Saturday, 24 August 2013

Miso infused bulgar stuffed Cabbage parcels

Yes, it's a mouthful. But oh what a mouthful of deliciousness. It was one of those electric lightbulb moments when I was walking down the hill thinking about cabbage. I know what's going through your head right now. And thinking back it's pretty strange that I was thinking about cabbage, nothing but cabbage for no particular reason. But. It turned out genius. Trust me.

Oh the cabbage. I love how the further inside you go the lighter it gets. Now of course there are different benefits with the different colours of cabbage so keep it varied. New research has shown that steaming cabbage is the best (good job my recipe uses that cooking method!) and the reason being is that, the fiber related components do a better job at binding with your stomach bile if steamed. Bit icky but trust those Harvard boys! It's also fantastic for cholesterol and Vit C, contains more than an orange to be truthful and for those of you who purchase numerous anti-ageing creams…you're actually just better off eating cabbage regularly.

Kale, kale, kale. Hopefully you've all had a go at making kale chips?!?! I'm looking at you in the back. I stole this little bundle off a friend down the road. Can you spot the two snails? So cute and so fresh. This gorgeous and delicious veggie is also great for lowering cholesterol especially when steamed….see a theme emerging?? Due to its unusual concentration of types of antioxidants (carotenoids and flavonoids) its a fantastic de-toxer for the body.

Now, let's talk bulgar wheat. I know it's not gluten free and if that's an issue for you I would swap it out for quinoa (just cook it in less miso). But I eat so much quinoa I thought that this would be a nice difference. It's part of the bunch called 'whole-grain foods' which are very good for you despite what your paleo friends tell you. This particular golden grain is a good source of protein, fiber, iron and Vit B6. For 100g you'll only get 33.8g of carbs. Not bad!


½ cup of bulgar wheat
¾ pints of miso soup ( I used a sachet of miso and hot water)
6 stems of tender stem broccoli finely sliced
6 leaves of kale (any will do) finely sliced
Cabbage leaves, either 4 large ones or 8-10 small ones

First put bulgar in the miso soup and bring to the boil, lower to a simmer and cook till soft but not mushy. Meanwhile slice your kale and broccoli stems. Wash your cabbage leaves (whichever you're using) and cut a triangle out of the thick white part. This will make it easier to fold and make a parcel plus, this is the bit that takes the longest to cook!
Once the bulgar is cooked, strain of any liquid, shouldn't be a lot and mix with the finely chopped broccoli and kale. Season well.  Put your pan of water on to boil and get your steaming gear ready. Then spoon either two spoonfuls into the big leaves and a small spoonful in the small ones. Wrap the cabbage leaves around the filling and tie or use a cocktail stick to keep it together.
Steam for about 5mins (could be longer depending on how big your leaves are) but you want them with a slight bite to them.

Tip: if you want to switch up your filling you could add toasted pine nuts, flaked almonds, some raisins..a little chilli or some sliced shitake mushrooms. Nom Nom.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Aubergine Rings of Goodness

'Oh yay' I hear you say when you read the title and it once again has aubergine in it. I just can't get enough of this veggie. I love it. It's so versatile and it just soaks up any great flavour you want to add to it. This particular recipe comes handed down to me in one of those treasured and battered recipe books. It's a favourite with everyone and gives a spicy sweet punch.

I've spoken about aubergines here and here so I'm not going to keep ranting about the benefits of eating it. Instead I'm focusing on Cayenne. This wonderfully punchy spice is made from the dried and ground pods although like most general store bought spices it's usually blended with a cheaper spice so it goes further. I would totally recommend you to find a great spice dealer and stick with them. You will notice a massive difference in quality. Cayenne from Sierra Leone in Africa is said to be the most pungent and medicinal, it's said to be the purest stimulant producing natural warmth and great for circulation. Also knows as a great remedy for colds, coughs but do be careful. This is one serious spice.

Lemon. Another native of Norther India, this fruit comes in many forms. Big, small, sweet and sour. It's so versatile that it is constantly in my house. Gin and tonics, desserts, a cleaner and for savoury dishes, it's an all rounder!
Used as a disinfectant for sore throats as well as cuts and abrasions this has some serious natural healing qualities. In the third century AD the Romans believed that they were an antidote for all poisons. Along with other citruses they act as a solvents in the body which stimulate the liver and gallbladder which mobilise any inactive acids or toxic settlements.


