Wednesday, 29 February 2012

How to...make butter

With an extra double cream in the fridge and a small amount of butter, which was about to run out, I thought it would be a good idea to make butter and post the recipe to show how easy it is to make our own butter (it requires some patient but it is very rewarding).

I have already declared my love for butter in this previous post.

I hope you enjoy it!

The ingredients
Pour the double cream into a food processor. Blend for
approx 5 minutes
It first will look like a whipped cream
Then very stiff
Finally the buttermilk separates from the cream
Put the cream inside a clean cheesecloth or a sieve
Squeeze the cream really well 
Put the cream back into the clean food processor with
100ml chilled water
At the first strain the water will look like this
By the 7th time it will look like this
My homemade butter! 500ml of double cream = 225g butter
You can wrap the butter in a greaseproof paper...

or put it in a butter dish
Spread it on a hot slice of toast!
Homemade Butter
Yields 225g

INGREDIENTS

500ml organic unpasteurised or pasteurised double cream (at room temperature).
700-800ml chilled water

METHOD

Pour the double cream into a food processor. Process it for about 5 minutes. It first will look like a softly whipped cream, then very stiff, and finally the cream will collapse and the buttermilk will separate from the cream.  

Turn the mixture into a cold, clean cheesecloth or sieve, and drain well. Squeeze the cream really well until you think the buttermilk has been thoroughly drained. Be careful not to do it for too long. If you handle the butter too much with warm hands it will liquefy.

Put the cream back into the clean food processor with 100 ml very cold water. This is important to clear any buttermilk left in the butter, as it will make the butter go off and taste rancid quickly. Sieve and repeat this process until the water is clear (this could take about 7-8 times).

Wrap in a greaseproof or waxed paper (or use a butter mould/dish) and keep chilled in a fridge. The butter also freezes well.

You can drink the buttermilk (see below - it doesn’t taste sour) or use it to make sode bread, pancakes or biscuits.

Flavoured butter
You can add crushed garlic, salt, fresh or dried herbs, and spices. If you are freezing the butter, do not salt or flavour it as the freezing process enhances the saltiness.

Spiced buttermilk

Buttermilk
Spiced buttermilk

This is classic Indian aperitif (very similar to lassi), served in a small glass.

Blend ½ cup of buttermilk, 1 glass of chilled water (or add some ice), some coriander leaves, mint leaves, cumin powder and sea salt. Drink immediately.

The main ingredients and their healthy benefits

Buttermilk: It contains very good levels of calcium and protein. It also contains vitamin A and C, and a number of B vitamins (B1, B2, B3 and B5). Buttermilk also has minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Organic Butter: It’s a rich source of vitamin A, D, E and K. It contains an essential fatty acid called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which research has shown to have anticancer properties, and it has also been found to fight weight gain. Thirty percent of the fat from butter is from monounsaturated fats (the same type found in olive oil). It has antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It is rich in the powerful mineral selenium. Look for good quality butter, like raw and cultured. I have previously mentioned some suppliers here.


Till next week!

Monday, 20 February 2012

The perfect "ready-made" breakfast

                                          Oats                            photo by Matt Lavin

My brother and nephew arrived last week from Brazil for a visit. My nephew earned this trip for passing his exams to university and he is making the most of his last month of “freedom”. While he’s staying with us, he asked me for some tips on how to cook easy meals, breakfast especially, to help him  through his college life.

I showed him how to make one of my favourite breakfasts, the Bircher muesli, developed by the Swiss physician Maximillian Bircher-Benner in the late 19th century. Dr Bircher believed in a diet of natural and raw foods. This one was developed to treat his patients suffering from heart disease. He used to soak uncooked rolled oats in water overnight to soften them with grated fruit, nuts and seeds. These days there’s a variety of muesli recipes out there. You can just go wild with your imagination and add to the mix anything you like ( nuts, fruits, seeds – fresh or dried - and spices).

In traditional cultures, grains were always soaked overnight or fermented for several days before consumption. As Sally Fallon says: “All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer of the bran. Untreated, phytic acid combines with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects”. You can read a lot more about grains clicking here.

So, it’s good practice to soak the oats overnight. This is such an easy-to-make breakfast for those who don’t have much time in the morning. You can prepare it the night before. Even if you don’t have time to have your breakfast at home, put it in a small container and take it with you to college or work.

Vitor, my nephew, loved it and he will now hopefully be able to make his own version and guarantee himself a good start of his day on those hurried mornings.

The ingredients
Mix everything inside a bowl
Add the yoghurt and leave it soaking overnight
My Bircher muesli with seasonal fruits and yoghurt
Bircher Muesli
Serves 4-6

Soaking the grains and nuts overnight reduces the indigestible phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. This process improves the digestion and absorption of the nutrients in this muesli loaded with fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.

1 apple, cored and roughly grated (skin on)
Half pear, cored and grated (skin on)
125ml of organic tangerine or orange juice. Sometimes I use pear juice instead.
Juice of ½ lemon
30g pecans, 30g walnuts, 30g almonds roughly chopped or any nuts of your choice
30g unsulphured white mullberries
15g goji berries
200g organic natural sheep yoghurt
170g organic rolled oats
A sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Fresh seasonal fruits – bananas, plums, tangerines, peaches, apples, pears, pomegranates, rhubarb – and/or fresh berries

METHOD

Put the grated apple and pear in a bowl and add the lemon and tangerine juice. Add the dried fruits and nuts and mix. Gradually mix in the yoghurt. Cover and leave overnight.

Add more yoghurt, juice or milk of your preference in the morning if the mixture is too thick. Serve it with berries or any seasonal fresh fruit (if the berries are not in season frozen ones would work as well).

The main ingredients and their healthy benefits

Apple (Malus domestica): It contains pectin, which helps the body eliminate cholesterol, toxic heavy metals, and residues of radiation. Apple juice is a very good internal body cleanser and beneficial to the liver and gallbladder - helping to soften gallstones. It remedies indigestion and inhibits the growth of bad bacteria in the digestive tract. Basically, "One apple a day..." 

Goji Berry or Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum) is a superfood! Contains antioxidants and vitamin C. It boosts blood circulation, lowers elevated  blood sugar, increases HDL cholesterol levels (the good one) and reduces fatigue.

Mulberries (Morus alba): are high in natural sugars, minerals and fibre. They are high in iron, which makes them a great food for the treatment of anemia. They promote body fluid production, and are good to treat constipation. In Turkey, they eat white mulberries on an empty stomach with a glass of water. In Chinese medicine, mulberries are believed to strengthen the kidneys and to help cleanse the liver.

Oat (Avena sativa): it helps reduce LDL (bad cholesterol), lowers blood pressure, and provides sustained levels of carbohydrates for the production of energy. Oats can cleanse your intestinal tract and your blood. They also help to stabilize insulin levels. They are rich in the B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and contain a very good balance of amino acids. They stimulate the release of testosterone, increasing its level in both sexes. Oat milk is a very good alternative for people who are lactose intolerant. 

Pear (Pyrus communis): like apple, it contains pectin, which helps to lower cholesterol levels. Pear juice enhances the liver function. It contains potassium, phosphorus and calcium. It also helps eliminate excess mucus, and moistens the lungs and throat. Used for constipation, loss of voice and gallbladder inflammation and obstruction. 

Tangerine (Citrus reticulata): it can be used as a general tonic for weak digestion and poor appetite. It has good levels of vitamin C and makes a good substitute for commercial oranges, since it has most of the same properties but is sprayed with far less chemicals. 

Natural yoghurt: it boosts immunity and is very helpful in cases of stomach ulcers. It is high in protein, natural fats and calcium. It is a natural source of probiotic activity (live friendly bacteria) that enriches the intestinal flora, maintaining a good digestive system.

Nuts: They are a great source of complete protein and omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturates. They are high in insoluble fibre, which is beneficial for regular bowel movements. Nuts are rich in essential minerals and vitamins content.  

Till next week!

Monday, 13 February 2012

It’s chilli! Con carne

                                Chilli pepper garden            photo: Karen Cheng

I am starting to get to the end of my tether with Winter, the freezing temperatures, the amount of layers, the frozen hands… I am definitely a creature of the heat. I’ve been living in the UK for 20 years and my body is still not used to the cold weather. Today, I woke up craving chilli con carne. I am sure that the ayurvedas would agree with me that my tropical blood needs a lot of spicy and warming food right now.

On my way back from dropping Nina at school, I went to my butcher Patrick to buy some grass-fed minced beef. I had all the other ingredients at home, including a can of aduki beans, which I chose instead of the red kidney beans. I love its nutty and sweet flavour and I always have a tin in my pantry for those days when I don’t have time to cook them from scratch.

I made my chilli con carne adding some dark chocolate, which gives the dish an earthy and rich flavour. Yum!

The ingredients
Sautee onions, garlic and red peppers. Add spices
Stir in the plum tomatoes, tomato puree and stock. Let
it simmer then add the aduki beans
After 1 minute add the chocolate pieces

My chilli con carne! Serve it with a dollop of yoghurt,
coriander and lime wedges

Chilli con carne and chocolate 

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chilli powder (or 3 dried chillies)
500g lean beef mince
1 x 400g can of plum tomatoes
1.5 tbsp tomato puree
125ml red wine
200ml beef or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x can aduki beans, rinsed and drained
40g of 70% chocolate (I used Valrhona)
1 large bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped
200ml natural organic yoghurt
Wedges of lime to serve

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add red peppers and spices. Increase the heat and add the mince, cooking quickly until browned, breaking down the chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the canned tomatoes, tomato purée and the stock. Pour in the red wine and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Season well. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for about 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the aduki beans, stir for 1 minute and then add the chocolate pieces. Sprinkle with fresh coriander. Cook for a further ten minutes, uncovered, before removing from the heat, adding extra seasoning if necessary.

Serve with rice, a dollop of yoghurt and a wedge of lime.

Some of the ingredients and their functional properties

Aduki or adzuki beans (Vigna angularis): They are originally from China and are very popular in Japan. Adzuki beans are a very good source of minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc; vitamins B3 (niacin, which helps reduce high levels of blood cholesterol) and B9 (folate, which helps reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood). Studies have shown that aduki beans can help reduce blood pressure. They provide high quality protein, are rich in soluble fibre and have properties that support kidney and bladder function.

Dark chocolate/cocoa (Theobroma cacao): what’s not to like about chocolate? It tastes good, stimulates endorphin production and contains serotonin. I am talking here about the real chocolate with at least 60% percent or higher cocoa content. It’s loaded with flavonoids (a compound found in plant pigments). The particular compound found in cocoa, called flavonol, makes blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause clots. It therefore prevents heart diseases. Another key flavonoid found in cocoa is proanthocyanidin (similar to those found in grape seed extracts, berries and apples).

The fats found in chocolate come from the cocoa butter and do not increase LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Cocoa butter contains oleic acid (the same found in olive oil), stearic acid (it has a neutral effect in the body), and palmitic acid (the same found in palm oil). Because cocoa butter is expensive, cheap chocolate brands replace it with milk fats or hydrogenated oils. Make sure you read the labels of your chocolate bar before buying it. In the future, I shall come back to chocolate and the many more nutritional benefits associated with it.

Till next week!

Monday, 6 February 2012

For those last minute meals

               Basmati rice plantation in Pakistan    phto: pakagri blogspot


For me there is nothing like having a pack of rice in the pantry. It helps me throw together a last minute meal. The other night, my friend Mark, who is vegetarian, came to visit us and I didn’t have anything prepared for dinner. Then, I thought: rice, eggs, spices, yoghurt, herbs... It quickly took me back in time.

