Monday, 29 November 2010

Indian Spiced Kumara

We here at Adventures are happy to be featuring ingredients riding on the crest of popularity. Last week it was ingredient of the moment quinoa. All gluten free and trendy. Today it's kumara. It's in vogue. It could save African children from dyingKumara is the Maori word for sweet potato, and is replacing sweet potato as a term in Australia as well as New Zealand. I like the sound of it. Kumara.

I love kumara, and I love dates. So this recipe for Sweet Indian-Spiced Sweet Potato cried out to me for me to make it when I saw it a week or so ago. It's almost low GI, well, medium GI probably, possibly low GI. And it tastes great, so that's good. Of course, I tinkered, through both necessity and desire. And it was good.

Kumara is medium GI (61). Dates are low GI- although I'm not sure how this can really be- (39-45), a veritable health food. I like to think of medjool dates as nature's caramel.

The observant among you will notice slightly more than 6. No point in cooking with dates and not having a cooks treat. 

Indian-Spiced Kumara

2 kumaras, diced
6 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2 tblsp sultanas
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/3 cup water

Steam kumara in microwave until tender. Set aside in a bowl.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until creamy.

Pour sauce over the kumara, stir to combine. Season if desired.

The original recipe had sugar but I used wondrous sweet medjool dates, and it really was quite sweet enough, I think it would have been cloying with added sugar, it was more than fine without.
It's probably a bit silly to use both garam masala and curry powder. I can't imagine that this is a tradition use of indian spices by any stretch. But I didn't have any chili powder in the house. And it worked out ok.

This was a really versatile dish. I served it with couscous (medium GI 65) and green veg (asparagus and zucchini this week), and it made a great work lunch. My lunch is almost vegan, well apart from the butter I use to cook my couscous, but you could avoid that, I don't want to.

I used some for my pizza this week.

Indian spiced kumara, red onion and capsicum pizza

I turned leftovers into wraps on the weekend, the sweet note was really nice then too.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Japanese Quinoa Salad

Oops I did it again. I was half way through making this before I realised that it was Accidentally Vegan (well it would be if you use vegetable stock, which I did and leave out the honey I guess). It could be gluten free, if you used the tamari (I think that's GF, although I'm not a GF expert).

It's great where inspiration can strike. Thumbing through this weeks Good Living (the Tuesday Food and Wine supplement in the Sydney Morning Herald) my eyes lit up at the kids recipe- a spinoff from the Junior Masterchef phenomenon no doubt. Japanese Quinoa Salad.

I had some fabulous quinoa in the pantry and thought it would look fantastic in this salad.

Actually I think it looks prettier uncooked and in the packet, but it's still a nice effect.

Japanese Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 large carrot, peeled, julienned, blanched
1/2 red capsicum (bell pepper), julienned
Large handful snow peas, topped, blanched
1 small cucumber, washed, julienned
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cashews, toasted, roughly chopped
1 toasted nori sheet, ripped into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Baby spinach leaves, washed

Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp finely grated ginger
1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp honey, optional

Wash the quinoa by rinsing it in cold water and strain well. Put washed quinoa and stock into a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower heat, cook over low to medium heat for 25 minutes, or until soft, and water absorbed. Set aside.

Combine cooled quinoa, carrots, capsicum, snow peas, cucumber and spinach. Add the coriander, cashews, sesame seeds (reserving some to serve).

To make the dressing, mix all ingredients and stir lightly.

Dress the salad and toss lightly, sprinkle with nori and extra sesame seeds.

OMG I can't believe how delicious this salad is. My new favourite lunch, and I haven't even had a chance to blog my old favourite lunch yet. Interestingly, both involve quinoa. Although not all quinoa experiments are as successful as I found out today when I toyed with a sweet quinoa dish.

Suggested as suitable for 8-12 year olds to make, but is easy enough for adults to make too.

I can't stand raw carrot, and think it's actually inedible, and since I've already eaten some once this year, I decided to modify this recipe by cooking the carrots, and greening it up, with some snow peas and spinach. I was planning to add asparagus (just because I love it, and the season will end soon) but the stuff available yesterday was about as thick as my forearm, and didn't look appealing.

I  upped the amount of cashews because it seemed a bit stingy, and you can never have too many cashews now can you? And I doubled the amount of coriander, just because I love it so.

I just realised I forgot the ginger from the dressing! Oops. Still delicious. I used the honey, I may try it without, I was planning to, but it really is delicious as is, did I mention that? So now I don't really want to mess with perfection.

 Because this makes a reasonable amount of salad, and since I'm using it for work lunches it will last me the majority of the week, so I only made up the quinoa, carrot and capsicum. Then each day I add fresh greens to it in my lunch box. And I carry little containers with the seeds/nuts/nori/dressing to keep them fresh and crunchy, to keep the texture nice. No point in having soggy salad just because you're at work, there has to be one highlight to the day.

I'm planning on topping it with the asian flavoured tofu that I have lurking in the fridge (no-one else in the house is in danger of touching it!), but didn't get around to that today. I'm sure it would work with a tin of soy beans mixed through as well.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Little did I know when I started eating low GI a few months ago that I would end up with Gluten Free, Sugarless Chocolate in my paws. It wasn't an expected turning for me. This is not the sort of food product that I would have even noticed a few short months ago. And possibly I know why.

I'm always rather concerned when my food contains warnings. Particularly if they need to warn that Excess Consumption may have a Laxative Effect. Great. How much is Excess? Will one block cause me to run to the loo? One line? Half a block? Eight kilos of it? How much? This warning is because the first ingredient I now notice (more than cocoa butter which comes second in the Lemon White Chocolate) is maltitol. Maltitol is an artificial sweetener, which is poorly absorbed (thus the diarrhoea warnings), and so even though it has a moderate GI (69 in my book, but I see different and lower values on the web), it has little effect on blood sugar levels. Ah, wiki tells me that the United States classes maltitol in the Generally Recognised as Safe club, and that the potential laxative effect may occur if more than 100 gm/day is consumed. Whew, I've never got near that.

The thing that most concerns me about maltitol without googling it for hours is that it is made from corn. I haven't read all of Michael Pollan's work, but I have read part of the corn section in The Omnivore's Dilemma. He talks about the dangers of monocultures in agriculture, and how this forces us into heavier reliance on fossil fuels and chemicals to negate natural pests. He also tells us that the carbon in corn is naturally different so that scientists can test meals to see how much of the carbon came from corn (I can't remember the intricacies of how), and if you pulverise a hamburger from a fast food "restaurant" then I think it was something like 70% of the carbon came from corn! Although this article on the Scientific American site, gives a figure of up to 93%! All rather frightening. 

This first low GI chocolate experience one wasn't too bad, I think. I don't remember it being awful at any stretch (I bought this a month or two ago, near the start of the blog, and I didn't realise that I would use it here). I don't remember it very well actually, I may have to try it again to be sure. 
Why, why can't I turn this around?

I had high hopes for this next one. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I do have an underlying optimistic streak after all? The girl in the chemist (yes, that is where this sort of treat lurks, in the chemist, that should have been warning) gushed about how nice this particular chocolate was when I bought it, she said the staff had all tried it and thought it was really nice. 

Sadly, it wasn't Really Nice. In fact it wasn't even nice. It was Awful. The artificial lemon smell was really quite overpowering and smelt like they may actually manufacture this in the Shower Power factory. That fake lemon smell is ok, if you want to clean the bathroom, but if you want to eat a yummy chocolate, well, it's not what you're looking for. Why is it only when I get it home and open the packet, I see the Artificial Vanilla and Lemon Flavours padding out the ingredient list?

The chocolate itself I found soapy with a grainy texture. It was Awful.

I've just noticed a warning on the back of the pack, that it isn't recommended for kids under 3 years of age. You know, if they can't eat it, then I don't want to either. Although that doesn't apply to everything of course. They can't eat whole nuts because they might choke on them, but at least they aren't considered toxic. 

