Monday, 5 November 2012

Every breath you take…


Again, I have been away for a while and I won’t make any excuses... But I would like to say, my lovely followers, that I will be less regular here, as a new business I am putting together is taking more and more of the time I would like to dedicate to my blog. However, I will keep posting delicious and nutritious recipes here whenever I can. Keep checking it out, please!

As for this week, aubergines are at the top of my list of most delicious vegetables. I could eat a meal made with aubergines every day. My favourite way of cooking them is grilling or roasting. Here is my twist on Nigel Slater’s grilled aubergine with a garlic cream.

Roasted garlic cloves wrapped in foil
Garlicky cream
Once the aubergines are cool enough to handle
peel away the skin
Brush the aubergines with some more coconut oil, season 
and return to the grill
Serve them with a dollop of the garlicky cream and some of
the whole roasted garlic

Grilled aubergine and garlicky cream
Serves 2

An extremely tasty, balanced and healthy dish. Garlic and aubergine are one of the best marriages. 

INGREDIENTS

1 whole bulb of garlic
Olive oil
2 sprigs of thyme
6 tablespoon of sheep’s yoghurt
A juice of 1 lime
1 tsp capers
A handful of basil
2 large aubergines
1 Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil

METHOD

Set the oven at 200C. Pour a bit of olive oil over the garlic bulb, sprinkle it with the thyme sprigs and wrap the bulb in foil. Roast for about 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven, unwrap and set aside.

When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves until they come out of their skin. Stir into the yoghurt and bring into a paste. Squeeze the lime juice into a bowl and mix well. Add the basil leaves and capers.

Melt the coconut oil. Score the skin of aubergines, cutting from the stalk to the base. Lightly oil the aubergines and grill, turning constantly until the flesh is soft and the skin is almost burnt.

Once they are cool enough to handle, peel away the skin and split the aubergine in two halves. Brush with some more coconut oil, season and return to the grill.

Serve with a dollop of the garlicky cream and some of the whole roasted garlic. Yum!

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Aubergine or Eggplant (Solanum melongena): It is a great source of bioflavonoids. It has antioxidant properties due to a compound (nasunin), that can prevent the formation of free radicals and protect against cell damage. Aubergine eliminates excess iron in the blood. It contains a good amount of vitamin C, B vitamins, copper (for protection of the cardiovascular, skeletal, and nervous systems), magnesium (nature’s natural relaxant), manganese (very beneficial for a good digestion), phosphorus (important for proper kidney function and needed for healthy bones, teeth, muscles and nerves); and potassium (for proper nerve and muscle functions). Aubergine plays an important role in lowering blood cholesterol.

CautionAubergine contains a naturally-occurring substance found in plants called oxalates. Oxalates can become too concentrated in body fluids and crystallize, causing some health problems. People with kidney and gallbladder conditions should avoid eating this vegetable.

Garlic (Allium sativum): is one of nature’s first known medicines. It helps to prevent the common cold due to its antiviral properties. It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and detoxifies the body from heavy metals. It is packed with antioxidants and contains antibacterial properties.

Sheep’s yoghurt: For some people, sheep yoghurt is easier to digest than yoghurt made from cow’s milk. It boosts immunity and is very helpful in cases of stomach ulcers. It is high in protein, natural fats, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It is a natural source of probiotic activity (live friendly bacteria) that enriches the intestinal flora, maintaining a good digestive system. It also contains three times more whey protein than yoghurt made from cow’s milk.

Till soon!


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pulses for the heart

Following the theme on Indian food, I decided to make a soup which is not only comforting and packed with protein but so quick to make that you’ll have the time to potter around the house. You can almost use your cupboard essentials. There you go: easy, quick and nutritious.

The ingredients
plus the coconut oil
Fry the spices
Add the chickpeas and red lentils
Add the stock, bring to boil and let simmer
Add the spinach
My chickpea soup! It's good for your heart!

