Thank you to all the families, staff and children at Comet Children's Centre - especially Gareth, Sarah Jane and Clara. We made our own mincemeat, mince pies, mince muffins, Christmas cakes, soaps, gingerbread shapes, carrot cake muffins, chocolate muffins, lots of icings and more.
Everyone loves a soup during the winter months to get all ones nutrients and to keep warm. Gazpacho is a great way to enjoy soup in the summer and stay hydrated, refreshed and get much of ones five a day. Gazpacho is typically a Spanish dish with a recipe that will vary and depend on whom you ask and how their parents or grandparents made it. The following is a simple Gazpacho recipe that is simple and fun to make with children and suited to their taste buds.
1 kilo red ripe tomato chopped
1 green pepper deseeded and chopped
1 red pepper deseeded and chopped
1 large cucumber deseeded and chopped
1/2 a small white onion chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
250 ml tomato juice
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 chunk or two slices of stale (not moldy) bread
salt and freshly milled black pepper
- Cover and soak the bread with the tomato juice and leave while preparing the other ingredients.
- Combine the tomato, green and red pepper, cucumber, garlic and toss in the olive oil.
- Remove the bread from the tomato juice and squeeze the excess juice from the bread and add the bread to the prepared vegetables.
- Blend everything together in a food processor or with a hand blender until smooth with no chunks.
- Now stir in the olive oil, cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
- Chill for at least two hours and serve as is or with garnishes such as finely diced cucumber, herbs, ham, eggs, spring onions, peppers or anything you would like.
Here are the salmon and brocolli pasta and accompanying beetroot salad that we made today at the Healthy Eating Course held at Wentworth Children's Centre. My workshops focus on healthy recipes that are easy to prepare and cost-effective. The workshops allow for the parents and children to prepare ingredients and cook together and try new things. We cook our meals and then sit down together to enjoy the fruits of everyone's labour.
400g pasta (penne or fusili or tagliatelle)
250g skinless and boneless salmon fillets
150 ml vegetable stock
150g broccoli - chopped very finely
25g parmesan (optional)
1 chili finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- First poach the salmon. In a medium saucepan, add the vegetable stock, the juice of half a lemon, bay leaf, salt, pepper and heat to medium high. Add the salmon with the skin side next to the pan. Cover, reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Once cooked remove from pan, cover and allow to cook. Keep the poaching liquid. Break the salmon up in to smaller flakes and remove any bones that may still be in the filets.
- Prepare the water for the pasta according to the instructions and be sure to add salt to the water. Set a timer and cook the pasta until al dente, strain and reserve.
- Melt the butter in the pan with the poaching liquid, add the chili to the poached water and stir over medium heat for one minute.
- Then add the brocolli, cover with a lid and cook on medium heat for three to five minutes.
- Next add the yoghurt to the mixture and stir well until everything is combined well.
- Add the parmesan to the mixture and combine.
- Add the mixture and the flaked salmon to the pasta, add salt and pepper then stir and thoroughly combine.
- Garnish with fresh parsley (or any fresh herb) and serve.
1 tbsp Olive oil
fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of salt
- Finely chop all the ingredients with the exception of the rocket and place in a bowl.
- Toss together with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Gently stir and fold the rocket into the vegetables.
For week 5 of the Healthy Eating Fast Food Alternatives course we prepared a Turkish feast at Sebright Children's Centre. Each time I run this course the fifth week's menu is chosen by the students. Turkish food is very healthy and very varied but like any food eaten at restaurants it can be full of extra calories and fat. A special thanks is due to Selma who is Turkish and works at Sebright and another very kind Turkish woman who attended the course with her daughters. Together they helped us tweak the recipes and gave us lots of tips. Selma noted that Turkish food often involves a lot of preparation and different stages so we chose these recipes that can be prepared in advance, are cost effective and served with healthy sauces and sides. Selma and Itidal and all the staff at Sebright have been so helpful to myself and the families on the course and they make working at Sebright such a pleasure and I am very thankful for their hard work and support.
For our feast we prepared falafel, lamb kofte, hummous, vegetable cous cous, salad and a homemade mint dressing served with pita bread for 8 adults and 5 children for £15 in two hours.
400g can chickpea, rinsed and drained
Half a red onion, finely chopped
garlic clove, chopped
handful of fresh parsley
handful of fresh coriander
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp canola oil or coconut oil
toasted pitta bread
lettuce, tomato and various accompaniments as desired
- Rinse the chickpeas and soak them in water and lightly rub the chickpeas with your finger and thumb to remove the shell surrounding each chickpea and then discard shells.
- Blend all the ingredients until they are a smooth consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the mixture to rest for 20-45 minutes, if not longer.
- Heat up your oil to medium hot but be careful to not burn the oil.
- Shape the mixture into golf sized ball shapes and gently flatten a bit using wet hands so that the mixture does not stick to your hands. Place the balls ready to fry on a plate.
- Fry the falafel balls until they go a deep brown in colour, turn carefully and cook the other side. When they are ready remove and place on a sheet of kitchen towel for a few moments to soap up any excess oil.
- Serve in pita bread or on their own with tomato, lettuce, hummus and other dips and gerkhins, pickled cabbage or other accompaniments.
Lamb Kofte Recipe
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp chopped mint
500g lean lamb mince
1 small red onion finely chopped
1/4 green pepper, cored, deseeded and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lamb Kofte Instructions
- Mix together the garlic and mint in a bowl, add the lamb and stir well. Cover and leave to marinate in a cool place or the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Shape the mixture into 5 cm long sausage shapes or 3 cm wide round disc shapes and leave to rest covered in a cool place or fridge for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the grill to a hot setting.
- Place the shaped lamb kofte in a single layer on a baking tray and place on the top shelf and cook for 10 minutes, after 10 minutes turn each kofte and cook for another 10 minutes being sure to not burn. Alternatively you can grill the kofte as well for 4-5 minutes on each side until cooked through.
- Serve with mint dressing, cous cous, salad, hummous,e tc.
Two tins (425 grams) chickpeas
Fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, depending on taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash of ground paprika for serving if desired
A sprig of fresh coriander for serving if desired
- Open the tin of chickpeas, drain the liquid and then rinse well with water. Soak the chickpeas in some water and using your fingers and thumb to lightly rub the chickpeas which will release the shells from the chickpea. When all the shells are removed strain the water and keep the chickpeas to the side for the moment.
- In a separate bowl or blender add tahini, lemon juice and the olive oil to a bowl or blender and mix until thoroughly combined. Make sure to scrape the sides down into the mixture and blend/mix again.
- Add the garlic, cumin and salt to the mixture and blend for one minute. Make sure to scrape the sides down into the mixture and blend until thoroughly combined.
- Add the chickpeas in stages to the mixture and blend until combined. Keep blending until the humous is thick and smooth.
- Taste the humous and add any more ingredients until it is of a desired taste and consistency. If the mixture is still not a smooth enough consistency you can add another tablespoon of olive oil or water and then blend again for 1 minute.
- Place the humous into a decorative serving bowl or plate and then garnish with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and garnish with a sprig of coriander.
Homemade hummous will last for one week in an airtight container in the fridge.
You can add all sorts of things to hummous to jazz it up, for example roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, chillies and more. You can also use any sort of pulses such as butter beans to make a slightly different type of dip.
If you like a very smooth consistency of hummous you can remove the shells before adding it to the mixture.
For an even more inexpensive hummous you can use dried chickpeas which are cheaper. For this you should soak the chickpeas in water overnight and then cook gently for an hour the next day until soft.
Vegetable Cous Cous Recipe
500g cous cous
500g organic vegetable stock or one free of MSG or additives
100g tomato diced small
half a red pepper diced small
half a green pepper diced small
half a yellow pepper diced small
handful of fresh parsley
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly cracked pepper
Vegetable Cous Cous Instructions
- Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl, pour 500ml/18fl oz of vegetable stock over the couscous. Leave to stand until the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper and fluff the couscous with a fork. Set aside until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
- Add all the remaining ingredient and stir until combined. Any diced vegetables can be added to make a tasty cous cous salad.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with some larger slices of vegetables like peppers or tomatoes and serve.
Basic Mint Dressing
one bunch of mint
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbsp boiling water
4 tbsp cider vinegar
1 level tbsp sugar or agave syrup
Basic Mint Dressing Instructions
- Separate the stems from the mint leaves and discard the stems.
- Gently rub the salt into the mint leaves sprinkle and chop into roughly .5-1 cm pieces.
- Add the leaves to a heatproof bowl then stir in the sugar or agave syrup.
- Top the mint with the freshly boiled water while stirring thoroughly and then leave to cool.
- Once the mixture is cool, stir in the cider vinegar.
- Add more water or vinegar and adjust seasoning to suit your taste.
The dressing can be added to vegetables, salads, meat and fish.
For the third week of our six-week Healthy Eating Fast Food/Takeaway Alternatives course we made a vegetarian curry and a mango chutney. Each week we always have a vegetarian option but this week we opted to go all vegetarian. A combination of an overly large pan, an electric stove and baby tomatoes left this recipe rather dry and we were glad for our mango chutney that we had made but I have tweaked the recipe a bit or if you prefer a dryer curry you can omit the vegetable stock. I recommend getting the mango chutney made first and put to the side or do all the prep of the ingredients for both the vegetable curry and mango chutney and make then side by side. The vegetable curry can easily have meat, seafood or tofu added to it
Indian remains one of the most popular takeaway meals in the UK and in London we are spoilt with amazing Indian takeaway and restaurant options at all price points. Whilst working on Brick Lane I could not muster up the self control to not walk the twenty paces from where I worked to Ambala where I would eat three samosas a day as a late afternoon snack. I never even considered how many calories or grams of fat were in each samosa and when I researched this I was really surprised to see that I had been adding almost 500 extra calories and 25 grams of fat each day. I'm still unable to be near an Ambala and not get samosas but now I have it as a treat and limit myself to one meat and one veg samosa instead of my minimum three. Here are some more average amount of calories and grams of fat (respectively) in Indian takeaways:
Chicken Biryani - 1000 cal, 43 grams of fat
Chicken Korma - 860 cal, 50 grams of fat
Lamb Rogan Josh - 650 cal, 37 grams of fat
Vegetable Jalfrezi - 460 cal, 30 grams of fat
Garlic naan the whole naan - 760 cal, 25 grams of fat
Onion bhaji - 2 bahjis - 450 cal, 25 grams of fat
Poppadoms - 2 poppadom - 70 cal, 5 grams of fat
Meat or veg samosa - 1 samosa - 145 cal, 8 grams of fat
Indian Takeaway tips:
Many dishes are loaded with oil, ghee and fat and with pilau rice, starters and side dishes, Indian takeouts can quickly end up meeting and going beyond your daily recommended allowances and not is a healthy way at all.
Avoid the creamier based reamy curries like masala and korma which are higher in calories and fat. Tomato based curries like jalfrezi, rogan or madras are a better choice, or opt for dry dishes like biryanis. Some ways to make substitutions and save on calories include choosing plain boiled rather than pilau, chappati rather than naan, choosing veggie curries and opting out or reducing the number of fried starters such as samosas and bhajis.
Vegetable Curry Recipe
500 g vegetables i.e.-cauliflower, green beans, carrots, aubergine
200 g potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 cm squares
6 tomatoes, chopped finely or a tin of tomatoes
2 onions - thinly sliced into crescents
300 ml vegetable stock
4 tbsp coconut oil, canola oil or alternative oil
2 cloves garlic - finely chopped or minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled - finely chopped or minced
1 tsp cumin seeds - if you do not have cumin seeds you can use ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
2 pinches of sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper - or more if desired personal taste
Fresh coriander - washed handful, roughly chopped
Fresh lemon juice from half a lemon - strained to remove seeds
- Prepare the vegetable stock by either warming homemade vegetable stock or use a high quality powdered stock that is free from additives or MSG.
- Toast the cumin seeds in a pan under medium heat while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes making sure that the seeds do not burn. Grind the toasted cumin seeds and add all the readily ground spices into a small bowl ready to add later on in the recipe.
- Warm the oil in a large pan at medium heat and add the onions and cook slowly until transparent. Do not let them brown or dry out, add a spoonful of the vegetable stock should the onions start to dry out or brown.
- Add the ginger and garlic and cook for one minute, stirring all the while. Reduce the heat or add a spoonful of the stock should the garlic and ginger and start to brown, do let them burn.
- With the pan at medium heat, stir the ground spices into the onions, garlic and ginger and keep stirring until they are thoroughly mixed in, about three minutes.
- Now add the tomatoes and stock and keep stirring until everything is mixed together well, about 5 minutes.
- Add the vegetables and stir to mix throughout, cover and cook on low to mediumheat for 30 minutes or until vegetables potatoes are thoroughly cooked to desired texture. Stir in fresh lemon juice and fresh coriander, stir and serve with brown rice.
Quick Mango Chutney Recipe
1 mango chopped into small irregular pieces
1/4 onion finely chopped or minced
1/2 - 1 chili - depending on personal taste - de-seeded and finely chopped
150 ml cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
pinch of salt
- Combine the sugar and cider vinegar in a pan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the mango pieces to the mixture and stir.
