I had hoped to come up with something profound to say on the subject du jour: New Year, New You. I might have gone on about fresh starts, turning over new leaves (leafs?), spring cleaning your diet/life/soul/refrigerator (maybe I should do the latter, if only as a good incentive to actually do it). But, to be honest, I am assuming that most of you are sorted for that stuff. And to be doubly honest, I hold no expertise in any of that. Continue reading
Don’t you just love it when you come across something that does double, or even triple, duty? I’m not talking about moisturiser, or Swiss army knives (which if the latter is really swish will do about a 36 jobs, including scale fish and remove the hook – cool Crimbo pressie?). As always, I am talking food. This food specifically, cocoa granola. Continue reading
Here in the UK we are coming up for the effigy-burning, firework-displaying extravaganza that is Guy Fawkes Night. Also known as Bonfire Night, November 5 commemorates the evening in 1605 that 13 young men had planned to use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Poor old Guy Fawkes should have stayed in the ye olde tavern because not only was he caught, tortured and executed, we now have a rather gruesome tradition of making effigies of him to burn. Or rather they do in England. Up in Scotland it’s just fireworks and hard cider (any excuse really).
A short post this week, but with a recipe that warmly invites Autumn into the kitchen. If you have an apple tree go out and gather any windfalls; give them a scrub and a chop. You are now one step closer to a house saturated with the comfort-blanket aroma of Autumn spices: like a Glade candle, but nicer – and more edible. Continue reading
Hands up, who likes granola? Excellent, that’s most of you. But did you know that some of the granola we eat should really be re-classified as dessert? Despite its rather saintly image, most granolas are quite high in both sugar and fat. And we tend to eat rather more than the suggested serving size. Unless I weigh it out, I know I can certainly tip in quite the little mound. And no, not even the fact that it may float innocently in unsweetened soya milk and be topped with decidedly healthy fresh berries makes it a super-healthy breakfast choice. If granola were a person I believe it would be batting its lashes coquettishly before leading us very astray.
So, does this mean you should relegate your favourite granola to the status of treat? Or, perhaps, just try an easy, no-brainer recipe instead? To help you make up your mind I have had a wee look at some popular UK brands, as well as a read of an interesting article that appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper. Despite knowing that commercial granolas are certainly not for dieters, I was quite taken aback by how ‘dessert-like’ are many of the brands – good, trusted brands. That’s not to say we should not have them. They aren’t evil or bad for us, just not what we think they are. Continue reading
It’s el scorchio here at casa foodtoglow. Hens are lolling and cats are snoozing -and it’s only 10 am. But someone has to work around here so quick wee post and off to Maggies Centre for green tea and a good chat. My night-time eyeshades (sad, I know) were no match for today’s retina-searing dawn, so the green tea will have to steep a good five minutes to reach the requisite caffeine quotient. I hate having thin eyelids… Continue reading
UK television and radio news and programmes are dominated by tomorrow’s planned nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Hard news journalists and gossip columnists alike are united in their desire to wring every scintilla of Royal press office-fed ‘news’ in the hope of a new twist on the Big Day. Syrian ambassador to the UK is invited. Then disinvited. Are the bridesmaids wearing fascinators? A weird blend of the newsworthy and the out and out frothy. Everything I’ve heard makes me think William and Kate are as beautiful inside as out. But enough already with the 24/7 coverage. We don’t need yet another vox pop interview outside of Westminster Abbey featuring a man wearing a knitted Union Jack teacosy for a hat, clothed in a t-shirt stating ‘Diana Would Be Proud’ (I’m not making that up). It’s hardly the happy couple’s fault but it’s got to the point where I am at this moment listening to an obscure station featuring 80s rock classics. So, with Bon Jovi angsting in the background I am elbow deep in flour, butter and leaves making a cake – for Kate. Couldn’t resist. The wedding coverage is so saturating that it has taken over the decision making section of my brain and commanded me to make a delicate, fragrant cake in honour of our equally delicate and fragrant soon-to-be princess. So, temporarily abandoning my healthy eating perch, I have a rather nice cake recipe fit for a future queen. Continue reading
It’s been hard to get inspired to write today, and in the past few days. My thoughts are constantly drifting to the still-unfolding events in Japan. The media footage is almost incomprehensible. I will keep this short and sweet as I’m sure you are equally affected and don’t have the concentration to read too much about the merits of turkey, etc… I will just cut and paste a recipe from my Maggies Centre cookbook for you. Just a few things about the recipe: we like it just as well as cold leftovers so do make the whole recipe for a delectable – if rather unattractive – brown bag lunch. And, the bottle you see in the above photo contains my homemade spicy ketchup. I will post it at another date – once I write it up. Meantime add some smoked or hot paprika and a pinch of clove to a good quality ketchup for a spiky kick.
