Category Archives: Recipe

Healthy Vegan Shamrock Shake

Healthy_Vegan_Shamrock_Shake

My friend Emily has been making (and enjoying!) my Shamrock Shake recipe from my book, Smarter Fitter Smoothies. And since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it was about time I share this healthy vegan smoothie on the blog for all the world to see.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I am so nostalgic for a milkshake made famous by a certain fast food chain whose name begins with “M” and ends with “s”. But there you have it. And there’s no need to feel bad about drinking this “milk”shake – it’s totally vegan, relatively low in sugar and full of healthy vitamin-rich greens (the smoothie gets its green color from spinach). Feel free to toss in some avocado for an extra dose of creamy green goodness.

Healthy_Vegan_Shamrock_Shake-2

Healthy Vegan Shamrock Shake

  • 1 ripe banana (preferably frozen, ~120g)
  • 1 cup spinach (~50g)
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint
  • 2 dates
  • 10 cashews (~10g)
  • a few ice cubes
  • water, nut milk or coconut milk for an uber rich Shamrock Shake experience

Combine everything a blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9200) with enough liquid to blend and blitz until smooth. Garnish with a couple fresh mint leaves if you’d like.

215 Cals, 5g Fat, 44g Carbs, 4g Protein, 5g Fiber

Image credit: Emily L.W. Kern

Chestnut Flour Pasta

Chestnut Flour Pasta

I don’t get to see my sister, Stephanie, very often, maybe once per year if I’m lucky. So when we do get together it almost always involves an extended adventure, usually in the form of a road trip. One year it was New Orleans, another year, the Pacific Coast Highway. In November 2010, the road took us to Italy for a long, mostly leisurely drive from Rome to Bologna over the course of ten days, taking in as much as we could along the way.

Pian di Marte ospitalita rurale

One of our stopping points was Pian di Marte, a farmhouse-style agriturismo in the Umbria countryside where we had one of the best meals of our lives. In fact, it was our first meal outside of Rome and we hadn’t yet gotten used to the whole course-after-course-after-course thing that Italians are known for. That pasta was merely a “first” course was unknown to us (particularly as we’re vegetarians so used to pasta being the main event).

Morning at Pian di Marte

So at Pian di Marte, when we received our pasta course – homemade chestnut pasta with pine nuts, butter, rosemary and cavolo nero – we really went to town. And it was easy going because the dish was incredible. The pasta, made with chestnut flour, was hearty, nutty and unlike any pasta we’d had before. I’m not one for “whole wheat” or “spelt” pastas – they’re usually gritty and fall apart. But this chestnut pasta stood on its own and was a perfect match for the earthy rosemary and kale. Served alongside local cheeses and homemade bread, I don’t deny that we were in carbohydrate heaven, and we almost didn’t mind that we left little room for the three surprise courses to follow. The pasta was the stuff of instant legend.

Really amazing pasta

Thus began a quest to recreate the famous Pian di Marte chestnut pasta, and in the years since Stephanie and I have tried several times to relive the magic in our own kitchens.  After two so-so attempts with “chestnut pasta” recipes found on the internet, Stephanie finally had the bright idea to ask Pian di Marte how they made the pasta on their Facebook page. Turns out, the recipe has been on Pian di Marte’s blog all along, where they called it Tagliatelle con farina di castagne, zucca e salsiccia. (Note to self: if looking for a recipe based on a meal had in a foreign country, search for the recipe in that country’s language!)

Making chestnut pasta

The secret, we found, is in the flour. Look for Italian chestnut flour (farina di castagna) which is finely ground and suitable for pasta making. A pasta maker makes things easy, but you don’t need one – we made this by rolling out the dough with a rolling pin as thin as possible, and then slicing into ribbons with a pizza wheel.

Drying chestnut pasta

The dough is versatile, and makes delicious spinach and ricotta ravioli. But don’t go too crazy – you don’t want to overpower the great flavour of the pasta. Our favourite way with this pasta, in the Pian di Marte style, is to serve it simply with some lightly sautéed garlic and rosemary, a glug of good olive oil and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.

Chestnut Pasta

This recipe makes quite a lot of pasta but you can easily dry most of it and keep it on hand for the coming weeks. 

  • 400g chestnut flour
  • 200g whole wheat flour
  • 200g Italian ’00’ flour
  • 6 eggs
  • a pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Combine the flours on a large clean table and form a well in the middle of the flour pile. Break the eggs into the well, add a pinch of salt, mix together with your hands and knead for about 3 minutes, until you get a soft, pliable dough. Cover the dough with a cloth and leave to rest for half an hour.Making chestnut pasta
  2. Chestnut pasta dough
  3. Roll out the pasta dough as thin as you can (using a rolling pin or a pasta maker) then cut into whatever shape you’d like – I like thin ribbons, or squares or rounds for ravioli. If you’re not using a pasta maker, a pizza slicer is a handy tool for this.
    FreshPastaMaking
  4. If you’re not going to cook it straight away, dust the pasta with semolina or flour and drape it over a rack to dry.Drying chestnut pasta
  5. Or cook the pasta immediately in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente (4-5 minutes).

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Mango Chilli Sorbet

Mango Chilli Sorbet

I recently had the pleasure of going to the latest supper club at The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. The theme: Indian Thali, hosted and prepared by the VCS’s awesome chef divas, Rachel Demuth, Jo Ingleby and Helen Lawrence.

It’s been ages since I’ve been out for Indian, and this was some of the tastiest, freshest and most interesting Indian food I’ve had in a long time: masala dosa, sambar, chutney, homemade paneer, peshwari naan and some new discoveries such as masala vada and khadi. (Rachel Demuth’s blog has a full recap of the evening with some amazing recipes).

One of the meal’s highlights came at the very end, and made me feel super glad I saved room to enjoy dessert: mango chilli sorbet. Tart, refreshing and with just a touch of heat from the chilli, this type of dessert is my favourite way to end a meal.

Beautiful Dessert

 

I’ve tried making mango sorbet at home but have never managed to make it taste like the mango sorbets and ice creams you get in Indian restaurants. So I picked Helen’s brain after the supper club, and she told me her secret: Kesar mangos! This yellowish variety of mango is popular in India and is what gives the mango-sorbet-of-my-dreams its characteristic flavour.

Fresh Kesar mangos are not easy to find in the UK, but tinned Kesar mangos are. And so, Helen’s parting gift to me was a big ol’ tin of pureed Kesar Mangos, offered on the condition that I make mango sorbet at home and write about it. So here I am.

Kesar Mango Pulp

The tinned Kesar mangos did not disappoint. They’re already sweetened (ingredients: mango, sugar, citric acid – nothing scary), so all I needed to do was blitz it in the Vitamix with some lime juice and ginger juice, mix in a finely diced red chilli, then churn in the ice cream maker. Pretty awesome.

The result was everything I hoped for. Arguably, I could have chopped my chillies a tad finer as they were detectable as “bits” in the sorbet, but this effect sort of grew on me – I liked the texture, and the sensation, like little pockets of heat encased in frozen mango awesomeness.

Mango Chilli Sorbet

5.0 from 1 reviews

Mango Chilli Sorbet
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8
 

A refreshing sorbet, recipe courtesy of Helen Lawrence from The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. Kesar mangoes are the best in this, but if you can’t find fresh ones, use tinned (omit the honey and sugar if the tinned mangoes are sweetened). To make ginger juice, grate fresh ginger and then use your hands to squeeze squeeze out the juice.
Ingredients
  • 85g light soft brown sugar
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled & stoned (or 1 850g tin of sweetened Kesar Mangos)
  • 3 tablespoons ginger juice
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • 100ml limejuice
  • 50ml honey

Instructions
  1. Place the mangoes, ginger juice, chilli, lime juice and honey into a blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9200) and puree until absolutely smooth. Add the sugar and buzz again until mixed.
  2. Transfer the puree into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers instructions. Freeze.
  3. When ready to eat, take the sorbet out of the freezer about ten minutes or so before you’re ready to eat it – this will make it much easier to scoop!

