Pre-Exam Patatas Bravas

Ingredients:

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

a handful of freshly torn basil

a handful of thyme sprigs, just the leaves

a tbsp of worcestershire sauce

a tbsp of honey or maple/agave syrup

1 red onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

rapeseed oil/ sunflower oil

salt and pepper

2 tsps of smoked paprika

1 tsp of ground fennel seeds

300g of new potatoes

Method:

  1. Wash your potatoes and put on a full kettle to boil. Then quarter the new potatoes (you can use regular potatoes, just cut them into roughly 2-3cm cubes, no bigger).
  2. Using the water from the kettle to fill a pan with a lid and bring back to the boil on the hob before adding the potatoes. Boil for around 8 minutes, you want them to be fork-tender but not falling apart but cooking times will depend on the size of your potatoes.
  3. When the potatoes are done, drain and place to one side while you prep the sauce.
  4. For the sauce add a dash of oil to a saucepan and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tin of tomatoes and a tin of water to the pan.
  5. Bring to the boil for around 5 minutes and then reduce the heat and add the other ingredients. Leave the sauce to simmer for around 20-25 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile heat around 4 tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a large frying pan (you can also do the potatoes in two batches in a smaller pan just heat enough oil to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan entirely.
  7. When the oil is hot add to potatoes and fry, turning regularly so that all sides are crispy and golden brown.
  8. Finally add the cooked potatoes to the sauce and serve!

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Garlic and Thyme Smashed New Potatoes

Who says vegans can’t do comfort food? These potatoes are the ultimate healthy comfort food for summer. Despite the sun going in this week and the piles of revision notes slowly growing I seem to be able to find time to cook *procrastinate* every day. For me cooking is a wind down at the end of the day, it helps me relax and destress because I can move around the kitchen chucking ingredients in a blender/pan/bowl without thinking. When you’re making simple dishes, comfort food like these potatoes, cooking can be meditative in a way that creating a soufflé can’t. That’s why I choose simple meals during revision over anything fancy, this recipe is failsafe, it can’t go wrong, it’s designed to look messy and thrown together and yet it tastes incredible.

Ingredients:

450g of new potatoes

a handful of fresh thyme sprigs, leaves taken off

a tsp of seasalt

4 tbsp of olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add in the potatoes. Cook them until tender (able to push a fork through them but not falling apart). Depending on the size of the potatoes this should take around 12-15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile crush your garlic cloves and mix with your oil, salt and thyme leaves and set aside.
  3. When the potatoes are done, drain them and transfer to a baking tray or ceramic baking dish. Push lightly on each potato with the back of a fork to gently crush (not mash) them. Finally spoon over the oil and garlic mix making sure to evenly distribute the crushed garlic and thyme.
  4. Baking in the oven for 20-25 minutes until crispy and lightly browned. Remove and serve.

Fennel and Poppyseed Crackers

Exam season is upon us and as the library suddenly changes from a barren wasteland to a scene that resembles New York stock exchange, we are forced to make the trek into uni at an ungodly hour. It is import at this time to maintain your library position, unless you want to risk becoming that hated individual who leaves an empty computer littered with worthless possessions in an attempt to mark their territory. Therefore, I tend to pack a multitude of snacks that force me to stay in position and not waste money on campus meals.

For revision I prefer snacks over lunches. When you’re stuck in one spot for the long haul its easy to get bored and snacks help break up the time between mind maps and note taking. These crackers are easy to whip up at the weekend and chuck in a tupperware for the rest of the week ahead. With a tub of hummus and a mountain of fresh and dried fruit this gets me through revision almost daily so I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients:

100g of plain flour

1 tsp of fennel seeds

1 tsp of sea salt

3 tbsp of poppy seeds

2 tsp of dried mixed herbs

1 tbsp of ground flaxseed

50g of your choice of nut (I used walnuts but you can use almonds, hazelnuts or pecans i instead although bear in mind this will change the taste of the crackers).

