Monday 30 January 2012

Chicken Mulligata…what?

Indian spices

Ok, you have to bear with me because the soup obsession hasn’t finished just yet.  Mulligatawny is one of my favourites. It is an Indian type of soup with spices. It is fragrant and has that warming comfort-food factor that I love on cold days. This soup has different variations and is often thickened with rice. Since I learnt a recipe by Annie Bell, the queen of soups, I’ve been making it for years in the winter! It is very quick to make, especially if you have all the ingredients prepped to make your cooking life easier.

If you don’t enjoy too much spice, adjust it according to your taste.

The fresh ingredients
The dry ingredients
Sautee lentils, onion, garlic, chilli and spices. Add
the chicken (already browned)
Add stock and let it cook for 45 min
When ready, take the chicken out of the pot
Separate the meat from the bone
Place the chicken back in the pot and add the coconut milk
My chicken Mulligatawny! Serve with spring onions,
fresh chilli and coriander leaves.

Chicken Mulligatawny (adapted from Annie Bell’s recipe)
Serves 6

Full of flavour and nutrients, this soup can be enjoyed in small portions as it is quite filling - unless you are like my husband, who’s  more than happy to have seconds.


1 tablespoon groundnut oil or ghee
sea salt and black pepper
6 chicken thighs
1 medium fresh chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
350g yellow split peas, rinsed
1.2 litres chicken stock
400ml can coconut milk
A juice of 1 lemon

To garnish
chopped coriander
finely sliced spring onions
finely sliced red chilli

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs and drumsticks and brown them on all sides. Once browned, transfer them to a bowl. 
Turn down the heat, add the chilli, ginger, garlic and onion to the pan.  Cook until softened, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the spices and the split peas and return the chicken to the pot. Add the stock and season.
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until the split peas are tender and chicken is separating from the bone. Give the soup a stir to make sure split peas aren't sticking.

Remove chicken pieces and separate the meat from the bones. Return the chicken meat to the soup, add the coconut milk and bring to a boil.

Squeeze the lemon juice and season to taste.

Serve in warm bowls sprinkled with coriander, spring onions and fresh red chilli.

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Chicken (Gallus domesticus): It’s a rich source of protein. Choose organic or free-range chicken, it is healthier and it will not only taste better but also you won’t be supporting the inhumane battery farms. It provides vitamins B3 (prevention against cell damage) and B6 (for cardiovascular health), besides iron, selenium (essential component of major metabolic pathways) and phosphorus (maintains the health of teeth and bones). Eating chicken helps with the support of your immune system.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum): It has anti-inflammatory properties and it is often blended in herbal remedies to help fight cold and flu. It may also facilitate the digestion of carbohydrates, alleviate indigestion and colic, lower bad cholesterol and prevent halitosis.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale): It reduces fever and eases asthma symptoms, also helps to lower blood pressure. Plus, it reduces cholesterol and aids circulation. It contains fibre, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and folic acid.

Spring Onion aka Scallion (Allium fistulosum): It’s a great source of vitamin K. It also provides vitamin A, C, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Spring onions stabilize blood circulation in the body, lower blood sugar levels and support against gastrointestinal troubles. It is also very good at helping digestion.

Yellow pea (Lathyrus aphaca): It’s a type of legume, and an important part of a traditional diet around the word. As well as high quality protein, it also provides potassium, magnesium, selenium, zinc and B vitamins. It’s a good source of insoluble fibre, which is known to have a cholesterol lowering effect and which promotes regular bowel movement.

Till next week!

Monday 23 January 2012

For the fussy eaters too

“Please mummy, can I have something different from soup today??? Can you make pasta, pleeease!” That was my daughter’s plea when she saw me thinking over a bowl of raw carrots. It was a clear message that I was getting a bit carried away with my liquid-to-semi-solid meals lately.

After a quick think, Macaroni cheese was the choice (but the carrots wouldn’t be left out). This dish is a winner. For the fussy eaters, you can “hide” the carrots amongst the rest of the ingredients and the children don’t even blink. I had one of Nina’s friends for a play-date once who “hated” vegetables, but she  loved this dish to the point of asking for a second helping! Her mum was over the moon. And so was I.

You can also try and add any other vegetable of your choice.

The ingredients
Sautee garlic, carrots and parsley together
In a bowl add Mascarpone cheese, milk, eggs, mustard, salt
and pepper
Whisk them together
In the pot where the pasta was cooked, add cheese,
butter and carrots. Mix well.
Finally, fold the creamy mixture into the pot
Transfer the pasta to a square baking dish and bake it
for approximately 30 min.
My "Macarrots" cheese! Serve it with a green salad.

Macarrots cheese
Serves 4

A very easy protein dense dish.


500g macaroni (if you find wholemeal even better)   
4-5 medium sized grated carrots 
250g grated Cheddar cheese
45g unsalted butter
100g mascarpone cheese
60ml whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon sea-salt
3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Butter a good size square baking dish. 
Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Meanwhile sautée the chopped garlic, grated carrots and add the chopped parsley leaves.

When the pasta is done, drain and put it back into the pot where it has been cooked and stir in  the butter and the Cheddar (reserving a handful). In a separate bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, milk, eggs, salt, mustard powder, and pepper, and then fold this mixture into the pasta. If using lemon, squeeze in some of its juice now. Scrape the pasta into the buttered dish and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar and Parmesan.

Bake the macaroni cheese with carrots for approximately 30 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes. It is ready to eat! Serve it with salad.

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Carrot (Daucus carota): is high in carotenoid, an antioxidant compound associated with many healthy benefits. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids present in our retina), which is why carrots are famously known for being good for your eyes. The carotenoids and vitamin A contents found in carrots are fat-soluble vitamins - when eaten with a little fat (olive oil, coconut oil, ghee etc) they are better absorbed by your body. They also provide good levels of vitamin K, fibre, vitamin C, biotin, vitamins B1 and B6.

Mascarpone cheese: Although Mascarpone cheese is normally used as an ingredient in many desserts, it is also very good in savoury ones, as it has a mild flavour and is very creamy. It is a good source of calcium and protein. It provides magnesium, potassium and vitamin A.

Pecorino Cheese: a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk. It is a very good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B2 and B12. Universities in Italy announced the result of a six year study confirming that Pecorino cheese contains anti-inflammatory properties. It can protect against cardiovascular diseases due to high amounts of CLA (conjugated Linoleic Acid), which reduces fat, preserves muscle tissue and inhibits tumour growths on the skin, mammary glands and stomach.

Till next week!

Monday 16 January 2012

Red winter

Soup is my favourite thing at the moment. It warms me from inside out and always gives me the sensation of total nourishment. Another reason: you can create various types of soups with whichever vegetables you have in the fridge. Beetroot was on the top of my list this week, as I had some extras from my favourite stall at the farmer’s market.

I often make a soup I adapted from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal’s recipe. It is easy and deliciously spiced with yoghurt, cumin and cayenne pepper.

I have already written another post on beetroot here and in our house we became good friends with this underrated vegetable.

For the beetroot-phobics: this soup may change your opinion.

The ingredients
Sautee onion, garlic and spices then add the beetroot
Add the stock and let it simmer for 30 min or until cooked
Ingredients for the spiced yoghurt. Garlic optional.
My beetroot soup!
Beetroot and cumin soup with spiced yoghurt
Serves 4
50g ghee (or butter)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, peeled and chopped
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
750g beetroot, peeled and cut into small chunks
800ml chicken stock (you can also use vegetable stock, or water)
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp chives, chopped

For the spiced yogurt
1 tsp cumin seeds or powder
1 tsp coriander seeds or powder
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
4 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil

Set a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add the ghee or butter and olive oil. Throw in the onion, garlic and cumin and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion and garlic are soft but not coloured. Add the beetroot chunks, toss well with the onions then add the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the beetroot is tender.

Meanwhile, if you’re using cumin and coriander seeds, instead of power, put them in a dry frying pan and toast over medium heat until fragrant. Transfer to a grinder or pestle, and grind to a powder. Otherwise, just combine the powders with the paprika, cayenne and a pinch of salt (the toasted seeds adds a more fragrant flavour). Stir a heaped teaspoon of this mixture into the yogurt (keep the rest for use in another recipe - it's great with lamb, for instance), add the olive oil and whisk together.
Purée the soup, return it to the pan and season to taste. If it seems excessively thick, thin it down with a little more stock or water.
Serve the soup, hot or chilled, with a dollop of spiced yogurt swirled in at the last moment and some parsley sprinkled on top.

The main ingredient and its healthy benefits

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris): Contains Betain a nutrient that increases digestion and helps to prevent heart and liver diseases. It provides lots of fibre and that’s probably why it has shown to improve bowel function. It moistens the intestines, relieving constipation and regulates digestion. Studies have shown that beetroot strengthens the heart, regulates cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, benefits the liver and purifies the blood. Beetroot colours can show up even in your urine or faeces, which is a harmless condition called beeturia.

The juice of beetroot with carrot is a perfect combination to regulate hormones and relieving the symptoms of the women going through menopause.

Beetroots are great source of betacarotene, vitamin B6, folic acid, manganese, silicon and potassium. It is also is a very good source of iron which can prevent anaemia especially for people who follow a vegetarian diet.

Beet greens have a higher concentration of calcium, iron and vitamins A and C than beetroots.  It’s high in sodium, so little salt is required.  Caution: Those who suffer from kidney problems should avoid eating too much beet greens due to its high oxalic content, as it inhibits calcium metabolism.

Till next week!

Monday 9 January 2012

New Beginnings

Bosc Pears
After an extra week off, I am back and here we go: New Year, new resolutions and new beginnings. And for new beginnings, today I am going to share with you a breakfast smoothie recipe. After all the indulgence of the holiday season, I just feel like having something in the morning a little less demanding for my body.
At this time of the year, damp, cold and wet conditions affect the body and increase mucus, catarrh and colds. The good news is that Bosc Pear is in season now. Pear fruit helps to moisten the lungs and throat and get rid of the excess mucus.  
You may think I am talking about detoxing after Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but I am not. You also may be reading, in almost every magazine, about the benefits of detoxing now, but I disagree with these articles. In Ayurvedic medicine, detox is done at the change of seasons. It is considered especially beneficial in the Spring, which represents renewal and rebirth. The cold and darkness of Winter beg us to slow down but for most people living in a busy city and having a heavy work schedule it’s nearly impossible. We need to get that extra energy from the food we choose to eat. So, limiting our diet and choosing to do a detox programme during Winter is not advisable.   
For now, I would just recommend cutting down the “naughty” foods (refined sugars, excess alcohol, fizzy drinks…), and don’t starve! Choose warming, seasonal and comfort foods that won’t make you bloat but will make you feel healthy and content - and will give that extra energy you need to endure the cold months.
As for my delicious and lubricating smoothie… here we go!

The ingredients. You can also add a banana if you like a
sweeter taste

Add a tablespoon of Chia seed to a glass of milk or water

Mix the seeds and let them soak
The seeds will become a gel-like consistency
Blend the pear, celery, grated ginger, cinammon powder
coconut oil, Chia seed and almond milk together
Enjoy this wonder smoothie for an energetic start to
the day!

Pear, celery and ginger smoothie
Serves 2

A lovely combination of nutrient dense ingredients. This smoothie is packed with vitamins, essential fatty oils and fibre. A winning breakfast!


1 Bosc pear, cored and peeled (if using Comice or Bartlett, unpeeled)
4g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
200ml milk of your choice (I used organic almond milk)
dash of cinnamon
1 celery stalk
1 tbsp organic coconut oil
1 tbsp Chia seeds soaked in 50ml of milk or water (you can also grind them before adding to the blender). If you can’t find chia seeds, use flaxseed or linseed.
½-1 banana (optional, if you want a sweeter taste)
4 cubes of ice (optional)
You can also add 2 tablespoon of organic natural yoghurt. I left it out on this recipe as I opted for the dairy-free version this time.
Place all ingredients in a blender.  Pulse until smooth or to desired consistency.
The ingredients and their healthy benefits

Almond milk Besides tasting great, almond milk can be taken for constipation and inflammation of the gut (e.g. colitis, IBS and Crohn’s disease). It lubricates the intestines and is used to treat persistent coughs. Contains vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium and they are great source of complete protein. Studies have shown that it can help lower cholesterol levels.

Celery (Apium graveolens): the leaves have a very high content of vitamin A, whilst the stems are a great source of folic acid, B6 and vitamin C. Celery provides minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and potassium, which are important for regulating fluid balance and stimulating urine production. It contains the compound Coumarin, that can prevent free radicals from damaging cells.

Chia seed (Salvia hispanica): cultivated by the Aztec, who used it as a main source of nourishment. It’s a member of the mint family. The Chia seeds have a high content of Omega 3 fatty acids (similar to flaxseed), protein and fibre. They also contain the naturally occurring antioxidant quercetin, which is known for the prevention of allergies. They can be used to treat constipation. Research has shown that adding Chia seed to a high sugar diet gradually reduces insulin resistance, which makes them a great lower blood sugar level food.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum). Studies have shown that cinnamon moderates blood sugar, making it beneficial to people with diabetes. It also has been shown that cinnamon reduces triglycerides and LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) and lowers blood pressure. It also contains phytochemicals with antimicrobial activities (eugenol and geraniol) which can help treating Candida. It is used to treat nausea (due to a compound called Catechins) and indigestion. It helps prevent formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. Cinnamon is a natural analgesic and antioxidant. 

Coconut oil: contains a fatty acid called lauric acid, which is also found in mother’s milk and is often used in babies’ formulas. It has strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It has antiviral effects and has been tested against herpes. It is used therapeutically for cystic fibrosis, AIDS and cachexia (in cancer patients). Researches and clinical observations have shown that coconut oil can prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis and diabetes; it reduces epileptic seizures and increases metabolic rates. It supports overall immune functions.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale): reduces fever and eases asthma symptoms. It also helps to lower blood pressure. Plus, it reduces cholesterol and aids circulation. Ginger contains fibre, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and folic acid.

Pear (Pyrus communis): contains pectin, which helps with lowering cholesterol levels. Pear juice enhances the liver function. It contains potassium, phosphorus and calcium. It also helps to eliminate excess mucus, and moistens the lungs and throat. Used for constipation, loss of voice, and gallbladder inflammation and obstruction. 

Till next week!
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