Eating Healthy in Ramadan

Summer in Dubai. Hot climate.  2015 the high temperatures started early and this year Ramadan falls amidst the hottest period of summer. Muslims observe strict fasting on food and beverage from sunrise until sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.  When breaking the fast and during the night the intake of food and beverage can make a huge impact on health and wellbeing. Even though I am always advising in my cooking classes and consultations on the advantages of regular healthy food and liquid intake, I believe in this very specific fasting period healthy food can be enormous beneficial.

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BROCCOLI SOUP

What to Buy for 2 portions

60 g broccoli
300 ml vegetable stock or water
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
1 slice fresh garlic (less than a clove to not over power )
1 tsp pumpkin seeds oil
1/4 bunch chives or spring onions green, finely cut

optional: 4 cherry tomatoes, 20 g smoked tofu, cut in cubes and skewered on a bamboo stick

How to Make It
Steam the broccoli for 3-5 minutes. Blend with water or vegetable stock and garlic. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve with a drizzle of aromatic pumpkin seeds oil and freshly cut chives. Divine!If you would like to do a little bit extra garnish, pan fry the skewer with cherry tomatoes and smoked tofu in a little bit of olive oil and serve with the soup.  This is optional, a bit more work but worth trying, especially if you have guests.
Chef Gabi’s Tip
This smooth-textured low calorie soup has a delicious fresh taste, a chlorophyll and vitamin packed appetizer, lunch or dinner.

If you wish to know what else to do with broccoli, per se a very healthy vegetable, read my blog post a bout Chlorophyll and  try my raw and vegan Broccoli Pesto here. Lovely to dip crudites in it, or wholesome bread, flax crackers or with zucchini pasta.
More soups I can recommend if you are fasting or not are the earlier published
Cauliflower Soup with Beluga Lentils
Carrot Soup with Oat Quenelles
Potato Vegetable Soup with Marjoram (Bavarian taste alert!)
and keep this one for winter: Red Cabbage Soup

Stay healthy this Summer & during Ramadan. xx Chef Gabi

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Chef Gabi’s Wellness Tips – Chlorophyll

When I was a child my mother always was very strict with me eating some greens, ideally before anything else. (why eating something raw and ideally green before anything else is great read this).
I still remember our green juice cure, inspired by Kneipp. It was made from fresh pressed foraged stinging nettle.  And nothing else, which made the drink tasting like – erm – medicine. Well food is medicine, isn’t it? But does it have to taste like medicine? No, not necessarily. In our early years of experimenting with healthy eating, and if I say healthy eating I really mean the restrictive version of it, without exception and excuses, we didn’t care much.  At least my mother didn’t. I was a bit revolutionary about it though. (My mother can tell stories about me exchanging my healthy school breakfast she gave me with my schoolmates’ ones!).
The juice time wasn’t my favorite time of the day. Until the juice got enhanced by fresh pressed apple. Now I love it, this foamy green shot of chlorophyll and liver detox, a skin beautifier par excellence.
For those who are far away from fresh foraged nettles: Try green lemonade or the green mint drink for similar effect. Or maybe a homemade pesto? I reveal my latest green pesto recipe below – vegan and made with broccoli and kale.
We have started green juicing in Dubai in  Madinat Jumeirah (where most of my blog posts relate to as you may discover), Jumeirah Beach Hotel, in Jumeirah Emirates Towers and in the Maldives Jumeirah Vittaveli where I recently attended the launch of their ‘Wellness Month’. (below some photos from my recent Maldives work visit)
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So now my wellness tip of today: Eat (or drink) your greens. Daily. Why?

CHLLOROPHYLL

Green food nutrients support healthy blood and circulation. Iron, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B12, pyridoxine and protein are all vital for the formation and maintenance of adequate levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells. In addition, chlorophyll, vitamin K, and calcium are all involved in blood clot formation and breakdown.
Chlorophyll helps to gently cleanse the body, balance pH levels, promote good digestion and fight free radicals. Active enzymes help digestion, promote energy production and support metabolism. Antioxidants support the immune system, healthy aging and cardiovascular function.

Stay healthy and have some green food every day. xx Gabi

Broccoli and Kale Pesto – vegan
What to Buy for 2 portions

50 g Kale
50 g Broccoli
20 g Sunflower seeds or Cashew nuts
20 g Parsley
10 g fresh Zaathar or Basil
3 g Garlic
100 ml Olive oil
zest of ½ Organic lemon
Salt & crushed black pepper to taste

Optional: 1 small green chili, seeds removed (for those who like a spicy pesto)

How to Make It
Wash, pick and pat dry the leaves. Toast the sunflower seeds and cashew nuts to enhance flavor. Rough cut the broccoli and the kale leaves. Crush the garlic.
Prepare the pesto, using a blender: Garlic, lemon zest, toasted sunflower seeds and cashew nuts, basil or zaatar, parsley, broccoli, kale leaves and the olive oil, salt and pepper.  If you decided to add that spicy touch, also throw in the green chili.

