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.
I don’t share the enthusiasm most people have for Christmas. My close family is very small and I’m with them all year around, so gathering for an occasion I personally couldn’t care less about (I respect all religions, but I’m not a religious person) just seems a bit pointless. Having said this, it doesn’t come as a surprise that I don’t bother cooking a big, impressive meal for Christmas Eve. In fact, I cook the same kind of food I do everyday, like this little carrot and black bean salad.
This dish is easy to pull off and it’s packed full of good things for you. It’s also perfect for this time of the year when, after the carb and sugar filled holidays, people seek to lighten up their eating. You can also adapt the ingredients, like substituting the black beans for chickpeas or even the carrots for sweet potatoes. The dressing is very fragrant and gives an exotic edge to the salad too. After cooking my way through Plenty More these last couple of weeks, I borrowed some ideas from Ottolenghi, and one of those is adding spices to salad dressings, like cinnamon and/or fennel seeds.
I wish you guys a wonderful new year, and I’ll come back by the end of the week with one of my favourite soup recipes –keeping the mood light and clean. ;)
Roasted Carrot & Black Bean Salad with Orange Cinnamon Dressing
For the salad:
645 g / 10 medium sized carrots, peeled and left whole
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
1 ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
270 g / 1 ½ cups cooked black beans (canned is fine)
20 grams chopped parsley
20 grams chopped mint
20 grams chopped coriander
30 grams / ½ small red onion, finely diced
1 medium avocado, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
For the orange cinnamon dressing:
zest of one large orange
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 180º. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Combine the carrots with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the cumin and coriander seeds. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper, toss, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until the carrots have cooked through and are lightly brown.
Mix the remaining ingredients for the salad in a large bowl, and add the carrots on top. Combine the ingredients for the dressing and drizzle over the salad. Serve immediately.
As I’ve mentioned here countless times, autumn is my favourite season. Unlike most people, I like cold weather and absolutely love one-pot and soul warming stews and soups. This stew in particular is the kind of dish I often cook when colder days arrive, as it’s quick to make and I most likely already have all the ingredients I need for it in the pantry.
It’s also very versatile: sometimes I use zucchini in place of the cauliflower and, even though I prefer the latter, it tastes lovely too. Other times, I substitute the water for coconut milk (or half of the amount of water) for a richer, creamier version. As with most curries and stews, this one tastes better the day after it’s made. The recipe below makes plenty of food, so I’m sure you’ll end up with leftovers for the next meal. I also really like to serve this dish with steamed brown rice (to soak up the sauce) and plenty of toasted cashews on top.
Red Lentil and Cauliflower Stew
(serves 4 to 6)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped
210 g / 1 cup red lentils
375 ml / 1 ½ cups chopped canned tomatoes
500 ml / 2 cups water
175 g / 3 medium carrots, cubed
350 g / 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
salt and black pepper to taste
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the seeds for 5-6 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle and mash them until they’re finely ground.
In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, chilli, spices and carrots and fry for 1 minute or 2. Now add the lentils, canned tomatoes, water and cauliflower and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium, cover the pan and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. At the last minute of cooking, add the salt (start with ½ teaspoon, taste, and increase if you need) and black pepper.
I know a lot of people who find lentils boring and bland in flavour, and most of the time is because they’ve eaten them overcooked and without exciting accompaniments. I can eat a lot of lentils – typically 2 or 3 times a week – and the reason I’m a huge fan of them (both flavour and nutrition-wise) is because there are so many possibilities when it comes to incorporate them in a dish.
The other day I made a big batch of carrot purée because I needed some to bake a cake. I ended up eating the leftovers – properly seasoned with garlic and olive oil – for dinner along with (also leftovers) lentils and some quickly sautéed onions. I thought the three components got along pretty well, and decided to further explore the idea in order to come up with a recipe worth sharing here on the blog.
This dish might seem like it has a lot of elements but they actually come together pretty quickly and require ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry. What I like about it is that not only it tastes really good but also makes a nutritionally balance main course, which sometimes, for people new to vegan or vegetarian ventures, is hard to achieve with plant-based ingredients.
