Thursday, 29 May 2008

Spice Blackened Halibut with Daikon and Pea Puree

Along with preserved lemons, I have had a bit of a fetish about cooking with daikon for a while now. Also referred to as Chinese radish or mooli, the long white and fairly scary vegetable has been on my wishlist at the market for a while. We do love to eat fish regularly and I particularly liked this spice rub as it features another "it" ingredient, cayenne pepper. The original recipe is here.

Spice Blackened Halibut
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
2 halibut fillets

Mix the spices together on a plate and coat the fish on either side. Place on a very hot frying pan (it will make your entire house smoky so be prepared) and fry each side for 3 minutes until blackened but not totally burnt. Place the fish in an oven proof dish and finish off in the oven, being careful not to overcook.

Daikon and Pea Puree
1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
1 daikon radish julienned
1 handful of alfalfa sprouts
olive oil

Boil the peas in water for 3-4 minutes. Drain, refresh and place in a mixing bowl. Puree with the hand blender and add olive oil. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a splash of water.

Fry the julienned daikon strips for 3-4 minutes in olive oil until starting to brown.

Place the pea puree in the centre of the plate, top with a pile of daikon and then the fish fillets themselves. Place a small handful of alfalfa sprouts on top for garnish. Season with a grind of black pepper.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Kidney Bean and Red Cabbage Burgers

The idea for these veggie burgers was shamelessly stolen from the excellent Mildred's, one of London's best vegetarian restaurants and a favourite of ours. The trouble with cooking for a 50% vegetarian, 50% meat loving couple is that you can't serve up anything that's too full on veggie. The boy hates tofu for example and is really not that keen on going for too long without some kind of meat. I'm lucky however as he loves Mildred's and is happy to try anything homecooked and made with love. I totally made this recipe up, it's nowhere near as good as the original so I would advise heading down to this small Soho gem and hoping they are on the menu that day! A la Mildred's I served his with sweet potatoes fries, lettuce from our window boxes, tomato slices, a big dollop of mayo and some coleslaw on the side. This recipe made 4 large burgers.

Kidney Bean and Red Cabbage Burgers

1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 red onion

2 cloves garlic

1/4 of a small head of red cabbage

half an apple

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

splash of agave nectar

2 tablespoons medium oatmeal

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 2 tablespoons water (egg substitute)

splash tabasco

chili powder

1 tablespoon tomato puree

wholemeal spelt flour for dusting

First, braise the cabbage. Begin by frying the onions and garlic in some olive oil. Once done, add the finely sliced cabbage and diced apple. Add a big glug of red wine vinegar and the agave nectar to sweeten. Braise on a low heat until the cabbage is soft, around 20 minutes.

In a food processor, add the kidney beans and a handful of the braised cabbage. Add the flax mixture, tabasco, chili powder, oatmeal and tomato puree and process until well combined. Turn into a bowl and form into patties with your hands. Dust with spelt flour and fry lightly - around 3-4 minutes - on each side.

I was also inspired to create these burgers by the Endless Simmer 'Who Cooked It Better' Veggie Burger Battle Royal. I love the look of the 101 Cookbooks burgers (and am not a fan of using too much seitan, tempeh, TCP etc - too processed) but would have to work on this recipe before I could consider it a contender here....

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Aubergine Cannelloni

This dish always looks good and works well as finger food at a party, cold with some salad for lunch or warm with some pasta for dinner. It's a little fiddly but quite satisfying to do.
Aubergine Cannelloni
2 aubergines
olive oil
1 bunch spinach
1 round of goat's cheese
tomato sauce (I roast cherry tomatoes with garlic cloves and olive oil and puree it)
Slice the aubergine on a mandoline, lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Roast until soft, around 30 minutes. Meanwhile, wilt the spinach in a pan with a splash of water. Add the chopped goat's cheese and mix the two together thoroughly. Once the aubergine is cooked, place a small dollop of the spinach/cheese mixture at the bottom end of each slice and roll. Lay the slices in a baking dish and top with a dollop of tomato sauce. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Vegan Brown Rice Sushi