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 85g Calories: 111 Fat: 0.3 Carbohydrates: 29.1 Sugar: 25.5 Fiber: 1.3 Protein: 0.5 Cholesterol: 0

 

I am submitting this recipe to the dairy-free Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge hosted by Kavey Eats.

Smoothie Bowls: Put Away The Straw and Get Out The Spoon

Smoothie Bowl

In this follow-up to Emily’s previous post on chia pudding, I present to you another discovery inspired by our seasonal meanderings: the smoothie bowl.

The concept is nothing new, indeed, I’ve been “eating” my smoothies with a spoon for months. But last February, fuelled by visions of pudding, marmalade, and sheep yogurt, we decided to try serving our traditional breakfast smoothie in a bowl. This was a total smoothie breakthrough! Not life-changing, but definitely smoothie-changing. Why? It’s all about Garnish Potential. A smoothie bowl maximises space for toppings, and also turns your smoothie into something that mentally might seem like a snack into a meal in itself.

A smoothie bowl should be thick and creamy (lest your garnishes sink to the bottom!). You can achieve this a number of ways. Great thickeners include:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Rolled Oats
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Psyllium husks
  • Thick yogurt

If you’re using seeds, grains and/or psyllium husks to thicken your smoothie, here’s a hefty tip: blend the smoothie for 20 seconds, then let the smoothie “rest” for a few minutes (this gives everything a chance to absorb the liquid), then blend again for another 20 seconds. The transformation is kind of insane – it goes from being a sort of thick but slightly grainy smoothie into something that’s almost like super smooth pudding. This might not suit everyone’s tastes, but for me it makes the smoothie seem more substantial. This is healthy emotional eating!

It also helps to use a good blender if you can – I’ve been working with the Froothie Optimum 9200 which is pretty dang powerful and also has a “20-second” button which is handy.

Smoothie Bowl

However you like your smoothies, I challenge you to try serving your next smoothie in a bowl and eating it with a spoon – you can do this with fresh juices, too. Think about it as an opportunity to slow down and really savor the awesome blend you’ve created. After all, digestion begins in the mouth, so it’s worth taking it slow.

Here’s my go-to smoothie bowl that I have for breakfast on most days.

Pineapple and Lime Green Smoothie Bowl

My favourite smoothie bowl toppings for this blend are berries, oats and coconut flakes, but anything goes – see my 16 Ways to Garnish a Smoothie for inspiration.

Serves 1

  • 1-inch slice pineapple
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • handful of spinach or other greens
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/2 banana
  • 5g flax seeds (~1 tsp)
  • 5g psyllium husk (~1 Tbsp)
  • Garnish

Blender Method: Chop all the veg into chunks and add to the blender with the cucumber and pineapple at the bottom. Add a splash of water and start blending; add more water as needed to get it blending but you should use very little, otherwise your smoothie will be a little insipid (you can also use coconut water or other liquid of your choosing). Blend for 20-seconds, let it rest for a few minutes, then blend again for another 20-seconds. (You can add ice cubes to the second round of blending if you’d like to cool it down a bit.) Serve in a bowl garnished with smoothie bowl toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

Juicer / Blender Method: Juice the pineapple, lime, spinach, celery and cucumber (I use an Optimum 600 Slow Juicer). Add the juice to a blender with the banana, flax and psyllium. Blend for 20-seconds, let it rest for a few minutes, then blend again for another 20-seconds. (You can add ice cubes to the second round of blending if you’d like to cool it down a bit.) Serve in a bowl garnished with smoothie bowl toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

More smoothies that would work well as a smoothie bowl:

Grilled Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette

Grilled Leeks with Vinaigrette, Served on Quinoa and wild Rice

The secret to tasty BBQ leeks is to blanch the leeks first so that they’re pretty much cooked before they go on the BBQ, then dress them in a tangy vinaigrette that compliments the sweetness of the leek. Almost any mustardy vinaigrette will do – I keep it basic with olive oil, white wine vinegar and dijon, then add fresh herbs like parsley, chervil or oregano to vary the recipes.

