Nigerian ‘swallow’ is NOT unhealthy 

Let me start by saying nothing saddens me more than hearing people say the Nigerian diet is unhealthy. When people say this one of the major things you hear them talk about is how our diet is so high in Carbs. People who want to lose weight are advised to shun our Nigerian ‘swallow’ or make so-called  ‘healthy’ alternatives using foreign ingredients which are not readily available and also more expensive.

I do not blame the people who give such advice to be honest because it’s easier to find research on the health benefits of cabbage or oats than it is to find health benefits of ‘fufu’. But fear not that is why we are here, to ensure that our motherland food is not sacrificed on the altar of globalisation. 😊 So today we will be looking at what is probably the most vilified aspects of the Nigerian diet – swallows.

For those of you who might not know what ‘swallows’are  its a general term used to describe foods made with starchy carbohydrates and prepared with water until they have a dough like consistency. These are then eaten with a variety of stews. Popular ones include Eba (made from cassava) Amala  (made from yams) Tuwo (made from maize or rice). The picture from Nigerian Lazy Chef  sums it up beautifully, I mean how can anyone look at this and say its noy healthy. Nigerian diet is infact one of the healthiest in the world! 🙂

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Photo Credit – Nigerian Lazy Chef

It’s not surprising that swallows are being blamed for weight gain because after all they are made from carbs and carbs are bad for you, yeah? Well, the answer depends on what you mean by carbohydrates.  As silly as that statement might seem,  I have released that in practice not everyone knows what constitutes carbohydrates in the diet. Therefore in a previous post I talked about the different types of carbohydrates and the impact of each on health and weight.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source, we thrive on them and for most people, we become irritable without them.  The problem isn’t carbohydrate but the type and quantity of carbohydrate and the same goes for swallows.

Swallows are made from complex carbohydrates what that means is that the body doesn’t break them down as quickly as it would sugar (a simple carbohydrate) for instance. That said majority of swallows are made from what we call starchy carbohydrates which are naturally higher in calories when compared to their non-starchy counterparts.

Starchy carbohydrates come  mainly from root vegetables like cassava, potatoes,yams but also grains like rice and corn. Non-starchy carbohydrates  typically grow above the ground and include things like salads, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, celery etc.Yes vegetables are carbohydrates.

Because starchy carbohydrates are dense sources of energy a little goes a long way. The high carb content of these foods in their original state might be high but a closer look at the preparation methods of these foods reveals once again the wisdom of traditional methods.

What do I mean? Well Let’s look at each of these methods in turn

1) Fermentation – A number of our traditional swallows undergo a process of fermentation. This is a process used in a number of cultures and is scientifically proven to reduce the carbohydrate content of foods. In addition it provides us with probiotics. For more on the importance of fermentation and probiotics please see my previous post.

2) Oiling – In addition to fermentation some swallows like yellow garri eba and ‘starch’ involve the addition of palm oil. This makes sense because the lower degree of fermentation means that carb content is still a bit high. The added fat/oil helps to further slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream.

3) Hydration – Swallows are cooked in water. A significant amount of what you eat in a typical swallow meal is water. This increases satiety (feeling of fullness) thus limiting consumption. In addition to being cooked in water, they are eaten with soups rich in fibres. Some of these fibres absorb water and help to further increase feeling of fullness, especially the ‘draw’ soups.

4) Balance – Swallows are not eaten on their own. They are eaten with soups cooked with healthy oils and protein both of which further help to reduce their impact on blood sugar and consequent weight gain.

At this point I would like to talk about one of the so-called healthy alternative that has caugt my attention recently. It seems to be popular with those on ketogenic/low carb-high fat diets in Nigeria. Yes you guessed right it’s the likes of cabbage eba , eggplant Amala etc. Obviously my first thought was ‘which one be this one again o’ and though I applaud the creativity, I was quite curious and wondered how they manage to give cabbage a ‘sticky’ consistency. A quick search on the Internet revealed the secret ingredient :Psylum husk.powder.