Hope you like the lentils, enjoy the last days of summer and warmth and fully embrace the next season. Fall is my favourite of all four seasons, and I love the flavours and produce that comes with it. No wonder it’s the time I’m the most inspired to cook and bake, and hopefully I’ll come up with some new creations that will delight your eyes and palate. See you all soon! (: J
Lentils with Carrot Purée, Caramelized Onions and Hazelnut Mustard Dressing
1 ½ cups french lentils, such as Puy
½ teaspoon salt
1 big handful parsley (22 g), finely chopped
for the carrot purée:
510 g (8 to 10) medium sized carrots, cubed
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
for the caramelized onions:
600 g (4 large) onions, finely sliced into rings
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
for the hazelnut-dijon dressing:
47 g / 1/3 cup hazelnuts
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
arugula leaves, micro herbs etc., to serve
Carrot purée: Using a steamer, steam the carrots for 8-10 minutes or until they’re cooked through. When they’re cool enough to handle, add them to a food processor with the remaining ingredients for the purée and blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. If the mixture seems too thick and you’re having trouble mixing it all together, add up to 6 tablespoons of the water you used for steaming the carrots.
In the meantime, bring a medium sized pan filled with 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils, reduce the heat to medium and cook for approximately 12-14 minutes, or until they’re cooked through but still have some bite. Add the salt, drain the lentils and rinse under cold water. Transfer the lentils to a bowl and mix in the chopped parsley.
Caramelized onions: Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil, onions and salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are really soft. In the last minutes of cooking, turn the heat up to high and cook for additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until they crisp up a little.
Hazelnut mustard dressing: In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast the hazelnuts until they’re golden brown (4 to 5 minutes). When they’re still hot, transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub them against it to remove as much of its skin as possible. Transfer the hazelnuts to a food processor and process until smooth with the remaining dressing ingredients.
To serve, put a few tablespoons of carrot purée on 4 different plates, topping with the lentils, followed by the caramelized onions and a gentle drizzle of the hazelnut dressing. Add a few arugula leaves, if desired, and serve.
Hello guys! Sorry for my absence on the past few weeks. I’m getting used to a new working routine and, as a consequence, the blog has been a bit neglected (I’m slowly getting back into posting more regularly). But before we get into today’s post, I thought we could talk, briefly, about some of the recipes I’ve been making these days –most of them from around the web. I’ve cooked Ottolenghi’s mejadra twice now, only cutting on the oil, and even my grandmother liked it (despite its spiciness). This stew has been in high rotation around here as well, because it’s getting cold and because I love beets (and you do have to like them to truly enjoy this dish). Martha Stewart’s nori rolls are also worth trying – they’re perfect for lunch boxes –, even though the recipe takes a bit of time and you might struggle wrapping up the nori (at least I did, but probably because I was in a rush when I made them). Finally, I’m not a tea person, but I’ve been drinking this one twice a day for the last two weeks (it is that good).
Now, let’s talk roasted vegetables. Around this time of the year, there’s already a great variety of roots in the markets – carrots, turnips, beets… – and they’re perfect for roasting. It might take a bit of time – although not active time – but, in the end, you’ll have a baking tray full of tender and sweet vegetables with slightly brown bits and notes of lemon. They pair incredibly well with simply cooked whole grains and/or puy lentils, for a more complete meal. I guess nothing speaks better of autumn than that.
Lemon Roasted Vegetables
(serves 4 to 6, as a side)
380 g small carrots, halved
315 g / 3 medium sized turnips, cut into 5 -6 cm pieces
450 g / 4 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into 5-6 cm pieces
5 garlic cloves, peeled
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
2 sprigs lemon thyme
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Line a large rimmed baking tray with greaseproof or parchment paper.
Zest the lemon and cut the pulp into quarters. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl and add the lemon’s pulp and lemon thyme sprigs to it.
In a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic cloves, lemon zest, olive oil, brown rice syrup, salt and black pepper. Smash everything together until the garlic cloves are broken down. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and mix, with your hands, to coat them evenly. Transfer the veggies to the baking tray and sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper over them.
Cover the baking tray loosely with parchment paper. Roast the vegetables, covered, for 45 minutes. After that time, roast, uncovered, for additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.
When I was a kid, the cake I enjoyed the most was an apple cake my grandmother used to make. It was a rustic, unassuming cake, and even when so many years have passed since the last time I ate it, I can still feel its taste and smell with my eyes closed. Actually, my grandmother’s cakes used to be my favorites: the apple cake was the one I’d prefer over any other, although I’d be quite content with a few slices of the orange or the cinnamon cakes too.
As far as carrot cakes go, I don’t exactly remember the last time (before last Saturday) I ate one. I’m almost sure my grandmother has baked it some time in the past, but I can’t exactly recall when or even how good it was (I’m sure it was good anyway). The other day I came over to her place for a visit, and she told me about a carrot cupcake she used to eat in a bakery downtown. I feel that “cupcake” isn’t a fair translation for the kind of sweet treat she was talking about… it’s like a cake made with very little flour, moist, rich, and with an intense carrot flavor. As you can imagine, that left me with a big craving for something similar. I was digging on the internet trying to find recipes for the actual cake my grandmother described (as a kid, I used to eat it very often too), but the ones I’ve found mainly relied on eggs for structure. It’s not that I gave up on trying to find a vegan version for this particular kind of cake, but in the meantime, and in order to satisfy my cravings, I baked a simple, sort of traditional, carrot cake instead. And shared it with my grandmother.