Serve the leeks over some whole grains like barley, quinoa or wild rice and you have a substantial side dish that’s perfect for a BBQ. You can also add other grilled vegetables – courgettes and asparagus work especially well. Too cold for an outside BBQ? Stay inside and cook this on a griddle pan.

Griddled leeks with quinoa, wild rice and mustard dressing. Nice recipe via the @riverford box.

BBQ Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette

Inspired by Riverford’s Griddled Leeks with Wild Rice, Quinoa and Chervil.

Ingredients

  • 3 leeks, cut into 5cm lengths
  • a handful of fresh herbs like parsley, chervil or oregano, chopped
  • salad leaves and/or cooked grains to serve
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard

Method

  1. Boil the leeks for about 8 minutes, until tender. Remove from the boiling water and run under cold water until cool. Slice each piece in half lengthwise.
  2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by whisking all of the vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the leeks and use your hand to slather the oil all over the leeks. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat up the BBQ (or griddle pan) on a high heat. Grill the leeks on each side to make ridge marks.
  5. Toss the salad leaves or grains with some of the vinaigrette and most of the fresh herbs. Arrange on a plate and top with the grilled leeks. Drizzle the rest of the vinaigrette over the leeks and sprinkle with the remaining herbs.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

16 Great Garnishes for Smoothies

Smoothie Bowl

One of the reasons I like smoothies is for their garnish potential! Garnish also helps turn a smoothie from a snack into a complete meal. And I always keep extra smoothie garnishes handy so that I can garnish as I go. Come on, you know your kitchen table has totally been missing a garnish station.

Breakfast of #Imbolc champions. Chia pudding smoothie bowls. All of the garnishes. And tea. #froothie #jumpstart15

My favorite smoothie garnishes are as follows – what would you add to the list?

  1. Pumpkin Seeds – Let’s face it, pumpkin seeds are a great garnish for everything.
  2. Coconut Flakes – What’s not to love? They are crispy tasty fantastic. For some reason most grocery stores don’t seem to stock this (don’t try to substitute with desiccated coconut) but Amazon has quite a few options and it’s not very expensive.
  3. Sea Salt – Salt actually brings out the flavour and sweetness of the ingredients used in the smoothie. You could even get fancy and rim your smoothie glass with salt!
  4. Jumbo Oats – Classic, also good blended INTO the smoothie itself.
  5. Swiss Muesli – A little fancier than straight up oats and usually brings with it other tasty garnishes like seeds and dried fruit. Don’t spend lots of money buying this stuff; make your own custom Homemade Muesli Blend.
  6. Goji Berries – The most overhyped dried fruit in the universe, but they’re pretty and look so nice on green smoothies! Hefty tip: soak the goji berries ahead of time; they can be discouragingly chewy. Goji berries are sold all over the place now, alas, for a hefty price tag; if it’s only the color your after, dried cranberries make a nice substitute.
  7. Bee Pollen – Little crunchy morsels of honey sweetness. I’ve been a little obsessed with this stuff since I discovered it in France last year. I try to stock up whenever I go back, but for those of you who aren’t France-bounce, you CAN buy bee pollen elsewhere (after all it’s not like bees are a strictly French thing!) – there are lots of options on Amazon.
  8. Acai Powder – Allegedly increases energy and “vitality”; I just like it for its bitter berry tastiness. I use Naturya Organic  Acai Powder.
  9. Maca Powder – Malty sweet goodness originating from a tuberous root grown in the highlands of Peru. I’ve been using Naturya Organic Maca however I’ve recently cut back my usage when the company (very responsibly) informed me of unethical business practices and biopiracy which have made maca a bit taboo and difficult (i.e. expensive) to source. Use your best judgement here!
  10. Spirulina – Most people blend this happy protein into their smoothie but I have actually developed quite a taste for the stuff and prefer it as a garnish so that I really know it’s there! I use this stuff a LOT and have been getting my Organic Spirulina in bulk from myprotein.com.
  11. Cacao Nibs – I like these in banana-based smoothies, or in a mint chocolate chip blend. I use Naturya Organic Cocoa Nibs.
  12. Grated beetroot – I use a  Kuhn Rikon Grater & Julienne Mandoline to make cool little beetroot matchsticks (see the picture below, made with golden beetroot).
  13. Puffed Grains – Rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa… I’ve been enjoying Biona Organic Amaranth Pops lately.
  14. Freeze-Dried Raspberries – I discovered these little morsels of crispy tart goodness at Waitrose; they’re kind of expensive, but they look so pretty! You can also buy them on Amazon.
  15. Granola – Try Mardi’s Maple Walnut Granola or go crazy with savory granola.
  16. Fresh fruit – Especially raspberries and blueberries.

Today's #smoothiebowl.

 

How to Make Sauerkraut

Homemade Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, and fermented foods in general, are experiencing a revival in recent years, with a great amount of thanks to Sandor Katz who helped bring fermentation to the mainstream with his book Wild Fermentation. But there’s sound reason for sauerkraut’s new hipster status: it’s awesomely good for you, and it’s really tasty (albeit an acquired taste for some).

Sauerkraut (directly translated from German as “sour cabbage”) is made by lactic acid fermentation, a process by which glucose and other sugars are converted into cellular energy and lactic acid by naturally occurring bacteria found on cabbage leaves. One of those bacteria is lactobacillus which you’ve probably seen on your containers of “bio-live” yogurt.

This happy bacteria is the crux of why sauerkraut is so good for you. Good bacteria is the stuff that happy intestinal flora is made of, and sauerkraut contains a whole lot more of it than live yogurt. And lets not forget cabbage itself, which contain natural compounds known to have cancer-fighting properties. In fact, studies have indicated that short-cooked and raw cabbage are the only types of cabbage to show such cancer-preventative benefits, upping the ante for sauerkraut (and coleslaw for that matter!).

Note that all of the above health benefits apply only to naturally fermented sauerkraut; most of the stuff you buy in the shops will have been pasteurised, thus killing any beneficial bacteria that may have once been present in the kraut. There are some brands such as Raw Health that now sell “raw sauerkraut” but you’ll be spending over £3 for a tiny jar; it’s far better to pick up a 99p cabbage and make your own. Making sauerkraut is inexpensive, easy, and you can adapt the sauerkraut to suit your tastes (by adding spices like caraway or Juniper berries, or mixing it up with purple cabbage, carrots and more!).

Homemade Sauerkraut

How to Make Sauerkraut
 
What you will need:

  • Cabbage (green, red or a mix; use at least one head of cabbage to make this worthwhile)
  • Salt
  • A container such as a wide-mouthed mason jar, an old-fashioned purpose-built ceramic “crock”, or a large food-grade plastic container (that’s what I use)
  • A plate or other flat object that will fit inside of the container above (I used the lid from another food-grade plastic container)
  • Something heavy like a scrubbed and boiled rock or a large jug filled with water (or other liquid – see my contraptions here and here)
  • A cloth cover – a tea towel will do the trick

 
First, weigh your cabbage. For every 2kg of cabbage you’ll need about 3 tablespoons of salt.

Slice up your cabbage. I used a food processor fitted with a fine blade, but you could also use a mandolin or a knife.

Making Sauerkraut
Put the cabbage in a big bowl and toss with the salt. It won’t be long before you notice water being expelled from the cabbage thanks to the magic of osmosis!

Making Sauerkraut

Pack the cabbage into your container, pushing it down into the container as you go. You want the cabbage packed super tight – this helps force water out of the cabbage.

Put your plate or lid on top of the cabbage, then put your clean heavy thing on top. The weight will continue to force water out of the cabbage. Always cover it with a cloth when left unattended.

Making Sauerkraut

The goal now is to expel enough water from the cabbage so that the cabbage is totally submerged in brine. So every few hours, visit your kraut and push down on the weight. If after 24 hours the cabbage isn’t submerged, add some salt water to just above the level of your plate (about 1 tablespoon of salt to 250ml water).

Leave the cabbage to ferment. Check it every day or two, then start tasting. There’s no minimum or maximum fermentation time – I let mine go for about a week. After a few days it will start tasting sour, but you can leave it to keep fermenting for a stronger sour taste. (Sauerkraut is safe to eat throughout the process, so you’re not risking anything by trying it!) When the sauerkraut tastes good to you, pack it up into a smaller jar and store it in the fridge.

The sauerkraut will keep for at least two months.

Homemade Sauerkraut

Favourite Uses for Sauerkraut

I must say, one of my fond memories from my pre-vegetarian days is Reuben Sandwiches. In light of that, I make a killer Reuben-esque omelette with sautéed mushrooms, onions, sauerkraut, caraway and swiss cheese (or avocado). Or more simply, sauerkraut mixed in with scrambled eggs is fantastic. I’ve also been mixing sauerkraut into salads; it goes especially well with beetroot. Going back to my German and Polish roots, I have a soft spot for sauerkraut pierogi and sauerkraut soup (hold the kielbasa), both of which really make me miss home!

Recommended reading:

It’s worth picking up one of Sandor Katz’s book (I have Wild Fermentation but he put out an extended version The Art of Fermentation in 2012 that gets great reviews). The book also offers suggestions for add-ins to your sauerkraut, including onions, garlic, seaweed, turnips, beetroot, caraway, dill and even apples. Also keep an eye on Charlotte Pike who is releasing a book on fermentation this year.

Further reading:

Recipe Review: Chia Pudding

Earl Grey Chia Pudding with Marmalade

Today my good friend Emily of sunroseclear.com is guest-posting on the chia pudding food craze. On Emily’s last visit (Imbolc 2015!), I gave her some top quality chia seeds from Naturya and sent her on a mission to experiment with chia pudding and report back on her results. Is it really worth all the hype?  

Monica and I are fashionably late to the chia party. Chia has been “so hot right now” for awhile actually, and Pinterest has long been trying to convince me of its virtues. When and why did our chia ambitions begin? My memory is fuzzy on this point (too much sloe gin?), but I think we started talking about chia as an option for smoothie enhancements. We both have a smoothie every day, and we both need more protein in our diet. So, why not? Chia ho! This is a short account of my early chia experiments:

1. Vanilla Chia Pudding

Vanilla Blueberry Chia Pudding

For my first chia pudding I looked to Choosing Raw for a basic recipe and used her 3 tbsp chia : 1 cup liquid as my pudding standard. For me this made enough for breakfast and an afternoon snack. Chia pudding is filling!

I found the basic chia, almond milk, vanilla, and honey pretty boring, even with blueberries on top. The texture is like tapioca pudding, which is not my favorite thing…but eventually I convinced myself they’re like the world’s smallest tea bubbles. That helped, but…onward!

2. Earl Grey Tea Chia Pudding

Earl Grey Chia Pudding with Marmalade

Pudding! Earl Grey! Cold! If you can use any liquid for chia pudding, why wouldn’t you use Earl Grey tea? This one went through a few test batches, and the ratio of milk to tea is a matter of taste, but here’s what I came up with:

Just mix it all up in a glass or jar and let it set for about 3 hours or overnight. I really squeezed the tea bag into my glass – and then used it again for tea! Sadly, while pretty, the orange marmalade garnish was too overwhelming a flavor.

3. Chia: Smoothie Ingredient

Strawberry Kiwi Beetroot Carrot Smoothie

As Monica has pointed out in her ingenious smoothie book (which I use all the time, seriously, she isn’t making me say this), bananas are a great smoothie thickener but also kind of a sugar bomb. Most of my daily smoothies still have a smidge of banana, but for a week I tried replacing it with chia. It definitely does the trick, especially if you let the smoothie sit for a few minutes. This is probably how I will use chia most often. More protein, calcium, and fiber for me!

4. Chia Smoothie Pudding

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Chia Smoothie

I know I’m not the first to think of it, but making a chia pudding using a smoothie as your liquid is pretty great. It completely replaced the simple pudding of my affections. You still get the tapioca texture from the chia, but with lots of healthy fruit and veg – and no additional sweeteners.

That said, it also has dessert potential. I made a Peanut Butter and Jelly Chia Pudding from a peanut butter, banana, oatmeal, and almond milk smoothie. Chill for a few hours and swirl some strawberry jam through. A nice dessert version of the sandwich classic.

Verdict: I’ll certainly keep adding chia to my morning smoothies for the nutrition boost and possibly explore some other chia desserts.

Monica’s Notes on Nutrition: I felt compelled to add some commentary on the nutritional value of Chia Pudding. As an example, a chia pudding made with 3 Tbsp chia, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 2 tsp honey and 1/2 cup of blueberries has 333 Calories, 19g fat, 18g fiber, 42g carbs and 11g Protein. Compare this to, say, 50g of porridge with the same amount of almond milk, honey and blueberries: 308 Calories, 7.5g fat, 8g fiber, 58g carbs, 7.8g Protein. Those who are fat-phobic might scoff at the chia pudding, where ~50% of the calories come from fat. Chia has been praised as being a concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids, but research shows that the body isn’t very good at converting these types of plant-based omega-3s into something the body can be used. Still, they are a source of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals so they’re not going to do you any harm. I like how Katie Trant (nutritionist and author of the Muffin Myth blog) puts it in her well-researched article Chia Seeds: Healthy or Hype? – “Chia seeds are without question very healthy, but they’re not a miracle.” And probably not even life-changing.

Follow Emily’s chia antics – among other things – on Instagram, Twitter and her blog. And look out for more chia experiments to come: chia trifles, chia parfaits, chia jam… what else? Share your chia inspiration in the comments!

Recipe Review: The Really Hungry Burger by Anna Jones

Anna Jones' Really Hungry Burger

I have a love-hate relationship with veggie burgers (see this post from 2008: Wanted: A Veggie Burger That Isn’t a Mush Burger). The best veggie burger I’ve ever had was the beetroot burger from Mildred’s in London. I’ve since tried many veggie burger recipes, but most fail on various merits: too mushy, no texture, boring flavour, crumbly, and most commonly, made with so many breadcrumbs as to totally negate the need or desire for a bun.

I’ve even gone so far as creating a website entirely devoted to my search for the Ultimate Veggie Burger. But after so many experiments I was starting to think that veggie burgers were a total misnomer and that it was impossible to recreate the visceral joy of eating a tasty burger (with your hands, please, none of this British knife-and-fork stuff) without going back to the basic meaty principles.

It’s been a while since I’ve ventured back into veggie burger territory but I was inspired by my friend, CrossFit buddy, and fellow veggie burger enthusiast Jane to give them another go. Anna Jones’ recipe for The Really Hungry Burger caught both of our eyes. It helps that the picture of the burger looks awesome, but the ingredients sound really interesting too: mushrooms, dates, tahini… this burger was speaking my language. And Anna Jones’ own notes address some of my core concerns about veggie burgers:

Please be assured that this is not the breaded sweetcorn and mushroom mush excuse that usually shows up between two white buns. This is a hearty health-packed wonder that makes no apology to anyone…I’ve played around with a lot of recipes before settling on this one, some full of bright herb freshness and grated veg, some packed with protein-rich tofu, and all were good, but what I look for in a burger is a deep moreish flavour, savoury and complex, so this is the one.

Anna Jones' Really Hungry Burger

Jane and I made these burgers two ways: one with cannellini beans, the other with black beans. Both were awesome. The burgers hold their shape exceptionally well and they have great texture from the brown rice. The flavour really IS savoury and complex – I probably wouldn’t guess dates and tahini from the burger alone, but they combine perfectly with the rest of the ingredients to make a really tasty burger that’s totally worthy of being called “The Really Hungry Burger”.

As to toppings, Jane and I both liked Anna’s suggestion to serve the burgers with avocado and a quick cucumber pickle. We also felt that the burger benefited from a good dose of cheesy goodness. And of course, everything is better with giardiniera.

So maybe my quest for the Ultimate Veggie Burger is not fruitless after all. I will definitely be coming back to this recipe again, which means I can turn my attention to solving other problems, like what is the ultimate drink pairing to go with a veggie burger? To this end I had some help from Sir Neil of the France wine experience, whose top pick was a white Rhone. I got hold of a Jean-Luc Colombo La Redonne, which I swear I didn’t pick just for the name. This was way more fruity than the white wines I usually go for (NZ Sauvingon Blanc is my usual default, which probably says a lot about my knowledge of wine!), but I really enjoyed something new and I thought the wine’s peachiness stood up well to the hearty burger, and the total flavour explosion that came from all the wild toppings!

Finally, it should be noted that Jane fed the leftovers to a couple of meat-loving dudes who thought the veggie burgers were outstanding. The recipe features in Anna’s new book A Modern Way To Eat, probably worth picking up if you’re looking for satisfying vegetarian recipes designed to please ALL lovers of good food, veggies and omnivores alike.

Get the recipe: The Really Hungry Burger [annajones.co.uk]

Vegetarian Hot & Sour Soup

Vegetarian Hot & Sour Soup

Thursday, 19 February marks the beginning of The Chinese New Year, a celebration that lasts from the new moon to the Lantern Festival 15 days later.

Much of what I know about Chinese New Year I learned from chatting with Sachiko Saeki, a chef who was Hugh’s sushi tutor on River Cottage, and who frequently hosts regular cooking courses at Demuths Cookery School in Bath.

“To me Chinese New Year is similar to Christmas. It’s a time for family and friends to come together. Cleaning is involved and lots of it – the home, your past, in relationships, debts, to face the New Year anew mentally and spiritually.”

In this spirit of renewal and cleansing, I like to mark the Chinese New Year by making this Vegetarian Hot & Sour Soup, a bowl of comfort that keeps the body and soul warm during these last days of winter, but also harkens of the coming spring with its fresh flavours and colourful vegetables.

This soup isn’t just for Chinese New Year, it’s really for any time of year when you need a nourishing pick-me-up. It’s a very easy soup to make and can be adapted to suit whatever vegetables you have to hand. I especially like mine with lots of carrots and broccoli.

Vegetarian Hot & Sour Soup

Serves 2

  • 140g dried wholewheat noodles (or vegetable noodles for a low-carb affair)
  • rapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 medium red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 handful beansprouts
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 200g firm tofu, sliced into strips
  • vegetables: carrots, courgettes, broccoli, seaweed, mushrooms, whatever you have!

Method

  1. Cook the noodles according to the packet’s instructions. When finished, rinse under cold running water and drizzle a little oil over them to keep them from sticking together. Divide between two big bowls.
  2. In a soup pot, combine the ginger, red chilli, Shaohsing rice wine, vegetable stock, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Bring to a simmer.
  3. While the soup simmers, prepare your vegetables. I like to julienne my carrots and courgettes, but feel free to cut them to your preferred daze and shape.
  4. Add the vegetables to the pot and let it come back to the simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender (any quick-cooking vegetables, especially greens, should be added at the very end so they don’t over cook).
  5. Stir in the bean sprouts, most of the spring onions and the tofu.
  6. Ladle the soup over the noodles. Serve garnished with spring onions.

Vegetarian Hot & Sour Soup

 

Also seen on Great British Chefs.