Light golden onion soup for after-party supper!

I always love old classics and this is a favourite of “Bistro cooking”, the sort of no-fuss, hearty and comforting cooking you might find in a true Parisian Bistrot. I know there are less and less of those haunts in Paris nowadays but they are worth seeking out. This soup reminds me of late night suppers after a play or a dance in Paris… It was a perfect student days pick-me up and it was served at my own wedding to give strength to the dancers around midnight – with this, most of us managed to last until 6am on the dance-floor!

Ingredients list:

(This serves about four bowls. You can easily freeze it too if you are doing it for yourselves.)

  • Roscof onions, 5 to 6 ( a lovely pink onion from Brittany)
  • Garlic cloves, 2
  • Ghee or butter, 2 Tbsp
  • Grape or date syrup, 2 Tbsp
  • Chicken stock cube, 1
  • Bay leaf and “bouquet garni” to flavour
  • Water, 500 ml
  • Cider, 200 ml

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Peel the onions and garlic and chop it all together in a food processor- this will save lots of tears!
Melt the onions in a large saucepan with the ghee or butter. Leave to melt on low heat for about 20 minutes, watching closedly in order to avoid burning the bottom.
Add two spoonfuls of grape or date syrup – a little fruit sugar is needed to counteract the bitterness of the onions. I use grape molasse for its lovely spicy taste. I source it from Middle Eastern shops.
Add the chicken stock (made of one cube and 500ml water) and the bay leaves and bouquet garni. If you prefer, replace with a bunch of thyme and tarragon.
Herbs should play a big role in our spring cooking: they give it seasonal flavour, awaken the senses and have anti-viral properties.
Reduce and simmer for another 30 minutes.
The soup should be thick and golden. Add salt and pepper to taste, just before serving.

Beautiful Roscoff pink onions

Beautiful Roscoff pink onions

I serve this with a thick brown toast, brushed with garlic and spread with olive oil. It is also nice with melted cheese on toast. Dip in and enjoy!
This is health in a bowl. A perfect Friday supper after a couple of drinks down the pub! Onion soup is strengthening and good for recovery; the reason it is usually served at midnight during late parties in France is because it clears the head and gives you a nice boost before heading home…

Light buttermilk and vanilla waffles

Today London feels like the gateway to summer! 24 degrees and rising!..
For breakfast, I whipped up those delicious waffles. Maybe it is the sunshine outside or my impending trip to Spain soon but I felt like giving the kids and I a particularly fruity breakfast and here it is.Those are made with skinny buttermilk so they are lighter and more virtuous than ever! plus covered in fresh fruit, they can definitely count towards your 5-a-day… Or is it 7 these days?!

Ingredients list:
This made 8 generous waffles.

  • 4 eggs
  • Self-raising flour 250g (I used light brown flour)
  • Butter 125g (I used English butter – with salt)
  • Buttermilk 280ml
  • Vanilla sugar, 2 large spoonfuls
(I make my own vanilla sugar by putting a split vanilla bean into a jar full of caster sugar.)
Fruity waffle

Fruity waffle

In a large bowl, work the butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy.
Split your egg whites from their yolk. Then, add the yolks one by one to the mix. Use an electric whisk for that and add the cream and flour, bit by bit. It should be creamy not lumpy.
Clean your hand whisk to beat the egg whites to a stiff consistency, adding a pinch of salt to help start it. They must make peaks when you pull out the blades but don’t overdo it! Carefully fold the whites into the mix with a wooden spatula. You now have a gloriously plump batter, soft as a pillow.

Warm the waffle iron or the electric maker and drop a large spoonful of batter in the centre. Bake until crisp and brown.

Those waffles are lighter and just as gorgeous as my previous recipe with full fat cream. This is the perfect version for a bit of spring clean – but with a smack of indulgence!

Try them with a dash of maple syrup in the morning or just with fresh fruit and a dollop of rich yogurt anytime of the day. They taste so delicious they hardly need the extra sugar so pile them high with fresh fruit -or fruit purée- and have them guilt-free.

