Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Chana dal and okara croquettes

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

We eat a lot of dal – it’s easy to prepare as long as you remember to put it to soak overnight first. It’s also worth making in large amounts because it’s so versatile. Any leftovers can be diluted to make soup, frozen or turned into croquettes.

Since I started using my Soyabella regularly – which means there’s okara to be used up most days – I had the idea of including some in the recipe.

I’m especially fond of chana dal with its earthy taste and rich yellow colour, but any other type of dal (mung dal or urad dal, for instance) could be used instead. If you don’t live near an Indian grocer, lentils also make good croquettes and don’t need to be soaked.

For these croquettes I used a hazelnut okara, but any kind would do. If you don’t have okara, just leave it out.

Dal croq 4 redim

For 8 croquettes

180 g (6oz) chana dal
Stick of cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves of garlic
Chunk of fresh ginger
1 leek
1 carrot
120 g (4oz) okara, with most of the liquid pressed out
1 tsp salt
Small onion
2 tbs groundnut or sunflower oil
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
30 g (1oz) oat flour (or more)

Soak the dal overnight in plenty of water. Drain and rinse it well, then put it in a large saucepan with the cinnamon, turmeric, peeled garlic, finely chopped ginger and enough water to cover by 4-5 centimetres (2 inches). Bring to the boil and remove the scum that comes to the surface. Simmer gently for an hour and a half, or until the dal is soft, adding water if necessary to stop it sticking to the saucepan. Remove the cinnamon stick. At this point the dal should resemble a thinnish puree.

Meanwhile, chop the leek and carrot into small dice and cook in a little water for about 5 minutes. Drain and add to the dal with the okara and salt. Continue to cook the dal gently until it forms a thick paste. Watch it carefully, stirring often with a wooden spoon.

Chop the onion finely. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a small saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the onion and fry to a rich brown.

Pour the contents of the pan – oil and all – into the dal, stir well and leave to cool. It will be easier to work with if you have time to put it in the fridge for a while.

When you’re ready to eat, divide the paste into eight and space the pieces out on a worktop sprinkled with oat flour. Shape the croquettes, working quickly and adding more flour whenever the paste threatens to stick.

Heat the rest of the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the croquettes for about 5 minutes a side, until well browned.

Herb and cashew nut sauce

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Sauce fines herbes

This sauce puts baby new potatoes into the luxury league. You could also serve it over pasta, or use it like a chutney for perking up just about any dish.

It started life with a handful of fresh-plucked herbs: persil, chives, tarragon, mint, marjoram and thyme.

Fines herbes

As I added other ingredients, it struck me that the combination resulted in something rather like a vegan tartare sauce. It would be even closer to this classic if a chopped gherkin or two were added.

Any herbs you come across in the garden or at market would be at home in this sauce, just as long as they’re really fresh.

Makes about 5 tablespoons

A handful of herbs (mine weighed 20 g)
20 g cashew nuts (about 12)
3-4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp capers
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

Chop or snip up the herbs and put them in a small bowl.

Toast the cashew nuts in a cast-iron frying pan, then crush them in a mortar. Rinse the capers well and chop them finely.

Add the nuts and capers to the chopped herbs along with the other ingredients, season to taste and mix well.

For a new potato salad, add the sauce to a kilo of potatoes as soon as they’re cooked and serve the salad lukewarm.

Water chestnuts with kochujang

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

One of the most enjoyable aspects of eating vegan is discovering new ingredients and learning how to use them. Sometimes, though, I find it interesting to take a fresh look at the meat dishes I used to cook.

As I’ve never liked meat, I would make it mostly for guests and I’d always try hard to disguise the taste. This strategy works brilliantly with spicy food, and nobody seemed to mind when I replaced the pork in this Korean dish (which is adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe) with button mushrooms, and most recently with water chestnuts.

Korean veg 2

Sometimes I double the quantities for the kochujang (also known as kochuchang, gochujang, and so on), because it keeps well in the fridge for several weeks. The main ingredient, miso, is a fermented soya paste available from Asian grocers. I use an organic version that also contains rice.

Serves 4 to 6.

For the kochujang

4 tbs red miso
1 tbs paprika
½-1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbs sugar


A fat chunk of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic
Large tin of water chestnuts
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 courgette
2 tbs oil
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp tamari

Mix together the ingredients for the kochujang and add just enough water to make a thick paste.

Chop the ginger and garlic very finely and add to the kochujang. Drain the water chestnuts and mix them with the paste.

