Sunshine, soup and some laughter.

This week I am greatly grateful to the loved ones in my life. Friends, family, the other half, clients and gorgeous puppies alike have made a rather frustrating, pain filled week one full of laughter, hugs, home cooked meals and spontaneous dancing. I am so grateful for the strength you have given me. Its a long time lesson I have learnt to let down barriers and let people in. What a gift I have given myself to have learnt that lesson. For those of you out there that also struggle with this .. I encourage you to let the sunshine in.

Now a little bit less ‘hippy heavy’… with spring (and sunshine !) now here my mind just keeps wondering to one thing … summer tomatoes. As a gardener and plant-based loving foodie they are literally the highlight of my year … Not to mention the health benefits. Tomatoes are full of vitamins like B6, C, K,and potassium. They even have some muscle loving magnesium too ! The phytonutrients in tomatoes have been linked to lower rates of heart disease and cancer. So definitely a perfect fruit/veg to enjoy.

Sadly, these days I cannot eat tomatoes everyday … my poor tummy and joints don’t allow that much nightshade in my diet (much to my reluctant realisation). Yet of course they are my favourite. Nothing beats a home grown summer tomato … honestly my living in Italy has spoilt me for life !

Here in Australia though we are lucky .. even in the spring you can get a decent tomato … all be it a little more pricey .. and yes it pays to be picky. I always keep them on the window sill to ripen even further in the sun … and whether in my mind or not, I am sure they taste better for it. This soup though has been born from a favourite in possibly the most used cookbook I own (Green Kitchen Stories), a lot of experimentation and a very desperate me to put the taste of summer in a still hearty spring soup !

The real key this spring soup is to have those early tomatoes nice and ripe ( I go for the smaller ones and organic where possible) , paired with the best of late winters’ cauliflowers and you are still meeting your seasonal needs … !! I think this one would also work well in early autumn to use up that last load of less than pretty tomatoes and early season cauliflower. Either way it is delicious, easy and relatively budget friendly. Whilst being gluten free, dairy free and vegan and having a decent hit of protein. Who said eating well had to be boring ?!

Spring Roasted Tomato, Chickpea and Cauliflower Soup

Tomato, cauliflower and chickpea soup

Ingredients

1 kg ripe tomatoes, halved
1/2 cauliflower, cut in to small florets
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 heaped tsp of smoked paprika
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with a knife
2 tbsp olive oil
5 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves picked
Large Handful of Basil, Leaves picked and stalks chopped
1 tbsp and apsv 1/2 lemon juiced
1 can of cherry/roma tomatoes (best quality you can afford )
Chilli infused  olive oil (optional)
2-3 cups of water.
Himalayan Salt and Pepper.

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees (400 Fahrenheit/gas mark 6)
Add cauliflower, tomatoes, chickpeas, garlic, basil stalks, oregano and garlic. Season and toss well with olive oil.
Pop in oven for an hour or until tomatoes and cauliflower are blistered.
Add can of tomatoes, apsv and then blitz in food processor until smooth. Add in water until desired consistency.
Freeze, refrigerate or gently heat with half the reserved basil. Taste and Season.
Serve with reserved basil, chilli oil and sourdough smeared in a good butter or smashed avocado. Yum !

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Early Spring Curry Bowl

Oh gosh it is Spring here … I literally did a little dance when I woke up on the 1st of September. The nights are already lighter, the few degree temperature drop is a blessing, and things are blossoming everywhere. It is time to really get in to the garden too .. and literally nothing makes me happier or more excited ( ok except for maybe being in the kitchen .. ) !

This following recipe is a result of harvesting almost the last of my winter vegetables … and quite honestly I am very proud of my amazing Kale and Cauliflower crop this year. Totally Pesticide free ( planted it with garlic and hand picked any of those hungry caterpillars ) and just beautiful looking too. Not to mention they taste amazing too ! There is nothing quite like eating your own homegrown veggies. Of Course buying from your local farmers market, wholesale store or organic place will result in an equally nutritious meal .. but I encourage you to get in to the garden this spring. There is nothing more satisfying than cooking and eating your own produce ! Why not check out the Little Veggie Patch site ? Their books and monthly newsletter have certainly have caused my love for the garden to blossom .. couldn’t help the pun !

So, back to the food ! I’ve been experimenting a lot with some fantastic homemade curries this winter. Most of them have been made from scratch, with home ground spices and hours over the stove top in the warm kitchen … perfect for winter afternoons. Whilst I am definitely not new to Indian flavours the experience from making these delicious nourishing dahl and curries has almost been as healing as the finished product. My desire to travel through India and Sri Lanka, it is safe to say, has tripled. Top that with my experimenting in Aruyvedic diets and treatments ( and getting some success in them too ) and I am an advocate for cooking in ghee and adding fresh ginger and turmeric to everything in site ! Not only is it delicious but I’ve been cold and flu free all season.

This particular curry bowl is a  definite transition in to spring, a little lighter and perfect for those still chilly nights. A  antastic homemade vegan curry, that is not only super easy and will freeze like a dream, but is loaded with alkalising, potassium rich and digestive friendly vegetables and spices.  Paired with some delicious sautéed ginger greens, brown rice and some homemade raita .. your body will thank you for it .. and so will your wallet. Thats right this is one uses super budget friendly superfoods and pantry/fridge staples !!

Early Spring Curry Bowl

As always with this recipe I have went homemade and organic where possible and most affordable. I recommend making the curry on a Sunday ( or your food prep day ) and enjoying with the extras through out the week. As with almost any curry it improves with time ! See notes at the bottom for extra protein variations and if you want to keep it entirely vegan.

Pumpkin, Kale and Cauliflower Curry
( Serves 6-8 … plenty for freezing !! )

600gm Pumpkin, cut in to bite size pieces
500gm Cauliflower, cut in to florets
1 Bunch Kale, stem removed and chopped
2 Carrots, cut in to bite size pieces
2 Onions, halved and thinly sliced.
1 cup Frozen Peas

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp fresh grated turmeric (or 2 tbsp
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp good quality curry powder/mix ( or use your own fav mix )

1 can 400gm chopped tomatoes
2 chopped fresh tomatoes
270ml Coconut milk ( must be full fat )
1 cup vegetable stock with 1 tbsp asv added
Himalayan Salt
Bunch of Coriander, leaves picked ( freeze the roots for use in curry pastes )

Heat oil and ghee in a large pot and add onions and a little salt. Sauté on a medium heat until golden and translucent. Add ginger and turmeric and sauté for a further 3-5 minutes. Add curry powder and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. don’t burn those spices !

Add all chopped pumpkin, cauliflower and carrot and give a good stir. Add in chopped and tinned tomatoes, coconut milk and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, adding kale 20 minutes in.

Add peas and cook for a further 10 minutes. Take off heat and miix in coriander leaves, reserving a few for serving.

Sautéed Ginger Greens

2 Handfuls of green beans
1 packed cup of baby spinach
1 tbsp ghee
2 inch pice of ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lemon, half zest grated and juice
Himalayan Salt and Pepper

Place green beans in a bowl and fill with boiled water. Cover and leave.
Add ghee to pan, once melted add garlic, ginger and lemon zest. Allow to gently cook for 1-2 minutes.
Drain green beans and add to pan. Once warmed and cooked but still crisp add spinach. Stir and take off heat.
Add lemon Juice, salt and pepper.

Serve Curry with ginger greens, steamed brown rice, coriander leaves and homemade raita/chutneys either in a big comfortable bowl or as a fun Indian platter.

Variations

For a higher protein meal add red lentils with pumpkin and carrot.
To keep it entirely vegan make a vegan raita with shredded cucumber, shredded coconut, mint, lemon, a good drizzle of olive oil and salt an pepper.

Veggie Chilli

Every year in Adelaide we all sit around, look at one another and exclaim in surprise to how cold it is. To be fair .. we get the extremes here .. its hard to go from 45 degrees to 1 degrees (and below !) … especially when central heating simply doesn’t exist here. A true ‘Adelaidian” will complain through the worst of winter and the very hottest of summer. Secretly we could not live without our seasons, I am thinking of our beloved wine grapes here …

Personally, apart from those terribly cold mornings I don’t mind it. I see it as touch of the UK and enjoy pilling on my collection of woolly hats and scarfs. Of course the excuse to cook up some bold and spicy dinners isn’t half bad either. This amazing veggie chiili is definitely one of them. With a great kick of spices, fennel and herbs it is great for digestive health. A decent dose of veggies and a great protein kick from the beans leaves you feeling both nourished and warmed … not to mention it is both budget friendly and easy to take along to any pot luck dinner. It freezes like a dream too !

Veggie Chilli Recipe

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1 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion
1 Small Fennel
3 garlic cloves
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 red chilli
1 tsp cayenne pepper/chilli powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 dried chipotle chilli ( optional )
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 bunch of coriander
1 tbsp of fresh oregano (heaped)
1 tbsp ACV
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 lcarrot
1 small sweet potato
2 zucchini
800 gms beans ( Black/Kidney – mixed is good )
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can whole tomatoes
1 lime

Natural Yoghurt, Avocado and Cos Lettuce leaves to serve

Method:

  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion, along with the fennel.
  2. Peel and slice garlic.
  3. Halve, deseed and roughly chop the peppers and finely chop deseeded chilli.
  4. Chop Coriander root (reserve leaves) and oregano.
  5. Heat coconut oil in large pot. Add onion, garlic, fennel and peppers. Cook for 8 minutes or until onion is translucent.
  6. Add the mixed spices, herbs, chilli and chipotle chilli. Cook for 10 minutes. Add a little water if needed.
  7. Add chopped vegetables ( bite size cubes ) and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Add tinned tomatoes, beans (drained and rinsed) and apple cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, give a good stir and bring to the boil.
  9. Allow to simmer for 40 mins, add filtered water if needed. Stir every 10 mins.
  10. Once cooked and cooled slightly add cocoa, Half the lime juice and half the coriander. Give a good stir

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Serve in a big bowl with sides and lime wedges and nourish  !

Ps. Don’t be alarmed by the cocoa ( you can make it cocao if you wish ) it creates a richness in the dish.

A Russian Rendezvous

So Friday was not the best day for myself nor Sam. We both had to call in the office sick – him because he has caught a particularly bad ‘man flu’ on his Mexican adventures ( despite me feeding us some seriously spicy immune fighting stews of late ); myself because somewhere along the line last week I have eaten something that very much does not agree with my delicate colon. Truth be told, I highly suspect the beautiful box of  handmade chocolates that my clients gifted me with – and I suddenly pretended ( too myself ) I could eat without consequence . I am still very much learning a moment of pleasure is not worth hours/days of subsequent pain.

Often when things become so painful and uncomfortable, food feels like the enemy and I don’t want to put much effort in to creating kitchen masterpieces …

Last Friday evening however I decided that I was not  going to fall back on my “lets have some homemade soup from the freezer” mode and created what I think ( and hope you do too !) is a delicious and nutritious version of a creamy Russian stroganoff. Given the baltic weather we are experiencing in Adelaide it seemed more than appropriate ! The recipe I used is an adaption of several recipes I have eaten over the years but Teresa Cutter’s Lean Beef Stroganoff provided much inspiration – that women is a genius!

Subsequently I felt much happier accomplishing something. Sometimes doing the opposite of how you feel is the key to feeling at least mentally better ! And when one feels mentally better those physical hurdles seem far less impossible to overcome.

So without further adieu I give you the blog’s first recipe …

HEALTHY CHICKEN STROGANOFF

I promise you if you give the heroes ( mushrooms, garlic, thyme and onions)  time to really ‘meld’ ( for lack of a better term ! )  in this dish you will think it is incredibly decadent – and most importantly – SERIOUS comfort food !! I do not claim it is authentically Russian (at all  ) .. but I do claim that body, mind and soul will adore this on a blustery day … as will the masculine counter part ! I served it with steamed brown rice – but think it would be lovely with a sweet potato or cauliflower mash – YUM.

INGREDIENTS – Serves 2-3

1 large halved and thinly sliced brown onion
3 cloves crushed garlic + 1/2 glove finely chopped
1 large handful of fresh thyme – chopped
Pinch each  dried oregano/rosemary
280 gms of earthy mushrooms (Portobello, Swiss or you  favourite )
1 Large Zucchini thinly sliced
370gms ( approx ) Organic chicken breast cut in thin strips and seasoned with pepper and squeeze of lemon juice.
1 cup of chicken stock ( homemade or best you can afford )
3 tbsp of non fat natural yogurt ( I love Tamar Valley )
1/2 – 1 tsp of arrowroot
1/2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
Two large handfuls of baby spinach
Zest of 1 Lemon plus tbsp of juice
1/2 cup tightly packed parsley – chopped

TO MAKE

Combine chopped parley, lemon rind, chopped garlic and lemon juice. Season and lay ‘gremolata’ aside for serving.

Heat 1bsp of olive oil in a large covered pan/shallow pot.

Add onion, crushed garlic and thyme, allow to sizzle, reduce heat and cook until softened and caramel colour.

Add zucchini, mushroom and a pinch ( each )  of dried oregano and rosemary ( you may need to add a little more olive oil ).

Once all vegetables are beautifully cooked remove and cover .

Deglaze pan with 1sp of aged balsamic (or red wine).

Brown seasoned chicken and add stock.

Allow to simmer for a minute or two, then add back onion and vegetable mixture.

Add arrowroot to thicken sauce 1/2 tsp at a time.

Once all well combined and chicken cooked  add spinach ( allow to wilt ), then yoghurt – turn heat down to low to avoid curdling

Season with lots of pepper – and salt if necessary ( some stocks are salty enough! )

Serve with gremolata and steamed brown rice…  Приятного аппетита  !!

Incidentally I have dreamed of travelling the Trans-Mongolian to Russia for years ( I blame Kate Furnivall’s stunning novels )….