Saturday, 13 April 2013

Soba Noodles with Lime, Ginger and Cashews-vegan, gluten free, suitable for Ekadasi

This makes a nice change from potato on Ekadasi
If you follow a farali (no grains) fast on Ekadasi, or observe days like Sri Krsna Janmasthami or Rama Navami that way, then you and your family might well get fed up with potatoes! In the Gaudiya Matha, not only do we abstain from grains and beans but also leafy, stem and flowering vegetables as well as fruiting vegetables like peppers, aubergines and tomatoes. It's basically sweet fruits, olives, veg. of the curcubita family like cucumber, courgette and pumpkin, most root veg and nuts (plus dairy products if you eat them). The only seasonings we have are black pepper, salt, ginger and turmeric. As foodstuffs are so limited, it's good to know that buckwheat is not technically counted as a grain, thus we can have it on Ekadasi days! (See here for some information about buckwheat.) Rama Navami is just around the corner (19th April), so if you want to try cooking something new to celebrate that day, you could give this a go. Make sure the noodles are 100% buckwheat though, as some types contain wheat. (The brand we used was King Soba.) There is a knack to cooking soba noodles- they can get extremely sticky- but I think I've cracked it now so if you follow these instructions you shouldn't go far wrong. This dish came out so tasty that it's worthy of being cooked any day, not just Ekadasi. The fact that buckwheat happens to be both vegan and gluten free means just about anyone can eat it, too.

The following amounts catered for 3 large portions, so would probably make 4 moderate servings.
1 1/2-2 (depending on size) orange sweet potatoes
2 med-large courgettes/ zucchini
a generous 1/2 cup of cashew pieces or halves
1 1/2 tabs olive oil
1 tsp seasalt
a generous pinch of coarse black pepper
the juice of one lime
a piece of ginger roughly the size of the tip of your thumb, grated finely- about a dsp once grated
one 50g packet of soba noodles

  • Cut the sweet potato and courgette into fine julienne (strips) as illustrated.
  • Juice the lime and let the grated ginger sit in the juice.
  • Heat water in a fairly large saucepan and put in the soba noodles when it has come to a vigorous boil. Turn off the heat immediately. Keep the noodles moving by stirring constantly; that way they are less likely to stick together. Be patient, and carry on until they are soft all the way through, then drain in a colander and rinse the excess starch off with plenty of cold running water. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the vegetables until just starting to tenderise. Throw in the cashews, stirring constantly to ensure they don't burn. Stir in the salt, pepper, ginger and lime and when the veggies are cooked to your liking (either completely soft or a little al dente) turn off the heat.
  • Now go back to the soba noodles. Don't worry if they have become a bit sticky again; just rinse them in cold water and separate gently with your fingers. Either stir them into the vegetables and cashews or serve them separately, hot or cold. (To re-heat them I used a microwave. You could also stir-fry them but I think using hot water would spoil them.)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Eggless "Aumlette"- vegan and gluten free

"Aumlette", a vegan cheese omelette: The addition of ground flax seeds to the batter really enhances the flavour and texture

Don't you just love it when one of your favourite recipes gets even better? Well that's just what happened today when I decided to make pudla (gram flour pancakes with vegetables) for lunch. I happened to have a couple of "flax eggs" in the fridge that needed using up, so I added them to the batter... and it really improved the mixture so much I gave it a name of its own: "Aum-lette" (rather than "omelette" because it is yogic in that it contains no eggs... sorry about the bad pun). It was amazing how the pancakes were transformed into something even more satisfying, rich yet light, by the simple addition of ground flax seeds whisked up in water. Another change since the Pudla post was written is that instead of cheese I added chunks of a mixture of tofu, yeast flakes, tahini, salt and lemon. That really enhanced the flavour too. I guess we ended up with a vegan cheese and vegetable omelette! Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any pictures because it all got eaten so rapidly, but  it doesn't look significantly different from our original recipe, so I've used the old photos. Anyway, here's the amended recipe:

Delicious folded in half and served with a green salad! You can use any veg you like  for the filling: This time we used broccoli, orange peppers, coriander and cherry tomatoes with our vegan "cheese".