Chop the onion and pepper into fair-sized pieces (as if you were going to thread them on skewers for kebabs). Cut the courgette into thick slices.

Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan and fry the onion until the edges start to brown. Set aside. Briefly fry the pepper, then the courgette. Add the kochujang paste and chestnuts to the pan and cook for a few minutes, until the oil just starts to separate out from the sauce.

Add the reserved onions, lime juice, rice vinegar and tamari, plus a few spoonfuls of water if you think it’s needed to make the sauce the right consistency.

Serve with Japanese rice.

N.B. Don’t add salt to this dish: the miso already contains plenty.

Instant fruit ice

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Last summer our solitary peach tree decided to bear fruit for the first time – so much that we couldn’t eat it all.

Peach tree

So I froze several kilos of peaches, plunging them in boiling water to remove the skins, then cutting them in half to take out the stones. Just the thing for making tarts and crumbles in the middle of winter, right?

Errr… not quite.

Once defrosted, the peaches slumped into a brown, sticky, watery gloop, devoid of scent and completely inedible.

What was needed was a way of using them while still frozen. I let them defrost just enough to be able to separate the halves, then whizzed them in the food processor to make this quick ice. We enjoyed it, but it must be said that it doesn’t taste particularly of peaches.

If you know a way of freezing peaches without ruining them, I’d love to hear about it.

Cashew nut paste (I use the Jean Hervé brand, which is organic and contains nothing but finely ground cashews) is one of my ingredients of choice at the moment. It sticks to the roof of the mouth in a way that may not appeal to everyone, but for me that’s part of its toffee-like charm.

I’ve tested this ice successfully with bought frozen fruit like raspberries and redcurrants, and with fruit from the garden cooked prior to freezing, such as quince, rhubarb and apple.

Pictured below: scoops of raspberry, apple and peach ice.


You can adjust the amount of syrup according to taste and the tartness of the fruit, and vary the nut paste (almond and hazelnut are good, but don’t give quite the same smoothness) and milk (try almond, oat or soya).

For about 500 ml (1 pint)

200 g (7oz) frozen fruit
120 ml (5 fl oz) plant milk
2 tbs cashew nut paste
2 tbs agave syrup

Take the fruit out of the freezer and leave at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, or until you can separate the pieces.

Put the milk into a food processor, followed by the nut paste and syrup. Add the fruit pieces, and process until you have a smooth puree with no lumps.

If you do this quickly enough, you end up with a soft ice, rather like an Italian ice, which can either be eaten straight away or poured into a plastic tub and put in the freezer for a few hours to firm up.

Hummus and sweet potato salad

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

On a recent trip to London I snacked on a hummus and sweet potato sandwich and found this to be an inspired taste combination. I’ve tried to recreate the flavours in this starter.

The hummus recipe is based on the one in Claudia Roden’s classic, A Book of Middle Eastern Food. I make a batch most weeks (the quantitites given here can easily be doubled or trebled) as it’s handy to keep in the fridge for sandwiches, wraps and dips. Unlike many hummus recipes, this one doesn’t include oil – not needed for the texture as there’s plenty of oil in tahini. And you can always add a splash of oil or dressing later, as I’ve done here, and vary the taste of each mouthful.

Houmous-patate douce

Serves four

2 smallish sweet potatoes (about 400 g or 14 oz)
4 medium new potatoes

For the hummus

50 g (2 oz) dried chickpeas
Juice of a lemon
1 clove of garlic
5 tbs tahini

For the dressing

2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp black sesame seeds
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of salt
A few stems of chives

Soak the chickpeas overnight. Drain, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Cook gently for about an hour, or until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

Process the chickpeas with the lemon juice and enough cooking liquid to make a thinnish paste (save the rest to use as stock).

Crush the garlic in a mortar with a little salt. Stir into the chickpea paste, followed by the tahini, and check to see if more salt is needed. Keep the hummus in the fridge until ready to serve.

Bake the sweet potato at 200°C (Gas 6) for about an hour, or until tender. Allow to cool, then peel. Cut crosswise into slices.

Boil the new potatoes in their skins for about 15 minutes. Peel as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Slice lengthwise.

Arrange the sweet potatoes and new potatoes on individual plates and put a dollop of hummus in the middle of each.

Snip or chop the chives. Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy sauté pan until they start to pop.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small screw-top jar and shake well. Pour over the salad, decorate with the seeds and chives, and serve with some crusty bread or crispbread.

