Posts Tagged With: iron

Vegan Myth Busted! – Top Plant-Based Sources of Iron

vegan

Plant power!

There is still a popular food myth doing the rounds that vegans are generally short of iron in their diets or it’s difficult to find natural sources of iron without taking supplements and the like.  This is way off the mark.

“How do you get enough iron eating only plants?” A question I get asked quite a lot.  The answer is simple; loads of very accessible, inexpensive, plant-based places. Eating a balanced vegan diet, the question is more, “Where do we not get our iron, protein, vitamins, other minerals……..?” A vegan diet allows us all to thrive!

The WHO consider iron deficiency to be the number one nutritional disorder in the world. 80% of the world population may be iron deficient, so it is always a good idea to keep topped up and learn a little about plant-based nutrition (Vitamin B12 for example).

Iron is essential to health and basically helps our blood carry oxegen to our bodies tissues. Our body stores iron but we still need to eat a reasonable amount per day, roughly 18mg for adults  is advised. Women who are menstruating will need more, this can lead to cravings for iron rich foods.

The iron found in plants is different than that in meat. When we eat meat we are basically directly ingesting the iron in the blood, organs and muscles of the animal. It is easier for the body to access. We need to be aware that iron in plants will not be as easily absorbed.  But no worries, this is easily sorted.

Plant-based iron is best absorbed when combined with Vitamin C and it is also best to avoid tea and coffee if you’re looking at helping your body absorb plant based iron.  They both contain tannins and calcium which hinder absorption.  So leave a good half an hour before or after eating until you put the kettle on or eat high foods high in calcium.

THE IRON RICH ‘HIT-LIST’

Many beans like pinto, kidney, black eyed and black.  Lentils. Soya is best fermented like miso, tempeh. Tomato paste or sauce. Potatoes, spring greens (collards), spirulina, tahini, whole wheat, bulghur wheat, oats, nuts, kale, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, quinoa, raisins, peas, sunflower seeds, apricots, watermelon, millet, almonds……I’m getting hungry here!

Popeye did well on it, but spinach is actually not the best choice for iron.  It contains acids that inhibit absorption but Vitamin C again can help.

You can see that many of the staples that most vegans eat are good sources of iron.  1 cup of lentils for example contains almost your RDA for iron and black strap molasses is worth a mention, 2 tbs contains 7.2g iron.

TIPS TO GET IRON INTO YOUR DIET

Seasonal fruits can also be a great source of iron so grab a bowl of oats topped seasonal fruits for a nutritious and iron rich way to start the day.  Some vegetables, like Broccoli and Bo Choi, are rich in both iron and Vitamin C.  Which, as mentioned, is a great combo!  Snacking on dried fruit like raisins and apricots or seeds, eating beans with greens, adding tahini or molasses to dishes or dressings, are all good ways of introducing iron rich foods into our everyday meals.

CALORIE COUNTING

If you are counting calories, it is worth mentioning that sources of plant based iron are obviously the better choice. Cooked spring greens (collards) for example contain 4.5mg of iron/100 calories, whereas Sirloin Steak weighs in with a mere 0.9mg of iron/100 calories.

It has also been said that cooking in iron pots can help.  Cooking a tomato sauce in a cast iron pot can increase the iron levels ten fold!

In a balanced vegan diet there are so many sources of iron and vitamin C that a lack of iron is no major concern.  There is also no evidence to suggest that vegan and vegetarians have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than meat eaters.

As you can see, vegans are sorted for iron!  Another vegan myth busted!!

If you know of any other sources of plant-based iron, please let us know.

Vegan sources of iron

Vegan sources of iron – Image by Vegans of Instagram 

Some of the information and figures for this article came from this link.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Inspiration, Nutrition, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Olive Tapenade with Beetroot and Red Onion Salad

Beetroot and Red Onion Salad with Black Olive Tapenade

Tapenade is one of those things that we don’t eat enough of.  Everytime we have it, we say the same thing, “Why are we not eating more tapenade!”  It is delicious and is one of those classic summer dishes that reminds me of holidays in Greece and France.