(Makes 4 or 5, depending on the thickness)
300g gram flour
400ml water
2 flax eggs (see this month's "How-To")
seasalt to taste
black pepper to taste
turmeric to taste- just enough to create an attractive yellow colour
Some kind of protein like tofu "cheese" or a nut cheese (optional)
olive oil for frying
a selection of chopped vegetables fresh coriander, olives, herbs etc. ( we used peppers, coriander/ cilantro/dhaniya, broccoli and cherry tomatoes.)
  • Prepare the fillings, lightly steaming hard vegetables such as potatoes or broccoli first.
  • Meanwhile, mix the gram  flour and seasonings in a large shallow bowl. The turmeric gives it an attractive yellow colour.
  • Add the water and mix well with a balloon whisk.
  • Whisk in the flax eggs.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan and drop in 1/4 of the mixture at a time. As with regular pancakes, make sure it does not stick.
  • Add the toppings and cook over a medium to high heat until bottom is cooked and the top is just set. (You will know because the edges will look brown underneath when you lift them up and the whole thing should slide in the pan.)
  • Put the pan under a preheated grill until the toppings are cooked. 
  • Slide carefully onto a plate, either as a circle or flipped in half like a traditional omelette.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Blueberry, Banana and Cinnamon breakfast muffins- vegan, sugar free

These semisweet muffins are nutritious enough to be a complete breakfast.

This recipe was something of a first on two counts- 1: it was our first try at baking using "flax eggs",  and 2: it was also our first go at breakfast muffins. Nutritious brunches reign supreme in our house at the moment, as it is the school holidays and our kids are hard at work revising for exams. These light yet satisfying little bites of fruity goodness are packed with fresh fruit, protein, good oils and wholemeal flour but contain no sugar. This makes them kind of semisweet (warn your kids not to expect them to taste like cake!) and perfect to grab along with a hot drink for a quick, healthy breakfast on the move (if you've made some the night before, that is!) They have that breakfast-y banana-cinnamon taste, too.
We made about 24 little ones using fairy cake moulds, so if you make full-sized muffins you should get about 12.

400g organic wholemeal wheat flour
4 tsps baking powder
3-4 tsps ground cinnamon
2 small bananas, chopped finely
2 tabs sultanas
200g whole fresh blueberries
150ml cold-pressed rapeseed (canola) oil
400ml soya milk
50ml date syrup (or more of you want them to be more like cakes)
2 "flax eggs" (see this month's "How-to" for details)
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together (ie: the flour, baking powder and cinnamon).
  • Mix the oil, soya milk, date syrup and flax eggs together in a separate bowl or jug.
  • Stir in the fruit to the flour mixture.
  • Beat the liquid ingredients in; the mixture will be a little more dense than sponge cake batter, but you should be able to see the bubbles caused by the baking powder starting to form.
  • Spoon into paper cake or muffin cases (they rise a little, but more than half full is fine) and bake in an oven preheated to 180C until a thin skewer inserted into the centre of one emerges clean- about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven.
  • When cool, store in an airtight container. They probably stay fresh for more than 24 hours but you'll be lucky if there's any left by then ;)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Quinoa Upma- a great no-fuss breakfast/ brunch

Uppma made from quinoa is a different- and even more nutritious- version of the traditional semolina-based dish.
We didn't write down a recipe for this one, as it was just thrown together as part of a lunch (school holidays mean proper cooked lunches in our house...), but it was so delicious we're now wishing we had! Upma, as some of you will already know, is traditionally made with semolina (suji) and there are a number of delicious-looking recipes circulating in blogosphere that use oats as well. We are not the first to think up a version of upma using quinoa, either but our version is so super-simple (we bypassed the dry roasting) to make in only one pan we felt it was worth mentioning. It also lends itself well to catering for a number of people if you have guests to entertain. We used 1 1/2 cups of quinoa to 3 cups of water for 6 people and left out the fresh chillis and instead served it with a mango, lime and chilli chutney.
You can use any vegetables, such as sweet potato, peas, sweetcorn, green banana/ plantain, cauliflower, coriander leaf, coconut, green beans etc.- the more the merrier! You don't have to bother with any dal as the quinoa provides a good source of protein anyway. The seasoning was just seasalt and some hot Madras curry powder. We simply stir-fried the veg and seasonings in some cold-pressed sunflower oil, then added the quinoa and water and left on a gentle heat, stirring from time to time, until the quinoa was cooked and the water was absorbed. You can't get much easier than that, now can you?