Oh great and I just noticed it was expired (08 2010). Urgh. I can't imagine that explains my experience, but it's still annoying. And should have been another clue.

I surely must be an optimist, as on a recent trip to Bathurst, I was caught short without adequate supplies of antihistamines and panadol, so as I fronted up to the counter at the chemist (oh dear God I'm in there again) I noticed this little packet. Now I'm not a great fan of Darrel Lea chocolate as a rule. They do make a Chocolate Caramel Snow Bar that I liked as a youngster, but I generally don't buy any of their stuff from year to year. So, I'm not quite sure why I bought it, but I did. 

To be fair, it had quite a reasonable snap when I broke a piece off. It looked ok. But it wasn't good in the mouth. It almost tasted like compound chocolate with a nasty edge to it, so much so that it was a bit of a struggle to finish even this modest 50gm bar. But finish it I did, although it did take a couple of days. 

Monday, 15 November 2010

Never a dull moment with lentils

The Young Ones may never have had a dull moment with lentils, but I imagine that the rest of us have. Lentils have a bad reputation, not altogether fully deserved I believe. I have made and loved a brown rice and lentil soup for 15-20 years. I'm well aware that it does sound Rather Awful. But everyone who has tried it always wants the recipe.

Lentils are low gi wonders. They are nutritional powerhouses- full of protein, fibre and nutrients. And they are tasty too. There are different varieties to play with as well. I used some Australian grown Puy style lentils that I had lying about the house.

Browsing through the Essential Ingredient recently I noticed they have some black lentils, which I think they called Lentil Caviar. That is possibly going a bit far, but I know what kind of lentils I'll be trying next.

So my eyes lit up when flipping through the latest issue of Cuisine (a marvellous food mag from New Zealand) and I saw Ray McVinnie's current Quick Smart article. More a series of food suggestions than actual recipes, this month he features lots of delicious suggestions for grains, pasta and pulses- all right up my low GI alley.

Lots of fabulous suggestions- Spicy Quinoa and Pork, Barley and Asparagus Bake, Orzo with Roast Pumpkin and Kumara. The one that really caught my eye first was Lentil Egg Salad. It looked the perfect weekday work lunch suggestion. Easy to prepare ahead, yummy, and an excuse to have some bacon and eggs, and call it healthy.

Lentil Egg Salad

Boil some green or brown lentils in plenty of water with half an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery until the lentils are tender. Drain, discard the vegetables, toss the lentils in a little extra virgin olive oil, season and serve in a salad with cos leaves, soft-poached eggs, watercress sprigs, crisp bacon, capers, walnuts and a dressing made by pouring a big splash of red wine vinegar into the fat in the hot bacon pan after the bacon has been added to the salad.

I cooked up a batch of lentils and then made it into quite a different lunch each day for the week.  I think it's quite a hangover from my (lengthy) student days that I can quite happily eat the same thing for 3 or 4 days in a row. By day 5 though even my tolerance is wearing a bit thin. This lunch was good for padding out a week, it was reasonably different each day depending on what left overs I had to play around with. One day I used the leftover mango and blueberry salsa.

Another day I had some chopped mushrooms, corn and capsicum. It was quite the production in the staff dining room, cutting my egg and avocado and shelling pistachios.

I forgot to take photos of the first few days, which I thought were the best with leftover asparagus and mashed kumara. You could use basically anything and get a different, tasty, low GI lunch every day.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Roasted Broadbeans

These have to be one of the biggest surprises of my "low GI journey" thus far. I would never have predicted that I would like broad beans, or indeed that I would try- and like roasted broadbeans. I remember being vaguely apprehensive about even buying them, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. They appear to be more aimed at modern middle class mums looking to put something other than chips or muesli bars into their youngsters lunch box for school- billed as "lunch box Fava-rites". Oh dear. We get it. 

But 40 somethings on a low GI path can enjoy them too. They are actually a tasty snack as claimed. I've never been much of a one for a packet of crisps. Indeed, I'd buy something like that maybe once every five to ten years, but these are good for those moments when you need some crunch and salt. They even make an easy snack to slip into your bag to take to the movies, and to share with your unsuspecting, but immediately suspicious friend- who turned out to like them too. 

