Romanieh – Palestinian lentil and eggplant stew with pomegranate

Comfort food for the soul. And it’s vegan.

Romanieh - Palestinian lentil and eggplant stew with pomegranate

Middle Eastern food is a firm favourite round our way. The heady spices, the delectable combinations of rich, earthy and bright flavours, the simplicity of the ingredients that go together to make something you simply cannot stop putting in your mouth. Every time we sit down to a Middle Eastern dinner, I can’t help but declare my love for food!

You can accompany this with olives, cheeses (which would make it a non-vegan meal, obviously) such as labneh, feta or halloumi, salads, stuffed vine leaves… for a truly delectable table.

This recipe was ever so slightly adapted from here with inspiration from my dear friend, the amazing Palestinian cook Sawsan.

Serves 4
Preparation: 45 minutes

Ingredients

250g (1 1/2 cups) brown lentils
1 tbsp ground cumin
600ml (2 1/2 cups) water
1 large eggplant (aubergine) approx. 350g / 12oz, peeled and diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sumac
50ml (3 Tbsp + 1 tsp) olive oil
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
150ml (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) pomegranate molasses
juice of 2 lemons

To serve

additional olive oil for drizzling
seeds of a small pomegranate
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
pita bread

Directions

Put the lentils, cumin and water in a medium, heavy-based saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add the eggplant, salt and sumac and cook, covered, over very low heat for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small pan over low heat, combine the olive oil and garlic and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, until fragrant but not browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the fried garlic and pomegranate molasses to the lentils and stir to combine. Cook, covered over very low heat for another 5 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice.

Spoon into bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil and decorate with pomegranate seeds and parsley.

Serve with a spoon and some pita bread for scooping.

Posted in middle eastern, vegan | 8 Comments

Very berry macarons

How about ditching the roses for a sweet treat this Valentine’s Day?

Pretty pink macarons with a lusciously fruity mixed berry gelée filling.

very berry macarons

If this is your first time, for a full step-by-step tutorial on making macarons, check out this post.

Makes 30 filled macarons
Shells: 30 min preparation, 20 min resting, 40 min baking
Filling: 10 min preparation, 5 min cooking, 1 hour cooling
Assembly: 10 minutes
Resting: 24 hours for best results

Ingredients

The shells

140g ground almonds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
alternative for vegan shells 100g aquafaba, room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water
pink gel food colouring (optional)

The filling

300g (10oz) mixed berries, thawed if frozen
juice of 1/2 lemon
300g (10oz) gelling sugar
OR 300g (10oz) granulated sugar + 8g (2 tsp) powdered pectin

Directions

The shells

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each.

Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar (and cocoa powder, if using) together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. Add food colouring, if using. Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.

Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and you should get a beak when you lift the whisk.

Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogeneous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2”, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you touch it, it should be only just tacky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

If not filling straight away, store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

The filling

Process the berries until smooth and press through a fine mesh sieve into a medium, heavy-based saucepan.

Add lemon juice and sugar (and powdered pectin, if using) and bring to a boil. Cook on a rapid boil according to gelling sugar or pectin packet directions (I boiled mine for 4 minutes), remove from heat and allow to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Stir well before use.

Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

Note: The filling is basically jam, so pop any leftover into a jar and refrigerate. Use within a week.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for the filling to set and the shells to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.

Posted in cookie, macaron, snack, sweet | 21 Comments

Garlic soup

Garlic – in my opinion, humankind’s greatest culinary discovery. The unassuming little bulb is the start of so many wonderful dishes, or in this case, the star ingredient.

garlic soup

Garlic soup takes many forms, particularly in European cuisine. This version is loosely based on the Spanish sopa de ajo, but with the garlic roasted to bring out its sweetness, and the addition of wine to add depth to the flavour. It’s so warming and comforting on a cold winter night.

We had this soup once with eggs added and once without, and it’s just as good either way. And of course, without eggs it’s vegan. Most recipes of this type also remove the crusts from the bread, but if you use a nice sourdough or other artisan bread it does add incredible umami flavour if they’re left on. You’ll be puréeing it and the crusts will make it thicker than without, so you can adjust the consistency to your liking with more stock.

Serves 4 as a meal, 6 to 8 as an appetiser
Preparation: 1 hour for the roasted garlic;
30 minutes for the soup

Ingredients

1 head garlic
4 Tbsp olive oil + extra for roasting garlic
200g (about 3 cups packed) cubed stale bread
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper
125ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas Mark 5.

Roasting garlic method 1

Without separating the cloves from the head, pull off as much of the papery skin from the garlic as possible. Trim the top off the garlic head with a serrated knife just enough so the tops of all the cloves are exposed, place on a double layer of foil and drizzle with olive oil, about a teaspoon. Wrap the foil tightly in a pouch and put it in the oven for an hour. Let cool enough to handle, then gently squeeze the cloves out of the papery skins into a bowl and mash with a fork.

