Harissa Roasted Aubergine with Couscous & Feta Salad

Recently I have been experimenting with vegetarian meals in a bid to cut down on my meat consumption. I could never totally give up meat – i value the protein, nutritional content and my roast dinners too much but am trying to have at least 2 veggie days per week especially on days when i dont exercise.

Aubergines are an excellent aource of vitamin C – good for healthy skins and cells and wound healing. Aubergines also contain Vitamin K and B6 which are needed for healing, healthy blood cells and energy.

This meal was made up of food needing to be eaten from fridge and stuff already in the cupboard and was quick, easy, light and very tasty. It was also surprisingly filling so if you are looking for a light dinner give this a go.

Serves 1
1 Aubergine
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp harissa
1tsp honey or agave
1tsp lemon juice
60g Couscous (bulgar or quinoa would also work)
20g Feta – cubed
Handful of Greens – i used tenderstem broccoli, asparagus and runner beans
Handful of pomegranate seeds

Halve the aubergine and score the flesh with a knife into criss-cross pattern. Mix together the olive oil, harissa, lemon juice and honey and generously  brush over the flesh of the aubergine. Place in the oven at 180degs for 25 minutes or until softened. To assemble the salad, cook the couscous to instructions – I usually cover with boiling water and leave for 5 minutes until cooked through. Steam any greens that you are using. Simply mix the grains, greens, feta and pomegranate seeds adding a little lemon juice, oregano and sumac for extra zing and flavour.
Serve with the aubergine on top for a tasty, healthy, vegetarian dinner.

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Tofu Time

I love tofu! I’m on a one woman rampage trying to convert everyone – Elix has just about gotten on board with it and the tofu rice bowl i made for dinner helped in encouraging her into the tofu fan club.

Tofu – made by curdling fresh soya milk and allowing it to firm up as it cools is a great source of protein, calcium and iron. It helps to keep bad cholesterol low and is good for hormone balancing. Great to incorporate into your diet if you are trying to cut out meat but still want a decent amount of protein.

Serves 2
250g Firm Tofu
4tbsp Cornflour
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable Oil
1 Red Chilli – sliced
1 Carrott – julienned
1/2 Cucumber – julienned
150g Shitake Mushrooms – sliced
150g Spinach
3tbsp Soy Sauce
3tbsp Mirin
1tsp Grated Ginger
2tbsp Sesame Oil
1tsp Grated Garlic
2 servings brown rice – cooked to instructions

This recipe requires a couple of pans to be on similtaneously so I advise prepping, chopping and measuring all the ingredients before you start to cook anything. Mix together the cornflour, salt and pepper and coat the tofu pieces. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and gently fry the tofu pieces with the aliced chilli – turn them to achieve a golden, crispy coating.
Whilst the tofu is cooking, mix together the soy, mirin, garlic, ginger and sesame oil – fry the mushrooms in this sauce and as the mushrooms soften, mix in the spinach.
To assemble the rice bowl, place the rice at the base and the raw carrott and cucumber on top. This gives some fresh crunch to the dish. Now place the saucy mushrooms and spinach on top and finally the crispy, chilli and tofu. Pour any remaining sauce from the mushrooms over the top for extra flavour – almost like a gravy! If you fancy, make this into a bibimbap and top with a fried egg and sriracha chilli sauce! Mix everything together into a giant mess before eating – this way you get a mouthful of all the textures and temperatures aswell as chilli and sweet, sticky sauce.

Tuscan Ragu & Polenta

It’s been a New Year’s resolution of mine for a few years to make polenta – i always enjoy it in restaurants yet have never cooked it myself. Yesterday was the day!

My dear friend Laura who lives in Florence sent me a wonderful Tuscan cookbook for my birthday and after a long 3 days completing the 3 Peaks Challenge the Tuscan Ragu recipe provided inspiration for a comforting, warming, tasty dish that kept me happy in the kitchen yesterday afternoon.

Serves 4
For the Ragu
1 Carrott – diced
2 sticks Celery – diced
1 Onion – diced
2 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
Sprinkle dried Chilli and Oregano
20g Pancetta Cubes
300g Minced Pork
2 Sausages – remove the skin and mash the meat
Handful Chestnut Mushrooms – chopped
Handful dried Porcini Mushrooms – chopped (save the soaking liquid)
3/4 Pint Sangiovese Wine (or any Italian Red)
1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 tin Plum Tomatoes
3/4 Pint Beef stock
Nutmeg
Handful Basil leaves – torn
For the Polenta
5tbsp Extra Fine Polenta (Cornmeal)
2 Bay Leaves
2 handfuls Grated Parmesan
Pepper

