Squash and Eggplant Gratin  (Vegan, DF, GF)

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‘Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let every new year find you a better man’  – Benjamin Franklin

Every year people makes lists of resolutions, drink less, eat less, do more exercise. These are really just generalities that you think will make your life better and in some circumstances relieve the guilt of the past season. We all do it and it seems to make sense at the time, but how long do we stick to our resolutions?

I have found, for me at least that making small changes on a day to day basis works better, with a little room for error, so that I don’t get into a guilt cycle and give up. Every day I start a fresh and think about what I can do better today.

For me like a lot of people, I have a deep and complex relationship with food. It has been my friend and enemy, it comforts me when I am far from home, it teaches me about my ancestry and it gives me a canvas for creativity. I am not going to give up eating and sometimes I am going to want something that does not serve me well, like a slice of pizza with my Italian husband or a truffle parmesan potato chip or two. So how do I balance the two.

I make it easy for myself to eat healthily 90% of the time and I don’t punish myself for the rest. I batch cook at the weekend and then my fast food is healthy food. I buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and I prepare them in batches as grab and go, lining up the pairings, for example peeling carrots and setting them next to the hummus, or placing mixed cut fruits in little pots next to my almond yogurt as a quick grab and go in the morning.

This recipe is an easy batch recipe. You cut and bake the butternut squash and eggplant, which you can make it bulk and use for other things also. You then add it all together bake it, creating 6-8 portions to be eaten or frozen. It tastes wonderful as a side or main, lunch or dinner and each ingredient can be repurposed in many different ways.

Take a few hours at the weekend to make your week easier and your food healthier. Now thats a resolution that anyone can keep. Happy Healthy 2019.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 large jar passata/homemade or shop bought
  • 2 large eggplants/aubergines
  • 100g gluten free breadcrumbs
  • 50g vegan parmesan
  • salt, pepper, olive oil, chilli flakes

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 350f
  • Peel the squash, remove the seeds and cut into 1 cm long segments
  • Toss the squash in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until soft
  • As the squash is roasting, half peel the eggplant (alternate stripes) and slice into 1cm discs
  • Cover in olive oil, salt and pepper and lightly fry to brown on each side. Set aside on kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil
  • Warm the passata and add any additional flavouring you might like. I used a garlic basil tomato sauce and added a few chilli flakes (this saves a lot of time). Reference the Rowley Leigh recipe for the original recipe.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan and set aside till ready to assemble
  • In an ovenproof dish, spoon a little sauce on the bottom and place half the squash segments down. Add some more sauce over the top and add half the eggplant segments, add more sauce and add the rest of the squash segments, more sauce, the other half of the eggplant segments and the rest of the sauce. Cover with the mixed breadcrumbs and cheese and bake for 30 minutes. I baked it covered with foil to make sure the breadcrumbs didn’t burn
  • Best eaten fresh and hot, but works well as leftovers too

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Vegan Smoked Salmon (Vegan, DF, GF)

Smoked salmon bagel

‘I didn’t change, I just started to look at things differently’.

Mr B and I popped into Orchard Grocer, a vegan Deli one day a few months ago. I was curious to see how they had become so popular so quickly, with reported long lines for their smoked salmon bagel. It is said that the bagel married lox in New York, so there is a high bar for this classic dish here.

I have to say, I was skeptical that a carrot could replace salmon and so took Mr B as the ultimate taster, given his New York roots and his love of this combination. The Deli did not disappoint and in fact the bagel was so good, Mr B asked me to recreate it so it could become his new go to at home.

The reason Mr B likes this, is because it has tones of the real thing due to the nori and tamari but is lighter and has a preferred texture. I like to serve it to Mr B on a Sunday morning in an everything bagel, or if he is getting on a train, I make it in a plain bagel and then add the everything seasoning to the vegan cream cheese. I also use it in wraps, bowls and in salads to add some depth and flavor.

