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Conjuring up spring with vibrant salad

Conjuring up spring with vibrant salad


I realize it is only late February, but this week I have been feeling the promise of spring in the air. Maybe I am noticing it because I was away for a few days, but suddenly the days seem longer – the light lingers until evening instead of fading in the afternoon. And that tree by the door – it is full of tight little green buds that are ready to burst into life.

Suddenly I was craving colourful and fresh foods (with a bit of substance as there is still a crisp edge to the day). This quinoa salad hit the spot: vibrant and soothing at the same time.

A handful of broad beans thrown in adds a boost of protein, fiber, potassium and energy-providing B vitamins. Broad beans are also known as fava, butter, Windsor, horse or even English beans.  Dicke Bohnen in German and tuinbonen Dutch. Shelling them takes a few minutes, but I loved peeling back the wintery grey shell to reveal that fresh nugget of powerful green. The earthy taste of the beans is echoed by the creamy avocado and is then contrasted by the zing of the radishes and lemon juice.

I have made this salad a few times and have noticed that sometimes I love the strong zingy flavour of the lemon whereas other days I really want a more mellow flavour. (And sometimes I am just too lazy to segment a lemon.) Depending on your mood you can leave out the lemon segments and use more or less juice.

For a simple lunch the salad with some crusty bread, olive oil and balsamic. It is also makes a great dinner paired with a chicken filet or a steak.
Or if you are like me and cannot choose: split your portion into two before adding the avocado. Have half for dinner with some chicken halloumi skewers (recipe to follow soon) and the rest the next day for lunch.

Ingredients
(adapted from Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’)
Serves 6

200g quinoa (or leftover cooked quinoa)
500g shelled broad beans (fresh or frozen) (NL: tuin bonen DE: Dicke Bohnen)
2 lemons
2 ripe avocado
200g radishes
50g purple radish cress (or small purple basil leaves or regular garden cress)
1 tbsp ground cumin
75 ml olive oil
1/4 tsp chili flakes
salt and black pepper

Recipe

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve (that removes the bitter flavour.) Place in saucepan with 1,5 times the amount of water. Bring to the boil. Place on the smallest burner on the lowest heat and allow to cook about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to stand 5 min. Spread on a plate and allow to cool.  (for the original method Ottolenghi uses see “Tips”)
  2. Bring water to the boil. Throw the beans into the water. Bring the water back to the boil and then immediately drain and rinse the beans. Gently press each bean to pop it out of its shell.
  3. Optional: Cut the bottom and top off each lemon. Stand each one on the chopping board and cut of the rind and white from top to bottom following the curve of the lemon.
  4. Over a bowl slice in between the membranes to cut out each of the lemon segments. Add segments to the bowl and squeeze in any juice that is left in the membranes.
  5. Cut the avocado in half right up to the stone. Separate the two halves. Use a knife to cut the avocado into cubes inside the skin. Spoon out the cubes and add them to the bowl of lemon.
  6. Slice the radish into thin slices.
  7. Combine quinoa, avocado the lemon segments (and some or all of) the lemon juice, the radish and half the cress. Season with cumin, oil, chili, salt and pepper. Carefully toss and check the seasoning.
  8. Plate and top with remaining half of cress.


Serve with

Tips & Tricks
Ottolenghi prepares the quinoa for this dish by bringing it to the boil with plenty of water and allowing it to simmer for 9 min. He then drains it in a fine sieve, rinses it with water and leaves it to dry.

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Some of the health benefits

  • Folate participates in biochemical processes that create genetic material, build cells and metabolize amino acids. It’s so essential for the growth and development of new cells that it helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before and during early pregnancy. Everyone needs folate to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. One cup of cooked broad beans contains 44 percent of the recommended daily intake of folate.
  • Iron: Most beans, including broad beans, are good sources of iron. One cup of broad beans has 3 milligrams of iron, which is 32 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 14 percent for women. In addition to carrying oxygen throughout the body, iron-dependent enzymes sense when oxygen levels drop and initiate processes that allow the body to compensate. Iron supports the immune system by functioning as an antioxidant that protects the white blood cells responsible for destroying bacteria.
  • Zinc: Enzymes are proteins that activate and speed up chemical processes inside your body. Almost 100 enzymes depend on zinc to fulfill their roles, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. In this role, zinc is vital for normal growth and development. Zinc deficiencies can cause growth retardation and delayed neurological development. Your immune system also suffers if you don’t get enough zinc. Decreased levels of zinc are associated with fewer white bloods cells available to fight invading pathogens and infection. The zinc from 1 cup of broad beans provides 15 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 21 percent for women.
  • Parkinson’s: If you have Parkinson’s disease, talk to your physician before eating broad beans. Broad beans are a natural source a levodopa, which is converted into the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is one of the medications used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s, but consuming levodopa from broad beans can cause both good or bad effects, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Their possible impact should be assessed by a doctor familiar with your condition.

(source: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-broad-beans-4389.html)

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Star of the week: zucchini (supporting roll: chicken)

Star of the week: zucchini (supporting roll: chicken)


A new tradition is born: “Vegetable of the Week”!

The other day, my sister and I decided that we would introduce more vegetables to our own and our family’s diet. Not that we eat unhealthily, but with the weather getting cold and the craving for comfort food  is setting in, it is becoming tempting to see vegetables as colourful decoration on a plate of protein and carb.

So we decided to launch the “Vegetable of the Week”. The idea is that EVERY week we pick a vegetable that we will both prepare AT LEAST ONCE THAT week. Also we will share our recipes with each other so that we can choose to cook the other’s recipe or to prepare a different dish. It’s as simple as that.

This recipe seemed to me to be the perfect kick-off.
You must understand, our pact is not about chewing on more raw carrots, it is about introducing more veg into our regular everyday eating routines. And what better start than a common meat dish that replaces some of the meat with vegetable.

Without further ado……. I present to you …….the first “Vegetable of the Week” (drum roll):
Zucchini (in chicken meatballs)

This recipe ticks all the boxes: it has a fabulously healthy vegetable playing the central role, it is ever so tasty (the zucchini adds amazing moisture to the meatballs), it is quick and easy to prepare and did I already say: it is tasty! A recipe by Ottolenghi (whom I have raved about
before – socca, lentil with celeriac).

You could make this dish using ready-ground chicken mince. But I prefer using boneless chicken thighs and blitzing them in my food processor (chicken breast would also work well, although it has a little less flavour).

There must be an endless amount of side dishes you can serve these tasty little morsels with: some pita bread and a little salad. Add some pulses and fold them into mung bean wraps or go all veggie and prepare some cauli tabouleh and steamed green beans.

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Ingredients
(adapted from Ottolenghi’s ‘Jerusalem’and inspired by the blog ‘The Iron in You’)
About 20-25 meatballs

1 large (or 2 small) zucchini (courgette)
1 medium onion, finely
500g organic boneless chicken thighs (or chicken breast or ground chicken)
2 tbs mint (you cannot skip the mint! J )
2 tbs parsley
2 egg whites (or 1 large egg)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric (optional)

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Chop the mint and parsley.
  4. If you have a food processor: use the grating disk to shred your zucchini and onion. Insert the chopping blade. Cut the chicken into chunks and together with the chopped herbs, egg white and seasoning. Blitz just long enough for the mix to come together. Do not overwork.
  5. No food processor: Chop the chicken meat finely. Grate the zucchini and onion finely. Combine with the chopped herbs, egg and seasoning.
  6. Using a spoon drop meatballs onto the baking sheet (the mixture will be rather moist compared to traditional meatballs)
  7. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check them once in a while as you want them cooked, but only just done so they stay moist. (Usually they will flatten out a little instead of staying perfect little balls – but believe me: the flavour will make up for that)


Serve with

Some of the health benefits

  • Depending on the size, one meatball has just 28.5 calories, with almost no fat (0.3 grams), just 1 grams of carbs and an outstanding 5.3 grams of protein.
  • Zucchini is one of the very low calorie veg – 17cal per 100g (nutrition and you)
  • It is a very good source of potassium, an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressure-effects of sodium.(nutrition and you)
  • A source of magnesium which like vitamin C protects your tissues from harmful free radicals. It supports the function of glycosyltransferases, a family of proteins that promote healthy bone tissue development. Manganese also helps your body produce collagen essential for efficient wound healing. Each cup of chopped zucchini boasts 0.22 milligram of manganese. This provides 12 and 10 percent of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily intake for women and men, respectively. (livestrong)
  • High in fiber
  • Beta carotene
  • Potassium
Some lentils, cleriac, nuts and  a bit of seasoning - amazing that something so simpel can taste this increadible

Some lentils, cleriac, nuts and a bit of seasoning – amazing that something so simpel can taste this increadible

Do you already own Yotoma Ottolenghi’s amazing recipe book ‘Plenty’? No? It is a collection of extremely creative and unbelievably tasty vegetarian recipes.

I already shared recipes based on his chickpea pancakes and his lentils with roast vegetables and grilled aubergine. As I mention in this last post, I will not be sharing many of his recipes as you really should buy his book. But to whet your appetite, here is one more wonderful dish.

And just so you know: I have cooked a few other dishes from the book. I loved them, but will not share them with you. I will not even tell you what they are called so you cannot search for them on-line. You will just have to get the book yourself and explore 🙂

A big thank you to RE for the beautiful little dishes I served the lentils in. Such a lovely present – you know me so well 🙂

 

Ingredients
( hardly altered from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe from ‘Plenty’)
Serves 3-4

60g whole hazelnuts
200g Beluga or Puy Lentils
700ml water
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 small celeriac (about 650g)
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp hazelnut oil (alternatively use walnut oil)
3 tbsp balsamic (or red-wine) vinegar
4 tbsp chopped mint
salt, black pepper 

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 140C..
  2. Scatter hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool and chop roughly.
  4. Combine lentils, water, bay leaves and thyme in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or all dente.
  5. Drain in a sieve and discard leaves and thyme.
  6. Peel the celeriac and cut into 1 cm chips.
  7. Bring water to the boil. Add salt and cook celeriac for 8-12 minutes or until just tender. Drain.
  8. Mix the hot lentils (if they are cool they will not absorbe the flavours of the dressing) with olive oil, 2 tbsp of the hazelnut oil, vinegar, pepper and plenty of salt.
  9. Add three quarters of the celeriac and stir. Adjust seasoning.
  10. To serve warm: stir in half the mint and half the hazelnuts. Spoon on a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining tbsp of hazelnut oil. Garnish with the rest of the celeriac, mint and nuts.
  11. To serve cold: allow the lentils to cool and adjust seasoning again; possibly adding some more vinegar as well. When you are ready to serve finish the dish the same was as when serving hot.

Serve with

  • As a vegetarian main with a side salad. Yotam recommends radish, cucumber, dill dressed with sour cream and olive oil
  • As a side dish to a plain steamed white fish
Honest and hearty tasting lentils with crunchy roast vegetables and silky aubergine

Honest and hearty tasting lentils with crunchy roast vegetables and silky aubergine


Welcome to 2013!

Although I am not superstitious, I really do enjoy rituals of celebration. So what better way is there to start the New Year than with a plate full of lentils for abundance of happiness (or is it money?).

This recipe is from Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”.  (It cannot be a coincidence that I gifted this book to myself on Thanksgiving last year 🙂  )

As lovely as all this the symbolism is, I believe that the first days of the year are for relaxing and lounging around rather than standing in the kitchen for hours on end. So I would not be suggesting this recipe if it were not so easy to put together. The only thing that takes a little effort is the grilled aubergine. At the same time it really tastes amazing and adds another dimension to the dish. I have two suggestions:  either make as much of this fabulous grilled aubergine as possible; keep the rest (refrigerate or freeze) to make baba ganouch to have later with some soft warps and lamb, for example. Or take a short cut by leavening out the aubergine and replacing it with a piece of delicate steamed fish.

By the way, Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”  is a wonderful vegetarian recipe book. I will not be sharing many recipes from it on my blog as I think you really should get it yourself. So consider this a little amuse bouch for the New Year.

Ingredients
(virtually only ratios altered from Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’)
Serves 2

1-2 medium aubergine for this dish (but make as many as you can)
2 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar (alternative: balsamic)
4 tbsp olive oil
150g lentils (Black Beluga I love for this dish as they keep their shape but Puy will do)
5 small carrots
4 celery sticks
2 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme (or a little dried if you are at a pinch)
1/2 white onion
18 cherry tomatoes
1/3 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tbsp fresh parsley
salt, black pepper
optional: 2 tbsp yoghurt (or creme fraiche)

 

Recipe

Aubergines

Although the traditional way to cook aubergines is oven an open flame, I prefer making them under the grill so I can prepare as many as possible in one go.

Grill: Line a baking tray with a double layer of aluminum foil. Pierce aubergines a few times with a fork (to stop them from exploding.) Place them directly under a hot grill for about 1 hour, turning them a few times. The aubergines should deflate and the skin should burn and break.

Hob: Pierce aubergine a few times with fork. Place them directly over two moderate, open flames. Roast until burnt (about 15 min).

Lentils

  1. Rinse the lentils. Place them in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cut 2 carrots and 1 celery stick into large pieces. Add to lentils.
  3. Add 1/2 onion in one piece as well as bay leaves and thyme to the pot.
  4. Cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 25 min (or until lentils are tender but not mushy.)
  5. Drain in a sieve and remove all the vegetables and herbs.
  6. Transfer lentils to a mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp vinegar.
  7. Season with plenty of pepper and especially salt.
  8. Set aside somewhere warm (this dish is best served warm but can be served at room temperature.)

Vegetables

  1. Whilst the lentils are cooking, cut remaining 3 carrots and 3 celery sticks into 1-2 cm chunks.
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
  3. Throw the vegetables into a large oven dish and mix with1 tbsp olive oil, the sugar and some salt.
  4. Cook in the oven for 20 min until carrot is tender but still firm.

Assemble

  1. Chop the coriander, dill, parsley.
  2. Add 2/3 of the vegetables and herbs to the lentils. Carefully combine.
  3. Taste to adjust seasoning.
  4. Spoon lentils onto serving dish. Top with remaining vegetables and herbs.
  5. Pile aubergine on the top.
  6. Add a dollop of yoghurt if using.

Tips & Variations

  • If you are rushed for time skip roasting the aubergine and steam some fish instead
  • If you do have the time to make the aubergine make plenty refrigerate or freeze it to use for baba ganouch dip


Serve with

  • Some blanched green beans

Fluffy soccas with a hearty and earthy taste are fabulous for these dismal autumn days

It is grey and wet outside; the perfect weather to celebrate the weekend by making a batch of pancakes for brunch.

On my search for more nutritious alternatives to plain wheat pancakes I stumbled across socca.

Socca, farinata, or cecina are pancakes made from chickpea flour. They originate from Genoa and are popular on the Ligurian Coast from Nice to Pisa. I have never had one cooked for me, and do not know how they should taste. The first recipes I experimented with turned out tasty but seemed too soggy. That is until I was in a bookshop leaving through Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Plenty”. I discover that he adds egg whites to the batter. Of course I had to try this. The result is an amazingly light pancake with the most lovely texture.

Since socca have become one of my favourite lunch dishes. I have been having them with all sorts of toppings: roast tomato and onion / avocado and tomato / fried egg and spinach….

Ingredients
(recipe as I remember it form leafing through Ottolenghi’s  ‘Plenty’. Possibly he uses the egg yolk – I leave it out)
1 – 2 servings, depending on the topping you choose

70g chickpea flour (also called gram or besam)
120ml water
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg whites

Recipe

  1. Combine flour, water, olive oil and salt. Whisk together.
  2. You can leave this mix to stand (5 minutes / 2 hours how much ever time you have). But this step is not necessary.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until peaks form.
  4. Carefully fold the egg whites under the batter.
  5. I make two 20cm pancakes, but you could also make smaller ones.
    Ladle the batter into your frying pan. Use your spatula to distribute the batter evenly.
  6. Cook the pancakes on a medium-low heat until golden; about two minutes on each side.
  7. If you are making larger amounts you can keep the pancakes warm by placing in a 125C oven on a parchment covered baking sheet.

Currently my favourite topping: Spinach and fried egg
1 – 2 eggs
200g spinach
Salt, pepper

  1. Fry an egg sunny side up.
  2. Briefly allow some spinach to wilt. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve the socca, with spinach and egg.

Alternative topping: Roasted tomato and onion
(this is the original topping from Ottolenghi’s recipe)

250g cherry tomatoes
2 onions
salt, pepper
thyme
apple cider vinegar

  • Halve tomatoes. Place on baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and bake in oven for 25 minutes at 120C (250F).
  • Heat olive oil in a pan. Peel onion and cut into thick slices. Saute in oil. Add a sprinkle of thyme, salt, pepper. Cover and cook 20min until soft and golden. Add a splash of vinegar.


Other ideas

  • Wilted spinach and fried mushrooms
  • Rocket, avocado,(roast) cherry tomatoes
  • Hummus and roasted red peppers

    Creamy avocado and roast tomato

Wilted spinach and fried egg