Salmon and Kiwi Verrine

A fresh starter for summer meals

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Serves four:
4 smoked salmon slices
2-3 kiwi fruit
1-2 avocado

For the sauce:
4 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp mayonaise
fresh or frozen dill
salt and pepper to taste

lime juice

Cut the salmon in small pieces. Dice the kiwi fruit.

Divide the kiwi fruit at the bottom of the verrines, add the salmon and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce and chill too.

Just before serving, dice the avocado, sprinkle with lime and place over the salmon.

Serve the sauce separately.

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Cauliflower and Chickpea Soup

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Serves four:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin powder
750 ml/3 cups water
1 cube vegetable stock
1 tsp curry powder
1 medium cauliflower, raw, broken into florets
400 g chickpeas, cooked or canned, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp cilantro, fresh

Gently sauté the onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic, turmeric and cumin powder and cook, stirring, for another minute or two.

Add the vegetable stock and curry powder and bring up to the boil. Add the cauliflower and chickpeas. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. Transfer half the soup to a bowl and blend the rest until smooth. Return what has not been blended to the pan and add the cilantro. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the soup is piping hot. Season to taste.

Lentil and Smoked Trout Salad

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An easy and lovely salad – very suitable for a summer evening.

Ingredients for two:

120 gr green or Le Puy lentils
1 shallot
100-120 gr smoked trout, cut into small pieces

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp strawberry vinegar
1 tsp mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the lentils with the chopped shallot according to package instructions – usually 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the olive oil, vinegar and mustard in a salad bowl.

Drain the cooked lentils and allow to cool a little. Add them to the bowl and mix. Add the trout and mix again. Season to taste and chill for at least an hour.

The warm lentils and vinegar will ‘cook’ the trout so that it will turn pink.

Mango and Citrus Fruit Salad

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Citrus sauce:
Juice of one grapefruit, orange and lemon (or lime)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ of a vanilla bean, split and scraped

2-3 mangoes

fresh mint for garnish

Put fruit juice, honey, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Peel and chop the fruit into bite size pieces. Pour over the citrus sauce and leave in the fridge at least for a couple of hours.

Serve with a sprig of mint for garnish.

A Year of Tai Chi

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Tonight is my last tai chi class so I wished to look back on a year of practice. I started tai chi classes last September so technically it is not a year but that’s how classes work (from September to June) and I liked the title!

There were various reasons why I wanted to take up tai chi:

– I had seen Chinese people perform in local parks in Hong Kong and found the choreography graceful and seemingly easy.

– I wanted to start an activity which I would be able to do for several years.

– Above all, my body was telling me that I needed a regular physical activity.

Tai chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It has become popular in the West because of its value in treating or preventing many health problems. Its origins are old but vague and it is hard to distinguish between myth and reality.

The original philosophy of tai chi is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certain to be injured at least to some degree. But to meet brute force in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin – or to quote Lao Tzu: “The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.” (Shortened and adapted from Wikipedia)

I attend a class once a week. There are about ten of us – all in their forties and a bit more. The instructor is a retired school teacher. The tai chi class lasts 90 minutes and falls into the following three parts:

Warm-up and unlocking: Easy motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth, help you to loosen your muscles and joints and focus on your breath and body. They are easy to perform and remember. and thus can soon be repeated at home on your own.

Qigong practices: Translated as “breath work” or “energy work. The practices all involve a posture, (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques, and mental focus. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilise the body’s energy.

Instruction and practice of tai chi forms: Short forms — forms are sets of movements — that include a dozen or fewer movements. Longer forms that include hundred will come later. They are the most difficult, not physically, but because it is essential to remember and master the details.

These classes have proved to be very beneficial: Tai chi is certainly not extreme but it is more dynamic than it looks. I now rarely have back aches and when I do I know what to do to ease the pain. Another thing that I appreciate is the non competitive aspect of this sport; with time I have mellowed and the only competition that now interests me is to improve at my own pace. I have really enjoyed the classes and intend to continue next year. Ideally I ought to set up a schedule for the summer so as not to lose all the benefits.

