Friday, 8 June 2012

Iced Strawberry Dessert- vegan and sugar- free

Shown not completely frozen; we couldn't wait, and ate it this way!
Both my husband and myself have been off work this week- a very rare happening- and we've both spent lots of time in the kitchen together cooking and inventing. So when I saw him reach for the tofu, the strawberries and the agave nectar I knew it was time to get the notebook out and write down what he was doing; whatever he was going to make with those was bound to be delicious... This recipe made 6 plastic cups (as above) and is really healthy as well as being cooling and yummy because unlike icecream, it is free from fat and agave nectar is a much healthier form of sweetener than sugar. Had we waited for it to freeze completely before we ate it all, I am sure we would have found it to be somewhere in between icecream and sorbet. It's so quick and simple to make, yet it is a real summertime treat. This recipe is also going to Indrani's "Spotlight: Summer Cooler"  event.

450g medium-firm tofu
500g fresh ripe strawberries
2 tabs agave nectar
1 tab rice malt (or more agave nectar/ maple syrup if you can't get rice malt)
  • Blend up the tofu until smooth.
  • Clean the strawberries and add half of them to the blender with the syrup.
  • Chop the other half of the strawberries and stir in.
  • Freeze, or at least serve chilled if you can't wait that long!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

No-Fry Matar Paneer-can be vegan or vegetarian

A lower-fat version of the classic...

I was reading this brilliant post from Chandrani of Cuisine Delights about oven- baked samosas, and it struck me that many Indian favourites could be made healthier by reducing the fat content, not just the deep-fried ones. In this recipe the paneer is made with semi-skimmed milk, and there is no frying involved whatsoever; not even the spices. You can, of course, veganise this by subbing tofu for the paneer, which is what we most often do, so all the family can eat it. We didn't even notice these changes: there is no compromise on taste. The recipe fed 7 people, with brown rice and greens to accompany.  Thanks, Chandrani, for the inspiration! :)

Paneer made from 4 litres of semi-skimmed milk, cut into cubes or about 450g tofu
Some light olive oil/ ricebran oil (or any oil with a high smoke point) for baking
700g fresh tomatoes
200ml water/ whey from making the paneer
450g fresh or frozen peas
2tsps seasalt (or a little more if you wish)
1 tsp compound hing
2 tsps turmeric (haldi)
a piece of fresh ginger the size of the tip of your thumb, grated
a piece of fresh med- mild red chilli about the size of a fingertip (or more if you want it more spicy)
2 tabs cumin seeds
garam masala powder to taste -I actually forgot it when I cooked this, and it came out just fine without.
  • Arrange the paneer cubes on an oiled baking sheet and brush with a minimal amount of oil. Bake in an oven preheated to 200C until just browning at the edges.
  • Meanwhile, whizz up the tomatoes in you food processor or blender until liquid. (or chop into small pieces and cook down if you don't have a blender). Put them in a large saucepan, add the whey/ water, seasalt, hing, turmeric, ginger and chilli. 
  • Cook down until beginning to thicken, then add the peas.
  • Dry-roast the cumin seeds in a small. thick-bottomed pan until they release their aroma. (Do not overcook or they will taste scorched.) Stir in to the tomatoes and peas.
  • When the tomatoes and peas have thickened somewhat, stir in the paneer, and garam masala if using.
  • When the paneer is heated through, the matar paneer is ready.
Possible Tweak: Veganise this dish by using tofu instead of paneer.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Sunflower Herb Salad

Spot the 3 fresh herbs amongst the sprouts and celery!
Well, our 10 days of precious sunshine here in Birmingham, UK, have been great and now it's back to the normal dull weather for the moment, but the mini- heatwave has allowed both the herbs in my garden and the sprouts on my kitchen windowsill to flourish. Last night the weather broke and I felt the first thundery raindrops just as I was finishing cutting the lawn. I actually gathered the herbs for this recipe in the warm rain, to go with dinner; the first dinner we have eaten indoors in over a week. A work colleague kindly gave me some tarragon from her garden, which also found its way into this salad. This recipe made enough for 6 of us to have as a side. The sunshine lives on in the chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals etc. from the plants it helped grow!

A handful of alfalfa sprouts
A large handful of sunflower greens (sunflower sprouts that have been allowed to grow into tiny seedlings)
3 sticks of celery, sliced thinly
A handful of fresh parsley (I used flat- leaved)
A small handful of  fresh mint 
A sprig of  fresh tarragon
lemon juice
  • Rinse and dry the sprouts and greens and combine them in a large salad bowl with the chopped celery.
  • Gently rinse the fresh herbs, then tear them into small pieces (they release more of their aromatic oils into the food if you tear over the bowl rather than cut on a board) and cut the tarragon even smaller with some sharp kitchen scissors. 
  • Mix with the other ingredients and sprinkle with lemon juice
This attractive green salad has an almost medicinal taste, and I don't think it would go down well on its own; although most of my family certainly did like it. I served it as a side along with sliced beetroot and a bowl of mixed olives with tomatoes to form the accompaniment to baked samosas and pakoras. (Not a circle of cucumber or a lettuce leaf in sight!)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Beancurd Loaf- vegan

Beancurd Loaf

I was planning on making beanburgers yet again, but I wanted to cook something I knew my fussy daughter would eat; knowing she likes beancurd, I decided to make burgers out of that but the texture lent itself more to a "meatloaf"- style dish, so that's what it became! It is very filling and satisfying, and my recipe makes 6 decent-sized portions. If you have a good blender or food processor and some beancurd sheets, then this is a quick and easy source of protein for your main meal. I deliberately kept it quite bland so as to be sure to please, but another time I will definitely add some minced red peppers (capsicums) and some black pepper to give it a bit more of a kick; maybe even chilli or smoked paprika; what do you think? 

A 200-g packet of beancurd sheets, crumbled into flakes, soaked until soft and drained
300g sweetcorn kernels
225g cooked red kidney/ pinto beans
8 flat tabs chickpea flour (besan)
1 tab white miso
1 tab dark soy sauce
1 tab paprika
1 tab herbes de Provence
1-2 tsps compound hing (yellow powder and not a strong as pure hing)
seasalt and black pepper to taste
  • Whizz up the beancurd, sweetcorn and beans in you food processor until it resembles the consistency of mashed potato or thick hummus.
  • Stir in the flour, miso and soy sauce. I've written the flour in spoons so that you can add it gradually and stop when you get a less wet consistency; don't use any more than you have to.
  • Add the seasonings.
  • Press down well into a square silicone cake mould/ baking tin and place in a preheated oven at 225C for 20-30 minutres, until the top is browning and the loaf is holding together.
  • I served this with steamed vegetables, potato wedges and gravy made from miso, passata and tomato puree. Look here and here for gravy recipe/ ideas, or use your own favourite.