Natural soup thickeners

There is nothing more tempting than a thick, chunky soup on cold days. With winter coming, here’s an idea for you to try.

Normal soup thickeners are cornflour and ordinary flour, which are zero value nutritionally.  Try using grated carrots and perhaps half a potato if you like your soup super-thick. If you add other vegetables and herbs, and boil until those disintegrate, you end up with a rich, delicious soup.  There’s some very beautiful alchemy going on. Just perfect for winter or the rainy season.

soup thickeners

Food from my childhood: Beef Stew

I love my mum’s beef stew and I don’t think mine ever tastes as good as hers.  But over the years, I have perfected it.  Here are my following tricks:

(1) Use two different types of meat: the nice stewing beef chunks coated in seasoned flour and lightly browned, and beef bones.

(2) Use herbs generously.  Tarragon, thyme, bay leaf. Bay is a must.  I use fresh basil too.

(3) Now, this is my magic touch. Collect ends of most unlikely vegetables, such as aubergine, capsicum, parsley stalks, celery heads, etc, freeze them, and just add them to the pot at the beginning of the cooking period.  Over the hours, it will disintegrate to leave behind the most unique taste!

(4) Use different types of root vegetables: carrots, marrow, squash, potatoes.

(5) I always add an onion, a few garlic cloves and a couple of tomatoes.

How to cook it:

Brown the seasoned meat. Add the onions. Add the magic touch (3), bones and half a cupful of apple cider vinegar.  Boil for a few hours then turn down to simmer. Two hours before you serve, add the root vegetables. Simmer for a further two hours until the root veggies are almost melting.  Serve piping hot.

Asian Greens Smoothie

This is a first for me, and the combo tastes surprisingly delicious!

I used: kangkung (water spinach), pak choi and Thai basil. All three leaves are intensely green, which means laden with nutrients.

To make the taste palatable, I added an apple and a pineapple. Cheers!

Note: there are some contraindications to eating kangkung raw because of the parasite Fasciolopsiasis buski,  a large parasitic intestinal fluke that can be found as larval cysts laid on the water spinach (and other water vegetables).  However, I think if you have a strong immune system and undertake a parasite cleanse regularly, you will be protected when eating clean organic kangkung.

If you feel more reassured, replace kankung with ordinary spinach or other greens.

Making Banana Flour At Home

Why am I making banana flour?

I love baking. Probably because my mother loves baking. Last week, over a three day period, I baked three cakes. It was then I thought to myself, ooops, my family is eating too much flour. Even though the flour I used is unbleached and organic, I felt that they were eating far too much flour.

Some time back, my friend Vivienne Webb gave me a bag of banana flour. I have never used it before, and was pleasantly surprised that the apple turnover cake I baked with banana flour tasted every bit as good as it would normally. And yayy, banana flour is gluten-free, so I baked an extra one for my friend Richard Boyle.

Feeling pleased with myself, I posted my recipe on Facebook. Then someone commented, banana flour is expensive. Sitting in lush Phuket looking out at banana trees, I can’t figure – nay, can’t accept – why banana flour should be expensive. It is five times more expensive than regular flour.

I don’t like economics that don’t make sense, so I googled. And made my own.

The goodies

As I am doing my diploma in Naturopathy, I took special interest in the dietary benefits of banana flour, apart from being gluten-free:

  1. Green (unripe) bananas are more nutritious
  2. The goodness is in the skin
  3. Green bananas’ starch is resistant starch, which means that they act more like fibre than starch
  4. Because bananas are sweet, you need less sugar when you use them instead of regular flour in baking

How to

Wash the bananas thoroughly. Top and tail each banana.

flour 1

Cut them into wood chip size. Spread the chips out on a plastic tray. You could either dry them naturally in the sun (cover with muslin) or in a dehydrator.

flour 2

Grind the dried banana chips in a strong blender. As the blade of my blender was not that sharp, I sieved and reground the coarser grains. Store in an airtight container and use soon.

flour 4

Just a reminder, this cake was the one which started it all 🙂  Recipe here.  It tastes really delicious!

apple turnover cake

Mango lassi – a sugarless treat

The classical lassi, the traditional drink of India, is actually very simple to make.  It is yoghurt based, and may be sweet or salty. A plain one doesn’t even require fruit, just the yoghurt and salt.

Feeling bored, I decided to make a jazzed up version.  It tastes heavenly!

Here’s the recipe:

One very ripe mango

60ml buttermilk

60ml cold milk

3 tablespoons yoghurt (I ran out of yoghurt, hence the weird buttermilk combo)

Squeeze of lime juice

Ice cubes.

