Borscht: the Beetroot Soup

I love this stuff! Probably because I know how good beetroot is for you. But this soup has other greatness in it too: onion, leek, carrot and cabbage. They’re all powerful anti-oxidant containing veggies. I particularly like veggies of the allium (onion & leek) and cruciferous families (cabbage) because they help to remove heavy metals from our bods (‘de-toxify’ us) but the old carrot’s beta-carotene (for vitamin A production) content makes it a valuable ingredient too.

Borscht is an Eastern European (think Poland, Russia) dish and traditionally includes meat; usually beef or veal but sometimes pork. I prefer to make mine meat-free, though. But when I say meat-free, I mean there’s no chunks of animal flesh in it. To clarify, I like to use a beef stock. But all you veggos out there rest easy… I have made it on a veggie stock base a few times and it’s still just as delicious.

Soups are pretty easy meals to make but when you have a Thermomix they’re even easier again. I’m providing the recipe for both methods, but the Thermomix will yield less because, unless you’re lucky enough to own the newest model (TM51) it simply doesn’t have the capacity to safely hold the same quantities as a large saucepan can.Food Fervour

So, Manual Cooks, you will need: 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped stalk celery, 1 chopped leek, 1 carrot, 2 beetroot, 250gm sliced cabbage, 1 tablespoon tomato paste (or 1 large tomato) & 5 cups beef (or vegetable) stock

Simply warm the EVOO in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion, celery & leek. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the carrot, beetroot, cabbage, tomato/paste and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for an hour. Carefully blend in batches

Thermomixers, you’ll need: 30gm EVOO, 1 small quartered onion, 1 roughly chopped stalk celery, ½ roughly chopped leek, 1 roughly chopped small carrot, 1 large  roughly chopped beetroot, 150gm sliced cabbage, 1 tablespoon tomato paste (or 1 large tomato), 3½-4 cups beef or vegetable stock

Placing the onion, celery and leek in the bowl, chop for 5 seconds on Speed 5 then add the EVOO and cook for 4 minutes on Varoma, Speed 1.5. Add the carrot, beetroot and cabbage and chop for a further 5 seconds at Speed 5. Add the remaining ingredients and set to cook for 22 minutes at 100ºC, Speed 1-1.5. Finally, set to 1 min 30 seconds and slowly accelerate to Speed 9.

Serve immediately and ENJOY!

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Food & Sun Sensitivity

Food FervourI’ve had a couple of skin cancer ‘experiences’ in the past couple of years: in late 2015 I had a BCC (basal cell carcinoma) cut out of the tender skin under my left eye and a pre-cancerous one removed from the outer corner of my right eye at the same time. (Yes, I did very much resemble a street-fighter… see right!) And earlier this year I was directed by my dermatologist to undergo a course of topical cream (Efudex) to kill off another spot on my left cheek. (You can’t miss that red dot in the pic below! That was about halfway through the treatment.)Food Fervour

It was only when I went for my check-up last week that I was given some information that I considered so important that it warranted this post. It’s not particularly new science, but I hadn’t heard of it before and it really surprised me because it involves particular (natural, everyday) wholefoods that I eat regularly.

Simply, some foods have been shown to increase your sensitivity to the sun. And I mean, when you eat these foods in daylight hours it’s an open invitation to skin damage. The dermo’s nurse literally said to me, “it’s like holding a magnifying glass against yourself and saying to the sun ‘Here I am! You’re welcome!'”

So what are they and what makes them so ‘dangerous’? Well, there are surprisingly quite a few, the most widely consumed being celery, carrots, figs and citrus fruit. And it’s because they contain psoralens.Food Fervour

Psoralens are a naturally occurring compound and “when activated by sunlight or another source of ultraviolet light (they) may have phototoxic, mutagenic and photo-carcinogenic effects”. Hence the nurse’s magnifying glass analogy. For a fuller explanation (and a great list of the foods that contain them) see this article I found on the website healwithfood.org (it’s the source for the above quote).

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat these foods, it just becomes a timing thing. My doctor said to simply avoid consuming them before 4pm. (I know right, that’s a bit specific!) The gist is, save them for dinnertime …or anytime after dusk. So if you eat grapefruit or usually enjoy an orange or veggie juice (including carrot & celery) as part of your morning/breakfast (or even lunch) routine it’d be best to change that habit. (Don’t be juicing anyway, ’cause you’re losing all that super-beneficial fibre!) Check out this article on Brown University’s website, for a study conducted specifically with citrus fruits.