In a large saucepan, gently fry the celery, onion and carrott in some olive oil until softened. This is a classic trilogy of ingredients called a Mirepoix or Soffritto and provides the flavour base for the dish. After 15 minutes or so, add the pancetta , garlic and the dried herbs and continue to sautee for another 10 minutes.
Add in the pork mince and sausage meat – mix thoroughly and mash together. Stir in the mushrooms and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the wine in – don’t be surprised by how red the dish turns, allow the wine to reduce and once the mixture is dry, add in the stock, porcini liquid and tomatoes. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for at least an hour – add more stock if the dish starts to dry out.
Meanwhile, make the polenta. Boil the bay leaves in a pan on a medium heat in 3/4 pint of water with some salt and olive oil. Add the polenta and whisk to avoid lumps. Turn the heat down and continue to whisk – add more water if needed. After 20-30 minutes the mixture should thicken up – you want it the consistency of a very creamy mash potato. At this point stir in the parmesan and add black pepper to taste.
To serve, scatter the basil leaves into the ragu and amend any seasoning.
Place the polenta at the base of the bowl with the ragu on top. Enjoy this warming, autumnal dish with some kale, tenderstem broccoli and sauteed sprouts.

Chicken & Vegetable Noodles with Mushroom & Miso Broth

Summer has officially ended and I write this post on a wet Wednesday morning having had to dig my rain mac out of the wardrobe. One of the positives that this means……its the start of Elix’s favourite time of year…..SOUP SEASON! Granted she isnt here to enjoy it as she is sunning herself in Italy but I have commenced Soup season in her absence and yesterday made a tasty, comforting, healthy and nutritious Asian Chicken soup.

Two ingredients which form the base of the soup and create a depth of earthy, umami flavour are miso and  mushrooms.

Miso is a Japanese fermented soya paste – known for aiding digestion as it is packed with good bacteria so is a probiotic. Miso is also a good source of vitamin K which is great for healthy skin, bones and heart. For any vegetarians out there – miso is a protein source too and great for energy.

Mushrooms are one of the best ways to get vitamin D into your diet – when we dont see the sun as much now that Autumn is upon us, this is much needed and mushrooms are the only vegetable which makes it’s own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Mushrooms are also a good source of iron, vitamin C and antioxidents.

The recipe is fairly speedy and easy –  feel free to switch in other veggies or meat (pork would work well) – even add a soft boiled egg in if you are looking for something more filling.

Serves 4
2tbsp Coconut Oil
1 leek – finely sliced
1 clove garlic – finely diced
1 tsp grated ginger
3 large handfuls of mixed mushrooms – chopped. I used portobello, shitake, oyster and enoki
1 small handful dried porini mushrooms soaked and diced
1.5 litres vegetable stock
1 large roast chicken breast – shredded (i used leftovers from my Sunday Roast!)
1tsp Soy Sauce
1tsp Mirin
1tbsp Miso
2 handfuls of chopped veg – i used mange tout and mini-corn
1 handful coriander – shredded
2 nests noodles – i used soba noodles but rice noodles or ramen would work well too
4 Spring Onions – sliced

Start by gently frying the leeks, garlic and ginger in the coconut oil until softened. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and mix together. Add the porcini mushrooms – keep the soaking liquid to one side (drain through a fine seive to remove any sedement).
Add the soy, mirin and miso stirring through and once mixed 1- add the stock and porcini liquid. When the soup has reached a simmer, add the veggies and coriander and leave bubbling for 20 minutes. For the final 5 minutes add the noodles and check for seasoning – if you want more depth, add more miso and a tiny sprinkle of soy.
Once the noodles are cooked al dente, serve with a scatter of spring onions on top for some freshness.

Recovery Salad – Watermelon, Feta and Tuna

I’ve had a tough week – an infection and high blood pressure has had me in an ambulance, at the doctors, in tears, in bed and quite frankly feeling pretty pants!

I’m on the mend now and more eager than ever to get my diet on track with a focus on maintaining good blood pressure levels and good energy levels – i am supposed to be training for the 3 peaks challenge after all!

After a long day at work yesterday at the end of which I had a banging headache, I took myself home for a relaxing evening of healthy dinner and catch up on celebrity big brother (my not-so-guilty pleasure!)

A little reading of The Optimum Nutrition Bible, my trusted Neals Yard Healing Foods book and The Happy Kitchen by Rachel Kelly gave me inspiration for a quick and easy salad which would hopefully help me get some balance and energy back as well as help me feel better.

Feta, Watermelon and Tuna salad quite honestly sound like three ingredients which should never be eaten together but the salad was fresh, sweet and light. Peppery rocket goes fantastically with salty feta and zingy watermelon and the sweet black olives cut through the fatty tuna. Trust me on this one and if you cant then either leave out the tuna (or substitute for chicken) or switch the watermelon for tomatoes to retain some juicy sweetness.

The reasons i chose this salad after being poorly this week are :

Watermelon – rich in vitamin c and antioxidants which are good for immune support and contains potassium which helps to normalise blood  pressure. Watermelons are also good for digestion having a natural diuretic effect.

Rocket – protects against infections through very high vitamin C content  – it is also used for its energising and detoxifying qualities.

Tuna – a semi oily fish – good source of magnesium and potassium which are good for heart health and helping keep blood pressure low. Tuna is a great protein, good for energy and heart health.

Feta – helps supply a sustained energy and help to keep the gut running  nicely ensuring good digestion.

Ok – so now for the construction of the salad which is nice and easy. Marinate 100g diced tuna steak in some lime juice, olive oil and a teaspoon of oregano and leave to one side. Start to assemble the salad with 80g rocket as the salad base. Scatter over 20g low fat feta (chopped into small cubes), 90g diced watermelon, 1/2 red onion – thinly sliced, 70g black olives (halved). Gently fry the tuna in a pan for 2 minutes (save any of the marinade as this becomes the salad dressing) until sealed on the outside and still pink on the inside. Pop the tuna on top of the salad and scatter some shredded mint leaves and the left over lime and oregano dressing on top. Enjoy and feel good!

 

A quick and easy Dinner Treat

Last week after a tough day I wanted to treat myself to something new and a little different for dinner. Luckily for me Sainsburys in Toots had some beautiful fresh scallops on the Fish Counter which I decided to combine with the comfort of linguine and chorizo.

This dish contains 2 of your 5 veg a day from the spinach and tomatoes – which also provide an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Scallops are low in fat and also a great source of Vitamin B, potassium and magnesium – all of which are great for heart health. 

You’ll see I added dried spice – I used a dried arrabiata mix I picked up from Italy which contains dried chilli, parsley, oregano and garlic but dried chilli is also just fine.

Serves 2
12 Fresh Scallops – keep the roe to one side
220g Cherry Tomatoes
100g Chorizo – cubed
200g Spinach – shredded
2 handfuls Linguine
1tsp dried chilli/dried arrabiata mix

Start by boiling the linguine – this is a quick dish so by the time the pasta has cooked everything else will be ready!
In a frying pan, dry fry the cherry tomatoes – keep an eye on them. When they start to char and soften, turn down the heat and add some olive oil. At this stage, add the dried chilli or dried herbs (depending on how much spice you fancy) and also add the chorizo. I also added in the scallop roe – many people dont like to eat this but it adds a mild scallop flavour to the sauce which saves having to add extra seasoning for those trying to limit their salt intake. As everything sizzles, gently mash the tomatoes to make a chunky sauce. Add the spinach and let it wilt down into the sauce.
Allow the sauce to simmer on a low heat and get on to the scallops.
I fried my scallops in a little olive oil in a frying pan – I cooked for 2 minutes on one side until they had a lovely golden sheen and then flipped to cook on the other side for another minute.
To serve, I mixed the sauce with the linguine and placed the scallops on top. A perfect Summery comfort dish.

Prawn & Sweet Potato Fishcakes

I saw a similar recipe to this in Delicious magazine, it was indeed delicious but after I over bought some sweet potatoes and ran out of paprika I thought I would make a a couple of substitutes to see what the end result tasted like and it was pretty great! Elix preferred the sweet potato version which was a positive and obviously the addition of sweet potatoes instead of the usual white potatoes gives this dinner an extra boost of vitamins A and C so are good for the immune system and healthy bones aswell as being a good source of fiber which helps our hearts and tummys.

Anyway on to the recipe which is pretty easy to make (even in the building site which is my kitchen at the moment!) – get a frying pan and a food blitzer ready as we will be using these.

Serves 3 (makes 6 fishcakes)
1 large roasted red pepper (i used one from a jar)
40g Ground Almonds
1.5tsp Lemon Juice
2 Garlic Cloves
1tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Sweet Potatoes – peeled and diced
250g Prawns – roughly chopped
100g Breadcrumbs (i used wholewheat bread)
2 Eggs

First thing first, get those sweet potatoes on to boil and cook until just soft enough to mash – dont want to overcook as they will be too wet for the fishcake.
Whilst these are on the hob, blitz together the pepper, cayenne pepper, ground almonds, 1 garlic clove and lemon juice to make a paste and leave to one side in a large bowl. When the potatoes are
cooked, drain and mix with the pepper paste – mash everything together and leave to one side to cool. In the frying pan, lightly fry the remaining garlic clove with the prawns until the prawns are cooked through. Pop the cooked prawns and any garlic into the potato and paste mix and mix together.
When the mixture is cool enough to handle, use your hands to mould into 6 fishcakes. To ensure the fishcakes are firm enough to coat and cook, place in the fridge for 30 minutes, dont worry if you dont have time though – I coated them and cooked them when they were still a little warm and as long as you’re careful they will cook fine!
To coat, place the eggs into a bowl and beat and place the breadcrumbs onto a plate. Heat some rapeseed oil in the frying pan and once you have gently coated the fishcakes in the eggs and then the breadcrumbs, place into the pan and allow 3 minutes on each side for the fishcakes to crisp up and heat up (dont forget everything is already cooked!).
I served with a broccolli, sugarsnap and spinach salad and cider vinegar dressing but any fresh side salad or veggies would work well as the fishcakes are packed with flavour – sweetness from the pepper and potatoes and a little kick from the cayenne pepper. Next time Elix wants a fried egg on top which will also be delicious!