Category Archives: Vegan

Recipe Review: Chia Pudding

Earl Grey Chia Pudding with Marmalade

Today my good friend Emily of sunroseclear.com is guest-posting on the chia pudding food craze. On Emily’s last visit (Imbolc 2015!), I gave her some top quality chia seeds from Naturya and sent her on a mission to experiment with chia pudding and report back on her results. Is it really worth all the hype?  

Monica and I are fashionably late to the chia party. Chia has been “so hot right now” for awhile actually, and Pinterest has long been trying to convince me of its virtues. When and why did our chia ambitions begin? My memory is fuzzy on this point (too much sloe gin?), but I think we started talking about chia as an option for smoothie enhancements. We both have a smoothie every day, and we both need more protein in our diet. So, why not? Chia ho! This is a short account of my early chia experiments:

1. Vanilla Chia Pudding

Vanilla Blueberry Chia Pudding

For my first chia pudding I looked to Choosing Raw for a basic recipe and used her 3 tbsp chia : 1 cup liquid as my pudding standard. For me this made enough for breakfast and an afternoon snack. Chia pudding is filling!

I found the basic chia, almond milk, vanilla, and honey pretty boring, even with blueberries on top. The texture is like tapioca pudding, which is not my favorite thing…but eventually I convinced myself they’re like the world’s smallest tea bubbles. That helped, but…onward!

2. Earl Grey Tea Chia Pudding

Earl Grey Chia Pudding with Marmalade

Pudding! Earl Grey! Cold! If you can use any liquid for chia pudding, why wouldn’t you use Earl Grey tea? This one went through a few test batches, and the ratio of milk to tea is a matter of taste, but here’s what I came up with:

Just mix it all up in a glass or jar and let it set for about 3 hours or overnight. I really squeezed the tea bag into my glass – and then used it again for tea! Sadly, while pretty, the orange marmalade garnish was too overwhelming a flavor.

3. Chia: Smoothie Ingredient

Strawberry Kiwi Beetroot Carrot Smoothie

As Monica has pointed out in her ingenious smoothie book (which I use all the time, seriously, she isn’t making me say this), bananas are a great smoothie thickener but also kind of a sugar bomb. Most of my daily smoothies still have a smidge of banana, but for a week I tried replacing it with chia. It definitely does the trick, especially if you let the smoothie sit for a few minutes. This is probably how I will use chia most often. More protein, calcium, and fiber for me!

4. Chia Smoothie Pudding

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Chia Smoothie

I know I’m not the first to think of it, but making a chia pudding using a smoothie as your liquid is pretty great. It completely replaced the simple pudding of my affections. You still get the tapioca texture from the chia, but with lots of healthy fruit and veg – and no additional sweeteners.

That said, it also has dessert potential. I made a Peanut Butter and Jelly Chia Pudding from a peanut butter, banana, oatmeal, and almond milk smoothie. Chill for a few hours and swirl some strawberry jam through. A nice dessert version of the sandwich classic.

Verdict: I’ll certainly keep adding chia to my morning smoothies for the nutrition boost and possibly explore some other chia desserts.

Monica’s Notes on Nutrition: I felt compelled to add some commentary on the nutritional value of Chia Pudding. As an example, a chia pudding made with 3 Tbsp chia, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 2 tsp honey and 1/2 cup of blueberries has 333 Calories, 19g fat, 18g fiber, 42g carbs and 11g Protein. Compare this to, say, 50g of porridge with the same amount of almond milk, honey and blueberries: 308 Calories, 7.5g fat, 8g fiber, 58g carbs, 7.8g Protein. Those who are fat-phobic might scoff at the chia pudding, where ~50% of the calories come from fat. Chia has been praised as being a concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids, but research shows that the body isn’t very good at converting these types of plant-based omega-3s into something the body can be used. Still, they are a source of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals so they’re not going to do you any harm. I like how Oh My Veggies puts it in her well-researched article Chia Seeds: Healthy or Hype? – “Chia seeds are without question very healthy, but they’re not a miracle.” And probably not even life-changing.

Follow Emily’s chia antics – among other things – on Instagram, Twitter and her blog. And look out for more chia experiments to come: chia trifles, chia parfaits, chia jam… what else? Share your chia inspiration in the comments!

Recipe Review: The Really Hungry Burger by Anna Jones

Anna Jones' Really Hungry Burger

I have a love-hate relationship with veggie burgers (see this post from 2008: Wanted: A Veggie Burger That Isn’t a Mush Burger). The best veggie burger I’ve ever had was the beetroot burger from Mildred’s in London. I’ve since tried many veggie burger recipes, but most fail on various merits: too mushy, no texture, boring flavour, crumbly, and most commonly, made with so many breadcrumbs as to totally negate the need or desire for a bun.

I’ve even gone so far as creating a website entirely devoted to my search for the Ultimate Veggie Burger. But after so many experiments I was starting to think that veggie burgers were a total misnomer and that it was impossible to recreate the visceral joy of eating a tasty burger (with your hands, please, none of this British knife-and-fork stuff) without going back to the basic meaty principles.

It’s been a while since I’ve ventured back into veggie burger territory but I was inspired by my friend, CrossFit buddy, and fellow veggie burger enthusiast Jane to give them another go. Anna Jones’ recipe for The Really Hungry Burger caught both of our eyes. It helps that the picture of the burger looks awesome, but the ingredients sound really interesting too: mushrooms, dates, tahini… this burger was speaking my language. And Anna Jones’ own notes address some of my core concerns about veggie burgers:

Please be assured that this is not the breaded sweetcorn and mushroom mush excuse that usually shows up between two white buns. This is a hearty health-packed wonder that makes no apology to anyone…I’ve played around with a lot of recipes before settling on this one, some full of bright herb freshness and grated veg, some packed with protein-rich tofu, and all were good, but what I look for in a burger is a deep moreish flavour, savoury and complex, so this is the one.

Anna Jones' Really Hungry Burger

Jane and I made these burgers two ways: one with cannellini beans, the other with black beans. Both were awesome. The burgers hold their shape exceptionally well and they have great texture from the brown rice. The flavour really IS savoury and complex – I probably wouldn’t guess dates and tahini from the burger alone, but they combine perfectly with the rest of the ingredients to make a really tasty burger that’s totally worthy of being called “The Really Hungry Burger”.

As to toppings, Jane and I both liked Anna’s suggestion to serve the burgers with avocado and a quick cucumber pickle. We also felt that the burger benefited from a good dose of cheesy goodness. And of course, everything is better with giardiniera.

So maybe my quest for the Ultimate Veggie Burger is not fruitless after all. I will definitely be coming back to this recipe again, which means I can turn my attention to solving other problems, like what is the ultimate drink pairing to go with a veggie burger? To this end I had some help from Sir Neil of the France wine experience, whose top pick was a white Rhone. I got hold of a Jean-Luc Colombo La Redonne, which I swear I didn’t pick just for the name. This was way more fruity than the white wines I usually go for (NZ Sauvingon Blanc is my usual default, which probably says a lot about my knowledge of wine!), but I really enjoyed something new and I thought the wine’s peachiness stood up well to the hearty burger, and the total flavour explosion that came from all the wild toppings!

Finally, it should be noted that Jane fed the leftovers to a couple of meat-loving dudes who thought the veggie burgers were outstanding. The recipe features in Anna’s new book A Modern Way To Eat, probably worth picking up if you’re looking for satisfying vegetarian recipes designed to please ALL lovers of good food, veggies and omnivores alike.

Get the recipe: The Really Hungry Burger [annajones.co.uk]

Edamame Hummus

Edamame Hummus

This is my favorite way to make hummus at the moment, using edamame soy beans instead of the traditional chickpeas. It’s an awesome high-protein, high-fiber snack that also travels well making it perfect for packed lunches and long hikes.

I buy shelled edamame in the frozen section at Waitrose and make this in a blender (a food processor will work, too). I like to mix in a small handful of whole edamame at the end for a texture sensation.

Hummus is always better with garnishes so I’ve included some suggestions below.

Edamame Hummus

  • 2 cups shelled edamame
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt
  • water

Combine everything in a blender (I use an Optimum 9400) and add enough water to get the machine blending away. Blitz to a smooth consistency and serve with garnishes of your choosing.

Garnish ideas: Cilantro, paprika, berbere, piment d’Espelette, olive oil, argan oil, pumpkin seeds, dukkah, more edamame beans

More alternative hummus recipes:

 

Raw Orange and Cacao Energy Bars

Ridgeway snacks to power us from Ogbourne St George to Uffington. Trying out a new raw bar blend with orange zest and cacao nibs. See you at the White Horse!

As part of my 2015 Adventure Goal to complete the Ridgeway this year, I’ve been experimenting with raw snack bars to power me through the miles. This is the latest, receiving a 10/10 rating from my walking buddy. I make these in my Froothie Optimum 9400 which does a great job of grinding the nuts into a fairly fine powder and makes it easier to bind together the ingredients in the bars, but you could also use a food processor or other blender to make these.

Raw Orange and Cacao Energy Bars

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 cups cashews
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 heaped tbsp of cacao nibs (I recommend Naturya Organic Cocoa Nibs)
  • a small pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a food processor or blender pulse cashews until coarsely chopped.
  2. Remove half of the cashews. Continue processing the remaining cashews until finely ground. Combine with the coarsely chopped cashews.
  3. Add the prunes, dates and orange zest to the food processor or blender and blitz into a paste.
  4. Add the cacao nibs and the nuts to the food processor / blender (don’t add all of the nuts at once – you might not need all of the nuts to bind theses together; it depends on the moisture content of your dried fruit). Blitz until everything has congealed together. Check the consistency – if it’s super sticky, add more nuts.
  5. Line a small container with cling film (I used a 4′ tupperware). Press the mixture into the dish with your hands.
  6. Refrigerate for half an hour and then cut unto pieces.

See also:

Winter Guacamole with Pomegranate and Dukkah

Winter Guacamole with Pomegranate and Dukkah

This is some well-traveled guacamole. It started at a cocktail party in Berlin. Or rather, in the hours before the cocktail party began. The hosts were my friends Rachel and Dave who I were visiting for Thanksgiving – me, Rachel and Dave go way back and have a happy history of expat Thanksgivings together. And on this particular Thanksgiving, they had the genius idea of having a Thanksgiving Eve cocktail party.

But back to the guac… pre-party, we went to the Turkish Market on the bank of the Maybach for provisions, and somewhere amongst the spices, pomegranate, dolmades, and traditional Turkish Heisser Apfel Ingwer Punch, an avocado score was found. A gentleman at one of the vegetable stalls sold us a whole box of avocados for a mere 2 euros. An idea was forming…

Requisite avocado...

One of my visions for the cocktail party was guacamole to pair with the Mexican Martinis I planned to make. The challenge in Berlin – and many parts of Europe – is that it’s really hard to find fresh coriander. Maybe it was the Turkish influence but in my mind I started to evolve my idea of guacamole to use other herbs. I also needed an alternative to tomato which is woefully out of season in wintertime Germany. There at the Turkish market, stalls laden with bright red pomegranate and big bundles of parsley, the solution was practically screaming at me.

When we got home, we realized that the aforementioned gentlemen was eager to dispose of his avocados because they were insanely ripe. But even after discarding the truly worst of the bunch, we were still left with an ample supply of avocados to play with. The guacamole was assembled as all guacamole should be… throw your ingredients into a bowl, mix, taste and adjust as you go. Our ingredients were avocado, red onion, lemon juice, pomegranate, parsley, salt and lots of pepper. The icing on the avocado cake, however, was the final flourish of dukkah sprinkled on top.

Dukkah

In case you’re not on the dukkah bandwagon yet, it’s basically just a mix of toasted spices, nuts and seeds that have been coarsely crushed. You can buy dukkah in the shops now, but it’s so much better when you make it yourself. There are an infinite number of ways to make dukkah, but I personally like Ottolenghi’s dukkah recipe. If you don’t feel like making the whole thing, even a pinch of freshly toasted cumin seeds, or a sprinkle of toasted chopped pistachios, will take this guacamole to otherworldly dimensions!

Winter Guacamole with Pomegranate and Dukkah

This concoction – guacagranate? pomemole? – was so successful we made it again the next day. And it made a reprise again this last winter solstice at our tamale party in France where, again, cilantro was impossible to come by. But even back in the UK, where cilantro is readily available (a reminder of how lucky we are to live amongst such food abundance), I still go back to this, especially as we’re still in the midst of winter, and tomatoes aren’t even worth buying at the moment.

Also, for the record, the Mexican Martinis were wildly successful and went down perfectly with the guacamole – and the games, which went on until nearly 5am! Total success!

Winter Guacamole with Pomegranate and Dukkah

When I’m making guacamole, I typically allow for one avocado per person, so scale this up appropriately to your group size!

Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • juice from half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • dukkah for garnish (I like Ottolenghi’s dukkah recipe)

Method

  1. Mash the avocados in a bowl – don’t go too crazy, try to keep some chunks in there for texture.
  2. Stir in the pomegranate seeds, parsley, red onion, lemon juice, a good pinch of salt and a hefty grind of fresh black pepper.
  3. Mix together and taste – at this point I often end up adding more salt, pepper and lemon. But you could also add more of everything as you wish!
  4. Serve in a bowl garnished with the dukkah.

Winter Guacamole with Pomegranate and Dukkah

With thanks to my awesome friends Rachel and Dave for entertaining my avocado fantasies (and treating me to the most amazing weekend in Berlin!).

Kadawe champagne stop

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

 

Homemade Raw Bars with Agen Prunes

https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacekadet/15602952264/

I first became acquainted with Agen prunes when I went to Gascony in 2012. As my friend Mardi (the venerable blogger at eat live travel write) puts it: “if someone thinks they don’t like prunes, give them one of these and they’ll change their mind.” It’s totally true.

Agen prunes (pruneaux d’Agen) have been developed to have the perfect balance of sugar and acidity. They are moist, delicious and very addictive. I always bring some back with me when I go on my France road trips.

Agen prunes

Speaking of road trips, while I was cruising along the autoroute last December from Gascony to the ferry terminal in St Malo, snacking on prunes and daydreaming about car snacks (and Armagnac, also good with Agen prunes), I got to thinking that these prunes would make a great alternative to dates in a homemade raw snack bar recipe. I’m talking about snack bars of the Larabar / Nakd bar variety; basically a nut and dried fruit mush, expensive to buy, delicious to eat, and actually really easy to make at home.

Dates are the default fruit binder in homemade raw bars, but they are SO sugary that it makes me wonder if these raw bars are any better for you than a Snicker’s bar (for your reference, a “Cashew Cookie” Larabar has 230 Calories and 18g of sugars while a Snickers bar has 250 Calories and 27g of sugars – food for thought!).

Agen prunes

Not long after I got home I tested my Agen prune theory. It turns out that the prunes are even better than dates for binding the ingredients together, and they have almost half of the sugar as dates. I love their flavour, less cloyingly sweet than dates and with a character all of their own.

In this recipe I’ve combined the prunes with walnuts, a nut which I’ve always found a nice compliment to prunes, and are also purported to be “the healthiest nut” for their high level of antioxidants. I also added cinnamon (I love cinnamon) and coconut flakes (I love the texture), though you could keep it pure and simple and omit these ingredients, or get creative and add your own spices and add-ins.

Homemade Raw Bars with Agen Prunes

And so, from my Gascony road trip, a new road trip snack is born! And this isn’t only for road trips – I’m going to be bringing these on hikes and bike rides, too.

Lastly, if you think you have to go all the way to Gascony to get their delicious prunes, fear not – Waitrose now stocks them, and no doubt a Google search will reveal more online stockists. (Even so, you should go to Gascony, because it’s amazing!)

Prune, Walnut, and Coconut Bars

This is a good basic template for making all manners of homemade raw bars. Sub all or some of the prunes for other dried fruit; the walnuts for cashews, almonds or a mixture; add other spices like nutmeg, ginger or cocoa; experiment and have fun! For more raw bar inspiration, check out my previous post on making homemade Larabars.

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 cups walnut halves or pieces (depending on the prunes, you may need more or less nuts to get them to bind)
  • 1 cup pitted Agen prunes
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes (or shredded coconut)
  • 1-2 Tbsp shredded / desiccated coconut
  • a good pinch of cinnamon
  • a small pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse walnuts until coarsely chopped.
  2. Remove half of the walnuts. Continue processing the remaining walnuts until finely ground.
  3. Add the prunes to the nuts along with the salt and cinnamon. Process a few more seconds until everything is combined.
  4. Empty mixture into a bowl and stir in the reserved walnuts and the coconut flakes.
  5. Line a small container with cling film (I used a 4′ tupperware). Sprinkle some of the shredded coconut on the bottom of the container. Press the mixture into the dish with your hands. Top with the rest of the shredded coconut and press down gently so it sticks to the top.
  6. Refrigerate for half an hour and cut unto pieces.

Homemade Raw Bars with Agen Prunes

I traveled to Gascony from Wiltshire, UK, by car and by ferry, using Brittany Ferries to cross the channel from Portsmouth to St Malo. Brittany Ferries also sails to Caen, La Havre, Roscoff, Cherbourg Santander and Bilbao, all perfect launch pads for your road trip to Gascony, for prunes, Armagnac and whatever other Gascon goodies strike your fancy.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Curry Powder

Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Curry Powder
This time of year we’re all craving food that will lift us from the winter doldrums, excite the tastebuds, and negate the effects of holiday indulgence. This spiced pumpkin soup ticks all of the boxes, while still remaining true to the season and totally comforting.

Of course, curried pumpkin soup is a classic, but this recipe takes it up a notch by using homemade curry powder which is such a huge step above from the shop-bought stuff. Freshly ground whole spices are intensely more fragrant and flavoursome than pre-ground spices, which quickly go stale while sitting on the shelf.

The soup itself is very simple – you need little more than pumpkin (or other winter squash), onion, oil or butter, water and of course, the curry powder, which itself isn’t spicy so if you’d like a bit more heat in your pumpkin soup, feel free to add some cayenne or a chopped red chilli. I love this soup garnished with Greek yoghurt and toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), but a good vegan standby is coconut milk and chopped coriander.

I do my soup-blending and spice-grinding in my Optimum 9400 blender which conveniently blends both wet and dry ingredients. But you could also use an immersion blender, spice grinder, coffee grinder, and so on to get the job done.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Curry Powder

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter, coconut oil or a neutral oil like grapeseed
  • 3 pounds of pumpkin or other winter squash (crown prince, butternut, kabocha, etc), peeled and cut into 2-3cm cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (see below)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or water

Optional garnishes

  • Greek yoghurt
  • Coconut milk
  • Toasted seeds
  • Sliced spring onions
  • Chopped coriander

Method

  1. Put the butter or oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. When hot, add the pumpkin and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the curry powder, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, give it a stir and cook until fragrant (a minute or so). Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the pumpkin is totally soft (about 30 minutes).
  3. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or jug blender (if using a jug blender, let the soup cool a bit as hot liquids can be explosive when blended!).
  4. Serve hot with garnishes if you’d like.

Homemade Curry Powder

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg pieces
  • Seeds from 5 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 4 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 dried curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients except the fenugreek in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly toasted and fragrant. During the last few moments, add the fenugreek.
  2. Let everything cool and then grind to a fine powder (you can use a high powered blender for this, or a spice or coffee grinder). Store in a well-sealed container. This will keep nicely for a few months.

For more healthy blender recipes, check out my fellow #jumpstart15 comrades:

Chargrilled Romanesque Cauliflower Salad

Chargrilled Romanesco Cauliflower Salad

I am an ardent lover of cauliflower. And as a veggie lover who sidelines as a mathematician, a mathematical cauliflower is an extra special thing. Enter the Romanesque cauliflower (also known as Romanesco or Romanesco broccoli), a beautiful example of a Fibonacci fractal in the natural world, with buds arranged in an enchanting logarithmic spiral. It’s always a special day when one of these arrives in the Riverford box. And a special vegetable like this requires special treatment.

Riverford Box

Romanesque cauliflower has a flavour and texture pretty close to that of regular cauliflower, so I drew on my existing cauliflower know-how for inspiration. Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for Chargrilled Cauliflower with Tomatoes, Dill and Capers that I adore. In particular, I love the effect of chargrilling the cauliflower, which has the same crisp, caramel-like appeal of roasted cauliflower, but is fresher and lighter because the cauliflower gets steamed before chargrilling, and is then tossed with a light vinaigrette while still warm.

Chargrilled Romanesco Cauliflower Salad

This salad gets the same chargrilling treatment, but instead of tomatoes (far too summery for this time of year), I added raisins, red onion and dill, plus a splash of sherry vinegar and a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds. It’s a strange combination of ingredients but it works really well. For a complete meal, you could could add some chickpeas, cooked quinoa or even fish (good quality tinned tuna is actually fantastic with this and makes for an easy lunch).

Chargrilled Romanesco Cauliflower Salad

I use a little honey in the dressing but you could easily use maple syrup or agave for a vegan salad. This salad ticks the gluten-free, low-fat, low-carb boxes, too.

Chargrilled Romanesque Cauliflower Salad with Raisins, Almonds and Dill

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1 head of Romanesque cauliflower (or normal cauliflower)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup or agave for a vegan version)
  • 3 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 small handful of dill, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Whisky the honey with the sherry vinegar then toss with the onions, raisins and a pinch of salt. If you have time, leave this mixture for 30 minutes or so to give the raisins a chance to plump and the onions a chance to soften.
  2. Cut the Romanesque cauliflower into florets and steam for about 4 minutes, so that it’s tender but still has a crisp bite to it.
  3. Meanwhile, heat up a grill pan (or your outdoor barbecue) on a high heat. Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil then grill, turning occasionally, so that it gets nice black crispy bits on all sides.
  4. Place the chargrilled cauliflower in a bowl and toss with the vinegar-onion-raisin mixture. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Add more olive oil if you’d like.
  5. Serve the salad sprinkled with sliced almonds and dill.

Warm Tofu With Garlic Sauce and Sesame

Warm Tofu with Garlic & Sesame Sauce

This recipe could equally be called “The Easiest Way Ever To Make Tofu Taste Delicious”. It doesn’t involve any of the usual tricks people try to make tofu palatable: there’s no pressing or marinading or pan-frying or grilling. But the result is even better than you often get with some of these techniques.

The idea is simple: simmer tofu in water for a few minutes until its nice and hot. While that cooks, whip up a simple quick savory sauce, heavy on the chilli and garlic. Remove the tofu and place in a shallow bowl, then serve the tofu with garlic sauce.

That’s it.

Warm Tofu with Garlic & Sesame Sauce

The warm tofu basically becomes a sponge for the marinade, in this case, a potent garlic sauce that’s well seasoned with garlic, spring onions, soy sauce, a good dose of chilli and finally, a smattering of sesame seeds for flavor and texture.

It all comes together in about 10 minutes. Add some steamed rice and vegetables (broccoli works really well here) and you have a complete meal in no time flat that’s tasty enough to wow your friends. In fact, this is one of my favourite meals to serve lunchtime guests (Kavey in particular) when time is better suited to conversation and catching up rather than excessive amounts of extravagant cooking.

Warm Tofu in Garlic Sesame Sauce

Inspired by Lillian Chou’s recipe on gourmet.com.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 400g package of firm tofu
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring onions
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, and coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red-pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Method

  1. Put the tofu in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer then keep covered on a low heat while you make the sauce.
  2. Mash the garlic in a mortar and pestle (or with the side of a knife) with a pinch of salt. Stir the mashed garlic together with remaining ingredients.
  3. Lift the tofu with a spatula or slotted spoon out of the water and transfer to a shallow bowl. Spoon the sauce all over the tofu and serve.

Warm Tofu with Garlic & Sesame Sauce

Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli

Sweet potato and black bean chili

This week’s Riverford vegbox contained two rare treasures: sweet potatoes and jalapeños, two foods that form the basis for one of my all time favorite veggie chili recipes: sweet potato and black bean chilli.

This recipe is a total blast from the past. My friend Abby made it for her boyfriend (now husband) and I on a cold snowy winter’s evening in Milwaukee several years ago. We’d spent the day cross country skiing in the bitter cold. It was amazing, but very hard work (it was my first time skiing ever!), and coming home to a big pot of piping hot chilli (and a few bottles of VERY cold beers) was hugely rewarding.

P1000568.jpg

I haven’t changed the recipe much from the original – Abby herself said she likes to “play around with the spices”, so I did that, too, adding a bit of cinnamon and Mexican oregano (Abby likes to add Herbs de Provence).

Such is the awesomeness of veggie chili. It’s hugely adaptable and it’s hard to go wrong. But one thing you do need is good ingredients, and on this particular occasion I felt very grateful for having beautiful organic sweet potatoes to work with. Their flavor really came through against the cocoa and cinnamon, making for some serious comfort food that feels very much needed as the weather turns truly autumnal.

Sweet potato and black bean chili

I like to serve this chili with loads of garnishes: fresh cilantro, lime, raw onion, my homemade pickled jalapeños and lots of avocado. You could also add cheese or sour cream if you’d like, or a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch. And to really make it special, serve with a big wedge of cornbread and a bottle of good beer (I recommend Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale) on the side.

Beer Tasting

Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 to 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tins diced tomatoes
  • 3 tins black beans, drained
  • 1 jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, washed and dried

Method

  1. Warm the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, red pepper, green pepper, carrots, garlic, and salt. Saute until soft, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the sweet potato and lime zest, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, continuing to stir occasionally.
  3. Add the jalapeno, cumin, chill powder, cinnamon, cocoa and oregano, stir and cook for a minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes, black beans, lime juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very soft.

Sweet potato and black bean chili

This chilli is so memorable that I’ve written about it before.

Also memorable, the moustache on the ski rental dude at Wheel and Sprocket:

P1000577.jpg

And my friend Matt on skis.

Matt on skis

Now go make some chilli!

Sweet potato and black bean chili

Also seen on Great British Chefs.