Friday night rainbow savoury pancakes

Friday night dinners have to be quick and easy, just because it’s Friday, really! Rainbow pancakes are ideal as they are super tasty and don’t take much time to make.

So what was used from the veg box? One of the carrots (I’m gradually making my way through them), a handful of chard and then the cherry tomatoes, not for the pancakes but roasted on the side – oh and they tasted sublime!

For the sharp eyed, you’ll notice there is an interloper in the veg ingredients – I snuck in some sweet potato, not just for the gorgeous colour but to use as a binding agent. Once steamed and puréed, sweet potato goes a little gloopy, and works brilliantly helping to hold everything together in gluten free plant based recipes. They also contribute towards the texture and can be added in surprisingly well to a variety of recipes – anyone tried my sweet potato chocolate brownies…..?

The other key ingredient in the pancakes is the flour – for this particular pancake I’ve used chickpea flour (otherwise known as besan or gram flour). I first discovered this flour when living in India, and find myself using it more and more, simply because it’s amazing! First it has a strong flavour so contributes a savoury taste. It’s packed with minerals, particularly magnesium, B vitamins and is a great source of protein and of course fibre. Finally, it’s gluten free and really adaptable for all sorts of recipes. Don’t try to lick the bowl though, as it tastes pretty foul when raw!

To finish off the dish, I made a spinach and walnut pesto sauce as it needed a little something on the side, and that’s what I had in the fridge!

So give this a go – it takes about 20 minutes in total if you already have some sweet potato pureé to hand. Enjoy!

rainbow pancakes
Rainbow pancakes

Rainbow savoury pancakes
1 cup chickpea flour/besan/gram flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
200ml water
1 medium carrot, grated
2 small sweet potatoes, steamed and mashed
handful chard
handful parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
cherry tomatoes
olive oil
First, heat the oven to 180ºC, place the cherry tomatoes still on their stems into a baking tray with a splash of olive oil and pop in the oven to roast for 15 minutes or so.
Wash the chard and separate the stem and leaves. Finely chop the stem and put to one side. Place the leaves into a frying pan and dry fry for a couple of minutes to remove some of the water. Leave to cool.
Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, make the pancakes. Place the flour, turmeric, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mix together well. Add most of the water to make a thick batter. Stir in the sweet potato, chopped chard stems, chopped chard leaves, grated carrot and parsley and mix together really well until everything is combined. Add a little more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a drop of oil in a pan and dollop 2-3 spoonfuls into the middle, spreading it out to make a large pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes until starting to brown, then flip and cook the other side. Slide out onto a warm plate and repeat until all the mixture is used up.
Cut each pancake into fours, then serve with the roasted tomatoes and some pesto or sauce of choice.

Yet another slaw recipe!

How many different types of slaw can a girl come up with? I guess I could describe this as a salad with dressing, but it really is another type of coleslaw. Still crunchy, still yummy and just slightly different.
Since first writing about making almond butter, I’ve made a whole host of nut butters – cashew nut, peanut and tahini (which I know is from a seed not a nut!!). The tahini is a particular success, and much better than anything I’ve ever bought in a shop. It never solidifies, has an amazingly intense flavour and is as unadulterated as you can get – not a preservative or colour in site.
In case you didn’t know, tahini is just sesame seed paste, traditionally used in North African, Middle Eastern and Turkish or Greek cooking. Sesame seeds are a great nutritional addition to a plant based whole food diet as they contain a fabulous amounts of calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc, all essential minerals to keep us healthy. Not only that, but sesame seeds also pack a punch with vitamin E (fabulous skin!), B1 and other phytonutrients and anti-oxidants. Sesame seeds have an ancient history, going back to prehistoric times and are connected to many early tales about ancient Gods. They are even mentioned in early Hindu legends where they symbolise immortality. They must have known how good they were even then!
I lightly toasted my sesame seeds before grinding them down to make tahini – this does release more of the natural oils, but these have omega 3 healthy oils in them, so it’s good fat that’s released. I think this makes it easier to break the seeds down in the processor and form a paste.

