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Crispy oatcake crumb

Salmon Sweet Potato Fish Cakes

Fish cakes are a wonderful thing.

They are easy to make, easy to cook, great to prepare in advance and, if done right, mighty healthy. Fish cakes (and other items crumbed and fried) also seem to be a way of enticing picky eaters to try something a little different. If you or any of your family are not keen on fish, then this is a recipe for you.

While regular shop-bought fish cakes can fill the gap – you never really know what goes into them. Making them at home couldn’t be easier and this recipe uses whole food ingredients high in fibre, antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.

Omega 3: the godfather of good fats

Omega 3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs) as they cannot be manufactured by the body – therefore we must get them through food. There are two types of EFAs – omega 3 and omega 6.

Most people probably have heard that omega 3’s are good for you. Over the last few years they have been added to products from infant formulas to breakfast cereals, and it’s not just hype – the word essential gives you a clue to how important it is to include omega 3’s in our diets.

There’s not much of an issue getting in enough omega 6 – they are found in many foods and, in fact, most people take in too many. The ideal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 should be in the region of 1:2, but many people eating western-style diets have a ratio of up to 1:20! As omega 6’s are generally more pro-inflammatory, it’s important to ensure we eat enough omega 3’s to keep in balance.

Current studies have shown the following in relation to omega 3’s and our health:

  1. A large body of scientific research suggests that higher dietary omega-3 fatty acid intakes are associated with reductions in cardiovascular disease risk.
  2. Low levels of DHA (a type of omega 3) may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
  3. Increasing omega 3 intake may be beneficial in individuals with type 2 diabetes, especially those with elevated serum triglycerides.
  4. Randomized controlled trials have found that fish oil supplementation reduces the requirement for anti-inflammatory medication in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
  5. The brain’s gray matter contains high proportions of essential fatty acids, suggesting they are important to central nervous system function. Animal studies have shown that depletion of DHA in the brain can result in learning deficits.

The best sources of omega 3’s are oily fish – about 2-3 times per week. Remember the handy acronym SMASH: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring (aka kippers) and always aim to buy wild fish (rather than farmed) as much as possible. You can also get omega 3’s from vegetable sources such as seaweed, flax/linseeds, chia seeds and walnuts, but they are not as bioavailable as animal forms.

The problem is, not everyone likes fish. So, getting the required amounts of good fats can be tricky. Enter, the sweet potato…

Orange is the new white

I’m not a white-potato-hater. I love them, they are comforting and delicious. However, white potatoes need a bit of a break – we eat too many of them and they are often fried in seed oils (high omega 6!).

Sweet potatoes bring a new dimension to potato eating. They have a similar texture, but add a sweeter taste to the plate and have a much lower glycaemic load. This means that they release sugars much more slowly into the bloodstream – keeping you fuller for longer and your blood sugar balanced.

Sweet potatoes are also full of vibrant antioxidants and excellent sources of vitamin A (immunity, growth), vitamin C (immunity, antioxidant), vitamin B6 (brain function, energy production) and vitamin E (nervous system, heart health).

Taste and Texture

In this recipe, the sweetness of the sweet potato is a useful flavour for those who struggle with the fishy flavour of fish. But don’t stop there. If you like something a little more exotic, add in a few teaspoons of Thai or Indian curry paste, smoked paprika or loads more ginger, garlic and herbs.

I’ve used oatcake crumbs to bind and coat the mixture. I like them as they are full of fibre, B vitamins, beta glucans and are gluten-free. However, if you don’t have any to hand, you could also use other types of crackers.

Go on. You don’t only deserve it – your body needs these fish cakes!

Superfood fish cakes

Salmon and Sweet Potato Fishcakes

Makes 4 large (or 6 medium) fishcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 fillets salmon (ideally wild / line caught)
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup oatcake crumbs (about 10 oatcakes)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Big bunch of chives or three spring onions*
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs coconut oil

*If your child doesn’t like to see anything green, replace with a shallot or finely chopped red onion.

Method

  1. Cut the sweet potato into chunks and steam or boil until soft. You can leave the skin on for extra fibre.
  2. While the potato is cooking, fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the salmon filets and vinegar, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the fish to poach in the water for a further 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Blitz the oatcakes in a food processor (or put them in a bag and bash with a rolling pin) and set aside.
  4. Once the potatoes are ready and cooled to touch, mash in a large bowl with the ginger, garlic and chives/onions.
  5. Flake the fish and stir into the potato mixture.
  6. Add half the oatcake crumbs, season to taste and mix well. The mixture should be firm enough to hold together without sticking to your hands. If it is too wet, add some more crumbs.
  7. Season the remaining crumbs with salt and pepper.
  8. Form the mixture into individual fish cakes and coat in the seasoned crumbs. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes in the fridge. These can be made the day before.
  9. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and melt the coconut oil. Fry the fishcakes until crisp and golden brown on each side.
  10. Serve with a side salad or vegetables.

Collage

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Beetroot Risotto with Walnuts and Goat’s Cheese (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Beetroot is just coming into season in Europe and this recipe is a perfect for the not-so-hot summer we are experiencing in Ireland.

Risotto’s make brilliant meals – they are extremely versatile and the saviour of those looking for gluten-free options on menus. They can be warming in winter and crisp and cheerful in summer. This recipe would work well across the seasons, so give it a try this month and save it up for those winter days when you need a bit of bright pink cheeriness in your life.

Beetroot Benefits

I’ve written about beetroot before, but as a reminder, here are 8 health benefits of eating this beautiful root:

  1. Beetroot may help lower blood pressure. It is rich in nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide, a chemical thought to lower blood pressure.
  2. Beetroot is high in fibre. This helps keep your digestive and immune systems in good nick.
  3. Beetroot is high in folate, which makes it a must for ladies who are pregnant or looking to conceive.
  4. Beetroot is a brilliant source of vitamin C – eat plenty to keep your skin healthy and your immune system supported.
  5. Beetroot is a great source of the minerals potassium, magnesium and iron.
  6. Beetroot is also a source of phytosterols – the compounds that help reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
  7. Beetroot contains betaine, which protects cells from environmental damage. Betaine has been associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha.
  8. Beetroot is great for liver health. The betalain pigments in beetroot support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process.

Beetroot risotto

The Whole Package

The health benefits of this recipe are pretty good, but that’s just the cherry on top. The flavours of the beetroot, walnut and goats cheese are lovely together, and the rocket adds a kick of peppery freshness to offset the earthiness of the other ingredients. A bowl of this risotto is a real treat that happens to be good for you. It’s also quite pretty (I think) and is relatively easy on the pocket.

So, banish the beige and add a bit of flair to your dinner table this week.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (1¾pints) vegetable or chicken stock
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250g (8oz) risotto rice
  • 125ml (3 ½ fl oz) white wine (optional)
  • 300g (11oz) fresh beetroot, peeled and grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 50g (2oz) butter*
  • 50g rindless goat’s cheese*
  • Rocket leaves, to serve

Method

  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan, then turn the heat right down until barely simmering.
  2. While the stock is heating, toast the walnuts in a frying pan over a medium heat. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the onions.
  4. Add the rice and stir until well coated.
  5. Add the wine, or if not using, a ladle of stock. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
  6. Continue to add ladleful’s of stock, one at a time, stirring continuously.
  7. After three ladles, add the grated beetroot and garlic and stir well.
  8. Continue to add the stock in batches and stir until the rice is cooked, but still firm.
  9. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve in individual bowls and top with crumbled goat’s cheese, the toasted walnuts and a handful of rocket leaves.

* If you are looking for a dairy-free option, swap the butter for 3 tbs olive oil and omit the cheese (although some with cow’s milk intolerance can manage goat’s milk).

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Immune-boosting paleo cauliflower fried rice

Immune Boosting Cauliflower Fried Rice

This is a brilliant comfort-foody dish that you will love!

Made from scratch, it won’t take you much longer than 30 minutes to from start to finish and it is sooo tasty!

Cauliflower rice is very chic these days. Whether you’re trying to avoid carbs for weight loss or need to avoid grains for health reasons, the net outcome is that replacing rice with cauliflower will not have a negative effect on your diet. In fact, it will super-boost your vegetable intake without even trying. This dish is all vegetable with some egg (and optional meat/fish) for a bit of protein.

A vegetable super hero, returned

In 2010, a study showed that UK sales of cauliflower had fallen 35% in 10 years. This was driven mostly by a younger generation perceiving cauliflower to be old fashioned and not versatile.

However, cauliflower has had a bit of a comeback in the last few years thanks to the increasing popularity of the paleo diet and the increasing number of people looking for gluten-free alternatives to their favourite dishes.

New ways of thinking about cauliflower have proved that it is one of the most versatile vegetables out there. From pizza crusts, tortilla wraps, rice, mash and steaks (yes, steak, that’s not a typo), the cauliflower revolution is well under way and, I for one, am so pleased.

The good stuff

Cauliflower is not the most glamorous looking vegetable and, it doesn’t have the green colour that gives it’s brothers and sisters in the brassica family their healthy street cred. But looks can be deceiving…

Did you know that one cup of cauliflower will provide you with 77% of your RDA of vitamin C? It’s also particularly high in folate, vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.

Being a member of the brassica family, it also contains glucosinolates which  are showing positive anti-cancer effects in studies. These compounds are also great for balancing hormones, so eating a daily portion of brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale etc) is important for all women.

Immune Booster

This fried rice dish is chock full of fresh, tasty ingredients that are particularly good for your liver. Even better, a bowl will provide you with an army of immune-boosting nutrients: cauliflower, peppers, chilli and spinach all contain good amounts of vitamin C, and, the supporting team of ginger, garlic and mushrooms all contain brilliant anti-flu, pro-immune compounds. It’s an alternative to chicken soup!

Paleo vegetarian cauliflower fried rice

 

Ingredients

Serves 2-3 (generously)

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, finely diced (or 3 spring onions, sliced)
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 pack chestnut or shiitake mushrooms, sliced (you can reconstitute dried shiitake if you can’t find fresh)
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, finely grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (or ½ fresh chilli)
  • 1 small head cauliflower (or ½ large head), cut in florets
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or soy sauce / tamari)
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Optional extras: peas, finely sliced carrots, bean sprouts
  • Method
  1. Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over a med-high heat. Add the eggs and cook into a thin omelette. Remove from heat, slice into thin ribbons and set aside
  2. Heat the remaining oil in the hot pan and sauté the onions until tender.
  3. Add the red peppers and fry for another 1-2 minutes
  4. Add the mushrooms and fry for another few minutes until soft, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes
  5. While the vegetables are frying, whizz the cauliflower in a food processor until you get coarse, rice-sized bits – avoid over blending. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the cauliflower
  6. Add the cauliflower rice to the pan and toss with the vegetables. Put a lid on the pan and cook for 6-7 minutes until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy.
  7. Add the fish sauce and spinach and toss well.
  8. Once the spinach has just wilted, remove the pan from the heat, add the sesame oil and egg ribbons and toss through.
  9. Serve on warmed plates as is, or with your choice of beef, salmon or chicken.

Keep any left overs in a sealed container in the fridge and warm up by re-frying over a medium heat.

Note: the fish sauce and sesame oil are central to this dish’s flavour – I recommend that you use them to enjoy the dish to its full effect.

Inspired and adapted from this recipe

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Broccoli and Fennel Soup with Almonds (vegan, gluten free)

Creamy broccoli and fennel soup

This soup was thrown together in an attempt to use up a glut of vegetables in the fridge.

I had bought some fennel on a whim in the week, so I knew I needed to use it. I wanted something warm and hearty, so a soup seemed like a good idea. I wanted an element of protein, but didn’t feel like adding legumes – so almonds came to the rescue. I was going to call this soup ‘The Kitchen Sink’, but after tasting it, I thought that would do it a disservice.

It tasted good, so it’s made it onto the blog. Also, the more I looked at the ingredients, the more I realised that together the ingredients are a brilliant tonic for a number of ailments. This is the soup you want to make if you are feeling a little under the weather (great immune boosting qualities), but would be equally good for ladies who need to balance their hormones. Here’s why.

Fresh fennel bulb

Fennel

If you’ve eaten fennel before, you’ll know that the stylish white bulb with feathery leaves has a subtle aniseed-y flavour that adds both depth and freshness, depending on how it’s cooked.

Medicinally, fennel’s properties are widely known. Fennel has been used for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation and increasing libido – these possibly linked to the subtle oestrogenic effect of some of its constituents. But it is as a carminative where fennel is particularly effective. It’s been used for centuries to soothe gas and bloating in both adults and infants.

Fennel has also been shown to be effective for respiratory problems – so there’s no harm in getting in a good dose if you’re fighting off a chesty cold.

Nutritionally, fennel bulb is a great source of fibre, vitamin C and folate.

Broccoli

One of my favourite friends. Broccoli has so many excellent nutritional properties, I could write a whole blog post on it alone. In the interests of brevity and to stay on topic, I’ll summarise as follows:

    • 100g provides almost double the amount of vitamin C than an orange
    • Broccoli contains glucobrassicin, which is broken down to indole-3-caribinole (I3C). I3C improves oestrogen metabolism and is particularly effective on ‘bad’ oestrogen (16-alpha-hydroxysestrone). I3C also seems to have antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus (the one that gives you cold sores).
    • Broccoli is a sulphurous vegetable. This means that it provide excellent support to the liver
    • There are a good number of studies showing convincing anti-cancer properties of broccoli
    • Broccoli is very high in antioxidants
    • Broccoli contains sulfophane, which is anti-inflammatory

The support team

Onion, ginger and garlic are well known for fighting colds. They have excellent anti-microbial properties and provide your body with extra immune-boosting compounds. Onions and garlic are also great for your liver, so therefore good news for hormone metabolism.

