Posts in recipes
BIT OF A TREAT!
Watermelon & Tomato Gazpacho

Watermelon & Tomato Gazpacho

I was in Manhattan last week for a mind-blowingly-fabulous wedding in Brooklyn! The weather was blisteringly hot and The Liberty Warehouse on Pier 41 in the historic shipping yards of Red Hook, Brooklyn where the wedding, the feasting and the dancing took place was something else with the Statue of Liberty looking on and Manhattan in the background - very, very special indeed!

Of course, there was a fair amount of eating and drinking throughout the week with great friends - plus lots of new friends!

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Two that I should mention: ABC Kitchen - everything our server, George suggested was superb (there was a lot of oohing and aahing going on). And yes, the salted caramel ice cream, chocolate sauce and popcorn was everything that past reviewers of the restaurant have raved about!

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The Empire Diner at 210 10th Ave (corner of 22nd Street) where ‘he and me’ had a late brunch (pastrami on rye for himself, avocado toast and a really-spicy Bloody Mary for me). But it’s really more about the place which apparently has closed and opened over the years but locals keep coming back! It is a beautiful and fabulously-art deco space where you just kind of want to sit around and enjoy for hours!

However… you might be wondering where the soup in the intro pic came from? Well, as I mentioned, it was blisteringly hot and somehow or other the conversation moved onto chilled soups one lunchtime and I was reliably-informed by a number of NYC residents that there are a number of restaurants and diners that do a brilliant Watermelon & Tomato Gazpacho when the weather is unbearably hot and it is said that there is nothing like it to cool you down. I didn’t get a chance to partake but blow-me-down, when we arrived back in Glasgow, the weather was magnificent so I gave it a try and it was a bit of a triumph! Thanks to Mark Bittman, the widely respected food writer for the bones of this recipe in one of his very many New York Times columns. Here’s it is…

'WARM NOT HOT' IF YOU PLEASE!
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You know how when you are in a rush and happen upon ‘certain coffee establishments’ (that are not your usual haunts) and your coffee is simply way too damned hot and you have to take the lid off and dear alone know what happens next when you don’t have some sort of ‘cover’ to contain the possibly-ensuing drama?

Same goes for take-away soups in my experience! Not all (but too many in my book!) Surely we don’t want to have to ‘blow’ on every spoonful? Lunch hour could easily be over before we’re done!

I imagine it all comes down to the setting on the microwave and the fear of ingredients not being properly heated through (and someone getting sick or worse!) I often microwave my own homemade soups and each soup is so very different - clear, noodle-y types are reheated in a jiffy, vegetable-y, bean-y, lentil-y ones take a little longer and the meat-y, vegetabl-y broths can take an age (generally, you are better to just put them in a pan on a medium heat until the soup comes (just) to the boil and then simmer gently until you are ready to dive in!

Or perhaps, those ‘soup cups’ don’t lend themselves to ‘cooling down quickly’! My advice is to look for a mobile caravan which still has ‘the soup of the day’ in big soup kettles where the staff are way more in control of the temperature of the soup - just saying!.

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One I am particularly fond of and follow is Union Genius of Edinburgh. They are quite a bunch - offering you a truly great lunch (soup is the main player) and maintaining their ethical approach to cooking and providing - have a look at their website - it’s inspiring….



EARLY MORNINGS, LONG DAYS AND LATE NIGHTS
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Looking great, staying focused and having loads of energy when every day is full-on is a big ask and when you are often up at the crack of dawn, work long hours and regularly have to attend social events in the evening, getting your diet right to keep you firing on all cylinders can be stressful to say the least. And if you are trying to lose weight, can be even harder. But, a few little secrets up your sleeve can give you the edge over your bleary-eyed, stress-ridden contemporaries!

The Big Secret

Get this one right and you will be well-ahead of the game! You can’t afford energy dips if you want to keep all the balls in the air from morning to night, get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed every day. The diagram below illustrates very simply why eating small, often and well provides sustained energy all day (the red line) and why forgetting to eat, eating on the run, grabbing a sugary/salty snack or following a very low calorie diet results in you roller coasting from huge bursts of energy which see you achieving mammoth tasks in record time only to be quickly followed by monumental energy dips where you just want to put your head on the desk and close your eyes (the black line). Keep your hungry brain satisfied and blood sugar highs and lows won’t invade your day (or night). 

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TOP TIPS TO KEEP YOU IN THE RED ZONE

GRAZE ON FABULOUS FATS: Foods rich in essential fatty acids (particularly Omega 3s) keep you feeling fuller for longer, keep your brain sharp, plump up your skin cells delaying wrinkles, keep hair shiny and nails strong, accelerate fat loss and provide sustained energy.

Top Foods: Fresh nuts and seeds, nut and seed oils and butters, oily fish (fresh, frozen or tinned), Omega 3-rich eggs and avocado.

MAKE PROTEIN A PRIORITY: Adding a little quality protein to every meal and snack throughout the day ensures that the sugars derived from the carbohydrates you eat are delivered more slowly into the bloodstream thus avoiding energy dips and cravings.

Top Foods: Lean meats and poultry, game, eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas and hard cheeses.     

BUY A BIGGER HANDBAG/BRIEFCASE: The power of a portable snack can’t be overstressed! With just a little pre-planning you can ensure that you keep the hunger monster at bay by grazing on a small healthy snack.

Top Foods: A bag of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit, a couple of mini oatcakes with cottage cheese, a few vegetable sticks with hummus, a small pack of fishy sushi or a pot of natural yoghurt with fresh fruit are easy to find, easy to transport and light on the pocket.

WATCH OUT FOR WHITE FOODS: White foods are mostly refined foods. The nutritious outer coating of the grain has been removed leaving little more than sugar and starch which are broken down and released into the blood stream at record speed, don’t satisfy you for long and prompt a need for another snack all too soon.

