October in a nutshell

Nuts OctoberIf you want to add one healthy small change to your lifestyle this October, can I suggest you include more nuts in your diet? Nuts may be high in calories, but they’re good calories with the fat content being of the unsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 variety. They are also high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Only two Brazil nuts a day will give you your daily dose of selenium, a mineral which is essential for good immunity (especially relevant with the cold and flu season coming up), while almonds are rich in vitamin E, hazelnuts in folate and walnuts are packed with heart healthy antioxidants.

There has been no shortage of research into the health benefits of nuts. The biggest health benefit of all is, of course, living longer, so I will quote just one study. A 2013 report from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study and Healthcare Professionals Follow-up Study, covering nearly 120,000 people showed that in 30 years of follow-up, those who ate nuts every day had a 20% lower mortality rate.

Including nuts in your diet couldn’t be easier ¬– just treat yourself to a handful (30g a day would be about right to enjoy the benefits) or use peanut butter on toast, slices of apple or celery or in a smoothie. In the following recipes, I’ve taken it a bit further by using nut milks, nut oils and I finish with the ‘ultimate’ nut burger.

 

Nutty pink smoothie

Serves one
One carton of raspberries or strawberries
One tsp matcha powder
One tbsp. linseed meal
One tsp. raw cacao powder
One tbsp. chia seeds
One tbsp. turmeric latte powder
One tbsp. nut butter
[the above list is my current mix of smoothie additives]

Add all the above to your blender or Nutribullet, then top up with hazelnut milk. Blend and drink immediately.

 

Autumn salad with walnut oil dressing

A friend gave me some cucumbers from her garden. So fresh and delicious, I made them the basis for a salad that contains nuts and uses a walnut oil dressing.

Serves two
Three carrots, shredded
One cucumber diced
Handful of nuts (I used flaked almonds)
One tbsp. mixed seeds
Two spring onions, finely chopped
Dressing
One tbsp. walnut oil
One garlic clove
Sea salt
Lemon juice
One tsp mustard (I used horseradish mustard)

Mix all the salad ingredients. For the dressing, bash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle to make a puree and then whisk in the lemon and oil. Dress and serve.

Vegan nut burgers

So lots of restaurants and pubs are doing vegan burgers now. I’ve never made a burger in my life, so I thought it was time to jump on this particular healthy bandwagon. These are dead simple – just nuts and red onion. No rice, chickpeas, spinach, halloumi…

Serves four
100g mixed nuts, ground to a coarse powder
Egg replacement _ one tbsp. flax seed meal whisked in three tbsp water and left till it forms a beaten egg-like gel
One red onion, finely chopped
Herbs and spices to flavour – I used cinnamon, chilli powder and freshly ground black pepper
Two tbps. tomato puree

Place the nuts, onion, herbs and spices into a bowl. Now, my big worry was that this mixture would not stick together with the vegan egg (of course, use a real egg if you prefer – I’m not vegan myself and this would have been fine). I added the tomato puree as well for a bit more moisture and the consistency was just right. Shape into patties and fry in coconut oil for about five minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time, which should leave both sides lightly browned. The mixture keeps well in the fridge (I had this over three days).

Now for the fun bit…building your burger. When eating out, I’ve found that even if the vege/vegan burger is good, the dish is let down by being wedged inside a plasticy, tasteless white bun. So try wrapping this in pitta bread, a decent fresh wholemeal roll or even toast…Obviously there are lots of things you can use as a base and topping for your burger. We had sliced avocado and tomato on the base and jalapenos and spicy mayo on the top.

Next months. November is seed time.

Going purple for September

aubergine beetroot blackberriesThe A, B&B trio (Aubergine, Beetroot and Blackberries) group are all in season now. They’re high in fibre, low in calories, rich in minerals, vitamins and the antioxidant phytochemicals that given them their deep colour writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition. The purple of aubergine skin comes from nasunin, a potent antioxidant which was found (in lab experiments only, to be fair) to protect brain cell membranes from damage.

Back to School juice

There are still plenty of blackberries around, so pick them while you can. Blended with frozen berries and grapefruit, this makes a delicious healthy juice with just the right acidity balance. Amounts of berries can be varied.

Serves two

Fresh picked blackberries
Bag of frozen berries, defrosted
Two red grapefruit
One inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
Pomegranate juice
Juice all berries, grapefruit and ginger and top up glasses with pomegranate juice.