Two chestnuts crumble

Friday, April 9th, 2010

When I was at school in the 1960s it was probably the cookery lessons I hated the most. We were being honed to become model housewives who would later slave over a hot stove all day so that a meal was ready and waiting when our husbands came home from the office.

Our teacher, a tall woman extended by a beehive hairdo on top and stiletto heels beneath, drummed into us the basics of what counted at the time as good cooking while constantly reminding us of the virtues of the ideal wife.

Most of my peers seemed quite content with this interpretation of our adult lives but I was convinced that my future lay elsewhere (as the title of first woman in space had recently been taken, I was hesitating between the careers of surgeon and folk singer).

One of the first dishes we learned to make was the traditional apple crumble – a mushy concoction in which any taste of fruit had been bludgeoned into submission by an overdose of sugar.

I’ve made my peace with cooking since then, and crumbles have crossed the Channel, popping up everywhere in versions sweet and savoury. I’m especially fond of this one because of the astonishing contrast between the textures of the chestnuts (the vacuum-packed kind) and tinned water chestnuts.

Crumble chât

Serves 4 to 6

5 g (¼ oz) dried ceps (or other dried mushrooms)
1 small onion
2 carrots
1 head of fennel
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs tamari
2 bay leaves
200 g (7 oz) chestnuts (vacuum packed)
200 g (7 oz) water chestnuts (drained)

120 g (4 oz) wholemeal flour
100 g (3½ oz) barley flakes
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 tbs olive oil

Cover the ceps with 200 ml (8 fl oz) of boiling water and leave to soak.

Roughly chop the onion, carrots and fennel and brown them quickly in the 2 tbs of oil. Add the tamari, bay leaves and 100 ml (4 fl oz) of water, cover and cook gently for about 15 minutes. The vegetables will absorb most of the water.

Meanwhile, mix the flour and barley flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Add the 4 tbs of oil and rub into the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6).

Drain the mushrooms (you could chop them and add them to the vegetables but I prefer to save them for another dish) and strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter. Add the liquid to the vegetables, along with the two types of chestnut. Mix well and transfer to an ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle over the crumble mix and bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden.

A green salad with a sharp, vinegary dressing goes well with this crumble.

Sourdough hot cross buns

Monday, April 5th, 2010

After googling in vain for a vegan hot cross bun recipe that used leaven, I experimented and came up with this version. Spicy and packed with fruit, these buns make a warming snack for a damp afternoon, or they can be toasted for breakfast.

Rather than fiddle with pastry crosses, I simply cut slashes in the top of each bun. The glazed surface contrasts with the paler dough inside.

Hot cross

For 16 buns

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) white bread flour
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp salt
40 g (1½ oz) brown sugar
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1 tbs grated nutmeg
400 g (14 oz) leaven
About 450 g (1 lb) lukewarm water
1 tbs cashew or almond spread
1-2 tbs groundnut oil
Grated zest of a lemon
Grated zest of an orange
220 g (8 oz) raisins

For the glaze

1 tbs agave syrup
1 tsp soya milk

Set aside 1 tbs of flour and add to the raisins, rubbing them together to separate them.

Mix the flours, salt, sugar and spices. Do grate the nutmeg fresh if possible; bought ground nutmeg seems to lose flavour faster than other spices.

Add the leaven with 400 g of water, and mix well with your hands. Keep adding water, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough, then mix in the cashew or almond spread and 1 tbs of the oil. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.

Turn the dough onto an oiled work surface and knead for about five minutes. It should be starting to feel elastic and less sticky. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for at least an hour, until it has doubled in size.

Work the grated zests into the dough, followed by the raisins, a few at a time. Divide the dough into 16 pieces and knead each into a round. Put them on a baking tray covered with baking parchment, cover with cling film and leave until the buns are well risen again and feel light and springy to the touch (mine took another couple of hours but they would rise faster in a warmer kitchen).

Heat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6). If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to heat up as well.

Stir the agave syrup and soya milk together to make the glaze and brush over the tops of the buns. Then, using a very sharp knife, slash deep crosses in the top of each bun. Slide the parchment and buns onto the baking stone (or put the tray directly in the oven). Bake for 20 mins, until the buns are a rich brown.

They are good with any nut spread, or with marmalade.

Roasted roots with lemon

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

This year’s spring flowers, which usually start peeking through at the end of January, all seemed to wait until this week to turn out for a mass display. As soon as I had a spare moment I joined them outside, weeding, pruning and repairing storm damage.

None of that leaves much time for cooking but never mind, I still have enough winter vegetables in store to make a dinner that more or less looks after itself once it’s in the oven.

