Now We Are 10

It’s been a while since we posted here…but this is BIG news. Veggiestan has had a 10th Anniversary makeover. It is exactly the same collection of tried and tested recipes, but with a shiny new green and gold cover, and some very kind new endorsements from some very nice famous people. You can buy it in store or on line at the still very reasonable price of £26.00.
In the meantime there just might be another volume on the way….

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

Veggiestan’s Greatest Hits #20: Soltane Ghalbha

In honour of Mr. Shopkeeper’s tumpty-tumpth birthday (celebrated just a week ago), here’s a little ditty from way back – actually, from the year he was born. It is, we believe, his second favourite song of all time. And it is super famous in Iran – all Iranians can hum along to it, some of them even in tune. Sultan Ghalbha (King of Hearts), the film of the same name, is the ultimate slushy melodrama and featured two of the country’s most famous actors: the prodigal Leila Forouhar, and Fardin, who was a sort of all-action Persian Frank Sinatra. Here’s Leila reprising her role, with Aref, who is also super-well-known in Tehrangeles. Enjoy – but don’t watch the film unless you have a big box of tissues handy…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Finally…Mrs.Shopkeeper’s Secret Recipe for Bulgar Pilavi….

Now that it has gone off our restaurant menu, or, more importantly, now that Mrs. S. has an hour spare, we hereby offer our much sought after recipe (well, one or two people have asked) for our take on an old Ottoman classic, bulgar pilavi. A fragrant pilav made not with the newer fangled rice, but with the oldest Middle Eastern carb, wheat.* A dish that looks a whole lot better when it’s cooked than our photo of random raw ingredients above. Mrs.Shopkeeper really is a bit shite at photography.

Ingredients (to serve 4, generously)

  • 250g bulgur wheat
  • 100g reshteh pulao (optional, but rather conveniently available here)**
  • 1 tablespoon baharat – Iraqi seven spice mix, also conveniently available here
  • about 400ml boiling water
  • a good slug of oil (we use an olive and pomace oil mix)
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced (red work best here)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 heaped teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons nigella seeds
  • 1 fat courgette, julienned
  • 30g dried sour orange peel
  • 2 level teaspoons salt (seems a lot but this is all the seasoning for the dish, and bulgur wheat needs proper seasoning otherwise it tastes like crispy kapok)
  • 1 teaspoon urfa chilli (or use cracked black pepper)

For the topping:

  • 50g or so butter (or vegan equivalent)
  • dash of oil
  • around 20 fat, pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons baharat (see above)
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 50g raisins, soaked in cold water and drained

To serve:

  • good, thick plain yoghurt
  • a crisp green salad

So you place your wheat, noodles and baharat in a heat proof bowl and add boiling water. Stir, cover and allow the ingredients to steam for around 10 minutes, adding more boiling water if the wheat still seems hard after that time (wheat varies so it is hard to offer a generic rule for water volume and soaking times).
Next heat a good glug of oil in a frying pan and fry off the onions and carrots; once they have softened add the spices and courgette, stirring well. Turn down the heat, cover the pan, and allow to cook very slowly for about another fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked.
Bring a small pan of water to the boil, add the sour orange peel and blanch for about one minute before draining. Add the sour orange peel, salt and pepper to the sauteeing vegetables, stirring well. Allow the wheat/veg combo to cool slightly before ‘massaging’ the spiced veg through the wheat (you will need to use your hands, gloved or otherwise, for this), much as you might couscous. The idea is to get every grain of the bulgur coated with oil and flavour.
Now for the topping. Melt the butter in a pan, add a dash of oil to stop it burning, and then toss in the dates. After a couple of minutes add the spice and nuts, and after a few minutes more add the raisins (alway add these last – they burn quickly).
Heat the bulgur wheat through so it is piping hot, and then serve in a bowl topped with the ‘date and nut fudge’. Serve with yoghurt and salad. You’re welcome.
*Coeliacs and those with wheat intolerance can make a very good version of this with corn couscous or quinoa, whilst barley and rye berries also serve well for those who are not actually avoiding gluten.
**These are Iranian noodles, but you can buy broken vermicelli from most Middle Eastern shops. Or you can cheat and buy our ready mixed wheat and noodles.
I would love to say that rice noodles work just as well, but in this context they really don’t – they just end up soggy and sticky. So if you are off the wheat, just leave the noodles out and maybe use 300g grain instead.

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

Kashmiri Mango: Our Secret Recipe

This sweet and sour dish is all the rage in our little restaurant at the mo. And you all keep asking us how we make it. So we thought we’d tell you, as we are nice like that. It is also good for you, as it contains up to three of your five a day…
It really is very simple, because everything we cook in the caff has to be simple, because our staff are very simple, and because we only have two part time hobs, an indolent microwave and a petulant bread grill upon which to cook for up to 35 people. So complicated doesn’t get a look in.
Ingredients (as a starter or light lunch for two to share):

  • splash of oil
  • 350g crunchy green veg – broccoli, sugar snap peas, mange tout, kale, courgette – take your seasonal pick
  • 8 cherry toms, halved
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 good teaspoon Mr.S’ patent silk trail spice rub*
  • 1/2 small (preferably green) mango (about 75g), peeled and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons mango pulp or nectar
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • salt to taste
  • rose petals to garnish

Heat a dash of oil in a pan, and toss the vegetables into the hot oil. After a few minutes add the garlic and spice mix, stirring well, followed after a minute or so by the chopped mango. Turn the heat down and fry for 4-5 minutes before adding the mango pulp and the tamarind, plus salt to taste. Stir well and serve, accompanied by some warm bread.
*Toast 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 2 of coriander seeds, 1 of cumin seeds and 3 of anardaneh (pomegranate seeds – optional, but tasty) in a wee frying pan until they start hissing at you. Tip them into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder (hey – an old tea towel will do) and pound them. Next add 1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and chilli, and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon together with a level teaspoon of sea salt and work the ingredients into a paste, trickling in a little olive oil to bind it all together. Keep in a little jar in the fridge until needed.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Happy 2016. And…some news…

Mrs. Shopkeeper had to burn several drafts of Veggiestan II before she was happy with it....

Yeah, well, I’m really really sorry that I haven’t been here for a while. It is chiefly the fault of our little cafe (which is effectively an outpost of Veggiestan – what do you mean you haven’t been yet…?), as it has kept me and Mr. Shopkeeper ridiculously busy. This is a good thing, not least as it has enabled us to test lots of new recipes on our unsuspecting customers, but it has impeded important activities such as the filing of nails and the updating of blogs. Harrumph.
The other thing that has kept one away from on-line postings is Veggiestan II (working title)*, which is due out in the Autumn of 2016. We are very excited.
In the meantime, we wish you a very happy 2016.

*I did campaign for it to be: Veggiestan II – the Revenge of the Aubergine, or some such silliness, with Mr. Shopkeeper and I on the front cover in spandex waving ray guns. Guess I’ve been watching far too many bad movies.
Glorious New-Yearsy dessert dawn photographed by Jamie McCaffrey and shared on Flickr under the Creative Commons Licence for Commercial Use.

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

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 , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 , , , , | 1 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