One of my grandmother’s signature dishes is carrot fritters. They’re all small and irregular in shape, and are pan-fried until golden brown, sometimes on the verge of burnt around the edges. She usually serves them with broccoli rice on the side, which is actually just rice cooked with broccoli florets on top, but tastes delicious nonetheless. The simple meals I have at her place are some of the best I’ve ever had (her lentil rissoles are insane, as it’s her sautéed cabbage with peas and mint), proving that vegan food doesn’t have to be complicated to be tasty or rely heavily on expensive, hard to find ingredients.
The other day I had a sudden urge to eat the carrot fritters and made my own version of her classic, only slightly changing the shape and making one big fritter instead of various small ones. I also added chickpea flour instead of wheat flour to bump up the protein content of my fritter. This one isn’t a particularly inventive recipe, but I’m amazed at how good it tastes, especially when served with the sunflower and pumpkin sauce. I don’t generally like to brag about recipes, but this is one really is a hell of a sauce. It’s very easy to put together and doubles as a pasta and salad sauce too. Plus, it’s full of healthy fatty acids, which is good for you and your skin.
Now, into more specifics: the fritter’s “dough” might seem like it doesn’t hold together very well, but I can assure you it won’t fall apart while cooking. Using a non-stick frying pan (look for non-teflon options, like these), or seasoning your regular pan with a generous glug of olive oil is key here, since you don’t want all that crispy bits to get stuck.
Hope you like the fritter as much as I do. I’m already thinking about how I’ll style and shoot the next recipe (which happens to be today’s dinner), so see you soon!
Carrot Fritter with Sunflower, Pumpkin Seed and Harissa Sauce
Serves 2, as a main
For the Carrot Fritter
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil or olive oil, divided
3 large carrots, grated
½ teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 heaped Tablespoons chickpea flour
For the Sunflower, Pumpkin Seed & Harissa Sauce
2 ½ Tablespoons Sunflower seeds
2 ½ Tablespoons Pumpkin seeds
juice of one lime
7 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 /2 teaspoons harissa
¼ teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Combine the sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a medium sized bowl. Pour one cup of boiling water over them, cover with a lid and let the seeds soak for at least 1 hour. After that time, drain and add them, along with the other ingredients for the sauce, to a blender. Blitz until you get a creamy, smooth mixture. If it seems too thick, add a little more water (1 or 2 Tablespoons should do). Adjust the seasoning before serving.
Combine all the ingredients for the fritter in a large bowl. Add 1 Tablespoon of coconut or olive oil to a small, 18 cm in diameter non stick frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the carrot mixture. Using a spatula, spread the carrot mixture over the pan, smoothing the surface by gently pressing it down. Cook for 4-5 minutes. After that time, place a plate over the top of the frying pan and gently flip the fritter over. Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut or olive oil to the pan, return it to the heat and, once hot, add the fritter back in, golden side up. Fry for additional 5 minutes. Serve with the sauce.
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.
When the weather starts getting colder, I eat soups and stews for the most part of my meals. However though, salads are still welcomed, as long as they’re heartier and incorporate some cooked elements.This salad makes for a perfect, quick lunch anytime of the week. I’ve made it countless times and sometimes substitute the lentils for whole grains such as barley and bulgur and it tastes delicious as well.
One thing you should pay attention to when making this dish is not to overcook the lentils. There’s nothing worse than mushy, soft lentils. To avoid this, cook them for no longer than 15 minutes and they’ll be perfect. As far as the dressing goes, sumac is it’s key component, so please don’t skimp on that. I’ve first found out about sumac one or two years ago when I decided to make my own za’atar. It’s a hard to find and reasonably pricy spice here in Portugal (although some speciality stores sell it these days), but you don’t need to use much to feel its tangy and lemon-y flavour. I hope you enjoy the salad and the start of the new season! Have a good weekend :)
Lentil and Mushroom Salad with Sumac Lemon Dressing
(serves 4, as a starter)
105 g / ½ cup brown lentils, washed, drained and picked through
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
300 g pleurothus mushrooms
50 g / 8 halves oil packed sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
50 gr walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 big handfuls / 40 g salad leaves such as rocket, baby spinach, etc.
