Chilli Pickled Onions

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Pickled onions just say Christmas to me. It is the only time of the year that I eat them. I have not made my own for about 25 years but, this year, I had some kilner jars in the cupboard, from my failed experiment with salad in a jar, back in the summer, so I thought I would put them to good use. It is not easy to find pickling onions in Berlin and shallots are pretty expensive to buy in bulk. I was lucky to find small onions in Aldi last week for 99 cents per half kilo bag.

You can experiment with the vinegar you use. I used cheap white wine vinegar but you can use malt vinegar if you want a stronger flavour or even raspberry or balsamic. These latter options are more costly.

To make the onions easier to peel, cover them in boiling water and then pour off and cover with cold water. The skins come off more easily but it is still a labour of love. I sat at the kitchen table on Friday night watching Grand Designs on the Macbook and was quite content.

Quantities are not exact as the size of onions varies as do jars.

Makes about 3 litre jars

2kg small onions

2 litres vinegar

Teaspoon of black peppercorns

Teaspoon of coriander seeds

Teaspoon of mustard seeds

10 whole, small green chillies or more to your taste

300g sugar

100g salt

Peel the onions and place them in a large washing up bowl. Cover with cold water and add the salt. Stir to dissolve salt. Cover with a large, saucepan lid and weigh down with 4 large tins. Leave to soak overnight.

The next morning rinse the onions well and pat dry. Combine the vinegar, sugar and spices in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan and bring to the boil, dissolving the sugar. Turn off the heat and leave to completely cool.

Sterilise the jars either with a sterilising tablet or wash in hot, soapy water, rinse well and place in a hot oven for 5 minutes to dry. Let the jars cool and pack tightly with the onions, adding the chillies as you go. Pour on the cooled vinegar. You can either remove or keep the spices in the vinegar, as you wish.

Seal the jars and store for 6 weeks before eating.

Spicy Pepper and Apple Chutney

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Thoughts are turning towards Christmas. When I was a teenager we started making our Christmas pickles and chutneys in October to give them time to mature. Of course, back then, we ate them with turkey sandwiches or slabs of cheese. Pickles and chutneys go just as well with a cold nut roast. You can make chutneys out of many different fruits and vegetables. I used what was lying around the kitchen. Apples are plentiful and cheap at this time of the year. I only buy the local varieties. We like everything spicy in our house but you can leave out the chilli if you want.

Makes 2 half litre jars

2kg apples chopped

4 medium red or yellow peppers chopped

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

4 small green chillies roughly chopped with seeds left in

375g raw sugar

500ml white wine vinegar

A teaspoon of pickling spices- mixed black peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds

A piece of cinnamon stick

A teaspoon of salt

Place all of the ingredients in a stainless steel or enamel pan. A wide, shallow pan works best. Bring to the boil. Turn down slightly and keep on a gentle boil for about 50 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the chutney has thickened. Make sure it does not start to burn or stick during the last 10 minutes. It is ready if you push it back with a spoon and it does not run back into the empty space.

To sterilise jars, wash in hot soapy water, and place on a baking tray in a hot oven for about 5 minutes, lids included. Fill jars while the chutney is still hot and seal. Leave for about 6 weeks.

Eggplant, Chickpea and Mushroom Pilaf with Toasted Almond Flakes

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I keep complaining how hard it is to get really good Indian food in Berlin. Sometimes I need to eat a plate of Indian food that is  vibrant with the complex flavours of fresh, whole spices. That is hard to find here so I have to cook it myself. I like this dish because, although it is rice based, it is light and  not at all stodgy. Use the best basmati rice that you can afford and rinse it well before use then be very careful to cook it lightly as it can turn to mush easily. Both eggplant and mushroom have good, strong texture and hold their flavour well. The toasted almonds add extra flavour and texture. It is really important to use fresh, whole spices, powder is just not the same in this dish.

Ingredients 

Serves 4

1 large onion thinly sliced

Half an eggplant cut int thin half moons

200g mushrooms cut into thick slices

2 medium tomatoes chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, a whole green chili and a thumbnail sized piece of fresh ginger ground to a pulp

250g basmati rice rinsed

1 tin of chickpeas

1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds, fennel seeds and black mustard seeds

1 piece of cinnamon stick

2 black cardamom pods

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons of toasted almond flakes or slivers

A large handful of fresh coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onions gently in half of the oil until they are dark brown but not burnt. In a separate pan fry the eggplant and mushrooms in the rest of the oil. Toast all of the whole spices in a small dry pan but be careful not to burn them. Then combine them together with the chili, garlic, ginger paste, rice, onions, eggplant, mushrooms, chickpeas and tomatoes in a larger pan. Add just enough water to barely cover the rice and season. Bring slowly to the boil and  cover tightly with some foil before putting on the lid. Turn to a very low simmer until the rice is about two thirds cooked. Do not stir during this time.This will take about 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave with the lid on tight for a further 5 minutes. Turn out onto a plate and liberally garnish with almonds and coriander.

Update on the Super Immunity Diet

You may remember that in September, I raved about Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Super Immunity. I promised to try out the super immunity boosting diet to test if it prevented me from getting a cold this winter. Well the news is that I have been eating in accordance with the diet since September. I have filled my fridge with mushrooms, greens and onions and have been incorporating them into almost every meal. Beans have also been a huge part of my eating plan, whether tinned white, black or red or soy in the form of tofu and edamame. Spoonfuls of linseed have gone into nearly everything. Only berries have eluded me. I have tried to buy dried cranberries each week and use them when I eat muesli but this is not often. I do not eat as much fruit as I do veg and the fresh berries shipped from the other side of the world or grown in Europe under plastic, do no appeal to me. I know I could do better and be more imaginative with the berries.

What I can tell you is that I have only had one very light cold so far this winter. That was in New York and developed the day after the 8 hour flight from Berlin. I shook it off in 2 days, despite having jet lag. I have watched so many colleagues in school this year come down with two or three colds or bad bouts of flu that have laid them low for as much as a month but I have seemed to be somehow immune. My husband who has inadvertently been following the same diet has had one bad cold in December and it took about a week to shake. However, it is worth mentioning that he is not taking the recommended supplements

I think the supplements recommended by Dr. Fuhrman help a lot. I do not normally take supplements beyond B12 daily and iron when I need it. However, I have been taking 15 mg of zinc each day plus Vitamin D. I increase the zinc to 30mg is I feel I may have a cold coming. I have done this 3-4 times since the autumn. I have also been sitting in front of my Lumie daylight lamp at my desk for about two hours each work day since early October. I am not sure whether it is one or a combination of these things that are helping but I have found the winter very easy so far and, despite the dark days, I have been surprisingly cheerful and energetic.

Of course, I might be counting my chickens before they are hatched so I will let you know the final results in April, when spring arrives.

Hellykellysbelly is Back

Hello to all of my followers. I have been off the radar for a few months. My camera broke and I had to have it repaired. I then found myself to busy to post, although I haven’t stopped cooking! We then got into the wintertime and I just felt uninspired by the available ingredients here in Berlin. It is interesting that today I looked at the the other vegan blogs I follow for the first time in weeks and found that many people post less in winter- just when we need the most inspiration and should be taking the best care of ourselves.

I am delighted to see today that I have received nearly 2500 hits since I started last August and the hits and new followers have kept on coming, even during my quiet period. This gives me the inspiration to pick up where I left off, spreading the word about great, simple, plan-based dishes.

 

So today I am back. I have cooked a few nice recipes in the last couple of days  and I will be posting the this week. I look forward to your feedback.

No Colds or Flu all Winter?

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Last winter was very long and I succumbed to more colds than I have since I last lived in Europe 8 years ago. I am sure that my immune system was low due to too much stress at work. This year, I want to prepare for Winter a bit like a squirrel and give my immune system the best chance possible to cope with all the germs that are thrown at it working in a school. I have already got back onto my yoga mat and that is helping me sleep better and cope better with the work stresses of a school principal but I to do more. I came across this amazing book last week. Super Immunity by Joel Fuhrman. I read it cover to cover in one day. It really resonated with me.

Fuhrman is a doctor in the USA and calls himself a nutrarian. He eats a plant based diet of whole foods and is interested in extracting the most possible nutrition from each meal. He talks a lot about the health benefits we derive from the phytonutrients in certain types of food. His ideas are all based upon scientific research. For super immunity he recommends the following

1. A diet full of GOMBBS – greens (or more specifically, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower), onions (including garlic), mushrooms, beans, berries and seeds.
2. A daily dose of zinc.
3. A daily dose of vitamin D. Part of the reason we get more colds in Winter is due to the lack of sunshine.
4. Exercise that raises the heart rate for at least five minutes, at least three times a week.

He also recommends that if you get a cold, you refrain from taking cold medication as this suppresses the natural immune system and will make a cold last longer. You should rest and eat light, plant based meals and the cold will go away in three days.

I am trying this out to see if it works for me this Winter. I have cranked up my diet for the last week and the zinc arrives today. Watch this space.

Creamy Curried Mushroom and Leek Toasts

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I did not want to cook an elaborate meal just for one. I had some lovely, firm chestnut mushrooms which I bought in the bio-supermarket and a leek left over from the risotto recipe. Both really lend themselves to a creamy sauce. You can buy soya cream in many supermarkets in the UK and in bio-supermarkets in Germany. It is worth keeping a small carton in the cupboard as it can be used in many dishes and served with fruit as a dessert.

Serves 1
Total time 15 minutes
Half a large leek thinly sliced
Two handfuls of chestnut mushroom thickly sliced
A tablespoon of soya cream
Olive oil for sautéing
A large pinch of curry powder
Half a clove of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
A large sliced of multigrain bread toasted
Chopped fresh parsley to finish

Gently heat the oil in a shallow pan and sweat the leeks until they are becoming soft. Add the mushrooms, garlic and curry powder and cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are cooked, pour in the cream and stir through so that all of the veg are covered. In the meantime prepare the toast. Serve the mushrooms and leeks on top of the toast and garnish with parsley.