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: One pan lamb chops with vegetables and chimichurri

Lamb and chimichurri are common items in Argentinian menus. Although they do a lot of asado (BBQ), lamb is more often eaten slow-cooked by open fire. I wanted this recipe to capture the essence of Argentinian food without sacrificing practicality. These lamb chops with chimichurri can be easily made on a weeknight with ingredients that are easy to get.

Following the “meat and 3 veg” tradition, I used romanesco, carrots and kale for this recipe. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have handy that are suitable for roasting, for example: cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, Brussel sprouts, celeriac, parsnips, swedes, turnips, green beans, radishes, etc.

One additional note: the chimichurri recipe will make more than enough, keep the leftover sauce in a glass jar in the fridge and use it later. Besides meat, you can drizzle it on baked potatoes, bread, salads, etc.

One pan lamb chops with vegetables and chimichurri

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
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Chops and veggies

  • 1 kg lamb chops (loin or chump)
  • 2 small-medium heads of romanesco, cauliflower or broccoli
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • 1 small bunch of kale or other dark leafy green

Chimichurri

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 red capsicum, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions

  1. Prepare the chimichurri by mixing all ingredients. Let it sit at room temperature for flavours to marry.
  2. Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan-forced).
  3. Chop vegetables in large chunks and place in a roasting pan (you can line it with baking paper for easier clean-up). Season lamb chops with salt and pepper on both sides and place them on top of the vegetables.
  4. Roast for 20-30, flipping the chops midway through.
  5. Serve purist-style (vegetables with chops and sauce on the side) or rebel-style (vegetables with chops on top, drizzled with sauce).

Recipe: My mum’s pollo con piña (pineapple chicken)

Mum is a great cook. Pollo con piña (pineapple chicken) was one of her go-to meals, possibly the one she made the most often. We had it for dinner on regular weekdays and also on special occasions, such as my dad’s birthday.

I have to confess that at some stage of my life I got tired of eating this dish. However, I’ve been away from home long enough for me to miss it. Last time I visited my family I asked mum for the recipe. Of course, she gave me general directions with no quantities nor times. I’m still amazed that the dish tasted the same every single time. I decided to give it a shot given that it’s dad’s birthday month and I like to do something every year to remember him.

Notes on ingredients: mum uses regular soy sauce and ketchup (tomato sauce), potato starch and pineapple in syrup. I used tamari, sugar-free tomato sauce from Richard’s Country Kitchen, tapioca starch and pineapple in juice. From memory, my version is pretty close to the original and a little healthier.

My mum's pollo con piña

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp + 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1/2 tsp + 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 pineapple in juice slices + 2 tbsp of the juice
  • 250g snow peas
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 6 green onions, white and light green part only

To serve


Directions

  1. Marinate chicken with garlic, 1/2 tsp tamari and 1/2 tsp potato starch.
  2. Wash vegetables, pull off stems of snow peas, slice capsicum and cut green onions in pieces 6-8cm long.
  3. Brown chicken on all sides.
  4. Lower heat, add remaining tamari, tomato sauce and pineapple juice, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Add capsicum, snow peas, green onion and pineapple and remaining 1 tsp tapioca starch dissolved in 2 cold water.
  6. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with rice or cauliflower rice.

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.

chicken wings

Recipe: Asian baked chicken wings

I realise Asian baked chicken wings is not a very descriptive dish name but bear with me. This recipe was inspired by a Peruvian dish called “chicharrón de pollo”. As you may or may not know, there has been a large influx of Chinese migrants in Perú, particularly between the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

I tweaked the recipe to use chicken wings instead of breast and baked instead of fried. The wings have enough fat (and there’s a bit of sesame oil in the marinade) so they don’t need to be fried. Serve it with steamed or stir-fried vegetables of your choice.

Asian baked chicken wings

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Wings

  • 6 chicken wings (600-700 g)
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp cooking rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp rice or tapioca starch

Dipping sauce

  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp five spice powder
  • juice of 1 lime

To serve

  • steamed or stir-fried vegetables

Directions

  1. Place wings in a bowl and marinate with the rest of ingredients. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. While chicken marinates, preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan-forced).
  3. Place wings on a tray and bake for 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
  4. Make dipping sauce ingredients by mixing all ingredients.
  5. Serve wings with vegetables and dipping sauce on the side.

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.