Broad Bean Stew

Spring is definitely on its way. The days are getting longer and milder, blossom is out, daffodils fill the grass verges, I am about to become another year older and I have planted this year’s crop of broad beans. So it must be time I used up the remains of last year’s crop, carefully podded, bagged and stored safely in the freezer.

This broad bean stew hits the spot. Balanced sweet and sour tastes from the addition of pomegranate molasses and lime juice. Just put everything in the pot and forget about it for half an hour or so.

This made enough to feed four with the rice.

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 stick celery – finely chopped
1 carrot – finely diced
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 teaspoon each of whole fenugreek seeds, paprika powder, ground turmeric
2 mugs of shelled broad beans – fresh or frozen
2-3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Juice of half a lime
Vegetable stock – enough to cover the vegetables
Fresh mint and parsley – roughly chopped
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan – one that has a lid.

When hot, add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and gently fry until tender. Add the spices, stir then add the beans. Stir gently to cover the beans with the other vegetables then cover with stock and add the tomato puree. Add the pomegranate molasses, stir, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for around 30 minutes, checking from time to time to ensure it hasn’t dried out. Add a little water if it starts to look dry.

Remove the lid and add the lime juice and chopped herbs. Stir and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Note: If you prefer a moorish flavour, leave out the pomegranate molasses and lime juice and add half a finely chopped preserved lemon at the same time as adding the stock. This will make it more like a tagine dish.

Cookery School

I’ve been looking into ways to turn the Food From 4 idea into a business. Having toyed with branded items for sale and hosted dinner parties, I decided to have a go at a cookery school. I put the word out on various social media sites and soon had four willing volunteers to participate in a trial.

Having decided on a menu and the format, I then needed to sort out all the other logistical challenges. I opted for Indian inspired dishes – paneer skewers, vegetable samosas, aubergine and tomatoes cooked in whole spices, pilau rice and a cucumber raita. The plan was to spend 2½ hours preparing and cooking, then the final half hour we can eat lunch.

Do I have enough space for everyone to cook comfortably? Do I have enough equipment? What do I serve to drink with the food? How do I design the recipe cards? Does everyone need an apron?

I cleaned up my old two burner camping gaz, bought aprons online. Got dishes i use for photographing out of the loft. Hey presto, I had created a training kitchen.

I left the cooking to the students, lending a hand only when needed. There is nothing quite as frustrating as joining a cookery course only to spend hours watching the instructor cook. The only real way to learn is to do it yourself.

The morning was a success. Our dishes turned out well and we all enjoyed cooking, talking about ingredients, food, techniques. Keep an eye on this blog, my facebook page and instagram for details of the next one.

Here are a few photos of the day

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Vegan Pancakes

Who doesn’t love a pancake? With Pancake Day only a couple of weeks away, and still inspired by Veganuary, I wanted to find a way of cooking them without the eggs. Most recipes substitute bananas in place of eggs, but having never been a fan of bananas I wanted to see how easy it is to make them without.

These are delicious and light and so simple.

The quantities here will make about 8-12 pancakes depending on how large and thick you like them.

300g plain flour. I used white flour but wholemeal works just as well
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
50ml flavourless vegetable oil such as sunflower or a light olive oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract – or try using a few seeds from a fresh pod
375ml dairy free milk – Almond or coconut are good
a little oil or dairy free spread for frying

Blueberries or blackberries for serving – heated with a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of water

Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Mix then add the oil, vanilla extract and milk. Beat with a whisk until it all forms a smooth but slightly thick batter.

Heat a little oil or dairy free spread (I like to use Flora Freedom) in a large frying pan on a medium to high heat. When the oil is nice and hot pour in a little of the batter. Depending on thickness and size use somewhere between 2 and 4 tablespoons. if the batter is a little thick, smooth it over gently with the back of a spoon.

Fry on one side for approx 2 minuts, flip and cook on the other side for a further 2 minutes. Remove and repeat, adding a little oil each time to ensure your pancakes do not stick to the pan.

Heat the berries with the sugar and water until they start to break down and serve immediately with the warm pancakes.

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Scrambled Tofu

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Regular followers of this blog will know I am a huge fan of tofu. When I hear someone say how horrid and tasteless it is I always think to myself that they don’t know how to cook it. Tofu on it’s own is pretty tasteless stuff. But then so is a piece of chicken unless you add some flavour, seasoning, marinate it, etc.

I saw this on social media recently. Written and perhaps shared by someone who has never actually eaten the stuff.

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So apart from using tofu in casseroles and stews, in stir fries, in sandwiches, burgers, salads, you can also eat the stuff for breakfast. It makes a perfect substitute for eggs, contains huge amounts of protein, pretty much zero fat plus lots of goodies like iron, calcium, zinc, selenium and more. It really is wonderful stuff. Pair that up with powerful medicinal properties of turmeric and you can enjoy a breakfast to get your day off to the best possible start.

Any firm tofu will do. Tofoo now sold in my local Tesco is particularly good as is this which I pick up from oriental supermarkets when in London and freeze.

