Saturday, 11 May 2013
"But what do you do for protein?"
I've never made hummus before. It might sound ridiculous considering I eat chickpeas nearly every day now, but I always thought it was slightly more complicated than it was, a little bit trickier, a bit more expensive. In actual fact all you need is a reliable hand blender (no explosions please), some chickpeas, a bit of tahini, and anything else you want to flavour it with.
Naturally, I went a bit overboard for my first attempt, so added pomegranate seeds, paprika, pomegranate molasses, coriander and lemon to mine, but it might be better to focus on just one of those flavours. This batch of hummus lasted precisely 2 hours in my flat, so I guess the proof was in the total lack of leftovers!
Makes enough for 4
2 tins chickpeas, drained
2 garlic cloves, chopped small (if using a hand blender, or just crushed if using a larger blender as this will be able to handle the harder work)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 pinch of salt
1 large tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp water
Juice 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp paprika
Seeds of half a pomegranate
Handful of chopped coriander
Pour the majority of the chickpeas into a mixing bowl, holding back a small handful or so for serving. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, tahini, water, lemon juice, olive oil and paprika, and mix with a spoon just to get the liquid stirred in, before mixing with a hand blender.
Add more lemon juice, salt, olive oil, to taste, and then stir in a few pomegranate seeds to flavour the hummus. It should be a firm mixture, but looser than a paste.
To serve, top off with the rest of the pomegranate seeds, whole chickpeas, pomegranate molasses, coriander and a little more lemon juice.
And now for a bit of an apology for my absence:
What do I do for protein? I find it one of the strangest questions anyone can ask once you've told them you're vegan. There's a lot more questions I'd expect- and yet 80% of the time, it comes back to this strange, peculiar obsession with protein.
Obviously, I know why people are concerned about protein- in general. I get that. I don't understand when they can hold a conversation with me and I am alive etc, why they would ask it, apart from the fact that it must be a total knee-jerk reaction, and maybe they just don't care about anything beneath asking a question back to a reply they didn't expect. Who knows. In any case, my inability to give that question a proper answer recently led to a mini hiatus from food blogging. I found myself with nothing to say apart from "Well, I eat chickpeas, everyday." Which is the truth, but it felt pretty limp in reply, especially after being told by someone I met 40 minutes beforehand that I was "unhealthy" and "selfish" for being vegan.
I didn't know how to reply, because I made a decision around a year ago not to be someone that reels off statistics when people start cross examining a vegan diet. I think if people haven't looked for those figures themselves, they become very easy to block out. I managed to do it for 22 years. In my month away from Guac and Roll I wanted to do more research, question whether writing a food blog was really the best way to start a conversation on veganism. I read a lot more studies, watched more documentaries (we need to talk about sugar, btw) but in the end, I came around full circle: I love sharing the recipes I've discovered, talking about them with friends in the park, researching where those recipes come from and adapting them to suit a vegan or vegan and gluten free diet.
There are plenty of vegan diets that are unhealthy, just as there are many, many, omnivorous diets that are also pretty unhealthy. Guac and Roll isn't ever going to be a call to arms, but hopefully something a lot more subtle.
Sunday, 14 April 2013
Yesterday, determined to beat the rain, I cycled down to the e5 Bakehouse to get a loaf of Hackney Wild. Naturally vegan, this pain de campagne loaf is perfect with anything fried or soupy because it holds together so well, the crust is thin but firm and it will last a good few days under wraps. Teamed together with spicy bubble and squeak, another recipe that's vegan-by-default, and you've got a match made in carb heaven.
Like most recipes that use up leftovers, bubble and squeak isn't meant to look pretty, but the flavour, especially after adding chili oil and paprika, more than makes up for anything lacking looks-wise. It's also the ideal culinary-mop for a hangover, teaming a bit of grease with carbs and something spicy.
Makes a good amount for two, or enough with other dishes for 3-4.
5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped in quarters
50-100ml of chili oil (depending on your own taste)
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Around 200g cabbage leaves, cut into strips with any thick stalk removed
Toasted bread to serve. A simple tomato and basil salad (as pictured) also works really well with the flavours here.
