Category Archives: Quinoa

How to feed a vegetarian dinner guest..

This time of year, I see a lot of articles and posts talking about what to feed a vegetarian guest should you find one sat at your Christmas dinner table; I always find it interesting to see what suggestions are proffered and I’m afraid, I very rarely agree. So often the solutions offered are pasta dishes smothered in some sort of cheese sauce, or something wrapped in pastry…basically, heavy dishes that, quite frankly, I wouldn’t eat.  Where are the beautifully cooked vegetables in all their glory?? 

  
So, I thought I would give my view point, being as I am, the ‘vegetarian guest’.. 

It’s funny because in my world, I’m one of many; I share my virtual world with many vegetarians & vegans, and in my real world my two best friends are also vegetarian – it wasn’t a prerequisite of our friendship or anything, it just happened that way; just shows that like minded people are drawn to each other doesn’t it? But if I find myself amongst family or a wider circle of friends, then I’m the alien (throw into the mix that I prefer low or no gluten, I don’t eat any sugar or sweet things, AND I don’t drink alcohol, and I really am an island…but that’s just me, that’s not all vegetarians) but I’m really not an alien, and I’m a lot easier to feed than you’d think..

So what would you think of feeding me if I came to your house? (Let’s pretend for a moment that I don’t have a blog full of ideas…!) Would you be completely stumped? Or drive yourself crazy with worry about the dish for this one person? Or just assume I must want to eat nut loaf?? (I don’t, by the way.)

Stop. It’s easier than you think. 

Do you mind if I offer some suggestions? 

My top tip would be: 

Don’t make your life difficult! Especially if you’re making food for lots of people, don’t let the addition of a different eater at your table cause you stress. 

And don’t make assumptions: I am labelled ‘vegetarian’ by most people in that I don’t eat any meat or fish, but I do eat cheese and eggs. Not all vegetarians are the same. Best to double check with them. 

So…make life easy…

First, tell me what you’re already planning to cook..for example..last year we visited my brother & sister in law over Christmas; my sister in law Tina is a great cook and she cooked a huge roast dinner for 7 of us; knowing how much she’d already have to do, I asked if she’d like me to bring a dish for myself? She very happily accepted the offer with great relief as she had been concerned about it, and I made a small sweet potato casserole which I took with me to heat up in her oven. 

When dinner was served there was about 10 different dishes of vegetables – I really didn’t need my dish too. I would have been quite happy with a plate piled high with lovely veg, and I’d have grabbed some of the nuts and seeds she had in the cupboard and sprinkled them over the top and been very happy. Whenever I cook a roast dinner at home, I just make sure there’s lots of vegetables with it and I eat them with some homous or any dips I’ve made, like the squash below, or with some grains I’ve got leftover from during the week. It’s that easy!  

 
Butternut squash, beetroot and quinoa 

The only notes I would make here are…consider your gravy, you may need to make a vegetarian version if your guest is a gravy lover (I’m not!); and if you roast your potatoes in goose fat, it’s only fair to to let your vegetarian guest know. Or maybe on this occasion, use a non animal fat to roast your potatoes in? 

The moral of this story is..consider what you’re already making and whether you’ve actually already got an answer in your menu. You may already have a perfect solution…can you make something ahead, like these marinated vegetables, or these, that will just need flinging in the oven in the day? 

Are you doing a dish with meat that you could produce a small amount of it without meat? Could you plan it that way? Make two versions of the same chilli or casserole/tagine for example? 

Or, make a vegetable based soup and offer a platter  antipasti, crudités, bread etc along with it and allow everyone to choose what they want. 

Salads are a godsend; especially warm salads (like the one below) in the cold temperatures; buffets are even better – let your guests choose; and side dishes are often the answer – I’ve often ordered just a selection of side dishes at a restaurant. 

  Tagine

A cordon bleu creation really isn’t necessary. For me, the aim would be to ensure that that guest is made welcome and not made to feel like they are the alien at the table. I can tell you that it isn’t a pleasant feeling.

So, why not just ask me what I’d like? As one of my vegetarian friends said: “I think you’re right, people rarely ‘ask’ what you like to eat, so you can end up with a Supermarket version of what a veggie [supposedly] likes to eat, which, can often be wrapped up in a huge parcel of stodge, ie, pastry. Why do they do that?!” Yes, why do they?? For me it just shows lack of imagination.

