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.
I’m sorry for posting again another soup recipe, but my soup fever has yet to stop. I know that, instead of thinking about ingredient combinations to try for soups and their toppings, I should seriously be thinking about making a dessert of some kind and posting it up here (this blog hasn’t seen one in sight for a couple of months now). I’m planning on working on that this upcoming weekend though, but until then, let’s (continue to) talk soup, shall we?
I’ve been eating this soup as a meal in itself for supper the last couple of days. Thanks to the lentils, it’s quite filling and heartwarming. It’s also quite affordable and literally feeds a crowd. There are a couple specifics about it that I’d like to highlight though. The soup tastes delicious the moment it’s made but I think it improves after a day in the fridge – like most stews, the flavours have time to mingle and develop. It also thickens quite a bit after being refrigerated so, if reheating, feel free to add a couple tablespoons of water to thin it out a bit.
The parsley pistou was a last minute addition that contributes with sharpness and freshness to the whole thing. You could make it by blending the ingredients together in a food processor, but my picky self thinks that chopping them by hand makes it more textured and encourages some flavours to be more prominent than others with each bite, instead of getting lost in an homogenized mixture. Enjoy the soup and see you soon! ;)
Red Lentil and Cabbage Soup with Parsley Pistou
For the soup:
220g / 2 medium sized yellow onions, cut into half-moons
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
300 g / 1 ½ cups red lentils, picked through
6 cups water or low sodium vegetable stock
400 g / 1 small head of cabbage, cut into thin strips (I used savoy)
¾ teaspoon salt (you might need less if using stock instead of water)
1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
For the parsley pistou:
35 g / 1 large bunch parsley
10 pitted green olives
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 tablespoons olive oil
For the soup: In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, onions and garlic cloves. Sautée for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.
Add the lentils and the water or stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and, once boiling, decrease the heat to low medium. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Working in batches (or transferring the soup to a large bowl and using a hand blender instead) purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, add the salt and black pepper and bring it to a boil. Add the shredded cabbage, reduce the heat to low and simmer for additional 15 minutes, or until the cabbage is very tender. Serve the soup with lots of pistou (recipe follows) on top and an extra pinch of black pepper.
For the pistou: Using a sharp knife, chop the parsley very finely. Chop the olives and garlic as well, mixing it, little by little, with the parsley. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the lemon juice and olive oil and whisk everything together. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve over the soup.
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.
This salad recipe is inspired by the popular festivities held in Lisbon and Porto around this time of the year. In these events, it’s common seeing people gathering on the streets to eat, and you can literally feel the smell of barbecued foods in the air wherever you go – mostly sardines and peppers. I don’t eat sardines (or any fish for that matter), so I came up with a recipe that still conveys the spirit of the festivities, but that is animal-free. I don’t usually brag about recipes I post here on the blog but I have a special place in my heart (and belly) for this one. I made this salad three times since last week and I seem not to get enough of it (as a matter of fact, I also had it for lunch today). To make it more of a complete (nutrionally speaking) meal, you can toss in some grilled tofu or cooked red beans. You could also eat it in a bruschetta, by grilling some bread slices and topping it up with spoonfuls of the salad (I’d leave the potatoes out in that case). I believe you can add flavour to your foods without depending on oil to get it, but it’s crucial to this recipe to use the amount of the said ingredient specified in the directions and not a bit less .The oil and vinegar mixture will coat the vegetables thoroughly, imparting them a beautiful flavour so, make also sure you use a good quality olive oil in here. Olive oil is a key ingredient to many Portuguese-inspired dishes, and this one really is no exception. Enjoy!
Grilled Pepper and Onion Salad with New Potatoes
(serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side)
1 medium sized red pepper, cut into strips
1 medium sized green pepper, cut into strips
1 large onion, cut into rings
10 small new potatoes, skins on (about 300 grams)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the vegetables
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers (optional, but highly recommended)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small handful coriander, coarsely chopped
1. Fill a medium sized pan with water, add the potatoes and about 1 teaspoon of salt, and let it boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to medium and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes. Then, pass them through cold running water. Transfer the potatoes to a cutting board and when they’re cool enough to handle, cut them into halves. Set aside.
2. Brush a grilling pan with olive oil and set it on high heat. When it’s hot, but not smoking, add the peppers’ strips, skin side down, seasoned with a pinch of salt. Grill them for 7 to 10 minutes, or until slightly charred – to get visible grilling marks, I like to press down the peppers’ strips with the back of a spoon against the grilling surface. Grill on the other side for about 5 minutes. Transfer the grilled peppers to a plate and set aside.
3. Add the onion rings (also lightly salted) to the grilling pan and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft and browned.
4. In a medium sized bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and whisk until incorporated.
5. Put all the vegetables (onion, peppers’ strips and boiled potatoes) on a large serving plate. Pour the oil and vinegar mixture over them and toss well. Finally, add the capers (if using), minced garlic and coriander on top. Serve immediately.
