Healthy Eating this New Year (courtesy of Jamie Oliver)

It sounds like a cliché, starting a new healthy eating regimen in the new year. My only defence is that in my case, the start happened in December after I got Jamie Oliver’s “Everyday Super Food” as a birthday present. I can’t pretend that I’ve tried all the recipes yet and as with most cookbooks, I usually end up narrowing it down to a core handful of good recipes while discarding the rest. Two particular dishes stand out for me because they are so, well, tasty! I have tweaked them a bit and one of them, the “Vegeree” is used as a lunch dish rather than for breakfast as stated in the book. Here’s my take on them.

Poached Egg, Smashed Avo & Seeded Toast

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This one does require a bit of effort to bring all the different elements together in good time, but I have got better at it with practice and can whip it up fairly quickly in the mornings now. I have altered the measurements so that it serves 1 person only. I haven’t managed yet to convert the rest of the family to having this kind of meal for breakfast!

Ingredients:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 of a fresh red chilli
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1/2 a lime or lemon
  • 1/4 of a ripe avocado
  • 1 thick slice of seeded wholemeal bread
  • a small handful of coriander

Method:

I find it best to start by finely slicing the spring onion, red chilli and coriander (leaving a few sprigs aside for garnish at the end). Mash up the avocado and mix in a few squeezes of lime or lemon. Set aside.

Place a medium saucepan two thirds filled with water on the hob and bring to a simmer. Using a sharp knife, remove the core from the tomato then drop it into the boiling water for about a minute. Remove it with a spoon, place on a chopping board, peel and slice into eights, discarding the seedy centre. Place the tomato segments in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and the remainder of the lime juice. Mix in the sliced spring onion and coriander and season with salt and pepper.

Now for the egg. If you have a silicone egg poacher, use this rather than the cling film method. Grease the egg poacher with a little olive oil and scatter the red chilli inside before breaking the egg on top of it. Season with salt and then place in the saucepan, cover with a lid and leave for 4 minutes to get a soft poached egg. The alternative method if you don’t have an egg poacher is to lay a 30cm sheet of good-quality cling film flat on the work surface and brush it with a little olive oil. Scatter the chilli over it, then break the egg on top and season. Carefully pull in the sides of the cling film, squeezing out any air around the egg, then tie a knot in the clingfilm to secure the egg snugly inside. Poach the egg in the saucepan as described above.

While the egg is cooking, toast the bread then spread the avocado mixture on it like butter. Spoon over the dressed tomato then unwrap your poached egg and place it proudly on top. Finish off with a scattering of torn coriander leaves.

Nutritional info: 258 Kcal, 3.2g sat fat, 12.6g protein, 23g carbs, 5.1g sugar, 5g fibre.

Vegeree not Kedgeree

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This is a standby for lunch these days, easy and quick to make and delicious. Again I have tweaked the recipe. What’s the point of spending half an hour cooking brown rice when you can buy it pre-cooked in pouches that microwave in two minutes? This serves 2 but you can halve the amounts easily to make it a lunch for one.

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Use something like this, much more convenient.

 

Ingredients:

  • 250g pouch of microwable brown rice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 3cm piece of ginger
  • 1/2 or 1 whole fresh red chilli (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 2 spring onions
  • olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons medium curry powder
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 100g baby spinach
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 heaped tablespoons fat-free or low fat yoghurt

Method:

On a chopping board, quarter the mushrooms, finely slice the spring onions, chilli and the coriander. Peel the piece of ginger and finely grate onto the chopping board.

Poach or soft boil your eggs in a medium saucepan of simmering water. Meanwhile, place a large non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat and add the mushrooms, searing them for a minute or two. Move the mushrooms to the side of the pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the spring onions, chilli and ginger with 2 teaspoons of curry powder. Fry gently for 2 minutes while you halve the tomatoes. Now add the spinach, coriander, tomatoes and peas followed by the rice from the pouch. Stir fry for 4 minutes then squeeze the lemon juice over it and serve. Place the poached/boiled eggs sliced in half on top with dollops of yoghurt and a scattering of torn coriander leaves.

I didn't have any cherry tomatoes the day I took the pictures but whole tomato worked just as well.
I didn’t have any cherry tomatoes the day I took the pictures but whole tomato worked just as well.

Nutritional info: 400 Kcal, 2.2g sat fat, 16.3g protein, 67.2g carbs, 6.8g sugar, 5.5g fibre.

Please note the nutritional info is approximate as the recipes have been slightly changed from the book.

