Holidays are over and it’s time to get back to normality… If you have kids I am guessing you are in the midst of preparing for the return to school. Even though it is years (many years in fact) since I went to school, this time of year always reminds me of just that. The sense of that first light chill in the air, the sweet smell of grain ready for harvest and just the beginning of a hint of red on the leaves. Then you know that change is in the air and that we are slowly moving towards darker times. Summer is drawing to a close… Both with a little sadness, yet with a light exciting anticipation of what may lay ahead.
I came back from my long awaited holidays earlier this week. And boy am I feeling the change in the air! When you live abroad, “going home” is almost a necessity. Kind of a given way to spend some of your hard earned time off. This is my 13th year abroad and every summer I return faithfully to my roots. Luckily I have a loving home to return to every year and since my beloved mother lives in one of the most beautiful places on earth it makes the endeavor an even sweeter one. About ten years ago she moved to the most southernly area of Sweden, Österlen. It is so close to the sea and one of those special places with special light.
This area of Sweden has been home to painters and artists for centuries. If you have ever visited, it is obvious why. You will find art galleries, vintage stores and artisan cafés dotted all over the place. This is not where I grew up though. My “real home” is smack bang in the middle of Skåne, with a slightly different landscape. Different but still beautiful. My dad and his family come from this particular countryside and my darling brother is set to carry on the tradition, having built his house here and having started his own family earlier this year.
This post is slightly different to my usual ones as I would like to share some pictures I took whilst I was home, in Sweden. I sincerely hope you won’t mind. If you have never visited this corner of the earth, hopefully a few images will inspire you to do so!
The little town of Kivik, located right on the coast is world famous for all things apple. You will find an almost unimaginable amount of rows up on rows of apple trees growing in the area. Imagine the beauty of Spring there! All those flowers…
Most of the coastline is scattered with small sandy beaches and the Baltic can be very warm with water temperatures reaching the mid 20s if the summer is a hot one. I manged just one dip while I was home but I doubt it was still mid 20s kinda warm. It didn’t really feel like it was! It truly is a summer paradise around here and judging from the amount of tourists still around, a lot of people seem to think so. The area is actually equally beautiful in the winter, but much much colder so hardly any visitors to be seen anywhere then. I’m sure the locals don’t mind the peace and quiet over the winter months, though. They must be worn out after the summer.
When I first moved overseas, there was a whole heap of foods and dishes I missed. Since then, my dietary habits have changed, a lot. Much for the better, I suppose. So now I miss cooking when I’m away instead. There are still a few foods which find their way back to Ireland every time though. Things like REAL traditional Swedish rye crispbread and “Kalles Kaviar”, a caviar in a tube. Might sound rather awful to some… But not if you are a true Swede 😉 Anyone with me? Have you tried it?
The recipe here is a delicious purple smoothie bowl made with blackcurrants foraged from my mother’s tiny little kitchen garden. I simply adore blackcurrants, so enjoyed the opportunity to pick them straight from the bush as oppose to a freezer bag for a change. Blackcurrants are a true super food which we, who live in the northerly latitudes can enjoy locally. It has as much vitamin C as goji berries so a perfect berry to store for the winter months to stave off any colds and flu bugs. When I was in my late teens and still lived in Sweden I had never even heard of a dairy free smoothie bowl, like this recipe. Fast forward ten years or so and they have become a weekly staple. How things change, hey?
Smoothie bowls are so handy when you are looking for something which resemble that bowl of yoghurt with cereal you used to eat before you had to clean up your act. When I finally realised that my body felt so much better without dairy and had to give up my beloved natural yoghurt, having my smoothie in a bowl at times has made me feel a little less deprived. Now I can top it with with crunchy seeds or homemade granola just like I used to when I was 12! The fact that this kind of breakfast bowl will give you less sugar and more nutrition than traditional ones, makes it even more worthwhile.
The idea of using coconut milk comes from a summer holiday spent in Barcelona a few years ago. ( I still went “home” though, just had to cut it a little shorter than normal, that year. ) If you have ever visited the amazing food market there with all the gorgeous fresh fruit smoothies, you’ll know what I’m on about… For a smoothie to be eaten out of a bowl, you need a slightly thicker consistency than normal so go easy on the liquid. Otherwise all your lovely toppings will sink like stones to the bottom. No hope of any pretty styling then 😉
Purple Smoothie Bowl
100 ml coconut milk – fresh or use a good quality full fat coconut milk with little or no additives, organic if possible
1/4 cup fresh or frozen blackcurrant
Rinse and drain the berries if using freshly picked ones. Place berries, coconut milk and banana in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately in a bowl and top with your favourite muesli, granola or toasted seeds. Add more berries if you so wish.
I like the rather tart taste of the berries so for me the banana is enough to sweeten. You can of course add a little honey or maple syrup if you find it too tart. However I would recommend not to, if you wish to keep your sugar intake low.
If you wish to try another smoothie with coconut milk, check out this recipe which I made for this site a little while back. A seriously refreshing summer drink. If you can get hold of some water melon and strawberries, it’s worth trying. Promise.
Well, are you ready for autumn now? I don’t know if I can truly say I am. It will be here whether we want it or not though, so we might just embrace it… But until it is inevitable, I for one will savour what’s left of the summer and the lovely memories of the past few weeks spent with old friends and family. Grounding and reconnecting with my roots. How about you?
It is the middle of January. Usually a grey time of the year. A long, sometimes rather depressing month. We are feeling the aftermaths of Christmas. Perhaps both in the form of tighter jeans and an emptier wallet. If this is you, then I’m positively confident that this warming, nourishing, golden liquid is just the thing to lift your spirits. If you could drink sunshine, then a cup of turmeric tea would be just that. You can feel how this tea invigorates your cells from the inside out, just as the first warming rays of sunshine awaken the seeds in the ground, nourishing and nudging them to grow and eventually flourish into beautiful flowers.
In the last couple of years I have begun to appreciate the different season more. I also have started to look at them as part of the cycle of life. Winter is the time for rest and recuperation. Spring is the time for growth and development. Summer is the time to flourish. Autumn is the time were we finally reap the rewards of the work we have done, before it is time to slow down again. The winter solstice has been and gone and the days are gradually getting longer. One of the good things about living in Ireland is that you notice “a stretch in the evenings” quiet quickly. I felt a whiff of Spring the other day. But, let’s not get carried away. It is still only the middle of January..
Turmeric is a super food. There is no two-ways about that. It is most commonly used in its powder form. Fresh turmeric is a root and grows freely in countries such as India and Indonesia. It is one of the main ingredients in curry blends. Turmeric is also often used as a natural food colouring. Be aware, it does tend to stain everything!
Turmeric is still used a lot in Indian cooking. But it also heavily used for its medicinal properties. The spice is one of the most researched natural compounds in modern time. Some studies has shown the most potent part of Turmeric, Curcumin, to be as potent as NSAID – drugs, when it comes to reducing pain and inflammation. Other studies has shown a marked effect on cancer due to its strong antioxidant capacity. As a spice it has many positive effects on our immune system, so we are doing ourselves a huge favour by including some more of its goldilicousness in our lives.
When I was studying nutritional therapy in college a few years ago, I remember my lecturer suggesting adding about a teaspoon to a little yoghurt and eating it, as a medicinal way of using the spice. Perhaps not the most palatable way as it turned out. Of course you can add it to all your curries and soups where the yellow colour will work. Turmeric has an earthy, slightly bitter flavour, that is quiet easily masked, but not by natural yoghurt! I came across the original version of this tea when researching on of my favourite blogs for a recipe for an entirely different ingredient. The headline caught my eye and of course I had to try it out. After testing out the original version, I made my own flavour combination. The use of honey to blend the spices is really clever as it makes them dissolve a lot better in the warm water. My mix with cinnamon and cardamom, seem to neutralise that earthiness form the turmeric so it will suit even those with a slightly sweeter palate. These spices have add their own health benefits. See more here. The cayenne pepper will help the body absorb the goodness from the turmeric better. Don’t leave out the lemon juice at the end. It is key for balancing the flavours and offers detoxing support for the liver. So go on, drink some sunshine! And beat those winter blues.
Immune Boosting Turmeric Tea
Makes enough for 7-8 cups of tea
4 tbsp quality honey, preferably local
2 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1-2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
Add the honey and all the spices to a small glass jar. Stir until well combined and a honey-spice paste is formed. To make the tea add a heaped tsp of paste to a cup. Add hot water (off the boil) and stir. Squeeze some lemon juice into your warm golden liquid. Keep stirring your tea in between your sips as the turmeric tends to sink to the bottom. Enjoy the nourishing feeling of doing something good for yourself.
This is the original recipe but using fresh turmeric root instead. You can of course add a slice of fresh ginger too.
Turmeric Tea – using fresh root
1/2 fresh turmeric root, sliced
1 tsp honey, preferably local
fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
Finely slice the fresh turmeric root and add to a mug. Add the honey. Pour some warm water over the fresh root and honey. N.B. it is important that the water is off the boil as otherwise it will destroy the nutrients. Add the lemon juice and some freshly ground black pepper. The black pepper will help with the absorption of nutrients. Cover your cup with a small plate and let the tea properly infuse for 4-5 min before you drink it.
A New Year, a New You. This seems to be the message every you look at the moment. It is all about new year’s resolutions, detoxing and diets. If you, like most people just enjoyed the holidays a little too much and feel like it is time to get back on track, then how about doing something a little different this year?
Instead of making a new year’s resolution that this year you will “get fit and healthy”. Why not instead set some specific goals that will put you firmly on the road to where you want to be. Having clear goals makes it so much easier than something fluid like “lose weight”. Have a good think about where you would like to be by Dec 2014 and set some clear and specific goals. Things like; I will walk for 1h three times a week, I will take up pilates one night a week and/or I am going to complete a 10k run, are all much more productive goals and visions to have if “getting fit” is one of your ambitions for this year.If getting healthy is another one of your resolutions then I suggest you pencil down goals like; I will have one meat free day a week, I will eat one different coloured vegetable every day and/or I will learn one new healthy recipe every week.
One quote I came across last year and which I will make my 2014 inspiration mantra is “Be positive, patience and persistent”. This is such great advice. Even when you don’t feel neither positive or patient you can still be persistent. Actions that are repeated over time will eventually become habits. This is so important to bear in mind as we work on changing and moving towards a healthy lifestyle.
The other thing about January, the first month of the year and the end of any overindulgence from the holidays, is that it is DETOX month. This is such a controversial subject. You will find as many ideas and opinions on how to detox as there is websites out there writing about the subject. I will keep it short and sweet.
Our body is constantly detoxing. The main detoxifying organ in the body is the liver. But our lungs and the skin is also heavily involved in detoxing. Basically what you want to do when you are detoxing is to give your liver a break and to support the work it does one a daily basis. Anyone on medication should not detox without professional support as a lot of medicines are metabolised by the liver and detoxing can alter the effect of certain medications. However, most people can do a gentle detox simply by reducing (or removing) processed meats, refined sugars and dairy. Alcohol and caffeine is other ones that are good to stay away from too.
A gentle detox will include eating lots of vegetables, both raw and cooked, drinking plenty of fluids (in this cold weather, warm fluids or at room temperature are best) and to get protein from plant based sources such as beans and lentils and seeds. This is all part of a healthy lifestyle anyway.
Some foods are better detox foods than other and I have created a detox salads with some of them to help you make a healthy start to 2014. Incorporating some raw foods every day into your diet will ensure that you get some live enzymes and they are loaded with vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy.
Grapefruit and beetroot are both king of the detox food list. Grapefruit works in a detoxifying manner by promoting an enzyme in the liver that helps make toxic compounds water soluble for safe excretion out of the body. Beetroot is on top of the list due to its liver supporting qualities. The natural compounds in the beetroot can increase the levels of glutathione peroxidase which is one of the most potent antioxidants in the body. It is also a great source of iron, potassium and magnesium, making it a great alkalising vegetable.
As I don’t personally like too much raw food when the weather is cold, I have included some cooked whole spelt grains, to serve warm, with this salad. They will, along with the walnuts give a lovely nutty flavour and chewy texture to this otherwise raw salad. They are a great source of protein and B-vitamins so will give you additional health benefits. If you don’t like grapefruit that much you can swap it for an orange. It will give the salad a sweeter flavour. Not quiet as detoxing but still very good for you.
A Colourful Detox Salad
1 small beetroot (raw), peeled
1 small chioggaia beetroot, peeled – if you can’t get it use more of your normal red beetroot
1 medium sized carrot
1 pink grapefruit – or use an orange instead
1 cup whole spelt grains, soaked for 3-4 h
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp coldpessed rapeseed oil
1/2 tbsp grapefruit juice
1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey – or maple syrup if vegan
1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
Drain and rinse the soaked spelt grains. By soaking them, they will become easier to digest and you will shorten the cooking time. However if you are not great at forward planning, it is possible to omit this step. Just give them a quick rinse before adding to your saucepan and cook for 5-10 min longer. Place the grains in a saucepan with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for 40 min or until the grains are soft. They will have a chewy texture but should not be hard in the middle. Once cooked, drain and then return to the pan to keep warm until ready to serve.
Meanwhile prepare the raw salad. Use a julienne slicer to slice the carrot and beetroot into thin strips. If you don’t have one you can use your food processor and the grating blade. Alternatively grate on a hand grater. For the chioggia beet I used a mandolin. Mainly for its beautiful appearance. Segment the grapefruit. Here is a good video on how to do it. Cut the segments into smaller pieces.
Make the dressing by mixing the oil, grapefruit juice, apple cider vinegar and honey into a small bowl. When all the ingredient is well combined add in the mint. Gently toss the vegetables in the dressing. Then add the warm spelt grains. Serve in two bowls with the chopped walnuts scattered over the top. The salad is lovely on its own or you can use it as a side dish with white fish.
Kale is one of those super foods. Not as fancy as inca berries or maca or something else that we may get from the South American continent. The mighty kale may actually just travel as far as from your back garden to your plate. It is a perfect vegetable for winter salads a its peak season is from November until March. I have to admit that I had never really had kale until about this time last year… My local vegetable grower, from whom we get a weekly box of goodies, had some so I thought, well I it’s about time I try this famous leafy green.
To be honest, I can’t actually remember what I did with it… But what I do remember is the beautiful creation me and my mum came up with for Christmas. My mum wanted some green additions to the otherwise meaty Christmas table and even though I had already done some research for suggestions, when I spotted some lovely kale in the supermarket we got it. I also picked up a pomegranate. Together with a few pantry staples and a crispy winter apple we ended up with such a fresh, raw, colourful, yet green salad. Perfect accompaniment to the Christmas ham. It was just great to have something raw as balance to all the cooked (mostly meat) dishes.
Kale, in this case curly kale, can be used in a variety of dishes. It has a subtle flavour and is a nice leafy green to use in smoothies. It can be cooked, steamed or sautéed. For me it is the perfect green to use in salads during the winter months, when other raw leaves are not readily available.
Kale is considered a super foods due to its high nutritional content. Kale is part of the Brassica family, the same as brussel sprouts, cabbage and broccoli. The members of the Brassica family are all high in the cancer protective phytochemical indol-3-carbinol. Kale is also a rich source of Vitamin A, K and C. It is rich in calcium and iron making it a good vegetable to eat for anyone suffering with osteoporosis. And the best thing of all, you don’t have to get it flown across the world to get access to its super powers. Chances are you can easily grow it in your own garden patch.
The picture above is from the beautiful glass houses in Ballymaloe Cookery School. I believe Darina Allen is a big fan. I was visiting the school with two of my friends, Caroline and Mary, on a beautiful autumn Sunday back in September. It was still so warm and summery and winter yet so far away. But now winter is finally here and the “C-word” is being talked about everywhere. Actually, I just caved in the other day and bought most of my Christmas presents. Organised. Well at least in this area…
I was invited over to Caroline and Mary’s house for Sunday dinner the other week, quiet a regular occurrence. This is the salad I brought with me. It is light and fresh and full of flavour. I think the orange-tahini dressing adds to the wintry feel of this dish. This is the perfect way to eat your greens even during the winter months, so tuck in!
Kale Salad With Orange – Tahini Dressing
Four large leaves of curly kale
A handful of purple grapes
1/2 pomegranate – de-seeded
For the dressing:
2 tbsp of olive oil or cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 orange
Zest of one orange
2 tbsp tahini – sesame paste
A pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper – to season
Toasted seeds – as topping for extra crunch
Wash the kale thoroughly to remove any dirt on the leaves. Cut off the thick stems. Finely chop the kale once you have removed the stems. Cut it fairly fine to make it more digestible.
To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Taste and season accordingly with sea salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the chopped kale and mix it in well with your hands. The dressing will, as well as add flavour make the raw kale easier to digest and less chewy. Wash and halve the grapes. De-seed the pomegranate. The easiest way to do this it to halve it and then quarter it. Then proceed to peel the seeds out. If it is a particularly juicy one you can do it in a large bowl of water to prevent any splatter and little pink dots all over your favourite jumper… Add the grapes and pomegranate seeds to the dressed kale.
You can add some toasted seeds as topping for some extra crunch, just before serving. This salad will work well with white fish, as a side to a vegetarian meal with whole grains or as I did with a boiled egg and some smoked organic salmon, for a quick, easy lunch.
Your salad will stay fresh for up to three days if kept in an airtight container in the fridge.