food, recipe

RED LENTIL & HARISSA SOUP

SERVES 4-6

This soup is adapted from the The Hairy Dieters Go Veggie cookbook by Si King and Dave Myers, found here: https://www.hairybikers.com/recipes/view/red-lentil-and-harissa-soup

The harissa paste recipe is adapted from the recipe by The Minimalist Baker, found here: https://minimalistbaker.com/easy-diy-harissa-paste/

Quick to prepare, tasty and nutritious.  Harissa brings warm spiciness to any meal, and you can adapt the amount you want to add dependent on the amount of heat you like. I added diced butternut squash for an extra antioxidant boost!

Prep 10 minutes.  Cook 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp fine chopped coriander stems

1-2 tbsp harissa paste (see below – can be shop bought)

200g red lentils, rinsed

1 litre vegetable stock

400g can of tomatoes

Squeeze of lemon

1/2 tsp coconut sugar (optional)

Sea salt and black pepper

GREMOLATA

Zest of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Coriander leaves, finely chopped

HOMEMADE HARISSA PASTE: Toast the dry spices in a dry frying pan until aromatic then put all ingredients in a blender and blend.  Keep extra in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for longer.  You may need to add a little water to aid with blending.

  • 10 dried birdseye chillis 
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes (optional – I used dried ones but you can use ones from a jar).
  • 1 tbsp dulse (optional)

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook it over a gentle heat until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then stir in the coriander stems and the harissa paste.
  2. Add the lentils and stir until they are coated with the paste, then pour over the stock and season with salt and pepper.  
  3. Bring the stock to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (and coconut sugar if adding)  and simmer for another 10 minutes. 
  4. Stir and check the consistency of the soup – add a splash more water if it seems too thick.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a squeeze of lemon to taste.
  5. To make the gremolata, finely chop the lemon zest, garlic and coriander together until well combined.
  6. Blend the soup if you want it smooth – the lentils will have broken down enough to thicken it, but there will still be some texture from the onions and tomatoes.  Serve with the gremolata spooned over the top.

Tip:  Add roasted or pureed butternut squash or sweet potato to the soup for enriched flavour and nutrition.

covid-19, health, Uncategorised

Supporting the Immune System through Diet

Here’s the link for my blog post on the Physio & Therapies website. It focuses on the changes you can make to your diet to help support your health through the COVID pandemic and beyond.

Healthy plant foods are colourful. These colours are created by polyphenols – important inflammation-fighting compounds that are part of the immune system’s toolbox.
exercise, Uncategorised, yoga

30 Days of Yoga With Adriene

Recently, I completed 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene.

Was it easy? Sometimes.

Did I enjoy it? Yes.

Would I carry on? Yes.

Am I carrying on? Yes.

In my younger days, I always used to enjoy exercising (enjoy? Really? Is that the right word. Ok, no. Compelled is probably the right word. I wanted to be fit, and look healthy. I’m also very motivated to remain slim, but I like my food, so exercise helps).

However, as I got older and busier – family, work, you know the story – the exercise slipped by the wayside. But you know what, even though I don’t really love exercising, I don’t like the way I feel when I don’t do it either. I sit down a lot for my job, so I feel sluggish, slow, a bit limp. You know what I’m talking about?

Trying to maintain the running and weights workouts I’d previously done didn’t work for me, and to be honest, I found these forms of exercise were sapping my energy. And the gym is so boring (sorry, gym lovers). A few years ago, I developed a love for yoga, but I found as life became busier, I was talking myself out of attending the class on a regular basis. The only thing I was committing to was a walk about 4-5 times per week. It wasn’t enough.

And then lockdown happened.

Well, you all know the story. If you have a family, you basically become a slave to your kitchen. Cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning. With a bit of work, home-schooling and hysteria thrown in for good measure.

I started off with good intentions, and went for some lovely walks in the glorious hills around where I live, but then it began to slip. Lockdown can get so…. samey… can’t it?

In the end, I decided I had to take action. I was sitting down much of the day, and I was feeling very stiff after so much time at the computer, which is exactly the opposite of what I tell my clients to do. I needed a kick up the pants. Or at the very least, a solution. A friend recommended I do a YouTube 30 day yoga course.

Ok, I thought, they are short sessions so they can definitely fit around my family and working life. No excuses!

I started off on the first day of 30 Days of Yoga, thinking it was a challenge I was going to be doing by myself, but by Day 3 my husband joined in, and by day 15, my younger daughter decided to have a go too. Some nights it was really hard to motivate ourselves, but one of us always wanted to do it, so we got the others into the swing of it, and helped each other through. You always feel the benefit of the session: more energised but also relaxed, if that makes sense.

One thing I noticed in particular was my flexibility, strength and stamina quickly improved (within a few days). My balance, however, is another matter. I definitely need more focus on that. Haha!

My husband said that the exercise was also making him want to look after himself in other ways too – like eating better and getting into a better bedtime routine. (Yay! He’s definitely harder to motivate to eat well than the other people in our house).

Some of the days we had to miss because we were away, but it didn’t matter because we simply caught up when we got back. Having a gap in the sessions didn’t mean we ended up giving up entirely. Because the sessions are short, it isn’t an onerous task, so it compels you to carry on.

I’d say, if you want to exercise, but you are struggling to motivate yourself, you should start off with the Yoga With Adriene series. The sessions are between 15-30 minutes, and you can work at your own level, so they aren’t off-putting. I’m not saying they are always easy, but she gives suggestions for different physical capabilities, so it’s up to you what you do really.

Go on, give it a go. Like me, it may just be the inspiration you need to carry on with a more regular exercise practise. I’m even thinking about going back to my yoga class.

If it’s something you fancy doing, you can find all the free yoga videos here: https://yogawithadriene.com

allergies, gluten free, Nutrition

Healthy Vegan Carrot/Celebration Cake

This cake isn’t the crisp white that people may be used to with a celebration cake, but then it isn’t full of processed sugar either. I like the rustic look of the icing, and it looks especially pretty when decorated with fresh fruit.  If you just want to eat it as a wholesome but plain carrot cake, make it without the icing, and if you want something extra special for an occasion, double up the recipe.  This cake freezes beautifully without the icing, so you could make one half in advance and make the second half of the cake on another  day.  You can ice the cake while frozen and allow to defrost once the icing is in place.

For the carrot cake:

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 and 1/3 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup dates
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 medium/large bananas
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder or extract
  • 1 orange (zested and juiced)
  • 1 cup ground walnuts (grind in coffee grinder or food processor) plus half cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 half cup sultanas
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups water

For the icing:

  • 200g dates (soaked in warm water for 30 minutes)
  • Fat from a can of coconut milk (you will need to leave in the fridge overnight so the fat solidifies at the top)
  • Juice of one lemon (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade (fan oven). 180 degrees without a fan (though this depends on your oven – if it runs on the hotter side, you may need to adjust the temperature.)
  • Grease 1 10” cake tin or 2 7” cake tins, and line the bottoms with greaseproof baking paper.
  • Blend banana, oil, dates, vanilla, maple syrup, orange juice, lemon juice, zest and 1 cup of water (in a blender or food processor). 
  • Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl.
  • Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then add the walnuts, sultanas and carrots.
  • Allow to stand for a minute or so, and if the mixture is too dry, add more water, a little at a time.  Remember to not over-beat.
  • Put into the cake pans (I prefer the larger 10 inch pan).  For this larger cake, bake for 45-50 minutes before testing. If a toothpick is inserted and doesn’t come out clean, cook for another 5-10 minutes.
  • If using the 7” trays, cook for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • All the cakes to cool on a cooling rack
  • For the icing, blend the dates, coconut milk fat and lemon juice.
  • Once the cake is cooled, decorate with the icing.  You have a few options here:
  1. For the 10 inch cake – simply put the icing on the top and sides, or slice the cake horizontally down the middle and ice the middle of the cake as well as the top and sides.
  2. For the 7 inch cake – ice the top of one cake, then sit the other on top, then ice the top of the second cake and the sides.
  3. For a bigger (celebration) cake, double up on the 10 inch cake recipe (and the frosting recipe), then decorate as for the 7 inch cakes.

You will have plenty of icing left over, and this can used as be a nice dip for apple or pear slices.

NB. You may want to use other gluten free or wholegrain flours, but please be aware that the liquid ratio may change.  Buckwheat tends to soak up quite a lot of water and become quite thick. You may also prefer this as an oil free cake, but in that case, you will have to adjust the liquids. Coffee or orange would be nice additional flavours, instead of vanilla, that would suit this cake.

health talk, Uncategorised

Health Event with 3 Valley Vegans

Health Event with 3 Valley Vegans

My image in the video hasn’t been frozen in the most attractive pose, but…

Come along to listen to my talk organised by 3 Valley Vegans at Todfellows Hall at 7.30pm on the 18th March.

Places are limited and tickets should be booked inadvance by contacting info@3valleyvegns.org.uk.

Donations of £3 towards the cost of the room. Hope to see you there!

3VV FB event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/187009912667535/

Like my FB page for health updates and articles: https://www.facebook.com/truetoyourhealthuk/