SCD gone Palaeo – Recipes from my Palaeo cookery class at JW3 – Part 1

During the month of June I got a unique and exciting opportunity to share my experience and knowledge in grain-free cooking and baking. JW3 – an exciting cultural centre in London (which I mentioned in my previous post) invited me to run a two part hands-on workshop on Palaeolithic Diet (Palaeo) cooking. Those of you who know me, know we actually try and follow the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) at home, but I figured Paleo was more ‘on trend’ so I adjusted my recipes to fit the Paleo diet rules. I decided to create totally vegetarian dishes. For a diet that is considered ‘the carnivore’s diet’ and is usually heavily meat based, a range vegetarian of recipes can be a nice change. There are also meaty options for some of the recipes, but that’s your choice now. These are the recipes we cooked in the first workshop:

2014-03-08 14.57.25 2014-03-08 14.57.35

Paleo Dumplings

(Double the recipe to increase quantities)

Ingredients: Dumplings

2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3/4 cup Blanched ground almonds and more as needed
2tbsp Coconut flour
1 kaffir lime leaf, finely chopped or crumbled if dry
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Vegetarian Filling
¼ roasted butternut Squash (cut into small cubes, toss in oil and roast for 30-40min until soft. For extra flavour sprinkle some chinese 5 spice)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic
2-3 Shitake mushrooms, choped into small cubes (fresh or reconstituted dry ones)
1 tbsp Bamboo shoots, sliced into stripps
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Beef filling
250g minced beef
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Ginger, one thumb sized piece, finely diced
Salt to your taste
2 Kaffir lime leaves, crushed if dry, chopped if fresh

Method: Dumplings:

  1. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk eggs with oil.
  2. Add the ground almonds and coconut flour, salt, kaffir lime and baking soda and stir until smooth. If the mixture is too wet, add more ground almonds. If it’s too dry, add some water, a spoonful at a time.
  3. Let mixture stand for 20 minutes so the flours absorbs liquid.

While the dumpling mixture is resting make the filling:

Vegetarian Filling:

  1. In a frying pan heat the oil on a medium heat.
  2. fry the Shitake mushrooms (if fresh, until they soften), then add the garlic and toss for a minute. remove from the heat and mix in the bamboo shoots and spring onion, just to warm them through.
  3. Add the roasted squash to the cooled pan and mix everything into a lumpy mash. Season to taste and set aside to cool slightly.

Beef filling:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and mix very well.

Assembly and steaming:

  1. Prepare a plate or tray brushed with a little oil, to place the assembled dumplings on.
  2. With wet hands, roll some dumpling mixture between your palms into a ball about the size of a cherry tomato. Now, using your thumb, press into the ball and start flattening it out into your palm.
  3. Place a teaspoon of filling (veg or meat) in the middle of the flattened ball, then start folding the sides of the dough in to cover the filling. Seal the dough back into a ball and roll it again to re-shape into a ball. Place the stuffed dumpling on the oiled plate. Repeat this stage until you run out of dumpling dough and filling.
  4. Steaming: If you don’t have bamboo steaming baskets, place a small heatproof bowl upside-down in a deep saucepan (that has a lid) and place a lightly oiled plate on top of the bowl, then pour hot water half way up the bowl and bring back to a simmer. If you have steaming baskets, bring water to a boil in a suitably sized saucepan. Prepare about 5 greaseproof paper linings for your baskets and oil them as you go.
  5. Place the dumplings in your baskets or on the plate in the saucepan and steam for 4min (vegetarian filling) or 6-10min (for the meat filling). Try one to see if it’s cooked through and the filling is piping hot.
  6. Serve immediately accompanied with the Asian Dipping Sauce (recipe below) or in and asian broth.

DSC_1656

Asian Dipping Sauce

Based on a recipe by Kendall Conrad

Makes aprox 1 cup

Ingredients:

¼ cup toasted sesame oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2-3 limes)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar (not strictly Paleo but adds a lot of flavour)
3 tbsp honey
1 fresh red chilli pepper, seeded and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 thumbnail size knob fresh ginger, crushed with the garlic
1 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well until the honey has dissolved (this can also be done in a blender or with a hand held blitzer). Hold back a few chilli slices to decorate.
  2. Transfer into a serving bowl and decorate with the reserved chilli flakes.

 

Fresh Spring Rolls

Based on a recipe by Kendall Conrad

Ingredients:

2 large courgettes
½ bag dried Shitake mushrooms
1 Mango, finely sliced into thin strips
1 Avocado, finely sliced and drizzled with a little lemon juice
3 small Carrots, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
½ bunch fresh mint leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
Optional 01 – One roasted chicken breast, shredded into strippes OR one grilled salmon filet, flaked. Both seasoned as you like.
Optional 02 – ½ bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the dried shitake mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. set aside for a few minutes.
  2. Using a peeler, peel both courgettes in long ribbons over a large bowl. Continue around the courgette until you reach the core which can be discarded.
  3. Drain the mushrooms and slice into thin slices.
  4. Prepare a chopping board on your working area and arrange the chopped fruit, vegetables and herbs (and meat or fish if using) in separate bowls, ready for assembly. It will be good to have your serving plate/tray ready as well.
  5. Take two courgette ribbons and place them one above the other with a good overlap, then in one end of the ribbons place a few carrot matchsticks, a mushroom strip, mango and avocado slices, meat or fish if using and sprinkle a pinch of herbs. Make sure the filling is placed parallel with the bottom of the ribbon. It doesn’t matter if the filling comes over the top of the ribbon.
  6. Carefully roll the courgette ribbons around the filling and stand it up on the level bottom end, and onto your serving plate.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have used up all the ingredients.
  8. Serve with the Asian Dipping Sauce. Can be made a few hours in advance and refrigerated.

2014-03-08 14.57.20

The last recipe in the workshop was the White Forest Muffins which I published in this blog before.

 

Advertisements

Wild Garlic Workshop at JW3

What an exciting opportunity I got – to lead some urban foraging workshop for a London-based community centre this spring. This will also result in some joint posts with my other blog where J and I post about our foraging experiences.

The first workshop is ‘Pick & Mix Will Herbs’ and focused on Wild Garlic and Stinging Nettles. For logistical reasons, and because of the warm and early spring, I only took the group to pick Wild Garlic. The Nettles will have already been too bitter at this point and most have already been through blossom and gone to seed. My solution was to pick, blanch and freeze early season nettles so they are good to go for the workshop day.

We started the workshop in Mill Hill, where the wild garlic ad already flowered and gone to seed, but the leaves were still very fragrant and good to pick.

Wild Herb workshop-Picking 01 2014-05-18 Wild Herb workshop-Picking 04 2014-05-18 Wild Herb workshop-Picking 03 2014-05-18

We then continued to JW3 which was buzzing with activity, to cook with our herbs.

Wild Herb workshop-in the kitchen 01 2014-05-18 Wild Herb workshop-in te kitchen 02 2014-05-18

JW3 London has a beautiful, well equipped demonstration kitchen so after foraging the wild garlic we reconvened at JW3 HQ and made Wild Garlic Pesto (edited recipe below). I wanted the participants to have something to take home with them so each person got a jar of the pesto they just made but we also demonstrated how the pesto can be used to flavour a risotto dish and a simple and seemingly ambitious soufflé.

At the end of the workshop we enjoyed the fruit of our labour and a lovely lunch together.

Wild Herb workshop-lunch 2014-05-18

These are the recipes we learnt on the day:

Wild Herb Pesto:

Makes aprox 0.5 l

Ingredients:

2 large bunches Wild Garlic (Ramson)
1 bunch Stinging Nettles
100g Walnuts
50g Parmesan Cheese (optional)
2-3 Garlic cloves
150ml Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 150˚c. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until golden, shaking after five and seven minutes to make sure they brown evenly and don’t burn. You can also do that in a dry pan on a medium heat but I prefer using the oven.
  2. Once the Walnuts are browns place them, along with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth, then season to taste. You could also make your paste the traditional way, using a pestle and mortar.
  3. Sterilise your storage jar and pour the pesto into it. Cover with a little extra olive oil and seal. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Alternatively, pour the pesto into ice-cube trays and freeze, then transfer the frozen cubes to a bag and keep in the freezer to use when needed.

– The following recipes are NOT Specific Carbohydrate Diet friendly as the ingredient used are grain based –

For a SCD friendly Risotto recipe follow this link

White Risotto with Wild Herb Pesto:

Based on a recipe by Jamie Oliver

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 liter Stock (I used vegetable, made from a stock cube as it was the most practical way at the demo)
2tbsp Olive Oil
a knob of Butter (aprox 25g)
1 large Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 head of Celery
400g Risotto Rice
350ml Dry White Wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
50g Butter
50g Parmesan Cheese
a handful of toasted Pine Nuts to decorate (or use some of the toasted walnuts you used to make the pesto)

Method:

  1. Heat the stock and Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic.
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion, garlic and celery and cook on a medium heat very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.
  3. The rice will start to fry so keep stirring it. After a minute it will start looking a little translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring.
  4. Once the wine has cooked into the rice add the first ladle of stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly and unevenly. As the rice cooks it will soak up the stock, so keep adding ladlefulls of stock, one at a time while stirring it in to develop the starch. Continue doing that for about 15 minutes, until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. If you run out of stock, add some boiling water.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the 50g butter and parmesan. Place a lid over the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This will turn the risotto creamy and oozy like it should be. Check seasoning and amend if necessary.
  6. Divide the risotto between your plates and top with a generous dollop of the wild herb pesto. Decorate with some wild garlic flowers (if available) and the toasted nuts and drizzle some olive oil.

Wild Herb Soufflé:

Makes 8 individual soufflés

Ingredients:

For the Béchamel Sauce:
20g butter
1tbsp plain flour
150ml Milk
Salt to taste

For the Soufflé:
350g Nettle tops, washed and blanched. Finally chopped
100g Wild Garlic leaf, washed and finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp wild herb pesto
150ml béchamel sauce
10 sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped (optional)
8 mushrooms (optional, use any verity you like), shallow fried and roughly chopped
4 medium eggs (yolks and whites separated)
35g hard strong cheese (like parmesan, optional), grated, plus a little for lining the ramekins
Melted butter – enough to line the ramekins
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Make the béchamel sauce: In a medium-sized saucepan melt the butter, then add the flour and a pinch of salt, and stir well using a wooden spoon. Let the butter and flour cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Start adding the milk, a bit at a time, constantly stirring to dissolve the flour mix without leaving lumps. Cook over a medium heat, constantly stirring, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of custard. Leave to cool slightly and start preparing the soufflé
  2. Roughly chop the mushrooms and fry with a little oil until cooked. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat the oven to 220°C. Brush the inside of the ramekins with melted butter and coat with a little grated cheese. Divide the sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms equally between the ramekins, placing a little in the bottom of each.
  4. Beat the egg yolks and stir them into the béchamel sauce (make sure it’s cool enough so the yolks don’t cook and become lumpy in the sauce), then mix in the nettles, wild garlic and pesto. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold the nettle mixture into the egg whites and scrape into the ramekins, filling them to the top. Level off with a knife and run your fingertip around the very edge of each ramekin to make a groove in the mix (helps it rise evenly). Sprinkle over a bit of grated cheese.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

A Simple Spring ‘Pasta’

Sometimes you find yourself home alone for dinner and all you want is a comforting, creamy bowl of pasta. On a grain-free diet it’s not that straight forward, but inspiration hit me the other day and I think I managed to create a dish that really hits the spot.

2014-05-07 19.22.57

Jamie Oliver, in his 30 Minute Meals book and programme really inspired me to create freshly made quick meals and some of the methods he uses really come through in this recipes, just because I think they are so cleaver and useful.

You can make this recipe with almost any veg you have lying around in your fridge and create flavour combinations that suit your pallet. Add chilli flakes for a kick of heat or butter for a richer flavour.

2014-05-07 19.19.21  2014-05-07 19.18.43  2014-05-07 19.22.47

A Simple Spring ‘Pasta’

Serves 1

Ingredients:
3-4 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I like using lots of garlic)
Half a punet Mushrooms (chestnut, oyster or button), cleaned and sliced
1 small bunch Asparagus, chopped as you like it
1 large courgette, outer flesh shaved into strips using a peeler (making your ‘pasta’) and the core cut into cubes
3 heaped Tbsp SCD yogurt (or any other yogurt you like, I used sheep’s milk yogurt)
2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
a few sprigs of fresh herbs such as rosemary, basil, chives, oregano or thyme, roughly chopped
40gr Parmesan
a handful or pine nuts
Nutmeg to taste
Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat one tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium to high heat and add a quantity of two garlic cloves to the pan.
  2. When the garlic has infused the oil but before it burns add the mushrooms and toss in the oil.
  3. When the mushrooms have stated colouring, add the asparagus and courgette core.
  4. Whilst the vegetables are frying, and keeping an eye that they don’t burn, prepare the yogurt sauce: Place the yogurt in the bowl you are planning to eat from, dress with the rest of the olive oil, grate in most of the the parmesan and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Give it a good mix and taste. Amend seasoning and set aside.
  5. Give the vegetables a mix and add in the courgette ‘pasta’ strips, the rest of the garlic and the herbs. Toss gently, making sure not to tear the strips. Cook for a few minutes until the courgette goes a bit translucent but not over cooked.
  6. Pour the veg into the bowl with the yogurt sauce and mix quickly. Leave the hob on.
  7. Return the pan to the hob and put the pine nuts on to roast. In the mean while grate the rest of the parmesan on your dish. When the nuts started taking colour sprinkle them over the ‘pasta’ and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

Enjoy!

The Green Giant Quiche

My mum’s partner is a real green fingered gardener.  Their house is surrounded by a tranquil green garden with shade all year round, which is useful as they live in Israel. On my last viait I spotted some beautifully overgrown Swiss Chard plants in the veg patch at the edge of the garden. I asked, and turns out they didn’t even realise it’s edible! So I just had to do something about that.

We were invited to Friday night dinner with very close friends and I was tasked with making a vegan main course (veganism is the latest trend in Israel). Inspiration soon followed and I made this:

20140331_204542   20140331_204514

It got raving reviews and dinners who aren’t keen on coconut didn’t even notice I used coconut crem in it. Suscess!

So when I returned home to the UK I decided I’d make the minimal alterations and suit it to our SCD diet. In the recipe I’ll give both Vegan and SCD options.

Pesto Green Giant Quiche

Ingredients:

For the base:

2 cups ground Almonds
5 sundried tomatoes (in oil or rehydrated in hot water)
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2-4 tbsp water

For the filling:

1 large bunch (aprox 500g) fresh Spinach or Swiss Chard, washed
1 large Onion
1 Leak (optional)
2 bunches fresh Basil (I used two store bough packs)
1 small bunch fresh Parsley (It gives a really fresh touch)
3-5 large cloves Garlic
1/4 cup Olive Oil + 1 tbsp for frying the onions
50g raw Walnut Halves
50ml Coconut Cream (dissolve in some hot water to make required quantity or use coconut milk if you have an open can)
2 Eggs for SCD version and for Passover OR 3-4tbsp Garam Flour for Vegan option
1/2 tsp cooking Salt (use more if using Maldon/Kosher salt)
Black Pepper to taste
A handful of Pine Nuts for decoration

Method:

Make the quiche base:

  1. Heat the oven to 160˚c and have two large pieces of parchment paper ready for rolling the base dough.
  2. Dab the sun-dried tomatoes with kitchen paper to soak up excess oil or water and slice into thin strips.
  3. In a medium bowl combine dry base ingredients and mix in the tomatoes and chilli flakes, then add the olive oil and water and mix with a spoon into an oily dough (the dough will just come together and is not flexible at all as it made of ground nuts, rather than a glutinous flour).
  4. Place the dough between the two sheets of parchment paper and using a rolling-pin, roll it out to fit your pie dish (not too thin), then peel off the top piece of paper and transfer the dough onto the pie dish by flipping it onto the dish. Now the bottom piece of paper is on top. Using clean hands, ease the dough into the dish and peel off the paper. The dough will probably tear so just preform some patch work and form it to fit your dish.
  5. Blind bake the base for 15min or until golden brown and dry (no need for baking beans, this dough doesn’t rise). Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Leave the oven on to bake the filling.

Make the filling:

  1. Whilst the base is baking bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the spinach/chard for about 4min. Transfer the blanched greens into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, then drain well and squeeze the excess liquid out. Leave to one side.
  2. Chop the onion and leak (not too finely). Heat the one tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp water in a frying pan on medium heat, then fry the onion and leak until translucent but not burnt. Keep adding water, a tbsp at a time to prevent the onions from burning. leave to one side.
  3. In your food processor bowl, place the basil, parsley, garlic, olive oil and walnuts. Process until smooth, then add the drained and squeezed greens, coconut cream and eggs/garam flour. Add salt and pepper and process until well incorporated.
  4. Stop the food processor, taste the mix and amend seasoning if needed.
  5. Remove the processor blade and mix in the cooked onions, then tip the batter into the crusted pie dish and scatter the pine nuts over the top.
  6. Bake in the oven (still on 160˚c) for 30-40min, until the quiche is set. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool for five minutes before serving.

Serve with a big salad and enjoy!

It’s nibble time

Every dinner party should start with some nibbles and drinks. Our ‘go to’ nibbles have always been posh crisps but now, on SCD, potato crisps are out of the question and most shop bought nibbles contain illegal ingredients such as sugar and starch.

Every SCD kitchen probably has lots of nuts in thepantry and I have been experimenting to find the best result. I love the sweet and salty flavour combination so that’s waht I went for.

So, it’s nibble time!

Sweet-Chilli nut nibbles

Sweet Chilly Roasted Mixed Nuts

Ingredients:

100-150g raw Pecan nuts

100-150g raw blanched Almonds

100-150g raw Cashew nuts

(Or use any raw nut combination you like)

25g butter/ghee/coconut oil

2 tsp Honey

1tsp Chilly Flakes

1/2 tsp cooking or table salt

1/2 tsp Pink/Maldon/kosher salt (whichever you have)

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 150°c and line a large baking tray with aluminium foil.
  2. In a small saucepan on a medium heat, gently melt the butter with the honey, chilli and cooking salt.
  3. Measure all the nuts into a large mixing bowl, pour the melted butter-honey mix ontop and mix thoroughly until all the Nuts are covered.  Sprinkle the pink salt and mix again, then tip the nuts onto the lined baking tray.
  4. Roasted for 7min, mix well and roast for another 5min. It’s important to keep your eye on the nuts as every oven is different and you don’t want them to burn.
  5. Remove from the oven and mix thoroughly again. Aa the nuts cool they might stick, so keep mixing them every few minutes.
  6. Serve warm or cold. Store in an air tight container and try to leave some for the gusts…

Enjoy!

Flippin’ easy pancakes

Before coming to this country I never heard of Shrove Tuesday but like any tradition that has anything remotely to do with food, I embraced it and started flipping pancakes with a variety of toppings – as much As I tried, the sugar and lemon part of the tradition does not excite my taste buds at all.

Pancakes for me are weekend food, when you have time in the morning to indulge and surprise your other half with breakfast in bed, the kind that gives you energy for the rest of the day. When I started cooking the SCD way I naturally tried to find good replacements for my usual pancake recipe. After exploring some recipes I found online and in cookbooks, trying all sorts of ingredients such as ground almonds, coconut flower and cashew nuts, I finally landed on a recipe that really ticked all the pancake boxes: quick & easy to make, good flavour & texture and keeps you full for long.

Some notes on the recipe:

  • The recipe is child friendly. I usually use a small food processor to make the batter, but if kids are making it and they are not old enough to use sharp electrical appliances, they should use the manual option of the process.
  • The quantities make apron 10 small pancakes and 4-5 large ones.
  • I believe the first batch of pancakes is always a ‘sacrifice to the pancakes gods’ and usually rippes, scrunches or burns, so don’t panic if the first few pancake aren’t perfect, just hide them at the bottom of the pile.
  • I like using coconut oil for frying the pancakes. It burns at high temperature which makes it a bit healthier than other fats or oils, but the best bit about it that it fills the kitchen with scents that send me back to the streets of Bangkok.

