Saturday, 27 July 2013

What to do with Bitter Cucumbers

We love our homegrown organic cucumbers but sometimes they come out bitter...

You sow them, nurture, feed and water them, coax them to climb, then your precious organic cucumber plants start first to blossom, then to produce their fruits for you. Eagerly, you gather the first one and have a taste... Yeuch! Bitter!- Yes, sometimes this can happen, apparently when you don't pick off all the male flowers from the plants, but don't cry for help is at hand! You don't have to throw your bitter cukes in the compost any more. As long as the bitterness is not too extreme, we have the remedy:
Simply peel and slice the little rascals, and pop them in a bowl with a liberal sprinkling of seasalt. After half an hour or so, the bitter juice will have come out of them. Drain it off and rinse them. Try a piece. If it's still too bitter repeat the process. We found that maybe a tiny little hint of bitter flavour remains, but nothing to speak of- and you just made yourself a great sandwich or veggie burger filling..

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Tofu Miso Mayo #2 for Vegan Thursdays

Add this to green salad, sandwiches, avocado, 'slaws...

As it's just about Thursday still, we're posting this creamy and delicious mayo recipe to make your salads even tastier this Summer! So many eggless mayos utterly fail to delight- they are either too acidic and "Heinz Salad Cream"-y or thick but tasteless or grainy. This recipe does not involve vinegar, so over-acidity is avoided, and the tofu blends down really smoothly. Add a couple of subtle seasonings and some organic cold-pressed sunflower oil/ extra-virgin olive oil and there you have it!
I tweaked our original Tofu Miso Mayo and made it even better, and, anticipating its more-ishness, doubled the quantity- you'll see why once you taste it...

600g firm tofu
3 rounded tsps brown rice miso
1 tab cold-pressed organic sunflower oil or evoo*              *extra -virgin olive oil
5 tabs lemon juice
100ml cold water
1 level tsp seasalt
a pinch of coarse black pepper
a small sprinkling of compound hing (optional)

  • Crumble the tofu roughly and put it in your blender or food processor.
  • Add everything else.
  • Switch it on and whizz until smooth and creamy.
  • Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Pesto and Pasta- Perfect Partners vegan

Pesto is a winner with any kind of pasta- shown here with wholewheat spaghetti

Here are two recipes for pesto, both of which happen to be vegan as well. Now that Summer is in full swing, who wants to spend ages in the kitchen making complicated sauces and suchlike? Certainly not us- we'd much rather be outdoors doing some gardening or relaxing with the family, sipping on cool drinks. Yet we still want -and need- to eat well, and this is where pasta dishes come in as a great solution.
We always use wholemeal pasta or gluten free pasta (based on corn and rice) for maximum nutrition, texture and flavour- for tips on how to cook pasta to perfection, see here. Pasta doesn't take that long to cook once you have a pan of water on the boil, and your meals will be even easier if you already have some pesto in the fridge made up and ready to go - then all you need is a quick side salad while the pasta cooks and you're done. So today's post shows how to make two versions of pesto (one of which is now in print in the "Kitchen of Love" cookbook) and helps you plan for relaxed, no-fuss dining.
The pestos featured here are both based on the traditional green pesto- typically flavoured with basil, parmesan and pine nuts- but you can get creative with sundried tomatoes, walnuts, ground almonds, oregano, capers etc. Garlic is definitely out for our yogic diet, although we do add a little hing (asafoetida) to lend some pungency.

Get hold of some vegan "parmesan" or make your own from almonds and nutritional yeast.

Wholemeal Spaghetti with Quick Vegan Pesto (serves 4):
100g ground almonds
1/2 a 60g-tub of vegan "Parmesan"
about 200ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 level tabs dried basil
1 tsp hing
seasalt and black pepper to taste
  • Mix all the ingredients together
  • Add to a cooked and drained 500g-packet of wholewheat spaghetti, mixing well.
  • I served it with steamed mixed veg in a tomato and basil sauce.
  • If you don't want to use pasta I'm sure it would be great with spaghetti squash as a low-carb alternative.

Green pesto with pinenuts, and steamed broccoli on the side.

Vegan Green Pesto (serves 4):
These quantities served four of us:
50g pine nuts (pignolia)
40g fresh basil, stalks and all
1tsp dried basil
3 tabs of a nice, fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tub vegan "Parmesan" (I used Parmazano brand)*      *Or better still, make your own almond parmesan
a pinch of seasalt
1 tsp hing
1/4-1/2 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
  • Grind the pine nuts, leaving some whole. (Then you get little bites of intense pine-nutty flavour in your pesto).
  • Put them in a bowl with the "Parmesan".
  • Whizz up the fresh basil with the olive oil in a blender until it forms an oily paste.
  • Add the blended mixture to the bowl with the pine nut mixture.
  • Mix in the salt, pepper, dried basil and hing.
  • You can serve this with pasta, hot or cold, or as a salad dressing.

This post also goes to Jagruti's event, "My Bowl of Pasta" over at:

So please do visit her space and have a look, 'cos there's sure to be lots of inspiration there!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Veganism Featured in Last Week's Food Programme, BBC Radio Four!

Whatever your chosen diet, you have to love vegetables!
It's great to see that something as "minority" as veganism can make the mainstream media. I wonder if this programme will introduce more people to different types of food such as miso, soba noodles, seitan and tempeh (mentioned in the programme) or even encourage them to completely change their diets? I was really impressed by the research that had obviously been done: the presenter, Sheila Dillon, even mentions "Baketivism" (a kind of cake-focused veganism).
Especially interesting were the stats about vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the UK; the overall number has not increased, but a higher proportion are vegan nowadays.What does this mean? Is veganism the new vegetarianism, or are people adopting a vegan diet for more reasons than simply compassion for animals? And it was also really great to hear from a blogger on the programme; maybe one day The Yogi Vegetarian will get popular enough to be approached by media companies too?! I do think it's worth listening to this programme on the BBC website- link below:

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cuisinart Spice and Seed Grinder- our latest toy!

Move over Magimix! This is our new toy...

Just wanted to tell you all about our new toy tool; the Cuisinart spice and seed grinder; so far we've used it for flax seeds, coarse seasalt and black peppercorns and it's made short work of everything! It's small enough to leave out on your worktop, simple to use, quite compact and elegant in design, and doesn't make too much noise. You simply pop your seeds or spices in, and press down the lid. It even comes with a spare container and lid for storage. Already I don't know what we did without it! 
PS: This isn't some kind of promotion; we bought this to make our lives easier and genuinely love it! If you have a favourite kitchen gadget, do share with us via the comments :)

Rose Petal Syrup and Rose and Sesame Spread- vegan

Because I used brown sugar the syrup is brownish in colour; using white sugar would mean it comes out the colour of the roses you use- in this case, that would've meant bright pink.
I wanted to make rose petal jam, but rather than following my instinct, I used instructions from a website which just didn't work at all and I was left with jam which wouldn't set. But never mind- I sloshed in a little rose water to make the flavour even more intense and bottled the stuff up to use as syrup. It's great to drizzle over cake or icecream! I also discovered that 2 parts rose syrup to 3 parts tahini makes a delectable spread.
It was a revelation to me to learn that all roses are edible; but the old-fashioned floribunda or double roses with the strongest scent are the best to cook with. Luckily we have 2 wonderfully fragrant bright pink climbing roses in the garden and these were just perfect; I was amazed at how much flavour they gave even before I added the rosewater! So far I have used these roses, plus courgette flowers in a salad and pansies to garnish a cake, and I think I'll be cooking with flowers a lot more this Summer. What's your favourite edible flower? We'd love to know what it is and what you use it for.

Makes about 2 jars
50g fresh rose petals, washed
500g sugar (make sure if you use white sugar it's from beet not cane, as white cane sugar is refined using bone charcoal)
2 tabs liquid pectin
2 tabs lime juice (or lemon)
1 tab rosewater (optional)

  • Blend the rose petals and sugar together in a blender or food processor, then add the lime juice and 80ml water.
  • Boil the pectin for about a minute with 170ml water.
  • Add this to the rose mixture.
  • Stir in the rose water.
  • Keep in the fridge. It's best to make the tahini-rose spread as you need it.