23May/15

Puy lentils with spinach

Green lentils spinach(2)

I love lentils and beans for obvious reasons and cook them very often, in one form or another because they are so versatile.  For those who don’t, do please try specially if you are vegan; they are a source of vital nutrition, vitamins, protein and fibre, specially if you use the lentils with the skins on, like green or brown lentils. Add a handful of spinach and voila! complete delicious meal served with steamed rice (link for rice) and a helping of your favourite salad.

I used French green lentils (smaller and speckled known as Puy) but you could use the usual slightly larger, lighter green lentils too.  Here is a link briefly explaining green lentils.  Puy lentils with spinach is so quick and simple; another reason to make it a regular feature on your menu.

Ingredients

150 grams Puy lentils (no need to soak)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
Little chilli powder (optional, I didn’t use any)
100 grams fresh or frozen spinach
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt
Tadka
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  • Wash and cook the dal with all the spices and salt in 700ml water – about 30-35 minutes
  • When the lentils are cooked and the dal is thickish, add the spinach and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • Adjust the consistency of the dal when you add the spinach – if you like it thinner, add a little more water
  • For tadka: Heat the oil and add cumin seeds. Give it 30 seconds and add onions and fry until golden
  • Pour fried onions and cumin on the dal and serve with rice – I made some aloo gobi too and dinner was served, with a flourish!

Aloo gobi dinner

 

23May/15

Aloo gobi

Aloo gobi(2)

Here’s the way I do my aloo gobi…you know the one we inevitably order when we go for a curry…. The sauce is very basic with tomatoes but the trick is to first add the potatoes and then 10 minutes later pop in the florets – keeps them nice and crisp and perfectly cooked – add them all together at your peril….potatoes take longer to cook and poor cauli suffers the “squidgy mush” syndrome.

I also tend to use a few of the stalks provided they are nice and fresh….why waste? And they add flavour and texture so do give it a go.

Aloo gobi dinner

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 small cauliflower (my florets weighed about 350-400 grams)
Few cauliflower stems and leaves if fresh, roughly chopped
3 medium potatoes (about 500 grams), cut into 4 each
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1½ inch piece of ginger, minced or chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 heaped teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2-3 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree (or add more tomatoes)
Salt to taste
A little fresh coriander for garnish

Method

  • Fry the onions in oil until golden
  • Add all the spices, tomatoes, tomato puree and salt

Aloo gobi

  • Cover and cook gently until tomatoes are cooked and mushy – add a small splash of water if required

Aloo gobi(3)

  • Add potatoes and cauliflower stems (if using) and 150ml water and cook for 10 minutes

Aloo gobi(4)

  • Now add the cauliflower and cook for a further 15 minutes
  • Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with rice or chapatti
20May/15

Courgette (zucchini) with chilli flakes

Courgettes with chillies(2)

Here is a simple and easy courgette (zucchini) recipe with chilli flakes which takes no time to prepare and can be used in a wrap to take to work for lunch or as a side dish with rice and lentils!  Make it as hot as you like or alternatively use one of the milder chilli varieties – your choice!

Don’t be tempted to add water or you will end up with a very mushy plate of courgettes…..simply cover and cook on low as there is enough moisture in the courgettes.

Ingredients

3 medium courgettes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced (don’t skimp with the onions! they go very well with courgettes)
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes (use the mild variety if you don’t like it hot – for example, Ancho Poblano is a mild chilli. You can buy chillies from Amazon or South Devon Chilli Farm)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons oil
Salt

Method

  • Heat oil and add cumin seeds, give it 30 seconds and add onions
  • Fry gently until translucent and edges begin to turn brown
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and cook on low for about 10-12 minutes, stirring to ensure the courgettes don’t stick to the pan
  • Serve with any flat bread, chapatti, or wrap

 

13May/15

Lentil nuggets and curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(3)

Not enough can be said to extol the virtues of lentils specially in a vegan/vegetarian diet.  They are full of nutrition and a source of protein and should be the mainstay of any vegan or vegetarian diet – they are so versatile and you lose out big time if you don’t get to know them intimately. There is a huge variety of lentils available and yet most of us don’t venture beyond orange lentils or mung beans.  Did you know that lentils without the skin taste completely different to lentils with the skin – for example, take the ubiquitous orange lentil – have you tried the very same with the skin? a very different story ……

Lentil nuggets are deliciously crunchy and so easy to make and yet for some reason had slipped off my repertoire – some things do and then one day it just appears on the radar, triggered by some unknown thought or action….who knows! Anyway, the other day I opened the cupboard to get my usual orange lentils out and spotted the jar of urad dal which I admit doesn’t get as much attention from me as the other lentils….and that is how it came to be.

