Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine

I love aubergine. Unfortunately my husband can’t stand them. He’s very tolerant of my plant-based experiments, but sadly aubergine is his red line that can’t be crossed! Which is not too much of a problem as there are so many other delicious plant-based foods to play with. Plus he’s often away, so aubergine becomes my indulgence when he’s on his travels.

He’s not the only one who can’t or won’t tolerate aubergine. Some people find it too bitter (although this is much less of a problem now than in the past as cross-breeding has removed much of the bitterness) whilst others can’t stand the texture, particularly when it’s over-soft and mushy. Then there are those who are sensitive to produce from the night-shade family which includes aubergines. Continue reading “Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine”

Luscious lemon curd

The days leading up to Christmas are getting super busy – one reason why my post for day 14 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar is a bit late. In all this busyness, it’s handy to have tasty jars of things on hand to jazz things up a bit. 

One of those things is lemon curd. Until recently, I hadn’t eaten lemon curd for years. Traditionally made with butter and eggs that doesn’t fit the whole-food plant-based way of eating, it just wasn’t on my radar. Then suddenly out the blue I had a sudden craving for it, so just had to find out how to make it.

Thinking it would be rather complicated, I was delighted to discover that it was actually incredibly simple. As well as dairy-free, it’s oil free and contains a minimal amount of sugar. Plus with all the vitamin C in the lemons and the wonderful anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, you could almost say it is good for you – maybe!

This recipe makes a jam jar full of luscious lemon curd and will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Use it for topping toast, scones or rice cakes or for dolloping on pancakes. Add it to porridge or rice pudding for something different. You could use it for a lemon tart filling or of course lemon meringue pie. And it works fantastically as a filling for cakes instead of buttercream. I’m looking forward to making some lemon curd cupcakes at some point, but maybe after Christmas!

So if you fancy something slightly unChristmasy this Christmas, then give this a go. And don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Luscious lemon curd

Juice and rind of 2 lemons
250ml dairy-free milk of choice
3 1/2 tablespoons corn flour or arrowroot powder
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8th teaspoon ground turmeric

Place all the ingredients into the jug of a blender and whizz for 10 seconds or so to combine well.

Pour into a medium-sized pan and heat gently, stirring constantly. It starts to thicken quite quickly and you don’t want lumps to form. Keep whisking until it’s very thick and sticking to the spoon or whisk. Leave to cool slightly then transfer to a clean jar. Cool completely then keep in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Sweetcorn and courgette fritters

Sweet corn and courgettes are right in season at the moment, and it’s a bumper crop. I love sweetcorn. Ripened during the long sunny (hopefully!) summer days, fresh corn is so sweet and succulent it’s a joy to eat. Sometime it can be hard to buy unprepared cobs in the supermarket, so I like to get my sweetcorn elsewhere – farmers markets or shops, greengrocer or veg box schemes are all good sources of cobs still covered in their husks. That way you get to unwrap them, revealing the vibrant yellow kernels voluptuously packed in tight, clinging to the side of the cob, ready and waiting to be eaten.

Courgettes are prolific this time of the year, especially if you manage to beat the slugs and snails to grown them yourself, or if you get a veg box delivered. Although they tend to be available most of the year, I prefer them at this time as they tend to be less watery and more flavoursome. Not that I used to like them – whether it’s my tastebuds that have changed, or it’s the courgettes, but I used to find them bitter and quite unpleasant. That all changed when I went on honeymoon to Egypt (a few years ago now!). The hotel’s restaurant always had a buffet style service, and courgettes were served in a huge vat, just lightly cooked with nothing added. It wasn’t just the cooking that was light – the courgette skins were a really pale green, almost white, as if they had been bleached by the searing dessert sun. And maybe the sun also altered the flavour, as these had all the courgette taste, but none of the bitterness. Suddenly I was a courgette fan.

Which is a good thing, as they are packed full of super nutritious goodies like vitamin C and potassium as well as fibre, and of course lots of water. They are really useful veg to have around as they can be used in a whole range of dishes, either as a base ingredient or the main star.

But no matter how much I love both sweetcorn and courgettes, when there’s a lot of them about at the same time, it can be a challenge to find new ideas to use them. So to help out, I’m going to do a few extra posts over the next few days with some ideas for you to try.

The first are these gorgeous sweetcorn and courgette fritters. Now fritters are not usually on the menu at home as traditionally they contain milk, eggs and are fried in loads of butter or oil. But after a little playing around, this recipe still deserves the title of fritter even though it’s dairy free, gluten free, plant based and baked so oil free too. The good news is that they taste amazing, and are gulped down in a flash at home – phew! Great for a light lunch served with a zingy dip or served up with different vegetables or salads to make a more substantial main meal.

