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Lessons From Japan – Is Japanese Cuisine Healthier?

Vegan pho

Is Japanese Cuisine Healthier?

Earlier this year I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Japan with the Panasonic team. A hop to Amsterdam, a skip to Seoul and a jump to Osaka, we finally arrived in Japan. Over the few days we had cooking workshops, presentations and demos to really grasp the concept of experiencing fresh and traditional food.


Experience Fresh

On our first day we had a live cooking demo whilst in the Panasonic HQ, showing ways in which water is used to cook food instead of oil, and how the techniques of knives comes into play when preparing vegetables.

One of the key messages I took from our time over there, was the importance of technique whether it’s from the way you prepare the food or the way you cook it to really preserve flavour and keep the nutritional value.

japanese cooking demo

Some of the most common ways to cook food in Japan:

  • Steaming
  • Simmering
  • Poaching
  • Grilling

So by using heat and water, the produce can retain a lot more flavour than for example coating it in oil and frying it. These  techniques have been practiced to centuries and are still practiced today. What was interesting was learning how the team at Panasonic had worked this into their Microwaves, Bread Makers and Juicers.

Demo Time

We had a live demo to show the difference between a non-panasonic microwave steaming feature vs. the Panasonic brand, where we were asked if we could taste the difference, and we did.

Panasonic Croustina Bread Maker

Another example is from the slow juicer, demonstrating the separation of liquid and pulp when using non-panasonic products vs. their own. Again, we were impressed to see the richness of colour, flavour and smell from the Panasonic brand, which had been developed to slowly squeeze a high quality, nutrient- packed juice from the tomatoes.

Then for the bread (my favourite part) which isn’t traditionally a staple ingredient within Japanese cooking, however looking to the masters of bread making they developed the Croustina to produce the ultimate hard crust. We had a try of a pumpkin and nut crusty slice which was pure heaven after only having a tofu broth for breakfast hours earlier.


Ohhhhmami, that tastes good

‘Umami’ is the illusive word every cook looks to achieve in their cooking. It’s the thing that you can’t quite put your finger on, but keeps you going back for spoonful after spoonful of food - basically it’s the perfect balance of sweet, sour, saltiness and bitterness.

umami

As a vegetarian I was also listening out for how to get the ‘umami’ taste when cooking. One of the two ingredients were shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes, due to the levels of glutamate. A backbone of many Japanese dishes is called Dashi and it a delicious stock that requires umami. The theory is if you have a really good stock dashi you needn’t over flavour your produce.


Recipe Time

miso soup vegan

 

Here is a recipe I created, trying to envelop the learnings from the trip.

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 spring onions
  • 3cm fresh ginger
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 150g  of Shimeji mushrooms
  • 2 bay leaves

 

  • 140g firm or silken tofu cubed
  • 150g udon noodles
  • 1 sachet brown rice miso paste(I used ClearSpring miso)
  • 1.5l of veg stock

 

For dressing

  • ½ finely sliced red chilli
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

 

Method

 

  • Prepare the vegetables first, finely chopping the shallots, chilli and garlic, then add the chopped shallots to a pot with a dash of water and allow to cook for around 5 minutes

 

  • Add the chopped chilli, fry for a few minutes followed by the garlic, then grate the ginger into the pot and fry for a minute or two

 

  • Add the stock, miso, bay leaves and tamari to the pot and allow to simmer for around 5 minutes

 

  • Add the shimeji mushrooms, udon noodles and cubed tofu to the pot and allow to boil in the stock for 6-7 minutes

 

  • Taste test, adding seasoning if needed, test if the mushrooms and noodles are cooked then serve up into bowls

 

  • Top with freshly chopped chilli, finely chopped celery and sesame seeds

 

  • *Note, if you want a crispy tofu, cube the blog then add to a small frying pan with 1 tsp sesame oil and press to crispen under the heat, add sesame seeds for a final 2 minutes of frying for a toasted crust

Vegan pho

 

 

Take a peek at what we got up to in Japan day by day

Recipe

Simple Week Night Soup Recipe

Ingredients

Dried Spices:
2 tsp smoked paprika 
1 tsp chipotle flakes 
1 tsp chilli flakes 
1:2 tsp cinnamon 
1 bay leaf 
1 tsp sage 
Large pinch salt
___
2 cloves garlic minced 
1 white onion diced 
Red pepper diced 
Yellow pepper diced 
___
1 tin tomatoes, 400g
Fill the tin with water x 2
450g cooked pulses & beans 
1 tin coconut milk 

chunky soup recipe

Method

-Using a deep pot add 1tbsp olive oil to a pan and gently fry the chopped onion for around 5 minutes, followed by the chopped peppers for a further 3, then add the minced garlic and allow to cook

-Add the tinned tomatoes, filling the empty tin with water (twice) and add to the pot  followed by all the dried spices and salt and allow to simmer for around 15 minutes

-Add the cooked beans and pulses* (I used a frozen bag of chickpeas and beans which only require 5 minutes of cooking) 

-In the final few minutes, add the tin of coconut milk and heat through, giving the soup a taste test, adding a little more  seasoning if needed 

-Serve up with freshly chopped tomatoes on top, a drizzle of olive oil and a final sprinkling of salt on each bowl

 

*If not already cooked, add the beans and pulses in with the tinned tomatoes and allow to simmer for around 30-40 minutes until cooked through 

Recipe

4 Ingredient Breakfast Bars

4 ingredient breakfast bar recipe

4 Ingredient Breakfast Bars 

These breakfast bars are so easy to whip up in a big batch, then pop in the fridge for those moments when you need a pick-me-up. 

 

4 ingredient breakfast bar recipe

You can get as creative as you like with these bars depending on what you have in your cupboards. 

 

Sometimes I like to add:

-1/4 cup nuts 

-swap the 3/4 cup honey for 1 cup medjool dates 

-if you don't have the musli mix, use a mix of jumbo and super fast oats

You can store these bars in the fridge for those mid morning cravings or 3pm pick-me-ups. 

These are freezable also, and will just need taking out 30 minutes before eating to soften slightly. These are a great lunch box idea as they are relatively cheap to make, super simple and packed with slow releasing energy. 

 

 

Ingredients

3 cups IKEA Musli

3/4 cup honey (or liquid sweetener) 

1/2 cup peanut butter 

1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used a mix of pecans & pistachios)

1/2 tsp sea salt 

 

Method:

Simply mix all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until a sticky texture has formed

Pour the ingredients into a baking tin (lined with grease proof paper) and flatten down with a spatula to make it compact

Pop the bars into the fridge to firm slightly, then take out to cut into bite size pieces

You can store these bites in the fridge, or even the freezer

 

Recipe

3 Easy Pesto Recipes

Spinach Pesto recipe vegan

Making my own pesto was always something I thought of a task, especially when I could buy a range of options in jars cutting cost and time... however I have since come to realise this is all incorrect!

Nothing beats the taste or smell of fresh pesto whipped up in your kitchen. In terms of time and cost, it takes minutes to prepare and can be far cheaper when making in batches. 

I've popped together some of my absolute favourite and no-fuss recipes for you to try at home. Whether you're dipping your carrots, coating your veggies or twirling it in your tagliatelle, you need to give these a go. 

Method of cooking:

All these pestos can be eaten raw, slow roasted or added to your pasta dish in the last 5 minutes. It all depends how you like it.

avocado pesto recipe

Avocado & Pine Nut Pesto 

Ingredients:

1 Avocado (I used a gem avocado)
2 cloves garlic
1 cup basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4, cup olive oil
Pinch of olive oil

 

spinach pesto vegan recipe

Creamy Spinach Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup baby spinach 

1 cup fresh basil 

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup cashew nuts (soaked or raw)

1/2 lemon squeezed 

1/4 cup olive oil

large pinch salt

1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

 

easy pine nut pesto recipe

Classic Pine Nut

Ingredients:

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 cup fresh basil 

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

1/2 squeezed fresh lemon 

1 large clove smoked garlic

Large pinch salt

2 tbsp nutritional yeast 

 

 


As always, I love seeing your recreations on social media, so please be sure to tag me in any photos to take of your food! 

Maybe you have a favourite pesto recipe, or a top tip to share... let me know in the comments! 

 

 

 

Recipe

Everyone’s Welcome This Christmas

tesco everyones welcome

Everyone’s Welcome

This is a paid advertorial with Tesco

Celebration with abundance

Christmas platters are such a great way to celebrate lots of different food at once. From pates to dips paired with crackers and crunchy veg - they're my favourite thing to put together. There’s something about everyone’s hands dashing over the table to grab a cracker or to scoop up the last mince pie.

Tesco gave the challenge to recreate one of their Christmas recipes (you can find a range on their website) to share a gorgeous abundance of festive food for the #EveryonesWelcome campaign! The star of the show (yet very humbly sat in the middle) is a mushroom pate made with porcini and shiitake paired with fresh thyme.

On the platter

I've surrounded it with Tesco rosemary crackers, fresh grapes, crunchy veg as well as panettone and mince pies from their free from section. I should also touch on the Free From Christmas range which this year seems to be bigger than ever. It’s always a good idea to have gluten free or dairy free options on the table to make sure everyone is catered for.

tesco everyones welcome christmas

I like to have a selection of sweet, savoury, healthy and indulgent on my table at Christmas to make sure there is a little something for everyone, really tying into the Everyone’s Welcome idea surrounding this season.

tesco free from mince pies

As mentioned before, you can find all of their festive recipes just here, *https://www.awin1.com/cread.php?awinmid=7052&awinaffid=258711&clickref=Lucy+Frances+Parker+Mushroom+Pate&p=https%3A%2F%2Frealfood.tesco.com%2Fgallery%2F10-vegan-christmas-recipes.html%3Fid%3D8eb440cc-b723-4111-b0d7-2ccda9130ee8*

You can find the free from selection here, Mince Pies - https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/285863982.

Panettone - https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/301856310

 

 

Recipe

Hearty Autumn Stew – Potato & Chickpea

hearty lentil stew

#Goodforyourbowl

This is in Advertisement with Birdseye

 

I’ve teamed up with Birds Eye to show off their range of frozen pulse and bean mixes to

create a delicious autumnal recipe. The aim is to show off how quickly they cook (max of four 4 minutes from frozen) so are the perfect addition to your winter bowls. The recipe for this delicious potato, chickpea & spinach stew is just below.

 


I used to attach a stigma with frozen veg and thought it wasn’t as healthy as fresh, however freezing locks in all the goodness and fab stuff such as fibre and protein - making sure you’re getting one of your 5 a day. They’re a great way to bulk out meals (especially those who are new to veggie meals) keeping you full through the autumn evenings.

 

I’m all about quick and easy recipes so having a bag of frozen pulses means I can have everything ready in rapid time! Curries, stews and hot pots carry a stigma that they take hours to prepare, whereas in fact this can be ready in 20 minutes (especially if you’re using parboiled potatoes).

Best Types of Meals

I’ve used the Birds Eye Chickpea and Spinach Mix in a stew however there are loads of ways you could incorporate them into recipes such as:

Soups

Chillies

Stir Frys

Salads

Curries

potato and chickpea stew

 

There are three different variations including Chickpea and Spinach Mix, Italian 3 Bean Mix and Mexican Bean which are great to have in your freezer for those evenings where you’re looking for a quick meal to prepare.

 

You can buy the Birds Eye Pulse Mixes for £2 in Tesco, Asda and Ocado (I’ve popped a link just below).

 

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/299531651

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/299531639


RECIPE

 

Ingredients:

250g Birds Eye Spinach & Chickpea Mix

1 red onion

3 cloves garlic

4 small potatoes (cubed)

2 chargrilled peppers

1l vegetable stock

½ cup passata (can use tinned chopped tomatoes also)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

For the harissa:

 

½ cup olive oil

1 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp cumin

½ tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp smoked paprika

4 cloves garlic

1 small roasted red pepper (I used ½ cup of jarred)

For the toasted seed topping

1 tsp black sesame seeds

1 tsp white sesame seeds

2 tbsp cashew nuts

 

Method:

  1. Finely chop the red onion and fry off in a drizzle of olive oil until softened, then add the
  2. minced garlic for an extra 60 seconds
  3. Add the chopped peppers, and chopped potatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes on the
  4. hob
  5. Then add the stock and all the spices and bubble for 15 minutes
  6. Add the 250 Birds Eye Spinach and Chickpea mix and cook for a further 4 minutes
  7. Serve up in a bowl and top with a dollop of DF yogurt, drizzle of harissa and the toasted seeds

harissa recipe

 

For the harissa

  1. Simply blend all the ingredients together in a food processor

 

Recipe

Do Good Quality Pans Make a Difference?

vegan sticky bao buns

Sticky Sesame & Black Bean Tofu with Bao Buns

This is a paid collaboration with Circulon

sticky vegan bao bun


Sticky and crispy -  two of my favourite textures for an asian inspired dish of tofu stuffed bao buns. Before we get to the recipe let’s talk about the importance of GOOD pots and pans!

 

I’ve teamed up with Circulon to share the importance of investing in a few good pots and pans, especially non stick and oven proof to make use of all your recipes.

 

I wanted to make the stickiest dish I’ve created that needs to be fried and then finished off in the oven….. Queue this delicious recipe!

 

How many of you have had to add a gallon of oil just to stop your onions sticking to the bottom of a pan, or had to scrape off slightly burnt sauce at the bottom of your pasta pot?

vegan recipe ingredients

The Right Tools

I’m a real advocate for having a few essential kitchen tools such as sharp knives and good pans. You don’t need to buy loads, which is why this pan works a treat.

I’ve got the Circulon Momentum Frying Pan to be exact and whether you’re frying or toasting in the oven / grille it can work for every scenario as the handles can handle the heat - up to 220ºC without any heat spots-  I know as I stupidly grabbed the handle with my bare hands (ouch).

Ingredients:

250g firm tofu cubed into 4cm thick blocks

3 cloves garlic peeled & minced

1 red onion finely chopped

1 red chilli

150g shitaake mushrooms chopped

 

4 tbsp black bean sauce

2 tbsp tamari

1 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

Generous pinch salt

 

4 bao buns

2 pak choi

1 tbsp sesame seeds

Coriander to garnish

Sriracha sauce (optional)

 

Method:

 

Preheat the oven to 200ºC

 

In your Circulon pan add ½ tsp oil and gently fry off the red onion until softened, then add the chilli and  minced garlic cloves and fry for an additional 1 minute

 

Add the mushrooms and cubed tofu then the black bean, tamarind, honey and tamari and fry for around 10 minutes

 

Top with ½ tbsp sesame seeds and pop in the oven for 8 minutes to crisp

 

In a bamboo steamer bring a flat pan of shallow water to simmer then steam the bao buns and pak choi for around 5-8 minutes

 

Using and oven glove (don’t forget like I did) and take the pan out of the oven and give a stir

 

Assemble the bao buns with the sticky filling, steamed pak choi and top with sesame seeds, fresh coriander and additional chilli if you like it spicy!

 

I served mine with a hot sriracha sauce too!

vegan sticky bao bun

A few more details

Better yet it’s dishwasher safe, and going from handwashing everything in my tiny flat, to owning a dishwasher this is pure heaven. I’m quite a lazy cook and even lazier when it comes to the dishes so having pots and pans that you can bung in the dishwasher is amazing.

Circulon offer a pretty impressive lifetime guarantee, showing their confidence in the product.

If you fancy getting yourself one of these, you can find them here, https://circulon.uk.com/momentum-83797-30cm-hard-anodised-frying-pan.html

bao bun recipe vegan

Recipe

Ras El Hanout Vegan Shakshouka Recipe

ras el hanout vegan

I'm sharing a newly created shakshouka recipe using Ras El Hanout (a beautiful spice blend).

I met Tom, the owner of Freshly Spiced a few months ago at my local food market and got chatting to him about his company. Since I’ve been to his workshop and learnt about the value of freshly ground spices and the difference between Tom’s handmade blends to the dried packages I buy in the shops.

I’ve been so blown away by how much more flavour they have and also the importance of reading the sell by date. I’ve been trying his blend packets and using them in my baking & cooking and wanted to share it with you.

Recipe

1 onion

100g tomatoes

1 red pepper

1 red chilli

3 cloves garlic

1 tin chopped tomatoes +half the can of water

1 tsp sage

1 tbsp smoked paprika

½ tsp paprika

2 tbsp ras el hanout (I used Freshly Spiced)

100g potatoes (I used new potatoes)

large pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Method

In a pot, bring the chopped new potatoes to boil, then simmer for a further 10 minutes

In a large pan fry off the chopped onion and chilli in a pan with a large glug of olive oil

Add the minced cloves of garlic and fry for around 1 minute

Add the chopped fresh tomatoes, then add all the dried spices and fry for around 5 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes

Pour in ½ the tin of water into the mix (feel free to add a dash more if you like a thinner consistency)

Once the potatoes are soft, add them to the shakshouka then leave to simmer and infuse for another 5-10 minutes

Taste test, adding a little more salt and pepper if needed.

Enjoy!

ras el hanout shakshouka
Recipe

Quick & Easy Vegan Curry Recipe – Gluten Free!

lucy and lentils vegan curry

Cooking curries has become one of my go-to week night meals. Since I removed the pressure of having the expectation of marinading, cooking for hours and including more spices than I had in my cupboards, it's been such a fun way of using up all of the veggies in my fridge. 

 

The bare essentials I always have:

Coconut milk

Turmeric

Cumin

Coconut Cream 

Garlic

 

 

RECIPE:

1 tin chickpeas

leftover veg (I used half a yellow, green and red pepper)

1 brown onion

3 cloves garlic

handful of tomatoes

1 tin of coconut milk

1 tbsp cumin

1 packer of Schwartz gluten free curry mix (you can use 2 heaped tbsp curry powder)

METHOD:

Simply heat the cumin in a pan, add a glug of coconut oil and fry the chopped onion

Add the rest of the chopped veg and drained chickpeas, then add the minced garlic

Add 1 tin of coconut milk with the Schwartz / curry powder mix

Simmer for 15 minutes then serve with steam rice

vegan curry recipe easy
easy vegan curry recipe
Recipe

Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tarts

vegan salted caramel tart recipe

These salted caramel and chocolate vegan tarts are brilliant to make in preparation as you can freeze them! 

I’m not one for baking, so it’s safe to say these salted caramel and chocolate tarts are an absolute winner! No real baking required, simply mixing ingredients in a processor and pouring in the caramel, a dessert even I can’t mess up.

 


You can watch the recipe video below

Ingredients

1 cup of mixed nuts (blended roughly)

½ cup shredded coconut

8 medjool dates

½ cup Nature’s path caramel

50g 70% chocolate

Sprinkle of Sea Salt

Handful Peanuts

 

Method

Add the ingredients for the base into a food processor and blend until a sticky texture. If the texture isn’t sticking, add another medjool date.

Fill the greased tart cases with the date and nut mix at around 1cm thick

Pour the ½ cup of Nature’s path caramel sauce into the tart case

Melt the 70% chocolate and distribute over the caramel layer on the tarts

Add a few peanuts to the center of each

Allow to set in the fridge

Sprinkle sea salt on top and enjoy!

 

If you make these, be sure to send any of your creations to my instagram account here!