Roasting garlic method 2

Separate and peel the garlic cloves, place them in a ramekin, drizzle with oil, cover the ramekin with foil and roast for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool a little then mash with a fork.

The soup

Heat oil in a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, add bread and cook stirring occasionally until bread is coated with oil and just starting to toast, about 3 minutes. Remove some of the bread for croutons, as desired.

Add mashed garlic and both types of paprika, season well with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Add wine and cook until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add stock and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes.

Use a hand blender to purée the soup until smooth. Adjust the consistency with more stock, if desired.

Optional: while stirring, slowly drizzle in the beaten eggs, then cook the soup for a further 2 – 3 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons and parsley before serving.

Posted in appetizer, lunch, soup, vegan | 2 Comments

Seitan roast

Vegan, healthy, easy and ever so tasty seitan roast.

seitan roast

I seem to be amazingly late onto the roasted seitan bandwagon… We used to make seitan all the time many years ago, but it was only ever the boiled version because it never occurred to me that it could be cooked any other way! Then I spotted this recipe and the veil was lifted from my jaded boiled seitan eyes. I adapted Evi’s recipe to make a simple loaf, which we’ll be serving for Christmas dinner with gravy and roast veggies.

Serves 6-8
Preparation: 10 minutes
Roasting: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 x 400g (14oz) can cannellini beans
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp dried marjoram
1 tsp sweet paprika
250g (2 cups) wheat gluten
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast + pinch salt OR 1 tsp yeast extract (vegemite, marmite…)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
Freshly ground black pepper
250ml (1 cup) vegetable broth
Vegetable oil for greasing

Directions

Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas Mark 5, and oil a large sheet of aluminium foil – I folded two together.

Drain the cannellini beans and roughly chop the garlic and onion, then use a food processor to purée them together to a paste.

In a large bowl, combine the bean paste with the marjoram, paprika, nutritional yeast and salt or yeast extract, and tomato paste, and season generously with pepper. Add the wheat gluten and use your hands to combine everything, then add the vegetable broth and knead the mixture together into a soft, pliable dough.

Shape the dough into a log about 30cm (12″) long, and wrap tightly in foil, ensuring it is well sealed.

Place on a baking tray and roast in centre of oven for 80 minutes. To test, prod it with a wooden spoon – it should be firm but not hard.

Slice with a serrated knife and serve warm with roast vegetables and the gravy or sauce of your choice.

Can be made up to 3 days ahead, kept wrapped in the fridge and reheated in the oven at 175°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4 for about 20 minutes.

The leftovers are excellent sliced for sandwiches.

Posted in burgers&patties, vegan | 2 Comments

Laufabrauð – Icelandic leaf bread

This decorative fried bread is a staple in Icelandic homes at Christmas, with families gathering together for the day they prepare it.

Laufabrauð - Icelandic leaf bread

This recipe was adapted from a few I found online, here and here and a video recipe here. There are loads of recipes and videos online. Mine are far from perfect to look at, they were a lot of fun to make!

Laufabrauð is eaten, slathered in butter, with Christmas dinner. Apparently, you are absolutely not allowed to eat them before Christmas eve, but you absolutely should fry up the offcuts (they are too dry for re-rolling) and eat them immediately as your reward for all that effort. Those offcuts were our first taste of laufabrauð and we felt supremely rewarded! 🙂

Makes 20 – 30, depending on size
Preparation: Several hours. Many pairs of hands makes for both a fun day and a lighter workload!
Note that I have reduced the baking powder in the recipe here, because mine puffed up too much – turns out when I halved the recipe I forgot to halve that bit.

Ingredients

500g (4 cups, spooned & scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
15g (1 Tbsp) sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
300ml (1 1/4 cups) whole milk
60g (4 Tbsp) butter

vegetable oil for frying

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Heat the milk and butter over low heat just until small bubbles appear around the edge, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to combine, then turn it out and knead by hand to a dense dough.

Roll into a thick sausage and let rest for about 30 minutes wrapped in plastic or under a damp cloth.

Cut off portions – mine were about the size of a ping pong ball, but you’ll need bigger pieces for bigger rounds – and roll them out on a lightly floured surface – they should be very thin and 15 – 20cm (6 – 8″) in diameter. Trim the edges with a sharp knife or wavy pastry cutter, using a plate as a guide (I used a 15cm / 6″ saucer). Stack them between sheets of baking paper.

Decorate by cutting out patterns with a small, sharp knife. The traditional chevron design is made by cutting rows of parallel pointed cuts, folding back every second one and adhering it to the one behind.

Heat about 2cm / 1″ oil in a pan to 180°C / 355°F.

Prick the rounds with a fork to avoid blistering too much, and slide one carefully into the oil. It will sink then float up, at which point you should flip it over with a fork or something similar. They are ready when golden – it takes about 30 seconds for each one.

As you remove them from the oil, let the excess drip off then lay them on a piece of paper towel, cover with another piece and use a saucepan or wooden board to gently press it flat for a few seconds.

Continue cooking until they are all done, and stack in a cookie tin or airtight container when completely cool.

Stored in a cool, dry place, leaf bread should keep for months.

Posted in bread, icelandic | 1 Comment

Baked apples with brandy ice cream

Apples stuffed with mincemeat (fruit mince), served with a scoop of brandy spiked no-churn ice cream – all the flavours of Christmas, but lighter and naturally gluten free. And because this is such a busy time of year, the stuffing and ice cream can be prepared well ahead of time, to make your special day so much simpler.

Baked apples with brandy ice cream

After first making mincemeat (fruit mince) a couple of years ago, it quickly became something I love to do for holiday baking! Of course, you can use store bought for these apples, but I really enjoy the fact that it can be personalised by making your own. The batch I made this year varies a bit from the first batch, so I’ll include the new recipe here, to inspire you. Obviously, this recipe will make waaaaay more than you need (unless you’re stuffing enough apples to feed an army), but it makes a great gift!

Ingredients per serving

1 apple (I used Golden Delicious)
1 heaping Tbsp mincemeat (fruit mince)
1-2 tsp dark brown (muscovado) sugar
1 small cube butter, about 1cm / 1/3″

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Use a sharp knife to core the apples, leaving a cone-shaped well in them but keeping the base intact.

Arrange the apples snugly in a baking dish, stuff each one with a heaping tablespoon of mincemeat (fruit mince), then top with a little brown sugar and a cube of butter.

Bake in centre of oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until soft and starting to wrinkle.

Serve warm with the juice from the baking dish spooned over the top, and a scoop of ice cream on the side.

Fruit mince
Males about 1kg / 4 cups

100g (2/3 cup) diced dried figs
100g (3/4 cup) diced prunes
100g (1 cup) dried cranberries
150g (1 cup) golden sultanas
100g (2/3 cup) raisins
50g (1/3 cup) diced candied peel
1 large (approx. 200g or 7 oz) cooking apple
juice and finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
juice and finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
150g (3/4 cup, packed) dark brown (muscovado) sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground mace
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground cardamom
100g (7 Tbsp) unsalted butter
75ml (5 Tbsp) brandy

Combine all ingredients except the brandy in a medium, heavy-based saucepan, and cook, covered, over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Add the brandy and stir well, cover and let rest at room temperature overnight – about 12 hours.

Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

Can be processed in jars to keep in a cool, dark place for a year.

Brandy ice cream
Makes about 1 litre / 1 quart

500ml (2 cups) whole cream
1 x 397g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
60ml (4 Tbsp) brandy, or to taste

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, but not to the texture of whipped cream, 3 – 4 minutes on medium.

Add the condensed milk and brandy, and beat just until very soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted – it should have a thick, mousse-like consistency.

Pour mixture into a container, seal tightly and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight. Keeps for three months in the freezer.

Posted in dessert, ice cream, preserves, sweet | 2 Comments

Vegan White Christmas

White Christmas is a traditional Australian treat enjoyed throughout the festive season.

vegan white christmas

The recipe usually includes powdered milk, and often includes white chocolate, and I was originally going to make the family recipe that we were treated to each year as children, but that recipe seems to have been lost. So, as I try to include at least one vegan recipe in my holiday baking routine, I decided to have a go at veganising various recipes that I found online – I have to say, this works just as well and tastes just as good!

Makes: about 60 small pieces
Preparation: 20 minutes
Chilling: about 2 hours
Note on sugar: The advantage of living in Europe is that our locally produced sugar comes from beets, and, unlike cane sugar, is not bone char filtered. If you’re not vegan or vegetarian it’s not an issue, but if you are, you need to be careful about brands. Alternatively, you can substitute coconut sugar.

Ingredients

125g (1 cup unsifted) powdered sugar
100g (about 2 1/2 cups) puffed rice cereal
75g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
100g (1/2 cup) glacé cherries, halved
100g (3/4 cup) candied fruit
75g (1 cup) sliced almonds
1 x 13g envelope (1 heaping Tbsp) vanilla sugar
200g (7 oz) cacao butter
200g (7 oz) coconut oil

Directions

Line a brownie pan (about 20 x 26cm / 8 x 10″) with plastic wrap and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Using a double boiler or a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, gently melt the cacao butter. It’s slower to melt than chocolate, so just be patient.

Add the coconut oil and stir until melted.

Pour the melted ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine well.

Press the mixture into the prepared pan and chill for about 2 hours, until firm.

Turn out of the pan, peel off the plastic wrap and cut into squares.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Posted in candy, dessert, snack, sweet, vegan | Leave a comment