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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
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
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.
Add the sweet potato and lime zest, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, continuing to stir occasionally.
Add the jalapeno, cumin, chill powder, cinnamon, cocoa and oregano, stir and cook for a minute or two.
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.
Here is a brownie that ticks all the right boxes – raw, vegan, gluten-free, paleo… – and they taste delicious too. The classic raw brownie is made by blitzing dates, nuts and cocoa in a food processor and mushing the mix together into a ball or bar. Though tasty, those raw brownies are also very dense and usually very sweet because it takes a lot of dates to hold the mixture together. These raw brownies are a slightly different breed. Made with coconut flour, ground almonds and apple puree, they have a texture that’s much more like a traditional brownie.
I was inspired to make these by Emma Potts of Coconut & Berries who posted a recipe for Raw Berry Cream Brownies which totally got my attention. I used a similar method for the brownie base, but instead of a berry cream topping, I went for chocolate ganache – it was a double chocolate kind of day.
This recipe uses cacao powder, which you can readily buy at health food shops or online. I make my own cacao powder from Naturya Cacao Nibs which I blitz to a powder in my blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400 which has a jug specially made for grinding dry ingredients). You could do the same to make almond flour, too.
Alternatively, if you’re not fussed about the raw aspect, you can use regular cocoa powder (cocoa powder is made by roasting cacao at high temperatures, which destroys some of the enzymes, and makes it no longer raw – snap!).
Another bonus to these brownies is they give me an opportunity to use my retro vintage nut grinder! Perfect for sprinkling walnuts on top of the brownies! (Of course, you could just use a knife and a cutting board instead.)
Raw Double Chocolate Brownies
Makes 6 brownies.
For the brownies:
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 Tbsp maple syrup or agave (add more or less depending on how sweet you like your brownies)
1/3 cup apple puree or mashed banana
1/3 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder if you aren’t worried about the raw thing)
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup ground almonds or almond flour
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
pinch of salt
For the ganache:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
small pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Line a small baking tin or container with parchment paper.
Mix all of the brownie ingredients together with your hands or in a food processor. You should get a very thick mixture.
Spread the mixture into the prepared container and smooth out the top. Refrigerate or freeze.
For the ganache, melt the coconut oil over low heat in a medium pot. Remove from heat and whisk in the cacao powder, agave, salt, and vanilla until combined and smooth.
Pour the ganache over the brownies and spread out evenly. If you’d like, dust the top with cacao powder and/or chopped walnuts. Put back into the refrigerator to chill.
Remove from the refrigerator, slice and enjoy!
There are lots more people out there grinding their own flours and powders to make awesome snacks. Check out Nazima’s Fig and Blackberry Crumble using her own quinoa flour, and Emma’s Flatbread made with almond and oat flour.
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:
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:
Last night was my first ever Smarter Fitter Supperclub held here at my digs in the Cotswolds featuring a vegan, raw, gluten-free theme. There were 11 of us in total, and what fun it was having so many like-minded and adventurous people over to try some of my creations, share ideas, drink wine and have some great chat. It went amazingly well and I hope all of my guests had as much fun as I did. The stand-out dishes seemed to be the beetroot and walnut dip, sweet potato kofte, raw raspberry cheesecake and, funny enough, the “Juicer Dreg Crisps” I made in the dehydrator with leftover juicer pulp.
My only regret is not taking enough pictures! The only pictures I did take were of the beverages (which might explain a thing or two).
Will I do it again? I think so! The social opportunities alone make it worthwhile – I met some really interesting people and made a few new friends. Plus, it was great hanging out with people who are actually local to me – something I don’t do as much as I’d like to.
So I’m thinking a summertime veggie BBQ camp. Any interest?
The menu from last night is below, with links to a few recipes for some favourite dishes.
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!
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.
I invented this smoothie as part of the Clean Detox and it was good enough to deserve its own blog post. I love the combination of the fresh crisp apple and earthy beetroot. It also happens to be fiber-rich!
It’s not a very sweet smoothie, so add more prunes (or dates) if you’d like it sweeter.
1/2 raw beetroot
1cm piece of ginger
a few fresh mint leaves
~1 cup of ice
Add enough water to blend and blitz on high until silky smooth.