Roasted roots

The lemon (thanks Hel!) enlivens the earthy taste of the roots and adds a splash of colour.

Practically any root vegetables can be used, including:

Sweet potato

The garlic isn’t really negotiable, in my opinion, but you don’t have to go as far as I do and use a whole head. A few unpeeled cloves tucked in here and there will perfume the dish without being overpowering.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6).

Wash the vegetables and peel them if necessary. Most of the roots can be cut into large chunks, though the beetroot pieces need to be smaller as they take longer to cook. Slice the carrots and parsnips lengthwise. Put them all in a heavy roasting pan and pour over one or two tablespoons of olive oil. Turn the vegetables over until all the pieces are evenly coated (it’s best to do this with your hands).

Cook for about an hour, stirring from time to time. After 40 minutes or so, add a large lemon, cut into eight pieces. I’ve made this dish with limes, but only when I could find fat, juicy ones.

We like to eat these roots with some large lettuce leaves, a sprinkling of Maldon salt and some good sourdough bread. I sometimes buy the latter from an excellent bakery in a nearby town, but it’s rather a long way to go specially which is why I’ve been making my own leaven lately. More on that soon…


Pumpkin and ginger soup

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Sometimes, passing an Asian grocery shop, I spy some crisp, young, pink-tipped ginger that’s just crying out to be bought and used straight away. As I haven’t yet managed to grow my own, I can’t bear to let such immaculate freshness go to waste.

Some was sliced and boiled up for ginger tea (which keeps well in the fridge for several days) and some grated to soak in cider vinegar for spicy salad dressings. The chunk that remained found a home in this pumpkin soup.

Now I like my ginger flavour zingy and assertive, but if you don’t share my passion you can use less. Just 2 cm (1 in) of root will blend in with the other seasonings to add a delicate background warmth.

As a change from croutons, I topped the soup with some leftover baked potato, lightly broken up and fried in a little oil.

Soupe poti

1 onion
5-6 cm (2 in) ginger
2 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
Black pepper
2 carrots
2 sticks celery
Large chunk of pumpkin (about 1 kg)
½ tsp salt

Chop the onion and ginger and brown lightly in the oil in a large saucepan. Add the peeled garlic, cumin and paprika, and grind in plenty of black pepper. Roughly chop the carrot, celery and pumpkin and add to the pan with the salt. Pour in 1.5 litres (3 pints) of boiling water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Liquidise the soup (I do this in three batches), and cook gently for another 15 minutes or so, until it is thick and creamy. Check the seasoning.

I see no point in making less than this quantity for six – the soup is even better reheated the next day and can also be frozen in plastic boxes.

Lemon and lucuma tart

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Every now and then I come across a new ingredient that seems to find its way into all my menus. Lucuma powder is one such, lending its unique flavour to muesli, fruit juice and plant milks, and giving a simple lemon tart a new twist.


The lucuma is a subtropical fruit that grows in the Andes. Peruvians adore it, and reportedly use it to make an ice cream that rivals vanilla in popularity. The powder is available from the Bar des Artisans–Voy Alimento in Paris, a cheery vegan eatery a short walk from the Gare de l’Est that sells loads of other original, healthy and ethical food products.

The cream filling is adapted from Fran Costigan’s book, "Great Good Desserts Naturally", a recent arrival in my kitchen that is quickly becoming a firm favourite.

This tart is rather reminiscent of an American cheesecake. Given the date, I couldn’t resist taking some cherries out of the freezer to decorate it, but you could also use candied lemon peel or grated chocolate.

Tarte citron-lucuma

For the tart shell:

250 g (8 oz) wheatmeal flour (or a mix of white and wholemeal)
A pinch of salt
125 g (4 oz) vegetable margarine
1 tbs cane sugar (optional)

For the filling:

400 g (1 lb) silken tofu
60 ml (3 fl oz) cashew nut butter
50 ml (2 fl oz) maple syrup
40 g (1½ oz) cane sugar
½ tsp salt
Juice and grated zest of a large lemon
2 tsp lucuma powder

First prepare the filling. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and mix to a smooth cream. Transfer the filling to a clean bowl, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for at least three hours.

For the pastry, stir the salt into the flour and rub in the margarine until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar if you’re using it, then stir in just enough cold water to form a ball. Leave to rest for about half an hour.

Heat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6). Roll out the pastry gently and use it to line a 22 cm (9 in) tart tin. Prick the base all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes. Leave the shell to cool completely before spooning in the filling, which will have had time to thicken up a bit.

* 23 rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris.