Baking the Roots

Winter days call for warm comforting dishes and this is one of my family favourites. It makes good use of the delicious, sweet root vegetables that abound at this time of year and its worth making double portions as it reheats super well!

A mixture of potatoes, parsnips and swede are finally sliced then tossed with onion, garlic and fresh herbs. The whole lot is slowly baked together until soft, melting and unctuous. It goes fantastically well with a mushroom stew or perhaps a ratatouille. Using the natural flavours of the roots it delivers serious comfort food without dairy or added oil.

Midwinter Baked Roots

  • 250g swede
  • 300g parsnips
  • 700g potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Few twists of black pepper
  • 200ml vegetable stock

Peel the swede, parsnips and potatoes and slice thinly either in a food processor or by hand. Place in a large bowl.

Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic cloves and add to the sliced vegetables. Finely chop the fresh herbs then add to the bowl with the salt and pepper and toss everything together really well.

Transfer to an ovenproof dish and add the vegetable stock.

Cover with a lid or foil and bake at 190C for about 1½ to 2 hours until soft. You can also remove the lid for the final 30 mins to brown and crisp the top if you wish.

Enjoy x

Food for Thought Thursday!

No matter how committed you are on your real food journey we all need a little help and inspiration along the way.

Over the years I’ve consistently found that a small regular dose of motivation does wonders to remind myself why its so important to stay real and keep going!

So welcome to Food for Thought Thursday where I’ll share some of my favourite talks, movies and resources to inspire you along the way.

This week is the fantastic Jamie Oliver from back in 2010. Its American focused but with a key message for all of us who want to improve our family’s health.

See what you think 😊

Soup Days – February

February is here and with it the days are getting lighter and the nights shorter! With temperatures these days super cold though it’s still all about the warming and comforting foods – stews, casseroles, bakes and everything in between. Despite the cold weather there is still loads of fantastic produce to buy to provide inspiration and variety for your plant based meals.

So here is this month’s fresh produce buying guide – all the UK grown fruit and veg to look out for on your next shopping adventure (online or otherwise!)

This month it’s all about the root vegetables and greens so we’ve been making huge batches of soup each week to ensure we always have a warm lunch at a moment’s notice on the busy days. Paired with a slice of fresh spelt or rye bread – its perfecto.

For a super simple and fool proof soup recipe I always follow Darina Allen’s basic soup formula from the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Click here for the details. This recipe works with pretty much any veg you have around and is always delicious.

Warming homemade soups also fit the bill at this time of year when most of us are looking reduce a bit after Christmas but before the Easter excess. Salad isn’t ever going to cut it on a cold night but a hearty bowl of soup will give a great nutrition boost and fulfill the need for something warm and snuggly!

For more inspiration try our Minestrone or Curried Lentil Soup – enjoy!

Winter slaw – sweet or sharp?

Can you still enjoy a delicious fresh crunchy salad in the depths of winter? Definitely! Just forget the classic lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and try some of the best of this seasons ingredients instead.

This month our salads are all about the cabbage – red cabbage that is. This fantastic versatile veg is on top form in January and packs a great nutritional punch in addition to bringing some much needed winter colour to the plate.

Nutritionally, red cabbage is full of antioxidant anthocyanins, which can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Eaten raw it also contains between two and eight times the Vitamin C of green cabbage. It’s also relatively cheap to buy at the moment and lasts forever in a cool place – win win!

My favourite way to prepare is shredded into slaw and added to a mixed salad or budda bowl. These slaws are super simple, quick to prepare and will keep in the fridge for a few days, ready to add to a quick supper or  lunchbox, so a good one to make ahead.

Try these sweet or sharp options and see which you prefer!

Sharp red cabbage slaw

  • 1/4 red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shred, grate and chop all the vegetables and mix well to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the veggies. Mix everything thoroughly to combine.

Sprinkle over some fresh parsley to finish if you wish.

Sweet red cabbage slaw

  • 1/4 red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 small raw beetroot, grated
  • 1 large orange, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shred, grate and chop all the vegetables and mix well to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the veggies. Mix everything thoroughly to combine.

Sprinkle over some fresh chives to finish off.

Best of the Best – January

So it’s now 2021 and we’re working harder than ever nourishing ourselves with food after one of the craziest years!

After periods of stress and even potential illness its crucial to now start maximising the nutrients you’re consuming to rebuild overall health and energy levels. Focusing on a good quality wholefood plant-based diet is a great start, as you’ll literally be flooding your system with nutrition without making it work harder dealing with lots of processed foods, toxins, chemicals etc.

In order to get the best from our plant-based meal, its super useful to know what fruits and vegetables are at their best right now. Produce in season will almost always be more nutrient rich, tastier and often significantly cheaper. Organic if you can but local is great if not  – look for freshness and not perfection!

Have a dig around at your supermarket and see what you can find. Farm shops, greengrocers and market stalls are also mostly still open and are some of the best places to find something local, in addition to any veg box schemes running in your area – here in East Devon we’re big Riverford fans

Over the coming months we’ll be sharing guides of what UK grown seasonal produce to look for and some fab ways to prepare and enjoy them.

So forget the out of season cardboard tomatoes in January and have a try with some of the seasonal stars instead!

Quick kitchen hacks – midweek bean stir fry

We all need a super-fast midweek meal that we can make in a hurry from storecupboard ingredients and whatever is in the fridge.

Feel free to use whichever vegetables you have available in this stir fry and aim for about four handfuls of chopped vegetables in total. Just make sure everything is cut to the same size so they cook evenly.

My favourites are spring onions, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes, cabbage, kohl rabi, peas, sweetcorn – whatever you fancy!

To make this recipe even faster I always serve this with rice noodles. They are made from rice flour so are also wheat and gluten free. They only require a quick soaking in boiling water so can be ready in literally a few minutes.

Adding beans gives a protein and fibre hit and makes the dish much more satisfying to see you through the evening.

Finish by sprinkling with mixed seeds such as flax and sesame to add extra nutritional power.

Midweek Bean Stir Fry

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small chilli (optional)
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • 4 handfuls of chopped vegetables
  • 1 tin adzuki, black beans or black eye peas
  • 1 tbsp mixed seeds and fresh coriander (optional)

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp red miso paste

Whisk the sauce ingredients together and set aside to allow the flavours to develop.

Add the olive oil to a large pan and gently fry the onion. Add the garlic and other vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add 1 mug of water and the stock powder and allow the vegetables to gently steam fry. Once all the liquid is absorbed, check if all the vegetables are tender, if not add a little more water and cook for a couple of extra minutes.

Drain the beans and rinse.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, stir in the sauce and the beans, then cook for about one minute.

Pour over rice noodles and sprinkle with mixed seeds and fresh coriander.

Serve with extra soy or chilli sauce if desired.

Serves four.

Supercharged overnight oats

I think for a long time I was the only person who just didn’t get overnight oats. Surely its just cold porridge – how can that be a nice thing for breakfast?

But after actually making it – I’m prepared to admit I was wrong – in reality they make an easy, delicious and healthy breakfast!

Overnight oats are now my go-to when I know I have a busy day or will be short of time before rushing out of the door in the morning.

I portion out the dry ingredients into jars in advance and keep them ready in the cupboard. As all the ingredients are dried and everything is in an airtight jar, they will keep fresh for ages – not that they usually last that long!

All you have to do then is grab a jar the night before and rehydrate everything with some milk – oat milk is my favourite as it seems appropriate! In a pinch even water will do. Then just leave in the fridge to eat in the morning.

I usually just take the jar to work and enjoy once I get there – just make sure your jar is leak proof and you seal the lid well (speaking from experience….).

If you get five minutes in the morning, its great to top these with some extra fresh or dried fruit or superfoods. My current loves are goji berries, cacao nibs and a sprinkle of bee pollen. A few strawberries or raspberries are also perfect. 

This is my favourite basic recipe, but it is completely flexible. Try any type of dried fruit or seeds that you have in and go for any sweet spice you love, I love mixed spice but cinnamon is also fantastic. Have a play!

Basic overnight oats recipe (per serving)

  • 40g good quality porridge oats
  • 1 tsp protein powder (this one is my favourite)
  • 2 medium dates (about 15g), chopped
  • Pinch of mixed spice
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Enough milk (whichever type is your favourite) to cover
  • For chocolate overnight oats add 2 tsp organic cacao powder.

Put all the dried ingredients together in a jar and stir to mix everything up.

The night before you want to eat, pour milk over the oats until they are fully covered. Stir or shake everything together until completely mixed and there are no lumps of dry oats or powder.

In the morning, give everything a good stir and top with fruit or whatever you fancy!

The other thing I love about this recipe is the ability to add in other superfoods and it just gets better! I often include some or all of these powders to give an extra nutrition boost.

Certainly don’t feel you need to use any of these as they oats are great without, but if you want to try something extra or new why not give some of these a go?

Maca powder

  • Use 1 tsp of powder per portion
  • Maca is an ancient food from the Andes. It’s rich in minerals such as iodine, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc in addition to Vitamins B6 and C. Studies have shown maca to be effective in boosting energy, stamina, memory and could also reduce some symptoms of depression.

