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 The ugly vegetables get thrown away, together with tons of food that runs out of date both in the supermarkets and at home.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 I have eaten the equivalent to a gallon of out of date yogurt while growing up.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!

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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Mediterranean Summer Vegetables & Herbs

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This is one of those recipes that is classic, easy, delicious and uber healthy. Why is this? it is low in fat, it is made solely of fresh veggies. There is a similar version of it in most mediterranean countries, it is called ratatouille in France, Pisto in Spanish and Kapunata or Ciambotta in Italy, Shakshuka in the Middle East and Menemen in Turkey. Take your pick! The differences in these recipes are less than the similarities. They can incorporate potatoes or aubergines, be more or less spicy and the herbs utilised vary a bit depending on the region.

This is a traditional summer dish for a very simple reason, the ingredients used mature in summer! If you are lucky enough to ever have had a vegetable garden or have friends and family who do, you probably know that there is about a month, in which tomatoes, green beans and zucchinis come out of your ears. You will be stuck with way more zucchinis than you would possibly be able to eat in three months. When your vegetable garden is big and the amount of veggies is well… overwhelming, you have to find creative ways to preserve it and this was one of them in the past.

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The same way you can make fruit preserves, you can make preserves for vegetables, so this recipe was made in bulk and then set in jars to be consumed during winter, when there was scarcity of fresh ingredients.

In this case, since i do not have a vegetable garden, I have just made enough for a few portions that can be kept in the fridge or frozen if needed. The base recipe is just vegetables, but in most cases some protein is added to make the dish complete, so it is served as side dish to meats, fish or my favourite, with an egg. You can just crack the egg on top of it and let it poach in the hot vegetables, or fry it separately and add it later, like I have done in this case.

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It takes some cooking time to make this dish, but it is uncomplicated and pretty much anyone can master it, no problem.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 zucchinis 

2 large onions

2 cloves of crushed fresh garlic

1 red bell pepper

800 gr. of ripe peeled and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Sucralose sweetener

Herbs & spices: fresh basil, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger and fresh oregano

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Start by washing all the vegetables and peel the onions. Chop the onions in small quarters of less than 1cm. In a large bowl, heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook the onions for a few minutes, while you cut the other vegetables. Straight after the onion, add the red pepper, the crushed garlic and sprinkle with salt. while it cooks, chop the zucchinis in small pieces and add to the pan too. After 3 to 5 more minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and the herbs together with the salt, pepper and sweetener to tamper the acidity of the tomatoes. Now how much of the herbs? only you can answer this, but it is very much a matter of personal taste. As a guidance, I would add a tsp of each one of them, a little more ground of the ground coriander and a little less of cumin, because it is quite overpowering in this dish.

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Let cook for about 1 hour, at low heat so it simmers slowly with a lid on and stirring every 10 minutes.

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Serve with fresh basil and an a fried egg for a low fat, low carb, high protein, super nutritious lunch or dinner. Happy weight loss!

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Peas, Ham & Bacon

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This is an express post with a quick recipe for busy people! Just a quick recipe with 4 ingredients that takes 15 minutes to make and it is super healthy and delicious. It is a traditional Spanish recipe and the main ingredient is peas.

Peas are a low GI carbohydrate which means that they are good at maintaining your blood sugar levels under control, avoiding those peaks that send you directly to the cookie box. They are rich in fibre and protein and they have a lot of vitamin C , calcium and magnesium.

To make the most of their protein content, it is good to add some rice or bread to it, or mix a bit of animal source protein (this is depending on your personal preferences). In this case, we mix them with ham and or bacon and it does the trick.

Vegetable proteins are not as readily available for the body to use as the ones from animal sources, they need the addition of other amino acids to make them “complete” this can be achieved by adding: cereals (bread, rice) or combine with meat or fish or some cheese or dairy product.

Without further ado…

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

 

500 gr of fresh peas (if already peeled, 300 gr)

2 rashers of bacon

1 slice of cured Spanish ham

½ a red onion

1 clove of garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

 

Boil the peas for 10 to 15 minutes until soft (that will depend on the quality of the peas), drain them from water and reserve. Chop the onion and garlic very finely and poach in ½ a tbsp. of olive oil until soft. Add the bacon and the ham cut in small bits and let it sweat the fat & flavour. Add the boiled peas and let them shimmer for 5 minutes.

The shouldn’t be completely dry so don’t drain them completely.

Enjoy.

The Perfect Roast Chicken (For dummies)

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It is funny how the most basic recipes are the ones that have a million variations and everyone considers theirs the best, still, it is rare to be served a perfectly roast chicken. One that is golden and crunchy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.

Whole roast chicken is easy to undercook and be raw inside (disgusting and unsafe, since chicken meat has to be cooked, it is not like red meat) or overcooked, in which case it is dry a day in the dessert with no water.

It is flavorful on its own, but it does greatly improve if seasoned properly. It accepts many types of marinade, from indian curries to piri piri but the one that bring out the best of it without masking its flavour, is the one I am sharing today.

It’s my mother’s recipe, in the years of my life, I have never ever seen anybody eat this dish and not love it, want to have a second serving, asking for the recipe, or all of the above.

From a nutritional point of view, chicken is one of the leanest meats that exist, but chicken skin is very high in fat. For this reason, I would recommend not eating the skin if you are trying to lose weight. If you are not, enjoy it by all means, but bear in mind this is the part of the chicken that has the highest amount of toxins so enjoy with great moderation.

On the other hand it is low carb, as opposed to the traditional gravy, this recipe has a sauce made of white wine so it makes it low GI, and also gluten free.

Before going on to the recipe, bear in mind that the cooking time varies depending on the SIZE of the piece that you are trying to roast and the temperature. I find that the perfect temperature in my oven is 180 degrees but it depends on the machine since it can change from one manufacturer to another, but round around that should be to avoid the chicken from burning and still cook it appropriately.

To give an easy cooking time guide:

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Around 800-900 grams : 1 hour

From 1kg to 1.2 kg : 1 hour and 15 minutes

From 1.3kg to 1.5 kg: 1:30 to 1:40 h

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Ingredients (serves 4)

1 chicken

2 tbsp. of garlic powder or 3 cloves of garlic mashed

1 tbsp. Rosemary

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tbsp. salt

250 ml. of cooking wine (white)

Optional : you can add small baking potatoes if you are cooking for your friends (avoid if you are trying to lose weight, potatoes are pure starch which works like sugar in your blood and will sabotage your efforts by creating a high sugar blood pike and turning your energy to fat to be stored, probably in your hips, tights or wherever you want it less)

Ok so it is time to get our hands dirty! Quite literally as well. Pre heat the over at 180C degrees.

Mix in a little bowl all the dry spices, add the oil and rub your little winged friend until he is completely covered in the mixture. With the rest and if you have decided to add potatoes , you can rub the potatoes, don’t worry about making more for them, the sauce will cover them and they will have plenty of flavour.

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Set the chicken in an oven proof baking tray (with some depth so the wine doesn’t spread and/or fall later on.

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Place the chicken in the middle of the oven with the fan on so the air keeps circulating and let it cook for 30 to 40 minutes and when that side is turning nice and golden turn it around with the help of two spatulas (depending on how much time you have to cook it for, if it’s a small bird turn around after half an hour).

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20 minutes before the time is up, open the over and pour the wine on top of the chicken, let it finish and have a look at it. If you like it really brown and it is not there yet, turn on the grill and give it a 5 minute notch. Bear in mind it is very easy to overdo it with the grill and burn it, so keep an eye on it while you do it.

Serve with salad, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts…

Tip: if you want a lower fat version, pour all the sauce in a bowl, let it cool down in the fridge and remove the drops of fat at the top, then reheat and incorporate.

Spanish Lentil Soup

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There are two ways of cooking this absolutely delicious but not very good looking dish. The vegetarian way, or the traditional way. The difference is the chorizo and the type of stock. I will describe here the non vegetarian version, but if you want to avoid meat, just avoid the chorizo and swap the beef stock for vegetable stock.

This is a high fiber, high protein, low GI, Spanish traditional dish that every grandmother takes pride in. It tastes like “home” and can make grown ups feel like children again. On top of that, belongs to the acclaimed Mediterranean diet, because it’s packed with low energy release lentils and due to high fiber content, is very filling.

Lentils are at their best the day after they have been prepared, since all the flavours have then had the chance to mix properly.   You can prepare a big pot and it will last for 4 days in the fridge, but if you have leftovers, you can freeze them.

This is an easy recipe, but it takes a little while to prepare since I don’t use the pressure cooker, but a normal pot, looking at them every 10 minutes to make sure they are going as they should… of course, you don’t need to do this, but this is one of those dishes to which the secret ingredient is… LOVE 😉

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Ingredients:

Brown lentils (around 50 gr per person)

1 tomato

1 leek

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 carrot

1 l. beef stock (or more depending on the size)

Salt

1 piece of Chorizo per person (cured chorizo, one inch long pieces)

Sweet paprika powder

Olive oil

In a big pot, put the tomato, leek, carrot, onion and one clove of garlic, all peeled and clean but NOT CHOPPED. The vegetable in whole, wash the lentils in water and add them. Then add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Check regularly that it has enough water and if you see that is getting dry add some more water, you don’t want a loose soup but more of a stew consistency, but this will be achieved at the very end so it needs to be somehow loose at this point.

Take out the vegetables (onion, leek, tomato and carrot since the garlic will have dissolved by now) and blend them with a hand blender until they are a puree. Add half of the puree back to the soup, and the rest, you can reserve in a plastic container and freeze to make another pot of lentils in the future.

Let the soup keep boiling and in a separate pan put 2 tbsp. of olive oil and fry the rest of the garlic (whole pieces) in it until golden brown. Then remove the garlic and add one or two teaspoons of paprika powder to the oil, then add the oil to the soup and expect some smoke. No worries, it’s all good. Mix well and try the lentils. If they are soft, and melt in your mouth, they are ready! You can then add the chorizo and cook very slowly for another couple of minutes. Let them sit there for a few minutes before eating, or wait until cool and enjoy the next day.

Enjoy!!