Saturday, 16 August 2014

Recipe: Beany Butternut Bake, salad with Classic Italian Vinaigrette,and Chickpea Ratatouille

This evening my friend set me a Ready Steady Cook challenge!
She brought round a load of random ingredients and I had to make something with them all. I was allowed to use any seasoning and herbs and spices, but only 3 additional ingredients.

Here's what she brought:

This is what I added:

I decided to make a slightly spicy chickpea ratatouille with tricolour cous cous for a starter, followed by a beany butternut bake with a salad dressed in homemade Classic Italian vinaigrette.

Chickpea Ratatouille

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 small onion, diced
1 stick celery, sliced finely
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots
1 courgette
1 red pepper
1.5 tsp dried basil
1.5 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp fresh Greek basil
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tin chickpeas drained

Sauté the onion, garlic, celery and carrot in the oil for a good five minutes until the carrot starts to soften

Add the courgette and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the herbs and spices, and the chickpeas and tomatoes, mix and cook slowly for a good 15-30 minutes until all the veg is cooked and the flavours have really developed.

It shouldn't be too saucy:

Serve over tricolour cous cous with an extra sprinkle of chopped parsley and Greek basil:

Boy was it yummy! 

Beany Butternut Bake

1 butternut squash

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 table olive oil
1 tin haricot beans, drained
1 tin Cannelini beans, drained
Juice of 2 lemons
250ml stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
3 tbsp nutritional yeast 

For the crumb:
50g walnuts
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
10g fresh parsley

Peel and slice the butternut and set aside

Chop the onion, garlic and celery

Sauté the celery, onion and garlic in the olive oil

When soft, add to food processor with all other sauce ingredients and process until saucey but thick

Put the topping ingredients in the mill attachment of the food processor

Pulse until combined

Incidentally, I had some walnut smashing fun as I don't own a nutcracker, so the end of a knife it was! Carnage!

To assemble the bake, put a thick Beany sauce layer on the bottom, cover with a layer of butternut slices and a little of the topping, maybe a quarter.

Then a very thin bean sauce layer, the rest of the butternut, the rest of the bean sauce and finally the topping. Cover with foil and bake for about 1 hour to an hour and a half, basically until the butternut is soft. Serve with salad.

I use an adapted version of Classic Italian Vinaigrette  from the Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. I forgot to do pictures of the dressing I'm afraid but here is my version:

1/4 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced

Using a granite pestle and mortar, combine the above two into a paste

Then in a pot with a liquid tight lid, add the paste along with 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, juice of half a lemon OR 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (I prefer the lemon version) and a pinch of black pepper. Pop the lid on, give it a good shake and voila!

My favourite way to have this is over a rocket, watercress and spinach salad, topped with toasted pine nuts.  Tonight I did it over the mixed leaf salad with chopped tomatoes and a red pepper that I roasted with nothing added.

Recipe: Brilliantly Bonkers Butternut Breakfast

I'm always on the lookout for new breakfast ideas, especially on weekends or days off where I have time to be a bit more creative.  On weekdays I pretty much always stick to my favourite, avocado mashed with lemon juice, salt and pepper on toast, it's a winning formula!

I adore butternut squash and coconut and there's a favourite Isa Chandra Moscovitz recipe for Butternut-Coconut Rice that I go to a lot for an extra special side. It's very savoury and I wouldn't fancy the flavours for breakfast, but I really wanted something based on these flavours ... so I came up with the:

Brilliantly Bonkers Butternut Breakfast!

Makes 4 portions

100g jasmine rice
1 butternut squash
1/2 stock cube
1 400ml tin coconut milk
1 400g tin chickpeas (240g drained/cooked)
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch chilli flakes

To top each portion: 
30g raw cashews
5g golden linseeds (flaxseeds)

Cut your butternut squash in half, place cut side down on a baking tray or in a roasting tin, and bake on 200 C for an hour.
When it's done let it cool a bit, then use a sharp knife to take the skin off and the seeds out.

Chop the flesh into rough chunks and mash a little bit, leaving some pieces whole.

Meanwhile, put the jasmine rice, coconut milk and stock cube in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low and let it cook for about half an hour. You'll need to stir it every few minutes so that it doesn't stick.

After the rice has cooked for half an hour, stir in the squash and chickpeas, pepper and chilli flakes.

Heat it all through, giving the occasional stir, for ten minutes or so until nicely combined and warmed throughout.

Divide between 4 bowls. (If like me it's just for you, then put the other 3 portions in storage containers, let cool, then refrigerate. You'll do the topping individually each day once you've reheated in a saucepan with a little water if needed.)

For the topping, take a clean dry saucepan or frying pan, pop the cashews in and put over a high heat. Do not walk away! Shake the pan every now and then. When your cashews are toasted enough, throw in the linseeds. 30 seconds later remove from heat and sprinkle over your breakfast.

Unusually for me I didn't add any salt at all when serving, the little bit that the stock cube provided seemed to be perfect! Enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Recipe: Basic Houmous!

Houmous is something that everyone boasts to have the perfect recipe for.  My homemade attempts have always (to me) lacked a certain something. So I end up going back to store bought.  However, I've finally got the quantities (and a secret ingredient!) to a level where I'm happy to give up my beloved mass produced houmous, and trust my own creation!!

Let's face it, houmous is just a few basic ingredients; chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon juice and sometimes tahini. The key is the proportions. So here is my contribution to the world of homemade houmous:

2x 400g tins chickpeas (480g drained / cooked)
2.5 (37.5g) tbsps olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
50g tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
A pinch of black pepper
And my secret ingredient: 30g roasted garlic sauce! ( I use Tesco Ingredients range which is confirmed vegan)

Pop in blender and whizz to desired consistency! If you need to thin it - which I can't imagine - use water or olive oil.

This makes 8 portions. Enjoy!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Recipe: Freekeh Sweet Potato Salad (aka Let's Get Freekeh!) and My Veganniversary!

It's been nearly a year of Veganism for this sporadic blogger and I'm happy to report I could not be more committed!  I am so pleased and proud to be Vegan and my health has improved as a result.  I'm a couple of stone down (25 pounds) and my blood pressure now sits on the lower end of normal rather than the high end which is where I used to be!  Plus, think of all the suffering I haven't contributed to! So it's all going well!

I've decided to resurrect this blog and add to the lonely First Day of The Way post... so I'd like to share a nice recipe.  I'm really into my food now, more than ever before and post regularly to a Facebook group. I post both my incarnations of other people's recipes there, plus my own creations, and I get so many compliments and recipe requests that I decided I'd like to record some of my better ones.

I tend to make four portions of lunch salads (which in my mind should involve at least one grain or carb, a protein, and lotsa veggies and flavour.  I pack up my lunches into all sorts of containers and pop them in the fridge, then I don't need to worry every single day what to have.  It's a really good and healthy habit to get into.

Without further ado, let's check out a nice salad I've had for the last few days lunches.  It involves Freekeh, which for me has just become available in the large supermarket by me.  It's fairly expensive as far as grains go, but it's still cheap-ish in the grand scheme of things, i.e. what you pay per portion.  Here's the one I buy:

If you click the link it tells you about the grain freekeh; it's basically young wheat.  I don't much like the smell when it's dry in the bag but once you've cooked it, I really like the subtle flavour and particularly the texture.

Freekeh Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients - Serves 4

400g - 450g sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 tbsp olive, sunflower, or rapeseed oil
150g greenwheat freekeh
1 small red onion (or half of a bigger one - roughly 50g)
1/2 - 1 red chilli
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 + 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
400g tin black beans, drained (or 100g dried weight, soaked and cooked)
200g mixed tomatoes (or just baby plum)
1 really big handful fresh coriander - about 25g

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.  Peel and dice your sweet potatoes, pop in an oven dish (I like a ceramic one for roasting sweet potatoes), coat with the oil and mix well, and sprinkle over 1/4 tsp of the salt. Pop in the oven and set the timer for 30-40 mins.  You know your oven better than me!  But you'll want the sweet potato to be cooked but still firm-ish so it doesn't turn to mush in your salad.
  • While the potatoes are roasting, cook the freekeh according to the packet instructions or my cook-any-grain method, which is to put a load of water in the pan with a pinch of salt and the weighed grain, and bring it to the boil until it's cooked (about 15 from cold with the freekeh I've found)
  • While that's bubbling away, get a large bowl ready.  Chop the red onion and the chilli really, really small.  For the chilli, I used half a large red one, and I deseeded it.  It's up to you how much chilli you want - I just like a small kick.
  • Add the lemon and lime juices, the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and the pepper to the onion and chilli mixture.  Stir well and leave for ten minutes.  Then add the black beans and stir very well to coat.
  • By now your freekeh should be done so go drain it over the sink and give it a really good rinse through with cold water to cool it down.
  • Chop the tomatoes into bite size pieces, i.e. halve or quarter baby plum tomatoes. Add to the black bean mixture and mix well.  Chuck the freekeh in too if it's cooled down.
  • Finally, chop your coriander (I like mine only roughly chopped, maybe I'm just lazy!) and mix it in.  Divide into 4 containers or bowls and dig in or look forward to your fabulous lunches!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The First Day of The Way...

I've made the decision to go Vegan.


About Me

My first day of Veganism was 27 August 2013.  I'm going to keep this blog as a helpful note for myself and anyone else making this decision.

I'm Lee-anne by the way.  I'm 29, and I'm really overweight!  I am not sure if Veganism will or will not help with this in a big way, however I think it will ensure I cut down on some of my binges, so that has to be good, right?! 
I was vegetarian prior to this, and although I didn't have loads of dairy or honey etc, I think the proportion was significant enough that after a while I will notice the absence.

My real reason behind the decision though, was always going to be about the animals.  My belief is that we do not need to consume animal products, or animals, in order to survive.  So why do we have the right to?  I don't think we do, so I am choosing to follow my moral compass the way it's pointing, and try and live a good and healthy life without causing suffering (directly or indirectly) to others.

Today is my 6th day of being vegan.  I meant to start this blog on the first day, however it's been a busy week.  That's the other thing - my work takes up a lot of my time.  I work shifts (currently they fall between 7am-7pm including weekends) and also do overtime.  It can be really sporadic so a big stumbling block for me will be if I am not organised.


The Vegan Way of Life

I'd like to combine the way of eating Vegan with the Vegan lifestyle.  By this I mean becoming more environmentally friendly in the way I live my life.  I had been slowly over the last year replacing all my make up with 100% not tested on animals stuff - basically all from The Body Shop.  I know it's not perfect as L'Oreal own them, however at least I know that no animals have come to harm due to what I'm wearing on my face.  In future I may change this, but for now I'm happy with that decision.

Apart from that, a big consideration needs to be household goods, i.e. cleaning and things.  Not only do I want to make sure that my products are not tested on animals, but I want them ecologically responsible too!  You try finding ones that fulfill these criteria in Tesco...oh, and they have to be Vegan too, so no silk, honey, beeswax or whatever.  It's nigh on impossible.  And no, Ecover doesn't count by the way, because they do test on some kind of really tiny animal and they say they are not animals.  So I'm not buying their stuff.  I want to see the BUAV logo and the The Vegan Society logo where possible.  Household is the area I'm struggling with.

And of course, every time I use something at the moment, I'm thinking, was this tested on animals, or does it have something in it that I don't want to be using?  It's driving me a bit mad this week if I'm honest...have YOU ever thought about the environmental impact of your loo roll?  Or worse, "ladies products"?!!  Me either, but suddenly these issues are rearing their heads!  I'll update as and when I find solutions.


The Guide to Vegan Living

I'm approaching this with the attitude that is put forward in The Guide to Vegan Living, which is a great website put together by The Vegan Society to help people making the transition.  They have said it's ok to use up your non-vegan (not food!!!) items and then replace with vegan.  Obviously not food...

So I'm using up my cleaning products etc and then will replace.  Same goes for leather shoes/bags/wallets etc.  I'm also keeping an open mind that I may not be able to do this.  Currently I see absolutely no reason why not, however I need to keep my options open.  So I've given myself 30 days.  This is to be seen as a vegan trial.  It ends on 25 September 2013.  After this point I will consider myself a success and will remain Vegan.  I cannot see any reason why I wouldn't.  But right now it's my safety net!

My pitfalls will be eating out, also drinking alcohol, but that will be another post, and also when we work late and get food in.  I already have a couple of Food Doctor wholesome pots in my drawer ready for when I may need them - they're not great but will do in a pinch!

That's enough for my introductory post so I'll head off.  I am planning to do a post on things I've been eating so far and recipes/books.  Also a post on alcohol (big topic!) and later on household goods.  But mostly this will be about my journey on this lifestyle.

Thanks for reading.

Lee-anne x

PS - I don't know how this is possible as I've been going way over my calories this week, although admittedly all with healthy food, but my scales are saying I've lost just over 3 pounds since Monday.  However, this could well be because prior to that I was on holiday and well, we all go a bit mad on holiday, right?! Haha.