spinach

Mar 012016
 

SS - March: Radishes, Baby Spinach, Endives

 

 

March is here so start looking out for delicious new Spring vegetables!

 

Radishes come into season in spring. They tend to become spicier as the temperature gets higher, so spring radishes are milder than summer radishes. Look for firm radishes with fresh green leaves, and avoid any radishes which feel soft or spongey. To store radishes, chop off the green stems and leaves at the top because they pull moisture from the radish. The leaves are edible raw or cooked so make sure you store the radishes and the separated leaves in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer.

 

Baby spinach is a cool weather vegetable which grows best in early Spring and in Autumn. Look for fresh dark green leaves which are not wilted. Baby spinach is extremely versatile and can be added into all sorts of food for a quick nutritional boost. It takes on other flavours well so it is wonderful in green smoothies (trust me on this – 80% spinach, 20% ripe fruit, plus some liquid and a touch of honey). A handful of baby spinach leaves in a salad or added into anything you are cooking is another easy way to incorporate this Spring vegetable into your diet. To make a delicious healthy spinach dip, see my recipe ‘Baby Spinach and Garlic Dip‘.

 

Endive season is September to May, with the peak of endive season around November. Spring is your last chance to eat these lovely bitter vegetables before they go out of season. Look for endives with fresh looking leaves which are not wilted and brown on the edges. Harvested endives tend to become more bitter with exposure to light, so you may want to store you endives wrapped in a paper towel in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. They can be eaten raw or cooked. If you find endives too bitter, mixing them with other leaves helps to balance their flavour. They also sweeten when roasted in the oven with olive oil.

 

 

SS - March: Radishes, Baby Spinach, Endives

 

 

The produce above is in season in March in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, March seasonal produce includes figs, plums and kale.

 

 

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Feb 292016
 

Baby Spinach & Garlic Dip

 

 

Spinach is a cool weather crop which grows best in early Spring and in Autumn.

 

It’s a very versatile vegetable and takes on other flavours well. I use spinach in so many things from smoothies to salads to curries. I hadn’t really thought to use it as a dip until fairly recently when I started seeing so many beautiful fresh early Spring vegetables emerge in the market. Fresh vegetables are good, but fresh vegetables with a healthy dip are even better!

 

You can follow my recipe below for ‘Baby Spinach and Garlic Dip’, but the truth is that baby spinach is so versatile that you could easily blend it into any dip to boost its nutritional value and it would work well.

 

 

BABY SPINACH and GARLIC DIP

(makes about 2 cups)

 

 

Ingredients:

150g / 5 oz Fresh baby spinach (roughly equivalent to 4 big handfuls or 4 tightly packed cups)

1/2 cup Fresh chives, chopped

1 spring onion / scallion, roughly chopped (white and green part)

1 plump garlic clove (2 if you really love raw garlic), peeled and cut into 4 pieces

1/2 cup walnuts or cashew nuts

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream or Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (no seeds)

2 tsp sea salt

 

 

Directions:

  1. Wash and drain the baby spinach (no need to trim the stems as it will all go into a food processor).
  2. Put all the ingredients listed above into your food processor and pulse a few times until the spinach has been chopped. You may need to push down the spinach once or twice in the beginning.
  3. Once the mixture is roughly pulsed, run the food processor on ‘Auto’ (or whichever button you need to press for continued processing) for about 30 seconds.
  4. Remove the lid and taste. If required, adjust the seasoning. Keep in mind that the flavour from the raw garlic will become more pronounced in a few hours.
  5. Process the mixture in the machine for another 15 seconds or so.
  6. Taste again and make final adjustments, if necessary.
  7. Pour into a container and refrigerate until ready to eat.

 

 

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Oct 262015
 

Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring

 

Although this blog post is about my experience making Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring for Halloween, it can just as easily be used for many other holidays including Eid, St Patrick’s Day, Pakistan National Day and Christmas.

 

 

Every Halloween, I browse through Pinterest looking at the cute little healthy Halloween ideas posted by super-creative parents. There are the little banana ghosts and the clementines cleverly made to look like mini Jack-o-Lanterns. Every year I promise myself that I am going to make these healthy treats, but somehow every year time gets away from me and I don’t quite manage it.

 

But this year is different – I am making Spooky Green Lemonade for a Halloween party. And I am dying it using homemade Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring.

 

Synthetic food colouring is something I have never felt totally comfortable with – all those artificial additives and preservatives. Making your own food colouring takes a little more effort than buying a small vial of food dye, but it’s a much healthier alternative. And honestly, it’s not that difficult.

 

There are many amazing blog posts out there about how to make natural food-based dyes, and I am looking forward to experimenting with a whole rainbow of colours. But for my Spooky Halloween Lemonade, I only need green.

 

There are a few different ways to make Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring. I decided to use spinach as my base because most people seem to use spinach with very good results. Some people recommend using the spinach raw (simply juicing it or blending it with water and straining it). I prefer simmering the spinach in some water for 15 minutes to reduce the risk of pathogens (after all, I am making this for children so I want to be extra careful). After a quick blitz with my blender, I strain it through a fine mesh colander and voilà – Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring!

 

Of course, I did a test-run before the actual party to make sure that (a) it really does colour the lemonade green and (b) it doesn’t make the lemonade taste like spinach. It passed on both counts. Yes, even (b). I taste-tested it on my family, and guesses ranged from lime to mint to green frogs. But no one guessed spinach.

 

Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring can be used to colour any light-coloured drink such as lemonade, coconut water, elderflower juice, vanilla or banana milkshakes. It may also work on pale-coloured food (ie. mashed potatoes, oatmeal) but I haven’t tried it so I can’t personally vouch for that yet. I did try mixing it into buttercream frosting, but I found it difficult to blend and the colour was very pale. But for drinks, this homemade green food colouring definitely works a treat!

 

Although this blog post is about my experience making Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring for Halloween, it can just as easily be used for many other holidays including Eid, St Patrick’s Day, Pakistan National Day and Christmas.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you make homemade natural green food colouring? If so, please share your tips in the comment section below.

 

 

Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring

 

 

HEALTHY NATURAL GREEN FOOD COLOURING

(makes 2 cups / 400mL)

 

Ingredients: (recipe can be halved)

6 cups (9 oz / 255g) fresh spinach leaves

2 cups (400mL) water

 

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, place the spinach and the water.
  2. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat slightly to a rolling simmer.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes, partially covered.
  4. Blend using a hand-blender or a regular blender (if you use a regular blender, allow the spinach and water to cool down a little bit before blending).
  5. Place a fine mesh colander in a large bowl or pot (you can line a colander with cheesecloth if you do not have a fine mesh colander). Pour the blended spinach and water through the colander into the bowl. Run a spoon in the colander to help the liquid ease out (if you are using cheesecloth, gather it into a ball and squeeze out the liquid). There will be some pulp left in the colander which should not be forced through. You can discard the pulp or save it for another use.
  6. Allow the liquid to come to room temperature. It is now ready to use.
  7. (Optional) If you want a very smooth food colouring, you can refrigerate it for 24 hours and then strain it through a fine mesh colander again to remove the last of the very small pulp. However, this step is not necessary unless you want to be super-particular about it.
  8. The green food colouring can be kept in the refrigerator for upto 3 days. It may separate in the refrigerator, but just give it a good stir and it will be mixed again.
  9. Some websites say that it can be frozen in ice-cube trays and then transferred to a freezer bag for later use.
  10. To give you an idea of proportions, I used 50mL of food colouring for 1.75L of lemonade.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you make homemade natural green food colouring? If so, please share your tips in the comment section below.

 

 

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