Recipe: Pumpkin, ginger & lemongrass soup

I love soup and pumpkin soup has been among my favourites forever. Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Its sweetness, accentuated by roasting it instead of just boiling it, pairs well with the zing of ginger, lemongrass and lime juice.

This recipe is gluten-free and can be made vegan/vegetarian by using vegetable broth and omitting the fish sauce. It’s low in fat (if you don’t add the optional coconut milk) and protein. You can add some cooked chicken or boiled eggs to bump up the protein content.

Pumpkin, ginger & lemongrass soup

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 small pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3-cm piece of ginger
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • 4 coriander stalks
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • salt to taste
  • juice of 1 lime

To serve

  • coriander leaves
  • fresh chilli (optional)
  • splash of coconut milk (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced).
  2. Peel, seed and cube pumpkin. Place on a baking tray and roast for 40 minutes.
  3. While the pumpkin cooks, chop onion, ginger, lemongrass and coriander stalks.
  4. Heat coconut oil in a pot at low temperature. Add the onion, ginger, lemongrass and coriander stalks and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  5. When pumpkin is ready, place in a blender or food processor along with the aromatics, broth, fish sauce and lime juice.
  6. Process to desired consistency, adding more broth or water if desired. Adjust seasoning and serve garnished with coriander leaves and sliced chilli. Add a splash of coconut milk if you wish.

Recipe: Banana pancakes

Banana pancakes are the perhaps the easiest pancakes you’ll ever make. This recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.

The basic recipe has only 2 ingredients: banana and eggs. That’s 1 serve of fruit and 1 serve of protein foods ticked off for the day. I add cinnamon because I love its taste and it helps control blood sugar.

Ripe bananas work best for this recipe, as they are easier to mash. Smaller pancakes are easier to flip. If you are like me and the sweetness of the banana is enough, you can use unsweetened yoghurt (e.g. YoPro or Rokeby Farms) or peanut butter (e.g. Mayver’s) as toppings. These will also increase the protein content of the meal. Otherwise, feel free to use honey, maple syrup or any other topping of your choice.

Banana pancakes

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ghee or olive oil

To serve

  • honey or maple syrup or Greek yoghurt or peanut butter

Directions

  1. Mash banana and eggs using a food processor, blender, potato masher or fork. Try to achieve a smooth consistency.
  2. Add cinnamon and mix well.
  3. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pan, pour about 1/3 cup of batter and cook until it has firmed up and it’s easy to flip.
  4. Flip and cook on the other side.
  5. Serve with your chosen topping.

Recipe: Black sesame baba ganoush

Black sesame baba ganoush is also (see my recipe for black sesame hummus) my kind of dip. Tasty, healthy, black. It looks scary enough for people to avoid it, so there’s always more for me. Make it for Halloween or any other day.

Black sesame seeds are widely used in Chinese medicine. Science suggests they may lower blood pressure and protect against oxidative stress (1). They may also reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels as well as protect cardiovascular, liver and kidney function, among other positive outcomes. Scientists have found at least 20 metabolites that are higher in black sesame seeds than in the white variety and might be responsible for their health benefits (2).

Baba ganoush can be spelled several different ways and I’m sure there’s some controversy regarding which country invented it. Regardless, it’s delicious and also healthy, vegan, gluten-free and it contributes to your daily vegetable intake.

Black sesame baba ganoush

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons black tahini
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

To serve

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Optional but recommended: Wrap garlic cloves in foil and bake for 20-40 minutes at medium heat (160-170°C).
  2. If you decide not to roast the garlic, mince it.
  3. Set oven to grill or broiler, place eggplants on a baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes, turning it every once in a while until the skin is charred on all sides.
  4. Split eggplant in two lengthwise and scoop the flesh out.
  5. Place in a blender or food processor with the rest of ingredients. Process until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Check seasoning, serve in a bowl sprinkled with chopped parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with crudités (fancy for raw vegetable sticks) and/or crackers.

