Saturday, 11 October 2014

Middle East Feast- vegan recipe collection

As you probably know, Middle Eastern appetisers often come in the form of meze, or a platter of various side dishes such as dips, breads, olives, salads or stuffed vine leaves. But we are suggesting meze could take centre stage as the main course. And for dessert, what better than fresh fruit? (Think figs, apricots, dates, pomegranates...) or maybe even a piece of vegan baklava, halva or lukum (Turkish delight). The informal, mix-and-match style of meze means you can share lots of different flavours and textures and potentially (if the dishes span the range of food groups) a good spectrum of nutrients too. And anyway, it's fun to choose lots of different flavours and textures! We haven't put a meze menu together in real life, but instead we are inviting you to pick from the recipe links below (click on the recipe name to open the link) to create your own Middle East Feast; let us know via the comments what you made, or what your ideal meze menu would include.

First up, we have dips:
Baba ghanoush (aubergines and tahini)



Moroccan chickpea pate

Scoop them up with veggies or flatbreads:
Flax flatbread

You might want to serve something a little more substantial, hot or cold:
Moroccan couscous

Chickpeas with ras al hanout

Middle Eastern pizza
Baked falafels

Moroccan aubergine escalope

...and then there's the classic salads/ sides:

Stuffed Vine Leaves

I've been wanting to make imam byaldi, Turkish stuffed aubergine, for some time now; what Middle Eastern dish are you planning to make next? What would you like to see featured here?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Dukkah (duqqa)- raw, gluten free

Dukkah is great scooped up with olive oil-dipped flatbreads
 The Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East have always been an obsession interest of mine; the Egypt thing started when I was taken to see the Tutankhamun exhibition at the BM as a child, continued through adolescence (when I was lucky enough to visit Egypt and see the pyramids and other monuments) and lasted until my graduation with a BA in The Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean. By the time I hit 30 I had also worked as an archaeologist in Israel, holidayed in Turkey and Tunisia, begun a lifelong love affair with mint tea, hummus, and olives and taken up raqs sharqi bellydancing. It's not that I'm a cultural appropriator; I just genuinely like all that stuff! Now, in the culinary phase of my life (okay, that really just means I stopped travelling and now am happy cooking for my family), it's no surprise that I find myself cooking Middle Eastern style quite a lot. I have yet to find a vegan Middle Eastern ingredient that I don't like: almonds, apricots, ful mesdames, pistachios, sesame, sumac, harissa, chickpeas, ras el hanout, couscous, rosewater, aubergines... bring 'em all on I say! 
-But of course, you didn't come here to read all of that: you want the lowdown on dukkah, so here goes: Dukkah is an Egyptian sesame, nut and spice dip that's eaten with olive oil-dunked breads or vegetables. The nuts are usually hazelnuts but I used almonds, and the nuts and seeds are roasted, but I made it raw. Spices vary- I used sumac, coriander and cumin. There is also za'atar, a delicious mixture of dried parsley, oregano, Syrian wild thyme, sesame, sumac, salt and pepper that is used in the same way. Coincidentally, my stepson brought some back for us from his recent travels in  Jerusalem and the West Bank at the same time as I was contemplating making dukkah, so we dived into both with the oil and bread...yum!

Makes a large jar full. You will need a spice grinder or pestle and mortar for this recipe:
100g almonds
80g sesame seeds
2 tabs coriander seeds
2 tabs cumin seeds
2 tsps ground black pepper
3 tsps powdered sumac
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp compound hing

  • Grind the nuts, sesame seeds and spices separately, then mix everything together in a bowl.
  • Serve with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and whatever bread and/ or raw veggies you like. For a quick and easy yeast-free flatbread recipe, try ours here.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The BUPA Great Birmingham Run 2014-We are Running for The Vegan Society

This is the reason we aren't too creative in the kitchen at the moment and the blog posts are few and far between- we are running our first half marathon in 2 weeks!
We've been following our training plan religiously since August but now the training's getting more intense; the runs are longer, more tiring and more time-consuming. This picture was taken when we'd just finished a 10-mile run- hence the look on my face! The past couple of weeks have been a struggle for me, as I've had a bad cough and sinus infection and having to run all through that was tough. Glad I did though, because now I finally feel like come the day I'll be able to give it my best shot and get round the course in a reasonable time.
Why are we subjecting ourselves to all this? We are raising money for The Vegan Society, showing that plant-powered people are fit and healthy and promoting veganism as a sustainable and compassionate way of life. If you'd like to help us do this, you can donate via our JustGiving page:

Ingredient of the Month: Singoda Flour (aka singhara)

This month we have some singoda flour in the cupboard; perfect for gluten free or grain free dishes. To date, all we've made is singoda, buckwheat and potato flour pancakes (and very good they were too) but I'm sure it will prove itself a versatile ingredient.
Singoda -or singhara- flour is made from water chestnuts; the same water chestnuts that you get in Chinese and South East Asian cuisine. They are actually the corm of a sedge-like aquatic plant, and nothing to do with tree nuts at all; in fact, there has never been any recorded case of allergy to singoda flour, making it a great "free from" food. Find it in Asian supermarkets, or online.
Nutrition and Health Benefits: Singoda flour is rich in B vitamins and potassium, and also contains antioxidants. It's roughly 20% protein, just over 50% starch, 3% sugar and minerals and about 1% fat. It also has fibre. Studies have shown that water chestnut flour is a good food for diabetics because of its low calorific value in relation to its fibre, protein and vitamin content.
Uses: As well as the aforementioned pancakes, you can make chapatis, dhokla (steamed "cake" with chilli and mustard seeds) and even sweets like ladu... yum :)

Do you have any ideas for recipes which feature singoda flour?