Asian Cashew Combo

Hot Veg Combo, Salad or Main – serves 4
(No gluten, dairy or cane sugar; with options for soy and potato)

This is a substantial side dish with mild but evocative Asian flavours. It can readily achieve status as a main. Four tasty versions follow. The colourful Sauce/Dressing can also bring instant pizzazz when tossed with or draped over Asian noodles or steamed fish.

Some people avoid nuts due to their calorie or fat content but the nature of any food depends on more than just one factor. Nine studies of over 260,000 people showed the following: when people were asked to add nuts to their diets and make no other changes they lost weight; people who ate nuts daily had 60% fewer heart attacks and 5-6 years greater lifespan; and the more often people ate nuts, the greater the benefits. Experiments used a variety of nuts including peanuts (technically a member of the legume family) and all altered the composition of the blood in a way that was beneficial to metabolism (helping with weight management) and in reducing the risk of coronary disease. For more tasty tips see my GOOD HEALTH SOLUTIONS’ report: The Heart of the Matter: Significant Strategies for Preventing – and Repairing – Heart, Arterial, Stroke or Other Cardiovascular Damage.

Nuts are very good sources of protein, vitamin E, zinc, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, manganese, plant sterols (which reduce cholesterol), monounsaturated and essential fatty acids, with a little low GI carbohydrate, soluble and insoluble fibre. Nuts can be added to breakfast cereal and smoothies, salads, fritters, patties, rice and pasta dishes. Or use nut butters on toast, sandwiches, in dressings and dips, or draped over baked potato or steamed vegetables. From health stores sample almond, hazelnut, walnut, macadamia, brazil, sunflower seed, or cashew butter.

For people with blood sugar and fatigue problems, eating fresh, dried or juiced fruit on its own can cause spiking ups and downs in vitality levels. Instead accompany fruit and juices with a handful of nuts or seeds. Their protein, fibre and fat content will balance the natural sugars in fruit and lead to steady energy release and maintenance: see The Shape Diet.

Lightly toasting nuts enhances their flavour and the heat helps diminish the phytic acid content, which in excess can impede the absorption of some minerals. Use a heavy-based pan and toast without oil over low-medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned.

16 very small gourmet potatoes halved (or option as below)
***
Sauce/Dressing:

6 Tbsp coconut cream*
¼ cup peanut butter or cashew butter*
1 Tbsp red curry paste**
1 Tbsp naturally fermented soy sauce*, or 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil + 1/2 tsp
   sea salt
1 Tbsp bottled green coriander**
1 Tbsp capers**
1 tsp sea salt with kelp*
***
1 large carrot, grated
½ medium red pepper, chopped
6 button mushrooms, sliced
½ cup sprouts, such as snow pea
6 Tbsp chopped toasted cashews
¼ cup packed chopped fresh coriander or Thai basil

Steam the potato halves or other vegetables about 10 minutes, just until tender. Use hot, cold or at room temperature.

Meanwhile combine the coconut cream, nut butter, curry paste, soy sauce, coriander, capers and salt. Toss with the potatoes (if preferred this can be covered, chilled and completed later). Just before serving toss with the carrot, red pepper, mushrooms, sprouts, cashews and fresh herb. Serve.

** These small jars of wet seasoning paste are usually found in the supermarket spice section. Capers are pickled seeds of a Mediterranean plant; look for them next to olives and gherkins.

Variations:

• For a main dish add one of the following:

a) 1/3 of a 300g block firm tofu, coarsely grated;
b) 1 cup chopped, cooked chicken;
c) 1 cup smoked fish pieces;
d) 4 eggs hard boiled and quartered, or cooked as an omelette and sliced into strips.

• Option: replace the potato with steamed kumara/sweet potato; or mixed yam, kumara and green beans.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

• Coconut cream: a tinned product from the South Pacific and found in most supermarkets. It should have the consistency of pouring cream and contain no dairy, flour or added sugar. ‘Lite’ types are not necessary: they just have added water and more processing. Instead use only a small amount of the ‘cream’ version, or thin with water, Milk Option or stock – depending on the needs of your recipe.

• Nut butter:
peanut butter is the well known example but also in most supermarkets are almond butter and cashew butter. Ceres’ brand is organic and has no sugar, artificial additives or highly processed fats unlike most other brands. Health stores also offer hazelnut, macadamia, sunflower, brazil and walnut butters – some are stiff (eg walnut) and some are runny (eg macadamia).

• Sea salt:
is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.

• Soy sauce:
can be a fake, unfermented chemical concoction of caramel colouring, artificial additives, wheat and cheap salt. True soy sauce contains nothing artificial and is naturally brewed for two to three years. It is made by fermenting soybeans with the help of a healthful mould (similar to making yoghurt or cheese); roasted grain – usually wheat or barley – for flavour and fermentation, plus salt. ‘Shoyu’ is the Japanese word for true fermented soy sauce. ‘Tamari’ describes naturally brewed soy sauce which does not contain wheat or other grain. In the supermarket look for organic Ceres brand, or plain only Kikkoman (their other varieties usually contain artificial additives including MSG: TIPS).

Maria Middlestead Reg.Clinical Nutritionist, Auckland Call Today!

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