Pumpkin Seed Pesto

 

I’ve spent most of the weekend on my feet but couldn’t be happier as I was in my element doing my thing at the official launch weekend of Central Street Cookery School. Londoners, be prepared to be very excited about this fabulous new cookery venue; Central Street Cookery School is part of St Lukes Trust, a vibrant community hub in EC1, and is already attracting a lot of interest from talented local chefs to run classes and events.  

I went to check out the venue a couple of weeks ago and knew from the moment I stepped in there that this was going to be a unique place. The space is light and open, with a bright and funky design aesthetic and all the toys any chef could need. With delightful community food gardens planned out the back, this place is set to be a culinary urban oasis.

 As a charity-run cookery school all the proceeds from private events go towards community cookery projects, so the concept behind the venue is something really special. I was thrilled to be asked to take part in the open weekend which was about Food as Art, linking to the Finsbury Arts Festival which was going on around the centre over the weekend.

The buzz on Saturday was amazing, with a real mix of people coming by to sample some food and find out more about the school. Juicing, cake lolipops, ‘eat your own plate’, raw spaghetti and an amazing gingerbread tea set were the main activities on the day. There was also a pop-up kitchen shop with an array of modern and ‘vintage’ cookbooks and donated culinary knickknacks looking for a new home.  

My contribution was to make raw courgette spaghetti which was tossed in a pumpkin seed pesto sauce. To make the courgette noodles I used a gadget called a spiralizer (purchased from www.ukjuicers.com) which generated a lot of interest. The finished dish itself challenged a few preconceptions about raw food and the idea of ‘pasta’. Most people were excited to try the dish and even those who were dubious were thrilled with the taste and texture. Part of the secret to the success of raw pasta is to create a really good sauce, something to delight the tastebuds and also serve as a marinade to slightly ‘cook’ the noodles. I decided to make a pumpkin seed pesto because I love to mix up the nuts I use in my pestos and go beyond the pinenut, which although delicious is not the most budget friendly ingredient. Pumpkin seeds have a great nutrient profile and add a really earthy type of nuttiness which I love. I also used a combination of chives and basil and would encourage you to experiment with different combinations of herbs when making pesto.

 I had a few people asking me for the pesto recipe, so here it is:

 Pumpkin Seed Pesto

1 cup of pumpkin seeds

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 large bunch of chives

1 large bunch of basil

2 cloves of garlic

A large pinch of sea salt (+ more to taste)

½ cup water (+ more if you require a thin pesto)

  • Place the pumpkin seeds in a food processor with the ‘S’ blade attachment and blitz to produce a ground seed mixture.
  • Next add the olive oil, chives and basil, garlic cloves and salt and blitz again until you get a nice chunky paste.
  • Add water to thin the pesto down to your desired consistency.
  • Check for flavour and add more salt to your own taste.

I’m really looking forward to holding classes at Central Street and my first scheduled class should be on 23rd June, 11am-2.30pm:

Decadent Raw Desserts by Supernourished

This class will introduce you to the basics of creating naughty but nourishing raw food desserts. All recipes are naturally gluten and dairy free and use natural sweeteners and other wholefood ingredients. Think chocolate brownies, luxurious cheesecakes, fabulously fruity summer tarts and pots of mini desserts to wow friends and family this summer.

Please email me to pre-register your interest in this class. The cost will be £100 per person

Links:

Central Street Cookery School: www.centralstreet.org

Gingerbread tea set by www.maidofgingerbread.co.uk

 

 

 

Christmas Pudding Bites

 Christmas has definitely arrived in my house this week. I had been planning on holding out another week, but I blame Delia and Nigella! I’ve been catching up on some old Christmas specials on Good Food this week and all the spicy, cosy, twinkliness was too much to bear a moment longer. So my modest little tree is up and I’ve been adorning the place with fairy lights.

