There must have been a time before Isa but I can’t picture it. Her cookbooks are the mainstay of the vegan cook. My two favourites are Veganomicon and Vegan with a vengeance. All her books are written with humour and a sense of fun.
She makes vegan cooking exciting and accessible and her recipes are for dishes that anyone would recognise as ‘normal’ food – non-threatening, non-scary, something even a meat eater could get excited about. They are dishes for everyone, not the health conscience, quinoa munching, heath food shopping few. This is the kind of writing and cooking we will need if veganism is ever going to become more widespread.
I especially value her recipes for things like blueberry pancakes. Food that I thought I had given up for ever when going vegan but suddenly so easy to make and so delicious. The website, blog and forum on her Post Punk Kitchen are a constant source of inspiration and help and I think she must have done more than any other to bring veganism to the masses. And for this reason she is a Vegan Hero.
We went out for dinner last night to a lovely vegetarian restaurant in Brighton called Food for Friends. We both had their salad for a starter and I decided to try to replicate it as best I could for my lunches at the start of the week and for dinner tonight. It is. a great mix of grains, nuts and seeds and could be host to a whole lot more; I had meant to add some sea vegetables.
The most time consuming part is preparing the different grains which need to be cooked separately and for different amounts of times. I cooked up a big batch of each so that I could not only use them in this salad but have some to stir into a chilli tomorrow.
1 cup cooked barley
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked green lentils
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 large sweet potato
1 large beetroot
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped capers
Slice the beetroot and sweet potato as thinly as possible, rub in oil and roast until crisp. Sprinkle with cumin seeds.
Once cooked mix all the other ingredients together and serve with a green salad, topped with the root vegetable crisps, a slice of sourdough bread and a spoonful of hummus.
Last year I read an article on making Sourdough bread and in a fit of excitement poured flour and water into a jar and waited… and then got a bit confused about what to do next… and put it into the fridge until it started to smell and then threw it away. This time I was going to get it right.
A week before I was going to make my bread I put 1 cup of rye flour in a jar with 1 cup of water. The next day I poured some out and added 1/4 cup of flour and water and repeated for the next 5 days. By this time my starter was smelling yeasty and slightly boozy. This was a sign that the starter had worked and that I had captured my wild yeast.
The day before making the bread I created a sponge by adding 150ml of the starter in a bowl with 250g of strong white bread flour and 275ml of warm water before giving it a good stir, covered the bowl and leaving it over night.
By the next morning in was bubbly and smelling lovely. I added 300g of flour, 10g of salt and a good glug of oil and mixed it all together well. Then I left it for 10 minutes before turning onto the work surface to kneed for 10 minutes or so.
When it was good and elastic I put it back in the bowl, covered it and left it for a few hours to rise. I had read that I shouldn’t expect sourdough to rise as much as conventionaly yeasted bread but this trembled in size pretty quickly.
I knocked it back, kneeded it again and then lined a bowl with oiled paper before putting it in for its final prove. Sourdough loses its shape more easily than others bread so it needs to be shaped in a bowl.
When it was ready I put a roasting tin in the bottom of the over and a baking sheet on the middle shelf and heated the over to 220oC. When it was hot it was simply a matter of turning the sourdough onto the baking sheet, peeling off the paper and sliding it into the over. A litre of boiling water went into the roasting tin to create some steam to help the crust. 30 minutes later it was ready to come out onto a cooling rack.
Out the oven and already ‘tested’.
Sourdough has a delcious chewy texture and loose crumb structure. It makes amazing toast and lasts a few days wrapped in a paper bag. Although it seems like a bit of work it is worth it and once the starter is made you can just top it up with more flour and water and put it in the fridge. The day before you want to make your sponge take it out of the fridge and feed it and let it get to room temperature. Soon you will be eating sourdough every week. I have another one rising as I type.
One of my favourite dishes. I love the balance of the heat of the chillies and the cooling coconut milk here as well as sharp hit of lime. As with so many dishes you can add whatever vegetables are in season or lurking in your fridge but the ones here are the ones that I find work best although they are certainly not authentic. I also use a combination of fresh Thai herbs and a paste but it works just as well with just a bought paste. I used to fry the tofu in the pan then stew it in the sauce but I have found that cooking it separately adds a different texture to the dish and is worth dirtying another pan for.
1 small red onion finely chopped
1 stick of lemon grass finely chopped
1 thumb size piece of ginger grated
2 Thai finger chillies chopped
1 handful of mushrooms sliced
2 tbsp green Thai paste (check it is vegan)
1 handful of green beans halved
1 head of brocoli cut into florets
1 can of chickpeas
1 can of coconut milk
5 kaffir lime leaves (if you can find them)
2 heads of bok choi
1 pack firm smoked tofu
handful of chopped coriander
rice to serve
Fry the onion, lemon grass, ginger and chilli in a little oil before adding the mushrooms and green beans. After a couple of minutes add the paste then the brocoli, chickpeas and coconut milk. Let it simmer and then add finely sliced lime leaves.
Heat a small frying pan and spray/drizzle with oil. Add slices of tofu and fry on both sides until crispy. Set aside.
Add the bok choi to the curry when everything is tender and then plate up and top with tofu, coriander and a squeeze of lime.
Looks like they will be in storage for a couple of weeks.
Another summer and another injury. This time last year I was smashed into from behind while driving and ended up with whiplash that stopped me running until September. This year I was 19 miles into a 20 mile run when I stepped off a curb and went over on my ankle. I have spent the last couple of days with it either wrapped, elevated or packed with ice and am waiting to have it x-rayed in case it is broken. I am fairly sure it is just a nasty sprain but even so it means I’ll be off the trails for a couple of weeks.
I don’t always seem to have a lot of luck with injuries. What is strange though is how few of them come from running. Even this one could have happened just as easily stepping off a curb while walking (something I did years ago) so it seems a little churlish to blame running for the injury. I blame the injury for stopping me running.
So what is a runner to do? First up – rest. I am always tempted to get back out running too soon after a minor injury and it soon becomes more debilitating and longer lasting. This time I am staying off it for at least two weeks. Secondly I am going to stay positive and focus on what I can still do. When the swelling goes down I should be able to use the spin bike, rower and weights. I should be able to go for long walks and of course I have plenty of other hobbies – you can expect more fascinating blog posts and the kitchen will be a hive of activity.
As long as I can maintain some fitness of the TR24 in 6 weeks and can run at least slowly for my birthday break in July (the 11th in case you were thinking of sending a card) I’ll be happy. Running should be a source of joy and not stress. I’ll try to keep that in mind.
Quinoa is often refered to as a ‘superfood’ and it isn’t hard to see why. 1 cup of cooked quinoa will give you 8 grams of protein and a host of minerals and other micro-nutrients. See here for a breakdown of its nutritional profile. It is also delcious and could be grown much more widely than its current stronghold in northern South America. For all these reasons this year has been named ‘international year of quinoa’ by whoever decides such matters.
There has been some concern expressed that current high demand in wealthy countries is pushing up prices and this is certainly a concern in the short term. In the next few years though the market should respond by increasing supply and we will see prices returning to normal.
So what can we do with this delicious seed? Boil it mainly. One cup of quinoa needs to be cooked in 1 1/2 cups of water for about 20 minutes. So far I admit it doesn’t sound too exciting but you can then do just about anything with it. I like to add it to salads like this or added to chilli while it is cooking like this. You could also cook it in soups or stews to give it a bit more of a nutritional kick. It can also be ground into flour and added to bread but as it is gluten free you will probably want to do this in small doses.
How do you like your quinoa and what other grains are we missing out on?
From the outset I knew that I would be hooked. This was going to be one of those books about addiction, recovery and running that simply did it for me. It was not just the clearly written prose and the enjoyable pace with which it clipped along; there was something very ordinary and honest about the narrative of spiralling addiction that had me reading feverishly from the opening lines.
Eat well, live happy! Live and love by giving importance to your daily food choices. A blog dedicated to food and a world of adventures, a place to find DELICIOUS and healthful food recipes and explore new food experiences.