And they do seem moderately healthy. They are low GI. A good source of protein. The fat is probably a bit high, but given they're packaged in handy portion controlled 25 gram packets- that only gives you a modest 6.1 grams of fat. And I like that the ingredients are all those with names, not numbers.
 Even better, we're doing a good thing for the environment by eating them, as broad beans are one of the "green manure" crops used to fix nitrogen and replenish the soil after other crops have been grown.

And we get a tasty snack out of the deal too:

Even the dog likes them:
Please Sir may I have some more?

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Dining Out Low GI

It is possible! Even in a relatively small town, with a small range of options. I've been lucky enough to have a few meals out in the past few weeks. This is what I chose that didn't blow the GI budget.

Lunch with a friend and Mr Adventures at Bensons. You have to love the pumpkin, walnut and fetta salad on the lunch menu. Sadly the oven had been set to scorch for the pumpkin that day- it was almost petrified in texture. Still tasted ok. And I never buy red leaves to eat at home, but they always make them taste nice.

And then an excuse to have breakfast at Benson's with Grandma Adventures. I've long loved the mushrooms and spinach on toast. It's cooked in a garlicky sauce. Yum. Now you can have an option extra of a poached egg. Of course I ordered grain bread under that pile of veg. And I had a green tea instead of the usual smoothie treat that (used to) I like.

A family lunch at the Union Bank- chickpea felafel wrap with salad. Probably not what I would previously have ordered. But it was tasty. And as everyone else ordered fish and chips, and as the serves are very large, I got to eat a piece of fish too.

Master Adventures loves a cheese plate. He made short work of this. I must admit to helping. Those dried apricots were by far the best I've ever had. Must find out what brand they use, they were astonishing. The cheese was great too, and the little pot of fruit paste- possbily peach- absolutely delicious. I tried a dried muscatel- they still don't work for me- all those little seed. Blech.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Broad Bean Felafel Fritters

My broad bean experimentation continued with another recipe from the same Sydney Morning Herald article (Caroline Velik, Spring Means Beans, 28/9/10). This time for Broad bean felafel fritters with minted yoghurt. I never got around to making the minted yoghurt as I had plenty of homemade cheese that I was experimenting with at this time.

These delicious fritters combine broad beans with chickpeas. Chickpeas are low gi and help to counteract the medium gi rating of the broadbeans, making these fritters a low gi treat.

I was Really Surprised at how much I loved these. They are absolutely delicious. I would love to make these for most of the year. Sadly the broad bean season is quite short, so I bought another kilo of broad beans today, so I can enjoy another batch of these soon. Best thing is my husband doesn't like chickpeas, has convinced himself that he doensn't like broad beans either, so I get to eat all of these without any competition.

Broad Bean Felafel Fritters

1kg fresh broad beans
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup loosely packed coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 red chilli, seeded and sliced
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 cup plain flour for dusting
Vegetable oil for frying

Remove broad beans from their outer shells. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add beans and cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Remove and drain. Peel off outer pod and set aside. Put beans and chickpeas in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add coriander, mint, salt, pepper, garlic, spices, lemon zest and juice and pulse until finely chopped.

Use your hands to shape the mixture into 10-12 small patties, then lightly dust with flour to coat.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook fritters on both sides until lightly browned. Drain on paper towel and set aside. 

The picture suggestion in the original article just had the fritters, with minted yoghurt served with a rocket salad. I decided to make a wrap, with avocado, rocket, grape kumatos, and homemade soft cheese. It was fantastic. The fritters are so light and fresh tasting compared to regular felafels. Wonderful. These fritters are absolutely delicious. If you're trying to eat low GI or not. They're just delicious, my favourite sort of low GI experience- food that you'd choose to eat regardless.

The minted yoghurt was just 1 cup plain yoghurt, mixed with 2 tblsp shredded mint leaves.
These could be gluten free if you use a gluten free flour at the end, and using a gluten free wrap obviously.