Blitz all together in a blender. I topped mine with flax, bee pollen and acai. Cheers!

Starting the day right

Eat like a king in the morning, a prince at noon, and a peasant at dinner

Maybe it is because I am a ‘professional’ mother that I put great store in getting my family to eat right, especially the first meal of the day (I accept that they will lapse during the day, be it at the canteen, tuck shop or restaurant at lunchtime).

A good breakfast regulates the blood sugar and energy levels. It also stops children feeling hungry before lunch, which can be quite distracting.

The British Dietetic Association said the findings added to the growing body of evidence in support of eating breakfast every morning.

“There is a lot of scientific evidence behind this,” spokeswoman Catherine Collins told BBC News Online.

“Obviously the traditional fry-up is too fat and calorie rich to aid weight control, but cereals and toast are of benefit.

“Breakfast can be a very good source of vitamins. Many processed cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals which people can find it difficult to get elsewhere if they are just having two meals a day.”

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s annual conference in Miami.

Here’s what we had this morning: poached egg on a bed of wilted spinach and tomatoes. It is quick, easy and nutritious.

Note: please do read up on Egg Safety first before serving soft eggs:

A g

Blue cornmeal and apple muffins

There’s increasing research to show that gluten causes an inflammatory response in the body, so though there is no one in my family who is gluten-intolerant, I made these gluten-free muffins with organic blue cornmeal.  I lessen the ‘heaviness’, I added chopped apple cubes and cranberries.


2 cups organic blue cornmeal

1/4 cup oil

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 apple, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup cranberries

Handful of sunflower seeds

Heat oven to 400F. Combine all ingredients and stir until evenly mixed. Pour into lined muffin tins. Baked until firm in the middle.

Tastes delicious with Greek yoghurt for a healthy breakfast!

PS. Good to bake more and freeze.


Homemade red pesto dressing

Having over-indulged over the summer, I decided to go raw for the next few days.  There were lots of greens in my fridge, but I was bored with conventional dressing, so I decided to make red pesto dressing.  It’s strong and goes very well with olives:

You will need:

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (I used this for a more intense flavour)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1/2 cup olive oil

3 cups fresh basil

3 cloves garlic

pinch of salt.

I blended the above to a chunky-smooth consistency.  It will store in a sterilised jar in the fridge for a few days – if it lasts that long 🙂

Creamy Chicken & Capers

Food is cultural and has very deep roots.  I am into Soul Food because my mother brought me up on Soul Food (otherwise known as boring British food) and even now, at 47, whenever I feel battered and bruised by the world, I would curl up with some comfort food and hark back to those safe childhood days.

In my teens and twenties, my cooking evolved to embrace French (I went to a finishing school) and Italian (I am quarter italian) influences.  My twenties and thirties were largely dominated by nursery food as I struggled to feed my growing family on a shoestring and time-deficits. Lately, I have been exploring German food. This was taught to me by my German neighbour in Jakarta, and here it is, with some adaptation.

How to:

Boil organic chicken in water until par cooked (about 30 minutes). Remove from heat and shred the meat.  Reserve the stock. Saute some onions, button mushrooms and carrot chunks.  Add in the shredded meat. Pour cream into the mixture, add the reserved chicken stock until the liquid resembles a soup. Add a small jar of capers and its water.  Simmer until the liquid is reduced to think creamy consistency. Season to taste.

Served with potatoes and steamed vegetables, with a good dollop of butter. The ultimate comfort food ❤

Soul Food: Chicken Chasseur

Continuing from my previous week’s post on so-called Soul Food, here’s my adaptation of the french classic, Chicken Chasseur.  As a working mother when my kids were young, I have always been a fan of one-pot meals, especially those that I can put on in a slow-cooker before I leave for work, and et voila, all ready when we come home, tired and hungry.  As you can see from the photograph, my recipe here uses store-cupboard staples, such as passata, borlotti beans and sweet corn – and of course, frozen  homemade chicken stock that I always keep in the freezer.  If you can, use fresh ingredients, but this ’emergency’ food tastes yummy too.  It’s in the sauce and slow-cooking, I think, and of course, the love ❤

How to:

Brown chicken thighs in olive oil until golden on both sides.  Remove from pan, drain excess fat but leave about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Saute one large onion until transparent. Add 2 cloves of roughly chipped garlic and sauté until slightly softened.  Add button mushrooms and sauté.  Add whatever vegetables you are using.  Add passata or tomato puree, wine and chicken stock.  Bring to boil.  Add browned chicken thighs and black peppercorns. Simmer on the lowest heat for as long as you can (minimum 2 hours).  Keep adding stock to adjust the consistency.  Season to taste.