Anna’s aubergine, sundried tomato & mint bites

Anna’s aubergine, sundried tomato & mint bites

Aubergine mint feta and sundried tomato bites

I concocted these delicious salty, minty, meaty bites recently.  Great for providing some soakage with a glass of wine before a nice dinner (helps you avoid the sugar rush from the wine).   The combination of mint and grilled aubergine gives a Middle Eastern feel, I think.  do try to get true feta (made from goat or sheep milk, not cow).  It has a better flavour and is easier to digest.






Makes about 20
1 very large or 2 medium aubergines, sliced lengthways into 1cm thick slices
1 tsp ground coriander
A few sprigs fresh mint
Half a block of goat or sheep feta cheese
5 sun dried (or semi sun dried) tomatoes marinated in oil, each cut in quarters or sixths
Freshly ground black pepper
To secure: cocktail sticks or around 20 long chives

1. Arrange the aubergine slices on a grill and sprinkle with ground coriander.  Grill under a medium heat until golden, turn and continue cooking until softened.  These will keep for several days in the fridge or until you are ready to assemble the bites.
2. Slice the long aubergine pieces crossways into 4cm wide strips.  Onto each piece of aubergine put a piece of sun-dried tomato and a piece of torn mint leaf.
3. Give everything a good grind of black pepper.  Roll the aubergine up with the mint and tomato inside.  Secure with a cocktail stick or if you are feeling super-fancy, tie with a chive, knotted to hold everything together.

Why these are better for you
Did you know that goat and sheep cheese are easier for many of us to digest than cow cheese?  This is because they contain less of the hard-to-digest casein protein than cow milk products do.   Any cheese with a tangy taste has also undergone some fermentation, converting the lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid.  This means that they are not a problem for people who can’t digest lactose.   If you have taken antibiotics, have an inflammatory bowel condition or have digestive or skin issues you could be low in beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus.  This impairs your ability to digest lactose.  Mint and peppermint  can help reduce levels of bad bacteria (that’s why they are in toothpaste!) but support growth of good bugs.   This can be really helpful for making your digestive system more comfortable after a meal.  Coriander is anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing as well as being delicious.  Caution:  don’t cram in tons of sundried tomatoes or feta every day because these are very high in table salt.  Table salt is an industrial product with added aluminium to keep it from clumping – this makes it not very good for us.  For adding to food, Atlantic sea salt or Himalayan salt is a better choice as it contains other minerals besides sodium.   Eating protein with your glass of wine instead of high carb snacks like crisps or bread sticks means you don’t get a sugar rush (very damaging to all your body tissues, including a leading cause of wrinkles!!). 

Indian spinach curry

Indian spinach curry

I like to cook this to go with a fish, meat or vegetarian curry.  This is great with the butterbean curry I posted recently, or any Indian fish, meat or lentil curry.  I adapted this recipe from “The classic 1000 Indian recipes” switching to coconut oil instead of polyunsaturated vegetable oil.  I love to have a popadom or two with this – buy them raw for a few cents in your local Indian shop and microwave individually on high for 1 minute.  I’m not a fan of microwaves but when the alternative is deep frying and it’s only once in a while, what the hell…

You will need a mini food processor (or old-fashined mouli-legume) to blend the spinach into a puree.

For 4

500g spinach leaves, washed
2 level tbs virgin coconut oil (or butter or ghee)
3 large garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
4cm ginger root, peeled and finely chopped or grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 rounded tsp garam masala
1 rounded tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground red chilli (optional)
1 cup water leftover from steaming veg, or use plain water
Himalayan or Atlantic sea salt

1. Place the spinach in a steamer, cover and steam for a few minutes until wilted.  Blend to a puree in the food processor.
2. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based pan and sweat the onion, ginger and garlic with 1 tbs water over a medium heat until softened and translucent but not brown.  Sweating involves using a gentle heat and covering the pan with a lid or plate so the steam cooks it.
3. Stir in the ground spices and a pinch of Himalayan/Atlantic sea salt.
4. Mix in the blended spinach and heat through, stirring, for a few minutes.

Serve with:
My butterbean curry or a meat/fish curry.
Darnes of salmon you have dusted with (gluten-free) curry powder and grilled (allow about 5-6 mins flesh side up then turn and grill skin side up for 1-2 mins).

Why this is good for you
Herbs and spices have fantastic health benefits.  From helping blood flow to your brain to inhibiting inflammation.  Chilli is clinically proven to heal stomach ulcers.  ginger is anti-inflammatory especially in the digestive system, where it soothes inflamed membranes.  Turmeric aids liver function and quells inflammatory conditions in the skin, joints and more.  What’s not to like as they also make meals SO much more exciting.  Not just fresh but dried herbs and spices have benefits provided you keep them in airtight containers away from sunlight.  Like all dark green leafy vegetables, spinach is a rich source of folic acid and magnesium.  Folic acid helps your digestive system carry out essential repairs and maintenance every day while magnesium is essential for liver function, healthy skin, stress reduction and sleep. 

Cauliflower mash

Cauliflower mash

This mash is a fantastic substitute for mashed potato.  I love it because contains more nutrients and much less (natural) sugar and is still delicious.  All the comfort of regular mash, none of the downside.

1 small head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 leek, white (and 6cm of green if you like), well washed, cut into 1cm slices
1 knob (about the size of a walnut in its shell) of organic ghee (for people with dairy protein tolerance) or butter or 1 dsp extra v olive oil
2 tbs of unsweetened additive-free non dairy milk like coconut or almond or (if you can eat dairy) you can substitute regular milk or cream
Pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
¼ tsp freshly ground black or white pepper plus  pinch of Himalayan salt/sea salt

1. Steam the cauliflower until softened, then throw the leek in on top and steam everything until very soft.  Drain well.
2. Place the vegetables with the milk, ghee/butter and seasonings in the food processor and blitz for a few minutes until smooth.  It will have some flecks of green thorough it and look like potato mash.

Make lots and store leftovers in the freezer.  Reheat over a gentle heat, stirring.

Add 2 good tablespoons of chopped parsley when blitzing.

Why this is good for you:
First of all you are getting sulphur from brassica and onion family veg (cauli and leek).  This helps your detoxification.  Leeks also contain prebiotic fibre which turbo-charges growth of certain good gut bacteria to keep you well.  There’s also the major benefit of thismash being much lower in carbohydrates (sugars) than potato mash.  Potatoes, especially peeled and mashed are massively high in (natural) sugars which promote blood sugar imbalances when you eat large amounts.   Meals very high in carbohydrates slow down our detoxification.  Also, because they are satiating, they prevent us from eating lots more vitality-boosting green and non-starchy vegetables in a meal.  A seemingly healthy meal of say potatoes, carrots, parsnips and meat is in fact a large sugar overload because the veg are all root vegetables and therefore rich in sugars.  Potatoes contain much more sugar than other root veg like carrots.   A much more health-supporting combination would be 25% meat, up to 25% starchy carbs (e.g. carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips) and 50% or more non starchy vegetables (e.g. green vegetables, cauliflower).  

Simple butterbean Curry

Simple butterbean Curry

I just discovered this recipe (and adapted it a little to be healthier) by Rose Elliot and its lovely.  Just the thing for a cold winters evening.  Comfort food at its best.   I made extra for leftovers next day or to stick in the freezer.

For 2-3 people

1 mug (200g) dried butter beans or 2 x 400g tins (with no added sugar)
2 tbs virgin coconut oil or ghee
1 large onion, chopped
400g fresh tomatoes, chopped (or half a 400g tin chopped tomatoes)
1 rounded tsp black mustard seeds (if you don’t have any, use 1/2 tsp mustard powder)
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 tbs raw ginger, grated (peel the ginger first if its not organic)
1/2-1 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 level tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asofoetida (a sulphur-rich Indian spice from Asian shops but gluten-sensitive people DO check the ingredient label)
A little water
Fresh coriander, chopped, if you have it

1. Soak the dried beans in lots of clean filtered water overnight.  Boil hard for 15 minutes and continue to cook until soft.  Drain but keep the liquid and set aside.  If using tinned beans, drain and rinse in clean water and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add 1 tbs water and sweat the onion (with the lid on) over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until translucent and softened.
3. Add the spices and stir around for a minute or two.
4. Add the tomatoes and garlic and about 50ml of water too.  Add the cooked butter beans, stir well and cook the lot together for at least 5 minutes, until the beans are hot.  You should have something that is not dry so if it looks like there is not enough liquid to stop everything from sticking, add a little more.
5. Sprinkle with chopped coriander just prior to serving.

Serve with:
Something raw: e.g. a green baby leaf salad, an Indian style salad of chopped tomato, red onion and coriander, or the spinach curry on this blog.
Cauliflower rice or (not for SC Diet)
(Not for SC Diet) quinoa/brown basmati rice cooked with a little turmeric

Why this is good for you:
Almost all herbs and spices have huge health benefits.  From mustard reducing the pain and irritation of eczema, to chillies healing stomach ulcers by strengthening the stomach lining (and killing pain), to ginger and turmeric as anti-inflammatories that support liver function.   Herbs and spices have strong antioxidant properties even at small doses and thousands of scientific research papers keep the evidence stacking up.  Butter beans are a lovely source of protein to keep you fuller for longer and reduce your reliance on meat.  They take up flavours really well.  Just be sure to soak the beans overnight in filtered water before boiling hard for at least 15 minutes, and continuing to cook till tender.  Beans contain protease inhibitors – substances that prevent digestion (!).  Proper soaking and cooking disables these protease inhibitors, making the nutrients in the beans more available to your body.  Nutrients include magnesium, vital for skin, sleep and good mental health.  Beans also contain soluble fibre.  This feeds good bacteria in your gut responsible for detoxifying hormones and much much more.  

Mini spiced pear cakes

Mini spiced pear cakes

I love to make these around Christmas-time. They are deliciously moist, flattish but light and are a crowd-pleaser.  Prune-haters also usually like these cakes, provided you keep it a secret that they contain prunes!  They will keep in an airtight jar in a cool place for about 10 days.  I love spices so I generally also add some extra.  I add a generous pinch of ground cloves and ground ginger but you don’t have to.

Makes 16 small cakes about 1cm high

60ml water
85g ground almonds
1/2 level teaspoon mixed spice
1 egg white, stiffly beaten
175g pear, peeled
50g dried stoned prunes (with no sulphur dioxide additive), preferably organic, finely chopped

1.  Put prunes and water in a small pan and simmer till water is absorbed
2. Combine with the almonds and mixed spice
3. Grate the pear into the almond mixture and stir
4. Fold in the egg white to make a thick paste
5. Place 16 dessertspoonfuls of mix on a greased baking tray
6. Bake 170C (or 155C fan) for 20 mins or until lightly browned

Why these are better for you
First of all these cakes have some high quality protein from the almonds and egg white.  This means that the sugars from the pears and prunes only gradually hits your bloodstream (protein slows down absorption of sugars in your gut).  This is good news if you like to keep your energy, mood and blood sugar levels fairly even.  Sulphur dioxide is a preservative that can have unpleasant effects on your digestive system.  Mixed spice, like all spices, contains antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and slow the ageing process.   Cooking damages foods, so these are not as healthy as eating raw food (e.g. my raw green tea macaroons on this blog).  But sometimes you just want cake anyway… 


Celeriac remoulade

Celeriac remoulade

Try this as a side instead of potatoes with some grilled fish and green veg.  We had it last weekend with gorgeous meaty (nitrite-free) sausages and steamed broccoli drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.   The sausages came from Coolaknowle Organic Meats at the Green door Market in Dublin on Fridays and Saturdays.  All their meats are fantastic quality and none contain nitrites.  They also do a really good gluten-free sausage that’s high meat content and of course, also nitrite-free.  I LOVE the Green Door Market – so many fantastic food producers under one roof.  Saturday is THE best day

For 4 servings:

One small celeriac
2 tbs thick homemade kefir, natural yoghurt (if you are on the SC diet, the kefir or natural yoghurt need to be home-made) or creme fraiche
Juice of half a lemon
2 dsp Dijon mustard
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of Himalayan/Atlantic sea salt

1. Peel the celeriac (you’ll need to cut off anything knobbly).
2. Coarsely grate or cut into thin batons (about 2mm thick) or julienne strips (you could also use a spiraliser and use the “noodle” attachment).
2. Combine with all the other ingredients and mix well.

Serving idea:
Drape with smoked salmon and serve with a mixed salad.

Why this is better for you
Celeriac is lower in carbohydrates (sugars) than potatoes so it’s a much healthier choice for anyone who cares about their waistline, their digestive health or their ability to look younger for longer.  Mustard helps reduce inflammation.  An interesting recent study showed a marked improvement in eczema when mustard was added to the diet of mice with the inflammatory skin condition. And of course celeriac is free of disaccharides, the sugars that anyone with active Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis cannot digest.

SCD  Squash and celeriac home fries

SCD Squash and celeriac home fries

These aren’t fried at all but taste just as delicious.   This simple side is good with green veg and some grilled/roasted fish, or roasted meats but it would also be nice with a vegetarian bean stew.  You can use pumpkin instead of the squash if you like.  I like to add leftovers of this dish to my lunchtime salad the next day.

The recipe is in Raman Prasad’s “Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet“.  As know from my last blog, this diet can be a real lifesaver for people with serious intestinal inflammation (Crohn’s or Colitis).  The diet often gets them into a much better state so they can work on the root causes of their condition and move towards staying symptom-free.

