Creamy salmon pasta

Some days, only a giant bowl of creamy pasta will do the trick.
The good news is, it’s not hard to make a pasta dish healthy, just simply add veg. The sweet spot is 3 different types, which would provide a bunch of health promoting vitamins and minerals.
This balanced bowl brings together wild salmon, courgettes, mushrooms and spinach in a lemon & creme fraiche sauce.
It’s so tasty and completely comforting whilst still being super good for you. 
As an added benefit, this is a 15-minute recipe.

 
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Ingredients (serves 2):
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 medium courgette, halved lengthways then sliced
Tbsp fresh thyme leaves 
2 wild salmon fillets
1/2 lemon
2 heaped tbsp (100ml) Creme fraiche 
180g conchiglie or pene pasta
Large handful of spinach 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
rapeseed oil for cooking

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Bring a medium pan of water to boil.
Put the salmon fillets on a small roasting tray, drizzle with a small amount of rapeseed oil, season with sea salt and black pepper and roast whilst the pasta cooks (approximately 12 minutes).
Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook according to packet instructions.
Put a frying pan on a medium high heat and drizzle some oil in it. Add the courgettes, mushrooms, thyme and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.
Drain the pasta, add it to the frying pan and turn the heat down to low. Take the salmon fillets out of the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and creme fraiche to the pasta and season well with sea salt and black pepper.
Add the spinach and stir to wilt it in. Check the seasoning (by tasting the pasta) and season again if needed.
Divide the pasta between two bowls. Flake the salmon on top and eat.

Mulled berry chia pudding

The warming spices of the festive period are such a joy to create dishes with.
This mulled berry chia pudding takes inspiration from mulled wine by combining the same spices with blended frozen berries and orange. It is layered with vanilla cashew cream to create an indulgent but completely guilt-free dessert. In fact, it’s so full of nutrients that it could easily pass for breakfast.
Chia seeds are great at turning almost any liquid into a jelly-like consistency whilst boosting the nutrient value. These little seeds are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and calcium.

 
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This recipe makes 2 generous puddings.

For the mulled berry chia layer:
1 heaped mug of frozen berries, I used a black forest fruits mix
Juice of an orange
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoon of chia seeds
Blend the berries, spices and orange juice until completely smooth. Stir in 4 tablespoon of chia seeds and set aside for a couple of hours so it turns into a jelly.

For the vanilla cashew cream:
150g cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
4-5 medjool dates
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Drain the cashews and put it into a blender with the remaining ingredients. Add just enough water to cover the cashews. Blend until smooth.

To make the mulled berry chia pudding, add alternating layers of the mulled berry chia jelly and cashew cream.

15-minute pesto chicken & quinoa

A healthy dinner doesn’t need to take hours to prepare, especially when you get home starving.
This 15-minute pesto chicken & quinoa recipe ticks many nutrition boxes (low carb/ high protein, 3 portions of veg & lots of nutrients) but uses some shortcuts or “cheat” ingredients to get the job done quicker.
If you have an extra 10 minutes, it’s easy enough to cook your own quinoa and make your own pesto (recipe here). If you don’t, try and look for a pesto with no added sugar and use plain pre-cooked quinoa.

 
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Ingredients to feed 2:
2 chicken breasts (ideally organic), sliced into thin strips
1 pack of chestnut mushrooms (250g), sliced
1 pack of baby plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (250g), halved
250g packet of pre-cooked quinoa
2 handfuls of rocket
3 tablespoons of pesto
rapeseed oil to cook
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

Method:
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Add the chicken and mushrooms, season well with sea salt and black pepper and cook until the chicken is fully cooked through, approximately 10 minutes.
Add the halved tomatoes & quinoa, season again with sea salt and black pepper and cook for a minute or two to heat through. Stir in the pesto, cook for another minute then divide between two plates, top with rocket and eat.

Healthier mince pies

Confession time: I have a bit of a weakness for mince pies.
Yes, I know, these fruity treats split opinion almost as much as marmite but if it’s good enough to leave out for Santa then it’s good enough for me.
Making a healthier version was somewhat of a challenge faced with so many objections in my head, including but not limited to “why would I when the shop bought ones are perfectly nice” to “surely it’s more effort than it’s are worth”.
Ultimately the curiosity of whether it’s even possible to make them got the better of me, so here they are, vegan, gluten-free, mince pies made of nothing but wholefood ingredients.
Plus they are darn tasty (according to many lucky recipients that were drafted in to taste test them).

