Category Archives: vegan

Wacky Watermelon

How time flies! We have already entered the second half of summer, having passed the longest day which seems to have come round faster than ever this year.

It may be the second half of summer but I’m still prowling around the courgettes plants waiting for them to spring into action, ditto with our broad beans and the tomatoes haven’t a notion of ripening yet. Luckily everything is looking healthy and with time we’ll have the usual gluts.

Meanwhile I’ve been obsessing about watermelons. This is in addition to my barbecuing obsession as I have this memory of a dish we ate whilst travelling 

in Mexico. Long ago, before the lockdown, we were in Campeche on the Yucatan peninsula where I ate the most amazing grilled watermelon. It was one of the most memorable dishes that I had on that trip, maybe because it was so surprising. I ordered it as it sounded so odd. Grilled Watermelon Fillet with Recado Rojo. It came to the table, king of the plate with little piles of pickled vegetables and avocado around it. Pretty as a picture and the flavour and texture was so surprising. Later that day I  had the good fortune to pick the chefs brains and I jotted down the recipe, gram for gram in my notebook where it lounged until this summer when I bought my barbie.

I was slightly trepidatious the first time that I made it as good memories have been known to trick the taste buds but the recipe worked. Spot on and very simple, which truth be told is what you need for a barbecue. 

There is one small hitch – the recipe uses achiote paste, which is known as Recado Rojo in the Yucatan. Achiote is made from seeds of the annato plant, a small tropical evergreen plant that grows in Mexico. It’s an orange/red spice which smells a little peppery and tastes slightly earthy, sweet and nutty . I have a box of achiote which I bought home with me but I know it’s not always available, there’s not a lot where we live, so I googled for alternatives and came up with a recipe that has  accessible ingredients and is a good substitute. 

This recipe involves a little forward prep – the watermelon needs to be marinated for twenty four hours – but the beauty of this is that when it comes to the day of the barbecue all the work is done. Just put the watermelon on the grill, resist poking it until it’s lightly charred then flip, cook the  other side and serve.  We ate ours with lightly pickled cucumber and mint. 

Grilled Watermelon Fillet with Recado Rojo 

Serves 6

1 small watermelon 

25g achiote/recado rojo/or the paste below

200mls white wine vinegar

500mls water

4g salt

2g cracked black pepper

Homemade Recado Rojo/Achiote paste substitute

1 ½ tsp sweet paprika

1tbs white wine vinegar

¾ tsp oregano

¼ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp turmeric

2 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

Mix all of the ingredients to a smooth paste.

First peel the water melon.

Using a sharp knife slice off the top and the bottom of the melon.  Place the melon on the chopping board bottom side down, this will give you a steady melon to work with. Carefully peel the melon rind away, cutting downwards then turn the melon over and repeat.

Chop the peeled melon into half then chop each half into 4cm slices.

Mix 25g of the achiote/recardo Rojo paste together in a fairly big bowl with the vinegar until it has dissolved then add the water and salt and pepper. 

Submerge the watermelon slices by carefully arranging them in the bowl – it will be quite a snug fit . Cover and leave aside in a cool place for 24hours.

To cook the melon fire up the barbecue or heat a grill pan

Take the melon from the marinade, shake off excess marinade then place on a hot grill. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes until nicely charred.

Serve with little piles of pickled cucumber.

Lightly Pickled Cucumber and Mint

1 cucumber

100mls white wine vinegar

2tbs sugar

½ tsp salt

A bunch of fresh mint.

Put the vinegar, sugar and salt into a bowl then mix together to dissolve

Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise then remove the seeds with spoon.

Place the cucumber on a chopping board then cut into skinny slices on the diagonal.

Strip the mint from the stems and chop finely.

Put the mint and cucumber into the vinegar mix and toss well. Leave aside for at least 15 minutes.

The photos above where not taken on a barbecue as whenever I’ve made barbecues I’m been too busy cooking and socialising to take many pictures but here’s a photo to prove that we do have one!


Bright Food for a Dirty Day

Today was not an outside day.

A big wind, very cold and occasional snow flurries, which is a romantic way of describing West Cork’s attempt at snow which is really large drops of frozen rain. After a quick run around to feed the chickens I was back inside again.

It was the perfect day to hang out in the kitchen.

I spent the morning trying a couple of new recipes then turned my eyes to lunch.

We are still ploughing through our rapidly deteriorating frozen by mistake pumpkins. At this stage the chickens are getting as much of each pumpkin as we are but we’re getting places. We’ve been eating them in many guises, today’s collaboration was with beetroots and coconut which made a delicious and warming soup full of antioxidants to beat the bugs

Beetroot, Pumpkin and Ginger Soup

1 large red onion

75mls olive oil

2 sticks celery

300g pumpkin

450g beetroots

1 finger of fresh ginger

700mls vegetable stock

200ml coconut milk

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a pot, add a little olive oil and the onion then cook on a medium heat. Cut the celery lengthways then dice into small pieces. Add to the pot and give a stir.

Peel the pumpkin and chop into chunks, then peel the beetroot and chop into a dice – the beetroots are going to take longer than the pumpkin to cook. Stir these both into the pot and season with a little salt. keep cooking on a medium heat, reducing the heat if they begin to brown or stick.

Peel the ginger and chop small. Add to the the vegetables, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the coconut milk then buzz everything to a smooth puree. It should be good and soupy but if it’s too thick thin with little water. Season with salt and black pepper and you’re ready to go.

Some fresh chopped herbs would be good but I wasn’t heading off outside to pick any!


A Little Sunny Crunch

Winter slaws are the business when you crave something to give yourself a boost, They are bright and crunchy and made with vegetables that don’t mind wintery weather.No need to use fragile jetlagged vegetables as local seasonal vegetables are perfect to shred and dress. The bright oranges, greens and purples are like sunshine in a bowl.

The key ingredients for a slaw are usually some kind of cabbage – red or green and then whatever you have or fancy in the line of  fennel, beetroots, carrots, radishes, onions, endive etc. Apples, oranges, mangoes and pears also make good additions as do toasted nuts and seeds . They can be dressed with vinaigrettes or creamy mayonnaise. The options are endless so you can let your imagination go riot. 

This recipe is for a simple slaw that I made today from our vegetable basket and the remaining red cabbage in the garden. Salting the cabbage briefly makes the cabbage sweat and the juices run, softening the cabbage to a delightful succulent crunch. Ditto with the fennel.

Half a small red cabbage

1 fennel bulb

1 red onion

1 pear

1tsp sugar

2tbs white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

Salt

1tsp Dijon mustard

100mls olive oil

Finely shred the red cabbage – discard the core. Sprinkle it with a little salt, toss well then leave it aside for 10 – 15 minutes. 

Finely slice the fennel and toss with a little salt. Leave aside for 10 – 15minutes

Peel and finely slice the red onion, sprinkle a little salt over then massage until the rings separate. Put the sugar into a bowl, whisk in the vinegar then toss the onions in the mix. Leave aside for 10-15 minutes

Peel and chop the pear.

Put the cabbage onto a clean cloth or kitchen roll then dry well to remove excess liquid and salt, tip into a bowl the repeat the process with the fennel.

Put all the vegetables except for the onions into a big bowl.

Drain the pickling liquid from the onions and use this as  a base for the vinaigrette

Add the onions to the big bowl.

Whisk a teaspoon of Dijon mustard into the onion vinegar then slowly whisk in the olive oil

Pour the dressing over the vegetables then toss everything together. 

The slaw is ready to eat but it’ll also sit happily in the fridge for a day or two.


Blow Your Socks Off Lemon Chilli Sauce

I have finally taken the lemon drop chillies out of the bucket they were sitting so prettily in and am converting them to chilli sauce.

Half are sitting fermenting on the kitchen counter and the rest I made into chilli sauce yesterday

It was quite an epic heat ride.

I chopped the stalks from the lemon drop chillies, peeled red onion and garlic and put them into a saucepan with enough water to cover them, bought them to the boil then simmered for fifteen minutes.

After draining them I buzzed them in the food processor until they were smooth. I made the mistake of taking a good sniff of the salsa to enjoy the aroma – it blew me across the room.

The initial tasting was soooo hot that realistically not many people were going to eat it. I added a mango hoping it would stretch the heat but it didn’t seem to have much effect. I then sieved the sauce in the hope that removing the seeds would do the trick.

Wooo, still extremely hot !

I then incrementally added in

light muscovado sugar ,

honey,

white balsamic vinegar

another mango

and we finally seemed to be smoothing out the edges.

Phew I was getting worried!

It’s a chilli sauce to use with caution but perfect for chilli heads – like good habanero sauce and it’s a fab colour!

I’m not sure what to do with the fermenting chillies …. any ideas?


Pumpkin, Harry’s Nut Butter and Tamarind

We have a shed full of pumpkins to eat.

They were damaged by last weeks freezing weather. We don’t often get freezing weather here in West Cork and by the time we thought of the pumpkins it was too late so it’s pumpkin in everything right now.

Today’s soup was livened up by a couple of spoonfuls of Harry’s Nut Butter and a swirl of tamarind.

HNB is an Irish addiction made by the aforementioned Harry with nuts (obv) that’s slightly sweet, kind of salty and a little bit spicy and lifts the soup to a ‘where am I’ level. If you don’t have access to HNB tart up some peanut or cashew butter with a little smoked paprika, maple syrup and tamari or even miso. Actually the possibilities are endless…..

Pumpkin Soup with HNB and Tamarind

1 onion – peeled and chopped

75mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery – diced

500-600g pumpkin – peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic – peeled and finely chopped

200g diced tomatoes or half a can chopped tomatoes

2tbs red lentils ( heaped not level)

750mls stock

2 generous tbs HNB or PB

1 tbs tamarind

salt and pepper

Heat a medium/large saucepan, add the olive oil and chopped onions. Give them a stir then turn the heat to medium.

Cut the celery into quarters lengthwise then chop into a dice. Stir in with th onions.

Peel the pumpkin and chop into a rough dice – doesn’t need to be too small. Add to the pot and stir well. Season with a little salt. Cook for five minutes without browning then add the chopped garlic, stir for a minute or two then add in the tomatoes. If you’re using fresh tomatoes let them cook down. If you are using canned just stir them in . Add the vegetable stock and the red lentils. Taste, season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the nut butter and tamarind and mix well.

Buzz the soup until smooth and check the seasoning.

Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche and chopped herbs – I have chervil right now but parsley or coriander would be good too.


Excited About Chickpeas

I’m not sure where the chickpeas we can usually obtain come from but generally they are old. Old and hard and take a very long time to cook so when I saw that the olive guys in our local Neighbourhood Food had imported chickpeas and pinto beans I had to try them.

I’m always on the lookout for good chickpeas – I’m possibly one of the only people that travel home from Spain with dried chickpeas in my bag. A true chickpea geek. Big fat chickpeas that only take 30-40 minutes to cook make me very happy. They obviously haven’t been sitting about in dusty depots for months on end.

I cooked some of the above prize chickpeas this morning after soaking them overnight. The weather was awful – torrential rain – it seemed pretty obvious that what we needed was warming sustenance so I made this dish. I’m never quite sure whether it’s a soup or a stew but the recipe is an old favourite. Sometimes I make it with spinach and sometimes with kale, depending on what I have and on the tomato front just use the best you have – fresh or canned. One thing is for sure – you will have a delicious bowl of bright nutrition to beat the rainy day blues.

And the new chickpeas cooked up a dream.

