A warming, spiced quinoa porridge

A-warming-spiced-quinoa-porridge

While oats are delicious and good for you, some may find them heavy and a bit hard on their tummies.

I am one of those people.

I had almost written off porridge as a breakfast staple until I substituted the oats for quinoa flakes.

Normally I find quinoa flakes a bit bitter, but toasting then in some ghee or coconut oil fixes that problem.

Besides being gluten-free and much, much lighter on the tummy, quinoa flakes are also a lot quicker to cook than your standard rolled oats.

Which means you get a wholesome, yummy breakfast in your tummy more quickly.

I must thank Lorien of Wholesome Loving Goodness for the inspiration for this Ayurvedic-style porridge recipe — I was blessed to eat a similar creation of hers while visiting Byron Bay for the Spirit festival recently.

And ever since that trip, I’ve been mindfully devouring this porridge for breakfast — I simply can’t get enough of it!

Recipe

Serves 2–3

Cooking time: 15 minutes

This recipe is gluten-free.

  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 8 cardamom pods, husks removed (use seeds only)
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 2 tbsp chemical-free currants
  • 1 cup milk of your choice
  • 1.5 – 2 cups freshly boiled water
  • coconut sugar, to serve
  • blanched almonds or activated nuts, to serve

Heat ghee over low heat in a medium-sized pot

Gently toast spices in ghee for a minute

Add quinoa and coconut

Continue to toast for another couple of minutes, stirring continually

Add currants, 1.5 cups water and all the milk

Bring mixture to a boil

Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer

Stir continually as would while making polenta (a wooden spoon works best)

Your porridge is ready in 3–4 minutes as it thickens up, you can add the remaining water if it’s too thick for you

Serve sprinkled with coconut sugar (it’s lovely when it melts!) and nuts

Extras will keep in fridge for up to a week

Re-heat any leftovers with a little water or milk

Variations

  • Vegan — use coconut oil instead of ghee, and coconut milk or nut milk for the milk
  • Another grain — amaranth or rice flakes would work well too. I used a mix of amaranth and quinoa flakes for my last batch. Or you could use oats (wont be gluten-free unless you can buy GF oats) —  it will take longer to cook, though, and will better if you soak overnight before cooking.
  • Another sweetener — add little raw honey, maple syrup or rapadura sugar before serving

Kichari ~ a humble, but nourishing, lentil & rice dish

Kichari is considered a very nourishing and healing meal in India. That’s because it’s traditionally made with split mung dhal, a highly regarded food in Ayurvedic medicine.

This version of kichari is not that traditional, though — I’ve added vegetables to it (normally there aren’t any), and I’ve used organic split red lentils, since they are generally much easier to get a hold of.

If you’d like to use mung dhal, you’ll be able to find it at an Indian grocery store and some whole food stores. Just be sure you buy the split, husked variety.

kichari

This kichari recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian.

Serves 4–6

Prep time: ~15 minutes; Total cooking time: ~45 minutes

  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 1 cup split red lentils (or split mung dal)
  • 2 tbsp ghee or olive oil + 1 extra tbsp
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 6 cups water (you’ll need about 7 cups if using split mung beans)
  • 3 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • sea salt, to taste

Wash the rice and lentils together in a sieve. Do this step twice

If you have trouble digesting lentils, soak the rice and lentils together for about 30 minutes then drain and set aside

Heat 2 tablespoons ghee/oil over medium heat in large pot (that has a lid)

Add mustard seeds

After the mustard seeds start to pop, add the cumin, onion and chilli

Sauté for a few minutes, until onions become translucent

Add the turmeric garlic and tomatoes

Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down

Mix in the rice, lentils, carrots and zucchini, and stir thoroughly so all the spices and flavours coat the ingredients

Add the water and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer

Stir in some salt. Try ½ a teaspoon.

Cook for 30–40 minutes with the lid partially on, until you get a risotto like consistency and the lentils are fully cooked. If you find that the kichari is drying out before the lentils are cooked, add some hot (freshly boiled) water

Stir continually while the kichari is cooking to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Using a heat diffuse may help

Once cooked, stir through the spinach and turn off the heat

Mix in the remaining ghee/oil and adjust seasoning to your liking

Serve as is or with a dollop natural yogurt

Variations

Vegan — use olive or coconut oil instead of ghee and serve with this cashew sour cream.