I ate alot of tapenade at break times whilst picking grapes in Beaujolais.  We’d have it spread over warm baguettes, with local cheese and lashings of whatever wine was in the bucket (purely medicinal, it helped to dull the back pain you see).  I believe that the intense satisfaction I got from munching the tapenade pulled me through those back breaking times.  The wine was certainly nothing to get excited about, unfortunately.

This is a wonderful concoction of flavours that I’ve had a little play with (of course) and omitted the use of capers due to a forgetful moment at the shops.  The unique caper-ness has been replaced by the gorgeous sun-dried tomato.  Not a bad substitute!  I have also added raisins to add a little sweetness, the black olives can be a little bitter in these parts, Wales not being high on the olive producing charts.   The rest is fairly classic tapenade, forming a delectable black paste that can be spread or dipped as you choose.  I love this type of food, which is greater than the sum of its bits.

I normally think of Tapenade as being a Greek dish, but it actually hales from Provencal in France.  Traditionally this puree contains caper, anchovies, black olives and olive oil.  The French would normally serve it as an hors d’oeurve or stuff it into a steak.

Tapenade is alot like pesto (see our ‘Hazelnut Pesto‘ post) in that it is a joy to behold sitting in the fridge door.  It just hangs around and marinates, getting better and better.  It goes well in so many things and mixed with some oil, makes for an instant wonder dressing.  The best part is that it has a gourmet flavour with very little needed in way of preparation.

The way you chop up your veg has a major effect on the presentation and texture of a salad.  Have a little think before you begin to chop about what type of effect you’d like to create.

If you spend a little more on good quality olives here, it is well worth it.  The black variety are normally a little cheaper and in their own way, just as good as some of their greener brothers and sisters.

The Bits

Tapenade – 1 cup black olive, 6 sun dried tomatoes, 2 cloves crunched garlic, 1/2 red onion, 1/4 cup raisins, juice of 1 lemon, handful of chopped parsley, sprig of rosemary, pinch of thyme and oregano, glug of olive oil, cracked black pepper and sea salt (to taste), glug of olive oil (if needed)

Salad – 1 nice red onion (thinly sliced), 4 small beetroots (cut into eighth’s), 2 cups of spinach (chopped), 3 carrots (grated), 2 stalks celery (chopped), 1 cupful of sprouts (we used green lentil sprouts)

Black Olive Tapenade in the mix…..

Do It

Tapenade – Add all ingredients to a food processor and begin to whizz.  As it becomes sticky, trickle in some remaining olive oil to create a beautiful, shiny puree.  Keep in a sealed container in the fridge overnight for maximum marination (new word for you there!).

Salad – We put the red onion and carrot into a food processor and grated, then chopped the celery, spinach and beetroot separately.

Serve

Thin out some tapenade by adding the same quantity of good olive oil and whisking well.  You can lower the amount of tapenade if you’d prefer a lighter dressing.  Pour the dressing over the salad and give a good mix in.

Place in your favourite salad bowl and top with a handful of green lentil sprouts (see our ‘sprout‘ post for how to sprout your own, its quite simple).  Then spoon on some tapenade.

We have also used it to flavour soups and stews and of course in post June days we’d have it lathered on some warm oat bread.

We Love It!

This tapenade has a great balance of bitter and sweet, with the beautiful silky texture of pureed olives.

Foodie Fact

Olives are one of the oldest foods known, dating back 7,000 years.  Black Olives are left to ripen for longer on the trees, green ones are picked earlier, they generally have a milder flavour.  Olives are a good source of iron (which helps to carry oxegen in our blood) and are low in calories with plenty of good fats.  They do however contain a decent amount of sodium and should be eaten in moderation if you’re keeping an eye on salt intake.

Twelve black olives provide 1.8mg of iron.  Interestingly women need 18mg of iron per day and men only 8mg.

Categories: Dinner, Dressings, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Raw Emerald Soup

Raw Emerald Soup

A creamy raw soup that is deep green and delicious.  This is raw food at its finest, a lovely texture and flavour and also packed full of nutrients.  It is thick and filling.  This is the perfect soup for a nice lunch in the summer garden.  No emeralds are used in this recipe!  This soup is so vividly green it must be good for you.

