Jammin’

I’m trying to cut back on the sweet stuff at the moment (yeah, yeah, I’ve fallen into the ‘sugar is the root of all evil’ camp) which is all well and good but what’s a girl to put on her toast?

I found this ridiculously easy (and healthy) recipe for jam from Madeleine Shaw. She uses raspberries but strawberries are just as good; in fact, this is a good way to use up any soft fruit that’s on the turn. Don’t be put off by the chia seeds. I know they look about as appetising as frog spawn but they act as a great binding agent and they’re full of protein, fibre and omega 3 – win win. I picked mine up in Home Bargains for a couple of quid (I should have kept that a secret) but you can buy them in health shops and larger supermarkets.

All you do is chuck about 200g (that’s about half a punnet) of strawberries, raspberries or any soft fruit into a food processor, add a tablespoon of maple syrup (or honey if you eat it), plus half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and whizz until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and add two and a half tablespoons of chia seeds. Stir the mixture vigorously by hand, then transfer to a jar and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

The jam is lovely on toast (another tip: try the rye bread from Brød; it’s delicious and you can slice it up and freeze it so that it lasts longer) and also with porridge, cereal, fruit, or just on its own. Enjoy!

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The trouble with tofu…

How would you describe tofu? Tasteless? Bland?

Like most people, I’ve always had a bit of an aversion to tofu. I mean, who gets excited by a cold slab of soya, also known rather unsexily as bean curd?

Tofu is a bit like quinoa (yes, I am that walking vegan cliché) because it’s completely devoid of flavour. So far, so meh. But this, arguably, is the best bit about plain foodstuffs. They act as a blank canvas, a sponge if you like, that soak up herbs, spices, oil and all the other stuff that makes food tasty – and this is where the magic happens.

Like a lot of things in life, it’s all about the preparation with tofu. If you’re using the firm kind (you can also get the silken type which is ideal for desserts – watch this space for some sweet treats) you need to take it from its packet and drain it of all its water. Use kitchen roll to soak up excess moisture and then place in between two heavy chopping boards (weigh the top one down with a tin or hardback book) for up to an hour. Trust me, this works.

Another tip: try baking your tofu before you fry it so that it keeps its firmness and doesn’t crumble when it hits the pan. And for the love of God, give it some seasoning. Whether it’s garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce or whatever you fancy, tofu needs a bit of love and affection – remember, it’s not a piece of meat.

Armed with the right tools (and attitude), you can make some pretty tasty tofu dishes and it’s not just about the stir fries – although my friend Carina recently made tofu in a satay sauce with stir-fried veggies and it was delicious.

If you’re looking for some new ideas, here are two tofu recipes with a twist.

Scrambled tofu

I’ll admit it: I miss eggs, especially the sort that’s scrambled. Anything that can recreate my favourite childhood breakfast is worth a try and scrambled tofu is actually quite nice. It can be a bit hit and miss (I made some the other day with sage and it was only OK) but I find that a generous hit of salt, spice and olive oil usually does the trick.

Get some drained tofu and mash it up with a fork. Add a clove of garlic, some lemon juice, a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon each of dried cumin and turmeric and a bit of fresh or dried chilli. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a non-stick pan and cook the tofu for about five minutes, stirring regularly. Once it’s brown, it’s ready. Serve with toast, avocado, tomatoes – or whatever you like.

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Scrambled tofu with all the trimmings, including the obligatory avocado on toast

Tofu ricotta toast

Thanks to the lovely Áine Carlin for this recipe. You can keep the tofu mixture in the fridge for about a week so makes a handy snack at any time.

Once you’ve drained your tofu, crumble it into a bowl and season with the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mash it all together with a fork and you’re good to go. Spread a generous amount on toast or baked potatoes. I did as Áine suggested and topped my tofu ricotta toast with sliced nectarine and some crushed pistachios. It would also work well with avocado or thinly sliced cucumber – and fried mushrooms would be nice too. You could, of course, add chilli and herbs to the mixture. Do what you want – it’s definitely a ‘spread’ that lends itself to a bit of artistic licence.

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Tofu on toast. Next time I’ll use bigger bread.

Souper Sunday

Sunday: the day of rest and/or a hangover. If you’ve overdone it this weekend, you need soup.

A bowl of soup (like a cup of tea) can fix most things and is perfect for getting your five-a-day in one meal. Making it is also very therapeutic (I like to stick on a Woman’s Hour podcast while I’m chopping) and a great way to use up leftovers.

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All you need for this simple soup

I chucked in a load of greens, including sprouts, but you could use anything that’s lurking in the salad draw, such as potatoes, parsnips or even a bag of salad leaves. You could even add some sliced apple or pear for a touch of sweetness. Anything goes – within reason!

I decided to serve mine with some roasted chickpeas and broccoli for crunch (and to add protein) but this goes just as well with some nice bread or even on its own.

 

Super greens soup with roasted chickpeas and broccoli

Serves 2-3, depending on how hungry and/or greedy you are…

Ingredients

One onion, finely chopped

One carrot, peeled and finely chopped

One clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

10-12 sprouts

One bag of watercress

600ml of hot stock

One bag of leafy greens (spinach, spring greens or kale), roughly chopped

One 440g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Half a head of broccoli, torn into small florets

A few sage leaves, roughly chopped

Olive or coconut oil

Nutmeg

Salt and pepper

 

Method

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan/frying pan and add the onion and carrot. Put the hob on a medium heat and let it sweat for a few minutes. Add the sprouts and the garlic and a grating of nutmeg (you won’t need much), then add 600ml of hot vegetable stock, place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C. Place the chickpeas onto a baking tray with a tablespoon of oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

After the chickpeas have been cooking for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, add the broccoli florets and sage leaves and cook for another 25-30 minutes.

Now add the watercress and sage to the soup. You might need to add 220-300ml extra hot water at this point. Heat some oil in a separate pan and sauté the spring greens for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Turn off the heat on the soup and let it cool slightly. Add the spring greens to the soup and blend using a food processor or a hand blender. Return to the hob and heat through then ladle the soup into bowls and top with the roasted chickpeas and broccoli.

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All your five-a-day in one bowl