Apr 2012

JERSEY ROYALS, ASPARAGUS AND CREAMY CHIVE SAUCE

JERSEY ROYALS, ASPARAGUS AND CREAMY CHIVE SAUCE

During my last college lecture our amazing lecturer stated: ”You guys are freaks!”. No we don’t dress funny or behave in any unusual way. What she meant was that we eat differently than the norm (it was a compliment). And yes people see it as sort of a freakishness. She did say how awful that eating healthy has become some sort of a middle class whim. Norm it should be.

There are many responses I get when I mention my plant based diet. There are those who get very defensive, those who just state they could not be without meat and dairy. Very often I hear: I don’t really eat much meat myself”. I am happy to discuss my way of eating further or just leave it at that. Although I do have to bite my tongue sometimes. Like the time I heard a mother say, I buy the cheap sausages for my son, the gourmet ones are wasted on him. This kind of thing infuriates me, to think that children are given cheap c..p.

By now both of my kids being veggies have been widely accepted by their friends. My son had been asked a few questions throughout his school years so far. He had to explain what being vegetarian and vegan means. He had to reassure a friend that we do eat more than just lettuce. The other day I bought him a vegan pepperoni style snack sausage so he could take it to school in his lunch box to prove a point. And his friends actually thought it was delicious (I am surprised he shared). When I came to school for my weekly reading with his classmates one asked me what is a vegan. I explained. He than looked at me and said: “I went vegetarian once, it was the worst day of my life!” That made me laugh.

Last week my son had a chance to show my website to one of his friends. He reported to me that his friends reaction to pretty much all the pictures (apart from the chocolate pot and cake) was YUCK. I am sure he would say yuck to the chocolate cake if he knew it had pureed prunes in it... I know kids tend not to like anything unfamiliar but it is a shame. I guess we should all become freaks.


JERSEY ROYALS, ASPARAGUS AND CREAMY CHIVE SAUCE
Gorgeous fresh produce doesn’t need much tinkering. We also had some marinated tofu on the side.

ingredients
500g (1lb2oz) Jersey Royals or other small new potatoes
500g (1lb2oz) green asparagus, the thinner the better

Creamy chive sauce
280g (2 cups) of cashews
310ml (1 and 1/4 cup) water
juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried onion powder
salt
3 Tbs of chives, finely chop

jerseyroyals

method
  1. Soak the cashews in water for at least for 30min (or even overnight).
  2. First cook the potatoes, try to keep them whole if uniform size. Cut bigger ones in half. They should take about 15min. Test with a knife, there should be no resistance.
  3. When the potatoes have been cooking for about 10 min, start steaming the asparagus. Depending on the thickness this should take about 3min. Test with a knife the asparagus should be tender.
  4. Drain the cashews, put them into a blender with the 310ml of water, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, the onion powder and salt. Process until smooth. The consistency should be a bit runnier than mayonnaise.
  5. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the chives. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice.
  6. Serve the sauce alongside the potatoes and asparagus.


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BANGERS AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY

BANGERS AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY

Today I have spent many hours correlating information for my college assignment. It was a painfully slow process but I think I made giant steps toward being able to finish this paper within next few days. Phew!

Therefore not many words left in my head ... short post me thinks :) No matter what is happening a person must be fed and nourished and days like these; rain, more rain and intellectual (man! took me a while to spell intellectual) stimulation or should I say exhaustion; one needs comfort food.

