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Breakfast, Lunchbox, Sides, Vegan &/or Raw

Black Polenta Fingers, for the lunchbox

Sanctified as the Father of Superfoods, spinach enjoys immense popularity among medical and scientific communities. The toddler community aren’t much convinced, but that’s about to change.

 

spinach baby image

 

 

For a concentrated blast of goodness in your diet, this Green Leafy is hard to beat. 

Replete with vitamins C and E, spinach offers protection against free radicals – those menacing compounds thought to predispose the body to disease. Vitamins C and E are also referred to as beauty bullets, given their role in maintaining youthful-looking skin. I bet Anna Friel horses it into her. What a stunner. When asked about her beauty regime, she recently replied, “Health is beautiful. If someone takes care of themselves you can see the health shining from within them.” She’s now my screen saver.

 

black polenta susan jane black polenta recipe susan jane
 

Even though Popeye attributes his burly bod to spinach “I’m strong to the finish when I eats me spinach”, this veg only has modest levels of iron. Hemp seeds and goji berries are probably better sources. 

Spinach’s real USP lies within its stonking levels of magnesium. We need this mineral to improve circulation in the body. Poor circulation can lead to dull skin, erectile dysfunction, headaches, raised blood pressure, constipation and delayed healing. Sound familiar? 

Another boon to our Green Leafy friend is its range of superstar carotenes. Lutein and zeaxathin in particular are believed to help protect our eyes against age-related degeneration. So if you’re in the market for a new pair of spectacles, you’d do well putting spinach on tomorrow’s shopping list.

 

buckwheat grouts image
 

 

Black Polenta Fingers

 

Buckwheat is a small triangular grain confused by shades of red, brown and green. Soba noodles and blini are made from buckwheat, so chances are, you’ve already made friends with it.

Despite its name, buckwheat is not wheat. Hollywood’s glitterati love this gluten-free grain because of its slow-release carb and avalanche of beautifying bioflavonoids. Buckwheat even has lysine, that elusive amino acid that helps prevent outbreaks of pesky cold sores.

Children love this polenta because they can use their fingers to eat it. The more squeamish ones may spot the green flecks of spinach and revolt. That’s okay – tell them Wayne Rooney eats it.

 

1 cup / 180g unroasted buckwheat grouts
2 cups / 500ml homemade chicken or veg stock
Splash of tamari soya sauce
Good handful baby spinach*
1 tablespoon hemp seed protein powder or raw sprouted brown rice protein powder

 

*you could also use dried nori or any weird sounding sea veg described in last week’s post

 

Rinse the buckwheat in a sieve under running water. Transfer the clean buckwheat to your saucepan of boiling stock. Cover, and turn down the heat to a gentle putter rather than a raucous boil. Cook for 12-15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from its heat source, and allow the grains to absorb a little more stock under the lid if necessary.

Once cooked, transfer to a food processor (not a hand-held blender) and briefly pulse with the spinach and soya sauce. The spinach will immediately wilt and semi-cook with the heat of the buckwheat. Aim for the consistency of textured porridge, and not a puree. 

Pour into a small dish or lunchbox oiled with extra virgin olive oil. Ideally the polenta will be less than one inch deep. Set for 20 minutes at room temperature. 

Cut into fingers and serve alongside a bottle of this amazing soy-free soya sauce and some steamed asparagus. Buckwheat polenta will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days, making it the perfect snack for hungry little hands.

 

 my little one in the garden

 

 

 

Lunchbox, Sides, Vegan &/or Raw

Oven-Roasted Chickpeas with Caramelised Banana and Cavolo Nero

Cavolo Nero is the George Clooney of cabbages – tall, svelte and suave. Its short and pudgy cousin goes into hibernation from July to October when the cavolo reigns.

Health divas have already dubbed this Dark Green Leafy as Tuscan kale, with its Italian sophistication and unlikely elegance. The cavolo may have already slammed curly kale off its number one spot (horrah!) One look at a model’s Instagram account shows how frequently this DGL is papped. Alarming and perplexing, with equal measure.  

So why the excitement? Cavolo nero is an excellent source of folate, often associated with great quality nookie. Looks like folate can regulate the production of histamine – a very important chemical released during orgasm. No, a cabbage smoothie will not bring you to climax but you’re welcome to try.

 

cavolo nero plain 

 

You probably don’t need another reason to watch your folate intake, but here’s an additional fireworks display you’ll be interested in. Folate plays a large role in our mental and emotional health. It is in fact a B vitamin – think B for Brain and Battery. Or Bergman and Bogart (okay, that’s probably E for Electricity, but you get the picture).  

Cavolo’s bumpy dinosaur skin hides some other champion vitamins like K, C and A. Lutein, a nifty carotenoid, can help strengthen our vision and beef up ocular health. That’s Doctor Speak for 20-20 vision.  

Not worried about your eyes? I bet your granny is. Ageing is cruel. Just when you need your sight the most, it starts to dull. Maybe that’s Mother N’s way of restricting the pain of seeing your magnificent mane growing grey, or your chin turning hairy.  

Cavolo Nero won’t save your sight, but it can help. Think of DGLs as ammo against ageing. Kale, cabbage, cavolo, the entire cast are at your disposal to help improve the quality of your vision.

 

cavolo nero banana curry

 

Oven-Roasted Chickpeas with Caramelised Banana and Cavolo Nero

Serves 2

This makes a groovy side and will have your nostrils doing the Mexican Wave. It particularly thrives in lazy kitchens and time-pressured zones.

That holy honk associated with onion-breath contains an entire pharmacy of compounds for the body. Get this: foods rich in sulphur are thought to help manufacture synovial fluid. We need this fluid to bathe our bones and stop them from squeaking on the dance floor. Onions and Brussel sprouts have loads of sulphur compounds – but you already guessed that right?

Other goodies packed into these red veggies include quercetin to help relieve inflammation (especially hangovers) and to help copycat antihistamines during Sneezy Season. Onions also have fabulous amounts of inulin, known to work as a pre-biotic in our gut. Prebiotics help by feeding the good bacteria in our internal eco system, keeping our digestive system smiling and our skinny jeans on speaking terms with us.
 

1 tin chickpeas, drained

1 small red onion, roughly chopped

2 ripe bananas, sliced

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional jazz)

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut or olive oil

1 bunch cavolo nero

 

Fire up your oven to 200 Celsius /180 fan-assisted. Let it get really hot while you prep the supper.

Toss the chickpeas, red onion and banana discs onto your largest roasting tray and coat with the spices and preferred oil. Curry powders can vary wildly, so add a pinch of luminous turmeric powder if you fancy a healthy neon glow. I do.

Roast for 15 minutes, or until the banana looks caramelised and the chickpeas are turning crispy. If your roasting tray is small, everything will sweat and turn soggy instead of caramelising so it might be worth spreading over two small trays.

While the chickpeas are raving in the oven, tear the green parts of the cavolo nero off its tough stalk. Gently rip into bite-sized pieces, and tumble into the hot chickpeas. You might need an extra splash of olive oil if everything looks dry. Return to the oven for 3 minutes.

That’s it. Any leftovers make an awesome dining-al-desko lunch at the office the following day. A few sun dried tomatoes or olives will give it a new identity. No need to submit to dodgy petrol station sangers!

 

 

bananas spots

 

 

 

 

Lunchbox, Salads & Suppers, Vegan &/or Raw, x For Freezer x

Strawberry Gazpacho

We already know the devious effects of chilli on our body – stinging lips, raised temperature and a torrent of happy endorphins. Combine this with the sweet juiciness of strawberries, and we’ve got ourselves a situation.

No need for a caffeine fix today. This gazpacho will blow open your senses.

Lately I’ve been consumed by Niki Segnit’s Flavour Thesaurus which suggests treating strawberries like tomatoes. What about a salsa with diced avocado, lime, coriander leaves and strawberries tonight? Or try burrata with fresh basil and macerated strawberries, or tickling a juicy big strawberry punnet with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and black pepper. So weird, but so right.

Isabel Allende recommends doing all sorts of, uhm, creative things with strawberries in her book Aprhodite. Another favourite aphrodisiac of Allende’s is chilli. This unassuming red spice gifts us with immediate heat, and a delicious “sense of urgency.” So it’s worth combining them both on an a dull evening.

 

strawberry gazpacho

 

Smoked Chill & Strawberry Gazpacho

This chilled soup is raving with vitamins.

Think of berries as beauty bullets. Soaked with anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants and skin-plumping vitamin C, strawberries can help deter the pesky ageing process. And likely, increase your chances of a Helen Mirren bikini moment.

Grab the last of the summer strawberries, and feel the vitamins dance towards your skin. Very low on the glycemic index, a punnet a day won’t turn your blood sugar levels wonky.

 

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed    

1 small punnet / 250g baby tomatoes, quartered

Handful of strawberries, greens removed

1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced

1 cup finely diced cucumber

3 spring onions, sliced

2 -3 cups / 500 – 700ml tomato passata

Juice of 1 large lemon

Fresh crack of black pepper

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Basil leaves to decorate

Extra virgin olive oil to serve

 

Using a high-speed blender, blitz the garlic with your tomatoes and strawberries. Add in the remaining ingredients (excluding your olive oil and basil) and puree until smooth. If your lemon was huge, you may need to add a touch of maple syrup to balance the sharpness.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before spooning into five shallow soup bowls. Should the gazpacho seems too thick or separate in layers, give it another belt in the food processor before pouring into bowls. Tickle with fruity olive oil, ice cubes and a few basil leaves.

Radically fabulous.

 

Kitchen Mag

 

So stoked to feature in this month’s EKBB, after Gizzi Erskine. Very British. Very cool. Thank you Essential Kitchen!