Thursday, 31 May 2012

Picnic time: Al fresco Wraps and Kelly-Marie's Sunnyday Salad

Chickpea burgers with chapati wraps and the most delicious salad ever to see a Sunday

I was lucky enough to spend last Sunday in Kelly-Marie's garden. She made me this gorgeous lunch and we drank about nine cups of Earl Grey each. (I 'm making nine sound like an exaggeration; it isn't). 

I think the best picnics are ones with just a few components, all made to perfection. A salad like this, some leftover chickpea burgers and some Earl Grey in a thermos? Let's go.

Kelly-Marie's Sunnyday Salad
(I haven't put any measurements- just add to your own taste)

Salad leaves
Artichoke hearts in oil
Sundried tomatoes
Fresh plum tomatoes
Chopped Spring onions 

We popped a couple of my fix-all chickpea burgers in the oven, added some hummus for good measure and wrapped it all up in a chapati. Sit, sip, steep and enjoy a Sunday! 

Psst- Have a look at Kelly-Marie's blog for even more beautiful creations...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Growing Communities Veg Boxes

One week's fruit and veg bag from Growing Communities in Hackney

Within two days of becoming vegan, I realised that I was going to have to make some major changes to how I shopped for food. It wasn't just that I was suddenly spending much more money on fresh food in the supermarket, but without the added flavour of things like grated cheese, roux sauces or mayonnaise, I realised the produce I was buying tasted bland, watered down and sort of a lost in translation version of how I expected them to taste. 

I'm ashamed to admit it was only after switching to a vegetable box scheme that I realised potatoes have distinct different flavours depending on variety, or that salad leaves actually HAVE a flavour, that changes from leaf to leaf, taking command over a sandwich when before I just used them as filler.

If I am totally honest, my vegetable box order has completly changed how I eat in every way. There's the obvious things: it's all seasonal, it's as local as possible, and it means a lot fewer trips to the supermarket. But the changes I didn't expect have been the best. 

Washing the mud off all your carrots until you can see the first signs of orange, or red for beetroot, or pink for potatoes, and you're reminded that everything you're dealing with came from the ground, not stackable plastic supermarket palettes. I know I sound mad here but when you take away the distractions, vegetables are bloody brilliant. 

Using supermarkets less means you waste a whole lot less food. There's no BOGOFs or weird impulse buys when most of what you're getting through arrives once a week. This also means we've had to become much more careful with how much food we cook each night. I used to stick in a whole bag of potatoes for mash and think nothing of it. Now I know the six potatoes we get have to last three meals- and any leftovers go for lunch. And there's always leftovers. 

Most of the fruit and vegetables featured on Guac and Roll will be from the Growing Communities vegetable and fruit bags. The variety and warts-and-all produce is down to them, and I can't thank them enough for completely changing how I think about the food I eat each day. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Summer Suppers: Courgette and pea pasta with vegan basil and parsley pesto

Courgette and pea pasta with vegan basil and parsley pesto

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Fried courgette pasta in Plenty, this is a super easy dish to put together before the sun goes down, and of course, if you make enough it just gets better for lunch the next day.

Because the sauce here is a vegan pesto, the pasta is best if it's light and not shaped to absorb much sauce - the main thing is that you use plenty of the best olive oil you can get your hands on, as that's what will bring out the flavour in the courgettes and peas.

Yields four portions, i.e. dinner for two and lunch for two.

400g pasta
1 courgette, chopped into 5mm width slices on the side
1 onion, chopped and diced
Two good handfuls of peas
1 handful of basil 
1/2 handful of parsley
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat a frying pan with a little oil and start to fry the courgette pieces. It's vital you don't over-crowd the pan as they will go soggy and steam each other instead of crisp up. So take your time and do in three or four batches. Leave to drain away any excess oil in a colander over a plate.

Now you're only a few minutes away from serving, so put the kettle on to boil and pour into a saucepan with the pasta to start cooking, adding salt if you want.

Without washing the frying pan, add the onions and allow to go slightly translucent, then add the peas. They'll take on the oil and juices from the onion and taste even better.

If you have a herb chopper knife, chop the basil and parsley as small as it will go, and mix with around three or four tablespoons of olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. If you have a hand blender you could also use this to chop the herbs, or just use the sharpest knife you have to really chop it all up tiny. You've now got your vegan pesto.

Drain the pasta and allow to cool in the pan for a few seconds. In this time you can transfer the onions, peas and courgettes into a big serving dish. Pour in the pasta and the pesto to the mix, and then give everything a good stir. Add a little extra olive oil or pepper to taste, and you're good to go.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Fix-all chickpea burgers: surviving your first BBQ as a vegan

Fix-all chickpea burgers 

Barbecuing is a bit of a foodie minefield even among hardcore meat-eaters, so it was with some trepidation that I made my way down to my first barbecue as a vegan. But I came duly prepared with these fix-all chickpea burgers and a trusty pack of Linda McCartney sausages in case of emergency (i.e. if everyone pounced on the chickpea burgers, which, of course, they did) and it was a BBQ breeeeeze.

A a vegan, the key tip to surviving any barbecue you've been invited to is to cook what you can before-hand, or be prepared to ask your host for a fresh frying pan/oven that hasn't been cooking meat. If there's already meat on the barbecue there's not much you can do, but if you've cooked your food once before, you can tuck in without causing too much fuss over at the grill. 

And the other thing to bear in mind? Barbecuing is essentially an outdoor pot-luck party. It's a great chance to bring your favourite vegan recipes for all your friends/family to try when they load up their plates. So bring extra and leave a platter for everyone to sample. 

Makes around 12 small-sized burgers

1 400g tin of cooked chickpeas- drained (check the 'World Foods' aisle of your local supermarket- they're always cheaper there)
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves 
Handful of chopped parsley
1/4 tin chopped tomatoes, or half a jar of tomato salsa
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Plain flour to add to consistency, around 200g.

Grab the biggest mixing bowl you can find, and add all ingredients apart from the flour. Mix in a blender or hand blender until you have a coarse paste where you can still see bits of onion and parsley. Then begin to add the flour as you mix by hand. No-one likes a crumbly burger so the burger mix needs to be strong enough to hold up a table spoon in the middle of the mixing bowl. Remember you can taste as you go- so add more pepper, herbs or oil until you're satisfied with your mixture.

Sprinkle a little flour on a side dish, take a handful of the mixture and roll it in the flour dish until it isn't sticky to touch. Then pat into a burger shape. Once you've done three or four, heat your pan with oil and place them in once hot. As long as you keep your attention on the pan, you can carry on making the burgers at the side of the stove. 

Check how your burgers are getting on every one-two minutes, and then flip over to cook on the other side, spending about three/four minutes on each side. 

Allow to cool on a plate, then box up and they're ready to go! They'll only need a few minutes on a hot grill at a barbecue, or five minutes in a hot oven. Hey presto! You survived! Just remember to nab yourself a burger before everyone else does.

P.S. I've got plenty more ideas for vegan burger recipes to try out over summer, so will be honing this recipe to perfection in the coming months. Let me know if you've got any other vegan burger recipes you can't barbecue without!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Chickpea and red cabbage box salad

Five day box salad with chickpeas and red cabbage

A great way to sort your lunches ahead of time is a Box Salad. You can eat this salad raw, as it is, or zap in the microwave for a few minutes- the red cabbage especially is amazing hot or cold.  

Spend twenty minutes making this on a Sunday evening and you'll be sorted 'til Friday! The lime juice will keep this salad tasting fresh, and by using a study green leaf like chard you can be sure it will hold up for a good few days in the fridge. The parsley is great in the place of an onion if you're eating this at work- I find it adds a similar savory tang to salads that raw onion does, just without the long-lasting onion breath to follow! Social eating at its best, but if you don't care, then I think this would be great with a little chopped red onion too.

1 tin of cooked Chickpeas, drained
1/4 red cabbage cut into long shreds
1 grated carrot
Handful of peas
Handful of chard with stems chopped off 
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
Dash of white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Salt, pepper to taste

Grab a mixing bowl, or if you don't have one, just your largest saucepan or wok. 

Add all ingredients, bearing in mind that flavours like salt will intensify as the days go by, so always add slightly less than needed. Then decant into five different tubs- supermarket soup containers or former- margarine tubs are the perfect size. 

Lunch is sorted! You can add couscous or rice to this if you fancy a little variety, or just eat as is.