Reishi mushroom

  • Use ¼ tsp of powder per portion
  • This medicinal mushroom has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. Reishi is an apoptogenic and is believed to help strengthen your immune cells, lower blood pressure and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Some studies have also shown reishi to be great for helping the body to combat stress and reduce the risk of premature aging.

Astragalus root

  • Use ¼ tsp of powder per portion
  • Astragalus has a long tradition in Chinese medicine and is used for a variety of conditions. It has been shown to assist with respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu as well as helping to protect the heart and liver. This is also another great immune system strengthener.

Super Vital Powder

  • Use 1 tsp of powder per portion
  • I love the fruity taste of this blend of beetroot, acai and baobab. It also adds a fantastic blast of vitamin C and antioxidants. Just what you need in the morning!

Quick kitchen hacks – lemon & garlic olives

Who doesn’t love olives as part of a salad, antipasti board or with drinks?

Although only popular on the menu in this part of Europe for the last 40 years or so, they are certainly not a new food – the Romans couldn’t live without them and even managed to grow them in the UK!

The wide ranging fantastic health benefits of eating olives are now well known. Their monounsaturated fatty acid content helps to maintain our HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, while polyphenols assist in reducing chronic inflammation. Olives also have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, great for detoxification and a fantastic boost for our skin and hair.

Unfortunately, so many in the shops are packed in cheap oils and other additives and to be honest the flavour can often be less than exciting.

Olives from your local deli can be amazing and definitely worth buying but as with all such products – they won’t be cheap!

This is one example where making your own is not only super quick and significantly more economical. You’ll also be rewarded with a healthier and much more delicious end result.

So, here’s a quick kitchen hack to make my favourite super smart olives, super easy!

  • 1 small jar of stoned green olives in brine
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil

Empty the olives into a sieve and wash off the brine. Leave to dry.

Remove the zest from the lemon and chop into small strips. Chop the garlic into thin slices.

Remove the rosemary needles from the stalk.

Mix the lemon, garlic and rosemary with the olives, season with a little black pepper and pack into a glass jar.

Pour over enough olive oil to completely cover, and leave for at least 12 hours to marinate.

Make sure that the olives fill the jar you’re using without leaving too much space around them, otherwise you will need loads of olive oil to cover.

Try sprinkling with a little freshly chopped parsley just before serving for extra colour and detox benefits. Don’t forget that once the olives have been eaten, you’ll also have a fantastic flavoured olive oil left to cook with.

Store in the fridge but bring to room temperature before you enjoy them. These will keep really well, just make sure that they stay covered in olive oil – top up if you need to.

Super easy sensational slaws

Spring is finally actually here (we hope!) and it’s the perfect time to start experimenting with some salads.

I’ve always loved slaws as they’re just so versatile. Add to basic greens and you have a colourful salad, add to a sandwich or just serve as a side to add some raw goodness to a main dish.

These are my top three never fail slaws to add some colour and zest to a meal, whilst only taking minutes to prepare. They will all keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator ready for you to enjoy whenever!

Fennel and orange slaw

Crunchy anise flavoured fennel is mixed with sweet orange and sharp red onion in this super colourful slaw. The fennel will discolour quickly so make sure you work fast with the dressing.

  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 red onion
  • Small handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the salad, finely shred the fennel and grate the carrot. Cut the orange into segments and cut each into small pieces. Finely dice the red onion.

In a small bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients together.

Toss over the vegetables and mix well. Sprinkle over finely chopped fresh parsley and mix again.

Celeriac remoulade

A classic French dish which I always make lighter using natural yoghurt instead of mayo. I’ve also given this a West Country twist using local apple cider vinegar instead of the traditional red wine version. Just don’t be tempted to use English mustard, as the celeriac needs the softer flavour that comes from French.

  • 450g celeriac
  • 1 tsp mustard (either Dijon or wholegrain)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 8 tbsp plain yoghurt (dairy or non-dairy)

Peel and quarter the celeriac, then either grate or shred in a food processor.

Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly until the celeriac is fully coated.

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Carrot and chia seed salad

A great way to boost your omega 3 with chia seeds that isn’t a pudding! As well as giving this salad a nutrient boost they add great texture. Don’t worry if the seeds will absorb some of the dressing if made in advance.

  • 2 carrots
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 heaped tsp chia seeds

Peel the carrots and grate. Add all the other ingredients except the chia seeds to a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

Pour over the grated carrots and sprinkle in the chia seeds.

Mix everything well until completely coated and serve.