Greek Salad

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Before I show you other sites of India, I thought I would go back to the basics and share with you a simple Greek Salad. Being a European stomach, Indian water can be a little on the dangerous side and to avoid the Delhi Belly, the recommendation is to stay clear of salads and uncooked vegetables all together. For this reason, I came back home with an unstoppable desire to stuff myself with just that.

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Luckily, I had all those leftovers in the fridge and this was the first thing I ate when I came back. It’s a great summer dish or a full dinner in itself and it is, as most traditional meals, quite a complete one. It has a measure of feta cheese, that nowadays you can try in low fat versions, tomatoes with all those beta carotenes, cucumber, filling but mainly water in its composition, onion and olives. I have used back olives but take your pick.

I was recently recommended to add a pinch of oregano and it was the right suggestion, it really brings the greeks flavours up, so as a top up, feel free to add a pinch of that lovely herb.
The secret for me is actually the dressing. My special (or not so special) super healthy dressing made of mustard, lemon and olive oil. In a little bowl, add 2 pinches of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, the juice of one lemon and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. To emulsify this, you can either use a fork or a milk froth thingie until its a think yellow sauce. Add half of it to your salad, and you can keep the other half to use another day, it keeps very well for at least 1 week.

The good thing about this dressing is that it incorporates all the benefits of the C vitamin from the lemon and the good fats from the Olive oil and it is completely free from sugar and nasties.

I hope you like it!ensalada 2

Breakfast goodness

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There is no more to add to the discussion whether you should have breakfast or not. Clearly you should, but there are those of us who simply are not hungry in the morning. I say us because I am one of those, it takes me a little while after waking up to feel like having some food. My better half though… is another story all together. If I want to procrastinate in bed on a weekend morning, I better bring to bed a cereal bar to throw to the lion, otherwise I know there will be no peace until there are eggs on toast on the table.

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This fancy fancy breakfast is in reality no more than a glorious mix of fat free Greek yogurt, almond butter, and a pinch of sweetener. I have half a banana with mine, and I sprinkle it with toasted  sliced almonds too. Totally diet appropriate and delicious. Full of protein, and so yummy it will taste like dessert.
The best part of this is that it can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for days, so if you are slow on the morning hunger, you can grab and go and enjoy just a little later. Remember, it should be eaten within more or less an hour of waking up… for lazy ones, 90 minutes. Having a sufficient amount of calories in the morning, lowers the risk of heart disease (my cousin who is a doctor told me this the other day) so it’s just another reason to have a lighter dinner.

To make more festive, this one in particular is embellished with salted caramel sauce made with butter or vegan butter, and caramel made of coconut sugar.

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In a pan, heat up 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup coconut sugar, let boil and reduce. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of salt, then mix well and add 1/4 cup of butter and dissolve. You can keep this in a jar in the fridge and reheat when you want to use it. It will be good for a couple of weeks, and it can also be frozen. Use sparingly and enjoy!

Smoothie Inspiration

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I am in the middle of a move and in my very personal box and bureaucracy hell, I have no time for cooking pots. It sucks and I hope I will get some time to get back in the kitchen soon but in the meantime, I am sharing with you a picture of some of my creations for instagram. I rarely share them here because then can hardly be called recipes, but I love the challenge of making gorgeous smoothies and colourful parfaits that are both healthy and beautiful. Knowing how many people don’t like fruit and veggies, I am on a mission to make them look irresistible.

These is greek yogurt plain, with blueberries and with more blueberries to achieve the different colours.

So wish me luck, and I will be with you shortly!

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How to eat Pasta

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Pinch with a fork, take fork to mouth, place pasta in your mouth, chew until the food has become a paste, then swallow. Possibly gush down with a bit of red wine. Easy right?

Now, pasta is healthy food. Most food is actually healthy food. Look at the Italians, they have it everyday and their country is rather slim and the life expectancy is one of the longest in the world.  For most of us non Italians though, pasta has come into our homes as a cheese and butter smothered mixture that resembles more a fast food option than a real meal.

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Pasta is meant to be eaten with vegetables, fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs, fresh seafood and olive oil, with only a drizzle of grana padano or parmesano on top. Not a lot of people know that a carbonara sauce has no cream, but egg yolk. Of course everyone is free to enjoy pasta as they want, but if you are looking to enjoy pasta in a delicious, healthy way, check out this recipe, which I learnt in my last trip to lake Como.

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The pasta I have used is wholegrain rye macaroni which provides 14gr of fibre per each 100 grams and its manufacturing process makes it less taxing on the blood sugar levels. Cooks in 7 minutes and it should be cooled down after boiling, this brings the glycemic index even lower. The flavour is absolutely superb.

Ingredients (serves 2)

6 tbsp home made tomato sauce

100 gr. of uncooked pasta

3 cubes of frozen spinach

1/2 onion

1 clove of garlic

100 gr. ricotta cheese

2 tbsp grated grana padano cheese

Pinch of salt

How to…

Let the spinach unfreeze for a couple of hours. Boil the pasta according to the pack instructions with salt, wash with water and keep aside. In a pan, cook the onion with the garlic in a small amount of olive oil, make sure it’s very finely cut. xt19400.jpg

When cooked, add the spinach with a pinch of salt and mix well, until it’s incorporated. In a separate bowl mix the ricotta with the spinach mixture and the pasta.

In a plate, make a base with the tomato sauce, then pile up half of the spinach pasta mix and top with the grated cheese. You can microwave for 30 seconds to make sure all the elements are warm and to melt the cheese on top.

Enjoy!

 

Caprese Style Sandwich

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When I was little, my parents used to drive an hour to the closest mountain so we could play in the snow. Nothing fancy, just roll down a hill on a large piece of plastic. It was awesome, we ended frozen and starved due to the exercise and as a reward we used to stop at the old village bakery and buy a old fashioned loaf of bread. I have never smelled anything better than that wood burning in the cave-like oven and the resultant fresh bread.

Everything taste better between two slices of good freshly baked bread. Even though they are hard to come by, I have recently found an incredible new bakery that makes proper loaves of it, sourdough and wholegrain. My favourite is the spelt one, high in fibre and thus, more satisfying, slower burning carbs.

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Here you have my take on a vegan/vegetarian breakfast sandwich that borrows the flavours of Italy in this pesto, tomato and  mozzarella toastie with basil leaves.
The one trick to it is that the tomato needs a pinch of salt to bring out the flavour, for the rest, rub the pesto to both slices of bread, pile mozzarella (about 1/3 of the ball) tomato, basil leaves and toast on both sides on mid to low heat so the cheese melts but the bread doesn’t burn…

Easy peasy, and delicious.

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Fit & Healthy Pumpkin Pie

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Hold my hand and fly with me over the night clouds, look at the ghost and witches running, the vampires and mummies lurking and the werewolves howling to the moon. Technological development means nothing tonight, we are back to being who we really are, we are unleashing our atavistic basic souls.

I hope your Halloween was nice and scary, I would like to share with you a version of the traditional Libby’s pumpkin pie that you can use to make the most of those carved scary squashes leftovers without feeling too guilty.

This spiced, warm delicious recipe has been adapted for diabetics shaping sugar for xylitol and the traditional crust for a rye flour one which is much higher in fibre and of course, wholegrain.

To be honest, the taste was fab and I think you will not notice the difference, but it the difference in nutritional values it’s very substantial.

Ingredients (serves 8)

For the crust

1 1/2 Cups whole grain Rye Flour

1/2 half a tsp salt

1/4 cup margerine

1/4 butter or coconut oil

a splash of cold water

For the filling

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

large eggs

1 can (15 oz.) Pumpkin Pure or roasted pumpkin 

1 can (12 fl. oz.)  Evaporated Milk

unbaked 20 cm  deep-dish pie shell

Whipped cream (optional)

How to…

Butter a 22 cm pie plate or skillet and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Add the shortening and butter (or coconut oil) un small chunks and blend with two spoons until the mixture resembles a coarse mixture.

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Add enough ice water to the mixture (a little at the time) while mixing with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough is formed. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Sprinkle with flour the top of the dough and cover with another sheet of plastic. Rolling from the center, roll until the dough is about a half a centimetre thick. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, turn the dough over and lay onto the pie plate leaving the top  piece of plastic on. Press the pie dough lightly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to overnight.

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In the mean time, mix sweetener, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat the eggs in large bowl. Stir in the pumpkin and xylitol and spice mixture. Then start stirring in the evaporated milk.
Take the pie dough out of the freezer and let unfreeze for five minutes before pouring the mixture into it.

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Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at 215C. Without opening the door, reduce temperature to 180° C and bake for another 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. I have topped it with sugar free whipped cream and caramelised pumpkin seeds.

To caramelise them, just toast them on a pan with a tsp of xylitol and then pour onto a stone worktop to let cool.

 

NY Style Blueberry WOW Cheesecake

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People around here are trying to find the summer, it is nowhere to be seen. Rain is our constant companion and dark mornings are to be expected and so, instead of colourful salads, we are all thinking about baking. No need to be fit if the bikini is safely stored away.  The first time I tried a New York style baked cheesecake I was living in London. I was curious, so i looked up a recipe and gave it a go. It was the BBC good food website one, which later became the object of a popular campaign when the BBC announced their intention to close the site. Luckily for us, all britons and some adopted Londoners like myself signed a petition to stop this from happening and today you can still find some of the best recipes in the world up on the net, for everyone to enjoy.

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This cake rocked my world. I had until then only tried non bake cream cheese cakes with homemade strawberry jam my mum used to make and it although it was a good cake, it just couldn’t compete with the fluffy creaminess of this amazing creation.

Ever since, I tried the cake in a famous bakery in NY and in pretty much all the restaurants that feature it on their menu, with various results. I have a low carb, low fat alternative to this recipe that I have posted before but this one, is the original, absolutely scrumptious version by BBC, to which I have made a couple of changes (the icing on that one was not a blueberry one) and I am happy to present to you today.

Absolute showstopper. Enjoy!

For the crust

  • 85g butter melted, plus extra for the tin
  • 140g crumbed digestive biscuit
  • 1 tbsp sugar

For the cheesecake filling

  • 900 gr cream cheese
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp)
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
  • 200ml soured cream

For the cheesecake topping

  • 100 gr frozen blueberries
  • 20 gr of sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Fresh blueberries and mint to decorate

How to…

Position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to fan 160C to 180C. Line the base of a 23cm springform cake tin with parchment paper. For the crust, melt the butter in a medium pan. Stir in the biscuit crumbs and sugar so the mixture is evenly moistened. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while preparing the filling.

For the filling, increase the oven temperature to fan 200C/conventional 240C/gas 9. In bowl beat the soft cheese at medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sugar, and a pinch of salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the whisker twice.

Continue by adding the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, scraping the bowl and whisk at least twice. Stir in the soured cream until smooth, then measure 200ml. Continue on low speed as you add the measured soured cream. Whisk to blend, but don’t over-beat. The batter should be smooth, light and somewhat airy.

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Brush the sides of the springform tin with melted butter and put on a baking sheet. Pour in the filling – if there are any lumps, sink them using a knife – the top should be as smooth as possible. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to fan 90C and bake for 25 minutes more. If you gently shake the tin, the filling should have a slight wobble. Turn off the oven and open the oven door for a cheesecake that’s creamy in the centre, or leave it closed if you prefer a drier texture. Let cool in the oven for 2 hours. The cheesecake may get a slight crack on top as it cools.

In a pot boil the frozen blueberries, the sugar and lemon juice for the topping for 10 minutes, then leave to cool and add the pectin or agar agar and whisk with a fork. leave to cool almost completely and then spread over the cheesecake right to the edges. Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Run a round-bladed knife around the sides of the tin to loosen any stuck edges. Unlock the side, slide the cheesecake off the bottom of the tin onto a plate, then slide the parchment paper out from underneath.

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!

Protein Green tea Nice cream with Cacao Nibs

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I come from the best place in the world. It’s not (only) me who says this, we are very privileged, and i like to remind myself of that as often as possible. Being grateful is part of being happy. I was born in a misty coastal region in the most septentrional part of the Iberian peninsula, this place, never conquered, never surrendered is called the Basque Country.

Nested between mountains and green as an emerald, this land goes to die in the winding, rocky cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean. Not a turquoise, sky reflecting sea… a wild, severe and feisty one more like that was claimed the lifes of many fishermen and sailors through the centuries. It’s an ancient land, one were its people speak the oldest, most mysterious language in Europe, of unknown origins. A secret language catalogued by the UN as “the hardest language to learn in the world” followed by Mandarin.

It rains a lot, that is why it’s kept it so clean and beautiful and the reason why the land blesses the inhabitants with flavourful vegetable products. The ample cold waters of the sea provide some of the tastiest fishes in the world, our green pasture feeds excellent cattle and we serve our steaks over coal in pieces that are in excess of 1 kilo of weight.

Maybe that is where my love of food first come. It is difficult not to be a foodie in the Basque Country, and it is difficult not to be disappointed when you travel. From here, I want to invite you all to come and visit my beautiful, peaceful and fantastic part of the world, you wont regret it.

Today, I want to share a small snack recipe that can double up as a breakfast of post workout meal. It is made with green tea, since Japan is one of the few places that I have travelled to and felt that the food culture was equally respectful of the raw material as my own. Different yes, but similar in its perfectionism, and for that, here is my Matcha Nice cream with Vanilla protein. I hope you like it.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 frozen chopped banana

1 scoop vanilla protein

1 tsp Matcha green tea

Dash of coconut milk

2 mini matcha choc chip cookies

Cacao nibs

Rose petals (dried)

How to…

In a blended, mix the banana, vanilla and matcha with a dash of coconut milk. Adjust the milk to your desired consistency, I wanted mine a bit firm so I put a little less.

Serve and adorne with japanese choc chip cookies, cacao nibs and rose petals.

Your children will love it, since it was cookies and everything is super healthy so win win! Have a lovely week peeps!

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