Great ingredients - Great Inspiration - Great Results!!

A wet wander around Tollcross = A KITCHEN DAY!!

Recipes: Chocolate Chia Mousse; Zingy Thai Broccoli Soup, Thai Udon Noodles

I had my Thursday all planned out.  Leave the house at 9am to catch a bus to Murrayfield to help weed that section of the Water of Leith; head back into town to do some specialty food shopping; get home in time for my bulk grocery delivery; head out to Zumba; come home and collapse.

So, 9am comes.  I am dressed in my old clothes, boots and light rain jacket – just in case.  I head out the door into the hallway and hear a strange sound coming from the open window – wait I recognize that sound………….RAIN!!!  HEAVY RAIN!!!  I have to catch the bus so I need to make a split decision….. so I wimped out from weeding and headed back into my warm dry flat.  If I had weather proofs and wellies I would have gone but I really wasn’t prepared for the weather.

After a cup of herbal tea and a peruse on the internet I thought I better still head out to do my shopping – in fact – if I get some new ingredients I could even have a KITCHEN DAY!!  And also a great opportunity to bring together so many things I’ve learned over the last few weeks.  So back on with the rain jacket, back out to the bus and off to Tollcross in Edinburgh to hit both Real Foods and The ETL Oriental Supermarket, two of the food shops featured on my Edinburgh Healthy Food Map.  Riding along on the bus I started formulating a menu.  A few weeks ago I had some fresh tender stem broccoli that I didn’t manage to use before going on holiday.  Instead of wasting it, I blanched it and froze it.  It would make a great broccoli soup, but I wanted something a little different……….. soy milk instead of dairy milk and cheese?  Tried it before, very nice – in fact too much like traditional cream of broccoli soup.  I know!!  Coconut milk!!  But it’d be a bit dull to just use coconut milk.  I’ve never cooked Thai before but seeing that I had access to some great shops – why not try something new!  OK, coconut milk, lemongrass, chilies, ginger all mentally added to shopping list.

I’ve been attending a fantastic, inspirational Raw Cooking Course at ORB Café in Edinburgh and have been inspired to try so many new things.  So I got off the bus and headed into Real Foods, an Aladdin’s cave of health food ingredients and products.  I only recognize 50% of the products but a couple of years ago it probably would have been only 10% so I am learning!  And I love wandering around the narrow aisles, making sure to scrutinize every shelf, from floor to ceiling so I don’t miss anything.  As I was walking and ‘bus-ing’ I was limited to how much I could carry – which is probably a good thing.  I found loads of ingredients that we had been using on my Raw Food class and in my raw food books such as organic pumpkin and sunflower seeds, cardamom pods, chia seeds, coconut milk and cream, almond butter, almond milk (OK the one I learned to make fresh does taste so much better – but I found an organic one that only has milk, water and agave – so it’s good to keep in the cupboard when I don’t have time to make my own) and also got a big tub of barley grass powder – a new favorite that I learned about while doing my juice feast.  Couldn’t find chilies or lemongrass – but not to worry – just around the corner is an oriental supermarket.

Now I wish I could say that I recognized 10% of the products here!!  Even the packaging is wacky, wonderful and sometimes a little weird.  I’m sure the bag of little paper wrapped morsels called ‘white bunnies’ were candy and not actually bunnies…….?  Anyway, I found the fresh produce section and picked up my veg and also tossed in some fresh udon noodles (my favorite dish at the Japanese noodle restaurants) and wasabi powder.  At my raw food course we learned to make kale chips and spicy seeds and I think a sprinkle of wasabi powder would make an exciting addition!

Lots of wonderful ingredients to play with!

Lots of wonderful ingredients to play with!

So its back home to start the Thai Broccoli Soup and to make some chia seed pudding.  I’ve been seeing loads of recipes on the blogs I follow and found a chocolate version from Healy Real Food Vegetarian.  Of course it turns out I don’t have all the ingredients (now that I’m home and dry) so I’ll be trying a few substitutions.  And I’ll also be raiding my stash of frozen bananas to make banana, coconut and cardamom ice ‘cream’ (oops –that seems to be 1 dinner and 2 desserts!)

I was waiting for my grocery deliver to get a lime for my soup so I started with the Chia pudding.  It did need to chill for an hour so probably a good place to start anyway.  I needed to make some changes since I only had enough coconut milk to make my soup, and didn’t have any coconut sugar (on the list for my next visit to Aladdin’s cave);  the one thing I didn’t change was I ground the chia seeds to get a smoother mousse – you really need a coffee grinder to do this but they are super handy for grinding all kinds of seeds and nuts, so definitely worth purchasing.  The original recipe (which I will try as well) is here.

So here’s my adapted recipe:

Chocolate Chia Mousse

Makes 2 servings.

Equipment:  hand blender, blender or mini food processor and a coffee grinder.

Prep time: 25 minutes, Chill for 1 hour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 dry dates (this is for sweetening, can also use raw sugar, honey, agave)
1 cup almond milk – (I used Provamel Organic as it is most similar to my homemade version)
2 tbsp ground chia seeds*
½ tsp of Vanilla (would also be good with mint – may try that next!)
Dash of sea salt

*grind chia seeds to a fine powder in a small coffee grinder.  If you use whole seeds the texture will be more like tapioca.

1. Roughly chop the dates (by hand or in a mini processor) and add to the almond milk.  Allow to soak for 20 minutes then blitz until smooth.

2. Mix all ingredients together using a food processor or hand blender. The chia seeds will immediately start to thicken the mix.

3. Place in a bowl or in individual ramekins and refrigerate for about 30 minutes-1 hour.

Results:  Very chocolaty and very nutty.  There is a slight gritty texture as my grinder didn’t completely pulverize the skin of the chia seeds – but it just seems like there are ground nuts in the mousse.  This is a great way to get the health benefits of chia seeds in a yummy, raw treat.  I also think this would make a great filling for a chocolate mousse pie (on a ground nut base) or in a parfait style dessert with cream and berries.

Next up was the soup!  I was making it in the same way I make my cream of broccoli soup – just changing my normal veg for ‘Thai’ inspired ingredients.  Instead of sautéing onion, garlic, celery, carrots – I started with onion, garlic, chili, ginger and lemongrass.  Instead of milk or soy milk I was using coconut milk.  A splash of lime and some fresh herbs should finish it off nicely.  So here’s how the recipe turned out – and a bonus recipe for how I used to leftovers to make AMAZING Udon noodles:

Zingy ‘Thai’ Broccoli Broth

Serves 4

Prep time 20 Minutes, Cooking time 45 minutes

2 organic vegetable stock cubes (or homemade stock of course)
750 ml of boiling water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger
1 red chili pepper, fresh is better than dry for this recipe
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 stalks of lemongrass
1 can of coconut milk (about 400ml) – Not low fat
300 g of broccoli, roughly chopped (I used tenderstem)
1 Lime (juice from)
Optional:  Salt & pepper to taste

Finish with:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 handful fresh parsley
6 large basil leaves

1.  Heat a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add the coconut oil.

2.  Finely chop the oinion, garlic, chili and ginger (I find a food processor best for this) and add to the pot.  Allow to gently soften for about 10 minutes.  Don’t brown!  You may need to turn the heat back if the vegetables start to take on colour.

3.  Meanwhile, trim the lemongrass and remove and hard outer leaves.  Cut into 2 inch pieces and ‘bash’ with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer.

4.  Prepare the stock using the boiled water and stock cubes.

5.  Add the cumin to the pot and mix well into the softened vegetables.

6.  Now add the lemongrass, stock and broccoli.  Allow to simmer until the broccoli is very tender (15 to 20 minutes)

7.  Add the coconut milk and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

8.  Remove the lemon grass stalks.

9. Blend the soup using a blender or a hand/stick blender until smooth.

10.  Add the juice of the lime; stir well.

11.  Taste for seasoning – add S&P if desired.

12.  To serve as a soup, blend together the olive oil, parsley and basil and drizzle over the top of each serving.

13.  Also makes a great base for noodles (recipe below) and can be frozen.

RESULT:  The soup had the most amazing, zingy, citrus flavour with additional, gentle zing from the ginger and chilli.  I could drink it straight from the pot – which I did for lunch – but I thought I would use the remaining soup to make noodles for dinner.  Honestly, these noodles were so good that I will always use the broth to makes these and not bother eating it as soup!!  I will definitely keep a supply of the Thai broth in the freezer for quick, healthy meals like this:

Udon noodles with Zingy Thai inspired broth

Prep time: 10 minutes (assuming broth is already prepared)

Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes

Serves 2

500ml (or more) of Zingy ‘Thai’ Broccoli Broth
1 large (or 2 small) onions, sliced into wedges
½ red bell pepper, sliced thinly (julienned)
1 large carrot, spiralized or julienned
Optional:  add any other veg such as mangetout, mushrooms, baby corn
1 tsp coconut oil
2 packets of Udon Noodles (found in the chiller section of most Asian markets)

1.  Heat coconut oil in large wok over high heat.

2.  Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, until golden – starting to carmelize.

3.  Add the pepper, carrots and any other veg and fry for a further 5 minutes, while stirring.

4.  Add the broth, bring to the boil then add the udon noodles.  Use about 500ml for ‘stir fried’ noodles, add more for ‘soupy’ noodles.

5.  Cover the wok and allow the noodles to absorb the broth.  They will soak up a lot of liquid!

6.  Occasionally stir and separate the noodles, adding more broth if necessary.

7. Once the noodles are separated and soft, serve immediately.

Great ingredients - Great Inspiration - Great Results!!

Great ingredients – Great Inspiration – Great Results!!

Healthy Scale:  Kitchen Day

Mind: (+) I find cooking very relaxing and meditative.  If you find cooking stressful – make sure you have a plan, get all your ingredients together and clear your workspace to try and make it as enjoyable as possible.  And, find a cooking buddy (or someone who will clear up as you go!)

Body: (+) I think homemade is always best for our bodies.  Try and source the best ingredients you can afford – this will give you better results, better taste and often better nutrition.  You can always just make less – put quality over quantity.

Community: (+) So rewarding to shop locally!  Often the local shops buy locally – so you are creating a community support chain.  The staff at small shops usually know their stock quite well so can offer advice on buying and preparing.


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