I hope this dish gives you a glimpse into a reimagined classic and if not at least a new way to see the humble carrot

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots
  • 2 nori sheets
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp. Tamari
  • 1 tbsp. Liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. dill
  • Sea salt to taste

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 350f
  • Wash the carrots, add some salt and bake for 45 minutes or until soft.
  • Remove and once cooled slice into strips with a peeler or mandolin
  • Transfer into a container with the rest of the ingredients and let marinate at least overnight
  • For a classic new york bagel serve with vegan cream cheese, dill, red onion and capers

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Kale-Kopita  (Vegan)

Kale-Kopita  (Vegan)

Kale Kopita

This is a great recipe from the kitchen at Vedge in LA. It is a take on the classic spanakopita, (which means cheese filled) and uses tofu as the substitute.

As I talked to a few people about this recipe, it became clear that there is a version of this pie across the world including knishes, Bourikas, calzones, samosas and dim sum to name a few. This means I had some pretty tough tasters. The best comment I got back was from my Albanian taster who said this tasted like his mums back home. Score!! It was only then that I told him that there was no cheese only tofu. (I am not sure if he will mention that to his mum).

The key to a successful pie or layered pie isn’t whether you use tofu or cheese; it is about how you spice the filling. The onion, garlic, dill, salt and pepper all add to a delicious filling that you could stuff into anything, or quite frankly eat on its own. So make sure you are happy with the flavour and everything else will fall into place!

Mr B was a definite fan of this dish, given his love of all things Greek (apart from me, of course, he loves me despite of my non-Greekness)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing the Phyllo
  • 2 large bunches of Tuscan kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 5 cups of tofu cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Half a pack of organic vegan Phyllo, thawed

Method

  • Preheat the oven
  • Brush a casserole dish with olive oil
  • Bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt
  • Blanch the kale for 5 minutes, drain
  • Heat the olive oil in a deep pot, add the onions, garlic and cook for a few minutes until brown
  • Add the crumbled tofu, salt and pepper. Stir until browned and the moisture is gone, c. 10 minutes
  • Combine the kale and tofu mixture in a large bowl. Add the tofu cream cheese, dill and lemon juice
  • Layer 3 sheets of Phyllo on the bottom of the dish. Add one third of the mixture, layer another 3 layers on top, add the next third, add Phyllo, the next third and finally top with the remaining Phyllo. Brush the top layer with olive oil and bake until golden brown, c. 15 minutes.
  • Cut the dish into portions before baking, this will make it easier to serve
  • Serve warm

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Korean Eggplant Tacos (GF, Vegan)

Eggplant tacos

This is a recipe from the kitchen of Verge in Philadelphia and is a super sexy dish. It has umami from the glaze with the mix of maple and tamari combining well and added depth from the gochujang

Because you are only using the inside of the eggplant it is a super light dish, silky and smooth, spicy and sweet

I love these flavors!

Adding in Kimchi Vegan Mayo also adds to the flavour and gives you a health kick too! Apart from the positive effects on weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, kimchi benefits that have been reported in scientific literature include; increased antioxidant status, protection from asthma, anti-aging, anti-cancer and protection from atherosclerosis. A good source if you want to read up on the benefits Kimchi is universityhealthnews.com and it gives you the links to the studies too

Kimchi is Grandma Food, passed down from generation to generation and if you have followed my blog for a while, you will know my rule, of whatever granny says, goes!

Ingredients

  • 4 Japanese Eggplants (or one large Italian eggplant), peeled and chopped into 1 by 4 inch pieces (salt and leave to drain to take some of the moisture out)
  • 1 tbsp. Gochujang
  • 2 tsp. tamari
  • 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup/agave
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • ½ cup vegan kimchi, drained, chopped
  • 1 cup vegan mayo
  • 4-6 corn/masa tortilla
  • 4 chopped spring onions
  • Chopped lettuce

Method

  • Preheat the oven
  • Make the glaze by mixing the gochujang, tamari, vinegar and maple syrup
  • In another bowl toss the eggplants in the sesame oil
  • Heat a large sauce pan over high heat and cook the eggplant for 5 minutes until browned
  • Toss the crispy eggplant in the glaze and bake until the glaze is soaked up
  • Meanwhile fold the kimchi into the vegan mayo
  • Warm the tortilla for c. 2 minutes
  • Assemble the tacos by spreading some of the kimchi mayo down the centre of each tortilla, top with a large spoon full of the roasted eggplant, dress with the spring onions and lettuce
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Chole Masala (Chickpea Curry) (GF, Vegan)

Chole Masala (Chickpea Curry)  (GF, Vegan)

Chole

Food is love when words are inadequate

My grandma always made you feel like she had been waiting for you all day and when you arrived her day was now complete

The first thing I had to do after taking off my shoes and putting away my bag was to taste what ever my grandma had been creating all day in the kitchen

This is a dish that you can smell as soon as you walk into the house, as it is rich in spices. It is also low in calories but high in protein so it is a great staple

A lot of my grandma’s dishes took a long time to cook, but this one is a 30-minute meal. As with most Indian dishes however the longer you cook down the spices the more concentrated the dish and the longer you leave the dish the more intense it tastes, so remember to leave some for the next day

I used two chills for this as Mr B has a spicy palate, but you should adjust to your own taste

My grandma used to serve this with rice; I like it on its own. You can also serve this to your guests as a canapé in a Phyllo cup or on top of a chickpea pancake (see earlier recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 4 tsps. Finely chopped ginger
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 chilli’s
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • ½ cup of water

Method

  • Heat the oil in a large pan, add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant
  • Add the onions, ginger, garlic, chilli’s and season with salt
  • Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent
  • Add the garam masala, coriander powder, salt and turmeric, stir until well combined
  • Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and water
  • Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce slightly thickens
  • Serve in a phyllo cup, with rice or on a chickpea pancake

Baby Eggplant Curry (GF, Vegan)

Baby Eggplant Curry (GF, Vegan)

Baby Eggplant Curry

This is a luxury curry. It is has a rich masala and is full of layers of spice and taste. Mr B and I tried it at our favourite Indian restaurant and he asked me to make it. This proves how far we have come, as Mr B was a firm ‘food is for fuel’ man before he met me and certainly didn’t ask me to cook savoury dishes, never mind Indian ones

The thing about Indian food that we like is that it can taste really bad for you, given the richness of the sauce, but when you make it from scratch and see the actual ingredients, you realise that they are all good for you and that the spices are actual medicinal in nature

Ingredients

For the curry paste

  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup grated coconut

For the dish

  • 8 baby eggplants
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp. blended garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp. blended ginger
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 2-3 tbsp. oil
  • ¼ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp. cumin seeds
  • Pinch of hing
  • 1-2 tsp. chilli powder
  • ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp. coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander leaves

Method

  • Wash the baby eggplants, slit across the top, leaving the stem in
  • Heat two tablespoons of oil and shallow fry the baby eggplants until tender and soft. Once done remove and keep aside
  • Dry roast the peanuts, sesame seeds for a few minutes
  • Place in a blender with the coconut and blender to make a paste (add a little water if needed)
  • In the same pan as that which you fried the eggplant, add the last tablespoon of oil, add mustard seeds, cumin and hing. Add onions and fry till transparent
  • Add the ginger, garlic and mix well
  • Add the grounded paste, red chilli powder, coriander and turmeric powder
  • Add ¼ cup water and bring to the boil
  • Add the tamarind paste and salt
  • Mix in the eggplants
  • Mix it well with the masala and cover with a lid
  • Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes on a medium flame
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with rice or roti

Beetroot Chutney (Vegan, DF, GF)

Beetroot Chutney (Vegan, DF, GF)

Beetroot Chutney

‘A chef must think like a scientist, organize like an accountant, plate like an artist and cook like a grandma’

I am always looking for fun ways to add flavour and colour to my plate and this dish is really an expression of my soul, as it combines my core philosophies of what I want my food to be – Delicious, Nutritious and Beautiful

This chutney from Vineet Bhatia, a famous British Indian chef, he has an amazing way of combining new and old flavors and there are always many exciting elements to his stunning dishes. I tagged Chef Vineet on Instagram, with this dish and he replied asking about the taste – highlight of my year 🙂

I loved this so much I made two different versions, a yellow and a red to play off each other on the plate. You can serve it with anything you like as it is elegant and subtle, so won’t overpower the dish

Ingredients

  • 1 Beetroot
  • ¼ tsp. fennel
  • ½ tsp. ginger, chopped
  • ½ tsp. garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. vegan mayonnaise
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  • Place beetroot into a pot of boiling water and simmer for approximately 40 minutes, or until cooked through
  • Peel when cool enough, dice
  • Place the beetroot and all the other ingredients in a blender, blend until well combined
  • Sieve to form a smooth chutney