Fruit Salad

Aug 012016
 

Seasonal Snacks: August - Watermelon

 

Watermelon is the quintessential summertime fruit snack. True to its name, watermelons are more than 90% water so are extremely refreshing and hydrating. However, despite their high water content, watermelons are powerhouses of nutrition as well.

 

  • Lycopene – Lycopene is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants, usually found in pink and red fruits and vegetables. It helps keep a variety of diseases at bay by clearing your body of harmful free radicals and has been shown to protect your skin against harmful UV rays. While tomatoes are especially well-known for their lycopene content, watermelons have an even higher concentration of lycopene than tomatoes.
  • Vitamin A – Vitamin A is good for maintaining the health of your eyes, skin and bones.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an antioxidant which helps support your immune system, maintains skin elasticity, and helps your body heal and repair itself. It is also believed to increase your blood flow by helping your blood vessels to relax.
  • Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is important for converting food into energy and maintain good metabolism.

 

There are more than 1200 varieties of watermelon, ranging from dark red to pale yellow. When choosing a watermelon, try to find one which feels heavy for its size, with a smooth rind (skin), and a hollow bass sound when you knock on it. You may be surprised to know that every part of the watermelon is edible, including its seeds and rind (nb: if you eat the rind, try and make sure it is organic).

 

 

* The produce above is in season in August in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, August seasonal produce includes pineapples, blood oranges, and artichokes.

 

 

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Jul 012016
 

SS: July - Cherries and Peaches

 

 

Summertime is prime stone-fruit time and my two favourites are cherries and peaches.

 

Cherries: When I was a little girl, I remember eating cherries straight out of a colander, freshly rinsed. I was taught that the darker cherries were sweeter and I would spend time examining the pile looking for the darkest cherries, with extra joy when I found twin-cherries joined by the stem. However, there are many varieties of sweet cherries which  come in a variety of colours from deep burgundy to bright red to yellow. When buying cherries, look for glossy firm skin and green stems. Cherries stay freshest in cold storage so make sure you keep them in your refrigerator rather than on your countertop (unless you plan on eating them straight away, in which case your countertop is perfectly fine). Cherries freeze well if you remove their stone, place them in a single layer on a tray in the freezer until frozen through, and then seal them in a freezer-bag. You can then throw these cherries into smoothies and desserts directly from your freezer.

 

Peaches: Peaches took me a little longer to appreciate because my mini-self objected to their lightly fuzzy skin, but I soon overcame that hurdle and enjoyed many moments of simple pleasure in the company of a perfectly ripe peach, it’s juice running down my wrist. Even now, I sometimes try to eat my peaches quietly away from the rest of the household to fully absorb myself in that moment of simple joy. When buying peaches, look for unblemished skin and a slight give when pressed with your thumb. Peaches come in a variety of shades from pale yellow to blush red to maroon, and can be large round orbs or small flat discs (my preference is for flat peaches). The scent of a peach is a good indicator of its taste. Peaches are delicate so make sure you carry them on top of the rest of your shopping rather than at the bottom (as I have learned the hard way). Peaches are at their peak in July and August.

 

* The produce above is in season in July in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, July seasonal produce includes papayas, mandarins and golden delicious apples.

 

 

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Jun 012016
 

SS: June - Berries

 

June is the start of summer and the month to look out for all types of berries. There are probably 1,000 great reasons to eat berries by the handful while they are in season, but the best reason is that they will be at their sweetest and juiciest at this time of year.

 

Look for shiny firm berries with a strong colour and avoid ones which are soft, bruised or leaking. Eat them on their own, or add them to yogurt, cereal, desserts or salads for a boost of fiber and the antioxidant Vitamin C.

 

Strawberries  ·  Raspberries  ·  Blueberries  ·  Blackberries

Mulberries ·  Bilberries ·  Black Crowberries ·  Boysenberries

Elderberries ·  Loganberries ·  Gooseberries ·  Blackcurrants ·  Redcurrants

 

 

* The produce above is in season in June in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, June seasonal produce includes pears, kiwifruits and kale.

 

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Feb 012016
 

Seasonal Snacks:February 2016

 

February is the month to top up on the last of the season’s clementines and persimmons. These bright orange fruits bring sunshine into my kitchen through the winter months and this is probably the last month that you can get a good supply of them before they disappear for the next nine months (in the northern hemisphere).

 

These bright orange coloured fruits get their sunny pigment from an antioxidant called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene has many benefits, but it is especially helpful in maintaining beautiful skin and healthy eyes and vision.

 

Seasonal Snacks:February 2016

 

 

The above fruits are in season in February in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, February seasonal fruits include kiwifruit, mangoes and strawberries (lovely dipped in dark chocolate for a Valentine’s treat!)

 

 

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Dec 042015
 

Fudgy Date-Cocoa Balls

 

I am not a huge fan of baking so I am always looking out for easy sweet treat recipes which I can make and put on my table during the holidays. And if it’s easy enough to involve kids, even better!

 

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of recipes for healthy no-bake nutrient-dense sugar-free Bliss Balls (also called Energy Balls) and I thought it was probably time for me to try my hand at them.

 

There are many recipes for Bliss Balls online, some of them better than others. A few things I have learned from making batches of Bliss Balls:

  • Soaking your dates not only makes them more fudgy but also mellows out their flavour so that other tastes can come through.
  • There must be at least one dry ingredient to balance out the sweetness of the dried fruit and to help bind it. I want my child to be able to take these to school as a snack, so I make them safe for the nut-free school environment by using unsalted sunflower seeds. However, if nut-free is not a requirement then you can use almonds or cashews instead.
  • Chilling the mixture in the refrigerator for between 2 hours and 2 days makes the mixture easier to handle and form into balls.
  • Once you have formed the balls, roll them in your coating of choice within 20 minutes for best sticking.
  • Make the balls bite-size so you can pop them in your mouth in one go.
  • Keep the balls refrigerated as they can become a little soft if kept at room temperature for too long.
  • If you want to use small cupcake cases, it is best to use them just prior to serving to avoid the cases becoming limp from the moisture of the Bliss Balls.

Aside from the health aspects of Bliss Balls, I especially love them because they are so easy to make with my child. We have already spent many fun and relaxing sessions rolling and decorating our festive Bliss Balls.

 

I really enjoyed making these Fudgy Date-Cocoa Balls, experimenting with them until I got the proportions just right for a chocolatey treat. I look forward to trying lots of combinations of ingredients in the future, so if you want to keep up-to-date with my recipes make sure you register for my emails (top right column) or follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 

Share your thoughts: Have you tried making Bliss Balls before? Any tips you would like to share?

 

 

Fudgy Date-Cocoa Balls

 

 

FUDGY DATE-COCOA BALLS

(makes about 20-24 bite sized balls)

 

Ingredients:

200g / 8oz dried dates (without pits)

150g / 5oz unsalted sunflower seeds or nuts (almonds or cashews)

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

(You will need a food processor for this recipe)

 

A variety of ingredients to roll the date balls in such as:

Dessicated coconut

Cocoa powder

Ground pistachios

Ground almonds

 

Small cupcake cases (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Weigh out 200g dried dates (without pits) and put them into a heat-proof bowl. If your dates have pits, it is very easy to remove them by slicing the date lengthwise along one side and pulling out the pit.
  2. Boil some water in a kettle and pour it over the dates in the bowl. Let the dates soak for 10 minutes and then drain the water away. Your dates are now ready to use.
  3. Weigh out 150g of unsalted sunflower seeds or nuts (almonds or cashews). Put them in your food processor and process them until they are finely ground.
  4. Add the dates, cocoa powder and vanilla extract to the food processor. Process for 1 minute until well blended.
  5. Taste and add more cocoa powder or vanilla extract. The consistency of the date mix should be so that it sticks together but it is not sticking to your hands.
  6. Chill the date mix in your refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours or upto 2 days.
  7. Once chilled, take a small amount of the date mix and roll it in your palms into a bite-sized ball.
  8. When you have made all the balls, roll them in the different decorative coatings and arrange on a plate. I recommend rolling them within 20 minutes for the best stickiness.
  9. Serve immediately or refrigerate for upto 3 days.
  10. If desired, place the Fudgy Date-Cocoa Balls in small cupcake cases just prior to serving.

 

Share your thoughts: Have you tried making Bliss Balls before? Any tips you would like to share?

 

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May 282015
 

Watermelon with Crushed Pistachios and Dark Chocolate

 

It’s May and the temperature in Dubai is regularly going over 40°C (that’s 104°F for US readers)! At times like this, watermelon makes a delicious hydrating snack or dessert.

 

Slicing your watermelon into wedges is probably the easiest way to eat it, but if you want to make something a bit more special, why not try cutting it into cute little bite-sized shapes. Cookie cutters tend to be too large, but I have found that fondant cutters are exactly the right size.

 

You can dress your watermelon cut-outs by scattering anything on top, but I like pistachios because their green colour is a nice contrast to the dark pink watermelon. And dark chocolate in moderation has many health benefits, including having antioxidant properties.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: What do you like to eat or drink to cool yourself down when the temperature soars?

 

Watermelon with Crushed Pistachios and Dark Chocolate

 

WATERMELON with CRUSHED PISTACHIOS and DARK CHOCOLATE

 

Ingredients: (the quantities in this recipe are only guidelines and you should adjust the amounts according to what seems right to you)

Watermelon (whole or half; seedless watermelon makes for easier cutting) – try to use only as much as will be eaten in one day

4-6 Tbsp pistachios (out of their shells)

20-40g / 0.7-1/4 oz chilled dark chocolate bar (eating chocolate) – refrigerate it for 30 minutes so that it is chilled and easier to chop

 

Directions:

  1. Place your pistachios on a cutting board and roughly chop through them with a sharp knife. The amount of pistachios you use depends on how much watermelon you plan to serve, and should be adjusted according to your taste. Set aside.
  2. Place your chilled dark chocolate on your cutting board and roughly chop it with a sharp knife. The amount of chocolate you use depends on how much watermelon you plan to serve, and should be adjusted according to your taste. Set aside.
  3. Wash and dry the skin of your watermelon.
  4. Cut your watermelon into 2.5cm / 1-inch thick pieces.
  5. Choose a few small fondant/cookie cutters and cut shapes out of the watermelon.
  6. To avoid wastage, any watermelon left over after the cut-outs should be saved and used in a smoothie, juice or salad. Discard the green watermelon rind.
  7. Refrigerate the watermelon and chocolate (separately) until ready to serve. The cut watermelon will start to release liquid after a while, so refrigerate it for a maximum of 24 hours.
  8. To serve, arrange the watermelon cut-outs on a platter and scatter your chopped pistachios and dark chocolate on top.
  9. Eat within 24 hours.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: What do you like to eat or drink to cool yourself down when the temperature soars?

 

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Jan 192015
 

Beetroot and Orange Salad with Labneh and Zaatar

 

 

I usually buy and cook beetroots before I even have a recipe in mind for them. I get several bunches of beetroots and then cook them all together. They are easy to cook and then can be stored in your refrigerator for 5-7 days, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice for a salad, side dish or stew. If you manage to buy beetroots with their leaves and stalks, cut them off and keep them to use as you would use spinach.

 

There are several ways to cook beetroots, from steaming or boiling to baking or roasting. I used to bake them wrapped individually in foil, but then I started cooking beetroots so often that I began to feel that I was using way too much foil and there must be a better way. I recently started baking them in a covered cast iron pot (Dutch oven) which saves me from using foil and has the same effect.

 

The cooking time in my oven has taken anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes and you can’t always tell by the size of the beetroot how long the cooking time will be. Just yesterday, I baked a pot of baby beetroots which took an hour. On a separate occasion, three large beetroots got done in 30 minutes. Because of the unpredictability in cooking time, you need to cook beetroots when you can be flexible with your time. A good time to cook them is when you are baking something else in the oven. Just throw them in next to whatever you are cooking (in a separate pot or dish), and they will happily bake away. I usually bake my beetroots at 200C/400F, however they are quite forgiving and will cook at lower temperatures too although they may take a little longer.

 

A little word on peeling beetroots. I always cook beetroots with their peel on because it helps to keep the nutrients and juices in the beetroot, plus the skin loosens up and can be easily pinched off like a jacket after the beetroot has been cooked. Peeling a raw beetroot is an unnecessary struggle if you are planning on cooking it anyway. The raw beetroot is slippery in one hand, the potato peeler is a little awkward in the other hand, and then there is the omnipresent threat that the beetroot will dye everything it comes into contact with a bright magenta pink. Trust me, peel afterwards if you plan on cooking your beetroots.

 

My most recent beetroot recipe was inspired by a new plate I bought on sale which I just fell in love with. I wanted to serve something on the dish which would compliment it’s turquoise blue color, and purple and orange provided just the right contrast. To give it a Middle Eastern feel, I added dollops of labneh (a Middle Eastern drained yogurt) and topped it off with a sprinkle of Zaatar (an aromatic spice blend of dried thyme, dried sumac, sesame seeds and salt).

 

 

 

BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD WITH LABNEH AND ZATAAR ON A BLUE PLATE

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Ingredients:

A few handfuls of mixed salad leaves (if your beets come with fresh leaves attached, you can use them for the salad leaves), washed and dried

2 medium-sized fresh beetroot (pre-cooked and vacuum-packed is fine, just do not use pickled beetroot from a jar)

1 large Navel orange

1 small red onion or 2 spring onions (scallions)

100g / 3.5 oz (about 4 Tbsp) Labneh (alternatively you can use Greek yogurt or cream cheese)

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp of Zaatar (a Middle Eastern spice mix of dried thyme, dried sumac, sesame seeds and salt)

1 blue plate

 

Directions:

  1. If you have bought pre-cooked beetroot, then slice it thinly into circles.
  2. If you have got raw beetroot, you need to cook it (unless you prefer to eat it raw). I would recommend cooking more than just the two beetroots needed for this recipe so that you have beetroots to use for the whole week. To cook your beetroot, preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Take your beetroot and cut off the leaves and roots, making sure not to cut into the actual beetroot. Wash and dry the skin. Either place your beetroots in a cast-iron pot with a lid or wrap each beetroot in aluminium foil and place them in a baking dish. Add about 1 inch of water in the pot or dish. Place it in the oven and bake for 30-90 minutes until the beetroot is cooked through (when you put a skewer into it, it should give easily). Uncover or unwrap the beetroot, allow it to cool slightly, and then pinch off the skin with your fingers. Slice two beetroots thinly into circles.
  3. Take your Navel orange and slice it horizontally with a sharp knife into thin circular discs (with the peel still on). To remove the peel, lay a slice of orange on a chopping board and cut straight around the edges to remove the peel. The orange slice will end up being octagon-shaped.
  4. Wash and dry your mixed salad leaves.
  5. Take your blue plate (or any other color flat serving platter), and spread a single layer of mixed salad leaves on it.
  6. On top of it, place a layer of alternating overlapping beetroot and orange slices. Depending on how many slices of each you have, you may need to put 2-3 beetroot slices for each orange slice you have.
  7. Thinly slice a small red onion or 2 spring onions, and scatter them on top of the salad.
  8. Mix your labneh (or Greek yogurt) with a spoon to loosen it up. Drop small dollops of the labneh on top of the salad. You may not need to use all of the labneh.
  9. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top of the entire salad.
  10. Sprinkle some Zaatar on top of the salad, paying particular attention to the labneh. You may not need to use all of the Zaatar.
  11. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for upto 12 hours.

 

 

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Oct 052014
 

Almond Crumble with Seasonal Fruit

 

 

There is scientific evidence that hugging is good for your health. It increases oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’ which promotes relaxation, trust, and a feeling of stability) and reduces blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone).

 

A Japanese company called UniCare has created the “tranquility chair”, which is essentially a soft larger-than-life fabric doll built onto a rocking chair. The doll has a soft hat, friendly smiling face, and long arms that wrap around the user in an affectionate hug. Although anyone can use the chair, it has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the rising elderly population in Japan. It is currently being sold for JPY46,000 (USD420).

 

In the foodie world, the equivalent of a “hug” is a warm seasonal fruit crumble fresh out of the oven. Fruit crumble is so easy and versatile, and as long as you keep a few staple ingredients in your kitchen you can decide to make it on the spur of the moment. This comes in handy when you have a glut of ripe fruit sitting in your kitchen and not enough time to finish it all.

 

I recently bought too many apples, planning to juice them. But when the time came, I decided that instead of a cold cleansing juice, what I really wanted was something warm and bubbly and cinnamon-y. Something which made me feel like I was getting a hug.

 

I love using ‘apples & pears’ or ‘peaches & raspberries’ in my fruit crumble. What’s your favorite filling?

 

 

ALMOND CRUMBLE WITH SEASONAL FRUIT

(Serves 6)

 

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder (or any other spice you like)

1 tsp brown sugar

6 cups of freshly chopped seasonal fruit (one or a mix of the following: apples, pears, berries, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, or any other fruit which bakes well)

 

NOTE: The amount of fruit you need will depend on the size of the baking dish you are using. The round baking dish I use is 26cm (10 inches) in diameter and 4cm (1.5 inches) deep and I use about 6 cups of chopped fruit. Ideally you want enough fruit to ALMOST fill your baking dish to the top because the fruit will shrink to about half it’s height after baking. If you are not sure how much fruit is enough, cut it directly into your baking dish and stop when your fruit almost reaches the top.

 

 

Crumble Ingredients:

55g / 2 oz plain flour

55g / 2 oz almond powder (if you don’t have almond powder, then you can use plain flour)

100g / 3.5 oz brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (if you don’t have ground nutmeg, then you can use cinnamon powder)

100g / 3.5 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C/375F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. You can either make your crumble mixture in (a) a food processor or (b) by hand. (a) If you are using a food processor, put all the crumble ingredients into the bowl of your processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (b) If you are making the mixture by hand, put all the dry crumble ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Drop the cold unsalted butter pieces into the dry ingredients and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like breadcrumbs. Make sure you do not over-mix.
  3. Set the crumble aside in a cool place (the refrigerator is good if your kitchen is warm).
  4. To make the fruit filling, wash and dry your fruit.
  5. Cut your fruit into small bite-size pieces, making sure to discard all stems, seeds, and stones. Toss your fruit with 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder and 1 tsp brown sugar. (NOTE: If you are not sure how much fruit is enough, cut it directly into your baking dish and stop when your fruit almost reaches the top.)
  6. Get your baking dish (no need to butter the dish) and spread the fruit evenly into it. Try to keep the fruit the same height throughout the dish.
  7. Get your almond crumble mixture and scatter it over the fruit. Depending on the circumference of your dish, you may be able to cover the fruit completely, or you may end up with gaps (don’t worry, either way is fine).
  8. Put the baking dish in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the crumble from the oven, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake for another 30 minutes (this is to ensure the crumble topping does not burn while the fruit cooks). Remove the foil and bake for 6-10 minutes until the crumble topping is nicely browned and crisp. The total baking time should be 46-50 minutes.
  9. Remove your ‘Almond Crumble with Seasonal Fruit’ from the oven and serve warm or cold. Ice-cream or cream is always a welcome addition. Crumble is best on the first day, but will keep well in the refrigerator on the second day. By the third day, the crumble topping starts losing some of it’s crispiness, but it still tastes good!

 

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