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There’s a kale trend going on. I’d love to be anti-it, like I was cakepops (too fiddly – why bother?), but I’d only be hurting myself. And I’m just not hispter enough to resist. Kale is delicious! I’ve become one of the kale-drones.

You know what else is delicious? Halloumi, obviously. I threw kale and halloumi together with a bunch of other yummy things – potatoes, chives, radish and lemon juice – to make this salad.

I was in such a rush to post it that I left my kitchen a complete mess. My two cats aren’t really cats, they’re dogs in cats’ bodies, so I have a feeling that, while I’m typing this, they have jumped on the work-surface and are munching on kale stalks and licking the halloumi packet. I’ll worry about that later. Right now, I’m going to encourage you to make the salad.

Serves one, easily doubled.

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Ingredients

  • 200g new potatoes
  • Handful of kale leaves, stalks removed
  • 70g halloumi, chopped into slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Half a chilli, chopped and deseeded
  • Half a garlic clove, chopped finely
  • Two radish bulbs
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Half a handful of chopped chives

Method

  • Boil the potatoes whole for about 15minutes, until they’re just tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, mix one tbsp of olive oil with the finely chopped chilli and set aside.
  • Chop the potatoes into rounds (keeping the skin intact).
  • Chop the radishes and the chives and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and add the chopped potatoes and the garlic, stir for one minute. Then add the kale. Stir for a few minutes, until the potatoes are very slightly browned and the kale is cooked but ensure you do not burn the garlic.
  • Meanwhile, brush the chilli-oil over the halloumi and fry in a non-stick frying pan (no need to add any extra oil). Cook for a minute or two on both sides until browned.
  • Arrange the kale and potatoes on a plate, put the halloumi and radishes on top, sprinkle over the chives, then squeeze on the lemon juice.

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There’s a tree I hate. I know, what a peculiar thing to say. But there is. In the summertime, it blocks all the good bits of sunlight from my home. The tree stretches the length of the house and towers above it. The leaves form a canopy over my windows, the branches crowd and bash the exterior walls. Yeah, yeah, nature is beautiful blah, blah, but I feel selfishly robbed by this tree. It doesn’t “belong” to me, so I can’t prune it. I can only bemoan it and feel strange that I could actually hate a tree. I’d rant about it all day, but I appreciate that it is probably only interesting to me.

My poor Lumix cannot cope very well with low light. I have just ordered some shiny white poster-board, hoping that it will help me reflect some back when I want to take photos. I lust after a hefty Canon camera and a tripod, but money doesn’t grow on TREES, so I’ll have to make do with what I have for now. And so, these images of my kidney bean and potato shaak aren’t as sharp or beautiful as I wanted them to be. You can blame the tree.

In Gujarati, shaak sort of means “vegetable curry” – so this is kidney beans and potatoes in a spicy sauce.

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Serves four.

Ingredients

  • 300g charlotte potatoes, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil, or any flavourless oil
  • 400ml can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 400ml can of plum tomatoes
  • 4 juicy fresh plum tomatoes
  • pinch of sugar
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¾ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Wild rice to serve

Method

  • Add the potatoes to a pan and fill with boiling water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until they’re just soft. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, blend the plum tinned and fresh tomatoes together with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar
  • Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the cumin and mustard seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the blended tomatoes and a splash of water. Stir and turn the heat down low.
  • Add the tumeric, chilli powder, coriander powder and cumin powder . Stir well and taste. Add another pinch of salt if it needs it
  • Now add in the kidney beans and potatoes and stir.
  • Keep the heat very low and leave to simmer for about 20minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the wild rice.
  • When its ready, serve with the rice and a dollop of yoghurt, if you like.

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California dreamin’

07 Jun 2013

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I have just returned from two weeks in California and New York. Luckily, Wednesday was a sunny day in London or else I might have cried when my plane landed.

Have you ever been to Palm Springs? Or Big Sur? Okay, go. I don’t even have any more words to persuade you except ‘go’.

The food was as pretty as it was delicious. I already miss the sweetly sincere service, dining under the glow of the golden weather, and waking up to the prospect of huevos rancheros for brunch each day. And don’t get me started on Californian blackberries.

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Lunch at a vegetarian restaurant, the Natural Sisters Cafe, near Joshua Tree National Park

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Huevos rancheros for brunch at Cheeky’s in Palm Springs

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This view while having dinner at the Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

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Edible flowers in my salad

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Wine and cheese hour at the Ventana Inn

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Freshly picked cherries from a farmers’ market just off the Pacific Coast Highway

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Granola bars

21 May 2013

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My husband and I fly to California for our second honeymoon tomorrow. We land in LA and will drive straight to Palm Springs. After a few days there, we’ll visit Santa Barbara, then Big Sur, then San Francisco. We’ll round off the trip with a weekend in New York, to visit our new twin nephews. So this will be my last post for a few weeks – but I will take far too many photos and force them all upon you when I return.

I am super excited about this trip: anticipation is part of the fun. But, while I don’t mind flying, I don’t like plane food. Who does? So my method is to just order the fruit plate, take a few snacks with me, and go on an airport-food-shop supermarket-sweep to supplement the snacks.

I have just baked a batch of granola bars to graze on during the eight-hour flight. With a squidgy raspberry middle, they are way too moreish – I have eaten three already.

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Makes about 10 bars

Ingredients

  • 200g clear honey
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 200g gluten-free rolled oats
  • 25g almonds
  • 25g cashew nuts
  • 25g sesame seeds
  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • 25g walnuts
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 150g frozen raspberries
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar

Method

  • Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 4. Heat up the honey and the oil in a large pan and, when it starts to bubble, take off the heat and add the porridge oats, nuts, seeds and cinnamon. Stir it so it’s all well coated.
  • Line a baking tray with parchment and pour half the mixture in the tin. Bake for 10 minutes, stir, then flatten again so there are no gaps, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the raspberries gently with the agave syrup until they start to lose their form. Remove from the heat.
  • Take the first layer of granola out of the oven. Smear the raspberry mixture on top of the first layer, and put the second half of the mixture on top of that. Press down so there are no gaps.
  • Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the granola has browned a little.
  • Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then chop into bars.
  • Then leave to cool completely and store in an airtight container.

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rasa n16

This is my current list of London’s best vegetarian restaurants. They aren’t all exclusively vegetarian, but they’re all vegetarian-friendly, which to me means they’ve put as much effort into making their meatless food as tasty as everything else on the menu.

Another thing these restaurants do right is offer a variety of delicious veggie mains, so you won’t be stuck with a goat’s cheese tart as the only option.

I have put a (v) next to places that serve exclusively vegetarian food.

This is in alphabetical order, because I couldn’t rank them.

Chawalla (v)

268-270 Green Street, London, E7 8LF

Three of the restaurants I love enough to feature in this post are Gujarati Indian. It’s the food that I grew up on, so of course I love it, but, personal bias aside, Gujarat is a vegetarian state, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the meatless meal.

The food at this casual café is a bargain. The décor isn’t gorgeous, and it doesn’t exactly have a central location, but make a beeline for it if you are in the neighbourhood. I would highly recommend the Gujarati Thali, so you get a little taste of everything. The last time I went, I got change from a £20 note after paying for four people. How often does that happen in London?

BiBimBap Soho

11 Greek Street, London, W1D 4DJ

People rave about London’s Korean restaurants. I live in Stoke Newington, so have sampled the famous Korean joints on Kingsland Road but have never been impressed with the veggie offerings; perhaps I have always ordered the wrong thing.

I had my first Bibimbap at this self-titled restaurant and it was delicious.

There are 10 different stone-bowl rice dishes on the menu, and they leave you to mix it yourself. Veggies are well catered for with tofu, mushroom or kimchi versions, served with white or brown rice.

If you’re in the area, it’s a great place to stop for lunch: the service is quick and the food is reasonably priced.

The Delaunay

55 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BB

I’ve already raved about this place, so I’ll just make you click this link and read what I wrote before. Not only is the atmosphere lovely, but it has a separate vegetarian menu. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.

Gujarati Rasoi (v)

10c Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN

You may have seen the odd mention of this restaurant on my blog before: Urvesh and his team catered my wedding!

Gujarati Rasoi started out as a market stall – and can still be found in Broadway and Borough Markets. The stalls were so popular that they opened a charming little restaurant in Dalston last autumn. The food is gorgeous and the menus change each week. It includes favourites such as khadi, a yoghurt soup, and patra, leaves stuffed with a spicy paste. I even spotted that mugg, a spiced lentil soup, was on the menu last week – mugg is my favourite food of all time so next time it appears I will be booking a table straight away.

Nopi

21-22 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NE

Some people might choose the more famous of Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurants, his eponymous Ottolenghi, but I adore Nopi. The menu is full of the vibrant, exciting salads that Ottolenghi is famed for, interesting cocktails and not just vegetarian-friendly, but vegan-friendly dishes. I have just bought a copy of Jerusalem and can’t wait to try and recreate the miso-spiced aubergine that I had last time I was there.

Rani (v)

7 Long Lane, Finchley, London, N3 2PR

Another Gujarati restaurant! My husband took me here before we started dating – I think he was trying to impress me. It worked! And it was worth the schlep over to Finchley. The menu is vast – try the dahi vada, lentil dumplings topped with spicy yogurt, and kachori, a farsan that is typical of Gujarati cooking.

Rasa N16 (v)

55 Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16 OAR

This is in my neighbourhood and serves vegetarian Keralan food. I go here so often that the waiters recognise me – or perhaps they’re just being polite. It is my favourite place to get a dosa in London, food that always calls to me the day after too much fun the evening before.

Vanilla Black (v)

17- 18 Tooks Court, London, EC4A 1LB

I read so much about this restaurant that I was wary of the hype. I refused to watch the movie Titanic when I was a teenager as people raved about it too much – surely after such good press it could only be a disappointment? Eventually I saw Titanic and loved it (don’t judge: it was the best movie ever to a 16-year-old – apart from Clueless, obviously). And eventually I went to Vanilla Black and loved it, too. After my Titanic analogy, I bet you’re dying to go now, too. The food is adventurous and zany and the chefs have created a menu that is a real up-yours to the goat’s cheese tart*. The food at this restaurant shows how cool vegetarian food can be.

Notable mentions: Manna and Food for Thought.

One restaurant I would have loved to have added to this list is Saf, but its Shoreditch branch has closed and I have never been to the remaining one in Kensington. It’s such a shame Saf Shoreditch is gone; I loved its creative raw dishes and garden-inspired cocktails. One day I might trek over to Kensington to see what its remaining place is all about. If I do, I will update.

I’m sure I’ve missed off some gems that I haven’t yet visited. What would you add?

*I actually like goat’s cheese tarts, but apparently I feel like slagging them off today.

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vegetarian kofta

The inspiration for these kotfas came from Edible Garden’s Aloo Paneer Koftas - I made very few changes to the original recipe. Why mess with perfection? Every curry I have ever cooked from this website has been gorgeous: if you like Indian food (and who doesn’t?!) you should definitely check it out.

I would really like to make my own paneer next time. The supermarket brand I used was quite rubbery; a texture that didn’t bother me when the koftas were cooked and in their sauce, but, in general, I prefer a softer paneer.

