Sage Potato Crispy Thing

Posted on July 19, 2016
Sage Potatoes 1

I planted some sage seeds two years ago in a sunny garden bed, just outside our back door, and they have become the most wonderful clump of plants. Not only do they stay green almost all winter, providing us with snippets of freshness even in deepest January, they then bloom magnificently from May through to July, with beautiful deep purple flowers which the bees and butterflies adore. 

Garden sage 1

The fabulous thing about sage, is that it can be used fresh or dried. It has a particular affinity with potatoes and pumpkins & squash, its bright yet earthy and savoury tones complimenting their slight sweetness. 

Greedy sage bee

This recipe is a lovely and rather indulgent side dish to serve almost any time of year, I do like it best in late spring however, when the sage leaves are lush, and the potatoes are new. Boiling, then mashing the potatoes before sort of saute/frying them to a crispy crust makes a delightfully yummy and deeply satisfying dish. I always make way too much for one dinner, so I can re-fry the potatoes the next day, for extra crispy bits. Extra crispy bits are the best, as I’m sure you are fully aware ( if you aren’t, where have you been? Go make some & get Thee converted to the Extra Crispy Bits Thang). 

Potato & Sage 2

 

The trick is to boil the potatoes in their skins, then once soft, slightly dry them out in a hot saucepan, before adding the oils & sage leaves, then frying/sauteing until the magical golden crust forms. As I no longer use butter , I’ve taken to making this with a really good quality, cold pressed, rapeseed oil. This golden coloured oil, combined with some olive oil and a hint of smoked salt, somehow becomes buttery in flavour, so much so, that when I told The Gardener there was no butter in this, he was incredulous. It’s that good. Seriously. (Make sure you get a super-yummy good quality, cold pressed & organic rapeseed oil (canola to the Aussies)  it’s soooooo worth it!

 

Don’t be scared by how long it takes to create that so-delicious potato crust. Hold your nerve and keep going. You’ll need at least 10 minutes to create a crust, then, time permitting, turn the potatoes and squish them down into the saucepan again, to crisp up some more. Trust me, that golden crust is key to the success & deliciousness of this dish. 

Crispy Potato & Sage thing.
Serves 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 500g new potatoes, washed, skin on
  2. 4-5 tablespoons rapeseed oil (NB: you might need more!)
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 10-12 fresh sage leaves (plus extra for decorating)
  5. Maldon Salt ( or smoked salt- even better!)
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until soft.
  2. In a large saucepan, slightly dry the potatoes off over the heat, then add half the oils.
  3. Smash the potatoes up a bit, roughly, with a potato masher.
  4. Add the sage leaves, then squish everything down into the saucepan.
  5. Leave over a mid-heat, ocasionnally shaking the saucepan to prevent the potatoes sticking. They should start getting crispy.
  6. Once it starts crisping up, turn and mix the potatoes, so that you can make MOAR delicious potatoey crispies.
  7. Repeat until you can't stand it any longer and serve.
  8. This recipe goes with anything that potatoes go with. Or just eat on its own. Seriously, it's THAT good.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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Stuffed Mushrooms #2

Posted on July 15, 2016
stuffed mushroom 3

One of my very first recipes on Poppy & the Bees was for Stuffed Mushrooms, way back in October 2014, and since then they’ve been a consistent and much loved recipe in our household.

The Gardener loves them as much as I do. I always know when a recipe has been a hit with him, because the ingredients will magically appear in our weekly shopping, as a little hint to me to maybe please can you make that again. The first time I made stuffed Portabella Mushrooms for him, that is exactly what happened. 

Back in 2014 I was still eating dairy & so added cheese to the stuffing mix to enrich it and add an extra savoury note. After a bit of experimenting, (some better than others!)  I’ve come up with a stuffing that is just as deliciously savoury, but completely vegan. The recipe retains the original breadcrumbs- I don’t really go in for the whole ‘gluten free/ low carb’ thing, but if you really do have an allergy, by all means substitute them with some rice or quinoa. 

I make these with large portobello mushrooms, 10 – 15 cm diameter, but these would be equally delicious  made with with smaller baby portobello mushrooms, approx 4- 6 cm diameter for canapes. Just bake for a slightly shorter time.  I also use my own pesto in this recipe. Generally when making pesto, I make LOADS, then freeze excess in ice cube trays, decanting the frozen cubes into freezer bags to use later for fresh tasting yet convenient pesto. So much nicer than bottled stuff!