Coconut oil, also has anti-microbial properties, so definitely use this if you’re under the weather.

Now, don’t let the thought of almonds in a soup put you off. The almonds provide a wonderful creamy texture without a particularly nutty taste. If you are struggling with a chesty cold, dairy can sometimes aggravate symptoms, so almonds are a brilliant alternative to a dairy creamer in your soup or stew. They also provide a good amount of protein and fibre to this dish to ensure that it keeps you fuller for longer. It is better to soak the almonds before using them in the soup, so remember to prepare them at least an hour before you start cooking – you could really soak them all day.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel, finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
  • 1 litre stock (vegetable or organic chicken)
  • 1 medium head broccoli, in florets
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup whole raw almonds, soaked for at least 1 hour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Heat a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, fennel and ginger in the oil until soft
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil
  3. Lower the soup to a simmer and add the broccoli and garlic. Simmer until the broccoli is just cooked and remove from the heat.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the almonds and place them in a liquidiser with ½ cup of the soup broth. Blend until the nuts break down.
  5. Add the rest of the soup to the liquidiser jug and blend until smooth. The soup may still be quite hot, so blend in short spurts and open the lid after every blitz to allow steam to escape. Hold the lid of the liquidiser down with a tea towel to protect your hand. You could also use a stick blender for this step.
  6. Return the lovely creamy soup to the saucepan and test the seasoning. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste.
  7. Serve in warmed bowls with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

 

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Gluten free noodles

Courgette Noodles with Tomato Sauce (gluten, dairy and grain-free)

Pasta is the ultimate comfort food. A steaming bowl of fettuccine coated in a flavoursome sauce can make you fall in love, forget your ex or make a wintry Friday evening at home that much more cosy.

Unfortunately for some, a big bowl of pasta also signals bloating, cramps or spasms for hours or days later. If you are a coeliac or are sensitive to gluten, the pleasure sought in that delicious bowl is paid for – and it’s not pleasant.

Some get on just fine with gluten-free varieties of pasta, however, I just can’t. Some are too slimy and others have long lists of very refined ingredients I am not partial to.

So, this dish uses courgette noodles. Inspired by the paleo ‘scene’, it takes a wholesome vegetable and turns it into an excellent vessel for your favourite pasta sauce. There’s no mucking about with ingredients and kneading – all you need is a sharp knife and pasta joy is a few minutes away.

How many have you had today?

I developed this recipe for a client who struggled to comprehend how he could eat 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, so the sauce is heavy on the veg. However, as the courgette is relatively neutral in flavour, you can substitute any of your favourite pasta sauces.

This recipe delivers a whopping seven (that’s 7) portions* of vegetables! That’s 3.5 portions per serving. If you add in any of the other optional ingredients, you can shoot up the nutrient content of this delicious meal even more.

This dish is also a brilliant vitamin C boost. The peppers, tomatoes and courgettes will take you to pretty much 100% of your RDA (although you typically need a little more than that for great health) and the courgettes alone will provide you with around 40% of your vitamin A RDA (per serving)

This recipe is remarkably simple and the noodles are a great way to get young children to try a green veg.

Enjoy!

 

Courgette Noodles and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Serves 2

For the noodles:

  • 400g courgettes (about 2 med-large. The longer the better)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

For the sauce:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes or fresh chilli to taste
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 can cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Method:

  1. Prepare the courgette noodles. Cut the courgettes into long thin strips using a sharp knife, a mandolin, spiraliser or a peeler
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on a low heat. Add the chilli, garlic and the onion and cook until translucent. It is important that the oil doesn’t get too hot
  3. Add the anchovies if using. These cook away to nothing, but add a lovely flavour. Just two fillets also add about 160mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. While the onions are cooking, pit the olives and roughly chop.
  5. Add the peppers and sauté for another few minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, olives and vinegar to the pan. Stir well, cover and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Now, cook the noodles. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Add the courgette noodles and sauté them for a few minutes until just cooked.
  8. Check the seasoning of the sauce – add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Divide the noodles into two warmed bowls and top with the sauce. Add a sprinkle of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil on top of each serving.

Optional extras: Boost the nutrient value of the dish by adding any of the following:

  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms at step 5 (=1 portion veg)
  • 2 cups of sliced kale – add to the sauce 2 minutes before serving (=2 portions veg)
  • 1 cup sugarsnap peas – add to the sauce 5 minutes before serving (=1 portion veg)
  • ½ cup frozen peas – add to the sauce 5 minutes before serving (=1 portion veg)

 

*Portions estimated based on the NHS fruit and vegetable portion guide.

 

This recipe is part of my Cleanse and Reset programme – a healthy start to the year with tasty, nourishing food. Get in touch for more details.

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