It’s that time of the year when asparagus are finally in season. They’re insanely expensive in Portugal (I’ve noticed many are imported from Chile or Peru – never understood why) but, this time around, I was lucky to find them half their price at the local supermarket. I brought home three bunches. Two of them went into this soup, and the other one was thrown into a salad, grilled. So, as you might guess, there’s been a bit of an asparagus overdose over here, but a well worth one – the soup I’m sharing with you today totally surpassed my expectations.
I’ve first saw asparagus soup here, and then here, and that’s when I got convinced to try my own version. Before that, I’ve only ever had grilled and steamed asparagus with a little salt (simplicity is key, specially when dealing with pricy seasonal produce). I also thought about adding a nice topping, because blended soups can be a little monotonous without one – the ideia for the crispy white beans comes from here (coincidentally, Tara also used them on top of an asparagus soup). A couple of things you should consider when making this soup: first, do use the leeks’ green parts (they’re edible, nutritious and delicious) and second, by all means make the topping. The bean croutons, as I like to call them, bind everything together because of their salty and crispy qualities, making a nice contrast to the soup’s smoothness and delicate flavour.
Asparagus, Leek & Lime Soup + Crispy Chilli White Beans
Recipe visually inspired by Seven Spoons (the original link has been deactivated a while ago)
for the soup:
500 g / 3 large leeks, tougher ends removed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
640 g / 2 medium sized asparagus bunches
625 ml / 2 ½ cups low sodium vegetable stock
250 ml / 1 cup full fat coconut milk
½ teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon lime zest, plus more serving
juice of ½ lime
for the crispy chilli white beans:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 dried small chillies
1/4 teaspoon salt
330 g large white beans (canned is fine), rinsed and drained
To make the soup: Cut the ends of the leeks. Cut them lengthwise in half and then into thin half moons. Place the cut leeks in a colander and wash under running water to remove as much dirt as possible.
Pour the oil into a large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, but not smoking, add the leeks and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until they’re soft.
In the meantime, trim the ends of the asparagus. Chop the asparagus stalks into 2-3 cm pieces and add them to the pot with the leeks. Add the salt, stock and coconut milk, bring to a boil and, once boiling, decrease the heat to medium and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the lime zest and juice and, using a blender, puree the soup until smooth (you might have to do this in batches). Have a taste and adjust the seasoning, adding freshly ground black pepper and more salt if needed.
To make the crispy beans: Dry the beans with a clean towel to remove as much moisture as possible. In a mortar an pestle, combine the dried chillis with the salt and crush until you get a fine powder. Add the oil, beans and chilli seasoning to a large skillet over medium heat. Mix with a wooden spoon to coat the beans evenly, and cook for 15 minutes or until they’re crisp and golden brown.
Serve the soup in bowls with a few tablespoons of the crispy beans on top. Add a little extra lime juice and zest to the soup right before digging in, if desired.
Bread. Such a hot topic these days isn’t it? Since the gluten free craze has started, bread seems to be the number one food to be avoided. I take food intolerances very seriously, but with all due respect to those who have allergic reactions to to gluten, I think we’ve gone way too far with this issue.
I love bread, I really do. I don’t eat bread everyday but I eat it very often. And since this whole discussion around gluten has begun, I decided that instead of cutting it out from my diet (which, quite honestly, wouldn’t work), I would make more sensible choices towards the bread I eat. And that’s when I learnt about sourdough. I’ve had sourdough bread during my time in Holland and I’ve always loved its tangy and characteristic taste.
Unfortunately, here in Portugal we don’t have a tradition of sourdough bread, which left me with the only decision of trying to make my own. I’ve made a starter following this guide, and for the last 6 months I’ve been baking my own bread. Sourdough bread is more easily digested than loaves made with commercial yeast, tastes incredibly good, and also keeps longer.
