It’s almost that time of year again – asparagus season. Probably my favourite season of the year! Officially running from 23rd April to 23rd June, the UK crop of these super tasty stems can be found in shops and markets around the country. Continue reading “Asparagus and pea pasta sauce”
A couple of years ago I was asked if I had a recipe for a plant-based, lower fat version of Simnel cake. At that point, I didn’t, but it peaked my interest. Continue reading “Simnel cake”
With the weather so wild and windy at the moment, it’s great to have some tasty comfort foods to help stay warm and cosy. This delicious bake is easy to make, is totally satisfying as well as packed full with healthful nutrients including a good dose of plant-based protein.
You may think that millet is just for bird seed, but you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s an ancient grain (although officially it’s a seed) that has been used as a key staple throughout the world for thousands of years. It was widely used in Europe during the Middle Ages but fell out of fashion, replaced by newer, cultivated grains.
It has many guises – in India its ‘ragi’ and in Africa ‘teff’. You can find it as grains or ground into flour. If you follow a gluten free diet, you may well already be cooking with teff flour (and if you haven’t tried it, do. It’s delicious!). When we were living in India, ragi porridge and pancakes were common.
So why do I get excited about millet? Apart from the fact I’m a bit of a nerd about these things, it’s because:
- it’s packed with amazing nutrients plus a shed load of gut loving fibre
- it tastes delightful, which is of course most important!
- the grains have a light but firm texture so feel good in the mouth
- it’s great to cook with something different for a change.
Apart from plant protein and fibre, millet is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in particular as well as some of the B vitamins and choline (something the anti-plant eaters say is lacking in a plant-based diet….). Millet also contains quercitin, a powerful phytonutrient that has anti-oxidant properties plus helps support the body right at cellular level. Quercitin is often taken as supplement by people with chronic health problems. And indeed it can help deal with a crisis but once the body is back in balance, it’s always better to have it in food (again, in my humble opinion).
Millet doesn’t take long to cook; there’s no soaking or long boiling times required. I like to lightly toast millet grains before popping them in boiling water or stock. It only takes a couple more minutes and enhances the lovely nutty flavour. But you can by-pass this if you’re in a hurry.
The amount of fluid you need depends on what you are planning on doing with it. For a porridge or pudding, extra fluid is good so it’s soft and sticky. For a savoury dish like the recipe below you want to retain some texture, so a little less fluid is good. Letting it steam for a while after all the fluid has been absorbed also helps to fluff up the grains, but again is not vital if you are in a hurry.
As a general rule, use a ratio of 1:3 – 1 measurement of millet to 3 measurements of fluid. If you use cups then this is easy! If not, then try grabbing a small tea cup or bowl and measuring that way. The amounts in the recipe below is just under 1:3 as the grains needs to be cooked but not soggy before going into the oven to be baked.
One of the objections I hear from people is whole-food plant-based eating requires spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Which is true – it can do. But there are recipes which don’t need you to be standing over a cooker all of the time – this is one of them. It may look like there’s a lot to do, but everything can be done at the same time – roast the veg whilst the millet cooks and the sauce is prepared. Then bake it in the oven and the job is done.
What veg you add to this dish is entirely up to you. This recipe is actually a great way of using up bits and bobs left over in the bottom of the veg drawer, reducing food waste and your shopping bills. In fact that’s another thing to love about millet – it’s super cheap (currently you can get it for £1.29 for 500g in Grape Tree), helping to make a plant-based diet affordable. I’ve used Brussel sprouts and green beans in this version, but I’ve added anything from broccoli to mushrooms to radishes. It really is so adaptable.
If you are nut free, use a plant-based cream like oat or soya instead of making the cashew nut cream. And if you have to avoid nutritional yeast, add a little more garlic powder and/or mustard and adjust the seasoning to how you like it.
The bake is filling and can sustain the hungriest of appetites. I usually serve it with some extra green veggies on the side, just to push up the daily veg count 😉
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on.
