Saturday, 5 November 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Lighter Toad in the Hole

Given it's Guy Fawkes (bonfire night) here in the UK, I thought I would post a lighter, arthritis friendly version of the traditional toad-in-the-hole recipe. It makes a great bonfire supper served with green vegetables and baked potatoes. It also reheats well so you can make it in advance for a party.

I've reduced the fat content of the traditional recipe by using low fat sausages or quorn ones and cutting down on the amount of oil used. I like to add some roasted vegetables to the batter too - here I have used carrots but red onion, parsnip, squash and even leeks all work well. 

I personally prefer to use a tin foil tray to make this in, I find it conducts the heat well and helps the batter rise as well as being lighter to use on your joints but an ordinary roasting pan or even earthenware dish works fine. Do think about using a hand blender to make the batter if you have sore wrists or hands - it makes it the work of seconds and because it helps add air to the batter gives a really crisp toad in the hole, after all no-one like a soggy toad!

Ingredients:

75g plain flour
1 egg
200ml semi skimmed milk
Handful of baby carrots (or chop up some normal sized ones)
3 low fat sausages (I used quorn ones)
1/2 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to season

Serves 2-3 (easily doubled)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/392F.

Place the flour in a jug and break in the egg, add a small amount of the milk and start to beat the picture with a fork. Gradually keep adding the milk until you get a thin batter (about the same consistency as single cream). ALTERNATIVELY chuck the batter ingredients in a jug and whizz up with a stick blender until smooth. Season the batter mix with a little black pepper and salt.

Set the batter to one side.

Slice any rough tops of the baby carrots and halve any that look a bit squat. Place them in a small roasting tin or foil tray and coat with the oil. Add the sausages and roast everything for about 20 minutes or until the carrots have softened and the sausages are beginning to colour.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven, quickly spread out the carrots and sausages and then immediately pour the batter in. Return the tin to the oven and whack the temperature up to 220C/430F.

Cook the toad-in-the-hole for around 25-30 minutes or until the batter is well-risen and browned. Don't be tempted to open the oven door until it looks cooked otherwise the batter will sink. Serve immediately.



Monday, 19 September 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Spicy Turmeric Chickpea Fritters

Hello! I'm back in the kitchen after far too long away with an easy arthritis-friendly recipe for these sunny yellow fritters packed with anti-inflammatory turmeric.

These little fritters make a great quick lunch or accompaniment to a curry. Gram or chickpea flour is sold quite widely now, it's traditionally used in Indian cooking (especially to make bhaji) and goes wonderfully crisp and light when fried. Chickpeas are also a great source of protein, fibre, folate and magnesium. People with all types of arthritis have been shown to get less magnesium and folate than their healthy peers so it's a good idea to look for easy ways to increase the amount you get in your diet through things like peas and beans. You can use whatever mix of sweetcorn and pulses you like here really but you may need to add a little more flour accordingly. 

I tend to make this recipe in a jug using a hand blender. I find snipping spring onions easiest on my joints but you can chop them or even blend them if you prefer. If you find grating difficult just skip out adding the carrot.

Ingredients:

250g mix of peas, sweetcorn and chickpeas (I used a 165g tin of sweetcorn and some chickpeas)
75g gram/chickpea flour
1 small grated carrot (optional)
1 medium egg
4 spring onions, roughly snipped or chopped
1/2tbsp garam masala
1tsp turmeric
1tsp mango chutney or brinjal pickle

Sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying
Tzatiki for serving

Makes about 10 fritters

Put a rough 2/3rd of your peas, chickpeas and sweetcorn in a blender of food processor jug and whizz them up with the egg, gram flour, spices and chutney/pickle until you have a rough paste.

Stir in the remaining peas etc, grated carrot and spring onions. 

Heat a large frying pan with a thin layer of rapseed or sunflower oil. Drop dessert spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil to make little fat pancakes. You should be able to cook 3 or 4 at a time. Flip the fritter when the edges look set and the underside is golden - fry the other side for about 90 seconds until also crisp and golden, then serve immediately.

Monday, 18 July 2016

What's (not) been cooking recently

I am a fountain of idioms and adages - I haven't the 'foggiest' why but I scatter them throughout my daily speech. At breakfast, I 'waste not, want not' by scoffing my daughter's leftovers, driven mad in the middle of the day, I 'start crawling up the walls' and by bedtime I'm ready to 'turn into a pumpkin'. 

And recently, I've been living one of my favourites 'every cloud has a silver lining'...

An annoying crop of health niggles meant I had to turn down a whole series of work and personal opportunities over the last few months that would either be too physically demanding or impossible to organise childcare for. I was feeling a bit down in the dumps about it when some wonderful non-cooking related projects landed on my lap.