Although…if you do fancy offering a pie or flan of some sort that everyone might fancy a bit of, how about making it a healthy, tasty option like this beetroot galette with a lovely light gluten free crust..

 Or make life really easy, and let me bring a dish. I wouldn’t be offended at all. I’d rather not give a hostess added worry and I’d definitely prefer not to be presented with a dish that I’d rather not eat and then feel rude. And I’d really hate to cause any stress or extra work! So let me help. 

Of course, I am a blogger with a list of recipe ideas so I do have a list of suggestions on this here blog in case they be of use, including a Christmas feast I made for guests last year and all of my Pimp Your Veg ideas, plus lots of healthy, vegetarian snack and Christmas cake ideas, but I’m also available if I can be of help.  

 I hope this has been of some help to you and my friends at Fiesta Friday, com hosted this week by lovely Liz and Johanne. Enjoy! 

NOTE: many of these recipes and suggestions would satisfy vegan diets and/or ideas for guests with various food intolerances. 

Disclaimer: these are only my views, not all vegetarians are the same! All the more reason to ask 🙂 

A vegetarian ‘mujaddrah’ inspired lentil & quinoa dish..

 “Mujaddrah” is a typical Lebanese dish made with lentils and rice and topped with caremalised onions. It’s something I’ve wanted to make for a while, but as I started to do so, mine evolved into something else with more ingredients in it…I’ve read several versions of the recipes, some with spices and some without, and I used these various recipes as my inspiration, as well as my own ideas for pimping it, when I made this dish, which turned out really tasty, although not that colourful to photograph! 

  Ingredients 

250g green lentils, washed, soaked overnight and cooked as per instructions on the pack 

100g quinoa, uncooked

3 red onions, thinly sliced

2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 medium aubergines, cubed

2tbsp olive oil plus more to drizzle over aubergine 

1tsp cumin seeds

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp ground coriander

1/4tsp cayenne pepper

1tsp ras el hanout

Salt to taste

Water as needed

Lemon juice to serve 

 Method 

Heat the oven to 200C, drizzle a little olive oil over the chopped up aubergine and roast for 25-30 minutes until nicely cooked through, then take out and keep to one side until you need them 

Heat oil in a wide pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds

Cook on their own for a brief time until the pub start to sizzle then add the sliced onions 

Cooked them over the medium heat for 10-15 minutes until they start to caremalise and get all lovely 

(If you were making Mujaddrah this is when you would remove some of the onions from the pan to save for later to garnish the dish but I forgot to do that for my dish!)

Add the garlic after about 10 minutes and give it a chance to cook without getting burnt 

Add the roasted aubergine cubes and all of the spices and stir them all through 

Cook together for 2-3 minutes

Add then lentils and again stir through and cook together for a few minutes but don’t let lentils break down

Add the quinoa, stir it in and add 100ml water – you may feel that you want to add a bit more, but don’t overdo it – I used my quinoa cooking method here which is 1:1 ratio of uncooked quinoa:water plus there will be moisture in the pan from the vegetables and this is a good way of soaking some of that up 

Bring the pan to the boil and turn down the heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes

Turn off heat, and leave with lid on and allow the steam to finish cooking quinoa

And serve!

I ate mine with a handful of cashews that I’d roasted myself. I also enjoyed it again the next day by heating a portion in a frying pan with some olive oil and added some nuts in at the same time. 
  
Happy Weekend! I hope the partygoers at Fiesta Friday like my dish 🙂 

Cooking grains successfully every time..

 I regularly eat bowls of grains topped and mixed with various vegetables, seeds, cheeses and/or dips and sauces. Grains replace rice or pasta for me. These provide my lunches and dinners and even sometimes, my breakfast 🙂 

My favourite grain is quinoa, I like the flavour and it provides a source of protein in my vegetarian diet, but I also like to try different grains for their flavour and nutrients. 

In these dishes, I want my grains to be perfectly cooked, which is what this post is dedicated to…read on…

 I’ve talked about this before in my post about not cooking quinoa as it says on the pack – and I really really mean it: my experience has been that if you go by the packet instructions and cook quinoa in all that water for all that time it has only ever produced mushy, often bitter tasting, quinoa for me. 