This makes breakfast for two.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pack firm tofu – about 200g
1 small clove garlic – finely chopped or minced
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
a splash of light soy sauce
1 tomato – diced

Heat the oil over a high to medium heat in a frying pan. Crumble the tofu with your fingers into the pan and fry for around 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The tofu may release quite a bit of water at this stage so fry a little longer if needed to dry it off.

Add the garlic, turmeric and paprika and continue to fry and stir for a further minute. Now add the remaining ingredients and carry on stirring and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Serve on toast

Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

If you follow FoodFrom4 on Instagram you’ll know that I am doing Veganuary once again. I’ve always struggled with the ethics of dairy and egg production but I’m doing Veganuary more as a way of a) trying to shed a little middle aged spread, and to expand my repertoire and try new dishes. I once met someone who knew how to cook six dishes. Monday night was chilli. Tuesday was Spaghetti Bolognese, etc. One night a week was take away night. I like to try new recipes, ideas, flavours and textures and going vegan for a month is a great way to get you thinking of creative ways to prepare plant based ingredients.

To me, cauliflower is an incredibly versatile vegetable. It works brilliantly in curries, in middle eastern inspired dishes, as a base for pizza and quiche, makes wonderful soups, can be used as a low carb alternative to mashed potato or in place of rice.

This recipe uses it as a replacement for chicken,the “traditional” way of preparing buffalo wings. These are baked too, rather than deep fried so perhaps not quite as crispy but I am sure just as tasty though having never eaten chicken wings I can’t be certain.

This makes enough to serve 4 people as a snack, starter or side dish.

1 head of cauliflower – cut into bite sized florets
125ml milk – dairy of alternative. I used almond milk
125ml water
125g plain flour – probably works with gram flour too if you are avoiding gluten
1 clove garlic – very finely chopped or crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika powder
pinch salt
black pepper
250ml hot chili sauce. Frank’s is the authentic way of doing it but I used Mitchell’s hot chili sauce. Anything with spice and sweetness will do
1 tablespoon butter of alternative – I used Flora Freedom

Put the oven onto 200C and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Mix the flour with the milk, water, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper into a thickish batter. Dip each cauliflower floret into the batter, shake off the excess and lay on the lined baking tray in a single layer. Pop this into the oven for 25 minutes still browned.

Meanwhile put the chili sauce and butter into a pan, melt slowly, mix well and set to one side.

Take the cauliflower out of the oven and into a large bowl. Pour the chili sauce over then mix well, but gently to get every floret covered in the red chili sauce. Place back on the lined baking sheet in a single layer again and return to the oven for another 25 minutes.

Serve with soured cream (or the Oatly alternative)

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Halloumi Aubergine Rolls

This is my take on pigs in blankets for the festive season, but just as good all year round.

To make 12 rolls

3 large aubergines
Olive oil
Harissa paste
1 pack of halloumi cheese

Top and tail the aubergines then slice lengthwise, first removing two opposite sides, then slice the remaining aubergine into four long slices lengthwise.

Brush generously with olive and then either griddle until browned and soft or pop them into the oven for around 20 minutes at 200C

You should now have 12 golden brown aubergine sheets

Spread a little harissa paste on each – about a teaspoon but you can vary the amount depending on how hot you like them.

Cut the block of halloumi into 12 equal sized sticks.

Take an aubergine slice and place with the thinner end towards you. Place a halloumi stick across the thin end then roll up towards the thicker end. Try to keep it fairly tight. Place each roll onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

When they are all done put them into the oven at 180C for around 15 minutes until the halloumi has softened.

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Mushroom Pie

A rich and satisfying puff pastry topped pie that makes a great centrepiece for a Sunday lunch or for Christmas Day with all the trimmings

This recipe will feed 5-6 people

1 tablespoon olive oil
A knob of butter or dairy free margarine/spread
1 onion – finely chopped
300g mushrooms – sliced
1x400g tin of green, brown or puy lentils or two generous handfuls of lentils boiled in water for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 vegetable stock cube or 1 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder
1 teaspoon marmite
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 handful parsley – roughly chopped
1 pack of puff pastry
1 egg yolk or a splash of milk (dairy or non dairy)

Heat the oil and butter or spread in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and fry off until well cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Add the soy sauce and stir gently.

Now add the flour and stir well so the mushrooms are coated. Slowly add water, keeping the pan on a medium to high heat, stirring all the time, until you have a nice thick gravy. Now reduce the heat to low, drain and add the lentils, stir in the marmite and crushed stock cube or bouillon powder. Simmer gently for around 5 minutes then stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

Take a 20cm pie dish and fill with the mushroom and lentil mixture. Brush a little egg or milk around the edge of the dish, then top with the pastry, pressing down gently and tucking into the sides of the dish. Trim the edges of the pastry. Now get creative and decorate the top with shapes from the pastry trimmings. I used Christmas trees as it was Christmas and trees are nice and easy to make.

Brush the whole thing with egg or milk and pop in the oven at 200C for around 45 minutes or until golden brown and pastry and your decorations ave puffed up.

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