BLACK BEANS IN A MOLE SAUCE

The term mole stems from the Nahuatl world molli, which means “sauce” or “concoction.” Mole comes from a family of sauces prepared throughout the Oaxaca and Puebla regions of Mexico and is characterized by a complex, layered flavour derived from intricate blends of dried chillies, spices, fruits, and seasonings. If you have read some of my previous posts, I talked about similarities between Mexican and Indian cooking. Incidentally there is molee in Kerala and historians possibly believe it is a Portuguese influence. Going back to the feature recipe, I served mine with quinoa, red cabbage salad and an avocado salsa topped with a lime yoghurt sauce. You can get creative and imaginative with your plating.

I also read that it is better to pressure cook your beans and I always soak my quinoa for an hour or so before cooking. Remember when you cook any grain, resting it for 5 -10 minutes after cooking is necessary to allow the grain to bloom fully.

Black beans in a mole sauce

INGREDIENTS

250g dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

40g cashew nuts

250g onions, roughly chopped, divided

3-4 garlic, chopped

200g carrots, chopped

5 teaspoons tomato paste

1 cup vegetable stock

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GLUTEN FREE PIZZA DOUGH

I have gluten sensitivity and therefore I am constantly experimenting gluten free recipes. The trouble with most gluten free breads is that they don’t have any chew nor do they have any structure. Most times it is powdery. This recipe doesn’t fully combat this issue but I can say that it is one of the better gluten free pizza dough recipes I have experimented with.

Gluten free pizza

INGREDIENTS

125g Greek style yoghurt

200g Gluten free bread mix

100g millet flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

125ml lukewarm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

METHOD

Mix the yeast in with sugar and warm water and rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.

Mix the flours and salt together.

Make a well in the centre and tip the yoghurt in along with the warm yeast mixture.

Knead well for five minutes.

Make a ball and rub the olive oil all over.

Cover and rest dough for an hour at a minimum.

Dust work bench with a little rice flour or corn grits. Cut the tow into two balls. Roll out each ball into 10 inch pizzas.

Top with tomato sauce and your favourite toppings. Bake at 260 degrees Celsius for 12-15 minutes.

Chef’s notes: I preheat my pizza stone and roll my gluten free pizza dough directly on the paddle. For tomato sauce, Idiscard the juice from a tin of tomatoes, and squeeze them well. I season with salt and pepper and use some garlic, chilli flakes and oregano as flavourings for sauce.

BRAISED CHICKPEAS WITH CAULI STEMS & PRESERVED LEMON

What do you do with cauliflower stems and tender leaves? Not many recipes feature this and it is a real shame if we just use the flower and chuck the stems in the compost. I remember my mum always cooked the stalks with some type of lentils and fresh coconut. With more awareness and education about eating from root to shoot and keeping waste to a minimum, it is refreshing to see sustainable cooking practices being adopted.

I created this recipe to prove a point to myself – the point being that with good planning and a bit of prep on the weekend, you can have a hearty, nutritionally balanced plant based meal on a weekday.

Braised chick peas with cauli stems and preserved lemon

INGREDIENTS

400g dried chick peas, soaked overnight at least for 8 hours in water

100g onion, finely diced

3-4 sticks celery, peeled and finely diced

400g cauliflower stems and leaves, peeled and evenly sliced

400g butternut pumpkin, cut into even cubes

5-6 cloves of garlic, finely diced

300g of tinned tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

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We are told that good health is about eating less and exercising more, but is it that simple? Science shows that we all have different metabolic responses to the same foods, so guidelines are just that and it is not a one size fits all. Many diet recommendations are often based on poor, outdated or biased science.

We are all influenced by deeply ingrained or inherited myths about food (breakfast is the most important meal of the day, fat is bad, fish is good, and so on), and these can be hard to shake. In addition, the global food industry throws billions of dollars every year into manufacturing and marketing processed foods that some believe are designed to leave us wanting more.

There are many reasons for our deep misunderstanding about the science of food, not least that nutrition is an incredibly complex and a relatively new science. It only became a serious area of research in most countries in the 1970s, and it has long been sidelined in medicine.

Until recently nutritional science ignored the important role of the gut biome. Understanding this actually changed our approach and the way we look at food. Along the way, so called expert advice has evolved and we need to differentiate the facts from the myths. Here are the more common ones:

1) Juice is healthy because it comes from fruits and veggies

Sorry, juice fans, but this one is busted. You’re better off eating an actual piece of fruit or serving of vegetables than gulping it down in beverage form.

The main difference here is that with juice, you add a lot of calories all at once because of added sugars. With a piece of fruit or a vegetable, you tend to feel a little fuller because there are

2) You must drink 8 glasses of water a day

This too a myth –popularized by water bottlers. Your water consumption should be based on whether you are thirsty or not. Also it is not just water, you can include tea and coffee or other beverages you may have during the day and the liquid in the soup you had at lunch is also included in your water intake.