Asian style DIY week continues with vegan sushi. I make these with short grain brown rice, no you don't get the same effect as if you were using proper sushi rice but it's a lot healthier!
Vegan Brown Rice Sushi
1 cup short grain brown rice
brown rice vinegar
daikon (aka mooli or Chinese radish)
alfalfa sprouts
nori sheets
Rinse and cook the rice in 2 cups of water for about 40 minutes until the rice is soft and the water has all been absorbed. Whilst cooking, add a tablespoon of tamari. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Turn the rice out into a glass bowl, add two tablespoons of brown rice vinegar and a tablespoon of tamari, mix well and leave to cool for 15 minutes or so, turning occasionally with a fork.
If you have a sushi mat (it's helpful but not really necessary) place it on the work surface and place the nori sheet shiny side down. Smooth the rice down about half a centimetre thick with the back of a spoon. Leave a two centimetre gap where the end of your roll will be.
Julienne the carrot, daikon and cucumber and finely slice the avocado. Lay the vegetables (not too thick) in a row and top with a row of sprouts. Using the mat, roll the sushi as tightly as possible and with wet fingers, seal the edge. Lay the roll edge down for 5 minutes to sit before cutting with a wet, sharp knife, the thinner the better.
I got the original recipe from Epicurious.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Quinoa Tabbouleh

An ideal summery lunch, tabbouleh combines fresh flavours with wholegrains. Here, instead of bulgar wheat, I have used quinoa - a mix of both red and white quinoa.
Half cup quinoa
Half cup red quinoa
1 packet flat leaf parsley
1 packet mint
Half a cucumber
Cherry tomatoes
Handful pinenuts
Spring onions
Handful of pitted black olives
2 garlic cloves
juice of 2 lemons
olive oil
Cook the quinoa in boiling water for 20 minutes. Finely chop the parsley and mint. Peel and cube the cubumber, quarter the cherry tomatoes and thinly slice the spring onions and olives. Mix into the quinoa along with the pinenuts, crushed garlic cloves, lemon juice and a splash of olive oil.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Spinach and Water Chestnut Dim Sum

Dim sum was a regular feature on the Saigon restaurant scene whilst I was living in the Far East (Yeebo is by far the best in town), whilst it wouldn't normally feature in my kitchen here, I'd been inspired to try and make my own wrappers after having seen a few blogs on the subject. It was fiddly of course, this was to be expected, but also quite doughy. I also really knew that I'd been eating wheat flour afterwards as I haven't cooked with all purpose flour in a very long time. It was fun but I think next time I'll buy wrappers from the shop!

Dim Sum Wrappers
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup water

Mix the flour and water together in a bowl and form a dough. You may need more or less water than above but you want the dough to be soft but not sticky. Knead the dough twenty times. Cover and leave to stand for 30 mins. Roll out flat on a floured surface with a rolling pin. Rather than rolling it into neat circles, I just used a cutter to create accurate discs.

Spinach and Water Chestnut filling
1 bag spinach
3 spring onions
1 tin water chestnuts
rapeseed oil

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped spring onions and garlic. Add the spinach and a little water and fry until wilted. Finely dice the water chestnuts and add to the pan, along with a splash of tamari. Once cooked, drain in a sieve to remove excess liquid.

Place a pinch of the mixture in the centre of the dim sum wrapper, fold in half and seal the edges using water. Make a series of folds along the edge of the dim sum and steam in bamboo steamers for 5 minutes.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Poppy Seed Oat Cakes and Beetroot Chutney

I'm staying off the sugar at the moment, so when Anjana and Nic came over on Monday, I decided to serve a cheese course and some fresh fruit rather than do a big dessert. Home made oat cakes are so easy to make and are delicious with some beetroot chutney and a slab of goat's cheese. I got the original recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian.
Poppy Seed Oat Cakes
1 cup of jumbo oats
1 cup of medium oatmeal
olive oil
boiling water
poppy seeds (optional, you can also use other seeds eg sunflower)
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven. In a large bowl, mix the jumbo oats and the oatmeal. Add any seeds you may be using (I sometimes add dried herbs here for extra flavour) and mix through. Season with several twists of black pepper. Form a well in the middle and add the olive oil. Afraid to say I never measure how much oil I am using and do it all on judgement alone. I would estimate a fifth of a cup. After this, add enough boiling water just for the ingredients to form a dough, not too sticky, not too dry. If you make it too dry, just add some more oatmeal. Work the ingredients into a ball and leave to stand for 10 minutes or so.
Roll the ball onto a floured surface and cut out the oatcakes using a cookie cutter. Once you have cut all that you can, place them onto a baking sheet lined with tin foil and bake for around 15-20 minutes or until starting to brown on the underneath. Flip them over and bake for another 5 mins or so. Turn out onto a cooling rack once done.
Beetroot Chutney
1 packet of pre-cooked beetroot
1 red onion
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
agave nectar
chili flakes
Slice the onion and fry in olive oil in a saucepan. Cube the beetroot and add it to the pan once the onions are translucent. Cook for another couple of minutes before adding the balsamic and red wine vinegars. I add a good half a cupful of both, enough to cover the beets and onions with at least a centimetre extra. Add a good glug of agave to sweeten. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquids have reduced. Add a pinch of chili flakes for extra kick if you wish.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Spring Salad

It's always such a joy to cook with spring ingredients when they start to make a re-appearance after the hungry gap. All that green just seems so fresh and healthy after the more stodgy winter veg. I was inspired to create this salad partly by 101 Cookbooks and also partly by the Daylesford Organic cooking class which I attended as part of the Edible Window Box evening seminar at Clifton Nurseries recently. We had the fabulous Anjana and Nic over for dinner and I decided to serve something very simple which would suit the hot weather.

Spring Salad

Mixed baby salad leaves

1 head of red chicory

purple radish sprouts

spring onions

broad beans

French beans


quails eggs

Jersey Royal new potatoes


olive oil

white balsamic vinegar

juice of half a lemon

Pre-heat the oven. Scrub the new potatoes but do not peel them. Place them in boiling water and cook for around 10 mins until they are partially cooked but not completely. Place them in the oven with a generous splash of olive oil and roast for 30 mins or until becoming brown and crispy on the outside.

Thinly slice the fennel and marinate for a while in some of the white balsamic vinegar to soften.

Poach the quails eggs in boiling water for a couple of minutes until done. Boil the shelled broad beans, whilst these are cooking in boiling water, steam the asparagus and French beans in bamboo steamers on top of the saucepan for a couple of minutes. When both are steamed to al dente, remove from the steamers and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. When the broad beans are cooked, remove the rough outer casing leaving only the bright green bean inside.

Prepare the salad by placing the mixed salad leaves, chicory, radish sprouts and spring onions in a bowl. Mix well and scatter the cooked new potatoes, fennel, beans and asparagus on top. Place the poached quails eggs on top of this and serve dressed in a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and black pepper.

I served this with a simple cod fillet in a pumpkin seed crust. This recipe is a great way to do cod and was taken from my Abel & Cole cookbook - mix a handful of pumpkin seeds, some wholegrain breadcrumbs and some lemon zest in your food processor or dry mill. Add some finely chopped flat leaf parsley and pulse some more. Add a tiny splash of olive oil until the mixture 'catches' but is not too soggy and then spread evenly over cod fillets. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Aubergine, Pine Nut and Pomegranate Salad

Now that the cookbook's finally arrived, this is no doubt only the first of many Ottolenghi recipes that I will be blogging my own versions of. We've eaten this one from the shop, we've spent hours discussing how he gets his aubergines just right and whether the aubergine is actually the king of the vegetables or not, we've tried (and failed) to get this quite right at home. And now we know. Fabulous.

Aubergine, Pine Nut and Pomegranate Salad

2 aubergines

olive oil

handful of basil leaves

handful of baby chard leaves

pine nuts

pomegranate seeds

3 tablespoons goat's milk yoghurt


lemon juice

1 garlic clove

black pepper

red quinoa

Rinse the aubergines and cut them into thick discs, removing top and bottom slice. Brush them generously with olive oil using a pastry brush and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until soft and golden, turning half way through. In our rubbish oven this can take almost an hour.

Infuse a pinch of saffron in 2 tablespoons of boiling water for 5 minutes. Mix the infusion into the yoghurt along with the lemon juice and the crushed clove of garlic. Mix well until the yoghurt is a bright yellow colour.

Once done, serve the aubergines on a bed of red quinoa mixed with baby chard leaves (picked fresh from my window boxes!). Scatter with a handful of pinenuts (toasted if you wish) and pomegranate seeds. Finish by scattering with a handful of freshly chopped basil leaves, a twist of black pepper and several dollops of the yellow yoghurt sauce. We like the thick creamy St Helen's Farm Goats Milk Yoghurt.

And yes, I really do believe that aubergine is the king of the vegetables.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes

Another recipe using one of my current 'obsession' ingredients, preserved lemons. I took the original recipe from Epicurious which is an absolutely fantastic resource.

Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes
2 large beef tomatoes
2 white fish fillets
preserved lemons
juice of one lemon

Place the fish fillets in an oven proof dish, spray with olive oil and baked for 10-15 mins or until cooked through. Flake the fish fillets, mix in a bowl with chopped preserved lemons, chopped pitted black olives, chopped fresh coriander and the lemon juice.