Banana Pancakes

Based on this recipe, with my changes

Ingredients:

1 ripe Banana (the riper the better)
2 Eggs
1 tbsp nut butter (any nut butter you have at home, almond, cashew or peanut are all good, as long as they are pure)
1 tbsp Coconut Oil for frying (it’s good for frying as it burns at hight temperatures but you can use any other vegetable oil or butter/ghee you prefer)

2014-03-01 09.40.34

SCD Banana Pancakes batter, made in a processor and made manually in a bowl

SCD Banana Pancakes Ingredients

SCD Banana Pancakes Ingredients

Method:

  1. If you have one, chop the banana and it with the eggs and nut butter in a small food processor or blender and blitz to a smooth batter.2014-03-01 09.38.37
  2. If you are doing it manually, use a fork to mash the banana to a puree on a plate or cutting board, then place the banana in a bowl with the eggs and nut butter, whisk to a smooth batter.
    2014-03-01 09.30.44
  3. Warm the oil in a frying pan on the hob to a high heat.
  4. Lower the heat to medium and using a small measuring cup to dollop the batter into the hot pan.
  5. When small bubbles appear on the pancakes, it’s time to flip them and fry for another minute on the other side (just like with wheat based pancakes).
    2014-03-01 09.44.24 2014-03-01 09.41.46
  6. Continu making pancakes until the batter is all used up, then serve with fresh fruit and drizzle honey on top.
    2014-03-01 09.51.59

Enjoy.

Lovingly grain free

Making love happen is so much better when you aren’t bloated, uncomfortable and in pain. here are some ideas for a grain free Valentines Day meal that will leave you with enough energy and spunk for the real deal:

First Course: Herby cracker wedges with a Labaneh dip

For the herby Crackers:
Original recipe from Elena’s Pantry

2 cups Ground Almonds
1 tsp Salt
2 Dired Figs, chopped into small cubes (if figs don’t agree with you, used dates)
1 Rosemary Sprigs, roughly chopped
1 Egg
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp water (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 160˚c
  2. In a bowl mix together the ground almonds, salt, figs and rosemary.
  3. In a separate small bowl whisk together the egg and olive oil.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and combine with a spoon to a greedy dough. If the dough is too dry and won’t come together, add some water, a little at a time.
  5. Roll the dough out between two sheets of  parchment paper and slice the raw dough into wedges (like slicing a pizza)
  6. Bake for 10min or until the crackers are golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool for 5 min before serving with SCD Labaneh.

* If you are vegan these wedges work great without the egg.

Fig and Rosemary crackers in the making

For the Labaneh (a Lebanese style cream cheese spread):

The night before your dinner, line a sieve with a muslin cloth and place over a bowl. Pour into the lined sieve 3 cups of SCD yogurt (if you can tolerate it, shop bought sheep or goat’s yogurt are also good). Gather the edges of the muslin over the yogurt so nothing falls in and leave in the fridge or a very cool place over night. When you are ready to serve scrape the creamy cheese from the muslin into the serving dish and decorate with olive oil and Zaatar if you have. If not, use thyme or smoky paprika.

Meatballs and Cavolo Nero 'Pasta'

Main Course: Meatballs in tomato sauce and cavolo nero ‘pasta’

Inspired by Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Cavolo Nero is ‘black cabbage’ and is both yummy and healthy. It’s available this time of year and it’s shape lends itself to be a great replacement to pasta, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t find it in the shops, use kale instead.

For the meatballs:

1 Onion, finely chopped
2 tbp fresh or dry herbs (whatever you have at home… rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil…)
500gr Minced Beef
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste
Oil for frying

For the tomato sauce:

1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves Garlic
2 Carrots, grated
2 cans Chopped Tomatoes or 1 bottle of legal Passata
1/2 cup Dry Red Wine (add more to taste or if sauce is too dry)
2 tbsp herbs of your choice (I used rosemary)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

Method:

  1. Make the meatballs: Combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and leave to rest at room temperature whilst you make the sauce.
  2. In a deep pan heat a glugg of oil and an equal amount of water, add the chopped onion and fry on a medium heat until translucent and golden brown. If the onions start to burn add a little more water. Browning them slowly will develop a sweet taste but burning them will give a bitter flavour. Add the garlic and grated carrots and continue frying for 3-5min.
  3. Add the tomatoes, red wine and herbs and season to taste.
  4. Cook, uncovered, on a medium heat whilst you are frying the meatballs.
  5. Heat a glugg of olive oil in a pan.
  6. Roll meat balls to the size of a ping-pong ball and brown in the heated oil, about 2-3 min on each side. Make sure the meatballs are not crammed in the pan, as this will make them boil rather than fry. This might take a few batches, so transfer the cooked balls into the bubbling sauce.
  7. Once all the balls are fried and cooking in the tomato sauce, make you ‘pasta’

For the Cavolo Nero ‘Pasta’:

1/2 ‘head’ of Cavolo Nero cabbage or half bag of ready to use chopped Kale
1 sprig Rosemary
2 garlic cloves (if you are both eating garlic than it won’t matter when you kiss)
1tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Ghee
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan to taste

Method:

  1. Fill a large saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil.
  2. Wash the cavolo nero thoroughly and shake to dry, then place each leaf up-side-down on a cutting bore and using a sharp knife, cut the dark leaf away from the light green stem. The stem is quite woody even when cooked so I usually discard it. The leaves are now long strips and resemble pasta noodles.
  3. When the water is boiling, drop the leaves in and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Whilst the leaves are cooking, finely slice the garlic cloves and rosemary.
  5. When the Cavolo Nero is cooked, drain into a colander. Leave the leaves in the colander and return the saucepan to the heat, melt the ghee and oil together, add the garlic and rosemary and stir gently for about 1 minute before adding the cavolo nero leaves. Warm through and make sure the leaves are covered. Season to taste.

Assemble:

  1. The cavolo nero is your pasta, so pile it in the middle of a pasta dish and top with the meatballs and tomato sauce (I usually serve 4 balls for each diner).
  2. Grate or shave parmesan over everything and enjoy.

* If you are gentle, you might even be able to re-inact the movie scene.

Layered Dessert

Dessert: Fruit, Crumble and Cream Layered Heaven

Make the crumble and whipped coconut crease in advance the assemble just before serving.

First thing’s first: The night before your dinner, put 1 can Coconut Milk (Make sure you get pure coconut milk with no stabilisers and additives) in the fridge. Don’t shake it. The milk will separate to water and cream and you want the cream for whipping later.

1 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup pecan nuts
(use any nut combination you like and have in the house: Walnuts, Macadamia or Brazil nuts work really well too)
2 tbsp coconut flakes, optional (shredded coconut is also fine just make sure you use an unsweetened product)
2 tbsp Ghee
2 tbsp honey
Pinch of salt (use pink Himalayan if you have)
1 Mango / 1 punnet Strawberries / 1 punnet blueberries / pitted cherries or any other fruit you like and works with a soft and crunchy combination.

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 170˚c and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Scatter all the nuts and coconut flakes, if using, on the tray, drop little clumps of ghee in and around the nuts and drizzle the honey over everything, then sprinkle the salt.
  3. Roast in the hot oven for 10-15min, checking and shaking the pan every 5min. You what the nuts to turn golden and the honey to caramelise, but nothing should burn, so keep an eye on it.
  4. Once golden and beautiful, remove from the oven and cool completely. The nuts may seam soggy at the start but as they cool they will crunch up.
  5. Put the cold nuts in a food processor and pulse to brake them up. DON’T MAKE A POWDER! Set aside until you are ready to serve.
  6. Prepare the fruit you are using (peel and slice the mango or hull and quarter the strawberries) and set aside until you are ready to serve.
  7. Open the cooled coconut milk can and scoop the hardened cream into a mixing bowl. Save the ‘water’ for cooking but make sure none of it gets into the bowl.
  8. Using an electric mixer whisk the coconut until it resembles fluffy whipped cream. Sweeten with a little honey if required. Store the cream in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Assemble:

In wine glasses or martini cocktail glasses, layer the fruit and then the nut crumble, a bit at a time. When the glass is full, dollop the coconut whipped cream and top with a mint leaf or lemon verbena garnish.

Enjoy and may you have a happy and loving Valentines day. x