Tag Archives: spinach

Chickpea flour scramble

1 Mar
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Chickpea flour scramble with tomatoes, on noochy toast.

 

You would never guess that the stuff that makes Indian pakoras so cripsy and holds together felafel would also make a creamy and satisfying scrambled egg substitute. The secret is to let the batter sit for a few hours. Not only does that sort out any lumps, but the flour particles soak up the water giving it a smoother consistency and texture. In my pre-vegan days I used to like my scrambled eggs quite soft, preferably with some tasty veggies added. I think this recipe is very reminiscent of that, but without being heavy or greasy and, more importantly, without any animal involvement.

 

Recipe (serves 1)

  • Quarter of a cup (60ml) of chickpea (gram) flour
  • 100ml of cold water
  • 1ts oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: a bit of anything else you fancy, e.g. a chopped tomato, some courgette, or a couple of blocks of thawed frozen spinach.
  • Tea and toast, to serve.

Mix the chickpea flour and water together. Leave for at least two hours, preferably overnight. Don’t worry about any lumps, they will disappear on their own. The batter will probably end up quite thick, particularly at the bottom. Give it a quick stir before continuing.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. If using something that needs to be cooked, e.g. tomato or courgette, fry this quickly first. Otherwise, mix whatever veg you’re adding into the batter.

Pour the batter into the frying pan. As it sets underneath and around the edges, turn with a spatula, as you would making scrambled eggs. Continue until it reaches the desired consistency, this will only take a couple of minutes at the most. Serve on toast with a nice cup of tea.

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Watercress soup – healthy, sexy, green

11 Jan

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This soup is a bit of a treat, as it takes one whole bag of watercress to make just one bowl. It tastes fresh and peppery and is full of vitamins and minerals, so it will make you feel incredible. I’m not exaggerating, it’s been over an hour since I ate the bowl of soup in the photo above and I’m still on a bit of a high. Either make it as an indulgent lunch for one, or serve it in little teacups as a starter for someone you’re trying to woo.

Notes:

  • The same quantities and method work for other green soups. Just replace the watercress with spinach or kale for a more everyday soup.
  • A small onion/potato/carrot is one you can fit in the palm of your hand and close your fist around.
  • Don’t bother peeling the potato and carrot unless they’re really muddy or have been nibbled by bugs. Just give them a good scrub.

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Recipe (serves one as a meal, or two as a starter):

  • One teaspoon oil
  • One small onion, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One small potato, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One small carrot, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One clove of garlic, smashed, peeled, then roughly chopped
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 75g fresh watercress
  • Salt and pepper to taste (you shouldn’t need very much of either)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion, potato, carrot, and garlic. Cover and leave to sweat for 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. A little bit of colour is fine, but you don’t really want the veggies to brown.

Add the stock and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes. Add the watercress a handful at a time until it has all wilted into the broth – this should only take a minute or two. Blend, check for seasoning, and serve.

Doners, quiche, VegFest, focaccia – a 2014 review

1 Jan

Most-read post – By quite a long way, it was the seitain doner kebab meat that I wrote back in May. I’m a tiny bit embarrassed that my most popular recipe is also one of the unhealthiest, but I’m also so proud that something we put so much thought in to came out exactly how we wanted. I hope that people who search for vegan junk food recipes find what they’re looking for on my site, but are inspired by the healthier articles.

My favourite recipe – The recipe I posted on my one-year bloggiversary in April, it’s vegan quiche with spinach, leeks, and pine nuts. Quiche was a bit of an obsession of mine in my pre-vegan days, so I was really pleased to come up with a recipe that was both delicious and satisfying, without an animal product in sight.

My favourite non-foodie article – It’s a difficult choice, but I’d have to go with the post about VegFest London from September, simply because I had so much fun “researching” it. I wrote the post as soon as I got home from VegFest. I didn’t over-think what I was going to say, so I my enthusiasm and excitement about the event are genuine.

My top foodie discovery of 2014 – the stuffed focaccia we ate on holiday in Italy, which had roasted courgettes, aubergines, and peppers baked right into it. Just a few weeks later I went on a bread-making course and learned how to make focaccia, and I’m now getting the hang of doing it at home. Watch this space, the recipe may well appear on this blog in the near future.

Still to come in 2015 – an easy, adaptable pesto recipe; vegan parkin; and my adventures with home-made tempeh.

