Almond and Orange Biscotti – Gluten-free and vegan
Delicious crunchy biscuits with toasted almonds and a touch of orange. I love biscotti on their own, but they are so versatile and seem to go perfectly with ice cream. Not sure why? Something about that crunch! They keep well and make lovely gifts, when nicely wrapped. Early Christmas presents!!?
I’ve been working on a gluten-free version for a while and I’ve cracked it! Sometimes recipes happen quickly and they’re great, sometimes they takes years to develop and seem to improve naturally each time, a tweak here, a few minutes more in the oven there. I love this biscotti base recipe and play around with the flavourings and nuts regularly. I like them spiced up of course, a little cinnamon and cardamom with the orange works really well. I recently made some coconut and lime biscotti, which whilst not being very Italian, went down a treat
I love recipes that tick many boxes like this one. Vegan. Tick. Gluten-free. Tick. Yum. Big tick. Because let’s face it, just because we’re baking gluten-free we still want awesome results. It’s a brilliant challenge and I don’t think anyone will tell the difference with these biscotti.
There’s a magic combo here of gram (chickpea) flour and corn flour which I use quite a bit in vegan baking. The cornflour really helps to bind things together and gram flour is just one of my favourite things. People can’t believe it when you tell them it’s got chickpeas in. The shock can lead to dropped biscuits! But just to confirm, when baked, gram flour has no chickpea flavour. No worries.
As with all my baking, I try to keep the sugar to a minimum. I do some ‘sugar-free’ baking, but generally I find that can mean substituting one sugar for another sugar (maybe in liquid form). I like coconut sugar, but I’m not a fan of it’s price tag. I try to use good quality brown sugar in baking. Mostly labeled as light brown sugar. Some cakes may not be as light, textures do change, but I rarely bake with white sugar.
Biscotti and a brew – Yes please!!
We’ve been talking soup over on the Facebook page, the autumn is settling in nicely up here in Snowdonia. A nice nip in the air and the nights are creeping in. The blackberries are going wild!
I know you can buy biscotti easily in the shops, but I find homemade is much more rewarding, and these are simple enough to get together.
If you try out the recipe, please let us know in the comments below, or just say a quick, ‘Hello!!’ We love hearing from you, especially when you’ve just eaten a warm biscotti!
If you don’t have gram flour, you can use a gluten-free flour mix instead. Don’t substitute the polenta, it gives the biscotti a nice bite.
Like I said, use hazelnuts or cashews if you like and any citrus you fancy.
I mentioned in the recipe, but do keep your eye on the biscotti when you’re getting to the end of baking. There is a fine line between bang on and overdone with biscotti, I think it’s because we bake them for so long. If your oven is a strong, fan oven, maybe drop the heat 20oC when you go for the second bake.
Almond and Orange Biscotti – Vegan and Gluten-free
The Bits – For 24-ish
200g gram ﬂour
1 ½ teas gluten-free baking powder
¼ teas salt
1 handful toasted almonds (roughly chopped)
125g coconut oil (melted)
150g light brown sugar
½ tbs well ground chia seeds (mixed with 3 tbs water)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs orange zest
Preheat fan oven to 180°C.
Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry ingredients in another bowl, then pour the wet into the dry and mix well with a spoon. Don’t worry about over stirring; this is gluten-free.
Line a baking tray / sheet with baking parchment. With wet hands form the dough into two even balls, then fashion into two long ﬂat sausages / logs. The biscotti will rise and spread out a little when baked, but not much.
Place the two logs / sausages onto the baking tray and into the oven for 30 minutes. Turn your tray 90o once if your oven is hotter at one end than the other.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the tray. When cool enough to handle, place the two sausages / logs on a chopping board and with a sharp knife cut into biscotti sized slices, roughly ¾ inch in width. Grab the baking tray and ﬂip the individual biscottis on their sides and bake again for 10 more minutes each side. Keep you’re eye on them after the last ﬂip so that they don’t burn. Once there are very crunchy place on a wire rack to cool.
Enjoy with ice cream or a nice coﬀee (or both!) We just had them with roasted peaches and coconut ice cream with raspberries on the side. Must take a picture next time.
Almonds not only taste amazing, they’re really good for us too. They’re high in anti-oxidants, which are in the skin, so try and eat almonds skin-on. They’re high in Vitamin E, and minerals like manganese and magnesium, plus plenty of fibre and good fats. Of course, they’re nuts! Loads of protein there.
Plant-based protein – It really is everywhere!! The question is more, which plant-based foods don’t have protein in them? It’s so abundant. There are NO worries at all on the protein front if you are a vibrant vegan or rockin’ a plant-based diet.
I still get asked the protein question regularly and these graphics are a good reminder. Thanks to Meow Meix for this one. Please share if you like. Let’s get the message out there once and for all. A balanced plant-based diet is THE way to go!
Switching to a plant-based/ vegan diet is easier now than ever. There is so much nutritional support out there and of course, plenty of tasty, wholesome recipes to get you started. I’ve added a few of our favourites below.
We are here to help also, any questions you have, just fire them across or the Vegan Society is always a great source of bang on nutritional information.
Even desserts can be high in protein! This is our Lebanese Choc Ice recipe, made mainly with tahini which is choc-a-bloc filled with protein.
All veg and fruit contain small amounts of protein, here are the better sources; broccoli, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, avocado, artichokes and yes, even Brussels Sprouts. Bananas, blackberries, nectarines are fruity sources.
Also high in protein are; tofu, most beans, tempeh, soya milk, oats, wild rice, nut butters, nuts, seeds, seitan, spelt, quinoa, amaranth, nutritional yeast flakes (nooch), chia seeds.
Mexican Chocolate Brownies – Quick, healthy and very chocolaty. Gluten-free, made with black beans, which are very high in protein.
So, really, don’t sweat the plant-based protein question! Eating a balanced diet based around fresh fruit, veg, legumes/ beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts and you’re well on the way to a super healthy, whole hearted diet.
Green Pea Hummus – A delicious twist on chickpea hummus. Full of protein and so simple.
I had a falafel recently in Newcastle which was less than incredible. The falafel was only discernible from the bread by a shift in colour, in fact, it was actually drier than the thick, stale bread. Both were only slightly more appetising than the rough paper they were wrapped in. It had no sauce whatsoever. Bit of iceberg lettuce. ‘What’s going on!!’
A Turkish man made it for me, which made it even more hard to deal with. But then the dawning came, there are no falafels in Turkey. Why should he have known his way around this potential exquisite combination of simple deliciousness. (I might add, this place does the best veg kofta and mezze’s in the North East.) It’s like asking a Geordie to make the perfect momo……. Sometimes, to truly understand something, we’ve got to go back to the source(ish).
Having not long returned from Lebanon, this entire experience was a taste bud trauma. I decided to go home and look at my travel pictures, remind myself about the real deal, sate my hunger by the sheer tastiness of my memories of wandering around Lebanon, from falafel shop to falafel kiosk. I got so excited, and into it, I wrote this.
I had just over a week in Lebanon, it’s not a massive country, but it is well stuffed with chickpeas. People love them, as do I. Hummus, Mshbaha (creamy – recipe here), Fattet (stew) or even just a straight up bowl of warm chickpeas in their broth with a pile of flatbread and liberal sprinklings of intense cumin.
What I saw from my little Lebanese window was that no country worships the chickpea like Lebanon. So mashing it up and deep frying it sounded like a great idea I’m sure. I stand close to my assertion that anything deep fried, crispy and light, will taste great. There is something primal when we bite into it and get the CRUNCH. Even though, most of us now feel it naughty to munch on these deep fried globes of happiness, we still get a kick out of them. You can bake them for slightly healthier results, but when in Beirut…..
Falafels, bar the frying bit, are actually highly nutritious. Packed with fibre, complex carbs and protein, they even have loads of minerals, high in iron for example and don’t get me started on the manganese content. Through the roof!! When you lather them in tahini, veggies, fresh herbs and a wholesome wrap, we doing alright there. In so many ways.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF FALAFEL
Are you new to falafels? Have you been living in very big, deep, dark cave? )If so, welcome. They’re deep fried dough balls really.) Less exotic and sounding less appetising, but essentially, honest. It is normally made with chickpea or fava bean (see my recipe for Egyptian falafels here) or sometimes both. Add to that some herbs and spices and a normally healthy fistful of breadcrumbs and we’re getting there. The best dishes, the ones we eat and enjoy most often, are normally simple. No falafel is an island, it needs it’s gang of accompaniments to shine (see below for the perfect crew).
Strangely, falafel actually means ‘pepper’ (plural of) which somehow means ‘little balls’. In Egyptian Arabic it means, ‘a little bit of food’. It is popular across the Middle East, and now the world. Originally (possibly) it was the Coptic Christians in Egypt who came up with falafels to keep them sated during Lent. I’d just like to say that I live in Wales, halfway up a mountain and feel ill-equipped to deal with a full-on falafel debate. I just know that they’re not from Wales.
It has been said that the Pharoahs enjoyed nibbling falafels, but this is hard to prove, but nice to imagine. Pyramids, falafel wrap stands…… In fact, you’ll find McFalafels in McDonalds all over Egypt. Make of that what you will.
Some of the guys working in the falafel wrap joints are like an F1 pit crew. Your falafel is ordered, with special requirements taken note of (almost everyone has their own little wrap quirk) and wrapped in such a rush of energy and precision, sprinkle and roll. It’s exhilarating. These folk know their moves! It goes; whack, whack, sprinkle, scatter, squirt, another scatter, roll, wrap, wrap, twist, launch at customer. A fine art I’d say. Not just the flavour going on here, its the buzz of watching a master at work.
FALAFEL GEEK CORNER
The current world record falafel wrap was 74.75 kgs, made in Amman, Jordan. How they fried it, is interesting to think about. When I checked out ‘world largest falafel ball’, here is what I got (350 lites of vegetable oil and fed 600 people!!):
You can eat falafels for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m not recommending it as a balanced diet, but if you’re in Beirut, it seems like a great idea. As we can see, not all falafels are created equal, there are a few rules that I gleaned from friendly Lebanese cooks and falafel aficionados, here are their teachings,
THE DREAM FALAFEL WRAP (LEBANESE EDITION)
Is light on bread, a pitta cut in half thickness wise. Some pickles (pink turnip is nice), some tarator (basic tahini sauce), a few squashed falafels, tomato and lettuce, fresh mint, sometimes parsley, served with some long green pickled chillies. That’s basically it! Simple as and normally quite small. Generally costing around £1.
One of my favourite falafel was eaten beside Baalbek (see this ‘I Ate Lebanon’ post) and served by Ali, the ‘King of Falafels’. A well named man. He was a super star. Baalbek is close to the border with Syria and my journey took a few minibuses, the last one filled with Lebanese army, to get there. Zero tourists, I had the place to myself, the carvings of Cleopatra and the well preserved temple to Dionysus were real treats. After walking around in the baking sun, this falafel was well needed.
So a recap, in Lebanon, this is the low down on the perfect falafel wrap:
Thin flat bread, most are cut in half.
Not massive, 3-4 falafels, 12 inches long. A snack.
Light and crisp falafels
Pickles. Check out those intense pink turnip pickles!!
A little tomato and lettuce.
A good spoonful of creamy tahini sauce
Mint leaves, always fresh mint leaves.
Served with pickled green chillies (just a little spicy)
That’s it! Simply amazing!!
BEST FALAFEL WRAP IN LEBANON….
Ali was pipped by, I’m not sure I should even mention this out loud. Can you keep a secret? (Whisper)…..There is a place, just up the road from Falafel Sayhoun, near the souks of Beirut……sorry…I’ve said enough. Friends in Beirut would never forgive me, if you’re planning a visit, get in touch and I’ll give you the directions. There is no sign or door, it’s that good! (Whisper over).
There is something perfectly balanced about it, a falafel wrap or mezze plate gives a sweep of nutritional boosts and most of all, it’s delicious and ticks all the boxes in and around our palate.
Some things will never get old and maybe just keep getting better! As the world seems to get increasingly complex, simple pleasures are all the more important. I felt so lucky to be able to enjoy one of my favourite street feasts with some awesome people in a country that is head over heels for food.
Falafel lovers footnote:
Of course, Lebanon is not the only country where you can feast of falalels! What’s your favourite place for falafels?……
I am very lucky to travel so much in my life. It’s basically called ‘not having kids’ according to many of my friends. The freedom to jump around the world and feast like a happy herbivore.
I’d always wanted to eat my way around Lebanon and learn more about this incredible country. I took the opportunity to stop in Beirut, as I headed back West from India earlier in the year. I had a unique experience, flying to Ethiopia before heading up into the Middle East. The views of Ethiopia from the plane window left me wanting to see more, and maybe a bit closer.
I was not disappointed by Lebanon in anyway, it’s a small country with a big heart and packs in some incredible sites and flavours for the curious and slightly intrepid traveller sort. There are fascinating places here which see very little tourism. But let’s start with the food….
MEZZA – LEBANON ON A (LITTLE) PLATE
Mezza (mezze/ tapas in the Middle East) was my main fuel for belly and tastebuds. Wow! Mezza in Lebanon made tables groan and filled me with a rainbow of colours and flavours.
Things like Baba Ganoush (Baba Ganouj sometimes), radiant salads, Ful (gorgeous, soft and rich fava beans), loads of pickled veggies, of course, gallons of creamy, sumptuous hummus (I’m not going over the top there), and falafels. Falafels, then falafels and more falafels. I ate piles of those delicious crispy lumps. Mainly in a wrap. I could have done a falafel recipe, but truth is, there no different to the gazillion that are out there now. They are light and cripsy and in one of Lebanon’s most famous falafel places, Falafel Sayhoun, they are heavy on the black pepper. A bit of a surprise. I’ll write more about falafels soon.