Savannah and Jane made this one last night and they both commented on how easy it is to prepare.  It’s funny in raw food that the ingredients list normally outweighs the preparation list.  It’s quick.  There is also less washing up to do!

Raw food is dense in nutrients and I am eating less for meals.  One bowl of this and I was well sated.

The inspiration for this soup came from the brilliant raw food book ‘Eat Smart, Eat Raw’ by Kate Wood.  It is written specifically for raw fooders in the UK.  It is fast becoming our raw food recipe bible.

All vegetables here are grated beforehand to make it easier to blend.

The Bits

These bits are per person:
4/5 carrots, two large handful of spinach, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 apple, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 tbs miso paste, 1 tbs flax seed oil (we used rapeseed oil), 1 teas dried seaweed, 300ml water.

Do It

All goes into the blender and puree until smooth.

Serve

Mix mung bean sprouts in and scatter on top with some freshly chopped parsley and I added a scattering of sunflower seeds.

Foodie Fact

Spinach is full of iron:  two out of every three women in the UK are iron deficient.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Lunch, Raw Food, Recipes, Soups, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pancake Bake

Looks like a mess though tastes rather amazing

Pancake day is coming soon?  This makes a proper meal out of it.

‘The Pancake Bake’ is more a method, than a specific recipe.

You will end up with succulent layered oven baked pancake wonder.  Hopefully drenched in creamy cheese and a rich tomato stew.  Due to the presentation and perceived difficulty of this dish, its bound to impress friends, guests and family.

The ingredients can chop and change depending on whats in your fridge, that’s the beauty of this.  Its learning the basics and filling in the blanks with your lovely creativity.

The main components are cheese, tomatoes and stuff to make pancakes with.  That should be easy enough.  It takes a while to get together, but when you’ve done it once, you’ll be knocking out bakes like a veteran.

Fresh, fresh tomatoes and spinach with fistfuls of quality strong cheese will make this dish sing for you.  Its worth spending the extra pence on your taste buds (but not necessary).  Balance your pocket with the occasion and how much you love the people eating pancakes (including yourself!!!!).

This is a dish perfectly designed to warm, satisfy and comfort after a particularly wintry day.

Makes enough for two hungry mouths (we eat two pancakes eat).  As usual, it can be made vegan or gluten-free with a few twists and is equally delicious (just not that creamy).  If you haven’t tried a gram flour pancake, give them a whirl.  They’re brilliant with an earthy flavour.

The Bits

Tomato Stew – A small glug of oil (I don’t normally use olive oil for cooking, something cheaper but good ie veg or sunflower), 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), 5 tomatoes (or one tin of good chopped tomatoes), one large onion, 1 cup of veg stock (or water), herbs (we used fresh basil and thyme), add one veg or more (we used carrot and potato, we needed some ballast!), salt and pepper to taste.

The Spinach Layer – Good glug of oil, 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), a large pan of spinach leaves (the more the better, they cook down to not much).

Cheese – The one you like best.  Quantity depends on how much you want to use.  Get a normal sized block and see how you go.  Vegans add a nice tofu here.

Pancakes – Glugs of oil, one cup of wholewheat flour (gluten free, use gram flour), 1 egg (not essential), 1/2 cup of milk (soya if you like), 3/4 cup of filtered water, 2 teas dried thyme (or similar herb), s+p to taste.  A few roasted sunflower seeds can make a real treat of these.

Do It

Get the tomato stew on the go.  In a thick bottom pan on medium heat, add olive oil and thinly sliced onions.  Stir and cook for at least 10 minutes, until softened and sweet, then add garlic, fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, herbs and s+p.  Simmer for a few minutes then add stock, continue the simmer with the top off until the sauce thickens, then pop a lid on and leave on a low heat to infuse a little.   You could call this a ragout if you like, it’s a basic sauce for many pasta dishes.  Good to get the ragout in the repertoire.

In a large sauce pan (spinach takes up a lot of space initially), medium heat, a glug of oil and flash fry some chopped garlic.  Then pack the pan full of washed spinach leaves, season with s+p (if needed).  Leave for a minute, then stir the leaves down.  It should only take 5 minutes to get them wilted.  The oil should make them nice and shiny.  Set aside.

