Healthy Lemony Lemon Pie

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I can think of at least three songs that mentioned lemons and lemon trees from the top of my head. Small wonder since it is one of those rare fruit trees that seems generous in excess when it feels like it. Some lemon trees just don’t produce a single thing whereas others are a miracle of constant fruits hanging from its branches. All year long!

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We used to have such a tree in the garden and it was fantastic to just pop out and grab one when in need. My sister in law even built an extension on her house around the existing lemon tree but if you had seen this one you would probably have done the same. Lemons have saved more lives through history than penicillin, without the data to back it up, you are just going to have to take my word for it. Its very high vitamin C content was the antidote for the scurvy which was a lot more prevalent that you may think, specially in countries were citrus fruits don’t thrive and the winters are long and hard.

Squeezing a lemon juice into warm water and have it first thing in the morning is a sure way to boost your inmune system, it has become very popular in social media to recommend  such practice as a way to live 100 years. I don’t know about the longevity, but it has proven benefits, with the only caveat of the acidity in your teeth, so it is better drank through a straw.

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If you want to make it sweeter, this cake is actually a really way of doing it. It has high amounts of lemon juice although vitamin is highly sensitive to heat so cooking it for a long time will destroy its content. The meringue is made with egg white, or aquafava if you are vegan and thus very high in protein. It has an artificial sweetener I normally wouldn’t use, Splenda, but it is the only sweetener I have found that has the right texture for a meringue. To compensate, the amount is has is less than half of the sugar the cake would normally take. If you prefer, you can use warm honey to sweeten it.

Ingredients

For the pastry

– 225g wholemeal flour

– 175g butter/margerine

– 2 tbsp xylitol

– 1 egg

For the lemon layer

– 4 lemons, finely grated zest & juice

– 40g corn flour

– 150g birch sugar

– 4 egg yolks

For the meringue topping

– 4 egg whites (remaining)

– 3/4 tbs splenda/honey/agave

– 1 tsp corn flour

How to…

To make the mix the flour and butter in a food processor if you have one and blend together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs you can do this by hand too. Add the birch sugar, egg and one tablespoon of water and mix again again until combined to a ball.

On a work surface roll the dough to a 3mm thick sheet. Transfer it to line a 20cm loose-bottomed tin. Cover in cling film and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Take the pastry-lined tin out of the fridge and trim the excess pastry.  Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the beans and parchment and bake for another five minutes.

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Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 170C.

For the filling, mix the lemon zest and juice with the cornflour and stir to form a paste. Add 300 ml of water into a small cooking pot and bring to the boil. Add the lemon cornflour mixture to the hot water and stir until the mixture has thickened, then remove from the heat. In a bowl mix together the birch sugar and egg yolks and add them to the lemon mixture in the pan. Stir over a medium heat until thickened.

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For the meringue, whisk the egg whites with an electric whisker until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the Splenda one tbsp at the time, and try it for sweetness, still whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the cornflour and whisk again.

Spoon on top of the filled pastry case and spread the meringue to cover the lemon filling. Get creative to create a swirl on the top of the meringue.

Toast the top of the meringue with a burner. Allow to cool completely before serving.

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Skinny Savoury Pumpkin Fritters & Avocado Mash

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With Halloween almost upon us, I thought today it would be the best day to share with you a recipe that features (again) the star ingredient of the season, PUMPKIN!!

In this case a delicious one we had a couple of weeks ago for brunch in east London.

Asian style pumpkin fritters with lots of spices and avocado mash.

Great for breakfast or brunch, with healthy fats from the avocado, slow carbs and high in fiber, and if you make them like this, also very low in fat and quite calorie controlled!

This version is vegan but it was quite difficult to pan fry the batter, I think that adding a couple of whisked eggs to the mixture would help with the consistency.

It would also be great with a poached egg on top.

Ingredients (for 2 or 3 people)

350 grams of butternut squash or pumpkin

1 tsp of cumin

1 tsp of grated ginger

½ onion finely chopped

1 red chili

2 tbsp fresh chopped coriander

1 tbsp mustard with seeds

1 tbsp black sesame seeds

2 tbsp oat bran or oat flour

Salt & pepper

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For the avocado mash…

1 avocado

½ lemon

salt

To make these, boil the pumpkin until soft and add all the spices. Mash until everything is blended. Spray a non-sticky pan with extra virgin olive oil and when hot, add a dollop of the mixture, spread to form a 5 cm oblong fritter and let it cook for 3 to 5 minutes. With the help of a spatula, turn around and repeat. If your pan is big enough probably worth making 2 or 3 at the time.

It was delicious with a bit of Jalapeno Tabasco sauce too.

While they cook, you can mash in a bowl a whole ripe avocado with a dash of lemon juice and some salt (to your taste). Serve together with a slice of lemon and some salad.

Happy Halloween!

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Gluten Free Wholegrain Lemon Drizzle Cake

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Today post is a bonus post, just like the recipe that I am going to share is a bonus food. You might or might not be familiar with the concept “cheat meal” but this recipe falls under this category.

A cheat meal is one meal a week where you eat whatever you feel like. And I mean whatever, a treat of your choice, a cheeseburger with white bread and bacon and fries with mayo. A pint of Ben & jerry’s ice cream, a bit of both… doesn’t matter. The role of this meal is to “cheat” your body to avoid it from getting used to a) too low calories b) too low fat c) too controlled food intake (as in clean)

It is particularly important in the context of a body building or fitness diet, when the athlete or amateur has a strict calorie or macronutrient diet and eats clean and lean on a constant basis.

Fitness athletes and sports people that compete in body categories follow processes of “bulking” or “cutting” these are first a phase in which you over nourish your body so it creates lean muscle (with specific training for it) and then a “cutting” phase in which you reduce your calorie intake to be at a deficit and reduce your body fat percentage to the desired level (normally between 12 and 16% for women and 4 and 7% for men).

This principle also applies to people on a weight loss journey specially if they have been on a diet or on a calorie restriction for long period of time and their body could simply “adjust” and their weight loss could stop, what is called hitting a plateau.

Having one cheat meal a week will shock your metabolism giving your body the message that he will get big portions, high fat, simple carbs again, and therefore it is absolutely ok to burn some more fat, because there is more food where that came from! It will also impact your mentally, allowing you to have a social life a date, a celebratory meal and not feel like the journey doesn’t allow you to eat anything you crave. Also it can be a great way to replenish the glycogen (what fuels your muscles) on your body in low or extremely low carb diets, and you will work out with a lot of extra strength after it.

If I go out for my cheat meal, I will eat whatever I feel like in the menu, and it is fine, but if I am cooking it at home, I try to add something extra to it, in this case, I tried a new recipe for a Lemon Drizzle cake, which turned out to be delicious. It is a gluten free alternative, not because it is less fattening, because it’s not, but because I used wholegrain rice flour and almond flour, both full of fiber, which is great for your digestive system. The almonds bring a good amount of healthy fat to the mix as well, and I have observed that gluten free cakes usually have a moist and texture that makes them better than their traditional counterparts! I think it’s because of their higher fat content.

So please feel free to enjoy this cake but do it knowing that it is a treat.

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Ingredients:

200 gr. Butter (room temperature)

200 gr. Almond Flour

200 gr. Raw Moscovado Sugar (cane unrefined sugar)

100 gr. Wholegrain Rice Flour

½ tsp. Vanilla extract

1 tsp. Baking powder

3 Eggs

3 lemons

75 gr icing sugar (and 3 tbsp of water)

How to…

Heat up the over to 180C, beat up the sugar with the butter and add the vanilla extract and the eggs. Once this mixture is creamy and uniform, add the rice flour, the baking powder and the almond flour. Add the juice and the zest of one of the lemons and keep the zest and the juice of other two for the drizzle. Pour the mixture into a cake tin (18 to 13 cm diameter), mine is made of silicon so it doesn’t need to be greased but if your is metallic you will need to grease it to avoid it from sticking.

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Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. This cake takes a bit longer than others due to the consistency of the ingredients.

In the meantime, heat up the lemon juice in a saucepan with the water and the icing sugar and let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until it has the consistency of a light syrup.

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Once the cake is ready, let it cool down for 10 minutes and then pinch the surface with a toothpick all over the surface, pour the syrup on to the cake with the help of a spoon so it spreads out evenly. Let the cake sit for around 30 minutes to let the lemon drizzle set through the cake.

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So this cake is a reasonably healthier alternative than the classic version due to the higher fiber, higher protein and good fats (almond) and raw sugar, but it is still a cake, and it is still a treat, so enjoy in moderation as part of a healthy, well balanced diet.