- Add the spices and salt and increase heat stirring all the while.
- Once the mixture has been boiling for 3-5 minutes, reduce the heat to low, stir occasionally to avoid burning and allow the chutney to thicken which should take 15 -30 minutes.
- Once the chutney is at the desired thickness remove it from the stove and place in a glass container.
- This is a quick chutney recipe that is meant to be served while fresh alongside a curry and eaten right away or kept for a few days wrapped up and kept in a fridge.
I am working with families to discuss the fat, sugar and salt content in fast food and takeaway meals and we are preparing much tastier and healthier options. I am working with a diverse group of families and they share a lot of tips and techniques around the pressures of providing healthy meals with busy lifestyles, fussy eaters, adding new meals to their family cookbooks and stretching food budgets. This is our second week of a six-week course.
This week we focus on what i believe is the the worst culprit of the fast food takeaway options, the chicken shops. In London, and elsewhere, you cannot walk too far without sensing some evidence of the chicken shops; the horrible smell due to cheap chicken and overused cheap oil, the discarded boxes and bones or the shops strategically placed so close to schools. It's not just teenagers eating at these shops and it is big business, the fried chicken market is worth £15-£20 billion pounds a year and they are interested in profit, not quality or nutrition. I struggled to even find statistics on what is in these takeaway items but an average chicken shop meal contains 60% of your RDA of calories, 45% of your RDA saturated fats and 85% of your RDA of salt. I gathered a lot of information from Nominet Trust and Shift (formerly We Are What We Do and it was in an article by Shift that sums up the ethos of this six-week course:
This weeks recipe is one I picked up in New Orleans for blackened chicken, a cajun style way of seasoning and preparing that can also be applied to fish, shellfish, pork, beef and vegetables. We also prepared blackened vegetables as in each course we offer vegetarian options and we also made a large salad to be served with our blackened chicken and blackened vegetables.
We preheated our oven to 200 C° and then we prepared our chicken and vegetables separately and took extra special care with utensils, surface and cleaning as we do in every class. We made two batches in separate bowls of the blackened seasoning one for the chicken and to that we added 1 TBSP of flour and one for the vegetables which we did not add 1 TBSP of flour.
Blackened Seasoning recipe:
- 1 TSP paprika (smoked paprika if you have it)
- 1 TSP thyme
- 1 TSP oregano
- 1/2 TSP chilli flakes
- 1/2 TSP onion salt
- 1 TSP cayenne pepper
- 1 TSP freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1 TBSP Flour* add this only to the mix for the chicken, not for the vegetables
We tossed 700g of chicken sliced into 2-3 cm wide strips in the bowl with the blackened seasoning mix with the flour, covered with cling film and put in the fridge. In the second bowl of the seasoning without the flour we tossed our vegetables which included brocolli, peppers and carrots and stirred them until the mix was evenly on the veg. Them we sprayed a non stick baking tray with a few sprays of our coconut oil cooking spray and added a few more sprays on top of the veg and put them in the oven on the uppermost tray. We cooked them for 30 minutes but set a timer for 15 minutes so that we could check them and turn the veg so that they were cooked nice and evenly without burning.
With our veg in the oven we made our salad and decided as a group to leave it undressed as we had so much flavour in our chicken and veg we wanted the salad to act as a palate cleanser and to enjoy the taste of the salad ingredients, in this case we had gem lettuce, carrots, cucumber, peppers and tomato.
Then we heated our pans until they were at medium hot to high heat and put 3 sprays of our coconut oil spray and then placed our chicken in the pan which should be so hot that the chicken immediately starts to sizzle. Make sure you let the chicken have enough space to cook and depending on the thickness of your strips cook them for 4-6 minutes on each side so that each piece is thoroughly cooked and a nice dark brown colour all over. Leave the strips to rest for a few minutes and remove the blackened veg and serve together with your pre-prepared salad.
This was our lovely feast which was thoroughly enjoyed by all and everyone commented that the seasoning wasn't spicy but very flavourful and enhanced the chicken and vegetables. This recipe works wonderfully with salmon and can be adapted to a salmon pasta or blackened prawns in a stir fry with some vegetables. You can even make the seasoning and rub it into a whole chicken and have left overs for salads or curries and turn your stock into a soup. Next week we will be preparing a Vegetable Daag curry with homemade mango chutney.