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Melissa Hemsley: Chef shares healthy tips to put veg ‘front and centre’ of your plate

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Melissa has partnered with UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers to encourage more Britons to eat homegrown vegetables. Britain is home to thousands of crop growers and farmers, and by eating their food you are not only supporting hardworking local individuals and families, but also helping the environment.

Melissa continued: “I love to share recipes which are vibrant and satisfying and use easy to buy ingredients and that everyone can get involved with – no matter what their kitchen confidence is – and enjoy.

“Also, like many people, I am really interested in not wasting food and I like to put veg front and centre of the plate.”

The fact that Melissa loves vegetables is one of the reasons why the chef got involved with the UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers’ campaign, which set out to encourage more Britons to eat mushrooms.

Melissa explained: “I love mushrooms and I’m really pleased to be working with the UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers – passionate farmers and suppliers who make such tasty produce. “I’ve always loved mushrooms – we are a big mushroom loving family – and I enjoy them for any meal of the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I’ve massively enjoyed coming up with new mushroom recipes as well as sharing some of my long term favourite mushroom recipes for this campaign.”

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Melissa said that there are many ways people can make small steps to implement more vegetables, like mushrooms, into their diet.

Doing so will ensure that Britons eat more vitamins and nutrients, which are essential for a healthy lifestyle.

Melissa said: “I like to think about the vegetables being front and centre of my plate – rather than a side dish – and the focal point of my menu planning and recipe writing.

“There are so many vegetables to enjoy, if there’s one you don’t like, don’t force yourself, try another vegetable.

“Or give it another chance by trying out a different cooking technique, for example, roasting it – food can taste completely different depending on how the ingredient is cooked.”

“I chop the mushrooms finely, fry until golden so they resemble mince. You can also use and chop the mushroom stalks and add to the dish which reduces food waste.”

Melissa added: “An easy breezy way to enjoy lots of veg all week long is to roast a huge tray or two trays of any vegetable – you can use them for soups, salads or a frittata.

“Roasting is also a great way to concentrate flavour and a good way of making use of a flopping carrot, half a pepper or spare celery stick.”

The chef also highlighted the benefits of eating locally grown foods as she said that “we have incredible produce on our doorsteps in the UK and Ireland.

“I like to be in touch with nature as much as possible, and I try to eat with the seasons,” Melissa said.

“I love looking forward to asparagus time, right now – May and June – and blackberries late summer and squash and pumpkin season etc.

“I’d recommend getting to know what produce is in season – it’s simpler than it sounds and I find it means that I enjoy tomatoes even more and strawberries even more when they are ripest, sweetest and ready.”

Melissa’s recipe for Soba noodle salad tossed with sesame spicy fried mushrooms with quickly pickled cucumbers, spring onions and coriander

Ingredients

250g So Chesnut Mushrooms, Organic (Sainsbury’s)

3 tbsp black and white sesame seeds

2 bundles of buckwheat (Soba) noodles

Fresh chilli, finely chopped or chilli flakes

2 tsp maple syrup

1 tbsp coconut oil

Big handful fresh coriander, stems finely chopped

1 small ripe avocado, chopped or sliced

4 spring onions, finely sliced and green bits too

1/2 medium cucumber

Juice of 1/2 lime, slice the rest of the lime into wedges

Sea salt

1 big clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tsp of your favourite chilli sauce

Method

1. Finely slice the cucumber and pop into a small bowl with the lime juice and a pinch of sea salt then scrunch the cucumber so it’s coated and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients together.

3. Heat up a large frying pan or wok, melt the coconut oil and roughly slice the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms and let fry on a medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then until the mushrooms release their liquid and they start going golden at the edges. Add the chilli, sesame seeds and maple syrup, stir and let fry with the mushrooms for a final minute.

4. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to packet instructions – typically around 4-5 minutes, drain and immediately rinse with cold water, shake off any excess water, a little water is fine then tip into a medium bowl (in which you have mixed all the dressing ingredients together). You want to mix the noodles with the dressing straight away so that it stops the noodles sticking.

5. This salad is great warm or cold from the fridge, toss everything together with spring onions and coriander and top with the avocado and quickly pickled cucumbers plus the leftover ½ lime sliced into wedges.


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