When I was growing up, we used to love the combination of rice with natural yoghurt. It came from the Lebanese side of my family. I once read a recipe by Ottolenghi which combines most of those ingredients I mentioned above - it must be a Middle-Eastern thing. He cooks this dish for brunch. It makes for a great breakfast but I can eat this at any meal! And I recommend it.


The ingredients
Sautee the onions with the spices
Prepare the rice while the onion mixture caramelizes
When the onion and spices are done...
...add the peas, mix and put aside.
poaching the egg
When rice is done add it into the wok and mix all together
My Basmati rice with spices and poached eggs!


Brown basmati rice with spices and poached eggs
Serves 4

This dish has a great combination of spices and is packed with nutrients. It has a perfect balance of protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre. For a non-vegetarian option have it with a piece of grilled or barbecued salmon instead.

INGREDIENTS

400g brown basmati rice
4 tbsp ghee or organic coconut oil
3 small onions or 1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
a pinch of curry leaves (if you can’t find them, use 1 generous tsp of curry powder)
8 cardamom pods
2 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 fresh green chilli thinly sliced (depends on how much spicy you like)
1 cup of frozen organic peas (optional)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
8 eggs (2 per person)
a large handful of parsley leaves, chopped
a large handful of coriander leaves, chopped
a juice of 1 lemon
8 tbsp natural organic yoghurt
salt and black pepper

METHOD

Cook the rice per packet instructions.

Heat the oil in a wok or in a large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic to the oil and cook over a low heat until the onions are transparent. Add the cardamom, curry leaves, turmeric, chilli, and season with sea salt. Continue to cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes. Turn the heat off and reserve.

Boil the peas for about 3 min, remove from the heat and drain.

Poach the eggs. While the final egg is cooking, add the rice and stir well with the spiced mixture. Stir the peas, coriander, parsley and lemon juice into the rice and fluff with a fork. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice if you like.

Serve the rice in bowls, spoon in some yoghurt and place the eggs on the top. Sprinkle with some salt and black pepper.

Some of the ingredients and their functional properties

Basmati rice: wholegrain basmati is an excellent complex-carbohydrate food. It is gluten free and low in fat and sodium. In India, rice symbolizes fertility, wealth and good health (that is why rice is still today thrown at newlyweds to bless them with healthy children and prosperity). Basmati rice is easy on the digestive system. According to Ayuverda Medicine (http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm), rice balances Vata and Pitta doshas. Kapha types, however, should avoid eating rice too often. Basmati rice is a good source of the B vitamins, selenium and iron. White basmati rice contains the lowest glycemic index comparing with any other white rice types, but brown basmati has an even lower glycemic index.

Cardamon (Elettaria cardamomum): According to Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom is very beneficial for those suffering with gastrointestinal problems. It is very good to combat flatulence and gas and improve digestion. It has detoxifying properties and acts as a good cleanser. Cardamon contains a compound (cineole) that helps prevent and treat sore throat and laryngitis. 

Egg: 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 the brain development at 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. 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).

Peas (Pisum sativum): they’re a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat. They’re a mild laxative; strengthen the spleen, pancreas and stomach; and harmonize digestion. Peas contain B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin K, potassium, iron and carotenes.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa): it has anti-inflammatory properties, protects the liver from toxins, has high levels of antioxidant, lowers cholesterol and has been shown to inhibit the replication of HIV-1. Some research has shown that a supplement of turmeric has improved flexibility and reduced joint swelling in people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. It improves protein digestion, reduces uterine tumours, dissolves gallstone and reduces period pain. According to Paul Pitchford (Healing with Wholefoods), a good dosage of turmeric, ¼ -1/2 teaspoon daily, can be used as spice or taken in capsules.

Till next week!