Stuffed Mushrooms #2
Yields 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Large Portabello Mushrooms
  2. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  3. 1/2 fresh chilli (optional)
  4. 2 Tbs Vegan Pesto (I use my own awesome homemade one, but use whatever you like)
  5. 3 Tbs Pine Nuts
  6. 1 small Red pointy pepper, finely chopped
  7. 1/2 cup (ish) breadcrumbs (I like Panko Breadcrumbs the best)
  8. 2Tbs white wine (optional)
  9. 1 Tbs Nutritional Yeast
  10. 1 Tsp Olive Oil + extra togrease the mushrooms and baking tin
  11. Salt & Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the stems off the mushrooms & finely dice.
  2. Preheat the oven to 210C/ Gas Mark 7
  3. Gently sautee the mushroom stems, pepper, garlic & chilli in the olive oil.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in all other ingredients except the mushrooms
  5. Slick the mushrooms all over with some olive oil & lay on a baking tray.
  6. Divide the mix in half and generously fill the mushrooms, mounding the stuffing into a dome & packing it in quite firmly.
  7. Place the stuffed mushrooms in the oven and cook for around 20 mins, or until crispy topped.
  8. Serve with salad in summer, or sauteed veggies in winter.
Notes
  1. This recipe is for two, but easy to scale up for 4 or more people.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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Bruschetta Party!

Posted on June 28, 2016
Bruschetta Party 1

I love late spring and  summer. All the yummiest local tender vegetables start making an appearance in the market, plus we start to see the first of the juicy tomatoes from Italy and Spain.

In an ideal world, we’d have glorious warm evenings, and minimal housework to do, to languidly enjoy a bit of pottering in the kitchen and eat on the back patio. The reality is usually a little different in dear ol’ Blighty, but we can evoke warm weather eating, with really not a lot of effort. 

I like to make up a selection of toppings for bruschetta, then, toast some good quality baguette or ciabbatta, and serve it all along with some cut cloves of garlic and some good quality olive oil. Then everyone around the table can choose how much garlic they would like to rub on their toasts, and which toppings they like the best, or even get creative with combining toppings as they wish. It makes for a comfortable, casual type of eating. 

Bruschetta 2

Here are my current favourite topping ideas: 

  1. Classic Tomato, (use the juiciest, ripest tomatoes possible) a smidge of olive oil, balsamic vinegar & fresh basil
  2. Chopped Asparagus, lightly sauteed with some home-made pesto (my wild garlic pesto is amazing in early June) 
  3. Artichoke & Olive Tapenade: Whizz together a drained tin of artichokes and some good quality pitted green olives. Yum. 
  4. Peas & herbs. Gently cook some fresh green peas (or frozen!) in a little olive oil with some garlic and mix through some fresh parsley. I’ve even used edamame. Add fresh mint if you have some for a really trad English spin on the theme. 
  5. Mushrooms, finely sliced, and cooked in with garlic and a hint of chilli & white wine. 

The brilliant thing about this, is that you can adapt it according to the season.  It’s basically posh things on toast, but somehow, if you put everything out on a pretty board, maybe with a crunchy, leafy, zingy salad alongside, it seems so much more than that.  
Serve with a crispy white wine and pretend you’re in Italy or Spain. 

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Vegetable Pilaf/Paella thing.

Posted on June 16, 2016
Vegetable Pilaf Thing 2

Easy to make and spectacular to serve, this rice the perfect accompaniment to any curry or veggie stew. Or to serve alongside an array of Tapas or Mezze type spread to make it more substantial.

One of the things I particularly  particularly love about this rice pilaf/paella thing is that all that you need to do is add stock and let the rice simmer away whilst you get on with other meal prep, which makes this ideal for when you have guests arriving. All you need do is remembered to add the peas for the last 5 mins of cooking. 

I like to make this in a heavy cast iron casserole that I was given as a present. It’s a Le Crouset look-a-like which according to the gift giver was a total snip in comparison to the real deal.. and I have to say so far it has performed just as well. I do appreciate that this kind of cookware is a bit *next level*  for many people, but don’t worry. If you don’t have a wide, heavy casserole dish, use the biggest saucepan you have, but make sure to keep an eye on it to ensure the rice cooks through. Also, bear in mind that it will need a separate serving bowl. 

Veggie Paella 1

The trick is with a Pilaf, or any rice that is made using the absorption method is to first sort of level out the rice, I give mine a good shake, so it’s all flat in the pan. Then, add the liquid until it sits just to the knuckle of your pointer finger. This method works with pretty much any quantity of rice. I don’t  know why, but it does.  The other trick is, once you have brought the liquid to a simmer, turn the heat down loooow and put a lid on. Do. Not. Peak. for 15-20 mins. You want all the lovely steam building up to absorb into your rice. You don’t want it escaping out into the kitchen. 

If you’re making a pilaf or paella thing, you might want to accidentally on purpose let the bottom layer catch and crust up just a bit. It’s a delicious and crunchy layer to be prized carefully from the dish & fought over by the diners. 

This recipe is enough for two greedy people on it’s own. Double it & serve as a side dish for 4-6 people. 

 

Vegetable Pilaf/Paella Thing
Serves 2
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 200g short grain rice, or a mix of rice, spelt & barley
  2. 1 pointy red pepper, diced
  3. 1 leek or one onion, finely chopped
  4. 7 -8 mushrooms diced (optional but nice)
  5. 1 small chilli, finely chopped
  6. 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  7. 10 strands saffron
  8. 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
  9. Other veggies would be nice too: corn, carrots, zuchinni added at the end....
  10. 1 -2 Tbs Olive Oil
  11. 1Tbs Vegetable Boullion or Stock Powder dissolved in 300ml boiling water
  12. 1/2 cup white wine
  13. Salt & Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large casserole that has a lid, or a wide saucepan, saute the leek or onions, garlic, chilli & red pepper until the onion is translucent in the olive oil.
  2. Add the mushrooms and saute for a moment more.
  3. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil.
  4. Add the white wine & stir.
  5. Give the pan a shake so that all the rice & veggies are in an even layer on the base of the pan.
  6. Stir the saffron into the boullion stock, then add the lot to the rice mix in the pan, ensuring that the liquid only sits one knuckle height above the rice.
  7. Bring to a simmer, then put the lid on. Turn the heat down very low.
  8. Leave for 15 mins. Do. Not. Peak!!!
  9. Now, carefully open the lid & check. If there is too much liquid, put the lid back on for another 5 mins.
  10. Quickly add the peas, and any other tender veggies you want to pretty the top up with & add the lid again for another 5 mins.
  11. Sprinkle some fresh herbs such as chopped parsley or basil on top if you like, then serve.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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How to make the BEST Tofu

Posted on June 7, 2016
Tasty Tofu Finished

I know tofu can be a bit of a scary ingredient. Too bland, too slimy.. too bleh. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The brilliant thing about tofu, is it’s ability to absorb other flavours.

But how do you go from bland to taste sensation? How do you make it the BEST tofu time & time again?

It’s quite easy really. First you have to remove the water content, in order for other flavours to re-absorb. Then marinate the tofu over night for maximum flavour absorbtion. If you’re in a hurry, just marinate it for half an hour or so, but it won’t be nearly as tasty

To make this kind of tofu, you need to start with a firm tofu type. Leave the soft, silky tofus for sauces and stuffing gyoza. Slice the tofu into 2cm ‘steaks’ then use paper towels or a clean teatowel to envelope the tofu. Press between 2 weighted plates or heavy cutting boards for at least half an hour to dry it out. 

Tofu on towels

Meanwhile, make up the marinade. I pretty much freestyle the marinade every time, depending on how I feel, but there tends to be a few themes:

  • Sort of Asian influenced: Chilli, Garlic & Soy sauce with a bit of sesame oil.
  • Sort of Spanish-ish, with smokey paprika, olive oil, oregano and garlic.
  • Sort of Thai-ish, with lemongrass, soy sauce, chilli, garlic and a hint of sugar for sweetness.
  • Sort of Italianish..with garlic, oregano, a little tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. 

Pop the marinade and tofu in an airtight container, making sure you have slicked all the tofu slices surfaces with the marinade. Leave at least half an hour, preferably overnight. If you remember, try and turn the tofu so the side that isn’t immersed in the marinade gets some juicy flavour too. 

Tofu in the pan

Then, choose to pan fry, grill, BBQ or oven bake.

Each method of cooking gives a slightly different texture, all of which I love. You want to aim for slightly caramelised edges that start turning crispy. If you’re oven baking, you can leave the tofu in on a low heat for 45 mins to an hour, which turns it into a sort of ‘Tofu Jerky’.

Go and experiment, play with the flavours. Then report back here which are your favourites! Yum. 

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What’s in my Kitchen Cupboard: Essentials

Posted on May 30, 2016
My Cupboard 1

If you’re new to cooking, or even new to veggie centric cooking, it can all seem a bit daunting. There are loads of fancy sounding ingredients and bazzillions of  weird and wonderful new things to try and get a hold of and sometimes it can feel a bit like – well why bother? Why not just reheat another ready meal. 

But where’s the fun in that?! 

I promise you, once you have a few cupboard essentials, and, importantly, know where to get them from, the new world of cookery will suddenly seem a doddle and far more fun.  But what to prioritise? And why? And why should you trust me and not some other bossy boot blogger/cook/writer says? 

Well- I don’t know why you should either, but for the purpose of this, let’s just assume you trust my taste buds & cooking and start from there.  

There are a few rules with this type of cooking. Firstly and foremost.. don’t get scared about new ingredients.  A sense of adventure is needed, also, learn to love ‘ethnic’ food stores.. Whether they’re your local Asian supermarket, the corner store owned by a Bangladeshi family or a Turkish supermarket come bakery come greengrocer, you’ll find a wealth of ingredients that are cheap, tasty and will round out your veggie cooking. If you live outside a large city (like me!) start to get eagle eyed when you do visit a bigger town & do that annoying thing I do, quickly ‘dart in’ to any interesting foodie supermarket you find and ransack the place for yummy comestibles and odd hard to get ingredients. Also, there is this wonderful thing called the internet. You’re on it right now.. loads of food can now be delivered, right to your door.

Secondly, get to know the basics you like- this will depend on where you’re from and what’s available to you. Get familiar with what you need, then make sure you don’t run out of it. 

For a bit of inspiration as to what you might need… here are my top vegan basic store cupboard foods that I ALWAYS have in,  as well as some top non-basics which I somehow find life very dull without. These are on top of any fresh or frozen food I have stashed away… Now, this might seem like a loooong list, but it’s one that I’ve built up over the years, replacing and adding things as my cooking evolves and my tastes change. Obviously I don’t buy all of these ingredients every single time I go shopping. ( I do however buy all kinds of random things that I try to use up. Who has a recipe for dried Iranian limes? I have a whole bag full!) 

My food cupboard essentials: 

  • Chickpeas, both tinned and dried.
  • Lentils, both tinned/pre-prepared and dried
  • Tinned tomatoes 
  • Tomato paste
  • Pasta
  • Rice 
  • Stock/Boullion powder (I like Marigold or Korres the best)
  • Soy Sauce 
  • Chilli Sauce (helllloooo Cholula!)
  • Japanese Konbu stock powder (make sure you get the seaweed type, not the fishy one)
  • Panko Breadcrumbs (yes I could make my own..but seriously, a few cheats here and there won’t kill me)
  • Tahini 
  • Flaky Sea Salt 
  • Black Pepper
  • Dried Herbs & Spices: Smoked Paprika, Oregano, Thyme, Chilli Powder, Cumin
  • Miso
  • White Wine & Balsamic Vinegars
  • Decent olive oil – I somewhat controversially almost always use only olive oil too cook in & not the more fashionable coconut oil. 
  • Nutritional Yeast – this is sold in health food stores and has a pleasingly cheesy flavour- a bit like super dry parmesan cheese.
  • Vegemite… Well, I am Australian after all. And it’s a brilliant source of B vitamins. 

 

Not so essential but make life less dull:

  • Tins of white beans/other beans OR dried beans (Eg black beans, kidney beans..) 
  • Fancy grains such as spelt, farro or bulghar wheat
  • Tins of Artichokes 
  • Capers
  • Dried Chillies
  • Turmeric
  • Good quality Garam Masala powder
  • Packs of long life tofu (I usually buy fresh tofu, but it’s nice to know you have some on hand if you need some!)
  • Mirin (I use this all the time, but white wine is a good substitute)
  • Chinese rice wine vinegar
  • Japanese curry paste blocks 
  • Packs of pre-packaged grains (eg quinoa & rice mix- great for insta salads)
  • Dhuka (I love dipping bread in this & olive oil)
  • Other oils: Sunflower, avocado..
  • Other herbs and spices: cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel seeds
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Chilli pastes such as harissa
  • Mustard

Tell me in the comments below what your cupboard essentials are- I’d love to know! 

My Cupboard 2

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We need bees. Bees need us. 5 Ways You Can Help Bees.

Posted on May 8, 2016
Blossom Bee

Bees, such as Apis Mellifera (The Western Honey Bee)  and other pollinators such as hoverflies, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies, beetles, flies, moths and even dastardly wasps are an essential piece of the balance of our world. They help pollinate our crops, and enhance biodiversity, which in itself, helps our food production.