In my veg box this week – long-awaited greens

7 May

It has been a couple of weeks since we had a vegetable box. Last week Mr Veg and I both took part in the Living Below the Line challenge to raise money for Action Aid. For five days we each had a food budget of £1 a day, and as the vegetable box costs £15 a week it was one of the first things to go. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m a huge vegetable fan (hence the name), so going from eating a variety of seasonal fruit and vegetables to just eating the absolute cheapest we could find was one of the most difficult parts of the challenge. I had to buy in bulk to get enough to eat, so the only fresh food we had was a huge bag of carrots, two bunches of bananas, and a couple of other bits. I normally aim to eat at least 5-7 portions of different fruit and vegetables a day, so it was a huge shock.

I’ve been interested in food poverty for a while, so to actually experience it, even though it was just for a few days, was a really important experience for me. It was difficult. It was frustrating eating bland and unvaried food. I suffered from caffeine withdrawal, general lethargy, extreme grumpiness, and my health started to suffer. I am immensely grateful that it was just five days, and it has inspired me to do more to help people who aren’t so lucky.

I’ve been blogging about the whole experience on the Living Below the Line website, so if you want to read more about what we did and why, or if you’d like to donate, please visit https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/amydittrich.

So after all that you can imagine that I’m so very thrilled to finally get a box of lovely fruit and vegetables. I’m always excited to get home from work and find the box on my doorstep, but I was especially so today. This week I’m particularly happy to have:

Muddy carrots
Yes, we have carrots every week and yes, we had an awful lot of carrots last week, but proper organic muddy carrots have so much more flavour than the cheap watery ones from the supermarket. Even if they only end up in a salad I will relish every bite.

Real potatoes
Again, we have potatoes every week, but after being stuck with horrible tinned potatoes last week it’s just lovely to have real ones again.

Spinach and spring greens
One of my worst cravings when we were Living Below the Line was for greens, so to have two different greens in one week is amazing! I’ll be putting one in a creamy pasta dish, and cooking the other with some spices, I just haven’t decided which way round yet…

Also received this week: coriander, a leek, mushrooms, onions, oranges, apples, pears, bananas.

Action Aid: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/

Live Below the Line: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/

Vegan quiche with spinach, leeks and pine nuts

6 Apr

WordPress has just reminded me that today is my blog’s first anniversary. I started the blog one Saturday afternoon, when I decided that the pea pesto recipe I’d invented a couple of days before was so good that it deserved sharing with the world. Armed with a name I plucked out of nowhere, and a slightly blurry photo of some basil, I got started. I only really expected a couple of people to look at it, that maybe I’d put one or two more recipes online, and that basically it wouldn’t really go anywhere. Over the next few weeks I did post a few more times, and I read a lot of other people’s blogs, and I got hooked. One year later, with 38 posts, 149 comments, 123 WordPress followers, I feel like I’ve become part of a community. I’ve made contact with people all over the world, stayed up late because I was having an interesting conversation with strangers on Twitter, and annoyed my husband on many an occasion by spending ages taking photos of our dinner. Other bloggers and Twitter-folk have given me the inspiration and support to go from sort-of-cutting-back-on-dairy to 99% vegan (I’m almost there), and I’m grateful to each and every one of you for that. To thank you, I’m sharing a new recipe, my first ever attempt at a vegan quiche.

Quiche is one of my favourite things to make. It does require a fair bit of multitasking, but it’s really versatile and over the years I’ve come up several different combinations, usually involving a vegetable and a cheese. Making something eggy and cheesy without eggs or cheese sounds impossible, but as firm tofu can act as a good sub for both vegan quiche is actually easier to make than the real thing. It’s not strongly cheesy – think ricotta rather than feta – but I am certain that I could feed this to omnivores and they wouldn’t realise it was vegan.

Recipe notes:

  • The filling from this recipe would also work well wrapped in puff pastry, à la my non-vegan spanokopitta sausage rolls.
  • I use frozen for spinach-heavy recipes like this. It’s better value for money by a long long way, you’d need a sack full of fresh spinach leaves to get the same amount, plus you’d still have to wash and cook it. Unless you’re growing your own and have a glut of it, just buy whole leaf frozen spinach.
  • If there is any filling left, you could use it to stuff a couple of tomatoes and bake them at the same time as the quiche.