105 g/ ½ cup (packed) pomegranate seeds
for the sumac lemon dressing:
1 ½ tsp. sumac
3 Tbs. lemon juice
60 ml / ¼ cup olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
In a small pan over medium-high heat, add the lentils and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and, once boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium and cook for 14-16 minutes or until tender but still al dente. Add ½ teaspoon of salt to the lentils, stir everything, and drain. Add the lentils to a large bowl and reserve.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the mushrooms and garlic cloves and cook for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown. Add a pinch of salt and pepper as soon as they’re cooked, remove the garlic, and add them to the bowl with the lentils.
Add the sundried tomatoes, walnuts, salad leaves and pomegranate seeds to the bowl with the lentils and mushrooms and toss everything together gently.
For the dressing, mix all the ingredients in a small glass jar. Cover the jar with the lid and agitate vigorously until everything’s combined. Pour the dressing over the salad (not all of it – 3 to 4 tablespoons should be enough) and serve immediately.
As much as I like to cook, I don’t think I could manage the demands of running a restaurant or a café. I love to cook to small groups of people, but more than ten and I start to stress out. I’m also kind of slow in the kitchen, and adding up to that, I hate to delegate tasks. Even though the idea of having a place of mine – with my food, my kind of atmosphere, and so on – sounds appealing, I’m sure it will never see the daylight because of the reasons mentioned above. However, though, that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the dishes I’d like to serve in my little imaginary café, and this one would certainly be a regular on the menu.
It’s simply beans flavored with a spicy curry paste and served with warm charred naan, to whip up the sauces – the kind of food I could eat everyday. The naan is made with both wheat and spelt flours, and you can flavor it in way you like – by adding cumin seeds, garlic, chili powder, and so on. I wanted to make a 100% spelt naan but couldn’t find white spelt flour, so had to compromise and make a wheat and whole spelt version instead. However, though, next time I find it I’ll make the bread again and update this post with how it turned out. A few words on the measurements: I always like to have all the ingredients for each recipe weighted into grams (it’s way more accurate than cups), but my scale has been having some sort of identity crisis and only gives me the weights in pounds. I was a bit lazy and didn’t want to go into the trouble of weighting things down and then make the conversions, but if the scale doesn’t change its mind soon, I’ll buy another one and reintroduce the proper metric measurements.
Curried Beans with Naan Bread
for the naan bread:
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon olive oil
optional: cumin seeds, thyme, chili flakes, coriander…
for the curried beans:
4 cups red beans (canned is fine)
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
3 tablespoons chopped canned tomatoes
1 large fresh green chili, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 large lemon (cut into 4 wedges) and chopped avocado for serving
To make the naan bread: Add, to a medium bowl, the water, yeast, salt, brown rice syrup and olive oil, and whisk everything together. In another bowl, combine the flours. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl with the flour and knead until you have a firm, yet soft to the touch, dough. If the dough is too wet, add more flour until you reach the right consistency. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place to rise for 2 hours.
Heat a large grilling pan over medium-high heat. Dust a working surface with flour and add the proofed dough. Knead for a couple of minutes and divide it into 4 equal parts. Roll each ball of dough into a not too thin elongated shape and add the topping you want (if using) pressing it down gently into the dough. Brush the naan with water and add it to the grilling pan, water side down, and cover with a lid. Cook for 30-50 seconds, or until you start seeing some bubbles on it. Cook the other side for approximately the same time, or until lightly charred. Repeat this process with the remaining balls of dough.
To make the curried beans: Add all the ingredients for the curry, except the beans, to a food processor and pulse until it turns into a paste. Add the curry to a pot over medium heat and cook, stirring often to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot, for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans, 3/4 cup of water (if you cooked your own beans use the cooking water), and cook for additional 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Add a good squeeze of lemon juice to each serving, along with some chopped avocado and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with the naans.
