Indian fried rice with shrimp and cashews

Indian fried rice

Although a lot of people think of fried rice as a classic Chinese dish, there are countless versions throughout Asia including Nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), Khao phat (Thai fried rice), and Com chien (Vietnamese fried rice). India also has their own version of fried rice called Vagharela bhaat, from the Gujarat region of Western India. It cleverly combines leftover rice with a few simple ingredients and some flavorful herbs and spices to make a delicious and nutritious meal.

Like a lot of traditional dishes it was born out of necessity and scarcity. It resulted, in part, from a need to use up day-old rice in the days before refrigeration, so as not to let any food go to waste. And stir-frying the ingredients quickly over a high heat – a healthy and energy-efficient cooking method used for thousands of years throughout Asia – came about as a way to retain nutrients and conserve fuel.

We make our version of Indian fried rice with baby shrimp, which are already peeled and cooked so they’re really convenient, as well as being a good source of protein. We like to add a handful of cashews and peas for extra taste, texture, and protein. The basmati rice also offers a bit of protein, and brings a unique flavor, aroma and fluffy texture to the dish. You can replace the shrimp with shredded precooked chicken breast, canned salmon, cooked egg, or any other protein you like.

This Indian fried rice always goes down a treat at our place. So much so that we specially cook exra rice so that we can make this for dinner the next night. You can eat this as is, or serve with plain yogurt, chutney or pickles on the side.

Here’s the recipe.

Greek-style nachos

Greek-style nachos

As much as we love munching on a plate of nachos, we don’t much like all the calories and salt that go with it. So to make our nachos healthier but no less delicious we like to give them a Greek twist, and substitute traditional, fresh, Greek ingredients for the usual less healthy ingredients.

To lower the calorie content, we use feta and Greek yogurt in the creamy whip instead of using cheddar cheese and sour cream. Feta is stronger and saltier in flavor so you don’t need much, and the thick Greek yogurt adds extra creaminess without all the calories of sour cream. Using baked pita wedges instead of fried corn chips also saves calories.

The feta and Greek yogurt whip also has a secret ingredient — white beans. This not only helps add a creamy texture, but it also provides extra protein and fiber. We also make a fresh salsa instead of using jarred salsa to further reduce the amount of salt and sugar. The juicy tomato, cucumber and red onion salsa is accentuated by the authentic Greek taste of kalamata olives, oregano and fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Here’s the recipe.

Mediterranean cream of tomato soup with garlicky toasts

Mediterranean cream of tomato soup

Tomato soup is one of the most delicious and comforting soups. But forget those canned tomato soups packed with preservatives and laden with sugar and sodium. This soup — made with canned tomatoes and tomato paste for convenience — gives you the rich color and natural sweetness of tomatoes, without any unwanted food additives, and it can be prepared in under 20 minutes.

The oregano and thyme have a natural affinity with tomatoes, and the addition of onion and celery creates a lovely balanced flavor. The garlicky toasts are a great accompaniment — their crunchiness complements the velvety texture of the soup, and the garlicky flavor enhances the soup’s Mediterranean flavors. We prefer to pan-grill the toasts in a large frying pan because it gives them a delightfully crisp, light texture. But you can also cook them under the oven broiler.

Here’s the recipe.

Gingered salmon stir-fry

Salmon stir-fry

We live not far from the Marlborough Sounds, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a majestic marine environment that offers an abundance of outdoor activities as well as a bounty of locally-produced foods. When we visit, we enjoy mountain-biking along the Queen Charlotte Track and kayaking in the pristine waters of the Sounds. We also enjoy eating the amazing Green-lipped mussels and arguably the world’s best salmon which are farmed in the deep, crystal clear waters.

The Sounds

We’ve been hankering to head to Marlborough this summer but haven’t had a chance, so when we spotted some gorgeous salmon fillets at our supermarket seafood counter that had been delivered fresh from the Sounds that morning, we figured that we could at least treat ourselves to a taste of the region in the meantime. As well as give ourselves a tasty way to get a hit of healthy omega-3s.

In terms of flavor and texture, this salmon is so good that when we do cook it at home we like to keep things simple and add just a handful of other ingredients to complement the salmon. For this dish we marinate it briefly in soy sauce and ginger before stir-frying in a dry wok (the salmon releases its natural oil during cooking so you don’t need to add oil first). We like to pair the mouth-wateringly moist and tender salmon with sweet, tender-crisp stir-fried green beans and yellow pepper, but you can also use snow peas and red peppers if you prefer.

Here’s the recipe.

Our most popular recipes of 2016

Well it’s been another year of feasting for us. From fragrant curries, comforting pasta dishes and rustic stews to warming soups, and super satisfying stir-fries, all washed down with a wine or cold beer. And not once have we counted a calorie, or worked out how many grams of fat or carbohydrate are in our meals. Yet neither one of us has gained any weight. In fact my jeans are actually feeling a little looser than they did this time last year.

But we’re certainly not surprised — it’s been like this for years now. And all we’ve been doing is simply eating how the world’s healthiest and longest living populations eat, plus we’ve been moving naturally as part of our everyday lives (which is another thing the world’s longest living peoples do).

Here are our most popular recipes of 2016. And we’re looking forward to cooking up lots more delicious and nutritious Mediterranean and Asian meals in 2017!

Italian Stew

Italian Stew with White Beans, Artichoke Hearts and Olives. A robust Italian stew with cannellini beans, artichoke hearts, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Wonderful served with crusty bread, polenta, pasta, rice or couscous.

Thai chicken soup

Thai Chicken Soup with Basil and Lime. A warming and delicately spiced Thai chicken soup accented with fresh basil and lime juice.

Cantonese chicken stir-fry

Cantonese Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry. Bite-size pieces of chicken stir-fried with red pepper, green beans and baby corn and coated in a glossy and flavorful Cantonese sauce.

Spinach and feta stuffed mushrooms

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms stuffed with sautéed spinach, garlic, oregano and crumbled feta, and baked until tender.

Potato and asparagus salad

Potato and Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Basil Dressing. An Italian-inspired salad with asparagus and chunks of potato coated in a lemony basil dressing.

Thai-spiced baked salmon

Thai-Spiced Baked Salmon. Succulent salmon infused with a ginger, lime, chili and cilantro dressing, and baked until deliciously moist and tender.

Tuscan chickpea and spinach fritters

Tuscan Chickpea and Spinach Fritters. Protein-packed chickpea fritters with spinach and rosemary. Delicious served as a fritter with salad, and they also make super tasty veggie burger patties.

Mediterranean chopped salad

Mediterranean Chopped Salad. A delicious medley of Mediterranean ingredients including chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, cucumber, red onion and walnuts coated in an oregano-infused red wine vinaigrette, and served on a bed of mixed salad leaves.

Roasted vegetable medley with rosemary, garlic & lemon

Roasted vegetables

With Christmas just around the corner, this Roasted Vegetable Medley with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon makes a tasty alternative to traditional roast veggies to serve on the side of festive meals.

The beauty of these roasted vegetables is their simplicity — and there are a few tricks we’ve learned which guarantee great results. Start by cutting the vegetables into uniform bite-size pieces so that they’ll cook evenly, and then pat them dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture, which helps them roast up better. You need to provide ample oil so that the vegetables turn crispy during roasting. Not swimming in oil, but enough to coat all the vegetables well. We’ve found that it’s easiest to toss the vegetables with the oil mixture in a large bowl, using your hands to mix well, before transferring to a baking dish — one that’s large enough to fit the veggies in a single layer.

It’s best to serve these roasted vegetables piping hot straight from the oven to retain their crisp texture. However, you can roast them ahead of time and reheat them briefly in the oven to crisp up. Leftover roasted veggies (if there are any!) are great on pizzas, in pies, frittatas and quiches, stirred into risottos, pasta dishes and bakes like lasagnas, added to stews and curries, tossed into salads, blended into soups, or eaten straight from the fridge as a snack.

Here’s the recipe.

Infographic: The World’s Healthiest Diets

I was recently sent this interesting infographic about the world’s healthiest diets, and I thought I’d share it with you. It shows how the Mediterranean diet and the Japanese diet are very different when it comes to cooking techniques and seasonings, but both traditional diets share the same key nutrients which can help us to live longer and healthier lives.

The infographic explores the nutrients which make these diets so powerful, the dishes in which they can be found, and provides practical steps you can take towards healthier eating habits.

World's healthiest diets

Greek pita pizzas

Greek pita pizzas

As much as we love pizzas made with homemade dough, there are times when we want pizza but don’t fancy making dough from scratch. So over the years we’ve experimented with a variety of bread bases as alternatives to dough: English muffins (Ham, pepper & olive mini pizzas); flat-breads (Smoked salmon, feta & zucchini pizza); baguette (French bread pizza); and even naan bread (Indian-style naan pizza).

But one of the best instant pizza crusts we’ve used is pita bread. It’s a staple of many Mediterranean meals; from pita bread sandwiches to homemade pita chips served with dips and spreads. So using traditional Greek pita bread instead of the usual pizza base provides the perfect canvas for these Greek-inspired pita pizzas.

In this recipe, whole grain pita breads are spread with tomato paste and topped with a mix of simple Greek ingredients: sweet red peppers, red onion, kalamata olives, oregano, garlic, and crumbled feta (which browns beautifully in the hot oven).

These Greek Pita Pizzas make a deliciously healthy lunch or dinner. You can serve them with a side salad for a more satisfying meal, and they make great festive food served with a wine or cold beer.

Here’s the recipe.