Thursday, 24 October 2013

Purple Pesto

I was first served this pesto as a pasta dish and was totally blown away. It looked so stunning and tasted delicious I had to beg for the recipe. I was given a rough indication of the ingredients and quantities but when I tried it at home it just didn't look the same. The taste was still great but I wasn't getting that deep purple colour. In fact my first attempt came out pink! Being obsessed with lemon, I added it to the mix and a pink burst of colour appeared. The pink pasta was delicious still, my friend and I gobbled it right up!

I have finally managed to get the recipe right so that I have pure purple pesto. This was served with spelt pasta and it went down pretty well. As I used spelt pasta the colours in the photo don't look too amazing. You should really coat the penne pasta and by using a light pasta colour, the colour is complemented best and will really wow whoever you are serving.

This pesto is also great to spread on crackers with avocado or hummus. I hope you attempt it as its super easy, different and fun to make! Here comes the recipe. 

Ingredients (serves 4): 

3 cups of penne paste (there are many wheat/gluten free options available. I used Biona Spelt Pasta)

400 grams of red cabbage

80 grams of almonds (I like to use blanched)

200 ml of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To start boil the cabbage for a few minutes so that it is soft. Then simply blend all the ingredients in a food processor, adding salt and pepper to taste.

After cooking and draining your pasta, add the pesto to the hot pan and mix in with the penne. Serve hot. You can make the pesto beforehand and leave it in the fridge until you want to heat it with pasta or spread it on a cracker. I hope you enjoy! 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Almond and Cacao Truffles

Nut and date truffles are my favourite snacks to make at the moment as they are so moreish and delicious from the get-go. I actually have to limit myself to how many times I make them as I always end up eating half the batch so by the end of it I'm left with like 5 balls!

These are the best I've made in a while. They are divine. They also keep really well in the freezer so why not make a batch for the week and let them be your treat everyday. If you are easing in to healthy eating then try substituting these for store-bought chocolates. They are just as tasty and won't leave you feeling sick or guilty as all the ingredients are good for you! I must mention though: everything in moderation! Dates are an amazing source of energy and fibre, however they have a high sugar content and should be limited if you are watching your weight.

Ingredients (makes around 12 balls):

1 cup of almonds (I like to use blanched almonds)

8 medjool dates (pitted)

1 tablespoon of cacao

1 and a 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of flaxseeds (optional)  

Simply add all the ingredients to your food processor and blend for 1-2 minutes. You should be left with a sticky mixture. Roll into balls or create your own shape (I did some experimenting with cookie cutters here). Pop into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to allow them to set. Enjoy!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Raw Strawberry Mini Cheesecakes

This is the exact same recipe as the Raw Blueberry Cheesecake. After the success of that cake I was waiting for another opportunity to make it, so thank you dad for being born this month! I decided to try the cake as cupcakes which actually worked out really well. I lined the cupcake tin with olive oil (you could use coconut oil as well but we had run out - in fact lately so has Waitrose, it is definitely becoming a more popular alternative to cook with)! 

Follow this link for the recipe, I just added an extra half a cup of strawberries to the top layer to make the colour come out a bit more. 

Happy birthday daddy!

This is my brother below who was very excited to be eating a massive avocado and would love his picture to therefore be documented here :) These avocados were amazing, we bought them from a farm shop in Lyne and their origin is South Africa, my home! I am so jealous as Avo's are now in season in SA and so delicious! It is getting harder to find ripe avo's in the UK, such a shame. Also how awesome are these tomatoes!? They were so yummy chopped up with a generous amount of himalayan salt. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Black rice, Quinoa & Vegetables

I never really set out to make this dish, it sort of evolved as I got going! It may seem like a lot of ingredients and therefore a lot of work but if you can be flexible and work with what you have it is really easy. It is also a great dish to entertain with as it makes a lot of food. We had left overs for lunch and dinner the next day!

Ingredients (Serves 8):

1 cup of black rice (I use Biona)

2 cups of coconut water

1 cup of quinoa

2 leeks

2 courgettes

200 grams of broccoli

1 bottle of chickpeas (try avoid the tins but also ok! Or even better soak and boil your own)

1 bottle of butter beans 

4 lemons

olive oil 

1 lime

Salt to taste (I love Himalayan or Maldon)

Start with making the quinoa. Boil the quinoa in water and half a teaspoon of salt (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups of water) and then in a separate pot bring the coconut water to the boil and add the black rice. Turn down to a medium heat and leave for around an hour or until the rice has soaked up all the coconut water. This way of cooking black rice is a favourite of mine at the moment, nicked from Gwyneth Paltrow's book It's All Good. 

While the quinoa and black rice is cooking away prepare the veggies (make sure to wash leeks especially well) and add to boiling water. Bring down to a medium heat and cook until they are soft.

