Author Archives: michaelarthurfood

Low in Salt Big on Taste

P1090334There is no doubt that generally there is too much salt in our diet. The main problem is the sodium content which is really high in normal processed table salt or ‘added’ salt in processed food products. This is what gives it the negative health impact. Maldon or similar quality salts (which are specified in the recipes on this blog) still have a high sodium content but are a purer cleaner product. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to say that salt is ‘good’ for you, but I can’t. What I can say though is that salt is necessary to our diet and if you are going to use it make it a good one and try not to buy food with added salt. Better add your own which is of good quality.

P1090329There have been so many misconceptions about salt that most people think that it is bad for you.  The fact is that salt is the most important component in alkalising the blood and tissues.  Your salt intake is essential especially if you follow a unprocessed, vegetable based diet.

Being a chef, seasoning is everything to me.  It is very easy to lean on salt and overcompensate what the natural textures and flavours bring to a dish. In cutting back my personal salt intake I am using the following seasonings to satisfy my salty desires but with a 90 per cent cut back in the amount of salt I consume.

Gomasio

There is nothing new about gomasio, it is a big part of Japanese seasoning and more pertinently to this blog and the ‘macrobiotic’ diet. Accounting for health and taste it is made with a ratio of any thing from 5:1 to 15:1. I am in between this at 10:1 which I think works as a credible replacement for salt. I have also done a salt free version with wakame, a dried seaweed available from healthfood shops and some supermarkets. Unhulled sesame seeds are not the white ones which are common in Asian shops, they are darker in colour found in any health food shops or the healthy section in a supermarket. If you can’t find unhulled then do the pumpkin and sunflower seed version. The white sesame seeds contain little if any nutritional value.

Classic Gomasio

150g unhulled sesame seeds
15g good quality sea salt

Method

IMG_0530Grind the salt with a pestle and mortar . Mix the salt and sesame seeds together in a bowl. In a dry pan toast the mix off, not too much, just until aromas start to become apparent. Next transfer the mix to the pestle and start to work it with the mortar. Start by bashing it then grinding round and round until you have a coarse powder. If you don’t have one then just pulse it in whatever machine you have, don’t over do it with the machine as it will release all the oils and go really thick so you can’t sprinkle it.

Wakame and sesame gomasio

150g unhulled sesame seeds
25g dried wakame

Scrunch up the wakame so its in small pieces and toast off in a dry pan for a couple of minutes. Add the sesame seeds and toss together toasting for another minute or so then grind the mix following the instructions above.

Sunflower and Pumkin seed seasoning (omega rich)

P1090326Grind the salt first then mix the seeds and the salt. Lightly toast until the seeds start popping, When in the mortar you bash to break it up rather than grinding round and round it like the sesame gomasio. Rather than grinding you are breaking down until you have a consistency that you can sprinkle.

All of the above have a long shelf life. Put into a jar or a sealable container and incorporate into your meals and snacks.

Tamari

imgresTamari is a Japanese soy sauce made without wheat. It tends to be a far superior product to what you normally find on the shelves.  A lot of people do not realise that soya sauce contains wheat, where as tamari is wheat free and gluten free. You can also find this product with reduced salt. For an example of how to use this see Tamari seeds.

Brown Rice Risotto With Mixed Mushrooms

P1090284

It wasn’t so long back that I would never have thought brown rice can become irresistible and fit for a fine dinning experience. I always liked it and thought it was OK, but for a dinner party……not really.

Well here that theory is blown out of the water. Continually searching for healthy options around classic meals I went round the block and back with risotto using barley, kamut and spelt. Quinoa will work but is nowhere near the consistency of a good risotto and really, it is not a risotto. A risotto is with rice, in this case round brown Italian rice.

Using the round brown Italian rice is perfect for this dish. Health food shops and sections at the supermarkets will stock it. It might not even say it on the packet in the supermarket, just look for the smallest roundest grain. Cooking the rice a bit longer than directed gives it a similar richness to what butter gives  which is that creaminess. Brown rice is very forgiving as it will retain a bite even when it goes a bit over. The ‘bite’ in risotto is so important. So over cook it a little to add a rich texture. You can lose the parmesan easily, yeast flakes would work as a substitute and therefore becoming a vegan option or it stands alone with the depth of the mushrooms.

Brown rice outweighs the health benefits of any white rice. A dish like this has a certain air of originality about it as well.  Making healthy food taste good is very popular at the moment.  If you are familiar with brown rice then you will know what a chore it can be to cook time wise which is why I pre-cook this for twenty minutes before starting the recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4)

200g round brown Italian rice
200g chestnut mushrooms (use any mix of mushrooms, these are just easy to get)
150g portobello mushrooms
75g dried mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
2 litres of veg stock (cubes or powder)
150ml white wine, sherry or vermouth
30g parmesan
1 green chilli (optional)
100g spinach
Maldon salt and black pepper
1 spring onion or chives
1 lemon

Prep list

Soak the dried mushrooms for twenty minutes (the dish is noticeably better with them and I saw them in all supermarkets when I was back in the UK). Cook the rice in boiling water for 20 mins and drain. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit sticky.

MixedmushPeel and cut the shallots into small squares. Brush any dirt off the chestnut mushrooms, do not wash though as this gives the mushrooms a sliminess which tends to put people off them. Cut into similar sized squares as the shallots. Cut the portobello mushroom into thick slices. Chop the soaked mushrooms as finely as possible. Press the garlic to a pulp. De-seed and chop the chilli. Grate the parmesan. Make up the stock which needs to be kept hot and add the liquor from the soaked mushrooms to it.

Method

Sautee the portobello slices until browned on each side (if you are using them). Take out of pan and put onto paper to remove excess oil. Fry off the chestnut mushrooms (or mixed mushrooms) and the dried ones in oil. When they start browning add the shallots. When it is all browned and dry add the garlic and green chilli ,combine and cook for a further two mins. Add the precooked rice and stir it in until the excess oil has been absorbed. Add the white wine and let the liquid cook out.

RisottopanWhen the rice starts sticking to the bottom add the stock, a ladleful at a time. Everytime it reduces add more stock. Keep it moving with a spatula which stops it sticking to the bottom.

P1090274After 20mins taste a grain and if its soft but with some bite turn off the heat making sure it is still wet. Add the grated parmesan, ground black pepper, spinach leaves and cooked portobello mushrooms. Put a lid (or cover with foil) on and leave for 5 mins. Take the lid off and gently fold the contents until they are evenly mixed through and the cheese has melted. Be gentle so as not to break or mash up the contents. The risotto needs to be loose so add some more stock if necessary.

To plate up put the risotto put a spoonful in the middle of the plate and smooth it over the surface, to make it nice and flat instead of a pile. Sprinkle to finish with finely cut spring onions.

Roast Butternut Squash Chickpea and Coconut Curry

Pumpkin

This kind of dish is a staple of South Indian cuisine. Straightforward and quick to make, it will also add a vegetarian option to your repertoire. I have worked on the textures by roasting off the squash which gives it a crispy and sweet feel, not mushy like when you cook it in the coconut milk. The cashews also add a big crunch to the curry.

Here we also have a solid introduction to the basis of Asian curries which is the paste. This an example of the most basic of pastes which is onion, garlic and ginger blended. You can see where the consistency of Indian and Thai curries come from when you start cooking this way.

Fenugreek can be harder to find than other spices.  It takes a pestle and mortar to grind it to a powder, but it does add another depth to a dish which is always good, but you can lose it.

Ingredients (serves 4)

600g butternut squash
1 medium onion
6 cloves of garlic
25g ginger
2 to 4 fresh chillies (red or green)
1 lime
1 bunch of fresh coriander
2 tsps ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
750ml coconut milk (2 tins)
1 tin of chick peas (400g)
Sunflower oil (or any oil)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
70g cashews

Prep list

Blend or grate the onion, garlic and ginger. Peel and cut the squash into 3cm chunks. Drain the chick-peas, pick the coriander, and mix together the fenugreek, cumin and coriander. Chop the chillies and roast off the cashews.

Method

Turn the oven to 200 degrees. Toss the cubes of squash in oil, put onto a baking tray and roast off in the oven. Spread the squash out so its not heaped on top of each other. Cook until browned and soft, about twenty mins, being gentle so it doesn’t turn to mush.

Meanwhile, put a pan with the oil onto a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds, as soon as they begin to pop add the onion, garlic and ginger. Fry off without colouring them too much. When really soft after about 5 minutes add the spice and cook some more, constantly stirring so it doesn’t take on the bottom and then take off the heat. Stir in the coconut milk, salt, sugar and chilli then return to a low heat with the chickpeas and cook for thirty minutes. Take off the heat and taste.

PasteSqueeze half of the lime and tweak as you feel necessary for salt. Don’t worry if you think the sauce could be a bit sweeter, the sweetness of the squash will come through when its all combined. Gently fold in the roasted squash, again,  being careful it doesn’t turn into a mush.

To serve put some steamed rice in the bowl, and ladle the curry with some sauce. Roughly crush the cashews (I use the bottom of a pan and lean on it so it breaks them up). Sprinkle a generous amount of  cashews then finish with a fat pinch of picked coriander.

Tahini


2008_11_4-tahiniTahini is an essential for the fridge. It lifts the most basic of foods into a rich meal whilst retaining healthy qualities. Tahini is a paste made from grinding sesame seeds and has a high protein content. A  little tweaking turns it into a stunning dressing for steamed vegetables, brown rice and salads. It comes in a light and dark version. Both of which have an amazing depth of flavour.  To learn how to make this sauce see Tahini Dressing.

From the web

“Sesame seeds are very beneficial for you because they are rich in quality vitamins and minerals. They are very good sources of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and riboflavin”.

Also see Hummus.

Tahini Dressing

Probably the most asked about, straightforward and delicious recipe we do. It will save meal times when all you fancy is steamed vegetables and brown rice, or a crunchy cos salad.  You could also have with crunchy crudites.

The measurements are just a guide, so that you can learn how to make this. If you need more then just double, or even triple up.

Ingredients 

2 tbsps tahini
2 tsps tamari (or soya sauce)
Half a lemon
Mineral water

Method

Put the tahini, tamari, lemon juice and a splash of water into a bowl and stir well. At this point the dressing will go very thick and look a bit strange. Slowly keep adding water and stirring until you have a nice smooth consistency. If you are using as a salad dressing you will want it thinner than if you were using it as a sauce for vegetables.

Green Winter Warmer

 
Green Winter Warmer

I always crave green food in the winter. I tried to find out if there was a specific reason but haven’t found anything fitting on the internet.  Soups are always a winner and green is the perfect seasonal colour for this time of year. Calling it a green soup gives it versatility. I originally made the soup with the dark green swiss chard which is common in Spain where I live. I am told its harder to find in the UK so I would say use either or both kale and spinach. I have been getting white sweet potatoes in my veg box which add a richness, sweetness and texture to the soup. If you don’t see them where you live an ordinary potato will do. Don’t use an orange sweet potato though, as it sends the colour off.

The garnish is optional, I just like to add layers and textures to food, it will work just as well on its own. Here I have used pumpkin and sesame seeds and salt, but alternatively you could use gomasio. You will need a stick blender, food processor or smoothie maker to blend the soup.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 onion
1 white sweet potato, or ordinary potato (150g)
3 cloves of garlic
1 piece of ginger (approx. 20g)
200g greens e.g kale and spinach 
20g parsley (opt)
1 chilli
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 spring onion
1 small pot of quark ( low fat  fromage frais)
20g pumpkin seeds
10g sesame seeds
Olive oil
1.5 litres of veg stock (cube is fine)

Salt and pepper

Prep list

1. Peel the potatoes, onion, garlic and ginger then roughly chop quite small
2. Finely chop the kale and spinach and wash well
3. Roughly chop the parsley
4. Roughly chop the chilli
5. Cut the spring onion into thin rings
6. Make up the stock

7. Toast off the pumpkin seeds and sesame grind or chop with some sea salt, the finer the better.

Method

Put your soup pan on to the heat, cover the bottom with oil. When hot add the onions, potatoes, garlic and ginger. Stir and turn heat down to medium, try not  brown as it will send the finished colour off. When slightly softened add the cumin, then stir in two thirds of the stock. Add the chilli and cook out for 20 mins, or until the potato is soft.

Add your greens including the parsley and cook for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat. Wait for 5 minutes and blend well. If you have a sieve or a conical strainer, it is worth pushing it through (clearly not essential). If its too thick add some of the stock you have left to get your preferred consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remembering the stock has salt in it. You will also gain salt from the gomasio. Putting the greens in at the last minute gives the soup its colour and vibrancy.

To finish, pour the soup into the bowl. Draw a circle of olive oil from a teaspoon over the soup. Take a tablespoon of quark and slide it off with your finger into the middle of the bowl. Divide the pumpkin seeds and pile on top of the quark then a pinch of the fresh spring onions and some lemon zest. Grind some pepper. None of the garnish is essential, its the soup that is the main player here.

Gluten Free Baking Powder

P1080163In all of the recipes on this blog, particularly in the cakes and the biscuits, wheat alternatives have been used such as  spelt flour or ground almonds.  When baking powder is made there is a starch added which is wheat based therefore it is essential to use wheat and gluten free baking powder. You will find this in most supermarkets, in the wheat free section, or online.

For a recipe which uses this see Poppy Seed Cake.

Re-Fried Beans

re fried 4
I am going with red kidney beans for this dish as I prefer the colour and they are probably easier to find. In the photos I have used pinto beans which are typically Spanish, but on reflection I normally use red kidney beans and prefer them.

Re- fried beans will liven up any simple protein eg. grilled chicken, fish or tofu, and there will be no need to make a sauce. Amongst other things they are a good source of protein so you could just have them with brown rice, salad, green vegetables or even just a bag of tortilla chips. This is not a mash, it is fluid with plenty of the kidney  beans visible.

If you are using from a packet you need 250g and to soak them overnight and cook them accordingly until soft. Otherwise use a tin. If you are soaking and cooking them, keep the liquor they have been cooked in and use that to make the dish. If you are using them from a tin then wash the beans well before using them. There is never very much of this left after it is served up. If there is then put it in the fridge and reheat by putting a splash of water in a pan and adding the beans, keep stirring the beans until they are hot and you have a thick but wet consistency.

ChipotleIngredients

250g red kidney beans
1 medium white onion
6 cloves of garlic
Chipotle tabasco or regular tabasco (an optional ingredient – the dish will survive without it)
1 1/2 tbsps (15g) ground cumin
1.5 – 2  litres of stock (cube or powder is fine from health food section)
Fresh coriander (if you can get it, nice touch)
Light olive oil

Method

Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic. Put a large frying pan onto the heat, add the olive oil and sweat off the onions and garlic. Add the cumin and stir for a couple of minutes.

Re fried 2Add the beans and the liquid (if kept), stir and add the stock. You will need to keep adding more water in the cooking process, so boil your kettle again in preparation,  make up a hot stock and keep topping up as the beans thicken. It is said, and I always do it, not to add cold water to pulses when you are  cooking them or the pulse will not soften.

re fried 3Keep adding liquid and breaking/mashing the beans as you go. I use a silicon spatula and just press down onto the beans as they are cooking, don’t break them up too much, you want some texture.

If you have chipotle tabasco or even ordinary tabasco add to taste. Finish off with chopped coriander.

Griddled Cauliflower with Hazelnuts and Pickled Red Onions

Cauliflower 4This is another ‘centre of the table’ or ‘mezze’ style dish made for sharing. Seasonally this is a winter salad which can be served warm or at room temperature. You can  prepare this well in advance, just put all the elements together before serving. Cooking cauliflower on the fire with oil gives it a really unique flavour. I also roast off cauliflower in the oven which has the same nuances. This combination is really different and is always well received.  It  works well with any other dish on the table, fish, meat, or as a vegetarian/vegan dish.

Ingredients (serves 4 or 6 if part of a mezze meal)

1 small, or half a large cauliflower
20g roasted hazelnuts
10g parsley
1 small red onion
25ml red wine vinegar
Honey
1 tbsp capers
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Prep List

Cut the onion in half and slice it thinly. Mix the vinegar and the honey (or sugar) together. Put the cut onions into the same bowl and push the onions down with your fingers so they are covered with the vinegar.

CauliflowerCut the cauliflower across the body of it as oppose to florets as seen in the photo. Half of it will hold together, the other half will break into small pieces, but it doesn’t matter.

Make sure the hazelnuts are roasted, quite often they are already roasted, if they have no crunch then pop them in a hot oven for 5-8 mins, don’t forget about them.

Chop the parsley.

Measure out the capers.

Method

Cauliflower 2Put your griddle pan or frying pan on a high heat, or fire up the gas bbq. When hot turn down to medium heat. Toss the cauliflower in olive oil and put each large piece on the pan first, then after do whats left of the smaller pieces. Cook it well, you want some bite left in it but not too much. The cauliflower needs to almost burn a bit, crispy caramelized cauliflower is what you want. When it as all done cut the bigger pieces into bite size bits. Put into a mixing bowl with the capers, half the onion, salt and pepper and half the parsley.

Mix the ingredients in a bowl, taste, always taste everything, for seasoning. Lay onto a plate, then finish off the garnish with the rest of the onions and parsley.