To you I present BANGERS AND MASH WITH GRAVY! Vegan style. There are many steps to this recipe but only because you are making the sausages, mash and gravy. Luckily sausages can be made ahead and will look after themselves in the oven quite happily. This will give you time to concentrate on the mash and gravy and maybe even some green veggies on the side. Start cooking onions halfway through the fridge time of the sausages, they do take a long time to become gorgeously soft. I ran out of olives but had an olive puree which worked great.

sausagesandmash

BANGERS AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY

Serves 4

ingredients
For the bangers (sausages)
130g (1 cup ) of cashews
3 spring onions (scallions)
very large handful of parsley
1 roasted pepper (from a jar is fine)
1 heaped tsp black olive puree (or about 6 kalamata olives)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
70g (1 cup ) breadcrumbs

For the mash
8 medium potatoes
1 Tbs dairy free spread (I used pure) or 1 Tbs olive oil - can be left out
375ml (1 and 1/2 cups) Kara milk (drinking coconut milk not tinned coconut milk, or any other dairy free milk)
salt to taste

For the gravy
1 extra large onion (the bigger the better)
1 Tbs olive oil
125ml (1/2 cup) Marsala wine
2 cups of veggie stock
1 tsp of ketjup manis or dark soya sauce
2 Tbs water + 1 heaped tsp of corn flour (corn starch)

method
  1. Make the sausages. In a food processor grind the cashew nuts. Some should be very fine some still retain texture. Put into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a food processor finely chop the spring onions and parsley.
  3. Add the pepper to the food processor and pulse couple of times.
  4. Add the black olive puree (olives) and beans. Pulse till mixed together but not smooth. You want a texture of a coarse pate.
  5. Put into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Next add the cashews and breadcrumbs. Mix well together.
  7. Shape the mixture into 8 sausages. The mixture is quite sticky, wetting your hands will make the job easier.
  8. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  10. Next thinly slice the onion.
  11. In a medium frying pan heat the 1 Tbs of olive oil and start sauteing the onions. On a very low heat cook them until tender and start to caramelise. This will take about 20-30 min, stir occasionally.
  12. Place the sausages on top a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20-25 min or until golden brown, turning carefully halfway through.
  13. While the sausages are baking, peel the potatoes and boil till tender. About 15-20 min.
  14. When the onions are tender, raise the heat and add the Marsala wine. Let reduce till nearly all liquid is evaporated and the onions are dark and sticky.
  15. Add the stock, soya sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the cornflour/water paste. Let it thicken.
  16. Drain the potatoes. Mash the potatoes first (you can use a potato ricer). Heat the Kara milk and add together with the dairy free spread into the potatoes. Mash together and season.
  17. Now everything should be ready to serve. Enjoy!
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RUNNER BEAN SALAD WITH RAW TOMATO DRESSING

RUNNER BEAN SALAD WITH RAW TOMATO DRESSING

The other day I made my butternut squash edamame and peanut butter stew for my friend. Kids had noodles with tofu and veggies instead. They are not keen on spicy food (my son is starting to discover it slowly) and I just wanted to make sure they get fed. While tucking into my stew I did my best to entice my son to try some. He just said: “But I don’t like butternut squash!” Yes I knew that but I still insisted that he should give it a go. His reply was: “You don’t like raw tomatoes and nobody makes you eat them... it is the same with butternut squash and sweet potato for me.”

Now nobody likes as “smarta..e”. Right?! Kids always seem to have an answer and yes it did make a lot of sense. The role of us parents is to outsmart our kids while we can ( I quiver realising this will not be possible for much longer). Therefore I came up with a bullet proof strategy (or so I think). My last bulgur wheat salad recipe had raw tomatoes in it. And today I made another raw tomato recipe. All this in hope that if I start eating my food nemesis my son maybe more likely to confront his or at least will have to come with another smart argument whilst trying to avoid it. I will let you know if it works.