Turkey and Root Vegetable Meatloaf
If your experience of meatloaf is of dry flavourless ‘mystery meat’ with watery tomato sauce please give this recipe a try: I promise that you won’t be disappointed. I’ve made this protein-packed recipe lower-fat but if you need to keep your weight up sauté the vegetables in 3 tablespoons of oil, or serve with buttery mash. This recipe makes a lot but leftovers keep well for up to three days in the fridge, you can freeze some, or do what my husband would do (with any leftovers) and put some in a roll with ketchup!
What You Need
1 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium parsnip, peeled and grated (optional)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 ½, tsp dried thyme
1 ½ tsp no-salt ‘chicken seasoning’ or 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp ground pepper
2 rounded tbsp tomato puree or ketchup
60ml/2 oz vegetable or chicken stock
1 kg/2 lb turkey mince
100g/3.5 oz porridge oats
2 eggs, beaten
10 g parsley, chopped
100 ml best tomato ketchup OR barbecue sauce
What You Do: In a frying pan, over a low-medium heat, sauté the onions in the oil for about five minutes. Add the garlic, carrots and parsnip to the pan and cook for a further eight minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the next five ingredients, cooking and stirring for one minute;set aside to cool a bit.
Put the turkey mince and porridge oats into a large bowl and mix together. Add in the cooled vegetable mixture, beaten eggs and parsley. Mix well; it will look quite sloppy. Pat the meatloaf mixture into oiled baking tins and cover with the ketchup or barbecue sauce. You can also form the mixture into a rectangular shape – about 10 cm/4 in high- on a well-oiled baking sheet. I tend to put it in the fridge for half an hour to firm up, but this is not necessary if you are putting the mix into a baking tin. Bake at 170C/340F for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a meat thermometer registers 70C/165F. If you don’t have a thermometer, ensure that the loaf is starting to pull away from the sides, or cut into the middle and see if steam escapes. Because turkey remains quite pale don’t rely on colour change as a test for doneness.
Serve 3-4 cm thick slices of the turkey meatloaf with mashed potato and celeriac, steamed dark greens (such as purple sprouting broccoli) and carrots, or red pepper strips. Serves 10ish
For years I have had a not-so-secret crush on cardamom. Although I enjoy savouring the superlative pearl sugar-topped cardamom buns served at Edinburgh’s Peter’s Yard coffee house, I usually settle for a low-effort swirl of ground cardamom in my morning porridge. It’s not only me who rates this underused (at least in the UK and US) flavouring. In countries as polar opposite as Sweden and India, cardamom is a favoured spice. For those of you who haven’t tasted or smelled cardamom it can best be described as having a distinct sweet, perfumed fragrance that once sniffed is never forgotten. If you’ve ever visited markets in southern India or the Middle East you will no doubt have seen baskets of both the black and green pods nestled among bowls of cumin seeds, turmeric root and myriad forms of ginger. Its uses are surprisingly varied: flavouring Arabic style coffee (pop a whole pod into coffee grounds before brewing), in Scandinavian breads and cakes and as a staple ingredient in traditional curries. I am so taken with this wrinkly pod that I feature it as the star of a pepper blend: 4 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp coriander seeds and the seeds from 10 green cardamom pods – and store it in a refillable pepper grinder. I have perhaps taken my cardamom obsession a bit far: for my birthday I received a bottle of Voyages d’Hermes which, when it’s been on the skin awhile, takes on cardamom and green tea notes. Delish!
The Science Bit: Medicinally, practitioners of Chinese medicine prescribe cardamom for a plethora of digestive complaints, some of which are common while on chemotherapy – constipation, flatulence, gas and general stomach cramping. In Ayurvedic medicine it is seen as an important spice for balancing the three doshas (especially kapha), as well as being a warming digestive and lung stimulant. Reading in “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson, I found out that Indian animal studies have demonstrated cardamom’s capacity to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against the growth of colon cancer cells.
Rhubarb, oats and apples are of course no slouches when it comes to health-giving assets. Anti-bacterial rhubarb is used in Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments, many to do with detoxification and ‘draining heat from the body’. In Western medicine it is perhaps best known for its high concentration of infection-fighting Vitamin C, for its capacity to reduce cholesterol and its action as a natural laxative. Those with gout or rheumatoid arthritis should perhaps not indulge in rhubarb as unfortunately it can aggravate these conditions. The health profile of oats is perhaps even higher as it is literally crammed with disease-checking nutrients, including avenanthramides (breaks down cholesterol and may help prevent colon cancer), blood sugar- and cholesterol-lowering beta glucan, many stress-busting B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and filling fibre. All that and it makes a great breakfast.
Apples too are very cleansing; their pectin binds with cholesterol, toxins and heavy metals, escorting them out of the body. In the lab, apples inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation, and lower cholesterol. They also contain a variety of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid, all of which are strong antioxidants. Studies have shown that apples protect and optimise lung function. While storage doesn’t affect their anti-oxidant capacity it is thought that heat may diminish it. As apples are so commonly eaten they are potentially very beneficial to us. To find out more, click here. So, although this crumble is hopefully scrummy, eat raw apples to get the most from them. That said, all-important fibre remains helpfully intact.
Enough science, let’s get on with the (healthy) stodge!
Cardamom-scented Rhubarb and Apple Crumble
We are smack in the middle of forced rhubarb season just now so I’ve been transforming the pink leggy beauties into crumble, chutney and jam. The crumble disappears in a trice but chutney and jam can of course be enjoyed for months to come. I’ll give an easy rhubarb and date chutney recipe later.
1 Bramley or similar cooking apple, peeled, cored and large diced/thick slice
2 dessert apples, peeled, cored and large diced/thick slice
900g/2 lb fresh rhubarb, washed and sliced into 4cm/1.5 in pieces
4 tbsp agave nectar OR 50g muscovado/dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom, divided (from approximately 10 whole green pods*)
75g/2.6oz skin-on almonds
75g/3oz chilled butter, cut into small pieces
100g/3.6oz wholemeal self-raising flour
75g/2.6oz rolled oats or flaked barley, two tablespoons held aside
50g/1.75oz muscovado or dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Equipment You Will Need: cutting board; sharp knife; food processor; large mixing bowl; deep-ish rectangular or oval baking dish
What To Do: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. In the large bowl toss together the fruit, sugar or agave nectar and half of the cardamom. Pour the fruit into the baking dish and set aside.
Next, start the crumble topping by putting the butter, flour, all but 2 tbsp oats, sugar, cinnamon and remaining cardamom in the food processor; pulse until you get what looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add in the nuts and pulse until you get a mixture of chunky and fine bits of nut. Add the remaining oats and pulse twice for two seconds to just mix in the oats.
Evenly sprinkle the crumble mixture over the fruit and press firmly down. You may be tempted to leave it all bumpy and rustic but it’s crisper if you take a firm hand to the crumble. Some of the nuts will stick up a bit anyway. Put the dish in the hot oven for about 40 minutes, or until the sticky pink rhubarb bubbles out from the sides. Leave it to cool for 15 minutes or so before serving up with vanilla-flecked custard or ice cream.
* Cardamom powder: Ground cardamom is quite expensive and hard to find in the UK. Make your own powder by purchasing a bottle or bag of green cardamom pods from your supermarket or specialty shop (those stocking Indian and Pakistani goods will be cheapest). Crack open the tough shells in a pestle and mortar or the end of a rolling pin, pick out the fragrant slightly sticky seeds and bash them fiercely in a pestle and mortar or in a clean coffee grinder. Use whole pods in Indian cooking (including spiced rice), removing them before serving.
Gluten-free note: You can easily make this gluten-free by either using gluten-free flour and gluten-free oats, or using barley flakes and blitzing to make flour and keeping the rest whole.