Experiments with low carb

raspberries low carbsWithout getting too heavily involved in the low carb, low sugar, low glycaemic index debate, I’d like to offer up just a few suggestions…My first thought was to look for lower carb versions of favourite pasta, rice and potato dishes. But I couldn’t face fish pie or shepherd’s pie with ‘alternative’ mash in this weather (I’ll be back with those in a couple of months) – so I’ve gone for a refreshing fruit smoothie instead. And when I say sugar, I generally mean a simple natural carbohydrate like fructose rather than added sugar, which is usually sucrose.

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three fabulous recipes right here:

Refreshing raspberry smoothie

All fruit contains some sugar but the amount varies quite dramatically. Check these amounts in grams per serving:
• Lime – 1.1
• Raspberries – 5
• Kiwi – 6
• Orange – 12
• Banana – 17
• Mango – 46

I’d usually make up a smoothie with hemp/almond/coconut milk, but the presence of the lime will make it go lumpy, so I used cactus water, which is lower in sugar than coconut water. I’ve added the matcha and cacao, as I do to all my smoothies for an extra healthy boost. The result has a refreshing sharpness that I think you’ll love!

Serves one
Four limes, juiced
Large carton of raspberries
Four kiwi fruit, peeled and halved
Cactus water
One tsp matcha powder
One tsp cacao power
Add all ingredients to your blender/Nutribullet, using the cactus water to make up the volume. Blend and drink immediately.

Protein pasta

You can find pasta made with a wide variety of grains, with lentil and spelt pasta being the most readily available. The one with the highest protein/carb ratio I discovered was edamame fettucine.
For comparison, per 100g.
Wholewheat fusilli 30.2g carb 5.2g protein
Edamame fettucine 15g carb 44g protein

I made up my favourite sauce to serve with the pasta…substitute your own.
Serves two

Large carton cherry tomatoes, halved
One large red chilli, finely chopped
Two cloves garlic, crushed
400g tin tomatoes
One tbsp. tomato puree
One tsp. mixed herbs
Fresh basil
Grated pecorino cheese

Fry the garlic and chilli till soft in olive oil then add the other ingredients and simmer until thick. Cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet, drain and serve with the sauce. Finish with torn basil and grated pecorino. Makes a good pasta salad when cold, or reheat.

Summer vegetable risotto

Use quinoa instead of rice, and twice as many green veg as in a traditional risotto recipe.
Serves 3–4

600g broad beans/peas/tenderstem broccoli/asparagus
250g quinoa
Bunch spring onions, chopped
Carton cherry tomatoes, chopped
Fresh herbs
Grated pecorino cheese

Cook the green veg and quinoa. Mix together and add the spring onion and tomatoes. Finish with chopped herbs and grated pecorino cheese.
Next month. Discovering chia seeds

Experiments with cacao

CacaoIf you love chocolate, it’s worthwhile starting to include cacao powder in your daily diet. Unlike chocolate, raw cacao is naturally fermented, unprocessed and free of sugar, milk and other additives. This concentrates the true chocolate and coffee flavour compounds, allowing for a deeper taste experience, writes Dr Susan Aldridge,  Healthy Soul’s  guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Cacao contains over 700 different phytochemicals. Some of these have powerful antioxidant properties; cacao compares favourably with dark chocolate, green tea and blueberries as a source of antioxidants. It is also rich in magnesium. Research suggests that cacao might help prevent blood clots, improve cognitive function and insulin resistance and lower blood pressure.

These recipes use an organic cacao powder that is pressed from raw cacao beans, and has no additives.

Cacao smoothie

A luxurious, tasty and nutritious drink
Serves one
One punnet of strawberries
250mul almond milk
One tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cacao powder
Blend everything in a Nutribullet or similar device and drink immediately.

Vegetarian chilli

I replaced the mince with a packet of quinoa with seeds (many other varieties of packet quinoa available!)

Serves 2–3 (reheats well and great for a summer party if you scale up)
Two cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Two chopped red chillis
One red onion, chopped
One yellow Romano pepper, chopped
One red Romano pepper, chopped
400g tin tomatoes
400g tin mixed beans
Two tbsp. tomato puree
250g pack quinoa, ready cooked
One tbsp. raw cacao powder
Fry the onion, peppers, garlic, chilli and cacao powder in olive oil till the vegetables are soft. Then add the tomatoes, beans, tomato puree and quinoa. Cook for 15–20 minutes.
Serve with grated cheese/sour cream/finely chopped chillis/sliced avocado. Drizzle with chilli oil if you like it hot.

