Matcha-do About Something?

The world seems to be obsessed with matcha. Beautiful people are knocking back shots of it at fashion shows. Gwyneth and her tribe are toting jars of it to yoga classes. Cafes are serving it in lattes and chefs are turning it into everything from soup to brownies. Japan’s most revered form of green tea has now become a must-have ingredient for the ‘wellness’ set. But what’s the truth behind the health claims? Here’s what you need to know if you want to join the green party.

What is matcha?

Let’s begin with what it actually is: matcha is essentially a stone-ground, powdered green tea. It originates from Japan, where the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest, after which and the stems and veins are removed, and the leaves are processed and ground.

The main difference between  conventional green tea and matcha is that in traditional green tea, you consume the  essence of the leaf that is infused in water with the leaves themselves being discarded, while with matcha you are drinking the actual finely powdered leaves.

What are the health benefits?

One of the main reasons matcha is so wildly popular is that it has numerous health benefits. As one serving of matcha has the nutritional equivalent of 10 cups of regular green tea, it is packed full of anti-oxidants (including the powerful EGCg). These help to boost your metabolism, burn fat, increase immunity, detoxify your body, fight cancer and even slow down aging (phew that’s a lot!).

Matcha also contains a rare amino acid called L-theanine, which is a saviour for those who need a caffeine hit without the coffee jitters. Each cup of pure brewed matcha contains about 70g of caffeine – quite a kick. However, the presence of theanine helps the body process this caffeine better, inducing a calm, alert state of mind as opposed to the high and subsequent crash of coffee. In fact, Japanese monks have used it for centuries for meditation.

Does matcha taste sweet or savoury?

In a nutshell – both.  Our favourite compound Theanine influences the taste of matcha as well. This amino acid beings in a flavour of ‘umami’ – the fifth taste identified after sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Many people describe umami in different ways, but it is essentially a rich moreish flavour that is difficult to pin down but is adds a delicious richness and dimension to food.

The presence of ‘umami’ gives matcha a mellow, sweet, natural flavour, with moreish undertones. This combination of sweet and savoury makes matcha an easy match to use in cooking.

 

The last important thing that we’d like to tell you about matcha, is that it comes in various grades and qualities. Not every powdered green tea can be called matcha, and it is important to look for good quality to reap the health benefits. Always look for ceremonial-grade (high-quality, fit to be used in formal tea ceremonies) matcha, and keep a look out for the iconic bright green colour of the powder. If it’s yellowish or browning, it may not be in it’s prime or may be adulterated.

Shop original matcha here on our site!

Almond Butter Chocolate Fudge ‘Nice’-Cream

This ice-cream is so healthy yet so tasty – all of the yum without any of the guilt! An easy no-churn recipe, with simple everyday ingredients most of which we bet you already have on your kitchen. Perfect for the summer months, for a decadent yet cool dessert.  It’s almost too good to be true, which is why this is no ordinary ice-cream – it’s a ‘nice’-cream!

Ingredients

For the ice-cream

  • 2 medium size bananas, ripe but not overripe
  • 3 cups creamy almond butter
  • 1 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)

2 tsp vanilla extract

For the fudge

  • 25 cups creamy almond butter
  • 5 cups dark chocolate, chopped
  • 5 tsp vanilla extract

Blend the bananas and almond butter on high until smooth. Add the milk, maple syrup, vanilla and blend again until just combined, but not too long. Pour the mixture into a butter paper lined 8×4 inch loaf pan and set aside (do not freeze yet!).

To make the fudge, heat the chocolate in a microwave in intervals of 15-20 seconds until melted, stirring well between each interval. Add the almond butter and vanilla and combine into a thick smooth mixture.

With a spoon, take dollops of the fudge mixture and drop it into the unset ice-cream in the loaf pan. Take some plastic cling wrap and tightly wrap the ice-cream, pressing down lightly on the liquid surface to eliminate as much air as it freezes. Freeze for at least 6 hours, or even over night.

Scoop into a bowl and serve! When storing be sure to re-cover with plastic wrap and re-freeze.

*Foodstree Pro-Tip: Don’t over blend the ice-cream mixture! This may cause air pockets and crystalline in no-churn ice-cream

Grilled Almond Butter, Dark Chocolate & Fruit Sandwich

This is no ordinary PB&J! It takes all the essential elements of one – bread, nut butter & fruit jelly, and gives it a mouth-watering gourmet twist. This is the PB&J for adults – a healthy, delicious, quality snack or even dessert. Once you have this, you’ll never go back!

