Breakfast, Children's Nutrition, Dinners, Gluten free, Kids meals, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury, Uncategorized

Buckwheat pancakes

Continuing with my Good.Mood.Food series on food to support mental health, I wanted to introduce you to buckwheat – have you tried it? When it comes to supporting mental health, it’s such a lovely source of supportive nutrients and definitely something I love to have in my weekly repertoire.

First of all, it’s high in protein – in fact it is one of only a few plant sources of protein that are considered “complete”, in that they contain some of all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to get from their food. Protein is so important for building neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that we need for a happy mood). It also stabilises our blood sugar levels, keeping us feeling fuller for longer and also on a more even keel energy and mood wise.

It also contains a good dose of magnesium, manganese and B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and B6, all of which are important for our brain health amongst other things!

Buckwheat flour is used a lot in Brittany, northern France, for making “galettes” – savoury pancakes like these, and that’s exactly where I discovered it many years ago, long before I had any appreciation for its nutritional benefits. You can fill these pancakes with whatever you fancy, I like a simple ham and cheese which also goes down well with the kids and is a brilliant toddler food when cut into strips like an alternative quesadilla. Here I’ve made a simple ratatouille and topped with a little hard goat’s cheese, and accompanied it with a green side salad to further boost the nutrient density of my meal.

Makes 6

Ingredients:

  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 300mls mls water (approx.)
  • Knob of butter, melted (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix the egg into the flour and salt using a whisk, then gradually add the water until it has a smooth and runny but not watery consistency. Add in the melted butter if using and thoroughly mix in. You want to be able to pour pancakes that are as thin as you would expect to make sweet ones.
  2. Heat a little butter in a large frying pan to a medium – high heat, pour the batter and leave to cook for approx 2 mins until it is dry on top and comes away from the sides easily (don’t try to remove it to quickly or it will stick and tear). Once it comes away, flip it over and cook the other side for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  3. Repeat as necessary add your fillings and then fold or roll
  4. The batter will last in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container if you don’t want to eat them all at once. They can also be stored cold in the fridge and used as wraps for lunches / lunchboxes

Do let me know what you think, and I hope you’re enjoying my series on Good.Mood.Food – the full blog post and links to more recipes for your mental health are here.

Dairy-free, Dinners, Gluten free, Recipes

Brain-healthy Salmon Salad

For those of you who read my previous Good Mood Food post on supporting mental health through the Covid-19 lockdown and looking for inspiring recipes, this is such a lovely simple but wonderfully supportive salad. Eating the right fats is so important for brain health, as it getting sufficient proteins and the variety of different vitamins and minerals we need to keep all the process running effectively to keep us on an even keel and feeling great.

For the salad:

  • 1 chicory (endive) sliced, or other salad leaves
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 1 small beetroot, grated
  • 1/2 a large or a whole avocado, sliced
  • 1 pre-cooked salmon fillet (simply bake for 20 minutes or pan fry in advance) This is delicious served warm or cold
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:

  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Method:
1. Mix the salad dressing ingredients together in an empty jam jar, and shake well to mix
2. Assemble the salad ingredients on a plate, then drizzle over the dressing (there will be plenty spare for another day, just use as much as you like for taste)

Children's Nutrition, Dinners, Kids meals, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury

Pumpkin seed and parsley pesto

Pesto is such a versatile sauce – you can eat it with pasta, as a base to savoury toasts, smothered on chicken or fish, as the flavour for a salad dressing… the list goes on. And pesto doesn’t have to be the traditional basil and pine nut base (of course it can, that’s delicious!), once you get the hang of making them you really can use any seeds and leaves you want to.

This delicious parsley and pumpkin seed version is great for this time of year as it’s full of vitamin C and zinc, fab nutrients for supporting the immune system. I tend to make a large quantity, then use half and freeze half to just grab out when I need a quick meal.

