You might be wondering why I haven’t updated my blog in a while – or not, in which case, prepare yourself for a bit of an odd post. It’s been a tumultuous couple of months to say the least and I’d be lying if I said things are getting back to normal. They aren’t. As some of you might already be aware my Father has been suffering from terminal brain cancer for the last two years and just under a month ago he sadly lost his battle with that most cruel of diseases, and our lives have been irrevocably changed forever. A month. I can hardly believe it – it feels like I was hanging out with him in our conservatory in Derry but yesterday, watching ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ and generally making fun of the terrible job the so-called featured ‘property developers’ had made of the renovations. Compelling morning viewing, that we both thoroughly enjoyed. My Dad was always great company. Likeable and kind with the biggest of hearts – being around him made you feel good about yourself. So much so, I’m reminded of that well known Maya Angelou quote … ‘People will forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel’- or in my Dad’s case ‘People will never forget what he did or how he made them feel’, such was his unshakable positivity and generosity of spirit. Always armed with a brilliant sense of humour (the king of the one-liner!), he could make you see sense when you thought the world was falling down around you (I err on the side of dramatic at times) – and not forgetting the belief he instilled in me that I could conquer whatever I put my mind to. Even before his illness, his ability to put things into perspective was second to none.
So, here I am, without the very person I need to ‘put things into perspective’ and feeling like the world is a much worse place to be in – not quite sure what kind of positive spin he would put on this scenario but no doubt he’d have some comforting words on offer. Of course, I’m fully aware this is just another stage in this process they call ‘grief’ but in all honesty that doesn’t make things any easier. My ability to snap back into my life, work routine etc. has officially ground to a halt – and, as over-the-top as it may seem, I’ve even cancelled a trip to Sweden for a friend’s wedding because I’m simply not up to it. This post then is me dipping my toe back into normality and a weak attempt to metaphorically give myself a shake … the last thing my Dad would want is for me to mope about even though that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since I got back to Cornwall. Grief is anything but logical. You can try and sweep it under the carpet but sooner or later it will find you, so I’m not going to deny it’s existence this time and allow myself the space I need to deal with this situation.
Okay, so it might seem strange to somehow shoe-horn in a recipe here but I don’t know how else to plough on. Despite my current fragile state, I’ve been finding some solace in the kitchen. Distraction is the name of the game. Although I’m kinda staying in my comfort zone too … no wild experiments at the moment, I’m seeking familiarity instead, which is why I combined two of my foodie loves; pancakes and Mexican food. I should probably come clean at this point and let you know that I have a love/hate relationship with buckwheat – I only like it in certain, very particular, cirumstances. If you’re in possession of my second book The New Vegan you’ll know I have one or two recipes in there that do utilize it … I recommend my ‘Buckwheat Muffins’ for a good intro to this funny naturally gluten-free ingredient. Try as I might though, I cannot get on board with buckwheat pancakes unless they are near enough wafer thin … not so much a crepe but almost akin to a traditional ‘Shrove Tuesday’ style pancake. I have many, many fond memories flipping these lace-like beauties with my Dad (he made a mean pancake), which we always paired with sugar and lemon – simple is almost always best. These pancakes are a savoury, nutty twist on a classic then that goes perfectly with the robust smoky chipotle stew. Similar to a fajita filling, this a dish definitely inspired by my Dad’s penchant for all things spicy – in fact, I’ve cranked up the jalapeno chilli factor in his honour. I hope you like it too.
what you’ll need
for the pancakes
70g buckwheat oats
several sprigs of thyme
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
juice 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper
for the stew
1/2 yellow onion
1 celery stick
1 sweet red pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp red jalapenos
1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
100ml coconut milk
1/2 cup black-eyed beans
salt & pepper
what you’ll do
place the buckwheat oats, thyme leaves, bicarb and seasoning into a blender. blitz until it forms a fine flour. transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the lemon and 150ml water. whisk until the batter is a similar consistency to single (soya, ahem) cream. set aside until you need it.
meanwhile, slice the onion, celery and red pepper. heat a little olive oil in a shallow skillet and add the veg. season and fry until it begins to soften.
mince the garlic and jalapenos together and add to pan. stir to combine and gently fry until the aromas begin to exude.
add the chipotle paste and coconut milk, season and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 mins. add the beans and simmer for a further 5 mins until the sauce thickens. cover and set aside until you whip up the pancakes.
brush a crepe pan with a little olive oil. over a medium heat ladle in a third of the mixture and spread immediately to the edges using a spatula. cook until the edges come away easily before flipping over for a further 30 secs. transfer to a dish and cover with a clean tea towel. repeat until all the batter is used.
there are a few ways you could serve this … either fold, crepe suzette-style and top with the stew or place the pancake in a large dish, fill and roll, or fold. For the tahini sauce simply whisk a heaped teaspoon of tahini together with the juice of 1/2 lemon, a dash of maple syrup and cider vinegar, salt & pepper to taste and a tablespoon or so of water to thin it out. Serve with sliced avocado, a generous drizzle of the tahini sauce and a final smattering of chopped parsley.
I’m currently visiting the folks in Ireland and because everything leading up to this trip was borderline chaos I’m only just finding the time to blog. I know! Excuses, excuses. Anyway, I hope this ‘Aubergine Dip’ (mutabal, baba ganoush, whatever you wish to call it) will in some way make up for my absence – it’s from my book (yep, that one on the sidebar, nudge nudge, wink wink) and is a recipe I rely on more than I care to admit … it makes for a particularly good alternative to hummus. I’ve served it to reluctant guests at dinner parties (I would advise not mentioning it’s made from aubergines prior to sampling) but is an equally good solitary indulgence option – a bowl of this and some toasted pitta makes me a very happy girl.
There is a little intro in the book where I explain my aversion to ‘smoking’ them the long-winded way – namely hovering over a flame … side note; I currently don’t possess a gas hob so this would be an impossibility anyway. Instead, I prefer to pop them in the oven until they are soft and unctuous before scooping out the flesh and mashing thoroughly by hand. Please don’t be tempted to use a food processor, as you will lose all that wondrous texture, which is a crucial part of the consuming pleasure, in my opinion.
Yes, it’s a just a dip but that doesn’t mean I won’t wax lyrical about it. Whether its part of a mezze or simply on its own, this is a humble bowl of greatness that I just can’t get bored of. Hope you enjoy it too!
what you’ll need
oil, for greasing
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon sea salt
30ml extra virgin olive oil, plus
extra for drizzling
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly
chopped, plus extra to garnish
salt and freshly ground
toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
what you’ll do
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4. Oil a baking sheet.
Slice the aubergines lengthways and place them on the baking sheet. Bake
for 30–40 minutes until the flesh is soft, turning them over halfway through.
Cover and cool completely before scooping out the flesh. Chop thoroughly
with a knife and then mash with a fork, ensuring there are no lumps.
Pound the garlic and sea salt together using a pestle and mortar.
Place the aubergine flesh in a bowl along with the crushed garlic, extra
virgin olive oil, lemon juice and smoked paprika. Mix thoroughly before
stirring in the tahini and parsley.
Season to taste and serve topped with a generous drizzle of extra virgin oil,
a little more parsley and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. This is lovely
served with crispbreads, pitta, crudités or as a spread in sandwiches.
Taken from ‘Keep it Vegan’ published by Kyle Books. Photo Credit: Ali Allen
I know what you’re thinking. Not another hummus recipe. And I get it. Really, I do. But (but, but but!!) as hummus recipes go this has got to be my favourite… which is exactly why I felt compelled to include it in the book. Of course, this is a slightly amended version but the basic principle of boil and peel remain. Omit this step and you’ll never get your hummus completely smooth.
I toed and froed when it came to including recipes such as this one in the book, however, I can assure you there was some logic to my ‘who needs another hummus/risotto/crumble recipe’ madness. Sure, it’s a basic recipe that virtually no vegan hasn’t at some point tackled. Me included. However, I thought to myself, this is the book I would liked to have had when I first went vegan and because of that I wanted to lock in place all those easy go-to recipes that you can whip up at a moments notice and still wow. And trust me, hummus still has the power to wow.
And because it was my first book, I kinda wanted to get all those tried and tested recipes out of my system so I would then have the opportunity and freedom to expand upon those ideas in other volumes. Otherwise, I’d be constantly digging into my past kitchen repertoire instead of forging forward with new ideas. Obviously it was impossible to use all my ‘oldies but goodies’ in ‘Keep it Vegan’ but I gave it damn good try… whilst still managing to squirrel away a few classics for another time, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
My attention has now turned to my next book and, as ever, I’m putting myself under extreme pressure to come up with a boatload of exciting, fresh and innovative recipes that will hopefully ‘wow’ – there’s that word again! Whilst simplicity is still at the forefront of my mind, I’m conscious of creating an index of slightly unusual dishes that anybody can cook and enjoy. Not an easy task but one I’m seriously looking forward to. In the meantime, there’s always hummus.
what you’ll need
400g cooked chickpeas
1 large garlic clove
2 heaped tsp harissa paste
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 heaped tbsp tahini (optional)
what you’ll do
drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with 500ml of water. bring to a boil and then simmer for 30minutes. drain (reserving some cooking liquid for later), rinse and once to cool to the touch, peel the skin off the chickpeas.
grind the garlic and 1 tsp salt in a mortar and pestle until you achieve a puree consistency.
place the chickpeas in a small food processor along with a little salt, juice of 1 lemon, harissa paste, garlic, tahini (if using) and 1 tbsp of the reserved cooking. blend until smooth, adding a little more cooking liquid if necessary.
taste for seasoning – it may need a little more lemon juice and/or salt. blend again. serve with a some lemon zest, chilli flakes and a dusting of smoked paprika.