Chop your cheese into chunks.  We used a strong local cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese, goats cheese, really anything except cheese slices will be good here.  Your favourite is probably best.  Slice it into pieces that would grace a hearty sandwich.

Now for the tricky bit.  The pancakes.  They can take a little practice to get right, so the quantities here give you some breathing space.  Try a couple before going for the ‘presentation’ pancake.

In a large bowl, add all of the dry pancake ingredients with egg and milk.   Mix a little, I use a hand blender for this, you could hand whisk.  Gradually add water as you mix, you are looking for a batter with the texture of double cream.  Set aside for a couple of minutes to rest.

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC (most recipes tell you to pre-heat the oven far to early, it only takes 5 minutes and you’ll save a load of energy this way).

In a medium size casserole dish or similar (preferably ceramic, they look great).  Add a glug of oil and swoosh it around to cover it nicely.

In a small non-stick frying pan, get the pancakes fired up.  In a hot pan (medium heat, but adjust accordingly as you go) a small glug of oil followed by approx 1/4 cup of batter.  It should cover the base of the pan, but not much more.  Tilting the pan and rolling the batter around, until it meets each panside.

Leave for a minute, then with a thin spatula, life the edges away from the sides, make sure it loose.  Cook for a few minutes, the batter on top should be solid, then flip.  You can either go for the flick wrist acrobatic toss, or the gentile flip, using the spatula to support the pancakes progress.  This will take a bit of practice, don’t worry if the first attempt lands somewhere outside of the pan.  A taster!  When you get the knack, prepare 4 decent pancakes (they don’t have to be perfect!) and lay them on a plate covered with paper towels (to drain any surplus oil).  That’s a hell of a method!  But once mastered, is a real sinch.

Now for the layering.  Remember to portion your bits, you are aiming  for four and enough to pour over the finished pancakes.  On a board/ plate, beside your casserole dish, lay a pancake out flat.  Spoon in approx 2 heaped tbs of ragout, in a line across the centre of the pancake, spread across (not too much you have to roll these suckers).  Top with a layer of spinach, then a decent layer of chopped cheese.  Now gather one side of the pancake and flip it over, tuck and press with your fingers, then quickly whip over the other edge of the pancake to a make a fat sausage.  Hold together in with downward pressure from your hand.  Be firm but gentle.  Some sauce may shoot out of the end, enjoy that.  Now place the pancake fold down on the casserole dish.  Repeat and no doubt, get better with your rolling skills.

When four pancakes are laid out in a neat(ish) row, pour over remaining stew. It should get a good covering, sprinkle the left over cheese and spinach, the more the merrier and whack it in the oven for 20 minutes or until all the cheese is golden and melted and the sauce is bubbling nicely.

You can prepare all of this before hand, all the bits will sit nicely in the fridge overnight.  I’d heat the stew a little first though and keep the pancakes in a tight container or well cling’d.  I would always assemble the dish close to mealtime, the pancakes can go soggy.

Serve

With a good crisp salad tossed in a nice citrus dressing.  I’d finish off the bake with a few more leaves of torn fresh herb.

We Love It

You’ll be proud to view this Pancake Bake sitting in the middle of the dinner table,  it’s so unctuous all over and does have a hint of the wow factor.   Because it’s so rich, it’s a good one for carnivores.

Foodie fact

Allegedly the Mayans first cultivated tomatoes.  It’s a member of the nightshade family which includes aubergine, potato and chillies.   Unique to tomatoes, Lycopene helps to protect your cells from harmful free radicals, it also helps to protect the skin from U.V. rays.

Pickled Part

You don’t want something too tannic and overpowering here, I’d go white, something dry and with good acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc.  Splash out on a decent bottle of French Touraine Sauvignon.  Normally packed full of fresh fruits, a good one should be around 6-8 pounds and have a decent structure to hold its own against the strong flavours in this dish.

You could go for a lighter red style and Chianti historically goes well with the rich tomato and cheese sauces of Italian cuisine.  I just think that the white will cut through the melted cheese and leave your mouth feeling vibrant and ready for more bake.

