Thursday, 29 October 2009

Provencal bean stew (4 colours)

Dried pinto beans (soaked overnight in water to cover) - 350g
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Onions - 2, sliced
Garlic cloves - 2, finely chopped
Red pepper - 1, deseeded and sliced
Yellow pepper - 1, deseeded and sliced
Chopped tomatoes - 2 400g tins
Tomato puree - 2 tbsp
Fresh basil - 1 tbsp, torn
Fresh thyme - 2 tsp, chopped
Fresh rosemary - 2 tsp, chopped
Bay leaf

1) Drain the beans. Place in a large saucepan, add enough cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 and a half hours. Drain, reserving 300 ml of the liquid. (I found that I had to add more water to the pan about 45 minutes in to stop the beans drying out).
2) Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and peppers and cook for 10 minutes.
3) Add the tomatoes and their can juices, the tomato puree, the reserved liquid, herbs, bay leaf and beans. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. At this point you can add some black olives if you like and cook for another 5 minutes. (Serves 4).

Monday, 19 October 2009


I ate my first ever figs last week. According to Ian they weren't anywhere near as tasty as the ones he had in Africa (fresh from the tree), but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Nut roast (3 colours)

We made this without the cheese and it still tasted very good.

Mixed nuts (e.g., walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews) - 250g
Shallots - 100g
Chopped tomatoes - 400g tin
Egg - 1, beaten
Cheddar cheese - 100g, grated
Dried thyme - 0.5 tsp
Dried sage - 0.5 tsp
Dried mint - 0.5 tsp
Parsley - 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Marmite or other yeast extract - 1 tsp blended with 1 tsp boiling water
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Black pepper
Butter / margarine for greasing tin

1) Dry fry the nuts, stirring gently, until golden fragrant, taking care not to burn. Remove to a bowl and leave to cool.
2) Blend in a food processor until thoroughly ground.
3) In a large bowl, combine the ground nuts with all remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
4) Preheat the oven to 180° / gas mark 4. Grease the loaf tin with butter/margarine.
5) Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until firm and golden. Cool slightly, then turn out.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Thai Fried Bananas (0 colours)

Butter (or margarine) - 1 tbsp
Bananas - 2 large, slightly under-ripe
Dessicated coconut - 1 tbsp
Soft light brown sugar - 2 tbsp
Lime juice - 2 tbsp

1) Dry-fry the coconut in a frying pan until lightly browned, and reserve.
2) Heat the butter in the frying pan and fry the bananas for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until they are lightly golden in colour.
3) Sprinkle the sugar onto the bananas, add the lime juice and cook for another 3 minutes.
4) Arrange the bananas on a plate and sprinkle the coconut over the top. (Serves 2)

Friday, 16 October 2009

The 7 colours of health

I bought a book entitled "What color is your diet?" several months ago and though I've yet to read it from cover to cover have dipped into it countless times and read and reread a few of the key sections. The book, written by the director of the UCLA center for human nutrition, contains lots of useful information on the properties of foods and how they impact the body. It explains the major differences in diets across the world and how these influence the incidence of cancer, heart disease and other health problems.

The book suggests that to stay healthy and reduce the risk of cancer etc we should eat not 5, but at least 7 portions of fruit and veg each day. It presents 7 colour categories and provides a list of fruit and veg that fall into each category. Each colour is important for a different reason and the book recommends that we eat at least one item of each colour every day.

At present I do not eat the 7 colours or even 7 portions of fruit and veg each day, but I do consider this to be my goal. Even ignoring the possible health benefits it will make for a varied and interesting diet and encourage me to grow some more unusual fruit and vegetables in the garden and on our land when we get some.

I shall blog the 7 colours, why each is good for you and a list of foods of each colour over the next couple of weeks. I shall also state in brackets how many colours each recipe I post contains.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Imam bayildi (3 colours)

Imam bayildi (also known as Imam bayouldi) is a lovely vegetarian Turkish dish. It is both sweet and healthy, which pleases Ian as he has a very sweet tooth.