References

  1. Wichitsranoi J, Weerapreeyakul N, Boonsiri P, Settasatian C, Settasatian N, Komanasin N, et al. Antihypertensive and antioxidant effects of dietary black sesame meal in pre-hypertensive humans. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10(1):82.
  2. Wang D, Zhang L, Huang X, Wang X, Yang R, Mao J, et al. Identification of Nutritional Components in Black Sesame Determined by Widely Targeted Metabolomics and Traditional Chinese Medicines. Molecules. 2018;23(5).

Recipe: Black sesame hummus

Black sesame hummus is my kind of dip. Tasty, healthy, black. It looks scary enough for people to avoid it, so there’s always more for me. Make it for Halloween or any other day.

Black sesame seeds are widely used in Chinese medicine. Science suggests they may lower blood pressure and protect against oxidative stress (1). They may also reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels as well as protect cardiovascular, liver and kidney function, among other positive outcomes. Scientists have found at least 20 metabolites that are higher in black sesame seeds than in the white variety and might be responsible for their health benefits (2).

Hummus is also pretty healthy. In fact, it is considered a healthy staple in many circles as it’s vegan, gluten-free, high in fibre, relatively high in protein, etc. There is controversy as to where hummus hails from but I won’t go there. I do recommend listening to this Savor podcast episode if you want to know more about this tasty dip.

Black tahini hummus

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can (400g) chickpeas
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tbsp black tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt and black pepper

To serve

  • smoked paprika
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Optional but recommended: Wrap garlic cloves in foil and bake for 20-40 minutes at medium heat (160-170°C).
  2. If you decide not to roast the garlic, mince it.
  3. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place in a blender or food processor with 1/4 cup water and the rest of ingredients. Process until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Check seasoning, serve in a bowl sprinkled with smoked paprika and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with crudités (fancy for raw vegetable sticks) and/or crackers.

References

  1. Wichitsranoi J, Weerapreeyakul N, Boonsiri P, Settasatian C, Settasatian N, Komanasin N, et al. Antihypertensive and antioxidant effects of dietary black sesame meal in pre-hypertensive humans. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10(1):82.
  2. Wang D, Zhang L, Huang X, Wang X, Yang R, Mao J, et al. Identification of Nutritional Components in Black Sesame Determined by Widely Targeted Metabolomics and Traditional Chinese Medicines. Molecules. 2018;23(5).
Chilli con carne

Recipe: Chilli con carne

There are a million recipes to make chilli con carne and I can’t say mine is better nor more authentic (I’m Peruvian, not Mexican! nor American!) but I can definitely say it is pretty tasty.

Once again I’ve used Feather and Bone’s fabulous organic mince with organs (super food!) to make it extra nutritious.

You can serve it in any of the traditional ways: with rice, in nachos, topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, etc. I like to serve it with vegetables (e.g. steamed or roasted broccoli and/or cauliflower), topped with coriander, avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. However you decide to serve it, I hope you enjoy it.

Chilli con carne

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 500 g organic beef mince with organs (or regular beef mince)
  • 1 tbsp chipotles in adobo
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked black or red beans
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pot.
  2. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add mince and break down with a spoon, allowing it to brown.
  4. Add chipotles in adobo, tomatoes, beans and stock.
  5. Add oregano by rubbing it between your hands to break the leaves. Season with salt and pepper, stir.
  6. Cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Uncover pot and continue cooking for another 15 minutes or so, to allow chilli to thicken.
  8. Garnish with coriander and serve with veggies, avocado and a squeeze of lime juice.

Safcol tuna pouches

Product review: Safcol tuna pouches

Safcol produce a large percentage of the canned fish available in Australia. Their tuna is wild caught using sustainable fishing practices.