For 4-6 servings

1 butternut squash (or small pumpkin)
1 large celeriac
3 tbs (45ml) extra virgin olive oil
Lots of freshly ground black pepper1/2 tsp Himalayan/Atlantic sea salt
One or all of the following if you have them:
1 dsp dried oregano, 1 teaspoon paprika or 2 dsp fresh thyme leaves

1. Preheat (fan) oven to 180C (195 for non-fan).
2. Peel the squash, cut in half, and scoop out the inside seeds.  chop into 1.5cm dice.  Peel the celeriac and cut into similarly sized cubes.
3. Tip the veg into a large baking tray, sprinkle on the salt, pepper (and herbs/spices if using) and the olive oil.  Toss everything well with your hands until everything is well coated.
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once to ensure they cook evenly.

Why this is good for you:
These veggies are higher in fibre and lower in sugars than potatoes so they are a healthier choice.  Orange veg are high in beta carotene, important for skin health and for keeping your digestive system in tip top condition.  Unlike potatoes and grains, these are much less likely to irritate an already inflamed digestive system.  Because they are starchy carbs (i.e. high in natural sugars) these are not suitable for eating on their own but need protein (e.g. fish, eggs, beans, meat) and green veg alongside for a balanced meal.  

Super simple oat bread

Super simple oat bread

This is delicious and I think it tastes very like traditional brown soda bread and thankyou to the patient who gave me the recipe.  Without something extra to bind it I do find it a little crumbly.  If this is too annoying (I don’t mind this) you can add a large egg to the mixture to bind it, or alternatively a vegan “flax egg” (1 tbs  ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbs water).  I also line the bottom of the loaf tin with silicon/baking paper (and grease this too) just in case it should stick.

1 large tub of organic natural yogurt (400 ml or 500g) or home made kefir (or dairy free versions: unsweetened soya or almond yoghurt)
2 tubs (about 800ml) gluten-free porridge oats (use the yogurt tub that you just emptied) or if you eat gluten, normal porridge oats
2 rounded tsp of baking soda
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
To bind (optional) 1 large egg, beaten or 1 tablespoon ground flax see or chia seed mixed with 3 tbs water
A handful of porridge oats or poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (fan) or 195C (non-fan)
2. Get a big bowl and mix all of your ingredients gently but thoroughly
3. Grease a 2lb (900g) loaf tin with olive oil and line base with greaseproof/silicon paper if using
4. Pour your mix into the loaf tin and spread to flatten the top a bit
5. Put in the oven for 45 mins (at about 15mins, sprinkle some porridge oats or the seeds on top)
6. Take it out and carefully remove from loaf tin
If you really want crispy edges to the bread, put it back in the oven for 5 minutes.

Why this is better for you
Oats are packed with soluble fibre which feeds beneficial bacteria in your gut as well as helping you feel fuller for longer.  Oats are naturally lower in sugars than wheat.  Wheat (even wholemeal) contains amylopectin which can be fuel cravings and binges.  Oats are also far easier to digest because they do not contain gliadin gluten or irritating wheat bran, which can make digestive issues flare up.  Natural yoghurt is a much better binder for bread than the refined vegetable oils in a lot of shop bought breads.  Refined oils interfere with energy production and cause inflammatory in your body – e.g. in your digestive system or your skin.  Other grains such as millet and buckwheat are also healthy choices for making bread.  Many people who are sensitive to dairy (milk products) can take kefir.  This is because the kefir organisms hydrolyse (break down) casein, the problematic protein in milk.  Kefir is also low in lactose because it is digested and turned into lactic acid (hence the tangy, yoghurty taste).  Shop bought yoghurt is not usually totally lactose free as the fermentation is not allowed to be completed.

SCD sundried tomato bread

SCD sundried tomato bread

I am having a craze for recipes that fit in with the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD).  The SCD is a lifesaver for so many people with Crohn’s and colitis that I had to start including some of the recipes here and eating them at home sometimes.  This bread is really lovely and very easy to make. Just tried it at the weekend with home-made baked beans for breakfast and a piece of fruit to follow.  Naturally I also smothered it in my home-made buttery spread for bread but you could use normal butter or ghee (clarified butter).  Wish I could say the recipe is my own, but I found it in the wonderful SC diet cookbook.  I did reduce the (I thought) excessive amount of salt from the original recipe and it still tasted great.  This bread is suitable for a grain-free ketogenic diet as well – AND IS TOTALLY DELICIOUS AND SATISFYING.