One of the most recent ones I have been involved with is the launch of new site for people with psoriatic arthritis called PsAandMe. It's a project sponsored by Novartis that aims to help people with PsA share their own experiences of the condition and get us all talking about the swings and roundabouts of having a chronic illness. As a contributing editor to the site, I've written my usual healthy recipe but also shared my thoughts of parenting and psoriatic arthritis, or how not to let PsA be the monster under the bed.

Do check it out if you suffer from PsA. There is some great content on the site including tips on flying with PsA (so not fun), the old work/life balance conundrum, dealing with anxiety and relationships.

And if you have made it to the end of this post and survived the cartload of idioms, congratulations and just be grateful you don't have to live with me ;)

Friday, 27 May 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Xylitol and Sunflower Oat Bars

We're cooking with arthritis and a few unusual ingredients today! The first of these is xylitol, a natural sweetener derived from birch trees (you can read more about it's origins and safety on the NHSChoices site here). Xylitol has some impressive health benefits that have been widely researched and are well evidence based: it has been shown to help prevent ear infections, has a lower glycemic index than sugar and may help protect against tooth decay. Now you might quite reasonably wonder what the state of you teeth has to do with your joints, but it turns out that there is a wealth of research linking tooth decay (or periodontal disease) and rheumatoid arthritis. It seems that people with periodontal disease may be more likely to develop severe arthritis and that some of the conditions associated with inflammatory arthritis, such as having less saliva due to Sjorgren's, may worsen existing tooth decay too.

You can find xylitol with the sugar in most supermarkets and online. It works well in sweet treats - especially ice creams or mousses as it has a cooling effect. If you are baking with it though you may want to add a little of another type of sugar as it doesn't caramelise like normal sugar so your baked goods can look a little pale and sad looking.

The second unusual ingredient is sunflower protein powder - it has a a mild nutty flavour and works well in baking, unlike a lot of protein blends. I've added it to these bars to help boost the protein and fibre content. Feel free to leave it out if you don't like the idea of it, you could either substitute it with another vegan protein powder (whey won't work as well) or simply replace it with oats.



Ingredients:
200g oats
50g sunflower protein
50g oat flour (grind oats in your food processor or replace with wholemeal flour)
2 small bananas
100g butter/low fat spread or coconut oil
50g honey
100g xylitol
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)

Makes 12

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter (or other fat), honey and xylitol - keep the heat low and don't let it bubble too much. Take this mixture off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes whilst you get on with the dry mix.

Mix the oats, sunflower protein, flour and seeds (if using) together in a large bowl. 

Add the two bananas to the warm melted butter and xylitol mix. Use a stick blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Add this liquid mix to the dry mix and give everything a good stir until. The mixture will get quite thick and gummy - don't worry! Plonk the whole lot into the greased tin and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180C/375F or until the oat bars have risen slightly and are golden at the edges.

Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Crispy Quinoa and Bean Burgers

This recipe for arthritis friendly bean and quinoa burgers is adapted from 'How to Cook' by Anna Jones which is an amazing vegetarian cookbook. Her recipe uses all quinoa and chickpeas, neither of which I massively enjoy, so I've switched things up to use a brown rice and quinoa mix and a tin of mixed beans. Do taste your harissa paste before adding it - they vary so much in terms of heat and strength, so you may need a little more or little less.

If you find shaping patties difficult due to your arthritis then you might want to try simply spooning this into a baking tin and pressing it down before spraying or brushing the top with cooking oil. Simply cut the cooked mixture into pieces once cool.

Peas and beans are a great source of fibre and protein. They also contain plenty of folate which research suggests that people with all types of arthritis may struggle to consume enough of. Moreover, a recent review of studies found that not only can eating pulses help you lose weight but it can also help you keep it off in the long term - great news if your joints would benefit from a lighter you!


Ingredients:

250g cooked brown rice and quinoa (I used a seeds of change pouch but you could use leftovers)
200g frozen peas, thawed (I zap mine in the microwave or you can leave at room temp for a few hours)
1 drained can of mixed beans (approx 230g drained weight)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/2 preserved lemon (optional but really good)
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon harissa paste
2 tsp nigella seeds

Serves 4

Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until everything is well combined. Remove half of the mixture and put it into a smaller bowl and blend until it forms a rough place with a hand blender (you could also use a food processor). 

Tip this paste back into the large bowl and stir everything together. Take tablespoons of the mixture and shape them into patties with your hands then place them on a greased baking sheet. I make about 8 or 9 small patties with the mix.

Pop the shaped patties into the fridge to firm up for half and hour. Once they are a bit firmer, spray them with cooking oil and then bake them at 180C/375F for 30 minutes or until golden.

Serve them with flatbreads, salad and yoghurt or houmous.

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