Categories: Dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The B.H.K Awards – Top 15 Seasonal Superfoods (Winter)

Beat those dark winter nights. Blow away those frosty morning blues. Hah! These foods give your body a super kick and are packed full of a feel good vibes. Spring is getting closer, but these beauties will help you across the dark season finish line.

Everybody seems to love a ‘Top 10’.  So surely a ‘Top 15’ is better?!  I was looking into healthy eating and came across several sites claiming to have the definitive selection of ‘Top 10 Superfoods’. I don’t know who or when the term ‘Superfood’ was created, but I like it. It simply suggests food that is super packed full of goodness.

Superfoods come into their own in the busy modern world, when we don’t always have time to prepare meals. They can be grabbed and munched, giving a nutritious boost.  This is especially important during winter when the sun retreats early and the cold can chill you to the bone. It’s a strenuous time for body and mind.

I’ve compiled my own Winter ‘Top 15’ (better than 10) below. The criteria are simple. Is it tasty? Is it also super healthy? Do we eat it regularly? Is it local(ish) and seasonal? I haven’t added things like spirulina, goji berries, wheatgrass etc, although they are very healthy they don’t have the delicious-ness. They are just not your everyday hero.

Our selection will inevitably change towards summer, expect another instalment.

All of these contenders are packed with goodness and if eaten with other healthy bits and some regular exercise, will keep you shining all winter.

15) Red Wine – Dodgy start you may say.  Well yes and no.  I’ve managed to stem the tide of wine in recent years.  Everything in moderation.  Grapes provide vitamin C, vitamin  B1 and vitamin B6–red grapes also contain powerful phytochemicals (especially  phenolics) that may help decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. These compounds are housed mostly in the skin of the red grapes, which gives red wine its colour. Resveratrol, found in the skins of red fruits has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory activity.

14) Green tea – Not exactly a local crop, but this brew has a serious ‘feel good’ effect in the mornings.  Green tea contains polyphenols, which may reduce heart disease, cancer and stroke risk. Green tea also supports brain health and memory, likely due a key compound in green tea called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), a flavonoid. EGCG is thought to boost the immune system and prevent tumors. Aim for at least two cups daily.

12)  Whole grains (whole wheat, barley) – Bread and beer, not healthy really, but ever so British.  Two of the myriad of uses for the humble, yet essential whole grain.  Whole grains help stabilize blood sugar and insulin and may protect against heart disease. They include all three parts of a grain kernel: the bran, germ and endosperm. Whole wheat flour, brown rice and barley are all whole grain foods. Look for the words “whole grain” on the label, and the word “whole” immediately before the name of the grain in the list of ingredients.  Contrary to popular perception, the benefits of whole grains go well beyond fiber and fiber’s role in digestive health. Whole grains contain vitamins B and E; the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc; phytonutrients; that appear to work together in powerful ways.

Panamanian Bean Mix (Good name for a band)

11) Beans –  A staple.  Anybody who knows me, understands my passion for these little beauties.  A fabulous source of vegetarian protein and fibre, two nutrients that help you stay full and satisfied.  Important to feel fully sustained in winter.  The protein and fibre in beans also tempers the rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal, which can help stabilize mood. The fibre in beans helps keep you regular. Beans are low in fat and a good source of magnesium and potassium, nutrients that work together to lower blood pressure and keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Added bean bonus: They’re cheap and when growing add vital nitrogen back to the soil.

10) Pumpkin – Orange veggies are all loaded with Vitamin A, vital in the winter when the sun is so shy. We are lucky to have two different varieties growing locally to give us some variety.  Pumpkin is loaded with nutrients that will help your heart, bones, eyes, and skin shining.  Beta-carotene and potassium are the two standouts here: Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps rejuvenate skin, protect your vision, and may even reduce risk of arthritis. Potassium is a mineral involved in lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy bones.  There is nothing sweeter than a well roasted pumpkin?

