Festive Beetroot and Ginger Relish

I was asked by Bowel & Cancer Research and nutritionist Lily Soutter to come up with a festive fermented treat to keep the gut healthy and happy this Christmas season as part of their GiftsForYourGut campaign.

The brilliant thing about pickles such as this (aside from the incredible beneficial bacteria that they provide for great gut health) is that they can sit in your fridge for weeks so you can dip in and out of them whenever you fancy livening up a salad or sandwich or adding colour to a meat dish. I've used it here as a base for a mackerel and horseradish canape to share with friends.

Ingredients (to make x1 500ml jar):

2 large or 4 small beetroots, finely grated (these can be raw - for added crunch - or cooked)

1 pear, peeled, cored and finely grated

3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (using food processor again)

1 teaspoon of fennel or coriander seeds (I like fennel better)

1 teaspoon of salt diluted in 250ml of warm water (more if needed using same ratio of salt:water)

Note: Use a food processor with grater attachment to spare your fingers!

Method:

1. Dissolve the salt in the water.

2. Mix together all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3. Pour the salt water into the mixing bowl and massage into the mixed veg/fruit.

4. Transfer the complete mixture into a sterilized sealable jar and press down on the mixture so that it is tightly packed in. Make sure the salted water just covers the compact mixture; add more salted water if necessary so that the liquid just covers the veg mix.

5. Close the lid of the jar but don't seal it (a gap is needed so that the gas created during fermentation can escape). Leave the jar at room temperature to ferment. The pickle is ready when it is slightly sour. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Once ready, seal the jar and place in the fridge where it can live happily for a month.

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Lemon Chicken Casserole

This is one that requires marinading so you can prepare it early in the day (or even the day before) and then bung in the oven before you set off on the school run. I sometimes also make it if for a last minute mid-week dinner party (the ingredients are all store cupboard/fruit & veg bowl staples so then you just need to get the chicken thighs): I love a slow cook one-pot wonder on a school night so I don't have to cookwhilst homework and post-school debrief is going on because this tends to be a fairly chaotic time in my house!

N.B. You can make up to the end of stage 4 in advance and keep in fridge until you want to cook it.

Ingredients:

6 organic chicken thighs (without the skin)

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

1 large onion, blitzed in food processor (I keep pieces small for small children in case they don't like the "slimy" texture of onion).

4 large carrots, chopped into small enough pieces for little forks to manage

200ml chicken stock

The juice of 1 lemon

Marinade ingredients:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoons of finely grated ginger

1 teaspoon of cumin

2 finely grated garlic gloves

The zest of 1 lemon

1. First smother the chicken thighs with all the marinade ingredients. Cover and leave in the fridge for 30 mins-5 hours (as long as you have!)

2. Meanwhile, take a medium casserole dish and, over a medium heat, cook the onion and carrot together in the coconut oil for a few mins.

3. Brown the marinated chicken (with any leftover marinade) in a separate pan on a medium hob. This will take a few minutes on each side.

4. Add the browned chicken to the onions and carrots. Pour in the lemon juice and stock.

5. Bring the casserole contents to a low simmer on the hob for a minute and then cover and transfer to a preheated oven. I allow 1.5 hours at 170 fan and then move it down to 150 if I need more time to put the children to bed! Alternatively you can cook more quickly (180 fan for 50 minutes) or more slowly (150 fan for 2.5 hours). Just adjust temperature according to what you need and make sure fully cooked by checking that the chicken's juices run clear when pierced).

 Hope you all love it as much as we do!

Granola

GRANOLA

I've always loved granola and the fact that it's so versatile (delicious sprinkled on top of yogurt, fresh fruit, fruit crumbles - anything I've missed?) but until now I've never experimented with making my own. I'm hooked on this recipe and so are my children. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups dessicated coconut
  • 2 cups of sliced almonds
  • 1.5 cups of any/mix of the following: chopped hazelnuts/shelled, unsalted pistachios/chopped pecans/pumpkin seeds/sesame seeds (I particularly like hazelnuts and pistachios)
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil (melted on the hob) or a light olive oil.
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or squeezy honey
  • 1 cup of dried fruit (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (fan).

1. In a small measuring jug, whisk together the oil with the maple syrup/honey. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the following dry ingredients: the oats, coconut and all the nuts/seeds.

3. Pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated.

4. Tip into a large baking dish. Bake, stirring regularly (e.g. every 10 mins) with a wooden spoon, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown. This takes about 40-50 minutes.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. If you want to add any dried fruit, now is the time to do it (try not to add too much dried fruit because it's a rich source of sugar). Store in an airtight container.

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Blueberry Pancakes

This recipe is super quick, as nutritious as a pancake can get and you can choose to make it dairy free and/or gluten free. Any version tastes good (we've tested them all).

Ingredients to make 6 small pancakes:

1 large egg (or 2 small eggs)

1 cup of wholemeal self raising flour (or, for a gluten free option, buckwheat flour plus a pinch of gluten free baking powder)

3/4 cup of almond milk (I think coconut milk would work really well too but I haven't tried this yet)

1 ripe banana, mashed (optional - adds sweetness but can do without and my children still eat these)

2 cups of blueberries (other berries also work well or mix them up) divided between two cups

Sprinkle of ground cinnamon (optional - just helps to balance blood sugars and adds flavour)

Method:

Put all the ingredients except 1 cup of blueberries into a food processor and blend until smooth. Then stir in the remaining cup of blueberries so that you have a few whole blueberries in your final pancakes.

Heat coconut oil (preferable) or butter in a saucepan and once melted add the pancake batter to make as round a shape as you can achieve (I'm not v good at this!). Cook for a few mins on each side until golden.

Either eat immediately or store in the fridge so that you have a treat ready for when the children get home from school or for a weekend breakfast.

I've teamed mine with orange infused mascarpone. You can also try natural yogurt or more berries.

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Vegetarian Curry

Looking for a fuss free children's supper? This is the one for you. I've never met a child who doesn't like it. It's certainly what our household will need today after day 1 back at school. Suspect emotions will be running high!

I've taken this recipe from the River Cottage Children and Toddler Cookbook and tweaked it.

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • a small knob of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional, or more if you like)
  • 2 heaped tsps turmeric
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • a couple of handfuls (about 250g) of mixed chopped veg (any will do; particular hits with us are broccoli, green beans and baby corn)
  • 400g tin white beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 400ml vegetable stock

Method

Prepare the onion, garlic and ginger by blitzing each in a food processor. This is super quick and means that even the fussiest of eaters won’t notice the finely minced onion.

Heat the cocounut oil in a large casserole dish. Add the cumin seeds and fry gently for a minute or two, then add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric. Cook for a few watchful minutes (you don't want it to go brown).

Pour the tinned tomatoes into the casserole, stir everything together and bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring often (for about 15 minutes) until the mixture reduces and thickens.

Add the mixed veg, beans or chickpeas and stock to the saucepan. Return to a gentle simmer and cook for around 45 minutes, stirring often to ensure bits don't catch, until the veg are tender and the sauce is thick. If you're using any tender veg (e.g. broccoli or peas) add them towards the end of the cooking time so they don't go mushy.

Serve with brown rice.

This amount serves 6 children. I usually double the quantity so I can freeze leftovers.

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Fruit Crumble

Fruit crumble – such a great pudding.  Delicious and filling and so seasonal.

I’m not of the view that we always need a pud. And if you’re looking for a weight management strategy then you may be better off avoiding all desserts. However there are times when we all want something sweet after a meal and a crumble is a relatively healthy – and delicious – option.

Likewise for our children: ideally our children don’t come to expect something sweet after a meal. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to have a pudding to bulk up a meal (which means you can relax if you have a fussy eater or if your kids' main course is a bit lacklustre) or for the hungrier child after a busy day at school.

RECIPE

Pick any fruit that appeals (I love apple, rhubarb and blackberries). Cut any large fruit into small slices. Simmer the fruit in a pan over a low heat with a splash of water for 5- 10 mins to soften the fruit and draw out its natural sweetness and juices. At this point you may also want to add a sprinkle of sugar if your fruit is particularly tart (e.g. if you're using cooking apples). When you use eating apples like I did here you won’t need to add any sugar.

Tip: If you're in a hurry it’s not essential to soften fruit first (just make sure the fruit pieces are small enough to cook through when the crumble goes in the oven later and if the fruit is particularly tart sprinkle with sugar).

Spread the chopped fruit out in a buttered dish (see picture) and sprinkle with any of cinnamon, or sultanas.

Top with an oat crumble topping like the one set out below (you can make in bulk and freeze for future use – no need to defrost before use). Bake for about 40-45 mins at 180 degrees C.

Oat crumble topping: Mix 250g in total of a combination of any the following: porridge oats, finely ground flaxseeds /finely chopped (preferably in food processor) nuts e.g. walnuts/almonds/pecans with 100g cubed butter. Then stir in 50g demerera sugar (for crunch!).

 

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Pesto

Fresh homemade pesto is such a brilliant item to have in the fridge at all times as it’s completely delicious (SO much more tasty than a shop bought equivalent), easy to make, calcium-rich and really versatile.

Some great ways to use pesto:

-       Add to cheese or chicken sandwiches for a tasty picnic or easy children’s lunch box;

-       Spread on an oatcake for a satisfying snack;

-       decorate humous with a spoonful of pesto to give your dip a colourful lift;

-       Blend into homemade cheese muffins, bread or frittata;

-       Dollop on top of homemade pizza;

-       Stir into pasta or gnocchi;

-       Top a fillet of salmon with pesto before roasting for a quick supper.

Basic recipe (this pesto keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge and can be frozen):

Blitz all of the following in a food processor:

50g pine nuts

50g grated parmesan

big handful of basil

1 crushed garlic clove

A few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (add at the end so you can stop when you get to your preferred consistency)

I really encourage you to experiment with the ingredients to see what you like best:

-       Substitute the basil in whole or part for lightly steamed spinach, kale or peas;

-       Toast the pine nuts for a richer taste (this also makes the pesto a much darker green colour so not as light and summery as you might like for this time of year).

-       Substitute pine nuts for pistachios.

-       Add a squirt of freshly squeezed lemon juice

-       Remove the parmesan or use a dairy-free cheese for a dairy free version.

I like to add two or three garlic cloves for a “grown-up” version as this gives the pesto a real kick and has the added benefit of providing a boost to the immune system. Raw garlic is also great for gut health as it contains prebiotics – the fibre that helps the colonisation of beneficial bacteria within the gut.

You can give your baby pesto from 6 months of age once you’re sure your baby doesn’t have any nut allergies and provided the pine nuts are properly whizzed up to avoid any choking hazard. However it’s best to use sparingly in your baby’s meals and limit pesto consumption to occasional use (once-twice per week) as parmesan has a high salt content.

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Banana and Courgette Loaf

BANANA AND COURGETTE LOAF (dairy and gluten free)

This cake is so good I always double the recipe to make two loaves so I can freeze one for another day (if it isn't all eaten first).

2 large eggs
75g caster sugar (coconut sugar is also an option and is a slightly healthier option than caster sugar but use of this depends on whether you like the taste of coconut...)
220g banana (approx. 2 bananas) mashed
180g courgette (approx. 2 small courgettes) grated– use the whole courgette (the fibre and wonderful antioxidants are in the skin) and grate using a food processor to save time.
150g rice flour (or plain flour works if you don’t need/want a gluten free cake)
2 tsp. (gluten free) baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. mixed spice or make this more cinnamon

Optional –

50g of finely chopped nuts – my favourite is a mix of walnuts or pecans but any combination of nuts will do.

Method:

- Preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan) and grease a loaf tin.
- First grate the courgette and mix together with the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and mixed spice, if using. Set aside for later.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until light in colour (coconut sugar will leave a more brown colour which is o.k) and creamy.
 -Add the mashed banana and fold in until completely incorporated.
- Add the courgette/flour etc mixture and carry on stirring until completely blended.
- If using nuts, mix in 3/4 of the chopped nuts and then pour the mixture into the tin and sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes (depends a little on the size of your cake tin so check after 20 minutes). You want it just cooked so it doesn't dry out.

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Absolutely Delicious Orange Ratatouille

I say this is delicious and it really is.  I don't usually like ratatouille but this one is so full of flavour and sweetness which makes it a real comfort food that the whole family can enjoy.

I have suggested you finely chop the onions, garlic and peppers because most children seem to prefer it that way but for adults you can leave bigger chunks.

This serves 4 adults or 6 children

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of coconut oil

2 red onions or plain onions (I use a combination): finely chopped in the food processor.

4 large garlic cloves: finely chopped in the food processor.

2 sweet romano peppers (or red peppers will do): finely chopped in the food processor.

Any combination of the following (all diced into 3cm pieces): 1 butternut squash, 1 aubergine, 3 courgettes. You could actually add any veg you have: baby corn, parsnips and fine green beans would also work. The more variety the better so you get a wider variety of nutrients. Just use whatever you have in your larder.

1 can of chopped tomatoes or 2 large peeled and chopped tomatoes

a tiny pinch of caster sugar (to bring out the flavour of the tomatoes)

a sprinkle of turmeric (this has great anti-inflammatory properties)

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a large le creuset- style casserole.

2. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft (approx 3 mins - careful they don't burn). Then add the garlic, chilli and peppers and stir for another few mins.

3. Add all the other vegetables and stir occasionally while they cook for ten mins.

4. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, turmeric and a little salt and pepper (leave out if cooking for children). Stir everything together and add the water then pop a few rosemary sprigs on top.

5 Place the lid on the casserole and simmer gently for 30-40 mins until the veg are tender. Serve alone with a sprinkle of parsley or with a green salad or brown rice.

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