Psylum husk is a soluble fibre used in the treatment of constipation because of its ability to soak up water and therefore make stool softer and defecation easier. Though soluble fibres like psylum husk might have a number of benefits, the problem with using it as a supplement or in cooking is dosage. Dosage is key when supplementing with fibre as there is an increased chance of overdosing than when fibre is eaten as part of the whole vegetable. Psylum husk has a number of potential side effects ranging from mild to severe. Some common ones include gas,bloating, abdominal cramps and interaction with minerals and medication which limit absorption and efficacy. For more on the potential side effects of Psylum husk and dosage see here

So before you decide to switch to so-called ‘healthy’ alternatives  consider the above and following guidelines:

Summary Guidelines for Eating Swallows as part of a weight loss diet. 

  • Go for fermented options These include Eba (Ijebu garri has the lowest carbohydrate), fufu,lafu, Eko/agidi.Eko is a type of swallow made from fermented corn (it’s basically solidified pap) and though  not as popular as the others is worth considering for those looking to lose weight.  I remember we used to have it with vegetable soup back in secondary school. (All hail Federal government girls college, Sagamu…lol)
  • When eating  grain based swallows like Tuwo shinkafa  use local or brown rice which hasn’t been polished rather than the refined ones. Grains are not usually fermented but the fibre helps to reduce impact on blood sugar levels. A grain based swallows that has received a lot of attention in recent times is made from the humble ‘fonio’ also known as ‘acha’ grain. It is popular in the northern part of nigeria amongst the Plateau and Bauchi tribes (yeh. ..my people..lol). Acha is gluten-free grain which is high in protein and other nutrients.
  • Add more water – Dont make your swallow hard like olumo rock.  Also consider ‘swallows’ which naturally have a higher water content like Amala, lafu and Eko. The high water content of swallows like Amala make them a staple amongst the Yoruba people when weaning/introducing solids to infants.
  • Reduce your portion – A fist size portion is recommended. More soup and less swallow. This is where some of you might be glad you got big hands. lol
  • Eat swallows with ‘draw’ soups like okra, ogbono and ewedu. Every wondered why eat and love ‘draw’ soups? Well, it’s cos they are high in soluble fibres. When soluble dissolve in  water they form a gel like substance which coats the lining of the intestine thus ensuring that glucose (from carbohydrate) enter into the blood stream gradually. This is an important factor for weight management because when glucose enters the bloodstream gradually it is less likely to be stored as fat. A number of researches have been carried out showing the ability of Okro to help reduce blood sugar levels. This has made it an important food to consider  in the management of diabetes. Apparently roasted okra seeds have been historically used in the treatment of diabetes in turkey. Please do not substitute your medication for okro.
  • Consider swallows like unripe plantain fufu. Unripe plantain contains a type of starch known Resistant starch. Resistant starch are not broken down by digestive enzymes and as such have no direct impact on blood sugar levels. They are digested in the large intestine and like fibre help feed the friendly bacteria. These can be made by slicing and drying the unripe plantain. This is then be blended into a powder and prepared the way you would any other swallows. This is the way my grandma use to make it but  you can also make them using fresh unripe plantain. There are loads of recipes online.
  • Finally avoid   I call ‘new age’ swallows like poundo (most contain little if any yam flour) wheat. They contain a significant amount of carbs and other additives without the added benefit of fermentation.

Kunun G’eda (Nigerian Rice Pudding) -Thank You Kaka

Hello Everyone! It has been a while but trust me I have a good excuse 🙂

As some of you might know I got married (whoop,whoop) to a dashing young man from Bauchi State. First a bit of Nigerian geography for the benefit of Non-Nigerians, I am from the South-Western part of Nigeria (Ogun State to be precise) while my husband is from the North-Eastern part of Nigeria so you could say our marriage is fusion of two completely different cultures.

It therefore seems fitting that my first recipe post-nuptials be one from Northern Nigeria! This post was inspired by two things, one was the big bag of fresh groundnut ‘Kaka’ (grand-mother in Hausa) gave me when I visited her in Gwaranga (town in Bauchi state)  and the other is my sister-in-law who served us kunu g’eda the last time we visited. After which I asked her for a detailed recipe. 😊

Today’s recipe is Nigeria’s version of a rice pudding cooked in groundnut milk. It is a warming, sweet and sour dish which can be enjoyed either as a main meal or as a desert. The nutritional benefits are also profound. You might have heard me talk about the benefits of combining grains and legumes in order to get all essential amino acids in our  diet, well this dish ticks all the boxes and more. Rice (grain) and groundnut (legume) also provide the perfect balance of carbohydrates, protein and  healthy fats. 😊

Now to the recipe!

