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.

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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.

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Veggiestan News Flash

Sorry if we’ve been a bit quiet: it’s mostly been the fault of the little number on the right – which is due out at the end of September. There’s plenty of veggie stuff in it: we do hope you approve. You should totally all come to the launch party: as and when we fix a date we’ll let you know. Anyway, you can read more about Snackistan here…

In the meantime, we are taking you on another voyage to Veggiestan: on September 10th we are doing a pop-up Persepolis (with added belly dancer) at Frank’s Cafe, which is probably THE trendiest bar in the universe at the moment. Does that make us trendy? Hell no. But we do like a challenge – and this will be heaps of fun. If you want to come, though, you’d better get booking…

Be seeing you.

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Kushari Reaches London


One of the most popular recipes in Veggiestan is for KUSHARI – and now a chain of kushari joints is opening across the capital. I thought it worth sharing this interview with one of the chain’s founders: the article was first published in February over on Londonist.

Our friend Anissa Helou is one of the UK’s most highly respected authorities on Middle Eastern Food. Hey: if I get really stuck Anissa is the oracle I most frequently consult. The former antiques dealer is the author of six cookbooks (with another out this Summer), and finds time occasionally to give cooking classes in Shoreditch along with (oh-my-God-we-so-want-to-go-on-one-of-these) culinary tours of Turkey and the Levant. And she is helping a group of Egyptian entrepreneurs open a chain of koshari cafes: the first Koshari Street has just opened in St Martins Lane. She is also the owner of the most fabulous big hair.

We asked her about the Middle East in London, London in the Middle East, and street food, which is already one of this year’s hot food trends.

Koshari: nice word, but what is it – and do you think it will give the falafel a run for its money?
Well, it is a very different kind of street food. Falafel is a sandwich whereas koshari is a warming dish of rice, pasta and lentils topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas and caramelised onions. I have added a special touch by serving it with doqqa (a mix of dried herbs, spices and nuts) to add a little crunch. And it will definitely give falafel a run for its money.

Why do you think the interest in street food has surged in London?
It’s a fun way to eat. It’s not expensive and now that the councils have relented and are allowing more people to have pitches on the street, people can get a great lunch or supper from a street stall selling proper food rather than grabbing a sandwich!

Just curious: what made you swap antiques for a career in food?
Chance really. I wanted to write a book about collecting, then while listening to a conversation between my agent and a Lebanese friend about cookbooks, I thought I could write one on Lebanese cuisine. There weren’t any really user-friendly books on the subject, and certainly not ones that someone unfamiliar with the cuisine could cook from easily. As luck would have it, my agent knew a publisher looking to do one and the rest is history. This said, I always loved food and often cooked for my friends but one thing I didn’t realise then was what hard work it was to write about food!

Could you summarise the salient points of Middle Eastern cuisine in just one or two sentences? In the wake of the horse meat scandal do you think we can learn from Middle Eastern food buying and cooking practices?
I don’t think you can talk of a Middle Eastern cuisine. There are many shared dishes throughout the region but each country has its own way of preparing them. This said, you have common threads such as seasonality and well-sourced ingredients, which are essential to Middle Eastern cooks. Also, apart from when people are grilling, or in dishes like kibbe, meat almost always plays second fiddle to vegetables. And no Middle Eastern cook would dream of buying ready-minced meat. Instead he or she would ask the butcher for the cut of their choice to be minced there and then. I doubt we could have a horse meat scandal in the Middle East but I may be wrong.

The Middle East is enjoying great popularity in London at the moment – but what do you think the perception of London is in the Middle East?
People love London. Great city with amazing shopping, restaurants, activities for children, theatres, cinemas, opera, concert halls. Anything you want really. And many don’t seem to mind the weather. In fact, my friends from the Gulf love the cool rainy weather, while we dream of sunshine!

You travel a lot, but have chosen to make Shoreditch your home. What is it about the area that keeps you coming back?
My loft and my kitchen! I love my space and I like the atmosphere of Shoreditch, admittedly more during the day than at night. I also love the architecture but unfortunately developers are starting to change the character of the area.

What’s in your Little Black Book of London – your favourite shops and restaurants?
I love la Fromagerie and Pimlico’s farmers market. I have great restaurants near me (St John’s, Brawn, Rochelle Canteen, Dishoom, Story Pizza and I am sure I have forgotten a few) as well as the best sandwich in London (at Keu). And I love Margaret Howell’s clothes and how the special attention she pays to who sews her clothes and where she gets her fabrics.