Urad dal pakoras(2)

I forgot to soak the lentils overnight but 4 hours in luke warm water is enough and does the trick. As I was doing the nuggets as part of our evening meal, I decided to make a curry sauce with floating nuggets and you can see for yourself that it was a huge success – lentil nuggets are back on the menu!  For this curry sauce I used yogurt instead of tomatoes but there is nothing to stop you from adding a tablespoon or so of tomato puree.

Urad dal pakoras(6)

Urad dal is a sticky lentil so if you add a little to your regular orange lentil, it will give it a slightly gloopy texture – try it.  Lentil nuggets can be made with just urad dal or a 50/50 combination of urad and mung dal but I have used just urad for this recipe. Give it a go and you’ll see what I mean – it is so simple and the texture of the nuggets is firm and crunchy unlike pakoras made with gram flour (basan).

Makes about 15-16 nuggets

Ingredients

200 grams skinless urad dal (soak overnight in cold water or for 4 hours in warm water)
1 teaspoon onion granules
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ level teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
Oil to fry
Little chopped fresh coriander for garnish

Method

  • Rinse the soaked dal and grind in blender to a coarse, thick paste
  • Add all the ingredients and mix well

Urad dal pakoras

  • Gently form into small, golf size balls – the balls will be soft but that’s fine
  • Heat some oil in a small wok – about ¼ inch of oil
  • Fry the nuggets for 10 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Using 2 forks to turn them over works well for me
  • Serve with a sweet chutney or in a curry sauce (see below) and eat with rice

Curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(5)

Ingredients

1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, minced or finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (available at all Asian stores or online – buy small packet as it goes a long way)
½ teaspoon paprika (for colour)
Little salt
100ml unsweetened natural yogurt (I used Sojade)

Method

  • Fry the onion in oil until golden
  • Mix all the spices with the yogurt and a little water and add to the onions
  • Fry the spices for about 6-7 minutes, adding small splashes of water if required
  • Add about 400ml of water and let the curry sauce simmer on low for about 20 minutes
  • Check the sauce for preferred consistency and add the urad dal nuggets and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the chopped coriander and serve with boiled rice
05May/15

Rice, leeks, chanda dal with roast courgettes

Rice, leeks, chana dal with roast courgettes(6)

Of all the grains available to us, rice and wheat are the most commonly used and most versatile of all.  With a little creativity you can go a long way with rice and produce some amazing and healthy meals. Rice freezes well and any leftover can be produced another day for a quick meal with a side dish of veggies! In addition, there are many different types of rice available; Basmati rice, long grain, brown, black, red etc etc… In countries where rice is a staple, white rice is the most commonly used type, but most dishes can be adapted to brown rice, bearing in mind that the cooking time for brown rice is longer.

A while back I posted rice with chana dal.  This is a variation with leeks which I prefer, not only for the sweetness of the leeks but also because it makes the rice a complete all in one meal.  Roasted some courgettes while the rice was steaming ….roast aubergines also go very well with this rice.  Rustle up a simple salad and you have a meal friends and family will love.  In fact, it is a perfect dish to serve if you are having friends over as the chana dal can be cooked the day before and if you fried the leeks too, all you would need to do on the day is boil the rice and layer with dal and leeks – Voila, dinner is served!

4-5 servings

Ingredients

100 grams chana dal (soak for an hour if possible)
3 cups water
¼ teaspoon baking soda
300 grams Basmati rice (soaked for an hour)
2 large or 3 medium leeks, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon kala zeera (black zeera available from Asian stores or online)
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons natural soya yogurt (I use Sojade available from health food shops and Planet Organic)
Salt

Method

  • Cook the chana dal in 3 cups of water with baking soda until cooked but whole (keeps it shape) – set aside
  • Fry the leeks in 2 tablespoons oil until translucent – about 10 minutes (remove the leeks and set aside)
  • In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and add kala zeera, after 30 seconds add curry powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger, yogurt and quarter teaspoon salt
  • Fry these on low heat for 5 minutes – you may need to add a small splash of water while frying
  • Add chana dal (having drained the water) and gently stir into the spices

