Cinnamon spiced Chick Pea and Vegetable Soup

I made this soup yesterday from a recipe in the excellent Nourish cookbook from the Penny Brohn Cancer Care centre in Bristol. I wouldn’t have thought to combine cinnamon with cayenne pepper, turmeric and fresh ginger – it tasted great! It’s full of carotenoids from the vegetable, lycopene from the tomatoes and protein from the chick peas. The ground cinnamon aids balancing blood sugar level.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh root ginger
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 450g potatoes
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can chick peas
  • 1 tablespoon ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 20 twists black pepper
  • Coriander to garnish

Method

  1. Slowly sauté the onion in the oil to develop the flavour and the onion to be soft and transparent.
  2. Mix the spices together with a little stock to form a paste.
  3. Prepare the vegetables into chunks.
  4. Add to the onion pan with the paste and stir to combine.
  5. Add the stock, tinned tomatoes and most of the chick peas (reserving some to be stirred in at the end).
  6. Simmer until the vegetables are soft enough to blend.
  7. Add some of the lemon juice.
  8. Blend the soup with the ground almonds and return to the pan and heat through with the rest of the lemon juice if required.
  9. Garnish with chopped coriander and reserved chick peas.
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Vegan Meringue!

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It all started less than a month ago. Goose Wohlt experimenter, engineer, and food lover from Indiana, US, posted a picture of vegan meringues in the Facebook group What Fat Vegans Eat. Goose’s said: “dead simple delicious two ingredient whole food meringues… one can chickpea brine mixed w half cup sugar. perfect-O”. Soon after that, Rebecca Stucki started a new Facebook group called Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses. In just a couple of weeks, this group has attracted nearly 2,000 members! I made my first batch of meringues yesterday and it is not a hoax! You can make meringues with the canning liquor from tinned chick peas!!! It whisks up just like egg white! My limited understanding is that with egg meringue, it’s the unfolding proteins, produced from a good whisking/beating, that form the scaffolding structure of a meringue. The gaps in the scaffolding are then filled with sugar molecules. When you slowly heat the meringue the water evaporates leaving a crispy, crunchy texture. Too much heat causes the water to expand and evaporate too fast and make the inside hollow. Now, with chick pea canning liquor it’s hard to know if it’s the same principle… it would seem that there are proteins in the juice as people who use juice from home-cooked beans don’t appear to have the same results as those using canning liquor (into which the beans have had a lot more time to leach protein). The role of starch/carbohydrate is unclear. With eggy meringue, it is advised that you use a copper bowl. One reason for using a copper or glass bowl is that plastic bowls may have traces of fat on them – fatal to an eggy meringue. Fat seems not to be such a problem for this type of meringue (chick peas themselves contain 10 times as much fat as egg whites, but it is unclear about how much is in the canning liquor). Copper ions from a copper bowl can bind to a protein in egg (conalbumin) and strengthen it. Adding lemon juice/vinegar/cream of tartar before the sugar provides acid which may slow the newly unfolded proteins bonding together and permit even more air to be whisked in – this may or may not help with canning liquor depending on the protein content I suppose… Anyway, I whisked up the gooey water from a can of Napolina chick peas. First it went bubbly then it thickened and went white and formed peaks – just like egg whites! I then added some cream of tartar (I think I added too much – it should just be a couple of pinches). Then I added half a cup of caster sugar, adding it a bit at a time to avoid collapsing the mix. The result was a thick and glossy meringue. I piped out little blobs on a sheet of baking paper and baked at 100°C for two hours. Then I left them in the oven to cool – just unclick the door, don’t open it. It is astonishing – I have meringues! This opens a whole new world of vegan desserts – Pavloa, Lemon Meringue Pie, Key Lime Pie, Soufflé, Macaroons, Chocolate Mousse, Baked Alaska…. As the lovely Edwyn Collins would say “The possibilities are endless!”

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Halsetown Inn Sunday roast

Halsetown is a village just one mile west of St Ives in Cornwall. It was an industrial village planned by the solicitor and politician James Halse MP, built in the 1830s. There was a tin mine nearby and also a ropeworks. The 80 or so granite cottages accommodated the workers. In 1876 the population of Halsetown is recorded as 1,810 people, whilst today a mere 154 names appear on the electoral register. In 1831 the Halsetown Inn was built, it was to become very popular with local miners. The Inn probably doesn’t look so different now than it did back then!

In 2012, the women behind Blas Burgerworks together with Aussie chef Ange Baxter created the all new Halsetown Inn. Their aim is to create a truly original take on pub classics. As with Blas, emphasis is placed on provenance and sustainability. They understand vegan requirements, and with some warning, are happy to accommodate. I phoned ahead and arranged my vegan meal with them. Coincidentally it was Mother’s Day so we were lucky to get in at short notice. On arriving they checked ‘the vegan’ was present and I was quickly talked through what they were cooking for me. They made me a vegetable fritter and some of the veggies (carrots and parsnips) were cooked separately for me (I’m guessing the regular ones were cooked in butter), they also made veggie gravy. Our food arrived and everyone was very happy. A nice addition was little roasted beetroots. I’ve never had them in a roast dinner before. The roast potatoes – the acid test of a good roast dinner – were very nice. All in all, it was a success! For dessert they made banana fritters, pineapple salsa and a pale green sorbet (not quite sure what the flavour was but it was very refreshing). The fritters were cooked very well – crispy! We had a nice bottle of house red and an espresso. The bill for six of us was just over £20 a head (dinners are £12 and dessert £6). It’s a nice friendly pub, with a relaxed atmosphere. The staff are very helpful and although they are clearly very busy during the lunchtime period, they are friendly and happy to help. I’ll be back.

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Jamie’s… “The future is plant-based!” put to the test…

In a recent interview with vegan freerunner Timothy ‘Livewire’ Shieff, Jamie Oliver said “the future is about a plant-based diet” (11 mins 45 seconds). Much of the interview was about how Jamie is moving towards veggie and vegan cooking and how he hopes to encourage people to eat less meat. So I went to see if Jamie puts his money where his mouth is… or where my mouth is! I went to Jamie’s Italian in Bristol at 87-89 Park St, which used to be a bookshop. It is decorated very stylishly, I was glad to see the pigs legs have gone from the window but sorry to see them still hanging up at the back of the restaurant alongside charcuterie sausages.

The menu has a very limited choice for vegans so I just asked the waiter to find out what could be done. He was very knowledgeable and flexible and as lots of the food is made to order, there were many options (but not the ravioli). My friend ordered a pasta dish and I asked for risotto with truffle oil and wild mushrooms. Both dishes were beautifully presented and totally delicious. The chef certainly knows his onions! My risotto was rich and just the right texture, full of flavour. The pasta was very nicely cooked with a mix of flavours including garlic. It was garnished with some purple stuff that I have absolutely no idea what it was! I would have asked but I didn’t have my glasses on and thought they were flower petals! It wasn’t until I looked at the picture later, I realised they weren’t!! Do you know what it is? Someone please tell me!

For dessert we were offered Pineapple and Pomegranate macerated in Lime and Mint. Instead of the frozen yogurt it comes with I had Spiced Plum Sorbet. It was fresh and very tasty and the cinnamon pastry flakes were a nice touch. In three days’ time I would be given another ‘vegan’ dessert involving pineapple. One day I might be surprised with a big chocolaty, creamy gooey dessert – here’s hoping! We wanted coffee but chose not to have it as sadly they don’t have soya milk! We were a few doors away from Costa, Café Nero and The Boston Tea Party – all have soya milk. I think there is a Starbucks over the road too – even they have soya. I find unfathomable that a restaurant of this standing doesn’t provide a dairy-free option for coffee. The waitress (who said she likes almond milk) said she would pass on our comments and perhaps soya milk will go on the new menu next month.

I had a small bottle of Ginger and Lemongrass Pressé, my friend had two glasses of wine and the bill was just under £50. I think that’s pretty good value given the quality of the food. I would go back again, in fact I will probably go back and hopefully they’ll have soya milk by then as the future is plant-based!

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Chocolate Orange Slices

I always try and buy these at Christmas for my fella coz he loves them. Hotel Chocolat make some nice ones but they are pricey so Marc thought he’d have a go. He had a few Seville oranges left over from his marmalade cooking sessions. He thinly sliced the skins and soaked them at room temperature in sugary water for several weeks. He then dried them out in the oven by just putting them in a warm oven after cooking something. This took a few days. Then the skins were rolled in sugar and covered in dark chocolate. They are delicious! He made lemons too…

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Gluten-free naan bread

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  • 2 cups gluten-free flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup warm milk soya milk
  • ¼ cup warm soya yogurt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Warm the milk and yogurt, then add with the oil to the flour and mix. Try not to over-mix. The dough should hold together but not be too dry, if it is to dry, add a bit of water. It might feel a little more like pastry than bread dough because there is no gluten holding it together.

Divide into 10 small balls of dough. Put a little oil on your hands and gently shape each one flattening it out in your hands. Once you have the rough shape you can gently even out the thickness with a rolling pin, using some gluten-free flour to prevent sticking. Grill each one under a medium heat until just starting to brown, don’t turn them until they have begun to colour as they may just break up. Serve warm with your favourite curry.

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Burns Night

I cooked haggis, neeps and tatties last night for Burns night. Everyone (English) thinks neeps are parsnips with  Scottish accent but they are swede or turnips.  Clapshot is the name of the traditional Scottish dish from Orkney that is served with haggis. It is made by mashing swedes, turnips and potatoes together with chives, butter and salt and pepper. I’ve been making various versions of Clapshot for years with even knowing it! IMG_3896 This Burns night I made whisky sauce too – it was a bit full on!

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