Moroccan Style Amaranth, Beetroot and Red Currant Salad


So we’ve got this new book coming out. That’s it there, at the top. For the uninitiated, the word SALMAGUNDI refers to the medieval practice of emptying the pantry into one big composed salad: this happened most often on a Sunday evening, when servants were traditionally given the night off and lords and ladies of the manor were left to fend for themselves (in a stunning early example of Middle Class Problems, perhaps). Anyway, the new tome is a gallimaufry of the world’s salads, old and new. And there is a load of nice veggie stuff in there, as you might expect.
SO to celebrate we’ve made you a salad. This is a lovely recipe, but it didn’t make the final cut as I have only just invented it. This explains too why you are being subjected to this shockingly bad image of the dish: food photographer I am not. You’ll just have to take my word as to how lush it is…
Ingredients (as a side for 4):

  • a good glug of pure (not extra virgin) olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons harissa spice mix*
  • 175g amaranth grain**
  • 2 medium beetroots, 1 peeled and grated, and the other juiced
  • 1 fat carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 punnet (about 125g) red currants
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste
  • juice of one orange + one lime
  • 1 tablespoon orange flower water
  • 2-3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Heat the non EV oil in a saucepan until it is sizzling, and then toss in the harissa spice, stirring constantly. After 30 seconds or so, add the amaranth, again stirring well. Amaranth can easily turn to mush if you just boil it – toasting it thus helps it retain its integrity (shame the human race cannot thus be treated, no?). Cook until the grains begin to brown and pop, and then add around 200ml of boiling water (stand back as it will all hiss like billy-o at this stage). Turn the heat down to simmer and bubble for around five minutes or until the liquid is more or less all absorbed and then add around another 100ml boiling water (yes – it is just like cooking risotto): bubble for another five minutes until this water too has been absorbed. Stir well, turn the heat down as low as it will go (use a heat diffuser if you have such a thing), wrap the lid of the pan in a clean cloth and allow the amaranth to steam for around another ten minutes or until it is cooked and fluffy. Set aside to cool.
Tip the grains into a bowl and add the grated and chopped vegetables, red currants and herbs, mixing gently so as not to mash the currants. Mix the harissa paste with the citrus juice, the reserved beetroot juice, flower water and olive oil, and season this dressing to taste. Just before you want to serve, stir the dressing through the salad (grains are thirsty so and sos and drink up the dressing if you pour it on too early).

*What this? You want a bonus recipe. Okey cokey – try this one stolen from Snackistan:
The Snackistan Patent Harissa Spice Mix
This is a very secret recipe, so don’t share it with anyone now will you? You can actually buy similar products in shops now – but it is more satisfying to make your own. Once you have used this spice mix it is quite hard to imagine cooking without it. I have not yet managed to incorporate it into salted caramel, but give me time…
Ingredients (to fill a 300g jar):
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons green cumin seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon chilli flakes
1½ teaspoons garlic salt (garlic sea salt is better)
1 level teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried mint
Toast (dry fry) the first three ingredients in a frying pan, stirring constantly: they only need a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool a little.
After five minutes or so, toss the toasted spices with all the other ingredients, and then whizz the mixture briefly in a coffee grinder in batches (or pound in a pestle and mortar). You don’t want it to end up totally homogenised and powdered: some texture is desirable.
Store it in an airtight jar until you need it. Which I assure you will be quite often. Use on fish, chicken, salads, bread, pizzas, lamb, vegetables, popcorn…
**Amaranth is a trendy-but-ancient super grain. It is about as full of protein as a plant can be, so it is useful stuff for the vegan/veggie. And it is gluten free. And it kind of tastes nice. If you can’t find it, you can substitute (the equally gluten-free) millet.

Salmagundi is out on August 7th. You will of course be able to acquire signed copies through our on-line shop and in store :)

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quick Kashmiri Cauliflower

A cracking little supper dish or side, this. For my part I’ve taken to making it as a sandwich filling for our cafe, but it is just fine on its own with some warm bread, ricotta or yoghurt and salad as playmates.
Ingredients (for 4-6 as a meze or side dish):

  • 1 medium cauli, cut into medium florets
  • 1 fat red onion, sliced
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 75g pine nuts (or nibbed almonds)
  • 75g raisins, soaked in cold water for 20 mins and drained
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Indian-style pickle: we use this one but any Indian pickle will do (you could even use chutney, but you may then need to add salt)
  • 15-18 cherry tomatoes
  • extra oil as required

Preheat your oven to gas mark 5 (200C). Pop the cauli, onion, garlic, nuts and raisins in an oven dish, rub it all over with the pickle (sorry, but yes – you’ll just have to get your hands dirty), and dot the tomatoes on top. If you are using a relatively un-oily pickle, you may need to add a little extra oil to the dish.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for around 35 minutes (stirring it after about 20 minutes) or until the cauli is just cooked. Such a very very easy thing to make, no?

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Veggiestan’s Greatest Hits #19: Alabina


Ah. Alabina. A group which is to 80s/90s Middle Eastern pop what Madonna is to (bits of the less discerning) West. It comprises the lovely Ishtar, a curiously lithesome Jewish, Arabic polyglot, and the flamenco group Los Ninos de Sara. An international mixture which quite encapsulates the border-breaking spirit of Veggiestan. Their toe-tapping, beguiling mix of Spanish and Arabic lyrics and rhythms is, quite simply, brilliant. This is our favourite song: you’ll often find Mr. Shopkeeper and I twirling our best Sevillianas and bellydancing to this when the shutters go down….

Posted in Postcards from Veggiestan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Veggiestani Event News Flash

Oh the caption potential for this photo....


We have not one but two vegetarian events coming up….

The first is a Veggiestan Cook School special at the Cinnamon Tree Bakery just along the road from us. On Sunday May 11th we will be showing you how to cook a whole range of stuff from the lands that comprise Veggiestan. The class will last around 2 1/2 hours (from 2.30 – 5pm), AND you get to eat everything afterwards. The cost is £35.00 a head, and spaces are limited: a 50% deposit will secure your place: call 020 7639 8007 or pop in to book.

The second marks the return of Team Persepolis to The Hill Station in Telegraph Hill (see photo above). On Saturday June 7th we will once again be unrolling a massive vegetarian spread. The £35.00 menu will soon be up on our main website and we will put a link here when the box office ‘goes live’, as they say in the trade.

Posted in Postcards from Veggiestan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Month: Sabzi Khordan


So once again it is NowRooz – the Iranian New Year. A season of new life, green shoots poking through after the Winter. A time for partying and fun. A festival that started way back in pre-Zoroastrian times and has survived endless invasions and millennia of change.

During the two weeks of Nowrooz, even the food eaten assumes certain symbolism. Reshteh, or noodles, are used in food to represent the strands of life and family coming together for the occasion. And herbs are used everywhere to represent the green of Spring.

Hence this month’s photo – an improvised sabzi (or herb) vendor offers a splash of viridescence against the greys and fumes of the city. Bu-yeh bahar miyad: the smell of Spring is in the air…

With best wishes for a happy and prosperous 1393.

Photo borrowed with thanks from Kombizz’s Flickr stream under the Creative Commons Licence.

Posted in Postcards from Veggiestan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Readers’ Recipes #1: Bitter Gourd/Karela

I always meant for this to be an interactive website – and I would love more of you to send in your (vaguely Middle Eastern, vegetarian) recipes. So I was delighted to receive this e-mail from a nice lady called Alia the other day. I replicate it in full below because a) she says nice things, and b) I am very lazy and it is all too easy to copy and paste.

The picture is patently not of a nice lady called Alia, but rather of our very nice greengrocer Mr. Imtiaz holding a pair of karelas by way of illustration.

Hi!

I picked up both Veggistan and Snackistan in Singapore a few months ago. Great recipes and I like your style of writing and the fact that your recipes assume the reader knows how to cook. Not lowest common denominator cooking.

Anyway, in one of your books, you say how you hate bitter melon. Me, I loved it the first time I had it, which was in Lahore, Pakistan. And my favourite way of cooking it is the way my friend’s mother made it that time.

First off, there are 2 kinds of bitter melon: the Indo-Paki type (small with sharper wrinkles and pointy ends) and the Chinese kind (yellower green, larger, smoother, rounded ends.) I prefer the Chinese type.

Peel the outside brusquely with a veggie peeler, not because the skin isn’t edible, but because that will reduce some bitterness. Then cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and white pith. (The seeds when fully ripe are scarlet red, so don’t freak out if you get one of those, but it makes no nevermind as far as eating goes.) Then slice up these bitter melon canoes into half-arcs about 1/3″ thick. Throw them into a bowl of salt water and let them sit around for 30-60 minutes. This bath is also said to reduce the bitterness.

Meanwhile, fry up an equal amount of sliced onions in veggie oil (in batches) until they are reddish brown crispy. Remove them to a paper towel.

Now, drain the saltwater and rinse the bitter melon slices well. Into the onion oil toss the bitter melon and saute for awhile. Sprinkle with some turmeric, get everything nicely coloured. Clear a space and fry some whole cumin seeds in there and then mix them all in, and add the fried onions. Add chilli pepper to your desired heat level. You can either stand there and saute, or you can cover and add a splash of water now and then.

When it is done, it will be mainly dry. Garnish with chopped cilantro. It is great eaten with chapatis and plain yogurt. You can also add sprouted lentils when you cook it to ramp up the protein. Don’t forget to check the salt. The combo of brown fried onions and bitter melon is super.

Give it a try. If you don’t like it…

Oh well, more for me!!

Thanks for writing such good cookbooks!

Alia

You’re welcome Alia :) Thank you for sending me a nice e-mail.

Now – who else is going to send in some recipes?

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Veggiestan Rose Drizzle Cake. For you. For Valentines Day.


Now I’m a self-confessed rubbish baker. The antithesis of a domestic goddess (although I do have a penchant for house-work, so I do get some redeeming Brownie points). But you know? You can’t actually mess up a drizzle cake. Whisk-whisk-cook-drizzle-scoff. It is really simple.

Now of course the drizzle of choice is lemon. And there is something to be said about the sharpness of citrus to contrast with the sweetness of the rest of it. So this combo sees lime paired with cardamom and rose. If any of you real Suzie Homemakers out there can improve this, please ‘fess up: I’m always willing to listen to suggestions, especially when it comes to fiddly faffy things like cake-making.

Ingredients: (for 6-7 slices)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150g soft butter (or marg) – I use salted, but if you use unsalted, add a pinch of salt to your cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • grated zest of 1 lime
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons rose water

For the syrup and the glaze:

  • juice of 1 lime (like the 1 you zested above)
  • 4 tablespoons rose cordial
  • 200g icing sugar

To serve:

  • creme fraiche
  • nibbed pistachios
  • rose petals

You’ll also need a greased 23cm x 17cm x 7.5cm (i.e. bog standard) loaf tin lined with greased parchment paper.

Firstly heat your oven to gas mark 4 (180C).
Pinnies on? Whisk the eggs and beat in the sugar and butter: stir until the whole thing begins to pale in colour. Add the spices and zest, and then sieve the flour and fold it into the mixture as well. Finally stir in the milk and the rose water. Spoon the mixture into the prepared oven tin, and bake for around 40 minutes, or until the cake passes the old skewer test (i.e. you stick a metal skewer into the thickest part of the cake and it comes out clean).
While the cake is baking, warm the lime juice in a saucepan along with 2 tablespoons of the cordial and 150g of the icing sugar.
Once the cake is cooked, removed it from the oven, prick a dozen or so holes in it with a knife, and trickle this syrup over the cake. Allow the thing to cool and then remove from the tin.
Make the glaze by mixing the rest of the icing sugar and the cordial together: loosen with a little water if necessary and drizzle over the cake. Cut into slices, add a dollop of creme fraiche, and scatter with nibbed pistachio/rose petals.
Serve as a special pudding for that special someone: a glass of kir royale or some strong dark coffee would make a fitting accompaniment.
Happy Valentines Day!

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Veggiestan’s Greatest Hits #18: Georgia


Now here’s fabulous little narrative. Swords. Ninjas. Dancing girls. All in one three-or-so minute video. It’s kind of Never Ending Story meets Highlander with a bit of Crouching Tiger thrown in. Only problem is… it’s all in Georgian. And we don’t understand a word of it. We can’t even tell you who the artist is. Hey ho. In the meantime, grab your partner around the waist and have a little twirl around the kitchen. Twirling’s a dying art you know…

Posted in Postcards from Veggiestan | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Dukkah’ed Sprouts

Because sprouts are for life and not just for Christmas. And because we now have our own house blend of dukkah. And because we are now selling fresh veg.

We have recently started stocking bio-dynamic produce in the shop, and this has opened up a whole new veggie vista for us. Bio-dynamic? It’s kind of like organic but with a sprinkling of pixie dust. The term is used for lands which are farmed totally in tune with the seasons and with the utmost respect for the soil. Our supplier, A G Brockman, is only a clod of mud’s throw down the road near Canterbury: we are keeping it as local as possible.

Anyway, as per our handy hint in the last post, we bring you our top veggie snack of the hour. Be warned: we are nothing if not fickle, and so this will surely have changed by next week.

Ingredients (as a Winter starter or side dish for 4):

  • 250g Brussels sprouts, washed, tailed and sliced
  • 100g kale, washed and chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons of your favourite posh oil: we use a mix of olive and argan
  • 2 tablespoons dukkah*
  • 150g halloumi, diced (optional)

Simply rub the prepared vegetables with the oil and then coat with the dukkah. Bake covered on around gas mark 6 (200C) for 7-8 minutes, and then uncover, add the halloumi if using, and pop back in the oven for another 5-6 minutes or until the kale is crispy and the sprouts cooked.

In the meantime, do not throw your sprout stalks away, but rather trim them, as per Mr. Shopkeeper’s example on the left, and then either eat them with salt, or slice them into salads or stir-fries. Waste not, want not and all that.

*Bonus Veggiestani dukkah recipe: Before Marmite was invented people were possibly more creative with their bread consumption: dukkah is a spice mix which was used in conjunction with olive oil to spice up the daily loaf. If you can’t wait to get your hands on our new house mix, you can make it your own at home. Toast equal quantities of raw hazelnuts (although we use almonds because hazelnuts make Mrs. S’mouth go funny) and sesame seeds with half that amount of cumin and coriander seeds. Grind roughly with some salt and black pepper, and Rameses is your uncle.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Christmas 2013


Just a wee postlet to wish y’all a very Merry Yuletide and a Happy 2014. We will be back with a whole lot more posts in the New Year – together with news of some Veggiestan cookery classes and more pop-up events.

In the meantime, Veggiestan is currently being reprinted so if you are trying to get hold of a copy, sit tight (ETA February 2014).

Have a good one!
Photo, and indeed painting, by Jessie Chapman via the Flickr Commercial Commons Licence. Fancy Veggiestani sprouts? Toss them with dukka, olive oil and sea salt and roast them.

Posted in Postcards from Veggiestan | Tagged , , | 2 Comments