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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sandwich anyone?

Take a pot of hummus and stir in some chopped up coriander leaves and then splash in a couple of teaspoonfuls of lemon and give it another stir.

Now, get a Turkish flat bread and cut a few big chunks of it. Slice in half and lightly toast.

Spread each side with the hummus. Then add a thin slice of halloumi cheese to each side. Then on one side put a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions. Season and press it all together. If you have any hummus left over eat it with a spoon. Yummy!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Spicy Lentil Soup - The way it SHOULD be done

Sometimes, even recipe book writers get it wrong. There was a famous study done a few years ago in which various journalists attempted to cook recipes from all the famous chefs to see who had the most accurate recipes.

I was reminded of this because tonight (as we speak), I am working on a recipe for Spicy Lentil Soup that I got from a vegetarian cook book I bought today. I now own something like about 60 or so vegetarian cookbooks - very few of which are written by actual vegetarians.

Out of my entire collection, I can only point to Rose Elliot, Rosamund Richardson, Tarla Dalal and the fantastic Dennis Cotter (Thank you so much for that birthday present Claire) as true vegetarians. The rest are I suspect dead creature munchers who have jumped on the bandwagon in exchange for a bag of used fivers from their publishers.

I am not going to embarrass the poor dear who wrote this book by naming her, but she did get a few things wrong. I won't go back to the charity shop for a refund, because I think there are plenty of good ideas in this book. They just need a bit of work.
So, this is the recipe.

330g of red lentils
1.2 litres vegetable stock
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 inch fresh chopped ginger
Teaspoon of Ground Cumin, Coriander and Tumeric.
1 Chopped celery stick
good bunch of chopped up coriander or parsley leaves.
Tea spoon of groundnut oil.
Salt and Pepper
There is an option to put in some mustard seeds, which I did not do.

So far, so good, but then on step one a disaster occurs!

She says just stick the lentils in a pot and boil them. Skim off the foam and add the rest of the ingredients - apart from the Coriander - and then boil the guts out of it for an hour before adding in the chopped coriander leaves.


So, how are you supposed to bring the flavour out of the spices then eh, luv?

This is what you do.

Firstly, start by DOUBLING the quantity of the powder spices and substituting the groundnut oil for two tablespoons of olive oil. Next, think about bulking it out with some white beans, butter beans or chick peas. Maybe even use all three or perhaps some peas. In my case, I used some TRS soya chunks to turn this from a soup into a main meal. Oh, and I also added half a pinch of chilli powder to give it a bit of a punch.

Pass the garlic through a press and finely chop the ginger while the olive oil is heating up in a cast iron pan.

When hot, drop the garlic and chopped celery in and stir it round for about a minute. Next, chuck in the ginger and give that another minute. Next, add in our spices, including the chilli and stir it in and cook for about 30 seconds or just enough that you can smell them. Now chuck in your lentils and beans or soya and give it all a good coating in the oil and spice mix. Add salt and pepper.

NOW, pour in the vegetable stock and bring it to the boil. Turn the heat right down, stick a lid on and simmer it all until everything is cooked through. In the case of the soya chunks, this will take about 45 minutes. YOU might need to add more water at times.

When all is nice and thick, check the seasoning, turn the heat off and then stir in a huge great handful of the chopped coriander leaves. Serve into a bowl with some extra virgin olive oil over the top and some white crusty bread. put a few coriander leaves on the top.

I just tasted it. Heaven!

There you go. Perhaps I should write a recipe book.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Happy Birthday

Today was the 30th Anniversary of the opening of one of the world's top 100 shops, a shop that I am delighted to say is at the bottom of my street.

The story goes that Yasar Halim opened his bakery on Green Lanes in 1981 because he could not find anywhere that sold the kind of bread he got back home. Since then, he has expanded the bakery to include a fantastic grocers next door.

Like most shops on Green Lanes, the business serves the area's huge Cypriot population. But the place has also got a formidable and well deserved reputation amongst many of London's top foodies. And anyone I have met who has ever lived in this area always speaks glowingly about this shop.

I first moved to the Woodberry Down Estate on Green Lanes in October 1998. I'd been studying at Oxford but had come back to the capital to finish off my education at the London School of Economics.

It it did not take me long to realise that I had landed in vegetarian heaven. In fact, I would argue that Green Lanes is THE very best place for a vegetarian to live in the whole of the United Kingdom.

I used to like nothing more on Saturday morning than to go pottering up one side of Green Lanes, dipping in and out of the various food shops until I got to Wood Green Shopping City. There, after buying a few bits and pieces from the health food store, I would cross the road and potter back to the Woodberry Down.

Yasar Halim was the stopping point both on the way out and on the way back home again. Their cakes are stunning, but actually its the savouries I alway go for. On the way out, I would have one of his to die for spinach Boreks to munch as I toddled along. On the way back, it had to be a flat bread to take home to eat with the produce I brought in the grocery section.

Now, earlier in the week, I wrote about YH's legendary flatbreads and I still cannot believe that something soooooo tasty can be sooooo cheap. Don't tell Mr Halim this, but they would probably sell those breads in Fortnum and Mason for five times what he charges!

In recent years, Yasar Halim's emporium has been voted as one of the world's 100 great shops - and it's not difficult to see why. The range of food is immense and the prices give the major supermarkets a serious run for their money.

What I love about the place is that as a single man living on my own, I can buy only what I need. Tonight, I made a bean stew, so all I needed was a tin of tomatoes a tin of chick peas and a single onion. Total cost 99 pence, but from it I made dinner this evening and lunch to take to work tommorow. Try doing that in Tesco for less than a fiver.

I also bought a pack of cinnamon - 79 pence for 100 grams. In the nearby Sainsbury that would have cost me £1.55. And when as a vegetarian, you start working out the TRUE cost of what supermarket charge, it soon becomes clear that people like Yasar Halim are much cheaper.

And as well as cheap prices, you also get a fantastic experience. As a vegetarian and a cook, I like nothing more than pottering about in food stores. Yasar Halim is a place where you can do that. You can take a recipe book in there and the staff immediately start asking after you and giving you tips on what to cook.

In 2005, I moved out to the Hertfordshire countryside to look after a friend's house. After Green Lanes it came as a sad shock to me to discover that the only place you could do your shopping in the 'English Countryside' was at the massive Tesco at Brookfield Farm. No wonder I started growing my own!

Knowing that I was that close to YH was a major deciding factor in my decision to move back to this part of London. And now, its the place where I buy 90% of my food. I love it. Happy Anniversary Mr Halim and here's hoping you will have many more.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Savoy Rice with Caraway Seeds

I so can't believe I have not published this here yet.

Whenever I have made this, people have gone wild about it. It's my own recipe that I created out of what was originally a side dish.

The timings are everything on this one and when you get them all right, the end result is the yummiest dish ever.
So, here's what you need for two people.

200g of Savoy Cabbage

110 g of Basmati Rise

50g of Butter

Heaped Tablespoon of Caraway Seeds

100g of Frozen Sweetcorn

6 - 8 Pitted Black Olives

1 Red Onion

100g of Strong Cheddar Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Put the rice onto boil and then slice up the cabbage into small short strips. Take out the stalks of the leaves.

Drop the cabbage into a pan of boiling water. Bring back to the boil and let it cook for no more than 2 minutes. Drain well.

Drop the butter into the now empty (but still hot) pan you did the cabbage in

Let it melt and then add in the cabbage and the caraway seeds. Put a lid on and place it over a very low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While thats happening, break the olives in half and chop up the red onion. After 5 minutes add the frozen sweetcorn to the cabbage and seeds. Stir and cover for another two minutes. Next throw in the olives and warm them through for another minute.

Now, chuck in the red onion and the grated cheese and stir it all in. Take off the heat and finally stir in the rice to finish it off. Season and serve.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Two meals - 60 Pence

Without a doubt, the best thing about living in this part of London is that cheap and top quality vegetables and ingredients are everywhere.

So the other night I had an idea. I knew I had some stuff at home, but I fancied the idea of cous cous and mushrooms because its a combination I like. Now, the really nice thing about round here is that you can only as much as you need. No super sized packs of veg to go to waste here.

So off I bimble to the bottom of the street and buy one large red onion and half a dozen decent sized mushrooms. Total cost, 60 pence. I come back and slice and dry fry the mushrooms in order to bring the liquid out of them. in the meantime, I chop the red onion and also soak the cous cous in just enough water to cover it.

When the mushrooms are producing lots of liquid I turn them off I take out half the mushrooms and split off half the onion because an idea has just occured to me.

I chuck on a bit of pasta and then stick the cous cous into the mushroom pan, stir it round so it soaks up all the liquid whilst giving it a bit of a warm up. I then turn the heat off and stir in the red onions and a handful of chopped up coriander leaves that I had in the fridge. Finally, I grate a bit of cheese over the top. Simple - but dead yummy when served with a bit of flat bread.

The pasta is now ready, so I drain it. I had half a jar of Jamie Oliver pasta sauce in the fridge (one of the few sauces that I will buy because its super quality). I stir this into the pasta and throw in the rest of the mushrooms and coriander leaves. Finally, I turn off the heat and stir in the red onions.

I then tip everything into a sealable food box and top it with grated cheese.

The cous cous tastes lovely for my evening meal and the pasta lunch the next day is equally great. Not bad for less than a quid really is it?

Back Again!

Sorry, been off line for a while. I have been moving, settling into a new job and all that kind of stuff.

The area of London I now live in is a vegetarian paradise! I can do 90% of my food shopping at the independent grocers at the end of my street because its far cheaper than a supermarket and much better quality.

Take a look at this tray. It's big isn't it? Now look at the size of the Turkish flat bread I put on it. This was still warm when I got it and was covered in sesame and poppy seeds and tastes amazing.

Now, I feel sure that if one went into one of those fancy 'artisan' bakeries in Chiswick or Borough Market, they'd probably touch you for at least £2 for this loaf, though I fancy it would be nearer £3. Worse than that, it would probably have been made in a factory miles away.

This one was made on the premises (it was still warm when I bought it at 5 this evening) using natural ingredients. These loaves have to be eaten within a day of buying them because as they have no preservatives in them they go stale very quickly. Oh and it cost 70 pence! Yeh, thats right. You heard me SEVENTY PENCE! The food of the gods for under a pound - how good is that!

Some of the bakers round here (and there are quite a few of them) sell a half sized one for 40 pence. The other night I brought one of them from one of the bakers thats about a mile from my home. I had a little nip of it when I got it out of the shop and that was it. By the time I'd walked home I'd eaten the lot!