There has to be some things in every kitchen that you love, be it the dishwasher ( I loved my first one, but now it is an essential, as long as it is quiet) the refrigerator, ( I really really loved my two “Sub Zeros”, but that was in a former life), the induction hob, that is so easy to keep clean, the Teppan Yaki grill, that himself gives me grief about all the time. No, none of these. I love my SPICE RACK. What? a Spice Rack. Yes indeed. Mine is wall mounted and magnetic. easy to see, easy to use and takes up no space at all in my new relatively small kitchen.
Scientific American, recently published a report on the “Filth in the Spice Rack” ( Scientific American, March 2014.)(www.scientificamerican.com/mar2014/graphic-science) the reading of which is actually enough to make one vomit on the spot. It ranges from including anything from mundane as Mold to Mammalian Excreta!!, a Staggering 20% of Mammalian Excreta found in Fennel Seed (fragments per 100 grams), to a mind-boggling 2,000 fragments per 100 grams of Insect fragments in ground sage..Is it any better buying up market brands, most unlikely, as they all source their products from the same supply chain. A small two ounce jar of Paprika, for example has about 170 insect fragments, or 25 rodent hairs, to be considered adulterated. However, the FDA says they pose no inherent danger to health, and most are just microscopic. But it is certainly food for thought!
I was intrigued the other day to come across a Vegan recipe for Falafel, which contained no chick peas. Falafel , made with chick peas, I thought , surely must be a staple of the Vegan diet. Consequently, I made these, for supper,not once but twice. The original recipe called for a mixture of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, garlic, parsley, dried tomatoes,chopped walnuts, salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. These were basically ground together and made into a thick mixture with the oil and lemon juice, rolled into balls and eh voila! Ready to eat and not fried. Well, did not quite rock my boat, so on the second attempt I used a mixture of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseed, chia seeds, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, confit of garlic, Curley leaf parsley , walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil. Were they any better? Were they any more exciting? Did they titillate my taste buds? Well, the answer has to be NO, not at all, so that is one recipe for the bin!!
I had an American girlfriend once, who was a marathon runner and a vegan, I always think difficult to combine the two, easy enough to get the calories maybe, but much more difficult to get enough protein. One day, she was munching on some rice cakes ( vegan of course) when someone asked ” What do they taste like”? The answer was ” Cement”!
What are chia seeds, I hear you ask. Well, Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec times. Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. they are unprocessed and can be easily absorbed by the body, they have a mild nutty flavour and are very often just sprinkled onto cereal or over salads. As with many new food fads, the claim is that eating Chia seeds will help with weight loss, as they will swell in the stomach, therefore making the dieter feel full, however the jury is still out on this one.
Following on , with my vegan, vegetarian theme, Yotem Ottolenghi in his food stores, restaurant and books has many delicious foods that would be good for the vegetarian and he also sells mixtures of seeds to sprinkle over your salads and cereals.
Going on from his idea of rice and quinoa salad I have made my own version.
- Ingredients, there is no definitive list but include as many of the following as you like
- chopped nuts ( pistachios or almonds)
- 1 cup quinoa ( cooked in 2 cups water)
- 1 bunch green onions, finely sliced
- 100 mls good olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- juice of 2 lemons
- cup of dried chopped apricots
- packet washed and dried rocket ( arugula)
- a pink grapefruit, peeled and cut into chunks ( great flavour and colour)
- handful of dried cranberries ( good colour)
- bunch chopped parsley ( curly leaf chops better)
- can drained chick peas
- 1/4 cucumber dice
- some sun-dried tomatoes chopped
- salt and pepper to taste.
The above mixture, is good in flavour and colour but can be varied to suit your taste.To cook the quinoa, put one cup quinoa into 2 cups of water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 mins, drain and cool.Then in a large mixing bowl, place all the other ingredients, along with the cooled quinoa and mix well. Serve at room temperature, either on its own for lunch or as an accompaniment for fish for dinner. Will keep for several days, covered in the refrigerator.
Some people will not really know about Quinoa ( pronounced quin-wah). According to Wikipedia It is a grain crop grown for its edible seeds. It is not a real grass though and is a member of the same family as beetroot and spinach. ( hard to believe) It is high in protein and lacks gluten. Quinoa was important to the diet of ancient peoples of the Andes. It has been called a Superfood as the protein content is very high yet not as high as most beans and legumes. In their natural state, quinoa seeds have a bitter tasting coating but in today in the west ,most quinoa sold commercially has had this coating removed. So the bottom line is there are many “new ” Superfoods out there. Try and then experiment and see for yourself.