3 tbsp of sunflower seeds

3 tbsp of pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp of olive oil

cold water

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line several baking sheets with grease proof paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients, apart from the olive oil and water into a food processor and blitz a couple of times until the nuts and spices have been ground into a floury powder.
  3. Transfer these dry ingredients into a bowl and add the oil. Begin to mix with your hands, adding a little cold water slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon until it forms a dough. Adjust as you see fit, if it’s too sticky add a little more flour or vice versa with water.
  4. Press the dough into a ball and transfer to a floured surface, knead for around two minutes until smooth.
  5. Flour a rolling pin and begin rolling the dough out, (I divide the dough in half to do this as you need to get it really thin).
  6. Roll the dough until its about 1/4 of a centimetre thick. Then cut the dough into squares, rectangles, use circular cookie cutters, or freestyle, its up to you. The dough won’t rise so any design will hold it’s shape but beware of any intricate designs because the dough is delicate and thin.
  7. Transfer your crackers to the baking trays and bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes. Keep an eye on them and check their colour regularly, because the dough is so thin it can go from perfectly done to charred in under a minute!
  8. Cool on the side for 10 minutes before serving with hummus, nut butter, guacamole or on their own.

Moroccan Spiced Lentil Cakes

Ingredients:

100g of red lentils

100g of plain flour (or gram flour for a gluten free alternative)

100g of rinsed and drained chickpeas

2 tsp of ground cumin

the juice and rind of half a lemon

2 handfuls of fresh coriander

a clove of garlic, crushed

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp of harissa

100g of walnuts or cashews

salt and pepper

2 tsp of za’atar

olive oil to coat and extra flour to roll the dough

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Then rinse the lentils twice and place in a saucepan. Cover with enough cold water to just submerge them and cook on a medium heat uncovered for 15 minutes. You may need to add a little water every so often to keep them just submerged and to stop them sticking. You want your lentils to be softened but not pureed otherwise your cakes will disintegrate into mush!
  2. When the lentils are cooks, drain away any excess water and place them into a blender or food processor with all the other ingredients.
  3. Pulse the mix until smooth. You want a tacky dough consistency so you may need to add a little more flour if your lentils were too mushy.
  4. When the dough it thick enough to hold it’s shape roll out 10 golfball sized patties from the mix on a floured surface. place on an greaseproof paper lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with your palm. Brush the tops with oil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 15 minutes before serving.

Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

“It doesn’t always help us to love the world, but it does prevent us from hating the world.”

 Even since I was tiny, I’ve been a fast reader and so for me with books, the bigger the better. With a two hundred pager I’m absorbed into its world of thick, black type and spat back out again in a matter of hours. So when I came across Shantaram in the corner of an English book shop in Prague, in all it’s nine-hundred and forty four page glory, you could say it was easy to pick my next read.

Its length is daunting. If you were looking for light entertainment and a cheap, quick laugh I would suggest looking elsewhere. Shantaram weighed down my bag considerably for the week of bus journeys and train-rides that it accompanied me.

It’s a somewhat memoir, an autobiography of sorts. The characters are mismatched, patchwork people, assembled from the memories of the author. But elaborated truth or not it is a beautiful world that Roberts creates. It’s simple language arranged in a way that draws you into his India so fully and completely that I found myself making mug after mug of chai on our stove so I truly could immerse myself in the four-dimensional experience.

Roberts has a clawed hold over your emotions but he isn’t clumsy with them. The tragic deaths of characters are not drawn out, lengthy, but short, sweet and all the more painful for it. He makes you feel everything all at once, its beautifully emotionally relatable despite the absurdity of the protagonist. I certainly never thought the word “relatable” would fall from my lips when talking about an ex-convict and heroin addict. But I think what I mean is that the narrative is quite simply a human account from the viewpoint of the extraordinary.

“I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison.”

I hate to give away plots in a review so I’ll sum up the scenery that Roberts sets. Its narrated by Lin, an ex-convict fleeing the Australian authorities who seeks out India as a bustling melting pot of beggars, thieves, mafia, actors and lovers in which to suitably disappear. Led by an unlikely friend, Prabaker, Lin becomes enveloped in Bombay, an otherworldly unlikely utopia, where philosophical insight and just morality are served up from the unlikeliest of sources. Where you question the criminality of thieves and the happiness of rich men.

It contains some nuggets of pure gold life advice every couple of pages. They are understated and so all the more sweet. Usually dished out by those on the fringes of the slums or at the top of the criminal ladder, each one an unlikely source for philosophical insight.

“Anything that can be put in a nutshell should remain there”

If it fails to do anything else Shantaram fills you with an immense love for India, not romanticized but a gritty reality of simple love that flourishes in the most desolate poverty. It is powerful, insightful and thought provoking, however cliché. Roberts’ depictions of Bombay, a city of extremes, leave the air around you smelling of cardamom and dust long after you’ve closed its pages.

“The past reflects eternally between two mirrors -the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn’t do or say.”

 

Couscous and Coriander Falafels

The problem with baking falafels instead of deep frying them (the much more unhealthy but deeply satisfying method) is that I can never get them as crispy as they become when you fry them! So obviously instead of accepting this fact I decided to try and experiment with my mix until I managed to achieve the perfect baked falafel. Couscous seems to be the decisive element in determining the crispiness and I almost prefer the texture it gives to the falafel, which admittedly is something like that Paxo stuffing mix your family uses at Christmas but don’t let that put you off! Now this recipe steers perhaps a little too far from the traditional falafel for any die-hard falafel enthusiasts because chickpeas form only a tiny portion of the ingredients but I promise you although they’re not conventional they are pretty good.

Ingredients:

100g of cooked chickpeas (about half a can)

1 spring onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1/2 a courgette, grated

100g of couscous, cooked according to instructions

2 tsps of cumin

a handful of fresh coriander

the juice and rind of half a lemon

1/4 cup of sunflower seeds

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 tbsp of za’atar

1 tbsp of tahini

salt and pepper

1/3 cup of plain flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius then very simple, simply place all the ingredients, minus the flour, into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Add the flour to the mix until its tacky but not wet. Add a little more flour if its still too wet, you don’t want it to fall apart when you roll it.
  3. Finally line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and roll ping-pong ball sized balls of mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes until they are browned slightly on the bottoms.
  4. Remove from the oven and serve.

Temple Dal and Almond Kofta

Dal Ingredients:

250g of red lentils

100g of mung dal

2 tsps of turmeric

2 tsps of garam masala

1 tsp of ground cumin

the juice and rind of two lemons

2 tbsps of coconut cream

1 tbsp of tomato puree

Dal Masala:

1 small white onion, finely diced

a thumb sized piece of ginger grated

 

1 red chilli

a thumb sized piece of ginger grated

Dal Temper:

5 small curry leaves

2 tsps of cumin seeds

a tbsp of vegetable oil

1 tsp of black mustard seeds

Method:

  1. Rinse and drain the lentils through twice and then add the lentils and two litres of cold water into a deep pan and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. After soaking place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. As the lentils begin boiling you should notice that a white or yellow froth starts to form on the top of the water. Using a spoon gently scrape this off and discard (you may need to do this several times).
  3. When the lentils are boiling place the lid on the pan and lower the heat and allow to simmer for forty minutes adding a little water if the lentils become too thick.
  4. In a separate frying pan gently fry off the onion and ginger and then add along with the garam masala, ground cumin, chilli, coconut cream, tomato puree, turmeric and lemon juice and rind to the dal.
  5. Allow to simmer for another ten minutes. Meanwhile heat up the oil in a small pan and add the temper ingredients and fry on a high heat for a minute.
  6. When the temper is spitting pour the contents of the frying pan into the dal and remove from the heat, stir and it is ready to serve.

I served the dal with wild rice, rotis and these vegan chandra malai koftas from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe on The Guardian website. You can check out the recipe HERE.

Blueberry, Tahini and Toasted Coconut Porridge

Ingredients:

1 part rolled oats to 3 parts liquid (I use 1/2 a cup of oats-1/2 a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice-1 cup water for one serving)

a tablespoon of desiccated coconut

a tablespoon of ground flaxseed

a tablespoon of pecans, roughly chopped

a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries

a teaspoon of tahini

a teaspoon of nut butter

a tablespoon of maple syrup

Method:

  1. Heat a small frying pan on a medium heat and toast the coconut until it starts to brown. Then place in a small bowl and set aside to top the porridge later.
  2. Place the same pan back on the heat and add the pecans and roast slightly until starting to soften a little. Then remove from the heat.
  3. Add the oats, liquid, flax and blueberries into a small saucepan with a lid and place on a gentle heat, stirring constantly. (If you decide not to use orange juice, add something to sweeten the oats mixture with such as honey, sugar or maple/agave syrup).
  4. Continue stirring on the lowest heat for 5-8 minutes, or until it forms a thick paste consistency simply adding more water if it looks like it’s sticking. I think it’s best to play porridge by eye because depending on the liquid or the type of oats it can take longer to cook, not to mention porridge consistency is a very personal preference!
  5. When the porridge is done, simple plate up and drizzle with toppings, I like to add a little bit of grated orange zest as well at this point and a little splash of plant/nut milk as well. Enjoy.

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Beetroot Falafel Bowl

There is a constant debate over our family dinner table whenever we are reunited, in which we argue wherever possible that anything shop-bought you could probably make for cheaper yourself. It often escalates quickly, like the time we decided that making yogurt in our kitchen would definitely be a financially pragmatic and beneficial move, (I can confirm that following that heated debate the tubs of Onken were resolutely added back into the shopping trolley because quite honestly no-one has time to make yogurt vocationally alongside a job, school, studies, general life). However I do, where possible, attempt to make things from scratch whether it’s bread, peanut butter or muesli, and it does save money where it takes up time. Time-wise, when it comes to procrastination from essay writing I can confirm there is nothing better than deciding that Sainsbury’s 60p pitta breads are horrendously overpriced and you could definitely make some that were decidingly better tasting for far cheaper. To the point I’m making, if it’s possible to decipher is that I’ll never try and knock the principle of homemade over branded products, they do taste better and the process of cooking from scratch is therapeutic, relaxing and ultimately ego-boosting. However I have learnt my lesson from the yogurt experience and now cooking for me is no longer a stand against all things shop bought, but rather a way to wind down after uni, and if three hours making pitta breads is my way of de-stressing then so be it, it is three hours well spent.

Falafel Ingredients:

1 raw beetroot

3 spring onions

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1 tsp of ground cumin

a handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

1 tbsp of tahini

2 tsp za’atar

1 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tablespoons of flour.

salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, roughly chop the spring onions, then peel the beetroot and grate it.
  2. Place all the ingredients minus the flour into a food processor or blender and pulse until a smooth consistency, or slightly less for a falafel with a bit more texture. You can do this by hand if you mash the chickpeas with the olive oil and finely chop the rest of the ingredients but be warned this takes a little more manpower and time.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the flour, just enough to make the mixture hold it’s shape when rolled in the palm of your hand. (I like to put my mixture into the fridge to firm up for an hour or so if I have the time but this isn’t essential).
  4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and roll the mixture into golfball sized balls and then press them down slightly into thick discs. Then bake in the oven for 15 minutes before flipping and baking on the other side for another 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with tabouleh, pitta, hummus, or like mine are here, with quinoa, a puy lentil tagine and a drizzle of tahini.

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