I had some friends coming over for dinner last weekend to taste some of my fermentation experiments. Amongst kimchi, sauerkraut (which will be covered soon), a sour coconut chutney and other little things, these mung bean pancakes were served. They’re not fermented per se, but do call for the use of kimchi, one of my favourite live foods.
I looked up online for several bindaetteok recipes and they all used the same basic ingredients – dried mung beans, sesame oil, rice and water. The amount of rice called for in those recipes was so little that I actually decided to omit it altogether. I also realised that the mung beans they use in Korea to make these pancakes are peeled and split, whereas the ones I find in the stores are sold whole. Needless to say, I used them whole and had not issues at all. I assume the batter is probably coarser than if I had used split beans, but I do like the extra texture.
Kimchi is hard to find in Portugal and even though I prefer these pancakes with it – because of the tangy and sharp flavours it gives to the batter – it’s possible to use finely chopped spring onions instead. Just bear in mind kimchi is the ingredient that gives them character, so a kimchi-free version of the pancakes won’t certainly taste as authentic. Having said this, I highly encourage you to make your own (recipe here!) – it’s quite easy and, if you haven’t tasted if before, you’ll be in for a wonderful taste experience that’s unusual for the western palate.
Bindaetteok (Korean Mung Bean Pancakes) with Sesame-Ginger Sauce
(makes 8-10 pancakes)
for the pancakes:
190 g / 1 cup mung beans, soaked overnight
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon tamari sauce
½ teaspoon salt
60 ml / ¼ cup kimchi juice
60 ml / ¼ cup water
90 g / ½ cup kimchi
vegetable oil for shallow frying
for the sesame-ginger dipping sauce:
20 g fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons tamari sauce
1 small garlic clove minced
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Drain and rinse the beans. Add them to the bowl of a food processor along with the other pancake ingredients, except the kimchi. Process until a thick batter comes together – don’t worry if it doesn’t get perfectly smooth; it’s okay if it’s only coarsely pureed.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil, tilting the pan to ensure the oil is evenly distributed. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, drop 2 tablespoons of the batter at a time. Cook the pancakes for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
For the sesame ginger sauce, peel and grate the ginger. Squeeze the ginger over a bowl to extract its juices and discard the pulp. Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the bowl and whisk everything together.
My favourite sources of plant-based proteins are, without doubts, beans and legumes. I’ve been eating them in abundance since I was a kid (usually in the form of soups) so they’ve never been things I’ve had to learn to like. Part of the reason why I prefer legumes over soy-based products such as tofu, for protein, is because they bring more variety of textures and flavours to the dinner table. Chillis, hearty stews, dips… there’s a whole world of possibilities with beans (and there are quite a lot different varieties to try). Besides, they’re minimally processed, something tofu isn’t.
Casseroles/stews and dips have been my favourite ways of eating beans. White beans work particularly well in veggie dips as they get really soft and smooth when blended. Plus, their taste isn’t particularly strong or dominant, so you can play around quite a bit and combine them with a lot of different ingredients (another favourite of mine is the white bean and miso combo). As far as the greens go, I used both spinach and Japanese greens in here. They were simply and quickly (no longer than 2 minutes) sautéed with garlic and olive oil and added atop of the toast for a bit of bitterness. You’ll probably end up with more bean dip than you’ll actually need for the toasts – the leftovers keep well in the fridge for a week and are really great smeared on savoury pancakes and/or as a filling for lettuce wrappers.
White Bean and Roasted Garlic Tartines with Wilted Greens
(makes 4 to 6 toasts)
for the white bean and roasted garlic dip:
1 large garlic head / 70 g, top sliced off
1 ½ cups cooked white beans (canned is fine)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
for the wilted greens:
250 g spinach or Japanese greens or, as I used, a mixture of both in equal parts
1 big garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pinch red pepper flakes
salt to taste
lots of freshly grated nutmeg
4 to 6 slices of a good, whole grain bread
Pre-heat the oven to 180º.
