Category Archives: Dinner

How to eat as a vegetarian…

A friend of ours has recently decided to stop eating meat. That sounds simple, but if you’ve always eaten meat, it’s not as simple as it sounds. If you’ve never really thought too hard about what you eat, it could be a complete shock to the system. Our friend is definitely finding that to be the case.

Knowing that I am vegetarian, he has picked my brain a few times, and it has made me think that it could be an interesting post for anyone making the same change to their diet.

Removing meat means losing vital nutrients in your diet, all of which are easily replaceable as long as you know what you’re doing. The main one is obviously protein, but also vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, iron, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids. These can all be easily found in vegetarian food choices. Eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds are your friends, along with other ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily think of like beans, legumes/pulses, some grains, lentils, oats which all contain protein. Other sources are listed below:

Vitamin B12: eggs and dairy are the best options

Vitamin D: is very difficult to find as a food source; I take cod liver oil tablets which give me omega 3 fatty acids, as well as much needed vitamin D

Iron: try legumes, nuts, seeds, prunes, raisins, kale, broccoli, spinach – eat with a source of vitamin C for maximum effect as it aids absorption of the iron (sweet potato is a great option for this, as it’s packed with vitamin C)

Zinc: whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, lentils

Omega 3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, also walnuts, soybeans, olive oil, hemp oil

*Many of these tips can also be applied to a vegan diet, removing the eggs and dairy

If you’ve always eaten meat, a typical meal would have no doubt been built around the meat portion: you start with the meat, and then add the extras, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice etc. When you don’t eat meat, or fish, or both, you have to think differently, unless you choose meat replacement products like quorn or tofu of course. I don’t eat those things so my meals are created differently. And you can’t just replace a portion of meat with a similar size portion of cheese: imagine a chicken breast sized piece of cheese?! Heart stopping stuff!!

Vegetarian proteins are not always lean proteins like some meat, you need to be aware of portion sizes. Nuts and seeds are great and provide so much goodness, but you can’t eat great piles of them any more than you can full fat cheese without it starting to affect your waistline.

If you are suddenly introducing your digestion to more vegetables, and legumes, than it’s used to, it may cause bloating and wind. In fact, I would suggest that you expect it, then it won’t be a surprise! All that extra fibre will take a bit of getting used to.

A lack of some of the key nutrients might make you feel achey, and it may be worth at some point requesting a blood test to see if you do have any deficiencies, or low levels, of any nutrients to help you understand what you need to boost.

People think that vegetarianism, or veganism, is a way to lose weight; the opposite can often be the case. It’s very easy to end up with very carbohydrate heavy meals. Think about how you filled your plate when you ate meat and keep the amounts of carbohydrate to a similar amount and fill up on salad and less heavy vegetables. I’m told that meat protein is very filling, so your meal now needs to include different filling foods without it being all carbs.

Becoming vegetarian just takes a bit of planning and understanding until it becomes second nature, which to me is all part of the fun of it, but to others may be new and daunting. Do lots of reading and research and read great blogs (like mine!) and other people’s experiences. Our bodies are all different, but the basics will be the same.

I make everything that I eat, but that’s my choice because I have the time, the inclination, and I love it! I love knowing exactly what is in the food that I eat, and I can manage exactly what my body needs. If that is not your inclination, or you don’t have the time, there are a lot of vegetarian choices available in supermarkets and restaurants nowadays. I have no interest in eating ‘meat replacement’ foods, they’re just not my thing, but if you do want to try them, I believe they are often fortified with helpful nutrients for vegetarians.

Becoming vegetarian really doesn’t have to be hard work.

If you are worried that you’re going to be hungry without meat, or fish, it really isn’t the case. You may feel a different kind of fullness, you may even notice that you don’t feel as ‘heavy’ or sluggish after meals because your body is no longer working hard to process the meat protein. But hungry, no, I never go hungry, ever!!!

That may all seem a lot to take in, so let me give you some ideas of what I do…

*I pack out my morning porridge with flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts as well as the oats and lots of spices

*I ensure that I include a source of protein in every meal, whether I top dishes with cheese, low fat cream cheese, goats cheese, chopped nuts, seeds or a swirl of plain yoghurt – I eat a lot of natural yoghurt because I love it which helps – whether I include quinoa, a magic grain packed with protein, whether I add dollops of homous or other dips

*I use ground almonds/almond flour in place of breadcrumbs where I can (I also prefer the flavour), or as a thickener in sauces or curries

*Tahini is wonderful! Tahini is a sesame seed paste packed full of goodness. Use it to make homous (another winner in the nutrition stakes), use it in place of cream, swirl it through soup, eat it from the pot! (Sparingly though!!)

*Homous really is your friend, it provides so much in one perfect dip. And you can eat it in so many ways, not just with carrots stick or pieces of pita bread

*Nut butters are great, again you can add them to so many recipes; for example, make a batch of bean chilli and add a spoonful of peanut butter

*Eggs baked in tomato sauces are a godsend – the perfect fast food

*Or eggs cooked in vegetable hashes (top right)

*Another idea that I’ve read but haven’t tried yet, it using chopped walnuts as a mince replacement in things like bolognese sauce or ragu

*Portobello mushrooms are noted for a having meaty texture and often provide a satisfying feel in the mouth for those missing meat

*Bacon alternatives can be made with slices of sweet potato, or indeed aubergine

*Chorizo flavours can be created with spices, particularly smoked paprika and chilli powder

If you are deciding to remove meat, and maybe fish, from your diet, I would definitely recommend to phase it out, going ‘cold turkey’ could put your body into shock and create discomfort. Maybe start by removing red meats, then poultry and white meats, then fish etc.

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you great luck, and I am always available if I can assist with any ideas…

*If you know someone who might find this useful, please do pass it on. Thank you 🙂

I am sharing my tips with everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by Lily and Alisa

Little bread ‘fantails’…

I had never heard of fantails before this week when I saw an image of an amazing little bread creation on Instagram; of course, I immediately searched it to see what it was and how to make my own and found this method using a muffin tin. I then made two batches two days running this week, of course, you wouldn’t expect anything else would you?! I made a cheesy version and a garlic butter version. They look so cool and are incredibly simple to make, and got a big thumbs up from my master bread taster 🙂

You could also use mini loaf tins to make them with a smarter finished edge if you have them.

You can really use any basic bread recipe, it’s the assembly that’s the key, but I’ll let you know how I made my dough too. I only used a small quantity of dough, it can easily be doubled.

My basic dough recipe:

250g strong bread flour

150g warm water

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1tsp dried yeast (can be quick or easy bake yeast)

Measure out the flour into a large bowl, sprinkle the salt and yeast over the flour and pour in the water and oil.

Bring it together with your hands and knead in the bowl for a few minutes until smoothish.

Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and leave the dough to rise for 2-3 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen, until it has doubled in size.

Line a muffin tin with baking parchment squares.

Once you have proved your bread dough, punch it done if necessary, remove from the bowl and place onto a floured surface.

*At this point you can fold in some grated cheese, herbs, aromatics, whatever you like.

Roll the dough out to as close to a rectangle as possible, to a thickness of a couple of millimetres.

Cut the dough into even strips. I used a pizza cutter to do this.

Brush the dough strips with melted butter then stack them on top of one another. For the garlic butter version I brushed the layers with homemade garlic butter.

Cut into even sized mini stacks.

Place the stacks cut size down into your lined muffin tin and spread the leaves apart a little bit if possible.

Hopefully these photos will help…

Cover the whole muffin pan with a plastic bag and let the dough prove once more for up to an hour.

Brush them with melted butter and bake in the oven at 200C for 15-18 minutes until golden and cooked through.

I brushed more garlic butter over mine whilst they were warm.

They are lovely fresh from the oven, they were also good the next day, and reheated well in the oven for 5 mins.

Great fun to make and eat really! I’m sure they’d be fun to make with kids.

I hope everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday enjoys my fantails!

My idea of ‘fast food’…

I don’t eat what is typically called ‘fast food’. I don’t buy or eat any ready made foods, I make everything I eat. I therefore make sure that my fridge contains things that I’ve made, various dishes, sauces, dips, prepared vegetables, cooked grains, at all times, so that I always have choices of my own food readily available. On the very rare occasion that I haven’t got anything immediately and readily available, and I’m hungry and want something NOW, I reach for the eggs…

Eggs cooked in a tomato sauce is my ‘fast food’.

I’ve always got eggs, and I’ve always got a jar of passata (sieved tomatoes), so that becomes my starting point, and then I add whatever takes my fancy from my fridge or kitchen cupboards. This can include any leftover vegetables, as below, any veg that needs using up (like the spinach included above), herbs, spices, chilli sauces, whatever takes my fancy…

And then I make holes in the mix and crack eggs into them and cook them through.

I usually then also add grated or chunks of cheese (as you can see on all three concoctions), sometimes I sprinkle over seeds or nuts, and very quickly, and simply, I’ve got a filling, tasty, healthy, colourful meal….

This can also be a perfect way to top up on protein for a vegetarian like me, particularly after exercise.

If you already make similar dishes, or fancy giving one a go, just grab some passata or tinned tomatoes and start building a sauce; look around your kitchen and take inspiration from what your fridge or cupboards have to offer, and add some texture and flavour and substance; then once you’re happy with it, make wells in the mixture and break eggs into them and cook.

Then, do as I do, and eat it straight from the pan! Perfect!!! That’s your meal right there – fast and fabulous 🙂

All to come…

I never meant for my blog to get so quiet, but that is what has happened this year, even moreso over the last few months…I intend to remedy this in the new year. As those of you who follow me on Instagram will know, there’s no shortage of baking and cooking and creating happening in my kitchen, it’s just bringing some of it to the blog that’s been missing!!

I’ve got new sourdough news to share; I’ve also been experimenting with making my own apple cider vinegar; and of course, lots of tasty healthy vegetarian dishes parade endlessly through my kitchen…and into my tummy 🙂

So I hope you will join me in the new year for more foodbod happenings?

Until then, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, and a very Happy New Year – enjoy!

(And if you need any vegetarian or vegan ideas for guests over the festive season hopefully my little blog here might be of assistance? Feel free to have a look round)

Falafels cooked in a aebelskiver/poffertjes pan..

I’ve made falafels many times before, always oven baked because I could just never bring myself to fry them! I’ve also seen posts from people using a poffertjes pan to cook falafels, and other patties and Indian cutlets, and decided it was time for me to finally treat myself to one.

For me, I remember this type of pan from my childhood for making mini Dutch pancakes ‘poffertjes’, but to you it may be an aebelskiver pan, used for making similar Danish goodies. It makes total sense to use them for cooking falafels or patties on a hob/stove with minimal oil. You can see below the tiny drops of oil in each hollow which proved to be a perfect amount…

I used it for the first time today for falafels and I will definitely use it again for these and other concoctions. 

The recipe I’m sharing below is a pretty standard falafel recipe, it is simple to play with it and create your own versions however. Today I threw together chickpeas, spring onions, garlic, dried herbs, spices, chickpea flour and lemon juice and it worked a treat! I got in there with my hands and started making little balls of mix which I flattened slightly in preparation to cook them. 

I have to tell you – I didn’t weigh or measure anything and I produced the perfect number of patties for the pan by pure luck….or sheer fluke!!!

Ingredients

250g dried chickpeas, placed in a large bowl of water and soaked overnight
1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Flour of your choice as needed – I used chickpea flour, but it can be any flour 
Some people also add half a teaspoon of baking powder, I didn’t this time


Method

Wash and drain the chickpeas
Put everything EXCEPT the flour in a blender and chop to a chunky crumb, then put it all into a large bowl
Add enough flour to bring the mixture together in your hands, then create small balls of the mix and flatten them slightly to make the falafel shape 
Put your poffertjes pan over a low/medium heat and place a small amount of oil in each dip and allow it to heat up briefly
Place a falafel in each dip and cook for about 15 minutes depending on the size and the heat your using, I kept checking mine and moving the pan around as it doesn’t sit evenly over the gas on the hob/stove 

I served mine on freshly made homous as is traditional, I highly recommend it! 

I’m taking my falafels to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls and Antonia

Moroccan spiced carrots, chickpeas and spelt…

It’s no secret that I love autumn, I love everything about it: the cooler temperatures, the beautiful colours, the changing leaves, the abundance of root vegetables…I didn’t mean to make something that almost epitomises autumn in a bowl, but that’s how it ended up! Maybe it’s just in my soul?!

In the beginning it was going to be a soup, but I can’t always bring myself to blend up the vegetables, they look too good whole, so this morphed into something else, not really a stew because it’s not very liquid, maybe a warm salad, or just as the title of the post says: ‘Moroccan spiced carrots, chickpeas and spelt’. I just kept adding things until I thought it was perfect!

I didn’t measure anything but I do remember how I made it so hopefully I can still share the process and it might be interesting…

In a large saucepan I heated some coconut oil, and added some chopped red onions over a medium heat; after several minutes and once the onions looked liked they were starting to brown, I added chopped garlic, cooked for a minute, then added liberal amounts of a Moroccan spice mix that I made previously. 

Again I cooked this for no more than a minute then added water to stop the spices from burning. I then added a great pile of peeled and chopped carrots, topped up the water until it covered them, added salt and pepper, then brought it to the boil. As the carrots cooked, I added some spelt, then later some chickpeas and chunks of butternut squash that I’d already roasted, chopped coriander (leaves and stalks) and finally some dried barberries for the colour and little surprise shots of their tart sweetness. 

And pretty much left it to bubble away until the carrots were cooked, but not mushy, and the spelt was cooked, adding water when necessary. 

Eating some with some tahini, as I did when it was just made above, you can still see the lovely colours of the individual ingredients. 

By the next day, the flavour had developed even more but the colours had all merged together and become one autumnal palette..

It’s the kind of dish that just gets better and better, and one I’ll be making again and again, and no doubt evolving as I do!

Happy Autumn everyone 🙂

A salad of dreams…

…well, to me anyway!!! 

I’ve made this salad several times recently because it’s been so good! It’s eminently pimpable, and even better 2-3 days later, so a winner in my book.

When I think of the salads of the past, of a bit of limp lettuce, a few slices of tomatoes and a bit of cucumber, I can see why people might think salads are boring…but this is nowhere close to boring. Not to me anyway….red onion, tomato, chickpeas, sweet potato, spices, flavours….it’s all good 🙂

Having just thrown this together, I have guesstimated the quantities that I used, feel free to amend based on taste and discovery…

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, washed and cut into chunks

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

2 medium red onions, sliced

1 can/jar chickpeas, drained and washed 

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tbsp lemon juice

1-2 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 tsp pul biber chilli flakes 

1 tsp amchur (dried mango) powder 

Handful of fresh coriander, chopped 

Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional) 

Olive oil 

Method

Mix together the tomatoes, red onion, chickpeas, pomegranate molasses, tamarind, lemon juice and spices. Stir it well then leave it for the flavours to develop and the juice to emerge from the tomatoes. 

*I leave mine overnight in the fridge for use the following day, although, it is already tasty once you’ve made it, it will be even tastier after a few hours. 

A few hours later, or the next day, boil the sweet potato chunks until they’re nicely cooked but not disintegrating. Drain and allow to cool slightly.

Put the salad together by adding the sweet potato to the tomato and onion mix, add your coriander and parsley, if using, and drizzle with olive oil.

Serve on its own as a meal, or with a meal, and be prepared to want to lick the plate! 

Note: if you find the mixture of tangy flavours too sharp, swap the pomegranate molasses for some a little bit of honey.

I’ve also made this with lots of extra coriander and parsley and minus the sweet potato and the flavours are still so good.

It would also be great with any kind of grains soaking up those lovely flavours…actually, now that I’m reminded of how good it is, I think I’ll make some more, right now….

I’m taking my salad of dreams to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted by the lovely Jhuls and Ai…check it out for a great collection of recipes…

Twice cooked cauliflower steaks..

Roasted cauliflower is not new on this blog, I’d just like to share with you something that I do in my kitchen…

Whenever I roast cauliflower, I always roast the whole thing so that I have leftovers; this way whatever is left is easy to reheat for the next day’s lunch. Once it’s already been roasted, reheating the cauliflower in an oven takes no time at all and it gets really nice and crunchy really quickly. You can eat it cold, or heat it in a microwave, but you won’t then get that lovely crunchiness. 

Then it can be topped with whatever you’ve got to hand, like I do…

You can consider it an alternative to bread if you like?

This is a perfect idea to share with this Corina’s Cook Once Eat Twice collection this month. I hope you like my ideas…

Above are roasted cauliflower steaks, reheated until crispy, topped with leftovers of my bulgur wheat salad with chopped parsley & coriander, garlic, spring onion, chilli, olive oil & lemon juice, and my salad of roasted aubergines, chopped and mashed, skin and all, with finely chopped garlic, spring onions & chillies, olive oil & lemon juice, and roughly chopped parsley and coriander, with some avocado on the side.

Seriously crunchy roasted cauliflower (on the edge of being burnt but not quite!), butternut squash wedges, and a mix of grains, aubergine, chopped herbs, spices, olive oil & ACV, all drizzled with tahini.

Roasted cauliflower topped with a mixed herb and freeze dried pineapple salsa, and crumbled goats cheese.

Lunch of roasted cauliflower topped with my roasted carrot & aubergine sauce creation from my last post, here pimped with added yoghurt to create something completely new and lovely – and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Re-roasted cauliflower toppe with stuffed roasted peppers and homous.

I do think that cauliflower is a beautiful thing, I love trees and cauliflower really is like a baby tree – although probably a lot tastier..;) 

The butternut squash wedges files…

In my last post I shared a butternut squash kibbeh, and I casually stated how I threw together my kibbeh mixture and that I used roasted butternut squash. I thought I’d clarify something about that point: I usually have a ready stock of roasted butternut squash to hand, hence how it was easy enough to throw the dish together…I shall explain…

I routinely buy large butternut squashes (Costco is good for them in the U.K.) and I cut them into wedges (or in half if they’re smaller), remove the seeds, and roast them. I don’t peel them, I don’t use oil, just put them in a hot oven, usually when I’m cooking something else too, and leave them until I’m happy with them. 

Before

After

Usually I’ll eat some of the freshly roasted squash at the time of cooking, and then I leave the rest of it to cool down and store it in the fridge. This way, I can pull a couple of wedges out and reheat them for lunches, or scrape the flesh from the skin and use them in recipes, like the kibbeh or thick soups. Having them already roasted means that the wedges can be reheated really quickly in the oven and the edges crisp up nicely and they make a great base for all sorts of toppings…

This is basically my alternative to a baked potato I guess – but with more flavour as far as I’m concerned. Or they can be loaded up like nachos or tacos, or spread with goats cheese instead of bread, or just drizzled with tahini. Or chopped up to be part of a salad, warm or cold, or added to cooked grains…I could happily go on and on….

Or used to throw together an easy kibbeh, as I did again this weekend…

So I’m not sharing a recipe today, but more a kitchen habit that I find useful and that I thought I would share. I like having a fridge full of things made and ready to go, because when I get hungry I need to eat right then! So along with endless dips and sauces and middle eastern style ‘salad’ concoctions, you’ll often find a tub of butternut squash wedges in my fridge 🙂 

I think I’ll add this to my ‘pimp your veg‘ collection…have a good week! 

Butternut squash kibbeh…

A typical middle eastern ‘kibbeh’ dish would include meat; this being my blog, and me being wholeheartedly vegetarian, this version does not…it is however, a really simple dish to make, eminently useful if you have any vegetarian guests at any time, and great for leftovers and weekday lunches. 

Of course, I threw mine together, but for more detail, you could refer to this recipe for a sweet potato version. 

In essence, this is a bake, almost a cake, utilising the grains to draw moisture from the vegetable of choice as it cooks, to create a finished article that holds together when you cut into it. 

I made my kibbeh in the photos using butternut squash that I had previously baked, mashed with a bulgur wheat and red and white quinoa mix, ground cumin, ground coriander, finely chopped red onion, olive oil and a pinch of salt. 

This was spooned over a bed of sliced red onions drizzled with olive oil, and baked for 25-30 minutes. 

And it’s done! 

You could easily add other spices and/or herbs to create your own flavours, I think some ras el hanout or baharat would be good. You could also play with using other vegetables and grains; I’ve made very similar dishes using a spiced tomato base and quinoa, I think it’s an easy basis to experiment with.

This was another one I’ve made recently using only bulgur wheat, and you can see how it keeps its shape when cut. 

It’s easy to cut into pieces and serve slices, when it’s hot or cold. And very tasty with any array of homous, dips, salsas, chimichurri…

I had some leftovers with extra caramelised onions and a dressing of buttermilk, tahini, garlic and lemon juice. The sweetness of the butternut squash/sweet potato, however you make it, works well with slightly tart of acidic flavours. Goats cheese would be perfect! 

I hope you like my offering for the week, I’ll be bringing it over to Fiesta Friday to see who I can tempt 🙂 

Have a great weekend, and happy Easter!