Spinach and ricotta lasagna

Since I tried this dish out for the first time a few years ago, it’s become one of my go-to healthy dishes, and a bit of a comfort food: I mean, seriously, it’s full of spinach (my absolute favourite), ricotta cheese and nutmeg – how could I not love it? Spinach and ricotta are such a beautiful pairing, I love to use them in basically anything: I’ve already posted about quesadillas, a quick and easy dinner solution, but this is my ultimate favourite and a great dinner dish – lasagna.

Plus, this recipe can easily be tweaked using filo pastry to make spinach and ricotta samosas or filo pie, if and when the mood strikes you. Don’t you love two-in-one recipes? 😉

Serves 6

Ingredients:

250g spinach

1 onion, chopped

250g ricotta cheese

100g feta cheese

1/2 tsp nutmeg

6-9 lasagna sheets

Parmesan

Salt

Pepper

Coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 200° C.

2. Heat some coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat, and fry the chopped onion until translucent and soft. Add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Tip into a sieve and press to remove excess liquid, then put into a bowl and let cool.

3. Mix nutmeg, crumbled feta and ricotta, then stir in with the spinach and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. In an ovenproof dish, layer the spinach and ricotta mixture with lasagna sheets, finishing with a ricotta layer. Sprinkle a little parmesan over the top.

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5. Put some aluminium over the dish and put in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove aluminium and bake for a further  10 minutes.

6. Take out of the oven and let cool before serving.

7. Enjoy!

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I tried: Hello Fresh

So, as my last post stated, I recently received my first Hello Fresh box: after trying out Gousto last year, I had to try this second option. I’ve been busy cooking up the dishes they delivered these past few days. Here are my thoughts on the experience:

1. Delivery:

The box could have been delivered anytime during the day, but it arrived fairly early in the morning (around 11, I think). It was left on my front porch, exactly like I had specified – there were no issues with the delivery at all.

2. The Box :

IMG_3866The box looks simple: brown, with the Hello Fresh Logo on it. Once opened, the contents were very well organised, refrigerated ingredients on one side, fresh (vegetables and fruit) and dry ingredients on the other. Also included in the package were three beautifully designed recipe cards and a pack of Jordan’s Strawberry and Blueberry Granola, which I was delighted to see.

3. The recipes : 

First off, I should specify that I ordered the vegetarian box. Unlike Gousto, you cannot specifically choose which three meals you’d like to receive, as these are randomly picked for you. However, Hello Fresh do have a list of the different dishes available per week on their website (for the current week and the two following weeks).

While the “omnivore” box has a number of meal options (meaning you would only receive three meals out of about ten), the vegetarian menu only includes three items a week. Hence, you can know what meals you’ll be receiving in advance.

The three dishes I received I was, well, less than sold on at first. However, after having cooked and eaten them, I am absolutely bowled over! All three turned out delicious; the flavours were very well balanced and I’ll definitely be keeping some of these recipes in my belt for some other time.

This pasta dish was fresh, zingy and cheesy – I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Power Pasta of the Gods with Peas and Parsley

My personal favourite of the three? This amazing roast sweet potato, onion and tomato salad with spiced halloumi. I’m a big fan of Halloumi cheese and this was definitely a lovely new way of eating it – I haven’t tried spicing it up before and it was very tasty. I loved the Mexican spice mix Hello Fresh included with the recipe.

Mexican Tomato Jumble with Spiced Citrus Halloumi

This dish was the real surprise of the three: I left it til last because I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it quite as much. However, it was completely the opposite. I discovered freekeh, a roasted grain with a nutty taste. I love it already 😉

Springtime Freekeh Salad


My verdict? 

Overall, a lovely experience ordering from Hello Fresh. The recipes were easy to follow and delicious.

The downside? Generally, I wouldn’t be able to afford this: 3 meals for 2 for £36 (for the vegetarian box), although relatively reasonably priced, just goes beyond what I can spend by myself. I got a £25 discount voucher on my first Hello Fresh box from Amazon a few weeks ago and thought I’d take the opportunity to test it. I would definitely recommend trying it out for couples, though!

Hello Fresh delivery today – very excited!

Guess what I received today?

My first Hello fresh box.

I was saying a few weeks ago I wanted to try this one after having already ordered (and loved) Gousto a while back.

The box was waiting for me on my front step at lunch time, full of yummy, fresh ingredients for three vegetarian recipes. And a free pack of Jordan’s granola.

I’ve already cooked one of the recipes, a zingy, veggie pasta dish which was simply delicious. The two others look just as tasty.

Post of my cooking experience coming up soon.

Roasted fennel and tomatoes

Everybody seems to be cooking fennel these days, so here I am, jumping on the bandwagon with this beautifully simple recipe from my grandmother: roasted fennel and tomatoes.

Up to a few weeks ago, I don’t believe I’d ever had roasted fennel before; I mainly remember eating fennel raw, in sandwiches or salads. I had a delicious fennel salad in Rome last summer, with black olives, orange and rocket and a tangy olive oil and orange dressing, and have fond memories of eating the most amazing homemade sandwiches on the Amalfi coast: fresh mozzarella, slices of tomato and raw fennel, fresh floury Italian rolls soaked with extra-virgin olive oil; just add a cool breeze, the sun shining on my skin & a good view and I’m in heaven.

In any case, eating cooked fennel was a revelation: this recipe is simplicity itself and tastes so good you won’t even believe it. Three ingredients are needed: fennel, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. Put the lot in the oven, wait a little while and enjoy! For those of you who aren’t the biggest fans of the liquorice-like taste of fennel, you’ll be glad to know that cooking this vegetable definitely tones this flavour down, bringing out much softer tones.

A really lovely dish, tasty and so easy to make! My grandmother likes to have it as a side dish, with a piece of baked fish and some rice, but I can picture this as a vegetarian main, with some butter beans added in for good measure (and a bit of a carb and protein boost). How will you choose to eat it?

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 bulb fennel, fronds cut off and kept aside

1-2 tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

IMG_37911. Preheat oven to 190° C.

2. Cut fennel and tomatoes into halves, then into wedges.  Place vegetable wedges into an oven-proof dish. Cover in some olive oil, a little salt and pepper.

3. Cook in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until fennel is tender, turning over halfway through.

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4. Serves hot with rice and a fillet of fish, or with some beans. Sprinkle the fennel fronds on top.

5. Enjoy!

Butternut squash and pearl barley risotto

It’s a little bit late in the winter to publish a butternut squash recipe, but with the cold weather picking up again in England, there’s nothing I’d like more in the evening than a warm, comforting bowl of butternut squash and pearl barley risotto. The way I cook it, most of the butternut squash melts into the stock, coating the pearl barley in a delicious creamy coating, making this dish oh so smooth. As for the sage, it goes beautifully well with the squash, bringing the whole dish together.

And just so I use the entire vegetable, I keep the butternut squash seeds and roast them with salt, using them both to garnish the dish and as an afternoon snack with my tea!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Coconut oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves

2 celery sticks, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into cubes

250g pearl barley, rinsed

1 litre vegetable stock

Sage

Salt

Pepper

1. Over a medium heat, melt some coconut oil in a large pot. Add chopped onion, celery, carrot and butternut squash and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add garlic and cook for a further two minutes.

3. Add the pearl barley, some sage and a ladleful of stock,. Stir well, until absorbed, then add another. Repeat the process until the pearl barley is tender (about 30 minutes).

4. Once pearl barley is cooked, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Serve with some sage or roasted butternut squash seeds to garnish.

6. Enjoy!

My move to sugar-free

So this is a subject which is pretty close to my heart, and I feel like I should address it to some extent, especially as many of my recipes are sugar-free (which really means that I cook most of my food from scratch). Don’t be scared by the headline and read on.

Sugarfreelife

About a year ago, at one of my dearest friends’ houses, I discovered Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar cookbook. Now, I’ve had my issues with weight and body image and dieting, and let me tell you, I wasn’t about to embark upon another one of those restrictive low-carb/high-fat, low-fat/high-carb diets. I’d tried those and all it really led to was fatigue, temporary results, and a sense of self-esteem way too attached to my body and my food intake.

Simply put, dieting, as a concept, isn’t something that attracts me. My goal, more or less, is to find the right balance between watching what I eat (eating healthy) and NOT watching what I eat (having a healthy mindset).

My own “mens sana in corpore sano“*, if you will.

So, of course, any term with a “-free” tacked on to the end makes me a bit wary, as does the notion of “quitting” any one foodstuff. But as I started reading through this book, I realised that a lot of what Wilson was describing was what I went through on a regular basis: sweet cravings, complete inability to stick to that “one cookie” you said you’d have (and finishing the whole box), energy slumps and difficulty focusing…

So, I started to get curious. But rather than take this book at face value, I started doing some research. And what I found out…was kind of scary.

Ever heard of Dr. Robert Lustig? For the past 16 years, he has been working on childhood obesity, and according to him, sugar is poison – as in, biochemically, our body treats it like a poison, processing it through the liver (like we do ethanol, in alcohol) and sets off a bunch of negative biochemical reactions all worse than the other, including blocking your leptin receptors – which basically means you can’t tell when your body has had enough to eat. And as sugar is literally present in almost every single processed food today, this is a problem which everyone faces to some extent.

Now, I hate to label one single thing as the sole culprit when it comes to health and weight problems, but I have a hard time imagining that this is all a complete lie designed to sell cookbooks and merchandise – especially as finding completely sugar-free food is near impossible. So, in September 2014, I decided to try out eating sugar-free for a couple of months.

Did I feel better? Frankly, I did. Getting up in the morning was easier, I had more energy, I started being more aware of my hunger – and satiety, most importantly. I felt healthier, more energised, and balanced.

However, the truth is, it was hard to continue: no-one in my family eats sugar-free, birthdays, Christmas and New Year were rolling around, and sticking to a completely sugar-free lifestyle didn’t stick.

This trial period did show me that it was possible, and I try to eat sugar-free most days out of the week. I genuinely believe that this is a healthier way to live, and am enjoying discovering a new way to cook and eat.

If any of you readers out there are interested in giving this a shot, I’d love to give you further information.


For those of you who are interested in a lil’ more info, here’s a video of Dr. Lustig speaking about sugar at a TEDx conference: believe me, it is very revealing.

Follow-up: article about him in The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/24/robert-lustig-sugar-poison

*”Healthy mind in a healthy body”

Homemade Bibimbap

There is no way to say how much I love bibimbap. It is the most delicious Asian dish I have ever tasted.

Up to a few years ago, I had never had any Korean food: in France, you get a lot of sushi, a lot of dim sum and nuoc mam (fish sauce), but you don’t really hear about Korean restaurants.

Korean food seems to be the most underrated Asian cuisine out there, but let me tell you, it deserves to be first on the list. The first time I tried kimchi pancakes and dolsot bibimbap, a dish of rice with mixed vegetables and spicy gochujang sauce, topped with a raw or fried egg and sometimes beef and served in a hot stone bowl, I was instantly bowled over. The flavours are simply delicious.

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 Making bibimbap at home is not as complicated as it would seem: buying the gochujang paste, which is pretty specific, takes some digging (I bought mine on Amazon and got it delivered within two days), but the rest of the ingredients are easy to find in any large supermarket.

Homemade Bibimbap

Serves 2

Ingredients:

200g rice (brown or white)

1 onion, halved and sliced

2 carrots, sliced into strips (with a peeler is best)

100g shiitake mushrooms, sliced

100g beansprouts

100g baby spinach

Sesame oil

Dark soy sauce

Agave or rice malt syrup

Sesame seeds

1 spring onion, chopped

2 eggs

Coconut oil or ghee

For the Gochujang sauce: 

1 tbsp Gochujang paste

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped

1/2 tbsp agave or rice malt syrup


1. Mix all ingredients for the Gochujang sauce together and set aside

2. Cook the rice however you like (I use a rice cooker) and keep warm.

3. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil or ghee in a wok and stir-fry each vegetable separately (carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, onions and spinach), adding a dash of toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and sweetener for each one. Set each aside on a plate.

4. Fry the eggs in a separate pan.

5. Serve warm rice, topped with vegetables and an egg, with some spring onion and black sesame seeds to finish.

6. Add gochujang sauce to taste and mix everything together.

7. Enjoy!

IMG_2443For a meaty version, marinate some pork belly, in fine slices, in the gochujang sauce (you’ll have to make a little bit more), and fry them in the wok until cooked before putting together your dish like previously explained (step 5).

Avocado toast

Don’t be frightened by the fat content in avocados! They are not bad for you: quite the contrary! The fat contained in avocados is considered healthy fat, helping to reduce triglycerides and increase good cholesterol.

Avocados are also often considered a superfood because they are a great source of nutrients, including vitamin K, folate, vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. It also contains twice as much potassium as a banana, vitamin, niacin and riboflavin.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-health-benefits-of-this-incredible-superfruit.html#ixzz3T3lFD9uW

Another perk of having avocado for breakfast: it is very filling. It’ll definitely keep you going well until lunch!

Personally, I love eating avocados, whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just as a snack! It’s probably a family thing: homemade avocado dip is a family meal staple! My four sisters would probably confirm this fact, I think we’re all pretty obsessed with how yummy avocados are. I’m fairly sure my 12 year old sister Mathilde could LIVE on them! But that’s another story.

Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 small, ripe avocado

1 lemon wedge

Salt

Pepper

1 egg

Cayenne pepper

1 small radish, cut into thin slices

Two slices of toast (your bread of choice – personally, I use homemade seeded bread)

image11. Cut avocado in half and pit. Mix avocado flesh with the juice from a large lemon wedge, salt and pepper and mash.

2. Meanwhile, heat some coconut oil in a pan, and when hot, fry egg. Salt and pepper to taste, and add cayenne pepper if you feel like a spicy kick.

3. Spread avocado mash on two slices of bread.

4. Place radish slices on on piece of toast, fried egg on the other.

5. Enjoy!

Cacao nib and blueberry porridge

Porridge is the only other quick and easy breakfast meal which can actually keep me full until lunch. However, unless you use your imagination, it can get boring pretty quickly. If you step outside of the box, though, it can come in an infinite number of variations, starting with the milk you use. The taste will change completely if you use milk, almond milk, rice milk, hazelnut milk or oat milk for example (I am personally not a big fan of soy milk, so you won’t see much of it on my site).

Cooking with spices can also give a new lease of life to your same old, daily porridge: ever tried adding cinnamon or vanilla powder (my two favorites)? How about apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice, chai spices, cacao powder, ginger or nutmeg? If you switch it up, you can come up with an infinite number of different porridge recipes!

And finally, there are about a billion toppings you can choose: any fresh fruit, dried fruit, cacao nibs and seeds will do. Bananas, apples and berries go particularly well with porridge, in my mind. It’s that simple to make an old dish new again: choose your milk, spice and topping, and you’re good to go! Here’s one of my current favorites:

Cacao nib and blueberry porridge

Serves 1

Ingredients:

30g oats

225ml milk (oat, almond, dairy – my favorite is almond milk)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

A handful of blueberries

1/2 tbsp of cacao nibs

1. Heat oats, cinnamon and milk of your choice in a pot over medium heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Take off the heat, pour in a bowl and add blueberries and cacao nibs.

3. Enjoy!

Bacon and egg “cupcakes”

I LOVE breakfast. I mean, seriously, I’m one of those people who goes to sleep earlier at night because I’m that excited for breakfast the next day. And as they say, it is the most important meal of the day.

Having a good, nourishing and healthy breakfast is paramount to having a good day, and for me, milk and cereal just doesn’t cut it. Only two meals will do it for me in the morning, and eggs and bacon is on top of the list.

Now, eggs and bacon is a classic, and it is absolutely my favorite thing in the world. NOTHING beats a fried egg sunny side up with two rashers of bacon and a slice of buttered homemade bread. Except maybe these: bacon and egg cupcakes. I discovered them about a year ago, in Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar cookbook (a book which has changed my life), and they are delicious. Plus, it’s a nice way to spruce up an old, classic breakfast. Try them out, you absolutely will not regret it!

Bacon and Egg “cupcakes”

Serves 6

1.Preheat your oven to 200° celsius.

2. Line each cup in a muffin tray with bacon, break an egg in each and cook for about 10-15 minutes.

3. Sprinkle them with cheese or herbs a few minutes before taking them out to add a nice finishing touch.

4. Enjoy!