Chickpea, red lentil and spinach soup
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp organic coconut oil
¼ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
1 small onion, diced
A thumb size ginger (or less if you prefer), diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
100g red lentils
250g cooked chickpeas (or 400g organic tinned)
800ml vegetable or chicken stock
60g spinach leaves
Sea-salt and black pepper for seasoning

METHOD

Heat the coconut oil and fry the spices for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion softens.
Add the red lentils and chickpeas, and then the stock. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.
Add the spinach and stir. Season and serve.

Some of the ingredients and their health benefits

Chickpeas or garbanzo (Cicer arietinum): it is the most nutritious of all the legumes. It is very good for your pancreas, stomach and heart. It is high in protein, fat and carbohydrate. Contains very good levels of iron (more than other legumes), calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and B vitamins, and especially folic acid (B9). Sprouted chickpea contains vitamin C and enzymes.

Red lentils (Lens culinaris): contains protein, Iron, magnesium, folate, fiber and anti-oxidants. It contains very important nutrients for the heart health - it protects against heart disease by lowering high levels of homocysteine in the blood.

Spinach (Spinacea oleracea) is rich in iron, has abundant vitamin A and calcium. It helps cleanse the blood of toxins, facilitates bowel movements helping in the treatment of constipation. It contains sulphur which is beneficial for relieving herpes irritations. Caution: People who suffer from kidney stones should eat spinach in moderation due to an organic compound called oxalic acid, which if eaten in excess can inhibit calcium metabolism. Also avoid it if you have loose stools or urinary incontinence.

Till next week!



Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Spice up your spuds


In season - new potatoes

With the cold weather approaching, my desire to eat warming foods increases. Indian cuisine is what I have been craving for this week. Reading a magazine the other day, I saw this recipe of tandoori new potatoes from Anjum Anand. It switched on my taste buds immediately. That was exactly what I was looking for: an uncomplicated Indian dish. I had some new potatoes which I got in the farmer’s market and I decided to make them straight away..

This recipe was perfect as a nibble but you can also make it as a starter or have it as a side to roast meat. A small dish was enough to satisfy my cravings that evening.

The ingredients
The ingredients for the tandoori mix
Place the boiled new potatoes in the bowl and
coat them with the marinade
The ingredients for the topping
Put all the ingredients for the topping into a bowl..
...and mix
Place the marinated new potatoes in a tray
Cook for 25 min or until the marinade looks dried
Then turn the potatoes over and move the tray to
the top shelf and let it cook for 8-10 minutes more.
My spicy new potatoes ready to be devoured!

Spicy new potatoes  adapted from Anjum Anand’s recipe
Serves 4

In Anjum’s recipe she uses either raisins or cranberries for the topping but I am a huge fan of bittersweet barberries, not only for their tartness that goes well with other flavours but for the great amount of nutrients they contain.

INGREDIENTS

12 new potatoes

For the tandoori marinade
140g sheep’s yoghurt  (or goat’s/greek yoghurt)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli powder (or more if you would like it spicier)
1 tsp paprika
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Thumb sized piece of ginger grated
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice, or to taste

For the topping
250g sheep’s yoghurt
Handful coriander leaves, chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, or to taste
2 tbsp dried barberries*, soaked in warm water, then drained
* You can find dried barberries in Middle Eastern or international food markets.

METHOD

In a large saucepan, add water and salt. Let it boil, add the halved new potatoes and boil for 8 minutes.

To prepare the tandoori sauce, mix all ingredients in a bowl. Add 1 tsp sea salt. Place the boiled new potatoes in the bowl and coat them with the marinade. Leave them for at least 30 min.

Now mix all the ingredients for the topping. Add ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, then season to taste. Reserve.

Heat the oven to 200C. Put the potatoes, flat side up, on a baking tray and place it in the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for 25 min or until the marinade looks dried. Then turn the potatoes over and move the tray to the top shelf and let it cook for 8-10 minutes more.
Turn again and cook for 8-10 minutes.  Put some topping onto each potato half and serve immediately.

Some of the ingredients and their health benefits

Barberry (Berberis vulgaris): it could be called the “wonder herb”. The berries, which contain high amounts of vitamin C, can be made into a general health tonic that can promote energy and vitality. Barberry contains a compound called berberine, which is well known for helping to cure bacterial infections, preventing the bacteria from sticking to human cells. It has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, and has been used to treat infection of the urinary tract. It contains another compound called berbamine, which helps in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It has anti-parasitic properties and acts as an immune system stimulant that aids digestion. Barberry can control the mucosa, removing excess secretion and catarrh. It can dilate blood vessels, aiding lowering blood pressure.
Caution:  It is not advisable to purchase fresh barberries due to the toxicity that some species present unless you trust the source. Otherwise, only buy the dried ones. They should be red to dark red in colour. People suffering from hyperthyroidism condition and people with excessive flatulence should avoid them.

New Potato (Solanum tuberosum): it is mildly diuretic, lubricates the intestines, tones the pancreas. Potato reduces inflammation, relieving arthritis and rheumatism. It is a good source of vitamin C, minerals and enzymes. It is a great accompaniment to meat, as its rich potassium content balances out the high sodium content of the meat.

Till next week!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The peace salad

"Peaces" of carrot

I love kitchen gadgets. I can spend hours inside a kitchen store. I can’t have enough of serving bowls, of all sizes. When I travel, I like bringing back a serving bowl that will remind me of the place I visited and add an exotic touch to my dinner parties.

Three weeks ago, my friends Tania and Roy came to see us with their kids. Tania brought as a gift from Israel a beautiful serving bowl with a recipe for a carrot salad written on the bottom. I asked her to translate the recipe for me -  I was looking forward to make it the next day.

In one of my recent visits to Planet Organic I bought the Faitrade Zaytoun Palestinian olive oil. So, I had a chance to bring together the flavours of the two countries and promote peace in my kitchen.
  
There was no disagreement for Dean, Nina and I: the carrot salad was a winner.

Thanks T!


My lovely gift
The ingredients
Steam the carrots until tender
marinate the onion and garlic
My delicious spicy carrot and onion salad


Carrot peace salad
Serves 4

An easy recipe packed with good nutrients. The smoked and spicy paprika adds a special flavour. This salad contains a great amount of vitamin C.

INGREDIENTS

5 organic seasonal carrots
1 small red onion
1 garlic, crushed
30ml of extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
A handful of coriander
½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika, hot
Sea salt and black pepper to season

METHOD

Slice the red onion and marinate with lime juice, olive oil, crushed garlic and paprika.
Simmer the carrots until tender. Let it cool.
Place the carrots into a bowl, add the marinated onion, the coriander and mix them gently.
Season and serve.


Some of the ingredients and their health benefits

Carrot (Daucus carota): is high in carotenoid, an antioxidant compound associated with many healthy benefits. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids present in our retina), which is why carrots are famously known for being good for your eyes. The carotenoids and vitamin A contents found in carrots are fat-soluble vitamins - when eaten with a little fat (olive oil, coconut oil, ghee etc) they are better absorbed by your body. Carrots are great for juicing and often chosen as part of detoxification programs. They also provide good levels of vitamin K, fibre, vitamin C, biotin, vitamins B1 and B6.

Paprika (Capsicum annuum): is a type of ground pepper that is in the same family as chili and bell peppers. Paprika is extremely high in vitamin C, which increases the absorption of iron-rich foods. Paprika contains plant enzymes that can neutralize acidity in the stomach, aiding digestion. The peppers used to make paprika contain high levels of the phytochemical capsaicin, which is known for its antioxidant properties. It can help lower the risk of cancer. Capsaicin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can alleviate arthritis and joint pain, and can  improve blood circulation.

Onion (Allium cepa): belongs to the allium family (leeks, garlic and shallots).  It contains powerful antioxidants and has antiviral properties. It’s also anti-inflammatory, and contains the compound quercetin which supports the immune system and acts as an anti-allergenic. People who suffer from hay fever are often recommended a therapeutic supplement of quercetin - that may help to alleviate their symptoms. Quercetin also improves prostate health. Research has shown that onions help build strong bones and keep serum cholesterol and blood pressure low, preventing heart disease.