For further reading:
Tai chi: getting there more slowly, but gracefully and intact
Tai chi … a gentler way
Tai Chi Eases Depression in Elderly

Lean Baked Falafels

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Serves 4 people:

For the falafels:
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 small onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped, parsley can be used instead
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/4 cup plain flour
salt

For the dressing:
1/2 cup low-fat natural yoghurt
1 tbs tahini
2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Place chickpeas, onion, garlic, salt and spices in a food processor and process until combined. Add bicarbonate of soda and flour and pulse again until combined. Shape mixture into 12 patties and let stand for 15 minutes.

Place the falafels on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake turning occasionally for 25 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile whisk yoghurt, tahini and lemon in a small bowl.

Serve with cubed tomatoes and cucumber as well as pita bread.

This WW recipe eliminates deep-frying. Thus you end up with a healthier dish while retaining the lovely flavours of more traditional falafels.

Ginger-Glazed Halibut

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Ingredients for 400g of fish:
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
salt (optional if the soy sauce is already quite salty) and pepper

Mix the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger and garlic and add 1 tbsp of cilantro. Lay the fish in a dish and cover with the marinade. Season with salt and pepper. Turn over the fish after 20 minutes and leave aside for another 20 minutes.

Carefully lift up the fish and cook in a frying pan with a little olive oil until it is no longer translucent. Set aside the fish and keep warm. Warm up the pan again and pour the marinade into the pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until the marinade has reduced.

Pour over the fish, add the remaining cilantro and serve immediately.

Fish Stew with Couscous

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1 onion
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ras el hanout
2 small to medium courgettes, thinly sliced
15oz / 425g tin of chickpeas, drained
400g white fish
cilantro

Sauté the onion in olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the spices. Add the sliced courgettes and sauté until they begin to cook. Add the chickpeas and barely cover with water or vegetable broth.

Simmer until the courgettes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add the fish and season to taste. Simmer until the fish is just done. Add fresh cilantro and serve with fine or medium grain couscous.

Vegetarian Chili

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Serves about 6 people

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
4 small/med garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated or sliced
1-2 tbsps chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 14-ounce can cooked chickpeas
1 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup pearled barley
1/3 cup bulgur wheat
1 tsp thyme (or oregano)
1 tsp fine grain sea salt (or to taste)

Possible toppings (optional): a bit of feta or grated cheese, a drizzle of equal parts chopped fresh oregano and olive oil

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion, and shallot in olive oil. When the onions soften up and get a bit translucent, add the garlic, ginger, chili powder and cumin. Stir well and cook until everything gets quite fragrant.

Stir in the serrano pepper, tomatoes, thyme/oregano and 4 cups of the broth. Now add the chickpeas, lentils, barley and bulgur – stirring between each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer.

Cook for about 35- 45 minutes or until the lentils and grains are cooked through. You might need to add the rest of the water, a little at a time, if the chili thickens up too much. Before serving, season to taste.

Freezes well.

Based on Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Another vegetarian chili on this blog: Bulgur Chili

Favourite Smoothie Base

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Ingredients for two servings:

75g fresh or frozen raspberries
200ml yoghurt
1 banana
1 pkt of vanilla sugar
1-2 tsp grated ginger
juice of 2 oranges – about a glass
1 tsp almond butter
2-3 tbsp oats (optional)

Method:
Just put all the ingredients in a blender, mix until smooth and drink immediately!

Variations:

* Experiment with different fruit combinations – instead of raspberries, why not use strawberries or a mixture of re fruit? Ripe mangoes, peaches and nectarines are great choices too

* Instead of yoghurt and/or orange juice, use oat or almond milk

* If you’re not a fan of almond butter, try peanut, walnut, cashew, brazil or macademia nut butter.

* Instead of ginger, play around with other spices such as cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg