Hummus is my GO-TO thing. Lunch or dinner looking a bit dull? HUMMUS. Need a healthy snack full of protein and fibre? HUMMUS. Need a dish to take along to a friend’s party or gathering? HUMMUS. Ran out of the last lot of hummus? Time to make some HUMMUS.
I understand how easy and accessible hummus is nowadays, your local Tesco Express probably stocks at least 4 or 5 different varieties, and it is a good way of adding some healthy fats and protein into your diet. Looking at the label, the ingredients are pretty familiar but the levels of fat and salt can be pretty high, so the serving size is limited to 1/4 of a pot. Seriously, does anyone stick to that guideline? It takes some stroonggggg will power, one of which, I don’t have.
I’m totally ok with that.
I do prefer home made though. It leaves space to mix up the beans and pulses, as we all know eating a predominantly plant based diet requires lots of variety, so rotate those legumes. Chickpea is the classic, but try Butter bean or Cannellini bean for some smoooooth dipping. I always try to buy the best tinned beans I can afford, in the supermarkets they do an organic range which is in a carton with no added salt. I would soak and cook them myself but always end up forgetting, and this girl is not waiting for beans to soak to get her hummus fix. If you’re much more organised than me, than by all means using dried beans is a thriftier (and usually tastier) option.
I do wonder if she is a vegetarian sometimes
Most of my recipes and creations tend to involve using up a glut of things in my fridge. This time it happened to be coriander, which always wilts quicker than I can use it up. And the Saturday curry night never uses the entire bunch – I do love my coriander it gets sprinkled on everything – but still there will be some left. I also wanted to make a black bean dip to change things up a bit. Refried beans has to be up there in one of my favourite things to eat. Just give me a bowl of refried beans, guacamole and salsa. That’s one happy Thea, just leave me be.
So the general elements of hummus, chickpeas, lemon, garlic, cumin, olive oil, tahini and salt all get a little switch around. Here we have black beans (but feel free to use kidney beans if you can’t get hold of them), lime, garlic, ground cumin and coriander, chilli, pumpkin seeds, fresh coriander and salt. Rather simple, takes only a few minutes in the trusty food processor (mine is older than me, it’s vintage!) and is ready to dollop at your hearts desire. Carrot sticks at the ready!
Mexican Black Bean Dip
1 tin of black beans, drained
1 clove of garlic
1 small bunch of coriander
1 small handful pumpkin seeds
1 green chilli, de-seeded
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil/rapeseed oil
Put the drained black beans into a food processor along with the peeled garlic clove, pumpkin seeds and ground spices
Chop the stalks of the coriander roughly and add it all into the food processor along with the zest and juice of 1/2 the lime.
Chop the chilli and add along with a big pinch of salt and the oil and blitz.
Leave the motor running for a minute or two, you may need to scrape down the sides until smooth, then taste. Add any extra salt, lime or chilli you feel necessary.
Scrape into a serving dish or Tupperware where it will keep for 5 days.
You reckon you’ve officially gone woo woo when your idea of a sweet treat, an indulgent one at that, is a squidgy medjool date stuffed with some dark tahini and a sprinkle of cinnamon? I would believe so.
This my friends is me. I have become that lentil eating, hippie-dip person, who sprinkles turmeric in everything within reach and always has snacks in my bag for those often moments when nothing except crisps is available. You’d wish you were my friend when it comes to those desperate times!
Snacks! That is what we’re all here for.
Something high in protein, full of healthy fats, a hint of sweetness, nourishing and well and truly tasty. Come the 3/4pm afternoon slump the biscuit tin sure becomes appealing. A Digestive, Custard Cream, Chocolate Hobnob, ooh perhaps even a Fruit Shortcake (dead fly biscuit anyone?) or a Nice, always a good pairing to that brew. It’s true, but biscuits aren’t necessarily going to keep you powering on till the end of the work day or your commute home, and stopping at just one isn’t even an option.
So, bring on the blondies.
I’m a fan of a homemade snack. Putting aside an hour at the weekends to mash, pour and mix up the ingredients, not only is it preparing you for the week ahead for those busy work days and long commutes, think of it as an act of self care. Doing something for yourself, with the knowledge that your emergency snack stash is nourishing and will prevent you prowling the kitchen come 8pm eating anything and everything you can lay your hands on.
These blondies don’t contain the expected ingredients, a blondie is the blonde sister to the chocolate brownie. No chocolate or cocoa powder, think a brownie/cookie hybrid sometimes studded with addins like pecans, cranberries and white chocolate. Sounds pretty scrum right? Ok that is not what I have for you today, and there is one particular ingredient maybe you weren’t expecting?
The beauty that is the chickpea. The versatile legume made famous for its use in hummus, high in protein and low in fat, lending it’s qualities to create a dense and gooey blondie. I’ve been thinking recently about making a sweet hummus, a dip to eat with apple or carrots, spread on toast for breakfast or a snack. A change up from the regular peanut or almond butter, as there can be too much of a good thing (even peanut butter!). Tahini, dates and chickpeas along with some almond flour, coconut oil, and a flax egg in there too to help stick it all together. You can adjust the amount of dates depending on how sweet you would like, but there is no added sugars. That’s no maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar etc. just dates for some of that HELLA fibre action. And talk about the caramelly toffee flavour!
Tahini is, as you well know if you’ve read my blog before, one of my desert island foods. There’s something about its bitter depth that lends itself to all manner of foods and I honestly cannot get enough. However if you are averse to the stuff (seriously?how?) add any other nut butter you like. If you don’t have any dates available switch them out for other dried fruits, figs and cashew butter, apricots and almond butter or even raisins and peanut butter.
Date and tahini blondies
Makes 12 bars
2 tbsp ground flaxseed/linseeds
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup dates
1/3 cup dairy free milk (I used almond)
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup tahini (light or dark, my favourite is dark)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp of almond flour
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (depending how much you like it)
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
Mix the ground flax/linseeds in a small bowl with 3 tbsp. of water. Leave to gel for 10-15 mins. This makes a ‘flax egg’.
Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper and set aside.
Meanwhile add the chickpeas and the dates to a food processor and blend until smooth.
Melt the coconut oil in a small pan, add to the food processor along with all the other ingredients including the ‘flax egg’.
Blend well, scraping down the sides if necessary, until everything is combined. Tip into the tin and spread out until level.
Bake in the oven 25-30 mins until firm. Leave until cool and store in the fridge in a Tupperware for up to 1 week.
Beans, not just for hummus!
Let me know what you think, and if you have any other sweet ways with lovely legumes I’d love to hear!
I’ve been going on about it a lot recently, not sure what’s come over me. I always get mini obsessions over one thing. And that thing recently is fibre.
If you’re anything like me, when you picture fibre in your mind it looks like some dry coarse brown stuff given to people with bowel issues. Yupp that will get mentioned a lot in this post too. There are certain foods in the world that look like that, ground linseeds, flaxseeds or psyllium husk and if eaten in large quantities may cause you some *issues*. However fibre is usually packaged up into perfect parcels (fruit and vegetables ring any bells?), requiring a good amount of chewing action to reap the benefits.
So first of all, WHAT IS FIBRE?!?
Shout out to all the veggie lovers out there. It’s solely found in plant based foods. Keep on searching but you’ll never find it in your fillet steak or chicken drumsticks, or any egg, dairy, meat or fish produce. So there we have it, just eat more PLANTS.
There are two types of fibre found, soluble and insoluble fibre. I’m going to take you back to your GCSE Biology lessons here where I’m sure you were more preoccupied with drawing and learning certain male and lady parts rather than learning your plant cell structures. But hey ho, the knowledge might still be lurking in the recesses of your mind somewhere.
This does what it says. It dissolves in the water in your digestive system and feeds our best pals, the gut microbiota. Happy gut bacteria = happy tum. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, oats, pulses and golden linseeds would supply your buddies in your gut with all the food they need and prevent you from having an uncomfortable time on the toilet.
This is what provides the bulk to our poop (I’m trying to make it cute here, help me!). Can’t put it any other way. This roughage is made up of all the indigestible bits like cellulose in the plan cell walls and instead of dissolving it absorbs the water, and you’ll become more regular as a result. Ever noticed sweetcorn before, so that’s full of insoluble fibre, ie we don’t digest it.
Add in plenty of whole grains to your diet (the insoluble fibre is what makes brown rice brown), dried fruits, nuts and seeds and the peelings on your fruit and veg. Those potatoes that you’ve just peeled for your mash taters, the majority of the goodness has just gone in the bin. Keep things rustic, don’t peel your fruit and veg, it just requires a good wash.
Fibre is a carbohydrate and in a balanced diet we should be eating around 40% starchy carbohydrates throughout the day. All of our meals should be based around the good ol’carb.
CHEERS FROM THE CROWDS
Yes you heard me right, more pasta, rice, potatoes, bread…wait wait wait, there’s a catch right?!?
Ok you got me. Make sure they’re wholegrain.
Is that really an issue though? Just as satisfying, perhaps even tastier than their white siblings and they don’t leave you slumped on the sofa resembling a pile of mash potato.
Remember that fruit and vegetables are carbohydrates too!! Make sure to add some to every meal if you can. A bowl of pasta is a wonderful thing, but it’s made supercharged by mixing it with some courgetti or adding some lemon and olive oil dressed rocket on the side or some garlicky green beans.
So the government have upped our guidelines for the daily amount of fibre required to 30g. Sounds pretty small right? Well when the average Brit is only consuming 18g per day, evidently some changes are needed. Picture one of those Quaker Oats instant porridge sachets, there you have around 27g so just under the 30g mark. That is the amount we should be aiming for. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
But as I said before everything we eat is wrapped in this perfect package by mother nature herself (beats amazon on packaging skills hands down). So that apple you had for your elevenses (with the skin ofc), say an average sized one will contain around 4.4g of fibre. Only 13% of your daily requirements. OH DARN. That one apple also contains sugar, vitamin A and C, so keep on eating those apples they put you on the right path, we just need so much more throughout the day.
Sorry if this is sounding like mission impossible to you.
To help you out here’s some ideas to fibre up your life.
Like porridge? Perfect. As I mentioned before oats are full of soluble fibre, but why not make them SUPER SUPER by mashing in half a banana or grating in half an apple whilst it is cooking, along with a heaped teaspoon of ground linseeds. Then top with the rest of the fruit chopped up.
Add some chopped nuts or nut butter to your cereal, porridge, toast, whatever you feel like. They’ll add a nice crunch, protein, healthy fats and you guessed it FIBRE.
Add dried fruit to your cereal or porridge, things like raisins, prunes, dates, apricots, cranberries, figs. Just make sure they don’t have any sugar added, you’re sweet enough.
Feel like some toast? Make sure its a wholegrain one, or spelt and rye are great alternatives.
If you’re still struggling to stray from the cereal box aisle, opt for the plainer cereals like Weetabix and Shredded Wheat. They contain the least amount of added sugar (if any) and can be topped so many ways to add some spice to your mornings.
Veggies, veggies and more veggies. I can’t stress how important it is to eat as many vegetables as possible. Make sure they make up 40% of your daily diet.
Fancy a bowl of pasta? Opt for the wholegrain version.
Noodles? Again choose wholegrain or udon or soba noodles which tend to contain some buckwheat flour.
Be adventurous with your grains: red, black, brown or wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, freekeh, pearl barley, spelt, buckwheat. They all have different flavours so experiment to find the grains you like.
Add beans or lentils to your salads to bulk them up, keep you full and add more, what’s that? Oh yes, fibre!
Need a hug in the form of a jacket potato and beans? The classic combination is full of fibre, a classic for a reason. Make it either a regular or sweet one, eat the skin, and top with your beans. To push it even further into super territory, serve with a green salad or some steamed greens.
Got a bowl of soup? Great, all those veggies means it is already full of fibre but eat it with a hunk of wholegrain bread or add a few spoons of cooked grain to the bottom of your bowl before slurping it up.
Want to fancify your salad? Grab some green leaves, add some roasted veg, add some raw veg either grated or chopped up, mix in some cooked grains, beans or lentils, sprinkle with dried fruit and chopped nuts and then mix well in your favourite dressing. Fibre festival in a bowl.
Spag bol for dinner or shepherds pie? Halve the amount of minced meat you would usually use and bulk it up with a tin of beans or lentils. Adding in a portion of veg and extra fibre whilst reducing the amount of saturated fat, can you get any better than that?
Serve your curry with wholegrain rice or a wholegrain roti and bulk up the curry with some sweet/normal potatoes, or anything else lurking in your veg drawer.
Meat Free Monday, why not meat free Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. No matter what day it is make a hearty veggie dish such as a chilli, dahl, tagine, lasagne powered up with beans like cannellini or butter beans or red lentils and puy lentils.
And for those bits in between:
Keep it simple with a piece of fruit, bananas, apple, pears and oranges. At certain times of year go for the seasonal favourites, figs, persimmons, berries. Want it supercharged? Dip your apple slices in a tablespoon of nut butter or have a handful of nuts or seeds on the side.
Hummus fan? Who isn’t! Whizz up your own hummus varying the beans or simply buy a good quality shop bought one and munch with some crudites like pepper, carrots, cucumber and celery.
A handful of edamame beans in some tamari and chilli flakes will satisfy that salty craving as well as being chockablock of fibre.
A packet of popcorn, opt for the plain salted variety or try to seek out Propercorn, their Fiery Worcester and Sun-dried Tomato flavour is THE BEST. Or even better, make your own and go crazy with the flavourings.
Bake up some kale chips, Tear up kale and rub in oil, some salt, a splash of balsamic vinegar and spread on baking sheet. Bake in a low oven until crunchy and no moisture remains.
Mix up a super easy and munchable trail mix, mix any plain nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews or brazils with some seeds like pumpkin and sunflower, a mixture of dried fruits such as dates, raisins, figs, cranberries, apricots, add a handful of coconut flakes perhaps some cacao nibs. If you’re feeling a little indulgent some deep dark 70%+ chocolate wouldn’t go amiss.
After reading all of this you’re still asking WHY!?! Surely you’re not already convinced, a successful toilet trip makes us all extremely happy people… soz but it’s true.
So some scientific proof to seal the deal.
The main reason we all know about fibre, and I’m sure the only reason why you buy bran flakes from the supermarket (they taste like cardboard basically torture in a bowl) it prevents you getting constipated. MARVELLOUS. Or shall we say it promotes regular bowel movements, better now?
A diet high in fibre prevents certain cancers, particularly bowel cancer which is the most common cancer in the UK.
Fibre in the diet is proven to reduce obesity levels. By keeping you fuller for longer and also sending a message to your brain that you are satiated so won’t feel a strong need to snack.
Soluble fibre, in particular Beta-Glucans which are found in oats and barley lowers your cholesterol, therefore reducing your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
That’s that then. I don’t have much more to say about fibre, just that we all need to be eating more of it. By simply adding a portion of vegetables to your lunch or dinner, a piece of fruit at breakfast, a handful of nuts for a snack…. YEPP that easy.
Remember balance my friends, if we all eat a balanced plate of fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of fat we should be achieving these vital amounts of micro and macro nutrients that our bodies require to thrive.
Mashed potato, sofa dwelling monster no more!
Wishing you all to be full of beans (pun intended)
I’m starting to believe that I can convert any ‘salad-phobe’ to be a plant lover. LETTUCES UNITE!
No I’m not starting a new superhero team made of vegetables high in antioxidants which fight free radicals (however sounds a pretty good concept, any takers?)
Maybe that’s a rather strong statement. But why should it be. Vegetables shouldn’t be an afterthought, who was it that said meat should always take the limelight.
I’m becoming a big lover of having friends or family over and throwing a dinner party. I don’t know what it is that excites me most about them, planning the menu, shopping, or spending all day cooking to then be rewarded by making people smile. I’ve discovered I am a giver and a feeder. So beware.
When I was younger I would spend hours watching episodes of Nigella Lawson. Even then I used to dream of having a larder, even a fraction of the size of hers, and I would be happy. Little titbits of pointless kitchen gadgets, mismatched crockery and findings from travels, unknown ingredients from far flung stretches of the world, god knows what else she keeps hidden in there. I reckon I’d enter and never leave. She is a bit of a flirt, that’s what makes her even more entertaining. Never have I seen someone pour frozen peas out of a packet like Nigella does, and who knew that dressing gown clad and sleep crusted eyes of early mornings, whilst flipping out pancakes for the whole street could be made sexy. Well somehow she manages it.
Every episode seemed to result in a dinner party, typically with different people every time (that woman must have TONNES of friends, I don’t know where she must find them), and it was always performed with such ease and calm. She held the dinner parties that one can only dream of, with no mess and washing up either, that’s a bit of a mystery to me the word home economist springs to mind. I think it’s from all that time spent watching Nigella, ever since I’ve been trying to hone my hostessing skills.
It doesn’t always go to plan, yes I have cried many times over a failed pavlova or some dry lamb. The food isn’t the be all or end all though, it’s about spending time with loved ones and having a good old chat and giggle. That’s what I really love about them.
I’m starting to learn the best ways for staying calm when cooking for the masses (well anymore than three people), things I’ve only learnt by making mistakes and going wrong in the past. First, always cook things you know and like, stick to easy help yourself dishes like a big one pot and a big salad platter (keep on scrolling for a recipe), and don’t go too out there. I wouldn’t advise serving granny and grandad a raw vegan burger experiment or a massaged kale salad (it will get stuck in their teeth), serve crowd pleasing food but make sure the flavours are BIG and BOLD.
I like to base a menu on a certain cuisine, and try and stick to a theme, but a curry night or something with a Moroccan influence is always my fall back. This is where this salad steps in. It would go perfectly alongside a tagine, or some slow cooked meat such as lamb, or as part as a buffet or mezze. Even add some form of protein like chickpeas or halloumi and you’ll have a lovely light but filling salad.
This is perfect for if you grow your own vegetables and have a glut, of beans (any type will do, runner, string, French, broad beans), squashes, courgettes, aubergines, any late summer veg will fit in perfectly here. I used a mixture of runner beans, French beans and broad beans and butternut squash but don’t feel like you have to stick to that. I made enough to serve around four people, but it could easily be scaled up to serve a crowd or make to keep in a Tupperware for desk lunches throughout the week.
Green beans and spiced squash salad
Big handful French beans
Big handful of runner beans
2 large handfuls of broad beans (I used frozen, if using ones in the pods you’re going to need a lot of pods!!)
1/2 a large butternut squash
Ras el hanout
Tbsp ghee, coconut oil or rapeseed oil
Punnet of cress
For the dressing
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Pinch salt and pepper
1 tsp sumac
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees fan
Peel the butternut squash half, and scoop the seedy centre out if using the bottom half. Chop into 2cm cubes, place in a roasting tray along with the ghee (or coconut or rapeseed oil), sprinkle with salt, pepper and the Ras el hanout
Place in the oven for around 30 mins, stirring to make sure they don’t stick, until slightly caramelised on the edges and soft all the way through. Leave to cool
Trim the French beans and chop in half, then steam until tender but still with a bite. Leave to cool
Trim the runner beans and slice on the diagonal 1cm wide, and steam again until just cooked and leave to cool
If using frozen broad beans pour boiling water over them, leave for a couple of minutes then pour away the water. Peel the broad beans and put to one side. If you have broad beans in the pods, take the broad beans out of the pods, then follow the same process as before. The fresh broad beans may need steaming briefly if you find them too raw
Add the roast squash, broad beans, runner beans and French beans to a large bowl. Add the cress and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds
For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients and pour over the salad. Toss together, and if you want to be cute sprinkle over rose petals
I challenge you to find someone who doesn’t enjoy this salad, perhaps at your next dinner party. Serve in abundance, and follow Nigellas lead, make it a sexy one!