Bring out a massive platter to spread the veggies on, add generous amounts of olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

When the black rice and quinoa is cooked, mix the two in a bowl and add lime juice over and some salt if needed.

Toss the grains and veggies together. Drain the chick peas and butter beans and add to the mix. Squeeze lemon over and add salt to taste. 

Chocolate Cheesecake brownies

Last night my mom and I hosted a girls dinner at home. I thought this would be a great opportunity to try out a vegan dessert and see the reaction from some of the sophisticated ladies of Wentworth... I didn't quite expect the reviews to be as mixed as they were! After learning there were avocados in the brownies, one of the lady's wouldn't even taste them! Two others were not keen on walnuts which is fair enough - the choice of nuts can be up to you. The rest however loved them. I love them. 

The recipe is super easy, all you need is a blender, lots of nuts, dates, avo's and agave nectar. The agave nectar also created some speculation, the bottle being passed around to analyse. So I've done some research on this sweet alternative. 

Agave nectar is commercially produced from various species of agave, most of which coming form Mexico (Blue Agaves) and South Africa! It is also well known as the plant from which tequila is made..! The plant is large and spiky resembling a cactus in both form and habitat, but is actually a succulent similar to Aloe Vera. 

You can buy light and dark agave. The light provides a milder taste as it undergoes less heating and is the preferred use in the kitchen, compared mostly to honey. The darker syrup is filtered less leaving a much stronger taste compared more to maple syrup. Agave is less refined than many sweeteners and so considered more natural, also with a lower glycemic sweetener therefore potentially healthier. It is one and a half times sweeter than table sugar so to achieve the weight benefits if using as a substitute for sugar you should use less than you would normal sugar. 

My overall verdict is that this is the lesser of all evils in the sugar and sweetener substitute market. If you do need to sweeten up a dish or are battling to let go of your sugar kick this is a good transition. I wouldn't necessarily introduce it into my diet just to get the "health benefits". In these brownies the agave is great although I may try the recipe again without it just to see :)

Ingredients (makes about 20 squares):

For the bottom brownie layer:
1 cup of walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 a cup of cashews
1 and a 1/2 cups of medjool dates (pitted)
1/2 a cup of almonds
2 tablespoons of agave
2 tablespoons of raw cacao
For the top cheesecake layer:
5 avocados
4 dessert spoons of raw agave syrup
8 medjool dates (pitted)
2 and a 1/2 heaped tablespoons of raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

To make the brownie layer add all ingredients to your food processor and blend for 2-3 minutes, so that the mixture is sticky and nutty. Depending on your blender you may need to do this is batches. 

Place the mixture into a deep cake dish and push down with the back of a spoon or spatula. Set to one side.

For the cheesecake layer simply blend all the ingredients until thick, smooth and creamy. Pour this over the brownie base and sprinkle with some nuts of your choice before placing in the freezer. Freeze for an hour and a half and then move to the fridge. I did cut my squares at this point as I couldn't wait to try them! But for best results leave them in the fridge for a few more hours to set properly. 

Enjoy and be careful who you share them with ;) 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sweet Potato, Kale, Red Cabbage and Asparagus Salad

This morning I finally tried a Vinysa Flow class with Mercedes Ngoh at Triyoga in Primrose Hill.  She has just returned from maternity leave, which you'd never guess. Plus she was doing yoga right up until the birth - not chilled stretchy yoga but advanced hand stands and everything - check out this video of her it is insane. Her Flow class is very popular and I can see why! It was amazing with incredible movement, a lovely mix of poses and lots of sweating!

I then went into central to run some errands and came across Carpo - nuts, chocolates and coffee! It is awesome. I would recommend the walnut stuffed figs, delicious! I also tried some roasted chick peas and bought a big bag - super healthy according to the Carpo website but I am not so sure as I think the roasting would destroy any nutritional value? Regardless of that, if you can control your portion size they are a great healthy snack (an alternative to popcorn during a movie perhaps). Very moreish though, I've had to hide the rest! 

Anyway that story was supposed to tell you that after an intense workout (yes yoga can be pretty tough!) and too many figs and chickpeas I felt like a very healthy dinner so created the following from the groceries I found in the fridge. 

Ingredients (Serves 6):

1/2 a red cabbage

90 grams of kale

4 sweet potatoes

200 grams of asparagus

1 clove of garlic

1/2 a cup of olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

100 grams of pomegranate seeds

Salt to taste

To sprinkle: 

goji berries


chia seeds

To start boil a little water in a pot and slice the sweet potatoes into discs. Add the sweet potatoes and washed asparagus to the boiling water and leave until soft. 

While the veggies are boiling chop the red cabbage and kale and toss in a big dish. Then crush the garlic in a pestle and mortar and add half the olive oil, half the lemon juice and salt to make the dressing. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and kale and massage it in.  

