Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The much maligned sprout - more than just a fart bomb!

Have you ever had that feeling where you're hungry but you have no idea what you want to eat?  So you wander aimlessly around the supermarket waiting for some kind of neon flashing sign to appear in front of you announcing "here, pick me, I'm what you want!"
Well, I had that today.  Nothing looked appetising at all. None of the usual trusty favourites.  Nothing healthy.  Nothing naughty.  

N O T H I N G.

Until I walked past some sprouts.  And then I knew I HAD to eat sprouts tonight.

Except I still didn't fancy anything else and I was pretty sure Alex wasn't going to be massively impressed with a bowl of plain sprouts for tea.

So I wondered home, brain whirring, hoping something would leap into my head as the sprouts were cooking.

And miracle of all miracles it did. And weirdly, it worked.

So, here's how it went:

Sprouts cooked in a bit of garlic, sage and butter (just a bit) with a few bits bacon just for the flavour and some chestnuts.  A few red chilli flakes sprinkled over.

Left over gluten free spaghetti chopped up and chucked in a saute pan with some garlic and some lovely big meaty butter beans (from a tin).

A handful of kale torn up and chucked into that pan.

An egg chucked into that and mixed up as it cooked.

Sprouts were added, pepper was ground on top and at the last minute parmesan was finely grated in.

So, it made a sort of sprouty carbonara if you like!

Well, we did like.  The veg kept it lovely and green and healthy as well as filling, the egg and the beans provided the protein, the pasta was a small component keeping it nice and light, the chilli, garlic and parmesan added a bit of a flavour kick and there was a small smidgeon of relatively healthy fats in there too.

I love messing about making things up like this.  I think sprouts are something most people only ever see on Christmas day.  Probably over cooked too, thus resulting in what Michael McIntyre describes as 'fart bombs', which is nice.  Not only does that give them a bit of a bad name but I'm willing to bet not many people bother to try them in any other way at any other time.  A few new year's eves ago I made a delicious raw brussel sprout salad.  Granted, it sounds vile, but it was one of my favourite dishes that whole Christmas...Google it and try it.  I'd tell you my recipe but I can't remember it!

So, sprouts, much maligned but give them a try.

The Whiledorf salad

The other night I was staring at the chicken that we'd roasted at the weekend to provide quick and easy protein for our meals during the week, and I thought to myself, "I really don't want another chicken salad." 

So then I stared into the fridge for a few minutes. 

And I stared into the cupboard for a while too. 

Eventually, after several more rounds of staring, a meal started to form in my head. 

I remembered a while ago I used to make a really nice miso soup style thing with buckwheat noodles, chicken and lightly steamed broccoli, and I remembered I used to scatter a few blueberries on the top.
Which sounds disgusting but it was really nice.  The blueberries, apart from being insanely good for you (I watched a program once where people who ate blueberries as their afternoon snack increased their brain function or concentration or similar by about 1 gazillion percent for the rest of the day - caveat, I may not have got the statistics of that exactly right.), they're yummy and unlike lots of other fruit, not too sweet.  They have a great earthy taste and they add just the right element of zing to an otherwise quite flat dish.

So, there began my salad for that night.  

Instead of buckwheat noodles I started with a base of grains - one of my famous packets of 'gravel', perfect for such an occasion.  I think this one was just a mixture of red quinoa, buglar, freke.  Just enough to add a bit of bite.  

Then I added some broccoli I had blanched in boiling water for just a few minutes and then plunged straight into cold water afterwards.  This keeps it lovely and green and al dente...nobody likes slodgey fart flavoured broc in their salad.

Next came an apple (my favourite, pink lady) chopped into pieces and some celery before tearing up some roast chicken and adding that too.

Finally I crumbled a few walnuts over the top for our healthy fat stress busting component and a little earthy taste with a good old crunch.

I decided not to use any dressing or seasoning as I wanted it to stay really fresh and crisp and for all the individual vibrant flavours to stay in tact.

And all that staring into cupboards and fridges paid off as not only was it very tasty, it also felt super healthy and it was really satisfying because of all the different flavours and textures.

I used to absolutely HATE any type of fruit near any sort of savoury food (I'm thinking duck a l'orange, sultanas in coronation chicken..bleurgh), but done like this in a really simple, fresh and non sweet way, it really does chuck a different spin on the boring old chicken salad.
So,I'm calling this, my twist on another classic featuring apples and walnuts, the Whiledorf salad!

Butternutty about squash

One of my favourite foods that I haven't actually written much about yet is butternut squash. 

This yummy squashy veg of wonder is fab in so many different ways.  You can roast it, mash it, make it savoury or sweet (delish wth cinnamon and low fat cream cheese), chuck it in a smoothie, slop it in a soup, pop it in a salad, curry it (super yum) or stuff it as I did the other day.

I used to get really fed up with peeling the bnut since it's a wonky shape and is quite a tricky little beggar, but then I decided it didn't really need peeling and life has never quite been the same ever since.  If you're roasting, leave the skin on and then either just eat the skin or peel off later, same for mashing, roast it in the skin, then scoop out the flesh.  Only time it needs peeling first really is for a soup if the bnut is going straight into the pot and not being roasted first.

The version I made the other night was super simple and took advantage of a load of random bits left over from other meals.

All I did was cut the squash in half and hollow out the tiny little seed area bit.  I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and rubbed a garlic clove all over it...it's yummy roasted with garlic and red onion too by the way but I was too lazy for that on this occasion. 

I roasted it for about 30 mins first at 200 degrees to make sure it was really nice and gooey and browned.

Meanwhile I made the stuffing from:
left over roast chicken
left over cooked quinoa / frekeh / lentils
crumbled feta
A dollop of left over humus and another of edamame and mint dip

I mixed all the ingredients together, piled them into the bnut's little hole and then popped it back into the oven for another 10 mins or so just to heat it all through.
It was YUMMY.

Admittedly nobody else in the world is likely to ever have the same mix of leftovers as I had on that occasion but that's not the point.  The point is a stuffed butternut squash is a really easy supper and as long as you have a squash and a few other random little bits, you're away.

Butternut's are full off minerals and vitamins.  They're full of dietary fibre so nice and filling and satisfying without being full of calories and as you can see by their lovely orange colour, they're also full of beta-carotene amongst lots of other good stuff.  
In fact, they're all round pretty amazing and if they're not already on your shopping list, they should be.