Friday 4 December 2015

17. Baked Sweet Potato and Cranberry Chutney

Photo Jim Wilson, N.Y.T

Sweet potatoes are at their best now and are at the top of my winter healthy foods list. They are very versatile. You can steam, boil, fry, roast or bake them. 

I like to use them instead of a white potato for roasting, but I particularly like to bake them in their skins as in this dish which I have based on a Kim Severson recipe in the New York Times.  It is so simple to prepare and, served with spicy cranberry chutney and a dollop of sour cream, it makes an excellent accompaniment to roast chicken, turkey or ham. I also enjoy it as a main veggie dish on a meat-free Monday. Bake in its skin which has three times the amount of nutrients than the flesh. 
The sweet potato packs a truly powerful nutritional punch! One baked, medium-sized sweet potato contains 438% of your daily value of vitamin A in the form of the cancer inhibiter beta-carotene, 37% of your vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), iron, manganese, lutein, zeaxanthin and copper. All for just 95 calories! 

Ingredients: Serves 4 people as a side dish. Double the ingredients for a main veggie  dish.    2 sweet potatoes; 2tsp. olive oil; 2tsp. sea salt; 2tsp. cracked black pepper; ½ cup sour cream.

Method: Preparation and cooking time 80 mins.    Heat oven to 350F/120C/Gas Mark 4. Wash sweet potatoes and dry. Rub each with oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 70 minutes or until soft in the centre. Remove, cut in half lengthways. Top with 1tbs. sour cream and 1tbs. chutney. Serve immediately while hot.

For my favourite spicy cranberry chutney recipe go to my earlier blog:  New Season Cranberry Chutney.   And for more Kim Severson recipes go to her page at

Food for thought
I used to love the way everyone talked about food as if it were one of the most important things in life.  And of course it is.
Robert Carrier

Friday 14 August 2015

16. Creole Jambalaya

I first discovered this scrumptious spicy Creole dish from New Orleans many years ago at a Baton Rouge restaurant on my way through Louisiana to the Arizona Renaissance Festival near Phoenix. That was in those distant days of yore when I did medieval re-enactment weekends and feasts at American Rennfairs and German castles on the Rhine.  I have forgotten the name of the restaurant, but the spicy dish of chicken and prawns was memorable and I often make this dish if we have guests to dinner.  The recipe calls for chicken and prawns, but you can happily chop and change your meat and seafood, provided you keep the basic Jambalaya trinity of onions, celery and green peppers, and a spicy smoked sausage.

Ingredients: Serves 6. Preparation and cooking 60 minutes.
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces; 100g chorizo, skinned and sliced; 1 tbsp olive oil; 1 large onion, roughly chopped; 2 celery sticks, chopped into 1cm slices; 2 green peppers, deseeded and cut into 2cm chunks; 5 large ripe vine tomatoes, peeled and chopped with white core removed; 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed; two hot red chillies deseeded and cut small, (or more if you like it hot); two sprigs each of fresh thyme and oregano, (or 1 tsp each of dried herb); 200g long-grain rice; 450ml chicken stock, made with 1 chicken stock cube; 100g cooked peeled king prawns, thawed if frozen; 6 spring onions, sliced (including lots of green); flaked sea salt; freshly ground black pepper.

Method: 1. Heat the oil in your large frying pan and brown the chicken and sausage over a medium heat for 5 minutes.  2. Remove the meat from pan.  3. Add the onion, celery and green peppers to pan and stir-fry 10 minutes until the veg are softened.  4. Add garlic, chillies, thyme and oregano and stir-fry for 30 seconds.  5. Increase the heat, add the tomatoes and cook until well softened.  6. Return the meat to the pan, add the rice and stir fry for about a minute.  7. Pour in the chicken stock, season with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, cover and simmer until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, 10-12 minutes.  8. Add in the prawns and spring onions and stir –fry until the prawns are hot.  10. Serve, garnished with chopped green from the spring onions.

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and fillet gumbo
'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma cher amio  
                                                         Hank Williams. 1952

Food for thought
"People should only eat when they are hungry."
Prime Minister Lord Melbourne to Queen Victoria
"In that case I should be eating all day"
Queen Victoria's reply

Friday 12 June 2015

15. Green Goddess Avocado Dip


Photo Poebe Lapine

I came across this recipe on the website of New York cookery writer Phoebe Lapine who seeks to marry wellness with hedonism in her kitchen.                             
This is a guacamole recipe with a difference, and makes a delicious dip to serve with summer vegetable crudités such as coarsely julienned raw carrots and young zucchini. It proved very popular  at my first barbecue buffet party of the summer last weekend.                                                                                                        
Phoebe also suggests also serving this combined with roasted spring vegetables as a toasted snack. I shall try this on toasted wholemeal bread next week for a light lunch on 'Meatless Monday'.                                                                      
If you wonder how Phoebe mixes wellness with hedonism - get out your blender and try her green kale Margarita for a re-tox after your detox! 
Ingredients  Yields 1 cup                                                                                           
2 ripe avocados; 2 spring onions; 1/4 cup tightly packed parsley leaves;1/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves; 3 tbsp lemon juice; 2 tbsp mayonnaise/unsweetened plain Greek yogurt; 1/2 tsp sea salt.

Method  Cut avocados lengthways in half, remove stone and scoop out all the flesh. Combine with the rest of the ingredients in your food processor and zap until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Further Reading                                                                                                             

Feed Me Phoebe  Bottoms Up with green kale margaritas!                     

Avocado Toast Recipe  One for Meatless Monday.

The Health benefits of Avocados  Medical News Today

Food for thought

One cannot live well, love well or sleep well unless one has dined well.
Virginia Woolf 1882-1941

Monday 4 May 2015

14. English Asparagus: simply delicious!

Among the joys of spring and early summer for Londoners are the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Finals, and English asparagus and strawberries on expensive West End restaurant menus.  Living now on the Isle of Wight, I shall enjoy the best of Chelsea and Wimbledon for free at home on my television without spending £200 for a pair of Chelsea tickets and over £4,000 for two Wimbledon Centre Court seats –while tucking into local asparagus and strawberries bought at Barrow Boys of Ryde, my local greengrocers.
I particularly like this simple recipe for a dish of asparagus with pasta by the esteemed Australian cookery writer Jill Dupleix. The best asparagus recipes are simple. In this recipe, the flavour of this delicious vegetable is not masked by being over herbed, over-sauced or over elaborate.

Ingredients  Serves 4.                                                                                      

450g. English asparagus;  350g. tagliatelli;  4 free range eggs; 1 tbsp. light olive oil;  2 tbsp. walnut oil; 50g. grated Parmesan; sea salt to taste.

Method  Preparation 30 minutes                                                                           

1. Cut the woody ends off the asparagus, and discard. Halve the asparagus and simmer in salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender. Drain and quickly refresh under cold running water to retain their colour. 2. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until tender but firm to the bite. 3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over low heat, and gently break the eggs into it. Cover immediately and cook over very gentle heat for around 3-4 minutes, until the whites have just set and the yolks are still runny. 4. In the meantime, drain the pasta and toss it with the asparagus and walnut oil in the bowl. 5. Arrange on four warmed plates. 6. Separate each egg carefully from the others and gently lift out and place on the pasta. 7. Scatter with sea salt and serve with a bowl of grated Parmesan.

Asparagus Health Benefits 

    Asparagus is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, folic acid, E, K, as well as copper, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. The vegetable is sometimes promoted as a miracle cancer cure, but while there is little evidence to support this, the vegetable undoubtedly has a number of health benefits and possible cancer inhibitory properties. Its dietary fibre and rich glutathione content, (a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds), may help to inhibit certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.

Further Reading

Food for thought

In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection.

Friday 3 April 2015

13. Ratatouille Provençale

     Photo: Food 52

Elizabeth David first introduced this classic Provençale ragout of vegetables cooked very slowly in olive oil to the English kitchen in her Book of Mediterranean Food, published in 1950.
Her recipes for French and Italian dishes were a major influence on post war English cuisine at a time when we scarcely noticed what was on our plate, which, given the lack of ingredients and tasteless cooking of that post war era, was perhaps just as well.  
I was one of the many young beneficiaries of Elizabeth David’s culinary inspiration, first discovering such delights as olive oil, zucchini, (courgettes); aubergines, (eggplant); globe artichokes. and garlic through her writing, not to mention aromatic herbs like basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary which we now take for granted.
Spring Lamb and ratatouille is a marriage of flavors made in heaven and is perfect for Easter Sunday – just add roast potatoes!
Every celebrity chef worth his sea salt has a recipe for this now ubiquitous dish, but I have adapted mine from Elizabeth David’s original 1950 recipe, adding zucchini and basil. 
I usually double up on my proportions when cooking ratatouille for a Sunday lunch.  It improves with re-heating and is an excellent as a main veggie dish on ‘meatless Monday’ with a fried egg on top or with pasta.

Ingredients: Preparation 15 minutes.

3 tbs olive oil; 1 red onion, finely chopped; 3 cloves garlic crushed; 1 zucchini (courgette), and 1 aubergine, (eggplant), sliced into ¼ inch pieces; 2 mixed colour bell peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped; 1 red chili pepper deseeded and finely chopped; 5 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 large can chopped tomatoes; 1 tsb. Sugar; 1tsp dried, or sprig of fresh, basil; 1 tsp salt.

Method:  Cook 30 minutes.

1. Heat the oil in heavy pan and sauté the onions/garlic until translucent.   
2. Add zucchini, aubergine, bell peppers and sauté for another 10 minutes. 3. Transfer to a covered pot and add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and spices.  
4. Cook on low heat, for 30 minutes and an additional 10 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally until most of the olive oil has been absorbed.  If you prefer more tomato flavour, add slugs of tomato puree to taste. 

The health benefits of tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. They contain many beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein. There is strong epidemiological support for increased consumption of tomatoes and lower incidence of prostate and colorectal cancers, thanks to their lycopene and beta-carotene content.

Food for thought: 

To care for oneself by drinking excellent wine and by eating excellent dishes - that is the proper medication.
M Chatillon-Plessis
La Vie a table, 1894


Friday 6 March 2015

12. Stir-Fried Okra


"Stir-Fried-Okra-2008" by Kham Tran - - 

I have often eaten Creole and Indian okra dishes in my travels around the world, notably in Mauritius, Georgia’s Magnolia Midlands, and California, but I had never cooked it myself. I am indebted to my friend Nikki, who hails from the Punjab, for this simple spicy Indian recipe for me to try after I bought some okra and spices at 'Barrow Boys', my local greengrocer on the Isle of Wight recently.
Okra can produce a rather unappetising slimy effect in the cooking, resulting from secretions from the okra pods. Nikki's recipe however cuts out the slippery texture and her spiced Okra recipe is  pleasantly crunchy. 
Okra is a signature Southern ingredient in US cuisine and is extensively used in African, Indian and Asian cooking. The okra plant is thought to have originated in north-east Africa and is first documented in 13th century Egyptian Arab cooking. The plant crossed the Atlantic with the slave traders in the 17th century.
You can also pickle okra and I look forward to adding some jars to my kitchen cupboard later in the year.

Ingredients: Serves 2.
250g okra; 1½ tbs. oil; ½ tsp. each of cumin seeds, coriander powder, cayenne, turmeric, asafoetida, mango powder, salt; 1 tbs. flour; ½ red or yellow bell pepper, (or tomato finely chopped).

Method: Preparation 10 mins. Cook 20 mins.
Wash okra and pat dry. Top and tail the okra and cut into ½ cm pieces. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Add cumin seeds and when they crack, add the okra. Stir for a minute then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for a further three minutes. Remove cover and add coriander, cayenne, turmeric and flour.  Stir-fry for 8 or 10 minutes until okra is tender but crunchy and browned. Add mango powder, bell peppers or tomatoes and finally, (but not before), the salt. Stir-fry for further minute and serve.

Health benefits of Okra
Although providing just 30 calories per 100g, Okra pods are a rich source of dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins, and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. Okra pods contain vitamins A, C and K; folates;  trace metals iron, calcium, potassium, zinc  manganese and magnesium. Okra may have some anti-cancer properties for breast and prostate cancers, and melanoma due to its antioxidant and lecithin content. 

Further reading:
Indian Okra Recipes
Creole Okra Recipes
Malaysian Okra Recipes
Okra as a cancer inhibiter 
All about Okra

Food for thought: The kitchen is a country in which there are always discoveries to be made.
Grimod de la Reyniere
Almanach des Gourmands. 1804