Friday, 27 April 2012

Delicious mung bean dhal

This cold, wet and windy weather we are having is making me want to hibernate! While this week we saw our first asparagus of the year in our veg box (hooray) and fewer of the winter roots we have been having so much of (double hooray), it is still warming comfort food that I am seeking. So along with my yummy asparagus for lunch, it is warming food I plan for dinner and this mung bean dhal is the ultimate!

Mung beans are such a great bean to have in the larder for emergency dinners as they require no pre-soaking and cook really quickly. They are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins C and B, have a lovely subtle sweet flavour. They are also very inexpensive and are probably the easiest bean to digest; there is a lot going for this little bean!

When I make this for the girls, I leave out the chili as they are not very appreciative of spicy food, but I think it's nice with spice :)

Mung bean dhal (serves 4-6)                                       

2 cups of mung beans (soaked if you like)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1-2 green chillies
1 cup of tomatoes, diced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Large handful of curry leaves (fresh or dried)
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee

Place the mung beans in a medium pan and cover with water, so the water is about 3cm above the top of the beans. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, cook until just starting to break apart (about 40 mins).While they are cooking you can make the other part of the dhal.
Blitz the onion, garlic, ginger and chili to a paste in a food processor or mini chopper (or pestal and mortar if you are feeling strong), keep to one side.
Add the oil to a large pan and set on a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and turmeric and cook for a couple of minutes until the mustard seeds start to go 'pop'! Then tip in the onion and garlic paste and sweat for a further three or four minutes. Lastly add the turmeric, followed by the curry leaves and tomatoes. Saute this mixture for a further 5 mins, stirring from time to time to prevent from sticking.
Pour the mung beans and their water into the pan with the onion paste, tomatoes and spices and simmer this for 10 mins until well mixed and thickened.
Finish with the lemon juice and sea salt to taste; this is great served up with wholemeal flat breads for dunking.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Chia seed breakfast pudding

The title of this post is confusing I know, is it a breakfast or is it a pudding?  Actually you could eat this as a breakfast or a pudding, I was just having trouble committing but I do especially enjoy it for breakfast!

 Update 2015: Chia seeds are now a widely sold food in the UK- Hoorah!

We have been eating these aztec seeds for quite a while now but they haven't been easy to find here in the UK. Despite the loooong use of them in Mexico and in the US, here in the EU, they are classed as a 'novel' food (any food that doesn't have 'significant' use in the EU prior to 1997) and only permitted for sale as an ingredient for bread (no more than 5%). Don't you just love the Novel Food Act? I'm wondering why spaghetti cheese strings haven't yet been classified, they're certainly novel, and to the best of my knowledge were not around before 1997 anywhere, let alone here... ;) Anyways, it looks like the classification is about to change here and suddenly chia seeds are everywhere- the chia craze has hit, hoorah!

Chia seeds are amazing little things, about twice the size of poppy seeds, these teeny titans of power are a complete protein source, rich in Omega 3's and packed with minerals too! The health benefits of having these in your diet are great; they are easy to incorporate into salads, drinks and smoothies and and they taste pretty good as a meal too.

Another thing I love about them is that they require such little effort to prepare. All you need to do to turn these seeds into a delicious pudding, is soak in some water, juice or milk of your choice for a couple of hours and presto, they swell up and become a tapioca like pudding that's just as creamy, and a lot tastier.

This recipe is my favourite way to have it, and one that is popular with the whole household, you can make it up the night before and wake up to a ready done brekkie. This is the kind of 'fast' food I'm all about!

