I’m on a bit of a raw food kick lately. Of course when it comes to raw food, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients, which should ideally be organic and locally sourced to maximise their flavour potential. In this way, my recent Riverford boxes have been packed full of autumn inspiration, with carrots and beetroot being mainstays for the last couple of weeks. Most of my beets typically go straight into the juicer, but recently I’ve been look for other ways to enjoy beetroot in its pure unadulterated form.
Most recently, my favourite way to enjoy raw beetroot is shredded in combination with carrots and dressed with something sweet and tangy. Here I use raisins for the sweetness and lemon and white wine vinegar for the tang. Feel free to experiment with other dried fruits like dates, apricots or prunes. Same goes for the nuts: I use pine nuts but pistachios would be fantastic here, as would some toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Many people don’t often brave the gory hand mess that comes with handling raw beetroot. But really, folks, the mess isn’t that bad and the result is fantastic. Just wear an apron and go to it!
And if the slaw isn’t enough, here’s more beetroot inspiration for you:
Is it just me or is this a bumper year for strawberries? My accidental strawberry patch (it started as a potted plant then escaped to the gravel and has taken over) is producing way more than I could ever eat, freeze or smoothie-ify. Jam is an option, but I’ve been looking for something less sugary, yet equally non-perishable. Enter fruit leather!
My fellow Americans know fruit leather as “fruit roll-ups”, which when purchased from the shop contains just as much sugar as that jam I’m trying to avoid. But if you start with real fruit, puree it and dry it yourself, you’ll find the fruit needs little sugar if any. The drying process super-concentrates the fruit sugars leaving you with a naturally sweet “leather” that tastes like pure fruit
Strawberries are perfect for this and since the elderflowers are in bloom, I thought I’d kick up my fruit leather with a little elder-injection. I also had some homemade apple puree in the freezer, the lingering remains from last year’s orchard crop, so I thawed that out, added some grated fresh ginger, and turned that into leather, too. The apple was by far my favourite – I added a LOT of ginger and I loved the spicy kick. But I must admit, the strawberry leather tastes like pure summer.
These fruit leathers are perfect for the lunchbox or for taking on long hikes. In fact, “hiking” was my motivation for all this as I’m heading to the Lake District this weekend and am getting ready to hike the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in July. The fruit leather will be a welcome energy shot on the “rocky road” (and for a super energy shot – fruit leather rolled up with almond butter!).
Best of all, you can do this in the oven (no fancy dehydrator necessary).
How to Make Strawberry (or any other fruit) Leather
You can skip the elderflower in this but it does add that extra something. Try swapping it out with other flavour add-ins: orange zest, cinnamon, ginger… be creative! And feel free to sub the strawberries for any other fruit. You can do this in either an oven or a dehydrator; I’ve included instructions for both. If you live in a warm climate, you can also do this on a hot day by simply leaving the fruit to dry out in the sun!
5 cups strawberries, stems removed and halved (or any other fruit)
2 tablespoons honey (more or less to taste)
3-4 clusters of elderflowers (optional)
In a medium saucepan, on a low heat, cook the strawberries until they are soft and the juices are released.
Tie up the elderflowers in a muslin or jelly bag and add to the juicy strawberries. Cover, leave to cool, then put in the refrigerator and leave overnight. (If you skip the elderflowers, there’s no need to leave the strawberries overnight – you can make your leather right away!)
The next day, preheat oven to its lowest temperature setting.
Remove the elderflower bundle and pour the berries into a blender. Add the honey and puree.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Pour the berry mixture onto parchment lined pan – it should be about 1/8 inch thick.
Put in the oven and bake for 4-6 hours, until leather peels away easily from the parchment. Using scissors cut into rectangles and roll them up, parchment and all.
Follow the oven method through step 4.
Spread the mixture out onto a dehydrator sheet to about 1/8 inch thickness.
Dehydrate at 130 F / 50 C for four hours. Check the fruit leather periodically – when it peels away easily, peel it off, flip it over and dry for another hour or two.
Remove from dehydrator and use scissors or a pizza roller to cut it into you desired shapes.
Farinata (also called socca, torta di ceci or cecina) is a chickpea flour flatbread akin to a pancake or crepe, and it’s been a favourite food of mine for years. I’ve written about Farinata before (and its Indian cousin, Besan Cheela) but I’ve recently been rediscovering farinata through my favourite Springtime forageable: stinging nettles.
For one thing, nettle farinata just looks cool (I was inspired by this picture of nettle focaccia taken by Eat Pictures). But the nettles also add nice texture to the farinata, thanks to their prickly hairs which are no longer stinging since the nettles have been cooked.
Of course, you don’t need to use nettles here – you can use any vegetable you’d like – veggie chef Rachel Demuth does hers with artichokes – and feel free to kick it up with herbs, spices, black pepper, chilli, whatever you feel. This is why I love farinata: it’s so adaptable. It’s also inherently vegan, gluten-free, rich in protein and fiber, and an all around good eat that goes well with so many things. My recipe below is also lower in fat than most other farinata recipes, which tend to include a lot of oil in the batter. When I make this, the only oil I use is for greasing the pan. To me, it’s perfect this way.
You can cook farinata til its crispy and use it as a pizza base, or keep it malleable and use it almost as a vegan omelet – delicious with sautéed mushrooms! If you really want to green up your farinata, you can blitz some of the nettles (or whatever greenery your using) with the batter.
1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
a bunch of nettle leaves, washed
Combine the chickpea flour and salt in a blender with 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth then leave the batter to rest for 2-12 hours.
Heat up the oven’s grill / broiler. Heat an oven-safe non-stick pan on medium high heat. Coat the pan with some olive oil (either using a spray bottle or by drizzling in some oil and wiping it around with a paper towel).
When the pan is good and hot, pour in just enough batter to fill the pan, about the thickness of a crepe – you can go thicker but I find a thinner pancake results in a nicer result. Immediately scatter some onions over the batter, then, using tongs, place the nettle leaves on top of the batter.
When the batter is firm on top and brown underneath, remove the pan from the heat and place under the grill / broiler (if you’d like, you can spray a thin coat of olive oil on top of the farinata before placing under the grill). Cook until it’s starting to brown on top (this shouldn’t take very long so keep an eye on it).
Remove the farinata from the pan and repeat the steps above with the rest of the batter.
Serve immediately. You can slice the farinata with a pizza cutter, but it’s also nice to just tear into it with your hands!
Here’s what it looks like with wild garlic, also nice but not as texturally interesting:
This is a new juicy creation I just had to share. It’s all about the tart grapefruit and spicy hot jalapeno chilli (be brave, folks). The juice is almost creamy and the concentrated flavour saturates your mouth – it’s incredibly satisfying, a breakfast in itself. The jalapeno is as good a wake-up call as coffee (really!) – you can use other chillies, red or green, to suit what’s available.
Consequentially, this juice is also great for hangovers.
Grapefruit, Beetroot and Chilli Juice
1 grapefruit, peeled
1in slice of beetroot
1 small carrot
1/2 lime, peeled
1/2 zucchini (or cucumber)
1 stalk of celery
1/2 jalapeno (or more depending on your taste and the spiciness of your chillis)
Put the lot through your juicer, pour into a glass (over ice if you like), and enjoy!
Last year while visiting Cornwall with my mother we had the fortune of staying at Lanyon, a perfect countryside hideaway comprising three cottages surrounded by fields and farmland (and also home to my good friend, Marie Leggo). The farmland is owned by the Leggos but leased to local farmers, and one of those farmers had chosen to fill his ample acreage with rows and rows of cauliflower. It just so happened that when Mom and I arrived at Lanyon last year, it was just after the cauliflower harvest, and Marie took us out to the fields to glean any cauliflower that was left behind.
The cauliflower gleaning was hugely exciting to Mom and I – not only are we both fascinated by “gleaning” (we bonded over the film The Gleaners and I, but we are also both cauliflower fanatics). And when we saw the bounty of cauliflower that remained in the field, we were over the moon in cauliflower bliss, but also shocked by how much perfectly good cauliflower gets left behind. We took as much as we could, resorting to some clever means to do so, but still, there was way more cauliflower than we could ever carry or consume.
As we walked back to the house, arms laden, we bantered about all of the possibilities and started scheming more creative uses for cauliflower. One of the things I’ve been toying with a lot lately is using cauliflower as a grain substitute. If you put cauliflower in a food processor and chop it super finely, cauliflower takes on the size and shape of grains and looks much like rice, couscous or bulgar wheat. And you can use it in similar ways, for example, cauliflower fried “rice” or cauliflower “couscous”. On that particular day at Lanyon I attempted a cauliflower “rice” pudding which was probably pushing the whole concept a little too far. However, stick with the savoury options and cauliflower grains, be they raw or cooked, are a pretty safe bet.
My favourite cauilflower-as-grain option is this cauliflower tabbouleh which is inherently raw, vegan and gluten-free. I like to serve this with falafel and hummus, or wrapped up in little gem lettuce leaves. You can adapt it as you see fit – add some roast or grilled veggies, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, mix in some chickpeas or add a drizzle of tahini sauce. And while it’s most satisfying when made with reject cauliflower you’ve gleaned yourself from a farm, it’s just as good with store-bought cauliflower which is one of the most readily available, nutritious and frugal vegetables out there.
Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh
1/2 cauliflower, stalk removed
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 big handful of parsley and mint, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1/2 cucumber, finely diced
1 tomato, finely diced
pinch of salt and pepper
Put the cauliflower florets into a food processor and blitz it until it reaches a couscous-like texture.
Combine cauliflower with the rest of the ingredients.
Season well, adding more lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
Last night I hosted my New Year Reboot cooking workshop at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. The whole “reboot” concept is all about giving the body a chance to rest and recover after a season of excess, and get back to (or get started with) feeling awesome all of the time. The aim of the class was to provide strategies and recipes to help people design their own “reboot” according to their own personal tastes.
One of the strategies involves eating foods that are vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free. Another strategy involves eating a lot of soup (easy to digest, nutrient rich meals – kinda like smoothies)!
One of the soups I demonstrated was this “Cream” of Cauilflower soup. Blended cashews give this soup its velvety creamy texture – no dairy required! And based on the mmm’s of the students, I’d say this was one of the top recipes of the evening.
You don’t need milk, cream or potato to make soups creamy – use cashews instead. You also get the protein and healthy fat bonus that comes from using cashews. Plus, adding cashews or any nut to your soup will ultimately make them more satisfying, keeping you fuller for longer and keep you from needing to snack later in the day. You can use this same recipe to make all kinds of vegan creamy soups – broccoli and celery are great here.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
salt, to taste
1 liter of water or stock
a large handful of raw cashews
Freshly ground black pepper
Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottom pan. Cook the onion on a medium heat until it is soft, without letting it brown.
Add the cauliflower and 125ml water. Raise the heat slightly, cover and let the cauliflower cook for 15-18 minutes, until tender.
Working in batches, puree the cooked cauliflower with the stock and the cashews, then return to the pot and heat thoroughly.
Serve garnished with sauteed mushrooms, kale chips or whatever tasty garnish you can think of!
Here’s a little something I made up the other day for a quick lunch that was so good I had it again the next day. I say “quick”, because this “chaat masala salad” took advantage of a few leftovers, including cooked dal I’d stashed in the freezer, some chaat masala I made previously and tamarind chutney from Asma ‘s Darjeeling Express Supperclub. Were I to start from scratch, it would have taken lots longer, but all the more reason for keeping these Indo-staples readily available. Particularly the chaat masala, my new favourite salad condiment!
The whole idea was inspired by Urvashi Roe’s Gujerati Class at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School, where she showed us how to make Indian “street food”, including “chaat“, basically a mish-mash of random tasty ingredients – a total whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts situation.
Technically my chaat masala salad wasn’t a “chaat” at all, lacking the yummy fried dough bits that are typical of dishes of this kind. But never mind, it was delicious, and I got my crunch factor from toasted cashews!
Here’s how it came together:
Heat up about 1/2 a cup of cooked lentils (chickpeas would be good here, and/or boiled potato). While this is happening…
Combine together some finely chopped or grated vegetables. Good contenders include: cabbage (white and red), carrots, tomato, and cucumber.
Finely slice 1/2 shallot. Chop a small handful of coriander. Add this stuff to the vegetables. Toss the whole thing with a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt.
Now, put the dish together, starting with some lentils at the bottom of a bowl.
Top with some of the salad mixture.
Sprinkle with chaat masala.
Drizzle on some tamarind chutney.
Sprinkle on some grated or desiccated coconut.
Sprinkle on some toasted cashews.
Serve with any extra salad on the side. And keep the chaat masala, tamarind chutney and coconut handy in case you want to add more as you go.
Here is the recipe for chaat masala that I used. And here’s a recipe for tamarind chutney (though I’m hoping Asma will share hers one day!). Both are worth keeping around, along with cooked beans and lentils, for thrown-together random salads like this one.
Given yesterday’s news that nuts are tied to lower risk of cancer and heart disease, I thought I’d share this cashew curry recipe which I made recently as part of an Indian feast for my friend Sam’s birthday a couple weekends ago. The recipe is adapted from Reza Mahammad’s “Cashews in a Rich Coconut Sauce” from Rice, Spice and All Things Nice. Yes, this is a curry based entirely on nuts! A strange idea, I thought, but it works really well and makes a most interesting option for a vegetarian curry.
And if you’re worried about the fat content of nuts, don’t be! The study showed that people who ate nuts actually tended to be slimmer than their non-nutty counterparts. And, bonus, they also had:
29% reduced risk of heart disease
11% reduced risk of cancer
20% reduced risk of death
The results applied to all nuts, even peanuts, which are actually a legume, not a nut (in fact, I’d be willing to bet that people who eat legumes regularly experience the same benefits as nut fiends).
My mom and I recently took a trip to Marrakech. It was our first time in Morocco and one of the things we looked forward to the most was the food. We both thought we knew what Moroccan food was like, but in retrospect, we hadn’t a clue beyond couscous and vegetable tagine. However, we quickly learned…
Our education began at our riad, Riad Tizwa, in Marrakech’s Old City. A riad is a large traditional house built around a central courtyard; in Marrakech many of these riads operate as guest houses and provide a much more intimate experience of the city than a traditional hotel. Ours was hidden amongst the maze of the Medina’s winding passages and we wouldn’t have found it were it not for our taxi driver (word to the wise traveller: if your hotel or riad offers airport transport, take them up on it). But behind an unmarked door was a beautiful palatial home scented with local perfume and full of light, greenery, fruit trees and flowers.
Our host greeted us with Moroccan mint tea (which I only knew about thanks to Urvashi Roe’s excellent write-up on the Art of Moroccan Mint Tea) and some sound advice on where we should go for great Moroccan food. As a result, we had some amazing, epic meals – most notably at Ksar Essaoussan and Le Tobsil - that were real lessons in how to feast Moroccan style.
To our collective vegetarian delight, meals started with a selection of cooked and raw salads, but not salads as I’m used too. These were more like little tasting plates of vegetables in various chopped, grated or pureed form. As a result, you didn’t quite know what you were eating until you tried it, making each dish an exciting surprise. Memorable salads include a celery and tomato diced salad with herbs which reminded us of tabbouleh without bulgar. We also had some amazing cooked peppers and tomato seasoned with paprika, cumin and garlic. Spices. Spices were used across the dishes in all kinds of crazy unexpected ways (tomato and cinnamon, for example, and it works).
Main courses were less of a surprise, but I think this is largely due to the vegetarian thing. Everywhere we went we got couscous and vegetable tagine, all delicious and wonderful, but with surprisingly very little variation. Carrots and parsnip was par for the tagine course, with the occasional cauliflower or green pepper. Only once did we get chickpeas in our tagine. We kept talking about how good the tagines were, but how much we wished they had more of this or that, particularly cauliflower (my mother and I both are cauliflower fiends). But a glance at the city’s food markets made it pretty clear that these people were working with a pretty limited selection of ingredients, purely dictated by what was in season at the time. But isn’t that the way it should be?
In a way, this makes the tagine the ultimate seasonal stew, and one of the first things I did when I came home from Marrakech was to make a tagine.
In case you’re unaware, a tagine is a fragrant spicy stew named after the earthenware pot in which it is made (a normal pot, preferably cast iron, also works). With Marrakech in mind, I made my tagine using what was in season, but this time I was working with British ingredients: carrots, romanesco cauliflower and the last of the season’s courgettes and green beans. But this dish would work with almost anything and seems particularly adept to autumn and winter vegetables like swede, butternut squash, pumpkin, potato and cauliflower. I like to keep the vegetables in large chunks and serve it with sprinkled with toasted almonds. It’s the perfect thing on a cold, wet, dreary British day. And oddly, it also happens to be the perfect thing on a sweltering hot and sunny afternoon in Morocco: further proof that the tagine is one of the most miraculous dishes around, globe-spanning and eternally versatile.
1-3 tsp harissa (start with 1tsp and adjust to suit your spice tolerance)
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
1 lemon, juice and zest
a handful fresh cilantro
1 small pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small cauliflower, broken into big florets
½ cup cooked chickpeas
a handful of raisins
toasted sliced almonds
couscous to serve
Heat olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onion for a few minutes until it softens.
Add garlic, ginger and the spices and stir around a bit.
Add the harissa, tomatoes, lemon juice and fresh cilantro. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil and then lower the heat.
Add the vegetables and stir around, make sure that all vegetables are somewhat covered in tomato sauce. Put the lid on and simmer for about an hour. Stir carefully once or twice, otherwise leave the lid on – and be patient!
Serve with couscous and a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds.
As I ramp up for the imminent release of my new book, Smarter Fitter Smoothies, I’ve been playing around with new smoothie recipes. The ultimate test of whether a smoothie works is whether I can’t resist making another one the very next day.
Such has been the case with this pear and avocado smoothie, which I’m calling “Pear and Avocado Thickie” in the book. Fresh pear and avocado go really well together. The avocado, combined with the flaxseed, make this smoothie super thick and creamy. You can substitute the flaxseed with other nuts or seeds, or omit completely if you don’t have it to hand. What I like about this smoothie is that you know the avocado is there, and the pear gives it just a little sweetness (if you like it even sweeter, you can add a few dates, but I prefer the less sweet version; it allows more of the avocado and pear flavours to come through).
Taste aside, the smoothie is full of all of the good stuff that makes it balanced and wholesome. It’s got loads of fiber from the pear, flax seed and leafy greens, plus lemon which aids digestion and avocado for healthy fats and delicious creaminess. Eat one of these for breakfast and it will totally set you up for the day; sugar crashes be gone!
If you like this smoothie, me a huge favour and subscribe now for updates on my upcoming smoothie book. I’m giving away free copies of the ebook to 10 lucky subscribers so you have nothing to lose and only health, happiness and perfect blends to gain!