Posts tagged Aug2011
My colleagues eat their veggies... Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry!

My workmates still find it a novelty that I eat a predominantly vegan diet. Having known me for so long before I changed my approach to food I think they are still waiting for the point that the ‘novelty will wear off’. I don’t preach or proclaim to know it all but if questioned I try to impart some genuine understanding as to why I do things this way. Typically most will smile and say something along the lines of ‘well I couldn’t do it’. It’s understandable and I know I would have thought exactly the same, I think it takes a first-hand experience for someone to realise the benefits in their own life and how simple it can actually be (once you get the hang of it)!

So, then my ideal opportunity came along….

I work in a relatively small architectural practice (yes, architecture is my ‘day job’) and every so often we all take it in turns to cook lunch for the rest of the team so we can all sit down together and enjoy some social time, food and gossip. I’d been teasing them all (telling them all!) for some time that when my turn came I’d cook them a vegan lunch- I think they thought I really was joking.  I also have a vegetable patch at work… yes very random, but more on that another time, so a veg patch vegan lunch before summer was over was too good to miss.

It amused me that everyone was so apprehensive and worried about what I would serve- who can be scared of some harmless veg! I also know that some of them had also hidden away a little back-up snack should it be needed. I had a mission on my hands, a mission to prove that a meal made without animals could be tasty, filling, varied, decadent and delicious. 

Success…it went down a storm and made me a very happy bunny!  So much so that many of them requested the recipes for the food I’d served.   

The meal consisted of: sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry along with a roasted vegetable tart accompanied with potato wedges, falafel and a big mixed salad. Also for dessert (it would be a sin to forget dessert!) some of my amazing (but still in the process of being refined) sugar free, fat free, animal free chocolate brownies with blueberries and raspberries topped with (vegan) cream.  I promise I will share the brownie recipe with you soon- just not yet, it’s not quite ready (though they still gobbled it up!)

For starters…here’s a recipe to keep you going, everyone wanted more and I promise it will satisfy all the meat eaters in the crowd!

Recipe: Sweet potato curry

Makes 4 large meal sized portions (or lots more tapas style portions)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tablespoons madras curry paste (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 4 medium (fist sized) sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks)
  • 1 large red pepper (sliced)
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 200g bag of spinach
  • 1 x 400ml can of full fat coconut milk
  • Rice, quinoa or naan to serve - optional

Method:

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for few minutes until soft. Add curry paste and fry for 1 more min. Add the coconut milk, sweet potato, pepper and chickpeas  and cook for approx. 15-20 minutes until potato is cooked. Add spinach (fold spinach through mixture in handfuls) simmer for a couple more minutes until spinach is wilted. If thee is not liquid enough add a little water.

Serves immediately. If there are any leftover portions this curry freezes well.

Edit 2016 : I have since made this curry countless times and it's so versatile! It also works really well with many other veggies you may have to hand- I like to swap in green beans, courgette or cauliflower for the pepper and/or some of the sweet potato.

ooops, sorry... this one just snuck in!!


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Spicy polenta with greens and beans

First up- polenta! 

I was pretty happy with my first attempt yesterday so feel it justifies its place on my blog. Simple, versatile, healthy food… what more could I want?

So polenta, or more appropriately cornmeal as that is what it is. Having never cooked this stuff before I set about my research. From what I gather traditional polenta is made from coarse cornmeal stirred slooowly and continuously for a long time, ( about 30 minutes) however the product I came across was instant polenta, by Merchant Gourmet, which cooks in 5 minutes ( however still arm-ache inducing!). For a first timer like me this approach appealed.  From reading various reviews it seems that many now opt for the instant variety (even the Italians to whom it is their tradition), however the texture and richness may not compare but I guess this largely comes down to personal choice. I will give it a go one of these days with the real thing.

The options for serving polenta seem almost endless, another good reason it appealed to me and is sure to succumb to further experimentation:

  • Soft and creamy like mash potato or porridge
  • Formed into a firm loaf and sliced
  • Cubed and used as ‘croutons’
  • Spread thinly and sliced into ‘crackers’
  • Used as a base for Italian bruschettas
  • Served as pancakes for a sweet or savoury topping

….Then to serve: baked, grilled, fried…. with herbs or a marinade.

Choices choices!

Recipe: Spicy polenta with greens and beans

Serves 2 but can easily be doubled

I decided to spoon the polenta (once cooked as per packet instructions in a large sauce pan stirring for 5 minutes in 4 times the amount of vegetable stock to polenta) into a loaf tin. Once chilled I cut this into thick slices, sprinkled it with chilli powder and paprika for a bit of a kick and then oven baked the slices laid out on baking parchment for approximately 15 minutes, flipping over half way through. Yummy!  I served this up with a fusion of tomatoes, onion, beans  and spinach.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 2 large handfuls spinach (or other leafy greens)
  • Handful of fresh chopped basil (optional)
  • 1tsp mild chilli powder (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

In a large saucepan or wok (I always seem to use a wok for everything as I find it more forgiving for eager stirring of the contents!) heat 1 tbs oil and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Add the spice (if using), tomatoes and kidney beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer and str fry for 2 mins or until wilted. To serve, arrange the polenta slices around the edge of a shallow bowl (again my favourite form of dish due to practicality!) and spoon the tomato mixture into the centre. Garnish with chopped basil and seasoning.

P.S you can also make a larger batch of polenta and store the cooked (but unbaked) leftovers in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.


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