900g (2lb) loaf tin
2 large eggs  (if they are tiny, you could use 4)
230ml (1 cup) home made kefir or home-made natural yoghurt (see SC diet website)
28g clarified butter or ghee or (if you are not dairy sensitive) normal butter, melted
½ level teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt
1 rounded teaspoon baking soda (“bread soda” is another name for this)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
385g almond flour (ground almonds are fine.  The finer ground the better – I whizzed mine in the food processor for a bit before adding the other ingredients)
12g (1/4 cup) chopped chives (do use these, they give a fab flavour – if you don’t have any you could use the green parts of spring onions chopped up finely)
14g finely chopped, dry, sun-dried tomatoes (with no additives if you are on SC diet)

1. Preheat oven to 170C (fan oven) or 195C otherwise.  Grease and bottom line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking parchment.
2. Blend together all ingredients in a food processor then pour into the tin.
3. Bake in the oven for 45-55 mins until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
4. The bread, once cool, should keep well in a self seal bag or airtight container in the fridge for at least 5 days.

Why this is better for you:
Some people need to follow a grain-free diet in order to stay well.  This recipe is just the thing to satisfy the longing for bread.  This bread would be brilliant for anybody needing a low carbohydrate diet (e.g. people with diabetes, or people following a ketogenic diet to manage cancer).  Being baked, its naturally not quite as healthy as eating the nuts (almonds) raw.  But what the hey, sometimes you just want bread.  Because the bread is very low in carbohydrates (sugars) its a great substitute for the wheaten bread that can cause such huge dips in energy after lunch. And of  course its low GI and studies show low GI eating helps skin and hair health too.  You might wonder why I mention “dairy-free” when the recipe contains ghee/clarified butter – this is because when you clarify butter you remove the lactose (milk sugar) and casein (problematic milk protein) and so it becomes hypoallergenic.  Great news for anyone who is dairy sensitive.  If you have a true dairy allergy (throat swelling, anaphylactic shock) you will of course still want to steer clear of any contact with dairy products whatsoever, even during food preparation for others.

Green tea ice cream

Green tea ice cream

This is gorgeous, creamy and dead simple to make.  You won’t miss the cream in this dairy free recipe.  I adapted the recipe from the minimalist baker blog as I thought the original had an overpowering amount of macha (which is also very costly!).

Makes 800ml (serves 8)

1 tin full fat coconut milk (400ml), ideally chilled, industrial additive free if possible*
230ml unsweetened almond milk fortified with calcium, ideally chilled
50g Medjool dates (if you don’t have these, then you can soak normal pitted dates overnight in filtered water – soaking means you don’t get ice cream with “bits”)
2 rounded teaspoon macha tea (green tea powder from health stores)
3 rounded teaspoons raw honey
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

1. Blitz the first 6 ingredients (i.e. everything except the xanthan gum) until smooth.  Taste and adjust the amount of macha, honey or dates as needed.
2. Add the xanthan gum and blitz again to mix.
3. Chill for an hour or so in the fridge (if you have already chilled everything before starting then around half an hour will do).
4. If using the ice cream maker, churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.  This takes around half an hour.   If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the mix into a freezer-safe container, cover, freeze and whisk every hour or so to aerate.

The ice cream keeps its’ flavour for a week or so in the freezer.

To serve:
Take it out of the freezer for 20-30 mins to soften.  Keep your ice cream scoop in a jug of hot water to get perfect scoop shapes.

Try serving with a salad of pears, mangosteen or lychees and maybe some cocao nibs.

Why this is better for you:
If you can, buy the tinned coconut milk that’s organic – it tends to be free of the industrial emulsifiers which damage your gut (e.g. polysorbate 80, carageenan, maltodextrin, carboxymethylcellulose).  Organic brands tend to be packed in tinsnot lined with BPA, the hormone disrupting ingredient in many plastics that leeches into food.  This ice cream is made without refined sugar so it’s a lot easier on your body than “normal” ice cream whose sugar depletes your body’s essential nutrients.   That said, it’s not something to eat every day because it’s still got a lot of natural sugars in from the dates and honey.   Macha (a type of ground up green tea powder) is a great source of catechins, the magical substances in green tea that help foster growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, dampen down inflammation anywhere in your body, boost your ability to stay youthful and healthy and maintain cognitive function as you age.   The ice cream happens to be dairy-free, which is great if your dairy sensitivity causes problems for your skin, breathing issues, sinuses or energy levels like it does for so many.  Thick coconut milk is a rich source of energy-giving medium chain triglycerides.  these are a special type of fat that is easy to digest and provides energy straight to your brain and muscles.