Melt-in-the-mouth chocolate beetroot brownies

Melt-in-the-mouth chocolate beetroot brownies

I made this decadent recipe yesterday and troughed some, warm, after dinner.  I have to say, they were totally delicious.  Today we chilled down a couple more in a cool box to eat after a strenuous hill walk and they went deliciously fudgy.   These brownies are naturally dairy-free and, if you use gluten-free baking powder, gluten-free too.   If you don’t like your cakes too sweet and use a brand of chocolate sweetened with xylitol (instead of a more bitter 80% chocolate), 100g of added xylitol is probably enough.  Beetroot is naturally high in sugars so this adds extra sweetness, it also makes them moister.  Pure cocoa contains theobromine, a stimulant, so don’t eat too many of these late in the evening or you could be wired all night!  Buy any of the more unusual dry ingredients in health stores.

Makes one 28x18cm tray (28 very filling brownies)

250g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids, ideally 80%)
200g extra virgin coconut oil
250g beetroot, cooked (shop bought is ok – just avoid beets in vinegar!) – to cook your own, scrub, steam or boil, then peel and cool
3 large organic eggs
1 drop of vanilla extract
200g xylitol or erythritol  (I reduce this to 100gas I don’t like achingly sweet stuff and the beetroot provides sugars too)
50g cocoa powder
50g brown rice flour
1 tsp gluten-free aluminum-free baking powder (or just aluminum-free baking powder if you can eat gluten)
100g ground almonds
Baking parchment/silicone baking paper plus a little more oil for greasing
28x18cm baking tray or tin (with sides 2cm or more in height)
Food processor

1. Preheat oven to 180C (165C fan)
2. Put the chocolate and coconut oil in a large bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Leave to melt, then remove from the heat.
3. Puree the cooked beetroot in a food processor then add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla and xylitol or erythritol.  Process until smooth and increased in size.
5. Sift cocoa powder, rice flour, and baking powder into another bowl and stir in the ground almonds.
6. Stir the beetroot mixture into the melted chocolate and then fold in the dry ingredients. This looks large but it will still fit in the baking tray.
7. Use baking parchment/baking silicone paper to line the rectangular tray. Pour in the mixture and place in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until just firm to the touch. It is very important not to overcook the brownies or they will be dry. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out slightly sticky. Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into 28 squares. Put in the fridge for several hours for a wonderfully fudgy effect.

Why this recipe is better for you:
Beetroot is a rich source of chromium, which helps your body deal with the high level of sugar in the beet.  In “normal” sugar, the nutrient chromium is removed, leaving our bodies struggling to cope with the sugar.  The addition of healthy virgin coconut oil makes this recipe low GI because the fat slows the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.  This prevents blood sugar imbalance causing dips in energy and well-being.  Xylitol (and also erythritol) are tooth-friendly sweetening agents that do not appear to have health dis-benefits.  They are safe for diabetics too as don’t raise blood sugar levels.  Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs – medium-chain triglycerides – which the body prefers to use directly for energy production (rather than storing as fat).  Many baking powders contain aluminum, often listed as a “flow agent”.   Aluminium adversely affects mental function and bone density.  Foods cooked above 100C are not as good for us as raw or low-temperature-cooked ones but sometimes nothing else will do than a gorgeous, unctuous choccy treat…

Rainbow carrot & beetroot salad

Rainbow carrot & beetroot salad

I love the jewel-like colours of this super simple salad.  The zingyness of the lemon juice and mustard contrasts beautifully with the earthiness of the beetroot.  We had it on a bed of dressed green leaves and avocado yesterday in the garden for lunch, with the super simple butterbean salad I just posted.  Because of the antioxidant power of the lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil, this salad keeps for up to 2 days in the fridge.  do make sure to add the lemon juice dressing immediately after you have grated the carrot and beetroot, otherwise, they oxidize and go brown.