Till next week!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

An open meal


The menu at my friend's house in Brazil

Following on from last week’s post, my subject today is one of the nicest meals I had in Brazil last month, at my friends Guilherme’s and Solange’s idyllic house in the mountains near Rio de Janeiro. Guilherme is an amazing artist and his paintings are very beautiful. When he cooks he translates the same beauty into his meals.

The dish I chose to post here was our starter. He told me that he had it at Gabrielle Hamilton’s restaurant in New York years ago and, since then, he added his own touch. "It is Solange's favourite", he says.

I am now adding my own touches and that is the way recipes fly around the world.

The main ingredients
Sautée  the spinach for about 1 minute
Cook the lasagne sheets as per packet instructions
Put the poached egg on the lasagne sheet
 layer the sautéed spinach...
and the ham
Cover them with another sheet of lasagne and place a
few leaves of spinach on top
 
Sprinkle some of the pine nuts in butter and garnish with micro herbs
and 
pecorino cheese. My open ravioli! Enjoy!

 Open ravioli
Serves 4

What I love about this recipe is its simplicity and easiness. This can be eaten at a Sunday brunch, as a starter or just enjoyed as a light lunch.
It provides a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fibre and mono-unsaturated fatty  fatty acid. And it tastes divine.

INGREDIENTS

4 organic eggs
8 lasagne sheet
1 Tbsp olive oil
1bunch of organic spinach or any other bitter greens in season
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 Tbsp pine nuts
4 slices organic prosciutto cotto or low-salt cooked ham
70g shaved organic Pecorino cheese
1 cup of micro leaves (rocket or watercress)
Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Sea-salt and ground black pepper

METHOD

Bring a wide and deep sauté pan with water to boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer. Add white vinegar. Gently crack 4 eggs into individual ramekins then drop the eggs carefully into the water. Poach them until the whites are fully set but the yolks are still runny (approx. 2 minutes). Do not discard the water. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour some olive oil in a frying pan, add some chopped garlic and sautée the spinach leaves for 1 minute. Set aside

Add the butter to the same pan and cook over medium heat until it begins to turn brown and smell a bit nutty. Be careful not to burn the butter. Add the pine nuts and set aside.
Add the pasta sheets to the same pan of boiling water you poached the eggs, and cook the sheets as per packet instructions, or until cooked through. Take care not to overcook. Using the slotted spoon, gently transfer each to the serving bowls.

Then put a poached egg on the pasta sheet,  and layer the sautéed spinach and the ham.   Cover them with another sheet of lasagne and place a few leaves of spinach on top.

Season. Sprinkle some of the pine nuts in butter and garnish with micro herbs, balsamic vinegar (optional) and parmesan. Serve.

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Egg: it is a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein. It contains lecithin, which helps the body to break down fat and cholesterol. Lecithin is also a source of the B vitamin-like choline, which is necessary for brain development during pregnancy. Choline is an important nutrient for the prevention of fatty liver and is a neurotransmitter involved in many functions, including memory and muscle control. Egg also contains biotin, another B vitamin-like compound, which is very important for the digestion of fat and protein, and essential for the health of hair, skin and nails. Egg contains an antioxidant called glutathione - that prevents the formation of free radicals. It is very rich in Omega-3 fats, which prevent diabetes, obesity and depression. It contains vitamin A and E, folic acid and lutein (an antioxidant in the carotenoid family that helps to keep the eyes healthy and safe from oxidative stress).

Prosciutto cotto or cooked ham: is a good source of essential amino acids, which are very important for growth, repair and maintenance of the body tissues. The protein in prosciutto promotes a healthy immune system and lean muscle growth. Cooked ham provides vitamin A, which is good for the prevention of dry eyes and eye infections.
Caution: Prosciutto, or ham, contains high amount of sodium/salt. Ham is also high in calories but they can be balanced by increasing the consumption of fresh vegetables and salads.

Spinach (Spinacea oleracea): it is rich in iron, has abundant vitamin A and calcium. It helps cleanse the blood of toxins and facilitates bowel movements, helping in the treatment of constipation. It contains sulphur, which is beneficial for relieving herpes irritations. Caution: People who suffer from kidney stones should eat spinach in moderation due to an organic compound called oxalic acid, which if eaten in excess can inhibit calcium metabolism. Also avoid it if you have loose stools or urinary incontinence.

Guilherme cooking one of his delicious meals
His version of the open ravioli. He served with asparagus
instead of greens. 
Nothing like having a great meal with friends
I miss this place and you guys!
Thanks Gui and Sol!
Till next week!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Brazil's gastronomic highlights


Vegetables at the street market in Rio de Janeiro

The end of a great holiday always comes with a bit of blues but, thank goodness,  the weather in London has been nice to me this time around. Every time I go to Brazil to visit my family and friends I return missing them, but also with lots of energy and full of ideas.

It was my mum’s 80th birthday, so she had the whole family around. I am very lucky because I come from a family with lots of talented cooks who just love hanging out in the kitchen preparing delicious meals whilst reminiscing.

One of the highlights of the meals at my mum’s this time was my aunt’s Zeca’s lobster moqueca, a healthy and light stew rooted in the tradition of indigenous tribes from the Brazilian coast. It’s the dish my mother greets me with every time I visit her in Brazil, as I wrote in my website

As nothing goes to waste, my friend Betina later on prepared another delicious meal with the leftovers from the stew: lentil and egg moqueca. My mouth is still watering.

Anyway, this was just the beginning of my travels. After staying at my mum’s, Dean, Nina and I went to Salvador-Bahia, further North on the Brazilian coast. It was the first capital of Brazil and the local culture has a very strong African influence. There we were blessed with amazing meals, especially at the restaurant Paraíso Tropical, owned by the genius chef Beto Pimentel. 

From there we went to Rio de Janeiro where we were welcomed by an amazing lunch at my lovely and adorable friend and chef Teresa Corção’s restaurant O Navegador. Teresa is known as the "Manioc queen" and as one of the founders of Slow Food in Rio de Janeiro she uses mainly Brazilian produce. 

From the first day till the last, we had weeks of pure indulgence and delight.

I have just arrived, dear readers, so I need at least one week to put my feet on the ground and get  things going again. In the meantime, the pictures below are to open your appetites for the next blog.

I am happy to be back and cooking again in my kitchen!

The fresh lobster...
turning into a delicious "Moqueca" at my mum's kitchen

Aunt "Zeca" exhibiting her lobster and Sea bream "Moquecas"
My friend Betina used the leftovers...
to make lentils and egg "Moqueca". Yum!

"Moqueca Bahiana" at Donana's restaurant in Salvador - Bahia 
Exotic Brazilian fruits grilled  on their own nectar at
Beto 
Pimentel's Paraiso Tropical   
The tastiest soft shell crab with lime and Biribiri (a Brazilian fruit) 
"Tropical Misto" - Lobster, octopus, king prawns with grilled tropical
fruits and aromatic herbs  from Beto's herb garden.
This was the most sensational meal I've had in years
!
Beto gave me a Cocoa fruit from his own orchard to take home
It's thumbs up to the genious Beto Pimentel
In Rio, the famous cheese bread from "O Navegador"
Amazonian couscous with Tucupi sauce and edible flower. Delish!!!
"Galinha com pirão de parida" -  Organic chicken with pirao, chilli sauce 
 and tucupi. It was well thought and so flavoursome!
"Poréu" (porridge) com baba de moça (egg, coconut, custard cream),
green papaya sweet and Pitanga liquor. 
The lovely and talented chef Teresa Corção and us. The real 
Slow Food restaurant in Rio.
The beach in Vila Velha - Espirito Santo

Till next year Brazil! Till next week, dear readers!