Grab a piece of aluminium foil (15 by 15 centimetres is more than enough) and add a drizzle of olive oil over it. Place the garlic head, cut side down, over the foil and add a pinch or two of salt. Wrap the foil around the garlic head and put it in the oven, in the middle rack. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the white beans, salt, dried thyme, black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and add them to the bowl. Process everything until very smooth.
In a cast iron pan over medium heat, add the garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes and fry for no longer than 30 seconds. Add the greens and gently stir everything together so that the greens get evenly wilted. Cook the greens no longer than 2 minutes and, at the very last moment, add freshly grated nutmeg.
In a separate pan, toast the slices of bread.
Spread a layer of the bean mixture over the bread slices and add the greens on top. Drizzle a bit more olive oil over each toast, if desired, and eat immediately.
I had never been much into sports. As a kid, I tried swimming and gymnastics and, even though I liked the later way more than the former, it wasn’t something I was passionate about. In my teen years, I was introduced to fencing and started to realise that the kind of physical activity I liked had to be in the form of individual, not collective, sports.
In the recent years, and after a very long time – way too much time – of not exercising at all, I started to run. It wasn’t love at first sight – I had many bad runs where I practically ran out of breath and ended up giving up – but, over the time, I started to really enjoy it. These days, I can’t imagine myself not running on a regular basis. I don’t have the right emotional vocabulary to describe how good running makes me feel, but I love every aspect of it – the fresh breeze stroking my cheeks, the feeling of freedom, that sort of alienation from reality by being able to not think about anything… I’m sure most of you guys who run can relate.
Over the last 2/3 months, I’ve been training for my first half-marathon. As the date of the race approaches – it will be in two weeks – I’ve been increasing my running distance. That means that, even though I have the music to keep me distracted, I also have plenty of time to elaborate ideas and projects in my head. Sometimes, I find myself thinking about recipes and ingredient combinations to try. I had the intention to make roasted chickpeas in the back of my head for a while, but it was only while running, the other day, that I thought about the particular flavour combinations I’m now sharing with you.
I’ve never thought roasted chickpeas would be so good. You’ll end up with tasty crunchy bits, packed with flavour, that not only make perfect protein-packed snacks, but are also a great addition to salads. This one’s a very straight-forward recipe, but I’d advise you not to skip the step where you have to take the chickpeas from the oven for a couple of minutes and then pop them back in again. It really makes them crunchier. I also think that home-cooked chickpeas work best for this recipe instead of canned. Canned chickpeas tend to be too soft and mushy, whereas with the dried variety, you’re in control and will likely avoid over-cooking. However, if cooking beans from scratch isn’t your thing, just make sure you really dry the chickpeas well before putting them into the oven.
Roasted Chickpeas – Two Ways
(serves 6, as an appetizer)
475 g / 2 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
for the turmeric/cumin version:
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 ½ teaspoon olive oil
salt to taste
for the nori/sesame version:
1 nori sheet
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
salt to taste
tamari sauce to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Spread the chickpeas over a large clean kitchen towel. Grab another towel and put it on top, gently pressing down in order for the moisture to be absorbed. Add half of the chickpeas to a bowl, and the other half to a different bowl.
For the turmeric/cumin version: Combine half of the chickpeas with the oil, followed by the spices and salt. Toss well to evenly coat them.
For the nori/sesame version: Place the nori sheet in a small baking dish. Toast it, in the pre-heated oven, for 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it cool a bit until it crisps up. Now, tear the nori into pieces and add it to the bowl of a food processor, pulsing until you get a fine powder. At this stage, add the sesame seeds and pulse a few times, just to break them down a bit.
Mix the other half of chickpeas with the olive oil. Add the nori/sesame mixture, a pinch of salt, and toss everything together.
Place both chickpeas’ mixtures in two separate baking tray and roast, in the top and middle thirds of the oven, for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. After that time, take the trays out of the oven and let them cool, at room temperature, for at least 5 minutes. Return the chickpeas to the oven for additional 10 minutes or until golden brown. Once ready and cooled, coat the nori/sesame chickpeas with a splash or two of tamari sauce. Store the chickpeas in glass jars or tightly sealed containers — they’ll keep well for a week.