9) Oats – Are technically whole grains, but get their own section in these parts.  Britain, this windswept little island, has been fuelled on the stuff since early man first landed here.  I don’t think any food better sums up our predicament and history.  The oats in porridge acts as central heating for your body, one bowl in the morning and you’ll be simmering all day.  Eating oats is good for those with high cholesterol.  Whole grain oats are one of the best sources of soluble fibre, which, in addition to lowering cholesterol, helps keep blood sugar levels under control.  No peaks and troughs, just plain sailing.

8) Olive oil – Reminds me of my other home in Spain.  My heart generally resides there, as my body does the rounds.  The freshly pressed oils of Murcia are hard to come by here, but with our uber consumerist ways, good olive oil is easy to find.  One of the best types of fat you can opt for in your diet.  Olive oil helps to protect against heart disease and cancer. Recent research shows that heart-attack survivors on a Mediterranean diet had half the death rates of those on an ordinary low-fat diet.  Nice to know.  Spaniards do eat a lot of fish, which keeps them healthy, but normally drink like one too.  However olive oil is also high in antioxidant activity.  Is there nothing this golden amritar is not capable of?!

7)  Crucifers (broccoli, kale, cabbage) – This family thrives around here.  They are so tasty and versatile.  Trigonos (our organic veg farm) grows the finest red cabbage and kale imaginable.  In fact, all of their vegetables are rather special.  Cruciferous vegetables contain indole alkaloids that may help prevent the big C.  They are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Foods from the cruciferous and cabbage family (including broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and turnips) may help bolster memory as you age.  Something I need help with right now!

6) Tomatoes – Grown in a local poly-tunnel.  We are so blessed to be surrounded by die hard green fingers.  These wonderful orbs contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant shown to help stimulate the immune system and protect from certain cancers, especially prostate. Lycopene is more highly concentrated in cooked tomato products including tomato paste, passata or tomato sauce.

5) NUTS (Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, cashews etcetc)Generally, limit yourself to a handful of nuts per day.  But what a handful!  Nuts are so precious.  They are not local, but are one of our favourite treats.  Adding a dose of almonds daily helps the intake of key nutrients, lowering the intake of dietary detractors like trans fats, excessive sodium, sugars and cholesterol. Eating nuts may help protect against heart disease and inflammation, enjoying 11 walnuts daily reduces total cholesterol by up to 4 percent.  Walnuts also look like a brain, so are good for your brain (Ayuvedic wisdom).  They are a rich source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a compound called ellagic acid that has been shown to reduce artery-forming plaque.  Love NUTS!

4) Leeks – It goes without saying that this gorgeous Allium would crop up.  We are in Wales after all.  Regardless of that fact, leeks are one of my favourite vegetables.  Packed with flavour, vitamins, minerals and flavanoid anti-oxidants.  They are low in calories and contain both soluble and in-soluble fibre.  They contain lots of folic acid, essential in DNA synthesis and cell division.   Vitamin wise the are packed with A (hooray) and C, which not only protects against infections, but also harmful free radicals.  Wear your leeks with pride!  So much tastier than a rose (not to mention a thistle).

3) The Cuppa (Tea) – Another tea?  Why not!  The elixir of the B.H.K.  Without it, we’d be lost and flaccid. The caffeine content in tea is useful for stimulating alertness, mood and motivation, but is also a rich source of the antioxidant called catechins. Studies suggest that catechins protect the artery walls against the damage that causes heart disease and prevents the formation of blood clots. It also does wonders for the spirit on a dark winters day.  Avoid drinking too much milk, try a slice of lemon or drink good quality tea black.  It’s one of those things that will grow on you.

2) Dark Chocolate – The finest of news.  Believe it or not, chocolate is a healthy treat, as long as you choose wisely. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits. Dark chocolate may even boost your mood. The rich taste and sensuous mouth-feel of a decadent piece of dark chocolate may be to thank (remember the Flae advert Brits).  Just don’t eat a whole bar. Our favourite is Green and Blacks.

