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Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand - Mother Teresa

TROPICAL POPSICLES

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I grew up on the north coast of New South Wales, where tropical fruit is abundant and graced our seasonal table. As a child, for a few years my father owned several banana plantations, so bananas were our go to fruit. I remember my sister and I slowly earned pocket money, hitting wooden pieces of timber into a crate. Mum and Dad filled these boxes with green bananas to send by train to the markets on the east coast of Australia. There were several trees of mangos in the plantations, and after a hard days work, weeding the rows between the banana trees, we’d sit under the shade and eat slices of a mango, succulent juice dripping from our elbows. One never forgets the flavour of tropical fruit fresh from the tree.

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These popsicles are a simple three-step recipe; chop the fruit, blend and pour into a popsicle mold. It’s best to use ripe fruit so the flavour is succulent and delicious. Keeping a tray of popsicles in the fridge is best right through the summer. Either make them at night so they’re ready the next day or make them early in the morning so they’re ready by mid-afternoon when everyone’s in need of a cool refreshing treat to bide them over until dinner.

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Health benefits:

·       Some of the healthiest and most sought after tropical fruits are mangoes, papayas, coconuts, kiwi fruit, pineapples, avocados, guava, dragon fruit and melons.

·       It’s a shame that some tropical fruits get a bad reputation just for being naturally high in sugar or high in fat. They’re often deemed unhealthy for this reason, yet this isn’t how it should be. All fruits or vegetables have something to bring to the table when it comes to our nutrition, tropical fruits included.

·       Some people are even surprised to learn that tropical fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, bananas, mangoes and coconuts are actually some of the lowest glycemic foods available and some of the most nutrient-dense. In fact, pineapple has less sugar per serving than an apple, and bananas are actually lower on the glycemic index than sweet potatoes.

·       Mangoes have to be ripe before they develop their sweet flavour, so be sure to cut them only when they’re slightly soft. The colours may differ, so they won’t change like a banana or avocado will, for instance. When they’re soft to the touch like avocados and smells sweet at the end, then you know mangoes are ripe. They’re a great source of vitamin C, containing 75 percent of your needs in just one fruit. Mangos have also been to fight leukemia, colon, breast and prostate cancer due to their specific antioxidant compounds. Mangoes are also alkalizing, great for diabetics since they’re low glycemic, and help improve your eyes, hair, and skin.

·       Coconuts are packed with fibre, electrolytes, they fight bacteria in the body, improve mental focus, help fight the blues thanks to their healthy fats and mineral content, offer up magnesium, fibre, B vitamins, and even the amino acids you need to stay healthy and strong.

·       Papayas are packed with enzymes for digestion, loaded with vitamin C and beta carotene for your skin, and very hydrating due to its high water content. Papayas are ripe when their entire skins turn yellowish orange in colour, so don’t eat them when they’re still green or they’ll be hard and not very sweet on the inside. Though the seeds look a bit strange with their bubbly appearance, don’t throw them out. You can use these in smoothies without even tasting them. The seeds are beneficial for removing parasites from the body, they help fight cancer and help with cirrhosis of the liver, and a cup of them even count as 1 protein serving because of their amino acids and healthy content.

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TROPICAL POPSICLES

Makes 10 popsicles

V, SF, DF, NF

 

1 cup fresh ripe mango chunks

1 cup fresh ripe papaya chunks

1 cup coconut milk or coconut water

1 cup coconut yogurt

1 tablespoon rice malt syrup, optional

Place all ingredients into the blender. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the popsicle molds. Place popsicles into the freezer and freeze overnight. When serving, thaw for a few minutes or run warm water over the outside of the molds to loosen.

Enjoy!

SPINACH, PEA & CASHEW CHEESE FRITTERS

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With a profusion of apple tree leaves in the orchard, spinach leaves spiking out of the earth and parsley going to seed from over supply; spring is at its finest in our home garden. This abundance needs using as growth is abundant and storage in the fridge seems a crime. So salads and smoothies, soups and fritters grace our table each meal bringing renewed and abundant health from fresh organic produce.

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Green is spring, and to celebrate these fresh ingredients, I’ve created fritters that just need a mash and a stir before frying to crispy golden brown; easy steps that don’t keep your family waiting long for their lunch or evening meal. A delicious dip, like cucmber tzatziki makes the meal memorable, so I’ve included my tzatziki recipe as it makes the fritter flavours zing. (I used store bought cashew cheese and coconut yogurt, readily available from many health food stores).

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Health benefits:

·       Spinach is available all year round but is in season during spring. It is well known for its nutritional qualities and has always been regarded as a plant with remarkable abilities to restore energy, increase vitality and improve the quality of the blood. There are sound reasons why spinach produces such results; the fact that it is rich in iron. Iron plays a central role in the function of red blood cells that help in transporting oxygen around the body, in energy production and DNA synthesis. Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health and it is difficult to find vegetables richer in vitamin K than spinach. Others include kale, broccoli and green cabbage.

·       A recent study showed that the sautéing of spinach was best able to retain its total carotenoid content, in comparison with steaming or boiling or frying. Alternatively, an equally recent study showing far less loss of vitamin C from spinach when this vegetable was steamed for 5 minutes, instead of being microwaved or boiled for that same amount of time. Yet numerous studies also point to the nutrient benefits of raw spinach.

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SPINACH, PEA & CASHEW CHEESE FRITTERS

Makes 8 fritters

V, DF, GF, SF

 

400 grams frozen peas, thawed

¼ cup black chia seeds, freshly ground

100 grams cashew cheese

¼ cup coconut yogurt

100 grams spinach leaves

3-4 sprigs fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

pinch chilli flakes, to taste

Himalayan salt

cracked black pepper

olive oil

Place the peas in a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the ground chia seeds, cashew cheese, coconut yogurt, spinach leaves, parsley, lemon rind, chilli flakes, salt and pepper, and mix to combine. Set aside for 5-10 minutes to thicken.

Heat some olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Add several heaped tablespoons of the mixture to the fry pan, slightly flattened, and cook for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. If needed, add more olive oil. Handle fritters with care as the edges tend to fall apart. Serve the fritters with a salad and dip of choice, like cucumber tzatziki and wedges of lemon.

Enjoy!

 

CUCUMBER TZATZIKI

1 cup coconut yogurt

1 Lebanese cucumber

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon mint, finely chopped

pinch Himalyan salt

ground black pepper

Peel the cucumber, coarsely grate into a small bowl, and squeeze out the juice into a cup. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. It is optional to place the tzatziki into a sealed container and leave in the fridge overnight so the flavours can combine. Serve in a small bowl with the fritters.

Enjoy!

CHOCOLATE CARAMEL SLICE

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When I’m craving a sweet, vegan chocolate is my go-to. Until recently, caramel didn’t appeal until I discovered @lovingearth’s salted caramel chocolate. I’ve had a long love affair with slices as they were the recipe my mother asked me to make every weekend. We cooked together every Friday afternoon, making savouries and sweets for the weekend meals. She delved into her recipe books where she kept slips of paper with handwritten recipes. There were many little slips of paper tucked into several of her favourite recipe books, gathered from friends and family over the years. Most were slightly yellowed, watermarked and crinkled; definitely well used and well loved. Lately, she has been sharing her favourites with me and I keep telling myself that I must make a collection soon, hand written in a leather bound journal as I think they deserve such a place to be kept for posterity.

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In this chocolate caramel slice, I’ve made medjool dates the feature for their binding factor and caramel taste. You’ll notice that I’ve also added the superfood mesquite powder, for its high mineral content, especially calcium and magnesium. I’ve chosen this superfood in particular, as mesquite has a sweet, distinctive flavour with a caramel hint. Of course, it’s not imperative you include it. I’ve also chosen almonds as my nut of choice for this slice as there’s something about pairing the flavour of medjool dates and almonds that I love. I’ve used almonds in the base, and the nut butter in the caramel. If almonds don’t rock your boat, then brazil nuts or cashew nuts would be equally suitable. You’ll notice I’ve used vanilla powder. Again, if you can’t locate it substitute with vanilla bean extract.

