Red Cabbage & Beetroot Slaw with Creamy Walnut Dressing

 

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This salad is the much sassier and classier big sister of regular coleslaw with mayonnaise dressing. The red cabbage and beetroot provide the same lovely crunch as the more traditional white cabbage and carrot, but with a much richer depth of flavour that is really complimented by the subtle walnut dressing.  If you are vegan or allergic to/avoiding dairy for health or other reasons, this dressing is completely plant based and dairy free, but very creamy.  You can toast the walnuts before hand in order to play around with the flavour, but I prefer to keep them raw to preserve more of the nutrients.

Nutritionally, this salad is packed full of fibre and nutrients.  Both red cabbage and beetroot contain masses of anti inflammatory anti oxidants which in particular aid in detoxification of the body.  As these vegetables are eaten raw and fresh in this salad, even more of the benefits are retained.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 head large red cabbage
  • 2 small beetroot
  • 1/4 cup walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

Chop and shred the cabbage and beetroot finely.  Add the walnuts, water, oil and vinegar in to a blender and mix until smooth and creamy.  Mix the dressing in to the vegetables and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Best served chilled.

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Fattoush Salad

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As you can imagine, I eat a lot of salad.  Fattoush is hands down my favourite salad of all time.  It probably helps that Levantine food is hands down my favourite cuisine.  At first glance Fattoush probably seems like an ordinary garden salad with the usual suspects of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and peppers.  It is the dressing that turns this salad in to something really amazing. The sumac, a tart and bitter spice, mixes beautifully with the sweet pomegranate molasses and tangy lemon juice.  Then it’s all topped off with crispy pieces of Middle Eastern flat bread fried or toasted in olive oil.  Heavenly!

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INGREDIENTS

Salad:

  • Lettuce (not Iceberg, Purslane if possible)
  • Cucumber (Lebanese cucumbers if possible)
  • Cherry tomato
  • Peppers
  • Fresh Mint
  • Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Spring onion
  • Lebanese flatbread

Dressing:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Pomegrante Molasses
  • Sumac
  • Salt
  • Crushed garlic

The idea of giving exact quantities for a salad seems ridiculous to me. Just throw it all together in a bowl and see what quantities you prefer. For the dressing I usually use about a quarter cup of oil, the juice of one small lemon, 3 crushed garlic cloves, and a big tablespoon each of sumac and pomegranate molasses. To make the crispy bread pieces, cut the bread in to strips and then squares with a scissors, sprinkle with olive oil and fry on a pan until crispy, or toast in a low oven for a few minutes.

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Wild Food for Free: Summertime Foraging -Elder flowers

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Elder flowers are amongst the easiest plants to forage both in terms of availability and identification.  In Ireland the shrub like tree of Elder is common and widely dispersed, flourishing in urban and suburban areas as well as rural.   The large and numerous clusters of delicate tiny creamy flowers which begin to appear around May are an easy identifier.  They stand out clearly on the tree and once you have identified them you will begin to notice it everywhere, from rural hedgerows to derelict urban car parks.

The elder tree features prominently in Irish folklore where it is commonly a symbol of evil and witchcraft.  It was considered to be an unlucky and malevolent tree with a ‘crostáil’ in it -bad temper and mischief.  Traditionally Elder wood was never brought in to the house for fear of bad luck.  A baby cradle made of Elder would cause the baby to be sick or snatched away by faeries.  In many countries, not just Ireland, there are stories of Elder trees being inhabited by an Elder spirit or Mother spirit who protects the tree from harm.  It was therefore considered necessary to ask permission from the Elder spirit before cutting the wood.  If you are interested in Irish nature and folklore, I would highly recommend Niall Mac Coitir’s beautiful book ‘Irish Trees -Myths, Legends and Folklore’ where I learnt the above information from.

As with all foraging, make sure to only take a small portion of the available plant to ensure that there is enough supply for the local wildlife and to enable the plant to survive and thrive.  This is especially true of Elder -if you pick all the flower heads in summer, there will be no Elder berries in Autumn!  It also important to make sure that you ask the permission of the Elder Spirit before picking the flowers! ;-)  Elder can be quite easily distinguished.  It is an untidy and sprawling shrub like tree which has many stems carrying 5-7 finely toothed leaves .   Elder belongs to the honeysuckle family and so there is no surprise that the blossoms give off a strong, earthy aroma. The scent of elder flower can vary from a distinctive but pleasant scent to a smell more akin to cat piss towards the end of the day -another reason to choose your picking time wisely! ;-)

The best time to pick the Elder flowers is before midday when there has (hopefully) been a few hours of sunshine on the flowers.  Take care to pick from a plant which has not been contaminated with traffic fumes or roadside chemicals and pesticides.  You are looking for the flowers to be creamy-white, dry and healthy.  It is better to pick the clusters which are under blossomed, with some yellow buds still unopened, rather than over blossomed, when the petals are beginning to whither and brown.   The flavour of your recipes will vary greatly according to the health and maturity of the flowers you pick.   All brown flowers should be discarded.  If you pick the flowers on a dull or wet day, the pollen will not give off a very strong flavour in your recipe.  We had a glorious few weeks of sunshine here in June so the flowers I picked were laden with pollen and scented strongly.

I made a batch of elder flower cordial with my bounty.  The cordial is so easy and versatile.  It keeps for months in a sealed, sterilised bottle and can be used to dilute summer drinks or dress fruit or summer salads, as well as in marinades and baking.  I tested this batch out with sparkling water mixed with vodka, white rum and white wine -strictly for research purposes! ;-)  The rum was especially good!

Traditional methods for making Elder flower cordial incorporates loads of white sugar.  I wanted to make a healthier version and so experimented with using dates instead.  I expected the cordial to taste much stronger and more bitter but to my delight it tasted just the same as any of the sugary versions that I’ve tried!  Remember that the flowers which you use will vary the batch accordingly, so experiment with quantity of ingredients and steeping time to get the taste that you prefer.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 10-12 heads Elderflower
  • 15-20 dates
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 1.3 litres of water

Put the water in a pan and bring to the boil.  Add the dates and bring back to the boil for a couple of minutes.  Place the elder flowers in a large bowl.  Add the zest of the orange and lemons, and then slice the fruit and add them in too.  Pour the water and dates over the flowers and fruits and cover with a tea towel.  Allow to steep for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  Strain the cordial through a sieve in to a clean glass bottle with an airtight lid.  Store in the fridge.

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Ultra Moisturising Shea Butter Hand Balm

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This hand cream is completely natural and organic, containing gorgeous plant based ingredients to moisturise, soothe and protect dry hands.   It’s thicker than a hand cream so a little goes a long way.  It’s semi-solid texture is that of a balm or salve -think halfway between a cream and a hard lip balm.
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 I used shea butter as the main ingredient due to it’s amazingly effective moisturising and nourishing properties.  Shea butter is protective, hydrating and very efficient at softening and smoothing the skin.  It is a rich source of vitamins A and E.  When making skincare products, I always strive to use raw, natural, organic, unrefined ingredients that have not been processed from their natural state with chemicals.  Otherwise I may as well just buy any old hand cream from the shop -I like the challenge of creating beautiful, natural products which are kind to our bodies and the planet.
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The only issue with this is that some people find that the unrefined or non chemically altered version of shea butter has a strong unpleasant smell.  It is a distinctive, natural and earthy smell which is certainly stronger than unrefined shea butter but the beneficial properties of unrefined are also stronger compared to refined shea butter.  If you are really adverse to the smell, which I don’t find unpleasant at all, you could experiment by using another unrefined butter instead.
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I used jojoba wax  to help harden this product so that it sets, and avocado oil to add even more to the highly moisturising nourishment.  The essential oils which I used in this one were added more for fragrance rather than function, so you can replace them with any combination of essential oils you like.
 
INGREDIENTS:
  • 20g shea butter
  • 5g jojoba wax
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 5 drops lavander  essential oil
  • 3 drops neroli  essential oil
  • 1 drop patchouli essential oil
Melt the wax, butter and oil in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering hot water.  Do not allow the bowl to touch the surface of the water.  Once everything is melted and fully combined, add the essential oils.  Mix well and allow to cool before transferring in to a glass airtight container.  A small glass jar is best as you can scoop the product out with your finger.  This recipe makes enough to go in to a 25g container.

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Grilled Pink Grapefruit with Date Syrup

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I have had a few requests lately asking for more posts about breakfast foods.  The reason I haven’t included many to date is because I am not really a big breakfast person!   I have always been one of those people that doesn’t feel like eating straight away in the mornings.  Previously I would just leave the house around 8am without having anything except a cup of green tea, or sometimes nothing at all, and then eat breakfast in work when I began to feel hungry.  Once I have my appetite for breakfast, it’s usually non stop eating for the rest of the day!

My default breakfast in work was usually porridge or pinhead oatmeal with almond milk, nuts, seeds and banana or berries.  The recipe for the pin head oats is here.  When I got a high powered blender at the start of this year I began making a green smoothie every morning before work.   Even though the thought of food so early after waking usually seems very unappealing to me, I seem to be able to stomach a pint of scary looking green smoothie first thing no problem at all!  Being quick and easy probably helps -it takes two minutes to make and one minute to drink!  I’m going to do a post on my green smoothies in the coming weeks as I had a request on my instagram account to give more details on my recipe as well as the hemp protein powder which I use -my favourite part of my green smoothies, it’s amazing!

Apart from green smoothies or porridge, the next closest thing to a breakfast food that I regularly have is this very simple grilled pink grapefruit with date syrup.  I’ll often start my day with one of these until my body gets hungry enough for a real breakfast.  Grapefruit is so refreshing in the morning but this is so delicious that I tend to eat it after my dinner sometimes too.  I always thought that I hated grapefruit until I got some in my organic box and decided to give them another try.  I usually love sour things but I still found grapefruit slightly too sour, so I decided to try caramelising the grapefruit under the grill/broiler for a few minutes in order to intensify the natural sugars.  You can also place it cut side down on a hot griddle pan.  I then add date syrup for extra sweetness. OH BABY! The contrast of the flavours is so good -deliciously sweet on top and pleasantly bitter on the inside.  Blueberries are also a very good accompaniment to this.  If you don’t have time to caramelise it you can just try out the date syrup on a plain pink grapefruit but the little effort to caramelise it first is really worth it!  Pink grapefruit is full of vitamin C and it also contains the cartenoid lycopene which fights cancer forming free radicals in the body.  Don’t waste the rind -drop it in a pint of water for a refreshing flavoured drink!

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Raw Lemon Tart

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I am by no means a raw foodie.  While I do see the huge benefit of consuming plenty of raw plant based foods, I love cooking as well as the flavour and texture of cooked food so I am happy with maintaining a balance between both.   Raw cauliflower ‘rice’ and ‘notatoes’ are just not for me!  My obsession with raw cakes and desserts however continues to grow and grow!  Unlike some underwhelming raw savoury dishes that I have tried (I have also tried many very tasty ones!) I have never ever eaten a raw cake or raw dessert that was not totally delicious.  They are usually bursting with as much yummy flavour as their dairy and sugar laden counterparts, but leave you feeling much healthier, better and lighter afterwards, even after several slices…

This month’s raw cake experiment was this raw lemon tart.  I used the same type of base that I use for all my ‘cheesecake’ bases and like my white chocolate and strawberry cake, used cashews for the filling, along with the ‘secret’ ingredient… seaweed! This was required in order to get a texture closer to lemon curd and lemon meringue pie.  It works,  it doesn’t taste of fish, and no one has to know! ;-)  But they might be pretty interested if you tell them!

The seaweed or ‘sea vegetable’ I used is Carrageen ‘Chondrus Crispus’ also called Carageenan and ‘Irish Moss’.  This food was traditionally eaten along Ireland’s coast lines, particularly the Western sea board, for centuries, where it was steamed and eaten with potatoes.  It has become popular in vegetarian and vegan cooking as it has thickening, binding and gelling properties similar to gelatin so that it can be used to make animal free jellies and desserts.   Many see it as a super food, containing masses of trace minerals, as well as protein, calcium and magnesium while others claim that it should be entirely avoided as it will cause inflammation and digestive issues.  It seems that this mostly refers to carageenan gum which has been highly processed and is in a entirely different form than unprocessed sun dried carrageen straight from the sea.

There is no evidence for either side of the argument so my stance here is moderation is key!  If you eat kilos of carrageen it probably wouldn’t be very good for your body, just like if you ate kilos of anything else.  A slice or three of raw lemon curd cake is just fine in my opinion!   As with all sea vegetables, I would only use organic varieties due to the massive pollution and contamination which we are destroying the oceans with! I pick organic nori for my sushi and salads as well.

The agave syrup in this recipe is another controversial ingredient in the health world, as above, I use it in moderation, but if you avoid it entirely, experiment with using a different liquid based sweetener instead.  The turmeric in this recipe is just to add a yellow colour, don’t use too much or you’ll get an Indian spiced lemon cake! That has actually just given me an idea for chai lemon blondie bars but I’ll leave that to another day!!…  I served this cake with raw vanilla cashew cream, just blend one cup of soaked cashews with one third cup of water, vanilla and sweetener.

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INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 1 cup walnuts (soaked overnight)
  • 1 cup almonds (soaked overnight)
  • 6 – 10 dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Filling:

  • 50g carrageenan or Irish moss  (soaked overnight)
  • 1 cup lemon juice (4- 5 lemons)
  • 1 cup agave syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
  • 1/2 cup cashews (soaked overnight)
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • Pinch of turmeric powder

To make the crust, soak the almonds and walnuts in a large bowl of filtered water for 8 – 12 hours.  Drain and put in a food processor along with the dates, vanilla essence  and salt.  If you are unsure of the moisture content of your dates, add six and pulse the mixture.  If you think that it needs a bit moisture to bind together,  then add an extra two and pulse each time, until you get a consistency like moist breadcrumbs.  Line the base of a spring form pan with parchment paper and press the mixture in to the pan.  Press down firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon to ensure that the filling is smooth, solid and compacted.  Place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.

Soak 50g of carrageenan in one cups of water overnight.   Make sure to use a big bowl as it’s volume will expand.  Remove from the water and rinse in a sieve.  Place the carrageenan and 1 cup of water in a blender and process until very smooth.  Rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers,  if it feels a bit grainy, process it again until it’s totally smooth.  It’s volume will expand and it will become warm from the processing, this is okay!  When smooth and thickened, add the lemon juice and agave nectar and process until well combined and smooth.  You want everything about this cake to be smooth, smooth, smooth!  Add the cashews, vanilla, turmeric and continue to blend until… smooth!  Finally add the coconut oil and blend thoroughly.  Pour into the crust and chill for an hour or two in the fridge before serving.  You can also pour this filling in to individual soufflé pots.

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Greek Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

 

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Summer time always reminds me of holidays in the Greek islands and the excitement of going out for dinner every night in anticipation of trying the delicious Greek food.  The cuisine generally has very good meat free options with a limited use of dairy.  Despite the variety of vegetarian food on offer, these dishes are usually eaten as sides.  The waiters usually found it baffling as to why I would not want to eat meat or fish along with the vegetables but generally they were always very eager and proud to present me with the best vegetarian food that they had, often making up dishes especially for me.

Among my favourite dishes were the stuffed tomatoes and peppers.  For meat free meals these are usually stuffed with rice, however I like to stuff them with quinoa instead to raise the nutrition content, and particularly to add some high quality protein.  I think the tomato version is tastier than the peppers as the tomato juices marinate the stuffing from the inside in.  Unfortunately I can rarely find very large tomatoes here  but these pepper ones are also pretty damn tasty! If you can find large tomatoes, try this recipe out using both.  You can omit the tomato puree if stuffing tomatoes.  If for some bizarre reason you don’t like olives, play around with different types of stuffing using different ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 150g cooked quinoa
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced,
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 6-8 kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp dried mint
  • 4 large red pepper

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Fry the onion and garlic gently.  Stir in to the cooked quinoa along with the fresh and dried herbs, lemon juice, tomato puree and olives.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cut the tops of the peppers and discard the seeds and inner membranes.  Rub with olive oil and season inside the peppers.  Spoon the quinoa mixture in to the peppers and replace the lids.  Place in a baking tray and fill with about half a pint of water.  Bake at 180 degrees celscius for an hour and a half.  If the lids are browning too quickly, place some foil over them -I should have done this with mine sooner!  Best served warm rather than piping hot.

I always make the lemon & herb roast potatoes featured in the photos to go with these. I’ll put that recipe up too if people would like to see it.

 

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