Today the tomatoes didn’t quite cooperate the way I wanted them too. I had a plan and they were having none of it. First I cut a cross into the skin, than poured boiling water over them, left them for a minute, cooled them in cold water and NOTHING. The skins would not come off!!! So I decided to change my plan and just deseeded and blended them rebels skin and all which resulted in a rather yummy dressing for my runner beans. My son loved it, my husband didn’t even notice he was eating raw tomatoes (yes he doesn’t like them either...) and I proved a point! Job well done.

runnerbeans1

RUNNER BEAN SALAD WITH RAW TOMATO DRESSING

serves 4 as a side salad

ingredients
300g (about 3/4 lb), sliced thinly on the diagonal
4 small to medium tomatoes (mine were about the size of a smaller round plum)
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs water or use another Tbs of oil
salt and pepper to taste

method
  1. Put the beans into a steamer basket and steam for about 4 min or until tender but still with a little bit of a bite. Place cooked beans into a bowl of iced water to cool and stop cooking. Set aside.
  2. In a blender process the rest of the ingredients until you get a thick smooth sauce.
  3. Toss the beans with the dressing and serve.


runnersalad
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BULGUR WHEAT SALAD WITH CRUNCHY VEGGIES AND HERBS

BULGUR WHEAT SALAD WITH CRUNCHY VEGGIES AND HERBS

Couple days ago, Daily Mail ran a poll on their website. The question asked was: Is a vegan book aimed at children appropriate? (Unfortunately I am unable to find the exact words from the website but this is close enough) When I added my vote to the tally, there was about 10% more people convinced that veganism shouldn’t be taught to children.

The article that started this poll was a review of Ruby Roth’s new book
Vegan is Love. I must give the usually judgmental DM a credit for a well balanced article. There was a quote from Nicole German, an American dietician, who deemed the book dangerous, leading to possible malnutrition in the young impressionable children. Rest of the article was however very reassuring (quoting the likes of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) about the safety and health benefits of a well planned vegan diet for children.

Finally the tide seems to be changing and plant based/vegan diets are getting the recognition they deserve, with more and more research confirming their benefits in preventing and even reversing many chronic diseases. Of course not every vegan diet is healthy, chips and Oreos are vegan too.

There were number of comments that followed the article, one especially disagreeing with veganism being promoted to children and calling for charges to be pressed against parents whose child suffers through their negligence. In this case the legal system should brace themselves, there are plenty malnourished obese kids around who suffer by being fed low nutrition calorie dense fast foods. Most vegan parents know far more about nutrition than the average parent, simply because they have to. Yes there are few stumbling blocks, like vitamins B12 or D (in our climate) but there are easy to deal with. In my opinion a plate of lentils with brown rice and veggies on the side is a much healthier meal than Big Mac with chips any day!

As far as the book goes I am planning to order it very soon for my children, we have Ruby’s previous book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, which is a fantastic way to introduce kids to the way animals are treated in today’s food production. Since I started to take dairy out of my diet, I decided not to impose the same decision on my kids. I do cook vegan dishes but if they want a cheese sandwich to take to school I wan’t going to argue. I wanted them to make their own decision. After reading the above book both of them decided to be “more” vegan. They still want to have the option of eating a pizza at friend’s house or at a party. And I will respect that but in a way wish they were never introduced to dairy in the first place.

Amazon US allows to have a peek at some of the pages of the book and from what I saw there is nothing I wouldn’t want my children to know. Such knowledge will lead to a more compassionate way of living. It is a shame that this book is most likely going to end up in vegan/vegetarian households only, it should be in every library and read at schools.

The original article:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2131090/Ruby-Roths-new-childrens-book-Vegan-Love-sparks-outrage-graphic-images-unhealthy-diet-message.html


BULGUR WHEAT SALAD WITH CRUNCHY VEGGIES AND HERBS

This salad is very lightly dressed just with lemon juice and tiny bit of olive oil, if you want a stronger flavour you could add a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. I like to be able to taste all the veggies and herbs without being over powered by dressing.

