“Not another blueberry muffin recipe”, I hear you say. This one, trust me, is very special. It’s not sugar-free but the sugar is within acceptable enough levels for me to call this a healthy treat. It’s also very quick and easy to make. This recipe makes 6, because any more than that in my family of three and it would start to be over-indulgent. Double the quantities if you wish to make more.
50g butter, softened (you can do this in the microwave in short bursts at 600W)
40g caster sugar
125g wholemeal flour
7 tbs apple puree
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place 6 muffin cups in a muffin tin. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a small bowl, then set aside. In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg, apple puree and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour mixture, ensuring all the flour is fully amalgamated. Lastly, gently fold in the blueberries. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, dividing evenly between the 6 cups. Bake for 10-15 minutes. The muffins are ready when they feel springy to the touch.
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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
2 teaspoons medium curry powder
100g cherry tomatoes
100g frozen peas
100g baby spinach
2 heaped tablespoons fat-free or low fat yoghurt
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 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).
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
Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until you get a smooth mixture. Serve immediately.
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.
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
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs cider vinegar
pinch of salt
1 tsp honey
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!