Mild and Easy Harissa

harissa

Harissa is a paste used in North African cooking that adds a delicious spicy flavour to a wide variety of dishes. Make it in batches and it will keep in the fridge for several weeks. Add to meat, fish and vegetables before baking or placing on the BBQ and it will transform your meal.

Ingredients

  • 12 long red chillies (fresh) – medium in size and mild in flavour
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon

Method

Split the chillies in half lengthways, remove the seeds and rinse under cold water. If using hot chillies it’s advisable to wear rubber gloves to avoid burning your hands (I learnt the hard way – the burning sensation on the hands can be very unpleasant!). Add all the ingredients to a food processor or high powered blender and and pulse for approximately 1 minute or until smooth.

Activated oat porridge

coconut-milk-porridge

Porridge has been a staple of the Scots and Gaelic islanders since medieval times when oats were made into a paste with water and eaten over several days, often with the addition of a pinch of salt.

Today, porridge is widely consumed in the west but unfortunately it’s often in the form of instant porridge or oatmeal made with over-processed, ground oats and loaded with sweeteners. The result is that much of the nutrition our ancestors enjoyed is lost.

Health benefits

Whole oats are rich in beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre that has been linked to reducing bad cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease and boosting the body’s immune system. They are also rich in magnesium – a key to enzyme function which has been linked to reducing the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, improving sleep and even reducing depression.

However, oats are also high in phytic acid which (in humans) binds to minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and limits their absorption and similarly inhibits important enzyme function needed for digestion. For detailed information and research on this topic, refer to the Weston Price Foundation.

Activation to the rescue

Fortunately, phytic acid in plant foods can be neutralised (to a large extent) by phytase, which is released by soaking in warm water with a little acid medium over a period of time. This process is commonly referred to as activation. As oats are low in phytase, the activation process can be helped along by the addition of some rye and by allowing the oats to soak for a little longer. I choose rye flakes as they’re inexpensive and readily available from health food stores.

I have enjoyed porridge for years – it’s a winter comfort food that warms me up and keeps me satiated all morning. Soaking the oats does not compromise the flavour at all so I have adopted the habit as part of an overall diet to improve digestive health.

Recipe

This recipe can be adapted for all types of milk but I find that almond milk, “drinking” coconut milk and good old fashioned whole cream dairy milk work best. I’m not a fan of soy milk in this recipe as I find the flavour doesn’t stack up.

Ingredients

  • 120g/4.25oz/1.5 cups of whole, organic rolled oats
  • 20g/0.75oz/ around 1 heaped tablespoon of rye flakes
  • 2 cups/500ml/17 fl oz of milk of your choice (I really like drinking coconut milk or activated almond milk – full cream dairy milk is also delicious)
  • 1 cup/250ml/8.5 fl oz of filtered water
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar (you can also use whey or kefir but I prefer to use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar as they’re more readily available)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Method

Soak the oats, rye flakes and lemon juice/apple cider vinegar in around 2 cups of water for up to 24 hours (ideally at least 12 hours). There should be plenty of water to cover the oats, however the more water you use the more acid medium you will need to activate the oats.

Prior to cooking, drain the oats and rinse well, then add to a saucepan with the milk and filtered water. Cook over a low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. As the porridge starts to thicken, add the cinnamon. When the the mixture starts to bubble (this should take around 8 minutes), remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

Serve topped with your favourite fruit and optionally a little extra cinnamon.

Notes

  1. You can also cook the porridge in the microwave – it will take around 6 minutes, however I prefer to cook on the stove as the microwave may denature the food.
  2. The porridge makes a great portable dish – divide into 2-3 glass dishes and top with berries. In my opinion it tastes great lukewarm as the flavour from the berries blends with the porridge.
  3. The porridge can be stored for up to 48 hours in the fridge

Serves 2 – 3

Corn Fritters

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These corn fritters make a delicious savoury breakfast, and help you get your vegies in early in the day. Choose organic corn (unfortunately regular corn is typically genetically modified), and if you’re vegan choose an egg substitute.

Ingredients

Corn Fritters

  • 2 organic corn cobs (medium sized) OR one 400g tin or 14oz can of organic tinned corn
  • 2 large organic/free range eggs
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped (or substitute with half a leek, finely chopped)
  • 1/4 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 x tablespoons olive oil (30ml, ¼ of a cup)
  • Half a cup of buckwheat flour (around 70g)
  • ½ teaspoon of good quality mineral salt such as Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra oil to grease the frying pan (around a tablespoon)

Topping

  • half an avocado
  • 2 tomatoes or half a dozen cherry tomatoes (choose red and yellow if available)
  • half a dozen basil leaves, chopped

Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good quality aged balsamic

Method

If you have time, steam the corn for 20 minutes, allow to cool then with a knife remove the corn kernels from the cob and set aside. The corn will keep in the fridge for several days so you can steam in advance. If you prefer, use a tin of organic corn kernels, draining the liquid.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork for around 20 seconds, then add the oil and stir in the buckwheat flour, salt and pepper until the dry mixture has been completely absorbed by the wet mixture. Add the corn kernels, spring onions and parsley, mix well.

Heat a frying pan to a medium heat. Once hot, add enough olive oil to cover the base of the pan. The mixture will make 6 fritters around 5cm or 2 inches in diameter. Fry the fritters in 2 batches (making 3 at a time). The first side will take around 5 minutes and the second side around 3-4 minutes.

While you’re cooking the fritters, chop the tomatoes and basil and separately mash the avocado. Mix the olive oil and balsamic to make a dressing.

Once the fritters are cooked, spread with mashed avocado and top with the tomato and basil mixture then drizzle with the balsamic dressing.

Serves 4

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Chilled Chia Breakfast Pudding

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Hailed as a super food with good reason, Chia seeds are a great source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, loaded with antioxidants and high in fibre.

If you like the texture of tapioca, this is a tasty and nutricious breakfast option that only takes a minute or so to make before you go to bed. Pop it in the fridge and it’s ready to eat in the morning. Serve with your favourite fruit and nuts and it will keep you satiated all morning.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 cups coconut milk (you can use almond milk if you prefer but I find the coconut milk gives a better flavour)
  • Half a cup of chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of stevia (equivalent to one heaped teaspoon of sugar) OPTIONAL

Mix ingredients together well, pop in the fridge overnight (around 8 hours is good but anything over 6 is ok).

Serve topped with your favourite fruit and activated nuts (hazelnuts and almonds work well).

Simple sugar-free Thai salad

thai-salad

If you love Thai salads but prefer not to use processed sugar, this recipe is a great option that doesn’t compromise on taste. The dressing is made with rice malt syrup which is fructose free, and if you choose a high quality fish sauce – naturally fermented and without sugar – you can’t go wrong.

For the salad itself, I’ve suggested ingredients that work well for me but play around with whatever you like and what’s on hand at home.

Dressing

  • Juice of 1 lime (around 3 tablespoons)
  • 1.5 tablespoons fish sauce (choose a good quality, unsweetened variety – Red Boat 40°N from Vietnam is wonderful if you can find it)
  • 1.5 tablespoons rice malt syrup

Place ingredients into a small jar, seal and shake well. Set aside.

Salad

  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 medium size carrot
  • 6 snow peas
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber
  • 4 medium sized button mushrooms
  • handful coriander leaves
  • handful mint leaves
  • half a cup of cashews

Method

Peel and julienne the carrots (cut lengthways into sticks that are around the size and thickness of two matchsticks put together). Similarly, cut the cucumber lengthways into pieces a little bigger than the carrots. Peel and chop the mushrooms and add to a salad bowl with the other vegetables and beansprouts. Tear the mint and coriander leaves and add to the vegetables then stir through the dressing (you’ll only need a third to a half – the rest will keep in the fridge for several weeks). Just before serving, sprinkle with the cashew nuts.

This salad is lovely topped with garlic prawns or with some poached or roast chicken.

Serves 2

Crispy Skin Fish

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Steven Hodges at Fish Face restaurant taught me how to make crispy skin fish. This is a simple recipe that’s incredibly tasty and takes less than 15 minutes to make. It works with a variety of different fish fillets so choose your favourite and serve with salad or vegies for a light evening meal. Add some boiled new potatoes, brown rice or quinoa if you need something more substantial.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 x fillets of your preferred fish, skin on – I use snapper, bass grouper, salmon or ocean trout
  • Maldon sea salt
  • Quarter of a lemon

Method

Note: these instructions are for fillets that are around 2.5cm in thickness, cooking time will require longer if you use thicker fillets.

Heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 180 degrees for a strong fan forced oven – it’s generally recommended to allow 10 minutes for the oven to reach a full, even heat.

A few minutes after you’ve turned your oven on, heat a stainless steel pan on high for 3-5 minutes – until hot.

Add ghee to the pan and allow to heat for around 30 seconds or until sizzling hot. Add your fish, skin side down and cook for 2 minutes. Your fish will cook evenly if you can put a weight on the fillets or if it’s safe use your fingers to push down on the fillets.

Remove from heat and place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes if you like your fish just cooked or 7-8 minutes if you like your fish well done. If you’re not confident putting your pan in the oven, quickly transfer the fillets from the pan to an oven-proof dish and cook skin side down for 6 minute or 8 minutes if you like your fish well done.

Sprinkle the Maldon sea salt over the skin of the fish and serve with a slice of lemon and a salad or vegies on the side, plus something more substantial if you need it.

Easy Turkey Bolognese

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This is a quick and easy recipe for turkey bolognese which is substantially leaner than its traditional counterpart without compromising on taste.

It can double as a dish for the health conscious as well as a more conventional family meal. I eat mine with cauliflower rice (pictured) and a side of broccoli, while my partner likes his served in a more traditional way with pasta and parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons/60ml extra virgin olive oil (choose first cold pressed)
  • 500g/approx 1lb turkey mince (free range or organic if you can find it)
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of finely chopped garlic or 1 heaped teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs
  • 800g /approx 27 fl oz of tinned/canned tomatoes – crushed or diced (I choose organic as they’re generally easy to find in the supermarket)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper (depending on how much you like – I use around a quarter of a teaspoon of himalayan crystal salt)

Method

Heat a pan (preferably stainless steel rather than non-stick) on a medium high heat for around 3 minutes. Add the olive oil and let it heat for 15 seconds or so, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown. Add the turkey mince and cook for around 90 seconds on each side (it should brown and look cooked through), then add the tinned/canned tomatoes, Italian herbs, tomato paste, salt and pepper and cook for around 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Reduce to a low to medium heat and cook for another 20 minutes. It will be ready to serve now, however if you have time leave it for an hour or even overnight and the flavour will develop.

Chicken Souvlaki

chicken-souvlaki

This is one of my fiancé’s favourite home cooked meals. Succulent chicken skewers served with a fresh salad and plenty of tzatziki. It takes only around 10 minutes to prepare and marinate the meat then another 25 minutes to prepare and cook

Note that this dish needs to be cooked either on a BBQ or in a grill pan.

Ingredients

  • The marinade will suffice for up to 8 good size boneless chicken thighs (choose organic or free range, if using organic they’re generally smaller so you may like to use a little extra)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (I find this usually makes about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon minced garlic or 2 good sized garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 – 8 skewers (I use bamboo but if you have stainless steel skewers these are great too)

Marinating the Chicken

You’ll need to marinate the chicken – preferably in a glass dish, for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight (the longer the better really).

Juice the lemon and add to the marinating dish along with the olive oil, oregano and garlic.

Trim the fat from the chicken thighs and cut into even size chunks around 2cm/1 inch square or a little larger if you like. It’s important to try to cut the chicken into roughly even size chunks so that they cook evenly.

Add the chicken thighs to the marinade and leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

To Cook

Preheat the BBQ to high for around 10 minutes. If using a grill pan I usually find it only needs to be heated to a high heat for around 5 minutes.

If using bamboo skewers, most recipes will tell you to soak them in water for a couple of minutes before placing them on the BBQ to prevent them from burning or catching alight, however I’ve never really found this necessary.

Skewer the meat into even size skewers. Depending on how much meat you marinated you should have at least 5-6 skewers, if you like smaller size skewers or are serving more people you can stretch to 8 skewers.

Place on the BBQ/in the grill pan. I find it usually takes around 15 minutes to cook. Start with around 5 minutes on one side then turn and cook for around 5 minutes on the other side then a couple of minutes each on the other sides (I like to cook my meat on all four sides as we love the char grilled flavour and of course it’s imperative to cook chicken through).

While you’re cooking the meat, make your tzatziki. Serve with a Greek or garden salad.

Tzatziki

tzatziki

Ingredients

  • 1 Lebanese cucumber
  • ½ cup natural Greek yoghurt
  • half a teaspoon of good quality, finely ground salt such as Himalayan crystal salt or Celtic sea salt
  • half a teaspoon minced garlic or a large garlic clove, finely chopped (if you’re a fan of garlic, add a bit more – tasting as you go to get the desired flavour)

Method

Peel the cucumber and finely chop it. Place in a sieve sitting over a bowl with enough room under the sieve to give the liquid space to drain. Sprinkle a little salt over the cucumber and allow to sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes (or a little longer if you have time). The process will leech the liquid from the cucumber and prevent the tzatziki from becoming watery.

Once complete, mix the cucumber with the Greek yoghurt and garlic and taste. If you like salt, add a little extra – same with the garlic.

The tzatziki makes a perfect accompaniment to my chicken souvlaki.

Quinoa and Chia Bread

quinoa-chia-bread

This is a delicious bread that’s dense and nutritious. I generally bake, allow to stand for a day then slice and place in the freezer. It’s great served with poached or boiled eggs, nut butter or a sweet preserve.

Before I had a food processor I used to make it in a blender (not ideal but it works fine enough).

Ingredients

  • 500g / 17.5oz quinoa (whole, uncooked – use any colour or a mixture of colours)
  • 100g / 3.5oz  chia seeds
  • 100ml / 3.4fl oz or 6.5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • decent pinch of salt and pepper (to your liking)
  • juice of half a lemon (approx 30ml or 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 x tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

Method

Overnight:

  • Activate the quinoa by soaking it in water over night (cover the quinoa with plenty of water)
  • Soak the chia seeds in around 3/4 cup of water – the substance will set

To prepare:

  1. Grease a loaf baking tin
  2. If your coconut oil is set, place the container in some hot water to allow it to become runny
  3. Drain the quinoa and rinse thoroughly. Add to your food processor (or blender if you don’t have one)
  4. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 355 degrees Fahrenheit (10 minutes should be sufficient to allow the oven to fully heat)
  5. Add the chia mixture, coconut oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and 3/4 cup of water to the food processor (or blender)
  6. Blend on low for a couple of minutes until it forms a batter. Be careful not to liquify the whole mixture, at least half of the quinoa should remain whole
  7. Bake for 75 minutes. It should be firm but springy to touch. Insert a skewer to test, it should come out clean. If not bake for a further 15 minutes
  8. Leave to cool before slicing. I often leave overnight so that the bread doesn’t crumble when sliced, then cut into pieces approx 1.5com or half an inch thick. Keep in the fridge or place in an airtight container and freeze – it will keep in the freezer for several months

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