Serves 4 as a main dish salad.


bulgursalad2

ingredients
180g (1 cup) bulgur wheat
375ml (1 and 1/2 cups) just boiled water (or vegetable stock)
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 medium beef tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1 small kohlrabi, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
8 radishes, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 large lemon
heaped handful (1 cup ) smixture of parsley and mint, finely chopped (I used ration 3-1 parsley to mint)

method
  1. First cook the bulgur wheat; put the grain into a large bowl, pour over the just boiled water (or stock). Cover with cling film and let sit for 10-15 min or until all the water is absorbed.
  2. Add the drained chickpeas to the hot bulgur wheat. Season with salt and let cool down.
  3. In the meantime chop all your vegetables.
  4. Mix all the ingredients into the cooled bulgur-chickpea mixture. Mix well.
  5. Serve :)

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KOHLRABI, LETTUCE AND PEA SOUP

KOHLRABI, LETTUCE AND PEA SOUP

Kohlrabi is still rather unknown in the UK. You are lucky to find it at farmers markets or through an organic box scheme. When kohlrabi was discussed on Riverford facebook page many of the comments were full of confusion about this wonderful vegetable.

In the Czech Republic, we have grown up eating kohlrabi, but we don’t really know what to do with a turnip or swede... My preference has always been to eat kohlrabi raw, in salads or just thinly sliced on top of a good piece of bread. When I manage to get one here in the UK (and I get excited when I do), I just peel it, cut it up and enjoy it’s sweet flavour unadulterated. What does it taste like? Similar to a young turnip, but much better, sweeter, crunchier. You could also compare it to the juicy core inside of a broccoli or cauliflower stalk. Yum.

The Czechs also use kohlrabi in broth based soups. Unfortunately as a child I never enjoyed pieces of boiled kohlrabi in my soup. Bad memories aside I thought to reinvent the soup idea and really enjoyed the results. The kohlrabi complements the flavours of tender sweet lettuce and green peas. I think this is a perfect light soup for spring (or summer).

To enjoy the best flavour of raw kohlrabi choose smaller younger ones, about the size of a medium apple. The older and bigger they get (especially towards the end of season, they tend develop rather tough woody texture). My kohlrabi was on the large side (the downside of box scheme - you get what you get), but surprisingly sweet and without any tough woody bits.

As far as nutrition goes, kohlrabi contains great amounts of fibre and Vitamin C, it is also a fantastic source of potassium. Other minerals in Kohlrabi include copper, calcium and phosphorus. As all members of brassica family the sweet crunchy vegetable contains cancer fighting phytochemicals. Give kohlrabi a go!


kohlrabi

KOHLRABI, LETTUCE AND PEA SOUP

ingredients
1 large kohlrabi (mine was 760g - 1 3/4 pound), peeled and diced into 1 inch chunks
1 litre of light vegetable stock
half of a large head of tender sweet lettuce
250ml (1 cup) of peas (I use frozen)
extra peas to add texture (if using frozen just defrost, if fresh cook in a separate pan till tender)

method
  1. In a medium saucepan bring the stock to a boil, add the kohlrabi pieces and cook about 15min till tender.
  2. Wash the lettuce and tear or cut into smaller pieces.
  3. If using a good blender pour the stock with the kohlrabi into the blender, add lettuce and 1 cup of peas, season and process till smooth.
  4. If using a stick blender, add the peas and lettuce into the stock let heat up but don’t boil and blend with your stick blender.
  5. Add the extra peas (about 2 Tbs per portion) and serve. ( I have defrosted the peas by pouring just boiled water over them)

kohlrabisoup

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SPINACH PANCAKES WITH MOOLI PICKLES

SPINACH PANCAKES WITH MOOLI PICKLES

The 2012 London Olympics will show off the fittest sportsmen/women from every corner of the world. Unfortunately this is under the sponsorship of the likes of Coca Cola and McDonalds. It nearly feels like some parallel universe where the impossible becomes reality.

As the obesity rates are rising in the UK, with the harrowing prediction of 48% of men and 43% of women being obese by 2030 (current numbers 24%women, 22% men), we have to welcome the initiative coming from the organisation that represents nearly all doctors in the UK. The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges is calling for an immediate review of the obesity tackling measures.

The 3 month long enquiry will look at actions such as diet, exercise, banning companies as the two mentioned above from sponsoring sporting events, restriction of advertising, fat taxes, fast food free zones around schools... I am extremely pleased this has become a priority for the medical community.

Judging from some of the comments, that follow articles on this subject, many people are outraged by the possibility of “fat tax”. Many families, who are on very restricted budgets, can’t see past the cheap junk food, many have never been shown how to. This is why an education program should be put into place. You can (and we should) make cheap, fast and junk food less available but not without offering other options, teaching people how to shop, cook and eat. I know it is a bit of a utopia in today’s cash strapped world, but I think if money was spend on teaching mums how to feed their families, kids about healthy eating, and getting everyone back in the kitchen, perhaps in due course (even if this means few decades) we may be able to reverse this massive problem.

To quote Prof Terence Stephenson: “ This is a huge problem for the UK. It’s much bigger than HIV was, much bigger than swine flu.” Action is definitely needed and I wish AoMRC will be able to kick start a major change.

SPINACH PANCAKES WITH MOOLI PICKLE

I never though she would but my daughter really enjoyed eating these pancakes, possibly because she made them with me or perhaps her brother cheering made all the difference.

For the spinach: I had 250g of mature spinach, after taking stalks off, wilting it in a pan, squeezing all the water I was left with about a cup of spinach. You could use 200g of baby spinach. Or just defrost and squeeze some frozen spinach. The amount doesn’t need to be precise.

Makes 16 pancakes

spinachpancakes

ingredients
Spinach pancakes
175g (1 cup + 2 Tbs) wholemeal self-raising flour
375ml (1 and 1/2 cups) non dairy milk
1 cup cooked spinach (see above)
6 spring onions, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil spray

Mooli pickle
1 good size mooli (Japanese horseradish)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 Tbs Sweet Freedom (or agave syrup)

method
  1. First start making the pickle.
  2. Peel the mooli, grate in coarsely using a box grater or food processor.
  3. Add the teaspoon of salt to the mooli, place a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy such as tins of beans.
  4. Let rest for 30min.
  5. Put the mooli into a clean tea towel (you can wash the salt off first), squeeze all the water out.
  6. Dress the mooli with vinegar and sweet freedom. If you like a tarter pickle omit the sweetener. Set aside.
  7. To make the pancakes, in a large bowl combine the flour and milk, mix well, creating a thick batter.
  8. Chop the spinach finely and add to the batter.
  9. Add the spring onions, cumin and cayenne (if using).
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 20min.
  12. Heat a large non-stick frying pan, spray with some olive oil spray.
  13. Spoon a heaped tablespoons of the spinach batter into the frying pan, cook until bubbles start to appear on the surface (about 2-3 min), flip over. Cook for further 1-2 min or until the pancakes fill firm with no batter using out when pressed.

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LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

“You are not wearing lentils”; I said to my daughter today (and yes both kids exploded with laughter). I was meant to say sandals but had lentils on my mind. Looking at the rain outside it was definitely not a day for sandals but it sure was a day for a warming lentil soup.

Dr Joel Fuhrman posted on his facebook page recently the fact that the longest lived societies eat beans almost everyday. I am sure this includes other legumes like the wonderful lentils.

Pulses (or legumes) have a bad reputation for being hard to cook, needing to be soaked and cooked for long periods of time. While this is true for beans to some extent (but still worth the effort), lentils require no soaking and much less preparation time. Especially the wonderful red lentils.

Few years back I watched a documentary about the Khan family of India, whose 5 (out of 7) children had the horrible genetic condition progeria. Children with progeria age rapidly, with the average life expectancy being only 13 years. Two of the Khan children were still alive age 22 and 23, and another died aged 24 (two at 13 and 17). This kind of longevity is not very common in progeria sufferers and most die of heart failure. The two surviving Khan boys were full of life and their heart damage was much less than most of their Western counterparts. The doctors were amazed and attributed this to the Khan’s family poverty which meant their diet was extremely heart healthy based on vegetables and lentils (or dal as they call lentils in India).

