Category Archives: Vegan

Aubergine boats…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I love aubergines cooked whole, whether over fire on a barbecue, under a grill, in an oven or over a gas burner. The flesh becomes meltingly soft, it is truly the best way to cook aubergines.

Sometimes I remove the skin to use the flesh in a salad or dip, but I don’t like the waste, so I usually eat the whole thing.

However you choose to cook your aubergines whole, do remember to prick the skin otherwise they will explode!

If I don’t chop the aubergines up for various uses, I like to use them whole and fill them with whatever I have to hand..

This one was filled with quinoa and a sauce made of fresh spinach, garlic, almond butter, buttermilk, lemon juice and courgette, and topped with cumin seeds, Aleppo chilli flakes and sesame seeds. On the side is a grilled red pepper dip.

This one is filled with more quinoa mixed with chopped herbs, garlic, spring onions, spices, olive oil, lemon juice, and drizzled with tahini.

Whatever you fill your whole aubergine with, ensure that it is packed full of flavour and not too dry, this will then seep into the soft flesh and create a whole edible wonder 🙂

Hot or cold, whole aubergines work as the perfect carrier for my foods…happy weekend…I think it’s long overdue that I visit Fiesta Friday and say hello to my fellow bloggers….do pop over and see what great food other bloggers are sharing…

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The colours of my food…

Laura’s recent post about eating a rainbow made me realise it’s been far too long since I shared some of my food; colour fills my world, my kitchen cupboards (the spices, the crockery, the vegetables..) my wardrobe, and definitely my plate…

I can’t imagine not eating a variety of colourful flavourful dishes throughout the week. Not only is it good for your health, it’s HAPPY food! Happiness on a plate!!

This summer I decided to follow in the steps of many of my US food blogger family members and invest in a gas grill/BBQ to be able to cook outside when the temperatures rise and not turn on the ovens in my kitchen unless really necessary. Every time we use the BBQ I therefore also ask my husband to grill stocks of vegetables for me to use through the week…

A sea of goodness and possibility on our new grill/BBQ

I love these vegetables freshly cooked, cold, reheated, marinated, turned into dips, in endless ways. Having them already cooked means that they are full of that great chargrilled flavour and immediately ready to use…I like that too!

I think my favourite, which isn’t shown here, are whole grilled aubergines, the flesh becomes meltingly soft and so good for some many salads or dips, or used here as a perfect boat to fill with all sorts of my concoctions – including this one which was made from spinach, fresh coriander and hazelnuts, then drizzled with a nut butter dressing and sprinkled with Aleppo chilli flakes

The red peppers are great for salads, dips, harissa, sauces, like this red pepper homous…

I like nothing more than making up some sort of salsa verde, (which is what the two first pics are below), whether it’s based on chimichurri, chermoula, an Indian coriander chutney, or any mix of fresh herbs, garlic, spring onions, spices, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, maybe add some pomegranate molasses, and marinate chopped roasted vegetables with it, and leaving them to develop great flavours together…

Salsa verde always goes well with sweet potato, the sourness from the lemon juice/vinegar/pomegranate molasses is a work of art against the sweetness of the potato

This concoction, as shown at the top of the post, is an example of everything in one bowl: lots of the chargrilled vegetables with a salsa verde of some sort. It got better day after day as the flavours developed.

My Instagram account shows even more of these dishes, and more details of what’s in them, but for now, enjoy the colours of my world…

Enjoy!

What does ‘spicy’ mean to you…?

This weekend I spent Saturday at the BBC Good Food Show manning the stand of my lovely friend Sanjay (Sanjay and I bottom right, above) and his even lovelier business Spice Kitchen UK, along with Sanjay himself and his lovely Mum, aka Mamma Spice…

Above: Sanjay and his Mum, and examples of their beautiful spice tins covered with beautiful wraps made from saris, handmade by Mamma Spice.

What a great way to spend a day, surrounded by such beautiful products, supporting lovely people and talking about spices. It made me realise just how much I know about spices, and food history, and ways to use spices, and the various spice mixes, it was a revelation to myself if no one else!

It also made me realise that the people I was talking to seemed to fall into 3 groups:

Those who love spices, and are comfortable and confident using them, and loved finding spices available of such great quality;

Those who are venturing into the world of spice and would like to learn how to use spices more in their cooking*;

And those who totally disregard spices and tell you that ‘they don’t like spicy food’.

And it’s this word ‘spicy’ that made me want to write this post.

When I talked more to this group of people, if they stopped long enough to chat, what I discovered is that most of them viewed ‘spicy’ food as hot, as in chilli hot. They’re experience has often only been hot curry and they haven’t been impressed and have therefore written off ‘spicy’ food as a result.

To me, food cooked with spices is full of flavour and aroma and warmth and layers. The decision to add chilli remains with the cook, although using spices is not a prerequisite for including chilli. I often use collections of slices in dishes where no chilli is included.