Top Culprits: White bread, white pasta, crisps, biscuits, cakes, pastries, fries, buns and sugary, fizzy drinks are the worst culprits. Keep them to a minimum wherever possible and if they are unavoidable have some protein alongside (see above). 

HIKE UP THE HAPPY FOODS: Some foods encourage the production of the reward chemical, dopamine which makes us feel happy and when we feel happy we are less likely to want or need a generous helping of our favourite comfort foods which more often than not don’t tick the healthy, nutritious foods box!

Top Foods: Fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, venison, eggs, oats, bananas and peanuts.

BECOME A BEAN-AHOLIC: Beans, lentils and some of their legume cousins are a rich source of non-digestible carbohydrates which help to slow down the pace at which other carbohydrates get broken down, keep you feeling fuller for longer, increase the absorption of calcium which is linked to reducing fat storage and promote a phenomenon where we regularly eat less at our next meal or snack.

Top Foods: All beans and lentils, corn, split peas, barley, brown rice, millet, oats

EXERCISE OUTDOORS: A deficiency of vitamin D can interfere with our appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin causing us to eat more. Vitamin D is primarily synthesised after exposure to sunlight. Exercising outdoors for half an hour a day, preferably with bare arms and legs ups the synthesis and helps to ensure we don’t become deficient.

Top Foods: Mackerel, herring, tinned salmon, tinned sardines and eggs provide reasonable levels of vitamin D so get them into your diet wherever possible.   

HAVE A BEDTIME SNACK: Sleep deprivation not only makes it nigh on impossible to fire on all cylinders all day but also, upsets the balance of the hunger and fullness hormones, ghrelin and leptin which prompt disordered eating patterns. One of the major reasons we find it difficult to get to sleep or wake up at five in the morning and can’t get back to sleep is because our blood sugar levels are all over the place. A small bedtime snack taken around half an hour before bed involving foods rich in the amino acid, tryptophan which prompts the production of the sleepy chemical, serotonin can be an extremely useful tactic.

Top Choices: A mug of hot chocolate made with 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate granules and soya milk, one egg lightly scrambled on an oatcake, a small plate of porridge with a drizzle of Manuka honey or a small bowl of turkey and spinach broth.

LOVING THE CORN-FED CHICKENS IN PORTUGAL!
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Just back from Portugal - again! And I can’t tell you how ridiculously-good their corn-fed chicken is… plus the vegetables from the Saturday market in Lagos, courtesy of the local farmers who bring their produce every single week - so fresh, so delicious, so colourful and so ‘straight from the earth and onto your plate’. So I had to make my my One Pot Chicken but with everything that the farmers had to offer - cabbage, peppers, aubergines, parsley and a few delicious nuts thrown in - that was a meal let me tell you!

SPICED LAMB SALAD
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I mentioned the superb, top-grade lamb mince from James F and James M of Field & Flower in my newsletter last week and this reminded me of my Spiced Lamb Salad which I haven’t made in quite a while. Just how ridiculous is it that I seem to forget some of the recipes that I worked so long and so hard to get them just right!

When you look at the recipe, you could argue that the nut, seed and spice mix is slightly time-consuming (you can make it way ahead and keep it in the fridge, so don’t fret) but when the lean lamb is coated in it and served alongside the creamy feta cheese, the couscous, lots of watercress and the oh-so-sweet chunks of watermelon it is ONE JOYFUL AND FILLING SALAD! And, on a ‘nutrition-y note’ - a cracking good balance of protein, essential fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

PORTUGUESE CUSTARD TARTS! OH YES PLEASE!
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Yes, I know that they don’t necessarily ‘fit’ with a soup/nutrition blog but they are so very hard to resist! James of the Portugalist website sums it up very nicely… “This pastry is quite simply perfection in two bites.” I am going to let him tell you about the history of pastéis de nata because he grew up in Portugal and he tells it way better than me!

You have really got to try one, it has got to be a Portuguese-owned bakery and it has to be baked fresh that very morning - no ‘second day’ pastéis de nata - no way! And best ever, those that are still warm, straight from the oven - heaven in two bites (or perhaps three!)

And if you are in Lagos in Western Algarve look no further than Gomba Pastelaria on Rua Dom Vasco da Gama (just past the back of the bus station, two doors past the equally-fine butcher’s shop - Talho Lusitano). And btw: they also do a Coffee and Walnut Cake to die for!

DON'T YOU JUST LOVE A NOODLE?
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I suppose it goes way back to those slippery, little noodles in Knorr’s Chicken Noodle Soup? I don’t think I have ever come across a single person who was growing up in the 60’s who didn’t delight in that deliciously-lovely ‘powdered’ soup that only needed some water to make it come alive - with oodles of noodles!

Sadly, I have just had a look at the ingredients and they weren’t really proper noodles at all! Maltodextrin, EGG pasta [durum WHEAT semolina, dried EGG white, dried EGG yolk] (23%), potato starch, salt, flavourings (contain EGG, WHEAT, BARLEY), chicken (2.5%), sugar, chicken fat (2.5%), onion powder, yeast extract, citric acid, turmeric, parsley, antioxidant (extracts of rosemary). Oh well, didn’t seem to do us too much harm and perhaps gave us a taste of just why noodles are the business (especially in soups)!

It is hard to put into words just how utterly delicious my Thai Prawn Noodle Soup is … as I say in the intro, it is all about the spice paste right at the offset. I use one of those little spice-grinders and it makes light work of the process and your soup can be ready in less than half an hour!

Instead of the prawns, you can substitute cooked and shredded chicken or duck, strips of salmon, cubes of tofu or just a few diced spring onions, spinach or bok choy.