Aubergine - 2
Olive oil - 6 tbsp
Garlic - 3 cloves
Onions - 2, chopped
Canned chopped tomatoes - 2 400g cans
Red peppers - 2, deseeded and chopped
Celery stick - 1, sliced
Raisins - 1 tbsp
Sultanas - 1 tbsp
Flat-leaf parsley - 1 tbsp

1) Cut each aubergine in half lengthways. Scoop out the flesh, leaving 1 cm of flesh around the inside of each shell. Chop the flesh. If preferred, sprinkle the flesh and shells with salt and leave to stand for 30 minutes (we find most aubergines these days don't need this).
2) Heat half the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened.
3) If the aubergine was salted, rinse and drain well. Add the flesh to the saucepan with the tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add the red peppers, celery, raisins, sultanas and chopped parsley to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
4) Preheat the oven to 180°C / Gas Mark 4. Put the aubergine shells in an ovenproof dish. Spoon the tomato mixture into the shells. Drizzle with the remaining oil. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Serve hot or cold with rice or quinoa. (Serves 4)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Butternut squash and roasted garlic soup (2 colours)

I bought a book on soups from Otter Nurseries last year and on the whole have been disappointed. It's my own fault for not flicking through more before I bought it as I hadn't realised that most of the recipes were for meat or fish soups, neither of which I find particularly appealing.

However, there are a couple of wonderful vegetable/fruit soups. The tomato and chilli soup is divine and I shall blog the recipe another time. Yesterday I made the butternut squash and roasted garlic soup... very easy to make and I was very pleased to find that you don't have to peel the squash before you cook it. I find butternut squash quite annoying to peel, but scooping out the flesh once it has been cooked is easy. The only disadvantage was my fingers getting very messy when squeezing the roasted garlic out of the cloves into the soup, but it was definitely worth the mess.

Butternut squash - 1 large halved and seeded
Onion - 2 chopped
Garlic - 2 whole bulbs, outer skin removed
Olive oil - 3 tbsp
Ground coriander - 1 tsp
Vegetable stock - 2 pints
Salt and ground black pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 220°C / Gas 7. Place the garlic bulbs on a piece of foil and pour over 1 tbsp of olive oil. Fold the foil around the garlic bulbs. Place the foil on a baking tray with the butternut squash and brush the squash with 1 tbsp of olive oil.
2) Roast the squash and garlic for 25 minutes then reduce the temperature to 190°C / Gas 5 and cook for a further 20-25 minutes (until the squash is tender).
3) Heat the remaining oil in a large pan and cook the onions and ground coriander gently for about 10 minutes.
4) Squeeze the garlic out of its skin into the onions and scoop the squash out of its skin, adding it to the pan. Add the stock and seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
5) Cool slightly and then process in a blender or food processor.
6) Reheat the soup and season to taste.

A substitute for rice

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is often described as a grain, but is actually a seed related to the spinach family. Quinoa is a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids required by the body as building blocks for muscles. It has twice the protein of rice and is a good source of dietary fibre. Quinoa is easy to digest, contains no gluten and is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than wheat, barley, or corn.

Quinoa can be found in all the UK major supermarket chains that we've tried, although only Tesco seem to repackage it under their own brand name. When cooked it is light, fluffy and slightly crunchy.

Because of the health benefits and more interesting consistency and flavour quinoa has now pretty much replaced rice in our house.

Vegetable chilli with quinoa:

Another new blog

Until leaving my job at the University I've always considered myself too busy to play around with cooking and if asked I would say that I "couldn't cook properly" whatever that means.

I guess I've had a difficult relationship with food so far. As a child I was the awkward one who wouldn't eat anything. As an adult that changed a little, but I think it's only in the last three or four years that I've realised that I'm not awkward - I just don't really like eating and hate preparing meat. If meat couldn't be bought in non-animal shapes in tins or cardboard boxes in the freezer section of the supermarket I would have turned vegetarian years ago.

As it is I'm not currently vegetarian, but I eat meat probably at most once every couple of weeks. I don't know if I will become fully vegetarian and if I do what time scale that will be on - we will just have to wait and see. I'm creating this blog as a journey on the way to being healthier and more inventive with food, and in addition to posting recipes will be writing my thoughts on food in general, particularly 'new foods' that I've only just tried or starting cooking.