Chickpea flour has to be one of my favourite gluten-free flours out there. It has a lot of character (don’t even try tasting it raw, by the way) but it is, at the same time, very versatile. I make crêpes with it, savoury pancakes, use it in small amounts in cake batters (its high protein content mimics that of eggs, making it the perfect egg replacer) and many other preparations.
It wasn’t long ago that I’ve heard of socca, a chickpea flatbread typical of Nice, France. I came across a recipe for it in Ottolenghi’s Plenty, but haven’t tried it out as it called for egg whites. However, and after some research on the internet, I found out that most socca’s recipes don’t use eggs at all, requiring only three basic ingredients (chickpea flour, water and salt) and, optionally, a few dried herbs and olive oil. In this recipe, I used za’atar to flavour the batter because it goes well with the pesto and all, but you could definitely build different flavour profiles by adding different spices and herbs.
Regarding the slow roasted tomatoes: I quite like raw tomatoes, but I like them even more when slow roasted. They’re sweet and tangy at the same time and can totally transform an otherwise boring leafy salad into something out of this world.
The recipe(s) for the slow roasted tomatoes and the pesto make way more than what you will need for this particular dish but that’s the point, really, so that you have plenty to play around and use in different meals (salads, sandwiches, and so on).
Slow Roasted Tomatoes + Arugula-Tarragon Pesto over Socca
(serves 4 to 6)
slow roasted tomatoes:
1 kg / 15 medium sized vine ripened tomatoes, quartered
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
40 g / 1/3 cup laminated almonds, preferably toasted
30 g / ½ cup packed arugula
6 g / ¼ cup packed tarragon
1 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
60 ml / 1/3 cup olive oil
130 g / 1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons za’atar
250 ml / 1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil, to grease the pan
extra arugula and silvered almonds, to assemble
Pre-heat the oven to 140 C / 284 F. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Add the tomatoes, salt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic to a bowl and mix to combine. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking tray and slow roast for 1 ½ to 2 hours. They’re done when wilted and lightly brown around the edges.
For the pesto, finely chop, separately, the almonds, arugula and tarragon. Mix everything together in a bowl and add the salt, garlic clove, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well to combine. Have a taste and adjust the seasonings if needed be. Alternatively, and instead of chopping up the ingredients by hand, you can use a food processor to blend them up.
Raise the oven temperature to 200 C / 390 F.
Sift the chickpea flour, salt and za’atar to a bowl. Slowly pour in the water, whisking vigorously to avoid any lumps. Let the batter sit, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
In the meantime, grease one 25 cm / 10 inch round baking dish with olive oil and put it in the middle third of the oven for at least 10 minutes. After that time take, very carefully, the pan out of the oven and pour the batter into it. Return the pan to the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the chickpea pancake is golden brown on top. You can finish it (as I did) on the broiler for the last 5 minutes of cooking to encourage even browning.
To assemble, cut the socca into 4 or 6 equal slices. Spread the pesto on each of the slices, add a generous amount of arugula on top as well as 2 to 3 tomato quarters. Drizzle a bit more pesto on top of the tomatoes and finish off with plenty of toasted silvered almonds.
If you check this blog regularly, chances are you’ve probably noticed that I have a soft spot for veggie burgers. Out of the 62 recipes posted to date in here, 6 of them consist of some sort of patties – and being honest, I think there will be a lot more to come. What I mostly like about veggie burgers is that you can play around with ingredient and flavour combinations – mixing spices, nuts, whole grains, legumes and vegetables – and end up with a protein-packed component of a dish. When paired with a salad of sorts, they make quite a satisfying meal.
This burger in particular came out of the need to clean up the fridge: there was this neglected pepper in the bottom shelf that would go bad in a matter of days, halves of onions wrapped up in parchment paper for a supposed later use, a nearly empty large jar of olives… I could go on. I strongly encourage you to give these a try as they have a contrast of flavour and texture – soft and salty olives / crunchy and nutty seeds – that really seals the deal for me.
