Nourishing comfort food in today’s Sunday Times

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Healthier Lax Pudding and other comfort food in today’s Sunday Times  Photo C J Baldacchino during a live tv show

In the cold winter, we all want warm and healthy food that is comforting and nutritious, yet still quick to prepare. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the term ‘comfort food’ first appeared in the 1970s and we associate it with home-cooked meals that are nostalgic and foods that boost our mood…

Source Sunday Times: Nourishing comfort food

Easy and healthier blueberry muffins

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Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins using pumpkin flour, lactose free with no processed sugar

‘ These blueberry muffins are made with a mix of pumpkin and coconut flour and brushed with warm maple syrup.  They are also lactose free.  The pumpkin flour gives them an orangy colour and crumbly and light texture.  Do not overmix, that is the secret, just fold in using a large metal spoon until barely mixed and definitely no electric mixers.’


You will need:
200g pumpkin flour
100g coconut flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cornflour
a pinch of cinnamon
vanilla pod
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of salt
equivalent of 100g stevia
4 eggs
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
50ml coconut milk
1 apple
1 tablespoon apple organic vinegar
300g blueberries

Preheat oven to 160C.
Sift the pumpkin flour, the cornflour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the salt, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and stevia.  Mix well.

In a separate bowl, use a hand held blender to beat the eggs, olive oil, coconut milk, apple and apple organic vinegar.  Blend until the mixture is smooth.

Prepare a muffin tin with muffin cases.  Use a large metal spoon to quickly and gently fold in the liquids into the dry ingredients.  Do not overmix.  Then add half the blueberries.

Pour the batter into the muffin cases.  Do not fill it to the top to allow room to rise.  Put into a hot oven to bake immediately after topping each muffin with some more blackberries.

Bake at 160C for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and before they cool down brush lightly with some organic maple syrup.
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Rock Cakes with no butter and no sugar

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Rock cakes as seen on tv, photo taken by George during a live show

Reducing butter is one of the principals of the Mediterranean Diet. Rock Cakes were the first home economics lesson for most of us. Their simplicity makes them a bake that anyone can make very easily. There is nothing better than home made; fresh, quick and delicious.

For my rock cakes with no butter and no sugar you will need:

350g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Stevia, the equivalent of 100g in sugar of stevia
3 tablespoons honey for mixture plus one spoon for glazing the surface after baking
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
200g ricotta
150g mixed fruit of your choice (on tv I used glace cherries and pistachios for a change)
3 eggs

Enough water to achieve a dropping consistency

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Rub the ricotta into the sifted flour, bicarbonate and baking powder as you would with butter. Add a pinch of salt.
Add the spices and stevia.
Mix the honey with the eggs and fold it into the flour mixture. Add a few spoons of water if needed to achieve dropping consistency.
Use a baking spray lightly on a baking dish. Use 2 forks to form irregular heaps on the baking sheet.

Bake near the centre of the oven for 18 minutes or until golden. Before they cool coat the surface with some warmed up honey using a baking brush.

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Quick rock cakes as seen on tv, photos taken during a live show by George Aquilina

I use flour and glace cherries by St Georges Brand, nutmeg and spices by Schwartz, baking spray by Pam, eggs by Big Fresh Mosta, stevia by Tate and Lyle, disposable kitchenware by AMC, ricotta by Zappala, kitchenware by Tescoma, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda by Doves Farm at Good Earth

Bright skies, blue seas and Anton’s ricotta flan

Bright skies and blue seas, this is where so many visitors stop by for a few days. But for some lucky ones, this is life every day, breathtaking and nearly unreal …

Anton’s recipe for this ricotta flan is delicious and he was my guest during our show last week. I adapted it and used Stevia instead of sugar.

You will need:

1 ready made Sponge and I found a sugar free one
800g ricotta
100ml yoghurt
100g Stevia
300g candid peel and chopped dark chocolate (ratio according to your preference)
A handful of almonds and hazelnuts, chopped up and dry roasted in a pan
Grated zest of a lemon
Liquor of your choice, a couple of teaspoons to moisten the flan
A pinch of nutmeg
Glace cherries and grated chocolate to decorate the flan

Prepare the filling by placing the ricotta and yoghurt in a large bowl. Mash it up and then use a hand blender to whizz it to a smooth consistency. Add the candid peel, grated chocolate and dark grated chocoate as well as some chopped up cherries and nuts.

Mix and then add the grated lemon zest and nutmeg. Mix well until the consistency is smooth and even.

Place the flan on a large plate and drizzle the liquor to moisten it. Fill the flan with the ricotta mixture. Do not pipe it, Anton tells me that it must look causal and informal. Decorate the top with more nuts, cherries and grated chocolate. Place in the fridge for a few hours before serving

For the recipe in Maltese, click here 🙂

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Happy Hummingbird for Easter

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We featured another sugar free cake with no butter on TV this week and the result was a Hummingbird with strawberries instead of pineapple.

