultimately a single egg will fill you up more than the equivalent calorie intake in most other foods and work harder to give your body the important stuff it needs.

I am all over the goodness of eggs this week!

Making a good omelette

My technique for a great omelette is to use the hob to cook the bottom and the grill to finish the top. I use a non-stick pan on a high heat with a little oil (I used coconut oil for these recipes). For me a good omelette should be nicely crisp and brown on the bottom with a soft and fluffy (not rubbery) texture inside. Don’t underestimate the importance of mixing up the egg thoroughly before you cook it. Giving it a good whisk with a fork combines the egg yolk and white but also traps in air to give the omelette a little rise with the heat.

The great thing about these mini pans

These pans are perfect because they allow you to pack everything you need into one dish that retains its heat. You don’t suffer the consequence of an oversized omelette that won’t fold without breaking, or one that needs so many eggs to fill the pan that the omelette is over facing to eat.

Here’s the top 3 from the week:

1, Courgette, carrot and super seeds

I love grated vegetables, I sneak them in all over the place. I like the texture and the way they allow for an even distribution of flavour.

carrot and courgette_2

To make these gorgeous omelettes you will need:

  • A teaspoon of coconut oil
  • 1 large free range egg
  • A generous tablespoon of grated carrot,
  • A generous tablespoon of grated courgette
  • A tablespoon of red onion (grated or chopped finely)
  • Some pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and a teaspoon of paprika for the top
  • Seasoning
  1. Mix the ingredients really well (I like to add some black pepper at this stage too).
  2. Add to your pan with hot oil when ready and allow the egg to cook for around 3 minutes.
  3. Check the bottom, once it is brown and you can see that the bottom half of the egg is cooked, transfer to a hot grill.
  4. Allow the omelette to cook for 2 – 3 minutes before sprinkling the topping ingredients.
  5. After around 5 further minutes under the grill you should see the seeds turn colour and the egg should now be firm.
  6. Serve on its own or with lambs lettuce / other soft greens.

2. Smoked salmon and greens

The classic combinations in this omelette make it fail safe. Such a lovely plate, best served with a simple soft salad.

Smoked Salmon

You will need:

  • A teaspoon of coconut oil
  • A large free range egg
  • 50g smoked salmon
  • Around 30g spinach
  • Chopped coriander and mint for the top
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Seasoning

To make a start, wilt your spinach in the pan to reduce the volume before mixing the ingredients together. Then follow the same approach as above, but don’t add the squeeze of lime and fresh herbs until the very end.

3. One for my babies – simple spanish omelette

My children adored these for tea this week. It’s a great way to get a good mix of fat, protein and carbohydrate into their plate. I don’t think the picture does justice to how good these smelt and tasted. Perhaps the empty plates would have been a more fitting way to sell these in.

spanish omelette

For 2 little omelettes you will need:

  • 2 teaspoon of coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of chopped potato (I cooked earlier in the day so it was quicker to cook)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of roasted pepper (I roasted a whole pepper earlier in the day then peeled back the skin to use the flesh I needed)
  • 2 tablespoons of cheese grated for the top

Follow the same technique, but it’s the cheese you’ll add on at the grilling stage this time. A sprinkle of coriander would be great at the end, it’s just not something my children like to eat.

A good egg is a great egg. However a poor quality egg or a badly cooked egg can be enough to turn your stomach. I hope these 3 one pan wonders have reminded you of the glory of a simple egg done well.

Overnight oats – Clean eating goodness

I love breakfast, I have always loved breakfast. I have vivid memories of weekend breakfasts growing up. I remember Alpen with full fat goats’ milk, croissants with strawberry Bonne Maman jam and the weekly comic strips in the Funday Times. It always felt like the easiest time of the week – eating what we wanted and pottering before the day found any momentum or pace.

Breakfast is a time when we don’t use food to comfort us or make amends for a bad day. It’s the time where we get in gear and prepare ourselves for the day ahead. The day is untouched and is there for the taking.

I’m smitten by overnight oats. I like the concept or preparing my breakfast peacefully in the evening so it’s good to go first thing. (Breakfast time is more chaotic when you have a one year and five year old in tow).

I’ve put together a trio of tried and tested options, but there are so many more taste combinations to try. The pots here major on fruit, but for more crunch try pecans, almonds, flaxseeds or chia seeds.

Trio overnight oats_2

Trio_2

Please note the following recipes make quite small pots. These work for me before the school run and are equally great for people trying to exercise some portion control. I would literally double the ingredients for a more hearty breakfast.

Pumpkin and Apricot – Top of the pots

I make this one the most, it’s my fall back, fool proof option – particularly when tired. The flavour balance is great and it’s got a good crunch too.

Apricot and Pumpkin

What goes in?

  • 20 grams oats
  • 10 grams pumpkin seeds
  • 20 grams unsulphered dried apricots
  • 50ml milk of choice
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

For this one I put half the oats in a pot, then the seeds and fruit. I follow with the milk and cinnamon before covering in clingfilm.

This small pot contains approximately 190 calories

Carrot and cranberry – The vitamin C goddess pot

This is absolutely stunning. I use the orange juice to soak the oats rather than soya or milk. It’s got a lively fruity flavour. The chewiness of the cranberries and crunch on the carrot give great texture to the pot.

Vit C Goddess

What goes in?

  • 20 grams oats
  • 20 grams dried cranberries
  • 20 grams grated carrots
  • 50ml squeezed orange juice (and consider grating some rind on top too)
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

For this one I mix everything together then sprinkle cinnamon on top, cover and put into the fridge.

This small pot contains approximately 162 calories

Zingy plum puree

The lime and ginger give this one a little kick. I love both ingredients, be as liberal or frugal as you want when adding these to the pot.

Plum puree

What goes in?

  • 20 gram oats
  • A sliced plum – I used yellow plums but you can use whatever is best quality and ripe
  • Good squeeze of lime
  • ½ teaspoon of ginger
  • 50ml milk of choice
  • 2 teaspoons of maple syrup or honey

Put the plums, ginger and lime in a pan, heat on the hob until the plums soften. It should just take around 2 – 3 minutes. Then place these in the bottom of your pot, top with the oats and milk. Then cover and leave overnight. Pour the maple syrup over the next morning before eating. Sublime.

This small pot contains approximately 140 calories.

These pots are a cereal mixers delight, the combinations are endless. They epitomize clean eating at its finest and taste fantastic…

..I really hope you enjoy.