Makes about 8 tablespoons
Ingredients:
• 75g pumpkin seeds
• 1 clove garlic
• Large pack of parsley (approx. 50-60g)
• Juice of half a lemon
• 150-200mls extra virgin olive oil
• Pinch of salt and pepper to season (omit salt with young children)
• 50g parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:
1. Blitz the pumpkin seeds and garlic in a food processor (I use my Nutri Ninja) until they are ground to a flour
2. Add the parsley (washed and ripped into pieces), lemon juice, salt and pepper and olive oil and blitz again to a smooth consistency
3. Add the grated cheese if using (I enjoy this just as much without, and my children tend to add so much cheese to their pesto pasta it rather feels like too much to already include it in the pesto!), and blitz again. If you’re not adding the cheese you will probably need nearer 150 mls rather than 200 mls of olive oil, but adjust it to the taste and consistency you like
4. Serve! This will keep for a good few days or up to a week in an airtight jar in the fridge, just trickle a little extra olive oil over the leftovers to keep the air away.

Dinners, Recipes

Friday Night “fake-away” Lamb Curry

I love to batch cook “take-away” dishes for a Friday night feast. I was a huge fan of a weekly take-away for years, but the truth is they never make me feel very good. There may well be good take-aways out there, but many tend to be filled with hidden sugar, flavour enhancers, and for me – cream and gluten, all of which are just unnecessary for a great curry in my opinion… In addition, the tendency is to over-order, and the portion sizes are always huge which leads to over-eating, let’s be honest!

So I’ve adopted a “here’s one I made earlier” approach to take-aways. I batch cook a big batch, and freeze it in portions ready to grab out of the freezer on a Friday night. My kid-friendly but also good enough for grown-ups chicken korma is always a big hit, but my favourite has to be this spicy lamb curry. Turn the heat up or down by using more or less chillies, I think I’ve achieved a middle-ground here that will suit most.

Serves 6 (so three ready meals for two), serve with brown rice, extra yogurt (especially if it’s a little too hot for you), some fresh coriander and/or mint, maybe a couple of popadoms if you’re happy to bend the healthy rules a little for the weekend 😉

Ingredients:

  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 5 cm piece of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons plain natural yogurt or coconut yogurt if dairy free
  • 750g diced lamb
  • 2 medium white onions
  • 2 peppers (red/orange/yellow best for colour)
  • 4 birdseye chillies, deseeded
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2-3 red onions
  • 1 additional pepper (green works well)
  • seeds from 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves / 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder (optional)
  • 3-4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 x 400 g tin of plum tomatoes

Method:

  1. Grate the ginger (peel it first if it’s not organic) and crush the garlic, place in a large bowl with the turmeric, peppercorns and yogurt, and mix together with the lamb until it’s all coated. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour hour, preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan)
  3. Peel and roughly chop the white onions, deseed and roughly chop the peppers and birdseye chillies and blitz in a food processor.
  4. Chop the red onions and green pepper, then gently heat the coconut oil in a large casserole dish (that has a lid) that can be transferred to the oven and fry them gently for 4-5 minutes, until they are nicely softened.
  5. Meanwhile, pop the cardamom seeds, cloves, cumin seeds and coriander seeds into a small food processor or coffee grinder, and grind to a powder. Add this powder, along with the cinnamon, paprika and chilli powder to the pan and stir to coat the softened onions and pepper.
  6. Add the blitzed veg from the processor to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the tomatoes, the marinated lamb and approx 250 mls water, and bring to the boil.
  7. Once boiling, cover with the lid and place in the oven for at least 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add a little more water if the sauce is thickening too much.
Dinners, Kids meals, Recipes

“Green Cheese” Soup

My kids call this broccoli and stilton “green cheese” soup, it’s their favourite and they have absolutely no idea where the green colouring comes from! For the last batch I used about 400g broccoli, then made up the rest of the weight in Brussel sprouts and spinach, but vary the mix to what you have in abundance. 

Ingredients:

  • Knob of coconut oil or butter
  • 1 onion or leek, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crsuhed or finely chopped
  • 600g chopped broccoli or other cruciferous veg
  • 1 l stock (veg or chicken)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 160g stilton cheese, roughly chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to season

 Method:

  1. Heat the oil then fry the onion/leek and garlic for 2-3 minutes on a low heat so that they don’t burn (they should just go soft and translucent)
  2. Add the chopped veg, stock, bay leaves, cheese and salt and pepper, bring the boil, cover and simmer for approx. 20-30m minutes until the broccoli is cooked through and tender. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove the bay leaves, then blitz to a smooth consistency in a food processor (in batches) or with a stick blender (careful, it is hot!), and serve with some crusty bread.
Dinners, Kids meals, Recipes, Savoury

“Hidden veg” tomato sauce

Not just a sauce for Halloween, but I thought this picture might be inspiring today! I’ve topped some mini pizza bases with the sauce, some grated cheese and “spiders” made from olives (but trust me, it tastes just as good without the additional work of painstakingly slicing and arranging olives ha ha!)

This recipe makes a batch that can be frozen in glass jars and used for pasta dishes, pizza sauce, or as a sauce on other dishes… It’s a great way to get a variety of veg into fussy eaters (you can substitute with other veg too), and is such a versatile batch cook to keep in the freezer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ butternut squash, finely diced (or use some pre-cooked leftovers if you have them)
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 400ml jar passata
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 2 tsp mixed Italian herbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for frying

Method:

  1. Gently fry the onions on a medium-high heat in a little rice bran oil for 5-10 minutes until softened but not burned.
  2. Add the garlic, celery, butternut squash and red pepper and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring gently.
  3. Add the tomatoes, passata and herbs and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes until everything’s nicely cooked and soft.
  4. Leave to cool slightly, then blitz in a food processor and use immediately on pasta, or allow to cool and freeze in glass jars.
Dinners, Kids meals, Recipes

Chicken Korma

Friday night take-aways are a bit of a tradition, aren’t they? From “Fish and chip Friday” to that end of the week feeling of not wanting to cook, just kick back and relax. The problem is that take-away food is often high in added sugar, high in bad fats (think deep fat fried in sunflower oil!), high in refined carbohydrates and low in vegetables. For me, it’s like the perfect storm for feeling rubbish on waking up Saturday morning, even though I completely support taking a break from cooking and spending some time chilling out and relaxing.

So in our household, it’s usually a Friday night “fake-away”, that’s a classic take-away style food, but homemade so just as nutritious as it is delicious. And today I want to share with you a winner of a curry that satisfies the whole family. It’s not super quick to make, but you can either slow cook it over the course of that afternoon and simply dish it out, or make it in advance and freeze portions to reheat quickly. It’s also free from gluten, dairy and of course, refined sugar, and can be made nut-free for those with nut allergies too.

Here I’ve served with some brown rice and a cheeky poppadum (because my kids think everything tastes better on a poppadum!) Peas are also a great accompanying flavour, so mutter paneer cheesy peas or simply some plain peas on the side for the kids.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp approx. grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 tsp grated fresh turmeric
  • 2 tbsp korma powder
  • 600g chicken – breast and thigh meat are both good, just as long as there are no bones, diced into large chunks
  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced into large chunks
  • 2 red peppers, diced (optional – this makes it less traditional but tastes great and adds another veg to the mix!)
  • 300-500 mls chicken stock
  • 400 ml tin of coconut milk
  • 50 ground almonds (optional, use a little corn flour to thicken if needs be if you’re nut free)
  • Small handful chopped fresh coriander to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C (fan). Heat the coconut oil in a large casserole pan, and fry the onion for 1-2 minutes on a low heat without burning it. Then add the garlic, grated ginger, turmeric and korma powder, and cook for a further 1-2 minutes to release all the flavours, stirring well so that it doesn’t stick.
  2. Increase the heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring and turning the chicken pieces until they are all white and the meat is sealed.
  3. Add the sweet potato chunks and red peppers if using, chicken stock and coconut milk, cover and bring to the boil.
  4. Transfer to the oven and allow to cook slowly for at least 1 hour, checking and stirring occasionally to ensure there is sufficient liquid (top up with stock or water if the sauce is getting too thick. I often leave for two hours to make sure it’s extra tender and melt in the mouth, but it will need more liquid for this.
  5. Remove from the over when the sauce is fairly thick and the chicken is well cooked and falling apart. Stir in the ground almonds if using, or thicken with a little corn flour if not, and serve.