Warmed pita is good, toasted pita is better, but baking it is something else. If you avoid crisps, you can make these instead and trick yourself in to thinking you are tucking in to a bag of Kettle Chips. This is also a great snack to whip up if friends unexpectedly pop round to watch a film (this has never actually happened to me personally, but it often says this kind of thing in recipe books so I’m left to assume that there are individuals out there who have the audacity to turn up to places uninvited).
The sauces are both winners too: tomato-chilli brings spicy and sweet, and cashew-garlic brings creamy and slightly tangy. You will require a powerful blender to get the smooth consistency, but if you only have a food processor I would recommend soaking the cashews in hot water (or boiling them for 10 minutes if short of time) for an hour to soften them slightly. These sauces are really great to have on hand to jazz up any meal, sandwich or snack and they are very quick to prepare. Here are a few suggestions as to how else you could use them, but don’t feel limited to just these; I assure you that these sauces are applicable to many a meal:
If you are gluten-free, why not make some home-made potato chips instead of pita?
They’re perfect additions to burger night
The cashew sauce in particular pairs wonderfully with this spinach and almond bake
Perfect with Mexican beans, when served with tortilla or rice
Why not combine with this Indian potato salad inside a savoury pancake?
Great with tofu scramble
Lovely on toast
And finally, I love to combine them both inside a tortilla wrap with these spiced chickpeas, loads of raw vegetables and a dollop of homous.
- 3 medium wholemeal pita breads
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 100g cashews
- 10g (2 cloves) garlic
- 25ml (1 tbsp + 2 tsp) cider vinegar
- 15ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
- 85ml water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 75g tomato puree
- 10g (2 cloves) garlic
- 6g (1 tbsp) chilli flakes
- 100ml water
- 25ml (1 tbsp + 2 tsp) extra virgin olive oil
- 25g (1 tbsp + 2 tsp) agave (or maple syrup)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
- Slice each pita pocket diagonally in to strips, about 2cm wide.
- Mix the rosemary, olive oil, garlic and salt in a bowl and pour in to a medium sized baking tray.
- Place the pita strips on to the tray and smear each around in the oil, on both sides. I've been frugal with the oil so it might seem like it won't stretch, but it will. You can add more oil if you wish.
- Bake for 12 minutes and remove from oven. They'll continue to crisp up as they cool.
- For each of the sauces, whizz up the ingredients in a high-powered blender until completely smooth.
VEGAN BARBECUE MINI SERIES- PART III OF III
The third and final part of this recipe series focuses on one of the most important parts: the burger relish. I find that many shop-bought relishes are fairly mediocre, and they are often engineered to last for months, and therefore don’t have that zingy ‘freshness’ of home-made ones. Salsa (and it’s many variations) is quick and easy to make, making it completely feasible to throw together last-minute.
My general formula for a salsa involves:
Main ingredient (tomatoes, sweetcorn, peppers, avocado, pineapple)
Onion (red onion, white onion, spring onion)
Herb (mint, parsley, coriander)
Citrus (lemon, lime)
Salt and pepper
And that’s usually it! I’ve been known to throw in some toasted cumin seeds or pumpkin seeds at times, and it might need a tsp or two of sugar if it’s too sour, but I generally keep it pretty simple. The best thing about salsa is that you can mix everything together and then tweak it: more chilli, more salt, and so on. There’s no need to cook it as the salsa benefits from the raw crunchy vegetables or fruit, and the raw garlic and lime hit.
This particular salsa uses pineapple, coriander and spring onions, and is sweet and refreshing, with a slight sourness from the lime. I’ve used frozen pineapple chunks as I always have some in the freezer for smoothies. It saves peeling time to do it this way and there’s no benefit to using fresh although if you’d prefer to, that’s absolutely fine. There is a small amount of chilli but if are looking to make a spicy salsa, add more. I used lime zest rather than juice as the mixture was already wet enough. Be warned, as the salt works the mixture, more and more moisture will be released, but it just needs to be stirred back in. It does last for quite a few days. Eat with burgers and potato salad and if there’s any left the next day, eat with Mexican beans and ‘slaw in a tortilla wrap or with this Indonesian peanut salad: gado-gado.
- 300g frozen pineapple chunks
- 50g spring onions, chopped
- 25g fresh coriander, chopped
- 5g fresh chilli, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tsp lime zest (about 1/2 a lime's worth of zest)
- 1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- If using frozen pineapple, remove it from the freezer about an hour before making, to thaw. Then cut in to small cubes.
- Combine with the remaining ingredients and leave to sit for about 30 minutes (if you have time), for all the flavours to combine.
- Before serving, mix thoroughly to collect any liquid that has separated and you're good to go!
- If you don't like pineapple, this would work really well with mango!