I want perfectly cooked quinoa grains that are not stuck together and that have that slightly nutty flavour that they’re meant to and this method works for me every time…

Ingredients 

1 full cup of dried quinoa

1 full cup of cool water

NOTE: my ‘cup’ is a small mug, it doesn’t have to be a measuring cup; basically, it’s equal volumes of grains and water. Whatever you use to measure out the grains, use the same for the water. My mug full of grains makes enough cooked quinoa to last several meals. 

Method

Put the quinoa and water into a pan and heat on your hob/stove.

Bring the water to the boil and turn the heat down to simmer so that you keep the water bubbling.

Boil/simmer for 6 minutes ONLY.

(Don’t worry if it looks like it’s boiling dry, just give it a stir, it will be fine) 

After 6 minutes, turn the heat off and put a lid on the pan. The steam inside the pan will do the rest of the cooking.

Leave it to sit for 15-20 minutes then remove the lid and fork the quinoa to separate the grains.

Eat warm or place in a  bowl to allow to cool for cold recipes.

Keep it covered in the fridge for up to a week. 

And that’s it! 

It works every time for me with standard white quinoa. It has also worked with red quinoa, but I haven’t tried black quinoa, I think it tends to need further cooking. 

I’ve now gone on to experiment with other grains. With standard cooking instructions I found that buckwheat groats (above) are easy to overcook and turn to a sticky mush. With my method, it came out so much better; again, nice separate grains and a great favour.

Again: 1 cup of buckwheat groats + 1 cup of water and method as above.

And then to freekeh. 

Freekeh is a very young green wheat which has been eaten for centuries in the Middle East but is now finding fame in western countries. It’s a really tasty grain, but unlike the quinoa and buckwheat above, this is not a gluten free grain. For me, I find it is still gentle on my stomach though.

For freekeh, the ‘method’ still works it just benefits from a little bit more water:

1 full cup of uncooked freekeh

1 & 1/4 cup of cool water

Follow the method as above but leave the lid on for more like half an hour after simmering. 

Then fork up your freekeh and eat it in any way you fancy 🙂 

Enjoy! 

I have numerous examples of my bowls of grains on my Instagram feed if you’d like some ideas, as well as many and various ideas here on the blog. 

I will be continuing my experiments with rice and other grains very soon…x


My dukkah with a difference..

  
Dukkah is typically a mixture of roasted nuts, seeds and spices, all chopped to a tasty crunchy crumb mixture. It is very often mixed with olive oil and bread is dipped into it. It is documented as being Egyptian, and a version features in pretty much every Middle Eastern cookbook I own. There are often slight differences between the choices of nuts used, or the addition of roasted chickpeas, or not…like with all recipes, everyone creates their own version.

I’ve blogged about and made it before, and many times since in various guises, and I’ve been known to eat it unadulterated with a spoon from the jar, or thrown it over salads or vegetables, or included it in dips and marinades; it adds a crunch to all sorts of dishes, as well as great flavour.

I recently made it again with a twist..the addition of roasted hemp seeds for some extra flavour and goodness..
  

This dukkah is a mixture of..

Roasted chickpeas

Roasted hemp seeds

Roasted sesame seeds

Roasted hazelnuts

Roasted coriander seeds

Roasted cumin seeds 

 

Each of the ingredients need to be spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roasted in an oven at 180-200C. 

You need to watch them, as they all take different times to roast, and to ensure that they don’t burn or overcook as they will become bitter and ruin the mixture. 

Let them cool and them chop them all together to a crumb texture in a food blender. 

Then use at will!

  
Today mine became part of a salad with quinoa, grated carrot and courgette, lemon juice and olive oil. Big yum!!!! 

Better late than never..I’m taking this along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by lovely ladies, Sarah and Kaila, and hope that everyone will enjoy the freshness of this salad 🙂 

Mezze a la foodbod for Fiesta Friday..

 This is another of my lunches from this week..a selection of fresh tasty dishes for the eyes and the taste buds to feast on..perfect for a get together or a picnic or just a great lunch for one!!! I promise, I didn’t eat it ALL myself, not on the same day anyway..;) 

The mezze included the cauliflower, goats cheese and za’atar cakes that I posted earlier plus the following dishes..

