Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Pasta Arrabbiata

This fiery simple dish has long been one of my favourite ways to eat pasta, ever since my stint managing a pasta restaurant and kitchen when I was younger (than I'd care to remember ;) ).  It's so simple to make and works well as a big bowl all by itself and also as an accompaniment.


Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 chillies, finely chopped 
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar/maple syrup
  • 400g of dried penne or rigatoni pasta
Recipe
  1. In a large flat-bottomed pan, heat the chillies and garlic in a little oil
  2. Cook the chillies and garlic until the garlic begins to go transparent 
  3. Add a splash of water to the pan if necessary to prevent the ingredients from burning
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, pinch of salt, and mix well
  5. Bring almost to the boil, then turn to a low heat to simmer
  6. Boil your pasta according to the instructions for your chosen pasta
  7. Taste the sauce, adding more salt or pepper if needed, keep an eye to ensure it simmers but doesn't boil, add a splash of water if needs be to keep it at the right temperature and consistency
  8. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce and mix well
  9. Have a taste, add some more seasoning if needed
  10. If you like it, mix in a pinch of nutritional yeast before serving
  11. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Simple chickpeas

Have I mentioned before how much I love chickpeas?  Probably.  But I can never say it enough, I love chickpeas!  I fancied some chickpeas as an accompaniment to the tacos we had for dinner last night and so thought I'd share the recipe with you as it's very simple yet delicious!


Ingredients

  • 1 400g can of chickpeas
  • 1 handful of coriander
  • 1 tablespoon heaped of red amaranth (alfalfa sprouts or cress would work well too)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 green chilli (optional)


Recipe
  1. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly, then drain & transfer to a bowl
  2. Rinse, dry, and then finely chop the coriander before adding it to the chickpeas
  3. Rinse and dry the red amaranth (or sprouts) then add to the bowl
  4. Add the lemon juice and mix well
  5. If adding the chilli, thinly slice 2-3 pieces and set aside for the garnish
  6. Dice the rest of the chilli and add to the bowl of chickpeas
  7. Mix well, then garnish with the extra chilli pieces and a few more red amaranth leaves
  8. Serve!  

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Vegan Vegetable Gravy

If you need homemade vegetable gravy, this recipe is pretty simple and goes nicely with roasts, pies, mash and other gravy-loving dishes.  


Ingredients (serves 4) 
  • Splash of olive oil 
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, agave, or sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons of yeast extract - add according to your preference
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour (if you have an allergy, corn flour, gram flour or your preferred flour for thickening will do)
  • 3 tablespoons of red wine (or you can use 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable bouillon powder
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste or puree (or ketchup in a pinch)
  • 900ml of cold water


Recipe

  1. Heat the oil in a large flat-bottomed pan, then add the celery, onion, and carrots
  2. Once the veg has started to soften, add the garlic, turning the heat to medium
  3. Once the garlic is beginning to cook, but before it goes brown, add the maple syrup/sugar and stir, ensuring all ingredients are well coated
  4. Allow to simmer for a minute or so, until the vegetables begin to caramelise 
  5. Add the yeast extract and mix again to ensure even coating 
  6. If at any point you find the pan is browning, add a small splash of water to prevent burning
  7. Add the flour & vegetable bouillon, stir to make sure everything is coated evenly 
  8. Add the wine or balsamic vinegar and mix well
  9. Once the wine/vinegar has heated up, add the water, stirring continually as you do
  10. Bring to the boil, stirring regularly
  11. Stir in the tomato puree
  12. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens and the gravy reduces to your desired consistency 
  13. Once you've achieved your desired consistency and flavour, sieve into a fresh pan and warm just before you serve the remainder of your meal 
Tips
  • If you don't have yeast extract, you can try substituting with nutritional yeast and/or soy sauce
  • For a bit of variety, try adding different herbs, such as sage, or bay leaves 
  • Try adding mushrooms or a little chopped beetroot when you're adding the veg for a slightly more earthy flavour, the beetroot also gives the gravy a lovely deep colour to it
  • If you want to get all the flavour when sieving, feel free to pour a little freshly boiled water over the remaining mixture, then reduce down as needed





Sunday, 4 January 2015

Crispy Salt & Pepper Spiced Tofu

I know tofu can be a little daunting to cook with if you haven't used it before, particularly if you're a new vegan and attempt to treat it like you might have done a nonvegan protein source.  I used to think tofu was an awful food, even as a vegetarian I refused to eat it as I'd had only had one encounter with it and it had been like eating a horrible tasteless blancmange.  Then one evening out my husband persuaded me to try some of the crispy salt & pepper tofu he had ordered and I couldn't believe I had been missing out on it for so long - it was delicious!  

Now I can honestly say tofu is one of my most favourite foods.  So hopefully if you've not had much luck with it so far, or you've been looking for a an introduction to tofu, this will help you make a successful dish.  I've tried to make it as beginner-friendly as possible with step-by-step photos but feel free to post any questions in the comments if you need help or any additional tips! 


Top tofu tip! Before we get started it's probably worth sharing my number 1 favourite tip for tofu - freeze it first then defrost it.  Whilst this means a little more planning, it seems to make a big difference in the firmness, how easy it is to work with, and also the texture of the end result.  It's not the end of the world if you haven't time to freeze it before using but for future reference, I find it works best to keep tofu in the freezer and just take it out to defrost the evening before or the morning of the day I'm going to be using it.   

Ingredients
  • 400g of firm tub tofu (I used Cauldron Original)
  • 1 tsp of Chinese 5-spice (feel free to substitute with your preferred spice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (rice bran is good as it has a high smoke point, olive oil works well too)
  • 1 tablespoon of plain flour (if you're gluten or wheat intolerant, you can substitute for your preferred flour or use gram/chickpea flour)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (optional) 
  • Splash of soy sauce
  • 1 sliced chilli, 1 spring onion, few slices of red onion (optional - for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Your favourite vegan dipping sauce - I love sweet chilli with this dish
Recipe
  1. Unpackage the tofu and drain well, squeezing the excess moisture over the sink before placing in a clean tea cloth 
  2. Wrap the cloth around the tofu and press down on it to remove as much of the moisture as possible - I find placing it between two chopping boards is a good method 
  3. Cut the tofu into cubes - I find slicing it in half into two flat slabs is a good way to start
  4. Place the tofu in a bowl, add the salt, pepper, spices, and soy sauce and mix gently until all pieces are evenly coated
  5. Add the flour and mix again, until evenly coated
  6. Heat the oil in a pan, then carefully add the tofu (you don't want to burn yourself with splashes of hot oil!) 
  7. Fry the tofu, turning occasionally, until golden 
  8. Serve as is with the garnish or dipping sauce or add at the last minute to your favourite stir fry dish
  9. Enjoy!