Making your own fermented foods at home can seem a bit daunting, but it's really a piece of cake! This bright beetroot & red cabbage kraut is a pretty good place to start if you'd like to try your hand at DIY fermentation. Give your gut a boost with this vibrant probiotic condiment, a perfect addition to pretty much any dish!
This post was written by Eleanor Cains and edited by Katherine Mosquera from Mavens of London. Eleanor has written for various food and healthy lifestyle blogs and continues to work alongside Mavens of London to create immersive articles and blog content. Katherine has written and edited a range of articles from home and lifestyle, to food and fashion, and is currently a content creator at Mavens of London. This post was written in conjunction with Omo, a much-loved laundry and household cleaning brand, and contains a natural link relating to the contents of this post.
With the myriad of amazing sauces and dips are available in most supermarkets today, there’s that all too easy tendency to purchase these store-bought varieties. But what if you decided made your own? In the process, you could reduce the salt and sugar content, and reap the health benefits using tasty natural ingredients. Whether it’s a nutrient-packed tomato sauce, lovely tzatziki made with gut-friendly Greek yoghurt, or a healthier Braai sauce recipe you’re looking for, I’m going to show you how to easily prepare them at home.
Tangy Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauces are a favourite all around the world and you can replace the store-bought version with this easy-to-make, healthy alternative. You can enjoy it on the side with homemade chips, or even gift it to someone - all nicely stored in a cute jar and finished off with a decorative ribbon perhaps? One thing’s for sure, you won’t be sacrificing any of the flavour with this awesome recipe. This sauce is so tasty that it’s easy to get carried away enjoying it, but be careful of the inevitable spills – if you don’t know how to remove ketchup from clothes, now would be a good time to learn, just in case!
- 1 onion
- 1 stick of celery
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 chilli (deseeded)
- 1 kg of tomatoes (tinned, or passata is ok too)
- 200ml red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Honey (to taste, up to 30g)
- Add the olive oil to a pan and gently fry all of the chopped vegetables until they have softened.
- Next, add the tomatoes and 250ml of water, leaving it to reduce by half before adding the vinegar.
- Finally, let everything simmer until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency. Whizz up in the blender and then strain through a sieve to finish the job.
- Once that’s cooled, you can store it in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge, and it should last for up to three months or more.
Tzatziki is a staple condiment in Greek cuisine that’s packed with goodness and very quick to make. It’s great served with meat, fish and vegetables, and is a very versatile dip that you are going to LOVE! So simple to prepare, yet oh so tasty, and even good for keeping your gut healthy, as Greek yoghurt is a fantastic natural probiotic!
- 1 cucumber
- 500g Greek yogurt
- 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 30g chopped dill or mint (or a combination of both)
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- Start off by grating the cucumber and pass through a sieve to drain excess water.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together to make the sauce; and you're done! You can add a little red wine vinegar, pepper, extra herbs and even a pinch of salt to alter the seasoning.
Beautiful Braai Sauce
Barbecue sauce is often sticky with sugar, but you can make it with very little added, or remove it completely. There’s a natural sweetness in this recipe and your guests will definitely be asking for more the next time you fire up the grill.
- 1 red onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 sweet pepper
- 500g chopped tomatoes (organic canned or fresh)
- 40ml balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 30ml Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Honey (optional)
- Chop the onions, garlic and pepper and fry in large based pan until everything has softened.
- Add all of the other ingredients and leave to simmer for around 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened sufficiently.
- Spoon the mixture into a blender and blitz to make a smooth sauce.
- If the sweetness that comes from cooking the tomatoes, pepper and balsamic vinegar isn’t enough for you, you can add a little honey to taste. Honey will also help you get that stickier consistency that we all know and love when it comes to BBQ sauce.
So, that’s three easy to follow nutrition-packed condiment recipes. They’re not only healthier than a lot of store-bought versions, they’re delicious too. Why not give them a try!
Back To the Basics
Sometimes I can't believe the things that we do to make food and eating SO complicated. I promise you, three years ago I didn't want to touch chickpeas because they were being pushed as bad for us due to their carbohydrate content and the anti-nutrients that they contain. Three years along the line and this same narrative is being played out, just by different parties, but the thing is that legumes are actually an amazing (affordable) inclusion in a well-balanced diet. They contain loads of beneficial dietary fibre, which our gut can benefit from, and if prepared correctly they may be more than fine for your tummy to handle.
Something I did when I started including more pulses and legumes in my diet was to introduce them little by little, to get my tummy used to them. Legumes are very in high FODMAPs, specifically galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and can cause gassiness and bloating in many people, but these symptoms can vary from person to person. By introducing legumes little by little, starting with 1/4 cup a day for a few days and increasing the amount slowly from there, I found that my tummy was able to adjust to consuming more legumes quite well. As already mentioned, the way in which we prepare legumes can make a big difference, for example tinned lentils contain less GOS than boiled lentils. This is because GOS is water-soluble (meaning it can 'dissolve' in water) and leaches out of the lentils during processing and storage.
I have done a couple of posts on legumes throughout this year including this one that will teach you how to prepare & cook dried legumes properly, and this one which takes a look at what legumes actually are and the pros and cons associated with eating them. Give them a read if you haven't done so already.
First Things First...
I have some BIG news to share. It has been on my heart to share this for a while, but I felt that I needed to have all my ducks in a row before putting it out there and letting all of you know. My husband and I are going to be moving to the United Kingdom at the end of this month to start a whole new (unexpected) adventure. A couple of months ago an opportunity, that was just mind-blowingly cool, presented itself to us and after spending a lot of time weighing up the pros and cons and figuring out if it was the right path for us as a couple and each of us as individuals, we have decided to jump in and grab it with both hands. I have been given the chance to change my path slightly and complete a MSc Human Nutrition at the University of Surrey, which is located in Guildford, a little town in Southern England (just South of London). I will thus no longer become a #RD2BE, but will be working towards becoming a registered nutritionist. For those who are a bit confused as to what the difference will be between becoming a registered dietitian and a registered nutritionist, this resource by the BDA explains things quite well.
Just as a summary, here are a few basic differences in terms of the role that nutritionists and dietitians play.
Nutritionists work in all non-clinical settings such as in Government, food industry, research, teaching, sports and exercise industries, international work in developing countries, media and communications, animal nutrition and NGOs.
There are some nutritionists employed within the NHS working alongside Registered Dietitians. Nutritionists often work freelance as consultants.
Nutritionists work with people who are well, without any known existing medical conditions, to prevent disease.
They cannot work with acutely ill hospitalised patients or those living in the community requiring therapeutic interventions without supervision from a dietitian.
Dietitians work in the NHS and in private clinics. They work with healthy and sick people in a variety of settings. Dietitians can work in the food industry, workplace, catering, education, sport and the media. Other care pathways they work in include mental health, learning disabilities,community, acute settings and public health.
They often work as integral members of multi-disciplinary teams to treat complex clinical conditions such as diabetes, food allergy and intolerance, IBS syndrome, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, malnutrition, kidney failure and bowel disorders.
They provide advice to caterers to ensure the nutritional care of all clients in NHS and other care settings such as nursing homes, they also plan and implement public health programmes to promote health and prevent nutrition related diseases. A key role of a dietitian is to train and educate other health and social care workers.
They also advise on diet to avoid the side effects and interactions between medications.
Although my path is changing a bit, I am excited to see where Taste & See goes in this next year. Believe it or not but the blog turned 1 year old on Tuesday this week! 1 August marked the day that I shared my first post (this Easy Overnight Oat recipe, which is still a favourite) and made the blog public for all of you to read. Over the past year I have learned so much, and as mentioned in the beginning of this post the way that my eating and relationship has changed over the past year has been amazing. I have learned to love ingredients that I would never have cooked with before, have re-learnt to love carbohydrates again (having actually come to fear eating things like oats, legumes, and rice), and have met so many amazing people through this platform. So thank you for all of your support, and for giving Taste & See a chance :) The best is yet to come.
Spicy Coriander & Chilli Hummus
Now onto today's recipe. I have fallen in love with making Pick Up Lime's hummus recipes from scratch (seriously, check out this, this, and this one if you want a few go-to hummus recipes). Sadia prefers to use whole food fat sources instead of loads of extra oil that is usually called for in hummus recipes. She uses more tahini than normal as the main source of fat in the recipe and adds a little bit of water instead of extra oil to make the hummus creamy and delicious. This recipe of mine was created out of the blue when I needed to use a whole box of coriander that was about to go off. For coriander haters, I'm sorry, I have learned to love it and this is one of my favourite recipes. For coriander lovers, enjoy :)
Total time: 10min
Adapted from: Pick Up Limes
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 x 400 g can, drained and rinsed well)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 Tbsp tahini (plus an extra 1-2 Tbsp for a creamier hummus)
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1-2 handfuls of fresh coriander (adjust according to your taste)
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Place all ingredients except for the chickpeas in a food processor. Blend on high until well combined.
- Add the chickpeas and blend on high. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides.
- Process until the chickpeas are well blended and a smooth consistency is achieved. Add a bit of extra water if necessary to loosen up the hummus a bit.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
I found the most wonderful book called Coconut Oil by Jessica Oldfield, which is about all things coconut. The book contains over 60 yummy recipes that all make use of coconut in some form. From coconut crème brûlée and chai coconut crumble for those with a sweet tooth, to coconut carbonara and fish baked in fresh coconut, the book provides one with a whole lot of coco-nutty recipes that can be prepared with ease. One of the first recipes that I tried was this coconut yoghurt, which was quite rich, but oh-so-delicious.
Which coconut products do I choose?
Not all of us have fresh coconuts growing on trees in our backyards, which means we most likely need to purchase fresh coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut cream, and other coconut products from the shops. Choosing the right product can be a bit overwhelming, especially with all of the choices that most large supermarkets provide us with, but have no fear, here are a few tips to help you find the most suitable product for your pocket and health:
- Refined coconut oil goes through a process of sun-drying or smoking, bleaching, deodorizing, and packaging before it is sold in the supermarket . The benefits of this type of coconut oil include the fact that it is odourless and has a mild coconut flavour, which many people like, and the fact that it is often cheaper than virgin coconut oil.
- Virgin coconut oil may be more expensive, but the fact that it is less refined means that it contains more antioxidants and is of a better quality than refined coconut oil as it is made from fresh (and not dried/smoked) coconut . Virgin coconut oil has a lovely coconut scent and taste, which I enjoy.
- Organic vs Non-organic coconut products? It is not essential to buy organic coconut oil and other coconut products, as there are no genetically modified coconut plants around, and limited amounts of pesticides are used on coconut plants . If you buy regular coconut oil you will most likely save a bit of money without sacrificing your health :)
- Canned or fresh coconut cream/milk? If you have access to fresh coconuts and have the time to prepare your own fresh coconut cream and milk, by all means, do so :) There’s nothing quite like real, wholesome, fresh coconut milk made from the whole ingredient. Coconut Oil by Jessica Oldfield has a comprehensive method for extracting coconut milk and cream from a fresh coconut, and this video does a good job of explaining how you can make your own coconut cream and milk at home. Having said this, canned coconut milk and cream also work just fine, provided that they have minimal amounts of added ingredients such as stabilisers, emulsifiers, and sugar.
Cooking with coconut oil
Coconut oil is fairly stable when heated to 177 degrees C without changing its structure or compromising its health properties . Its stability means that it does not break down easily when heated . Unlike other vegetable cooking oils, heating coconut oil is less likely to result in the production of harmful free-radicals, which are linked to inflammation and many degenerative health problems . Thanks to its stability, coconut oil isn’t as susceptible to becoming rancid as many other cooking oils. Coconut oil can pretty much be used for any application where oil or fat is required so you can use it to prepare desserts, fish, veggies, meat, and pretty much anything else you can think of :)
What is the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk?
Both of these products are made by extracting coconut flesh from a fresh coconut, blending it with filtered water, and straining the product through a nut milk bag or muslin cloth . Coconut cream is the product obtained after the first extraction, and coconut milk is what you get after the second extraction. The main difference in terms of their composition is that coconut cream contains a greater amount of fat than coconut milk . Here is a cool video that shows you how to extract coconut meat and make your own coconut cream and milk.
So why should I bother to make this coconut yoghurt?
Well, fermented products have been shown to do wonders for the microflora that are found inside of our digestive systems. A healthy microbiome, composed of ‘good bacteria’ working together in harmony, is absolutely essential to a well-functioning digestive system. The consumption of beneficial lactic acid-producing probiotic bacteria in fermented foods has been associated with :
- Improvements in intestinal tract health
- Enhanced immune function
- The synthesis and enhanced bioavailability of nutrients
- Reduced symptoms of lactose intolerance
- A decreased prevalence of allergies in susceptible individuals
- A reduced risk of certain cancers
Although the time required to make this yoghurt makes it seem like quite a laborious task, I promise you that it’s incredibly simple to prepare. All you need to do is mix all the ingredients together and let the probiotics do all of the hard work!
Adapted from: Jessica Oldfield - Coconut Oil
Total time: 20h
- 660 g coconut cream
- Probiotic powder from 2 good-quality probiotic capsules
- 1 Tbsp honey (optional)
- Whisk the coconut cream and probiotic powder together until smooth.
- Pour into a sterilized glass jar and cover.
- Heat your oven to 50 degrees C. Once it has reached this temperature, switch it off. Place the jar in the oven, and leave it to stand for 12 hours. If you don't want to do this, place the jar in another nice warm place where it won't be disturbed.
- After allowing it to stand for 12 hours, place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
- The next day, blend the mixture in a food processor with honey, if using, until smooth.
- Return to the glass jar and seal. Place in the refrigerator and allow it to thicken.
- This can be stored in the fridge for 3 weeks.
 Oldfield J. Coconut Oil: Over 60 Delicious, Nourishing Recipes. United Kingdom: Hardie Grant Books, 2016.
 Parvez S, Malik KA, Ah Kang S, Kim HY. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Jun;100(6):1171-85.
Can't beet this recipe...
This beetroot hummus is both beautiful and delicious. I've played a twist on a traditional hummus recipe simply by adding roasted, peeled beetroot to the food processor along with the other ingredients. This bold root vegetable adds colour and boosts the nutritional content of this yummy dip/spread. Normally I can't really stand the taste of beetroot, however using it as part of a dish such as this is a great way to get all of the goodness from the vegetable, whilst keeping its taste to a minimum. If you LOVE the taste of beetroot, or would like a brighter pink colour, simply add 2 roasted beetroots to the mix :) I was lucky enough to have some help making, photographing, and eating the end product.
I was lucky enough to have some help making, photographing, and eating the end product. Thanks Sonja :). The recipe really is simple and easy to make, and the hummus can be eaten in a variety of different ways - on seed crackers, with courgetti, as part of a vibrant salad, and more. If you make this recipe please tag @tasteandseeblog on Instagram and Facebook and share how you used the hummus :) I didn't have any tahini on hand at the time of making this recipe, so I toasted some sesame seeds over the stove before grinding them by hand using a mortar and pestle. This worked really well and gave the hummus a good flavour, so don't be too concerned if you don't have any tahini in the fridge. Toasted and ground sesame seeds work just fine.
Beetroot is beautiful. There is no other vegetable that is able to impart such a vibrant pink/purple colour to pretty much everything it comes in contact with . Beetroot can be eaten in many different ways – raw, roasted, boiled, pickled, and even juiced . In fact, raw beetroot juice is an incredibly concentrated source of minerals and vitamins .
Some of its most notable health benefits include those associated with its folate, potassium, and polyphenol content . Folate is essential for healthy cell development and prevention of anaemia, and potassium is important in regulating one’s heartbeat, blood pressure, and nerve function . Beetroots contain a variety of bioactive polyphenols, antioxidants, and nitrates, which have been shown to contribute to lowering blood pressure and improving vascular health . The betalain pigments found in beetroot display anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, making this starchy vegetable a hot topic in the world of nutrition and health research with a growing interest in its potential as a functional food . Studies have shown that beetroot may play a beneficial role in treating conditions characterised by chronic inflammation . In addition to this, recent studies have shown the potential benefits of beetroot ingestion in reducing the risk and improving clinical outcomes for conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia .
Beetroot has the highest sugar contents of any vegetable and is used commercially, although not as extensively as sugar cane, to produce table sugar . Interestingly enough, freshly boiled beetroot is nutritionally equal, if not superior, to the raw vegetable due to the fact that it has greater quantities of most minerals available for the body to absorb . Although some water-soluble vitamins are lost, most vitamins are retained in almost equal amounts after cooking beetroot .
Chickpeas form part of the pulse family, which also includes lentils and a variety of different beans . Chickpeas are round, about the size of a marble, and have a nutty flavour . They are used extensively in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking in a variety of different ways . Chickpeas are a crucial ingredient in traditional hummus, which is also made with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and tahini . Nutritionally, chickpeas are a good source of manganese, iron, folate, and vitamin E . Chickpeas can be ground into a flour that can be used to make dishes such as socca, or can be added to smoothies and baked goods to boost the nutritional content whilst not altering the overall flavour too much .
I’m glad to be sharing a bit of information about a member of this family before 2016 comes to an end, as 2016 was the year of the pulse :) Pulses are a nutritious and affordable alternative to meat thanks to their relatively high protein content, and although they do not contain a complete amino acid profile they are able to contribute sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids when paired with other plant-based foods such as whole grains, seeds, and nuts . I will have to do an in-depth post on complementary proteins at some point, but for now, this link will have to do (thanks Wikipedia).
Pulses are incredibly versatile ingredients that can be used in pretty much everything, from breakfast to dessert . Lentils, beans, chickpeas and split peas can make meals go further, reducing the overall cost and fat content when used to substitute half of the meat in a dish, whilst boosting the nutritional content . Pulses contain both insoluble fibre, which promotes regular bowel movements, and soluble fibre, which plays a role in reducing blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease . The carbohydrate makeup of pulses is such that they have a relatively low GI, allowing them to be digested slowly and release steady levels of glucose into the blood following their consumption .
So what is the downside to including chickpeas and other pulses in one’s diet? Well, they can cause gassiness in some individuals due to their hard-to-digest resistant starch content. Most pulses, aside from split peas and lentils, require several hours of soaking in water before cooking in order both reduce their cooking time and reduce the indigestible starches that cause flatulence . Interestingly enough, some sources suggest that adding herbs like fennel, sage, rosemary, lemon balm, and caraway can help prevent flatulence in some individuals, however, the evidence to support this is limited . Another way to reduce the gassiness caused by legumes is to change the water a few times whilst dried pulses are left to soak, as well as draining and rinsing them thoroughly before cooking .
- 1 1/2 cups chickpeas, cooked
- 1 medium beetroot, roasted
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp tahini (see note)
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1-3 Tbsp water
- Salt & pepper, to taste
For the chickpeas:
- Place 1 cup of dried chickpeas in a large bowl. Cover with water, cover, and allow to soak for ±12 hours. Rinse and change the water every 3-4 hours.
- After soaking for ±12 hours rinse the chickpeas thoroughly. Place into a pot, add sufficient water to cook, add a sprinkle of salt, and bring to the boil. Cook for ±45 minutes, until the chickpeas are soft and cooked.
- Rinse well after cooking and allow to cool.
For the beetroot:
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Chop the leaves off the beetroot before rinsing, drying it, and wrapping it in tinfoil.
- Place on a tray in the oven and allow to roast for ±45 minutes. Allow to cool before peeling the skin off.
For the hummus:
- Place all of the ingredients into a food processor. Blend for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides at regular intervals to make sure that everything is incorporated well. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).
- Store the hummus in a clean, sterilised jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- If you don't have any tahini (sesame seed 'paste'), but have sesame seeds on hand, toast 1/2 cup of sesame seeds in a dry pan over a medium-high heat until toasted. Make sure to stir/mix them around whilst they're roasting, and keep an eye on them at all times, to prevent them from burning. Once they are toasted, allow to cool before placing the seeds in a mortar. Going by hand using a pestle until the seeds release their oils and become paste-like. Use 1 tsp olive oil to help you a bit if needed.
- Canned chickpeas will also work perfectly, and will help to make this recipe even more simple and easy to prepare. Just make sure to rinse them out really well before using.
 Clasen L, Kramer P, McWhirter A, editors. Food's That Harm, Foods That Heal. 2nd ed. South Africa: Heritage Publishers (Pty) Limited, 2000. 400 p.
 Keogh J. Nutrition and vascular health. Nutr Diet. 2013;70:3-4.
 Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ. The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2015;7:2801-22.
NUTS for nut butter
Today's post features the third of my Basic recipes that I think everyone should know how to make. It is really versatile as cashews, the main ingredient, can be swapped out for pretty much ANY other nut, seed, or a combination of the two. Today's post is focused on cashew nuts and cashew nut butter, which is a delicious treat that is really easy to make for yourself at home. It is far more affordable to make it yourself at home than to purchase it from the shops. It is creamy, sweet, and can be used in many different ways. It is a great source of minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous, and contains healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) is a plant that is native to Brazil, but is now grown widely in tropical climates for both cashew nuts and cashew apples . 'What are cashew apples?' you ask. I found this very interesting :) The cashew tree actually produces a soft, juicy fruit known as a cashew apple which bears a single-seeded nut, contained in a hard shell, from its bottom. If you don't believe me take a look here and read a bit more about the cashew plant here. The processing of cashew nuts is relatively expensive due to the specific characteristics of the shell . In fact, processing of cashew nuts is quite labour intensive, and the shells need to be softened by steam before they can be cracked open by hand and the kernel can be removed . Those who work in cashew processing need to wear gloves or coat their hands with oil in order to limit exposure to skin-irritating toxins that can make it really uncomfortable to remove the nut from its shell . Despite all of the effort it takes to obtain cashews, it doesn't stop the nut from being the third most produced nut worldwide! At the moment, Vietnam is responsible for the export of 58% of the world's cashews, which are grown locally and are imported for processing from Africa . Due to a drought that is currently being experienced by Vietnam, cashew nut prices are set to 'go nuts' (thanks for the pun Bloomberg :) ), so why not get your hands on some cashews ASAP to make this delicious nut butter before that happens?
Per 100 g, cashews contain approximately 48.3 g fat, 21.3 g protein, and 20.5 g carbohydrates . Fat is the major macronutrient found in cashew nuts, of which the majority is composed of unsaturated fatty acids . Breaking it down a bit further, a total of fourteen different fatty acids have been identified in cashews, including:
- Oleic acid (60.7%)
- Linoleic acid (17.77%)
- Palmitic acid (10.2%)
- and Stearic acid (8.93%)
Phenolic components contained in cashew nuts, such as anacardic acid and its analogues have gained significant attention from scientists due to their potential activity against tooth abscesses, as well as their antimicrobial, anti-tumor, and antioxidant activity [1,4]. The consumption of tree nuts, including cashews, as part of a healthy diet, has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, as well as a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes . For a little bit more information on some of the fat-soluble bioactive components in nuts, as well as their potential health benefits as part of a balanced diet take a look at this review article, which summarises some of the most current information quite well .
RAW or ROASTED? Which is better?
To be 100% honest with you I had every intention of boasting about the benefits of raw nuts over dry-roasted ones based on an opinion that I had formulated from hear-say. However, after doing my research I haven't managed to find much evidence backing claims made by many raw food advocates and health 'nuts' (haha just kidding) around the world that raw nuts are superior in terms of nutrition. Roasting nuts and seeds at reasonable temperatures has not been shown to significantly change their nutritional value, and claims made regarding the loss of unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E are not backed by evidence (if you read this post and have come across any information that states the opposite, please share it with me because I'd be interested in giving it a read). In terms of sensory aspects, both the raw and roasted nut butters were pretty equal in terms of taste, texture, appearance, and smell. I did a very informal analysis using my family and I as the sensory panel, and to be honest with you (once again), neither of the two recipes was enjoyed significantly more than the other. Both of them were actually enjoyed quite a lot :)
- 150 g (1/2 cup) raw cashew nuts
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
For the roasted nut butter:
- Preheat your oven to 140˚C.
- Place some baking paper on a baking tray before spreading the nuts out on the tray. Roast the nuts in the oven for about 20 minutes, until slightly golden.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before continuing.
For both the roasted and raw nut butter:
- Place all of the ingredients into a food processor or high speed blender and puree for 5 minutes. This could even take a bit longer, depending on the type of blender you have and whether you're working with raw or roasted nuts (see notes).
- Stop the blender/processor regularly to scrape down the sides. Keep puréeing until you end up with a smooth, creamy paste.
- Scrape the nut butter into an airtight container and refrigerate. It should keep for about 1 month.
- Raw nuts will take a bit longer to process than roasted ones due to the fact that it'll take a bit longer for them to release their oils and become smooth and creamy.
- Add 1-2 tsp coconut oil to the processor/blender if you would like it to be a bit creamier, or if it needs a bit of help coming together.
 Maorong S, Isao H, Ishida Y, Shimano Y, Bi C, Hikaru K, Takano F, Ohta T. Phenolic lipid ingredients from cashew nuts. J Nat Med. 2012;66:133-9.
 Rico R, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Nutritional composition of raw and fresh cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) kernels from different origin. J Food Sci Nutr. 2016;4(2):329-38.
 Chau MN. Cashew prices are about to go nuts. Bloomberg Professional. [Internet]. 2016 Nov 4. [cited 2016 Nov 6]. Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/professional/blog/cashew-prices-go-nuts/.
 Yang J, Liu RH, Halim L. Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common edible nut seeds. Food Sci Tech. 2009;42:1-8.
 Alasalvar C, Pelvan E. Fat-soluble bioactives in nuts. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol. 2011;113:943-9.
Sweet Potato Love
I recently had to do a comprehensive project on a commodity of my choice. For some reason, I decided to pick sweet potatoes because come on, who doesn't want to learn more about sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are quite versatile ingredients to use in cooking. They can be baked, boiled, mashed, sliced, toasted, steamed, and can be used to make many different types of dishes. This post marks the second #thebasics recipe, because I reckon that a good sweet potato chip recipe is one that everyone needs to have in their repertoire. This recipe requires only a few simple ingredients to make the most delicious, crispy, satisfying sweet potato chips :)
The Sweet Potato Plant
The figure below is a cool diagram that I found depicting the different botanical parts of the sweet potato plant . Sweet potato tubers grow from vines that propagate along the ground and send out roots that penetrate deep into the soil . Sweet potatoes as we know them are essentially root tubers of the Ipomoea batatas L. plant, which develop as part of secondary root growth that originates from nodules in the original root system . The sweet potato tubers grow from these nodules into large, fleshy, edible roots that are actually produced by the plant for storage purposes.
Sweet Potato Composition & Nutrition
Sweet potatoes provide approximately 251 kJ per 100 g serving, a similar amount of total kilojoules to that provided by normal potatoes . Sweet potato tubers are mostly made up of carbohydrates, which provide most of the caloric content of the tubers . One cup of cooked sweet potato (approximately 200 g) is made up of :
- 40 g carbohydrates
- 7 g fibre
- 4 g protein
Sucrose is the principal sugar found in sweet potatoes, with smaller amounts of glucose and fructose also present as monosaccharides . The main protein found in sweet potatoes is globulin, which has a relatively high nutritional value due to its inclusion of many essential amino acids . Nevertheless, it does not contain sufficient amounts of tryptophan and other sulphur-containing amino acids to be classified as a complete protein source . The protein content of sweet potatoes is highly variable, and depends on the variety, environmental conditions, and genetics of the plant, amongst other things .
Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes contain a significant amount of pro-vitamin A carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Sweet potatoes also contain significant amounts of vitamins such as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and vitamin C, however, methods of cooking such as boiling and steaming can result in the loss of many of these water-soluble vitamins . Sweet potatoes provide variable amounts of minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, and phosphorous to the diet, and interestingly enough their peels contain more minerals than their flesh (so try to cook them with their peels on) .
Potential Health Benefits of Sweet Potato
- Preventing vitamin A deficiency - Globally, sweet potato has a significant role to play in preventing vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent in many developing countries worldwide . Vitamin A deficiency can result in temporary and permanent eye impairments, as well as death amongst children, and pregnant and lactating women . Due to their high pro-vitamin A carotenoid content, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can substantially increase the vitamin A status of individuals who consume them .
- Weight loss support - Sweet potatoes have a lower glycaemic index (GI) than regular potatoes, meaning that they are digested and absorbed more slowly in the digestive tract, resulting in a steady supply of glucose in the bloodstream and more sustained energy . Low GI foods may help control appetite and balance blood sugar levels, which can help with both managing weight and reducing the risk of developing insulin resistance .
- Healthy skin - Including orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can promote skin health due to their beta-carotene content, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A plays an important role in triggering DNA responsible for producing new skin cells .
- Antioxidant properties - Many studies suggest that the carotenoids and polyphenols found in sweet potatoes can be useful in treating inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, as well as cancer .
- Healthy vision & eye health - Beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, plays an important role in preventing macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness . This is because vitamin A is a critical component of rhodopsin, which is the molecule that is activated when light shines on the retina and sends a signal to the brain, which results in us being able to see things .
Total time: 45min
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1-2 garlic cloves (this depends on your taste), chopped & minced
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt (TT)
- Pepper (TT)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (170 degrees C for fan-assisted ovens). Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Wash, scrub, and dry off the sweet potatoes properly. Slice the sweet potatoes into wedges/chips of approximately length and size to ensure even cooking.
- Toss the sweet potato chips in the olive oil, rosemary, minced garlic, salt, and pepper until they are properly coated.
- Place the chips on the lined baking sheet, ensuring that they have some space between them. This ensures that they will get nice and crispy on all sides :)
- Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, checking them halfway to flip the chips over and ensure that nothing is burning. Remove from the oven when the chips are nice and crispy.
- Allow to cool down a little bit before serving.
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 Dr Axe [Internet]. Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts and Benefits; 2016 [cited 2016 Oct 16]. Available from: https://draxe.com/sweet-potato-nutrition-facts-benefits/.
 Dr Axe [Internet]. Vitamin A: Benefits, Sources & Side Effects; 2016 [cited 2016 Oct 16]. Available from: https://draxe.com/vitamin-a/.
This marks the first 'The Basics' post on Taste & See :) The idea behind this series is to provide you with a healthy take on simple recipes (like this basic pesto) that everyone should have as part of their basic kitchen repertoire. Having a reliable pesto recipe is definitely a must-have. This recipe plays a twist on the classic sauce by using almonds instead of pine nuts, and substituting a portion of the basil leaves with baby spinach. To be honest with you, the reason for this substitution was not for any reason other than the fact that the basil plants I had growing outside just did not have enough leaves to make a good batch of pesto. I opened the fridge and found a nice bag of baby spinach, and made a plan from there. The end result was a milder than normal, but still delicious, pesto. One thing that I hope to inspire all of you to do in the kitchen is to improvise where you can with ingredients that you have, are in season, and are more nutritious than the norm.
What is pesto?
Pesto is a Genovese sauce that traditionally consists of garlic, basil, and pine nuts, which are blended together with Parmesan cheese and olive oil to release the aroma and flavour of the basil . Having mentioned this, there are many different variations of Pesto, with some containing ingredients such as red bell peppers or sun dried tomatoes to impart a red colour to the sauce . My favourite is the traditional basil Pesto, or "Pesto Genovese" with a twist, depending on the ingredients available in the house. It's delicious when used as a spread, dip, pasta sauce, an extra addition to salad or cooked vegetables, or as an accompaniment to meat dishes. I love adding this pesto to scrambled eggs (Green Eggs & Ham anyone?)
Here's an interesting fact about spinach. We've all watched Popeye at some point in our lives, and have been led to believe that spinach was the source of strength that his muscles needed in times of trouble. Interestingly enough this popular misconception arose due to a simple calculation error that was made when a food analyst calculated the iron content of spinach, which suggested that spinach contained more than 10 times the amount that it actually does .
Despite this misconception, spinach is filled with many beneficial nutrients that are good for our bodies. These include vitamin C and lutein, both of which have antioxidant properties, as well as beta carotene and potassium . Spinach is also a particularly useful source of folate (vitamin B9), which is of particular importance for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in a developing foetus. Folate is essential for the synthesis of DNA building blocks, which play an important role in cell replication and differentiation during pregnancy . Spinach also contains a significant amount of chlorophyll, which you can read about here. The nutritional benefits of spinach are masked slightly by its high oxalic acid content. This compound binds with dietary calcium and iron, limiting their absorption, however studies have shown that very large amounts of spinach will need to be eaten on a regular basis for this to be a big problem in most healthy individuals . So eat your spinach :) Just not buckets of the stuff.
Before you start, here's a good tip - you can make a batch of pesto and use it at a later stage (bonus!). If you want to freeze it, leave the cheese out of the recipe, fill each space in an ice cube tray with pesto and freeze it. Once frozen, remove from the ice tray and store the pesto in a freezer bag. When you're ready to use some of the pesto, defrost it and mix in some grated Parmesan cheese. Easy peasy!
2 cups basil leaves
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lemon, juice and zest
20 g Parmesan, grated
Salt & pepper, to taste
- Place the basil leaves, baby spinach, garlic clove, almonds, and extra virgin olive oil into a blender (I use my NutriBullet, it works like a charm).
- Blitz until all of the ingredients are chopped up and mixed well. Scrape down the sides of the blender if necessary to incorporate all of the ingredients. Just a note here for students who may live in res, or others who just don't have a standing blender, a hand blender will also do a great job of this, you might just need some extra olive oil or some water to assist you. Just make sure to use a bowl or jug with high sides to prevent green stuff from flying all over the place :)
- Add the lemon juice and zest, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Blitz until incorporated.
- Taste the pepper and adjust the salt and pepper to suit your taste.
 DeLallo. A Marvel of Simplicity: Pesto Alla Genovese [Internet]. Pennsylvania: George E. Delillo Co., Inc. [unknown date] [cited 2016 Aug 9]. Available from: http://www.delallo.com/articles/marvel-simplicity-pesto-alla-genovese.
 Clasen L, Kramer P, McWhirter A, editors. Food's That Harm, Foods That Heal. 2nd ed. South Africa: Heritage Publishers (Pty) Limited, 2000. 400 p.
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