Split Pea Soup

A hearty and delicious soup with earthy flavours from green split peas and creaminess from potatoes, balanced by sweetness from cabbage and leeks. Great for babies and everyone else! Add some zing from lime or lemon and a creamy topping of choice, and we are in soup heaven! A favourite in our home. Ingredients need only be roughly-sliced since they are eventually blended.

Free from: Nuts, Sugar, Wheat, Gluten, Dairy. Vegan. Serves 6

Ingredients

1 onion, 1 celery stick (optional), 1 tsp grated ginger, 3 garlic cloves, 2 medium potatoes, 1 carrot, 1½ cups dry green split peas, 1 large sweet potato, 1 baby white/green cabbage – or equivalent piece from a large cabbage, cup chopped leeks (or more cabbage), 3 tomatoes, 1 bunch mint (optional), lemon/lime/sumac, choose something fatty (yoghurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, coconut milk, butter etc.).

Preparation: Soak 1½ cups of green split peas for 8 to 24 hours. Rinse every 8 to 12 hrs.

Method

  1. Chop 1 onion and 1 stick of celery (optional) and fry in a dash of oil on medium heat in a large pot till translucent. Add 1 tsp of ginger and 3 garlic cloves. Fry for another minute.
  2. Rinse the soaked split peas and add to the pot with about 1 litre of cold water. The 1½ cups dried split peas should have swollen to about 2¾ cups of split peas.
  3. Add the following to the pot as you get them ready, in the following order: 2 medium potatoes (peeled and sliced), 1 carrot (sliced), 1 large sweet potato (peeled and sliced), a baby cabbage (or the equivalent from a large cabbage), about cup of leeks.
  4. Add salt, cover the pot and allow all ingredients to simmer on medium-high heat till potatoes are almost soft.
  5. When the potatoes are almost soft, quarter and de-seed 3 tomatoes and add them, as quarters into the pot. (We leave them as quarters so that when the tomatoes have melted, we can easily fish out the skins from the pot.)
  6. When the potatoes and green split peas have softened, remove the tomato skins from the pot and transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend (or use a potato masher instead, for a more rustic texture). Blend with 20g of fresh mint if a minty flavour is desired (optional).
  7. Serve with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice or dried sumac.
  8. This dish so far is very low in fat, so choose your source of fat to lift the flavour. You can choose from a dollop of yoghurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, coconut cream or butter. If you are reducing fat in your diet, try a hot sauce or chopped chilli (for those that can tolerate some heat). Also good with freshly cracked black pepper.

By Natasha Subbiah (Unity Mama)

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Chickpea Korma

A mild saucy curry made with cashew nuts.

Suitable for young children and up.

Free from: Sugar, Wheat, Gluten and Dairy. Vegan. Serves 5

Ingredients

  ¾cup cashew nuts, 1½ cups chickpeas sprouts, 1 medium onion, 1 bay leaf (optional), 3 cloves of garlic, ¼ tsp chilli powder, ½ tablespoon cumin powder, ½ tablespoon coriander powder, ½ tablespoon garam masala, 4 tomatoes, 1 red or green bell pepper, 6 sprigs coriander (aka. cilantro – optional).

Special Equipment: Blender, food processor or grinder.

Preparation: i.     Soak cup of cashew nuts in water for 2 to 8 hours.

  1. Sprout chickpeas to yield 1½ cups of chickpea sprouts.

Method

  1. Boil chickpeas till soft. Alternatively, use a pressure cooker to save time.
  2. Fry 1 finely chopped medium onion in oil/butter/ghee on medium heat with 1 bay leaf (optional).
  3. When the onion starts to turn golden, add 3 cloves of garlic – minced or crushed, with tsp chilli powder, tablespoon cumin powder, tablespoon coriander powder, and tablespoon garam masala. Add more oil if necessary and fry on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the bay leafy and add in 1½ cups of boiled chickpeas, a red or green pepper (chopped) and salt. Allow it to fry while preparing the tomatoes. Add a splash of water if necessary.
  5. De-seed, peel and blend 4 medium tomatoes. Add in the tomatoes, and salt. Allow to cook on medium heat for just a few minutes while prepping the cashew sauce.
  6. Add the soaked cashew nuts to a blender with ¾ cup of water and 6 sprigs of coriander (optional) and blend. Add the cashew cream and cook with the lid off for a few minutes to intensify flavours and thicken sauce. Taste to correct salt.

Best served with a side green salad and rice. Smash chickpeas for babies.

Recipe from “How to Get Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables” by Natasha Subbiah

For more recipes plus tips on how to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables, follow Natasha Subbiah’s page on Facebook.

 

Butternut Fritters

From the book: How to Get Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables by Natasha Subbiah

This is a healthier (and I dare say – tastier) version of a time-honoured South African treat – pumpkin fritters. The recipe is sugar-free, but with the combination of butternut, banana and, raisins, it is so sweet, you wouldn’t miss sugar. The amount of flour you use can vary based on how moist your butternut is. This recipe works well with gluten-free flour as well as regular flour.

Free from: Nuts, Sugar, Wheat, Gluten (choose gluten-free flour) and Dairy (choose oil or butter). Vegan or Vegetarian. Makes about 12 fritters.

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized butternut (500g – 1½ cups mashed), 3 tablespoons butter (or ghee or oil), 2 bananas, cup raisins, 4 tablespoons desiccated coconut (optional), 2 tsp baking powder, tsp bicarbonate of soda, tsp salt, 7 to 12 tablespoons flour.

  1. Peel and chop a medium-sized butternut. Place in a microwavable dish with lid on and microwave till soft. For a speedier alternative – buy a 500g pre-chopped butternut (even easier if it comes in a microwavable bag).
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Drain out any excess water from the butternut. Portion out 1½ cups mashed butternut. Add 3 tablespoons of butter (or ghee or oil). Melt the butter first if the butternut has already cooled.
  3. Add 2 mashed bananas, cup raisins (chop the raisins if they are large), 4 tablespoons desiccated coconut, 2 tsp baking powder, tsp bicarbonate of soda and tsp salt.
  4. Add 7 to 12 tablespoons flour (gluten-free flour mix or wheat flour) – the number of tablespoons of flour you will need to add will depend on how moist the butternut is. The batter should still be quite fluid, somewhere between a pancake and cake batter consistency. Adding too much flour will dilute the sweetness.
  5. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Spoon 1 heaped tablespoon per fritter onto the baking sheet. Bake at 180ºC till golden. Then flip the fritters and bake for another 5 minutes.

From “How to Get Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables” by Natasha Subbiah

For more follow the How to Get Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables Facebook page.

The Truth About the Meat Industry

What are the consequences of our preoccupation with choosing meat over vegetable proteins?

 

Impact on Food Security

Farm animals are forcefully bred often using crude and cruel methods of artificial insemination, to create a much larger population than would normally occur in nature. These animals have to then be fed both food and water for the duration of their lives before they themselves are turned into food. Therefore, in the meat industry, larger amounts of food are used to make smaller amounts of food. As a result, a meat meal takes a lot more resources to produce than a vegetarian meal. This ineffectual process of food production is robbing the world of food instead of supplying it with food. If more people chose vegetarian or vegan food sources and fewer animals were bred for the meat industry, then more food will be available for our starving masses and many a humanitarian crisis could be averted. Instead, according to Farm Sanctuary SA, over 50% of the world’s grain and 71% of the world’s fresh water is fed to animals in the meat industry.

 

Impact on Environment

Meat production uses more water than crop production alone since the animals (which are bred into existence for the meat industry) have to be fed water and, more significantly, the crops that are used to feed them have to be grown using water. Furthermore, faecal matter from livestock production is polluting our remaining water resources.

According to the United Nations report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow, “In all, livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet.” It is therefore a key factor in deforestation, soil degradation and loss of biodiverse habitats. At a time when climate change looms as one of humanities’ biggest threats, the report also states that the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a higher share than for which transport is responsible, as well as 64% of anthropogenic (as a result of the influence of human beings) ammonia emissions which contributes significantly to acid rain and the acidification of ecosystems. The well sited report goes on to state that, “In the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55% of erosion and sediment, 37% of pesticide use, 50% of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of Nitrogen and Phosphorous into fresh water resources.”

This extensive report does not cover the impact overfishing has on our underwater eco-systems or the impact of fish farming on chemical and antibiotic pollution. Fishing methods are not selective and as a result predators such as sharks and dolphins are also not immune to the fishing nets. The oceans are not able to multiply its biomass as quickly as we are fishing it, this has a knock on effect on reefs and other ecosystems.

 

Impact on Health

An article produced by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine references several studies proving the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. It states that vegetarians are 40% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters. In particular, colon cancer risk can be increased by roughly 300% with the regular consumption of meat products.

Other studies show that low fat, high fibre vegetarian or vegan diets also help prevent heart disease and can even reverse atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) when combined with other interventions. However, heart diets including lean meats, dairy and chicken are much less effective, usually only slowing down the process of atherosclerosis.

Vegetarian diets can also lower blood pressure (within just two weeks of changing diet), prevent and sometimes even reverse diabetes, prevent gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis, as well as reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

Breastfeeding mothers who are vegetarian have been found to have fewer environmental pollutants in their breast milk. The Physicians Committee which combines the expertise of more than 12000 physicians, go so far as to say that, ” A vegetarian menu is life extending.”

Perhaps the most scary part of the meat industry is it’s reliance on antibiotics (used because of the poor conditions animals are kept in), which is arguably causing the spread of antibiotic resistant strains of viruses and bacteria. It is said that 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are used by the meat industry. As a parent who’s children had to rely on antibiotics in the past, this strikes fear in my heart.

 

Animal Cruelty

Most farmed animals endure severe forms of suffering including tail docking, castration, debeaking and teeth clipping (all without anaesthetic). These sensitive animals are often kept in extremely overcrowded, poorly ventilated, filthy sheds with no room to even spread their wings. They are then slaughtered at just a fraction of their natural life span or, as in the case of many egg laying hens, they die of sheer exhaustion after being genetically and nutritionally manipulated to lay more eggs than any hen would under natural circumstances. These voiceless creatures, who many believe God entrusted to us, receive little or no compassion as they are forced to endure more than any of us would, for the sake of our cultural norms or individual desires.

All things considered, one cannot help but conclude that the welfare of farmed animals are more closely linked to our own welfare than we would care to admit.

My Story

I started my interfaith journey 11 years ago when I fell in love with my husband before realising that he belonged to a different religion than me. Having been brought up in a home which encouraged respect for all religions and belonging to a spiritual organisation that teaches that “all religions are one”; I felt obligated not to see religion as an obstacle for us. My husband (boyfriend at the time) was brought up in a more conventional setting, and often felt conflicted over many aspects of our future and thus began our journey of growth. Five years into our marriage and with 2 kids in our arms, we can proudly say that we have peace, love and happiness in our lives together. We still maintain our respective religions and we don’t agree on everything in each other’s philosophy books and sermons; but (and it’s a big but), we do agree on most things, especially the values that we ascribe to in our personal, professional and parenting lives.

 

In my life of 30 years I have seen many people give up on love because of the complexity of an interfaith relationship. I hope to provide the world with an example that interfaith marriages can work, and that not only can it work but it can work well. You can be your happiest self in an interfaith relationship. Like all relationships, interfaith relationships too take love, understanding, empathy, sensitivity, respect, amongst other values; to make it flourish. Although our interfaith family project is still a work in progress, I am here to give you a window into my life so that maybe you can benefit from it in some way. It is a very personal story to share with the world, but I am going to try to be completely honest whilst being sensitive to the people around me.

 

I have also included  help for those on a compassionate eating journey as I am. I believe that the topic of compassionate eating, alongside that of propagating love between religions, races, cultures and nations, can usher in a new era of peace and love and create a healthy environment for us all.

Please feel free to drop me comments and questions.

 

Alternatives to Cow’s Milk

Do you or a loved one suffer from cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance? Or have you or a loved one chosen the noble route of going vegan? No idea what to cook? I was there when my son was diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy and both he and I had to go dairy free. There are alternatives to cow’s milk that will help keep you going in the kitchen. Do take note that these milks cannot be the main source of milk for infant feeding as with cow’s milk, however, they can be used for cooking and food preparation. Remember that breast milk is the best source of milk for your infant. This is the experience I have had with the milk alternatives I have tried:

 

Almond milk

Almond milk tastes great in desserts but is not suitable for savoury dishes because it is very sweet. You may even find that you have to omit or reduce the amount of sugar you use in your dessert recipe. I have heard of unsweetened almond milk but have yet to find it in my grocery store. I have also found it to be significantly more expensive than other milk alternatives.

 

Soya milk

Soya milk is a versatile milk and can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes. However, it does have a stronger flavour than cow’s milk which can come through in lightly flavoured dishes. Soya milk is easy to drink by the glass when in the form of a milk shake but that is probably not the healthiest option especially for diabetics or those watching their weight. Also, my dietician has mentioned that soya milk is contraindicated for babies with cow’s milk allergy since there is close cross linking which can sometimes trigger a soya milk allergy. My paediatrician’s wise advice is to consume everything in moderation to manage allergies.

 

Rice milk

Rice milk is lightly flavoured with a lovely scent and a hint of sweetness. It can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. However because it is slightly sweeter than cow’s milk, you may want to increase the savoury element in your dish and decrease those elements that add sweetness (for e.g. onions) to try and achieve a balance in savoury dishes. I was using rice milk for many months without questioning it’s safety because it was listed as an option for cooking with by a paediatrician we had visited, but I have recently read that there is some controversy over rice milk since rice milk and other rice products were found to have higher than average levels of inorganic arsenic. The truth on the matter… even the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) does not seem to have made their mind up on the subject yet. I have two cartons of rice milk in my cupboard and I am not sure what to do with them either…

 

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is often my milk alternative of choice. Coconut milk is a versatile milk which can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It is often used in curries and is a popular ingredient in Thai cuisine such as the famous Thai green curry. Coconut milk adds a creaminess to your dish that most other milk alternatives do not. Some may prefer coconut milk over cow’s milk whilst others tire easily of the coconut flavour it often imparts. I would recommend it to balance acidic curries, in desserts and for use in your toddler’s cereals. It is also high in saturated fat which is an important component for your growing child’s brain.