3) You need to drink milk to get enough Calcium

Biggest lie of all. This is a branding exercise promoted by the dairy industry. Kale has around 250 milligrams (mg) of calcium per 100g, which is comparatively higher than whole milk’s 110mg per 100g.

4) You won’t get enough iron or protein if you are a vegetarian

Myth again. Plenty of legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, dates, tofu and beetroot are some rich sources of iron and protein.

5) Coconut oil is a “super” oil

Coconut oil is marketed as a “healthy” oil, but it is 82% unhealthy saturated fat, and in 2017 the American Heart Association said there was no evidence it has any specific health benefits. It might be better than saturated fat from animal sources, but should not be a daily source of your fat. Use it sparingly, if at all.

6) Apple Cider Vinegar is a cure all

Apple cider vinegar has recently gained momentum as a “superfood”. Most of the health claims circulating the internet regarding apple cider vinegar are totally unsubstantiated. However, there is some research suggesting that adding vinegar to a meal can help lower post-prandial blood sugar levels. This could be any type of vinegar, however, as there doesn’t appear to be anything special about apple cider vinegar. So, try to cook with more vinegar, as it may have some health benefits, but it’s not a magic bullet cure-all.

7) Eggs increase cholesterol

You can continue to enjoy an egg or two a day without impacting your cholesterol. It is your dietary fat balance, calorie intake along with individual genetics that will determine if you have high cholesterol.

8) All fat is evil and bad for you

This again is a very misunderstood topic. Fats play a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and hair, insulating body organs against shock, maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function. Fats are also sources of essential fatty acids, an important dietary requirement. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be digested, absorbed, and transported in conjunction with fats.

9) Beans cause flatulence

Get yourself a pressure cooker and pressure cook your beans if you want to avoid flatulence.

Beans and some other legumes, such as peas and lentils, have a reputation for causing gas. Beans contain high amounts of a complex sugar called raffinose, which the body has trouble breaking down. Beans are also rich in fibre, and a high intake of fibre can increase gassiness. Soak beans overnight for a minimum of 12 hours. Discard the soaking liquid and rinse in fresh water a couple of times. Pressure cook your beans until soft.

10) Muesli bars are healthy for you

My philosophy is that if you have to read food labels to decide on your choices, then it can never measure up to whole foods that don’t need labelling, like a carrot or a kiwifruit. When you hear the word muesli, you attribute it to healthy. Hidden in those little bars can be lots of sugar and fat, emulsifiers, preservatives, flavours and colours, so you have to be careful. It is best to make your own home made muesli bars that way you know what’s in them and also less wastage on packaging.

UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS OF NUTRITION

I am sure you’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat”. What does it actually mean? Your well-being, health, how you feel and think are all dictated by what you eat.

Your body requires both macronutrients (macros) and micronutrients (micros) to function. Carbohydrates, fat and protein are called macronutrients. They are the nutrients you use in the largest amounts to maintain the body’s structure and systems. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals which are needed in much smaller amounts but critical to producing enzymes and hormones.

CARBOHYDRATES

When we talk about carbohydrates- one must remember that they are not all created equally. Sugar and oats for example are both sources of carbohydrate but they are poles apart. Oats is not ultra-processed and has complex carbohydrates which are better for you. On the other hand, sugar is refined and has simple carbohydrate.

Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. Complex carbohydrates are also packed with fibre and digest more slowly. Sugar on the other hand is refined and a simple carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, are made up of shorter chains of molecules and are quicker to digest than complex carbohydrates. This fact means that simple carbohydrates produce a spike in blood glucose, providing the body with a short-lasting source of energy.

Choose wholegrain sources like millet, oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, stone ground wheat flour.

PROTEIN

Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. A complete protein or whole protein is a food source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. All animal protein is complete protein. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, then you could use a combination of nuts or beans with a grain. Peanut butter on wholemeal bread or a bean and brown rice salad is an example of a complete protein source.

FATS

Low Fat? No Fat? Fat helps give your body energy, protects your organs, supports cell growth, keeps cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helps your body absorb vital nutrients.

What do Saturated or Unsaturated Fats mean?

Saturated is the so-called “bad” fat. It’s primarily found in animal products like beef, pork, butter, margarine, cream, and cheese. High amounts of saturated fat also are found in many fast, processed, and baked foods like pizza, desserts, hamburgers, and cookies and pastries. These fats tend to more “solid” (think butter or lard) than healthier fats.

There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats are found in avocados and peanut butter; nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans; and seeds, such as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds. It is also in plant oils, such as olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, and canola oils.

Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats are found in plant-based oils like soybean, corn, and safflower oils, and they’re abundant in walnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and trout.

The minerals for humans include 13 elements that cannot be synthesized such as calcium and iron. Others such as Iodine, Zinc, Selenium, etc. are essential too but in microgram quantities. Vitamins are substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. They include vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, choline, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate/folic acid). 5-7 serves of fruits and vegetables each day will ensure that your body is getting all the micronutrients it needs.

GONG BAO TOFU

Kung Pao or Kung Po or Gong Bao is a spicy, stir-fried Chinese dish made with cubes of chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers. The classic dish in Sichuan cuisine originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns. It is highly addictive with its perfect blend of sweet, salty, crunchy and slightly numbing taste. I have managed to create a vegan version and the family has certified that the vegan version lives up to its reputation.

Gong Bao Tofu

INGREDIENTS

450g firm tofu

200g mushrooms, cut into cubes

5 spring onions, white portion only, cut into 2 centimetre pieces

300g celery sticks, peeled and finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

3 centimetres piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

Handful of peanuts, roasted with skin on

5-6 hot dried red chillies, seeds removed

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppers

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon potato starch

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar

1 tablespoon water

METHOD

In a small bowl or measuring jug, mix all ingredients for sauce and keep ready.

Prepare tofu by pressing down under a heavy weight for 20 -30 minutes. Wipe dry and cut into even 1 centimetre cubes.

Heat oil in a large wok, Fry the Sichuan peppers and dried chillies taking care not to burn. Toss the mushrooms in and continue frying for a few minutes.

Stir in the tofu to ensure the tofu is heated through. You should see slight caramelization on the edges.

Stir in the garlic, ginger and spring onion whites. When you can smell the fragrance, add the celery and heat through.

Give the sauce a stir before pouring into the hot wok. Let the sauce bubble away for minute and toss the peanuts.

Garnish with spring onion greens and serve hot with steamed sushi or Jasmine rice. Serves 4 -6

BRAISED CAULIFLOWER

This is a great vegetable based starter or can be a side dish. Small plate meals to share are on the trend and this could be a small plate to share. It is my version of the Greek dish kounoupithi kapama.

Braised Cauliflower

INGREDIENTS

500g cauliflower, cut into large even florets

5-6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

150g onion, sliced thinly

5-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 large tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons currants

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CHOCOLATE & SPICE APPLE CAKE

Recently I made this cake for a work morning tea. I was asked about the origins of this recipe and I realized that the recipe appeared in Cuisine magazine about 20 years ago. I don’t want to mess with a classic but over the years tweaked a bit and reduced the amount of sugar. It is a generous cake and the flavours are so perfect for winter.

Chocolate and spice apple cake

INGREDIENTS

230g raisins

250mls water

485g apples, peeled and chopped

125mls dark rum

1 and a half teaspoons baking soda

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BHUNA MURG – INDIAN STYLE CHICKEN STIRFRY

Indian cuisine dates back over 5000 years. In a true sense, the cuisine is an amalgamation of the cultures, traditions and influences of different ethnic communities absorbed and imbibed over the centuries. 

If you look up the definition of curry, you will understand that it is a dish of meat, vegetables, etc., cooked in an Indian-style sauce of hot-tasting spices and typically served with rice. This is of course a much generalized definition which does not reflect the diversity that is Indian cuisine.

Bhuna technique originated in Bengal. The first wave of immigration was of the Hakka Chinese in late 18th century, who came to work on a sugar plantation. The Chinese stir fry technique was quickly adopted and bhuna dishes were favoured. Bhuna which simply means to fry the flavour base or masala really well till it starts to caramelize and give out oil along the sides.

Serve this with pita bread or Nan along with a salad or vegetables for a weeknight dinner.

Bhuna Murg

INGREDIENTS

600g boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut in half or third

Juice of ½ a lime

2 tablespoons ghee, divided

1 tablespoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

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CHILE CON VERDURAS – PLANT BASED CHILI

On cold wintry nights, if you are yearning for a hearty, spicy and warming casserole that is vegetarian, then this one is for you. You can serve over corn chips and make vegetarian nachos or other optional toppings are pickled jalapenos, crème fraiche, sour cream, coriander leaves, avocado or guacamole and hot sauce. The dish is relatively easy to make and using tinned beans halves the cooking time.

I used a combination of borlotti beans, red kidney beans and black beans. Any combination of dark coloured beans would work well.

Chile con Verduras

INGREDIENTS

100g onions, finely diced

2-3 sticks celery, finely diced

200g carrots diced into a small cube

200g orange kumara or sweet potato, peeled and diced into a small cube

200g mushrooms, sliced or quartered

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