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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Gooseberry Wisecake

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I almost feel sorry for gooseberries. It seems like they’ve been forgotten about whilst the western world obsesses over other berries like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Granted gooseberries aren’t quite as sweet and juicy as those just mentioned, but they have a charming sour-sweetness and their own distinctive flavour. They’re also one of the easiest things to grow – the little fruity balls for this cheesecake came from four bushes we have in our garden which produce hundreds of gooseberries year after year with almost no human effort required, save for the odd pruning. They’re little local wonders.

Picked gooseberries

Gooseberries are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium, and they offer variety which is vital in any diet. Their season is from July to August, and I steadily stripped our bushes over the past few weeks whilst thinking of an interesting way to make use of them. The only pudding anyone’s probably ever heard of that features gooseberries is gooseberry fool – a mouse-syllabub type thing which has that wartime vibe and is overloaded with cream and refined sugar. So I thought I’d swing the dial the other way and create a modern ‘cheesecake’ that’s vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free. Or, as another way of looking at it, create something smart for our bodies which also tastes divine. And this really does; the biscuity base crumbling into the thick gooseberry mouse-cream (amazingly like cream cheese but with no cows involved) in a really satisfying way.

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It would be mad not to make use of the array of late summer berries available to us all, and if you can’t get your hands on any gooseberries you can try any other berry such as blackcurrants, redcurrants or blackberries. Go berry wild!

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Makes 1 cheesecake (6-8 servings)

For the base:

  • ½ cup/70 g oats
  • ½ cup/90g brown rice flour
  • ⅔ cup/70 g ground almonds
  • 8 dates
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey/agave nectar/maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder or extract

For the gooseberry cream:

  • 2 cups gooseberries
  • ½ cup/90g cashews
  • ½ cup/90g almonds (soaked for at least 3 hours)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1-3 teaspoons of raw honey (depending on how sweet you like it)

For the topping:

  • A large handful of fresh gooseberries

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Preheat the oven to 170°C. Starting with the base, place the oats into a food processor and blend until they’ve broken down into a rough flour. Then add all the remaining base ingredients and blend until a biscuity dough forms. Grease a flan dish with coconut oil and then press in the dough mixture, smoothing it down with the back of a spoon, making sure it rises up the sides and dips down in the middle in a curve. Place this in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until it starts to turn a golden brown and has firmed up.

While the base is cooking making the gooseberry cream. Clean out your food processor and add the cashews and almonds along with the water and blend for about 5 minutes until the nuts have broken down and are starting to turn into a creamy consistency. At this point add in the gooseberries, coconut oil and honey and blend for another couple of minutes to make the most amazingly naturally pink, thick gooseberry cream.

Remove the base from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before scooping the gooseberry cream on top and smoothing it down into the curve until the whole tart’s filled. Finally, place the fresh gooseberries (or any other berries!) over the top as a garnish and serve immediately. If not all gobbled straight away this will keep in the fridge for at least 3 or 4 days.

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Almond Butter & Maca Energy Bites

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Almond butter (and I know I am not alone here) is something of an obsession for me. I just absolutely love it. Since I was little I’ve always adored peanut butter because that was the only nut butter available or that I’d come across, but since I tried almond butter last year (Meridian’s is the best – no added sugar and just pure almonds) it trumped peanut butter, and I still tend to gorge on it. The base for these energy bites is almond butter, along with a few raw almonds, walnuts, dates and maca.

Although almonds aren’t in season here in Britain at the moment, I make sure I use almonds which have come from Spain, where they are currently seasonal and so they also haven’t had to travel too far (Meridian states that their organic almonds are grown in Spain, which is fab). Almonds are packed with slow releasing energy, and they’re also rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, both of which help maintain healthy bones and teeth. The addition of walnuts to these little snacks is also great because they are still in season in the UK – so these nutty balls are fresh, seasonal heaven.

The mix of creamy almond butter, almonds, walnuts, dates and ground flax seeds gives these bites so much flavour, and you just know you’re giving your body a health and energy kick because almost all the ingredients are raw. In health cafes maca is often offered as a drink alternative to coffee, because of its naturally invigorating and revitalizing effects, so it gives these balls that little bit extra for an afternoon pick-me-up or a morning boost. Even better, maca has a unique spiciness and subtle sweetness which is so delicious. These little titans of energy really are so easy to whip up – it’s great to make a quick batch at the weekend ready for the trials of the week ahead.

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Makes between 12-15 balls:

  • 4 tablespoons of almond butter
  • ⅓ cup of almonds (50g)
  • ⅓ cup of walnuts (45g)
  • 10 dates (80g)
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds
  • 3 teaspoons of maca
  • 3 tablespoons of jumbo oats
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • Sea salt

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Simply place the raw almonds, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, oats and maca in a food processor and blend until the nuts are broken down into fine pieces and it starts to resemble a flour (though not totally ground).

After that, add the almond butter, dates, coconut oil, water and a good grinding of sea salt before blending once more until the mixture has all come together and is starting to stick into one big ball of dough.

Scoop out a small amount of the mixture and roll around in your palms to make smooth balls. Store them in the fridge, or if you’re restrained and don’t think you’ll eat them within a week, place them in the freezer. Nibble (or pop into your mouth in one) and enjoy!

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!

Chestnut Pancakes

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The best thing about Christmas markets is chestnuts roasted on a smoky barbecue, holding the warm paper bag of them in your hand as you carefully peel their charred skins off to reveal the soft nut inside, which you then pop into your mouth. Now, obviously it’s a little early for Christmas talk, but the wait until December for chestnuts is a bit of a long one. Furthermore, it’s an unnecessary wait because chestnuts are in season now. Sweet chestnuts (not horse chestnuts – they’re poisonous) start falling from trees from September onwards, and they’re hard to miss, with their bright lime green, viciously prickly shells (a bit like a porcupine). I went out walking a few days ago and came across a chestnut tree with its nuts sprinkled around the trunk, spiking my palms as I gathered a few up.

Given all this, I just had to make something chestnutty. And these pancakes are chestnut heaven. Vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free, you really just don’t miss the milk, eggs or wheat. They’re both mushy and fluffy, and the combination of chestnut flour, chestnut purée, almond butter and banana is a creamy, autumnal treat. Chestnuts are low in fat (they’re largely made up of starch) whilst also being a good source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid and a rich source of fibre, with even more fibre per 100g than walnuts and pistachios. As well as this, chestnuts are rich in the B vitamin folic acid, which is required to synthesize DNA and repair DNA, and helps produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia.

These pancakes are pretty good for you, tasty and so easy to make – you can whip them up in ten minutes for a delicious breakfast or an afternoon snack. They’re rich and nutty, without being overly sweet, which to me is ideal.

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Makes about 16 small pancakes/serves 2-3:

  • 130g/½ cup of chestnut flour
  • 3 tablespoons of chestnut purée
  • 1½ tablespoons of almond butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1½ teaspoons of baking powder (I like to use this)
  • Coconut oil for frying

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Simply mash the banana until there are no lumps left then place in a mixing bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix with a whisk until a batter forms. It should be fairly runny, but not too much.

Next place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a teaspoon of coconut oil. Once the oil has melted and the pan is hot pour about two tablespoons of the batter into the pan to make one pancake. It should run out and form a circle. Wait about twenty to thirty seconds, until it starts bubbling a little and you can see it cooking around the edges. Then carefully slip a turning spatula underneath the pancake and flip it over, letting it cook for another twenty seconds.

Add a little more coconut oil to the pan and repeat this until all the batter is used up (I usually do two pancakes at a time). Then make a pancake stack, topping it with your favourite things – I recommend banana, raspberries, chestnut pieces, almond butter and raw honey – and serve!

Squash, Cannellini Bean & Sage Cakes

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Squash is probably my favourite vegetable. Roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, there’s nothing else quite like it. I can easily gorge on it all on its own, but it’s so delicious in things – risotto, curry, soup. I’ve been experimenting a bit and recently made these squash cakes, and they are so good! The soft mushy squash blends perfectly with the mashed beans and the fresh sage to create the tastiest patty, which can also be an amazing veggie burger with a warm bun and some hummus and salsa. These cakes are really versatile, which is ideal.

I bought a couple of delicata squashes when I was on holiday in Cornwall, and I have to say they are too yummy. Butternut squash is the only kind you can lay your hands on in UK supermarkets and most greengrocers but this is so silly because there are so many different types of squashes out there. Red kuri, acorn, kabocha, hubbard, calabaza, blue hokkaido pumpkin, spaghetti… there are LOADS. What’s more, most of the year butternut squashes come all the way from Asia, which isn’t good.

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But these delicatas were grown locally in Cornwall, on an organic farm, making them the most wonderful little things. When baked, the flesh is sweet, nutty and creamy, and the best thing about them is that you don’t have to peel their skin. It’s wholly edible and you hardly notice it once the squash is cooked. All types of winter squash contain high levels of vitamin A and key antioxidants such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which are anti-inflammatory and can help protect your skin and the rest of your body against free radicals. Cannellini beans not only have the yummiest texture, but they’re also packed with protein and have one of the lowest GI scores (31) of all beans. Low GI foods metabolize slowly, providing steady energy for hours, instead of giving your blood sugar levels a short-lived peak before they plummet (as high GI foods do, such as white bread and anything with refined sugar), which often causes abnormal mood swings and a lack of energy. The sage came straight from my garden, the freshest and best, which, along with sun-dried tomatoes and cayenne pepper, gives these cakes that little bit of zesty flavour.

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Makes 5 large squash cakes:

  • 2 cups/300g of squash pieces (about 2 small delicata squashes or 1 large butternut squash)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup/230g of cannellini beans (either 1 tin or your own soaked and cooked beans)
  • 3 tablespoons of brown rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons of ground almonds
  • A small handful of fresh sage leaves (or 2 teaspoons of dried sage)
  • 6 sun-dried tomato pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • Olive oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper

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Preheat your oven to 180°C. Slice your delicata squashes lengthways and scoop out the seedy bit (you can save the seeds and roast them to make a delicious snack) before chopping into approx 1.5inch/4cm cubes. Spread on a baking tray, drizzle with rapeseed oil, stir and toss the pieces so they’re coated evenly and then place them in the oven for about 30 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, chop the onion roughly and push your garlic cloves through a press. Pour a little olive oil into a small pan and place it on a medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the onion, and then after a minute add the crushed garlic. Stir them around for just a minute or so, making sure they don’t burn, until they’ve softened a little. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

At this point, check your squash pieces and give them a toss so they’re cooking nice and evenly. Next drain your cannellini beans and pat them gently dry with a tea towel. Place half of them in a food processor, saving the rest for later. Along with the beans, add the onion and garlic, brown rice flour, ground almonds, sage, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic oil, cayenne pepper, cumin and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the food processor.

Once the squash has softened and is going golden brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Then measure out 2 cups/300g worth of the cubes and add them to the food processor as well (if there’s any left over I love to munch them on their own or you can save them to make a delicious salad). Blend the mixture for about a minute, until it’s all come together – if it seems too dense and isn’t blending well add a little water.

Spoon the batter into a large bowl and then add the whole cannellini beans. Mix them gently into the squash mush, making sure they don’t get crushed. Now you’re ready to make the cakes! Scoop out a large handful of the mixture and shape into burger-shaped patties. I found it makes 5 large cakes but if you like them smaller then you can make 7 or 8 with the mix. Once all the squash batter has been used up, pour a little olive oil into a ramekin and smother your hands in it. Then gently rub your hands over each of the cakes, making sure they’re coated all over with just a little oil.

Place the cakes onto a baking tray (I also like to brush oil over the tray to help prevent them from sticking) and then bake in the oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes. After 15 minutes carefully turn them over (they might have got a bit stuck to the pan), doing so again at 25 and 35 minutes so they turn a beautiful bronzy brown all over. Remove from the oven, let them cool a little and then serve with salad or some homemade potato wedges (or in a bread bun) and enjoy!