Millet and vegetable bake
- 1 High speed blender like a nutri-bullet
- 1 large baking dish
For the millet
- 150 g millet grain
- 450 ml vegetable stock
- 1 large bay leaf
For the veggies
- 1 medium red or white onion sliced
- 200 g Brussel sprouts rough outer leaves trimmed
- 150 g green beans cut into 2 cms pieces OR
- 1 medium head of broccol trimmed and cut into florets
For the sauce
- 75 grams cashew nuts soaked in hot water for at least 2 hours
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 heaped teaspoon mixed herbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp sunflower and pumpkin seeds
For the veggies
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC
- Add the sliced onion, trimmed Brussel sprouts and trimmed beans or broccoli to the baking dish. Drizzle a little water or olive oil over the top and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the veg and stir a couple of times.
For the millet
- If you are toasting the millet, pop it into a large non-stick frying pan and toast on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, giving it a good shake every now and then. When you smell nutty aromas, turn off the heat. Do not let it burn!
- Whilst the millet is toasting, pour the vegetable stock into a pan along with the bay leaf and bring to the boil.
- Carefully pour the millet into the vegetable stock (it can really bubble up so beware), pop on the lid and reduce the heat. Leave it to simmer for 10 minutes then check the pan - most of the stock will have been absorbed. Once it's all gone, turn off the heat and leave it to steam with the lid on for a couple of minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf from the millet.
For the sauce
- Drain the cashew nuts into a sieve and rinse. Pop the nuts into a blender jug and cover with water - you want about 1 cm above the nuts. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
- If the cream is super thick, add more water - you want a single cream pouring consistency. Taste the cream and add more flavours if desired. Season well.
Make the bake
- Once the veggies are just soft and lightly roasted and the millet is cooked, remove the veg from the oven. Carefully tip them into the millet pan. Pour over the cashew cream and mix well to coat everything. If it still feels a little dry, add a little extra water but don't overdo it!
- Spoon the mix back into the oven proof dish, sprinkle the seeds over the top and pop the dish back into the oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Serve straight away piping hot.
What to have for a Sunday (or Christmas) roast? This is a question I get asked a lot, particularly if a) you’re allergic to nuts or b) you’re just a bit board with nut roast! Continue reading “Lentil, sweet potato and shiitake mushroom loaf”
If you fancy something a little different, this yummy soup could be the thing. It’s packed full of gut-loving fibre and has a subtle savoury flavour. You could even pimp it up with some chopped chestnuts for a seasonal twist. Continue reading “Leek and celeriac soup”
This traditional fruit pudding is not to everyone’s taste, but I still feel like Christmas Day is only complete after the pudding’s been set on fire and served with lashings of custard (yes custard – I’ve never been a brandy butter kind of person, even before I went dairy free!) Continue reading “Christmas Pudding”
Hummus is still my number one go-to lunch time ingredient. I love it on toast, in wraps, with salads or on baked potatoes. Or just as a lovely dip to coat crunchy veggies with. And even though I do love it so, it is good to jazz it up from time to time. Continue reading “Roasted squash and harissa hummus”
It really feels that autumn has suddenly arrived; the clocks have changed, the nights are drawing in and the mornings are mighty chilly. It’s time for warming comfort food! Continue reading “Bean and veggie sausage stew”
When I first changed to a dairy free diet, I had no idea just how strong my addiction to cheese was. Very! There was no doubt that it was super HARD to give up. But it was worth it as my migraines eased when I omitted the cheese 🙂
13 years later, and I really don’t miss it at all. In fact, if I go past a cheese shop or counter in the supermarket, I have to hold my breath as it smells so foul! I used to love the ripest, stinkiest cheeses around; now they turn my stomach.
Having said that, there is something about cheese as an ingredient that makes it very appealing. Which is probably why there is such a huge market for vegan cheeses now. There’s a huge increase in the number of people who want to give up all things cow related. The thing is, there are very few good ones around (in my humble opinion) and those come with a hefty price tag.
The other issue with cheese for me and many like me is the ingredients used. To get the texture and shape, lots of refined oils, particularly coconut oil, are used. Which is no good if you follow a whole-food plant-based diet for health, or programmes like Overcoming MS which avoids high saturated fats. This might sound like we’re being super fussy, but when you’re using food as medicine and, lets face, doing everything you can to avoid ending up in a wheelchair, then these things all count.
Which is why I try to create my versions of ‘cheese’ to share with you. You’ll find a selection on the blog so far:
- homemade dairy free cheese – like a mozzarella
- tofu ricotta
- dairy free labneh
- even a cheesy sauce using cauliflower
You probably won’t find any of these in shops or restaurants (maybe there’s a reason for that…..;) ) but they are easy to make at home.
Here’s another ‘cheese’ recipe to add to the collection. Firm almond ‘cheese’ roll. It is almond based (apologies to anyone with a nut allergy) that is pressed overnight to remove more of the fluid so that it holds it’s shape. It has a lovely creamy texture and with the flavours on the outside it can compete with many rolls of soft cheese you might find on a cheese board! Which is good as it’s delicious on savoury biscuits and crackers. It can also be a star feature on salads.
I have made this ‘cheese’ and taken it for a shared group lunch. It was so popular I nearly didn’t get to have any as I was too busy talking and it nearly all got eaten before I got to the table! No-one could believe it was completely vegan with minimal ingredients and maximum flavour.
The pressing does take a little time so it needs preparing the day before. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment for this though. All you need is:
- cheesecloth or loose-weaved tea towel
- a pot
- something to weight it down like a tin of beans
It’s the same principle as making labneh – the recipe is linked at the top of this post if you want to revisit it.
Place the sieve over a container so it doesn’t fall off and lay the cheesecloth in the sieve. Spoon in the blended almond cheese mix and carefully press out any excess water. Bring the edges of the cheesecloth up to meet in the centre and either tie into a knot or secure with a rubber band.
Finally, balance the tin of beans on the top, pop in the fridge and leave it over night. In the morning you’ll find fluid in the container and firm almond ‘cheese’ snuggly wrapped up in the cheesecloth.
Once this has been done, you can follow the suggestion below or if you like a bit more of a funky flavour, transfer it to a container with a loose lid and leave it on the worktop to ferment a bit. Should take between 24-48 hours depending on how warm the kitchen is. Personally, I don’t like the flavour but it could be the very thing you’ve been missing so don’t let me put you off!
If you make almond milk, the leftover pulp is perfect for this ‘cheese’ – a tasty way to not waste all that fibre.
Make sure you use blanched almonds or soak almonds with skins on for at least 24 hours so the skins come off easily. And if you’re intolerant to nuts, try this with sunflower seeds instead – it won’t be quite so glistening white but cover it with enough herbs and no-one will notice!
I do hope you give this almond ‘cheese’ a go because you might just find your favourite new recipe that so much healthier than shop bought versions. Do let me know how you get on, especially if you have some new or innovative suggestions for the outside coating.
- 140 grams blanched almonds soaked overnight in water and drained or leftover almond pulp from making almond milk
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp mixed herbs
- Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend for five minutes or so until the mix is very smooth. Try not to add any more water, but if the blender is struggling add as little as possible - the more that goes in, the more has to come out!
- Rest the sieve over a bowl. Line the sieve with the cheesecloth. Place the mix into cheesecloth, tie it up and give it a squeeze. Place a weight like a tin of beans on top. Leave overnight to drain in the fridge.
- In the morning open up the cheesecloth and pinch the almond mix - it should be soft but stick together.
- Spread out 3 plates and sprinkle the 3 different coatings on each one.
- Divide the mix into 3 portions. Remove one portion and gently form into a log. Roll it on a chopping board to get it even then place in one of the flavouring and roll it again to coat it. Repeat with the other 2 portions and flavourings so you end up with 3 logs - one black pepper, one chilli flakes and one mixed herbs.
- Transfer to a cheese board and use straight away or keep in a plastic container in the fridge. Use within 3 days.
“Now I’m plant-based, I get really stuck with what to put in a sandwich.” Does this sound familiar? I get sent a lot of messages about this or it comes up in conversations with my nutrition clinic clients. And of course, no matter how much you love hummus (and I do love hummus!), you don’t necessarily want it every day, and neither does your microbiome. Those friendly bacteria that hang out in the gut love a bit of variety; the same thing every day can make them fade not flourish. Continue reading “Smoky tofu slices”