Canned tuna is a cheap and convenient source of protein. When bought in brine or springwater is low in fat, some of which is in the form of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Apart from the traditional cans, Safcol has recently launched a new line of tuna pouches. As the package reads, these are a good addition to salads, sandwiches, wraps and pasta (they also mention pizza but I’m not to sure about that one…)

Pros

  • Compact, light and portable
  • No need to drain
  • Some varieties contain very few healthy ingredients
  • Good portion size (74 g) as some people find the medium-sized cans (185 g) too big

Nutrition

Safcol tuna pouches nutrition

The nutritional value of these tuna pouches vary greatly depending on the flavour. Having looked at the ingredients, I would recommend sticking to the springwater and oil blend varieties, and adding herbs/spices as desired.

The ingredients in Safcol Responsibly Fished Tuna Pouch Springwater are: skipjack tuna (80%) and springwater (20%). Each pouch contains:

Energy (kj): 304
Protein (g): 17.3
Fats (g): 0.2
– Saturated (g): 0.1
– Polyunsaturated (g): 0.1
– Omega-3 (mg): 84
– EPA (mg): 8
– DHA (mg): 75
– Monounsaturated (g): 0.1
Carbohydrates (g): <0.5
– Sugars (g): <0.5
Sodium (mg): 242

The ingredients in Safcol Responsibly Fished Tuna Pouch with Oil Blend are: skipjack tuna (80%), oil blend (coconut oil (7%), extra virgin olive oil (7%)), water and salt.Each pouch contains:

Energy (kj): 588
Protein (g): 14.1
Fats (g): 7.1
– Saturated (g): 3.2
– Polyunsaturated (g): 0.5
– Omega-3 (mg): 207
– EPA (mg): 19
– DHA (mg): 161
– Monounsaturated (g): 3.4
Carbohydrates (g): 5.1
– Sugars (g): 0.4
Sodium (mg): 236

Taste test

I liked the taste and texture of both the springwater and oil blend versions. Again, you can add your own flavourings such as herbs, spices, vinegars, citrus and extra virgin olive oil.

More info

For more info on these or other products, head to Safcol’s website.

SunRice rice cups

Product review: SunRice rice cups

SunRice rice cups are made by one of the main brands rice available in Australia. Back in the day rice used to be just rice, and people would have whatever rice was common in their place of origin. For example, medium grain rice is the norm in Perú, and we use it for most things – savoury and sweet. Brown rice became popular as people got more interested in health and other types of rice started appearing on shelves as consumers got interested in trying other cuisines (e.g. basmati for Indian curries, glutinous rice for sushi, arborio for risotto, bomba for paella).

Similarly, a greater interest in consuming other grains considered highly nutritious, has created a market for blends of grains which can be used as a substitute for plain rice. In parallel, the convenience factor has driven a market of microwaveable foods which, as you will see, doesn’t necessarily mean hyper-processed unhealthy junk.

The cups

SunRice cups contain blends of rice and other grains that have been precooked and are ready to be reheated. I got the following samples at a conference:

  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Tri Blend Cup with brown rice, red rice and quinoa
  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Super Duo Cup with brown rice and riceberry rice
  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Multigrain Blend Cup with brown rice, red rice, buckwheat, quinoa and chia

Pros

  • Convenience
  • Good portion size, particularly for people who have problems regulating their servings
  • Higher in protein and fibre than plain rice
  • More interesting flavour and texture than plain rice
  • All cups are gluten-free

Cons

  • Plastic. No matter what the manufacturer says, I don’t like to heat plastic in the microwave. Also more packaging that goes to landfill.
  • It can be too big of a portion size for people who need to regulate their carb intake, and the cup can’t be re-sealed when opened. If that’s the case, you might be better off eating cauliflower rice or mixing a small amount of rice with lupin flakes instead.
  • Higher in protein and fibre than plain rice
  • Apart from the cooked grains, the cups contain sunflower oil and stabiliser (471), presumably to improve the texture of the final product, but I find it gives the rice a chalky mouthfeel. Also, some people with food chemical intolerance can be sensitive to the stabiliser.

