| - Part 2

Laksa (vegetarian or not!)

I’ve been loving laksa for decades.  Chicken laksa, seafood laksa, vegetable laksa, you name it, That’s the great thing about this Malaysian soup, it’s so adaptable to different tastes.  Even the base paste recipe lends itself to variations – although Malaysian cooks may shudder at the thought :)

laksa

Traditionally, the paste that defines this dish is made with dried shrimp or fish sauce – also tamarind paste is in some recipes for a more sour taste.

I wanted to make a vegetarian paste to which I could add roasted wild salmon for our non-vegetarian guests.  I marinated four wild salmon fillets (3 hours) in a mix of tamari, water, chopped ginger, 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice, sesame oil, then roasted them, wrapped in baking paper, at the same time I roasted the butternut squash.

If you don’t have an oven just add the cubed root vegetables to the pot first – that delicious roasted layer of flavour won’t be there, but plenty of others will.

So this dish can be anything you want.  Vegetables only, or you can grill, roast or gently fry some tofu or fish, prawns, chicken, or all of the above and just add it at the end to your soup bowl.

Voila, you have a selection of laksa to choose from!

Serves 4

Ingredients for the paste

3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 cm ginger, chopped
5 dried kaffir leaves, ribstem removed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp chopped coriander stalks from the bunchmentioned in the soup
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves ”
1 heaped tsp organic almond or peanut butter
1 fresh finely chopped chilli – IF you are fine with a bit of heat
2 stalks lemon grass (bottom tender part only; then crush with the flat of a knife, then chop)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp tamari sauce
juice of 1-2 limes
optional 1 tbsp water if your paste is too gluggy to handle!

The laksa soup

1 litre broth, or water with 1 heaped tbsp Marigold broth powder
2 thick slices butternut squash, to roast (or sweet potato, carrot…your choice)
200g broccoli spears
100g chopped spinach or kale or other greens you love
100g spring greens
2 large bok chop (halved or quartered)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 400 ml can of coconut milk
4 spring onions, chopped (for topping)
2 limes, halved

optional extra: 4 fillets of wild salmon

Method:

Roast the cubed butternut squash.  If you’re having a non-veg version add your marinated salmon to the oven as well (see first paras for marinade recipe).

Blitz all the paste ingredients together.  The taste will be intense, but don’t ‘tweak’ until later, when added to the coconut soup.

Boil your broth/water then simmer, adding the blitzed paste and the coconut milk.  Taste test!  At this point decide whether you like it as is.  Or add whatever your individual taste buds may be missing – more lime or tamari or fish sauce (if non-veg) or sesame oil?
Now add  3/4 of the chopped coriander and your greens.  Start with the tougher-leaf ones and leave the bok choy till last so it has some ‘snap’ left in it.
When ready to serve, remember to add your roasted butternut to the mix and let it warm through.

Portion the soup into four large bowls.  Add the salmon, if you’re serving a non-veg laksa.  Top it all with chopped spring onions and the remaining chopped coriander.  A wedge of lime on the side.

Ta da, your delicious laksa is served!

 

 

Thai basil stuffed mushrooms

There’s so much more than Thai basil to these stuffed portobello mushrooms but as this is the prevailing flavour in the filling, I decided to keep the name simple.
As always, my ingredients and measurements are dependant on what’s currently in season, or in our fridge!  Also, on the nature of the day.
We found loads of wild garlic on an outing yesterday so these were the main greens I used; last time I made this dish I wanted to use up broccoli as it seemed to be procreating in our fridge so that was the main green component.
If you don’t have time to roast nuts it will still taste delicious without.
There may be quite a few ‘put asides’  -  don’t be fooled.  This is not a difficult dish to make; each component flows easily.  Just those nuts need some forethought.  Keeping roasted pine nuts in a jar is very handy at times like this.  I had a friend staying who volunteered to roast them, which was another option!
Let your imagination take over and add what you love to it!  The Thai basil and mushrooms, however, must stay, otherwise you need to find a new name for this recipe :)
Delicious with just a salad alongside.  Enjoy.

best portobello

For 4 hungry people

Ingredients:

8 large portobello mushrooms
250g mixed rice such as wild/brown basmati
handful wild garlic leaves or spinach, finely shredded
2 large leaves Savoy cabbage, core removed, shredded
broccoli broken into tiny florets (c 1/4 head)
packet of Thai basil (or handful of leaves), shredded.  Put 8 aside for decoration
3 medium heritage tomatoes, chopped; I used marmonde as I loved the colour/taste & they’re currently in season
2 red onions, sliced
2 salad onions/scallions, green only, finely sliced
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts (if you have time to roast…. & watch carefully!)
Mozzarella for decoration on top – for those who want
Oil, butter or ghee for cooking; olive oil for mushroom-drizzle
balsamic vinegar, a couple of splashes
1 tbsp Marigold vegetable bouillon powder (some sea salt will do)
freshly ground pepper

Method

Remove the mushroom stems, place on a baking-paper lined oven tray and drizzle with some olive oil.  Bake in a medium oven about 10 mins.  You want the mushrooms to still hold their form and not flop.
Remove from the oven and put aside.

Cook your tomatoes next.  Start by adding the sliced onion and scallions to a pan (ghee, butter or olive oil) and fry gently until the onion colours.  Add the chopped tomatoes and some splashes of balsamic vinegar and cook over a low heat until it becomes slightly mushy.
Put this aside as well.
Use a large pot for the rice as you will be adding greens and mushed tomatoes to it by the end.  Cover the rice with enough water so it won’t boil dry.  When it’s almost cooked add a tbsp bouillon powder or some sea salt, plus all the greens – including the shredded Thai basil -  so they all steam on top.  If you find you don’t have enough water, add a little more freshly boiled water – not too much!

When the greens look wilted, and the rice is cooked to your taste, add your cooked tomatoes and mix everything together.   Add the roasted nuts at this point if you’re using them.

Spoon into the musrooms and decorate with a slice of mozzarella and a Thai basil leaf.
Place back in the oven until the cheese melts.

A salad alongside is more than enough as you have all your veg and rice carb neatly packed in the mushrooms – enjoy!

 

Spiced lamb with lentil and roasted cauliflower

I made this lentil and roasted cumin cauliflower before although as a combine dish – you’ll find it in my recipe list under July 2017.  So for anyone who would like to have a delicious vegetarian meal just add some mixed greens to the final dish – bok choy and spring greens were my choice today.

And for those eating meat, this lamb loin was tender and delicious, the marinade a real winner. I based it on a very old recipe from the Bathers Pavillion in Sydney decades ago but changed the ingredients as I didn’t want palm sugar, peanut oil or green peppers.
I had fun in the kitchen making it ‘mine’.  See what you think!

website lamb

 Ingredients for two servings:

Spice paste:

3 small red onions, roughly chopped
4 cm piece of fresh ginger, roughly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1-2  red chilli, chopped.  The amount is up to you!
1 1/2 tbs fish sauce
70 ml olive and sesame oils
handful of chopped coriander

2 lamb loins, approx 150 g pp

 Method:

To make the spice marinade, peel, chop and press all the solid ingredients into a bowl with the oils and fish sauce.  Blend to a find paste and rub generously over the lamb loins.  Set aside for at least 4 hours – best to marinate overnight.

Heat some oil or ghee in a pan and sear the lamb loins for about 5 minutes on each side.  Place into an oven-safe dish in the rest of the marinade – I added some broth to this as I was concerned it would dry out and wanted to avoid it ‘catching’, plus I wanted some more sauce to pour over the lentils.

You can roast the cumin cauliflower at the same time, 20-25 minutes.  Both the veg and the lamb came out perfect.
Cut the loins into slices and plate up – and pour what’s left of the marinade on top, voila!

Delicious gf/df teff pancakes

Brown teff flour has become a real favourite of mine!  I buy it online from Shipton Mill; easy to work with and it has a delicious flavour.
Teff grain is gluten free and native to Ethiopia where it’s used to make the flour for their Injera fermented bread or pancakes.  I found this recipe in Naomi Devlin’s book, “Food for a happy gut”, but replaced her dairy ingredients with coconut yoghurt & milk to see if the pancakes would still work – they did!
The recipe is easy and quick but you need to plan ahead as the intial combination of milk, yoghurt and flour has to sit at least 6 hours.  I whisked these together just before bedtime the night before, covered the bowl with a tea towel ready to mix in the rest the next morning and cook up a storm for breakfast.

My first pancake is always wonky, whatever flour I use, but after that I was flying and made about 10 – all odd shapes as you can see by the photo :)
They freeze easily (just defrost and warm up in a dry, hot pan), so I’ll be trying out Naomi’s burrito recipe soon as well.
We ate ours with soft boiled eggs, grilled tamari mushrooms, shredded greens and smoked salmon, yummm.

teff pancakes blog

 

Ingredients:

130g brown teff flour
300ml coconut milk
1 tbsp coconut yoghurt (from fermented young coconuts, not coconut-flavoured dairy yoghurt!)
2 organic eggs
50g black sesame seeds
large pinch of sea salt
light olive oil or coconut oil for frying

 Method:

Plan ahead!
You need to whisk together the milk, flour and yoghrut at least 6 hours before you want to make the pancakes.  Leave at room temperature for up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to cook, whisk in the eggs, salt and sesame seeds – add more milk if the batter is too thick.  Brush a frying pan with olive, pour in some pancake batter and swirl to give you a thin crepe – with preferably a nice round shape, unlike mine :)
Cook for about 2-3 minutes on the first side, then carefully loosen and flip over for another minute.
Keep warm in a low oven using baking or greaseproof paper between each pancake so they don’t stick, or freeze up to a month if you want to make wraps or burritos at a later date; just defrost at room temperature and warm in a dry frying pan.

Enjoy with fruit and more coconut yoghurt, or stewed apples, or savoury pancakes with a chicken filling, or with eggs….anything really.
Have fun!

Clementine Xmas cake

This was a deliciously tasty and light option for those in our family who didn’t want a traditional Christmas cake.

The cooked clementines really give it a fresh and zingy flavour – and it also happens to be gluten- and dairy free and goes down very easily after endless days of festive eating (although it’s certainly not just for Christmas :)

xmas cake website blog

 

Ingredients:

(20cm/8″ spring-form tin – or any shape you fancy!)

2 large clementines – about 200g
Zest from 1 unwaxed or organic lemon
4 organic or free-range eggs
140 g caster sugar
100ml olive oil
180g ground almonds
2 tsp gluten free baking powder

For the Syrup

12 g caster sugar
juice from a large lemon

Topping (optional)

100g dark chocolate
approx 2 tbsp butter

Method

Grease and line your tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4.

Place the clementines in a pot and cover with water then bring to the boil before letting them simmer for about 1/2 hr until tender.  Take out and cool, then halve and remove any pips before blitzing the clementines in a food processor until it forms a paste.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest and caster sugar then add the oil and beat well until it turns a bit lighter.  Stir in the clementine paste and then fold in the baking powder and ground almonds.  Done, easy!

Now spoon the mixture into the tin of your choice and bake 50 mins.  When ready it should have a little bounce to the touch of your finger.

Meanwhile, for the syrup, warm the sugar and lemon juice in a small pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.  When your cake is slightly cooled make lots of holes with a cocktail stick or suchlike and drizzle over the syrup.

Let cool completely, turn it out and either dust with icing sugar, or add the melted choc/butter mixture – and when cooled, dust it with snowy icing sugar.

Enjoy on its own or with yoghurt or cream/ice cream of your choice.  Wishing you a merry bake!

 

 

Christmas butternut porridge

This is a porridge that isn’t a porridge, and it’s creamy without having any cream. Perfect!  Gluten and dairy free, it has a deliciously smooth texture and is a yummy breakfast for a cold morn.  With the warming spices – cinnamon, allspice & cardamom – it really feels like Xmas is coming.
This is a breakfast porridge that could easily masquerade as a dessert :)

The original recipe is from Naomi Devlin’s fab gluten free cook book but I’ve changed some amounts and ingredients to work for me.  You can play with this recipe to your heart’s content!   Try stirring in roasted nuts to the final porridge… or add fresh or dried berries or chunks of separately stewed pear.  

You can cook up a batch of the porridge and keep it in the fridge 2-3 days; I also don’t see why it couldn’t be frozen then reheated (although I’ve not had any leftovers yet in order to try this out!)

pumpkin porridge breakfast

Butternut Porridge

(serves 4 with left-over topping you can refrigerate)

2 tsp coconut oil
2 organic sweet red apples, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
280g butternut squash, peeled and chopped into small chunks
1heaped tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
pinch of allspice
1/2 tsp vanilla

Crumble Topping

150g pecan nuts
5 tsp ground flaxseed
6 pitted dates, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Top with dairy-free coconut yoghurt, or Greek.

Method

Melt the coconut oil in a pan and add the cored and roughtly chopped apples.  Saute about 15 mins over a medium heat until they soften.  Add the carrots and butternut, lowering the heat and stirring for another 10 minutes.

Pour enough boiling water over the vegetables so they are just covered – not too much otherwise the blended end result will be too runny.

Add the spices, cover and simmer for about 45 mins, topping up the liquid only if necessary.  Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, to make the crumble, put all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until finely ground.  Add a couple of drops of water so that it just starts to form crumbs.  If you add too much it’ll become a paste, so be frugal with the water!
What you don’t use in this recipe can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days to use as a topping on yoghurt  etc.

Blitz the cooled veg and any cooking water in a blender until smooth, adding the vanilla as a finishing touch.
Ready to eat!  Just serve with some of the crumble topping and, if you want, a dairy-free or Greek yoghurt. Yum at all times of the year, not just Christmas!

 

Brain health: Focus on depression

Last week’s online docuseries, ‘The Broken Brain’, looked at so many different aspects of brain health that I thought it would be a great theme to address here in my blog over the coming months.

Today’s focus is on depression.  Not only do I see it a lot in clinic but also this is a condition that’s not gender or age specific.  It’s global; it’s on the rise.

depression

Some of the recommendations I’m sharing from ‘The Broken Brain’ may initially sound too difficult.  Exercise can be a hard one for some when motivation is missing.

Or it may sound trite hearing “don’t eat processed, reduce sugar”.  I agree, this isn’t new news, but the science behind it, which I’ll be sharing here, makes so much sense and can be empowering.

However deep you may be in your illness, here are some ideas and recommendations from the docuseries – gems of information to add to what you may or may not already be doing.

Depression can be such a complex, and sometimes seemingly impenetrable, health condition which is why the functional medicine approach works well.  It looks at the whole picture rather than just the symptoms plus it can give more time to the patient, which is often lacking in conventional medicine.

Antidepressants or SSRIs may be valid short-term conventional remedies to get you through a period of depression due to, say, grieving or trauma or stress.  They may end up being part of the prescriptive ‘whole’ treatment for someone, however, there can be side-effects to medications – an emotional blunting or a feeling of un-wellness as well as all the other mentioned side effects listed in the medication box!
(Saying that, if you are taking medication you must never stop cold turkey. Discuss any changes you’d like to make with your doctor or healthcare professional. Reductions should be made slowly, gradually, and with supervision).

Like most chronic health conditions, there are many different possible players with depression.

The first questions to answer may sound simplistic for a disorder that’s so multifaceted:
How did it all start? What else was going on at the time?  You may not know yourself – what did indeed kick start it all!?  It may feel like something you’ve lived with forever.

There are therapies that can help here – counselling or CBT or psychotherapy to name but a few.   Search online, read about what is available in your area and seek support.

An action plan, however, that you can try for yourself could be to mentally page through your life’s events, writing a journal, putting down memories that come into your head.  Doors can open up and let fresh air blow in, awakening thoughts which may help your process of understanding why you feel the way you do.
Possibly an ah-ha moment or two.

There are currently 3 epidemics that are affecting mental health – and overall health – in a big way.

1)    Too much cortisol.  This is an important stress hormone that works in tandem with adrenalin, another stress hormone; cortisol is supposed to ease off once the stressful situation – say, a tiger attack – is over.
I say tiger attack because this is how your body still functions.  Nothing has changed much since early man’s days, so your body can’t differentiate between that tiger attack, or being stuck in traffic or running very late for an appointment.  There’s no sliding scale, no ‘less’ pumping of stress hormones.
In our current society, cortisol levels often stay raised because the stress doesn’t stop, it just moves from one deadline to the next, from one traffic jam or ‘must do’ situation to the next.  Finances, relationships, children, partners, jobs, school pick-ups, cooking meals…you name it, they are all potential and willing stressors in today’s fast paced world.
Even ‘playtime’ can be stressful (& is often self-imposed) with less outdoor sport or walks and social interaction, and more ‘online’ time, computer screens, social media time, mobile texting.

Stress is a big driver of depression.  It cannot be underestimated.
Walking and even gentle movement if you find you can’t do more robust exercise, can relieve it by releasing endorphins, those happy neurotransmitters, especially if you combine it with scenery – the green outdoors, fresh air, parks, forests – and light.

Walking in sunshine ticks that other ‘outdoor’ box.  Vitamin D, which is often low with depression, is made in your body and requires good cholesterol levels (cholesterol is not always the enemy!), and exposure to sunshine, at least 15 minutes on bare legs, arms, face…the more the better.  Out of season, you could try using a lightbox.

Other de-stressors could be hobbies, movement classes (stretching, pilates, yoga) and mindfulness, a term we are hearing a lot at the moment – probably because it works!
There are currently so many mindfulness groups and sessions available around the country, around the world, so take a look at local noticeboards in your library, or ask in your local surgery or wellness centre.
For those who love ‘apps’, there is a plethora of relaxation apps – Insight Timer and Headspace to name just two.  These can also help with sleep which is so essential for brain health.  Even being deprived of sleep for only a couple of nights can heighten sensations of negativity and low mood!

2)    Too much insulin.
Every time you eat something sweet, the hormone insulin is released from the pancreas to get the blood sugar back in balance, to move that sugar/energy to the body’s cells where the brain is assuming it must be needed (why else would this body have eaten so much glucose – must need energy to run away from that tiger, assumes the brain).

Think how many times a day you may be eating something sweet – from that white toast, to the pure orange juice (no fibre to slow down the sugar spike) and the biscuit or chocolate and evening glass of beer….
Insulin is being summoned by the brain again and again throughout your day – used and abused until your body becomes insulin resistant, unresponsive to the very hormone that is trying to keep blood sugar balanced.
This is our current diabetes, aka insulin epidemic. Worldwide.

Another fact about sugar is that it causes inflammation in the body plus, if inflammation is already going on – being overweight, ill from viral, bacterial infections, allergies, joint pain, migraines  a.o. – it will just make things worse.

I’m referring to sugar in any form, not just the white stuff with your cuppa.  Sugar in honey, maple syrup, alcohol, white bread (chew long enough and note how sweet those simple sugars in the bread taste) and fruit – but yes, fruit has fibre to slow down the sugar hit in the blood plus vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants – so a little is good.
And, most important, hidden sugars added to processed foods, often in the form of ‘ose’ names on labels (maltose, fructose, dextrose, lactose… loads of ose!)
Google all forms of sugar and be astounded.
Too many canned, bottled, packaged foods contain these ‘-ose’ sugars because your taste buds love them, they’re addictive, and so they sell and make money for the manufacturers at your health’s expense.  Bluntly stated.

If you’re suffering from depression you may not like hearing that the very sweet food which feels like it’s lifting your mood is actually making your depression worse.  The fact is, the lift is temporary.  No sooner do you get that blood sugar spike, the brain will want to get it back to normal by calling in the insulin to drag it out of your blood – and you’ll experience a crash.  That in turn will make you reach for yet more sugar.
Up and down, this seesaw can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, weight gain and more depression.

Stopping sugar cold turkey is not the answer, but slowly reducing it might be.  And what a great step forward – to help not just your mind, but to reduce the inflammation in your body and keep diabetes at a distance.

What can you eat instead?  Fruit, as mentioned above, has many great nutrients, and will still help satisfy the sweet tooth to some extent.  Best eaten in moderation – a couple of fruit a day such as a handful of berries, stewed apples or pears, some banana.  Adding warm spices to stewed fruit such as cardamom or cinnamon will also help with blood sugar balancing.
And then an occasional sweet treat, a reward treat that you keep under control – as much as possible :)

Small steps are so effective – don’t beat yourself up if they don’t work all the time.  Early days, one step at a time.

3) The third epidemic is not having enough thyroid hormone.
The endocrine – hormone – system is interconnected which means that the aforementioned adrenal stress can have a knock-on effect on your thyroid hormone.
Burning the candle at both ends for too long can result in adrenal fatigue and possibly hypothyroidism (you can also become hypothyroid via an auto immune route, but that’s another story for another day).
Your thyroid gland is responsible for your metabolism, for how efficiently you function, how energetic you feel, how fast your body digests and eliminates food and so on.
A healthy thyroid is about feeling sparkly rather than sluggish; feeling upbeat rather than low.

Its health will affect other hormones and neurotransmitters and has a direct impact on your nervous system health.  Low thyroid – hypothyroidism – often has depression as one of its symptoms, so ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels because your depression may actually be a result of low thyroid function.

Drivers of inflammation that can lead to depression reel of the tongue easily:
Diet, stress, lack of exercise, toxins, infections….I’ve talked about some of these already.

Diet plays a huge role.  Are you eating the necessary nutrients that will help make your hormones and neurotransmitters in order to keep your nervous system healthy and buoyant?

Good levels of protein – for cellular repair and feeling satiated – such as oily fish – ideal also for their brain-supportive DHA/EPA healthy fat levels – but also organic chicken, some organic or free-range meats, local lamb….
And if you’re vegetarian and don’t have intolerances or problems digesting pulses and eggs (choline in eggs, yes, another great brain food), do include these daily.

Go for smart carbs with low glycaemic load – all those rainbow vegetables which smack of vitality.
The more colour, the more phytonutrients they contain! These colours, just like the strong tastes or smells in certain foods (think of garlic, onion, cruciferous veg etc), equate to the plant’s effective defence system and dense phytonutrient content that will improve your own defences, your immune system and general wellbeing – and subsequently your state of mind.

The brain is the fattiest organ in your body.  About 60% in fact.  Therefore essential fatty acids, specifically omega 3s, are crucial for good brain function.  Oily fish are the best source, but flaxseed, chia, all sorts of wild plants contain levels of omega 3s.  (If you were going to supplement anything, it would be omega 3 fish oils that I’d be recommending first of all).

Consider, too, the healthy fats found in nuts and seeds, in avocados, olives and olive oil…  And the saturated vegetable fat in coconut oil – how wonderful because saturated fats don’t oxidise in the brain the way unsaturated fats can be prone to free radical damage.

The next aspect to consider is, are you absorbing what you eat?  I’ve seen more lab tests this year showing hidden infections and intestinal permeability than ever before.  These will be compromising digestion & as a result will reduce absorption of the nutrients in your food.
If you have digestive symptoms – discomfort, reflux, flatulence, burping, pain – it would be invaluable to have a comprehensive stool test (sadly our NHS does not offer these tests) to ascertain if any hidden infections are in play.

Toxins!  A huge topic, but briefly a lot of people can react negatively, with mood disorders, to toxic exposure such as chemical cleaning agents, fumes from carpets and paints a.o.  Think about any toxic exposure you may have in the work place – chemicals? Mould in the building?  Smokers around you?
Heavy metals is another blog in itself, but needless to say, this will be pulling down your immune system, and that in turn will affect your mind health.  No myth that mercury caused the hatters of old to go mad.  It is indeed toxic to the brain and can still be found in some amalgams, and certainly in some fish esp. large, old fish such as tuna, swordfish…

Finally and so importantly, exercise… or movement.  Whatever you would like to call it!  Whether it’s kickboxing or running or cycling or fast walking, rowing…..
There are so many options, you just need to find the one that appeals.  Dancing may be your thing!  All will be great for circulation, for bone health, for improving motivation and increasing those ‘happy’ hormones.

A last word about supplements.
There are a lot of supplements which you can read about online, and which are advertised to relieve your depression.

It is something to consider however start with the food you’re eating, the thoughts you’re thinking.  Add a generous dash of daily movement, some kind and helpful support, tests from your doctor or private labs to rule out thyroid or gut issues….and take it from there.

You may find that swapping some foods, adding others, and going to a local zumba class gives you the uplifting start you need.
There are certainly wonderful herbs and complexes to suit all sorts of mood problems.  All very individual, so it’s best to speak to a functional medicine therapist about it.

Make a start and then see where you want to go from there.  Wishing you well on your journey!

Fig and roasted sweet potato

A delicious fig dish to try out, based on two recipes I found online – with just a few health-conscious tweaks that still keep the great mix of flavours.
Roasted sweet potatoes, raw figs and fried spring onions, what a combo!

sweet potato and fig

 Ingredients (to feed 4-6 as a side dish)

3 large sweet potatoes, (c.1 kg)
6 figs (c. 250g), quartered
12 spring onions, green part only; halved then cut into one inch pieces
6 tbsp virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

 Method

Preheat the oven to 160C degrees.  Peel the sweet potatoes (or scrub if home grown/organic), then halve lengthwise, and halve again so they look as much like wedges as possible.

Mix 3 tablespoons olive oil with some salt and pepper and rub over the sweet potatoes.  Spread them out on a baking sheet (skin down, if keeping it on).  Cook until done but not too soft, usually around 20-25mins, then remove from the oven  and scatter with the quartered figs.
The combination of roasted and raw really makes this dish.