When it comes to serve them, this time around I thought of something different from “the classic” – in between two pieces of bread – and came up with the idea of wrapping the patties in thin slices of grilled eggplant. The eggplant adds extra moisture and a distinct smoky flavour that I’m particularly fond of. In case you want to up the patties’ (already high) protein content, an open-faced “sandwich” made with grilled Portobello mushrooms – just like this one – would be an excellent choice.
Black Bean and Red Pepper Burgers
(makes 6 patties)
2 large onions / 300g / 2 cups, finely chopped
1 medium sized red bell pepper / 220g / 1 cup, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (1/2 teaspoon if using regular paprika)
240 g / 1 ½ cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
60 g / ½ cup buckwheat flakes (you can substitute with rolled oats)
55 g / 1/3 cup green olives, coarsely chopped
40 g / 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1 big handful chopped coriander
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sunflower seeds and toast them for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and smell fragrant.
In the same skillet you used for toasting the seeds, add the finely chopped garlic cloves, coriander and cumin seeds, smoked paprika and olive oil. Cook the spices and garlic over a medium-high flame for 1 minute.
Add the onions, pepper and salt to the skillet, give it a good stir, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the skillet with a lid and let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes, or until the onion and pepper bits are soft and slightly caramelised. You should check the skillet every 5 minutes to avoid burning the mixture – if the latter seems dry, add up to 2 tablespoons of water each time you check it out.
Once the onion mixture has been cooked and cooled down, add half of it to the bowl of a food processor. Add the beans as well. Pulse a few times, or until you get a sticky but consistent paste.
Transfer the bean and onion mixture to a bowl. Add the buckwheat flakes and incorporate well using a wooden spoon. Add the chopped green olives, toasted sunflower seeds and coriander as well. Mix again. You’ll end up with a slightly moister mixture, but it should still be possible to make patties out of it. To make the job easier, wet your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 6 burgers (or more, depending on the size you choose).
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil, over a medium flame, in a large skillet. Add the patties and cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with your favourite condiments and fixings or as suggested above.
The other day I got a big bag full of spring goods from my aunt’s garden – it had snow peas, pea pods and fava beans (also still in their pods) in there. I sat down in front of the tv for a good hour peeling the pea and fava pods, and by the end of it there was this huge pile of green pods and a smaller one with the actual edible produce (that was eaten in the next two or three days). However, the bag also contained a considerable amount of snow peas (and, thankfully, those do not need to be shelled), and even though I love eating them the simplest way possible – sautéed for just a few minutes with garlic and olive oil – I felt I needed to do something a little bit different with them just for the sake of variety. And so this pesto recipe was born.
It’s as easy as it gets – mix a couple ingredients in the food processor, purée, season and enjoy. I prefer my almonds toasted (I think they’re more flavourful that way), but if you don’t want to turn on the oven just to toast them, you could use them in their natural state and still end up with a tasty, somewhat unusual, pesto. I brought some of it to a dinner party and we ate it over bread, crackers and even as a dipping sauce/paste to spring rolls but, really, you could do a whole lot of things with it – it’s excellent as pasta sauce, for instance.
Oh and last, but not the least: this blog is now on facebook. Go over there if you want to follow it as it is going to be updated regularly.
Snow Pea and Roasted Almond Pesto
(makes, roughly, 1 1/2 cups)
200 g snow peas
1/3 cup / 55 g almonds with their skins on
zest and juice of one medium lemon
½ cup / 125 ml extra virgin olive oil
½ plus 1/8 teaspoons sea salt
2 garlic cloves
a few sprigs of lemon thyme
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc /350 F.
Rinse the snow peas and, while trimming their ends, slide your finger along one side to remove any tough strings. Coarsely chop them.
Arrange the almonds evenly on a baking tray. Roast them for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Set them aside to cool. When the almonds are cool enough to be handled, chop them coarsely.
Put all the chopped snow peas and almonds in the bowl of a food processor along with the other ingredients. Process for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth. Have a taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and store in the fridge. Use within 2-3 days.