Recipe (serves 4)

For the pastry:

  • 50g margarine (check it is suitable for pastry)
  • 100g flour (white or wholemeal, I use a mix of both)
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 1 ts margarine or oil
  • 1 leek, white and green parts, sliced into thin half-moons, thoroughly washed
  • 50ml your preferred non-dairy milk
  • 400g frozen whole leaf spinach, thawed
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted then very roughly chopped
  • A 396g block of firm tofu, drained but not pressed
  • ¼ ts grated nutmeg
  • Plenty of ground black pepper
  • 1 ts salt
  • 1 ts cider vinegar
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 2 tb nutritional yeast flakes

For the pastry, rub the margarine into the flour and salt. Continue mixing with your hands, adding some cold water a splash at a time until it comes together in a ball. Put it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

Lightly grease a 20cm / 8 inch quiche dish. Roll out the pastry and use it to line the dish. Trim the edges but not too much, be aware that the pastry will shrink a little bit when you cook it. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, then blind bake it for 10 minutes at 200˚C. You want the pastry to be starting to go dry and golden, but not brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the margarine or heat the oil, then add the leek and fry for two minutes until it starts to cook down. Add the milk and cook for a further five or so minutes, until the leeks have completely cooked down and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Tip the spinach into a sieve or a muslin-lined bowl. Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as you can.

Crumble the tofu into a large bowl with your hands. You could use a fork or masher, but doing it by hand is much more efficient.

Add the nutmeg, pepper, salt, vinegar, oil, and nooch to the tofu and mix well. You could continue mixing it by hand, but it’s less messy from now on to use a spoon or spatula. Add the cooked leeks, pine nuts, and drained spinach, and mix until well combined. Tip the filling into the blind-baked pastry, and return it to the oven for around half an hour, until the top is firm and golden. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, it will be much easier to get out of the dish. Serve hot or cold.

In my veg box this week – spinach vs. kale, and coping with bananas

19 Mar

Spring is on its way and we’re finally starting to get more variety again. This week we have:

Double greens!
A massive bag of spinach and an equally huge bunch of Tuscan kale, AKA cavolo nero. I’m so excited to get two big bunches of greens because I absolutely love both. Greens are great for iron, calcium, and tonnes of vitamins, although apparently these are more bioavailable in kale than spinach. Kale is really versatile and goes really well with chilli and other spices (always a plus in my book), and has a much more satisfying bite to it. Spinach works better cooked down, squeezed out, then chopped and put in a pasta sauce, or curry, or pie filling (like a spinach quiche). I’m thinking in this case of making either spinach and tofu-ricotta pasta, or a bright green soup. Which do I prefer out of kale and spinach? For me, thanks to the texture and health advantages, kale wins (but only just).

Bananas
I love bananas, they’re my favourite portable snack, are full of potassium and fibre, and are one of the best hangover cures I know. I know I’m not alone in being a bit squeamish about overripe bananas, though. Luckily, one of the advantages of volunteering for FoodCycle is that it is curing me of this through exposure therapy. We tend to get a lot of bananas at varying stages of ripeness, from perfectly edible to black and mushy. Last Saturday I was given two bowls of frozen then partially thawed bananas to turn into ice cream. It is an awful lot of work if you don’t have a blender, but frozen bananas mashed with yoghurt and syrup make brilliant, healthy yet decadent ice cream.

Also received this week: satsumas, apples, pears, beetroot, sweet potato, carrots, onions, potatoes, mushrooms.

Spanokopitta sausage rolls

9 Jul

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At the weekend, my mum asked me to bake some vegetarian sausage rolls for a family picnic. Normally I’d wrap some veggie sausages in puff pastry and get on with my day but on this occasion I was the only vegetarian there, and I wanted to make something the omnivores would enjoy as much as I would. I decided to make something based on my favourite Greek dish, spanokopitta (basically an AMAZING spinach and feta filo pie).

So here’s what I came up with. They went down really well, even with the meat-eaters. The children didn’t really like them (my two-year-old niece ate half of one and politely shoved the rest in my mouth); perhaps a milder, less freaky cheese would make them more child-friendly.

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Recipe (makes 24 mini rolls)

  • 500g puff pastry
  • 300g frozen spinach, defrosted, preferably the whole-leaf stuff
  • 200g feta cheese
  • 30g pine nuts, toasted
  • Two eggs (one for the filling and the other to use as eggwash)
  • One clove of garlic, mashed to a pulp, or a handful of finely chopped garlic scapes
  • A good grinding of black pepper and nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Roll the pastry out into two long rectangles, roughly 20cm x 40cm each, about 0.25cm thick.

Mash the drained feta with one of the eggs, then add the garlic, pepper, nutmeg, and pine nuts.

Drain the spinach in a sieve, and press as much of the water out of it as you can. Stir it into the feta mixture. It should be fairly dry, otherwise the pastry will end up soggy and the filling will spill out of the edges.

Spread half the filling down the middle of one of the sheets of pastry. Brush some beaten egg along one of the edges. Roll the sheet of pastry into one long sausage, ending on the side that you brushed with egg. Cut into 12 mini sausage rolls and place them onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the filling and the second sheet of pastry. Brush all of the sausage rolls with beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed up and golden. Enjoy hot or cold.

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