Time to get back to winter greens. No need to skimp on the raw stuff just because the weather has gotten a little cooler eh? This recipe is one I made for Chelsea – Aka The Naked Fig, back in the Spring as part of our guest blogging swap. As it turned out to be a big hit with her readers, I have decided to feature it here too. It feels like the perfect fit now when all the ingredients are back in season again.
There’s another couple of reasons as why I have decided to post this recipe now. One, as mentioned above – It’s seasonal. Two – I’m currently juggling lots of things (what’s new??) and a little stuck for time to shoot a new recipe… Three – This was one of the featured recipes for the cooking demos I did last weekend. The theme was local, seasonal and autumn /winter (Ok, so Quinoa isn’t exactly local… ). It looked like people enjoyed it! So I hope you will too. And if you were actually at one of the demos, then here’s the recipe.
Personally I love these kinds of salads as the are more of “assembling a meal” so saves on time spent cooking. If you have the quinoa already cooked you are saving even more time. This salad is almost nicer the day after. Perfect for a left-over lunch option. Win-win.
Kale is the perfect winter green and I am delighted it is back in season again. They grow happily this time of the year. Over the past couple of years my cooking has evolved and become more and more adapted to the seasons. Perhaps it has become a little more adventurous too, yet at the same time the way I cook now is a lot cleaner and simpler.
You see, as your start introducing more vegetables and fresh food into your diet, your taste buds gradually change. As you start eating with more awareness and purpose, you’ll find yourself discover new tastes and flavours, and after awhile you will probably find that not just any old vegetable will do. They have to be fresh, colourful & vibrant too.
As we slowly transition from autumn into winter. From raw food to cooked food. From salads to soups and stews. It is nice to still keep some raw foods on the weekly menu. Raw food are food which has not been heated over 46 C. Some nutrients can easily be destroyed by cooking and beneficial enzymes are still retained when we eat foods in its natural state. Some people thrive well on a fully raw diet. Personally I find it hard to eat too much raw, cold food when the weather is cold but including a salad like this as a side to say a piece of pan fried fish or indeed adding the quinoa when still warm does the trick.
Apples are at peak season so you should easily be able to get some locally grown. Adding apples to a salad adds a sweet crunch and they work well with the pomegranates and hazelnuts. To me this is how you construct a “Super Salad”. Some greens, some cooked grains, some raw fruit or other veggies and some healthy fats to balance both flavours and blood sugar. You’ll get the fats here from both the olive oil in the dressing and from the nuts. Protein comes in form of the quinoa as well as the hazelnuts so by the time you have assembled the whole thing you will have a light, yet filling meal to satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters a like. I hope you will like it as much as the people who tried it at last weekend’s cooking demos did 🙂
Black Quinoa Salad with Kale, Apple, Hazelnuts & Pomegranate
Serves 2 hungry people
4 cups curly kale, washed, stems removed & finely chopped
1 cup black quinoa, rinsed – If you can’t find black quinoa, red or white will work fine too.
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
2 small apples, finely sliced – preferably organic. Use a crunchy sort which will give the bet texture and flavour.
½ cup raw hazelnuts
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of sea salt, to season
Heat your oven to 200°C. To toast the hazelnuts, place them on a baking tray. Then toast in the oven for about 10 min. Keep an eye on them, they burn easily. Once you see the skin beginning to crack, remove from the oven. Allow to cool a little before giving them a gentle rub to remove the skins. Chop roughly and set aside.
To cook the quinoa; rinse it well to remove the bitter outer coating. Place it in a saucepan with the cold water and a tight fitting lid. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to very low and cook covered for 12 minutes, until the grain is tender. Turn off the heat, but leave the lid on for a further 10 minutes. Set aside to cool down
In a salad bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt. I love using Himalayan Pink Salt as it has great taste. Whisk until combined then add in your chopped kale. Massage the dressing in to the kale gently with your hands. Add in the cooked quinoa and pomegranate seeds. Mix until well combined. Add the sliced apples and hazelnuts, just before serving. Give the whole thing a gentle toss. Tuck in! It will taste even better the following day.
Photos of me cooking at Burren Food Fayre in Lisdoonvarna kindly taken by Finghin Kiernan.
Before the winter bugs hit and before it’s too late to pick ripe elderberry off the trees, have a go at this simple recipe and make your own immune boosting remedy. This was the first time I’ve tried making elderberry syrup myself so I used another recipe as a base and then went on to improvise a little. The result is a fairly sweet, dark purple liquid which tastes almost like mulled wine. Perhaps one could pare it with some brandy for a double whammy? Let me know for sure if you go down that route!
Funny thing is, while it is a few Sundays since I was preparing this concoction, as I currently write this I am struck down with a cold. So I suppose this is my opportunity to put the syrup to the test… (Thank you Universe.) When you are used to having tons of energy all the time, any level of decline is rather frustrating as it kind of stops you in your tracks. Well at least it forces you to take the foot of the the throttle for a little while. There I was, just returning to the running group in town and back to a 2-day-week Pilates schedule (one of my favourite ways to exercise). Typical. I’m thinking the lads in the running club, who has not seen me for months, must think I am a bit soft if I don’t turn up again this week… Well I suppose I just have to remind myself that “what other people think of me is not my business”. Easier said that done though. But in the end of the day it is important to listen to our bodies as they always knows best. I’m not sick enough to feel the need to cut out my training altogether but I will bring it back a little, so I can recover faster.
September has been amazing here and extended summer by another month. Which in turn means, woolly hats, cosy fires and warming soups have been put on hold for little while. No complaints here. It has also meant that there has been a savage supply of blackberries this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of them. We have been picking berries over the past few weeks and my freezer is full of the little black gems. They are sure to be featured here on a later stage. But for now I let some of the other beautiful black berries take center stage.
Have you ever thought about how amazingly wonderful it is that just as we move in to colder months, when colds and flues seem to more easily take hold, nature has provided us with a solution right here in front of us? Like elderberries.
They are jam packed with antiviral-busting nutrients! These tiny little gems are full of Vitamin A, B and C as well as the antioxidant proanthocyanidins, which gives the berries their dark purple colour. Vitamin C together with zinc has been shown in some studies to help shorten times it takes to recover from common colds so it is well worth eating foods that are high in Vitamin C on a regular basis. Vitamin C is also one of the water soluble vitamins, which means the body doesn’t tend to store it in any larger capacity so you will need to keep your stores replenished on an ongoing basis if you want to keep your deference high. Some limited studies have shown elderberries to be particularly efficient against the usual winter viruses. Some sources seems to point that the natural compounds in elderberries activates the immune system to respond better and stronger, helping the body to clear and recover from viruses / influenza much quicker. That it actually tastes nice is an added bonus.
If you go looking you will probably find a lot more than elderberry growing along the hedgerows. When I opened my eyes and became a lot more mindful about what was naturally growing around me, I found blackberries (of course), but also rosehips and a tree full of damsons (wild plums).
This recipe yields about 2 cups of syrup so if you want to keep a full supply for the entire winter you will probably need to double it. Picking the amount of berries needed shouldn’t prove too difficult, as long as the birds didn’t get there first!
* A word of warning – Raw elderberries are actually poisonous so please resist the temptation to taste test while you are picking them, or you might end up in A&E. Probably not what you had in mind for a Sunday afternoon…
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
Makes roughly 2 cups finished syrup.
2 cups freshly picked elderberries, stems removed
2 cup filtered water
1/2″ of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
1/2 cup of raw honey, preferably local
When you pick the elderberries go for the darkest coloured ones, which still looks fresh and plump. To remove the stems gently separate the berries with a fork. I say gently here as if you are too keen, your berries will scatter everywhere! Discard any berries which are swiveled or not ripe. Give the rest a quick rinse.
Add berries and water to a large pot. Take all your spices and gather them up in a little cloth of muslin. Tie your parcel with a string and add it to your pot. Bring the whole thing to the boil and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer for about 20 min. Allow the mixture to cool a little before straining through a sieve lined with muslin. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press gently on the berries to release as much liquid as you can. Once you have gathered all the liquid, discard berries, muslin and spices. If you have a compost bin, by all means put it in there. By now your kitchen will probably smell like Christmas. How bad.
Add in your honey and stir until it has combined with your lovely purple liquid. Then carefully store in some sterilised jars in the fridge. Take a table spoon of liquid a few times over the course of a few days if you feel a cold or flu coming on and hopefully it will not amount to anything.