As a chef, what is your top kitchen tip?
Be neat and well organised, and source your ingredients carefully.

We do know a fair few vegetarians who have had to cross over to the dark (doner-kebab-shaped) side to sate their late night appetite. Koshari is filling, nutritious and vegan. And when it is just £3.95 a tub, it presents a welcome alternative for post-pub, pre-club snacking. It’d be good if they could open one near in Veggiestan (aka Peckham on this occasion)…

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Photo of the Month: Street Culture. And a Little Announcement.


While we were researching Veggiestan, we thought a lot about street culture, from vending (as above) to eating. And one thing led to another. And I ended up writing another book. Not just about street food, but all sorts of other less formal consumption: meze, comfort food, snacks. You can probably guess what it is called…. Yup, Snackistan. A sibling for Veggiestan. It has got meat and fish in it…but there are an awful lot of new veggie dishes too. I do hope that you’ll like it…

It is out on September 26th (ish), although you can already reserve your copy here.

In the meantime, full credit to photographer zbigphotography for his stunning photo of a Riyadh street vendor.

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Veggiestan’s Greatest Hits #17: Turkmenistan


Turkmenistan. What do you know about Turkmenistan? Well, we can tell you that it’s quite rich, very flat, and is famous for its melons. It is also home to this pretty lady, Myahri. The ditty sounds as if a nineties club track gobbled a Eurovision entry, but don’t let this stop you enjoying it. It is catchy and had us dancing round the kitchen at Veggiestan Towers. Tans Etmeli means ‘dance right now’…so off you go then :)

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Veggiestan Event News Flash

Nearly forgot to tell you…. We’re having another pop-up Veggiestan event, this time at No.67, the lovely cafe next to the South London Gallery. Expect you’d like to see the menu, no?

We will start with warm bread, cheese and herbs, which is the basis of any Iranian spread. This will be accompanied by a trio of dips: white bean and olive, red pepper houmous, and yoghurt with spiced aubergine.

Next up comes: hand-rolled vine leaves, our signature pumpkin kibbeh, spinach fatayer and halloumi stacks.

The ‘main’ course will be a mushroom khoresht (stew to you), Yemeni style spiced red lentils, Lebanese artichoke bake and fragrant saffron rice.

Afters will comprise a mixture of Iranian pastries, Moroccan style orange salad and paklava.

There will be tea or coffee to wash it all down, and No. 67 is fully licensed. The price is £35.00 per head, there is still a little room left, and you can book by calling No 67 direct on 020 7252 7649.

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Nowrooz Potato Lyonnaise. Just for Fun.


It’s Spring! No, really. The Spring equinox was at 11:01:53 on Wednesday 20th March 2013. Which happens to coincide with the Persian New Year (Nowrooz). So we wish you all a happy and prosperous 1392.

Iranian celebrations to welcome in the new year/spring go back millennia, to ancient Zoroastrian times and beyond, and there is a lot of symbolism attached. Every house lays out a ‘sofreh’ like the one in the picture: on it they will place candles and a mirror for light, goldfish for prosperity, and seven things beginning with the letter ‘s’ (in Farsi of course), which are known as the haftsin. This comprises sabzeh (wheatgrass) and samenou (wheatgrass mousse) and sombol (hyacinth) and sumak and sekeh (coins) and sib (apple) and senjed (wild Russian olives) and serkeh (vinegar), and esphand (wild rue). Oh, and lots of sweets: you are meant to start the new year as you mean to go on, and sweetness is a must. The white stag and Hiawatha seemed to have strayed into the picture from a different celebration (i.e. I’ve no idea what they’re doing there).

The food eaten at this time is also very traditional, involving lots of herbs and plenty of spring garlic. Sabzi pulao is one such dish (recipe coincidentally in Veggiestan…): herbed garlicky rice served with meat or vegetable stock (or smoked fish). The recipe below is kind of a cross between sabzi pulao and potatoes Lyonnaise; the result a slightly-naughty-but-intriguing side dish or snack.

Ingredients (as a side for 4-5):

  • 600g waxy potatoes (desiree work well here, or a salad pot like Maris Peer), peeled (or at least scrubbed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100g butter
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron, steeped in boiling water
  • 2-3 bunches spring garlic, finely chopped
  • big handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • big handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dill weed (or fresh chopped dill)
  • sea salt and coarse ground black pepper

Cut the pots into thickish slices, blanch them in boiling water for around three minutes and then drain them. Next heat the oil in a frying pan and add the butter. Fry the onions until they are starting to brown before adding the saffron water and spring garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes more before taking off the heat. Layer one third of the potatoes in a greased over tray, cover with half of the onion mix and sprinkle with half of the chopped herbs and a little salt and pepper. Repeat with the second third of the spuds and the remainder of the onions and herbs. Top with the rest of the potatoes and bake at gas mark 6 (200C) for around forty minutes or until the potatoes are crispy golden. Enjoy.

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On Pine Nuttiness…

Got to love pine nuts. Their slight crunch, the creaminess, the, well, nuttiness. Such versatile little chaps: they mingle with salads, play nicely with in sweets, flirt with the bread department and excel in sandwiches. And they are such a typical Veggiestani ingredient. BUT they can also destroy your sense of taste at thirty paces.

Not a lot of people know this, but Chinese pine nuts (specifically those of the genus P.Armandii) can trigger something which has become known as Pine Mouth (sounds unfortunately like a bovine ailment, no?) or PNS (Pine Nut Syndrome). And PNS, albeit really quite harmless, is utterly disgusting. It hits 2-3 days after consuming the little buggers, and (in my case) came on very suddenly. I was halfway through eating a kookoo (made by my mother-in-law) when my mouth just filled with bitter-than-bitter-aloes bitterness: I did fleetingly wonder if she was trying to poison me, but as we get on famously this thought was rapidly replaced with panic. Washing the food down with water made things worse, as did a spoonful of honey and an orange. Everything I ate tasted fine at first, but within seconds my tastebuds rebelled and produced this awful awful taste.

After 2 days I broke my self-imposed medical-Google embargo and searched for other bitter mouth sufferers. And it seems that there are thousands of us out there. THIS WEBSITE was the most helpful, and it does scientific stuff too (which is way more helpful than my hand-flappy-oh-my-God kind of approach). The gist of it is that these rogue pine nuts strike at random in the stealth of night, can affect absolutely anyone (and yet if you prove susceptible once it does not mean that the PNS will recur if you eat them again), and that symptoms can last from a few days to a couple of months. Pine nuts from Russia/Korea etc seem completely blameless – it is uniquely the genus above which causes the condition.

I have posted this not to put you off pine nuts, or Chinese products, but to make you aware of the condition, so that if you are unlucky enough to experience it you will not panic or have to wade through the terrifying morass of looking for health symptoms on-line. Also, it may come up in the pub quiz one day…

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A Peck of Pretty Peppers…


Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pretty Peppers. Actually, no, I did on this occasion. Snapped this on a cheap package beano to Icmeler in Southern-ish Turkey a year or so ago. Peppers are sooo good for you. All peppers: long ones, fat ones, sweet ones, hot ones. And versatile: stuff them, pickle them, puree them, chop ‘em. And they have the habit of appearing in conveniently price-reduced batches if you shop judiciously (that means corner-shops and markets).

This recipe uses those long thin peppers: they are perfect for stuffing with cheese or other rich food. Red or green are fine – or use banana peppers (which are, astonishingly enough, kind of banana colour).

Cheesy Stuffed Peppers
Ingredients:

  • 6 peppers, washed
  • 200g feta cheese or labneh balls
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (1 if you’re using labneh)
  • 1 level teaspoon black pepper
  • big handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • handful of chives (or spring onion tops), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • squeeze of lemon juice (ie a couple of teaspoons-worth)

Carefully remove the calyces of the peppers and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Next blend the cheese with the remaining ingredients and use a long teaspoon to ram it down inside the peppers. Place the peppers in a small oven dish, propping the heads against the rim of the dish so that the cheese doesn’t melt and run everywhere.
Heat the oven to gas mark mark 5 (190C) and bake the peppers for about twenty minutes or until the flesh softens and starts to darken. Serve as part of a meze spread – or a self-indulgent Winter lunch. Mind you don’t burn your mouth on that hot cheese though…

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