Category Archives: My Recipes

Falafel on Flatbread with Salad and Pickles

Falafel and flatbread From the Healthy Heart

Sometimes there is just no time to cook. It’s late, the kids are hungry and the fridge is bare. This happened to me over the weekend. Luckily I had been to explore a new Greek delicatessen in search of Kadaif pastry for a dish I am cooking for a special dinner next week. Sadly it won’t appear on the blog as it is not cholesterol friendly. Why will I be eating it while lowering my cholesterol? Well, that’s the compromise of the real world. I digress. While I was at the deli I picked up a couple of packs of falafel balls from the fridge cabinet. They looked really lovely – most commercial falafel balls are rather awful in my experience. A few packs of flatbread and a tub of tabbouleh just the way I like it – masses of parsley – gave me food to play with.

Back home it was really a simple assembly job. I warmed the flatbread and the falafel, chopped up a few ripe tomatoes and some baby cucumbers, mixed a tablespoon of tahini with water and a squeeze of lemon juice, opened a tub of houmous and a jar of dill pickles and let everyone get on with making their own lunch. Result!
For 4 people:

4 – 8 flatbreads
12 falafel balls
3 large ripe tomatoes
3 baby cucumbers
1 tablespoon tahini
A tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tub houmous
4 dill pickles (optional)
1 small tub tabbouleh (optional)

Simply warm up the falafel at 180 C for about 10 minutes. For the last two minutes add the flatbreads.

Meanwhile chop up the tomatoes and cucumber, open the tabbouleh, dill pickles and houmous and place in bowls. Add about 100ml cold water to one tablespoon of tahini and ix well until you have a pouring consistency. Add lemon juice to taste.

Lay everything out on a table and load up the flatbreads. You could roll them up and eat like a wrap but we ate these with cutlery as we had so much on the flatbreads they were too full to roll!

Orange Blossom Iced Tea

Orange Blossom iced Tea From The Healthy Heart

Since we are having such a warm September I have been making iced tea to enjoy in the garden before the trees start to drop their leaves. Iced tea is so easy to make and just feels that little bit special. I make mine with Redbush (Rooibos) Tea which is caffeine free but you could use an ordinary teabag or Chamomile if you prefer.

Whenever I feel a cold coming on I make a hot cup of Rooibos with honey and lemon. That always makes me feel better. I have used the same idea here – Rooibos, honey, and orange to replace the lemon. I also add a splash of orange blossom water to add a touch of the exotic.

Make the tea a good few hours before you plan to use it so that it can get really cold. In fact, I have found that it tastes even better the next day if left overnight in the fridge. I usually make a large jug and cut up a couple of oranges to steep in the tea.

For two glasses:

1 Rooibos teabag
1 teaspoon honey – I like to use a good quality honey as it adds extra flavour
2 orange slices
a splash of orange blossom water – taste to see how much you need. Rather add too little at first and add more. It has a strong scent so you don’t want to use too much.

Boil the kettle and pour boiling water over the teabag set in a medium sized bowl. You will need enough for two glasses or cups. If you are making a jugful then use 2 -3 teabags. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Add the homey and stir well to combine. Remove the teabag and allow to cool.

Add the orange blossom water and the orange slices. A few sprigs of mint will not go amiss. Refrigerate until cool.

Serve well chilled and add a few ice cubes.

Ricotta and Mint Omelette

Ricotta and Mint Omelette From The Healthy Heart

On a recent trip to Corsica I came across a cheese new to me. It is called Brocciu and is made from ewe’s milk. Unfortunately it is not available in the summer months as it is a fresh cheese and made with winter milk. In the summer months a replacement cheese is eaten called Brousse which is made with whey. It is similar to Ricotta in taste but slightly firmer I thought. I found it to be delicious, although I am told that it is not a patch on Brocciu – and it is very versatile. It is served in mini doughnuts, cheesecake, ravioli and even omelettes. Many restaurants serving traditional Corsican cuisine have an omelette with Brocciu and mint on the menu. In season of course. Out of season the omelette is made with Brousse I guess.

As soon as I returned home I bought ricotta and set about making my own version of this omelette. I would recommend that you try to get a fresh ricotta from an Italian deli rather than using the supermarket variety as the former has a better texture.

Some people still believe that eggs are not good for cholesterol control. This idea has been debunked and I eat eggs regularly as part of my lowering cholesterol plan. I don’t eat much butter – even though the debate about saturated fats suggests one can – but for making an omelette I do use a small amount of butter. You can use olive oil if you prefer. Using a non stick pan reduces the amount of fat needed.

