Category Archives: vegan

Bring on the Beans

fullsizeoutput_1199

The shorter, cooler days of November give me the opportunity to indulge my bean and lentil obsession. Beans and lentils grow where the climate is warm and sunny yet I’m inclined to eat them more often when it’s cold. A bowl of thick, creamy lentils or beans is an inexpensive source of protein which will slowly release energy to fuel your body and comfort your soul.

 

Dal Markhani is a recipe from the north of India, which uses both lentils and beans served in a sauce of fragrant spices. Markhani is a sauce of butter, tomato and cream but in order to slot this recipe into my ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes file I have used coconut milk and vegetable ghee/oil instead of the dairy but feel free to swop it back.

 

The original recipe also uses black urad dal, a type of black mung bean, which takes an overnight soaking and then three or for hours to cook. Healthy as urad dal might be it’s not really in synch with our fast paced lives so they have been dumped in my recipe in favour of black beluga lentils, which are one of the gems of the lentil family. Black, round and robust they cook in 20-25 minutes and keep their shape whilst doing so. No mealy mass even if you forget them and decide to walk the dog whilst cooking.

 

There’s a fast version and a slow version for this dish, both have their merits but I’m going for the fast version and opening a can of beans. The lentils I cook from scratch.

 

Dal Makhani

 

1 large onion

50g vegetable ghee or oil

25g fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

2 cardamom pods

3 cloves

2tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 can tomatoes

½ tsp salt

1 can kidney beans

200g beluga lentils

150mls coconut milk

chopped fresh coriander to serve

 

Put the lentils into a saucepan with three times the volume of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Put aside.

Peel the onion then chop finely.

Heat a medium saucepan then add the vegetable ghee or oil and the onions. Cook on a medium heat without browning until they soften.

Peel and chop the ginger and garlic then stir into the onions. Bash the cardamom pods with the back of a wooden spoon so they crack open then add to the pot together with the cloves. Cook gently for a couple of minutes then add the ground coriander, ground cumin and turmeric. Stir and gently cook for a few minutes more then stir in the tomatoes and salt. Allow the sauce to come to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Drain and rinse the kidney beans.

Add the beans, the beluga lentils and residual cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and most of the coconut milk then taste . It’ll probably need a little more salt. If it’s too thick thin with a little water

Serve with chopped coriander and a swirl of coconut milk to garnish.

Eat with rice or mop up with naan bread.


If Apples be the Food of Love….

fullsizeoutput_10d6

If apples be the food of love we have an orgy on our hands. The apple trees in our garden are laden with fruit that has an age old reputation of desire and temptation..

Some of the apple trees are ancient, espaliered around the walls of the garden, others, that we have planted whilst living here, are more manageable, free standing dwarf varieties. There’s a huge variety of different shaped and sized apples. Crisp and juicy, gnarled and perfumed, sweet and floury and tart green cooking apples.

To be quite honest after our initial tart tatin frenzy it’s not raising so much desire as a ‘what the heck are we going to do with them all’ question. Our kitchen looks like an apple sorting station with rows of buckets waiting for attention.

Apart from the obvious just eating gazillions of apples, we are getting creative with the glut.

There’s apple cooked in cider, apple chutney, apples in the salad, with beans, apple tart tatin, crumbles, muffins, cakes…..

Here is a new recipe that we’re making for the shop

A spicy apple cake, which is easy to make, delicious and just happens to be vegan and gluten free. If you don’t want to faff around with several flours just replace the rice, oat and buckwheat flours with 120g regular white or wholemeal flour,

To make the apple puree simply peel, core and dice the apples evenly and quite small, and put into a saucepan with a tablespoon of water. Put the pan over a low heat and cover with a lid. Stir every few minutes until the apple breaks down. If it looks like it might stick add a little more water. It’s ready when you can fluff the apple into a smoothish puree. I beat mine with a wooden spoon.

Spicy Apple Cake

35g oat flour

50g rice flour

35g buckwheat flour

25g cornflour

1 level tsp baking soda

1/4tsp salt

1 level tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

75mls olive oil

120g sugar

350g apple puree

1 tsp vanilla

2-3 eating apples for the top

maple syrup to drizzle

 

oven 180c

Line a 20cm x 20cm  cake tin/brownie tray with parchment paper.

