Category Archives: Homous

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

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Jerusalem artichokes and ‘chtitha’…

On Sunday I came home from a local farmers market with some different squashes, and a punnet of Jerusalem artichokes – when I saw the artichokes I was determined to try them, I’ve seen several recipes including them recently but have never tried them myself..

The artichokes are tubers and look a lot like small misshapen potatoes. 

As is my way, the first thing I did was roast half of them to see how they taste; I recall clearly from what I’ve read that Jerusalem artichokes go brown very quickly, so I washed them throughly, dried them, them chopped up everything else I wanted to roast first, got the oven ready, then cut them into halves and threw them in. 

I roasted them with carrots, red onions and garlic, adding pul biber chilli flakes and sweet paprika after about 25 minutes. I ate them with half a roasted squash, tahini sauce and homous..

The artichokes may look and act like baby potatoes, but the flavour and texture is quite different. They are not floury like potatoes, they maintain a slight crunch, and have an earthier, nuttier flavour.

With the other half, I took the recommendation of lovely Linda from La Petite Paniere; Linda said that she likes to make an Algerian dish called ‘chtitha’ with Jerusalem artichokes and chickpeas, so that’s what I did, and it was so good! Following a recipe from Linda’s blog, I made a paste of garlic, harissa, sweet paprika, ras el hanout and ‘fliou’ or mint…

Which I cooked in olive oil before adding some water, then the chickpeas, followed by peeled and chopped artichokes..

Shown here with some tahini sauce, it was so tasty! 

I also whizzed up some of the leftover veg from the night before with some tahini sauce to make a dip which i ate with it too, as shown on the right below..

I will definitely be making the chtitha paste again and cooking everything I can think of in it!!! You must visit Linda’s recipe if only to read what the word chtitha means 😉 

And today I finished off the leftover chtitha with the roasted acron squash and homous..

All in all a very enjoyable couple of meals. The squash has been lovely too. 

I do recommend trying the artichokes if you can find them, but I recommend making the chtitha more! 

Luscious lunches…

I make a lot of food. A LOT.

Let me explain: I eat virtually every single meal that I ever eat at home, and I make every single part of those meals.  And I eat a lot!!

I might eat food that I haven’t made a MAXIMUM of twice a month; other than that, I only ever eat food that I have made myself. And I love it! I know exactly what’s going into my body, and I know that I’m going to enjoy my food, and that it’s going to nourish me in every possible way. (And actually, on the occasions that I do eat something that I haven’t made, I end up feeling like I’ve missed out, because I miss eating my own food!)

I don’t ever ‘grab a sandwich’ or open a pot of soup or any kind of packet; I eat meals I can take time over, time to make and time to eat. I make versions of past dishes, versions of elements of dishes, new dishes, experiments, I use lots of leftovers, I make make make all the time.  I have a lot of food preparation happening in my kitchen constantly, for me and my boys. I routinely cook a couple of different grains at a time and have them available in the fridge; I endlessly roast vegetables to use once cooked and to create leftovers; I make sauces, dips, spice mixes, marinations, doughs, salads, chillis, curries, the list goes on…and a big part of this is because I can, I have the time, and because I want to. I spend a lot of time cleaning my kitchen too!

I also take a lot of photos of my food! Instagram is great for sharing those dishes daily, but not everyone is on Instagram and I like to share them on here too, in the hope that I may provide ideas and inspiration. Sometimes I wonder if each dish constitutes a post of their own, but then I think they’re too simple, hence why I share collections of dishes, which is what I am doing again today. And I’ve decided to call this, and future, collections ‘luscious lunches’ as these are typically my lunch dishes.

I am also co hosting Fiesta Friday today, along with Michelle from O Blog Off, and look forward to the huge amounts of weekly inspiration that I’m sure I will find there 🙂 

So, let me show you some recent dishes from my kitchen…there’s been a lot of Levantine and Middle Eastern flavours recently…

Chunks of carrot and sweet potato, steamed, then finished in a pan with coconut oil; with a version of chimichurri made with lots of verjus instead of vinegar, and added crushed roasted hazelnuts. 

Leftover roasted aubergines as per my previous post, with tomatoes and chopped parsley, and a version of chermoula, and toasted slivered almonds. 

Wedges of butternut squash, roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and dukkah, with a sauce of yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice & pomegranate juice, topped with fresh coriander and pomegranate seeds.

Leftover freekeh and couscous topped with leftover roasted carrots from one meal that became…

…this lunch, topped with sumac, tahini sauce, dried barberries, toasted slivered almonds & pistachios.

Couscous with parsley, coriander, dukkah, toasted almonds & dried barberries, with a dressing of lemon juice & olive oil.

The above salad eaten with a salad of cooked carrot mashed with herbs, tabil spice mix, tahini & lemon juice.

Cauliflower roasted with olive oil & hawaayij spice mix, with freshly made homous.

Roasted butternut squash slices, topped with a thinned homous & toasted nuts, with baby plum tomatoes and a salad of aubergine, garlic, chopped parsley, tahini & lemon juice.

Couscous with roasted butternut squash, red onions & garlic. 

Carrot and herb salad.

A pan full of red onion, garlic and tomatoes, cooked in coconut oil, with several spoonfuls of my Mexican chilli and cocoa sauce, avocado, egg and grated hard goats cheese. 

And this dish at the start of this post, aubergine, tomatoes, chopped herbs, freekeh, and homous

Lots of fresh vegetables, and goodness, and versions of versions, and LOTS of flavour! I don’t make food without flavour!!!

So that was a view of the past couple of weeks, I hope you found it interesting. 

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, and don’t forget to visit Fiesta Friday x

Aubergine, carrot & beetroot ‘salads’…

This little plateful of colours, somewhat like a painters palette, formed a recent meal; it included a beetroot salad, a roasted aubergine salad, a roasted carrot salad, homous, and caremalised onions.

I put salad in quotation marks because these are not what you might typically call salads – there’s no green leaves in sight and they’re quite ‘tight’, as opposed to a typically looser collection of ingredients. These are more middle eastern in style, as you’ll see from the ingredients..

You’ll also notice a theme amongst the ingredients: tahini, garlic and lemon juice, the wonderful trio that I put with so many things, and that forms the backbone of homous, along with chickpeas.

So, on the plate is..

Beetroot salad

Boiled and cooled beetroot, mashed with tahini, lemon juice & garlic

Carrot salad

Boiled, roasted and cooled carrots, mashed with olive oil, soy sauce, tahini, garlic, chopped coriander, Aleppo chilli flakes and ground roasted cumin & coriander seeds 

Aubergine salad

Whole roasted aubergine, skin removed, and mashed with tahini, lemon juice and garlic, and mixed with chopped fresh coriander and ground roasted cumin 

Plus homous, using my holy grail recipe, and sliced red onion that I’d caramelised in the oven. 

As you’ll notice, there’s no quantities, because they were all just thrown together from bits and pieces of inspiration and ideas, so I would suggest playing with the amounts. And if any of them taste or feel too ‘claggy’, just add more lemon juice, that’s my motto!

The next day I mixed up the leftovers of the carrot salad and the aubergine salad to create one thing of beauty…mmmmmm…..

I hope your week starts well 🙂 

Chickpeas anyone? 

I use chickpeas a lot, yes I make a lot of homous, but I do also use a lot of chickpeas in tact in other dishes so I thought I’d share a few recent chickpea dishes..

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, chana, gram or cece, have lots of great health benefits, and provide a decent shot of protein for us vegetarians. They are so good for dips because they become so smooth when blended, whereas I find that some other beans can be quite grainy. They also take on flavours really well; their consistency means that flavours can infuse into them and this is what I really like. 

I buy chickpeas, already cooked, in jars, as opposed to cans, and I think the quality is better. On occasion I soak and cook my own chickpeas from dried, but for ease, jars are my choice. I currently have 4 different makes of jarred versions, from tiny organic chickpeas, to big fat Spanish chickpeas – I can tell you from experience that these big garbanzo beans do NOT make good homous, they’re too grainy to be used in a dip, but great in salads and cooked dishes. 

So here’s a few recent ideas, there’s more elsewhere on by blog too..

These chickpeas have been drained and washed and dried, and are being cooked in a pan over a medium heat in coconut oil, and then I added my rose harissa spice mix..

I ate them warm, whilst they had a bit of crunch, on a bed of tahini sauce..So good!!!

The leftovers adorned some homous the next day.

I love to marinate chickpeas in herbs and spices and dressings, as those have been below; the inclusion of an acid in the mix – lemon juice or a vinegar – helps to cut into the chickpeas, just like marinating meat or fish. And just like marinating meat or fish, the longer you can leave the chickpeas before you eat them, the more the flavours develop.

Chermoula, or a version of it, is one of my favourite ways to enchanted chickpeas..chermoula is a North African sauce, typically made of chopped coriander and parsley, garlic, ground cumin, sweet paprika, salt, olive oil and lemon juice; some people include chopped onion, some people include some cayenne or chilli of some sort. 

On this occasion, the chermoula chickpeas are served with a pea dip and a romesco inspired salad.

And again below, chickpeas in a freshly made chermoula pimped with saffron, but this could just as easily be a salsa or chimichurri sauce.

These chickpeas often end up being blended into a dip with some tahini in my kitchen 🙂

I mixed these chickpeas with some leftover oven baked caramelised onions and garlic – heavenly!! 

Whereas for these chickpeas below, I cooked chopped red onions over a medium heat in coconut oil, with added crushed garlic, and some rose harissa..

Lovely with a coriander, garlic and yoghurt dip, and my recent roasted red pepper sauce creation. 

I often add chickpeas to my many and various versions of shashuka..

And of course, there’s my most favourite marinated chickpea dish..

I hope you like some of my chickpea dishes..I’m taking them along to Fiesta Friday and hope this week’s partygoers enjoy them 🙂 

In the meantime, I’ll be marinating some more chickpeas for another concoction…x

Rose harissa spiced chunky homous…

I’ve been playing in my kitchen…nothing new there, I know… 🙂 

Last week I made up various fresh spice mixes including my rose harissa spice mix

I love it for how it smells as much for how it tastes, and the rose petals are just beautiful…

I will use it in all sorts of dishes and the first experiment was this one…a chunky homous…

Typically homous is made with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and maybe some water if necessary – this is my holy grail homous recipe – I made this version with chickpeas, tahini, my rose harissa spice mix and Verjus. I also kept it pretty rustic as opposed to blending it to completely smooth…(as homous means chickpeas in Arabic I think I can still call this homous 😉 ) 

With the use of Verjus instead of lemon juice, plus the spice mix, it created a lovely warm, mellow flavour…

A nice experiment and always lovely using the dried rose petals 🙂 

Red and yellow and pink and green…

 I recently discovered a greengrocers in a village near me that pretty much sells every slightly ‘unusual’ fruit and vegetable you could wish for…it is packed with heavenly wonders…including samphire, artichokes, wild garlic, yellow courgettes, numerous types of tomatoes…so much lovely produce I can barely remember it all. Sadly it’s not locally grown produce, all those things couldn’t grow in the UK at the same time, and it’s not exactly cheap either, but nice for an occasional visit I think..I’ll stick with our wonderful central market for my usual supplies. 

I was excited to find some wild garlic though as I know it’s the season and it’s not sold anywhere else locally to me, and I haven’t been brave enough for forage for any for fear of poisoning myself! (Plus I don’t know where to start looking locally?!) I grabbed a handful of the lovely leaves, as well as a couple of yellow courgettes (squash) and a few other things…

After a VERY good wash, some of the wild garlic leaves went into some homous, and some became a pesto, whizzed up with almonds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and some grated cheddar cheese..very nice with these sweet potato fries, using Chitra’s recipe, and sriracha homous for a Saturday tea.. 

When I saw how many stalks I had left (and registered how much they must have cost!) I decided to use them too and chopped them up for another days lunch.. 

This was a creation of bits and pieces really:
Chopped yellow courgette and wild garlic stems, cooked in coconut oil, with added cooked freekeh, and topped with roasted flaked almonds and dried barberries..yum! I didn’t add a dressing as I ate it with freshly made homous.. 

It’s such a pretty plateful, even if Spring isn’t happening outside your window, it can happen on your plate.. 

That’s what I think anyway 🙂 

Enjoy!