Ingredients

  • 4 slices whole grain crusty bread
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 4 tbsp roasted salted almond butter
  • 4 squares dark chocolate (don’t exceed 70% cacao)
  • 2-3 tbsp fruit – pomegranate, banana, mango, peach, the choice is yours!

Gently butter (or oil) the outsides of the all the 4 slices of bread.

Slather the inside of 2 slices with almond butter.

Top the almond buttered sides with 2 squares of dark chocolate each, and your fruit (chopped as required).

Top with the other slice of bread, buttered slice up and place in a heated pan or skillet.

Push down with a heavy spatula to compress. Gently flip when the bottom is browned and crusty – about 2-3 minutes. Cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes & serve immediately!

*Foodstree Pro Tip: The choice of fruit is completely dependent on your mood and your taste! Bananas for a creamy texture, pomegranates for a sweet pop, peaches and mango for a tangy addition – the possibilities are endless.

Fat Is Our Friend! – Mythbuster 2.0

F-A-T. One of the most controversial 3-letter words in the English language. We’re not here to judge anyone’s lifestyles or bodies, we’d only like to dispel one of the longest held beliefs about fats in food. Fat has often been portrayed as the ultimate dietary nemesis and most people have been trained to choose low-fat foods over high-fat ones.

However, fat is actually an essential part of any healthy diet and necessary for a strong body and mind! The key lies in which fats you choose to eat, healthy or unhealthy. Healthy fats – namely mono and poly unsaturated fats help to reduce bad cholesterol, keep your heart in good shape and benefit insulin levels. Unhealthy fats, of which trans fats are the worst and saturated fats partially so, increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

So where can you get these good fats and avoid the bad ones? Most of the sources of healthy fats are common knowledge, so we’ll list them out for you here:

  1. Avocado: Versatile, delicious, cholesterol free and jam packed with monounsaturated fats
  2. Nuts: One to the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, especially walnuts. Also rich in other vitamins and minerals, depending on the variety
  3. Nut & Seed Butters: An easier way to get all the fatty goodness of nuts.
  4. Olives & Olive Oil: A cup of olive contains 15g of fat, and one tbsp. of oil contains 14g.
  5. Fish: Oily fish like salmon, trout, tuna etc are full of omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. Dark Chocolate: Contains healthy fats, anti-oxidants, vitamins A, B & E… we could keep going!
  7. Tofu: Along with healthy fats, one serving of tofu contains almost a quarter of your daily calcium needs.
  8. Eggs: An inexpensive source of unsaturated fat, protein and choline.

Unhealthy fats on the other hand are generally found in the usual culprits – processed and fried foods. When purchasing food, look out for terms such as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil on the nutrition label. Those are just fancy terms for hiding trans-fat, which is completely unnatural, produced under complex chemical conditions and extremely bad for you. It’s the common prevalence of these trans-fats and their adverse health impact that gives all fat a bad rap!

While saturated fat is not as harmful as trans fat it is still believed to increase cholesterol, which in turn can cause a host of other problems. In other words, while unsaturated fats are actively healthy, saturated fats are now considered neutral to the body in the within the correct quantities. These are hence best had in moderation, up to 15g per day. Common sources of saturated fat are butter, cream, red meat and cheese.

So that’s the low down on fat – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, one thing that we would like to reinforce is that just like the right friends, the right fats are in fact extremely beneficial for you! Most dieticians would recommend up to 20-35% of you daily calorie intake coming from fat, for a normal individuals diet. Some celebrity nutritionists like Rujuta Dwivedkar even promote the intake of healthy fats like ghee! So let’s not demonize all fat and instead make informed, conscious decisions to replace the bad with the good in our diets.

 

Ultimate Asian Almond Butter Sauce

When most people think of nut butters, savoury is not what generally comes to mind. However, they can lend a beautiful creamy, earthy note to many recipes. This is one in particular is your ultimate Asian sauce – light, refreshing and smooth. It’ll complement any salad, bowl of noodles, rice or even quinoa!

Ingredients

  • 5 cup almond butter
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 25 cup water
  • 25 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 25 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 25 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 5 tsp sea salt

Add everything to a bowl. Whisk well will fully combined.

Drizzle over salad, noodles, rice – the choice is yours.

*Foodstree Pro Tip:

For a salad, we’d suggest a combination of –

  • argula
  • roasted asparagus
  • cherry tomatoes
  • roasted cauliflower
  • roasted mushroom
  • some almonds thrown in for extra crunch
  • hard-boiled eggs or chicken for the protein (optional)

For a noodle or rice dish, you can add some chilli to the sauce to give it an extra kick! Pair with the following ingredients –

  • udon noodles or sticky jasmine rice
  • peas
  • broccoli
  • bell peppers
  • chives

“Avoca-I-do!” An All Avocado Restaurant in Amsterdam

The skyrocketing rise of the avocado in the past few years all over the world has been unmissable. And if this new eatery has anything to say about it – it’s here to stay. The trendiest ingredient of this decade now finally has a restaurant solely dedicated to it!

Three intrepid restauranteurs in Amsterdam have opened up The Avocado Show, where avocados are prominently featured in every single dish and aspect of the menu. Amazed? We were too. While avocados are obviously great on toast, in guacamole, in salads – we were curious to see how an entire menu had been built around the fruit. According to one of the founders Ron Simpson however “The possibilities are endless… Our only rule is that the dishes need to contain the green super fruit in one way or another”.

Some digging up on the internet, and talking to friends who had been there revealed a lot. Firstly, all the dishes are inherently Instagrammable (as evidenced from their over 71,000 followers on the platform). And secondly, each and every single dish truly heroes the avocado. For the savoury they have mini burgers served on avo-buns (!), avocado hot dogs, poke bowls, along with the more usual fare like tacos, toast and egg dishes.  One thing is certain, there is no shortage of choice. Even for dessert, you can choose between avo-shakes, avo-cakes and an avocado based mousse and ice-cream!

While the food and concept sure look like they have knocked it out of the park, the interiors of The Avocado Show evoke the feeling of walking into a rain forest. It’s a literal urban ‘jungle’ of sorts, with lush green foliaged  walls complemented by comfy pink sofas. Fun graphics relating to avocados cover the menu and coffee cups (as though we needed more reasons to put this on our must-visit list).

What are your thoughts on having avocado, all day every day? Would you like us to demystify and recreate some of the recipes for you here on the blog? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page!

Sweet Breakfast Quesadilla with Nut Butter

This month, our aim is to bring to you unusual recipes that use nut butters in innovative ways, not the regular spreads on bread. For today, we’ve got some fusion food coming your way, in the form of sweet quesadillas with fresh fruit in them – perfect for everyday breakfasts! This recipe gives you a full serving of fruit, as well as healthy fats and proteins.

Ingredients

  • 4 wholewheat flour tortillas (or rotis)
  • butter for frying
  • almond butter or peanut butter, to taste
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 apple cored and sliced thin
  • cinnamon
  • yogurt for serving (optional)

Spread as much nut butter as you like on each of your tortillas.

Add a layer of apples to two of the tortillas, half an apple per tortilla.

Sprinkle on a little cinnamon & honey for extra flavor.

Top with the other tortilla to make a sandwich.

In a pan, over medium heat, fry each side of the quesadilla until golden. Set aside and repeat with the second quesadilla.

Allow the quesadillas to rest about 2 to 3 minutes before cutting in half.

Serve with yogurt or creme fraiche!

*Foodstree Pro Tip: You can add bananas, Nutella, maple syrup and other toppings to this quesadilla as per your taste!

Going Nuts Over Butter?

We’re sure you’ve heard of peanut butter, but recently nut butters have become all the rage. As a snack, and a creamer, as a dip – you name it. So, let’s break them down for you here.

What is a nut butter?

To put it simply, it’s a mixture made of finely ground nuts. Due to its high fat content, it spreads like natural dairy-based butter, but is otherwise unrelated. Nut butters can be made from any of a number of nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnut and the humble peanut of course, among others. Even some seeds can be used to make similar butters, including pumpkin, sesame, flax and sunflower.

How is nut butter made?

While different nut butters have different flavouring agents and oils added, the essential method for all remains the same. Your favourite nuts and/or seeds are poured into a food processor and ground away. Depending on the strength of the processor and the nuts being used, this generally takes a while.

Initially the nuts will grind into a finer and finer flour, but show no signs of becoming creamy. But this is when the magic is about to happen! Eventually, the nut particles will begin exuding their natural oils, turning the flour-y mixture into a creamy rich butter.

Many variations yield slightly different results – some add a bit of oil to speed up the process, others quickly roast the nuts beforehand to give a better flavour. We’re of the opinion that these additional tweaks completely vary from nut to nut, so it’s relative. However, one thing that is never added is water-based liquids such as milk, juice, or liquid flavour extracts – that’s a sure shot recipe for a clumpy, congealed mess!

Which one is the best?

So, which butter should you go for? The answer to this question completely depends on you! Different butters have different tastes and textures, and can be used for different purposes. The Foodstree Team personally loves almond butter as their standout favourite, due to its versatility and because various flavourings can be added to it with ease.

However, there’s not much to differentiate them in terms of nutrition. Here’s approximately what you get in about 2 tbsp. of these butters:

Nut/Seed Calories Fat Carbohydrates Fiber Protein Calcium
Almond 190 16g 6g 4g 7g 80mg
Cashew 190 15g 10g 2g 6g 40mg
Peanut 190 17g 7g 3g 8g 20mg
Hazelnut 180 17g 5g 3g 4g 40mg
Macadamia 230 24g 4g 3g 2g 20mg
Soynut 190 15g 10g 5g 9g 60mg
Sunflower 180 12g 8g 4g 9g 0mg

 

Don’t be put off by their fat content – these are healthy fats that boost your heart health, reduce bad cholesterol, and decrease your risk of diabetes among other benefits. (For more on this stay tuned for our Mythbuster 2.0)

So, I think we can all agree, nut butters are an excellent addition to your staples! They are super versatile, as you’ll be able to tell with the recipes we’ve got coming up for you this month. You can head over to our shop page to get them ready made, or if you’re feeling adventurous get the ingredients to make them yourself.

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine with Goji Berries

The goji goes Moroccan! This traditionally Asian berry blends wonderfully into the flavours of a typical Moroccan dish. This is great fuss-free food, whether it’s for yourself or a party.

Prep: 15 mins | Cooking: 1 hr | Serves: 4-6 people

  • 4 tablespoons Oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 kg tomatoes, diced
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup dried goji berries
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh mint, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

 

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and carrot and cook for approx. 3 mins. Then add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon and saute for 30 seconds. Put the tomatoes into the pan and cook for a further 5 mins, stirring regularly. Then pour in the water, salt and goji berries.

Combine, turn up the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a medium-low setting and let the mixture simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and mint and simmer for 15 mins more. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Serve with a garnish of fresh mint, alongside a grain of your choice – quinoa or brown rice would be our recommendations!

El Diablo Restaurant – Who Needs a Grill When You Have a Volcano?

Summer is here in full force, and every time we step outside we can feel ourselves barbecuing in the heat. So while we’re on the topic of rising temperatures, let us introduce to you El Diablo, a Spanish restaurant that actually uses natural heat – from a volcano no less, to roast and prepare their food!

This unique restaurant is located in the Timanfaya National Park, situated on the island of Lanzarote off the western coast of Morocco. The area is famous for the Fire Mountains, or Montanas del Fuego, which were created when more than 100 volcanoes sprung up on the island.  El Diablo (which aptly translates into ‘The Devil) uses the literal fires from hell for its dishes, in the form of geothermal heat at 500 degrees Celsius that sears up the vents of the volcano that it is built on.

Constructing a restaurant atop such a massive heat source was no mean task. Architects Eduardo Caceres and Jesus Soto lay down 9 layers of basalt rock to stabilize the structure as digging a foundation was next to impossible. The vent itself is a hole in the ground on top of which food is placed on a cast iron grill to cook, and less than six feet below lies gently bubbling lava!

The menu here includes delectable local dishes as well as Continental fare, with tourists flocking here to especially try their volcanically grilled meats and fish (of course!). Along with a full meal, it is also possible to have the full volcanic experience by taking part in a tour to see the vent and grill. Dramatic cooking methods aside, the panorama from the restaurants windows is no less stunning, with its stark mountainous views.

What are your thoughts on this daredevil restaurant? Is it worth the visit? Let us know in the comments! To influence your decision – if the thought of lava shooting into the air might keep you from enjoying your meal, rest assured that the volcano has been dormant since 1824 and has been officially declared safe.