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VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

It’s the annual Vegetarian Week and people may be choosing to transition to vegetarian or vegan diets. When done right, eating the plant based way can do wonders for person’s health.

The key in a successful transition to a plant based diet is to focus on all the wonderful foods you can have rather than mourning those you have lost. What about cauliflower buffallo wings, cashew nut cheese, or homemade plant strong parmesan made out of nutritional yeast flakes and nuts? All these come pretty close to the real thing. And some, I think, taste even better.

Yesterday I went to a business lunch and ended up with one of the most tasteless vegan dishes I had in a long time. On the menu it sounded reasonable, stuffed pepper with roasted vegetables and herby couscous with a side salad. The reality was different. The couscous was overcooked, bland, flavoured poorly with herbs of the dried variety. The roasted vegetables were far and few between I did struggle to taste them. The pepper itself was undercooked. I was very happy that I didn’t end up with a green pepper and felt sorry for those who did. The only saving grace was the bottle of balsamic vinegar brought as a dressing for our side salad (the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber - yawn!), I wasn’t the only person who splashed it onto the meal to add some flavour. This is the type of meal that will never make people consider becoming vegetarian or vegan.

Why is it so hard for some chefs to make a decent vegan meal? Surely, with a little imagination, you can halve the peppers lengthways, roast them till soft, stuff them with couscous bursting with roasted veggies, chickpeas and lots of fresh herbs. What about toasted pine nuts to top it all of? How about a lush zingy dressing or a tomato sauce spiced with Moroccan spices to go with it??? Vegans and vegetarians don’t want their dish to be an afterthought, we want flavour!

My pesto recipe is full of flavour and I am giving you two different recipes to use it in :)

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VEGAN BASIL PESTO

2 cups basil pesto leaves, packed (you can also use parsley, or half and half)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 cup (50g) pine nuts ( walnuts or pistachios work well too)
juice of half lemon
5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a food processor or a blender and process till combined. Add more olive oil if the pesto is too thick.

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ROASTED VEGETABLE CIABBATA WITH PESTO
I don’t buy the commercial oil sprays, I have a Pampered Chef oil pump and use my own, good quality oil in it. No added rubbish.

3 bel peppers (red, orange, yellow)
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
olive oil (in spray bottle)
10 sun dried tomatoes
1 ciabbata loaf
vegan basil pesto above

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  • Preheat oven to 220C. Line a baking tray or dish with parchment paper. Pierce the peppers with a knife in few places (to prevent them from exploding), place on the tray and bake till the skin is blistered all over (turn halfway through) about 30-40min. Place the peppers in a glass bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and let the peppers steam, this will make it easier to peel them. When cooled peel off the skin, remove the core and seeds. Best done under running water. Tear into large pieces.
  • Slice the aubergine into thin round slices, about half centimetre thick. Preheat a griddle pan. Spray the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides, grill on both sides till the aubergine is cooked through (it should be easy to pierce with a fork). Set aside.
  • To make the giant sub sandwich halve the ciabbata lengthways. Spread the inside of both ciabbata halves with the pesto, be generous (I was left with about 2 Tbs of the above recipe after doing this).
  • First cover the bottom half of ciabbata with a layer of aubergine slices, than add a layer of pepper pieces. Next layer is the sun-dried tomatoes, than peppers and lastly the remaining aubergine slices. Top with the other ciabbata half.
  • Wrap the whole sandwich tightly in a cling film and refrigerate for at least half hour.
  • When ready to eat, unwrap the sandwich and cut into individual portions.
  • PS: There is no tidy way of eating it. Have a napkin on hand.

When making the above recipe I used 2 aubergines and found myself with slices from one left over. There was also 2 tbs worth of pesto. This is what I made for lunch with these leftovers. It was delicious and I will be making a large dish for the whole family soon!


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AUBERGINE, TOMATO AND PESTO BAKE FOR ONE

1 aubergine, sliced and slices grilled (see above)
2 tbs vegan pesto
1 tin of crushed tomatoes (or passata)
6 sliced olives, sliced


  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • In a small baking dish, place couple tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes. Sandwich the aubergine slices with the pesto.
  • Make a layer of the aubergine pesto slices, cover with half the tin tomatoes, scatter with olive slices. Next repeat with rest of aubergine slices and top with the remaining tomatoes and olives. Season between laters.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
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ROASTED COURGETTE, BROAD BEAN AND VEGAN PESTO SALAD

ROASTED COURGETTE, BROAD BEAN AND VEGAN PESTO SALAD

Most of the courgettes that I have in the kitchen make it into a bowl of raw spaghetti with a variety of raw sauces. This time however I opted to cook them. I must have been inspired about last Friday’s lunch with a friend. We shared lovely Lebanese mezze and a massive dish of grilled veggies (including courgettes) and falafels.

Another summer vegetable, the broad bean was in my veg box. I find it the most wasteful vegetable in the world. It even rivals globe artichokes in the amount of waste it generates...You receive a big bag of bean pods, you pod the beans, cook them, pop them out of the tough (to me not very pleasant) skins and you are left with a handful of bright green beans and a mountain of waste... lucky we have a compost bin. You can’t deny the nutritional value of broad beans, it makes all the work worth it. A cup of can provide 44% of your folate! And 12.9g of protein. Other minerals and vitamins these little gems are rich in include iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium and B vitamins.

The courgettes and beans do not posses any strong flavours and need something to lift them up. I chose pesto as it is great with any veg. My pesto maybe vegan but it sure is delicious. It is thick, nearly spreadable, cheesy from the nutritional flakes. Lemon juice just lifts it up a little. I really enjoyed this dish, it’s so full of flavour and so versatile. I had mine simply with some rice, but any grain or pasta will be great. The salad is perfect for a mezze style meal. The pesto is great on its own too. I can promise you won’t miss the parmesan.

More broad beans and courgettes in my veg box this week... I think I know what I will be making.


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ROASTED COURGETTE, BROAD BEAN AND VEGAN PESTO SALAD
serve this as a salad, mix in with some rice, pasta or quinoa, use as a topping for a jacked potato, in a sandwich... the possibilities are endless

Serves 2 as a main dish

2-3 courgettes (zucchini) (I used two rather big ones)
olive oil in a spray bottle
1-2 cups shelled broad (fava) beans
2 spring onions (scallions), white part thinly sliced
pesto
1 cup (packed) of basil
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
1tbs lemon juice
3 tbs cold press extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
salt to taste

broad-beans

  1. Cut the courgettes into bite size pieces. Place into a roasting dish and lightly spray with olive oil. Bake for 25min at 400 or until courgettes start to brown around edges. Set aside to cool
  2. Boil the beans for 2 minutes in water. Rinse in a colander with cold water. When cool enough to handle pop them out of the light green tough skins. Set aside.
  3. In a blender combined the pesto ingredients and process into a thick paste. It won’t be as runny as traditional pesto.
  4. Mix the courgettes, beans, spring onion with the pesto. Best served at room temperature.

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MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 2: Snacks - “CHEESY” COURGETTE DIP

MORE FRUIT AND VEG
Part 2: Snacks
“CHEESY” COURGETTE DIP

Have you noticed how snacking can creep up on you? After a long day, you get home, feeling slightly peckish or just outright starving, dinner won’t be ready anytime soon or you may be waiting for the rest of the family to come home for dinner. What do you do? Open the fridge or cupboards and scoff anything in your sight. That’s when we are most likely to eat to wrong stuff. Potato crisps, cakes, biscuits, chocolates...

Many times I heard my friends saying how they make themselves a cup of tea, open a packed of biscuits and just keep going. One is never enough. My solution is not to buy any biscuits in the first place but that will keep you feeling peckish. Keep in mind that 1 biscuit averages around 75cal and gives your body no nourishment whatsoever. Only cravings and unhealthy sugar spikes.

Why not snack healthily and work towards your fruit and veg quota while doing so? The obvious and easiest way is to have some fruit around, just grab and go. Cut up veggies are another easy option. With a little bit of planning you can make fruit and veggies even more sexy.

One of our favourites is keeping grapes in ziplock bags in a freezer. I buy a huge box in Costco, take them off their stalks and freeze them in batches. My son says they are better than sweets. Freezing intensifies the flavour and since they are frozen you will take a while eating them. Perfect when watching a movie.

Some of our snack staples include kale chips, dehydrator apple or banana crisps, Medjool dates, raw “balls” and bars, hummus with carrot sticks or linseed crackers (or good quality, sometimes homemade tortilla chips) with homemade guacamole (have you noticed shop bought one has double cream in it?!!!) or good salsa.

My snack recipe is courgette dip, it is raw and incredibly versatile, the pine nuts give it a cheesy texture, reminiscent of ricotta. You can use it as a dip, spread, or even stir it into your pasta “pesto” style. And of course it counts towards your 5(or 10)-a-day.


“CHEESY” COURGETTE DIP

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This dip will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, if you are making it ahead use 2 Tbs of lemon juice. When stored the lemon juice looses some of its power.

Makes about 1 cup

ingredients:
2 young crisp courgettes (zucchini)
70g (1/2 cup) pinenuts
1 small garlic clove
1 cup basil leaves, packed
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
salt to taste

courgettedip

method:
  1. Grate your courgettes coarsely, mix in 1 tsp of salt. Place the courgettes in a collander that is set over a bowl. Put a small plate on top of the courgettes and place some full tins on top to weigh it all down. Leave for about half an hour.
  2. Place your courgettes in a cheese cloth (clean tea towel or a good quality paper towel will do the job), squeeze as much of the water out as you can. You don’t want a watery dip.
  3. In a high speed blender or a food processor combine all ingredients and process until the desired texture (see picture)
  4. Garnish with basil leaves and pinenuts and serve with vegetable crudites or crackers (preferably raw).
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