Eat your (real) greens soup

Green Soup

Everywhere I look right now I read about re-alkanising my probably too acid body, super powders, acai, cleansing (is that a euphemism?), optimum ph, powdered greens to add to my wheatgrass juice etc etc.  Now I am not knocking anyone who might want to add any of the above to their daily diet but in all honesty isn’t it easier, cheaper and just more real to eat vegetables.  Surely these are better in their fresh, honest and original state than any dried, powdered, vitamin added supplement?

As you see from these pages I try to cook seasonally and from scratch whilst still retaining a little fun and indulgence, balance being the spice of life and all that.  I know I should probably eat more fruit and I definitely could do with more fish in my diet but generally I reckon we do ok.  If I were to present my family with a glass each of coconut water or almond milk and ask them to add a sachet of revitalising, re-balancing green powder to it, well what do you think they would say?  I have a rough idea.

There are a million salads, juices, smoothies and soups doing the rounds but this soup is what I had for lunch today.  Broccoli, spring onions and spinach were languishing in the fridge, a plucky mint plant is soldiering on in the garden despite the rain and I was given a box of lemons yesterday.  I want to eat healthily but I also hate throwing away food.  This was the result.  I made a straightforward vegetable soup, the peas added a little sweetness to balance (!) the spinach, a spritz of lemon and fresh mint brought a hint of Spring to the party.  A dollop of Greek yogurt added a perfect richness whilst the seeds gave crunchy, tasty texture.

Clear your fridge and cleanse yourself at the same time.  Happy New Year!

Green Vegetable Soup

As I said, this is what I had in the fridge today.  Previous incarnations of this soup have included leeks, watercress, courgettes and chard.  All of these were probably looking a little past their best which is why they ended up in soup.  Use whatever you have. There is nothing to stop you buying the ingredients specifically for soup but isn’t it satisfying when these end up on your plate rather than the compost?

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 spring onions, finely chopped (use a regular onion if you don’t have any spring)

1 head of broccoli (approx 250g) chopped fairly small

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large handful fresh spinach

1 cup of frozen peas (around 125g)

A few sprigs of mint

A few sprigs of parsley (if you have them)

750ml vegetable stock

Half a lemon

Greek yogurt to serve

Toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Heat the oil in a pan and gently soften the spring onion.  Add the broccoli (you want it chopped fairly small to you don’t have to simmer it for hours) and the stock and cook for around 5 minutes until the point of a knife goes into a piece easily.  Add the spinach and peas and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the mint and parsley if using.  Stir so these are wilted and then blend.  Serve with blob of yogurt, a good spritz of lemon and as many seeds as you like.  Enough for 4 with something else or 2 if that is all you are having.





My Favourite Green Salad

Green Salad 1

Happy New Year!  Are you looking for something fresh, green and crunchy? After the Christmas cake which I ate almost entirely myself I know I am.  I love salads all year round and eat them in one form or other several days a week.   However right now my craving knows no bounds.   After what feels like weeks of rain the sun is out and the sky is blue.  Tom and I went for a fabulous walk up beautiful Lewesdon Hill this morning and following a  hose down (Tom, not me) I felt like something healthy, raw (mostly) and fresh to eat.

This is the sort of salad we often have for a weekday lunch, perhaps with the addition of a few chunks of feta, maybe with soup if it is chilly or just good bread.  Whatever the weather we often have this for a weekend lunch alongside a roast chicken, my children invariably picking out the bits they like best.  It makes a lovely change from the usual roast with vegetables and feels a bit lighter – without losing out on the gorgeous golden roast chook.  Perfect with a steak for supper, no need for chips because of the croutons and it is just the thing with any barbecued meat (I know, I know, barely a sign of Spring outside and I am already talking barbecues, I can’t help myself).

Green Salad 4

I suspect you may have spotted the croutons so I must state that this is not diet food per se but it is so delicious, crisp and clean that I would certainly term it healthy.  Whatever, this is the green salad I turn to most often and usually have the ingredients in my fridge. No spring onions or avocado?  No matter, use what you have or what you like best.   This is enough for my lunch just as it is, the croutons, seeds and avocado giving it substance but as ever, it is just a guideline, an idea to share.

My Green Salad

4 slices of baguette or similar, cubed  (a little stale is fine)

1 tablespoon oil

1 small clove garlic, crushed or very finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons oil (I use 2 of good extra virgin olive oil and one of a plain oil)

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pine kernels

1 little gem

A handful of baby spinach

A handful of rocket

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 avocado, peeled and cubed

Small chunk of cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped

Chives, a small handful (parsley, mint or oregano work well or a combination of any)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Turn the cubes of bread in the tablespoon of oil, put in a small tin and bake for 5 minutes until golden, then sprinkle with a little salt.   In a small bowl mix the garlic, sugar, mustard, lemon juice a good pinch of salt and some black pepper.  Slowly add the 3 tablespoons of oil mixing well until emulsified.  In a small frying pan heat the seeds until just turning golden.   Cut up the little gem put it into a large salad bowl with the spinach, rocket and avocado.  Add most of the dressing and toss the salad, you may not need it all but I find this amount just right.  Scatter over the croutons and seeds and trickle over the rest of the dressing if you want.  Snip the chives or other herbs over the top.  Serves 2 for lunch or 2 adults and  2 children as a side dish.

If you are looking for more healthy New Years’ crunch, try my carrot salad which I posted in January 2013.


Feta and Spinach Parcel and a couple more make ahead tips…

Spinach and Feta Filo 2

As you know in the run up to last Christmas I had pretty much packed my freezer in order than I might make it out of the kitchen from time to time!   On Christmas Eve a few things came out to defrost which fortunately made room for me to bung a couple of things in.  So we made lots of little sausage rolls with bought puff pastry and good sausages from the farm shop – fun to do with my children and a good way to keep them from staring (almost at fever pitch now) at the goodies under the Christmas tree.   Following that we made a buche de noel – again, a great way to keep little people occupied and straight forward enough too.  It was a little cracked but with a good fall of icing sugar snow and a robin sitting on top was the perfect way to finish lunch later that day, brought to the table with great pride by my children.

For that lunch we had a ham, so easy and such good value.  It simmered away gently whilst we got on with the sausage rolls and then I covered it in a mix of brown sugar and dijon mustard and popped it in the oven for half an hour.   I served it with red cabbage (from the freezer, of course) and my Firecracker Red Cabbage recipe earlier this month would be just the ticket, perhaps minus the chilli.  Plain boiled potatoes covered in a blanket of chopped parsley (a hint towards ham with parsley sauce) and a quickly rustled up Cumberland sauce, with orange juice, port, redcurrant jelly and stock all being around anyway.

That evening, Christmas Eve proper, we had a spicy, fragrant chickpea and mushroom curry which, you’ve guessed it had been lying in wait in the freezer for a week.  With rice and chutneys from the larder, bought naan and a quick raita this was simplicity itself and not only a meat free moment before the following day but also meant we could all eat the same thing including my veggie brother.  Followed by little mince pies (frozen!).

Spinach and Feta Filo 4

The Feta and Spinach filo parcel or tart you see in the photographs was what I made for same vegetarian brother for Christmas Day.  It may seem a little cross cultural with the trimmings that go alongside the turkey but I knew he would love it and I wanted him to have a real treat that day, the same as the rest of us.  Everyone wanted to try a little so just as well I had made a good size one, in fact one that my husband and I will happily have for lunch with a good crisp green salad alongside.

It is by no means an authentic Greek spanokopita but with the feta and greens is a nod in that direction.  I have added spring onions and either chopped red chilli – which gave it the perfect red, white and green of Christmas – or you could easily use a pinch of cayenne.  Now, this is very nearly the last time I will say it but….. I made this a few days before and froze it – thawed it that morning and reheated it in the same pan I made it in.  Crunchy crisp and delicious.

Spinach and Feta Filo 3

Filo wrapped Feta and Spinach

3 sheets of filo

200g fresh spinach, wilted,

100g feta, chopped

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli or a good pinch of cayenne

Olive oil for brushing, about a tablespoon

Brush the inside of a 20cm (roughly)  frying pan with oil and lay the sheets of filo in it, brushing each sheet with oil as you go, overlapping at angles to each other so the whole pan is covered with the surplus hanging over the edges.   Make sure all the water is squeezed out of the spinach and then chop it a little and mix with the sping onions, feta and chilli or cayenne.  Give a good grinding of pepper and a small pinch of salt – you do need a little salt for seasoning but go easy because the feta is of course salty.   Put the mix into the filo lined pan, pat it flat and then fold the overhanging sheets of filo over, brushing the top with oil.  Tuck in any extra bits until you have a neat circular package.  Put it on a gentle heat and cook for about 5-6 minutes until when you peek gently underneath the bottom is golden and crispy.  Turn it over by sliding onto a plate, or I find easier a flat pan lid (then you have a handle underneath) and gently slide back into the frying pan to cook the other side.  When this bottom is crispy and bronzed it is done.

As above, this served one on Christmas day (with a bit of sharing) but could serve two for lunch.  Or you could slice it once cooked, wrap it in foil and take it out on a picnic.  Finally, it makes a great party canapé, just cut your filo a little smaller and use a metal cupcake tin. Proceed as above but bake in the oven rather than on the hob.  With this I would be inclined to serve a mint spiked yogurt sauce for dipping.