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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Fragrant Butternut Squash, Lentil and Lemongrass Curry + Cumin Seed Chapati

butternut squash curryOne can buy very good bought curry pastes nowadays, but there is just something extra-bright and fresh about a homemade paste. And it isn’t hard to make: I just pop everything into the bowl of my little mini chop thingy* and press ‘on.’ It is that easy. Continue reading

Black Bean Quinoa Chili – Super Bowl Supper

black bean quinoa chillIt will not have escaped many people that this weekend is Super Bowl Sunday. I know it is about the culmination of many months of blood, sweat and tears – and that’s just the fans – but there is also a whole lot of eating going on. According to this article, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day of food consumption in the US. This annual fixture is beaten only by the holiday for which Lycra was created – Thanksgiving. Continue reading

Quick and Clean Fragrant Noodle Soup

asian noodle soupMy Rachel, the ‘pop picker’ for food to glow, is smack in the middle of exams. And what does a teen with a heavy diet of exams need? Yup, home cooking. They may want crisps and chocolate and those horrid, blue caffeine-loaded drinks, but we know – and they do too – that good food, in steady doses, is what brain and body need under stress. And a three-hour paper on teleological ethics (nah, me neither) sounds pretty stressful to me. Continue reading

Winter Vegetable Gratin with Truffle ‘Cream’

vegan winter vegetable gratinWeek in and week out during the winter months some of us find a curious addition to our delivered or CSA  vegetable box. Nestled in amongst the common-as-muck dirty potatoes and carrots, under a canopy of cabbage and kale, lurks a mystery vegetable. Knobbly or smooth, these baseball-sized ghostly green or imperiously purple orbs offer a dilemma to many: what are these things, and what the heck do I do with them. Most likely they are kohlrabi. And they are delicious.  Continue reading

Citrus and Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

roasted winter vegetable saladAlthough it is eye-searingly bright here in Edinburgh, the temperature has dropped and I have treated myself to a morning of central heating. I don’t usually keep the heat on for myself (even though the cats stand by the gas fire with pleading, unblinking eyes) but I have got so used to the ‘balmy’, ‘warm’ upper 40s/low 50sF of the past few weeks that I have tripped the switch and am currently basking in its invisible glow.

Elsewhere in the UK towns and villages are submerged under flood waters, and further afield there is the horrendous sounding polar vortex sucking heat from air and life from an economy. So, if there is any time of year when we really need good healthy, energy-giving food to cheer us up, it is dark, frigid apologetic January. Though we tend to think of January as a barren month for food, or one legitimately given up to slow cooking, much of its frosty offerings are of the healthy and fresh kind. Continue reading

Freekeh and Greens Soup

freekeh-and-cabbage-soupI hope you don’t mind this simple little soup popping into your inbox or feed. I realise that other food bloggers are posting elaborate year-end round ups of their best recipes, and laying out plans for improving blog and blogger. I wish I had got around to the former, to be honest. I will however be making some changes here on food to glow (and probably on myself too). But like most things with me – to paraphrase Loyd Grossman – they have to be deliberated, cogitated and finally digested before coming to fruition. Watch this space. But not too closely: you may be waiting awhile. Continue reading

Preserved Lemons – an easy, no-cook edible gift idea

preserved-lemons-imageDo you want/need extra brownie points this Christmas? Have you forgotten anyone on your list and are scratching your head for ideas? Even if you aren’t in the doghouse for something or other, and you have been as organised as I have not, these wonderfully-easy preserved lemons will be most welcome.

If you have never had preserved lemons before, you are in for a treat. If you have had them – bought ones – these are many times better. Of course, if you make your own I won’t convince you that these are any better. I’m positive your preserved lemons are the bomb. But if you think that preserved lemons have to be made in two stages – stage one: let the lemons release their juice over several days; stage two: top with salt and spices – this is a one stage, make and seal recipe. I make it frequently; it always works.

The only (teensy) drawback is that you need to tell your recipient to hold off taking out the golden glistening lemons and tearing away the succulent skin for about a month. Three weeks at a minimum to soften the skin and make it delectably edible. Let them know that good things come to those who wait. That applies to you too. Wait patiently and you will be rewarded with an absolutely blissful addition to many, many savoury dishes. They keep for a year, but I truly doubt this statement will be tested.preserved-lemons-image

If you and your loved ones love Middle Eastern, North African or Mediterranean food, preserved lemons are the ideal accompaniment. Although this makes one quart jar’s worth, this is of course easily increased. Or you can do as I do and make it up in two smaller, wide-mouthed jars. One to keep and one to share.

As a side thought, if you have everything but the coarse salt don’t bother struggling through traffic or battling it out in the grocery store, just use table salt. Ordinary table salt. It will taste just fine.

This is my last proper post this week, unless I have a sudden brainwave that I feel compelled to share. Have a wonderful Christmas all of you. Enjoy every day of the festive season, whatever your faith.

preserved-lemons-imagePreserved Lemons – Quick and Easy

 8-10 unwaxed and well-scrubbed juicy-feeling lemons (unwaxed is very important) – 4-5 juiced and 4-5 quartered but still attached at the tip

 8 heaped tbsps coarse/rock salt (or 5 heaped tbsp table salt)

4 or 5 fresh bay leaves or 2-3 dried ones

2 heaped tbsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed OR 1 tbsp black peppercorns

2 lightly crushed green cardamom pods (optional)

 Special equipment: 1 quart jar or two smaller wide-mouthed jars – sterilised. With vinegar-proof lids if possible, but I use a tear of parchment paper to act as an acid barrier. I place it over the open jar and just screw the lid on tightly.

 1. Stuff each quartered lemon with some of the salt and push it back to its original shape. Pop each into the sterilised jar(s), squishing the lemons to release juice. Add the remaining salt, the bay leaves, peppercorns and the cardamom.

 2. Top with the squeezed lemon juice, adding a little water if needed – just to cover the lemons. Seal and store for a month, turning a couple of times a week if remembered. These will keep up to a year without refrigeration, but I like to keep the in the refrigerator anyway. They are too perky and pretty to stash away out of sight!

 To use: with a small paring knife, separate the skin from the flesh and use the skin only – the flesh is really too salty, although I have used a smidge in salad dressings to no ill effect. Take the skin and chop it rather finely. Add sparingly as a seasoning into North African (especially any tagine), Middle Eastern and even many Mediterranean dishes. Perfect in salsas, dips, bean and grain dishes, as well as a snappy garnish/flavouring for soups, plain and exotic. I love a crafty sprinkle onto hummus as well as omelettes and vegetable-topped soccas.

 This recipe first appeared in my Quinoa Bowl With Citrus, Avocado and Edamame. I have also used it in the recent Lemony Kale, Quinoa and Chickpea Salad. Look out for another super simple recipe using preserved lemons in the very near future.preserved-lemons-imagepreserved-lemons-image

Southern Cornbread Dressing (Stuffing) – gluten-free and vegan

southern-cornbread-stuffingAny Southerner looking at the title would be puzzled. You see, ‘vegan’ and ‘southern’ are rarely seen in the same sentence. Not unless one is speaking of raw ingredients – say, a tomato salad. And even this may have a mayonnaisey dressing on it, or at least some chopped hardboiled eggs. Southerners like to provide added value to any dish. A sprinkle of parsley at the very least. But more likely a glistening pat of Land O Lakes butter. We just can’t help ourselves. Continue reading

Chocolate Frosting with a Whole Food Twist

chocolate-black-bean-frostingIt is not very often that I go a bit crazy with my own cooking. Like most cooks and food bloggers I will make stuff, serve it, write about it, but gosh don’t I get embarrassed when people like it. Do you do that too?

It is not that we aren’t grateful for adulation – not at all, please don’t stop – but we can be a bit awkward and weirdly shy. My schtick is that I hem and haw and say something like “oh, it doesn’t have enough salt in it,” or “it was in the oven about five minutes too long” (that was yesterday’s rebuttal to the lemon polenta cake I brought to a class). To some this may smack of false modesty, but I am sure that the majority of the time most of us praise-rebuffers are not fishing for compliments: we genuinely don’t think our offering is worthy of special mention. We’ve made it, we hope it is edible. End of.

But for today and today only, I will retract my inner self-critic and say that I really quite like this frosting AND I will smile politely and say “thank you very much” to anyone who likes it too. I’m quite chuffed with it because, to my knowledge, it is original and, crucially, tastes pretty much like chocolate frosting should taste – creamy, chocolatey, lickable. And the whole food twist? Black beans. Yup, black beans.chocolate-black-bean-frosting

Some of you will have made avocado frosting – and that’s really tasty stuff – but recently while cooking some black beans up for a savoury dish I just thought, why not? Why not indeed. They are awesome in black bean brownies (I’ll post my own version soon), so why wouldn’t they be good in something else in the chocolate-cocoa canon?

I knew it would need a wee help with the texture – a bit ‘floury’ on its own – so I added a little peanut butter (although cashew would be even better as it is milder). Melted good quality chocolate in place of the nut butter would be divine, but I wanted to see how ‘pure’ I could get it. I was totally shocked that I didn’t have to immediately stick it in the bin (we have no dog). None of it made it into the bin. My very truthful family helped out with the ‘cleaning up’. If they hadn’t given their thumbs up – or rather fingers in – I would’ve gone no further with this cranky idea.

If you dare to make this up do have more patience than have I: blend the heck out of the frosting. I blended as best as my tiny attention span would allow, but dark flecks are visible. The bold among you could pass them off as chocolate chips (?). Maybe pushing the beans through a sieve or food mill would be even better. You would also be more patient with the spreading and decorating.

It IS a bit nutty, and I wouldn’t recommend whacking it on anything too healthy (date-sweetened oat & chia cookies need not apply), but I think it would be a fun frosting on homemade chocolate cake, fairy cakes, anything with a nut or coffee flavour in need of frosting, even a dip for fresh fruit (it was nice with banana slices). I frosted up chocolate and beetroot muffins for a few nutrition groups and no one guessed the surprise healthy ingredient. The closest anyone got was avocado. Good guess. My next go with this will be to add malt syrup for a Horlick’s/Ovaltine vibe. That might be pushing it…

What weird stuff have you concocted lately?

chocolate-black-bean-frostingChocolate-Black Bean Frosting

Last year: Spinach and Walnut Dip (Spinach Pkhali)

Two years ago: Kale-Berry Smoothie

Unusual? Yes. A pretty good doppelganger for the real thing? I think so. If you have had black bean brownies (my recipe soon) you will know that somehow this ingredient works with chocolate and cocoa. I’ve just taken it in a slightly different direction: on top.

This black bean frosting was taste-tested on over 30 people: all thought it was chocolate frosting. With ingredients mainly of the store cupboard variety I hope you try it and give your verdict. Spread it on a decadent cake for a kind of calorie and fat balancing act, or do what we do and use it on my beetroot chocolate cake/muffins.

The following is just a guide – start with these amounts, blend, taste and adjust as you like. Makes enough to spread on one small cake or 9 muffins.

60g (slightly heaped 1/3 cup) cooked and rinsed black beans or adzuki beans

1 ½ tbsp cocoa or cacao powder

1 very heaped tbsp smooth nut butter (cashew would be mildest but I used peanut butter with good results)

2 tbsp (+) runny acacia honey or maple syrup

Pinch of fine salt

¼ tsp vanilla powder or paste (extract is to strong here – you taste the alcohol)

Enough warm water to get a smooth frosting (I used about 1 teaspoon)

METHOD: Pop everything into a blender and blend like mad. Keeps for four days, refrigerated in a covered container.

I’ve given the recipe sharing a break for a couple of weeks but this week I would like to include this unusual sweet over at Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays, and to Heather for her Sweet Wednesday Link Party. Please go and visit their great sites for ideas and more.

chocolate-black-bean-frostingchocolate-black-bean-frosting