Cacao peach melba

A healthy take on this classic dessert.
Serves two
250g of the thickest, most luxurious yoghurt you can find
Two tsp raw organic cacao powder
Two peaches, sliced
Handful of raspberries
Stir the cacao powder into the yoghurt and divide between two dessert glasses. Top with the sliced peaches and raspberries and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

Next month. Experiments with fermented foods

Experiments with pineapple

PineappleWhen I heard that sales of pineapple are booming in the UK, with one buyer claiming that it might start to rival avocado in popularity, I just had to put together a pineapple blog to follow on from last month’s avocado blog, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I’ve got bad memories of pineapple from the 1960s. Tinned pineapple chunks, soggy pineapple rings with evaporated milk and pineapple and cheese cubes on cocktail sticks. Time for a re-think, because pineapples are rich in vitamin C (one serving supplies more than your daily recommended intake), potassium and the enzyme bromelain, which can reduce inflammation. One word of caution though – a serving of pineapple contains 16g sugar (compared with raspberries, which contain 5g sugar per serving). So, rather than eat it on its own, try the three recipes below where the sweetness is balanced by lots of other healthy ingredients.

Green pineapple juice
Serves one

The addition of pineapple lifts this classic green juice.

One cucumber, roughly chopped
Three sticks of celery, halved
Two handfuls of spinach leaves
Half a pineapple, sliced
One inch peeled ginger, chopped
Juice all ingredients and drink immediately.

Crunchy salad
Serves two

Three types of green leaves – I used a bag of pea shoots, two baby gem lettuce and a bag of watercress

50g pomegranate seeds
100g pineapple, cut into small chunks
Handful of mixed seeds (linseed, pumpkin and sunflower)
One sliced avocado
Toss all ingredients in a dressing of flaxseed oil, cider vinegar and lemon. To make more of a main meal of this salad, add an extra avocado and some prawns.

Fruity curry
Serves two to three

Two onions, chopped
One inch grated ginger
Two Tbsp curry paste
100g oily toor dhal (or red lentils or similar pulse)
400g coconut milk
400g tin tomatoes
400g mushrooms, sliced
100g frozen peas
one-quarter pineapple, chopped
half mango, chopped

Fry the onion and ginger in coconut oil till soft and add the curry paste and dhal. Stir and add the coconut milk and tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the mushrooms and peas. Stir for a few minutes, then add the pineapple and mango and heat through.
Next month – experiments with cacao

Experiments with avocado

avocadoAvocado is used increasingly to make dishes vegan – instead of butter on toast and in main course salads instead of ham or chicken. But avocado is far more than an animal product substitute, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition..

The fruit of the Persea Americana tree is rich in vitamins, including vitamin E, and contains more potassium than a banana.  It has a glycaemic index of zero and contains more fat than any other fruit. This is ‘heart healthy’ monounsaturated fat – specifically, oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil. Here are three easy ways to include more avocados in your diet.

Avocado green smoothie

This is a lovely, creamy drink which is rather like a super-healthy chocolate milk shake.

Serves one
50g Spinach
One avocado, peeled, stoned and sliced
Cacao
50g strawberries
50g raspberries
300ml hemp, almond or coconut milk (or a mixture)
Blend all the ingrdients in a Nutribullet or similar device. Drink immediately.
Avocado on toast

This is my version of avocado on toast, where I replace the traditional poached egg with a version of the classic Italian dish insalata tricolore, which combines avocado with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Serves one as a light main, or make double quantities/add salad for a main for two. You could also cut this into smaller pieces for a party canape dish.

Thick slice of interesting bread (I used walnut, but you could use olive or sourdough), toasted
One sliced avocado
Sundried tomatoes
Soft cheese (I used Cornish brie, but mozzarella or feta would also work well)
Chopped mint/basil/microgreens to finish.

Layer the avocado, tomatoes and cheese on the toast and heat under the grill until the cheese has melted. Finish with the herbs/microgreens.

