Saturday, 25 June 2011

Jam, jam and more jam!

I am not a big lover of fruits, especially the sweeter ones, but one kind I do adore are gooseberries (they're up there with rhubarb and kumquats).  And we got a whole heap of delicious looking gooseberries in our veg box. It was very tempting to make a honey sweetened, oat topped crumble, but, It dawned on me that I have never ever made jam before! How was this possible? It was high time I learnt, and it needed to be a sugar free version too. Up for a bit of a challenge I decided to give it a go.

I did a quick search on the Internet and found some suggestions to use apple juice concentrate in place of the sugar. I didn't have any but I did have my most fabulous and amazing Thorncroft detox cordial, which happens to be 90% apple juice concentrate, and, is a beautiful rich colour with tones similar to my gooseberries.... a match made in heaven!

I'm going to sound like Thorncroft are paying me right now (which I assure you they are not) because this brand is so ace I am going to have to tell you all about it. They make gorgeous soft drinks and cordials, and although some of their varieties do use sugar (but still all natural and containing ingredients with health giving benefits), they have a huge range of fruit juice based cordials and soft drinks. It is this range that I am in love with, particularly the Detox Cordial. It contains everything I hold dear to my heart, liquorice, dandelion, burdock, ginger, sarsaparilla, fennel, turmeric, red clover blossom, cinnamon, clove and coriander leaf. How awesome is that?! 

So I figured I could use this to make (possibly) the healthiest jam around. And I did. And it worked beautifully. It is a little tart, which I like as I haven't a sweet tooth, but you could add a sweeter fruit such as strawberries, or up the amount of cordial. For me this was just perfect, and as gooseberries are naturally high in pectin, it set a treat without having to add anything else. Easiest jam ever. 

Detox gooseberry jam!
400g gooseberries
300 ml Thorncroft detox cordial (you could use regular apple juice concentrate too)

Top and tail the gooseberries and pop them in a pan with the cordial.

Bring to the boil and then reduce to a medium heat. Reduce the liquid down till the gooseberries are mushy and the liquid looks thick and delicious.

When you think the jam is ready, pop a plate into the freezer for a couple of minutes, take it out, pop a dollop of jam on it and leave for a minute or two. If you can run your finger through the middle of the jam without it running back together, it is ready!
Pour into a sterilized air tight jar (I sterilize mine in the oven).

This will need to be stored in the fridge as it does not have the sugar to preserve it. It should keep a couple of weeks.
We enjoyed ours with crusty rye bread.

Staying with the jam theme (this blog post is after all called 'jam, jam and more jam'), I had another jammy recipe to make!
In the back of the fridge I had a teeny bit of St Dalfour jam left in the jar (apple juice sweetened french jam, it is lush) and a bit of pastry left over from the supergreens and egg pie. So I made some dainty little shallow jam tarts with the pastry rolled super thin, that took just 12 mins to bake at 180 degrees C. They were quick, easy and perfect whole little bite fulls, a lovely treat for the girls :)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Thrifty fun day!!

It was total excitement in the Bedford household today. For the very first time we had a Veg box delivered from Riverford organics. We usually use Able and Cole but were on holiday the day they would have delivered this week, so, to save us from the horror of the supermarkets, we decided it was definitely worth trying Riverford (and also to compare the two,  to make sure we're getting the best possible ingredients).

Anyhow, I am pleased to report that it was brilliant! The selection of fruit and veg was amazing and the quality equally impressive, so much so that I may get a box a week from each company from now on. They both have their pros and cons and it will give us more variety and ensure we get a top up of fresh veg later in the week!

However, I'm rambling, back to the point, my Riverford veg box..... Among today's selection we had carrots and beetroots. They both came with the most amazing, voluminous and delicious green tops I have EVER seen! There was no way I was going to waste those, they were a vegetable in their own right! So Dorrie and I got creative in the kitchen making a refreshing and vibrant juice (at her request) and I created a different take on one of Will's favourites, spinach pie! We had so much fun and I'm so excited to share these recipes with you guys, can you tell?!?

Carrot and beetroot top juice
A big handful of carrot tops
A big handful of beetroot tops
2 carrots
1 large beetroot, peeled
1 apple, cored

Wash the Carrot and beetroot tops and drain well. Scrub the carrots and chop each into about 3 pieces. Slice the beetroot and apple into similar size pieces.


Juice the pieces of veg/fruit and the greens, a little at a time in your juicer (We have the Samson 6 in 1) and that is it! Easy, quick, nutritious and  very tasty fresh juice!

Such a beautiful colour
It didn't last long!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Easy dhal, great as leftovers too....

So just thought I'd share Fia's preschool lunch from yesterday with you guys, it's a great example how leftovers make a super quick and no fuss packed lunch for your little ones.

There is no reason at all why we can't have food that is traditionally served hot, cold the next day, but it is something easily overlooked...... A good tip is to make more of what you're having for dinner, to save time the next day and keep those lunchboxes exciting!!

Below is my recipe for the dhal that was in Fia's lunch, it may not be completely authentic, but it really is yummy, it is one of the girls favourite dinners in fact. I know the list of ingredients looks mighty long, but it is such a simple dish to cook, please don't let that put you off! 

Spinach also makes a yummy addition to the dhal, just stir it in near the end of cooking so it is just wilted and retains its nutrients.

Dhal, brown basmati, goji berries and hemp seeds, cucumber and home-made sugar free pumpkin pie pudding!

Dhal Recipe
250g red lentils, soaked for 1 hour and drained
1 pint of water (plus extra in case it dries out)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne or chili powder
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 large tomatoes. diced
1 tsp garam massala
Juice of half to one lemon
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion, ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes then add all the spices (except the garam massala) in a little olive oil or coconut oil.
Next add the tomatoes, lentils and water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 20 mins, or until the lentils are soft.
finish with the salt and pepper, lemon juice, garam massala and coriander, and stir well. And there you have it!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

All weather raw veggie salad

The one thing we can depend on here in the UK, is that you never know what the weather is going to do! One minute I'm wearing a T-shirt and flip flops, the next I am sat huddled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and fluffy slippers! It is quite a challenge as I never know what to dress the girls in and they end up with multiple outfit changes a day; but hey, it gives us something to talk about and keeps us on our toes right?!

I have the perfect vibrant and uplifting salad for both chilly and warm summer days! It is really fragrant, with a warming subtle spice that is just what I need on a brisk day like today. It is also packed with nutrients from the raw vegetables, and also from the spices, with a generous amount of turmeric, lime, garlic and ginger. It feeds your body as well as your soul.

Turmeric is a wonder food.  I sneak it into as many dishes as I can, sweet or savoury! 
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can help with a whole list of conditions and illnesses. It is also anti inflammatory, a blood clenser and an effective digestion aid, making it perfect partners with lentils and beans!

All weather salad
2 Courgettes (zucchini), grated
6 Carrots, washed and grated
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 tbsp cold pressed un-toasted sesame oil
2-3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp organic turmeric powder Zest of half a lime
Handful or parsley or coriander (cilantro)
1-2 tsp fresh chopped or dried chili fakes
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Mix the grated carrot and courgette together in a bowl.
In a mini chopper blitz all the rest of the ingredients to make a dressing.
Pour the dressing over the vegetables and stir well to coat!
One thing I thought of after we ate the salad, is that it would be great with some sesame seeds sprinkled over the top. Will definately try that next time!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The dish that has no name, or could be 'The aubergine bake thingy'!

 *This recipe has been veganized March 2016. The original pictures are still on this page but I will update them with the new ones soon! Thank you for your patience while I create vegan versions of my old veggie recipes!

I looked outside the window this morning and was delighted by the blue skies! Although I know our plants appreciate the rain, I really do adore the sunshine and that lovely glow and energy it gives you so I can't help but jump around and act like a big kid when I see blue skies!

I decided that we'd definitely have something summery for dinner, maybe a veggie stir fry with quinoa and a green salad. Then, as soon as I put my washing out (how did it know?!), it became overcast and chilly. Boo. Although I do adore veggie stir fry, I now found myself wanting a rich bake type dish. I don't do a huge amount of oven bakes, but I do have one amazing dish that I love to cook on days like this, the dish that has no name! Or as we refer to it here, the aubergine bake thingy. If anybody can think of a name feel free to post a suggestion! ;)

I created this dish a while ago now. It came to me on a day much like today. I fancied something warm and comforting, a moussaka type dish, but without the meat. I remembered I had some left over olive bread and thought it would be fabulous in a veggie dish layered with aubergine and (vegan) mozzarella, and so this dish was born!

The girls really enjoy this, it is a real family friendly crowd pleaser of a dinner! It is also really great to cook if you have friends or family over. You can prep it all the night before so all you need to do is bung it in the oven, which means you get to spend more time chilling in good company than slaving away in the kitchen: bonus!

The aubergine bake thingy
2 medium aubergines
5-6 slices of a natural unrefined olive bread
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 bottle of passata
2 tsp dried or fresh oregano
Handful of vegan mozarella (we like mozzarisella)
About 2 big handfuls of vegan parmesan- we love violife parmesan style cheese
A handful of fresh basil leaves
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Thinly slice the aubergines lengthwise, pop onto baking trays and cook until soft, about 25 mins.
In a pan, saute the onions and garlic until just cooked through, not browned. While they are cooking, lightly brush the bread sliced with olive oil and grill or griddle them until lightly toasted.

When the onions are beautifully translucent and soft, add the passata, oregano, salt and pepper and gently simmer for 5 mins.
Now you can start building up the dish!
In a casserole dish or deep oven dish, cover the bottom of the pan with about a 3rd of the tomato sauce. Top this with a layer of the aubergine, half of the remaining sauce and then the bread slices. Sprinkle on the grated vegan parmesan.

Add another layer of aubergine and the rest of the tomato sauce on the top. Sprinkle over the basil, then the sliced tomatoes.

Finally finish with the vegan mozarella, and spread this over the top.
Pop this in the oven for about 35 mins or until the cheese is melted and golden and the sauce is bubbling away!

Monday, 6 June 2011

superfied carrot rolls

I promised a little goji tea time number days ago, and things just got so hectic around here I have only now managed to sit down to write it, sorry! The girls have been quite the little monsters these past few days, perhaps due to being on half term break, they have boundless energy and have been turning the whole house upside down! I am quite worn out by it all, they however do not seem even the slightest bit tired.....!

This recipe is not my own, it is in fact an Antony Worrall Thompson recipe from his book 'Real family food'. Only I messed with it, giving it a cheeky little super foods makeover. Not that there is anything really wrong with the original version (though I wouldn't use white bread as in his recipe), I just always love to find ways to increase the nutritional value of regular recipes you have in books around the house, it is sometimes as much fun as creating recipes of my own! 

Superfied carrot rolls
10 medium carrots, steamed until soft
2 slices of an additive & sugar free wholegrain loaf, rubbed into crumbs
Handful of goji berries, re hydrated in hot water for 30mins then drained and chopped
Handful of mulberries, re hydrated in hot water for 30mins then drained and chopped
4 spring onions finely diced or half a red onion finely diced
3tbsp finely chopped walnuts
4 small or 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp chili flakes, or for younger children, 1/2 tsp ground paprika
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 flax egg ( tbsp ground flax mixed with 2 tbsp water)
6 tbsp chopped parsley and mint
salt and pepper
Gram flour for dusting
olive oil for shallow-frying

Mash the carrots, then add all the remaining ingredients and knead well. The mixture will be quite damp.

Coat your hands in flour and mould the mixture into cylinder shapes, and then shallow fry them until brown on all sides.

Drain them well on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Serve with vegetables or salad. Easy!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Goji a day!

It's been a while since I posted, I apologise, I've had such a lot on! I was away for a few days for my brothers wedding, which was beautiful, then we had an awesome day at VegFest in Bristol, then we were at Blenheim Palace for the 'Taste of Summer' event.....PHEW! I am actually exhausted, in a good way though, but am definitely ready to slip back into normality now.

I've been holding off talking about my beloved goji berry for a while. Mainly because I'm worried I just won't do it justice, but also just not knowing where to start. Equally, I don't want you guys to feel like I'm giving you a nutrition class, though I do love to talk about nutrition, as most of my friends would attest to! Anyways, I really do want to share some great info on this pretty little berry; I hope you find it interesting!

Goji Berries are probably the second most popular thing in our house, after cacao. We buy them organic and dried, I have never seen them fresh locally and I'd certainly buy them if I could!

These delicious and chewy little berries have a flavour unlike any other berry - they are totally delicious - if you haven't tried them before, go grab some! They are a great source of protein, packed with minerals and antioxidants and therefore have many health giving properties. I'd put them in my top 5 superfoods and we try to eat them on a daily basis.

To quote the amazing David Wolfe in his book 'Supefoods. The food and medicine of the future' (he'll say it better than I ever could!), goji berries:

"boost immune function, increase alkalinity and vitality, provide liver protection, improve eye sight and blood quality, deliver anti-aging compounds, and possess a number of outstanding qualities."

And really, that is just the tip of the iceberg! If you'd like to know more I recommend grabbing a copy of this book, it is a wealth of knowledge, I refer to it frequently, or you could just email me and I'd be happy to talk about them in great detail!

Another bonus is that they are such a  versatile and tasty ingredient, that it is actually enjoyable eating them everyday and children naturally adore them! Here are some of our favourite ways to enjoy them:

Sprinkled into muesli
Added to raw brownies
Eaten as a quick and delicious snack just as they are
Re hydrated in water for half an hour and then blitzed into a green or fruit smoothie
In salads and pilafs
They can also be used as a raisin substitute in any of your regular recipes for biscuits, cookies and muffins. Any recipe where a raisin can go, the goji can go and do it better!

One of the ways we eat them frequently is in a beautiful trail mix, perfect to take out and about, with loads of goodness to sustain the kids on day long outings!

In my trail mixes I try to add as many raw ingredients as possible, including sunflower and pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, dried mulberries, cashews (not technically raw due to the heating to remove the skin, however buy the un-roasted variety) and raw cacao nibs! Mix the quantities of each to your taste, I tend to use equal amounts of each.

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration on how to include goji berries into your family's diet, I'd love to hear what recipes you come up with, I have a little goji number planned for tea so I'll post the recipe tomorrow!