Healthy Breakfast Smoothie

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I have been making this smoothie lately as part of my son’s breakfast. He loves it, drinks it up with a straw in a flash and then asks for more. The best thing is it’s loaded with nutrients to give him a healthy start to his day. I have found this smoothie works very well for me during Ramadan, giving me a quick boost of energy at iftar. Almond milk is easy to find these days in most good supermarkets, though make sure you buy the unsweetened kind. If you don’t have almond milk, ordinary milk mixed half and half with water should be ok too. This recipe makes enough for 3 glasses (as shown above).

Ingredients:

  • 250ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3 level tablespoons wholegrain rolled oats
  • 2 handfuls of young leaf spinach leaves
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of frozen (or fresh if you like) berries such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until you get a smooth mixture. Serve immediately.

Peach Cobbler

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The sun is shining and Summer is in the air. Not for long I know –  this is England after all –  but the peaches in my fridge were beckoning and I thought I would try my hand at a peach cobbler. I only had three peaches left so I improvised and added a pear. Absolutely delicious!

Ingredients:

For the peach filling:

  • 4 peaches, peeled, stoned and sliced
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (powder, not fresh)

For the cobbler:

  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place all the peach filling ingredients in a saucepan and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid it sticking at the bottom of the pan. Next put the butter in an oven proof dish (mine was 22x 15 cm but you could use a slightly bigger dish) and place it in the oven to melt. In a bowl, mix together the flour and sugar then whisk in the milk to make a smooth batter.

Remove the dish from the oven and pour the batter into it, without stirring. Pour the peach filling on top and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the batter is well risen and golden brown.

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Serve with single cream or vanilla ice cream.

Summer Salad with Peaches and Feta

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This is a salad bursting with flavour. The sweetness of the peaches married with the sharpness of the feta cheese sounds counter-intuitive but it works wonderfully well. You can of course save time and buy a ready prepared herb salad but I prefer to make it fresh myself.

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • Two handfuls of young leaf spinach
  • A handful of watercress
  • Three or four lettuce leaves, sliced
  • A handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • One peach, sliced into 8 segments
  • 50 g of feta cheese

Dressing:

  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs cider vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp honey

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add the peach segments, flesh side down. Fry gently until golden brown on each side. Set aside.

Place all the spinach, watercress, lettuce and coriander in a bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients together then toss with the salad leaves. Transfer the dressed salad leaves on to a plate, place the peaches on top and then crumble the feta on top. And that’s it really, very simple and easy to make. Enjoy!

Ali’s Fruity Delight

My son Ali has created his first recipe! Here it is, without any tweaks from me.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 an apple
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 2 pots of fromage frais for children
  • 1 pouch of apple puree

Method:

Peel and slice half a banana. Cut apple in half, core it and slice into little cubes.

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Pour the fromage frais into a serving bowl.

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Add the apple puree and mix well.

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Now stir in the chopped fruit and serve. Voila!

Stuffed Courgettes (Coussa Mehshi)

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Growing up Coussa Mehshi (stuffed courgettes) was one of my favourite dishes. I have not eaten it in ages though because it requires the special Arabic courgettes (the short pale green ones) which are only available in specialist shops here. The other day I wondered what it would be like to make this dish with ordinary courgettes from the supermarket. It turned out to be rather tasty. Not the real thing of course, but a close second. It takes a bit of effort but not too much to make. Here’s the recipe (makes enough for 4 people).

Ingredients:

  • 4 courgettes
  • 250g lamb mince
  • 1 cup pudding or other short grain rice
  • 2 tins of peeled plum tomatoes (or a bottle of passata)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate
  • 2 tsp baharat spice mix (or make your own by combining cumin, coriander, allspice, black pepper & cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint

Method:

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First wash the courgettes, slice of the stalk and trim off ever so slightly the coarse bit at the bottom. Slice the courgettes in two and then hollow out the inside from one end using an apple corer. Don’t throw away the inside bits, these can be used to make a courgette cake or fried courgette patties.

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Once done hollowing out the courgettes, set them aside and make the stuffing. Place the rice in a bowl and wash it a few times in water then drain. It’s alright if there is a bit of residual water left in the bowl – this will assist the rice to cook. Now add the mince meat, a teaspoon of salt and the spices. Mix it all up with your hands until everything is combined.

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Stuff the courgettes with this meat mixture but make sure you leave a centimetre gap a the top to allow for the expansion of the stuffing during cooking.

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Pour the passata into a large saucepan (or if you are using tinned tomato, whizz it up in the processor first ). Add the crushed garlic cloves, the tamarind paste and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the tomato to a simmer then drop in the stuffed courgettes. Make sure the courgettes are well submerged in the tomato sauce. Add a bit of water to it if necessary.