Of course, changing your consumption habits for psoralen-containing foods in no way means you should disregard your normal sun protection practises. Think of it as an added safety measure.

 

 

Powerhouse Cauliflower Soup

This creation was the result of a respiratory infection. I’ve been working too much – around too many people – so my stressed immune system has given way to a lurgy.

A fellow workmate made me promise to get some ginger and turmeric into myself when I got home… trouble was, I wasn’t really hungry. So I did a quick Google search for “ginger turmeric vegetarian recipes” and when I struck upon a cauliflower soup recipe, the light bulb came on.

Food FervourGarlic, chilli, ginger and turmeric pretty much speak for themselves in terms of health benefits: everyone knows about them now, so it’s probably quite obvious why included them in this recipe. Coriander’s detoxifying role is lesser known by many, and the benefits cumin and fenugreek bestow on the respiratory system are pretty much a secret!

Since I was highly disinterested in expending a great deal of effort to cook, I turned straight to my Thermomix. They really are the best things to have in the kitchen when you lack time, energy and/or motivation. (This is not intended as a sales promotion, it’s my truth!) So please note: even though I’m providing a manual method for this recipe, you have to forgive me if it’s not what you expected because I’ve literally created this soup one time, and using my wonderful kitchen appliance.

Here’s what I threw in:

4 garlic cloves, pinch of fenugreek seeds, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk, 1 inch ginger root, 1 inch turmeric root, 20gm (1 tablespoon) coconut oil, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 small red chilli (deseeded & finely chopped) 600gm cauliflower, 750gm (3 cups) stock OR Thermies use water plus 1 tablespoon veggie stock paste, salt & black pepper (this is a must: the piperine in black pepper aids absorption of turmeric’s ‘star’ ingredient by up to 2000% – you need that!) 80mls coconut cream

Thermomix Method:

Pop the garlic, fenugreek, roughly chopped onion & celery, ginger and turmeric in the bowl and set to Speed 5-6 for up to 10 seconds. Scrape down then add the coconut oil, cooking for 3 minutes on Varoma, speed 1.

Add the coriander, cumin, chilli, cauliflower, water and stock paste, seasoning with the salt & (lots of!) pepper. Cook for 18 mins on Varoma, Speed 1.

Finally, add the coconut cream then blend 60 seconds speed 9-10.

Manual Method:

Pop a large saucepan or stockpot on the stove over a medium heat and add the coconut oil. Roughly chop the garlic, onion, celery and tip into the pan/pot. Grate the ginger & turmeric fingers straight into the mix and toss in the fenugreek (you may want to employ a mortar & pestle to grind these little fellas down…) ground coriander, cumin and chilli. Cook for a few minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the veggies begin to soften.

Add the cauliflower, stock and season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then drop back to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, add the coconut cream then blend in batches (take care: heat & blenders can be dangerous)

I had just roasted some cashews so garnished my soup with them and some fresh coriander. Just what the ‘doctor’ ordered!

Simple Celery Soup

I can’t stand waste… in all facets of life, but particularly food. I can usually find ways to use up leaves and stems (of broccoli and cauliflower for example) but the one plant I struggle with is celery.

You see, I’m definitely not the kind of person who buys the stalks pre-cut and packaged from shops: if it’s not the whole head, I won’t touch it. And FYI, it has to be organic because celery is one of those plants that too readily absorbs and holds toxic substances (like pesticides… here’s a link to the current (American) “Dirty Dozen”). Since the vast majority of recipes ask for only the stalks, more than half of a whole bunch of celery can go to waste.

Apart from veggie stock, there seem to be very, very few recipes on the net that help you to use up the whole plant (I’m trying to grow my own so that I may be able to harvest it directly as I need it in future) but I finally found a simple soup recipe that is now my Go-To. I’m not usually one for creating dishes with minimal veggies but because celery’s so good for you (super high fibre and water content – your liver loves it – and super low calories, for those who care) and this recipe is so easy, I figure it’s acceptable to chug down a lot of this (surprisingly tasty) soup. NB: it doesn’t actually include the leaves (they do tend to be bitter) but I’ll sometimes throw some in.Food Fervour

I’m providing directions for both manual cooks and Thermomixers, but manual cooks take note: celery fibre is tough to break down so you’ll have to blend more thoroughly at the end …please take great care with the hot liquid.