We need these little helpers. Without them we will be in serious trouble. Can you imagine a world where every single crop had to be hand pollinated ?

Honey bees and other pollinators unfortunately are under stress, alarming numbers of species are even endangered. Habitat loss, pesticides and even modern agricultural methods like mono-crops put a strain on these precious beasties. 

Butterfly

Pesticides, are particularly implicated in causing the decline of our pollinators. There is one new (ish) group of pesticides in particular that is causing concern. These are Neonicotinoids, sometimes called Neonics. These are a type of pesticide that has a similar affect to nicotine, which is a natural insect deterent in some plants .  Neonics affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis, then death.  Whilst they can be beneficial in getting rid of some crop destroying pests, they also have a nasty side effects on other, beneficial insects such as bees, most moths and butterflies, contributing to a cocktail of symptoms which end up in colony collapse and in some cases complete decimation of species within an eco-system.  The European Union banned use of 3 of the most commonly used neonics in December 2013 due to increasing and well documented concern about their adverse affects on bee & pollinator populations. Despite this last year the UK allowed for them to be used in some areas. Nightmare. (Thanks for that Liz Truss!). Right now it’s unclear whether they will be allowed to use them again this year, 

So, given the facts: Declining habitat with fewer sources of food for our pollinator friends, and the food there is often contaminated, What can we do to help?

Sage with a Bee

1. Plant more bee & pollinator friendly plants in your garden…  Or window sill, or on a patch of ground that looks a bit abandoned.  Especially varieties that blossom in Early Spring & late Autumn, which gives local insects an added food source at times of year when pollen might be scarce. There are loads of flowers that are not only beautiful, but insects love. Sage (both ornamental & edible) rosemary, honeysuckles, crocus, all kinds of fruits, lavender, cornflowers, poppies & echinacia… the list is huge, and there will be something right for almost any corner of your garden, no matter how small it is.

2. Don’t use pesticides in your garden. Pesticides might seem like a quick fix to get rid of pesky bugs, but they  have a detrimental effect not only on the insect you’re wanting to get rid of, but on pollinators. Although we’re not 100% sure of the reason for colony collapse or the decrease in local bumbles and butterflies, being exposed to a cocktail of different types of pesticides that bees and other pollinators consume from various sources just can’t be good for them. Added to this, we have no way of knowing the different combinations that they might ingest and what harm that might be doing them. 

3. Buy organic fruit & veggies where you can. I know it’s not always possible, but if you can afford organic veggies, or veggies from schemes like the LEAF  scheme which helps farmers produce food to a high environmental standard, reducing chemical use & leaving hedgerows or other green spaces near crops which provides homes for all kinds of animals, bees included, this all helps. Try growing your own veggies too if you can, especially things like lettuce and salad leaves, which are super easy to grow, even in pots. 

4. Support your local bee keeper. Seek out your local bee keepers and find out where they sell their honey , it might be a local market, it might be a little local shop. Small scale local keepers are generally a lovely lot of people (Gross generalisation here, but in my experience it’s true!) who really care about their Bee charges, ensuring they are disease free, nursing them through horrible winters that seemingly never end and campaigning to get pollinator harming pesticides removed from the approved list of chemicals used in agriculture. Small scale bee-keepers tend to be incredibly passionate & well-informed about key environmental issues, after all, they’re caring for colonies of insects that are susceptible to chemicals, lack of forage (flowers!) and disease brought on by stress or new types of parasites. 

5. Get Involved: Pester your local council to stop mowing verges and keep wild-flowers growing instead. Did you know that dandelions are a key source of pollen & nectar in early Spring?  Not only  write to your local MP about pesticide use within your area and country. – Oh- And please go sign this campaign to prevent neonics being used in the UK again this year!   Sign now by following this link: https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/766  

The Gardener & I care so much about our bees. We observe them, look after them and occasionally even get stung for our efforts (only if we are really clumsy). We want them to thrive and be healthy, and you can help too. x

 

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No Meat May : 4 Great Reasons to Eat Less Meat

Posted on April 29, 2016
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Most of you know I’m a pretty dedicated Veg Head. I bloody love veggies. They rock my world. 

But you might not know the reasons (apart from the fact that they are DELICIOUS) that I am an almost 100% Plant Powered person!  

