Author Archives: Monica

Beetroot and red cabbage borscht

This is such a quick soup to make it surprises me everytime!  And it only takes a few potent ingredients to have this delicious flavour and a colour to wow your dinner guests.
Each time I’ve made it I’ve played around with the amounts.  Sometimes I didn’t have enough beetroot, other times not enough red cabbage.  The soup is very forgiving – tastes delicious every time.

Both beetroot and red cabbage are rich in minerals and vitamins, esp A, C & K; not to mention both having great fibre content.  The nitrates in beetroot result in relaxing & dilating blood vessels (one reason its juice was such a trend some time ago; shame, however, not to eat it whole esp due to that bowel-healthy fibre!)
Studies show these nitrates, after being converted in our body, not only have the potential to lower BP but also improve cognition due to increased blood flow to the brain.  Something to be aware of is that beetroot is a FODMAP food (note: far less so when pickled!) so, if you have IBS issues you may want to do some gut healing first.

The DIM and sulforaphane in cabbage have been widely researched and written about due to their cancer-protective properties, so I won’t say any more than that.  Well worth reading about.
The vibrant colour of both these veg give away the fact they contain potent polphenols, those protective anti oxidants so vital to good health.  Betacyanin in the beetroot, and anthocyanin in red cabbage give it their colour and are just two of the many polyphenols within.

With all these benefits this is certainly one deliciously powerful recipe I’m keeping in my immune-supportive arsenal for the coming winter months…hope you enjoy it as much as we do x

borscht

 Ingredients:

(serves 4-6)
6 cooked beetroot
1 medium red cabbage
1 clove crushed garlic
800ml rich vegetable broth
4-5 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
an optional few dollops of maple syrup
garnish of leaves; basil and parsley worked for me

Method:

Cut the cabbage into chunks and steam until soft.  Put in a pot with the roughly chopped cooked beetroot, garlic and vegetable broth.   Heat then add the apple cider vinegar – and optional maple syrup.

Take off the heat, cool a little then blend to the consistency you like.

Taste test!  You may wish to add a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, or add more vegetable broth if you find it too thick.
Serve and garnish with basil or parsley leaves.
A rich, hearty soup – and so quick and easy!

 

Beetroot & fennel flan (gf)

I wanted to try making a gluten free version of this delicious flan that a friend baked for a recent picnic.  I also wanted it dairy-free – although I ended up keeping the butter in the pastry.  Butter is low in lactose, contains less casein (protein) and is generally better tolerated than other dairy foods.

After Takes 1 and 2, the following recipe is the one that went down well with friends and family.  Even though everyone liked the crumbly texture I might try adding a little potato starch/flour next time.  See what you think…
As I’ve had quite a few plays with this over a short period of time – and my cup really does runneth over with beetroot – I’ll not be tweaking this version again in the near future, lol.
Enjoy making it!

beetroot and fennel

Ingredients:

Serves 6-8 using an 11″ or 28cm flan dish

300g organic beetroot, cooked then peeled
3 eggs
200ml coconut-based yoghurt (like Koko or Coconut Collaborative here in UK; or regular yoghurt/creme fraiche if you’re fine with dairy)
160 ml plant-based milk (like whole coconut milk from Mylk or Oatley or…)
200g goat’s cheese, broken up/chopped
freshly ground pepper, sea salt
1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh fennel fronds, or dill
1 large or 2 medium fennel bulbs
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
virgin olive oil
50g broken up walnuts

Pastry:

150 g butter
150g chestnut flour
100g brown rice flour
1 egg yolk
pinch salt
1-2 tbsp cold water, if necessary

(note: if you want to use regular flours, the original recipe was 150g plain flour; 100g wholegrain rye)

Method:

Cook the beetroot until soft.  Peel when cooled then slice quite finely.  Set aside.

For the pastry, cut the butter into small cubes and blitz with the flours and salt in a food processor.  Add the yolk.
If the pastry hasn’t started to ‘form’, add a little cold water.
Shape into a ball and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.

When ready, take the ball of pastry and knead into the oiled flan dish.  I tried rolling out my pastry but it really was too crumbly.  I gently pushed it into the base and sides of the flan dish – worked well (& felt quite therapeutic!  Memories of those halcyon playdough days….)

Pre-bake in the middle of a 160 degree oven (320F) for about 10 minutes.