Chef Gabi’s Tip
This pesto is delicious as a dip with baked sweet potatoes, for crudités, for zucchini “noodles” or regular pasta, with a risotto, or on top of a bruschetta. Enjoy your greens!

Chef Gabi’s Wellness Tips – Jumeirah Vittaveli Maldives

On vacation, far away form the everyday business and all the distractions, shortcomings of all sorts and stressful lifestyle relaxation and ‘selfness’ are much easier to achieve and a great opportunity to start a number of so called ‘good habits’. These good habits may make it into a routine once you are back to normal life and  work too.
Being recently to Jumeirah Vittaveli in the Maldives where they celebrate in April their ‘Wellness Month’ with a number of special offerings I have to say this is one perfect place to get into the wellness vibe. Such a beautiful place. I couldn’t help shooting my signature apron in front of that view:

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Read a related article in the MALDIVES HOTELIER here.

Now on to the Wellness Tips:
Some small but essential secrets of wellness are so simple we often forget about their importance: WATER. If we drink every hour one glass of water we maintain hydration, help flush out toxins, support brain function, and much more. I have posted earlier about water and hydration here.

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In Jumeirah Vittaveli I loved the presence of these drinking water bottles everywhere: In the bathroom, living room, next to the bed, in the minibar to make tea or coffee.

Being inspired by their beautiful organic herb garden, where super green spinach leaves and fragrant holy basil grew in abundance even though the garden was quite new ( I was the first to harvest here – very honored! I heart the Vittaveli landscaping team)  I created a green lemonade, which was served at sunset. Well it can be taken any time of the day, and it tastes really good.

Basil Cucumber Lemonade
What to Buy for 4 large portions

1 small cucumber FullSizeRender
2 teaspoons honey
juice of 1 lemon
4 basil sprigs
2 handful spinach leaves
950 ml still water

 How to Make It

Dice ¼ of the cucumber and the chili. Blend the remaining cucumber with lemon juice, water, honey and basil. Serve with basil sprig on ice.

Chef Gabi’s Tip
This chlorophyll rich elixir hydrates, kick starts metabolism and supports relaxation.

If you manage to hydrate yourself by either drinking plain water, aromatic herb water, aforementioned green lemonade, or my hibiscus ice tea you can already tick off one wellness task.

If you have the chance to soak in natural sea water (or salt water in a bathtub) for at least 30 minutes per day you help detoxification through the largest organ, your skin, with the osmotic pressure through water and the cleansing effect of salt. Well, I risk you envy me now if I show you how enticing that looks in the Maldives. IMG_1013
But rest assured, it works the same way anywhere,  in Dubai (where I am back to now), Abu Dhabi, Mallorca, Turkey or at home in your bathtub.
Stay healthy and hydrated. xx Gabi

How to hydrate in summer

In the hot Dubai summer my Aloe Vera grows bigger and bigger. At least one of us enjoys the climate…. !
Today I gave it a try to start reducing it a little bit, so it would not take all the place away:

I made a refreshing lemonade with jelly like pulp of the leaves. What to say, it turned out to be a delicious drink I will definitely have again!

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Aloe Vera Lemonade
1 portion

What To Buy
1 organic lime (juice)
1 teaspoon acacia honey or agave syrup
a small piece of an Aloe Vera leaf (about 3 cm)
250 ml still or sparkling water
Ice cubes

How To Make It
Press the lime juice and stir in the honey or agave syrup. Pour into a glass with ice cubes. Wash the Aloe leaf and peel it carefully. Dice the jelly like pulp finely and add to the lime juice. Top with water and stir well.

Chef Gabi’s Tip
Aloe juice helps to improve digestion. It is good for cleansing and detoxifying the body due to antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

Here is two versions of my drink, that is now a regular on my personal summer treats. Which one you like better?

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More about Edible Weeds

Don’t be surprised I am talking about weeds again. And their culinary potential. It is just due to the fact that their presence is in direct interdependence to my (very regular) absence from my garden.
Luckily I am relaxed about weeds in the garden. Because most of them are not just edible, but a culinary upgrade for my cooking. I am cooking a lot with herbs. And with weeds.  Today I harvested and cooked with chickweed (lat: stellaria media), one of my favorites.
The tiny, light green leaves are hiding between salads, under zucchini plants, between parsley and mint – simply everywhere. In summer they prefer shade to grow their tender leaves. But you can find them already in early spring until autumn. Even in mild winter. In my kitchen they play often a star part for salads, soups, and garnishes. I love them and cut them like cress. They are equally delicate, delicious and so beneficial. They provide Vitamin C, iron, copper, manganese, zinc and kalium. They help to strenghten the heart and the eyes, cleanse the blood and have a cooling effect.

Chickweed has been even in the limelight and photographed last week in our kitchen cum once-in-a-while-temporary photo studio by a professional photographer and dear friend, Klaus Maria Einwanger for his project www.white-plate.com.  We, my mother and I, are very honored to be part of his culinary art project! More about it soon on this blog.
See how our Majlis looked when Klaus and his creative team were at our home in Berchtesgaden:

If you find chickweed in your vegetable patch, come with a scissor and cut the tips carefully to support continuous growth of this lovely herb/weed. You then could try the following recipe, another bavarian staple of my home:

My Bavarian Potato Salad


What to buy
6 medium size salad potatoes
2 eggs
1 white onion
4 table spoons apple cider vinegar
100 ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon agave syrup or acacia honey
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 good handful chickweed (I often substitute it with either curly parsley, wild dandelion leaves or wild watercress)

How to Make It
Steam the washed potatoes in their skin for around 30 minutes until they are entirely soft inside. Peel the skin off the hot potatoes and allow them to cool just a little bit before you slice them. Boil the eggs for 8 minutes and peel them as well. Cut the eggs to wedges. Dice the onion and braise it in olive oil. Add the oil and the onions while still hot to the potatoes. Bring the vinegar, vegetable stock and honey to a boil, stir in the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Gently mix the potatoes with the hot mustard stock. Check the seasoning again, it could be you need to add a little bit more salt or vinegar. Add the eggs and arrange on plates. Garnish generously with the picked and washed chickweed and serve the salad immediately.

Chef Gabi’s Tip
To make a good potato salad is a science. Not really difficult, but a few things are vital to achieve the best result. First: Use salad potatoes. They are totally different to those used for mashed potatoes for example and most important, they don’t fall apart when mixed with the dressing but absorb the delicious liquid. Second: Use warm potatoes, not chilled ones. And use a hot dressing. So they can absorb flavors much better. Third: The Bavarian potato salad has an oily and a watery part in the dressing. Add the oil first to the potatoes and then the vinegar part. So you get the desired shiny and succulent texture. And last: Serve it at room temperature. There is not much worse than fridge cold potato salad.

Enjoy my Bavarian comfort food and don’t forget to check your garden for edible weeds!

More Raw Food – Detox deluxe

Did you know radishes are known for their anti bacterial and anti fungal properties?
They are an excellent source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese; contain dietary fiber, folate, vitamin C and potassium…..Radishes are very good for the liver and stomach. They help to detox and purify blood and they stimulate digestion.

Also Asparagus can be eaten raw. One raw asparagus a day (during the season, which is now) support kidneys function and help to detox. 
The best thing is green asparagus does not require peeling. Here is a crunchy and tasty salad I made today – detox deluxe in almost no time!

 Herb Salad with Radish, Asparagus and Young Almonds

2 Portions
What to buy

6 red radishes
6 green asparagus
10 green almonds
1 small gem lettuce or Boston head
20 g mixed herbs (rocket, dill, parsley, spring onion, chervil, basil…) 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon herb oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Orange salt (find how to make it below)

How to Make It
Wash radishes, asparagus, lettuce and herbs and pat dry. Slice the radish and asparagus. Pick the herbs and lettuce. Open the almond shells and release the young and tender nut. Cut them into halves.
Toss all ingredients with lemon juice and olive oil. Arrange on plates and sprinkle with herb oil and orange salt.

Orange Salt

I use organic orange, grate the skin off with a microplane grater and mix with equal amount of natural rock salt. Air dry for around one day and it is ready to use. Keep the salt in an airtight container and you have a lovely ingredient on hand to add some citrus flavor to a dish.

Herb Oil

I use very often in my recipes herb oil. This ingredient you can’t buy anywhere. And it is best freshly prepared. However – there is always a trick how to preserve it and save time in the kitchen!

What to buy:
25 g fresh herbs
(I recommend a mix of parsley, basil, chervil, dill and rocket leaves, but this does not have to be followed strictly)
60 ml olive oil

How to make it:
Blend the herbs with the olive oil for around 2 minutes in a bar mixer. Then strain the green mixture through a sieve, covered with a cotton cloth. This takes some time and in the end you may press the remaining herbs with the cloth to get the most oil out.
Fill the oil into a small glass bottle, cover it and keep in the fridge.

Chef Gabi’s Tip:
Herb oil keeps for a while in the fridge, around 3 days. I never make too much of it in advance because it discolors and looses its unique flavor. But I pass on a smart trick I have heard from my friends: They keep the herb oil in ice cube containers in the freezer and just take it out cube by cube whenever they require it.
This lovely aromatic oil is wonderful in many dishes, just to finish, or to drizzle over a leafy salad with some fresh lemon juice.