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Healthy baby food


Man cannot live on chickpeas alone. In their naked cooked state they can be a little unappetising. But they remain a healthy, cheap food.  Roasted in olive oil with a little salt and they become delicate and nuanced. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  They make a great snack and a good sidekick for an evening aperitif. Babies love to munch on them too!

 

This couscous dish stands well alone or as a hot or cold accompaniment to fish or meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup couscous (uncooked measure)
  • 2 tablespoons golden sultanas
  • a handful of fresh vine tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful of chopped fresh basil

Plus 1 quantity spice mix (see below)

Spice mix (vary as desired) also see a previous post using a spice mix…

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • a little sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350f.  If using canned chickpeas rinse them well in cold water and drain in a colander. In the meantime, using a bowl big enough to handle the chickpeas, make the spice mix blending the ingredients together with the oils. Coat the chickpeas with the spice mix and let sit for a few minutes.  Spread the coated chickpeas evenly in a single layer on a roasting pan shaking them around a little to make sure the spice mix is well distributed. Sprinkle a little salt over them. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the skins start to become papery and dry.

While waiting for the chickpeas make the couscous – follow the instructions on your particular brand of couscous!  While you wait for the couscous to fluff up, set it aside.

For the tomatoes, plonk them a in a bowl of boiling water for a minute, then plonk them in a bowl of cold water for a minute. You will then be able to drain them and easily remove the skins. (This works well for peaches too). Cut the tomatoes into quarters or halves depending on their size and set aside.  Submerge the sultanas in a little warm water for a few minutes too. Then drain them and set them aside. This will plump them up nicely.

Once the chickpeas are roasted to your liking take them out of the oven and allow to cool a little so they don’t break apart too much when handled. Then assemble your dish. In a serving dish mix the warm couscous with a little butter, add the chickpeas, the sultanas and the tomatoes. Sprinkle with some torn up fresh basil and serve warm or cold.

 

I finally got to visit Vermont recently. Land of lakes, liberals and great cheese.  The Chester farmer’s market saw us procure a large jug of local maple syrup and feast on Ana’s amazing empanadas. As for the banana bread, nothing revolutionary here but a healthy and delicious recipe which contains no refined sugar and is quickly thrown together for breakfast, on-the-go baby snacks or afternoon tea.

Ingredients

6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 ripe mashed bananas
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
sprinkle of salt

Making

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. Cream the butter with maple syrup and add the other wet ingredients and the coconut flakes. In a separate bowl mix the flour with the baking powder, soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold until just incorporated – do not overmix.
Pour into a lined and greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.

 

Last year, while discussing an upcoming trip to Lebanon with a Paris friend, I waxed lyrical about Lebanese food and how I had discovered a great website and cookbook author Anissa Helou. It transpired that he knew Mme. Helou, having met her at a food symposium and they had kept in touch. He put me in contact with her and she very kindly sent me a list of her favourite Beirut food destinations.  Thrilled, we embarked on our trip clutching a printout of her recommendations. I had her book Modern Mezze and now I have been to Lebanon a couple of times it has really come to life for me.  It’s a concise repetoire of classic mezze detailing how to go about making the dishes that make up standard middle eastern fare giving a litle background and explanation for each one.

Falafel are the go-to middle eastern food as far as most western palates are concerned yet I’m guessing most of us assume they’re all made from fried chickpeas and a little tahini and that’s that. I was surprised to learn that Eygptian falafel are the original and they are made only with fava beans while Syrian and Lebanese ones contain chickpeas as well.

I opted to bake these so that they would be easier to digest for an 11 month old. Frying them is undoubtedly better – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

PS: Garbanzo or chickpea? Wikipedia discusses….

Note: Ideally use dried beans and soak them overnight in cold water with 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda. However, canned beans will do, just drain them well.

Recipe taken from Anissa Helou’s Modern Mezze

Ingredients

  • 100gr chickpeas
  • 200gr broad beans/fava beans
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 50gr coriander sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (if using dried beans)
  • sea salt

Making

Drain the beans and rinse them well. Put them in a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and process until they form a fine paste. Transfer to a large bowl, season and allow to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Pinch off enough mixture to form small balls and do so until you have 20-25.

If frying heat vegetale oil to about 5 cm depth and when bubbling hot drop the balls in for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and crispy. If baking place on a baking tray in a preheated oven (375 degrees F) and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Mop off the excess fat and serve hot or cold with a tahini dip.

In response to my constant derision of people’s bizarre food allergies, the universe has bitten me on the butt, slapped me on the wrist and made it that my son of not yet a year has some sort of allergy to cows milk and its products. While this is most likely a temporary situation, I can’t give him most cheese or yogurt products lest his face explode in a rash. So, what to do?

Goats milk and cheese are a great  if not expensive solution as are almond milk and soy products. It’s really not a big deal but last week I wanted to make a big lasagna that would feed the three of us for a couple of days.  So I started to figure out how I could make it dairy free but still satisfying and stodgy, the soul food it should be.  While other vegetables can easily be used as indeed could some ground lamb or beef, use fresh spinach at all costs! Frozen spinach is an affront to the real thing and makes for a watery soggy component to any lasagna.

 

Ingredients

1 box pre cooked lasagna pasta

Sauce

  • 1 and 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 5 oz soft creamy goats cheese

Filling

  • 8 mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 courgettes, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (rinsed and stemmed)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 jar tomato/marinara sauce

Making

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat some olive oil in a pan and toss the courgettes around until soft and slightly golden.  In the meantime make the sauce.  In a bowl mix together the almond milk, the beaten eggs, the nutmeg, the almond butter and the goat cheese. Set aside. Once the courgettes are done, season with a little salt and set aside. In the same pan toss the garlic and mushrooms.  Once the mushrooms are browned and fragrant, add the spinach leaves and allow them to wilt in the heat – this will only take a few minutes. The spinach should not get mushy and overcooked. At this point put the courgettes back into the pan with the other vegetables and add the tomato sauce simmering for a few minutes.

To assemble the lasagna line a rectangular dish with a layer of lasagna sheets then add a layer of the vegetable filling, add another layer of pasta then a layer of the sauce, then a layer of vegetables, pasta and sauce making sure you will have enough sauce to cover the top sheets of lasagna.

For a final flourish you could add some almond slivers to the top of the lasagna for a crunchy topping. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the lasgna is golden on top. This keeps well in the fridge for a few days and seems to taste better the next day.