Whilst it’s baking cut the fennel in half, remove the hard core and finely slice.  Saute in a low-heat pan with some olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Add 1-2 tsp of balsamic vinegar at the end. Put aside.

Mix together all the filling ingredients: coconut-based yoghurt, coconut milk (or whatever milk is your preference), the beaten eggs, goat’s cheese, pepper, salt and finely chopped fennel/dill).

Scatter the sauted fennel across the pre-baked base, then add half the yoghurt mixture.  Place the sliced beetroot on top, arranging in a layer.  Add the remaining yoghurt mixture and scatter with the crushed walnuts.

Return to the oven and bake for 30-40 mins.   Despite a common heat temperature, ovens vary, so check after 30 mins and continue baking if necessary until the liquid has firmed up.

Serve with a delicious salad of your choice.

Vegan choc-almond-chestnut cake

The name’s a bit of a mouthful!  The original title “Chocolate chestnut cake” just didn’t do it justice for me, since I could definitely taste almond more than chestnut.

My version here has just a smidgeon of melted dark chocolate added to the topping.  Gives it a smoother finish -  that’s my excuse!

I came upon this recipe on Instagram earlier in the year on the fab Rebel-kitchen/-recipe page.  Not one of hers, but a cake she was raving about and which she kindly shared. I’d love to know whose cake it originally was…
It was forgotten about until last week when my scribbles were unearthed from a pile of to-do papers.
It’s quick and easy to make, and ticks all the boxes: vegan, gluten and dairy free.
Deliciously moist and absolutely DIVINE!

vegan cake

 Ingredients:

120g almond flour
120g chestnut flour
100ml coconut oil, melted
500ml coconut milk (or any other plant milk)
80g sugar (coconut sugar if you have it)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
5-6 tbsp cocao

Almond-chocolate topping

140g ground almonds
60g coconut milk
1 tbsp sugar (ditto coconut sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
100g dark chocolate, melted

Method:

Grease a medium-size round cake tin with coconut oil.  Beat all the cake ingredients to a smooth batter.
Bake in a 160 degree oven (350 fahrenheit) for about 30-40 minutes, or until just cooked in the middle – my toothpick came out a bit sticky.
To make the topping, melt the chocolate in a bain-marie with 2 tbsp water.  Blitz all the ingredients then add the melted chocolate and stir to a smooth paste.  Add a little more coconut milk if it’s too claggy.
Top the cake with berries or any seasonal fruit, and enjoy!

 

Beetroot humus

Hummus is always a delectable nibble to have at the ready and this beetroot one is simply delicious, and the colour is divine!
Inspired by one we ate – and keep eating! – at Lorraine’s Magic Hill restaurant on the isle of Kefalonia in Greece.

beetroot humus

Ingredients:

3 medium-size cooked beetroots, about 300g
300g cooked chickpeas.
(NB.  I soak the dried chickpeas overnight, change the water twice, then throw it out and cook the chickpeas in fresh water.  Sounds a pfaff, but it’s a good habit in case your guests have issues digesting pulses, those problematic oligosaccharides)
1 generously heaped tbsp tahini
juice from 1 lemon (or half, if it’s a super juicy Mediterranean one)
1 large clove of garlic (or more if you’re game)
80ml virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste
optional chilli flakes – go easy
small amount of water to thin the mixture as you blend

 

Method

Basically everything is blended together – can’t get much easier.  I start with the beetroot, then add 99% of the chickpeas (rest is decoration), together with some oil and the tahini and spices/herbs.   If the mixture is getting too stodgy, aka like concrete, carefully add a little water to the mix until it’s just right for you.
A lot of humus recipes rely on the oil for the smooth consistency however I find using more oil instead of a little water makes it far too heavy and rich.

Top with a few cooked chickpeas or any herbs of your choice.  Kali orexi!

 

 

Asian spiced apricot chutney

A glut of mini apricots here in the garden so I’ve been stewing and jamming some of the nine kilo picked by us over the past few days.  Apricot chutney sounded too delectable to miss!

apricot chutney

I found several online recipes, but added and subtracted and adapted the various ingredient suggestions.  In the end, it’s an appleaday recipe through and through.
Fresh limes at the green grocer’s simply had to be added – an Asian recipe without them is lacking!  Plus garam masala (thank you Rebelkitchen, I am now an even bigger fan of that delicious spice after the mushroom korma I adapted ‘n posted here back in December ’18).

