Sunday 20 October 2019

Recipes: Parsnip, Sage and White Bean Soup

Parsnip, Sage and White Bean Soup
Parsnip, Sage and White Bean Soup

Sage is sometimes called the women's herb. It's good for menstrual and menopausal symptoms. In mediaeval times, if a woman couldn't grow sage, she was not considered the boss of the house!

Serves 4-6

Olive oil cooking spray

2 large parsnips, roughly chopped (see the tip for what to do with the peelings)

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 litre vegetable stock, plus extra if needed

1 sprig of fresh sage, roughly chopped, plus extra to garnish

1 fresh bay leaf

1 Spray a large heavy-based saucepan set over a medium heat with the oil. Add the parsnips and onion, cover the pan and sweat for 10 minutes, until softened but not coloured.

2 Add the beans (retain some of the whole beans and add them at the end for extra texture), stock, sage and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

3 Remove the bay leaf, then blitz the soup with a hand-held blender until smooth. Add a little more stock or water if the soup is too thick.

4 To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls; garnish with the extra sage.


Spray the reserved parsnip peelings with oil, scatter on a baking tray and bake in an oven preheated to 200C for 10 minutes, until crisp, then use to garnish for the soup.

Paula's Brown Bread

Paula's brown bread

I've been making brown bread since I was a child. My mother baked several times a week, so for us shop-bought bread was a treat. When the snow caused the sliced pan debacle in  February, I just reached into the press and took out my baking box! 

Makes one loaf

olive oil cooking spray, for greasing

250g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g porridge oats

50g oat bran

25g mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plus extra for the top

1 egg

300ml buttermilk or milk kefir

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease a 1lb loaf tin with the oil.

2 Sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl, then add the porridge oats, oat bran and seeds, mixing to combine with a wooden spoon.

3 Whisk the egg in a cup, then whisk in half of the buttermilk or kefir. Put the remaining buttermilk or kefir and the sunflower oil in a separate cup and whisk those together.

4 Pour the oil and buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients along with most of the egg mixture, reserving a little for glazing. Stir to combine - the batter will be quite wet.

5 Transfer the batter to the greased loaf tin, smoothing the top with the back of the wooden spoon. Brush the top with the remaining egg mixture and scatter with extra seeds, pushing them down a little to help them stick.

6 Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Take the loaf out of the tin and tap the bottom of the loaf; if it sounds hollow, it's done. Put the loaf, out of the tin, back in the oven for five minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.


You can buy milk kefir in supermarkets or health food shops. If you want to have a go at making your own, you can buy kefir grains online.

Chocolate Avocado Cake

Chocolate Avocado Cake

A year ago I would not have considered making a cake like this, but when I was trying out recipes for a Delicious Diet Days class, I liked the idea of a cake that tasted great but was more healthy. We had a lot of fun cooking this. One lady's eyes lit up at the thought of her two favourite foods, chocolate and avocado, in the same dish! As she is also gluten intolerant, she was delighted that it worked so well with buckwheat flour, which is gluten free. We made plums poached with sweetener and cider to accompany the cake. Needless to say, there was none left.

Serves 2

Butter-flavoured cooking spray

120g white buckwheat flour or wholewheat flour

140g xylitol or granulated sugar

100g mini chocolate chips (optional)

6 tbsp raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp fine sea salt

60g yogurt of choice

60g mashed ripe avocado, measured after mashing

180ml water

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C. With the cooking spray, grease a 20cm square or round baking tin or two mini loaf tins. It works best in small tins as it does not rise much.

2 Put the flour, xylitol or sugar, most of the chocolate chips (if using), cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and stir well to combine.

3 Whisk together the yogurt, mashed avocado, water and vanilla in a separate bowl.

4 Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined (don't over-mix). Pour the batter into the greased tin and scatter over the reserved chocolate chips (if using).

5 Bake in the oven for 25-40 minutes, until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. This could take as little as 25 minutes, but I find that it often takes closer to 40. Set aside on a wire rack to cool completely before running a knife around the edges of the tin and turning the cake out of the tin.

6 Put the cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before taking even a single bite to allow it to firm up and the flavour to develop. Trust me!

Healthy Beef Casserole

Healthy Beef Casserole

The trick to getting a rich flavour is browning the meat properly. Serves 6

Olive oil cooking spray

1.35kg stewing beef or shin of beef, cut into 5cm chunks

Apple cider, red wine or white wine vinegar (optional), to deglaze the pan

225g carrots, peeled and cut into 5cm chunks

225g celery, cut into 5cm chunks

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1½ tsp fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

725ml dry cider or vegetable stock

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 x 400g tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed

1 Preheat the oven to 160°C.

2 Lightly spray a large non-stick frying pan with the oil and set the pan over a high heat. Brown the meat in batches, keeping the chunks spaced well apart to avoid stewing the meat.

3 Between batches, add a little water to the pan, bring it to the boil and use a wooden spatula to scrape up the brown bits to deglaze the pan. You could also add 1 tablespoon of apple cider, red wine or white wine vinegar to the pan, boil it until it disappears, then add a splash of water and let it bubble up again. As the meat is browned, add it and the deglazed juices to a 3.5-litre casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Lightly spray the pan with oil again and allow it to come back up to a high heat before adding the next batch of beef and repeating the deglazing process.

4 Once all the beef is in the casserole, add the carrots and celery to the casserole along with the herbs, salt and pepper, then pour in the cider or stock and the Worcestershire sauce. Put the casserole on the hob and bring it up to a gentle simmer.

5 Cover the casserole with a sheet of foil, then a tight-fitting lid. Put the casserole on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 2 -3 hours, until the beef is completely tender.

6 Remove the casserole from the oven and raise the temperature to 200°C. Stir well, then add the butter beans.

7 Return the casserole to the oven and cook, uncovered, for a further 25-30 minutes, to reduce and thicken the juices. Ladle into warmed shallow bowls to serve.

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