Ratatouille

I have been studying ethnobotanist James Wong’s new book 10-a-day The Easy Way and wondered how many veg I could add to my aubergine in a ratatouille recipe. Here goes…

Serves four

One aubergine, chopped
One red pepper, chopped
One green pepper, chopped
One yellow pepper, chopped
Three courgettes, sliced
Handful of runner beans, sliced
Two red onions, chopped
Two red chillis, chopped
Two garlic cloves, diced
Two 400g tins of tomatoes
Two tbsp. tomato puree
One tbsp. dried mixed herbs
100g pot of mixed olives
Fresh basil, torn
Fresh parsley, chopped

Heat some coconut or olive oil and fry the onions, garlic and chilli for a few minutes till soft. Stir in all the other vegetables and soften. Then add tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs and simmer till all the veg are tender. Add the olives. Finish with the fresh herbs and maybe a drizzle of olive or flax seed oil.

This is incredibly versatile. Serve with rice, pasta, baked potato or sweet potato, hot or cold. I put this recipe into my nutrition calculator and it ‘only’ contains 2.5 portions of fruit and veg per serving. Now my challenge is to adapt this recipe to up this total. Fancy joining me in this challenge?

Beetroot and horseradish hummus – new food processor

I have just bought a new food processor. So, to celebrate, I put together a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a while.

Serves four

Three boiled beets, chopped
One 400g tin chick peas, drained
Two tbsp horseradish
Two tsp spices (many hummus recipes call for cumin, but I used ras el hanout and sumac)
Flax seed or olive oil as required

Process the beets, chick peas, horseradish and spices. Add oil to create the consistency you want.

This beautiful deep pink-purple dip is great with pitta bread, crackers and crudites and keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Next time: Going nuts in October.

J is for July – with nasturtium leaves and runner beans

NasturtiumsUK-grown runner beans should be readily available now – maybe you can even pick them fresh from the garden. You can’t go wrong, health wise, by eating lots of runner beans – they’re a rich source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, soluble fibre and minerals. Don’t just use them as a side – I’ve come up with a simple pasta dish and a summer potato salad here, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Meanwhile, I’ve planted nasturtiums everywhere this year – in the vegetable plot, in our hanging baskets and in pots. The leaves are flourishing though I’m still waiting for the flowers. Did you know every part of the nasturtium plant is edible? The leaves are a bit like watercress and are high in vitamin C. Add them to a salad for a green boost – here I’ve combined them with watercress, but they go well with any leaves.

Nasturtium and watercress salad

This is super healthy and a great mixture of colours, textures and flavours.

Serves two
Handful of nasturtium leaves, chopped
Bunch or bag of watercress
Heritage tomatoes (I found a box of green, orange, yellow and red), chopped
One tbsp. mixed seeds
Box of alfalfa sprouts
Chopped herbs (I used mint and basil)
Flax seed oil, cider vinegar and lemon to dress
Mix the leaves, seeds and tomatoes. Dress and top with the sprouts and chopped/torn herbs.

Runner bean pasta with chilli oil and pecorino and herbs

I was lucky enough to be invited to pick some runner beans from a colleague’s sunny terrace recently. Took them straight home and made this simple pasta dish – I really noticed the difference between these beans and those flown in to the supermarket from abroad. So, see if you can buy local or, better still, grow your own. I also think it’s good to experiment with tipping the balance towards more beans, less pasta and maybe even try this dish with one of the vegetable pastas.

Serves one
Around 10 runner beans, sliced
50g pasta
Pecorino cheese, grated
Fresh basil

Cook the beans for around 4 minutes and drain. Cook the pasta. Add the beans and finish with grated pecorino, torn basil and a drizzle of oil (I used chilli-infused flax seed oil).

Runner bean and new potato salad

This would be great with freshly picked beans and freshly dug potatoes. Go for as fresh and local as you can find!

Serves two
Around 20 runner beans, sliced
10 to 12 new potatoes
One tbsp. mixed seeds
For the dressing:
Horseradish mustard
Flax seed oil
Greek or other high-protein yoghurt
Fresh mint leaves, chopped.

Cook the beans for around 4 minutes, drain and leave to cool. Cook the potatoes till tender and leave to cool. Combine the dressing ingredients to taste (exact quantities don’t matter). Mix the beans, potatoes and seeds and toss in the dressing. Finish with chopped mint leaves.

Next time. August – bring on the watermelons.

W is for watermelon

Water melonIt’s the time of year when big wedges of watermelon start to appear on fruit stalls.  Watermelon is 90% water, so a slice makes a refreshing snack on a hot day, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.  It’s also rich in vitamins A and C, as well as being an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which gives the fruit its red colour.