4 medium carrots, peeled or scraped
1-2 small raw beetroot, peeled
2 small spring onions or 1 tbsp chopped red onion
1 level tsp mustard, ideally Dijon, but English or wholegrain would do
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of Himalayan salt or Atlantic sea salt
Black pepper
Optional health boost: 2 tbsp chopped parsley

1. First make the dressing by mixing in a large bowl the mustard, juice, olive oil, salt, and 10 good grinds of black pepper.  2. Now slice the onion and grate the carrots and beetroot and add to the bowl.  Mix well and serve with some green salad and whatever protein you are eating – lean meat, fish, eggs, beans/pulses.

Why this recipe is good for you:
Beetroot is high in chromium and betaine, nutrients that help your body process the natural sugars in the beet.  In processed sugar, where sugar beets are stripped of their nutrients, all you get is the sweetness, without the chromium and betaine your liver needs to get rid of it harmlessly.  Carrots and beets, like all root veg, are high in carbs so take the place of potatoes or bread in a meal.  Carrots are a great source of beta carotene.  This helps liver function, gives your skin a golden glow, and is a powerful antioxidant, helping protect your skin and eyes from UV or age-related damage.  Mustard, lemon juice, and olive oil are also rich in antioxidants that help you maintain beautiful, clear skin.  Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in vitamin E, which moisturises your skin from within.  Healthy skin does not need body moisturiser.   Virgin olive oil, eaten raw, also aid long-term weight loss when added to your daily diet.  Piperine in black pepper helps your digestive system absorb nutrient minerals.

Basic salad

Basic salad

This is a salad we eat most days for lunch with some protein like chicken, smoked fish, a bean/pulse salad or a couple of eggs.  The main thing about a salad is it needs to be almost completely raw, take up at least 50% of your plate and have lots of different colours to give you a range of nutrients. You’ll see some blanched frozen peas in the picture here, because I love them.  (Thaw frozen petit pois in sieve under hot tap, put in bowl, cover generously with boiling water, leave 1 min, strain, run under cool tap and add to salads).  If you’re packing this lunch to eat later, simply throw in handful frozen peas – will keep everything cool and take a couple hours to melt.

If you’re in a hurry you don’t have to have all the ingredients – mix and match.

For 1:
Leaves (choose one or 2, more if you want): 
A generous 2-hand handful torn up: choose from rocket, chicory, lettuce, endive, radicchio, organic baby spinach, nasturtium leaves, watercress, pea shoots etc.
Colours (choose 3 or 4, more if you want):
1 large tomato or handful cherry tomatoes , cut in bite size pieces
2 spring onions or 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 red/yellow pepper,  sliced
Cup of sliced cucumber, courgette, fennel or celery or a bit of everything
Grilled artichokes (drain off the low-grade oil before adding)
1 tbs olives
Healthy Fats:
Optional: 1/4-1/2 soft avocado, cubed (healthy fats aid weight management)
1-3 dsp extra virgin dressing  OR
Starch (not more than 1/4 of your meal though):
beetroot (cooked and sliced or raw and grated), small carrot, peeled and grated, thinly sliced raw butternut squash, some leftover cooked baby boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes or roasted squash
Gut-bacteria modifying boost:
1 clove raw garlic, crushed
Optional carbs (no more than 1/4 of the meal):
Grated carrots
Grated or chopped beetroot
Cold cooked potatoes (NOT for SC diet)

1. Throw everything in a big bowl, add 1-3 dsp extra virgin oil-based dressing and toss til coated.
2. Eat with a palm sized portion meat, fish, couple of eggs or a cup of cooked beans/pulses.

Why this  is good for you:
Fresh raw vegetables, especially when organic, are packed with vitamin C and biofoavonoids.  These strengthen skin and connective tissue, speed healing and help prevent digestive disorders.  You need vitamin C from raw foods, folate from dark green leafy veg (eg spinach, chard, broccoli), and bioflavonoids to help maintain digestive wellness.  Greens are also rich in magnesium, which helps you relax your mind and body and fight infections. 

