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Spicy Homemade Falafels

homemade falafels

I love falafels, so decided to find an authentic recipe to allow me to make them myself at home.  The only thing I knew about falafels was that chickpea is one of the main ingredients, and that they are a traditional Middle Eastern staple.  I learned that in fact the dish originated in Egypt (North Africa).  I compared a number of recipes as I wanted mine to be authentic. Whilst looking, I learned that the main ingredient was not necessarily chickpea, but that in some regions broad bean (also known as fava bean), or a combination of both are used.  The basic ingredients found in almost every recipe are chickpeas (or broad beans), coriander, onion, garlic and either breadcrumbs or sesame seeds to coat. I noticed that some recipes contained extra ingredients like bicarbonate of soda, flour and egg.  For my falafels I followed a traditional recipe as much as I could, but made some adaptations based on my preferences and the ingredients I had at home. 

falafel ingredients
Falafel ingredients

Here are the ingredients I used in my recipe:

1 cup of cooked chickpeas
3-4 garlic cloves
half a cup of chopped and cooked curly kale
½ a red onion
1 large spring onion
1 small shallot
½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
half of a fresh red chilli pepper
1 teaspoon of cumin plus salt and black pepper
Lemon Juice
Flaxseeds

Method

Falafels are quite easy to make. Once you have all of your ingredients ready.  Blend them together in a food processor slowly (with a pulse) so as not to over process.  Some recipes suggest that you blend everything until you have a completely smooth mixture.  However, if you prefer a more wholesome or dense falafel, then you should not make the mixture too smooth.  For my recipe, I separated my ingredients into two halves.  I blended one half until it was a smooth paste (I added the lemon juice to help with this). The other half was less pulverised and had more of a course texture. I then combined them both.  I had to tailor my recipe according to ingredients I had at home. I didn’t have any coriander and therefore used finely chopped curly Kale instead.  Also, because I love onions and garlic I had a high quantity of both in mine.  Most recipes suggest half an onion and maybe 2 cloves of garlic. I decided to include bicarbonate of soda in my recipe to ensure they were not too dense.  Many of the recipes I looked at suggest that you then refrigerate the mixture for about half an hour. This is to make it easier to shape. To do this I sectioned off small pieces by hand (or you could use a falafel scoop). I dusted with flour and then rolled into balls (you can also flatten them out like a patty).  In some recipes, they were then coated in breadcrumbs or sesame seeds before frying.  I liked the idea of sesame seeds, but did not have any, so used flaxseeds instead. 

uncooked falafel
uncooked falafel

Shallow frying is possible, but I soon realised that deep frying was the best option. I used a small pot with enough oil to almost cover them. Once the oil was hot enough they cooked very quickly.  I was very pleased with the end result.  They not only looked good but were very tasty. I served mine with salad and a tahini dip.  They are traditionally served with pitta or wrap breads, salads and pickles.

My family loved them! 

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Sweet Potato and Thyme Pillows

Sweet potato pillows on bed of lettuce

These sweet potato pillows are very easy to make.  They are light, fluffy, delicious and gluten free.

Ingredients

  • Sweet potato
  • Spring onion
  • Thyme
  • Oat milk (gluten free)
  • Garlic powder
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Peel, wash, chop and boil 4 large sweet potatoes. Once cooked place in a bowl. Add thyme, Garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.

add thyme, seasoning and oat milk

Coarsely mash the potatoes and then add a knob of butter and a quarter of a cup of oat milk.  Stir this in and then continue to mash until you have a smooth consistency.Finely chop two spring onions and stir this into the mash.

add butter to the mash

Use a tablespoon to scoop some of the mixture into your hands (which should be liberally dusted with flower) roll into a ball and set aside.  Continue doing this until you have used up all the mash (should create around 12 balls).

Dust with flour then roll into balls

Heat a large frying pan with about half a centimetre of oil. At the same time, pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5.  Once the oil is hot, fry the sweet potato pillows, making sure to turn on each side.  Once brown, remove from the pan, carefully dry off excessive oil with a paper towel then and place on a baking tray.  Finish off in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.   The pillows will remain light and fluffy to touch so be careful when handling them.

shallow fried sweet potato
Shallow fry until golden brown

These Sweet Potato Pillows are a quick and tasty accompaniment to any meal.  They can also be served as an hors d’oeuvre with sweet chilli sauce.

 

 

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Shelly’s Turmeric Tonic

Shelly's Turmeric Tonic in teapot

 

Turmermic root
Turmeric root. The flesh is bright orange. Be careful how you handle. It stains!

If like me you suffer from muscle aches and pains as a result of inflammation or arthritis, you will be glad to know that there are some home remedies that can help to reduce this pain and inflammation. The Turmeric root has recently become a popular spice (or herb to some) to use as a health aid as opposed to an ingredient to enhance colour and flavour in Asian dishes. It’s the superfood on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Turmeric contains an active ingredient called curcumin, a molecule found in plants which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also great for relieving many other disorders such as indigestion, throat infections, common colds, liver ailments and is sometimes used topically, to cleanse wounds or treat skin sores. The turmeric root looks very similar to the ginger root, but with a deeper carrot orange coloured flesh (the powder form is a deep yellowy red, more like curry powder).

Lemons are packed with vitamin C and therefore a good antioxidant which boost the immune system and helps with iron absorption
Lemons are packed with vitamin C and therefore a good antioxidant which boost the immune system and helps with iron absorption

I much prefer the idea of using natural remedies as an alternative to prescribed medicine. However, sometimes with herbal remedies, it can take much longer before you feel the benefits (if at all).  When it comes to pain, a quick fix is usually desired. In my search for natural remedies to alleviate pain caused by inflammation, I noticed that turmeric was mentioned quite a lot. I decided to put it to the test. I eventually came up with the below recipe, which I have named Shelly’s Turmeric Tonic. All of the accompanying ingredients in this tonic are easily obtained from a grocery store, and independently offer relief from inflammation.  They each have a number of other health benefits too, which make this tonic a must-have daily brew to fight a number of common ailments, not least, colds and flu.

Garlic is a superfood rich in vitamins nd minerals. Its an anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system, is used to treat cancer, heart disease and many other infections
Garlic is a superfood rich in vitamins and minerals. Its an anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system, and is used to treat cancer, heart disease and many other infections

Ingredients

  • a 3 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or a  heaped tablespoon of ground turmeric)
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks (or a heaped tablespoon of ground cinnamon)
  • 1 teaspoon of Black peppercorns (or a teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves (or a tablespoon of garlic powder)
  • about a 3 inch piece of fresh ginger (or a tablespoon of ground ginger)
  • 1-2 fresh lemons
  • Manuka honey
  • Water
Cinnamon root
Cinnamon is a natural antiviral, anti-bacterial and has an anti fungal agent that boosts the immune system. It is also high in antioxidants and contains calcium and fibre
Black pepper is known to enhance the absorbtion or curcumin in tumeric
Black pepper is known to enhance the absorption of the curcumin in turmeric and also reduces inflammation in the nasal passage

To prepare:

Finely grate the turmeric, ginger, and garlic (or use the powdered form). Add these to a large cooking pot with about 2 litres of water along with all of the other ingredients (excluding the honey).  The lemons should be peeled and sliced.  Cover the pot and bring to boil slowly. Then allow to simmer on  low heat for about 10 minutes. If the water starts to evaporate -top it up.  At this point you should start to smell a very appealing warm spicy aroma. After simmering, keep covered and let the tonic sit for a while to enable all of the flavours to infuse (the longer  the better). When you have the desired strength, pour into a glass through a strainer and enjoy while still warm.

Ginger has many medicinal properties. to name few, It has been proven to kill cancer cells, reduces inflammation, aids digestion and soothes coughs and colds
Ginger has many medicinal properties. It has been proven to kill cancer cells, reduce inflammation, aids digestion and soothes coughs and colds to name a few

Sweeten to your taste with honey.

I have been preparing and drinking this tonic for over a month now. I make  brew and then have several cups throughout the day. I am pleased to say that in this short time I have definitely noticed a reduction in pain in my joints (specifically my digits which are arthritic) and have less inflammation. It also immediately cleared my sinuses. I am sure that in order to maintain continued benefit, I would need to repeatedly drink this on a daily basis for an indefinite period.  For me, this is more preferable than a daily dose of over the counter pain killers like Ibuprofen or NSAIDS and steroids.

There are various turmeric teas and tonic remedies on the internet. They are usually milky or with a milk substitute base. If you prefer a non-milky drink, then I invite you to try Shelly’s Turmeric Tonic. Each ingredient has been chosen for its anti-inflammatory or other medical benefit, as well as for the taste.  Even if you don’t notice any difference in pain or inflammation, with all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in it, your immune system will definitely get a boost.  My daughter who has been drinking this daily too, not only enjoys it as a drink, but insist it helped to reverse the symptoms of a bad cold very quickly. Hopefully, you too will  benefit from this tonic or at least find it to be an enjoyable soothing beverage. It’s a win-win!

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Smashed Brussels sprouts with tumeric, pancetta and toasted linseed

Smashed Sprout with tumeric and pancetta

Its a few days before Christmas – a time when I like to try out new recipes and tweak old ones. One of the most traditional vegetable accompaniments to a British Christmas dinner is Brussels sprouts. These green leafy vegetables, which look like mini cabbages have a pungent nutty flavour with a slightly bitter after taste. Despite the fact they are purchased and cooked every Christmas by many, it’s not to everyone’s taste. I think most people, like myself, cook it out of tradition, or for its nutritional value rather than for the love of it. In fact it’s the only vegetable that I have been unable to get my kids to eat over the years.

This year, I am determined to get my now grown up children and dinner guests to eat and enjoy sprouts. I have tinkered around with a few ingredients and come up with this simple recipe which I hope you will like.

Ingredients

  • 500g Brussels sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon of turmeric powder
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2/3 garlic cloves
  • Approx 180g of pancetta or bacon lardons
  • 1 Tablespoon of golden linseed
Steamed Brussels Sprouts
Steamed Brussels Sprouts with condiments

Method:

  • Microwave, steam or boil the sprouts with the garlic cloves in salted water until quite soft.
  • Once cooked, add a little olive oil, the turmeric plus salt and pepper to your taste. Mash or blend to your desired texture.
  • Lightly fry the pancetta until golden brown. Toss the linseed into the frying pan for the last minute. One browned, pour over the sprout mash
  • Eat and enjoy
Steamed Brussels Sprouts
pan fried pancetta with linseeds

I am happy to say that this dish was not only easy to make, but also enjoyable to eat. I tried it out on my daughter some today by adding some to her meal. Not only did she eat all of it, she said it was a definite improvement to regular sprouts.

For those of you who are not pork or meat eaters, swap the pancetta for grated pickled beetroot.  The colour combination is vibrant, and it adds a nice zing to the dish. Try it and let me know what you think.