However, watermelon does have a glycaemic index (GI) of 72, which is considered high, although its glycaemic load (GL) of 2, is low. The GL value reflects the fact that the carbohydrate content of watermelon is low, so it shouldn’t cause a ‘spike’ in your blood glucose after consumption. But if you are bothered by the high GI element, try combining watermelon with other foods, as in this month’s recipes!

Summer watermelon juice

I was curious about how much juice I might get from a watermelon. The answer is 250ml from a whole small watermelon (much less than I was expecting). Here it is used as the basis for a slightly tart and very refreshing juice that will energise you when temperatures soar.

Serves one

One watermelon, quartered with the flesh sliced into chunks

Two red grapefruit, peeled and segmented

400g raspberries

One inch of root ginger, peeled

Pure pomegranate juice

Juice the fruits and ginger and top up with the pomegranate juice.

 

Feta, olive and watermelon salad

In this salad, the salty creamy feta cheese complements the crisp sweet watermelon perfectly.

Serves two

200g pack of barrel-aged feta cheese, cubed

One tub of black, green or mixed olives

One red onion, thinly sliced

One red pepper or Romano pepper, thinly sliced

Watermelon chunks cut from a wedge

Oil

Lemon

Green leaves

Herbs

Mix the cheese, olives, onion, pepper and watermelon and serve on a bed of green leaves. Dress with oil and lemon and top with mint and basil.

 

Watermelon fruit salad

I was invited into a school recently and treated to lunch. I was interested to see what was on offer and very impressed by one of the best fruit salads I’ve had for a long time. It contained sliced plums so I’ve included these in the recipe below. Note, plums and raspberries are low GI fruits, so they balance the watermelon well.

Serves two to three

Watermelon chunks cut from a wedge

400g raspberries

400g strawberries

Six plums cut into quarters

Next month – late summer recipes with aubergines, beetroot and blackberries

June means cherries

cherries for JuneI’ve chosen cherries, peas and broad beans as this month’s seasonal produce. All have a short season, so grab them while you can! Indeed, you might find it hard to get hold of fresh peas and broad beans, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition. If so, these recipes work perfectly well with frozen – though I think they taste a bit better with fresh (as was proved some years ago, the nutritional value of frozen veg is the same, or higher, than fresh as they are frozen – or should be – within minutes of picking, which preserves the nutrients).

Cherries, peas and broad beans are all excellent sources of vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants. Cherries are also a relatively low GI fruit – handy to know if you’re watching your intake of carbs/sugars. Tart cherry juice has also been credited with numerous health benefits, such as helping with gout and joint pain and preventing inflammation.

Summer cherry smoothie

I had not tried tart cherry juice (bought from a health food shop) before. I didn’t much care for it on its own, as it tastes a bit like prunes (reminder of school dinners), but it makes a delicious smoothie with fresh berries.

Serves one
Carton of raspberries
Carton of strawberries, hulled and chopped
One tsp. matcha powder
One tbsp. chia seeds
One tbsp.. raw cacao powder
Tart cherry juice
Blend the berries, powders and seeds with the cherry juice in a Nutribullet or similar device.
Red fruit salad
Here’s an alternative way with berries and cherries.
Serves two
Carton of raspberries
Carton of strawberries, hulled and chopped
Carton of cherries, stoned and halved

Mix the fruits. Delicious with Greek yoghurt for breakfast or as a healthy dessert at a summer barbeque or garden party.

Pea guacamole

This is guacamole with both avocado and peas. The marscapone makes it rich and creamy but for a lower-fat version, I’m thinking you could substitute cottage cheese, quark or thick yoghurt.

Serves two to three
200g tub marscapone
Two avocados, peeled and chopped
200g peas, cooked
Handful of mint leaves
One chilli, deseeded and chopped
Juice of two limes
Flaxseed oil
Sour cream

Blast all the ingredients except the oil and sour cream in a Nutribullet or food processor. Check the consistency and, if too thick, add a little oil and/or sour cream to thin it down. Serves with a colourful selection of crudités and/or seeded flatbreads/interesting bread. This tastes even better after a night in the fridge! Definitely one for sharing at a summer party.

Broad bean salad

Serves two
Bag of your favourite salad leaves (I used pea shoots and a few lettuce leaves from the garden)
Around 200g fresh or frozen broad beans, cooked and cooled
50g pine nuts
Two avocados, peeled and chopped
Dressing: mustard, flax seed oil and cider vinegar with a squeeze of lemon
Chopped mint and chives to finish
Mix all ingredients, dress, toss and finish with the chopped herbs.

Next month: Runner beans and nasturtiums.