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Health benefits:

·       You do not have to worry about weight gain when you eat medjool dates; they don’t have any fats or sodium or cholesterol. So, go ahead and indulge in eating this healthy fruit snack!

·       Medjool dates are great foods to control addiction for sweet foods. Their high fibre content keeps you full for long hence curbing the cravings.

·       Medjool dates are loaded with calories, carbohydrates, proteins and no fat. The sugar in them is usually glucose, fructose and traces of sucrose and maltose.

·       Medjool dates have a great amount of dietary fibre, supplying you with 27% of the recommended daily allowance. 

·       With 18 percent of the recommended daily allowance of copper mineral, medjool dates are useful in the body for absorption of iron, formation of collagen, red blood cells formation, healthy nervous system as well as energy generation.

·       The anti-oxidants in medjool dates play an important role in ridding from the body bad fats as well as reducing the risk cancers. 

·       The high natural sugar levels in medjool dates as well as potassium keep you invigorated with energy. Potassium in medjool dates (by the way they contain more potassium than bananas) builds muscles tone, enhancing you physically.

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CHOCOLATE CARAMEL SLICE

V, SF, DF, GF

Makes 23 x 23 cm tin / 23 x 34 cm tin

 

For the almond base:

1½ cups almonds

¾ cup desiccated coconut

¼ cup cacao powder

3 tablespoons rice malt syrup

10-12 medjool dates, pitted

 

For the caramel:

1 cup soft medjool dates, pitted

½ cup almond butter

½ cup rice malt syrup

¼ cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons mesquite, optional

1 teaspoon vanilla powder

pinch Himalayan salt

 

For the topping:

4 tablespoons sugar-free chocolate chips

To make the almond base, place the almonds in a food processor and chop into small pieces. Add the coconut, cacao powder, rice malt syrup and dates, then process until combined and sticky. Line a cake tin measuring approximately 23 x 23 cm (9 x 9 inches) or a slab tin 23 x 34 cm (9 x 13½ inches) with baking paper. Cut into the corners of the baking paper by cutting a square into each corner at the tin’s base. Evenly press the almond base into the tin, and place into the freezer while making the caramel.

Clean the food processor, add all the caramel ingredients and process until smooth. Spread the caramel over the almond base. Scatter the chocolate chips over the caramel and set in the freezer for 2-3 hours.

Remove from freezer at least 15 minutes before serving, and cut into slices. The slices can be stored in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks.

Enjoy!

SPRING SALAD

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Grandma was right all along when she told us greens were good for us nutritionally. So why do many people eat green leafy vegetables only once or twice a week? Why are kale, cabbage, broccoli and spinach not regularly seen on the dinner table? Why is lettuce the only green vegetable that many people ever use, when green vegetables are recognized by nutritionists as one of the most inexpensive sources of so many important nutrients? I believe education is the key.

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For our nightly dinners, we always include a variety of greens according to the season. I also make a green smoothie for our weekday breakfasts. If family or friends are coming for dinner, one salad is always made, the green salad. Regardless of the season, I’ll search the market for in seasonal greens. This salad is obviously for spring with asparagus, snow peas, watercress, lettuce leaves or spinach and green almonds. It isn’t difficult to find a wide variety of green vegetables for a salad or a side dish for all the seasons. Here are several suggestions. For a green summer salad you could combine: mixed lettuce leaves, green beans, cucumber, zucchini, celery and peas with a green dressing (see below) or add a legume or grain. For warm autumn greens you could use a side of steamed vegetables like: a head of romanesque, broccolini stems, brussel sprouts or fennel, seasoned with Himalayan salt and ground black pepper and drenched in olive oil. For winter, a steamed side of either: kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, fennel or Jerusalem artichokes well seasoned with Himalayan salt and ground black pepper would taste delicious on it’s own or mixed with grains and legumes.

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Use my salad ingredients as a guide, in fact, simply search your market or grocery store for whatever you can find, and add a pop of colour with one vegetable like mandolined radishes. The avocado dressing is king of this dish. Favourful and smooth, the avocado, pumpkin seeds and herbs combined with lime juice and olive oil provide a taste unrivalled, especially if you increase the tanginess by using two or three garlic cloves instead of one.

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Health benefits:

·       Green, leafy vegetables provide a great variety of colours from the bluish-green of kale to the bright kelly green of spinach. Leafy greens run the whole gamut of flavours, from sweet to bitter, from peppery to earthy. Young plants generally have small, tender leaves and a mild flavour. Many mature plants have tougher leaves and stronger flavours. Collards, Swiss chard, bok choy, and spinach provide a mild flavour while arugula, mizuna and mustard greens provide a peppery flavour. Bok choy is best known for use in stir-fries, since it remains crisp, even when cooked to a tender stage. One should always choose crisp leaves with a fresh vibrant green colour. Yellowing is a sign of age and indicates that the greens may have an off flavour. Salad greens provide a whole range of important nutrients and phytochemicals to keep us healthy.

·       Leafy vegetables are ideal for weight management as they are typically low in calories. They are useful in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease since they are low in fat, high in dietary fibre, and rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as containing a host of phytochemicals.

·       Because of their high magnesium content and low glycemic index, green leafy vegetables are also valuable for persons with type 2 diabetes. The high level of vitamin K in greens makes them important for the production of a protein essential for bone health.

·       Green vegetables are also a major source of iron and calcium for any diet. Swiss chard and spinach are not considered good sources of calcium, due to their high content of oxalic acid. Green leafy vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which can also be converted into vitamin A, and also improve immune function. 

·       Carotenoids found in dark-green leafy vegetables, are concentrated in the eye lens and macular region of the retina, and play a protective role in the eye.

·       Green veggies contain a variety of carotenoids, flavonoids and other powerful antioxidants that have cancer-protective properties.

·       Quercetin is found in leafy green vegetables. It’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and displays unique anticancer properties.

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SPRING SALAD

V, GF, DF

Makes one medium sized platter

1 small jug dressing

 

For the salad:

1 bundle green or purple asparagus, sliced

½ cup snow peas, sliced diagonally

4 radishes, finely slice on mandolin

¼ cup green almonds, finely sliced

handful watercress, torn off stems

2 cups mixed lettuce leaves

shaved vegan cheese

 

For the avocado dressing:

2 limes, juiced

¼ teaspoon lime zest

¼ avocado, pitted

handful of herbs – like flat-leaf parsley, coriander

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

¾ cup water

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

pinch sea salt

For the salad, slice the asparagus and snow peas, and add to a bowl. Mandolin radishes and add to the bowl. Finely slice the green almonds, place into a small bowl of lemon water for a few minutes to prevent discolouration, then add to the salad. Separate a handful of watercress from the stems and add both the watercress and lettuce leaves to the bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, shave vegan feta cheese into the bowl, adding as much as you wish. Gently mix the salad ingredients and place on a platter. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge until needed.

For the avocado dressing, add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into a serving jug. Best used immediately, but can be stored in a jar for up to 7 days. Place the salad platter and avocado dressing together on the table for serving.

Enjoy!

GNOCCHI W SPINACH & MUSTARD GREENS

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I’m not sure which I prefer more, the making of gnocchi or the reward of eating it. I’ve always enjoyed preparing the potatoes: peeling the hot potatoes, pushing through the potato ricer, mixing the flour and potatoes into a soft dough, rolling into long sausage like shapes, cutting and rolling over a fork, scooping out the gnocchi from the simmering water. It’s almost meditative, taking time to slowly complete each step.

Spring is a time to celebrate the fresh green vegetables found in my garden and the market. So I’ve paired fresh spinach with the peppery taste of mustard greens, and a seasoned white cannellini bean sauce. I’ve added nutritional yeast for flavouring, loving the cheesy taste. If you’re making this dish for a fancy dinner, a grating of black truffles would be scrumptious.

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Here’s a few basics to making the perfect gnocchi (nyokkey). Use a potato that’s not too waxy or starchy, like the Desiree. The trick to gnocchi is to keep the potatoes dry so the gnocchi are fluffy and melt in the mouth. So even though most people boil their potatoes, it is better to bake them in the oven on a bed of rock salt to absorb the moisture. Make the gnocchi when the potatoes are hot. Use a potato ricer from a little height to get some air into it. Use a ratio of 350 grams of flour to 1 kilogram of potatoes. Use very fine flour, like Italian 00 flour. Seasoning is personal; some add a pinch of nutmeg. Don’t overwork the dough or you’ll develop the gluten leading to chewy results. It’s best to mix everything straight on the work surface. Make sure everything is lightly floured, your hands and the tray. Stir the gnocchi in the pan so you can watch when they pop up and are ready.

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Health benefits:

·       The reason potatoes have spread across the globe so quickly and have been so widely accepted is because they are a storehouse of energy and nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, and essential organic compounds.

·       If you eat potatoes regularly, you ensure a good supply of water and ions in your body. This is because they are rich in potassium. The concentration is highest in the skin and just beneath it. So, eating the potato with its skin is always beneficial. They also contain calcium, iron, and phosphorus.

·       Potatoes are known for the large amounts of vitamin C present in them. Typically, a 100 gram serving will contain about 17 mg of vitamin C.

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GNOCCHI W SPINACH & MUSTARD GREENS

Makes 4-5 servings

V, DF

 

For the gnocchi:

1 kg Desiree potatoes

rock salt

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

350 grams fine flour

 

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

240 grams cannellini beans

1 tablespoon white grape juice

250 ml vegetable stock

1 teaspoon lime juice

sea salt

ground black pepper

 

280 grams spinach

150 grams mustard greens

extra olive oil

nutritional yeast

Preheat the oven to 190’C/375’F/Gas 5 and wash the potatoes. Dry them and prick all over, and cover the bottom of a baking tray with a layer of rock salt and arrange the potatoes on top. Bake for about an hour until completely cooked through (this will depend on the size of the potatoes, so check regularly).

Meanwhile, for the sauce, braise the cannellini beans lightly in olive oil, then deglaze with white grape juice before adding vegetable stock. Simmer the beans for 10 minutes, cool. Add beans, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to the blender and blend until smooth.

Remove potatoes from the oven, and as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Scatter 250 grams of the flour over a clean work surface with salt and nutritional yeast. Using a potato ricer, push the potatoes through a fine sieve from elbow height, on to the flour. Mix together, adding more flour until it comes together into a soft dough. Set the dough aside while cleaning the work surface and dust with a little more flour. Divide into small balls, gently roll into long sausage shapes. Cut the gnocchi into 1cm wide lengths, dust with flour, and roll each over the tines of a fork, pressing your thumb into the back so you have and indentation on one side and grooves on the other (so they absorb the sauce). Put the gnocchi on a flour-dusted tray. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, turn down to simmer, and tip in half the gnocchi. Stir, and wait until they float to the surface. Count slowly to 10, and remove with a slotted spoon onto the greens in individual plates.

Saute the spinach and mustard greens in a large saucepan in olive oil until wilted, season with salt and pepper. Add the gnocchi to the greens in individual plates, and drizzle with sauce. Serve in bowls sprinkled with nutritional yeast or grated truffle.

If you prefer crispy gnocchi, scatter the greens in a dish, pour the sauce over the greens and add the gnocchi. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, and bake at 180’C in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and serve.

Enjoy!