Back to when I was in Holland, I used to go to a whole foods store close to where I lived almost every day to buy their delicious raisin and sesame sourdough buns. Now, I’ve finally found a way to make my own version and, modesty aside, I think they taste pretty close to the original. If you’re intimidated by the idea of making your own sourdough bread, fear not and give it a try. If I knew it was that easy, I would have made it a long time ago. You can make your own starter like I did, or ask a friend who has one to give you some of it. Dear readers from Porto who want to venture into sourdough bread baking: I’ll happily give away some of my starter if you want to. (:
Sourdough Rye Buns with Raisins and Sesame Seeds
Recipe inspired by How to Make Bread, by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, published in 2011 by Ryland Peters & Small
makes 12 buns
210 g rye flour
90 g whole wheat flour
5 g salt
150 g sourdough starter
240 g warm water
80 g toasted sesame seeds, plus more to coat the buns
150 g raisins
Put the raisins in a medium sized bowl and pour enough boiling water to cover them. Let it sit for ten minutes. After that time, drain the raisins, squeeze them to release the extra moisture and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the rye and whole wheat flours, the salt and toasted sesame seeds.
In another large bowl, dissolve the sourdough starter in the water. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the (dissolved) starter and mix until a dough comes together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into 12 portions. Put a reasonable amount of sesame seeds in a large plate. Shape each portion into a bun, brush the buns with a little water, and roll them into the sesame seeds.
Put the buns in a large tray lined with parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 ½ hours. In the meantime, pre heat the oven to 240c and place a baking tray in its lowest third. As soon as the oven reaches the right temperature, place the tray with the buns in the middle third of it. Add a few ice cubes to the baking tray in the lowest part of the oven and close the door. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool the buns on a wire rack for at least one hour before eating.
As much as I love my morning bowl of oatmeal, it feels good to have something different for breakfast every now and then. Lately, I’ve been trying different breakfast foods – from salads, to socca, and steamed vegetables with panfried tofu – and while I enjoyed them all, the recipe I’m sharing with today is one of my favourite experiments.
Before I committed to making my version of a vegan frittata, I’ve searched the web for inspiration. Most of the recipes I saw called for the use of cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken the tofu “custard” and make it firmer. I have nothing against those ingredients, but since I had neither of them at home by the time I was making the frittata, I made it without them and it turned out just fine. However, if you want to be able to cut a perfect slice out of it you have to be patient and wait at least half an hour after it comes out of the oven.
The frittata also becomes firmer the longer it stays in the fridge, and I might say I actually like it better the day after it’s baked – it’s incredible how the flavours improve and become more pronounced overnight. You don’t really need to use the vegetables I used here, and I’m sure that red peppers and/or leeks would be great additions or substitutions.
Springtime Vegan Frittata
serves 6 to 8
250 g / 1 large onion, finely cubed
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
690 g fresh firm tofu, cubed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 Tablespoons brewer’s yeast (optional)
grated zest of one lemon
220 g / 1 small broccoli head, cut into medium sized florets
295 g / 1 large bunch spinach
240 g boiled peas (frozen is fine)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease a springform pan with oil and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion, garlic, olive oil and dried thyme. Cook, stirring often, for 5-8 minutes, or until the onion has softened and browned just a bit.
Add the broccoli florets to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times, or until the florets are just broken down (you don’t want to fully blitz the broccoli).
Add the broccoli to the skillet with the onion and garlic mixture and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Next, add the spinach and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until the spinach is wilted – no longer than 2 minutes.
Add the tofu to the bowl of the food processor, along with 1 teaspoon of salt, the turmeric, brewer’s yeast (if using) and lemon zest, and blitz until smooth.
Add the spinach and broccoli mixture to a large bowl, followed by the puréed tofu and the cooked peas. Gently mix the ingredients until everything is well incorporated. Season with freshly ground black pepper and an extra pinch of salt, if necessary.
Add the frittata mixture to the prepared springform pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool in the pan before unmolding and serving.
Every time I have guests for dinner, I typically serve some sort of homemade hummus or vegetable spread as an entrée. Most of the time I end up making the good old chickpea hummus because it’s one of favourite spreads and everyone loves it. But if I’m pressed for time (because yes, I’m in that tiny group of crazy people who actually thinks that removing the chickpeas’ skins is the secret to making the perfect hummus), I use split peas instead.