2 or 3 medium size aubergine
pinch of cayenne
juice of 1 ½ lemons
1 tbsp of honey/maple syrup
little slug of olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C. Cut aubergines into rings about 1 inch in width. Mix the cayenne, lemon juice, honey/maple syrup and olive oil in a little jug. Taste and see if you prefer it sweeter (the initial taste should be of sweetness followed by a kick of cayenne taken away by the acidity of the lemon). Lay the  rings in a tray as flat as you can. Brush both sides with the mix and pop into the oven for about 15-20mins. Turn over half way through. They should get a great caramelised look to them and be soft. 

This works great with rich meat like lamb or duck and don't forget that aubergine reduces in size considerably!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Coriander and chilli crusted fish

This week has been long and busy and it's only Wednesday. Oh gosh, help. My weekend was spent in the heart of the British countryside at one of my oldest friends wedding. What an amazing couple of days, happiness and love. That, was definitely the theme of the wedding!

So after a weekend of heavy eating (and drinking) it's only right to have something simple and clean to eat. This recipe takes such little time to prep and you can easily mix it up (see the end of recipe). It can be dressed up to look fancy for supper guests or if you're by yourself it will feel like something special.

I use any type of white fish I feel like. This particular one is sea bass  but, like I said. I use it on everything from sole to cod. I'm mainly trying to keep my recipes vegetarian (easily turned to vegan) and gluten free but sometimes a recipe comes into my brain that is too yummy. This is one of them.

I use coriander (fresh or dried) a lot, but I just love the stuff. Love it, love it, love it! Fresh is great but make sure you give it a good smell before you buy, don't worry about looking like a weirdo in the shop, as the more fragrant usually means it has a good flavour. If you can find it with it's roots still attached, even better. Used as a digestive aid for thousands of years, it's been found in Egyptian tombs and is most commonly thought of as indigenous to Mediterranean parts of Asia and Africa. It's a natural diuretic and helps purify the blood and strengthen the heart.

Parsley. Such a simple and over looked herb. Did you know that there are over 37 different varieties? I only knew about three or four until researching! This is one of those great purifying and protective herbs which is fantastic for digestive problems. In it's raw form it cleanses the blood, facilitates the dispersing of small-medium kidney stones and can treat deafness and ear infections. Pretty neat huh?! It also has a  high chlorophyll content which means it's good for that bad breath you may or may not get.

3 medium fillets of fish
large handful of coriander, stalks and all
large handful of parsley, stalks and all
2 red chillies (use less if you're not sure about heat)
3 garlic cloves
good glug of olive oil
salt and pepper
options: good piece of fresh ginger, lemon grass, harissa, 

Clean fillets and lay them on baking parchment on a tray. Get the oven on at 200C. In a food processor blitz all ingredients (minus the fish) till a chunky sauce consistency. Split between three pieces. If using less fish then make the same quantity of sauce, blitz the remaining till smooth and you have a tasty and different pesto. Or if you have more fish but can't make more sauce, add more olive oil and spread it out.
Put into the hot oven till fish is cooked (more or less 15mins).

Serve with a refreshing salad.

Friday, 9 August 2013

A side dish

It's been one busy week here in Dublin at Cookbook HQ but it's over. Well, book 1 at least. Yesterday was a 12 hour day and although bloody tiring it definitely cemented that this is what I want to do. If I can do it for 12 hours and not be totally grumpy (maybe I was a little coming down from a sugar high, apologies #dreamteam) then this is right.

Although I loved doing this book, I think I will be heading back, or at least trying, to go the no sugar route. Just the inhaled sugar fumes over the last two weeks, let alone the consumed sugar have put my weight sky rocketing! We celebrated the end by having a Wendy House Party. No cakes though. Just savoury stuff.

And while I have been so busy this week that recipe making has not been on my mind, what I do have for you this week is such a simple yet wonderfully tasty side dish. I love to eat this by itself and often have it as a weekend afternoon snack it's so good. The key is to not overcook the broccoli and lemon zest.

I love sprouting broccoli and when homegrown, nothing beats it. When eaten raw this green goodness contains as much calcium as a glass of whole milk. One of the reasons that you never ever want to over cook it is because the more you cook it the less green it is and the less green it is the less chlorophyll will be left to counteract the sulphur compounds which form gas. So, not just because it turns mushy! The brassica family, to which the broccoli belongs, is well known for it's anticancer and antioxidant properties. They are also pretty good at livening up the liver out of a deep sleep.


however much sprouting broccoli for the people you're feeding ( I go with roughly 5-6 stalks pp)
lemon zest freshly grated
parmesan cheese freshly grated
salt and pepper
good quality olive oil

Cut off any ugly looking ends (the ends without the flowers on) of the broccoli and put a pan of water on to boil. Once boiling a good roll, throw broccoli in with a pinch of salt. Cook for maybe 5 minutes depending on size of broccoli. If unsure, stick a knife in the stem. If can't get knife through  leave a little longer. If there is a slight effort to get knife in take out. If knife goes straight through with no effort, remove very quickly. Drain, arrange on plate. Grate lemon zest, parmesan and sprinkle with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper with a drizzle of olive oil. Eat immediately!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Melanzane alla parmigiana

I've been in Dublin a week. One week exactly, and this dish symbolises a little 'happy anniversary' for me. It's hearty and decadent with none of the sinful staying-on-the-hips ingredients. If you're a vegan simply swap the parmesan for some nutritional yeast and Bob's you're Uncle!

I've talked about aubergines here but they're in season and so good that I just can't resist another recipe!  This is a classic, and I mean a classic recipe but, every family does it differently. I suppose it's like the Italian version of dahl…every family makes it and has their own special recipe...I leave the skins on because I love how it holds the shape but some people peel it off. The skin though, is actually where the phyto nutrients (improve circulation and nourish the brain) are concentrated so you may want to follow my example. I also add finely sliced chilli to the dish rather than flakes to my tomato sauce.

The aubergine is over 90% water which is why when cooked it reduces in size quite a lot. It's also great at soaking up oils and flavours you want to put with it. This is one of the veggies that is a great substitute for meat and in traditional Middle Eastern dishes this is exactly what it's used for. Aubergine is also great for diabetes and the prevention of. So get eating!

Garlic. Who doesn't love this pungent, sticky finger making clump of bulbs. For this recipe I add crushed clumps rather than chop them up. However in the tomato sauce I finely chop the garlic so it breaks down. The tomato sauce for this recipe is so easy. Finely chop an onion, add 4 sliced cloves of garlic and about 4/5 tomatoes depending on size. Fry off the onion and garlic, season and add the cut tomatoes. Pour a little water in and cook on a simmer till broken down. This will keep, freeze and be used as soup!

Just the smell of basil transports me to a place where there is sun and heat. Yum. A lot of people are unaware, but basil is actually native to India. It's a great natural insect repellent due to its super strong smell and there are numerous varieties! Also a great stimulant in the stomach, affecting appetite, digestion, nerves and it's said that it can counteract flatulence. Sir Thomas Moore wrote 'A man taking basil from a woman will love her always'. Maybe that is why it has become so associated with the romantic country Italy?


3 medium aubergines, washed and sliced into 1 inch rings
5 cloves of garlic
handul of basil leaves
1 red chilli, sliced
tomato sauce (homemade or a bottled passata will do)
salt and pepper

Coat the base of the pie dish with a paddle full of tomato sauce. On this place a single layer of aubergine rings. Season with salt and pepper, dot with crushed garlic cloves, basil leaves and chilli slices. Grate parmesan over. Repeat process: tomato sauce, aubergines, season, garlic, basil, chilli and parmesan till all used up. Bake in oven 200C for 20-25minutes or until aubergine slices are soft and the tomato sauce is bubbling away.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

This week has felt like the start of something extraordinary in my life. I've found myself back in Dublin working with some amazingly fantastic food industry peeps. First there were the Irish Quality Food Awards which was almost a week of judging foods in categories from meat to ready meals to baking, whittled down to one overall winner, The Golden Q, and winners in each category. I was lucky enough to judge for 2 days amongst a whole mix of food industry insiders from chefs, restaurant owners, food buyers and magazine editors. A real treat for me, I still can't quite believe it.

To top that off I'm now working with the lovely and talented Sharon Hearne-Smith on her first cookbook (which she SO deserves!) and Donal Skehan is photographing….August is a pretty sweet month! And the work which is cleverly disguised as fun, just keeps on rolling…seems like Ireland wants me to stick around and that is exactly what I'm going to do.

I managed a sneak visit to a Community Garden in Dublin at the beginning of the week and it was so great to see them maximising a tiny space giving underprivileged children and adults a chance to work with the earth and grow their own produce. See here and here for more on community gardens and I urge you to go and check your local one out!

And if that wasn't great enough, I find myself staying in a house full of foodies and 7 puppies…I am living the dream.