Cooking deelitefully

Welcome to  the deelitefull blog.  I am a cooking and nutrition coach based in Dublin, Ireland.   Food should both taste great and make you feel great. My experience of some healthy eating guides & books is that they can be a little worthy, bland and humourless. Eating should always be a pleasure both to the senses and to the soul. There is nothing worse than eating a meal and feeling like you need a crane to hoist you out of your chair but on the other hand there is nothing more dreary than a meal that is assessed purely on the reduced calories and fat grams it contains. So on this blog you can follow my search for delicious healthy recipes with soul.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summery soup

Summery Soup

I have started getting a weekly organic box from these guys who farm from a walled garden in Glasnevin  
The contents of the box change from week to week but I quite enjoy the surprise.  I had a few things left to use up so I decided a summer soup would be nice.  
This was inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi minestrone recipe I read in the paper.  I changed the  soup ingredients based on what I had to hand. This recipe was more the delicious than I expected, a lot of it down to the great veggies.  While the soup would be great on its own the the basil and parmesan cream really make it special.  The cream really improved the longer it was left to sit so try and make it at least an hour before serving if you can.  I have yet to make a disappointing Ottolenghi recipe. This is definitely a keeper. Check out the original recipe here.

Summer Minestrone with Basil and Parmesan cream
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced finely
A bunch of spring onions,  chopped into 1 inch pieces
7-8 baby/teenage carrots,  chopped in half if thicker than an asparagus spear
Handful of Peas -  Podded (if you don’t have access to super fresh, I would go for frozen)
3 - 4 * Small Milan turnips, chopped roughly into cubes
A large handful of French beans
2 bay leaves
Few fennel seeds
A couple of tablespoons of Fino sherry ( the original recipe calls for white wine but I had none to hand)
750 ml of vegetable stock ( I use marigold brand if you don’t have the time to make your own)
1/2 teaspoon of tomato puree ( this wasn’t in original recipe so feel free to leave out)
Salt and pepper
Basil & Parmesan cream
3- 4 tablespoons of creme Fraiche/ thick greek yoghurt
Large handful of basil chopped finely ( normally I tear basil but needs to be fine for this recipe)
1 tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan 
1. First make the basil and parmesan cream by mixing all the ingredients together,  season with pepper and salt ( Make not need as parmesan is quite salty).  Try and make in advance if you have the time.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and add the onion, turnips and carrots. Sweat until vegetables soften but don’t colour. About 10 minutes.  Carrots should be al dente but definetly not crunchy.  

3. Add the sherry,tomato puree,  bay leaves and fennel seeds, and reduce for 4 minutes. 

4. Pour in the vegetable stock, add the spring onions and french beans.  Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes.

5. Add the peas, and simmer for a final  2- 3minutes. Serve with dollops of the cream

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Healthy habits for shrinking your waistline: eat with your eyes and share with your friends

Healthy habits for shrinking your waistline: eat with your eyes and share with your friends
As I have probably mentioned before I don’t believe healthy food and tasty food are mutually exclusive.  Incorporating healthy habits into your life have a far more effective long term benefit than any diet.  

One area we can probably all take a look at is our portion sizes.  Rather than cutting things out completely,  cutting down portion sizes may help us all be a little bit healthier.  Take for example scones.  Scones used to be the width of say the lid on a jar of honey,  recently I bought  scone that was almost the size of a saucer. It was very tasty but it was enough for about 3 people.   At home the size of our plates are steadily increasing.  As result our idea of a normal portion has got somewhat skewed.

One of the best things we can all probably do for our waistline is downsize our plates.  A recent study in Cornell University found that switching from a 12 inch to a 10 inch plate ,  lead people to eat 22% less calories.  Just by shrinking your plate , you could eliminate more than 5,000 calories a month.
These picture here show a dinner of Thai flavoured steamed salmon, brown basmati rice and stir-fried veggies on three different plates.  Moving either to a smaller dinner plate or to a small salad plate mens we eat less without being really aware of it. 
Large dinner plate no rim

Same size dinner plate with rim

Small dinner/salad plate

On the other hand if you are struggling to eat enough vegtables than maybe put your salad on a large plate,  you might eat more.
In relation to drinks,  again the type of glass will have an influence on how much you drink ,  these glasses including 2 glasses in the last case are all holding the same amount of liquid.  So a bigger wider glass for your water as most of us are not consuming enough water and either a smaller glass or a long thin slim one for those drinks you are trying to consume less of.