Cut the top off the tomato and scrape out the seeds carefully, taking care not to cut the skin. Once the tomatoes are hollow, stuff with the fish mixture. I served mine with kamut couscous on a bed of baby spinach leaves. This is a simple but tasty lunch.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Spanish Rice

The boy's mum brought us back some beautiful chorizo from Spain. Now I try my hardest to avoid red meat but in the face of chorizo, even I crumble occasionally! The beauty of this tasty lunch recipe was that I could add chorizo into Mark's dish but leave mine as a healthy vegan option. Don't be tempted to skimp on the smoked paprika, it is this wonderful spice that really adds the authenticity here.
Spanish Rice
1 cup of rice
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
cherry tomatoes
1 tin of white beans
sun dried tomatoes
handful of pitted black olives
chopped flat leaf parsley

Put the rice on to boil in a large saucepan. Add the saffron strands and turmeric directly to the water. Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them cut side up in a pre-heated oven with a splash of olive oil for around 10 minutes or until they start to soften.

Chop the red onion and fry it in the olive oil along with the crushed garlic cloves. Drain and rinse the white beans and add to the pan. Add the chopped pitted black olives, the chopped sun dried tomatoes and chorizo (if using) before adding the smoked paprika. Fry for a little longer until heated through.

Once the rice is cooked, mix it with the other ingredients including the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped flat leaf parsley and season with salt and pepper.
I am pretty sure that there are a whole heap more authentic ways to do Spanish rice but this was my own made up attempt!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Mackerel and Horseradish Fishcakes

I took this recipe straight from Hippolyra at Fuss Free Flavours. I love the idea of fishcakes which don't include the usual potatoes, egg, breadcrumbs etc. There is a certain simplicity in a recipe which has only 5 ingredients which is very appealing. However the lack of a complex ingredients list in no way undermines the bursts of flavour these fishcakes deliver.
Mackerel and Horseradish Fishcakes
1 tin chickpeas
1 packet of smoked mackerel
1 tablespoon capers
juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons horseradish
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in the blender or foodprocessor. I used my hand blender and added about 3/4 of the juice of one lemon. You definitely do not want to add too much liquid as it will make it too moist for keeping the fishcakes together when frying. Once the chickpeas are mashed, add the capers, flaked smoked mackerel, lemon rind and horseradish.
Form into patties and fry for around 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. I served mine on a bed of baby spinach and watercress salad. Some chunky herbed sweet potato wedges would also accompany it well.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust

This is actually an amalgam of two recipes from Wholefoods. Not only do I absolutely adore the shop but I also happen to think that their recipe database is particularly thorough and full of healthy ideas.

I'd been toying with the idea of making a vegan quiche but didn't want to use the pastry of this recipe. I also liked the idea of making a pie using potato as the crust such as this recipe but didn't want to use normal potatoes or goat's cheese mixed with potato. So I stuck 'em both together and made a vegan, gluten-free version.

I was so pleased with how this turned out (even the boy liked it and he hates tofu) that I have decided to enter it in Abby's annual Vegetables, Beautiful Vegetables round-up organised via her excellent Eat The Right Stuff Blog.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust
1 sweet potato
1 packet tofu
handful of mushrooms
handful of baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons of tahini
olive oil
cayenne pepper
curry powder
rice milk
1/2 a red pepper

Remove the tofu from the packet, wrap some kitchen roll around it and place a sideplate on top to press out most of the liquid. Peel the sweet potato and slice it using a mandolin slicer. Par-boil the slices for around 3-4 minutes or until soft enough to bend but not break. Layer the slices overlapping over the bottom and sides of a springform cake tin.

Fry the onion and sliced mushrooms in olive oil for around 8 minutes. Fry the garlic for an extra couple of minutes. Add a big handful of baby spinach leaves and a splash of water, continue to fry until wilted. Drain any excess water.

Put the pressed tofu block into a blender/food processor with the tahini and a generous splash of tamari. Add a small splash of rice milk but not too much - you don't want the mixture too soggy. Add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and curry powder and blend. I used my hand blender. Mix the creamy mixture with the spinach, mushroom and onions and pour into the potato crust in the cake tin mould.

