Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The peace salad

"Peaces" of carrot

I love kitchen gadgets. I can spend hours inside a kitchen store. I can’t have enough of serving bowls, of all sizes. When I travel, I like bringing back a serving bowl that will remind me of the place I visited and add an exotic touch to my dinner parties.

Three weeks ago, my friends Tania and Roy came to see us with their kids. Tania brought as a gift from Israel a beautiful serving bowl with a recipe for a carrot salad written on the bottom. I asked her to translate the recipe for me -  I was looking forward to make it the next day.

In one of my recent visits to Planet Organic I bought the Faitrade Zaytoun Palestinian olive oil. So, I had a chance to bring together the flavours of the two countries and promote peace in my kitchen.
  
There was no disagreement for Dean, Nina and I: the carrot salad was a winner.

Thanks T!


My lovely gift
The ingredients
Steam the carrots until tender
marinate the onion and garlic
My delicious spicy carrot and onion salad


Carrot peace salad
Serves 4

An easy recipe packed with good nutrients. The smoked and spicy paprika adds a special flavour. This salad contains a great amount of vitamin C.

INGREDIENTS

5 organic seasonal carrots
1 small red onion
1 garlic, crushed
30ml of extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
A handful of coriander
½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika, hot
Sea salt and black pepper to season

METHOD

Slice the red onion and marinate with lime juice, olive oil, crushed garlic and paprika.
Simmer the carrots until tender. Let it cool.
Place the carrots into a bowl, add the marinated onion, the coriander and mix them gently.
Season and serve.


Some of the ingredients and their health benefits

Carrot (Daucus carota): is high in carotenoid, an antioxidant compound associated with many healthy benefits. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids present in our retina), which is why carrots are famously known for being good for your eyes. The carotenoids and vitamin A contents found in carrots are fat-soluble vitamins - when eaten with a little fat (olive oil, coconut oil, ghee etc) they are better absorbed by your body. Carrots are great for juicing and often chosen as part of detoxification programs. They also provide good levels of vitamin K, fibre, vitamin C, biotin, vitamins B1 and B6.

Paprika (Capsicum annuum): is a type of ground pepper that is in the same family as chili and bell peppers. Paprika is extremely high in vitamin C, which increases the absorption of iron-rich foods. Paprika contains plant enzymes that can neutralize acidity in the stomach, aiding digestion. The peppers used to make paprika contain high levels of the phytochemical capsaicin, which is known for its antioxidant properties. It can help lower the risk of cancer. Capsaicin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can alleviate arthritis and joint pain, and can  improve blood circulation.

Onion (Allium cepa): belongs to the allium family (leeks, garlic and shallots).  It contains powerful antioxidants and has antiviral properties. It’s also anti-inflammatory, and contains the compound quercetin which supports the immune system and acts as an anti-allergenic. People who suffer from hay fever are often recommended a therapeutic supplement of quercetin - that may help to alleviate their symptoms. Quercetin also improves prostate health. Research has shown that onions help build strong bones and keep serum cholesterol and blood pressure low, preventing heart disease.

Till next week!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

An open meal


The menu at my friend's house in Brazil

Following on from last week’s post, my subject today is one of the nicest meals I had in Brazil last month, at my friends Guilherme’s and Solange’s idyllic house in the mountains near Rio de Janeiro. Guilherme is an amazing artist and his paintings are very beautiful. When he cooks he translates the same beauty into his meals.

The dish I chose to post here was our starter. He told me that he had it at Gabrielle Hamilton’s restaurant in New York years ago and, since then, he added his own touch. "It is Solange's favourite", he says.

I am now adding my own touches and that is the way recipes fly around the world.

The main ingredients
Sautée  the spinach for about 1 minute
Cook the lasagne sheets as per packet instructions
Put the poached egg on the lasagne sheet
 layer the sautéed spinach...
and the ham
Cover them with another sheet of lasagne and place a
few leaves of spinach on top
 
Sprinkle some of the pine nuts in butter and garnish with micro herbs
and 
pecorino cheese. My open ravioli! Enjoy!

 Open ravioli
Serves 4

What I love about this recipe is its simplicity and easiness. This can be eaten at a Sunday brunch, as a starter or just enjoyed as a light lunch.
It provides a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fibre and mono-unsaturated fatty  fatty acid. And it tastes divine.

INGREDIENTS

4 organic eggs
8 lasagne sheet
1 Tbsp olive oil
1bunch of organic spinach or any other bitter greens in season
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 Tbsp pine nuts
4 slices organic prosciutto cotto or low-salt cooked ham
70g shaved organic Pecorino cheese
1 cup of micro leaves (rocket or watercress)
Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Sea-salt and ground black pepper

METHOD

Bring a wide and deep sauté pan with water to boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer. Add white vinegar. Gently crack 4 eggs into individual ramekins then drop the eggs carefully into the water. Poach them until the whites are fully set but the yolks are still runny (approx. 2 minutes). Do not discard the water. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour some olive oil in a frying pan, add some chopped garlic and sautée the spinach leaves for 1 minute. Set aside

Add the butter to the same pan and cook over medium heat until it begins to turn brown and smell a bit nutty. Be careful not to burn the butter. Add the pine nuts and set aside.
Add the pasta sheets to the same pan of boiling water you poached the eggs, and cook the sheets as per packet instructions, or until cooked through. Take care not to overcook. Using the slotted spoon, gently transfer each to the serving bowls.

Then put a poached egg on the pasta sheet,  and layer the sautéed spinach and the ham.   Cover them with another sheet of lasagne and place a few leaves of spinach on top.

Season. Sprinkle some of the pine nuts in butter and garnish with micro herbs, balsamic vinegar (optional) and parmesan. Serve.

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Egg: it is a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein. It contains lecithin, which helps the body to break down fat and cholesterol. Lecithin is also a source of the B vitamin-like choline, which is necessary for brain development during pregnancy. Choline is an important nutrient for the prevention of fatty liver and is a neurotransmitter involved in many functions, including memory and muscle control. Egg also contains biotin, another B vitamin-like compound, which is very important for the digestion of fat and protein, and essential for the health of hair, skin and nails. Egg contains an antioxidant called glutathione - that prevents the formation of free radicals. It is very rich in Omega-3 fats, which prevent diabetes, obesity and depression. It contains vitamin A and E, folic acid and lutein (an antioxidant in the carotenoid family that helps to keep the eyes healthy and safe from oxidative stress).

Prosciutto cotto or cooked ham: is a good source of essential amino acids, which are very important for growth, repair and maintenance of the body tissues. The protein in prosciutto promotes a healthy immune system and lean muscle growth. Cooked ham provides vitamin A, which is good for the prevention of dry eyes and eye infections.
Caution: Prosciutto, or ham, contains high amount of sodium/salt. Ham is also high in calories but they can be balanced by increasing the consumption of fresh vegetables and salads.

Spinach (Spinacea oleracea): it is rich in iron, has abundant vitamin A and calcium. It helps cleanse the blood of toxins and facilitates bowel movements, helping in the treatment of constipation. It contains sulphur, which is beneficial for relieving herpes irritations. Caution: People who suffer from kidney stones should eat spinach in moderation due to an organic compound called oxalic acid, which if eaten in excess can inhibit calcium metabolism. Also avoid it if you have loose stools or urinary incontinence.

Guilherme cooking one of his delicious meals
His version of the open ravioli. He served with asparagus
instead of greens. 
Nothing like having a great meal with friends
I miss this place and you guys!
Thanks Gui and Sol!
Till next week!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Brazil's gastronomic highlights


Vegetables at the street market in Rio de Janeiro

The end of a great holiday always comes with a bit of blues but, thank goodness,  the weather in London has been nice to me this time around. Every time I go to Brazil to visit my family and friends I return missing them, but also with lots of energy and full of ideas.

It was my mum’s 80th birthday, so she had the whole family around. I am very lucky because I come from a family with lots of talented cooks who just love hanging out in the kitchen preparing delicious meals whilst reminiscing.

One of the highlights of the meals at my mum’s this time was my aunt’s Zeca’s lobster moqueca, a healthy and light stew rooted in the tradition of indigenous tribes from the Brazilian coast. It’s the dish my mother greets me with every time I visit her in Brazil, as I wrote in my website

As nothing goes to waste, my friend Betina later on prepared another delicious meal with the leftovers from the stew: lentil and egg moqueca. My mouth is still watering.

Anyway, this was just the beginning of my travels. After staying at my mum’s, Dean, Nina and I went to Salvador-Bahia, further North on the Brazilian coast. It was the first capital of Brazil and the local culture has a very strong African influence. There we were blessed with amazing meals, especially at the restaurant Paraíso Tropical, owned by the genius chef Beto Pimentel. 

From there we went to Rio de Janeiro where we were welcomed by an amazing lunch at my lovely and adorable friend and chef Teresa Corção’s restaurant O Navegador. Teresa is known as the "Manioc queen" and as one of the founders of Slow Food in Rio de Janeiro she uses mainly Brazilian produce. 

From the first day till the last, we had weeks of pure indulgence and delight.

I have just arrived, dear readers, so I need at least one week to put my feet on the ground and get  things going again. In the meantime, the pictures below are to open your appetites for the next blog.

I am happy to be back and cooking again in my kitchen!

The fresh lobster...
turning into a delicious "Moqueca" at my mum's kitchen

Aunt "Zeca" exhibiting her lobster and Sea bream "Moquecas"
My friend Betina used the leftovers...
to make lentils and egg "Moqueca". Yum!

"Moqueca Bahiana" at Donana's restaurant in Salvador - Bahia 
Exotic Brazilian fruits grilled  on their own nectar at
Beto 
Pimentel's Paraiso Tropical   
The tastiest soft shell crab with lime and Biribiri (a Brazilian fruit) 
"Tropical Misto" - Lobster, octopus, king prawns with grilled tropical
fruits and aromatic herbs  from Beto's herb garden.
This was the most sensational meal I've had in years
!
Beto gave me a Cocoa fruit from his own orchard to take home
It's thumbs up to the genious Beto Pimentel
In Rio, the famous cheese bread from "O Navegador"
Amazonian couscous with Tucupi sauce and edible flower. Delish!!!
"Galinha com pirão de parida" -  Organic chicken with pirao, chilli sauce 
 and tucupi. It was well thought and so flavoursome!
"Poréu" (porridge) com baba de moça (egg, coconut, custard cream),
green papaya sweet and Pitanga liquor. 
The lovely and talented chef Teresa Corção and us. The real 
Slow Food restaurant in Rio.
The beach in Vila Velha - Espirito Santo

Till next year Brazil! Till next week, dear readers!