Regarding chopping instructions, I’ll leave that up to you.  As I don’t have a blender here I finely chopped the apples, onions & ginger by hand.  If you have a blender, chop the lot roughly, then blend so it’s fine, but not a mush.

The result is simply divine, and can be an added side dish to allsorts, not just curries.

Ingredients:

1.5 kg apricots, stoned and quartered
2 red onions, finely chopped  (see the note above re chopping)
3 small braeburn apples, or similar, finely chopped
6 cm ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black or mixed pepper
1 heaped tsp garam masala
1 heaped tsp Chinese five spice (=cinnamon, fennel, clove, star anise and peppercorns!)
350 ml apple cider vinegar
juice of 2 limes
2 – 3 finely chopped chilli (or 4 if you like your chutney to bite back)
250g sugar
2 tbsp local honey

Method:

Stone and quarter the apricots and put aside.  Chop the onions, ginger, apples and chillies - seeds and all – and put into a large pot.

Add to this mix the garam masala & Chinese five spice, as well as salt, pepper, lime juice and vinegar; bring to the boil.  Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring once in a while (trying not to cry from the onions and vinegar, lol).

Stir in the quartered apricots and return to the boil, then simmer until the apricots are softened.

Add the sugar and honey, then boil again for about 20 minutes until the delicious brew thickens, stirring occasionally to stop it catching.

Let it cool slightly whilst you sterilize your jars in a hot oven.  Once cooled, pour and seal.  Display for one and all to delight in, then store up to a year in a cool dry place.

Moroccan lentil vegetable stew

We arrived back on the island and found one food store open on the way to the villa.  I stocked up on tomatoes – always in Greece, lol – carrots, lemons, white onion, celery, garlic and of course the ubiquitous spinach.  Where would the Greeks be without their delicious spinach pies!?

Later that night, foraging in our kitchen cupboards,  there was the usual store of spices, a jar of tahini and a packet of dried lentils.

So here’s the creation that evolved – luckily it was delicious.  And after stocking up in Argostoli the next morning, I added chopped coriander to the leftovers!
(The curry leaves you may spy in the photo were in my larder, but we couldn’t taste them.  They’ve been edited out :)

Lentils are generally easier to handle than other pulses but they still contain those hard-to-digest oligosaccharides so I always suggest soaking them overnight.

lentils 3

Ingredients (for 4 peeps)

3 tbsp olive oil
large white onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
3 generous handfuls spinach, shredded
4 garlic cloves, pressed or grated or sliced, whatever you like to do with garlic
15 small red tomatoes, halved
400g lentils  We happened to have the conventional brown ones that soaked up a lot of the broth; you could use puy lentils and make this a soup!
1.5 – 2 litres vegetable broth.  Start with less then add if necessary; depends on the lentils used as to how much liquid they absorb.
Spices:
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sumach (optional)
… plus chilli flakes, sea salt and pepper to taste

And fresh coriander, chopped, as a topping

Tahini dressing:

2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
Approx 4 tbsp water, depending on how juicy your lemon
ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Method:

Add the chopped onion to a pan of olive oil and cook until soft.  Add the diced carrots, celery, shredded spinach and stir to coat them.
Then add the spices, garlic, tomatoes and your vegetable broth.

Cook covered for about 10 minutes, then uncovered for about 10-15mins, depending on the type of lentils; the smaller, the less cooking time needed.

Dollop with the tahini dressing and chopped fresh coriander – and enjoy!

 

 

Vegan gf/df brownies with chestnut cream

I’ve now baked these brownies four times and each time they surprise me.  Such a different process and appearance to my traditional beetroot/egg batter that I have a moment of doubt: has it worked?
Yes, every time!
Just keep in mind, with no eggs or flour the end result can look more like a slice, so do use a small tray or tin to give it a chunkier appearance.

I originally found this recipe on the Rebel kitchen website – yum! – but decided on some different amounts; a couple of changed ingredients.
It’s one of those easy recipes you can whip up at the last minute (as long as you have the ingredients in your cupboard!)
Only the cashews for the cream need some forethought as they should soak at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.

