Brazil’s awesomely sensible ten suggestions about eating well.

Brazil’s Ministry of Health have issued new dietary guidelines that are simply awesome. They can be found in full here (PDF).

The guidelines can summarised as follows:

1.    Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet
2.    Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations
3.    Limit consumption of processed foods
4.    Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products
5.    Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company
6.    Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods
7.    Develop, exercise and share culinary skills
8.    Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life
9.    Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals
10.   Be wary of food advertising and marketing

Sweet potato and rice burger

Oh dear…the Bloody Bonza Bucketty Beetroot and Bean Burgers did not pass muster from the tough judges running the Inaugural Mangrove Country Fair Veggie Burger Taste Test.

Head Taster Shrek saying “I really, really liked the flavour, quite a meaty consistency if I can use that word, and they held together pretty well.” Cheeky and Mrs Shrek however expressed their concern over the colour “I just don’t understand why any vegetarian would want a burger that looks so red – its like meat. Veggie burgers needs something green in them”.

The killer however was the case of shall we say “bottom burps” that all the tasters were afflicted with afterwards. Personally I don’t get this….the 4B burgers have been made and eaten quite a few times in the VegHead household and we can’t report any subsequent windy-pant problem. However we’ll settle for the judge’s final word in this and so we’re submitting another entrant: Sweet potato and rice burgers.

For the putting in:

  • 1 large potato, peeled and quartered
  • Sweet potato to approximately the same size, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, mashed
  • 1/3 cup of dry rice, cooked to just beyond al dente
  • 2/3 cup of oats, ground to flour – not quick cook oats (to make these gluten free follow the same advice as in the 4B recipe)
  • 2/3 cup of cooked chickpeas, roughly mashed
  • 2/3 cup of green peas (either frozen, or if using fresh blanch first)
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of dried mixed Italian herbs
  • 2 tablespoons of tamari
  • Olive oil
  • NB: For those looking to use this recipe for catering size proportions, such as we did for the Mangrove Mountain Country Fair and the Gasfield Free Mountain Districts Declaration, base all ingredient amounts on using 1kg each of sweet potato, potato, (uncooked) rice, oats and frozen peas. You can expect about 60 generously sized burgers from such a mix – which each burger formed into a ball a little smaller than a tennis ball. When making such a large mixture I have found it to be best to mix the peas through the cooked rice, and mash everything else together separately. Refrigerate both mixes overnight in covered containers. Fork the rice/pea mix to separate then combine everything in a large container (or split the mixes into equal portions and do in batches if need be). There is no better way to evenly combine such a large quantity than to just do it with your hands.

To prepare:

Boil the potato and sweet potato until soft, then drain and mash.

Meanwhile, saute the onion over a medium heat in a generous amount of olive oil until transparent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds, then add the spices (not the herbs) and continue for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Mash together the potatoes, sweet potatoes, herbs, onion/garlic/spice mix, oat flour, tamari. Once mixed add the cooked rice and the peas, and thoroughly mix by hand or with a spoon until completely combined.

Cover and refrigerate the mix for at least 2 hours before forming patties.

Cook patties in a cast iron pan until crisp on both sides.

Patties can be frozen uncooked, once formed separated by squares of waxed paper. Uncooked mix should keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Handy Tip: When forming veggie patties use an “egg ring” to get a good tight burger and also ensure even sizing. Form a ball of mix (experience will show how much you’ll need) and press tightly into the ring using palm or a flat spatula. Lift off the ring before cooking. You can either do this directly into the pan, or if preparing for later cooking form the patties in this manner onto the waxed paper. If a wider, thinner burger is desired to suit the size of the bun then squash the pattie as it cooks, just before turning it over to cook the other side.

Its all the same, only different

The VegHead is basically lazy. Give me an easy way out and I’ll be halfway to the door before you’ve finished putting your jacket on to follow. And so it is with creating new meals. Why start entirely from scratch when you can borrow so much from something you already know how to make? This theme is a large part of The VegHead’s You can cook EVERYTHING on a BBQ summer range of recipes….which we will get to in due course as the weather warms enough to find The VegHead outside and chasing the woodlice out from their winter of nibbling on the cold scraps around the BBQ plate.

A lazy way to make a new meal is to simply take all the same ingredients you’d use for an existing meal, and think about cooking them in different ways and in different combinations. For instance, last week The VegHead cooked Thai curry. Only it wasn’t; it was a stir fry on a bed of curry fried rice. Exactly the same ingredients as might have gone into a curry (OK….didn’t use coconut milk in this case), but a different end result.

Moreover, changing the method and order of cooking generally means the time taken to make one meal from the same ingredients might be substantially different than the time taken to make your usual meal. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends onthe circumstances, but the opporunity is there to discover a truly useful and delicious variant.

New flavours emphasised, different textures, and a refreshing view on the plate.

Spinach Cannelloni with Adzuki bean sauce

Waitrose supermarket regularly slips marketing food porn into your shopping bag if you’re not watching carefully. Unpacking the fruit and veg later from the floorful of cotton and linen shopping bags you unexpectedly stumble upon this slim volume getting down and dirty with the spuds, or slicing it up with a loaf of bread.

“Follow this recipe and you’ll be popular and beautiful like the laughing people in the photos! Oh, and don’t forget to buy all the ingredients from Waitrose.”

I would have been more popular for instance if I had cooked the recipe for Cannelloni which steamed invitingly off the page. In front of a log fire which was in the background of the shot if I recall providing that additional look of heartiness and warmth to the shot. I’m not entirely sure that detail is correct though, as I binned the magazine to the recycling after a quick flick through it.

It did inspire me to have a go at making a cannelloni dish though…

Tahini isn’t an obvious choice I’ll admit for an Italian dish, however this was really good I have to say.

Was in the larder…

  • lasagne sheets
  • spinach
  • light tahini
  • basil pesto
  • half an onion, chopped
  • clove of garlic, chopped
  • fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
  • course crushed black pepper to taste
  • a “tray from the farm shop” worth of cherry tomatoes
  • six smallish mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup of blended, presteamed spinach
  • 1 cup of cooked adzuki beans
  • tomato paste
  • miso paste
  • red wine and water
  • olive oil

A frenzy of activity…

Here goes; a lot of this happened in parallel so it didn’t take too long I suppose to put it together, but it was certainly a frantic 30 minutes or so before it went in the oven and the bench was wiped down. On the other hand, don’t assume that everything happened in a linear fashion in the order that it is listed here.

1. Have this ready first though… Blend together the spinach, and a very generous pouring of the tahini, and a few generous spoonfuls of pesto.
2. The lasagne sheets. For a meal for two, I used five sheets (dry size each approx. 15cms x 15cms) – I seem to have some sort of tribal memory that you should pre-cook as many sheets as you actually really need, plus one spare, as they ALWAYS stick together in the pot. Boil at least 5 cms deep of water in a pan that is easily large enough for the lasagne sheets to cook in horizontally. If I was cooking any pasta, I’d normally pour a little olive oil into the empty pan before filling it with water as it helps to stop the pasta sticking together. I’d done that before on the odd occasion I’d precooked lasagne but the leetle sheets still always stuck together. This time however inspiration struck and instead once I’d got the water on to boil I poured about 1/2 teaspoon of oil onto one side of each sheet and then “painted” it with the basting brush. I can report here that rhe sheets did NOT stuck to each other! Further testing will elevate this to being a new item of Kitchen Lore but in the meantime it has a gold rating as a Kitchen Theory trick. While the sheets are cooking to just pre-al dente fill the (clean) kitchen sink with some cold water, and also fill a tray with cold water. Remove the paste sheets carefully from the hot water one by one which your favourite implement and drop them into the sink of water. Rinse thoroughly, then transfer to the tray for carrying back to your work surface.
3. Smear each sheet with a thick, even layer of the tahini and spinach. Roll and place lined up in a very large baking dish. The rolls will get significantly longer as the pasta continues to cook in the oven, so remember to cater for that in selecting the tray.
4. Meanwhile….de-skin all the cherry tomatoes using boiling then cold water baths. Keep the tomatoes aside. Compost all the skins.
5. Lightly cook all the other ingredients except the herbs to create a fairly saucy tomato flavoured italian mushroom and beany sauce thing. You need enough of this to be able to evenly cover the cannelloni rolls so adjust if necessary with another mushroom and some more wine etc. Once cooked sufficiently, then turn off and add the cherry tomatoes and the fresh herbs. The goal here is to not have the tomatoes get all mushed up. Presentation iz everything darlink! The herbs are added only now so their flavour released during the baking stage, rather than boiling off during this preparatory stage.
6. Pour the sauce over the cannelloni, taking care to make sure that all pasta has some sauce on it.
7. Bake covered for about 30 minutes.

Served with a large bowl of mixed olives and some fresh baked wholeflour bread.

I have to add that this was very good. Though I am of the opinion that I wouldn’t make this regularly as it is a lot of additional work for what is basically a variation on lasagne.