You will need to mix together in a large bowl:

350g sifted self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Tip of a teaspoon vanilla powder or a couple of drops of vanila extract
50g pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g coconut

In another bowl, mix together theae ingredients then use a handheld blender to liquidze them until the mixture has a smooth consistency:

125 ml olive oil
125 ml yoghurt
200g golden raisins
3 ripe bananas
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vinegar
250g strawberries

In a third bowl beat together unti, they form a firm meringue consistency:

4 egg whites
Half a teaspoon cream of tartar

Use a metal spoon to fold in the dry ingredients into the liquids. do not ocermix. Gently fild in the egg whites. m
Pour the batter into a prepapred tin (23cm) and bake at 170 C for 35 minutes. Decorate with strawberries and i also used dried rose petals on the surface.

Happy peaceful Easter dear readers. We are still experiencing colder than usual weather here in the Mediterranean and I so much yearn for the summer to come in full swing soon.

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With Alfred and The Honourable Dr Toni Abela

Converting processed sugar to natural sugar: banana coconut cake

I featured a new cake on TV this week that proved to be a great success, not only in the taste and texture but also in the response from our audience.

In a Mediterranean Diet we go back to old traditions to the days when processed food was not around.  I have been testing a line of new recipes for the last 5 years and here is one of my favorite ones.

For the banana and coconut, nearly-all-in-one cake with no butter and no sugar you wil need:

3 cups self raising flour
2 cups dessicated coconut
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
a few drops good vanilla extract
1 cup ricotta
4 eggs, separated, egg whites beaten until they stand in peaks (optional, you can also add the eggs as they are)
4 bananas
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon cornflour (optional but adds firmness to the cake texture)

and instead of the processed sugar:
1 1/2 cups golden raisins  soaked in just enough water to cover for a few hours or overnight.  Then simply use a hand blender to process to a pulp.

Method:
in a large bowl sieve the flour and cornflour.  Add the bicarbonate of soda and coconut.  Mix.
In another bowl use a hand blender to process the bananas, lemon juice, egg yolks, vanilla, ricotta.
Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix in using a metal spoon.
add the beaten egg whites.  Mix in gently.
Immediately pour the cake mix into a prepared cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 170c for 35 minutes.

Broccoli mint soup and this weekend’s catch !

My soup today is a combination of broccoli and mint, fresh mint, cooked mint and dry mint, producing a delicious soup with a depth of minty flavour.

You will need:

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head fresh broccoli
1 natural organic stock cube
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 potato potato, peeled and diced
A large fist of fresh mint, chopped some leaves kept for garnish
1 teaspoon teaspoon dried mint
Salt if required
100ml plain yoghurt
Fresh gbejna , one per portion.

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Cook the chopped onion and garlic over low heat. Add the chopped potato and dried mint and cook for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli, stir and half the fresh mint. Add the stock cube and enough water to immerse the vegetables. Bring to boil on strong heat. Lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are just soft. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Do not cool down on the stove to retain the color of the vegetables. Add half the remaining fresh mint and the yoghurt and use a hand blender to whizz it until it is smooth. Add seasoning if desired.

Reheat and to serve add the remainder of the herbs. Stir. Serve in soup bowls with a fresh gbejna and garnish with some mint leaves.

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That was this weekend’s catch of sardines before the bad weather hit us again…

Healthy Boneless Kebabs

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Rabbit is high in protein and contains very little fat, the least percentage of fat from any other meat. Less fat, less calories, low in salt and nearly cholesterol free. The taste is delicate and this means that it is suitable to use in any recipe or simply cooked as in my dish here.

You will need:

500g boneless rabbit meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 green, red and yellow bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into cubes
I onion chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
Wooden skewers, soaked in water for an hour

Place the rabbit meat in a shallow dish and toss with the garlic, onion, lemon juice, cumin, and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 200C.
Thread the meat pieces onto skewers alternating chicken and bell pepper.
Brush the kebabs with the marinade and cook for 30 minutes. Half way through cooking time, turn over the kebabs . Serve with a fresh salad or steamed vegetables.

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Scones – butterless and no added sugar

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When we follow a Mediterranean Diet, we make the most with what is fresh and around us, we reduce our intake of processed foods as much as possible without making it a crusade because a Mediterranean diet is really about a lifestyle rather than a diet that is based around many restrictions. If we feel like adding a processed ingredient or have a big take away, we do not deprive ourselves, we enjoy it and carry on with our Mediterranean way of life. And that is why it is a sustainable diet.

So much citrus this time of the year and these scones are a real treat, just divine, without any added sugar or butter,

This recipe makes 12 and you will need:

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400g self raising flour
200g ricotta
Grated rind of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 orange
2 spoons honey
2 eggs

Rub the ricotta into the sifted flour until the mixture is consistent, add the honey, grated orange rind, eggs and orange juice and bring together to make a dough. Do not let rest in fridge, it is not necessary and the secret is to bake them as soon as it is possible as the raising agents will start to work as soon as the liquid comes into contact. Roll out the pasty on to a lightly floured surface. The thickness should be about 3 cm.

Use a cutter but cut straight through do not move the cutter around with the pastry still inside as you will have lop sided scones. Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 160C for 25 minutes. if you wish you can use an egg wash to brush the top or simply dust them with more flour before you bake them. Do not open the oven but if you wish them a darker colour keep them in the oven for an additional 5 minutes. If they are not sweet enough for you serve with honey.

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And the recipe in Maltese via INEWS