 
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Ingredients (makes 8)

For the pastry:
150g ground almonds
25g each of sunflower and pumpkin seeds or the same quantity of Munchy Seeds Salted Caramel seeds
2 tbsp agave
50g of gluten free flour
40g coconut oil
1/4 of tsp baking powder
a pinch of sea salt

For the filling
2 apples (approximately 150g), coarsely grated and the core discarded
150g mix of sultanas, cranberries and raisins
Juice of an orange, zest of 1/4 of an orange
1/2 a teaspoon each of mixed spice & cinnamon
1/4 of a teaspoon of ground ginger

Method:
Put the seeds in a blender or food processor and blend to a flour-like consistency.
Melt the coconut oil on a low heat then combine with the ground almonds, seed flour, gluten free flour, agave, baking powder and sea salt. Squish together to form a large dough ball then divide into 8 smaller balls and chill in the fridge while the filling is made.
For the filling, put all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on a low heat with the lid on for 20-30 minutes until the apples are fully cooked and mushy. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
To make the mince pies, place a dough ball between 2 sheets of cling film and roll out it as thin as you are able. The dough is crumbly so don’t worry if some of them fall apart, you can squish left over dough together and roll it out again.
Once rolled out, place the dough into a fairy cake tin (a smaller muffin/cupcake tin) and press it in with your fingers. Any holes can be patched up with a small amount of dough pretty easily.
Place a tablespoon of the filling mixture in the middle then form a lid with another piece of rolled out dough. Pinch the edges to seal and remove any excess dough mixture (either with your fingers or using a knife).
Repeat until all of the dough and filling mixture is used up.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Owing to the nature of the ingredients, these mince pies are much darker than your usual shop bought ones so don’t be alarmed. They should be a toasted colour as opposed to white.
Allow the mince pies to cool in the tin for 5 minutes or so then twist from the edges until they are loose. Remove from the tin and cool on a rack.
The mince pies are best eaten fresh but they do keep well for up to 3 days.

Black rice salad, turmeric dressing

If we are honest with ourselves, salad isn’t a word that conjures excitement, largely thanks to the boring repertoire of rabbit food that’s usually associated with being on a diet.
Done well, however, it’s just like any other well thought out dish, full of flavour and something you genuinely look forward to eating.
This black rice salad is one such treasure, with different flavour combinations and textures making it an all around solid recipe.
Having had the pleasure of demonstrating this dish at the Tatton Park Christmas Foodies Festival, I can also confirm it’s a total crowd pleaser.

 
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Ingredients (to feed 2)
170g of black rice (I used Thai black rice from Sainsbury’s)
1 small butternut squash
2 large flat cap mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
4 sprigs of thyme
rapeseed oil for roasting
3 stems of curly kale, leaves torn & the stem discarded
1 lemon
75g cashews
2” piece of turmeric root or 1/4 of a teaspoon of powdered turmeric
sea salt and black pepper to season

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Put the cashews in a small bowl and cover them with cold water. Set aside.
Peel the butternut squash, cut in half, scrape out the seeds and chop up the flesh into rough squares. Transfer to a roasting tray, drizzle with rapeseed oil, season with sea salt and black pepper and roast for approximately 40 minutes until soft.
Cook the rice according to packet instructions, approximately 25 minutes. Be careful not to overcook it, the dish works better if the rice retains some bite.
Put the flat cap mushrooms on a small roasting tray, season, drizzle with rapeseed oil, crush a clove of garlic over each mushroom and sprinkle over the leaves from the 4 sprigs of thyme.
Roast in the oven for 15 minutes then slice when cool enough to handle.
Put the torn kale in bowl, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, season with sea salt and black pepper and “massage” to break down the kale slightly.
Transfer the cooked rice, sliced roasted mushrooms, roasted butternut squash and massaged kale into a big bowl and stir.
To make the turmeric dressing, drain the cashews and put them in a blender or smoothie maker. Add enough water to cover them 3/4 of the way up, squeeze in the juice from the other half of the lemon, add the turmeric root or powder, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and blend until completely smooth. You may need to add a touch more water if you prefer a runnier dressing.
Divide the salad between two plates and drizzle over the dressing to serve.