Put the chopped potatoes in a large pan of boiling water with some salt and allow to cook through with a lid on top.
Heat some of the chili oil in a medium frying pan. (You'll be cooking the whole thing in this so it needs to have a large enough bottom to cook evenly, but- not a wok or anything too big that won't be able to keep together when you turn it over.) Sweat the onions and garlic in the pan until they begin to go translucent and season to get the salt and pepper flavouring the dish. After around 3 minutes of frying, add the cabbage and spread it out over the pan and let it cook. Sprinkle over a little paprika and a bit more oil if needed.
Once the potato is cooked, mash and add some oil and paprika also, and mix through. Add some seasoning to taste, keeping in mind the seasoning you've already added to the cabbage and onion. Then begin to spoon into the frying pan, packing it in as you go, so that it is eventually smooth on top and firm.
Allow to sizzle away for about five minutes- then turn off the heat and place a plate over the frying pan. Flip the whole thing over so the plate is now on the bottom, and gently nudge the bubble and squeak out of the frying pan (this takes some guts but just go for it, it doesn't need to look perfect). Hopefully the cabbage and onion have meant everything has stuck together, so slide it back into the pan on the un-fried side and cook for another five minutes.
Serve straight from the pan, on top of toast or fresh salad to counter the oil and potatoes, or just solo with plenty of brown sauce.
Thursday, 11 April 2013
Naomi's earlier this week, which I simply don't have enough epithets for. In short, salad leaves from Hackney, chickpea, red onion, cucumber, tomato and olive oil salad, spice-roasted cauliflower and refried chipotle beans you could have in a wrap or as a filling in a quesadilla. By the time I finished eating it was raining again.
Friday, 29 March 2013
I must apologise. While searching through the archives of Guac on the hunt for a curry recipe I realised just how long winter has held centre stage here. Don't get me wrong, I love comfort food and hunkering down for the night probably a lot more than the next person, (got the personal best of six roast dinners in seven days to prove it) but I think my capacity for stodge has reached its limit.
Here's a lunch or even brunch to add a little colour to the end of the coldest March in more than 50 years. This salad is warm, filling and perfect for anyone totally sick of porridge. The garlic in the spinach and herb pesto is left raw so it really comes through against the lemon juice, cutting through the giant cous cous and the olive oil. You could make a more traditional pesto with basil leaves and pine nuts, but basically it was too cold and windy for me to leave the house so I went with something different!
-One last thing- don't bother with sourcing giant cous cous from the posh bit of the supermarket- if you have any newsagents with a good food section or local shops they will usually sell it in packets at around a third of the price.
Giant cous cous with spinach pesto, grilled tomatoes and puy lentils
Serves 2 for a big lunch
150g giant cous cous
1 handful spinach leaves
1 spring thyme
2 sprigs of parsley
1 garlic clove chopped small
Juice 1 lemon, half for the pesto, half for serving
2 tomatoes, chopped in half
2 inches cucumber, cut into slices
1 spring onion, cut into slices
125g cooked puy lentils
In a medium pan on medium heat, gently fry the giant cous cous for about 60 seconds in olive oil, until it just begins to sizzle. Then pour in around 300ml of cold water and let it cook for around 15 minutes.
In this time you can make the pesto: in a small pan heat the spinach with just enough water for it to cook in, and take off the heat the minute it's wilted down. Drain the water away, and now blend the spinach in a jug with a handblender, a mixer or even a pestle and mortar, with the leaves from one sprig of thyme, 2 springs of parsley, plenty of salt and pepper and the garlic. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and half the lemon juice and check the seasoning.
Give the cous cous a stir to make sure it isn't sticking to the pan, then either grill or fry in a little oil the tomatoes with plenty of black pepper. While all this is cooking you can chop the cucumber and spring onion ready for assembling the salad.
Once the cous cous is ready turn off the heat and add in the pesto to the pan so it takes on some of the flavour of the pesto at the very end of its cooking time. Then add the puy lentils and check the seasoning once more.
Assemble on a large plate with the roast tomatoes, cucumber and spring onion on top, with any extra spinach leaves or olive oil for serving.
Sunday, 24 March 2013
Sunday, Sunday here again! A few notes from a spring-time roast last week.
Celery is one of my all-time favourite flavours, and yet it sometimes feels a little side-lined, just one stick needed for each recipe, a few sticks garnishing a jug of bloody mary, left in the sieve from gravy, reduced down beyond any recognition in rich sauces. And all of those components are better with celery, but on it's own, it's strikingly salty flavour and texture can also be delicious. I lightly roasted a few sticks along with some carrots and onions last Sunday, so it came out juicy and almost the same taste as celeriac, (the bulb of the plant of which celery makes up the stalk), but without the aniseed flavour, which I can sometimes find overwhelming. One thing to bear in mind when seasoning the celery is that it does seem to absorb any salt it goes anywhere near.
With the braised celery I made a paprika butternut squash mash, adding some chili flakes and chili oil. The squash seemed to release a lot of liquid so I let it reduce on a low heat for about 20 minutes. You could also add a potato to the mash to absorb some of the excess liquid. This paired up well with some flash-cooked greens and leeks, barely boiled and left with a clean, light flavour to counter everything else going on.
Roast potatoes, vegan haggis uncovered from the depths of the freezer and rosemary onion gravy completed a pretty huge Sunday roast line-up.
Saturday, 23 March 2013
I've been wanting to try to make homemade baked beans since I tried some in a hostel in Florence. I'd been out all night with my best friend Rach when we decided to sample the 4 euro breakfast at the place where we were staying. I was yet to eat a full meal since arriving as vegan fare was proving pretty hard to come by, that was until I found the huge metal dishes of cannelini beans stewing in a rich tomato and rosemary sauce at the hostel canteen. Despite a hangover veering on sea sickness, me and Rach made it through two platefuls of these beans, with just bread and black coffee. I loved how something traditionally English and run-of-the-mill had been turned into one of the most delicious breakfasts ever after being translated into Italian.
This isn't fast food, it will take about an hour to prepare, but it's worth every minute. You'll know it's properly ready when the tomatoes reduce way down so they make the beans almost sticky and rich with the olive oil.
1 tin haricot beans
1 tin cannellini beans
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 onion, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, chopped small
1 carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
Sweat the onions, garlic and seasoning in a frying pan with plenty of olive oil. Once the onion begins to go translucent add both tins of beans with some sprigs of rosemary, and a little water to stop the beans from sticking.
Allow the beans to cook and reduce into the water, checking the seasoning for enough salt and pepper. Once the liquid has gone, add the tin of tomatoes and stir into the beans. Now simmer for around 30 minutes until the beans are well done and the tomato juice totally reduced.
Add a sprig of rosemary and more olive oil before serving. These will keep in the fridge for at least another day, but be warned, they'll steal the limelight from pretty much anything else you put on your plate.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
My Mum is the queen of puddings. Pavlovas the size of your pillow, spewing with summer fruits and broken chocolate, or huge, washing-up bowl size birthday cakes made to perfection. Dense, muddy brownies and tiny chunks of sweeter-than-thou tiffin for after school. But my favourite of my Mum's puddings isn't ostentatious or planning to make an entrance with sparklers- it's the crumble, which she makes on a Sunday night, usually wheeled into the living room on a tea trolley by about 9pm, with custard and cups of coffee.
This is my version of a Sunday night crumble that never fails to perk up Monday and Tuesday mornings for breakfast, as the blood orange juice gives the crumble a spectacular colour for brightening up any bowl. I tried Alpro's soy custard for the first time with this recipe and I could hardly taste the difference between dairy custard.
1 punnet or about 2 handfuls of plums, de-stoned and cut in half
Juice of 4 blood oranges
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp caster sugar for the fruit
2 tbsp caster sugar for the crumble mix
1 1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup vegan margarine
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. In a large mixing bowl, rub together the margarine, flour and sugar until the texture is just a little thicker than sand but very smooth. Set aside.
On a low flame, heat the plums and blood orange juice in a pan, adding in the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. You could add in any other spices or fruit you think could also work here.
Bake for around 30 minutes or until the topping starts to crisp up and is a dark golden colour. Serve hot or cold with custard, cream, or just plain.