Vegan Aubergine Aioli

One of my fondest memories of aioli is from years ago, with my best friend Rach. I had already moved to Karachi by this point and was working there as an associate producer but always stopped off in London before heading back home to the Isle of Man.

We were in a restaurant and decided to order aioli with veggies to start and Rach, couldn’t get enough of the stuff and started dipping the left over baby greens into it, even though she couldn’t care for them. As she described it back then, “aioli, the dog’s (ahem), the bees knees. Garlic mayo, at it’s finest.”

When making my aubergine (eggplant) pesto, I noticed it had a creamy texture and flavour and wondered what would become of it without the basil, the nuts and so on. Though not a vegan myself, I still love eating vegan and vegetarian cuisine and that is what we mostly cook at home. So this aubergine aioli is my love letter to vegans and anyone else who falls in love with it.

So quick and easy, it’s delicious, we ate it with roasted roots, but it also would work well with sweet potato fries, sandwiches, you could use it as a dip or for whatever else you fancy.

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(Makes one batch)

1 aubergine/eggplant, cut into small chunks
1/2 a red onion, cut into small chunks
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Himalayan pink salt, to season
1/2 teaspoon of mustard (I used dijon)
1/4 cup extra Virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Arrange the aubergine, onion and garlic in a baking tray. Toss with sunflower oil and season with salt. Roast for about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are tender, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool.

Once cool, throw them into the blender with the mustard, olive oil and vinegar. Blend until really smooth.

It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for about a week.

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Hark the healthy angels sing…

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My hubby and friends are pretty unfussy when it comes to food and don’t seem to mind being subjected to my health experiments in the kitchen. It is probably out of reverence for their taste buds and wellbeing that I want everything I cook to be both healthy and delicious. A lot of people do have family and friends who have dietary requirements and that is why my festive party food is great for everyone.

Glory be to these blinis. Peace of mind for your body and soul. Both health and indulgence reconciled.

I finally perfected my pancake recipe just in time for this blini recipe. Traditional blini recipes call for yeast but mine just uses baking powder. They make the best celebration food and my recipe below proves that party classics can be really good for you and yummy at the same time. They are easily made vegan and the tomato jam is just one topping idea, try out your own favourites (for example: fig and goats cheese, basil pesto and mozzarella, a piece of marinated tofu, some smoked salmon and avocado).

Tomato jam blinis

Makes 24

For the jam:

1tbsp chia seeds
4tbsp water
1tbsp olive oil
½ a red onion, chopped
2tbsp coconut sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1tsp mixed dried herbs
1 cup of warm water

Mix chia seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.

Put olive oil in a saucepan and set over a medium heat. Once hot, add the red onions and sauté until soft. Add the vinegar and sugar and cover with a lid for about twenty minutes.

Add tomatoes, herbs, chia seeds and sauté for a few minutes. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about thirty minutes or until the all the water has been absorbed and you are left with a thick mixture.

For the blinis:

½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup light buckwheat flour
Pinch Himalayan pink salt
1tsp baking powder
Cup of almond milk
½tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 egg (or one chia egg)
Sunflower oil for greasing

Put all your ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Grease a frying pan with a little sunflower oil and set it on a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, drop a scant tablespoon of batter into the pan and let it cook.

Once it’s set, flip the blini over to cook it on the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Depending on how big your frying pan is, cook more than one at time.

To serve: top each blini with a teaspoon of tomato jam and garnish with fresh chives.

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Shake it up

Think pancakes are just for the weekend? Think again, shake up your morning protein routine with this quick ten minute fix. Everyone needs a treat midweek, this is perfect and of course, it’s healthy and healing, bla bla bla, you know me and my food well enough by now!

If you are always in a rush in the mornings throw them into a container with your favourite toppings and munch away for elevenses.

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Makes 6 small pancakes

A little sunflower oil for greasing
1 organic egg
Half a cup of non-dairy milk
1/2 scoop protein powder (I used Vega chocolate protein)
3tbsp of buckwheat flour
1/4tsp baking powder

Toppings: try bananas, berries, raw chocolate sauce, coconut yoghurt, homemade apple sauce, maple syrup and granola…

Grease a non-stick frying pan with some sunflower oil and get it on a medium heat so it gets nice and hot.