Chia seed pudding Serves 2

1/4 cup of chia seeds
1-1 1/2 cups of brazil milk (or another nut/seed milk of your choice)
 Few drops of vanilla stevia (or alcohol free vanilla extract)
Grated zest of hald an unwaxed lemon
Handful of sesame seeds
2 handfuls of blueberries
Drizzle of maple syrup or honey

Mix the chia seeds and milk in a jar with a lid (a kilner jar is perfect).
Shake well to mix. Leave the jar in the fridge for a minimum of half an hour ( longer is better, use less milk if leaving for under 2 hours).
A great tip is to make it before you go to bed, leave in the fridge overnight, and you'll have it ready for breakfast when you wake up!
Dress with the grated lemon zest, sesame seeds, blueberries and maple for a delicious taste sensation that you'll never get from plain old cereal!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Homemade tomato ketchup

Yesterday we ran out of our organic sugar free ketchup ('gasp!' exclaimed a dismayed Fia!). Not usually a problem as we don't use it a lot but yesterday also just happened to be our long anticipated veggie burger day. Disaster! It was a Sunday to boot meaning all the lovely shops we would usually be able to get emergency ketchup were shut.... double disaster! Or perhaps not......  I soon found it was a blessing in disguise prompting me to solve two dilemmas at once; the universe really does work in mysterious ways.

I happened to have half a bottle of passata in the fridge which was on its last legs, and it was about time I posted another recipe on here, so, I had a light bulb moment and realised this is probably a pretty smart ingredient to use in the designing of ones own ketchup recipe... Hurrah!

I mixed the passata together with some other ingredients I felt were 'ketchuppy' and simmered it away until it looked like ketchup too. It appears that is all you have to do to make ketchup. Brilliant.

Tomato Ketchup

300ml passata
30ml raw apple cider vinegar
30ml maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground allspice 
1/4 tsp ground paprika (you could use cayenne if you fancied a spicy ketchup)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sea salt

Add all the ingredients to a saucepan, bring to the boil, return to simmer  and cook for about 30mins until thickened nicely.

Pour into a container that you have scalded with boiling water, pop a lid on and leave to cool before putting in the fridge.

I am thinking this should keep for around 2-3 weeks, if it lasts that long!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Dandelion pesto

Dandelions are probably the most recognisable weed out there, so simple to spot that a child can easily identify it which is great, as you can send them out to forage for you! There are no toxic lookalikes to this plant, though there are similar plants which don't have anywhere the nutrition of the dandelion so it's worth learning how to identify it....
The simplest things to check for is that the flower is on one stem, rather than many flowers branching off the same stem, and that there are no fuzzy hairs on the underside of the leaf - dandelion leaves have smooth backs.

There are so many benefits to foraging for and eating wild foods that they just couldn't be covered in this post, but lets start with what's so special about the dandelion:

It's free. Free food that's easy to find and recognisable; bonus.
It is abundant, and after taking the leaves and flowers it grows right back!
The whole plant is edible, the leaves, flowers and root.
It contains a huge amount of nutrition, including vitamins A, C and K. It also contains B vitamins, some even say it has B12, if this is true (I can't confirm this, still investigating) it would be one of the very few plant based sources that we know of.
It contains a variety of minerals too including iron, calcium (even more than kale) and magnesium, great news for bone health!
You can eat it raw in salads, sautee it like spinach and juice it like wheat grass.

Just one word of caution, be careful where you pick them! Don't get them from roadsides or parks and gardens where they may have been treated with pesticides, your own back garden is a great place to start, as well as pretty meadows!

The girls harvested a pretty decent bunch from our back garden (this is such a great activity for children), which luckily for us has more weeds than grass (I never thought I'd be so happy about this)! We decided to make a pesto with their bounty to pour over some wholemeal pasta, and it really worked out a treat....

Dandelion pesto

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 big handfuls of dandelion greens 
2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves
1 handful of spinach (optional)
The petals from 5 dandelion flowers
1 large clove of garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 handful of pine nuts
1 handful of hemp, sunflower seeds or macadamia nuts
Enough extra virgin olive oil to bind the sauce together, around 4-6 tbsp
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

Wash the dandelion well in a solution of water and raw cider vinegar, using a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to about a litre of water. Wash and spin dry all the greens. Pop all the ingredients into a pestle and mortar or food processor and pound/blitz till nearly smooth - I like to leave a little texture to my pesto but play around with it. And that's it! Pretty simple and very scrummy.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Spelt & Rye soda bread style hot cross buns!

So, it's Good Friday, and we forgot all about making hot cross buns yesterday (again!) to have for breakfast this morning.....

