Cucumber Noodles with Peas, Hemp Seeds & Creamy Avocado Dressing

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When the word cucumber is mentioned people often wrinkle their nose and mutter something about watery tastelessness. Pieces of chopped cucumber are one of the main elements of a classic flaccid ‘side salad’, sitting amongst sad shreds of iceberg lettuce and under-ripe tomatoes. But I feel that cucumbers are unfairly thought of and dismissed. They can actually be quite exciting, and what’s more they’re really amazing for a boost of natural hydration in the body (they’re 95% water!) as well as helping to eliminate toxins. In addition, they help to cool inflammation and are a great source of vitamins C and K and potassium.

So what’s not to love about cucumbers? Especially if you spice things up and get a bit creative, which is what I’ve done here. Everyone’s going a bit bonkers for courgetti/zoodles at the moment, but what about cucumber noodles? If you haven’t got a spiralizer then grab yourself one – they are so useful and somehow make vegetables taste better. The avocado dressing is oh-so-simple and gives the cucumber strands a zingy creaminess which complements each soft crunch of fresh cucumber. Hemp seeds add a great source of protein and a nutty flavour, and peas a delicate sweetness. Altogether, this creates a lovely light lunch which will refresh you for the afternoon.

Sadly the summer is coming to its end here in Britain, so we need to make the most of the last of its delicious fare. Peas are still just in season – try to find some in their pods as the taste is so much greater compared to those little frozen ones. And the cucumber season may not quite be at its height in September but go and grab one before the autumn chilliness sets in and the last of the summer sunshine dwindles.

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Serves 1

  • ½ a whole cucumber
  • 60g petit pois
  • 4 teaspoons hemp seeds

For the avocado dressing:

  • ½ an avocado
  • ½ a lime
  • 1 teaspoon tahini
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • A pinch of sea salt

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Start by making the dressing. Squash the avocado with a fork until all lumps have disappeared and squeeze the juice out of the lime. Add both of these to a jug or cup along with the tahini, avocado oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, water and salt. Whisk this all up together until it’s combined into a creamy dressing.

At this point, put a small amount of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the petit pois (or garden peas) and simmer for approximately 4 minutes until tender. Spiralize the cucumber onto a plate. When the peas are cooked drain them and mix them up with the cucumber noodles. Sprinkle over the hemp seeds and then stir it all up with the dressing before serving and enjoying!

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Wild Garlic Pesto & Asparagus Pasta

IMG_1950 smaller adjusted 2 Wild garlic is one of the most amazing examples of nature’s gifts to us. Come spring it sprouts out of the ground in abundance with sleek leaves and beautiful white-star flowers, and it’s just there for the taking! It’s the easiest wild food to harvest in the world – you simply pick the leaves and bam you’ve got a bundle of flavoursome garlicky goodness which can be added to any salad or dish to enhance both its nutrition and taste. No prickly thorns to outmanoeuvre or having to peel anything or discard lots of outer layers or worry that it might be poisonous. It’s almost as if the plant wants other creatures to eat it. And personally I think it’s crazy not to take advantage of such a local, seasonal wonder, especially when it’s free and there’s almost no effort involved. It’s so simple to find – just follow your nose! I picked my leaves less than two minutes’ walk from my house. How great is that? IMG_1886 smaller Wild garlic’s health benefits are numerous – it’s antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic, and it can be effective at lowering blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. And the best thing about picking it yourself is you know the leaves are perfectly fresh, so it’s as nutritious as it can be. The combination of wild garlic and seasonal spring onions really gives this pesto a piquant essence. It proves that vegan food doesn’t mean an automatic diminution of taste – trust me, it’s a rival to any parmesan-stuffed pesto out there!

The asparagus season is well under way and it’s such a yummy and special spring vegetable – I look forward to it all summer, autumn and winter. Its window is narrow though so you’ve got to take advantage of it now and in the next few weeks. It’ll never taste as good as it does at the moment so grab yourself a bunch. It complements the wild garlic pesto so well and adds a subtle crunch to this hearty spring pasta dish. IMG_1899 adjusted 2 Serves 4

For the pesto:

  • 110g wild garlic leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 spring onions
  • 110ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 40g pine nuts
  • 40g pecans
  • 1½ tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ a lime
  • A small handful of basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 300g asparagus
  • 300g gluten free pasta (or your favourite durum wheat pasta)

IMG_1945 smaller adjusted 2 To make the pesto, start by crushing the garlic gloves in a garlic press. Slice the spring onions finely. Place a pan on a medium heat and add a little olive oil. Once the oil’s hot, add the crushed garlic and spring onions and gently fry for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn and once softened remove from the heat and set aside.

