Perfect seasonal food – home made baked beans

beansSpringtime is the time to treat our palates with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Pulses, spiced right, are perfect spring food because they are astringent.

Knowingly, they are also “airy”, which is also a good property of food in this period when the season makes us feel heavy and tired. Nature balances itself through opposites and you can play with this concept a lot when you cook. Just remind yourself of the season’s qualities and then cook with opposite quality food.

Spring is a strong period of growth. The waters of the soil start flowing in late winter bringing qualities of heaviness and coldness around but providing life giving material for nature to wake up. Structure, cohesion and bulk created by the nature bring about feelings of heaviness, stiffness and tiredness. To avoid the season’s disorders taking over your body and mind resort to food that has opposite qualities: light (e.g. pulses), stimulating and heating (spices and herbs). Cut down on heavy items i.e. reduce the use of fats and you can almost avoid dairy. Generally eat less, especially in the evenings.

Sage is an optimal kitchen herb for this season. Being bitter, pungent and astringent in tastes it perfectly fits in to balance seasonal disorders. It is one of the herbs of choice for respiratory disorders, which are very typical of this season. Read more details of sage’s health benefits in Anne Macintyre’ site.

Here’s an old Italian recipe I love Fagioli all’uccelletto, which usually is made with cannellini beans. In fact, this is the original baked beans recipe. So, instead of buying ready-made ones make them yourself, which is far far better.

This time I’ve used giant beans because I prefer them out of all white beans. In Italy this dish is usually offered as a side with meat or fish but it makes a perfect supper in spring. A couple of dry crackers instead of bread is a perfect accompaniment (bread should be cut down in spring).

Another addition to the traditional recipe is the use of asafoedita spice (hing), which greatly reduces the gassy element of pulses. Take it as a default always to cook pulses with this gas smelling herb that actually reduces gas. Don’t be put off by the smell, you’ll be grateful for the effects. Use sparingly!

Also, I’ve stopped using vegetable oils for cooking. I use ghee instead as it does not turn rancid when you heat it and it feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut. I add olive oil in the end to get the proper Italian flavor out.

Spicy beans with cherry tomatoes and sage / Fagioli all’uccelletto

1 can of giant/cannellini beans (or dried if you have time)

15 cherry tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

3/4 tbsp ghee

Fresh sage

Pinch of chilli

Pinch of cracked black pepper

Pinch of asafoetida

Himalayan rock salt to taste

Cook the canned beans for 5 – 10 min in water with 5 leaves of fresh sage. If you are using dried beans then cooking takes longer and you need to have soaked the beans overnight first. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Add ghee into a pan with crushed garlic and fresh sage. Fry on a low fire to savour the fat. Add tomatoes cut side down and put the lid on the pan. Make sure the heat is low. You want to cook the tomatoes, keep the juice and avoid burning. Add the beans once they have cooked and soft, evaporate excess liquids, add salt, pepper and asafoetida. When you serve, pour a thread of olive oil on top.

Enjoy!

Nutritional confusion

Dieting confusionI recently sat down with Angie Greaves from Magic Radio and Feeling Fab website to have a proper chat about nutrition. She finally said it in a nutshell: “There is a total nutritional confusion”. I couldn’t agree more. We are so bombarded by the media with all sorts of facts about the good and the bad of our diets that no-one really knows what is right and what is wrong any more.

Let me tell you what is wrong first of all: there is no one piece of advice that is good for everyone. We have to come to an understanding that every one of us in the universe is a uniquely built being and responds differently to every variety of food, food supplements, activities and stressors from the environment. A jog might be beneficial for people with good stamina but not for someone who hasn’t been jogging for a long time. An apple a day might keep the doctor away from someone who doesn’t get an acid attack right after eating it. Different sorts of vitamins of might benefit you or not. It depends how you digest what you take in.

I have a number of clients coming for a health consultation who tell me that there is nothing wrong with their diets and that what they eat is said to be healthy and with a high nutritional content. Still they complain they can’t lose weight, they feel tired or have problems of different sorts, ranging from digestive issues and skin complaints to headaches and sleeplessness, to name a few.

Here lies another core problem behind our dietary confusion. We don’t know anymore how to consume our food. It isn’t enough to know the nutritional contents of your smoothie. If you have it at the wrong time of the day, combined it with the wrong foods and perhaps eaten on the go, you are not likely to get many benefits from it. On the contrary, bloating, gas, cramps and unexplained pains become an unwelcome but familiar presence in your life. When you know all the simple things about correct eating you will be able to enjoy proper tasty food, not have uncontrollable cravings and have your body return to its ideal weight without too much effort.

And what lies behind it? That’s the Feeling Fab that Angie is talking about. When we feel good and relaxed our bodies are able to heal themselves. Most importantly, our minds are able to make decisions on our health that are conducive to stability, wellbeing and happiness. What this means, is that it is all in our minds. And believe it or not, your diet has much to do with your mindset.

