Friday, 4 November 2011

A Bonfire Night Special- Savoury Catherine Wheels- vegan

These days Bonfire Night is less about Guy Fawkes and more about getting together with friends and family to gasp at municipal fireworks and toast various foodstuffs round a small bonfire. Here in multicultural Birmingham the fireworks season begins with Eid or Diwali, runs through Hallowe'en, Bonfire Night and Big Eid and ends with New Years' Eve, and as I'm writing this around 3:00pm on Diwali, I can even hear fireworks going off already! All this does become a bit passe after a few weeks, but right now it's put me in a festive mood so I've been cooking up some snacky little treats to tide us over until we eat tonight. This recipe is dedicated to my late Mum and Dad, in memory of Bonfire Nights in the the 'Seventies- but you'll have to allow me to indulge in a bit of nostalgia before I share the recipe with you...
...After a week of "Penny for the Guy", (a grotesque effigy of Guy Fawkes complete with scary mask from the corner shop which we would parade around the streets in an old pram to get money for fireworks and sweets), we would all gather on Bonfire Night at the end of our road and then someone's Dad (probably mine!) would pour some petrol on our giant communal bonfire to help it light as it would inevitably be damp. Once it was ablaze, the Guy would then be thrown on amid raucous cheers, and the dodgy fireworks display would begin, with everyone's Dad trying to outdo the others in daredevil Roman candle-lighting feats which broke just about everything in the fireworks code, to the accompaniment of screams of terror and delight and mugs of lukewarm soup. All tremendous fun, but totally in breach of begging, health and safety and food hygiene legislation- you'd never get away with it today! I remember one year, somewhat unnerved by the boys who had been letting off rockets inside milk bottles the previous year, my Mum decided that we would have our own party in the garden so after the Guy-burning we retreated to relative safety (which, by the way, quite literally backfired because my Dad didn't pin up a Catherine wheel properly and it went spinning across the garden!) to enjoy Heinz tomato soup and some yummy pastry "Catherine wheels" made with cheese and Marmite, an idea Mum had got from a magazine. I loved them so much that from then on they were a firm lunchbox favourite! This is my grown-up and vegan take on them, then, in memory of Mum's firework-phobia and Dad's crazy firework displays...
(Makes 16-18)
300g organic wholemeal flour
100ml organic cold-pressed sunflower oil
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
cold water to mix
1 tsp seasalt
a pinch of black pepper
1 dsp dried basil
1 dsp paprika
2 tsps brown rice miso
3 tabs tomato puree
3 tabs nutritional yeast
1 tab vegan "Parmesan" (comes as powder in a tub)
  • Make up the pastry in the usual way for shortcrust pastry and set aside to chill in the refrigerator- this makes it a bit easier to roll out
  • Meanwhile, combine all the filling ingredients thoroughly
  • Roll the pastry into a rectangle and spread evenly with the filling
  • Roll up tightly and cut into 1cm-thick slices
  • Place on a oiled baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 200C for 15-20 minutes, until nocely browned. On cooling, they become crumbly outside, but remain a little softer inside.
My kids couldn't guess that there was neither Marmite nor cheese in them- but once they knew, they still enjoyed them; at least I presume so, by the way the pastries disappeared from the kitchen overnight... Of course, if you want to make the original version, with Cheddar cheese and yeast extract, they will be equally yummy. (Note: Marmite now contains onion- I rang up and checked- so if you are making them to offer to Krishna, use another brand which is pure yeast without vegetable and spice extracts.)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ingredient of the month 2: Date Syrup

I bought this jar from a Middle Eastern grocery, but major wholefood brands such as Meridian also import it. I think you can get organic date syrup too- try "Crazy Jack's" brand. I love date syrup (or "rub" as it is called in Arabic) for its sweet stickiness and strong date flavour. It is made in the Middle East (countries such as Iran, Iraq, UAE, Egypt and even Pakistan being major producers) where it is traditionally used to sweeten drinks and as a spread on bread.
Nutrition (per 100g):

Energy :287 kcal
Glucose :Min 41%
Fructose :Min 29%
Fiber :4.0 g.
Protein :3.3
Iron :2.60 mg.
Carbohydrate :68.0 g.
Br ix :70 ± 1%
Vitamin B1 :0.03 mg.
Vitamin B2 :0.06 mg.
Vitamin C :2.60 mg.

Date syrup is 65-70% sugars in total. mainly glucose and fructose. It is also high in iron, therefore recommended for those suffering from anaemia. If you are looking for a very slow-releasing sugar, however, you might be better off with stevia, xylitol or malt extract, as eating more than a moderate amount can have the same effect as white sugar. Personally I find that date syrup is fine for me- I don't get the "rush" then dip in my blood sugar that I get from cane or beet sugar.

  • Dates contain many health benefitting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic (prevent easy bleeding tendencies) properties.
  • They are a good source of Vitamin-A (contains 149 IU per 100 g), which is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. Vitamin A also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A is known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • The fruit is very rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants have the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen free radicals and thereby found to be protective against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. 
  • Zeaxanthin, an important dietary carotenoid selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions; thus it offers protection against age related macular degeneration, especially in elderly populations.

    Date syrup is great stirred into warm milk or soya milk as a drink or substituted for sugar and/ or sugar syrup in cakes and flapjacks. It's also a really delicious sweet spread when mixed with tahini (sesame paste). On a cold winter's morning, date syrup drizzled over your porridge brings a warming taste of sunshine!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Soda flatbread

This is what my husband decided to make to go with my sweetcorn chowder with red cabbage, and it was just perfect! I was soon tearing off chunks and dipping it in...
To make 5 large flatbreads:
1 cup self-raising flour
2 cups wholemeal flour
200ml soya milk
25 ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsps bicarbonate of soda (not baking powder)
1 tsp salt
  •  Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl
  • Rub in the olive oil
  • Stir in 200ml soya milk
  • Mix into a dough and divide into 5 balls
  • Roll out into circles
  • Cook on a tava, as you would chapattis.
Possible tweaks: Add herbs, nutritional yeast, pepper, chilli or any other seasoning to make these breads extra-special.