Whisk the sugar and olive together until smooth

Stir in the apple puree

Mix all the dry ingredients together then fold into the wet ingredients

Pour into a lined cake tin/brownie tray

Wash and quarter the eating apples then cut into quarters and remove the core. Slice into thin wedges

Arrange the apple slices on top of the cake in 3 lines

Bake for 25 mins, until a knife comes out clean then drizzle maple syrup over the apples. If you have a pastry brush gently brush the syrup over the apples – if you don’t, it’ll look after itself. Put the cake back into the oven for 5 more minutes.

Allow to cool before eating.

www.lettercollum.ie

 


Chilli Kale

I can happily munch away at bowls of stir fried chilli kale.

img_5842

It’s delicious  on the side of a dinner or piled on top. Last night I made a risotto with the last of the tomatoes and borlotti beans and piled some chilli kale on top.

img_5849

We grow a few different kinds of kale. My favourites are the Asparagus kale and Raggedy Jack or Red Russian as it’s also known. Both of these kales are more tender than curly kale or the more fashionable Cavalo de Nero but whatever you have got will work with the recipe below. Just cook a little longer if you are using curly or cavalo.

It’s quite a loose recipe – you need a big handful of kale for each serving as it cooks down considerably. Wash the kale, strip the central stem from each leaf then roll a few leaves together and cut finely.

img_5845

Heat a frying pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom and then add half teaspoon of chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and a about a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.

img_5844

Keep the heat low whilst the flakes, seeds and garlic gently flavour the oil then raise the heat and stir in the kale. You might have to add the kale  in two stages, letting the first batch wilt down before adding the second. Keep stirring the kale , season with a little salt and after a few minutes add couple of table spoons of water. The steam created will help the kale to cook.

img_5846

Test for doneness. If you think the kale’s still too coarse add another couple of tablespoons of water and repeat the process then serve with whatever you’re having.

Absolutely yummy!

 


Revithnos from Sifnos

Sifnos is one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, it’s about 25kms long and 15kms wide and very hilly. It takes bit of effort to get there which is  why this beautiful spot is not a mass tourist destination. The main town, Apollonia is in the centre of the island and the roads run down from there to little villages, fishing ports and deserted beaches.

img_5733

The island also has plenty of tracks linking everywhere together which formerly would have been used by donkeys. There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.

img_5731

Sifnos tourism has a walking trail initiative, there are lots of way marked tracks to beautiful places. It’s mostly a case of what goes down, must come up – challenging trails with spectacular views.

img_5735

We walked out from the village that we stayed in crunching almonds underfoot and feasting on ripe pomegranates, figs and prickly pears. There are trees laden with lemons, olives and quince waiting to be harvested.

img_5711

The views are spectacular and with the glorious autumn weather, a very comfortable 25c-30c – it’s a great way to get an all over tan.

img_5708

The friendly people who are happy to have visitors are famous for their traditional Greek food, lots of vegetable mezze, grilled fish and meat. Bakeries  produce pastries of all sorts of shapes and sizes filled with different cheeses or cheese and spinach and these make great portable emergency rations.

Chickpeas are one of the crops grown on the island. It’s crop that doesn’t require watering which on an island where it mightn’t rain for eight months is a good thing. I now realise  why my chickpea growing experiment failed so miserably in Ireland,as not only is there a very high humidity  I watered them to boot. No wonder they weren’t happy!

The recipe that the island is most famous for is Revithnos – a chickpea soup – one of these ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes. It’s cooked slowly in the oven using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. It’s traditionally served on a Sunday with bowl of olives and fresh bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight on Friday then  rinsed and cooked in a ceramic pot  called a tsoukali. Formerly everyone took their pots to the bakers who loaded up the ovens and left  them overnight to be collected for lunch after church on Sunday. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s another one of these dishes that isn’t going to win a beauty contest but will healthily sustain body and soul.

img_5756

Cooking something in the oven for 4-5 hours is probably off putting  for most of us and  we don’t have friendly bakers with wood fired ovens around here so it’s probably best to cook the chickpeas slowly on top in a heavy pot with a good lid then finish up for an hour or so in the oven. If you own an Aga or range you’re in business. Just pop the pot in the slow oven and go to bed!

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

lemon juice

salt and pepper

water

a handful of parsley

 

Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas and bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley on top, lemon wedges and fresh bread and olives on the side.

A glass of red wine goes down well with this too!

 

 

 


It’s pea time!

IMG_5612

Our peas are up and podding up nicely. They enjoy sun and rain, so have been steadily coming on.

We don’t grow too many real peas and truth be told half the time our peas end up in a serious muddle, the mange tout look very similar until a certain stage and often the ‘pea’ peas get harvested too early in a case of mistaken identity. We’re well aware of this problem but don’t seem to be able to get on top of it. Each year finds us humming and hawing and scrabbling around looking for the identifying markers that were carefully put in at the end of the row when the peas were planted. They mysteriously seem to relocate and confusion abounds.

Not many people grow regular peas anymore, there’s time involved and by the time enough are podded for dinner it’s easier to buy them frozen but it surely is a sweet treat. I like to eat them like sweeties, picking a few pods and munching away whilst gardening. They bring back childhood memories of sitting on the doorstep with my mum in the sunshine when I would help with the shelling and no doubt eat as many as landed in the colander.

It’s worth noting that peas began to deteriorate as soon as they’re picked, the sugar rapidly converts to starch, which is why frozen peas are so successful. If you can get you hands on recently picked peas they are delicious, but if they’ve travelled far it’s maybe not worth the effort.

There must be some massive pea farms out there somewhere, filling freezers worldwide with packets of neat green peas. I checked out the processing and came up with these interesting facts;

Peas are harvested, transported from the fields and frozen within 150  minutes, that’s only two and a half hours – 30 minutes picking by a machine called a ”viner’ which sucks up the peas from the field and removes the pods, 30 minutes travelling to the factory then 90 minutes to wash grade and freeze. It takes only 6 minutes to freeze a pea!

This all makes them the ultimate convenience vegetable, ready to use and very easy to prepare.

Here’s a recipe for a light and fresh pea soup, equally simple to make with fresh peas or frozen peas.  It can be eaten hot or, if the heat-wave comes, chilled. I like it with a little creme fraiche but that’s optional.

IMG_5516

Pea and Mint Soup

 

1 onion

1 medium potato

25g butter or olive oil

750mls vegetable stock

450g peas – fresh or frozen

a bunch of mint, roughly chopped

 

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a saucepan, melt the butter or add the olive oil then stir in the chopped onion. Cook on a gentle heat.

Peel the potato and dice small, stir in with the onion and add a little salt and pepper to season. Cook gently for ten minutes without browning. This slow cooking is important as it adds depth of flavour,

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the potato is tender then add the peas. Bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the chopped mint and puree using whichever gadget you own – stick blender, liquidiser or food processor, until smooth. Adjust the consistency by adding some water if the soup is too thick and check the seasoning.

Serve either hot or chilled, with a little dollop of crème fraiche if you fancy.

Easy Peasy!

 


Rhubarb, Rhubarb

IMG_5460

The garden has speeded up big time in the past few weeks. The rise in temperature and some sunshine had all the little seedlings that were at the ‘Will I or Won’t I” live or die stage zoom into action and grow like mad. Suddenly the glass house wasn’t big enough to hold everything. There has been a frenzied potting up and transplanting out session and it’s looking good. Everything is thriving with the sunshine and rain treatment.

Taking into consideration that everything is a few weeks behind with the cold start there’s still a bit of a gap on the eating front. We have spinach and chard again in the tunnels and lots of young herbs in the garden but apart from that and the thriving clump of rhubarb it’s all potential. Potential beans, peas, spuds, fennel, kales etc., all settling in to their newly made beds outside.

The rhubarb is looking great as usual. It’s obviously happy and grows prolifically. The trouble is that apart from the initial excitement at a rhubarb tart or crumble it’s uses are quite limited. I do make a rhubarb and ginger jam which is delicious but with so much else to do jam making isn’t the top of the list.

I decided to play around and put the rhubarb in a salad. I googled for recipes but most called for roasted rhubarb, which might be delicious but not the texture I was looking for in a salad so I decided to try a light pickling and the result was very good, lovely sweet, sour and crispy and excellent together with beetroots, quinoa and orange.

Here’s the recipe, and I will be carting bunches of our rhubarb to the shop so if you fancy trying it without cooking pop in and pick some up

Beetroot , Rhubarb and Quinoa Salad

 

2-3 beetroots

1 red onion

2 stems rhubarb

1 orange

150g quinoa

2 tbs white balsamic vinegar

1dsp caster sugar

a bunch of mint – chopped

100mls olive oil

100g fresh goats cheese or feta – optional

 

Cook the beetroots. Give them a wash and tidy up the top where the greenery was then either rub them with olive oil and put in an oven tray and cover with silver foil and bake them for I hour to one hour and a half (180c) or put them in a saucepan and cover with water and simmer covered with a lid for 25=40 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the beetroot. Test whether the beetroots are cooked by piercing with a small sharp knife. If it goes in with no resistance, the beetroot is cooked.

Measure the quinoa and water into a small saucepan. Add a little salt and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 12-15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Tip the quinoa into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Peel the red onion and slice finely. Sprinkle over a little salt and rub into the onion. The rings will fall apart.

Wash the rhubarb then slice , on the diagonal into skinny pieces.

Put the vinegar, sugar and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and mix until dissolved. Stir in the onion and rhubarb and put aside for at least 15 minutes.

IMG_5440

Peel the cooked beetroots and dice into equal sized cubes.

Peel the orange with a sharp knife to remove all the skin and pith then remove each segment of orange with a sharp knife by cutting each side of the segment, leaving the skin behind. Do this over the onion and rhubarb to reserve any juice.

Fluff the quinoa up with a fork, then add the beetroot, chopped mint and orange pieces. Lift the onion and rhubarb out of the bowl leaving the vinegar mix behind and add to the quinoa. Whisk the olive oil into the vinegar then pour over the salad. Quickly toss everything together , check the seasoning – it may need a little more salt.

IMG_5442

Serve with fresh goats cheese or feta crumbled on top or without if you want to keep it vegan and dairy free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Funky Vegetable Wraps

IMG_5427

These wraps are completely different. They’re made from only vegetables, ground almonds and pysllium husks. No gluten, no dairy, no eggs  and they are alkaline. Perfect for anyone on a restrictive diet that fancies a sandwich or wrap.

It is a recipe that I have been playing around with, inspired by a recipe from Green Kitchen Stories.

So far it seems that anything that I have in the vegetable basket, whizzed up with almonds and pysllium make perfect wraps. I have used beetroot, carrots, courgette and carrot, broccoli and carrot and for sure a cauliflower will work.

My measurements are still a bit vague but roughly speaking you need something like the following. Choose 1 combo plus the pysllium, almonds and salt

6 small beetroots, 2 carrots

7-8 carrots

1 head broccoli, 4 carrots

3 beetroots, 4 carrots, 1 courgette

half tsp salt,

2 tbs pysllium husks

2tbs ground almonds.

Wash or peel your vegetable selection and chop into small pieces. Put these into a food processor and whizz until finely ground.

IMG_5415

Add 2 heaped tbs psyllium husks, 2 heaped tbs ground almonds and half a teaspoon of salt. Buzz everything together then tip onto a large parchment lined tray – or trays – my tray is big 42cmx30cm.

Use your hands to spread the vegetable out evenly. Press down firmly and tidy up the edges.

IMG_5421

Bake at 190c for 10-15 minutes. The vegetable sheet should firm up. It needs to be firm enough to flip over on the tray.

Carefully, or should I say quickly and carefully, flip the wrap over and gently peel the parchment paper off. Put the wrap back into the oven and bake for another 5 minutes.

Cut the warps into appropriate sized pieces – depending whether you want to make sandwich or a wrap.

IMG_5422

We ate them with cannellini bean and almond hummus, avocado and salad. Absolutely yum!

IMG_5425