Drain the sweet potatoes and asparagus and add the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice so that the veggies are coated. Add salt to taste as well. I would recommend Pink Himalayan salt or Maldon salt - both divine. 

Toss in the pomegranate seeds, add the sweet potatoes and asparagus and sprinkle the goji berries, walnuts (broken) and chia seeds over the entire salad.I think this dish would be great if you are entertaining and need some colourful vegetables for the plate. The warm sweet potatoes and asparagus complement the crunchy kale and cabbage so nicely, plus you can have as many helpings as you like, it's all so good for you!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Raw Blueberry Cheesecake

This cake really is something special. It was absolutely delicious and went down so well at the baby shower! The mother to be (radiance in yellow) even hid the remaining half for her to devour on your own after everyone had left! To be honest I would have done the same. Especially since we can both appreciate how healthy and good for you the ingredients are. You can only feel delicious satisfaction after this cake, not sluggish like after a Hummingbird cupcake (still an absolute favourite of mine - they also have gluten free cupcakes these days). I would however choose a piece of this cake over a Red Velvet or Black Bottom any day.

The main ingredients are fruit, nuts and dates. So simple, so nutritious. Dates are a vegans sweet friend, superbly fulfilling the cravings sugar normally would. They do however have a high glycemic load (GL) - which is the amount of carbohydate in a food adjusted for its glycemic potency. When you eat a meal containing carbohydrates your blood glucose rises and falls. How high it rises and how long it remains high depends on the quiality of the carbs (the Glycemic Index) and the quantity. GL combies both the quality and the quantity of the carbohydrate in one number. It is the best way to predict blood glucose values of differnt types and amounts of food. Patrick Holford, a pioneer in new approaches to health and nutrition, defines three ways to maintain a healthy weight. One of which is the importance of combining carbohydrates with protein. While dates have a high glycemic load due to its carbohydrate content, nuts are a great source of protein and so the combination of nuts and dates as seen in this cake leaves you feeling satisfied and not wanting to binge on more and more sugar. What a win! 

The cake is very easy to make, the only thing that was a bit of a mission for me was getting all the ingredients ready as the blueberries and sliced banana needs to be frozen beforehand as well as the cashew nuts soaked. I also forgot apple juice and didn't think the local Budgens would have freshly squeezed juice so I decided to blend an apple into pulp (too much work getting the juicer out - a pain to clean!) which actually worked out perfectly. So once you have the ingredients ready its simply a blending game.

Ingredients (Serves 10):

For the base:
1 and a 1/2 cups of almonds
2 and a 1/2 cups of medjool dates
For the middle:
2 cups of soaked cashew nuts
2 frozen over-ripe bananas
1/3 of a cup of maple syrup
1/3 of a cup of freshly juiced apple juice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
For the top:
1 cup of freshly frozen blueberries (best to freeze your own over store bought)
1 cup of strawberries
1 frozen banana
4 medjool dates
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Before making this make sure you freeze the blueberries and sliced bananas for at least 3 hours. You also need to soak the cashew nuts in water and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours. 

For the base, blend the almonds in a food processor for a minute or so until they are nicely crushed. Then gradually add the dates so that a sticky mixture forms. Depending on your food processor or blender you may need to blend in batches. My blender wasn't really up to the task so I just whizzed a few batches separately. Press the mixture down in a cake tin and place in the freezer.

For the middle blend all the ingredients until smooth and pour two thirds of the mixture into the cake tin. Place back into the freezer and leave for at least 30 minutes to set. After which, add the remaining ingredients to the food processor combined with the mix from the middle and pour over the middle layer.

Place the cake back in the freezer and let it set for at least 2 hours. Before serving let the cake warm up in the kitchen for 45 minutes or so. Slice and enjoy!

Friday, 4 October 2013

AvoCacao, Almond and Blueberry Smoothie

I've spent all morning in bed finishing my book. I just couldn't put it down until it was done. So it has been a very slow, indulgent and lazy morning. When I eventually did emerge down to the kitchen I was starving and desperate for a very big smoothie, so instead of grabbing a glass I went for a bowl. I also thought I would try mixing up a few different ingredients and what I came up with didn't look so amazing (colour is a light chocolate mouse with a similar mousy texture) but tasted just awesome. 

(By the way the book I was reading is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, recommended by a friend  and I would definitely pass on the recommendation!)