Salad of quinoa, chopped parsley, grated raw courgette, lemon juice, olive oil, roasted cumin and dukkah

A new dip of roasted hemp seeds, lemon juice, water, roasted cumin, ground coriander, garlic, salt & pepper and parsley…more details on a future post. 

Chermoula homous with Turkish chilli flakes 

Shish taouk potatoes 

Roasted cashews & pine nuts 

 The salad was so fresh and full of goodness, and just as good the next day..

    I am bring my selection of dishes to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Loretta and Jess, join in the fun…

 Have a great weekend 🙂

Roasted aubergine, courgettes & quinoa with my parsley & hemp seed dressing…

  

Another lunch from last week..

  

Sliced baby aubergines and chunks of courgettes, roasted in olive oil and spices, with quinoa cooked my way, and the remains of my hemp seed dressing..step by step pictures to follow..

  

 
 

   

 

   

Soooooo tasty!!!!!! 

  

 

Yum!!!! healthy, tasty, fresh, homemade food, how fabulous is that??

More of my daily dishes of health and colour..

 As always, my recent lunches have been full of colour and health and flavour…so here’s a few tasters to inspire and tickle the tastebuds…

Last week I roasted a tray of cumin seeds to create my own roasted ground cumin, the smell was amazing! OMG! Just gorgeous! I keep smelling the jar of the ground roasted seeds it smells so good 🙂 I immediately threw some over some chopped tomatoes, mushrooms and cauliflower, along with some salt and olive oil, and roasted it all.. 

So tasty! 
Whilst cooking an Indian feast at the weekend, I followed a typical chicken madras recipe, but replaced the chicken with mushrooms and peas to create my own vegetarian dish.. 

 ..the leftovers of which made a great lunch the following day. 

I cooked up some quinoa yesterday – using my cooking method – and loaded it with my harissa sauce, this is harissa made as per my previous posts but made with the addition of lots of my own oven roasted baby plum tomatoes and garlic to create more of a sauce.  

This was topped with my ‘holy grail’ homous, dried barberries and raw cashew nuts. 
And today, after reading Julie’s post including braised lettuce, I decided it was time to give this one a try; I’ve seen several posts utilising lettuce this way and when I found a pack of mini lettuce gems in the reduced section of my local supermarket today, I felt fate had stepped in.  

I cut off the ends of the lettuce hearts and cut each one in half length wise; I melted coconut oil in a pan and laid the lettuce cut side down and cooked them for a few minutes until they started to brown, then turned them over to cook through some more. I served them in the pan with grated Red Leicester style goats cheese, my homemade Mexican chilli ketchup and sprinkled with aleppo chilli flakes.   

 It was almost like a pizza on a lettuce base! And very tasty, if I say so myself!! 😉 

I hope your week has started well xx

Lovely lunch with my lovely Selma…

 

In the middle of this week, something exciting and wonderful occurred: I welcomed Selma to my home 🙂 

Selma lives in South London; I live in Milton Keynes; that means that we live about 66 miles apart. I am north of London, right in the middle of England, in fact, Milton Keynes in the most land locked place in the UK being the furthest point from any water (interesting fact for you there!!). The 10 miles across London, being the busy city that it is, in my direction probably take as long to travel, if not longer, than the rest of the 50 odd miles! So I was very honoured that Selma made the journey to come and see me, to visit my world, see my kitchen and meet my Bob, and for me to be able to make her lunch 🙂 🙂 🙂 yay!!!! 

I’m afraid we were very remiss and took no photos of ourselves and not many of the food, we were far too busy talking, but I did take some shots of some of the leftovers of one dish to show you. Selma and I have met up three times before though, so you can see past photos!  I made Selma some of my favourites: fresh homous, sweet potato, tahini and harissa dip; chermoula spiced butternut squash homous; a new aubergine dip with tahini, cumin and pomegranate molasses; tahini sauce; cauliflower pan cooked with my fresh harissa; and a bowl of quinoa studded with knibbed pistachios, roasted slivered almonds, roasted pine nuts, roasted pumpkin seeds and dried barberries.  

 Yum!!!! It was as tasty as it was colourful.

As is my way, I viewed the leftover homous and quinoa dish and wondered what would happen if I merged them? So I did.  

I put them in my NutriBullet, with a little water and whizzed it all up!  

The outcome was good, and the flavours were totally new. The barberries provided a lot of the colour and flavour; they are a little bit sweet and a little bit sharp. And I kept some of the quinoa mix back and stirred it through as well and kept some of the crunch and texture. 

   It gave the dip a new consistency and flavour and packed it with serious protein and good fats!! 

So, next time you have leftovers consider whizzing them up all together with some lemon juice and tahini, and see what you get 🙂 

I am taking this along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls and a newbie co host, Effie. Do pop along and join the fun and see the vast arrays of recipes for yourself – you’ll never need a cookbook ever again! Have a great weekend xx

 

This week I have been playing with soya (endemame) beans! 

 

You know what it’s like, you haven’t been shopping yet and there’s limited fresh food in the house, so you look around and see what you can create from what you’ve got…this was me yesterday. So I pulled together what I’d got: soya (endemame) beans, quinoa, garlic, coriander, tahini, lemon juice, spices, dried barberries..basics that I always have.

This therefore was the basis of my lunch today and I can tell you it was so tasty!!! So fresh and healthy and packed full of flavour, so let me tell you more.. 

 

The salad

I cooked frozen soya beans then mashed them with crushed garlic, ground cumin, lemon juice and olive oil. I mixed this with cooked quinoa and left it over night for the flavours to develop. 

Today I added chopped coriander and topped it with dried barberries for colour and the added flavour bite.

It was so good!!! 

 

The green dip… 

Ingredients:

150g soya beans, cooked and cooled

1 bunch coriander, chopped

3-4 tbsp tahini (it’s not always easy to measure tahini so just pour some in and see how it tastes, you can always add more, I usually do!)

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 cloves of garlic, crushed 

1 tsp cumin 

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Water to loosen up the mixture as needed, start with a little and add as required 

Whizz it all together in your blender and enjoy!

The homous… 

This is packed full of spices and flavour!

Ingredients:

1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and washed

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup tahini, notes as above

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 cayenne pepper

1/4 ground allspice

Salt and pepper to taste 

Water to thin as necessary

Again, whizz it all up in your blender and enjoy. I use my NutriBullet to make my homous which makes it wonderfully smooth.  

 

I spooned some of both dips over the salad and stirred it through to create an amazing full on taste altogether.  

All I can say is: I do love my own food!!! 

I’m taking my salad and dips over to this week’s Fiesta Friday – did you hear, there’s a new party venue? Fiesta Friday now has its very own home, so pop over and have a visit and see what everyone has brought along. This week you are in the very wonderful and lovely hands of co hosts Margy and Selma – both amazing cooks, treat yourself to a good look round their blogs when you have some time to spare 🙂 

Have a great weekend everyone xx

 

My veg box..part 3: roasted kohlrabi & root vegetables with two new dips 



Kohlrabi is a new vegetable to me, I know I’ve read recipes from some of you who have used it, but I’d never tasted it. I looked up what it tastes like and decided to do my favourite thing with new vegetables: roast it and check it out! 

So I peeled and chopped it and threw it in a bowl with peeled and chopped butternut squash plus the carrots and shallots from the veg box, then tossed it all in Mrs Middletons rapeseed oil with some of my own moroccan spice mix..

Having tried a bit of the raw kohlrabi it seemed to me to taste a bit like a mild radish, with an element of parsnip to it. It was nice 🙂 

I roasted the vegetables at 200C I until I deemed them nicely done then mixed them with yesterday’s leftover quinoa and topped it all with flaked roasted almonds. It was wonderful tasty already but I decided to add some moisture with some dips..

I made a version of ‘toum’, the Lebanese garlic sauce I mentioned in yesterday’s post; this version includes greek yoghurt and a lot less garlic that is typical – so it doesn’t burn your mouth out!! 

I blended together:

400g 0% greek yoghurt

40g olive oil

30g lemon juice

1/2 – 1tsp salt (to taste) 

2/3 cloves raw garlic

Lovely!!!! Drizzle it over everything!! 

The other dip was an experiment: I had some leftover shawarma vegetables and quinoa from yesterday, so I whizzed them up with a good couple of tablespoons of greek yogurt plus some olive oil and it was so tasty!! Definitely worth having leftovers!! 

What a lovely lunch! And what fun I’ve had with my first veg box..:) I hope you’ve been inspired x