Here at Food To Glow we are omnivores, but because of my work as a cancer health educator I know from professional and personal experience the health value of eating a largely plant-centred diet. That is, a diet built around what we can pull from the ground and pluck from a tree.
I am using the word we loosely.
And I try and practise what I preach. Most of my recipes are vegetarian and vegan because that is how my family and I eat eat ninety-five per cent of the time. We eat this way not only because is it healthy, good for the environment, colourful, and cheaper, it is pretty delicious too. Most of the time! There have been a few dodgy experiments that haven’t made it here. My Instagram feed is a public record of where my failed would-be recipes are born and die…
All week here on Food To Glow we will be celebrating and revelling in National Vegetarian Week. If you pop in any day this week you should see a new recipe, mostly easy-peasy, and all made for sharing. I hope to link up to others that are posting colourful, healthy and lip-smacking recipes too. So, come on over every day if you can for not only my recipes, but links to others’ recipes too.
Just to do a little PSA, if you are a regular here then I don’t need to tell you the benefits of eating more vegetables, fruits, herbs, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The only thing I would just emphasise is that there are a slew of statistics to endorse reaching for a vegetable kebab over wolfing down a well-done burger (sorry fans of In-N-Out Burger) – lower risk of early death, lower weight, lower risk of numerous cancers, stroke, heart disease, osteoarthritis, gout – I could go on, but you get the picture.
Instead of dwelling on the health aspects, or touching on the ethical issues, I will keep it light and luscious by posting a new vegetarian or vegan recipe all week.
Today I bring you crispy fat pastry borek ‘cigars’ (and a crispy fat tray bake) filled with a tangle of wild (or mild) greens, chickpeas, creamy ricotta-feta and some heady Middle Eastern spices. This borek leans towards Turkey with its use of wild greens and creamy-sharp cheese, but many countries that used to be players in the Ottoman empire have their own versions – usually meaty. But the shape and phyllo are the main things about a borek. Often fried, it is easy to achieve the bliss-inducing crunch and taste of the typical fried pastry by slicking with olive oil and whacking in a hot oven. Wrap yours in a square of parchment paper, close your eyes and you might just find yourself strolling through a thronging market, being jostled and enticed in equal measure.
We can all dream, can’t we?
Back tomorrow with a sassily-dressed rainbow salad, to eat on its own or with other tasty salads.
Wild Greens, Chickpea and Ricotta-Feta Borek
This recipe is inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi (do I even need a link here?!), but more especially Silvena Rowe, a much-underrated London-based Bulgarian-Turkish chef who specialises in Eastern Mediterranean food. She’s an entertaining and forthright regular on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen – love her. You can make this borek wild or mild, depending on your access to fresh nettles. The dried berries are not necessary but I love the spike of sweet-sour they bring to this overtly savoury pastry.
500g of young chard, kale and young nettles OR spinach and watercress or rocket*
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp za’atar spice blend, plus extra for top (I have a recipe – buried in the main recipe; or buy it at good food shops)
Juice and zest of 1 small unwaxed lemon
1 tin of chickpeas, drained (save the liquid to make this for dessert!) OR equivalent in podded broad beans/fava beans
Palmful of dried barberries or sour cherries (optional)
1 small egg, beaten OR vegan equivalent such as Ener-G
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package of phyllo pastry**
up to 100g butter or olive oil
1 tbsp each sesame and Nigella or poppy seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
6-8 medium, ripe tomatoes OR 1 tin/jar best tomatoes – chopped
2 tsp sumac (or lemon juice)
Pinch of sugar, salt and pepper
You will need: either a 2-inch deep rectangular pan OR 1-2 baking sheets
* any wild or bitter edible greens are good in this – mustard, dandelion, mizuna, etc*
**You can do this one of two ways: cylindrical and individual, or tray bake-style. For the tray bake, use eight phyllo sheets, stacking buttered pieces on top of each other for the base and top. For a cigar-shaped version, use as many as you need, with one sheet per serving. See the image for how to roll them up. You will generally use less filling for the individual serving sizes.**
1. Heat the oil in your largest sauté pan or wok and wilt down the greens. Pop the greens into a colander and press with a large spoon to remove much of the moisture. Transfer the greens to a clean tea towel and gently squeeze. Roughly chop the greens then add to a large bowl (I added them back into the pan) and mix with the remaining ingredients, bar the pastry, butter and seeds. I try to remember to taste for seasoning before adding the egg. For my classes I don’t add salt, but for ourselves, I do.
2. Now, depending on what form you wish to go with this, either butter a 2-inch deep rectangular baking tin and lay 4 buttered phyllo sheets on; OR take one sheet of phyllo and lay it flat on your work surface. Cover the rest of the sheets with a slightly damp tea towel. For the tray, smooth in the filling and top with the remaining four buttered sheets, pinching and trimming the edges. Use a sharp knife to score a diamond pattern or squares (squares are easier for even portioning but diamonds are prettier!). For the cigar ones, see the images. Use the remaining butter to slick over the tops – and edges, if making individual boreks. Sprinkle over the seeds and extra za’atar.
3. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until very golden and the pastry is crunchy. Serve warm with the sumac tomato sauce. These are also great cold the next day for use in a lunch box, or perhaps to take with you for a healthy picnic nibble.
4. To make the sauce, heat the oil over low-medium in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Saute the garlic until just starting to colour then add the tomatoes, sumac and seasoning. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool slightly then blend until smooth-chunky with a hand blender. Serve warm.
Note: this is easily made vegan by swapping the butter for a vegan version, eliminating the egg and cheese and increasing the chickpeas and vegetables. This will change the nature of the pastry but it will still taste great. You could add lightly whipped chickpea liquid to aid the eating texture of the pastry.
You KNOW I have loads of healthy veggie recipes here on Food To Glow, but why not visit these great UK vegetarian sites this week for even more ideas.
Tinned Tomatoes – UK’s #1 blog for simple, family-friendly vegetarian recipes (and Jac has an awesome giveaway going on right now)
Simplify Your Health – vegan wonders from April, including loads of smoothies and desserts
Amuse Your Bouche – Becca is a witty writer with gorgeous recipes
Demuth’s – Bath-based vegetarian cookery school with a lovely blog from owner, Rachel.
Naturally Bee – Lorna is a young blogger with great ideas and a, um, love of bees!
Veggie Desserts – Kate has some absolutely gorgeous food. Not all of it desserts 😉
This week I will be mainly linking up to the following very appropriate recipe round-ups: