Thursday, 25 July 2013

Warm lentil salad

Yes, lentils. Those tiny little pearls of goodness that come in so many colours. Sunday I talked about red lentils, today I'm talking about green lentils and maybe next week I'll talk about black lentils…
They are just so good for us, I can't stop telling people! And this salad is one of my favourite (and most versatile) ways of eating them.

So you already know that these bad boys are great for preventing blood sugar levels to rise rapidly after eating food. But did you know that they not only are a source for 6 important minerals, two types of Vitamin B but also protein?! Isn't that great? All for 230 calories a cup. They are also one of those things you can cook in big batches and keep for a couple of days. And cooking couldn't be easier. Put lentils in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Adding a bouquet garnis will add flavour as will adding spices to the water.

The sweet potato. Oh, how I adore you. Since starting my insulin resistant way of eating I have had to take out all carbs, starches and a whole bunch of other deliciously bad things from my diet. One of those ticked-off-my-list-things is the potato. How I miss mash…chips…crisps! However, the sweet potato is a completely different matter. These little orange potatoes can actually regulate our blood sugar! Research has shown that extracts of it can 'significantly increase blood levels of Adiponectin'. This, is a protein hormone produced by our fat cells that is an important modifier of insulin metabolism! Yes, you can eat this potato on your insulin resistance diet…happy days.

In this dish I use both red onion and spring onions. For two reasons; they both have very different tastes but work together beautifully and, spring onions are in season. Even though I talked about onions here, there is always so much to say and maybe one day I will have to treat you with a whole post just about the blessed onion! For now though, let's just say you should be eating onions every day.

In my local farmers market I can buy fresh garlic and I have to hang it up to dry for a couple of weeks before really getting the full flavour of it. I love the colours and smells of garlic. It's another great one for regulating blood sugar levels as well as strengthening the immune system. Ever notice the sticky feeling on your fingers after working with garlic? That's the sulphur containing compounds being released.

At this time of year when the weather is hot, ok, supposed to be hot. There is no better 'cooler' than mint. No-one can quite decide how many species of mint there are but, it's anywhere from 13-18. This green crawling sprawling plant has a number of properties that range from helping with depression to aiding digestion. I use it when I've eaten too much (happens quite often you'll be surprised to know). Add a few fresh leaves to boiled water and drink. Yum. In this dish it works wonderfully to counterbalance the sweet caramelised red onion and what can be the heady deep flavour of sweet potato to make this perfect and light for summer.

1 med-large sweet potato
6 spring onions
1 large red onion
2 whole garlic bulbs
300g green lentils
big bunch of parsley and mint
aged feta cheese

On a parchment lined baking tray place the spring onions, quartered red onion (held together by the root end!), half an inch thick sliced sweet potato and halved garlic bulbs. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put into a preheated 200C oven and leave till cook with an occasional turn. Usually 20mins.
In the meantime, cook the lentils in water and drain. Finely chop the parsley and mint and put into bowl. Mix with the lentils and a drizzle of olive oil. Mound the veggies in the centre of the lentils, crumble feta around and squeeze the lemon all over. Eat warm or cold!
- You can of course make this vegan by leaving out the feta and also making it for meat eaters. Add strips of cooked chicken breast or steak to the mix. Switch it up by sprinkling the veggies with some cayenne/paprika or adding some cumin seeds.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

It's a Dahl of a Sunday

The weather has closed. Summer has gone. Everybody will be white rather than red soon and I want colour, smells and flavour. Dahl is that dish. That dish that can bring back the feel of summer. It's full of goodness, totally vegetarian and vegan and one of those great dishes that you can make a bunch of and freeze. Technically, Dahl is not a dish, it's actually the name Indians use for lentils. Meaning that anything with lentils in is Dahl.  There are so many different types of Dahl and every family will have their very own recipe…this is mine.

It starts like most of my cooking with onion, garlic, ginger, cumin and coriander. Take a minute and picture the smell that is coming off these 5 ingredients once you add a little heat. Just take a minute.

Let's talk about the eye watering onion. Ok, we all know that there are a huge amount of types of onions; red, white, spring, chive, small, large etc etc. But to think that the onion family has 325 members and is one of the oldest vegetables known to man is pretty full on. There are so many legends and old wives tales about this veggie; to strap it to the soles of your feet during a cold will suck it out. Peel it under water to avoid crying (never works for me!). Fell over? Strap some slices over the bruise and overnight it will have gone….have you tried any?