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300gm worth of celery offcuts.

All you’ll need is: 1 onion, 1-2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) 300gm celery offcuts (see pic) and 500mls (or a little less if you prefer a thicker soup) of your preferred stock – chicken or vegetable (Thermomixers can use 1 tablespoon of stock paste & 500ml water if preferred)

Thermomix:

Quarter the onion and add it to the bowl with the garlic clove/s, blending for 5 seconds at Speed 5. Add the EVOO and cook for 3½minutes at Varoma temp on Speed 1.

Add the roughly chopped celery, further breaking them down for 5 seconds at Speed 5, then add your choice of stock. Set to cook for 17 minutes Varoma temp, Speed 1.

Finally, blend for 60 seconds at Speed 9-10 (increasing speed slowly, for caution) and serve immediately.

Manual:

Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 finely diced onion and finely chopped garlic clove and cook for 2-3 mins

Add roughly chopped celery* and stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Blend thoroughly (in batches if necessary)  and serve immediately.

*the finer you chop the celery, the easier the final blend should be 😉

 

Orange Salmon Salad

Gotta say, I’m pretty bloody pleased with this one. I’ve had salmon and orange together before but this will be memorable.Food Fervour

It began with my usual Google search: orange + salmon + salad + recipes. Most of the results were just marinades for salmon, not a complete meal, per se. But one in particular gave me an idea… and all it began with was orange and honey.

Now, I usually try to avoid adding sweeteners (even great natural ones like raw honey) where possible, but this marinade/dressing was going to need some, the way it was coming together in my head: orange rind can be quite bitter…

I started out by grating some rind from a navel orange (approximately one heaped teaspoon’s worth at a guess) then about the same amount of grated ginger. Cutting the top third from a navel orange, I hand squeezed the juice into a dish with the rind & ginger, then added a heaped teaspoon of raw honey, one teaspoon of tamari, and about a tablespoon of macadamia oil. After a good mix, I submerged my salmon steak in it. This began as the marinade but doubled as the salad dressing.

While the grill heated and the fish marinated, I scattered a mix of baby spinach, fresh basil & mint leaves on my plate, then grabbed some snow peas, celery, cucumber and cabbage out of the fridge. Popping the salmon in the grill, (skin side up) I set to finely chopping said veggies, then layered them over the greens.

I segmented the remainder of the orange as the salmon skin began to blacken, and after turning it over, decided to add a leftover avocado half, so sliced that and laid it on top of the salad pile. After placing the finished salmon steak on top, I scattered the orange segments and some roughly chopped up shallot greens, before dousing the whole thing with the remaining marinade. Then devouring.

It’s definitely the leaf combination and the dressing ingredients that made this dish so delicious. (I imagine a light sprinkling of crumbled feta would be fantastic too.) Whilst I haven’t provided a literal recipe here, I’d urge you to give it a go (in case you hadn’t noticed, the ingredients are all in bold typeface to give you a helping hand) because these flavours ….just amazing!

Mushroom & Lentil Bolognaise Stew

With Winter smacking us in the face this week, I felt the need for a nice thick, warming stew. But having had (what I considered to be) too much meat for some days prior, I wanted something plant-based… that would satisfy me.

Knowing how damned good legumes are for us (very high fibre and plant-based protein) and having a bag of mushrooms in the fridge that I knew needed to be used up, I began the search for a recipe but as usual, nothing I found comprised a vast array of veggies. So, true to form, I ended up adapting; fusing two different recipes together: one Thermomix Lentil & Veg Stew with a Mushroom & Lentil Bolognaise recipe on taste.com.au.

While I chose to make this using my Thermomix, it could be easily replicated by non-Thermie cooks because it’s a one-pot recipe. But a word of warning to Thermomix users: the quantities I used brought the bowl contents right up to the maximum (2 litres) so if you’re a little reticent, perhaps halve the quantities. It will still result in a decent amount of stew.food fervour

Grab the following:

35ml extra virgin olive oil, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 large carrot, 1 stalk celery, 2 potatoes, 170gm uncooked brown lentils, 200gm button mushrooms, 2 tablespoons Thermomix vegetable stock paste + 600gm water (non-Thermies use 700-800ml vegetable stock), 2 bay leaves, 400gm passata (or entire contents of a 400gm tin of tomatoes)

Thermomixers: Add the onion (quartered) garlic cloves, roughly chopped carrot and celery to the bowl and chop for 5 seconds @ Speed 5. Scrape down sides then cook for 3mins @ 100ºC on reverse Speed 1. Meanwhile, dice the potatoes and roughly chop the mushrooms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the potatoes, mushrooms, lentils, stock paste, water, bay leaves and passata (or tomatoes). Stir gently before locking the lid in place and cooking for 45 minutes @ 100ºC on reverse Speed ‘Stir’, with the MC off and the basket (or a light dishcloth draped) over the top to catch splatters.

Stovetop Cooks: Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, then warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the veg and cook for 3-5 minutes (until onion has softened) stirring occasionally while you dice the potatoes & roughly chop the mushrooms. Add the potatoes, mushrooms, lentils, stock, bay leaves and passata (or tomatoes) to the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil before reducing to a simmer, partially covered for approximately 40 minutes.

Allow the stew to rest for at least 5 minutes (ThermoServers are the perfect receptacle) before serving so that the some fluid may be further absorbed by the lentils. It’s a perfect meal on its own, or with spiralised zucchini noodles, but you could add some pasta if you feel that you need “carbo-loading” 😉

Liquid Health: Pros & Cons of Smoothies

I just gorged on cheese. I felt like some cheese on toast for lunch but thanks to my relationship with ‘instant gratification’ I started hoeing into the Nimbin Natural before my GF bread was toasted. Then I had a couple more pieces while the griller took its turn. So by the time I’d eaten, I was full as a goog (Aussie slang for “I’ve had sufficient”).

Now, with the stomach juices working hard (& loud!) I’m feeling a tad guilty about the lack of fibre & nutritional variety in that ‘meal’. Since there’s no way I could fit a whole salad in after all that (a sign in itself…) I’m going to ‘supplement’ with a smoothie.
Good old smoothies!
How did we ever live without them before? Nutrient-dense meals-on-the-run.
They are SO easy. So ridiculously easy. And they’re a blank canvas for the Creative. The one basic ‘rule’ I can ever recall hearing somewhere is:
60% FRUITS + 40% VEGGIES/GREENS

food fervourOf course, when you get used to them (that is, when you “harden up”!) you may find you can reduce the fruit component, which is a good thing for those who want to ‘control’ their fructose intake. Intensely flavoured components of a smoothie can disguise less palatable ingredients. If you have some idea of what fruits & vegetables go well together, you’re unlikely to go too far wrong. If all else fails… Google. There are literally thousands of recipes out there in the ether.

For this one I grabbed an orange, lots of strawberries & blueberries, a banana and a couple of dates and blended them with a chunk of cucumber, a stick of celery (leaves’n’all) a handful of baby spinach and some cabbage.
I blended the solids first to break them up as much as possible, then added my liquid (coconut water in this instance) for a smoother drink.

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So full… More for later!

The thing to remember with smoothies (and here I hark back to the ‘sign’ I mentioned during my cheese story) is that by liquefying your food, it’s easier to consume more than you need, plus there’s less work for your digestive system to undertake. While that can seem like a good thing  – and it can be when you are unwell and need all the energy (& nutrients) you can get for minimal effort, while your immune system is hard at work – healthy peops are likely to become hungrier sooner (despite ingesting a salad bowl’s worth of calories). Because your digestive organs aren’t really getting the ‘workout’ for which they were designed. They need the challenge of some tough fibre or dense proteins to breakdown in the same way your body responds to the fitness challenges you (should) apply to it in training!

To this end, I don’t believe smoothies should be consumed on a regular (daily) basis. After all, human evolution didn’t involve electric blenders!

For a meal on a run, yes – if you really CAN’T make the time. For instant gratification, yes, if you really CAN’T exercise self control. And heck, even for the occasional ‘nutrient supplementation’ after a very average meal (to wit: me, today) and at the expense of excessive energy intake!