Friday, 1 November 2013

Ingredient of the Month 26 : Turmeric

Turmeric powder and dried turmeric root
We all know bright yellow turmeric, or haldi, as a essential spice in curry powders- and also as a dye that's nearly impossible to remove from items of clothing once they are splashed! But there's more to turmeric than that: as well as lending colour and flavour to sweet and savoury dishes, turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to cure fevers and infections and has, in recent years, been feted in the West as a disease preventative and wonder cure for various ailments. Turmeric is a plant from the ginger family and grows in tropical South and South East Asia. It is native to India. It is the root that is used, either fresh or dried and powdered.

Culinary uses: Turmeric is, of course, one of the ingredients in many types of curry powder, or else is added with other spices when preparing vegetables etc. Cubes of Paneer (Indian curd cheese) are often soaked in turmeric, salt and water after frying and before adding to dishes such as matar paneer (cheese and peas in a delicately spiced tomato gravy). Turmeric is also a great cheaper version of saffron for colouring rice and sweets- although the flavour is not the same. It has even found it way into lots of processed products as a food dye- where it is known as E100.
Traditional Ayurvedic Medicinal uses: My first experience of turmeric as a medicine was when my daughter was a small baby and I was suffering from mastitis; a friend gave me a jar of turmeric and honey mixed together in equal parts and although the honey could not disguise the horrible bitter taste, I managed to take some and it certainly did help to quash the infection. Next, I was cooking in a temporary temple kitchen at a festival and a colleague cut his finger. There were no blue plasters to hand (health and safety fail :/...) but he just dabbed on some turmeric powder and it stopped the bleeding, while, I was told, also acting as an antiseptic. I have since done the same myself for minor cuts at home. I have another friend who swears by turmeric in warm milk  for fevers. The Ayurveda also recommends fresh turmeric juice for treating skin diseases, digestive and liver problems and chest infections.
Health Benefits: Turmeric certainly seems to have important antinflammatory properties. It is now possible to buy turmeric as a supplement, as although there have been very few clinical studies, it is reputed to cure or prevent cancers and rheumatoid arthritis. Cancer research has suggested that, combined with another drug, turmeric can kill cancerous cells. Click on the following link to see how turmeric can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis too: 

Do you have any good recipes including turmeric that you'd like to share? If so, just use the linky below to join in our Terrific Turmeric event, which will run throughout November 2013. Rules for the event are simple:
  1. Please include a link in your post to this page-archived posts are welcome as long as they are edited to include this link.
  2. You can submit as many recipes as you like.
  3. Please no eggs, meat, fish or alcohol. Vegan or veganise-able recipes preferred
...And happy World Vegan Day! This month is also Vegan Month, so if you need a little help to kickstart your new way of living, now would be a good time- there's plenty of resources online. Check out this post at our other blog for links to some interesting vegan sites and blogs .

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Superchikki: vegan, gluten free sweet

A dark chocolate topping propels this superfood into the realms of festive fare
As well as being yummy enough to serve at Diwali, Christmas etc. this sweet is actually a great healthy fuel due to its superfood ingredients of linseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds, helped along by mineral-rich gour. The protein, omega oils and iron content is enough for you to feel the benefit after eating a piece (well I did, anyway) but the addition of dark chocolate stops the taste from being too earthy. This sweet is my husband's invention; I merely watched and took notes.

50g each of linseeds, hemp seeds (with the shells) and chia seeds
150g gour (kolhapuri gour is our favourite)
  • Coarsely grind the seeds- not as fine as a powder.
  • Melt the gour in a sturdy pan over a gentle heat, then add the seeds.
  • Carry on heating and stirring until the mixture darkens somewhat. This is when the oil comes out from the seeds and combines with the gour to produce a toffee-like consistency. You will find this doesn't take as long as regular chikki because the seeds are very oily and already crushed.
  • Spread onto baking paper (I actually used a Paraflexx sheet from our dehydrator) and press into a thin layer; about 4-5mm. Score into squares.
  • While still warm, top with your favourite brand of vegan dark chocolate- if you put a square of chocolate on each square of chikki you can spread it as it melts.
  • Leave to set.
If you liked the look of this, see our regular chikki recipe

Have a happy Diwali on Sunday everyone!

This is a Vegan Thursdays post:

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Seitan-ic burgers for Hallowe'en- vegan

Use cut veggies to make a scary face...
Okay, so this post is just a bit of fun, but the burgers came out pretty tasty so the recipe was worth publishing. These darkly seitan-ic burgers also contain black chickpeas (aka kala chana), blood-red beetroot and Hallowe'en pumpkin. They would make a great healthy supper after a hard night's trick-or-treating and they are guaranteed to contain enough iron for turning any vampire vegan...

Makes 6-8 burgers:
350g seitan (see here for how to make)
150g cooked kal chana- or sub ordinary chickpeas
175g grated fresh pumpkin and beetroot
3 heaped tabs porridge oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 tab soy sauce
1 tab brown rice miso
2 tsps smoked paprika
1 1/2 tabs tomato puree
1 scant tsp black pepper

  • Blend the seitan and chickpeas together in a food processor until smooth.
  • Mix in all the other ingredients.
  • Form into burgers- I use a crumpet ring to shape them- squeezing out any excess moisture.
  • Bake on an oiled tray at 200C, turning carefully halfway through.
  • Decorate with sliced olives, peppers etc. to make the scary faces.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Practically Perfect Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream- vegan, no sugar, gluten free, soya free

This pie is definitely even better after a night in the fridge- should there be any left, of course...

Like Mary Poppins, this pie is "Practically perfect in every way." Practically: I have to admit I've never made pumpkin pie before, so please bear with me if this recipe omits something essential. The only time I ever ate pumpkin pie it had a soggy pastry base and a mushy and flavourless filling that put me off the whole idea for years. However, just recently I have seen so many delicious-looking pumpkin pie recipes I wanted to try out devising one of my own. I have now read loads of different recipes and decided to go for the baked filling approach with a nutty, gluten free crust rather than pastry. (If I had had pecans or hazelnuts rather than peanuts it would have been even better. (And it was also a little thick for my liking, so you may want to use less of the mixture.) The addition of spices and vanilla to the filling make my version pretty flavoursome, but please remember I only said practically perfect ;)

The nutty, chewy base contrasts with the smooth and spicy filling, and the whipped coconut cream provides a luxurious finishing touch
Use a 25cm-diameter springform pan for these amounts; makes about 12 slices:
200g nuts (I only used peanuts because that was all I had- pecans or hazels would be much better)
200g oats
100ml agave nectar
150ml coconut oil (brought to liquid temperature)
  • Grind the nuts and oats in a food processor until they are a coarse powder.
  • Add the agave and oil and process until well mixed.
  • Press into an oiled 25cm springform pan and bake at 200C for 10-15 minutes until just turning brown- be careful not to overcook it, as it's going back in the oven once the filling's inside.
700g pumpkin, peeled and diced
150ml agave
2 tabs gram flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
  • Cook the pumpkin in just a smidgin of water until it is soft and all the water is absorbed (keep an eye on it to prevent burning).
  • Mash it to a puree.
  • Mix in the rest of the ingredients- whisk in the gram flour last- watch out for any lumps.
To Assemble:
Spread the filling onto the base, bake for half an hour at 200C and leave to cool. The filling should set enough to hold together when sliced. Top with whipped coconut cream.

Whipped cream:
Put a can of coconut milk in the fridge to chill. When you open it, the water will have separated off from the creamy part. Take off the cream and whip it just like dairy cream. It stays thick too; unlike dairy whipped cream which tends to collapse after a while.