To make these fritters beautifully caramelised without frying, I use a silicon baking mat instead of an oiled baking tin or pan frying. Whole healthy fats are really good for us, but refined oils are not as their altered molecular structure can be harmful to our bodies, and cooking oil at high temperatures affects that structure even more. The silicon baking sheets cook everything really well and still gives a gorgeously browned outside, plus nothing sticks – very clever! It’s an essential item in my kitchen cupboard now and would highly recommend them.

So if you fancy ‘frittering’ away a little time, give these a go and see what you think. There are loads of flavour combinations you could use – let me know if you try something new.

Baked sweetcorn and courgette fritters (makes 12)

1 large cob of corn, cooked
1 medium courgette, grated
3-4 spring onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons chickpea (gram/besan) flour
1 tablespoon polenta
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free if needed)
90mls dairy free milk
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Place a silicon baking mat onto a large cookie tray. Place the grated courgette into a sieve and press out some of the fluid (not too much as it will contribute towards the total fluid content). Place the squeezed courgette, sweetcorn, spring onion, garlic and chilli into a bowl, mix well and put to one side. In another bowl, mix the gram flour, polenta, seasoning, baking powder and ground flaxseed together. Pour in the dairy free milk and whisk together to form a batter. Leave for a few minutes to allow the flaxseed to swell and absorb some of the liquid.

Tip the veggie mix into the batter and mix well until everything is combined and holding together well on a spoon (i.e. not too runny). If your mix is a bit thick, add some more dairy free milk, if it’s too runny, add a little more chickpea flour. Let the mix sit for a minute or two.

Dollop a heaped spoonful of mix onto the prepared baking tray and spread out a little with the back of the spoon. Repeat until the mix is used up. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or so until the top has set. Flip the fritter over and cook for another 10 minutes until the base is browned. Serve with freshly made chunky cucumber guacamole (link here soon).

Beautiful broad beans with olive tapenade

In my mind, broad beans are forever connected with my dad. When I was very young, the house we lived in had a big garden. We had the obligatory swing and slide, a cute little wooden wendy house for us to play in and a purpose built sand pit that the local cats just loved to use as their toilet of choice!

Dad claimed the top right hand corner for himself, and create three large strips for growing vegetables. I’m sure he grew many different types of produce, but the only one I remember is broad beans. His beans grew in abundance, and it seemed we had them as a vegetable every day. The problem was, I hated them! I tried to like them – after all, they were fresh and my dad had put a lot of effort into growing them, but they were just too bitter and unpalatable to an unappreciative six year old. So I chased them round the plate, tried to hide them in my lap and generally just whinged and moaned so much, my parents gave up. We moved the following year to a house with a smaller garden, so no more vegetable patch for dad, and no more broad beans for us.

It took years before I would eat the dreaded broad beans again. When I realised how beautiful and sweet they tasted once the tough outer layer was removed, I felt sad that we missed out enjoying the fruits of dad’s labour. And now I grow a few of my own veg, I also realise how much our moaning and complaining must have annoyed him!

Broad beans (otherwise known as fava beans) are packed full of flavour and fabulous nutrients, so they really are worth a try. For a start, they have loads of fibre that will keep your gut happy and healthy. They are also full of B vitamins, including folate which is an essential vitamin for cell growth and development, so perfect if you are pregnant, or planning to be. Along with the B’s, broad beans also have good amounts of minerals such as manganese, iron and magnesium and a fabulous dose of potassium. Broad beans are a good source of plant based protein too, so will help keep you full for longer.

Whilst you can buy them frozen, fresh beans are best, and although they are a little time consuming to prepare, it’s worth it. Buy juicy pods that are not too large and break them open to release the beans inside. Tiny ones don’t need the next layer removing, but in general pop your beans into a pan of boiling water to blanche for a minute or two, then drain and leave for a couple of minutes until they have cooled enough to be handled. Pinch off the outer skin to reveal the brilliant green pod within.

We had guests recently, and I served broad beans with olive tapenade as part of a tapas style meal. The strong, sharp flavours of the tapenade complements the gorgeous fragrant beans. It’s incredibly moreish, but unlike normal tapenade, this one has no added oil so is super healthy and guilt free, so you can eat it until your heart, and stomach, is content.

Why not give this a go one summer’s evening, along with some crunchy flat bread and a glass of something crisp and fresh? Cheers, dad!

Broad bean and olive tapenade (serves 4)
400g broad beans (shelled weight)
3 tablespoons pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
handful of chopped flat leafed parsley
handful of mint leaves, chopped
a few chives, chopped
1 small clove garlic, crushed
juice and zest of a lemon
Prepare the broad beans as mentioned above. Pop all the tapenade ingredients into a small blender and blitz for about 30 seconds – don’t over blend as you want texture, not mush. Season with some black pepper if required. Drop tapenade over the broad beans whilst they’re still warm to infuse the flavour. Can be served still warm, or cold.