You will need

1/2 cup of rice – I used brown but you can use any other type of rice.

1 cup of fresh groundnut

4 cups of water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp of cinnamon (optional)

Sugar to taste

Instructions

If using brown rice soak rice in water and some lemon juice or Apple cider vinegar for about 8 hours or overnight. This has been said to help breakdown anti-nutrients present in whole grains. Cook the rice until soft and set aside.  If using white rice no need to soak or pre-cook.

2) Roast the fresh groundnut in a pan on low heat for about 5minites. Stirring occasionally to avoid it burning.


3) Grind in a dry mill or a coffee/spice blender. This makes the process of extracting the milk quicker.


4) Add 2 cups of water and blend until smooth


5) Seive out the skin which would leave you with the groundnut milk.

What you do with the ‘chaff’ is up to you… Personally I just added it back into the pan seemed a shame wasting all that good fibre. Lol

6) Pour the milk into a pan and bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil add the cinnamon (if using) rice, 2 cups of water and give it a good stir. Cook for another 20 -25 mins stirring every now and again to prevent it boiling over and sticking to the bottom of the pot.


If using uncooked rice, cook until rice is very soft. At the end the grounding milk should have a paste like consistency.

7) Add the juice of half a lemon


8) Let it cool down a bit- if you can wait that is lol . Add sugar or honey to taste and serve


Enjoy hot or cold! Do let me know how you get on. 😊

Garri and the Calorie Wahala – Update on Previous Post

Thanks to everyone who liked, commented and shared my previous post about Garri. I received some feedback from people who were concerned about the calorie content they see online for Garri, which at 300 calories per 100 g was way too high.

Now those of you who know me know that I’m not so much of a ‘calorie counter’. This is because a calorie is the amount of potential energy (not fat) we get from a given food and given that energy needs will differ from individual to individual (depending on stage of life, location (hot or cold climate), state of health etc) guideline information needs to be used carefully. However, I have decided to do this post for the benefit of those who might be interested in knowing more about calorie contents of foods. 🙂

The calorie information found online about Garri can be misleading, this is because most website make no distinction as to the type of Garri which is very important. If we do a quick search on the internet what you might find is information like this one which just says Garri.

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Source: (https://www.fatsecret.com/Diary.aspx?pa=fjrd&rid=73594)

However, after a bit of research,  I found this website which differentiate between different grades of Garri.

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Source: http://www.caloriecount.com/calories-Garri-i332701

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Source: http://www.caloriecount.com/calories-adom-foods-gari-flour-i260439

Looking at the two tables we see a significant difference in the calorie content. The grade C one has 155 calories per 100g while grade D has 360 calories. Another difference is the carbohydrate content which is 87.3 g for grace D and 27 g for grace C. Also the vitamin C is 35% for grade C and 0% for grade D while fibre content is 6% for grade C and 0% for Grade D.

The website doesn’t say what Grade D or C is but if the principle that fermentation reduces carbohydrate count is true (which I believe it is) then I believe that the grade C is likely to be a variant of Garri that has undergone a longer fermentation process similar to that of Ijebu Garri.

Also fermentation improves the ascorbic acid/vitamin C content of foods and given the sour taste of Ijebu Garri (which suggest the presence of ascorbic acid/vitamin C) then I believe grade C is likely to be a variant similar to Ijebu Garri.

Body Ecology states “fermented vegetables give you a one-shot double whammy: vitamin C, and microflora which help you better absorb not just vitamin C, but all the nutrients your body needs!”

This statement is in line with a research carried out by C.I. Owuamanam et al (2010) and titled ‘Nutritional Evaluation of Garri Diets from Varying Fermentation Time Using Animal Model’. The research involved feeding groups of rats a diet of Garri which was fermented for 0h, 24h, 48h and 72h. The result showed that level of dietary cyanide reduced significantly the longer the fermentation time. As a result nutrient absorption was optimised and highest with rats fed on the 72h fermented Garri.