Vegetarian — this dish is already vegetarian

Seasonal — to make in winter, skip the fresh tomatoes and replace with 1 tablespoon tomato paste or leave it out. Instead of zucchini, use 1 head of broccoli, chopped.

Conscientious omnivore — sorry, this dish is meant to be vegetarian

Grain/legume free — um, then it’s not kichari

Paleo — not happening

Money-saving — this is quite an affordable meal as it is. To keep this dish affordable throughout the seasons, use seasonal produce {see above}.

Zucchini & corn fritters

At this time of year, there is an abundance of zucchini in almost every urban vegetable garden in Melbourne. People can’t even give them away for free.

Even if you don’t have access to free zucchini, you’ll be able to get them cheaply when in season (which is right now in Melbourne). Besides getting fresh produce that hasn’t been stored for ages and lost it’s nutrients, seasonal produce is also kind to your hip pocket.

So arm yourself with some zucchini and make these fritters to no end. They are healthy, delicious and an easy way to get some veggies into you — and the kids, of course.

Recipe

zucchini-corn-fritters_resized

makes 8 fritters; serves 2 as a main

prep & cooking time: 25 minutes

  • 2 (265 g) zucchini, grated
  • 1 (265 g) corncob, kernels only
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ chilli flakes
  • sea salt, to taste (I used ¾ tsp)
  • ½ cup besan (chickpea) flour
  • ghee or coconut oil for pan-frying

Combine grated zucchini and corn kernels in a large mixing bowl

In a separate bowl, whisk only ¼ cup besan flour with the remaining ingredients, until there are no lumps

Pour the besan batter into the zucchini-corn mix and combine thoroughly

Stir in the remaining besan flour, a spoonful at a time (it mops up the liquid that gets drawn out of the zucchini by the salt).

Heat ghee/oil in a large fry pan over medium heat (See this post for tips on cooking fritters)

Spoon heaped tablespoons of fritter batter into the fry pan (leave enough space between each fritter. Depending on the size of your fry pan, you may need to cook in 2–3 batches)

Fry for 3–4 minutes, then gently flip the fritter and cook the other side.

Turn out fritters onto a plate lined with paper towel

Serve with a salad and a dollop of natural yoghurt or goats cheese. To make it more substantial, serve with a boiled egg

Variations

Other veggies — use carrots instead of zucchini

Vegan — I haven’t tried it without egg, so I’m not sure how it will hold. You could try this: omit the egg and use a chia gel (1 tsp ground chia mixed with 50 ml water, allow to sit for few minutes before stirring in), plus 2 tablespoons water; replace the yoghurt with a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Dairy free — replace the yoghurt with a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Paleo — replace besan flour with 3 tablespoons of coconut flour and the corn with a grated carrot; add another egg

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Crispy tempeh with sautéed greens

I can’t remember when or how I was introduced to tempeh.

Tempeh, I find, has a nutty, mushroom-like taste. Which I like. And it’s a hearty, source of vegetarian protein too. It originated in Indonesia and is made of whole soy beans that have been soaked, cooked and fermented with the rhizopus oligosporus bacteria. The fermentation process binds the beans into a firm ‘cake’, and makes the soy easier to digest.

In Australia, tempeh is usually sold in vacuum-sealed packs, in the shape of a thin rectangular-shaped block of about 200–300g. I buy it from an organic food store, but you should be able find it in the fridge section of most health food stores and some supermarkets. Thankfully, it’s usually organic too, so you don’t need to worry about genetically modified soy. But just check to be sure.

I enjoy cooking with tempeh. It’s easy to handle. The texture, while being firm, is slightly spongy. This makes it ideal for marinating — it soaks up all the yummy flavours. Tempeh does rely on other ingredients for flavour, otherwise it’s bland without. Tempeh also freezes well. I usually defrost in the fridge overnight to cook the next day.

I use tempeh in the simplest of simplest ways. I either pan-fry it into crispy squares of goodness and toss them through fried rice, salads or sautéed veggies, or I mash it with other ingredients and turn it into a substantial veggie patty.

Let’s have it with some sautéed green veggies today.

