Nutrition

Spirulina smoothie

Spirulina is a magic food: it is very high in protein, vitamin B, and much more. It is a power made from dried algae, and if I am really honest, I hate the taste. A couple of years ago, I used to just mix it in a glass of water and force myself to drink it. After a while, I gave up, because it gets tedious drinking things you dislike, even if they are super healthy! Here is a quick ad delicious way to incorporate it into your daily routine.

Recipe for two medium glasses:

  •  Two table spoons of organic spirulina powder
  • One large frozen banana, or if a ripe one. I didn’t add any sugar in this recipe because the banana was sweet enough. You can add a teaspoon of honey if needed.
  • 3-4 tablespoons of porridge
  • Two tablespoons of greek yoghurt for extra protein (if you are vegan, feel free to omit this one, and add an extra banana)
  • a large glass of (cow or almond/oat/coconut) milk : I like my smoothies quite thick, so feel free to add more if needed.

Mix together and serve cool (with a non-plastic straw please!).

You can also buy spirulina as tablets if you don’t like the powdered stuff, but I find it easier to add the powder to fruit smoothies as it masks the taste. With Ramadan approaching, I am also keen to find healthy recipes that will make me feel energized throughout the day. In that particular recipe, I incorporated porridge oats and yoghurt to add protein and to make it more filling. This should keep you going for a while!

Spirulina is a great ingredient because it is completely natural: it is made from an algae, Arthrospira platensis, it’s easy to use, and it has tons of beneficial properties. It has been used for centuries in some parts of Africa because it is so packed in vitamins, minerals, and essential amino-acids that the body cannot synthesize by itself. It is thus particularly useful in countries where malnutrition is an issue, such as Senegal where spirulina is popular. Several recent studies have looked at how it can be used to fight common issues: one of its health benefits for instance is that it is highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and it is thus very useful to reduce oxidative stress. Another interesting use would be for anemia: a 2011 study looked at “the effects of spirulina and immune function in senior people” and found that it had a positive impact. A number of studies also looked at the use of spirulina in diabetic patients to regulate blood glucose, and the supplement seems to have a positive impact of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which is extremely promising. Finally, there is also suggestion that spirulina can reduce toxicity from heavy metals in the body and offer protection from radiation.

As a note of caution, spirulina can in some cases acerbates the symptoms of autoimmune conditions, because it stimulates the immune system. Therefore, it is important to proceed carefully (as with anything you take!).

Nutrition

A trip to Morocco and a bowl of Harira soup

I recently went on a research trip to Morocco where I stayed for two months, and I am now back with loads of new recipes, ideas and inspiration. I went there expecting to buy a few popular products such as Argan oil, but I was completely blown away by the amount of natural products available, and regularly used by Moroccans. Walking around the souq, I found chebbah (Alun stone), a huge amount of different oils, from avocado to habba sawda (black seeds), a large number of herb and spice mixes used as medicine, my favourite ghassoul and henna… I experienced a whole different culture, with men and women taking regular trips to the hammam to  peel their skin with a loofa glove, called keess, and to purify themselves. Close to Meknes where I was staying, there are two thermal stations, called Sidi Hrazem and Moulay Yacoub, where water and mud and used to relax and cure various ailments. Over the next couple of weeks, I will discuss all those in more details and try out new recipes to use my findings.Unknown

For now, as we are in the midst of the holy month of Ramadan, I would like to share a soup recipe, Harira. Moroccans traditionally break their fast with a couple of dates, a bowl of harira seasoned with lemon juice, boiled eggs and sweets such as chebbakia or sellou. Harira is the perfect food to replenish the body after a long day, as it has a great balance of vitamins, proteins and nutritients. It is an ultimate comfort food: warm, feeling and full of flavour. It is also easy  to adapt to your taste, by using different vegetables or turning it into a vegetarian or gluten free version.

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Here is my recipe for Harira soup:

Ingredients:

– 1kg of fresh tomatoes, skinned (if I am being lazy, I use two tomato cans).

– 2 Onions

– A few branches of celery (can be replaced by cabbage, carrots, peppers, or pretty much any veg you have left in the fridge, in small quantity).

– A small bunch of parsley

– A small bunch coriander

– 100g of red meat, cut in small pieces (I use either beef or lamb; bones are good too as they give more depth of flavour).

– 200g of chick peas, canned/ 200g of brown lenses (I tend to use a bit of both)

– 200g of vermicelli pasta (you can use rice instead)

– Two tablespoons of flour (it is used to make the soup thicker, but you can do without for a gluten free soup)

– Spices to taste: salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp of curcuma and 1/2 tsp of paprika.

– A table spoon of cooking oil

My recipe is very simple: I put the tomatoes, the onions, the parsley and the coriander, all roughly cut, in a pressure cooker with the oil and spices. I add about 1L of water, cover and let cook for 30 mins. Once cooked, I mix everything with a hand mixer, then put back on the fire after adding the meat and the chickpeas/lenses. I cook for another hour or until the pulses are cooked. I then add the pasta and the flour, which I mix with a bit of water first. Tada! It’s ready to serve. Add water if you find the soup a bit thick, and serve with lemon.

This soup keeps really well in the freezer, so you can cook a big batch and use when neeed (for Ramadan for instance).