This veggie has so many healing abilities that if you don't include it in your diet you really should. It's known for it's antibiotical, disinfectant, diuretic properties as well as helping with asthma, dissolving blood clots, regulating blood, infection fighting, the list goes on and on. Basically, EAT IT!

Another oldie but goodie. Ginger….that nobly dry-on-the-outside root that is so tasty! The older it is the more fibrous but, you can still use it. Make a lemon and ginger tea or rhubarb and ginger jam. Don't throw it out. A great overall promoter of circulation in the body, ginger has again, been around for years and years. Those oldies knew what they were doing back in the day! Used instead of garlic and onions to spiritually and physically cleanse, Ancient Indians preferred ginger as it produced a sweet smell that didn't offend their Gods.

I've talked about cumin here so let's have a little chat about coriander today. One thing I found when I was researching is that the oil can be used to lower glucose levels and regulate insulin. Great for us Insulin Resitant peeps or those with PCOS. It's been used as a digestive aid for years and has been found in Bronze Age ruins.

Tomatoes! I love tomatoes that grow in summer. You cannot get any sweeter, tastier little mouthfuls than fresh off the vine. And, as Rory O'Connell would say 'eating tomatoes out of season is too horrific to think about'. Ok, I'm paraphrasing but you get the gist. Don't eat veggies out of their season! Tomatoes are over 93% water and when eaten raw are super effective at reducing liver inflammation..munch away while it's the season peeps especially with all those Pimms doing the rounds.

The other vital ingredient is the lentil. I love the red variety in this dish as it gives it that bright sun shinning glow. All varieties are good for you. Scrap that. Great for you. Really really great. Especially for those of us with Insulin Resistance and blood sugar level problems. Their high fiber content helps to slow down the rise of blood sugar levels after eating. They are also a massive source of for those with hormone troubles, something to research and, yes, there's more. They are great for lowering cholesterol.


1 large red/white onion 
3+ cloves of garlic (depending on your taste. I use 5)
1-3 chillies depending on heat
2 inches peeled and grated ginger
1tsp tumeric
1tsp whole cumin seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp curry powder 
1tsp garam masala (optional)
4/5 big tomatoes/10-12 small tomatoes
250g of cooked red lentils

Slice the onion, garlic cloves and chilli finely. Add to some hot olive oil/ghee and cook till soft. Add the spices and cook some more. Slice the tomatoes and add to the pan. Stir and add some water to help cook the tomatoes. Put on a low simmer. Meanwhile cover red lentils in water and put on to cook. Once the tomatoes have broken down and the lentils are cooked add together. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with some mint yoghurt.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A weekend away

And what a weekend it was. With temperatures of over 25C there were plenty of red bodies wandering half nakedly around. And I managed to find myself in County Wexford. Famous for the little red beauties that are strawberries.

There we were, windows down, bombing from beach to pub back to beach again. A quick stop at the worlds oldest operating lighthouse was amazing and the views! Wow. Who knew Irish waters could be clear and turquoise. Turquoise enough to put my Mexican Caribbean to shame. Amazed I am. Totally amazed.

We visited the oldest operating lighthouse in the world, did an hours walk around it and then climbed up to the top. Notice my matching jumper…?!

We visited Loftus Hall, supposedly the most haunted house this end of the world. I didn't see a ghost but hey. The legend has it that a family was staying there at the owners request. The young daughter, Anne, was lonely and bored. So when a dark and handsome stranger came a knocking guess what?! So One night they are playing cards, Anne drops one (I'm pretty sure she was trying to flirt!) and sees to her horror a cloven hoof. Now I'm not exactly sure what this is and I'm kind of wandering why she or anyone for that matter, hadn't noticed before when they were walking around but hey. So she screams, passes out and he flies out the roof. Which has never been able to be repaired. She wakes up mad as a hatter and a couple of years later kills herself and now haunts the house. 

We made daisy chains and sat in the sun. Ate plenty of food and ice cream and oh, it was good to get away. Good to be in the sun and enjoying. Long live the summer I say.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Courgette Burgers

I love these little crispy pancake type burgers. They burst and pop with flavour in your mouth, are easy to make (although a bit of a process) and reheat/keep warm in the oven super duper well.

It is another recipe inspired by Yotom Otolenghi and I'm going to say that mine is easier, less time consuming and just as good as his (originally leek fritters).
Bold I know but I have to go in guns blazing.

My recipe is also great for gluten free diets. Through trial and error (aren't you glad I'm doing it for you) I've found that a cup of mixed buckwheat and quinoa flour works exactly the same as the quantity of flour Yotom uses in his. Yippeeee.

It's summer and the glut of courgettes was in. This uses up a good amount and you could use more just double the batter mixture and hey presto. Easy.

Courgettes or zucchinis depending on which side of the pond you come from are part of the summer squash family. Lower in sugar, carbs and Vit A than it's winter counterparts it is still a great alkaliser and supposed to help with inflammation according to the Chinese. Cooked per 100g it's only 16 calories..not bad my friends, not bad.

I love this spice. Can you guess what it is? I'm sure all you clever clots did and of course, why wouldn't you! Cumin. Fragrant and utterly reminiscent of India even though, it's native to Eastern Mediterranean. I always buy whole seeds and spices if I can. The flavours hold better for longer and will have more of an impact than powder. Who knew that such a tiny seed helps with the secretion of digestive juices, stimulate circulation and relieve pain and cramping. Wonder seed if I do say so myself.

I've already spoken about quinoa here so I'm going to focus on Buckwheat. Whilst reading up about this grain I was happily shocked to find that it is the best stabiliser of blood sugar out of all the grains. As someone who suffers with insulin resistance this is great! I have a little issue with the smell of cooked buckwheat but when I mixed it with quinoa flour I didn't even notice it. This grain is a power house of goodness containing all 8 essential amino acids. Lore says that buckwheat inhibits melanin and that's why you'll find that people living in warmer climes tend to eat more. I'm not sure about this but if you know more, tell me!

However, if you suffer from skin allergies or problems try not to eat to much as it prevents cells from cleansing themselves. It is however gluten free so great for celiacs and when roasted becomes  one of the few alkalinising grains.

4 courgettes washed, topped, tailed and grated
1 cup of quinoa and buckwheat flour combined
1 large egg
⅔  cup of milk (I use goats)
big bunch of parsley/coriander
2 small chillies
garlic cloves
2 tbsp cumin
olive oil 
salt and pepper

In a frying pan, grate the courgettes, add the cumin seeds and cook so they release their water. Strain them a little but don't get stressed out about this as you don't want to lose the cumin seeds. Leave to cool.
In a blender whizz the parsley/coriander, chillies and garlic cloves. Meanwhile mix the egg, flour and milk. Add the whizzed up mixture to the batter and stir. Once the courgette is cooled add to the batter. Make sure that it's well stirred. Season.

In a frying pan heat some oil. Make sure it's really hot before you add the mixture and start cooking. Once it is hot to trot, place spoonfuls of the mixture and spread out a little. Cook till golden then turn over and repeat.

I normally cook mine 3 hrs ahead. When the time comes I heat in 100C oven for about 15/20mins. Makes 30.

Serve with a refreshing yoghurt and cucumber dip or a fresh salad.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A little magic to make it summer

I promise that this will help, somewhat. I can't guarantee sun, heat waves, half naked bodies bronzing but, I can promise that the smell alone will, if only for a second or two, make you feel like summer.

It's one of the simplest things to do and if you make it in huge batches you have summer sweet goodness for the year.

I use it to make champagne cocktails, flavoured water, poaching fruit, ice pops and a whole mass of other things.

Yes that's right. I'm talking elderflower cordial. You've probably seen it, even smelt it and wondered what it was. In Ireland right now it is everywhere. I look out my window and I can see four separate trees full of this white summer scented blossom.

It's a five ingredient recipe and one that you make, leave it alone then bottle. You can all do this. It will take you ten minutes of your time to make and will be a great expedition for you, the family to go out and pick the elderflower blossom.

Give the blossoms a good wash before you get going as no-one likes a bug in their drink do they!
Elderflowers are, if eaten, poisonous so be careful won't you. And remember the foraging rules! Don't take all the blossoms of one tree, leave some for others. If the tree is in a private garden, ask before you pick.

I know that it looks a lot of sugar and to be honest, it is, but go with it. Sugar is a preservative too so it will keep everything nice and safe for months to come.

12 large (and I mean large) heads of blossom. If you are unsure go with more, NEVER less
2lbs of castor sugar
2 lemons washed and sliced
1oz tartaric acid
2-3litres of boiling water

Place all ingredients in a big bowl. I find layering works well with the lemons holding the blossoms under the water. Make sure all the sugar has dissolved and stir occasionally. Leave to soak for 24-48hrs covered and then bottle in sterilised containers. 

Happy summer.