This is probably my favourite way to eat aubergines; generally any vegetable roasted and tossed with a sweet and sour sauce, toasted nuts and olive oil is going to be pretty damn good. This caponata could be served as part of a mezze selection of dishes or it’s perfect as a party nibble; it’s rich and flavoursome and therefore needs little more than a crusty bit of bread and a cold glass of wine to accompany.
- 500g aubergine (2 small), chopped in to small chunks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 50g pine nuts
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 3 sticks of celery, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 75g raisins
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp agave (or maple syrup or sugar)
- 1.5 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
- 25g fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 10g fresh parsley (plus extra for garnish)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Place the aubergine chunks on a roasting tray and cover with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Roast in an oven at 200 degrees C for about 40 minutes until the aubergine is tender on the inside but crisp on the outside.
- When these are done, turn the heat to 160 degrees C and place the pine nuts in a separate tray. Roast for about 10 minutes until golden.
- Meanwhile, heat the other tbsp of olive oil in a medium sized pan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and celery and fry until soft; about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and fry for a minute more.
- Add the dried thyme, salt, chilli flakes and pepper and fry for a further minute.
- Now add the canned tomatoes, raisins, red wine vinegar, agave, capers, basil and parsley. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar has mostly been cooked off.
- Now, add the roasted aubergines and cook the whole mixture together for 5 more minutes.
- Now turn off the heat and transfer to a bowl.
- When cooled, stir in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and pine nuts and taste for seasoning.
This might look like a bizarre mix of ingredients but it works! Sweet tomato and raisins cut through with sharp citrus, and rich tahini counteracted by fresh coriander and spicy chilli.. it’s the dip that has it all! It’s perfect as part of a mezze selection- for example with falafel , homous and quinoa salad– but believe me, it can be worked in to most meals. For example, it works beautifully shoved inside a toasted pitta bread with dairy-free cheese and some crunchy veg, or as an alternative to burger relish. I imagine it wouldn’t feel out of place at a drinks party on top of a crisp or vegetable stick either, as an alternative to the standard homous dip. As an added bonus, any leftovers can be reworked in to a different meal; I used it as a spicy flavour base for a soup, and as the beginnings of a lentil and vegetable stew, saving time and energy!
- 700ml jar of passata
- 150g raisins
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Juice of 1 orange
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 100g tahini
- 50g fresh coriander leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
- 80g breadcrumbs
- Chilli flakes (for garnish)
- Spring of mint (for garnish)
- Place the passata, raisins, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the acidity from the tomatoes has been removed.
- Add the orange and lemon juice, the tahini and coriander and cook for around 10 minutes more.
- Turn off the heat and add the breadcrumbs.
- Next, blend the mixture. I find using a hand blender straight in to the saucepan the easiest method, but a food processor would also be fine.
- Place in to bowls, garnish and allow to cool. Enjoy!
Guacamole can be variable, and everyone has their own version of it. Chunks or no chunks, chilli or no chilli, coriander or not; it can be anywhere from poor to pretty damn great. This is my version (some chunks, some chilli and no coriander FYI) but it really depends on the avocado. I was blessed with a perfectly ripe and tasty fruit, so I was just looking to add a few ingredients to enhance the flavour. Had this been a less tasty one, I definitely would have gone to town on the lime juice to liven it up (meaning I would have probably had to counteract the sourness with something sweet). As with any dip, they key is to keep tasting as you go along and alter the ingredient quantities and seasonings depending on personal preference and the quality of your original ingredients. We ate this guacamole with some beans and salad inside a flour tortilla, but it would work as a dip for crisps, inside a sandwich and whatever else you like to use guacamole for.
- 1 ripe avocado
- 3 spring onions, finely chopped
- 3/4 tsp salt
- few twists of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 garlic clove, crushed or grated
- 1 red jalepeno chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 3 cherry tomatoes (or 1 salad tomato) finely diced
- 1 tbsp lime juice (or lemon juice)
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork, mashing the avocado as you do.
- The more you mix, the more the avocado will break up, so for a chunkier texture, don't overmix.
- Taste for seasoning and enjoy!
- Optional extras: freshly chopped coriander, finely chopped red onion (instead of spring onion), toasted pumpkin seeds,
Ah, the humble chickpea. Following on from my falafel recipe, I thought I’d post a homous recipe. I make tonnes of different versions of homous, and this is probably one of my favourites. The sun-dried tomato gives it a huge amount of richness, and as with every regular homous recipe, there is the lemon there to lift it and give it a slight citrus edge. I used a food processor to whizz everything together but a blender or hand blender would work just fine. I used the packaged sun-dried tomatoes which have been dehydrated, so need to be soaked in hot water for around 20 minutes to plump them up, and then drained. However, you can use the jarred ones, you may just want to reduce the oil content of the homous as these are marinaded in oil. In this homous recipe, I’ve reduced the oil content and substituted some water instead, as the combination of tomatoes, balsamic and maple syrup gives quite an intense flavour, and I didn’t want the final product to be too overbearing. Serve with crusty bread, vegetable sticks, home-made falafel or anything else you feel like dipping in to it.