When I got up this morning and decided I'd make some in time for brunch, I realised that my yeast was old and past it and wasn't going to rise anything..... Not to be defeated, I decided on the experimental option, creating a batch of soda bread style hot cross buns! Not only do these require no yeast, no kneading and no rising, they would be ready in time for breakfast! Brilliant.

So if you, like me, forgot to make any yummy buns in time for Good Friday, the good news is you still have time to make this version! From start to finish you can have these ready in about 40 minutes, leaving the rest of your day devoted to holiday festivities and relaxation!

Soda bread style Hot cross buns (makes 8-10 buns)

400g (3 cups) Whole spelt flour
100g (1 cup) rye flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Zest of an orange
1/4 tsp ground allspice or cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
100g (1 cup) currents or raisins
400ml yoghurt (soya works well)
1-2 tbsp milk (I used oat milk)

For the cross:
25g (1/4 cup) rye flour
25g (1/4 cup) tapioca flour
4 tbsp water
1 tsp melted coconut oil

For the glaze:
1 tbsp maple syrup or refined sugar free apricot jam*
3 tbsp hot water

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, bicarb, spices, orange zest and salt. Add the yoghurt and 1-2 tbsp milk & combine lightly. Tip out onto a work surface and just bring the ingredients all together to form a very slightly sticky dough, you don't really want to knead the dough as the buns will become too dense.
Split the dough into 8 pieces (for generous sized buns)!

Shape each piece of dough into a ball and pop them onto a couple of lightly floured baking trays.
With a sharp knife, make a cross on the top of each bun.
Next mix up your ingredients for the crosses, and pipe the cross into the cross on each bun.
At this point you could lightly brush the tops of the buns with milk if you like for a more golden crust.

Pop them into the oven and bake for around 20 minutes. You'll know when they're ready as you'll hear a 'hollow' sound when tapping the bottom of the bun!
In a small bowl, dissolve the maple or jam in the hot water and set aside ready for glazing.
Take them out of the oven and glaze  them with the honey mix while still piping hot. Leave for 5 minutes for the glaze to form a sticky coating and serve still warm!
These are very good eaten as they are, or spread with a little coconut oil.

Wishing you a very happy Easter!

**Updated and Veganized April 2015

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Raw (fudgy) white chocolate Easter eggs

It's that time of year again when I break out my Easter egg moulds and go raw chocolate crazy! This year we decided to create a white chocolate recipe for a change, and on the spur of the moment decided it would be a great time to make the first 'The Boo the Bear and the goji berries' video!

We hope you enjoy watching this rather disorganised chaos, and that you can see how easy making raw white chocolate is; it's all about intuitive cooking again, not being afraid to play around with food and having a lot of fun too!

Try these out for Easter, they really are very special, somewhere between a white chocolate and a fudge, and pretty guilt free too, you can't get much better than that.... However, if you are fancying something a little more traditional like a good old fashioned super nutritious raw dark choc, check out this recipe I made for Easter last year....

Raw (fudgy) white chocolate Easter eggs

100g raw cacao butter
1 tbsp raw virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp raw honey (for this recipe we like the set honey, if you're vegan use yacon or maple syrup)
4 tbsp yacon root powder*
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp lucuma powder
7 drops of cold extracted vanilla OR the seeds from one vanilla pod

Gently melt the cacao butter and coconut oil in a bowl over a saucepan of lightly simmering water until melted. Add the honey and mix well until all melted together into a beautiful golden liquid. Add the vanilla drops / seeds and sir well. Set aside.

In another bowl, add the dry ingredients and mix well, smashing down any lumps that may be in the powders. Pour the beautiful golden liquid into the powders and blend well until smooth and creamy, like a batter mixture. Pout this into your moulds and leave to set in the fridge for an hour or so!

*If you have trouble finding the yacon root powder, you can substitute with more lucuma, or even ground up macadamia nuts. This will change the colour and the flavour as lucuma is very fruity and has an almost toffee like taste, while yacon has a subtle sweet taste that is more neutral. It will still taste super yummy....

The finished eggs!
Fia, Alfie and Dorrie enjoying an early Easter egg ;)