Ella’s food solution for… A hangover

Spinach and mushroom omelette
Spinach and mushroom omelette

I know peoples’ preferences for ‘the morning after’ can vary widely, but this is an ultimate back-on-track brekky which is nice and light to suit even the very delicate. The protein from the eggs will support enzyme systems involved in breaking down and removing alcohol, carrying out the work for your long-suffering liver.

This is also one of the very cheapest and easiest meals possible – all you need is a dash of oil to cook the mushrooms for a couple of minutes followed by a handful of spinach, and two or three eggs! I like to get the eggs whisked before I start the cooking process just so that there’s no danger of burning anything. I add lots of paprika and black pepper to the egg mix before I pour it over the mushrooms and spinach (or whatever else you have lying around e.g. onion, chilli, pepper, tomatoes etc). This mixture should fill the pan and then reduce the heat. Leave for a few minutes until the bottom is cooked (light brown in colour) then use a flat paddle-like kitchen utensil to peel it away from the pan and flip over. Some people grill this side but I find a simple flip and a flop does the job. For some sauce, light soy sauce goes great and will still enable you to hit that salty hangover craving while knowing you’ve had a fighting fit breakfast!

The 3 stages of saving

The number one rule for saving money on food is to never throw any out. In order to achieve this ideal you must  think ahead and plan out meals. This does not mean having to have the same meal over and over but means being creative.

Stage 1: Create a list of meals that take your fancy which involve overlapping ingredients. Obviously you don’t need to follow a recipe step by step but can modify to your liking/ingredients. Let this list stretch as far as possible, as in general the further it stretches, the more you will save. For example, meat is much cheaper when bought in bulk and can then be frozen. It is good to build up a diverse collection of herbs and sauces in your stored cupboard which can last a long time and create very different flavours from the same ingredients. You must invest now in order to gain in the future.

Stage 2: Now you can enter a shop with a clear list of the things you need to buy and are much less likely to buy anything you don’t need. Having said that, do allow some space for an open mind when it come to offers, but only in terms of dry stores (e.g. cereals, tins and cans etc). Fresh produce on offer should also be considered but only if that can take the place of something already written on your list. For example, if a certain vegetable is on offer and you had another vegetable in mind for your dishes, it is likely that it can be replaced with the cheaper alternative.

Stage 3: It’s now time to cook. What’s important here is to cook more than you need. This saves on energy bills as well as the time cooking; you can cook enough for four meals in pretty much the same time you would spend cooking one! Depending on what you’ve made and what your schedule is over the next few days you can decide whether to freeze portions, have the same meal the next day, or combine part of the meal with other ingredients to give it a totally different feel.

Here is a personal example from the last few days:
My previous blog entry showed you how I made stuffed courgettes. This was a particular recipe I wanted to try so bought all the ingredients specifically. So, when I made the courgettes I made 6 halves and also cooked a large portion of the bulgar wheat and veg – this meant that after that meal, I had lunches to last the next two days (two stuffed courgettes) as well as the bulgar wheat and veg mix boxed up to take to uni two days later and it still tasted great. The next day I used up more of the veg mixture, this time with quinoa. Then for last night’s meal, I boiled the remaining three large tomatoes I had bought to stuff the courgettes, in the same pan I boiled linguine. Meanwhile, I fried together garlic with my left over mushrooms and asparagus which I had previously combined with bulgar wheat/quinoa and then added the tomatoes, which had by that time softened, to the pan. I later added the spinach which I had left from my salad in the previous blog entry displaying my salads. After a splash of the water used to boil the linguine and some seasoning, I combined the pasta and vegetables in a bowl before topping with my left over sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and basil – all ingredients bought for my stuffed courgette recipe. Another delicious meal created out of ingredients bought days ago. Buon appetito!

Courgettes stuffed to satisfy

IMG_2052

This is an Italian recipe which is done in 30 minutes and is hard to go wrong. The courgettes must be sliced in half and the middles scooped out and chopped up together with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil leaves and then seasoned. I used Sainsburry’s basics mozzarella which did the job perfectly and cost barely over 50p! Although it may seem pricey adding the basil, this herb can be added to many other dishes so just keep sprinkling it over your meals for the next few days to add a wonderful flavour. Any type of tomatoes will do as long as they are chopped small. After the hollow courgettes have been in the oven (at 200 degrees) for 10 minutes, take them out and fill with this mixture and top with grated parmesan. They then go in the oven for a further 15 minutes or until golden brown. While these were cooking, I simply fried a red onion, mushrooms and asparagus in a pan with rapeseed oil as this oil has less unhealthy saturated fat than all other cooking fats and oils. It is also a rich source of vitamin E, a natural antioxidant. I also boiled bulgar wheat in a separate pan until it had absorbed the water before adding it to the vegetable mix in the wok and some soy sauce. This was a really delicious meal with so many flavours which I will definitely do again soon. As usual, I made extra so that I now have enough for my lunch tomorrow – something I will certainly be looking forward to!

Roasted butternut squash and goats cheese salad

Roasted butternut squash and goats cheese salad
Filling, colourful and packed with flavour

This meal was a perfect start to the day. It contained pumpkin seeds which are a great source of zinc and iron. The rest of the salad included lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, roasted butternut squash, goats cheese, warm pitta bread, grated carrot and hummus. This was such a hearty meal which filled me for the whole day due to the combination of vitamins and sustainable food groups. Although butternut squash can be a pain to prepare, it is so delicious and cheap for the quantity it provides that it is well worth the effort every now and then.

Salad selections

I have met many people who think that having a salad is a boring option but I would never let that be the case! I think the key (as I do with most meals) is to add as much as you can. This not only pleases the eye, giving many varieties of colour but also then provides many flavours and textures.

Where I used to use lettuce I have now switched to spinach due to its high levels of iron, particularly important to women. For the best intake of iron, you must combine it with vitamin C which is why it’s important to include peppers. My favourite are the yellow and orange but each to their own. I would say cucumber, tomatoes and spring onions are the other essentials, then from there I like to add a variety of other ingredients.

A boiled egg is a great addition because as well as being so tasty, it is packed with protein and will help you feel fuller for longer. After a workout, I always try to include eggs. Avocado will do a great job at providing your essential fatty acids. This is a frequent ingredient on the menus in South Africa where they grow so well, yet it is also so easy to get your hands on avacados in food stores in England, they may just need to be left for a couple of days to ripen up.

Though pine nuts are expensive, they can last a long time as you only need to add a sprinkle to a salad and they add such nourishment. They are an excellent source of fibre as well as vitamins E, K, and niacin and they too contain protein. They act as an antioxidant and they are a brilliant source of magnesium and potassium which is important for maintaining a healthy heart. So basically, eat your nuts!

Other tasty add ons for me would include a few sun-dried tomatoes, some tinned sweetcorn and also beetroot, which is currently in season. Others may like to add olives and maybe some feta. The options are endless and no one could call this a boring plate!

After an essential doss of black pepper, the last decision goes to the dressing. Depending on what I have put in my salad I can vary between hummus (preferably moroccan topped), light mayonnaise or a light french dressing. Once again, the options go on and on…

Christmas in South Africa

Due to spending Christmas with my family in South Africa, it meant a slight twist to the traditional trimmings. My cousin and I created these colourful salads to accompany the beautiful blazing sunshine.IMG_0831