Recipe

crispy-tempeh-greens-2

Enough for 2

  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • coconut oil, enough to generously coat the base of your fry pan + 2 tbsp extra
  • 150 g tempeh, sliced into thin pieces
  • tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), to taste
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 15 g ginger, minced or finely grated
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
  • 5 heaped cups greens, chopped/shredded (I used kale, snow peas & bok choy; other options: broccoli, cabbage, silverbeet)
  • sea salt, to taste

First, lightly dry toast the sesame seeds in a small fry pan over medium heat. Shake the pan regularly. Once you have a lightly golden colour, tip the seeds into a small plate and set aside.

Next, heat coconut oil in a fry pan — generously coating the base of the pan — and fry the tempeh over medium–high heat for about 3 minutes each side until golden. Before turning off the heat, drizzle about a teaspoon of tamari over the tempeh and quickly stir the tempeh as the tamari sizzles, so you coat all the pieces. (Note: You may need to fry the tempeh in a couple of batches, depending on how large your fry pan is.) Spoon the tempeh onto a plate lined with a sheet of paper towel, and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in large wide-based saucepan or fry pan. Gently fry the onions until translucent and add the ginger and chilli. Sauté for about another minute, then add the greens. Continue to sauté until the greens are cooked to you liking. Then add the fried tempeh and season to your taste using tamari and/or sea salt. Serve with brown rice or quinoa and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

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Sautéed beet leaves with coconut milk & capers

Beet greens are the leaves and stalks attached to beetroots. Have you ever eaten them? In case you didn’t know, they’re edible, delicious and nutritious!

Because beetroots are mostly sold in the supermarket without their leaves attached, many don’t know that these gorgeous leaves can be eaten and are highly nutritious (since they’re greens!). You are most likely to find beet greens (attached to their beets) at organic grocery stores and farmers’ markets. And it’s also an economical way to get some greens (basically they’re ‘free’ when you buy the beets).

About a month ago, I found myself inundated with beet leaves (and beets). I couldn’t resist buying them at the organic store where I shop. They looked so beautiful and fresh – both the beets and the leaves, so I bought a bunch. Then my parents popped by on the weekend and brought me a large bunch from their home garden. (By the way, their home garden is their whole back yard!)

Since beetroot leaves don’t keep fresh for too long after harvesting (up to a week or so), I needed to make something quick smart so I would not waste these gorgeous, luscious leaves. Plus I needed more room in my refrigerator. This got me thinking of different ways to cook up beet leaves. I came up with seven:

  1. use it in a curry with the beets
  2. add it to a frittata, like you would silverbeet
  3. use it instead of spinach in a spinach and fetta pie
  4. juice them (younger beet leaves are best because of lower oxalic acid than older leaves)
  5. eat in a salad (again, younger beet leaves are best)
  6. add it to soups, like you would spinach, kale or silverbeet
  7. just sauté them with some garlic and herbs to have as a side, or try variation I came up with below

Recipe

beetroot-leaves-with-capers-coconut-milk_resizedServes ~ 3 people, as a side

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small brown onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 5 cups (~500g) shredded beet leaves & chopped stems
  • 2 tbsp salt-crusted capers
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • sea salt to taste
  • squeeze of lemon

In a wide and deep fry pan, heat oil and sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic and sauté briefly before adding the beet leaves. Stir continually.

Once the leaves have wilted add the capers and coconut milk. Saute for a couple more minutes, then turn off stove. Season and squeeze over some lemon juice.

(Note: the dish is not meant to be saucy — the milk evaporates off. But if you would like it to be, just add more coconut milk.)

Serve as you would  side of greens — I ate mine with pan-fried fish on one occasion, and with some rice and dhal on another.

What other ways have you used beet greens?

 

Pumpkin & date brown rice porridge

I’m a 5-year-old again. In my mother’s kitchen. The waft of ground cardamom fills my nostrils. It’s Diwali, and my mum is making Indian sweets.

That’s the place I go to whenever I smell freshly ground cardamom. I love it. And I think of my mum every single time I grind this spice.

It’s funny how certain aromas take you back to yesteryear — to a time and place that you think of fondly (or, perhaps, not so fondly, whatever the case may be). It just shows you how complex the human brain is, with our senses and memories fusing together to play a notable part in our food behaviours and cravings.

Being from Fiji, and with parents who have a penchant for growing and cooking their own food, I was rather lucky in the food stakes. Much of my cravings stem from my mum’s curries, with staples like dhal, rice and fresh tomato chutney — which translate into comfort and security.