Lentils are the perfect food, delivering great amount of protein, iron, folate, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, thiamin, B6 and of course fiber. All this while being very low fat and free of cholesterol. They are delicious and satisfying melting into soups and stews or as a base for veggie loafs or burgers.

Today I used them in a very quick soup for lunch together with leaks, tomatoes and potatoes. Chopping and blending included, this soup should take about 30min to make. Make a double batch because it freezes extremely well.

lentilleeksoup


LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

Serves 4-6

ingredients
4 leeks, white parts only
200g (1 cup) split red lentils
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 l of vegetable stock
2 medium potatoes, cut onto 1cm dice
2 Tbs of chopped fresh coriander

method
  1. First slice the leeks and wash them thoroughly to remove any grit.
  2. Add all the ingredients (except for the coriander) into a large sauce pan.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20min or until the lentils and potatoes are soft.
  4. Puree with a stick blender (or in a large blender - take care when blending hot soup).
  5. Stir in the coriander and serve.



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QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Hearing the word “malnourished” most of us would imagine the poor starving children in Africa and would never even think that this could be a problem much nearer us. Today the UK edition of Huffington Post ran a story claiming that more than a quarter of patients are malnourished when admitted to hospital. We are not talking about old people, this is across all ages. The article claims some 26% of 20-29 year olds are affected. I had to snigger at the accompanying picture of a smiling young lad in a hospital bed eating a large hamburger and chips (if that is hospital food than there really is no hope).

This is not a surprising fact, especially not when you are familiar with the work of doctors such as Joel Fuhrman or Mark Hyman. They will confirm that even obese people can be malnourished due to their poor diet that lacks nutrition. They are overfed but undernourished. Just take a look at the rubbish some people are putting into their supermarket trolleys. Restaurants are not better, another story that graced the papers today introduced UK Pizza Hut’s new limited edition pizza. Forget cheese stuffed into your pizza crust, you can find a hot dog there now! If there was an award for “how much c..p you can put into a customer in one sitting” Pizza Hut would certainly get the top prize.

My pasta recipe sure takes less time than ordering and waiting for the hot dog monstrosity to be delivered and will not leave you malnourished either.

ragupasta

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4-5 large portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2-1inch dice
1 tsp dried oregano (or Italian herb mix)
2 bay leaves
1 heaped Tbs tomato puree
125ml (1/2cup) fortified wine (such as Marsala or sherry, but a good red will do too)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of canellini beans, drained
275ml (1 and 1/2cup) strong vegetable stock (I made mine with Vecon)
350g (12oz) wholemeal rigattoni or penne pasta
fresh oregano to garnish

method
  1. In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and peppers and saute for about 5 minutes or till softened.
  2. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  3. Next add the oregano, bay leaves and tomato puree. Let cook for about one minute.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the fortified wine, bring it to a boil to cook out the alcohol.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans and vegetable stock. Cook for about 20min until the sauce is rich and thickens. Season.
  6. While your sauce is simmering cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  7. Add the past to your sauce, stir through.
  8. Serve garnished with fresh oregano or basil and a big green salad on the side.
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STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY

STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY

baby-aubergines

My kids are addicted to the Australian Junior Masterchef. After our holidays we have a few episodes to catch up with. Yesterday we watched the kids cooking some fab looking curries. That and my trip to a supermarket in an area where lots of ethnicities come together made me think of curry. I stocked up on some wonderful ingredients like fresh curry leaves, coriander with the root intact, baby aubergines, Japanese horseradish, Polish pickled gherkings and Mexican chipotles. Don’t worry I am not putting all of this into my curry, that would be just plain mad.