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Used light whipped cream no sugar

In any case, guilt is a useless negative emotion and probably worse for you than the indulgent food you might be having, so just enjoy and forego the guilt – next time you might balance this out!

Just remember that enjoying a stress-free treat is very good for your mood and therefore good for your health: you will appreciate it better, certainly digest it better and maybe feel contented for longer! No-one can be virtuous all the time… Not even Gwyneth!..

Spring is here!

Spring is here!

 

Healthy eating basics – Spring cleaning specials!

Your plate for life!

Your plate for life!

This lovely graph is the best I have found on healthy eating. I use it in every session of the Healthy Cooking Club, for it can be understood by all age groups – even adults get it!

What is Healthy Eating according to this plate? It really unites food that come under those three categories: SIMPLE/COLOURFUL/rich in HEALTHY OILS.

SIMPLE FOOD: The simplicity of this plate makes the basics of healthy nutrition clear and easy to grasp and no need to get bugged down in the details! All it says about drinking for example is that water is the only liquid you really need – though I would add one glass of wine every other day for optimal health (more on the “Lyon study” by Lorgeril et al. soon!)

To your good health!

To your good health!

COLOURFUL FOOD: The other important point is the large chunk given to vegetables: veggies of all colours and especially the brightly coloured ones that contain important vitamins and plant polyphenols which are the new buzz word in natural antioxidants. So the brighter the better: stock up on red beetroot, yellow peppers and blue aubergines! And of course bright oranges, purple berries and so on…

Include colours into your diet: also good for the mood!

Include colours into your diet: also good for the mood!

HEALTHY OILS: Fat is good! Eating healthy fatty acids will insure your brain stays nourished and alert, your nervous system tip top and your skin (nails and hair) hydrated and supple for years to come. A fat-free diet by contrast has very detrimental effects on memory for example but also on your looks! Water and lipids are essential nutriments to keep a glowing, young looking skin and it is important to choose those oils carefully. The Harvard plate advertises olive oil and canola oil – which is the canadian/american name for rapeseed oil- as the best to choose but I also swear by the virtues of Ghee and use it sparsely instead of butter. Another lean and very commendable dairy fat is the ubiquitous “crème fraîche”, used a lot in French cooking and much leaner and digestible than full cream. My regular readers will notice that “crème fraîche” does feature heavily on this blog!

To clarify the “fat” issue, I include a table that shows why rapeseed and olive oil are the best oils to use. And why you should keep coconut and palm oil for the beach!IMG_9071

Our diet contains far more Omega 6 than Omega 3 and it is this balance our diet needs to address. So the best advice seems to be to take fatty fish over meat anytime and to learn how to include sardines, haddock, salmon and sometimes swordfish or tuna in our weekly shop (in that order too!).

It is important as you see above to choose your oils carefully. Olive oil and rapeseed have a particularly good balance of Omega 3 to 6 and relatively little saturated fat. Coconut and Palm oil on the other hand are very high in saturated fat and should be used very exceptionally, if at all. They feature heavily in any processed or industrial cooking. A special mention goes to linseed (or Flaxseed) oil : its high Omega 3 content gives it superfood status ; but its taste makes it difficult to include into normal cooking routines! It is worth using a tiny bit of it though in vinaigrette and mayonnaise where its distinctively “green” taste is hidden by the other ingredients… Alternatively, use spoonfuls of flaxseeds in your granola or cereal – with the added benefits of cleansing your colon at the same time. Those seeds are a great help to keep your digestive system in tip-top conditions.

I hope I have brought you some easy basics to include in your spring-cleaning diet but above all : do not forget to enjoy every mouthful… Food prepared with love and shared with people you like nourishes much more than just the body. Make sure you eat in nice plates, use bright and pretty ingredients and savour slowly each and every spoonful. Never eat angry, tired or in bad company. Try to make each meal a peaceful and happy experience. Even if it is just stealing half-hour to go and eat a nice fresh sandwich in the park. In fact eating outside is also a part of the much praised “Mediterranean diet”: for everything tends to taste so much better and to be so much healthier when taken “al-fresco”! Here below I am enjoying a yogurt and berries breakfast on top of a terrace in Venice. I am not just eating : I am also taking in the spring sun, loving the beautiful view and enjoying the warmth of a cup of tea , all of that in the fresh air… Salute a tutti!!!

Enjoying a breakfast with a view!

Enjoying a breakfast with a view!

I am now on Facebook with a newly revamped page at Travelsaroundmykitchen. Join me or “like” my page if you want to know more about healthy eating or share in the chats. You can google it or copy and paste this link:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Travelsaroundmykitchen/729430077154371?fref=ts

GF banana bread – Spring clean specials!

With spring comes spring-cleaning and a renewed desire to shake the cobwebs away, clean up your act, de-clutter your life!

To take it one step at a time, I have decided to dedicate the next few posts to clean living and feel-good recipes.

Here coconut oil cream was used in place of rapeseed

Here coconut oil was used in place of rapeseed oil

First, choose to do one healthy thing or genuinely “good for you” action every day: today I sorted out my linen cupboard and threw any old towel or sheet to recycling! Tomorrow, I tackle my desk and office corner… Tough, but really good for the soul!

Now, a treat with this simple banana bread recipe:

IMG_8980Ingredients list :

  • Black, ripe bananas, 3
  • Egg, 1
  • vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon
  • Rapeseed oil, 3 Tbsp or 50 ml
  • Honey, 3 tbsp
  • Date syrup, 3 Tbsp or treacle
  • Baking powder, 1 tsp
  • Bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp
  • salt, 1 pinch
  • cinnamon, 1 tbsp
  • Coconut ( or almond) milk, 160 ml
  • GF flour blend, 150g
  • ground almond, 100g
  • oats, 50g

Mix the flour, almond and oats. Add the bicarbonate and baking powder.

Beat the egg in the coconut milk, add the oil, salt.

Mix it all in a wide bowl and add the crushed bananas, cinnamon, honey and date syrup. Date syrup or grape syrup are really great products and you should be able to source them in middle eastern groceries or oriental corner shops. But if you can’t find it just replace that with another couple of spoonfuls of honey or even treacle if you want a spicy taste.

Bake for one hour at 150 degrees. This bread has a cake-like indulgence – whilst remaining more virtuous than cake- and a moist, melting texture.

Serve sliced for breakfast, with or without a spoonful of yogurt. This recipe was inspired by the Minimalist Baker  .

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Raw banana and hazelnut butter ice-cream in a croissant

 

Just landing back from a week-end in Venice, I am giving you here the quickest and easiest ice-cream recipe. It only takes two ingredients – plus the croissant into which you will nest your ice-cream balls, in true venetian style (see photo)!

Ingredients list:

  • 3 frozen bananas
  • Hazelnut butter (with ou without cocoa) , 100gr

About the two ingredients:

I buy my hazelnut and cocoa butter from Wholefoods but you can make your own or use any favourite nut butter. To make it yourself you just need a tough blender, chuck hazelnuts in with a spoonful of melted 90 percent cocoa chocolate and whizz to a paste. You might add a teaspoon of water if too sticky.

The frozen bananas are something I always keep in my freezer for smoothie making – or ice-cream as in here, or  for my rum raisin  frozen yogurt. A real good way of using up ripe bananas nobody wants to eat…

Anyway, using a blender or a thermomix, just blend both ingredients until smooth and eat straightway and gelato-cold in a crispy croissant or a soft brioche, as they do in Sicily. This is the best way to eat ice-cream! Trust an Italian to know this : It is million times better than the dry cones we usually have to make do with everywhere else…

This recipe is raw, natural and tastes hyper indulgent…

Of course there is much more to food in Venice than ice-cream but starting there is not a bad starting point…IMG_9283