I ate a lovely, warming, filling brunch of huevos rancheros (or mexican ranch-style beans) in a Chiquitos restaurant near the O2 in London recently. This was in preparation for my ascent to the top of the O2 – that’s right, you can climb it to a viewing
platform mountaineering style and get fab views of London City and the river on a clear day (we got lucky with the weather)! Awesome fun, and the breakfast set me up a treat!
I digress! This is my own home-cooked version that I have only just got round to making 2 weeks later because I’ve not had time to soak and boil my beans!
This is a well-balanced brekkie plate with plenty of fresh anti-oxidant-rich veggies for fibre and vitamins, black beans for muscle-building protein and a bit of a kick to wake you up for the day. Who said hot breakfasts had to be bland, unhealthy, stodgy and full of saturated fat?! Black beans are high in fibre (aids weight loss because it fills you up, and boosts the health of the gut), low in fat, and contain a decent amount of iron (important for building red blood cells and preventing anaemia), folate (important for red blood cells and transport of oxygen to the muscles and prevents spina bifida in unborn children), magnesium and potassium.
If you have to get the dried black beans that need soaking I would recommend preparing more than you need as you can always freeze them once cooked for easy use at a later date.
400g black beans, cooked (use canned pinto beans, drained, if you cannot find black beans)
200ml vegetable or chicken broth, made with ½ a 10g stock cube
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 large red onion, chopped (185g)
1 large red pepper, chopped (145g)
1 clove garlic, minced (4g)
1 can chopped tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped (400g)
1 can of sweetcorn kernels (160g)
1 tbsp. jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh coriander or cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
salt, to taste
4 tortillas (40g each)
- Soak the black beans in cold water overnight (24 hours). Place in a large saucepan, cover with double the amount of water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and leave to cook for at least 2 hours or until the beans are softened but not breaking apart. Add more water if it starts to dry out. Drain and leave to cool.
- To make the salsa, stir the tomatoes, red onions, red pepper, sweetcorn, coriander or cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, minced garlic, and salt to taste, together in a bowl until well blended. Cover, and refrigerate until needed (at least 1 hour).
- Place the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and cook 1 minute until light brown. Mix in the black beans or drained pinto beans if using these instead, the broth and 1 tbsp. jalapeno pepper. Simmer until beans are heated through (about 5 minutes). Turn off heat, and keep warm.
- Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / gas mark 5. Place tortillas on a baking sheet with greaseproof paper underneath. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until warmed through and softened. Alternatively, heat in microwave on full power for 30 – 45 seconds.
- Poach or scramble the eggs and cook to desired firmness.
- To assemble huevos rancheros, place a tortilla on each plate. Top each tortilla with black bean mixture, a layer of salsa, and an egg (or ¼ of the scrambled eggs). Serve immediately.
– Add 1 inch of chorizo, chopped into small squares = additional 68 kcal / 285 kJ
For a main meal, per portion:
– Add 20g of grated cheddar cheese = additional 83kcal / 347 kJ
– 50g of shredded roast chicken (instead of the eggs) = 89 kcal / 372 kJ
– 50g of shredded roast pork (instead of the eggs) = 91 kcal / 381 kJ
– 50g of shredded roast beef (instead of the eggs) = additional 110 kcal / 460 kJ
per whole recipe
Energy 1495 kcal / 6255 kJ
Total sugar 53.3g
Salt 8.4g (check canned beans for added salt)
per serving (if serving 4)
Energy 374kcal / 1565 kJ
Total sugar 13.3g
Salt 2.1g (check canned beans for added salt)
The humble date often makes an appearance at Christmas – about the only time of year that you seem to be able to buy the gorgeous, sticky, squidgy Medjool style date, as opposed to the small, shrivelled, dry ones you are forced to be content with the rest of the year round!
Dates are a fruit in their own right, not the dried version of something else. Although higher in calories than most fresh fruits, they do also contain a fantastic range of nutritional benefits and so are definitely a good alternative to chocolate if you are craving something sweet this Christmas.
Fibre: dates are high in fibre which helps our digestive systems to function smoothly (pardon the pun!), prevents constipation, promotes gut health and also can help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
B Vitamins: Dates contain a good amount of niacin, riboflavin and folate. These are all part of the B Vitamin family which help to support a range of bodily functions.
Riboflavin (B2): supports the health of the nervous system and can help promote skin and eye health as well as helping our bodies to release the energy from carbohydrate.
Niacin (B3): helps to promote the health of the digestive and nervous systems
Folate: helps to support Vitamin B12 to promote the production and health of red blood cells, therefore supporting the transport of oxygen to the muscles and preventing fatigue. It is also a vital vitamin during pregnancy as it prevents conditions such as spina bifida from developing in newborns.
Iron: Dates contain a decent amount of iron; any foods containing iron are good to eat as this is one of the minerals that we can so easily become deficient in, especially if we do not eat meat. Iron helps to build red blood cells which carry oxygen to muscles as a source of energy. If we are deficient in iron we can develop anaemia, a symptom of which is extreme fatigue and lack of energy.
Calcium: Dates contain a small amount of calcium, which promotes bone health, growth and development and is involved in cardiac function, so can help to keep the heart strong and healthy.
HOW TO STUFF A DATE!
1. Slice the date down one side, being careful not to cut all the way through as you want to keep it whole.
2. Carefully remove the stone. A good treat here, as there is often some date flesh still on the stone – it’s chef’s perogative to suck the stones! Just as satisfying as licking the spoon!
3. Take one whole almond, pistachio, walnut half, cashew or a nut of your choosing and place this where the stone used to be. Alternatively, stuff the cavity with chopped nuts.
4. Roll the stuffed date in grated coconut or sprinkle some on top for a delicious treat and a beautiful festive, snowy look
5. Alternative stuffings are:
* cream cheese (low fat, if you want to keep it healthy)
* blue cheese
* thick, lowfat greek style yogurt and honey
* bacon, wrapped around the date like pigs-in-blankets (obviously the bacon needs to be cooked first)
per one date, stuffed with an almond and rolled in coconut (per one date stuffed with blue cheese)
However, roasting them was also found to decrease the amount of flavenols in the nuts, chemical substances that are helpful in preventing heart disease (such as those found in red wine).
Just goes to show that research is a mixed bag and that most food preparation methods will have good and bad effects on the food we eat!
Cashew nuts contain an array of healthy vitamins and mineral; vitamin K (good for bone health and immunity) as well as the minerals magnesium (good for healthy blood supply to the nerves and brain), copper (good for brain function and involved in the break down of fats in the blood) and zinc (helps fight infection by preventing bacterial colonisation).
Cashew nuts also have a good array of healthy fatty acids to keep cholesterol levels normal and blood vessels healthy. We do need to be aware that, although these are healthy, unsaturated fats, they still mean that cashews are high in energy (calories) so portion control is advisable.
Carry on with a balanced, varied diet high in vegetables and fruit, containing fibre (18-24g/day), sources of low fat dairy, starchy carbohydrate (55%), protein (15%) and some healthy fats (25% max) and you can’t go far wrong.
If you love food and hate the idea of wasting anything then I am starting a series of ‘Waste Not Want Not’ blog posts, in honour of the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ national campaign to get people shopping and cooking smart to prevent food waste and save people money.
In the UK the average household throws away £480 of food waste per year (£680 for a family with 2 children) and almost half of this is estimated to be food that we could have eaten. The foods we waste the most are vegetables, fruit, drinks and bakery items such as bread and cakes. A lot of the wastage is down to either preparing too much food and having to throw it away or buying too much food in the first place.
The Love Food Hate Waste website has some brilliant ideas, including recipes and ways to store food better, to prevent waste and save us all money.
Here are my suggestions for something that tends to sit in the fridge for a long time in our house….the humble jar of mint sauce (please note, this is not the same as mint jelly – mint sauce is more of a vinegar-based dressing usually used with lamb).
1. Courgette and mint salad
- Trim the ends off 1 courgette and grate it lengthways into wide(ish) strips.
- Thinly slice 4 spring onions.
- Make a dressing out of 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 2-3 tsp. lemon juice (fresh or bottled), fresh black pepper and a tsp. of mint sauce.
- Mix courgette into the dressing.
- You could add bits of diced red pepper too.
2. Pea, Mint and Ham Soup
This is a recipe I have previously posted on Relish Health’s blog (September 2013)
3. Yogurt and mint dip
Mix 4 tbsps of low fat plain or greek yogurt with 1 tsp of mint sauce, 1 tsp lemon juice, ¼ – ½ tsp of ground chilli powder and a handful of coriander chopped fine.
Use this as a salad dressing for tinned chickpeas mixed up with diced spring onions, red pepper, and shredded roast chicken or as a dip for falafel or samosas. If you want to have a thinner sauce, blend – it will go a nice shade of green.
4. Mix 1/2 – 1 tsp. of mint sauce into a portion of fresh or frozen garden peas to serve as a side to your sunday roast.
5. Mix 1/2 – 1 tsp. of mint sauce with 1/2 – 1tsp of melted butter or olive-oil based spread. Dress some boiled new potatoes with this mixture and serve with your sunday roast or on the side of some baked or grilled white fish (haddock, cod, bass, bream, etc.)
Serves 2 (just double ingredients and use a larger baking dish to feed 4)
This is a real humdinger of a leftovers dish. It allows you to use up your roasted chicken meat leftovers (or omit the chicken for a vegetarian dish) and any odds and ends of Mediterranean vegetables that you might have (courgettes, aubergine and mushrooms would work just as well in this dish).
The real beauty of this lasagne is that you can pack in as many vegetables as you like and, because you are roasting them, they don’t need to be in perfect form – you can catch them as they’re starting to wilt or shrivel a tad and they’ll still taste delicious roasted in oil and covered in pesto. No need for food wastage and, even better than that, one portion packs in half of your daily fibre requirements and is low in salt and saturated fats. It would make a great post exercise meal as it is high in protein to help repair muscle. Serve with a salad or some steamed green beans or mange tout.
110g lasagne sheets (approximately 6 sheets)
1 tbsp. olive oil (10g)
½ butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1.5cm cubes (700g)
1 medium red or yellow pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped (160g)
1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped (150g)
100g pre-roasted chicken, shredded
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped fine
125g fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. green pesto (25g)
2 tbsp. reduced fat crème fraiche (30g)
30g grated parmesan cheese (you could use a mature cheddar if you prefer)
Freshly ground black pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
- Boil a kettle of water. Place the lasagne sheets (separated from each other) in a large deep flat dish and cover with the boiled water. Place in the bottom of the oven to allow them to soften and par-cook in the hot water. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t overcook and break apart (they shouldn’t do).
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep roasting tray in the oven for 3-5 minutes. Add the butternut squash cubes and stir to coat them in oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
- Add the chunks of onion and pepper to the roasting butternut squash. Stir all the veg round to coat in oil and replace in the oven. Roast for a further 20 minutes, until all are softened and starting to brown slightly.
- Add the chicken, pine-nuts, garlic and chilli to the roasted veg and stir round to coat in oil. Place the shredded spinach leaves on top of the veg and replace in the oven. Roast for a further 5-10 minutes to wilt the spinach and allow the vegetables to become infused with the chilli and garlic flavours.
- Remove the roasted chicken and vegetables from the oven (leave the oven on though cos the lasagne is going back in!) and stir the pesto through until they are all coated.
- Remove the lasagne sheets from the oven and drain off the water carefully, making sure the sheets don’t stick to each other. Hopefully they are par-cooked at this point.
- Start to assemble the lasagne. Place half of the roasted ingredients in a square or rectangular glass dish (one roughly 7” x 7” / 18cm x 18cm). Place half of the lasagne sheets on top – you can cut them to make them fit.
- Add the rest of the roasted ingredients on top and then another layer of lasagne sheets. Squash it all down as much as possible to allow the juices in the veg to cook the pasta through.
- In a separate bowl mix the low fat crème fraiche, half of the grated parmesan and nutmeg together and add black pepper to your own taste.
- Spoon this mixture on top of the lasagne and spread out smoothly to the edges. Sprinkle the rest of the parmesan evenly over the top.
- Return to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.
Per whole lasagne
Energy 1132 kcal / 4737 kJ
Total sugar 62.5g
Per portion (serves 2)
Energy 566 kcal / 2369 kJ
Total sugar 31.3g
I call this Spanish Omelette because that’s what my Mum always called it when we were kids! It’s similar to a Spanish tortilla omelette but they don’t tend to have all of the extra vegetables in, just potatoes.
This is a brilliant, tasty and healthy meal that you can eat either hot or cold, for lunch or for an evening meal. It’s packed full of protein so, with the addition of the potatoes, it is very filling. It also manages to cram plenty of your 5 a day veggies in there too so there’s lots of fibre and vitamins.
If eating as an evening meal, I would have a quarter of the omelette with some side salad. If you are having it for lunch then just have a sixth but with more salad. It’s great for packed lunches too as it holds together well in Tupperware! If you want to make a vegetarian version, just leave out the bacon or you could just as easily use the Quorn veggie bacon strips. An alternative to bacon might be grilled chicken pieces / Quorn chicken pieces.
380g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
6 rashers of lean bacon, parma ham or chorizo
1.5 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil (15ml)
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and diced (100g)
½ red pepper, deseeded and diced (80g)
½ green pepper, deseeded and diced (80g)
1 courgette, cut into 1cm cubes (100g)
120g mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced finely
½ red chilli, deseeded and sliced finely
100g frozen sweetcorn
100g frozen peas
2 tbsp. fresh or dried thyme
100ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp. dried mixed herbs
½ tsp. paprika
Fresh ground black pepper
50g grated cheese
1. The dish you need to fit all of these ingredients in needs to be 10.5 inches (26cm) in diameter and at least 1.5 inch (4 cm) deep. For less washing up the ideal would be to cook the omelette all in one frying pan. If you don’t have a frying pan large enough then you can use a ceramic flan/pie/tart dish with these dimensions.
2. In a saucepan, cover the cubed potatoes with boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes until softened but still firm. Drain well.
3. Grill the bacon until done, but not too crispy. Cut into strips and set aside on a plate for later.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, preferably the one you’ll use to finish cooking the omelette in, over a medium heat. Fry the potatoes for 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.
5. Add the rest of the vegetables and fry for 8-10 minutes further until all are softened. Turn heat off or just keep it over a low flame.
6. Stir in the fresh or dried thyme.
7. In a jug prepare the omelette mix. Beat the 8 eggs together with the milk. Add the dried herbs, paprika and black pepper. Beat again until the herbs and spices are mixed through with the eggs.
FRYING PAN METHOD
- Heat the grill on full, allowing enough space for the frying pan to fit comfortably under the grill with the handle (especially if plastic or wooden) pointing outwards so that it does not burn.
- If you are using the frying pan to cook the omelette, return the vegetables to a medium/high heat. Stir in the bacon, if using. Spread the vegetables as evenly as possible over the base of the pan. Pour the omelette mixture over the vegetables and allow it to settle down into the spaces.
- Cook the base of the omelette until you can see the edges browning – approximately 5-8 minutes. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top of the omelette.
- Place the frying pan under the grill. Leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
- Stick a knife into the centre of the omelette. If it comes out without raw egg on it, it’s done!
FLAN/PIE DISH METHOD
- Heat the oven to 180°C. Use just a little oil to grease the flan dish.
- If you are using a flan or pie dish, stir the bacon into the vegetables. Spread the vegetables as evenly as possible over the base of the pan. Pour the omelette mixture over the vegetables and allow it to settle down into the spaces.
- Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top of the omelette. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes, until the omelette is firm on top.
- Stick a knife into the centre of the omelette. If it comes out without raw egg on it, it’s done!
(Per whole omelette)
Energy 1877 kcal / 7854 kJ
Total Sugars 33.3g
Saturated Fat 35.2g
(Per serving, serves 4 (6))
Energy 470 kcal / 1963 kJ (313 kcal / 1309 kJ)
Carbohydrate 31.4g (20.9g)
Total Sugars 8.3g (5.6g)
Fat 26.0g (17.4g)
Saturated Fat 8.8g (5.9g)
Protein 28.0g (18.7g)
Fibre 4.3g (2.9g)
Salt 1.9g (1.3g)
With the weather starting to turn warmer, even if only sporadically and for 2-3 days out of every month in the UK, this weekend was so beautiful that it just wasn’t soupy weather! I decided to make a nice salad instead – my staple lunch during the summer months being a plate of different mixed salads like those you might see in a health food/wholefood cafe.
You can use green or brown lentils in this salad and these types are especially good in salads and casseroles because they hold their shape well after cooking (yellow and red lentils or split peas have a tendency to go mushy making them better in soups and dahls). They also lend it a really nice crunchy texture and nutty flavour which goes beautifully with the crunchy fresh veggies and parsley.
I would eat this salad as a meal on its own, maybe with a tbsp. of low fat hummus, lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and ½ pitta bread. I have eaten it on the side of a main meal such as baked fish or chicken, lasagne, moussaka or as part of a salad plate with other salads in which case I would have 1-2 tbsps. of salad rather than a large plateful. I have included the nutritional information for the whole recipe here so that you can make your own calculations if you decide to portion the salad differently; e.g. if you were to eat it on the side of a main meal rather than as a salad meal in its own right.Lentils are high in fibre, protein and a multitude of vitamins and minerals including iron, folate and calcium. They are low in fat and, because of the high fibre and protein contents, they can really help your stomach to feel fuller for longer making them a great addition to a lunch time meal as this can curb those afternoon snack cravings.
Normally you would find lentils dried and sold in bags ready for cooking although some supermarkets and specialist food stores such as south Asian supermarkets sell them already cooked in cans. I have used dried lentils so I needed to cook them – if you used canned lentils just miss out the first step and be aware that the canning process probably added extra salt to the overall nutritional content as a preservative.
200g dried green lentils or 2 cans cooked, drained green lentils (480g)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped (or equivalent amount of chopped spring onions)
1 garlic clove, finely diced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1.5 tbsp. white wine or cider vinegar
1 tsp. runny honey
2 tsp. lemon juice
Some grated lemon zest (optional)
Ground black pepper
1. Place the lentils in a saucepan with 3 times the amount of cold water as lentils. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat and boil gently for 35 – 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but retain a bit of crunch. Remove from heat, drain off the water and allow to cool for later.
2. Finely chop the vegetables and parsley – these will stay raw so small is better unless you particularly like to eat large chunks of raw onion! Mix these together in a big bowl.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, vinegar, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest (if using) and black pepper. Make sure the honey is well blended with the rest of the ingredients.
4. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and add the cooked lentils once they have cooled sufficiently.
5. Stir everything together and put the salad in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the dressing to infuse the vegetables with flavour.
per whole recipe
Energy 870 kcal / 3645 kJ
Total sugar 31.7g
Salt 0.1g (check canned lentils for added salt)
per serving (if serving 4)
Energy 220 kcal / 911 kJ
Total sugar 7.9g
Salt Trace (check canned lentils for added salt)