1) Beetroot (or beta vulgaris) – King Crimson!  The dark purple avenger!  Anything that comes out of the dark soil this colour, is bound to be packed full of good.  The pigment that gives beets their super-beautiful fuschia depth (betacyanin) is a powerful cancer-fighting agent. Beets’ potential effectiveness against colon cancer, in particular, has been demonstrated in several studies. Beets are also particularly rich in the B vitamin folate (see above) and the mighty vitamin C.  If you’re lucky enough, use the leaves.  They are higher in vitamin A and anitoxidants than the root.  We roast them up, put them in cakes, pickles, pies…..They add amazing hues of purples and pinks to anything they touch (including your chopping board) and generally brighten up any day.  Truly our winter king.

So Beetroot is the winner.  What drama!  I wonder who it will be in the summer (strawberries).

Heart of the 'root

Categories: Ayurveda, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Nutrition, photography, Superfoods, Tea, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pumpkin and Almond Tagine

Tagine Market

I love Morocco, the sleepy mountain villages and endless desert sands.  I always made time for the local spice markets, checking out the intoxicating mix of aroma and colour.  I shipped many bags of the stuff back to Spain, running the gauntlet of some very suspicious customs officers and barking Alsatians.  Apparently my bag smelled like a vagrant (must have been the intense cumin?!)

The variety and freshness of these spices make a tagine.  It’s a bit like Guinness and Ireland, something is lost when eaten anywhere outside of its Motherland.

Add fistfuls of dried fruits, olives and ras el hanout and you have a perfect expression of Morocco’s incredible produce.  This is one of those evocative dishes that can sum up the spirit and atmosphere of a diverse country, on one platter, better than a lengthy commentary or travel article.  It’s basically Morocco on a plate.

Having said all of this, due to financial constraints (being a skint traveller), I rarely ate in decent restaurants during my stay there and have had better Moroccan food in London than Marrakech!  My Moroccan diet mainly consisted of triangles of manufactured cheese, handfuls of figs and the ubiquitous flat bread.

However, I was lucky to meet some truly amazing and hospitable folk, who invited me into their homes (the finest place to sample true culture and food worldwide).  I especially remember a chap named Khalid, staying in his family home in Taroundant made me understand the importance and pride attached to the traditional of the tagine.

I met Khalid in a spice market and immediately realised he was the kindest of sorts.  He showed me around the old city for days, but one afternoon he took me, with a big gang of friends and family, to an oasis where we sat under a fig tree and shared a delicious lunch.  We ate straight from the dish, with hunks of bread and greedy hands.  It contained a few spices, vegetables and a whole lot of care and pride.  It was not a tagine strictly speaking, we cooked it in a heavy pan with a good lid, as we do in the B.H.K (we’re tagine-less, hence the generic tagine pot picture), but it’s almost as good.  Only the name changes, its called a ‘Gimb…….’ something or other.  The results are very similar, but you just lose some of the mystique and authenticity.

Tagine is named after the earthenware dish used in the cooking.  The dish is normally cooked slowly and captures all the condensation, making the dish moist.  It’s an easy and healthy way to cook vegetables.

This recipes is slightly more complex than Khalids, and not completely traditional.  It’s another one of my Mum’s favs.  We are lucky here that we have a wonderful organic farm, just over the way, that grows brilliant pumpkins.  Good pumpkin is as important, as the spices.  Use fresh spices and keep all opened spices in a cool place in a tightly sealed container.  Being tagines-less at the moment we opt for a thick bottomed pan or a casserole pot:

Makes one big tagine or pan full, enough for four.  Like all stews, it is better left a while in the fridge to infuse and serve the next day.