The portion of rice above looks pretty satisfactory to most people however when it comes to pasta we tend to overeat big style. Though I am not really into weighing food out,  it can be useful with pasta until you get the idea of what a healthy portion looks like.  This is the reason Italians can eat pasta and stay so healthy , they eat much smaller portions than us, often as a starter.  Italians also tend to take more time over their meals, sharing and   eating with company and not inhaling food in front of the TV.  These pictures all show a 80g of pasta.  Supposedly blue plates also make you eat less,  though the science on this is a bit sketchy,  I need to read up more.  Something to do with blue suppressing your appetite while warm colours like red and yellow increase it.  That explains the MacDonalds restaurants then.
80g of pasta before its cooked

80g of pasta cooked on large plate with no rim

80g of cooked pasta on blue plate with rim,  small dinner/salad plate size

A comparison 
Deep bowls can be misleading- here is 160 g a portion really for 2 people!

In fact that brings me to another tip for managing out portions.  We should all try and share when we are eating out.  Sharing a starter and a dessert is a great way of enjoying a meal without overeating.  And with larger groups, order a few starters for the table,  you get to try lots of different things.  A few people for different reasons are very uncomfortable with this so probably best not to push them but for most people it will increase the sociability of the meal while also ensuring you don’t overeat.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fishy Tales

Salmon - Nobu-ish style
Nobu was the restaurant of the beautiful people in the 90’s. It now has outposts on most continents and will be packed to the gills any fashion week. Not quite as cutting- edge as it was once considered,  many of its dishes have moved from hip territory into classic territory.  And quite rightly so.  One of these dishes is their Black cod miso.   Unfortunately even in our bling-bling celtic tiger years , Dublin was never hip or rich enough for a Nobu.  So if you wanted to try this dish you had to travel.  
The recipe below is very , very , very, very  distant relative to Nobu’s classic dish.  Firstly in Nobu its made with Black cod ( also called sablefish), not available here   .  I use either salmon or halibut.  You really need to use an oily fish.  
Here I have served it with a salad using the last of the asparagus and sesame seeds.  Its delish.  While the glaze on the fish should definitely should be crisp ,  maybe not quite as crisp as mine,  I got distracted looking for a sieve while it was cooking.  Lesson learned -  always use a timer ;-)
You should get most of the ingredients in an Asian supermarket.   
Salmon Nobu-ish style - Serves 4
1/2 cup sake ( 1/2 cup of white wine if you are really stuck)
3/4 cup mirin
2 cups white miso paste
1 cup granulated sugar
4 salmon/halibut fillets, about 200g each
1.Boil sake and mirin over high heat for 20 seconds to evaporate alcohol.

2. Reduce heat to low and add miso paste, mixing with a wooden spoon until it has dissolved. Then increase heat to high and add sugar, stirring constantly to ensure bottom of pan does not burn until sugar has dissolved.   Cool to room temperature.
Keep 1/2 a cup of sauce for serving with the cooked fish the next day, and use the rest as marinade.  

3. Pat fish thoroughly dry with paper towels. Cover with marinade and place in a glass dish or bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Marinade overnight.

4. Preheat grill to high and preheat oven to 200c

5. Lightly wipe off and excess miso clinging to fillets, but do not rinse it off  Discard marinade. Place fish on grill plate, and grill until surface of fish turns brown, about 2 minutes.

6. Place in oven at 190 c.

7. Move fish to center of oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes depending on thickness

8. Transfer fillets to individual plates. Add a few drops of reserved sauce to each plate
Asparagus with sesame seeds
Serves 4
400 grams medium asparagus spears
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 teaspoons light (regular) soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds ( toast on a baking tray)

1. Snap off the woody ends of each asparagus spear. 
Add the asparagus to boiling, salted water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes depending on thickness.  

2. Drain in a colander, then immediately transfer to the cold bath to cool. This helps the asparagus stop cooking further and also keep its green colour.  Drain again, pat the asparagus dry with paper towel or a clean tea towel.

3. For the dressing, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl, stirring or whisking to dissolve the sugar. The  flavour should be balanced between being rich, salty and sweet. About 2 hours before serving, toss the asparagus in the dressing and to let flavours absorb 

4. Right before serving, transfer to a plate and garnish with a shower of sesame seeds. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Go green

Go Green
Please don’t dismiss this smoothie without trying it.   For people who are nervous of veggies in their smoothies this is great starter one. 
The spinach is a really mild leaf ,  you will hardly notice its there.  In parts of South East Asia they view avocados as something fruity and dessert-like rather than the more savoury view we have of it.   Avocado ice-cream is quite popular there and in this recipe it adds a lovely creaminess as well as vitamin e and lots of healthy fats. 
Antioxidants are important to anyone doing exercise as that can help neutralise some of the free radicals produced.  But most importantly it tastes great ,   If you like mojitos you will love these,  okay they are missing the rum but they are really refreshing and good way of sneaking more greens into your day.  
I tend to drink this straight after I come in from my run.  Which sounds way more impressive than it is.  For anyone who runs marathons and such like it would be a walk in the park, but for me its more than enough!  I have some lovely running buddies and a really scenic route down around the sea shore nature reserve out to the Pigeon House lighthouse in Dublin.  Some days are easier than others but having this recipe to whizz up when I get in the door certainly makes it easier.
There is no protein in this smoothie so for anyone doing hard core endurance work outs you might need to add some in.  I find I don’t have a huge appetite straight after running but this is perfect and really refreshing.  Then I shower do a bit of work and about half n’ hour later I am more ready for my next breakfast -  usually one of the following in case you are wondering:  poached eggs on homemade  whole meal bread with either tomatoes or baby spinach ,  porridge/home made granola with seeds, yoghurt and berries  or somedays if its very chilly baked beans on wholemeal toast.   
The recipe below serves 2 people.  Use just half the ingredients for one person.  (Just rub some lime juice on the avocado and apple you are not using and put a bowl in the fridge wrapped in cling film to stop them going brown.)     Hopefully this will inspire you to go green ;-)

Ingredients to serve
1 avocado
1 apple – cored and roughly chopped ( leave skin on)
a glass of apple juice ( not from concentrate, use pressed apple juice)
a few Mint leaves (trying growing these in a pot,  even I manage it)
Juice of 1 lime
Large handful of baby spinach leaves (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a tall jug or blender and mix until smooth.  You don’t need any fancy equipment a hand blender will work just fine and much easier to wash up.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Warrior food - Quinoa and red rice

Warrior food
Seemingly the Aztecs went to war on a bellyful of quinoa and considered it a sacred grain.  It supplies significant protein which is unusual for a food considered a grain. (Though  technically it is not a grain but a seed and related to spinach and swiss chard.)  In addition to supplying protein ,  it is also a complete protein, meaning that it supplies all 9 essential amino acids.    Until recently it was only really available in health food shops but it is now stocked by most major supermarkets.
While I am not a fan of the term “super food” as it seems to imply that only exotic foods that are grown on the top of a mountain in remotest Himalayas, harvested by pink elephants using chopsticks are some how nutritionally better than home grown fruit and vegetables. 
In reality super food is a marketing term usually used to increase sales.  While goji berries are good for us,  wild blackberries are just as good,  but no commercial interest stands to gain from establishing them as a superfood.  Same with homegrown raspberries ,  they are probably far more nutritious than imported blue berries that have spent weeks travelling half way across the world.  
Take the super food label with a pinch of salt,  we should all be eating more fruit and veg but consider seasonal, local ,  sometimes less perfect looking home grown varieties when out shopping.  
So enough of my ranting,   I do think quinoa is one “super” food we should try and include in our diet .   This recipe also includes red rice from France,  quite a nutty rice that makes a change from brown, adds some colour and provides a nice contrast of texture with the fluffy bouncy quinoa.   I adapted this from my favourite Ottolenghi cook book making substitutions with the ingredients I had to hand
Red rice and quinoa salad (adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe)
200g quinoa
200g Camargue red rice
2 small onions, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil/Donegal rapeseed oil, plus a little extra for frying
Zest of 2 orange
Juice of 2 oranges
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
Handful of dried sour cherries( Ottolenghi recipe used apricots)
20g pistachio nuts lightly toasted and roughly chopped
20g of walnuts
Handful of parsley leaves picked
Crumbled feta - 50 g (optional)
Salt and pepper
1. Roast the pistachios at 170C for 8 minutes,  roast the walnuts for 3 minutes and chop both roughly.  ( use a timer when cooking these ,  nuts burn quite easily and they are expensive,  I tell you this from experience)
2. Put red rice in boiling water and simmer for 25- 30 minutes.  In a separate saucepan put quinoa in boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.  Drain both, refresh under cold water, and leave in fine sieves to drain.
3. While the grains are cooking, fry the onion in a little olive oil until golden brown. 
Allow to cool. 
4. In a bowl, mix the cooked grains with all the other ingredients including the rest of the olive oil and season generously.   Serve at room temperature.
The feta is an optional extra,  its works quite well with the orangey dressing,(  I think.)  This salad would look lovely also in a big wide bowl served at a buffet lunch.  I ate it with a green leafy salad with asparagus and beetroot.   Lovely filling but light lunch,  you know that lovely balance where you feel full but not heavy.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter lamb - something different to try

Easter salad

The weather is being very kind to us this Easter.  So I was thinking rather than a traditional Lamb roast  for Easter dinner why not try something different and a little better suited to the sunshine. Though now I have said that,  wait for the rain clouds to roll in.  
This recipe also ticks a couple of other boxes ,  its cheap to make,  its reasonably healthy and you won’t need to roll out of your chair after eating it.  Handy also,  if you only have to feed a small number.  The recipe makes plenty for 4 but if you are feeding less than that ,  it tastes just as good the next day cold,  as you dress the cous cous rather than the salad leaves.  
Its based on a recipe by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall but of course,  as usual I couldn’t leave well enough alone and have changed the recipe a little.  Adding in some extra treats like pomegranates (  god,  I really need to let them go....... their is season is well over....I just happened to have one in the house to use up ;-)  )
 I also add extra spice to the meatballs and used pistachio nuts rather than his suggested walnuts ,  not only cos I love the colour but I was all out of walnuts.  Same with Bulgar wheat, so used wholemeal cous cous instead.    I used smoked sea salt for an added dimension but this really isn’t necessary,  common or garden sea salt is just fine.
Happy Easter Dx
Warm Lamb meatball salad
For the meatballs
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Large pinch of dried oregano
Large pinch of cinnamon
A few grinds of nutmeg
500g minced lamb
40g fine white breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
150g cous cous - wholemeal if you can get it
2 handfuls rocket or baby spinach or both
3 spring onions, finely chopped
50g pistachios roughly chopped
1 small handful mint leaves, shredded
For the dressing
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses, plus a little more for trickling over the salad
Juice of half a small lemon
1/2 tsp sumac ( this is a lemony middle-eastern spice,  lemon zest can be substituted)
3 - 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. 
In a frying pan over a medium heat, toast the sesame seeds for about 5 minutes until slightly browned. Tip into a large bowl and set aside.
Sweat the onion in the olive oil in the frying pan over a low heat until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin and coriander, and sauté for a couple of minutes more. Tip into the sesame seed bowl and stir in the dried oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg.
 Add the lamb and breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with the pomegranate molasses and pour over the lamb. Season generously and mix with your hands until well combined.
Roll the mixture into balls about the size of walnuts – you should have about 18 balls. Place on the baking sheet(s) as you go, making sure they're not crowded together, then bake for about 10- 12 minutes, until golden and just cooked through.
While the meatballs are cooking, make the rest of the salad. Cook the cous cous as directed on packet.  
Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar and shake. While the cous cous is still warm, trickle the dressing  and fork it through.

When the meatballs are ready, toss with the cous cous, rocket and/or spinach, spring onions, pistachio and herbs. Trickle over a little more pomegranate molasses, sprinkle on a little more mint and parsley and the pomegranate seeds( arils), and serve.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Check out Wafty Beetroot pop up tea party for something a little different of a saturday afternoon.  Book at :  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Paddys Day - Give cabbage a chance

Paddys Day -  lets revisit Cabbage

One thing I have noticed when giving cookery classes is the amount of people who say they hate cabbage.   Irish mammies are great but they did have a tendency to cook the b’jaysus out of cabbage.  
The longer you cook cabbage the more sulfurous it becomes,  this is also the case with broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts amongst others.  The strong smell and soggy texture put  a lot of people off for life.  However lightly blanched or stir fried cabbage is delicious.    Hopefully this recipe for cabbage soup with Asian flavours might persuade you to give cabbage a second chance. As well as tasting delicious ,  its really quick to prepare and very cheap.  
Health wise its great for the liver,  in ancient Egypt they ate loads of cabbage in advance of drinking binges,  So if you are planning on spending your St Paddys day in the pub,  try a bowl of this before you head out.  The sulphur in cabbage is also great for healthy skin, hair and nails. So while cabbage itself might not win any beauty contests,  it might help you win one ;-)
This recipe is inspired by one from Dennis Cotter of Cafe Paradiso in Cork,  I came across it in one of my favourite vegetable cookbooks -  Sarah Ravens Garden Cookbook.  As usual I changed it a little bit,  I used spring onions instead of regular onions as I had some in the fridge to use up.  I also add 1/4 tsp of brown sugar at the end as I thought the asian flavours needed just a tweak to balance them completely.  Happy Paddys day Dxx
Savoy cabbage, spring onion and coriander soup
Serves 4
Large bunch of spring onions/scallions - finely chopped
½ savoy cabbage (about 300g) very finely shredded
1 tbsp olive oil
2 red finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
about 5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
700ml good vegetable stock
400ml tin of coconut milk
bunch of fresh coriander, chopped - stalks n’all ( thats where all the flavour is)
juice of 2 limes
large pinch of palm/brown sugar (optional)
salt and black pepper

1.Heat the oil in a pan, add the cabbage and onion and cook over a moderate heat for a couple of minutes,
2. Add the chillies, garlic, ginger and coriander seeds. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onion and cabbage are tender but still have a bite to them.
3.Add hot stock to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the coconut milk, half of the fresh coriander, the lime juice, the sugar and finally salt and pepper.
4. Sprinkle the rest of the coriander over the soup and serve

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sugar overload

I still can’t stop thinking about an article I read in the health section of the Irish Times a couple of weeks ago about the amount of sugar in Uncle Bens sweet and sour sauce. 
So I decided to share 2 recipes for sweet and sour type sauces that are not only better for you but taste much better than any commercial sauce and are very quick to make. 
They still contain sugar and honey so they are not my healthiest recipes but  alot healthier than what you find in the supermarket.    One is a lemony one, courtesy of Bill Granger  and the other is an orangey one that goes lovely with duck.  
Here is a pictorial representation of the amount of sugar in Uncle Bens sweet and sour sauce (500g), 22.5 teaspoons  .  Yikes!!!

I don’t like to think of myself as a food dictator.  I use sugar and butter in my cooking where needed. I love cakes and use both when baking -  Lemon drizzle cake -mmmmmm.   
 But its all this sugar in processed food where you least expect that I really think is contributing to our obesity crisis.   Foods labelled as low fat are often the biggest culprits.  Food companies take all the fat out of products but generally stuff lots of sugar and salt back in so the food will taste of something.   I really passionately believe the easiest way to start eating healthy is to learn to cook for yourself.  By handing over responsibility for what you eat to a profit - driven food conglomerate is just asking for trouble.   To be fair to the food companies they are just trying to make money,  your health is not their concern.  ands its not just Uncle Bens,  loads of processed food is stuffed with sugar and salt.
These recipes are really quick and easy ,  go on...... leave the jar in the supermarket and give it a go.  If you have any problems with any of the recipes don’t hesitate to get in touch.  Happy (and healthy) cooking Dxx

Lemon chicken  
Ingredients (serves 2 - 3 people)
25ml Sunflower oil
1 tbsp Plain flour
½ tsp Chinese five spice powder
Large pinch of  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Chicken breasts,
2 Lemons, 1 lemon cut into wedges, 1 lemon for juice only
2cm Fresh root ginger, cut into strips
2 tbsp Clear honey
2 tbsp Light soy sauce
1 tsp light brown soft sugar

1. Heat the oil in a wok over a medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 200C/190C fan/gas 6.
2. Mix the flour, five spice, salt and pepper. Toss the chicken in it to coat, then fry it for 3–5 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper, then put it on a baking tray with the lemon wedges. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, until cooked
3. Drain all but 2 tbsp oil from the wok. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer to form a glaze.
4. Slice the chicken, drizzle with the glaze, squeeze over the roasted lemon wedges and serve with steamed vegetables and boiled rice
Another sauce I did recently for Easy food Valentines feature was a lovely sweet and sour  type sauce to go with duck.  But I like this with chicken and pork chops aswell.  Just be sure to serve with lots of stir-fried veg for a balanced meal.

Or to make your Orangey sweet and sour sauce for 2 - 3 people:
1.  Pour chicken/vegetable stock (125ml), soy sauce(2 tbsp) and rice wine (2 tbsp) into the pan and then add the tomato puree (1 tsp), chilli powder (pinch), orange juice and zest (1/2 an orange) and honey(2tbsp) . 
2. Mix the sauce together over a high heat, bring to the boil and cook for approximately 2 minutes to 4 minutes until it thickens.
Serve with grilled/roasted chicken/duck breast or pork and plenty of stir fried vegetables. 
Use brown rice to make it even healthier,  try and buy the Tilda brand ( no connection to the company,  just like it   )   its a little more expensive but its worth it.