I have not yet mastered the art of cooking two omelettes at the same time – perhaps I need to buy a second omelette pan – so I cook one after the other.

For 2 people:

4 eggs
1 ricotta
A handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
A knob of butter

Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk lightly. Add a pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Mix in.

Break the ricotta into another bowl and add the chopped mint leaves and mix in.

Melt the butter in a small, nonstick pan and add the eggs. I cook my omelettes on a medium heat and gently lift the sides with a spatula while tilting the pan. This allows the uncooked egg to run underneath the egg that has already begun to set. When most of the egg is set, add half the ricotta mixture (the other half is for the second omelette) and cook for another minute. Now carefully fold over the top half of the omelette and slide onto a plate.

Now make the other omelette.

Serve with a simple green salad on the side.

Cavolo Nero, Cannellini Beans and Chipotle

cavolo nero, cannellini bean and chipotle

I first encountered cavolo nero in Tuscany over 30 years ago. It was part of a bowl of ribollita, adding a silky texture to that wonderfully thick soup made with cannellini beans, cavolo nero and stale bread amongst other ingredients put to nutritious use. I was bowled over by the flavour of that simple dish and packed into my suitcase bags of dried cannellini beans with which to make the soup in my own kitchen. The problem, decades ago, was that cavolo nero was not easy to come by. Nowadays my supermarket stocks it from time to time and whenever I spot those long, dark green leaves just bursting with vitamins, I pop a few bags full in my basket. To my mind it is the best of the green leafy vegetables. It has a far better taste and texture than kale, is more versatile than spinach due to its thicker leaves and is a deeply attractive colour when cooked.

In this recipe I have retained the Tuscan pairing of cannellini beans with cavolo nero and have hopped continents to add in a chipotle chilli. This magical chilli provides just a touch of heat and a whole lot of smoky flavour which has guests guessing. It is well worth experimenting with if it is not yet part of your culinary repertoire.Pulses are an important part of the diet when lowering cholesterol and this quick and tasty dish will help you feel full of beans.

For 4 people:

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, chopped
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
1 bunch cavolo nero – about 10 stalks
250g vegetable stock – I use Marigold bouillon
1 chipotle chilli

Heat the olive oil gently and sauté the onions until soft. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes so that the aroma is released but the garlic does not burn. Add the mushrooms and stir. Continue to cook on a medium heat until the mushrooms release their juice. Add the stock and the chipotle chilli as well as the drained cannellini beans. Continue to cook for 5 minutes.

In the meantime wash and shake dry the cavolo nero and tear the leaves off the stalks. Add the torn leaves to the pot, cover and steam for a further 5 minutes or until the leaves have wilted. I like the leaves to retain some texture.

I like to serve this dish with a bulgur wheat risotto but you could also serve it with a pile of brown Basmati rice.

Roasted Butternut and Beetroot with Balsamic Glaze

Roasted Butternut and Beetroot with Balsamic Glaze From The Healthy Heart

I am a huge fan of roasting vegetables. Winter and summer sees me chopping up veg and popping trays full in the oven. Roasting adds such intensity to vegetables and is so simple too. For this recipe I kept colours bold. Butternut and beetroot are both sweet as is the red onion so a bit of a sharp note is needed so that the taste is not more like dessert than a side dish. A slug of balsamic vinegar usually does the trick for me.

This week I was sent a box of goodies from a company called Odysea that imports products from Greece. One of the many lovely items was a bottle of balsamic glaze. I have noticed this product in the shops for some time but never thought about buying it, preferring to use a really good quality balsamic vinegar for my salads and cooking. When I looked at the list of ingredients on the side of the bottle I discovered that the glaze mixes balsamic vinegar with concentrated grape juice. On tasting the glaze the intense flavour of grape was a pleasant surprise and sets the glaze apart from the usual vinegar. It is good enough to drink from a spoon.

For 4 people:

1 butternut – peeled, deseeded and sliced into lengths.
4 – 5 beetroot – peeled and halved, then sliced into lengths
1 large red onion – peeled, halved and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
A good grinding of black pepper
Balsamic glaze – if you can’t get hold of this then you can substitute with a very good quality balsamic vinegar.

Heat the oven to 200 C.

Prepare the vegetables and place in a large roasting dish. Arrange the veg in one layer as far as possible. Pour over the olive oil and mix well. Give a good grinding of black pepper.

Place the tray in the hot oven and roast for about an hour and a half. You want the vegetables to be soft and beginning to caramelise.

Remove the vegetables, place them on a serving platter and drizzle over as much balsamic glaze as suits your taste. I like to ‘draw’ lines up and down the vegetables with the glaze.

Butter Bean and Za’atar Dip

Butter Bean and Za'atar Dip

Last week saw the publication of Sabrina Ghayour’s new cookbook, Sirocco. Anyone who has cooked from her first book, Persiana, will need no introduction to her flavour-filled, easy to prepare and totally moreish recipes. I have been cooking my way through the new volume and we have been eating very well indeed from it. When I made this dip my son said he thought it was better than houmous. This is praise indeed in my household. Do give this a try. Pulses are an important part of the diet when reducing cholesterol and it is good to ring the changes from the chickpea. There are many other beans to love.

I used a medium quality extra-virgin olive oil to make the dip and then drizzled over my best quality one when serving. I do think that getting out the really good stuff just adds the final flourish to a dish, especially one as simple as this. In my household we use za’atar as others might use salt. In fact I hardly ever cook with salt. Za’atar, that wonderful mix of sesame seeds, sumac and thyme, is used on everything from cheese toasties to roast veggies and all dishes in between.Most big supermarkets sell it now but I get mine at my local Iranian store. Sabrina uses garlic oil in this recipe but, as I don’t have any in my kitchen, I substituted extra virgin olive oil plus a small clove of garlic.

I served this dip with drinks as a nibble for vegetarian guests and it went down well. I loved the lemony flavour and the fact that it is so healthy.

For 4 people (with leftovers for lunch the next day)

1 can butter beans – buy the beans canned in unsalted water if possible. I like to rinse the beans as I don’t like the taste of the canning liquid even once it is drained.

2 tablespoons za’atar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ large lemon
4 tablespoons Greek Yoghurt – I used 2% Total
2 pinches of sea salt flakes – I tend to use a little less and add more za’atar
Your best extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Once the beans are drained and rinsed, put everything in the food processor and whizz away until smooth. If you like your dip to have a bit more body then don’t whizz too long. You can either place the dip into a bowl and sprinkle over some extra za’atar and your good oil or, as I did, toast some sliced baguette and pile the dip onto each slice with the za’atar and olive oil added. Serve with sprigs of thyme to echo the thyme in the za’atar.

Blood orange and Ruby Chard Salad

Blood Orange and Ruby Chard Salad from The Healthy Heart

I look forward to the blood orange season each year. They are one of the few fruits that are truly seasonal these days. Eating strawberries in winter is all very well if you don’t mind air miles or summer fruit when it is snowing. But there is something authentic about a fruit that only comes once a year and for a short season at that.

Having eaten a lot of blood oranges as nature intended, without adornment, I had a go at a little light cooking. First I cut the oranges into slices and then dry fried them in a nonstick pan until they took on a little bit of colour.

Wanting to keep the bright colours on the plate I added a bunchof ruby chard leaves and their colourful stalks.

I used a Lancashire cheese purely because I had a chunk in the fridge that needed using up. I could otherwise have used feta. I liked the Lancashire though because it had a pleasantly chalky texture which contrasted well with the juicy oranges and the chard.  As we are trying to lower cholesterol, keep a light hand on the cheese.The fresh mint added extra freshness to the salad

I ate this for lunch with a slice of wholemeal bread on the side.

For 4 people:

2 blood oranges, skins left on, sliced into rounds, then rounds cut in half

1 large bunch of ruby chard, washed and shaken dry

250g Lancashire cheese or Feta, sliced

A couple of teaspoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

A handful of mint leaves, shredded

Dry fry the oranges in a nonstick pan until they take on a bit of colour. Set aside.

Steam  the ruby chard until they are just wilted.

Slice the cheese. Slice the mint leaves finely into shreds.

Lay out the oranges, chard and cheese on a platter. Scatter over the mint.

Finish off with a trickle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil and a grinding of black pepper.

Roast Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart

Roast Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart From The Healthy Heart

I don’t think I have ever put a recipe with puff pastry on the blog before. This is because puff pastry is not good for cholesterol lowering purposes. So why now? Simply because I made it for dinner this week and it was so delicious that I just had to share it. Next time I will try it with phyllo pastry which has a lower fat content. I like to think that all the goodness from the vegetables counter balances the butter in the pastry – and after all, isn’t butter the new ‘good’ fat?

You may have some roast veg left over in which case put in the fridge and use the next day either reheated as a pasta sauce or as a side dish. It goes well with meat, fish or fowl. Often I eat cold roast veg mixed with lettuce leaves and a scoop of cottage cheese as a lunchtime salad.

Serve this tart with a large green salad for a tasty meal.

For 4 people:

1 roll of puff pastry – I use the kind that is already rolled rather than the block
3 – 4 beetroot, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 red onions, peeled and chopped into large wedges
3 courgettes, chopped into chunks
2 -3 peppers (a mix of red and yellow), seeded and chopped into chunks
1 large aubergine – chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 log of goat cheese
A handful of basil leaves
Black pepper

Begin by roasting the vegetables. Heat the oven to 200 C.

Chop the vegetables into bite sized chunks and place in a roasting dish.

Crush the garlic and mix with the olive oil. Pour over the vegetables and place in oven to bake for about an hour. At this point the vegetables should all be soft to the point of a knife but not collapsed.

Roll out the puff pastry and place on a baking sheet. Cut thin strips off each end, score the pastry around the edges with a fork and then place the strips on top. You are making a border which will puff up and contain the vegetables as the tart bakes.

Heat the oven to 220 C .

Place the veg on the pastry. Then cut the log of goat cheese into rounds and place on top of the vegetables. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye so that it does not begin to burn.

As you are about to serve the tart, tear up a handful of basil leaves and scatter over the tart.  A grinding of black pepper will complete the dish.

Crab and Apple Salad

Crab and Apple Salad From The Healthy Heart

I love to eat out although it is usually not good for cholesterol lowering purposes. Sometimes I come across a dish that tastes good and inspires me to have a go at my own version at home. Recently I ate lunch at The Wallace – the restaurant in the Wallace Collection – and was delighted with a crab salad as a starter. I lost no time in making one for myself at home and, while no match for the chef at The Wallace, I enjoyed my version too.

One of the new tastes I discovered at the restaurant was cubed apples that had been soaked in cider vinegar. It was fabulous and paired so very well with the crab meat. As with all vinegar, use the best you can afford as cheap and nasty will taste just that and will ruin your dish.

If I was on a summer holiday at the seaside I would buy fresh crabs and spend a lazy afternoon winkling out the meat. However, in the city I buy fresh crab meat from a good supermarket and simply wish that  I really was on that summer holiday at the seaside!

For 4 people:

4 generous tablespoons of white crab meat
A small bunch of chives
1 lemon
4 handfuls of soft salad leaves
1 fennel bulb – reserve the fronds for decoration
1 ripe but firm avocado
2 granny smith apples
A few teaspoons of good quality cider vinegar
Black pepper
Begin by chopping the chives very finely. Add  to the crab meat along with some lemon juice. Taste a little to see if you have the balance to your liking. You may want to add a few more chives or a little extra lemon juice.

Peel and cube the apples and put in a small bowl. Pour over a few teaspoons of cider vinegar and toss the apple cubes gently so that they absorb the vinegar on all four sides.

Using a cheese slicer, shave the fennel into very thin slices.

Neatly cut the avocado into cubes a similar size to the apple cubes

Place a handful of salad leaves in the centre of four plates.

Using two tablespoons, shape the crab meat into a quenelle and place in the centre of the leaves.

Scatter the fennel shavings around the crab meat.

Space the apple and avocado cubes around the perimeter of the plate.

Finish off the dish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper.

Enjoy with a slice of rustic wholemeal bread – a pat of butter would be a wonderful addition but I leave that to your discretion regarding your cholesterol level.

Banana and Raspberry Ice Cream

Banana and Raspberry Ice Cream

It may be cold outside but those of us trying to lower cholesterol always need a treat even if it is ice cream in the depths of winter. I found a recipe for banana ice cream in a new cookbook by Dannii Martin called Hungry Healthy Happy. I have been frustrated by banana ice cream before as its texture was unpleasant. This recipe pointed out what to do to improve the texture and it really worked. I added raspberries as I had some in the freezer and thought they would add colour, taste and extra vitamins. When I served it to the family they were surprised at just how good a no-added sugar, fat –free ice cream could taste. That’s what I call a result.

You need to start the day before as the bananas need to freeze overnight.

Making this recipe for 4 people involved more banana than my food processor was happy with all at once. I thought it would explode. Next time I will process it in two batches.

For 4 people:

4 -5 ripe bananas – just peel them and slice. Then pop into a freezer bag or a Tupperware and freeze.
A handful of frozen raspberries
Crème de cassis – optional

When you are ready to make the ice cream, place the frozen bananas in a food processor and let the motor run until the bananas have become creamy. In the past I have stopped too soon and landed up with an unpleasant crumbly texture. Dannii suggests stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides. After a while it really does become creamy.

I added a handful of frozen raspberries to the mix after a few scrape downs.

I served the ice cream right away. It would be lovely with a raspberry coulis that you can make by processing another handful of raspberries and pushing the pulp through a sieve to remove the pips. A shot of crème de cassis would not go astray either!