One lady told me specifically, and quite disdainfully, that she didn’t like spicy food and didn’t use spices, but her son did and she bought him a spice tin as a gift. Before she walked away, I couldn’t help myself and asked her if she makes Christmas cake; she answered that she does. So I asked if she puts spices in it; and she answered that she does, listing cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. And so, I said….you DO cook with spices 🙂

So, what does spicy food mean to you? Is it a description that has become synonymous with chilli hot food? Is a better description for food full of flavour developed from spices, but not chilli, ‘spiced’ food? What do you think?

*By the way, to those people who want to know more about cooking with spices, I highly suggest that you take time to read recipes and see how cooks and chefs put spices together. I would cook exactly to recipes for a while whilst building your confidence, then start ditching the measuring spoon and going with your gut. And remember that there is no right or wrong here, just degrees of flavour.

Wild garlic flower oat cakes…

I fancied some oat cakes recently, I have no idea why, I haven’t had an oat cake for years, but sometimes something just takes your fancy doesn’t it?

So I decided to look up some recipes and see how to make them myself. There’s many recipes if you search for them, all with their slight variations; I read a few, got the basic idea, and devised my own plan.

I have continued foraging for wild garlic this week, in particular for the flowers; the plants are now flowering like mad and I think they’re so very pretty, as well as being tasty. I’ve collected them to use raw in and over dishes, and I’ve dried some in the oven for other experiments, so when I was pondering oat cakes, wild garlic was still very much on my mind.

For the first batch I made, above and below, I added crumbled, dried wild garlic flowers to the oat dough, as well as pressing dried flowers into some of them.

In the second batch, below, I added some dried and crumbled wild garlic leaves and added some non dried flowers instead to see how they would fare..

I also made a version with added sesame and pumpkins seeds, which worked well too, just not as pretty 😉

So whether you fancy some plain or pimped, here’s the recipe I used:

Ingredients

200g oats (I’ve used thick Scottish oats)

1/2 – 1 tsp salt to taste

50ml olive/rapeseed oil

A few tablespoons of boiling water

Method

Preheat your oven to 160C fan, 180C.

Line 1 large or 2 medium baking trays with baking parchment.

Put 100g of the oats into a mixing bowl, and the other 100g into a blender and run it to make a fine oat flour.

Add the oat flour & salt to the whole oats and add any extra ingredients that you want to add: a handful of seeds, some herbs, spices, chopped nuts…the possibilities are endless.

Drizzle over the oil.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of hot water and start to mix it all into a dough, add extra water as necessary to bring it into a usable dough.

Generously flour your work surface and roll the dough out to about 3mm thick.

*This is the point at which I pressed the flowers into the oat cakes.

Cut out the oat cakes with cookie cutters, I used 6cm and 8cm diameter ones.

Use a palette knife or fish slice to lift the cut rounds onto the parchment paper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning once halfway through.

*The time required to bake them may change depending on how much water you’ve added and what additional ingredients you’ve included.

Assess the oat cakes yourself to ensure they are as cooked and crunchy as you want them to be.

Allow them to cool to harden further.

Enjoy them on their own or adorned with whatever topping you like.

Store them in an airtight container. Mine softened after a couple of days but they were still good and the wild garlic flavour worked well.

My weekend brunch.

I hope you have fun with some oats cakes!

A week of wild garlic…

Every year, around this time, I see so many posts on blogs and Instagram of people sharing their wild garlic creations. And each year I’m so envious!!! I’ve tried wild garlic once, having paid a fortune for it at a local ‘posh’ greengrocers, and I know it’s lovely, but I’ve never found any locally to be able to forage for myself…until this week!

I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for weeks around where I walk Bob every morning; I know that wild garlic tends to grow in wooded areas, and where we walk isn’t wooded at all. Except for one small area, and this week, there it was! I finally found my own local supply of wild garlic…

In this small wooded area, running along a path we walk up and down regularly, is an area of bountiful, gorgeous wild garlic.

Oh the joy! I cannot tell you how excited I was!!! And by the look of it, no one knows it’s there, or maybe just doesn’t know what it is, which is even better 🙂

I immediately sent the photo above to Kellie, who is a wild garlic guru, to double check my find, but I was pretty sure I was right. I collected some there and then, using one of the nappy sacks I can for cleaning up after Bob, and returned the next couple of days with bigger bags and some gloves and foraged to my hearts content.

So, there’s been lots of careful washing and drying of leaves and stalks and flowers in my kitchen all week, the smell has been amazing, it’s got such a lovely smell, not as strong as bulb garlic, but you can tell what it is; and there’s been lots of concoctions, which I am sharing below. It honestly feels like such a gift from nature, and has made me smile all week; the pure simplicity of collecting, cooking and eating gorgeous fresh food direct form the earth is wonderful – I totally get those of your who grow your own food!

The leaves, stalks and flowers are all edible, and all have different strengths; the stalks have a stronger flavour than the leaves, and the flowers are stronger again, but none as strong as bulb garlic. You can eat them all raw or cooked. You can sauté the leaves like spinach, you chop it and add it to salad, the possibilities are endless. So here’s a few rough ideas to tempt you, apologies for the lack of quantities, I’ve just provided lists of ingredients and suggestions…

Chargrilled red pepper & WG harissa

Long red peppers, chargrilled, peeled and deseeded

Wild garlic leaves and stalks, washed and dried

Tabil spice mix (toasted cumin, coriander & caraway seeds, ground)

Pul biber flakes

Olive oil

Lemon juice

All in a blender and whizzed tougher.