Add the rest of the oil to a pan together with the balsamic vinegar, then fry the spring onion pieces for about 5 mins until they are well coated and slightly soft – and not burnt!  Add more oil or vinegar if you find your liquid has vanished (if you overfry the spring onions) :)

Spoon the mix over the wedges and figs and serve at room temperature.

Preserved lemons (“Things to do with lemons”)

What to do with 30 freshly picked lemons without spending endless hours drilling them out to make lemon sorbets (more about that in a later post!)

There always seems to be a glut of lemons here in Kefalonia, which is perhaps why all meat dishes – well, most recipes here in fact – have a lemon added to them, or at least a lemon sitting decoratively on the side of the plate.
There’s just so much lemon juice a freezer can take!  And my recent foray into the world of filling citrus fruit with sorbet is definitely not energy, or quantity, efficient.

When I was given all these lemons by our neighbours I had a momentary panic.  Like most people, I hate wastage, and I just couldn’t think past lemon ice cubes and drizzle cake.  Then I pictured our kitchen counter back home; we still have a jar of preserved lemons – a lone lemon left – that I made a year ago, a recipe taken from Ottolenghi’s first cook book.
So that’s what I’ve started.  Two jars for us and some smaller jars for presents.  Patience is required because the end result takes a minimum of  5 weeks :)

preserved lemons part 1

 

Ingredients per jar:

6 organic unwaxed lemons
6 tbsp salt
3 sprigs rosemary
3 small hot chillies (optional)
juice of 6 lemons
olive oil

 Method:

Sterilize your jar – I put mine in a hot oven.  Make a horizontal, then a vertical cut (yes, otherwise known as a cross!) in the lemons, about 3/4 of the way down so they stay attached at the bottom.  Fill each one with salt and then place into your jar, squeezing them down so it’s a really nice tight fit.
Seal the jar and leave for a week on the kitchen counter.

Part 2: one week later

Push the lemons down with a wooden spoon, or anything that will apply pressure and release the juices without squashing the lemons completely out of shape.
Add the rosemary, chilies and lemon juice, and then finish off with a thin layer of olive oil.
Seal the jar and leave another 4 weeks in a cool place (THAT will be the challenge here in these Greek 35 degree summer days!)
Add it chopped or sliced to any meat dish or stew for that lovely lemony flavour.

 

Butter bean mushroom bisque

For anyone who has given mushrooms a dismissive shrug in the past, this recipe may just be the one to change your mind.
Packed with the flavour of mixed, exotic mushrooms (or just flat and portobello if you don’t want to stray too far into the world of fungi), with hints of lemon, thyme and garlic and the thick creaminess of blended butter beans, you will be wishing you’d had that proferred second helping instead of letting someone else have three bowls!
I thank Sarah Britton’s ‘My New Roots’ inspiration… although I have played a bit with her original recipe.

mushroom soup blog

Ingredients:  Serves 4

250g assorted mushrooms or a mix of flat and portobello (give button mushrooms a wide berth)
1 litre vegetable broth (you can use Marigold powder instead)
2 red onions, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1 generous tbsp coconut oil or olive oil for cooking
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme (or 1 tsp dried if you can’t find fresh)
3 garlic cloves, squeezed, minced or otherwise mushed
juice of 1/2 lemon …or lime
400g can butter beans (235g drained), or any white bean you like
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
garnish of chopped coriander, parsely or basil
olive oil to drizzle at the end

 

Method:

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth then chop into rough chunks (they’ll end up blended so don’t fret about size).
Heat the coconut or olive oil and add the chopped onions and leeks as well as thyme.
Cook over a medium heat until they are soft.
Add the garlic, lemon juice. some sea salt and the mushrooms. Stir until these are also soft –  ensure nothing catches or burns.
Remove some of the smaller mushrooms, or decorative, exotic ones and put aside for decoration at the end.

Meanwhile (and for those who don’t ‘do’ meanwhile, this is an easy one), blend the butter beans and vegetable broth until creamy.  That’s it! .

Add this creamy mix to the mushroom/leek/onion pot and simmer for about 5-10 minutes before blending the lot.  Add more broth or water at this point if it’s too thick – I found that the consistency depended on the type of mushrooms I’d used.

Taste and season as desired.  Ladel the soup into separate bowls, garnish with the cooked mushrooms you put aside as well as some chopped greenery and a drizzle of virgin olive oil.

Deelicious!!