Well, they are very straight forward. In fact there are just four to remember: 

  1. Environment : The farming (in particular intensive modern factory farming) of animals is one of the biggest drivers of climate change. In fact, modern farming contributes to as much, if not more, greenhouse gas emissions than the whole worlds transport emissions. 
  2. Animal Welfare : Modern farming is incredibly cruel, mostly not just at the point of slaughter, but the whole way throughout the animals life. I just don’t like hurting animals.. any of them. 
  3. Health : Eating more veggies is better for you. Plus you can absolutely get all the protein you need &  all the vitamins. It’s true. Pinky Promise. Also, eating more veggies & less meat is proven to reduce risk of modern diseases, such as type 2 diabetes & the risk of some cancers.
  4. Food Equity : If we want to live in a world where no one goes hungry, we need to all start eating more plants. Currently a huge percentage of vegetable crops goes to feeding animals, in order to feed us. Which is a ridiculously inefficient way of feeding the world. 

These reasons aren’t in any particular order, actually, to me they are all  very good reasons on their own to eat less meat and more plants, but if you want to read more in-depth about why I believe these four very good reasons, head over to No Meat May where one of my, dear friends has written them down succinctly and convincingly and in much more depth.

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So What Is No Meat May? 

If you’re curious as to if you could give up meat.. to increase your health, help the world and decrease both animal & human suffering.. we have a challenge for you..  

 No Meat May. 

  • Challenge yourself.. Give up meat.. or if you’re already less of a meat head- go vegan, for the month of May.
  • Challenge your friends… Get them to give up with you, or invite them out- or to your house- for a veggie feast.
  • Get involved…(See here for ideas!) 
  • Get to love the veggies. Try some new dishes.. trust me we have quite a few that are A) easy peasy and B) won’t leave you feeling bored or like you are missing out. If you’re looking for even more ideas, we have a pinterest board dedicated to scrummy veggie-centric meals- its’ here .. No Meat May Inspirational Dishes to Try.
  • Oh- and then spread the word with a #vegelfie. Post your veggie selfie on all your social networks & let everyone know the reasons you’re taking part. 

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Here’s me doing my best veg loving selfie.  

Vegelfie with Pack Choi

Tag your own #Vegelfie on Insta, Facebook or Twitter & join in….. 

 

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MiSo Delicious Stir Fry

Posted on April 20, 2016
Miso Stir Fry 4

I can’t resist a good pun. You probably already know that. #sorrynotsorry

I also happen to love Miso, that fermented soybean Japanese paste that’s full of umami rich flavour. I’m sure you’re already familiar with basic Miso soup and don’t really need an intro to it, but did you know that you can use it in so many other ways too?  

Ok- so maybe you did. (Yay- extra culinary points for you!)

Or, maybe you didn’t. (Don’t worry, no marks are deducted, and you have a delicious new ingredient to learn about)

Miso is a paste made from cooked, fermented soybeans often mixed with other grains such as barley or rice. It’s rich in umami savoury notes and is pretty nutritious being high in protein, iron and other minerals. 

A general rule as to how rich or savoury it is is indicated by the colour. The longer the ferment, the darker (redder) it is, and the more concentrated & salty the flavour.  Paler, yellow (often called white miso) are fermented for less time and have a slightly sweeter flavour, and hence are used more for general cooking.  I try to buy the white miso mostly, but don’t fret if you have the more concentrated red miso, just use a bit less of it.

Another reason I love miso is that it lasts for aaaaages. A big square pot bought at a Japanese or Asian food store is pretty much enough miso for 6 months or so  (at least it does for me.. , you might have more of a miso addiction than I do) and as it’s a fermented product, never seems to go off. It might dehydrate a little or become a bit more concentrated, but it’s still pretty tasty and won’t hurt you. 

Miso soup is the classic we all love, but it’s also super versatile in other things. I’ve used it to sauce up baked Cauliflower (recipe here..) as a secret ingredient to add in loads of rich flavour to a risotto (see this recipe) and most recently I’ve started using it along with ginger, chilli and garlic as a stir fry sauce, which is absolutely freekin’ delicious. We liked this so much we’ve eaten it 3 times in the past two weeks. 

I honestly don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before.

I mean it’s pretty logical. Maybe I was too pre-occupied trying out other more complicated recipes. I don’t know. 

The thing is, stir fry’s are dead easy to make, we all know that. Right?  You just need to do all your chopping, heat a wok and add sauce. Then serve over rice or noodles or whatever.  The key to GREAT stir fry is the prep.. trust me on this. 

Miso Stir Fry Prep

How to make the BEST Stir Fry. 