Since living in the UK I can hardly imagine a week without having a curry. Without claiming any authenticity I think I can make a good home made one. I like to be able to control the amount of oil and the level of spice and of course it gives me a free hand in choosing the vegetables. I know there is something addictive about Indian take aways and restaurants, but the amount of oil on the top of each dish is a bit scary. Even the American chef Bobby Chinn (Bobby Chinn Cooks Asia) was a bit surprise by the amount of oil the Indians use in their cooking. My today’s curry is made with 1 Tbs of oil only and as it serves 4-6 it amounts to a very small amount per person.

There is nothing worse than badly cooked aubergine. I have had many dining experiences ruined by undercooked aubergines making me very cautious when dining out. Indian restaurants cook them well, but of course this is because they tend to be fried in lots of oil. Aubergines are like sponges soaking up any amount of oil they are introduced to. I decided to steam them first, to ensure the “dissolve in your mouth” sensation I so love. The baby ones look great on a plate making this a fab dinner party dish. Enjoy.

STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY
I was thinking 4 aubergines per person, but if served as a part of an Indian themed meals it should serve 6. I have ground the cashews quite course I like the bite but you can grind them fine to create a smoother sauce.

Serves 4-6

stuffedaubergines

ingredients
the stuffed aubergines:
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, cut into few pieces
2 large cloves of garlic
1 red or green chilli, halved
3 Tbs fresh coriander (include roots if you can find them)
1/2 tsp salt
16 baby aubergines

cashew and tomato sauce
1 onion
1 inch piece of ginger
2 large cloves of garlic
1 chilli pepper
1 Tbs of rapeseed oil
8 curry leaves
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asofetida (optional)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
500ml (2 cups of water)
1 tsp sweet freedom syrup (or palm sugar, agave, brown sugar)
130g (1 cup ) of cashew nuts
1 tsp garam masala
fresh coriander

babystuffedaubergines2

method
  1. In a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) finely chop together the ginger, garlic, chilli and coriander. Add salt.
  2. Slit the aubergines lengthways into quarters, do not cut through the stalk to keep the aubergine intact. (see picture)
  3. Put some of the ginger mixture inside each aubergines. Fingers are the best tool for this, just remember you are handling chillies so do not rub your eyes!
  4. Place the aubergines into a steamer basket and steam for about 10-15 min until tender, set aside.
  5. To make the sauce in a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) process the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli into a paste. If using a food processor add a tablespoon of water to help it along.
  6. In a large wide saucepan (with a lid) heat up the oil. Add the paste, be careful it will splatter. Cook on medium heat until all the water had evaporated and the paste darkens slightly (about 5-7 min).
  7. Add the curry leaves and spices, cook for half a minute, take care not to burn the spices.
  8. Next add the chopped tomatoes, turn the heat up and cook for five minutes till. Squish any big pieces of tomato.
  9. Add the sweet freedom syrup, salt and water.
  10. Put the aubergines into the sauce and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
  11. In the meantime process the cashews to your preferred texture (see note above).
  12. Add the cashews into the sauce, this will thicken it.
  13. Next add the garam masala and the fresh coriander.
  14. Serve with Indian breads and rice.
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Vegging out in Prague

VEGGING OUT IN PRAGUE

lekha-hlava1

Back from our fabulous holidays in the Czech Republic, a week in my home town and a weekend in Prague. Happy to report that veggie visitors to Prague can finally escape from the usual fried cheese and omelette and enjoy some fabulous veggie dishes. Here are my tips on eating out in Prague, veggie style. I only managed to take photos at Lehka Hlava, Maitrea’s dim lights meant photos came out terrible, and quite frankly I was overwhelmed by Essensia to even think about taking my camera out of the bag...

Maitrea, Tynska ulicka, Praha 1 (http://www.restaurace-maitrea.cz/)
We ended up having two dinners in this fabulous restaurant. Only a short walk from the Old Town Square which makes it a perfect haven for the vegetarian tourist. Beautiful setting, great atmosphere and attentive staff enhance the experience. The food was the star. The kids loved the sushi plate, my daughter’s preference was the tofu sushi and my son loved the stir-fried vegetable sushi. Both times me and my husband ordered the Czech traditional pickled sausage veggie style for our starters, this brought some childhood memories back. My husband tried two traditional Czech dishes, made with seitan in the place of meat, a dark rich Goulash and the absolutely beautiful Vegetable cream sauce, both served with bread dumplings. I opted for Thai style aubergine and tofu on my first night, and no-chicken veggie balls with mashed potato and tomato sauce on day two. Both of my dishes were advertised as spicy but I found them very mild. Nevertheless everything tasted great. How many times I crashed and burned when I ordered aubergine dish in a restaurant, glad to say Maitrea cooked it to melt in your mouth perfection! My only complaint, while dining in Maitrea, would be the lumps in the mash (better call it crushed potato). Beware, the portions are huge! If you want to save room for deserts skip the starters. We had no room.... unfortunately.....


Lehkahlava2

Lehka Hlava (Clear Head),
Borsov 2/280, Prague 1 (http://www.lehkahlava.cz/)
After a failed attempt to book this restaurant for an evening meal (hence two visits to Maitrea) we decided to just try our luck on Sunday. Luckily around at 3pm we managed to get a table. To my kids delight this was a table in a tiny private room.
Lehka Hlava is a sister restaurant to Maitrea, however only few dishes were are the same. My daughter had hummus with a crisped up tortilla, my son opted for courgette soup and kids portion of pasta (which was adult size in my opinion). Me and my husband managed to chose the same starters again, an aubergine tartar with rocket (arugula) and toast. As big fans of aubergines we were in heaven. My husband’s main was another aubergine dish, a very tasty quesadilla. I went for the bulgur risotto with tempeh and sun-dried tomato and peanut pesto. It tasted great, I especially loved the tempeh. The portion was huge as in Maitrea, but I decided to push myself and try the RAW cheesecake with strawberry sauce. It was fantastic! Got to try to recreate it at home. Kids had chocolate fondue with fruit, great fun dessert that kept them quiet for a while :) Judging from the stream of people coming into the restaurant you really have to book to get a table, and you must because it is well worth it.

Lehkahlava3

Restaurant Essensia Hotel Mandarin Oriental Prague,
Nebovidska 459/1, Praha 1 (http://www.mandarinoriental.cz/prague/)
This was a very special treat indeed, my friend who works in Mandarin Oriental, invited us to their restaurant for lunch. We are talking 5 stars, very posh restaurant with a fantastic reputation. I was a bit worried if my kids behaviour will hold up in a place like this, but to my relief this was a very child friendly restaurant with traditional Moravian Easter egg decorating corner, and ginger bread decorating table in on of the rooms of the restaurant. The food in the Essensia has two directions, there is an Asian menu and traditional Czech menu. There also is a great kids’ menu. My daughter went for no spice veggie tofu Pad Thai. My son tried a very traditional Czech mushroom, potato and dill soup which he followed with tomato pasta and finished with strawberry soup with ice-cream. My husband had a tomato curry with dal and raita, and I started with veggie Tom Yum soup and Veggie Pad Thai with Tofu (on request prepared without the traditional dried shrimp). The food was fabulous, the only complaint (nit picking here) I would have, was the lack of chilli in my Tom Yum but it tasted great without it. I would like to know what the chef did to the peanuts, they looked like a mixture of wet sand and coconut (in a good way) and tasted of peanut butter. YUMMY! Molecular gastronomy??? This is a venue for a very special meal, indeed the Czech president dined there just a week before us! I hear he enjoyed his curry and caused a bit of a panic in the kitchen when he asked for it to be spicy as nobody quite knew how spicy that should be! I don’t think he finished his meal by icing Easter cookies like my children did :)

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