Spicy Cauliflower-Cashew Bites with Wild Garlic Sauce and American ‘Buffalo’ Sauce (vegan/g-f)

creole cauliflower bitesThis past week or so has been a funny one, food-wise. Normally I am a bit of a texture-head, loving a bit of crunch, a bit of snap (if not quite crackle and pop). But unfortunately a spring cold rapidly escalated into sinusitis, and all that entails.

I feel a few of you recoiling – sorry.

Fond of the old self-remedy thing I have been fighting fever and aches with infusions of golden turmeric milk and doses of assorted green smoothies (this and this are on heavy rotation) and my beetroot zinger juice. Noodles have also featured highly. And soup. All in quite small amounts for me. Mr A knows it’s serious when I am off my grub!  Continue reading

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Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers – naturally vegan, naturally delicious

mediterranean stuffed peppers - veganThe stuffed vegetable needs no introduction, especially to anyone from around the Mediterranean or in the Middle East. The farcis, dolmades, yemista, mahashi/mehshi – all can be exquisite examples of a country’s cuisine. Heat-softened, spoonsful of tender herb-flecked grains pressed into the hollowed out spaces – humble, easily grown vegetables elevated to the centre of the plate.

Laid out on a long, well-scrubbed wooden table, underneath the only shade for miles around, who could wish for more than plates of stuffed vegetables, a chewy round of bread and a few friends with whom to share it all.

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Simple Guacamole + How To Choose An Avocado

guacamoleAs a thank you for reading yesterday’s ‘bumper post’ (i.e. tediously long) on Black Bean Quinoa Chili, today I give you the much shorter companion post of Simple Guacamole. This stripped-back version of the popular  dip is the perfect foil for a more complex dish like chili. And a must-have for parties and Super Bowl gatherings. But guacamole is superb with – and indeed in – so many other foods. Because guacamole really needs no introduction I will just let this easy and healthy recipe speak for itself.

Simple Guacamole

The only secret to a good guacamole is to use perfectly ripe avocados, a little salt and a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon. After that, it is down to personal taste. Below the recipe I give add-in suggestions, ideas for how to use guacamole, and hints on how to know when an avocado is ripe.

How do you like your guac?

2 perfectly ripe Hass avocados (see below)

½ lime (or lemon)

½ tsp good salt, like Maldon

Because you aren’t going to be making pretty slices with the avocado, the easiest way of removing the stone is to squeeze the avocado, then slice it in half lengthways – the stone loosens with the initial pressure. Remove the stone (tip of knife/spoon/fingers) and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl. Immediately squeeze in the lime or lemon juice and crumble in the salt.

Mash well with a fork or a pastry cutter (shown). Most people like their guacamole at least a little chunky so don’t be too enthusiastic with the mashing. Serve immediately, or cover with cling film/food wrap so that it is touching the surface – this helps prevent oxidation/browning.

We find guacamole – and avocados generally – are best at room temperature and used within one or two days. This isn’t a food for keeping. But then again, why would you?

Fripperies:

¼ tsp each of garlic and onion powder (store cupboard option – what I often do)***

½ red onion, finely minced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 medium tomato, deseeded, degorged and finely chopped

Jalapeno or serrano chili, deseeded and diced

A few tablespoons of good quality salsa (or homemade, of course)

½ tsp ground cumin

A dash or two of hot sauce or chipotle in adobo

A few tablespoons of fine curd cottage cheese or Quark – to extend the guacamole or make each serving slightly lower in fat (up the seasoning too)

Watermelon, fine dice

Roasted and chopped peppers

Pomegranate seeds (very nice option)

Chopped leaves and soft stem of coriander/cilantro leaves

What to do with your Simple Guacamole. Of course it is perfect with raw vegetables and tortilla chips. But here are a few more ideas:

as a mayonnaise substitute in sandwiches (beautiful with a chicken, bacon or turkey sandwich)

to top chili and in baked potatoes

in quesadillas; on tostados and huevos rancheros

on toast with chopped tomatoes (one of our fave quick breakfasts)

mix into eggs/soft tofu for scrambled eggs or scrambled tofu (yes, really)

add to grain and bean salads

stir into pasta with extra lime and some chilli and tomatoes

mix with hard egg yolk for devilled eggs, or with chopped egg for a no-mayo egg salad.

You get the picture.

Here is a short video to help you decide if your avocado is ripe.

In addition, it is good to look at the little stem knob – flick it off and if it is yellow-green underneath it is ripe, if it is brown – give it a miss as it is already gone over. If you can’t flick it off (i.e. you have to twist it) it will usually need another day or two. Keep ripe avocados in the refrigerator until you use them. To ripen avocados (or at least try to – some never will), pop into a paper bag with another fruit. Or for a slower ripening, just set the under-ripe avocado on top of a bowl of fruit. See this link to ripening avocados for further options and explanations – and a tip NOT to try.

***Low Residue Diet-friendly optionguacamoleavocado shells and pit

Broccoli, Cheese and Sweet Potato Gozleme – Turkish-style Pastries

gozlemeImagine flaky pastry, crispy and buttery. Now imagine it enveloping spiced minced lamb, juicy and dripping. Well, you’re not getting that today. But don’t be too disappointed because I’ve got something just as good, but a bit healthier. Naturally. Continue reading

A Trio of Blinis for New Year’s Eve

blinisIt is my ‘bad’ luck that I am posting two pancake recipes in a row. Bad is obviously in inverted commas because of course how can any reference to pancakes be bad? Dropping a whole pile of them on the floor – that would be bad. But devoting two posts to nearly the easiest thing you can do with flour? Surely not. But in case you were thinking this is a redux of the last post, save for some fancy stuff on top, you would be mistaken.
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So-Easy Beetroot Soup with Wasabi and Lime + Spicy, Fruity Pickled Beetroot

beetroot-soup-imageAfter the excesses of last week’s ingredient-fest that is gado-gado, we are down to earth. Quite literally. You can’t more down to earth than beetroot, can you?  Continue reading

Roasted Pumpkin Hummus with Cauliflower and Walnut Crumble {gf/df}

winter-squash-pumpkin-imageBotanically identical to tender-skinned summer squashes, winter squashes are my unsung hero of autumn-winter eating. Not only do they keep well – you can forget about them for over a month and they will still love you – they are just about the most useful and delicious of the cold weather crops. Butternut squash, acorn, Delicata, kabocha, Hubbard, sugar pie, red kuri, spaghetti, Hokkaido – and loads more – their tough unyielding armour holds rich, sweet, nutritious flesh. Continue reading

How To Make Labneh

how-to-make-labnehFor many of you labneh will need no introduction. Anyone keen on Middle Eastern food will have no doubt at least come across a mention of this delicious and creamy cheese in the food press, or even some cookery programmes. You may even have had a smear of it as part of a mezze in a Lebanese restaurant. But did you know that it is ridiculously easy to make? And make really well? how-to-make-labneh Continue reading

Crispy Middle Eastern Vegetable Fries – low-fat and delicious

baked vegetable friesWhen it comes to food, does your inspiration well ever run dry? I must admit that, even though I teach about healthy eating for a living, I am sometimes stumped when it comes to snacks. If I am feeling a bit peckish I am as likely as the next person to be tempted by anything random, easy or rubbish that happens to have made its way into the house.  Months’ old marshmallows from a summer barbeque (s’mores of course), old tortilla chips that need reviving in the oven, cheese of dubious age lurking in the inner recesses of the fridge: anything is eligible. Of course I always try and have more suitable grazing fodder around. I really do. But sometimes you want something that seems, well, a bit delinquent. Do you ever feel that way? Does your inner-child ever want to come out and wreak havoc in the kitchen?

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My Quest for Perfect Hummus

hummusI can’t really remember the first time I had hummus. Being raised in a Deep South  commuter town, whose main highway was hemmed in with strip malls, Burger Kings and Dairy Queens, I seriously doubt it was there. We did have  - and it is still there today – a lone Greek restaurant, but I only ever remember the ubiquitous but very pleasant Greek salad, with its starchy ‘garnish’  of yogurty potato salad as a sop to American tastes. But hummus? I don’t think so. This was the era of aerobics and low fat after all. If I had been more adventurous, and less figure-conscious, I would no doubt have found the hummus and been hooked from the get go. Restaurant hummus is always far superior to that we can make at home. Or, so I thought. Continue reading