No flour, no eggs, hence no rise, although there is a token 1/2 tsp of gf baking powder, which I suspect could be left out (next time…)  Hence I use a small lined tin (18cm) or tray so that when it comes to cutting into small squares they have a lovely inch height to them.
Moist, owing to the dates & almond butter.  Very chocolatey.
What else does a brownie need to be?

brownie for website

 

Ingredients

40g melted coconut oil
100g ground almonds
200g cooked chestnuts (I use vacuum packed, eg Porter Foods)
6 pitted Medjool dates
1tbsp almond butter
2tsp vanilla extract
150g dairy free dark chocolate, melted
2tbsp cocoa powder
1/2tsp gf baking powder
1 heaped tbsp coconut sugar/nectar (eg Tiana) or any sugar of your choice
Icing Sugar for dusting (optional)

Cashew cream:

200g cashews, soaked min 4 hrs, ideally overnight
Water, add slowly to get the consistency of cream (& not concrete!)
2tbsp maple syrup
juice of 1/2 lemon
2tsp vanilla essence
pinch sea salt

Method:

Note that this batter is thick and won’t pour.  I spoon into the tin, then press firmly down to the edges, the same way I would a soft pastry.  Dampen your hands if the batter’s too sticky.

Blitz the melted coconut oil and chestnuts in a food processor or other efficient high speed blender.  Add the chopped soft dates, pulse again, and then the melted chocolate, ground almonds, baking powder, cocoa and vanilla essence.  Blend well, then add the salt and sugar until it is all mixed in.
Spoon-’n-press the batter into your cake or tray tin and bake about 20-25 mins in a 150C degree oven until the edges darken.

Cashew cream:

Mix the soaked and softened cashews with the lemon juice, maple syrup and a little water in your food processor.
Add the vanilla essence and salt, then drizzle more water into the mixture until it has a creamy consistency.
Dollop some on or beside your brownie – or on anything else that will profit from a delicious creamy texture (chopped fruit on your nut muesli or porridge?  How decadent… :)

 

Vegetable Pad thai the healthy way

I had such a disappointing vegetarian Pad Thai last week in London – far too many noodles and not a single veg, bean shoot or coriander leaf to be seen.   I was hoping for the one we used to eat in Fernie (dreams of “The Curry Bowl” restaurant).
That didn’t happen….

I had a packet of flat rice noodles in the pantry and vegetables are always in the fridge so I decided to make my own version.  A jar of unopened tamarind paste has been shouting at me for so long it was about time I let it out of the cupboard.  I added prawns at the last minute as they were requested, however this is a vegetarian recipe so ignore the prawns in the photo, lol, but do feel free to add them if you want.

At this point I have to tell you that if you’re hoping for a very gloopy noodle dish,  this isn’t it.
This is vegetables with noodles not noodles with noodles.  However it is deliciously scrummy and it still has some of that comforting stickiness (released from the rice noodles) that is an important part of the Pad Thai experience!

pad thai for blog website march 2019

Ingredients (to serve two)

200g flat rice noodles, cooked (ie. soaked in boiling water; see below)
4 cm fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
4 garlic, ditto
green part of a large leek, sliced
1 large carrot, diced or sliced
handful of spinach/kale/white pointed cabbage – or any greens, shredded
10 Brussels halved, if you like them
100g butternut squash, cubed
150 g broccoli, broken into florets
2 bok choi, roughly shredded
approx 1 cup water
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2-3  tbsp tamari sauce (or more however be careful not to make it too salty!)
handful of chopped coriander
2 halves lime to decorate

 

Method

First prepare the noodles:
The directions on the packet (“Thai taste”) instructed me to place noodles in a flat dish, pour over enough boiling water to cover and soak for 10 mins.
That didn’t work for me as the noodles were still quite ‘raw’.  I added extra boiling water half way through (in case that was why they didn’t go limp) and needed a good 15 minutes.  However see how your noodles comply.  Luckily, it’s easy to check how they’re softening whilst starting all the vegetables.  Remove from the water as soon as you’re happy with the desired consistency.

Heat the coconut oil; gently fry the leek until soft.  Add ginger and garlic then the butternut cubes, carrots and brussel sprouts, coating them in the oil mix before adding a little water, the  tamari and tamarind paste.  Basically you are steaming rather than frying the vegetables – healthier – so you can just start with just a little water then add more as you add the rest of the vegetables. (I left the shredded spinach and bok choy until I was almost ready to serve so they retained some crunch).

Once the vegetables are all in the pan, add the cooked noodles and the sesame oil and stir in well.  At this point you could also add cooked prawns, as in this photo.  If you were adding tofu cubes or chicken I’d recommend you marinate first in a mini mixture of ginger, garlic, tamarimand oil for a couple of hours before cooking.

