Thursday, 23 January 2014

Crunchy winter slaw with apple and golden beetroot

I can't believe we're half way through January already! So how are everyone's New Year's resolutions going? Still on track? No, me neither.

My New Year's resolutions were to do more exercise and the the stupidly vague "do more" - I want to get out and see more of London and go to more events etc. So far, I have yet to even put my trainers on, and I've been to the cinema a few times.

I do like to make New Year's resolutions as I like the idea of a fresh start and making myself do those things that I have been wanting/meaning to do for ages. I am, however, very good at coming up with excuses to not do things- it's been horrible weather, I've been working late, it's January so I have no money so I can't afford to go to a gym class (yet I can afford to go to the cinema? Great logic Meredith). And then I berate myself for not going. It's a vicious circle and I'm an idiot, I know. I just need to find a way to motivate myself to actually put those trainers on and go for a run, or to yoga.

Aside from someone physically dragging me there, do any of you have any ideas? What are your tricks for staying motivated?

Coleslaw is such a classic salad but is often done badly and covered in way too much sickly dressing. My mum makes a mean coleslaw (as well as cakes-check out her blog, Edwardian Grandma Bakes) with just the right amount of a delicious tangy yoghurt dressing. But obviously it's not vegan friendly so I thought I'd give a go at making a dairy free version.

I still had golden beetroot left over from my last recipe, plus some other great winter veg so it seemed the obvious choice. We had it with some homemade chickpea burgers and oven baked chips and it was a lovely, easy and light dinner.

Crunchy winter slaw with apple and golden beetroot
(Makes enough for 4-6 side servings)

1/4 red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 golden beetroot, peeled and julienned
2 small carrots (or 1 large), peeled and julienned
1 small eating apple (I used a cox apple, but anything sharp and tangy would work), thinly sliced
2 large handfuls of raisins/sultanas
2 large handfuls of walnuts, roughly chopped

for the dressing:
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp mustard
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp agave nectar/honey
2 tbs olive oil

Combine all the dressing ingredients together and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large serving bowl, add the dressing, and mix with your hands to combine.

*Recipe note: You might want to invest in a julienne peeler for this kind of salad; cutting all that veg into teeny tiny little matchsticks was quite tedious! It's certainly on my wish list!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Roast golden beetroot pasta

Having just lamented the loss of my favourite, precious pasta after giving up wheat for health reasons, it would appear that I am now posting...a pasta recipe...?!

But I haven't fallen off the wagon that quickly, I promise- I've actually ventured into the world of wheat substitutes. So this recipe uses a spelt pasta by Biona. It isn't gluten free, but has less gluten than normal pasta and is obviously wheat free. I was slightly skeptical of anything that promised to be an alternative to wonderful pasta- surely nothing can be as good?! But I was pleasantly surprised- turns out spelt pasta is delicious! It has a slightly nutty taste, and a great texture that is substantial and keeps a bit of a bite. Plus it's lighter than normal pasta so you don't end up with that swollen, bloated "I've eaten too much pasta and now need to go and lie down for a week" feeling. I could get used to this!

The golden beetroot in our Local Greens bag this week was such a brilliant bright yellow! Golden beets have a slightly less "earthy" taste than regular red beetroot, so the addition of pomegranate seeds in this dish bring out the sweetness and the spinach and red onion balance it all out.

I would normally have slathered this meal with some lovely veggie hard cheese or maybe added some feta, but of course, none of that anymore! But it was just as good without, and don't think it really needed it. I am finding it quite difficult to get out of the habit of adding cheese to everything, but I do feel a lot healthier for it and it is good to have to work a bit harder to make tasty meals without relying on cheese to jazz it up.

What are your favourite wheat or dairy alternatives?

Golden beetroot pasta
(Serves 2)

2 golden beetroots, peeled and cut into medium sized chunks
150g spelt pasta (or other type of your choice)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
100g spinach
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
handful of toasted pine nuts or seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the beetroot in a roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Shake the tray to make sure all beetroot is covered. Roast in oven for about 25-30 minutes until the beets are tender.

Cook the pasta according to instructions. Drain, making sure to keep about 2 tablespoons of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic in a glug of olive oil until soft.

Once cooked, mix the pasta, beetroot, onion and garlic together in the pasta pan. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. (The spinach will wilt slightly from the heat but you don't want it completely cooked.)

Place in serving bowls and top with pomegranate and toasted seeds.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls- and Happy New Year!

Hello! I've been away for a while - moved house and then the whole Christmas/New Year thing happened, and now here we are nearly half way through January eek! I hope you all had a great festive period and it was suitably merry.

So I'm back, and cooking from my brand new kitchen with my amazing pull out larder to house all my spices and a spinny cupboard for my pans. Santa was also very kind over Christmas so I have lots of lovely new gizmos and gadgets to add to my ever increasing collection of kitchen paraphernalia. (Who knew you could get so excited about a pepper grinder?!)

I've also started the new year, as I'm sure many have, with a vow to detox after an indulgent couple of weeks full of booze and cake. I've had a week of drinking lemon and cucumber water, eating lots of berries and grapefruit and spinach, and I do feel a lot better for it. And I've given up alcohol for January, which is proving tricky- seems like most social occasions involve drinking in some way, more afternoon teas and brunches needed I think.

Just to make life extra hard for myself I have also decided to cut wheat and dairy (not eggs) out of my diet as well. This is actually for health reasons though, as I have just discovered, after years of umming and ahhing by different doctors, that I do in fact have asthma, eczema and related allergies (they are all linked). After doing some research and talking to a couple of friends, I found that dairy and wheat can be triggers for these things, so I thought I would have a go at cutting then out of my diet and see if I noticed any effect.

As I think I've mentioned once or twice on this blog before, I am a big fan of pasta. Big fan. And cheese comes a pretty close second. They're pretty much my favourite things ever. So this is going to be hard. But if it makes me feel better and stops the wheezing, I think it's a fair sacrifice to make. So we'll see how we get on.

So I hope that throughout this journey I can provide you with some delicious, nutritious dairy and wheat free recipes to try. I am having to rethink a lot of my cooking and restock my pantry/fridge with various substitutes- but I'm always up for a challenge! If any of you readers have any tips or experience of doing an elimination diet like this I would love to hear your stories!

So this week's recipe is vegan stuffed cabbage rolls. Not knowing quite what to do with our huge "Tundra cabbage" other than bubble and squeak, I looked around online and saw quite a few recipes for this Middle Eastern/Greek dish and decided to have a go at my own. I only made enough for two people, so two rolls each, which wasn't too much trouble, but I could imagine the blanching and rolling of leaves could be a bit of a hassle if making for large numbers so you might want to have a co-chef and make sure you leave plenty of time for this stage.

Don't be put off though, as they're absolutely delicious and a lovely way of doing something different with that oft neglected cabbage!

You could definitely have a play around with different spices & herbs in the rice/lentil mix according to your favourite flavours. I kind of just went with what I fancied at the time, and it was a bit of a random mix, but it worked! Next time I might try some more Moroccan-y type spices like ras-el-hanout and some fresh coriander to see how that works.

I think I would also add something to give the filling a bit of crunch next time too, such as pine nuts, walnuts, or sunflowers seeds.

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
(Serves 2)

For the filling
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
100g brown/green lentils
100g brown rice
1 litre of stock
large handful parsley
juice of 1 lemon

4 large cabbage leaves (peel each carefully off the cabbage making sure it does not rip or have holes)

For the sauce
1/2 tin of tomatoes
glug of red wine
pinch of sugar
bay leaf
salt and pepper

Saute the chopped onion, garlic and chilli in a glug of olive oil until starting to soften. Add spices and fry for a few more minutes.

Add the lentils, rice and stock, season and simmer for about 25 minutes, until cooked. Take off the heat and add a generous amount of lemon juice and parsley. Mix well.

While the rice mixture is cooking, blanch the cabbage leaves. Place leaves in a pan of boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and rinse immediately under cold water.

To make the tomato sauce, simply mix all ingredients together in a bowl. (You do not need to cook it at this stage as it will be going in the oven.)

Once your cabbage leaves and rice mixture are ready, place a large tablespoonful of the mixture into the middle of each cabbage leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf inwards and roll the rest of the leaf from the top to the bottom (you should have the base of the leaf on the outside).

Place all rolls tightly in an ovenproof dish, cover with tomato sauce and bake for about 30 minutes.