Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Strawberry, blueberry and chia seed dessert

If you've got some strawberries which are slightly over-ripe and too soft for a fresh fruit salad, you can use them to make this simple cold dessert, which is very quick and easy to prepare and packed with nutrients.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, dietary fibre, and flavonoids. Indeed, a handful of strawberries is sufficient to cover the vitamin C recommended daily allowance.

They’re also a very good source of manganese, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B1, and iodine. They’re a good source of folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B6.

Folate is needed to synthesize DNA, repair DNA, and methylate DNA as well as to act as a cofactor in certain biological reactions. It’s especially important in aiding rapid cell division and growth, such as in infancy and pregnancy. Children and adults both require folate to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anaemia.

Strawberries also contain fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamin A and tocopherol) and carotenoids (i.e. lutein and zeaxanthin), which are known to be important for eye health.

The red colour of strawberries is due to a substance called pelargonidin, which is a powerful type of photochemical called flavonoids.

These flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a similar mode of action to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. They reduce the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase, or COX1. Unlike the drugs, though, strawberries don’t cause intestinal bleeding or heart disease.

Strawberries also have strong antioxidant activity and have been linked to lower risk of cancer.

Some of the known chemopreventive agents present in strawberries include vitamins (vitamins A, C and E and folic acid), minerals such as calcium and selenium, dietary fibre, carotenoids, phytosterols such as β-sitosterol and stigmasterol, triterpene esters and phenolic compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonols, flavanols, proanthocyanidins and phenolic acids 2 3.

Evidence from in vitro studies show that strawberry phenolics may have anti-inflammatory effects 4, and suppress mutagenesis through antioxidative and genoprotective properties 5.

Strawberry extracts also seem to modulate cell signalling in cancer cells by inhibiting proliferation of several type of cancer cells 6, inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis 7 1, and suppressing tumour angiogenesis 8.

Most of these findings come from in vitro studies, and further studies in human subjects are required.

Blueberries are also an excellent source of flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins. They have one of the highest antioxidant activity of any fruit.

In addition, they are a very good source of vitamin C, insoluble fibre and soluble fibre, such as pectin; and a good source of manganese, vitamin E and vitamin B2.

Chia seeds

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. "Chia" means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. That makes sense, as chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fibre, antioxidants, and calcium.

Chia seeds have useful properties in cooking. When water is added, a gel is formed which acts as a thickening agent, emulsifying agent, and as a stabilizer 9.


250g/8oz  ripe strawberries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp agar agar
2 tbsp rice syrup or to taste (depends on how ripe the fruit is)
100g/4oz  blueberries


Put strawberries in a pan and cook over a gentle heat until they soften into a pulp. 

Add chia seeds and agar agar and stir until agar agar has dissolved; these ingredients act as thickening and setting agents. Add rice syrup to taste. 

Mix in half the blueberries and pour mixture into glass dishes. When cool, put dishes in refrigerator to allow the dessert to set.

Decorate with the remaining blueberries and serve.


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Nutritional information


1.         Seeram NP, Adams LS, Zhang Y, et al. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Dec 13 2006;54(25):9329-9339.
2.         Duthie SJ. Berry phytochemicals, genomic stability and cancer: evidence for chemoprotection at several stages in the carcinogenic process. Molecular nutrition & food research. Jun 2007;51(6):665-674.
3.         Seeram NP. Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Feb 13 2008;56(3):630-635.
4.         Wang SY, Feng R, Lu Y, Bowman L, Ding M. Inhibitory effect on activator protein-1, nuclear factor-kappaB, and cell transformation by extracts of strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa Duch.). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. May 18 2005;53(10):4187-4193.
5.         Xue H, Aziz RM, Sun N, et al. Inhibition of cellular transformation by berry extracts. Carcinogenesis. Feb 2001;22(2):351-356.
6.         Zhang Y, Seeram NP, Lee R, Feng L, Heber D. Isolation and identification of strawberry phenolics with antioxidant and human cancer cell antiproliferative properties. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Feb 13 2008;56(3):670-675.
7.         Boivin D, Blanchette M, Barrette S, Moghrabi A, Beliveau R. Inhibition of cancer cell proliferation and suppression of TNF-induced activation of NFkappaB by edible berry juice. Anticancer research. Mar-Apr 2007;27(2):937-948.
8.         Atalay M, Gordillo G, Roy S, et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berry in a model of hemangioma. FEBS letters. Jun 5 2003;544(1-3):252-257.
9.         Coorey R, Tjoe A, Jayasena V. Gelling Properties of Chia Seed and Flour. Journal of Food Science. 2014;79(5):E859-E866.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Courgette (zucchini) and tofu fritters with avocado, cashew and lime dip

“Westley shrugged. "Welcome to the middle of nowhere. I'm more likely to come home to find someone's left a pie on my counter than to find my television's missing. Although—" He winced.

"What?" Jaylen looked ready to fight whatever threat had made its way into Westley's home.

"Last year the zucchini crop was really good and somebody left three bushels in my kitchen."

"Oh." Jaylen deflated. So there was an enemy he wasn't a match for.

"There's still zucchini bread in the freezer," Westley offered. "If you're hungry.” 

- Ryan Loveless, Wolf Hunter

So what on earth can you do with all those courgettes/zucchinis?

Fear not. 

Here's a real crowd-pleasing recipe, with plenty of scope for modification. 

Courgette (zucchini) and tofu fritters with a creamy avocado, cashew and lime dip are tasty and satisfying and ideal for summer picnics, packed lunches, snacks and to serve as a main meal with a green salad. 


Avocado, cashew and lime dip


½ cup cashews
1 small avocado
Juice of ½ small lime
Small pinch of salt if required


1. Soak cashew nuts in water for 1-2 hours. While the cashews are soaking, prepare the courgette (zucchini) fritters following the instructions below.

2. When the cashews have finished soaking, drain them. Cut avocado in half, remove the stone, scoop out flesh and blend with cashews, adding lime juice and salt to taste

Courgette (zucchini) and tofu fritters


2 medium courgettes (zucchini) 
1 small white onion (grated) or 3 spring onions (scallions) (finely chopped)
2-3 small new potatoes
½ tsp salt
60g/3oz firm tofu
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp lime zest
1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp apple juice concentrate
1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 2 tbsp warm water – this acts as a binding agent instead of using egg. You could also use 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water.
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
3-4 tbsp chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour (you can use regular wheat flour)


1. Grate courgettes (zucchini) and onion into a bowl (or add chopped spring onions (scallions)

2. Peel potatoes and grate into bowl with courgettes (zucchini) and onion

3. Sprinkle grated vegetables with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes to draw out the juices. Squeeze out excess liquid with your hands and put mixture in a bowl

4. Grate tofu into the bowl with the grated courgettes (zucchini), potatoes and onion

5. Add ground cumin, ground coriander and ground paprika, lime zest, lime juice, apple juice concentrate and fresh coriander

6. Carefully fold in ground flax seed and water mixture and the flour

7. Shape into small flat rounds and gently pan-fry in a good quality oil that won’t burn. I used rice bran oil; olive oil would be fine.

8. Finish making the avocado dip (see above)

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with the avocado, cashew and lime dip and a green salad 

Nutritional information

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Caribbean chick pea (garbanzo bean), sweet potato and courgette (zucchini) curry

If you grow your own courgettes (zucchini) you'll know they seem to ripen all at once and you're scratching your head wondering what to do with them all.

The good news is there are numerous ways you can cook courgettes (zucchini) to create mouth-watering dishes. 

By combining courgettes (zucchini) in different ways with other vegetables, herbs and spices , you can transport your taste-buds to all corners of the globe and say goodbye to those piles of watery mushy pulp on your plate. 

Caribbean cuisine is a fusion of African, American Indian, European, East Indian, Arab and Chinese cuisine. These traditions were brought from many different countries when they went to the Caribbean. In addition, the local population has created styles that are unique to the region.

Ingredients which are common in most islands' dishes are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, coriander (cilantro), bell peppers, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and any of various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork or fish. 

This plant-based dish combines chickpeas (garbanzo beans), sweet potatoes, courgettes (zucchini), bell peppers, tomatoes, coconut and coriander (cilantro) with a variety of spices to create a healthy, flavourful and delicious curry.

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are an excellent source of molybdenum, which is needed for alcohol detoxification. They're also a very good source of fibre, folic acid (especially important during pregnancy), and manganese. In addition, they're a good source of protein, as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and zinc.

Chickpeas help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels, making them a great food for diabetics and those with insulin resistance.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of carotenes, vitamins C and B6. They're also a good source of manganese, copper, biotin, vitamins B2 and B5, and dietary fibre.

Courgettes are low in calories and provide reasonable amounts of vitamin C, potassium and carotenes.

Carotenes are powerful antioxidants and help to protect the body from cancer and other chronic diseases.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch sea salt
1 white onion (peeled and chopped)
1 clove garlic (peeled and crushed)
1 piece (30g/2oz) fresh root ginger (peeled and grated)
1 small hot red chilli pepper (seeds removed, finely chopped)
2 tbsp curry powder
½ tsp fenugreek seed
1 tsp cumin seed
10 curry leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 can (400g/14oz or 240g/8½oz) chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 large (500g/1lb) sweet potato (peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks)
3 tbsp coconut powder dissolved in 1½ cups (350ml/12 floz) water, or 1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp arrowroot powder or corn flour (dissolved in a little cold water)
1 medium (300g/10½oz) courgette/zucchini (cut into small chunks – sprinkle with 1 tsp fresh lemon juice to prevent browning)
1 red bell pepper (seeds removed, cut into small pieces)
2 ripe tomatoes (washed and diced)
1 dessert spoon sweet white miso (dissolved in a little water)
1 tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro (washed and chopped)


1. Add oil and pinch of sea salt to a large saucepan, put on a low heat and add onion. Sweat gently for a few minutes until onion soft and translucent. Add garlic, ginger, chilli pepper and spices (curry powder, fenugreek, cumin, curry leaves, cinnamon), chickpeas/garbanzo beans, sweet potato, 1 cup (½ pint/240ml) coconut milk and diluted arrowroot (adding arrowroot or cornflour at this stage prevents the coconut milk from separating). Simmer for 10-15 minutes until sweet potato begins to soften.

2. Add courgette/zucchini, red bell pepper and tomatoes and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup coconut milk.

3. Mix in sweet white miso to taste. Garnish with fresh coriander/cilantro and serve with rice. 

Nutritional information

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