Life – Light – Love

Tabbouleh a la Anu

SAMSUNG CSCTabbouleh is nice ‘n easy summer food and it is full of garden herbs, which are in season now. I’ve come to have unusual cravings for Mint. Mint is the herb of choice of this season as it is cooling in quality and a great digestive aid. I am going to share with you a recipe I just can’t get enough of. It is nothing new, the good old tabbouleh, variations of which are copious. Here below you can find another one of them, from my kitchen.

I have to admit, this plate formed in my kitchen because I was very hungry and needed food quick. I usually prefer to make everything from scratch and, by all means, why not this one as well. But I was hit by a lightning bolt in the Lebanese corner shop near by. I think their tabbouleh, made almost in its entirety of parsley and mint with a small addition of chopped tomatoes and onions, is too acidic for me, so, I thought I’ll cook some more bulghur to it. Here’s what else went into it. I can’t remember the doses as I use measures usually for baking only. Play it by ear and have a look at the image if it helps.

1 pack of ready-made plain parsley and mint tabbouleh

(There usually is a bit of raw tomatoes, onion, lemon already)

Bulghur wheat

Sultanas

Pine nuts

Cucumber

Olive oil

Salt

Cracked black pepper

 

Cook the bulghur until it is al dente, add with tabbouleh in a bowl and mix together with a handful of sultanas, roasted pine nuts and half a cucumber cut to small dices. Add olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

I keep enjoying it with houmous and/or goats yoghurt. So good, so tasty and great picnic food by the way!

 

 

 

Buckwheat flat bread with spinach and ricotta filling

I’ve really been enjoying making flat bread from buckwheat flour. It is a great alternative to white flour and yeasted bread. To make the dough it only takes two minutes and it is very easy to work with. I’ve been using it as a wrap or a crepe, stuffed it with whatever the season provides. These wraps are a great addition to the lunch box menu and, in fact, my three year old loves them for their playfulness. She rolls them into easy to pack and eat rolls and I never find any leftovers.  photo

I usually fry the bread in ghee or coconut oil, which are the only fats that do not turn bad when heated. Sometimes I don’t use fat at all and bake them dry.

This recipe is just one of the variations and is my great favourite. I love pasta with spinach and ricotta cheese. Here is a friendlier version for the slow spring digestion.  Although ricotta cheese is not the best option for this season I find it necessary as it smoothens down the pungency of spinach. Also a little chilli makes dairy much easier to digest. I might also add a bit of parmesan cheese to the mix.

 

100g buckwheat flour

¼ tsp salt

12 tbs water

ghee or coconut oil for frying

 

Filling:

Ghee for frying

1 clove of garlic

Chilli

1 big bag of spinach

½ tub of ricotta cheese

Himalayan rock salt

Pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

 

Work the dough into flat circles depending on the size of your baking pan. Add ghee or coconut oil in the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown.

In another pan fry the garlic and chilli lightly in ghee and add the spinach. Cook until soft and then add the ricotta cheese. Savour with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Enjoy together with the flat bread.

 

Frittata di Spaghetti

frittataToday must have been one of the craziest versions of the Frittata di Spaghetti I’ve made so far. La frittata is one of my favourite Italian recipes because you can throw in nearly anything you’ve got left at the bottom of your fridge. I also hate to throw food away and this recipe allows you to be creative with leftover pasta. I’ve never had a bad result with this as long as I’ve remembered to season well.

Today I was inspired by spelt spaghetti as my daughter’s eczema is getting worse as the winter season intensifies. I’ve decided to leave not only white sugar but also white flours off her diet as they are highly acidic and with nearly no nutritional value.

The basic recipe is for 500g spaghetti, 6 eggs, parmesan cheese and salsa, the Italian tomato sauce. If I was to cook that much pasta with salsa I would use two tins but you only need one for the frittata.

Cook the spaghetti to very al dente and rinse under cold water. Prepare the salsa by heating olive oil and add chopped garlic as much as you think is best. I usually use one big clove. Once the garlic is fried, add one tin of chopped tomatoes. Add ½ tin of water and reduce to half. Season with Himalayan rock salt, pepper and parsley or basil.

Mix spaghetti in a bowl with 6 beaten eggs and a cup of grated parmesan cheese. Add salt to taste. Mix in the salsa and pour the mixture into a large frying pan with 1,5 tablespoons of ghee. Keep under low fire for 20 – 30 minutes until the frittata is ready for turning. That done, fry for another 10 to 15 minutes.

You can add anything you like in the mixture before you cook it. Usually I add olives, capers and chunks of leftover cheese. This time I fried two fillets of anchovies in the ghee, then sautéed an onion and added in them the spaghetti and egg mixture. I also added the capers I found at the bottom of two different jars and some cheddar cheese. Good old Italians might turn in their graves before combining fish and cheese but never mind, I was happy with it. This is great seasonal food and I managed to make good home economy by using leftovers and preparing a meal that will last me for the next three days, at least.

Re image, yes, I have no qualifications of a food stylist.