Monthly Archives: November 2012

Indian Cabbage Salad

Indian Cabbage Salad

I had a pretty stellar Thanksgiving this year. The party included two of my bestest friends of all time, Rachel and Dave, visiting for the occasion all the way from Austin, Texas (via a year-long stint in Berlin).

On the evening before our big day of nut roast and Prosecco, I decided a pre-Thanksgiving dinner detox was in order. So I went with the kind of food that I know I can make well, tastes a bit celebratory, but just happens to be healthy and vegan at the same time. The meal: my reliable red lentil dahl with panch phoran, Indian cabbage salad, basmati rice and flatbread masquerading as naan.

Of all the dishes, the cabbage salad was the biggest hit, a nice thing because I never know if my love of this salad has something to do with my own personal obsession with all things cabbage, or with the fact that the cabbage salad really is that good. Rachel seems to confirm my suspicion that this, indeed, is cabbage clad in awesomeness, so I’m posting the recipe here for her and for all cabbage lovers of the world. (Consequentially, I also made this salad for my friend, Claudia, last year – you can see it in the picture above, made all the more better by her rad vintage tableware – she also gave it the thumbs up.)

This salad is basically a winter riff on this cucumber and coconut salad and leaves a lot of room for improvisation (because I know how much Rachel loves improv). Any cabbage will do for this salad, though I am partial to the texture of Savoy. Chop it chunky or slice it fine. Skip the carrots if you don’t have them, or try adding other slaw-style goodness like bell peppers. Up the spices or the chilli if that’s your thing. Go nuts with the coriander.

I don’t usually follow a recipe when I make this, but I’ve attempted to write it up as such all the same. Do let me know if you try it and what you think!

Indian Cabbage Salad
 

I left out the asafoetida and curry leaves when I made this for Rachel and Dave but if you have them, use them. Feel free to chop the cabbage and carrots as finely or as not finely as you have the patience and inclination. My tendency is often to slice as finely as possible, but sometimes I like a chunky salad!
Ingredients
  • ½ head of cabbage, finely sliced or chopped
  • 2 carrots, shredded or sliced
  • a small bunch of fresh cilantro (i.e. coriander), finely chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp asafoetida (optional)
  • ~10 dried curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced (be careful with these – they can be HOT!)
  • 2Tbsp grated or dessicated coconut (or more to taste)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • salt

Instructions
  1. Put the cabbage, carrots and coriander in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the oil in a large frying pan with the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. Turn the heat up to medium and wait for the seeds to start sizzling and smelling delicious.
  3. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the green chilli and fry for another few seconds, then pour the oil and seeds over the salad. (If you’re struggling to get all of the seeds out of the pan, put some of the salad in the pan and swirl it around, then scrape back into the bowl.)
  4. Add the lemon juice, a pinch of salt and the coconut. Taste, adding more salt, lemon or coconut if desired.

 

The Healthy Vegan Breakfast Book

Over the last year or so, pictures of my breakfasts have become some of my most commented upon photos across the Internets. This probably has something to do with their weirdness: my breakfasts are often savoury, sometimes salady and mostly vegan. Raw kale salads, barley breakfast bowls and bircher muesli abound. So in response to those who find my breakfasts a curiosity (and perhaps even an inspiration) I am putting together a book: The Healthy Vegan Breakfast Book.

The book will be a compilation of my favourite breakfasts, including traditional(ish) breakfast ideas like Bircher muesli and crepes, then quickly diverging into my wacky breakfast salads and savoury creations inspired by other ethnicities – yes, there will be dal.

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I am using blurb.com to produce the book and intend to have it done in time for Christmas, available for purchase as hard copy or for iPad.

My aim is for a book full of photos, recipes and tips to get you thinking differently about breakfast. This is a work in progress so if you have any thoughts or ideas, now is the time to share!

If you’d like to be informed when the book is available, please enter your email below. You can also follow SmarterFitter on Facebook for updates and healthy vegan breakfast teasers!

Thanks to all for your encouragement. Happy breakfasting.

In Search of the Perfect Veggie Roast

Thanksgiving veggie loaf experiments

Thanksgiving is upon us, a holiday which means very little to most people in the UK, unless you’re one of us American expats for whom the holiday seems to take on even greater meaning than it ever did when we were Stateside. Maybe it’s the ol’ ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ thing: because we can’t be home for Thanksgiving, we compensate, busting out every traditional recipe with can think of – from green bean casserole to pumpkin pie. And for lack of a central “family unit” to centralise the festivities, multiple people play host to Thanksgiving dinners, resulting in a multitude of Thanksgiving feasts, any one of which would probably put the family party back home to shame.

I am attending two Thanksgiving dinners this year, one of which I’m hosting here at the cottage. It will be a vegetarian feast, which naturally leads guests to the following question: “Will there be a nut roast!?”

To nut roast or not to nut roast? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.

Impromptu veggie loaf

The search for the perfect vegetarian holiday main dish seems to be a constant quest for me and my veggie mom and sister. Every year we scheme and plan. There have been lentil loaves, stuffed butternut squash and, one of our most successful attempts, a glorious vegetarian moussakka.

But what I’m after is something vegetarian that works with two of my favourite Thanksgiving hallmarks: gravy (cashew gravy in my case) and cranberry chutney.

Cranberry Chutney

So a veggie roast is in order, but what to make? Here in Britain, the classic veggie roast is a “nut roast”, for which numerous recipes exist. The problem I have with all of these recipes is, well, the nuts. I just really don’t want to eat a slice of nuts for Thanksgiving dinner, especially when there’s cashew gravy on the line.

Christmas Eve Nut Roast

Other options include a loaf based on lentils or grains, but the challenge continues… many of these veggie roast recipes take some of the key elements of the meal – namely roast vegetables and stuffing – and mush them up into one loaf – it’s like bubble and squeek on overdrive. Great for leftovers, but not the main event. So I’m seeking a loaf that really stands on its own, that works with side dishes like roast carrots and parsnips, mashed potatoes and stuffing, without being redundant.

Aside from all of this, the veggie roast should have great texture while still being sliceable. I’ve made my share of veggie loaves that crumble apart when you slice them. Not the best presentation!

Thanksgiving veggie loaf experiments

To that end, I’ve been researching recipes and practising and I think I’ve settle on something that does the trick. But I don’t want to give anything away before the big day. Instead, I’ll share with you a few of the more promising recipes I’ve stumbled upon.

I’m sure there are more out there but frankly I’m a little bit burnt out on veggie loaf research. So you tell me: what’s the ultimate veggie roast? Or is there no such thing? In which case, what’s the ultimate vegetarian Thanksgiving main?

Beetroot and Walnut Veggie Sausages

Beetroot & Walnut Sausages

I wrote about these veggie sausages for Great British Chefs this week, but thought they were so good I wanted to give them a wider audience. Make them and enjoy with a crispy salad of carrot, apple, celery, red onion and honey mustard dressing, plus a big blog of good dijon mustard on the side.

Yesterday, Monday, 5th November 2012 marged the beginning of British Sausage Week, a time intended for encased-pork devotion. I may not eat pork, but I do have a fondness for sausage-esque foods. This may have something to do with my Chicago-based upbringing, studded with Polish sausage at family gatherings and an ardent appreciation for the Chicago-style hot dog, served with yellow mustard, whtie onions, pickle relish, “sport peppers”, tomato and celery salt (never ketchup). (Mention must be said of Hot Doug’s, the “sausage superstore and encased meat emporium”, for doing the best Chicago-style veggie hot dog in the world – it’s wrong, but oh so right.)

Back to British Sausage Week, I thought it a fine excuse to seek out a worthy veggie sausage to honour the occasion. But let’s not misdirect our plaudits: I’m not referring to those “fake meat” varieties of veggie sausage you often find in the supermarket (or dare I say Hot Doug’s), filled with weird stuff that not only isn’t meat, but also isn’t food in my opinion (don’t get me started on Quorn). In fact, these supermarket varieties give “vegetarian sausage” a bad name. In fact, the veggie sausage can be a delight, with as much nuance and comfort factor as its porky counterparts.

So what makes a great veggie sausage? I feel the same way about veggie sausage as I do about veggie burgers: they shouldn’t try to imitate meat – people who want a meaty sausage should just eat a meaty sausage. But if you love vegetables and want to experience them in tubular form, then veggie sausages are the way to go and are a novel form factor in which to showcase delicious ingredients. Options abound, from Rachel Demuth’s Glamorgan Sausages, made with cheddar, spring onions, breadcrumbs and loads of herbs to the Gluttonous Vegan’s Beany Snausages, a sort of rice-and-beans in sausage form.

I like my vegetarian sausages to be about the vegetables, and since we’re in the depths of autumn and beetroot season, I am sharing with you my recipe for beetroot and walnut veggie sausages inspired by Susan Voison. These sausages combine ingredients that work exceptionally well together – beetroot, walnuts, fennel and chilli – to create a sausage reminiscent of American-style “Italian sausage”. It’s great in a bun with sauteed onions and peppers, or on its own with tomato sauce or dijon mustard. The sky’s the limit: these babies are versatile, not to mention vegan and gluten free. You can even crumble them up and put them on a pizza.

Beetroot & Walnut Sausages
Beetroot and Walnut Veggie Sausages
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 medium raw beetroot
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts
  • ½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • olive or sunflower oil for baking

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Prepare a roasting tin or baking pan by oiling it generously with olive or sunflower oil.
  2. Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for at least 10 minutes, then drain and squeeze out the excess liquid.
  3. Put the walnuts into a food processor and pulse to chop finely (but not too finely, we want chopped nuts, not nut powder), then remove and put into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Peel the beetroot and cut it into small cubes. Add it to the food processor along with the mushrooms, garlic, and onion and pulse to chop coarsely. Add the chickpeas and all remaining ingredients and pulse several times to chop the chickpeas. Don’t over-do it: you want to maintain some texture, while still processing enough to form a mixture that you can shape into veggie sausages.
  5. Add the processor contents to the nuts and stir well to combine.
  6. Using a tablespoon, scoop out pieces of the mixture and, using damp hands, form the pieces into sausage-shapes (of whatever size you fancy!), squeezing lightly to compact it (you can also shape them into balls or patties if you wish). Place the sausages on the roasting tin or baking sheet.
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes, turning the sausages once mid-bake, until lightly browned on all sides.

Nutrition Information
Calories: 227 Fat: 12.9 Carbohydrates: 26.6 Fiber: 7.3 Protein: 8.3 Cholesterol: 0