This is an incredibly easy, yet really tasty bean spread that’s perfect served on top of toasted bread or used as a dip for raw vegetables. I love to dip carrots and turnips into this hummus, but peppers (cut into strips), raw broccoli florets and/or parsnips are also excellent options.
I always have this thing going on with the blog where I try to balance more complex recipes with everyday, casual ones. That balance is hard to strive because people who aren’t familiar with vegan cooking tend to prefer simple and straightforward recipes, whereas long time vegans and/or foodies appreciate bold and unusual combination of ingredients and techniques.
At the end of the day, I always try to stay true to myself and my cooking “style”. However, I hope that recipes like this one – that do not involve a long list of ingredients but deliver on flavour – inspire people to venture into cooking more vegan food and, most importantly, help break the misconception that eating vegan is all about pricy superfoods and green smoothies (nothing against both, it just totally annoys me when I hear people saying that – and I do, all the time).
Split Pea Hummus with Capers & Red Onion
serves a crowd
195 g / 1 cup green split peas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon za’atar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more for serving
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoon warm water
65 g / half a medium sized red onion, finely chopped
27 g / 2 Tablespoons brined capers, rinsed, dried and chopped
Add the split peas to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add enough water to cover the peas by 2 cm (0.8 inches). Bring to a boil and, once boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium and cook for 20 minutes or until soft. Some foam might naturally form on top of the cooking liquid – in that case, just take it out with a slotted spoon.
Drain the peas once they are cooked and cooled. Add them to the bowl of a food processor along with the sea salt, black pepper, za’atar, garlic clove, olive oil, lemon juice and water. Run the machine until you get a very smooth hummus. If the mixture seems too dry, add 1 or 2 additional tablespoons of water.
Put the split pea hummus in a medium sized deep plate. Add the red onion and capers on top and finish with a generous drizzle of olive oil.
It’s that time of the year when the weather is getting warmer and I start craving raw and cold salads again. This week, at the farmers’ market, I brought home lots of kohlrabi and turnips with the main intention to eat them raw (which is how I like them better anyway).
I know that a lot of people aren’t particularly excited about turnips, and even though I used to share the same opinion, I’ve been rediscovering this vegetable and absolutely loving its versatility. I’ve been enjoying thinly sliced turnips with just a dash of salt and black pepper as a light snack these days – there’s something about its light and yet slightly bitter flavour that I really love.
Anyway, this salad is pretty much like a coleslaw, with lots of crispiness and different textures. I felt I needed to balance that with a smooth dressing, and that’s how I ended up making an apricot-based one. I was really pleased with how it turned out – it’s sweet and tangy at the same time, with just a hint of cumin to make it more complex and intense.
Farmers’ Market Salad with Apricot-Cumin Dressing
For the salad:
220 g /5 medium sized carrots, grated
140 g /1 large kohlrabi, thinly sliced
120 g /1 large turnip, thinly sliced
200 g /1 large orange, sliced into half-moons
15 g / half a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
15 g / half a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
60 g /1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped, toasted and lightly salted
For the apricot-cumin dressing:
65 g /6 dried unsulphured apricots, roughly chopped
6 Tablespoons olive oil
6 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 Tablespoons water
1 ¼ teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar and pestle
¼ teaspoon sea salt
black pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl.
Put the apricots in a small bowl. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over them, cover the bowl, and let stand for at least 10 minutes, or until the apricots are very soft.
In a blender, combine the drained apricots with all the other ingredients for the dressing. Blend until you get a very smooth mixture.
Pour the dressing over the salad (you might not need all of it, use just enough to coat the vegetables), mix with a wooden spoon or with your hands and serve immediately.
I have this little food and recipe notebook in which I write down ideas I have for dishes. Most of those ideas are for savoury concoctions, and that makes me realize, once again, how this blog is way more savoury than sweet-oriented. I want you guys to know that I really, really wanted to come up with a dessert recipe this week, but then I made this beet risotto and thought it was too good not to share it with you.
Barley is an ingredient I cook with often. I love it in salads and simply on its own as an accompaniment for vegetable stews and curries. I thought it was a good grain to use on a risotto because it holds its shape after being cooked, cooks in less time than brown rice, and has a beautiful nutty flavour.
If you like beets, you’ll certainly love this dish. But if you don’t, then I’m not sure if this is the right thing for you. Thanks to them, the risotto has that distinctive earthy and sweet flavour that I personally love but know many don’t – I actually know very few people who share my enthusiasm for beets. Topped with extra roasted beets and walnuts this is a substantial dinner perfect for rainy winter nights (just don’t freak out if you wake up in the middle of the night to pee and it’s red).
Beetroot & Barley Risotto
7 medium sized / 550 g beets, cut into quarters
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large / 270 g onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tablespoons water
200 g / 1 cup shelled barley, soaked overnight
750 ml / 3 cups low sodium vegetable stock
185 ml / ¾ cup full fat coconut milk
salt and black pepper to taste
toasted walnuts for serving
Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Line a large tray with parchment paper. Add the quartered beets as well as 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well, so that the beets are all coated with the balsamic and oil mixture. Put another piece of parchment paper on top of the beets and crimp the edges to form a packet. Roast in the oven for about one hour – the beets are cooked when you can easily pierce them with the tip of a knife.
In a large pot over medium heat, add one tablespoon of oil and cook the onion and garlic for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft. The mixture will dry out, and to keep it from sticking to the pan add 4 tablespoons of water halfway through the cooking time. Next, add the barley and the 3 cups of stock. Cook, uncovered, on a low-medium heat for 15 minutes.
Add 125 grams of the cooked beets and the coconut milk to a blender and puree until smooth (I do not bother peeling the beets at this point, but do that if you prefer). Pour this mixture over the barley , stir well, and cook for additional 5 minutes. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed – I added extra salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a grind of black pepper. Serve immediately with the remaining roasted beets and plenty of toasted walnuts on top.
As I’ve said before, I don’t plan in advance the recipes I’m going to post here on the blog. I like to be inspired by the seasonal ingredients I buy every week and just create something with them. This week I’ve brought home lots of mushrooms and nettles, so the idea was to post a recipe here that highlighted one of these ingredients (I’m not quite sure if mushrooms and nettles go well together, hence why I didn’t attempt to put both in the same dish – probably a wise decision).
When I cook with mushrooms I like to keep things very simple. I usually just panfry them with lots of garlic and that’s it. However, I kept thinking about a delicious mushroom soup that I’ve made once, following this recipe, and because it’s still incredibly cold around here, I was craving something similar.
My original plan was to use millet in the soup, but I’ve found in the pantry a bag of quinoa 2 days past expiration date (ups) and used it instead. I was lucky enough to find the mushrooms I’ve used in this soup for a very good price, but I don’t want you to spend a fortune on these guys, so feel free to substitute the shiitake and pleurotus for creminis if you like. Also, you can definitely use millet in place of the quinoa, or even brown rice (you’ll just have to adjust the cooking times and probably add a bit more stock than the amount suggested bellow).
Last but not the least: I still have those nettles in the fridge and I’m not sure what to do with them. Have any of you cooked with nettles before? What should I do with them? Suggestion board is open. Thanks in advance! : )
Mushroom & Quinoa Soup
250 g / 1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
25-30 g / 1 big chunk fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 grams dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup hot water (do not discard the water)
140 g / 1 large portobello mushroom, chopped into medium sized chunks
105 g shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
200 g pleurotus mushrooms, coarsely chopped
150 g / ¾ cup quinoa
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
3 Tablespoons tamari sauce
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large pan over medium heat, add the oil, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onion has softened.
In the meantime, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat and, once hot, add the quinoa. Toast the quinoa, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until it’s fragrant and only slightly brown in color.
Add the rehydrated porcini followed by the portobello, shiitake and pleurotus mushrooms. Give the mixture a good stir and add the quinoa, followed by 1 cup of the porcini soaking water and 4 cups vegetable stock.
Bring the liquid to a boil and, once boiling, decrease the heat to low-medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked. Add the tamari sauce, stir, and have a taste. If it’s not salty enough to your liking, add salt (I had about ½ teaspoon).
Right before serving, add the lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately garnished with chopped parsley and panfried tofu, if desired.