My week has been really busy, and all I’ve been eating lately is kind of boring and predictable stuff (basically, lots of sandwiches and soup). So today, I finally gave myself some time to go into the kitchen and prepare a proper lunch. That lunch – for which the recipe follows – relies on a favorite combination of mine: peas and mint. As far as the preparation time goes, this is the kind of dish that will only take you a couple minutes to make, but even so, you can certainly prepare the tofu and rub the spices onto it and left the whole thing in the refrigerator until you start cooking.
Typically, I’d serve this along with some raita (with all natural, unsweetened, soy yogurt, grated cucumber, and good pinch of salt), but today, after an hour running, I was craving a more satisfying meal and made, instead, some buckwheat pancakes to go with it. I often like my tofu the simple (and easy) way – coated in a little olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and therefore grilled until golden brown – but rubbing a spice mix into it before grilling/frying, might be a new favorite method. Actually, as I type this, I can’t help myself but thinking on variations to the mixture of spices suggested below: feel free to add curry powder for a more indian scented flavor, or even going a completely different way, by substiting the cumin, ginger, paprika and turmeric, for dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano.
Spicy tofu with peas and mint
400 grams extra firm tofu, rinsed, pat dry, and cubbed
450 grams frozen peas
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground powdered ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon paprika
2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons tamari
a few fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Combine the garlic, cumin, black pepper, ginger, turmeric and paprika in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and tamari and mix well.
2. Rub the spice mixture into the tofu cubes, making sure they’re all well coated. Set aside.
3. Bring enough salted water to a boil, add the peas, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the peas, wash them under cold running water and drain again.
4. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, but not smoking, add the tofu cubes and fry for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown.
5. Transfer the peas and tofu to a large serving plate, and garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately.
recipe inspired by Rose Elliot’s The Vegetarian Supercook, published by octopus Publishing Group in 2006
When it comes to food, I’m not a purist. That being said, I have no problems eating canned beans or store bought cookies, as long as they’re vegan and taste good (although, quite frankly, I often cook my beans and bake my cookies). I generally don’t have “prejudices” against canned stuff, and if there are canned produces I use on a regular basis, they are tomato sauce and roasted peppers. They’re vegan, taste good, and although it’s often said there’s nothing as homemade tomato sauce, I’m totally sold to the canned one.
When it comes to recipes, specially traditional and local ones, I’m also not a purist. I do believe moussaka is not the same without meat in it, but I do really enjoy my dairy-free version of the greek classic; the same goes for pizzas and lasagnas, foods that usually call for cheese, and that I most of the times make cheese-less. Actually, both vegans and vegetarians end up, most of the time, tweaking recipes to get them to fit their diets, and that often means to make a traditional dish the unconventional way. This whole process of tweaking recipes fascinates me, as that doesn’t mean they’ll loose their former character just because they’re made a little different by some vegans and vegetarians out there. For me, respecting the identity of a certain local recipe (I’m thinking of portuguese traditional foods by the way), doesn’t mean you have to make it exactly as people did a hundred years ago. Time has passed, dietary needs have changed thanks to our growing knowledge on nutrition and health issues; and I feel it’s by tweaking and experimenting with flavors, textures and so on, that you keep the spirit of traditional foods alive nowadays, more than sticking to the way they’re – traditionally speaking – supposed to be made.
I found myself thinking about all this because of today’s recipe. Ironically, a recipe inspired by a french dish that is already vegan. There is much debate on how to make traditional ratatouille, but I don’t really want to contribute to the discussion. My version of it calls for canned tomato sauce and canned roasted bell peppers, as it saves up some time, being therefore more user-friendly, but if you want to make everything from scratch, just go ahead. Also, by adding far more liquid than it’s usually added on a stew, I make more of a soup, rather than a side dish. This ratatouille soup, alongside with a good slice of toasted wholegrain bread, makes for an excellent comforting meal, perfect for the autumn days to come.
300 grams aubergine
300 grams zucchini
3 medium size tomatos, coarsly chopped
2 roasted bell peppers, coarsly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ red chili pepper, finely cut
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup plain tomato sauce
½ cup red wine
1 1/2 cups light stock
1 bay leave
salt and pepper to taste
1. Start by preparing the aubergine and zucchini: slice both vegetables into 0,8 cm thick rounds, and then cut each round into 4 equal pieces. Set aside.
2. In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, chili, dried thyme, oregano and bay leaf, and sautée for 2 minutes. Add the tomatos and roasted bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Now, add the stock, red wine, and tomato sauce to the pan, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tomatos start breaking down and you get the consistency of a thick, hearty sauce.
4. Discard the bay leaf. Transfer the pan to your counter or kitchen table, and with the help of an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth.
5. Return the pan back to the stove, add the zucchini and aubergine, and cook, over low-medium heat, for at least 25 minutes, maybe a bit a longer – the point here is to slightly overcook the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve the soup hot or at room temperature – it’s particularly good alongside a slice of wholegrain bread – bearing in mind it will thicken in the hours to follow the end of the preparation.