To make a good stir fry, you need to have everything prepped. Chop all your veggies into similar sizes, this helps them all cook at the same time. I like long stick shapes for the best crunch to cook ratio. Mix up your sauce.. then heat your wok as high as it will go. You want scorchio hot.  Dump all the veggies in and let them catch a bit before adding the oil. This creates a nice smokey edge to the flavour. Stir and fry for a few minutes, then add the sauce. I sometimes stick a lid on for a minute or so to give the veggies an extra bit of steaming.

Add a crunchy, nutty topping: 

Adding in extra crunch by the way of nuts and seeds to sprinkle over to serve:

a) is super tasty

b) gives you more micro nutrients & protein

Use whatever you have to hand, but may I suggest a combo of cashew nuts, sesame seeds and either sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. These all are tasty as.. and have all kinds of extra goodness in them. Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, molybdenum, vitamin B1, and selenium for example,  whilst pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, iron, maganese and phosphorus.

I pre-make my nutty crunchy topping by first of all popping some raw cashews into an unoiled wok or pan and toasting until they get a bit of a char on.. then I add the sesame and sunflower/pumpkin seeds.  Add a little soy sauce and toast until they are all lightly browned and the pumpkin seeds start popping. Make loads, because you’ll want to pop these in your mouth as soon as you’ve made them and they  keep  well in a jar or container, ready for sprinkling on other stir frys or into salads. Also brilliant for snacking on when you need a little savoury something during the day. 

MiSo Delicious Stir Fry
Serves 2
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
For the Stir Fry Veggies
  1. You want around 2 cups of mixed stir-fryable veggies- below is a suggestion of what you might use, I tend to use whatever is in the fridge, sometimes supplementing meagre supplies with frozen peas or edamame.. use whatever you have hanging around or is in season.
  2. Broccoli (or brocollini) Cut into little florets. Don't forget to also use the stems!
  3. Asparagus, cut into 3 cm pieces
  4. Red or Yellow Peppers, cut into long batons
  5. Carrot, cut into long batons
  6. Peas
  7. Edamame
  8. Mange Toute
  9. Courgette
  10. etc & etc (tell me what YOU love in a stir fry!)
For the Stir Fry Base
  1. 1 knob around the size of your thumb of ginger, grated
  2. 1 mild chilli, finely chopped
  3. 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (depending on your love of garlic!)
  4. 1 teaspoon of Konbu seaweed dashi (stock/boullion powder) OR half a veggie stock/boullion cube crumbled
  5. 1 Tbs Oil (I like to use half sesame and half olive, but use whatever)
For the Sauce
  1. 2 Tbs of Miso
  2. 3 Tbs of Mirin - which is a sweet rice wine for cooking (or sub 3 Tbs of white wine & a teaspoon of sugar)
  3. 1 Tbs of Soy Sauce
Instructions
  1. Get everything chopped and prepped. Do it first. Don't think you can chop and stir fry at the same time because it WON'T WORK.
  2. Mix together the sauce ingredients, and have them in bowl or mug or something ready to tip into the stir fry.
  3. Ok- You got it all ready?
  4. Heat your wok until it smokes.
  5. Add in all the veggies AND the stir fry base.
  6. Cook for a minute or so, until there is a slight char to some of the greens.
  7. Now add the oil in. Stir, and stir, coating all the veggies in a thin film of the oil.
  8. Cook for another minute or so (if you have some particularly crunchy veggies, you might want to pop a lid on at this stage to give them all a bit of a steam.
  9. Now add the sauce. Stir and cook for another minute or so.
  10. Serve over rice or noodles, adding some toasted nuts and seeds for extra crunchy delicious flavour (see my note in the blog on how to do this!)
Notes
  1. I use Konbu stock powder (dashi), in most of my stir frys. It's made from seaweed and I like the slightly sea salty tang it adds. It's generally easily found in Asian supermarkets- or buy it online. If you can't find it, add a little boullion powder or crumbled stock cube.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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Chickpea, Butternut & Spinach Pie.

Posted on April 5, 2016
Chickpea Filo Pie 3

You can make any meal, no matter how humble, seem spectacular and special if you encase it in pastry.

I’m not sure why this is, but somehow a crunchy flaky pie crust elevates and transforms the meal into something memorable.  Chickpea & Filo pie 4

Perhaps it’s because when a pie arrives to the table, ready to be cut and served, there is something of the gift about it, with the promise of unwrapping the outer to discover delicious morsels inside. 

I’m a bit cack handed when it comes to pastry however, so up until recently had not really discovered this wonderful party pleasing trick, thinking it would be far to difficult for me to get right. But that was before I discovered the delights of filo pastry.  Thin, almost translucent pastry sheets that you brush with olive oil and layer up before adding in a filling. I suppose you could make it yourself, but it does seem like an awful phaff, when it’s sold in packs in the supermarket, all nice and pre-rolled, ready for wrapping up those tasty fillings. 

This recipe requires a little bit of prep, roasting the butternut squash & chickpeas in warm moroccanish spices with garlic, then sweating down spinach with garlic, but it’s not really hard work, and not much more than I would make for an ordinary mid-week supper, sans pastry. 

I wanted to make something more special than just roasted veggies with a bit of greens on the side.

The thing is, we had people coming for lunch, and I wanted to create a proper centrepiece to the meal, so it looked partyish and special.  I had read a spinach & feta pie recipe somewhere   (I read a lot of recipes, which sort of fizz around in my head until they pop out into something cohesive. )  which utilised a springform cake pan lined with filo pastry, then filled, and pastry sort of crumpled over the top to create a pretty, crunchy top to the pie. The pie then was easily popped out of its casing revealing pretty ruffled sides and looked amazing.  I wanted to make a similar thing, but vegan, and without it seeming wholesome and dreary. 

I had also bought a little tin of harissa that was burning a hole in my cupboard.. I have in the past made harissa with our own chillies, but sadly, all the chillies from last year had all been eaten up, so I had sought out a pretty jar of the spicy Moroccan chilli paste. I used this alongside some other spices to coat the Butternut Squash and chickpeas in whilst they were roasting to give a subtle yet richly spiced flavour. 

The trick is when making  this kind of pie like this is to use lots of olive oil to slick between the filo layers. Line the springform pan with overlapping layers so they come up over the rim of the pan- don’t worry if they don’t quite fit, once you have a few over lapping layers to cover the pan they will sort of come together in flaky layers once baked.  Then, you put in your fillings, in this case the Butternut Squash & Chickpea mix, with another level of garlicky spinach to lighten the pie up.

chickpea pie stages

Finally you fold the edges over the filled tin, then rip up some more sheets of filo, and scrunch them up all over the top to form a pretty, ruffled crust. Drizzle extra olive oil over the top to ensure a crispy glossy look. 

To serve, unclip the springform pan, then carefully transfer to a platter.  Take to the table with pride, it should most definitely be the star of the meal. 

Chickpea, Butternut and Spinach Pie
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
20 min
For the Butternut Squash & Chickpea Filling
  1. 1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (around 3cm)
  2. 800 g (approx) cooked chickpeas
  3. 2 tsp harissa (to taste)
  4. 8 garlic cloves, still in their papery skins
  5. 1 tsp cumin
  6. 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  7. 2 Tbs thyme
  8. 1 tsp oregano
  9. salt
  10. 1-2 Tbs Olive Oil
For the Spinach
  1. 1 large pack baby spinach leaves
  2. 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  3. 1 tsp marigold stock powder
  4. Salt & pepper to taste.
  5. 1 tsp olive oil
To make the pie
  1. 1 pack filo pastry
  2. olive oil to brush between the sheets
Instructions
  1. Tip all the ingredients for the Butternut Squash and Chickpea mix into a large roasting pan.
  2. Give it all a good mix around to thoroughly coat everything in the spices, adding just enough oil to keep everything moist and prevent it from sticking.
  3. Roast on 220C/ Gas Mark 7 for 30 mins or so, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the oven once the squash is soft and squishy and slightly caramelised on the edges.
  5. Make the spinach mix in the meantime, by softening the garlic in a big frying pan or saucepan. Dump the entire bag of spinach into the pot, add the marigold stock powder and give it all a stir.
  6. Clamp a lid over the pan so the spinach wilts and cooks down.
  7. Remove from the heat, then once the spinach is cooled a bit, drain (you don't want any extra liquid to make the pie soggy!) and roughly chop the spinach so it's sort of a rough puree.
To assemble the pie
  1. First, slick your springform pan with olive oil.
  2. Then, brush olive oil onto 6-8 layers of pastry, before arranging them in a slightly overlapping way so that they cover the bottom & sides of the pan, with loads left hanging over the top (see image 1)
  3. Then,layer in the butternut squash & chickpeas, before adding the spinach.
  4. Fold the edges that were left hanging over the top over the filling, then, slick some more sheets of filo with oil, and tear & crumple them up, to sort of squish over the top in a pretty way to form the crust.
  5. Bake for around 20mins until the filo is slightly browned and crispy.
  6. Serve with salad or greens, and maybe some tahini sauce to drizzle.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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