I’m a vegan, falafels make up a large part of my dining out diet. Therefore, I probably eat as many falafels per year as your average Lebanese person. I was in good company.
My style is cheap. What to do! I love to travel which means that expensive restaurants are off the menu. I’m fine with that. I seek the best food in the street, down alleys, from little windows and stands, in peoples homes and local restaurants. Basically, the food everyone is eating. the culinary pulse of a place. Cutting edge is great, but I like to go straight to the heart first. I’m very rarely disappointed. I have no interest in decor if the food is bang on.
What we have here are a selection of vegan Lebanese staples. There is one vegan/ vegetarian restaurant in Beirut, but really, the Lebanese cuisine is vegan friendly, there’s a falafel joint on every corner and thats just the beginning. You’ll pick up a fresh juice without any problems, juice bars are all over the place. Plus, there are loads of shops selling nuts, seeds and Turkish delight (normally vegan). Ideal travel snacks when you’re wandering around in search of interesting nooks of cities and towns. Maybe you’re a hiker? Perfect.
One difficulty about ordering/ writing about Lebanese food is that it’s such a diverse place, with bags of culture/ influences, the names and spellings for many dishes seem quite fluid. But here goes, many of which are lifted from scribbles in my notebook.
WHAT I ATE – VEGAN LEBANON
Where to begin? Stuffed vine leaves. Mujadara (rice and lentils – recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips‘) normally with a tomato sauce, Manouche (see below – like a massive, thin pancake, stuffed with punchy za’atar and loads of olive oil, although fillings vary). What else……sumac was there……..
I really enjoyed the veggie version of Fasoulya Hammanieh, a really rich bean stew which loved warm flat bread. The chickpea is a hero in these parts. I ordered an interesting sounding dish one night and what turned up was just a bowl of chickpeas in their cooking broth with a pinch of cumin on top. Basic, but was really tasty. The cumin, wow, potent stuff.
It goes without saying that the hummus is incredible, creamy and rich. I wrote about hummus recently. The tahini is also, as expected, next level plant-based creaminess. You might know by now, and I not shy to say, tahini is probably my favourite thing in the world. Taking a fried courgette/ aubergine and introducing it to a light tahini sauce is a beautiful act.
I did not manage to find any veggie Kibbeh, which was a shame, but there was enough to keep me occupied. I enjoyed Makdous, bigger aubergine pickles stuffed with nuts. Shades a pickled onion. Batata Harra were a constant source of yum, baked or fried potatoes with a spicy, more-ish coating. Spoon them in with hummus and pickle and again, we’re going somewhere nice for a while.
If you are Lebanese, or just know, what is the difference between Baba Ganouj and Mutabal? Smoking?
LEBANON LOVES FOOD (AND DRINK)!
Lebanese people LOVE eating and many Lebanese dishes can be traced back thousands of years. If it ain’t broke….. Most restaurants and houses I visited had large groups of people sat around lots of dishes of food, drinking sometimes beer, wine or coffee and taking their time. Maybe its the Mediterranean that does this to us. Slows things down, makes us enjoy the good things in life a little more.
Lebanese beer and wine is very good quality, I didn’t know much about it before, but some of the central valleys in Lebanon are making great wines and not too expensive. Arak is popular, an aniseed alcohol which can also be good quality, but is normally proper rocket fuel.
When you drink, you eat. I like that. In the little, bespoke style bars of Beirut, I regularly got a little tray or bowl of something with my drink. A nice touch, especially when you see the price of the drinks!!
Tea and coffee are not such a big deal in Lebanon. At least in public. Unlike Egypt and Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited, there are not many tea shops or cafes. I was told that people tend to drink tea in their homes and Lebanese coffee (Ahweh) is served in the Greek/ Balkan etc style of finely ground (Turkish grind), boiled in a little vessel and served in small, espresso size cups. It’s robust. The resulting coffee is strong, sometimes flavoured with things like cardamom, and leaves that tell-tale sludge at the bottom of your cup.
I didn’t actually sample many Lebanese desserts. Most were dairy based and I was happy with the ubiquitous fruit, I was also normally stuffed from the meals and all that flatbread. Halva, the nutty types, are normally vegan, but I find them overly sweet. I like a little nibble though and it is delicious. Of course, the tahini variety is a favourite.
Is set on the Mediterranean coast and was not long ago, a cosmopolitan city influenced by the French, attracting tourists from around the world with stunning architecture. It is one of the oldest cities on earth. Beirut has had it’s problems, you probably know all about them. Basically destroyed by the recent civil war it is a city being rebuilt, pockets of nightlife, galleries, museums are springing up amidst the ongoing problems. In parts of Beirut, you could be in places like soho, tiny bars and lots of well heeled trendy sorts hanging out drinking cocktails. I stayed in a wonderful hostel in the centre of a well-to-do corner of the city, plush in parts, a place teeming with offices, restaurants and the occasional hummer.
The hostel has a sprawling, open air restaurants downstairs, serving excellent, inexpensive food, with regular live Arabic bands. It was a buzzing place, never dull and the staff were incredible. Saifi Urban Gardens.
Beirut is good for a couple of days looking around and then serves best as a base for travelling around Lebanon, only a few hours on a bus will take you to any corner of the country. Most people staying at the hostel, which is a real hub, were students of Arabic. They did not seem to travel around much, citing tensions and security issues, but most local people just said “Go for it, all is cool.” So I did and was rewarded with many memorable experiences.
A RANDOM VEGAN POKE
Mar Mikael and Gemmayze are where the richer, trendy sorts hang out and there is a thriving bar and cafe culture in these areas, not to mention a diverse restaurant scene. Over the road from my hostel, I bumped into a chef who showed me around his new restaurant, the theme is Poke (pronounced with an accent on the ‘e’, like ‘Ole!’). Have you heard of it? A concept he picked up in Hawaii, mainly seafood and veggies in a bowl. Food that looks outrageously beautiful and he made me a special plant-based bowl. It was dark, no pic. It was interesting to be eating Hawaiian in Beirut.
Poke, Buddha bowls, whatever you want to call them, a very nice way of presenting a variety of foods and punchy flavours. Don’t mix things up, keep them separate and appreciate each ingredients qualities. I think it makes a nice change. If you’re not familiar with these things, you’re probably not on Pinterest/ Instagram (like me).
Of course, being a vegan traveller you right off the majority of most menus when you move around. But in Lebanon, what is left is so delicious and generally varied, that you would not dream of feeling left out of the moveable feast. I lower my expectations and am normally just happy to get fed. In Lebanon, I revised that, and realised that most Lebanese people love their veggies and pulses.
Lebanese cuisine is well up there with my favourites, being vegan, it’s even a little healthy, all that hummus, tahini, vivid pickles, fresh juices and normally wholemeal flatbread.
Lebanon left a big impression more to come soon……The Perfect Falafel and more travel stories On The Road in Lebanon.
After enjoying the most amazing traditional Nepali lunch earlier I had the urge to share with you all the delights of Nepali cooking. My tastebuds were dancing and I felt inspired. We’ve been here for two months now, travelling around, walking in the Himalayas, meeting the most amazing open hearted and kind folk. As usual, we’ve done a fair amount of hanging out in kitchens and nibbling things. We’ve been very pleasantly surprised by what Nepal has to offer and this is all made even more amazing by the fact that so many dishes are plant-based wonders. Compared to China, life’s a breeze for a vegan exploring these stunning landscapes.
Nepal has a fascinatingly diverse and ancient culture, very distinct from Northern India and surrounding countries. Nepal is technically a Hindu state, but many people we speak to are Hindu/ Buddhist. They respect and adhere to some of the beliefs, festivals and rituals of both. There is a great open mindedness about spirituality and it shows in the culture. Nepalis are very tolerant, peace loving people and they know how to cook!
Nepal is basically the Himalayas in the top half and some flat lands in the south, there are countless valleys and micro-climates which means a huge diversity of crops; mangoes thrive in the south, millet and potatoes in the north. There are many ethnic groups, the main ones being the Thakali and Gurung (north) and the Newari (Kathmandu valley) and Terai, further south, Lohorung in the east. It’s a melting pot of cultures which can only add to the brilliance of the cuisine.
DAL BHAT POWER!
Dal (lentils) Bhat (grains, normally rice) is what fuels this lovely country. Twice a day, every Nepali eats a big plate of Dal Bhat. I’ve never been to a country that adores a single dish so consistently.
Nepalis normally have a nice cup of strong tea for breakfast, maybe a baked good of some description, but the tastiness really kicks off around 11 am with an early lunch of dal bhat with some chutney or pickle (achar) and a tarkari (veg side dish). We love the fact that you normally get some fried greens, mustard leaves are very popular, and also the fact that in most restaurants seconds and thirds are politely enforced. If you turn your head for a second, your pile of rice magically grows. It’s very rare that you leave a premise without being totally stuffed full of spicy veggies. You will sometimes also get a nice little salad going on and one single, solitary, tooth meltingly spicy chilli. To be eaten raw by the afeciandos and fool hardy. I love em! Certainly wakes you up.
Dal Bhat is also served for dinner, again an early sitting, 6pm-ish. I like the simplicity of it all. All over Nepal, you hear the pressure cookers hissing in the early morning. The pungent aroma of frying onions and spices are to me something synonomous with the haze of Nepali mornings. Everyone one knows where they stand food wise, no over complictions, and it must be so easy for the home cook. No one needs to ask whats for dinner! Of course, the veggies vary and the dal morphs from legume to legume, but the combo remains undiminished. Dal bhat rules.
The dal component can mean anything, but mung beans (halved) are very popular. You may also see some rajma (kidney beans – Jane’s recent favourite, see our recipe here) and chana (brown or normal chickpeas). When I make dal, it’s thick and hearty, but you’ll find in Nepal and India, dal is more like a soup. If you’re very luck indeed, the restaurant may have a tandoor oven which opens the door to all kinds of stunning breads. Warm and crisp naan being the royality of any tandoor behaviour.
Fortunately for the nomadic vegan in these parts the veggies are very, very tasty. Up in the mountains and in the countryside most people have their own veg gardens that really thrive. The produce is delicious; potatoes, carrots (quite expensive for some reason), spinach, chard, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, long white radishes (like daikon), mustard leaves, bitter gourd, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber. We’ve even seen some pumpkin, but it’s a rare and very special event. A beetroot curry has been savoured on one very special evening. Even the stuff you buy from bigger Kathmandu markets is packed with flavour. We’ve enjoyed using this abundance in recipes in our little flat in Kathmandu, up in the north, a local neighborhood with dusty roads and a gently chaotic and superbly friendly nature. We have a little kitchen and a sun trap terrace.
But dal bhat is not the end of the line. There are also such delights as momos (technically they’re from Tibet, but they are loved all over Nepal and there are many Tibetans living here), things like Chow Mein and Thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup) have also made the hop over the Himalayas/ border. Barley, millet and buckwheat grow well in the cold areas and you’ll find these regularly made into a range of noodles or tsampa, a flour which is made into a hearty porridge. This is perfect early morning fuel for a day hiking. You’ll also find these grains being made into Raksi or Chang, potent distilled moon shine or quite a mellow wine like booze that is mixed with fruit juice sometimes. It’s perfect chilled with apple juice! On average, 15p per cupful.
THE REAL DEAL
So what was so special about todays lunch? Thamel is the main tourist area in Kathmandu. A jumble of lanes loaded with tourist traps of all forms and agendas. You can get food from all over the world, but pizza doesn’t interest me in the slightest in Asia. I could eat rice 24/7 anyway, so I’m never in the market for a seeded loaf or crepe when I’m wandering in Eastern parts.
We stumbled across a little old doorway, we ducked in and it opened out into a courtyard with beautifully carved wooden window ledges and perfectly wonky old walls. Our host was toothless and beaming wearing a traditional Nepali hat. We knew it was a proper joint, the kitchen was a hive of good natured activity. I was excited as my expectations soared.
Most Nepali’s eat squating or sat cross legged on the floor, but in more urban restaurants, you’ll get a chair and tourists are always supplied a trusty spoon, although sometimes I like eating with my hands. Really getting to grips with your food! Just always remember, right hand only. Left hand is a no go area for reasons I won’t go into on a food blog.
Safely perched on our chairs, we both went for the Nepali Veg Set or Khana, which is something we love. It’s like Dal Bhat with a few more trimmings. I went for dhendho with mine instead of rice, like a thick buckwheat porridge. An earthy, wholegrain polenta. The smells escaping the kitchen, a tiny room with very low ceiling, were tantalising. No less than four pressure cookers were violently hissing, like some kind of out of sync steam train. The waiters all fussed around us because there was only another couple of people in there and they were big fans of Gareth Bale (he’s a Welsh football player for non-sporties and officially the most famous Welsh person ever). It’s always very strange to visit some very remote mountain village, lost to the vastness of the mystical Himalayas, and find a picture of Wayne Rooney pinned up beside Krishna in your family hostel reception. I wonder what Wayne thinks about this kind of hero worship? I wonder if he even knows!?
Anyway, lunch was ace. Very traditional and a real taste of the Thakali style of cooking. An ethnic group from mainly Mustang in northern Nepal (a fascinating region if you’re a culture/ history buff btw) which stretches down to Pokhara. The Thakali’s love nothing more than flavouring their dishes with the brilliantly named ‘jimbu’. It’s a member of the allium family, think potent onions crossed with chives, normally used to flavour dal but it was also evident today in the tarkari dishes. A delicious herby twist to the normally spice laden sauces. The mustard leaves were radiantly green and fresh, there was even some gundruk, something you don’t always get. Dried and fermented saag, which is a loose term for green leaves but something normally like spinach. This was all finished off by some pickled white radish and a punchy chutney of tomato and coriander; plus crisp popadoms, some chopped up salad bits, a slice of lime and one of those highly explosive green firecrackers (chillies). What a feast! How many textures and flavours can you cram onto a large tin plate?! All for the modest sum of £1. You heard me right, £1! And we still get people writing in asking why we choose to travel all the time. £1 goes a long way in certain parts of the world and it can certainly buy you some delicious lunch options.
Other Nepali specialities we’ve encountered include bread made from grains like millet or buckwheat (gluten free options abound), fermented soya beans (kinema). We stay with an amazing family in Kathmandu, papa is called Raju and he takes wonderful care of us. He was the first face we saw off the plane from Beijing, escorting us through the tangled Kathmandu streets on his motorbike (a Honda ‘Enticer’). We love visiting Rajus family home and checking out what his sisters (he has seven!) and Mum are up to in the kitchen. We’ve had some of our favourite food there, especially the popped, squashed and dried rice (baji) staple. A dish normally served with roasted peanuts and different tarkaris (curries). Something very uniquely Nepali and, I must admit, a little strange at first. More like a pile of crunchy breakfast cereal has invaded your plate.
One of the most interesting dishes that Raju has introduced us to is Yomari (or ‘tasty bread’ – see below). It looked like a hand crafted parsnip. It’s actually made out of rice flour dough and stuffed with cane sugar, giving a gooey sweet middle. It looks really tough to prepare and is loved by Nepalis. Traditionally made for the Yomaru Puri festival, these funny things are something to do with an offering to the God of Wealth (Kubera). There are so many festivals and religious rituals going on in Nepal, it’s almost impossible to keep pace. I’ve never had anything like it, but I always appreciate a parsnip and the exploding soft sweet centre was a treat.
Snack wise, our favourites are the peanuts sold off the back of carts. Simple but effective. They are roasted in sand and kept warm in big piles with traditional wood burning clay braziers. Expertly moved around by the vendour. A great smell on a brisk January morning. A big bag is around 50p or less. We’ve had some tasty samosas and also doughnuts, which the Nepalis call ‘sel roti’. You’ll also get some dried fruit and roasted soya beans. There are of course the massive corporations here dishing out crisps and poor quality chocolate. In bus stations you’ll find men wandering around with big baskets on their heads filled with a selection of warm breads and pastries, all wrapped up snugly in colourful cloths.
Dessert wise, Nepal is probably not going to blow you away. There are not the volume of sweet shops that you find in India. Kheer is a constant, sweet rice pudding with dried fruits and coconut, but as a vegan, you’re really looking at fruits. The papaya is sensational. I have no complaints. After three plates of dal bhat, I’m nowhere near the market for dessert anyway! Randomly, some of the best sweet things can be found half way up mountains. Little homestays do a roaring trade in fresh apple pie for weary hikers.
Of course, we’re only writing about the vegan highlights here. There are vastly more dishes that contain meat and dairy. A vegan must always be aware that many dishes are fried in ghee (clarified butter). Many Nepalis speak very good English so explaining your needs is reasonably straight forward. Even though Nepal is Buddhist (Gautama was born in Lumbini in the south) and Hindu, most people are meat eaters, especially in the mountains. Veggies are harder to grow up there where arable flat land is scarce. There are some signs in more touristy areas offering vegan options. I feel that Nepalis are open minded, there has even been discussions about making Nepal an organic only country! Big ambitions. But what a great idea. With an ethical, peaceful Buddhist and Hindu approach to things, I can also see veganism really connecting here. After all, the veggies are amazing!
We’re off for dinner in one of our favourite local Newari restaurants where the chef is a genius (he actually wears one of those proper chef white jackets with proud and shiny buttons) with all things spice and they have a tandoor oven that looks like an antiquated space rocket. When it’s cranked up it actually sounds a bit like one. The naans melt in the mouth, especially when dipped into a feisty bowl of beans or used to mop up the last drops of tarkari. I’m getting hungry now……..
The load, hot and crispy end of the kitchen – Tofu Village
Jane and I are not fans of tour groups so we jumped on a motorbike and headed out into the countryside around Yogyakarta. We’d been reliably informed that there would be huge ancient religious monuments, something like the grandeur of Angkhor Wat, and no shortage of tofu (tahu) making villages. We were ready for some great times, lumps of tofu and stunning temples sounded like a decent way to pass a day.
This southern area is known as the garden of Java. Incredibly fertile and beautiful, lush countryside
We zig zagged and bounced our way out of Yogkakarta in the early morning, traffic flowing like a crazy vein of buzzing scooters making erratic patterns on rutted tarmac tracks. We made it to the greener surrounds and went off piste down little tracks lined with rice paddies and folk thrashing their harvest by hand. The countryside was breathtaking and so very fertile. After the polluted city, the fresh air and open skies were a delight.
We began to follow our noses, asking the wonderful people of Java for tips and signals. Many people understand English in Indonesia and they are so very kind hearted. One chap hopped on his bike and led us over awesome off road terrain to a little village where an old lady was sat on a terrace. ‘Tahu!’ he excitedly exclaimed and we knew we’d hit our plant-based jackpot.
Firstly – Cook the ground beans and add coagulant (great word!)
Tahu (tofu) is a staple in Indonesia, as well as Tempeh (more to come of that in following posts). Many people in the countryside cannot afford to eat meat regularly and it seems that tofu and tempeh fills the gap. Indonesians love it and it is available everywhere, mostly in little stalls selling it as a deep fried snack with a cup of Jasmine green tea. We’ve so far eaten it many ways and have gobbled them all with glee. The tofu is generally given a quick fry in coconut oil before being re-cooked and the tempeh is regularly served after being simmered with cane sugar. Sticky and sweet. In many ways, eating tempeh and tofu in Indonesia is a little like eating Focaccia and Pasta in Italy, this is it’s land. Where it is from. There is something intangible there that cannot be recreated.
Put into moulds, then leave to dry on racks
The tofu kitchen was actually a mini countryside production plant. Generations of the family were lending a hand as Grandmother supervised. For those who know the process of tofu making, it is the same as you’d do at home, just a larger scale. They made what we’d call ‘firm’ tofu in the UK and sold it straight up cubed or gave big chunks a couple of minutes in very hot coconut oil to crisp up and then stored the finished tofu in water. All of the heat used was via wooden braziers, the frying pan was heated using a large pile of wood chips. Very, very hot work but the aromas were a delight.
Chop it up (Jane slightly assisting)
The family didn’t speak English and were a little shy. Our two scrumbled pages of Indonesian and a few sentences got us somewhere, but two big gangly exciteable tourists poking about your work place is generally a little unsettling. They were absolutely lovely and we got to taste the tofu at each process and it was excellent, as you’d expect. One thing that I did find surprising is that the soya beans used were from the USA. I know that the US grows vast quantities of soya beans to feed their insatiable appetite for beef, but I did not imagine that some of it would be feeding the people of Java! I can only imagine that its cheaper than local soya beans which just seems bizarre, but understandable with our current methods of food production and distribution. Organic tofu this was not! Otherwise, this method of making curd from warmed bean milk is completely genius and has long been established (Han Dynasty, China, over 2000 years ago) as a vital way to get nutritious, protein-rich food into diets. It’s also utterly lovely stuff.
Bubble, bubble……man, this pan was smokin’
This was our first time seeing tofu being made in a traditional way and the family had been making the local villages tofu for generations. It is such a privelege to be able to travel and investigate the food that we love. Our connection with and understanding of what we are eating grows and we can find new found enjoyment in the wonders of global cuisine. We’ll never look at a lump of tofu the same again!
PS – We’d love to tell you the name of the tofu village, but we were scooting all over the place and had no idea where we really were. It’s our little secret, somewhere near Karang. We’d also just had a jug of thick black coffee from Papua New Guinea which gave us some kind of joy jitters; laughing, jabbering, sweating, dazed, frantic, dry mouth……you know how that goes.
Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce
I know this may sound complicated, but it ain’t! A light and simple summer time lunch which is a bit of a looker and won’t have you hanging out in the kitchen or shops for too long. The method is so easy and there are only a handful of ingredients. You want to be outside right, dancing in the sunshine, listening to reggae!!!
This is what you could call a restaurant style dish, I served it recently to some friends and it’s that kind of Saturday night dinner party plate. Dishes like this look much more complicated than they actually are, I think that makes for a good restaurant dish. Making our lives easier in the kitchen doesn’t mean the quality and presentation of food has to suffer. The contrary is generally true. The more chilled and effortless we are in the kitchen, the better the end product. Thats how it works in the BHK anyway!
Cauliflower is so versatile and its finely getting some real kudos in the ‘foodie’ world. Long overdue! I actually endured the glorious cauliflowers former incarnation recently, that drab and vacuous, steamed way beyond death thing, that graces serving dishes in function rooms across Britain. It was at a wedding. Any flavour that the poor florets had were mercilessly boiled out. What a shame, I only hope they used the stock.
Cauli makes our sauce here super creamy, it actually contains pectin, like apples, which helps to thicken things up nicely. I use cauliflower in soups and stews when looking for a touch of silky creaminess. I’ve even used cauliflower in a chocolate torte which was actually really nice. It was for my Mum’s 60th birthday cake, which was admittedly, a bit of a risk. But no one could have guessed, primarily because I didn’t tell them about the secret ingredient until after they’d eaten at least two slices and showered compliments on the richness of the torte etc. Then I went in, a bit smug. No one was that surprised. They know what I’m like.
Of course, we’re all crazy for roasted cauliflower at the minute and bar maybe potatoes, few veggies can match cauli when it is nicely caramelised and a bit charred around the edges. Yumah!
A plate fit to grace a party
You’ll probably have a little too much sauce from this recipe. You can thin it down with vegetable stock to make a lovely soup.
If your hazelnuts are not toasted, just pop them on a baking tray and into the oven for 10 minutes. Keep your eye on them.
You can easily cook the cauliflower on a bbq if you prefer. Cauliflower is perfect for all kinds of bbq style behaviour.
Asparagus can be substituted for a number of veggies in this dish. What ever is looking good and seasonal, I’m thinking peas, broad beans, kale, even peppers or squash. Cauliflower is fairly neutral and takes well to many other veggie flavours.
I served this with pan fried mushrooms and spinach with roasted potatoes. Unless you are looking for a light meal, I’d advised some of your favourite, complementarty sides.
The Bits – For4
1.25 kg cauliflower (a big one)
600g asparagus spears
3 cloves garlic
500ml soya milk (unsweetened)
1 big handful toasted hazelnuts (finely chopped)
Salt and Pepper
Preheat an oven to 225oC.
Cut off the asparagus tips (first three-five inches), then chop the stems until you get to the woody bit. Try some, if it’s fibrous, you’ve gone too far.
Trim the leaves off the cauliflower by slicing off the majority of the base stem. Then cut into 3/4 inch slices straight across, use a long knife. Now cut off the ‘hearts’ of cauliflower, basically nicely shaped florets. The more broken, smaller pieces of cauliflower, add to a saucepan for the sauce. This should be roughly 1/2 the cauliflower. Use any leftover pieces of stem for the sauce.
Drizzle some oil onto a large oven tray, add the cauliflower hearts and season with salt and pepper. Toss a little so they are covered with oil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Until they are well caramelised, I’m talking dark brown colours and charred bits here.
Add the soya milk and garlic to the cauliflower in the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is just breaking down. Add the asaparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes more then leave to cool. You can do this in advance, preferably before the cauliflower is roasting in the oven. Using a stick blender or food processor, blitz the sauce until nice and smooth.
Just before serving, grab a frying pan, add a dash of oil and on a high heat, cook the asparagus tips. Fry for 5 minutes, until they caramelise and then season with a touch of salt and pepper.
Serve on big warm plates, add a few spoons of sauce to the centre, use a spoon to form a circle/ square (depending on the shape of your plate), form a row of asparagus tips along the centre, with four large cauliflower florets either side. Finish with a good scattering of hazelnuts. Or anyway you fancy.
This kind of dish demands a nice glass of chilled white wine (with or without bubbles).
Peace & Parsnips to be published soon in the USA:)
Not long now!!:)
It’s been over a year since Peace & Parsnips was released in the UK and now its off for an adventure over in the USA! How cool!!
It will be published on 31st May and I’ve just had a peek at an advanced copy of the U.S. edition and its looking totally awesome! I had to share. It’s still bursting with over 200 plant based recipes packed with vitality and flavours. More about the US version here.
Loads of super tasty, healthy, wholefood, vegan recipes for everyone!!
So far the cookbook has been really well recieved, with a load of great reviews and comments:
“Plant-based recipes from a fun-loving, world-wandering chef you’ll want to follow everywhere!”
“Now, Peace & Parsnips captures 200 of Lee’s extraordinarily creative recipes, all “rooted” in his love of life and his many travels—from the streets of Mexico and the food bazaars of Turkey to the French countryside, the shores of Spain, the spice markets of India and beyond! Twelve chapters burst with gorgeous photos (200 in all!), tempting us with Lee’s mouthwatering recipes—all meat-free, dairy-free and egg-free, and many gluten-free—that are brimming with goodness. Get set to savor:
Breakfast: Plantain Breakfast Burrito with Pico de Gallo
Smoothies, Juices & Hot Drinks: Healthy Hot Chocolate
Soups: Zen Noodle Broth
Salads: Fennel, Walnut & Celeriac Salad with Caesar-ish Dressing
Sides: Turkish-Style Spinach with Creamy Tofu Ricotta
Nibbles, Dips & Small Plates: Shiitake Tempura with Wasabi Mayo
Big Plates: Parsnip & Walnut Rumbledethumps with Baked Beans
Curries: Roasted Almond & Kohlrabi Koftas with Tomato & Ginger Masala
Burgers & More: Portobello Pecan Burgers with Roasted Pumpkin Wedges
Baked & Stuffed: Mexican “Pastor” Pie
Sweet Treats: Raw Blueberry & Macadamia Cheesecake; Dark Chocolate & Beet Brownies
“[Watson] sets out to prove that tasty vegan food isn’t an oxymoron.”—Publishers Weekly
“Filled with 200 vibrant, appealing plant-based recipes.”—VegNews magazine
“As a long-time collector of vegan cookbooks, I’m always looking for the next great vegan chef: one who thinks outside the box and uses ingredients in new and interesting ways. Chef Lee Watson is the next great vegan chef for me, and Peace & Parsnips is a sensational addition to my collection.”
—Del Sroufe, author of the New York Times-bestselling Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook
“With vibrant imagery and abundant creativity, Lee takes us on a rich adventure that proves that clean, vegan eating is anything but boring. Peace & Parsnips is a true celebration of plant-based possibilities, and the ‘life’ these foods bring to our lives.”
—Heather Crosby, author of YumUniverse: Infinite Possibilities for a Gluten-Free, Plant-Powerful Lifestyle and founder of YumUniverse.com
“Bravo to Chef Lee Watson who has us covered in this mouthwatering cookbook! Everything you need to satisfy your cravings is right here starting with breakfast and smoothies, to dips, soups, curries, burgers, and desserts. An excellent vegan pantry section is included to help guide beginners who are just starting to cook vegan.”
—Chloe Coscarelli, author of Chloe’s Kitchen, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, and Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen
Passionate about vegan food without being preachy, Lee Watson brings a singular sensibility to the vegan cookbook shelf. He has worked in restaurants for more than 20 years, has cooked on TV as one half of the presenting team on Fox’s Meat v Veg and helped open a restaurant on the beach in Murcia, Spain. Besides growing his own organic fruit and vegetables, Lee writes poetry and plays guitar, practices yoga, hikes and runs in the mountains, swims in the sea, surfs and enjoys nature. He lives “the good life” with his partner, Jane, in western Wales, where he works as a vegan chef at an idyllic retreat center in Snowdonia.
Loving the US edition;)
It’s now ‘Adventurous Vegan Cooking……Inspired by Love and Travel’ which is brilliant and I think sums things up perfectly.
As an appetizer, I’ll be sharing recipes from the book here in the lead up to publication, so stay tuned.
The last year has been so amazing and I can’t wait to see the reaction of the U.S. to ‘Peace & Parsnips’!!
I had a great time on BBC Radio Wales recently, a little thing they do called ‘Foodie Friday’. It was the wonderful Eleri Sion show (although Tom was standing in) and we mainly talked about how accessible and incredible a vegan lifestyle is and coconut scones, but I did mention one of my very favourite dishes at the moment, a simple and really nutritious vegan frittata. Plant power for all!! I just had to share the recipe.
Tom mentioned that vegan food can be more time consuming to cook than a piece of meat with vegetables, which may well be true for some dishes, but this frittata is so easy and straightforward and as with all vegan cooking, substitutions can be made, things can be swapped, veggies played with, happiness unearthed, taste buds dance a merry jig. It’s always easier when you’re done it, so lets do it!
This is a lovely light Italian lunch with a twist. I just can’t help myself! Cumin seeds are one of my favourite ingredients (along with gram flour) and they bring a subtle and deep spice to this dish. I know that cumin is not exactly traditionally Italian, but I’m sure they’ll forgive me! Especially if they get to try this frittata. Molto delizioso! (Which means pretty dang nice in Italian)
Spring is taking its gentle hold on North Wales and the nights are lighter and the sun is making reappearance after a long winter. Its such a beautiful time of year and we are naturally turning to lighter foods.
This frittata is a brilliant way to use up gorgeous roasted vegetables, either freshly roasted or leftovers. The other night, after some very posh curry and chips (see below), I pondered how to use the leftover potatoes. It’s been a while since our last Spain time and I know Jane loved Potato Tortillas so this was a no brainer. I know the art of romance, surprise frittata!
A tortilla is basically a Spanish name for an unfolded omelette. Most people will cook this in a pan and then grill it (this is also called a ‘Frittata’ in Italy or even a ‘Kuku’ in Iran – confused yet?!) but I’ve made it easier, pop it in the oven and all is well. In fact, omellete’s seem to be a staple in most countries I visit, from North Africa to India, the world loves an omellete. Making it a vegan delight is quick and easy. I’ve cooked this for many non-vegans and they love it, a few glugs of olive oil for richness and no misses out on flavour.
Frittata is very happy when paired with a grain salad and some green leaves. That’s lunch! I’ve made a little Farro and Canellini Bean Salad, packed with crunch and the wholesome feel of the farro, served with some top salad leaves from our local organic farm. When the leaves are this good, with amazing vitality, fresh flavour and texture, I just give them a quick rinse and tear them up with my hands. Finely slicing amazing salad leaves just seems like a waste. I love to see their shapes.
You can also use this gram flour mix for omelette’s cooked in a pan or as a filling for a vegan quiche or tart. A baked gram flour pancake in Italy is known as a Farinata and its one of the best things ever.
For a lighter frittata, why not add 1/3 teas baking powder to the gram flour and then stir in the water.
Farro is basically Italian Spelt, meaning that some people who are gluten intolerant can handle it. If you are off gluten, try using buckwheat or even quinoa.
Due to my intense love of veggies, this salad is light on grains. I like a high veg ratio in any dish.
The Bits – For 4-6
250g roasted potatoes (or similar quantity of any roasted vegetables)
2 small onions
2 tbsp olive oil
¾ teas cumin seeds
½ teas turmeric
150g gram flour
1/3 teas salt
Large pinch pepper Garnish
½ handful Fresh Coriander or Parsley (finely chopped)
½ handful Crushed Walnuts (optional)
Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad
100g faro (I use quick cook type)
1 small kohlrabi (finely diced)
3 handfuls leek (finely sliced)
½ yellow pepper (finely diced)
1 handful toasted pumpkin seeds
1 handful pitted green olives (sliced)
½ lemon (juice)
200g cannellini beans
4 radishes (sliced into thin batons)
1 handful parsley chopped
Couple of pinches of salt and pepper
Preheat an oven to 200oc.
Grab a 10 inch non-stick baking dish, round looks good but you could always use a square one. If you are not sure about the non-stickiness of the dish, line it with baking parchment.
Drizzle in a little oil, add the cumin seeds, onions and a couple of pinches of salt. Toss together and place in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, by this time the onions should be nicely caramelised and golden. Set aside.
While the onions are in the oven, in a large bowl, add the gram flour along with the turmeric, olive oil and a couple pinches of salt. Stir together and then gradually pour in the water whilst stirring, until a thick and smooth batter forms.
Add your potatoes to the oven dish, mixing them in with the onions. Pour over the batter and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the frittata.
Pop in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the frittata is firm and getting nice and golden on top. Cut into slices and drizzle over a little more olive oil and a sprinkle of coriander/ parsley. A few toasted walnuts are also delicious.
Serve straight away.
In a saucepan, bring roughly 1 litre water to a rolling boil, add the farro and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Until the grains are soft. Drain and refresh with cold water. Set aside.
Once the grains have cooled, toss everything together in a big bowl. Serve with your favourite dressing and ideally, a nice big slab of frittata.
Did you know that potatoes are a good source of protein, iron, fibre and vitamin C? I sometimes overlook how nutritious potatoes are.
Gram or Chickpea flour is another ingredient to get excited about (of you’re that way inclined). I love using the stuff! It makes for a brilliant egg replacer, when stirred with a little water, in baking and is sooooooooo versatile. Helpfully, its also gluten-free and packed with nutrition. High in
When buying gram flour, it may be called Besan (unroasted) or Chana (roasted) flour. They both have slightly different flavours. Chickpea flour has twice the amount of protein that wholewheat flour has and six times the amount of protein compared to white flour. It is also very high in folates and healthy unsaturated fats and is a good source of vitamin B6, iron and magnesium.
Here’s a simple, wholesome and tasty loaf for all made with one of our favourite flours, spelt. In the wonderful world of bread making, this Seeded Spelt Bread is one for the beginner but will no doubt be enjoyed by everyone. There is nothing that can beat the fresh wafts of warm bread floating around your house, although Dad’s mulled wine at Christmas does come close. Bread wafts instantly makes a house into a home.
Shop bought bread, not even the posh deli style stuff, can come close to a lovely loaf of home baked happiness. Some things you just can’t buy and I believe that most foods are well worth that little bit extra effort and bread is definitely one of those.
There is something priceless and utterly magnificent about the whole bread making process. Its magical and only takes a little practice and know how. I’ve popped a few tips below that will get you started on the road to bread brilliance. If you’re a keen baker, and lets face it, its become a bit of trend recently, this loaf is simple and yet delicious.
A loaf of bread is surely one of the nicest things you could ever give to someone. If I enter a persons house and they say ‘I’ve just taken some loaves out of the oven’ it’s like entering some kind of ideal parallel universe where everything is just about right. I was once made a German sourdough loaf by some friends and I rave about it still. It was over five years ago but I’ll be taking that loaf to the grave! I wanted to move into their kitchen and make baked goods for the rest of my days.
In my humble opinion, making bread is one of the most soulful things you can do in the kitchen. Really, I see cooking for people as a privilege. Once you get the hang of it, the world of bread is yours to explore. There is no doubting that bread making can be daunting at first and you’ll probably not knock out a perfectly risen and crusty sourdough loaf at the first time of asking. But stick to the basics and you’ll make something wholesome and full of homemade goodness.
We don’t eat loads of bread in the BHK, I might bake one morning a week. At work, I bake bread every morning and its one of my favourite ways of starting a day. All that kneading wakes the body up nicely. For me, keeping things simple first thing is always a good idea!
WHAT IS SPELT?
Spelt is one of my favourite flours giving a lovely light and nutty loaf. It is really different from using wheat flour and is a highly nutritious grain that many people who are sensitive to wheat can enjoy. Sometimes known as dinkel wheat (a word I appreciate) spelt has been cultivated since 5000BC. It’s fair to say that folk around here in North Wales have probably been making loaves like this since the Bronze age.
Spelt is basically a sub species of wheat and being an ancient grain, has not been manipulated to meet manufacturing needs (like many variations of wheat have for example). Spelt is easy on the digestive system as the gluten in spelt is water soluble and breaks down when mixed or chewed. Being an ancient grain, spelt has kept its hard hull intact. Many modern wheat grains have no hull which protects the grains from pests and the elements. These wheat grains have now developed an enzyme inhibitor that keeps pests at bay but effects the way that we digest these grains, as enzymes are an essential part of good digestion. If you feel bloated or heavy after eating bread, switching to spelt bread may be a good idea.
SIMPLE TIPS FOR AWESOME LOAVES
Bread takes some time and effort, not to mention a little technique and skill:
LINING – Line your loaf tin/ oven tray with baking parchment. If your equipment is not totally non-stick, and that attribute is quite rare, then don’t risk a sticky situation. Quickly line with baking parchment and you are certain of a simple extraction.
PROVING – The texture of a loaf comes mainly from the gluten waking up and doing its thing. This takes a long proving and some kneading. You don’t always have to pummel your dough for a long time, you can even leave dough in a fridge or a cool place for a very slow prove, overnight for example. This allows gluten and flavours to develop and makes for a delicious loaf. In Wales, it is so cold and we have no central heating, we have no choice but to take it slow. We have however been known to use a warm hot water bottle to help get our dough woken up.
OVEN – Baking in general will mean getting to know your oven. They are all different and timings may vary. Where you place loaves/ cakes in an oven has a huge effect on the outcome and results will vary depending on whether the oven is heated by a fan or the main heat source is from the base etc. It can be trail and error at first and the only way to learn sometimes is an over baked bottom on your loaf.
PRESENTATION – Bread looks cool when its a bit rough I believe. Smooth is nice but try and give the surface some texture by not playing with it too much. Tears and bobbles are great on bread and add to the texture of an interesting loaf. You may also like to slash the top of the loaf before the final proving. This adds texture to the loaf and also looks mighty fine. Dusting with flour will result in a soft crust and brushing with soya milk will result in a crisp and darker crust. With wet doughs, the loaf will spread out in the oven a little, this is worth bearing in mind if you have a particular shape in mind.
OBSERVE – Its also important to remember to be patient with bread making and flexible. Observe the bread, whats happening to it? When proving the loaf, is it rising too quickly or too slowly. This will all be dependent on the ambient temperature (or you forgot the yeast!!) Gauge whether the loaf is actually twice the size and amend the timings, less or more. Sometimes the loaf will take much longer to prove and that is fine and actually preferred. The key factor is that the yeast wakes up and does its thing, working its magic within the bread. A quick prove can result in off, sour aromas and big air pockets in the loaf.
KNEADING – A wet, sticky dough is always better than dry and floury loaf. I use oil when kneading the loaf as this will not add flour to the recipe, changing the texture of the loaf. Many bread makers use dough spatulas instead of hands when ‘kneading’. The old fashioned image of sleeves rolled up and pummeling an hapless lump of dough is not always the best way to go. When your dough can stretched easily without breaking, around 8 inches is a good gauge, then its ready.
STEAM – Turn your oven at home into a professional bakers oven by adding a cooking tray to a lower shelf whilst preheating and when the loaf goes in, pour some water into the tray. Creating steam which allows the loaf to develop a nice thick and light crust. I do this with most loaves.
YEAST – This is the magic dust that makes bread rise. Always keep it separate from salt, they don’t get along and salt can kill it. Add them to different parts of the bowl. You can add your yeast to the warm water before mixing, but I find that it wakes up by itself.
I like this loaf with poppy seeds included in the seed mix. They have a lovely flavour and give a nice bite to the loaf. You may also like to add dried fruits like dates, apricots or herbs like rosemary and thyme to the loaf. Spices like cinnamon and even garam masala can be delicious.
Rapeseed is one of my favourite oils and is local to us in the UK. It has a great flavour that compliments spelt well, but you can use any oil, olive or sunflower etc.
Remember that spelt proves quicker than wheat. I have proved this loaf twice, but you can easily omit the first prove and go straight for a single 40 minute prove followed by baking. This is of course quicker and leads to a lighter loaf and ever so slightly crumbly. Not better or worse really, just different.
This bread can be baked in a loaf tin, this makes it easier to handle as the dough can be quite wet. If your just starting on your bread journey, go for a 1kg tin here. Handling a spelt loaf is different from a wheat loaf, it can be quite floppy and needs some gentle encouragement (see below).
Add white flour instead of spelt for a lighter loaf.
Due to the gluten being different in spelt, it does not take as much kneading as wheat. This can actually break down the gluten in the loaf, as oppose to strengthen it as with wheat.
Seeded Spelt Bread
The Bits – For one large loaf (10-12 slices)
500g spelt flour
1 teas yeast
1 1/3 teas salt
1 tbs malted rice extract (or sweetener of choice)
In a large mixing bowl add the flour, seeds, salt and yeast. Stir the sweetener into the water and gradually pour the water into the flour mix. Mixing it in with your hand or a wooden spoon. Once all of the water is combined and a dough is formed add the oil and brush/ rub all the excess dough on your hands/ spoon back into the bowl and begin to knead the dough.
If your bowl is big enough, its possible to knead it in the bowl. Otherwise turn out onto a cool surface, ideally lightly oiled. Knead, it will be quite sticky, don’t worry, just give a good twist and pummel. A lightly film of oil on your hands helps with the stickiness. Work it! Imagine you’re a kid again playing with food. Its fun! Give it roughly a couple of minutes kneading. When the dough is smooth and pliant, you’re ready.
Form a ball and lightly oil it all over, in the bowl, lightly cover with a kitchen cloth and leave in a place that is slightly warmer than room temperature for 45 minutes. The warmer it is, the more the yeast will come to life, so keep your eye on it. The key is that the dough doubles in size.
Now knock it back (or knead it again). Basically knocking the bubbles out of the bread and getting the gluten going even more. This will all add to the firm and chewy texture of the loaf. Form a rough and fat ball. It will spread out, so tall is good.
Sprinkle or roll the dough in seeds if you like. Grab an oven tray lined with baking parchment and place your dough on it and leave to prove for 35 minutes, until the dough has almost doubled in size (ideally, in a very perfect world, leaving just a little room for expanding in the oven).
Preheat an oven to 200oc and place a baking tray on a lower shelf.
This is spelt so the loaf may now look like a fat pizza base. This is fine. Using your hands or a spatula, gently form the loaf back together into the shape you prefer, pushing it and tucking it in. You don’t want to handle it much at all at this stage. A bit of gentle persuasion is best. The loaf will be quite thin, nothing like a sphere but should not resemble a gorgeous, 2D frisbee.
Pour a couple of cups of water into a the now hot oven tray (lots of steam) and pop the loaf into the oven on a middle shelf.
(The tray steaming step is not essential).
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Tap the base, it should sound nice and hollow with a good crust. If this is not the case, pop it back in for another five minutes and repeat the process.
Once baked, leave the loaf on a wire rack (with a few inches of clearance underneath, too close to the surface and you’ll end up with a soggy bottom, which is never pleasant). I give it at least 30 minutes before tucking in. If you are in a hurry to cool the loaf down, cut in half or quarters. This will release the steam making the loaf cool much quicker.
Makes a brilliant slice of toast and is ideal with soups especially. I like it best warm with a drizzle of nice rapeseed oil or a little pot of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Just a quick dip in that and then………woahhhhhh! Lovely stuff.
Spelt is a good source of protein, dietary fibre, some B vitamins and minerals, especially manganese with good levels of iron. It makes for a highly nutritious loaf.
Just such and easy and flavoursome number! The kind of dish you could serve as a main course or starter at a dinner party (aka when you’re trying to look a bit flash in the kitchen) and really not go to any great trouble.
One of the main reasons for me popping this recipe on the BHK is the wonderful Vegan Recipe Hour, happening soon over on Twitter. A great place for vegan cooking inspiration and tonight the theme is……well……MUSHROOMS!
They look lovely and pack some intense flavours; mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted nuts, pesto, these are some of the bedrocks of richness and savoury flavours in a vegan cooks locker. Combined……POW! I’d also like to mention that this is most definitely healthy.
One of the five basic tastes and a word that sounds like something Vic and Bob would exclaim (with loads of reverb) mid ‘Shooting Stars’. If you are not British, this may take some explaining…..this clip might help.
Umami is a savoury taste in things like mushrooms, nuts, fermented foods like miso and tamari, yeast extract, seaweed and sun dried tomatoes, they’re packed with that mysterious and delicious flavour that acts like catnip to our tastebuds. We know we love it!
The history of umami can be found here and it is of course the source of MSG. Its natures MSG, which means all the crazy good flavour without the unpleasant side effects. Many rich and flavourful plant based meals use something umami as a base.
I have started to make these mushrooms for lunch regularly and they always go down a treat. This is a dish I choose when I’m giving myself a bit of a break. It’s so easy!
Now. Lets make something delicious.
The mushrooms will shrink quite a bit during cooking. Make sure you get big ones, or double up per person. I have found that most folk like a second mushroom after they’ve tasted the first.
Portobellos are full of flavour and texture but field mushrooms are also fine (and a little cheaper).
I always try to make my own pesto, but at this time of year, fresh leafy herbs are not exactly sprouting from the earth. You could use a good jar of vegan pesto, you’ll find this in most supermarkets and especially health food shops or similar.
The Bits – For 4
4 large mushrooms (peeled and the end of stalks trimmed off)
2 big handfuls sun dried tomatoes (roughly chopped)
2 big handfuls basil leaves
1/2 lemon (zest)
3 large cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)
1 handful cashews (best when soaked in warm water for an hour before)
50ml+ olive oil
2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
Sea Salt (to taste)
10-12 tbs green pesto (of your choice)
Mixing in the sun dried tomatoes and lemon (zest) – same quantities as above
2 handfuls walnuts (roughly chopped)
Fresh green herbs – parsley, thyme, basil
Preheat an oven 180oc.
Peel the mushrooms, lightly oil a baking tray, sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Bake the mushrooms for 15-20 minutes. They should be soft but still nice and succulent.
Place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor (except the olive oil) and pulse until a chunky pesto is formed whilst drizzling in the oil. Or, just mix the tomatoes and lemon zest into your shop bought pesto. Taste and season with salt if needed. Adding more nooch (nutritional yeast flakes) will up the cheesiness. A good thing.
Spoon roughly 2-3 tbs of the pesto over each mushroom and sprinkle with walnuts. Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes to warm them through. Thats it!
What a way to celebrate a birthday! So many amazing recipes have hit our blog inbox over the past couple of weeks. Our minds are boggled now by sheer deliciousness…..! Its been so hard to pick winners so we’ve changed the rules a little, we’re giving away two more books!! You are all winners really and we will be cooking as many of your amazing recipes as possible.
Here are the lucky three who will be getting a copy of ‘Peace & Parsnips’ very soon (plus two we just had to include for being extra amazing…..):
Little Plate – Cucumber Rolls with Harissa Cream
Katharina loves drawing, eating and cooking….sometimes all at the same time!!! Instead of a taking a photo, Katharina sent in a painting. We thing its wonderful! Anybody this talented with a paintbrush is bound to be a hit in the kitchen! We think these will look incredible, rolled into a beautiful rose and stuffed with a harissa cashew cream. Woah! The kick of the Harissa makes Katarina happy and we are sure this dish is going to make us smile. This cream will also go well on bread, with salads or dip a falafel in. YUM!
1 cup cashews, soaked
3 tbs nooch, aka the nutritional yeast:)
2 tbs olive oil, extra virgin of course
3 tbs water or some more if needed
3 ts smoky paprika
1 ts jeera/ cumin
1 ts caraway seeds
1 ts coriander seeds
1 ts salt (Himalayan Rose)
1 long cucumber
iceberg salad or frillice
Blend cashews with water and nutritional yeast and grind the spices in a pestle and mortar. Add the spice mix to the cashew cream and give it a short final blend.
Slice cucumber lengthways with vegetable peeler into thin long strips. Spread the cream onto the strips and roll them into roses.
Big Plate – Greek Butter Bean Pie
We love the cooking style of the Med so much and Laura is such a talented cook and blogger.
“A hearty baked version of a Greek meze classic. This Butter Bean Pie is simple to make, full of delicious savoury flavour and packed with wholesome ingredients.”
200g dried butter beans, soaked overnight (or 3 tins of pre-cooked butter beans)
2 tsp olive oil
1 white onion
2 celery stalks
4-6 garlic cloves
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp + 2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt & pepper, to taste
30g fresh dill
200g fresh spinach
Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
If you haven’t already pre-cooked the butter beans, put them on to boil in a large pan of water. Leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes – about the same time it takes to prepare the sauce.
While the beans are cooking, make the sauce. Chop the onion, carrot and celery small, all to a similar size.
Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and add these to the pan.
Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Slice the garlic and add this to the pan, giving it all a good stir.
Now stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, lemon juice, 1 tbsp of oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Chop the dill (discarding any thick or tough stalks) and stir this in too.
Leave the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.
While this is cooking, wilt the spinach in a separate pan until there is no water remaining from the leaves.
You can now assemble the pie. Line the bottom of an oven dish or pie tin with the spinach. Drain the butter beans and stir these into the tomato sauce. Gently pour this over the spinach and level it out. Sprinkle on the rest of the oregano and olive oil.
Cook on a middle shelf for 30 minutes.
Sweet Treat – Coconut Scones
Janice says: “The most delicious scones ever!” These are low in sugar but sweetened with the super healthy coconut. A ingredient Janice and ourselves can’t get enough of. Janice recommends cutting these scones thick, as they should be (otherwise they’re biscuits) and enjoying them straight from the oven with plenty of coconut oil and home chia seed jam! Sounds truly amazeballs!!!
1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/ Gas 7 and lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. The easiest way to make these scones is to add all the dry ingredients to
a food processor and pulse for a few minutes, then add the milk a little at
a time until the mixture comes together,
3. If you don’t have a food processor then put the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Using your fingertips rub the spread into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Vegan spreads are really soft so run your hands under a cold tap before you start and work quickly to keep the mixture from clumping.
4. Stir in the sugar and coconut then add the milk gradually and mix with a
wooden spoon until the mixture comes together.
5. Turn out onto a floured work surface and pat into a round ¾ inch or 2 cm thick.
6. Cut out 10 scones, I use a heart shaped cookie cutter since I reckon
we could all do with more love in our lives!
7. Brush the tops of the scones with milk and liberally sprinkle coconut on
8. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until well risen and nicely browned
EXTRA AMAZING SPECIAL MENTIONS:
Copies of ‘Peace & Parsnips’ will also be heading to Victoria and Amy who both sent in three course vegan banquets to make even the most hardy meat-eater drool! Delicious!! We’ve included a picture of some of the dishes below:
Amy is 17! What a rock n roll star!!!! Amy is studying cooking at college and is interested and passionate about cooking all foods. Amy loved trying out vegan food and it shows. We especially like Amy’s specially printed menu. Vegan<3
We’d also like send big thanks to (recipes that we loved and will be cooking soon):
Sharon’s – Seaside Pasta with Samphire
Rebecca’s – Parsnip and Chickpea Loaf with Lemon and Thyme AKA Not Roast and Chocolate Tiffin
Cora’s – Unbaked Banana Bread Balls
V’s – Spiced Coconutty Butternut Squash Soup
Thank you so much to everyone who has taken part, we loved reading your emails and recipes, the response has really touched us. You’ve made our 4th birthday party extra special. Its been a real celebration of home cooked happiness!
Four years. Woah! Where did that go!!! We’ve shared recipes from our little hillside kitchen in Wales and all the way from India, Turkey, Italy, Cuba, France, Panama, Spain…..It’s been a rollercoaster ride of deliciousness.
We are super excited to announce a competition to help us celebrate our fourth BHK birthday party with you on the 31st January ’16. Basically, we want to send out a big tasty virtual hug to you all and THANK YOU (thankyouthankyou….x loads) for everything! There are copies of Peace & Parsnips to win and it’s oh so easy to enter (see below).
YOU’RE THE BEST!
We simply couldn’t (and wouldn’t) do it without you all. Reading your comments and support makes sharing what we are passionate about so very sweet! The hours that we spend happily testing recipes, typing them up and photographing them are very well spent. Its wonderful to be part of a group of passionate and kind food lovers; whether you’re in Saudi Arabia or Southampton, Japan or Jerusalem……we share the same common joy of cooking and of course, eating!
It seems like an age since we came up with the idea for the Beach House Kitchen over a cup of tea. Its been such a big part of our lives now, 384 posts and still going strong…..I had just returned from India and was ‘between’ jobs and felt like sharing recipes and meeting wonderful new like-minded people. Jane felt the same and it was as simple as that. The blog has led us straight into so many incredible projects; like a TV series and a cookbook! Who knew!! What a wild ride it has been!!!
The Beach House Kitchen has always been approached as a hobby. We both love writing and cooking, but are by no means food photographers or computer genius folk. From our first hasty snaps of dishes in our little kitchen, we have tried to become more creative in our presentation and how we choose to share the food that we eat. We have learnt and developed so much through the blog.
The Beach House Kitchen remains true to its roots, we post what we eat and we eat what we post! Its what we’ve just had for dinner, piping hot out of the oven and made with what’s local, seasonal and most importantly, in the cupboards. We don’t plan much (ever) and share what we love; hearty, home-cooked, happiness!
THE WAY WE EAT CAN CHANGE THE WORLD
We’re giving away Peace & Parsnips
THE COMPETITION – HOW TO ENTER AND WIN!
As a way of saying thank you to all of you for the support over the years, even if you’re just tuning in, we thought we’d give away three copies of our latest cookbook ‘Peace & Parsnips’. If you are regulars to the blog, you’ll be very familiar with it by now!
The idea is gorgeous food, made with plants. Vibrant, sensational, vegan wonder foods! That’s it! Share your beautiful creations with us, be it savoury or sweet and we’ll pick our favourites.
The three categories are little plate, big plate and sweet treat with a copy of the book to be won for each course. We’re celebrating with a three course feast! You can enter one recipe, or a recipe for each course.
Recipes have to be your own, something you love to cook and can have appeared on blogs or other publications before. Recipes should be accompanied by a nice picture and a little note as to why you think we’ll like it would also be appreciated.
We’ll then post the winning recipes on the blog on 31st January ’16.
Email recipes to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please share the competition and love with your friends and like-minded happy foodies. The more the merrier!
*The competition is only open to UK residents as ‘Peace & Parsnips’ is quite a chunky book and doesn’t travel so well. So it’s postage in the UK only.*
We absolutely love Turkey and it’s diverse, veggie-friendly food. We have so many happy and tasty memories about our trip there a couple of years ago. We will be sharing more Turkish dishes soon as they are firmly on the menu at home and at work; Pide, Imam Bayildi, Shakshouka, Corba, outstanding salads, wicked coffee…….the highly delicious list goes on and on. If you are vegan/veggie/ or just love amazing food, Turkey is calling to you!
Three of my favourite things are travelling, eating and history (the order changes daily). Turkish is a feast on all these fronts. We did not eat Lahmacun in Turkey, it was always non-veg friendly, but I vowed to experiment with it when I returned home.
On a walk – Sunset in Cappadocia, Turkey
Travelling inspires so many of the dishes I cook, influencing recipes, my constantly evolving style of cooking and the way I prepare food. I love wandering the world, soaking up all the flavours and techniques and then giving them a blast next time I’m in the BHK (or just any random kitchen for that matter). It is what inspires and challenges me to be a better cook and take on different influences.
We travelled around the south of Turkey in a clapped out car, mainly camping, taking in some of the outstanding ancient sites and spending as much time bobbing around in the azure Med as possible.
We then spent a couple of weeks working on an organic farm where we cooked with the local veggies, normally without electricity, power or water. It was a great challenge! At the end of meal times, we went across and fed the scraps to the giant resident wild boar.
Jane in Cappadocia
We bought produce from the local market in Burdur (Central Turkey, proper middle of nowhere. Beautiful people and landscape). The farm made its own rosewater, ran by a vet, enviromentalist and animal lover, they even cared for rare eagles, wild boar and wolves (yes, grey wolves! Normally injured by hunters).
We especially loved the weekly trip to the markets and have never seen such a fine display of olives. Many stalls were like works of art, colourful patchwork quilts of olive perfection. Have you tried a pink olive?! One of our most random memories of Turkey was hitching a rid in a ramshackled sewerage wagon. We were stuck in the middle of the mountains and it was a lifesaver. Very fragrant.
Outside the Blue Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey
The markets of Turkey were always overflowing with beautiful produce. When we travel we generally prepare many of our meals, saves money and ensures we’re keeping this gloriously vegan and tasty. Everything seems to grow well in Turkey and Turkish people have a real passion for produce, they absolutely love their veggies, especially local favourites like aubergines and pomegranates. Here’s what The Guardian wrote about Istanbul’s markets, I always feel very at home in a food market, you generally see people enthused and passionate about food, it’s a revealing window into local culture. I also find many of the very freshest and most authentic restaurants and food vendors around markets. They’re the real deal, where the locals flock for delicacies.
We camped on a beach down south, on the Med coast, under an olive tree and did lots of this……somewhere near Antalya, Turkey
Lahmacun is normally made with minced beef and is served all over Turkey but we’ve packed loads of plant-based gorgeous-ness into our version and the flavour is epic. This is another recipe plucked from our recent cookbook ‘Peace & Parsnips’. You can eat it like a pizza or wrap it around some salad leaves, pickles, onions etc….either way, you’re in for a totally Turkish treat. I use shop bought ‘lazy’ flatbreads here, it would be awesome on your favourite home made flatbread of course. In Turkey, they may even be made in a blistering wood fired oven.
Turkey really captured our hearts, from the vast expanses of emptiness in the heart of Turkey, the mountains of the East and of course, the glittering Mediterranean coastline. It is a truly fascinating place expressed perfectly by the diverse and rich cuisine.
Afiyet olsun! (Enjoy!)
Lazy Lahmacun – Vegan Turkish Flatbread Wrap
The Bits – Makes 4
1 large aubergine
1 red pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
150g mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
a large pinch of ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¹⁄³ teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 tomatoes, grated
½ a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 wholewheat flatbreads
juice of ½ a lemon For the topping
1 x lemon tofu feta (optional)
5 tablespoons cashews, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
Pierce the aubergine many times with a fork, then put it on a baking tray with the red pepper and rub them both with olive oil. Bake in the oven – check the pepper after 15 minutes, then turn them both over with a spatula and bake for 15 minutes more. Take out the pepper and leave the aubergine in for another 10 minutes. They should both be soft and well coloured. Deseed the pepper, trim the aubergine, and roughly chop them both.
While that is going on, on a medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and fry for 6–8 minutes, then add the garlic, mushrooms, spices, salt and pepper, and continue cooking for 3–4 minutes. Add a splash more oil if needed. Now add the red pepper and aubergine, with the basil and tomatoes, and warm through on a low simmer for 6–7 minutes more. Stir in the parsley, cover and keep warm.
Your oven should still be rocking. Bring it back to 200°C/gas mark 6, lay out your flatbreads on baking trays and brush them with olive oil (especially the edges). Spread the vegetable mixture thinly over the bread – 4 tablespoons per lachmacun is normally cool. Top with cashews and tofu feta (if you’re using it) and pop into the oven for 12–15 minutes.
Drizzled with a little more olive oil and even a little squeeze of lemon juice. Depending on the size of the flatbread, this dish makes a great little or big plate and can be cut into wedges to be served as an appetizer or rolled around some salad. Raw cashew hummus (see page 160) is a perfect accompaniment.
Turkey really took our breath away
Aubergine (or eggplant, brinjal….) is a nightshade, along with tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. It has not always been appreciated as a delicious vegetable, for centuries in Europe it was a purely ornamental plant and was even said to cause insanity and leprosy if eaten! Aubergine is a good source of fibre and minerals, the skin is high in anti-oxidants and it is low in calories.
Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomato, Fennel and Spinach Pesto
Veganz! Omnivores! Traffic Wardens! Rock Stars! Mamas! Papas! Botanists! Kayakers!……..You’re all going to like this one.
January is here and most of us feel quite droopy. Over fed and watered, back to work but filled with good intentions for the new year. Over 15,000 people world wide are trying out a vegan lifestyle in January thanks to the awesome Veganuary (see below). This year we’re all going to be healthy superheroes! Environmental angels! Animal lovers extraordinaire! Just by changing our eating and consuming habits. Its such a shining, peaceful, positive way to get 2016 off to a flying start.
Here’s a healthy recipe straight out of Peace & Parsnips. Loads of people have been in touch and said that this has been one of their favourites. A colourful twist on your traditional gnocchi. This is a light dish packed with texture, a rich pesto, bucket loads of nutrition and plenty of big flavours.
Colourful food always gets us happy and hungry and this is a proper rainbow plate; orange, red, green, red……YUM! It’s an ideal dish for a special dinner, a Saturday night feast or mid-week indulgence. If you are cooking for people who think vegan/ healthy/ vegetables/(fill in the blank….) is boring and bland, here’s something to dispel such misguided waffle.
I’m sure this recipe will help all those going fully vegan for this Veganuary. It’s not all veggie burger, tofu and falafels after all. One friend said to me recently, a little apprehensively; “But is being vegan any fun?”, I replied “How much fun is Halloumi???!?” (We were talking about giving up Halloumi at the time). How much fun is cheese? There is no connection between happiness and dairy products. Trust me.
Go vegan for January (what’s left of it;)
Veganuary is a global campaign that gets people into a vegan lifestyle in January. Being a vegan is big news in 2016 and there has been plenty of interest in the press. There are thousands of people giving veganism a try; my Mum and sister are giving it a go and Jane is giving up her Kefir and occasional Cappuccino for the month. I also have a load of friends who are getting into the plant-based party. Its amazing! Jack Monroe is posting vegan recipes over on ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap’ and other celebrities like Vivienne Westwood, Sarah Pascoe and Romesh Ranganathan are taking part. In 2015, 49% of the folk who tried out Veganuary stayed vegan full-time. The Veganuary site is packed with information, advice, recipes and inspiration. In fact, you’ll find a load of recipes from Peace & Parsnips over there. Of course, you could also have a wee look at our back catalogue for a massive slice of vegan treats.
Being vegan is becoming ever more accessible, there are an infinite number of ways to eat simply delicious, plant-based food. Many more restaurants, supermarkets and suppliers are realising that being vegan is far from a fad. Interest in veganism has grown hugely worldwide in 2015 and will continue to do so in 2016.
Let’s cook plants! Here’s what I said in the book:
Making gnocchi with coloured vegetables makes brilliant sense. Any quite starchy root works well: parsnip, sweet potato, purple potatoes, cassava, pumpkin . . . But the vivid orange of squash really electrifies the plate (and the palate). With its vibrant oranges, reds and greens, this dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly!
1 large squash, about 1.5kg (the more starchy varieties of summer squash are best, such as butternut) peeled and cut into rough chunks olive oil, for roasting
a little sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthways
240g firm tofu, well drained
300g unbleached white flour, sifted
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1½ teaspoons dried sage
2 big handfuls of sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
For the topping
2 tablespoons roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
100g spinach or watercress leaves
2 big handfuls fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
Large pinch of sea salt
2 large pinches of black pepper
75ml extra virgin olive oil
Do It – For 4-6
First make the spinach pistou (even better if you can make it the day before). Pistou is a Provencal version of Pesto – much lighter, without the cheese and pine nuts.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
Place the squash on an oiled baking tray. Rub a little oil and salt over it and bake for 30 minutes, turning the pieces gently over once. You’re not looking for loads of colour here, just lovely soft, golden squash.
Toss the fennel in olive oil, place on a separate baking tray and scatter with a pinch of sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once, until it’s nicely golden and sweet. When the squash is ready, put it into a processor with the tofu and blend until smooth. Now, place in a large bowl and stir in the flour, salt, pepper and sage until a soft dough forms. Leave to cool down and firm up – it will be a lot easier to handle.
Using two teaspoons, make gnocchi shapes (lovely little flat oval dumplings) with the mixture and place on an oiled baking sheet, leaving about 5cm of space for each gnocchi to grow. Brush the gnocchi with a little more oil and bake for 20–25 minutes, until crisp and slightly golden.
For the Spinach Pistou – Place the hazelnuts in a small skillet and warm on medium heat. Keep them moving for 5-7 minutes – they will become roasted and smell so very sweet! Put them into a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds. The nuts should begin to break down into lumps and chunks, which is what we want. Add the rest of the pistou ingredients (except the oil) and blitz, drizzling the oil in gradually until you get a nice runny texture, like a think sauce. You will need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times. Add more oil if the pistou needs thinning. Check your seasoning and set aside.
Warm, on nice big plates, drizzled liberally with the pistou. Scatter the crispy fennel and sun-dried tomatoes on top with a little more pistou, and finish with some chopped roasted hazelnuts.
Winter squashes like pumpkin and butternut squash are directly related to summer squashes like courgette and even watermelon (they’re known as the gourd family). You can use most winter squashes in this recipe, as long as they are not too watery; acorn or hokkaido will be delicious.
Butternut squash is almost 30% protein and contains outrageous levels of vitamin A which makes our skin shine. They’re also high in vitamin C and boast a good range of minerals like iron and calcium.
All of the parts of a squash plant are edible; fruit, flowers, leaves and seeds.
Boozy Christmas Snowflakes – Vegan, sugar-free, healthy, all that jazz……
These snowflakes taste just like Christmas pudding but are waaaaaayyyyy easier and packed with natural sugars and gorgeous plant power! When combined with our warm Cashew Brandy Sauce, this makes for the perfect Xmas sweet thang.
I always loved snowballs, normally chucking them at my sister. Also snowmen (or women) maybe one day we’ll make a boozy snow human! YUM! We are visiting Jane’s Ma and Pa in sensational Stafford and it’s 14oC! These sweeties will probably be as close as we get to snowflakes this year.
Here we have little explosions of tastiness, super rich and with a massive kick of brandy, chocolate and pecans to get you right into that festive cheer. Everyone will LOVE them (guaranteed). They can be made well in advance and keep nicely.
The warm sauce elevates these into the realms of dessert. Quantity wise, have a play. Thin out with water and add a touch of vanilla extract. Make to your taste. Its a little like custard but dare I say it…..even better (contentious behaviour there). Having said that, custard would be lovely with these.
They are part of our lighter, nutritious, simple Christmas this year. These little snowflakes are easily made gluten-free, technically they are ‘sugar-free’ (refined that is) and are of course, full power plant-based, vegan happy.
MERRY CHRISTMAS Y”ALL!!!!!XXXxxxxxxxx
Festive sweet thangs….
Use any combo of dried fruits, all welcome. We are not massive fans of that ‘dried mixed fruit’ stuff you can buy, they’re a little too dry. We used whole dried fruits that are relatively inexpensive.
Not into the booze aspect. That’s very cool. Just up the juice quantity.
You don’t necessarily need a blender for this. You can mash the fruit mix up with a potato masher. Jane’s Mum’s blender wasn’t doing it for us here, so we mashed it up.
The Bits – Maple syrup, soaked boozy fruit and pecans. Woooah!
The Bits – Makes 15 little snowflakes
1 handful of each, dried apricot, dried pear/ apple, dried dates, dried figs (all roughly chopped)
2 handfuls raisins
4 tbs brandy
3 tbs apple juice or orange juice
1 orange (zest)
1 1/2 inch fresh ginger (finely grated)
1 teas ground cinnamon
2 teas mixed spice
1/4 teas ground cloves
2 teas vanilla extract
4 handfuls oats or gluten-free oats
4 handfuls pecans (broken up with hands)
125g dark vegan chocolate
2-3 tbs maple syrup (optional)
2 handfuls desiccated or grated fresh coconut
Cashew Brandy Sauce (varies depending on numbers)
Soak the dried fruit, spices, vanilla and orange zest for at least two hours in the brandy and juice. Longer is better.
Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl above gently simmering water. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.
In a food processor/ blender, add the oats and blitz until they resemble a coarse flour. Add the dried fruit mix and pulse until the mix is broken down but still chunky.
Scrape out into a large bowl, add the chocolate and pecans. Combine well with a trusty wooden spoon/ spatula. Taste and stir in maple syrup if you’d like it sweeter.
Scatter the coconut over a plate and with slighty wet hands (prevents too much sticking) grab a squash ball sized lump of the mix and roll between your hands into nice even balls.
Place in the coconut and roll gently. Now pop them onto your display plate.
These snowflakes will keep well in a sealed container, but look best when freshly rolled.
For an extra special dessert, gently warm up enough cashew butter in a small saucepan and add maple syrup, vanilla extract and brandy until you love it! One tablespoon at a time is best. Thin with a touch of water or soya milk if needed.
Just like Christmas pudding, but wee.
Spoon your sauce onto a plate and pop two or three snowflakes on top. They are also amazing as they are.
A word on ‘sugarfree’-ness. Not all sugar is the same! Sugar in dried fruits like these are in a natural solution of all kinds of things; anti-oxidants, minerals, micro-nutrients most of which are beneficial to the body and really help out the immune system. Dried fruit is packed with goodness and the ideal winter snack and fruit sugar should not be lumbered in there with refined, cane, beet, corn sugars etc. Fruit sugars (not loads of course) are way cool with us.
PS – Dried fruit is also very high in fibre, which is an all-time superhero for our bodies.
Parsnip, Walnut & Mushroom Roulade with some tasty trimmings
A simple, vegan feast to satisfy all this Christmas!
Here is a old school dish that I came up with last night, ideal for a Christmas day centre piece and only using two pans and a baking tray! I’ve also included quick recipes for the cooking veggie accompaniments – Chicory braised in sloe gin and pan fried Brussels Sprouts with Curly Kale and the creamy sauce is something everyone will enjoy. You are sorted for Xmas 2015!
I’ve had quite a few requests for a Christmas recipe that is both straightforward and seasonal. Being the BHK, we don’t plan things, we just let them leap out of the veg basket and we had to go parsnip this year. It has been ‘the year of the parsnip’ for us in many ways!
All of these ingredients most of us have around the kitchen at this time of year. I love the way that we can create feasts from simple plant-based ingredients, packed with bold flavours and interesting textures. We are spending Christmas this year with Jane’s parents and I think they’ll love this dish, a taste of more traditional British fare.
A vegan Christmas is a delight! I find that I cook lighter and more nourishing dishes than previous Christmas times. Xmas can be so packed with heavy, rich food and I can’t help feeling lucky to be stuffing myself with food that is delicious and won’t leave me in a food coma, snoring by the fire place. If I could tone down the red wine glugging, Christmas would be a highly healthy time of year! Jane and I will be making a whole host of vegan dishes on the big day and all across the festive season, the perfect time of year to let plants shine and inspire.
I like this recipe because it is fun for all the family, no matter what the tastes. The pastry is something everyone can get down with, crispy, flaky and then the filling is packed with flavour finished with a very creamy, slightly cheesy plant-based sauce that will be a surprise to some. Cashews are superheroes for plant-based creaminess.
This recipe suits is you are catering for a vegan/s over Christmas. It can be made in advance and warmed up in the oven on the day or you can prepare the filling ingredients and roll the roulade in the morning. I have to say that freshly baked it is tastier and the pastry has a better texture.
A festive feast!
This roulade will be lovely with any veggies, but we’ve paired it with a few of our extra special favourites; chicory, kale and Brussels Sprouts. A few roast potatoes are never a bad idea! We also love red cabbage however it arises.
If you don’t have any nutritional yeast flakes the sauce will not be cheesy. Now may be a good time to invest in a pot of these wonderful, savoury flakes. Especially if you are planning on cooking vegan food regularly. Otherwise stir in some Dijon mustard or herbs. It will be delicious.
Cashew butter can easily be substituted by blending up cashew nuts, seasoning with salt. Soak two handfuls of cashews for 2 hours in plenty of water and then blend. They will form a smooth paste, perfect for adding to sauces and stews.
If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, that’s cool, lets go for roughly 3/4 teas dried rosemary and 1 1/2 teas dried thyme. You can always taste the leeks after cooking and add more herbs if you like.
This is the easiest method of rolling a roulade, you can go for a more traditional roulade roll if you are happy with that. This method is failsafe.
Many brands of puff pastry are vegan, have a quick check of the ingredients.
Chicory is generally quite bitter but when cooked with a sweet liqueur or even a fruit vinegar, will have delicious sweet and sour flavour.
Christmas is not complete without delicious Brussels Sprouts. Simply pan fried in a little oil, with sea salt is my favourite way to enjoy them.
Happy cooking and Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!
The Bits – Makes 12 slices (enough for 4-6)
325g/ 2 medium-sized parsnips (chopped into 1 1/2 cm wide batons – the longer the better)
2 big handfuls walnuts (roughly chopped)
3 teas maple syrup
1 1/2 teas lemon (zest)
1 head garlic (whole)
300g/ 2 medium leeks (cleaned and finely sliced)
2 teas fresh rosemary (finely sliced)
3 teas thyme leaves (picked from stems)
250g mushrooms (finely diced)
Black pepper and sea salt
2/3 500g vegan puff pastry block (roughly 350g)
3 tbs soya milk
Flour (for dusting)
Cashew Cream Sauce
100g/ 1 small leek (cleaned and finely sliced)
400ml soya milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
4 tbs cashew butter
2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
Sea salt (to taste)
Lovely maple roasted parsnips and walnuts
Preheat an oven to 200oc (180oc fan oven).
Place the parsnips and head of garlic on a baking tray, toss with a 2 tbs of oil and a large pinch of salt. Roast for 15 mins then gently turn over the parsnips, scatter the walnuts around the tray and drizzle all with maple syrup. Roast for 7 minutes, turn and check that they are not burning. Roast for 3 minutes more until the parsnips are totally. beautifully golden. The walnuts will also be nicely caramelised. Little explosions of flavour for the roulade! Scatter over the lemon zest and set aside.
While the parsnips are roasting, grab a large frying pan. Add 1 tbs oil and fry your leeks for 5- 7 minutes. When they are soft, stir in the herbs. Set aside. Rinse out the pan.
Now add another 1 tbs of oil to the pan and fry your mushrooms for 8 minutes on a medium heat until most of their moisture has been released. Mix with your leeks, season with salt and pepper, set aside.
Cut a piece of baking parchment/ greaseproof paper out that will snugly fit in a baking tray. Place on a cool work surface and lightly dust with flour, using a rolling pin, begin to roll out your pastry. Dusting regularly as you roll, it will help to turn the pastry over a few times while you are rolling. You’re looking for a rectangular shape around 14″ by 10″, nice and even. When your happy with the size, trim the edges of with a sharp knife.
Your filling ingredients should now be cool, if not leave them for a while. Begin to fill your roulade, leeks first. See the photo below. Now top with a layer of walnuts, pressing down lightly. Top with your parsnips. Using the baking parchment, roll your roulade. Lightly brush all of the edges, a 2cm border all around, with soya milk. Pull the top edge of the paper towards you, packing any filling back in as you go. Now spin the roulade around and pull the other side of the pastry up and over so the pastry overlaps slightly. Press gently and using the paper again, flip the roulade over so that the fold is on the bottom. Using your hands, shape the roulade into a neat, fat sausage shape. Now press and tuck in your ends, making sure they are well sealed. All of this is best explained by the photos below:
Spread out the leek layer and top with walnuts, pressing down gently
Top with the roasted parsnips
Using the baking paper, roll one edge over…..
Rolled up like a big, fat……sausage
Cut slices, which help to act as a portioning guide and brush with soya milk
Cut slices into the top of the roulade and brush with soya milk. Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning once to get a nice even bake.
Sauce time. Simple. Add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan and warm until a low simmer, stirring regularly. Pop a lid on, turn the heat down and leave to slowly cook through for 10 -12 minutes. Once the leeks are soft, stir in the yeast flakes and blend with a stick blender, adding salt as needed. This sauce does not like to be boiled for a long time, a low simmer is ideal, keep your eye on it.
Chicory braised in sloe gin
3 large heads chicory (cut lengthways into quarters)
3 tbs sloe gin, port or berry vinegar (like blackberry, blackcurrant or even raspberry)
Black pepper and sea salt
6 large stems curly kale (stems removed, leaves finely sliced)
400g Brussels sprouts
In your trusty frying pan, add 1 tbs oil and warm on a high heat. Lay in your chicory pieces, season with salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes until well caramelised and then turn over. Fry for another 2 minutes, drizzle over the sloe gin. Lower the heat, pop a lid on and leave to cook for 5-7 minutes, adding a splash of water if needed. The chicory will bes soft, set aside and keep warm. Rinse out the pan.
Adding 1 tbs oil, warm of medium high heat and add the sprouts. Toss gently and fry for roughly 6 minutes, until the sprouts are nicely coloured (the way you like ’em). Now add your kale and a splash of water. Lower the heat and leave to cook for 6 minutes. Try one (yum!). Season with salt.
You’re now looking good to serve your festive feast!
Brussels! Yes, please…..
Place the golden roulade onto a nice serving platter (big plate) or chopping board and surround with glorious veggies. Using bowls to serve the leftover vegetables. Pour the sauce into a warm bowl/ sauce boat and enjoy the feast! This dish goes brilliantly with a spoonful of our Pear and Cranberry Chutney.
Yes, it does look a bit like a pastry-based rocket
MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! (Drawn by Jane’s niece Martha – 9 years old)
Lebanese Roasted Cauliflower with Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)
There are zillion and one Xmas stylee recipes floating around at the minute, but I would like to take things is a slightly different direction here. All the way to Lebanon!!!
Here’s a little festive taste of the Southern Mediterranean, with plenty of warming spices and a really rich and luxurious dip. This Muhammara recipe is one of my all time favourite dips/ purees and it features in our cookbook. It is an ideal alternative to hummus at this time of year. I love hummus, but a change is always good!
Everyone is roasting cauliflower at the minute and I’m all for it. Roasting brings out the sweetness of the cauliflower and transforms it into something spectacular. Cauliflower is worthy of taking centre stage and in this recipe, with a few adornments, it shines. The spices and pomegranate molasses here really takes it up a few notches.
I would eat this as light lunch around the festive season, when you have maybe gone overboard the day before, and it is nice and easy to get together yet bursting with vibrant flavours.
As close as Jane got to a swim (the Med’s a bit chilly in winter), El Mojon, Spain
Jane and I are not long back from Spain, where we had a magnificent time by the beaches and mountains of Murcia. Regular Beach House readers will know that its one of our favourite spots in the world and we return their regularly. You will also notice, by the beaming sunshine, that this dish was cooked in sunny Espana. My parents own a little house out there and I’ve lived and worked over there so its just like going home really. Our Spanish lingo is improving and we seem to do a load more socialising over there than we do in Wales, something to do with the free-flowing tapas and wine no doubt.
Our local watering hole. A well (pozo) near our house. Murica, Spa
WHAT TO DO WITH POMEGRANATE MOLASSES?
I know that Pomegranate Molasses may not be top of your Christmas/shopping list this week, but it is a brilliant addition to your cupboards. It can be used to jazz up roasted roots and veggies, as it does in this recipe. It has a lovely sweet and sour flavour (think cranberries) and is high in sugar, meaning it adds to the caramelised effect we all know and love in roasted roots et al.
It can also be a wonderful sub for citrus in dressings and adds richness and depth to stews, dips (see below) and soups. Have a play with it! We also like it drizzled on bread or mixed with tahini to make a delicious spread for toast or even stir it into hot or fizzy water for a refreshing drink.
Pomegranate Molasses is something that is used so frequently in countries like Lebanon and Turkey, where Pomegranate trees are as frequent as oak trees are in Wales. It is an ideal way of preserving gluts of Pomegranates and turning them into something gorgeously versatile. It is basically pomegrantes juice cooked down, way down, until a sticky syrup is formed. You can buy it in Turkey in plastic water bottles by the side of the road. PM is tangy and not overly sweet, unless sugar has been added, check the bottle.
I will be looking at posting a few more festive fav recipes on the blog before the big day. I’ve just roasted a load of chestnuts and they need a home. Any ideas?
There are loads of our holiday snaps over on our Facebook page and I am always sharing tasty things on Twitter.
Sorting out some stunning veggies and fruit down at the Sunday market. Mazarron, Spain
When cutting the cauliflower, don’t worry too much about small pieces that break off. These can be kept and used to thicken/ flavour soups, gravies and stews. They can also be sprinkled into salads.
Baharat is a spice mix from the Middle East. You may also like to use garam masala, ras el hanout etc. Spice mixes which include warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc are perfect.
If you do not have pomegranate molasses, use a squeeze of lemon juice and sweetener of your choice; brown rice syrup, maple syrup etc. This adds that gorgeous sweet and sour finish to the roasted cauliflower.
Fennel seeds are a great addition to many dishes and worth buying. They add a little explosion of that unmistakeable aniseed/ fennel flavour. I understand that they are not a regular ingredient and can be omitted, add a few more cumin seeds if you are fennel-less.
I know Christmas is a super busy time of year, you can buy pre-roasted red peppers in most shops. They are normally jarred and stored in oil. This will save a little time with the Muhammara.
Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower with Muhammara
The Bits – For 4
Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower
1 medium sized cauliflower (cut into 2 inch florets)
2 small onions (cut into 1/8’s)
1 head of garlic (top trimmed off to expose cloves)
1 teas fennel seeds
1 teas cumin seeds
2 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 teas baharat (or other spice mix)
2 teas pomegranate molasses
1/2 teas sea salt
Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip) – Makes 1 small bowlful
2 red peppers
2 tbs olive oil
1 teas chilli flakes
2 slices wholemeal bread (crusts taken off, stale bread works best)
1 teas unrefined brown sugar or sweetener of choice
1/2 teas smoked paprika
125g firm tofu
1/2 teas sea salt
1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)
Big glug extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch of bharat and smoked paprika
Preheat an oven on high, 240oC.
Start by roasting the peppers for the Muhammara. Rub oil over the peppers and place on a baking tray. Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning them once, until they are slightly blackened and soft. Place in a bowl and cover. Once cooled, cut in half and remove the seeds, peeling off the skin. It should slip off nice and easy.
In a bowl, gently toss the cauliflower, onion and garlic in the oil, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and salt. Scatter over a baking tray and place in the hot oven. Roast for 12 minutes.
Turn all veggies over using a flat spatula (including the head of garlic), there should be some nice caramelised edges forming on the cauli and onions, this is definitely what we want. Even nice, dark charred edges are great for this recipe.
Now sprinkle over the baharat spice and drizzle over the pomegranate molasses, give the tray a little shake and pop back into the hot oven for 10 more minutes roasting, until dark golden and crispy.
While all the roasting is going on, you can make your Muhammara. Place the peppers and all other ingredients in a food processor and blitz until creamy. Check the seasoning and scoop into your most attractive bowl.
Warm a nice big shallow bowl or serving platter and scoop over your cauliflower. The garlic will be nice and soft, just pop the cloves out of their skins and scatter over the dish.
The aroma of this dish is a delight. Spicy!
Sprinkle a little more Bharat over the cauliflower and finished the Muhammara with a drizzle of delicious olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika and a little freshly chopped parsley.
The Roasted Cauliflower and Muhammara will be delicious with a crisp, green salad and a bowl of olives. In Peace & Parsnips I recommend warm black olives and toasted pitta bread. Pickles of any variety will be a great addition. Now this is really starting to sound like a feast fit for the festive season!
Beach House on the road. The many deserted beaches of Murcia. Aguillas, Spain
Pomegranate certainly brightens up this time of year and I much prefer the flavour to cranberries, our festive staple for tanginess and that lovely festive touch of bright red. Pomegranate is packed with vitamins C and K and is also high in calcium and potassium. Pomegranate is also a good source of fibre and will help to keep our heart, digestive and immune system healthy. Perfect food to get us through the dark, winter days.
Hiking up in the Espuna mountains. Beautiful forests. Murcia, Spain
At this time of year, I’d quite happily live on soup.
I just have time to squeeze this post in before driving to Durham and the sparkling NEVFest (North East Vegan Fest). The first time that Jane and I have not been to a food festival this year together.
You may think that the life of a food blogger is all hanging out by the fire, sipping a cheeky Oolong whilst leafing through a mountain of cookbooks, but it ain’t. We all have busy lives these days and posts are normally squeezed in somewhere or other. Janice (over at the sparkling Nourished by Nature blog) and I were just chatting about this the other day. Blogging is a labour of love for many of us and we are just crazy about food and sharing our foodie inspiration.
This is not helped by the fact that I am a complete luddite. I still do not have a phone (hence the lack of Instagram action) and only have a bulky laptop. I’m trying. But in reality, I am a techno caveman at heart. I like paper and pens, books and postcards. The occasional stapler. I do love sharing things online though and hope you enjoy these little recipes. I’ve met such a wonderful global community via the BHK. The internet is an AMAZING place!
I’ve been cooking with loads of squashes and pumpkins (actually pumpkins are members of the squash family) at Trigonos and at home. Our local organic veg farm Tyddyn Teg has been growing a wonderful variety of squashes; spaghetti, the mighty crown prince and even little acorns. Some are even larger than my head.
Squashes are perfect winter fuel, high in energy with loads (I mean loads!) of antioxidants and beta carotene. Just what our bodies crave and thrive on come the wintery months. In darker times, eat brighter foods! Squashes also store well, but I doubt they’ll be lasting very long around these parts.
When I say coconut cream I mean the cream in a tin of coconut milk. If your coconut milk contains emulsifiers and the like, it will not separate and therefore you cannot extract the cream.
To extract coconut cream from a tin of coco milk, simply place it in a fridge for a couple of hours, turn it over, open the tin and pour out the coco water. You are left with at least half a tin of very creamy coconut cream to play with. Try whipping it up with some lime zest and juice or just add a little sweetener to make delicious, vegan whipped cream. Use the leftover coco water in smoothies, on your morning cereal, add it to stews or even cook rice with it (one of our personal favs).
You may also like to use the hard, block variety of coconut cream. Just follow the pack instructions. Don’t worry about adding too much coconut cream to this soup, it will only make it even richer and more delicious.
ROAST YOUR OWN PUMPKIN SEEDS
I never waste my squash/ pumpkin seeds. I always pick them out and quickly roast them in the oven with a drop of oil and salt. Delicious! Just place them on a baking tray and bake them for 8 minutes on 180oC. Stir them and keep baking them for 5 minute intervals until they are dark golden and crisp. Its so easy and each type of squash seed will taste slightly different and have their own texture. Pumpkin seeds are nice and light, very crispy when roasted. Perfect as a soup-topper.
I love adding ginger to soups and a little kaffir gives a vibrant fragrance to the rich, sweetness of the pumpkin. You can use any type of squash here and you may like to half the recipe or freeze the leftovers. I think cooking in big batches makes loads of sense. We’ve also been experimenting with pumpkin smoothies and they are a real treat. A pumpkin chai latte smoothie is a thing of beauty and I’ll hopefully get around to sharing it soon.
Enjoy and stay cosy,
As I mentioned, experiment with different squashes, they are all wonderful and have properties of their own. Some sweet and firm, some lighter and slightly blander, others intense and wonderful roasted. There are so many varieties and this is still (just about) the time to enjoy them in season here in the UK.
You’ll need an extra big pan for this one. As I said, half the recipe for something a little more manageable.
The Bits – Makes 10 large bowls
1 medium pumpkin – 1.75kg (peeled and cut into rough 1 inch chunks)
1.5 litres water/ light vegetable stock
7 kaffir lime leaves
50-60g fresh ginger (peeled and finely diced)
2 onions (finely diced)
200g coconut cream
2 teas salt
In a very large pan, add 2 teas cooking oil, warm and then add your onions and salt. Fry on medium heat for five minutes until softened and then add your pumpkin, ginger and lime leaves. Stir well and cook for another two minutes, then add the water/ stock. Bring to a boil and pop a lid on, lowering the heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the coconut cream, stirring well and simmer for another 10 minutes, adding more hot water if needed. The pumpkin should now be nice and soft.
Pick out as many lime leaves as you can. Taste the soup, checking for seasoning. Now give the soup a blend until creamy and smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor.
In warm bowls, scattered with freshly chopped chillies and some roasted pumpkin seeds. A little fresh coriander would also be a delight!
Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which means they are cousins to melons, watermelons, cucumbers, squashes.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of anti-oxidants and minerals, they even contain a good amount of iron and of course, plenty of protein. Surprisingly China is now the worlds largest pumpkin seed producer. Who knew!
A quick and delicious breakfast for us this morning. The perfect antidote to a very grey day in Wales, some tropical flava! We managed to pick up/ save some very ripe mangoes recently and have been trying out coconut water, which seems like a bit of a craze at the minute. Mangoes and coconut, beaches and palm trees, a little escapism from the dark nights and storms of our little hillside retreat.
A lassi is something like an Indian milkshake that comes in many varieties, basically salty or sweet, but there are so many ways this yoghurt based drink can be enjoyed. Salted lassi is lovely, normally flavoured with a little ground cumin. Lassi’s are easily made vegan with the addition of non-dairy milk and vegan yoghurt, both are best used unsweetened we find. You can then control which and how much sweetener you choose to use, if any. The mango and coconut water are already sweet here and any sweetener is really only needed to give the sweet tooth a little treat.
We’ve eaten mangoes all over the world, but have to say that the best are Indian. I don’t think any other country reveres a fruit quite like Indians with their mangoes. Maybe the French with grapes?! Italians with tomatoes?!! Brits with apples?!! Its out there for discussion. Surely having a mango tree in your garden is a sign of very good karma though! Especially in Wales!!
The sheer diversity of mangoes in India is bewildering and the season is anticipated like the festive season over here. Mangoes are now very expensive in India, especially certain highly regarded varieties like Alphonso, Badami, Chausa, Dasheri…..there are loads. Where are you favourite Mangoes from? Thailand and the Philippines are closely behind India in the mango nirvana stakes for sure. The ones we bought here were from Brazil(!)
Adding turmeric to lassi’s is an age old remedy for stomach complaints in the sub-continent and we like adding turmeric to anything, such is it’s vibrant health giving properties (not to mention the colour! WHAM!! YELLOW!!!)
We are drinking these in autumnal Wales and need no extra chilling. If you happen to be in a nice hot part of the globe (well done!) you may like to add a few ice cubes to the lassi and decrease the coconut water a little. You could also freeze your coconut water into ice cubes, this works brilliantly and adds a lovely coco twist to cold drinks.
Other lassi varieties you could try:
Strawberry, Pineapple and Mint, Avocado and Lime, Beetroot and Thyme, Chocolate and Pistachio, Apple and Chai Spiced…….
You may also like to check out the brilliant Vegan Richa’s recipe for a spicy Thandai Lassi.
Mangoes are such a treat in Wales, they don’t come our way very often. We think a lassi is the perfect home for a nice ripe mango and a breath of bright tropical air in the early dark nights and rain clouds of beautiful Wales.
If are struggling to find coconut water, go for non-dairy milk (like soya or almond) and even straight water will make a good lassi.
If you can get ground cardamom, please do. Just a sprinkle on the top transforms the lassi. Cardamom and Indian sweets got together perfectly, but remember that too much can be overpowering. Lightly sprinkle.
These lassi’s are made without turmeric, so the colour is a little lighter.
Mango and Coconut Lassi (Vegan)
The Bits – Makes two small glasses
1 mango (peeled and de-stoned)
175ml coconut water
5 tbs dairy free yoghurt
1-2 teas sweetener (we used brown rice syrup)
1/2 teas turmeric (optional)
Pinch cardamom powder
Pop all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth and creamy. Check the sweetness and you can even add more yoghurt for extra creaminess.
Creamy sweet fruity YUM!
Pour into your finest glassware and sprinkle over a little cardamom and chopped almonds or pistachios for a real authentic India style.
Soya is packed full of protein and coconut has amazingly healthy fats. Mangoes are very high in vitamin A and C……as far as breakfasts go, this is a smooth and tasty winner!