Friday, 1 February 2013

Ingredient of the Month 17: Beetroot

Beetroot is so beautiful!
This is one ingredient we seem to have around for most of the year (it keeps well), but it's in Winter, when we have very few of our homegrown veggies left, that we tend to get creative with the beetroot. Cooked or raw in salads, blended in soup, roasted or even juiced... beetroot is another superfood; a really healthy ingredient to eat regularly. It can have a rather earthy flavour, especially if it's organic and homegrown in good soil, as the mineral content will be higher- but careful spicing and a dash of lemon juice will take care of that. Here are some beetroot facts, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Beetroot is a rich source of minerals, including magnesium, potassium and sodium, and of the element boron. It also contains Vitamin C and betaine. The compound betanin gives it its lovely red colour and it is commonly used as a food dye. (Incidentally, as betanin is not broken down by the body, this is what colours your urine after a meal of beetroot!) Calcium, iron, and small amounts of some of  the B-vitamins also feature.
Other health benefits:
The antioxidant properties of the vitamins prevent infection and disease (possibly including cancer), while betaine strengthens the cardiovascular system and beetroot juice is taken to lower the blood pressure. It is also said to prevent liver disease. If you love excercise, then take note: one study has shown that drinking 500ml of beetroot juice a few hours beforehand can increase your endurance by up to 20%. (I'm going to see if this works next time I go running; will let you know...) The boron in beetroot can help alleviate menopausal symptoms and strengthen the bones.
Cooking with Beetroot:
Beetroot has a delicious, sweet, though somewhat earthy flavour. Most of us know it best in its cooked and pickled version, when it happily bleeds its purply-red juice all over everything else that comes within an inch of it on the plate. Personally I don't mind this, although I do not mix it with green salads, preferring to serve it separately. As a salad it's good grated raw with salt, pepper and lemon juice- the health benefits are maximised when it is taken raw, too, as cooking does destroy some nutrients. We sometimes also slice it and cook it until soft in a little water, until the water is absorbed. (You don't waste any more vitamins that way.) Cooled, it can be dressed and eaten as a salad; it goes really well with de-skinned slices of orange, too.
Roasted beetroot with cumin seeds -recipe link below- is also a great Wintery way to eat it: roasting really brings out the sweetness, too. Very thin slices of beetroot make amazing crisps (chips) with the addition of some seasalt and can be made by deep-frying or baking with oil. Borscht is a well-known beetroot-based vegetable soup from Eastern Europe, often flavoured with dill and paprika, and makes a really hearty meal along with your favourite bread. (Rye is a fabulous choice here.) For more beetroot recipes and ideas from this blog, click on the links below:

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Matar Tofu- vegan

You can't tell it's tofu from the look of it...

No recipe for this needed; it's just a straight swap of the paneer for tofu in this recipe. Once the tofu is grilled and put in the rich sauce with the peas, you can barely tell the difference; and yet it's great for those who are either watching their weight or lactose-intolerant. Mind you; I kind of blew it with the low-calorie thing tonight- we had this after we went for a 7km run and I was so ravenous I ate far too much of it! For how to make the tofu, look here; make it with 3l of soya milk. (It's just like making paneer, and just as easy.)
PS: Watch out for shahi tofu recipe, coming soon...!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Baba Ghanoush (aubergine dip)- vegan

Some toasted walnuts on the side really add to the Middle Eastern feel...
Baba ghanoush, in its many variations, is common to Middle Eastern countries like Syria, Iran, Israel, Palestine and Turkey, but also to Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. "Baba" comes from the Arabic for "father". In Afghanistan, India (Punjab), Pakistan and Bangladesh, aubergine (eggplant) is also chargrilled and pureed with vegetables and spices, to be eaten with roti. Baba ghanoush can contain onions, tomato, chilli, tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice, parsley, cumin, garlic, mint or even pomegranate concentrate. We are keeping the Middle Eastern ambience to our version with tahini, but also straying into North Africa with a little ras-el-hanout spice mixture- well why not? It does taste rather good with the smoky grilled aubergine...

Serves 3-4:
1 aubergine
1/2 tab extra-virgin olive oil- plus a bit more
2 tabs tahini
1 tab lemon juice
1 tsp seasalt
1/2 tsp compound hing (optional)
1/3 tsp ras-el-hanout

  • Cut the aubergine lengthways into strips, place on an oiled tray and grill until soft and slightly charred.(Even better if you can cook it outside on the barbecue!)
  • Blitz in the food processor skin and all with the olive oil and tahini until it resembles a smooth, hummus-like paste. (If you are mashing this by hand, you may have to leave out the skin.)
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients, and drizzle with olive oil if you like.
  • Serve it with flatbreads, pitta or chapattis, olives and salad. We made a meal of it by having some toasted walnuts for protein as well. If you like sandwiches or wraps, this would be a great filling.

For two other recipes with with ras-el-hanout, look here and here

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Winter Bean and Vegetable Pie- vegan

This pie is great hot with corn on the cob 
Simple and hearty fare on a Winters' day with no fancy ingredients- that's what today's recipe is all about. This is a real store-cupboard meal, as you can use up any veg you have, and you can use canned or dried beans. (We cook up big batches of beans then freeze them for future use; much nicer than tinned.) The crust is only on the top of the pie, thus cutting down the fat content, and the pastry is made with olive oil and wholemeal flour. This recipe makes 6 good-sized portions.

For the wholemeal pastry recipe: 
See here: you will need to adjust the proportions so that you get 800g of it. 
850g diced and sliced mixed seasonal vegetables (pumpkin, parsnip, broccoli, cauliflower,celery, peppers, sweet potato etc.)
450g cooked red kidney beans (or any similar-sized bean)
olive oil for stir-frying
2 tabs olive oil
2 tabs gram flour (aka chickpea/garbanzo/gram)
3 tabs soy sauce./tamari/ liquid aminos
600ml soya milk
1 1/2 tsps seasalt
1/2 tsp compound hing
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsps dried thyme a little soya milk and some sesame or sunflower seeds for the top
  • Make the pastry, wrap and chill -the pastry that is, not you ;)- in the fridge.
  • Stir-fry or sweat the veggies in a little olive oil until soft.
  • Meanwhile, make the sauce. gently heat the oil, add the gram flour and mix well. Slowly add the soy sauce until you a have a paste. Gradually whisk in the soya milk, keeping the heat gentle. The sauce should thicken.
  • When it's thickened and all the milk has been added, turn off the heat and stir in all the seasonings.
  • Mix the veggies and sauce together and turn into an oven-proof dish about 36x26cm. (Roasting tin size).
  • Now roll out the pastry into a rectangle to fit on top of the vegetables and sauce: it should be about 4mm thick. Tip: drape the rolled out pastry over your rolling pin to help transfer it to the dish. Roll the edges over and mark with a knife to make a pattern. Make slits in the top at regular intervals to let the steam out when it's cooking.
  • Brush with soya milk and sprinkle on the sesame or sunflower seeds.
  • Bake for about 15 mins in an oven preheated to 200C, or until the pie is heated through and the top is nice and brown and crispy.
For another take on bean and vegetable pie, see here