Serve with chopped coriander and a quarter or half lime.  The fresh zing of the lime really adds to the flavour!

mushroom chickpea korma

This is a delicious vegan recipe which ticks all the boxes for me.  Tasty, fresh ingredients, gf/df and surprisingly quick to prepare.  Also as hot – or not – as you want.
I made it in the morning before a busy day, then warmed it through in the evening whilst the rice was cooking.  Originally a rebel kitchen recipe (the very same genius who make the dairy-free, plant based mylk in the recipe), however, tweaked and changed to make it more of an appleaday taste.
This is going to be one of our yum, easy meals during the more complicated festive cooking days – everyone in our family likes a curry!

mush korma

 

Ingredients to serve 4:

100g packet raw cashews, soaked overnight
4 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
2 medium red onions, roughly chopped
OR if onions aren’t your friends, slice the green section of 2 leeks
4 cms piece ginger, grated
4 garlic, finely sliced
10-15 cherry tomatoes
One 400g can organic chickpeas, well drained
350g mixed mushrooms to include portabello, shiitake and any others you love, large chopped pieces
400-600 ml semi-skimmed or whole ‘Mylk’.  Amount depends on how much liquid you want your final dish to be.  I began with 400 then added more once all the ingredients were simmering.  This ‘mylk’ is a fresh coconut-based milk (which also has rice milk, salt, nutritional yeast).  If unavailable I’d recommend a coconut-based milk for this korma, in keeping with its origins.
2 generous handfuls of kale or spinach
bunch of coriander, chopped, to decorate
2 fresh limes halved, added to each individial plate
handful of flaked almonds, roasted, as a topping

Spices:
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp crushed cumin
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp powdered cardamom or 2 pods, crushed
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2-1 tsp chilli flakes, depending how hot you like it
a little sea salt

Method:

Blend the cashews with about 1/2 cup water to create a thick smooth paste.   I started with less water, then added until it was creamy but not concrete!  Again, you can adjust as you blend to create the consistency you like your curries.  All so individual!

Heat the oil in a pan, add the oinoin and brown slightely.
Add all the spices, garlic and ginger, then the roughly chopped mushrooms (I kept mine fairly large so they’d be generous mouthfuls).
Add the halved cherry tomatoes then pour in the Mylk and cashew cream. Add the chick peas and simmer for 15mins.
5 minutes before serving add the chopped kale or torn spinach leaves.
Finish each bowl with a generous amount of chopped coriander, flaked almonds and 1/2 lime for guests to squeeze as they wish.
Rice and a green tossed salad.  Easy!

 

Baba ganoush (aubergine) dip

We had a plethora of aubergines (eggplants) this year, and even now in November, here in the Ionian, they are still growing -  amazing!

One delicious way of cooking with aubergines, if you’ve had enough of grilling or making moussaka, is to roast and blend them into a middle eastern dip called baba ganoush (ghanouj).  Different spellings abound, as do the apparent origins of the name.   In Arabic, baba means father, and ganuj means pampered a.o.  The Oxford English Dictionary suggests possibly a pampered sultan made up the recipe, but I’m not convinced.  (What’s a sultan doing in the kitchen?)

baba g

Whoever first concocted this dip, I send heartfelt thanks as we’ve always loved it, even way back when in Sydney, eating at Ishmail’s in George street. Gone now, but the delicious recipe remains and can be found in loads of restaurants all over the world, hooray!  An easy one to add to your repertoire.

A dip to serve 4.
Ingredients

2 medium aubergines
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp tahini
fresh lemon juice to taste
some sea salt
1 tsp cumin
cayenne to taste – start with a light sprinkling then adjust at the end
olive oil for roasting
1-2 tbsp virgin olive oil

Method

Halve the aubergines/eggplants and score with a knife without damaging the bottom skin.  Place on a roasting pan, skin side down, and drizzle generously with oil.  Roast at 160 degree (c 320 fahrenheit) for about 40 minutes until they look well done and dark.

Scoop out the flesh, discard the skins.  Mash with a fork adding all the above ingredients apart from the lemon juice which you add last.  You can also use a blender for a completely smooth finish if you prefer.

Taste test and add more of whichever ingredient you’d like to stand out.

Spoon into a dish and serve with toasted plantain flatbread (goes well with it if you want to be GF.  You can find the recipe on my website) – or any toasted flatbread.
Enjoy!