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Share New Flavours Warming Veggie Dishes Using Kefir

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Food Heroes

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New Flavours, warming Veggie Dishes & using Kefir

Shakshuka (Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine)
Shakshuka (Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine)

After  watching with interest the Dr. Giles Yeo’s much-hyped BBC2 Horizon programme ‘Clean Eating – The Dirty Truth’ and reading reactions to it - including a comprehensive piece by food writer Ruby Tandoh – I had to wonder where the debate leaves the confused-yet willing to change. Just because the dubious practices of few clean-eating gurus have been exposed, is it really wise to throw the pasta out with its cooking water and reach for the doughnuts in despair?  Debunking diet after diet is all very well, but for overeaters it can make it easy to simply shrug and go back to old ways. 

The greatest takeaways from the current debate seem to be, once again, that unless you have a medical condition diagnosed by a qualified doctor, it’s best not to cut out any one food group completely from your diet, and good to bump up the fruit, veg and grains. You should go easy on refined carbs and over-processed food and - that old almost impossible nugget - everything in moderation.  It’s finding that new balance on your plate every day which is the difficult part. 

The joy and enjoyment of food with friends and family is more than ever the way forward and the way you shop is key. When you do not have the means or the time to do all your shopping at a farmers’ market, or in multiple small stores, Ardkeen turn mundane shopping into an enjoyable food experience with a huge part of the most exciting produce now online. In my west Cork kitchen, thanks to my Food Heroes box and a mega pantry shop in the store before Christmas, I’ve been experimenting with new ingredients and gradually replacing some old ones. All the while trying to up the veg and grains and reduce sugar and meat even more. 

My daughter Victoire has moved from Paris to do her Leaving Cert here in Schull so after a year of having only to think about myself, I now have a hungry 16 year old in the house once more, not only to feed but also teach about food and cooking.  Luckily, she is a keen enough cook and a willing guinea pig and here are a few of the delicious experiments which have been creeping into our weekly cooking (and her lunchbox!).

Recipe: Shakshuka Darling of Instagram brunch photos all over the world, this is one of chef and writer Yotam Ottolenghi’s great gifts to our cooking repertoires today. Made popular through his bestselling books, it really is a gem of a dish, healthy, filling, super quick and simple to make, superbly customisable - and cheap! Shakshuka (also spelled Shakshouka) was brought to Israel from North Africa and is extremely popular all over Middle East as a breakfast dish. Fittingly, the word means ‘all mixed up’ and if my version leaves out the customary eggs in favour of Mezze’s delicious labneh, there’s no harm in using both. Other tweaks include using a variety of peppers and chillis, adding other vegetables such as potatoes, courgettes, green beans, aubergines and squash or even chickpeas or broad beans. As a nod to its Basque lookalike, Piperade, nothing stops you topping the whole thing off with ham, bacon or spicy sausage. Fresh herbs for garnish can be parsley or coriander, or both, but if you can choose where the heat in the dish comes from –harissa, paprika or fresh chilli’s -  the cumin and onions as a base for the dish are non-negotiable. Prunotto whole, preserved organic tomatoes and passata are perfect for Shakshuka so make sure you keep a few jars in your pantry. 

Warming Bowls of Mash
Warming Bowls of Mash

Switching the role of meats and cheese to toppings or condiments and making vegetables the stars of the plate is made more simple when inspired by new and interesting ingredients. It also means the management of our fridges all week long is not dictated by amounts and freshness of hunks of meat. Looking on our good old brassicas and root vegetables as the base of an evening supper is at once comforting, liberating and creative. 

Like avocados, cauliflower and nut milks have been hijacked by many fad and restrictive diets and portrayed as ‘good’ or ‘clean’ ingredients in contrast to outlawed (and much cheaper) potatoes and cows’ milk. But unless you have a medically diagnosed condition, there’s no need to choose one over the other, embrace them all! The important thing is to try everything, pack in the veg and make it all so delicious the experiment becomes a habit.

Recipe: Cauliflower and Almond Milk Mash with Happy Pear Coriander Pesto

RecipePotato and Proper Milk Mash with Pumpkin Pesto

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Garlic Mash with Dukkah

Kefir Smoothies: After the success of their gorgeous yoghurts, Ardkeen ‘commissioned’ a naturally fermented kefir from Knockeen Farm near Piltown, Kilkenny. Kefir is fermented milk, and benefits not only your palate with its tangy creamy taste, but also your gut with its potent content of about 30 different microorganisms, making it a fantastic source of pro biotics. It’s runnier than yoghurt, making it perfect for smoothies. At home, we simply blitz it in the nutri-bullet with fresh fruit for a blast of nutrients. Here are our favourite combinations of the moment.

Kiwi, Banana and Lime: A little bit more consistent, blitz a kiwi with a small banana and a good squeeze of lime.

Date and Cacao: This is the best up to date version of a chocolate milkshake you’ve tasted. Ardkeens fudgy medjool dates are amazing, and the True Natural Goodness organic cacao powder gives a lovely chocolatey taste to the tangy kefir.  You could also pop some almond, brazil or peanut butter in there for a protein boost. 

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