Holy Guacamole!

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Basic recipes are what pull apart the apt from the masters. My better half told me once that he had met someone so bad that could screw up some scrambled eggs. Blimey! They are very easy to spoil! Leaving aside the fact that cooking points for eggs, as for meat, are a very personal choice, it is commonly accepted that scrambled is meant to be creamy, slightly runny and moist. I have can count of one hand the amount of times I have been served truly satisfying scrambled eggs.

For me Guacamole falls on the same category of dips that can change dramatically on the  blink of an eye, however we only have ourselves to blame. The amount of times I have heard ” I don’t put cilantro in mine because I don’t like” or “No jalapeño, too hot” and then when they actually try my guacamole they raise their eyebrows and praise it.

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Of course you like it! It is the real deal, and is delicious, and unless you have a real allergy, there is really no reason to leave any ingredient behind because you see, it is only a matter of how much you put in the mixture that will make you hate it.

If you don’t tolerate hot food, with 2 or 3 slices of pickled jalapeño you will get all the flavour and almost a negligible amount of heat. If you don’t like cilantro, add only a few leaves and chop them incredibly small. Those flavours, when mashed together will give your guacamole and unbeatable taste. You may try it and hate me forever, but I have never (so far) had a complain. I hope you guys won’t be the first ones!

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Ingredients

1 extra large or 2 medium ripe avocados

5 slices of pickled jalapeño 

1 tomato, peeled, deseeded and chopped very finely

1/2 red onion, chopped teeny tiny

4 stalks of cilantro, leaves only, chopped

1 lime (juice)

Pinch of salt

Pinch of ground cumin

How to…

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients mash until they resemble a dip. Bear in mind this is a chunky guacamole. If you want it finer, you can put it in the food processor however it affects negatively the texture of the avocado in this instance.

Mole in spanish means to mash, so there you go, the proof is in the pudding as they say 😉

I hope you enjoy it!

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Mushroom Croquetas

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Throwing away food is a crime. The rich minority of the world expects their tomatoes to be perfectly round and red, immaculate carrots, zucchinis, aubergines… all our fruit must look like it came out of a food magazine. The ugly vegetables get thrown away, together with tons of food that runs out of date both in the supermarkets and at home.

When legislation on food is there to protect us, there are some things that hace been taken too far. Recently we started having expiration dates on eggs for God’s sake! If an egg is bad, you will know. A bad egg stinks to the point of making you sick. I have known people to throw away perfectly fine eggs just because they were 3 days overdue. I have eaten the equivalent to a gallon of out of date yogurt while growing up. I am here, I am fine, I have no allergies and I have a strong stomach. Please don’t go around now thinking that it is ok to eat rotten food, but we should definitely reexamine our standards and be better at managing our supplies.

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Back in the day, no food turned to waste, we just couldn’t afford it and so, many recipes were born out of women’s creativity to turn leftovers into a meal. One the most famous recipes in Spain for this, is Croquetas. They are small balls of bechamel, white sauce if you prefer, cooked with whatever had been leftover from a bigger meal. It could be scraps of cured ham, maybe cod crumbles, maybe chicken from a broth… It is quite a messy recipe, it does make your kitchen dirty and it takes a bit of patience. On top of this, they are not healthy food at all. They are fried and breaded so I will not go around recommending them for people that want to lose weight but they are absolutely delicious  and as such, I thought I would share with you this lovely recipe so you can make it for your friends and celebrations.

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They good thing is that they can be prepared in advance, frozen and once you make them, you will have plenty for a while.

Ingredients (makes 25)

2 tbsp. plain flour

1 litre of full fat milk

25 gr. of butter

1 small onion

125 gr. mushrooms

Olive oil

1 egg

1 cup of breadcrumbs

salt & pepper

How to…

Peel and chop the onion very finely, fry in low heat with a small amount of olive oil until they turn transparent. Add the clean sliced mushrooms and salt. Let cook until they loose most of the water in them. Then add the butter, let it melt and add the four and toast it until it looks golden brown.

It is now time to start adding your milk, little my little, about half a glass of milk each time and in between, do no stop stirring the mixture so it starts blending like a normal bechamel. Every time it starts to dry out, add more milk. You want to do that until you run out of milk, correct the salt level and keep stirring until the bechamel is thick enough and doesn’t stick to the pan any more. It can take up to 30 minutes of continuous stirring, so it is pretty labour intense.

Once the sauce is done, pour it on a large plate or tray and cover with transparent film making sure it doesn’t leave any pockets of air between the film and the mixture, this is in order to avoid a “skin” from forming on top of it.

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Let it cool down completely, even overnight.

In a bowl, beat up the egg and in another bowl pour the breadcrumbs, then take the film of the mixture and with a spoon, start making balls of around 2 to 3 centimetre diameter. It will be easier to do it you oil your hands before to stop them from sticking to your hands. Once you are happy with the ball roll it in egg, then in breadcrumbs and then keep aside. Once you are done with all the croquetas you can fry them or keep them for later in the fridge for about 5 or 6 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

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To fry them, you have to either use a frier or a small pan with enough oil to cover the balls up to the middle (about 2 to 3 fingers of oil). The oil needs to be very hot and they need to be fried in small batches to keep the oil temperature up and so they are not too close together, since they could break.

You only need to fry them for about 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, until they are golden brown.

Mediterranean Hake

 

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If you live by the sea you will know what I am talking about. It’s a sound every child that grew up with the scent of sea salt in the nostrils can identify. It is a faint, almost fading eerie sound of bells that come from the sea at down. Some days are clear but where I come from, fog is generally the background setting for the fishermen that return to shore. It grows in intensity as the waves rock the small boats and the engines buzz their way into the port. It means fresh fish. It means tired men. Fishing is done at night, is then when hakes are catch. They live fifty meters under the surface of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and they are closely related to cods. They are long, thin, slippery predators that feed on lanternfish on the continental shelf. They eat, and they are eaten, the circle of life.

They have a subtle flavour, soft and flaky that makes is a commercially important species and the star of a myriad of traditional dishes in the old continent. Modern fishing techniques, on those giant boats that carry no bells, have polluted the water with anisakis making a parasite that was seldom found in the fish an everyday problem. You see, I recently discovered why, apparently fish are processed as they are caught and the byproduct of the cleaning of the fish, it’s thrown back to the sea, where other fish feed on it. Sounds as an intrinsically good idea, until you realise that we are spreading a disease that was naturally contained before in the fish and that actually causes severe allergic reactions on human beings, well done us. Again.

If you buy your fish at a decent fishmonger, they will be able to spot the parasite if it’s there and remove it, and it is totally safe to eat. It is a highly nutritious fish, low in fat and very good for children. It doesn’t have too many bones and it’s not too “fishy” (if you know what I mean).

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I have paired my hake today with fresh tomato relish with herbs (and no sugar) and some wholegrain couscous. The fish has been cooked in the microwave (steamed) and has a lemon rind, fresh basil and olive oil dressing. All those flavours are very Mediterranean and pair perfectly with one another. It can be made in advance and just heated up in the oven so it’s great if you have people over, pretty easy and fuss free. This recipe is gluten free and low GI which makes it appropriate for low carb diets and diabetic patients. Should you be vegan and not eat fish, tempeh is a great alternative for this recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 large ripe tomatoes

2 fillets of hake

60 gr. of gluten free couscous

1 bush fresh basil

Fresh Oregano (or dried if you cannot get hold of it)

1 lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

How to…

Chop the tomatoes in small square pieces and cook them in 1/2 tsp. of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper and the fresh herbs also chopped. Let the water evaporate until the it acquires the consistency of a sauce, tomatoes are very high in water and it could ruin your dish later on.

Prepare the couscous according to the packaging instructions, usually is twice the volume of water that the one of couscous, pinch of salt and a dollop of butter, you can use olive oil too instead. You can add some sultanas and some toasted pine nuts to the couscous to make it more a more substancial meal (for lunch instead of dinner for example).

Clean the hake fillets and wash them. To cook them in the microwave set them in a tray with 3 tbsp of water per fillet and cover them with transparent film. Cook at 800w for 2 minutes and check if they are ready. Be careful and don’t put them for too long the first time around because it is very easy to overcook fish in the microwave. You can always put more time on them if needed.

For the fish sauce: grate the lemon rind and put it in a mortar, add the fresh basil and mash with pestle. Add a pinch of salt, dash of lemon juice and then carefully mix in 2 tbsp. of good extra virgin olive oil. serve the dish as per the picture if you wish or get creative.

Bon appetit!

Quinoa Salad, Beet humus and Creamy Tahini dressing

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Long title for a laborious recipe. It is not difficult, but it does make the kitchen quite dirty since you have cook a few things separately. However it is great to prepare in advance and have it ready for later if you have invitees.

It is a vegan dish, with vegetable origin protein (chick peas & quinoa) and lots of fibre. It is also quite pretty and colorful and a great way to convince your children to eat their veggies.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the Quinoa Salad:

50 gr. of quinoa per person

1 fresh tomato peeled and chopped

1/2 spring onion

1/2 an avocado per person

Black sesame seeds to decorate

Crushed pistachios

Pomegranate 

For the dressing:

1 tbsp. Tahini

1 tsp. almond butter

1 tsp. soya sauce

1/2 tsp. curcuma

1 tsp. agave nectar

Salt & pepper to taste

Lemon juice

For the humus:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups chick peas

salt

1 tsp beetroot powder

1 tbsp. tahini

Juice of one lemon

1/2 a garlic clove.

Cook the quinoa on water with a bit of salt, boil for 16 minutes, whisk with a fork once cooked and let cool down. Add the tomato and the onion.

Blend all the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside.

For the humus, blend all the ingredients together and correct to your liking. More lemon juice if too bitter, more olive oil to make it sweeter. Prepare this in advance and let cool in the fridge.

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To build the salad place some lettuce leaves or rocket on a plate, add the quinoa in the middle. Cut and place the avocado on top nicely. Place the humus in a pipping nozzle and distribute them in your plate. Add one tbsp of the dressing over the quinoa and then sprinkle with the pomegranate and pistachios.

Voila!! Lots of going around but nothing terrible right??

Have a lovely rest of the week!!

Best Spicy Butternut Squash

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Easy start of the week… Mondays have an awful fame for taking us all back to reality and to a world of obligations. What we have to do, our jobs, homes, groceries, children, families, noises. Lazy Sundays leave way to a feeling of having to be back on track. No more ice cream watching that movie and a bit of guilt. This is why I love cooking a bit pot of soup of Mondays that will last me until Friday. Today I would like to share with you an Autumn recipe that is hearty, filling and delicious and of course it’s been made with love and little fat to keep your hearts happy and your hips tight.

Stuffed-Butternut-Squash

Autumn is the season of falling leaves, of yellows and oranges, or warm cozy jumpers of blankets, of Halloween, and in the midst of all this, of Pumpkins!! Starbucks brings their inglorious Pumpkin Spice Latte and I bring the glorious Butternut squash Spice Soup, as they say, each to their own.

A bit on the nutrition side of things… Butternut squash is a pumpkin that has an elongated body and a big butt, a bit like most women 😉 pumpkin are very sweet, like carrots, when cooked they are perfect to bake pies and cakes due this high content of natural occurring sugars, so in principle I wouldn’t recommend having too much pumpkin if you are trying to lose weight, however, their glycemic charge, this is the total amount of carbohydrate that they contain, is relatively low so if the portions are controlled there is no reason to avoid it. This soup is still very low in fat, low in carbs and GI and perfect starter. Additionally it contains a fair amount of curcuma, which is highly antioxidant, helps digestion and it has been linked to Alzheimer prevention and glucose absorption reduction on people with diabetes.

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Personally from a taste point of view I find pumpkin soup a bit too sweet so I much prefer the curried version that has a bit of a spice kick and it is much nicer. This version is vegetarian but I have come across the exact same thing but including bacon and I will surely try it in the near future.

Ingredients (serves 4)

½ Butternut Squash

1 red pepper

2 Onions

1 vegetable stock cube in 1 liter of water

½ tsp Paprika

1 tsp curcuma

½ tsp ground pepper

½ tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

¾ tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Green Tabasco Sauce

Salt to taste

A few sesame seeds & coriander to decorate

Peel and chop the onions and cook them for a couple of minutes in olive oil. Add the butternut squash, mix well and add the spices. Let them soak for 1 or 2 minutes and add the stock. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer until the squash is soft and melty, around 15 to 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt to taste if needed. Since this recipe has so many spices you might as well skip the salt, it does wonders for water retention to eat lower sodium.

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If you are happy with the taste, blend together with a hand blender until the soup is a smooth silky consistency and there are no “boats” floating around.

These soups and anything that contains multiple spices will taste better after a few hours, but if you can’t wait it will still be delicious!

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Oat-sotto, the Healthy Risotto

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Ok maybe not my best naming moment XD but I do think it’s funny. I am simple mind like that.

I love risotto, it’s one of my favourite things because I am a big cheese lover, but the combination of bacon, rice, and parmesan cheese well… it’s everything but scale friendly. Every now and then though, there is nothing wrong with having the real deal of course, I don’t have it with meat any more but it does come in pescetarian versions with seafood that are ok for me. Scallops and mussels are a great combo for example and they add lean protein and iron and lots of flavour. In this case I wanted to come up with a lighter version, one that you can eat 3 times in a week and it won’t make you feel bloated, gain weight or affect your goals in the slightest.

Instagram is a great source of inspiration for this things sometimes and a few weeks ago I came across this savoury porridge trend that I thought could work great for this purpose. The recipe here today is vegetarian since I used parmesan cheese, the real deal, but should you want to avoid it, there are some vegan alternatives that could work just as well.

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The rice in this recipe in actually oats, in case my clever naming got you confused. Then the recipe is exactly the same as an actual risotto, only with less fat, less cheese and significantly less cooking time, which is also a plus if you are short in time.

If the oats are the right ones, this is a gluten free recipe and low carb too.

Ingredients (serves 2)

100 gr. wholegrain oats

100 gr. finely chopped onion

1 smashed clove of garlic

1 cup white wine

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or half olive oil half butter)

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup sliced mushrooms

4 chopped green asparagus

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese or vegan alternative

Salt and pepper

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How to…

In a pot, heat up the oil and cook the onion an garlic slowly until tender and transparent. Add the chopped mushrooms and the asparagus. Two minutes later add the oats and mix well with the rest of the ingredients to mix the flavours. Add the wine when the pot is hot and let it evaporate. Then start adding the stock little by little and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the cheese and let rest for one more minute. Serve immediately to avoid the oats from going too soft.

Bear in mind the texture is softer than with normal rice, but still delicious.

Enjoy!

 

 

Best Pea & Spinach Soup

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I promise you it is the best you will ever have. Well maybe you are very stubborn and will not be willing to admit it, but it will be at least top 3! What is special about this soup, is that is based on a traditional Finnish soup that I tried many years ago.

I had never been a massive fan of peas… I guess like most children, those mushy, green little balls were mainly something I had to patiently remove from paellas, rices, other foods that I liked…mainly an annoyance this is. Luckily for me, I developed a brain later on in life, and I became more adventurous with food, this paired with an excellent parental education that engraved in my brain the fact that “If you go to someone else’s house, you eat what you are given and you say how good it was” led me to trying for the first time the winning combination that makes this soup special. Mustard!

I know now you are still reading out of curiosity, so please know that Ham and Pea soup has been a traditional northern European speciality for centuries and traditionally, incorporates this seasoning into it, giving it a tart, vinagre like punch that is just so delicious! Since I don’t eat meat, I have developed a vegan alternative to this traditional soup, also incorporating spinach to make the traditional soup a bit lighter and removed the ham. If you are a meat eater, don’t hesitate to add a bit of ham in the cooking process and blending it together and you will get a smoky, delicious flavour.

Peas are also a very respectable source of many things. At only 74 calories per each 100 gr. of product, you get 5 to 6 gr. of fibre, 6 gr. of protein and very good levels of iron, calcium, vitamin C and magnesium along with multiple vitamins. It is also low in sugars and the carbohydrate content is of slow absorption making them perfect for weight loss diets, low carb diets, and diabetic patients (regardless of their medication of course).

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What else can I say… it is also very easy to make so totally worth trying and including this soup into your every day diets, without a doubt!

Ingredients (serves 5)

300 gr. frozen or fresh peas

300 gr. frozen spinach

1 Onion finely chopped

1 l. of vegetable stock (if doing the vegan option, if going for the traditional one, just add a 200gr. clean piece of smoked ham or a ham bone)

Dijon Mustard

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

How to…

In a very small amount of olive oil, cook the onion finely chopped until transparent. Then add the frozen peas, the spinach and add the vegetable stock (or the ham and water), salt and pepper and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Remove one cup of the peas and set aside and blend the rest of the mixture correcting the level of water, it could be too dry or too liquid and therefore your soup would be too liquid or too chunky. We want the soup to be a little chunky though, kind of thick, but of course this is a personal choice! Once the soup is roughly blended is ready to be served.

In a bowl, serve the amount of soup you wish, add a teaspoon of dijon mustard on top and some drops as decoration. Garnish with some of the peas you had set aside and if you want, with a bit of mint and enjoy. img_9888