Toasting

It wasn’t until I started making granola a few years ago that I started liking pumpkin and sunflower seeds. To me, in their raw form ie. straight from the packet, they had an unpleasant texture and taste. However, when roasted in the oven with the other granola ingredients, they take on an entirely different personality – crunchier, earthy sweet, nuttier.

Interestingly, by roasting in the oven, grilling, or toasting in a frying pan the health benefits of the seeds are increased. Heating causes a process within the seeds called the Maillard Reaction, which changes the protein structure and nutrition profile for the better. So not only do they taste fab, their antioxidant capacity also increases ๐Ÿ™‚

Abundant evidence suggests that antioxidants from foods e.g. fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds are needed to counteract the harmful free radicals which the body naturally produces during all of the millions of metabolic reactions and processes that occur in every cell of our bodies. Excessive free radicals contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, and vision loss.

So I use the toasted seeds everyday in a variety of ways, not just because they’re healthy, but because they taste really good and add interesting textures too. Try them in granola, sprinkled on salads, in yogurt, in my superfood salad and happy carrot recipes or just as a handy snack mixed with some raisins or dark chocolate chips.

Katsu Curry

I remember my first visit to Wagamama’s in Soho c. 1994. In the days before the internet with online reviews, its credentials were confirmed by the queue on the wooden stairs that descended in to the bright basement. “Have you been here before”, was our brisk greeting as we were seated at a long bench in the starkly decorated, minimalist restaurant. Dining elbow to elbow with strangers to eat Japanese food was a relatively new concept, and an exciting/eccentric/weird experience for a Belfast teenager.

Fast forward nearly thirty years, and my love for this Japanese fast food restaurant that serves fresh, tasty, decently priced dishes has not wained. There are now 130 Wagamama’s in the UK, with two near me in Belfast. My kids are equally taken by Waga’s – including the fussy eater (halleluja) – whose go to on the menu is the chicken katsu curry. (It could be worth mentioning that the word wagamama (ใ‚ใŒใพใพ) is Japanese for “self-indulgent”, “self-centred”, “disobedient”, or “wilful” and is most often translated by the brand as naughty child).

The Kastu Curry is Wagamama’s most popular dish, and was bought 2.5 million times last year. If you ever sit near the service point it is hard not to notice the stream of Katsus being ferried out to diners. There’s even a mini kids version which comes complete with shredded carrot and cucumber, keeping parents happy that they’re getting their veggies.

You’d think that it would be hard to replicate at home. The rice and chicken component can be very simple – use ready cooked packet rice and shop bought breaded chicken fillets. Of course you can prepare these from scratch yourself using basmati or jasmine rice and bread-crumbing/crushed corn-flaking chicken breasts.

It is also possible to buy Katsu curry sauce in a jar, however this homemade adapted from the original Wagamama recipe is far superior.

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
  • 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp mild curry powder
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Soften the garlic, onion and ginger in the oil over a medium heat. Add the turmeric and curry powder, stir for about a minute. Add the flour, mix for another minute. Add the chicken stock a splash at a time, stirring to make the sauce. When all the chicken stock has been added, stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce and sugar. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, then blend with a stick blender (or whizz up in a foddering processor, I use my Nutribullet).

The original recipe says to sieve the sauce rather than blending to make it smooth, but it seems such a shame to remove the awesome goodness and flavour of the onions, ginger and garlic. Sure, it’s a diversion from the original recipe, but very much in keeping with the “naughty child” ethos of the Wagamama name, ha ha!

Also, by keeping the onions and garlic, as well as the turmeric and curry spices you will be making your gut microbiome very happy ๐Ÿ™‚ and that’s a very good thing.

Immense Veggie Chilli

The veggie chilli is immense. The original recipe comes from Jamie Oliver which I have adapted………you may notice that there are no actual chillis in the recipe. The cayenne pepper adds a mild spiciness, which is just this side of conservative and perfect for not blowing small children’s heads off. Cinnamon adds a wonderful depth of flavour and just makes it taste a bit different (without it actually tasting of cinnamon).

In these Corona days – it’s absolutely fine to use fresh, frozen or tinned ingredients. Adapt where you can!

Sweet potatoes provide vitamin A, onions and garlic are rich in fermentable carbohydrates (which help the healthy bacteria in our digestive system to flourish,) peppers are rich in vitamin C, and tomatoes are chocca block with lycopene. The beans are high in fibre and great for protein – keeping the blood sugar levels steady and hunger at bay.

For anyone requiring the chilli kick, I put a bottle of chilli sauce on the table for those in need of the extra rocket fuel.

The spices – chilli sauce optional extra

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
olive oil
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 cloves of garlic
big handful of fresh coriander
2 x 400 g tins of mixed beans
2 x 400 g tins chopped tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 200หšC/400หšF/gas 6.

  • Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks, then place onto a baking tray.
  • Sprinkle with a pinch each of cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper, drizzle with oil then toss to coat. Roast for 40 minutes, or until golden.
  • Peel and chop the onion. Chop the peppers, then peel and finely chop the garlic.
  • Pick the coriander leaves, finely chopping the stalks.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat, add the onion, peppers and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the coriander stalks and spices, and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain and add the beans. Tip in the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a spoon, then stir well.
  • Stir the roasted sweet potato through the chilli with most of the coriander leaves.
  • Serve with boiled rice, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, grated cheese. And remember to put the bottle of chilli sauce on the table!
Ready for the festivities to commence! I totally forgot to take any pics of the dinner, mainly because I was too busy doing eating and talking – and a little bit of drinking ๐Ÿ™‚

Flattened Lamb Koftas in Pitta

 

Well it looks like summer may finally be here! After 6 months of grim winter weather, the sun is making an appearance. OK, ‘summer’ may be pushing it………..but when living on the Irish coast, if the thermometer reads anything above 15 degrees C then the summer dresses and flip flops will be out. So quick! Before the sun disappears! I’ll be th.jpegcookin a new suitably sunny Greek inspired wee recipe! (NB the word ‘wee’ in Northern Ireland is an affectionate term used for pretty much anything, for example a shop assistant may say: “Uck that is a lovely wee top, would you like a wee bag for it? Just pop your wee card in the wee machine there. OK you can put your wee PIN number in now. Would you like me to put your wee receipt in your wee bag?”)

Here’s the wee recipe for flatttened lamb koftas……seriously, you’ll be totally scundered at how good these are ๐Ÿ™‚

How to make them healthier:

  • Lamb is a high fat red meat, so try to buy the lean mince which has a reduced fat
  • Grill rather than fry
  • Add loads of crunchy salad in a pitta, tomatoes, humous etc

 

Ingredients:

  • 400g lean lamb mince
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed/finely chopped
  • pitta bread
  • lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, greek yogurt or hummus
  1. In a bowl, mix the mince, cinnamon, cumin and garlic. Get stuck in and use your hands!
  2. Grab a handful, and mould in to a patty shape, about the same shape as a pitta bread but a bit smaller
  3. Place on some kitchen foil and grill for a few minutes on each side
  4. Put in a pitta (toast the pitta if you prefer), with some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and greek yogurt/hummus

 

 

KFC – can fast food be fit food?

Call it a mid life crisis, but I’ve recently started stoking up the social life with a night out every fortnight or so. With only weeks to go until my 39 turns to in to forty, and with significantly more childcare on hand (thank you parents, sister and cousins!) it would be silly not to.

Usually a conversation in the pub eventually gets to “what do you do?”, or hilariously (well, it seemed the funniest thing I’d ever heard after a few Bushmill Mojitos): “What is your role in life?”

When I tell people that I am a dietitian, a lot of people ask the ‘Which Is Better’ question e.g. ย “gin with slimline or fat tonic?”, “Guinness or beer?” or “what’s the least bad thing to have from the take-away”.

So takeaways: can fast food be fit food?

Purely for research purposes, today, I attended one of the best fast food joints Bangor Ring Road has to offer: KFC@Balloo.

What was the healthiest/least ‘bad’ thing on offer?

I had been slightly terrified that I was going to have to get one of those great big buckets that used to be advertised on TV in the 80’s. How things have changed! It feltย like a chorus of angels had descended when I spotted the KFC Rice Box. It looked remarkably similar to the boxes you can get in Leonย – a healthy fast fast food mecca in snazzy London.

 

 

Original Recipe Rice Box: in a box, there was a large portion of rice, a crispy chicken fillet, some salad (lettuce and tomatoes), a dollop of tomato chutney on the rice, and a splash of creamy dressing on the lettuce.

 

KFC Rice Box Adult Recommended Intake per day
Calories 500 2000
Fat 17 70
Saturated Fat 2.3 20
Carbohydrates 64 260
Protein 28 50
Salt 2.5 6

 

  • Taste: It was quite tasty indeed. The chicken wasn’t at all dry, the rice was flavoursome, the lettuce was crispy and the tomatoes great too (I am clearly not a food critic with extensive foody vocabulary!)
  • Nutrition:
    • the rice provides a good source of carbs (although there was a bit too much for me so I left about half).
    • great amount of protein from the chicken
    • the chicken has been deep fried so higher in fat than a grilled fillet, unfortunately KFC doesn’t have this option. I guess that’s reasonable as the joint is has ‘fried chicken’ in it’s name.
    • the salad provides about one of your five a day of fruit/veg
    • Horribly high in salt, giving you almost half of your recommended daily salt intake. The salt is probably what makes the rice so tasty.

KFC Nutrition Guide

How to ‘health it up’:

  • add a bottle of water
  • add a side of corn on the cob to double your veg intake
  • only eat half the rice, unless you’re very hungry or have just been working out
  • remove the crispy skin from the chicken
  • DO NOT add any more salt
  • DO NOT add chips or Coke

As a post sport/exercise/workout recovery meal, this is pretty good. It provides a decent amount of carbs, protein, and veg. The salt can be a good thing if you are a heavy sweater.

So how does it compare to healthy restaurant Leon’s box? Well, Leon has lots of different versions, but typically, there isn’t a massive amount of difference when comparing calories and overall fats. The KFC one is higher in salt and carbs (probably due to the big portion of rice), but as a positive KFC is higher in protein. Leon’s usually also contain healthy fats from avocado, olive oil and seeds.

Would I get this again from KFC? Yes, sure I would. Thumbs up ๐Ÿ™‚