Nutrition

See the panels below for 2 of the SunRice rice cups that I tried:

Super Duo:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 125g
Servings Per Container 2

Amount Per Serving
Calories 214 Calories from Fat 38.7
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4.3g 7%
Saturated Fat 1.0g 5%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 18mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 39.9g 13%
Dietary Fiber 2.6g 10%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 4.1g 8%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Multigrain Blend:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 125g
Servings Per Container 2

Amount Per Serving
Calories 220 Calories from Fat 35.1
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.9g 6%
Saturated Fat 0.8g 4%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 16mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 41.5g 14%
Dietary Fiber 3.1g 12%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 4.8g 10%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The verdict

I think SunRice rice cups are good to have in hand if you absolutely have zero time to cook. If you are somewhat organised and have some spare minutes, you can batch-cook your own blend of grains, portion them up and freeze for later.

More info

Head to SunRice’s website to learn more about their steamed rice (and other) products:

Recipe: Salmon with roasted Brussel sprouts, fennel and pesto

This is an easy recipe that combines some of my favourite things: crispy skin salmon, Brussel sprouts and pesto. This is a meal packed with healthy fats, including omega-3 from the salmon and monounsaturated fats from the extra-virgin olive oil. This dish is gluten-free and low in carbs. Feel free to swap the vegetables for your favourite ones or whatever you have available.

I used Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk) instead of Parmigiano Reggiano because I prefer its sharp taste, but you can use regular Parmesan. I also left out the garlic – I prefer using roasted garlic instead of raw in sauces but wanted to keep this recipe as simple as possible. You will have leftover pesto to enjoy with your morning eggs.

Salmon with roasted Brussel sprouts, fennel and pesto

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Salmon and vegetables

  • 3 salmon fillets
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 600 gr Brussel sprouts
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pesto

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 30g grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).
  2. Trim and halve Brussel sprouts, trim and slice fennel. Place vegetables on a tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables cook, place washed basil leaves, pine nuts, cheese, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor. Process to desired texture. Check seasoning, add salt if needed and several grinds of black pepper.
  4. Heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Place the salmon fillets skin side down, season flesh with salt and pepper. Let cook for 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness.
  5. Flip fillets using a spatula and cook for another 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness.
  6. Serve fillets skin side up to preserve crispness or skin side down with a dollop of pesto on top for colour contrast. Serve roasted vegetables on the side, seasoned with salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

portable breakfast

Portable breakfast ideas

I was recently motivated to come up with some portable breakfast ideas. Based on recommendations by Dr Valter Longo and others, I’ve been aiming to keep my food intake within a 12 hour window every day. The main reason I’ve struggled to comply with this rule is that sometimes I get home pretty late (8pm or later) after working out.

The solution

To solve this, I’ve adjusted my breakfast time to ~8am, which means I now eat breakfast at work. This means my breakfast has to be: a) portable and b) not too weird (okay, maybe just a little).

The breakfast ideas

Below is the nutritional breakdown of several combos that work for me. Keep in mind that I eat low(er) carb in the morning and high(er) carb at night because that’s what works for my work/training schedule. Also, the nutrition information is taken from generic foods rather than specific products (except for the soups)

Breakfast Energy (kJ) Protein (g) Fat (g) Carbs (g) Calcium (mg)
Yoghurt + peanut butter 2067 21.8 35.3 20.2 341.5
Yoghurt + peanut butter + collagen peptides 2251 32.8 35.3 20.2 341.5
3 boiled eggs + 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil mayonnaise + greens 1480 18.44 30.4 1.2 70.1
3 boiled eggs + 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil mayonnaise + kimchi 1469 18.1 30.4 1.3 63.1
1/2 avocado + 2 eggs + kimchi 1494 13.8 32.3 1.1 55.7
1/2 avocado + 2 eggs + 1 tsp fish roe 1504 14.2 32.5 0.4 51.2
1/2 avocado + small can of tuna in springwater 1307 19.8 25.2 0.4 19.0
1/2 avocado + small can of salmon in springwater 1533 20.6 30.9 0.4 205.3
1/2 avocado + can of sardines in springwater 1225 10.6 27.2 0.4 230.0
Macadamias + coffee (long black) 1822 5.8 44.4 3.0 37.2
Cup soup (Pho) + 1 boiled egg 395 8.5 5.4 3.6 18.3
Miso soup + 1 boiled egg 287 5.9 4.5 0.9 18.8

Notes

When buying foods that come with labels, always read the ingredients list at the minimum and the full nutritional panel if you’re more invested in managing your nutrient intake. More natural and less sugar is generally better. For example:

  • Yoghurt: choose Greek or natural, with no sugar or thickeners. Rokeby Farms and YoPro are brands I tend to buy because they’re higher in protein.
  • Peanut (or other nut butter): choose those made with nuts +/- salt, no sugar or oil. I like Mayver’s.
  • Nuts: choose raw or dry roasted
  • Canned fish: choose fish in brine, springwater or 100% extra virgin olive oil (evoo) if you can find it (I haven’t been able to find canned tuna in evoo lately – sardines are still available). When buying canned salmon, make sure it has the skin and bones because that’s where the vitamin D and calcium come from.
  • Mayonnaise: make it at home with egg yolks, evoo, lemon juice and mustard or use a high quality product such as Primal Kitchen avocado oil mayonnaise. If you’re afraid of mayo, use plain evoo or some homemade pesto.

Beyond breakfast

Despite the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal” and studies that show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, it is possible that skipping breakfast (ala 16:8 diet) works for you.

Recipe: Supercharged Bolognese

This Supercharged Bolognese might look like a regular Bolognese but it’s got a secret ingredient to make it extra nutritious: Feather and Bone’s organic beef mince with organs. You can use your own mince + organ meat blend, of course.

Flavour comes, mostly, from the speck (also from Feather and Bone – you can use bacon instead), classic soffritto veggies (onion, garlic, celery and carrot) and red wine (you can use beef broth instead). The other flavour booster most Bolognese recipes don’t include is dried porcini, which adds to the umaminess of the dish. In Perú, ragú-style dishes are always made with dried mushrooms because they are included by default in the bay leaves bags that can be found at the herbs & spices section of the supermarket (this is called hongos y laurel). Finding dried mushrooms can be a bit more challenging in Australia but not impossible! – they’re available in most superkmarkets (and certainly specialty food stores), you just need to be patient to find them.

Most people serve Bolognese with spaghetti, but I prefer to serve it with vegetables for extra nutrition. I served them on top of sautéed Russian kale.

Supercharged Bolognese

Other suggestions include:

  • Higher carb:
    • roasted root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swedes, celeriac, pumpkin
    • vegetable “noodles” made from parsnip, celeriac, sweet potato, pumpkin
    • mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, celeriac, swedes or a combination
    • polenta
    • rice, quinoa or a combination (pro tip: add lupin flakes for extra fibre and protein)
  • Lower carb:
    • roasted or steamed broccoli and/or cauliflower
    • sautéed kale or cabbage
    • roasted Brussel sprouts
    • roasted zucchini, eggplant and capsicum
    • vegetable “noodles” made from zucchini
    • kelp or shirataki noodles

Finally, I prefer using Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan (or Parmigiano Reggiano) but you can use whichever hard cheese you prefer.

Supercharged Bolognese

  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Bolognese

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500gr beef mince with organs
  • 200gr speck or bacon, cut in stripes
  • 10gr dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white part finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine or beef broth
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • small handful of basil leaves, thinly sliced

To serve

  • your choice of vegetables or regular pasta substitute (see suggestions above)
  • freshly grated Pecorino Romano or other hard cheese

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot or pan. Brown mince and speck/bacon.
  2. While meat cooks, place mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with hot water. When soft (5-8 minutes), drain but don’t discard the water. Chop mushrooms finely.
  3. Once meat is cooked, add onion, garlic, carrot, celery and leek. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add wine/broth and stir until almost fully evaporated.
  5. Add mushrooms and their water, tomatoes, bay leaf, season with 1 tsp salt and greshly ground pepper. Lower heat and cover cooking vessel. Cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat, check seasoning and stir in basil.
  7. Serve sauce over vegetables with freshly grated cheese on top.