Tag Archives: vegetarian

Winter Vegetables

Well, just take a look out the window. Chances are it is raining, or the sun may be glaring, but you know that it’s freezing outside, that misleading swine. This was the view from our living room window at about 3pm this afternoon. Miserable, isn’t it ?

A couple of friends and I have taken up yoga in an attempt to beat our winter blues (and premature back pain). I realise that it is only October, but for someone who hates this lack of sun and heat as much as I, it may as well already be winter; I’m seriously considering hibernation. As we spilled onto the pavement outside Brighton’s Buddhist centre last Friday evening after a class, limber and supple and refreshed into the chilly night air, we encountered a farmer’s market about to close for the evening. With gleeful excitement we perused the colourful array of tasty and healthy fruit and veg and outstayed our welcome long enough to warrant free figs. We ate yellow baby tomatoes out of a paper bag as we walked home in our leggings, each with our own respective plans to make soup for dinner that evening. It seemed like the perfect way to round off the day.

My choice: chunky vegetable and lentil – just saute an onion, add 500ml vegetable stock, cube a potato and some butternut squash, add a few handfuls of lentils and simmer for 20 or so minutes. Throw in a can of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree, and some chopped leafy greens (I used spinach and kale). Season as you wish.

Freeze what you can’t physically fit into your tiny, cold-shrunk stomach in mismatched plastic tubs. Above is this very soup in its frozen form, a soup-cicle, if you will. It is necessary, as I find myself making a lot of soup recently, what with having developed somewhat of an obsession with fresh vegetables and farmers’ markets.

And another good way of using up a mismatch of leftover veg…

… like I need an excuse to make pizza.

I’ve been experimenting with different doughs. This here pizza is on the gluten-free base I have made previously. It’s nutty and chewy, kind of like a wholegrain, savoury cookie, topped with a plethora of Mediterranean delight.

I went to the Turkish/Greek market near where I live, one of those ones with all the fresh olives and sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes and baklava on display, and you can spoon them, dripping in oil and herbs, into little tupperware dishes and pay per lb; with freshly baked bread, pitta and fruits and vegetables and nuts and yoghurt and all the goat and sheep’s cheese you could possibly want at any one time. Going there is like a trip to the zoo for me. Markets are beautiful.

I bought some halva and some Greek yoghurt, the figs and the feta. A true Mediterranean feast. Though I have never visited Greece, I feel like this was a subconscious effort on my part to ignore how cold and grey and dreary England is becoming. I like to think that the figs on this pizza add a little sunshine to my wintery squash vibe.

Feta and butternut squash pizza with fig and caramelised onion

Roast some butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary for about 25 – 30 minutes on medium-high heat.

While the squash is roasting, caramelise your onions.

When you take it out, mash it up a bit. I didn’t think the figs would go very well with tomato pizza sauce, so I left it out. You can either go commando or make some kind of cheese or white sauce with which to top your pizza (I find a mixture of cream cheese and lemon juice works well on tomato-less pizzas), or just drizzle some olive oil over the top, then spread the mashed butternut squash mixture across your pizza base of choice (Wholemeal, gluten-free, or see below !).

Slice your figs, crumble your feta (any goat’s cheese would work well) and arrange your onions over the top, with an extra sprinkling of rosemary and pepper for good measure (use judgement – too much rosemary can end up tasting soapy, I’ve heard…). I chose to omit the final dash of salt I usually put over my pizzas before baking – mozzarella needs it, feta does not.

Providing your pizza base has been pre-cooked, you should only need to cook your assembled pizza for about 10-15 minutes.

The colours on this remind me of a seventies caravan.

Pizza Fiorentina

So, from Greece back to the homeland of the pizza, tonight I made fiorentina. That’s tomato, mozzarella, spinach, black olives and artichokes all topped off with a poached egg, black pepper and parmesan cheese. It’s perfect.

This is my favourite food to eat of all time.

On my journey to create the perfect pizza base I have had to relinquish some of my health-fascism in the form of using WHITE FLOUR. Well, as I read on a forum wherein the pros and cons of wholemeal flour were being discussed, some things where just not meant to be wholemeal. Pizza dough is one of them. Sure, I will happily make and eat a wholemeal pizza crust, but you can’t compare it to those soft, chewy and smooth white bases that the Italians and a number of UK-Italian restaurants do so well.

So I’m trying this recipe tonight, with the semolina and strong white. It turned out really good, if not a little crispy. At the moment I’m yearning for that stretchy, doughy puffiness that I can never seem to achieve with homemade pizza, especially not in the gluten-free or wholemeal versions. It is so elusive.

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Amy x

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Gluten, Schmluten

So I’ve done the vegetarian thing for more than 10 years now…

…and some readers of this blog and weary friends of mine will remember my brief encounter with veganism a few months ago…

…but guess what food group I am ill-advisedly cutting out of my diet today !

…GLUTEN !

I have no need to go gluten-free for health reasons. I recently stumbled across a website called Gluten-free Girl and the Chef – the whole deal is just fantastic and adorable, you should check it out. Shauna Ahern has coeliac disease, which means she can’t eat gluten or she gets sick. Like, really sick. Read this post. I felt for her. I also fell completely in love with the website and all the exciting recipes I found there – she writes so passionately about all of them, and I’m happy that she has not allowed her condition to affect her life negatively. I wanted to give it a try for myself (gluten-free cooking that is, not coeliac disease).

I’m not cutting gluten out entirely (I have too many delicious bagels in my freezer that were reduced to clear in the supermarket), I just want to experiment with different cooking methods and ingredients, the challenge being, I’m not allowed to use regular flour ! I’m enjoying the learning experience. I’d never thought of trying gluten-free before but know this: gluten-free does not equal carb-free. You can still eat potatoes, rice and oats, provided you make sure they have been certified uncontaminated.

So what to do when you want a cosy pasta dinner ? Eat lentils or quinoa; they’re much higher in protein and contain more magical disease fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than pasta. And they’ll fill you up more, often for less calories, depending what you choose. You can mix whatever it was you were going to put in the pasta with your new protein-y friends without much difference in satisfaction, in my opinion.

So I’ve been trying to opt for pulses, beans and seeds in favour of pasta and bread dishes wherever possible recently. However, I wanted to make a gluten-free version of a meal very close to my heart; a dish I love so much it could be used to bribe me into doing literally anything; a meal that contains more than its fair share of gluten; one could say it was based entirely on gluten…

Get the pun now ?

Yep, that’s my first gluten-free pizza base right there, complete with obligatory side-salad.

I’d flicked through a fair number of internet recipes that called for many different types of gluten-free flours, some of which I already had. It’s all very interesting – I had no idea you could make flour from so many different things: coconut, chickpea, quinoa, rice, corn, potato. What I loved about Gluten-free Girl’s recipe was that you can substitute flours and starches for pretty much whatever you have, as long as you work within the correct ratios.

I used equal parts (about 50-60g each) of cornflour, sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour and maize starch.

Whisk up about 2 teaspoons of milled flaxseed with a tablespoon of boiling water until you have a thick paste. Then the rest is pretty much like a regular pizza base recipe – set up your yeast and olive oil, chuck some salt in the flour and make a well. Add the flax paste (this acts as a binding agent to help the gluten-free flours along a bit), then the yeast and oil mixture and stir and knead until you have a dough. In a way in which I find it hard to describe, the dough will not be stretchy and you will not be able to throw it in the air and use your fists to shape it – do not be alarmed. Use a rolling pin, or your hands, directly onto your foiled and oiled pizza tray. I was nervous that the dough would crumble under my fingers but trust me, brush that baby with olive oil and pre-bake for about 8 minutes and all your troubles will melt away. Just be gentle.

Today my pizza toppings consist of: meatless balls, kale and red onion, as well as tomato, garlic and mozzarella (well, it just wouldn’t be pizza without these). I dare you to feed this to your friends without telling them it’s gluten free, and see if they notice. It’s just that chewy and delicious.

I almost used dairy-free cheese on this, along with the meat-free meatballs. But I thought that was going too far. Meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free pizza, you say ? Don’t make me sick/laugh/die. My loved-ones will despair of me, I know. I just have to be different.

(I eat most of my food in bed…)

So hey there, everyone, I’m still blogging. And eating. And running. Getting by.

I plan to detail my excursion into the realms of gluten-free a little further. I’m not done yet, no sir.

Until the next time !

Amy x