I always try to fortify the food I prepare with ingredients that are bursting with goodness. I like using aronia, because it is so versatile and can easily be added to juices, smoothies, jams, dressings and desserts.  I also use it to replace artificial food colouring, as it produces a lovely colour when it is added to icing and sweets.

Aronia provides a great source for vitamins and antioxidants and it is available as a dried fruit or in concentrate liquid or powder form.  It is rich in fibre and iron, and may be added to cranberry juice to relieve mild urinary infections such as cystitis, as it has a high content of quinic acid.

Aronia is a natural plant-based tonic that can be used to fortify every day meals, cakes and quick summer drinks.

Giardinera with Aronia Vinegrette

Photos: Andrea Sacco Baldacchino and George AquilinaPhotos: Andrea Sacco Baldacchino and George Aquilina

You will need:
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 orange bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced peppers, thinly sliced
½ small onion, finely diced
120g cauliflower florets
3 cloves garlic, halved
½ tbsp whole peppercorns
¼ tsp whole coriander seeds
150g green olives
50g black olives
2 tbsp capers
200ml apple organic vinegar
100g salt and enough water to soak the vegetables
200ml olive oil
¼ tsp dried mixed herbs of your choice
½ tsp stevia
100ml aronia juice concentrate

Prepare all the vegetables.  Slice some of the peppers and dice the rest to get different textures. Add the rest of the vegetable and place in a large bowl.  Immerse with enough water and add the salt.  Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Pour off the water by placing the vegetables in a sieve.  Rinse the vegetables under running water to remove traces of salt.  Place the vegetables in a bowl and add the spices.  In a separate bowl mix the olive oil, vinegar, spices, stevia and herbs.  Beat with a small whisk and pour over the vegetables.  Cover with cling film or transfer to jars and seal.  Refrigerate overnight.  To serve transfer the giardiniera to a bowl and pour the aronia juice over the vegetables.  Stir and serve with cold or hot meats, sandwiches and salads.

This recipe is gluten free, nut free, lactose free and vegan.

Stir Fried Beef with tahini and aronia dressing

You will need:
500g sirloin steak, sliced in strips
200g eggplant, diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
200g chickpeas, pre-cooked or tinned
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp coriander powder
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
150ml water

For the dressing:
2 tbsp tahini mixed with 6 tbsp water
2 tbsp aronia liquid concentrate

Brush a flat ovenproof dish with olive oil and place the diced eggplant in one layer on the dish.  Drizzle some olive oil then place in a hot oven at 220° C for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and keep aside.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced sirloin and cook for 5 minutes until the meat starts to brown and soften.  Add the sliced spring onion, garlic powder, coriander powder, fresh coriander and stir.  Then add half the water and allow to reduce.  Add the rest of the water and stir.  Immediately add the cooked chickpeas and eggplant and stir until they are heated through and the mixture appears consistent.  Add one tablespoon of fresh coriander. Stir and remove from the heat.  Arrange on a serving dish and garnish with fresh coriander.  Drizzle the tahini and aronia dressing and serve immediately.

This is a nut-free and dairy-free recipe.  For a vegan option, use Portobello mushrooms instead of beef.

Blueberry and Aronia Loaf

You will need:
280g self -aising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g mascarpone
A vanilla pod
A pinch of salt
100ml coconut milk
3 tablespoons agave
1 tablespoon organic apple vinegar
3 eggs
300g blueberries
Baking spray and a loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7 cm)
After baking:
4 tablespoons Aronia concentrate in liquid form mixed with 1 tablespoon agave

Preheat the oven to 160C. Prepare the loaf tin with baking spray.

In a bowl mix the mascarpone, 100g of the fresh blueberries, coconut milk, organic apple vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the agave, eggs and vanilla and use a hand blender to mix to a smooth consistency.

Sift the self raising flour twice. Add the bicarbonate of soda, salt and 100g of the fresh blueberries.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a large metal spoon to fold in the mixture. Check for a dropping consistency and if necessary add some water, a spoonful at a time to achieve a perfect dropping consistency. Do not over mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Top with the remainder of the fresh blueberries.

Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and test that it is baked by piercing with a skewer.  Leave in the loaf tin and after 10 minutes, pierce the cake all the way through with the skewer and pour half mixture of aronia liquid and 1 tablespoon of agave.  After 15 minutes pour the rest of the aronia and agave mixture.   Allow to cool completely in the loaf tin before removing.

For a gluten free recipe use gluten free self raising flour.  This recipe is dairy free and nut free.

Prickly Pear, Banana and Aronia Smoothie

You will need:
2 bananas, peeled and frozen
250g peeled prickly pears and use the same colour
2 cups coconut milk, very cold
2 tbsp aronia concentrate in powder or liquid form
Sundae glasses and some straws

Place the peeled bananas in the freezer overnight and the peeled prickly pears and coconut milk in the fridge also overnight so that the smoothie is very cold.

Blend the prickly pears together and place in a sieve to separate the seeds from the juice.  Use a liquidizer to blend the prickly pear juice, frozen bananas, cold coconut milk and aronia concentrate together.  Pour into sundae glasses and garnish with sliced fruit if desired.  The texture should be very creamy and smooth.

This recipe is gluten free, nut free, lactose free and vegan.

You can watch Lea’s Good Food Everyday every weekday at 4.10pm with repeats at 10am and 9pm and on Saturday at 1pm and Sunday at 4pm on Smash TV.  More of Lea’s recipes are available on her blog www.goodfoodeveryday.wordpress.com and www.timesofmalta.com

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