A main ingredient for my old favourite, hummus, I also use tahini for a light, refreshing dressing that packs a punch of flavour – stirred into fresh, crisp veg, it really does make a wonderful type of slaw that’s pretty unusual. As I eat dairy free, I use soya yoghurt.  There are a few brands on the market, most of which have added sugar which is most disappointing as it really doesn’t need it. So I either make my own using my trusty Lakeland yoghurt maker, or try to buy Sojade, a lovely, light make of soya yoghurt that somehow isn’t too heavy on the soya flavour (wish I knew how they did it!).
This slaw tastes amazing with hummus and flat bread, or on a simple baked potato. So give it a go and see what you think – and add this to your own slaw collection!
Tahini and yoghurt slaw
2 carrots, grated
1/8 red cabbage finely shredded
1/8 green cabbage finely shredded
2 sticks celery, finely sliced on an angle
flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons dairy free yoghurt
1 clove crushed garlic
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
Prepare your vegetables and pop in a large bowl together. Admire the colours all mixed together! Combine the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl, taste and add more juice or seasoning to get the flavour you want. Then stir into the veg, mix together and sprinkle the parsley over the top. Enjoy!

If you’re watching your refined oil intake, omit the olive oil. It will still taste great.

Sweetcorn salsa with polenta triangles

Fresh, seasonal vegetables are definitely the best – for flavour as well as nutrients. Wednesday is always an exciting day for me as it’s the day my organic veg box arrives on the doorstep (sad, but true!!). Unless I have a stock pile of one particular vegetable, I never check to see what’s coming so it’s always a little surprise to see what gorgeous goodies are going to be on the menu for the next week.

This year, the sweetcorn has been amazing – swollen, juicy sweet cobs so packed full of flavour that just boiling and eating straight off the cob with a sprinkling of black pepper is usually all that’s required. But at the weekend, I decided to zing it up a bit, and went for this fabulous sweetcorn salsa.

Since my son has stopped eating wheat (to help deal with his terrible eczema), I have been experimenting with wheat free options. Whilst wheat free bread is readily available in the supermarkets, I’m not convinced about relying on it as a major food replacement due to the horrendously long list of ingredients on the packet, as well as the horribly expensive price tag! Polenta, or cornmeal, is a pretty new to me. Whilst in India, I went to a number of different cooking demonstrations, including some at our local Italian restaurant, Toscano’s; Italian in India may seem a little odd, but they serve up gorgeous food, some of it with an Indian twist (spicy!). One of the dishes was polenta triangle covered with bread crumbs and then deep-fried. Unfortunately, the breadcrumb covering meant I couldn’t try the complete dish (yeast!), but apparently it was gorgeous, with the crispy crumbs complementing soft, creamy polenta inside.  For lunch, they served me just the polenta triangles lightly pan fried, and I was surprised to find they still tasted delicious and had a good texture.

I’ve been meaning to try this for myself ever since, and I finally got around to it at the weekend. Polenta as a basic food stuff is pretty good for you, although being dried and ground it probably isn’t a whole food product. It’s cornmeal, so seemed to go well with the sweetcorn salsa.

The rich yellow colour of corn means it’s carrying great amounts of beta-carotene and caroteninoids as well as a good dollop of vitamin C, B6, iron and magnesium. It has a reasonable amount of fibre and apparently it can help support the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines, which is great news. In the States, a lot of corn is GM, so check where it’s from, or buy organic.

Polenta dishes can be transformed from relatively healthy to high fat junk – it’s what you add to it that makes all the difference. It does take about 20 minutes to make and then a couple of hours to set, so if you haven’t got time, you can buy ready made in packs, but there’s added preservatives and salt, so beware! I wanted to keep mine simple, so I just added vegetable stock (yeast free of course) and some dried herbs; this give a lovely, subtle flavour.

This dish is a fabulous light lunch or a great plant based, dairy free, wheat free starter that is packed with both taste and nutrients – give it a go and see what you think.

Polenta triangles
1 cup polenta
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tspoon dried herbs (I used oregano and parsley)
Bring the vegetable stock and herbs to the boil in a large pan then slowly pour in the polenta, whisking all the time. Cook, stirring continuously, until all the stock is absorbed and the mixture becomes really thick and creamy (about 20 minutes or so). Line a medium sized baking tray with greaseproof paper and pour in the mixture, spreading it out to the edges. Place in the fridge to set – 1-2 hours.
Once set, take the polenta out of the tin with the greaseproof paper and cut into squares, then triangles. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large frying pan and toast both sides for a few minutes until slightly coloured.

Sweetcorn salsa
2 sweetcorn cobs, husk removed
dash olive oil
2 avocados, diced
4 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1-2 red chillis, deseeded and chopped
large handful coriander leaves, chopped
4 tbspoons lime juice
salt to taste
Heat a dash of olive oil in a griddle pan and toast the sweetcorn on the cob, turning regularly, until slightly browned. Leave until cool enough to handle, then cut off the cobs with a sharp knife. Prepare the tomatoes, avocado, chilli and coriander leaves and put in a bowl with the sweetcorn. Once your polenta triangles are ready, add the lime juice and salt, and serve. Enjoy!