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Recipe: Quinoa, avocado and roasted pepper salad

Quinoa salad

I’ve been trying to cut down on wheat lately: I don’t think gluten agrees with me very well, especially in the quantities I tended to eat it. As a veggie, it’s all too easy to make it the staple of every meal: toast for breakfast, pitta for lunch, pasta for dinner… which led to me feeling pretty bloated and sluggish a lot of the time and wondering if it was down to diet. I haven’t gone completely cold turkey on wheat but I have been making some switches which aren’t too painful and do seem to be making a difference. In fact when I had a fairly wheaty binge at the weekend I felt awful on Monday, which is good encouragement to keep at it.

Quinoa salad

So I’ve been enjoying porridge for breakfast (and not even missing my beloved toast!), lots of Mexican and Indian inspired dinners (corn, bean and rice-based meals are my new friends) and making lunches from scratch when I have the time on work at home days. My favourite easy lunch fallbacks are things like soup, avocado on GF toast or a hummus wrap in a corn tortilla, but when I have a bit more time I’ve been raiding the veg drawer and putting something more interesting together.

Quinoa salad

This is actually the first time I’ve ever cooked with quinoa – it’s a grainlike little seed that resembles bulgur or cous cous, but it’s actually gluten-free and high in protein rather than starchy carb. I never bought it before because it’s quite expensive and I thought it’d be fiddly to prepare, but I do think it’s worth the price as it’s so healthy and very quick and easy to make up.

Quinoa salad
Quinoa salad

I put together this dish based on most of my favourite flavours: avocado, tomato, pine nut, sweet romano pepper – charred to give a bit of smokiness – and plenty of lemon juice and hot sauce. Delicious as well as vegan and GF, oh so saintly! You could add all sorts of other things depending on what you have: blanched green beans, feta cheese or sweetcorn would all be tasty additions.

Quinoa, avocado and roasted pepper salad

Serving Size: 1

Ingredients

  • 50g dry quinoa
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1 romano red pepper, or 2 smaller paprika peppers
  • Pine nuts, small handful (optional)
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  • Your favourite hot sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Get the quinoa on to cook per the packet instructions: mine says to boil for 10-12 minutes in 250ml water
  2. Slash the pepper once or twice with a knife, then pop directly on top of the hob flame, turning often until blackened all over. (If you don't have a gas hob, halve the pepper lengthwise and place skin-side up under a hot grill). Leave to cool a little and scrape off any really black bits. Dice the flesh.
  3. Dice the tomato and avocado. I go a bit Jamie Oliver and just season it up while it's on the chopping board: drizzle with olive oil, season liberally with salt and pepper, add lemon juice and chilli flakes to taste, and mix up with your fingers.
  4. Drain the quinoa and while it's still warm, mix in the pepper and avo-tomato mix and plate up. Sprinkle pine nuts on top, add a dash of hot sauce if you like (a citrusy habanero is particularly good) and enjoy.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2014/03/recipe-quinoa-avocado-and-roasted-pepper-salad.html

I’ve been saving more GF (and non-GF) veggie food ideas on my Pinterest board. Do you have any favourites to share?

Recipe: Kale, tomato and egg tart

Kale tart

Would you believe this week is the first time I’ve ever bought kale? And I call myself a vegetarian, tsk. Anyway I’m pleased I picked it up on my last visit to the greengrocer as the big bag happily lasted a week in the fridge and made its way into three meals.

Kale tart

My favourite way to use so far is boiled to remove toughness then baked to crisp it up a bit, and it’s best buds with egg and tangy cheese, so I made it into a meal with the addition of a bit of pastry from the freezer.

Kale tart

Kale, tomato and egg tart

Serving Size: 3

Ingredients

  • Two handfuls kale
  • (Optional: throw in any other green veg like courgette or broccoli - I used some courgette)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • (Optional: two sun-dried tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 pack ready-rolled puff pastry
  • Any good strong, melty cheese: try taleggio, ossau, or a goats', two thick slices/approx 100g.
  • 3 eggs
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • Thyme
  • Chilli flakes
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Remove the kale stalks and chop the leaves into small pieces. Boil in water for 5-7 minutes, until softened.
  2. Set oven to 210 degrees C. Roll the pastry into a suitable shallow baking dish, prick the bottom with a fork and blind bake with baking beans for ten minutes.
  3. Slice the tomatoes and onion (and other veg, if using) thinly, keeping them in intact rings, spread onto a baking tray and put under a hot grill for 4-5 minutes until browned and soft.
  4. Combine the kale, tomato and onion with a glug of olive oil and 1 tsp mustard, and season with the thyme, chilli flakes, sun-dried tomatoes if using, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Spread another 1tsp mustard on the bottom of the part-baked pastry, then heap on the kale and tomato mix and spread out evenly. Crack the eggs onto the top and dot on the cheese.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes more until the eggs are cooked but yolks are still runny and the pastry and kale is crisp and browned.
  7. Serve with mini roasties, yogurt and salad. Or baked beans.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2013/12/recipe-kale-tomato-and-egg-tart.html

Kale tart

Nb. It’s also superb reheated the next day, with beans, yogurt and hot sauce. Mmmm.

Any more ideas for kale recipes?

Makin’ cider

Cider making

Ugh, autumn is truly here isn’t it? I swear it got dark at 3pm yesterday, so miserable. In my mind the only good things about the gloomy seasons are of the edible and quaffable varieties: a few months of soups, stews and mulled things make it all bearable. So I was happy to get an email from Garden Trading asking if I’d like to try out an apple press from their range of harvest season products. If you haven’t heard of Garden Trading yet, they make timeless and practical homewares that look equally at home in a country cottage or a more modern setting: I’ve got their enamelled metal lightshades in both my bedroom and kitchen.

Cider making

Here’s the sweet little apple press they sent me. Crafted from solid wood and pretty sage green painted cast iron, it feels solid and well made. It’s nice and petite so fits onto the kitchen worktop easily.

Cider making

It comes ready to roll, complete with a mesh pulping bag, pressing blocks and simple instructions.

Cider making
Cider making

To give it a whirl, I bought a lovely range of apples from my local greengrocer: a mix of eating apples like Granny Smith and Gala for sweetness mixed with cooking varieties like Bramley for sharpness. Don’t they look pretty? The 9kg I bought yielded about 6 litres of juice.

Cider making
Cider making

The process is pretty simple, though you need a bit of elbow grease and be prepared to get pulpy and sticky! First wash and roughly chop the apples: I did this by hand but for a larger batch you’d probably want to use something more mechanised. Then you need to roughen/pulp them up a bit: we used a stick blender but a bowl food processor would have been quicker and cleaner. Give them a good whiz so they’re broken down but not entirely mush.

Cider making

Load the mesh bag into the barrel and fill with the pulpy apple goop. (This photo shows our first try where we hadn’t whizzed them up enough and they would not press: the right consistency looks more pulpy than this.)

Cider making

Pop the pressing blocks on top and start turning. Ta-da, out pours lovely apple juice! Of course you can just drink it right away, but I really fancied trying to make cider from it, with a little help from the live-in brewer boyfriend. It just requires a couple of extra supplies and ingredients – cider yeast, Campden tablets and PET bottles, all which I got from Brew UK – as well as the fermentation bottle and airlock which Josh already had from beer brewing.

Cider making

The Campden tablet stops any wild yeasts or bacteria from mucking up the fermentation, as well as lightening the colour. After 24-48 hours the cider yeast is added, then it needs to be tucked away away under the stairs for a couple of months, so it should be ready just in time for Christmas. Can’t wait to try it!

Cider making

We also had a bit leftover to drink straight away, to which I added some of this Morris Kitchen ginger syrup I got in Brooklyn. Delicious. The juice can be frozen too, which would be handy if you’re lucky enough to have a glut of apples to use up. All in all, top autumnal fun.

Apple press supplied for review by Garden Trading – thank you!

Mushroom Bao

Mushroom Bao

I got the idea to make these watching Jamie Oliver’s new series on TV. I was amazed to see him make bao – pillowy steamed Chinese buns with a spicy filling tucked inside – with a dough of just flour and milk, and had to give it a go with a veggie filling. I had everything I needed to hand in the kitchen – don’t you love when that happens – so they made for a good impromptu Friday night dinner after the rain put paid to any other plans.

Mushroom Bao
Mushroom Bao
Mushroom Bao

You can find Jamie’s bao recipe and method here. It was so quick to make the dough and fill the buns – the dough is soft and stretchy so it’s easy to pull it over the filling and seal. No resting or kneading required either!

Mushroom Bao

For my spicy mushroom filling I just fried together:
· 8 chestnut mushrooms, finely diced
· 1 diced red chilli
· 2 crushed cloves of garlic
· 1 tablespoon of Szechaun chilli bean paste
· A shake of hickory liquid smoke (my current favourite ingredient ever)

Mushroom Bao

One 10-minute steam later…

Mushroom Bao

… perfectly soft and fluffy little buns pop out. Served with quick pickled veg slivers and all the chilli sauces, they made for a tasty, filling dinner – definitely one to add to my regular roster.

When life gives you green tomatoes…

tom3

… make salsa verde!

Our garden tomatoes are being a little slow to ripen: damn the sun for disappearing at a crucial time. We’re trying to ripen some on the vine and some on the windowsill, but impatient me wondered if they could be used while still green.

tom2

I remembered the Mexicans use sharp green tomatillos a lot, which are actually a completely different species but have a somewhat similar texture and flavour. I raided my Mexican bible, Thomasina Miers’ ‘Mexican Food Made Simple‘ for inspiration, adapting the salsa verde recipe to suit what I had.

tom1

The uncooked flavour of the green toms wasn’t very pleasant – a bit like a savoury tart green apple – but roasted and blitzed they were transformed into a delicious zingy salsa. I served it with squash, bean and shallot tacos.

tom4

In a hot pan, dry fry a handful of green tomatoes, two garlic cloves (skin on) and a red chilli. Shake often until blackened all over, 5-10 mins. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, drizzle over a little olive oil and season well, and oven roast at 220 degrees for a further 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are bursting and the garlic is soft. Peel one shallot and dunk into boiling water for a few seconds to remove the rawness. Finely dice and throw into a processor with the roast tomato mix and a glug of lemon juice. Blitz until smooth, check for seasoning/acidity and enjoy with tacos of your choice.