Ijebu Garri is left to ferment for at least 7 days and sometimes more which means that the dietary cyanide is reduced beyond the results of this research. This is in addition to lowering carbohydrate count, optimising vitamin C content as well as probiotic and prebiotic benefits.

Another issue I find interesting and which I have been looking into recently is a comparative analysis of the calorie content in different swallows compared to Ijebu Garri. Here I have just two such examples but hope to do a broader research in the future. (watch this space) 🙂

First let us look at Wheat Flour, this has 372 calories, which is 140% more calories than Grade C Garri (Ijebu Garri)

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Next we have semolina which has 340 calories per 100g, which is 119% higher calorie content.

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Now, it can be argued that these foods are higher in other nutrients such as potassium or Protein. However Garri (Eba) is seldom eaten on its own, I believe the rich array of soups that accompany it more than make up for what it lacks in terms of nutrients, without the added calories.

So, am I saying don’t eat wheat, semolina or other types of Garri? Not at all, the aim here is for us to make informed decisions but also to come to appreciate the many benefits of our indigenous diet. I always say ‘Eat from and for your location’, the diet that has helped to sustain our ancestors cannot all of a sudden become redundant. It is our heritage and we must protect it. 🙂

Remember all things in moderation, the fact that a food is healthy doesn’t mean we should over indulge. 🙂

Another point I forgot to mention is that I have for many years now used Ijebu Garri as a cure for simple diarrhea. I was pleased when my ‘Doctor’ friend after reading my previous post confirmed that she recommends it to patients “after a bout of diarrhea to restore microbial balance” 🙂

Please do consult your health provider/dietician/nutritionist before making changes to your diet.

If you have found this useful, don’t forget to like, comment and share you might be saving a life! 🙂

Grandma’s Legacy – Ijebu Garri and Why You Should be Eating it for Optimum Health

Ijebu Ewe so o (greetings in Ijebu)

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Today I am excited to share the wonderful health benefits of Ijebu-Garri and my excitement is due in part because I belong to the Ijebu tribe in Nigeria best known for our resourcefulness, sophistication and beauty (honestly I am not making this up..lol). Both my parents are from Ijebu so I am a full blooded member of the clan. 🙂 Also my grandmother (God rest her soul) made and sold Ijebu Garri for many years  at the market in Ijebu-Ife. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until she passed on did we start buying garri, we always had a constant supply of high quality Ijebu garri courtesy her. It therefore gives me great joy to tell of the many benefits of Ijebu Garri in loving memory of ‘Mama Ijebu’ (that’s what we called her).

First a little bit of background.

What is Garri?

Garri is a fine to coarse granular flour of varying texture made from cassava tubers (also called cassava roots) which are cleaned after harvesting, grated, water and starch squeezed out of it, left to ferment and then dry-fried (dehydrated) either with palm oil or without palm oil. This is a major staple food in West Africa and eaten in a variety of ways.

One such way is to drink it, this is by far Nigeria’s number one fast food simply add water to the grains stir and there you have it. People often add sugar, groundnut or milk to it – making it a balanced meal/snack. 🙂
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The other way is to cook it in hot water and made into a dough (Eba) which is eaten with a wide variety of sauces.

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What makes Ijebu-Garri so special and beneficial to Health?

My research interest with Garri began when I started looking into the health benefits of probiotics (will explain this latter). Upon reading how many traditional diets provide probiotic benefits through fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh etc; I began to think about what fermented foods we had in Nigeria. Quite naturally Garri came out top on the list, this along with Ogi/Pap/Akamu (made from fermented corn or millet grains), Iru (a natural food seasoning made from fermented locust beans) and wara (local cheese).

So what makes Ijebu-Garri so special? Ijebu-Garri is left to ferment for much longer which gives it its characteristic sour taste. The effect of prolonged fermentation is twofold; one is that the carbohydrate (starch) content is reduced to a greater extent and the probiotic benefits are optimised as bacterial population increases the longer the fermentation process.

Ijebu-Garri is also dehydrated to a greater extent which further reduces the risk of moulds giving it a longer shelf life.

What is Fermentation? 

Fermentation is a process whereby the sugars and starches are eaten up by bacteria cultures and converted to produce lactic acid, carbon-dioxide and more bacteria (friendly one’s); and the longer the fermentation process the more sugar and starch is eaten up and the lower the dietary carbohydrate present in the food. This is the reason why fermented foods are often advocated amongst diabetics or those looking to control blood sugar levels and lose weight.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotic which means ‘for life’, is a general term for microorganisms that contribute to health in the intestinal tract. They are beneficial bacteria that help us fight disease and illness.

There are billions of friendly bacteria in the body, all performing wonderful functions such as aiding digestion, improve immune function, balance hormonal levels, protect against infections from fungi and yeast (which can go into the bloodstream and cause diverse illnesses), help keep the body generally alkaline which according to some is the most beneficial state for good health, manufacture of some B vitamins, and lots more.

The use of antibiotics (which do not distinguish between good and bad bacteria, and as such kill off both good and bad bacteria), poor diet and stress can lower the number of these friendly bacteria. This can lead to a state known as Dysbiosis which is a bacterial imbalance where there is an unwanted increase of bad bacteria and yeast. Dysbiosis has been reported by some to be at the root of a number of conditions such as yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis 1. Many health experts believe  that  having adequate amount of friendly bacteria which help to crowd out bad bacteria that invade our intestines is the best way to ensure good health.

How do we increase or maintain adequate levels of friendly bacteria?

  • Eat Cultured/Fermented foods – A study carried out by Osho et al (2009) and published in the African Journal of Food found Lactobacillus (a probiotic) in Garri samples taken from markets in Ogun state. They concluded by saying that small-scale fermented foods such as Garri and Iru are a good source of Probiotic bacteria.  Other fermented foods include live yoghurt, cheese,  kefir (a fermented milk drink), natural miso (made from fermented soybeans ,barley or rice)  natural sauerkraut (made from fermented cabbage), tempeh, and kimchi (made from fermented cabbage)

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  • Eat a Fibre rich Diet – Fibre from fruits, legumes and wholegrain are a good source of Prebiotics (not to be confused with Probiotics). Prebiotics are derived from carbohydrate fibres called oligosaccharides. These are not broken down in the digestion process and as such remain in the digestive tract where they help feed and encourage the growth of good bacteria. The fibre in Garri may also provides Prebiotic benefits making Garri a food that provides both pro and prebiotic benefits, how awesome is that! 🙂

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  • Take Probiotic and Prebiotic Supplements – These are available in capsule or liquid form. Do consult your health provider before taking supplements.

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Another benefit of Ijebu Garri which I touched on briefly at the beginning of this post is that it has a lower starch content/dietary carbohydrate. First, the initial process of soaking and draining reduces starch conent, which is then further reduced by the fermentation process.

It is difficult to know the exact carbohydrate count of a fermented food but the principle to always bear in mind is this: the longer the fermentation time, the more carbohydrate is eaten up by the micro-organisms and the more sour it is the lower the dietary carbohydrate. 

This information is further evidenced by the fact that we Ijebu’s always prepare Eba on the fire (my room-mate at UNI was shocked when she saw me doing this once and I was shocked that she was shocked..lol) simply putting hot water in a bowl and mixing in the Garri will not give it that ‘elastic’ consistency. Even with that, the ‘elastic’ consistency (which implies a higher starch content) we get is still lower when compared with other types of Garri such as ‘Yellow Garri’.

This is the reason why many non-Ijebu’s say Ijebu Garri is best only for drinking. This in itself is a blessing because some have said that the probiotic benefits of a fermented food can be reduced by heat and as such drinking Garri might be the best way to get its probiotic benefits.

Either way whether you decide to soak it or eat it as Eba, Ijebu Garri remains the King of Garris! 🙂

What fermented foods do you have in your part of the world?

Oil Cleansing – Why and How

Was chatting with my cousin a few days ago and  telling her how I stopped washing my face with soap over a year ago (didn’t realize myself it was that long ago!) She was surprised and asked how I cleanse my face, to which I replied I use Oil! 🙂

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The thought of applying oil to the face at first sounds quite odd. Especially seeing as we have been told all our lives that oil on the face is an enemy, one that we must get rid of. However the principles behind oil cleansing are sound and many have and are still benefiting from this approach.

So how does it work? Oil cleansing is  rooted in the principle that oil dissolves oil. Our skin produces natural oils for our benefit, these oils mix with dirt, makeup and other impurities thereby clogging up the pores. By massaging oil into the face, the oils go into the pores to dissolve the oil-dirt mixture that have clogged up the pores. The cleansing is then followed by placing a steamy washcloth over the face,  helping to open up the pores and dislodge the impurities.

The great thing with this method is that it doesn’t leave the face feeling dry. This is because unlike certain soap based or alcohol based cleansers it doesn’t strip the face of its natural oils. Stripping the face off of its natural oils can sometimes be at the root of a number of facial skin issues. The natural oils produces by the skin help to heal, protect and moisturise the skin so that it can function properly. Stripping off natural oils can lead to an imbalance as the skin begins to produce more oil in order to compensate for the loss.

Properly functioning skin is beautiful, clear, and glowing. Learning to work with our skin, not against it, will save us tremendously.

So how do you cleanse with oil? 

First you need a blend of oils, suggested blends from the Oil Cleansing Method website include:

Oily Skin: Try a blend of 30% Castor Oil to 70% Sunflower Seed Oil.
Balanced Skin: Try a blend of 20% Castor Oil to 80% Sunflower Seed Oil.
Dry Skin: Try a blend of 10% Castor Oil to 90% Sunflower Seed Oil.

Others have reported using other oils such as coconut oil, olive oil etc.

Now that you have your oil blend you want to:

1) Pour some hot water (you need only the steam) into a bowl and place your wash cloth into the water.

2) Pour a generous amount of your oil blend into the palm and rub together to help warm the oil, then apply all over the face. Massage oil into skin in circular and upward motions, focusing on troubled areas. Oil cleansing will  remove foundation and eye-makeup so no need to use makeup removers before oil cleansing.

3) Once you are happy that your pores are sufficiently saturated, take the wash cloth out of the water, squeeze off any excess water and place over the face. The steam will open up the pores, helping to dislodge impurities.

4) Once cloth is cool, wipe face gently and repeat steaming and wiping process. You can do this twice or thrice.

5) Gently massage any oil residue on the surface into the skin. Your face should feel really soft and look radiant. 🙂

A few notes on Oil Cleansing Method

1) Finding the right blend for your skin might involve some trial and error. Do a bit of research, for instance some suggest that for acne prone skin you are best using oils which have a higher linoleic to Oleic fatty acid ratio.

2) Some people are allergic to castor oil, so although many DIY recipes say it is an essential component of your oil blend, do test before using on your face.

3) A few people report having what is known as the ‘purging’ state of oil cleansing. This is a period where the skin will expel impurities that have been buried for a long time, making the skin look worse before it gets better. The temptation here is to quit but its best to wait it out, let your skin go through the ‘detox’. Personally I didn’t experience this, but it is worth mentioning.

4) Ensure that your face cloth is washed after each use and a clean one used daily. Bacteria thrive in moist environment and using an unwashed face cloth can spread bacteria onto the face.

Have you tried oil cleansing before? Can you share your experiences?

Aubergine ‘No Meat’ Meat Balls 

The other day I bought some Aubergine and the plan was to sauté them and have them with Yam just the way my Dad likes them but I just didn’t seem to get round to it. I was going to get rid of them when I remembered I had seen a recipe in my Abel and Cole “Veg Box Companion” cookbook  for “Aubergine No Meat Meat Balls”.

Those who know me know I am a long way away from being vegetarian as I do love my meat but this is definitely yummy and a testament to the fact that Vegetables don’t have to be boring.

This recipe is yummy and is definitely not just for vegetarians and Vegans. 🙂

Aubergine No Meat Meatballs 

You will need

  • A few splashes of olive oil
  • 2 Aubergines cut into small cubes
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lemon,  juice and zest
  • A handful of pitted olives
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (or a pinch of chilli powder)
  • A large handful of fresh basil or 1 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar or Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 mug of breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp of pine nuts (optional)

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Method 

  • Place a large pan over medium heat. Sizzle the aubergine and onion in a bit of oil

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  • When they’ve picked up a little colour and are almost done, add garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and lemon zest.
  • Tip into a food processor with the olives, chilli, herbs, vinegar, breadcrumbs and pine nuts(if using) You can also chop everything on a large chopping board and mix. Season.