I also succumbed to a bit of proper Christmas baking at the weekend; I have a friend staying and we really got the urge to bake biscuits. Although I loved the making, the eating was not doing so much for me, as I woke up on Sunday with a real sugar hangover. I realised that I need to stick with some healthier sweet treats over the festive period and my mind has been whirring with ideas this week. Nigella has a Christmas puddini truffle recipe and inspired by that, I’ve come up with my own Christmas Pudding Bites, which only use dried fruits and nuts and a few aromatics along the way. They give all the right Christmas notes, with none of the saturated fat or sugar. The walnuts offer some excellent nutrition, including some essential omega 3 fats. These are quick and easy to make in a food processor and would make a lovely gift. I rolled mine in coconut for a snowball effect, but they could be luxed up further with a coating of dark chocolate: simply melt some good quality chocolate, dip your pudding ball in the chocolate then leave to set.

Christmas Pudding Bites

Makes 30 bite sized balls

Ingredients

12 medjool dates pitted

½ teaspoon of ground ginger

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon of ground cloves

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

½ teaspoon of orange extract

a pinch of salt

1 cup raisins

3 cups (300g bag) walnuts (pecans would also work)

Up to ½ cup of desiccated coconut for rolling

  • Blend the dates, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla extract, orange extract and salt in a food processor to form a paste.
  • Add the walnuts and raisins and continue to process until you achieve a soft firm dough. 
  • For bite-sized balls, take a tablespoon of the dough and roll it into a ball in the palm of your hands and then roll in the coconut to coat lightly.
  • Alternatively press the mix into a small brownie tray, press some coconut on top, leave to set in the fridge then cut into squares. 
  • These treats can be eaten immediately but they benefit from a night in the fridge to firm up.

Fermented foods and cabbage kraut recipe

Last night I made a batch of cabbage kraut. I’ve been dying to massage a cabbage or two since I got back from culinary school, where I learnt the basic technique. Added to that, I’m suddenly having feelings that I can only describe as jar-withdrawal. This time last year I had a whole shelf full of chutney courtesy of my apple tree. Unfortunately, I missed the window for that this year while I was in the US, so now I’m getting itchy to do some preserving of some sort. There is something really soothing about the idea of creating a well-stocked larder at this time of year. However as much as I’m partial to the odd bit of chutney or jam, most recipes are generally loaded with sugar, so I’m very excited to start practicing some supernourishing fermentation. I might even get a few gifts out of it, although I suspect homemade chocolates might be better received than cabbage, but perhaps they can get both?

I have a love affair with cabbage in any shape or form and usually eat it raw in salads or lightly steamed. My ideal traditional Sunday lunch would be potato in some form and a big steaming pile of lusciously green savoy; just give me a little veggie gravy and forget the trimmings. Cabbage may be fairly humble, but it’s a hero in terms of health benefits. It contains sulphurous substances, so is very beneficial for the liver, helping with detoxification. The skin, hair and nails also benefit from sulphurous foods.

 Cabbage is a classic candidate for fermentation and preparing food in this way is one of the oldest techniques used for preservation, offering great health benefits to boot. Good health begins in the gut and including small amounts of friendly bacteria-rich fermented foods in your diet can really improve your digestive health. The gut is responsible for a huge part of our immune defence, it contains cells that react to invading pathogens and is one of our first lines of defence against infection, so what better time of year to get fermenting?

I recently purchased an e-book recipe collection entitled Cultured (edited by Kevin Gianni). I’m planning to delve into this more over the coming weeks, so I can spread my wings beyond my beloved cabbage – i’ll let you know how I get on. Now I need to get on the internet and order some more jars!