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Cover and simmer gently for approximately 40 minutes, until the stuffing is cooked. You can test this by taking out a piece and slicing it in half on a plate. If the rice still looks a bit al dente, you may wish to cook for a bit longer. When the courgettes are cooked sprinkle the dried mint on top and mix it into the sauce gently. To serve, place two halves of a courgette on a plate and pour a generous amount of tomato sauce on top.

Pasta with lamb and yoghurt (macarona bil laban)

macaronabilabanI thought I would share this simple but tasty Arabic dish which makes for a quick and easy lunch. I am not going to be bogged down by measures here as this is really so simple. This makes enough for two hungry people. All you need are:

  • a 250g pack of mince (preferably lamb)
  • a 500g pot of plain yoghurt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • a handful of pine nuts
  • pasta of your choice (this works well with penne)

First of all, fry the mince in a saucepan and season with salt, pepper and bharat (Arabic spice) or failing that, garam masala will do. Once the mince is cooked, set aside but keep it warm. Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the pack.

While the pasta is cooking, empty the yoghurt pot into a serving bowl. Crush the garlic clove (if you really like your garlic crush two cloves instead of one) and mix it into the yoghurt. Season well with salt and white pepper. Now saute your pine nuts in a non stick frying pan until they turn golden brown. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and mix into the yoghurt in the bowl. Add the mince meat on top and then sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts.

Serve immediately with a salad on the side. Word of warning: make sure you don’t add the yoghurt to the pasta in the saucepan as you don’t want the yoghurt to cook and go lumpy.

Scrumptious Carrot Cake

IMAG0866This cake doesn’t last long in my household, after one slice you just keep coming back for more! As with most of my favourite recipes, it is quick and easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 300g carrots (approx 3 medium carrots)
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 65g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 tbs cream cheese
  • 8 tbs icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a square 20cm x 20cm baking tin. Cut the ends off the carrots and grate coarsely. In a separate bowl  beat together the eggs, sugar and oil. Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate and cinnamon. Lastly fold in the carrots then pour into baking tin and bake for about 40 minutes. Leave to cool.

To make the icing beat together the butter and sugar then gradually beat in the cream cheese and vanilla. Once the cake is cooled, spread the icing on top and serve immediately.

Red Velvet Cup Cakes

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These cup cakes are so easy to make and perfect for a Valentines treat.

Ingredients:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 175ml buttermilk (or juice 1/2 lemon mixed with milk to make up 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp red food colouring

For the icing:

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda in a bowl (no need to sift it, just mix it with a spoon to get rid of lumps). In a separate bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar together, then mix in the vanilla extract and red food colouring. Beat in the eggs then finally alternate mixing in the flour mixture and the soured milk or buttermilk until you get a smooth batter. Divide the batter between the cupcake cases and place in the centre of your oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

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While the cakes are baking, prepare the icing. Put the softened butter in a bowl (I soften it in the microwave on the lowest setting) and add the icing sugar. Beat with a small whisk until smooth. Now add the vanilla extract and cream cheese and beat well to get rid of any lumps. Taste your icing and add a squeeze of lemon juice if it is too sweet for you.

Once the cup cakes have cooled, ice them and for a decorative touch add some chocolate or pink sprinkles on top. Enjoy!

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Smarties Birthday Cake

IMAG0773I made this chocolate smarties cake for my son’s 6th birthday party and it went down a treat! The cake is chocolatey but not too sweet and ever so easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 60g cocoa
  • 5 eggs
  • 330g light brown sugar
  • 225ml sunflower oil
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a rectangular tray bake tin (I used my lasagne pyrex dish which is 23cm x 30 cm).

Whisk the cocoa with 250ml boiling water, making sure to get rid of any lumps. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, sugar and oil. Sift in the flour and baking soda, and lastly stir in the cocoa solution. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake  for 45 to 55 minutes, until the centre of the cake is firm to the touch or a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool while you make the icing.

For the icing you will need to gently melt in a saucepan 100g milk chocolate, 35g dark chocolate, 25g unsalted butter and 5 tbs of milk. Stir over a low heat until all the chocolate is melted and smooth. For those who like their icing more chocolatey, reduce the amount of milk chocolate and substitute with dark chocolate.

Once the cake has cooled down, place it on a serving tray and spread the icing on top. Decorate with smarties, 100s and 1000s and for that extra special birthday look, sprinkle some edible gold powder on top.