Avocado hummus

This spread is packed with healthy fats from the avocado and the oils.

Makes around four servings

Tub of hummus (suggest going for an ‘artisan’ or home-made version with extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, rather than standard supermarket product)
One avocado, peeled and sliced
One tbsp. flax seed oil (I used the chilli-steeped version, but the plain version is just as good)
Juice of one lemon

Blitz all ingredients in a Nutribullet or food processor. Serve with crudites and/or pitta bread. Keeps for a day or two in the fridge.
Next month: Experiments with pineapple

A is for April: recipes for a healthy Easter break

CeleriacI’ve chosen cauliflower, spinach and celeriac from the seasonal list for April. The first two I’ve covered before in this blog, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.  As a reminder, cauliflower – like cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts – is a good source of the anti-cancer compound sulforaphane. And spinach is a real superfood, with a high content of vitamins C and K, and a wealth of other goodies like carotenoids and polyphenol. If you were to consume spinach most days of the year (not just in April!) you’d probably give your present and future health a big boost.
So, I’m introducing celeriac here. It tastes like celery so no surprise that it’s actually the same plant. Both are varieties of Apium graveolens – celery is the stalks and leaves, celeriac the root (strictly speaking it’s a tuber). Celeriac is very rich in vitamin K which is essential for strong bones. A recent study also suggests that A graveolens contains compounds that lower the blood pressure. I’ve just found out that you can juice.

Green lemonade
Serves one

This is the classic spinach-cucumber-celery combo, blended with all the citrus fruits and ginger.

100g spinach
One cucumber, chopped into chunks
Three sticks celery, chopped into chunks
One red grapefruit, peeled and quartered
Two oranges, peeled and quartered
One lime
One lemon
Two inches peeled ginger root
Spinach and cauliflower curry

Serves four (or two people for two days)

This is a repeat of one of my earlier recipes, except that I have replaced the chick peas with urad (or urid) dal, which is particularly high in protein and has a lovely creamy taste. I had a delicious side dish of dal makhani (where urad dal is the main ingredient) in an Indian restaurant recently and decided it was time to increase my repertoire of the pulses I use in cooking.

One cauliflower, chopped into florets
One tbsp. cinnamon
One tbsp. turmeric
One tbsp. curry paste
One red onion
A one inch piece of ginger, chopped
Three cloves garlic, crushed
One chopped red chilli
Around 400g urad dal, soaked overnight and cooked till soft L
One bag spinach
One tin coconut milk
One tbsp. tomato puree
Lemon juice
Chopped coriander and mint to finish

Heat some coconut oil and fry the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and spices till soft. Add the cauliflower and cook for around 10 minutes. Add urad dal and stir till everything is coated with the spice mixture. Add the coconut milk and turn down to simmer. Cook until reduced and add the tomato puree. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and the chopped herbs.

Celeriac and new potato salad
Serves four (or two meals for two people)

This is a combination of two classic dishes – celeriac remoulade and potato salad, with the mayonnaise replaced by a creamy yoghurt vinaigrette. I also thought it would be fun to combine celeriac and celery in one dish.

Ten new potatoes
100g frozen peas
Small jar of capers
One celeriac, divided into two halves
Three celery stalks, chopped into small pieces
For the dressing
Two garlic cloves
One tbsp. cider vinegar
Two tbsp. flax seed oil
One tbsp. lemon juice
Two tbsp. Greek yoghurt

Boil the potatoes, cook the peas, drain and set aside. When cool, mix potatoes and peas with all other ingredients except the celeriac. Grind the garlic with rock salt to make a paste and whisk in the cider vinegar, lemon juice and oil to make a vinaigrette. Then add the yoghurt and mix to make a creamy dressing. Mix with the salad.
Now you can go one of two ways.

One meal (four people). Shred all the celeriac and mix into the salad. This would be nice served with baked salmon and a green vegetable as a celebratory Easter meal.
Two meals. Do not leave shredded celeriac in a salad dressing overnight. It gets very soggy because it absorbs the liquid. So, divide the potato salad into two. Add the freshly shredded celeriac to one half. Refrigerate the other half. Next day, repeat, so the celeriac always goes in fresh. We had the second helping with smoked mackerel and green salad – another healthy Easter meal.

Next time: Salads and stir fries for May