This is the basic Cabbage Kraut recipe we used at Living Light:

1 head of cabbage shredded

 1 tsp of salt

1 large preserving jar

  • Shred the cabbage finely either using a mandolin or in a food processor.
  • Sprinkle the salt on the cabbage and massage until lots of juice has released (you can leave it to rest in between massages!)
  • Once reduced and juicy you could add small amounts of other root veggies for colour and interest. I added some beetroot and a teaspoon of cumin seeds for added flavour.
  • Transfer the kraut to a large jar and press down well until the liquid rises above the cabbage.
  • Ensure the top of the jar is clean and use a weighted jar or bottle to press down and keep the cabbage submerged.
  • Store in a cool dark place for a minimum of 3 days. The kraut can be left to ferment for up to 14 days if you prefer really sour kraut.
  • Your kraut can then be stored in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to a couple of months.

 

Chia Seed Pudding

November to me feels like a natural calm before the storm, a time to take care of ourselves and build up the reserves for the holiday season. Nurturing yourself in November will leave you feeling so virtuous by December, that you will want to keep it up. The result could be a less drastic start to 2012: January is not the best time for detox and deprivation, but more on that in the New Year. Follow my tips below and you could start December glowing and ready to party. 

 November action plan for health and vitality:

  • Embrace seasonal vegetables, such as squash and pumpkin: the flesh of these vegetables contains beta-carotene, great for skin health.
  • Get at least one portion of dark leafy greens a day: the phytonutrients in green foods are the secret to vibrant health.
  • Add in some essential fats: you might be thinking about that party dress, but this is not a time to follow a fat-free diet; get a good daily balance of Omega 3:6:9 from flax oil, walnuts, chia seeds (see recipe below) and olive oil. The essential fatty acids in these foods ensure the skin stays supple and hydrated and are essential for optimal cellular function throughout the body.
  • Eat whole: switch from white bread, rice and pasta to wholegrain. Wholegrain foods help sustain energy levels and increase your B vitamin intake.
  • Hydrate: keep up your fluids throughout the day with water and herbal tea; dehydration leads to sluggishness and dry skin.
  • Sleep: aim to get 8hrs a night. Commit to at least 2 early nights a week this month and see how amazing you feel.
  • Move it as often as possible: regular exercise keeps you energised and stimulates the lymphatic system. Good lymphatic flow will improve immunity to colds and flu.

The more often you do these positive things, the greater the likelihood that they will become regular habits by December. Feeling truly energised and well is a great motivation in itself, we are less likely to overdo it and pump ourselves full of stimulants, which ultimately only places greater stress on the body. Listen to your body this month, tune-in to that feeling of health and vitality, you will love it so much, that staying on track in the long-term will happen naturally.

 Chia Seed Pudding

Creamy rice or tapioca pudding has to be one of my top comfort foods. This chia seed pudding is a superfood alternative: it ticks the same boxes for me, but without the refined carbohydrates. It packs such a nutritional punch you can even eat it for breakfast, guilt free! You can find chia seeds in your local health food store. Chia is the seed of a flowering plant native to South America and is a fantastic source of Omega 3 fats and essential minerals. Left to soak in water, juice or milk the seeds swell and become gelatinous. They are also a good source of fibre and help maintain energy levels. The seeds can be added to breads and baked goods, but my favourite way to use them is in this pudding. Put a serving to soak before going to bed and have a quick and delicious breakfast waiting for you in the fridge when you wake up.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons of Chia Seeds
  • 250ml/1 cup of milk (I use Kara Coconut milk for a dairy free version)
  • A pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg and a few drops of vanilla extract (optional/to taste)

 Directions

  • Combine the Chia seeds and the milk well and stir in the spices.
  • Leave to stand, stirring occasionally until it forms a ‘pudding’ consistency. 
  • Top with fruit and enjoy.

 Topping ideas

  • For a simple breakfast version, add a handful of berries or a chopped apple or pear
  • For a touch of comfort, add 1 banana mashed with 1 tbsp of nut butter and stir
  • Chocolate and banana pudding: stir in a teaspoon or two of cocoa powder and top with sliced banana
  • Christmas pudding: soak some dried fruits in hot black tea until rehydrated, stir into the pudding with some chopped pecans or walnuts and a little orange zest.
  • For a simple classic pudding, add a dollop of sugar free fruit spread, stir and enjoy!