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

S is for spinach

By guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I’m old enough to remember Popeye the Sailorman (“strong to the finish, ‘cos I eat my spinach”) …spinach makes you strong! I am not too sure about that message, for spinach actually contains no more iron than any other green vegetable. However, research has shown that there is a relationship between spinach consumption and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, various cancers, age-related macular degeneration and even cognitive decline.

Spinach is said to be one of the most nutritious foods on earth, with its content of vitamins C and K, both with antioxidant properties, carotenoids and polyphenols. It may be worth buying organic, as spinach is said to absorb relatively large amounts of pesticides. You can get spinach all year round, of course, but it is at its peak in early Spring, when it is too cold for other salad leaves.

Spinach Surprise

There are so many recipes for juices including spinach that I don’t know where to start! If you want to keep it simple, try this:
Serves one

Bunch of spinach bought from a ‘two for £1’ stall
Two Granny Smith apples
One cucumber
One lemon or lime
Around one inch ginger, peeled.
Chop ingredients and juice.

Spinach and Avocado Salad

Use the best quality spinach you can find for this one!
Serves two
Bag spinach
Two chopped avocados
Handful of walnuts
25 grams or so of either dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds to add a touch of sweetness

Make a dressing by crushing a clove of garlic with mustard powder and/or some grainy salt till it forms a puree. Then add 1 tbsp cider vinegar, juice of half a lemon and 1 tbsp flax seed oil. Toss all the ingredients in the dressing.

Spinach Rice

I am not normally keen on rice with Indian food, but have had a fantastic spinach rice in a restaurant in Islington a few times and have tried to recreate it here.

Spinach and rice could be boring, so I suggest a spicy base and chopped herbs and lemon on the top. Also, go for an interesting rice, such as wild rice, brown basmati, red rice or mixed rice.
Serves two
One onion or two shallots
One bag spinach
100g frozen peas

Fry the onion/shallots in coconut oil with the spice mixture for around 10 minutes. Then add rice, stir, and add water. Cook for around 30 minutes, till rice is almost ready, but there is still a bit of liquid left. Then add the peas to cook, and spinach in handfuls, to wilt. When the rice is cooked, finish with a squeeze of lemon and chopped herbs.