COLD OUTSIDE = WARM YUMMY (AND HEALTHY) COMFORT FOOD

Dumyat

It’s that time of year when I want to roast and bake everything – it’s getting colder, so there is an urge to eat more comfort foods, warming foods and things that come steaming out of the oven! A morning muffin and coffee has become mandatory and cold salads with fresh leaves are out and warm salads with nutritious grains and pulses are in.

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We got stuck in a bit of a rut, using either quinoa or brown rice as our ‘go-to’ for some starch in a warm salad, but I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone recently and trying all the new kids on the block and loving the results.

We gave up pasta years ago, mainly due to the fact that the store bought stuff was like plastic and we were consuming far too much gluten as we were relying on it too often for quick filling meals and definitely eating more of the pasta, less of the sauce and no salad – not very Italian!.  After eating it, we also felt like we had a brick sitting in our stomach – not a great feeling.  We love pasta, but unless it’s homemade in Italy and eaten at a local ‘Trattoria’, we don’t bother, so we’ve had to compromise and find ways to replace the pasta and bulk up our meals and still feel satiated.

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Once we’d ditched the pasta, it really opened up a whole new world of products to us, specifically those that were ‘gluten free’, such as millet, quinoa, wild rice, black rice, and buckwheat (there is no wheat in buckwheat). It’s not that we are gluten intolerant, but we know that nutritionally, we feel better without it, have more energy, less bloating and for me, less puffiness and sinus headaches. I have also been baking all summer for a local cafe, making my version of gluten free, sugar free banana bread and gluten free pumpkin bread and both are selling really well, so I think people are wanting to try new things and have healthy but tasty options available to them. 

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We’ve also started trying more nutritious grains, such as spelt, bulgar wheat and barley, and yes these contain wheat, but are a far more nutritious carbohydrate than pasta and rice and upon investigation these ‘new seeds and grains’ provide a lot of essential vitamins and minerals, most of which are often lacking in our Western diet. I really should not call them ‘new’ because in fact they’ve been around for thousands of years and the above mentioned grains and the below mentioned pulses, are jam packed with a mixture of most of these: manganese, copper, magnesium, dietary fibre, phosphorus, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins.  They are also very low in fat, incredibly cheap and hugely filling!

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A huge portion of the world’s population lives on these nutritious grains and pulses and have done for centuries, including some of the healthiest and longest living people on earth, which just adds to their credibility as a ‘super-food’. I do hate that term, ‘super-food’, but if you were going to put super in front of something, they deserve it. 

What’s the difference between a pulse and a legume? Not much really, they all belong to the same family. Pulses and legumes include beans, peas and lentils and the dried seeds are often referred to as pulses. Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, white beans are all legumes and very high in protein, about 22% of the content is protein, so it’s an excellent replacement for meat, especially if you combine it with rice, because then you gain all the essential amino acids that humans require.

You do have to be a bit creative with all of these grains and pulses, adding spices, oils or zest to give them a bit of a taste boost, but that’s the case with most starch, carbs and proteins. Below are some of our favourite recipes for this time of year, autumn, as they are so delicious, warm, gooey, satisfying and ‘super healthy’! 

Veggie lasagne

JULES GLUTEN FREE VEGGIE LASAGNE

I’ve made this for meat eating friends twice this year with great feedback – they loved it!

1 Big bag/bunch of green leaves (chard etc. will do or British greens which I buy from Aldi)

1 Butternut squash (remove skin with a veggie peeler, chop into thin slices – remove all the pips in the middle; you can use any pumpkin or squash)

3 x Red pepper – they are the most nutritious (sliced, seeds and ends removed)

5 x carrots – peeled and sliced into long strips

3 x courgettes – sliced with a veggie peeler or knife

1 x aubergine – chopped

3 x garlic gloves, chopped or crushed

½ red chilli chopped with seeds removed (optional)

1 Tbsp of Italian spices

1 tsp of sea salt and 1 tsp of pepper

6 x vine ripened tomatoes – sliced thinly

White sauce

200ml of Hemp milk (fantastic stuff, less acidic, nutritious – free of pesticides and made from seeds) or use full fat organic milk, soy, oat or almond milk.

3 x Tablespoons of buckwheat flour, millet flour, brown rice flour (all gluten free)

3 x Tablespoons of organic butter or coconut oil

3 x Tablespoons of grated parmesan (you can also use 3 Tbsp of creamy goats cheese or soy cheese for vegan).

The above measurements can be tweaked depending on how much white sauce you like and how it works in the pan, add more flour to make a roux, add more milk to make it thinner.

To make the sauce:

Melt the oil or butter in a pan, then add the flour and mix until it becomes a paste. Take the pan off the heat and add some of the milk and start whisking to loosen up the paste and form a sauce. As soon as it thickens, add some more milk and continue until you have a smooth sauce. A hand blender works wonders here too!

For lasagne:

Heat oven to 180 to 200C. Roast all the veggies in the oven on trays, except the courgette and aubergine, lined with baking paper. Drizzle olive oil all over and then add the Italian herbs, chopped garlic and chilli. If you like, use your hands and coat all the veggies in the oil, garlic, spice and chilli mix. Bake at 180c for 25 mins – add courgette and aubergine for another 20 mins. Check to make sure nothing is sticking and burning.

For the layers (pasta sheets): tear the big leaves of the greens away from the stalks and wash. These will form the layers between the veggies and the sauce.

Once the veggies are soft, let them cool for 10 minutes and then place a layer of roasted veggies on the bottom of the dish, add enough green leaves to cover, pour over some white sauce and add a layer of sliced tomatoes. Repeat this twice or three times depending on the size of your dish. Make sure you leave some white sauce for the top.

Pop some sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a food processor for a few seconds just so that they are chopped, not turned into flour. Sprinkle these on top of the lasagne. This is optional. Also add extra grated cheese.

Place in the oven at 150c for 30 minutes or so.

Blueberry and courgette muffin

BLUEBERRY AND COURGETTE MUFFINS GLUTEN FREE MUFFINS

I’ve played around with gluten free flours for a while now to find the right consistency for a muffin, that’s the problem with using all these nutritious flours, they are lovely, but, if for example, you use only 1 type, such as buckwheat, then the texture can be a bit too ‘funky’ for some people. I’ve eaten a few which you have to peel off the roof of your mouth! So the trick according to a lot of folk on the internet who do this regularly, is to mix your flours and experiment. So I did, and this is what I think works for the most beautiful morning muffin!

100 grams of almond flour or just grind up a bag of almonds

130 grams of brown rice flour

130 grams of millet flour

1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp of baking powder (gluten free)

¼ tsp of Himalayan salt

2 eggs

250ml of Hemp milk (rice, coconut, oat or soy milk will do)

80ml coconut oil melted

50 to 100ml (depends on your sweet tooth) of raw honey or the best honey you can afford (try to avoid the squeezie bottle ones)

1tsp of vanilla extract

1 courgette grated

120grams of blueberries

1 ripe banana mashed (omit if you don’t like bananas)

If I don’t have a courgette, then I add another half of a banana. The courgette keeps it nice and moist. You can purchase all these flours in handy 120gram containers in the ‘free from’ sections in the food aisles of most supermarkets (but currently not Aldi or Lidl). You can buy Hemp milk at Waitrose.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Mix all the flours, bicarb, baking powder and salt together.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and add the milk and then whisk in the oil, honey, vanilla and mix together until combined. Add the courgette and blueberries.

Pour the wet ingredients into the mixed dry flours and mix until combined.

Put muffin cases into a tin and spoon in the mixture to almost full.  Bake for 20 minutes or until springy and firm. Leave to cool before eating. They should make 12. You can freeze them or keep in the fridge for a week.

Our current food fave: ROASTED BROCOLLI and CAULIFLOWER – WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT! we will never boil again! 

Roast chopped broccoli with olive oil, chopped garlic, sea salt and chilli flakes at 180C for 20 or so minutes or until slightly black on the ends and crunchy. Better than hot chips, well almost! Great as a pre-dinner snack too!

Roast cauliflower in oven at 180C. I smother the cauliflower with coconut oil and preferred spices: cumin, chilli and salt and wrap in baking paper. Bake until soft and then process in a food processor for a gluten free rice or mash with a bit of butter or cream cheese for mash. 

Roasted cauliflower

Happy autumn or spring, depending on where you are in the world!