Chickpeas, Spinach and Coriander

250g dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight – or 2 cans

2 onions – peeled and finely chopped

100mls olive oil

2 stems celery- diced

3-4 carrots- peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic- peeled and finely chopped

1-2 chillies (Optional) – chopped finely

2 big tomatoes or 1 can – chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

800mls vegetable stock/chickpea liquor

1 bunch spinach or kale – 2 big hanfdfuls when shredded

1 bunch fresh coriander – parsley or chervil work too if that’s what you have

salt and black pepper

Put the chickpeas to cook. Drain and cover with water. Bring to the boil then cover and turn to a simmer. Cook until tender – anything between 30 mins and 3 hours , depending on the vintage of your chickpeas. Take off the heat and reserve the cooking liquor.

Heat a large saucepan then add the olive oil and chopped onions followed by the celery and carrots . I chop and add in that order, adding a little salt as I go. Cook the vegetables on a medium heat until they begin to melt down but don’t brown.

Stir in the garlic and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes then stir in the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes melt down then add about 800mls reserved chickpea liquor or vegetable stock or a mix of the two. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. It’s up to you whether you eat this a s stew or soups add more stock if needed

This is when I popped up the garden and picked some spinach and chervil. The recipe does call for coriander but our coriander is in animated suspension at the moment but we do have a healthy amount of chervil Basically use what you have!

Wash the spinach and remove any thick stems then gather it up and chop into thin ribbons. Stir this into the pot, allow everything to return to the boil then take off of the heat. Taste and add salt and ground black pepper. I use a hand held blender to give the soup a couple of buzzes – very quickly – just enough to create a little background creaminess. Chop the herbs and stir in.

Admittedly this makes a large pot but I put a picture up on the family WhatsApp and it was soon devoured!

It’s ideal to share but it would also freeze well


Winter Garden Soup

Each evening I go to the garden to give the chickens their afternoon tea. It’s pretty slim pickings for them now that the shop is closed so their tea isn’t a gourmet selection anymore but fortunately the chickens are still tuned in to the universe and their inner egg radars have turned back on. It is amazing how quickly the incremental increase of daylight brings on the eggs so to thank them I prowl around the garden looking for green things to supplement their diet.

It’s surprising what’s out there. It’s not growing very quickly – more like suspended animation but there’s always something. Yesterday evening I came down to the house with a head of fennel, some leeks and a bunch of kale – I soaked some cannellini beans and we were set up for today’s lunch.

Soaking dried beans for this recipe is optional as canned beans also do a good job. The bonus of cooking dried beans is the cooking liquid makes a great base for the stock. A Parmesan rind is a definite bonus if you have one. I didn’t this time but I did find some pumpkin that needed a home while I was searching the fridge which was great for the colour scheme.

Winter Garden Soup

1 onion

100mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery

Parmesan rind – optional

1 bulb fennel

2 leeks

a bunch of kale

250g diced pumpkin

200g dried cannellini beans or 1-2 cans

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 litre vegetable stock or stock plus bean water

salt and pepper

If you’re using dried beans soak them in cold water overnight. The next day drain them, put them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to the boil then simmer gently, covered with a lid for – now this is the mystery bit as it depends how old the beans were – anything between 40 mins and 2 hours. I keep checking. When they are cooked take them off the heat. Drain them and reserve the cooking liquid for the stock

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a medium/large saucepan, add the olive oil and the onion, give it a stir then turn the heat to medium.

Cut the celery in strips lengthwise then chop into a dice. Stir in with the onions.

If you have a Parmesan rind add it now.

Wash the fennel, cut it into half then slice thinly. Add to the pot. Season with a little salt and give it a stir.

You should be able to hear the vegetables sizzling. If you can’t increase the heat.

Trim the leeks – don’t cut all the green bit off, just the scraggy bits. Rinse well under running water to remove all dirt then slice into 1cm pieces. Add to the pot and stir.

Dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes . Strip the rosemary from the woody stem and roughly chop. Add to the pot

Wash the kale then strip from the stem and chop into thin ribbons. Season with a little more salt and stir well.

Cook until the vegetables melt down. This sweetens the vegetables and enhances the flavours. Add the vegetable stock/bean water then bring to the boil. Stir in the beans then simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. If you have used a parmesan rind take it out and discard (chickens love them!).

I like to give the soup a quick mash to encourage creaminess but don’t overdo it.


Hey Presto Pepper Soup

The recent lockdown landed a large amount of vegetables into our kitchen – not a complaint but to be truthful too much of anything looses it’s appeal. We’ve been cooking our way through a box of red peppers and now we’re nearing the bottom they are beginning to get a little shabby so today I took the wrinkliest and made them into red pepper and tomato soup. This is super popular in our shop where we take a box of peppers, chop them up and toss them in olive oil and roast them in the oven. Ditto with ripe tomatoes.

Today’s recipe is made in a less industrial style. I didn’t even turn the oven on as roasting three peppers was definitely not going to save the planet, instead I slowly cooked them into sweet submission in a saucepan on the hob. We have eaten all of our fresh tomatoes so I used a can which always makes sense if it’s not tomato season or you don’t have any that need immediate attention.

Apart from the core flavourings – onion and celery – I added a tablespoon of red lentils, just to give the soup some body. Sometimes I use a diced potato but the choice is yours. Whatever you choose to use should remain anonymous in the soup – it’s just got a job to do not a starring role.

Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

3 red peppers

1 onion

1-2 stems celery

2-3tbs olive oil

1 can tomatoes or 6 ripe tomatoes diced

1 tbs red lentils or 1 potato peeled and diced

1 tsp ground cumin

800mls vegetable stock

salt and pepper

Peel and chop the onion finely. Heat a saucepan, add the olive oil and onions then cook on a medium heat.

Chop the celery and add to the pot.

Wash and deseed the peppers then chop into small chunks. Add to the pot with a good pinch of salt and give everything a stir. Cook until the peppers begin to melt down, stirring from time to time.

Once the peppers have softened stir in the tomatoes, vegetable stock, ground cumin and lentils (or diced potato). Bring to the boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Take off the heat, buzz until smooth, taste and add more salt if needed.


Tomato Party

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Storm Ellen did a superb job of flattening our beans but fortunately the tomato tunnel stood strong and our beautiful tomatoes are still ripening and bursting with flavour.

The feasting is endless. Tomatoes with everything.

Whilst browsing for tomato ideas I came across a recipe for Panzanella. It was the picture that caught my fancy as a salad using old bread that was dried then got wet again sounded odd. I checked out a few more recipes and realised this idea had real potential and no better chance of success than when surrounded by ripe home grown tomatoes.

Panzanella originates in Italy where there are ripe tomatoes and dry bread aplenty. These simple ingredients paired with the best olive oil and vinegar that you can lay your hands on make a stunning salad.

The first step is to dry out the bread, which proved easier said than done in a West Cork kitchen. I used thick slices of sour dough bread as recommended and spread it out in a bread basket and left it in the kitchen to dry.

In the south of Europe where these recipes originate bread bought in the morning is stale by the evening, hence the proliferation of recipes using old bread but no such luck here. Two days later the bread was still perfectly edible and far from dry so I turned the oven on for assistance.

I couldn’t resist rubbing the slices of bread with a cut clove of garlic before ripping it into small pieces and tossing with a drizzle of olive oil. ( if you like garlic bread, you will like this) I spread the bread on a baking tray, popped it in the oven and ten minutes later it was beautifully dry .

Now is the moment to make this recipe if you live in this part of the world. The local tomatoes are ripe and at their full flavour potential. The only time of the year we can eat such tasty tomatoes without travelling. Check out the farmers markets and small stores that sell home grown vegetables

This recipe is well worth the effort = dry bread and tomatoes tossed together with olive oil, vinegar and basil makes a sublime combination however odd it might sound, a real flavour and texture bomb in the mouth.

Simplicity at its best

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Panzanella

Tuscan Tomato and Bread salad

 

4  large ripe tomatoes

4 thick slices sourdough or country bread

3 cloves garlic

1 small red onion.

1 bunch basil

150mls extra virgin olive oil

50mls vinegar – the best you have

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and black pepper

Anchovies in oil (optional)

 

Put the oven on 180c

Cut the crusts from the slices of bread, rub with a cut side of garlic – no need to peel it.. Tear the bread into small pieces (2cm).

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Put it into a bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil 1-2tbs, toss well then spread out on a baking tray. Bake for ten minutes then check. The bread should be crisp but not brown.

Dice the tomatoes into 1 -2cm cubes, sprinkle over a little salt and put them into a sieve or colander and set them over a bowl to catch the juices. Leave for 15-20 minutes.

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Peel and finely slice the red onion. Massage in a few grains of salt to separate and soften the onion. Peel the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and chop very finely.

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Put the garlic into a small bowl together with the Dijon mustard, vinegar and the juice that has run off from the tomatoes. Whisk these together then drizzle in the olive oil whilst continuing to whisk until you have a creamy emulsion. Stir in the sliced onion.

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Put the tomatoes and dried bread into a bowl – approx. 50/50 of each. (Keep any remaining bread to top other salads or soup). Chop the basil and add to the bowl, pour over the dressing then toss together until well mixed. Leave aside for ten minutes to let the flavours to mingle before serving.

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Pea Days

I have a cameo memory from when I was young of sitting on the back doorstep shucking peas in the sunshine with my mum. Peas were super exciting then as although peas were available in cans all year round it was before the frozen pea revolution and canned peas were completely different to fresh peas. Fresh peas were a total treat when they arrived.

We grow peas in our garden. Just for us, not for the shop, because if we were paid to grow, pick and shuck the peas without a mechanised system they would be like gold.

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We just grow them to eat like sweeties when they first ripen and as the crop ripens we always make risi e bisi (a pea risotto) and summer vegetable pilafs, paellas and salads but after that we begin to scratch our heads and the peas keep coming. It’s a real grow your own phenomenon, the all or nothing syndrome and when the peas ripen they need eating as it’s obvious they should not go into the freezer.

This is new recipe that we’ve enjoyed this summer. It was inspired by a recipe from Spain called Tortillitas de Camarones which are crispy little fritters made with baby shrimp. Last autumn we visited Sanlucar de Barrameda in the very south of Spain and I have happy memories of bars where camarones were served as tapas on the terraces, usually with an accompanying glass of chilled manzanilla, the local sherry.

I became addicted to these thin crispy fritters and when I got home I tried to make my own. They weren’t quite the same and it wasn’t only the lack of sunshine that was missing  so I googled the problem and after reading many recipes and watching a particularly edifying YouTube tutorial I cracked it!

You might be wondering at this stage what this has to do with the peas, well I discovered they are an excellent addition to this recipe, either peas and shrimp or peas alone. Both work very well and the peas alone are suitable for vegans which is always a bonus.

There are couple of little tricks involved so read the recipe carefully before you begin.

Use a combination of gram flour and white rice flour if you want the fritters to be gluten-free. The water needs to be chilled and sparkling gives the best results

 

Pea fritters – Tortillitas de Guisantes

 

200g peas – fresh or defrosted

1 small onion

90g gram flour

40g white flour or rice flour

¼ tsp turmeric

A little lemon zest

1 tbs finely chopped parsley

Chilled sparkling water

Oil to fry

 

Pod or defrost the peas.

Sift the gram flour and regular flour or cornflour into a bowl. Add half teaspoon salt and turmeric. Stir to mix.

Peel and finely chop the onion small and finely chop the parsley. Zest a few swipes of lemon for the mix

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Put everything except for the water into the bowl and mix well then start stirring in the chilled water until the batter has a medium pouring consistency, like a crepe pancake mix or pouring cream.

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Heat 4cms oil in a frying pan or wide based saucepan and when it is hot add a tablespoon of the fritter mix, spread it a little with the spoon after it goes into the pan, spreading the fritter with the back of the spoon under surface of the oil., it should be bubbling just below the surface. You need to do this quickly. Repeat but don’t overcrowd the pan.

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Cook each side for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Lift onto kitchen paper then cook the next batch. It’s a good idea to stack the fritters like dishes so the oil drains off both sides.

Serve with lemon wedges

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