Peas and curd

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WELL there is hardly anything simpler than this or as alkaline or as delicious…peas (frozen is ok), pea shoots (tricky to find perhaps but you could substitute another sprouting bean) and goat’s curd….no dressing, no work, all alkaline. Fast work, even if you have to pod the peas.

Green gazpacho

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THE green sauce of Frankfurt – essentially herbs with some gherkin – is well known, but finding it as a gazpacho was a surprise. Frankfurt is better known for its bratwurst and hunks of pork but also for its apple wine which if you subscribe to the benefits of cider vinegar is interesting. Potent.

In fact I had two variations on this theme this summer, one with an avocado and this one with simply herbs and lettuce…all very alkaline. As a soup it is easier to digest than as a smoothie and it looks the part. You could add any other green vegetables you might have like lettuce or broccoli. This is the basic construct. Depending on the weather, serve it chilled or warm.

1 litre of vegetable tea

1 salad potato

1 leek

1 big bunch mixed herbs – flat leaf parsley, coriander

1 tbs double cream

spring onions to garnish

1. Wash and dice the leek and potato

2. Take the stalks off the herbs (keeping the rubber band on) and add them to the vegetables

2. Cover with the stock and simmer 15 minutes until the potato is cooked

3. Lift out the herb stalks. Add in the green leaves and the cream. Liquidise

4. Dice the spring onions as garnish

5. Serve chilled

The spinach trick

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SPINACH is a handy route if you are not feeling confident that your stock is really a soup. It is also really good for transforming a basic first day alkaline minestrone into something totally different the next. Popeye had a point.

The health benefits of spinach are virtually too long to go through in detail here – calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A are all prominent. Long cooking will deplete its benefits but the trick here is just to blanch the leaves for less than a minute.

If you have no faith at all in the base stock you made, then add some other virtuous green vegetable like broccoli to cook through. But the chances are this trick will turn around any weak brew sufficiently to make it delicious.

Bring a pan of stock with whole vegetables – onion, carrot, brocolli, potato, celery, whatever is in your mix. See Green Soup below.  If you feel it is too weak, pour some off into a second pan and keep a higher percentage of vegetables. As it reaches the simmer throw in a packet of spinach leaves. Just let them change texture in the steam. Take off the heat. Liquidise.

You can serve it with a spoon of yoghurt which looks good too. Disaster turned into success in two minutes 🙂

Green soup

 green soup

The first real signs of spring, the green shoots that sustained village life and staved off scurvy, are the sorrel, the wild garlic, the nettles any one of which gives this essential green soup an edge. Here I have used wild garlic, just a handful not to overpower.

This evolved from using up the leftovers but I get more and more interested combining these different elements that people take for granted. Combining the different elements here gives the soup a complexity, like a tapestry.  The base soup is fine on its own. I have noticed that it is almost a test with people who I might think of as eating an overly acid diet that this straightforward belt and braces combination usually goes down pretty well.

But if there is any left, part two is a different book, easily put together and could hold its place in any restaurant menu. The cooking is short for a soup, which is good vitaminwise too. If you have any herbs to add, then so much the better. But this is a really good marriage of nutrition and gastronomy.

Part one: dice one red onion, one white onion, half a celery, one carrot, one potato and cover with boiling water. Simmer for 40 minutes.

Part Two: bring back to a simmer and add quarter pack of spinach (or a bunch); a handful of wild garlic leaves, quarter packet of petit pois. As the spinach wilts – a couple of minutes – take off the heat and liquidize to a smooth green puree. Add two tablespoons of crème fraiche and one of Dijon mustard.

Mix well, warm through and serve as is.

Broccoli with Puy lentils and faro

lentils with brocolli

In summer I do this with just lentils and avocado. There is always the nervousness that the avocados might not actually be any good, but if they are then the vinaigrette dressing of lemon and oil compliments both ideally. But this variation is a bit more earthy for colder, sharper days and swaps the avocado for broccoli.

There is a subtle contrast between the florets and the grains. If you are being economical (or just sensible) you hold back the stalks to use for vegetable tea.

If you have stock then so much the better but it is not essential.   Use the stalks from the parsley to add some extra fragrance.

Cover the base of you pan with Puy lentils, pour over boiling water and simmer. After 10 minutes add half as much faro (this was a quick cook faro but some take longer, check the packet). Keep  an eye out that hey don’t soak up all the liquid, both can be quite greedy. They need about 20 minutes, but they need to keep their shape and not go to a soft mush. This is not a dahl, but a salad. Other kinds of lentils like red will tend to mush.

In a separate pan bring more water to boil. Trim the broccoli heads and cut in half or quarters depending how big they are and simmer five minutes. Drain the water into the lentils and faro mix. You can do all this ahead of time because it is really a dish to serve tepid…

It needs a bright dressing of half lemon, parsley, olive oil and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard – spoon it over the lentils and broccoli per serving…garlic too if you like.

Lentils are sometimes listed as alkaline and sometimes not but either way the emphasis here is on the broccoli and the other characters are just support players…

Rules for fruit salad

In abstract a fine fruit salad can be built around three ingredients –  melon, a citrus and an exotic fruit any of which are freely available thanks to the global trade and always seem like a fantastical luxury.

Any permutation really works and can evolve into serial recipes. This might as easily be honeydew, kiwi and lime. Or Ogen, satsuma and pineapple.

There are two forms of papaya – small about the size of a mango and large which are nearly as big as a melon. Pomela would also make a lovely fragrance. The bigger fruit keep even after they are cut open.

It is best chilled for half an hour. And carved small and elegantly. The juice is also great on its own.

Watermelon, papaya and grapefruit

Get a big knife and carve out a quarter of the watemelon. Trim the top, flip out the black seeds. Carve one deep slice and then quarter and throw in a bowl. Using a spoon scrape the base of the melon to get the juices. Carve the papaya horizontally and spoon out the caviar like seeds and then trim off the skin and chop into small bits. You need the juice from the grapefruit and not the pith, so peel and cut each segment in half and squeeze out the fruit and juice. Mix well, fridge 30 minutes or even overnight.

Papaya with red fruit salad

papayaI splashed out at the Turkish grocery shop on some exotic fruits which are nearly always alkaline. It was a real luxury but worth it and good practise for carving skills. I sliced the papaya across as a base. The rest of the mix was watermelon, pomegranite and a squeezed out pink grapefruit, chilled overnight in the fridge. There is also some pineapple for colour. We got three batches out of the fruits, so it was not so expensive after all 🙂

Making a grand salad

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Salads are an easy way to control the alkalinity in the diet. You can see what you are doing as you go. The English used to make grand salads composed with five, six, seven even more ingredients. The trick is to get a good contrast of shapes and textures…this makes a great lunch

1. Start with a big bowl and the dressing which you can mix up all the other ingredients at the end. Mustard and lemon are not essential but add an edge and have benefits. Add olive oil – 3 parts to 1 – and if you want a nut oil like almond or walnut or seed like pumpkin. Garlic is alkaline so a crushed clove or two is beneficial.

2. Lettuce is always alkaline and can run through a different mix of interesting textures.

3. Waxy salad potatoes are a stalwart. French beans would be good too.

4. Beans are controversial in terms of acid/alkalinity in that they are also an extra protein but in the total mix here the percentages are all right.

5. For contrast sweet corn.

6. For protein here I used some tinned tuna. Or you could use an egg.

7. And two kinds of tomato – one ripe and fresh (must be ripe) and some sundried tomato scissored in.

8. And then we can top off with more health giving boosters in terms of herbs – parsley, chives, thyme –  the more the better.

9. And finish with some nuts – almonds are best – and seeds like pumpkin or sunflower

Horseradish genius

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HORSERADISH has an uncanny affinity to alkaline foods – beetroots, carrots, even sweet potato, certainly with curd or fresh goat’s cheese. The exception is of course what it is always paired with roast beef, but if you carve a rib as thinly as my father used to do, then maybe even that can have a role.

The creamed versions in jars are unlikely to be at all alkaline where plain grated may be. Best is to get hold of a root and diy. They are long and thick like cudgels but freeze ok. The real trick is the grating, you want small thin coils not shards, usually the second smallest grid on the grater. It has no smell to speak of, until you grate it and release the potently aromatic oil myrosinase. Only a few grates can bring tears to the eyes. Shakespeare mentions it in Henry IV where Falstaff talks of a “wit as thick as Tewkesbury Mustard” which as slaked with it.

It is related on one side to mustard and wasabi (for which it often substitutes, cue fish dishes) and on the other botanically speaking to cabbage and broccoli. They are harvested after the first frost.

Not only is it of itself alkaline but it is also a first class source of vitamin C containing 73g per 100g.

The traditional sauce is vinegar (acid) and cream or sour cream plus horseradish but the vinegar is really there only to preserve things. American versions substitute mayonnaise for cream.

RIMG0275But plainly grated over baked beetroots is exemplary alkaline, a fresh variation of the red sauce you can kind in kosher delis. You could, on the same theme, make a beetroot soup and garnish it with horseradish.

Or mashed into fresh goat’s cheese or curd as a spread it gives a very different but sympathetic slant. A smattering of sesame seeds equally re-inforces the alkalinity and the idea that this is a seriously interesting new dish, garnish with cress.

But it can also transform a baked potato with a few chopped herbs, curd or cream and a goodly grate.

It also likes hard boiled eggs. In Slovenia it becomes an Easter dish with eggs and sour cream and even a variation with apple.

Considering it can be so widely grown globally, it is rather a mystery why it has been so marginalised. It is invasive in the garden but that is just another reason to dig it up. Oh, and one last thing, no horse’s don’t like it…the myrosinase, you see, gets up their nose. It is the plant’s inbuilt protection system.

PS: I also found this Polish horseradish soup recipe which has quite a lot of good things in it, even if it is a bit old school.