In your bullet or blender throw in the egg, protein powder, half a cup of milk, buckwheat flour, 1/4tsp baking soda and whizz away until it is smooth and glossy.

Cook your pancakes by pouring a little batter into the hot frying pan. Once the top has bubbled and looks set flip it over. Repeat until all the batter is used up or you have the desired number of pancakes. Which ever comes first.

Top Tip: You can prepare your batter the night before to save even more time in the morning. (Seriously though, how busy are you?)

Hugs for cockles

At the end of a cold day, I adore recipes that can be served in a bowl, enjoyed from a comforting corner of my couch and eaten with the simplicity of a spoon.

This kind of hearty food not only warms, but also hugs your cockles, it soothes away the day and leaves you feeling replete and nourished. This baked casserole is nostalgic of many things, the pot pie Tanya and I would eat at Butlers, the vegetable and cheese sauce bake from my childhood and the depth of flavour from leeks in a soup. Yet, it is none of those things.

This casserole is one of my rare moments where a first stab at a healthy makeover doesn’t completely backfire. It’s easily made friendly for vegans by omitting the chicken and using puy lentils and perhaps trying out nutritional yeast in place of Parmesan. I love eating this on it’s own, but the hubby loves to have a crusty bread roll on standby to gather some of that renegade liquid every now and again.

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Serves 4-6

1tbsp coconut oil
2 leeks, with the green part removed and finely sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 chicken breasts, cut into small strips (or if you are making a vegan version use 11/2 cups of slightly puy lentils*)
1tsp Herbes de Provence
1/4tsp nutmeg
1/4tsp black pepper
A little ground Himalayan salt
Pinch of red chilli flakes
3 cups of mushrooms
1 and 3/4 cups of sweetcorn
One broccoli crown, cut into florets
1 can of coconut milk
1tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 vegetable bouillon cube (I use Go Bio Organic)
1/2 cup of quinoa flakes
1tbsp Parmesan (I actually found some made with flaxseed oil, if you can get that amazing otherwise don’t worry)

*If you are using puy lentils, bring to a boil and simmer until they are slightly undercooked. Use them in place of the chicken below.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the Parmesan and quinoa flakes together and set aside.

Heat oil on a medium heat in a pan, once the oil is ready, throw the leeks and garlic in. Sauté until leeks have softened.

Add chicken (or lentils), mushrooms, herbs, nutmeg, pepper, salt and chilli flakes and sauté until the mushrooms begin to sweat.

Add the sweet corn, broccoli, coconut milk, and nutritional yeast and crumble the stock cube into the pan. Bring contents to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has thickened slightly.

Pour the casserole mixture into a dish and top with the quinoa and Parmesan mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes until it is bubbling.

All about that base

From recent conversations, it seems most plant eating connoisseurs are constantly on the look out for dressings. I easily get bored of dressings and sometimes it takes too much effort to make them, so I end up just adding a splash or two of balsamic vinegar.

Everyone has a go-to dressing, I was struggling with mine. Although I love my orange, mustard and maple, the flavours are strong and so at times I find it limiting because it is so overpowering.

That has changed, of late, I have been taken with this healthy dressing I whipped up in moments. It is delicious, can be used with anything, for example on lentils, for massaging kale and of course in any salad.

At the heart of every salad, (it could be something else for you), for me, is the foliage rich in nutrients and the dew of dressing upon it. I love organic baby kale and baby spinach, the dark green looks spectacular and they taste good with most things. Use this recipe to serve two as a side or as the base of a massive salad for one.

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2 cups baby kale
2 cups baby spinach
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4tsp coconut sugar
1tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2tbsp extra Virgin olive oil

Throw your leaves together in a bowl.

Mix yeast, sugar, vinegar and oil well.

Pour dressing on to kale and spinach and toss together.

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What’s yo flava?

Whenever I talk about flavour, an urge to be “musical” arises, I blame Craig David. Anyone else know the song? Comment if you do!

I would say it was a trip at the age of sixteen to Malaysia that first opened me up to such colourful spicy notes. Mee-Goreng, an incredible noodle dish I had the good fortune of tasting, is a food memory that has stayed with me for over a decade.

Then came Curry Laksa during my Masters year while I was living near Brunswick Square in London. My mouth still waters thinking about it, a beautifully separated assam curry, a timid layer of fragrant oil just glistening on the surface and what lies beneath, fat rice noodles, crisp vegetables, tofu and other delights. It has all been cooked in a coconut milk broth that has incredible depth and heat.

The first Thai dish I ever cooked was Tom Yum soup, I literally had no idea what I was doing but the end result was pretty good. This convinced me I could cook. So much so, I basically whipped up an entire Thai meal over the following week for my Dad’s birthday and so it was that this school of flavour (Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian) kind of became my forte (Italian and Afghan comes in at a close second).

The kind of flavours used in these Asian cuisines hit all your tastebuds, sweet, savoury, sour and spice. The fragrance and freshness of coconut milk, lemongrass, lime, gently toasted ground and whole spices, fresh coriander, kaffir leaves and basil just explode bite after bite.

I’ll be honest, this experience can rarely be delivered as a quick fix recipe, if there are some cuisines I will slave over it’s these. For me personally, the slow cooked coconut curry is what develops intense flavours and gives you that melt in your mouth moment.

Having said that today is one of those crazy days where time is of the essence, while I didn’t spend hours over on it and though it’s no laksa, it tastes pretty awesome.

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Serves 2

Four chicken thighs with the skin
*(For a vegan version of this, use firm tofu and follow the same steps but apply half the cooking time of the chicken)
1tbsp ginger paste
Pinch of red chili flakes (or to taste)
1tbsp Tamari
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup of basmati rice
2tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1tsp poppy seeds
1 cup of coconut milk

To serve: some chopped fresh coriander

Marinade the chicken in ginger, red chili flakes, tamari and half the lemon juice.

Wash and cook your rice according to packet instructions.

Heat 1tbsp coconut oil in a shallow pan that has a lid on a medium flame. Once the oil is hot, put your chicken thighs in skin side down. Fry them off until they are gold brown. Flip them over, go to the lowest heat setting and cover with lid.

You are going to steam the thighs slowly until they are cooked, about forty minutes or so. Once the thighs are cooked, reduce the remaining liquid in the pan so you get a nice glaze on them.

In another pan, on a medium heat, melt remaining coconut oil and throw in the garlic, curry paste and poppy seeds and sauté for about ten minutes until they are sizzling. Add your cooked rice, coconut milk, the remaining lemon juice and mix well until everything is combined.

Serve with coriander.

The Rush Line

I am guilty of it, you know, those quick fixes for a meal, where you boil something and open a jar? While those meals are great and comforting every once in a while, we had been doing it far too much, choosing the easier option because we were too tired, had to dash off somewhere or go to work.

It would be lovely to practice mindful eating all the time, but honestly these days life in the city just doesn’t yield to it, so this detox we are on was one way to do that. We have really made a point of sitting down at the table these past few days.

So here we are into the second week. I haven’t seen my fellow girl and favourite yogi at work for a couple of weeks and she told me my skin was glowing, yay! It might just be the sheen of Toronto humidity though. We did our Monday night usual while working at The Yoga Sanctuary, chugging coconut water, sharing life stories and recipes.

I was rushing on Monday and I knew if didn’t eat something I would attack the sesame snaps and granola bars at work and Ahmed would probably just eat nothing until dinner.

So I whipped this up. Like most things I do, it comes from what is in at home, you can always add a little extra something or take an ingredient away depending on what is available. The dish is gluten free and if you are a vegan, omit the salmon.

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Oriental Pea and Noodle Salad

(Serves Two)

For the salad:

1/3 packet of King Soba Buckwheat Noodles cooked, drained & rinsed
2 spring onions sliced
1 and a 1/2 cups of steamed petit pois

For the dressing:

1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp rice vinegar
1tbsp tamari
1/2tsp coconut sugar
1inch piece ginger, grated
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Optional: Two fillets of wild salmon cooked to your liking (I pan seared this in a little olive oil with some garlic, red chilli & lemon)

Combine all your salad ingredients to a bowl.

Add each dressing ingredient separately to the bowl and toss it all together, well.

Divide in two dishes and serve immediately.