The Bits 

Handful of dried apricots (chopped into large chunks), juice of one lemon (add rind finely chopped for more zing), 1 inch root ginger (chopped), 2 tbs tomato puree, 3 cloves garlic (chopped), 2 tsps smoked paprika, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 2 cardoman pods (split or bashed), 2 tsps ground cinnamon, 1 small pumpkin (chopped and roasted, skin on), 1 carrot (chopped into chunks and roasted), 1 tin chickpeas (drained), 5 tomato’s skinned and chopped (or a good tin of chopped tomatoes), 1 tbs honey, handful of fresh coriander (chopped), 2 red peppers (roasted and chopped), salt and pepper, handful of unpeeled roasted almonds.
(If we could get hold of some ras el hanout, we may substitute that for all the spices except paprika.  A handful of pitted olives can add an extra tang to the dish.  Especially good when feeding carnivores for a bigger flavour.)
Do It
Start by frying off you pumpkin chunks, carrot and pepper in a pan with olive oil.  Cook quickly, until coloured nicely, then set aside in a covered dish.
Heat the olive oil in a casserole and stir in the lemon juice, tomato puree with the spices.  Season with s/p.
Add chopped tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots and peppers, cover the dish.
Cook over a very gentle heat, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 mins.
Stir in the almonds, apricots, ginger and garlic and cook for another 15 mins.
When the pumpkin is good and soft, add the chick peas giving a good mix.
Cover and cook about 15 mins until everything is tender, then stir in the honey.
The tagine should be checked regularly and water topped up if required.
Serve
With an extra splash of olive oil, the chopped coriander and a generous dollop of creamy yoghurt and a scattering of almonds and seeds.  Accompanied traditionally by a nice warm flat bread or cous cous.  We made it gluten-free and opted for some quinoa.  ‘As you wish, you are free’ as many of my Moroccan friends would say.
We Love It
Moroccans make some of the finest stews, they are so blessed with amazing local ingredients.  As I said, this is really Morocco on a platter and that makes it a glorious thing.  It’s the perfect winter stew, bursting with spice, flavour and bright colours.
Foodie Fact
Pumpkin, and most very orange veggies, are packed with the important anti-oxidant beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into Vitamin A.  It’s also a good source of fibre, Vitamin C, K and E and loads of different minerals.   Even its seeds are packed with goodness, especially omega 3 fatty acids.
The big orange beauty is a member of the cururbitaceae family, making it a relative of the cucumber and can grow to be 25 kgs in weight.

The Djem El Fna, the mad Market Square in Marrakech

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, Lunch, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nutrition – Vegetable sources of IRON

IRON

Not enough Popeye in your diet?  Hit the spinach.  Our favourite iron rich compadre.  But spinach is not the only iron rich swinger in town.

A lack of Iron can be a real problem for veggies.  It can make you feel lethargic and a low iron diet can lead to more serious problems further down the line.

Over 90% of Indians are anaemic. With the majority of 1 billion plus Indians being vegetarian, it’s a reminder that a vegetarian diet is not necessarily a healthy one!

Iron helps you to produce haemoglobin which helps red blood cells carry oxegen to the tissues. 20% of women and 3% of men do not have enough iron in them.

Most dietary iron is non-haem iron, harder to digest that the iron in meats.

Know your iron rich veg foods (in descending order):

Most Lentils and Beans

Eggs

Pumpkin, Sunflower and Sesame Seeds

Baked Potato

Broccoli Stalk

Bread, Bran Muffin and Rice

Dried Apricots

Spinach

Wheat germ

Peanuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Pistachios, Almonds and Cashews

Categories: Nutrition | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Super Spinach Smoothie

A shot of pure green goodness

This smoothie will kick any day off with a natural sugar hit and good dosing of iron to wake you up and feed your sleepy body.  Sweet and smooth with an iron fix.

It is so simple and quick to make and is Janes favourite morning booster.  You won’t be craving biscuits for elevensies either, the banana will see you through!

The Bits

1 1/2 bananas per person (ideally, I have two because I’m like a sloth in the morning)

2 tbsp coconut cream

Two good handfuls of spinach

A splash of water (to get it all blended nicely)

Need balast?  Add a handful of oats.

Do it

Stick it all in your blender and whizz until smooth.

Serve

Jane eats it from a bowl with a spoon, topped with some finely sliced veggies, celery is nice.  I glug from a glass, which is scrapped out after with a spoon.

We Love It

Its so easy and nutritious and its very green!

Foodie Fact

Spinach is famous as a good source of iron, but surprisingly not as good as much as most beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.  Even a dried apricot has more iron!.

Bananas are packed with natural fruit sugar (frustose), the highest of any fruit by a jungle mile.  This is still relatively low compared to most maufactured sweet foods.  They are great for the digestive system, with lots of fibre and also rich in Vitamin C and Potassium.

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, Raw Food, Recipes, Smoothies, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: