Saturday, 7 April 2012

Avocado and Sprout Salad with Lime and Cumin Dressing

This salad looks great if you fan the avocado, as shown, but you could also cube it.
What happens when a perfectly ripe, buttery avocado meets a zingy, aromatic lime dressing? They sit down together on a springy bed of mixed sprouts, of course! This dish is packed with vitamins, minerals and "good"oils, and makes a great light lunch or starter. You may want to tweak the amount of salt or oil to suit your taste; I like it tangy! This recipe serves 4.

2 ripe (but not squishy) avocados -1/2 an avocado per person
the juice of 5 small limes
1 tab extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 level tsps cumin seeds (jeera)
a pinch of seasalt
1/4 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
4 heaped tabs mixed sprouts (I used alfalfa with chickpea, mung and aduki sprouts)- 1 tab per person
  • First, dry-roast the cumin seeds over a medium heat in a sturdy-bottomed pan, stirring until they begin to release their aroma. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Combine the cumin seeds with the oil, lime juice, salt and pepper in a lidded jar. With the lid on tight (!) shake it until thoroughly combined.
  • Fan out half an avocado for each person, on a bed of sprouts of your choice. (I bet basil sprouts would be great.)
  • Pour about a tablespoon of dressing onto each avocado, according to your taste.
BTW: Don't forget to send your entries to my Amazing Almonds event....

    Thursday, 5 April 2012

    Amazing Almonds event!

    Please come join my event, which runs throughout the rest of April 2012 (4th -31st inclusive). Almonds are such a versatile ingredient that I would love to host a collection of almond recipes from all of us...
    To start us off, here's a recipe from me using almonds, which I posted only a couple of weeks ago. Use the link tool below to add your recipes, and we'll see how many almond goodies we can collect! I will post a roundup at the beginning of May. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

    • Feel free to link to posts you already made on your own blog, but if you are inspired, then by all means "go create" one especially for this event!
    • Vegan and lacto-vegetarian submissions are welcome, but please don't include eggs.
    • Sweet or savoury recipes: it's up to you- just as long as there are almonds in there somewhere...
    •  Please paste the "Amazing Almonds" logo above into your post and don't forget to link back to my blog,
    • You can submit as many recipes as you like!
    •  Use the linky below to submit your recipes (sorry no thumbnails this time, but I couldn't find a free one...) Where it says "name", you could also write the name of your recipe, and please give the URL of the page where you recipe is.

    "Free-from" buckwheat cookies- vegan and suitable for Ekadasi

    These gluten-free cookies are delicious at tea time...

    (Please note: although these cookies are free from dairy, egg, wheat and gluten they contain gour so may not be suitable for diabetics. They also contain nuts.)

    These cookies contain coconut oil rather than butter, but you could make them with butter if you are not concerned about them being vegan. Refined coconut oil is a safe oil to use for vegan baking, as it remains stable up to 232C. (Look here for more information on how to cook safely with various plant-based oils.) They are really quick and easy to put together, take next to no time in the oven and get eaten even faster! The almond essence balances out the earthiness of the buckwheat flour, but if you are baking these for Ekadasi then do make sure you use a natural almond essence which contains nothing but essence  of almond. I managed to make 13 cookies form these quantities, but a couple of them were slightly smaller, so really this recipe will yield around a dozen.

    150g gour, in pieces (boiled sugar cane juice containing iron and other minerals as well as sucrose and glucose)
    150g coconut oil
    300g buckwheat flour
    1 tsp almond essence
    flaked almonds for sprinkling

    • Melt the oil and gour gently in a heavy-bottomed pan. They will not mix together, so remove from the heat when both are liquid.
    • While the oil and gour are still warm, add the almond essence, stirring well.
    • Straight away stir in the buckwheat flour until a doughy consistency is achieved. Depending on the brand of flour, you might need to add more or less of it to prevent the mixture becoming too dry or too sticky.
    • Form the cookie dough into a log shape and cut into rounds about 1cm thick.
    • Place the slices on a well-oiled baking sheet and scatter with the flaked almonds.
    • Press the cookies down with a spatula until about half their original thickness.
    • Bake in the centre of an oven preheated to 200C, but turn it down to 180C as soon as you put the cookies in.
    • Bake for about 10 minutes; watch carefully, as oven timings and temperatures vary, and you don't want to over-brown them.
    • When they are done, remove from the oven but do not attempt to take them off the baking sheet until they have cooled, or they will break. Once cooled, they are stronger, but still a little bit more delicate than regular wheat flour cookies, so treat them gently!

    Tuesday, 3 April 2012

    Blinis: Eggless Buckwheat Pancakes for Ekadasi (can be vegan)

    Shown here with stewed apple filling...

    ...Drizzle with date syrup...