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  • Taste and add more seasoning as needed. If it’s too wet you can add more breadcrumbs. If too dry add a bit of olive oil.
  • Shape into balls and fry in some Olive oil until brown all over.

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  • Serve with tomatoes sauce and eat with rice or pasta!

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Enjoy!

Re-thinking Carbs and a Simple alternative to Pasta

Last weekend I was talking to a friend and as seems to often be the case with me these days we were talking about health and food. In the process I mentioned that cucumber was a source of carbohydrate and she looked surprised and said “really? so what should we eat then?” Now that statement highlighted two things:

1) The common confusion as to what foods fall under the carbohydrate group

2) The common misconception that carbohydrates are ‘bad’ and should be avoided or limited.

So today we will be looking at  carbohydrates, what role they play in our bodies and how to differentiate between the different types of carbohydrates.

What are Carbohydrates?   

Carbohydrates are one of the essential macro-nutrients which means they need to be obtained from food. Carbohydrates are used in our bodies to produce energy, they do this by breaking carbohydrate rich foods down into glucose which is transported into the cells where the process of energy generation begins.

Which Foods are sources of Carbohydrates?

There are two broad categories of Carbohydrates namely simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates the major difference being the rate at which they are broken down and absorbed.

Simple carbohydrates are made of one or two sugar molecules and therefore broken down quicker thereby given us ‘quick’. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are made up of multiple sugar molecules which take longer to break down.

Some food sources of simple carbohydrates:

  • Molasses
  • Jams, jellies
  • Fruit drinks
  • Soft drinks
  • Candy
  • Table sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • White Rice
  • White flour products such as pasta, cakes, pastry etc

Sources of Complex Carbohydrates: 

  • All kinds of Vegetables – Leafy green vegetables, Cabbage, Tomatoes, Cucumber,Celery, Onions, Bell peppers etc
  • Whole grains and foods made from them, such as oatmeal, pasta, and whole-grain breads. Also brown rice, pearl barley, corn, quinoa etc.
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin, yams, cassava etc
  • Beans, lentils, and peas

Some complex carbohydrates have a higher carbohydrate content and are generally known as starchy carbohydrates. These include foods such as potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips. As a general rule all ‘below the ground’ crops have a higher carbohydrate content.

Low Carbohydrates vegetables are generally above the ground crops such as Cucumber, Asparagus, green leafy vegetables, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Brussel Sprouts, onions etc

So what is the problem with Carbs?

In my opinion the only problem is one of balance, ideally we want to get most of our carbohydrates from the complex spectrum. This is because a diet consisting mainly of refined/simple carbohydrates which release glucose quickly can lead to an imbalance in blood sugar levels. These foods give us us what is known as a sugar rush or a buzz of energy but soon leave us feeling tired as energy levels dip. This leads us to eat more which can lead to weight gain.

The key to having a balanced blood sugar profile (especially for non-diabetics) is to eat complex carbohydrates which release glucose gradually, providing us with a steady stream of energy rather than a buzz. Also to eat at regular intervals throughout the day (every 3-4 hours) and to have small amounts of protein with every meal and snack as proteins help slow down the stomach emptying time therefore slowing down the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream.

So now that we’ve looked at Carbohydrates, lets look at a simple recipe which uses a vegetable with a lower carb content to make a special kind of  noodles. 🙂

Today I will be sharing a low carbohydrate alternative to pasta/noodles called Zoodles.

You will need – Serves 1-2

  1. 1 Zucchini/Courgette
  2. 1 Red Chilli
  3. 1 Cup diced cooked chicken
  4. 1/2 tbs Fresh root ginger
  5. 1 garlic clove
  6. Salt to taste
  7. Spice of choice – Optional depending on whether or not your chicken is spiced
  8. 1 tbs cooking oil

Method

1) Grate Zucchini/Courgette lengthways or use a  spiralizer and set aside

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2) Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, ginger and chilli

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2) Add chicken and spices if using, stir for a few minutes until hot.

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3) Add zucchini and stir for a minute or two and there you have it. 🙂

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Happy Cooking at Eating! 🙂