In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the pecans and pine nuts (on a medium heat) until they’re starting to turn a golden brown and then pour them into a food processor. Once the fried garlic and spring onions have cooled a little, add them to the food processor along with the extra virgin olive oil, yeast flakes, basil leaves and a good grinding of salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of the ½ lime in as well and then roughly slice about a third of the wild garlic leaves. Add these to the processor and blend until combined. Slice another third of the garlic leaves and blend once more, repeating with the final third until it’s all mixed into a paste.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta, simmering for about 9 minutes or until you have the desired softness (I like mine al dente). While the pasta cooks, steam the asparagus for about 2-3 minutes, poking the spears with a knife to check when they’re soft but not turning to mush. Chop the spears into inch-length pieces and drain the pasta. Place everything back into the pasta saucepan and mix together (making sure the pesto is coating the pasta and asparagus evenly) and serve without delay. IMG_1864 good

Ultimate Thai Green Curry

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Thai curry is just one of those things. If you go to an authentic Thai restaurant and order their staple dish it’s just bursting with flavour and I always love it. I went to a Thai place in Brixton the other day for a friend’s birthday lunch and we all sat outside – yep, that’s right we sat outside in Britain in January. But along came our big bowls of steaming Thai curry and everyone was happy – warmed, satisfied and chipper, if a little numb in our fingers and toes.

As a general rule Thai curry comes in the form of chicken or prawn, or it’s been made with fish sauce, which isn’t so fantastic for vegetarians and vegans. For a while now I’ve wanted to create a truly veggie Thai green curry, spiced with all the authentic Thai flavours and creamy coconut milk, but with good seasonal British vegetables as the principal feature. So here you have a kale, cauliflower and broccoli curry, both super healthy and tasty, and 100% vegan.

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Kale rules the health food world at the moment, and for a good reason – it’s chock full of iron (it actually has more iron than beef per calorie!) which is essential for processes in the body such as the formation of haemoglobin and enzymes, and for cell growth. Kale is also high in vitamins K, A and C and contains powerful antioxidants. Cauliflower kicks arse as well – it’s a great source of minerals and vitamins such as manganese and phosphorus, and it’s an important source of fibre which aids in digestion. And they’re both in season here in the UK – bought from my local organic greengrocer, these winter veggies are the most wonderful thing.

The secret to this curry is making the paste yourself. Using fresh ingredients gives it so much more flavour than those supermarket readymade ones in a jar that also have added sugar, colour and acidity regulators, which you just don’t need. Whizzing up the paste is so easy and you can make a big batch and freeze the rest ready for your next Thai curry. Combining this with coconut milk, delicious vegetables and a few peas for a protein boost, this curry is spicy, creamy and zesty.

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Serves 6

For the paste:

  • 3-4 medium green chillies (25g)
  • 1 shallot (60g)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (12g)
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger (30g)
  • Small handful of fresh coriander (15g)
  • Small handful of Thai basil (18g)
  • 1 lime (75g)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk (22g)
  • 1½ teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1½ tablespoons of coconut oil
  • ½ tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon of tamari soy sauce

For the curry:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 5/6 heaped tablespoons of curry paste
  • 2 tins/800ml of coconut milk
  • 3 large handfuls of kale (70g)
  • 8-10 florets of broccoli (200g)
  • 8-10 florets of cauliflower (230g)
  • 150g of frozen petit pois
  • ½ a lime
  • A few sprigs of fresh coriander and Thai basil

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First, deseed and roughly chop the chillies. Roughly chop the shallot, garlic and lemongrass stalks. Peel the ginger and again roughly chop. Grate the lime zest and then squeeze all the juice out. Place the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar and grind them until they’re completely crushed. Place all of these ingredients and the remaining Thai basil, coriander, coconut oil, sunflower oil and tamari into a food processor and blend until smooth – it should take about a minute. You may have to scrape down the sides with a spoon a couple of times to make sure it’s all combined.

Place the paste in a bowl and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. After that, place a large pan on a medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once it’s hot, add 5-6 heaped tablespoons of the paste, depending on taste or spiciness required (the amount of paste should be about right but you may have some left over – simply place in the freezer for another curry). Let the paste fry in the oil for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. At this point, add the coconut milk and stir.

Once the milk comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low, put a lid on and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. This will let all the flavours from the paste infuse into the coconut milk and will really bring them out – ideally you should leave it for at least 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the broccoli and cauliflower so that they’re all small to medium sized florets. At this point, squeeze the juice out of the ½ lime ready for adding later. Once the coconut milk’s simmered for at least 30 minutes, place a small amount of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. When it’s boiling add the petit pois and simmer for 4 minutes, or until tender. At this point, steam the broccoli and cauliflower for not more than 1½ minutes before adding them to the coconut milk. Add the cooked peas and the fresh kale as well.

Give the curry a good stir and then let the vegetables simmer gently for about a minute (making sure the kale has a chance to wilt). While they’re simmering, add the lime juice to the curry along with the fresh coriander and Thai basil. Stir it all round once more and then finally serve – I like to soak up the luscious, spicy coconut sauce with a portion of wholesome long grain brown rice.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Spinach and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Salad

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I always used to think of salads as a summer thing, but an autumn or winter salad can be so delicious and can easily be warming, especially with a good zesty dressing. The best thing about this salad is how easy it is to make. Purple sprouting broccoli is so tasty raw and by not cooking or heating it in any way it retains all 100% of possible nutrients available, meaning it’s packed with goodness. Not only is broccoli a rich source of vitamin C, it’s also full of iron, calcium, vitamin A and the phytochemical sulphoraphane which can help protect against diabetes, cancer and heart damage.

Even better, the little bunch of purple sprouting broccoli I used for this salad was grown in the UK, in a county just west of my home, so it’s the epitome of seasonal, local and fresh. Similarly, spinach is still just about in season in Britain, which is fantastic, so I just had to make something with it. And again, by eating raw spinach our bodies have the chance to soak up more vitamins, minerals and nutrients, which is always a good thing. The avocado adds a creamy dimension and the toasted pumpkin seeds are bursting with flavour – lightly crunchy and warm. They also give the salad an autumnal element, as now is the perfect time for pumpkins and squash. Drizzling all the ingredients with an olive oil, lime and tahini dressing really tops this salad off, making it scrummy and the complete opposite of what many people think of as salad. This is far from a boring and tasteless collection of flaccid iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber. It’s so healthy, packed with protein and is a seasonal feast which will fill you up without any stodge – perfect for a light autumn lunch. So whip it up and tuck in!

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Serves 1

For the salad:

  • 3 or 4 stems of purple sprouting broccoli (depending on their size)
  • A large handful of spinach leaves
  • ½ an avocado
  • A handful of pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of tahini
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper

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Simply wash the broccoli, dry it and then slice into small pieces. Wash the spinach in a salad spinner and place in a bowl along with the broccoli pieces. Cut open your avocado into two halves then scoop out the flesh from one of the halves before slicing it into small cubes. Add them to the salad bowl as well and toss with the spinach and broccoli.

To make the dressing, cut the lime in half and squeeze out all its juice into a jug before adding all the other ingredients. Then stir with a fork to make sure it all combines nicely.

Next, place the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan and turn the hob on to a medium heat. After a minute or two they’ll start to toast so make sure you turn them and shift them about so they cook evenly. Once they start going a little brown remove them from the heat. Sprinkle them over the salad, drizzle over the dressing and mix it all up before enjoying!

Apple, Cucumber, Lime & Mint Juice (aka Healthy Mojito)

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Our apple tree has always been a bit of an unreliable, fickle thing. Some years it produces one apple, some years none, and then this year it goes and surprises us by sprouting loads of little green balls, and early in the season too. These apples are great for stewing or for apple crumble, but I just love them in a juice. They’re about the freshest thing I can get my hands on, with the tree just a few steps from our kitchen door, and when you drink this garden apple nectar and compare it to the fake, artificial, sugar-filled juice you find in the supermarket, you realise it is real juice.

The combination of apple with the other flavours is amazing. I used to love mojitos – the mixture of lime, mint and sugar is a real taste explosion in the mouth. So sweet, so zesty. But since giving up alcohol and refined sugar sipping on a cocktail isn’t something I like to do. However, this doesn’t matter in the least because this juice tastes like the real thing and, what’s more, is bursting with nutrients.

Juicing is so good for you because the vegetable and fruit liquid basically bypasses your digestive system, and the nutrients are absorbed straight into your cells. There are so many antioxidants and vitamins in just one glass of this juice, giving you an energy boost without overloading your body with too much sugar, thanks to the cucumber, broccoli and spinach. The mint (freshly picked from my garden) adds further nourishment and goodness to the juice through its ability to promote digestion, soothe and alleviate inflammation, cleanse the skin and stave off fatigue as a natural stimulant. All blended together, this really tastes divine and leaves you feeling invigorated and uplifted – so get juicing!

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Makes 1 large glass:

  • 2 medium-sized apples
  • 4 inch piece of cucumber
  • 1 green broccoli stem
  • A handful of spinach
  • Half a lime
  • A good handful of mint leaves

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Put all the ingredients into the juicer and flip the switch. Be sure to squash the spinach and mint leaves between the apples, cucumber or broccoli so they juice well and the flavours really come out. Pour the liquid into a glass with a couple of ice cubes and sip on a sunny afternoon!

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