The cake, we thought, was very good, but I tell you straight away: if carrots aren’t your thing, this cake is not for you. The carrot flavor is quite present, and the addition of orange zest and juice gives this baked good a fresh, citrus tang. As far as the preparation goes, it is really easy to make – with all the ingredients on hand, the batter will only take you a few minutes to prepare -, and the cinnamon sauce is a great complement to the whole thing, although I think the cake could also be enjoyed plain. And as a last note: do let the cake sit for a while (preferably overnight) before enjoying it, as it really makes a difference (the flavors will mature and be way more pronounced).
Carrot Orange Cake
(makes 8-10 slices)
1 cup (125 grams) bleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (125 grams) rye flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 and ½ cups (255 grams) cooked carrots (from about 5 carrots)
1 cup (125 grams) finely grated carrots (from about 1 large carrot)
1 cup (250 ml) agave nectar
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
1 heaped tablespoon flax seed
¼ cup (60 ml) warm water
for the cinnamon sauce:
1 and ½ cups (375 ml) soy milk
2 heaped teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons muscavado sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly oil a 20 cm round baking pan. Coat the pan with flour, shaking out the excess.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, the ground spices and the orange zest.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flax seed and the water. Process until smooth. Now, add the cooked and raw carrots, as well as the agave nectar, olive oil, and orange juice. Process until totally smoth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
4. Using a spatula, gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, blending well.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 to 1 and ¼ hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
6. In the meantime, prepare the cinnamon sauce: in a saucepan over medium heat, add the soy milk, cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and ground cinnamon, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Once boiling, immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (don’t stop whisking), or until the sauce has thickened. Serve over each slice of the cake.
Surprisingly enough, yesterday – with an outside temperature of 35 degrees -, I found myself sneezing and coughing all the time. I knew I was about to get sick, and started craving a comforting soup and toasted bread, no matter how hot was outside and how sweaty I’d get right after eating those foods. I had some seasonal veggies sitting on the fridge that would make for a good pot of soup, and it didn’t take me long to get my hands at preparing them (peeling, slicing and all), although I must confess I was about to give up a few times during the process and go for a nap. I’m usually very determined when it comes to satisfy my cravings, and the idea that, in the end, I’d get a huge pot of soup that would make my lunches and dinners for the rest of the week, worked out as the main motivation factor.
I ended up following (although not stricktly) Jamie Oliver’s recipe for a Spring and Summer Minestrone, that I’ve bookmarked from his book Jamie Does. I adapted the recipe to fit what I had on hand, and I guess that’s the spirit of minestrone anyway – use whatever vegetables are in season and that would go well together for a hearty, filling soup. The original recipe for the pesto calls for Parmesan, but as I don’t do cheese, I’ve just ommited this ingredient and had not problems at all. Just bare in mind Parmeasan is quite salty, so use a good pinch of salt in the pesto to work as a substitute and to balance things out.
200 grams carrots
300 grams zucchini
3 garlic cloves
1 large leek
1 large tomato
a bunch of parsley
2 handfuls watercress
1 cup frozen peas
150 grams short pasta
1 small cabbage
2 liters good tasting stock
salt and pepper
for the pesto:
a bunch of basil
60 grams pinenuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
a pinch of salt
1. Start by preparing the carrots and zucchini: slice each vegetable into quarters, and then slice each quarter into cubes of aproximadetely 0,8 to 1 centimeter thick.
2. Then, thinly slice the leek and garlic cloves.
3. Heat your largest pan on medium heat, add a few glugs of olive oil, the leek, garlic, carrots and zucchini. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Roughly chop the tomato, parsley, and watercress. Slice the cabbage into halves, remove the hard core, and finely shred each half. Add the veggies to the pan.
4. Now, add the peas, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to low-medium, and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
5. To make the pesto, add the basil, pinenuts, garlic cloves, a pinch of salt and the olive oil to a food processor, and pulse everything for 1 minute, or until the mixture starts coming together into a paste, but isn’t totally smooth. Have a taste and adjust the flavors (adding a bit more of one or another) if needed, bearing in mind you want to find a balance between all the ingredients.
6. Divide the soup among deep plates and top each serving with a good tablespoon of pesto. Drizzle over a little olive oil and add some fresh basil leaves.
recipe inspired by Jamie Does, published by Penguin Books