Getting into the habit of eating a salad every lunchtime is one of the best things you can do for your health.  Veggies in your daily diet also give you a beautiful golden skin tone after 6-8 weeks, according to a study I quoted in one of my e-newsletters last year.  Spices and herbs in my special Mediterranean dressing lower numbers of “bad” bacteria in your gut and support growth of healthy bacteria that impact on everything – even weight management and mood.

Creamy banana ice

Creamy banana ice

Last night we ate scoops of this creamy, delicious banana ice piled in chilled cocktail glasses.   Its incredibly simple to make but totally delicious.  The recipe is adapted from one in Agnes Marshalls Book of Ices which came out in 1885.  This is very sweet even when made with lemons.  Children love it.

Serves 6 (allowing 2 scoops per person)
6 ripe bananas (with spots)
100g xylitol/erythritol
300ml water
The juice of 2 oranges or lemons
A blender/food processor, and (if you have it) an ice cream maker

1. If using an ice cream maker, turn it on to start chilling straight away.  This takes at least 10 minutes.
2. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree well.
3. Now either freeze the mixture or churn in an ice cream maker until solidified (this takes around half an hour).  Eat immediately or store in the freezer.  If you don’t use an ice cream maker, then removing the mix from the freezer after an hour and beating it with a whisk before replacing in the freezer will make it creamier.  Its not vital, though.
4. To serve, remove from the freezer for half an hour to soften.  If you have a metal ice cream scoop, dip it in a jug of hot water between scoops to achieve perfectly-shaped scoops (I was in a hurry, forgot to boil the kettle, and didn’t bother, which is why the photo above looks a bit too rustic…).

Why this is good for you:
Bananas are a rich source of fructo oligo saccharides (FOS for short), which help feed beneficial bacteria in your gut.   Xylitol is a healthier alternative to standard sugar as appears not to deplete nutrients and has a much lesser impact on blood sugar levels.  Even diabetics can eat xylitol.  Fresh lemon juice is high in health-boosting antioxidants and is supportive of liver function – good news if you want to balance hormones, enhance energy or have perfect skin.   If you want to avoid upsetting blood sugar levels (bananas are a high sugar fruit), eat this ice as a dessert after a protein meal or eat some protein/healthy fats alongside.  A dollop of Coyo or Abbot Kinney’s dairy-free yoghurt (from health stores) would be a good thing to top this.  Or sprinkle 1 tbsp of gently toated almond flakes on top before eating. 

Baked herby sausages with courgette and tomato

Baked herby sausages with courgette and tomato

This was one of my favorite breakfasts on a weekday when I didn’t have that much time and I didn’t have to be gluten-free.  Now that I know I’m coeliac I use the gluten-free alternatives mentioned below.  Cooking in the oven makes it handy, because (unlike grilling) you don’t have to watch it every minute.   These Taifun brand sausages are vegan and contain 11% protein so are great for keeping you satisfied for longer.  Check out my “larder” on the menu for where to buy these and other unusual foods.  Make sure you get the “grill herb sausages” though, they are the nicest.  These sausages are not gluten-free as they contain soya sauce and small amounts of oats (which can be contaminated with gluten grains).  For the gluten-free option, see the Taifun Basil Tofu option below in the recipe.  You could also eat this for a light lunch or dinner.   All the Taifun products keep for ages in the fridge.

For 1 person:

