Category Archives: Nuts

Scrumptious summer salad recipes

I’ve included these recipes as a tribute to the bright and joyous colours of summer (UK not included). They’re rather eclectic but the flavours are definitely there. Hope you enjoy them.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash aerial Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2 Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Smoked mackerel, mozzarella and red pepper salad with wholegrain mustard root mash

They say never to pair fish with cheese but I think this recipe works wonders. The strong flavour of the mackerel is well matched with the creaminess and texture of the mozzarella. Finally, the oiled peppers and mustard mash give it some additional punch alongside the crunchy gem lettuce.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 100g smoke mackerel, cooked
  • 100g reduced fat mozzarella cheese, torn into small chunks
  • 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, in oil/char grilled (pre-packaged)
  • 1 baby gem lettuce
  • A handful of lambs lettuce

For the root vegetable – mustard mash

  • 500g mixed root vegetables: I used 1 small swede, 1 small celeriac and 2 carrots
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Directions

  • For the root vegetable mash, put the vegetables in a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes until tender. Drain well, then mash adding the butter and mustard.
  • Mix together until the butter has melted.
  • Add some salt and pepper then serve.
  • For the salad, arrange the mackerel, mozzarella, salad leaves and mixed peppers in a bowl and pour over the oil from the mixed peppers.
  • Mix together thoroughly before serving alongside the mash

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens

This vegetarian recipe has great East Asian flavours and is seriously flavourful. The soba noodles offer a decent alternative to wheat pasta, if you are gluten-intolerant, and the dish itself offers a healthy balance of protein, carbs and very little fat.

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g soba noodles
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • A small cube of fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 150g firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into small cubes
  • 4 Spring onions, sliced lengthways
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • (optional) a handful of leafy greens
  • (optional) 2 tbsp almond nut butter
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • In a large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. Add the broccoli florets for the final 5 minutes of cooking. Cook until tender.
  • Drain the water then toss the noodles and broccoli with 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
  • Next, in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and honey; set aside.
  • Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes. Set the tofu aside in a small dish.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat, adding the garlic, ginger and spring onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
  • Add the soy sauce and honey to the pan and toss in the soba noodles, broccoli florets and tofu.
  • (optional) Finally, stir the almond-nut butter into the pan until well mixed.
  • Season to taste and then serve alongside the (optional) leafy greens.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

This is a colourful and crunchy recipe which can be eaten as a main or side dish.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small red cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded finely
  • 6 carrots, cut into thin strips (a decent food processor should have an attachment blade for this)

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil,
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice,
  • Salt and pepper,
  • 150g broad beans,
  • (optional) a handful of coriander,
  • (optional) a sprinkle of sesame seeds, or some other variety of Omega 3/Omega 6 rich seeds (linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

Directions

  • Mix the sesame oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl to make a dressing and then set aside.
  • Boil a large saucepan of water, add the cabbage and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the broad beans and simmer for 1 minute more. Drain the vegetables, leave to cool, then toss with the grated carrot, dressing and (optional) coriander leaves and sesame seeds.

Smashing Pumpkins: 3 ways with pumpkin seeds

When I have an inevitable energy slump in the afternoon, usually around 3 o’clock, I always need to go foraging for food. For instance a slice of hot toast smothered with crunchy peanut butter with a few berries or a mashed banana on top. Oatcakes with roasted nuts are another option, or perhaps a chunky granola bar, encased in sugar syrup and smothered with seeds. Pumpkin seeds

I think you can see where I’m going with this… Pumpkin seeds also fall into this category.

As far as all-round health benefits are concerned they’re pretty hard to beat. Their nutrition is, shall we say, “brain boosting” – with zinc, magnesium and Omega-3 in abundance, all of which are beneficial when it comes to improving memory and critical thinking skills.

This is definitely a good choice for the afternoon cognitive deficit.

As well as for snacking pumpkin seeds are great for general cooking purposes; such as garnishing sweet and savoury bakes; blitzing into a pesto sauce for pasta or pureeing into a smooth and creamy seed butter or for toast.

For the recipes below I’ve opted for a selection of 3 of the best (and indeed simple) uses for pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seed breadPumpkin seed bread

Seeded bread recipes often call for different seed varieties like linseed, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. This loaf uses only the latter of the four – which I find the most flavoursome.

Ingredients

  • 20g fresh / 14g instant yeast
  • 500g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 5g salt
  • 10g unrefined sugar i.e. brown cane sugar or demerara
  • 50ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 275ml/9fl oz warm water
  • 150g pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Heat a small pan to a medium-high heat and spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly. Toast for around 7-10 minutes, shaking the pan so they do not catch or burn. Remove from the heat and leave to cool
  • In a bowl mix together the yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil until well combined. Add the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together as a soft dough.
  • Add the pumpkin seeds and knead gently for 5-8 minutes, or until the seeds are combined and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
  • Set aside in a warm place to prove for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • When the dough has proved, transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden-brown.

Porridge with pumpkin seeds and maple syrup blackberries

There are countless recipe variations around for porridge – what can you expect for something that’s Porridge with pumpkin seeds and blackberriesbeen around since 1000 BC..

This is my take on it.

Ingredients

  • 50-75g steel cut oats
  • 250ml water or milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • a generous drizzle of maple syrup

Directions

  • Put the oats in a saucepan with the water (or milk) and salt.
  • Slowly bring to the boil over a low-medium heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time and watching carefully that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Before serving, pour some boiling water into your serving bowl, leave for 10 seconds, then pour out. This warms the bowl in preparation for the porridge.
  • To serve: Pour into the warmed bowl, spoon the pumpkin seeds on top and drizzle with honey.

Spice-roasted pumpkin seeds with cumin, coriander and cardamom

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Ingredients

  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, cardamom and salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add seeds, lower heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well then transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and pat dry.
  • Meanwhile, mix the oil together in a bowl with the ground spices.
  • Transfer the seeds to a medium bowl, toss with the flavoured oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour total. (They will become crispier as they cool.)
  • Set aside to let cool completely then shell or eat whole.

Related:

Peanut Butter and date flapjacks recipe

Homemade cashew, cocoa and date ‘Nakd’ bars

Nuts about Almonds!

Nuts about Almonds!

Always good for a munch when you’re feeling peckish – almonds are without doubt one of my favourite store cupboard ingredients.

Almonds

Oven roasted almonds

Although this delicate, mellow and creamy nut might not seem as exciting lined up against it’s more flavourful cousins; namely the walnut, pecan or brazil varieties, almonds do have their strong points; like providing the foundation for all great baking recipes, exotically flavoured tagines, pilafs and stews.

Not only that, almonds are also extremely nutritious:

  • They are rich in vitamin E which promotes healthy skin, bones and acts as an intoxicant which protects cell membranes.
  • Compared to other nuts they also contain the second highest amount of magnesium, after Brazil nuts, which is necessary for healthy teeth, muscle, nerve function and great for energy distribution throughout the body.
  • They are also high in protein and monounsaturated fats.

Almond varieties:

Almonds aerial view

Oven roasted almonds aerial view

  • Whole almonds

My favourite almonds are the skin-on whole variety (brown in colour) although blanched almonds (white in colour, skin-off) are also available.

I whole find almonds eaten straight from the packet a little bland; it usually helps to toss them in a little olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper before blasting them in a hot oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Not only does this bring out their flavour but it also gives them a crunchier texture.

  • Ground (powdered) almonds

Great for home baking (think lemon, almond and poppy seed cake) – lending a chewy consistency to cakes and excellent for a healthy flour substitute for making pancakes.

  • Flaked almonds

These are readily used as a garnish on savoury dishes like Moroccan tagines, pilafs and Indian curries. On the sweet end of the spectrum you’ll find toasted and flaked almonds adorning all manner of cakes and sweet pastries – like Bakewell tarts, nutty florentine biscuits, pralines, creamy trifles and (my favourite) sweet almond croissants filled with marzipan paste.

On that note, feel free to browse my recipe for Macaroons from a previous blog.

Recipe ideas:

If I’m not eating almonds straight from the packet or munching them straight from the oven I’ll often use a food processor to prepare smoothies, milkshakes and thick sauces.

  • For a great smoothie recipe – blitz a handful of almonds with 150g blanched kale, 1 banana and 2-3 dates, along with a good splash of almond milk or water. This can be chilled in the refrigerator or served at room temperature.
  • For a bright, fiery sauce you can’t go wrong with Romesco – from the Catalonia region in Spain. Romesco is made with almonds, roasted red peppers, garlic, tomatoes and a thick slice of country bread for texture, making it an excellent accompaniment for meat, fish and as a dressing for roasted vegetables. Just take 100g of whole roasted almonds, 4 garlic cloves, 2 diced tomatoes, 3 roasted red peppers (blackened on an open flame or roasted for 20 minutes in a fierce oven) and 1 red chilli. Add this to a food processor with 100ml olive oil, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar, 1 tbsp smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth.

I’ve focused two recipes below: the first has all the flavours and textures from the Middle East; with the second offering up a healthy non-dairy alternative to milk.

Almond, apricot, pomegranate, quinoa and bulgur Pilaf

Pilaf is a long-standing favourite of mine which usually contains rice, spices and various other grains. I’ve gone with quinoa and bulgar as the two main ingredients which give the dish a fantastically nutty texture.

Almond, apricot, quinoa and bulgar pilaf

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g each of uncooked quinoa and bulgar wheat
  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzos
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • salt and pepper to taste
Almond, apricot, quinoa and bulgur pilaf ingredients

Ingredients (clockwise from left): quinoa, bulgur wheat, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chilli flakes and (middle) 1 whole cinnamon stick

To garnish

  • 100g mixed almonds
  • 75g apricots, chopped
  • 75g pomegranates
  • a handful of coriander

Directions

  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan, then fry the onions, coriander seeds and cumin seeds until soft and golden. Add the garlic and chillies and fry for 2 minutes, then add the quinoa, bulgur, stock and cinammon. Season, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the stock is absorbed or until the you have fluffy grains. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Garnish with the remaining ingredients and serve.

Homemade almond milk

A fresh and tasty vegan alternative to cow’s milk. You will need a blender.

Almond milk recipe

Ingredients

  • 200g whole almonds
  • 570ml/1 pint water
  • 6-7 good quality pitted dates (Medjool variety are good) OR 3-4 tbsp maple syrup

Directions

  • In a container, soak the almonds in just enough water to cover.
  • Cover with a towel and let it sit in a cool place for about 8 – 12 hours.
  • Pour off the water from the almonds and rinse well.
  • Place the rinsed almonds into a blender, add the water with the dates or maple syrup, blending for a few minutes on high speed until well mixed.
  • Strain the almond milk through a very fine sieve or a bag strainer and serve. You will be left with some almond meal residue in the sieve or bag strainer (you can use this for macaroons, cookies, almond but butter or other baking recipes).

Alternative flavour suggestions

Add these extra ingredients at the blending stage

  • Chocolate almond milk: add 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Cinnamon milk: add 1 tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg
  • Vanilla almond milk: add 1 tsp vanilla extract or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Pesto verde

According to various news outlets, output of olive oil across Italy and Spain has decreased dramatically due to a poor harvest in 2014.

As a result, the wholesale price is increasing, having a knock on effect for shoppers, who are now stocking up on supplies. In many cases, a 500ml bottle of good extra-virgin olive oil will cost about the same amount as a cheap bottle of supermarket wine; coming in at around the £5 mark.

With this in mind, I thought I’d do an olive oil blog post before things turn too sour, and turn my attention to one Italian dish famous for it’s use of extra-virgin olive oil: Pesto verde, or green pesto.

Basil pesto leaves

Fragrant basil leaves

Pesto is very much a household name in the UK now. As well as its use as a pasta sauce, you’ll also find it to be a great sauce to have with grilled meat, white fish or salmon (see my pesto topped salmon recipe).

It also goes well in a salad of mushrooms, artichokes, tomatoes and crunchy greens and you’ll often find that “chicken and pesto sandwiches” are a dime a dozen these days.

This vibrant green Italian sauce/paste is traditionally derived from basil leaves, but you can easily adapt it to work with parsley, rocket, coriander or even spinach. Whatever the choice, once the leaves are combined with fresh lemon and extra-virgin olive oil, the end result always has a nice zip to it.

Pine nuts

Pine nuts

There is a slight conundrum over the type of nuts used, however; toasted pine nuts (pictured right) being the traditional choice. These small, pebbly nuts are like little tear drops, and have a richer flavour than, say, hazelnuts or almonds. When combined with basil, not only do the nuts give pesto it’s body and substance but also a lovely creaminess and a nutritional source of fats and protein.

I remember the first time I tried green pesto; it was around eight years ago, in an Italian restaurant named Est Est Est on Edinburgh’s George Street. Regrettably this eatery is now closed down but the pesto itself left a lasting impression on me – and not in a positive way. It was a simple dish of linguine and pesto verde (green pesto) but I found the taste very acerbic, overpowering and even sour. I needed some sort of protein, like grilled chicken, to absorb some of the intense flavours.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to adapt my own recipe for pesto, and have found that it goes best with meat or fish, rather than just pasta on it’s own.

With pesto, it’s always a case of experimentation. For instance, adding a bit more cheese or oil until you are happy with the taste and consistency. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to give it a little twang it sometimes nice, but it’s not essential. My advice is to keep “tasting as you go”, to avoid one ingredient overpowering the rest.

Let’s get cracking.

Penne with pesto verde (green pesto)

Penne pasta with pesto

Ingredients:

Basil pesto ingredients

ingredients – (clockwise from left) grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts, lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, garlic

  • 350g penne pasta
  • 60g parmesan cheese, grated
  • 50g pine nuts,
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 150ml extra-virgin olive oil,
  • A handful of basil leaves,
  • 1 garlic clove,
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Rocket leaves, to garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • Cook the penne pasta according to packet instructions.
  • Heat a small pan over a medium heat and carefully dry fry the pine nuts for about 10 minutes.
  • Pound the garlic, salt and basil leaves in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor, to make into a paste.
  • Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again.
  • Turn out into a bowl and add half the Parmesan.
  • Next, whisk in the olive oil and lemon juice until you have an oozy consistency.
  • Finally, as the rest of the parmesan cheese along with the seasoning.
  • Mix with the cooked penne and serve.

How to make… Peanut Satay sauce

roasted peanuts

This Indonesian-inspired recipe is truly one of my favourites. ‘Satay’ is a fragrant peanut-based sauce traditionally paired with either beef or chicken (served on skewers) in Indonesia and throughout South East Asia.

Don’t restrict yourself to meat based dishes, however, as the sauce makes an excellent accompaniment to plenty of vegetables; like baked aubergine, boiled broccoli and even as a dip for raw cauliflower or crunchy carrot sticks.

One of my favourite vegetarian satay recipes from Indonesia is ‘Gado-Gado’ which usually contains cabbage, beansprouts, carrots, red onion, small tomatoes, red chili, tempeh (fermented soybean), a fried egg (optional), some coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime – all smothered in crunchy peanut butter.

In the UK, peanut butter is now more popular than ever, and this recipe wholeheartedly backs up that statistic. For some more excellent tips with peanut butter, please refer to my previous post, containing a very moreish recipe for peanut butter and date flapjacks.

Peanut satay ingredients

the aromatics: 1/2 onion, garlic, lemon, ginger and sesame seeds

Peanut Satay recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 100g Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 75ml greek yoghurt or natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 honey or sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, for garnish
  • 1 tsp chopped red chilli or 1 tbsp chilli flakes
    2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves, for garnish

Directions

  • To make the sauce, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onion for a few minutes.
  • Add the chopped garlic and ginger and stir. Cook for a further 2 minutes.

    Peanut satay

    Creamy chicken satay

  • Add the chopped chilli or chilli flakes, soy, honey and lemon juice. Add the peanut butter and yoghurt. Bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes until thickened, adding water if necessary.
  • Stir in half the chopped coriander and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  • To serve, garnish with the rest of the coriander and spoon over other ingredients. Alternatively, serve alongside in a small bowl.