Chop the red pepper into thin strips and arrange them onto the top of the pie. Bake in the oven at around 180 degrees for an hour or until the top of the pie begins to brown.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Cinnamon Walnut Raisin Loaf

The obsession with vegan baking continues (thanks in part to Fuss Free Flavours, one of my favourite food blogs). I had a not quite so successful run at muffins before the long weekend and was so disappointed with the results, I thought it was time to stop messing around making up vegan baking recipes myself and to start following what the experts do. Luckily, you can get no better expert in vegan baking than the excellent Isa at Post Punk Kitchen. I followed her recipe to the letter but substituted the sugar for a splash of agave and added in some chopped walnuts as I'd just been given some fresh from our friend's farm in the Lebanon.

Cinnamon Walnut Raisin Bread

1 1/2 cups spelt flour

1 cup of organic jumbo oats

1 1/2 teaspoons of gluten free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/4 cup agave nectar

3/4 cup raisins (I used sultanas)

1/4 apple juice (I used Meridian Apple Concentrate diluted)

1 1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 rapeseed oil

2 tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 tablespoons water

1/4 rice milk

Handful of walnuts crushed into small pieces.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Soak the raisins in the apple juice. Mix the spelt flour, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the agave, applesauce, oil, flax mixture and rice milk and mix with the dry ingredients until combined well. Add raisins and apple juice. Add the walnut pieces and mix well. Pour into a pre-oiled baking tin and bake for around 50-60 minutes or until the top is crusty and a skewer comes out cleanly.

This was such a quick and easy loaf to make, it looked fantastic and it made the house smell divine. I'm rather inclined to agree with Isa that with vegan baking, you are "creating edible art, making your house a home and solving world peace all at once". I may even try this in muffin tins next time. It's a dense loaf although perfectly moist but works well cut thickly, toasted and spread with leftover applesauce.

I found Isa's guide to vegan baking incredibly helpful and it helped me to realise where I was going wrong before (not enough egg substitute) and I can't wait to try more techniques. This obsession looks like it could run and run.....

Friday, 2 May 2008

Black Bean, Mango and Avocado Salsa

Another recipe inspired by the Cinco de Mango fiesta, this one was inspired by Ingrid Hoffman's recipe for the National Mango Board and also by the fact that I had black beans left over from making Chipotle Orange Black Beans the other night.

Black Bean, Mango and Avocado Salsa

1 cup of cooked black beans
half a mango
1 avocado
3-4 large tomatoes
juice of one lime
garlic clove
olive oil
fresh coriander

Peel and chop the mango and avocado into cubes before dicing the tomatoes. Mix in a big bowl with the black beans and with some chopped fresh coriander. We hate raw onions but you could also add some in or alternatively some spring onions which can be slightly less offensive. Mix the lime juice, a tablespoon of olive oil and a crushed garlic clove into a glass to form the dressing. Pour over the salad and mix well. This is a tasty, nutritious and quick snack but would also work well as a side dish for chicken and/or with tortillas.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Prawn and Pomelo Salad

We seem to be eating a lot of prawns at the moment, but I do absolutely adore their versatile goodness. Pomelos are often hard to come by (unless you are willing to pay the inflated prices of speciality Thai supermarkets) so when we saw them on offer in Portobello, we leapt at the chance to recreate one of our favourite salads. This is another Asian salad, popular in Thailand where it is known as yam som-o, whose alternately sweet and sharp flavours intermingle to create a light touch which is refreshing on the palate. The original recipe is here. Mark got white rice noodles with his to bulk it up a little.

Prawn and Pomelo Salad

1 packet of cooked prawns

1 head of chicory

1 handful spinach leaves

1 pomelo

juice of one lime

garlic flakes

1 red chili

fresh coriander and mint

Firstly, peel the pomelo. Removing the tough outer rind can be hard work as it is often a centimetre or two thick. Once done, you are then left with the fruit which still has a thinner pith on it like an orange. The easiest way in my mind to get to the actual juicy flesh is to take a sharp knife and literally cut the top and bottom off and then slice as thinly as possible the flesh from all around the sides of the pomelo. It should then be easy to separate each segment and peel the flesh away from the two sides of its casing. I then like to flake mine, rather than leaving it in segments.

Place the pomelo in a bowl with the chicory leaves and the spinach or rocket leaves. Mix the cooked prawns on top. Scatter freshly chopped mint and coriander leaves and garlic flakes (pre-fried garlic available from Asian supermarkets). De-seed the red chili and finely chop it. Mix it in and add the lime juice and a splash of oil such as cold pressed sesame oil.