    ...fold over and tuck in!
    I had been meaning tmake these for a few weeks, but somehow the time didn't seem right; then, on Sunday 1.4.12, which was Sri Ram Navami (the birthday of Lord Rama), I needed to make breakfast for my husband, who was getting up early to drive somewhere. It being a day when we observe Ekadasi fasting, these pancakes were ideal.
    This recipe makes enough for at least 8 full-sized pancakes, depending on how thin you make them. (I made mine in various thicknesses.)
    400g buckwheat flour
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (not baking soda/ baking powder)
    600ml plant milk (nut, if you are observing ekadasi)
    200ml water to thin the batter
    oil for frying
    • Beat the first three ingredients together with a balloon whisk until the batter is smooth.
    • Add the water gradually- you may need slightly more or less than the given amount depending on your brand of flour.
    • Heat enough oil in a non-stick frying pan to cover the base.
    • Pour in 1-2 tabs of the batter, tilting the pan so that it covers the base evenly.
    • Fry until the top is "set".
    • Carefully flip over (they are delicate!) and fry for a couple more minutes, just to brown the other side.
    • Add more oil for the next pancake(s) if you need to.
    • I served mine with some stewed apple and date syrup inside. Yum!
    Note: If you want to make this vegan, then use soya, oat or rice milk instead of dairy milk, but remember that soya milk counts as a grain and is not suitable for use on Ekadasi days. If you need it to be vegan for Ekadasi, try almond milk or water.

    Sunday, 1 April 2012

    Ingredient of the Month 7: Almonds

    Flaked almonds- great for decorating cakes

    Whole Almonds

    I have realised that an awful lot of my recipes involve almonds, so perhaps I need to justify that with some nutritional information! As well as being a really versatile ingredient which is equally at home in sweet or savoury dishes, they are also very nutritious. Take a look for some savoury recipes from this blog which include almonds here, here,  here, and here . There are also some sweet recipes here, here, here and here. Oh, and if you like couscous, check this one out... (And there are more, too: I found 33 posts on my blog which involve almonds!)
    Almonds come from trees of the species prunus dulcis, but are actually drupes (a kind of fruit) rather than true nuts. There are two types; sweet almonds and bitter almonds, from which sweet almonds were bred. Both trees originated in the Middle East, and now almonds are also grown in the USA, Far East and Southern Europe. Bitter almonds, however, contain cyanide and are therefore poisonous unless the cyanide is removed before consumption. For this reason, they are rarely used today, although they have been used in medicine in the past.


    • Almonds contain about 20% protein, including essential amino acids. Their high fibre content makes them especially suitable for those on low-carb diets. As with other nuts, they also contain phytosterols, which can lower chloresterol. 
    • Almonds are about 50% fat, but it'a "good" oil: 62% of it is omega-9, 24% omega-6 and 6% saturated fatty acid. Don't worry about that last one, though; it makes almond oil one of the more stable (and therefore safest) oils for baking and frying, with a smoke point of 420F/ 216C. It's also assimilated very readily by the skin, making it excellent for massage and as a carrier for essential oils.
    • Almonds are rich in Vitamin E: 100g contains about 175% of your RDA.
    • Almonds also contain most of the B vitamins (not B12 though) in various proportions.
    • Calcium and iron are significantly high in almonds, as are magnesium and phosphorous.
    • .Almonds also contain potassium and zinc.
    Culinary Uses:
    • Almonds can be bought in their shells, as whole shelled nuts, blanched (whole, skins removed), flaked or ground. Whole almonds can easily be blanched, toasted or ground at home. Do not store ground almonds too long once opened as they can go rancid. I often grind my own for use in recipes.
    • Ground almonds are an incredibly versatile ingredient which add texture and nutrition to vegeburgers and pates, cakes and smoothies. They are, of course, essential for marzipan.
    • Soaked then added to a stir-fry or couscous, almonds make a crunchy change from tofu.
    •  Almond "milk" was well-known in Medieval Europe, where it was used as a dairy substitute on Christian fasting days, can be made by grinding and straining soaked almonds- as can almond "cream".
    • Flaked almonds, toasted or raw, make great garnished and toppings for both sweet and savoury bakes, crumbles, sweets and cakes.
    • Almond butter is even nicer than peanut butter, especially if you make it yourself!
    • Almond flour is a great substitute for wheat flour in baking for those who cannot tolerate wheat.
    • I remember one Winter/ Spring  when I was living in Crete the old farmers who would come into the restaurants and bars carrying baskets of green almonds for sale as snacks. (I never tried any, but I hear they are rather sour.)
    • And let's not forget the many uses of almonds in Indian cuisine: with rice, in pasanda curries, as a drink and in mithai etc...
    I hope this goes some way to justify my wide use of almonds in my recipes... but of course the most obvious reason for choosing almonds is that they taste so good!

    (Thanks to Wikipedia for the nutritional information.)