Ingredients (serves 1 very hungry person):

1 large avocado

1 cup of almond milk

4 cubes of ice

1 cup of blueberries

1 tablespoon of raw almond butter

1 teaspoon of raw cacao powder

1 handful of kale

1 teaspoon of wheatgrass powder

1/2 lemon peeled and pipped

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

1 teaspoon of chia seeds

1 teaspoon of cinnamon 

If you are looking for a satisfying breakfast this is it! I am full and ready to start the day. Today I am making a Raw Blueberry Cheesecake for the first time to take to a friends baby shower tomorrow. It is vegan, dairy and gluten free so I am excited to showcase how delicious clean food can be! Lets hope the reviews are good... Thank you again Deliciously Ella!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Avococo Anytime Smoothie

Avocado's are definitely my favourite food. They are so delicious and have endless health benefits. The one very exciting take-away from the book I'm reading - The pH Miracle by Dr Robert and Shelley Young - is how close to the perfect food avocados are (there were a few disappointing take-aways too i.e corn = fungus, AVOID! - more on that some other time). In the words of Dr. Young: "Avocados are an alkalising, energising, hydrating fuel for your body". The fruit (technically yes!) is a great source of protein, monounsaturated fats, essential fatty acids (emphasis on essential not fatty), beneficial plant sterols, chlorophyll, and a broad range of micronutrients. All the while having no starch, very little sugar and being the most easily digested rich source of fats and protein in a whole food. They provide more protein than cow's milk containing all of the essential amino acids - the building blocks of protein.

Lets talk about why these monounsaturated and fatty acids are so essential. Firstly the good fats help in cellular construction and lower cholesterol - people moan a lot about cholesterol hey? They are a much better energy source for the body to burn fuel then sugar (or even protein) which leave an acidic ash waste in the blood. Despite the common misconception that avocados are just so calorific they can actually help with weight loss thanks to a compound called oleoylethanolamide (OEA - excuse the jargon, this guy is a doctor after all so does get a bit technical). The fatty unsaturated acid oleic acid (found in avocados) stimulate the production of this compound OEA which suppresses appetite by telling the brain YOU ARE FULL.

On top of loving the taste you can see why I look forward to making my morning smoothies every day. As long as I have an avocado as my base I can work with anything. I've been reverting to this very simple recipe for a few days now. It combines three of my favourite tastes - avocado, coconut and lemon. Warning: if you are not used to eating a lot of lemon then maybe add gradually according to taste.

Ingredients (serves 1):

1 large avocado

1 cup of almond milk

1/2 lemon, peeled and pipped

juice of the other 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

1 teaspoon of wheatgrass (or any green powder - barley/wheat grass, spirulina etc.)

1 tablespoon of chia seeds

Blend all the ingredients until thick and creamy, then sprinkle some nuts/seeds on top and enjoy! If the above combination doesn't completely do it for you then experiment with other healthy additions such as cacao nibs, almond butter, coconut oil, spinach, kale, cacao powder, blueberries... 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Almond, Quinoa and Pumpkin seed bread

This VEGAN bread is better than the real thing. Yes these are the words of my mother but still it really is an amazing recipe and I have to thank Deliciously Ella (my favourite blog at the moment, I can't go a day without browsing Ella's recipes!) for introducing me to life with bread again. 

I couldn't believe how easy it is to make as well, really I am going to start making batches and freezing them! Not only is it delicious but also very good for you. To start flaxseeds are full of nutrients, containing most B vitamins, magnesium and manganese. They are also abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids, high in fibre (low in carbohydrates) and high in phytochemicals (plant compounds full of benefits such as antioxidant, antibacterial and boost to immune system). Psyllium husks are frequently used for people lacking fibre and leave you feeling fuller for longer while the the sunflower and pumpkin seeds take care of providing you with a smorgasbord of nutrients. 

Top it with delicious spreads such as hummus (which I'll be making today - Lebanese family recipe to follow) or almond butter. My favourite topping is avocado squeezed with lemon and salt. Yummy!


2 and a 1/2 cups of cold water
1 and a 1/2 cups of pumpkin seeds
1 cup of quinoa flakes
1 cup of almonds
1/2 a cup of sunflower seeds
1/2 a cup of flaxseeds
3 heaped tablespoons of psyllium husks
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 tablespoon of dried oregano spice (Any herb will work i.e. basil, rosemary, thyme, mixed)

Big pinch of salt
To start place the almonds, quinoa flakes and one cup of pumpkin seeds into a blender and whiz for a few minutes until a smooth flour forms. Transfer this flour into a bowl and add the remaining pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, psyllium husks, chia seeds, dried oregano and salt. Stir well and then gradually add the water. 

You will need to let this sit for about an hour so that all the water can be absorbed and the mix is left very firm (not at all runny). During this time heat the oven to 180C.

Once the mix is very firm - if it is just a little bit runny add some more psyllium - grease a loaf tin with coconut or olive oil and pour in the mix. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to pat down the mixture so it is tucked in the tin pretty tight. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes until you can stick a knife in the centre and take it out clean. Wait for it to cool before you slice, smother and enjoy!

The breads lasts longer in the fridge or you can store it in the freezer if you haven't eaten it all or are making batches (like me). Try toasting it so maybe leave a few cut slices in the freezer so its easy to pop in the toaster. Simple hey!