1 tomato
1 medium courgette
2 Taifun grill herb sausages (these contain gluten, for gluten-free- slice 1/2 a block of Taifun Basil Tofu or Tofu Rosso into 3 thick slices instead)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Put the sausages on a baking sheet in the oven and switch on to 170C (or 150C in a fan oven).   Wash the courgette and tomato.  Halve the tomato and slice the courgette lengthways – sliced 1/2-2/3 cm thick is just about right, I think.
  2. Leave the sausages to cook in the heating-up oven for around 25-30 minutes while you shower or generally get ready for the day.
  3. After 25 mins remove the baking sheet from the oven.  The sausages or basil tofu should be swollen up and slightly coloured now.  Add the courgette slices and tomato halves and pop into the oven for another 5 minutes.  This way the veggies will be hot but not mushy.  They will retain lots of nutrients this way.
  4. Arrange everything on a plate, drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the courgette slices, sprinkle the oregano over the tomatoes, and add a few good grinds of black pepper. Why this recipe is good for you:
    The oregano and tomatoes in this recipe are packed with antioxidants that help your health – by lowering inflammation, delaying ageing, and (in the case of oregano) inhibiting the growth of pathogenic (“bad”) organisms in the gut.  Research suggests that unfermented soya products (eg soya milk, textured soya vegetable protein) are not likely to be helpful to health whereas traditional products that are fermented (fermented tofu, tempeh, miso, natto) have lots of evidence to support usefulness in adult hormonal health, especially in relation to breasts and prostate.  Fermented soya products are an excellent source of high-quality protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer.  If you have autoimmune conditions though, you may need to avoid soya products.
Super simple papaya dessert

Super simple papaya dessert

Last weekend I craved some fresh, gorgeous, ripe papaya so we visited the Asia Market in Dublin 2 where we picked up an enormous specimen for about €7.  We cut about a third off, scooped out the spherical black seeds, peeled the section with a potato peeler, and cubed it before piling it into bowls and drizzling with lime juice.  The rest we kept in the fridge for the next day, and the next.  A real taste of southeast Asia.  This is the simplest dessert in the world after a weekday dinner.  If you wanted to make this into a snack, serve a cupful of papaya pieces with a heaped tablespoon of delicious (dairy-free) Coyo coconut “yoghurt” from health stores.  I get my Coyo from Ennis butchers in Inchicore who also sell great meat and fish, and from Nourish health stores.

1 ripe papaya (you will want enough to make 2 teacupfuls of bite-sized cubes)
1 lime, cut in half

1. Peel and scoop out the seeds of a piece of papaya large enough to yield 2 cupfuls
2. Pile into 2 bowls and hand around a lime half to drizzle over.  Delicious.

Why this is good for you:
Papaya contains the enzyme papain, which helps digest protein.  It’s often in digestive enzyme supplements.  Papaya eaten as a dessert after a meal of fish, eggs, meat, or beans helps you digest the meal.  Papaya also has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in minerals. 

Easy roast chicory

Easy roast chicory

I dreamed up this easy way with chicory this evening, to go with slow roast free-range pork.  We also had my braised sliced courgettes alongside, which I will post shortly.  The lovely bitterness of chicory cuts the fattiness of the pork, helping you digest it.  You could also serve this as a starter, with a sprinkling of parmesan, or a tablespoon of chopped, raw walnuts.

For 2:
2 medium heads of chicory, treviso, or radicchio, rinsed, then halved lengthways
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of Atlantic sea salt or Himalayan salt
Optional: 2 DSP freshly grated parmesan cheese (avoid for dairy-free)

  1. Preheat oven to 200C (fan 185).
  2. Place the chicory in a roasting tin, cut side up, and drizzle over about a dessert spoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Roast for 15-20 minutes in the oven until wilted.
  4. Serve with a few good grinds of black pepper, a pinch of salt, and another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  If you are feeling decadent, sprinkle a teaspoon of freshly grated parmesan over each half.

Why this is good for you:
Chicory, radicchio, and treviso are examples of foods that help you to digest a fatty meal.  This is because their bitterness stimulates the flow of bile and digestive enzymes from your gallbladder.  This helps break down (emulsify) fat into tiny droplets, which can then be digested all the easier by the digestive enzymes made in your pancreas and also in your small intestine.   Other foods/drinks that do the same thing include dandelion coffee, dandelion leaves, rocket, and bitter apple sauce made from cooking apples.

Herby Pot Roast Chicken

Herby Pot Roast Chicken

I found this recipe in a magazine once.  No idea who it’s by but it’s lovely and is our favourite method of roasting a chicken.  On Monday evening we cooked this and ate it lukewarm with a mixed salad in the garden.  Normally we eat it with lots of steamed green or runner beans, or cabbage and maybe a small baked sweet potato or some steamed mashed carrots.  If you are on a ketogenic eating plan, omit the root vegetables.  I keep all the bones in a dish in the fridge for up to 4 days (or in the freezer) to make stock.

For 4, or 2 with lots leftover:

1 organic chicken
2-4 garlic cloves
Olive oil
A pinch of Himalayan or Atlantic Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh tarragon OR 1 dsp dried tarragon or 1 heaped dsp finely chopped fresh rosemary OR 1 large handful of washed thyme sprigs
1 lemon, halved
A heavy-bottomed ovenproof casserole (or pyrex) dish with a lid

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.  Discard any giblets inside the chicken.
2. Peel and cut the garlic cloves in half lengthways.  Use a sharp-pointed knife to make 8 deep slits in the fleshiest parts of the chicken – thighs, breasts – and push the garlic halves well down into these.   If you can’t face slitting and pushing garlic into the slits, just throw unpeeled garlic around the bird to eat hot when the whole thing is cooked.
3. Put 1 lemon half inside the bird, smear the upper part of the chicken with olive oil, and put into an ovenproof casserole dish with a lid.  Add the second lemon half to the pot.  Season with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the tarragon or rosemary, or scatter the thyme over and around the bird.  The reason I don’t destalk and chop the thyme is that it’s a pain and the leaves fall off during cooking anyway so why bother?  If you are a real garlic fan, as I am, you can scatter any spare unpeeled cloves of garlic into the casserole dish now – they will be delicious squeezed hot from their skins to go with the cooked chicken.
4. Cover with a lid, cook 30-40 mins, then reduce heat to 150C and cook for a further hour.
5. Test by sticking a knife into the thigh.  If the juices run clear the bird is cooked.
6. Allow the bird to rest on a warm plate for 20 minutes or so after taking it out of the oven.  This makes the meat easier to cut, and moister than if you carve straight away.  Cook your vegetables or prep your salad while the meat is resting.  If this is your evening meal and you are on a ketogenic eating plan or want to lose weight, omit the root vegetables (carrots, potatoes etc.).
7. If you serve this hot, spoon over the herby, lemony juices.

Thai yellow salmon & squash curry

Thai yellow salmon & squash curry

We love this warming, comforting curry when the weather is grey and cold and guests always seem to love it.  My husband adapted it from a recipe by Nigella to have a thicker sauce, more greens, and less starchy carbs that lead to weight gain.   If you don’t like any trace of hot spices, this dish is not for you – if you like only moderate heat use just 1 tbsp Amoy or Sharwood’s curry pastes instead of the genuine (and hotter) Thai brands from Asian shops.  The more unusual ingredients are all available from good supermarkets, delis, or inexpensively from Asian shops.  Leftovers are safe to eat the next day if stored in the bottom (coldest shelf) of the fridge and properly reheated.

For 2:

250g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into large bite-sized cubes
165ml tin coconut milk
165 ml fish stock, water leftover after steaming veg, or just plain water
1-2 rounded tablespoons yellow (or red) Thai curry paste
3 tbsp Asian fish sauce
3 fresh lemongrass stalks, each cut into 3 and bashed with a pestle or bruised with the back of a knife
3 lime leaves (frozen or dried), cut into narrow strips if you can be bothered
1 level teaspoon ground turmeric
Handful of fresh coriander, rinsed and roughly chopped (stalks and all is fine)
300g salmon darnes, ideally wild or organic, skinned and cut into bite-size cubes of about 2-2.5cm
A handful of shelled king prawn tails (optional)
350g (2 very large handfuls) of one of the following:
pak choi cut into 2” lengths
streamed-but-still-crisp broccoli florets or green beans
Juice of ½ -1 lime, to taste
Brown basmati rice to serve (see below for cooking instructions)

1. Pour the 165 ml tin of coconut milk, 165 ml of fish stock or water, and 1-2 tbsp of the curry paste into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk well with a fork to amalgamate, and add the fish sauce, lemongrass, lime leaves, and turmeric.  Stir and bring to a boil, then add the butternut squash/pumpkin pieces.  Cook on a fast simmer until the pumpkin is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes, although different sorts of pumpkins can vary enormously in the amount of time they take to cook; some squash can take as little as 5 minutes.

2. To the robustly simmering pan, add the pak choi if using, tamping down with a spoon.  Cover and cook until slightly wilted.  Then add the salmon and, if using, the prawns.  If you are using pre-steamed broccoli or green beans instead of pak choi, add these now. When the salmon is cooked and the pak choi (if using) is wilted, squeeze in the juice of ½ the lime, adding the juice of the remaining half if you feel it needs it.

Serve with:
1/2 mug of brown basmati rice (for 2 people), boiled in a covered saucepan with 1 mug of boiling water and ½ level teaspoon ground turmeric.  Do not stir rice when it is cooking.  When it’s done you should see that the rice has swelled up, absorbed all the water, and has little steam holes visible in its surface.  It should stay warm in a covered saucepan for 10-15 minutes after cooking and fluff up nicely.

Make this with 150g raw shelled prawns (frozen is fine, provided the prawns are separated from each other) and 150g salmon instead of all salmon.

Dietary note:
Coconut milk is a rich source of medium chain triglycerides which are a great source of energy for those battling fatigue or illness.  Medium chain triglycerides are used to make energy directly, rather than being stored as fat.  For this reason, coconut milk is a useful inclusion in any healthy diet.  It is also a rich source of lauric and caprylic acids, which help clear pathogenic bacteria and yeast overgrowth from the body.  Pak choi and broccoli are dark green leafy vegetables and so are rich in folic acid.  Irish diets are low in folic acid which is needed for the repair and maintenance of your digestive system and for developing and maintaining brain health.  Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and also important for the health of the digestive system, skin, brain, and more.  The galangal, chili, turmeric, and other spices in curry pastes also have powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing actions.

Tabbouleth (Tabouleth) with mint & cucumber

Tabbouleth (Tabouleth) with mint & cucumber

This is my even more delicious gluten-free version of the classic Middle Eastern salad which is normally based on bulgar wheat. This is great with grilled or roast meat or fish, or a chickpea/bean salad.  You can make it in advance for a barbecue or buffet.  Don’t skimp on the fresh parsley or lemon juice.

For 2 people, with leftovers:
½ mug/1 cup millet grains (not flakes), available in wholefood stores
3 tbsp finely sliced red onion (or spring onion, if you can’t get red)
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
½ cucumber, skin and all, chopped into about ½cm cubes
6 rounded tbsp parsley (flat-leaf is nice), finely chopped
3 tbs finely chopped fresh mint or 3 dsp dried mint
Juice of 2-3 lemons (or more, to taste)
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt or Himalayan salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Boil the kettle.  Add the millet to a saucepan with double its quantity (2 cups) of boiling water, cover with a lid, and simmer without stirring until all the water is absorbed and the grains are fluffy.  Rough up with a fork and allow to cool.
  2. When the millet is no more than lukewarm, put it and the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently to combine, taking care not to mash the millet.   If you have time, let it stand for at least half an hour to let the flavors amalgamate.

Why this is good for you:
I use millet here because it is naturally gluten-free, tastes great, and is packed with the relaxing nutrient magnesium.  Wheat contains high levels of phytates that impede mineral absorption in the gut.  People who eat wheat at several meals a day often end up short of essential minerals such as zinc and iron even if they eat them in the diet.  Also (and this is a shocker from recent research) gluten in wheat damages your gut for several hours after exposure – you don’t have to be gluten-sensitive for this to happen!  Parsley is rich in iron and aids detoxification, good news if you care about your skin or your energy levels.  Lemon juice aids the stomach in the digestive process while mint is anti-spasmodic, helping relieve gas or cramps in the gut.  Extra virgin olive oil is rich in vitamin E and research shows that including it in your daily diet increases your healthy lifespan.  Tomatoes are a fantastic source of lycopene and act as a natural UV filter, helping reduce skin burning and ageing.