- 50g dried sun-dried tomatoes, re-hydrated in hot water and drained (or about 75g of the jarred kind)
- 300g cooked chickpeas (or 1 1/4 cans)
- 75g tahini
- 75ml water reserved from the chickpea can (or water)
- 75ml extra virgin olive oil
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce if you eat gluten)
- 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp agave (or maple syrup)
- sprinkle of sumac, to garnish (optional)
- Chuck everything in a food processor and whizz until smooth- easy as that!
- Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, some sun-dried tomatoes or a sprinkle of sumac.
- Depending on how thick or thin you like your homous, you might want to tweak the oil and water quantities in this recipe. I would suggest reserving some of the liquid ingredients and adding slowly, so that you can taste as you go, and decide whether you want more oil or water.
- Variations: Try adding some chilli or smoked paprika to give a bit of a kick
I couldn’t have a vegan blog without featuring a falafel recipe could I? This has a twist though: the not so conventional addition of almonds to the mix which offers complexity in terms of taste, texture and nutrition. I mean, who doesn’t love a toasted nut? This is a baked falafel recipe, and the cooking method means that you won’t achieve that mega-crunchy exterior that comes with the deep-fried variety, but rather a more modest crunchy exterior and a soft and moist interior. Believe me though, the mixture is so nice that you’ll want to eat it uncooked! I’ve used a really high temperature to blast the falafel for a short period of time to create that crispy outer and ensure the mixture sticks together but doesn’t dry out. Although rolling the falafel in to balls can be really quite laborious, the use of a food processor means that everything else can be prepped quite quickly, and there is minimal washing up. If you are really short of time, form the mixture in to larger patties or burgers.
As you can see from the picture, I served the falafel alongside tahini dressing and loads of salad leaves. Falafel works well with other mezze-style dishes too: try lemon-maple dressed quinoa; raw vegetable ‘slaw; tomato, tahini and chilli dip; sun-dried tomato homous and so on. The falafel could also work wonderfully as part of a salad buffet; as a party nibble, mid-afternoon snack, or in its rightful place alongside some homous, bundled up inside a wrap or pitta bread.
- 200g almonds
- 100g sesame seeds
- 500g cooked chickpeas (or 2x400g cans- drained weight of a can is about 240g)
- 2 red onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 30g fresh parsley
- 10g fresh mint
- 1/4 cup (or 60ml) water
- 1/2 cup (or 120ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Toast the almonds and the sesame seeds in a 170 degrees C oven for about 8 minutes, until nicely toasted. Turn the heat to 220 degrees C in preparation for cooking the falafel.
- Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until combined. I personally don't like a completely smooth consistency- I like to leave a bit of a rough texture- but it needs to be combined enough for the mixture to stick together, and the herbs and onion to be chopped up enough.
- Form the mixture in to patties (about 1.5 inch diameter) and place on a greased baking sheet, or a non-stick silicon baking sheet.
- Bake at 220 degrees C (make sure you pre-heat; the oven must be really hot before they go in!) for 12 minutes, until the falafel have firmed up a bit. Be careful not to over-bake as they will dry out.
- You can play around with the herbs and spices in this mix- try using fresh coriander instead of parsley and mint, or add some fresh or dried chilli for a spicier version.
I LOVE Indian food. My favourite way to eat Indian food is on a Thali plate, which is a selection of various dishes, often including curries, breads, poppadoms, chutneys and pickles. I love the variety of tastes and textures this offers (plus I have a pretty hard time deciding on just one dish I want to eat when I eat out). Mango chutney is probably the most well known chutney associated with Indian cuisine, but I’ve created my own version, subbing in dates to offer that almost sickly sweetness as an alternative to the sugar-packed stuff found on supermarket shelves. Although the cooking time is long, it requires very little attention after everything is in the pan, and while it is simmering, you can prepare the rest of the meal. I would serve this alongside a couple of curries (perhaps a vegetable and a lentil), plain rice or flatbread, and a crunchy salad or relish. Alternatively, serve alongside a starter of poppadoms and other pickles, or with samosas, bhajis or pakoras.
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil or coconut oil
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 400g mango flesh (either 2 ripe mangos, peeled and chopped, or you can buy frozen chunks)
- 15 dates, finely chopped
- 50ml apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp agave nectar
- tsp salt
- 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 100ml water
- In a medium sized saucepan, fry onion in oil until soft
- Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute
- Add the spices and fry for a futher minute
- Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil
- Turn the heat down and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mangoes have partly broken down and the mixture has the consistency of jam.
- Now it's time to taste- you're looking for a balance between sweet and tangy, so if needs be, add additional agave or vinegar as required.
- This is a mild mango chutney- for an added kick add some fresh chilli along with the ginger and garlic, or some chilli flakes along with the dried spices.