Jul 2015

HOMEMADE PLUM KETCHUP

HOMEMADE PLUM KETCHUP

In the news today: Google offered to buy Impossible Foods for 300million dollars! I admit this was the first time I heard about Impossible Foods, a company that produces plant based meat and cheese products that imitate the real stuff. $300mil may be hard to say not to, but Impossible Foods have done just that. With Bill Gates and Tony Fadell (Google) as their investors they are not short of funds. The prediction is, Impossible Foods will become a multi billion company.

Why is this story important? It is a proof that the desire for plant based foods is on the increase. This trend is quite evident locally here in Bristol. Several new veggie places have opened recently, more and more restaurants and food establishments offer vegan choices. More of my friends are eager to tell me about them reducing their meat intake. Even if this means having just two veggie meals a week, it is a step in the right direction for their health, for the planet, for the animals.

People who are new to eating vegetarian or vegan tend to reach for the type of product Impossible Foods are producing. I myself don’t always have time to make everything from scratch so there are always Good Life nut burgers lurking in my freezer for a quick midweek meal.

If you are having veggie sausages, burger or indeed vegan cheese sandwich why not try these with my homemade plum ketchup. It is a cross between a chutney, ketchup and Chinese plum sauce (without all the added nasties). Easy and quick to make. I have a real hankering after a vegan sausage sandwich with a bit of vegan mayo and some plum ketchup….


IMG_9212


HOMEMADE PLUM KETCHUP
yield about 1 1/2 cups

ingredients
2 1/2 cups plums, very ripe, halved, stones removed,
1 small red onion
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 1/2 tsp apple pie spice (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp all spice, pinch of nutmeg)
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or another chilli powder)
1/4 tsp crushed chilli flakes (optional)
80 ml water
1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1-2 Tbs jaggery (depending on the sweetness of your plums)
2 Tbs sherry or red wine vinegar

IMG_9214

  • Put all your ingredients into a medium size sauce pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust sweetness, the amount of jaggery needed depends on the sweetness of your plums.
  • Place into a blender and blend till smooth. Alternatively pass through a fine sieve (this will yield less ketchup).
  • Pour into a clean (preferably sterilised) kilner (mason) jar. Cool and store in the refrigerator for about a week.
  • Serve with roasted tofu or tempeh, nut roasts, veggie sausages or burgers or in a vegan cheese sandwich.

IMG_9202


IMG_9218
0 Comments

PRODUCT REVIEW - NATURAL VITALITY ORGANIC HOUMUS

PRODUCT REVIEW - NATURAL VITALITY ORGANIC HOUMUS

It may sound a bit strange but I can pinpoint my first ever houmous experience to summer 1992. My friend and I were taken to a Syrian restaurant in Prague by two Lebanese exchange students. I remember being absolutely amazed by the exotic flavours of houmous bi tahina and ful medames. Ful medames, to this day, is my all time favourite Middle Eastern dish and houmous is an everyday staple in our house.

Nowadays houmous is everywhere. It’s in every supermarket, corner shop and every sandwich shop (yes, it usually is the only vegan sandwich available). What used to be a hippie veggie dish has turned into one of the most popular food items. I find myself recommending houmous to all my nutrition clients. What’s not to like? Apart from being delicious, houmous is the perfectly balanced food providing fibre, protein, complex carbohydrate and healthy fats (depending on the fat it is made with). Only dishes this perfect survive for hundreds of years; the earliest mention of houmous dates back to 13th century!!!

I can say I have had my fill of the good, the mediocre and downright disgusting houmous. Don’t remind of the one we tasted in a vegan restaurant in Prague last summer. Yuck! Supermarket houmous is a good standard but I hate the idea that all supermarkets use one factory to make their “own brand” hummus. It truly is consistently same and after my today’s discovery I can say consistently mediocre.

Recently I have been asked if I could review a range of organic houmous made by a local Somerset company called Natural Vitality. Of course I couldn’t not say NO to tasting food!!! I was excited but strangely apprehensive. Thoughts came to my mind: What if I don’t like it? What can I write if I don’t? Surely with products that carry several Taste the West awards I couldn’t be disappointed.

A box of deliciousness


IMG_8962

The very lovely Ayleen from Natural Vitality brought my box of their five different houmous flavours yesterday plus a pot of labneh. I am such a foodie, I felt like a child on Christmas morning. Today I invited my friend Tanya (who runs her own food business), my husband, son and daughter for a “scientific” tasting session. We listed the different flavours on a piece of paper in order of tasting:
  • extra smooth
  • kalamata olive
  • succulent sundried tomato
  • smoked
  • roasted red pepper
I was going to get everyone rate the houmous. This plan failed as we eagerly tucked in and forget about rating anything. We didn’t need to rate them indeed. All the flavours were amazingly delicious! We couldn’t decide which one is best. I am swaying toward the sun dried tomato but the kalamata is awesome too. I like them all. My daughter loved the extra smooth one and sundried tomato, my friend loved the freshness of the sundried and amazed herself by liking the pepper one (she usually doesn’t like pepper flavour) and she was sure her husband would love the smoked one. My husband and son both loved the kalamata. I have to add that my son enjoyed the labneh and had it for breakfast.

Serious tasting in process

IMG_8968

When I compare some of the flavours with their supermarket rivals (roasted red pepper and sunddried tomato) I can say the Natural Vitality houmous is miles better. The flavours are more defined, you can clearly taste the roasted peppers and the sundried tomato houmous has actual tomato chunks adding amazing juicy bites. Simply you know what you are eating. It’s the same as comparing Twinings green tea to the Tea House in Covent Garden loose green tea. One is acceptable (when there is nothing else) the other exceptional providing true flavour experience.

Do you really need to have another houmous in your life? Especially one that will be more expensive that the one you buy in supermarket? My answer is a definite YES you do. It’s about passion and care that is put into creating this product. It’s about sourcing the best organic ingredients. It’s about the knowledge that it wasn’t a machine that filled the pot with this deliciousness but a person who cares about you, the consumer.

Natural Vitality is a small local ethical company run by the lovely Bristol based Ayleen Driver and her business partner Mark Rawson. Ayleen’s daughter Amber is responsible for creating the flavours and from what I tasted she is absolutely amazing at it. In a product like this you can taste the love and passion that goes into making it, and that’s why it is good for your body and soul.

I only have one issue: I can never go back to supermarket houmous again!

For more information on Natural Vitality and stockist please head to:
http://www.natural-vitality.co.uk

The Kalamate olive one - hit with the boys
IMG_8969


0 Comments

FENNEL AND CABBAGE SLAW WITH CASHEW LEMON DRESSING

FENNEL AND CABBAGE SLAW WITH CASHEW LEMON DRESSING

Being a Czech I do love a cabbage based salad. I am sure I have mentioned it on this blog a few times. I will admit that if there is a bowl of freshly shredded cabbage I can’t keep my hand out of it. I love that crisp sweetness of raw cabbage. Unfortunately the sweetness disappears when cabbage is cooked.

Cabbage may seem to be one of the most boring, ordinary vegetables but as a member of the cruciferous vegetables it has shown some cancer preventing properties amongst many other health benefits. The anticancer benefits are only present when cabbage is eaten lightly steamed or raw. Forget the overcooked cabbage that was traditionally served by British grandmas alongside the ubiquitous Sunday roast (luckily I have never experienced that).

Raw cabbage salad is the perfect way to reap the vegetable’s health benefits and the beautiful sweet taste. Unlike many green salads this one will keep in the fridge for a few days. You may just have to add a bit of lemon juice to enliven it up.

I have added fennel and carrot, both vegetables I adore raw and, for a bit of sweetness, couple of apples. Tarter variety will work well to offset the sweetness of the other vegetables. Dressing is a creamy concoction of cashews, tahini and lemon, kind of a variation of mayonnaise. Chill in the fridge before serving. (PS will taste great with veggie burgers)

IMG_8651


FENNEL AND CABBAGE SLAW WITH CASHEW LEMON DRESSING

ingredients
half a medium white or green (not Savoy)
2 medium tart apples
1 large bulb of fennel
3 medium carrots

Dressing
1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min)
1/2cup water
2tbs tahini
1tbs maple syrup
3 tbs cold press olive oil
juice of 2 medium lemons
salt nad pepper

method
  • Using a food processor (or a sharp knife) shred the cabbage thinly. It will yield around 3-4 cups of shredded cabbage.
  • Next thinly shred the fennel and grate the carrot, and apples.
  • Mix all vegetables together and set aside while making the dressing.
  • To make the dressing put the cashews, tahini, water, maple syrup, olive oil and lemon juice into the food processor and process till smooth. Stir into the salad.
  • Season with salt and pepper.


IMG_8653
0 Comments

WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

Barbecue season is in a full swing with invitations plenty. Traditionally barbecues are not the best place for somebody on a plant based diet. If you do happen to get invited to one, it’s good to have a plan. Last weekend I made this salad to bring to a barbecue together with some veggie burgers and sausages. I bring food with me to any dinner partyI am invited to, partly because I like to cook and feed people but it’s also a way to introduce people to some tasty plant based dishes. Most of the time even the biggest meat lovers enjoy something “different”.

IMG_8535


In this salad I used my home dried tomatoes, they taste more “tomatoey” than shop bought sun dried tomatoes. They are simple to make if you have a dehydrator but oven drying works well too. However you wont achieve the same consistent results as ovens tend to produce uneven heat.

If you are using shop bought dun dried tomatoes the best ones for flavour comparison are sun blushed tomatoes. Unfortunately most sun dried tomatoes are preserved in sunflower oil, the one oil we should have less in our diets. If you can’t make your own or can’t buy sun dried tomatoes that are not suspended in oil, than rinse the oil off under a running tap. The home dried tomatoes are also not salty like the shop bought ones tend to be. Adjust for the salt depending on what tomatoes you are using.

In this dish I would not use roasted peppers from a jar, they tend to have a briny taste, I much prefer the sweetness of the peppers I roast myself. I do prefer to roast them in the oven rather than on the flame of my gas hob. When roasted in the oven they become soft and sweet, even green peppers taste lovely when oven roasted. Just make sure you don’t forget to pierce them with a tip of your knife before roasting to avoid any pepper explosions.

IMG_8545



WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

6 bell peppers, assorted colours
2 cups cooked or 2 tins of white beans (canellini are the best)
1 tin or jar of artichokes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup home dried tomatoes (or sun blushed)
1 cup parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup juice from the roasted peppers
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Pierce the peppers in few pieces with the tip of the knife. Place in a baking dish or on a baking tray lined with unbleached parchment paper. Roast for 30min or until the skin is all blistered.
  • In the mean time n a dry pan roast the pine nuts will golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  • Place the peppers into a glass bowl cover the bowl with cling film to let the peppers steam, this makes it easier to peel the peppers. The peppers release juices, strain these and set aside. Peel the peppers, remove all the seeds. It helps to run the peppers under water to remove all the seeds.
  • Cut peppers into strips and put into a large bowl together with the beans and quartered artichokes.
  • In a blender combine the pine nuts, home dried tomatoes, parsley, garlic, roasted pepper juice, lemon, olive oil and nutritional yeast.
  • Blend till you achieve a thick dressing, about thickness of mayonnaise. Add more red pepper juice to thin out the dressing if too thick.
  • Mix into the beans, artichokes and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.




IMG_8508


Home Dried Tomatoes

Small ripe tomatoes

Dehydrator
Halve the tomatoes. Place them cut size up on the dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate at 43C (115F) for 14-18 hours for cherry tomatoes or more if the tomatoes are larger.

Oven
Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the tomatoes cut side up on the tray and bake at the lowest setting of your oven till dried. Times will vary depending on your oven and size of the tomatoes. After 3 hours check every 30minutes.


IMG_8520

0 Comments