Experiments without potatoes

root vegsYou can replace potatoes with other root vegetables that contain more vitamins and fibre, without sacrificing any of the comfort or taste element. The recipes below would work well at a Halloween/Bonfire supper or party if you’re planning late autumnal events. Also, I’ve been struck by the number of food delivery bikes in my area over the last few months. Look, I know we’re all busy, but I personally think we’d all be a lot healthier in the long term if we invested a bit of time in learning to cook from scratch, so we know what’s in our food.

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 scrumptious recipes.

Decided to rebel a bit against the food delivery people (we all know who they are…) and made my first two recipes slightly complicated (for me!) in that they involve stages and sauces.

Fish and mushroom pie with cauliflower mash
Serves four

One onion, finely chopped
One pint full cream milk
One cauliflower, sliced into florets
One 400g tin butter beans, drained
Three hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Two smoked haddock fillets
Two cod fillets
One pack prawns
300g mushrooms, sliced and fried in butter
One tbsp. fish sauce
Chopped parsley
35g butter
Two tbsp. flour
Grated cheese
Sliced tomatoes
One tbsp. mustard

Preheat oven to 200˚C. Heat the onion in the milk with black pepper and herb salt to season. Simmer for 10 minutes and set aside. Measure out about 50ml for the mash. Meanwhile, place the fish in a frying pan, add the rest of the milk, a knob of butter and simmer for a few minutes, turning the fish part way through, until fish is tender. Flake the fish on a plate and set aside.

Now make a sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour to make a paste, Then, add the milk from the fish and stir till thick and smooth. Add the fish sauce and the parsley.
Assemble the fish pie by mixing the flaked fish, hard-boiled eggs and mushrooms. Cover with the sauce. Leave to cool while you make the mash.

Boil the cauliflower till tender and mix with the butter beans, reserved milk and mustard. Use a hand masher to make a smooth mixture. Now add the mash to the cooled fish to make a layer, and top with sliced tomatoes and grated cheese. Bake for around 30 mins, till the top is browned. Serve with two green vegetables (we had tender stem broccoli and green beans).

Vegetarian/vegan shepherd’s pie with root veg mash

Turnips, swedes and carrots are all significantly lower in carbs than potatoes and parsnips contain somewhat less carb. So, the mixtures give you a mash that is lower carb and higher fibre than regular mash and also contributes to your fruit and veg intake, which potatoes do not.

Serves three to four
Two onions, chopped
100g lentils
Two 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato puree
1 tbsp. mixed herbs
1 tbsp. cinnamon
Two carrots, chopped
One small turnip, chopped
One small swede, chopped
One parsnip, chopped
Flax seed or olive oil/butter/cream/milk

Make the lentil filling by frying the onions in coconut oil until soft, then add lentils. Heat through and add tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs and cinnamon. Cook until lentils are soft (around 20–30 mins) and, in the meantime prepare the mash.
Boil the root vegetables till tender. Then add oil (for vegan version) or butter/cream/milk (vegetarian version) to add smoothness. Add extra flavour by stirring in mustard and/or marmite.

Cool the lentil mixture for 15 minutes or so, to ensure the mash doesn’t sink into it. Then add a thick layer of the mash, finish with sliced tomatoes (vegan version) and/or grated cheese (vegetarian version). Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, until the top is brown. Serve with something green (eg stir fried spring greens or cabbage and shredded leek).

Sweet potato and beetroot chips with rosemary and spicy dip
Serves two

Two sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
Two beetroot, sliced into chips
Olive oil
Rosemary, chopped
For the dip
Tub of quark (plain or flavoured – I used tomato and basil)
Tub of fresh chilli pesto

Heat the oven to 180˚C. Add the sweet potato chips to a bowl and toss with the rosemary and olive oil. Place on one half of a baking tray lined with foil in the oven. Meanwhile, toss the beetroot with rosemary and oil and place in the oven on the other half of the tray when the sweet potato has been cooking for around 15 minutes. Cook for a further 15 minutes till browned. Make the dip by mixing the quark and the pesto (multiple other combos are available of course – try cottage cheese, soy sauce and peanut butter, for instance).

Apologies for the length of the first two recipes. November’s recipes will be simpler!
Next month – experiments with coconut

Discovering chia seeds

Chia seedsChia seeds may be tiny, but they are packed with vital nutrients so if, like me, you hadn’t tried them previously, it’s well worth starting to include them in your diet. They come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Central and South America and a member of the mint family. It’s said that they were used in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations as a source of energy (the word ‘chia’ means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language).

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:

The seeds are rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of plant protein. They taste a bit neutral, compared with other seeds, but they do have the interesting property of rapidly absorbing liquid to form a gel. This is the basis of ‘chia pudding’ (see recipe below) and also means you can use chia seeds as an egg substitute or thickening agent if you’re vegan.

There’s some (albeit rather limited) evidence that chia seeds might help you lose weight and, maybe, help prevent diabetes and heart disease. As ever, don’t rely on getting direct health benefits from chia seeds, but perhaps try including them in the ‘healthy balanced diet’ we always advocate to add variety and interest.

Autumn smoothie

I’ve been collecting blackberries from my local nature reserve and used them with chia seeds to create this beautiful pink-purple smoothie, with my usual cacao and matcha boosts.

Serves one
Around 300g blackberries
One tsp chia seeds, soaked for five mins in 3 tsp water
Almond milk, as required to make a thick, or thinner, drink
One tsp matcha
One tsp cacao powder
Blend all ingredients in a Nutribullet, or similar and drink immediately.

Carrot and chia salad

I’ve added chia seeds to my usual mix of sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds that I use for adding to salads.
Serves two
Four carrots, sliced into ribbons with a mandolin or spiralizer
Ten radishes, sliced
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
One tbsp. mixed pumpkin, sunflower, linseed and chia seeds
100g pomegranate seeds

Mix all the ingredients except the pomegranate seeds. Dress the salad with linseed oil, cider vinegar and lemon juice and top with the pomegranate seeds.

Chocolate ‘blancmange’

I saw the possibility of creating a very healthy chocolate pudding with chia seeds. No sugar, no dairy and with, hopefully, the texture of chocolate blancmange (anyone seem blancmange in recent years?) or mousse. There are many recipes online and lots of yummy pictures. I did some research and here’s my experiment. To be fair, the texture is a bit more tapioca (if you’re old enough to remember that pudding!) than blancmange/mousse, but I’m excited by my discovery of a cacao powder blended with cinnamon, which adds a luxurious depth of flavour to this dessert.

Serves four
400ml coconut milk (or almond/hazelnut/hemp milk, or a mixture)
60g chia seeds
2 tbsp cacao powder with cinnamon
1 tsp coconut palm sugar

Whisk all these ingredients together in a bowl and chill overnight. Serve topped with berries.

Next time: Experiments without potatoes

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