Creative food stylist Ajda Mehmet possesses the gift to create something tasteful out of literally anything. With us she shares her knowledge about uncommon but not forgotten vegetables along with the most delicious recipes to prepare them.
Chia seeds are one of those must-have, multi-purpose store cupboard ingredients. Nowadays you find them readily available in most supermarkets, however, up until 5 years ago they were somewhat unknown. Harvested from the flowers of a plant called Salvia Hispanica, part of the mint family, these energy-packed seeds are native to Mexico and Guatemala and have been a staple part of Aztec and Mayan diets for centuries.
As with most food trends, the tiny seeds pack a punch nutritionally, hence being referred to as a ‘superfood’. With five times more calcium than milk and as much omega-3 in two tablespoons as in 150g salmon, they are a great source of calcium and fatty acids for vegans. They are also high in fibre, protein and antioxidants, excellent for skin and digestive health.
They can be consumed whole or ground, but perhaps most interestingly is the way they transform when soaked in liquid. Chia seeds hold up to 10 times their weight when absorbed in liquid, producing a gelatinous coating turning the liquid into a set mixture that resembles a thick gel or custard. You can soak them in anything from water to fruit juice, nut milk and yoghurt. They can be sprinkled on salads and smoothies, eaten as a pudding for breakfast or dessert, added to a multitude of meals and can also act as an egg replacement in baking recipes. I love it when ingredients are this versatile!
My first experience with chia seeds came when I was developing a sugar free jam recipe. To replace the job of the sugar in traditional jam, the preserving effects and the pectin that acts as a gelling agent, I decided to try making a fresh, fruity jam with chia seeds and coconut sugar. The results were delicious, so much so that I don’t buy regular jam any more, I much prefer making my own chia jam, plus, it is literally the quickest and easiest recipe. The texture resembles jam so much but without the sickly sweetness. It might not have as long a shelf life as regular jam but it is a helluva lot healthier and much tastier if you ask me. Here is my recipe:
Raspberry Chia Jam
300g fresh raspberries
1tbsp coconut blossom sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
3tbsp chia seeds
Place the raspberries in a small sauce pan and mash them with a fork. Add the coconut blossom sugar and vanilla bean paste and heat the mixture until it starts to bubble. Turn off the heat, add the chia seeds and stir well, leave to cool completely before putting it in an airtight container. Keep in the fridge and enjoy for up until two weeks.
Photography by Saskia van Osnabrugge