Smoky Lentil Soup

Ingredients

75 ml Olive Oil

2 small onions, finely chopped

4 carrots, diced

2 stalks of celery, finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced

1.5 teaspoons of dried oregano

1.5 teaspoons of dried basil

2 Bay leaves

1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

2 litres of vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Boulion Powder)

300g dry green or brown lentils

150g kale, stalks removed and finely sliced (or spinach)

1.5 teaspoons of liquid smoke

2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (or your favourite vinegar)

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the carrots, onions and celery and cook on a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. You want the vegetables to soften and sweeten and the onions to go transparent but you don’t want them to stick to the pot and burn.
  2. Add the garlic, dried oregano, dried basil and bay leaves and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, the stock and the lentils and stir. Bring it to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes
  4. After 45 minutes add the kale, liquid smoke, vinegar, salt and pepper and add for 15 minutes until the kale is softened (spinach will cook in less than 15 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
  5. You’re good to go! If you prefer a thick soup you can take a couple of ladles of the soup and blend it, then add it back to the pot of soup and stir.  Serve hot with a thick slice of sourdough bread and butter.

 

Easy Granola

Easy GranolaVery quick, very easy to make, very adaptable and very tasty.

Ingredients

200 g Jumbo Oats

110 g Sultanas

100 g Pecans, roughly chopped

90 g Mixed Seeds (I use a premade mix of pumpkin, sunflower and sesame)

50 g Coconut Oil

45 ml (3 tablespoons) Maple Syrup

5 ml (1 teaspoon) Vanilla Extract

2.5 ml (0.5 teaspoon) Salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 150 C.

Put the coconut oil in a large bowl and microwave for 40 seconds to melt it.

When it is completely melted stir in the maple syrup, vanilla and salt and mix well.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly

Spread mix thinly on a large baking tray

Bake for 8 minutes then stir and bake for a further 4 minutes (12 minutes total baking time)

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Delicious served with natural yogurt (or any yogurt of your choice) and blueberry sauce.

 

Beautiful Bountiful

This is a great time of year if you grow any of your own food.  Everything is bursting with fruitfulness (and vegfulness??).

I have a postage-stamp sized garden and a slightly larger allotment at Blarney Park Allotments. Though I frequently wish for a bigger garden, I am very luck to have an allotment on my street, just 5 minutes walk from my house.

As well as more space to grow fruit and veg, the allotments provide a little community all of their own (hello Gerry, Glen, Willie, Eamon, Paddy, Brendan and Mary!)  We share tips and woes (slugs!). We also share tools, seeds, plants and crops too.

Our allotments are idyllically located on the banks of the tiny river Poddle, which is also our primary water source.  The soil is good, though being in an urban environment and the allotments not being very many years in existence, we still occasionally dig up odd scrap metal and other objects. I’ve even found a lucky horseshoe on my plot.  Despite being in an urban environment we also have good exposure to the sun (when it shines!).  All of which makes for great growing environment.

These good conditions have been augmented by the hard work and ingenuity of the allotment holders who have repurposed all sorts of objects as containers or cold frames for growing crops, often with impressive results.

If you are lucky enough to live near allotments I highly recommend signing up for one (though I understand that many have long waiting lists).  Otherwise consider growing some edibles at home, even if your garden is just a pot of basil on a sunny windowsill.  I still get excited watching seeds germinate and really enjoy being able to eat food I’ve grown.

Do you grow any fruit, veg or herbs?

 

Super-Simple Banana Oat Pancakes

Banana Oat Pancakes Recipe

I’ve seen variations of this recipe popping up online a lot recently. Here’s my version. And yes, they really are super-simple. Note that these are American-style pancakes, that is the small, fluffy ones. Not ‘real’ pancakes, aka crepes. Mmm. Crepes! But these are delish too. And, if you care about these things, gluten-free and lactose free. I recommend them with blueberry sauce and Greek yogurt. But you go for your favourite topping.

Ingredients

(makes 12 small or 8 medium pancakes – perfect for two greedy people!)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 45 g | 0.5 cup oats
  • 0.5 teaspoon baking powder
  • 0.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Method

  • Put all the ingredients in a bowl and blend well with a hand blender. Make sure its all nice and smooth. It should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Let it sit for at least ten minutes before you start making your pancakes (go make a cup of tea or start your blueberry sauce for topping)
  • Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat. You can dry-fry these pancakes if your pan is non-stick or add a little oil or butter.  Pour a few tablespoons/0.25 cup of batter for each pancake. Allow to brown then flip and brown the other side. Stack the pancakes on your plate. Repeat until you’ve used up the batter.
  • Top with your favourite topping and serve immediately. Note that this batter does not keep well and is best used on the day you make it.

(Photo from Pixabay.com – I’m definitely not a good photograper! Thanks Pixabay 🙂 )

On Blueberry Hill

blueberriesI mentioned in a recent post my new Thug Kitchen cookbooks. One of the first recipes I tried from these books was their blueberry sauce.  It’s delicious and really, really easy!  Here’s my rough translation of their recipe. The one drawback of the Thug Kitchen cookbooks for those of us on this side of the Atlantic is that all the recipes are given in American volume measures (cups, etc.). Having used the Interwebs as my recipe book for nearly 20 years now (where does the time go?!), I’m pretty used to switching between metric, imperial and volume. However, my preference is metric, so this is a metric (ish) recipe. This is not an exact conversion of the Thug Kitchen original but one that I have found works very nicely.

Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 300 g frozen blueberries
  • 2.5 tablespoons jam sugar (any sugar should work fine here. I just happen to have jam sugar and this is a good use for it)
  • 3 long strips of lemon zest – use a good potato peeler – I love my Oxo peeler!
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Method

  1. Put everything into a small saucepan, stir it to mix and heat to near-boiling on a medium heat.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir every now and then. As the blueberries defrost and cook they’ll yield quite a lot of liquid. That’s fine.  Smoosh (technical term!) about half of the blueberries against the side of the pot with the back of the spoon. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat and cool a little. You’ve sauced your blueberries!

A couple of tablespoons of this is lovely stirred into natural yogurt (Greek yogurt if you’re feeling decadent). My current favourite way to use this though, is as a topping for ridiculously easy banana oat pancakes … recipe to follow soon, stay tooned folks!

 

The Vegan Adventures of An Omnivore

ThugKitchenCookbooksThis past month has been an interesting one on the food front. My Da, for reasons that have already been lost in the mists of time, undertook a bet that he couldn’t be vegan for a month.  I have a vague recollection that it arose from a discussion we had on the sustainability or otherwise of an omnivorous diet, especially one that relies heavily on animal products.

Neither he nor I are vegetarian, let alone vegan so this was going to be an interesting challenge. I decided that I would be pescetarian (vegetarian plus fish) for the month in solidarity, and would explore more vegan meals too. Yeah, I was too half-assed to commit to going fully vegetarian, let alone vegan. So bite me.  (Not you, vegans! That woulnd’t be, well, very vegan, would it?!)

I’m am wholly impressed to report that Da won the bet, sticking to his vegan diet for the whole month. I’m not in the least surprised that he has decided that he would not be carrying on with his vegan diet beyond the month (though it should be said that his diet beforehand wasn’t particularly carnivorous)

My lessons from the month are:

  1. Nothing makes a vegetarian diet appear to offer a cornucopia of unrestricted options like trying to stick to a vegan diet!  Pescetarian felt positively indulgent.
  2. There are some great vegan recipes out there. They don’t even involve ‘fakin’ bacon’ meat-impersonating foodlike substances (which I abhor). The secret is often in a few ingredients that might not be found in the typical non-vegan store cupboard. Nooch, anyone? Bragg’s Aminos?  These magic ingredients add the umami that would otherwise be missing from vegan dishes.
  3. The Thug Kitchen cookbooks were my source of the most consistently reliable and tasty vegan recipes that I’ve tried so far. In fact I’ve found them some of the tastiest recipes, full stop.  It was from the Thug Kitchen books that I learned about Bragg’s and nooch. At first I borrowed the books from my public library. I love my library! And I highly recommend borrowing cook books to try some recipes before committing to buy as not all cookbooks are created equal.  I was so impressed I’ve since bought all the Thug Kitchen cook books (no, I’m not on commission!) and I have continued to explore their recipes even now the challenge is over.

To celebrate the end of my Da’s vegan month I invited the family over for a vegan feast (not an oxymoron 🙂 ).  The menu was as follows:

Starter

Curried Squash and Lentil Soup from the ever-reliable BBC Good Food (I used full-fat coconut milk and doubled the quantity of lentils)

Home-made No Knead Bread with Hummus and Antipasti (grilled peppers, olives, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes) (I cheated and bought the hummus and antipasti)

Main Course

Black Bean Burger in a crusty bun with home-grown cos lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and French’s Mustard with oven-baked Maris Piper chips

Dessert

Vegan plain yogurt over Thug Kitchen Blueberry Sauce with granola served layered in a glass (again I cheated and bought the yogurt and granola)

Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Bars (to be honest, though I’m a sucker for anything with peanut butter, I wasn’t mad about these. I prefer a crunchier krispie treat and the coconut oil meant the chocolate melted very easily in your hands)

His prize for completing the bet?  A steak!

steak.jpg

Mammy’s Chicken Curry

This recipe has been a stalwart of my parents’ catering repertoire for many years.  Its fed many family dinners and big gatherings.  It’s quite quick and easy to prepare and scales up pretty well if you’re feeding a party. It also ‘stove matures’ well, so you can prepare it ages in advance which is very handy for entertaining. In fact I think its flavour improves if it’s prepared ahead.

When I flew the nest (many, many moons ago) I took the recipe with me, scribbled on a scrap of notepaper.  I still refer to that scrap of paper to this day when I’m cooking this.  I’m recording it here for posterity (and in case I lose that piece of paper).

I have made a small variation of my own:  I add peas (petit pois to precise) which didn’t form part of the original recipe (’twas far from petit pois I was reared!!). So, strictly speaking this should probably be Mammy’s Chicken Curry 2.0.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

(makes 4 big servings, 10 minutes preparation, 45 minutes cooking time)

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil or other vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, washed and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 1 stock cube (vegetable or chicken), crumbled
  • 200 g/ 7 oz frozen peas or frozen petit pois.

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Fry the onions over a medium heat until they are soft but not browned.
  2. Add the garlic and fry for one minute.
  3. Mix the curry powder and flour in a mug.  Add a small amount of hot water and mix to a paste.  Fill the rest of the mug with water and mix.  Add this curry powder mix to the onions and garlic.  Add an extra mug of water.
  4. Add the carrots, chicken, cider vinegar, mango chutney and stock cube.
  5. Bring the curry to the boil then turn down the head to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the carrots are tender.
  6. Add the peas and cook long enough to defrost them and heat them through (add the peas just before serving as they don’t cope well with being cooked for a long time).
  7. Serve with rice and/or naan bread.  If you’re feeling adventurous add slices of banana on top.