What about a quick nourishing meal that doesn’t take time or effort to make? Or cost the earth? This dish is one of my all time favourites. If it wasn’t for the simple fact that my body seem to crave the odd bit of meat, I could easily and happily eat this kind of food everyday. One of the main challenges when you switch from a diet heavily influenced by convenience food to natural wholesome goodness, is that it actually has to be prepared and cooked… In the beginning this seems like such hard work.
You come home from work after a long day at work. Bloodsugar levels are at an all time low, your mood and energy levels likewise, and you are ready to eat anything that is remotely edible. Or if you’re like me, eat the head of someone else!
Being prepared is key. There is no getting away from this simple fact. You also need to arm yourself with some basic kitchen gadgets and cooking skills. But basic really is all you need. Think; a good sharp knife, a couple of good sauce pans, a frying pan and a hand blender. I’m a lazy cook. I always tell my clients this fact. If I can do it. You can too. Cook, well more like assembly, tasty nourishing meals.
I always loved vegetables and fruit. Due to my inherent sweet tooth, the fruit consumption can often surpass the veggie one though. So it can be tough to get all the recommended amount of portions in. The other day my friend told me that WHO is now recommending 17 (!) portions of vegetables incl. some fruit for our diets to be disease preventable. Wow. That’s a lot of eating… To get to that level, juicing will have to be part of it. Impossible otherwise I would think.
Believe it or not, there was a time when I use to come home from work, open the fridge or the pantry and stare at all the lovely stuff, ravenous, just to state the fact that I had plenty of food. But it had to be cooked into something! These days through perseverance, I have learnt some simple ways around this frustrating situation. No, the answer it is not having a frozen pizza in the freezer. Even though it was one of mine in the past… It’s all about being prepared. And having a little knowledge. Batch cooking is key. For cheap, wholesome meals, legumes are your friend. Keep a few tins in your store cupboards at all times and you are ready to go in minutes. If you cook them from dry, you can cook larger batches and freeze some. The same with wholegrain rice or wholegrain spelt which I have used here. Your cooked grains and legumes will keep for a few days in the fridge too, so no panic if your freezer is very small, or non existent.
I prefer warm food when the weather is cold. So if I have a raw salad I need to combine it with something warm. Sometimes that could be roasted veg with some green leafy lettuce leaves. Or it could be a mixed salad with an omelette. Equally simple. If you have some pre-cooked grains in your fridge or freezer, coupled with some legumes all you need to do is to toss them in a hot pan with some of your favourite vegetables. Simple as, and you have a wholesome meal in minutes! If you make enough, you can even enjoy the leftovers for lunch the following day.
Whole grains are a great source of stress-busting B-Vitamins. When the grain is consumed whole and totally unrefined as with these spelt grains, they are actually fairly high in protein too. Sometimes even as high as 16%. Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant based protein too. The classic vegetarian way of combining grains with pulses, ensure that all 20 amino acids are covered. The few which are missing in the grain is in abundance in your pulses, so cleverly you will get a complete source of protein.
You can use any grains with any pulses really. Once you have upped your kitchen confidence, then stretch your imagination and use a different kind of grain with a different kind of bean or lentil. And then simply toss in any veg, which is lurking in your fridge! Heat in pan, season & tuck in!
Weekday Chickpea Salad
1 cup of chickpeas, cooked
1 cup of spelt grains, cooked
3 cups of kale, washed, chopped with stems removed
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small red chilli, chopped – remove seeds if you want it less hot or use a pinch of dry chilli flakes
7-8 cherry tomatoes, washed & halved – Optional but delicious **I forgot to add mine this time when making it for the photographs!**
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to season
Parmesan, Pecorino or Machego, grated on top before serving
Heat your pan, then add the a good splash of olive oil. Quickly add your chopped garlic and chilli. Stir until soften but not burnt. Add in the kale and sauté until it start looking slightly wilted. Add your chickpeas and spelt grains. Keep stirring until heated through.
Serve in two bowls with some grated cheese on top. If you intend to have some cold the following day, leave the cheese out and add just before eating. The cheese isn’t integral to the dish but do give a different flavour dimension. I don’t tend to feel well with dairy but can tolerate sheep’s cheese so hence the Pecorino or Manchego.
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.