WG & preserved lemon harissa

Wild garlic leaves and stalks, washed and dried

Spring onions, whites and greens roughly chopped

Half a preserved lemon, roughly chopped

Ground cumin & coriande

Pul biber flakes

Olive oil

Lemon juice

All in a blender and whizzed together, but not for too long, it’s nice rustic.

WG flower homous

Make your standard homous recipe but leave out the garlic, and add some carefully picked wild garlic flowers at the end, stirring them in by hand. Leave it a day before eating it for the flavour to develop.

WG cream cheese

Whizz up WG leaves and stalks, or just the stalks, or just the leaves, with your choice of cream cheese.

WG & pumpkin seed dairy free pesto

WG leaves and stalks chopped up with toasted pumpkin seeds, olive oil and lemon juice. Add your choice of cheese at will 🙂

WG & spring onion salsa verde

Wild garlic leaves and stems, washed and dried

Spring onions, whites and greens, roughly chopped

Homemade apple cider vinegar

Pomegranate molasses

Ground cumin & coriander

Pul biber chilli flakes

Olive oil

Chop all together in a blender to the consistency of your choice.

WG, tahini & yoghurt sauce

Blend WG leaves and stalks with tahini, yoghurt and lemon juice, and use at will like this, or add to other ingredients to create a dip, like below

Spiced carrot & WG, tahini & yoghurt dip

Carrots cooked in olive oil with red onion and garlic and my Moroccan spice mix, whizzed up with some of the tahini and yogurt sauce from above.

And to finish…

This was a mixture of some of the WG cream cheese mixed with the WG pesto, plus some boiled chunks of sweet potato and topped with wild garlic flowers.

I’ve also sautéd leaves with added spinach and quinoa, and eaten a fair amount of raw leaves in the process too!

I hope I didn’t lose you halfway down the page with all of my WG creations?! If you find some, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have 🙂

Pimping leftovers with Petra’s goodies…

I LOVE leftovers; to me, leftovers, or foods eaten a day or two after cooking/preparing them, taste vastly better than they did on day one. Flavours develop to create something so good that I pretty much always plan for leftovers and extras…

Today I had a variety of cooked vegetables and fresh herbs to use up and I decided to pimp them with some new products in my cupboard: last year my lovely blog friend, Petra, from the blog Food Eat Love, starting selling her homemade food products at her local Saturday market. She started off with amazingly pretty fresh pastas and sauces, and then expanded into sauces and crackers and jams and chutneys. Recently, she sent me some goodies to try, and I have used most of them in my dishes today. Let me show you…

These are what Petra sent me to try…lucky me! The two bottles that you can’t see the labels on are a ‘very hot hot sauce’ and a sweet chilli ginger sauce.

I’m afraid the dry tomato and coconut chutney was devoured first a little while ago, it was so good I literally ate in from the jar in two sittings..

If you can try this stuff, you really should! Included in the ingredients are cobnuts which give the chutney a great texture. But the rest I played with today…

So to today’s pimping…this was my lunch platter…

It includes…

Leftover broccoli & cauliflower, blended with yoghurt, crunchy hazelnut butter & Petra’s sweet chilli ginger sauce which added great flavour to the vegetables.

My homemade garlic mayonnaise pimped with Petra’s very hot hot sauce – perfect pimping.

Leftover roasted carrots & red onions blended with tahini, yoghurt & lemon juice…so good, the lemon juice and roasted carrots always works well together.

Fresh flat leaf parsley & coriander chopped up with my pickled garlic, spring onions, ground cumin, Aleppo chilli flakes, salt, olive oil, my homemade apple cider vinegar & Petra’s caramelised Seville orange & chilli treacle – I often add pomegranate molasses to my salsa verde concoctions and this was a great alternative.

All eaten with Petra’s Carta Di Musica flatbreads which are wonderfully thin and crunchy.

How’s that for a tasty lunch? And a perfect use of leftovers! Even if I do say so myself…;)

So a big thank you to Petra for letting me try some of her great products. I shall be sharing my concoctions with everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday, which is after all, where Petra and I ‘met’. In the meantime, do check out Petra’s Instagram page if you’re an instagram user and enjoy her beautiful pups as well as those gorgeous pastas…one day I’ll get to try some of them!

A very useful masala curry paste…

I’ve made this curry paste several times recently, it adds great flavour to any dish, plus it’s packed full of goodness and immunity boosting ingredients for this time of year.

I’ve used it to make masala sauces, added it to soups, and vegetable curries…

I’ve baked eggs into the sauce…

And I’ve made chicken curries for my boys with it.

I highly recommend making a huge amount of it and use it lavishly!

I have used lots of spices from the lovely Spice Kitchen UK and you’ll find the full recipe on their blog…I hope you like it!