Sunday, 20 March 2016

Suma Bloggers Network - Chickpea, Kale and Leek Curry

Carrying on from my earlier post in relation to the International Year of Pulses, I wanted to share another recipe using pulses. I was hoping to share a baking recipe but its not quite perfected yet! Hopefully over the next few days I'll be able to tweak it so I'm happy with the finished result and then share with you as a bonus recipe.

I absolutely love houmous, but I don't use chick peas very often in cooking, this is about to change. With the weather taking a turn for the worse, and getting colder, I wanted something warming and filling. I've been fighting off a lurgie of some sort for nearly 2 months now, and when everyone around me is dropping like flies I've kept going, just. 

I know my last Suma recipe was a type of curry, but when the weather is miserable and I'm feeling low curry is what lifts my mood and warms me from the inside out. I've never made a chick pea curry before, but I'm sold, and I'm sure more chick pea curry recipes will be created. For this recipe I teamed the chick peas up with a couple of ingredients from my allotment, leeks and kale and it was a perfect combination.

Ingredients - Serves 2 hungry people but will stretch to 4 servings

1 Small onion 
1 Red Chilli
1 Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
3 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tsp (heaped) Garam masala
1 tsp (level) Ground coriander
½ Tsp Ground cumin
½ Tsp Turmeric
1 Tsp and 1 Tbsp Oil of choice
½ Tsp Black mustard seeds
250g Leeks, sliced
1 Tin Chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp Soy sauce
100g Kale, shredded
1 Tin Coconut milk
Salt and black pepper to taste


1) Roughly chop the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic and add to a blender.

2) Add the Garam masala, cumin, coriander and turmeric and the 1 Tsp of oil and mix till it forms a coarse paste.

3) Add the other 1 Tbsp oil to a wok and the black mustard seeds. Heat slowly until the mustard seeds start to pop, about 2-3 minutes.

4) Add the curry paste and stir through the mustard seeds, cook over a low heat for a minute.

5) Add the leeks and stir, cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, adding a little water if the leeks or curry paste start to stick.

6) Add the chickpeas and soy sauce and cook for another 2 minutes before adding the coconut milk. If the coconut milk has separated into the liquid and 'cream', stir to make sure all the coconut 'cream' has melted.

7) Add the kale and cook over a low heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

8) Add the salt and pepper to taste

9) Serve over wholegrain rice

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Going Vegan at Chico's

I don't know about you, but where I live vegan eats are hard to find! Unless you live in a large town or city your choices are extremely limited where to go out to eat. I'm lucky to have a pizza express in my town which is my normal go to place but we have no Wagamamas or Yo! Sushi here. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about a little Mexican restaurant in the next town that had its own vegan menu!

Chico's is a small restaurant in Stone, which is decorated fabulously giving you a Mexican vibe while you are dining. The staff are extremely attentive without going over the top and the manager, Jimmy has everything running like clockwork. The bar was well stocked in fact I doubt there was a drink which they hadn't got!

After being shown to our table, I was handed their vegan menu and the dishes were explained to us. We asked Jimmy why they had decided to create a vegan menu. He explained that the team included two vegans and a coeliac and whenever the team wanted to go out together on their night off or hold team building days it was almost impossible to find anywhere that would cater for them all. So after a few miserable attempts to find somewhere to go they decided to stay in the restaurant and the chef created food to suit everyone. The chef isn't vegan himself but the kitchen used to have a vegan sous chef who has since left. Between them they started experimenting with ingredients and created a vegan menu and a gluten free menu. Any time the team wanted a night out the team stayed in the restaurant, where they knew their dietary needs could be catered for. The menus then grew from there. Jimmy explained that there was no cross contamination of food in the kitchen, and they used a separate fryer for anything vegan. This alleviated my fears as I often wonder what happens when you order fried foods like chips, which is why I never do.

I was in heaven my own vegan menu to choose from and that included all three courses - yes there was a dessert menu which was vegan too! I'd deliberately not eaten much throughout the day as I wanted to try all three courses. 

There were 7 choices on the vegan starter menu, some of these included fake meats, which I am not a massive fan of but there were other choices. You could choose from; Tacquitos, Nachos (with 5 different topping choices plus jalapeno's sour cream, cheese, guacamole and salsa), Quesadilla, Taco Shell, Potato skins (with two topping choices), Mexican Flatbread or Empanadas. My sister and I decided on a bowl of Tacos and a Mexican Flatbread to share.

We seriously couldn't believe the size of the starters, we knew we were going to have to pace ourselves! The Tacos were to die for, extremely tasty toppings, we just couldn't wait to dive in. The chef makes his own vegan sour cream from tofu and the guacamole was so creamy everything was delicious. The Mexican flatbread was huge, all flatbreads are baked fresh to order and ours used a homemade dairy free roasted garlic, cilantro and aubergine butter, cheese, herbs and red pepper flakes. We struggled to eat everything and reluctantly left some of the flatbread as we didn't want to fill ourselves up, we'd got a long way to go yet. Our eyes were definitely bigger than our bellies!

For the main course I had a selection of 14 choices, including all your usual suspects; fajitas, enchiladas, burritos and chili. I decided on the cajun vegetables fajitas, I mean how could you not after all your in a Mexican restaurant! Plus I wanted to see how they compared to my own fajita recipes. I was not disappointed! 

The chef makes his own top secret fajita spice mix which was not too spicy but extremely flavoursome. The amount of vegetables that arrived on the smoking hot skillet was awesome. The mix included onions, red onions, yellow peppers, red peppers, mushrooms, aubergines, courgette and sweetcorn, topped with a lemon wedge. The fajitas came with 5 flour tortillas, guacamole, salsa, sour cream and grated cheese. I'd also ordered a side of refried beans as I am a sucker for these! 

I'm not ashamed to say I was defeated! I simply couldn't eat all the food that came out! But it wasn't a problem, my leftover Cajun vegetables and refried beans were packaged up separately in take out containers for me to bring home. And I enjoyed them the next day!

Neither of us had any room for desserts, which was a shame as once again there were 6 vegan options including fruit Enchiladas or Burritos, Churros or ice cream. We did wait for a while in case our bellies allowed for another course but it was no use, we were stuffed. On my next visit I will try a smaller starter or have the nachos for my main course, but with plenty of other options I can see myself going time and time again.

It is absolutely fantastic that a small restaurant in a small town caters so well for those who choose a vegan lifestyle and it was music to my ears as throughout our stay I heard cries of "can I have the vegan menu please?". A massive congratulations to Chicos and I look forward to my next visit, which will be soon!

Chico's don't have an up to date website but please visit their facebook page which has photos of their menus. Go book yourself a table and enjoy a night out with delicious vegan food.

Jasmine x

Sunday, 10 January 2016

International Year of Pulses (IYP)

Did you know that 2016 is the United Nations International Year of Pulses (IYP)? No? Nor me until today! But how cool is that? A whole year devoted to pulses. It has even got its own hashtag - #IYP2016 

The IYP has been launched to increase the awareness of the general public of the benefits associated with pulses. This includes nutrition, sustainable food production and working towards securing food for the future. Did you know that pulses can improve soil fertility and promote biodiversity?

So what food is included? Pulses are part of the legume family which include edible beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas, all of which are nutritional powerhouses! Low in fat, high in fibre and B vitamins, a good source of iron and a great source of protein.

To celebrate the launch of IYP, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have even created a short video highlighting the benefits of pulses. Food Tank have put together a list of how individuals can get involved too and celebrate the IYP2016. You can check out there list here. One way is to pledge eating pulses 1 day a week for ten weeks so to help I've put together my collection of pulse recipes, 30 in total. 

Bean Dhal                                                        Bean Potato Cake

Black Bean & Spinach Chilli                            Black Bean Fajitas

Borlotti Bean Hash                                                Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Cabbage Rolls                                                 Chickpea & Lentil Tacos

Chickpea Oatcake                                           Chilli Non Carne

Courgette & Lentil Roast                             Falafels

Five Bean Tacos                                             Hodmedod Chilli

Houmous                                                         Kale & Lentil Roast

Leek, Kale & Butterbean Soup                       Lentil Stuffed Mushrooms

Refried Back Badger Peas                             Three Lentil Soup

I hope you enjoy some of the above dishes during the International Year of Pulses

Jasmine x

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Cheezy Cauliflower Soup

The day started well with the sun shining and once again it is very mild for this time of the year. Marco and I went out for our daily stroll, it was that warm I considered taking my coat off! We passed the allotments but my plot is still very water logged so decided to leave digging up the parsnips and leeks till another day. I hope they'll be OK! By the time we finished our walk about an hour and a half later the skies had gone black and it had started to rain, so much for the sun coming out to say hello!

By the time we'd got dried off the heavens had opened and it was pouring down, yet another dark, dank, miserable afternoon ahead. So, I decided to make some sunshine in the kitchen instead! I haven't been shopping since before Christmas, and the cupboards and fridge are getting rather bare. But nothing goes to waste in this household, so I opened the fridge door to see what treasures I could find or more correctly what needed using up ASAP!

Sitting in pride of place was a dirty, tired looking cauliflower, that had seen better days! It was crying out to be used so I reached in and plucked it from the shelf, turning it round and round wandering what I could turn it into. I glanced outside and immediately thought it's weather for soup!

1 Cauliflower
750ml Vegetable stock
3 Tbsp Nutritional yeast
2 Tsp White miso
1 Tsp American mustard
1 Tsp Garlic powder
1 Tsp Lemon juice
¼ Tsp Turmeric
Salt & Pepper to taste

1) Cut the cauliflower in half and then each half into 3 pieces

2) Pour 300ml of the vegetable stock into a saucepan and add the cauliflower.

3) Simmer the cauliflower for 10 minutes until al dente.

4) Pour the contents of the saucepan into a liquidizer or food processor, I used my trusty Vitamix. 

5) Add the rest of the ingredients to the remaining vegetable stock and pour over the cauliflower. Blend until you have a smooth and glossy soup.

6) Serve in bowls and sprinkle with black pepper and parsley, perfect for dunking crusty bread into.

Perfect lunch for the dark, dank and miserable weather we are getting at the moment. I don't know about you but dunking crusty bread into comforting soup is one of lifes little pleasures!

Jasmine x