Chachouka Chow Chow + Pecan & Raisin Loaf

If you’ve followed the blog for a little while, you’ll know I get a lot of inspiration from my favourite chefs and cooks. Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Sophie Dahl, Nigel Slater, Rachel Allen, Bill Granger, Rachel Khoo, and my take on the Londoner‘s devilish Slutty Brownies… can you guess who’s missing?

It’s time for one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes!

I was so impressed and mesmerised by his series River Cottage Veg Heroes, in which he places vegetables at the centre of his diet. In that series, he created the most mouth-watering recipes; in fact they converted quite a few sceptics to vegetarianism. 

The Chachouka Chow Chow drew my attention, not least because I couldn’t figure out how to spell it (but the name sure is funny). Warming spices, tender, juicy peppers, the colours of Africa on your plate. Your house will smell of cumin for hours after you’ve had the last bite of your chachouka.


Serves 3-4 with bread, 2 as a main meal
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins

Ingredients:
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 green chilli, deseeded ad finely sliced
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 medium sized tomatoes (NOT beef)
200-250g tempeh, sliced into strips
3 large peppers, deseeded and sliced into strips
1 400g can tinned tomatoes
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne (or paprika) powder
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 small loaf (pecan and raisin) bread

Instructions:
Heat the coconut oil in a large, deep pan. Fry the cumin seeds for a minute before adding the onion, garlic and chilli. Fry for about five minutes, until the onion is translucid, before adding the peppers, tinned tomatoes and the rest of the spices. Let it all bubble for 20 minutes on low to medium heat.
Serve with a few slices of crusty, rustic bread. 


Notes:
* This dish is best served with a couple of slices of crusty bread. I suggest this recipe for a Pecan and Raisin Loaf I chanced upon while I was browsing the Circo website. Crusty bread crunching underneath your teeth and mellow peppers melting on your tongue — it’s a magical combo. It’s quite a sweet meal — ideal when you need a comforting end to a possibly harrowing day. 
* If you don’t like tempeh, you could try replacing it with fried tofu. If you want to make the dish even more wholesome, red kidney beans would be lovely, too, as they go so well with tomatoes and spices. 


Spicy Tomato Brown Rice Soup – Warming, Comforting, and Fuel for the Brain


If you follow the blog regularly, you’ll know I’m on the verge of graduating from university. That undergrad degree is only just outside of my grasp. But until then, I still have a few essays and that dear old friend *AHEM* Mr Dissertation to hand in. And my poor wee brain needs a bit of a boost to make it to the finish line.

Oh and let’s not even mention working part-time again. I’ve gone back to being casual waiting staff, yayyyy. #sarcasm Eight and a half hour shifts without a break for food or other basic needs like relieving my bladder? Not so fun. (I do sneak off to the toilet, don’t you worry. And I did pinch a few rolls of bread because I was, well, starving. But don’t tell my boss.)


Why this soup is good for you:

* The brown rice makes a substantial meal of this soup, providing you with slow-releasing carbohydrates so you have the energy to churn out 3000 words per day. It also happens to be gluten-free.
* Tomatoes are a superfood! They’re not often mentioned as such, but this beautiful fruit (nope, it’s not a vegetable!) is so good for you: they contain heaps of vitamin C, folic acid, beta-carotene (important for your eyes!), calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and the all-important lycopene, which is a powerful and protective antioxidant.*
* This soup is just really, really comforting. If you don’t have a loved one at the ready to hold you and repeat silly words like “shhh, it’ll be ok”, even though it won’t be, every time you have a nervous breakdown, and your cat won’t stop screeching every time you come home when you just wanted some peace and quiet, and there’s this strange buzzing noise coming from the lift shaft opposite your flat and it’s keeping you up at night and — well, this soup will see you through. 