This rice porridge certainly fits the bill of comfort, security and fond memories too. It’s my take on the Indian rice pudding, kheer. Except that it’s healthy enough to eat for breakfast.

Recipe

brown-rice-porridgeServes 4–6

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepita)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup packed grated pumpkin
  • 3 medjool dates, seeded & finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom (or grind seeds of 6 cardamom pods)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups cashew milk (or any other milk)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

In a large bowl, soak brown rice and seeds in water overnight. Add a tablespoon of something acidic like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in the soaking water.

Next day rinse and drain the soaked rice and nuts, and pour into to a large, heavy-based pot. To the pot add the grated pumpkin, spices, dates, coconut oil and water.

Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for ~ 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Stir continually to avoid the porridge from sticking to the bottom of the pot. A heat diffuser helps.

Add milk and maple syrup. Continue to simmer on low heat for another 30 minutes or so (until the rice is as soft as you’d like it and the porridge is thick and creamy). Stir often.

When ready, serve with extra milk, and top with natural yoghurt and freshly sliced fruit. Or perhaps some shredded coconut, goji berries, walnuts and cinnamon.

Make a batch over the weekend for the week ahead (double the quantities to make a bigger batch). Extras will keep in the fridge for 3–4 days. Or you can freeze in batches. Reheat with some milk or water.

Baked brown rice risotto with lentils & mushrooms

baked-brown-rice-risotto-with-puy-lentils-mushroomsI first made this risotto in the midst of the winter we have just left in southern hemisphere. It was something that I pulled together with the ingredients I had in my pantry and fridge.

The risotto turned out so delicious that I knew I had to make it again, even if it was just to post about it on this blog! But then a lovely opportunity arose. I was having my girlfriend Jacq over for dinner last Saturday. She loves mushrooms and brown rice. Yes! This risotto had to be on the menu. A loving way to feed my friend  and a warm goodbye to this year’s winter.

Recipe

Serves 4–5

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (or ghee if not vegan)
  • 1 small brown onion, finely diced
  • 2–4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 baby fennel, finely diced
  • 1 ½ cups brown rice, soaked overnight
  • ½ cup French puy lentils, soaked for 4–6 hours
  • 2 tbsp mirin (optional)
  • 4 extra large (or 8 medium) Swiss brown or button mushrooms
  • 15 g dried mushrooms (porcini or mixed)
  • 5 cups (1250 mL) homemade stock or water
  • ½ cup thick cashew milk (or any nut milk)
  • sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F (160C/320F fan-forced).

Soak dried mushrooms in ½ cup warm water for at least 30 minutes. Keep the soaking water.

In a large, ovenproof pot with lid (I used a cast-iron pot), heat ghee/olive oil over medium heat on the stove.

Sauté onions for a couple of minutes then add garlic and fennel. Sweat fennel for about 5 minutes, before stirring in the rice and lentils.

Add the mirin if using, and when it evaporates off, stir in the soaked mushrooms, mushroom water and fresh mushrooms.

Next pour in stock/water. Bring to a boil, then put the lid on and place pot into the oven.

The risotto will take around 45–60 minutes to cook. After 40 minutes, remove the pot to check the amount of liquid remaining. If it is already at a risotto consistency and the rice isn’t cooked. Add ½ a cup of water (or stock if you have some extra). Give it a good stir, add some salt to your taste and place back in the oven with the lid on. Check periodically (every 10 minutes or so), until the rice is cooked and you have a risotto consistency to your liking. If you need to, you can add more hot water. (I found 5 cups of water enough to cook the risotto, but the amount of liquid can vary depending on soaking times, and the rice and lentils you use.)

Once the rice is done, stir in cashew milk, and salt and black pepper to your taste.

Serve with a large, green leafy salad.

A coconutty, tomatoey egg curry

egg-curry
While you may not see an egg curry in an Indian restaurant, it is a common dish in many Indian and Sri Lankan households.

Just last week I ate an egg curry at my husband’s uncle’s place. Being Sri Lankan, he used coconut milk as the base for the curry sauce. It was incredibly delicious, and I kept going back for more.  So, I had to have a go at making it!

Before this, I only really had egg curries made in a tomato base — that’s how my mum makes it, and, so, that’s how I ever made it. In this version, however, I pay homage to my husband’s and my heritage by combining the two flavours. A coconutty, tomatoey curry sauce — YUM.

If you’re vegan or have egg allergies, you can make this curry using small button or Swiss brown (Portobello) mushrooms instead. If the mushrooms are small enough, you can leave them whole, or slice them in half. You shouldn’t have to miss out on this delicious sauce (see variations below).

Recipe

Serves 4

  • 8 organic, pastured eggs
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 8 curry leaves, torn (optional)
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small knob (15 g) ginger, finely grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 chillies, finely diced
  • spice mix: 1 tsp each roasted and ground cumin and coriander, and 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk
  • sea salt, to taste

Boil eggs until they are semi-hard (about 7–8 minutes). Then plunge in cool water and peel. Set aside.

Over medium heat in a heavy-based pot, heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves if using (you can get them in an Indian grocery store). Next, add in the onions and sauté until translucent. Then add the ginger, garlic and chillies. Stir continuously for a minute, before adding the spice mix and tomato paste. Continue to dry fry for about 2 minutes and pour in the coconut milk. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and pop in the eggs.

Allow the curry to simmer for about 3–5 minutes. If the sauce is getting too thick for your liking add some freshly boiled water. Season to your taste, and enjoy with some brown or Basmati rice and a large side of steamed greens or salad.

Variations

Instead of boiled eggs, add to the sauce:

Vegan — 2 cups of small button mushrooms and cook for 3–5 minutes

Pescatarian — 400g white-fleshed, sustainable fish (ling and snapper work well), diced into 2 cm cubes. Cook for about 3 minutes.

Conscientious carnivore — 400g chicken breast (from ethically raised chickens), diced into 2cm cubes. Cook for about 5 minutes. Make sure chicken is fully cooked.

Baked quinoa risotto

baked-quinoa-risottoServes 3 as a main, or 4 as a side

  • One cup quinoa, thoroughly washed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 celery stalks finely diced
  • One red onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
  • A handful of fresh herbs, like thyme and rosemary or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 small sweet potato, about 150 g (1 cup), diced into small cubes
  • 8 medium mushrooms, diced
  • 1 cup sprouted mung beans (or use 1 cup of any cooked legumes, like chickpeas and kidney beans)
  • 3 cups homemade stock
  • 1 large broccoli head (3 cups, including stems)
  • sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 150C fan-forced (170C conventional). In a large pot (that is also oven-proof and has a lid) heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the celery for about 5 minutes then add the onions, chilli, garlic and herbs. Sweat for another 5 minutes, stirring continuously.

Next, add the sweet potatoes and sauté for another 3–5 minutes before  stirring in the mushrooms, quinoa and legumes. Season with  salt and add stock. Put the lid on and pop the pot into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and stir in the broccoli. Place the lid back on and bake for another 15 minutes. Then check whether the sweet potato has cooked through. If not, bake for a few more minutes.

Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season to your taste. I also like to squeeze in some lemon juice.

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Homemade nutella

You may have heard. In case you haven’t, here it is:

Two mothers in the US took Nutella to court over false advertising and won their case — and got a $3.5 million payout.

About time, I say.

On the other hand, my version of Nutella is basically a chocolate nut butter (so it’s thicker than Nutella) with a touch of natural sweetness from some maple syrup. It’s healthy, delicious, vegan and gluten-free. Enjoy it, guilt-free.

Recipe

nutella butterYou need a good quality food processor to make this — something that can turn nuts into nut butter without burning the motor!

Makes about 1 cup (if  this isn’t going to last long in your household, just double the amounts)

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted with the skins rubbed off (as much as possible) 
  • 2–3 tbsp (30–45 mL) macadamia nut oil (or unscented coconut oil, melted)
  • 1.5 tbsp organic, fair trade cocoa 
  • 2–3 tbsp (30–45 ml) pure maple syrup 

In a food processor, blitz together the hazelnuts and 2 tablespoons of oil until it turns into nut butter. You may need to stop the processor couple of times, and scrape down the sides to get a nut butter consistency. Having a nut butter consistency is important, otherwise you won’t have a very spreadable ‘Nutella’. If it’s not quite there add another tablespoon of oil to help it along.

Then add the cocoa and maple syrup. Whizz together until everything is blended. If it’s too thick, add a touch more oil and/or maple syrup and process. (Note: This Nutella will be thicker than the store bought one).

Store in an airtight glass jar. It will keep for weeks in the fridge (if it lasts that long!).