Rice, leeks, chana dal with roast courgettes(3)

  • Rinse the rice and bring to boil in a large, deep pan with lots of water and 1 teaspoon salt
  • When it comes to the boil, lower heat to medium and cook for about 3-4 minutes until cooked but not soft – al dente
  • Strain the rice in a colander
  • In a large, deep saucepan put 3 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon oil
  • Put one-third of the rice into the pan, spoon the chana dal and spice mixture and lay the leeks on top
  • Place cherry tomatoes on the leeks and cover this with the remaining rice

Rice, leeks, chana dal with roast courgettes(4)

  • Cover the lid with a tea cloth and steam rice on low heat for about 15-20 minutes
  • Serve with roast courgettes

Roast courgettes

  • Thinly slice two courgettes (keep the skin on)
  • Drizzle a little olive oil and some sea salt and roast in a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, turning once
  • You could grill the courgettes if you prefer
30Apr/15

Vegan Frankfurter Bake

Vegan Frankfurter Bake(2)

Lately I have been buying loads of leeks! Well wouldn’t you….this time I picked up a 500 gram pack of beautiful leeks from Tescos for £1!  I know some people aren’t overly fond of leeks but I find if I slice them thin and sautee in olive oil before adding to the bake they are so creamy and sweet and I always go back for more. However, do use onions if you happen to be one of those not keen on leeks and you should have a delicious bake in no time which feeds 4 hungry vegans or 5-6 not so hungry vegans!

Vegan Frankfurter Bake(3)

Last time I did potato gratin and used vegan bacon which was absolutely finger-licking superlicious! This time I had a go at a vegan frankfurter bake and added some white beans which not only bulked it up, it also added nutritional value and added creaminess – a first rate vegan bake you are bound to love.

Vegan Frankfurter Bake

4 good servings

Ingredients

5-6 medium waxy potatoes, about 650-700 grams, thinly sliced (don’t use the ones for mash!)
2 large leeks, thinly sliced (use 2 medium onions or shallots if you don’t like leeks)
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tin of white beans (Cannellini or any other)
1 teaspoon dried sage
300ml vegan stock (I used 1 teaspoon of Marigold vegan bouillon powder)
2 teaspoons cornflour mixed with a little cold water
6 vegan frankfurters cut into 2 inch pieces (I used Tivall frankfurters as frankfurters hold their shape better)
150ml vegan cream (I used Oatly Longlife)

 

Method

  • Saute the leeks (or onions) and garlic in olive oil until translucent and edges begin to brown
  • Add white beans, sage, 300ml stock and cornflour paste and cook for a couple of minutes
  • Place in large ovenproof dish and add frankfurters and cream
  • Lay the potato slices to cover the dish (I got 2 layers)
  • Cover with a tight lid or foil and bake in pre-heated oven at 200C, 400F, gas mark 6 for about 35-40 minutes until potatoes are cooked through
  • Place dish under grill for a few minutes to brown the potatoes
  • I served this with spinach garnished with 2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic sautéed in olive oil
25Apr/15

Rice, broad beans & braised tofu

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(6)

It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which rice lends itself to variation with good results and how well it marries with most vegetables, tofu, seitan, lentils, beans dry fruit and nuts.

Rice makes a vital contribution to our diet and specially vegans and vegetarians are very fortunate to have this humble, unassuming grain as part of their culinary repertoire. It cheerfully accommodates and adjusts to suit tastes and palates all round the world – I feel blessed…….

Layering rice with a central layer of some sort of stew or spicy mixture is known as biryani as opposed to rice cooked in broth with vegetables, which is called pilau or pilaf. Biryani was traditionally prepared for feasts or special occasions and as such good quality Basmati rice was used.  However, these days most families will have it once a week – Sunday lunch perhaps?

For this recipe I made a mild stew with lots of fried onions to add sweetness, broad beans and flat leaf parsley and replaced tomatoes with soya yogurt.  It turned out to be a delicious and very satisfying meal and required very little besides a simple salad of onion, tomatoes and cucumber.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 small cups (about 300 grams) Basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour
3 medium onions, sliced
5 tablespoons oil
2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
5 tablespoons natural soya yogurt (I use Sojade)
1 good cup broad beans (I used frozen)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tin Marigold braised tofu, cut into 1 inch pieces + good pinch of turmeric
Salt

Method

  • In 1 tablespoon oil fry the button mushrooms, remove and set aside
  • Fry onion in 3 tablespoons oil until golden
  • Add spices, yogurt, beans, a little salt and half cup of water
  • Cover and cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes until broad beans are cooked
  • Add fried mushrooms and parsley to the beans, cook for a further 2 minutes

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(2)

  • Rinse the rice and bring to a boil in plenty of water with 1 teaspoon salt
  • Boil for about 3-4 minutes until the rice is almost cooked but still slightly al dente and strain in a colander
  • Put about ¼ cup of water in the pan and 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Lay about one-third of the rice in the pan and tip the broad beans on the rice
  • Add rest of the rice to the pan to complete the layering
  • Cover the lid with a clean tea cloth and place firmly on saucepan

Veggie biryani(8)

  • Steam rice on medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower heat to low and continue to steam for a further 15 minutes by which time the rice should be steaming

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(3)

  • Separately fry the braised tofu with a good pinch of turmeric for about 5 minutes
  • Place the fried braised tofu on the rice before serving

 

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(4)

22Apr/15

Dal with Chiquino peppers

Dal with Chiquino peppers(2)

At last and a long time coming….I am now the proud owner of my first French, tin lined copper saute pan! Inaugural dish being something to do with potatoes!! So to put it to the test, I went ahead with a very French dish Pommes Anna and was amazed how quickly they cooked and the base was perfectly brown and hardly anything stuck to the pan!!  (Sorry, didn’t take pictures so will do a repeat soon!) Why did it take me so long to go down the copper pan route….the cost perhaps…..but I bought this one as a “second” in TK Maxx for £40 with very little wrong except for a tiny, tiny dent on the edge of the lid.  And here we are and I am the first to admit that it is a hard act to beat. Not only is it the most gorgeous, beautiful, glowing, aesthetic pan ( could go on but would be bordering on the ridiculous!), it cooks beautifully at very low temperatures and visually beats every other sort of pan I have used. I for one will never be looking back and am now a life-time member of the tin lined copper pan brigade!

As for dal….we have dal at least 2-3 times a week for its nutritious quality and also because there are so many varieties to choose from, each with its own unique taste and texture.  I always have at least 5-6 types of dals in my cupboard – they are all cheap and store very well and that way you are never at a loss and can produce a lovely dish in no time, specially the skinless variety, as this cooks very speedily.  And as I now have my very special copper pan, I had to try cooking dal in it – not perhaps quite the right sort of pan, but hey, gotta have a go.  It was unbelievable how quickly it cooked and on a very low temperature too and for some odd reason never once threatened to boil over; curious because dal usually does exactly that!

Most of us tend to use the ubiquitous orange lentil more than any other….it’s delicious, takes about 25 minutes to cook and will happily accommodate most vegetables.  Try adding spinach, carrots, sauteed leeks, fried shallots, green beans etc…the list is endless.  Adding vegetables is an excellent idea because this produces a meal-in-one-pot and all you need do is boil some rice to go with it – dinner is ready to go! And if you decide not to add a whole lot of veggies to your dal, simply rustle up this simple potato and onion dish ……. 

Potatoes with onion(2)

or a cauliflower bhaji to go with it ….

Cauliflower & sprouting broccoli

The other day I bought these pretty little sweet peppers called Chiquino from Tescos mostly because I couldn’t resist the gorgeous, vibrant colours and smooth glowing skin.  Added a few to the dal and saved some which I intend to stuff to go with a salad later and here they are…..don’t you agree they are gorgeous?

Chiquino peppers

Ingredients

1 cup orange lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 +1 tablespoons oil
1 large tomato, chopped
I teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, finely chopped
Few sweet Chiquino peppers (you could use the large bell variety & cut into long slices)
Salt to taste

Method

  • Fry the onion and cumin seeds in 2 tablespoons oil until the onion is golden brown
  • Add tomato, curry powder, turmeric, garlic and ginger and a little salt
  • Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring intermittently to avoid sticking
  • Add the washed lentils to the softened tomato and spices with 400ml of water
  • Cover and cook on low for about 25 minutes until lentils are cooked and the dal is thickish – if you prefer a thinner consistency, add a little more water and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • With a sharp knife make a gash in the peppers and fry for about 3 minutes until nice and golden
  • Add to the dal and serve with plain rice

 

16Apr/15

Colcannon Patties

Colcannon patties & cassoulet

Potatoes again…. and why not?  I love potatoes, they are delicious of course, nutritious and versatile and I have no intention of giving these up ever.  Potatoes are my Desert Island food….would be difficult to choose any other vegetable if I had just one choice and I bet there are many like myself….mind I would prefer an island with olive trees, because for me, potatoes and olive oil is food of the gods.

I served these naughty but nice colcannon patties with a two bean cassoulet with butternut squash and some fresh crusty bread.  A bit of salad too would have been nice, but I ran out of steam.

Ingredients

1 kilo (2.2lbs) floury roasting potatoes (King Edwards, Maris Piper)
1 large leek, very finely sliced
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage (Savoy) or pointed cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Oil for frying

Method

  • Peel, dice and boil the potatoes (or peel, slice and steam – this is how I do mine)
  • In the meanwhile, cut the leek lengthwise and slice finely. Cut the cabbage finely just as you would for coleslaw
  • In the olive oil, gently sweat the leeks and cabbage by cooking covered on low heat for about 5 minutes – stir intermittently to keep it from browning

Colcannon patties

  • When the potatoes are cooked, mash them thoroughly, add salt and mix
  • Now fold in the cabbage and leek and mix with a fork
  • Form into fat round patties and shallow fry for about 3-4 minutes each side on low to medium heat
  • Serve with bean cassoulet with butternut squash and enjoy!
16Apr/15

Two bean cassoulet with butternut squash

Cassoulet with butternut squash

If you are a vegan like myself you will know all about beans and lentils and legumes…. not only how versatile they are, easy to prepare as most beans are available in tins and incredibly delicious and nutritious.  The variation of taste from one bean to the next, or lentils for that matter, is blessedly vast and I feel so humbled to have so much available to us to eat to our heart’s content and more.

I actually die the cassoulet as an aside!  What I really wanted and craved for dinner tonight was a big, fluffy, potato cake!  Naughty, yes! but I do love potatoes and have no intention of feeling guilty about it either.

My take on potato cakes today was to add some cabbage and perhaps leeks at which point I realised what I really wanted were some colcannon patties!  Yaaay, so it shall be.  But what to serve with the patties…not baked beans from a tin – no didn’t fancy that.  Enter the cassoulet! that rich, satisfying, French “peasant” food I would happily abdicate my throne for, if I had one!

Eventually, after much deliberation, I decided upon a two bean cassoulet with butternut squash.  Borlotti beans were married with Cannellini beans simply because I love the sweet, creamy taste of Borlottis and had a hoard of tins in the cupboard. Butternut squash went in for sweetness and texture – don’t you just love the gorgeous colour of a squash?  The orange of the flesh is like no other orange and orange is definitely not my favourite colour, and I am always hesitant as I pop butternut squash into the pan because it glows so perfectly on the chopping board….but needs must and in it goes! I tend to buy cheap red wine and then freeze if so often add a shot or two to my pot but this is optional so don’t rush out to buy wine specially.  I believe in making use of what I have to hand and never rush out to buy any ingredient unless it is absolutely vital to the recipe.  Enjoy ….by the way, here’s the recipe for the main course, Colcannon Patties!

Colcannon patties & cassoulet

Ingredients

Half medium sized butternut squash (about 500 grams) peeled & cut into large chunks
1 tin of white beans (cannellini beans)
1 tin of Borlotti beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence or mixed herbs
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or Tamari/soya sauce
50ml red wine – cooking wine is fine (optional – I used some because I had some frozen in the fridge!)
350ml water

Method

  • Gently fry the onions and garlic until translucent
  • Add all the ingredients and about 350 ml of water
  • Cook on low for about 25 minutes until squash is cooked – check seasoning, you shouldn’t need more salt
  • Check the consistency while it is cooking – you may need a little more water – just eyeball the gravy you want to end up with!

Note: Drizzle with parsley pesto before serving –optional but it does give it that extra buzz!

Parsley pesto
Blend together 1 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley, with 1 large clove garlic and 5 tablespoons olive oil