Serves two
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
1 can tinned tomatoes
200g cooked rice (see tip below)
1 cube vegetable stock
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
1 small red chilli, seeds removed and chopped
water

Instructions:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot. Fill the empty can of tinned tomatoes with water and pour into the pot. Simmer for 10 minutes, set aside to cool and blend until smooth. Re-heat and serve with a chunk of sourdough, if you have some on hand; if not, the soup alone will fill you.

TIP: cook a big batch of brown rice in advance. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge so you can rustle up any meal, like this one, in the blink of an eye when you have little time to cook during the week.

To cook the brown rice, simmer 75g dry brown rice for 25-30 mins.

* source: Healing Foods by Margaret Roberts. Briza Publications, South Africa, 2012.

Superfood Salad — Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Chickpeas, Kale, Sprouts and Seeds

Following up on my brain food breakfast bowl (aka millet porridge with dried figs, cinnamon and orange), I now give you a superfood salad that will provide you with plenty of energy and all the nutrients required for healthy brain function. I need this now more than ever as in fewer than three weeks, I will have to hand in all my coursework and graduate from university. (YIKES.)

As it turns out, this recipe is also excellent for a calcium-rich diet. If you remember last year I injured myself whilst running and began incorporating more calcium in my diet to strengthen my bones. I’m not always very good at remembering to do so, but the ingredients in this recipe are chock-full of calcium, and I do eat them regularly. 


A few notes on nutrition in this salad from the book Healing Foods by Margaret Roberts (thanks for the gift, Dad!):
* Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein, amino acids, minerals and fibre and stand strong and steady in treating lack of energy. They are particularly rich in zinc, which is a valuable mineral for protecting against free radical damage and for protecting the liver. They also provide calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, manganese, and omega-3 and 6 fats. 
* Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) lowers high cholesterol, assist kidney function flushing toxins from the body, and cleanse the digestive system and ease constipation. They are also high in calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and a slew of vitamins, plus absorbable iron. 
* Kale a beautiful winter crop, it is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C and B6, as well as iron. Vitamin C increases mental agility and strengthens your immune system. Vitamin K is important for cognitive function. (See this article on the BBC Good Food website)
* Broccoli is a super cancer fighter. It is an excellent source of vitamins C, A, K, B6 and E, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. 

So chomp your greens, eat more seeds and include more chickpeas in your diet!


I’m not a big fan of salad dressings. Not even a small fan, in fact. I don’t like to douse oil all over my beautiful salads, nor do I like smothering them in acid, vinegary concoctions. Instead, I dress my salads in hummus. It’s healthy, especially if you make yourself (store-bought ones can be heavy in the oil department, so read the labels!), and it has a sumptuous creamy consistency that I am head-over-heels in love with. 

Serves 3-4
Prep time: under 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5-10 minuts

Ingredients:
100g kale, washed
150g purple sprouting broccoli
50g alfalfa and broccoli sprouts
3-4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
3-4 tbsp hummus (I used caramelised onion hummus, but you can plain, too)
200g cooked chickpeas

Instructions:
Steam the kale and purple sprouting broccoli. This will not only make them tender but also remove some of the bitterness. 
Toss all ingredients together, coat in the hummus, and serve immediately. 



Quinoa Sweet Potato Burger

I love a good burger. Lately every time I go to Borough Market near London Bridge, I inevitably get a superfood burger (unless there’s a massive queue) because they are just so good. And I’ve been meaning to make my own for a while now. 

You know me — I like simple, short and quick recipes. You could certainly add many more ingredients to make your perfect burger, but I wanted something easy to make, with a short ingredients list. I used sweet potatoes and quinoa, and threw in some frozen peas at the last minute, and ta-da — these babies were born. I was very satisfied with them. 


Makes 6 patties
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces (roughly 360g)
60g dry quinoa
50g frozen peas
water
a pinch of thyme, turmeric, cayenne powder, chilli flakes, 
cinnamon and ginger (optional)
breadcrumbs (optional)
salt and pepper

Instructions:
Steam sweet potato for 10 mins till tender. Simultaneously, cook the quinoa and peas for 10 mins until there is no water left.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. For 6 patties. You can add a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs to coat the patties if you want the patties to be extra firm. Form 6 patties. 
Bake in oven at 200ºC for 25-30 mins

Serve on a bun (I used a homemade gluten-free bagel — first trial, it was ok, but needs improvement!) with some spinach, reggae reggae sauce and sliced onion. You could use red onion, kale, iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato, onion jam, anything you like!


Vegan Pepperoni Pizza

 


It’s not often I crave junk food, but when I do, beware — I might just transform into a werewolf if I don’t get my way.

There are many alternative meat and dairy products available to vegans these days but not all of them satisfy a craving for the real stuff to the desired degree. When I was at the Om Yoga Show in Kensington Olympia last October I was introduced to Vegusto, a new brand based in the UK. Their vegan cheese has without a shadow of a doubt the most authentic cheese flavour I have tasted so far.


Your tools.


Step one.


Two. 

Three. Ta-dah!


And now, devour.


I prepared this pizza for myself but also made a plain margharita pizza for an Italian friend who assured me it was delicious — approved by a true Italian, that’s got to be worth something!



Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by Vegusto and only mention this product because I truly think it’s the best on the market at the moment. I never use products I don’t like.

This also happens to be a very lazy recipe. Because if I’m going to have junk food, I am not going to put much effort into the cooking. That doesn’t mean it has to taste merely “OK”, though. Kind of greedy, but what can I say, I want it all.


Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 10-12 mins
Serves 1-2

Ingredients:

1 packet of pizza flour
water
1/2 pack of Vegusto melty cheese, sliced 
10 Vegusto paprika slices
3-5 tbsps tomato puree/sauce (either will work just fine)
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced or crushed

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Line an oven-proof tray with baking parchment. 
Prepare the pizza flour according to package instructions. Roll the dough out to a flat circle. 
Arrange the toppings on the pizza, starting with the tomato puree, then the cheese and “ham” (see pictures), finishing with the spices. 
Cook in the oven for 10-12 minutes, checking regularly that the pizza doesn’t burn.

Serve hot with some vegetables on the side if you’re sharing. 


What’s your favourite vegan “junk food”?


The Sophie Dal


I can hardly believe it’s been over eight months since India. The most bizarre, beautiful, magical experience of my entire life. Every day an overwhelming culture shock, a terrifying question: what the hell have I got myself into? But if I had the chance to do it again, I would. No doubt about it. 

When I came back from India, I was relieved beyond belief: every minute that the plane got closer to Heathrow, all I could think was, My kingdom for a cup of tea and a biscuit. I think that’s when I realised how British I have become in the last (nearly) three years I have lived here. That I’m such a home bird, and a creature of habit. That I’m very easily scared, and worry too much, and doubt myself too much. Every day I was in India, I wondered if I’d taken on too much. It turns out I could (even the flooding Ganges, I could handle that). 

But I was mighty glad to be home, and not at all convinced I wanted to repeat the experience. Ever.

And yet lately, I find myself dreaming of tropical forests, sandy beaches kissed by listless waves, and mountain tops brushing the heavens. I’ve made a travel bucketlist: all the places I want to travel before I die. It’s a long one. Just in case you were wondering:

• Nepal
• Bali
• Australia/New Zealand
• USA (roadtrip!)
• Canada
• Fiji
• Austria
• France (all over–I’ve been many times, but I want to go back to Normandy, Brittany, and I’ve never seen the Provence, the Châteaux de la Loire, la Côte d’Azur, etc.)
• Germany (back again, I’ve been to Berlin and Munich before)
• Scandinavia
• Italy

Some days I’m afraid I’ll never get to see all these places. And then I remind myself I’m only twenty, and no one said I had to do it all at once. It will take a long time to save enough money to see everything–but I’ve all the time in the world. 


Going back to India — if there is one thing I will go back for, it’s the food. Dal is a staple of vegetarian Indian cuisine, and by far my favourite. A simple bowl of dal is all you need to set the world right again, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can personalise it as you wish. Either way, it’s so satisfying to sit down with a steaming bowl of dal, the aromas rising to your nose and transporting you to rice fields and limitless skies. I miss getting up in the morning to wash my face in the outdoor sink, where the Himalayas were the first thing I would see.

A few friends I made in the Ashram were English, so of course they were familiar with the  delicious Miss Sophie Dahl. Who apparently spent some time in India, as I learnt from her book Season to Season, in which she shares a few Indian recipes. One day in this tiny local restaurant in this tiny little mountain village, Netala, we were eating thali and someone mentioned Sophie Dahl, which led someone else to ask if she was at all connected to the dish, dal, and some confusion ensued and the English had to explain who she was. 


So no, Sophie and the Indian dish are not exactly related — but in my mind, they are now. And I told myself that day I would make a Sophie Dal, in remembrance of my friends and our time in India. Wherever you all are at this moment in time, I still think of you all very often, and I hope I will get to see you again some day. 



Serves two as a main meal, four with side dishes
Prep time: 2 mins
Cooking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
750ml vegetable stock
1/2 head broccoli, finely chopped
1/2 bag spinach
1 can green lentils
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 white onion, very finely chopped*
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tsp garam masala paste (powder might work, too)
1/2 tsp coriander powder

*I know in the pictures my onion and broccoli do not look finely chopped. That was just me being lazy, but I usually chop ’em very finely, which creates a beautiful texture that I much, much prefer.

Instructions:
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Toast the cumin seeds for a minute or two. Add the onion and lightly fry for 5 mins, until translucid. 
Add the remaining vegetables and stock and cook for 25-30 mins until all vegetables are tender. A few minutes before you take the pan off the heat, throw in the spices, too. 

This dish is beautiful on its own, but you could also serve 4 people with this if you added some steamed vegetables and naan bread on the side; or you could serve the dal over some brown or wild rice. 


P.S.: how do you all like the new signature? It was made by a certain not-so-vegan Cookie Monster.

Pesto Lasagna




Argh, I’ve done it again, cheated on my beloved Almond Butter! I can’t seem to stay away from Pesto…




Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins


Ingredients:
9 pasta sheets ready to use (as in, no need to pre-cook them)
4 tbsp vegan pesto + 1 tbsp
200ml soy cream
100g spinach (or half a pack)
100g frozen peas
1 can green lentils
100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
nutritional yeast to top (optional)
béchamel sauce (see below)

Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. 
In a small bowl whisk together 4 tbsp pesto with the soy cream. Set aside. 
Layer 1: 3 pasta sheets on the bottom of a large greased ovenproof dish. Spread the peas and lentils evenly over the sheets. 
Layer 2: Another 3 sheets topped with spinach and pesto cream. Make sure the cream covers the spinach well. 
Layer 3: The last three pasta sheets. Spread the remaining tbsp of pesto evenly over the sheets in a thin layer, then cover generously with the béchamel. Make sure the corners of the pasta sheets are imbibed with the sauce, otherwise they will burn in the oven. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast over the whole if you wish. 
Bake in the oven for 20 mins. 

Béchamel sauce:

Ingredients:
1 + 1/2 tbsp vegan margarine
1 + 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
375ml soy milk

Instructions:
First create a roux: in a small saucepan over medium heat melt the vegan margarine and stir in the flour. When it turns slightly golden brown, you’ve got a “roux”. Slowly pour in the soya milk as you keep stirring, firmly and without splashing, then keep stirring on slightly higher heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the garlic. It will take around 12-15 minutes for the sauce to thicken but if it becomes too much like a pudding, take it off the heat and add a little bit more soya milk.