RSS Feed

Category: zen kitchen news

  1. You Can't beat a Winter Hearty Soup

    Posted on

    Hearty Soup, sounds good and should be too.  However, to make it really ealthy and nutritious it's good to make sure the preservatives, flavours and other enhancers are clean health wise.

    This brings me to a pet annoyance I have.

    I like to make a thick soup so that a big steaming bowl full with a bit of crusty bread is almost enough for a meal.

    To make it thick it is not unusal to use white flour.  Regardless of wheat intolerances white flour has no nutritional value as far as I can see - it is just a bulker.  Why spoil a natural healthy meal with bulkers.

    It is so easy to thicken soup with nutritionally valuable ingredients.  

    Here are some examples:

    The picture show my carrot and red lentil soup.  It have only vegetables (carrot, onion, garlic, a bit of ginger etc) in it and it is very thick

    There is quite a lot of red lentil in that soup as it is one of the main ingredients.

    Yet red lentils added to a soup with   a gentler hand is not detecta ble yet still thickens.

    Potates thicken soup and if you are adding to a stew for instance they will break up if you give hem a bit longer to cook.

    Nutritional yeast flakes add a savoury flavour to soup. They thicken and enhance the natural flavour of the soup.

    Pea Protein is a little more demanding to be overlooked, but added to a vegetable soup they blend in nicely.  Barley is a great thickener and aso fab in a barley broth.  Dried beans and pulses always soak up water but need planning into the the recipe.

    I hope that this has given you food for thought.  i really believe that when we eat we could be a lot more conscious of why we are doing it.  To maintain our healthy body.  If we bore that in mind it make making eating even more enjoyabe.thick soup







  2. Field mushroom Pate

    Posted on

    field mushroom



    You may well know that we go aforaging for the natural goodness of the earth as often as we can.  But.. we would never forage for mushrooms.  They are really hard to identify and can be very toxic is you choose wrongly.

    So we forage through the grocers, market stalls and supermarkets for our mushrooms.

    Believe it or not there are several kinds of mushrooms, each with their own qualities.  I don't mean the  oyster, porcilini etc I am talking about everyday mushrooms.  Some are tiny button mushrooms, closed cap mushrooms, breakfast mushrooms know as portabella, chestnut mushrooms and the rest.  I am very happy if we spot some  field mushrooms for sale.  They are the ones that look a bit neglected and raggy with a longer stalk and a flat cap that doesn't curl under like the usual  shop  mushrooms.

    These are full in flavour and it is very easy to make a pate with them without much effort at all.

    Here's how:

    I don't do quantities so prepare to have fun experimenting to find your ideal field mushroom pate.

    First add some coconut oil (or whatever you choose) to a pan and add onions softening them gently, add garlic (always with mushrooms) I keep it small but if you like garlic pile it in.  Next look around for any fresh herbs you might have or dried ones if you have to.  I add a little grated fresh ginger or powdered just a dash, the idea is not to taste it but to allow it to influence the background taste and a little chilli powder ditto.

    Now chop your mushrooms, stalks and all - if you can't find field then breakfast ones as the second best.  Fry  until the mushrooms are soft.  Depending on the mushroom there will be liquid building up.  Some mushroom are soaked in water to absorb and weigh heavier.  

    When you are happy with having a little liquid to allow you to pulverise then do so and voila you have a field mushroom pate.  Vegetable pate home made is not as firm as that you buy and is more like a spread but if it is too spready for you, you can add a few yeast flakes or grind up some walknuts into a powder and add them.

    I sometimes just break up some walnuts and add them not too soak up the liquid but because walnut seems to go very well with mushroom.

    Have fun and enjoy.

  3. Carrot Tops

    Posted on

    carrot tops

    Carrots have leaves.  Whatsmore they are edible and extremely nutritious.

    Just a word of warning.  Obviously when you buy carrots from the supermarket they have usually been at the very least stored chilled, they don't last very long because of this, they are usually a lot bigger than those you get with the tops attached and yet the 'whole' carrots are more expensive.  So you can be sure your carrots will be fresher and will last longer with the greens attached.  However, un;ess you buy organic the greens are the bits above ground that get all the chemical sprays, inspect repellants etc.  So it is really best to buy organic again a little bit more expensive but if you normally throw the tops away then look at it as though you are buying two veg for one. 

    The greens taste a lot like parsely and carrot.  They are quite strong and towards bitter and perfect for including in soup, casseroles and other mixed dishes.  You get a lot of top for a carrot.  You can also cook them with other greens as a side dish.  Be sparing with them as their flavour will dominate if left to itself.

    The nutritional value of carrots is the stuff that is said to help you see in the dark and gives carrots that lovely orange colout.  Beta carotene which the body converts to Vit A (the eye vit).  So carrots are bursting full of vit A, poassium and antioxidents in the main.  As well as eye  health they are also linked to healthy blood pressure.

    So the tops have a few different qualities.  They don't have the same beta carotene but they beat the root hands down for Vit c also providing potassium, vit K and chlorophyl, so excellent for blook purification and health.

    Some ideas for using carrot tops:

    Whole carrot soup

    Make a tea infusion by adding a fwq lwaves , lemon and maple syrup

    Pesto using carrot tops instead of basic or half and half

    Merely a few ideas but when you get used to them you will find ways to include them into your menus.




  4. Going Going Ginger

    Posted on

    ginger growingWhether you know it or not ginger is something that you probably have pretty often in any ready meals, soups and sauces and sweet dishes.  It is a great way to add flavour to your dish providing you do so with subtly.

    Ginger is a herb and is usually bought in powdered form.  The root ginger, which is the thing that you might buy coated in suger crystals for travel sickness or queeziness, is the true herb and as the name suggests is a root.  If you actually grow your own ginger it is very easy and although the plant itself is a bit spindly they produce almost secretly a clump of small pretty flowers within a clump of the stalk.  There is also an ornamental Ginger plant where the flowers are more significant. 

    The difference between using powdered ginger and ginger root is as different a fresh nettle and tea bag nettle tea.  There is no comparison.

    This is an update from a short video I made showing me planting a ginger root experimentally to see how it would grow.

    Ginger is considered a must for super health for the following reasons (although a doctor should be consulted for any health condition and there are some contra indications for certain medication) :

    It is well considered to be good for any kind of sickness and for soothing the stomach and helping with digestion.  It is a calmative.

    It is often depended on to support prevention and recovery from colds.  Often taken sliced with lemon and honey or an alternative sweetener  in hot water.

    It is said to be great for the heart and for pain as it is a stimulant and so increases the metabolism.  So great for help with cholesterol too. Here the contra indication raise their head.  Any medication that is controlling or stimulating your metabolism is careully calculated and any interference is best run by the professional who precribed them.

    People with oesteoarthritis have said that ginger greatly reduces the pain.

    It can also be used topically by squeezing the oil from a chunk of the root and mixing with a little olive or almond oil or adding to a non perfumed cream.  Don't forget that the ginger is still able to enter your blood stream through your skin.

    Add a slice of ginger to your daily water for a subtle taste that is healthy

    Some of the more obvious culinary uses are - well.... ginger biscuits, gingerbread, pineapple and ginger pudding and so much more.

    So give growing ginger a go and let us know how it works out.

  5. #Mabspinach blog: Spinach - the Powerhouse food

    Posted on

    Spinach is one of the modern power house foods.  If you ever watched Popeye you could be forgiven for checking out your biceps after eating it.  However those Popeye cartoon resulted from a decimal place in thw wrong place leading researches to find that spinach was a muscle builder.   But you know if you believe it ... well who knows!

    Back to spinach.  I live in Bury, home of the worlds famous Bury market, (or is that more hype). and I was delighted to find some spinach in little clumps with roots which is how it alwaus used to be when I was young and it was quite touch so always needed cooking.

    But nowadays most spinach comes in small tender leaves ideal for eating raw or for cooking.

    So what about the nutritional benefits?  Well spinach is one of the veg that has different benefits depending on whether it is raw or cooked.  So in fact its good to eat it both ways.

    Raw spinach inhibits to absorption of calcium and iron that unfortunately are what spinach is rich in.  So cooked would give you more benefit for those nutrients.  Raw spinach is rich in Vitamins and minerals such as folate, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium some of which are easier to absorb from raw food.

    When cooked spinach releases and makes easier the absorption of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron.  Also cartenoids like Beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are more absorbable.

    So it really is a good idea to mix and match cook and raw.

    Cooking spinach is very easy and especially the young leaves very quickly almost melt to next to nothing so you do need a lot more when using in a recipe.  But why not throw a few leaves into the last cooking inutes of a soup, stew or in fact any dish.  

    Happy eating


  6. Vegan Fast Food on a budget

    Posted on


    Hey this has got to be the easiest meal ever.  Perfect for lunch on a budget.

    All you need is some brown rice - I like to use round grain as it is a little creamier but long grain will do and part of an onion.  Round grain is a little difficult to get hold of,  they sell it in Holdand and Barrett.  It is not rissotto rice

    Other ingredients could include anything else you have in your fridge. 

    I have added Carrot, mushroom, red pepper, garlic and plenty of corriander with a little coconut oil or whatever you fry with.

    You could make this dish every day and just add different veg and flavours to ring the changes.

    Slice and dice the onion finely and then on a low heat gently soften.  Add the chopped carrot and any other ingredients that are going to take longer to cook, continue to gently soften.

    Add chopped pepper (I used used the end of a pointed red pepper) and finally mushrooms chopped.  Stir until the mushroom have started to soften.  Add enough water (or fresh stock from cooking vegetables if you have it)to well cover the rice and bring to simmer.  You are aiming to have a little liquid keeping the dish quite moist.

    Add garlic either finely chopped or crushed and corriander or any other herbs you favour.  

    Cook until the rice is soft - different rices take different times.  When cooked add salt and pepper to taste, garnish with a little fresh herb.  

    Other ingredients could be cauliflower or broccoli florets, celery, mange tout, chopped green beans. 

    To add a little more protein include some red split lentils.  They with break up and thicken the stock and will add a creamy flavour.  You could also add pea protein or yeast flakes which will both boost the protein content and thicken adding a savoury background flacour.  You could also add precooked beans such as butter bean, field bean or pretty much any bean and a chance to try something new.