I always do my food shopping on Saturdays. I go to the farmers market in the early afternoon and buy fresh fruit and vegetables for the week. Unless I have friends coming over for dinner, I almost never plan what I’m going to bring home – I just buy seasonal and fresh produce. Last Saturday, the market stalls were filled with tons of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and lemons. Being a citrus lover, I couldn’t help but buying some, and on the way back home I even manage to peel and eat a giant orange while at the same time carrying all the bags packed full of fresh produce.
Back at home, I fantasized about baking an old fashioned orange cake with a beautiful orange glaze, but then I just thought that the fruit was so delicious and fresh that throwing it into a cake wasn’t the best way to make it justice.
I remembered years ago seeing Jamie Oliver on a show making a savoury basil sauce to go with a raw tomato salad, and that idea kind of got stuck in my head and ended up being the inspiration for this dish. The combination of flavours might seem unusual but it works incredibly well. I ate the salad as an afternoon snack but it could easily be served as a light dessert. Needless to say, there’s room for adaptations here: you can omit the grapefruit if you want to (subbing it for more orange and tangerine), or you can take a different route, by using pineapple instead of all the citrus (I bet it’s equally delicious).
Citrus Salad with Basil-Coconut Sauce
Note: all the fruit was weighted after being peeled.
For the salad:
185 g / 1 large grape fruit
166 g / 1 large orange
75 g / 2 small tangerines
2 Tablespoons dried coconut
a small handful of goji berries
for the basil-coconut sauce:
18 g / 1 medium bunch basil leaves
4 Tablespoons coconut milk
2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
In a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the coconut until it’s fragrant and just beginning to brown.
Cut the orange and grapefruit into 0,5 cm round slices. Split the tangerines into segments and remove the pits (if they have any).
In a blender, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and process until smooth. If it’s too thick, add an extra tablespoon of coconut milk.
Put the sliced fruit in a serving plate and sprinkle with the toasted coconut and goji berries. Drizzle with the sauce and serve immediately.
People often ask me how long it takes me to make a blog post. The short answer is: it depends. Some dishes take longer to prepare than others. Some foods look naturally good (like fruits and vegetables), while others need a little help (and time) to look appetizing (such as beans or tempeh, for instance). Sometimes, I know straight away what I want to do when it comes to photograph the dishes I prepare – I kind of have the pictures I want to take in mind –; other times, I have no clue of what I’m going to do.
Having said all this, I think stews such as the one I’m sharing with you today are the hardest meals to photograph. I love this kind of food, but stews in general look like an indiscernible (but incredibly tasty) mess of ingredients and are usually brown-ish in colour. This particular one demanded a lot of work. I cooked and shoot the recipe in the morning, but then, in the early afternoon, I looked at the images and wasn’t pleased. I ended up starting all over again, only to get images that I’m just relatively happy with.
But when it comes to how the dish tastes though, that’s a whole different story. I actually make this kind of mushroom and bean stew very often because of how easy, quick and tasty it is. The addition of brewer’s yeast (you could use nutritional yeast instead) gives it complexity and complements the mushrooms’ earthy flavour beautifully. You don’t have to stick to the varieties I used here – shiitakes or the regular white button mushrooms work well too.
White Bean & Mushroom Stew with Thyme
serves 3, as a main
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large / 180 g onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
300 g baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
285 g pleurothus mushrooms, roughly chopped
6 thyme sprigs
255 g / 1 ½ cups cooked white beans
310 ml / 1 ¼ cups water
2 Tablespoons brewer’s yeast
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 Tablespoons tomato puree
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cassava starch (or corn starch)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft (about 5 minutes). Add the mushrooms and thyme sprigs and cook, stirring often, for additional 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms shrink considerably.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the water, brewer’s yeast, lemon juice and tomato puree. In another bowl, gradually mix the cassava starch with ¼ cup of the brewer’s yeast and tomato sauce. Add the cassava mixture back to the bowl with the sauce and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Add the beans and the sauce to the skillet with the mushrooms and let it boil for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and reduces a bit. Remove the thyme sprigs and serve immediately with crusty bread on the side.