I made a velvety sauce to accompany the koftas, smoothed out with low-fat crème fraiche and blended cashew nuts, rather than cream.

cooking vegetarian koftas

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Ingredients

For the koftas (based on Edible Garden’s Aloo Paneer Koftas)

  • 200g of paneer, chopped up very small
  • 200g Charlotte potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Thumb of ginger, minced
  • 4 green chillies, deseeded and sliced thinly
  • 2 tsp of red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp of ground coriander
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp asafoetitda
  • 14 cashew nuts, broken into small pieces
  • Handful of coriander leaves
  • 100ml vegetable oil, for frying

For the sauce

  • 50g cashew nuts
  • 2tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 3 cardamom pods, take the seeds from inside and grind in a pestle and motar
  • 2 onions
  • Thumb of ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 5 juicy tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp low fat crème fraiche
  • Handful of fresh coriander leaves

Method

  • First, make the koftas.
  • Put all of the kofta ingredients, except the oil, into a blender and whizz for a few seconds. Then, using your hands, form into small balls.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the koftas. Keep turning them until they’re browned through. Leave to drain on kitchen paper.
  • Now, make the curry sauce.
  • Soak the cashews in 2 tsp water for 10minutes. Then blend. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and fry until translucent. Then add the garlic and ginger and cardamom. Let this colour together.
  • Add the fresh tomatoes, tomato purée and the rest of the spices. Add a splash of water. Keep stirring for about 20minutes, adding splashes of water so it doesn’t burn.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and then blend to a purée. Put back into the pan with 200mls of water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for five minutes.
  • While this is cooking, put on some basmati rice.
  • Now back to the curry. Add the cashew paste and crème fraiche to the sauce and stir. Then add the koftas. Carefully coat the koftas with the sauce using a wooden spoon. Then place the lid on the pan and cook for another five minutes.
  • Serve with more low-fat crème fraiche, a sprinkling of fresh coriander and the rice on the side.

vegetarian kofta curry

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spaghetti all'arrabiata*

I used to live in Brixton with a guy who was a great cook, but didn’t like to share. Back then, I had very few recipes in my repertoire; the main one was arrabiata sauce. At dinner time, pushing my way through the gorgeous smells of whatever he was cooking, I’d open a tin of tomatoes in a secret sulk.

Although this recipe has changed a little over the years, the one I make today is pretty similar to the cheap, easy sauce I used to make. It was utter comfort food back then: I’d smother the arrabiata over supermarket gnocchi and bury the whole lot in grated cheddar.

Now, I use Biofair quinoa spaghetti – which is a protein-rich, gorgeous gluten-free pasta – and I skip the cheese.

Serves two, easily doubled 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 fat, fresh chillies, deseeded
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped very fine
  • 400g tin of best quality plum tomatoes
  • 4-5 fresh tomatoes from the vine, chopped into eighths
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Enough quinoa spaghetti to serve two people

Method

  • Add the olive oil to a heavy bottomed pan and throw in the garlic. Stir for one minute; add the chillies, quickly followed by the tin of tomatoes and a splash of water. Break up the chunks of tomato with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper and half the basil and stir.
  • Turn the heat down, put the lid on and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes, until it reduces by half. Stir it intermittently.
  • Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions.
  • When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the pan of sauce, along with the other half of the basil leaves and another grind of pepper.
  • Stir for a minute or two, then serve immediately.
  • You can sprinkle with Parmesan-style cheese, if you like.

*Yeah, apparently I don’t iron napkins

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strawberry, rose and pistachio mess

I came up with this dessert because I wanted something that would follow a spicy kofta curry.

A drop of rose water in the meringues made them taste like clouds of Turkish Delight. Combined with the cream, strawberries and pistachio, the pudding tasted like an Indian summer. This is the ideal thing to eat in the garden on a warm day, and it cut through the potent curry perfectly.

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 55g powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp rose water
  • 285g strawberries + 4 large strawberries to assemble the ‘mess’ with
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 500ml double cream
  • 100g pistachios, shelled and chopped into rubble

Rose meringues

Method

  • First, make the meringues. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees centigrade (fan assisted) and line two baking trays with parchment.
  • Whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Then, whisk in one tablespoon of caster sugar at a time until the mixture is glossy.
  • When the caster sugar is whisked in, whip in the rose water.
  • Sieve in half the powdered sugar and fold gently to incorporate. Then sieve and fold in the second half.
  • Heap tablespoons of the mixture onto the trays lined with baking parchment and put in the oven for 1hr20mins.
  • Leave to cool.
  • While the meringues are cooling, make the raspberry coulis.
  • Put 285g of strawberries plus the 30g of caster sugar into a pan and heat gently until the strawberries lose their shape. Then, take off the heat and press the juicy strawberries through a sieve into a bowl. Put the coulis in the fridge to cool.
  • Whip the cream until it holds together softly – don’t over-whip.
  • When the meringues and coulis are cold, assemble the ‘mess’.
  • In the first of the four small bowls or glasses, put in two tablespoons of coulis. Then crumble in a meringue, add a spoonful of cream, slice in the reserved strawberries, another tablespoon of coulis, more meringue, more cream and finally top with the pistachios. Repeat for all four.

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Almond milk

28 Apr 2013

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I prefer using almond milk in my granola, the flavour matches it so much better than yoghurt or cow’s milk. But the last time I bought some from the supermarket, it had a list of all sorts of unknown ingredients in it. I decided that, since almond milk should contain just almonds, water and something extra to sweeten it, I could make it myself: it’d be cheaper, healthier and much tastier. And it was!

It was also ridiculously easy to make. It is just a bit time-consuming and you need a bunch of kitchen stuff: like a blender and some kind of muslin or nut milk bag.

Makes about 750ml or 3 cups.

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Ingredients

  • 185g/1 cup of raw almonds
  • 625ml/2.5 cups of water, plus more for soaking
  • 2 pitted Medjool dates

Method

  • Put the almonds in a bowl and pour over enough water to cover them. Leave overnight.
  • Drain the water off, and put the almonds in a blender, along with 625ml/2.5 cups of fresh water and two pitted dates.
  • Blend.
  • Strain into a jug using a nut-milk strainer or muslin. The milk will take about an hour to drip through, depending on what you use.

Your almond milk will keep in an airtight jug for about a week.

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Green smoothies

07 Apr 2013

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My husband and I go on dates with each other. It’s a thing we have to do so that we don’t just sit on the sofa watching Nashville, eating TV dinners and largely ignoring each other, except when one of us is thirsty. “Can you get me some water?”

“No, you get it.”

You can probably see the pattern. Life would get dull, fast.

Anyway, we date twice a week. Last week, we went to a tapas restaurant that has just opened in our neighbourhood (something has always just opened in our neighbourhood: that’s why I love it. It’s exciting to live somewhere so full).

I told our waiter that I am vegetarian to get his recommendations and he started telling me about green smoothies. They weren’t on the menu, but he had just started having one for breakfast each day. Working in the restaurant world, he told me, means he eats too much rich food; it was making him foggy-headed and tired. Then he discovered green smoothies for breakfast and began to feel so much more energised. He also skips lunch in favour of a big dinner.

I can’t miss lunch: forget that. But I decided to replace my breakfast fruit smoothie with one of these.

A green smoothie has a base of spinach, kale, bok choi, spring greens, etc. So, y’know, a green thing.

I have an American cup measure, but if you don’t have one I also weighed the ingredients.

This recipe is based on the Spa Skin Cleanse from Simple Green Smoothies.

Serves two

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (or 35g) of spinach
  • 2 cups (or 300ml) of coconut water
  • 1 cup (or 85g) frozen pineapple (if using fresh, add a couple of ice cubes)
  • 1 ripe avocado

Method

  • Blend the spinach with 1½ cups of the coconut water. Reserve the other half-cup.
  • Then blend in the frozen pineapple.
  • Then the avocado and the remaining coconut water.
  • Pour into glasses and top with more coconut water if it’s too thick. Stir to incorporate.
  • Drink immediately: it tastes best right away.

I freeze my pineapples and spinach and, when I ran out of coconut water last week, I used plain water instead and it was still good.

Liquefied spinach wasn’t a taste I was used to, but now it tastes like morning sunshine. Trust me!

 Another note: simplegreensmoothies.com advises rotating your greens. Next week, I am going to blend up kale.

 

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